TBR News February 2, 2019

Feb 02 2019

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. February 2, 2019:”Having worked in Washington as a reporter some years ago, I became acquainted with a number of influential and well-placed figures with whom I have kept in friendly contact.

I spent the last week in the capitol, trying to get some top-level opinions on the increasingly bizarre behavior of the President. I learned a great deal with significant identical information coming from people who did not know each other.

In the first place, Trump is viewed as a deranged individual who most certainly has been in contact with Russian intelligence. He is not considered to be an honest person in any aspect of his life and the persistent rumors are that Mr. Mueller has enough factual information to have Trump removed, legally, from the Oval Office, and possibly arrested and charged with treason.

His distasteful habit of dumping his close associates the moment the law closes in on them and to deny knowing them has caused more than a few of these associates to open up to the Mueller people.

Trump is far from an honest man and over the years he has engaged in crooked business, and personal, practices that would land anyone else in a cell in a Federal jail.

Presently, and very quietly, Senators and Congressmen are being very privately polled on the subject of impeachment and all of my sources indicate that there are now enough votes to impeach Trump.

Whether this process will be implemented in the very near future depends on several factors.

If Trump continues his behavior patterns and prefers to dictate rather than negotiate, he is a dead chicken and the American media will have a field day with the subject. A concern has been his support among the Jesus Freaks and far right nutties but the Pentagon people, who basically control the military, have indicated their full support of Trump’s departure and that if the gun-loving fanatical rightists engage in violence in support of Trump, the Army is fully capable of dealing severely with them.”



The Table of Contents

  • Impeachment of the president, explained
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • Sarah Sanders believes Trump’s presidency was a divine plan. God bless America!
  • Walling in the Opioid Crisis?



Impeachment of the president, explained

Will the Democratic House impeach Trump? And how does impeachment work, anyway?

January 3, 2019

by Andrew Prokopandrew


With a new Democratic House of Representatives, Donald Trump’s impeachment is for the first time a real possibility.

Already, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) plans to introduce articles of impeachment against Trump Thursday. Don’t expect quick action on them, though. There are no signs that House Democratic leaders are seeking a battle over impeachment, and most rank-and-file members tend to treat the matter cautiously.

Yet this measured approach could change very quickly if new and damning information about Trump were to emerge from one of the many investigations into him or his inner circle: special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, investigations into Trump’s campaign hush money and inauguration, and the new probes that will soon be launched by Democratic House committee chairs.

Impeachment is much more likely now for a very simple reason: It only takes a majority vote in the House to impeach a president, and Democrats now have a majority.

But impeachment, should it happen, would only be the first step toward ousting Trump from office. To actually remove him, two-thirds of the Senate would have to vote to convict him — meaning at least 20 Republican votes would be needed.

It’s quite difficult to impeach, convict, and remove a president from office, so much so that’s it’s never happened in US history. (Two presidents have been impeached but acquitted; another resigned to avoid near-certain impeachment.)

If a sitting president of the United States stood in the middle of Fifth Avenue, shot a random person in broad daylight, and was caught with a smoking gun, it’s probably a safe bet that Congress would set aside partisanship to vote to impeach him, convict him, and remove him from office. (Probably.)

But most political scandals are not that indisputable, damning, or well-documented. And on any matter where there is some sort of plausible deniability for the president, his political allies will have very strong incentive to give him the benefit of the doubt, even if it means twisting themselves into knots.

The big picture is that rather than being run by any courts, impeachment and any ensuing presidential trial are carried out by the House of Representatives and the Senate, which are partisan bodies. So while it looks and feels a whole lot like a legal or judicial process, in practice impeachment is dominated by politics from start to finish.

What is impeachment?

The term “impeachment” itself dates back centuries in England, where it was “a device for prosecuting great lords and high officials who were beyond the reach of the law courts,” as David Stewart writes in Impeached, a book about President Andrew Johnson’s trial.

But in the US context, the framers of the Constitution set up the impeachment process to be a way Congress can remove the president from power.

  • First, the House of Representatives has the power to impeach the president. A simple majority is necessary for an article of impeachment to be approved (each article lays out a charge against the president).
  • Then the process moves to the Senate, where a trial will be held, with the chief justice of the Supreme Court presiding.
  • Finally, and crucially, it takes a two-thirds vote from the Senate to actually convict a president on any count. Conviction on any count would then remove the president from office and put the vice president in power.

Note that two-thirds of the Senate — 67 votes in the modern era — is a very high threshold that’s almost never achieved on any matter that’s remotely partisan. The framers did not make it easy for Congress to remove a democratically elected president from power.

What can the president actually be impeached for?

The Constitution specifies two specific crimes — treason and bribery — that could merit impeachment and removal from office. In addition to that, it mentions a vaguer, broader category of “other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

That’s all we get, and what, exactly, that last category entails has been the subject of a great deal of debate through US history. When Gerald Ford was House minority leader, he said, “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.” But he said this when he was trying to impeach a Supreme Court justice, not a president.

Now, as a practical matter, Ford is absolutely right. If a majority of the House of Representatives wants to vote to impeach the president, it doesn’t seem that anyone can stop it from doing so. The Constitution says it has “the sole Power of Impeachment.” Unlike ordinary trials, evidentiary standards and even the charges themselves don’t necessarily have to be grounded in law; it’s all up to Congress to decide what matters.

Still, impeachment efforts that are wholly grounded in politics without even a thin pretext of an actual crime haven’t gotten very far, historically. In practice, some allegation of criminal behavior from the president has been necessary for the impeachment process to get moving — even if the true motivation for most of the primary actors really is political.

How often has impeachment happened in history?

The only two American presidents ever to have been impeached were Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998-’99. Neither was actually convicted and removed from office. However, Richard Nixon was headed toward seemingly certain impeachment and likely conviction in 1974, and preemptively resigned his office. No other president has come particularly close to being impeached.

