April 29, 2019

Crisis: Health Care Corruption, Socialists, Collective Suicide, Taking Down Bernie, On Real Science

“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 April 29, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Monday, April 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 April 29, 2019:
1. How to Challenge Health Care Corruption Under a Corrupt Regime?
2. Socialists Win Spain Election, Far-Right Emerges as Player

3. Humanity Is Committing Collective Suicide

4. Operation Take Down Bernie

5. Democracy has a problem with science
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. How to Challenge Health Care Corruption Under a Corrupt Regime?

This article is by Roy M. Poses MD on Health Care Renewal. It starts as follows:
In these last few weeks, the US news has been dominated by the release of a redacted verion of the Mueller report which included extensive evidence of questionable behavior by President Trump, his campaign, and various Trump associates.  This week, an editorial in Mother Jones suggested:
The Russia scandal was never, in the main, about whether the president would be prosecuted for a crime. It was, and is, about a bigger issue: A wealthy politician who hoped to profit from pandering to a foreign autocrat put his own financial interests above those of his country, who abetted a foreign attack, and who lied about it to those he swore to serve.

There is a word for this, but it’s not collusion. It’s corruption.
The editorial suggested that journalists have not done an adequate job pursuing the underlying "rot" in the US government and the Trump administration:
And rather than laying off investigating it, as too many are suggesting now, journalism needs to back up and look at the whole thing.
It seems to be a great idea, but in fact, some journalists, scholars, bloggers, etc have been looking at corruption for a long time, including health care corruption, and corruption in the US government.  The problem, however, is that much of the discussion of corruption has been anechoic.
Yes indeed, although I dislike Mother Jones because it has recently made itself uncopiable, which makes it - in my eyes - as bad as The Guardian (or worse, because Mother Jones has paraded its "progressiveness" more than The Guardian). Also, while I read it for years, I totally avoid it since it is uncopiable. (I don't read uncopiable texts.)

Also, I agree with Health Care Renewal's report on themselves, which indeed also is part of my reasons for reading it, although these reasons also comprise the fact that both my ex and myself have been ill for over 40 years now with what was - at very long last - identified as "a serious chronic disease", but which was for 39 years treated not as a disease by almost 100% of all Dutch medical doctors, but as "neurasthenia" aka "it is psychosomatic" (and both terms are not medical science but plain bullshit).

Since my ex and I also fell ill in the first year of our university studies and have been, both financially, healthwise, and in terms of available help (none whatsoever) been gravely damaged, and since we saw 30 Dutch medical doctors of whom 27 said it was "psychosomatic" (which is not a part of medical science but of metaphysics), I insist that I have good evidence to say that at least 90% of all Dutch medical doctors is medically incompetent as soon as rare diseases or diseases with problematic evidence are concerned, which indeed I do.

I am also scientifically justified in saying that, which I know because my ex and I - crazy as we were, not getting any help whatsoever - both succeeded in getting excellent M.A.s in psychology, even though we never or almost never had the energy to follow any lectures (and largely because we both are considerably more intelligent than average students).

Anyway... the existence of this review is based on the last few paragraphs. I take it my readers probably will want to skip it, simply because they are not ill and do not expect ever to get a rare disease that is difficult to pin down with current medical knowledge. In any case, I like Health Care Renewal, and am reading it for years.

Here is some more:
As we wrote in August, 2017, Transparency International (TI) defines corruption as
Abuse of entrusted power for private gain
In 2006, TI published a report on health care corruption, which asserted that corruption is widespread throughout the world, serious, and causes severe harm to patients and society.
the scale of corruption is vast in both rich and poor countries.
Corruption might mean the difference between life and death for those in need of urgent care. It is invariably the poor in society who are affected most by corruption because they often cannot afford bribes or private health care. But corruption in the richest parts of the world also has its costs.
The report got little attention.  Health care corruption has been nearly a taboo topic in the US, anechoic, presumably because its discussion would offend the people it makes rich and powerful.
Yes indeed. I agree with Poses' point that the discussion of health care corruption "would offend the people it makes rich and powerful", which is a strong reason that it is rarely discussed, but I also have another reason:

Most people who go to a medical doctor with a medical complaint tend to view the medical doctors they see not as rational scientists but as little short of wonderworkers - and indeed most people who go to a medical doctor are neither scientists themselves nor acquainted with medicine. And the medical doctors - most that my ex and I saw, certainly - much like to be regarded as wonderworkers.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
However, Health Care Renewal has stressed "grand corruption," or the corruption of health care leaders.  We have noted the continuing impunity of top health care corporate managers.  Health care corporations have allegedly used kickbacks and fraud to enhance their revenue, but at best such corporations have been able to make legal settlements that result in fines that small relative to their  multi-billion revenues without admitting guilt.  Almost never are top corporate managers subject to any negative consequences.

