Tag Archives: books

If We’re So Smart, Why Aren’t We Sane?

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September 10, 2016

by Kookie the Shrink
an alter ego of katharineotto.wordpress.com
President, Chair, and CEO, Psychiatrists for Sanity
(and so far the only member)

The August, 2016 issue of Psychiatric Times has two good articles related to recent topics in my senior citizens’ discussion group.  One is on gun violence, and the other on physician-assisted suicide.

Gun Violence and Mental Illness

There’s a good interview with forensic psychiatrist Liza H. Gold, MD regarding her book, Gun Violence and Mental Illness.  She claims that most serious mental illness is only weakly associated with violence, and gun violence in particular.  There are 33,000 firearm deaths each year, and two-thirds of them are suicides.  Less than one percent occur in mass shootings.   Firearm violence by individuals with serious mental illness against strangers is one of the rarest forms in the US.  If seriously mentally ill people do become violent, it is usually against family members or in committing suicide.  Those with serious mental illness only commit 3-5% of all types of violence.

When Dr. Gold talks about legislation, she says only felons with a history of gun violence should be denied weapons.  Now, all felons are prevented from buying guns.  Psychiatrists and therapists should ask not only if the patient owns a gun but whether there is a gun in the household.  Better access to mental health care would perhaps prevent suicides (10th leading cause of death in the US and second among adolescents and young adults).  There are 40,000 suicides/year in the US with more than one-half using a gun.  As many as 90% of people who commit suicide have a history or current diagnosis of a psychiatric problem

We are the only nation in the world with this kind of gun violence problem.  Access to mental health treatment would not reduce homicide rates (11,000/year), which are usually interpersonal (domestic, gang wars, etc.)

The most dangerous time for a woman is in trying to leave an abusive relationship.  Temporary restraining orders do not prevent the perpetrator from having a firearm, but permanent ones do.  Gold says the temporary restraining order should also prohibit firearm possession for the perpetrator.

She says we should educate family members to remove firearms from the homes of those in crisis, such as depression, psychosis, substance abuse, dementia, recent trauma–such as loss of job or relationship–or has a recent diagnosis of serious medical illness.

Physician-Assisted Suicide

A commentary, “Physician-Assisted Suicide and the Rise of the Consumer Movement,” by Ronald W. Pies, MD, addresses the current status of so-called “physician-assisted suicide” movement and the ethical implications for psychiatrists.  While others refer to “death with dignity,” he likes to think in terms of “life with dignity,” and implies this is the main goal of psychiatry.

Dr. Pies says PAS is now legal in Oregon, Washington, Vermont and California.  They are considering a law in Canada that would allow for assisted suicide in mentally ill adult minors. He states the broad terms under which euthanasia is used in the Netherlands.

Dr. Pies correlated this with the growing “consumer rights” movement, which has replaced “physician” with “provider,” and “patient” with “consumer.” He hints that insurance companies–guided by numbers and statistics more than good care–are behind this language pollution.  He implies this subtle shift in terminology has dehumanized both parties and has undermined the therapeutic relationship between patient and physician.

My take is medical journals subsist on advertising, primarily from pharmaceutical companies.  Content usually reveals the medical bias toward expensive, patented medications and overtreatment for relatively minor problems.  The August issue of Psychiatric Times shows a heartening trend toward more clinically relevant information.  I commend this issue’s attempt to educate psychiatrists and the public about common sense solutions to common problems.

 

 

 

 

The Creature from Jekyll Island: Notes and Thoughts

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The Creature from Jekyll Island:  A Second Look at the Federal Reserve
by G. Edward Griffin, first published 1994.
Notes and Thoughts on the first three chapters.

           The Creature from Jekyll Island is astounding in its implications.  It reveals that the money lending game is essentially between banks, with debt fueling the pump.  Powered by individual as well as government debt taken on in  taxpayers’ names, it makes me wonder whether unborn taxpayers can be obligated by federal debt.  Also, if the Fed were abolished, might all this artificial debt cancel itself out?

The book starts with a cameo of a secret meeting on Jekyll Island, Georgia, in 1910 that led to the Federal Reserve Act in 1913.  Nelson Aldrich, Senator from Rhode Island and father-in-law to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., hosted the private rail trip for six other movers and shakers in the banking and finance industries.  These men were to arrive at the train station separately, go by first names only, and say they were going duck hunting.  The regular staff at JP Morgan’s Jekyll Island Club was given a vacation.  Carefully selected others served the men while they were there.

