Worrying thoughts about Trump.
As I came home in my car and listened ot reports, and then read transcripts of interviews of Trump I learned he has faked identifies more than once in order to cajole, threaten, bribe, further lie to them.
What's to stop him from if he should become President of the US faking identities and phoning important people and threatening or trying to bribe them somehow?
Has any reporter asked him that in public? they ask him about it and he either lies or tries to shrug what he did off. But has anyone asked him, What's to stop you, Sir, from doing that once you are President?
On how facism moves to take over the US presidency with Trump as its strongman by Robert Kagan of the Washington Post.
Recent photo of Hillary Clinton
I'm told there are people so disappointed that Bernie Sanders cannot win the nomination because of the system of super-delegates, they are thinking of not voting. Also so demoralized by the business as usual aspect of the democratic establishment's behavior all this while and the money they give her. Her move to the left is they say not to be trusted. She is a military hawk.
So this is for those who say they want to see "the system shaken up" with an implication by Trump -- without specifying what this means. This is a gov't now set up to favor the tiny elite of super-rich and let everyone else end in disaster if they are not lucky enough to keep up in a minimal way, edging through not saving a dime as you give all your extra and more to taxes.This throwing the 90% at least away is now quite literal in DC as so little money has been put into the Metro people are literally in danger as they ride the rails. Obama is going around the world urging the signing this TTP will take laws out of the hands of the votes altogether and hand over all to corporate profits, including the environment and all worker rights, it will override other gov't laws
The idea that "the system" is this vague set-up that can be shook up with limited consequences is a scary failure of the imagination, people This is especially for those who are normalizing Trump. Making him in the American grain. Just another bully. Consider that while you think you live in state where Trump cannot win, he just may. You cannot know. He has shown an uncanny ability to attract voters.
Consider how different it is from a playground as children or from a glamor lothario boy (Trump was with sexy women photographer all compliant) when you give someone supreme power over nuclear weapons, an obedient army, treaties, appointments to a supreme court of people there for life who can decide what laws are allowed in the first place.
Here are few things for you to think about.
Trump 1) shows no respect for law. Several of his proposals show he ignores all laws. He will get at the salaries of poor Mexicans sending money back. In other words interfere with the mails. I know laws are set up by establishments but finally I'm with Robert Bolt in A Man for All Seasons. To his son-in-law Roper when Roper says "I'd cut down every law in England" to get rid of devils, More replies:
All his lawless proposals come with harsh punishments and are aimed at those who are dependents.
2) he reacts to others by threats; that's how he negotiates, intimidation and threat. Not everyone responds to threats in a measured way, with consideration, or proportionally. There are too many people in charge of vast arsenals who believe there is a heaven and this life here just temporary. It's not hard to make a make-shift atomic bomb. China is one place where people are determined to have dominating power.
All these polls where people say they don't like him are as worthless as what most people tell sex surveys. Online surveys show him closing on in Hillary. People are ashamed to admit they will vote for him as it's not socially acceptable. We are really in danger, at risk of this man winning. The super-delegate business is deeply anti-democratic. All primaries should be open because tax-payers pay for them. But that this is one way one could break the stanglehold of these two parties is irrelevant here because Trump does well when all cross-overs are allowed. As does Sanders.
Pervasive misogyny is part of what is doing Hillary Clinton in and could defeat her. I suggest the email accusations and the accusations of dishonesty are excuses to smear her and they work because not only is the misogyny from men; it comes from women who resent her strength, success, power, money. For some women still it's okay for a man to exhibit these things, but not a woman: why? envy, jealousy, and it's conceived as a threat. If a woman can do these things, men will say all women should do them and if she is lucky enough to have a good money-making man as a protective enough husband (let's say it), she fears loss and demands. There is nothing criminal or she would long ago have been indicted. Who cares who she wrote private emails to? as for the money she has made, she didn't pretend to give speeches like Trump pretends to run a university. Whatever horrible inciting words he uses, and unscrupulous and edging criminal behavior he does, it's fine because a man is allowed. She must not shout, he can shout needling her for shouting.
This is Jean O'Meary Sanders -- she is his second wife
If you are black, hispanic, LGBT, a woman (he would punish women who have abortions, said he off-the-cuff), the rhetoric is one of harsh punishment, exclusion, loss of rights.
Bernie Sanders said when asked how he felt about Trump becoming president of the US, that he'd fight to the last drop, to point of "over my dead body" to prevent Trump from gaining such power. All his supporters should remember that.
