Reviewing Empire of Pain

Patrick Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain: the secret history of the Sackler dynasty is one of the most upsetting, important books I have ever read. If you want to learn how America’s opioid crisis began and you aren’t afraid to be horrified by the corruption and dysfunction in American government, Empire of Pain is a must read.

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Congressional Progressives are Usless

The verdict for this episode is: Joe Manchin is worth all 100 progressives.

Rough Transcript

Hello, and welcome to Jonathan’s Verdicts. I’m Jonathan Simeone.

The title of this episode is: Congressional Progressives are Useless.
The verdict for this episode :is Joe Manchin is worth all 100 congressional progressives.

As always, I don’t edit these podcast episodes, and I don’t have a script. They are just a chance for me to talk about whatever is on my mind.

I decided to record this episode after reading about the latest iteration of the build back agenda plan that Biden has put forth.
And the reason I want to record this is
it shows us how useless congressional progressives really are.

There are 100 or so people in the House who come to the Progressive Caucus, who say they are progressives and we know there are a few in the Senate, who also say they are progressives.
And none of these people accomplish very much.
And as a collective, they accomplish way less than Joe Manchin and Kiersten Sinema.

I want to give some examples.
When progressives first started talking about their goals for this Congress, they had a $10 trillion package.
Then it went down to 6 trillion.
Then with Biden they had a 3.5 trillion dollar package.
Now, reports are the final cost will be somewhere around $1.75 trillion.
That cost is over 10 years, and it is divided between priorities like climate change, family medical leave, health insurance, and all kinds of things that benefit most, if not all Americans.

But I want to put the cost in comparison. Recently, the Congress adopted a one year defense budget of $778 billion.
That means that since the Pentagon gets an increase basically every year Over the next 10 years we will be spending roughly $8 trillion dollars on the Pentagon.

If this bill passes,
we will be spending 1.75 trillion over 10 years on all of these things from climate change, to family medical leave, to health care, prescription drug coverage, all of these things.

And we will be spending less than a quarter on all of those things
than we will be spending on bombs, missiles, and killing people.
Less than a quarter.

So the priorities of this country are totally screwed up.

But here’s the point.
The point is we have come from 10 trillion to 3.5 trillion to 1.75 trillion, because the progressives in Congress are useless.

Biden did a town hall last night and acknowledged that the original 12 weeks of family medical leave would be cut to four.
There’s another report that says that won’t even begin until 2024.
The child tax credit the democrats gave themselves so much credit for, they were lifting half the children out of poverty and all that will be extended by one year in this bill.
According to the report, one year.
And we went, during the campaign, from
some people saying we
‘ll forgive all of your student loan debt.
Some people were saying $50,000.
Some people were saying $10,000.
Some people were saying free college. Some were saying free community college. Now, we’re getting a few more Pell Grants.

A few more Pell Grants. Why, because Manchin and Sinema don’t want to pay for these programs.

Bernie Sanders went on and on about, we’re gonna get
dental and vision coverage into Medicare.
Know they’re not

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When Biden told us during the campaign that we couldn’t have Medicare for All, he said we’re going to have a public option.
No we’re not.

Then they talked about maybe we’re going to lower the Medicare age to 60 or 55.
No they’re not.

all of this stuff has come out of the bill entirely or has been dramatically reduced because Manchin and Sinema insist on it.

How do they insist on it? They insist on it because they say we won’t vote for the bill unless you take all of these things that help the American people out of the bill.

And what do the progressives say? The progressives say we’ll vote for anything. Just give us anything. It doesn’t even have to be close to what we started out asking for. We’ll vote for anything.

That’s the difference.
What would happen if Bernie Sanders, or AOC said, I’m not voting for this unless it has x?
What if Bernie said I’m not voting for this unless Medicare covers
hearing, vision, and dental? What would happen?
We’re probably never going to find out.

The so-called progressives don’t fight. They don’t really represent us in much more than talk.

