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  1. Atypical is offline
    12-18-2016, 10:34 AM #221
    Pharma Execs Arrested in Shockingly Organized Scheme to Overprescribe Notorious Opioid

    By Ben Mathis-Lilley

    On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that overdose deaths caused by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—the drug that killed Prince—rose by nearly 75 percent in 2015. On the same day, federal prosecutors in Massachusetts announced the arrest of six former employees, including a former CEO and two former vice presidents, of the Phoenix-based and NASDAQ-traded fentanyl producer Insys Therapeutics. The individuals are charged with bribing doctors and otherwise conspiring to induce the overprescription of a fentanyl product called Subsys.

    The indictment details a variety of brazenly dishonest methods by which doctors and insurance companies were allegedly convinced to issue and fund prescriptions of Subsys:

    *Insys paid doctors to give educational lectures about the use of Subsys. That's ostensibly legal, except that prosecutors allege that the company paid said doctors in direct proportion to the frequency with which they wrote Subsys prescriptions, with one Insys employee allegedly texting another that the doctors hired to give lectures "do not need to be good speakers" so long as they were high-volume Susbys prescribers. These "lectures," meanwhile were allegedly often nothing more than dinners at high-end restaurants attended only by the doctors getting paid, the Subsys employees paying them, and the doctor's friends. One Florida doctor is alleged to have made $275,000 in speaking fee bribes in three years.

    *Insys allegedly continued to work with some doctors who prescribed Subsys frequently even after becoming aware internally that those doctors were known for running dubiously legal Dr. Feelgood "pill mills." Wrote one Insys employee in an email about an Illinois doctor that the company would continue to work with and pay speaking fees to: "He is extremely moody, lazy and inattentive. He basically just shows up to sign his name on the prescription pad, if he shows up at all."

    *Insys allegedly hired support staff employees to mislead insurance companies into approving payments for Subsys prescriptions. These support staff employees allegedly misled insurers into believing they were interacting with representatives of doctor's offices rather than representatives of Insys—employees were allegedly instructed to hang up the phone when insurers "pursued the identity of their employer." These support staff employees are also accused of systematically falsifying specific diagnosis information—claiming patients had difficulty swallowing, for example—that they knew would make insurers more likely to authorize Subsys purchases.

    In a statement, Insys says it is "committed to complying with laws and regulations that govern our products and business practices" and "continues to cooperate with all relevant authorities in ... ongoing investigations." (Several Insys employees and medical professionals affiliated with the company have also been arrested in recent years in cases that have led to at least two convictions.) An attorney for one of the arrested individuals—Alec Burlakoff—says his client is not guilty. The other individuals do not appear to have commented.

    The surge in opioid deaths is one of the reasons that United States life expectancy declined in 2015 for the first time in 22 years. In that same year, Insys reported a profit of $58.5 million.


    Human health?...Fk it!

    Get The G-D Money!!

    That's all they care about.

  2. Atypical is offline
    12-22-2016, 01:10 PM #222
    Norman Bates 2.0: Starwood and Wynn are excited to hide a camera and microphone in your hotel room

    Hello from London! I’m back in my homeland for the first time in two years, visiting family and renewing my European passport before the end of the world.

    I’m pleased to report that little has changed since my last visit, Brexit notwithstanding. There seems to be a slightly uptick in the tech industry. Everyone is very excited about AI, and there has been a mushrooming of tech incubators, funded apparently by Russian and other City of London cash that needs a home and a tax break. Also, Amazon now offers same and next day delivery over here, and is apparently building drones in the countryside.

    These are the positive tech changes.

    For a less positive one, I had to look no further than the hotel room (a Starwood, it doesn’t matter which) in which I spent my first couple of nights in town. There I found something that would make George Orwell spin in his grave.

    After spending twenty minutes or more hunting for the TV remote I finally spotted what seemed to be a cellphone charging in a cradle next to the bed. In fact it turned out to be a “mini tablet” offering various in-room services, and also a handy map of local London attractions. The idea is I’d take it with me around the city and then return with it to the hotel room every night where it would sit charging next to the bed.

    All very cute and pointless.

