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Nederlog

August 13, 2015
Crisis: U.S. Elections, China, Greece, Chomsky, Corruption of 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















Prev- crisis -Next

Sections
Introduction

1.
Democrats Continue to Delude Themselves About
     Obama’s Failed Guantánamo Vow

2.
China devalues yuan for third straight day, adding to
     fears of currency war
 
3.
Greek bailout terms to give eurozone vast powers over
     policymaking

4.
Noam Chomsky - The (in)compatibility of democracy and
     capitalism

5. The "Institutional Corruption" of Psychiatry


 
This is a Nederlog of Thursday August 13, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about Glenn Greenwald on Obama (with me outlining a few principles); item 2 is about the third devaluation of the yuan in three days in China (and I report it, but don't know the explanation); item 3 is about the enormous power the troika gained
over Greece and its economy; item 4 is about a brief video by Noam Chomsky who explains - very plausibly - that capitalism is incompatible with any real democracy (though it is compatible with voting every four years and pretending that is "democracy", even though you have zero influence); and item 5 is - once again - about psychiatry's enormous corruption.

1. Democrats Continue to Delude Themselves About Obama’s Failed Guantánamo Vow

The first article of today is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

As everyone knows, “closing Guantánamo” was a centerpiece of the 2008 Obama campaign. In the Senate and then in the presidential campaign, Obama repeatedly and eloquently railed against the core, defining evil of Guantánamo: indefinite detention.

On the Senate floor, Obama passionately intoned in 2006: “As a parent, I can also imagine the terror I would feel if one of my family members were rounded up in the middle of the night and sent to Guantánamo without even getting one chance to ask why they were being held and being able to prove their innocence.” During the 2008 campaign, he repeatedly denounced “the Bush Administration’s attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantánamo.”

Yes, indeed - but then I have learned to see that as "The Obama Principle".
I mean this. Intellectually, to win an election you have to sharply divide two things: (i) before and after elections, and (ii) propaganda and real policy. And practically, this is done as follows:

Your real policy is never openly discussed, and indeed depends on many things, though probably mostly on who are your financers. Your propaganda are the lies, falsehoods and trickery that you serve, always with a broad smile and a joke, to the public, who don't know what you know, who are a lot less intelligent than
you are, and who are eager to applaud and believe any leader who talks nice to them and who pretends to be on their side.

The difference before and after elections is crucial:

Before elections absolutely anything goes that increases your chances of being elected, regardless of truth, probability or practicality. When you are not elected, people rapidly forget your lies. When you are elected, by and large you do the opposite of what you promised, but without ever looking back: You are always "looking forward" to the Great Future you are going to create (generally followed by oceans of propaganda I here repress). Meanwhile, you classify your real laws; you keep secret almost everything you think may give you problems; and you accuse everyone who - somewhat seriously - opposes you of being "a traitor" or "a terrorist", while you prosecute them to the full extent of your powers (Manning, Assange, Snowden). Also, you give the bank managers the full power
to do what they please, and you prosecute none of them because they are "too big to fail", and are your financers anyway.

At least, this is what I have learned watching Obama since 2008, and indeed it is good advice to win the presidency for anyone, and not just Obama. (Also, I do not want to suggest Obama is worse than the current Republicans...)

Glenn Greenwald's article has a lot more, and is very well worth reading.

2. China devalues yuan for third straight day, adding to fears of currency war

The next article is by "Staff and agencies in Shanghai" on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

China cut the reference rate for its currency for the third straight day on Thursday, after the surprise devaluation of the yuan this week unsettled global financial markets.

The central bank put the yuan’s central parity rate at 6.4010 yuan for US$1, the China Foreign Exchange Trade System said, a drop of 1.11% from the previous day’s 6.3306.

It was also lower than Wednesday’s close and comes after China adopted a more market-oriented method of calculating the currency rate in a move widely seen as a devaluation.

The cuts have put financial markets on edge, sparking worries of a “currency war” as other countries feel pressure to devalue and raising questions about the health of the world’s second-largest economy, where growth is already slowing.

