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Mental Health Inc: How Corruption, Lax Oversight and Failed Reforms Endanger Our Most Vulnerable Citizens

January 8, 2018 in Blogs

By Martha Rosenberg, AlterNet

A new book exposes the greed and cronyism behind some of Big Pharma's worst excesses.

An excellent new book by Art Levine exposes how “indifferent professional associations, pharmaceutical-subsidized patient advocacy groups and government regulators that either push a drug-industry agenda or fail to halt what amounts to an epidemic of behavioral health malpractice” enable Pharma's worst excesses.

Toddlers drugged with psychiatric medication? Elderly in nursing homes dosed to make them manageable? Soldiers and veterans driven to suicide from their medication? Mental patients given drugs that cause diabetes and extreme obesity and lead to more dangerous drugs? It's all there in Mental Health, Inc: How Corruption, Lax Oversight and Failed Reforms Endanger our Most Vulnerable Citizens, including psychiatric drugs that should never have been approved to begin with and “religious” youth treatment centers that abuse the young people in their care.

Greed explains much of the behavioral health malpractice Levine cites, but not all of it. Certainly Pharma-funded doctors oblige with prescriptions, and certainly Pharma-funded medical associations oblige with Pharma-friendly guidelines including describing “pre” disease states that create more drug customers. Certainly drug treatment centers are among Pharma's most treasured customers especially as the opioid epidemic––which Pharma started––grows.

But cronyism––the revolving door between industry and government––is also a big factor. One example is Kerry Weems, a former Medicare official who joined Rechnitz' TwinMed who Medicare regulates, writes Levine. Other examples of the effects of the government/industry revolving door include former CDC director Julie Gerberding, who went on to head Merck vaccines; former Texas governor Rick Perry, who recommended state-wide inoculation of all 11- and 12-year-old girls with Merck's Gardasil vaccine after his chief of staff left to work at Merck; and Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, who left government for industry. 

Mental Health, Inc. does an outstanding job of exposing a key player in the $220 billion-a-year behavior health field: the formerly Bain Capital-owned CRC Health, now Acadia Healthcare, the nation’s largest provider of addiction treatment services. Levine chronicles at least six, gory and preventable deaths at Acadia's Sierra Tucson facility leading readers to wonder why the facility––or even the chain––is …read more


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A Tell-All about Nixon’s Campaign Was the 1969 Version of ‘Fire and Fury’

January 8, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

Joe McGinniss, author of The Selling of the President 1968 about Nixons campaign, photographed in 1993. (Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images)

In the opening days of 2018, the book Fire and Fury set the internet ablaze. Author Michael Wolff, whose journalistic methods have received criticism across the political spectrum, marketed his book as a tell-all about Trump’s campaign and administration. But long before Wolff, another writer caught the nation’s attention with his own salacious tell-all—this one about Richard Nixon.

Journalist Joe McGinniss was only in his mid-20s when he gained access to Nixon’s first presidential campaign, which he chronicled in his best-selling book, The Selling of the President 1968. Similarly to Fire and Fury, it was a very big deal when it came out. Yet according to David Greenberg, a professor of history and journalism at Rutgers University, it may be a little difficult for modern readers to understand why.

That’s because the main “reveal” of McGinniss’ book was that the Nixon campaign consciously crafted an image of the candidate as warmer and more likeable in order to appeal to voters. This included emotionally resonant campaign ads in which Nixon didn’t actually say a lot, as well as an appearance on the hit variety show Laugh-In where he said, “Sock it to me?”

Joe McGinniss, author of The Selling of the President 1968 about Nixons campaign, photographed in 1993. (Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Today, using a media strategy is not news. It’s something that voters already assume about any campaign. “It’s hard to imagine that it came to a revelation to people,” says Greenberg, who is also the author of Republic of Spin. At the time, though, “it hadn’t necessarily occurred to people that there was that level of attention and sophistication.”

“The mere fact that you had Nixon’s media strategists so carefully planning and discussing how he should be presented, and how a question and answer forum should be staged, and who should be asking the questions—all that detail was revelatory,” Greenberg explains.

Before McGinniss’ book, it was understood that there were certain private, behind-the-scenes things that the press didn’t cover, such as the extramarital affairs of former presidents John F. …read more


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The Definitive Guide to Understanding the Sinister Tactics Behind Trump’s Tweets

January 8, 2018 in Blogs

By Liz Posner, AlterNet

We’re way beyond gaslighting now.

Over the past two years, Trump’s Twitter habits have been honed and polished into an art form. And really, he is a master at it. Maybe after Mueller takes him down, he can write “The Art of the Tweet.” Until then, Americans will continue to reel from unfiltered posts like his most recent threats to North Korea and play the absurd game of trying to tell if our lives are immediately under threat or not.

