Thursday, Feb 16, 2017

Crisis: Psychiatry, Messy White House, "Russian Hacking", American Economy, Democracy

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Rep. Ted Lieu to Introduce Bill Requiring a Psychiatrist in White

2. Trump’s Dysfunctional White House
German Intel Clears Russia on Interference
4. Taking on the Billionaires
5. How to Defend Our Democracy

This is a Nederlog of Thursday
, February 16, 2017.

Summary: This file is a crisis log with 5 files and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about
Congressmember Ted Lieu, who proposed a bill that requires a psychiatrist in the White House (I don't quite agree, but my arguments are those of a psychologist, and Lieu's
reasoning is mostly correct); item 2 is about Trump's dysfunctional White House (and can be seen as supporting Robert Reich's article that I reviewed yesterday); item 3 is about real evidence for a Russian interference in the USA or in Germany by Ray McGovern, and is quite good (and there is no real evidence); item 4 is a fairly brief
and completely inadequate review of a long, quite good, and recommended article
by David Morris about the present state of the American economy; and item 5 is a review of an article by Timothy Snyder that I like and recommend.
As for today (February 16, 2017): I have changed my site on February 1, 2017 to make it easier that it might be read, because it now happened for most of last year that both of my sites are not uploaded properly:

On it may be days, weeks or months behind to show the proper last date and the proper last files (in the last 4 years always on the date it was that day), and it was today again NOT updated; on it may be shown as December 31, 2015 (and often was!!!) but it was correct this morning; and indeed I am sick of being system- atically made unreadable and therefore changed the site to allow most readers to find it more easily.

For more explanations, see
here - and no: with two different sites in two different countries with two different providers, where this has been happening for a year (and not for over 20 and over 12 years before) now I'm absolutely certain that this happens and that it's not due to me.

Incidentally, if you reached February 1, 2017 on one of my sites you are in the new set-up and from there you can find the latest Nederlog, and all others from there.
1. Rep. Ted Lieu to Introduce Bill Requiring a Psychiatrist in White House

The first item today is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

This starts with the following introduction:

Dozens of mental health professionals recently wrote a letter warning that President Trump is displaying "grave emotional instability." Now, one lawmaker has introduced a new piece of legislation that would require a psychiatrist in the White House. For more, we speak with that lawmaker: California Democratic Congressmember Ted Lieu.

I say. Anybody who reads Nederlog regularly - and I know it is mostly crisis logs since 2013, which is not quite as I want it, but then I fear neofascism, while my direct family was much hurt by fascism in WW II (parents and a grandparent in the resistance; father and grandfather arrested and locked up as "political terrorists" in concentration camps, which killed my grandgfather) - will know that I am a psychologist who (now for nearly a year) has agreed with "mental health professionals" who said that Trump is not sane.

And I do not know the letter of "[d]ozens" of them, but I do know and quoted an earlier one, which I think yoy should read.

However, I doubt that it is a good idea to "require a psychiatrist in the White House".
Here is Ted Lieu:

AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Lieu, you are introducing legislation that would require a psychiatrist in the White House. Can you explain what you’re doing?

REP. TED LIEU: Sure. So, we’re looking at legislation. And let me just tell you the context for this. In 1928, Congress passed a law requiring that doctors be at the White House, because Congress concluded that presidents are human beings, and like all human beings, we have our own frailties. Because of how people viewed mental health at the time, there was no psychiatrist or psychologist that was required. In the 21st century, we know that mental health is just as important as physical health, so it seemed to make sense that the White House should also have a psychiatrist or a psychologist available.
There are two problems with this.

The first problem is that while medical science is a factual science, psychiatry is not a factual science. More specifically, somebody is physically ill if there are physical signs of pathology, that are objectively present and can be (mostly) objectively seen and tested by medical specialists.

In psychiatry, apart from a few bits where there are physical signs of pathology as in
Alzheimer's Disease, there are in almost all cases no physical signs of pathology. That
means that in the end it is the opinion of a psychiatrist or a psychologist that says that
you are or are not "mentally ill", and indeed there are quite a few (including many
psychiatrists) who want to keep the term "illness" tied to objective signs of factual pathologies, and who therefore speak rather of "mental disorder".

