who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. Guardian and Washington
Post win Pulitzer prize for NSA
2. Feinstein, Meet Irony: Outraged Senate Will
Leak But Not Horrific Acts It
Why We’re in a New Gilded Age
4. It’s Official: America is
an Oligarchy and NOT a
Joan Robinson’s “Introduction to Modern Economics”
Drug Company Dominance Makes Some Shrinks Very
Rich, and Many Patients Over
This is the Nederlog of April
16. It is another crisis
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
The first article today is by Ed Pilkington on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
There is rather a lot more
there, of which I will quote just one more bit:
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".
"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.
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:
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
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
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
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 : 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
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
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.
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:
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.
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
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 America … one
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, kleptocracy, banana
republic style corruption, or – yes – “oligarchy“.
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.
Robinson’s “Introduction to Modern Economics”
Next, an article
by rumplestatkin (in fact: a professional economist) on Naked
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:
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
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
analysis is inherently a moral analysis.
Quite so - which again
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
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.
Company Dominance Makes Some Shrinks Very Rich, and Many Patients Over
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:
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
 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
if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my
More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn
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
from is quite pertinent.)
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
(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: