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The Freeh Report and Joe Paterno, Part One


July 18th, 2012 |

Part One: The Philadelphia Inquirer Mangles the Flawed Freeh Report

What do you do when reporters from a major metropolitan daily newspaper—in this case, The Philadelphia Inquirer—demonstrate that they are completely incapable of reading a published report—in this case The Freeh Report—and providing their readers with a coherent summary of its contents? What do you do when the egregious misreading of that report by these reporters presents its readers a very false picture of how officials at Penn State handled Mike McQueary’s allegations of child molestation by Jerry Sandusky in February 2001? Perhaps you would recommend that the Philadelphia Inquirer receive the “death penalty” and not be permitted to publish its sludge for a full year!

Readers of my website might recall that, on 9 February 2012, I wrote a scathing critique titled “Incompetent Journalists at the Philadelphia Inquirer Slandered Joe Paterno”. Especially outrageous was the Inquirer’s 4 December 2011 editorial, which asserted: “Instead of alerting authorities, university officials and staff participated in what has all the markings of a cover-up. Their dismissal of the reported rape of a boy in a locker-room shower as mere ‘horsing around’ was an outrageous example of a mind-set that the university must now eradicate…”

As we now know, thanks to my investigation into that “reported rape,” the Editorial Board’s outrage was misplaced, directed at a pseudo-event created by the person who falsely summarized McQueary’s testimony in the grand jury presentment. As I made very clear in my article, “Three False Assertions by the Grand Jury turned the Press and Public against Joe Paterno and Penn State,” McQueary’s first-hand sworn testimony contradicted the summary of his testimony found in the widely reported grand jury report.

McQueary’s first-hand testimony contained his assertion that he “did not see insertion,” He also insisted that he never used the words “anal” or “rape”– since day one. Finally, McQueary testified that he never used the words “anal intercourse,” “anal sex,” or “rape” when reporting what he saw to Paterno, Curley and Schultz. In fact, the jurors who convicted Sandusky multiple times found him not guilty of the charge of anal rape of Victim 2.

The Philadelphia Inquirer never took any steps to correct the record, notwithstanding my repeated emails to its reporters, columnists and editors.

Nevertheless, one longs for the abysmally poor journalism practiced by the Inquirer then, especially after reading the garbage that is found under the Inquirer’s front page headline for Sunday, 15 July 2012: “The Penn State Paper Trail.”

Consider the first two paragraphs of that article: “Three days after Mike McQueary saw Jerry Sandusky molesting a boy in a shower in 2001, two top administrators at Pennsylvania State University had begun to craft a plan.”

“They would not notify authorities.”

The reporters who reached this conclusion—Jeremy Roebuck and Craig R. McCoy—cited a memo dated 2/12/2001, written by Penn State Vice President Gary Schulz as proof. The memo states: “Talked with TMC [Athletic Director Tim Curley] reviewed 1998 history.
– agreed TMC will discuss with JVP [Joe Paterno] + advise we think TMC should meet w JS [Jerry Sandusky] on Friday.
– unless he ‘confesses’ to having a problem, TMC will indicate we need to have DPW [Dept. of Public Welfare] review the matter as an independent agency concerned w child welfare
– TMC will keep me posted.”

If this memo supposedly proves that “They would not notify authorities,” my first questions for Messrs. Roebuck and McCoy are these:

1. What were the chances of Jerry Sandusky actually confessing?

2. Has Sandusky ever confessed?

3. If the probability of gaining his confession was extremely low, doesn’t that mean (according to the very memo you cite) that the next step would be to tell Sandusky that this matter will be turned over to the Department of Public Welfare?

4. Is there any evidence in the memo to indicate that Schulz and Curley had no intention of carrying out their threat?”

5. If the Schultz’s 12 February 2001 memo proves, as you allege, that “They would not notify authorities,” why did Schultz call the University’s outside legal counsel on 11 February 2001 to discuss “Reporting of Suspected Child Abuse? Why waste the time, if you have no intention of reporting the abuse?

Here’s another set of questions:

1. When you wrote, “The decision not to contact authorities was made final two weeks later in a flurry of e-mails among Curley, Schultz and then university president Graham B. Spanier,” did you actually read those e-mails before you went off the deep accusatory end?

After all, Schultz’s hand written notes for a meeting on 2/25/01 include the steps that are to be taken concerning Sandusky: “3) Tell chair of Board of Second Mile 2) Report to Dept. of Welfare. 1) Tell JS to avoid bringing children alone into Lasch Bldg who’s the chair??”

2. Is there anything in those notes that indicates Schultz, Curley and Spanier decided not to report to the Department of Welfare?

The next day’s e-mail from Schultz to Curley says: “Tim, I’m assuming that you’ve got the ball to 1) talk with the subject ASAP regarding the future appropriate use of the University facility; 2) contacting the chair of the Charitable Organization; and 3) contacting the Dept. of Welfare.”

3. Is there anything in that e-mail, which indicates that Schultz, Curley, and Spanier had made the decision not to report to authorities?