His behavior was reported, I saw a clip of Bush 2 meanly parodying the woman; no one in the media I read made any comment. It was passed over and I've not seen anything about it since.
Today's political nuances may seem even slighter and nothing in comparison to all Trump has said and what he does at his rallies and in his business career. But it is indicative,
Trump's response to the mean (in every way when it comes to his social outlook) Ryan trying to extract a promise that Trump will treat him and others with respect is to treat Ryan as an absurd suppliant. What does Ryan's giving Trump this opening by saying he will stand aside actually show about him?
This morning McCain said he would support this man who sneered at him as a man who became a prisoner of war, was tortured, called him a coward as I recall. So there are no limits whom McCain will support either if the person seems on his way to power.
Trump is now seeking to get his hands on the billions the Republicans control towards a general election. He does win the Republican vote and he does better when the primary is an open one, allowing all people to vote (independents and democrats).
Can Hillary Clinton beat him? were the primaries open to all in all states (and primaries are funded by the taxpayers) and were there no superdelegates, she'd be out. I've no idea if Trump would trounce Sanders or Sanders beat him, but keeping her there and knowing how little broad appeal she has -- including how so many men apparently are loathe to vote for her and many women find her offputting -- is a risk. No one in the democratic party establishment wants a return of FDR type New Deal programs and laws. The last 70 years has been a shredding of all of these, with a continual underfunding of Social Security. Is it that they prefer Trump?
Nota bene. Gentle reader, remember the devastation of these nuclear bombs. Trump could incense some dense power-mad fanatical bully. Then what?
From the Washington Examiner
I've not written for a while and telling published reports have mounted up. Jim used to say both a failure of imagination and the refusal of most people most of the time to take anything seriously which did not affect them directly and today, was part of the core of what went wrong in social experience. I'll add the qualification, indifference or utter passivity (doing nothing at all) upon the part of those who can care and can do something, We forget how at risk we are when others are just thrown away or abused and even tortured. No person is an island ...
Evils that befall the world are not nearly so often
caused by bad men as they are by good men who
are silent when an opinion must be voiced
Without hind sight, it's hard to tell which is the most important -- Trump could lose badly. Just now many will think Cruz suddenly deserting his supporters, the Republican establishment caving in to making their conference a crowning of Trump as their party head salient events. (Cruz only cared about winning for himself; he did not care in the least who won if he could not.) But the torture of mentally ill patients put in prison, and the treatment of animals as non-sentient things are if anything more pressing. Right now, as I type, their suffering is on-going.
Still I'll start with why no one should vote for Trump, or just in case you were in any doubt about how ignorant Trump is about nuclear bombs: what they are, what they can do, and need more ammunition to urge your friends to get out there and vote for Hillary or Bernie when the time comes, here is Jeremy Bernstein (NYRB) with long verbatim quotations about what Trump has now said when questioned about his attitude towards these bombs, war, and national alliances (which he seems to think don't matter at all, nor does he seem to value building and adhering to trust in relationships). I am aware many readers would not take Trump's remarks seriously and those who do are relying on others around him to control or shape his conduct. He is just one man. He will learn, this is just an act. Any way the other sides will punt, they will flinch, and when Trump bullies whoever, the other side will not throw a bomb -- as happened during the Cuban missile crisis. I wouldn't count on it. See how so many national leaders couldn't care less about the destruction of their or nearby peoples. Here my only recourse is to urge the reader to look at photos of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombs were dropped.
Smaller points are how he is going to cut the taxes of billion- and millionaires yet further, while promising not to cut social security. I am not aware what his latest views are on the Affordable Health Care Act.
The moral disaster has been with us for a long while; it began a new phase at the time of 9/11. So much in the public media made lying, bullying, cheating of every kind even admirable; sympathetic identification, compassion, knowledge of all kinds dismisssed. And now we see visible unashamed racism (murdering black people), sexism (it's okay to rape a woman) since the Net and photographic devices have made them documentable. The truth is not enough Americans are truly horrified by Trump. He is in the American grain, their character. Well to me he is a monster beyond the pale. I shall just have to turn away and pay no attention to politics as it is just too gross, painful and frightening to see such a man be given such power if he wins. And it's more than possible.
Shame, anger and resistance are the appropriate response to this nomination.
It’s so worrying as Hillary Clinton is so weak with voters: consider her “New College Compact:” lower costs for students, expand Obamacare, family leave, veterans and child services, a surtax on the very wealthy, rates on capital gains, change the immigrant system carefully — all thought out — then Sanders beats her in Indiana. Listen to him:
In reaction to this dire collapse of any will to decency in the social world or to other vulnerable creatures, to indifference to anything but individual careers in the Republican party, we must vote for either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in the fall for president.
