Saturday, December 20, 2014

Moving to Daily Kos

Thank you for reading my musings.

I have moved my blog to Daily Kos and will no longer post here.

Look for my blog there under the name psychomax.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Although many believe that political power in the US is wielded by the Republicans and Democrats, a far more accurate statement is that the real power brokers are the American people on the one hand, and the monied class on the other. Since they stand in opposition to one another, only one of these power blocks is in control at a time. Throughout our history as a country that control has regularly changed hands.

Our so-called two party system is commonly viewed as a representation of the two power centers. According to the mythology, Democrats represent the "working man", while Republicans represent the wealthy. In reality, Democrats and Republicans are merely wings of one Economic Royalist party rather than being truly distinct political parties with consistently different serious ideologies and a sincere interest in serving the whole of the country. William Greider, writing in The Nation magazine recently put it this way: "The Republicans are a wholly owned subsidiary of the business-finance machine, the Democrats are rented".

The loss of the middle class, the stagnation of income growth since the 1970s for the 99% and the absence of upward mobility during that same period provides hard evidence that the "working man" has had no serious political party representation in Washington for four decades. This despite 18 years with a Democrat in the White House during that period.

Economic Royalist is a term first used by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and recently resurrected by Thom Hartmann in his book "The Crash of 2016". It refers to America's plutocracy, the ultra-wealthy in finance and industry who place personal greed above the good of the nation and turn away from the wreckage. We also know them as the 1%.

The Royalists are puppeteers, working behind the curtain controlling the economic and political life of our country. We are all familiar with the practice of buying politicians. For the Royalists, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Their vast wealth and resources enable them to extend their reach into all of the moving parts of society where they can find benefit for their agenda through intervention. Thus, local school boards, city councils and state houses are prime targets for placement of their "ringers". Think tanks that they fund publish scholarly sounding propaganda that promotes the Royalist's policies to government decision-makers. Front groups with populist names are created to appeal to the general public. However, the work of these groups and the messages they convey serve the Royalists, not the community.

Since the Royalists donate heavily to Democrats and Republicans alike and since the similarities between the parties far overshadow their differences, it is not unreasonable to assert that they really are the same party. In recent history, and in recognition that the two parties are in bed together, there have been calls for a third political party. A viable third party in American politics is beyond the recollection of most Americans alive today but one did exist in the 20th Century with a measurable amount of success.

The Socialist Party of America was formed in 1901. By 1918 the Party had won 1,200 political offices across the country at all levels, including the US congress. Eugene V. Debs and Norman Thomas were two of its best known presidential candidates. Propelled in large measure by socialist minded European immigrants, the SPA was a visible part of our political landscape through the 1930's and beyond. FDR's New Deal programs were a factor in the decline of the SPA since they addressed a number of socialist policy demands.

In recent decades the Green Party and the Libertarian Party have fielded candidates and won offices but neither has achieved the impact of the SPA. The times are different. Those immigrants, who were steeped in European left politics are gone. Socialism has been made into a dirty word and no other competing political/economic sensibility has coalesced to achieve the requisite critical mass. Even if one had gotten to that point, it is doubtful that such a party would be permitted onto the playing field.

The two nominal parties, the Republicans and Democrats, have no interest in sharing the field with others, thus so tightly control that field that the chance of new entries gaining a foothold is slim to none. Those who righteously criticize the two party system but then go on to claim that America's salvation lies in the creation of a third party are failing to recognize that significant social change only gets done here via mass grass roots movements. They also naively believe that, somehow, our system of winner-take-all elections, which is a major obstacle to the success of any third party, can be overcome.

During times of Economic Royalist rule--which include: the period from the election of Ronald Reagan until today; following WWI until the Great Depression; most of the second half of the 19th Century and roughly the last two decades of the 18th Century--politicians are relatively useless to the country due to their being dominated by the Royalists. However, when the Royalists are in retreat parties and politicians are far more receptive to the demands of the general public and its mass movements..It should be carefully noted that Royalist rule includes periods of Democratic incumbency in the White House.