4. Again, I ask, did you actually read the material you reported on?

Readers who actually think about what they are reading will have noticed that Schultz’s notes for 2/25/01 and his e-mail of 2/26/01 contain no reference to any confession by Jerry Sandusky. They simply state a plan of action, which includes reporting to the Department of Welfare—as Pennsylvania State law requires. To that extent, these notes and e-mail actually sever the link that Messrs. Roebuck and McCoy attempt to create between Schultz’s notes of 2/12/01 and the “flurry of e-mails” two weeks later which “made final” their decision not to report Sandusky to the authorities.

In fact, it’s Curley’s e-mail to Schultz and Spanier on 2/27/01 which reintroduces the idea of a confession by Sandusky. As will be shown below, Curley is uncomfortable about going to everyone but Sandusky, “the person involved.” Here’s the relevant portion of Curley’s e-mail:

“After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday—I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps. I am having trouble with going to everyone, but the person involved. I think I would be more comfortable meeting with the person and tell him about the information we received. I would plan to tell him we are aware of the first situation. I would indicate we feel there is a problem and we want to assist the individual to get professional help. Also, we feel the responsibility at some point soon to inform his organization and [sic] maybe the other one about the situation. If he is cooperative we would work with him to handle informing the organization. If not, we do not have a choice and will inform the two groups. Additionally, I will let him know that his guests are not permitted to use our facilities. I need some help on this one. What do you think about this approach?”

Curley’s e-mail not only reintroduces the idea of a confession by Sandusky, but also implies that if Sandusky agrees to get professional help the Department of Welfare would not be notified. Spanier and Schultz not only agree with Curley’s proposal, but also praise it for being “humane.”

Thus, all three seemed prepared to violate Pennsylvania’s law to report allegations of sexual abuse if Sandusky admitted his problem and agreed to seek professional help. Presumably, that plan was designed to prevent more “incidents” like those of ’98 and ’01 while rescuing a friend. (I condemn this approach, but understand it.)

In fact, Spanier admits: “The only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we become vulnerable for not having reported it. But that can be assessed down the road.”

But, again, I must ask: What is the probability that Sandusky will confess and agree to professional help. I believe that it was a lead pipe cinch that Sandusky would not confess.

Consequently, if Messrs. Spanier, Curley and Schultz stick to Curley’s revised plan, , these officials must report McQueary’s allegation to the Department of Welfare when Sandusky fails to confess.

Yet, that’s not the conclusion reached by the authors of the Freeh Report. In its grotesquely erroneous “gotcha” moment, the report asserts: “A reasonable conclusion from Spanier’s email statement that “[t]he only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it” is that Spanier, Schultz and Curley were agreeing not to report Sandusky’s activity.”

No, that’s not a reasonable conclusion! Absolutely not! It totally ignores that part of Curley’s plan to report to the Department of Welfare in the extremely probable event that Sandusky refuses to confess and seek treatment.

Clearly, the Freeh Report has overreached. And I can’t avoid the suspicion that this overreach led to another—the barely supported conclusion that the need “to avoid the consequences of bad publicity” explains the cover up.

Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that the Freeh Report’s erroneous “gotcha” moment—which specifically identifies the day when the cover-up by Spanier, Schultz and Curley commenced—excludes Joe Paterno.

Perhaps as a silver lining in its dark cloud of journalistic malpractice, Messrs. Roebuck and McCoy also have little to say about Joe Paterno. Appropriately so. Nevertheless, they appear to not only have swallowed the unreasonable gotcha conclusion reached by the Freeh Report, but also to have attempted to work backward from that false conclusion in order to demonstrate that the decision not to report actually can be traced back to Schultz’s notes dated 2/12/01. It’s shoddy journalism at its worst!

An unbiased reading of the sketchy evidence would indicate that the decision not to report McQueary’s allegations to the Department of Welfare occurred after 7 March 2001, the day Curley actually met with Sandusky.

The available evidence suggests that Curley never confronted Sandusky and Sandusky confessed to nothing. Worse, Sandusky (brazenly?) offered to give Curley the name of the boy who was in the Lasch building shower with him that night—and Curley refused to take it.

If this information is correct (a very big “if”), then, according to the plan all three agreed to, one of them was obligated to report Sandusky to the Department of Welfare. But that didn’t happen and we still do not know why—even after the publication of the Freeh Report.

In the Freeh Report [p. 77], Spanier claims that Curley subsequently told him that Sandusky had confessed and agreed to get professional help. But, we know that didn’t happen, so somebody’s lying.

Moreover, in that same Freeh Report [p. 78], the lawyer representing the Director of the Second Mile charity claims that Curley told his client that “nothing inappropriate occurred.” That’s the story being told by Spanier, Schultz and Curley today – and they’re sticking to it.

(Personally, I find it difficult to believe that both Curley and Schultz came to the conclusion that “nothing inappropriate occurred,” especially after Joe Paterno reported to them McQueary’s allegations of something sexual between Sandusky and a young boy, and especially given the fact that both of them knew about the investigation of Sandusky in 1998. Paterno’s report, alone, should have triggered an automatic message to the Department of Welfare.)

Let’s hope that the trial of Curley and Schultz brings resolution to that assertion.

Source article:
http://www.walter-c-uhler.com/?p=541

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The Nation: Lessons On Radiation From Hiroshima

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Greg Mitchell writes the Media Fix blog for TheNation.com.