I've a second story: Oliver Sacks died last year, and some may know that towards the end of his life he campaigned to expose and deplore the shutting down of mental aslyums. With all their flaws, the person had a sanctuary, was safe within a bed, a half-room, a ward, eating cleanly, sleeping in a bed. Having witnessed myself how life on the streets for the disabled, mentally disturbed, addicted, unemployable for various reasons, is horrific for those who are not the violent alpha bullies (Trump types), I agreed. But I've been taught differently by Ben Taub in yet another important New Yorker article (May 2, 2106), "Madness." by Eyal Press. The mentally ill are not put in prisons and literally tortured, taunted, driven to kill themselves. Whatevery you do, do not let your friend, relative, beloved friend go into an institution in the US. It may be as bad in other countries, in the UK they are not yet privatized. But Jenny Diski's account of these (she died this week) suggests to me they are as potentially bad.
A social worker who faced retaliation for whistleblowing ...
Diski says what ignited her mind strongly in the discourse was the account of the asylum. Why do so many people attack the mentally distressed? I've just written and published a review of a book called Fictions of Affliction where I try to answer that question.
The way she was treated reminded me of the few doctors I had told about my depressive and anxiety problems before I went to Kaiser "Behavioral Health:" note the term; although there was a place to talk -- and get pills -- they deserve the D they got for any adequate treatment. I think they helped my friend Eric into his suicide. But I stay with Kaiser because my experience "outside" has often been worse and I've been fleeced on top of it. I had been suffering migraines and bad headaches; some one recommended a doctor (that's all there was before HMOs). I had to wait half an hour or more to see him. I was not told the price before of course. I found myself facing a man sneering at me, dismissive and when I left his "consulting room," the receptionist demanded $37.50 for 5 minutes of his time.
For the second, we can in the US vote for representatives who examine and expose conditions in prisons and mental aslyums allke. We can ourselves try to participate in a transformation of attitudes towards the mentally disabled and distressed. We can stop worshipping physicians (out of fear) -- they make mistakes.
In the shelter of her home of books with her "poet."
Jenny died last Thursday. I was expecting it. I had noticed that more LRBs had gone by without her than usual. I had told myself, she must be very ill now, near the end. When a friend emailed me to tell me I cried on and off that morning. I felt her to be an intimate friend, almost. I loved her essays, travel writing, the novels, her book on animals. She spoke up for the vulnerable, the lonely, those who felt and acted differently from many, and for the depressed -- as far as I read, she seemed almost never to think cant (well once in a while). I first encountered her in the LRB in a diary entry telling the full truth about when she was raped at age 14. It stayed with me because she was more accurate about how assaults happen: first she did go back with the man to his flat. As I grow more aware of how much my cats are reacting to me, how much they understand, I want to tell her Bundy was waiting for you. I've written at length about her too often. I could easily have been in an aslyum. My parents let me be and at 22 I found Jim, and reader, I married him. Tributes from The Guardian and Tim Adams's memory of her and the last columns. Robert Laird in the Paris Review characterizes how we now die in the world through the Net and her characteristic tone and stances so well.
Hens and chickens in a free-range farm
The US cultural group (apparently large) which admires a bully, doesn't mind a crook, worships power, and expresses glee when confronted with any sensitivity is at the core of what's happening. I take it the reader of this blog is not one of these -- or you would not have read on.
So I've a third and last important reportage story for my reader to take seriously to heart. Peter Singer's "Open the Cage!", a review of Wayne Pacelle's The Humane Economy. Who takes seriously the suffering of animals? who thinks that pleasure, comfort, enjoyment in their lives matters? Not corporations seeking to undercut competition and make the most profit possible. From the article:
But it seems that in Europe where the EU has been able to make its will felt across nations, it seems that you can get human beings to care about non-human animals if you pass laws that prevents groups of large numbers of people from obeying a capitalist work ethic about making the most money out of the lives of hens, chickens, pigs, lambs. Today in the US neither the consumer nor animals wishes are paid any attention to -- except a tiny group of family farmers. Having read this article and spending so much time with my cats, I've now vowed to buy from Whole Foods the free range chickens, hoping the label is truthful.