Biden was saying last night that this bill is bigger than the Affordable Care Act. Now, who cares whether it is or it isn’t. But the point is they’re going to sell this as this amazing transformational bill.
And the bill sucks.

It’s so much less than it could have been, or should have been.
And even if this so called transformational bill passes, the things that it gives us are going to be far less than the citizens of dozens of other countries have taken for granted
for decades.
Wee got here because we have a couple of immoral, corrupt politicians, like Manchin and Sinema, who have essentially veto power over the country’s legislative process.
And because we have so-called progressives, 100 of them or more, who refuse to exercise the same strength, who refuse to say no we are not going to compromise this much. We won’t do this, people really need
hearing, dental, and vision coverage in Medicare. It’s immoral that senior citizens can’t go to the dentist.
You know what? It is. It is immoral that senior citizens can’t go to the dentist.
And it has continued, and it will continue because no one cares enough to really fight for it.

the first hearing in the Senate to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices took place in 1989–1989. Thirty-two years later, we still can’t get that done.

Why can’t we get that done? Because over the last six years, Sinema has taken $400,000 in campaign donations from the pharmaceutical industry.
And because three people in the House
are all taking huge amounts of money from the pharmaceutical industry.

Even the people who say they represent us and they fight for what we need, don’t fight.

So, unfortunately, Congressional progressives are useless.

Thank you for listening to this episode of Jonathan’s Verdicts.

Reviewing the Cup of Coffee Club

Jacob Kornhauser’s The Cup of Coffee Club: 11 players and their brush with baseball history is another light read that fit with my peek interest in this year’s baseball playoffs. In the book, Kornhauser introduces us to and takes us through the experiences of 11 men who managed to play in just one major league game.

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Capitalism Needs Brutal Policing

The verdict for this episode is: we must strike at capitalism first.

Loose Transcript

Hello, and welcome to Jonathan’s Verdicts. I’m Jonathan Simeone

.

The title of this episode is: capitalism needs brutal policing.
The verdict for this episode is:
wee must strike at capitalism first.

As always, I don’t edit these podcast episodes, and I don’t have a script.
They are just a chance for me to talk about whatever is on my mind.

We will soon, or already do have more police on the streets than we did the day George Floyd was murdered.
The months of nationwide protests did not result in the defunding of police.
They did not result in abolishing police.
They did not even result in any meaningful police reform. Sadly, they accomplished nothing.
And now we are at a point where in response to the protesting
and in response to escalated violence
many communities have more police on the streets than they did the day Mr Floyd was murdered.
And the sad part of this is it was all very predictable.

And the reason is very simple:
the biggest driver of crime,
as anyone who thinks about this stuff
honestly and intelligently knows, is desperation and lack of opportunity.
People are desperate.
People are hungry.
People are being evicted. Record numbers of people are relying on food banks for meals.
Sure, there will always be crime legitimate, horrific crime.
But the truth is that most crime would be eliminated if every person had a decent place to live, a decent income, felt like they truly had opportunity to advance in life, and that their children had fair, equitable opportunity to advance in life.

But capitalism is diametrically opposed to equity and equality. Capitalism cannot survive without people to exploit. Capitalism cannot survive without cultural division. So capitalism needs brutal policing.
Because the truth is capitalism can only deter and punish.

It cannot provide.

And so, when some communities did remove a fraction of money from the police,
without a real effort to invest in community,
without an effort to provide the American people the basic necessities of life,
there was always going to be an increase in crime.

The capitalist class was always going to use that increase in crime to scare people, to foment division,
and to further indoctrinate racism.
And yes, to hire more police

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You see, we can’t defund police, we can’t abolish the current form of policing without actually investing in communities and providing opportunities. Capitalism will not allow for those things. This country will never do those things.

Capitalism needs brutal policing.

As a result, America now has more police and nothing has been done to rein in the racism and the brutality that are hallmarks of policing.

Thank you for listening to this episode of Jonathan’s Verdicts. I very much appreciate your support.

