Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Crisis: Free Speech, Decriminalizing Drugs,Optimism (?), France, Trump's Sanity

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
2. Crisis Files
    A. Selections from July 26, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, July 26, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I probably will continue with it, but on the moment I have several problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible and with my health.

As I explained, the crisis files will have a different format from July 1, 2017: I will now list the items I selected as I did before (title + link) but I add one selection from the selected item to give my readers a bit of a taste of the item linked.

So the new format is as follows:

      Link to an item with its orginal title, followed by
      One selection from that item (indented)
      Possibly followed by a brief comment by me (not indented).

This is illustrated below, in selections A.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from July 26, 2017

The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Senators Promise to Amend Israel Boycott Bill After Backlash

This article is by Ryan Grimm on The Intercept. And in fact it is less about Israel than about killing free speech in the USA. This article starts as follows:

The lead author of the controversial Israel Anti-Boycott Act, Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, is open to amending the legislation to address concerns raised by the American Civil Liberties Union, he told The Intercept Monday evening.

The ACLU warned last week that the measure, which targets the BDS movement, was unconstitutional and would have a chilling effect on free speech. In the wake of that warning, and a subsequent article by The Intercept, co-sponsors of the bill have begun to re-examine their support for it.

Cardin said that the ACLU had misinterpreted his legislation, but if it needed to be clarified, he would take the steps to do so. “A lot of the co-sponsors are pretty strongly committed to the freedom of speech,” Cardin said. “We’re certainly sensitive to the issues they raise. If we have to make it clearer, we’ll make it clearer.”

He and the ACLU, he said, disagreed about what the bill would do. “I respect greatly the ACLU. I think that many of their points are just not correct. We don’t want to do anything to infringe freedom of speech,” he said.

One issue of contention is whether criminal penalties such as a 20-year prison sentence would apply to those who violate the law.
Well... I think Cardin is a politician; nearly all politicians are enormous liars; so I think Cardin is lying. And to the best of my knowledge his law is an attempt to kill all free speech about Israel that does not speak in terms of Benjamin Netanyahu, and that tries to kill it by proposing punishments for speaking freely that are much worse than punishments for murder in Holland, Denmark or Norway.

Here is some background:

On Monday night, in an op-ed in the Washington Post, two top officials at the ACLU stood by their legal interpretation. “Violations would be punishable by civil and criminal penalties of up to $1 million and 20 years in prison,” write David Cole and Faiz Shakir, the ACLU’s legal and political directors, respectively.

“We thought we only dealt with civil penalties, not criminal penalties,” Cardin told The Intercept. “But if that’s not clear, we’re willing to deal with these issues.”

If the bill were amended to clarify that no criminal penalties could be applied, violators would still face a $250,000 civil fine or more.

Cardin also said that individual American citizens who backed a boycott of Israel would face no legal consequences, and made that point in a letter penned with co-sponsor Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, which was sent to colleagues on Friday.

But the text of the bill bans actions “which have the effect of furthering or supporting restrictive trade practices or boycotts fostered or imposed by any international governmental organization against Israel or requests to impose restrictive trade practices or boycotts by any international governmental organization against Israel.”

It’s not hard to see how the ACLU read that as a broad ban that criminalized speech.

Again, Cardin is a politician; nearly all politicians are enormous liars; so I think Cardin is lying. And this is a recommended article.

2. The Radicals Were Always Right: Now Is the Time to Decriminalize All Drugs

This is by Mike Ludwig on Truthout. This starts as follows (but if the title is right, I was fifty years too early with my opinions on drugs):

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids recently startled me with a blog post titled, "Why You Shouldn't Use the Word Addict." Drug addiction is a disease, the blog explains. People shouldn't be defined by having an illness, so it's better to use first-person language and say "someone with diabetes" rather than "diabetic." The same should go for the word "addict."

In other words, the ad was saying, we shouldn't stigmatize people living with addiction by identifying them based on one condition with which they struggle. I was startled by the blog because stigmatizing drugs and drug users is exactly what the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids did for years under its previous banner, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
Thanks to the Partnership and its allies, young people like myself learned that smoking marijuana would deflate you like a balloon, and using drugs was like cracking your skull open and frying your brains on a hot skillet. Short on facts but heavy on scare tactics, these ads warned against becoming a "junkie" or an "addict," all while portraying drug users as "criminals" and "losers." This is just the type of stigmatization the Partnership warns against today.

I am sorry, but I am startled by a journalist who claims to be startled by something I know since fifty years. Besides, why should a journalist use ads as his input?

And the following also sounds extremely naive to me:

The idea that criminalizing drug users causes more harm than good is no longer considered radical. The World Health Organization, the American Public Health Organization and dozens of global leaders have all called on governments to end criminal penalties for possessing drugs for personal use, and to focus their efforts on public health solutions to society's drug problems instead. The time to decriminalize drugs is right now, and many reformers see a clear political path to achieving this goal, despite the current political situation in Washington.

No. The "time to decriminalize drugs" was fifty years ago - and see e.g. the Wootton report, that helped to make up my mind, around 1969.

This seems to be an advertisement-stimulated ignorant opinion by some young journalist who doesn't seem to know any facts about drugs, addiction, or drugs criminality.

3. 13 Bright Spots and Optimistic Thinkers Challenge the Dark Future of Trump

This is by AlterNet staff on AlterNet. This starts as follows:

We all recognize the darkness that has descended upon us as the Trump administration reveals its reactionary intentions, levels of corruption and destructive and chaotic approach to governing. Some people are feeling apocalyptic about the future, as we have covered.

It is easy to get depressed and discouraged by everything that is happening. It's tempting to embrace a "glass half empty" world view. But it is vital for progressives to look beyond the shadows of Donald Trump, into our past and present achievements, to spur on future progress and keep hope alive. 

