people as products

My name is Gary and I’m a workaholic.

When my wife left 20 years ago this month she accused me of being a workaholic, of needing to work like a drug addict needs a fix, and that this was a form of spousal abuse. I denied it at the time and made excuses for my behavior, but she was right.

darker than underground

Manage your military position like water. Water takes every shape. It avoids the high and moves to the low. Your war can take any shape. It must avoid the strong and strike the weak. Water follows the shape of the land that directs its flow. Your forces follow the enemy, who determines how you win. ~Sun Tzu, The Art of War

For Misha Glenny, it’s one of the greatest commercial success stories.

Criminal activity now accounts for over 15 percent of the world’s GDP. In the last two decades, it has experienced massive growth.

For Fred Leland, it’s developing operational art.

To get the best results and win we must learn what we need to know about conflict and violence, how it unfolds, its causes and effects and its signs and signals… we must develop knowledge of conflict and violence in its three dimensions, the moral and the mental as well as the physical.

For Adam Elkus, it’s Forecasting Future Slaughter:

Heavy force or light? Counterinsurgency or conventional warfighting? Airpower or ground pounders? Current strategic debate is marked by dispute over what lessons should be drawn from Iraq and Afghanistan and what kind of force structure should be employed in future warfare.

For Loretta Napoleoni, it’s way beyond the headlines.

They were constantly searching for cash.

Terrorism is actually a very expensive business — arms, vehicles, explosives. If you live underground, it’s very hard to produce this amount of money. Most people were extremely reluctant to talk about politics, because they had no ideas. The ideology is decided by leadership of a terrorist organization, all the others do is search for money.

She found in terrorism a parallel economy, that had been around since the close of World War II. It has followed step by step the trends common to any other economy.

She sets out to prove that groups labeled terrorist organizations or liberation movements have shown the same skills as any Wall Street investor in channeling assets into legal structures and businesses in pursuit of their broader goals. At the same time, armed groups are financing their activities through drug-running, illicit diamond sales, car theft, credit card fraud or arms dealing using the Western financial system to launder their income.

She says that, since the 1960s, a growing number of dollars have been leaving the US never to come back. This is money taken out by criminals and money launderers to fund the growth of terror and criminal economies.

You’ve got to question everything that is told to you, including what I told you. It will be scary and frightening but it will enlighten you and above all its not going to be boring.

For John Robb, it’s “searching for global systempunkts”.

life-saving location device

What sort of chemicals are released by humans under great stress?

We’re looking for volunteers to lie down in our enclosed space.

Participants are provided just enough air, temperature and humidity to support life.

Our aim is to analyze the human chemical profile over 24 hours as if they were trapped under a collapsed building.

Pending ethical approval, we’re hoping to begin these trials by the end of the year.

funds only for friends

Over and over again, the arrogance and trickiness astounds me.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorized the secretary of energy to make loan guarantees to qualified renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

It was supposed to add a much needed public boost to the development of U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, as well as to the economy.

Instead, the Department of Energy sat on billions of dollars.

Companies applying for the loans spent as much as $10 million on the process and waited as long as three years for a loan guarantee without a single one being granted by the Bush administration.

No longer shortsighted, DOE is facing marching orders from the White House.

How does that affect your strategic planning?

I guess the easiest answer is to say it’s a lot easier for a biofuel company to raise money when crude is $140 per barrel than when it drops down to $40. What we’re really trying to do as an industry is to say, ‘You know, we want to disconnect from a commodity called crude oil and establish a new commodity called energy from biomass.’

If crude oil stays at $40 forever all these technologies will only work with a significant amount of policy support that will be driven by job-creation, energy security, and I think to a lesser extent environmental concerns.

There needs to be some understanding that we’re really trying to make this shift from a crude oil-driven economy to a biomass-driven economy.

toward reasonably optimal behavior

An important point of this paper:

Until recently, economists spent little time or effort trying to understand the cognitive processes which led to observed economic behavior, relying instead, either implicitly or explicitly, on the assumption articulated by [Milton] Friedman that people could easily learn optimal behavior through trial and error.

As if to say, those who trumpet economic game theory, the so-called free market, have little more than jingo in their arsenal.

