January 6, 2019

Crisis: Corporate Bribery, Decent U.S. Tax, Psychiatry & Trump, Building Of The Wall, On The EU


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 6, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, January 6, 2019. 

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

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 three 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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from January 6, 2019:
1. Exposing the Corporate Bribery Network
2. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Proposes Perfectly American Tax on

3. Yale psychiatrist explains Trump’s pathology

4. Legal Scholars to Trump: No, You Cannot Declare Emergency to Build

5. The EU: From Social-Democratic Dream to Neoliberal Nightmare
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. Exposing the Corporate Bribery Network

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthout. It starts as follows:

Here’s a pop quiz: How long has corporate corruption existed? Answer: As long as corporations as we know them have been in business. Thanks to journalist David Montero’s meticulously sourced survey, “Kickback: Exposing the Global Corporate Bribery Network,” the consumer public now has access to a wealth of details about the astonishingly shady antics in which multinationals have been engaging since the retro-imperialist heyday of the British East India Company.

And this malignant strain of corporatism is only getting worse. As Robert Scheer remarks to Montero in this week’s episode of “Scheer Intelligence,” it amounts to nothing short of a “virulent, corrosive, murderous arrangement that has only accelerated in recent years.” Some potential reasons why this global scourge hasn’t been more aggressively treated include: greed; willful ignorance; the widely supported myth that the phenomenon is “just” about white-collar crime; a false sense that corporate malfeasance ranges outside of various states’ jurisdictions; and powerful companies engaging in a race to the bottom because, well, everyone else is doing it.

Yes, I agree, but with a few remarks.

First, bribery has undoubtedly existed for thousands of years, and may be as old as modern man. And while it probably will not disappear, it can be tamed to a considerable extent by the law (which forbids it).

But second, corporate bribery is a bit different from simple bribery, because corporations allow all sorts of denials (honest and dishonest) that so-and-so bribed or was bribed; second, because much larger sums are involved; and third because bribing high officials in other countries has to be dressed up in various ways so that the bribe does not look like a bribe.

And third, corporate bribery exists as long as corporations exist, which is now about 400 years.

Back to the article:

Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where the intelligence comes from my guests. In this case, from David Montero, who’s a highly regarded journalist of considerable experience. And he’s written what I think is kind of a classic book: “Kickback: Exposing the Global Corporate Bribery Network.” And what the book asserts, in great detail with wonderful case studies, is that this is a historic problem of modern capitalism. And it goes back in this book to the British East India Company, the very company that the American Revolution was fought to challenge, with the Boston Tea Party and other things. And traces this virulent, corrosive, murderous arrangement that has only accelerated in recent years.

I did not read Montero's book, but am willing to assume it is quite good. Also, I need to make a little correction to the above: Being Dutch, I know that the first real corporations go back to Dutch initiatives around 1619, which is 400 years ago. And since bribery is human, it can be safely assumed corporate bribery is also 400 years old.

Back to the article:

David Montero: Yeah, and I think the reason it’s more important than ever now is because, one, we’ve laxly enforced a law that we had on the books since 1977—we’ve only laxly enforced it—that law was supposed to prohibit corporations from paying bribes abroad. We now have a president in the White House who’s vocally opposed to this law. His administration has done things to roll back that law. But more importantly, in the person of the president himself, we have someone whose business interests seem to be tainted by this crime itself, and himself.

Yes, I think this is quite true. Here is more:

RS: Is it more disturbing, or is it just more obvious that, ah—? It’s sort of the ugly face of a kind of international capitalism, that the people who practice this would rather it not be noticed. And you have Fortune 500 companies like Alcoa, Chevron, Shell, Simmons, Novartis, Bristol-Myers Squibb; you can go down the list, it’s just about every multinational corporation has engaged in this practice of going along with bribes, kickbacks, and everything. And their defense is, it’s the only way you could do business. And they’re accepting the normalcy of corrupting, basically, the international business community. That’s the inescapable conclusion, I think, from your book.

