Sep 30, 2016

Crisis: Aleppo, Undermining Democracy, Health Crisis, Anti-War Films, Trolls
Sections                                                                                     crisis index

Worse Than a Slaughterhouse:
2. Undermining Democracy, Corporations Pouring Millions
     into Local Ballot Fights

3. Rapid Burnout, Dissatisfaction of U.S. Doctors
     Threatens Public Health Crisis

4. Important Anti-War Films That Reveal the Uncensored
     History of the United States

5. The One Psychological Characteristic That Online Trolls
     Tend to Share

This is a Nederlog of Friday, September 30, 2016.

A. This is a crisis log with 5 items and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the horrible situation in Syria (but it seems to have been a wrong choice by me); item 2 is about how democracy is being beaten by the few rich: they have more money, and can corrupt most; item 3 is about the fact that some 50% of American doctors are "disengaged, burned out, and demoralized" (which may not be a crisis item - but half of all American medical doctors is very many doctors); item 4 is about no less than 23 anti-war movies that are listed, with links to Youtube (which is an iniative I welcome enthusiastically); and item 5 is about the one psychological characteristic that identifies trolls: They are sadists (as I have been thinking for 20 years now).

-- constant part, for the moment --

B. In case you visit my Dutch site: I do not know, but it may be you need to click/reload twice or more to see any changes I have made. This certainly held for me, but it is possible this was caused by the fact that I am also writing it from my computer.

In any case, I am now (again) updating the opening of my site with the last day it was updated. (And I am very sorry if you have to click/reload several times to see the last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. And it was yesterday still or again the case. Indeed, this also holds for the opening pages: These too are not renewed at "xs4all", or at least: Not for me.) [1]

C. In case you visit my Danish site: You may have more luck than I have. The Danish site has been almost completely destroyed for me because of the actions of its providers: My own e-mail access was terminated; the good statistics I had from 2004-2015 were completely terminated; it is also impossible for me to get access as a guest; and yesterday I had for most of the day no access with FTP to my site, whereas today started with having no access with Firefox to my site. (It now works again (!))

I have no idea who does this. It may be - in the Danish case - that this is related to some changes they are making there, but I do not know this (and if so, they seem to know less about computers than I do).

I am very sorry, and none of it is due to me. I am simply doing the same things as I did for 20 or for 12 years, that also went well for 20 or for 12 years.

1. Worse Than a Slaughterhouse:

The first item
today is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaik on Democracy Now!:
This starts with the following introduction:
The Obama administration is threatening to cut off diplomatic talks with Russia on Syria in the wake of a devastating bombing campaign by the Syrian government and Russia in the city of Aleppo. On Wednesday, the two largest hospitals in East Aleppo were forced to close after being hit by airstrikes. The Russian-backed bombing of Aleppo intensified after a ceasefire collapsed 10 days ago. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that the situation in the Syrian city of Aleppo has become worse than a slaughterhouse.
One of the reasons Ban Ki-Moon probably spoke the truth is a news item that is now several days old:

About a quarter of a million inhabitants of Aleppo have no more water. This is because of two generators of water one has been bombed and the other has been shut down.

This means that they cannot drink, cannot wash, cannot clean, cannot use toilets, cannot cook, and will die with three or four days without any water. Incidentally: Those effected are almost all civilians.

Also, I have neither heard much about this situation since (but I admit that I read hardly any Dutch papers, because these now all mostly offer amusements and interesting news about the life of Dutch Media-Personalities, all of whom seem sick overpaid and morally degenerate bores and liars to me).

I thought I would get more news from Democracy Now! but I did not pick the right item, it seems, for those interviewed seem mostly propagandists. In any case, here is one more bit:

AMY GOODMAN: Video footage from Aleppo has emerged showing Syrian Civil Defense forces digging a young girl out from under the rubble. Five-year-old Ghazal Qasim was reportedly the sole survivor from an airstrike that killed 24 people in the Aleppo neighborhood al-Shaar. Her entire family, including four siblings, were reportedly killed in the bombing. According to aid groups, children in Aleppo have made up a large proportion of the casualties from the bombings. At least 100,000 children remain trapped in the eastern part of Aleppo.
So a mere 100,000 children are being killed, it seems, either by constant bombardments or by lack of water.
2. Undermining Democracy, Corporations Pouring Millions into Local Ballot Fights

The second item is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

This election cycle, corporate donors are not just beefing up the war chests of their most-favored politicians. According to a new study, industry is flexing its Supreme Court- approved political power to dominate local democracy, as well. 

