Sunday, October 31, 2010

the checklist manifesto

Gawande | Malcolm Gladwell’s review of The Checklist Manifesto: Over the past decade, through his writing in The New Yorker magazine and his books Complications and Better, Atul Gawande has made a name for himself as a writer of exquisitely crafted meditations on the problems and challenges of modern medicine. His latest book, The Checklist Manifesto, begins on familiar ground, with his experiences as a surgeon. But before long it becomes clear that he is really interested in a problem that afflicts virtually every aspect of the modern world–and that is how professionals deal with the increasing complexity of their responsibilities. It has been years since I read a book so powerful and so thought-provoking.

Gawande begins by making a distinction between errors of ignorance (mistakes we make because we don’t know enough), and errors of ineptitude (mistakes we made because we don’t make proper use of what we know). Failure in the modern world, he writes, is really about the second of these errors, and he walks us through a series of examples from medicine showing how the routine tasks of surgeons have now become so incredibly complicated that mistakes of one kind or another are virtually inevitable: it’s just too easy for an otherwise competent doctor to miss a step, or forget to ask a key question or, in the stress and pressure of the moment, to fail to plan properly for every eventuality. Gawande then visits with pilots and the people who build skyscrapers and comes back with a solution. Experts need checklists–literally–written guides that walk them through the key steps in any complex procedure. In the last section of the book, Gawande shows how his research team has taken this idea, developed a safe surgery checklist, and applied it around the world, with staggering success.

The danger, in a review as short as this, is that it makes Gawande’s book seem narrow in focus or prosaic in its conclusions. It is neither. Gawande is a gorgeous writer and storyteller, and the aims of this book are ambitious. Gawande thinks that the modern world requires us to revisit what we mean by expertise: that experts need help, and that progress depends on experts having the humility to concede that they need help.

peak oil and the healthcare industry

Video - The Peak Oil Threat to Public Health

Bureau of Labor Statistics | Industry organization. About 595,800 establishments make up the healthcare industry; they vary greatly in terms of size, staffing patterns, and organizational structures. About 76 percent of healthcare establishments are offices of physicians, dentists, or other health practitioners. Although hospitals constitute only 1 percent of all healthcare establishments, they employ 35 percent of all workers (table 1).

Table 1. Percent distribution of employment and establishments in health services by detailed industry sector, 2008

Industry segment






Ambulatory healthcare services



Offices of physicians



Home healthcare services



Offices of dentists



Offices of other health practitioners



Outpatient care centers



Other ambulatory healthcare services



Medical and diagnostic laboratories






General medical and surgical hospitals



Other specialty hospitals



Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals



Nursing and residential care facilities



Nursing care facilities



Community care facilities for the elderly



Residential mental health facilities



Other residential care facilities



SOURCE: BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, 2008.

The healthcare industry includes establishments ranging from small-town private practices of physicians who employ only one medical assistant to busy inner-city hospitals that provide thousands of diverse jobs. In 2008, around 48 percent of non-hospital healthcare establishments employed fewer than five workers. In contrast, 72 percent of hospital employees were in establishments with more than 1,000 workers.

The healthcare industry consists of the following segments:

Hospitals. Hospitals provide complete medical care, ranging from diagnostic services, to surgery, to continuous nursing care. Some hospitals specialize in treatment of the mentally ill, cancer patients, or children. Hospital-based care may be on an inpatient (overnight) or outpatient basis. The mix of workers needed varies, depending on the size, geographic location, goals, philosophy, funding, organization, and management style of the institution. As hospitals work to improve efficiency, care continues to shift from an inpatient to outpatient basis whenever possible.

Nursing and residential care facilities. Nursing care facilities provide inpatient nursing, rehabilitation, and health-related personal care to those who need continuous nursing care, but do not require hospital services. Nursing aides provide the vast majority of direct care. Other facilities, such as convalescent homes, help patients who need less assistance. Residential care facilities provide around-the-clock social and personal care to children, the elderly, and others who have limited ability to care for themselves. Workers care for residents of assisted-living facilities, alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers, group homes, and halfway houses. Nursing and medical care, however, are not the main functions of establishments providing residential care, as they are in nursing care facilities.

Offices of physicians. About 36 percent of all healthcare establishments fall into this industry segment. Physicians and surgeons practice privately or in groups of practitioners who have the same or different specialties. Many physicians and surgeons prefer to join group practices because they afford backup coverage, reduce overhead expenses, and facilitate consultation with peers. Physicians and surgeons are increasingly working as salaried employees of group medical practices, clinics, or integrated health systems.

Offices of dentists. About 20 percent of healthcare establishments are dentist's offices. Most employ only a few workers, who provide preventative, cosmetic, or emergency care. Some offices specialize in a single field of dentistry, such as orthodontics or periodontics.

Home healthcare services.
Skilled nursing or medical care is sometimes provided in the home, under a physician's supervision. Home healthcare services are provided mainly to the elderly. The development of in-home medical technologies, substantial cost savings, and patients' preference for care in the home have helped change this once-small segment of the industry into one of the fastest growing healthcare services.

Offices of other health practitioners.
This segment of the industry includes the offices of chiropractors, optometrists, podiatrists, occupational and physical therapists, psychologists, audiologists, speech-language pathologists, dietitians, and other health practitioners. Demand for the services of this segment is related to the ability of patients to pay, either directly or through health insurance. Hospitals and nursing facilities may contract out for these services. This segment also includes the offices of practitioners of alternative medicine, such as acupuncturists, homeopaths, hypnotherapists, and naturopaths.

Ambulatory healthcare services. This segment includes outpatient care center and medical and diagnostic laboratories. These establishments are diverse including kidney dialysis centers, outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers, blood and organ banks, and medical labs that analyze blood, do diagnostic imaging, and perform other clinical tests.

