July 9, 2018

Crisis: On "Diversity", On Medical Corruption, No Deals, On Dodd-Frank, "Democratic Socialism"


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from July 9, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Monday, July 9, 2018.

Incidentally, this is the 2000th file I wrote about the crisis since September 1, 2008. 

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 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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from July 9, 2018:
1. The Con of Diversity
2. "Hope in a Bottle" - Components of Purdue Pharma Stealth Marketing

3. Trump’s Art of the No Deal (revised and updated)
4. Why Killing Dodd-Frank Could Lead to the Next Crash
5. Has Democratic Socialism a Future in American Politics?
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. The Con of Diversity

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

In 1970, when black students occupied the dean’s office at Harvard Divinity School to protest against the absence of African-American scholars on the school’s faculty, the white administration was forced to respond and interview black candidates. It asked James Cone, the greatest theologian of his generation, to come to Cambridge, Mass., for a meeting. But the white power structure had no intention of offering Cone a job. To be black, in its eyes, was bad enough. To be black, brilliant and fiercely independent was unpalatable. And so the job was given to a pliable African-American candidate who had never written a book, a condition that would remain unchanged for the more than three decades he taught at Harvard.

Harvard got what it wanted. Mediocrity in the name of diversity. It was a classic example of how the white power structure plays people of color. It decides whom to promote and whom to silence.
I did not know about James Cone (and 1970 is 48 years ago), but I think Chris Hedges is quite right about the mechanism Harvard used to get only mediocre and pliable blacks. And indeed part of this con-game (for that is what it is) happens in the name of diversity:
Diversity in the hands of the white power elites—political and corporate—is an advertising gimmick. A new face, a brand, gets pushed out front, accompanied by the lavish financial rewards that come with serving the white power structure, as long as the game is played. There is no shortage of women (Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Donna Brazile), Latinos (Tom Perez and Marco Rubio) or blacks (Vernon Jordan, Clarence Thomas and Ben Carson) who sell their souls for a taste of power.
Yes indeed. And this correctly stresses the mechanism, that may be phrased as Hedges does in the above quotation: those women and blacks who comply with the white male power elite get "lavish financial rewards that come with serving the white power structure" (that ran into many millions for Hillary Clinton, for example). Or else it may be described more briefly, but as accurately: it is corruption, for these people verbally abuse ideals they pretend to in order to get their large personal rewards in money for "serving the white [male] power structure".

Here is a wider sketch of a similar mechanism:
The absence of genuine political content in our national discourse has degraded it to one between racists and people who don’t want to be identified as racists. The only winners in this self-destructive cat fight are corporations such as Goldman Sachs, whose interests no American can vote against, along with elite institutions dedicated to perpetuating the plutocracy. Drew G. Faust, the first woman president of Harvard University, whose appointment represented a triumph for diversity, upon her retirement was appointed to the board of Goldman Sachs, a role for which she will receive compensation totaling over half a million dollars a year. A new and “diverse” group of Democratic Party candidates, over half of whom have been recruited from the military, the CIA, the National Security Council and the State Department, is hoping to rise to political power based on the old con.
Yes indeed - or at least this is how it often works (also outside the USA, incidentally): A woman gets nominated to an important post "because she is a woman" (in fact: because she is a woman who is pliable i.e. corrupt) and then gets rewarded for her pliability aka corruption by being offered a next very highly paid job (thus it happens also e.g. in Holland).

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:
The plague of diversity lies at the core of our political dysfunction. The Democratic Party embraces it. Donald Trump’s Republican Party repudiates it. But as a policy it is a diversion. Diversity has done little to ameliorate the suffering of the black underclass. Most blacks are worse off than when King marched in Selma. African-Americans have lost over half of their wealth since the financial collapse of 2008 because of falling homeownership rates and job loss. They have the highest rate of poverty at 27.4 percent, followed by Hispanics at 26.6 percent and whites at 9.9 percent. And 45.8 percent of black children under 6 live in poverty, compared with 14.5 percent of white children in that age group. Forty percent of the nation’s homeless are African-Americans although blacks make up only 13 percent of our population. African-Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites.
I think the first statement of the above quote could be improved by inserting a single term: "The plague of corrupt diversity lies at the core of our political dysfunction." And the rest of the paragraph is an outline of how corrupt diversity has worked: It made a very few blacks and a few women rich, while it made the blacks and the women in general worse off than they were before (though indeed there are also other causes than corrupt diversity).

