Archive for June, 2021

Doggerel by a senior citizen

June 30, 2021

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A new ‘war on terror’ is declared

June 29, 2021

I just got around to reading the National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism, which was released a couple of weeks ago.  It is alarming.

There is no reason to think that the coming domestic war on terrorism will end any better than the George W. Bush administration’s global war on terrorism.

The threat, according to the document, is not primarily from terrorist organizations, such as the Ku Klux Klan or al Qaeda, but from lone individuals, such as recent mass shooters, and ad hoc groups, such as the pro-Trump protesters on Jan. 6.

To protect society, it is not only necessary to suppress and disrupt inflammatory material on the Internet that might inspire violent action, but to conduct a society-wide educational campaign to counteract terrorist and pro-violence propaganda.

It is necessary to be aware of “inconography, symbology and phaseology” used by many domestic violent extremists, and to use “data-driven guidance” on how to identify them.

This could be used to develop watch lists of “known and suspected” terrorists to bar them from sensitive employment or put them on no-fly lists.

All this requires a coordinated effort involving federal, state, local, tribal and territorial governments, but also bringing in civil society, the technology sector, academia and friendly foreign governments.

The document is full of boiler-plate language about the need to respect freedom of speech and other constitutional rights, but I do not take this seriously.  There are too many blurrings of distinctions between beliefs and deeds, between violence and nonviolent civil disobedience, and between actual and potential lawbreaking.

I recall the eclipse of civil liberties in the post 9/11 era, and I also am aware of how government and social media companies work together in the present era to suppress dissident opinion.

Interestingly, the document does not propose any legislation.  As I myself and others have pointed out, the legal and administrative machinery for dictatorship already exists.  All that is needed is to activate it. 

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Wokeness and the enemies of free speech

June 28, 2021

I do not think that wokeness, or political correctness, or cancel culture, or whatever you want to call it, is the only threat to freedom of speech, nor is it the worst one.

I’ll mention Julian Assange, the war on whistleblowers, anti-boycott laws, attacks on journalists, and agricultural, medical and other gag orders, plus the fact that there is a lawyer in New York City who is under house arrest, and literally may go to prison, for the crime of having won a lawsuit against Chevron.

Also, the implications of the pending domestic war on terror.

The importance of wokeness is the failure to defend the principle of free speech by the political faction that historically has been its strongest champion, which leaves progressives and others defenseless against authoritarian government.

I’ve linked to three good articles on censorship below, and hope you have the time and interest to read them, or at least one or two of them.

LINKS

The Most Dangerous Censorship by Edward Snowden.

Some Principles and Observations About Social Justice Politics by Freddie deBoer.

What happened to Glenn Greenwald? Trump happened – and put the left’s priorities to the test by Jonathan Cook.

The elephant in the room

June 26, 2021

The infrastructure bill is a built-in failure

June 25, 2021

American infrastructure is in a bad way.  According to the American Society of Civil Engineers:

  • There is a water main break somewhere in the USA every two minutes.
  • About 43 percent of U.S. roads are in poor or mediocre condition.
  • The USA has an estimated 40,000 miles of flood control levees.  The location and/or condition of 10,000 miles of them is unknown.
  • The ASCE’s overall rating of U.S. infrastructure is C-minus.

If reports are accurate, the compromise infrastructure bill agreed to by the Senate will not meet the USA’s infrastructure needs.  It has failure built in.

The ASCE estimates than an additional $2.58 trillion is needed in the next 10 years to bring U.S. public works up to a B level.  The compromise infrastructure bill is only $579 billion. 

Only a fraction of that will go to actual infrastructure.  Much of it will go to welfare programs and corporate subsidies.

And it will be financed neither by increased taxes on the rich (best) nor by borrowing or money creation (acceptable because it is an investment in the nation’s future wealth), but by raiding funds appropriated for other purposes and, worst of all, by selling off or leasing public assets.

The problem with privatization is shown by the City of Chicago’s selling a private company the right to collect parking meter revenues for 75 years.  The city met a short-term revenue shortfall by imposing an additional cost on the public.

Some of the non-infrastructure things in the infrastructure bill are necessary and good.  Others need more discussion.  I’m not opposed to subsidies for corporate research and development, but there should be some way to guarantee that the benefits help to build up the American economy.

Better than nothing?  A plan that merely allows the USA to deteriorate at a slower rate is not good enough.

LINKS

American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report card – executive summary.

American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report card – full text.

Biden’s Infrastructure Capitulation by Jack Rasmus.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement Is Embarrassing by Benjamin Studebaker.

