Archive | July 14th, 2015

Greece: Tsipras Surrenders to Troika Bandits

NOVANEWS
Global Research
greece-troika

Greece is being systematically raped and pillaged. It’s painful to see how easily powerful monied interests can destroy a nation without firing a shot. Financial war is as cruel and ruthless as naked aggression.

Long-suffering Greeks understand better than establishment economists – paid to con people to believe destructive policies benefit them.

Harder than ever hard times awaits Greeks and ordinary people throughout Western societies. Regimes in Europe and America serve their privileged elites alone at the expense of most others, especially their most vulnerable and needy.

Their governments are their worst enemies – in bed with dark forces destroying their welfare and futures. SYRIZA was elected on a pledge of no more austerity. Betrayal followed. It’s just a question of how bad things will be once the dust settles. What’s happening isn’t pretty.

On Sunday, Eurogroup president/Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem gave Greece the Troika’s take-it-or-leave-it harsh ultimatum – a list of stiffer austerity measures than earlier proposed and other tough ones as a condition for more bailout help – now reportedly for 86 – 87 billion euros over three years (10 billion euros immediately for bank recapitalizations).

Greece’s parliament must approve the deal and legislate Troika diktats into law with Tsipras’ signature by July 15. Terms agreed on include:

Higher regressive VAT taxes hitting millions of impoverished Greeks hardest along with broadening the tax base affecting ordinary people most.

Stiff pension cuts (on top of 40% eliminated earlier) including for poor retirees cut no slack.

Adopting a Code of Civil Procedure to streamline procedures and reduce costs – in other words, continued stiff budget cuts harming millions of Greeks already suffering hugely from earlier imposed austerity.

Full implementation of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union’s key provisions – including mandated spending cuts gutting social services more than already.

Giving foreign investors freer access to plunder Greece’s economy.

Privatizing power generation and transmission along with other state enterprises previously off-limits.

Neutralizing labor rights ahead of eliminating them altogether – including restricting collective bargaining and right to strike as well as eliminating hiring and firing restrictions.

Rescinding SYRIZA enacted laws not agreed on by the European Commission, ECB and IMF.

Transferring up to 50 billion euros worth of Greek assets to a Troika controlled fund based in Athens to contribute to servicing debt and recapitalizing Greek banks.

Possible debt restructuring by extending maturities, not write-downs.

Troika officials will monitor Greek implementation of demands.

Bottom line: they mandate Athens entirely surrendering its sovereign rights to the European Commission, ECB and IMF.

Greater than ever austerity will be imposed, hitting millions of impoverished/unemployed Greeks hardest, including poor pensioners to receive less than their already meager payments en route to eliminating them altogether.

Privatizing state enterprises earlier considered off-limits. Plans are to transform Greece into an nightmarish dystopian wasteland.

It’s hard imagining any government accepting what’s demanded. No responsible one would. Tsipras sold out. His signature on the final deal alone awaits.

Word from Brussels is all parties agreed on a deal. It’s official. Tsipras handed Greek sovereignty to Troika bandits, agreeing to all their unacceptable demands.

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted: “Euro summit has unanimously reached agreement. All ready to go for ESM (European Stability Mechanism) program for Greece with serious reforms and financial support.”

Greece’s parliament must accept the deal and enact demanded legislation by July 15 complying with Troika diktats. It’s almost but not entirely certain – defying overwhelming public opposition according to polls.

A Final Comment

Greeks suffered horrifically under Nazi occupation during WW II. It took a terrible toll on millions. Tens of thousands of Athenians alone perished from starvation.

Many thousands more endured barbarous Nazi persecution. Greece’s economy was destroyed. A Berlin-installed collaborationist regime brutalized it own people.

Around half a million perished – from starvation, massacres, assassinations and other forms of brutality. People were shot on sight for no reason. Women and young girls were raped, many then savagely murdered.

Greece is again occupied, a Troika controlled colony, its sovereignty lost. Tsipras is a modern-day quisling – selling out to monied interests disgracefully. He’ll be remembered for agreeing to a Greek Versailles.