1) Andrew Johnson: Johnson had been elevated to the presidency after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, and his policy preferences about the post–Civil War South proved to be dramatically at odds with those of the Republicans who controlled Congress. (Essentially, Johnson was far more sympathetic to the interests of Southern whites, and wanted to restore them to power quickly in formerly Confederate states rather than pursue more extensive reforms.)

This years-long policy and political conflict was the true motivation for Johnson’s impeachment. The House of Representatives first considered whether to impeach Johnson in 1867, but voted against it — there was no consensus on what particular high crimes Johnson had committed.

Soon, though, they found their pretext. That same year, Congress overrode Johnson’s veto to pass a constitutionally dubious law called the Tenure in Office Act, which declared that the president could not fire his Cabinet officials without Senate approval. This was done to try to keep Johnson’s war secretary, Edwin Stanton, a staunch Republican ally whom Lincoln had appointed, in place to carry out Reconstruction policy. Still, Johnson fired Stanton anyway. The House responded by quickly impeaching the president, but he ended up being acquitted in the Senate by a single vote.

2) Richard Nixon: More than a century passed before the impeachment of a president was next seriously considered — in 1973, after revelations that President Nixon’s aides appeared to be complicit in the break-in at the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate Hotel and the cover-up that ensued.

As Dylan Matthews wrote in his comprehensive explainer, “It’s not really the break-in itself that ended Nixon’s presidency so much as the fact that the ensuing investigation revealed a tangled web of wrongdoing of almost unfathomable scale and complexity, implicating the highest levels of the White House, up to and including the president.”

Revelations of break-ins, efforts to smear political opponents or critics, cover-ups, attempts to suppress investigations, and hush money payments all came to light, leading to trials and convictions of several top Nixon aides. And crucially, the president taped himself discussing or approving many of these matters, and those tapes came to light — providing evidence that was tremendously difficult to dispute. By summer 1974, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon (obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress), and he resigned to preempt what seemed a near-certain impeachment.

3) Bill Clinton: Independent counsel Ken Starr had been operating a years-long investigation into various sprawling matters involving President Bill Clinton and his associates, and ended up filing a report alleging that Clinton had lied under oath and obstructed justice to prevent his affair with Monica Lewinsky from becoming known.

The House of Representatives voted to impeach Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice, but the Senate acquitted him relatively easily — the president was popular, the impeachment effort was viewed as partisan, and enough senators concluded the crimes weren’t serious enough to warrant the president’s removal from office. The two-thirds Senate threshold for conviction remained far out of reach.

How does impeachment actually play out in the House?

Impeachment happens in the House of Representatives, and since the House is run on majority rules, it’s really up the majority party to run the process as it sees fit.

In our two 20th-century examples, Presidents Nixon and Clinton, the full House first voted to refer the matter to the House Judiciary Committee, which would draft impeachment articles and vote on whether to send them to the House floor.

In Nixon’s case, the House Judiciary Committee conducted its own investigation into Watergate and other scandals — holding hearings, hearing witness testimony, and so forth. Eventually, it approved three articles of impeachment, sending them to the House floor — but before the House could vote on them, Nixon resigned.

For Clinton, the Judiciary Committee decided not to conduct its own investigation, but rather to just vote on allegations drawn from the Starr report. The committee drafted four impeachment articles, and voted to approve them all.

Action over that next week in December 1998 then shifted to the floor of the House of Representatives. The full House voted on all four articles, with only a majority needed for approval of each. Two (a perjury count and an “abuse of office” count) were voted down, but the other two (one perjury count and one obstruction of justice count) were approved, though with overwhelmingly Republican votes and just a handful of Democrats. This meant Clinton was impeached, and that the Senate would have to hold a trial to determine whether to remove him from office.

Our older historical example, the 1868 impeachment of President Johnson, unfolded somewhat differently. When Johnson defied the Tenure of Office Act by dismissing his secretary of war without Senate approval, a special House committee on Reconstruction controlled by Johnson’s fiercest critics quickly voted to recommend impeachment. The full House of Representatives then voted overwhelmingly to impeach Johnson two days later — even though they didn’t have any specific charges drawn up yet.

A special House impeachment committee was created to actually draft those charges. Eventually, the full House voted to approve 11 specific articles of impeachment — most of which involved the Tenure of Office Act — though one focused on mean speeches the president gave disparaging Congress (seriously).

How does an impeachment trial play out in the Senate?

Though the actual action of impeachment in the House looks a lot like votes on any ordinary bill or resolution, the Senate is where things start to look quite different — because the Senate is hosting a trial, something it very rarely does.

In this trial, the House of Representatives acts as a prosecutor — designating certain impeachment managers to argue their side in the Senate. The president’s lawyers are the defense team — the president does not have to appear in person and historically has not. The chief justice of the Supreme Court presides and is responsible for making procedural rulings during the trial — however, the Senate can vote to overrule his decisions.

In addition to effectively being the jury that votes to acquit or convict at the end, senators get to decide how the trial is conducted. For Clinton’s trial, the Senate decided on a target end date, whether to allow House prosecutors to depose witnesses (the House wanted to depose 15, the Senate let them depose three), and whether to hear live witness testimony (they chose not to). Senators can make these decisions either through unanimous consent or by voting on a proposal put forth by Senate leadership.

Now, Johnson’s impeachment trial in 1868 looked a whole lot like a real trial. Witnesses were called, sworn testimony was given, and evidence was presented. The outcome truly was in the balance. At the end, senators had to vote on whether to convict or acquit on particular articles. A two-thirds vote on any one article would have convicted Johnson and remove him from office. However, in the three articles the Senate voted on, Republicans fell short of this margin by just a single vote all three times — so he was acquitted, and remained in office.

By contrast, Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999 was a bit of a joke. It was clear to everyone in advance that Republicans weren’t even close to the two-thirds of senators they needed to convict Clinton, since the president was popular and the impeachment effort was viewed as partisan. As Jeffrey Toobin recounts in his book The Nine:

The Senate heard from no live witnesses, and the “trial” consisted almost entirely of statements by the House “managers” — the members of the Judiciary Committee who served as prosecutors — and Clinton’s defense lawyers. … The dreary proceedings lasted five weeks. … The outcome had never been in doubt.