Progressives Alarmed by Privatization Dub Infrastructure Deal ‘a Disaster in the Making’ by Jessica Corbett for Common Dreams.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Is a Stalking Horse for Privatization by David Dayen for The American Prospect.  [Added 7/1/2021]

What the Geneva summit revealed about Biden

June 23, 2021

Joe Biden arrives in Geneva June 15. (AP)

During the 2020 Democratic presidential primary campaign, a number of observers expressed concern about Joe Biden’s cognitive abilities.

Foreign corespondent Patrick Lawrence wrote that President Biden’s performance at the Geneva summit meeting last week bears this out.

Geneva requires us to face a fact most of us have either flinched from, buried altogether, or noted in an offhand manner not devoid of mockery. 

The fact is this: We have a president who suffers some measure of senility and is in consequence incapable of fully executing his duties.  Geneva brought this home in the starkest of circumstances.

[snip]

Flubs in press conferences, more malapropisms than you’ve had hot dinners, Biden’s failure to remember what the Declaration of Independence is called—“the, you know, you know, the thing”—are small stuff in the end, the stuff of the jokes.

An inability to conduct the affairs of state with a major world power is quite another. No room for ridicule or YouTube segments here. The matter is simply too grave.

Two highly consequential treaties—Open Skies and New START—tensions NATO provokes on Russia’s western flank, the Syria mess, the Ukraine mess, Russia’s hypersonic weaponry, Israel’s apparent intent to go for broke this time with the Palestinians, all the cyberbusiness—little to nothing got done in Geneva on any of these questions.

Given how thoroughly Biden’s people scripted his appearance, I am convinced this was intentional. Get out there and posture for the “folks” back home, Mr. Prez. We’ll take care of the substantive stuff later.

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Follow the science, or follow the money

June 23, 2021

I had forgotten this until recently, but there was an earlier version of Covid, which the U.S. and other countries eliminated without vaccines and without lockdowns.

The technical name of the current virus is SARS-CoV-2, which stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-CoronaVirus-version 2.

The earlier version, SARS-CoV-1, emerged in 2002-2004.  It was contained by means of testing people with symptoms, isolating and quarantining infected people and restricting travel to and from infected regions.

Only about 8,000 people worldwide were ever infected, and about 10 percent of them died.

SARS-Cov-2 would have been more difficult to control.  It is less deadly, but more infectious, and it is infectious before symptoms appear.

Even so, governments such as Taiwan and New Zealand acted immediately to trace contacts and isolate and quarantine the sick.  They succeeded in stamping it out with relatively few deaths.

The USA, UK and European Union nations did not follow suit.

Here in the USA, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the President’s chief adviser on the coronavirus, said the coronavirus was just like the ‘flu.  Back in February, 2020, he said the danger was “miniscule” and wearing of masks unnecessary.

By the time the U.S. government and state governments decided to take the virus seriously, it was already well established.  More than 600,000 Americans have died. 

The conventional wisdom now is that Covid may never completely go away.

What explains governmental failure, and apparent refusal to learn from failure?  I don’t know. 

The policy of the U.S. and many other Western nations is to rely exclusively on patented vaccines to control Covid. 

I’m all for vaccines.  I got vaccinated myself as soon as I could.  But the vaccine-only policy harms people in poor countries who won’t get vaccines anytime soon.  The policy only helps the big pharmaceutical companies.

I strongly recommend reading Thomas Neuburger’s good article on this topic.

LINK

The Politics of ‘Follow the Science’ by Thomas Neuburger for God’s Spies.  “Ivermectin is cheap and exists.  Undeveloped vaccines, with governments desperate to finance and promote them, are money in the bank for years.”

Who shall decide, when doctors disagree?

June 22, 2021

Brett Weinstein’s Dark Horse interviews with medical experts about COVID-19 have been taken down from YouTube, and there is a strong possibility that his whole Dark Horse podcast may be banned from YouTube for good.

One of Bertrand Russell’s rules for skeptics is that, when experts disagree, no non-expert opinion can be regarded as certain.

I don’t have any expertise of my own that would qualify me to judge which is the best treatment for COVID-19.  But what qualifies a social media company to judge?

Although experts disagree, the experts on opposing sides are not given equal voices.

There is pressure to focus on vaccines that are patented by big drug companies, and to suppress discussion of possible low-cost treatments that would not be profitable to the big companies.

The Catch-22 case against ivermectin, for example, is that, despite its apparent successes, (1) there have been no clinical trials by rich-country institutions meeting FDA standards and (2) there aren’t going to be any such trials, because there is no financial incentive to conduct them.

Maybe ivermectin is not all it’s cracked up to be.  Why not find out for sure?