    Except. Closer examination revealed that, like most phones, this in-room remote thing had a tiny camera on the outer rim. A rim, which you’ll recall, was supposed to sit pointing at my bed. There was no indication of what the camera was for. No easy way to figure out what software was installed on the door. Just a blithe assumption by hotel management that thousands of guests every year would be cool having a camera pointed at their bed 24 hours a day, and that they’d trust the device and software makers not to, yunno, switch the thing on like some kind of post-Millennial Norman Bates.

    After safely shutting the thing in a drawer, and setting myself a reminder to replace it on check out so they didn’t charge me for stealing it, I spent a few minutes trying to find out more about the weird bedside spy devices. They seemed to be made by a company called “Handy” and, according to the company’s website, “Top hotel brands on every continent around the world are already using Handy to drive revenues and customer loyalty.”

    Sure enough, the company boasts an impressive client list including: Sofitel, St Regis, Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton, Sheraton, W, Intercontinental, Marriott, Holiday Inn, and Le Meridien. What you won’t find anywhere on the site, though, is anything resembling a privacy policy.

    According to Crunchbase, Handy is produced by a Hong Kong based company called Tink Labs, which earlier this year raised $128m from ex-Google China head Kaifu Lee. The custom devices are produced by Taiwan-based Foxconn which, of course, is most famous for driving its employees to suicide, so nothing to worry about there.

    Tink aims to have one million Handy devices operational in hotel rooms - one million cameras pointing at one million beds - by the end of 2017. But they’ll have to move fast: They have some serious competition in the fast-growing “creepily spying on hotel guests” category.

    Just last week, Wynn excitedly announced that it was putting Amazon Echos in each of its Las Vegas hotel rooms. As you likely know, the Echo is a personal assistant device which listens for certain commands which it then sends to Amazon’s cloud for processing. The device is supposed to lie dormant the rest of the time, but has been known to accidentally activate and send snippets of private conversations, and other background noise, to Amazon. Also, as the Verge points out: “The hotel doesn’t mention any security precautions it plans to take for the Echo, like automatically wiping the device’s history between guests.”

    The announcement of an Amazon microphone in every hotel room comes just as Amazon boss Jeff Bezos met with Donald Trump and promised to help set tech policy for his administration. The appearance of a Handy video camera in my London hotel comes just weeks after a new “snooper” law was passed which gives the intelligence services unprecedented new powers to monitor British citizens and their data, all in the name of combatting terrorism.

    There are so many questions raised by Handy and Echos in our hotel rooms. But here are just a few:

    Even assuming that no one at Handy goes rogue and switches on all those million cameras for his or her own amusement or profit (a big assumption given what we now know about misuse of Uber data by that company’s employees) how can the company possible be sure that hackers won’t be able to do the same? Or a state actor? Or law enforcement with a warrant? How do we know Jeff Bezos’ new BFFship with Donald Trump, not to mention Amazon’s multi-million dollar contract with the CIA, won’t one day expand to include keeping a watchful ear on Echo owners?

    I only paid any attention to the “Handy” because I was looking for the remote control and because I have something of a professional interest in this kind of thing. How many guests don’t even notice the existence of a tiny camera or microphone in their room?

    When did it become ok to expose millions of people to that kind of privacy risk?

    Moreover, when did it become a selling point?


    Another privacy assault on consumers by our corporate overlords.

    Anyone going out of town for the holidays and using lodging? Have a good time, but not too good, or use the closet with the door closed.

  3. Atypical is offline
    01-01-2017, 12:30 PM #223
    Russia Hysteria Infects WashPost Again: False Story About Hacking U.S. Electric Grid

    Glenn Greenwald

    The Intercept (link below)

    There have been a lot of accusations lately leveled against Russia for hacking the DNC, the election, and now the electrical grid.

    And also recently, WAPO published a claim by a group that said 200 internet news sources were fronts for Russian propaganda.

    There is no evidence that any of that claim is true, and some retractions have been made by WAPO and the group itself. WAPO admitted they had made no independent analysis of the group's assertions. Many of the sites named are considering legal action.

    There are many reasons for the administration, and others, to redirect attention (and blame) elsewhere for the election's outcome and its fallout. Humans, and their organizations, are not known for accepting responsibility for their seriously flawed strategies, dumb mistakes or purposely unethical actions.

    This article lays out many of the weaknesses about ALL of the hysteria. There are many portions in it that would likely not copy well so I have only provided the link. Please read it and know that the "Russians are coming" hysteria, at this point, has no conclusive evidence to support it.

