March 29, 2019

Crisis: After Mueller, Ocasio-Cortez, The Opioid Crisis, Trump & The Military, Trump's 2020 Budget

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from March 29, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Friday, March 29, 2019.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

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 three 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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from March 29, 2019:
1. The Day After Mueller
2. AOC Demolishes GOP Claim That Green New Deal Is “Elitist”

3. The Americans Being Decimated by the Opioid Crisis

4. Trump Wants to Give 62 Cents of Every Dollar to the Military.

5. Trump’s 2020 Budget Rewards the Wealthiest Individuals
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at everyorning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. The Day After Mueller

This article is by Jeremy Scahill on The Intercept. It is a few days after the Mueller report was "reviewed" by William Barr, but the original is from March 27. The article is also too long to be properly excerpted, but it starts as follows, and in fact I will be mainly excerpting bits by Scahill:

If William Barr is not a complete idiot and liar, the Mueller report is a devastating rejection of the Democrats’ major conspiracy theory on Donald Trump and Russia. This week on Intercepted: Naomi Klein analyzes the epic media failure on Trump-Russia and discusses the agenda for change and resistance that should have been. Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi details how the media failed to do its job on Trump-Russia. Ali Abunimah, of the Electronic Intifada, lays out the scandal in plain sight: Israeli collusion with Trump and the broader U.S. political power structure. The Intercept’s Jon Schwarz tells the bizarre tale of China’s illegal influence over the presidential campaign of Jeb Bush. And Alison Klayman talks about her film “The Brink,” a look at the past year of Steve Bannon’s project to bring his white nationalist agenda global.

In fact, this is what you will get if you read the original, which you can do from here. But in fact is is too large, and so I will mostly excerpt bits by Jeremy Scahill, which have the additional benefit that they do clarify the background, at least if you know something about Mueller's report and the USA since 20 or 40 years, which I do assume.

Here is the first bit:

Jeremy Scahill: On January 20th, 2017, Donald J. Trump took power as president of the United States. He had openly campaigned on carnage. He ran for president promising to give the rich more, to bring back torture, to wage a war against immigrants, and to build his wall. He was gleeful in pledging to make America’s healthcare system even worse. He promised to bring back torture, to fill Guantanamo back up, to kill the families of suspected terrorists. He said he would ban Muslims from entering the United States. He encouraged police to be more brutal, has given aid and comfort to Nazis and white supremacists. He openly promised to wage war against women and their bodies, to pummel the environment, to benefit the already ultra-rich. He is corrupt to the bone, has been for a very long time, and he’s proud of it. He brought into his inner circle a dangerous cabal of neo-fascists, white supremacists and, more recently, neoconservatives.

Yes indeed, I think all of this is correct. Also, while you may complain, with some justification also, about the factual election of Trump as president by the Electoral College (because Trump polled fewer voters than Clinton), I think it is considerably more important that around 60 million Americans were stupid or ignorant enough (in majority) to elect a man like Trump with a program as sketched by Scahill.

Here is some more:

JS: And now we come to this whole Russiagate matter. We do not yet have Robert Mueller’s report and Attorney General William Barr is a shady character. He was a key player in covering up the Iran-Contra scandal and getting pardons for some of the key criminals involved with it. But, it would be an unthinkably brazen move—even within Trump world—for William Barr to just whole cloth misquote Robert Mueller when he says that Mueller determined that there was no collusion, no criminal activity by Trump and Russia to interfere in the 2016 elections.

Yes, I basically agree, not because I think Barr is a noble individual, but because Mueller is alive and may contradict him, and also because Mueller's report may become public, in whole (as I think it should be), or in part.

Here is some more:

JS: This much is clear: This has been an utterly colossal media failure and it reveals how little things have actually changed with the broader press since the Iraq War lies. The overall tone of much of the reporting on this Trump-Russia story has started from the position that the intelligence community was being truthful about Trump and Russia. The reporting then sought to further confirm those assertions. It was confirmation bias to the nth degree.

The starting point should be, to quote I.F. Stone, all governments lie.

Yes or perhaps. I like the reference to I.F. Stone, who was quite correct that all governments - sometimes - lie, and who also insisted that it is the duty of all democrats to distrust their own govenrments, also if they are democratically elected.

Then again, it may be more serious than Scahill said, for it may not have been "an utterly collosal media failure" but either the thing one should and could have expected given the enormous declines in journalistic standards since at least 20 years (and the destruction of considerable parts of the paper press), or else as the thing that would naturally follow from the fact that many journalists, especially in the mainstream aka corporatist press are more interested in making money for themselves than in telling the truth to the public.

