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Nederlog

October 3, 2015
Crisis: Profits, Clinton vs Sanders, TPP, World Left, China, American Economy

 "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















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Sections
Introduction

1.
Profit, not patients: the risks of private medicine
2. Amid the Crowing of the GOP and Clinton, Sanders Is on
     the Rise

3. The Trans-Pacific Free-Trade Charade
4. Resurgence of the World Left?
5.
China’s Stock Market Crash Is the Latest Crisis of Global
     Capitalism

6. HEY YOU


This is a Nederlog of Saturday, October 3, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by a Scottish medical doctor on the role of profit in medicine (which is much more serious than most other roles, these days, including that of helping the patient); item 2 is about a comparison between Clinton and Sanders (that I think is a little bit too optimistic); item 3 is about an article by Joseph Stiglitz et. al. that is quite clear on the evil TTP and the evil TTIP (yes, they are); item 4 is about an article on whether the world's leftish forces are resurging (again I think it is a little too optimistic); item 5 is about China, and makes clear that it is mostly capitalistic now; and item 6 is an interesting article from 2012 on the American economy (but published on a site with very irritating advertisements).

1. Profit, not patients: the risks of private medicine 

The first item today is an article by Gavin Francis on The Guardian:

Gavin Frances is a Scottish medical doctor who also writes books and is 25 years my junior. He gives his personal experiences with privately practising doctors and with the NHS, and is a proponent of the latter.

I leave these to your interests, and choose - being a philosopher and psychologist myself, in terms of academic degrees - some quotations of a more philosophical nature.

The first shows that Hoppocrates (or "
the authors known collectively as “Hippocrates" (<- Wikipedia)) was keenly aware of money and its role:
More than 2,000 years ago, the authors known collectively as “Hippocrates” were clear on the subject of how money affects clinical practice: it corrupts. As the NHS is denigrated by those in power, and private medicine is promoted as an example of efficiency and consumer-friendliness, it is worth remembering some of them. “One must not be anxious about fixing a fee,” Hippocrates says in the Precepts. “For I consider such a worry to be harmful to a troubled patient … it is better to reproach a patient that you have saved than to extort money from those who are at death’s door.” The theme is elaborated in the series of aphorisms collected under the title Decorum, which contains a meditation on how medical practice should involve the daily exercise of practical compassion and an aspiration towards wisdom. According to Hippocrates, a clinician’s wisdom entails adopting the “right manner” towards money – a manner of generosity, modesty and temperance.
Quite so. Next, there is Galen:
The Roman physician Galen practised several centuries after the Hippocratic writers, but echoed what they had to say: the best clinical decisions are taken when anxieties over money are taken out of the doctor-patient relationship.
In fact, Francis quotes the following from a brief text by Galen on philosophy:
“Philosophy is necessary for doctors if they are to use the Art correctly, when practitioners who are no physicians, but poisoners, are daily before our eyes: lovers of money who abuse the Art for ends that are opposed to its nature.” He is anxious that doctors shouldn’t be asked to double as businesspeople, obliged to practise medicine with one eye on the balance sheet: “For it is impossible at the same time to engage in business, and to practise so great an Art: you must despise one of them, if you are to press on with all speed towards the other.”
Quite so - but most medical doctors I know (in Holland) seem to me to be much more interested in money for themelves, than in the health of their patients.
Also, this is a fairly recent phenomenon, that started around 1980.

My ex and I, who both fell ill as first-year students in January 1979, have seen around 30 Dutch doctors, none of whom even knew of the existence of M.E. and most of whom told us - generally without knowing anything about us or our lives - that it was "psychosomatic" (which is itself a totally unscientific term), also usually without doing any medical (or psychological) investigation.
The clinical attribute with the greatest currency of all is trust: it is essential that we continue to trust our doctors. If private providers with profit as their most fundamental concern are allowed to take over, trust will evaporate. Removing financial questions from the consulting room and transferring them to a central government body was one of the most civilised achievements of the 20th century, perhaps one of the most civilised ideas ever dreamed up by humanity.
To shortcut a lot: After 37 years of asking - with some of the best degrees ever awarded in Holland, that I got while I was ill, and with a very high IQ - I conclude that at least 90% of the medical doctors I have met in Holland are either incompetents or are financially corrupted or are sadists (if I had been a sadist I would have studied medicine!) simply because 90% of the doctors I saw lied to me, didn't know what they should know medically, and didn't help me at all, but seriously hindered me by refusing to do anything for me while insisting on their crazy non-medical "diagnoses" that were only based on solid ignorance about my disease and my person.

