Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Crisis: North Korea, Marriage, Psychotherapists, George Orwell, Mass Extinctions

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
    A. Selections from September 26, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, September 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 will continue with it.

On the moment I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and will continue.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from September 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:

This article is by Rick Gladstone and David E. Sanger on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

North Korea threatened on Monday to shoot down American warplanes even if they were not in the country’s airspace, stating that President Trump’s comments suggesting he would eradicate North Korea and its leaders were “a declaration of war.”

The warning, made by Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho of North Korea in New York after a week of United Nations General Assembly meetings, escalated the invective-laced exchanges with Mr. Trump and appeared to further preclude the possibility of a diplomatic exit from the biggest foreign crisis the administration has faced.

Administration officials denied that the United States had declared war on the isolated, nuclear-armed country of 25 million people, with Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, calling such a suggestion “absurd.”

She also said that “it’s never appropriate to shoot down another country’s aircraft when it’s over international waters” and that the United States wants a peaceful denuclearization of North Korea.

I say. And I will not try to shed more light on the above than it gives (and I will suppose that my readers do know something about North Korea and the present major difficulties between it and the USA).

But here is some more, that makes it even more difficult to dissolve the situation peacefully:

But Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, said he saw no prospect of talks with North Korea that would allow its “de facto nuclear capability.” North Korea’s top leader, Kim Jong-un, has already ruled out giving up nuclear weapons.

“The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country,” Mr. Ri told reporters at a news conference outside his hotel as he was about to return home.

“Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country,” he said.

I say, again. In fact, the underlying facts are that the USA is very many times bigger and more powerful than North Korea, while North Korea does have nuclear weapons.

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

Today, North Korea’s ability to make good on its threat is limited. Its air force is outdated, undertrained and frequently short of fuel. But the threat reinforced a fear that Pyongyang and Washington are hurtling toward a possible armed conflict, even an unintended one.

I suppose that is true. There is considerably more in the article, that is recommended.

And as a background, I think one should remember that if North and South Korea are getting somehow involved in a nuclear arms conflict, the total population of both countries risk extinction, which would kill more people than were killed in WW II. See here for more.

2. How Did Marriage Become a Mark of Privilege?

This article is by Claire Cain Miller on The New York Times. It starts as follows (after a somewhat amazing - and rather frightening - fifties' photograph):

Marriage, which used to be the default way to form a family in the United States, regardless of income or education, has become yet another part of American life reserved for those who are most privileged.

Fewer Americans are marrying over all, and whether they do so is more tied to socioeconomic status than ever before. In recent years, marriage has sharply declined among people without college degrees, while staying steady among college graduates with higher incomes.

Currently, 26 percent of poor adults, 39 percent of working-class adults and 56 percent of middle- and upper-class adults ages 18 to 55 are married, according to a research brief published from two think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute and Opportunity America.

In 1990, more than half of adults were married, with much less difference based on class and education: 51 percent of poor adults, 57 percent of working-class adults and 65 percent of middle- and upper-class adults were married.

A big reason for the decline: Unemployed men are less likely to be seen as marriage material.

I suppose this is more or less correct, although I´d revise the last statement by attributing the main cause not as ¨Unemployed men¨ but simply as poverty.

And there is this, which is at least somewhat counterintuitive:

“Women don’t want to take a risk on somebody who’s not going to be able to provide anything,” said Sharon Sassler, a sociologist at Cornell who published “Cohabitation Nation: Gender, Class, and the Remaking of Relationships” with Amanda Jayne Miller last month.

As marriage has declined, though, childbearing has not, which means that more children are living in families without two parents and the resources they bring.
Thirty-six percent of children born to a working-class mother are born out of wedlock, versus 13 percent of those born to middle- and upper-class mothers.

Of course, I do think it is at least a bit counterintuitive that ¨As marriage has declined, though, childbearing has not, which means that more children are living in families without two parents and the resources they bring.¨

Can´t poor women get the pill? Mind you: ¨childbearing has not¨ ¨declined¨. Why are there as many children born as before, while there are far fewer marriages? I do not know the answer, but I do suppose there are some causes other than poverty involved here.

