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. Year of the Sheep,
Century of the Dragon?
2. A maverick currency scheme
from the 1930s could save
the Greek economy
the Alarm Over Devices That Let Police Snoop
Into Our Homes
4. The Access Govt and Corporations Have to Our
Thoughts Are Beyond Orwell's
side of the street?…
This is a Nederlog of Tuesday,
February 24, 2015.
It also is a crisis log. There are 5 items: Item 1
is a quite interesting article about China (that I include because it
is good); item 2 contains several alternative ideas
about money and its functions; item 3 explains how
the American police now has the means to listen to your breathing
inches of brick or concrete wall (and there went the privacy of your
item 4 is a fine article on the incredible
power over anyone's thoughts that
Western governments now have (and
there went your privacy); and item 5
is about psychiatry, mostly because I am a psychologist and I really
1. Year of the Sheep, Century of the Dragon?
The first item
article by by Pepe Escobar on Truthdig, but originally
This starts as follows:
BEIJING—Seen from the
Chinese capital as the Year of the Sheep starts, the malaise affecting
the West seems like a mirage in a galaxy far, far away. On the other
hand, the China that surrounds you looks all too solid and nothing like
the embattled nation you hear about in the Western media, with its
falling industrial figures, its real estate bubble, and its looming
environmental disasters. Prophecies of doom notwithstanding, as the
dogs of austerity and war bark madly in the distance, the Chinese
caravan passes by in what President Xi Jinping calls “new normal” mode.
activity still means a staggeringly impressive annual growth rate of 7%
in what is now the globe’s leading
economy. Internally, an immensely complex economic
restructuring is underway as consumption overtakes investment as the
main driver of economic development. At 46.7% of the gross domestic
product (GDP), the service economy has pulled ahead of manufacturing,
which stands at 44%.
And this is an excellent
piece on modern China, by a Westerner who lives there. It is perhaps a
bit too optimistic, but then the figures it quotes are quite
The article is here
because (1) I've always had a considerable interest in China - both
historically and now - though I did rather a lot less with this than I
would have, if I had not fallen ill at 28 (37 years ago) and (2) China
is an enormous
power that probably will lead the world in this 21st Century.
So while none of the following is of immediate interest to the crisis
that is going on in the West, this does concern over a billion human
beings who are currently doing very much, earning very much, producing
very much, and achieving growth figures that are quite non-Western.
Here are a few
figures from the article:
These are mostly economical
and refer to a nation that has more than 1 in 7 of the currently living
human beings - to which it must be added that the Chinese
economy now grows by 7% a year, while the Chinese also have recently
declared they are no longer "a developing nation": they have developed,
- From 1980 to 2010,
China’s urban population grew by 400 million, leaving the country with
at least 700 million urban dwellers.
- Already 160 Chinese
cities boast populations of more than one million. (Europe has only
35.) No less than 250 Chinese cities have tripled their GDP per capita
since 1990, while disposable income per capita is up by 300%.
- The construction
business, one of the country’s biggest employers, involves more than
100 million people, directly or indirectly. Real estate accounts for as
much as 22% of total national investment in fixed assets and all of
this is tied to the sale of consumer appliances, furnishings, and an
annual turnover of 25% of China’s steel production, 70% of its cement,
70% of its plate glass, and 25% of its plastics.
- China is also modifying
its manufacturing base, which increased by a multiple of 18 in the last
three decades. The country still produces 80% of the world’s air
conditioners, 90% of its personal computers, 75% of its solar panels,
70% of its cell phones, and 63% of its shoes.
- (...) the country
accounts for 12.8% of global research and development, well ahead of
England and most of Western Europe.
- Since 1998, the
percentage of GDP dedicated to education has almost tripled; the number
of colleges has doubled; and in only a decade, China has built the
largest higher education system in the world.
Is there much to complain? Yes, there is: the communist party still is
the dominant force, and tries to tighten its ideological control and
its internet control, and if you are an opponent of the system, your
life still may be
But there is less to complain than during Mao's era, and there are much
more riches for most. Also, the national leadership is at least in
competent hands (apart from their having too much power, and not having
the right ideas, but both are quite common), while the
current leader Xi
Jinping is known i.a. for this:
Xi has instead
struck a collective nerve by stressing that the country’s governance
must be based on competence, not insider trading and Party corruption,
and he’s cleverly packaged the transformation he has in mind as an
Anyway... this is an
article you should read all of, for it contains a considerable amount
of facts about 1/7th of the world's population that the West does
usually not hear, see or read, and it is well written.
And in case you are
interested in China: I found the Wikipedia articles on Xi Jinping, on the
of Chinese leadership and on the Politics of
also quite interesting (and there are more links there).
2. A maverick currency scheme from the 1930s
could save the Greek economy
item is an article by George Monbiot on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Compare the terms
demanded of the Greek government to those offered to the banks. Eurozone ministers now insist upon unconditional
surrender: a national abasement that makes a mockery of democracy.
But when the banks were bailed out, governments magicked up the
necessary money almost unconditionally. They shyly requested a few
token reforms, then looked away when the bankers disregarded them.
I agree with this, as
it broaches a much broader theme I intend to treat soon: The fact that
many of the Western politicians, from the "left", the "center" and the
right, who have achieved power since 1980, where in fact quite corrupt:
They did not serve their electorates, but themselves,
and did so by
accepting bribes, amassing wealth, and doing what the few rich wanted
much rather than what the many poor who elected them asked for.
And yes, that has
nothing to do with "democracy". But this is not my theme now, which is
the consideration of some new ways (some quite old, but not well known)
of looking upon money.
Here is one:
One of these radical
ideas was proposed a few months ago by Martin Wolf in the Financial
Times. He suggests stripping private banks of their remarkable power to
create money out of thin air. Simply by issuing credit, they spawn
between 95% and 97% of the money supply. If the state were to assert a
monopoly on money creation, governments could increase their supply
without increasing debt. Seigniorage (the difference between the cost
of producing money and its value) would accrue to the state, adding
billions of pounds to national coffers. The banks would be reduced to
the servants, not the masters, of the economy.
I agree. (But the
main problem would be to find a majority of non-corrupt
and no: you usually don't know about the corruption of politicians
because these too are often kept from the news.)
Here is another (and I merely summarize: there's more in the article):
civilisational advance has been all but destroyed through deregulation,
whose result is a new system of usury, speculation and exploitation.
(...) Pettifor suggests that governments should reassert control over
interest rates at every level of lending.
Again I agree. And
here is a third one (also the subject of the title):
But perhaps the biggest
transformation could happen at the local level. Greece already has set up some local currencies
that have kept money circulating in several towns and cities as it
cannot be siphoned away. (There are similar systems in Britain, such as
the Bristol Pound). But strangely they do not make
use of the thrilling, transformative system that almost saved Europe
from fascism; the currency developed by the economist Silvio Gesell
called stamp scrip. It is explained in Bernard Lietaer’s magnificent book The Future of
In its original form, stamp
scrip was a piece of paper on which a number of boxes were printed. The
note would lose its validity unless a stamp costing 1% of its value was
stuck in one of the boxes every month. In other words, the currency
lost value over time, so there was no incentive to hoard it.
This really is
alternative money. There is considerably more in the article.
I do not know whether this might, could or would save Greece,
least this was a decent article by George Monbiot, that listed three alternative
ways of looking at money, that all are at least interesting,
that also seem better to me than the sick schemes supported by many of
the millionaire-politicians and their millionaire-mates who rule the
big American banks, for these are all explicitly deviced to benefit the
rich, at the costs of the poor.
the Alarm Over Devices That Let Police Snoop Into Our Homes
item is an article by Thor Benson on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
Note that the point is -
once again - that devices like this have been used
warrant whatsoever, while in fact making "in the privacy of
house" a completely meaningless phrase, given that the police (or
anyone who spent
6000 dollars) can hear you through a 12-inch-thick brick or concrete wall from a distance 50 feet
(about 15 meters).
Dozens of law enforcement
agencies in the United States have been outfitted with Doppler radar
devices that allow officers to observe people through the walls of
their own homes—raising concerns that the devices can be used to
violate Fourth Amendment protections.