I will not try to decide these issues here and now. Here is some more:

JS: Right, and it occurs to me that the Democrats, after that humiliating defeat where the chosen one Hillary Clinton did not assume power, that they have now added insult to injury by completely mishandling the first two years of this incredibly dangerous administration and handing Trump an incalculably valuable propaganda asset that he’s going to use on the 2020 campaign trail.

Well... Scahill may be right, but as I pointed out under the previous quotation there are more cynical possibilities, especially since it has been mishandled by large parts of the press for no less than two years, while small parts of the - non-mainstream - press insisted large parts of the press were mistaken.

Here is some more:

JS: Matt, what we’ve seen, and this isn’t new, I mean this really became in vogue post-911, to have former generals and former CIA, former intelligence people just constantly on the airwaves. I mean this has been going on, you know, all the way back through network news, where you would have on your military analyst who was a general or Colonel. But then it explodes, becomes an industry unto itself after 911. The Pentagon starts having all these generals and military analysts come in for secret briefings with Donald Rumsfeld and others where they’re giving them talking points that they can then use without disclosing that or disclosing that they’re on the boards of weapons companies making all the money and they’re constantly on the airwaves. But in this particular case, it sort of graduated to a different level, where you had people like John Brennan who was just the CIA director like right before this all happened. James Clapper, a whole slew of CIA people, the generals are still there.

Yes indeed, and this also can be backed up as I did under the previous quoted bit.

Here is some more:

JS: Ali, what about that? What do you think for instance of the New York Times coverage of this story from the beginning? Was it responsible? There are some really serious good reporters that have worked on this story for the New York Times. Is it fair to sort of say all of the major news organizations got this epically wrong?

AA: I think it is fair to say that with the caveat that there were occasionally good stories or from time to time a journalist who did a reasonable story that you could point to. But the big picture is actually I think the role of the establishment or supposedly respectable media, like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and NPR, has been to launder bullshit and make it look respectable. NPR is one of the worst. They take stuff that is totally unproven or has even been shown to be false and they assert it time and again as if it’s just uncontested fact. So, the thing that you will hear almost every day on NPR is that Russia interfered in our election, Russia interfered in our election. And there’s never any questioning of what that supposed interference amounted to, who was really behind it, when did it happen, did it happen before the election or after, and did it have any impact? They never questioned that. They just assert it.

Yes indeed, and I agree especially with Ali Abunimah, who said that "the big picture is actually I think the role of the establishment or supposedly respectable media, like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and NPR, has been to launder bullshit and make it look respectable. NPR is one of the worst. They take stuff that is totally unproven or has even been shown to be false and they assert it time and again as if it’s just uncontested fact."

I quite agree and I think this makes it considerably more likely that this "laundering bullshit" was quite intentional: They knew that what they did was to "launder bullshit", but they did it nevertheless because they liked the bullshit - which means that they were no longer real journalists, who are supposed to report the real facts, but real propagandists or real advertisers.

Here is the last bit from this article that I quote:

Jon Schwarz: So, in 2010, the Supreme Court famously decides in Citizens United, that U.S. campaign finance law was wrong. Before Citizens United, you could only contribute money for U.S. political campaigns in limited amounts. It had to come from individual citizens. After Citizens United, corporations, unions could put unlimited amounts of money. It could go to super PACs for instance, and as long as they were theoretically not coordinating with individual candidates, they could take this unlimited amount of money and then spend it however they wanted, promoting anything.

Quite so - and what percentage of these "unlimited amounts of money" went to the media, in order to entice them to write what the propagandists of these super PACs wanted them to write? I don't know, but it is fair to ask, and this is a strongly recommended article, in which there is a whole lot more than I quoted.

2. AOC Demolishes GOP Claim That Green New Deal Is “Elitist”

This article is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts with this introduction:

On Tuesday, Congressmember Sean Duffy of Wisconsin suggested the Green New Deal only served the wealthy. New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shot back with a passionate defense of the Green New Deal. We feature her full speech.

Yes indeed. And here is the first part of what Ocasio-Cortez said:

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: When we talk about the concern of the environment as an elitist concern, one year ago I was waitressing in a taco shop in Downtown Manhattan. I just got health insurance for the first time a month ago. This is not an elitist issue; this is a quality-of-life issue. You want to tell people that their concern and their desire for clean air and clean water is elitist? Tell that to the kids in the South Bronx, which are suffering from the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country. Tell that to the families in Flint, whose kids have—their blood is ascending in lead levels. Their brains are damaged for the rest of their lives. Call them elitist. You’re telling them that those kids are trying to get on a plane to Davos? People are dying. They are dying.

