Kakistocracy

Kakistocracy is defined as government by the least competent or suitable. To which I would add: most corrupt. And that corruption goes well beyond the White House, where Trump’s incompetence is on constant display.

Examples abound. The Guardian recently reported accusations that the FDA has “direct links” to the opioid crisis.

The Food and Drug Administration is sacrificing American lives by continuing to approve new high-strength opioidpainkillers, and manipulating the process in favor of big pharma, according to the chair of the agency’s own opioid advisory committee.

Dr Raeford Brown told the Guardian there is “a war” within the FDA as officials in charge of opioid policy have “failed to learn the lessons” of the epidemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people over the past 20 years and continues to claim about 150 lives a day.

Brown accused the agency of putting the interests of narcotics manufacturers ahead of public health, most recently by approving a “terrible drug”, Dsuvia, in a process he alleged was manipulated.

Brown’s accusations come at a time when the FDA’s credibility is low; it has been damaged by  the opioid crisis and by accusations that the agency has behaved less as a regulator and overseer of the pharmaceutical industry and more like a business partner of drug manufacturers.

The FDA was also embarrassed by revelations that officials responsible for opioid approvals were taking part in “pay to play” schemes in which manufacturers paid to attend meetings to draw up the criteria for approving prescription narcotics.

Things are no better at the EPA.

The EPA is in charge of ensuring companies and utilities follow national environmental laws. Its enforcement has actually been on the decline for the past decade and reached 10-year lows in the fiscal year 2017, according to the agency’s own data. But the numbers really plummeted between the fiscal years 2017 and 2018, according to the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, an advocacy group formed by university researchers to counter what they see as the Trump administration’s rejection of science.

The decline in enforcement is intentional, according to environmental groups and former EPA personnel.

“The administration has strongly sent a message, to the folks who do enforcement, that they should cut back on their role,” says Marianne Sullivan, a public-health professor at William Paterson University in New Jersey and an EDGI volunteer who conducted the interviews. “There are declining resources. There’s much more deference to industry.”

Less enforcement, of course, means–among other things– that more Americans may be exposed to lead, smoke, and other pollutants that the EPA regulates.

Here in Indiana, we have  two recent examples of the consequences of EPA non-performance. In Franklin, Indiana, residents attribute a cluster of childhood cancers to a toxic site identified years ago by the EPA–after which nothing was done.

And in the small town of Wheatfield, Indiana, toxic coal ash is leaching into the groundwater.

In Indiana, coal ash ponds are leaking at 15 out of 15 power plant sites tested. But the problem isn’t limited to the Hoosier State, which currently has the most coal ash dumps in the country. Based on the industry’s own data, 92 percent of all coal ash ponds and landfills tested under the new rule have contaminated groundwaterwith harmful levels of toxic chemicals like arsenic and boron. Oklahoma reported in June that 4 out of 4 sites tested had contaminated groundwater, while Illinois revealed in November that 22 out of 24 coal ash sites tested positive for groundwater contamination. In total, the U.S. is home to more than 1,400 of these sites, many of them filled with millions of gallons of toxic ash.

As news about the contamination leaks out, coal companies and electric utilities are desperate to water down the 2015 regulations, including weakening the reporting, closure, siting, and cleanup requirements in the new rule.

Last March, Trump’s EPA heeded their wishes, proposing to gut coal ash regulationsjust as the nation began discovering that many coal ash ponds and landfills are leakingtoxic pollutants into groundwater. The 2015 rule opened a door to a hidden disaster; weak regulators now want to slam it shut. And they’re just getting started.

To characterize the current administration as “just” a Kakistocracy is to be kind. If it isn’t also a criminal enterprise, it’s close.

26 thoughts on “Kakistocracy

  1. By all means, Neo-cons, libertarians and trumpsters value profit over anything. So what if people die from over doses as long as the P&L indicates a healthy gain. The grandkids will have to wear air masks to go outside in the future and all water must be refiltered. Its good for business! More profit for coal, power, mask & filter companies. To heck with the great grand kids, they probably won’t get to meet them anyway…..

  2. This is one of your blogs which sent my mind spinning; the twists and turns, interconnections and lack of connections, supporting or working against in the corporate systems ruled by or running this government.