During the trial, Toobin continues, Chief Justice William Rehnquist “made only a single substantive ruling” — he ruled that the House prosecutors shouldn’t keep referring to the senators as “jurors.” (Rehnquist later said, “I did nothing in particular, and I did it very well.”) In the end, Clinton was acquitted 55-45 on one count and 50-50 on the other, with Republicans not even coming close to the 67 votes they needed to remove him from office.

What does this mean for Trump?

Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton — the presidents who were either impeached or who, in Nixon’s case, resigned to preempt a coming impeachment — all faced Congresses in which both chambers were controlled by their political enemies, and who therefore wanted them out of power.

For Trump’s first two years, this wasn’t the case. His own party controlled the House and Senate. And since the president was quite popular among GOP voters, and party interests wanted Trump to appoint conservative judges and sign conservative bills, they had the strong incentive to give him the benefit of the doubt on any scandal or controversy. (Even if many of them might privately prefer it if Mike Pence were to become president.)

But now, Democrats will control the House. So the decision of whether to pursue Trump’s impeachment will really be up to them. And though some firebrands in the party have pushed for impeachment, Democratic leaders and most of the rank-and-file have been cautious about the prospect so far.

Hanging over this is the fact that winning the 20 or more Republican Senate votes that will be needed to actually remove Trump from office will be a very tall order. So Democrats have been wary about raising their voters’ expectations for a quest they fear will inevitably end in failure.

For instance, one key player will be Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which has a key role in impeachment. But Nadler has said that he fears impeachment will “tear the country apart,” and that he would only want to start the process if he thinks an “appreciable fraction of the Trump voters” could be convinced it was a good idea.

Still, all of that could change very quickly, should new information or evidence implicating Trump emerge from one of the many investigations against him. For instance, many expect that special counsel Robert Mueller has amassed a great deal of evidence that President Trump tried to obstruct justice.

Should Mueller complete a damning report on either obstruction or collusion with Russia, House Democrats could well be handed a ready-made case for impeachment. And they’d face enormous pressure from their base to take action on it. So buckle up.



The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

February 2, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney


On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks,”: Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas  in 1993  when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publications.


Conversation No. 2

Date: Friday, February 9, 1996

Commenced: 9:11 AM (CST)

Concluded: 9:38 AM (CST)


GD: Robert.

RTC: Good morning, Gregory. How are you doing today?

GD: Functioning. Yourself?

RTC: Good days, bad days. I have to be careful in the bathroom because I sometimes lose my balance.

GD: Put in some grab irons.

RTC: Better said than done. I have some advice for you Gregory. Don’t get old.

GD: Do I have a choice?

RTC: We know the alternative. Have you heard back from your publisher?

GD: He’s too patient with me, I must say. He wants to see something about flying saucers but I have a diary entry for Müller that covers this subject and I want to put it in there. His cousin was involved in the Roswell business and Roger actually saw one of the American ones out at Moffitt Field once. Actually climbed up on it.

RTC: Oh the hysteria of it all.

GD: I remember very clearly. At least three sightings a week. I created one of them at least.

RTC: How so?

GD: Oh we made a fake saucer out of balsa and silver paper, mounted two pulse jets at the rear and set it up for radio control.

RTC: Did you put little green men in it?

GD: No. The pilot area was covered with a plastic salad bowl upside down, but it really wasn’t very big. We took it down to the beach on a really hot day in July and flew it from one cliff to another. Right past a beach full of fat people getting sunburns. It was a distance of…oh say about 1000 feet give or take. To me, it wasn’t realistic but we put some noisemakers inside the jet pipes and it made a shitawful noise. High whistling and farting noises. Anyway, I was on one headland and my friend was on the other. We flew it fairly slowly in a straight line and believe me, the beach was packed. Right at the surf level but about 300 feet up in the air. God, you never heard so much shrieking and yelling in your life.

RTC: You always seem to have such a bizarre sense of humor, Gregory. Do you still do things like that?

GD: No. At my age, people get stuck into nut houses doing that but at the time, I did enjoy it. I remember once we carved the dorsal fin of a Great White out of a Styrofoam boogie board, mounted an underwater motor at the base with the control antenna running up to the top. Jesus, it was a huge fin at that. And of course we painted it up right. That was about the time that ‘Jaws’ came out. And this time we took it down to an even bigger beach…..do you know the California coast by any chance? I could be more specific

RTC: No, not really. Go on.

GD: It was the Fourth of July and hot as shit and the beach and the surf were jammed with intercity types. There was a pier that ran out well past the surf at the northern end of the beach so we took a rented rowboat with the fake fin and the radio control equipment and rowed right under this pier. It was a big pier with a road on it and all kinds of shops along the sides so there was certainly room under it. Anyway, we put the fin in the water, turned on the motor and aimed it towards the beach. It was a little hard to direct what with the surf and all but with a few tries, we got it fine. Ran it towards the beach and then paralleled it just out past the surf line. Jesus H. Christ, Robert, you couldn’t imagine the havoc. Screaming we could hear under the pier and everyone stampeded out of the water. We ran it back and forth a few times and then headed out to where a bunch of twits were fishing and again panic reigned supreme. Little outboard jobbies fleeing in terror in all directions. I mean given the size of the fin, what was supposed to be underneath it must have been the size of the Titanic. We saw a Coast Guard boat coming so we just aimed it out to sea and opened it up. Lost the whole rig but I didn’t feel like trying to get it back. If we’d been bagged, I would have got at least ten years out of it. But probably for contaminating the beach. I’ll bet there were six inches of shit floating in the surf.

RTC: Your escapades always entertain me, Gregory. But what do you know about real saucers? I don’t mean toys.

GD: The Germans developed one during the war and flew it. That I do know. Habermohl, Meithe and some wop.

RTC: Yes, true enough. And after the war we got the plans and one of the engineers. The Russians got a prototype and another scientist.

GD: Bender tells me the one he saw at Moffitt was made in Canada.

