Friday, August 11, 2017

Crisis: Opioid Epidemy, North Korea * 3, Federal Civil Service

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
2. Crisis Files
    A. Selections from August 11, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Friday, August 11, 2017.

1. Summary

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

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I probably will continue with it, but on the moment I have several problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health.

As I explained, the crisis files will have a different format from July 1, 2017: I will now list the items I selected as I did before (title + link) but I add one selection from the selected item to give my readers a bit of a taste of the item linked.

So the new format is as follows:

      Link to an item with its orginal title, followed by
      One selection (usually) from that item (indented)
      Possibly followed by a brief comment by me (not indented).

This is illustrated below, in selections A.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from August 11, 2017

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. Trump Plans to Declare Opioid Epidemic a National Emergency

This article is by Michael D. Shear and Abby Goodnough on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
President Trump said on Thursday that he was preparing to officially declare the United States’ worsening epidemic of opioid overdoses as a national emergency, accepting an urgent recommendation from a national commission that he appointed.

“The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I’m saying officially right now it is an emergency,” Mr. Trump told reporters before a security briefing at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “It’s a national emergency.”

The president’s commission concluded last month that such a declaration was its “first and most urgent recommendation.” Led by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Mr. Trump’s one-time presidential rival, the commission said that such a declaration would help direct more resources and attention on the crisis plaguing communities across the country.

I agree that there is - something like - an "opioid crisis" in the USA that badly needs some solution, but I doubt whether Trump means the same thing as I do by "an emergency".

What I think Trump means is that calling something "an emergency" allows him to spend governmental money more as he sees fit; what I see is a crisis that has been made by the combination of big pharma, American psychiatry, American medicine, and the lack of a proper system of national health care.

All of the last four mentioned were out for - or motivated by, as is the case for the lacking American national health care system - much more money for themselves much rather than patients' rights, and indeed this created the problem.

Anyway... we shall see what happens and this is a recommended article. [2]

2. Andrew Bacevich: Trump's Handling of N. Korea, His First National Security Crisis, is Very Troubling

This article is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:

On Tuesday, President Trump shocked the world by hinting the U.S. could carry out a nuclear strike on North Korea. Hours after he spoke, North Korea threatened to strike the U.S. territory of Guam in the western Pacific. China has warned that a "war of words" between the U.S. and North Korea could spiral out of hand. We speak with Andrew Bacevich, professor emeritus of international relations and history at Boston University. He is a retired colonel and Vietnam War veteran.

And here is Andrew Bacevich:

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I’m struck by the fact that six months into his administration, this really is the first genuine national security crisis that he’s had to face, and his initial performance is very troubling. You know, when I think about that "fire and fury" statement, one of the things that strikes me is that I think it’s a sort of a fundamental of diplomacy 101 or politics 101 that when a public figure makes a public statement, it has to be done in a way that it will play to multiple audiences. So, it’s not inappropriate, I think, for the administration to issue warnings directed at the North Korean regime, but it’s absolutely imperative that the warnings be voiced in such a way that they reassure American allies in the region—South Korea, Japan—should be voiced in a way that doesn’t create panic here at home. And on that score, it seems to me that the president has failed radically.

Furthermore, there’s been a lot of hopeful commentary, especially, I think, in the last 10 days or so, since General Kelly became the White House chief of staff, that the generals that President Trump has surrounded himself with—not only Kelly, but also McMaster and Mattis in the Pentagon—that they will be the voices of reason, that they will—they will rein in this impulsive president. And if we are to look at the "fire and fury" statement, that’s pretty clear indication that our president is not about to be reined in. And that also has to be very, very troubling.

I agree with both points Bacevich makes. There is more in the article that is recommended.

3. Have Trump's Newest Threats Put Us on a Collision Course with Nuclear War?

This article is by Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet. It starts as follws:

The first international crisis of Trump’s tenure deepened Thursday, as the president renewed his verbal attacks on North Korea and criticized China for not doing more to force its neighbor to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

When asked by press pool reporters if his threat to unleash unprecedented “fire and fury” was too harsh, Trump replied, “Frankly, the people who were questioning that statement, was it too tough? Maybe it wasn’t tough enough.”