    The lack of FDA adhering to their own guidelines helps Big Pharma which is part of the health care system which is connected to health care insurance coverage and health care providers…all of which lead to the often ignored and now dwindling EPA regulations which lead to many of our health problems. Johnson County Indiana’s childhood cancer cluster, Erin Brockovich’s case against PG&E in California, Karen Silkwood’s discoveries in the Kerr-McGee system in Oklahoma to name a few. Many of these problems are not covered due to ignoring regulations at all levels; prescriptions are cost prohibitive or addicting leading to a new form of needed health care which is not a priority within the health care provider system. These government departments working together to enforce regulations would/could be a major step forward to lowering the escalating numbers of patients in the health care system. Currently; the corporation receiving the benefits from their inaction seems to be the funeral business. We can expect no change until the current Kakistocracy based “leadership” in the White House changes.

    Channel 8 News reported last Thursday evening a new wrinkle in the health care system; the personal DNA retrieval companies available to the public. The attorney reported that 22 or 23 states currently allow employer provided health care insurance companies to access the results of DNA research to broaden their pre-existing condition list. This will be more far-reaching than the current denial of birth control due to employer religious beliefs. The evangelics will probably find Bible verses to cover these denials as they have claimed to base their laws on.

    “To characterize the current administration as “just” a Kakistocracy is to be kind. If it isn’t also a criminal enterprise, it’s close.”

    Thanks to the internet, nothing is personal these days; and nothing is sacred unless it fits Rev. Pence’s religious beliefs.

  3. Sheila,
    As I look around I am surprised that you confine your comments to the current administration.
    When I look at the economic corporate leaders aka Facebook and the whole of elected Washington, as well as government workers it seems to me we have entered a new era, where our culture is upholding corruption and incompetence.

    Given that the current administration is a good reflection of the culture, not the other way around. I don’t think Boss Tweed acted alone.

  4. Pete wrote yesterday, “Fortunately our corrupt government seems to be an aberration and not systemic.”

    It’s systemic…this is what Albert Einstein was saying in the 40s and Noam Chomsky has been saying since.

    Today’s article about Kakistocracy is just a culmination of a system so corrupted only the worst human beings care to sit atop of it and claim it “exceptional” or MAGA.

    I’ve written about Indiana’s pollution for years after watching how the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) operates. I also had connections with public servants who worked inside the Public Health Departments who at one time had the authority to go after polluters as well. In other words, where IDEM ignored industry, our county health departments could issue fines and draw attention to what industry was doing to Hoosiers.

    Guess who eliminated their power?

    Mike Pence.

    Nearly all of them moved to other states to work. They were effectively neutered by policy and funds.

    So, with a system already flawed by its destruction of our social instincts (Einstein, “Why Socialism”, 1949), it went through a period during the ’80s and ’90s where “Greed is good.”

    As the system became more and more corrupt, it squeezed out all statesmen because how could they advocate for “good government” when it was corrupted with industry via elaborate schemes to steal from public coffers from small municipalities to statehouses and on the White House.

    Where were the public servants of a conscience to go?

    We have to democratize all these institutions and then upgrade them so they serve our instincts or society will flounder. Collaboration over the incessant competition.

    As Marv points out, pointing out corruption and oppression isn’t for the faint of heart. You will not win a popularity contest and cheerleaders for both parties will wish you away…

    The younger progressives hold the key…Justice Democrats, Democratic Socialists, etc.

    Just think about their objective of turning the status quo – who stands to lose the most?

    All of Industry and the majority of politicians, appointed department heads, judges, and all those who profit from the current messed up system. Not to mention the millions of uninformed Americans. 😉

  5. The coal industry is the poster child for Externality, a side effect or consequence of an industrial or commercial activity that affects other parties without this being reflected in the cost of the goods or services involved.

    The coal industry has managed to avoid the costs from the extraction, to the burning and finally disposal of coal ash. Coal has been hailed as a cheap method for producing electricity. It is cheap when the externalities of coal are ignored.

    The corruption is evident all across our government. The foxes are not only in the hen house, they constructed the hen house. The disaster of Flint, Michigan’s water should never have been allowed to happen. Flint, Michigan was once a focal point for politicians and the McMega-Media, not anymore, Flint has been forgotten.

    This is what happens when the Steroid Capitalists gain control of our electoral system and at the same time gain control of the regulatory agencies. The list of regulatory agencies they have compromised goes on and on at the State and Federal levels such as, Finance, FDA, and EPA. It is Corporations over All. Any damage caused by week laws or a lack of enforcement is collateral damage.

    This damage did not start with President Agent Orange and Pastor Pence it has been on going. It can be said though, that President Agent Orange and Pastor Pence have put the the “pedal to metal” in accelerating the dismantlement of regulations.