The only good things I recall of my many experiences with Dutch doctors are with the three or so that I saw that were competent: They still exist, in a minority. (But they also don't know the explanation for what ails me, but at least they agreed I am not a liar, and that something is the matter.)

2. Amid the Crowing of the GOP and Clinton, Sanders Is on the Rise

The next article today is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

How easy it is to mock the Republican candidates. They’re the gang in the clown car climbing all over each other to offer a reactionary message of disarray that has all but destroyed the chances of the Bush family dynasty continuing. But isn’t that a grand achievement for the democratic process?

Hmm.. no: First of all, the Republican candidates are "in the clown car" not because they are themselves fools, but in order to mislead their audience, that consists of a majority of lowly educated non-intelligent people, who are not really able to distinguish between awful trash and solid theory, and who are very easy to mislead.

Second, I don't think myself that keeping the third Bush from being elected in 26 years as president of the USA is "a grand achievement for the democratic process", and especially not in view of the horrible qualities of the second Bush.

Third, it also isn't done yet: Bush2 Jr still may win.

The following is considerably better:

Good riddance to bad rubbish, except that the alternatives of Trump, Fiorina or Carson only make Jeb Bush look stunningly reasonable in comparison. The other problem is that Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate, is not fundamentally different from the scion of the Bush dynasty.

This means, slighly reformulated, that the two candidates that are still expected by many to win the candidacies for their two parties amount to roughly the same.

Actually, I don't know, for I don't know their programs, indeed in part because I am also quite convinced their "programs" are meant to win the presidency, but are to be left behind as soon as they have won it (or lost it), just like Obama did.

Then again, I mostly agree with the quotation, because both Bush2 Jr and Clinton operate in the vicinity of what is presently "the middle" of American politics, which seems in quite a few ways to the right of Reagan, while e.g. Trump, Carson and Cruz are on the right of both, and Sanders is to the left of both.

There is also this fundamental difference between Clinton and Sanders:

Whereas Sanders supports the efforts by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. John McCain to restore the Glass-Steagall barrier against merging commercial and investment banking, Clinton still insists her husband did the right thing in signing off on the reversal of the sensible banking practice initiated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to prevent another Great Depression.

That is quite true and also quite important. Scheer draws the following inference:

What voters of every racial or ethnic group should understand is that the Clinton gift — worth billions to the banking industry — robbed all working Americans of the opportunity to improve their lot, as shown by the astounding growth in wealth inequality since the Clinton presidency.

Are we really ready for another Clinton?

Well... I like Sanders a lot better than Clinton, while Clinton may be a little (but not much) better than Bush2 Jr, and the latter is again a bit less bad than Trump, Cruz and Carson (etc.), but I am not at all convinced Sanders will win or that Bush2 Jr will loose.

I just don't know - and I am wary of wishful thinking.

3. The Trans-Pacific Free-Trade Charade
 

The next article today is by Joseph Stiglitz and Adam Hersh on Common Dreams:
This is from the beginning (and both writers are professors of economy, while Stiglitz also won a Nobel Prize):
You will hear much about the importance of the TPP for “free trade.” The reality is that this is an agreement to manage its members’ trade and investment relations – and to do so on behalf of each country’s most powerful business lobbies. Make no mistake: It is evident from the main outstanding issues, over which negotiators are still haggling, that the TPP is not about “free” trade.
Indeed - and the whole concept of "free trade" is baloney, but this is just the introduction.

The main part is this:
For decades, US-based tobacco companies have used foreign investor adjudication mechanisms created by agreements like the TPP to fight regulations intended to curb the public-health scourge of smoking. Under these investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) systems, foreign investors gain new rights to sue national governments in binding private arbitration for regulations they see as diminishing the expected profitability of their investments.
(...)
The obligation to compensate investors for losses of expected profits can and has been applied even where rules are nondiscriminatory and profits are made from causing public harm.
(...)
Such provisions make it hard for governments to conduct their basic functions – protecting their citizens’ health and safety, ensuring economic stability, and safeguarding the environment.
I agree - and to say that "Such provisions make it hard to conduct their basic functions" is friendly acadamese, in my eyes, for it will be factually impossible for any government that adopts these rules to protect "their citizens’ health and safety", simply because all interests are deemed inferior to the expectation (!) of profits by multi-national firms.