DM: Yeah, and why that’s disturbing is, again, you know, these are cutting-edge companies; these are world-class companies, as you mentioned the names; these are household names. It’s really kind of shocking and disturbing that the only way that a lot of them seem to think they can compete abroad is to pay bribes to government officials. And the reason they think that is why? Because that’s what their competitors are doing.

Yes, I think this is also quite true - and please note this involves all or most of the richest corporations there are. And incidentally, here are one or two other reasons why so many rich corporations use bribery: Because it gives them extra possibilities and extra profits they would not have without - illegal - bribes.

Back to the article:

DM: It’s always been thus, and again, I think the crime has been looked at the wrong way, and as a result, the prosecution has been pretty weak. And that’s what I was trying to argue in the book, that this is a crime that has existed for 400 years, since there were corporations. And the impact, as we saw with the British East India Company in India, has been devastating. But the companies have never been held to account for the devastation; they’ve just been held to account because our laws say that they violated the mandate to keep accurate books and records. In other words, we prosecuted as if it were just a white-collar crime. So that’s what I’m saying, is that it’s not just a white-collar crime; I agree with you, it’s a human rights issue, it’s something that affects poverty and political civility.

Yes, I agree - and the difference between "a white-collar crime" and "a human rights issue" is - I take it - that the white-collar crimes involve financial manipulations, while human rights issues involve that financial manipulation on the side of the bribers, and whatever is being bought by these bribes from the bribees, which may be very much if the bribee is a minister or president (such as lower wages and lack of human rights).

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

RS: It was a warning that there’s another kind of capitalism—of the cartels, monopoly capitalism, restrictive trade—that would threaten the virtues of a free market. That’s why Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations talked about, you know, the invisible hand; that no one should be able to control the action. But the multinational corporations, and they are dominant now—they want a hand. They want it controlled.

DM: They have an invisible hand through bribes. There isn’t a free market that we think, there isn’t free and fair competition. In fact, it’s all—I don’t want to say it’s all rigged, but it’s greatly rigged through bribes.

I think this is also quite true, and this is a quite interesting article that contains a lot more than I quoted and is strongly recommended.

2. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Proposes Perfectly American Tax on Ultra-Rich

This article is by Naomi LaChance on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

In an effort to fund policies that would reduce fossil fuel and carbon emissions within the next 12 years, Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York has proposed a tax rate on the super-rich that is more moderate than U.S. tax policy during parts of the 20th century. In a video clip released Friday, she tells journalist Anderson Cooper of “60 Minutes” that taxing incomes above $10 million at a 60 percent to 70 percent rate could be a good step.

“There’s an element where, yeah, people are going to have to start paying their fair share in taxes,” she said, echoing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to remind skeptics that historically, income rates in the U.S. have been much higher.

Yes, I quite agree with Ocasio-Cortez on this issue. Here are some of my reasons:

The approximately 16,000 Americans earning more than $10 million are at the very top of the top 1 percent of earners. Such a tax could bring in approximately $720 billion over 10 years, according to the Tax Policy Center’s Mark Mazur.

From 1918 to 1921, during World War I, and then again from 1936 to 1980, the highest marginal income tax rates were at or above 70 percent, according to the Tax Policy Center. Rates have reached as high as 94 percent.

“Her tax policy is more generous to the rich than Jimmy Carter’s was, and the 1 percent wasn’t nearly as well-off in the 1970s as it is now,” Eric Levitz wrote in New York Magazine.

In fact, Ocasio-Cortez's proposed taxes for the very rich are not as high as the taxes of the Republican Eisenhower during the 1950ies, which was, at least according to some, the greatest time in the USA.

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

“Until the 1970s, policy-makers and public opinion probably considered—rightly or wrongly—that at the very top of the income ladder, pay increases reflected mostly greed rather than productive work effort,” Saez and Piketty wrote in 2013, arguing that a top tax rate could be set as high as 83 percent. Since the 1970s, they wrote, countries that made large tax cuts for top earners did not grow faster than countries that continued large taxes for the very rich.

