Friday, October 6, 2017

Crisis: On Iran, Masha Gessen, American Plutocracy, GOP´s Inhumane Budget, On Freud

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
    A. Selections from October 6, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Friday, October 6, 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 and since nearly two years (!!!!) 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 [2]:

A. Selections from October 6, 2017
1. Why Decertifying the Iran Nuclear Deal Would Be a Bad Idea
2. Masha Gessen: Trump Doing “Incredible Damage” to
     Democracy While Media is Obsessed with Russia Probe

3. America's Plutocrats Are Running for Political Office Across the
     Country: Can Our Democracy Survive It?

4. House GOP Passes Budget That 'Should Not Be Allowed in a
     Humane Society'

5. Freud’s Clay Feet
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. Why Decertifying the Iran Nuclear Deal Would Be a Bad Idea

This is by The Editorial Board on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
President Trump is expected to announce next week whether he will withdraw certification of the nuclear deal with Iran that was negotiated by the Obama administration. The Washington Post reported Thursday that he is planning to decertify the deal. The Times editorial board has long argued that is wrong-headed, and will ultimately prove to be a step that antagonizes Iran, a major regional power, and leads to the proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world.
I agree. The Editorial Board also explains its reasoning, and does so under the following headings, that I reproduce without their accompanying texts, that you can read if you go to the original:

Here’s why:

It ignores that the deal is working.
It would alienate our allies and make a bad situation with North Korea even worse.
It sends the wrong message to Iran, and that’s dangerous.
It doesn’t help in the fight against the Islamic State.
It ignores the complexity of the region.
It undermines trust in America and the country’s ability to negotiate in the future.
I agree again, and this is a recommended article.

2. Masha Gessen: Trump Doing “Incredible Damage” to Democracy While Media is Obsessed with Russia Probe

This article is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
As the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee says it has reached the conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and CNN reports a number of Russian-linked Facebook ads specifically targeted Michigan and Wisconsin, two states crucial to Trump’s victory in November, we speak with Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen. “We don’t know if there was a conspiracy,” Gessen says of allegations the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. “But even if there was, we should do our best to try not to engage in conspiracy thinking. … It lends itself to this idea that once we discover that Trump colluded with the Russians, that we’ll magically get rid of Trump.” She says it is unlikely the investigation will produce the kind of evidence of collusion that could be used as a legal basis for impeachment, and argues impeachment is unlikely while Republicans have control of both houses of Congress.
Yes indeed: I quite agree and indeed I have written quite a few Nederlogs about ¨Russia-gate¨and also some reviews of articles written by Gessen.

Here is more by Gessen:

MASHA GESSEN: The way that he’s mangling the English language is something that I think is so dangerous. And Americans are a little bit innocent to that danger. And this is where, oddly, you know, having grown up in the Soviet Union and then having lived in Russia as a journalist for so many years, I’m externally sensitive to what happens to language. And I’ve talked to two Italian journalists about this. Italian journalists, I mention because they lived through a much sort of milder form of what I observed in Russia. But they say that Berlusconi, over 20 years of his reign, did so much damage to the language that they’re still recovering their ability to describe what they’re dealing with. Right?

And so, Trump does two things. He uses words to mean their opposite. So when he does things like, you know, he calls the Russia investigation a “witch hunt,” it’s the opposite—he uses the phrase “witch hunt” to mean its opposite in several ways. And the most important of them is to reverse the relationship of power, right? I mean, a witch hunt, by definition, used to be something that people with power could perpetrate upon people who didn’t have power, right? Here’s the most powerful man in the world saying that he is the victim of a witch hunt.

Yes indeed. Here is Gessen on what makes Trump attracted to Putin:

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about Trump’s attraction for Putin, why you think that is, and if Putin has the same feelings about Trump.

