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Nederlog

February 24, 2015
Crisis: China, Kinds of Money, All can be heard, All is known, Psychiatry
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton















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Sections
Introduction

1. Year of the Sheep, Century of the Dragon?
2. A maverick currency scheme from the 1930s could save
     the Greek economy

3.
Raising the Alarm Over Devices That Let Police Snoop
     Into Our Homes

4. 
The Access Govt and Corporations Have to Our
     Thoughts Are Beyond Orwell's Wildest Dreams

5.
which side of the street?…


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, February 24, 2015.

It also is a crisis log. There are 5 items: Item 1 is a quite interesting article about China (that I include because it is good); item 2 contains several alternative ideas about money and its functions; item 3 explains how the American police now has the means to listen to your breathing through 12
inches of brick or concrete wall (and there went the privacy of your house);
item 4 is a fine article on the incredible power over anyone's thoughts that
Western governments now have
(and there went your privacy); and item 5
is about psychiatry, mostly because I am a psychologist and I really liked
this article.


1. Year of the Sheep, Century of the Dragon?

The first item today is an article by by Pepe Escobar on Truthdig, but originally on tomdispatch:

This starts as follows:

BEIJING—Seen from the Chinese capital as the Year of the Sheep starts, the malaise affecting the West seems like a mirage in a galaxy far, far away. On the other hand, the China that surrounds you looks all too solid and nothing like the embattled nation you hear about in the Western media, with its falling industrial figures, its real estate bubble, and its looming environmental disasters. Prophecies of doom notwithstanding, as the dogs of austerity and war bark madly in the distance, the Chinese caravan passes by in what President Xi Jinping calls “new normal” mode.

“Slower” economic activity still means a staggeringly impressive annual growth rate of 7% in what is now the globe’s leading economy.  Internally, an immensely complex economic restructuring is underway as consumption overtakes investment as the main driver of economic development. At 46.7% of the gross domestic product (GDP), the service economy has pulled ahead of manufacturing, which stands at 44%.

And this is an excellent piece on modern China, by a Westerner who lives there. It is perhaps a bit too optimistic, but then the figures it quotes are quite astounding.

The article is here mostly because (1) I've always had a considerable interest in China - both historically and now - though I did rather a lot less with this than I would have, if I had not fallen ill at 28 (37 years ago) and (2) China is an enormous power that probably will lead the world in this 21st Century.

So while none of the following is of immediate interest to the crisis that is going on in the West, this does concern over a billion human beings who are currently doing very much, earning very much, producing very much, and achieving growth figures that are quite non-Western.

Here are a few figures from the article:

  • From 1980 to 2010, China’s urban population grew by 400 million, leaving the country with at least 700 million urban dwellers.
  • Already 160 Chinese cities boast populations of more than one million. (Europe has only 35.) No less than 250 Chinese cities have tripled their GDP per capita since 1990, while disposable income per capita is up by 300%.
  • The construction business, one of the country’s biggest employers, involves more than 100 million people, directly or indirectly. Real estate accounts for as much as 22% of total national investment in fixed assets and all of this is tied to the sale of consumer appliances, furnishings, and an annual turnover of 25% of China’s steel production, 70% of its cement, 70% of its plate glass, and 25% of its plastics.
  • China is also modifying its manufacturing base, which increased by a multiple of 18 in the last three decades. The country still produces 80% of the world’s air conditioners, 90% of its personal computers, 75% of its solar panels, 70% of its cell phones, and 63% of its shoes.
  • (...) the country already accounts for 12.8% of global research and development, well ahead of England and most of Western Europe.
  • Since 1998, the percentage of GDP dedicated to education has almost tripled; the number of colleges has doubled; and in only a decade, China has built the largest higher education system in the world.
These are mostly economical figures, and refer to a nation that has more than 1 in 7 of the currently living human beings - to which it must be added that the Chinese economy now grows by 7% a year, while the Chinese also have recently declared they are no longer "a developing nation": they have developed, and are
rapidly growing.

Is there much to complain? Yes, there is: the communist party still is the dominant force, and tries to tighten its ideological control and its internet control, and if you are an opponent of the system, your life still may be
quite hard.

