February 2, 2018

Crisis:  Strongmen, Lead-Crimes, On Twitter, On Trump's Mind, Trump's Financial Arsonists


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from February 2, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Friday, February 2, 2018.

1. Summary

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

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) 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 more than 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 I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from February 2, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. As Strongmen Steamroll Their Opponents, Trump is Silent
2. An Updated Lead-Crime Roundup for 2018
3. I Quit Twitter and It Feels Great
4. Congress Didn't Need Convincing Trump Is Mentally Unstable: Yale

5. How to Set the Economy on Fire: Trump’s Financial Arsonists
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. As Strongmen Steamroll Their Opponents, Trump is Silent

This article is by Declan Walsh on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
When it comes to securing a second term in power, Egypt’s president is leaving little to chance.

Potential rivals in the March election have been sidelined, jailed or threatened with prosecution. The news media is largely in his pocket. On polling day, Egyptians will have a choice between President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and one of his most ardent supporters — an obscure politician drafted at the 11th hour to avoid the embarrassment of a one-horse race.

As he cruises toward victory, Mr. Sisi need not worry either about foreign censure: President Trump has hailed the Egyptian leader as a “fantastic guy,” and most other Western leaders have been largely silent.

Across the world, autocratic leaders are engaging in increasingly brazen behavior — rigging votes, muzzling the press and persecuting opponents — as they dispense with even a fig leaf of democratic practice once offered to placate the United States or gain international legitimacy.

This article is here because of the last paragraph in the above quote, of which el-Sisi is indeed one example, but of which there are quite a few more, as the rest of the article also explains.

Here is some more:

The global tide is driven by a bewildering range of factors, including the surge of populism in Europe, waves of migration, and economic inequality. And leaders of countries like Egypt, which had long been sensitive to Washington’s influence, know they run little risk of rebuke from an American president who has largely abandoned the promotion of human rights and democracy in favor of his narrow “America First” agenda.

I think this is all quite correct: There is "a global tide" that has been strengthened by Donald Trump, but indeed I agree with Wals that nearly all "global tides" are driven by a wide range of different factors.

Here is some more background:

Despite decades of lofty American talk of democracy and human rights, espoused by every president since Jimmy Carter, policies have prioritized security and strategic considerations over principle. And the C.I.A. torture program after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks further undermined America’s standing.

My own view is that every American president since Reagan was elected in 1980 - and this means both the Republican and the Democratic presidents - has been strongly for "policies have prioritized security and strategic considerations over principle", but OK.

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

Mr. Trump has barely paid lip service to the promotion of universal human rights, and experts say his warm embrace of hard-line leaders like President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, whose antidrug drive has killed thousands of his own citizens without due process, has only encouraged their worst excesses.

“The issue is a troubling one,” Stewart M. Patrick, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said in an email. “Trump’s lionizing of the ‘strong’ leadership qualities of authoritarian personalities like Putin, Erdogan, Duterte, and Sisi — as well as his own attacks on free press at home — cannot help but to embolden their efforts to crack down on civil society and crush dissent in their own countries.”

I quite agree and this is a recommended article.

2. An Updated Lead-Crime Roundup for 2018

This article is by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones. It starts as follows:

A few weeks ago I promised an updated roundup of evidence about the link between lead poisoning and violent crime. Here it is.

It’s in three parts. Part 1 is the basic story. Part 2 is various bits of commentary explaining different details and predictions of the hypothesis. Part 3 is a roundup of all the lead-crime studies that have been done since 2012 that I’m aware of.

I think this is a quite interesting article. What it argues - very well indeed - is that there is one factor that played a big role in the growth of crimes in the 1970ies and 1980ies, and an an equally big role in the decline of crimes since then: Lead, especially lead in the fuel of cars.

In fact, I have been aware of "the lead-crime story" since about 2008, but I have not paid much attention to it, although it is really interesting for anybody interested in crimes.

The following is just the beginning of "a brief summary of lead and crime": There is a whole lot more in this article, and all of it is interesting:

1. A Brief Summary of Lead and Crime

The lead-crime hypothesis is pretty simple: lead poisoning degrades the development of childhood brains in ways that increase aggression, reduce impulse control, and impair the executive functions that allow people to understand the consequences of their actions. Because of this, infants who are exposed to high levels of lead are more likely to commit violent crimes later in life. There are three types of research that confirm the connection between lead and crime:

  • Brain studies. Neurologists have performed MRI scans of adults who were exposed to lead as children. They’ve found that because lead is chemically similar to calcium, it displaces the calcium needed for normal brain development.
  • Prospective studies. These are studies that begin in childhood and follow a group of children through adulthood. The children are measured along the way and their adult outcomes are catalogued. Several prospective studies have shown that children who are exposed to high levels of lead are more likely to be arrested and incarcerated for violent crimes later in life.
  • Population studies. These are studies that depend on statistical analysis of groups, rather than individuals. Dozens of population studies have found strong correlations between the exposure of a group to lead and the level of violent crime committed by the group later in life. These groups can be neighborhoods, cities, states, or countries. For the USA, the correlation between lead and crime looks like this:

                                   [Clicking the image leads to its source]

No single study is proof of the lead-crime hypothesis. However, the accumulated evidence for the hypothesis is pretty overwhelming.