    This is a surreal and dangerous time in our country and much is at stake, so be skeptical about any claims made by "authorities" (and especially the media) that seek to tell you what is really happening.

    (I did NOT support or vote for ANY of the four candidates recently so I can be an equal opportunity critic of all of them.)


    Here is some additional detail about how much misinformation is out there.

    FBI/DHS Joint Analysis Report: A Fatally Flawed Effort

    Jeffrey Carr
    Last edited by Atypical; 01-01-2017 at 08:20 PM.

  4. Atypical is offline
    03-05-2017, 12:33 PM #224
    An English Sheep Farmer’s View of Rural America


    MATTERDALE, England — I am a traditional small farmer in the North of England. I farm sheep in a mountainous landscape, the Lake District fells. It is a farming system that dates back as many as 4,500 years. A remarkable survival. My flock grazes a mountain alongside 10 other flocks, through an ancient communal grazing system that has somehow survived the last two centuries of change. Wordsworth called it a “perfect republic of shepherds.”

    It’s not your efficient modern agribusiness. My farm struggles to make enough money for my family to live on, even with 900 sheep. The price of my lambs is governed by the supply of imported lamb from the other side of the world. So I have one foot in something ancient and the other foot in the 21st-century global economy.

    Less than 3 percent of people in modern industrial economies are farmers. But around the world, I am not alone: The United Nations estimates that more than two billion people are farmers, most of them small farmers; that’s about one in three people on the planet.

    My farm’s lack of profitability perhaps shouldn’t be of any great concern to anyone else. I’m a grown-up, and I chose to live this way. I chose it because my ancestors all did this, and because I love it, however doomed it might seem to others.

    My farm is where I live, and there is actually no other way to farm my land, which is why it hasn’t changed much for a millennium or more. In truth, I could accept the changes around me philosophically, including the disappearance of farms like mine, if the results made for a better world and society. But the world I am seeing evolve in front of my eyes isn’t better, it is worse. Much worse.

    In the week before the United States elected Donald J. Trump to the presidency, I traveled through Kentucky, through endless miles of farmland and small towns. It was my first visit to the United States, for a book tour. I was shocked by the signs of decline I saw in rural America.

    I saw shabby wood-frame houses rotting by the roadside, and picket fences blown over by the wind. I passed boarded-up shops in the hearts of small towns, and tumbledown barns and abandoned farmland. The church notice boards were full of offers of help to people with drug or alcohol addictions. And yes, suddenly I was passing cars with Trump stickers on their bumpers, and passing houses with Trump flags on their lawns.

    The economic distress and the Trump support are not unconnected, of course. Significant areas of rural America are broken, in terminal economic decline, as food production heads off to someplace else where it can be done supposedly more efficiently. In many areas, nothing has replaced the old industries. This is a cycle of degeneration that puts millions of people on the wrong side of economic history.

    Economists say that when the world changes people will adapt, move and change to fit the new world. But of course, real human beings often don’t do that. They cling to the places they love, and their identity remains tied to the outdated or inefficient things they used to do, like being steel workers or farmers. Often, their skills are not transferable anyway, and they have no interest in the new opportunities. So, these people get left behind.

    I ask myself what I would do if I didn’t farm sheep, or if I couldn’t any longer farm sheep. I have no idea.

    Perhaps it is none of my business how Americans conduct their affairs and how they think about economics. I should doubtless go back to the mountains of my home here in Cumbria, and hold my tongue. But for my entire life, my own country has apathetically accepted an American model of farming and food retailing, mostly through a belief that it was the way of progress and the natural course of economic development. As a result, America’s future is the default for us all.

    It is a future in which farming and food have changed and are changing radically — in my view, for the worse. Thus I look at the future with a skeptical eye. We have all become such suckers for a bargain that we take the low prices of our foodstuffs for granted and are somehow unable to connect these bargain-basement prices to our children’s inability to find meaningful work at a decently paid job.

    Our demand for cheap food is killing the American dream for millions of people. Among its side effects, it is creating terrible health problems like obesity and antibiotic-resistant infections, and it is destroying the habitats upon which wildlife depends. It also concentrates vast wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands.