This time financial predators are villains – force-feeding pain and suffering their way. Human need and welfare are sacrificed for unrestricted profit-making the old-fashioned way – pillaging an entire nation, wrecking its economy more than already.

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Surveillance watchdog calls for ‘democratic control’ of spies

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Civil liberties NGO Privacy International (PI) has criticized a report on state surveillance, calling for improved regulatory oversight rather than self-reporting by spy agencies.

The civil liberties NGO was commenting on a Royal United Service Institute (RUSI) report published on Monday.

Titled ‘A Democratic License to Operate’, the study was conducted by the foreign policy think-tank as part of Britain’s Independent Surveillance Review.

PI agreed with some of RUSI’s findings but insisted that government-backed mass surveillance remains a deep concern.

“The RUSI report, from start to end, emphasizes how technological change has rendered the current legal system governing surveillance obsolete,” PI deputy director Eric King told RT on Tuesday.

“Every day, the highly technical GCHQ finds new ways to eavesdrop, while our oversight tries to cope with technical blind spots,” he added.

Privacy International warned that the current system relies on GHCQ to self-report errors. It called for a “better resourced, more technically equipped oversight body” with the power to take “GCHQ to task.”

It also called for “root and branch reform” to bring snoops and the agencies they work for “under democratic control.”

This surveillance versus privacy rights debate has long infiltrated British politics, as campaigners continue to criticize government spy base GCHQ’s invasive snooping practices.

Despite contentious leaks by ex-NSA computer analyst and whistleblower Edward Snowden, RUSI’s report said there is “no evidence that the British government knowingly acts illegally in intercepting private communications.”

It argued further that there is no proof that the British state’s ability to collect data in bulk is used by snoops as a perpetual window into the private lives of UK residents.

RUSI’s study makes a series of recommendations on how state surveillance should be conducted in the future, saying that the current legal framework for intercepting communications is unclear.

The think tank adds this legal framework “has not kept pace with developments in communications technology, and does not serve either the government or members of the public satisfactorily.

The think tank is calling for “a new, comprehensive and clearer legal framework” to regulate state surveillance.

At a confidential intelligence conference held at Ditchley Park in Oxfordshire in June, the views of a number of high-ranking intelligence officials came to light.

Investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, who attended the conference, posted on his website, “Perhaps to many participants’ surprise, there was general agreement across broad divides of opinion that Snowden – love him or hate him – had changed the landscape.”

According to Campbell, a number of senior officials felt that shift “towards transparency, or at least ‘translucency’” was long overdue and utterly necessary.

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The Occupation of Greece: a Financial Coup D’état

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Image result for Greece FLAG
By Binoy Kampmark 

“This has nothing to do with economics. It has nothing to do with putting Greece back on the rails towards recovery.”

— Yanis Varoufakis, Jul 13, 2015

Alexis Tsipras, along with his crew of negotiators, had done much with little. His Syriza government had been fighting a war of attrition with creditors and, with the hectoring Yanis Varoufakis, parried them for weeks. But the European credit system does, however, demand more than its pound of flesh. It demands those who do not play by the rules – and these rules are of the most dubious import – surrender their sovereignty.

On Tuesday, Tsipras faces an internal revolt after making a three year deal with Eurozone leaders that would see the accumulation of more debt – another 86 billion euro bailout – to service an already crippling burden. It also sees greater involvement of the International Monetary Fund, the grand bugbear of austerity finance.

Instead of exiting a system weakened by its own internal contradictions and failings, Greece is to partake in another mistake wrapped in the rhetoric of pro-European kitsch. In what is tantamount to placing a gun to the head of Greece’s sovereignty, parliamentarians will have till Wednesday to finalise what effectively amounts to a suicide pact.

The accord effectively sees the German-led Eurozone group demand control of Greek finances without the provision of debt relief or even a vague sense of genuine debt restructuring. This is a creditor’s vision on steroids, absurdly ambitious and destructive.

