Saturday, July 21, 2018

1844 - Young Karl Marx - A Pizza Box Sketch in Dry Erase Crayon

I saw this illustration and re-drawing of an early drawing of Karl Marx



I posted the image on Imgur after flipping it to make it a little different - https://i.imgur.com/2OuQEtF.png I enjoyed seeing the image on my kitchen computer screen and grabbed a blank piece of cardboard hand from a frozen pizza box. I sketched with an erasable crayon I had on the desk in front of the computer screen. I wanted to understand the drawing by copying it. When I finished the quick drawing I put the cardboard against the large kitchen window blind.

As I skated back and forth in and out of the kitchen I began to like my drawing more and did not think of it as a preliminary sketch or exercise. So.... I scanned the work and put it online



https://i.imgur.com/vi89SdO.jpg

Michelle Shocked - Shocked With Christian Disavowal of Sinful Lesbian Love

The modestly popular singer Michelle Shocked injured her career in 2013 when she ended a concert by making strange statements about being gay. During the encore at the end of her show before an audience of a couple of hundred she said 'God hates fags' and other seemingly Right Wing Christian anti-gay comments. People in the audience where taking videos that were soon uploaded to the internet where many where, shocked, shocked! During her salad days in the 1980's Michelle Shocked was the darling of a pro-gay rights audience and toured with perennial UK Leftist Billy Bragg. She did not have so many hits lately, and basically toured for an aging audience from the past at small venues of a couple of hundred. But, that was before her rant. The interview below shows the inability of the main stream and even alternative media to grasp some of the simple elements of the story. They keep asking this artist who is known for her strange way with words 'Are you homophobic?' She answers 'no.' That is not the kind of question to ask a Christian who believes that gay sexual activity is a sin. Here's Piers Morgan acting as prosecutor to get a confession from Michelle Shocked in an interview published on 1 April 2013 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27_OAk2AWMg



What a bizarre interview. P. Morgan refuses to simply let the story unfold. A post-fifty woman who was famous for singing songs about women in heat for women is now no longer interested in women. In her forties she began going to a Christian church and trying to live a Christian life. The interviewer wants to emphasize the application of a label to Ms. Shocked. He wants to question her as a prosecutor with a defendant on trial for being 'homophobic' - having an irrational fear of same gender sex and romance and coupling.

Michelle shocked says she is a church going Christian who believes in Jesus Christ and his teachings. Was Jesus homophobic? Are the teachings of the Bible, along with the Old Testament, homophobic? Morgan doesn't back up and ask if Ms. Shocked adopted a traditional Christian view of homosexuality. He simply wants to nail her down and get her to say she is afraid of homosexuality. Notice Morgan does not ask her if she is in favor of equal rights for gays. No, he demands more. Michelle Shocked is expected to 'celebrate' gay love, or be labelled a 'homophobe.'

Of course the back story is that Michelle Shocked rose to fame on the strength of her being a gay woman singing some songs about Lesbian love. She has talent as a singer and moved from a niche audience to a wider public and then was back to a niche audience. But the audience she had in 150 seat alternative music venues was going to see her not just to hear her songs but as a political and social statement of solidarity with gay women and gay rights and a celebration of gay love.

But Michelle Shocked has always had a different way of thinking and an artistic ability to see things her own way and create her own narrative explanation of what was going on in the world, and with herself. She is hard to follow for many. She is no slave to Aristotle's logic.

She says in the interview that she has been in love with a man for the last ten or twelve years. Is she cryptically referring to Jesus Christ? Piers Morgan is hardly listening to her because he wants to force her to 'come out' as a gay-hater on his show and because of his skillful lawyer like questions. He is not interested in the mystery and riddles this woman presents.

Michelle Shocked wanted to express herself to her audience as an artist and as who she is now. She is a fifty-something woman who probably has passed through menopause and may have a decreased interest in sexual activity. Anyone who knows something about women, or about aging might have taken that into consideration. Historically more than one women's issues leaders have started out in their 20's advocating 'free love' and ended up advocating celibacy when they are in their 50's. Never crosses Piers Morgan's mind or apparently the cheerleaders of Michelle Shocked's audience.

When she was cancelled at one venue that booked an openly supportive gay rights band in her place Michelle Shocked went to the club that night and tried to get in and was speaking to patrons. She was dressed all in white and brought a guitar and sang some of her songs outside the club.