LINKS

Why Has ‘Ivermectin’ Become a Dirty Word? by Matt Taibbi for TK News.

Meet the Censored: Brett Weinstein, an interview on TK News.

The mechanisms of action of Ivermectin against SARS-CoV-2: an evidence-based clinical review article by Asiya Delhani-Mobarki and Puya Delhani-Mobarki for the Journal of Antibiotics.

Global trends in clinical studies of ivermectin for COVID-19 by Morimasa Yagisawa, Patrick J. Foster, Hideaki Hanaki and Satoshi Omura for the Japanese Journal of Antibiotics.

Review of the Emerging Evidence Demonstrating the Efficacy of Ivermectin in the Prophylaxis and Treatment of COVID-19 by Drs. Paul Marik, Pierre Kory, Joseph Varon, Gianfranco Umberto Meduri, Jose Iglesias and five others for the Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance.

Testimony of Pierre Kory, M.D., on Dec. 8, 2020, before the Homeland Security Committee on early treatment of COVID-19.

Delta Force: Notes on Our Newest Variant of Concern by Lambert Strether for Naked Capitalism.   The disease is evolving and adapting.  Are we?

The shortages of catastrophe

June 22, 2021

Many people have noted how a tiny group of billionaires have increased their share of the world’s wealth during the coronavirus pademic.

A blogger named Umair Haque pointed out that this is no coincidence. There are shortages of all kinds of thing across the economy, driven by the pandemic.  This has driven up prices, mainly to the benefit of corporate monopolies and other big businesses, and of the multi-billionaires who control them.

The shortages ripping across the economy are forcing up prices dramatically — and weirdly. The prices, for example, of used cars are skyrocketing. Clothes and food have gotten dramatically more expensive, from what I can see. And of course electronics — well, good luck getting them.

But this isn’t inflation. Sorry, armchair economists. I know that American pundits love to spout seriously on this issue — but they’re wrong. Inflation is a “wage price spiral.” This is something very, very different. Your income isn’t going up, at least not nearly as much as prices are. And prices are going up because of what economists call an “exogenous shock” — an act of God, or in this case, at least, an act of humankind.

These are shortages of catastrophe. They’re caused by what Covid did to global supply chains. It happened something like this — I’ll oversimplify to make the point easy to grasp. For a year or so, the world plunged into lockdown. Demand ground to a halt for many, many things. Retail stores closed in a tidal wave.

And then as lockdown was lifted, demand began to rise. But by this point, global supply chains — which operate on a “just in time” principle — were wrecked, shut down for too long, unable to cope again with normal levels of wants and needs. 

[snip]

Covid’s ripped the global economy apart — but the next wave of shocks coming our way are going to be much, much bigger. Think about climate change. Electronics were already expensive due to microchip shortages as Covid increased demand, but then there was a fire at one of the main suppliers of microchips in the world.

What is climate change going to do? Cause megafires, megafloods, megatyphoons. And yet increasingly, our civilization’s production of stuff is centralized. Your iPhones come from a few megafactories, and so do all those big TVs, cars, even medicines, food, and clothes. That reflects the mega corporations who make megaprofits from all these products — centralization in production reflects centralisation in profits.

One fire took out the factory which supplies much of the world’s microchips. Now imagine what happens as climate change intensifies, and megafires, megafloods, and megatyphoons become the norm. All that centralised production is at severe risk. Maybe this year the iPhone factory burns down, maybe next year, the Tesla factory does. And so on.

But that — massive risk to production — is just one effect. There’s also a massive and heightened risk to distribution. Think how fast Covid shut down distribution — it’s one reason things are more expensive now. Sending things by boats and planes and trucks is harder in an age of lockdowns and checks and so forth. But now imagine what happens if a megatyphoon takes out this shipping lane, or that fleet of super carriers. Or what happens if a mega flood makes that entire region — which products have to travel through — impassable. Or what happens as ports begin to drown.

Disease, drought, floods and storms would disrupt international trade no matter what the trading system.  But global supply chains are much more fragile than they need to be because of the neoliberal drive to prioritize cost-cutting and short-term profits over stability and sustainability. 

In fact, there would probably be breakdowns in that delicate system even without climate- or disease-related crises.

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A new stanza for Solidarity Forever

June 21, 2021

My old friend, Gene Zitver, told me there is a new stanza for the old labor song, Solidarity Forever.  It’s a fitting capstone for my posts on wokeness, critical race theory and white supremacy culture.

They divide us by our color, they divide us by our tongue.

They divide us men and women, they divide us old and young.

But they’ll tremble at our voices, when they hear these verses sung.

For the union makes us strong!