Recent developments. In the rapidly changing healthcare industry, technological advances have made many new procedures and methods of diagnosis and treatment possible. Clinical developments, such as infection control, less invasive surgical techniques, advances in reproductive technology, and gene therapy for cancer treatment, continue to increase the longevity and improve the quality of life of many Americans. Advances in medical technology also have improved the survival rates of trauma victims and the severely ill, who need extensive care from therapists and social workers as well as other support personnel.

In addition, advances in information technology have a perceived improvement on patient care and worker efficiency. Devices such as hand-held computers are used record a patient’s medical history. Information on vital signs and orders for tests are transferred electronically to a main database; this process eliminates the need for paper and reduces recordkeeping errors. Adoption of electronic health records is, however, relatively low presently.

Cost containment also is shaping the healthcare industry, as shown by the growing emphasis on providing services on an outpatient, ambulatory basis; limiting unnecessary or low-priority services; and stressing preventive care, which reduces the potential cost of undiagnosed, untreated medical conditions. Enrollment in managed care programs—predominantly preferred provider organizations, health maintenance organizations, and hybrid plans such as point-of-service programs—continues to grow. These prepaid plans provide comprehensive coverage to members and control health insurance costs by emphasizing preventive care. Cost effectiveness also is improved with the increased use of integrated delivery systems, which combine two or more segments of the industry to increase efficiency through the streamlining of functions, primarily financial and managerial. These changes will continue to reshape not only the nature of the healthcare workforce, but also the manner in which healthcare is provided.

Various healthcare reforms are presently under consideration. These reforms may affect the number of people covered by some form of health insurance, the number of people being treated by healthcare providers, and the number and type of healthcare procedures that will be performed.

crapped out....,

HuffPo | It's been a long, hard fall for Las Vegas.

With an economy tied to consumer spending and the housing industry, Sin City region has gone from one of America's bright spots to one of its most troubled. The Las Vegas area is among the most economically stressed in the country, according to the Associated Press's monthly ranking.

Fully 15 percent of Las Vegas residents -- or a total of 145,000 people -- are unemployed, a local record. (Nationally, the unemployment rate has held steady at 9.6 percent.) On the state level, as HuffPost's Arthur Delaney and Ryan Grim reported in July, there is no greater concentration of economic woe than in Nevada. Factoring in the underemployed and those who have given up looking for work, Nevada's true unemployment rate may be 20 percent, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

In the state's flagship city, however, the housing boom and job crisis have created more than a few veritable ghost towns and have stalled large developments on the Las Vegas Strip.

Getty photographers Spencer Platt and Ethan Miller recently captured some of the most haunting images of the new, recession-addled Las Vegas landscape.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Is this happening in afghanistan? If not, why not? If not, when?

Truthteller | Our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and noncommissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited where not near-mutinous Conditions exist among American forces in Vietnam that have only been exceeded in this century by…the collapse of the Tsarist armies in 1916 and 1917.
Armed Forces Journal, June 1971
The most neglected aspect of the Vietnam War is the soldiers’ revolt–the mass upheaval from below that unraveled the American army. It is a great reality check in an era when the U.S. touts itself as an invincible nation. For this reason, the soldiers’ revolt has been written out of official history.

The army revolt pitted enlisted soldiers against officers who viewed them as expendable. Liberal academics have reduced the radicalism of the 1960s to middle-class concerns and activities, while ignoring military rebellion. But the militancy of the 1960s began with the Black liberation struggle, and it reached its climax with the unity of White and Black soldiers.

washington rules - america's path to permanent war

AsiaTimes | Washington Rules aims to take stock of conventional wisdom in its most influential and enduring form, namely the package of assumptions, habits, and precepts that have defined the tradition of statecraft to which the United States has adhered since the end of World War II - the era of global dominance now drawing to a close. This postwar tradition combines two components, each one so deeply embedded in the American collective consciousness as to have all but disappeared from view.

The first component specifies norms according to which the international order ought to work and charges the United States with responsibility for enforcing those norms. Call this the American credo. In the simplest terms, the credo summons the United States - and the United States alone - to lead, save, liberate, and ultimately transform the world. In a celebrated manifesto issued at the dawn of what he termed "The American Century", Henry R Luce made the case for this spacious conception of global leadership. Writing in Life magazine in early 1941, the influential publisher exhorted his fellow citizens to "accept wholeheartedly our duty to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit". Luce thereby captured what remains even today the credo's essence.

Luce's concept of an American Century, an age of unquestioned American global primacy, resonated, especially in Washington. His evocative phrase found a permanent place in the lexicon of national politics. (Recall that the neoconservatives who, in the 1990s, lobbied for more militant policies, named their enterprise the Project for a New American Century.) So, too, did Luce's expansive claim of prerogatives to be exercised by the United States. Even today, whenever public figures allude to America's responsibility to lead, they signal their fidelity to this creed. Along with respectful allusions to God and "the troops," adherence to Luce's credo has become a de facto prerequisite for high office. Question its claims and your prospects of being heard in the hubbub of national politics become nil.

Note, however, that the duty Luce ascribed to Americans has two components. It is not only up to Americans, he wrote, to choose the purposes for which they would bring their influence to bear, but to choose the means as well. Here we confront the second component of the postwar tradition of American statecraft.

With regard to means, that tradition has emphasized activism over example, hard power over soft, and coercion (often styled "negotiating from a position of strength") over suasion. Above all, the exercise of global leadership as prescribed by the credo obliges the United States to maintain military capabilities staggeringly in excess of those required for self-defense. Prior to World War II, Americans by and large viewed military power and institutions with skepticism, if not outright hostility. In the wake of World War II, that changed. An affinity for military might emerged as central to the American identity.

By the midpoint of the 20th century, "the Pentagon" had ceased to be merely a gigantic five-sided building. Like "Wall Street" at the end of the 19th century, it had become Leviathan, its actions veiled in secrecy, its reach extending around the world. Yet while the concentration of power in Wall Street had once evoked deep fear and suspicion, Americans by and large saw the concentration of power in the Pentagon as benign. Most found it reassuring.