We have been posting about this for years at Health Care Renewal, while seeing little progress on this issue.
Precisely, and both Poses MD and Health Care Renewal are quite right, and are to be admired for doing so. And there is a lot more in this article, but the above will do for a review. And in any case, if you are ill or know somebody is ill, especially if this illness is declared uncertain or false by medical doctors, Health Care Renewal is a good source, and this article is strongly recommended.

2. Socialists Win Spain Election, Far-Right Emerges as Player

This article is by Aritz Parra and Joseph Wilson on Truthdug and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:

Spain’s governing center-left Socialists won the country’s election Sunday but must seek backing from smaller parties to maintain power, while a far-right party rode an unprecedented surge of support to enter the lower house of parliament for the first time in four decades.

Voters in Spain had become disillusioned as the country struggled with a recession, austerity cuts, corruption scandals, divisive demands for independence from the restive Catalonia region and a rise in far-right nationalism not seen since Spain’s dictatorship ended in the 1970s.

With 99% of ballots counted, the Socialists led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez won 29% of the vote, capturing 123 seats in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies. The new far-right Vox party made its national breakthrough by capturing 10% of the vote, which would give it 24 seats.

Yes indeed. And I review this in part as a European, and in part because the socialists (or the left) did win the elections in Spain, which is not quite in line with the European tendency, which is right-wing.

Anyway, here is one more bit from this article:

Vox, which was formed five years ago, has promised to defend Spain from its “enemies,” citing feminists, liberal elites and Muslims among others. Its emergence on the national stage gives Spain five political parties, furthering political fragmentation in a country that was alternately ruled for decades by the Socialists and the Popular Party.

To stay in office, the Socialists and Sánchez must form a governing alliance with smaller parties, including the far-left United We Can led by Pablo Iglesias.

Iglesias said after the vote the he “would have liked a better result, but it’s been enough to stop the right-wing and build a left-wing coalition government,” adding that he’s already offered support to Sánchez.

Yes again, and this is a recommended article.

3. Humanity Is Committing Collective Suicide

This article is by Tom Engelhardt on Truthdig and originally on TomDispatch. This is from not far from its beginning:

When the cathedral in which Napoleon briefly crowned himself emperor seemed likely to collapse, it was certifiably an event of headline importance. When, however, the cathedral (if you care to think of it that way) in which humanity has been nurtured all these tens of thousands of years, on which we spread, developed, and became what we are today — I mean, of course, the planet itself — is in danger of an unprecedented sort from fires we continue to set, that’s hardly news at all. It’s largely relegated to the back pages of our attention, lost any day of the week to headlines about a disturbed, suicidal young woman obsessed with the Columbine school massacre or an attorney general obsessed with protecting the president.

And let’s not kid ourselves, this planet of ours is beginning to burn — and not just last week or month either. It’s been smoldering for decades now.

Well... I skipped the initials about Notre Dame, but you will understand the point that is being made in the quoted paragraphs, and Engelhardt is right that the news about climate change or pollution or the environment (pick a term) is in fact not news, but is decades old.

In fact, I think it may be even older than Engelhardt believes, for I date serious concerns
about climate change or pollution or the environment (pick a term) as starting in 1959, when Aldous Huxley several times held lectures that address the problems following this. I should add these lectures were not immediately published, but they were in the 1970ies, and are still available as "The Human Situation" (which is strongly recommended).

Here is some more:

Meanwhile, in the Antarctic, ice is melting at a rate startling to scientists. If the process accelerates, global sea levels could rise far faster than expected, beginning to drown coastal cities like Miami, New York, and Shanghai more quickly than previously imagined. Meanwhile, globally, the wildfire season is lengtheningFearsome fires are on the rise, as are droughts, and that’s just to begin to paint a picture of a heating planet and its ever more extreme weather systems and storms, of (if you care to think of it that way) a Whole Earth version of Notre Dame.

Yes indeed - and since I lived for 65 years in Amsterdam, where I also was born, I add Amsterdam as a "coastal city" that may drown, not because it is exactly on the coast, but because it is more than 2 meters below the current sea level.

Anyway. Here is some more:

Take, for example, the advisory panel of scientists reporting to President Lyndon Johnson on the phenomenon of global warming back in 1965. They would, in fact, predict with remarkable accuracy how our world was going to change for the worse by this twenty-first-century moment.
As that panel wrote at the time, “Through his worldwide industrial civilization, Man is unwittingly conducting a vast geophysical experiment. Within a few generations he is burning the fossil fuels that slowly accumulated in the earth over the past 500 million years…” In other words, the alarm was first sounded more than half a century ago.

