Saturday, July 30, 2016

Spending Too Much On The Elderly? Absolutely Not!

Affirmation: Medicare and Social Security are the bedrock programs of American liberalism.
 "Then why do so many liberals consider it taboo to even suggest adjusting these systems to ensure their sustainability for future generations?"
Response: Liberals emphatically do not regard it as "taboo" to "adjust" these systems so long as that does not mean outright cuts - which serve no one's purpose. In addition, adjustments have already been implemented including ACA future budgetary fixes to "means test" more middle class seniors in Medicare as well as moving greater medical burdens to individuals, including: higher medical co-pays, higher premiums, etc.
This response is needed given 'We The People Live'  host Josh Zepps' claim of  "progressive orthodoxy" (e.g. to fix Medicare especially)  in an original video filmed at the Democratic National Convention. (You can google Josh Zepps video at DNC to pick it up)
Zepps claims that America’s resource allocation is "in need of a serious reexamination"  This is also a theme that's been recycled in a number of media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times and New York Times.  The core argument or thread running through all is: Young workers, families are getting the shaft as more and more resources, funds are funneled to the elderly in social programs.
What is Zepps further justification? He argues:
Medicare costs more than $500 billion per annum, 30 percent of which is spent on the five percent of beneficiaries who die each year. One third of that is spent on the final month of life. The final month. I mean, you want to talk about priorities, let’s just take that one datum. More than $50 million each year spent on the final month of life.”
Let's examine this at some length. First, Medicare costs are exploding, but a large part of that is due to a program called "Medicare Advantage" (MA) which was created by BushCO and the Republicans with their Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. It basically confected a privatized form of Medicare ("Part C"), with the express purpose of bleeding regular (traditional) Medicare into insolvency by blowing up to $20-25 billion or more a year (based on gamed "risk scores")  and funneling much of it from the older program. Unless this (MA) program is killed (the sooner the better),  no other cuts will matter - because MA will metastasize to the point every $ is swallowed up.. For those who wish to read the details on why MA is hurling Medicare into insolvency check out the content in these links:

Zepps is correct about the magnitude of Medicare spending in the final months of life. But I believe that is the fault of the medical establishment and its specialist practitioners. This is based on not leveling with severely infirm elderly people regarding limits of additional treatments and their real costs v. benefits.. Missing in most treatment discussions, for example, is any reference to quality of life . The focus is exclusively on quantity and that also often comes with huge medical costs. Missing "the talk" is it any wonder older patients tend to believe medical treatments can offer curative solutions rather than only palliative ones?
In my own case I already mentioned my prostate cancer which has now recurred. I also discussed some of the many treatment options, e.g .
I have been immersed in research on treatment options and what I have found thus far isn't encouraging, including:
1) Cancer experts themselves can't agree on which primary treatment is best.
2) The same experts (oncologists) can't agree on which ("salvage") treatment for recurrent disease is best, or when to start it.
3) Most agree that if a guy has recurrent disease and a biopsy shows it has spread to the bones ("bone mets"), his days are basically numbered - though certain treatments (e.g. hormone) will allow some limited life extension.
The question then becomes: How much life extension? While I don't want to croak prematurely and deprive my many readers of my blog posts and insights, I also recognize that once I hit a certain phase in possible further treatment (called "castration resistance") it is basically time to pack it in. Game over. Finito. Some will yelp: "You can't give up or quit!" but the flip side of that is Zepps' point that we spend excessively to stay alive in the last months when all the pointers show we ought to be going to hospice care and telling the medical industrial complex 'Enough!'

The problem is that the medical complex doesn't want to quit since they see it as a renunciation of their practice to fight for life all costs.  Hence, they regard the palliative option as failure, even though added treatments may only marginally increase life - but usually at the expense of life quality. (E.g. hormone treatments for advanced prostate cancer can increase life by 1-3 years but usually with side effects including: memory loss, depression, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, enlarged and tender breasts, shrunken testicles, zero libido and hot flashes such as suffered by menopausal females.).
So in this I do side with Zepps. The tricky question for him (and other would be "adjusters")  is: WHO assumes responsibility for telling an older patient his or her days are numbered and they need to just go gently into that good night? Medicare now has a special program where end of life issues are addressed, but as yet too few patients are getting these consultations, often because their nervous PCPs don't refer them.
I encountered this when I told my own PCP back in June - after the latest PSA test came back at 6.0 - that I planned to do nothing more. I wanted no urologist referrals, no more biopsies, no more anything.  Her reaction? She wouldn't hear of it. Short of strapping me down to the exam table and coercing me, she said I HAD to see the urologist and listen to what he said concerning the latest MRI results  So, while my inclination was to halt all further medical involvement, she wasn't going to play along.  In effect, she intended to add more medical intervention and expenses to my Medicare account. .(Mind you, her adamant stance could well be traced to our litigious culture, especially relative to  medical practitioners, whom we often hold to absurd standards of action and  judgment.)