Perhaps this woman always had bizarre personal behavior issues that the audience embrace or ignored - as long as she was an out loud and proud Lesbian. But once she stopped doing that, she's just an oddball Christian who had some hit singles a couple of decades ago. Can she get work on a Christian sinners tour?

Of course anyone being shocked by what Michelle Shocked does... didn't her name warn everyone?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Denying Ad Revenue to the Main Stream Media - Online archive services play an important role in the alternative news ecosystem



Denying Ad Revenue to the Main Stream Media - Online archive services play an important role in the alternative news ecosystem - by Tiffany Westry Womack (University of Alabama at Birmingham) 28 June 2018

http://archive.fo/HCIT5#selection-97.0-145.269

In a large-scale analysis, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Cyprus University of Technology and University College London reveal fringe communities within Reddit and 4chan push the use of URLs from archive services to avoid censorship and undercut advertising revenue of new sources with contrasting ideologies.

"Web archiving services play an increasingly important role in today's information ecosystem by preserving online content," said Jeremy Blackburn, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences. "News and social media posts have been found to be the most common types of content archived. URLs of archiving services are extensively shared on 'fringe' communities within Reddit and 4chan to preserve possibly contentious content."

Researchers analyzed millions of URLs from archive.is and Wayback Machine shared on four social networks: Reddit, Twitter, Gab and 4chan's politically incorrect board (/pol/). The results of the study were published this week in a paper at the 12th International Conference on Web and Social Media in Stanford, California. The social-network-specific analysis shows, among other things, that moderators leverage web archiving services to ensure content shared on their community persists. In particular, they found that 44 percent of URLs from archive.is and 85 percent of URLs from Wayback Machine URLs are shared by Reddit moderation bots. Web archiving services were also found to be used extensively for the archival and dissemination of content related to conspiracy theories and world events related to politics, suggesting these services play an important role in the alternative news ecosystem.

Additional evidence shows moderators from specific subreddits force users to misuse web archiving services so as to ideologically target certain news sources by depriving them of traffic and potential ad revenues. Links from unwanted news websites shared are deleted, and users are prompted to utilize a cached link, screenshot or archive.is.

"For example, we observed that 'The Donald' subreddit systematically targets ad revenue of news sources with conflicting ideologies," Blackburn said. "Moderation bots block URLs from those sites and prompt users to post archived URLs. According to our conservative estimates, popular news site like the Washington Post lose approximately $70,000 worth of ad revenue annually due to the use of archiving services on Reddit."

The analysis reveals that out of 3,800 submissions made to Reddit using links from the Washington Post and 3,300 submissions with links from CNN, 44 percent and 39 percent were removed. "These findings highlight the importance of archiving services in the web's information and ad ecosystems, the need to carefully consider them when studying social media and when designing systems to detect and contain the cascade of misinformation on the web," Blackburn said.

Blackburn is a co-founder of the International Data-driven Research for Advanced Modeling and Analysis Lab, or iDRAMA Lab, an international group of scientists focusing on modern socio-technical issues with expertise ranging from low-level cryptography to video games.

http://archive.fo/HCIT5#selection-97.0-145.269

Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People” by Patrick Cockburn - 20 July 2018



“The people want an end to the parties,” chanted protesters, adapting a famous slogan of the Arab Spring, as they stormed the governor’s office and the international airport in the Shia holy city of Najaf.

Part of the wave of demonstrations sweeping across central and southern Iraq, they demanded jobs, electricity, water and an end to the mass theft of Iraq’s oil wealth by the political parties.

Beginning on 8 July, the protests are the biggest and most prolonged in a country where anti-government action has usually taken the form of armed insurgency.

The demonstrations are taking place in the heartlands of the Shia majority, reflecting their outrage at living on top of some of the world’s largest oilfields, but seeing their families barely survive in squalor and poverty.

The protests began in Basra, Iraq’s third largest city which is at the centre of 70 per cent of its oil production. A hand-written placard held up by one demonstrator neatly expresses popular frustration. It read:

“2,500,000 barrels daily Price of each barrel = $70 2,500,000 x $70 = zero !! Sorry Pythagoras, we are in Basra”

The protests quickly spread to eight other provinces, including Najaf, Kerbala, Nasariya and Amara.

In several places, the offices of the Dawa Party, to which the Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi belongs, were burned or attacked, along with those of parties whom people blame for looting oil revenues worth hundreds of billions of dollars in the 15 years since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

As the situation deteriorated, Mr Abadi flew to Basra on 13 July, promising to make $3bn available to improve services and provide more jobs. After he left, his hotel was invaded by protesters.

