May 25, 2018

Crisis: U.S. Propaganda, On Amazon, On Anti-Psychiatry, On Ayn Rand, Italian Reforms


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from May 25, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Friday, May 25, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) 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 more than 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 I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from May 25, 2018:
1. Legalized Torture, Propaganda, and Endless War in the Time of Trump
2. Amazon Battles Seattle—And Loses
3. The Legacy of the Anti-Psychiatry Movement
4. Here are 10 Things I Learned About the World from Ayn Rand's Insane
    'Atlas Shrugged'

5. European Earthquake as Populist Government Forms in Italy
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. Legalized Torture, Propaganda, and Endless War in the Time of Trump

This article is by Jeremy Scahill on The Intercept. It starts as follows:
Blackwater founder Erik Prince has been one of Donald Trump’s shadow advisers. Now, will he be investigated for perjury? This week on Intercepted: Jeremy breaks down the Trump Tower meeting Prince set up with a representative of the Saudi and Emirati royals and an Israeli who runs propaganda and media manipulation operations. Journalist Allan Nairn analyzes Trump’s rise to power, the agenda of the extremist Republican Party, and dissects the latest on the Trump/Russia investigation. Author and retired psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Kaye discusses the U.S. Army Field Manual and its Appendix M. This document is the current U.S. policy on the treatment of foreign detainees. Kaye explains why some of its currently “approved” tactics are torture. Syrian journalist Marwan Hisham and artist Molly Crabapple discuss their new book, “Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War.” Plus the bizarre and frightening story of how the CIA created a shellfish toxin dart gun.
This is a survey of what Jeremy Scahill published this week in his weekly article on The Intercept. In fact, there is far too much material to quote in Nederlog and to discuss seriously. I will concentrate on two bits that are quoted in a much longer bit in the Intercept with Allan Nairn.

Here is the first bit (and I expanded ¨AN¨ to ¨Allan Nairn¨ but otherwise changed nothing):
Allan Nairn: Trump dragged a rightist revolution into power. It’s the Paul Ryan agenda which could never have gotten elected in its own right because it’s anathema to most Americans. But Trump, with his genius for unleashing the beast in white America, touching these deep chords of racism, succeeded in turning a crucial number of previous white Obama voters into Trump voters, and this is a Republican Party that is one of the most radical mainstream political parties in all of American history, perhaps with the exception of the pro-secessionist Democrats at the time of the Civil War. And they’ve been in there, they’ve been implementing a rightist revolution, doing the massive transfer of wealth in part via the tax bill, but also an important part by systematically, agency by agency, trying to gut the constraints on large corporations and the oligarchs, regarding the environment, their treatment of labor, their ability to discriminate, their ability to commit fraud without fear of being sued by the public, increasing the rights of rich individuals to intervene in politics, decreasing the rights of collectives of working people to intervene in politics, like the Gorsuch-led Supreme Court decision. And, now, as the Republican Party has evolved to the most radical extreme, they happen to have control of both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court. And they’ve been going around rigging the system so that a diminishing minority can hold power and continue to govern, just as Trump was elected with a minority of the votes, they’re trying to set it up through a long list of tactics, including purging of voter rolls, voter suppression shortly before Election Day, gerrymandering, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, smaller and smaller numbers of people can win elections and retain power.
I think this is a more or less serious and correct description of Trump and his government.

There is much more in the interview, and one of the things that does get discussed but that I did not quote is Nairn´s opinion that impeaching Trump with the Republicans in majority in both the Senate and the House is quite impossible. I agree with Nairn.

Here is the other bit that I quote from a lot more:

Allan Nairn: (..) Look, Trump is a guy who’s guilty of almost everything. Yet, here, the Democrats have pinned the political future of the world on nailing him for the one thing of which he may in fact be innocent: Russia collusion. And my God, what a bitter disgusting irony if the whole edifice of opposition to Trump comes crashing down if that speculative bet that that can be proven fails to pay off.

Well... I have been saying since 2016 that I never saw any decent evidence on a collusion of Trump and the Russians, and I still haven´t seen it. Also, after one and a half year of bullshit (that mostly seems to stem from Hilary Clinton) I have completely given up on it.

Then again, Nairn is quite right that if Mueller cannot deliver any decent evidence that the Russians did succeed in manipulating the 2016 elections, this will be a very bitter irony.

There is a lot more by Nairn, and also a lot more on the other subjects Scahill treats this week, and it is all strongly recommended.