A people who had long seen standing armies as a threat to liberty now came to believe that the preservation of liberty required them to lavish resources on the armed forces. During the Cold War, Americans worried ceaselessly about falling behind the Russians, even though the Pentagon consistently maintained a position of overall primacy. Once the Soviet threat disappeared, mere primacy no longer sufficed. With barely a whisper of national debate, unambiguous and perpetual global military supremacy emerged as an essential predicate to global leadership.

george soros - why I support legal marijuana

Video - Financial News Network George Soros give $1 Million to support Cali Prop 19.

WSJ | Our marijuana laws are clearly doing more harm than good. The criminalization of marijuana did not prevent marijuana from becoming the most widely used illegal substance in the United States and many other countries. But it did result in extensive costs and negative consequences.

Law enforcement agencies today spend many billions of taxpayer dollars annually trying to enforce this unenforceable prohibition. The roughly 750,000 arrests they make each year for possession of small amounts of marijuana represent more than 40% of all drug arrests.

Regulating and taxing marijuana would simultaneously save taxpayers billions of dollars in enforcement and incarceration costs, while providing many billions of dollars in revenue annually. It also would reduce the crime, violence and corruption associated with drug markets, and the violations of civil liberties and human rights that occur when large numbers of otherwise law-abiding citizens are subject to arrest. Police could focus on serious crime instead.

The racial inequities that are part and parcel of marijuana enforcement policies cannot be ignored. African-Americans are no more likely than other Americans to use marijuana but they are three, five or even 10 times more likely—depending on the city—to be arrested for possessing marijuana. I agree with Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP, when she says that being caught up in the criminal justice system does more harm to young people than marijuana itself. Giving millions of young Americans a permanent drug arrest record that may follow them for life serves no one's interests.

Racial prejudice also helps explain the origins of marijuana prohibition. When California and other U.S. states first decided (between 1915 and 1933) to criminalize marijuana, the principal motivations were not grounded in science or public health but rather in prejudice and discrimination against immigrants from Mexico who reputedly smoked the "killer weed."

Who most benefits from keeping marijuana illegal? The greatest beneficiaries are the major criminal organizations in Mexico and elsewhere that earn billions of dollars annually from this illicit trade—and who would rapidly lose their competitive advantage if marijuana were a legal commodity. Some claim that they would only move into other illicit enterprises, but they are more likely to be weakened by being deprived of the easy profits they can earn with marijuana.

This was just one reason the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy—chaired by three distinguished former presidents, Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, César Gaviria of Colombia and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico—included marijuana decriminalization among their recommendations for reforming drug policies in the Americas.

strong immunity=low fertility

The Scientist | A study in wild sheep may help explain why natural selection has not eradicated weak or self-destructive immune systems. A fluctuating trade-off between reproduction and survival in a feral population of Soay sheep may resolve the age-old question of why natural selection has failed to eradicate genes for both infection-prone and self-assailing immune systems.

The potential answer, published in Science this week (29th October), comes from the nascent field of ecoimmunology, which examines how different levels of antibodies in the blood of wild animals can influence their ability to survive and produce young.

Specifically, the authors found that, among a population of isolated, wild sheep, individuals with higher levels of antibodies associated with autoimmunity in other species were more likely to survive harsh weather conditions, but also reproduced less. Consequently, the benefits of high immunity, such as quick and efficient riddance of infection, may come with a cost -- less energy for reproduction.

"This paper reveals that more [antibodies] might not always be better, and that to understand the evolution of immune systems, it will be critical to study them in free-living, outbred organisms," Lynn Martin, an ecoimmunologist at the University of South Florida, who was not affiliated with the study, said in an email to The Scientist.

Friday, October 29, 2010

why some psychopaths are in leadership positions

A Clockwork Orange - Droog Fight

Psychology Today | It is well observed that psychopaths (a.k.a. sociopaths) are found both in prison and in managerial positions. In "The Sociopath Next Door," Martha Stout analyzed many individuals with psychopathy and most of them were not part of the offender population. I think that leadership researchers have somehow overlooked these types of "leaders" or organizational psychopaths who have inflicted pain to many but succeeded in maintaining their positions (even been promoted).

Robert Hare's Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R, 2nd ed.) suggests that psychopathy consists of the following traits:
(1) interpersonal or affective defects (e.g., glibness or superficial charm, grandiose feelings of self-worth, conning or manipulative behavior, lack of remorse or guilt, shallow affects, callousness or lack of empathy)
(2) social deviance and antisocial (irresponsibility, parasitic lifestyle, impulsivity, and unstable relationships, criminal versatility).
(3) other attributes.
However, this inventory is apparently intended only for the forensic population and not for psychopaths who know how to elude the criminal justice system.

how psychopaths choose their victims

Psychology Today | As my fellow Psychology Today blogger Marisa Mauro has pointed out, psychologists have long been known that the more psychopathic a person is, the more easily they can identify potential victims. Indeed, they can do so just by watching the way a person moves. In one study, test subjects watched videos of twelve individuals walking, shot from behind, and rated how easily they could be mugged. As it happened, some of the people in the videotapes really had been mugged -- and the most psychopathic of the subjects were able to tell which was which. Writes Mauro:

The [subjects] completed the Self-Report Psychopathy Scale: Version III, which measures interpersonal and affective traits associated with psychopathy as well as intra-personal instability and antisocial traits... Overall results confirmed a strong positive correlation between psychopathy scores and accuracy of victim identification. This means that individuals that score higher for psychopathy are better at selecting victims.

And what was it about these people that made them seem vulnerable? A later study found that the men were picking up on whole suite of nonverbal cues, including the length of their stride, how they shifted their weight, and how high they lifted their feet. Taken together, these cues gave the psychopathic men a rough gauge of how confident their potential victims were. Body language that implies a lack of confidence --- read: socially submissive --- includes lack of eye contact, fidgeting of the hands and feet, and the avoidance of large gestures when shifting posture.