One popular handheld
version of the technology is called the Range-R, produced by New
York-based defense contractor L-3 Communications. L-3’s marketing materials
promise that the Range-R is sensitive enough to detect a breathing (but
otherwise motionless) person on the other side of a 12-inch-thick brick
or concrete wall 50 feet away.
to a Jan. 20 piece in USA Today, L-3 says it has sold about 200 of
the devices, at a price of $6,000 each, to about 50 law enforcement
agencies. Among them is the United States Marshals Service, which
federal records show has spent $180,000 on Range-Rs.
There is considerably more in the article, but given the levels of
mark many of the currently ruling American politicians, it seems
almost anything is possible that delivers information, almost
completely regardless of any privacy or any constitutional rights.
This theme is also taken up in the next item:
Access Govt and Corporations Have to
Our Thoughts Are Beyond Orwell's Wildest Dreams
item is an article by Robert Scheer on Alternet:
In fact, this is a
quotation from the new book by Robert Scheer (who heads Truthdig)
Know Everything About You: How Data-Collection Corporations and
Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy".
This starts as follows:
privacy is the ball game.
Without the assurance of a zone of inviolate space, both physical and
mental, that a citizen can inhabit without fear of observation by
others, there is no guarantee of the essential sovereignty of the
individual promised in the First and Fourth Amendments to the US
Constitution. That should be clear, as it is to most people who have
been oppressed by the tyranny of authoritarian regimes. Indeed, as
Aldous Huxley and George Orwell brilliantly established in their
classic writing on this subject, the totality of societal observation
over the individual is the defining antithesis of freedom, even when
that observation is gained through hidden and subtle persuasion.
Quite so. There is a lot
more there, which I advice you to read, but I will concentrate only on
the theme of the right to privacy as the foundation of
democracy, and the denial of the right to privacy as the
foundation of state terrorism.
First there is this:
The peril to
democracy highlighted by both Huxley and Orwell was one of
self-censorship as the norm in a totalitarian culture, one that denies
the possibility of the unobserved moment. In the eyes of the original
American revolutionaries who gave us the constitutional restraints on
the power of the state, the unobserved moment was essential to their
bold new experiment. The concept of the Fourth Amendment was born in
English common law, asserting that even the poorest peasant should
enjoy the sovereignty of the home as a refuge from the power of the
king, even a good king.
Precisely. But in the
new state desired by the NSA, the CIA, the FBI and Obama's government
there will not be any "unobserved moment" for anyone:
The government's secret services (covered by secret
courts, that issue secret decisions, that no one has a
right to publish) know absolutely everything, and can soon
suppress, repress, manipulate (secretly)
or arrest (secretly) anyone
who does or may do, say or think anything the government desires should
not be said or thought.
And here is my last quotation from Scheer:
The assumption of
the new surveillance state is that we the citizens are all potential
enemies of the government. This reverses the US Constitution’s
assumption that it is the leaders of our government who should be
viewed with a deep suspicion—an assumption based on the notion that
power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. We the
citizens are the ultimate guardians of our liberty, and our right to be
informed, by the press and by whistleblowers when our governors deceive
us, is sacred to the enterprise of a representative republic.The main
price paid by turning the war on terror into a war on the public’s
right to know, a bipartisan crusade, is that it destroys the foundation
of democracy—an informed public. The George W. Bush administration
initiated this dangerous trend, and Barack Obama has expanded on that
horrid legacy by cracking down on the press, and prosecuting
whistleblowers under the Espionage Act more than all previous US
presidents combined. The result is that our privacy and hence our
freedom has been plundered with abandon.
Precisely, again. As I
said: This is again an article you should read all of (and/or buy the
side of the street?…
item for today is an article by 1 boring old man (in fact: a pensioned
psychiatrist with a good mind ) on his site:
This is about
psychiatry, by a psychiatrist, and is mostly about another
psychiatrist, namely one of the two former leaders of the DSM-5,
Jeffrey Lieberman, about whom the kindest thing I will say is - that I
think - that
he is an impertinent stupid fool (indeed, like many psychiatrists).
I also start this with noting that the last dotted article is rather
long, but it is very well worth reading for anyone with an intelligent
interest in psychiatry.