But there is less to complain than during Mao's era, and there are much more riches for most. Also, the national leadership is at least in competent hands (apart from their having too much power, and not having the right ideas, but both are quite common), while the current leader Xi Jinping is known i.a. for this:
Xi has instead struck a collective nerve by stressing that the country’s governance must be based on competence, not insider trading and Party corruption, and he’s cleverly packaged the transformation he has in mind as an American-style “dream.”

Anyway... this is an article you should read all of, for it contains a considerable amount of facts about 1/7th of the world's population that the West does usually not hear, see or read, and it is well written.

And in case you are interested in China: I found the Wikipedia articles on Xi Jinping, on the Generations of Chinese leadership and on the Politics of China
also quite interesting  (and there are more links there).

2. A maverick currency scheme from the 1930s could save the Greek economy

The next item is an article by George Monbiot on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Compare the terms demanded of the Greek government to those offered to the banks. Eurozone ministers now insist upon unconditional surrender: a national abasement that makes a mockery of democracy. But when the banks were bailed out, governments magicked up the necessary money almost unconditionally. They shyly requested a few token reforms, then looked away when the bankers disregarded them.

I agree with this, as it broaches a much broader theme I intend to treat soon: The fact that many of the Western politicians, from the "left", the "center" and the right, who have achieved power since 1980, where in fact quite corrupt: They did not serve their electorates, but themselves, and did so by accepting bribes, amassing wealth, and doing what the few rich wanted much rather than what the many poor who elected them asked for.

And yes, that has nothing to do with "democracy". But this is not my theme now, which is the consideration of some new ways (some quite old, but not well known) of looking upon money.

Here is one:

One of these radical ideas was proposed a few months ago by Martin Wolf in the Financial Times. He suggests stripping private banks of their remarkable power to create money out of thin air. Simply by issuing credit, they spawn between 95% and 97% of the money supply. If the state were to assert a monopoly on money creation, governments could increase their supply without increasing debt. Seigniorage (the difference between the cost of producing money and its value) would accrue to the state, adding billions of pounds to national coffers. The banks would be reduced to the servants, not the masters, of the economy.

I agree. (But the main problem would be to find a majority of non-corrupt politicians - and no: you usually don't know about the corruption of politicians because these too are often kept from the news.)

Here is another (and I merely summarize: there's more in the article):

Banking’s great civilisational advance has been all but destroyed through deregulation, whose result is a new system of usury, speculation and exploitation. (...) Pettifor suggests that governments should reassert control over interest rates at every level of lending.

Again I agree. And here is a third one (also the subject of the title):

But perhaps the biggest transformation could happen at the local level. Greece already has set up some local currencies that have kept money circulating in several towns and cities as it cannot be siphoned away. (There are similar systems in Britain, such as the Bristol Pound). But strangely they do not make use of the thrilling, transformative system that almost saved Europe from fascism; the currency developed by the economist Silvio Gesell called stamp scrip. It is explained in Bernard Lietaer’s magnificent book The Future of Money.

In its original form, stamp scrip was a piece of paper on which a number of boxes were printed. The note would lose its validity unless a stamp costing 1% of its value was stuck in one of the boxes every month. In other words, the currency lost value over time, so there was no incentive to hoard it.

This really is alternative money. There is considerably more in the article.

I do not know whether this might, could or would save Greece, but at least this was a decent article by George Monbiot, that listed three alternative ways of looking at money, that all are at least interesting, and that also seem better to me than the sick schemes supported by many of the millionaire-politicians and their millionaire-mates who rule the big American banks, for these are all explicitly deviced to benefit the rich, at the costs of the poor.

3. Raising the Alarm Over Devices That Let Police Snoop Into Our Homes

The next item is an article by Thor Benson on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

Dozens of law enforcement agencies in the United States have been outfitted with Doppler radar devices that allow officers to observe people through the walls of their own homes—raising concerns that the devices can be used to violate Fourth Amendment protections.

One popular handheld version of the technology is called the Range-R, produced by New York-based defense contractor L-3 Communications. L-3’s marketing materials promise that the Range-R is sensitive enough to detect a breathing (but otherwise motionless) person on the other side of a 12-inch-thick brick or concrete wall 50 feet away.