2. Amazon Battles Seattle—And Loses

This article is by Sonali Kolhatkar on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Sen. Bernie Sanders excoriated Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos in a damning video tweet this week that zeroed in on Bezos’ personal wealth and his company’s unfair economic advantages. It wasn’t the first time Sanders had targeted Amazon—three weeks earlier the nation’s most popular politician highlighted how Amazon paid zero federal taxes in 2017.

The company is sensitive to such accusations and tweeted back defensively, “We’ve created over 130K new full-time jobs in the last year alone. Good jobs w/highly competitive pay & full benefits.” What Amazon didn’t mention is that a significant percentage of its employees rely on food stamps, in a trend reminiscent of Walmart. It also failed to mention that it fought tooth and nail against a modest tax bill to fund housing for the poor in Seattle, Wash., the city where it is headquartered.

I hate Amazon. I despise Jeff Bezos. Also, I can´t write what I want about either, because what I say may be judged offensive by these equivalents of sadofascists. But yes, the richest degenerate there presently is - who is even richer than his equivalent Suckerbug from Fuckbook - made his billions in part from sick greed directed against the poorest people there are in the USA.

But there is some opposition to Amazon:

Sawant, who burst onto the national political scene with her bold socialist agenda, won her seat on Seattle’s City Council by calling for three major reforms, summed up by the slogans, “$15 an Hour,” “Tax the Rich,” and “Rent Control.” Four years ago, Sawant fulfilled the first of her campaign promises by leading the fight to win an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. In an interview on “Rising Up With Sonali,” she shared with me how her second reform was achieved against massive opposition. “It was a bitterly fought-for victory,” she said of the “Amazon tax” as it became known, “because we went up against the Democratic Party establishment, the absolutely ferocious opposition of the Chamber of Commerce, of big businesses like Starbucks and especially of Amazon.”

I say, for I did not know this. Then again, I think that was the least important of the three aims Sawant set herself, and it also applies merely to Seattle.

Here is more on the sadofascistic Amazon and its sick, degenerate and super-greedy owner:

Despite Seattle’s homelessness crisis, Amazon’s opposition to the head tax was ruthless. The corporation threatened to shut down construction sites and cut jobs. It echoed the familiar conservative refrain that tax increases and higher wages would slow growth and ruin the economy. “It’s a threatening message not just to Seattle but to every city in the world,” Sawant said of Amazon’s hardball tactics. “The message Jeff Bezos is sending is that, ‘if working people in any city have the temerity to go against me and the billionaire class, then we will threaten you with taking away jobs.’ That is an attempted strike of capital.”

I said I consider Amazon and Bezos sick thieves of billions. Here is more on these major sickos:
What Seattle demonstrated to other cities is that it is possible to take on a commercial giant, and, using the democratic process, squeeze taxes out of it that benefit our cities and ordinary people. After all, Amazon takes advantage of our publicly funded infrastructure to operate its business. Despite Donald Trump’s grumblings about Amazon, the president and his party passed a tax reform bill last year that gifted Amazon a whopping $789 million in tax breaks—money that should have been part of our federal treasury. All it would take is for ordinary Americans to push their local city councils to replicate Seattle’s efforts in city after city where Amazon plans to expand.
Yes indeed. This is a recommended article.
3. The Legacy of the Anti-Psychiatry Movement

This article is by Julian Vigo on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Last week marked 40 years since Franco Basaglia’s revolutionary work in Trieste, Italy, led to the groundbreaking Legge 180 (Law 180, also known as “Basaglia Law”), which ended the practice of involuntary confinement in asylums throughout Italy. The anti-psychiatry movement was part of a larger intellectual and professional movement promoted through the efforts of Basaglia, Michel Foucault in France, R. D. Laing in Great Britain, Thomas Szasz in the United States and Erving Goffman in Canada. These thinkers critiqued the legal powers conferred on psychiatrists to detain and treat individuals with mental health disorders, which contributed to the medicalization of madness.

They also championed the notion that personal subjectivity is independent from any hegemonic mandate of normalcy imposed by organized psychiatric medicine. This movement even suggested that mental illness might not exist at all outside of the language to frame the other. Basaglia’s work in the asylum in Trieste became a model for radical psychiatrists internationally who had been laboring in their own countries to end the forced institutionalization of patients and attempting to forge a new model of mental health care.

