June 22, 2015
Crisis: Slave Labor, Pope Francis, Psychopaths, Medicare For All, Orwell, China
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "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. America’s Slave Empire
2. Pope Francis suggests those in weapons industry can't
     call themselves Christian

3. 10 Careers With the Most Psychopaths

5. The Romantic Englishman
6. China's Communist-Capitalist Ecological Apocalypse

This is a Nederlog of Monday June 22, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 6 items with 8 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Chris Hedges on the system of incarceration and exploitation that is called "the American prison system"; item 2 is about pope Francis, who did
insist climate change is real and now insists weapon dealers cannot call themselves Christian: I like him, but am a bit skeptical; item 3 is an interesting article on psychopaths, with some links by me (for being ill with an unrecognized
illness since 1.1.1979 and being a psychologist, I have met far more than I would
have had if I were not ill, or if my illness would have been regarded honestly and fairly); item 4 is Robert Reich's extra explanation - 1 more than the originally planned 10 - on how to save the American economy: By giving everyone medicare; item 5 is about George Orwell, caused by a new book about him, that
I didn't read but the article is OK; and item 6 is a very long but quite good article on the ecological apocalypse that seems to be brewing in China.

This file was uploaded earlier than is usual for me (and I slept three days fairly well, which makes a positive difference).
1. America’s Slave Empire

The first item today is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
The subject is America's prisoners' population and its treatment: The USA has 5% of the world's population, and 25% of the world's inmates. This is also relatively new, and seems most related to "the war on drugs", where people can be jailed for years for possessing some marijuana, and then be exploited mercilessly for years and years on end.

This starts as follows:

Three prisoners—Melvin Ray, James Pleasant and Robert Earl Council—who led work stoppages in Alabama prisons in January 2014 as part of the Free Alabama Movement have spent the last 18 months in solitary confinement. Authorities, unnerved by the protests that engulfed three prisons in the state, as well as by videos and pictures of abusive conditions smuggled out by the movement, say the men will remain in solitary confinement indefinitely.

The prison strike leaders are denied televisions and reading material. They spend at least three days a week, sometimes longer, without leaving their tiny isolation cells. They eat their meals seated on their steel toilets. They are allowed to shower only once every two days despite temperatures that routinely rise above 90 degrees.

Here is testimony by one prisoner:
“We have to shut down the prisons,” Council, known as Kinetik, one of the founders of the Free Alabama Movement, told me by phone from the Holman Correctional Facility in Escambia County, Ala. He has been in prison for 21 years, serving a sentence of life without parole. “We will not work for free anymore. All the work in prisons, from cleaning to cutting grass to working in the kitchen, is done by inmate labor. [Almost no prisoner] in Alabama is paid. Without us the prisons, which are slave empires, cannot function. Prisons, at the same time, charge us a variety of fees, such as for our identification cards or wrist bracelets, and [impose] numerous fines, especially for possession of contraband. They charge us high phone and commissary prices. Prisons each year are taking larger and larger sums of money from the inmates and their families. The state gets from us millions of dollars in free labor and then imposes fees and fines. You have brothers that work in kitchens 12 to 15 hours a day and have done this for years and have never been paid.”
And this is from another prisoner:
The kryptonite to fight the prison system, which is a $500 billion enterprise, is the work strike. And we need people to come to the prisons to let guys on the inside know they have outside support to shut the prison down. Once we take our labor back, prisons will again become places for correction and rehabilitation rather than centers of corporate profit.”
And this is Chris Hedges on the payment prisoners receive:
Only a few hundred of Alabama’s 26,200 prisoners—the system is designed to hold only 13,130 people—are paid to work; they get 17 to 71 cents an hour. The rest are slaves.
I agree.

2Pope Francis suggests those in weapons industry can't call themselves Christian

The next item today is by Reuters on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

People who manufacture weapons or invest in weapons industries are hypocrites if they call themselves Christian, Pope Francis said on Sunday.

Francis issued his toughest condemnation to date of the weapons industry at a rally of thousands of young people at the end of the first day of his trip to the Italian city of Turin.

“If you trust only men you have lost,” he told the young people in a longcommentary about war, trust and politics, after putting aside his prepared address.

“It makes me think of ... people, managers, businessmen who call themselves Christian and they manufacture weapons. That leads to a bit of distrust, doesn’t it?” he said to applause.

He also criticised those who invest in weapons industries, saying “duplicity is the currency of today ... they say one thing and do another.”

I say. And I agree, although I am an atheist. Why is this here? For two reasons, that are a bit opposed:

(1) I think Francis is a bit more honest and a bit more radical than many previous
     popes, which is also important because he is the leader of over a billion
     catholics. I hope his stances will make a difference but
(2) he is an old man, who will not remain pope for many years, and who will be
     followed by another pope who very probably will be less radical and less

So while I like the pope's somewhat radical pronouncements (and there are more), the main practical question is what will be done about this by members of the catholic church - and about this I have read a lot less.