The worst nuclear disaster to strike Japan since a single bomb fell over Nagasaki in 1945 occurred in the spring of 2011 at the Fukushima nuclear power plant following the epic tsunami. Earlier this week the New York Times reported (in a sadly submerged fashion, given the news from Libya) the disturbing news that a wide area around the Fukushima plant “could soon be declared uninhabitable, perhaps for decades, after a government survey found radioactive contamination that far exceeded safe levels….

“The formal announcement, expected from the government in coming days, would be the first official recognition that the March accident could force the long-term depopulation of communities near the plant, an eventuality that scientists and some officials have been warning about for months.”

Just two weeks ago, it was reported that radiation readings at the site had reached their highest points to date. The wide release of radiation, and fear of same, has forced the Japanese and others all over the world to reflect on what happened to the country in 1945, and the continuing (but usually submerged) threat of nuclear weapons and energy today.

In its main story marking the 66th anniversary of the atomic bombings, the Times highlighted the new activism of survivors of the bombing (the hibakusha) this year: campaigning against nuclear power, which has provided most of their country’s energy needs. No one in the world can relate to the fears of a wide populace terrified that they (and perhaps the unborn) may be tainted forever by exposure to airborne radiation.

My colleague Robert Jay Lifton wrote an op-ed for the New York Times titled “Fukushima and Hiroshima.” He pointed out: “One may ask how it is possible that Japan, after its experience with the atomic bombings, could allow itself to draw so heavily on the same nuclear technology for the manufacture of about a third of its energy. There was resistance, much of it from Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors. But there was also a pattern of denial, cover-up and cozy bureaucratic collusion between industry and government, the last especially notorious in Japan but by no means limited to that country.”

The Mainichi Shimbun sought out Sumiteru Taniguchi, now 82, and currently director of the Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors Council, for comment. It noted that while he normally talks quietly and haltingly, “when the conversation turns to the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant it is as if the floodgates open, and his tone suddenly turns harsh.” Taniguchi said: “Nuclear power and mankind cannot coexist. We survivors of the atomic bomb have said this all along. And yet, the use of nuclear power was camouflaged as ‘peaceful’ and continued to progress. You never know when there’s going to be a natural disaster. You can never say that there will never be a nuclear accident.”

As it happens, I have interviewed Taniguchi three times, in the United States and in Japan. He is perhaps the iconic symbol of the hibakusha today, thanks to footage of him taken after the bombing, showing him, months after the attack, still on a floor, spread-eagled, his entire back an open wound, flaming red. It was part of footage shot by a US film crew, and suppressed for decades, as I probe in my new book Atomic Cover-Up. (You can see some of the Taniguchi footage here.)

In April, 2011, five survivors’ organizations including Taniguchi’s Nagasaki group submitted a statement to the Japanese government declaring the collapse of the “safety myth” around nuclear power and demanding a change in the government’s energy policy to prevent creating any more hibakusha. And Hidankyo, where Taniguchi still served on the board, “has sent a statement to the government,” Mainichi Shimbun reported, “demanding that it distribute health record booklets — similar to the ones that are distributed to atomic bomb victims and can be used as proof of radiation exposure — to nuclear power plant workers and residents living close to them, and also provide periodic health examinations to those populations.”

Taniguchi pointed out that numerous A-bomb survivors over the decades had sought help from the government after falling ill or suffering cancer and other diseases, allegedly from radiation exposure, but had been “abandoned.” The Mainichi article closed with this question: Will the people who are suffering from invisible dangers in Fukushima be subjected to the same treatment?

Of course, the Fukushima disaster forced me to relive my own experiences in visiting the atomic cities, and my research into the American “cover-up” since. I was hardly alone. Writing in a New York Times op-ed after Fukushima, Nassrine Azimi, a senior adviser at a United Nations Institute, observed: “When it comes to nuclear issues — from atomic weapons to nuclear power — no two nations could be more irredeemably intertwined. After the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, despite dissenting voices of some of its own citizens, America drew mostly wrong conclusions as it plunged into nuclear expansion.”

She cited the book I wrote several years ago with Lifton, Hiroshima in America, for its painstaking account of “the relentless public relations campaign — unleashed by the Truman administration almost within hours of the Hiroshima bombing — that led to the Faustian bargain that blinded the Americans (and later the Japanese) to the insidious, long-term damage of radiation. Prominent journalists and media outlets of the time embraced, with enthusiasm, the ‘Dawn of the Atomic Age’ and America fell, in the authors’ words, into the ‘nuclear entrapment’ that is with us to this day.”

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How to Lose Readers (Without Even Trying)

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment

image

(Photo by Francisco Diez)

Do you have too many readers of your books and articles? Want to reduce traffic on your blog? It turns out, there is a foolproof way to alienate many of your fans, quickly and at almost no cost.

It took me years to discover this publishing secret, but I’ll pass it along to you for free:

Simply write an article suggesting that taxes should be raised on billionaires.

Really, it’s that simple!

You can declare the world’s religions to be cesspools of confusion and bigotry, you can argue that all drugs should be made legal and that free will is an illusion. You can even write in defense of torture. But I assure you that nothing will rile and winnow your audience like the suggestion that billionaires should contribute more of their wealth to the good of society.

This is not to say that everyone hated my last article (“How Rich is Too Rich?”), but the backlash has been ferocious. For candor and concision this was hard to beat:

You are scum sam. unsubscribed.