According to a Jan. 20 piece in USA Today, L-3 says it has sold about 200 of the devices, at a price of $6,000 each, to about 50 law enforcement agencies. Among them is the United States Marshals Service, which federal records show has spent $180,000 on Range-Rs.

Note that the point is - once again - that devices like this have been used without any warrant whatsoever, while in fact making "in the privacy of your own house" a completely meaningless phrase, given that the police (or anyone who spent 6000 dollars) can hear you through a 12-inch-thick brick or concrete wall from a distance 50 feet (about 15 meters).

There is considerably more in the article, but given the levels of craziness that mark many of the currently ruling American politicians, it seems almost anything is possible that delivers information, almost completely regardless of any privacy or any constitutional rights.

This theme is also taken up in the next item:

4. The Access Govt and Corporations Have to Our Thoughts Are Beyond Orwell's Wildest Dreams

The next item is an article by Robert Scheer on Alternet:
In fact, this is a quotation from the new book by Robert Scheer (who heads Truthdig) called "They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collection Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy".

This starts as follows:
For democracy, privacy is the ball game. Without the assurance of a zone of inviolate space, both physical and mental, that a citizen can inhabit without fear of observation by others, there is no guarantee of the essential sovereignty of the individual promised in the First and Fourth Amendments to the US Constitution. That should be clear, as it is to most people who have been oppressed by the tyranny of authoritarian regimes. Indeed, as Aldous Huxley and George Orwell brilliantly established in their classic writing on this subject, the totality of societal observation over the individual is the defining antithesis of freedom, even when that observation is gained through hidden and subtle persuasion.
Quite so. There is a lot more there, which I advice you to read, but I will concentrate only on the theme of the right to privacy as the foundation of democracy, and the denial of the right to privacy as the foundation of state terrorism.

First there is this:
The peril to democracy highlighted by both Huxley and Orwell was one of self-censorship as the norm in a totalitarian culture, one that denies the possibility of the unobserved moment. In the eyes of the original American revolutionaries who gave us the constitutional restraints on the power of the state, the unobserved moment was essential to their bold new experiment. The concept of the Fourth Amendment was born in English common law, asserting that even the poorest peasant should enjoy the sovereignty of the home as a refuge from the power of the king, even a good king.
Precisely. But in the new state desired by the NSA, the CIA, the FBI and Obama's government there will not be any "unobserved moment" for anyone:

The government's secret services (covered by secret courts, that issue secret decisions, that no one has a right to publish) know absolutely everything, and can soon suppress, repress, manipulate
(secretly) or arrest (secretly) anyone who does or may do, say or think anything the government desires should not be said or thought.

And here is my last quotation from Scheer:

The assumption of the new surveillance state is that we the citizens are all potential enemies of the government. This reverses the US Constitution’s assumption that it is the leaders of our government who should be viewed with a deep suspicion—an assumption based on the notion that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. We the citizens are the ultimate guardians of our liberty, and our right to be informed, by the press and by whistleblowers when our governors deceive us, is sacred to the enterprise of a representative republic.The main price paid by turning the war on terror into a war on the public’s right to know, a bipartisan crusade, is that it destroys the foundation of democracy—an informed public. The George W. Bush administration initiated this dangerous trend, and Barack Obama has expanded on that horrid legacy by cracking down on the press, and prosecuting whistleblowers under the Espionage Act more than all previous US presidents combined. The result is that our privacy and hence our freedom has been plundered with abandon.
Precisely, again. As I said: This is again an article you should read all of (and/or buy the book).

5. which side of the street?…

The last item for today is an article by 1 boring old man (in fact: a pensioned psychiatrist with a good mind [1]) on his site:

This is about psychiatry, by a psychiatrist, and is mostly about another psychiatrist, namely one of the two former leaders of the DSM-5, Jeffrey Lieberman, about whom the kindest thing I will say is - that I think - that
he is an impertinent stupid fool (indeed, like many psychiatrists).

I also start this with noting that the last dotted article is rather long, but it is very well worth reading for anyone with an intelligent interest in psychiatry.

