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Nederlog

January 5, 2016

Crisis: American Economy, NSA & Encryption, Democracy, Narcotics in USA
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Introduction   

1.
The Economy in 2016: On the Edge of Recession
2.
A Redaction Re-Visited: NSA Targeted “The Two Leading”
     Encryption Chips

3.
“Democracy in America”
4.
The Opposition to Guidelines Discouraging Overuse of
     Narcotics
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, January 5, 2016.

This is a crisis blog with 4 items and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Robert Reich who argues - correctly, I think - that the best 2016 can bring, econo- mically, in the USA, is a continuation of recession; item 2 is about an article by Glenn Greenwald, who returns to an earlier article and discusses the extent to which the NSA has broken encryption; item 3 is about an article about a classic book (in 2 volumes) I learned a lot from, in the 1970ies; and item 4 is for those interested in medicine (I am, because I am ill for the 38th year) and outlines some of the reasons I lost most of my faith in "medicine" (for it tends to be moved by profits for medics and pharmaceurical corporations much rather than patients's interests, in brief).

1.
The Economy in 2016: On the Edge of Recession

The first article is by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows:

Economic forecasters exist to make astrologers look good, but I’ll hazard a guess. I expect the U.S. economy to sputter in 2016. That’s because the economy faces a deep structural problem: not enough demand for all the goods and services it’s capable of producing.

American consumers account for almost 70 percent of economic activity, but they won’t have enough purchasing power in 2016 to keep the economy going on more than two cylinders. Blame widening inequality.

Yes, though I like to add that the very first sentence implies that - by and large, with possible exceptions - economy is not (yet) a real science. The reason is that real sciences are characterized by the fact that they can make considerably better predictions about a particular and considerable field of their science than astrologers can.

And please note that I did not say that most economists are irrational, nor that they do not make mathematical models: What I am saying is basically that the real world (in economics) is too complicated to fit well inside any economic model designed by economists.

What I am also not saying is that all economists are "of equal value" (which is what most Dutchmen would say, for they believe in majority that it is good to say that "everybody is of equal value" [1]): Clearly, some are a lot more intelligent, or a lot less prejudiced, than some of their economical brethern.

Also Robert Reich - in my opinion - is a good economist whose ideas are a lot better than some other economists, who may be more well known, like the late Milton Friedman (who was in my opinion basically a fraud, though I agree he was far from stupid).

And to end these introductory remarks, I agree with Reich that (1) the U.S. economy "faces a deep structural problem: not enough demand for all the goods and services it’s capable of producing" and (2) there are no real solutions available that could take the place of more demand:

Exports won’t make up for this deficiency in demand. To the contrary, Europe remains in or close to recession, China’s growth is slowing dramatically, Japan is still on its back, and most developing countries are in the doldrums. 

Business investment won’t save the day, either. Without enough customers, businesses won’t step up investment.
That is an important part of the reason Reich believes the U.S. economy will not improve in 2016, and I agree.

Here are some other reasons:

The Federal Reserve has started to raise interest rates—spooked by an inflationary ghost that shows no sign of appearing. And Congress, notwithstanding its end-of-year tax-cutting binge, is still in the thralls of austerity economics.

Chances are, therefore, the next president will inherit an economy teetering on the edge of recession.

Put otherwise: While I have no idea about the reasons for the Fed's policy decisions, I do have ideas about Congress: It presently is a mostly sick machine that mostly runs on palpably false ideological illusions,  that again will not do much to counteract the basic problem: Inequality.

So I tend to agree with men like Reich and Stiglitz that unless a good part of the economic inequalities are - somehow [2] - stopped, the American economy in 2016 will teeter on the brink of recession, or go into recession.

2. A Redaction Re-Visited: NSA Targeted “The Two Leading” Encryption Chips

The second item is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
On September 5, 2013, The Guardian, the New York Times and ProPublica jointly reported — based on documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden — that the National Security Agency had compromised some of the encryption that is most commonly used to secure internet transactions. The NYT explained that NSA “has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the emails, web searches, internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world.”
In fact, and as the title indicates, this is a redaction of a considerably earlier article by Greenwald and others, that I also did review when it appeared: Here
is the link, for it is well worth reading:
In fact, the first three pieces in the above link are about the article Greenwald mentioned, and I think they are all well worth (re-)reading.