 

Unlike many of the emails I received, this one made me laugh out loud—for rarely does one see the pendulum of human affection swing so freely. Note that this response came, not from a mere visitor to my blog, but from someone who had once admired me enough to subscribe to my email newsletter. All it took was a single article about the problem of wealth inequality to provoke, not just criticism, but loathing.

The following should indicate the general gloom that has crept over my inbox:

I will not waste my time addressing your nonsense point-by-point, but I certainly could and I think in a more informed way than many economists—whose credentials you seem to think are necessary for your consideration of a response. Do you see what an elitist ass that makes you seem? I think you should stick to themes you know something about such as how unreasonable religion is. I am sure I am not the only one whose respect you lose with your economic ideology.

Nothing illustrates why people should not leave their comfort zones than this egregiously silly piece….You make such good points about the importance of skeptical inquiry and about how difficult it is to truly know something that your soak the rich comments are, as a good man once said, not even wrong. Take care.

Sorry Sam. I used to praise and promote your works. You’ve lost me. Your promotion of theft by initiating force on others is unforgivable. You’re just a thug now, attempting cheap personal gratification by broadcasting signals which cost you nothing, just like Warren Buffett.

Many readers were enraged that I could support taxation in any form. It was as if I had proposed this mad scheme of confiscation for the first time in history. Several cited my framing of the question—“how much wealth can one person be allowed to keep?”—as especially sinister, as though I had asked, “how many of his internal organs can one person be allowed to keep?”

For what it’s worth—and it won’t be worth much to many of you—I understand the ethical and economic concerns about taxation. I agree that everyone should be entitled to the fruits of his or her labors and that taxation, in the State of Nature, is a form of theft. But it appears to be a form of theft that we require, given how selfish and shortsighted most of us are.

Many of my critics imagine that they have no stake in the well-being of others. How could they possibly benefit from other people getting first-rate educations? How could they be harmed if the next generation is hurled into poverty and despair? Why should anyone care about other people’s children? It amazes me that such questions require answers.

Would Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, rather have $10 billion in a country where the maximum number of people are prepared to do creative work? Or would he rather have $20 billion in a country with the wealth inequality of an African dictatorship and commensurate levels of crime?[1] I’d wager he would pick door number #1. But if he wouldn’t, I maintain that it is only rational and decent for Uncle Sam to pick it for him.

However, many readers view this appeal to State power as a sacrilege. It is difficult to know what to make of this. Either they yearn for reasons to retreat within walled compounds wreathed in razor wire, or they have no awareness of the societal conditions that could warrant such fear and isolation. And they consider any effort the State could take to prevent the most extreme juxtaposition of wealth and poverty to be indistinguishable from Socialism.

It is difficult to ignore the responsibility that Ayn Rand bears for all of this. I often get emails from people who insist that Rand was a genius—and one who has been unfairly neglected by writers like myself. I also get emails from people who have been “washed in the blood of the Lamb,” or otherwise saved by the “living Christ,” who have decided to pray for my soul. It is hard for me to say which of these sentiments I find less compelling.

As someone who has written and spoken at length about how we might develop a truly “objective” morality, I am often told by followers of Rand that their beloved guru accomplished this task long ago. The result was Objectivism—a view that makes a religious fetish of selfishness and disposes of altruism and compassion as character flaws. If nothing else, this approach to ethics was a triumph of marketing, as Objectivism is basically autism rebranded. And Rand’s attempt to make literature out of this awful philosophy produced some commensurately terrible writing. Even in high school, I found that my copies of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged simply would not open.

And I say this as someone who considers himself, in large part, a “libertarian”—and who has, therefore, embraced more or less everything that was serviceable in Rand’s politics. The problem with pure libertarianism, however, has long been obvious: We are not ready for it. Judging from my recent correspondence, I feel this more strongly than ever. There is simply no question that an obsession with limited government produces impressive failures of wisdom and compassion in otherwise intelligent people.

Why do we have laws in the first place? To prevent adults from behaving like dangerous children. All laws are coercive and take the following form: do this, and don’t do that, or else. Or else what? Or else men with guns will arrive at your door and take you away to prison. Yes, it would be wonderful if we did not need to be corralled and threatened in this way. And many uses of State power are both silly and harmful (the “war on drugs” being, perhaps, the ultimate instance). But the moment certain strictures are relaxed, people reliably go berserk. And we seem unable to motivate ourselves to make the kinds of investments we should make to create a future worth living in. Even the best of us tend to ignore some of the more obvious threats to our long term security.

For instance, Graham Alison, author of Nuclear Terrorism, thinks there is a greater than 50 percent chance that a nuclear bomb will go off in an American city sometime in the next ten years. (A poll of national security experts commissioned by Senator Richard Lugar in 2005 put the risk at 29 percent.) The amount of money required to secure the stockpiles of weapons and nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union is a pittance compared to the private holdings of the richest Americans. And should even a single incident of nuclear terrorism occur, the rich would likely lose more money in the resulting economic collapse than would have been required to secure the offending materials in the first place.