In the study, Big Business Ballot Bullies (pdf), Public Citizen examined eight state-level ballot initiatives and referenda that have seen an outsized amount of political spending. According to the research, published Wednesday, the corporate-backed campaigns have an average of 10-to-1 financial advantage over their mostly grassroots opponents, with total corporate spending in those races topping $139 million.

"These findings should be deeply disturbing to anyone who is concerned about the power of corporate money to distort our democracy," wrote report author and Public Citizen research director Rick Claypool in a Thursday op-ed.

I agree with Claypool, and I add that this whole approach, that amounts often to corrupting anyone corruptible with money, seems to go back to the early seventies' call of Lewis Powell Jr. to the rich to defend their interests better,
and to systematic policies started by Reagan in 1980.

Here are some examples how the rich interfere in democracy with big money (which they soon earn back if they succeed, which they often do):

Big Pharma tycoons Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson have spent the most, each contributing more than $7 million to defeat California's Drug Price Standards Initiative, or Proposition 61, which seeks to lower prescription prices in that state. So far, the industry-backed group opposing that measure has raised more than $86 million.

Colorado's Amendment 69, which would install a universal, Medicare-for-All system for state residents, has won the ire of the insurance industry, with Anthem, United Healthcare, and others spending hundreds of thousands to back the opposition.

Also in Colorado, an anti-fracking measure that would have set a mandatory setback for oil and gas development saw millions of opposition spending, including $6.55 million from Anandarko Petroleum Company, before it failed to make November's ballot.

Again, all of these rich entities can interfere with real democracy (and can corrupt most players) because the Supreme Court has determined effectively that (i) Money = Votes and that (ii) Corporations = People (except that corporations have more rights than people, and cannot be imprisoned).

And here is the general result:

Beyond the report, there are numerous other local initiatives—such as a pro-charter school measure in Massachusetts and Arizona's marijuana legalization effort—that have also garnered significant industry attention.

"The sheer magnitude of corporate money in these races undermines the power of ballot initiatives and referenda to make policy that prioritizes the public interest over private profits," said Claypool. 

And Public Citizen president Robert Weissman added, "Across the country, and for more than a century, people have used initiatives and referenda to drive forward social and economic justice from the ground up. Corporations spending outrageous sums to defeat ballot initiatives undermine our democracy and cast doubt on the public's ability to make effective use of this long-standing American democratic institution."

The reason this works is simply that in reality there are not very many civilians who are willing to do something for democracy or for others, and most of the civilians who do have such interests have little money, and then are met by another minority, that is funded in major ways by the richest people in the country, and paid very well.

This is the end of democracy, and the start of the rule of the rich for the rich, and for noone else.

And this is a recommended article.

Rapid Burnout, Dissatisfaction of U.S. Doctors Threatens Public Health Crisis

The third item is by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:

This starts as follows (and is quite important although it is less a crisis matter than a health matter):

Half of U.S. physicians are “disengaged, burned out, and demoralized and plan to either retire, cut back on work hours, or seek non-clinical roles,” reports MedPage Today, citing a new nationwide survey commissioned by The Physicians Foundation.

“Many physicians are dissatisfied with the current state of the medical practice environment and they are opting out of traditional patient care roles,” said Walker Ray, MD, president of The Physicians Foundation, in remarks that appeared with the survey.

Note that "[h]alf of U.S. physicians" is 1 in 2 of all American medical doctors (who as a rule do have fine incomes). If as many as half of these think about retiring etc. then something is seriously wrong (also because medical people tend to earn very well).

