Friday, August 19, 2016
EXEMPLARY NATION IN A TROUBLED WORLD
A small land situated between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, Iceland minds her own business and minds it very well. I was so impressed by what I saw and learned in a recent and first visit there with my family that I decided to write this short piece as a tribute to her people and their history and as a lesson that needs to be learned and practiced by the greatest troublemaking nation of all time during only 240 years of her existence, namely, America, a nation forever at odds with herself, constantly preparing for and engaging in war, and a nation that world opinion tells us is the greatest threat to peace in the world.
Iceland and America: Some Stark Differences
The two nations are mostly at the opposite ends of the important dimensions of life, Iceland at the positive end, America at the negative end.
In my book, America’s Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying I coined the term “sadtistics” as a summary for America’s mostly negative standings on those dimensions. For this article I am coining another term, “gladtistics,” as a summary of Iceland’s positive standings. What follows is a very brief side by side summary of the two nations’ standings.
Socioeconomics. Iceland stands very positively on income equality, employment, poverty level, and homelessness. America doesn’t.
Health and Health Care Services. Iceland has universal single payer health insurance. America doesn’t and, furthermore, has the most expensive health care system providing substandard health care. Icelanders live longer than Americans. Iceland’s infant mortality rate is much lower than America’s.
Environmental. Iceland, thanks partly to its geothermal energy suppy is the least polluted of all nations. Not so, America. She caters to the fossil fuel industry and its captivated politicians.
Crime and Domestic Violence. America has the highest and Iceland among the lowest of nations in total crime rate per capita. America ranks high among nations in intentional homicides. Iceland ranks almost “dead” last.
Law Enforcement. Iceland jails it scofflaw bankers. America bails them out. Iceland abolished capital punishment in 1928 but hasn’t executed anyone since 1830. America still uses capital punishment. Icelanders grieved after police shot and killed a suspect for the first time ever in 2014. It’s a common occurrence in America, where her police kill citizens over 70 times the rate of other first-world nations.
Military and Foreign Relations. Iceland has no standing army and her military budget is miniscule. America’s budget is larger than the next seven countries combined and has over one million uniformed personnel in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air force. Other than the “cod wars” with the UK over fishing rights, Iceland has never been at real war in modern times. America was born in the womb of war and has been addicted to that habit ever since.
Happiness. This may just be the most important dimension of life. Who wants to be unhappy? Iceland is the second happiest nation in the world. Americans are much less happy.
Those differences aren’t happenstance. There are reasons why they exist, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what they are.
In the Beginning. A good start, which Iceland had, is better than a bad start, which America had. Archeologists now think, contrary to the mythical Viking warrior landing on shore that Iceland was first inhabited between 770 and 880 AD as a temporary outpost from Scandinavia, Northern Europe or the British Isles, and used by the inhabitants to gather sea life resources. It was a peaceful beginning, in other words. America’s first inhabitants were peaceful Indians. They were soon slaughtered and their land confiscated by settlers from countries well accustomed to slaughtering and land grabbing.
The Place. People make the place, but it also makes the people. I’ll give you just three examples. Iceland is a small, un-crowded nation. America is large and crowded. Psychologists, like me, have shown that crowded rats in an experiment become aggressive and vicious. Secondly, malevolent leaders know how to keep a large crowd divided and conquered. Thirdly, America is a “sociopathic society” claims Charles Derber, a sociology professor at Boston College, not because of its people, he says, but because of America’s “values and rules of conduct.” I would add that those rules and values were created by the corpocracy (see below) for its own benefit.
Form of Governing. Iceland is a democracy. America is a corpocracy, which I call the “Devil’s Marriage” between large corrupting corporations and corruptible politicians. I wrote a whole book explaining how her corpocracy is turning America into a “ruination.” Furthermore, the nature of American politics and her rigged elections have prevented the American people from electing presidents who aren't psychopathological (a condition confirmed by many experts on the subject).
Guns and Ammunition. Icelanders aren’t permitted to carry handguns. In America there are about as many guns as there are Americans thanks to the pressure from the gun and ammunition industries, their trade hawkers, the National Rifle Association and the captive US Supreme Court’s biased reading of the 2nd Amendment.
Accentuating the Positive, Eliminating the Negative
The nearly 324 million Americans aren’t all evil, just the 5000 some members of America’s power elite, made up of corporate, political, and military leaders, the unelected “shadow” government (e.g., the CIA), and their ideological advisors who preach America’s ”manifest destiny” as an excuse for ousting democratically elected leaders of other countries and for bombing countries that don’t yield.
The urgent question if we are to be good ancestors of the future is how to unite and mobilize millions upon millions of good Americans to establish a government for them, not for the power elite. Armed revolution is absolutely not the way to end malevolent regimes. They have the power to crush armed people. Moreover, the only good path to peace is peace itself.
At the age of 81 I am doing what I can through my writings to urge America to change course before it’s too late. After visiting Iceland, I ask Americans to follow her example. I wish Iceland continued well being and for America I wish all Americans well being in the future.
About the Author
Gary Brumback, PhD, is a retired organizational psychologist and elected Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science. Since retirement he has studied and written about American history, current affairs and politics. His most popular books are The Devil’s Marriage: Break Up the Corocracy or Leave Democracy in thee Lurch; and America’s Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His blog post link is http://tinyurl.com/om7rxna.
Monday, August 1, 2016
AMERICA'S RAW STORY
Spinning the Legacies of America’s Presidents
So far there have been 44
presidents, each with their own legacy. Two of these presidents were in office
for only a month, so their legacies are short. Generally, the more malevolent a
particular president was in office the more the legacy needs to be spun to flatter
the subject and keep America’s powerless in the dark so as not to weaken the power
elite of America’s corpocracy; namely, its corporate, political, and military
leaders, along with the shadow government (e.g., the CIA director), and, in the
inner circle, fanatical proponents of America’s manifest destiny to control the
The 42 presidents all had in common two malevolent characteristics that needed the most spinning. One was their psychopathology, a condition of them all that has been substantiated by experts.1 The other is their unflinching willingness to authorize covert and overt wars that all told and so far have claimed and are continuing to claim countless millions of lives of civilians and those killed in combat.2 Currently, we are told that “the US is dropping bombs quicker than it can make them.”3 Before continuing reflect for a moment on what that quote really means. It means it’s just another sickening reminder of how heinous
elite are in their endless effort to control the world’s resources.