And this is also as far as I will take you: There is a whole lot more in the article, and it all is strongly recommended.

3. I Quit Twitter and It Feels Great

This article is by Lindy West on The New York Times. This is from near the beginning and it is here because I totally despise Twitter, and never used it nor ever will:

When you work in media, Twitter becomes part of your job. It’s where you orient yourself in “the discourse” — figure out what’s going on, what people are saying about it and, more important, what no one has said yet. In a lucky coup for Twitter’s marketing team, prevailing wisdom among media types has long held that quitting the platform could be a career killer. The illusion that Twitter visibility and professional relevance are indisputably inextricable always felt too risky to puncture. Who could afford to call that bluff and be wrong? So, we stayed, while Twitter’s endemic racist, sexist and transphobic harassment problems grew increasingly more sophisticated and organized.

Those of us who complained about online abuse were consistently told — by colleagues, armchair experts and random internet strangers — that we were the problem. We were too soft. We, who literally inured ourselves to rape threats and death threats so that we could participate in public life, were called weak by people who felt persecuted by the existence of female Ghostbusters. Meanwhile, Twitter’s leadership offered us the ability to embed GIFs.

I take this as stated, although I do not agree: If you believe the above justifies being on a tool where anonymous freaks can bury anyone with "endemic racist, sexist and transphobic harassment" perhaps mostly committed by intellectually dysfunctional 14-16 year olds, who also need to do no more typing than a few sloganized sentences of crap, because Twitter makes it impossible to send more in one time, you are welcome.

By the way: I do not communicate with anonymous people, which is about the only thing I learned on Phoenix Rising, which is a site meant for all patients with M.E. but which is safe only for patients with an IQ that is maximally 115. I stopped there after four months, in 2010, having been offended too many times by anonymous sadofascistic degenerates (o yes!!), but I have been - more or less - following it since, and I have by now seen everyone who was intelligent and decent seen hunted away their by the average anonymoys members with extremely big mouths and no knowledge of anything whatsoever that I could detect.

Here is more on the delusions of many:

Those of us who pointed out that online harassment was politically motivated — compounded by race, gender and sexual orientation — as I did in 2013, for example, were accused of being “professional victims” trying to leverage our paranoid delusions to censor the internet. This defamation has never been retracted or atoned for even after the revelations that an army of Russian Twitter bots functions as the Trump administration’s propaganda wing, and the “alt-right,” essentially a coalition of anti-feminist, white-supremacist online harassment campaigns, recruits disaffected young men to Trumpism by framing the abuse of social justice activists as a team sport. Meanwhile, Twitter’s leadership offered us 280 characters.

Again, I never read Twitter (other than quoted in articles, and I tend to skip articles with more than three Tweets), and certainly never tried to "figure out what’s going on, what people are saying about it and, more important, what no one has said yet" but no: I do not believe in "an army of Russian Twitter bots  [that] functions as the Trump administration’s propaganda wing", though this is also an aside in the present context.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article, which is revealing - it seems to me - about how many users of Twitter feel every day:

I’m frequently approached by colleagues, usually women, who ask me about quitting Twitter with hushed titillation, as if I’ve escaped a cult or broken a particularly seductive taboo. Well, here’s what my new life is like: I don’t wake up with a pit in my stomach every day, dreading what horrors accrued in my phone overnight. I don’t get dragged into protracted, bad-faith arguments with teenage boys about whether poor people deserve medical care, or whether putting nice guys in the friend zone is a hate crime. I don’t spend hours every week blocking and reporting trolls and screen-grabbing abuse in case it someday escalates into a credible threat. I no longer feel like my brain is trapped in a centrifuge filled with swastikas and Alex Jones’s spittle. Time is finite, and now I have more of it.

My suggestion to everyone on Twitter is: Give it up, as soon as you can, and never use it again. And this is a recommended article, if only because it shows it can be done (and you may feel a whole lot better).

