Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Crisis: U.S. Inequality, Thought Control, Secret Wars, On Judging Trump*2
Sections                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 20, 2017

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday
, December 20, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and will continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from December 20, 2017
1. U.N. Special Rapporteur Says Tax Bill Will Make the U.S. “World
     Champion of Extreme Inequality”

2. CDC Bars Words Like “Transgender” & “Science-Based” as
     “Ideology Is Being Elevated Above Evidence”

3. The Rise of America's Secret Wars
4. Is Trump an 'Aspiring Despot' or a 'Bumbling Showman'? Why
     Not Both?

5. Watch: Thousands of Mental Health Professionals Warn of
     Trump's Increasing Instability
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. U.N. Special Rapporteur Says Tax Bill Will Make the U.S. “World Champion of Extreme Inequality”

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
As Congress prepares to vote on the controversial tax bill, the United Nations has issued a scathing report on poverty in the United States that found the Trump administration and Republicans are turning the U.S. into the “world champion of extreme inequality.” Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, announced his findings after conducting a two-week fact-finding mission across the country, including visits to California, Alabama, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Alston also warned that the Republican tax bill will transfer vast amounts of wealth to the richest earners while making life harder for the 41 million Americans living in poverty. Among other startling findings in Alston’s report, the U.S. ranks 36th in the world in terms of access to water and sanitation. We speak with Philip Alston, who is also a professor at NYU Law School.
In fact, here is more on Philip Alston and the U.S. tax bill. And Philip Alstom turns out to be more reasonable than I thought previously. Here he is on the outlines of his job:
PHILIP ALSTON: Well, my job is to try to highlight the extent to which people—to which the civil rights of people who are living in extreme poverty are jeopardized by government policies. What I see in the United States now is not just a tax reform bill, but a very clear indication by government officials with whom I met, by the Treasury, in their analysis, that this is going to be funded in part by cuts to welfare, to Medicare, Medicaid. And so what you’ve got is a huge effort to enrich the richest and to impoverish the poorest. That is going to have very dramatic consequences.
I entirely agree. And this is on one specific item, the billionaires of Walmart, and how they made their billions:
PHILIP ALSTON:  (...) I spoke with a lot of Walmart employees who are working full-time, but who are still eligible for and totally dependent upon food stamps. So, working 35 hours a week at Walmart is not enough to make a living out of.
I think that is also entirely correct. Here is a more general analysis of the USA:
PHILIP ALSTON: Well, the United States is, of course, one of the very richest countries in the world. But all of the statistics put it almost at the bottom—doesn’t matter what it is. Whether it’s child mortality rates, whether it’s the longevity of adults, whether it’s the degree of adequacy of healthcare, the United States is very close to the bottom on all of these. What’s really surprising is that when I go to other countries, the big debate is that “We don’t have the money. We can’t afford to provide basic services to these people.” And yet, in the United States, they’ve got a trillion or a trillion and a half to give to the very rich, but they also don’t have any of the money to provide a basic lifestyle that is humane for 40 million Americans.
Yes indeed: The USA is easily rich enough to give everyone a decent income. It doesn't happen because the richest few are trying to upset almost everything so as to get the most money, including the risk of driving tens of million to suicide, just to make the very rich a lot richer.

Here is Alston on the effects of extreme poverty:
I mean, one of the best quotes I got during my two-week visit was from an official in West Virginia, where voting rates are extremely low. And I said, “Why is it that no one votes in West Virginia?” And the response was: “Well, you know, when people are very poor, they lose interest. They just don’t believe there’s any point.” And, of course, one begins to wonder if that’s actually a strategy, that you make people poor enough, you make them obsessed with working out where their next meal is going to come from, they’re not going to vote, and so you can happily ignore them.
Yes indeed. Here is the last bit that I quote, that explains that the USA is unique: It can give everyone a decent income, but the few ruling rich absolutely refuse to:

PHILIP ALSTON: Well, the United States is unique. First of all, it doesn’t recognize what we call social rights at the international level—a right to healthcare, a right to housing, a right to food. The United States is unique in that, saying these are not rights.

Second, the issue with elimination of poverty always is around resources: “We don’t have the money.” The United States, again, uniquely, has the money. It could eliminate poverty overnight, if it wanted to. What we’re seeing now is the classic—it’s a political choice. Where do you want to put your money? Into the very rich or into creating a decent society, which will actually be economically more productive than just giving the money to those who already have a lot?

Quite so. And there is considerably more in this fine interview, that is strongly recommemded.