  6. A big problem with our culture is that we want to drive every nail with a sledgehammer. Yes, we have too many regulations and some of them are contradictory, but rather than take a scalpel to them to neatly trim out what doesn’t work, we take a machete to the entire set of regulations. that’s been true in government for many years, but it is worse now that the machete is being wielded by a clown.

  7. Well Marv. . . . who cares about the future and the children and grandchildren who will live in it when when old white men can make a pile of money now.

  8. Yes, the Trump administration and most Republicans in power deny science and regulations because their donors demand it. Why? Profit, of course. Profit at the expense of EVERYTHING AND EVERYBODY ELSE.

    It’s not just Nazis like Stephen Miller, or the idiocy of Scott Pruitt and the corruption of Pence and Zinke, it is corporate/banking America that drives this engine of destruction. This condition is, of course, what Karl Marx predicted would happen to capitalism when it’s allowed to run amok.

    Capitalists are compelled not to learn, trained not to think past the bottom line and are compelled also to remain systematically ignorant of consequences. It’s really that simple. After all, Trump, Pruitt, Pence and Zinke will never be confused with anyone with intelligence.

  9. We have to find a way to project this catastrophic end game NOW, while we still have a perfect target in Donald Trump.

    German military intelligence, led by Hans Oster attempted to stop the looming nightmare in 1938, but it was too late by then.

    Our only chance left, is for the nightmare to be projected along the lines of the science fiction movie: “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

    We need visualization, not more empty rhetoric. I’m paraphrasing the words of Willie Brandt, the pre-mature, anti-nazi and later mayor of Berlin, after the war.

  10. Marv,

    There have been plenty of call outs against Trump since he came down the escalator. The 100 million voters who stayed home in 2016 need to be activated right away. THAT is the only PEACEFUL solution. Anything else….. Well, it’s hard to fathom.

  11. Kakos… as in Mega biblion… mega kakon… a big book (is a ) big evil… Capitalism and greed they are so sown together it doesn’t matter whose blood they waste as long as they get their ambitions met. Just the facts,…

  12. Here are two areas, out of many more, where the Democratic party had better het going and “show the public that things can improve with good laws, even now. You know the slogan, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

  13. The FDA is obviously not looking at how a drug will affect public health. Instead, they are again putting the profit of drug companies before the health of our people. They also do not look closely at the food industry and its impact on the American people. Processed foods contribute to the high level of obesity in our country.

    Indiana is appalling when it comes to protecting our environment and obviously d We need a deeper reverence for life. Native Americans knew that we would eventually die in our own poison. No one heeded their warning. If the world wishes to sustain the human race, we need to develop a deep reverence not only for human life but for all life, plant and animal, if we want the human race to survive. The challenge for each of us is this question. “What are we willing to sacrifice to ensure that the planet sustains human life?”

  14. When regulators invite the regulated to come into the conference room to help fashion the rules and regs that flesh out the application of environmental and other statutes you have the equivalent of inviting foxes into the hen house to vote on safety rules for the chickens, and when you have the appointing authority (Trump) naming lobbyists for the particular industry or other activity (banking etc.) to head up the regulating agency, you have the equivalent of naming Hitler as mayor of Tel Aviv, and somewhere, somewhere in this stew of greed and competing interests there is what we used to call “the public interest,” a missing ingredient these days.

    What to do, with Citizens United and gerrymandering putting an effective lid on our ability to respond to such rot and corruption throughout the system? Swarm the polls, take over the system and reform it with stern oversight of regulatory agencies to be assured that the public interest is the first consideration in adoption and implementation rules and regs based on stated congressional intent as addenda to each such law, taking no prisoners, and criminalizing the chummy relationships we are presently enduring between regulators and the regulated, since foxes have no legitimate business in the hen house. As for appointments of foxes, that will take care of itself if and when we storm the political bastille and elect those who understand that they are to henceforth act in the public interest – or themselves suffer political and other consequences within their own party.

    Won’t work? Pollyannish? Tell me how the present system if working in the public interest. Reform has to start from somewhere, and soon, lest the whole shebang collapses in a sea of corruption, greed and mismanagement.

  15. Most of the damage we are warning each other about today, almost all of the warnings hyped as new and genius, my aged professors in 1957 were already up in arms about. Dirty water. Dirty air. Dirty drugs. Dirty leaders. Dirty Wall Street. Dirty capitalists. Dirty preachers. Why do the masses so abhor wise counsel? Do not tell me they do not know what they do. I say the masses are just lazy lazy lazy, and the only thing they have that resembles vision is their dream of ease. Thus, the worst attribute of democracy is its ambition to enable the masses to achieve their dreams. If revolt comes, it will be strange indeed, for it will be revolt against ourselves, against our own laziness.

