While our (mis)trusted news media, and political establishment are performing backflips, double-speed, to drown us in Russiagate paranoia, we’re haunted by very stark realities of America imploding from within. According to a story in the NY Times,
Drug overdose deaths in 2016 most likely exceeded 59,000, the largest annual jump ever recorded in the United States, according to preliminary data compiled by The New York Times.
The death count is the latest consequence of an escalating public health crisis: opioid addiction, now made more deadly by an influx of illicitly manufactured fentanyl and similar drugs. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.
Although the data is preliminary, the Times’s best estimate is that deaths rose 19 percent over the 52,404 recorded in 2015. And all evidence suggests the problem has continued to worsen in 2017.
The Times is not a changin’
As I write this morning, the lead space on the NY Times home page is papered for a plethora of stories relating to Russiagate, the latest of which features the revelations of Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer. What’s clear is that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. What’s also clear is that there’s a gaggle of news organizations, and establishment political types who are focused hard core on preventing any improvement of relations between the U.S. and Russia. One can only deduce that “deep state” Cold War (or worse) desires outweigh hope for a drawdown of tensions between the world’s biggest nuclear powers. Meanwhile, from the opioid crisis to the heath care crisis to the economic crisis to the race crisis to the climate crisis, America is sinking fast.
Land of the free?
I’ve long mused at the closing line of America’s absurd national anthem, “the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” I’m certain those words made sense coming off the 1814 bombing of Ft. McHenry by British forces when Francis Scott Key penned the The Star Spangled Banner. Two centuries later, however, America is less home of the brave than those looking to check out in whatever way they can, with statistics showing that the U.S. leads the world in illicit drug use. Apparently a barrage from the Royal Navy was no match for the pain inflicted by those tossed aside by modern economics, as recent research correlating increased use of prescription pain killers and financial stress indicates,
The data shows that while drug use in general increases during difficult economic times, some drugs become more popular when the economy is thriving. “LSD use is significantly procyclical,” the report states, meaning that it people use it more in good times. On the other hand, drugs like Ecstasy are “countercyclical.”
The main takeaway is that “there is strong evidence that economic downturns lead to increases in substance use disorders involving hallucinogens and prescription pain relievers.”
So, while many people come to opioid use via a physician’s prescription for physical pain, many are also seeking out mind-numbing relief from economic duress. And, as the rules of capitalism dictate, if there’s a demand, there must be a supply. Since opioids don’t grow on trees for the picking, someone has to produce them. In the case of pain pills, that falls to some of the biggest names in Big Pharma including, Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen division, Insys, Mylan and Depomed. Finally, after a generation of freedom to make and market opioids as demand dictates, pushback from a handful of state attorney’s general may be turning into a trend in holding Big Pharma responsible for the crisis. According to an interview with Rutgers University legal expert David Noll in the Asbury Park Press,
The lawsuits that have been filed by Ohio, Mississippi, and cities all follow the same basic template. The suits allege that major opioid manufacturers participated in a long-running campaign to encourage doctors to over-prescribe opioids in order to increase their profits. According to the suits, manufacturers encouraged doctors to write prescriptions through a variety of financial incentives and used industry associations to spread bogus information about opioids’ safety. The suits all seek reimbursement of the costs that state and city governments have incurred addressing the opioid crisis and changes in the way that drug companies market opioids. Some suits seek civil penalties and punitive damages.
Unfortunately for the Times, et al, Putin has nothing to do with the capitalist-driven greed, and neoliberal worship of unregulated free markets that have allowed for Big Pharma’s crime against their neighbor’s humanity. One wonders if a retargeting of drones is in order.
Within You Without You
George Harrison’s “Within You Without You,” certainly the most compelling, and most out-of-place entry, on the Beatles Sgt. Pepper album, was inspired (according to Harrison) by the natural forces uniting the world, the opening line “We were talking about the space between us all.” Sadly, many who in 1967 were uniting under Harrison’s call evolved into self-seeking capitalists, some even rising the corporate ladder at Big Pharma, and the like.
Turns out, after two full days dominating the main space on the Times website, all that remains is a piece titled, Conspiracy or Coincidence? A Timeline Open to Interpretation. What was trumped first as the smoking gun confirming collusion and election tampering to favor Trump, wound up as an exercise in possibly illegal stupidity on the part of Little Donny (and friends), and manipulation on the part of Russian players seeking a discussion about sanctions relief. If you’re looking for a deal with the Russians, look into the uranium deal approved by Hillary when she was secretary of state, or into the dealings of her consigliare, John Podesta. There’s real money there.
My point in this argument is not to give Trump cover; I revile him as much as you do. And while we can debate all day about circumstantial damning elements of Russiagate, we should agree that spying on adversaries and attempts to influence foreign elections is endemic to any efficient intelligence agency. In our case, though, if we’re unsuccessful, we’ll just take out your leader via regime change. Don’t mess with the U.S.
Further, Americans have nothing to fear from outside our shores that compares to our disintegration from within, which is the real crime being perpetuated by Trump, and ignored in favor of Russiagate, as Russian-American writer-activist, and frequent critic of Putin and Trump, Masha Gesson recently remarked in the NY Review of Books,
Imagine if the same kind of attention could be trained and sustained on other issues—like it has been on the Muslim travel ban. It would not get rid of Trump, but it might mitigate the damage he is causing. Trump is doing nothing less than destroying American democratic institutions and principles by turning the presidency into a profit-making machine for his family, by poisoning political culture with hateful, mendacious, and subliterate rhetoric, by undermining the public sphere with attacks on the press and protesters, and by beginning the real work of dismantling every part of the federal government that exists for any purpose other than waging war. Russiagate is helping him—both by distracting from real, documentable, and documented issues, and by promoting a xenophobic conspiracy theory in the cause of removing a xenophobic conspiracy theorist from office.
The biggest insult to struggling, disempowered Americans is the oft repeated refrain, “Putin undermined American democracy,” when in fact the U.S. is nothing other than a corporate kleptocracy, with no value in common humanity, only in the profits that can be plunged from our pores.
We were talking about the space between us all
And the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
Never glimpse the truth, then it’s far too late, when they pass away