Yes indeed, and it is good that this is pointed out. Here is some more:

On taking office, Donald Trump appointed more climate-change deniers to his cabinet than might have previously seemed possible and swore fealty to “American energy dominance,” while working to kneecap the development of alternative energy systems.  He and his men tried to open new areas to oil and gas drilling, while in every way imaginable striving to remove what limits there had been on Big Energy, so that it could release its carbon emissions into the atmosphere unimpeded.

Precisely. Here is some more:

Among those who will someday be considered the greatest criminals in history, don’t forget the Big Energy CEOs who, knowing the truth about climate change from their own hired scientists, did everything they could to increase global doubts by funding climate-denying groups, while continuing to be among the most profitable companies around. They even hedged their bets by, among other things, investing in alternative energy and using it to more effectively drill for oil and natural gas.

Well... I agree that "the Big Energy CEOs" are major criminals, but I much doubt that they will be known as such, for the fairly simple reason that nearly all men and women disappear from "current knowledge" after 25, 50 or 75 years maximally.

Anyway, this is from the ending:

We are, of course, talking about nothing short of the ultimate crime, but on any given day of our lives, you’d hardly notice that it was underway. Even for an old man like me, it’s a terrifying thing to watch humanity make a decision, however inchoate, to essentially commit suicide.

I more or less agree (and am almost as old as Engelhardt). This is a recommended article.

4. Operation Take Down Bernie

This article is by Ruth Connif on Common Dreams and originally on The Progressive. It starts as follows:

Joe Biden’s long-awaited announcement that he is running for President—in a highly produced video with a distracting piano soundtrack—officially knocked Bernie Sanders out of first place in the Democratic field. That’s a relief for a lot of establishment Dems, who have spent the last several weeks ramping up the hits on Bernie, as it has become increasingly clear that the plainspoken Democratic Socialist from Vermont has a credible shot at becoming the Democrats’ nominee in 2020.

Sanders’s socialism is scary for an establishment that worries a lot about electability. More than that, his populist attacks on Wall Street, corporations, and the military-industrial complex, are a genuine threat to the most powerful interests in the country.

Much of the opposition research on Sanders is familiar from the Hillary/Bernie primary in 2016: Bernie the Sandinista supporter, the serial monogamist, the author of some embarrassing but not really reprehensible statements supporting sexual liberation. But in recent weeks these tidbits have been appearing again in news stories across the country, as writers in The NationThe New York TimesThe Washington Post, and ThinkProgress work on taking Bernie down a peg.

Yes, I think this is nearly all quite correct, except that I disagree with the (implicit) thesis that Bernie Sanders (whom I admire) is "a socialist" or - as he indeed says himself - "a democratic socialist", for the simple reason that his political program is not that of a democratic socialist but that of a social democrat (and the two differ considerably).

Also, this mistake is often made in American sources - i.e. not knowing the differences between "socialism", "democratic socialism" and "social democracy" - though lately there also has been some correct reporting.

Here is some more:

So which is it? Is Sanders a dangerous socialist who is too scruffy to be President, or is he a millionaire and therefore an inauthentic representative of the working class?

The barrage of attacks on Sanders do not point to any one conclusion. Instead, they center on that vague, eye-of-the-beholder issue of “electability.” The point is that someone somewhere might be turned off by Sanders, and therefore the Democrats should make a safer choice.

But what’s a safe bet in the era of Donald Trump?

Well, the initial questions in the above quoted paragraphs are baloney, but it is true that they are being posed in the mainstream media.

And my own position on Sanders is that he is the best Democratic candidate for the presidency that I know of, in considerable part because I also know - since I know about Sanders since the 1970ies - that he is honest, which I know of few other Democratic
candidates for the presidency.

Here is some more:

Trump’s biggest lie of all was that “he was going to defend the working class of this country and take on the powerful special interests,” Sanders declared in a stump speech in Wisconsin. He is setting up his pitch for the general election: Don’t be fooled again; vote for Bernie, the real populist.

It’s not a bad argument.

Republican strategist Karl Rove is impressed by it. After watching Sanders win over a studio audience on Fox News, Rove observed that attacking Sanders for his socialist views “won’t be as easy as Republicans may think.”

I agree with the above. Here is some more:

So far, no Democratic rising star has come close to overcoming Bernie Sanders’s big base of support. As of the most recent FEC report, Sanders had raised the most money, and had by far the largest number of small-dollar donors.

Even former Bernie critics like Hillary Clinton advisor Peter Daou now recognize the power of Bernie’s authentic populism against Donald Trump.

But the establishment remains unconvinced. Writers in both The New York Times and The Washington Post take issue with Sanders’s use of the terms “socialism” and “his angry, unrealistic call for ‘revolution’".

In fact, it seems now that Joe Biden - who is strongly supported by the rich, and is a fraud in my opinion - raised some more money than Sanders. Also, I do not take The New York Times nor The Washington Post seriously when they write about Sanders, and I doubt that their editors "remain unconvinced" about Sanders, for the fairly simple reason that they are less moved by convictions than by money, or so I think.