I think myself this is a very real problem: In fact there is - still - not known enough
of the brain to provide objective evidence of pathologies that may explain psychiatric
, which are generally behaviors or opinions of the (supposedly) disordered.

And while I think it is quite evident some people do get mad and do need help [1], psychiatry and (clinical) psychology in general cannot - now - rely on known physical pathologies, and in the end depend on experts' opinions, that are therefore in principle quite less well-founded than medical evidence that you have appendicitis, high bloodpressure, a broken leg, a leaky heart or a diseased kidney.

The second problem is based on the first problem: While indeed there is a good reason to have a medical doctor "in the White House" (so to speak: I suppose they are on call) simply because one may get physically ill quite suddenly and a good physician therefore may be urgently needed, psychiatric disorders take a lot longer to diagnose, are rarely urgent, and if urgent - somebody gettting violently crazy, say - they can be handled by ordinary non-psychiatric medical doctors.

And since psychiatric disorders are very much more a matter of opinion, I'd say there
is no real need for a psychiatrist "in the White House".

Then again, since presidents may get mad or may get disordered, I think they should be seen, preferably before they get to be president, by some qualified psychiatrists, and also, in case there is a more or less objective reason to think they may have serious psychiatric problems, when they are president.

And I agree Donald Trump's behavior provides excellent reasons to suspect he has
some serious psychiatric problems.

Back to Congressmember Lieu:

AMY GOODMAN:  What makes you particularly concerned about President Trump’s mental health?

REP. TED LIEU: Well, there is a structural issue, where I believe that the demands of the presidency have increased significantly, especially since the advent of nuclear weapons, and the president should have the best treatment available. In terms of this bill, we’re trying to see if this is the best way to go about it. Clearly, to me, when you have a president that lies pathologically, that believes in alternative facts, it suggests to me there is a problem. I don’t know the extent of that problem. I don’t know what the best solution is. But I do think that this issue should be raised. And so I raised the issue.

I do more or less agree: President Trump "lies pathologically", "believes in alternative facts" and can blow up the world with nuclear arms.

And this is a recommended article.

2. Trump’s Dysfunctional White House

The second item is by Lawrence Davidson on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:
There is something both horrifying and fascinating about the behavior of President Trump, as we watch him fail to cope with – or perhaps even recognize – the differences between the no-holds-barred world he created for his campaign and the much more polite and temperate world expected of leaders of a constitutional government.

As a result, the present White House appears to be a dysfunctional place. Apparently neither President Trump nor most of his staff have considered that there are real differences, different rules of behavior, between private and public life. Maintaining the model of the abusive boss, the know-it-all CEO (Trump’s preferred modus operandi), has, in quick order, proved both inappropriate and self-defeating.
Yes indeed - and see item 1 above and Robert Reich's article that I reviewed yesterday,
which gets more evidence form the present article.

Here are a few of Trump's - let's say - weirdnesses (a mere brief selection):

—The President has refused to stop being the avaricious businessman 
   and relinquish control of his assets. (..)

—The rush to impose a ban on immigration into the United States from
   seven predominantly Muslim countries (...)

—In the meantime, Trump has, in a manner that has become typical for
   him, attempted to delegitimize judicial opposition (...)

—There are many other moments of Trumpian bluster (...)
As I indicared by "(...)"s there is considerably more text that I leave to your

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:

Thus, even though we are still early in his administration, there is no sign that anyone can control the President’s addiction to gaffes. He is an immature, thin-skinned egotist, and in the end, this may well cost the Republicans dearly.

However, one does have to give President Trump his due. He has a really exceptional ability to stir up the American political scene. For progressives such agitation creates opportunities and risks. There is now an opportunity for a truly united front of progressives that can reform the Democratic Party and give us, in the near term, a viable alternative to the manic CEO and rightwing radicals now occupying the White House.
I'd say no and yes.

The first paragraph does not list the best explanation I know for Trump's appearing as an "
immature, thin-skinned egotist", namely that he has a narcissist personality disorder, and since this by now has been asserted by many psychologists and psychiatrists, I think it should have been mentioned.

