Treating Depression with LSD Microdosing

LSD: Microdosing LSD in the Name of Self-Improvement

DW (2019)

Film Review

As it’s title suggests, this documentary concerns LSD “microdosing,” a fad originating with Silicon Valley tech executives. They discovered that tiny doses (10-15 micgrograms) of LSD greatly improved their mood, energy, focus and creativity. Microdosing has since taken off in Germany and other parts of Europe.

The film begins with testimonials from anonymous German microdosers who believe that LSD has totally turned their life around. One man whose depression failed to respond to any other treatment (including antidepressants, psychotherapy and alternative medicine) finally obtained relief after a brief period of microdosing.

Filmmakers also interview Paul Austin, a Silicon Valley microdosing coach, and James Fadiman, leading expert on LSD and psilocybin microdosing and author of the 2011 Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide.

Researchers in Germany and Switzerland are conducting double blind studies of LSD microdosing. At doses between 10-15 mg, their subjects experience a clear improvement in concentration, mood and anxiety in contrast to placebo control groups. Moreover, unlike antidepressant trials, there are no apparent adverse effects.

The film also looks at promising double blind research of the psychedelic psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”) in treating depression. Unlike LSD, “shrooms” are legal in the Netherlands and have been decriminalized in a number of US cities. Portugal legalized all mind-altering drugs in 2001 (see British Medical Journal Calls for Legalization of All Drugs)

Other research has shown psilocybin and other psychedelics to be helpful in treating PTSD and alcoholism. See Why Are We Sending Vets to Canada, Costa Rica and Mexico

 

Working Class Reality TV: The Final Episodes

Hard Earned – Episodes 5 and 6

Al Jazeera (2015)

Film Review

The final episodes of Hard Earned (“Fight for Fifteen” and “New Beginnings”) reveal mostly positive outcomes for the five families – in part due to their resourcefulness and in part (in my view) to extremely good luck.

Chicago: DJ loses his union job because it requires a car and he can’t afford the expense and upkeep. He finds a new job as field director for a voter mobilization campaign.

Montgomery: The couple finally find a house and mortgage they can afford and refurbish it to enable Elizabeth’s parents to move into their basement. They have been paying the $1700 mortgage on her parents’ home since her father developed cancer. Jose finally passes his math class and starts a part-time internship at a radio station to supplement his full time job at the courthouse.

Silicon valley: Hilton quits his Google job after he learns enough English to pass a food handlers exam. However he is forced to take a second job as a busboy to pay their medical bills and higher housing expenses (they have moved out of the garage into a house they share with another couple). His girlfriend takes a minimum wage job at a market.

Milwaukee: Percy finally lands a full time maintenance job that pays $11.25 and hour, and his wife, who has severe arthritis in her knees, is finally able to retire.

Evergreen Park: Emilia finally finds a good-paying waitress job and receives additional income from speaking tours about her struggle with drug and alcohol recovery.


For earlier episodes see Fighting Homelessness: Reality TV That Depicts Reality and  Reality TV: More Truth About the American Working Class

Fighting Homelessness: Reality TV that Depicts Reality

Hard Earned – Parts 1 and 2

Al Jazeera (2015)

Film Review

As it bears no relation whatsoever to modern life, so-called “reality” TV is clearly a misnomer. Most of what passes for reality TV are highly scripted popularity contests for physically attractive white contestants.

Al Jazeera’s six-episode series Hard Earned, depicting the bitter struggle millions of Americans face to stay off the streets, is my kind of reality TV. Although I myself found it riveting, I am high skeptical that any US media provider will ever carry it.

Hard Earned follows five working class families as they struggle to meet basic survival needs with minimum wage jobs.

The families include an African American Chicago couple who work full time jobs at Walgreens to support two preschool kids; an Hispanic Iraq veteran in Montgomery Maryland who works a graveyard clerical shift at the courthouse, his school counselor girlfriend and his school aged son from a prior marriage; a Silicon Valley Hispanic man who works two full time jobs to pay $300 a month to live in a garage with his pregnant girlfriend; a 66/65-year-old African American Milwaukee couple who face working indefinitely at minimum wage jobs to keeping from losing their home; and a 50-year-old white Evergreen Park (Illinois) waitress who works two jobs and survives on credit cards to keep from losing the house she bought while making $80,000 a year as a construction worker.