If private citizens cannot be motivated to allocate the necessary funds to mitigate such problems—as it seems we cannot—the State must do it. The State, however, is broke.
And lurking at the bottom of this morass one finds flagrantly irrational ideas about the human condition. Many of my critics pretend that they have been entirely self-made. They seem to feel responsible for their intellectual gifts, for their freedom from injury and disease, and for the fact that they were born at a specific moment in history. Many appear to have absolutely no awareness of how lucky one must be to succeed at anything in life, no matter how hard one works. One must be lucky to be able to work. One must be lucky to be intelligent, to not have cerebral palsy, or to not have been bankrupted in middle age by the mortal illness of a spouse.

Many of us have been extraordinarily lucky—and we did not earn it. Many good people have been extraordinarily unlucky—and they did not deserve it. And yet I get the distinct sense that if I asked some of my readers why they weren’t born with club feet, or orphaned before the age of five, they would not hesitate to take credit for these accomplishments. There is a stunning lack of insight into the unfolding of human events that passes for moral and economic wisdom in some circles. And it is pernicious. Followers of Rand, in particular, believe that only a blind reliance on market forces and the narrowest conception of self interest can steer us collectively toward the best civilization possible and that any attempt to impose wisdom or compassion from the top—no matter who is at the top and no matter what the need—is necessarily corrupting of the whole enterprise. This conviction is, at the very least, unproven. And there are many reasons to believe that it is dangerously wrong.

Given the current condition of the human mind, we seem to need a State to set and enforce certain priorities. I share everyone’s concern that our political process is broken, that it can select for precisely the sorts of people one wouldn’t want in charge, and that fantastic sums of money get squandered. But no one has profited more from our current system, with all its flaws, than the ultra rich. They should be the last to take their money off the table. And they should be the first to realize when more resources are necessary to secure the common good.
In reply to my question about future breakthroughs in technology (e.g. robotics, nanotech) eliminating millions of jobs very quickly, and creating a serious problem of unemployment, the most common response I got from economists was some version of the following:

1. There ***IS*** a fundamental principle of economics that rules out a serious long-term problem of unemployment:

The first principle of economics is that we live in a world of scarcity, and the second principle of economics is that we have unlimited wants and desires.

Therefore, the second principle of economics: unlimited wants and desires, rules out long-term problem of unemployment.

2. What if we were having this discussion in the 1800s, when it was largely an agricultural-based economy, and you were suggesting that “future breakthroughs in farm technology (e.g. tractors, electricity, combines, cotton gin, automatic milking machinery, computers, GPS, hybrid seeds, irrigation systems, herbicides, pesticides, etc.) could eliminate millions of jobs, creating a serious problem of unemployment.”

With hindsight, we know that didn’t happen, and all of the American workers who would have been working on farms without those technological, labor-saving inventions found employment in different or new sectors of the economy like manufacturing, health care, education, business, retail, transportation, etc.

For example, 90% of Americans in 1790 were working in agriculture, and now that percentage is down to about 2%, even though we have greater employment overall now than in 1790. The technological breakthroughs reduced the share of workers in farming, but certainly didn’t create long-term problems of unemployment. Thanks to “unlimited wants and desires,” Americans found gainful employment in industries besides farming.

Mark J. Perry
Professor of Economics, University of Michigan, Flint campus and
Visiting Scholar at The American Enterprise Institute and
Carpe Diem Blog

 

As I wrote to several of these correspondents, I worry that the adjective “long-term” waves the magician’s scarf a bit, concealing some very unpleasant possibilities. Are they so unpleasant that any rational billionaire who loves this country (and his grandchildren) would want to avoid them at significant cost in the near term? I suspect the answer could be “yes.”

Also, it seemed to me that many readers aren’t envisioning just how novel future technological developments might be. The analogy to agriculture doesn’t strike me as very helpful. The moment we have truly intelligent machines, the pace of innovation could be extraordinarily steep, and the end of drudgery could come quickly. In a world without work everyone would be free—but, in our current system, some would be free to starve.

However, at least one reader suggested that the effect of truly game-changing nanotechnology or AI could not concentrate wealth, because its spread would be uncontainable, making it impossible to enforce intellectual property laws. The resultant increases in wealth would be free for the taking. This is an interesting point. I’m not sure it blocks every pathway to pathological concentrations of wealth—but it offers a ray of hope I hadn’t seen before. It is interesting to note, however, what a strange hope it is: The technological singularity that will redeem human history is, essentially, Napster.

Fewer people wanted to tackle the issue of an infrastructure bank. Almost everyone who commented on this idea supported it, but many thought either (1) that it need not be funded now (i.e. We should take on more debt to pay for it) or (2) that if funded, it must be done voluntarily.
It was disconcerting how many people felt the need to lecture me about the failure of Socialism. To worry about the current level of wealth inequality is not to endorse Socialism, or to claim that the equal distribution of goods should be an economic goal. I think a certain level of wealth inequality is probably a very good thing—being both reflective and encouraging of differences between people that should be recognized and rewarded. There are people who can be motivated to work 100 hours a week by the prospect of getting rich, and they often accomplish goals that are very beneficial. And there are people who are simply incapable of making similar contributions to society. But do you really think that Steve Jobs would have retired earlier if he knew that all the wealth he acquired beyond $5 billion would be taxed at 90 percent? Many of people apparently do. However, I think they are being far too cynical about the motivations of smart, creative people.

Finally, many readers said something like the following:

If you or Warren Buffett want to pay more in taxes, go ahead. You are perfectly free to write the Treasury a check. And if you haven’t done this, you’re just a hypocrite.