Book note: Used to Be UU

June 19, 2021

USED TO BE UU: The Systematic Attack on UU Liberalism by Frank Casper and Jay Kissel (2021)

This is the last of three books I recently read on the crisis of liberalism within the Unitarian Universalist Association, which is the abandonment by self-described liberals of historic liberal principles.

I think the UU crisis is the echo of a crisis of liberalism generally in the USA and other liberal democracies. As such, it may be of interest beyond UU membership.

Used to Be UU covers much the same ground as the Rev. Todd Eklof’s The Gadfly Papers and Anne Larason Schneider’s White Supremacy Culture, and goes more deeply into issues of UUA governance.

If you only have time to read one of the three books, Used to Be UU is the one I recommend.  If you don’t even have time to read one book, I recommend you check out the Fifth Principle Project web site.

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The first part of the book is an account of events that began in March, 2017 when Scott Tayler, the director of congregational life, filled the position of Southern Region director by appointing the Rev. Andy Burnette, a white man who lived outside the region, and passed over the Rev. Christina Rivera, a Hispanic woman who lived inside the region.

There was a great outcry by religious professionals of color, which was followed by the resignation of UUA President Peter Morales just two and a half months before the completion of his six-year term.

(Rev. Morales, for what it’s worth, is Hispanic, and his predecessor, the Rev. William Sinkford, is African-American)

The Board of Trustees met by Zoom on April 3, and determined that the UU culture harbored “structures and patterns that foster racism, oppression and and white supremacy.”

The board issued a formal call for a process to analyze structural racism and white supremacy within the UUA.

This action resulted in the creation of the Commission on Institutional Change, which delivered a report, Widening the Circle of Concern, to the 2020 virtual General Assembly.

Of course this didn’t come out of nowhere. It reflected tensions that had been building up in the denomination for some time.

But still: It was a major change in direction that was decided on at a 90-minute meeting without a vote or discussion by the UUA membership.

Furthermore it has being treated as an official doctrine from which you are not supposed to deviate.

It is to be discussed at the upcoming virtual UUA General Assembly June 23-27, but the current issue of UU World says “the UUA is already adopting its policies and practices to embody its antiracist and anti-oppressive commitments and urges congregations and other UU organizations to do the same.”

So evidently any General Assembly vote is just a formality to ratify something already decided on.

The board of trustees also created an Article II Study Commission, whose mission is to revise the portion of the UUA bylaws that have to do with the purpose of the association.

The board’s charge to the commission is that it is free to “revise, replace or restructure” all sections of Article II, including the Seven Principles.

An Eighth Principle, having to do with “accountable” diversity and multi-cuturalism, is under consideration.

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Book note: White Supremacy Culture

June 18, 2021

A SELF-CONFESSED WHITE SUPREMACY CULTURE: The Emergence of an Illiberal Left in Unitarian Universalism by Anne Larason Schneider (2019)

In 2017, the Unitarian Universalist Association Board of Trustees took the unusual step of declaring that the UUA was part of a “culture of white supremacy,” and declaring that its mission was to root out this culture.

The UUA is, by some definitions, the most liberal religious movement in the USA. So why would its leaders would describe themselves in words formerly applied to neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan?

It makes a little more sense if you realize that “white supremacy culture” is something more vague and insidious than plain white supremacy. White supremacy is an ideology that says that white people have a right to conquer, enslave, drive out or kill off non-white people.

“White supremacy culture” is defined as a set of traits and attitudes that are common to white people, including nice well-meaning white people, and not shared by nonwhite people.

At worst, it is claimed that these attitudes are detrimental to non-white people and maintain white dominance. At best, they exclude non-white people. Either way, the “whiteness” of even well-meaning white people is believed to be harmful, and needs to be overcome.

A Unitarian-Universalist named Anne Larason Schneider, a retired political science professor, took it on herself to research whether there is any basis for belief in white supremacy culture, and such related concepts as white privilege, implicit bias, micro aggression and white fragility. The results are in this book.

She found that the most commonly-used description of white supremacy culture comes from a 2001 article by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun. A Google search shows the article is still widely quoted, including by Unitarian Universalists.

Jones and Okun said white supremacy culture is marked by (1) perfectionism, (2) sense of urgency, (3) defensiveness, (4) quantity over quality, (5) worship of the written word, (6) only one right way, (7) paternalism, (8) either/or thinking, (9) power hoarding, (10) fear of open conflict, (11) individualism, (12) “I’m the only one,” (13) progress is bigger and more, (14) objectivity and (15) right to comfort.

