March 7, 2018

Crisis: Gary Cohn, US Health Care, Democrats' Shamming, The "Resistance", Daniel Ellsberg


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from March 7, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, March 7, 2018. There also is another Nederlog today, in Dutch. It is a repeat from 2006: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from March 7, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. Gary Cohn’s Exit Won’t Make This Administration Any Better 
2. How Corporate Health Care Leaders Maintain Their Impunity
3. California's Democratic Primary and the Sham of Elections
4. Six Ways the 'Resistance' Gave Trump a Dictator’s Toolkit
5. Daniel Ellsberg on Dismantling the Doomsday Machine
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Gary Cohn’s Exit Won’t Make This Administration Any Better

This article is by The Editorial Board on The New York Times:

In an administration filled with people with dubious ideas, limited experience and loads of ethical baggage, Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs executive who became the top economics official in the Trump White House, was supposed to be among the sensible adults in the room. Now, he is leaving after failing repeatedly to be the stabilizing influence that the Trump administration sorely needed.

Many critics of Mr. Trump are already cheering Mr. Cohn’s departure. Indeed, he has done an awful job. His chief accomplishment was helping pass a tax cut that will benefit wealthy people like himself while adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt for future generations to pay off. Mr. Cohn’s other pet project — to develop a plan to rebuild American infrastructure — produced a shambolic proposal that is going nowhere in Congress.
In fact, I do not see why the NYT writes that Cohn
"has done an awful job. His chief accomplishment was helping pass a tax cut that will benefit wealthy people like himself while adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt for future generations to pay off"
for in fact he succeeded (it seems) in arranging it that by 2027, when the tax cuts spoken of in the last quotation are fully implemented, that 83% of the benefits of those tax cuts will all go to the richest 1% (including himself).

Surely, that was one of the main aims of this "registered Democrat". Here is more on Cohn and others that are part of the Trump government:

Yet, for all his flaws, Mr. Cohn most likely represents the high-water mark for economic thinking in this administration. The Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, another former Goldman banker, sent currency markets reeling recently when he talked flippantly about weakening the dollar. Kevin Hassett, who is the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, has peddled nonsense about how the corporate tax cut will increase wages for working families when in fact most credible experts rightly predicted that it would principally benefit investors. In another corner, Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, and Peter Navarro, a White House trade adviser, are goading the president to start a destructive trade war with the rest of the world.

I take it this is all true. (I don't know.) Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

With the cranks and nationalists ascendant in Trump World, whoever replaces Mr. Cohn is unlikely to be any better than he is, and possibly quite a bit worse. No sound economist would risk his or her reputation by working in this administration. Since before even taking office, Mr. Trump has reeled from one scandal to the next. Recent weeks have brought a parade of senior officials departing, most under a cloud of suspicion. The first-year turnover among senior staff members in the Trump administration is significantly higher than for the past five presidents and is double the rate for the first year of the Reagan administration, the previous record-holder, according to the Brookings Institution.

Of course, Mr. Trump is adamant that there is no chaos in his administration.
In fact, while I do think there are a few - more or less - sound economists, I also am quite sure that neither the Editorial Board nor Trump will agree with me. And it does not seem very unlikely to me that Trump will nominate another banker that comes from Goldman Sachs, although I do not know this is correct, nor do I have any idea who it might be.

But it is correct that Gary Cohn has left the Trump government, and it is also correct this is fairly important. And this is a recommended article.

2. How Corporate Health Care Leaders Maintain Their Impunity

This article is by Roy Poses MD on Health Care Renewal. This is from near the beginning:

For years, we have railed against the impunity of top leaders of health care organizations.  We have noted that despite numerous legal settlements made by health care organizations of alllegations like fraud, bribery, and kickbacks, almost never do top leaders who presided over these actions face any negative consequences.  Lack of deterrence caused by such impunity appears to be a major cause of  the epidemic of continuing unethical behavior, crime and corruption on the part of large health care organizations. How executives got to the point of having such impunity has never been clear.
To start with, here is a bit of personal background on why I am following Health Care Renewal.
There are basically two kinds of reasons.