Same thing with an oncology RN at UCSF who phoned me up after the MRI and stated I "sounded too young" not to accept brachytherapy salvage therapy, i.e. instead of possibly dying at 74 or 75.  When I asked about the side effects she kind of dodged the extreme "level III toxic comorbidities" which included loss of bowel and urinary control and extreme pain with every excretion - thanks to the radiation (36 Gy delivered in two fractional treatments a week apart - under general anesthesia)
How does Zepps propose we deal with  such situations? Clearly, his superficial call for simple "adjustments" shows he doesn't want to get "in the weeds".  But at the same time, you can't just uniformly cut $50b from Medicare and tell sick oldsters to "sink or swim".  And as I noted, Medicare already has the end of life palliative care option in the program (as part of the ACA), ostensibly to limit end of life expenses. But how does it get maximized without resorting to draconian cuts? The devil, as always, is in the details.
Zepps adds:
"The left needs to reckon with the uncomfortable truth that what this country is doing is sapping the vitality of the young and pumping it into the elderly,” he says. “It is a gigantic resources Hoover from young professionals into old retirees.”
But as I pointed out the ball is not in the "Left's" court, it is really in the province and court of the medical establishment.  It is also in the court of the craven politicians who are not prepared to tell Medicare Advantage folks that they need to come out of that too expensive program and go into regular Medicare. Their MA is costing taxpayers way too much each year.

First, if Medicare Advantage had been mothballed, as Obama originally vowed to do back in 2011-12,  we would already have seen more than $75 b saved over the past 4 years. Second, if that Part D Medicare drug plan had been altered to allow bargaining for lowest cost prescription meds like the VA, another $200b would have been saved. (Especially in the wake of the news that costs for catastrophic disease drug prescriptions (like for Hepatitis C) have gone up 85% since 2013.
Third, if the medical establishment more faithfully implemented end of life palliative care conversations with patients - via the Medicare program for that purpose - we'd save a lot of that $50b used in the last months of life. But this portends a massive change in perception by that same medical establishment, to wit, maybe they themselves need retraining especially in the nature of palliative care. This latter as opposed to pushing new and expensive treatments that only marginally improve life extension.
How then do we convince patients as well as the medical experts that end of life quality is as important as quantity?
When Zepps can answer these difficult questions, as opposed to merely interjecting "adjustments" (read cuts) for the sake of cuts, we would be more likely to take his arguments seriously.  It is evident to this observer that Zepps, like so many of his younger cohort, is too ready to blame oldsters for what are really faults of the health system we have. That includes the presence of insurance companies with their built in extortion and selective rules As I noted before, the only way out is a single payer system such as my wife and her activist group are fighting for here in Colorado with ColoradoCare and Amendment 69, see e.g.
Sadly, Zepps objects to those who would "change the topic" by pointing to other items in the federal budget that could use cutting. But this is being myopic and foolish. Because unless we closely examine those other items, especially military spending for which the GDP allocation has doubled since 9/11, we will never get anywhere in terms of real world priorities.  See e.g.

Does the U.S. REALLY need 900 foreign military bases worldwide to fund to the tune of over $1 trillion a year? Especially as the Pentagon already "misplaced" $1.2 trillion in budget allocations prior to 9/11, according to former Defense Dept. analyst Chuck Spinney in a 2002 PBS NOW appearance . Does U.S. "defense" spending REALLY need to exceed that of the next 25 nations?  Clearly Zepps needs more education, though one must give him a prop or two for his audacious video. But to shed needed light (for his benefit) we can thank Nancy J. Altman and Eric Kingson, authors of 'Social Security Works' .

As the authors observe (p. 40):

"It is false that most older Americans are on "easy street". A very small percentage are, many more are poor or near poor, while some maintain a modest, middle class life style, often struggling to make ends meet."

So much for Zepps' indiscriminate claim of a "resource Hoover" hoovering up everything not bolted down for the benefit of fat, complacent seniors.  (Many of whom still have kids living in their homes, basements because they can't get decent jobs).

Last but not least, Zepps doesn't cover Medicare fraud at all, which could easily be neutralized by implementation of a computer system to track care received over time by different providers.  

I have shown in this post (including links) that Zepps' arguments are immature and don't take full account of: a) how seniors have been exploited by the existing system, and b) how younger workers and families are being exploited by a Neoliberal system with misplaced priorities.  One whose design and financial reward basis finds it more profitable for companies to fund massive stock buybacks than create jobs with decent salaries.

But one thing we cannot do is permit superficial memes and facile arguments against senior health and other benefits to be spread, thereby propelling a push for an elderly  "hunger games" . 

Btw, if the Reepos in the Nov. election seize  all branches of the government, Zepps may get his wish of massive cuts, thanks to Paul Ryan's Medicare voucher plan..  That will save hundreds of billions for sure, but leave most elderly in the same position they were in before Medicare arrived in 1966. That is, begging and scraping for financial help from family, offspring just to stay alive to deal with normal health issues - never mind treating stage IV prostate or breast cancers.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Demos Will Need More Than Assembling Another Coalition To Win In November

Hillary Clinton
Hillary accepts the Dem nomination last night. Will the Dem convention help her ride to victory in November with a winning coalition?? Doubtful, because coalitions are inherently too variable,  unstable.

It was JFK who first warned about the fallacy of bringing temporary coalitions together every 4 years in an effort to win general elections. He insisted a political party needed to be based on "a common history and heritage", i.e. historically enduring principles that uniquely identified a Party. In his own words:

"For the Democratic Party is not a collection of diverse interests brought together only to win elections. We are united instead by a common history and heritage--by a respect for the deeds of the past and a recognition of the needs of the future "-

At one time the Dems stood for core principles and they constituted more than a temporary ensemble or "coalition" brought together every four years by dodgy rhetoric to win one election. Now, having sold out to the money changers, bankers and business assholes - not to mention the pseudo-free market hacks and economists -  they are barely discernible from the Republicans. Let me correct that, barely discernible except now the Rs have a loose cannon named Donald J. Trump making it easy for the Dems to seize the mantle of political sanity.