I say. I have reported the previous two devaluations, and I am doing so again, in large part because the Chinese are the world's second-largest economy, and devaluations in its currency must have wide effects.

But I do not have any explanations, and only observe that it has been much worse, nineteen years ago:
It has since [well.... in the last two days - MM] lowered the central rate twice more, and the week’s combined drop is the biggest since China set up its modern foreign exchange system in 1994 when it devalued the yuan by 33% at a stroke.
I suppose we will find out over the next week whether the Chinese will be doing more devaluations of their currency.

3. Greek bailout terms to give eurozone vast powers over policymaking

The next article is by Ian Traynor and Jon Henley on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The Greek government is to surrender powers over vast areas of economic and social policymaking to its eurozone creditors under draconian terms agreed for a new three-year bailout.

The 29 pages of conditions concede ultimate authority over much of Greek policymaking to the eurozone and establish a system of quarterly reviews of the reforms by the troika of institutions – the European commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – representing the creditors.

The document says: “The [Greek] government commits to consult and agree with the European commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund on all actions relevant for the achievement of the objectives of the memorandum of understanding before these are finalised and legally adopted.”

The terms for the bailout – worth €85bn (£61bn) according to a senior EU source – foresee a radical overhaul of the Greek economy, stipulating major reforms of health, welfare, pensions and taxation systems, alongside more ambitious privatisation schemes. It also awards the troika decisive influence over reforms of the struggling banking sector.

So effectively it seems the Greeks have lost control over their own institutions, while the troika has gained them.

Here is some more:

Meeting the bailout terms will require more austerity for Greece. The three-year programme entails a “fiscal adjustment” of up to 5% of Greek GDP, while the economy is expected to slump by 2.3% this year and 1.3% next year, according to senior sources.

Tsipras has also agreed to reverse some of the policy decisions he has enacted since being elected in January. The document states that privatisation in Greece “has come to a standstill” since he took power but the prime minister “has now committed to proceed with an ambitious privatisation programme”.

And this is about the extent of the control the troika has:

The bailout agreement says: “The conditionality will be updated on a quarterly basis, taking into account the progress in reforms achieved over the previous quarter. In each review, the specific policy measures and other instruments to achieve these broad objectives outlined here will be fully specified in detail and timeline.”

I say. And this is without a German occupation of the country...

4. Noam Chomsky - The (in)compatibility of democracy and capitalism

The next item is not an article but a video of 4 min 18 sec in which Noam Chomsky explains quite clearly the reasons why I do not vote since 1971:

I think this is very well worth seeing, and I do agree with Chomsky, including the remark that if you do believe "democracy" consists in voting every four years, capitalism may be compatible with your version of "democracy" but (i) really "this is a choice between factions of the business party" and (ii) this wholly avoids mentioning that the vast majority of the voters does not have any real influence whatsoever on any policy.

(In fact, Chomsky sounds rather like my father in this video, especially around the middle.)

5. The "Institutional Corruption" of Psychiatry: A Conversation With Authors of Psychiatry Under the Influence

The last article is by Bruce E. Levine on truth-out:

This starts as follows:

What does psychiatry have in common with the US Congress? "Institutional corruption," concludes Psychiatry Under the Influence (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), which investigates how drug company money and psychiatry's own guild interests have corrupted psychiatry during the past 35 years.

Coauthored by investigative reporter Robert Whitaker and psychologist Lisa Cosgrove, the foreword for Psychiatry Under the Influence is written by Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig, who helped create Harvard's Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics' lab on institutional corruption (where both Whitaker and Cosgrove served as fellows).

Whitaker and Cosgrove - as does Lessig - distinguish between "individual" versus "institutional" corruption, between a "bad apple" versus a "bad barrel." In individual corruption, a politician takes an illegal bribe. But in institutional corruption, nothing illegal may be occurring when, for example, politicians raise campaign money via special interest political action committees (PACS). And just as elected officials develop dependency on special interests and become beholden to these funders instead of the citizenry, Whitaker and Cosgrove conclude, the same thing has occurred in psychiatry, which has had its social mission subverted by drug companies as well as by the psychiatry guild's self-preservation and expansionism needs.