Few people are eager to make large, solitary, and ineffectual sacrifices. And I was not arguing that the best use of Buffett’s wealth would be for him to simply send it to the Treasury so that the government could use it however it wanted. I believe the important question is, how can we get everyone with significant resources to put their shoulders to the wheel at the same moment so that large goals get accomplished?

Imagine opening the newspaper tomorrow and discovering that Buffett had convened a meeting of the entire Forbes 400 list, and everyone had agreed to put 50 percent of his or her wealth toward crucial infrastructure improvements and the development of renewable energy technologies. I would like to believe that we live in a world where such things could happen—because, increasingly, it seems that we live in a world where such things must happen.

What can be done to bridge this gap?

 

 

  1. The Gini coefficient is a measure of wealth inequality in a society. It is also one of the best predictors of its homicide rate—better than GDP, unemployment levels, energy consumption per capita, or any other measure of average wealth. This suggests that it is relative rather than absolute scarcity that motivates violent competition between people (see, for instance, Daly, Wilson, & Vasdev, “Income inequality and homicide rates in Canada and the United States.” Canadian Journal of Criminology, April 2001: 219-236).

 

Categories: Political Opinion

Pick Your Poison

June 7, 2011 4 comments

Joel S. Hirschhorn

One of the hardest truths to accept is that for most sources of pain hitting humans there seems to be nothing effective for government to do. Nowadays, those of us who do not gobble various distractions but work to stay connected to reality see two dreadful conditions. Nature seems mad as hell. People are dying or suffering from earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes, extreme heat, huge snow storms and more. While some idiots keep trying to deny the reality of global climate change, those of us who have lived a long time see firsthand that killer weather events are more prevalent than ever.

While you may be fighting your paranoia about being victimized by foul weather the other ugly reality already devastating the lives of so many people is a dismal set of economic conditions. Contrary to all the usual lies by politicians about the economic recovery, a mountain of data shows non-delusional people that only the wealthy have escaped economic pain.

According to a recent Pew Charitable Trusts poll, 55 percent of Americans still rate the national economy as poor, and just 47 percent believe their kids will have a higher standard of living than they enjoy. If more people paid closer attention to the facts, those percentages should be more like 80 or 90 percent.

The US has recovered just 1.8 million of the nearly 9 million jobs lost in the downturn versus an average 5.3 million job gains in the same period of the 1970s and 1980s recoveries. The number of people with jobs has barely changed since June 2009 — up just 0.4 percent. Many economists say the turnaround shows no signs of generating the 300,000 to 400,000 monthly payroll additions needed to rapidly lower the unemployment rate. There are probably about 50 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed or no longer trying to get decent jobs, or who are close relatives of them. The rise of the official unemployment rate in May, 2011 (the real level is twice as high) and a paltry new number of jobs just rubbed salt in the wound. There simply is no basis for believing that many millions of new, good jobs will be created for many years.

Add the latest news that the housing market has turned even worse again, leading to the distressful conclusion that a double-dip recession has hit housing, which portends even wider economic pain. Single family home prices dropped in March, 2011 to their lowest level since April 2009. Millions of home foreclosures will be followed by even more. Of all homes with mortgages 23 percent are worth less than what is owed.

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The Danger of American Fascism

May 22, 2011 5 comments

Henry A. Wallace

An article in the New York Times, April 9, 1944.
From Henry A. Wallace, Democracy Reborn (New York, 1944), edited by Russell Lord, p. 259.

On returning from my trip to the West in February, I received a request from The New York Times to write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist?

How many fascists have we?

How dangerous are they?

A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party.

The perfect type of fascist throughout recent centuries has been the Prussian Junker, who developed such hatred for other races and such allegiance to a military clique as to make him willing at all times to engage in any degree of deceit and violence necessary to place his culture and race astride the world. In every big nation of the world are at least a few people who have the fascist temperament. Every Jew-baiter, every Catholic hater, is a fascist at heart. The hoodlums who have been desecrating churches, cathedrals and synagogues in some of our larger cities are ripe material for fascist leadership.

The obvious types of American fascists are dealt with on the air and in the press. These demagogues and stooges are fronts for others. Dangerous as these people may be, they are not so significant as thousands of other people who have never been mentioned. The really dangerous American fascists are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.

If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. Most American fascists are enthusiastically supporting the war effort. They are doing this even in those cases where they hope to have profitable connections with German chemical firms after the war ends. They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.

American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery.

The European brand of fascism will probably present its most serious postwar threat to us via Latin America. The effect of the war has been to raise the cost of living in most Latin American countries much faster than the wages of labor. The fascists in most Latin American countries tell the people that the reason their wages will not buy as much in the way of goods is because of Yankee imperialism. The fascists in Latin America learn to speak and act like natives. Our chemical and other manufacturing concerns are all too often ready to let the Germans have Latin American markets, provided the American companies can work out an arrangement which will enable them to charge high prices to the consumer inside the United States. Following this war, technology will have reached such a point that it will be possible for Germans, using South America as a base, to cause us much more difficulty in World War III than they did in World War II. The military and landowning cliques in many South American countries will find it attractive financially to work with German fascist concerns as well as expedient from the standpoint of temporary power politics.

Fascism is a worldwide disease. Its greatest threat to the United States will come after the war, either via Latin America or within the United States itself.

Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after “the present unpleasantness” ceases:

The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination against other religious, racial or economic groups. Likewise, many people whose patriotism is their proudest boast play Hitler’s game by retailing distrust of our Allies and by giving currency to snide suspicions without foundation in fact.

The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism. They cultivate hate and distrust of both Britain and Russia. They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.

Several leaders of industry in this country who have gained a new vision of the meaning of opportunity through co-operation with government have warned the public openly that there are some selfish groups in industry who are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage. We all know the part that the cartels played in bringing Hitler to power, and the rule the giant German trusts have played in Nazi conquests. Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.

It has been claimed at times that our modern age of technology facilitates dictatorship. What we must understand is that the industries, processes, and inventions created by modern science can be used either to subjugate or liberate. The choice is up to us. The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. It was Mussolini’s vaunted claim that he “made the trains run on time.” In the end, however, he brought to the Italian people impoverishment and defeat. It was Hitler’s claim that he eliminated all unemployment in Germany. Neither is there unemployment in a prison camp.

Democracy to crush fascism internally must demonstrate its capacity to “make the trains run on time.” It must develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels. As long as scientific research and inventive ingenuity outran our ability to devise social mechanisms to raise the living standards of the people, we may expect the liberal potential of the United States to increase. If this liberal potential is properly channeled, we may expect the area of freedom of the United States to increase. The problem is to spend up our rate of social invention in the service of the welfare of all the people.

The worldwide, agelong struggle between fascism and democracy will not stop when the fighting ends in Germany and Japan. Democracy can win the peace only if it does two things: Speeds up the rate of political and economic inventions so that both production and, especially, distribution can match in their power and practical effect on the daily life of the common man the immense and growing volume of scientific research, mechanical invention and management technique.

Vivifies with the greatest intensity the spiritual processes which are both the foundation and the very essence of democracy.

The moral and spiritual aspects of both personal and international relationships have a practical bearing which so-called practical men deny. This dullness of vision regarding the importance of the general welfare to the individual is the measure of the failure of our schools and churches to teach the spiritual significance of genuine democracy. Until democracy in effective enthusiastic action fills the vacuum created by the power of modern inventions, we may expect the fascists to increase in power after the war both in the United States and in the world.

Fascism in the postwar inevitably will push steadily for Anglo-Saxon imperialism and eventually for war with Russia. Already American fascists are talking and writing about this conflict and using it as an excuse for their internal hatreds and intolerances toward certain races, creeds and classes.

It should also be evident that exhibitions of the native brand of fascism are not confined to any single section, class or religion. Happily, it can be said that as yet fascism has not captured a predominant place in the outlook of any American section, class or religion. It may be encountered in Wall Street, Main Street or Tobacco Road. Some even suspect that they can detect incipient traces of it along the Potomac. It is an infectious disease, and we must all be on our guard against intolerance, bigotry and the pretension of invidious distinction. But if we put our trust in the common sense of common men and “with malice toward none and charity for all” go forward on the great adventure of making political, economic and social democracy a practical reality, we shall not fail.

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Categories: Political Opinion

Fukushima – What They Aren’t Saying


By TC Burnett

5-3-11

“Cold shutdown” means the reactor cores – and the used fuel pools – decrease in temperature through 100 degrees C and continue to go down after a couple of days without additional cooling. If that doesn’t happen within 48 hours, it isn’t going to. E-V-E-R. The reactors are still ‘in service’ – which means the fuel is still reacting. It hasn’t happened at Fukushima and it never will.
Pouring water on those reactors may keep them from getting worse – but it doesn’t make them any better. And it creates the potential of another earthquake dumping millions of gallons of radioactive water all over the Pacific. They can’t continue to create highly radioactive water at the rate of 21 cubic meters per hour for 200 years but the minute they stop the fuel goes critical again. There is no way to stop it except burning it up all at once with a few nukes.
So this report, which makes the situation sound less and less serious as the days pass, isn’t telling the full story. Part of it simply isn’t true. They have been pumping that amount of water every day for months now but they reported 60,000 tonnes on April 11 and the total amount in the facility has officially remained at ‘a little less than 70,000 tonnes’ ever since. That cannot be unless they are dumping it in the ocean and lying about it.
Did I read that smoke is still coming from two of the reactors? Yep. So the problem still exists in a big way – it’s just been relegated to the back page.
Did I read that workers are spraying an ‘anti-scattering agent’ on the ground to control dust? Yep. For some reason I don’t immediately see the formula, so it has to be something simple. It’s probably just water-based acrylic polymer paint. Whatever it is, ‘anti-scattering agent’ is spiffy-sounding name that doesn’t mean anything but ‘dust control’.
I’m tempted to tell them that if they want to control dust, splashing ‘anti-scattering agent’ around with a fire hose might not be the best way to do it.

I SAW THE MOON

April 24, 2011 1 comment

By Gaither Stewart

(Rome) Last Saturday night I saw the Supermoon. The same March 19 night that Operation “Odyssey Dawn” was launched against the Libya of Muammar Gadaffi, the earth’s star in all its glory passed its nearest point to planet Earth as it does every 19 years. This time it was a full moon. It hovered over my house. At midnight the yellow Supermoon illuminated my front yard almost as a winter sun does at midday. That same night the same moon shone also over Tripoli, 600 miles the south, illuminating all of Libya as it did my front yard.