Varoufakis saw it coming, calling it “worse” than any other deals placed on the table before. “I trust and hope that our government will insist on debt restructuring, but I can’t see how German finance minister [Wolfgang Schäuble] is ever going to sign up to this. If he does, it will be a miracle” (New Statesman, Jul 13).

Independent Greek leader Panos Kammenos had made his opposition to another round of austerity concessions crystal clear and unimpeachable. “In a parliamentary democracy there are rules and we uphold them.” Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and Deputy Labor Minister Dimitris Stratoulis have both expressed public opposition to the measures and risk the sack. Given the calculations in store, Tsipras will have to rely on the pro-European opposition parties, who were resoundingly beaten in the referendum.

The entire arrangement reeks of a seizure of sovereignty, the use of debt bondage and creditor supervision instead of the customary weapons associated with a military invasion. Further to the usual barbarities of savaging the local economy, be it increases in value added taxes, cutting pensions and the placing of automatic spending constraints, a jumbo sale of 50 billion euros worth of public assets is being forced upon Greece. Greece, in other words, is effectively being told to sell itself into private hands.

Money obtained from that sequestration of assets is to be placed in a trust fund that will be beyond government hands, another absurdly dangerous measure that will remind Greek citizens where their referendum voice has gone. Tsipras could only say that the agreement had “averted the plan for financial strangulation.” In truth, the Eurozone leaders had rounded up on him in a feast of vengeful savagery, instigating moves that will further cause a constriction in the economy.

Merkel’s austerity fanatics have not covered themselves in glory. They have supervised a sickly vision of capture and control, using austerity as their weapon of choice. Merkel has herself been asked to compare the brutal agreement being demanded of Greece to Germany’s own Versailles Treaty of 1919, where indebtedness and bondage took centre stage in a punitive arrangement. “I won’t take part in historical comparisons, especially when I didn’t make them myself.” Sleepwalking in history can prove to be a dangerous habit.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, forgetting his own reservations about the legitimacy of the Troika’s demands, threw up the customary straw man in the argument. Grexit was to be avoided at the cost of Greek sovereignty. “The agreement was laborious, but it has been concluded. There is no Grexit.”

Astonishingly, he suggested that the compromise had seen “no winners and no losers. I don’t think the Greek people have been humiliated, nor that the other Europeans have lost face. It is a typical European arrangement.”

This, says Varoufakis, is precisely the problem. The Troika was insincere from the start, refusing to genuinely deal with the crisis while offering inconceivably crushing terms. Bad faith was their game; illegitimacy was their spirit. (Varoufakis repeatedly noted throughout negotiations that the Eurogroup has no legal standing, yet possesses enormous power over individual Europeans.) “The other side insisted on a ‘comprehensive agreement’, which meant they wanted to talk about everything. My interpretation is that when you want to talk about everything, you don’t want to talk about anything.”

The next chapter in this poorly minted odyssey, one of tragic proportions, is whether the Greek parliament gives its approval to the accord. The Germans will take their turn on Friday, with Merkel having to butter MPs up with a needlessly punitive arrangement that is nothing more than economic sadism. Should the package pass in these parliaments, we would have seen a financial coup d’état in the making, and one that weakens all parties. Now that promises to be an all too typical European arrangement.

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Making a Killing: The Untold Story of Psychotropic Drugging ”VIDEO”

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A Big Pharma whistleblower blogs on drugs

http://archive.fortune.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2007/06/11/100061497/index.htm

Peter Rost is worked up. The ex-Pfizer senior executive turned blogger believes he has uncovered another instance of unethical marketing by Big Pharma. Rost’s blog, Question Authority With Dr. Rost, is one part mocking rant, two parts investigative chronicle. He has also published an exposé of his years in the drug industry, The Whistleblower: Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman.” Trained as a physician in his native Sweden, Rost has worked in the drug industry for most of the past 20 years. He almost certainly never will again. Rost hopes that Question Authority – named after the Fortune column in which he was once featured – will help him create a new career.

Rost’s many critics would love to be able to dismiss him as an embittered crank. But they can’t. The blog [is] a conduit for Big Pharma whistleblowers [that once prompted] a government probe into Pfizer’s marketing activities. And a dispatch on dubious sales practices led to at least one sales director’s ouster.