But the second paragraph: "
There is now an opportunity for a truly united front of progressives" is correct. I would myself avoid the Democratic Party, but OK - that is just my personal preference.

3. German Intel Clears Russia on Interference

The third 
item is by Ray McGovern (<- Wikipedia) on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:

After a multi-month, politically charged investigation, German intelligence agencies could find no good evidence of Moscow-directed cyber-attacks or a disinformation campaign aimed at subverting the democratic process in Germany. Undaunted, Chancellor Angela Merkel has commissioned a new investigation.

I say - and didn't know this. First some background.

There has been very much journalistic writing on Russian interference in the American elections. In my opinion, which indeed can be traced back to Ray McGovern and William Binney, both specialists on spying, the NSA and the CIA, there is simply no known evidence for this: It is all propaganda.

In fact, I have outlined why I believe this in the end of 2016 and here are three bits that explain this from last December: one, two, three. I think that is quite convincing evidence that there is no evidence for Russian interference in the elections.

Indeed, that is the reason why I avoid writing about it, also because it seems to me mostly propaganda by the Democratic Party to "explain" Hillary Clinton's loss, while completely avoiding any criticism of her or the Democratic Party.

Next, here is Ray McGovern about the very similar problem in Germany: Did the Russians interfere in "the democratic process in Germany":

German intelligence agencies rarely bite the hand that feeds them and realize that the most bountiful part of the trough is at the CIA station in Berlin with ultimate guidance coming from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. But this time, in an unusual departure from past practice, analysts at the BND and BfV decided to act like responsible adults.

Whereas former CIA Director John Brennan prevailed on his analysts to resort to anemic, evidence-light reasoning “assessing” that Russia tried to tip the U.S. election to Donald Trump, Berlin’s intelligence agencies found the evidence lacking and have now completed their investigation.

Better still, the conclusions have been reported in a mainstream German newspaper, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, apparently because a patriotic insider thought the German people should also know.

I think all of this is good: The German intelligence agencies did their job properly, unlike the CIA, and indeed their report also was released "in a mainstream German newspaper".

You'd say - I guess - that this settles the matter, at least for the moment. But if so,
you forget that we are living in the Age of Propaganda:

So, what do powerful officials do when the bureaucracy comes up with “incorrect” conclusions? They send the analysts and investigators back to work until they come up with “correct” answers. This turned out to be no exception. Absent evidence of hacking directed by the Kremlin, the Germans now have opted for an approach by which information can be fudged more easily.

And what well may have happened is this:

For guidance, Merkel may well give the new “investigators” a copy of the evidence-free CIA/FBI/NSA “Assessment: Russia’s Influence Campaign Targeting the 2016 US Presidential Election.” Released on Jan. 6, the report was an eyesore and embarrassment to serious intelligence professionals. The lame “evidence” presented, together with all the “assessing” indulged in by U.S. analysts, was unable to fill five pages; filler was needed – preferably filler that could be made to look like analysis.

Finally, about the Age of Propaganda we live in:

If Americans became aware of the story, it was probably via RT – the bÍte noire of the abovementioned CIA/FBI/NSA report condemning Russian “propaganda.” Can it become any clearer why RT America and RT International are despised by the U.S. government and the “mainstream media?” Many Americans are slowly realizing they cannot count on American network and cable TV for accurate news and are tuning in to RT at least for the other side of these important stories.

It was from a early morning call from RT International that I first learned of the Feb. 7 Sueddeutsche Zeitung report on Germany’s failed hunt for evidence of Russian electoral interference.

Yes indeed. And I know since a long time that I "cannot count on American network and cable TV for accurate news" and neither can I count on any really objective reporting or real news in the mainstream media: They all do mostly propaganda (and also leave out a lot of the news that they find inconvenient, while I think it should be reported). [2]

That the purveyors of American propaganda now decry the Russians for making propaganda shows - in my opinion - that the system is really sick, and indeed, as
Ray McGovern explains, the American propaganda sheets and programs simply chose
not to mention anything about the news about Germany and Russian interference.