A more important finding in this paper:

The second contribution of the paper is to show that even when the goal is to learn only this simple approximation, pure trial-and-error learning requires an enormous amount of experience to allow consumers to distinguish good rules from bad ones – far more experience than any one consumer would have over the course of a single lifetime.

In other words, not one of us will live long enough to find out if relying upon ‘utility theory’ and ‘free market theory’ is workable.

Their final thought has me chuckling. We may have already walked off a cliff:

Elucidating the circumstances under which a process of social learning can be expected to lead the population to reasonably optimal behavior will be an interesting task for future work.

pdf here, “Individual Learning About Consumption” by Christopher Carroll and Todd Allen at John Hopkins, written for the journal Macroeconomic Dynamics.

sell to the well

Paul Krugman at NYTimes:

There are two strongly distinctive aspects of health care.

One is that you don’t know when or whether you’ll need care — but if you do, the care can be extremely expensive. The big bucks are in triple coronary bypass surgery, not routine visits to the doctor’s office; and very, very few people can afford to pay major medical costs out of pocket.

This tells you right away that health care can’t be sold like bread.

It must be largely paid for by some kind of insurance. And this in turn means that someone other than the patient ends up making decisions about what to buy. Consumer choice is nonsense when it comes to health care. And you can’t just trust insurance companies either — they’re not in business for their health, or yours.

This problem is made worse by the fact that actually paying for your health care is a loss from an insurers’ point of view — they actually refer to it as “medical costs.” This means both that insurers try to deny as many claims as possible, and that they try to avoid covering people who are actually likely to need care. Both of these strategies use a lot of resources, which is why private insurance has much higher administrative costs than single-payer systems.

And since there’s a widespread sense that our fellow citizens should get the care we need — not everyone agrees, but most do — this means that private insurance basically spends a lot of money on socially destructive activities.

unsuitable for public release

The Guardian learned that George Bush classified satellite photos that might reveal rapidly shrinking ice to the public. Of course, this pales in comparison to similar Bush rule making such as mining radioactive uranium in the Colorado watershed at the north Grand Canyon.

Formal requests from The National Academy of Sciences finally declassified several photos. Jeff McMahon posted a few. The source is U.S. Geological Survey’s Global Fiducials Library.

shrinking ice

of bubbles and crash

Isn’t is critical to know What Went Wrong With Economics?

Linda Beale noticed that our theory of economics is subject to three critiques:

  1. It helped cause the current economic crisis.
  2. It failed to see it coming.
  3. It doesn’t know how to fix it.

“In my book, that doesn’t leave much out. A theory that actively causes harm, can’t prevent it, and can’t cure it is not much of a theory.”

Pain matters. We should fix its cause.

lost and gone

July 2, 2009

Lewis contends that there may be more upheavals to come. He is also shocked that the Treasury, the SEC and other agencies haven’t really begun to investigate what happened in the subprime mess.

He says that when he has interviewed numerous executives from financial institutions, such as AIG’s Financial Products division, they tell him that no one from a regulator has come to try to find out exactly what happened.

That fact alone, is simply astonishing.

Thirty years stripping divisions and no one around.

pouring antiseptic over the globe

Antibacterial productsBrought to market as a pesticide, it’s utterly nuts triclosan is in our home, under our arm, on our face, in our mouth, in baby clothes or pouring down our drains. It’s nuts because it’s penetrating the ground and we can’t take it out of well water or sewage or rivers or oceans. It’s triple nuts because we don’t need it.

Accumulating in virtually every animal and plant on earth [wiki], dioxins and PCBs and common triclosan, with its similar chemistry and structure, react with chlorine in tap water to convert into new and unknown polychlorinated toxins once in the open sun.

Afraid to deal with profiteers tripping over themselves for a share of our pocket, the market-coddling FDA and EPA stopped at registering triclosan as a human and environmental risk – to be printed on the label but not removed from supermarkets.

Measured at 1 ounce in 31 million tons though tested most often in a petri dish, triclosan blocks and mimics our thyroid hormones. Triclosan in toothpaste produces chloroform and phenols in our mouth. Believe it. In downstream fish and human breast milk; in blood serum, urine and our food, it’s tied to pregnancy and reproduction disruption as well as attaching to receptor molecules in our brain. And cancer.

