I’m not surprised. How can I be surprised? I read Laurie Garrett’s Immensely Long The Coming Plague in Hardback, Page by Page, in 1994, Right After it Came Out.

That book totally, successfully, got through to me.

What does surprise me – and will never stop surprising me – are the hoarding/gouging operations, like Baruch Feldheim’s. New York Hospitals Rationing Ventilators, Retrofitting Equipment, headline the local papers, as the morgues overflow; and here’s a son of New York who can watch the horror every day from his front window and jack up prices 700% on illegally held life-saving gear. Just wow.

Ya gotta admit:

It makes for GREAT viewing. And this is only the teaser!!!!

Background here.

While the grotesque John Hammergren…

… (details here) retires from his drug distribution days to the life of a highly respectable billionaire, ordinary dumbshit drug distributors in the state he helped destroy – West Virginia – go to jail. Let’s put the big drug capo next to the little drug capolinis, okay?

In a species of hypocrisy too grotesque even to laugh at, Hammergren, for years the CEO behind McKesson’s opioid carpet bombing of the US, currently heads up a task force on women’s health at the Center for Strategic and International Stupefacients (of which he is also a trustee; enjoy his written-by-someone-stoned-out-of-her-mind biography here). He ran one of America’s dirtiest businesses, and his personal greed is a national disgrace, but CSIS just loves them some Hammergren money and they don’t give a shit about those dead people cuz they wanna help people, see? You follow?

No other corporation distributed more opioids in those years than Hammergren’s McKesson … Over his first 16 years as CEO, notes Bloomberg, Hammergren pocketed $781 million. His final months in the McKesson chief executive suite brought that total near $800 million. Upon his retirement, he walked away with a pension package worth $138.6 million.” When the rewards for addicting much of the nation get this high, you do not go to jail, mes petites; you make high-level decisions about women’s health.

So here’s John with probably more personal real estate than even Jeffrey Epstein, telling those American women who happened to survive his carpet bombing how to stay in tiptop shape … and here’s a couple of West Virginians – Samuel R. Ballengee and Devonna Miller-West – who saw the amazing business potential of opioids just as clearly as Hammergren but lacked his resources and connections. What happened to them?

They’ve landed where Hammergren never will – on a federal indictment for drug distribution. They’re both the sort of jerks who will end up going to jail rather than advising UD on how to keep her cholesterol low through the liberal application of OxyContin. Ballengee, once a pharmacist, and indeed a McKesson distributor until CBS aired a report about his pharmacy and McKesson went and got cold feet, got so pissed at CBS for ruining his business that he sued them for fifteen million dollars! That must seem like a lot to Ballengee, though Hammergren makes that much every time he takes a dump.

Anyway, a judge totally dismissed the lawsuit totally immediately (“These broadcasts were not only tolerable—they were applaudable... The people of West Virginia, indeed those all over the country, deserve to know about the evolution of the opioid epidemic and the identities of the bad actors.”), and now Ballengee’s unemployed, owes lawyers money, is the object of a bunch of civil suits from I guess survivors of overdosed customers, and has been named in a federal indictment. Loser.

Miller-West is similarly pitiable. She shares Hammergren’s tireless drug-entrepreneurship energy – she owned (still owns?) not only a pharmacy, but also Alternative Healing and Coalfield Cannabis (admiring local news article here) – but she too finds herself on the federal indictment.

‘Epstein Paid $350,000 to Tamper With Witnesses, Prosecutors Say’

Sing it.


His friend Ghislaine

Is talking to the men.

His friend Ghislaine

Wants to avoid the pen.

And where’s that nasty pen?

Darkest Tenn.! Darkest Tenn.!

And if you are Ghislaine

What then? What then?

… In Hartford, Harrington, and Hampshire

Sex trafficking hardly ever happens…

His friend Ghislaine…

Acosta Resigns.

Good. Because it’s really hard to rhyme “Acosta.”


OTOH. UD thinks we’re moving to Caligula too fast. It’s possible Epstein will bring down the presidency or screw up re-election, but you’ve got to pace these things, and it’s only counterproductive to go to Caligula at this point.