And I want to make my own judgements about what I regard as propaganda, and in order to do that somewhat properly I need at least to see it.

As to RT: I anyway do not watch many videos (reading goes much faster for me), but what I have seen from RT's programs - mostly Abby Martin or Chris Hedges - is much better journalism than the video-bullshit I can see, and almost completely avoid, on American sites.

I agree it would have been better if there were real news available on American TV,
but in fact the only good American news program I know is the The Real News (recommended). [3]

As is, I like it that there is RT. And this is a recommended article.

4. Taking on the Billionaires

The fourth
item is by David Morris on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Combatting defeatism may be our single most important psychological objective in the wake of the election. We need to revive the spirit embodied in Barack Obama’s vague but hopeful campaign slogan in 2008, "Yes We Can." At the federal level this is a time to expose, to educate and to resist. But at the state and local level we can act proactively to fashion strategies that both embrace progressive values and directly benefit those who mistakenly voted for Donald Trump as an economic savior. This is the first in a series of pieces focusing on what can be done.

I am no admirer of Barack Obama at all, but otherwise I agree. And in fact I really liked this article and recommend it, but it is simply too long to properly review. So what I did was to extract three pieces from the beginning to show it is really good,
which in the present case also means that quite a lot of real facts are reported.

Here is the first bit:

Over the next 6-12 months Congress will almost certainly give the richest 1 percent of the population an income tax gift totaling some $75-150 billion. The 1 percent, with annual incomes averaging $1.3 million will capture 47 percent of the tax cuts for an average annual tax saving of $214,000 each, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center estimates based on Trump’s proposal, which does not differ dramatically from that of the House Republicans.

The top 0.1 percent, a population comprised of only 117,000 taxpayers who earn, on average $37 million a year will see their tax bill slashed by $1.3 million. The top .001 percent of taxpayers, fewer than 1400 individuals, who earn a dizzying $160 million annually, may see their bank accounts swell by some $10 million.

Profligacy is reserved for the few. For the many this Administration and Congress will be downright tightfisted. The bottom 20 percent of the population, some 80 million low income and working class people, will receive on average a $100 income tax reduction. By one estimate, given the whole package of proposed changes, almost 9 million families could see their taxes actually increase.

Adding insult to injury, the Trump tax plan would not only give the wealthy far larger dollar benefits but it actually reduces taxes on the wealthy by a greater percentage.

I think this is factually correct and also considerably more detailed than most reporting.
Here is more:

Those who now run Washington insist the "me" should take precedence over the "we," that the private is superior to the public. Michigan Republican State House Speaker Tom Leonard, who proposes eliminating the state’s income tax, already the lowest in the country, justified his stance by invoking a common meme, "This is the people's money, not ours." We need to make clear that, given the current distribution of tax breaks and the unprecedented concentration of wealth, the attitude of the 1 percent might more accurately be summarized as, "This is our money, not the peoples."

Despite the election of Donald Trump, a clear message of this election was that the American people believe that class matters. They are outraged that the top 1 percent have captured 99 percent of all new income generated since 2009 and amassed more wealth than 95 percent of the population. They understand the inherent unfairness and danger when 400 individuals have more wealth than 150 million Americans.

I agree this is mostly interpretation, but I like the interpretations. Here is the
last bit that I'll quote:

The tax gift to the rich will demand real sacrifice from the poor and the middle class—more closed state parks, fewer health services, overcrowded classrooms, more prison unrest. The House tax plan will reduce federal revenues by $3 trillion in the first 10 years; Trump’s plan will reduce them by $9.5 trillion according to the Tax Policy Center. The Administration appears to agree with the higher estimate given that Trump’s staff proposes federal spending cuts of $10.5 trillion over the next decade.

The brunt of these cuts will occur in the non-defense part of the discretionary budget, spending on Medicaid, science, veterans’ benefits, food stamps, job training, health research, disaster assistance, housing assistance, national parks, roads and transit will suffer disproportionately. Indeed, Trump proposed during the campaign an increase in military aid to be "fully offset" by reduced spending on social insurance and public works.