In the interest of looking for positive visions of the future, what follows are 13 visions that while reality-based, do not succumb to our darkest impulses. Instead, these writers and figures articulate visions and paths to a better future—even though the path forward may be arduous.

I say. Well... I definitely tend to feel considerably more pessimistic than optimistic, precisely because "the Trump administration" has revealed "its reactionary intentions, levels of corruption and destructive and chaotic approach to governing".

Then again I have nothing against optimism in so far as it is fact based. Here is Noam Chomsky, as one of the thirteen:

1. Noam Chomsky, New York Times

I don’t think things are quite that bleak. Take the success of the Bernie Sanders campaign, the most remarkable feature of the 2016 election. It is, after all, not all that surprising that a billionaire showman with extensive media backing (including the liberal media, entranced by his antics and the advertising revenue it afforded) should win the nomination of the ultra-reactionary Republican Party.

The Sanders campaign, however, broke dramatically with over a century of U.S. political history. Extensive political science research, notably the work of Thomas Ferguson, has shown convincingly that elections are pretty much bought. For example, campaign spending alone is a remarkably good predictor of electoral success, and support of corporate power and private wealth is a virtual prerequisite even for participation in the political arena.

The Sanders campaign showed that a candidate with mildly progressive (basically New Deal) programs could win the nomination, maybe the election, even without the backing of the major funders or any media support. There’s good reason to suppose that Sanders would have won the nomination had it not been for shenanigans of the Obama-Clinton party managers. He is now the most popular political figure in the country by a large margin.

There is considerably more in the rest. (But I remain far more pessimistic than optimistic as long as the NSA and 17 other secret services can plunder the computers of everyone, which they have been abled to do since 2001.)

4. Macron’s Maneuvers on the New Cold War

This is by Dennis J. Bernstein on Consortiumnews. This is from near the beginning:

Dennis Bernstein: Diana, please give us your response to the recent Trump visit to Paris to meet with Emmanuel Macron.

Diana Johnstone: Well, first of all, it is clear that Emmanuel Macron has seen an advantage in being the only friend of the friendless Trump. It is clear that this can strengthen Macron’s hand in dealing with Germany, the main part of his mandate being to influence Germany in changing EU policy.

Also, Macron is in a position to be an intermediary in this rapprochement between Trump and Putin, which of course the War Party in Washington is doing everything to obstruct. So Macron has situated himself in an interesting position.

I think that any of the contenders in the recent French election would have followed the same path. It was absolutely in the cards for France to change its foreign policy.
Possibly so, though this tends to undermine Macron's originality some: "any of the contenders in the recent French election would have followed the same path". But this is a fairly interesting interview, as shown by the following bit:

DB: Give us your analysis of this Russia-gate madness.

DJ: Well, I am not a psychiatrist, but seen from over here in Europe, it’s unbelievable. I just saw Tucker Carlson’s interview with Max Boot on Fox News. This raving maniac on foreign affairs is on the Council of Foreign Relations, when he ought to be undergoing psychiatric treatment.

Of course, the Clinton machine has taken over the Democratic Party and made it into the War Party. What in the world is wrong with people talking to members of another country? The whole idea that it is something traitorous to talk to Russians is completely insane. At every time in history, even when governments were actually at war with each other, they had some sort of contact, just for simple intelligence reasons.

I agree and this is a recommended article.

5. Psychiatric Group Tells Members It's OK to Break Silence on Trump's Bizarre Behavior

This is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
As President Donald Trump continues to behave bizarrely and erratically—attacking his own attorney general, launching into a political tirade during a speech to Boy Scouts, bringing his 11-year-old son into the burgeoning Russia controversya professional association of psychoanalysts is telling its members to drop the so-called Goldwater rule and comment publicly on the president's state of mind if they find reason to do so.

The Goldwater Rule was formally included in the American Psychiatric Association's "Principles of Medical Ethics" following the 1964 presidential campaign, during which a magazine editor was sued for running an article in which mental health professionals gave their opinions on Republic presidential candidate Barry Goldwater's psychiatric state. The rule deems public comments by psychiatrists on the mental health of public officials without consent "unethical."

In a recent email to its 3,500 members, the American Psychoanalytic Association "told its members they should not feel bound by" the Goldwater Rule, which some have characterized as a "gag rule," STAT's Sharon Begley reports.

"The statement," Begley notes, "represents the first significant crack in the profession’s decades-old united front aimed at preventing experts from discussing the psychiatric aspects of politicians’ behavior. It will likely make many of its members feel more comfortable speaking openly about President Trump's mental health.

Actually, until today I did not even have an inkling that there is an American Psycho- analytic Association (APA), in fact since 1911. I do know, indeed since over 40 years, that there is an American Psychiatric Association (APA) and indeed also that there is an American Psychological Association (APA).

In any case - and as far as I know - it is especially the American Psychiatric Association that anounced the gag rule in 1964 (of course given to the public in terms of utter propaganda, viz. as "Principles of Medical Ethics"), and that makes the big money with its DSM-5, and that also is heavily involved in misleading the public in many ways (that seem all to add money to psychiatrists' incomes).

Then again, Begley seems right that - in over 50 years (!!) - this (bolding added) "represents the first significant crack in the profession’s decades-old united front aimed at preventing experts from discussing the psychiatric aspects of politicians’ behavior".

As I said, this was a gag order since 1964. And since I am a psychologist who thinks that Trump is insane, I welcome the small openining for psychologists, psychiatrists and psychoanalysts to speak the truth about political leaders without risking prosecution or dismissal by their own leaders.

But I am not very optimistic, though this is a recommended article.

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