The men were: 1.  Aldrich, who was also Republican “whip” in the Senate, chair of the National Monetary Commission, and a business associate of J. P. Morgan; 2.  Abraham Piatt Andrew, Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury;  3.  Frank A. Vanderlip, president of the National City Bank of New York, the most powerful bank at the time, and representing William Rockefeller and the international investment banking house of Kuhn, Loeb, and Company;  4.  Henry P. Davison, senior partner at JP Morgan Company;  5.  Charles D. Norton, president of JP Morgan’s First National Bank of New York;  6.  Benjamin Strong, head of JP Morgan’s Trust Company;  7.  Paul M. Warburg, partner in Kuhn Loeb and Company, a member of the Rothschild banking dynasty in England and France, and brother of Max Warburg, head of the Warburg banking consortium in Germany and the Netherlands.

When Griffin says the Fed creates money out of nothing, he is not entirely accurate.  Rather, the Fed creates debt out of nothing to lend to Congress and calls it money, because it is backed by congressional promises of future taxpayer earnings (through the income tax, established earlier the same year, 1913).  The incredible credit is then passed off as currency, and no one is the wiser.

Until now.  The lie continues that US taxpayers are obligated by congressional guarantees, but we are not morally obligated to pay that debt.  Unfortunately, since their strategy has included putting everyone on the payroll—in one form or another—everyone is implicated in the scam and terrified of its inevitable unraveling.

Obviously the easiest solution is for individuals to get out of debt.  When debts are paid off, the money vanishes into the red hole it came from, the money supply shrinks, and deflation gives everyone except banks, debtors, and governments—the biggest debtors of all–more buying power.

Griffin gives a good summary at the end of each chapter, thereby simplifying this 600 page tome.

Chapter 1:  “The Journey to Jekyll Island” tells how the skeleton of the Federal Reserve System was worked out at Jekyll Island in 1910 by RI Senator Nelson Aldrich and six other men representing the most powerful banking interests in the Western world.  These included US banks under JP Morgan and John D. Rockefeller; English and French banks under Kuhn, Loeb and Company, representing Rothschild interests in Europe; and Germany and Netherlands banks by the powerful Warburg family.

Author Griffin refers to it as a banking cartel, in which powerful competitors align to prevent other competition and use the government’s police power to enforce their monopoly.  Griffin hints without actually saying that descendants of these five banking dynasties still control the Fed.  These are Morgan, Rockefeller, Rothschild, Warburg, and Kuhn-Loeb.

He says the Jekyll Island meeting had five objectives:  1. Stop the growing competition from the nation’s other banks;  2.  Obtain a franchise to create money through debt;  3.  Get control of all the banks’ reserves so the more reckless ones would not be exposed to currency drains and bank runs;  4.  Get taxpayers to cover the cartel’s losses;  5.  Convince Congress the purpose was to protect the public.

Chapter 2:  “The Name of the Game is Bailout.”  The crucial point is that all the money created through the banking system since the Federal Reserve Act is backed only by debt, primarily by Congress’ obligating taxpayers’ future earnings.  A defaulted loan, thereby, costs the bank little in tangible value.  Therefore, the goal is to continue receiving interest on the loan by lending more (future) money to cover it.  This is especially true with large loans.  With extremely large loans the cartel gets the federal government to guarantee the loan, should the borrower default.  If this tactic fails and the bank is forced into insolvency, the FDIC is used to pay off depositors.  Small banks pay disproportionately for this “insurance” and are least likely to be bailed out, should disaster hit.

Because money is created out of nothing for the purpose of lending, huge sums are dispersed through the economy, devaluing the existing currency and causing inflation.

Griffin does not say that the income tax, passed earlier in the same year, 1913, was the funding source by which the federal government would pay perpetual interest to the Fed on the national debt.  This method mirrored the 1790-1791 creation of the whiskey tax and the nation’s first central bank, a double whammy on taxpayers, devised by Alexander Hamilton and George Washington.  (This from Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow, 2004)

Chapter 3:  “Protectors of the Public.”  This chapter gives multiple examples of previous federal bailouts, beginning with Penn Central in 1970, Lockheed in 1970, the Commonwealth Bank of Detroit in 1974, New York City in 1975, Chrysler in 1978, the First Pennsylvania Bank of Philadelphia in 1979, and Chicago’s Continental Illinois in 1982.  Continental was the first electronic bank run.  It was the nation’s seventh largest bank at the time, with $42 billion in assets, with multiple loans out to high-risk business ventures and foreign governments.  Here the Federal Reserve becomes the “lender of last resort,” meaning it creates money out of nothing to cover, in this case, $4.5 billion in bad loans, and passing costs on to taxpayers in the form of inflation.