But is political sanity enough in an unconventional election year in which powerful populist uprisings have emerged on the Left and Right? I don't believe so. The reason is that most populist uprisings are driven by passions - raw emotions - not wonkish rhetoric or transparent boilerplate speeches at conventions.

The bottom line is it is extremely dicey to try to assemble a winning coalition from people at the extreme edges of the political spectrum driven by passions. This is especially the case when many of them (4 m in the case of Sanders' supporters) have only recently been brought into the electoral mix. .Hence, these newbies have no ab initio commitment to vote, period. They were only driven into the Sanders (or Trump) fold because of what they saw and heard that echoed with their deepest aspirations. This was especially in the case of Sanders' supporters.

The other problem with temporary coalitions is they are inherently unstable, in time, space and mass. The one that swept Obama into the oval office was exceptional by any standard because it brought so many  energized African -Americans into the political process at once.. Let's be frank that for the most part they were not energized so much by Obama's words but via identity: they saw and heard a person of color like them, and they were going to support him to the hilt.

I have heard several arguments so far that if Hillary is to win in November, she will have to muster at least the same mass of turnout - including black voters- that Obama did in 2008. But I simply can't see this happening. If Obama's 2008  success was mainly driven by identity politics, why would the same passion be shown for Hillary Clinton who is not black? It wouldn't. Indeed, Hillary will be lucky to grab half the African-American novel turnout that Obama did. Add in all the barriers erected in red states, especially via new voter ID laws, and the barrier becomes even more formidable.

Now, it is true that Hillary can also profit from an identity component of females, among whom many are black. The take right now is older (age 50 plus) women are going for her by at least 85% to 15%.. However, she's having a much more difficult time among millennial women. (Age 18-34 especially).

That leaves only the members of the disaffected Left (mainly those dismissed - as by hardcore feminist Amanda Marcotte as "dead enders") . Dead enders they may well be, but without a sufficient turnout among them I see no way for Clinton and the Dems to grab a third consecutive 4-year term in the White House. It just isn't going to happen.

Estimates of the number of disaffected Sanders' supporters who will join Hillary's crusade have ranged from 80 percent to 90 percent. These are large proportions to be sure, but in what is likely to be a nail biter election they still may not be enough. She will more likely need 98 to 99 percent. A ten percent deficit, for example, translates to around 1.3 million who in the best case scenario simply don't show up. (In the worst case, obviously, they vote Trump).  If these 1.3 million are sprinkled in "swing" states like Colorado, Virginia, or Florida, where vote margins for victory can be as small as 100,000, Hillary would be in serious trouble.

All of this is meant to show the inherent risk in depending on a temporary coalition brought together only for winning an election. What about a spectacular convention, like the just finished DNC ?(Which truth be told looked and felt more like the one that marked Reagan's ascension in 1980, what with all the flags, faith, and military props)

History shows that conventions by themselves don't produce electoral winners. I don't care how terrific the speeches are or the patriotic props. Look at Obama's sensational 2004 speech. Despite its quality,  Kerry still couldn't prevail over George W. Bush. (Part of the reason was the election being stolen by Diebold electronic voting machines in Ohio, which secretly transferred votes from the D to the R column. See the documentary: "As Ohio Goes So Goes The Nation")

Much more critical are the debates. Hence, Hillary's chances - despite giving a "boilerplate speech"  last night - in the words of Financial Times columnist Edward Luce) will improve if she can deliver a sterling performance in the fall debates. If not, and bear in mind she's going against a character who doesn't adhere to strict rules, that will be it.

Hillary was terrific in skewering Trump as "a little man" before the assembled chorus last night, but she won't be able to do that in formal debates. She will also have to face the fact that "the Donald" may enter those debates with much lower expectations than imposed on her.

The other main aspect of winning an electoral contest,  even if you haven't based your campaign on firm principles (other than "Not him!") is absolutely not to make unforced errors that can affect your critical turnout. So far, over the primary campaign and into the convention, I count at least two major ones made by Hillary: 1) her March speech pandering to AIPAC (America-Israel Political Action Committee, e.g.

And 2) Her selection of Wall Street pal Tim Kaine as running mate.

The first confirms her warhawk status which will likely depress turnout by hardcore, anti-war Left folks, and the second is going to depress turnout among the Bernie Left supporters. The latter were looking for someone to excite and energize them, but Tim Kaine is like giving them a strong dose of valium when Red Bull was needed.

Once again, if firm principles were guiding the Clinton campaign as opposed to trying to guess a likely coalition component to match an action (say white repub males to buy into Tim Kaine) then such unforced errors wouldn't be made. The Clintonites would have grasped that picking Kaine wouldn't have snatched as many Rs - of whatever color- than picking Warren instead to energize the whole left base.  This pick then, may net Clinton 100,000 to 150,000 disaffected white, blue collar Reagan Dems, but at the expense of  2 m Sanders' voters.

The good news is that amidst all the red, white and blue 'rah rah' from last night (including keeping Sanders' diehards under control) coupled with Hillary's ok speech, there were no unforced errors. The bad news is that conventions don't matter in the long run and she's already committed two big unforced errors.

In any case, by the end of this election the cautionary tale should once more be sounded: "Don't depend on iffy coalitions to get you through to the end. Establish firm principles for your campaign and allow them to be your guide".