Under that moon, French Rafale jets attacked Libya. The impatient, arrogant and presumptuous French President Sarkozy showed off his new Rafale aircraft to the Arab world where France apparently hopes to sell loads of the new fighter plane. Tactically, Sarkozy simply jumped the gun in order to get there first. To put the French stamp on the operation and to claim a slice of the post-Gadaffi Libyan pie. The Rafales attacked before Italy had time to accomplish its role of knocking out Libyan radar guiding Gadaffi’s anti-aircraft. To astonished Libyan gunners, the Rafales must have looked like a sitting duck up there against that moon.

If you are in Europe today, you would not suspect that the US Africa Command under General Carter Ham might be in charge of Operation Odyssey Dawn. Except for the rain of 158 US missiles over Libya, in Europe the US is barely mentioned as a participant. Here, it is depicted as a European operation, with US backup. In fact on March 21, three days after the start of the air strikes, European media spoke of US withdrawal from the operation. But history shows that is pure fantasy. American withdrawal from a war seems highly unlikely. And to boot a war against that good old enemy Muammar Gadaffi is highly doubtful.

However America’s position may be, it was the military anomaly of the French jumping the gun that set the stage for the dissension already dividing the ranks of the European nations supposedly adhering to the UN Resolution to establish a no fly zone over Libya and to protect Libyan civilians. Three days into the operation against Gadaffi and the Coalition of Volunteer Nations is already split. No one seems to be in command. Italy and France are at each other’s throats. Italy threatens to withdraw its airbases and go it alone if overall command is not put in the hands of NATO, preferably operating in the Naples headquarters with Italian support. NATO has said it is willing to assume command. But France wants the leadership for itself.

Not only the Italo-French controversy over who is in command, but also the question of what to do with Gadaffi, when and if he is deposed, perplexes Europe: exile abroad, or exile somewhere in Libya, or trial in The Hague for crimes against humanity, or (unspoken but intimated: his assassination). Hard to forget is that only several months ago Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi received his friend Muammar in Rome with full honors and kissed the dictator’s hand in public. Accompanied by his female bodyguard, his Amazonian Guard, Gadaffi set up his tents in a Rome park, where his horses and camels grazed while he was feted left and right. Also, though less ostentatious, Sarkozy recently received Gadaffi as a chief of state in the Elysée Palace in Paris.

Major European concerns are Libyan oil, trade and other economic considerations after the eventual deposition of Muammar Gadaffi. Meanwhile, Gadaffi’s threats to flood Europe with one million immigrants worry especially Italy and France. And Gadaffi’s “long war” threat hangs heavy over Europe and the North African Renaissance. Those who at first spoke of a Blitzkrieg, a lightning war, over in a few hours or days, are today scratching their heads in consternation. The question is, how to attack Gadaffi’s tanks and troops hidden in villages and small towns, waiting, waiting, waiting. The long war indeed seems more likely.

The ugly reality that dictators no less ferocious and corrupt than Gadaffi reign over other Middle East countries is a distasteful subject largely shrugged off: ‘After all we can’t discipline the whole world.’ Or, as someone asked, who can imagine bombing Saudi Arabia? Especially Italy is cautious in Libya both because of its own atrocious colonial record of cruelty there last century and because Libya is a major trading partner. Also, Prime Minister Berlusconi now feels sorry for his friend Muammar, who however accuses Italy of betrayal.

Also France has a bad colonial record in North Africa as a whole. Ironically, French-speaking Tunisian immigrants are pouring into the reception center on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa with a population of 5000 and only 165 miles east of Tunisia. Today there also 5000 immigrants, a majority of whom want to move on to France. Xenophobic voices in Italy and France call for a naval blockade around Tunisia and Libya to halt the flow: another act of war despite the UN definition of “humanitarian intervention” for the operation in Libya that every European knows is already war.

Europe is divided. Germany refused to participate in Odyssey Dawn from the start. Other nations followed the German lead. Turkey opposes the intervention, tout court. Russia likewise condemns it. Norway first sent its aircraft then withdrew them to wait and see who will be in command. Other participating nations demand NATO overall command. No country except France likes the so-called Coalition of Volunteer Nations because France wants to go it alone in order to reap the greatest benefits.

Italian leftwing media are perplexed. All agree Gadaffi should go. Most agree that Libya is a different story from Egypt and Tunisia. Many also doubt claims of a spontaneous uprising of Libyan people, poorly armed and disorganized. Many suspect the usual hidden roles of foreign powers and that the Libyan crisis was created artificially, something like Iraq and Kosovo. Yet, on the evening of March 21, at the end of the third day of the “conflict” (use of the word “war” is largely frowned on in Italy since Italian President Napolitano declared this was NOT a war but a humanitarian intervention, a view which many consider naïve) a major leftwing TV talk show introduced a big group of  North Africans and Arab-speaking journalists to depict the Libyan insurrection as a truly popular uprising against a dictator. An Italian Arab-speaking female journalist with long experience in the Arab world and who resides in Egypt declared with great passion: “After decades and decades of cruel oppression, people everywhere inevitably reach the point where they rise up and say “No! No more. We will take no more. The dictator must go”.