Here is more, quoted from MedPage Today:

The majority of the 17,236 physicians surveyed (54%) describe their morale as somewhat or very negative, 63% are pessimistic about the future of the medical profession, 49% always or often experience feelings of burn-out, and 49% would not recommend medicine as a career to their children, according to the survey.

Physicians identified regulatory/paperwork burdens and loss of clinical autonomy as their primary sources of dissatisfaction.
The survey indicates that only 33% of physicians now identify as private practice owners, down from 49% in 2012, while 58% identify as employees, up from 44% in 2012.
These figures show that indeed something is seriously wrong with at least half of the American medical doctors (whose pay tends to be quite good).

Here is more:

* 80% of physicians are overextended or are at capacity, with no time to see additional patients
* 48% of physicians said their time with patients is always or often limited
* Employed physicians see 19% fewer patients than practice owners
* 46.8% of physicians plan to accelerate their retirement plans
* 20% of physicians practice in groups of 101 doctors or more, up from 12% in 2012
* Only 17% of physicians are in solo practice, down from 25% in 2012
And this is a reaction from a reader of Truthdig, who - very correctly, in my opinion - sees a strong parallel in what has happened in the universities:

One should compare what’s happened in the medical profession with what’s happened in the nation’s universities—greed and ideologically driven (rather than empirically based) business modeling turned control of persons educated to perform the profession’s real work over to hordes of bean counting ‘administrators’ whose policies and actions deprive doctors and professors of autonomy, reduce both time to perform and fair reward for their work, and slash due respect for their hard acquired skills and the developed judgment needed to effectively use them with patients and students.

These results follow from privatization, which is a form of theft consisting of the capitalist practice of plundering employees and reducing services to the public in order to leach wealth for owners, managers or both—workers, humanity and Earth’s future be damned.

I merely say: Yes indeed! And this is from another mail to Truthdig, this time by a former General Surgeon (who also is named in the article):
I loved being a doctor but my professional life was literally sucked out of me and according to the article and conversations with former colleagues it has continued to get worse, “much worse.” I don’t think this is unique to healthcare and I have grave concerns about what type of society will exist for my grandchildren. Greed and Power and the associated Immorality are corrupting the world.

Again I merely say: Yes indeed! And this is a recommended article.

4. Important Anti-War Films That Reveal the Uncensored History of the United States

The fourth item today is by Frank Dorrel on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

The following list of anti-war films spells out the true nature of U.S. foreign policy. These films offer proof that the United States has killed as many as 20 million or more innocent people since the end of World War II. Many more millions have been injured, lost their homes and had their way of life ruined. Americans who died in these wars died for lies told by the U.S. government and mainstream media, which are both owned by the same people who profit from these wars.

This is “The Big Lie,” and it is Orwellian.

When it comes to foreign policy, we cannot trust that America will ever do the right thing. Whatever actions the U.S. takes are to benefit the corporations, the oil companies, the bankers and the war machine, also known as the military-industrial complex.

Yes indeed - as I have explained in some 1300 files about the crisis, so I do take this for granted.

There is also this, which seems also quite true to me (for the US has been fighting several wars for 15 years now):

The United States is “addicted to war.” It is up to us, the people, to stop this horrible situation. The more informed we are about U.S. militarism, the more power we have to resist it and the better our chances to achieve peace.

Yes, indeed.

And next there is a list of no less than 23 movies, all with links to Youtube! I admit I have seen none of them (I don't often leave my house, for one thing) but I really like this initiative.

This is a recommended article.

5. The One Psychological Characteristic That Online Trolls Tend to Share

The fifth and last item today is b
y Kali Holloway on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

Trolling has literally changed culture, both online and off. The word is now used to categorize a wide and varying swath of behaviors, from absurdist contrarian comment posts, to harassment and abuse disproportionately aimed at women of all races and people of color, to entire presidential campaigns. There now exist troll scholars, many of whom have been studying trolls for years, and an academic area of study, trollology. That’s evidence of just how widespread trolling is, and how it’s sparked a sort of anthropological interest in troll behavior and culture.