The purpose of this article is threefold: to shed the slime light on the whitewashing by America’s corpocracy of five of our nation’s truly despicable yet revered presidents; to show how legacy spinning is but a microcosm of the power elites’ broader agenda; and to point out the overall implications of that agenda.
The Real Legacy of President George Washington
As the nation’s first president George Washington also became the nation’s first “warrior-in-chief.” He advocated a “regular and standing” army to “awe the Indians, protect our Trade, prevent the encroachment of our Neighbours of Canada and the
Florida's---[and] establishing arsenals of
all kinds of military stores.”4 He relied on that army in the
Northwest Indian War that resulted in several thousand casualties and also in
quelling the so-called “whiskey rebellion.”5 Why should any
different behavior have been expected from a man who was an experienced warrior
on numerous occasions even before the American Revolution?6
The Real Legacy of President Abraham Lincoln
“Honest Abe?” As a young man, legend says it’s so. As president, real legend says “absolutely not!” Ordinarily I don’t quote whole paragraphs from other sources, but I am making an exception here: “A president of the
United States would never operate
outside the law, ignore the U.S. Constitution and the courts, shut down the
presses, imprison his domestic adversaries or turn his guns on his own people.
Well, Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president did of all of that and, curiously,
has been turned into a national hero for his troubles. Lincoln ignored his closest advisors and the
temper of the times to engage in the bloodiest war in American history, a war
that could easily have been avoided.” Thomas DiLorenzo, economics professor,
historian, and prolific author, wrote that passage in his book about “The Real
Lincoln.”7 One of his other books highlights the “dishonest Abe.”8
I have also written in two of my books about Lincoln and the Civil War, but I
don’t have Professor DiLorenzo’s credentials.9 In doing the research
to write the newer of those two books I read twice over Howard Zin’s
enlightening book on American history, and learned that Lincoln was actually a
racist.10 Perhaps more than any other president, Lincoln’s legacy is
the most spun.
The Real Legacy of President Thomas Jefferson
“The Monster of Monticello” is a most unflattering, nonfictional account of our third president as being “a creepy, brutal hypocrite.”11 He bought, kept, cruelly punished and sold his slaves (at least 85 slaves to pay for wine, art and other luxury goods) and “advocated harsh, almost barbaric, punishments for slaves and free blacks.”12 Even his own mistress remained a slave. He also excelled as a warrior-in-chief, presiding over battles with the Native Americans, the Barbary War, and in military battles against
The Real Legacy of President Harry Truman
Not much more truth needs to be revealed about the first inhuman being in the world to order the unnecessary dropping of atomic bombs on two populous cities, killing and maiming millions. Here is one survivor’s account of what happened to some of her schoolmates not so lucky as her: “Some fell to the ground and their stomachs already expanded full, burst and organs fell out. Others had skin falling off them and others still were carrying limbs. And one in particular was carrying their eyeballs in their hand.”13 The bombs didn’t need to be dropped.14
prepared to surrender, but not on Truman’s unreasonable conditions. Six of America’s
seven five star WWII admirals and generals said the atomic bombs were either
militarily unnecessary or morally reprehensible or both.15 Unfortunately,
they did not override their president. He fiendishly dropped the bombs to scare
the Soviet Union which, as everyone ought to
know, escalated into the military budget busting, nation wide scare (e.g. the
mania for bomb shelters) and saber rattling Cold War. Not to be outdone by
himself, he sent over 36,000 UA military to their graves during the Korean War.
The Real Legacy of President Dwight Eisenhower
Notable figures, including
presidents, begin to think about and start fashioning their legacies while they
are still alive. In his farewell address to the Nation warning about its
military/industrial complex, Ike masterfully implanted his legacy in the minds
of the gullible and unthinking public. It is probably the most duplicitous,
dishonest, disingenuous, hypocritical speech a national leader has ever made.
Here, after all, was the very man who presided over that very complex. What
else can we discredit him for as a warrior-in-chief? Ike rained havoc and
death, with the goading of his sinister Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles,
in Iran, Guatemala, Laos,
and the Congo
where, on Ike’s orders, the democratically elected governments of those
sovereign countries were toppled by the CIA, countless lives were lost, and to
this day bloodshed continues. And, along with Dulles, Ike introduced the world
to the doctrine of massive retaliation, bringing America to the brink of nuclear war
with China.16 To Ike’s credit, he was one of the generals objecting
to the nuclear bombing.
There you have it. The spun legacies of five admired
presidents who were in reality five psychopathic, surrogate murderers (Einstein
called war an act of murder). But not just five. The other 37 are simply
replicas in their own time.
Beyond Spinning to National and International Control
Power can be thought of as the capacity to control natural resources such as people, oil, gold; and unnatural resources such as deadly weapons. Obviously, the power elite have the most of that capacity in
if not also in the world. Less obvious, America’s presidents have
constrained power. It is not constrained as it should be by the Constitution
and the American people but by the rest of the power elite and not in a
It is deliberate not ironic that so much spinning is done on the presidents’ legacies when the rest of the power elite are probably as much to blame for America’s imperialistic and deadly behavior past and present. I made that perfectly clear in one of my books.17
But façade maintenance, or spinning, is hardly the only means for the power elite to maintain control over 325 million powerless Americans and to progress further toward the elite’s overall goal of controlling resources everywhere. The later form of control is the sine qua non of American imperialism, which has motivated her power elite ever since the birth of our nation.18
There are at least six ways in which the corpocracy’s power elite maintain control over
America’s powerless and, through the sixth way
to varying degrees of success over foreign nations where their rulers, ousted
conniving and military might, had opposed American hegemony. Let’s briefly
review those ways. Note that only a few include the spinning of presidential legacies.
Dumbing Down, Entertaining and Deceiving the Powerless
Journalist Charles Pierce calls us an “idiot America” where stupidity or ignorance is glorified.19 The power elite can’t risk a smarter America so they dumb her down.20 They started this process by launching public education not to educate but to standardize human robots for the Industrial Revolution and later to help America get ready for WW1.21 The spin masters took a page from religion, the standard for filling young, formative minds with doctrines, leaving little room left for critical reasoning to question those doctrines, including learning how to discover and distinguish real knowledge from beliefs, myths and propaganda.
