Monday, June 1, 2015

Hillary the Heroin Heroine

The first subtle clue that Hillary Clinton may be taking Bernie Sanders seriously after all is her sudden discovery that there is a huge heroin and meth problem in rural America. She is reportedly so rattled and shocked to learn that everyday desperate Americans have taken to self-medicating with cheap narcotics and stimulants that she is making the fight against drug addiction one of the cornerstones of her campaign.

Sanders, whose increasing popularity across rural, suburban and urban America is finally being grudgingly acknowledged by even the corporate media, is the junior senator from Vermont. Vermont is the epicenter of heroin addiction in America.

I can hear the Clinton campaign wheels spinning. I can hear the debates now:
Sanders: I support Medicare for every man, woman and child in America.

Clinton: Hah! Your own constituents are killing themselves with heroin and you can't even put a dent in it. Take care of your own miserable little state first, then we'll talk.

Sanders: I support a free college education for every American.

Clinton: Say what? How can brains on drugs in a frying pan be helped by college? Clean up your own act, Senator.
Of course, Hillary Clinton seizing upon heroin abuse for purely crass political reasons is mere conjecture on my part. But that this very savvy woman timed her sudden overwhelming concern about drugs with the sudden ascendancy of Bernie Sanders is a tad coincidental. Heroin and meth addiction have been in the news for a while now. But I guess Clinton is not a Breaking Bad fan. I guess she didn't read about the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

According to Amy Chozick of the New York Times, 
Hillary Rodham Clinton’s carefully choreographed round-table discussions with voters don’t lead to many moments of surprise. But Mrs. Clinton has seemed to have had some legitimate jolts when conversations in Iowa and New Hampshire repeatedly drifted back to drug abuse.
Mrs. Clinton called heroin and methamphetamine addiction in rural America a “quiet epidemic” and told her policy advisers in Brooklyn to put it on the list of priorities as her campaign inched closer toward presenting a specific policy platform.
As part of that effort, last week senior campaign policy advisers held Google Hangout discussions with local officials and substance abuse activists in Iowa and New Hampshire to see how the campaign could best address the problem, the first of such discussions that will take place in the early nominating states, according to the campaign.
To her credit, Clinton has already repudiated her husband's war on drugs and called for prison reform and with it, the at least partial decriminalization of drug addiction. According to Chozick, she will espouse better treatment and prevention, and better access to mental health services. But so far, any concrete proposals -- such as raising taxes on the rich in order to fund treatment and prevention -- are lacking. So is any awareness that one of the root causes of rampant drug use in the United States is the despair and hopelessness wrought by the most extreme wealth inequality in recent memory. This inequality is manufactured in state and national neoliberal legislatures so cruel that they make Walter White's meth lab look like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory in comparison.

Sometimes it's easier to use your last twenty bucks to score some chemical euphoria than it is to buy yourself a decent meal on a minimum wage paycheck or an inadequate food stamp stipend. Besides masking physical and psychic pain, drugs can also be appetite suppressants. And drugs also serve to cull the herd of what Henry Giroux calls the disposable people. Nationwide, deaths from drug overdoses exceed deaths from traffic accidents. In Vermont alone, the fatality rate has tripled over the past three decades.

Deaths by drug overdose have heretofore been a human catastrophe effectively ignored by both legacy parties. The exception was when Philip Seymour Hoffman overdosed and the political-media complex went into a very temporary frenzy of concern-trolling. When it comes to poor people on drugs, the question is how the rich can extract profits from them. (see, for example, the Times' excellent piece on the scam of so-called three-quarter housing for addicts.)

That Hillary Clinton would ignore Vermont's first place status as Heroin Abuse Capital of the World  in any debate with Bernie Sanders is highly unlikely now that she's seized upon it as a campaign issue. So far, she is acting as the gracious hostess, "welcoming" him to the race as though she were inviting him to her own private tea dance. Despite her falsely modest claims that she doesn't consider herself inevitable this time, she just can't help acting as though she owns the place.

This niceness will not last. It's not the Clinton way.  Stay tuned for unsheathed claws, oppo research and lots of dirty campaigning.

And just in case you thought Bernie Sanders himself is "soft on drugs," think again. He is agnostic about legalization of marijuana, for example. Probably the only difference between him and Clinton is how heroin and meth addiction can be combated and paid for. With Bernie, it's taxing the rich and universal health care. With Clinton, she is not telling. She's hiding behind focus groups and Google hangouts, while Sanders is drawing record crowds in rural Iowa.