Actually, this is part of the introduction of an interview with Whitaker and Cosgrove. I agree with most of it, but not with all. Notably, I do not regard
Bob Spitzer - who wrote the DSM III - as a noble soul who meant well, but
I will leave that out.

I do think Whitaker and Cosgrove are right psychiatry is plagued by institutional corruption, though here again I also like to say this kind of corruption may be illegal (and it is, in the case of the drug corporations, who falsify all manner of things, and repress other things even if these are relevant to making informed judgements, but then again the drug corporations are regarded and treated by and large as "too big to fail" as well, at least in the sense that they are left free to continue, without any personal punishments or sanctions, simply by surrendering a part of their profits to the government).

Here is the first bit I'll quote:

Robert Whitaker: There has indeed been much public attention on the corrupting influence of pharmaceutical money on American psychiatry. But the public's focus on pharmaceutical companies as the main problem distracts attention from the larger corrupting influence, and that is psychiatry's own guild interests.

In 1980, when the APA [American Psychiatric Association] published the third edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual [DSM III], it adopted a "medical model" for diagnosing and treating mental disorders. The APA then launched a public relations effort to sell this new model to the public, which meant informing the public that psychiatric disorders are real "diseases" of the brain; that they are under-recognized and undertreated; and that psychiatric drugs are very effective - and disease-specific-treatments - for these disorders. The APA has relentlessly promoted that message to the public for 35 years.

I have two remarks.

As to the first paragraph: Surely, it is quite possible - indeed quite true - both
influences played a major part? The drug corporations wanted to corrupt psychiatry, and psychiatry wanted more money, more power, and less work with more patients, all of which could be obtained by prescribing pills from the drug corporations, while pretending that is what psychiatry is?!

That is a story I recognize, and it is not one that "distracts attention" from those who had the big money to start with: it says both parties were involved; both were dishonest; both profited a lot; and that was the aim in the first place.

As to the second paragraph: Yes, that is true - and everything was a lie designed to make money from patients:

There is no medical model for diagnosing and treating mental disorders; mental disorders still are not diseases with a recognized pathological cause; these
"diseases" that do not exist are not "
under-recognized and undertreated" (on the contrary: very many children these days are on amphetamine-like substances); and psychiatric drugs are (i) hardly effective in most cases (ii) there are no new psychiatric drugs since thirty years (only variants of existing drugs designed to get yet another expensive patented drug) (iii) there are no real diseases these drugs are supposed to treat, and (iv) psychiatric drugs help little and may cause large damages.

That is the truth about psychiatry, and therefore I say that, unless you are totally incapable of judging for yourself, you do wise to avoid psychiatrists and their pills: They do not know what they are doing, though they will never admit it, and their pills will not cure you, and will probably not even help you, but they may very well cause you serious bodily harm, for they are - like all drugs -
harmful.

Here is the second bit I'll quote:

We, as a society, have organized ourselves - both individually and as a society - around a false narrative of science. And what has been the resulting social injury? It has led to the pathologizing of millions of children, which is doing extraordinary harm; it has given us an impoverished philosophy of being, with its ever-narrowing boundaries of what is deemed normal; and it prevents us, as a society, from trying to create a more just society, since problems are located within the brain of the individual, rather than in poverty, poor schools and so forth. Society gets a free ride with this model.

This is mostly true, but I am - a bit like Whitaker, who says he is "rather pessimistic" - very pessimistic, because "we, as a society" (with two-thirds without even a college-degree, and 60% believing in the literal truth of the
story of Noah's Ark) are simply not capable of judging the lies of psychiatrists
and the propaganda of drug corporations.

In any case, my advice is to avoid psychiatry completely as long as it exists in
its present deeply corrupt and totally unscientific form, and to visit instead a psychologist if you think you really have to, were it only because he or she cannot prescribe you very expensive, ill researched, dangerous drugs that probably are ineffectived anyway.

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