Next, as to the redactions of the information back in 2013, which is the subject of the present article, there is this:

In support of the reporting, all three papers published redacted portions of documents from the NSA along with its British counterpart, GCHQ. Prior to publication of the story, the NSA vehemently argued that any reporting of any kind on this program would jeopardize national security by alerting terrorists to the fact that encryption products had been successfully compromised. After the stories were published, U.S. officials aggressively attacked the newspapers for endangering national security and helping terrorists with these revelations.
As far as I am concerned, the NSA simply are part of the state terrorists of the USA. And to put this clearly: I have no objection against a secret service that investigates the e-mails of known or partially known terrorists; I have fundamental Constitutional complete disagreements with any secret service that intends to investigate the e-mails and the computers of everyone. It is illegal; it is anti-Constitutional; it is criminal; it is anti-democratic and it will not further finding real terrorists. (For more, see William Binney.)

Finally, here is part of the reason for Glenn Greenwald's redaction of materials he got from Edward Snowden:
The reference to “the two leading encryption chips” provides some hints, but no definitive proof, as to which ones were successfully targeted. Matthew Green, a cryptography expert at Johns Hopkins, declined to speculate on which companies this might reference. But he said that “the damage has already been done. From what I’ve heard, many foreign purchasers have already begun to look at all U.S.-manufactured encryption technology with a much more skeptical eye as a result of what the NSA has done. That’s too bad, because I suspect only a minority of products have been compromised this way.”
This is again a private opinion. I have no reason to disbelieve Mr Green, but also no reason to believe him, and that is the basic problem: No one knows what the secret spies from the NSA know and did and do, other than the spies, and in a supposed democracy where these spies now unconstitutionally spy on everyone everywhere, that is a major threat to democracy and personal freedom.

3. “Democracy in America”

The third item is by Carlos Lozada on Truthdig:

In fact, the title is between quotes not because it questions what it states, though this would have been justified today, but because it is the title of a book by Alexis de Tocqueville (<- Wikipedia) that was first published in two volumes in 1835 and 1840,  that I first read in the 1970ies, and that ever since has been one of my (rather few) favorites in politics, sociology and social philosophy.

Carlos Lozada is an American of Peruvian descent, who became an American in 2014 (after staying in the USA for 26 years), having passed the citizenship exami- nation but, being an intelligent man, asked himself what book he should read to try to understand his new home land - and he hit on De Tocqueville's text:

Fortunately, there’s this little book called “Democracy in America” — written 175 years ago by, of all people, some know-it-all foreigner.

It’s embarrassing to admit that I’d never read Alexis de Tocqueville’s classic work until now, but I’m glad I picked this year to do it. Few books have been so often cited and imitated, so I won’t presume to offer more insight than this: “Democracy in America” is an ideal book to read as a new citizen. Yes, it’s really long and stuffed with annoying, self-referential French digressions. (I can say that sort of thing now, I’m American!) But it also explains perfectly to a brand-new compatriot so much of the essential minutiae of life here, so much of what America is and was, so much of what it risks losing.

Yes, indeed - though I'd say that it is considerably more embarrassing that the vast majority of all Americans certainly has not read "Democracy in America", and very probably also have no idea who Alexis de Tocqueville (<- Wikipedia) was [3].

Here is some more about it:

“Democracy in America” also notes that Americans go temporarily insane every election cycle. New citizens will be relieved or unnerved to learn that the 2016 campaign is not entirely unusual. Trump’s candidacy is an extreme instance; his proposals on immigration, terrorism and religion have eviscerated the boundaries of acceptable political speech — or maybe reflected the state of that speech more accurately than ever.

Yes, indeed. Also, I like to add that the book (as I read it also) consists of two volumes, and that I found volume two considerably more interesting for understanding what the USA is than volume one (which is OK but more historical), while indeed De Tocqueville's impressions and ideas, most of which go back to the early 1830ies, are quite apt and quite revealing about tendencies that would appear to become evident much later: He really saw deep.

And there is this to end this review:

“Democracy in America” also captures the fights between security and liberty, a battleground long before Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency, religious tests and Syrian refugees. “What good does it do me, after all,” Tocqueville asks, “if an ever-watchful authority keeps an eye out to ensure that my pleasures will be tranquil and races ahead of me to ward off all danger, sparing me the need even to think about such things, if that authority, even as it removes the smallest thorns from my path, is also absolute master of my liberty and my life?”

Precisely: With some secret spies knowing - presumably - very much more about your self than your self, who are also all dedicated to Deny / Disrupt / Degrade / Deceive anyone and anything in case you cease having the ideas and values the secret spies serve themselves, you have totally lost your life as a free individual, and are best regarded as the manipulated and deceived slave of the secret spies:

                                          (From the NSA)

But it is true De Tocqueville did not foresee this, while it also is true that his text
is both a truly classical liberal text, and one of the best - still! - to inform you about the USA, especially if you are an intelligent European. [4]

4. The Opposition to Guidelines Discouraging Overuse of Narcotics

The fourth item is by Roy M. Poses MD on Health Care Renewal:

This starts as follows:

As I have written before as a physician who saw too many dire results of intravenous drug abuse, I was amazed how narcotics were pushed as the treatment of choice for chronic pain in the 1990s, with the result that the US was once again engulfed in an epidemic of narcotic abuse and its effects.  In mid-December, 2015, as reported in the Washington Post,

The nation continues to suffer through a widespread epidemic to prescription opioids and their illegal cousin, heroin. The CDC estimated that 20 percent of patients who complain about acute or chronic pain that is not from cancer are prescribed opioids. Health-care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for the medications in 2012, 'enough for every adult in the United States to have a bottle of pills,' the CDC wrote.