Pearl said...

I see you are back in fighting form Karen with no lack of topics to talk about. I think the previous column with a picture of the Obama library brings another possibility to mind.
A picture of a dilapidated outhouse on the edge of a cliff named The Real Obama Library. I can smell it now.

Take care and recover completely rapidly. I'm rolling up my sleeves.

Meredith NYC said...

Hillary is not telling much, while Sanders is telling us plenty and drawing record crowds. Who’s raising the most $?

This is what the fabled American democracy has come to. The candidate most likely to succeed, raising the most billionaire money, can keep her positions largely dark. She occasionally bestows on her subjects a hint of possible policy to show she’s not hopelessly behind the times---and actually in the campaign. Meanwhile she can shift later when needed.

Sanders by contrast is uniquely forthright and of course is getting the least money from the rich, the least attention from the press. Our middle of the road columnists, even those with a ‘conscience’, would rather be caught dead than seriously discussing Sanders and his proposals. They want to be seen as in the ‘mainstream’ thus influential. (to recall Lawrence Summers’ advice to Eliz Warren, in her book.)

So the campaign platforms are the lesser factor in US elections.

But Sanders is the candidate who is actually ‘candid’. He has the most specific, realistic remedies to tackle the problems plaguing the majority. In other democracies they'd be centrist. If only he didn’t use the word democratic ‘socialist’, most Americans would say they want what he wants. This is also kept dark.

Or have there been any polls linking public opinions to Sanders proposals? Like raising SS and lifting the cap on SS taxes from 118,000, thus to tap a bit of the sultan like wealth of our 1 percent? Wouldn’t the vast majority agree? What’s hillary’s opinion on that?

Re Vermont’s drug problem---seems little agreement on why it’s so bad in that state, from what I can find. But is it so bad vs other states---is the difference significant?

Meredith NYC said...

Sanders gets big play on Ed Schultz msnbc.....Sanders isn’t running TV ads, but he’s getting record crowds per the NBC reporter Harry Smith, even compared to past campaigns at this stage.

But after the other candidates start their media ad blitz, and Sanders doesn’t do it, what will happen?

No ads?????
He’ll just have to rely on public appearances and interviews to tell us how he’ll put jobless people to work fixing our rotting infrastructure, or push for single payer health care, or raise SS, etc etc. Can that combat the paid ads onslaught?

Btw, per the Times, in France and other democracies, they BAN private paid political ads from their media before elections! Only free media time for all. Discuss THAT on the boob tube.

Hillary’s ‘listening tour’ goes on. That’s a pretty clever attention getter—make news without declaring a position, just listen to The People. Don’t give anything away. Every citizen who talks to her should say, what are you going to do specifically about such and such?

Sadie Slays said...

Let me preface the rest of this comment by saying that I'm a big fan of Bernie Sanders and will vote for him if he's still on the ballot by the time my state's late primary rolls around.

Out of all the Presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders included, Rand Paul has the sanest drug policy platform and legislative history on the issue. Rand Paul has been fighting for hemp legalization and drug decriminalization since he became a Senator in 2011. He was fighting for this issue long before it became "popular" enough for states to start outright legalizing marijuana or decriminalizing it to the equivalent of a traffic ticket. And even though the issue is now somewhat more mainstream, he is still the only candidate in any party to make serious drug reform a major part of his political platform.

I don't like the Republican Party and I don't like much else about the rest of Rand Paul's political platform, but drug reform is an issue near and dear to me. For that reason (and because of his recent actions regarding the PATRIOT Act), I'd vote for Rand Paul over Hillary Clinton. Bernie is still my top choice and November 2016 is still far away in the future, so I'm hoping it won't come down to this. But if I'm forced to choose between the candidate who has a strong history of supporting drug reform and a candidate who offers nothing of substance on the issue, then you know where my vote is going.

Between the majority of the populace demanding legalization, the silent opiate epidemic, and the Black Lives Matter protests (connected to America's appalling incarceration rate), Presidential candidates can no longer afford to ignore drug reform. Here's hoping that the rest of the campaigns realize that this is a priority issue for many Americans and start giving it the attention it deserves.

Ste-vo said...