We are introduced to the five families in Episode 1 and 2 (“The American Dream” and “Rock Bottom”). You are immediately struck by how exceptionally bright, hard working, resourceful and above all (for the most part) physically healthy they all are. This, despite working non-stop and getting very little sleep. They are also (for the most part) extremely adept at budgeting and managing their money.

 

 

The Real Reason Silicon Valley Moved Electronics Assembly to China?

Death by Design

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

Death By Design is a very concerning documentary about the extremely toxic chemicals used in the production of semiconductors and circuit boards needed for computers, cellphones ipods, etc.

It turns out IBM has been keeping a mortality register since the 1970s showing an extremely high rate of breast cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, brain cancer and melanoma in in electronics assembly workers. Unsurprisingly there are also high levels of carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting chemicals in the ground water of various Silicon Valley neighborhoods. Thanks to the tireless organizing and lobbying efforts of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, in 2001 the EPA declared a number of Silicon Valley companies Superfund Sites* in 2001 (IBM, Intel, National Semiconductor, Hewlett Packard among others).

This, in turn, would lead most Silicon Valley companies to outsource their electronics assembly to China, where environmental regulations are much weaker.

At the moment China also deals with most of the world’s toxic e-waste, a problem significantly compounded by deliberate planned obsolescence on the part of tech companies. Our Smartphones, computers, etc are deliberately designed to cease operating after about four years so we have to buy new ones. The most famous example is the Apple iphone, with the infamous battery that goes dead after 18 months and can’t be replaced.

Apple and their main Chinese contractor Foxconn are also the worst offenders in resisting Chinese environmentalists who are trying to reduce toxic discharges to Chinese rivers and streams.

The part of the film I found most interesting relates to a company called Ifixit, which specializes in teaching Smartphone and computer users how to fix their own devices instead of replacing them. They have even developed a special screwdriver to open Iphones so the batteries can be replaced.

I was also intrigued to learn about an Irish company that builds totally non-toxic and upgradable laptops out of wood (instead of plastic) that last 7-10 years.


*When the EPA declares a company a toxic Superfund Site, the company is required to develop and pay for removing the toxic chemicals.

Offline is the New Luxury

Offline is the New Luxury

VPRO (2017)

Film Review

This documentary is about taking back control of our Internet connectivity. Ironically it starts by recommending a new app that allows you to identify increasingly rare “white spots” – areas of the earth that aren’t blanketed with WiFi signals. One MIT psychology professor, who bans cellphones, laptops and tablets in her classes, is part of a movement to create sacred spaces in these white spots – areas where people fully engage with each other instead of their electronic devices.

The filmmakers also talk about the late Steve Jobs and other prominent Silicon Valley moguls not allowing their kids to have cellphones and tablets and sending them to low tech Montessori and Waldorf schools. Increasingly the well-to-do are seeking out expensive retreats and detox facilities to cure their Internet addiction. While growing numbers of law firms and security agencies patronize a highly successful Dutch firm selling Faraday cages and microwave shields to protect clients from electronic snooping and damaging microwave radiation.

The Amish, of course, have a cheap low-tech solution to Internet addiction – namely a value system that rejects most advanced electronic technology.

The video concludes by explaining the concept of “surveillance capitalism,” in which our personal information is “monetized,” ie in which the data Google, Facebook and Amazon collect on us is sold to advertisers.

A key strategy of surveillance capitalism is to use drones, satellites and giant balloons to expand connectivity to remote areas of the developing world. At the time of filming, Facebook was pressuring the Indian government to allow the introduction of Free Basics (free Internet connectivity) to all Indian residents, with Facebook retaining control of their Internet access. Google, meanwhile, is pushing to extend 100% connectivity to Sri Lanka by launching giant WiFi balloons.

According to one analyst, the drive to acquire massive troves of Indian personal data is a ploy to placate shareholders. The latter are understandably concerned about a drop-off in Facebook users in the developing world – due to privacy concerns and the recognition that most Facebook content is meaningless drivel.

The Ugly Truth about Airbnb, Uber and Task Rabbit

raw deal

Raw Deal: How the “Uber Economy” and Runaway Capitalism are Screwing American Workers

by Steven Hill

St Martin’s Press (2015)

Book Review

Raw Deal is about all the creative ways Wall Street and Silicon Valley have invented to exploit American workers since the 2008 meltdown escalated the wholesale destruction of US jobs.  As of 2015 the US economy had shed a total of 12 million jobs, a figure that is increasing rather than decreasing.