The first is that within less than 10 months I'll be ill forty years (40 years) with a serious disease - Myalgic Encephalomyelitis - that for all the time that I have this disease this has been denied by 27 of the 30 Dutch "medical specialists" (all very much richer than I ever could be) and other "medical doctors": They all said - in effect - I was not ill but insane (though they phrased it more politely). For me (I did not select the vast majority of "medical specialists") this means that 9 out of 10 of all Dutch medical doctors are very much more interested in the money they make, than in the patients they treat: They are medical frauds.

The second is that while I was ill I did three full studies in the "University" of Amsterdam. The main reason I could do so - and note that I usually was too ill to follow any lectures, which is a serious additional handicap - is that I found in 1978 (because my girlfriend was a psychological assistant who mainly tested IQs) that my IQ is over 150, while the average IQ in the "University" of Amsterdam was ... 115. (Which is ludicrously low, for a university.)

In any case, I did make an M.A. in psychology with an excellent M.A.; I did make an excellent B.A. in philosophy in 1980, but was denied the right to take my M.A. in philosophy in 1988 because I was not a Marxist (and had said so clearly [2]), and because I had dared to criticize the utterly incompetent parasites who were paid a lot of money to teach "philosophy", and I also wanted to take an M.A. in Norwegian, where I had lived nearly three years and learned to speak and read the language really well, but I soon found out that the "University" of Amsterdam did not even have a single speaker of Norwegian, and blamed me for getting angry about this, which made me finish there.

To turn back to my health: I am following Health Care Renewal because I am much more interested in good medical science and good medical morals than almost anybody else, for the simple reason that my life has been destroyed by medical liars and degenerates who all were very much more interested in their own finances than in helping or maintaining or even listening more than 5 minutes to people like myself and my ex, who also had the extreme ill luck of getting ill in 1979 with M.E., and who also is still ill, and who also got a brilliant M.A. in psychology, because her IQ was 142 and not 115. (But Dutch medics nearly all pretend we do not exist and do not deserve any hearing.)

Finally, to turn to the above quotation: I agree with everything except the last statement, "
How executives got to the point of having such impunity has never been clear." I disagree with that because I think the main reason that the rich medical frauds could fraud almost as much and certainly as long as the rick banking frauds who make millions in the USA each year are the political frauds in the Senate and in Congress who are in at least 95% of the cases only getting  rich themselves.

There are some more reasons, and one of them is this:
In general we have seen much tougher enforcement directed against relatively small health care players than against bigger ones.  For example, we noted in 2014 that settlements by  Merck, Eli Lilly, Takeda, and Teva, all large pharmaceutical companies, allowed the companies to pay fines to settle allegations that they pushed dangerous products, while none of the executives who authorized, enabled, or directed these actions faced negative consequences.
Yes, I agree but I also insist that money = power, and that with sufficient amounts of money you can buy the large majority of those in power, at least in the present USA.

Here is more by Roy Poses MD:
However, this rationale does not address the failure to pursue enforcement actions against organizational leaders who who enabled, authorized, directed or implemented misbehavior.  It is not that there are no good legal tools available to do so.  We wrote in 2012,
As we noted here, a Supreme Court case from 1943 empowered the government to seek penalties against responsible corporate officers (the "responsible corporate officer doctrine") who were in a position to stop a fraud that resulted in a guilty plea or conviction, particularly for the selling of misbranded or adulterated drugs into interstate commerce under the US Food and Drug Act.    Despite a threat made in 2010 by the chief counsel of the Inspector General's office of the US Department of Health and Human Services to use such legal authority to "get high level executives out of companies," nothing of the sort has happened.
I suppose this is true (again I don't know) but I also suppose that in the end the causes are the same as made all higher executives all American banks stand free from any legal prosecution whatsoever: They could fraud as much as they please because - lied Eric Holder - "they are too big to fail".

That was a lie, but the top people of the banks were told that they could do almost anything they pleased to get as rich as they could, because applying the law against them was out. And I think the same happened in case of the pharmaceutical corporations.

In fact, there is rather a lot more in quotations from The Intercept, which I think are quite good, but which I do not quote here: If you want to read them get the original article.