    After my trip to rural America, I returned to my sheep and my strangely old-fashioned life. I am surrounded by beauty, and a community, and an old way of doing things that has worked for a long time rather well. I have come home convinced that it is time to think carefully, both within America and without, about food and farming and what kind of systems we want.

    The future we have been sold doesn’t work. Applying the principles of the factory floor to the natural world just doesn’t work. Farming is more than a business. Food is more than a commodity. Land is more than a mineral resource.

    Despite the growing scale of the problem, no major mainstream politician has taken farming or food seriously for decades. With the presidential campaign over and a president in the White House whom rural Kentuckians helped elect, the new political establishment might want to think about this carefully.

    Suddenly, rural America matters. It matters for the whole world.


    It's obvious the world is changing significantly in many ways perhaps permanently. Unfortunately, I can't think of anything equally significant that is positive in these changes.
    Last edited by Atypical; 03-05-2017 at 12:38 PM.

  5. Atypical is offline
    03-28-2017, 04:07 PM #225
    We've Let Capitalism Kill The Planet

    by Christian Sorensen

    The headlines in the first three months of 2017 have made one thing clear: capitalism is killing the planet. Capitalism, the governing structure of nearly every society on Earth, puts profit above all other considerations. The consumer cycle is indifferent to proper disposal or reprocessing of discarded resources because such actions do not maximize profit.

    Oceans suffer greatly. They cover over seventy percent of Earth’s surface and are integral to the prosperity of all known life. Anthropogenic climate change is killing fish stocks and fundamentally changing marine ecosystems. Human activity is depleting oxygen in the oceans. Plastics are everywhere. Humans route roughly 150 million tones of plastic into the oceans each year. Microplastics from the likes of synthetic fabrics and vehicle tires choke ocean life and thwart marine diversity. Approximately 46,000 pieces of discarded plastic of varying sizes occupy any given square mile of ocean. They work their way up the food chain.

    Extinctions are commonplace. Critical areas of land, including wetlands and forests, are vanishing at astonishing rates. Earth has lost roughly ten percent of her wilderness since the 1990s. Humans threaten over sixty percent of the world’s primates with extinction. Harsh agriculture practices, tourism, and construction are rapidly killing grasshoppers across Europe, a critical food source for many animals including reptiles and birds. The middle class is going extinct as well. The world’s richest eight humans have as much money as the poorest half of the world’s population, and the richest one percent of the entire human population possess as much wealth as the rest of humanity.

    The aforementioned examples are just a drop in the bucket. These are not anomalies. Pollution is capitalist routine. Pollution is profit. Razing forest for profit is humdrum. Extinction is progress. Asphyxiating Earth is good for big business. Capitalism, the maximization of profit at the expense of animal and planet, is a plague of our own creation. The planet will eventually recover after humanity is gone or once humanity collectively agrees to prioritize the health of our only home. Humans are ill and capitalism is our collective infection. It must end.


    Briggs, Helen. “Plastic from tyres ‘major source’ of ocean pollution”, BBC News. 22 Feb 2017.

    Briggs, Helen. “Sound of crickets ‘could become a thing of the past’”, BBC News. 10 Feb 2017.

    Gill, Victoria. “Primates facing ‘extinction crisis’”, BBC News. 18 Jan 2017:

    Hope, Katie. “Eight billionaires ‘as rich as the world’s poorest half’”, BBC News. 16 Jan 2017.

    Kinver, Mark. “Video captures moment plastic enters food chain”, BBC News. 11 Mar 2017.

    “Nearly 10 percent of the world’s wilderness has disappeared since the 1990s”, Agence France-Presse.

    Smillie, Susan. “Fish under threat from ocean oxygen depletion, finds study”, The Guardian. 20 Feb 2017.

    Christian Sorensen is an author and military analyst. He lives in Vermont, USA.


    I have a business background so I do not come to this position without experience. As the article says accurately, we are all doomed if something is not done to stop the rapacious behavior of business. It cares for NOTHING but profit; the public's well-being is unimportant and frequently ridiculed (e.g., the California power scandal of a few years ago.) There are hundreds of examples of harm to society being concealed by business to protect itself from exposure and expense.

    If you understand the seriousness of the threat and care about something other than your own life and comfort you will support any reasonable restriction on corporate activity and power.

    Our continued existence depends on it.

