Skip to main content


leaderless groups have a natural tendency to elect self-centered, overconfident and narcissistic individuals as leaders
That is the finding of a 2008 study from Ohio State researchers.

A recent post of the Harvard Business Review Blog asks a great question...

Why do so many incompetent men become leaders?

While this certainly speaks to Republicans broadly...it also speaks to the political class, the media and certainly to Democrats.

While the HBR post is concerned with gender balance (important to be sure) it raises a more substantial question.

Lets talk about it for a minute

Continue Reading

On Januare 6th, 2012 Michael Scott Moore, an American surf journalist and progressive writer was kidnapped by Somali pirates.

He was there researching a book on Somali pirates.

From The Inertia

two weeks into Moore’s trip, he was scheduled to take a flight to Nairobi via Mogadishu when en route to the airport he was kidnapped in Galkayo by 15 men in two SUVs who were government-provided security guards that secretly conspired with pirates to take Moore hostage.

Two days after Moore was kidnapped, Somali leader Mohamed Ahmed Alim tried to negotiate with the captives but they would not discuss his release until a ransom was paid. Moore is currently being held for ransom for 20 million dollars to be paid by American or German governments. Moore is also amongst two other captives Songorrie Marc and Rolly Tambara and the crew of the ship Aride, which was hijacked off the Seychelles.

On January 25th 2012 one week after Michael was kidnapped, U.S. Special Operations troops in nearby Camp Lemonnier locked down the town of Galkayo after planning a rescue mission weeks in advance for two DDG workers that were previously kidnapped in the same region under similar fashion.

Then SEAL Team 6 went in to try to rescue him
U.S. Navy Seal Team 6 gathered Intel using phone intercepts, surveillance and visual confirmation and High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) jumps from the sky which silently executed all nine kidnappers. Just so there were no surprises each armed kidnapper either sleeping or awake was killed using double tap shooting techniques which is when two well-aimed shots are fired at a single target with very little time in between, the latter being the kill shot. These highly trained tactics helped in the 3:30am blacked out rescue mission and resulted in the successful rescue of American Jessica Buchanan age 32 and Danish citizen Dane Poul Thisted age 60 of the Danish Demining Group (DDG). The two hostages were lifted back onto a nearby waiting helicopter. There was not enough time to locate or include Moore in the tightly coordinated and timed rescue mission. Rescuers knew that the fate of Moore would be adversely affected by the successful rescue attempt of the two hostages. U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 is the same SEAL squad that killed Osama bin Laden.
And now he is just still there...

What can we do on our end to push for more activity from Secretary of State et al?

Discuss

As I watched Paul Krugman Sunday night on Bill Moyers, I felt a familiar sense of despair. Krugman cares deeply about unemployment and inequality, as did John Maynard Keynes before him. Yet like Keynes, Krugman seems caught in the inequality-free neoclassical paradigm.

I study the "classical" economists, starting with Adam Smith. Inequality loomed large in their world. They divided society into three broad classes: First, the landlords: the original One Percent, the Downton Abbey crowd, the "great proprietors" of vast estates. Then the capitalists: the merchants and manufacturers. Last: the workers. The classical economists asked, what determines the distribution of income between these classes? But around the end of the 19th Century, the "neoclassical" paradigm swept in. Gone were the three social classes with dramatically different wealth and income. There were only consumers -- from old Aunt Esther on Social Security to Donald Trump; producers -- from Harry's Shoes to General Motors; and government. Business cycles were best left to play themselves out.

During the Great Depression, to his credit, Keynes bucked his colleagues by claiming that government spending could revive a depressed economy. But, caught in the neoclassical paradigm, he got the mechanism wrong. Keynes argued, as does Krugman today, that the problem is a lack of consumer demand. Consumers want to save instead of spend. Lacking demand, businesses won't invest. So there's a "savings glut" or "liquidity trap" -- billions in cash sloshing around seeking in vain for investment opportunities. The solution: government should borrow some of that loose cash and spend it, no matter on what: war, high-speed rail, fixing potholes, or education. Deficits be damned.

Continue Reading

The terms “liberal” and “conservative” are widely used in our political discourse. We apply them without much conscious thought. Yet, many of us who might willingly describe ourselves with one of these two labels are ourselves unsure of what we have in common with others who do likewise.