The credibility of almost all Iraqi politicians is at a low ebb, the acute feeling of disillusionment illustrated by the low 44.5 per cent turnout in the parliamentary election on 12 May that produced no outright winner.

The poll was unexpectedly topped by the Sairoun movement of the populist nationalist cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, who has encouraged his followers to start protests against government corruption and lack of services since 2015.

The Sadrists, who emphasised their socially and economically progressive programme by allying themselves with the Iraqi Communist Party in the election, are playing a role in the current protests.

The demonstrations are also backed by the prestigious Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. At ground level, political activists and tribal leaders have set up a joint committee called “the Coordination Board for Peaceful Protests and Demonstrations in Basra”, its purpose being to produce a list of demands, unite the protest movement, and keep their actions non-violent.

“The ends don’t justify the means,” says the committee in a statement. “Let us, being oppressed, not lead to the oppression of others.”

A list of 17 demands is headed by one asking for a government timetable for supplying water and electricity, both of which are short at a time of year when the temperature sometime exceeds 50C, making it one of the hottest places on earth.

Local people claim that the last time that the port city of Basra, once called the Venice of the Gulf, had an adequate supply of drinking water was in 1982. Iran had been supplying some extra electricity, but has cut this back because of its own needs and failure of Iraq to pay on time.

The second demand of the protesters is for jobs with “priority to the competent sons of Basra”, the discharge of foreign labourers and employment for a quarter of people living in the oilfields.

Lack of jobs is a source of continuing complaint all over Iraq. Much of its oil income already goes on paying 4.5 million state employees, but between 400,000 and 420,000 young people enter the workforce every year with little prospects of employment.

Anger towards the entire political class is intense because it is seen as a kleptocratic group which syphoned off money in return for contracts that existed only on paper and produced no new power plants, bridges or roads.

Political parties are at the centre of this corruption because they choose ministries, according to their share of the vote in elections or their sectarian affiliation, which they then treat as cash cows and sources of patronage and contracts.

Plundering like this and handing out of jobs to unqualified people means that many government institutions have become incapable of performing any useful function.

Radical reform is difficult because the whole system is saturated by corruption and incompetence. Technocrats without party backing who are parachuted into ministries become isolated and ineffective.

One party leader told The Independent that he thought that the best that could be done “would be to insist that the parties appoint properly qualified people to top jobs.”

The defeat of Isis in 2017 with the recapture of Mosul means that Iraqis are no longer absorbed in keeping their families safe so they have they have more time to consider “corruption” – a word they use not just to mean bribery but the parasitic nature of the government system as a whole.

There is a general mood of cynicism and dissatisfaction with the way things are run.

“Bad government, bad roads, bad weather, bad people,” exclaimed one Iraqi friend driving on an ill-maintained road.

Corrupt motives are ascribed to everything that happens: a series of unexplained fires in Baghdad in June were being ascribed to government employees stealing from state depots and then concealing their crime by setting fire to the building and destroying it.

Given that the Iraqi security forces are primarily recruited from the areas in which the protests are taking place, the government will need to be careful about the degree of repression it can use safely.

Some eight protesters have been killed so far by the police, who are using rubber bullets, water cannon and rubber hoses to beat people.

The armed forces have been placed on high alert. Three regiments of the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, which led the attack on Mosul and is highly regarded and well disciplined, has been ordered south to cope with protests and away from places where there is still residual activity by Isis.

The protests are largely spontaneous, but the Sadrists, whose offices have not been attacked by crowds, want to put pressure on Mr Abadi, Dawa and other parties to form a coalition government with a reform programme.

Many protesters express anti-Tehran slogans, tearing up pictures of Iranian spiritual leaders such as Ayatollah Khomeini and the current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. They blame Iran for supporting corrupt parties and governments in Iraq.

Protesters have so far escalated their actions slowly, gathering at the entrances to the major oil and gas facilities, but not disrupting the 3.6 million barrel a day production. If this happens, it would affect a significant portion of world crude output.