While each election cycle brings major theatrics from both parties, it is important to ask: precisely what contributions to the advancement of the American people and their democracy have these parties made? When we consider the 20th and 21st Centuries, the frank answer is "none". Every major progressive change during this period was the direct result of mass popular movements, acting as the vanguard, forcing reluctant politicians (Democrats, since historically they have been the more liberal party) to do the right thing. Thus, FDR and his Party established the Social Security Program, jobs programs and favorable labor laws in response to the demands of a vast mobilization of workers. Later mass movements led to the passage of the Civic Rights Act, brought an end to the Vietnam war and forced LBJ to enact Medicare, Medicaid and additional anti-poverty programs. The Women's and Gay Rights Movements likewise brought about further progressive changes.

The takeaway is that reliance on parties and politicians has never been a reliable way for us to move our interests forward. The playing field is seriously tilted in favor of the Economic Royalists. The politicians are in their pocket now, more than ever following Citizens United. Tough as it may be, self-reliance is our only effective tool. We must learn to use it again and always.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Imagine if all the groups struggling today  for various aspects of social, economic and environmental justice truly realized that they all have the same enemy--the oligarchs who have the money and power to buy and appropriate more power and influence. These are the 1%, their lobbyists and their lackeys in government. Every systemic injustice extant in this country is either perpetrated or supported by this ruling elite.

During the struggles of the sixties and seventies some on the left tried to get this message across to the many "single-issue" groups. "You are all essentially fighting the same enemy. By joining forces your power and likelihood of success would be enormously increased".  The strategy was used at times but never adopted as a consistent approach. In the current period, the lesson needs to be re-learned.

Americans now live in a period characterized by a permanent state of war, virulent attacks upon civil liberties, education,  economic well-being and by the damaging and dangerous affects of unchecked, man-made climate change. The "commons" are under attack as well. Roads, bridges and public buildings, including schools, are being left to the forces of entropy. Immigrants fleeing chaos and violence in their home countries are being treated like criminals by Federal immigration and border authorities. Families and unaccompanied children are being abusively warehoused and/or deported to life-threatening situations. This list only scratches the surface.

People always resist injustice, abuse and oppression. Groups are fighting back on all of these fronts. In the face of loses such as Citizens United, McCullough, anti-voting legislation, anti-abortion legislation and the militarization of the police, among others, extraordinary advances have been made in the growing number of states where gays can marry legally and where medical and even recreational marijuana is legal. It has also been remarkable to watch the number of states and cities that have raised, and are now considering raising, the minimum wage, including for tipped workers in some cases, refusing to wait for the Federal government to act. Exciting as well is an awakening of the long-dormant union movement, particularly in regard to organizing fast food workers who have been successfully sustaining a campaign for better wages and conditions. The recent Supreme Court decision declaring that McDonald's is a player in the level of wages paid by their franchisees is a significant win that came out of this campaign.

The gains enumerated are principally the result of the work of issue-oriented groups. So, again, imagine if your group rallying for better wages and conditions in front of Walmart Headquarters was joined by members of anti-war, voter rights, equal pay for women, local union, civil rights, LGBT rights, environmental, immigration rights groups and others. In the same way that the power of workers is multiplied by union membership and representation, the power of groups working for progressive change is multiplied by working in coalition with other such groups against the common enemy.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Significance of One's Worldview

The attached article touches on a very important point that I believe deserves elaboration. We all have a "worldview", although it is something we typically give little thought to, probably because, for most of us, it is not something that we consciously adopted. One's worldview, closeted though it is, is actually a very significant factor in one's life, and in that of his/her country. We acquire our worldview through our socialization process. Each nation has a unique worldview and each sub-culture within a nation has a modified version of the national worldview.

What is little understood and what I believe to be behind many of the conflicts that we observe, is that our worldview influences our perceptions, our attitudes, beliefs and behaviors toward other nations, other groups and other people. Most of us do not recognize that we hold a worldview so we certainly do not recognize or appreciate that there are other, perhaps very different worldviews out there. I believe that we make a gross assumption that "people are people". We notice racial, religious, language, gross cultural and other differences and attribute our responses to those characteristics as discrete responses rather than as having been determined by our coherent worldview.

The upshot is that it is hard to step out of a frame you don't realize you have. One result is a false sense of objectivity. Your worldview defines your subjectivity. Not being fully conscious of all aspects of your worldview leaves you with a serious blind spot. Problem solving and conflict resolution of every sort and at every level require objectivity. When a society such as ours prefers that it's citizens remain ignorant of their national and personal worldview, when that society does nothing to encourage and facilitate the acquisition of political consciousness, which elucidates one's worldview, it is then incumbent upon us, individually and/or in groups to seek out that consciousness.