This also is a quite insane desire, which seems to me to be the main reason that Obama, who is very much in favor of the TTP and TTIP, wants to keep them secret till they have been adopted and practised for five years.

Here is one example of what the multi-nationals may do to any government once the TTP or the TTIP are adopted:
Imagine what would have happened if these provisions had been in place when the lethal effects of asbestos were discovered. Rather than shutting down manufacturers and forcing them to compensate those who had been harmed, under ISDS, governments would have had to pay the manufacturers not to kill their citizens. Taxpayers would have been hit twice – first to pay for the health damage caused by asbestos, and then to compensate manufacturers for their lost profits when the government stepped in to regulate a dangerous product.
Precisely. This is also why the TTP and the TTIP are so important, and why anybody who is not a multi-national CEO or lawyer of a multi-national should oppose them.

4.  Resurgence of the World Left?

The next article is by Immanuel Wallerstein (<- Wikipedia) on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

The sweeping triumph on September 24 of Jeremy Corbyn to be the leader of Great Britain’s Labour Party was stunning and totally unexpected. He entered the race with barely enough support to be put on the ballot. He ran on an uncompromisingly left platform. And then, standing against three more conventional candidates, he won 59.5% of the vote in an election that had an unusually high turnout of 76 percent.

That is quite true - and one point of some importance, also to the rest of the article, is that Corbyn was elected "on an uncompromisingly left platform" in
a party that for over 20 years had pretended to have done away with real leftism, and instead was in favor of the "Third Way", which they also presented
as "New Labour".

Then there is this:

Whether the world political scene is moving rightward or leftward is a favorite subject of political discussion.

Yes and no. That is, I agree with this (and "left" and "right" go back to the French Revolution and the early 19th Century) but I am also not blind to many people who are presently around 30 and who insist that they disbelieve in the opposition between left and right.

I think that the opposition still is correct, though it is perhaps better formulated in terms of who you do support: Do you support the rich (who are quite powerful these days, and have steadily increased their powers and riches since 1980) or do you support the many (the rest, who are not powerful these days, who also depend on the many, and the government, to get a somewhat fair distribution of the riches everyone helps to produce).

Then again, I would agree with those who are presently around 30 if what they mean by "the left" is New Labour in England or Clinton in the USA: The "Third Way" is not leftist, and never was. But to understand what the real left was, you have to understand history, and specifically the history before 1980, which is something few of the presently 30ish people do know well.

Next, there is this:

The first thing to remember is that there is a large gamut of possible positions at any given moment in any given place. Symbolically, let us say they vary from 1 to 10 on a left-right axis. If parties or political leaders move from 2-3, 5-6, or 8-9, this measures a swing to the right. And reverse numbers (9-8, 6-5, 3-2) measure a swing to the left.

The main reason to copy this is that I agree that "there is a large gamut of possible positions at any given moment" and indeed also (although that is not mentioned in the quotation) quite a few different dimensions (which makes it diifficult or impossible to render the leftness or rightness of a candidate or a policy as a single number).

Here is Wallenstein's conclusion:

What, you may wonder, does all this mean? It is clear that, in a world that is living amidst great economic uncertainty and worsening conditions for large segments of the world’s populations, parties in power tend to be blamed and lose electoral strength. So, after the rightward swing of the last decade or so, the pendulum is going the other way.

Perhaps, and indeed I hope so - but as before: I am wary of wishful thinking.

5. China’s Stock Market Crash Is the Latest Crisis of Global Capitalism

The next article is by Walden Bello:
This is from the beginning:
Now, in fact, the Beijing stock market collapse marks the deepening of a new stage in the contemporary crisis of global capitalism.
I agree, and the reason I agree is the size of China's economy. Next, there
is this on those who were the real losers in China:
Alongside the small and medium entrepreneurs serving local markets, the losers include workers, peasants, and the general population in their roles as savers and consumers — in short, as the economist Hongying Wang put it, all those who have “suffered from the financial and public finance systems that have deprived them of their fair share of the national wealth.”
(...)
According to statistics Wang cited from Caijing Magazine, some 70 percent of the stimulus funds went to infrastructure, while only 8 percent went to social welfare expenditures like affordable housing, health care, and education.
This seems similar to how the USA spent its gains, except that in the USA the
infrastructure also is not invested in, while the few rich gained a lot and the many non-rich nothing at all (or they lost, for example their house).