But one scholar of linguistics and philosophy has masterfully deciphered the strategy behind Trump’s tweets, and it’s just the tool we need going into 2018.

Berkeley professor George Lakoff posted a master key to classifying Trump’s tweeting method this week, and it’s blown up on Twitter.


Looking back on Trump’s most outrageous tweets, they can almost all be classified into one of four buckets. Lakoff explains the taxonomy in fuller detail in a comment thread.

“The tweets either get his framing established first, knowing that whoever frames first tends to win,” he wrote. “Or when things look bad for him, he diverts attention or attacks the messenger. And when he wants to test public opinion, he puts out an outrageous trial balloon.”

No matter what he tweets, Trump’s unfounded and dangerous statements work to his advantage by painting him as a maverick alt-truthsayer. “The constant attacks and outrage increase his credibility with his base. He can portray himself as a victim of the ‘establishment’—under constant attacks (which he provokes with tweets). He acts, his opponents only react. He is in heroic control.”

Lakoff has a warning for journalists who are quick to take Trump’s tweets seriously.

“Each tweet gets his message retweeted so he dominates social media. Reporters, social media influencers, and many others fall for it hook, line and …read more


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Thom Hartmann: Time to Overthrow Our Rulers

January 8, 2018 in Blogs

By Thom Hartmann, AlterNet

Is it time to bring a monarchy to the United States, or time to end one?

Is it time to bring a monarchy to the United States? Or is it time to end one?

The New York Times recently ran a fascinating article by Leslie Wayne putting forth arguments from the International Monarchist League. Summarizing them, Wayne wrote, “Their core arguments: Countries with monarchies are better off because royal families act as a unifying force and a powerful symbol; monarchies rise above politics; and nations with royalty are generally richer and more stable.” 

What the author misses is that we already have an aristocracy here in the United States: rule by the rich. In fact, much of American history is the story of the battle between the interests of the “general welfare” of our citizens, and the interests of the #MorbidlyRich.

Here’s where we are right now:

  • A billionaire oligarch programs his very own entire television news network to promote the interests of the billionaire class, with such effectiveness that average working people are repeating billionaire-helpful memes like “cut regulations,” “shrink government,” and “cut taxes” – policies that will cause more working people and their children to get sick and/or die, will transfer more money and power from “we the people” to a few oligarchs, and will lower working-class wages over time.  
  • A small group of billionaires have funneled so much money into our political sphere that “normal” Republicans like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker point out that they couldn’t get elected in today’s environment because they’d face rightwing-billionaire-funded primary challengers. 
  • The corporate media (including online media), heavily influenced by the roughly billion dollars the Koch Network, Adelson, Mercers, etc. poured through their advertising coffers and into their profits in the last election, won’t even mention in their “news” reporting that billionaire oligarchs are mainly calling the tunes in American politics, particularly in the GOP. 
  • Former President Jimmy Carter pointed out on my radio show that the US “is now an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery,” in part as a result of the right-wing Supreme Court decision in …read more

    Source: ALTERNET

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Survey: America Doesn't Want Empire—It Wants to Have a Functioning Country

January 8, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

As Congress faces another deadline to pass 2018's budget, its spending and public priorities differ.

The spending priorities of everyday Americans is not what’s reflected in the massive federal budget, according to a survey of 1,000 Americans taken last month which found overwhelming support for cutting defense and investing in education, science, transportation and a range of human services.

“Interestingly, Americans had very different ideas about how that mandatory money should be allocated compared to how it’s spent today,” the study said. “Men and women believed less money should be spent on Social Security and Medicare, while spending on programs for veterans, food and agriculture, and transportation should roughly double.”

“As for discretionary funding? Americans thought military spending should be cut in half and education, science, and energy and environment deserved to be roughly doubled or more,” it said. “According to the 2018 fiscal budget, Department of Defense spending will equate to over $639 billion, while education will account for $59 billion.”

These findings don’t fit neatly within Democratic or Republican orthodoxies. As a party, Democrats believe that earned benefits like Social Security should be preserved and expanded to match costs of living increases. Republicans, as a party, back increased military spending, whether current threats are looming or not.

However, the survey’s findings are particularly timely because in two weeks Congress will face its fourth deadline since September 30 to pass a 2018 budget. Before October 1, when the federal fiscal year begins, Congress passed the first of three so-called continuing resolutions to keep government level funded from 2017’s budget. The last of those resolutions expires on Friday, January 19. 

The GovSpend survey found most Americans really don’t know how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars—as broken down by percentages, which then serve as a basis for assessing whether that allocation is too much, too little or about right.