Thus sprachs Michelle Goldberg’s headline in the NYT, but UD needs to insist that however “depraved” (Goldberg’s word, and I’m fine with it) this administration is, until it forces every woman on the White House staff to strip and prostitute herself with a stallion in the Oval Office, it’s not really in Caligula’s league. Rather, if you want to characterize what Trump has brought into the White House, go here, to a 2014 secret party of the one percenter boys; or (in its Early Years manifestation), recall the Duke lacrosse boys ordering strippers in for the evening. This isn’t the culture of Caligula; it’s about money crimes, woman abuse, and drinking. The only two obviously crazy people in this world are super-sanctimonious, totally blind VP Pence, and I Kept my Underpants On, Mommy! Alan Dershowitz. Neither seems capable of Caligulan behavior, but both are certainly as batty as the “little boot”; and while the unhinged Dershowitz is well on his way to permanent nervous breakdown, we do need to worry about Mad Mike assuming the throne.

Anyway, all UD is saying is cool your jets. All things come to those who wait.

Bail Conditions, Rockefeller University Trustee Emeritus Epstein

‘Jeffrey Epstein’s attorneys submitted a bail package proposal on Thursday in which he volunteered to go under house arrest at his Manhattan mansion—with a “trustee” who would live with him and make sure he doesn’t break any rules. [Finally a chance to get to know Ghislaine!] … [If] he’s released and put on home confinement, he would agree to wear a GPS tracking device on his ankle, install surveillance cameras, and ground his jet. [Stands for Girls Prepube Essent!]’

“[People tend to put the] word ‘earn’ in front of $100 million. I always say to people, ‘No one earns $100 million. You steal $100 million.'”

Fran Lebowitz came to mind as UD read David A. Graham on the long, lucrative, openly illicit careers of Manafort, Epstein, Michael Cohen, Elliott Broidy, Harvey Weinstein… He could have thrown in Steven A. Cohen, the most prominent among thousands of insider traders, etc., etc. The point is that the world is full of billionaire thieves – and worse – who either totally get away with it, or get away with it for a long time. It’s basic; it’s structural; it’s Welcome to Our World. As long as a slave class of Alex Acostas and Alan Dershowitzes (Dershowitz, who kept naughty Claus von Bulow in circulation, continues to insist on the innocence of his friend and client Jeffrey Epstein) exists, these men will be fine. (Graydon Carter: Come on down!)


Fine? Better than fine.

Consider 1989, the year that the junk-bond king Michael Milken was indicted for racketeering and securities fraud, and the year that five teenagers of color were indicted for the rape of a woman in Central Park. Ultimately, Milken served just two years; the so-called Central Park Five served five to 15 years apiece for a crime that, it turns out, none of them committed. But even that wide gap understates the disparate justice typically available in the system. Milken’s case was unusual because it was an instance of white-collar crime that actually got prosecuted. Meanwhile, a noisy chorus was demanding that prosecutors throw the book at the Central Park Five—including Donald Trump, who took out ads in all four leading New York papers calling for the boys’ execution.

And where is Milken today? His name emblazons a school of public health, one of whose components is the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness.

Remember: Update your files from ‘Purdue’ to ‘Mundipharma.’

The American courts are taking care of Purdue; time to direct our attention to Purdue’s overseas conspirator, Mundipharma. Cuz they might be having a spot of trouble addicting us here, what with all the lawsuits, but overseas they are coked to the gills.

As Marx might put it, the people of the globe have nothing to lose but their sobriety; and they have a world of druggy deaths to win.

Look at Italy, a country transitioning from two glasses of wine for dinner to two bottles of morphine for eternity. I’ve just linked to a long article, but it’s worth reading for the bubbly richness of that nation’s surrender to Mundipharma’s ambassador, Guido Fanelli, a man who wants everybody Oxyed unto death. Fanelli’s war plan is so familiar to those of us who have for years tracked academic pharmawhores in the US – the releasing of bogus scientific papers, the organizing of bogus scientific conferences, the gathering-in of kindred prossies from universities and laboratories.

As the U.S. market contracts, opioid consumption is climbing overseas. Canada and Australia are already following America’s catastrophic course, with rising rates of addiction and death. Others may be on the cusp of crisis: Researchers in Brazil report that prescription opioid sales have skyrocketed 465 percent in six years. Overdose deaths are going up in Sweden, Norway, Ireland and England, fueled by prescription painkillers and the illicit drug trade.

