16, 2014
Crisis: Pulitzer Prize, Feinstein, Krugman, US Oligarchy, Robinson, Psychiatry
   "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "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

1. Guardian and Washington Post win Pulitzer prize for NSA

2. Feinstein, Meet Irony: Outraged Senate Will Investigate
     Leak But Not Horrific Acts It Reveals

3. Why We’re in a New Gilded Age
4. It’s Official: America is an Oligarchy and NOT a

5. Joan Robinson’s “Introduction to Modern Economics”
6. Drug Company Dominance Makes Some Shrinks Very
     Rich, and Many Patients Over Drugged

About ME/CFS


This is the Nederlog of April 16. It is another crisis issue.

But I should say right away that only the first four items of the six that follow are really about the crisis: There is an item about the Pulitzer Prize, awarded to The Guardian and The Washington Post, which also is important for journalists reporting for these; an item about Feinstein and the Senate's report on torture; a  - very laudatory - review by Krugman of Piketty's book; and an article on the change of the US towards an oligarchy (= rule of the few).

The other items are a review of a 1973 text on economics by Joan Robinson, which I selected because I did study that book in 1973, and an article on the failings of psychiatry, that I selected because it is fairly good, and because I once more can briefly explain what I think about it.

1.  Guardian and Washington Post win Pulitzer prize for NSA revelations

The first article today is by Ed Pilkington on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The Guardian and the Washington Post have been awarded the highest accolade in US journalism, winning the Pulitzer prize for public service for their groundbreaking articles on the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities based on the leaks of Edward Snowden.

The award, announced in New York on Monday, comes 10 months after the Guardian published the first report based on the leaks from Snowden, revealing the agency’s bulk collection of US citizens’ phone records.

In the series of articles that ensued, teams of journalists at the Guardian and the Washington Post published the most substantial disclosures of US government secrets since the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam war in 1971.

The Pulitzer committee praised the Guardian for its "revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, helping through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy".

There is rather a lot more there, of which I will quote just one more bit:
"We are truly honoured that our journalism has been recognised with the Pulitzer prize," said Alan Rusbridger, the editor-in-chief of the Guardian. "This was a complex story, written, edited and produced by a team of wonderful journalists. We are particularly grateful for our colleagues across the world who supported the Guardian in circumstances which threatened to stifle our reporting. And we share this honour, not only with our colleagues at the Washington Post, but also with Edward Snowden, who risked so much in the cause of the public service which has today been acknowledged by the award of this prestigious prize."
I only want to add that this also is a good defense for Greenwald and Poitras, especially.

For more, see the dotted link in this section.

2.  Feinstein, Meet Irony: Outraged Senate Will Investigate Leak But Not Horrific Acts It Reveals

The next item is an article by Abby Zimet on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:
Surreal: Charging that possible perps "broke the law and should be prosecuted,aggrieved  Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein is investigating, and calling on the Department of Justice to investigate, the dastardly leak to McClatchy of conclusions of the still-unreleased, $40 million, 6,600-page report that contradicts pretty much everything the CIA has ever said about its infamous torture program - a report that finds the CIA repeatedly lied about torture “brutal and far worse” than previously known, entailing years of practices “inconsistent with (U.S.) public policy positions regarding human rights" that would likely legally and morally "be deemed wanton and unnecessary," never mind that "measuring (their) effectiveness was challenging," which is to say, the torture didn't work. Still, now the Senate is scandalized not by the crimes committed in our names - which even Feinstein has called "a mistake that must never be repeated” - but by journalists doing their job and telling us about them.
This indeed is pretty surreal, but then this is how much of the Senate thinks.

There is more under the dotted link in this section.

3.   Why We’re in a New Gilded Age

The next item is an article by Paul Krugman on the New York Review of Books

Note first that this is a fairly long review by Paul Krugman, who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2008, and it is a review of Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the Twenty-First Century". (Also see my Nederlog of April 13, 2014.)

This starts as follows - and while I have read all of it, I am not going to quote much of it:

Thomas Piketty, professor at the Paris School of Economics, isn’t a household name, although that may change with the English-language publication of his magnificent, sweeping meditation on inequality, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Yet his influence runs deep. It has become a commonplace to say that we are living in a second Gilded Age—or, as Piketty likes to put it, a second Belle Époque—defined by the incredible rise of the “one percent.” But it has only become a commonplace thanks to Piketty’s work.

As I have argued several times: I believe "the one percent" is a valid concept, in a science (or "science") like economics, not because it is precise, but because it does give a reasonable division. Also, one may as well introduce the 50 percent, the 10 percent, and the 5 percent - and none of this is ideologically loaded, for it has not been said how much more the x percent have or earn than the 1-x percent.

The fact that this is a new gilded age, especially in the United States, only follows when you do consider how much more the 1% have or earn than the 99%, which indeed is scandalously much, especially the richest of these - and I am not against income inequalities and also not radically anti-capitalist [2]: in fact, it seems to me that the capitalism I lived under, from 1950-1995, roughly, was "a capitalism with a human face", although this applies mostly to Holland and Western Europe only, but I know these fairly well.