I say, which I do mainly because I had not heard from Basaglia, not in 50 years. Then again, I am a psychologist who is meanwhile 68, and I recall Ervin Goffman, Thomas Szasz, R.D. Laing and Michel Foucault quite well, indeed also from nearly 50 years ago this year.

I also read all four then (between 1969 and 1972), and I should start by saying that they differ quite a lot, both in terms of ideas and in terms of politics. And the next thing I should say is that these four stand - for me - in the order I quoted them in the previous paragraph.

Two other things I think I should say at this point are that, firstly, I did completely miss Basaglia and his works, which also means that - having studied psychology in the 1970ies and 1980ies - that I did not see anything like his work being ¨a model for radical psychiatrists internationally¨ (which suggests to me it is either false or exaggerated) and, secondly, that while it is true that ¨forced institutionalization of patients¨ was quite bad, what replaced it was probably worse, for the asylums have been mostly closed, while the patients have been left to themselves to cope with their own problems.

And the last thing I should say before moving on is that I totally reject the idea that ¨mental illness might not exist at all outside of the language to frame the other¨.

In fact, I think ordinary psychiatry is a massive fraud (and I explained that in 2012 in DSM-5: Question 1 of "The six most essential questions in psychiatric diagnosis", which is strongly recommended), and indeed also in 2012 explained quite well what I think about Thomas Szasz (see here: DSM-5: Thomas Szasz's ideas about psychiatry).

Then again, while ¨mental illness¨ is not a good term, I think some people can and do get quite mad and do need help.  But I will not expand here.

Then there is this:

As a result of Law 180, Basaglia’s work became the basis for radical psychiatric reform around Europe and beyond—even extending to New Zealand and Australia—with hundreds of institutions closing over the next decade. With each closing, the abuses of power within these hospitals became better known—as did the reasons for confining individuals to them.

Well... I am a psychologist; I am a European; I studied psychology in the 1970s and 1980s and go a brilliant M.A. but I do not know anything whatsoever about ¨Basaglia´s work¨ from the late Sixties onwards, which again suggests to me that Vigo is exaggerating.

Besides, while ¨Basaglia´s work¨ and the ¨radical psychiatric reform around Europe¨ are completely unknown to me (?!), I also observe that the closings of ¨hundreds of institutions¨, which the above quote attributes to Basaglia, in my opinion seems to have been the results of cutting down costs on psychiatry, rather than being the result of inspiring new psychiatry.

Then there is this about Dr. Thomas Szasz:

The theoretical roots of the anti-psychiatry movement in the United States date to the late 1950s. Szasz, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, first criticized the legitimacy of “mental illness” as a legal term in an article he wrote in 1958 for the Columbia Law Review. At the time “Psychiatry, Ethics, and the Criminal Law” was published, only five states in the U.S. barred involuntary commitment of people with “mental illness.”

Drawing parallels between the practice of committing patients to mental hospitals and the prison system, Szasz maintained that psychiatrists were given the power to command a sentence of “insanity” and to indefinitely intern patients who are suffering, all the while treating them like criminals. Szasz kicked off the anti-psychiatry movement in North America (...)
That seems more or less correct (and for considerably more on Szasz and his ideas consult my DSM-5: Thomas Szasz's ideas about psychiatry) - but note that Szasz had a very low opinion of R.D. Laing (and while I do not know his opinions on Foucault, I would be amazed if he ever liked him).

This is from the ending of this article:

Starting in 2009, as a result of the Great Recession, states cut $4.35 billion in public mental-health spending over the next three years. This was the largest reduction in funding since deinstitutionalization began. Today, there are approximately 37,679 psychiatric beds in the United States, which is about 12 beds for every 100,000 people, a lower ratio than in 1850. With increasing numbers of mental-health patients in American jails, there is a serious problem in how deinstitutionalization has been abandoned and replaced by the private model—or left unexamined.
I say, for I did not know this, and I agree this is a considerable problem. And while this is a recommended article, I do warn you that Vigo does not seem to have studied psychology and is an American talking about Europe for the most part, whereas I am a European who also is a psychologist - and I have heard nothing about Basaglia, ever, in the last nearly 50 years.