Don’t buy products from these spreadsheet alchemists. We can’t see germs, but germs are big enough to wash away with soap and water. antiseptic

nothing to see here, move along

Idaho police sodomize man with Taser.
Suspect handcuffed when they rammed a Taser to his anus and fired.

Officer #3: Do you feel this?

Complainant: Yes, sir.

Officer #3: Do you feel that? That’s my –

Complainant: Okay

Officer #3: -Taser up your ass.

Complainant: Okay

Officer #3: So don’t move.

Complainant: I’m trying not to. I can’t breathe.

Officers not charged but state Ombudsman finds, “This exchange, especially the complainant’s response, strongly suggests that, at that moment anyway, the Taser was pressed between the Complainant’s buttocks and near his anal area.”

false sense of clean

Warning from the Barf Blog!

one wee lttle e.ColiMore bacteria were found on staff wearing gloves than on bare hands.

Were we already wondering?

This mentality that wearing gloves… well, see, this notion is false and should never replace handwashing.

the crime wave no one talks about

not getting paid“Millions are not getting paid” warns Chicago’s Kim Bobo, executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice.

Business-bred media has failed to mention the Bush Administration dropped investigations of wage theft and employer crime.

Complaints over minimum wage, overtime and child labor were ignored or sent away.

Administration and staff were directed to only record successful cases to make Wage and Hour statistics appear better than they were.

Child labor violations were delayed by months or years.

An undercover investigator called the agency to complain about that 14-year old children working with saws and meat grinders at a meat processing plant during the school day.

The call was never investigated or logged into the complaint database, but the agency said they had contacted the employer and resolved the case, even though the company was fictitious.

Thousands of employees were ignored, turned away, switched to answering machines and told lies. A Wage and Hour employee told the GAO investigator that they could not follow up on the complaint because the IRS said that his employer was not big enough. Listen to this call on YouTube.

Posing as fictitious complainants, GAO filed 10 common complaints with WHD district offices across the country. These tests found that WHD staff deterred fictitious callers from filing a complaint by encouraging employees to resolve the issue themselves, directing most calls to voicemail, not returning phone calls to both employees and employers, and providing conflicting or misleading information about how to file a complaint.

An employer’s verbal offer to pay irreversibly closed the case whether the employee was paid or never paid.

Fines that punish repeat or egregious employers declined by nearly 50 percent from 2001 to 2007.

in lockstep with noise

Bill Moyers writes clearly:

Chief propagandist William Kristol urged his party to block any health care plan for fear that Democrats would be seen as “the generous protector of middle class interests.”

Now he’s telling the GOP to “go for the kill… throw the kitchen sink… drive a stake through its heart… We need to start over.”

What would our nation be were Washington not nuts?

oh, what to do with these bankers

Jeff Faux update on Mexico and The Global Class War:

So Far From God, So Close to Wall St

Jeff Faux, and The Global Class WarMultinational banks and corporations said NAFTA is a great success, but smaller Mexican businessmen saw it differently.

You Americans, said one, promised that with your technology and our cheap labor, we’d be partners in competing with Asia. Then you opened up your markets to China and invested there instead.

“Sure,” he said. “We can make TV parts for half what it costs in the United States. But the Chinese can make them, and ship them, for a tenth.

So instead of closing the gap between Mexico and the United States by raising wages, we have to narrow the gap between Mexico and China by lowering them.”

The Wall Streeters had little interest in making Mexico more competitive. They also had little interest in making the United States more competitive. Their purpose was just the opposite: to disconnect themselves and their corporate partners from the fate of any particular country.

heads they win, tails you lose

Goldman Sachs is able to see orders before they are executed, and know in advance when orders will come in. So they buy the stock, driving up the price, and sell it back to the slower traders at a higher price.

Much of Goldman Sach’s profit seems to be based in using inside knowledge to take money from other investors.

update on jungle clearing

The US sprayed millions of gallons of the defoliant to clear jungles during the Vietnam War.The US sprayed over 20 million of gallons of defoliant to clear jungles during the Vietnam War.

Agent Orange contains high levels of dioxin, linked to a number of illnesses, particularly cancers. Background levels of dioxin remain high in ‘hotspots’ where large quantities of Agent Orange were used.