The researchers' findings confirmed my own suspicions regarding the dubious fellow I mentioned above. The women who wound up on the receiving end of his attentions were individuals who, in their own description, were not very worldly, experienced, or outgoing. They were psychologically vulnerable and hence ill-equipped to either resist this fellow's predations or to deal with them emotionally after they had occurred. In the aftermath, they are so traumatized that even speaking about their experiences is extremely painful. And so the psychopath continues on his way. Fist tap Dale.

is there a liberal gene?

Discovery | Is political ideology derived from a person's social environment or is it a result of genetic predisposition?

It's an interaction of both, according to a recent study on our political leanings that boosts both sides of the nature versus nurture debate.

Scientists at the University of California San Diego and Harvard University determined that people who carry a variant of the DRD4 gene are more likely to be liberals as adults, depending on the number of friendships they had during high school. They published their study in a recent issue of The Journal of Politics.

Data was analyzed from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (the same source for a recent study that found intelligent children drink more alcohol as adults).

The four authors, including UCSD's James Fowler, wanted to explore if politics were heritable by identifying a specific gene variant associated with political leaning. They hypothesized that individuals with a genetic predisposition toward seeking out new experiences would tend to be more liberal.

The 7R variant of DRD4, a dopamine receptor gene, had previously been associated with novelty seeking. The researchers theorized novelty seeking would be related to openness, a psychological trait that has been associated with political liberalism.

However, social environment was critical. The more friends gene carriers have in high school, the more likely they are to be liberals as adults. The authors write, "Ten friends can move a person with two copies of 7R allele almost halfway from being a conservative to moderate or from being moderate to liberal."

They theorize a larger social network may bring more diverse viewpoints, which could be an influence on the liberal development.

Neither the gene nor social networks alone influenced political identification. Fist tap Ken.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

america 2.0 - from private greed to public service

how NOT to organize a community

ClubOrlov | Dire predictions made by authoritative figures can provide the impetus to attempt great things: establish community gardens and farmer's markets, lobby for improved public transportation, bike lanes and sidewalks, promote ride-sharing initiatives, weatherize existing homes and impose more stringent construction standards for new ones, construct of windmill farms and install solar panels on public buildings, promote the use of composting toilets and high-efficiency lighting and so on. In the midst of all this organizational activity neighbors get a chance to meet, perhaps for the first time, and discover a commonality of interests that leads them to form acquaintances and perhaps even friendships. As neighbors get to know each other, they start looking out for each other, improving safety and reducing crime. As the community becomes more tight-knit, it changes in atmosphere and appearance, becoming more fashionable and desirable, attracting better-educated and more prosperous residents while pricing out the undesirable element. News of these vast improvements spreads far and wide, and the community becomes a tourist mecca, complete with food festivals, swank boutiques and pricy bric-à-brac shops and restaurants.

The undesirable element is forced to decamp to a less desirable neighborhood nearby. There, it has no choice but to suffer with high levels of crime, but is typically afraid to ask the police for help, having learned from experience that the police are more likely to harass them then to help them, to arrest them for minor offenses and to round them up and deport them if they happen to be illegal immigrants. They also learn to be careful around members of local gangs and drug dealers. Since official jobs in the neighborhood are scarce, they seek informal, cash-based employment, contributing to an underground economy. Seeking safety in numbers, they self-organize along racial and ethnic lines, and, to promote their common interests, form ethnic mafias that strive to dominate one or more forms of illegal or semi-legal activity. Growing up in a dangerous, violent environment, their children become tough at a young age, and, those that survive, develop excellent situational awareness that allows them to steer clear of dangerous situations and to know when to resort to violence.

When the fossil fuel-based national economy shuts down due to the increasingly well understood local ramifications of the global phenomenon of Peak Oil, both of these communities are harmed, but to different extents and in different ways.


Fist tap Arnach.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

deliberate fraud and coverup by the fed?

Video - William Black on Dylan Ratigan on the Fed and Bank Fraud.

scary new wage data | Every 34th wage earner in America in 2008 went all of 2009 without earning a single Justify Fulldollar, new data from the Social Security Administration show. Total wages, median wages, and average wages all declined, but at the very top, salaries grew more than fivefold.

Not a single news organization reported this data when it was released October 15, searches of Google and the Nexis databases show. Nor did any blog, so the citizen journalists and professional economists did no better than the newsroom pros in reporting this basic information about our economy.

The new data hold important lessons for economic growth and tax policy and take on added meaning when examined in light of tax return data back to 1950.

The story the numbers tell is one of a strengthening economic base with income growing fastest at the bottom until, in 1981, we made an abrupt change in tax and economic policy. Since then the base has fared poorly while huge economic gains piled up at the very top, along with much lower tax burdens.

A weak foundation cannot properly support a massive superstructure, as the leaning Tower of Pisa shows. The latest wage data show the disastrous results some of us warned about, although like the famous tower, the economy only lists badly and has not collapsed.

Measured in 2009 dollars, total wages fell to just above $5.9 trillion, down $215 billion from the previous year. Compared with 2007, when the economy peaked, total wages were down $313 billion or 5 percent in real terms.

The number of Americans with any wages in 2009 fell by more than 4.5 million compared with the previous year. Because the population grew by about 1 percent, the number of idle hands and minds grew by 6 million.

These figures show, far more powerfully than the official unemployment measure known as U3, how both widespread and deep the loss of jobs was in 2009. While the official unemployment rate is just under 10 percent, deeper analysis of the data by economist John Williams at shows a real under- and unemployment rate of more than 22 percent. Fist tap Dale.

how foreclosure fraud is done


MersCorp was formed in the early 1990s by the former C.E.O.s of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Indy Mac, Countrywide, Stewart Title Insurance and the American Land Title Association. Smell anything funny???