For Big Pharma, whose public image is already battered, blogs are an added nuisance. The problem, says Robert Ehrlich, CEO of DTC Perspectives, a health-care marketing consultancy, is that most pharma companies are, “medically oriented and legally oriented … but as an industry they are not consumer-oriented.” For better or worse, the drug industry is going to have to get used to Dr. Peter Rost – and others like him.

Note: Read an excellent article on Dr. Rost and other major whistleblowers from the pharmaceutical industry. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing big pharma corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.

 

Psychotropic drugs. It’s the story of big money-drugs that fuel a $330 billion psychiatric industry, without a single cure.

The cost in human terms is even greater — these [legal] drugs now kill an estimated 42,000 people every year.

And the death count keeps rising. Containing more than 175 interviews with lawyers, mental health experts, the families of victims and the survivors themselves, this riveting documentary rips the mask off psychotropic drugging and exposes a brutal but well-entrenched money-making machine.

Before these drugs were introduced in the market, people who had these conditions would not have been given any drugs at all.

So it is the branding of a disease and it is the branding of a drug for a treament of a disease that did not exist before the industry made the disease. (Excerpt from cchr.org)

 

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Samsung officials slam anti-Semitism in wake of merger debate

NOVANEWS

Samsung Electronics headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, file (AFP)

In reporting on business deal, South Korean media had cited ‘merciless’ Jewish power on Wall Street
The Times of Israel

Two CEOs in the Samsung conglomerate condemned anti-Semitism after their companies’ proposed merger spurred anti-Semitism in the South Korean media.

In a July 12 letter to the Anti-Defamation League, Joo Hwa Yoon of Cheil Industries and Chi Hun Choi of Samsung C&T unequivocally condemned anti-Semitism.

“We are a company that is committed to respect for individuals and enforces strict non-discrimination policies,” they wrote. “We condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms.”

On July 17, the shareholders of Samsung C&T, a construction company, will vote on a merger with Cheil Industries. Both are subsidiaries of the Samsung Group, South Korea’s largest family-controlled conglomerate. The merger is part of a consolidation effort.

In reporting on the proposed merger, at least two South Korean media outlets blamed Jews for attempting to block the deal. One publication wrote that Jewish power on Wall Street “has long been known to be ruthless and merciless.” A columnist wrote that “Jews are known to wield enormous power on Wall Street and in global financial circles” and “It is a well-known fact that the US government is swayed by Jewish capital.”

The ADL welcomed the company leaders’ condemnation.

“We are heartened that these South Korean corporate leaders are taking a clear and public stand against anti-Semitism,” Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director, said in a statement. “This statement makes unequivocally clear that anti-Semitism has no place in South Korea and within their companies.”

Last week, the ADL called on the South Korean government to condemn the remarks.

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The Problem of Greece Is Not Only a Tragedy. It Is a Lie

NOVANEWS
Global Research
greece

An historic betrayal has consumed Greece. Having set aside the mandate of the Greek electorate, the Syriza government has willfully ignored last weeks landslide No vote and secretly agreed a raft of repressive, impoverishing measures in return for a bailout that means sinister foreign control and a warning to the world.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has pushed through parliament a proposal to cut at least 13 billion euros from the public purse 4 billion euros more than the austerity figure rejected overwhelmingly by the majority of the Greek population in a referendum on 5 July.

These reportedly include a 50 per cent increase in the cost of healthcare for pensioners, almost 40 per cent of whom live in poverty; deep cuts in public sector wages; the complete privatization of public facilities such as airports and ports; a rise in value added tax to 23 per cent, now applied to the Greek islands where people struggle to eke out a living. There is more to come.

Anti-austerity party sweeps to stunning victory, declared aGuardian headline on January 25. Radical leftists the paper called Tsipras and his impressively-educated comrades. They wore open neck shirts, and the finance minister rode a motorbike and was described as a rock star of economics. It was a façade. They were not radical in any sense of that cliched label, neither were they anti austerity.