If you can't become a vegetarian, you can when it costs you little in time and space not purchase animal parts from places where there is no proviso for the animal to live a decent life. Cats do wait for us. Dogs love us. They are alive to our moods and apprehensions. Can you be smart enough to see that in your animal is a similarly smart presence? As you want and need kindness, begin here. For myself Izzy and I eat lamb patties and chickens. I can't do much about the patties (I don't know where the minced meat comes from) but I'm buying free-range chicken whereever I can. That means for about 3 out of every 6 meals of chicken. We can make efforts to have a non-meat meal once a week and for myself when I'm eating alone avoid meat and substitute vegetables. I love vegetables and cheese especially.
Chris engels and Bill Wiley inside the evidence room of the Commission for International Justice and Accountability
Friends and readers,
There is such an important essay in this week's New Yorker I want to do my bit to advise others to read it: Ben Taub's The Assad Files. I know for many readers as they start to read and feel they are in for a series of distressing descriptions of cruel what should be unspeakable, undoable torture, will turn away. It's not quite what you surmise. What happens is as the descriptions of horrific inhumane violence (or what should be) mount up, so are written up more briefly, and the experience becomes something almost expected, referred to as there are too many to tell. As a reader one can almost get used to it. And this is part of the point.
A truly good New Yorker article, and some few are this good, goes well beyond its thesis. As you read you see another set of realities emerging which the story allows you to grasp. In this case the story begins with the amassing and dangerous shipping out of Syria of huge amounts of documents about torture and killing.
Taub tells of how the Syrian monster-dictator, Assad, when confronted with a rebellion, a demand for greater democracy, accountability, for a more secular or social economy in which young men could find jobs, instead of acceding, became ferociously determined to stamp out all dissent. He imitatds his brutal father; he decided to assert all ethnic groups must and do hate one another and the only way to get them to stay together is to arrest the ring-leaders or rebellions against this regime, and subject them and their near followers to brutal state terror, life imprisonment in terrible conditions, execution.
Taub's thesis is that what counts in courts is written evidence and we follow our intrepid journalists, activists (as they are called), attorneys, officials gather clandestinely and sometimes escape with huge caches of documents. The people who understand this have to teach the demonstrators and activists that they need to save the written evidence. That this is more important than blowing yourself up, or demonstrations, or calling attention to some bombing. Sometimes people trying to secret and then carry documents out of Syria and elsewhere and bring them to safe tribunals, are captured, tortured and then murdered. Assad and his henchman will do everything and anything to prevent the seepage out of documents.
As in many stories, we follow the experiences of a couple of people (our characters) as this "state" dissolve as huge numbers of people begin to flee.
Amid this structure, what gradually emerges is we are watching the creation and spread of a culture of horrific inhumane violence in one country and then another. Our central person himself half-way through starts to inflict on others the violence that was inflicted on him. As people do these things in small ways, they begin to ratchet up the pain and torture, devise ever more ways to hurt and to kill people.
The story in other ways has far more general application than the case of Syria.The worst comes out in people as they grow used to doing such things, fear they will be tortured or killed if they do not "come up with information," want to get back at those who hurt them. Grow frantic and crazed in this atmosphere of reveling in a kind of madness itself.
This morning as I was listening to the radio I heard of an ethnic clash in Africa where the brutality of both sides to one another has suddenly (it seems) gotten much worse lately. I remembered how the US riot police come out with weaponry worthy a war zone and use it. Bernie Sanders would have gotten bigger crowds but that riot police showed up and cordoned off an area, standing round it with their deeply intimidating riot gear. Many have seen on TV police directly pepper-spraying students. Many watched the destruction of the Occupy Movement by fire, beating people up to the point of endangering their lives, tazering them, gas, water. we saw what happens in Ferguson. In other places now that videos capture police behavior to citizens who are black and who protest. It takes courage to go inside a circle of riot police.
We also see the seepage of methods of secresy, of individuals living isolated and alienated lives glad to live and escape retribution. The individual we start out with ends up hiding out in Brooklyn; he has lost most of this relatives and friends, lives with a sister now.
We see how brave these journalists, activists and others involved have to be. When they come public with evidence, they first get their relatives and friends out of a country. We see how important investigative journalism is -- we have seen it these past weeks in the dissemination of the Panama Papers. Whole teams of reporters from different newspapers had to work together.
It's not moving outside the inferences of this story to say as long as no average individual or individual in relatively high office is not prosecuted for ordering the torture or torturing someone, the average person cannot feel it is against the law. Jeb Bush told Trump torture is against the law, and Trump scoffed. What are the documents being gathered for, if people are not prosecuted?