Here I will show you how MY personal Mortgage Foreclosure FRAUD happened. Pay close attention and learn before it is too late. Here are the subjects and principles.

Foreclosure Hamlet - Supporting, Informing & Connecting People in Foreclosure

malicious bankers with syphilis?

Video - Dylan Ratigan interviews Lisa Epstein of Foreclosure Hamlet on mortgage backed securities.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

more powerful and well connected than you thought

CommonDreams | Right-wing brothers Charles and David Koch, each worth over $21 billion, don't just underwrite a huge conservative infrastructure of front groups, think tanks and political campaigns, reports Think Progress; they also strengthen a "culture of prosperity" through meetings with like-minded corporate "investors" who oppose health, energy, financial and other reforms. Details on their symbiotic relationship with big moneyed interests from Glenn Beck and the Chamber of Commerce to oil, health insurance, Wall Street and real estate companies here; more on those connections from CounterPunch here.

koch plan and participants for the 2010 election

ThinkProgress | In 2006, Koch Industries owner Charles Koch revealed to the Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore that he coordinates the funding of the conservative infrastructure of front groups, political campaigns, think tanks, media outlets and other anti-government efforts through a twice annual meeting of wealthy right-wing donors. He also confided to Moore, who is funded through several of Koch’s ventures, that his true goal is to strengthen the “culture of prosperity” by eliminating “90%” of all laws and government regulations. Although it is difficult to quantify the exact amount Koch alone has funneled to right-wing fronts, some studies have pointed toward $50 million he has given alone to anti-environmental groups. Recently, fronts funded by Charles and his brother David have received scrutiny because they have played a pivotal role in the organizing of the anti-Obama Tea Parties and the promotion of virulent far right lawmakers like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). (David Koch praised DeMint and gave him a “Washington Award” shortly after the senator promised to “break” Obama by making health reform his “Waterloo.”)

While the Koch brothers — each worth over $21.5 billion — have certainly underwritten much of the right, their hidden coordination with other big business money has gone largely unnoticed. ThinkProgress has obtained a memo outlining the details of the last Koch gathering held in June of this year. The memo, along with an attendee list of about 210 people, shows the titans of industry — from health insurance companies, oil executives, Wall Street investors, and real estate tycoons — working together with conservative journalists and Republican operatives to plan the 2010 election, as well as ongoing conservative efforts through 2012. According to the memo, David Chavern, the number two at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Fox News hate-talker Glenn Beck also met with these representatives of the corporate elite. In an election season with the most undisclosed secret corporate giving since the Watergate-era, the memo sheds light on the symbiotic relationship between extremely profitable, multi-billion dollar corporations and much of the conservative infrastructure. The memo describes the prospective corporate donors as “investors,” and it makes clear that many of the Republican operatives managing shadowy, undisclosed fronts running attack ads against Democrats were involved in the Koch’s election-planning event

israel sees double-standard in wikileaks response

CSM | The Wikileaks release of US military field reports from Iraq that detail tens of thousands of civilian casualties in seven years of fighting is being used by some Israels to argue that their country is a victim of an international double standard on human rights.

With Israeli politicians facing possible arrest in Europe and their government facing allegations of war crimes stemming form the United Nations' Goldstone Report on the 2009 Gaza war, some Israelis are drawing a connection between the conduct of the US military in Iraq and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza. They say that the world's likely response – or non-response – to the Wikileaks revelations will demonstrate that Israel is held to a higher standard than other nations.

On Monday, Israeli lawmaker Michael Ben Ari said he filed a formal complaint with the UN, calling for war crimes investigations of senior American politicians and "international arrest warrants for US government leaders."

In a letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, he wrote: "I call on the UN to condemn the behavior of the US and especially its attempts to hide the facts... We need to expose the hypocrisy of the West... The world must understand who the criminals are."

Such a call emanating from Israel – usually a staunch US ally – may seem strange. But Mr. Ben Ari, a member of Israel's far right, isn't interested in prosecutions of Bush or Obama administration officials so much as he is in pointing out what, to his mind, is unfair criticism of Israel.

israel's rise of the right

NPR | In Israel, a recent poll shows that support for traditional left-of-center parties is slipping dramatically. Analysts say it's an indication of the waning power of the peace movement in Israel. The mostly right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reflects a fundamental shift in Israeli politics.

'Reflecting the Israeli Mood'
On a recent afternoon, Israel's parliament, or Knesset, tables a no-confidence motion in the government's settlement policies in the occupied West Bank. A few left-of-center politicians take to the podium, but the hall is mostly empty.

It's a sign of the times in Israel. Netanyahu leads what analysts here say is the most right-wing government in Israel's history. Parties that up until recently were marginal at best now have a powerful voice.

The recent poll shows that if elections were held today, left-leaning Labor, the party that used to control Israeli politics, would only get nine seats in the 120-member Knesset. Left-leaning parties in all would only get about 47 seats.

On the other hand, the right-leaning nationalist and religious parties would get about 73 seats.

And the group that has been making the biggest inroads is Yisrael Beiteinu, or Israel Our Homeland, led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

"In a way, he's reflecting the Israeli mood more than I do, more than the Labor does," says Daniel Ben Simon, a member of parliament for the Labor party. "I have witnessed it from the parliament. I am sitting next to the people from Yisrael Beiteinu Lieberman party. It's their Knesset, it's their time, it's their period. They are moving within the Knesset as if they were the owners of this place."

Rise Of The Right
Analysts say there are several reasons why the rise of the right in Israel is no temporary phenomenon. The first is demographic. Israel's population is becoming more religious. Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews have bigger families.

But, critically, the failure of the left's long push for peace with the Palestinians has gutted its support.

weimar in jerusalem?

redress | Even now, 77 years later, there is no final answer to the question: why did the German republic collapse?

This is an all-important question, because now people in Israel are asking, with growing concern: is the Israeli republic collapsing?