And this is a strongly recommended article in which there is a lot more than I quoted.

2. "Hope in a Bottle" - Components of Purdue Pharma Stealth Marketing Campaign

This article is by Roy M. Poses MD on Health Care Renewal. It starts as follows:
Back in the distant past the US government made some attempt to hold big health care corporations to account for misleading marketing practices.  We learned a lot about these practices from documents revealed in the resulting litigation, and in particular, about stealthy, deceptive systematic marketing, lobbying, and policy advocacy campaigns on behalf of big health care organizations, often pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies.  For example, in 2012 we found out about the stealth marketing campaign used by GlaxoSmithKline to sell its antidepressant Paxil.  This included manipulating and suppressing clinical research, bribing physicians to prescribe the drug, use of key opinion leaders as disguised marketers, and manipulation of continuing medical education.  Other notable examples included Johnson and Johnson's campaign to sell Risperdal (look here),  and the infamous Pfizer campaign to sell Neurontin (look here and here).  We also found that stealth marketing seemed to be partially responsible for the growing popularity of narcotics (opioids) starting in the 1990s (look here).
Yes indeed - and I start this review by three personal notes:

First, I am considerably more interested in "health matters" (to choose a term) than most healthy people are, for the simple reason that I have now almost forty years of a "serious chronic disease" - ME/CFS - that only this year was admitted (in Holland, where I live) as
a "serious chronic disease".

And second, I have been following Health Care Renewal and some other sites run by medics I can trust (which these days are in a minority, i.a. because I strongly dislike having been discriminated as a "psychosomatizer" for forty years, especially because that discriminatory bullshit also entailed much more discrimination by bureaucrats and no help at all as an ill person because - as the non-medical bureaucrats told me - "you are not ill").

And third, to the very best of my fairly extensive knowledge about medicine & corruption - having been ill for forty years without it being allowed I was ill, and being i.a. a psychologist - I think everything Roy Poses M.D. said in the above sum-up of American circumstances is factually correct.

This means also, by implication, that much of the American health care has been destroyed by medical and pharmaceutical corruptions (on very large scales, involving billions of dollars). Then again, I should add that the situation in Holland, although it was (and is) bad for me and others with ME/CFS, it is not as bad (yet, at least) as in the USA.

Here is a bit more about medicine & corruption in the USA:
The organization and complexity of stealth marketing, lobbying and policy advocacy campaigns have often been sufficient to characterize them as disinformation.  For example, we characterized the campaign by commercial health insurance companies to derail the Clinton administration's attempt at health reform in the 1990s, as described by Wendell Potter in his book, Deadly Spin, as just that (look here).  The tactics employed in that campaign included: use of front groups and third parties (useful idiots?); use of spies; distractions to make important issues anechoic; message discipline; and entrapment (double-think).

Nowadays, the current Trump administration does not seem interested in pursuing unethical or corrupt practices by big health care corporations.
In fact, there is a very good (and very human) reason why "the current Trump administration does not seem interested in pursuing unethical or corrupt practices": The administration, like many American medics and like very many pharmaceutical operators, is much more interested in making profits that are as large as possible, than in helping the health problems of patients.

In case you doubt my conclusion, this is followed in the article by a lot more information about Purdue Pharma that has been plugging the hard drug Oxycontin as a non-dangerous pain medicine - that meanwhile has cost the lives of 64,000 Americans, which is more than all American lives that were lost by the war in Vietnam.

This is strongly recommended in case you don't know it, but is skipped here. Here is the ending of this article:

We have long advocated better awareness of insidious disinformation campaigns in health care, which we previously separated into stealth systematic marketing, lobbying, and policy advocacy campaigns.  Furthermore, we have long advocated more vigorous regulatory and law-enforcement action against them.  Remember that many of the stealth marketing campaigns we discussed came to light through regulatory and law enforcement action.