And this book has 26 chapters.  Stay tuned . . .

 

 

 

Making Waste

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April, 2016

It occurred to me yesterday that money hoarding and information hoarding go together.  Information hoarding is most obvious in the patent industry.  This translates into mass confusion at the grassroots level, where multiple companies compete on the same turf for “market share.”

faucetplastic0316My new bathroom faucet provides the most recent example of this dysfunctionality.  Home Depot supplies only one brand of faucet, and the bottom of the line (read “simplest”) faucet only comes in one color, an off-color, “polished nickel,” so doesn’t match my formerly standard chrome.  In the 20 years since I bought the old faucet, the metal to plastic ratio has declined maybe 50%.  The drain pipe, pivot nut, and strap are now plastic.  I only needed the new faucet because the plastic gears inside both handles on the old one broke.

Plastic gears, plastic joints, and plastic moving parts have replaced metal in an across-the-board move that creates enormous waste and is dangerous, to boot.  I’m thinking of the aluminum lawn chair that snapped without warning because of the plastic joints.  Plastic, unlike metal or wood, is unfixable, so the entire product must be discarded.

Back to the faucet:  I considered substituting the old metal drain pipe for the new plastic one, but found that male and female ends had been reversed.

Why?  I have to wonder if patents have replaced standardized parts in our universalized conveniences.

Who benefits from this subtle downgrading of standard household equipment?  Certainly not the homeowner, who has not only the expense but the inconvenience of replacing equipment that should have lasted much longer.  Faucets installed all over town in the early 1900s are still functional.   While somewhat corroded and rusty on the outside, they still work as well as ever.

This isolated example would be a minor problem, except that every new replacement product I buy is worse than the old one.  Why did I even have to buy a new one?

“We can’t get parts,” is the standard answer.  When I suggest that digital controls on everything from my propane gas stove, dryer, and tankless water heater, to microwave–and even coffee percolator–add unnecessary levels of complexity and increase electrical and repair costs, people look at me as though I’m the crazy one.

stovefrigidairedig0416Why, in an age when we claim to want to reduce energy waste, are we being maneuvered into untenable situations like this?  My desire to free myself from the grid and Southern Company’s monopoly is blocked at every turn by corporate desperation to keep me hooked into a system that bleeds individuals like me dry.

And they wonder why the economy is imploding?

*The Waste Makers, by Vance Packard, (1963) which I read in the 1970s, made a profound and enduring impression.  I skimmed through it while writing this blog and see that Packard’s observations are even more apparent today.  It should be required reading in every high school.

**Total cost of replacing the Frigidaire stove’s digital control panel was $115. (The replacement part was $82).

 

Freedom, Democracy, and Capitalism

 

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Supercapitalism:  The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life, Robert Reich, 2007

December, 2015–I read Robert Reich’s Supercapitalism:  The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life, just after it was published in 2007, and posted the following commentary on my now defunct website in October of that year.  That was the month the “Great Recession” began, so the review, from a 2015 perspective, seems prophetic, given subsequent events.

I followed my own advice to abandon Wall Street for Main Street in January, 2008, after the value of my stock portfolio plunged below mortgage debt.  I used the money to pay down that debt and then devoted every available penny to become completely debt-free.

The following commentary links freedom, democracy, and capitalism by seeking to re-define “capitalism” as we know it.  Milton Friedman, in Capitalism and Freedom (1962) and Ayn Rand in Capitalism:  The Unknown Ideal (1967) both referred to “human capital,” but neither seemed to give “human capital” sufficient status.  I’m presenting my commentary here in its original form, posted when George Bush was still president, to remind readers of where we stood then and how events have grown from seeds sowed long ago.

Supercapitalism’s Crystal Ball Shatters:  The Future Has Arrived
October, 2007

Supercapitalism, by Robert Reich, shows the landscape of the enemy’s mind, and it is lifeless monotony.  Former President Bill Clinton’s secretary of labor trounces capitalism without bothering to define it, yet it’s clear he doesn’t understand the term.  This fatal omission turns the book’s intent upside down to make it a strong example in favor of the “democratic capitalism” he claims is dead.