The article starts with three quotations, of which the first is this
(and seems eminently sensible to this psychologist) that is connected
to a recent report
by The British Psychological Society called "Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia" (there are more links in the last
report of the British Psychological Society mirrors a widespread
reaction against a purely biomedical explanation for psychosis, for
Schizophrenia. They propose the alternative possibility that it can be
an adaptation to childhood trauma and abuse. They advocate access to
psychotherapy for these patients and suggest using neuroleptic
medications only when helpful or requested, not as a steady diet. "Many people find that ‘antipsychotic’ medication
helps to make the experiences less frequent, intense or distressing.
However, there is no evidence that it corrects an underlying biological
abnormality. Recent evidence also suggests that it carries significant
risks, particularly if taken long term."
As I said, I consider
this all quite sensible. The next quotation is by a Stanford
anthropologist (details in the last dotted article), and is again quite
sensible in my psychologist's eyes:
"The implications are that social experience
plays a significant role in who becomes mentally ill, when they fall
ill and how their illness unfolds. We should view illness as caused not
only by brain deficits but also by abuse, deprivation and inequality,
which alter the way brains behave. Illness thus requires social
interventions, not just pharmacological ones."
That was by dr. Luhrman
(and partially quoted: there is more) and again that seems quite
sensible to me.
Here is part of a reaction of dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, that was
specifically directed against dr. Luhrman, and seems quite strange and
impertinent to this Dutch psychologist:
The article about
mental illness was an incredibly unscholarly, misinformed, confused —
at worst, unhelpful, and at best, destructive — commentary that will
add to the confusion about the diagnosis of mental illness, enhance the
stigma, and may lead some patients to doubt the veracity of the
diagnoses that they have been given and the treatments that they are
receiving. Specifically, Dr Luhrmann (...) This strikes me as
preposterous. It is, at best, phenomenologic relativism, and at worst,
simply conflating symptoms with a disorder or a disease…
"Patients" should not,
repeat: NOT, "doubt
the veracity of the diagnoses that they have been given" nor "the treatments that they are receiving", for then dr. Lieberman throws a
frothing fit, for he pretends his pseudoscience
is a real science - which is utter bullshit. (In
case you doubt this - you may - try Paul Lutus, not on psychiatry but
on psychology: "The
Trouble with Psychology".)
Directly under this quotation (partially rendered here) 1 boring old
It is not my
intent in this blog to defend or oppose the position of the British
Psychological Society or Luhrman’s piece. Standards of proof transcend
the opinions of any of us. It is, however, my intent to ask, "Who does
Jeffrey Lieberman think he is?" "What gives him the right to lambast
people who disagree with him with a string of contemptuous invectives
like this?" "Does he not realize that if these critics overstate their
case, it is at least partly in response to his kind of rigid
Quite so. Here is
another quotation from Lieberman, who this time is truly foaming:
Psychiatry has the
dubious distinction of being the only medical specialty with an
anti-movement. There is an anti-psychiatry movement. You have never
heard of an anti-cardiology movement, an anti-dermatology movement, or
an anti-orthopedics movement. What would give an anthropologist license
to comment on something that is so disciplined, bound in evidence, and
Well... I'll explain it
for you (with a reference to my "DSM-5:
Question 1 of "The six
most essential questions in psychiatric diagnosis"):
This is because your way of making a lot of money for yourself
is not "disciplined", not "bound in evidence", not "scientifically anchored" at all, indeed quite unlike cardiology,
dermatology, or orthopedics:
Your DSM-5 is a list of mere symptoms, assembled by a
collection of secretly
gathered American psychiatrists from your own APA, with very
little input from anyone else; these "symptoms" are so vague
that they are only measurable by the agreements of
psychiatrists - and not by any disease, nor by any
reasoned definition of any disease - who make the diagnosis
(that very well may be pure
and you yourself have no reasonable ideas about what madness
nor how or why it is caused, nor indeed how or
why people can be cured or alleviated by nearly all of the pills you
and your kind prescribe.
But OK - this is enough, and for those interested in psychiatry this is
a quite interesting article.
 I added "with a good mind" because it is
so, and because this seems - to me, whose university degrees in
psychology (all taken when ill) must be better than the
degrees of almost any psychiatrist and almost any psychologist - rather
rare, amongst both psychiatrists and psychologists.