One notable thing about the Jones-Okun article is that race, racial groups and racial prejudice are not mentioned except in the title and opening and closing paragraphs. Take them away and it would be a typical critique of business management practices. It is almost as if such a critique had been retitled and repurposed.

Another thing that struck Schneider is how the alleged traits of white people fit in with historic racial stereotypes.

Are white people perfectionists? If so, does that imply that black people, Hispanics and American Indians are sloppy? Do white people have a sense of urgency? If so, does that imply that non-white people are habitually late?

Do white people worship the written word? If so, does that imply non-whites are only semi-literate? Do white people value objectivity? If so, does that imply that non-white people don’t care about facts?

Would non-white people benefit if white people become less individualistic, perfectionist, objective and so on? Schneider said there is no evidence and no logical reason to think so.

The important question is whether there is any reason to think that whites and non-whites are divided along these lines. Or are “power hoarding,” “fear of open conflict,” or belief in “a right to comfort” traits found in all human beings?

Schneider found a survey showing that whites were on average a little more individualistic that blacks, Asians and Hispanics, but only by a few percentage points. Other than that, she found no empirical data either supporting or refuting the essay. It is mere assertion.

Because White Supremacy Culture ideology cannot be defended on rational grounds, it can only defended based on appeals to emotion, attacks on motives and exercise of authority.

One example of this is the campaign against Schneider’s friend, the Rev. Todd Eklof, to whom she devotes a chapter.  This is bad news for Unitarian Universalists who believe in historic principles of freedom, reason and tolerance.

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Book note: The Gadfly Papers

June 17, 2021

THE GADFLY PAPERS: Three Inconvenient Essays by One Pesky Minister by Todd Eklof (2019)

At the 2019 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, the Rev. Todd F. Eklof set up a table outside the meeting hall to give away free copies of his new book, The Gadfly Papers.

He was immediately denounced by UUA leaders and barred from the floor of the General Assembly.

This was followed a denunciation in a group letter signed by nearly 500 white UU ministers, plus rebukes from several groups representing UUs of color.

He was officially censured by the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association for allegedly causing harm to “people of color, indigenous, trans, disabled and other marginalized communities.”

Later he was removed from UUA ministerial fellowship, an action that in the past has been taken very rarely, and then mainly to ministers guilty of sexual misconduct.

I have been a Unitarian Universalist almost all my adult life.  I was taken aback when I learned about how Eklof was treated.  What originally attracted me to this movement was its emphasis on freedom of conscience and thought.

The UUA has no required religious dogma, only a commitment to Seven Principles.  Earl Morse Wilbur, a leading historian of Unitarianism, said it is defined by its commitment to “freedom, reason and tolerance.”

The joke about Unitarian Universalists is that, coming to a fork in the road, we turned away from the path that led to heaven and chose the one that led to a discussion about heaven.

So what makes Todd Eklof’s book out of bounds for discussion?  To find out, I decided to read it.  I think his book and the response to his book throw light on questions that are of interest to a wider public than just Unitarian Universalists.

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Chapter One. The Coddling of the Unitarian-Universalist Mind: How the Emerging Culture of Safetyism, Identitarianism and Political Correctness Is Reshaping America’s Most Liberal Religion.

Borrowing from the framework in The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, Eklof said the same disturbing ideologies that have been seen on college campuses in recent years are now being manifested in the UUA.

These include “safetyism,” which holds that people should be safe from the expression of threatening ideas, and “identitarianism,” which holds that political mobilization must be based on race, gender, sexuality or other marginalized status.

An example of these attitudes was the reaction to a UUWorld article entitled “After L, G and B.” The author told what she had learned while relating to her daughter’s transgender girlfriend, discussed some of the difficulties faced by transgendered people in the UUA and stressed the importance of getting language right.

Eklof told how the article was greeted by denunciations on the ground that a cisgendered person had no standing to write about the experiences of transgendered people. The President of the UUA issued an apology, which was attached to the internet archive of the article, and the author apologized for her presumption.

Another example he gave was protesters shutting down a workshop on nonviolence communication, given at Liberal Religious Education Directors Association fall conference. The reason for the protest was that the facilitators were white men, and, therefore by definition, representatives of white supremacy and patriarchy.

Eklof mentioned a number of other things, including rewording of a hymn, “Standing on the Side of Love,” on the grounds that it was hurtful to people confined to wheelchairs, and being told his sermons were “too white.”

I might be tempted to think he was exaggerating, if the UUA’s over-reaction tp his book hadn’t proved the truth of what he wrote.

He contrasted these attitudes with words and deeds of great Unitarians of the past, who fought for freedom of conscience and equal rights for all, and for the common good of all.