For six months Tsipras and the recently discarded finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, shuttled between Athens and Brussels, Berlin and the other centres of European money power. Instead of social justice for Greece, they achieved a new indebtedness, a deeper impoverishment that would merely replace a systemic rottenness based on the theft of tax revenue by the Greek super-wealthy in accordance with European neo-liberal values — and cheap, highly profitable loans from those now seeking Greeces scalp.

Greeces debt, reports an audit by the Greek parliament, is illegal, illegitimate and odious. Proportionally, it is less than 30 per cent that of the debit of Germany, its major creditor. It is less than the debt of European banks whose bailout in 2007-8 was barely controversial and unpunished.

For a small country such as Greece, the euro is a colonial currency: a tether to a capitalist ideology so extreme that even the Pope pronounces it intolerable and the dung of the devil. The euro is to Greece what the US dollar is to remote territories in the Pacific, whose poverty and servility is guaranteed by their dependency.

In their travels to the court of the mighty in Brussels and Berlin, Tsipras and Varoufakis presented themselves neither as radicals nor leftists nor even honest social democrats, but as two slightly upstart supplicants in their pleas and demands. Without underestimating the hostility they faced, it is fair to say they displayed no political courage. More than once, the Greek people found out about their secret austerity plans in leaks to the media: such as a 30 June letter published in the Financial Times, in which Tsipras promised the heads of the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF to accept their basic, most vicious demands which he has now accepted.

When the Greek electorate voted no on 5 July to this very kind of rotten deal, Tsipras said, Come Monday and the Greek government will be at the negotiating table after the referendum with better terms for the Greek people. Greeks had not voted for better terms. They had voted for justice and for sovereignty, as they had done on January 25.

The day after the January election a truly democratic and, yes, radical government would have stopped every euro leaving the country, repudiated the illegal and odious debt as Argentina did successfully — and expedited a plan to leave the crippling Eurozone. But there was no plan. There was only a willingness to be at the table seeking better terms.

The true nature of Syriza has been seldom examined and explained. To the foreign media it is no more than leftist or far left or hardline the usual misleading spray. Some of Syrizas international supporters have reached, at times, levels of cheer leading reminiscent of the rise of Barack Obama. Few have asked: Who are these radicals? What do they believe in?

In 2013, Yanis Varoufakis wrote:

Should we welcome this crisis of European capitalism as an opportunity to replace it with a better system? Or should we be so worried about it as to embark upon a campaign for stabilising capitalism? To me, the answer is clear. Europes crisis is far less likely to give birth to a better alternative to capitalism …

I bow to the criticism that I have campaigned on an agenda founded on the assumption that the left was, and remains, squarely defeated …. Yes, I would love to put forward [a] radical agenda. But, no, I am not prepared to commit the [error of the British Labour Party following Thatchers victory].

What good did we achieve in Britain in the early 1980s by promoting an agenda of socialist change that British society scorned while falling headlong into Thatchers neoliberal trip? Precisely none. What good will it do today to call for a dismantling of the Eurozone, of the European Union itself …?

Varoufakis omits all mention of the Social Democratic Party that split the Labour vote and led to Blairism. In suggesting people in Britain scorned socialist change when they were given no real opportunity to bring about that change he echoes Blair.

The leaders of Syriza are revolutionaries of a kind but their revolution is the perverse, familiar appropriation of social democratic and parliamentary movements by liberals groomed to comply with neo-liberal drivel and a social engineering whose authentic face is that of Wolfgang Schauble, Germanys finance minister, an imperial thug. Like the Labour Party in Britain and its equivalents among those former social democratic parties still describing themselves as liberal or even left, Syriza is the product of an affluent, highly privileged, educated middle class, schooled in postmodernism, as Alex Lantier wrote.

For them, class is the unmentionable, let alone an enduring struggle, regardless of the reality of the lives of most human beings. Syrizas luminaries are well-groomed; they lead not the resistance that ordinary people crave, as the Greek electorate has so bravely demonstrated, but better terms of a venal status quo that corrals and punishes the poor. When merged with identity politics and its insidious distractions, the consequence is not resistance, but subservience. Mainstream political life in Britain exemplifies this.