In a very general way, being liberal is thought to suggest approval of government intervention to promote an equality of treatment for all individuals under law. A liberal is also thought to support the social objective of greater equality of opportunity where the distribution of personal wealth and income are concerned. A conservative, on the other hand, is thought to favor a far more narrow interpretation of government’s responsibilities in the protection of civil liberties or pursuit of equality objectives. In point of fact, these seemingly clear distinctions tell us very little.

Except for those individuals whose writing, statements or actions puts them clearly outside the mainstream, there is considerable cross-over by so-called liberals and conservatives on many policy issues. Often, an individual’s ideological rhetoric conflicts markedly with the type of policy initiatives pursued when holding political office or serving in some advisory capacity. One reason for such inconsistencies is that our socio-political arrangements and institutions serve to mitigate and limit the range of policies around which a consensus can be built. There is a remarkably homogeneous value system holding a citizenry together, despite a nation’s tremendous diversity in ethnic, religious, and racial makeup.

Continue Reading

Over the weekend on Up with Chris Hayes Chris and Glen Greenwald exchanged thoughts on the new film "Zero Dark 30" as a theatrical apology for torture

Hayes and Greenwald agreed that the US has not had a reckoning of the torture issue either in a legal sense or in a moral one. Because of this lack of reckoning we a s a nation still have a strange and veiled relationship with torture.

Lets explore why reckoning is so important to the healthy soul of an individual or a whole country.

Continue Reading

crossposted with permission from wealthandwork.com

What people seem to know, at this point, is that

A. Our economy remains weak; unemployment is high and growth is faltering (but we’re better off than Europe!)

B. Our government has been borrowing too much money; our level of national debt is unsustainable.

Nevertheless, government needs some revenue, and not just to pay off the debt and close up shop: government has useful, meaningful jobs to do.

So what’s the plan? Well, the White House and Congress are jockeying for position on what everyone agrees Must Be Done before year’s end. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the effect of doing nothing — of going over the cliff, in other words — would be a four per cent GDP drop in the coming year, leading to a recession. The “Bush tax cuts” would automatically end, and both defense and non-defense discretionary spending would be hit with cuts totaling $110 billion annually.

So: we need stimulus, and we need revenue. But additional federal borrowing would be dangerously irresponsible, and additional federal stimulus, via tax cuts, would increase the deficit.

One way to get some revenue, according to Treasury Secretary Geithner, would be to end the “emergency” payroll tax cut. “This has to be a temporary tax cut,” he told the Senate Budget Committee this year, “I don’t see any reason to consider supporting its extension.”

This year, the payroll tax cut has reduced workers’ tax on wages up to $110,100 to 4.2 percent from 6.2 percent. In 2012 that translated into a $700 tax cut for a person making $35,000 a year. Independent analysts, according to the New York Times, predict that ending the payroll tax holiday would shave a percentage point off of economic output in the coming year, and cost as many as a million jobs.

The payroll tax cut, however, is small potatoes in the ongoing debate over how to avoid the “Fiscal Cliff.” The biggest bone of contention is the question of whether to continue the Bush tax cuts for households earning more that $250,000 per year. And yet, according to the Congressional Budget Office, continuing the tax cuts for those high-wage families would gain our economy a mere 200,000 jobs in 2013!

There is widespread agreement among economists that progressive taxes offer far less overall burden to economic activity than regressive or neutral taxes do. The reason is simple: When lower-income people have extra money, they spend it. People with higher incomes are more likely to save their extra income. Or, they might invest their extra money. The problem with that, though, is that there’s no certainty that they’ll invest in the virtuous work of productive firms. Not only does our tax code not distinguish between investments that are productive and those what are merely redistributive, it actively favors “capital gains” and real estate, endeavors that widen the gap between rich and poor while creating precious few jobs.

One might say that these economic truths are well-known, but — they were lost, in any case, on California’s voters this year. California is facing serious fiscal problems and needs revenue. Proposition 30, which voters approved, increases income taxes on taxpayers making over $250K, and increases sales taxes by almost four percent. Advocates of the measure touted its progressiveness — and indeed, some 78% of the tax increase would be borne by California’s top 1% of earners. But if progressivity was the selling point, when why the sales tax hike? Its supporters conceded that while the overall effect of Prop 30 is strongly progressive, would nevertheless compel the bottom two-fifths of Californians to pay more of their incomes in state taxes — which could only come from the sales tax part of the deal..