Also from the beginning:

The result has been a revolution in our understanding of long-term trends in inequality. Before this revolution, most discussions of economic disparity more or less ignored the very rich. Some economists (not to mention politicians) tried to shout down any mention of inequality at all: “Of the tendencies that are harmful to sound economics, the most seductive, and in my opinion the most poisonous, is to focus on questions of distribution,” declared Robert Lucas Jr. of the University of Chicago, the most influential macroeconomist of his generation, in 2004.

Actually, this fact, that I did not know, shows quite well why I have considerable disdain for most economists (but not all - and see item 5): If "the most influential macroeconomist of his generation" can declare that questions of distribution are "harmful to sound economics", this suggest much of economy is ideological only.

Anyway, I am still in the beginning of Krugman's review, and quote one more thing from it:

(...) let me say right away that Piketty has written a truly superb book. It’s a work that melds grand historical sweep—when was the last time you heard an economist invoke Jane Austen and Balzac?—with painstaking data analysis. And even though Piketty mocks the economics profession for its “childish passion for mathematics,” underlying his discussion is a tour de force of economic modeling, an approach that integrates the analysis of economic growth with that of the distribution of income and wealth. This is a book that will change both the way we think about society and the way we do economics.

For the rest - four more sections - you have to consult the last dotted link.

4.  It’s Official: America is an Oligarchy and NOT a Democracy 

Next, an article by Washington's Blog, on that blog, which spells out one of the consequences of living (again) "in the gilded age" that the previous item talked about:

In fact, Washington's Blog analyses the report by Gilens and Page that I briefly reviewed on April 13, 2014. I quote his ending, with the last of his quotations from the report:

If policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

No wonder the chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University said that politicians are not prostitutes, they are pimps ... pimping out their services to the highest bidder.

The Supreme Court is not much better: their allowance of unlimited campaign spending allows the oligarchs to purchase politicians more directly than ever.

Moreover, there are two systems of justice in Americaone for the big banks and other fatcats, and one for everyone else.

And not only do we not have democracy, but we also no longer have a free market economy.  Instead, we have fascism, communist style socialism, kleptocracybanana republic style corruption, or – yes – “oligarchy“.

Well... I don't know about it's being "Official", though I agree that the study by Gilens and Page does comprise a lot of data. Also, one may disagree with some of the terms, but it does seem as if, also in spite of all technological advances and in spite of the welfare state that comprised both the US and Europe for more than a generation, history is being turned back to how it was a hundred years ago, and it is being turned back by a few of the richest persons, who use their riches to buy everyone to do their bidding.

And that indeed is an oligarchy: the few rule, over the rest, whatever the rest says or does - and if the basis is money, that means that the rest is powerless because they have no money.

5. Joan Robinson’s “Introduction to Modern Economics”

Next, an article by rumplestatkin (in fact: a professional economist) on Naked Capitalism:

This is a review of that book, which dates back to 1973, and was by Joan Robinson, who was one of Keynes's best students, and John Eatwell. I pay attention to this because I bought and read the book in 1973 (in the first not the second edition). In fact, the book did not do well at all:
Robinson’s book, written with John Eatwell, was supposed to offer a fresh new way to teach economics that would replace the ‘Samuelson’ approach to economic teaching. It failed to do so. In fact it failed so catastrophically that it never gained one tenth the circulation of Samuelson’s principles text in its short publishing history, and has been all but forgotten in modern discussions about rewriting the economics curriculum. So unpopular is this book that it is deemed unworthy of shelf space at my university library, and instead resides in an off-site library storage facility.
I did not know that, but I did study it rather closely, in 1973. Here are some of the positive things rumplestatkin has to say about it, after having added to the just quoted paragraph: "But its popularity should definitely not be a guide to its quality":
As a recently trained economist one of the more shocking things about Robinson’s textbook is the way many core features of neoclassical economics are brushed away in a sentence or paragraph as mere metaphysical reasoning. She defines such reasoning as being “applied to a use of language that conveys no factual information, describes no logical relations nor gives precise instructions and yet is calculated to affect conduct.” One such concept is utility (...)
Yes, indeed - that was also one of the refreshing things I found in it. Also, rumplestatkin quotes the index of the book, which contains terms like "Moral considerations", "Metaphysics", "Politics", "Social Justice", and "Slogans", which indeed are mostly or completely absent from most books by most economists, and then says
For anyone with a mainstream economics education these terms would seem wildly out of place. Even the mere suggestion of morality in economics these days will cast you as an outsider and ruin your career prospects. Economists love to see themselves as value free, and collectively ignore the reality that any welfare analysis is inherently a moral analysis.
Quite so - which again shows that:
She really did just say that a great bulk of academic economists have simply given up on reality to content themselves with mathematical game-playing. Which implies that much of neoclassical theory itself is unable to be reconciled with real processes in the economy.
In brief: the book is recommended as a "an honest appraisal of economics", which I agree with. However, I must also add that while I found the book interesting and worthwile, it did not save economics for me as a truly scientific subject - and indeed she also wrote in 1973
"The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists."
As I said, I liked the book, but in fact I do not think you need to have read it not to be "deceived by economists": All you need for that is a bright mind and perhaps some knowledge of logic.