See also:


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Did Bernie Sanders Lay A Political Trap For Hillary?

Podcaster Jimmy Dore points out Hillary's subdued "hate" expression during Bernie's endorsement. Did he set a political trap? Quite probably, given he sensed she wouldn't keep to her promises.

Even as Barack Obama delivered his signature,  silver-tongued oratory and homage to Hillary last night -  a robust defense of "American values" and Hillary's qualifications to protect them-  darker ruminations have surfaced. These actually originated with Sen. Bernie Sanders' endorsement of Clinton in NH some time ago, but have only now come to the fore in the wake of Hillary's actual nomination.

And in that wake, questions of whether she will actually follow through on her promises - such as remaining steadfastly against TPP. Well, that came under suspicion the night before when VA Neolib Governor Terry McAuliffe
Image for the news result

 blurted out that Hillary would "flip on"  the TPP as soon as she got into the WH. This raised the hackles of Bernie supporters but of course was quashed almost as soon as it got out - unlike the DNC emails: McAuliffe and advisers sputtering that  TPP "would only go forward if the changes that she wants are implemented and that everyone is in agreement." HRC would examine the deal and only approve those sections in line with citizens' interests.  As The Washington Post observed:

"There's a reason Hillary Clinton's campaign so forcefully and unequivocally pushed back at Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's (D) assertion Tuesday that she will support the Trans-Pacific Partnership once she's in the White House.

What McAuliffe said doesn't just directly contradict Clinton's stated position about the trade deal Obama is trying to pass before he leaves office. It undercuts several narratives Clinton is using the convention to reframe, while reinforcing some of the most damaging narratives to her campaign"

Indeed. Hence, the distrust in Hillary's adherence to any previous positions, and hence also the picking up of visual clues in her body language and face during the Sanders' endorsement.

In fact,  a number of Left media were "Zaprudering" the NH event with special attention to Hillary's body language and facial expressions while Bernie was delivering his (seemingly) ringing endorsement.  Several times the image was paused (e.g. by liberal podcast host Jimmy Dore)  to reveal her with a none- too pleased look on her face. See e.g.

Dore then played a short video of Ralph Nader  who referenced Bernie's intent to expose Clinton's political betrayal on Jorge Ramos' show:

"He didn't slobber over her He basically went through all the promises she made on immigration reform, on minimum wage, on criminal justice reform, on the environment and climate  change.  I thought it was a really brilliant statement. .I have it here and urge everyone to read it because I think he's set her up for political betrayal".

What does that mean? It means, as Dore then explained,  that Sanders was setting her up since all those things HE said she was for, she's not really for, so she will betray his words. When she does that he can then enlarge his organization. Sandernistas will see they had put their trust in yet another Neolib who betrayed them. She only said what she did, when she did,   to get their votes.

This makes a lot of rational sense at a deep politics level: deliberately trotting out all the promises and commitments made  to put her on the spot and remind her of them, as well as his millions of followers. It is that technique of setting her up, that will ultimately expose her either as keeping to her word, or once again weaseling out. What is most telling is her body language and especially facial expressions. Pause the video as I did (at the same time Dore does) and look carefully. You don't need a B.Sc. in Psychology to be able to read her facial and body language literally screaming "Objection!" even as she  continues the rhythmic head bob telegraphing false assent.

As my psychologist friend Rick put it, the head bobbing is a physical compensation mechanism to neutralize HRC's  visceral objections via a controlled physiological response. In other words, to affirm a fake agreement with Sanders words despite the fact her face literally screams she actually hates them. But the head bobbing and nodding is a means to resist a totally negative physical reaction  (like issuing a middle finger salute as she did with the Kaine pick)..

The bottom line is that even before the Kaine VP pick (definitely not designed to inspire left turnout no matter what the scare tactics) and then the McAuliffe TPP gaffe, Sanders knew in advance that Hillary wouldn't stick to her promises. Hence, he listed a whole set of actions she'd said she do during the campaign. But Bernie basically set her up to do a purposeful fail:  commit totally unforced political hari kari - and very likely end up a one termer.

This also cuts at Bill Maher's snide remark last night (convention edition of HBO's  Real Time) that the Left is "purist".  Absolutely not! The Left, contrary to being purist, merely insists that if it makes sacrifices for a candidate he or she adhere to commitments made, at least those within their power. At the very least that means not verbally backtracking on them, and also pre-emptively embracing extreme right or center right positions never defended during the campaign. It means that the Left demands integrity in a candidate not "purist adherence" to ideological positions.  That Maher didn't know the difference is perhaps no surprise as in one Real Time from November, 2013 he didn't seem to know the difference between legitimate conspiracy analysis and god belief. He babbled:

 "We need conspiracies for the same reason we need God because we cannot accept that things are just random." 

Which is pure codswallop, because one doesn't "need" conspiracies.  They are rather detected and emerge out of the multifaceted scrutiny of  a universe of available evidence -  even that which may be released in files decades later. This is specifically so in the JFK assassination case. (In fact, as Dr. Pat Bannister noted, strong religious/ god believers are actually more likely to reject political conspiracies because they go against their most fervent beliefs in human nature and limits.)

But a person who wouldn't know the difference, or honor the distinction, would also mistake voters' demands for integrity in politicians as being "purist". In each case, an extreme comparison is invoked so it was also not surprising to see Maher and guests last night  making a false equivalence between "left and right crazies".