North Korea replied to Trump’s threat by saying it would attack Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean roughly 1,500 miles away that is home to major military bases.

That is known (see above) but here is some more:

“What's tougher than fire and fury?” the press asked.

“You’ll see. You’ll see,” Trump said.

Was he considering a preemptive strike, the press asked.

“We don’t talk about that. I never do,” Trump said. “What they’ve been doing, what they’ve been getting away with, is a tragedy and it can’t be allowed.”

I hope everyone now feels a lot safer - and if you don't you may check out why I and quite a few other psychologists believe Trump is insane.

4. Hurtling Toward ‘Fire and Fury’

This article is by Jonathan Marshall on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:

“Be prepared, there is a small chance that our horrendous leadership could unknowingly lead us into World War III.” – Donald Trump, August 31, 2013

Like some demonic Hollywood director, President Trump keeps finding new ways to make us jump out of our seats, just when we think we’ve seen everything. On Tuesday, he outdid himself by twice pledging to meet any further North Korean threats to the United States “with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

His headline-grabbing comments were sufficiently incendiary that White House staffers rushed to reassure reporters (and the public) that the President was just improvising, not speaking from an approved script. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson insisted that the President simply meant to say that “the United States has the capability to fully defend itself from any attack . . . So the American people should sleep well at night.”

People at home and around the world were rattled but not too alarmed, judging by the modest drop in stock prices on U.S. and foreign exchanges. North Korea responded to Trump’s threat with a threat of its own to vaporize Guam, yet no war broke out. So far, leaders of both countries, like taunting schoolboys, seem content to lob only harsh rhetoric across the ocean, not fully armed missiles.
What increasingly keep me up at night are the uncontradicted claims of one of the GOP’s leading foreign policy spokesmen, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, that Trump is ready and willing to launch a preemptive war “if [North Korea tries] to keep developing an ICBM with a nuclear weapon on top to hit the [U.S.] homeland.”

I agree with the last paragraph. There is considerably more in the article, that is recommended.

5.  Will the Federal Civil Service Defend Us?

This is by Ralph Nader on his site. It starts as follows:

As the Trump wrecking crew ramps up its destructive campaign against federal health and safety protections and social services for impoverished, disabled and vulnerable people (young and old) the latest targets of their ire are the federal civil servants who faithfully keep our government functioning here and abroad.

Mind you, the Trump wrecking crew is not going after gigantic corporate welfare programs, giveaways, bailouts and subsidies to big business. Nor are the Trumpsters going after wasteful, inflated government corporate contracts or massive billing frauds on Medicare, Medicaid or other government programs. These egregious examples of crony capitalism, so disliked by conservatives and progressives alike, seem untouchable. While disgraceful, this is not surprising; many of Trump’s nominees benefitted mightily from this cronyism before coming to Washington and Trump still benefits due to his refusal to divest.

Given this state of corporatist mayhem, the important question is: Will the federal civil service hold against lawless, dangerous non-enforcement of the laws and arbitrary suspensions of ongoing programs to protect the people from corporate assaults on their safety and economic wellbeing?
Consider civil servants’ anguish. If they keep doing their job, they’re going to be pushed to retire or be marginalized. If they do as they are illegally or wrongfully ordered to do, they are going against their conscience and undermining their oath of office.

There is considerably more, and this is a recommended article.

O, and here is my personal appreciation of
the redesign of Truthdig that I found yesterday to have changed the style of its site (that was quite decent):

I think it is horrendously awful; I think it is motivated - in part, at least - by the same principles as motivated The Guardian to change its site and to remove pictures from its menus (which rapidly failed): To please the billions with cellphones; I think this belongs to the same tendency as Twitter: Utter simplification of all news; and I am much against it.

But I have learned that half of the people don't even have an IQ above 100 and that most of these excellent persons now can be reached by means of their cellphones, that also gives excellent opportunities to drown them with advertisements, so I can understand this "progress":

People with real desktop computers must accept a simplification in the style and in the contents of the news they get to read, for the news is too complicated for - at least - half of the population...

... o Lord (in whom I don't believe)!


[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, 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 1 1/2 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] I remind you (again) that when I say "an article is recommended" I mean that I recommend you to read it all (which you can do by clicking its title).

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