  6. Atypical is offline
    04-12-2017, 01:11 PM #226
    The United Passenger "Removal"

    This thread exposes and criticizes excessive, disgusting, and frequently illegal, corporate behavior. These examples are not rare, and, as has been pointed out, can cause more than "inconvenience" to the public - injuries, sickness and death can sometimes be the result.

    A few days ago a passenger on an United partner airline (Republic/United Express) was seriously mistreated. What happened has been, as usual, incomplete, or misreported by almost all media, many of whom are shills for business for numerous reasons. Incompetence related to the appropriate legalities of the event also plays a large part as most reporters are apparently not concerned with truly understanding the laws bearing on what happened. Outrage (or superficial defense of United) replaces comprehensive investigation. Outrage sells papers and gets page views.

    Here is a more detailed explanation providing much needed additional information.
    Last edited by Atypical; 04-12-2017 at 11:48 PM.

  7. Atypical is offline
    04-28-2017, 11:35 PM #227
    The Looting Machine Called Capitalism

    by Paul Craig Roberts

    I have come to the conclusion that capitalism is successful primarily because it can impose the majority of the costs associated with its economic activities on outside parties and on the environment. In other words, capitalists make profits because their costs are externalized and born by others. In the US, society and the environment have to pick up the tab produced by capitalist activity.

    In the past when critics raised the question about external costs, that is, costs that are external to the company although produced by the company’s activities, economists answered that it was not really a problem, because those harmed by the activity could be compensated for the damages that they suffered. This statement was intended to reinforce the claim that capitalism served the general welfare. However, the extremely primitive nature of American property rights meant that rarely would those suffering harm be compensated. The apologists for capitalism saved the system in the abstract, but not in reality.

    My recent article, “The Destruction of Inlet Beach,” made it clear to me that very little, if any, of the real estate development underway would be profitable if the external costs imposed on existing property holders had to be compensated.

    Consider just a few examples. When a taller house is constructed in front of one of less height, the Gulf view of the latter is preempted. The damage to the property value of the house whose view has been blocked is immense. Would the developer build such a tall structure if the disadvantaged existing property had to be compensated for the decline in its value?

    When a house is built that can sleep 20 or 30 people next to a family’s vacation home or residence, the noise and congestion destroys the family’s ability to enjoy their own property. If they had to be compensated for their loss, would the hotel, disquised as a “single family dwelling” have been built?

    Walton County, Florida, is so unconcerned about these vital issues that it has permitted construction of structures that can accommodate 30 people, but provide only three parking spaces. Where do the rental guests park? How many residents will find themselves blocked in their own driveways or with cars parked on their lawns?

    As real estate developers build up congestion, travel times are extended. What formerly was a 5 minute drive from Inlet Beach to Seaside along 30-A can now take 45 minutes during summer and holidays, possibly longer. Residents and visitors pay the price of the developers’ profits in lost time. The road is a two-lane road that cannot be widened. Yet Walton County’s planning department took no account of the gridlock that would emerge.

    As the state and federal highways serving the area were two lanes, over-development made hurricane evacuation impossible. Florida and US taxpayers had to pay for turning two lane highways into four lane highways in order to provide some semblance of hurricane evacuation. After a decade, the widening of highway 79, which runs North-South is still not completed to its connection to Interstate 10. Luckily, there have been no hurricanes.

    If developers had to pay these costs instead of passing them on to taxpayers, would their projects still be profitable?

    Now consider the external costs of offshoring the production of goods and services that US corporations, such as Apple and Nike, market to Americans. When production facilities in the US are closed and the jobs are moved to China, for example, the American workers lose their jobs, medical coverage, careers, pension provision, and often their self-respect when they are unable to find comparable employment or any employment. Some fall behind in their mortgage and car payments and lose their homes and cars. The cities, states, and federal governments lose the tax base as personal income and sales taxes decline and as depressed housing and commercial real estate prices in the abandoned communities depress property taxes. Social security and Medicare funding is harmed as payroll tax deposits fall. State and local infrastructure declines. Possibly crime rises. Safety net needs rise, but expenditures are cut as tax revenues decline. Municipal and state workers find their pensions at risk. Education suffers. All of these costs greatly exceed Apple’s and Nike’s profits from substituting cheaper foreign labor for American labor. Contradicting the neoliberal claims, Apple’s and Nike’s prices do not drop despite the collapse in labor costs that the corporations experience.