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

The research brief defined “working class” as adults with an adjusted family income between the 20th and 50th percentiles, with high school diplomas but not bachelor’s degrees. Poor is defined as those below the 20th percentile or without high school diplomas, and the middle and upper class as those above the 50th percentile or with college degrees.

Americans across the income spectrum still highly value marriage, sociologists have found. But while it used to be a marker of adulthood, now it is something more wait to do until the other pieces of adulthood are in place — especially financial stability. For people with less education and lower earnings, that might never happen.

Well... yes, but it is not so much a lack of ¨financial stability" (?!) that is (it seems) the main cause of far fewer marriages among the poor, as simply poverty.

3. Psychotherapists' Open Letter on How Donald Trump and His Supporters Are Wreaking Trauma on Americans

This article is by six psychotherapists with varying degrees (including Ph.D.s and M.D.s) on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

Increasingly, the weight of the current political environment burdens the hearts and minds of Americans and causes anxiety, preoccupation, deepening depression, feelings of helplessness and despair, disgust and horror. Not infrequently, it even rekindles the embers of prior trauma for women and members of marginalized groups whose sense of hard-won safety has been shaken to the core. As mental health professionals, we are troubled by the environment of rampant dishonesty, daily disregard for civil and social norms, and threats toward vulnerable peoples and its impact on the people we work with. We are troubled by policies and rhetoric that undermine progress on environmental protection, humane immigration laws, and racial and gender equity. We believe these developments augur a regression of our evolutionary accomplishments and a dismantling of the quality of life for all Americans.

I am a psychologist, and I don´t like psychotherapists for (at least) two reasons:

¨Psychotherapy¨ of any kind, including standard psychiatry, has no real scientific foundations of any kind (if you want to see the case argued for psychiatry, then look here: DSM-5: Question 1 of "The six most essential questions in psychiatric diagnosis"), and most psychotherapists seem to be much more interested in the good money it brings them than in good empirical and scientific foundations for the therapies they do give.

Please note that (i) I am in my late 60ies, and have seen myriads of psychotherapists and psychotherapies come and go over the last 50 years, while (ii) I am quite willing to agree that there are quite a few people with some sort of psychological problems, that mostly do need help, which (iii) is often given (for payment) by some kind of psychotherapist.

So I am willing to agree there is some place for psychotherapies and psychotherapists, but I am certainly not willing, nor indeed intellectually or morally capable, as a psychologist and a philosopher, to say that much or most of that psychotherapists are doing is based on good science or has good empirical foundations.

Also I find the above first paragraph I quoted almost complete propaganda bullshit: ¨the weight of the current political environment¨, ¨the hearts and minds of Americans¨, ¨the embers of prior trauma¨, ¨mental health professionals¨, ¨augur a regression¨, ¨our evolutionary accomplishments¨ and ¨the quality of life for all Americans¨ are all phrases that are mostly composed out of propaganda and pretension, and they also hardly say anything factual.

Here is some more:

We are a group of psychotherapists from across the country who came together in solidarity to examine how the political environment impacts us, our clinical practice and our clients. We are united by a commitment to create safety and exploration for the purpose of psychological, emotional and relational healing in our work with individuals, couples and families. Recent events have made it even more imperative that we offer public statements about how the socio-political environment impacts the lives of clients and clinicians alike. At this point, we believe that silence is complicity.

I am sorry: ¨came together in solidarity¨, ¨a commitment to create safety and exploration for the purpose of psychological, emotional and relational healing¨ and ¨even more imperative¨ again are mostly propaganda that says little or nothing.

Then again, I am willing to agree with them that ¨silence is complicity¨ - but why o why must they express themselves as horribly and as propagandistically as they do?

There is more here, but my general attitude is that you need to be able to write (somewhat) proper English before you break silence.

4. Important Lessons From George Orwell and Winston Churchill for Resisting Authoritarian Rule in Trump's America

This article is by Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet (with photograph of Orwell that I do not think is of Orwell) and it starts as follows:

Donald Trump’s reactionary presidency and Silicon Valley’s spying on online users is pushing the nation and world in dangerous directions comparable to past eras, where authoritarian rule and totalitarian belief held sway. A handful of writers have urged Americans to heed history’s lessons on resisting tyranny in all of its forms.