Sad, but this is why - along with the infusion of obscene amounts of money - our political and electoral system never improves and we are always saddled with "lesser of two evils" choices. Even our pundits and best comedians can't seem to enhance their insights to a deep politics' level to expose the ongoing con. 

"You have two choices, sir or madam: strychnine or cyanide! Which is it! Make your pick! You can't not pick!"

See also:



For many Clinton donors, particularly those from the financial sector, the convention is a time to shed what one called the “hypersensitivity” that had previously surrounded their appearance at Mrs. Clinton’s fund-raisers or at her political events, during a period when Mr. Sanders repeatedly attacked Mrs. Clinton’s connections to Wall Street and her six-figure speaking fees from financial institutions.

“I think we’re past that,” said Alan Patricof, a longtime donor to Mrs. Clinton, when asked about the need to lie low during the primaries.

In Philadelphia, donors were handed preferred suites at the Ritz-Carlton and “Friends and Family” packages created for longtime Clinton hands — some of them also longtime benefactors. Some were granted time backstage or in the Clinton family box with former President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. Blackstone, the private equity giant, scheduled a reception at the Barnes Foundation on Thursday with its president, Hamilton E. James, one of the leading Wall Street contenders for an economic policy post in a future Clinton administration.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Should An Author Be Held Responsible For Mass Shootings?

The 2010 book Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters profiles 10 shooters and breaks them down into three personality types.
The news (New York Times, Sunday, p. 1) that the 18-year old German -Iranian mass shooter was in possession of the book, 'Why Kids Kill: Inside The Minds Of Mass Shooters', has again triggered questions of whether the author (Peter Langman) must somehow share responsibility.   The perpetrator in Munich, like the Columbine killers he idolized, evidently was bullied like they were and also suffered from depression.

Like the psychotic Colorado killer Karl Pierson, German authorities in Munich found the gunman had been bullied, and seemed to have few friends. No link to religious extremism or Islamic State zealots have been found.

Alas, the book by Langman was also found in the possession of Arapahoe High School student Karl Pierson, an honor student who shot to death a fellow student, Claire Davis. Pierson barged into the school hallway armed with a shotgun and Molotov cocktails. He was angry and looking for a debate coach with whom he wished to settle a score.  He fired a blast that struck Claire in the face at point blank range and sent her into a coma, dying after lingering unconscious for a week. Friends and family prayed that she'd come out of it - but that didn't happen.Pierson wrote in his diary that he was psychopathic with a superiority complex.  According to author Langman: “I think he was right and correctly identified himself as a psychopathic personality from my book.”

However, is a coincidental profiling of oneself from the subject matter of a book on mass shooters  enough to impute blame to the author? Probably not. And Langman himself has made it clear he gave absolutely no details concerning techniques or strategy, nor did he deliver gory details.
But this may not matter in the end, because a certain niche of intelligent potential shooters can become obsessed and ensnared with their own divergent psychological manifestations. Then  - with self diagnosis - these misfits often end up analogizing themselves to Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the infamous Columbine killers.
In a Mother Jones analysis of Langman's book from 2012, it appeared that many school shooters had become mesmerized by the story of Klebold and Harris. The Colorado duo's violent actions then formed the template for dozens of subsequent shootings. In particular, the pair's sense of isolation, plus the relentless bullying they endured from the jocks at Columbine High School. Add in their single-minded objective to deliver payback to those who they believed tortured them and the nefarious stage was set.
Thus, the MJ conclusion was that this template might be taken to heart by others, even if no particular strategies were given, or gory details.  But Langman himself has downplayed the bullying aspect though he wasn't specific on causes, noting in a UK Guardian piece (7/23):

Sometimes there’s a revenge factor. Sometimes they are full of rage and lashing out against the world.  Sometimes they are wanting to make a name for themselves. As a nobody, they see the only way to be a somebody is get international recognition for killing people.”
Well, the inverted fame may also be a part, but it could also be that certain beliefs arising from the Columbine template are also in play. Also there is no gainsaying the fact that since Columbine the two killers have emerged as the "anti-heroes" of a misshapen death cult that idolizes the pair. The MJ  article noted other mass killers have been obsessed with the Columbine attack, drawing on a wealth of information in books and movies, fan websites dedicated to the shooters, and even a Broadway show

In this super-heated environment of self-absorption and  lunacy a single author can hardly be blamed for the dastardly acts of a series of misfits entranced by Columbine's killers.

Sue Klebold - Dylan's mother -  has even said she still receives mail from young women across the country professing their love for her son.  Twisted? For sure, but again if true - and there's no reason to doubt Mrs. Klebold - it might also help explain the ongoing demented fascination with the whole Columbine incident and why its infectious memes continue to generate offshoot killings. As for Mrs. Klebold, in her recent book  A Mother’s Reckoning,  she leans to the idea her son suffered from a "brain disease"

An alternative explanation has been advanced by Tahir Rahman, a forensic psychiatrist at University of Missouri. In his recent paper he argues for the need to examine "the extreme overvalued belief"  This term was coined originally by Carl Wernicke, a German neuropsychiatrist. He used it to describe ideas that dominate a person's mind causing non-delusional but extreme behaviors. Anorexia nervosa has been cited as one example in which extreme beliefs of body image dominate minds. (To the point of starvation.).