Yet what sense does that make when the federal regulators and law enforcers operate under a regime that was perfectly happy to use disinformation to secure its election?

It apparently makes no more sense than advocating for better federal law enforcement measures to reduce conflicts of interest and corruption in health care under an extraordinarily conflicted and corrupt regime (look here.)

The fish is rotting from the head. 

So in parallel with what we said then, the only way we can now address health care deception, crime, and corruption is to excise the deception, crime and corruption at the heart of our government.
I fear this conclusion is correct for the USA and this is a strongly recommended article.
3. Trump’s Art of the No Deal (revised and updated)

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

Trump promised to be America’s dealmaker in chief. 

“We need a leader that wrote The Art of the Deal,” he said in the speech announcing his candidacy. “I’m a negotiator. I’ve done very well over the years through negotiation,” he said during a Republican debate. “That’s what I do, is deals,” he said in May. “I know deals, I think, better than anybody knows deals.”

But so far, Trump has made no deals at all, and the ones he thinks he’s made have unraveled.

Yes I think that is correct - and also Trump was lying, as usual: He did not write The Art of the Deal: Tony Schwartz did. (Schwartz was credited as co-author but said that "Trump wrote none of the book, choosing only to remove a few critical mentions of business colleagues at the end of the process".)

Here is more on the deals Trump claimed to make:

Trump has no trade deals, either. Instead, he’s launched  simultaneous trade wars with Europe, China, Canada, and Mexico.

After slapping tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports, China has retaliated with tariffs on $34 billion of American exports. Trump is now threatening tariffs on nearly everything China exports to the United States, as well as a clampdown on Chinese investment here.

After Trump raised tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, they also retaliated. They promise further retaliation if Trump acts on his threat to place a 20 percent tariff on imported cars and car parts.

And some more:

Trump has no deal on climate change. He simply pulled out of the Paris accords.

No deal with the Group of 7 leading economic powers. He merely refused to sign
the communiqué his own team had agreed to. And no deal with NATO countries on increasing their military spending.

“No deal” also describes Trump’s relations with the Republican Congress.

He got no deal on replacing the Affordable Care Act, so Trump is quietly repealing it administratively. At least 5 million people will lose coverage.

Here is Reich's ending:

One of the biggest cons from the biggest conman to occupy the Oval Office is that he’s a dealmaker.

He’s not. All he really knows is how to bully friends, stage photo ops with enemies, and claim victory.

I think that is basically correct, and this is a recommended article.

4. Why Killing Dodd-Frank Could Lead to the Next Crash

This article is by Matt Taibbi on Common Dreams and originally on Rolling Stone. It starts as follows:

In the age of Trump, bipartisanship is considered a sin. So one would think that when Republicans and Democrats do pass a law together, it’d be for something so popular, it couldn’t be questioned politically: a nonbinding resolution on the cuteness of puppies, maybe, or a national ice cream giveaway.

Nope. The rare bipartisan bill turned out to be a rollback of the Dodd-Frank financial-reform act. More than 80 percent of Democrats and two-thirds of Republicans want tougher rules on banks. Yet this was our Trump-era kumbaya moment: a bank deregulation bill!

Ostensibly passed to address the causes of the 2008 crash, the Dodd-Frank Act has instead spent more than half a decade now as a hostage to a payola Congress, with both parties taking turns cutting it down and delaying its implementation.
Yes indeed. And as to "bipartisanship": What mere Democrats and mere Republicans want is hardly ever relevant for members of the Senate and the House, for most members of the Senate and the House are not moved by them but by lobbyists, who come with promises of money for them.

Here is how it worked for the (extremely weak) Dodd-Frank Act:

But why did this bill even pass? Only 50 Republicans backed the rollback, meaning even a few members of a dependably craven Republican caucus hesitated to pull the trigger. That means they needed one Democratic vote to pass this foul thing. They got 17. Why? What made this bill the weak link in the battle line against Trump’s agenda?

The 2008 crash was caused when financial companies, high on greed and the temptations of an irrationally exuberant economy, borrowed beyond their means. Leveraging themselves to the hilt, banks bet your kids’ future on a losing roulette spin known as the subprime-mortgage market.
As I suggested, the answer to the first paragraph is corruption, while the second paragraph simply is a fact (and the crisis of 2008 still continues for those who are not rich).