I think the reported facts are corrrect, and I agree with the interpretations. There is
a whole lot more in the article, including graphics, and it is well done and well presented: I strongly recommend you to download the whole article.

5. How to Defend Our Democracy

The fifth and last item today is by Timothy Snyder (<-Wikipedia) on Yes! Magazine:
I picked this up yesterday, in my review of Time Is Already Running Out on Our Democracy, Says Expert and said then that I might review it today.

This is the review, which is a bit different from normal reviews, mostly because it
is a list of 20 recommendations "
How to Defend Our Democracy" all with brief comments.

The recommendations are by
Timothy Snyder (<-Wikipedia) who is a professor in history at Yale University and also at three European universities, who specializes
in fascism and the Holocaust (<-Wikipedia) and who fears - correctly, I think -
this, as I reported yesterday:

Snyder urges immediate resistance to the administration’s targeting of Muslims, immigrants, blacks and LGBT people, because if it can “slice off one group, it can do the same to others.” He says protest and pushback should continue with regularity.

“The Constitution is worth saving, the rule of law is worth saving, democracy is worth saving, but these things can and will be lost if everyone waits around for someone else.”

The present article, under the last dotted link, are twenty of his recommendations. I reproduce the recommendations, but deleted all (brief) explanations except for the introduction and the last one:

Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are 20 lessons from the 20th century, adapted to the circumstances of today.

1. Do not obey in advance.
2. Defend an institution.
3. Recall professional ethics.

4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words.

5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives.

6. Be kind to our language.

7. Stand out. Someone has to.

8. Believe in truth.
9. Investigate.
10. Practice corporeal politics.

11. Make eye contact and small talk.
12. Take responsibility for the face of the world.
13. Hinder the one-party state.
14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can.
15. Establish a private life.

16. Learn from others in other countries.
17. Watch out for the paramilitaries.
18. Be reflective if you must be armed.
19. Be as courageous as you can.
20. Be a patriot.

The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

I think this is a quite good list, and I recommend you to download How to Defend Our Democracy if indeed you want to do something against the rise of American neofascism.

[1] In fact, there were some - quite famous - psychiatrists who denied that people got mad or who insisted that as long as there is no real evidence of a relevant patho- logy, psychiatry isn't much of a science at all. One was Ronald Laing (<-Wikipedia) and another Thomas Szasz (<-Wikipedia).

I read most of Laing's book in the 1970ies, but was never convinced, though I liked his (and Phillipson and Lee's) "Interpersonal Perception: A Theory and a Method of Research
" (which is fairly technical and was never popular, unlike some of his other books).

Thomas Szasz was quite interesting and relatively well-known. According to the Wikipedia-article on him:
Szasz argued throughout his career that mental illness is a metaphor for human problems in living, and that mental illnesses are not real in the sense that cancers are real. Except for a few identifiable brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, there are “neither biological or chemical tests nor biopsy or necropsy findings for verifying or falsifying DSM diagnoses", i.e., there are no objective methods for detecting the presence or absence of mental illness. Szasz maintained throughout his career that he was not anti-psychiatry but was rather anti-coercive psychiatry.
I agreed with that, but I don't quite agree with Szasz. In case you are interested,
I wrote a long review of his theories here.

My point that they do not just confuse reporting with facts with writing propaganda (and also mixing the two) is relevant, but the other criticism, that they simply do not report on the things they think their readers shouldn't know is at least as important, for this means that you do not even get to see it.

[3] I really like
The Real News: What I saw of them was all quite well done and interesting. In case you might remember - I don't know, and it is meanwhile about eight years ago - that I liked The Young Turks: I still more or less like them, but they are considerably less radical than they were in 2009 (and are now considerably more popular), and I am also older and better informed, while they report mostly - I'd say -
for people in their teens till thirties.
The Real News is better and also more intelligent. One of the things I dislike about TYT is that they mostly seem to address the averagely intelligent, to whom they have to explain - over and again - the same simple points.
I agree there should be a time and a place for that, and TYT fills it probably reasonably well, but I am not average, and am meanwhile 66 and a heavily degreed intellectual.

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