Freedom, democracy, and capitalism are interrelated qualities only individuals can own or control.  The term “capitalism” has been assigned to those who would harness and control human capital, imperialists who know human capital is the only viable capital.  All other capital is derived from human effort or desire.

I make a career of using the wealth between my ears, my caput – the Latin word for “head” – to work for me.  Supercapitalism shows how amalgamated heads under corporate or government superstructures reduce thinking to the lowest common denominator.  No individual is responsible for the outcome.  That’s supercapitalism.

The word “capitalism” means using your head to generate income, to “capitalize” on available resources. In a truly capitalistic society, tax law would favor individual entrepreneurs and those who can be self-sufficient and perhaps hire and train others.

Human capital respects human dignity and works to create an expanding network of like-minded individuals.  Life is free.  You own your body and your mind. They are your most valuable assets.  No one can live your life but you, and you don’t have to sleep with anyone but yourself.  If you strive to make your life a work of art, and can earn a living doing it, you’ll have only yourself to thank.

In a genuine democracy—which has never really existed–the individual has all the rights, and the corporate structure has none.  Human capital, the only viable capital, assumes priority status, and gives credit where credit is due.  Capitalism within a democracy perpetually renews the individual’s vital self-directed role as a functioning member of a larger culture.

But if you are Mr. Reich, “democratic capitalism” has given way to the “supercapitalism” of “global supply chains.”  Get over it, he tells American customer-voter-citizen-taxpayers.  The supercapitalists are corporations, profit-making contractual arrangements, which have no obligation or responsibility to anyone except their shareholders.  Corporations are inhuman, and they have triumphed over you. They will not be curbed without more government, but politicians are crooked, too.  Nor can you trust the do-gooders, who also benefit from supercapitalism.  That’s progress.

Admittedly, we have social problems, Reich says.  We’re poisoning ourselves out of existence.  Natural resources, manufacturing, and jobs are leaving the country as fast as the supercapitalists can sell us out, but that’s not supercapitalism’s fault.  Supercapitalists are only responsible to the bottom line, and shame on you if you expect otherwise.

Reich doesn’t trace the source of “supercapitalism,” but consider these historical facts:  In 1910 an elite group of bankers, industrialists, and politicians, including investment banker J. Pierpont Morgan and Rhode Island Senator Nelson Aldrich, met secretly on Jekyll Island, Georgia, to engineer the creation of a central bank.  There they crafted the initial version of the Federal Reserve Act, which became law in 1913, and created a debt-backed currency, controlled by private bankers.

According to None Dare Call it Conspiracy, by Gary Allen (1971), “German born international financier Paul Warburg masterminded establishment of the Federal Reserve to put control of the international economy in hands of international bankers.  The Federal Reserve controls the money supply, which allows manipulators to create alternate cycles of boom and bust, i.e., a roller coaster economy.  This allows those in the know to make fabulous amounts of money, but even more important allows the Insiders to control the economy and further centralize the federal government.” p 65.

The income tax, also passed in 1913, guaranteed that American taxpayer income would pay perpetual interest on government borrowing. These two actions created the monster we now see as “supercapitalism,” economic slavery of debt-ridden America to the banks, industrialists, politicians, and their designated favorites.

This system requires ever-increasing debt to prop up the money’s presumed value, but Americans are maxed out on credit.  The banks have stretched the rules to make borrowing easier.  The Fed is fiddling with interest rates to insure its economic health, but the loans are backfiring, and the banks are stuck with tangible, costly assets that they can’t easily unload.   Even the “global supply chain” can’t make it cost-effective to export a piece of real estate to Japan, but electronic money is easily disbursed around the world at the flick of a keystroke.  If money is the bank’s only product, that money better be backed by something of real value, or the bank loses its relevance, and the global supply chain crumbles into a pile of broken links. This is the supercapitalist dilemma.

If Americans aren’t working, spending, and paying taxes, government income can’t keep up with obligations. It can’t repay the loans, or even interest on the loans.  The “consumers” aren’t consuming enough.  Bottom lines have suffered.

Former President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of  Labor touts Clinton solutions.  Under his scenario, government has the answer to everything.  More laws, more regulation, more oversight, more paperwork, more money. . . this is the Clinton team answer, but it does nothing to repair the sidewalks in Savannah.

But of course Clinton is no longer the worst president in American history.  Bush is the next logical progression in the supercapitalists’ slave trader tradition.  Unfortunately, “consumers” are overstuffed and have lost their appetites.  They are fed up.  The supercapitalists might have to start earning their income.  Their seemingly unlimited stable of revenue-producing taxpayers isn’t performing up to economists’ predictions. The money churners on Wall Street and the asset plunderers in Washington are lost in the never-never-land of money backed only by money, and nobody knows where the value went.

