drugs

It’s a Feature, Not a Bug


Crime

Crime has been rising for several years, so it’s understandable that one year into the Biden presidency President Biden would be blamed for everything. That’s just how Republicans roll. But let’s set aside stupid talk about defunding the police, lousy administration job performance and the rest. Crime is a symptom, not a root cause. It isn’t a coordinated effort to keep cops employed or politicians’ hands wringing and fingers pointing, so let’s take a look at what might be driving crime.

Let’s start with two givens: first, I’m not an expert at this; second, while other kids are eager to grow up to be a fireman or doctor or a superhero, very few are eager to be criminals. There’s something that causes them to make that decision.

Try hopelessness. Try broken promises. Try the breakdown of families, perhaps broken by hopelessness and broken promises.

We swat at the symptoms, as though a crackdown will stop criminals and serve as an example and thereby prevent future crime. But if we are willing to ask how that’s working for us and we’re realistic, we’d have to answer that it’s not working too well.

What we are doing well is to provide our citizens with public examples of lawlessness and proud declarations of intent to break the law issued from the highest places. And we do next to nothing to create the things that would cause people to choose a life of non-crime. Let’s poke just a little at both pieces.

If you’re reading this (and obviously you are) you already know and have seen insurrection and lawbreaking on a breathtaking scale by elected leaders. Trump is the obvious and easy example, but we’ve locked up several from Congress in just the past few years for things like insider trading. The standard belief is that “They’re all crooks,” which may be a bit of overreach, but there is evidence to suggest that taking bribes, bent legislation that lines the wrong pockets and more is common. Clearly, that stuff happens at the local level, too, where we citizens have the most contact. That provides a not-so-fine example to follow, or at least a message that breaking the law is okay, that it’s just the way things work.

As for hopelessness, how do you think we’re doing at ensuring our people that there are prospects for economic security, a chance for a better tomorrow? We watched and even encouraged manufacturing jobs to go overseas, leaving thousands of towns and millions of people suddenly unemployed or under-employed. Politicians have given lip service to bringing those factories and those jobs back, but it’s been nothing more than hot air for decades.

They also give lip service to better education. Then they kill every attempt to make that happen, especially in poor areas. See “broken promises” above.

Said an unidentified woman participating in a focus group detailed in the New York Times,

” .  .  .  they’re not giving me any sort of ambition to feel like I have any sort of trust in the government to fix things or at least get the ball going in the right direction.”

It’s unlikely that she is prone to committing a crime, but she articulates well our general level of confidence in our self-paralyzing government. Worse, in Flint, MI government officials saved a few bucks or made them for donors by poisoning children with lead in the water. They weren’t alone in that and other nefarious behavior.

Our cities offer little hope for anything better for many of our fellow citizens, which leaves a lot of people with pockets full of empty. Answer for yourself what you would do in such circumstances. Answer for yourself what your level of anger would be – maybe substitute the word “rage.” A drive-by shooting just might help anyone to feel powerful and in control, if only for a moment. And cash stolen from an ATM or convenience store would ease economic woes a bit. Doing the robbery might even feel justifiable.

As I said, I’m no expert at this, but our national hand-wringing and political posturing don’t help a thing, and making the police force of any city the equivalent to the army of a small nation will make for yet more brutality and no progress. What if we were actually to address the root causes? What if we were to stop the hypocritical posturing about education and actually educate all of our kids well?

I’m guessing that there are experts who can tell us what to do to reduce crime. If a miracle happens and somebody in authority actually seeks such counsel, my confidence is high that we won’t pay any attention to that expert advice and that nothing will get better. That’s what we’ve always done.

What we can count on is that right wing politicians will continue using crime statistics to denigrate others and to promote themselves and their chest-thumping, faux virtuous righteousness. They’ll find more ways to blabber about freedom and responsibility. They need that cudgel for political gain, so they’ll steadfastly refuse to take action to open possibilities for those who need them most.

It’s the same logic that causes politicians to obstruct actions to mitigate the pandemic. It’s in Republicans’ interest to keep the suffering and death going, because that gives them both an ongoing pandemic and inflation as issues to use to beat on Democrats. They’d rather that people suffer and die than do anything to help. And review that focus group woman’s comment once again.