The same can be said for racists, anti-Semites, anti-Muslims,  psychotic anti-liberals or any person gripped with hatred toward a target group. (Often because of his own lack of adequate information, knowledge).  Most don't act out in violence, reach for an AR-15 and shoot twenty people. But those who become fixated on the misshapen justification of their hate can and do.  Thus, we beheld the demented Orlando mass shooter acting out his overvalued ideas, just as we also saw  the confused, alienated teen in Munich doing the same. .

The danger of all such overvalued beliefs is their propensity to become amplified by the possessor,  fulminating in the mind until the beliefs dominate. For example, the belief that Obama is a Muslim and is guilty of aiding the cause of radical Islam in some weird way.  It is difficult to deal with these people because their beliefs are magnified out of rational proportions, and tied to emotional over-investment. This disposition is also associated with an abnormal personality, e.g. the schizoid type or submerged personality manifested by James Holmes. .

As an example, Eric Harris idolized Hitler, and felt the human race was totally worthless. Being a hostage to such beliefs, then having them confirmed by being picked on by jocks, led him to conclude the only solution was to annihilate as many fellow students as possible.  This led to joining forces with Dylan Klebold to kill 13 and injure dozens more on Hitler's birthday (April 20) in 1999.

The danger of Trumpism now is sowing many more minds with such hateful, overvalued beliefs, in this case centering on white superiority and ridding the nation of immigrants, gays, and liberals ("libtards").   This morning, while grabbing a quick breakfast at McDonald's I even overheard three local wingnuts complaining loudly about no American flags seen at the DNC. One said: "What do you expect from these Muslim lovers? And they haven't even mentioned the word 'Isis' yet!"  Another fed into the first guy's overvalued idea by asserting: "Yeah, and they have a fence all around their Convention center but don't want Trump to build a wall!"

Could I have interjected reason with these guys? Not likely! Short of a brain transplant I'd have had no more success than trying to convince a denier like Kort Patterson of the reality of man-made global warming.  Reason and evidence simply play no role for the brain committed to an overvalued idea.

Hillary Clinton clearly has her serious defects  and disadvantages but may be the only "antidote"  to preventing a nation based on extreme overvalued beliefs. Kind of like using the toxins delivered via chemotherapy to eliminate a cancer.

Or, mayhap we need a "political physician" as Jill Stein describes herself, to clean house of these nasty overvalued, extreme memes warping the minds of so many of our citizens. People might wish to watch Dr. Stein's extemp speech to Sanders and other supporters outside the Wells Fargo center, e.g.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Greens' Jill Stein: Right About Bernie's Movement Having "No Place" In Democratic Party?

Jill Stein by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Green party presidential candidate Jill Stein, making a play and plea for Sanders' supporter to come on board.

I was astonished to read in the online Washington Post last night (after the Convention) that Jill Stein was in Philly and making pronouncements outside the Wells Fargo Center to the effect that Bernie's supporters ought to give up on the Democrats.  Jill Stein, of course, is the Green Party candidate for President and she basically said that the Democrats' own actions (including the disgusting  DNC emails) showed that there was no place for a movement such as Bernie's. She then made the case that the more natural place  for "Berners" was with the Greens.

This is a reasonable issue to examine so let's do so. First, IF there is a real place for Sanders' left political movement in the Dem party would they have done everything possible - from the email content and super delegate system- to derail his campaign? I do not believe so! Hence, check off one solid debate point for Ms. Stein.

Next, IF there is a real place for Bernie's energetic supporters in the formal Dem party would Hillary have moved to the center right and named a Neoliberal Wall Street crony as Veep? The answer again must be 'No'.   In fact, I am convinced the naming of Kaine as Clinton's VP pick, a guy known to be against just about every progressive initiative and position, shows the formal Dem Party has zero use for Bernie's people - never mind all the inflated rhetoric last night.

Let's now take a trip back along memory lane to see how and why this distrust of the left emerged and even reached a pinnacle of disrespect during the first Obama term when his aide Rahm Emmanuel sat down with liberals and referred to them as "fucking retarded" for not fully getting behind the Prez' Neolib agenda. See e.g.

Real liberals have hated him ever since and also seen Obama for what he really is, a Neoliberal in the disguise of a liberal.

Back to the Democratic Party's genesis of distrust for liberals. This likely commenced with the McGovern presidency in 1972, when the Ds made a big bet and lost to Nixon. They vowed never again to be put in such a position, just as after Mondale's drubbing in 1984 by Reagan led them to confect the center right mutation known as the Democratic Leadership Council, i.e. "New Dems" (read Neoliberal Dems).

To do an end run around future true liberal candidates they implemented a gaming of election rules as well as creation of a "super delegate" system to put a final imprimatur on any "outsider".  True liberals then took stock and decided not to be railroaded by fear ever again. Hence, when Gore showed he disdained liberals by picking the odious neocon Joe Lieberman as running mate in 2000, the most diehard liberals either stayed home or voted Ralph Nader. They are still blamed for "handing the election to Bush" despite the facts that: 1) more than 200,000 Democratic voters voted for Bush in Florida (vastly more than the 57,000 who voted Nader) and 2) Jeb Bush himself knocked over 100,000 black voters off the voting rolls using Choicepoint listing them as felons.

