March 31, 2016

Crisis: "Ban Muslims", Opioids in U.S., Abortions, Major Media, Obama's Promises
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Majority of Americans Now Support Donald Trump’s
     Proposed Muslim Ban, Poll Shows

2. Will Obama's New Opioid Proposal Continue the Failed
     War on Drugs?

Trump Says Women Who Get Illegal Abortions Should
     Face 'Some Kind of Punishment'

4. Why The Major Media Marginalize Bernie
5. Obama Isn’t Following Through on Pardons Promise,
     Says His Former Pardons Attorney

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, March 31, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the fact that the majority of Americans now support Trump's unconstitutional and discriminatory proposed banning of all non-citizen Muslims; item 2 is about the very much increased amounts of opioids that are (ab-)used in the USA; item 3 is about Trump's return to the 1950ies: In his opinion abortion ought to be forbidden and women who have one need to be punished; item 4 is about a Robert Reich article that explains why the main media marginalize Sanders: I think Reich is - a bit subtly - mistaken; and item 5 is (yet another) illustration of Obama's tendency to say what the audience wants to hear and to do what his financial backers like to see happen.

1. Majority of Americans Now Support Donald Trump’s Proposed Muslim Ban, Poll Shows

The first item is b
y Murtaza Hussain on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

A MAJORITY of Americans now agree with banning all non-citizen Muslims from the United States, according to a new poll coming less than four months after Donald Trump first proposed the policy.

A YouGov/Huffington Post poll published this week found that 51 percent of Americans now support the ban, up from 45 percent in December. The same poll also found strong support for Sen. Ted Cruz’s proposal to “patrol and secure” Muslim neighborhoods, with 45 percent of Americans in favor.

I say. This means - I think - that over half of the American population has little or no idea of their own Constitution and Bill of Rights.

And I can't say I am very amazed, and indeed I am one of the few who agrees with Bill Maher that (i) most Americans are - politely phrased - not intelligent, and - more importantly - that (ii) this fact is quite important if one wants an adequate understanding of the USA.

In case you did not - quite - get my reference to the Constitution and Bill of Rights, there is this:

The rhetoric about Muslims and undocumented immigrants during this election cycle has raised fears of an increasingly toxic political culture in the country. Throughout the election campaign, Republican politicians have expressed openly bigoted views about minority communities in the United States, in many cases to widespread public approval. Trump’s campaign kicked off with his characterization of undocumented Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” and has seemingly gained steam with every discriminatory remark made since.

While opinions on these issues often split along partisan lines, a majority of Americans now support policies like Trump’s, which would be both unconstitutional and discriminatory.
Quite so. Also - if I am right, which I think I am - it seems rather unlikely that the majority of those who like these "unconstitutional and discriminatory" policies are (even) aware that their opinions are unconstitutional.

2. Will Obama's New Opioid Proposal Continue the Failed War on Drugs?

The second item is
by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:

This starts as follows:

President Obama has unveiled a series of steps aimed at addressing the epidemic of opioid addiction in the United States. In 2014, a record number of Americans died from drug overdoses, with the highest rates seen in West Virginia, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio. Many states reported even higher death tolls in 2015.

This item is in Nederlog because I am ill for 37 years now, which made me learn rather a lot about medicine and drugs that I would very probably not have known without being ill.

But I think this item is quite important, though not precisely in the way Obama put it, when he said:

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It’s important to recognize that today we are seeing more people killed because of opioid overdose than traffic accidents. Now, you think about that. A lot of people tragically die of car accidents, and we spend a lot of time and a lot of resources to reduce those fatalities. And the good news is, is that we’ve actually been very successful. ... The problem is, here, we’ve got the trajectory going in the opposite direction. So, 2014, which is the last year that we have accurate data for, you see an enormous, ongoing spike in the number of people who are using opioids in ways that are unhealthy, and you’re seeing a significant rise in the number of people who are being killed.

This is not false, but it is incomplete, for it neither raises nor answers the question how it is possible that more people nowadays are killed "because of opioid overdose" than by traffic accidents? (And traffic accidents still kill quite a lot of people.)