RTC: Yes, by the A.V. Roe Company. Called it AVRO.

GD: He said they had used it as a high altitude recon craft and it had USAF marking on it.

RTC: They let him see it?

GD: Been out of service for some time and he had some friend in the Navy who got him in.

RTC: Well, those were the legit ones. There really were others, you know.

GD: Russian?

RTC: No. We have no idea where they came from. Radar picked up flights around the moon that never came from down here. And the Roswell business was true enough. That’s where we got transistors, you know. But the sightings came at a sensitive time. The Korean War, the Cold War and so on. Great national fears. Remember the Orson Wells program?

GD: On Halloween of ’38. Mercury Theater radio show. I heard it as a kid. Of course I read Wells’ book and knew it was just a show.

RTC: A lot of others did not, believe me. It caused an enormous national panic. Hundreds dead, people killing themselves and their children, fleeing into the countryside and so on. I’m, surprised they didn’t lynch Orson. But he infuriated old Hearst with his movie….

GD: Citizen Kane.

RTC: Right and old Hearst blackballed Orson and ruined his career. But because of the huge flap over this, Truman decided to keep serious accounts about the sightings out of the papers and they minimalized it and made fun of the whole thing. But they were real enough.

GD: Given the huge number of systems out there, from a mathematical point of view, there isn’t any question superior entities do exist. Why would they bother with our planet? To watch the pink monkeys running around killing each other? Investigate Elvis concerts?

RTC: Well, most of the legit sightings came around the period when they were all testing A-Bombs so maybe that got the little green men interested.

GD: Did the Company have anything to do with all of this?

RTC: No. We had the U-2 business but not the saucers. The real ones. They were strictly military. No weapons but did carry cameras. These were used in various places because they were impossible to intercept but not as stable a camera platform as the U-2. The Russians knew all about these and when the strangers showed up, they thought they were ours and we thought they were theirs. We had several secret conferences about these at the time to try to clarify this.

GD: Any authentic reports of landings or abduction of humans?

RTC: Not that I remember. Mostly what we could call recon passes. The Roswell one was a fluke. Lightning was supposed to have hit one of their ships and brought it down. Don’t forget that Roswell was in a very sensitive military area at the time.

GD: Did they recover bodies?

RTC: As I understand it, they did but I can’t give you any more than that. What did Müller have to say about these?

GD: That they were both domestic and from somewhere unknown. I’ll include this passage when I do the journals or diaries.

RTC: Journals sounds more authoritative. Diaries sounds like something a little girl keeps about her pets or boyfriends.

GD: I think you’re right.

RTC: When are they coming out?

GD: They’re in German and the handwriting is terrible. And his wife is terrified that I’ll somehow identify her or the children. I won’t but she is not sure of that. Some of your friends will not be happy when this comes out but so what?

RTC: So what. And after that? After the journals?

GD: I don’t know. Any ideas?

RTC: Well, we can always think about the Kennedy killing. I can give you some material on that that could produce a best seller.

GD: For example?

RTC: Now, Gregory, everything in its own good time. First things first. Finish up with the Müller business and then on to other things. One of these days, we’ll have to jerk Jim Critchfield’s chain a little. I can’t stand that man. His wife, Lois, used to work for me and when we were shortening staff, I got her a job with Jim but we both wish I hadn’t. Jim is a first class asshole and a sadist of sorts. I think we can do a number on him as they say.

GD: Well, if you want to off him, I’m not your man. I’ve truly done in a few in my life but I prefer the typewriter to the gun. I do have an Irish friend who is a hit man but only political. He worked for your people in Ireland. He led the team that did Mountbatten in ’79.

RTC: Oh, I know about that. They caught one man.

GD: The man who planted the bomb on the boat but not my friend. A very interesting story.

RTC: Are you planning to use it? He’s still alive I take it?

GD: Oh yes, and doing fine in the private sector. And, most important, a very good friend. If I do anything, I’ll talk to him first. It’s not only OK but a real duty to fuck your enemies but never your friends.

RTC: Well, in time I can tell you our part in that one but let’s wait awhile. Every day is not Christmas, is it?

GD: That would be nice. Christmas every day. By the way, I read in the Post that it was so cold in DC the other day that a Senator was seen with his hands in his own pockets.

RTC: (Laughs)

GD: Did I ever tell you the one about the man who asked his girl friend to put her hands into his pocket? No?

RTC: Not that I recall.

GD: Anyway, she said ‘I feel silly doing this,” and he said, “If you put them any further down, you’ll feel nuts.”

RTC: Gregory, so soon after breakfast. Don’t you know any refined jokes?

GD: Limericks?

RTC: God no. The last time you got off on those we were an hour on the phone and Emily wondered why I was laughing so much. You must know thousands of them. How can you remember so much?

GD: It’s a curse, believe me.

RTC: Bill said you have a phenomenal memory.

GD: I can remember everything but dates and figures. No pre-natal memories.

RTC: The shrinks are useless, Gregory. We hired weird people like Cameron and you would be astonished at the pure crap they peddled on everyone.

GD: You know, I think most of them went into the game because they started reading up on their own psychosis and went on from there. Freud used to bang his sister when he wasn’t smoking Yen Shee….

RTC: You mean opium?

GD: Yes. Coleridge loved it too but Xanadu is all he had to show for it. Oh, I was digging into the Elmali business. The Greek coins. Now there’s a funny story for you. The Bulgarians forged up thousands of the rarest old Greek coins and sold them to the sucker brigades for millions. Cash for operations. Like the Stasi doing the Hitler Diaries.

RTC: You were into that one, weren’t you?

GD: I did all the detail work for Wolfgang and let Connie Kujau do the writing. Old Billy Price gave them a million dollars for the Hitler diary I turned out. I mean I did the research and Connie did the writing. Now that would make a nice book.

RTC: Was if profitable for you?

GD: Oh God, yes. Very. They still can’t account for millions of marks.  But I really enjoyed watching the phonies and experts like Irving and Trevor-Roper get shit on their bibs. God, such a frenzied drive to get their names into print. Irving is such a brainless fuck that I can’t believe it. One of these days, Dave will really start believing his own lies and then he’ll get caught. ‘Irving’s been in hiding since early last fall when his picture first appeared on the Post Office wall.’