But these election mutations have been minor compared to the rapid move of the entire D Party to the Right which I discussed before, e.g. in my post of May 31. wherein I cited a quote by Noam Chomsky:

There used to be a quip that the United States was a one-party state with a business party that had two factions: the Democrats and Republicans—and that used to be pretty accurate, but it’s not anymore. The U.S. is still a two-party state, but there’s only one faction, and it’s not Democrats, it’s moderate Republicans. Today’s Democrats have shifted to the right,”

Chomsky's insights are spot on, and as I've posted before, the only reason some perceive me as a Marxist Socialist or "communist" (as opposed to FDR-JFK style liberal) today is because: 1) Their own positions have shifted radically right and 2) they're unaware how the political spectrum shift has been warped by propaganda, revisionist history. (Such as the Rightist trope that JFK was "really a cold warrior" and 'fiscal conservative' when all the evidence indicates this is balderdash,

The Dem mutation toward corporate elitism began when they embraced Neoliberalism via the Democratic Leadership Council  (DLC) in the Reagan era, and 'Fix the Debt' by 2010.  The Party effectively became Republican lite – though they've always tried to make us believe they’re the 2nd coming of a new progressivism. Which is humbug.

Obama, far from being a true liberal, is merely the latest exponent of this Republican lite thinking, as evidenced by his earlier backing of cuts to Social Security, his support of the TPP, and - his proposal for Medicare cuts (putting more of the expense burden on beneficiaries) in his last budget proposal.

But people, most, are not fooled. I don't know - as I told Janice - whether the fear of Trump will scare enough Sanders' supporters into "getting Dem religion" but Hillary and the Dems certainly haven't helped themselves. Also, as we saw last night with the outpouring of raw emotion for Sanders, when you rope in millions of people - many new to the political system - beware of catching them "on fire" because at the end you may not be able to put all of it out.

The dilemma for the Dems is what to do about Bernie's movement and supporters. If they disrespect them like Emmanuel did then look for them indeed to take their passions to the Greens. Whether they will in this election - pulling the lever for Jill Stein - remains to be seen. A lot depends on how Hillary and her new Veep conduct themselves in the coming weeks and what they say. As one Sanders' supporter put it in the comments following a NY Times piece:

 'Hillary needs to change her policies to cater for them or lose them. It's as simple and fair as that. And yes I know the Trump arguments all too well. But Hillary, if you want Bernie supporters votes, they don't come automatically based on fear of Trump being the alternative. You are going to have to earn those votes with progressive policies (like banning fracking and other critical environmental issues), just as Bernie had to earn his votes."

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Monday, July 25, 2016

DNC Hack Done By "Russians"? Don't Buy It

It figures that the Clinton political strategist and hack Robby Mook, e.g.
Image result for robby mook

 would at some point toss out the BS that "Russians" were behind the DNC hack.  But don't believe it for a second. It is merely an attempt to deflect attention from the content of the emails themselves in order to desperately preserve (or pretend) some sense of unity in the emerging shit storm with Bernie Sanders people at the Democratic Convention. (Some of which we beheld today in various spontaneous protests including one disrupting a DNC breakfast sponsored by the FLA delegation featuring Debbie Wasserman Schultz.)

And, btw, this type of deflection tactic is old hat. Anyone who has spent any time investigating the JFK assassination, for example, has seen it at multiple levels with the disinformationists. For example, the CIA-confected malarkey of "Oswald in Mexico City' which no serious researcher buys.

In this DNC case, numerous other experts (with less air time than the DNC puppets) have already pointed out the sheer difficulty - no matter what the FBI may eventually say - about actually positively identifying the source of the hack. As one expert put it: "Just because you find an AK -47 lying around doesn't mean a Russian was responsible". Same thing with a system hack bearing  "Russian Cyrillic letters in the code". Ever heard of spoofing a hack? When did we see this before? Well with the claimed Sony  hack by N. Korea three years earlier. (Which turned out to be due to a disaffected Sony employee).

Worse, the cyber security firms (like 'CrowdStrike')  and resident "experts" that make these wild claims are often the beneficiaries of   "faith-based attribution"  whereby they skate and are never held accountable when they are wrong. SO pardon me if I don't bite. See also:


Now, back to the Convention!

Three electrifying speeches, from Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders mesmerized the Convention crowd but Bernie's was easily the most intense and best. (Finally starting after nearly ten minutes of "Bernie!" chants and much applause). Michelle's speech was mainly for political naifs and spell binding on that score. If you were new to a political convention, the words and delivery were meant to get you ramped up

Waarren''s speech was also good but mainly recycled talking points she's used before, say on her network appearance, including on MSNBC only a few weeks ago.

Bernie's speech was relatively novel, not like his campaign retreads. He noted all the disasters a Trump presidency would bring, as well as the enormous inequality which persists where "the top one tenth of one percent have as much wealth as the bottom ninety percent".  Also of the "grotesque wealth and income inequality" which he believes a "President Hillary Clinton" will address.

Well, one can hope and "hope springs eternal"  as they say. The problem is that with two Neoliberal, pro-market (Wall Street friendly) candidates on the ticket it will be extremely difficult. I will be amazed, indeed, given Clinton's already turned to the  center right (with the selection of Kaine)  that she fulfills any of the promises made to Sanders even if she gets congressional leverage. The Wall Street connections are just too lucrative, which is why one Bernie supporter described her as "having the moral depth of a thimble".

Interestingly, even after Sanders' speech (and an earlier scolding by Sander's supporter Sarah Silverman) many 'Bernie or Bust' folks weren't biting. One said she planned to vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party and another insisted Hillary "has work to do to earn my trust."  This is understandable and with 105 days left until the election she has lots of work to do. Alas, choosing Tim Kaine (who was erroneously described over and over as "progressive" by a number of speakers) only compounded distrust among many Sanders' folks. How she will overcome that political miscue I have no idea.