2. CDC Bars Words Like “Transgender” & “Science-Based” as “Ideology Is Being Elevated Above Evidence”

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:

The Trump administration has allegedly barred top federal health officials from using seven words or phrases relating to abortion, sexuality and science in official documents, according to The Washington Post, which cited an anonymous whistleblower. The words are “fetus,” “entitlement,” “vulnerable,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” In some cases, the analysts were reportedly given replacement phrases to use instead. We speak with Rush Holt, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and executive publisher of the Science family of journals. We also speak with Jack Halberstam, professor of English and gender studies at Columbia University.
In fact, I normally quote the introductions to Amy Goodman's interviews, simply because they are good and informative. It's the same here, but I quote a bit less than I normally do, simply because there are three interviews by Amy Goodman today, which in fact happened by coincidence.

But here is the
chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

RUSH HOLT: Well, you know, at first glance, it’s a farce, this idea of banning a few words. Now, as you said, the government agencies have said, “Well, that’s not really true. It’s a mischaracterization,” which, of course, itself, is a euphemism, that seems to say they don’t really mean what they say. So, it actually has a serious side. And the serious side is, it appears that ideology is being elevated above evidence. So they say these terms, such as “fetus” and “transgender” and “diversity,” are politically loaded words, and those are to be avoided. Now, they say they’re not really banning their use, they just don’t want to offend the congressional appropriators, and if they want their appropriations approved by Congress, they should avoid such words. But that, in itself, is elevating ideology above evidence.

And science-based agencies, in particular, but I would argue all agencies, should put a premium, the highest premium, on evidence-based thinking and/or, in other words, science-based thinking. Science is not just gadgets or expensive lab equipment. It’s this way of thinking so we get our best sense of how things actually are. That’s how you should begin making policy. That’s how you should begin making regulations—with a sense of how things actually are.
Precisely (but not according to Trump). This is a recommended article.

3. The Rise of America's Secret Wars

This article is by Nick Turse on Truthdig. It starts with a picture that I reproduce because it is quite convincing. This is where American troops are located in the world, at least so far as that is known (the three red items are from the press, the blue ones from the US government):

                               Clicking the image leads to the source

In brief, American troops are nearly everywhere except in Russia and China. This is from near the beginning of the article:

(..) General Raymond Thomas, the chief of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), offered some clues about the planetwide reach of America’s most elite troops. “We operate and fight in every corner of the world,” he boasted. “Rather than a mere ‘break-glass-in-case-of-war’ force, we are now proactively engaged across the ‘battle space’ of the Geographic Combatant Commands… providing key integrating and enabling capabilities to support their campaigns and operations.”

In 2017, U.S. Special Operations forces, including Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets, deployed to 149 countries around the world, according to figures provided to TomDispatch by U.S. Special Operations Command. That’s about 75 percent of the nations on the planet and represents a jump from the 138 countries that saw such deployments in 2016 under the Obama administration. It’s also a jump of nearly 150 percent from the last days of George W. Bush’s White House.

These are simple facts, also expressed by the above map. And you may interpret them as saying: The American military rule almost everywhere or are at least involved in ruling almost everywhere, although I grant this is a matter of interpretation.

Here is more on the U.S. Special Operations Forces that operate in 75% of the countries i in the world:

“Most Americans would be amazed to learn that U.S. Special Operations Forces have been deployed to three quarters of the nations on the planet,” observes William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. “There is little or no transparency as to what they are doing in these countries and whether their efforts are promoting security or provoking further tension and conflict.”
In brief, this operating in 75% of all countries basically happens in the deepest secret.

Finally, this is about the extensions of the American military presence (in 75% of all countries) because of "terrorism" since 9/11:

“Since 9/11, we expanded the size of our force by almost 75 percent in order to take on mission-sets that are likely to endure,” SOCOM’s Thomas told the Senate Armed Services Committee in May. Since 2001, from the pace of operations to their geographic sweep, the activities of U.S. Special Operations forces (SOF) have, in fact, grown in every conceivable way. On any given day, about 8,000 special operators—from a command numbering roughly 70,000—are deployed in approximately 80 countries.
I say. And all of this is from the beginning of the article, that contains considerably more and is recommended.

4. Is Trump an 'Aspiring Despot' or a 'Bumbling Showman'? Why Not Both?

This article is by Chauncey DeVega on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:

The presidency of Donald Trump has forced the American people to confront questions most of us had never before considered possible. What happens when a president has no respect for the Constitution and the country's democratic institutions and traditions? When a president and his allies consider themselves above the law, what is to be done? If a president creates his own version of reality by behaving like a political cult leader, what forms of resistance are effective -- or even possible? Is the president of the United States a fascist and demagogue who may be under the influence of the country's enemies?