For the first time, this question is being asked in all seriousness. Throughout the years, we were careful not to mention the word fascism in public discourse. It raises memories which are too monstrous. Now this taboo has been broken.

Yitzhak Herzog, the minister of welfare in the Netanyahu government, a member of the Labour party, the grandson of a chief rabbi and the son of a president, said a few days ago that “fascism is touching the margins of our society”. He was wrong: fascism is not only touching the margins, it is touching the government in which he is serving, and the Knesset, of which he is a member.

Not a day – quite literally – passes without a group of Knesset members tabling a new racist bill. The country is still divided by the amendment to the law of citizenship, which will compel applicants to swear allegiance to “Israel as a Jewish and democratic state”. Now the ministers are discussing whether this will be demanded only of non-Jews (which doesn’t sound nice) or of Jews, too – as if this would change the racist content one bit.

This week, a new bill was tabled. It would prohibit non-citizens from acting as tourist guides in East Jerusalem. Non-citizens in this case means Arabs. Because, when East Jerusalem was annexed by force to Israel after the 1967 war, its Arab inhabitants were not granted citizenship. They were accorded only the status of “permanent residents”, as if they were recent newcomers and not scions of families that have lived in the city for centuries.

The bill is intended to deprive Arab Jerusalemites of the right to serve as tourist guides at their holy places in their city, since they are apt to deviate from the official propaganda line. Shocking? Incredible? Not in the eyes of the proponents, who include members of the Kadima Party. A Knesset member of the Meretz party also signed, but retracted, claiming that he was confused.

“The Knesset members act like sharks in a feeding frenzy. There is a wild competition between them to see who can devise the most racist bill.”

This proposal comes after dozens of bills of this kind have been tabled recently, and before dozens of others which are already on their way. The Knesset members act like sharks in a feeding frenzy. There is a wild competition between them to see who can devise the most racist bill.

It pays. After each such bill, the initiators are invited to TV studios to “explain” their purpose. Their pictures appear in the papers. For obscure MKs, whose names we have never heard of, that poses an irresistible temptation. The media are collaborating.
Israel’s place in the international club of fascists

This is not a uniquely Israeli phenomenon. All over Europe and America, overt fascists are raising their heads. The purveyors of hate, who until now have been spreading their poison at the margins of the political system, are now arriving at the centre.

In almost every country there are demagogues who build their careers on incitement against the weak and helpless, who advocate the expulsion of “foreigners” and the persecution of minorities. In the past they were easy to dismiss, as was Hitler at the beginning of his career. Now they must be taken seriously.

Monday, October 25, 2010

FDIC called upon to put BoA into receivership

HuffPo | Charging that the ongoing foreclosure fraud epidemic is the work of precisely the same unrepentant bank officers whose fraudulent mortgage schemes crashed the financial system in the first place, two leading critics of the financial industry are calling on the FDIC to put some of the nation's biggest banks into receivership -- starting with the Bank of America -- and make them clean house.

William K. Black, a former regulator and white-collar crime expert who cracked down on massive fraud during the savings and loan scandal of the 1980s, and his fellow economics professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, L. Randall Wray, write in the Huffington Post that it's time to "foreclose on the foreclosure fraudsters". They write:
The lenders, officers, and professional that directed, participated in, and profited from the fraudulent loans and securities should be prevented from causing further damage to the victims of their frauds, through fraudulent foreclosures.
They argue that, far from being a coincidence, massive foreclosure fraud "is the necessary outcome of the epidemic of mortgage fraud that began early this decade." The reason for that:
The banks that are foreclosing on fraudulently originated mortgages frequently cannot produce legitimate documents... Now, only fraud will let them take the homes. Many of the required documents do not exist, and those that do exist would provide proof of the fraud that was involved in loan origination, securitization, and marketing. This in turn would allow investors to force the banks to buy-back the fraudulent securities. In other words, to keep the investors at bay the foreclosing banks must manufacture fake documents.... Foreclosure fraud is the only thing standing between the banks and Armageddon."
So the only solution, then, is new management. "We should remove the senior leadership of the banks and replace them with experienced bankers with a reputation for integrity and competence, i.e., the honest officers that quit or were fired because they refused to engage in fraud," Black and Wray write.

They suggest starting with Bank of America, which they call "a 'vector' spreading the mortgage fraud epidemic throughout much of the Western world."

Looming large among Bank of America's sins is its purchase of mortgage giant Countrywide Financial long after it became clear that the company had engaged in massive fraud.

Even the extremely slow-to-anger New York Fed, which bought billions of securitized mortgages that Bank of America improperly represented as fully documented and conforming to underwriting standards, is now demanding that it buy some of them back.

was the sub-prime crisis a light shower?

Video - foreclosuregate parody.

TheMarketTraders | Homeowners can only be foreclosed and evicted from their homes by the person or institution who actually has the loan paper...only the note-holder has legal standing to ask a court to foreclose and evict. Not the mortgage, the note, which is the actual IOU that people sign, promising to pay back the mortgage loan.

when a homebuyer signs a mortgage, the key document is the note. As I said before, it's the actual IOU. In order for the mortgage note to be sold or transferred to someone else (and therefore turned into a mortgage-backed security), this document has to be physically endorsed to the next person. All of these signatures on the note are called the 'chain of title.'

You can endorse the note as many times as you please...but you have to have a clear chain of title right on the actual note: I sold the note to Moe, who sold it to Larry, who sold it to Curly, and all our notarized signatures are actually, physically, on the note, one after the other.

If for whatever reason any of these signatures is skipped, then the chain of title is said to be broken. Therefore, legally, the mortgage note is no longer valid. That is, the person who took out the mortgage loan to pay for the house no longer owes the loan, because he no longer knows whom to pay.

To repeat: if the chain of title of the note is broken, then the borrower no longer owes any money on the loan.