The entertainment and mass media branches of the corpocracy are a perfect source for dumbing down the powerless. Hollywood, for instance, has had a “reel” interest in Washington’s wars and foreign policy affairs ever since it made training and propaganda films for President Woodrow Wilson’s administration in support of WWI and has typically portrayed U.S. Presidents idealistically.22 Needless to say, mass media coupled with government mouthpieces are even more influential because of their propagandized treatment of America’s past and present and, because the powerless, being much less knowledgeable, are easily deceived.23
Keeping the Powerless Impoverished
Curiosity, or the need to know, as in the need to know the truth about America’s presidents, is one of the human needs at the top rung of the late psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, a level the powerless rarely reach, and the powerful are determined to keep it that way.24 Struggling to reach or stay on top of the poverty level, a level that about 50 million Americans are below, the impoverished don’t have the time or even the energy to be curious about real history or even current events for that matter.25
Giving the Powerless Simulacrums, Holidays and Patriotic Props
Presidential images on money; presidential statues; presidential monuments; presidential names for States, cities, streets, and airports; and presidential holidays are all comparable ways of ensuring that the powerless remember and honor their past presidents, not dishonor them. Over the years, for example, millions of visitors have visited and been in awe over the
the Lincoln Memorial and . Mt.
Flag waving, flag day, National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance, honor guards, are all props of the power elite to ensure a sufficient level of patriotic obedience. The operative word there is obedience. True patriotism means declaring “my country, do right and no wrong.” Obedient, or jingoistic patriotism, on the other hand means “my country right or wrong.”
Giving the Powerless Operant Conditioning
Operant conditioning is a trick of the trade for psychologists who started it and for the power elite who have borrowed it. It involves continuously pairing something that is liked with something that is otherwise ignored or perhaps disliked so that the latter becomes liked also or at least tolerated. This trick comes in very handy for the power elite, making the spinning of legacies and the perpetuation of warriors-in-chiefs and their endless wars much easier. Think, for example, of the flyover of Air Force jets during a national holiday televised sporting event.
Terrorizing and Spying on the Powerless
The few thousand power elite know only too well that their privileged status would end if the majority of Americans decided in unity to end that status. The power elite have most of the wealth, perks and might of the land and thus the most to lose in any confrontation with the determined will of the people. In its self defense, we might say, the power elite resort to all sorts of tactics to terrorize and spy on
law abiding citizens. The following are just some of the tactics in use:
militarization of local police; arrests of peaceful protestors; monitoring of
millions of Americans; warrantless searches; and detention without trial. We
live in the land of the fearful and subjugated, not the ballyhooed “land of the
Waging Endless Covert and Overt Wars
America’s power elite were born in the womb of war and have been addicted to it ever since as the most expedient means to acquire more territory, to acquire more wealth, to change other nations’ regimes to more subservient ones, and simply to remain the most powerful, uncontested nation the world has ever known and will ever see. Dropping bombs quicker than can be made says it all about the power elites’ posture toward the rest of the world.
Implications: The Tale of Ovid
America’s power elite remind me of the Greek poet’s tale about Erisychthon, a mythological character who, because he was so greedy, was cursed to eat everything in sight including him self after all else had been consumed.26 He symbolizes for me America’s power elite and raises the question, “when will they consume themselves and the rest of the world with them”?
There is, however, a far more pressing question, “what must be done to make
America the land for the common
good and a peaceful global neighbor and to stave off doomsday?” The literature,
including my own works is replete with answers. None has worked so far. It is
obviously imperative that the right answer be found before it’s too late.
1. Apparently the psychopathology of
U.S. presidents is
“normal” if we can believe the findings from a study that relied on some 100
historical experts’ analyses of data on all U.S. presidents. The researchers
say they found this personality trait in every U.S. president. See, Howard, J. Psychopathic
Personality Traits Linked With U.S.
Presidential Success, Psychologists Suggest. The Huffington Post, September 13,
2012. And noted psychoanalyst Dr. Justin Frank seems to have found it also when
analyzing the backgrounds and behavior of Bush and Obama. See, Frank, J. Bush
on the Couch. Harper Perennial, 2005. Obama on the Couch. Free Press, 2012.
2. See, e.g., Brumback, GB.
Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying. Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2015, pp. 46-47.
3. Snyder, S. The
U.S. is Dropping Bombs Quicker Than
It Can Make Them. PRITheWorld, April 10, 2016.
4. Wikipedia. George Washington. See also; George Washington, Sentiments on a Peace Establishment. May 2, 1783.
5. Wikipedia. Shay’s Rebellion.
6. Wikipedia. Military Career of George Washington.
7. DiLorenzo, T. The Real
Lincoln: A New Look at
Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War. Crown Forum, 2009.
8. DiLorenzo, T. Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe. Crown Forum, 2009.
9. Brumback, GB. The Devil’s Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch. Author House, 2011, p. 38; see also, Brumback, 2015, p. 255.
10. Zinn, H. A People’s History of the
United States. Harper Perrenial,
2005, p. 188.
11. Finkelman, P. The Monster of
Monticello. New York
Times, November 30, 2012.
12. Finkelman, P. ibid.
13. Todhunter, C. Power and the Nuclear Bomb: Conducting Foreign Policy with the Threat of Mass Murder. Global Research, July 21, 2016.
14. Alperwitz, G. We Didn’t Need to Drop the Bomb-and Even Our WWII Military Icons Knew It. Salon, May 11, 2016. See also; Stone, O. & Kuznik, P. The Untold History of the
Gallery Books, 2012.
15. Alperwitz, ibid.
16. Chuckman, J. Some Rarely Discussed Truths Shaping Contemporary American Democracy: The CIA and
America’s Presidents. Counterpunch,
March 13-15, 2015. See also; Davies, NJS. America’s Coup Machine: Destroying
Democracy Since 1953. Alternet, April 8, 2014; and Blum, W. Killing Hope: U.S.
Military Interventions Since WWII. Common Courage Press, 1995.
17. Brumback, op cit., 2015, pp. 73-90.
18. Brumback, op. cit., 2015, pp. 32-36.
19. Pierce, CP. Idiot
How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free. Doubleday, 2009.