RTC: Costello admired him.

GD: Don’t forget, I met Costello. If he admired Irving, Irving must have a huge cock.

RTC: Now, now, I liked Costello.

GD: Brittle and vituperative without a reason or an excuse. I didn”t have much use for him but he was a better writer than Irving.

RTC: I’ll agree. But John tried.

GD: What an epitaph!

RTC: Do I detect professional jealousy here, Gregory?

GD: No. You know how Costello died, don’t you?

RTC: There is somewhat of a mystery about that. There is a story going around that the Russians did him because he had discovered something sinister on his last trip to Moscow. What have you heard?

GD: John died of AIDS on a flight from Spain to Miami. Found him dead in his seat.

RTC: Gregory, come now. Where did you get that canard?

GD: It’s not a canard. Miami is in Dade County, Florida. When someone dies like that, the local coroner gets the body and has to do a post on it. I used to do posts so I have some knowledge. Anyway, I called the coroner’s office there, talked shop with a technician and got him to pull the initial death certificate and the final report. Costello had a raging lung infection only caused by HIV and died from it. Not open to debate at all. Since these are public records, I sent my new friend the money and he got official copies and sent them off to me. When I told Kimmel and Bruce Lee about this, Lee was very irate and, true to form, Kimmel refused to believe me. I can understand why Kimmel was negative because I can never be right but Lee’s reaction was interesting. And, of course, Tom has a penchant for young men. He made a very strong pass at the son of a Swedish farmer I know. He likes to teach basketball to the small ones. Playing doctor is more like it. If the Russians ever find out about his secret lusts, they will bag him for sure. I wonder if they already have?

RTC: Why speculate?

GD: I’m a curious person, Robert. Why did the dog not bark in the night? Lee told me sinister forces got Costello and poisoned him with shellfish. The official autopsy report shows differently. I sent him a copy of the reports and he was not happy.

RTC: Regardless of the truth of this, Costello was a very competent historian, don’t you think?

GD: Costello alive didn’t particularly impress me. I talked with him in Reno, as you know, for about three hours and I’ve had more enlightening conversations with the hairlip who grooms my dogs.

RTC: How are your dogs?

GD: Being dogs. Actually, Robert, I am a firm believer in Frederick the Great’s sentiment. He said that the more he saw of people, the more he loved his dogs. I told Tom Kimmel that and he got huffy about it.

RTC: Tom is a decent sort, although your comments about nice young men are not a surprise. We used to call Tommy the Arrow Shirt Kid,  but I agree he’s conventional.

GD: How can you be a good intelligence officer and be conventional? I’m not at all conventional and you yourself said I would have been your best agent. Or were you just flattering me?

RTC: You have talent.

GD: Ah, my Russian friends have said the same thing but we don’t need to discuss that aspect, do we?

RTC: That might be interesting.

GD: Not to the author of the ‘New KGB.’ You did write that, correct?

RTC: We had some help from Joe Trento.

GD: I wouldn’t admit that to anyone. You should have used my literary abilities. Trento is of the mistaken impression that he’s important and articulate.

RTC: We didn’t know you then but you probably would have done a much better job at that.

GD: Truth pressed to earth will rise again.

RTC: That’s….?

GD: Mary Baker Eddy. Actually, it’s Latin. I could give it to you in Latin but what the hell? Oh, well, another day and another fifteen cents. How’re your family?

RTC: Doing fine, thank you for asking. And yours?

GD: My evil sister is still alive but all the rest of them have gone off to play cards with Jesus. If it’s true that when you die you have a great burst of glowing light and then you get to meet all your dead relatives, I think I’ll try to postpone the inevitable and find some place where they aren’t. Like Monaco.

RTC: Sam Cummings and Monaco. Do you know about Sam?

GD: A Limey who ran Interarmco and sold to the wrong people. That’s a no-no for one of your people. And safe in Monaco. Sometime I’ll talk to you about Jimmy Atwood and his Merex gun operation but not now.

RTC: Always promises. I’m going to have to cut this short Gregory because I have to do a little maintenance work upstairs and Emily keeps reminding me about this in a nice way. If you talk to Bill, ask him to call me, would you? His wife is not doing too well and it’s hard to get a hold of him.

GD: Of course. And be good.

RTC: At my age, there isn’t much reason not to.


(Concluded at 9:38AM CST)






Sarah Sanders believes Trump’s presidency was a divine plan. God bless America!

The president’s press secretary has said that Trump was brought to the presidency through holy intervention. And that does make a twisted sort of sense

February 1, 2019

by Arwa Mahdawi

The Guardian

Are you there, God? It’s me, Arwa, and I have a question. Namely, is it true you wanted Donald Trump to become president? Because that is what Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, is saying. And, while the idea may sound wholly implausible, I really can’t imagine Sanders would lie.

If you’re not God, and you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about, I refer you to the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). Sanders recently told CBN that she believes it was God that put Trump in power rather than, you know, any of that Russian collusion malarkey. “I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times, and I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president,” she said.

I’m an atheist, and generally sceptical of marvellous explanations for less-than-marvellous situations. But, after considered analysis, I can buy into the idea that President Trump is a form of divine retribution. After all, God is great at thinking up creative punishments; having handed out plagues of blood, boils and locusts, it makes sense that He might inflict a torrent of Trumps on to the US. The plague of blood turned Egypt’s rivers red; the plague of Trump has turned the US’s airwaves orange.

But perhaps I have misinterpreted Sanders’ statement; a closer reading of the interview suggests she believes, more charitably, that Trump is making the US godly again. Indeed, the press secretary told CBN she thinks Trump “has done a tremendous job in supporting a lot of the things that people of faith really care about”.