The basic reasons (I think) are these two: First, health insurance is still a major problem in the USA, especially if you have to survive on little money. This means that quite a few are not insured, or are not insured well enough to get the treatments that are medically required in their conditions. Second, "opioids" have recently become much more popular. [1] This is from the Wikipedia lemma "opioids" (reprinted without note numbers):
In the 1990s, opioid prescribing increased significantly. Once used almost exclusively for the treatment of acute pain or pain due to cancer, opioids are now prescribed liberally for patients experiencing chronic pain. This has been accompanied by rising rates of accidental addiction and accidental overdoses leading to death. According to the International Narcotics Control Board, the United States and Canada lead the per capita consumption of prescription opioids. The number of opioid prescriptions in the United States and Canada is double the consumption in the European Union, Australia, and New Zealand. Certain populations have been affected by the opioid addiction crisis more than others, including First World communities and low-income populations. Public health specialists say that this may result from unavailability or high cost of alternative methods for addressing chronic pain.
The main point in this quotation is the last statement: Opioids (i) are often prescribed these days for pain, also for pains that could have been addressed if the insurance had been better than it is, and (ii) it is often not said by the doctors who prescribe them that these are opioids or that these drugs are quite addictive. And that is - in brief - how many get addicted without knowing it.

I don't think this is a problem that is easy to resolve, and therefore I do think it is highly likely many more will get addicted. (All I can say to help prevent it is to get good health insurance and to read up on what is in the pills your doctor prescribes: Wikipedia has a lot of information.)

As to "the war on drugs", there is the following quite interesting quotation in the article, which I have given before (in another Nederlog) but repeat here because it shows (I think) what "the war on drugs" was really about: Not about drugs, but the opportunity to disrupt the leftists and black people in the early 1970ies:

AMY GOODMAN: A recent article in Harper’s Magazine
revisits the start of the war on drugs under President Nixon. The article cites a 1994 interview with John Ehrlichman, who served as President Richard Nixon’s domestic policy chief. He revealed why the war on drugs began. He said, quote, "The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. ... We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."

So - according to Ehrlichman, whom I believe (about this) - the whole "war on drugs", which did (and does) fill the U.S. prisons with very many convicts who were convicted to prison sentences for smoking marijuana, was in fact not directed against drugs but against leftists and blacks. (And see item 5.)

3. Trump Says Women Who Get Illegal Abortions Should Face 'Some Kind of Punishment'

The third item is by Kali Holloway on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

In Donald Trump’s America, there will be no reproductive justice and the state will mete out punishments to women who endure illegal abortions. That’s from the candidate himself, who expressed his thoughts during an interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews. According to Trump, women who get abortions if the procedure is outlawed should have to face "some kind of punishment."

I am not amazed. Then again, what I am rather amazed about is the whole abortion argument in the USA, but then this is going on since the 1970ies. There is a Wikipedia lemma on it: Abortion in the United States, which is quite extensive, with a lot of information.

Here is a final bit by Kali Holloway:

Bloomberg News published quotes from the upcoming broadcast, which includes the GOP frontrunner suggesting we return to the bad old days when back-alley abortions were a woman’s only option.

“Well, you go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places, but we have to ban it,” Trump actually said.

So yes, Trump wants to forbid abortions and punish those who have one: Back to the 1950ies (or to the 1920ies-1030ies).

4. Why The Major Media Marginalize Bernie

The fourth item i
s by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows:

“Bernie did well last weekend but he can’t possibly win the nomination,” a friend told me for what seemed like the thousandth time, attaching an article from the Washington Post that shows how far behind Bernie remains in delegates.

Wait a minute. Last Tuesday, Sanders won 78 percent of the vote in Idaho and 79 percent in Utah. This past Saturday, he took 82 percent of the vote in Alaska, 73 percent in Washington, and 70 percent in Hawaii.

In fact, since March 15, Bernie has won six out of the seven Democratic primary contests with an average margin of victory of 40 points. Those victories have given him roughly a one hundred additional pledged delegates. 

As of now, Hillary Clinton has 54.9 percent of the pledged delegates to Bernie Sanders’s 45.1 percent. That’s still a sizable gap – but it doesn’t make Bernie an impossibility.
I am rather well acquainted with journalism in The Guardian (once a liberal paper) and the Dutch NRC-Handelsblad (idem), where "sympathizers" (or so they generally say or imply) of Bernie Sanders can freely indulge these sentiments, that also often involve some journalist crouching down to a children's level to explain that (in his or her truly enlightened opinion) "Sanders has no chance".