The Deliberate Dumbing Down of Iserbyt, CT. America.
Conscience Press, Revised & Enlarged Edition, 2011.
21. Brumback, op. cit., 2015, p. 143.
22. Brumback, op. cit., 2015, pp. 158-160. See also; Morgan, I. Reel Presidents: Hollywood Depictions of
Presidents. E-International Relations, October 24, 2013.
23. Brumback, op cit., 2015, pp. 151-156.
24. Maslow, A. Motivation and Personality. NY: Harper and Row Publishers, 1970. See also, Maslow, A. Toward a Psychology of Being.
: Wiley and Sons, 1999. Hoboken,
25. Clyne, M. Americans Living Below Poverty Level Line Hits Record Under Obama. Newsmax, July 29, 2016.
26. Zohar, D. & Marshall,
I. Spiritual Capital: Wealth We Can Live By.
AMERICA'S RAW STORY
Soaking the Public: The Insurance Industry and Captive Government
This is another occasional article in my crusade to put venal corporate America and its pawn, corrupted, captive government, in their well deserved slime light, one that can’t be missed by anyone who is observant and not fooled. Nevertheless, this article may shed some further slime light.
The industry evolved from the public’s and various organizations’ and enterprises’ needs to be protected at a cost less than being unprotected from the risks that might occur from various mishaps such as those associated with property damage, death, automobile accidents, health care; etc. The earliest instances of transferring or distributing risk date back 5,000 years to Chinese and Babylonian traders. In the U.S. today the industry is a booming trillion dollar annual business comprising over 6,000 companies and employing over two and one-half million people.
There are nearly 30 different kinds of insurance offered by the industry. There are even “back-up” reinsurance companies to insure the up-front insurance companies. No company offers all of the different kinds of insurance. Most insurance companies specialize in only one or a few of the different kinds.
Overview of the Regulators
Because the insurance industry can affect the public in bad ways there are various State and Federal regulatory entities with the purported purpose of implementing and enforcing laws designed to protect the public from wrongdoing by the protectors. Initially, insurance companies were regulated solely by the States where the companies operated, but a US Supreme Court self-reversing decision in the early 19th century led to some Federal laws and implementing regulations such as in cases of price fixing. Not that it mattered though as we shall see.
Capture of the Regulators by the Regulated
There probably isn’t any industry operating intra and inter-state in America that has not “captured” their regulators, making them protectors of the regulated and leaving the public unprotected. That is simply the way America’s corpocracy operates; namely, Government America’s acquiescence to Corporate America. The insurance industry, of course is no exception. Regulators become the protectors of unscrupulous protectors, so to speak.
There are several ways in which the insurance industry has captured State and Federal regulators; by financing political campaigns; by lobbying; by ghost writing lax and loophole regulations; and by skirting accountability or by minimizing fines for malfeasance. These modalities, of course, are not peculiar to the insurance industry.
Greasing Politicians’ Palms Campaign donations are simply bribes in disguise since corporations expect returns from their donations. The insurance industry is a major donor, giving in the 2012 election cycle nearly $55 million to parties and candidates.
Lobbying and Ghost Writing. In 2015 the industry spent over $150 million to lobby politicians to favor the industry. This amount triples the financing contributions, which tells us that some candidates who won weren’t the most favored ones so lobbying becomes much more important and expensive. A lobbyist’s penultimate achievements I should think are being allowed to ghost write favorable regulations and to thwart the passage of unfavorable legislation and ensuing unfavorable implementing regulations.
Revolving Door Public officials with responsibilities for governing the insurance industry leave government and join the industry or vice versa. The revolving door is a proven way to keep influence peddling by the industry moving along and the soaking of the public unabated.
Never Get In Jail and Wrist Slapping Because government, rather than being public controlled, is corporate controlled, that very same government will bend over backwards to be ignorant of or lenient with corporate wrongdoing. The insurance industry, like the other industries, benefits from government’s cover. When was the last time you read about an insurance executive going to jail or an insurance company given more than a slap on the wrist for legal wrongdoing?
Three Examples of the Industry’s Malfeasance and Government Complicity
I have searched for examples of legal and/or unethical industry malfeasance and government complicity in three of the larger and more familiar sectors; namely, health insurance, auto insurance, and home owners’ insurance.
Health Care Insurance The primary interest of the largest health insurance companies, being publicly traded on Wall Street, is to satisfy it and shareholders of huge financial investment firms. America’s health is incidental. And, according to the activist group, Americans for Health Care Now, the business practices of these companies “have become the model for the nonprofit insurance companies with which they compete.”
The model is more of wrong than right doing. Insurers confuse policyholders about their benefits’ forms; unduly deny coverage; constantly raise deductibles while shrinking coverage; and give stratospheric compensation to their CEOs for benefitting shareholders, not policy holders who continually get soaked by the CEOs’ decisions; and establish mergers that drive up the cost of premiums. And as is the case with the entire industry, its sophisticated and computerized technology helps the industry stay a step ahead of the regulators. Maybe the insured should unite and demand that NASA take over the oversight role! Just kidding.
The most egregious case of government collusion in this sector occurred when Obamacare was being drafted. Drafted by whom, you might ask? By revolving door people, of course. Here’s the low (and it’s very low on the ethics scale) down.
In this case the revolving door phenomenon created a health insurance system without a public option that has been a bonanza for health insurance companies while thoroughly soaking the public. As reporter Glen Greenwald explains, the main character in this nefarious plot was the chief health policy counsel in Congress who drafted Obamacare. She was previously a VP at the nation's largest health insurance provider; before that was on the staff of the same Senator’s office; and, after doing her drafting work, left for the pharmaceutical industry, a sleazy compatriot of the health insurance predators. Greenwald concluded that “it would be difficult to find someone who embodies the sleazy, anti-democratic, corporatist revolving door that greases Washington as shamelessly and purely as” that counsel. Glen, keep digging and you will surely find other equivalent cases.
If this true story were not enough “soak the public” nausea, the “gang of six” (i.e., the cabal within Congress that prevented single payer legislation), even proposed fining people who refused to buy health insurance. Now that’s trying to add a ton of salt to a very sore wound.