I skip all that and end with the following:

So this suggests that leaders of large health care corporations have actively attempted to preserve their impunity.  Furthermore, their methods have been aimed not just at increasing their personal impunity, but the impunity of all corporate leaders, which has implications beyond health care. In that they resemble efforts of leaders of other big corporations, like tobacco companies, to combat specific regulations by campaigning against regulation in general.  Finally, they have deliberately obscured their efforts to dodge responsbility by using third parties paid with concealed funds.
Yes, but in fact it is worse: it is not just the tobacco companies and some others who plainly frauded. It are the bankers who frauded and who were declared free to fraud; it are the policians who frauded because this made them a lot richer; and indeed it also are the leaders of large health corporations who frauded, and who also were hugely rewarded for their frauds, e.g. by having to pay a small percentage of their gains back to the state to buy off prosecution of the leaders of the frauds. (Which is what happened very many times.)

So I think this article is well worth reading, but in fact it is not negative enough. But it is a recommended article.

3. California's Democratic Primary and the Sham of Elections

This article is by Scott Tucker on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

The recent California Democrats State Convention denied Sen. Dianne Feinstein an endorsement for a fifth full term, although the party machine and her bank account are still in her favor. There are signs of dissent and youthful unrest among Democrats, and not just in California, though anyone hoping to reform that party must first break the death grip of the old guard.

Yes indeed, although I am afraid that "the old guard" - presumably: Hillary Clinton and here team - are extremely hard to "break", simply because the big money in the Democratic Party is with them (and big money these days supports and permits massive fraudulence of any kind).

In fact, a considerable part of the rest of this article is given to a new voting schema that is being adopted in California, in which it is not parties that compete, but (always: rich) individuals, also if both are Democrats or both are Republicans. It clearly has little to do with real politics, and everything with helping the rich to get the positions they wanted, but I quote only this bit on it:

If leading Democrats in California really want to make elections fair and democratic, they would endorse and campaign in earnest for instant-runoff voting, or ranked-choice voting. So why don’t they? Career politicians in the big corporate parties don’t really want the competition. They would prefer to continue framing opposition candidates and parties as “spoilers.” They prefer to pose as pragmatists and lament “wasted votes”—namely, the votes they can never gain by honest elections.

When such career politicians and their publicists also have the gall to give us advice on “swing states” and “strategic voting,” they deserve Bronx cheers. If something has to give, it is their corrupt “bipartisan” electoral system, and not our votes.
I agree with this. Here is Scott Tucker's ending:

Because they work in earnest to disenfranchise voters who oppose their public policies, they also teach the useful lesson that a social revolution may be necessary to gain a truly democratic republic.

We can have democracy in this country, or we can have their two-party system, but we cannot have both. The actual party of peace, economic democracy and ecological sanity is still a work in progress, including many Green Party voters and supporters of democratic socialism.

The parties of corporate dictatorship will not reform themselves out of sheer goodwill. Only steady resistance will break their grip on power. Whether on election days or in the social movements that go over, under and around their corporate obstacle course, our voice and our message are growing clearer and stronger:

Not one cent for the parties of corporate dictatorship, not one vote for the parties of war and empire.

Again I agree, but I also note the main problem with the above: The problem is that "the parties of corporate dictatorship" have all the money they want from the very rich corporations, while the individuals who oppose them have no rich backers. Anyway... this is a recommended article.

4. Six Ways the 'Resistance' Gave Trump a Dictator’s Toolkit

This article is by Lee Camp on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

My longtime arch-nemesis, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—which I thought we had vanquished after years of stabbing, kicking and choking it—may now be rising from the dead like a zombie, like a vampire, like a Jeff Sessions. And this is yet another sign that the so-called Democratic “Resistance” is a joke so big it has to buy two airplane seats.

Let me explain.

The TPP was the largest trade deal ever conceived. It was created under Barack Obama, hashed out in secrecy by corporate lawyers, involved 12 countries and would’ve gone through except that Donald Trump promised during his campaign he would not sign it. When he got into office, he stuck to that promise.
Yes indeed, and you can find a lot about the TPP by checking the indexes of Nederlog from 2013 till 2016 inclusive.

Next, there is this:
Trump binned it because a bunch of people on Twitter yelled at him, and he thought: “Whatever they said—I’ll do that. Plus, it will piss off Obama.

”So as idiots and paint chip nibblers are known to do, Trump did something good for all the wrong reasons. That’s pretty much the case every time he does something good.
This is a brief explanation, but I think it is correct. Then there is this on NAFTA:
He’s also renegotiating NAFTA to “get us a better deal,” which is like hiring an empty shoe box to renegotiate your mortgage. And keep in mind, NAFTA was not just a disaster for your average American. It was a disaster for your average Mexican, too, which triggered much of the migration to the United States that Trump supporters and run-of-the-mill racists love to complain about. NAFTA allowed U.S. corporations to crush Mexican farmers, and suddenly, trekking through the deadly desert to America seemed like a nice option.
I did not find much about NAFTA in my Nederlogs, but there us a good article on March 9, 2016, about it (in part) which - incidentally - also has a review of Robert Reich calling Trump "a fascist".