See also:

Will Boos Erupt Tonight At DNC Opening? Maybe

Image for the news result
Wasserman -Schultz, may give intro remarks tonight but look for lots of boos.

The question this morning is whether Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, primary architect of Bernie Sanders' demise via her underhanded machinations (revealed in new Wikileaks-released emails) will have an introductory spiel in tonight's opening of the Democratic National Convention. Some news outlets (e.g. FOX News) believe no speaking roles will be allowed after her execrable efforts to derail Sanders were made evident over the past three days.

Others, like the panel on 'Morning Joe' this morning,  believe she will be granted  opening remarks, and will receive predictable boos from Bernie supporters. They are still incensed over the dumbo Hillary pick of fellow Neolib Kaine, and now doubly enraged after the DNC email dump. (See previous post).

All this is germane as new polls show Trump now ahead of Clinton by 48% to 45% with the latter having endured a 4 point drop and Trump a 5 point gain - likely from a convention bounce. Hillary's drop, meanwhile, I trace to her pick of Kaine and maybe partly from the nonstop Clinton bashing during the RNC.

But hold tight because as Huffpo journalist Sam Stein noted this a.m. more 'shoes' are set to drop with release of more emails. Some may show the actual collusion of Clinton with her pal Debbie, which would be disastrous on top of her Kaine pick.  (Note for those who don't know: Debbie was co-chair of Hillary's 2008 campaign.) We don't know but we will see. In the meantime, Stein observed wary Clintonites have struggled to get Wasserman-Schultz out for months now to no avail. According to him  on 'Morning Joe':

"How do you get her out, right? That's really the thing. And there's not really a mechanism to do that. This has all the signs of a negotiated exit where she says 'fine, I will go but I want x, y and z. Not just to be state director but to do the opening and closing remarks' - where she'd going to be heckled"

And "heckled may be an understatement given the level of rage among Sanders' supporters who've been repeatedly insulted, vilified and dismissed by these Neoliberal Dem apparatchiks.  Stein did leave open she could "change her mind" and at that point reality would sink in that she'd have to sacrifice her ego to the good of the party and her pal Hillary. If the FOX story is accurate this may well be what transpired.

Political strategist John Heileman then weighed in to say the one person who could get her out is Barack Obama. But, he pointed out that the White House attitude to the DNC has always been 'We couldn't care less'.

Stein then chipped in, saying:

"Obama stated in 2012 'Why would I want to pick a fight with the party. Leave her there she can't do much damage'"

But, of course, she could and she did as the Wikileaks emails have disclosed. Besides, all the panel members pointed to Wasserman-Schultz's money making performance for the party and DNC so why turf this little money machine out when they need her the most?

Of course, the Clintonites who have an abiding hatred of the Russians (since Bill continued the expansion of NATO eastward to Russian borders),  blamed everything on them. But as yet they have produced not a scintilla of evidence. Oh, there was a "claim" - still no evidence - by a DNC -hired bunch of "experts" ('CrowdStrike") that the DNC's email system was breached by "Russian hackers". Even if true, and I haven't seen anything to convince me yet, this doesn't mean the Russian government or Putin was behind it. Further, people need to read this before they jump on that suspicious political meme bandwagon:

So, until the illustrious 'CrowdStrike' team can provide firm evidence that Guccifer 2.0 was in fact Russian or the "Russian hackers" I will withhold accepting the DNC claim. (Wikileaks also denies Russian involvement, though of course there will always be critics who suspect the motives and assertions of any group that leaks emails or files - as they did with the super patriot Ed Snowden.)

The irony in all of this is the Democrats had been determined  - after the chaotic shit storm of the RNC - to show the nation and world they were more unified and positive. Now, the leak of the emails has fracture the party and probably irreparably, with the progressive left wing feeling like the political orphans the new Dems have always regarded them as.  This is not only from the emails but also Hillary's selection of the Anti-Bernie, Tim Kaine. How or why she ever believed that stupid move could help is beyond me, but I suspect Robert Reich has probably given the best explanation, e.g.

Meanwhile, in a '60 Minutes' spot from last night, Kaine showed he's as ignorant as he is dumb - or maybe he's just another propaganda peddler when he babbled (asked about the bias shown by the DNC with the email release):

"I don't see any effort to put a thumb on the scale, one way or the other. I think the vigorous nature of the campaign and the positive nature of the campaign show these are public servants who are in it for the right reason".

Except one of them had a head start with superdelegates mandated by the DNC, and also likely help from voting counts that definitely had 'thumbs on scales'.   See e.g.

We will have to tune in to see if a mini-shit storm erupts at the Democratic Convention opening tonight. I, for one, predict there will be lots more protests on the outside than in.


Latest word is that Wasserman Schultz has bowed out and will no longer make intro remarks. This spares the Dems initial embarrassment (from boos) but will not quell the fury already aroused, from both the email leak and the middle finger pick of Neolib Tim Kaine.  Wifey is also very upset to see on MCNBC how Sanders' supporters are even booing Bernie for his arguments earlier to support HRC. After what's transpired they don't see why they should. Hillary herself could have mollified the Left with a decent VP pick but she chose, I say CHOSE, to give the middle finger. Thus, must now live with those consequences which may also include a demonstration the night she speaks - against her pick.

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