4. Congress Didn't Need Convincing Trump Is Mentally Unstable: Yale Psychiatrist

This article is by Chauncey DeVega on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:
For many reasons, Donald Trump's mental health is a subject of great public concern in America. He is a compulsive liar who dissembles about facts both large and small. He is also a malignant narcissist who is desperately -- and successfully -- imposing his own version of reality on the American people. Trump is also violent and appears to lack any empathy or concern for the suffering of others. At times he seems confused and his patterns of speech have changed since taking office in January of last year. Even some of Donald Trump's closest political allies have apparently expressed concern about his mental health.
I quite agree with all of this and indeed - mostly because I am a psychologist - I have agreed with this since March 2016, which is nearly two years ago now. I also agreed with the report by two professors of psychiatry and one of clinical psychology that was published in November of 2016: see here.

Here is more from the introduction to this interview:

There are other people who believe that Donald Trump's mental health and other troubling behavior represent a fundamental threat to American society and the world. For them, an alarm must be sounded and it is a moral imperative for people of conscience to intervene.

Psychiatrist Bandy Lee is one of these voices and counts herself among the thousands of medical professionals in the United States and other countries who believe that they have a moral obligation to inform the public about the dangers posed by Donald Trump. To that end, Lee was the principal editor of the New York Times bestseller "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President."

I did not read the book, but I am one of - it seems now - at least 70,000 psychologists and psychiatrists who (mostly) agree with her.

Here is more (and the rest is from the interview):

Chauncey DeVega: Your book, "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump," was published in October of last year. Which of its predictions and warnings have come true?

Bandy Lee: First, let me say, I speak for myself and not for my university. The book predicts danger and dangerousness. We have already seen this unfold. Basically, in "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump" we were stating that past violence predicts future violence. Trump has shown verbal aggressiveness. He has boasted about sexual assault. He has invited violence at his rallies. He has shown an attraction to violence as a powerful weapon. He had not yet taunted a hostile nuclear power at that point. But in the book we actually predicted that devastating wars and even a nuclear holocaust were not impossibilities.

Now, it is even clearer that the danger we predicted about Donald Trump has happened on many levels.
The other dangers, of course, are his psychological instability. This includes Trump's impulsivity, recklessness, paranoid reactions, lose grip on reality, rage, lack of empathy, and the constant need project and abuse power. His speech patterns have also changed. All these things have gotten worst over time.  These all have profound ramifications for a person in his position of authority and power.
I agree. Here is more:

CD: Why are there still so many people who are continuing to deny the threat posed by Donald Trump's behavior?

BL: I think it’s because we’ve been silent for so long. People have also been deprived of education about mental health issues. These are also not comfortable topics to talk about. With this administration, there has also been an expansion of the so-called Goldwater Rule. Psychiatrists are not being allowed to speak about what is taking place. Such a rule is not applied to other medical specialties.

I don't think it is because of silence. I think it is basically because of two reasons:

There are vastly more anonymous "contributers" to "the news" who can say and scold whatever they want and whomever they please, and there are strong political reasons for the right wing to insist that either Trump is as sane as possible or else he is "a Very Stable Genius" (as He Himself has said).

But I agree with Lee on the Goldwater Rule: It is utter bullshit, which goes straight against the First Amendment. In fact, the APA got even more crazy than it was already for a very long time:

BL: (...) What the American Psychiatric Association (APA) did two months into this administration was to take the Goldwater Rule and reinterpret it in an unprecedented way. This change in the rule actually contradicts basic principles of medical ethics.

The APA turned it into a gag rule where we are not to mention any aspect of a public figure's speech or any observable aspect of their behavior under any circumstance -- even in an emergency. However, we as psychiatrists and members of the APA are supposed to participate in activities that promote public health. If not speaking about a public figure actually harms public health and in fact places the public in grave danger, then the rule should be subordinate to the principle.

I think the rule should be completely withdrawn about public figures, indeed because of public health:

A mad unknown may kill a few; a mad political leader may kill milions, or indeed nuke the whole world. According to the APA, you should wait - as an American psychiatrist with a membership in that association - until after the world has been blown up with criticizing any politician.

Here is more:

CD: You recently briefed Congress about Donald Trump's mental health and the threat he represents. What was that experience like?

BL: It was very illuminating. I met with about a dozen lawmakers, all Democrats except for one, and their response to my concerns about Donald Trump being a threat to the public was: “You don’t have to convince us. We’ve been very concerned about this. We are looking for ways to deal with it, but as the minority party, we don’t have any power. We know of Republican lawmakers who are just as concerned, probably equally concerned, but they are not expressing it. They’re not acting on it.”