Read that last sentence again, please. Don't worry, I'll wait.

You read it again? Good: Now you see the can of worms that's opening up.

The move by the United States Congress last week, to sneak by the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act? That was all the banking lobby. They wanted to shove down that law, so that their foreclosure mills' forged and fraudulent documents would not be scrutinized by out-of-state judges. (The spineless cowards in the Senate carried out their master's will by a voice that there would be no registry of who had voted for it, and therefore no accountability.)

And President Obama's pocket veto of the measure? He had to veto it...if he'd signed it, there would have been political hell to pay, plus it would have been challenged almost immediately, and likely overturned as unconstitutional in short order. (But he didn't have the gumption to come right out and veto it...he pocket vetoed it.)

As soon as the White House announced the pocket veto...the very next day!...Bank of America halted all foreclosures, nationwide.

Why do you think that happened? Because the banks are in trouble...again. Over the same thing as last time...the damned mortgage-backed securities!

The reason the banks are in the tank again is, if they've been foreclosing on people they didn't have the legal right to foreclose on, then those people have the right to get their houses back. And the people who bought those foreclosed houses from the bank might not actually own the houses they paid for.

And it won't matter if a particular case...or even most cases...were on the up -and up: It won't matter if most of the foreclosures and evictions were truly due to the homeowner failing to pay his mortgage. The fraud committed by the foreclosure mills casts enough doubt that, now, all foreclosures come into question. Not only that, all mortgages come into question.

People still haven't figured out what all this means. But I'll tell you: if enough mortgage-paying homeowners realize that they may be able to get out of their mortgage loans and keep their houses, scott-free? That's basically a license to halt payments right now, thank you. That's basically a license to tell the banks to take a hike.

sun-belt sprawl

Sunday, October 24, 2010

either The Discipline - or - the State will always win

Video - Don't let yourself get attached to anything you're not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.

NYTimes | “I’ve been waiting 40 years for someone to disclose information on a scale that might really make a difference,” said Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed a 1,000-page secret study of the Vietnam War in 1971 that became known as the Pentagon Papers.

Mr. Ellsberg said he saw kindred spirits in Mr. Assange and Pfc. Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old former Army intelligence operative under detention in Quantico, Va., suspected of leaking the Iraq and Afghan documents.

“They were willing to go to prison for life, or be executed, to put out this information,” Mr. Ellsberg said.

Underlying Mr. Assange’s anxieties is deep uncertainty about what the United States and its allies may do next. Pentagon and Justice department officials have said they are weighing his actions under the 1917 Espionage Act. They have demanded that Mr. Assange “return” all government documents in his possession, undertake not to publish any new ones and not “solicit” further American materials.

Mr. Assange has responded by going on the run, but has found no refuge. Amid the Afghan documents controversy, he flew to Sweden, seeking a residence permit and protection under that country’s broad press freedoms. His initial welcome was euphoric.

“They called me the James Bond of journalism,” he recalled wryly. “It got me a lot of fans, and some of them ended up causing me a bit of trouble.”

In late September, he left Stockholm for Berlin. A bag he checked on the almost empty flight disappeared, with three encrypted laptops. It has not resurfaced; Mr. Assange suspects it was intercepted. From Germany, he traveled to London, wary at being detained on arrival. Iceland, a country with generous press freedoms, has also lost its appeal, with Mr. Assange concluding that its government is too easily influenced by Washington.

He faces attack from within, too.

After the Sweden scandal, strains within WikiLeaks reached a breaking point, with some of Mr. Assange’s closest collaborators publicly defecting. The New York Times spoke with dozens of people who have worked with and supported him in Iceland, Sweden, Germany, Britain and the United States. What emerged was a picture of the founder of WikiLeaks as its prime innovator and charismatic force but as someone whose growing celebrity has been matched by an increasingly dictatorial, eccentric and capricious style.

Iraq War Logs: Every Death Mapped - From Wikileaks and Guardian

Video - Iraq war logs, every death mapped.

wait, what was the mission again?

Video - Leaks reveal Blackwater excesses.

NYTimes | The first shots sailed past Iraqi police officers at a checkpoint. They took off in three squad cars, their lights flashing.

It was early in the Iraq war, Dec. 22, 2004, and it turned out that the shots came not from insurgents or criminals. They were fired by an American private security company named Custer Battles, according to an incident report in an archive of more than 300,000 classified military documents made public by WikiLeaks.

The company’s convoy sped south in Umm Qasr, a grubby port city near the Persian Gulf. It shot out the tire of a civilian car that came close. It fired five shots into a crowded minibus. The shooting stopped only after the Iraqi police, port security and a British military unit finally caught up with the convoy.

Somehow no one had been hurt, and the contractors found a quick way to prevent messy disciplinary action. They handed out cash to Iraqi civilians, and left.

The documents sketch, in vivid detail, a critical change in the way America wages war: the early days of the Iraq war, with all its Wild West chaos, ushered in the era of the private contractor, wearing no uniform but fighting and dying in battle, gathering and disseminating intelligence and killing presumed insurgents.

There have been many abuses, including civilian deaths, to the point that the Afghan government is working to ban many outside contractors entirely.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

wikileaks iraq deaths map

Wikileaks Iraq Deaths Map. Fist tap Arnach.

a renegade history of the united states

HuffPo | I was raised by pot-smoking, nudist, socialist revolutionaries as an egghead white boy in black neighborhoods in Berkeley and Oakland. I nearly flunked eighth grade and finished high school with a C average. Then I went to the anarchist, ultra-hippy Antioch College in Ohio, which accepted all their applicants, didn't give grades, and didn't have a history department.

So even though I managed to pull myself out of that background and into and through Columbia for a PhD, then onto a job at an elite college, I was highly uncomfortable moving from the world of weed to the world of tweed. I hated being "Professor." I cursed in class. I talked about sex. I used politically incorrect terms. My students said they had never heard the things I was teaching them in class. They called me "Bad Thad."