  16. It seems to me that it’s not accurate to call this administration “kakistrophic” when it seems to be succeeding on many levels for the people it serves – its base and the wealthy. The Sacklers are getting richer than ever selling opioids. Drug companies raise their prices by double digits annually. Coal mine owners now have a champion to take us back to the 19th century. The Koch brothers, who pretend to hate Trump, love his policies that allow them to retain their title as the worst polluters in America. Cabinet members like Zinke, Ross, Pruitt, Mnuchin, Carson and DeVos serve(d) their master with corruption and skill because they share his (lack of) values. His minions lie for him as they do for all autocrats. Even Maduro has his supporters.

    My argument is that Trump is getting done what he wants to get done. Remember the tax bill for the rich? Remember putting a defense contractor in charge of the Pentagon? Remember the Muslim ban? Not serving the interests of rational and patriotic voters can’t be chalked up as a failure if he never had any such intent. The American people got exactly what they were looking for when the elected him president – a misogynistic, racist, venal, neurotic sociopath who claimed that only he could fix a system whose problems they were too apathetic to think about for themselves. Until we find a way to repair the broken minds and souls of his base, there is little hope of ostracizing the people who know how to exploit them.

  17. 1. Vernon – bigtime “Right On!” regarding voters. My cynical wife says they get what they didn’t vote for. Have seen few pols messaging about this and yet poll after poll shows it is one of the key root causes of public distrust/disengagement from government . (Of course the other one, in my view, is not teaching the young to be critical thinkers. See a great book from the ’60’s: “Teaching as a Subversive Activity”).

    2. Notice that many of the 2020 DEM candidates are already plugged into this is the worst way – see Mr. Booker and his Wall Street and Big Pharma connections…

  18. Over here in Switzerland, you get fined if you bring more than 1 kg per person of meat into the country. Huge fines too. Americans always pick the lazy and easiest way which is usually not the most effective way either. Great post and comments today.

  19. Lester,

    Thanks. You might find my book, “A Worm in the Apple: The Inside Story of Public Schools” worth reading too. It’s available on Amazon.com.

  20. Vernon,

    “Marv, The 100 million voters who stayed home in 2016 need to be activated right away. THAT is the only PEACEFUL solution. Anything else….. Well, it’s hard to fathom.”

    It’s hard for you to fathom another way, especially my way, because we ALL have different lifetime experiences. I’m sure you don’t have all of mine, nor do I have all of yours.

  21. Indeed there is lots wrong. Way more wrong than usual. We can and do associate that wrong with the individuals we see at this center of it and scream in pain.

    But our choices are limited. What we can DO is limited. As I see it we can support Robert Mueller and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. We can start considering TrumPence’s replacement. We can keep track of two Senators and one Representative to the Federal Govenment and a similar group for State and local government. We can tell our friends and family why we are screaming in pain.

    This year will unfold as it does. While we expect much commotion my guess is that we will be in the same mess at the end of this year though the stench will be greater but we will have pretty much chosen replacements for all of those we can.

    Our real power though is next year and is in the degree to which Democrats can unify around specific candidates and platform planks.

  22. A suggested title for a follow-up article;
    We need to change our motto from ”E Pluribus Unum” to ”Caveat Emptor”.

  23. Larry Kaiser, yes, yes, and another 400 yesses.
    ” I say the masses are just lazy lazy lazy, and the only thing they have that resembles vision is their dream of ease. Thus, the worst attribute of democracy is its ambition to enable the masses to achieve their dreams. If revolt comes, it will be strange indeed, for it will be revolt against ourselves, against our own laziness.”
    I will scale your comments down to my limited introduction to the facts you speak of:My father, starting about 70 years ago ranted and raved about a lot of things we now accept as normal……all those things and more. Wisdom we should all value….
    We complain, march, scream and yell about all of this but sadly WE are responsible for letting things go the way of the greediest, most powerful, and least concerned about those beneath them.
    I do not blame the rich for our problems, but I do blame the greedy cancerous system we have allowed to corrupt those we vote for to represent us and have been paying the price for it for far too long. I blame ignorance, and also laziness ….
    The world has changed; our old ways: coal, steel, manufacturing, etc. are almost a memory…unless we (and by we I mean the masses) decide to get someone’s attention and mean it, our greatness will erode even more. The term, We, the People, doesn’t really mean much anymore does it?

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