It is excellent to realize (or think or hope) that Obama ended all systemic torture when he got into office. It's good to realize that some of what's been gathered has now been used in cases in Africa in the 1990s. These are the kinds of mass criminals Hitler represented. But as people don't believe there are laws against monopolies and antitrust legislation because no person was prosecuted in the corrupt huge banks and they are back at their profit making on derivatives and the like again, so people will not believe in law's efficacy and power nor respect it unless it's seen to do its work. So while Obama stopped his administration from condoning or doing torture, he does nothing to stop this seepage elswhere. Of course he has added to it by his use of drones. No matter how much it's claimed far fewer die this way than when you napalm an area, the reality is no one has been proven guilty, and along with those targeted innocent civilians die.
You can read about it in the New Yorker: Bernie Sanders takes Greenwich Village.
Lowell McAdam is CEO of Verizon, a company reported to have in effect paid no taxes last year. The fight is centrally about outsourcing: Verizon is sending jobs abroad, and wants to cut workers' salaries in effect (benefits, pensions); all this threatens their jobs and conditions of employment. The company has assured the public they have hired non-union workers to replace the union people. Here's the New York Times article on these corporations who in effect pay a tiny rate of tax. Meanwhile the ostensible cause (from a friend on face-book) "is ACA's costs, which is why Verizon is using contractors (don't have to pay their healthcare) and outsourcing (ditto). Not a complicated calculus here. This is literally exactly what was predicted when the Democrats (and Sanders) rammed the ACA through without a single Republican vote. Create the problem and then run on the idea that they have a solution. Gross."
When Sanders at least now joined the Verizon picket line, he won my heart. I do not remember any politician in or running for powerful office to have done that. Maybe Jesse Jackson. FDR didn't. McAdam then said and announced to all media that would report this that Sanders was contemptible (the Washington Post contents itself with painting Sanders absurd and incompetent); and Sanders replied he welcomed this man's contempt.
Next famous stop: the Vatican, he's going. Invited by Pope Francis. (The Washington Post had an article ridiculing the Pope who goes in for these leftist leaders of South and Latin American "nations.").
I have to vote for Hillary Clinton despite her hawkish record, her support of transnational corporations against the people of many countries, of her support for miltary coups which end in nightmares of corruption, drug wars, death and terror for the people.
I made a joke when I said I no longer feel as bad as I used to because so often I fail to swipe my subway card in such a way as to get into the subway. Here is this privileged, conventionally successful woman, who seems and is in most ways competence itself, could not manage it.
Besides which, in novels I identify with the underdog every time. This might be the first time i have been able to warm to her. I do feel sorry for her each time I see her husband. I voted for him in 1992 but not in 1996. He's intelligent and decent, means well in many ways, but is an aggressive pugnacious thug at core.
So perhaps I should not have joked.
For the last few days the Washington Post has been featuring stories growing out of a study by Anne Case and Angus Deaton (Princeton economists) working and lower middle class white women are doing much worse than they used to -- while they still die at a later age than white men and black men and women and other minorities, statistics show a rise in all sorts of destructive behavior (drugs, drink, risky behaviors with men), and the gap is closing. These are directly linked to their status, lack of income; women living in more rural areas and small towns are especially prone to misery and earlier death. Age 45-54 is the worst.
But now I will vote for her because the alternatives will mean yet much much worse lives for women. Throw them in prison if they attempt to control their bodies. I've heard and read the reason Trump's remark that women should go to prison who have abortions resonated so is it is a majority opinion among Republican men and Republican women know it.
It's not much of an underdog moment but it will do.
He was talking about providing free tuition for college education. He alone among those talking of the recent Jewish Lobbry (he offered to appear by Skype) talked of how the Palestinians are living under occupation, all their supplies from outside embargoed, their very taxes to support themselves which the Israelis have the right as a controlling gov't to collect kept from them. His instinct was to speak out against the emergence of an undercover colonialist series of wars since the 1950s by the US and its allies against all social democracies with leftist economic policies to the present on-going murderous and now proliferating by individuals willing to kill themsevles -- a ceaseless war causing death and the slow destruction of civil liberties where there still are some since 9//11/2001.