This is not inevitable, a done deal, if we wake up from the long, postmodern coma and reject the myths and deceptions of those who claim to represent us, and fight.

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George W. Bush Demands $100k Fee to Address Wounded Iraq War Vets

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Image result for george w. bush photos
Sputnik 

During his term, former President George W. Bush sent US troops to Iraq under what later turned out to be false pretenses. Since then, over 50,000 US soldiers have been wounded, with many struggling to acclimate to life back home. And while the former president has pledged his support to these veterans, he apparently won’t do it for free.

Two weeks ago, at a Chamber of Commerce event, former President Bush touted his support for veterans, saying “I’ve decided to dedicate the rest of my life to helping out vets, to helping those with whom I was honored to serve.”

A noble pledge, perhaps, but it also comes with a fee.

According to ABC News, the former president has charged $100,000 for a speech at a gala fundraiser hosted by the Texas-based Helping a Hero charity for veterans who have lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan – the very same countries Bush sent troops to. At an additional cost of $20,000, the former president was also provided with a private jet to fly him to the event.

Members of Helping a Hero also told ABC News that former First Lady Laura Bush also charged a fee of $50,000 for a speech at a gala event the year before for the same organization.

The charity’s chairman was quick to come to the former president’s defense, saying in a statement that Bush’s appearance helped raise “significant funds” for the organization, and that he further reduced his fees from $250,000 to $100,000 for their benefit.

However, according to Politico, the former president’s typical speaking fee is between $100,000 and $175,000, which means Bush may not have been as gracious with his speaking fee as indicated by the charity’s chairman.

Further, ABC reported that both Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter have never taken money to speak at a veteran’s group in the past. Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense under Bush’s administration, also did not charge a fee for speaking at the same Helping a Hero fundraiser.

The revelation has sparked public outrage, with the former president under fire from both public officials and military veterans. Many drew attention to the irony of a president capitalizing on the soldiers injured in the very wars he created. […]

Some even demanded that Bush return the money, with others noting that the former president and his wife have earned much more from their speeches than those who have gone to fight the wars.

Paid speeches by former presidents have been the subject of intense controversy for years, as they have become a major source of income for their post-presidential years. By 2013, Bill Clinton brought home over $106 million on the lecture circuit, and according to CNN, makes $500,000 per speech.

Toward the end of his presidency, Bush reportedly told author Robert Draper that he intended to “replenish the ol’ coffers” after leaving office and make a “ridiculous” amount of money with his speeches. And apparently, even supporting soldiers he had sent to war won’t come in the way of that money making.

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Mutually Assured Delusion (MAD)

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Image result for Review of Economic Studies LOGO
By Judith Curry | Climate Etc.

Groupthink: A pattern of thought charaterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics.

Groupthink: Collective Delusions in Organizations and Markets, by Roland Benabou, published in the Review of Economic Studies.  Benabou also has a talk (ppt slides) on this subject.

First, a definition of groupthink (from the ppt slides):

Janis (1972)’s eight symptoms [of groupthink]:

  • illusion of invulnerability
  • collective rationalization
  • belief in inherent morality
  • stereotyped views of out-groups
  • direct pressure on dissenters
  • self-censorship
  • illusion of unanimity
  • self-appointed mind guards

Sound like any groups that we know?  If you are on different ‘sides’ of the AGW debate, you may be evaluating the IPCC and anthropowarmists  against these criteria, or you may be evaluating the opposition against these criteria.  While both groups seem to be subject to the first 4 symptoms, I would say that the IPCC and anthropowarmists have a lock on the last 4 symptoms.

Excerpts from the paper:

To analyze these issues, I develop a model of (individually rational) collective denial and willful blindness. Agents are engaged in a joint enterprise where their final payoff will be determined by their own action and those of others, all affected by a common productivity shock. To distinguish groupthink from standard mechanisms, there are no complementarities in payoffs, nor any private signals that could give rise to herding or social learning. Each agent derives anticipatory utility from his future prospects, and consequently faces a tradeoff: he can accept the grim implications of negative public signals about the project’s value (realism) and act accordingly, or maintain hopeful beliefs by discounting, ignoring or forgetting such data (denial), at the risk of making overoptimistic decisions.