Then read Andrew Yang’s essay, The Data Are Clear: The Boys Are Not Alright. The facts and the numbers are shocking.

The design of our system creates these circumstances, which is why I say that crime is a feature, not a bug.

Death

Each is a lethal dose

Congratulations to us on our consistency. We have over 100,000 deaths from drug overdose every year – more than vehicle crashes and gun deaths combined. That number is sufficient to include someone not far from you, although, to be fair, there is a much higher concentration of overdose death in poor areas, like Appalachia, the slums of our cities and on Native American reservations. (How come we took the best land and “reserved” the worst land for them until we wanted that land and then “reserved” still worse land for them?)

Could it be that hopelessness to the point of complete resignation is involved? So, how come we don’t do anything about that hopelessness?

Oh yeah – out of sight, out of mind. Bootstraps demands. Self-induced Myopia. Those people are worth more to the suppliers hooked until they OD than alive and clean. Just ask the Sackler family of Purdue Pharmaceutical and the doctors who got kickbacks from them.*

Looks like our death from overdose is a feature, not a bug, too.

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* Read Barry Meier’s piece, Origins of an Epidemic: Purdue Pharma Knew Its Opioids Were Widely Abused, as well as German Lopez’s piece A Rising Death Toll, from which the chart below is taken.

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The days are dwindling for us to take action. Get up! Do something to make things better.

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The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. There are lots of smart, well-informed people. Sometimes we agree; sometimes we don’t. Search for others’ views and decide for yourself.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
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JA


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Potpourri v10.0


Reading time – 4:31; Viewing time – 7:49  .  .  .

First, some stories you may have missed because of the torrential downpour of coverage of the primary elections and COVID-19. And don’t miss the BREAKING GOOD NEWS at the end.

First Story: Drugs

It is notable that our government is at least putting on a show of wanting to help people hooked on opioids. What makes it notable is that this is the polar opposite of the way we dealt with people hooked on heroin, cocaine, crack and other drugs. Those were commonly (but mistakenly) believed to be primarily a devil in communities of color. Instead of helping those people, they got locked up. But today opioids are slamming white people, so now we go all goodie two-shoes and they get help. Like I said: notable.


Now, A Justice Update

It was easy to miss the U.S. Court of Appeals in DC chickening out Friday before last. Nevertheless, chicken out they did, by refusing to rule on the House of Representatives’ lawsuit to force Don McGahn to testify. They chicken-clucked that they don’t have jurisdiction to consider the case.

You may recall that McGahn was the White House Counsel who twice refused Trump’s order to fire Robert Mueller. He resigned his post over that conflict. Regardless, he was caught in the net of Donald Trump’s baseless, unconstitutional assertion of absolute immunity.

Trump ordered everyone who could so much as spell “Executive Branch” to refuse to testify before House committees. McGahn received a subpoena from the House, ordering him to testify in committee hearings. He defied that subpoena and obeyed He Who Just Makes Stuff Up In Order To Serve Himself and the House sued to force McGahn to show up and testify. The District Court declared the obvious, that there is no absolute immunity and ordered McGahn to testify. The appellate court is the one that chickened out.

By saying that they didn’t have jurisdiction to consider the case they abdicated a primary role of the judiciary. They left no way to resolve disputes between Congress and the Executive Branch. All that’s left is a showdown on the National Mall at high noon between the House Sergeant at Arms and the Secret Service. It’s insanity.

And how very cowardly a way that is to refuse to hold the President accountable. The DC Court of Appeals has enabled this President to vastly expand executive power all the way to authoritarianism, and that’s exactly where he wants to go.

Thanks a lot, D.C. Court of Appeals, for your cowardice in selling out our democracy and the Constitution. Because of your refusal to bring Trump’s stonewalling to justice, you are, indeed, chickens. Buck-buck.

Have you noticed how pervasive is cowardice when it’s time to stand up to this lawless President? It has now infected all three branches of government and has allowed the continuing destruction of Constitutional protections.