Their survey looked at the two major budget categories. First is mandatory or non-discretionary spending, which includes interest on the federal debt, Social Security (which is funded by employee payments into a dedicated trust account) and Medicare, which is the federal health …read more


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The Great Depression Tax Revolts Revisited

January 8, 2018 in Economics

By Mark Thornton, Chetley Weise


By: Mark Thornton, Chetley Weise

Journal of Libertarian Studies 15, no. 3 (Summer 2001)

And the taxpayer, not content with thus ruining political science, added insult to injury by damning all its chief ornaments as thieves, and by swearing that he would never let them rook him again. His bellow was now for the most rigid economy, and he swore that he would have it if the heavens fell. There was no holding him while the fit was on him. In many American cities, public expenditures were actually reduced. — H.L. Mencken1

David Beito did a great service for the scholarship of liberty and American history with his rediscovery of the Great Depression-era tax resistance movement.2 He uncovered evidence of widespread opposition to property taxes across America. However, the anti-tax rebellion declined as quickly as it started, a demise that he attrib-utes to a lack of a “focused ideological program” that could capture the popular anti-tax sentiment of the time.3 Thus, Beito concludes, this tax resistance movement was a failure.4 While his contribution has been praised, questions have been raised concerning Beito’s explanation for the demise of the tax revolt.<a target=_blank class="see-footnote" id="footnoteref5_m5wp3ks" title="For example, Mark Leff, in his review of Beito’s book, argued that Beito’s “evidence comes up short” when he tries to explain the precipitous decline in tax resistance after 1933 …read more


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Until 1975, ‘Sexual Harassment’ Was the Menace With No Name

January 8, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Part of the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York. (Credit: Jonathan Jay Fink/AP/REX/Shutterstock)

Rain poured down in Ithaca, New York, but the women who streamed into the Greater Ithaca Activities Center on May 4, 1975 weren’t daunted by a bit of weather. Hundreds of women packed into the modest room. Then they began to speak about their experiences being groped and sexually exploited at work.

For journalist-turned activist Lin Farley, the event was life changing. “The solidarity that women felt for one another was contagious,” she later wrote. “No longer did they have to explain to their friends and family that ‘he hit on me and wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I had to quit.’ What he did had a name.”

Attendees spoke of professors, restaurant guests, factory workers, executives—men who turned their workplaces into private hells. They talked about how their bosses pinched them, groped them, and how their coworkers looked the other way when they were harassed. Humiliated, intimidated and bullied, many of these women had lost jobs when they turned down their bosses’ sexual advances. And they were fed up.

As they spoke, these women used a new term: sexual harassment. Until just a few weeks before, the term didn’t even exist. But thanks to Farley and the consciousness-raising efforts of the 1970s women’s movement, the newly coined term would not just help women give voice to their experiences: It would change U.S. law and life in the workplace.

“Working women immediately took up the phrase, which finally captured the sexual coercion they were experiencing daily,” she later wrote in The New York Times.

In 1974, Farley—a devoted feminist who lived in a radical lesbian separatist commune—was hired by Cornell University to teach a class on women and work. At the time, universities all over the country were working to catch up with the burgeoning women’s movement. Cornell was a hotbed for feminist thought and the first university in the U.S. to offer an accredited course in women’s studies. But something was awry at the university, Farley learned—it was also a hotbed for sexual harassment.

Part of the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York. (Credit: Jonathan Jay Fink/AP/REX/Shutterstock)

In 1975, Carmita Wood, an administrator in Cornell’s department of physics, approached …read more


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College Athletes Aren't What Make College Football Profitable

January 8, 2018 in Economics

By Tho Bishop


By: Tho Bishop

Sports are often defined as much by their controversies as they are their highlights. For college football, when debate is not focused on the proper way to crown national titles, the topic of player compensation is one of the most heated — and perhaps important — debates. It’s also one frequently plagued by bad economics, highlighting common misunderstandings about capital and labor.

College football is one of the most popular sports in the United States and, as such, is a very lucrative one. The average college team makes $29.5 million from its football program, while elite programs like the University of Georgia and University of Alabama, make over $80 million. This revenue is generated largely by lucrative television contracts, merchandise, and ticket sales, among other means. Since that amount of money tends to create headlines, it’s not surprising to see conversation turn to the players themselves, with some pundits putting the “fair-market value” of players at six-figures. They come to this figure by dividing the school’s football revenue by the number of scholarships each team is allowed to have.

Of course this chart actually demonstrates one of the most misunderstood truths about college football: the revenue for teams is driven more by the logo, than the player.

This explains why the University of Texas, a program that hasn’t challenged for a national title in over a decade, is more valuable than Nick Sabin’s Crimson Tide. It’s also why the University of Central Florida will be ranked far lower in a list of football revenue than they were in the College Football Playoff Ranking.

This is not to take away from the contributions athletes make for their school. Their achievements on the field are a large part of what keeps fans’ passion for their team alive (and the dollars that come with it). It is, however, the capital investments made by the university that has given the players such a prominent platform to perform on. While there are certainly some players and performances that transcend the tribal mentality of college sports and earn a player the admiration of fans throughout the country, the overwhelming majority of people who buy a college player’s jersey, or a ticket to go see them play, does so because of the emotional attachment they have to the school — more than the player.