Iraq’s corrupt and dysfunctional governing system may be too set in its profitable ways to be reformed, but, if the ruling elite wants to survive, it must give ordinary Iraqi a larger share of the oil revenue cake.

https://web.archive.org/web/20180720122154/https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/07/20/iraqi-protests-bad-government-bad-roads-bad-weather-bad-people/

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Haitian people revolt, demonstrators control almost all the country Wednesday 18 July 2018



The Haitian people revolt, demonstrators control almost all the country

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Three people were killed on Friday 13 July 2018 during demonstrations against the Haitian government’s decision to increase fuel prices. Journalists saw the bodies of two protesters who were shot in the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince during clashes with the police. It was not clear who shot them.

The third death was of a security guard of a former political candidate who was stopped at a barricade. The guard left his vehicle and shot in the air apparently to try to disperse the crowd. A reporter for Associated Press saw the crowd capture the man and attack him while the vehicle was leaving. Protesters had set fire to tires and mounted barricades to block the main streets of Port-au-Prince and the northern city of Cap-Haïtien.

Our correspondent Henry Boisrolin says:

I tell you in summary that the situation in Haiti is still boiling and that the crisis has deepened very seriously. For some days now, an insurrectional state has existed in almost all the regions of the country. The roads are cut, there are fires, barricades and violent clashes in different places. This situation is the result of an accumulation of conflicts, discontents and clashes of all kinds that have been developing for years, in the face of the anti-popular policies and plundering carried out by the puppet government of the current illegitimate president Jovenel Moïse.



The latest trigger has been the government’s announcement of a brutal increase in the price of fuel (it should be said that the main fuels used by the people to cook are coal and kerosene, because there is no gas supply, except for the well-to-do classes and the dominant elite). This increase had been announced previously, and the popular organizations had warned that if it was carried out, a popular insurrection would be unleashed. This is what is happening now.

The current insurrectional state has surpassed the possibilities of containment on the part of the repressive forces. The magnitude of the explosion is monumental, not even during the fall of Duvalier’s dictatorship was there an uprising of this type.

The National Police has not moved against the protestors and has made this known through a press release. This “rare” decision indicates that President Jovenel does not have control over his main force of repression. There is also no presence of the MINUJUSTH (UN) police in the streets. So far, the government has not issued any official statement.

The fundamental element to understand is that the state of uprising of the masses completely transcends the fuel price increase. This has been the “straw that broke the camel’s back”. The popular outcry expressed in the barricades and in the streets demands the resignation of the president and the fall of the government.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters are in the streets, building barricades, setting fire to service stations, car dealerships, premises, homes and so on and there are calls to occupy the centre of the capital, where the palace of government is located.

There are no means of transport, all markets are closed, the media (radios, channels and so on) are not broadcasting information because journalists cannot get to their production centres, although in some cases the omission of information is intentional. However, popular media communicators are trying to recompose the information chain in some way.



It is important to note that for the moment, no political force is commanding the actions, but rather that they are developing in an uncoordinated way. The organizations are trying to articulate to give this uprising a clearer political direction and avoid the situation ending in generalized uncontrolled violence.

8 July 2018

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano republished by AndNoticias. https://www.andnoticias.cl/mundo/788-sublevado-el-pueblo-haitiano-manifestantes-controlan-casi-todo-el-pais

An Epic Decision – SCOTUS Limits Class-Action Lawsuits by Employees

Socialist Alternative An Epic Decision – SCOTUS Limits Class-Action Lawsuits by Employees Published On July 17, 2018 | By Jacob Druker and Kevin Gustafson | U.S. Politics

Wage-theft, a billion dollar money maker for companies who cheat their workers, is an often ignored claim in our for-profit legal system. One worker’s claim may amount to less than a few thousand dollars. While for the worker this amount reflects the precarious plank on which they balance between having a home (or food) or not, it may not warrant a lawyer’s second glance – it just isn’t worth their time.

One way to get over this hurdle is to use a time-tested working-class tactic – band together. While one wage-theft claim may not be worth much to your average lawyer, wage theft rarely happens to a single individual — it’s a pattern of behavior and many workers are affected. Class-action lawsuits allow workers with similar complaints against the same company to unite in a single suit where one stands in for all those affected. The class-action lawsuit is an important tactic of working-class legal activism.

That was until May 21, 2018.

That day, Trump-appointed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch announced the court’s 5-4 split decision in the case of Epic Systems v. Lewis. The decision was clear: in principal, most employees no longer have the right to sue their employer collectively, thereby severely undercutting their ability to access the legal system in the one meaningful way they can – together.