The key observation is that this tradeoff is shaped by how others deal with bad news, creating cognitive linkages. When an agent benefits from others’ over optimism, his improved prospects make him more accepting of the bad news which they ignore. Conversely, when he is made worse off by others’ blindness to adverse signals, the increased loss attached to such news pushes him toward denial, which is then contagious. Thinking styles thus become strategic substitutes or complements, depending on the sign of externalities (not cross-partials) in the interaction payoffs. When interdependence among participants is high enough, this Mutually Assured Delusion (MAD) principle can give rise to multiple equilibria with different ‘social cognitions’ of the same reality. The same principle also implies that, in organizations where some agents have a greater impact on others’ welfare than the reverse (e.g., managers on workers), strategies of realism or denial will ‘trickle down’ the hierarchy, so that subordinates will in effect take their beliefs from the leader.

JC note: This last sentence highlights one of the problems of AGW advocacy statements by professional societies in terms of amplifying groupthink.

[…]

The intuition for what I shall term the ‘Mutually Assured Delusion’ (MAD) principle is simple. If others’ blindness to bad news leads them to act in a way that is better for an agent than if they were well informed; it makes the news not as bad, thus reducing his own incentive to engage in denial. But if their avoidance of reality makes things worse than if they reacted appropriately to the true state of affairs; future prospects become even more ominous, increasing the incentive to look the other way and take refuge in wishful thinking. In the first case, individual’s ways of thinking are strategic substitutes, in the latter they are strategic complements. It is worth emphasizing that this ‘psychological multiplier’, less than 1 in the first case and greater in the second, arises even though agents’ payoffs are separable and there is no scope for social learning.

Proposition 1 shows that the scope for contagion hinges on whether over-optimism has positive or negative spillovers. Examples of both types of interaction are provided below, using financial institutions as the main illustration.

Limited-stakes projects, public goods: The first scenario characterizes activities with limited downside risk, in the sense that pursuing them remains socially desirable for the organization even in the low state where the private return falls short of the cost.

High-stakes projects: The second scenario corresponds to ventures in which the downside is severe enough that persisting has negative social value for the organization. In such contexts, the greater is other players ‘tendency to ignore danger signals about ‘tail risk’ and forge ahead with the strategy — accumulating yet more subprime loans and CDO’s on the balance sheet, increasing leverage, setting up new off-the-books partnerships– the deeper and more widespread the losses will be if the scheme was flawed, the assets ‘toxic’, or the accounting fraudulent. Therefore, when red flags start mounting, the greater is the temptation for everyone whose future is tied to the firm’s fate to also look the other way, engage in rationalization, and ‘not think about it’.

The proposition’s second result shows how cognitive interdependencies (of both types) are amplified, the more closely tied an individual’s welfare is to the actions of others.

Groupthink is thus most important for closed, cohesive groups whose members perceive that they largely share a common fate and have few exit options. This is in line with Janis’ (1972) findings, but with a more operational notion of ‘cohesiveness’. Such vesting can be exogenous or arise from a prior choice to join the group, in which case wishful beliefs about its future prospects also correspond to ex-post rationalizations of a sunk decision.

A first alternative source of group error is social pressure to conform.  For instance, if agents are heard or seen by both a powerful principal (boss, group leader, government) and third parties whom he wants to influence, they may just toe the line for fear of retaliation.

Self-censorship should also not occur when agents can communicate separately with the boss, who should then want to hear both good and bad news. There are nonetheless many instances where deliberately confidential and highly credible warnings were flatly ignored, with disastrous consequences for the decision-maker.

A second important source of conformity is signaling or career concerns. Thus, when the quality of their information is unknown, agents whose opinion is at odds with most already expressed may keep it to themselves, for fear of appearing incompetent or lazy. Significant mistakes in group decisions can result in contexts where differential information is important, if anonymous communication or voting is not feasible.