3. 10 Careers With the Most Psychopaths

The next item today is by Kali Holloway on AlterNet:
This is from the beginning:

Just 1 percent of the overall population qualifies as psychopaths; in prison, that number skyrockets to 25 percent. Robert Hare developed the Hare Psychopathy Checklist in the 1980s, and it’s since become a tool widely used for assessing and diagnosing the condition. Contrary to popular notions, lots of psychopaths aren’t raging lunatics or violent criminals; in fact, most of them get along perfectly well in society. As Scientific American explains:

Superficially charming, psychopaths tend to make a good first impression on others and often strike observers as remarkably normal. Yet they are self-centered, dishonest and undependable, and at times they engage in irresponsible behavior for no apparent reason other than the sheer fun of it. Largely devoid of guilt, empathy and love, they have casual and callous interpersonal and romantic relationships. Psychopaths routinely offer excuses for their reckless and often outrageous actions, placing blame on others instead. They rarely learn from their mistakes or benefit from negative feedback, and they have difficulty inhibiting their impulses.

To start with, I have an M.A. in psychology (one of the best M.A.'s ever), but I have been ill since I was 28 (and am 65 now), and in that position, with a disease that wasn't and isn't recognized, I have indeed met quite a few psychopaths, sadists and liars, usually as bureaucrats (and in Holland all professors also are bureaucrats of the state or some city) or as politicians - and I say "quite a few" because, while I do not have any fight with the thesis that 1% of the population is a psychopath, I have met or seen far more in the bureaucracy and in politics, and indeed I have been seriously and illegally discriminated for at least 7 years. (If you read Dutch: See ME in Amsterdam.)

You may protest or disagree, but unless you also have my kind of degree and my experiences as an ill person in the dole, I simply cannot take your disagreements seriously. (Indeed, you very probably have no idea of the horrific obvious sadists who are bureaucrats in Amsterdam.)

Second, I know of Robert Hare (<- Wikipedia) and I mostly agree with him on his definition of "psychopath". There are several entries for him in my Nederlog, and the longest is this, from January 7, 2012:
This is well worth seeing: it gives rather a lot of links, and it also explains the personality of many a bank manager, and shows a nice video of one of these psychopaths (who earned 500 million dollars, and still has them).

And I quote one definition from it, because it defines the term "psychopath", which I think much better than "sociopath", for a reason I will give after the definition:

Psychopathy (..) is a personality disorder characterized primarily by a lack of empathy and remorse, shallow emotions, egocentricity, and deception. Psychopaths are highly prone to antisocial behavior and abusive treatment of others, and are disproportionately responsible for violent crime when in a violent emotional state or situation. Though lacking empathy and emotional depth, they often manage to pass themselves off as average individuals by feigning emotions and lying about their past.

I think that is a reasonable definition that locates the reasons for psychopathy in a
person. It is better than the term "sociopathy" (that is claimed by many to be equivalent and better), for a reason Hare states (from Psychopathy on the Wikipedia):

Hare also provides his own definitions: he describes psychopathy as not having a sense of empathy or morality, but sociopathy as only differing in sense of right and wrong from the average person.

Yes: sociopathy is relative to a society's dominant norms; psychopathy says individuals who have it are somehow - in empathy and morality - different
from most others, regardless of the dominant norms. [1]

The rest of Kali Holloway's article is well worth reading, but I will leave it mostly to your interests, except for saying that her source is a recent book by an English psychologist Kevin Dutton, whose text is also dealt with in the Wikipedia item Psychopathy in the workplace (that also mentions Robert Hare), and for this bit:
In keeping with Dutton’s findings, here’s a list of the top 10 careers with the most psychopaths working in them. There are some surprises—the biggest of which is that politician isn’t number one.
And I give the list, but not Kali Holloway's comments, which you can get by clicking the first dotted link of this section:
  1. CEO
  2. Lawyer
  3. Media (TV/radio)
  4. Salesperson
  5. Surgeon
  6. Journalist
  7. Police officer
  8. Clergy
  9. Chef
  10. Civil servant
Finally, if this section interested you, you should not miss Wikipedia's
This is a good article, with decent definitions and clear listings of psychopathic behavior.


The next item today is an article by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:

Again and again the upcoming election you’ll hear conservatives claim that Medicare - the health insurance program for America’s seniors - is running out of money and must be pared back.

Baloney. Medicare isn’t the problem. In fact, Medicare is more efficient than private health insurance.The real problem is that the costs of health care are expected to rise steeply. 

Medicare could be the solution – the logical next step after the Affordable Care Act toward a single-payer system. 

Please see the accompanying video – #11 in our series on ideas to make the economy work for the many rather than for the few. And please share.