For-Profit Epic Systems

Epic Systems is an electronic medical record (EMR) company based in Verona, Wisconsin. It’s one of the biggest players in that industry, with $2.5 billion in revenue in 2016. Many of Epic’s competitors of similar size are public corporations, but Epic is privately held, with founder Judith Faulkner and her family owning 43%. Epic is the largest private employer in Dane County, with nearly 10,000 employees. Not unlike Amazon in Seattle, Epic enjoys great power when it comes to local political and economic issues, a power which it wields directly – as when it moved from Madison to Verona because the city could not zone enough space for its planned expansions – and indirectly -as we have seen with the growth of housing developments in Madison and near Epic’s new campus, and the rising rents tied to this activity.

Epic is one of the best-paying employers in the area but it is known for its grueling work culture, with employees often working 60+ hours per week during crunch times and 50+ hours otherwise. Almost all of its software-related employees are salaried, meaning that they receive no extra compensation when these long hours are required of them – Epic also employs a large number of laborers, including cooks, landscapers, maintenance, cleaning staff, and others.

One of these groups of software-related employees, technical writers, had been classed as salaried while being worked like hourly employees, including strenuous overtime. These technical writers were not unionized, but decided to pursue a class-action lawsuit to get themselves re-classed as hourly and paid a fair overtime wage for overtime work. The technical writers, along with all other Epic employees, received an updated employment contract in 2014 stating that they must pursue all disputes with the company through individual arbitration. They continued with their suit under the legal argument that the Fair Arbitration Act of 1925 contained a clause meant to ensure that the law did not permit an employer to violate other labor law, and that their classification as salaried violated the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Though the technical writers received a favorable judgment in a Wisconsin circuit court, Epic appealed the case several times until it reached the Supreme Court which sided with Epic. SCOTUS Decisions

The Court made it clear that the workers had themselves, “freely,” signed agreements upon their employment (or in April 2014 if employed before then) that forfeited their right to take their employer to court. Basically these arbitration agreements say that employees agree not to sue their bosses for claims such as wage theft or discrimination, but rather to pursue an arbitration proceeding – essentially a private, for-profit court system. It also includes a waiver on collective claims, accepting that all arbitration will be conducted on an individual basis.

This decision could also impact sexual harassment cases which workers have tried to take through the court system and employers have tried to isolate in arbitration. Former FOX News host Gretchen Carlson attempted to sue network boss Roger Ailes for a pattern of sexual harassment over a period of several years. The network filed an injunction ordering her to address her claims through private arbitration instead. Her contract also stipulated that the content of the arbitration had to remain secret. FOX made every attempt not only to defeat Carlson’s suit, but to prevent other employees from learning that a high-ranking man was a sexual abuser.

It is no secret that the United States has very weak worker protection and labor law. The massive and militant strike wave of the 1930s forced the Roosevelt administration to adopt New Deal labor reforms. These included the creation of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), tasked with enforcing protections for unionizing workers, collective bargaining, and other activities described in the National Labor Relations Act of 1935.

But right after World War II, the bosses’ pushback began with the passing of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 which made many of the basic tactics essential to the unions’ success, like solidarity strikes and secondary boycotts, illegal. Taft-Hartley also directly attacked the driving force behind the unions’ victories – radical leadership – by requiring elected union officers to sign anti-Communist affidavits.

Despite these legal constraints, unions were able to continue to grow in numbers through the late 1970s. A perfect storm of national and international economic and political events tipped the historic scale against the philosophy and leadership of American business unionism, emboldening the employers to escalate their class war, no longer in fear of the unions’ response. The latest volley in this 40-year campaign to eliminate unions is the Court’s Janus v. AFSCME case, which came down on June 27. Unlike Epic, Janus will affect workers already in unions.

Since Occupy Wall Street ignited this recent wave of fightbacks, the mounting legal obstacles to organizing into a union and the historic weakness of the existing unions pushed millions of workers to seek solutions to their workplace grievances outside of the traditional union movement, turning to tactics like class action suits and Workers’ Centers, Fight for 15, Restaurant Opportunities Center, OUR Walmart and other organizing models. This Supreme Court decision severely curtails one of those work-arounds, narrowing the space within which workers can fight the boss outside of a traditional union. Wisconsin Jobs

Back at Epic, workers are gaining a clearer understanding of their position as they realize their bosses went all the way to the Supreme Court just to avoid paying overtime. Epic will be emboldened by its victory and try to steal more wages and violate more labor laws unless countered by strong organizing efforts.