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Matt Stoller on toleration of corporate crime

June 16, 2021

Matt Stoller is a journalist whose specialty is business monopoly.  He is the author of Goliath: the 100-year war between monopoly power and democracy. 

In a recent interview, he talked about how much better off we Americans would be if our government simply enforced the law against rich and powerful individuals and corporations.

So I’m reading this book, Empire of Pain [by Patrick Radden Keefe], which is on the opioid crisis … … … And it’s a really fun read. It’s not just a good story, it’s actually fun.  I mean, it’s this depressing topic, but it’s actually not a depressive book, which is very hard to do.

I think it’s a really amazing story about modern America and how our economic order works.  Because it’s basically the story of heroin dealers.  The Sackler family, they made Oxycontin knowing that it was addictive, that it was very similar to heroin.  And they induced a prescription drug and then [there was a] heroin crisis.

And they knowingly did it, but they didn’t do it alone.  They did it by taking advantage of a corrupt political system.  They hired corrupt actors and they also corrupted others.

They corrupted the FDA.  They hired Mary Jo White, who you and I know well as Obama’s SEC chair, but she was working for the Sacklers in the mid- 2000s as was Rudy Giuliani, Eric Holder.

There were some Virginia federal prosecutors who had the Sacklers dead to rights probably with felony charges, mail fraud, wire fraud, so on and so forth.  And they were going to bring those charges against the executives at the firm and then they were going to flip to the Sackler family themselves.

How you flip the mob, you start with the mid-level guys and then you go the way up. They were going to do that.

And Mary Jo White actually went over their heads, went to the political people and got them off the case basically. … … …

And just kind of at every stage, Mary Jo White has been helping really the bad guys here. … … …

This happened in lots of different ways. McKinsey was helping them. I mean, we know this. They funded lots of think tanks in DC.  We know why we have a heroin epidemic and it’s not because people just like drugs.

It’s because we allowed the Sackler family to turn our doctors into pill pushers.  And we did it by allowing them to corrupt our politics.  And these are people who should be in jail.

And people like Mary Jo White should be in jail. And the McKinsey consultants who helped set up this heroin epidemic should be in jail, but they’re not. 

And it’s because we have a broad crisis with the rule of law as applied to the powerful.

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US couldn’t win war games against China

June 14, 2021

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer.  He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and as a UN weapons inspector in 1991-1998.

He wrote an article in April warning against going to the brink of war with China.

The US military has deteriorated to the point that the only way it could win a simulated war game in which it was called on to defend Taiwan from a ‘Chinese invasion’ force was by inventing capabilities it does not yet possess.

In 2018 and 2019, the US Air Force conducted detailed simulated war games that had its forces square off against those of China.

On both occasions, the US was decisively defeated, the first time challenging the Chinese in the South China Sea, and the second time defending Taiwan – which China sees as an integral part of its territory – against a Chinese invasion.

In 2020, the US repeated the Taiwan scenario, and won – but only barely. The difference? In both 2018 and 2019, it played with the resources it had on hand.

Last year, it gave itself a host of new technologies and capabilities that are either not in production or aren’t even planned for development.

In short, the exercise was as far removed from reality as it could get. The fact is the US can only successfully defend Taiwan from a full-scale Chinese invasion in its dreams.

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The importance of wearing bicycle helmets

June 12, 2021

They say Covid-19 is here to stay

June 11, 2021

The economic incentive of the drug companies is to reduce Covid-19 to a continuing low level threat, both in the USA and abroad, and to have a monopoly on the means of controlling it.

The model is the Great Influenza of 1918.  The ‘flu never went away, it just became something we learned to live with, and people like me get a ‘flu shot every year.

The drug companies seem to be getting their wish.  But their problem is that they do not have a monopoly on Covid-19 treatments.

There is ivermectin. There are other treatments.  There are the vaccines developed by Russia and China.

The U.S. government claims the Russian and Chinese vaccines are ineffective.  Maybe they are, I can’t judge, but an imperfect cure that is available and affordable is better than a perfect cure that you can’t get or can’t afford.

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The pushback against ivermectin for covid

June 9, 2021

Ivermectin is a well-known anti-parasite drug, cheap to make and proven to be safe, that a lot of physicians think is effective against Covid-19.

Several states in India tried it out.  New Covid-19 cases dropped dramatically.

Ivermectin results in three Indian states, vs. one where it was banned

The reaction of India’s public health agency?  Astonishingly, following the guidance of the World Health Organization, they dropped invermectin from a list of recommended treatments.

Physicians in India are still free to prescribe invermectin, but the only treatments with the official seal of approval are the expensive vaccines made by major drug companies, all still in short supply in India. 