On March 1, the US Supreme Court refused to hear a final appeal by Vietnamese victims against Dow and Monsanto for their supply of Agent Orange.

Vietnam’s lawyers replied that millions of people still suffer from physical and mental pain night and day. “The claim of Vietnamese Agent Orange victims is completely legitimate. We believe that the international community, including the US legal community, will continue to stand by Vietnamese Agent Orange victims in the struggle for justice.”

Brief History of Agent Orange:

In the early years of WWII, a grant was provided by the National Research Council to develop a chemical to destroy rice crops in Japan (the major food source of the Japanese). 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T (Agent Orange) was the result.

A discussion between President Roosevelt and White House Chief of Staff Admiral William D. Leahy determined that this heinous chemical should not be used. Agent Orange was not used during WWII.

Vietnam combat veterans outnumber all combat veterans of all other wars combined and they are flocking to the Veterans Affairs medial centers all over the country with all kinds of ailments and conditions.

I don’t look forward to going to the VA. I go often, oh, for prostate surgery, or hernia surgery and a four month long prostate related bacterial urinary tract infection, and for a while PTSD. I think about having prostate cancer, or some other cancer picked up from all the Agent Orange we sprayed from planes to defoliate South Vietnam.

can’t phone home

“What are you in for?” the inmate of Lee County jail asked the new prisoner.

“Rolling through a stop sign in my subdivision.”

He had been trying to make his one phone call, to which you are supposedly entitled when you land in the big house.

The phone would only call collect, even for local calls. That meant that it couldn’t call cell phones. Most local services don’t even have collect-call options anymore. So you dial and dial but the phone might as well be a prop on the wall. There is no way out.

There is also no way for you to be called, by anyone. You have no cell phone. No laptop. No book. No watch, and there is no clock on the wall. No one knows what time it is. No one who does know will tell you. Not even a single scrap of paper are you allowed to take into the cell after your arrest. You can only stand there in your paper-thin prison clothes and plastic sandals

them, it’s always a them

Crackling veneer in a big fat flash of Integrity.

Well, this is the world we are living in. These are the people we are dealing with. This is how we have to deal with them.

USA Energy Corps

Much scholarship is mere commentary, most promo twiddle-dee-steroids, but will biomass save the Mississippi?!!

…nutrients in impaired water from agricultural runoff could be reused on biofuel crops, providing a potential solution to the inefficiency in the use of agricultural fertilizers near the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone…

In Nebraska, 44 percent of riparian buffers and 50 percent of roadway buffers overlap with areas of nitrate-contaminated groundwater, wastewater and livestock farms.

Using marginal land, roadway buffer strips, brownfield sites and degraded water resources in Nebraska can increase biomass feedstock production to meet 22 percent of the state’s energy requirements.

Marginal land resources include riparian and roadway buffer strips, brownfield sites and marginal agricultural land. Degraded water resources include runoff, fertilizer-contaminated groundwater and wastewater.

blame where blame’s due

I caught an inflated television pundit criticizing public healthcare because, unlike smart corporate insurance, government will cover unhealthy lazy obese people with six drunk driving convictions to bankrupt our country.

Similarly, coffee shop pundits blame home buyers for the deep and global financial crash of an unwary Wall Street. The Cleveland Fed would like to blow up these opinions.

Ten Myths about Subprime Mortgages

Unfortunately, many of the most popular explanations that have emerged for the subprime crisis are, to a large extent, myths.

Empirical research shows that the causes of the subprime mortgage crisis and its magnitude were more complicated than mortgage interest rate resets, declining underwriting standards, or declining home values. Nor were its causes unlike other crises of the past.

The subprime crisis was building for years before showing any signs and was fed by lending, securitization, leveraging, and housing booms.

It’s a sloppy habit to point unfounded blame. Worse, why accuse your neighbors?

eliminating power plants

Efficient buldings neededOh, Those Sexy Building Codes: More Effective Than 100 Nuclear Plants

“All energy and emissions reduction approaches pale in comparison to what we can accomplish with building energy codes.

“We simply cannot meet gas emissions targets or secure our energy without updating building energy codes.

“We won’t even come close.