Meanwhile Sanders is following Hillary closely, and probably will win more in the coming weeks. And there is this:

Bernie is outpacing Hillary Clinton in fundraising. In February, he raised $42 million (from 1.4 million contributions, averaging $30 each), compared to her $30 million. In January he raised $20 million to her $15 million.

By any measure, the enthusiasm for Bernie is huge and keeps growing. He’s packing stadiums, young people are flocking to volunteer, support is rising among the middle-aged and boomers.

That is or seems all true, although it is also true that it may not be sufficient for him to win. (But he shouldn't give up.)

Then there is this to explain the media, but I don't think I agree with that:

The real reason the major media can’t see what’s happening is because the national media exist inside the bubble of establishment politics, centered in Washington, and the bubble of establishment power, centered in New York.

As such, the major national media are interested mainly in personalities and in the money behind the personalities. Political reporting is dominated by stories about the quirks and foibles of the candidates, and about the people and resources behind them.
No, I don't think so, although there is some truth in the explanation: Yes, the major interests of the main media are the personalities and the money that carries them, and yes, the national media exist inside a bubble of establishment politics.

But no: No amount of "living in a bubble" explains the large amount of clever
I have seen in The Guardian and the Handelsblad: The journalists (or "jour-
nalists") know very well what they are doing, which is helping to destroy the real opposition to policies and politicians they defend, and they are also doing it well, indeed in good part by pretending they mean o so very well and are o so very sympathetic to Bernie Sanders.

Something similar holds for the last bit that I will quote from the article:

In addition, because the major media depend on the wealthy and powerful for revenues, because their reporters and columnists rely on the establishment for news and access, because their top media personalities socialize with the rich and powerful and are themselves rich and powerful, and because their publishers and senior executives are themselves part of the establishment, the major media have come to see much of America through the eyes of the establishment. 

The reason I don't quite believe this, although I agree with everything said, is that it denies the "reporters and columnist" either the responsibility or the intelligence to make up their own minds.

And I think most of the mainstream media's journalists that I have read on Bernie Sanders and his chances have made up their minds and don't want him.

5. Obama Isn’t Following Through on Pardons Promise, Says His Former Pardons Attorney 

The fifth and last item today is by Sarah Smith on ProPublica:

This starts as follows and is here for one reason only:

Two years ago, President Obama unveiled an initiative to give early release to potentially thousands of federal prisoners serving long sentences for low-level drug crimes. The initiative has barely made a dent, and a resignation letter from the president’s recently departed Pardon Attorney lays out at least one reason why.

“The position in which my office has been placed, asking us to address the petitions of nearly 10,000 individuals with so few attorneys and support staff, means that the requests of thousands of petitioners seeking justice will lie unheard,” wrote Deborah Leff, who resigned in January.

Leff also wrote that her office was denied “all access to the Office of White House Counsel,” which reviews prisoners’ applications before the president gets them.

Since his announcement two years ago, the president has granted early release to just 187 prisoners.

Leff’s resignation letter was obtained by USA Today.

The reason this is here is that it is yet another illustration of Obama's saying what he thinks his audience likes to hear, and doing something else - and in this case you should also realize that (i) Obama smoked a lot of pot in his youth (and he inhaled [2]), while (ii) there are extremely many people locked up for years in American prisons who did no more than the same or less: They smoked some marijuana, like the last three American presidents.

[1] I blame a good part of the "significant increase" in the prescribing of opioids to the DSM-III, which is "the psychiatrist's bible", that was introduced in 1980, and that totally changed the face and contents of psychiatry:

It went from an admitted hardly scientific practice to a pretended science that was based on illusions and lies, that is even less scientific than it was till 1980, but that also very much increased the prescribing of expensive pills and very much increased the amount of "psychiatric ailments": There are now over 420 "ailments" (mostly with expensive pills, that contribute much to the riches of psychiatrists and pharmaceutical corporations) while there were around 50 until 1980.

And since I have (excellent) academic degrees in philosophy and psychology, I wrote rather a lot about this. In case you care to know more: Here is the index of DSM-5 papers (over 130 entries) while the best argument I wrote is both quite long and quite good:
DSM-5: The six most essential questions in psychiatric diagnosis - 0.

[2] This refers - for my young readers - to Bill Clinton, who also smoked a lot of pot (as did George Bush Jr.), but who found it necessary to insist that he "did not inhale".

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