MASHA GESSEN: So, I think Trump’s attraction for Putin—again, people have tried to figure out, you know, what does Putin have on Trump that Trump keeps praising him? But I think the Yale historian Timothy Snyder put it best in an early piece for The New York Review of Books, that Putin is the dictator that Trump plays on TV. Trump really wants to be Putin. He thinks that that’s what power looks like. He thinks that politics is about exercising raw power.
I think this may very well be correct. Here is the last bit that I´ll quote from this fine interview:
MASHA GESSEN: So, I think this is one of the most disturbing things about especially the early coverage of the Russia theory—right?—which was that all of the early coverage was driven by leaks from the intelligence community. Now, the problem with leaks from the intelligence community—the problems are obvious, right? One is that they can’t be corroborated. Two is that your sources control the timing and sort of the dosage of the leaks. So, basically, journalists become mouthpieces for people in the intelligence community who may or may not be pursuing their own goals that have nothing to do with informing the public.
Yes indeed. There is considerably more in this interview, and there also is another interview with Masha Gessen on Democracy Now! It is all recommended.

3. America's Plutocrats Are Running for Political Office Across the Country: Can Our Democracy Survive It?

This article is by Les Leopold on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

In his bestselling Capital in the 21st Century, economist Thomas Piketty alerted the world to the new aristocracy of wealth being formed by runaway inequality.  We have only to look at the state of Illinois to see what this means for democracy.  

The current Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, is a near billionaire. On the Democratic side, one candidate, J.B. Pritzker, is a multi-billionaire and another candidate, Chris Kennedy, is estimated to be worth only about $100 million.
They see themselves as experts in unlocking and creating hidden value.

Unfortunately, they actually make their money through financial strip-mining, the process by which financial investment firms extract billions in wealth from productive facilities. They are in business for one and only one reason: to enrich themselves as quickly as possible—and it isn't always pretty.

Yes, I think this is quite probably quite correct. And here is background on the methods they use:

Before a Securities and Exchange deregulatory rule change in 1982, massive stock buybacks were considered stock manipulation and therefore largely prohibited. Only 2% of all corporate profits went to stock buybacks in 1980. By the time of the crash in 2008, nearly 75% of all corporate profits went to stock buybacks. (Hundreds of companies even pour more than 100% of their profits into these buybacks by using more borrowed money for the repurchases.) It is not an exaggeration to say the driving force of American business is stock buybacks. And this driving force is one of the primary causes of wage stagnation and runaway inequality. (See "Profits Without Prosperity," by William Lazonick.)

I agree and there is considerably more in this article, that is recommended.

4. House GOP Passes Budget That 'Should Not Be Allowed in a Humane Society'

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It has the following subtitle:

By passing their budget blueprint, Republicans have taken "the first step toward an immoral tax scheme that will hand trillions of dollars to millionaires and corporations."

It starts as follows:

By a vote of 219 to 206, the House on Friday approved a GOP-crafted budget resolution that proposes more than five trillion dollars in cuts to key safety net programs like Medicare and Medicaid to pave the way for massive tax cuts for the wealthy and massive corporations.

No Democrats voted for the budget, and 18 Republicans voted against it.

Crucially, the resolution includes parliamentary language that eliminates the possibility of a Democratic filibuster in the Senate and will allow the GOP to "fast-track" their tax cuts with only 51 votes instead of the typical 60—the same procedure Republicans utilized in their failed attempt repeal the Affordable Care Act.

I think these methods may be called illegal, and think so in part because this tax budgets harm the very many poor in order to please the few rich.

Here is a fine explanation of this point:

The ATF offered the following breakdown of the cuts proposed under the Trump-GOP tax framework compared with the spending cuts proposed in the House budget resolution:

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, argued Thursday that the "federal budget is a representation of our country's moral values."

House Republicans' vote in support of the proposed budget, Gupta concluded, "is an abdication of that responsibility."

I agree and this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Freud’s Clay Feet

This article is by Lisa Appignanesi on The New York Books Exchange. It starts as follows:

Frederick Crews has a loyalty of preoccupation rare in a literary academic. His attacks on Sigmund Freud began way back in the mid-1970s with his publicly proclaimed conversion away from the Freudian literary criticism he practiced at the time. Since then his assault has drawn sustenance from a variety of revisionist Freud sleuths and scholars. High among the sleuths is the tireless Peter Swales, a onetime assistant to the Rolling Stones and a follower of the cultish G.I. Gurdjieff, who grew interested in Freud because of his cocaine use and sniffed out all manner of facts about the originals of his cases and his supposed affair with his sister-in-law. The scholars include more academic thinkers whose conclusions about Freud don’t always agree with Crews’s, whatever their arguments with Freud’s practice or writings. Like Karl Popper or Adolf Grünbaum, they may also question Freud’s status as a scientist—whether he was one at all, or whether his claims are sufficiently supported by empirical evidence.