The cast posing as the Bomb disposal unit posing for photos in a town they are trying to rid of planted landmines, about half of them die or are badly wounded over the course of the 13 episodes (Danger UXB, 1979, one of the great mini-series of the BBC -- many of the actors worked for years in mini-series, yes that's Anthony Andrews as Brian Ashe, the commander of the unit)
I can post nothing better politically anywhere:
It was also the second day of spring: out of the darkness, I have tiny daffodils, fragile, because of climate change upsetting the flower's growth patterns:
"...Song falls silent, music is dumb,/ But the air burns with their fragrance,/ And white winter, on its knees,/ Observes everything with reverent attention.” [― Anna Akhmatova]
Calendar Girls: an older cancer film story (Julie Walters and John Alderton, husband and wife to the left, he dies of cancer in the film) -2003 you could still make more or less up-beat films centering on community survival
Cancer's not a pleasant topic, but as the disease spreads across age groups and there is a real increase in mortaliy among the young and middle-aged and those who survive are ravaged for life, we ought to pay attention to how frequent is the use of cancer words in ordinary talk, what are the ways cancer is talked about and who writes the stories most of the time. I can't claim to offer anything more than one person's impression but here's what I've noticed. The metaphor's metastasis so to speak reflects the populations' awareness of this dread plague threat.
Cancer words increasingly turn up in expected and unexpected places to suggest the uncontrolled ubiquity of something frightening. The word metastasize. We are told this or that has metastasized. And the metaphor is applied to just all sorts of things deemed unpleasant, unwanted, spreading everywhere. It's used for what's regarded as malevolent: ISIS metatasizes into other countries. For what's unstoppable and dangerous: Hate groups are a cancer on the body politic of the US and Trump is developing them further.. I read that 1 in 4 families in the US now have had cancer develop in a family member. I'm not sure how wide the word family is used here. But people know it's most often a death sentence, terrifying, the techniques nauseating, painful, and often boomerang.
There's a great difference between the stories one hears from friends about themselves or people they know and what's in print. So I'll treat them separately.
First I'll go over what's in print and on the Internet where the writing is meant to be seen as of general application:
Reporters tell of price gouging going on over techniques, surgeries, drugs that can prolong life. The Washington Post (March 10, 2016) had a story about a drug Gleevec made by a company Novartis where the supposed market forces did nothing to bring the price down. Research for it was partly paid the gov't, once done the cost of making the drug itself was miniscule and the price moved from $26,400 a year to $120,000. A life expectancy of five to six years becomes a life span that approaches something regarded as normal. Nothing competes against that. The money does not necessarily have to come from the patient's pocketbook; sometimes insurance pays for it (then this increases everyone's costs but the company); but often it is charged individual and wipes out someone's savings quickly. People try for privately negotiated discounts -- that seems to mean someone successfully bargaining with a "provider." Still, it seems most people will pay whatever they have to for a decent quality of life while they are alive and more time. then the patent runs out and a patient hitherto paying $800 a month now pays $10. At the close of this story Vinay Prasad, an oncologist at Oregon Health and Science University is quoted as "critical of cancer drugs that have been approved for stopping cancers from progressing but not saving lives -- and wonders what that means for patients."
I've come across similar stories in the NYTimes. There are few stories of patients losing treatment, not able to pay, not able to come to a doctor early enough. Not enough on money as such except in books exposing the money-driven nature of how medicine is delivered. Two of the most troubling stories I've read were brief: one on PBS reports about how money for fundamental research on cancer in the NHI had been cut; another on DemocracyNow.org on how corruption and misuse of funds had been found in leading breast cancer societies: in a rare instance, Amy Goodman just read the news item and did not go on to develop it by interviewing anyone.
Doctors defend their profession, their techniques, their profits, their choices. An especially egregious example is found in the reviews of Vincent DeVita's effective muck-raking The Death of Cancer. It was attacked in the New Yorker by another doctor several months ago. Jerome Groopman opens a castigating review in the NYRB (March 10, 2016 too) by telling a story of his mother's cancer in startling language. The language he uses and what he implies shows him to be shameless in implying that cancer patients are to blame if they succumb to cancer and that doctors are the most dedicated selfless professionals in existence. His mother was 67 when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. He tells us how she "openly told family and friends of her diagnosis," and then "fought" the cancer. She had operations to have just about everything having to do with her breasts removed and a combination of chemotherapy after that to reduce concurrence. When the cancer returned "several years later," "she knew it was incurable" but she "also knew there was hope to extend her life with treatment." She did all these and "at times was so fatigued" she couldn't do "daily chores," "could ot attend synagogue." A pious woman. It goes into remission, and then again recurs. Twelve years have passed since the initial diagnosis; now "a thoughtful and dedicated" oncologist warns her the cancer "is growing quickly and treatment options" are few. But she is not deterred. She choses a drug just approved by the FDA for pancreatic cancer, "gemcitabine" and there is "controversy over its value," how long it does prolong life. Of course she choses to take it. Another drug, Avastin, had just been approved and this same doctor who of course "was not pressing" Groopman's mother suggests she takes that too. "She very much wanted to live ,and did not believe the end was near." She just ignored "the real risks of toxicity," and guess what? she lived another 14 months. This heroic woman faced yet another recurrence, and her wonderful oncologist had for her "so-called phase 1 studies.' The tests were to see what side effects were. This time she 'arranged for hospice care at home" and "died in her own bed without pain or anxiety."