I first met trolling twenty years ago, when I first went on line. At that time, I also was supplied with three different browsers: One for the internet; one for the mail; and one for 'internet conversations' outside the mail, which turned out to be mostly for trolls: I never read or heard as much severe scoldings as I read in an hour of those 'internet conversations' and I decided (being a psychologist) that (i) those who loved trolling (very many) were sadists and sick people, and (ii) I did not want anything to do with sadists, and therefore immediately removed the whole browser for 'internet conversations' from my computer (in November of 1996, indeed).

In fact, that has been position for twenty years now. I also all those years did not write a single Comment, and I generally avoid reading comments, for while these are not all written by trolls, hardly any comment ever has taught me anything I did not know and wanted to know. [2]

Here is some more on the psyche of trolls:

The question for non-trolls is, behind the layer of protective anonymity, what lies at the core of the troll psyche. The findings of a few studies suggest that trolls who are mean-spirited and manipulative online have offline personalities to match, and that insecurity drives a fair amount of their trollery.

Case in point are two 2014 studies from Canada’s University of Manitoba that looked at the personalities of some 1,200 people who engage in trolling, which the researchers described as “behaving in a deceptive, destructive, or disruptive manner in a social setting on the internet” for seemingly no purpose at all. (The trolls would likely say they do it for the "lulz,” or laughs that come at another person’s expense.)

More specifically:

“Both studies revealed similar patterns of relations between trolling and the Dark Tetrad of personality: trolling correlated positively with sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism,” the researchers wrote. In other words, those who took part in trolling generally enjoyed watching others suffer, were pathologically self-absorbed and lacked “conscience and empathy.”

“Of all personality measures, sadism showed the most robust associations with trolling and, importantly, the relationship was specific to trolling behavior,” study authors note. “Enjoyment of other online activities, such as chatting and debating, was unrelated to sadism. Thus cyber-trolling appears to be an internet manifestation of everyday sadism... Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun… and the internet is their playground!”

In other words: All trolls are anonymous sadists, and they also know they are anonymous sadists. Also, the anonymity is what enables almost any troll to be a sadist: Extremely few would say what they say anonymously if their full real names and real addresses would be printed under their messages.

But thanks to anonymity, all sadists can do as they please, for they are completely unaccountable and can act completely irresponsibly: "Lulz!"

Finally, I should say something about sadism:

I first got aware that some children were sadists (without knowing that term then) when I was seven, and found out that there were quite a few children of around my age who gathered in free quarters during school to find spiders (of which there were very many, because there were many bushes around the school) and pull out their legs, and see how they behaved, which seemed to please most a lot.

At that time, it seemed to me about 1 in 10 had this inclination (which struck me as cruel, although I did not like spiders). I think I was too optimistic at age seven: Nearly sixty years later I conclude from the astounding amounts of trolls I have seen - while avoiding most of them! - that it is more like 1 in 5.

Indeed, this was also the reason why I left Phoenix Rising and will absolutely never return to it: There too were far too many sadists masquerading as patients, and far too many patients who - anonymously, after all - indulged in systematic sadism (organized in droves, also (!!!)) against the few who were really intelligent and who did something for patients (and no, I am not talking about myself here).

This is also why I lost the urge to do anything for "people with M.E.": If 1 in 5 patients is a sadist, and almost no patient who is not dares to do anything against sadists, I give up.

And this is a recommended article.

[1]  Alas, this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for months now. I do not know who does it, and I refuse to call the liars of "xs4all" (really: the KPN), simply because these have been lying to me from 2002-2009, and I do not trust anything they say I cannot control myself: They have treated me for seven years as a liar because "you complain about things other people do not complain about" (which is the perfect excuse never to do anything whatsoever for anyone).

[2] Incidentally: I am sorry, but I do not believe in the academics of trollology. That is utter bullshit as a special academic subject, and is quite the same as the many professors in their own pseudo-science that now work in Dutch universities (inbetween taking governmental jobs, usually). If trolls need to be studied, they need to studied by people who know about psychology and sadism, and these tend to be psychologists. Somebody who got a doctorate in trollology without studying anything else seems a major academic fraud to me.

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