The book mainly focuses on so-called sharing platforms, such as Airbnb, Uber, Task Rabbit and their imitators. However author Steven Hill also includes chapters on the phenomenal growth of permatemp “contract” labor, the burgeoning System D or gray labor market (where employers pay cash under the table) and the steady replacement of workers by robots, computers and apps.

The Myth of Worker Independence

For me, the most valuable chapters expose the total fraud being perpetrated on the US public about Airbnb, Uber and Task Rabbit, namely the immense benefit they offer the economy, the environment and worker independence by eliminating the middleman. The myth about freeing up US workers by making them micro-entrepreneurs is exactly that: a carefully constructed lie.

Centering these enterprises around web-based apps only thinly disguises what they really are: a labor force made up entirely of contract employees. It’s an immediate win-win for the employer, who reduces his labor costs by 1/3 by eliminating his obligation to pay Social Security, Medicare, unemployment tax or health or pension benefits. And an immediate lose-lose for the “microentrepreur,” who as a member of the precariat,** never knows where his next dollar is coming from.

Hyperexploitation: the Fastest Way to Become a Billionaire

The CEOs who run Airbnb and Uber are both thirty-something billionaires (Task Rabbit founder and CEO Leah Busque is only a millionaire), who got their by hyperexploiting their employees.

Brian Chesky is the 34 year old billionaire who founded Airbnb, a company using a web-based app to enable ordinary moms and pops to rent out their spare rooms to tourists. Guests pay a 6-12% service fee and hosts 3%. Airbnb, which operates in 34,000 cities and 192 countries, is bigger than the Hyatt Hotel chin. It’s valued at $25 billion.

The company has been banned in numerous cities and countries owing to its violation of short term rental laws (most cities place a maximum of 30 days on rentals) and their refusal to pay hotel tax.

There’s the additional problem of Airbnb being taken over by real estate agents and slum lords seeking to cash in on a lucrative unregulated market. Of the 5,000 accommodations listed on the website, 2/3 are entire homes or buildings with no owner present, and 1/3 are controlled by people with two or more listings. In San Francisco, New York and other cities with rent control, unscrupulous slum lords are evicting whole blocks of elderly and disabled tenants to turn their buildings into Airbnb accommodation.

Uber Modeled After Ayn Rand’s Philosophy

Uber is a web based taxi services that recruits drivers to use their private vehicles to carry fares. Uber founder and billionaire Tavis Kalanick, who fancies himself an Ayn Rand revolutionary, prides himself on breaking laws he finds inconvenient

Uber, which is worth $51 billion, has gone from scandal to sandal owing to its refusal to perform criminal background checks on their drivers (after a number stole from passengers or physically/sexually assaulted them) or pay livery taxes or carry commercial liability insurance; their brutal exploitation of drivers; and their failure to protect passenger privacy.

Kalanick faces criminal charges in South Korea and Uber has been banned in France, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands and Denmark. It has also been banned (or severely curtailed) in Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, Nevada, Miami, Philadelphia and New York City.

Rent-a-Slave

Task Rabbit was founded in 2009 by Leah Busque to connect “domestic freelancers” with customers needing tasks and errands done. It expanded to include all forms of temporary work (Walmart uses Task Rabbit, where it pays a 26% commission, as opposed to the 40% charged by conventional temp agencies).

The most controversial aspect of the Task Rabbit platform was the “bidding auction,” where “rabbits” competed with one another to provide the lowest bid for the service desired. After a storm of controversy Task Rabbit ditched the bidding auction in 2014.


*According to Forbes, the total value of the global System D economy is $10 trillion

**In sociology and economics, the precariat is a social class of people whose life is dominated by a total absence of financial predictability or security.

Ayn Rand, Alan Greenapan and the 2008 Crash

I’ve just discovered another exciting series of documentaries by Adam Curtis

All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace*

Adam Curtis

BBC (2011)

Part I

Film Review

Despite its deceptive title, this BBC documentary is about Ayn Rand and her immense influence over Silicon Valley and Rand devotee Alan Greenspan.