Auto Insurance Auto insurers gripe about spending money to defend against purported false claims and sometimes losing or missing the claims altogether. Tit for tat, I say. You don’t hear auto insurers brag about really achieving any meaningful self reform, do you? Here are some of their unreformed practices: coercing car repair shops to use cheap parts and sometimes dangerous practices (e.g., “headlights held together by glue, dented rims and a new hood that's already coming apart”); disputing in court and finally settling personal injury claims; overcharging policy holders; requiring, at least in some areas, unlimited personal injury protection and no-fault coverage; hem hawing in honoring claims; and short changing legitimate claims.
I will tell you an anecdote close to home, literally, since it involves a nearby neighbor of mine. Their vehicle, occupied by a family of four, two adults and their two teenage children, was sideswiped by another vehicle and went tumbling off the highway. The family was helicoptered to the nearest hospital with serious, but not fatal injuries. After a long period of medical care and spiraling medical bills the family recovered to a normal life again. Their insurance company, one of the industry’s largest and ranked by knowledgeable people as the worst, refused to pay all of the bills. The couple went to court but their lawyers bungled the case.
The most egregious collusion between this sector and government along with its laxity in enforcing the law is the government’s requirement that all auto drivers be insured. This mandate is obviously not only a bonanza but a life saver for auto insurers. The public not only gets soaked by this mandate but it also creates the so-called “moral hazard” among drivers, providing them with less of a disincentive to drive safely. The mandate is also prohibited by an article in the U.S. Constitution that forbids forcing individuals to enter into contracts against their will. When I told my neighbor about this illegal mandate her immediate response was that of comparing her experience with a totally uninsured experience, proving once again the “moral bind” “that you can’t live with insurance and you can’t live without it.”
Home Owners’ Insurance Fewer people own homes than own autos but enough do to make the home insurance industry a huge one. Needless to say, owning a home is a major investment. Risks to it obviously need to be shielded by insurance. The insurers, though, according to some reporters seem more interested in soaking than shielding policy holders by using various tactics “to reduce, avoid, or stall claims in an effort to boost their own earnings;” “routinely refuse to pay market prices for homes and replacement contents; use computer programs to cut payouts; change policy coverage with no clear explanation; ignore or alter engineering reports; sometimes ask their adjusters to lie to customers; and to “overestimate their losses and vastly overprice premiums.”
In General Throughout the Industry
As I was searching the web for the three sectors I would occasionally run into relevant items. For instance, a few cases of insurers being fined were found in my search, but the fines seem paltry compared to the overall profits of the insurers. No jail sentences were found for any company executives, but four State Insurance Commissioners have been sent to prison since 1991. All told, though, government sanctions for the industry’s malfeasance are rare and immaterial.
As for the industry’s campaign financing of candidates for State Insurance Commissioners, three-fourths of those positions are appointive rather than elective. No aggregate data were found in a cursory search for the industry’s financing of gubernatorial candidates or for candidates for the few elective positions. And no data was found showing how much the insurance industry lobbies governors and State Insurance Commissioners.
No significant industry reforms seem to be in sight, so we can expect to keep being soaked by it.
My motivation to write this article was heightened by my longstanding conceptual and experiential distaste for the industry. Conceptually, it is like a large casino that bets I am a low risk to it and will nevertheless extort me while I, on the contrary, am betting heavily and acting like I am a high risk to it. Experientially, I am a low risk policy holder (no claims ever), but I pay high risk premiums for auto and homeowners’ insurance policies. My premiums are always rising. My auto insurance company makes me share the costs of large claims (sometimes overloaded with law suits) from other policy holders; and a former homeowners’ insurance company-“you are in good hands with them”- washed their hands of all Florida policy holders even though my home is in a locality that has escaped a major hurricane in over 75 years.
To summarize my own reactions to the insurance industry; it is a necessary evil.
Friday, June 24, 2016
America's Raw Story
10 th Post
Life is a Crap Shoot
Life is a crap shoot whether walking down the street, driving on the highway and across the bridge, flying overhead, depending on other organizations (besides those that build cars, trucks, bridges and planes), or just plain living. We take our chances no matter how selective and careful we may be.
But the chances get riskier when dealing with any of the more risky organizations or any of the card carrying corporate members of the Devil’s marriage, the unequal partnership between corporations and subservient government.
Trained as an organizational psychologist I still stay tuned to organizations and their people nearly six decades later. Recently, for instance, I was rereading a published book review of mine in which I criticized the book’s co-authors’ theory about how “highly reliable organizations” (HROs) should manage uncertainty in the face of hazardous operations and environment; and also their choice of organizations against which to “benchmark” their recommendations.
Since HROs presumably are less of a crap shoot I have decided to revisit their study and my review and write this essay. It overviews the nature of organizations, examines the organizations they benchmarked, reports on a cursory search for any real HROs, discusses other criteria besides reliability for judging organizational performance, and finally concludes with a commentary about organizational performance and life in general being a crap shoot at best and a hazard to humanity and the future at worst.
You might very well question why I write this essay at all, and having done so, why I chose this venue for it instead of some academic journal. The reasons are three-fold. Academic journals in my field tend to be unrealistic and esoteric. Not one of us can ever get away any day from one or more aspects of organized life. And there are times when we want a particular organization (e.g., a hospital; an airliner; etc.) to be highly reliable.
Organizations: A Sweeping but Fleeting Perspective
1. Origin. My guess is that the first collective efforts, resembling an informal organization, to achieve a common purpose appeared in the hunter-gatherer period of history. The precursor of organizations as we know them today probably arose during the industrial revolution, although some civilizations such as that of China had very defined civil organizations thousands of years ago. As a matter of fact, the Chinese probably invented the familiar bureaucratic form of administrative organization.
2. Kinds. You name them. They in all their variety are everywhere pursuing purposes that define the kinds of organizations they are.
3. Size. Small to humongous. The world’s most humongous? My guess is the U.S. government by a long shot.
4. Shape. From flat to tall. The world’s tallest? My pick again is the US government. Years ago I counted the number of bureaucratic levels between the entry level claims representative for the Social Security Administration and the President of the US when SSA was still part of the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare---37 levels. Now that’s a mountainous pecking order with the biggest pecker at the top.
5. Performance. This is where the rubber meets the road. If an organization doesn’t perform there is no real point in its existing. At the same time, many organizations should not exist because their performance is irresponsible, even disastrously so.