4. Here are 10 Things I Learned About the World from Ayn Rand's Insane 'Atlas Shrugged'

This article is by Adam Lee on AlterNet. It starts as follows:
Over the past year, I've been reading and reviewing Ayn Rand's massive paean to capitalismAtlas Shrugged. If you're not familiar with the novel, it depicts a world where corporate CEOs and one-percenters are the selfless heroes upon which our society depends, and basically everyone else — journalists, legislators, government employees, the poor — are the villains trying to drag the rich down out of spite, when we should be kissing their rings in gratitude that they allow us to exist.
Well... I did read Ayn Rand back in the early 1970ies. I did so then because I had met several Americans then who all recommended Ayn Rand, while I had not heard anything about her, including her name.

And I think I mostly agree with Adam Lee, although I do not recall much of Rand, except that I though she was a horrrible fool who could not even write proper English. Here is more by Adam Lee, who read Rand very recently:
Atlas Shrugged is a work of fiction, but as far as many prominent conservatives are concerned, it's sacred scripture. Alan Greenspan was a member of Rand's inner circle, and opposed regulation of financial markets because he believed her dictum that the greed of businessmen was always the public's best protection. Paul Ryan said that he required his campaign staffers to read the book, while Glenn Beck has announced grandiose plans to build his own real-life "Galt's Gulch," the hidden refuge where the book's capitalist heroes go to watch civilization collapse without them.

Reading Atlas Shrugged is like entering into a strange mirror universe where everything we thought we knew about economics and morality is turned upside down. I've already learned some valuable lessons from it.
Yes indeed: I quite agree and I add that of the between 5000 and 10,000 books about philosophy that I read in the last 50 years, that also covered great amounts of ill-written bullshit, the worst books ¨about philosophy¨ (and ¨economics and morality¨) were those of Ayn Rand.

Here are ten things that Adam Lee learned from reading Rand - and please remember that what I quote are section headings, and each section contains a good bit of explanatory text:
1. All evil people are unattractive; all good and trustworthy people are

2. The mark of a great businessman is that he sneers at the idea of public

3. Bad guys get their way through democracy; good guys get their way
     through violence.

4. The government has never invented anything or done any good for

5. Violent jealousy and degradation are signs of true love.
6. All natural resources are limitless.
7. Pollution and advertisements are beautiful; pristine wilderness is ugly
     and useless.

8. Crime doesn't exist, even in areas of extreme poverty.
9. The only thing that matters in life is how good you are at making

10. Smoking is good for you.
I have read Rand too long ago to remember if most of the above points are in Atlas Shrugged, but I think Lewis is article is well done and recommended. O, and as for myself: I am academically both a philosopher and a psychologist, and if you are not, you should shut up with praise of Rand.

5. European Earthquake as Populist Government Forms in Italy

This article is by Andrew Spannaus on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
The revolt of voters across the Western world has reached a high point in Europe.

The Five Star Movement and the League, two so-called “populist” political parties in Italy, are preparing to form a government after Wednesday’s appointment of a new prime minister following an election result that could directly challenge the foundations of the European Union.

Like other anti-system movements around Europe, the Italian parties are calling in particular for abandoning the neoliberal economic policies and speculative finance, which are hollowing out the middle class.

The breakthrough comes two and a half months after the elections held on March 4, in which Italian voters sent an unequivocal message to the current political institutions, not simply of protest, but of a desire to actually give power to those willing to implement deep changes.

The two parties were not allies during the election, but they ultimately recognized that their anti-establishment positions, and in particular their opposition to the austerity-based policies of the E.U., made them obvious candidates to join together in an attempt to shake up Italy and Europe as a whole.
I am reviewing this article mostly because it is about Italy. And - to the best of my knowledge - the above is correct.

Here is some of what these two parties agreed on:
M5S and the League quickly came to agreement on general issues such as deficit spending for welfare reform (to significantly expand social benefits, not cut them as in recent years) and simplification of the tax code. The contract also includes the key points of separating commercial banks from investment banks (the Glass-Steagall principle) and using public institutions for targeted investment.
I think these agreements all are good. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article, which is its ending:
Despite the populist wave that has spread across the Western world in the past two years, European leaders in pursuit of their own interests have generally seemed to ignore the need to recognize the errors of the pro-finance, post-industrial model of recent decades, clinging to the hope that their neoliberal system will ultimately survive despite discontent from a significant portion of the population. The Italian elections have changed the calculus. Regardless of how effective the new government is, European institutions need to recognize that certain problems cannot be ignored. The only way for the elites to survive – to the extent they still can – will be to finally accept that their errors can longer be defended.
Perhaps, and this is a recommended article.


[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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