Well - I agree with the argument, and here is the video, which is well worth seeing and takes only 2 m 22 s of your life

The Romantic Englishman

The next item today is an article by Enda O'Doherty on the Dublin Review of Books:
Her subject is a recent book by Robert Colls, "George Orwell: English Rebel", and
her article starts as follows:

In early 1936 the publisher Victor Gollancz commissioned George Orwell to conduct an investigation into the plight of the unemployed in England’s industrial North, a project that led to the book The Road to Wigan Pier. Unemployment and hardship in Lancashire and Yorkshire were, on the face of it, not subjects that Orwell could have been expected to know that much about. True, he had written vividly about tramps and tramping, “spikes”, charity wards and common lodging houses, but he had little experience of England outside London and the home counties and few friends or acquaintances who were working class or came from a non-privileged background. His own sentimental education had been forged in the sleek landscapes of the Thames valley or, later, genteel Southwold on the Suffolk coast – the England inhabited by those he was to term “the lower-upper-middle-class”, the people who kept the country running and who, though they owned no land, still felt they were “landowners in the sight of God”.

If he did not have much relevant experience, what Orwell could offer his publisher were energy and passion, and a small but growing reputation as a young man with something to say. He also needed the money.
This is a decent article about a book I haven't read, but then again I have read nearly everything Orwell has published, and I have always liked especially his essays and journalism a great lot (and indeed, as Enda O'Doherty also notes, these do contain his best writing).

Here is one more quote from it, which is a quotation by V.S. Pritchett

Mr George Orwell has many of the traits of the best English pamphleteers: courage, an individual mind, vehement opinions, an instinct for stirring up trouble, the arts of appealing to that imaginary creature the sensible man and of combining original observations with sweeping generalization, of seeing enemies everywhere and despising all of them. And like the two outstanding figures of our tradition of pamphleteering, Cobbett and Defoe, both of whom had his subversive, non-conforming brand of patriotism, he writes a lucid conversational style which wakes one up suddenly, like cold water dashed in the face. The sting of it is sometimes refreshing; sometimes it makes one very angry. For Mr Orwell likes his friends no better than his enemies and in the name of common sense is capable of exaggerating with the simplicity and innocence of a savage. His virtue is that he says things that need to be said; his vice that some of these things needed saying with a great deal more consideration. But, damn thoughtfulness! Pamphleteers have to hit the bull’s-eye every time, or, failing that, someone else’s eye. Mr Orwell’s standards of accuracy and judiciousness are in the tradition and may be compared with those of Shaw, the greatest pamphleteer of our time.
I mostly agree, though Orwell has never made me "very angry" and also I
think it should have been added that  he did not only have "
an individual mind", which indeed he did have, and which is itself quite uncommon, but also that he had a fine mind. Indeed, that is also one of my reasons to like him.
6. China's Communist-Capitalist Ecological Apocalypse

The last item today is an article by Richard Smith - an economic historian - on Truth-out:
In fact, this is a very long article: 409 Kb on my hard disk. It starts with the following summary introduction:
This article seeks to explain why China's environmental crisis is so horrific, so much worse than "normal" capitalism most everywhere else, and why the government is incapable of suppressing pollution even from its own industries. I begin with an overview of the current state of China's environment: its polluted air, waters, farmland and the proximate causes, including overproduction, overdevelopment, profligate resource consumption, uncontrolled dumping and venting of pollutants. I then discuss the political-economic drivers and enablers of this destruction, the dynamics and contradictions of China's hybrid economy, noting how market reforms have compounded the irrationalities of the old bureaucratic collectivist system with the irrationalities of capitalism resulting in a diabolically ruinous "miracle" economy. I conclude with a précis of the emergency steps the country will have to take to take to brake the drive to socio-ecological collapse, with dire implications for us all.
Here is one quotation from the beginning of the article:
China's rise has come at a horrific social and environmental cost. It's difficult to grasp the demonic violence and wanton recklessness of China's profit-driven assault on nature and on the Chinese themselves. Ten years ago, in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine in March 2005, Pan Yue, China's eloquent, young vice-minister of China's State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) told the magazine, "the Chinese miracle will end soon because the environment can no longer keep pace." Pan Yue added:

We are using too many raw materials to sustain [our] growth ... Our raw materials are scarce, we don't have enough land, and our population is constantly growing. Currently there [are] 1.3 billion people living in China, that's twice as many as 50 years ago. In 2020 there will be 1.5 billion ... but desert areas are expanding at the same time; habitable and usable land has been halved over the past 50 years ... Acid rain is falling on one third of Chinese territory, half of the water in our seven largest rivers is completely useless, while one fourth of our citizens do not have access to clean drinking water. One third of the urban population is breathing polluted air, and less than 20 percent of the trash in cities is treated and processed in an environmentally sustainable manner ... Because air and water are polluted, we are losing between 8 and 15 percent of our gross domestic product. And that doesn't include the costs for health ... In Beijing alone, 70 to 80 percent of all deadly cancer cases are related to the environment.

That was 10 years ago, and Pan Yue "got sidelined" since. There is a whole lot more in the article, which is so long that I have not finished it yet, but which is good.

And it is here - and recommended - because it is very relevant for the destruction of the climate, and because this should interest anyone who is (as I am, for diverse reasons) interested in China.

[1] Note this difference may be quite relevant. Thus, while it is quite evident that many of the leading members of the Soviet Union's KGB were psychopaths (and sadists and bullies and torturers) note of them were sociopaths, for they all
lived by the dominant moral norms of their own society.
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