Last week, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that the number of overdose deaths from legal opioid drugs surged by 16.3 percent in 2014, to 18,893, while overdose fatalities from heroin climbed by 28 percent, to 10,574. Authorities have said that previous efforts to restrict prescription drug abuse have forced some people with addictions to the medications onto heroin, which is cheaper and widely available.
This rising tide of death and morbidity seems to have been fueled by reckless, sometimes deceptive, sometimes illegal marketing by the pharmaceutical companies that produced narcotics other than heroin.
In case you do not know much about modern medicine: I hope this shocked you.

But yes, it seems to be a plain fact that American doctors prescribed 259 million bottles of strong opioids, which are well described as the functional equivalent of heroin, and are known to be quite addictive.


There is in fact a lot more in the article (which is recommended), and there is a whole lot more in modern medicine - especially but not only in the USA - that is much more reminiscent of deception than of science or medicine, and which is fueled by the attitude of many modern medics that they chose a science in which they can safely turn rich before being found out (and if they are found out, little will happen to them).

In part this is because most of the medical data are kept secret; in part this is because many of the leading medical articles these days are no longer written by those who sign them, but by a propaganda staff of the pharmaceutical corporations (!!); in part because psychiatry has become the pseudo-science of liars and frauds, who now have invented over 400 "psychiatric ailments" without any rational foundation - or at least: without any rational foundation other than fraudulent prescriptions of the latest reinvention of Prozac or opioids (for in fact there have been found very few new psychiatric drugs the last 30 years: nearly all are restylings of Prozac, to keep the prices high by the new patents) - and this was just part of a long list of steep and wide-spread declines in medicine as a science and in medicine as a moral practice directed at helping patients:  These are mostly true of the past (before 1980), but no longer true of the present.

I reviewed this article in part because it is a good article, and in part because I am a psychologist and philosopher (according to my - excellent - degrees), who never was able to get more than a sub-minimal income in the country where I live, because my disease - M.E. which I now have for the 38th year and caught in the first year of my university studies - has been much maligned by psychiatric, psychological and medical frauds, whose one specialism was lying for more money for their own sweet persons, clad in the unavoidable stethoscope (when "medical people").

The best hope I can offer you is that you never get ill and the second best hope is that if you get ill, it is with a well-known acknowledged disease with an acknowledged widely successful therapy. Apart from that, in case you have a real disease with an unknown cause and no well known therapy, my probability - based on a mere 38 years of argueing - is that you will be abused by medical men and women, not physically, but rationally, ethically and financially: I have been as well, as have many of the millions with my disease.

Finally, this is not to say that there are no good doctors, and not even to say that there are no good psychiatrists, but my experience in the last 38 years have taught me that they are in a small minority, and/because all need to have more individuality, more morality and more resilience than is normal in their highly paying high status private businesses.

---------
Notes

[1] I said that for Dutchmen of all kinds "it is good to say that "everybody is of equal value"" because that has been the truth ever since the late 1970ies, and because it is completely unclear to me how all these millions upon millions who repeated and repeated and repeated that "everybody is of equal value" - which means that you, me, Albert Einstein and Adolf Hitler are are all of equal value - can possibly honestly have thought such an utterly insane thing.

But it still is what most Dutchmen would proudly affirm (because it would make a sadomasochist racist thug with an IQ of 70 and only idiotic prejudices not superior to them?!) - which leads me to the belief that most Dutchmen are either inveterate liars as soon as their own self-interest is involved, or are completely incapable of seeing any logical consequence of what they are claiming.

[2] The reason to annotate "somehow" is that I do not see this happen, and not because there is no economical reason to do so (there is plenty, including 7 years of continued recession), but because politics is against it, while the American politicians seem to have been mostly bought by the very rich.

[3] In fact, he was one of the bright minds of the 19th Century, and a great early sociologist (the term did not even exist as he wrote) and a great political philosopher. He also wrote very well.

[4] I say so because I really think so, and am an intelligent European. The reason De Tocqueville is especially relevant to Europeans is that he wrote himself from a European point of view (much rather than from an American or Asian - say - point of view). Also, for those interested in classical liberalism, he was a true classical liberal, including doubts about democracy.


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