One of the most recent is Thomas Ricks, who for the past two decades has been among the most prominent journalists covering the military and war. His newest book compares and contrasts Winston Churchill and George Orwell, tracing how both came to recognize and resist abuses of power and political propaganda to side with individual dignity.

AlterNet’s Steven Rosenfeld interviewed Ricks, who recounted those lessons and their critical relevance today in an era dominated by fake news politics and predatory hi-tech.

I do like Orwell a lot (since fifty years this year, in fact) and I read everything he published (apart from some early literature), and also much around him. I do not know Thomas Ricks (<- Wikipedia)  though I suppose he is the man described by the Wikipedia lemma.

Here is a bit from the interview:

What prompted these men, and especially Orwell, to reject herd mentalities in private and in public?

Thomas Ricks: Oddly enough, I suspect for Orwell, it began with his love of personal observation. Even a child, he loved observing nature, and that continued throughout his life. If you read his diaries, he had a habit of just writing down what he physically sees around him, what he’s thinking about, what he’s hearing people talk about—just basic observation. I think for Orwell, that becomes a part of departure, that human freedom begins with the right to perceive and to trust your own perceptions.

Of course, Orwell as an adult, bangs up against Stalinism, which says, No, we will tell you what to think. If you’re a good member of the Communist Party, you will believe what we tell you to think. We will decide what is right and what is wrong. We will decide what the facts of the matter are.

That’s where Orwell breaks with Stalinism, but he doesn’t break with the left. He remains a socialist all his life.

That is more or less correct, though I myself would insist that one of the main reasons that made Owell ¨reject herd mentalities in private and in public¨ was his quite considerable intelligence and his insistence that one does one´s thinking oneself.

But Ricks is mostly correct, and here is some more by him:

[Orwell] flees Spain, goes home to England, and sits down and reads all the newspapers and all their coverage of the Spanish Civil War. He reads the right-wing newspapers. He’s not surprised they’re lying about what's going on. But then he picks up the left-wing newspapers, with all their coverage of the war over the last six months, and he’s shocked to find they’re lying too. He comes away from Spain, and the experience of seeing friends of his killed by a left-wing government, thinking very differently about leftist politics. He decides that fascism and communism are actually pretty close together. They are different manifestations of the same thing. They are right-wing and left-wing manifestations of totalitarianism. He decides the key to freedom begins with personal liberty, with the right of the individual to proceed.

Yes, this is also mostly correct. A lot more could be said about Orwell´s development into a real socialist, but this is an interview, and the above seems good enough, indeed also because it explicitly mentions totalitarianism.

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

TR: My point of departure is we no longer live in a democracy in America right now. I believe we live in an oligarchy. When you live in an oligarchy, you are going to have the means of information, as well as the means of production, in the hands of the rich and powerful, who will tell you not to believe your own perceptions. To trust them. So I go back to Orwell saying, You need to begin by trusting your own perceptions. But they can’t just be uninformed perceptions. Both Churchill and Orwell say you need to go and find the facts.

What I try to do in that afterword—which is kind of my journalistic last will and testament, and kind of a pep talk to people like you who are still slaving away in the salt mines of journalism—what I’m trying to do there is say, Hang in there. The foundation of Western civilization is what you are doing. Seeking the facts, and observing accurately what is going on.
Again I mostly agree and like to add that Orwell also insisted one should use one´s own intelligence in a rational manner, and that one also needs some intellectual backgrounds to do that well.

This is a recommended article.

5. The 6th mass extinction is a product of capitalism — not population growth

This article is by Barnaby Philips on the Off-Guardian. It starts as follows:

You don’t need to be a scientist to know what’s causing the sixth mass extinction,’ began Professor Paul R. Ehrlich in a Guardian article on 11 July. Given the ‘developed’ imperialist world’s throwaway consumerism and the well-documented destruction of the environment by multinational corporations, it should indeed be fairly obvious. Ehrlich however names one main culprit: population growth. His solution? Some unspecified form of ‘humane’ population reduction. Apparently the reason you don’t need to be a scientist is because the pseudo-science of eugenics suffices. Ehrlich must be refuted with science.  It is capitalism’s need for infinite economic growth that is destroying life on earth.