Quite so. Here is some more:

This is about American lives. And it should not be partisan. Science should not be partisan. We are facing a national crisis. And if we do not ascend to that crisis, if we do not ascend to the levels in which we were threatened at the Great Depression, when we were threatened in World War II, if we do not ascend to those levels, if we tell the American public that we are more willing to invest and bail out big banks than we are willing to invest in our farmers and our urban families, then I don’t know what we’re here doing. I don’t know what we’re here doing. …

I completely agree, although I do know what quite a few (probably the vast majority, but this I don't know) of the American elected representatives do do: Trying to get as much money for themselves and for the rich who supported them.

Also, as an aside: To my knowledge scientists are (or were, but I leave that to be discussed at another time) the only group of persons who try to write the truth rather than what they desire or value.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

I’m very sad to say that the government knew that climate change was real, starting as far back as 1989, when NASA was reporting this. And the private sector knew way back in the 1970s. So, we had until around the time I was born to address this issue. I wish it didn’t have to cost so much. But I’m going to turn 30 this year, and for the entire 30 years of my lifetime, we did not make substantial investments to prepare our entire country for what we knew was coming.

Quite so - and I know about climate change since before 1972, because I had been reading some books about what was then usually referred to as "pollution" or "the environment" before reading "The Limits to Growth" in the beginning of 1972.

Also, I infer from what I just said that everyone intelligent could have known (and probably did know) about "pollution" and "the environment" from 1970 onwards, at least - which is 50 years minus 1 ago. And this is a strongly recommended article.

3. The Americans Being Decimated by the Opioid Crisis

This article is by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Drug overdoses killed 700,000 people in the United States between 1999 and 2017, and more than two-thirds of those deaths were the result of opioids. This week, the state of Oklahoma won a landmark $270 million settlement against one of the world’s largest manufacturers of prescription opioids, Purdue Pharma, owned by the Sackler family. While the Sackler name doesn’t appear on Purdue’s pill bottles, it does adorn many prestigious museums and academic buildings around the world. Aggressive marketing of Purdue’s products, including its signature addictive drug, OxyContin, made billions of dollars for the Sacklers, some of which they gave to places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Tate museums in London. Now, the tide is turning, thanks in part to legal action like the one in Oklahoma — the lawsuits against Purdue and the Sacklers now number close to 2,000 (..)

I basically agree with the above, although I am not quite sure about the numbers, for I have also read other numbers. But the main facts are quite true.

Also, I like to add that, in so far as I understand medicine and pharmacy, one of the dominant aims of medical pharmacy is to make it impossible - as far as this is likely, which is not 100% - that patients do not get medicines that are addictive, and that in the few cases they do, they are clearly told about this.

Well... for something like 20 years (!!) Purdue and medical doctors they bought assured doctors and patients that OxyContin was not addictive, which was a major lie.

Here is some more:

Meanwhile, the opioid epidemic has continued to grow, expanding from prescription opioids like OxyContin to include heroin and now fentanyl. The epidemic knows no boundaries, affecting people across class and race lines. But, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes, two of the leading risk factors for becoming addicted to opioids, and potentially dying of an overdose, are living in a rural area and being poor.

Yes, indeed. Here is some more, that strongly supports what I said under the first quotation from this article:

The devious and corrupt business practices detailed in the complaint are staggering, and reminiscent of the tactics used by the tobacco industry in order to deceive the public about the harms posed by cigarettes. The suit alleges Purdue and the other companies “intentionally flooded the market with opioids and pocketed billions of dollars in the process,” repeatedly making “false statements designed to persuade both doctors and patients that prescription opioids posed a low risk of addiction.”

Quite so. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Artist Nan Goldin, one of the organizers of the protests, who herself had been addicted to OxyContin, tweeted, after details of the Oklahoma legal settlement were announced: “The Sackler family paid $75 million in the Oklahoma settlement today which admits their culpability. By the way, that’s only 0.2 percent of the $35 billion in profits they made from OxyContin.” To date, the Guggenheim and the Tate museums, as well as Britain’s National Portrait Gallery, have stopped accepting Sackler family funds, and other institutions are considering doing the same.

Yes indeed, and this is a strongly recommended article. Incidentally, if 2/3rds of the 700,000 Americans who died on overdoses were on opiods, that is 455,000 persons in 18 years, which again is almost 9 times as much American persons as were killed in Vietnam.

4. Trump Wants to Give 62 Cents of Every Dollar to the Military.

This article is by Rev.Dr. William J. Barber II, Rev.Dr. Liz Theoharis and Lindsay Koshgarian. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

Donald Trump recently unleashed his dark vision for our nation and our world, in the form of his budget request to Congress.
With this budget, Trump takes more than $1tn in taxpayer money and disperses fully $750bn to the military. Out of every taxpayer dollar, in other words, 62 cents go to the military and our militarized Department of Homeland Security. (Veterans’ benefits take another seven cents.)