Meanwhile, California’s notorious Proposition 13, the referendum that deeply wounded California’s economy and created the fiscal mess in which it finds itself, is still on the books. And a 2010 initiative that truly would have revitalized California’s economy failed to get on the ballot. The “Prosper California” plan would have eliminated the sales tax, done away with wage taxes on incomes under $150K and instituted a state-wide levy on the rental value of land. What a boon that would have been to the largest state economy in the US!

Let’s hope it can garner enough support next time around. Had the “Prosper California” initiative actually been adopted, the Golden State would have been a position to demonstrate, to the rest of the states and the world, that unemployment is unnecessary. By curbing sprawl-inducing land speculation and real estate booms and busts, California could have put all its citizens, and all its immigrants, to work without breaking anybody’s bank.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” This maxim has been misattributed to Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain. Today I read that it actually first appeared in a 1981 pamphlet from Narcotics Anonymous.

Ah, well. It’s still a worthwhile saying. However, I don’t think it truly applies to the current state of public dialogue concerning tax policy and the “Fiscal Cliff.” I don’t think our leaders are insane — although they do indeed seem to be planning to do the same things they’ve always done. I suspect that achieving exactly the same results will actually suit them just fine.

Discuss

I have been incensed about the whole "dignity of work" talk lately from Romney and Ryan and others. Particularly Ryan and his whole "social magesterium" talk.

But I came across this article today by Yasha Levine that captured the deep history around this bent notion of "the dignity of work". I certainly know about the long tradition of taking core resources from people around the world to steal economic rent but Levine really catches the "intellectual" line of thought justifying it that continues into today with the radical right wing. The author has given me permission to publish it in full.

“…everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.”

—Arthur Young; 1771

Our popular economic wisdom says that capitalism equals freedom and free societies, right? Well, if you ever suspected that the logic is full of shit, then I’d recommend checking a book called The Invention of Capitalism, written by an economic historian named Michael Perelmen, who’s been exiled to Chico State, a redneck college in rural California, for his lack of freemarket friendliness. And Perelman has been putting his time in exile to damn good use, digging deep into the works and correspondence of Adam Smith and his contemporaries to write a history of the creation of capitalism that goes beyond superficial The Wealth of Nations fairy tale and straight to the source, allowing you to read the early capitalists, economists, philosophers, clergymen and statesmen in their own words. And it ain’t pretty.

more after the fancy orange cream puff...

Continue Reading

This piece is reprinted here in full with the permission of the author @sylvainlapoix

and was originally published here

Oil companies are making use of techniques and personnel from the psychological warfare unit of the US military, in their efforts to convince local populations drop their resistance to large-scale shale gas exploration operations in the northeastern United States.

The information emerged from an otherwise unremarkable conference of communications directors working for shale gas and oil companies. The Hydraulic Fracturing Initiative 2011, held in early November at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Houston, Texas,  gave the floor to several industry executives. Amongst them was Matt Pitzarella, from the company Range Resources, who boasted of the methods employed in Pennsylvania to break the resistance of locals concerned about the effects of hydraulic fracturing on their living environments:

We were particularly concentrated at Range with setting up a proactive initiative vis-à-vis the local population. [...][A communications official] has got people interested in the idea of turning to other economic and industrial sectors, namely, the Army and Marines. We have several guys from PsyOps (the nickname used to refer to psychological warfare operations in the U.S. Army) who work for us at Range, because they’re particularly comfortable with global issues and local governments. [...] [They spent a large part of their time] assisting the understanding of the of psychological warfare operations that the Army has put in place in the Middle East. Which has been hugely helpful in Pennsylvania.
Road-tested on Iraqi insurgents, these methods of psychological warfare were now ready to be applied to US citizens.
Continue Reading
I have the permission of Polly Cleveland to repost this here. She isn't particularly DailyKos savvy. It was originally posted here Polly is a great economics professor at Barnard/Columbia and thinks elegantly about the intersection of land (in the classical economic tradition and privilege in the economic sphere.

Starting in the Colonial Era, New York, Boston and Philadelphia required all fresh meat to be sold by licensed butchers in regulated public markets. New York abandoned public markets in the 1840’s, with disastrous effects on public health. A working paper by economic historian Gergely Baics lays out the story:

Travel back in time to 1811, the year the Commissioners’ Plan lays out the street grid for Manhattan. Since 1790, New York City population has tripled to 96,000; housing now straggles north as far as Christopher Street on the west side.