Fanelli, “a motormouth and a braggart,” made it reasonably easy for Italian police to discover and record his epic monologues about his Oxy-obtained yacht, so he and various Mundipharma executives are currently somewhat up shit’s creek.

But there’s so much more to come:

Keith Humphreys, a Stanford University professor, published a paper in 2017 pleading with the world to pay attention, especially as prescription rates rise in developing countries with minimal regulation. “As Oxy marches around the world, the things we see in Europe will be disturbing,” he said, “but less so than they will be in Botswana or India.”

A Harvard Money Manager Suggests an Honest Auction for Elite College Seats in Place of the Current Dishonest One.

Let’s bring a cold sharp Chicago School of Economics eye to the big ol’ worldwide elite college admissions scandal.

Ladies and gentlemen: To my left, a large cohort of global superrich so irresistibly attracted to Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and let’s say ten to fifteen other colleges, that they are willing to pay the schools – what? – up to ten million? – bidding starts at ten million? – to get their kids in.

To my right, elite American universities with unimaginably large endowments. As we speak, for instance, Harvard’s is close to forty billion.

Hundreds of billions of dollars that might go to actual need sit static in the titanic endowments of our elite schools. What is the schools’ interest in this new proposed auction?

Well, they want more. Twenty, thirty, forty billion dollars: not enough. They bombard their graduates with pleas to make big yearly gifts; they scream bloody murder if you propose upping their taxes a tad; they talk poor all the time.

(By the way – these schools are not simply victims of their own success, but also of the world’s failure. Keep in mind that most countries – even rich sexy developed ones like Italy – have almost uniformly shitty and corrupt universities. I assume you already know this, but as a reminder: If you open up places at truly great, storied schools for auction — as one of Harvard’s money managers has proposed — you’re going to get a flood of spectacular bids from almost every country in the world. Beats there a Colombian drug lord’s heart so weak as not to want Isabel at Yale?)

It’s already pretty hard to distinguish between Princeton and Gstaad; once the auction is up and running you’re going to create enclaves of such landmark ostentation that a tourism industry will grow around them, generating yet more millions for the schools. Instead of Don DeLillo’s South Bronx Surreal poverty-voyeurism bus tour, Princeton by Copter will waft you – in the superrich’s favorite mode of transportation – over the leafy bejeweled campus.

Mrs Zhao’s Deep Pockets Chinese Pizza


$6.5 million

Michael Wu

Rick Singer



Vincent Law, Esq.


John Hammergren’s a Folkloric Figure Here at University Diaries…

… (read all of these posts to refresh your memory) and he’s just beginning to claim his share of the attention he deserves from the larger world. But we need to be patient; he remains — despite having been rewarded with seven hundred million dollars in personal compensation over ten years for addicting much of the state of West Virginia — parenthetic.

For most businesses, $150 million [in fines] would be a lot of money. At McKesson, it was less than the $159 million retirement package the company granted its longtime chief executive, John H. Hammergren, in 2013. (After a public backlash — a Forbes headline asked if it was “The World’s Most Outrageous Pension Deal?” — the company later reduced the package to $114 million.)

PARENTHESIS $114 million? And why not mention that this, er, specimen sits on the board of the Center for Strategic and International Stupefacients, bringing his knowledge of drug distribution to global thinking at the highest levels? There’s a lot to say about John Hammergren. But people seem willing to wait until he gets arrested (think it can’t happen?) to say it. Here on University Diaries, we’re saying it now.

Some nice writing about the admissions scandal.

All this malfeasance has led to the creation of a 200-page affidavit, and a bevy of other court documents, that can best be described as a kind of posthumous Tom Wolfe novella, one with a wide cast of very rich people behaving in such despicable ways that it makes The Bonfire of the Vanities look like The Pilgrim’s Progress.

The whole article’s good, and the last few paragraphs are very explicitly Wolfe-ish, in style and content. Here’s one:

All she wanted was an even playing field for her rich, white daughter! All she wanted was a few hundred SAT points so the girl didn’t get lost in the madness that has made college admissions so stressful, so insane, so broken, so unfair. “We’re talking about Georgetown,” Macy informed Singer about their hopes for their younger daughter. Fortunately for them, and for the younger daughter—and possibly for Georgetown itself—they had not employed him to work on this goal before the indictments were handed down. Fortunately for Macy (who seems to have taken a modified Parent B position), only Huffman has been indicted in the scheme.