We are not told how much all this cost; how she had the connections for this; what were the side effects? Groopman's doctors continually keep the other patients he tells of "completely informed." After that opening and his pious descriptions of fellow doctors I would not trust anything this reviewer-doctor would write, no matter how high his prestige.
It seems DiVita who was finally kicked out of his job at Sloane Kettering (so has a grudge it's implied) had some early success in fighting cancer has written a book exposing how the various cancer societies and groups work to protect their profession by insisting on doctors following rigid protocols which prevent further discoveries, by not sharing information across hospitals and companies. Groopman points out how another researcher, Tom Frei, who used preliminary data and employed agents not approved of by the FDA created a program which was "an unmitigated disaster." Groopman moves back and forth to suggest there are people who challenge authority and conventional thnking and DiVita does not do them justice. The thrust of his review is the usual one: cancer are so many, so complicated, and mutate in so many ways that they are "nefarious," and like a Proteus at the seashore. That is why so many treatments fail and fall short. Not that doctors or drug companies or establishments are to blame. He talks a good line at the close about how we need to help underserved and poor populations and have to have reliable therapies everyone turns to. Nowhere does he offer any suggestions for how such help will reach such people.
TV programs like a three hour show on PBS last year have doctors who provide accurate statistics: most people die, though nowadays with these fierce drugs and savage operations life is prolonged somewhat. The stories focused on are however usually on someone who is in a permanent state of remission or whose life has now been prolonged by decades. You have to pay attention to realize what's emphasized and dramatized remains an exception.
There are all the court cases of individual and class action suit (much harder to do because of supreme court decisions. Politicians taking money from corporations have "sovereign immunity" as in Flint, Michigan. We have the pollution of our air, water, food, chemicals we use for our hair, for grass, companies for growing agricultural, for altering products to "look" better; everywhere polluted and now fracking is direct. One court case the local people won but the company will be back. A state govenor stops it (Cuomo) but the companies wait and when he's gone come back to fight. A billionaire who made fantastic sums went bankrupt the other day and killed himelf by smashing himself in his car against a cement wall; the car went up in flames. Obama applies brakes as he does in the wild worlds of the middle east. We will miss him badly when he's gone.
Most cartoons about cancer are not funny: this is among the less objectionable types: among Jim's last words to me, when he thought he might have to go into hospice care in an institutional setting: "don't let them hurt me." You see that pictured here:
The book to read is Joseph Epstein's The Politics of Cancer, revisited. It’s the aim of his book once again to argue that if we had the political will, took organized action, spent money and time and research in the right directions, we could do a lot to control and prevent this epidemic from increasing, indeed begin to diminish it. He opens by making the first necessary argument: it’ll be said the reason so many people die from cancer is they are not dying from degenerative diseases of poverty, hard work, bad diet, infection and so on. Not so. The numbers of people getting cancer have multiplied frighteningly since the beginning of the 20th century; as of the writing of his book 53 million people in the US will develop some form of cancer, 20% of the US population die from it, 5 times higher than the total US military deaths in all the Vietnam and Korean years combined.
Four axioms: cancer is caused mainly by exposure to chemical or physical agents in the environment; more carcinogens present, the greater exposure, and the greater chance of developing cancer; there is no safe level of exposure; other factors include genetic, endocrine, immunological, viral, biochemical, and possibly psychological. The change from the 19th century which has led to the poisoning of our environment is strongly in the area of petrochemical carcinogens. Organic and exotic chemicals and pesticides flood our environments. They are non- or poorly degradable; synthetic ones, insecticides.
Epidemiology studies are problematical because it is difficult to identify in a precise way statistical requirements across groups of people; an additional problem is the latency factor: decades later one can develop a cancer, but what we find are myriad ways investigating cancer risks so as to avoid regulations of carcinogens and toxic chemicals, ways of evasion: too short a period of time is common.