On a cold and rainy night in April, a drover holds up his lantern and taps his stick on the backsides of six muddy steers. Mooing in the dark, the steers stumble from the Brooklyn Ferry on the East River, up Catherine Street, and across Division Street. The stench grows as they enter the slaughterhouse district near Collect Pond. By lamplight, blood-spattered workers hack up the animals, distributing the parts to waiting butchers, tanners, bone-boilers, soap-makers and tallow chandlers. Raw leftovers will be dumped in the river. The butchers wheel away slabs of beef to their stalls at the Fly Market. The Fly, occupying three blocks of Maiden Lane between South Street and Pearl Street, is the largest of nine public markets established by the New York City Council.

In the gray dawn before 6 AM, the butchers open for business. There’s no refrigeration; most of the meat will be gone by 10 AM. The first customers are men and servants from the wealthiest households. They buy the choicest cuts, at the highest prices. Over the hours, prices and quality fall. At 2 PM closing, butchers scrub their cutting blocks in a swirl of flies, while a few poor women hurry down the street looking for bargains. In the course of a year, New Yorkers will consume some 160 pounds of fresh red meat per capita, close to modern levels.

The City Council forbids private butcher shops. As the city grows, it establishes public spaces in easy walking distance of residents. Here, highly-skilled, city-licensed butchers operate from small stalls, paying fees to the city. City inspectors patrol for unsanitary conditions, mystery meat, or thumbs on scales. Customers comparison shop, keeping prices and quality competitive. The butchers also watch one another, reporting violations and creating peer pressure to maintain high standards. Butchers often keep the same stall for years, building trust with regular customers.

In short, the markets operate much like the ideal competitive markets we meet in Economics 101: many responsible sellers of standard products in a stable relationship with many well-informed buyers, meeting in a single physical location.

But things change in the 1830’s. As population explodes,—reaching 800,000 by 1860—the City Council fails to plan new markets or control illegal meat vendors. It stops maintaining the existing markets, which become dilapidated and filthy. In 1843, it legalizes private shops, and fully abandons public markets in 1848. Only a handful of inspectors remain to police hundreds of widely-dispersed private butcher shops. Health consequences are dire. Per capita fresh meat consumption falls, as does average adult heights—indicating poorer nutrition. The death rate triples from diarrheal diseases.

So why does the city abandon a successful policy? The cholera outbreak of 1832, and the Great Fire of 1835, impel the city to build the Croton Aqueduct, completed in 1842, bringing abundant clean water 41 miles from Westchester County. To pay the huge construction debts, the city diverts fees from the meat markets. The panic of 1837 and ensuing depression further cripple city finances.

What’s the lesson for derivatives markets?

Public securities exchanges, such as stocks and bonds, corn futures, or gold, operate on the same principles as public produce markets. Be it contracts or sirloins, licensed professionals trade standardized products on designated exchanges, according to rules meant to curb fraud and monopoly. Since the 1792 founding of the original stock exchange, new financial products have been brought onto regulated public exchanges—typically following a scandal. In 1998, a new private market sprang up in “derivatives”, like “credit default swaps”. Brooksley Born, Chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, proposed that the Commission be given oversight—only to run afoul of the free market trio of Alan Greenspan, Larry Summers, and Robert Rubin. The private derivatives markets mushroomed from 100 to 700 trillion before blowing up in 2008.

Lesson learned again: “free” markets need government oversight to operate safely and fairly. The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act will require derivatives to trade on regulated public exchanges. But a loophole allows the Treasury Secretary to exempt some derivatives. April 29, the Financial Times reported a “Victory for dealers and defeat for reformers,” –Secretary Timothy Geithner exempted over-the-counter foreign exchange swaps.

Meanwhile, public produce markets have returned to New York in the form of Greenmarkets. Natural and spontaneous though these markets appear, their annual report makes clear they’re licensed, inspected and regulated just like the old meat markets.

Discuss

In Uganda the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) forcibly recruited thousands of youth and plied them food, lack of food, threats and violence in order to make them stay as devoted members.

By all measures child soldier recruits were less able than adult ones in terms of strength, experience and tactical/organizing ability. So why were these the recruits of choice?

A) There are a lot of them but
B) The research suggests that children were pursued more aggressively and prized more because they were more easily indoctrinated and misinformed than adult recruits.