I am sorry, but this is mostly nonsense. First, nearly all of the earth at present is, in some sense, capitalist, and much of it has been capitalist for some 100 to 150 years at least. And second I would say - with (real) Marxist parents and grandparents, and a very good knowledge of both Marx and Marxism - that the rather plausible truth seems to be that mass extinction is the product of population growth under capitalism.

Here is some more:

The study, published in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, reported a ‘biological annihilation’ of wildlife in recent decades that has been worse than previously feared, representing a ‘frightening assault on the foundations of human civilisation’. An analysis of both common and rare species found that a third of the thousands of species losing populations are not currently considered endangered, but that up to 50% of all individual animals have been lost in recent decades. Almost half of land mammals have lost 80% of  their range in the last century.

According to the researchers, wildlife is dying out due to habitat destruction, ‘overhunting’, toxic pollution, invasion by alien species and global warming. Yet it concluded that the ‘ultimate factor’ was ‘human population and continued population growth’, although it more accurately added that ‘overconsumption, especially by the rich’ was also to blame.

These two paragraphs seem correct, except for the last statement: First, since there are at most 20% who are ¨rich¨ (and when put at 20% most of these ¨rich¨ are not millionaires), ¨‘overconsumption, especially by the rich’¨ is not by far as important as the fact that humanity quadrupled during my life.

Here is a graph (from 1980, when there were less than 4 billion people, whereas now there are more than 7 billion [2]):

         Aantal mensen
         x 10^9
                   -1.000.000  -800.000  -600.000  -400.000  -200.000    nu      

And again I would suggest that the far better explanation for mass extinctions and climate changes (or collapses) are ¨‘human population and continued population growth’¨ in a capitalist environment (that is nearly worldwide).

Then there is this about ¨elitist intellectuals¨:

Elitist intellectuals expressed fear about population growth throughout the 20th century, when it boomed from 1.65 billion to six billion. Contemporary followers of Reverend Thomas Malthus persist in believing that the number of people on the planet naturally increases faster than the supply of food. That we already overproduce food, enough to feed 10 billion people, while almost 800 million go to bed hungry and up to two billion suffer from malnutrition, does not come into their analysis. The unplanned and parasitic nature of capitalism, or the fact that capital increasingly becomes a fetter on productivity as profitable investment opportunities diminish, goes unquestioned.

Mr. Philips (?) considers the following an argument for his thesis that it is not overpopulation (in a worldwide capitalist environment) that causes much of the problems, but merely capitalism: ¨That we already overproduce food, enough to feed 10 billion people, while almost 800 million go to bed hungry and up to two billion suffer from malnutrition, does not come into their analysis.¨

Well.... ¨10 billion¨ minus ¨two billion¨ minus 800 million = 7.2 billion, which are fewer humans than are alive now (with 2.8 billions ¨hungry¨ or suffering ¨from malnutrition¨) again seems to support my analysis that it is the tremendous growth in the human population over the past 67 years, together with the capitalist mode of production, that cause mass extinctions in wild life and climate change.

The article ends as follows:

Only by eradicating the fetter that is the profit motive will such a radical reorganisation of society become possible. To survive and progress, humanity must transform its consciousness and fight to replace capitalism with the socialist mode of production.

No. I like - libertarian, free - socialism also better than capitalism (but ¨socialism¨ again is a word with many different definitions, and see here: Crisis: On Socialism), but I am neither a fanatic nor an ideologist and it seems much more plausible to me that it is the enormous growth of the human population, indeed in a capitalist environment, that is the main source of mass extinctions and climate change.


[1]I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 1 1/2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

[2] In fact, this has been taken from my ¨Feiten over Sex¨ (Facts about Sex) from 1980, because Wikipedia has many graphics in .svg format, which do not copy well to html.
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