Unions are not popular in the tech sector, but the Epic v. Lewis decision eliminates class action suits as an alternative method of fighting for workplace rights. A strong union organizing drive, though difficult, may become the only open pathway.

Beyond Epic, millions of other not-yet-union workers will find their options narrowed by this ruling, their tactics limited in the fight for living wages and livable working conditions. Unions could turn back this assault with a bold campaign of sweeping workplace organizing coupled with a community campaign to tax the rich to fund education, improved Medicare for All, affordable housing, free state college, and a massive green jobs infrastructure project. The real fears so many workers shared about unionizing are increasingly being replaced by anger and a determination to set things right and, in effect, rebalance the wealth gap. Epic’s Influence in U.S. Politics

The Epic ruling will also affect the general population of Dane County. Epic has long positioned itself as a model corporation for a metro area like Madison’s, where the population is highly educated, liberal, and the local political scene heavily favors Democrats. The company’s founder and CEO, Judy Faulkner, has donated thousands to Democratic Party politicians at the local and national level. She’s in good with the local Democratic establishment, and has donated generously to Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Barack Obama. Despite the pro-worker rhetoric coming from the politicians she supports, Faulkner is clearly aware of her own class interests, and is not interested in making concessions to her own workers that threaten her personal, sizeable share of Epic’s profits.

Given Epic’s power as Dane County’s largest private employer and their clear disdain for the ordinary folks they themselves employ, we should look with suspicion on their plans for our cities. Socialist Alternative and Seattle’s socialist councilmember, Kshama Sawant, were at the forefront of the #TaxAmazon campaign, which sought to expose how Amazon’s growth allowed them to bully and mistreat the people of Seattle.

In Madison, we see a similar pattern with Epic’s profits enriching a very small group of already-rich people while their presence drives up rents for everyone else. This in and of itself is a problem that can be addressed, but we should not expect Epic to help unless compelled. We need a #TaxEpic campaign for Dane County, where affordable housing is in ever-shorter supply. Epic benefits massively from public investment in the Madison area, from our roads to our top-notch University. We must not fear to compel Epic to contribute to other useful public investment. Judy Faulkner is worth $3.7 billion. A few million or a few hundred million from Epic’s privately-owned profits will not impact her excellent quality of life one whit. But that money might save the lives of some of the Madison’s many homeless, who huddle in doorways and on sidewalks in the bitter Wisconsin winters.

The National Democratic Party

While Epic Systems v. Lewis was decided by Trump’s supreme court appointment Neil Gorsuch, the case itself has much more bipartisan support. Epic has many friends in the Democratic Party: former Democratic Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle sits on the board and CEO Judy Faulkner has donated to many Democrats in congress. Epic has also profited immensely due to provisions in Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act that subsidize and otherwise encourage hospitals to adopt electronic medical record (EMR) systems. The medical industry had been slow to do this; in 2009, only 17% of doctors used digital records. Epic got to play a major role in the envisioned digital transition: Faulkner was given a seat on Obama’s Health IT Policy Committee.

Today, Epic manages medical records for about 56% of the patients in the U.S. Their system has been frequently criticized for its lack of interoperability with competitor’s systems, leading to a “walled garden” effect: it’s possible to straightforwardly share information from one Epic-equipped hospital to another, but not to anyone else. Epic leverages this to gain more customers and block its competitors. Though the EMR-focused portion of the ACA envisioned a world of efficient, seamless data sharing between hospitals that could make lifesaving medical information easily available and eliminate wasteful duplicate testing, this world has not come to be.

Epic used their influence with the administration and the Democrats to position themselves better in the market. They are a for-profit company so this should not be surprising; after all, profit is their true purpose and the reason they exist. Making medical software is merely the means they have chosen to achieve their goal of profitability.

But we can see clearly what Epic does with its influence: push policy in a direction that benefits its bottom line over the interests of patients while exploiting its workforce. Democratic and Republican Party politicians are too reliant on the donations from Epic and similar companies to truly confront them about these abuses. This whole situation points to why working people need their own political party whose representatives would refuse any corporate donations.

https://web.archive.org/web/20180719232126/https://www.socialistalternative.org/2018/07/17/epic-decision-scotus-limits-class-action-lawsuits-employees/

Helsinki Is the Latest Offensive in Trump's War on the Establishment



by Gilbert Doctorow 16 July 2018

Back in April 2017, when the United States sent cruise missiles against the Sheyrat air base in Syria in response to alleged use of chemical weapons by Bashar Assad’s armed forces on his civilian population and also dropped the “mother of all bombs” on ISIS caves in Afghanistan a week later to no apparent purpose, I believed that Donald Trump was being guided by Henry Kissinger, then still in the President’s inner circle, to use the tactic of appearing unhinged as a way of establishing his power presence on the world stage and also to fend off domestic enemies who were plotting his impeachment.