There is a saying in my field that “people make the place.” That’s only partly true because the reverse is also true; namely, that the place makes the people. Another way of putting it is that an organization’s actions and the consequences of those actions are caused by both the organization’s people and the organization’s place; i.e., the organization itself along with the circumstances and situations that the organization encounters and its people sometimes create.
When the organization is a corporation and part of America’s corpocracy I can guarantee you that the place largely makes the people and mostly determines the organization’s performance, which usually amounts to negative successes (negative actions such as unethical and illegal ones that succeed in meeting the organization’s goals) and negative failures (negative actions that fail to meet the organization’s goals).
There are numerous criteria for judging an organization’s performance. The criterion of particular interest here for the moment is reliability. I define a highly reliable organization as one that unfailingly delivers the performance that end users expect and want and without any mishaps in the production or delivery phase.
The Benchmarked Organizations
The co-authors benchmarked five organizations as illustrating the right or the wrong way to manage for high reliability.
1. Bandelier, New Mexico Fire Department. A controlled burn became an uncontrolled inferno causing $1 billion damage.
2. The Bristol Royal Infirmary. It was known at the time as a doctor-knows-best culture with high children death rates. The place deserves to have been called an HDO, or high death organization.
3. Naval aircraft carriers. They have been, say the authors, “a prototype of high reliability systems from the beginning,” even though they say that the carriers “are the most dangerous 4 and ½ acres in the world.” My written reaction was that “I would give carriers barely a moderate rating considering the literature I’ve read on their safety record over the years. For instance, a fire broke out on the USS Kitty Hawk in 2008 causing many injuries and $70 million in damage. Moreover, one study found that on-board injury rates were slightly higher than for industries in general.
4. Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. In my assessment this particular plant and all other nuclear power plants are ticking radioactive time bombs that protestors have tried for decades to get closed. A plant can be accident-free yet till release harmful radiation. Moreover, the Diablo Canyon plant, besides sitting on an earthquake fault line once missed, as noticed in a safety inspection, about 22 missed weld quality hold points. How much radiation escapes from 22 leaky welds?
5. NASA. Sending astronauts into outer space is tricky business. Every detail and backups must be highly reliable. Tragedy may be just a heart-beat away, and that is what happened with the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters in 1986 and 2003 respectively.
You can now understand my aversion to academic literature. The co-authors were clearly benchmarking unreliable organizations, apparently to present lessons learned on what organizations should not do in hazardous situations. Maybe the co-authors could find no HROs to benchmark.
In any case, how well have the five organizations learned their lessons?
1. The Bandelier Fire Department apparently hasn’t had an opportunity to show what they did or didn’t learn. The same dangerous weather and dry brush conditions discounted before the uncontrolled fire have not occurred since.
2. The medical staff at the Bristol Royal Infirmary took umbrage at a staff anesthesiologist who blew the whistle on the circumstances surrounding the deaths and railroaded him out of his job.
3. The co-authors didn’t mention that aircraft carriers were once saturated with asbestos that found its way into crews’ lungs, later causing a serious lung disease and death in some cases. Carrier construction still uses asbestos but much less of it. Carriers still experience flight deck fatalities about once or twice a year.
4. No reported mishaps could be found at the Diablo Canyon power plant, yet it remains a disaster waiting to happen as it sits on an earthquake fault line. California authorities are debating whether to shut it down permanently. In 2014 a senior resident inspector was concerned that “the plant was operating outside the safety margins of its State license.”
5. NASA seems to have missed or forgotten some of its lessons. There have been several failures since the coauthors’ study. In 2014, for instance, an astronaut was killed and another seriously injured when their space ship disintegrated during a test flight over California.
In Search of HROs
Are there any HROs operating today in routinely and potentially hazardous conditions? I could find none from my extensive search of the Internet.
Cheap-costly, inefficient-efficient, slow-fast, and shoddy-flawless are some of the other bipolar criteria for judging organizational performance. Yet another one that I must mention is socially irresponsible-socially responsible.
This additional criterion is particularly important when it comes to corporations. To me corporate social responsibility means 1) staying financially viable, 2) providing socially beneficial products and/or services, 3) without knowingly causing any physical, psychological, financial or ecological harm, 4) without externalizing costs (e.g., job outsourcing, waste disposal), 5) without seeking or depending on “warfare welfare” or other government favors such as corporate personhood recognition, campaign financing, lobbying, subsidies, revolving doors, laissez-faire regulations, or criminal immunity, 6) conducting business ethically and legally, and 7) treating all stakeholders fairly and with dignity. As you can see, my definition is a very unforgiving one that allows no leeway because ethics, morality, and responsibility are not, in my opinion, relative matters. They only become relative when people morally rationalize their wrongdoing.
No corporation in the corpocracy meets all of the above requirements. The corpocracy at large, moreover, is directly responsible for America being ranked the worst among industrialized nations on various measures such as income inequality and unemployment, for America being the most imperialistic nation on the globe, and for America being vulnerable to continuous blowbacks from drone strikes and other forms of unending, devastating and deadly military aggression done solely for profit and power.
The authors were oblivious to the broader context and implications of their benchmarked organizations’ performance. For instance, diplomacy, not war making, might stand more of a chance if aircraft carriers and all other weaponry were so unreliable as to be useless. The same goes for NASA and its revenue draining, risky, and scientifically meritless manned space program.
It’s said that two certainties in life are death and taxes. Baloney. The second is mostly escaped by people and organizations living on tax welfare, or tax havens and tax breaks. But there is another certainty, the focal point of this essay.
That certainty is the unreliability of life, which is a crap shoot. We take our chances every day aware or unaware, especially when we deal in one way or another with organizations in which we entrust our well being.
There’s another certainty when it comes to the organizations making up the corpocracy. Its corruptible politicians and corrupting corporations crap on the rest of us and the world’s regimes they try to change to suit themselves.
Finally, there’s yet another related certainty. What goes around comes around. Some day the US will get crapped on by the environment it has polluted and charcoaled, by horrendous blowbacks from enemies it has created, or by Armageddon from nuking Russia or China.
Monday, June 6, 2016
America’s Raw Story
Investing in Death
There are roughly 15,000 publicly traded companies and countless millions of people who invest in them. Each of these companies belongs to an industry of companies in similar businesses. Three industries are the subject of this short article; the funeral service industry, the gun industry, and the war industry.