    A country that was intelligently governed would not permit this. As the US is so poorly governed, the executives and shareholders of global corporations are greatly enriched because they can impose the costs associated with their profits on external third parties.

    The unambigious fact is that US capitalism is a mechanism for looting the many for the benefit of the few. Neoliberal economics was constructed in order to support this looting. In other words, neoliberal economists are whores just like the Western print and TV media.

    Yet, Americans are so insouciant that you will hear those who are being looted praise the merits of “free market capitalism.”

    Cont'd Below

  8. Atypical is offline
    04-28-2017, 11:35 PM #228

    So far we have barely scratched the surface of the external costs that capitalism imposes. Now consider the polution of the air, soil, waterways, and oceans that result from profit-making activities. Consider the radioactive wastes pouring out of Fukushima since March 2011 into the Pacific Ocean. Consider the dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico from agricultural chemical fertilizer run-off. Consider the destruction of the Apalachicola, Florida, oyster beds from the restricted river water that feeds the bay due to overdevelopment upstream. Examples such as these are endless. The corporations responsible for this destruction bear none of the costs.

    If it turns out that global warming and ocean acidification are consequences of capitalism’s carbon-based energy system, the entire world could end up dead from the external costs of capitalism.

    Free market advocates love to ridicule economic planning, and Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers actually said that “markets are self-regulating.” There is no sign anywhere of this self-regulation. Instead, there are external costs piled upon external costs. The absence of planning is why over-development has made 30-A dysfunctional, and it is why over-development has made metropolitan areas, such as Atlanta, Georgia, dysfunctional. Planning does not mean the replacement of markets. It means the provision of rules that produce rational results instead of shifting costs of development onto third parties.

    If capitalism had to cover the cost of its activities, how many of the activities would pay?

    As capitalists do not have to cover their external costs, what limits the costs?

    Once the external costs exceed the biosphere’s ability to process the waste products associated with external costs, life ends.

    We cannot survive an unregulated capitalism with a system of primitive property rights. Ecological economists such as Herman Daly understand this, but neoliberal economists are apologists for capitalist looting. In days gone by when mankind’s footprint on the planet was light, what Daly calls an “empty world,” productive activities did not produce more wastes than the planet could cleanse. But the heavy foot of our time, what Daly calls a “full world,” requires extensive regulation. The Trump administration’s program of rolling back environmental protection, for example, will multiply external costs. To claim that this will increase economic growth is idiotic. As Daly (and Michael Hudson) emphasize, the measure known as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is so flawed that we do not know whether the increased output costs more to produce than it is worth. GDP is really a measure of what has been looted without reference to the cost of the looting. Environmental deregulation means that capitalists can treat the environment as a garbage dump. The planet can become so toxic that it cannot recover.

    In the United States and generally across the Western world, property rights exist only in a narrow, truncated form. A developer can steal your view forever and your solitude for the period his construction requires. If the Japanese can have property rights in views, in quiet which requires noise abatement, and in sun fall on their property, why can’t Americans? After all, we are alleged to be the “exceptional people.”

    But in actual fact, Americans are the least exceptional people in human history. Americans have no rights at all. We hapless insignificant beings have to accept whatever capitalists and their puppet government impose on us. And we are so stupid we call it “Freedom and Democracy America.”

    Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury (in the Reagan administration) and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. Roberts’ How the Economy Was Lost is now available from CounterPunch in electronic format. His latest book is The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.


    Mr. Roberts has always been a solid conservative, who, as shown by his record, worked for years in the world of Republican orthodoxy.

    But, for some time he has been a vocal critic of much of what is considered mandatory conservative theology - e.g., "free markets/capitalism is the best" - the common myths regurgitated daily by Wall Street sycophants and others. He also criticizes liberal phoniness and the media.

    The most interesting criticism frequently comes from those who used to be on the inside, the true believers.
    Last edited by Atypical; 04-28-2017 at 11:45 PM.

  9. Atypical is offline
    07-05-2017, 08:56 AM #229
    Is America Past the Point of No Return?
    Oligarchs representing monopolistic Big Pharma, Big Banks, and Big Retail/Fast Food are devastating us.

    By Thom Hartmann / AlterNet July 4, 2017

    Have corporate/billionaire control of our republic reached such a point that it’s no longer reversible? Have we passed the tipping point where democracy dies?