Of course this same dynamic is at play throughout the economy. …read more


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No, We Don't Need a Federal "Solution" to Infrastructure Problems

January 8, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken


By: Ryan McMaken

On December 19, an Amtrak train in Washington State killed three people and injured 100 others when it derailed and crashed into traffic lanes on a nearby highway.

The day before, Atlanta's international airport suffered a disastrous power outage:

the whole airport, the world’s busiest, went dark for 11 hours. Thousands of flights were disrupted. For many hours nobody in authority attempted to explain—or even seemed able to explain—what had happened.

Both cases have been used to bolster claims that the US federal government needs to spend more on infrastructure.

In the wake of the Washington derailment, President Trump quickly took to Twitter to call for more government spending:

The train accident that just occurred in DuPont, WA shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly…

Meanwhile, USA Today declares that the Airport's power outage has “demonstrated” the “nation's state of disrepair.”

The assertion that there is an “infrastructure crisis” at all remains quite dubious. As just a recent example, we might note that in his tweet about the Washington State derailment, Trump neglected to mention that the derailed train was making its first run on brand new tracks as part of a $180-million expansion of the train system in the region. It was in no way a result of “crumbling” infrastructure.

But for the sake of argument, let's assume that many railroads, airports, highways, and bridges need repairs, and that governments will be frequently involved in addressing these needs.

But that leaves us with a another question: why is a local bridge a matter of national concern? Why must a New Yorker be taxed to fund a stretch of highway in Boise?

A common response to this is “well, the New Yorker might some day drive through Boise,” or “New Yorkers rely on goods via highways that goes through Boise.” That's interesting, but it's already in the self-interest of people in Boise to ensure that goods and services can easily travel in and out of the metropolitan area. This is hardly something that needs to be pointed out to local residents and officials by federal bureaucrats.

Moreover, if Boise infrastructure ought to be funded by everyone who might trade with anyone in the region, then the realities of global trade and travel require that people in Tokyo be taxed to pay for a highway in Orlando. After all, those Japanese people …read more


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How U.S. Strategists Should View the People's Republic of China

January 8, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

With exquisitely poor timing, the Trump administration released
its latest National Security Strategy targeting China while still
demanding Beijing’s assistance against North Korea. Although
the administration’s technique was maladroit, the document
raised important questions about future U.S. policy toward the
People’s Republic of China.

For centuries Americans held somewhat romantic views toward
China, and especially the potential economic market for U.S.
traders. Washington was prepared to use force against the doddering
Chinese Empire, intervening in the Boxer Rebellion, for instance,
but later challenged Imperial Japan over its brutal aggression
against the hapless Chinese Republic.

However, the Communist revolution eliminated Americans’
illusions. The PRC and U.S. fought bitterly for more than two years
in Korea, before agreeing to an armistice which still technically
governs the divided peninsula.

U.S. policy should focus
on the long-term, encouraging coming generations in China to take
control of their future.

Washington refused to even talk to the PRC until Richard
Nixon’s 1972 breakthrough. Then China became a Cold War
friend if not quite ally against the Soviet Union. With the end of
the Cold War Beijing retained its hostile ideology, but appeared
harmless in practice: reforming economically, weak militarily,
cautious politically.

There was much hope that as the PRC expanded market freedoms and
grew wealthier it would liberalize politically. Personal autonomy
expanded greatly, as Chinese citizens gained the opportunity to
advance freedom ideas as long as they did not directly challenge
the Chinese Communist Party.

But President Xi Jinping has reversed any evolution into a freer
society. To start, he has dramatically increased his own power.
Although he may simultaneously be on the summit and at the
precipice, now to oppose him is to oppose the CCP (Chinese
Communist Party).

Moreover, he has dramatically reversed avenues of free thought:
internet access and chatter, cooperation with Western individuals
and institutions, academic independence and inquiry, Hong
Kong’s personal and political autonomy, and more. Beijing
also has made life more difficult for American businesses, which
seem less important for China’s growth today than even a few
years ago.

Whether the CCP can permanently suppress the desire for liberty
among people as they grow wealthier and more confident is a
question for the future. Today, at least, the U.S. faces what
increasingly looks like an ideological as well as economic and
political rival.

The National Security Strategy made several complaints against
the PRC, including that it “gathers and exploits data on an
unrivaled scale and spreads features of its authoritarian system,
including corruption and the use of surveillance” and uses
“its access to the U.S. innovation economy” to expand
economically and modernize militarily. Moreover, Beijing’s
“infrastructure investments and trade strategies reinforce
its geopolitical aspirations.”

The PRC is “attempting to erode …read more

Source: OP-EDS