I live in Vermont. About midway between Middlebury, the cultural capital of the state due to the presents of Middlebury College and Rutland, VT, which in a NYT article in 2012 was named along with Portland, ME to be the heroin capitals of New England. And to his credit, Peter Shumlin, Guvna, made fighting the addiction problem in the state the centerpiece of his 2014 State of the Union address. But then he went and endorsed HRC on the same day that Bernie launched his presidential run at a well-attended rally at Waterfront Park in Burlington. My wife and I ventured north and it was a lot of fun. I honestly don't think he has a chance in hell, but I know for sure he will change the dynamic of the democratic primary races and ultimately will have an impact on the entire campaign. The man has charisma, and has been saying the same fucking thing for his entire 40+ year career in politics. He transformed the City of Burlington as its mayor. The man is a treasure, and I sincerely hope he continues marching in the Montpelier 4h of July parade. I have taken my Re-Elect Bernie Sanders 2012 Senate campaign decal of the car and will put a 2016 one in its place. Long Live Bernie.

Ste-vo said...

Sorry the NYT story on Rutland and Portland was 2013, not 2012.

Here's one specifically about Rutland, lovingly referred to as RutVegas by locals:

I have picked up many people at the Amtrak station in Rutland and you can see the people getting off the train with stuff to deliver, you can just tell.

Bill Sprague said...

You go, dude. Mr. Sanders because he tells the TRUTH and he's not even a woman! I, for one, am sick and tired of lies from the Clinton's or whomever. That's all we've been fed since I was born over 60 years ago.... American exceptionalism.

Kat said...

I thought when Sanders entered the race that it might be useful for spotlighting economic issues. That was about it.
Then his first big showy splash he makes is "free college for everyone". This plays well to NYT liberals who believe in the lack of education/job skills theory of economic inequality (really, a supply side argument).
This guy is certainly no socialist. He is not even Ralph Nader. I don't trust him one bit. Has he ever accomplished anything in the senate? I'm with Annenigma. He's playing sheepdog.

William Neil said...

Hi everyone. I'm not on top of the comparative statistics on rural American drug use, but I have to say West Virginia usually surfaces in the conversation. And in reading my local paper in Western Maryland, also Allegany and Garrett counties, and the cities of Cumberland and Frostburg, drug problems are in the news on a regular basis, and stories have run about drug dealers moving to the area from Baltimore. The Maryland state attorney for our region has held press conferences highlighting the problem.

I believe the NY Times has run articles on the rural sections of Ohio, Illinois and Indiana which also mentioned the rural drug problem. I can't speak for Vermont, but the common denominator I see in all these candidate areas is rural unemployment and poverty, which the Right in my area immediately answers with their calls for moral and cultural re-armament. And so the dynamic goes.

Pearl said...

Kat: I would have rather had Bernie start a third political party but that certainly would have been ignored and him as well. He is out to get rid of Hillary which could be accomplished without him necessarily winning the presidency. Now is not the time to get into specifics but to get the immediate attention of voters. As for the free education issue he is perking up the ears of the younger voters which IS a vital issue if we don't want to lose the skills they might contribute to us all. It doesn't really matter whether he is or is not a socialist,etc. but if he kicks open doors for others his mission will be accomplished. Everyone comes with baggage but he is really hitting the right buttons to get people off their couches and think about what is in store if they don't become active.
At least we are seeing things said that we have been trying on Sardonicky to expose for many years. I don't think the true issues can be shoved back under the bed anymore and others will have the courage to come forward with more to add. Also the belief of the lesser of two evils syndrome may become muted.

Meredith NYC said... sanders.....
just bc lack of skills is NOT the main cause of US inequality doesn't mean we don't need low cost/free college tuition. Most other democracies accept this, as did the US in the past. Soaring tuition will always disadvantage the average earners and keep the wealth concentration going.

Most NYT liberals grasp that the lack of skills theory is a Gop slogan used to mislead voters away from the off shoring of jobs and weakening of unions. That it's another 'blame the victim' scam.

Why have college debt over now at 1.2 trillion, acting as a tax on grads future income, enriching the colleges and depriving the future generations of intellectual contributions? Sanders is right.

To start, Sanders has proposed a trillion dollar jobs program to fix the national infrastructure. That would be a creator of jobs and bring the US toward parity with most other modern nations---where this is the normal policy, while here it's a radical departure from normal.

Pearl said...