When Sanders proposed a 90 percent tax on the rich in 2015, Josh Bivens, of the Economic Policy Institute, said: “It’s not that radical, unless you’re calling Eisenhower’s America a radical place, and given that no one would propose a high rate like that on anything like an ordinary income, it would basically be irrelevant to the tax burden of the vast majority of Americans.”

Yes indeed. And all of the above supports my thesis that Ocasio-Cortez's idea is both quite sensible and not radical at all. And this is a strongly recommended article.

3. Yale psychiatrist explains Trump’s pathology

This article is by Tana Ganeva on AlterNet and originally on Raw Story. I abbreviated the title.
It starts as follows:

Yale Psychiatry Professor Bandy X. Lee has long argued that Trump’s behavior is pathological—and that the more that he feels his power threatened, the more likely he is to lash out in ways harmful to himself, the country and the world (her views do not reflect Yale policy).

Raw Story spoke with Lee about how Trump is likely to react to pressure from Democrats, the Mueller probe and other investigations into the Trump campaign and administration.

Well... I am a psychologist who read in March 2016 - when I had heard of Trump, but did know very little about him - that several psychologists and psychiatrists had proposed that, in their view, Trump is insane (and the last link is to a Nederlog of December 2016).

I agreed with them for two reasons: First, their assessment was based - explicitly - on behavorial criterions, which I could check as well as anybody else (and better as a psychologist), for there are plenty of videos and interviews with Trump. And second (also being a psychologist), I found - easily enough, indeed - that Trump satisfies 9 out of 9 behavorial criterions for a narcissistic personality disorder, where 5 out of 9 is sufficient for diagnosing him as such, on these behavorial criterions.

Of course, this is far from perfect, but then again this is also the best we have, because Trump will not admit to a careful test of his psychology by psychologists and psychiatrists.

There is also one other difficulty: I am also a philosopher (also with a degree) and both my ex, who has the same disease as I have, and myself have been declared mad (usually in the form: "it is psychosomatic", which is incidentally not a medical reason) by 27 of the 30 Dutch medical doctors we turned to in order to get some help.

We did not get any help whatsoever, except from 3 out of 30 Dutch medical persons. And in March 2018 we learned that now the main Dutch medical-legal organization agrees with us: At long last, and after almost 40 years of continuous medical discrimination paired with no research whatsoever, we suddenly have "a serious chronic disease" (namely ME/CFS).

I do not say no, but I have lost my respect for the majority of Dutch medical doctors, while my thoughts about psychiatry - it is a pseudoscience - were much strengthened.

So while I agree with Bandy Lee about her diagnosis of Trump, I certainly disagree with her about the scientific status of psychiatry - which, incidentally, is something I do have in common with most psychologist who got their education around my time, for in Holland (at least then) most psychologists thought that psychiatry is either not wellfounded or else a pseudoscience, and indeed in my time the majority of psychologists did not get any psychiatry apart from one book of Freud.

Back to the article:

Tana Ganeva: A Democratic majority was just sworn into Congress and they have made it clear they aim to investigate the many scandals, ethics breaches and possible crimes plaguing the Trump administration. Are you concerned about how he’ll react?

Bandy X. Lee: Yes, very. We know from Donald Trump’s past actions when he has come under criticism that there is great reason to be concerned about how he will react to an incoming Democratic House ready to put checks on him. We know from his frequent tweets that reference his own inflated self-image and retaliate against those who challenge it that this will be the pattern of his response.

Yes, I probably agree with Lee, but I have to add that once you elect a madman as your president, you will be probably damned by him whatever you do (aside from constant wild praise).

Here is more:

Tana Ganeva: What is the best way for Democrats to perform their oversight duties without triggering a dangerous meltdown?