Now, forgive me if I find this statement perplexing. Like I said, I’m an atheist. Nevertheless, I always thought the Bible was about loving thy neighbour and helping the poor. And I distinctly recall a commandment about not committing adultery – which seems hard to square with Trump’s sexual mores. You have to hand it to the president’s evangelical base: no matter what the president does, there seems to be a Bible verse to prove Trumpiness is next to godliness.

Take the Stormy Daniels affair. Last year, it was reported that Trump had allegedly cheated on Melania, his third wife, with the porn star, just a few months after Melania had given birth. While that may seem difficult to defend, it turns out that the Bible says thou shalt not commit adultery, except in very specific circumstances. After the story broke, a number of evangelicals, including the Alabama pastor John Kilpatrick, cited the story of King David, who adulterously impregnated Bathsheba and then had her husband murdered. “David committed adultery and had a man killed,” Kilpatrick said in a sermon which compared Trump to the biblical figure. “God left him as king of Israel.” He also quoted 1 Timothy 2:2, which asks people to pray for “kings, and for all that are in authority”, as a reason to support Trump.

Sanders has previously argued that respecting authority is a core tenet of the Bible. Last year, Jeff Sessions, who was then attorney general, cited Romans 13 to justify the Trump administration’s family separation policy. Sanders backed Sessions up, stating at a press conference that “it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible.”

Once you bear all this in mind, the idea that Trump may be some sort of emissary of the almighty doesn’t sound so ridiculous. So, God bless America. It may be having a hard time with democracy, but it seems to be on its way to becoming the greatest theocracy in the world.


Walling in the Opioid Crisis?

There Is a Real National Emergency in America, It’s Just Not the Wall

by Rajan Menon


President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to declare a national emergency if Congress refuses to pony up $5.7 billion to build the “great, great wall” he promised his base during the 2016 election campaign.  In an apocalyptic televised address early in January, he even warned — falsely, as fact checkers revealed during the speech — that a tsunami of hard-core criminals and drugs was sweeping across the U.S.-Mexican border.

Fabricating national emergencies is unconscionable, especially when there are real ones requiring urgent attention.

Here’s an example: since 1999, 400,000 Americans have died from overdoses of opioids, including pain medications obtained legally through prescriptions or illegally, as well as from heroin, an illicit opioid.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes that prescription medications were involved in 218,000 of those fatalities.

Even the president labeled opioid addiction a “public health emergency” after a commission he appointed in March 2017 issued a report detailing its horrific consequences.  Trump’s efforts led Congress to allocate $6 billion to combat the crisis in 2018 and 2019, and the president sought another $7 billion for 2019.   Since then, however, his attention has turned to the “emergency” along the border with Mexico, the equivalent, by comparison, of a gnat bite on an elephant.

His initial urgency regarding the opioid epidemic seems to have dissipated, though not his propensity for making false claims.  At a May 2018 rally, for instance, he declared that, thanks to the $6 billion, “the numbers are way down.”   If the president meant overdose deaths, however, his claim was blatantly false.  Data from the CDC show that, between 2016 and 2017, prescription opioid overdose deaths decreased by a mere 58 from 17,087 to 17,029.  As for overdose deaths from opioids of all sorts (whether legal and doctor-prescribed or illegal, as with heroin), they increased by 12%.

Congressional critics charge that the commission’s raft of recommendations hasn’t been implemented energetically, noting in particular Trump’s proposed $340-million cut to the budget of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, which coordinates the government’s anti-opioid campaign.  And given the scale of the epidemic, experts maintain that $6 billion over two years doesn’t come close to what’s needed to make a real difference.

The Toll Taken on Trump’s Base

High-voltage opioid painkillers were once derisively labeled “hillbilly heroin,” but that moniker has become archaic and misleading.  While the misuse of such medications tends to be proportionately higher among the poor and in areas with high unemployment, it now spans classes and regions.  In the late 1990s, the surge in overdose deaths did start in economically depressed rural communities and small towns — in Appalachia in particular.  Since then, however, the crisis has spread to suburbs and cities across the country.

Still, a strong correlation does exist between opioid addiction, overdose death rates, and economic distress, especially in small towns and rural regions, including Maine’s logging communities, areas reliant on commercial fishing, and Appalachian coal towns.  In rural New Hampshire, where I spend part of the year, it doesn’t take long to start hearing about, or meeting, people whose lives have been upended by opioid addiction.  Such communities were the first victims of the epidemic because their economic decline produced despair, hopelessness, and diminished self-worth.  Moreover, plenty of people suffered chronic pain, whether from workplace accidents or physically demanding jobs.

President Trump ought to be particularly attentive to the country’s raging opioid addiction.  Many of the hardest hit places are home to the very voters who helped elect him.  During the 2016 presidential campaign, he presented himself as their champion, bemoaning the hardships of factory workers, miners, loggers, and others zapped by layoffs or wage cuts and living in communities in which the better-paying jobs on which they had depended, often for generations, were disappearing.

Staggering Statistics

Data from the National Institutes of Health reveal that overdose deaths from all categories of opioid drugs — legal and illegal — soared from 10,000 in 1999 to 49,068 in 2017, with the numbers consistently higher for men.  But heroin fatalities (15,958 in 2017) must be included in the mix because the use of that drug and of prescription opioids has become intertwined.

Although less than 5% of those who misuse opioid pain medications drift to heroin, nearly 80% of heroin users start by misusing opioids.  In addition, both people hooked on such painkillers and recreational users often combine them with heroin to boost their highs.

Addicts tend to rely on heroin only when they can no longer afford to buy opioids but are still desperate to feed their habit and so stave off “dope sickness.” (Its wrenching withdrawal symptoms include nausea, chills, and diarrhea, as well as extreme anxiety and panic attacks.)  Heroin dealers charge a fraction per fix of what illicit suppliers of the popular oxycodone- and hydrocodone-based analgesics demand per pill.

Consider Oxycontin.  An 80-milligram pill costs about $6.00 at a pharmacy, but as much as $80 on the street.  Compare that to the $15-$20 that will get you a hit of heroin.  The price difference matters.  Many opioid addicts end up putting the bulk of their earnings into purchasing the pills illegally, depleting their savings accounts.  As a result, some end up resorting to selling personal possessions or even stolen machinery parts, piping, and copper wiring (for which there’s a large black market).