The first provides burial and crematory services and paraphernalia for people no longer living due to nonviolent domestic deaths. The second provides the means to cause violent domestic deaths. The third provides the means to murder people in foreign lands.
The first industry is tangential to the focal point off this article. The other two are the focal point. But to be true to the article’s catchall tile, I feel behooved to say something about investing in the first one, so I will start with it.
Investing in Death from Natural Causes
Funeral homes, crematoriums, and cemeteries, but excluding related costs such as headstones and crypts is a $15 billion a year industry in America. Almost gone are the days of small, family owned funeral homes. They are being gobbled up or swamped by funeral service corporations that promise investors healthy returns, at least if you buy one or more of the “six stocks to die for” as one authoritative source put it.
Investing in Death from Domestic Guns
It is said that Americans have had a love affair with guns and cars for a century. Until recently more people have died from car accidents than from guns. That apparently has changed and not surprisingly since there are more guns than cars in America.
Firearms’ makers and sellers tell investors and Wall Street that massive gun killings are a ripe opportunity for investors. The reason is simple. After a massive, homegrown slaughter the public panics and buys more guns.
Investing in Death by International Murder
Einstein called war an act of murder. I agree and would add that it’s an offensive act more so than a defensive act if you know the true history behind America’s endless wars since her founding. That’s why I call this industry the war industry, not the defense industry. The US government finally got smart and changed the name in 1949 from the Department of War to its current euphemism, the Department of Defense. But let’s not be fooled by our government that is always trying to fool us.
The war industry yields very good ROI’s (return on investments) if one is not squeamish or morally inhibited about investing in merchants of death. And thousands upon thousands of investors aren’t. A writer for Forbes magazine has given five reasons why other industrial sectors aren’t as good as the war industry; its stocks weather economic storms better; it dominates the market “selling Uncle Sam a billion dollars in goods and services every day, seven days a week;” it is “politically protected” (that’s an understatement); its oblivious to any “waning demand;” and its future prospects are more publicly known through news of any impending dips in the defense
budget and thus give cautious investors pause to reconsider” (when does that ever happen for more than blip of time?).
We can partly blame the second and third industries’ investors for the consequences of their companies’ miscreant behavior but we can’t sue them for wrongful death and other damages. The reason why dates back over two centuries ago in America’s history when the first state in the union enacted a limited liability law and other states quickly followed suit in a race to the bottom. States initially gave their chartered corporations limited liability only if they provided public services, but with the advent of sham charters, any chartered corporation gets limited liability. That includes the chartered and insulated gun makers and sellers and war contractors.
The war contractors are also shielded from lawsuits for wrongful deaths for two reasons. The foreigners have no standing in our courts and our lawless, criminal, war perpetuating government makes murder by war legal.
Socially Responsible Investing: An Alternative for Morally Minded Investors?
One would think that out of 15,000 publicly traded companies there surely ought to be some socially responsible ones in which to invest. Well, name me one if you find a company that meets all of my seven criteria a company must meet in order to be rightly called socially responsible. A socially responsible company is one that 1) stays financially viable, 2) provides socially beneficial products and/or services, 3) without knowingly causing any physical, psychological, financial or ecological harm, 4) without externalizing costs (e.g., job outsourcing, waste disposal), 5) without seeking or depending on “warfare welfare” or other government favors such as corporate personhood recognition, campaign financing, lobbying, subsidies, revolving doors, laissez-faire regulations, or criminal immunity, 6) conducts business ethically and legally, and 7) treats all stakeholders fairly and with dignity.
The rationale for all but the first criteria is that they are hallmarks of the corpocracy, the Devil’s marriage between big corporations and government. The corpocracy is far more egregious than just being socially irresponsible. It is directly responsible for America being ranked the worst among industrialized nations on various measures such as income inequality and unemployment; for America being the most imperialistic and death dealing nation on the globe; and for America being vulnerable to continuous blowbacks from drone strikes and other forms of unending, devastating and deadly military aggression done solely for profit and power.
You know the old saying; “there are only two certainties in life, death and taxes.” I will add two more certainties; 1) America was born in the womb of war and will die in her arms unless the American people rise up to demand the end of the military/political/industrial complex; and 2) people who invest in the gun and war industries are as morally and socially irresponsible as people populating the complex and are not only investors in death but also accomplices of death by murder.
Sunday, June 5, 2016
America’s Raw Story
Conspiracy Theory or Conspiracy Reality?
The Conspiracy Reality of America’s Corpocracy
I was prompted to write this article when a twitter contact of mine wondered whether some of my writings about the corpocracy amounted to a conspiracy theory. Having been a behavioral scientist most of my adult life I know a thing or two about what’s theory and what’s not. I don’t know how anyone, scientist or lay person, could mistake the corpocracy for a theory. I doubt if any readers of articles published in the alternative news media would confuse the two. Nevertheless, I want to tell you what I have learned over the years.
A Tacit Conspiracy, Not a Public Wedding
I have called America’s corpocracy the “devil’s marriage between big corporations and what should be but isn’t the American peoples’ government. The marriage was not a public wedding by any stretch of the imagination. It was more like a tacit conspiracy between the two partners, with government being the subservient to the other in every respect.
To act together toward common goals is one definition of a “conspiracy,” and one of its synonyms is collusion. What are the conspirators’ goals? To name a few: keeping its marriage intact; staying for a lifetime in public office; protecting corporations’ fraudulent constitutional rights, not citizen rights; maintaining a hands-off policy toward corporate crime and ensuring legislation, regulations, and judicial verdicts that protect corporate interests, not the public’s interests or the general welfare; keeping the government’s plentiful and endless hand outs to corporations; privatizing public services; controlling the mass media; keeping the marketplace free, not fair; and to expanding and protecting a profitable hegemony in other lands (corporations want global markets and politicians want global influence).
Being a conspiracy doesn’t automatically mean the conspirators must operate secretly, although they obviously aren’t going to publicize their conspiring. That being so, how do we know they conspire and collude among themselves? The conspiracy’s goals stated earlier suggest the signs to look for as evidence. We don’t have to look hard. The signs pop up daily it seems, at least when reading the alternative media, not obviously the corpocracy’s mainstream media and propaganda.