Reich talks about “consumer buying power.”  What you have, Joe and Josie Taxpayer, is “withholding power.”  Note the crammed retail shelves and store aisles.  Bad choices abound, as the products worth buying slyly disappear, only to re-appear later with new price and packaging. Hardly worth the walk from the parking lot, or the time spent in the check-out line. Bottom line is they can’t move all that cheap plastic junk made by slave labor in China, and overhead is tightening the designer nooses around their supercapitalist necks.

The term “consumer” insults “customers” and reveals the anachronistic, aristocratic mentality at the core of supercapitalist thinking. This seduces the individual customer-voter-citizen-taxpayer into believing she is receiver rather than giver of charity to government and industry, yet both depend on “customer” income for survival.

But, all taxes fall disproportionately on those who can least afford them.  These individuals—who pay the largest share of disposable income in taxes–suffer first and most severely if the delegated power is abused.

That’s why we should abolish corporate income taxes, Reich says on page 216 of his 225 page book.  Let those profits flow through to shareholders, who are individuals. He claims the corporate income tax rate is higher than what low-income shareholders would pay if it were reported as personal income instead.  He claims lower income shareholders and company employees are unfairly taxed by the current arrangement.

Reich neglects to mention that the megacorporate supercapitalists, inhuman as they are, leave giant footprints on the communities they trample.  The corporate income tax is a token acknowledgment of their superhuman presence within the environment and on the local infrastructure.  The bipartisan, concerted move to abolish corporate income taxes reveals the supercapitalists’ latest ploy to shift costs to neighbor-customer-citizen-voter-taxpayers, better to pad bottom lines and pretend they deliver more than they cost.

Large corporations thus export money and resources out of town while local communities bear the costs.  The small business person, the entrepreneur, is the capitalist who does not depend on government help, yet suffers more than anyone from the political favoritism granted through corporate contractual agreements.  The supercapitalist’s greatest competitor is the genuine capitalist, the individual, who is free to use her head to negotiate her way through local markets, the stock market, and life, whether as seller or buyer, giver or receiver.

In supercapitalist jargon, customer-voter-citizen-taxpayers are not free thinking individuals.  We are “consumers,” “covered lives,” “special-interest groups,” “minorities,” “the elderly,” “the poor,” identities encoded in numbers that can be stolen without a gun, and, by the way, the source of all the supercapitalists’ revenue, whether through product purchases or taxes.  Shareholders are also customer-voter-citizen-taxpayers, and as individuals and capitalists, they are free to buy or sell their stock at any time.

Our society exploits human capital and degrades itself by not appreciating the rich variety of its human talent.  Human capital can’t be owned, but it can be manipulated and controlled through force and deceit.  These tactics eventually fail, because they engender passive aggression and passive resistance that ultimately undermine the predator, to no one’s benefit.  This sadomasochistic dance is the enemy of capitalism, because no one profits in a power struggle.

“Consumer spending” accounts for two thirds of US revenues, and as “consumer spending” decreases, so do tax revenues, an unfortunate, unintended consequence of putting everybody out of work or on the public dole.

My take-home message from Supercapitalism, the bottom line, is this:  The so-called supercapitalists have painted themselves into a corner, and they are desperate. They couldn’t have grown to their current size without significant government help, at the expense of the customer-taxpayers who finance both sides.  But legislation and tax law favor large over small, and the group over the individual. This heavily weighted advantage is the opposite of capitalism, freedom, fair trade, and democracy.

The easiest way to shrink the supercapitalists’ overinflated self worth is to work less, earn less, consume less, spend less, drive less, waste less, want less, and pay less in taxes.  I could repair the sidewalks myself for what I pay in taxes, and if I quit working, I might have the time.

The “customer” is always right. Joe and Josie Taxpayer have the right not to spend, the right not to pay for products shoved down their throats.  Get out of debt.  Interest payments do not give value for money.  Do you think the international investment bankers—the most superior of supercapitalists—want you discovering you have better uses for your money than debt-plus-interest payments?  You think the government wants you to shrink it to a manageable level?  You, Joe and Josie Taxpayer, are the genuine capitalists in America. Your minds are more vital than any supercapitalist contractual agreement. Life is free.  It’s your choice how you spend it.