    A few years back, on my radio show, President Jimmy Carter said that America, in large part because of Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United, has become “just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery.”

    He’s right. It’s the elephant in the room that everybody, particularly our corporate media, completely ignores.

    While Republicans are doing the will of their oligarch owners, replacing real scientists with industry lobbyists and shills everywhere from the White House to congressional science committees to the EPA, the media stubbornly refuses to report in depth on it, preferring instead to following the Worldwide Wrestling moves of our tweeter-in-chief.

    “Red-shift“ election fraud (called red because it helps only Republicans) has been flagrantly on display across the country since the privatization of our vote by GOP-leaning voter-machine companies in the 2000-2004 period. GOP voter suppression in nearly 30 states has now been institutionalized with Kris Kobach’s Interstate Crosscheck scam (now a presidential “commission”). Pre-poll and exit-poll results “flipped“ in Georgia’s 6th district in a way that caused us to decry similar vote-rigging in the Ukraine (the result, like in Georgia’s 6th, was measurably off from the exit polls).

    Yet in the face of all this, enough to provoke revolution in countries like Egypt and Ukraine, our press instead focuses on the oligarchs’ unproven and well-debunked claim that “illegals” are voting to help Democrats.

    While climate change is ravaging the world, the administration of billionaire oligarch Donald Trump has pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate change agreement and is rolling back climate-protecting rules on behalf other oligarchs in the oil, coal and gas business so they can continue to use our atmosphere as a sewer.

    While billionaire-owned Republicans frantically work to roll back the 3.8% tax on investment income (for families with over $250,000 in investment income/year) their oligarch owners so despise, cutting millions of Americans off any hope of affordable healthcare access, the television media usually plays this tax-cut story as if it were about healthcare.

    From trying to destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (which has returned to consumers billions of dollars in ill-gotten gains from our country’s banksters), to gutting environmental laws, to preventing students from even declaring bankruptcy when their efforts to join the middle class by going to college don’t work out, the oligarchs who now largely run America are solidifying their power and their wealth.

    This is rule by the rich. It’s here. It’s now.

    As Vice President Henry Wallace predicted in a prescient New York Times op-ed in 1944:

    “They [the super-wealthy] claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest.

    “Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”

    Have they finally reached that goal which, in Wallace’s day, they could only hunger for?

    In 1944, the dream of the oligarchs to once again control America the way they did during the Gilded Age of the 1880-'90s was just that, a dream. Wallace’s president, FDR, had called them out, repeatedly, calling them “economic royalists” and damning their efforts to corrupt American democracy.

    “These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America,” Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed in 1936. “What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power.”

    But, he thundered in that speech, “Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power!”

    FDR kept them in check, as did Truman and Eisenhower. The latter, a Republican president who ran for office on the 1952 platform of ending the Korean War (“Vote for peace, vote for Eisenhower” said the TV ads), even wrote to his right-wing brother, Edgar Eisenhower, about the very wealthy oil oligarchs who wanted to end the American experiment of a strong middle class:

    “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

    That was back when Eisenhower/Nixon ran for re-election in 1956 on a platform of having expanded Social Security, increased union membership, raised taxes on rich people, and built thousands of miles of freeway, hundreds of schools and hospitals, and radically increased funding for public education.

    It all changed in the 1970s. As I outline in detail in my book The Crash of 2016, the modern oligarchic takeover of America began in a serious way in 1971 when Lewis Powell outlined in a memo how the very, very wealthy and corporate America should launch a massive, well-funded program to take over American media, takeover our schools and colleges, takeover our courts, takeover our economy, and ultimately take over every branch of our government.

    In 1976, Powell had his chance to put it all in motion in a big way. From 1776 until 1976, giving money to politicians in exchange for political favors had been considered a behavior (and often considered a corrupt behavior) that could be regulated by government.

    But in the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo Supreme Court decision, Powell, who had been put on the court by Richard Nixon in 1972, wrote that giving money to politicians wasn’t a “behavior” subject to regulation, but, instead, was merely an “exercise in free speech.” Free speech protected by the First Amendment.

    This major rewrite of American law, sweeping in its breadth and reach, has echoed forward into our time with Citizens United and McCutcheon, among others. The result is that today right-wing billionaires not only own Fox and much of the rest of our media, but they are also largely determining the result of our elections.