They would become true believers faster and easier. More likely to miss jumps in reasoning and logic.

The US military also relies heavily on near age 18 soldiers, even though age 28 soldiers are probably more skilled at most tasks. The US probably prefers younger soldiers because they are more easily indoctrinated, misinformed, and intimidated.

Which brings up the issue of schools.

It is easy to say that Republicans are anti-science and have a revisionist approach to history.

This is true, of course but the people who seem to be fighting hardest have the largest issue with social control around business and religious/moral/ethical frameworks.

The winner of such a fight gets to indoctrinate the numerous young people out there.

Once you are an adult who realizes that your younger self was unreasonably gullible, you should try to undo that bias, at least if you want to have accurate beliefs. If you can imagine how other powers would have instead tried to indoctrinate you, had they controlled your indoctrination, you might try to believe something in-between these
various indoctrination extremes.

Of course you should also add in whatever can be inferred from the fact that one particular power was in fact strong enough to win the contest to indoctrinate you. Though it is not clear why this would mean their indoctrination was more
true.

So what biases we expect from young school indoctrination? Perhaps excess respect for:

Teachers and their allies
Life value of formal education
Being quiet and doing what you are told
Governments like those that run schools
The region or nation where you lived
Having regular workday, like at school

The military is an especially capital intense industry, which makes it especially important to have skilled labor to complement all that expensive capital. All else equal, this would induce this industry to outcompete other industries for more skilled
workers, such as 28 year olds. So there must be some other factor that pushes them to hire 18 year olds. It can’t be pure physical strength and stamina, as few military jobs today require that.

This is all to say that it might not be the conscious reason that Republicans fight over school board issues and education issues but I think that the implicit desire is a deep type of social control and a type of homogenization of culture starting with children. They are the true believers of tomorrow. An uneducated population who operate as wage slaves will be easily directed.

Don't know where this leaves me exactly but I was thinking about it.

Discuss

Oh the debt ceiling.

Whatever your feelings about it we all want better outcomes the next time. But it seems that the game is played the same way every time which gets us similar outcomes.

Adam McKay tweeted this morning

Using Obama's negotiating method with my six year old. She gets 20 gallons of choco syrup, American Girl Doll. I get her not crying.

I wrote in my totally non-political blog just today about the power of leaning into obstacles as it regards children but more generally as well.

The common thought is that we dont like obstacles so we must avoid them or destroy them.

In my blog post a woman came to me frustrated that her children eat incredibly quickly and take huge, huge bites. She despairs and fights with them but to no avail.

I offered her the possibility of leaning into and raising her perceived obstacle so that she can see it in a new way.

The outcome is quite charming.

So with that method in mind I offer a thought experiment.

Obama sees how difficult and recalcitrant the Republicans are on every level. So instead of these silly negotiations Obama decides to say that he has seen the wisdom of the Republican world view and is changing parties - becoming officially a Republican. Though his policies might not actually change very much.

This throws the Republican party into a tizzy. "Can we trust him? and "What happens to our nominating process?" Rick Perry, Bachmann, Romney et al are totally screwed by such a move.

The Tea Party members in Congress and in America will be in a fit as well. How do they get past their abundant racism and other charming features with someone who claims to be on their side?

Democrats and Progressives will feel totally betrayed as well and will have to coalesce quickly and forcefully, more than normally because of this totally unheard of change in association, against Obama and do a very fast nomination process of their own and perhaps a new standard bearer might emerge who would make Democrats feel like Democrats.

Obama would be seen as one of the great political traitors, no doubt, but I could see how it could be a brilliant sacrifice to get a better President.

Again...just a thought experiment. What are your thoughts? What are some other ways that the obstacles we have can be leaned into for better outcomes?

Discuss

Tue May 24, 2011 at 11:24 AM PDT

Inside Job: Strauss-Kahn and Spitzer

by stillman

You all saw the film Inside Job, right?

In the film Strauss-Kahn and Spitzer come off as the sane visionaries to counter the insane myopia found in the majority of the financial world. I don't think they are 100% right in their analysis but they are righter than their opponents.

Both have been hobbled by sex scandals. Rape/sexual assault for the former and prostitution for the latter. This we know.

Yes, they both acted criminally/badly...but why them when we know that crimes of this ilk run so rampantly in the banking/political world?

Continue Reading
You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.

RSS

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site