Unfortunately, even the 49,068 deaths in 2017 don’t provide the full picture.  Additional fatalities result from combining painkillers with cocaine (4,184) or benzodiazepines (roughly 9,000).  Add those into the mix and the total number of lives lost to the epidemic in this country reached 62,252 in 2017, the last year for which we have complete data.  That figure soars higher yet if you include the nearly 16,000 deaths resulting from heroin.

To put the total number of opioid-related fatalities in perspective consider this: vehicular accidents killed 40,100 people in 2017. The decade-long Vietnam War resulted in 58,220 American deaths.  More than five times as many Americans died from opioid-powered painkillers in 2017 alone as in the 9/11 attacks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

As for the economic consequences, a 2017 report by the president’s Council of Economic Advisors pegged the total costs of the crisis, including medical services, lost earnings and productivity, and law enforcement, at $504 billion in 2015.

In other words, unlike what’s happening on the southern border, this isn’t a faux emergency.

The Pathway to Crisis

In nineteenth-century America, opiates were widely prescribed to treat many afflictions: pain from wounds or injuries sustained by Civil War veterans, menstrual cramps, asthma, anxiety, even babies’ teething pains.  But as doctors became more aware of a growing wave of addiction, the federal government imposed restrictive regulations on such medicines, culminating in the 1914 Harrison Narcotics Act.

Though that legislation didn’t fully stamp out opiate use, it did mark a turning point.  Medical opinion would not revert to a favorable view of such drugs until the 1970s, after which numerous opioid painkillers hit the market.  The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved Lortab in 1982, Vicodin in 1983, MS Contin in 1987, and Percocet in 1999.  Fentanyl was first introduced in 1959 and its skin patch variant received official approval in 1990 for the treatment of acute pain.

The current epidemic didn’t start revving up until Purdue Pharma, owned by the Sackler family, developed Oxycontin, an oxycodone-based painkiller.  Following FDA approval in December 1996, it became available, in varying strengths ranging from 10 to 160 milligrams. Compared to previous opioid treatments, Oxycontin was in a league of its own when it came to its potency.  Doctors quickly started prescribing it, not a few with stunning abandon: in one instance 335,000 prescriptions over eight years.  Within five years of its appearance, prescriptions had skyrocketed from 670,000 to 6.2 million.

Purdue claimed that Oxy, as it came to be known, was special and better than its predecessors because it worked through an extended, 12-hour time release, which would effectively eliminate addiction: the drug would neither provide a quick high nor have to be taken as often.  In fact, the drug’s efficacy often petered out well short of the touted timespan.  Purdue became aware of this but stuck to its claim.

By 2001, Oxycontin sales surpassed $1 billion a year.  The boom was not spontaneous, but owed much to Purdue’s zealous product promotion.  An army of sales representatives, deployed after being trained to convince doctors of the drug’s safety and efficacy, often offered those same doctors free meals, holiday gifts, trinkets, junkets, and more.  Those sales agents did not lack for incentive; they received hefty bonuses pegged to their success. Top performers raked in more than their annual salaries in extra cash.

Purdue also trained thousands of doctors, nurses, and pharmacists at numerous conclaves in beautiful venues — all organized and paid for by the company — to spread the word that Oxy was effective and safe, not only against the extreme pain produced by surgery or terminal illness but also more mundane varieties of pain caused, for instance, by back injuries or arthritis.

The strategy proved wildly successful.  Sales revenues climbed because the pill was widely prescribed not just by those treating terminally ill patients, but also by family doctors who were already responsible for nearly half of all Oxycontin prescriptions by 2003.

The Devastation Becomes Undeniable

Doctors increasingly prescribed Oxy to treat pain (often from work-related injuries) and their patients quickly became addicted.   Gripped by the drug, some feigned continuing pain in a frantic effort to get fresh supplies.  “Doctor shopping” became common as well.   Others stole pills from relatives or friends or bought them from illegal dealers, including those selling through the Internet at, among other places, social media sites like Facebook.  Addicts also snorted pulverized pills or liquefied them and injected them intravenously, risking Hepatitis B or C or HIV/AIDS from shared needles.  Still others turned to heroin.

Obviously, not everyone who took Oxycontin for pain got hooked, let alone died from an overdose.  But when addiction did strike, it could ruin lives, as some addicts even fed their habit through petty crime or prostitution.  The children of addicts often suffered from neglect or mistreatment as well — an estimated 676,000 of them in 2016 —  or became the responsibility of grandparents or ended up in foster care.

As the evidence of a disaster mounted, some intrepid doctors, along with the relatives of people who had died from overdoses, started sounding the alarm.  But Purdue had a formidable PR machine, the big bucks needed to hire top-flight attorneys, and the determination to fight back.  As for clout in Washington, the company’s wealth and access to power far exceeded anything its adversaries could muster.

Yet as the addiction wave began to sweep the country and the death toll rose, medical researchers began highlighting the risks posed by Oxy and questioning its efficacy compared to less potent opioids.  The FDA, the Justice Department, and the attorneys general of various states also began to pay attention.  In 2007, following charges that it had failed to provide adequate warnings about the risk of addiction, Purdue paid $634.5 million as part of a plea deal with the feds.  Three of its senior employees were fined a total of $34.5 million, which Purdue covered (though they avoided jail time).  The company itself did not cop to any wrongdoing.

Numerous states also initiated lawsuits against the company, insisting that it was aware of the dangers of Oxycontin addiction but made misleading or false claims to deny or downplay the risks.  In 2007, Purdue negotiated a $19.5 million settlement with 25 states and the District of Columbia, again without admitting to any wrongdoing.  In 2015, it settled with Kentucky for $24 million.  In 2018, six more states initiated lawsuits against the company.

In 2010, the FDA approved an addiction-resistant — that is, harder to snort or inject — version of Oxy and the original version was pulled from the market.  As part of its legal settlements, Purdue also agreed to stop pitching opioid medications to physicians and slashed its sales staff.