On to the Elections

Here Are Three Take-Aways From Super Tuesday

First, it is impossible to overstate the importance and impact of Rep James Clyburn’s (D-SC) endorsement of Joe Biden. His passion, his gravitas and his clarity drove thousands of South Carolinians to the polls to vote for Biden. That tsunami of a win influenced voters across the country, as did the endorsements of Biden from Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke. But it’s more than that.

It’s also the highly energized, impassioned hordes of Bernie supporters who didn’t bother to vote. Sure, they show up at rallies for the sugar high, but when it counts, they’re nowhere to be seen. Further, their volume is out of proportion to their numbers. So much for the dramatically increased turnout of young people Sanders has promised. That’s the second point.

Third, and most powerful, this is a Watergate moment.

By the time the break-in, the cover-up, the investigations and hearings were over and Richard Nixon had resigned in disgrace, our country was reeling from Watergate. Passions ran high, nearly every other issue had been put on a back burner and the country was in pain and exhausted. We needed a way to calm down. Enter Gerald Ford.

Ford had been a congressman from Michigan forever. Everyone knew him as a really nice guy, a decent guy, an honest guy, a count-on guy. His big dream was to one day become Speaker of the House. Then suddenly he was President of the United States following Watergate. Perhaps his pardoning of Nixon was his notion of a first step toward calming the nation. Regardless, his calm voice was what the nation needed. But because he was tainted by association with the Watergate scandal, it wasn’t enough.

So, in 1976 we elected a preacher-style peanut farmer. Electing Jimmy Carter President was a complete divorce from everything Watergate and was what the nation most needed. We’re in that kind of moment now.

Beyond the well-earned anger over the destruction of so much of what we hold dear and our horror over the ongoing violation of our values, beyond a desire to set all of that right, we have a hunger for order to replace the chaos. We want an end to the vile language and the abhorrent behavior. We’d like to feel safe and just breathe normally once more.

And that is why so many people voted last Tuesday for Joe Biden instead of pugnacious Bernie Sanders. It wasn’t about policies at all.*

And Finally, The General Election

From this President, his supporters, SuperPACs promoting Trump, SuperPACs denigrating the Democratic nominee, the 501-c4s, slimy Republican operatives, foreign countries’ infiltration and infestation of social media to subvert our election, attempts to misuse parts of government, like false criminal investigations and all the rest  .  .  .

.  .  .  the Democratic nominee can expect filth, lies, false associations, fear mongering, muck making, more lies, voter suppression, plus nonstop lies.

The Democratic candidate will have to stand up to all that and more. He will continually have to focus the election to be a referendum on Trump, his lies, betrayals, incompetencies, his law breaking, his imperiling of our national security and his destruction of our democracy. The candidate must not become defensive or inappropriately angry as lies are spread about him, lies about his record, his qualifications, lies accusing him of illegal acts and personal lies designed to gouge out his heart. He’ll require a backbone of steel to stay focused on attacking Trump again and again. There will be no rest until November 4.

Oddly, people are fighting to get that job. Now, though, it’s our turn.

People are standing in line for up to seven hours to vote in their primaries. The wait is largely because of Republican voter suppression caused by the closing of so many polling places. Good on those voters for their fortitude and their insistence on doing the right thing in the face of Republican voter suppression.

When it’s your turn to vote in your primary and in the general election, get in line and stay in line, no matter how long it takes.

Do it to honor those who went before you, who stood in line all day to do a most American thing. Do it for yourself. Do it for your country.

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Quote of the Week

Elizabeth Warren was “incredibly competent, pragmatic, intelligent and well-spoken — in other words, she never had a chance.” Seth Meyers


BREAKING GOOD NEWS!

Thanks to the untiring work of the good foiks at www.Represent.US, the Virginia state legislature has put on the November ballot a proposed amendment to END GERRYMANDERING. The citizens of Virginia will at last have the opportunity to stop this politically manipulative practice that effectively robs the people of fair representation. Quoting Joe Biden as he described to Barack Obama the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, “This is a BFD.”