These are - at least - good questions, although I think myself that Trump is a neofascist rather than a fascist, among other things because fascists are for strong states, whereas neofascists are for strong corporations.

Here is more:

In an effort to understand the true dimensions of Trump's rise to power as a direct threat to American democracy, I recently spoke with Brian Klaas. He is a fellow in Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics. In addition to writing columns and essays that have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Guardian, Foreign Affairs and numerous other publications, Klaas is the author of several books. His latest, published in November, is "The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy."

He was not worth of being included in Wikimedia (where even very minor TV stars have a full life + a listing of all films they appeared in: there are - "worldwide" - priorities on Wikipedia).

Here is Brian Klaas on the enormous damages Trump is making:

[Klaas:] (...) I fear it's going to be many years, if not decades, before the proverbial Trump genie can be put in the back in the bottle and democracy can be restored to its full and proper functioning.

I agree, indeed also because of the fargoing corruption of not only most Republican representatives, but also of most Democratic representatives.

Here is Klaas on the basis of Trumpism:

Klaas: White racism is central to the story of the rise of Trumpism, and for the media to tell the story about America that basically says, "This president was elected because we have racial problems," is much harder for people to square with the country's mythology. I also think many journalists and other observers have very little experience with authoritarianism.

Quite possibly so. The next bit is about Trump's supposed fascism:

Is Trump a fascist? Why do you think so many in the mainstream media and America's political class are afraid to describe him using that language, or at a minimum to label him an authoritarian?

He is an aspiring despot. That distinction is important because I have studied fully authoritarian societies where there are no checks and balances, no free media, no different branches of government, and it is far worse than the United States. But in terms of tactics, there is in immense amount of evidence to support the fact that Trump is behaving like an authoritarian and that he is mainstreaming fascism. Like other despots throughout history, Trump scapegoats minorities and demonizes politically unpopular groups. Trump is racist. He uses his own racism in the service of a divide-and-rule strategy, which is one way that unpopular leaders and dictators maintain power.
I agree, except that I think Trump is a neofascist rather than a fascist. (You are invited to check my definitions of these terms, which are far better than any I saw in journalism.)

This is on Trump's "bumbling" (that I and many other psychologists and psychiatrists tend to explain by his narcissistic personal disorder, that is getting worse and worse):

Others who want to deny that Trump is a fascist or authoritarian will object that he is too bumbling and incompetent for such strong labels to apply.

I completely disagree. You do not have to be effective to be destructive. Most despots are bumbling. Around the world we have seen examples of how they are often comical idiots and egotistical head cases. Despots are not necessarily the smartest people.

Trump is extremely destructive. The analogy I use is the idea that democracy is like a sand castle. It takes a long time to build and much longer to perfect. Trump is just washing it away.
I entirely agree. This is about the effects of Trump's presidency outside the USA:
How does America under Donald Trump look to our allies and also to our enemies?

It is an unprecedented disaster in terms of America's reputation in the world. He has decimated longstanding alliances and the country's gravitas across the globe in a matter of months. A survey in June 2017 looked at the change of confidence in United States leadership between Obama and Trump. It fell 75 percent in Germany, 71 percent in South Korea, 70 percent in France, 57 percent in the United Kingdom and 54 percent in Japan. These statistics obscure the fact that the rest of the world sees the United States as a tragic joke.

I take it these polls were based on the general adult populations of these countries, but I don't know.

Here is the scariest thing about Trump, in Brian Klaas's opinion:

What scares you about America under Donald Trump? Is there anything that gives you hope for the future?

The scariest thing about Trump is the lack of backlash against him.

I agree, with the additional remark that I am not saying nor implying that there is no backlash: There is, but I agree with Klaas that it is far too small at present.

And this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Watch: Thousands of Mental Health Professionals Warn of Trump's Increasing Instability

This article is by Amy Goodman on AlterNet and originally on Democracy Now! It is also from December 13, but I did not review it the next day, so I do so now, because I think it is quite interesting and also because I am a psychologist, which certainly qualifies me in my own eyes to try to diagnose Trump:
AMY GOODMAN: (..) [W]e’re joined by someone who has led a discussion of mental health professionals who are concerned about President Trump’s psychological instability. Dr. Bandy Lee is a forensic psychiatrist on the faculty of Yale School of Medicine, an internationally recognized expert on violence. She edited the book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. The book became a best-seller when it was published in October. It sold out over and over again.
I only add that I have not read the book, and am quite unlikely to do so, because while I agree with the (observation based) diagnosis of Trump, I disagree with American psychiatry since 1980, which is based on the utterly nonsensical and very dishonest DSMs.