Then there is this about "The Resistance" in the USA:

What does this have to do with the so-called Democratic “resistance”? Well, there’s a reason Trump has such an outsize trade authority—a reason your mainstream media would rather you forget. Obama handed this trade authority to Trump on a silver platter. Back in 2015, Congress, under pressure from the Obama administration, voted to give the president, any president, unlimited trade authority for the next six years. This means Congress cannot change a word of any trade deal Trump approves.

This is yet another way the corporate-owned Democrats have furthered and supported Donald Trump every step of the way. They try to act like the “Resistance,” but they’re not resisting anything. They’re trying desperately to prop him up, make him stronger, give him every power a unitary executive can have.

In fact, I did not know that Obama handed unlimited trade authority to Trump, though indeed I am not amazed (and Obama is a fraud like the Clintons).

As to "The Resistance": I partially agree. I did pay a little attention to it in late 2016, but when it turned out it was mainly Keith Olbermann acting as if he is a Hero Of The Resistance in pretty crazy programs, I started skipping it, and I still do.

Then again, I do not know whether I agree that the Democrats are supporting "Donald Trump every step of the way": I think the Democrats are supporting Big Money, and especially though not solely the rich bankers.

But here is more by Lee Camp:

Besides unlimited trade authority, many Democrats also voted to continue to give Trump unlimited war powers with the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Thirteen Democratic senators voted to continue to have no congressional oversight over Trump’s wars. Remember that the next time Jean Shaheen, Claire McCaskill, Mark Warner and Sheldon Whitehouse try to tell you they’re part of the resistance. No, they’re part of the “freesistance”—giving Trump a free pass for unlimited war. They’re paid employees of the war profiteers. Having the word “Senator” before your name just means you’re one of the more highly paid employees. It just means you have a bathroom that others aren’t allowed to use.

I fear that is quite correct. And there is this:

A few weeks ago, Congress passed a spending bill that took away the remaining congressional oversight of the intelligence community. Before that, they voted to continue giving Trump unlimited surveillance abilities.

Here is a sum up of points by Lee Camp:

Just to sum up, the Democrats have helped, voted for, and often argued in favor of all of the following:

  1. Giving Trump unlimited war powers.
  2. Giving Trump unlimited trade negotiation powers.
  3. Giving Trump unlimited surveillance powers.
  4. Giving Trump the power to lock someone up indefinitely without a trial or charges under the National Defense Authorization Act.
  5. Giving Trump the power to assassinate American citizens without a trial or charges.
  6. Giving Trump’s administration full control of our election system infrastructure.
If this is considered “resistance,” then I don’t want to be a part of it.

Well... I do not know whether all of this is correct, but much of it is. And this is from the ending of the article:

As George Carlin said, “It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.” Schiff is corrupt and working for corporate America and Wall Street. Trump is corrupt and working for corporate America and Wall Street. Ninety-five percent of the Democratic congresspeople are corrupt and working for corporate America and Wall Street. Ninety-nine percent of the Republicans are corrupt and working for corporate America and Wall Street.

Do not expect them to save us.

We cannot look to inverted totalitarianism to save us from inverted totalitarianism. The ruling elite will let us die and then charge us for the coffins.

Yes indeed, and this is a recommended article.

5. Daniel Ellsberg on Dismantling the Doomsday Machine

This article is by John Mecklin from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.
In [The Doomsday Machine] Ellsberg chronicles his early career as a RAND Corporation analyst deeply involved in the crafting of American nuclear war plans in the 1960s—plans that were meant to be more controlled and discriminating than earlier versions but, he came eventually to understand, were actually blueprints for the obliteration of civilization. “Working, conscientiously, obsessively, on a wrong problem, countering an illusory threat, I and my colleagues at RAND had distracted ourselves and helped distract others from dealing with the real dangers posed by the mutual superpower pursuit of nuclear weapons—dangers which we were helping make worse—and from real opportunities to make the world more secure,” Ellsberg writes. “Unintentionally, yet inexcusably, we made our country and the world less safe.”
I think that is correct, and in case you are interested, here is some more about Daniel Ellsberg (whom I do admire).