Reviewing Presumed Guilty

Erwin Chemerinsky’s Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights is an important and upsetting read. Chemerinsky, a constitutional lawyer and professor, walks us through decades of shockingly bad sometimes overtly racist rulings made by the Supreme Court that have served to help create our current police state.

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Reviewing The Sentinel

The Sentinel is the 25th book in the Jack Reacher series. I have now read all 25. The first 24 were written by Lee Child. After reading an interview where Child basically said he didn’t really like writing the series or the Reacher character, I didn’t think I would read any more in the series. With Child’s relative Andrew taking over authorship and my desire to read something truly fictional, I gave The Sentinel a shot.

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Reviewing The Wax Pack

With all the serious stuff happening, I wanted an entertaining read that would encourage me to think more about comforting subjects. Brad Balukjain’s The Wax Pack was just the ticket.

Like me, Brad is a huge baseball fan who began loving the game as a child in the 1980s. Unlike me, Brad was a big baseball card collector. In the summer of 2015, he got the fun idea to purchase an unopened pack of baseball cards from 1986 and try to track down the 15 players represented by the cards.

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Reviewing Permanent Record

Permanent Record is the book written by Edward Snowden, who bravely told the world that America was spying on everyone. If you are interested in a better understanding of how things really work, Permanent Record is a must read. If you don’t already know the truth about America, you will find it upsetting.

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It’s Time for Civil Disobedience

The verdict for this episode is: nothing else will work.

In this episode, I discuss how our only shot at a government that works for us is through civil disobedience.

Rough Transcript

Hello, and welcome to Jonathan’s Verdicts.
I’m Jonathan Simeone.

The title of this episode is:
It’s Time for Civil Disobedience. The verdict for this episode is: nothing else will work.

I really hate to say this, but it’s true.

I have been following politics since 1988.
Over the years, I have become increasingly concerned with the lack of representation, a lack of equity,
And, frankly, the lack of compassion for the people demonstrated by our elected officials. But now I feel more hopeless than I’ve ever felt about things

.

The lack of compassion is at an all time high.
The lack of empathy is at an all time high.
The lack of spirit and cooperation is at an all time high.
And, sadly, selfishness and greed, are at an all time high.

The truth is so many of the problems we face were avoidable.
Many of them, except for maybe climate change, can still largely be mitigated.
But we simply don’t have enough people who care

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That is especially true for the people we have elected to represent us. Neither party cares. No politician truly cares.
It is all about special interests.
It is all about money.
And it is entirely corrupt.

As I have said before, protests have been shown to be irrelevant. They simply don’t work any longer.
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder,
Democrats are now calling for more police.
In the aftermath of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Democrats in the House, at least in the House Armed Services Committee, want to give the Pentagon $24 billion more than even Biden requested.

We are on an endless loop of war, savagery, discrimination, inequity, and oppression.

And if we don’t engage in civil disobedience,
the kinds of civil disobedience that will really get their attention,
I don’t think there is reason for optimism.
And I truly Hate–hate saying that.

So what kinds of civil disobedience should we engage in?
Honestly, I don’t know right now. Civil disobedience, is a personal thing.
I think we have to be very strategic about what we as individuals and what we as a collective could do to engage in the appropriate amount of civil disobedience.
I don’t know what my contribution to a future of civil disobedience will look like.
But I do know I’m ready.

Because I do care about other people.
I do care about the world.
I care about the animals.
I want our air and water to be clean.
I want all of the stuff that so many pay lip service to to actually matter

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So, I’m ready.
I will engage in civil disobedience. Once I figure out how I can best do so.
I’m open to ideas. Please contact me.
And in your own lives, I hope many of you will look at how you can contribute.
Because this won’t be fixed through voting.
It won’t be fixed through protesting.
If we continue to do the things that they expect from us, if we continue to play within the rules that they have rigged,
we’re doomed.

So with that,
good luck.
Because I think we’re going to need it in the next few months.
And here’s to a future of civil disobedience

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Thank you for listening to this episode of Jonathan’s Verdicts