Bandy X. Lee: The severity of Mr. Trump’s impairment warrants an evaluation—I do not believe there is any way around it, unless we wish to gamble with the nation’s security and, realistically, the future of humankind itself. The evaluation would offer precision around the level of dangerousness we are dealing with, the least restrictive means of managing him, and his likely future course—and of course what everyone wants, which is a diagnosis.

At the bare minimum, we should do a capacity evaluation by appropriate, independent specialists, which would determine his ability to function or not in his office, and this evaluation does not require consent. This is of course a very uncomfortable situation, but even the president has the right to treatment by law, and the nature of mental pathology is that the sicker one is, the less likely one is to recognize that anything is wrong and will avoid testing and treatment at all cost.

Well... firstly, I think there is a diagnosis of Trump, and that diagnosis has happened on the behavorial grounds and criterions that are appropriate according to the DSMs from 1980 onwards.

Second, I agree Trump has the right do be evaluated "
by appropriate, independent specialists" but (i) he will almost certainly refuse (I mean: Who could possibly think that as very great a genius as Trump is - in his own opinion - could possibly be mad?!), and (ii) I also do not think that psychiatry (or indeed the existing psychology) is adequate to do that task in a scientific way.

So here I disagree with Lee. Here is more:

Tana Ganeva:  The past month has seen the administration roiled in controversy, from a government shutdown to the resignation of James Mattis. In what ways have Trump’s unique pathologies played into the chaos?

Bandy X. Lee: It was all psychopathology, regardless of where it was occurring. Internal chaos eventually manifests outwardly, and psychological dangerousness inevitably turns into geopolitical dangerousness in the office of the presidency.

His dangers are no longer probable but demonstrable: his attraction to cruel and violent policies; his effectiveness in inciting violence; his stripping of moderating forces; his pursuit of a position of power without appropriate qualifications; and his shaping of the national and international culture after his own mental state—all fit the pattern of well-known, dangerous personality structures.

In The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts have warned that his condition was more serious than people assumed, that it would grow worse with actual power, and that he would eventually become uncontainable.

The situation is very serious now, and there is a risk of everything from a nuclear war to a civil insurrection to his accidentally triggering something catastrophic—be it in Syria, North Korea, China, or Russia. As difficult as it may be to intervene now, it will only grow more difficult with time, and there is no other proper management than containment, removal from access to weapons and power, and an urgent evaluation, as we have been saying for almost two years.

Again yes and no: Yes, I think Trump is insane and dangerous because he is insane (and the more dangerous the more power he has), but no I do not think that psychiatry and psychology are able to say a lot more, in a rational fashion - and besides, Trump will refuse to be evaluated and judged by psychologists or psychiatrists.

So in fact I agree with Lee's diagnosis, but think she can't get much further than that, basically because Trump will refuse to be examined and besides the "sciences" of psychology and psychiatry are - in my opinion - not capable of doing much more.

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

Tana Ganeva: Your experience leads you to believe that Trump exhibits thoughts and behaviors that suggest he’s mentally impaired. What initially led you to that conclusion? What are the recent events that have confirmed your diagnosis?

Bandy X. Lee: It is difficult to communicate everything, but let me just say, over my 20-year career devoted to studying, predicting, and preventing violence, I have seen close to 1000 individuals with Mr. Trump personality profile. Some of these signs include behavior that is consistent with paranoia, a lack of empathy, impulsivity, an inability to consider consequences, and an attraction to violence and cruelty.

Indeed, he will become increasingly self-destructive, as well as damaging to the country, the more his condition worsens. To be clear, I am not making a diagnosis, which usually requires a personal interview as well as a whole host of other information, but am assessing dangerousness, for which a personal interview is not always necessary or helpful (since dangerous individuals will try to hide the very things you need to know).

I more or less agree with the last paragraph and do not know whether I believe that Lee has seen on average one person with a narcissistic personality disorder each week. (It seems rather a lot to me, but indeed I do not know.) And this is a recommended article. 