Consider some signs from three of America’s industries in their control of “our” government and thus of 99%.of us. The three picked are the most dangerous industries because they are often extremely injurious and deadly in the consequences of their decisions and actions.
The “Defense” Industries
The “defense” industry, bar none, is the most dangerous as it inflicts on humanity destruction and death on a world-wide scale. The industry pushed for preemptive war with Iraq before Bush Jr.’s first administration and then was heavily represented among the war policy makers in the administration. It spends billions of dollars lobbying Congress. It locates facilities in all or almost all Congressional districts to ensure servitude. It makes sure the most compliant politicians chair and sit on influential committees. It persuades Congress to authorize purchase of obsolete, unreliable, and extravagantly expensive weapons. It constantly engages in contract fraud with impunity. Ad infinitum.
Lest we forget the companion gun industry, its lobbyists have basically been assured a carte blanche by “our” government to arm Americans to the teeth with almost any form of firearm.
The Health Care Industries
These industries are a cluster of industries made up of big Pharma, the health insurance industry, and the provider industry, all conspiring with “our” government, to keep Americans in dept and in poor health needing expensive attention. The bête noir of this conglomeration is the pharmaceutical industry. Over the years it has reaped an astounding 7,000 percent return on its investment in lobbying Congress and has gotten in return for its bribery such favorable government actions as defeat of mandatory discount pricing; protection of drug patents in trade agreements; joint research patents with public institutions allowed; Medicare price negotiations with companies prevented; government list of preferred drugs prohibited; availability of generic pediatric drugs delayed; faster government drug safety reviews; company recommended reviewers allowed; bill to make generic drugs more accessible defeated; bigger hurdle before government warning letters issued; approval of some drugs just from animal testing; medical device makers get favorable considerations; unapproved uses of drugs gets journalistic license; restrictions eased on direct-to consumer advertising; tax credits given to makers of orphan drugs; licensing of new sites for making drugs eased; continuous review of approved new sites ended; pre-clinical trial data allowed for patent application; criteria for awarding patents for genes relaxed.; price control proposals dropped by government; companies allowed to pay fee for faster reviews; faster review of drugs for life-threatening diseases; distribution of drug samples allowed; easier for brand-name makers to sue generic makers; government promotes university-industry partnerships; and allowed to tap research at subsidized facilities.
The Chemical/Agriculture Industries
I put the chemical and agribusiness industries together because chemicals saturate the food chain and agribusiness thrives on chemicals. There’s an old nostrum that “we are what we eat,” which is why these two industries are so hazardous and potentially deadly, especially with their genetically modified organisms that are an assault on and gamble with nature that may ultimately have dire consequences for our species.
Within this pair of industries is the Monsanto Corporation. Mike Adams, chief contributor and editor of NaturalNews.com, says that “MonSatan---is now the No. 1 most hated corporation in America---and the destructive force behind the lobbying of the USDA, FDA, scientists and politicians that have all betrayed the American people---.”
Monsanto is simply too big and has too many allies outside government (e.g., American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology) and too many friends in government, both at the federal level (e.g., former Monsanto executives appointed to positions with the USDA) and state level (e.g., Secretaries of Agriculture) to be thwarted in its continuing drive to reap profit from its toxic products that threaten the health and lives of animals and humans alike. It was the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980 that opened the sluice gate for GMOs by issuing the absurd ruling that nature could be patented. And it will very likely be this same captive, infamous court that bats down all lawsuits against Monsanto and the rest of the chemical and agribusiness industries. But whatever they unlikely lose at the Federal level they can try recouping and conspiring at the state level. “Don’t count Monsanto out” concludes the co-editors of Vanity Fair in a long and detailed expose.
Industries at Large
There are over 100 US industries. Take a random pick. Any industry, besides the three just cited is most likely to be a “card-carrying” member of the conspiratorial corpocracy. Banking industry? Remember the government’s bailouts after the second greatest depression? Remember the bail outs in the auto industry? Energy industry? As I recall oil big wigs were influential in the build up to the invasion of Iraq. I could go on to cite many other industries, but I think my point has already been made. Any industry that is supposedly governed by government regulations, and most if not all are, is ipso facto a conspirator with “our” government. The most flagrant instances are the many times industry representatives ghost write the regulations and/or the regulations, lax or not, are not enforced.
The epitome of collusion may be the many instances where corporations buy public services and public land out from under our noses.
Here is a privatization riddle. What a) sorts mail but is not the USPS, b) cuts Social Security checks but is not the SSA, c) counts the census but is not the Bureau of the Census, d) monitors air traffic but is not the FAA, and e) runs space flights but is not NASA? Give up? It is Lockheed Martin, the largest military contractor in the U.S.
Pick any type of public service or public land and you will find some corporate owners. Public schools? Not any longer in many school districts. After Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans privatizers swept in and took over the public schools. Health care industry? Our health care ought to be a human right not to be put on the auction block. Public toll ways? Not any longer in some states. Law enforcement? In some areas private police have the same authority as deputy sheriffs. And pause on this. The State of Arizona even sold its State Capitol and then leased it back.
Privatization, argue Si Kahn and Elizabeth Minnich, co-authors of The Fox in the Henhouse, is the private sector’s way to “undercut, limit, shrink, or outright take over any government and any part of the public sector that stands in the way of corporate pursuit of ever larger profits and could be run for profit.”
Conspiracy within a Conspiracy
I suppose there are numerous instances where petty conspiracies arise within one part of the government to spoil or thwart another part. I’m not going to bother trying to ferret them out. Politics as usual is rife with internal rivalries as appointed officials vie for influence.
The conspiracy I have in mind here is within the corporate part of the corpocracy. Probably the most prevalent form of it is the collusion among corporations in fixing prices. Whenever government is lax in stopping the practice it conspires with the price fixers.
“Our” government is accountable to no one, a scofflaw committing all sorts of legal and illegal wrong doing daily up to and including murdering people with drone strikes. This government, moreover, in good faith as a conspirator, rarely holds corporations accountable for all sorts of wrongdoing, including defrauding and gouging the government. Is it any wonder then that the two parties to the marriage made in Hell conspire to raise Hell with 99% of Americans and the rest of the world?