I don’t see how this decision benefits anyone except the drug companies themselves.

Nick Corbishley, posting on the Naked Capitalism blog, tells the story:

India’s Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) has executed a policy reversal that could have massive implications for the battle against covid-19, not only in India but around the world. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives, are at providing stake.

Providing no explanation whatsoever, the DGHS has overhauled its COVID-19 treatment guidelines and removed almost all of the repurposed medicines it had previously recommended for treating asymptomatic and mild cases.

They include the antibiotic doxycycline, hydroxychloroquine zinc, ivermectin and even multivitamins. The only medicines that are still recommended for early treatment are cold medicines, antipyretics such as paracetamol and inhaled budesonide.

“No other covid-specific medication [is] required,” say the new guidelines, which also discourage practitioners from prescribing unnecessary tests such as CT scans.  [snip]

The decision to remove ivermectin, multivitamins and zinc from the treatment guidelines is hard to comprehend given the current state of play in India — unless one assumes foul play.

After suffering one of the worst covid-19 outbreaks since the pandemic began, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, India is not just flattening the curve, it is crushing it.

And the widespread use of ivermectin, a potent anti-viral and anti-inflammatory with an excellent safety profile, appears to have played an instrumental role.  [snip]

Other countries in the region have already taken notice. Indonesia just approved the use of ivermectin in Kudus, a local contagion hotspot.

This is the last thing the World Health Organization (WHO) and the pharmaceutical companies whose interests it broadly represents want.

As such, it was no surprise that WHO was delighted with the DGHS’ policy reversal. “Evidence based guidelines from @mohfw DGHS – simple, rational and clear guidance for physicians,” tweeted WHO’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan, of Indian descent. “Should be translated and disseminated in all Indian languages.”  [snip]

It’s worth noting that while India’s DGHS has dumped most cheap off-patent treatment options against Covid, including even multivitamins, more expensive patented medicines continue to get the green light.

They include Gilead’s prohibitively expensive antiviral Remdesivir, which DGHS continues to recommend for “select moderate/ severe hospitalized COVID-19 patients,” even though “it is only an experimental drug with potential to harm.” It has also authoriszed the use of the anti-inflammatory medicine tocilizumab, which costs hundreds of dollars a dose.

Source: Naked Capitalism.

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COVID and “the crime of the century”

June 4, 2021

In this eye-opening video, Dr. Brett Weinstein, a biologist, interviews Dr. Pierre Kory, a physician, about the pandemic, the care of Covid-19 patients and the amazing recent of Ivermectin, for his Dark Horse podcast.

Ivermectin has been shown to be effective in both preventing and treating Covid-19, and also in treating the inflammation caused by the immune system’s response to the virus. 

It is cheap to make, and not restricted by anybody’s patent.  It has been in use for more than 30 years as a treatment for bacterial parasites, and is proven safe—unlike the new vaccines, whose long-term effects are unknown. 

Yet its use is being suppressed here in the United States.  Physicians are discouraged from even talking about it, and the record of Kory’s testimony before Congress was banned from YouTube. 

There is a race on to immunize the world’s population before the coronavirus mutates into a form that can resist both vaccines and Ivermectin.

There aren’t enough available vaccines to immunize the world’s population within the next year or two.  Preventing the use of Ivermectin could cost hundreds of thousands of lives, maybe millions.  Many lives have already been needlessly lost.

That’s why Weinstein calls suppression of ivermectin “the crime of the century.”

Kory is a member of the FLCCC—the Front-Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance.  This is a group of physicians who joined together to do what the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health should have been doing, which was to investigate ways to better treat the virus.

The video runs for two and a half hours, which is a long time to watch something on a computer screen.  Unfortunately, no transcript is available, so I’ll hit highlights.

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Why don’t we Americans demand what we want?

June 3, 2021

A short answer is that not enough of us are like Bill Harvey and Dennis Kucinich.

A longer answer is that our political process has induced a state of learned helplessness among American voters.

Our leaders are constantly promising “hope and change,” and then telling us that, regrettably, it wasn’t really possible.

We saw this with the Obama administration. We are seeing the beginnings of this with the Biden administration.

So over time we become conditioned to the idea that universal health care, or a minimum wage that is a living wage, or anything else that would make life better, are impossible dreams.

Why can’t we Americans get what we want?

June 2, 2021

Here are some bits of information I pulled from a post by a blogger named Benjamin David Steele.

###

Columbia law Professor Tim Wu wrote an op-op in the New York Times that included the following list of things he observed the public wants, but is not getting:

About 75 percent of Americans favor higher taxes for the ultrawealthy.

The idea of a federal law that would guarantee paid maternity leave attracts 67 percent support.