    In the 2016 election cycle, just the Koch network pledged over $800 million to elect billionaire-friendly Republicans. They succeeded, taking the House and the Senate, and with the efforts of their pliant shill Mitch McConnell, in blocking President Obama’s middle-of-the-road SCOTUS nominee, Merrick Garland, from ever taking his rightful seat on the court. It’s reported that they’re planning to “invest” $400 billion, more or less, over the next 16 months.

    Cont'd Below

  10. Atypical is offline
    07-05-2017, 08:57 AM #230

    Neil Gorsuch is more hostile to the interest of working-class Americans, minorities and traditional American egalitarian values than any member of the Court since the Lochner era. Billionaire-funded right-wing judicial groups like the Federalist Society are salivating at the chance to replace Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, cementing their control of the Court for as much as the next two generations.

    This is the greatest crisis for democracy since Henry Wallace’s era during World War II. Similar assaults against democracy are taking place all over the world, from Poland to Hungary to the Phillippines.

    Will America see its way back to the expressed values of this country’s founding? Having used those values as a guidepost, we’ve ended slavery, enfranchised women and created a social safety net that, at least until the era of Reagan, was still capable of offering life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to working American citizens.

    Now, instead, we’re seeing the values expressed by the dark underbelly of the American Revolution—the oligarchs who owned plantations in the South—ascendant.

    Violent policing, more people in prison than any other country on earth, and the destruction of competition and entrepreneurial opportunity by monopoly are all the new normal. Corporate power is now being used not just to advocate for corporate interests, but to prop up faux populists like Trump and Scott Walker.
    The effort, launched in the wake of the Brown v Board decision in 1954 (as so brilliantly documented by Nancy MacLean in her new book Democracy in Chains), to take over the institutions of American governance has been largely successful. And to solidify their gains, some among the very, very wealthy are aggressively supporting Republican efforts to gerrymander and vote-suppress the Democratic Party into oblivion.

    In Crash, I pointed out how each of our nation’s major reboots (each leading to a huge progressive leap forward) happened after an economic crisis. The economic crisis of 1772 (which led to the Tea Act, and then the American Revolution), the Great Crash of 1856-'57 (which even wiped out Abraham Lincoln and led to the Civil War), and what was then referred to as the Republican Great Depression of the 1930s (which led to World War II) all led to major changes in America.

    Will it take another Great Crash to bring about a reformation of our government? Or have our oligarchs so deeply embedded themselves and their shills into our institutions of government that it’s no longer possible for us to pull back from our headlong rush into neo-feudalism/neo-fascism?

    The answer to both questions will probably become evident in the next three years.

    But if America is to truly become the land of the free and the home of the brave, a place where any person can make it, a land clean and protected from corporate predation, it’s going to take a massive mobilization of people who currently aren’t even bothering to vote or run for office.

    The Republican Party’s behavior today eerily parallels the day in 1936 when Roosevelt said, “In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for.”

    In 1932, the pain from GOP policies was so great that Americans turned out in huge numbers for FDR. Disgust with the Republican embrace of America’s robber barons was so thorough that, outside of 1947-'48, Republicans didn’t hold majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1933 to 1995.

    Today, even the phrases “robber barons” or “economic royalists” are likely to produce a “Huh?” response, particularly among those who watch oligarch billionaire Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News or listen to right-wing hate radio.

    Americans are in crisis. From opiates to student loan debt to underemployment, oligarchs representing monopolistic Big Pharma, Big Banks, and Big Retail/Fast Food are devastating us. Our courts are largely taken over by shills loyal to billionaire wealth and corporate power, as have the majority of our state governments. And our land and food supplies are poisoned daily by frakkers, polluters, and agricultural chemical companies.

    And our ascendant political party, the GOP, is working as hard as it can to transfer trillions more dollars of wealth from working people to its patrons in the top 1%.

    As Eldridge Cleaver said, “There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you're going to be part of the problem.”

    It’s truer today than ever before. And it’s not like we weren’t warned.


    Anyone who has closely followed the changes that have occurred over the last few decades, plus more that was not mentioned, like the rise of the religious right, can see the harm all this has had on the country.

    The title of this essay says it all.
    Last edited by Atypical; 07-05-2017 at 09:03 AM.

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