4. Legal Scholars to Trump: No, You Cannot Declare Emergency to Build Wall

This article is by Jon Queally on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

After President Donald Trump on Friday claimed he could declare a national emergency in order to assert total control over the border and use existing taxpayer money to build a wall he has repeatedly told the American public that Mexico would pay for, legal experts are pointing out that Trump has no authority under the Constitution to do any such thing.

"I can do it if I want," Trump declared Friday. "We can call a national emergency because of the security of our country. We can do it. I haven't done it. I may do it."

Calling Trump's demand for the wall "constitutionally illegitimate" in an op-ed for the Guardian in the wake of the president's "bizarre" press conference outside the White House, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig argued that no reading of the nation's governing document "would ever uphold the view that a president can stop the functioning of government, to insist upon a program unsupported by the public or unrequired by the constitution."

I think Lessig is correct about that. Here is some more:

"This just another one of his hair-brained schemes," Holtzman said. "And we know, time after time, his cruel, unnecessary, horrifying policies on the border—whether its separation of children from their parents or whether it's stopping people from coming in under the asylum laws or whether its his original total ban on Muslim immigration—all of those were shut down by the courts. So I think the reason he's doing this now, in this way, is he's very worried about whether he has authority and he's trying to threaten Congress. It's not going to work. The Democrats are not going to support a wall."

As a result, Holtzmann said, it is the 800,000 federal workers and their families who are being held hostage by Trump's cruelty. "Are they going have enough money to put food on the table? Is their house going to be taken away? Is their mortgage going to be forclosed on? I mean, what is he doing to this country? For his image? That's an outrage."

Yes, I agree and this is a recommended article.

5. The EU: From Social-Democratic Dream to Neoliberal Nightmare

This article is by Frank Lee on The Off-Guardian. It starts as follows:

Britain, in the shape of Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath, initially joined the EEC in 1973, after Charles de Gaulle’s resignation in 1969. De Gaulle had always been opposed to the Anglo-Saxon axis, regarding the UK as a ‘Trojan Horse’ for US geopolitical objectives, and consistently blocked the UK’s attempted entry into continental Europe. According to DG Britain ‘was not European enough’. With the General out of the way the path was clear for British entry.

However, this was not an altogether popular move with much of the electorate and some quite solid opposition from elements in both main political parties. This being the case the then Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, opted for a referendum on continued membership in 1975 to settle the issue. The electorate voted ‘Yes’ by 67.2% to 32.8% to stay in Europe.
I do not like totally arbitrary and uncommon abbreviations like "DG" for "De Gaulle", but apart from that the above is correct.

Here is the other bit I quote from this article:

However, I was then blissfully unaware that the project which I had in mind bore little resemblance to the real strategy of the EU architects. At that time the neo-liberal counter-revolution was still in its infancy and did not really get into its stride until the 1980s. Prior to this there was an interregnum between the ending of the post-war settlement in 1975 and the emergence of the new world order. During this interlude it was still possible to believe in the independence of Europe, national sovereignty, the welfare state and a settlement where an independent social-democratic Europe stood as a bridge between the harsh realities of both American capitalism/imperialism and Soviet Communism.

Alas today the social-democratic, welfare-capitalism consensus is gone, probably forever, to be replaced by the brutal reality of an off-the-leash juggernaut which gives no quarter. Europe is now essentially an occupied zone. An American controlled political/economic/military bloc effectively corralled by NATO as well as other US puppet-facade institutions such as the IMF, WTO and World Bank. And the irony of all this is that the Europeans are not even aware of it.

I more or less agree, and indeed dislike the EU ("European Union") and the EEC ever since I heard from them, mostly because I cannot believe in the creation of states with many languages and hardly a shared past by a handful of bureacrats. Also, none of what I have learned since first learning of them increased my liking, my belief or my trust.

There is a whole lot more in this article that is recommended but not properly reviewed here, basically because I have already more than 45 Kb. (It is worth reading if you are interested in the EU.)

[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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