Click the pic to the left to have a look at the FaceBook page detailing this wonderful achievement. As well, go to their website and watch the video narrated by Michael Douglas at the top. And have a look at this most informative video Jennifer Lawrence narrates. I promise you’ll learn plenty

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* See Bret Stevens’ column here. Many thanks to J.C. for pointing it out.

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Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

What Are We Missing?


Reading time – 3:20  .  .  .

The daily outrages and incessant infantile furies create a barrier to focusing on important but non-urgent issues. Indeed, this post is being written just 10 days after the weekend massacres in El Paso and Dayton. This is during the ongoing intransigence of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. On full display are his dual betrayals of, 1. refusing to bring legislation to the floor of the Senate for a vote to defend against foreign invasion of our democracy, and, 2. refusal to bring any gun safety legislation to a vote. Happening at the same time is the President’s lying and misleading about both issues. But his behavior is so consistent that it’s hardly worth a yawn. Still, he’s the president, so his narcissism-on-display does suck up our national focus.

We have to make time to shine a light on the important but non-urgent issues. These things beg for answers, so let’s look at one as a placeholder for all: our gargantuan healthcare complex and changes we don’t notice.

STAT, the daily briefing from The Boston Globe focusing on healthcare related issues, reported on August 12,

“A new report from UnitedHealth Group finds that hospital prices increasing at current rates could end up costing $250 billion over the next decade. The report says that prices set by hospitals for services  — and not physician salaries or how much hospital services get used — are what’s driving up patients’ spending. Between 2013 and 2017, for instance, hospital prices increased by 19% while the cost of physician services increased by half that amount.”

To put that into perspective, healthcare accounted for 17.9% of GDP in 2017 and inflated 3.9% that year to a total of $3.5 trillion, or $10,739 per person. We spend a crazy amount of money battling injury and disease and this report says the cost to do that is getting far worse.

The un-examined tidbit that seems like a throwaway in this report is that over that same 4-year period the cost of physician services increased by almost 10%. Did we receive 10% greater value? Why should we pay the extra 10%?

Silly question. We pay it because healthcare isn’t like deciding which car to buy or whether now is a good time to install an energy efficient furnace. There isn’t a marketplace of cost competitive choices for doctors and when you need healthcare you need it now, regardless of your ability to pay.

That’s compounded by most of us getting a major portion of the cost of our healthcare from a third party – an insurance company – so we may only see the co-pay and be ignorant of the true cost. The result is that doctors and hospitals can charge what they want. There will be some moderation of the cost as the insurance companies arm wrestle with doctor and hospital office managers over their invoices, but that’s pretty much it.

We are so accustomed to the price of healthcare going up, reflected in our insurance premiums that may right now be getting deducted from your paycheck, that we don’t even squawk any more. Millions are so accustomed to the ever-escalating cost system that they won’t even look at alternative ways to fund our healthcare or ameliorate its cost.

Extending our willful blindness about our pockets being picked begs an answer to how many other ways we’ve allowed ourselves to become numb, as others eat away at our financial well being. That stuff is bankrupting us, so the question begging for an answer is, “What are we missing?”

Bonus Section

In that same edition of STAT they report,

“President Trump announced late last month a plan to import drugs from Canada to help lower Americans’ prescription costs, and Canadians are not happy about it.”

Just think for a moment about the multiple crazies of this. First, most of those drugs are made in the U.S. and exported to Canada at substantially reduced cost, where they are sold for somewhat more sane prices to consumers. Trump wants to create a massive importation of those same drugs back into the U.S., thus effectively swatting at symptoms and refusing to deal with the root cause. And it’s worse than that.

The predictable Canadian backlash to this vacuum-headed idea is driven by shortages of drugs in Canada. Reports STAT,

“You are coming as Americans to poach our drug supply, and I don’t have any polite words for that,” said Amir Attaran, a professor at the University of Ottawa. Read more here.

This is just another of Donald Trump’s strategy-vacant ideas without any thought to consequence to others, especially to our strong ally and second biggest trading partner.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

NOTES:

    1. Writings quoted or linked to my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
    2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
    3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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