Lisa Appignanesi does not have much sympathy for Frederick Crews. I do not really know who Appignanesi is, but TNYBE informs me she is ¨Chair of the Royal Society of Literature¨ and also a ¨former Chair of the Trustees of the Freud Museum in London¨.

I´d say this implies she does not really know much about philosophy of science or psychology. I do, about both, and have degrees to prove it. Then again, for someone like me this was not necessary to convince me that Freud is and was a fraud, for I concluded that already in 1966, when I was 16 and had bought and worked through Patrick Mullahy´s ¨Oidipus¨. This was a book by a psychiatrist who did more or less correctly describe psychiatric and psychonanalytic theories between 1900 and 1960, and who did so favorably.

I was 16 and I recalled my childhood a lot bettter than I do now, and while I was no doubt rather naive I was not less intelligent than I am now, and I was already much interested in real science but not predisposed against psychiatry before reading Mullahy´s book.

After reading Mullahy´s book, I realized I had hardly ever or never (then) read a book that was as non-scientific, as fantastic, as arbitrary, and as unfounded as Freud´s psychiatry, that I have from then on regarded as fraudulent pseudoscience, and not because I had then any objections to the figure heads of psychiatry (which I do have since), but simply because I regarded (and regard) their theories as bullshit.

Ms Appignanesi doesn´t think so (at all, it seems), but then she also seems strongly disposed to judge Freud favorably, as a ¨scientist¨ of literature [3] and a former Chair of the Freud Museum.

Here is a summary of Appignanesi on Crews´s book:

Crews’s 746-page biography, Freud: The Making of an Illusion, damning and mesmerizing by turns, is about the young Freud and reaches The Interpretation of Dreams only on page 543, allowing just a few brief glimpses into the second part of his life. It marks the zenith of what has become Crews’s crusade “to put an end to the myth of psychoanalysis and its creator” by stripping Freud of both his empiricist credentials and the image of a “lone explorer possessing courageous perseverance, deductive brilliance, tragic insight, and healing power,” a series of attributes Crews finds in Freud’s own self-portrayal and in Ernest Jones’s landmark biography (1953–1957).

I suppose I am considerably more in favor of Crews than Appignanesi. Here is another summary by Appignanesi:

Crews brings a great many, if highly selective, facts to his case. His early Freud is not only a sloppy neurologist but a deluded cocaine addict, a betrayer of friends, homoerotic in his desires (though he may have committed adultery with his sister-in-law), and a doctor who had very few patients on whom to base his ever-changing theories. Those he did have he let down or harmed or falsely suggested ailments to. His only patient was himself. When he didn’t steal his ideas from others, he provided no verifiable evidence for any of his own. He was also neurotic, depressive, and sex-obsessed. The rest is all a giant con. The whole edifice of psychoanalysis, Freud’s insights over many volumes, is a sham—as must, by deduction, be the worldwide institution of psychoanalysis from Brazil to China and its offshoot therapies.

As far as I know (and I am a philosopher and psychologist, with - excellent - degrees) Crews is mostly correct, but then again ever since 1966 I have considered Freud a fraud, and nothing I have read about him or by him has changed this rational judgement, and indeed what I did read about Freud´s person (not much, really) only made me more negative.

There is considerably more in this review.


[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] Yes, you are right: I start Nederlogs again with a list of the titles of the articles I review in that Nederlog. In fact, I did start that way around 2011/2012, and instituted it (so to speak) in 2013. This was maintained until June of 2017, when I stopped doing it mostly because my health got worse then. Since my condition now has again somewhat improved I return - more or less - to the style I used in 2013.

[3] In case you doubt it: I like literature, but I do not believe in a science of literature. 
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