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

It’s a huge victory for Trump – eliminating Dodd-Frank was such an urgent need for His Orangeness that an executive order mandating the act’s deconstruction was one of his first policy moves. Like his White House hirings of so many Goldman Sachs vets after loudly campaigning against the bank, Trump showed his true colors when he made killing Wall Street’s most hated law a high priority.

Then again, the Democrats showed their colors when they gave him the win. Nobody will say so, but everyone on the Hill knows why this bill passed. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, three of the bill’s Democratic co-sponsors, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, Indiana’s Joe Donnelly and Montana’s Jon Tester, are three of the Senate’s biggest recipients of financial-services donations. Quelle surprise!

And this is once again corruption. There is considerably more in the article, that is recommended.

5. Has Democratic Socialism a Future in American Politics?

This article is by Lawrence Wittner on Common Dreams and originally on the History News Network. It has something like a subtitle:
The rise in American life of a rapacious corporate capitalism, a widening level of economic inequality, and the sharply rightwing policies of many states and the federal government are clearly inspiring a revolt on the Left
In fact, this bit occurs in the text as well, but it is also presented a subtitle. I selected it because the expression "the Left" is extremely ambiguous and vague: There are many diverse kinds of left, leftish, Left and also "left", "leftish", and "Left" candidates, and besides, there is a large difference between the voters, who vote for their own interests, and those elected, for those elected often do not serve the voters but their own financial interests, which are paid by lobbyists.

But it seems Wittner either is not aware of this or he does not want to consider this. In any case, his article
starts as follows:

Recently, when 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an obscure, upfront democratic socialist from the Bronx, easily defeated one of the most powerful U.S. Congressmen in the Democratic primary, the story became an overnight sensation. How, the pundits wondered, could this upset have occurred?

Actually, it shouldn’t have been a total surprise for, in recent years, democratic socialism has been making a remarkable comeback in American life. Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist U.S. Senator from Vermont, won 23 Democratic primaries and caucuses during his tumultuous 2016 election campaign.
Well... I shall not discuss the "democratic socialism" of Ocasio-Cortez, but one general problem with "democratic socialism" in the USA, including that of Bernie Sanders, whom I like, is that it is not so much "democratic socialism" as social democracy - which, although it also is leftish, is far less leftish than democratic socialism, and indeed in general is not anti-capitalist.

But it seems Wittner confuses the two. Here is some more:
Other indications of socialism’s recent popularity are numerous. They include Gallup polls done in early 2016―one showing that 35 percent of Americans had a favorable view of “socialism” and another revealing that 6 out of 10 Democratic primary voters felt that “socialism” had a positive impact on society. Polls found that socialism was especially popular among young people, a key factor behind the jump in membership of Democratic Socialists of America from 5,000 in November 2016 to 40,000 today.
I think this is misleading as well, that is, if I hold on to the ordinary meaning of socialism, which is not capitalism, and is anti-capitalist: As far as I remember, the "socialism" - (correctly) between quotes that is discussed here was not identified as socialism. And while I grant that the membership of the Democratic Socialists may be now as large as 40,000, that is just a bit more than a 0.0001-th part of the total American population.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Nevertheless, the rise in American life of a rapacious corporate capitalism, a widening level of economic inequality, and the sharply rightwing policies of many states and the federal government are clearly inspiring a revolt on the Left. As the Sanders campaign and the recent election victories of Ocasio-Cortez and other leftwing candidates indicate, in electoral politics this revolt is finding expression largely inside the Democratic Party.
Well... it seems to me as if the vagueries and ambiguities of Wittner, who is a historian, are intended to help the Democratic Party. My problems with that are several, and one prominent one is that while I think the voters for the Democratic Party are generally (in various senses) "leftish", those elected are (or soon get) often corrupt.

And besides, I think it would have been a considerably more interesting question to discuss the chances not of democratic socialism but of social democracy in the USA, but as I pointed out, it seems Wittner also confused these two.


[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 (!!).
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