Prior to seeing the film, I had no idea about the cult following Rand inspired in the computer geniuses who flocked to Silicon Valley in the late sixties. Believing they could create a new kind of democracy by combining Rand’s radical individualism with computer technology, they set up Ayn Rand reading groups and named their children after her. They were convinced that linking computers in vast self-regulated networks would do away with the need for politicians and authoritarian hierarchies. However instead of decentralizing power, as they envisioned, the computer revolution only further concentrated the power of wealthy elites.

Rand called her underlying philosophy “objectivism” and disseminated it through her novels and a close-knit group of devotees. It was a philosophy of selfishness. She believed it was in the best interest of humanity for everyone to pursue their own rational self interest, unimpeded by religion or morality. She maintained that altruism was especially destructive, as it interfered with happiness and freedom.

Rand Devotee Alan Greenspan

Former Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan was an early member of Rand’s Collective, the small select group that met weekly to hear chapters of her newest novel. He married a fellow Collective member and remained fiercely loyal to Rand even after her sexual jealousy broke up the group.

After cunningly convincing one of her strongest supporters to follow his own self-interest by having an affair with her, she somehow persuaded his wife (also a Collective member) to commit the sin of altruism by agreeing to it. When he continued to follow his own self interest by becoming romantically involved with a younger woman, Rand brutally attacked him (verbally and physically) and ordered him out of the Collective.

The Most Powerful Man in the World

After becoming Federal Reserve chairman in 1987, Greenspan became the most powerful man in the world.** In 1993, he somehow persuade the newly elected Bill Clinton to cut taxes instead of restoring the social programs Reagan and Bush had cut (as he promised during his campaign). Greenpan argued this would cause markets to boom, enabling Clinton to repay the sizable federal debt he inherited from Reagan and Bush.

So Clinton cut social programs even further. Markets boomed, as Greenspan predicted, but not because of tax cuts. The real cause was an enormous credit bubble by massive Wall Street lending to unstable Southeast Asian markets. All the Wall Street banks erroneously believed that feedback loops in their computer networks would protect them by allowing them to hedge (bet against) their risky loans.

Greenspan Recognizes His Error

By 1996, even Greenspan could see that productivity wasn’t increasing despite the massive increase in profits. He tried to warn Congress that stocks were overvalued in his December 1996 “rational exuberance” speech.*** The corporate media crucified him and he recanted, acknowledging that computers might be increasing productivity he ways he couldn’t decipher.

Robert Rubin Launches Indonesian Coup

The credit bubble Wall Street created in Southeast Asia led Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea and Indonesia built thousands of homes and commercial buildings that couldn’t be sold. In 1997, the bubble burst. Clinton, who was busy being impeached over Monica Lewinsky, was powerless to act. He allowed his Treasury Secretary, former Goldman Sachs executive Robert Rubin, to take over his Southeast Asia policy. Rubin, in turn, organized an attempted coup against Indonesian president Suharto for refusing to accept an IMF bailout.

Faced with massive civil unrest, Suharto eventually accepted the bailout and the structural adjustment conditions the IMF imposed (massive cuts in government spending on food subsidies and other social services, throwing millions of people out of worked). As typically happens, the IMF bailouts went to pay off the Wall Street banks. While the IMF-imposed austerity cuts (helped along by currency trader George Soros) led the currencies of all four countries to collapse. Residents of Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea and Indonesia were plunged into abject poverty comparable to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

China Escapes from Wall Street Domination

The most important outgrowth of the 1997-98 Southeast Asia economic crisis was a major shift in Chinese economic policy. Determined to remove themselves from Wall Street domination, China’s leaders devalued their currency, flooded the US with cheap consumer goods and used their profits to finance growing US indebtedness by buying US Treasury bonds.

In the mean time, Greenspan cut interest rates to near zero percent and the US was flooded with trillions of dollars of cheap (borrowed) money. Wall Street, in turn, recycled these funds as subprime loans to the third world population in American ghettos.

Again believing computers would keep them safe, Wall Street banks created the largest credit bubble in history. When it burst in 2008 Wall Street, as usual, got bailed out. This time Americans paid for the bailout, as they were plunged into widereaching soul-crunching misery.

The documentary features fascinating archival interviews with Rand and members of her Collective.


* Title of 1967 monograph distributed free by California cybernetics enthusiast Richard Brautigan. Available for $400 from Abe Books

**On reflection, it seems a great pity Rand didn’t have the affair with Greenspan. We could have been spared the 2008 economic crash.

***”How do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values, which then become subject to unexpected and prolonged contractions as they have in Japan over the past decade?”