Eighty-three percent favor strong net neutrality rules for broadband, and more than 60 percent want stronger privacy laws.

Seventy-one percent think we should be able to buy drugs imported from Canada, and 92 percent want Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices.

The list goes on.

Michael Moore included a segment in his film “Fahrenheit 11/9” released last fall (pre-election) intended to bring home the realization of how much more to the left the American public is than what the political establishment is providing.

Here are the facts.

The vast majority of Americans are pro-choice. [Slide: 71% pro-choice (NBC News/Wall Street Journal, 2018)]

They want equal pay for women, [Slide: 82% Equal pay for women (YouGov, 2013)]

  • stronger environmental laws, [Slide: 74% stronger environmental laws (Gallup, 2018)]
  • legalized marijuana, [Slide: 61% legalized marijuana (Pew, 2018)]
  • a raise in the minimum wage, [Slide: 61% raise the minimum wage (National Restaurant Association Poll, 2018)]
  • Medicare for all, [Slide: 70% medicare for all (Reuters, 2018)]
  • tuition-free college, [Slide: 60% tuition-free public college (Reuters, 2018)]
  • free child care, [Slide: 59% free child care (Gallup, 2016)]
  • support for labor unions, [Slide: 62% Approve of labor unions (Gallup, 2018)]
  • a cut in the military budget, [Slide: 61% a cut in the military budget (University of Maryland, 2016)]
  • break up the big banks. [Slide: 58% Break up the big banks (Progressive Change Institute, 2015)]

Most Americans don’t even own a gun. [Slide: 78% Don’t own a gun (Harvard University, 2016)]

And 75% believe that immigration is good for the U. S. [Slide: 75% Immigration is good for the U.S. (Gallup, 2018)]

And on and on and on.

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The system is rigged

June 1, 2021

Here are some links to articles I found interesting, and maybe you will, too.

Just How Rigged Is the ‘Rigged Game’? by Matt Taibbi for TK News.  “The Division of Light and Power, the new book by Dennis Kucinich, is an epic story of American corruption.”

Interview With Dennis Kucinich on His New Book, The Division of Light and Power, by Matt Taibbi for TK News.  “The former Presidential candidate on his new book, the ‘Punch and Judy show’ of partisan politics and how ‘people move into the system and, instead of changing the system, the system changes them’.”

Dennis Kucinich was a city councilman and mayor of Cleveland, a congressman and a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President.  He was widely ridiculed during his political career, but mostly proved right. 

In his new book, he tells of his 10-year struggle to prevent the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company (CEI) from taking over the municipally-owned electric power company, Muny Light, in order to remove competition and jack up prices.

CEI manufactured Muny blackouts before holidays, blatantly defied federal laws requiring CEI to provide backup power in case of such blackouts, refused to allow Muny to build lines through its territory to obtain backup power from other utilities, used bought-off pols to help artificially lower the valuation of Muny, and even used its power as an advertiser to obtain editorial review authority over local radio copy involving the company.

Because the decision about whether or not to keep Muny was a no-brainer for any Cleveland resident without a larger financial interest in the deal — as Muny didn’t pay dividends or giant packages to executives, it was able to offer rates 20% below CEI, low enough that Cleveland crafted its pitch to outside businesses around its low energy rates — CEI needed to blast cash at institutions to win allies for its cause.

When that didn’t work, it appeared to use its influence to get rid of critics, like WERE radio host Steve Clark, fired after reporting CEI had asked the state for a rate hike in the same year it was reporting a $40 million profit.  [snip]

Kucinich resists smear campaigns, a recall attempt, every conceivable kind of financial squeeze, and even an assassination plot in refusing to sell Muny Light.

Eventually Mayor Kucinich was faced with a choice of selling Muny Light or defaulting on payments of city bonds.  He chose to default, which plunged Cleveland into bankruptcy.  But years later, Cleveland has come back, Muny Light is a valuable asset and most Clevelanders admit Kucinich made the right decision.

The following is from the interview.

MT: The book starts with a really interesting epigraph about fighting City Hall from City Hall, where you say that in order to fight City Hall, you have to first find where it is.  City Hall is not just the physical structure, but the banks, the real estate combines, the investor-backed utilities . . .

Dennis Kucinich: And the mob.

MT: And the mob, right. So, today, nationally, where is City Hall, for people interested in fighting it? You’ve been in congress. What are some of those forces that are major players that people maybe don’t think about as much?

Dennis Kucinich: You have to look at Wall Street. We have a finance economy now.  Look at the arms manufacturers.  Our monetary system changed over 100 years ago.  The monetary system was privatized. 

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