Lest you feel any sympathy for the embattled pharmaceutical giant, know this: by 2001, addiction to oxycodone (the active agent in Oxycontin) had already increased five-fold.  Yet Purdue and its experts-for-hire downplayed the danger and kept promoting the drug vigorously.  According to a Justice Department report, the company also knew early on that the drug was being snorted or liquefied and injected, but did not think it useful to divulge news of the abuse.  It also sat on evidence its own investigators amassed on the criminal trafficking of Oxy and on cases of doctors or drugstores dispensing it recklessly.

As for those fines, they amounted to chump change for the company, which by 2017 had amassed $35 billion in revenue, largely from Oxycontin sales in the United States and elsewhere.  And the Sackler family?  None of its members were ever charged, let alone convicted of anything; and, with a net worth of $14 billion, in 2015 they first made the Forbes list of the 20 wealthiest families in America.

Someone nabbed for a non-violent drug offense or even shoplifting could face years of jail time, but the titans of a company responsible for a public health disaster have gotten a remarkable pass.

What Next?

The current opioid crisis transcends Purdue.  For one thing, there are numerous, widely prescribed opioid medications out there besides Oxy, even though the number of annual prescriptions for opioid painkillers has actually declined since 2012.  According to a report issued by the Surgeon General, they totaled 289 million in that year compared to 76 million in 1991.  The CDC reports that they had fallen to 191 million in 2017.  But as the agency notes, that still makes for a stunning 58.7 prescriptions for every 100 people in the United States, which remains peerless in the global consumption of opioid pain medications.

Since perhaps 2013, another problem has amplified the opioid crisis: the abuse, illicit manufacture, and smuggling of Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid analgesic whose potency exceeds morphine’s by 50 to 100 times and oxycodone’s by a factor of 1.5.  A two-milligram dose can prove fatal.

Deaths linked to synthetic opioids, mainly Fentanyl, reached 29,406 in 2017, a nearly six-fold increase since 2014.  The CDC found that Fentanyl was implicated in at least three-fifths of opioid overdose fatalities in 10 states during the last half of 2016 alone.  The drug’s wallop and widespread availability from illicit Internet sites only heightens the risk of addiction and fatalities. Meanwhile, heroin overdose deaths, which started to increase sharply at about the same time as opioid-related fatalities, reached 15,958 in 2017 — a three-fold increase from 2014.

To make matters worse, there are numerous Fentanyl analogs, including 3-Methylfentanyl, four times more powerful than Fentanyl itself.  Though its illegal manufacture dates to the 1970s, it has recently made a comeback on the street and via the Internet.  Then there’s Carfentanil. Used to tranquilize elephants and other large animals, it’s 100 times stronger than Fentanyl and it, too, has begun to make its deadly mark.  In the first half of 2017, Carfentanil-related deaths nearly doubled, reaching 815.  Just how deadly is it?  For sedating an adult elephant, the safe dose is 13 milligrams.  Just .05 milligrams will kill a human being, scientists warn.

Those two drugs and other Fentanyl analogs are manufactured and trafficked illegally to underground networks in the United States or directly to individual users.  China has become a key source of such illegal shipments.  Contrary to President Trump’s claim — as part of his pitch for his “big, fat, beautiful wall” — only a small proportion of such illicit opioid drugs, including heroin, are ever carried across the border into the United States by undocumented immigrants.  The bulk of what enters through Mexico comes hidden in vehicles that cross at legal entry points.  There are many other modes of smuggling as well.  A Senate report found that the U.S. postal service has become an unwitting conduit, as have commercial carriers like FedEx and UPS.  Illicit sellers also operate through Internet sites and the Dark Web.  When it comes to such drugs, a wall will make no difference.

The opioid crisis has now entered an even more dangerous phase.  Doctor-prescribed opioid pain killers are no longer its main driver, and even when they are, they’re often combined with cocaine or benzodiazepines.   Moreover, in 2016, illicit Fentanyl and heroin accounted for two-thirds of opioid-related deaths.  Illicitly produced and trafficked Fentanyl and Carfentanil and their chemical kin may, in the end, dwarf the Oxycontin catastrophe.

And newer forms of high-potency painkillers will undoubtedly emerge as well.  Take Dsuvia, which received FDA approval late in 2018 amid considerable controversy created by fears of addiction.  It’s 500 times stronger than morphine and 10 times as potent as Fentanyl. How long before Dsuvia produces its own addiction and illegal trafficking problem?

No Easy Fix

The opioid emergency requires a multi-faceted and sustained solution.  Addiction treatment would have to become better in quality and more equitably available.  Because opioid misuse and addiction are particularly prevalent in parts of the country suffering from job cuts and low incomes, they would have to become a focal point for public investment and job retraining.  The shape-shifting inflow of opioids from abroad would have to be stanched through measures that went beyond punishment.  Corporations that endanger public health through their negligence and chicanery would have to face more than a rap on the knuckles.

In addition, a political order rigged by money and lobbyists would have to be revamped.  From 2000 through 2018, companies making pharmaceuticals and health products spent a total of $3.8 billion lobbying in Washington, employing 1,407 lobbyists, not a few of whom had once worked in various capacities in the federal government, including as members of Congress.  In 2018 alone, the amount devoted to lobbying just by the pharmaceutical firms that were among the top ten spenders came to $58 million — and that doesn’t count the $21.8 million mustered by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which represents drug and biotech companies.

Given the scale, multiple causes, and consequences of the opioid crisis, the $6 billion earmarked for it isn’t remotely sufficient, while the moves the Trump administration and the Republican Party have made to cripple the Affordable Care Act will only hurt the effort. Meanwhile, every day, 130 people in the United States die from opioid overdoses and 70% of those battling addiction don’t receive long-term treatment, even though the necessary medicines are available.

So, Mr. President, if you want to tackle a genuine national emergency and are eager to spend another $5.7 billion or far more on a project that will, in the end, make you look better to everybody, including your base, take on the opioid epidemic — and forget that useless wall.

















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