Should come as no surprise that many of us are thinking of Wolfe, “the sage of status anxiety.”

Harvarde: En Garde!

How could Harvard not be part of the buy your kid into college story? The first story out of Harvard (expect more) is definitely classier, and un petit peu more convoluted, than the fork over money to the guy pretending to be a college admissions consultant dealie we’ve been reading about. This one’s about fencing, a sport which boasts lots of French words and is featured in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice. But it has in common with many other admissions scandal stories what I’ll call the sports vector. You get the kid in by greasing the already sweaty palm of an Ivy coach in some sport or other: soccer, tennis, water polo, basketball, and now fencing. Once he or she has collected enough money from you, the coach puts your kid’s name on a short list of desired athletes, which the admit office rubber stamps.

The complicated money-delivery angle here is that the palm-greaser bought the coach’s house for twice its value:

The house at 212 Forest Street in Needham, Massachusetts looked nearly identical to every other upper-middle-class colonial in the Boston suburbs. So when it sold in May 2016 at nearly a million dollars – well above the three-bedroom’s assessed value of $549,300 – the town assessor was so confused that he wrote in his official notes: “makes no sense.”

Reporting from the Boston Globe now provides a little more clarity into the not-so-rational purchase. According to the paper, the buyer, Jie Zhao – who “never lived a day in the Needham house” – had a son who was interested in applying to Harvard and fencing for the school team. Zhao purchased the home at a several hundred-thousand-dollar markup from Harvard’s fencing coach, Peter Brand. Zhao’s son got into Harvard, and joined the fencing team, and 17 months after his initial purchase, Zhao sold the house at a $324,500 loss.

A true Composé Attack, incorporating many elegant feints.


UPDATE: And there’s a local angle! Looks as though the world’s most nonsensical real estate investor lives just a hop skip and a parry from UD, in Potomac, Md.

In one end out the other

[A]s the country’s addiction crisis worsened, the Sacklers spied another business opportunity. They could increase their profits by selling treatments for the very problem their company had helped to create: addiction to opioids. ..

The business potential of adding addiction treatment to the mix was illustrated in internal company charts and diagrams.

“Pain treatment and addiction are naturally linked,” one Project Tango document, included in the New York complaint, said. It depicted a big blue funnel. The fat end was labeled “pain treatment”; the narrow end was labeled “opioid addiction treatment.”

The company, the document said, could make money at both ends of the funnel as an “end-to-end pain provider.”


Sing it.

Smack and treatment smack and treatment
They go together in a way that’s sequent
This I tell you brother
You can’t have one without the other

Smack and treatment, smack and treatment
It’s a business plan we plan to frequent
Ask the local gentry
And they will say it’s elementary

Try, try, try to separate them
It’s an illusion
Try, try, try, and you will only come
To this conclusion

Smack and treatment smack and treatment

Have a flavor that Purdue finds piquant
Brother told to brother
You can’t have one you can´t have none
You can’t have one without the other

Try, try, try to separate them
It’s an illusion
Try, try, try, and you will only come
To this conclusion

Smack and treatment smack and treatment
They go together … well, enough repeatment
Brother told to brother
You can’t have one, you can´t have none
You can’t have one without the other
No sir

When the going gets tough, Tufts…

… just keeps going. That university doesn’t see why it should shut down its lucrative Sackler money-collection project just because everyone else is shutting theirs down. As UD predicted, it’s hemming and hawing and hemming and hawing. And the Tufts-Sackler love affair looks significantly ickier than that family’s other alliances, because, like the University of Toronto before it, Tufts seems to have let Sackler money mess with its curriculum.

The Sackler family also funded the Master of Science in Pain Research, Education & Policy (PREP) degree program within the Sackler school…

In a powerful editorial, the Tufts student newspaper says what needs to be said.

Companies identified human pain as a source of perpetual profit and knowingly created addictive and lethal substances to exploit that opportunity. This act was the ultimate perversion of medicine, a corruption of the relationship of trust and care that ought to exist between healthcare workers and the sick. Tufts took money from a company and a family whose fortune was based on knowingly creating addicts and lying about it. Tufts is still willing to take money from them.

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