The rest I quote from the interview, that makes up most of the article. Here is the first bit:

John Mecklin: For those few people in the world who haven’t read your book yet, why did you write it now?

Daniel Ellsberg: I drafted the first part of the book really 40 years ago, just after the [Vietnam] war ended in 1975. My publisher then said they would sell 1,400 copies, which meant that they would not publish it. Really, I tried a couple of other times. There was no interest in publishing.

I spent all my time trying to help build an anti-nuclear movement, like the anti-war movement. My full-time job was in work on the bilateral nuclear weapons freeze and various other things. I was getting arrested in civil disobedience actions, 87 times up till now. I was doing that and getting interviewed a lot and speaking on this subject all the time but with no national attention, whatever, to either the arrests or the lectures or the interviews or anything like that. Many people thought I just disappeared all that time. Actually, I was being pretty active in getting a lot of local coverage, but no national coverage at all.

In fact, I admit that I did not read The Doomsday Machine and I also do not know anyone who has. (I think you should if you have any doubts, but I have been demonstrating against nuclear arms already in the 1950s.)

And Ellsberg is quite correct that while he has been quite busy with nuclear arms since 1975, there was no interest in him or his theses on a national level.

Here is more on the American (mainstream) media and their reasons to almost never write or talk about a major nuclear war:

John Mecklin: The major media tend to almost never actually confront or describe the actual effects of a major nuclear war. Why do you think that is?

Daniel Ellsberg: That’s hard for me to say, really. I certainly agree with you. I would say they have been shockingly derelict in reporting this. I can’t give an answer. I haven’t been able to ask their editors what’s going on.

But it’s a very interesting question. My speculative answer would have to be that the major media have always supported basically—until quite recently perhaps—our basic nuclear arsenals. Insane as they are. They’re unjustifiable, if you really look at them critically. And yet they’re treated as though they are reasonable responses to the nuclear era, which they are not. Nothing reasonable about them at all.

I think the answer of Ellsberg is correct. Then again, there are other reasons. Here is Ellsberg again:

What’s it all for? It is for [military] service share of the budget. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Grumman, Northrop. Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, as one after another official has put it, from James Baker to others. Profits, as I say, jobs, and campaign donations. It’s embedded in all 50 states of the union, one way or another, in the various expenditures, and very hard to get rid of. Almost impossible.

Yes indeed: nuclear arms are supported because they give enormous profits to a few corporations, which also plow a small part of their enormous profits back as campaign donations for politicians who support nuclear arms.

Here is the last bit, on Ellsberg motivation:

I was participating in plans—it’s true for my plans as well—for something that is only euphemistically called mass murder. “Mass” doesn’t entirely convey that we’re not talking about a massacre in a historic sense here, but we’re talking about the annihilation of tens, hundreds of millions of people. And really billions of people. That’s not an exaggeration; even aside from the smoke [that causes nuclear winter], you’re talking billions of people. Mass murder doesn’t quite convey that, because there is no human language that conveys it.

We don’t have language, and we don’t have concepts.
I agree, and I think since a long time than any major nuclear war certainly will destroy human civilization, and probably all of mankind, in the somewhat longer run, with nuclear winters of many years, and with ever present nuclear radiation. And this is a strongly recommended article.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

[2] This happened five or seven days into the first year I studied, which was the academic year 1977/1978. What made this quite important (which I did not know at the time: I had lived in Norway) is that the whole university (all Dutch universities) had effectively been given ¨to the students¨, who had the vast majority in any university, and the students (at least those in Amsterdam, Nijmegen and Tilburg) were almost all very ¨leftist¨, and many supported the Dutch Communist Party from 1977 till 1984, and after that converted to postmodernism, and as soon as socialism had collapsed in the Soviet Union nearly all became neoconservatives.

This situation of all Dutch universities being in the hand of the students was unique in the world; it lasted for 25 years; it was totally undone by a parliamentary decision in 1995; and all of the leaders of the present universities pretend that the years from 1971 till 1995 (that covered at least 4 full generations of students) simply do not exist.

I cannot regard the Dutch ¨universities¨ as real universities since 1995: they are - at best - colleges (as indeed was already the official plan in 1992).

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