This is rather interesting, and supports what I said above: there are strong political reasons for the right wing to insist that either Trump is as sane as possible or else he is "a Very Stable Genius" (as He Himself said). But it is interesting that some Republicans are aware that their chief may be mad.

And indeed there is this, which also is the most important for me:

CD: What part of your testimony resonated with them the most?

BL: Trump's access to the nuclear codes is the most urgent and primary concern. Someone with mental instability should not have access to weapons that are strong enough to destroy the world many times over. That was primary on the representatives' minds as well.

Precisely so. And there is a lot more in this article that is strongly recommended.

5. How to Set the Economy on Fire: Trump’s Financial Arsonists

This article is by Nomi Prins on Common Dreams and originally on TomDispatch. It starts as follows:

Amid a roaring stock market and a planet of upbeat CEOs, few are even thinking about the havoc that a multi-trillion-dollar financial system gone rogue could inflict upon global stability.  But watch out.  Even in the seemingly best of times, neglecting Wall Street is a dangerous idea. With a rag-tag Trumpian crew of ex-bankers and Goldman Sachs alumni as the only watchdogs in town, it’s time to focus, because one thing is clear: Donald Trump’s economic team is in the process of making the financial system combustible again.

Collectively, the biggest U.S. banks already have their get-out-out-of-jail-free cards and are now sitting on record profits after, not so long ago, triggering sweeping unemployment, wrecking countless lives, and elevating global instability.  (Not a single major bank CEO was given jail time for such acts.)  Still, let's not blame the dangers lurking at the heart of the financial system solely on the Trump doctrine of leaving banks alone. They should be shared by the Democrats who, under President Barack Obama, believed, and still believe, in the perfection of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010.

I completely agree, except with the last sentence of the first paragraph: The Trumpians are not "in the process of making the financial system combustible again" but in the process of making the financial system even more combustible than it was (because that is profitable to the banks).

Next, there is this on the sickeningly corrupt and fraudulent Wall Street bankers:

Wall Street is now thoroughly emboldened as the financial elite follows the mantra of Kelly Clarkston’s hit song: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Since the crisis of 2007-2008, the Big Six U.S. banks -- JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley -- have seen the share price of their stocks significantly outpace those of the S&P 500 index as a whole.

Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank (that’s paid $13 billion in settlements for various fraudulent acts), recently even pooh-poohed the chances of the Democratic Party in 2020, suggesting that it was about time its leaders let banks do whatever they wanted. As he told Maria Bartiromo, host of Fox Business’s Wall Street Week, “The thing about the Democrats is they will not have a chance, in my opinion. They don’t have a strong centrist, pro-business, pro-free enterprise person.”

In fact, I think Dimon is a neofascist (though he probably calls himself quite otherwise) as indeed are all leading Wall Street bankers, especially after leaning since 2008 that they can do whatever they please and will not risk any punishment whatsoever. (Check my definition and compare its criterions with the facts, in case you disagree!)

Here is a bit more on Dimon:

Dimon can afford to be brazen. JPMorgan Chase is now the second most profitable company in the country. Why should he be worried about what might happen in another crisis, given that the Trump administration is in charge? With pro-business and pro-bailout thinking reigning supreme, what could go wrong?

In fact, crisis and collapses are known for hundreds of years, as have been the main causes: greed and insufficient control.

There is a lot more in the article which I leave to your interests, but the article ends as follows:

The Emperor Has No Rules

Nearly every regulatory institution in Trumpville tasked with monitoring the financial system is now run by someone who once profited from bending or breaking its rules. Historically, severe financial crises tend to erupt after periods of lax oversight and loose banking regulations. By filling America’s key institutions with representatives of just such negligence, Trump has effectively hired a team of financial arsonists.

Naturally, Wall Street views Trump’s chosen ones with glee. Amid the present financial euphoria of the stock market, big bank stock prices have soared.  But one thing is certain: when the next crisis comes, it will leave the last meltdown in the shade because our financial system is, at its core, unreformed and without adult supervision. Banks not only remain too big to fail but are still growing, while this government pushes policies guaranteed to put us all at risk again.

There’s a pattern to this: first, there’s a crash; then comes a period of remorse and talk of reform; and eventually comes the great forgetting. As time passes, markets rise, greed becomes good, and Wall Street begins to champion more deregulation. The government attracts deregulatory enthusiasts and then, of course, there’s another crash, millions suffer, and remorse returns.

Ominously, we’re now in the deregulation stage following the bull run. We know what comes next, just not when. Count on one thing: it won’t be pretty.

I quite agree, and this is a strongly recommended article.


[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 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 (!!).

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