That leaves just 31 cents for all the rest: education, job training, community economic development, housing, safe drinking water and clean air, health and science research, and the prevention of war through diplomacy and humanitarian aid.

The budget also cuts billions from non-discretionary anti-poverty programs outside of this $1tn. Medicaid and food stamps would be cut and disfigured beyond recognition.

At every turn, the Trump budget finds vast billions for militarization, while it cuts much smaller poverty and other programs, claiming the goal is to save money.

Yes, quite so, and my own inference is that Trump and his government are preparing for (more) war(s) if they spend 69 cents of every 1 dollar taxed on war, which they plan on doing.

Then again, there is one good thing about this budget: It is most unlikely to become law, now that the Democrats have the majority in the House.

Here is one more bit from this article:

The budget falsely claims to adhere to strict spending limits set by Congress for the military. But it hides an extra $174bn for the Pentagon in plain sight by adding it to a war spending account—despite the fact that the president has said he wants to bring back thousands of troops from Syria and Afghanistan. This gimmick brings total military spending all the way up to $750bn, even while the administration claims it is cutting the base Pentagon budget.

Saving money is apparently only the goal when it’s spending on the poor, on justice and equity, and on saving the Earth. Saving money, in other words, is just a smokescreen.

Yes indeed and this is a recommended article.

5. Trump’s 2020 Budget Rewards the Wealthiest Individuals

This article is by C.J. Polychroniou on Truthout. It starts as follows:

Donald Trump’s 2020 budget proposal represents the wildest version of neoliberalism yet. It is just the latest evidence that the United States has become a plutocracy run by an oligarchical elite bent on destroying the last vestiges of a democratic polity.

Trump’s fiscal budget proposal threatens to exacerbate all of the major problems facing the U.S. economy and society today “in order to fund more goodies for the wealthy,” according to radical political economist Gerald Epstein. In this interview with Truthout, Epstein — the co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute and a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst — discusses why the Trump budget proposal is a blatant power grab, why we need to think about economics beyond GDP growth, and why the U.S. government is incurring more debt that does not even begin to address the problems the country faces.

Yes indeed, and also see here. Here is some more:

Gerald Epstein: Let me start with the latter part of your question by saying that, if Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget proposal were to be implemented, the consequences would be simply disastrous. Indeed, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a reliable source of information on federal budget and tax policy, has catalogued the “little shop of horrors” that make up Trump’s budget. As you indicated, the budget proposes deep cuts in non-defense discretionary spending (NDD) alongside sizeable increases in military spending. The Trump budget proposes cutting the NDD funding by 11 percent after adjusting for inflation. But the overall cuts on key social programs would be even greater than this, because the Trump budget protects or even increases some categories of NDD. As the CPBB says, the budget proposal increases discretionary funding for Homeland Security by 15 percent, while cutting funding for Health and Human services by 12 percent, Housing and Urban Development by 18 percent and the Environmental Protection Agency by a whopping 31 percent. The budget calls for even deeper cuts in the years after 2020; for example, in 2029, it would lower NDD by about 40 percent below current funding in 2019 adjusted for inflation. The budget would take away medical insurance from millions of people by repealing the Affordable Care Act and making deep cuts to Medicaid. It would also cut many other programs for the poor, including food stamps and housing assistance. Trump proposes all this in order to fund more goodies for the wealthy.

Yes indeed, with two remarks: The first remark is that Trump does not only want to benefit the wealthy but also the military and their industries, and the second remark is that Trump's proposed budget will probably fail because the House is now in the hands of the Democrats.

Here is some more:

If it were to be implemented (which is unlikely in the current Congress because of control of the House by the Democrats), this budget proposal would solve none of the key outstanding problems facing our economy and society — glaring inequality of income, wealth and life chances; runaway destructive climate change; low wages and incomes for many workers, even those that work full time; crumbling infrastructure, including schools, mass transportation and even highways; and a disastrously expensive and unequal medical system, among many others.

Quite so. There is a whole lot more that I will neither excerpt nor review in this Nederlog, but it is all recommended. Here is the ending of this article:

But we can start by looking at the real proposals that have been put forward by progressive presidential candidates and politicians, such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. These proposals include Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, universal child care, a $15 minimum wage, a full employment policy. For the first time in decades, we have a set of policies that provide a basis for discussion, and progressives running for election and moving legislation, that could, if implemented, make a big difference in the problems you identify. We don’t necessarily have all the solutions, but many of these proposals provide a great start.

Yes indeed - and one important remark, that I think is quite true, is that "[f]or the first time in decades, we have a set of policies that provide a basis for discussion, and progressives running for election and moving legislation, that could, if implemented, make a big difference in the problems you identify". Then again, to realize that, the Democrats need to win considerably more votes than the Republicans in 2020. And this is a 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 3 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 (!!).
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