Like ·  · 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Mass Shootings, Mass Drugging and the Mass Media

Instances of mass shootings in schools, theaters, malls and on military posts have become so regular in this country that their horror no longer shocks us. It is a seemingly sad and awful truth that we can even get used to the most terrible events if they happen often enough. This should not be viewed as callousness or indifference, however. The fact is, accommodating to horror of this sort is a naturally occurring adaptive response that serves a self-protective function. In order to defend our psychological well-being from repeated assaults by powerfully negative events the mind finds ways to recast the experiences to make them less stressful.

Used to be that tabloids were the prime venue for sensational journalism. The distinction between tabloids and serious newspapers is now largely a thing of the past. Add to that the 24/7 news cycle, cable channels and the internet and you have a veritable circus of sensationalism which feeds on the human tragedy of escalating large-scale gun violence. Mix in some uninformed speculation about a "possible link to terrorism" and the "reporting" on these events can be very effective at manipulating the audience's attitudes and emotions. In this type of media coverage much is said but little is revealed.

Most, if not all, of the shooters in these cases have a history of mental illness. As a result, the coverage tends to focus on the failures of the psychiatric system, on people falling through the cracks and on the weak gun laws that permit psychologically unstable individuals to readily purchase weapons.

Of course, there are legitimate criticisms to be made of our mental health system but that is for another conversation. Moreover, there is overwhelming public support for rational and effective gun laws but the will of the people is being thwarted by the industry and their puppets in Congress. While these themes are being worked and re-worked in the media there is another significant factor that the shooters have in common that is missing from the journalistic reporting, and hence from the public conversation. At the time of the incidents all of the perpetrators had been taking or were being withdrawn from prescription psychotropic medications. Why is this important? Because it is no secret that certain classes of psychiatric drugs are known to cause suicidal and homicidal thoughts and impulses. For years the Federal Drug Administration has required these medications to carry a warning to that effect on the package insert.

Psychotropic drugs as a whole ought to be far more controversial than they are. They cure nothing. They are prescribed for "diseases"" that do not exist. And they have very serious side effects that range from shrinking brain matter, to diabetes and obesity, to suicide and mass murder. Why, then, does the public know so very little about these truths? I can only surmise that because Big Pharma makes so much money on psychotropics they have worked very hard to keep the bad news under wraps.

An example of the help they get might prove surprising, yet useful. The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) is an advocacy and lobbing organization formed in 1979. Purportedly, their mission is to promote the adoption of policies beneficial to those living with behavioral disorders and to encourage research into the causes and treatment of such disorders. In reality. NAMI promulgates as a matter of policy, a very narrow, biologically-based, understanding of what mental illness is. They refer to it as a "medical condition" or a "brain disease", despite the lack of valid data to support such a view. A more comprehensive analysis of the literature leads to the conclusion that conditions such as psychosis and major depression are likely to be the result of "biopsychosocial" factors. To that mix, I would add economics as well. Truth be told, we still know precious little of the origins of mental illness, yet NAMI pretends that we already know the cause and we are just waiting on the details.

Since they hold to a strict biological determinism, it should not surprise us that NAMI are staunch supporters of vigorous prescribing of psychotropic medications. Now this organization has mental health professionals on their Board of Directors, their Advisory Councils and on their staff. People who are capable of understanding the dangers of these drugs. So how are we to understand an organization claiming to be dedicated to improving the lot of the mentally ill, actively taking positions that directly harm their constituents and that block a broader research program that might accelerate our knowledge of causes? The answer lies in the fact that NAMI receives over 50% of its funding from drug companies. Large contributors also include health insurers and medical device manufacturers.

The media can play a valuable role in adding a new and important dimension to the debate over how to deal with the contagion of mass shootings. They need to bring attention to bear on the observed relationship between psychotropic drugs and violence. The public deserves to be fully informed about this potential contributor to the shootings.Gun control is sorely needed but if the real trigger of the violence is the overprescription of dangerous psychotropic medications, then control of a different sort may also be in order.