The article starts with three quotations, of which the first is this (and seems eminently sensible to this psychologist) that is connected to a recent report
by The British Psychological Society called "
Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia" (there are more links in the last dotted article):
This report of the British Psychological Society mirrors a widespread reaction against a purely biomedical explanation for psychosis, for Schizophrenia. They propose the alternative possibility that it can be an adaptation to childhood trauma and abuse. They advocate access to psychotherapy for these patients and suggest using neuroleptic medications only when helpful or requested, not as a steady diet. "Many people find that ‘antipsychotic’ medication helps to make the experiences less frequent, intense or distressing. However, there is no evidence that it corrects an underlying biological abnormality. Recent evidence also suggests that it carries significant risks, particularly if taken long term."
As I said, I consider this all quite sensible. The next quotation is by a Stanford anthropologist (details in the last dotted article), and is again quite sensible in my psychologist's eyes:
"The implications are that social experience plays a significant role in who becomes mentally ill, when they fall ill and how their illness unfolds. We should view illness as caused not only by brain deficits but also by abuse, deprivation and inequality, which alter the way brains behave. Illness thus requires social interventions, not just pharmacological ones."
That was by dr. Luhrman (and partially quoted: there is more) and again that seems quite sensible to me.

Here is part of a reaction of dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, that was specifically directed against dr. Luhrman, and seems quite strange and impertinent to this Dutch  psychologist:
The article about mental illness was an incredibly unscholarly, misinformed, confused — at worst, unhelpful, and at best, destructive — commentary that will add to the confusion about the diagnosis of mental illness, enhance the stigma, and may lead some patients to doubt the veracity of the diagnoses that they have been given and the treatments that they are receiving. Specifically, Dr Luhrmann (...) This strikes me as preposterous. It is, at best, phenomenologic relativism, and at worst, simply conflating symptoms with a disorder or a disease…
"Patients" should not, repeat: NOT, "doubt the veracity of the diagnoses that they have been given" nor "the treatments that they are receiving", for then dr. Lieberman throws a frothing fit, for he pretends his pseudoscience is a real science - which is utter bullshit. (In case you doubt this - you may - try Paul Lutus, not on psychiatry but on psychology: "The Trouble with Psychology".)

Directly under this quotation (partially rendered here) 1 boring old man writes:
It is not my intent in this blog to defend or oppose the position of the British Psychological Society or Luhrman’s piece. Standards of proof transcend the opinions of any of us. It is, however, my intent to ask, "Who does Jeffrey Lieberman think he is?" "What gives him the right to lambast people who disagree with him with a string of contemptuous invectives like this?" "Does he not realize that if these critics overstate their case, it is at least partly in response to his kind of rigid self-righteousness?"
Quite so. Here is another quotation from Lieberman, who this time is truly foaming:
Psychiatry has the dubious distinction of being the only medical specialty with an anti-movement. There is an anti-psychiatry movement. You have never heard of an anti-cardiology movement, an anti-dermatology movement, or an anti-orthopedics movement. What would give an anthropologist license to comment on something that is so disciplined, bound in evidence, and scientifically anchored?
Well... I'll explain it for you (with a reference to my "DSM-5: Question 1 of "The six most essential questions in psychiatric diagnosis"):

This is because your way of making a lot of money for yourself is not "disciplined", not "
bound in evidence", not "scientifically anchored" at all, indeed quite unlike cardiology, dermatology, or orthopedics:

Your DSM-5 is a list of mere symptoms, assembled by a collection of secretly
gathered American psychiatrists from your own APA, with very little input from anyone else; these "symptoms" are so vague that they are only measurable by the agreements of psychiatrists - and not by any disease, nor by any reasoned definition of any disease - who make the diagnosis (that very well may be pure
bullshit), and you yourself have no reasonable ideas about what madness is,
nor how or why it is caused, nor indeed how or why people can be cured or alleviated by nearly all of the pills you and your kind prescribe.

But OK - this is enough, and for those interested in psychiatry this is a quite interesting article.
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Note

[1] I added "with a good mind" because it is so, and because this seems - to me, whose university degrees in psychology (all taken when ill) must be better than the degrees of almost any psychiatrist and almost any psychologist - rather rare, amongst both psychiatrists and psychologists.
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