A mid-19th century of a depiction of a woman in last stages of TB: by William Windus, the people writing in newspapers professed themselves to be so shocked; the castigation alost ruined his career. The title: Too Late
Then there is an endless stream of poignant individualized stories published. Of young children; of adolescents. Sometimes they are by and about the person who is dying or has died young, and how he or she bucked up under this terrific pressure -- usually this is by someone in his or her fifties. All about hope, meant to inspire us, how others have come through for the person. Again from the Washington Past: Jonathan Stern is dying of brain seizures, and has been taking experimental treatments after which he has 8 months further to live. He can't get up to use a bathroom without exhausting himself. But his story is about all the miracles he experienced. How his brain seizures at first saved his life. Then it was miraculous he was able to have surgery and so now is not blind or paralyzed. His wife's job has gone to pot. Daily blasts of radiation led to miracle 3 was about how an excruciating pain in his leg did not lead to DVT: you see he kept his legs elevated and prayed very hard. Since then no blood clots. He is writing so his "moonshot" experience can help others. What terrible suffering this man has undergone; the only way this man can deal with his hideous misery is to assert versions of the world is beautiful.
And of course there is the endless stream of celebrities dying, often obeying the taboo and not telling it was cancer but it's obvious. Alan Rickman and David Bowie are the most recent victims who come to mind.
Some memoirs are about the partner who is caring for the cancer patient. How they struggle to do tasks they never did alone before, to take care of the person and yet keep their job. How nothing is done to help them at all. These stories are usually not written by the person who is the caretaker; a reporter, a family member, sometimes the dying patient.
The meditative memoir on dying itself where an attempt at truth is made. Alexandra Butler has the same kind of brain tumor Jonathan Sterne started out with; which Groopman brings up: glioblastoma, it's untreatable (it's what Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden's son died of). The disease wrecks her life, romance, an original aspirations for her life, but according to Terri Apter, a reviewer in the Times Literary Supplement," she nonetheless achieves "a remarkably original account of family, love and death; Walking the Night Road. It reminds me of cant at funerals.
It's against all the euphemisms Jenny Diski has managed to write of her experience of terminal cancer for nearly 2 years in the London Review of Books and DiVita's book stand out. I regret to say the stories about drugs and price-gouging for care, being excluded, are often buried deep in newspapers and don't turn up in mainstream periodical publications like the NYRB much. NYRB, TLS cover the sentimental self-compensatory memoirs.
From Breaking Bad: Syklar (Anne Gunn) pressuring Walter White (Bryan Cranston) to submit to the horrendously expensive chemotherapy techniques
Last what we are told by friends, families through gossip which does not make magazines because (as I know from my experience of being asked to tell my life story as an adjunct in academia) what's demanded first is can you tell your story in a upbeat way.
Friends' stories and those friends tell of others. These are kept hidden and silent because people are embarrassed and repressed. The social code is to be upbeat and talk about fighting. When the person dies, those left talk about him or her as bravely doing all he or she could do as if he or she was in charge. But if you then get details you find out the cancer was in charge and the doctors uncertain, trying shows of force, not knowing what will be the result which is often counterproductive. Doctors behave indifferently. Diagnoses are often wrong and the person's cancer is ignored until it's too late. Insurance companies intervene to refuse to pay for this or that expensive treatment. Last night a friend told me of someone who collapsed two years ago, who was at first refused an MRI; when finally this was allowed, it was late in the cancer. Given chemotherapy the poor man could not execrete on his own, was in terrible pain. His wife persuaded him to stop and try non-traditional medicine. It at least did not hurt him.His office gave him a farewell party to which he came a ghastly version of himself. His friends tried to visit him in hospital a few days later and discovered he was dead. The staff appeared indifferent. I remember how indifferent the staff appeared to my husband, Jim once his cancer metatatasized into his cancer. He was forced to wait long hours for painful blood tests and treatment; the doctor forced him to be wheeled into the doctors's office and spoke to him bluntly and without tact. The only kindness he ever had was from nurses. Not from hospice until I found one male nurse who at least stayed on the edge of decency and provided round the clock service the last three days.I'm told some hospices don't even provide that.
These real stories don't make the public media. Nor those of people who simply refuse treatment and die quickly. Maybe they have a good vacation and last weeks before the thing begins to devour them. Groopman would despise them.
Recent remake of Breaking Bad: title Metastasis - the American version one of the most important mini-series of the decade won prizes repeatedly and is now re-made European style
When will anything fundamental be done to help people? when will they begin organizing against this ceaseless exploitation, moral and social and emotional policing, price gouging; when will more conventional outlets begin to allow the publication of truthful accounts of cancer (the LRB does some of this now, to be fair)? We are told of people organizing against our polluted environment, to try to stop further pollution and often the reality is a undeniable increase in cancers but no one connects the dots to make a national or international movement.