In a word, it seemed that Trump was taking a page out of the Richard Nixon playbook from the Christmas Eve bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong Harbor in 1972.

In the fourteen months since then straight up to Trump’s scandalous behavior at the G7 summit in Canada in June when he refused to sign the collective declaration of participants and through to his back of the hand treatment of allies at the NATO summit in Brussels last week, I have come to appreciate that Trump had nothing to learn from Kissinger. Being unpredictable, being personally aggressive and impolite, being mendacious and contradictory to those he does not respect are clearly his long held business principles.

I salute him for this, because those he does not respect are precisely the liberal Atlantic community establishments in Washington, D.C., in Brussels who, since the USA achieved its unipolar moment with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, have waged war incessantly on piddling countries in Southern Europe, in the Middle East, spreading havoc and destruction, killing innumerable civilians while proclaiming the spread of human rights and democracy as their guiding principle.

In case the gentle reader sees this condemnation as unduly severe, even radical, I direct him or her to the article by Professor of Government at the Harvard Kennedy School Graham Allison: “The Myth of the Liberal Order” in the July-August issue of Foreign Affairs magazine. In 10 pages, Allison says very much the same thing as I have summarized in the preceding paragraph.

The leading personalities in the establishment are conformists for whom strength comes only from unity and a forced consensus that stifles all free thinking. By their political correctness, they crush dissent and make a mockery of freedom of expression.

Donald Trump has instinctively understood they are his ideological enemies and has dropped all pretense at courtesy, which leaves them collectively huffing and puffing, as we saw on the margins of the NATO gathering last week.

Ever since he moved into the White House, mainstream media in the US have resisted the temptation to call Trump a madman, but they continually insinuate that he is volatile, whimsical and generally speaking, in his changeability, frequent policy reversals, and seemingly quixotic for tilting at the windmills of establishment thinking on foreign policy, in particular.

This sort of commentary personalizes and so depreciates the political war that Trump is waging on the establishment. Trump campaigned against NATO in 2016, and despite his nodding as President to its continued existence, it is perfectly clear that he intends to pull the US out of NATO. He has taken up the grievances of the two past US administrations over the unwillingness of our European allies to properly fund the common defense. And he has used this as a bludgeon, doubling the target contributions to 4% of GDP, a target utterly unachievable for lack of political will on the Old Continent.

The confrontation with NATO allies over funding is really about the illogic of NATO’s existence, which is justified only by its creating the conditions for war. Trump in effect has been saying: if you, Europe, are beating the drum over a Russian threat to the Baltics, to European-American control of the Middle East, then pay the bill, don’t expect the US to continue to pay 75% of the tab. And this blunt threat shakes out the reality: that the Russian threat is invented to serve the interests of NATO’s continuity as an institution, nothing more.

Of course, Trump does not say this. Firstly, he does not have a way with words. Secondly, this is unspeakable heresy.

Trump campaigned in 2016 for normalization of relations with Russia. From the time of the forced resignation of his then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in February 2017. Trump has had to retreat from that campaign pledge, and indeed, he has gone along with every proposal for ratcheting up sanctions on Russia that Congress has pitched to him and with every measure to show contempt for Moscow that the malicious functionaries at the State Department could serve up, such as confiscation of Russian consular properties.

However, when he gained traction against the Mueller investigation earlier this spring, when he fully absorbed the meaning of Vladimir Putin’s claims to full nuclear parity with the United States through roll-out of new and awesome weapons systems in his annual address to the Federal Assembly on 1 March 2018, Trump knew that a meeting to start to repair relations with the Kremlin could be postponed no longer. That was clear from his telephone call to Putin on 20 March to congratulate him on his electoral victory during which he said a meeting would have to be arranged “in the near future.” The summit with North Korean leader Kim in Singapore was not a self-standing event: it was an essential first step towards the meeting with Vladimir Putin taking place in Helsinki today.

In conclusion, in the person of Donald Trump we see remarkable continuity of thought and strategic vision notwithstanding all of the noise and contradictions used to disarm and confuse his opponents.