Finally, there is this, which I think is rather interesting:
According to the China Labor Bulletin, strikes have become the “new normal” in China: There were some 1,378 workers’ strikes and protests in 2014 — more than double the 2013 figure and triple 2012’s.

Over the last three decades, the Communist Party of China has replaced the delivery of socialism as the basis of its legitimacy with the delivery of rapid growth and a rich capitalist economy. Indeed, one of the key reasons the party has found it so hard to give up the export-oriented growth model is that it regards this strategy as a tried and tested mechanism of achieving high growth.

It is interesting because it shows that the Chinese went in less than 50 years from extreme Maoist "communism" (see e.g. Jung Chang's "Wild Swans") to a rather extreme form of capitalism - while both social systems were lorded by the Chinese Communist Party (which is still in power).

Also, it is mostly the rapidly increasing number of strikes (which are rather dangerous in an authoritarian country) that supports the notion that the Chinese
have turned from "communism" to capitalism.

6. HEY YOU

The last article today is by Jim Quinn on The Burning Platform. I found it by way of the Raging Bull-Shit site, and I agree with Don Quijones, who runs the lattter site, that this a quite interesting post from 2012, which has not aged:

This starts as follows:

“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.” – Aldous Huxley – Brave New World

The world makes less sense every day. Little children are randomly slaughtered in their schoolrooms. Predator drones roam the skies over foreign countries exterminating bad guys, along with innocent women and children (collateral damage when it occurs in a foreign country). Drugged up mentally ill kids with no hope and no future live lives of secluded quiet desperation until they snap. Ignorant, government educated, welfare dependent drones with no self respect or respect for others, assault, kill and rob within their government created urban jungles. Sociopathic criminals who committed the largest financial crime in world history walk free and continue to occupy executive suites in luxury office towers in downtown NYC, collecting millions in bonuses as compensation for crushing the American middle class.  Academics, whose theories have been thoroughly disproven, continue to steer our economy into an iceberg while accelerating the money printing and debt issuance that will sink our ship of state. Corrupt, bought off politicians pander to the lowest common denominator as their votes are only dependent upon who contributed the most to their election campaigns, which never end. Delusional, materialistic, egocentric, math challenged consumers (formerly known as citizens) live for today, enslave themselves in debt, vote themselves more entitlements, and care not for future generations. The alienation and isolation created by our sprawling, automobile dependent, technology obsessed, government controlled, debt financed society has spread like a cancerous tumor, slowly killing our country.

I agree mostly, but I must make two rather fundamental additions. The first is that the development that is sketched in this opening paragraph was achieved over a course of some 30 years, and started with the elections of Thatcher and Reagan. The second is that it was possible mostly because the majority of the voters are not highly educated and are not really intelligent.

Next, skipping one paragraph, there is this on the US economy by Jim Quinn, who is a financial blogger:

Since 1979, Total Credit Market Debt in the United States has risen from $4.3 trillion to $55.3 trillion, a 1,286% increase in 33 years. Over this same time frame total wages and salaries have risen from $1.3 trillion to $6.9 trillion, a 531% increase. GDP has grown from $2.6 trillion to $15.8 trillion, a 608% increase. Luckily for the oligarchs, the math challenged masses don’t understand that 375% of the increase in GDP is strictly due to Federal Reserve created inflation, as the U.S. dollar has lost 68% of its purchasing power since 1979. This GDP growth was driven by debt, with consumer expenditures rising from 61% of GDP in 1979 to 71% of GDP today. In the one hundred years since the creation of the Federal Reserve the country’s population has tripled, while our public debt and unfunded liabilites have risen from $2 billion to over $200 trillion, a ten million percent increase. The masses have been programmed and conditioned to love their debt servitude and yearn for more debt to fix an economic system that collapsed due to excessive debt. The cadre of ruling elite are obliging by creating debt at hyperspeed levels. The corporate media, Wall Street shysters and low-life captured politicians assure the sheep-like masses that this is normal and beneficial to their interests, as the sheep are sheared and led to slaughter.
I think that is also mostly correct. I will leave the rest to your interests. [1]

-------------------------------------
Note

[1] I like the article, but the site has too many flashy advertisements for my taste.

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