Bernie and the Plutocrats » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

annenigma said...

I think drug abuse and addiction are forms of passive suicide. Our country is clearly spiritually dead and so are many who reside within. Too many are living without hope, don't buy into the American Dream of getting rich as the end-all and be-all for living, and all too aware of the priorities of those in power. If the spirit is dead, what good is the body? If you feel like dying, or at least not feel a reason for living, why not have fun taking risks that offer pleasure or purpose, however fleeting?

Doing drugs, engaging in crime, joining ISIS even, what is there to lose if there is no hope for the future? The national raison d'etre is shallow, hollow, materialistic, and unfulfilling even for those who buy into it. Even major religions have sold out, with the exception of Islam and Buddhism. The only reason most people belong to a church is for the social aspect and too many just go to project a dishonest image of honesty for business purposes. Where do those who don't have a source for spiritual sustenance go? Nature itself is being killed off for money too, or diseased as a byproduct.

"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." MLK

It may have been just 'approaching' spiritual death when MLK spoke those words in 1967 in his 'Beyond Vietnam' speech, but we're definitely beyond that now. Our politicians are whistling in the graveyard, not just past it.

annenigma said...

Black Agenda Report makes an excellent case about what Bernie the Sheepdog is doing for the Democratic Party.

If you need any more convincing that Bernie is a sheepdog for the establishment, just consider the fact that the Democratic National Committee, the executive body and corporate pocket of the Democratic party, is featuring Bernie Sanders on its party fundraising emails. The evidence is presented in 'The Official Opposition' by Josh Marshall:

Bernie has served in the Senate long enough to know the game. You do not criticize your own. He might be officially an Independent, but when asked if he would support Hillary if she were to win the nomination, he said he ALWAYS supports the Democratic nominee. Well there you go. Not only will no Democratic Socialist ever win the Democratic nomination, but the plan is to let Bernie the Sheepdog herd Bernie voters into the next pen belonging to Hillary. Baaaah! Baaaah!

Unfortunately, if the Greens don't end up with at least 2% of our votes, they don't even get a chance to get on the next election ballots. They stay in oblivion, just where the Duopoly wants them. Let Bernie get your vocal support for now, but vote Green to give them a chance to get onto or stay on future ballots. Play the long game because you know the short one is rigged.

Ever hopeful Pearl said...

Bernie is no fool and I believe he is fully aware of his role. But he is also aware that without some 'respectable' backing his voice will not be heard. I think he is counting on the democrats who want change within the party to influence others to turn things around party wise.
Even if he makes important basic changes within the party regardless of who wins the presidency, we are moving in a better direction. Change is a slow step by step process and this is the beginning. The fact that his statements are far left of what we normally hear and are being strongly supported and encouraged is in itself a tremendous achievement considering the usual state of the union rhetoric.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out and among other things, he is encouraging others who are not sheepdogs to step forward.
Be patient, I think there may be interesting surprises in store such as Elizabeth Warren's role in this drama.

Kat said...

You are correct that I should not dismiss student debt. I don't believe, however that NYT reading liberals buy the "skill gap" argument. I do strongly believe that they attribute inequality to lack of educational opportunities rather than say, the sorting mechanism that is capitalism.
I don't trust Bernie because he isn't really anti war. (He supported the NATO bombing in the Balkans)and I think he is fine with drones.

Anne-- I was thinking the same thing re: ISIS/heroin addicts. In the US we turn on ourselves.

Pearl said...

Kat: I will and others I hope as well, ask Bernie when I get his next announcement, what are his views of military behavior such as some of the things you mentioned and state that the kind of people he is speaking to would also like to know about his take on those issues. We can influence him by demanding information about his attitudes and encourage others to do the same.
Hopefully he will not hedge and answer such questions especially if it is in opposition to Hillary's past exploits.
You've given me food for thought.

valerie said...

I'm happy supporting Bernie for the time being. At least, he is bringing up issues that would otherwise be swept under the carpet. In the end, we all know he won't get the Democratic nomination - the DNC and the Hillary machine will see to that. And at election time, I will vote for the Greens or another independent candidate. Right now Bernie is the best we've got so tearing him down while we wait for someone better isn't going to help our cause. While I don't believe in voting for the Lesser of Two Evils, I also don't believe in letting perfect be the enemy of the good. Bernie is no Obama - his voting record shows us that. I'm with Pearl on this one.