This is from the ending of this article:

Sanders is such a threat to the regular way of doing business in American politics that he will face massive, well-funded resistance, both during the presidential election season and afterwards. He is testing the idea that people can actually out-organize money—a very dangerous idea, indeed. And if he becomes President, the resistance he faces will be even greater.

Not since Franklin Delano Roosevelt welcomed the hatred of “organized money” have we had a serious presidential candidate who openly exposed class conflict in America, and stuck up for ordinary citizens against the overwhelming power of the wealthy.

It’s thrilling. It’s dangerous. And scariest of all to some mainstream Democrats, it could actually work.

Yes indeed - I mostly agree and this is a recommended article.

5. Democracy has a problem with science

This article is by Michael J. Thompson and Gregory Smulewicz-Zucker on Salon. It has a subtitle, which I quoted because it makes a wrong impression, as I'll explain:
As populist leaders stoke rage and rejection of elitism, they also throw out objectivity and the value of expertise
The reason I mostly disagree with the above, is that I know it is not just "popular leaders" who do so, but also the vast majorities of academics in most universities, which I learned over 40 years ago when I attended the public opening of the "University" of Amsterdam, which was - in 1978 - officially opened with the thesis that (literally, except for my translation)
  • "Everybody knows that truth does not exist"
I protested and indeed set up a student party to do so, but it soon emerged that 95% of the students of the "University" of Amsterdam agreed, indeed probably not because they sincerely believed the self-contradictory statement quoted above, but because they thought that following this would make their exams a lot easier - and they were quite correct.

Also, there is another reason why the above is misleading, namely because it lacks all references to postmodernism, which has precisely the same attitude to truth (it does not exist), and that was very popular among many academics from the late 1980ies onwards.

Anyway... this
article starts as follows:

In August 2018, the recently elected populist government in Italy passed an amendment that startled scientifically-minded citizens in the country. The amendment suspended the law that requires parents to show proof of vaccinations for their children entering school, claiming that, in the words of Matteo Salvini, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister, they “are useless and in many cases dangerous, if not harmful.” More recently, the anti-vaccine movement has penetrated even deeper into the United States, with an outbreak of measles spreading in several highly populated centers in the country. Add to this the stubborn persistence of climate-change denial, and even new beliefs about the earth being flat, and it does not take us long to see that modern democracies are having a problem with science. What it is important to see in these trends is that this rise in anti-science attitudes is also corrosive to modern democracy as well.

I quite agree, though as I explained in the beginning, in fact I know that the situation is more serious than sketched in the above paragraph.

Here is some more:

What is so troubling about these events, beyond their obvious public health implications, is what it indicates about the growth of anti-science world-views in modern democracies. A crescendo of anti-science attitudes has been gaining steam in recent decades leading to a cultural and political environment where adherence to basic standards of truth, evidence, reasoned argument and agreement have all but collapsed. From the stubborn denial of climate change, to the rejection of findings by natural and social scientists, we seem to be entering not only a “post-truth” environment, but more dangerously, an “anti-science” climate where modern, liberal democracy itself is under threat. It gives aid to the enemies of modern democracy and to the impulses of a reactionary populism bent on nationalist and ethic superiority.

Yes indeed - and as I explained above, in Holland this anti-democratic, anti-science, pro populist and often pro-fascist movement started in the "University" of Amsterdam in 1978.

Here is some more from this article:

The Enlightenment cemented the foundations of this modern conception of democracy where human beings were first becoming viewed as universal bearers of rights and reason could be employed for the public good. Science and modern democracy, it was understood, share certain basic ways of thinking: the idea that reasons are universal, in the sense that they apply to everyone; the idea that we should be skeptical of received ideas about the world that makes claims to truth; the idea that our ideas about the world should evolve as new evidence emerges; and the idea that we find these truths through participating in a community of others who searching for what is correct and true. All of these are features that science and modern democracy share with one another. Together they constitute a culture of political reason that should be seen as a standard for our political institutions and the culture of our citizenship.

Yes, I agree - but what is said above holds, in my experience, which is about Holland, only for a small proportion of the Dutch academics, a smaller proportion of the Dutch students, and with little support in the vast majority of those who never studied at a university.

There is a lot more in the article, which I leave to my readers' interests. I only quote its ending:

The challenge we face is daunting. It will require activism and policy reform. We cannot eradicate irrationalism and the threat it poses to society and nature. We can, however, resist the extent to which it has become embedded in our society. Yet, Galileo faced greater odds when he challenged the authority of the Church. But we have greater resources at our disposal than Galileo, and we must make use of them.

Perhaps, but in Holland I learned that the real voices speaking for reason and for science reach at most 5% of the Dutch population. Then again, I agree the problems these pose for both science and democracy are very fundamental, 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 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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