Since I am a psychologist who has been ill with a physical and strongly invalidating disease for nearly 40 years that all these years has been denied to exist by psychiatrists (<-interesting link!) I also feel very much discriminated for getting no help whatsoever for being ill for nearly 40 years.

I owe this basically to psychiatry and to the blind followings of psychiatrists by very many medical persons. Therefore I have also tried to find decent psychiatists, simply because I am a psychologist. Here is the result of eight years of looking for them:

I found precisely 2 decent psychiatrists, namely the late dr. Mickey Nardo in the USA and dr. David Healy in Great Britain. That is all I found in eight years - and I was talking about moral decency, and not about fundamental or deep agreements.

Here is more by dr. Bandy Lee:
DR. BANDY LEE: Well, we have been concerned about the mental stability of the president, as well as his dangerousness, since—pretty much since his campaign, but heightened since his election. And I have been flooded with phone calls and emails, messages, since morning after election. Much of my profession had been silenced because of what is called the Goldwater rule.
But, interestingly, the American Psychiatric Association modified its own interpretation of the rule in March of this year to basically say that psychiatrists are not allowed to say anything about their speech or behavior, even in an emergency.

And I felt that that actually went against the ethical principles of our profession. And so I held a conference in April to discuss the ethical rules, and invited Robert Jay Lifton, as well as a number of other renowned members of my field. And only about 20 people showed up, to a large auditorium. Basically, they were afraid. They were afraid to be—of being targeted litigiously by the president or physically by his violence-prone followers. But when the news got out, in the national and international news, hundreds of mental health professionals got in touch with me. And now we’re in the thousands.
Since I also think that quite a few American psychiatrists are strongly involved in fraud and corruption - especially in testing medicines and prescribing opioids - I add that the Goldwater rule seems to me to have been a fascist rule (I am sorry: You were explicitly denying them their freedom of speech) and the revised rule, which is even worse, a neofascist rule (for the same reason).

To the best of my knowledge - which goes pretty far: See my
DSM-5: Question 1 of "The six most essential questions in psychiatric diagnosis" which is a well written essay of 371 Kb on the very many failings of the DSM-5 - the majority of the USA's present psychiatrists are greedy corrupt frauds who are much more interested in getting rich themselves than in defending the rights or the interests of their patients.

Here is more by dr. Bandy Lee:
DR. BANDY LEE: (...) So, what we do is we contain the person, remove them from access to weapons and do an urgent evaluation. This is what we have been urging for with regard to the president. He has shown a number of signs, showing proneness to violence. He has incited violence in the past. He’s shown an attraction to violence as a coping strategy of his own. He has taunted hostile nations with nuclear power. Basically, the risk, in our minds, is quite high.
I agree (as a psychologist, who had far more to do with helping a quite seriously schizophrenic woman than almost any other psychologist I know, including clinical psychologists (which I am not)).

Then there is this about diagnosing Trump:

AMY GOODMAN: Richard Friedman wrote in an op-ed piece in The New York Times, “There is one last reason we should avoid psychiatrically labeling our leaders: It lets them off the moral hook. Not all misbehavior reflects psychopathology; the fact is that ordinary human meanness and incompetence are far more common than mental illness. We should not be in the business of medicalizing bad actors.” Your response, Dr. Lee?

DR. BANDY LEE: Well, medical—mental impairment is not mutually exclusive with criminal responsibility. In fact, only about 1 percent of murder cases are deemed not guilty by reason of insanity. What we’re saying is actually that the combination of mental instability and criminal-mindedness actually makes one more dangerous. So we’re basically just warning about danger. We’re not making diagnoses. We’re calling for an evaluation.

In fact, this is mostly about the A.P.A.'s rulings. I looked at dr. Friedman's article, but I agree with dr. Lee. Besides, Friedman is utterly mistaken that a psychiatric label of "our leaders" "lets them off the moral hook": I am not concerned about whatever moral hook Trump may evade: I am concerned that this madman may blow up the whole world.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this fine interview:

DR. BANDY LEE: I think the laypersons, the public or lawmakers, would be prone to underestimating the dangers of this president, because most people are used to seeing individuals who are healthy. It’s only professionals who see those who are impaired, day in and day out. And so, the natural tendency will be to interpret what they’re seeing in terms of a normal range, a normal variation of human choices, decision making and behavior. What we are—what we feel pressed to do is to warn about the situation where someone is not acting within normal range, where one is normalizing what is in fact a malignancy in one’s interpretation of reality.

Yes, I quite agree. And this is a strongly recommended interview, in fact in two parts, in which there is a lot more than I quoted, and which is strongly recommended. 


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

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