I showed them that during the American Revolution drunkards, laggards, prostitutes, and pirates pioneered many of the freedoms and pleasures we now cherish -- including non-marital sex, interracial socializing, dancing, shopping, divorce, and the weekend -- and that the Founding Fathers, in the name of democracy, opposed them. I argued not only that many white Americans envied slaves but also that they did so for good reason, since slave culture offered many liberating alternatives to the highly repressive, work-obsessed, anti-sex culture of the early United States. I demonstrated that prostitutes, not feminists, won virtually all the freedoms that were denied to women but are now taken for granted. By tracing the path of immigrants from arrival as "primitives" to assimilation as "civilized" citizens, I explained that white people lost their rhythm by becoming good Americans. I presented evidence that without organized crime, we might not have jazz, Hollywood, Las Vegas, legal alcohol, birth control, or gay rights, since only gangsters were willing to support those projects when respectable America shunned them.

This was not the standard left-liberal perspective my students had heard, and it certainly wasn't a conservative one, either. It was informed by an unlikely mix of influences, including the hippies and other cultural radicals I had encountered in my early life, black and gay cultures that showed me a way out of the self-imposed limitations of being white and straight, and libertarians who caused me to question the commitment to freedom among the left that I had been born into and which employed me as a professor.

I gave my students a history that was structured around the oldest issue in political philosophy but which professional historians often neglect - the conflict between the individual and community, or what Freud called the eternal struggle between civilization and its discontents. College students are normally taught a history that is the story of struggles between capitalists and workers, whites and blacks, men and women. But history is also driven by clashes between those interested in preserving social order and those more interested in pursuing their own desires -- the "respectable" versus the "degenerate," the moral versus the immoral, "good citizens" versus the "bad." I wanted to show that the more that "bad" people existed, resisted, and won, the greater was what I called "the margin of freedom" for all of us.

My students were most troubled by the evidence that the "good" enemies of "bad" freedoms were not just traditional icons like presidents and business leaders, but that many of the most revered abolitionists, progressives, and leaders of the feminist, labor, civil rights, and gay rights movements worked to suppress the cultures of working-class women, immigrants, African Americans, and the flamboyant gays who brought homosexuality out of the closet.

I had developed these ideas largely on my own, in my study and in classrooms, knowing all the while that I was engaged in an Oedipal struggle to overthrow the generation of historians who came of age during the 1960s and 1970s, controlled academic history, and had trained me. They were so eager to make the masses into heroes that they did not see that it was precisely the non-heroic and unseemly characteristics of ordinary folks that changed American culture for the better.

standing up to the corporate bully

RagBlog | Big corporations charge citizens extra for making mistakes and penalize them unjustly for being the suckers who fall for their sales pitch.

There has been an increasing amount of talk taking place around the issue of bullying. Several young children and college students have recently committed suicide as a result of what many feel was bullying.

On Oct. 1 a 13-year-old boy committed suicide at his home in Houston after being bullied at the Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District. Asher Brown’s parents blamed the school for their son’s death, saying that he shot himself in the head after being tormented by classmates for being gay.

Tyler Clementi, a first year student at Rutgers University in New Jersey, jumped off a bridge to his death after his roommate and another student secretly filmed him engaging in a sexual act with another male student.

Kevin Morrissey committed suicide near the University of Virginia campus after being tormented on the job. At least two co-workers said they warned university officials about his growing despair over alleged workplace bullying at the award-winning Virginia Quarterly Review.

On July 30, Morrissey, the Review's 52-year-old managing editor, walked to the old coal tower near campus and shot himself in the head.

Bullying can take many forms, but one of the most lethal and least recognized is corporate bullying. Corporations treat citizens like commodities and charge them for services they don’t even render.

confusing ritual and superstition

Video - The Samurai of Soma Noma Oi.

Scientific American | Ray Allen’s pregame routine never changes. A nap from 11:30am to 1:00pm, chicken and white rice for lunch at 2:30, a stretch in the gym at 3:45, a quick head shave, then practice shots at 4:30. The same amount of shots must be made from the same spots every day – the baselines and elbows of the court, ending with the top of the key. [Ray Allen is a samurai] Similar examples of peculiar rituals and regimented routines in athletics abound. Jason Giambi would wear a golden thong if he found himself in a slump at the plate, and Moises Alou, concerned about losing his dexterous touch with the bat, would frequently urinate on his hands. [Jason Giambi and Moises Alou are nasty, superstitious ass-clowns] This type of superstitious behavior can veer from the eccentric to the pathological, and though many coaches, teammates and fans snicker and shake their heads, a new study headed by Lysann Damisch at the University of Cologne and recently published in the journal Psychological Science suggests that we should all stop smirking and start rubbing our rabbit’s foot.

When it comes to superstitions, social scientists have generally agreed on one thing: they are fundamentally irrational. “Magical thinking” (as it has been called) is defined as the belief that an object, action or circumstance not logically related to a course of events can influence its outcome. In other words, stepping on a crack cannot, given what we know about the principles of causal relations, have any direct effect on the probability of your mother breaking her back. Those who live in fear of such a tragedy are engaging in magical thought and behaving irrationally.

Yet in their study, Damisch and colleagues challenge the conclusion that superstitious thoughts bear no causal influence on future outcomes. Of course, they were not hypothesizing that the trillions of tiny cracks upon which we tread every day are imbued with some sort of sinister spine-crushing malevolence. Instead, they were interested in the types of superstitions that people think bring them good luck. The lucky hats, the favorite socks, the ritualized warmup routines, the childhood blankies. Can belief in such charms actually have an influence over one’s ability to, say, perform better on a test or in an athletic competition? In other words, is Ray Allen’s performance on the basketball court in some ways dependent on eating chicken and rice at exactly 2:30? Did Jason Giambi’s golden thong actually have a hand in stopping a hitless streak?