6. Drug Company Dominance Makes Some Shrinks Very Rich, and Many Patients Over Drugged

Finally, an article by Bruce E. Levine, a clinical psychologist, on AlterNet, with a far too long title that I shortened:

The new title, above, fairly clearly describes what psychiatry does: it makes some shrinks very rich and it over drugs millions of adults and of children.

Why? Here is something like an answer, quoted from the article - and yes, I know it is stated as a question:

The Oxford dictionary defines insane as “a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction; seriously mentally ill.” Has the institution of psychiatry become insane, and is that why politically astute psychiatrists are trying to distance themselves from it?
Well... while I have no doubt quite a few psychiatrists are not sane, I do not think that is their main or indeed a major problem. The main problems of psychiatry are threefold:

First, they are not real scientists: psychiatry never was a real science, and always was a pseudoscience.

Here, by the way, is what a pseudoscience amounts to, according to Wikipedia - and it fits psychiatry very well:

Pseudoscience is a claim, belief or practice which is presented as scientific, but does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status.[1] Pseudoscience is often characterized by the use of vague, contradictory, exaggerated or unprovable claims, an over-reliance on confirmation rather than rigorous attempts at refutation, a lack of openness to evaluation by other experts, and a general absence of systematic processes to rationally develop theories.

A field, practice, or body of knowledge can reasonably be called pseudoscientific when it is presented as consistent with the norms of scientific research, but it demonstrably fails to meet these norms.
The reasons for this fact, that indeed also holds for clinical psychologists and for most of psychology (and I am one, and got an M.A. with straight As, while ill, albeit mostly on mathematics, logic, and programming, simply because I was then already convinced that most of psychology, outside statistics, is not really scientific) are, in part at least, quite respectable: Nobody has anyone else's experiences; the brain is still mostly unknown (in spite of claims of psychiatrists); and while it is fairly easy to recognize people who are quite mad (basically because they cannot function at all, by themselves), there is not even a decent analysis of human experience, let alone of mad or neurotic experience.

Also, the fact that there is no good scientific theory for what psychiatrists do, is itself no objection to what they are - or at least: should be - trying to do: Helping people who have psychological problems. Of these, there are plenty, and there is no reason why these cannot be helped, also if one has no good theories to explain their problems.

But while they have done so (though a lot less, lately: not talking to one's patients and merely describing medicines is much more profitable than talking to one's patients, for example, and it seems most psychiatrists are rather rich than good) most psychiatrists have been corrupted by money and power, and also by the pretense that they know things they in fact do not know: what it is to be mad, on good theoretical grounds; what is the character, the personality, the self of a person, again based
on good theoretical grounds; what is a person; what is meaning; how does society treat persons, etc. etc. are all elementary questions no psychiatrist has good answers for - but most do pretend they do.

Here is an important part of the reasons why:

Second, psychiatrists are not only in the business of psychiatry to get money: they have been enormously corrupted by pharmaceutical corporations, and indeed many of their leaders wanted to be corrupted.

There is nothing against medical men making money: almost everyone needs to make money. But from 1980 onwards, or before, the
pharmaceutical corporations have massively corrupted especially psychiatrists by giving them money and/or  rewards for the pills they prescibed, simply because the profits of pharmaceutical corporations is proportional to the amount of pills sold - and psychiatrists, anyway not real scientists, were eager to get corrupted.

I think this story is best told by "The Truth about Drug Companies" by Marcia Angell (from 2004), and by Gwen Olsen, who was a successful pharmaceutical sales representative for fifteen years, until she understood what she was doing.

Third, psychiatrists are extremely dishonest: the vast majority insists that they are scientists, forgetting that their "science" is a mere B.A. in medicine, which is not at all the same as psychiatry, and does not ever discuss either of the two points I just made.

So there is the summary of the failure of psychiatry: There is not sufficient scientific knowledge to found their claims, not by far also; because it pays so well, they pretend to be scientists, thereby transforming their practice into a pseudoscience; because of the corruptive influence of the pharmaceutical companies - we are talking of many billions of dollars each year - most have been corrupted as well; and they also lack usually both the insight and the honesty to talk fairly and clearly about their doings. And no: not every psychiatrist is corrupt, but most are.

Finally, if you want to know more about the things psychiatrists do wrong, you have to consult the last dotted link: it does contain some fairly flabbergasting facts.

[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, that the governors do not rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
It is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.)

[2] I am also not radically pro-capitalist. What I am radical about is totalitarianism, which I am radically against, which also is one important part of the reason I gave up communism aged 20, though my parents and grandparents were communists or anarchists. Also, being anti-totalitarian seems to me to exclude all socialist state-economies I know of: These all concentrate far too much power with far too few people, and in fact are dictatorships.

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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