This paper developed a model of how wishful thinking and reality denial spread through organizations and markets. In settings where others ignorance of bad news imposes negative externalities (lower expected payoffs, increased risk), it makes such news even worse and thus harder to accept, resulting in a contagion of willful blindness. Conversely, where over-optimism has beneficial spillovers (thus dampening the impact of adverse signals), ex-ante avoidance and ex-post distortion of information tend to be self-limiting. This mechanism of social cognition does not rely on complementarities in technology or preferences, agents herding on a subset of private signals, or exogenous biases in inference; it is also quite robust. The Mutually Assured Delusion (MAD) principle is thus broadly applicable, helping to explain corporate cultures characterized by dysfunctional groupthink or valuable group morale, why willful ignorance and delusions flow down hierarchies, and the emergence of market manias sustained by new-era thinking, followed by deep crashes.

Patterns of Denial

The paper has an Appendix D: Patterns of Denial, listing 7 patterns of denial and illustrating with examples from Space Shuttle disasters and financial crises. Here I discuss these in context of the IPCC:

1. Preposterous probabilities.  The 95% confidence level is arguably an example of this, although it is not exactly clear how to interpret the 95% in context of probabilities.

2. New paradigms: this time is different, we are smarter and have better tools. Every case also displays the typical pattern of hubris, based on claims of superior talent or human capital.   The ‘we are smarter and have better tools’ is reflected in the extensive reliance on climate models, and labeling of anyone who disagrees as a ‘denier.’

3. Escalation, failure to diversify, divest or hedge. Wishful beliefs show up not only in words but also in deeds. The most vivid current example seems to be President Obama’s ramping up of a climate program in the U.S.

4. Information avoidance, repainting red flags green and overriding alarms.  The ‘pause’, and its dismissal in the AR5 is a prime example of this one.

5. Normalization of deviance, changing standards and rationales. How do organizations react when what was not supposed to happen does, with increasing frequency and severity? An example of this is the changing goal posts for the pause.  A few years ago, periods of pause/cooling longer than 10-15 yrs were not expected, which was recently bumped to 17 years by Santer et al.  The start date for the pause seems to be moving towards 2001 – away from the big El Nino of 1998.

6. Reversing the burden of proof.  See my essay on Reversing the Null Hypothesis for a discussion of this issue.

7. Malleable memories: forgetting the lessons of history.  This one is particularly true re arguments linking AGW and extreme weather.  Often ‘remembering’ back to the 1950’s or the 1930’s is all that is required.

JC comments: I find Benabou’s analysis to be very insightful.  Awareness of these symptoms and patterns is the first stop towards inoculating against groupthink.  Encouraging dissent is key to not falling into the groupthink trap.

While the examples provided are markets and public and private sector disasters, these ideas are broadly applicable to the different social ‘realities’ surrounding anthropogenic climate change.  I’ve tried to find an analogous set of examples for the ‘denial’ of say U.S. Republicans and some oil companies, but could only come up with  examples for 3, 4, 5 of the ‘patterns of denial’.  Sort of changes which foot the ‘denier’ shoe fits best.

Posted in PoliticsComments Off on Mutually Assured Delusion (MAD)

The Embargo on the Truth About the Iranian Arms Embargo

NOVANEWS

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By Craig Murray 

The corporate media in both the UK and US are attempting to portray the Iranian desire to have the arms embargo lifted, as a new and extraneous demand that could torpedo the nuclear deal. This is an entirely false portrayal.

The issue has been included in the talks since, quite literally, the very first Iranian position document. And there is a reason for that. It is absolutely part and parcel of the issue and in no way extraneous to it. If there were any real journalists employed by the corporate media, that is obvious right on the face of UN Security Council Resolution 1747 of 2007 which imposed the arms embargo. The sole and exclusive reason given for the arms embargo is Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme. And it specifically states that, once the nuclear proliferation issue is resolved, the embargo will be lifted.

Paragraph 13 reads:

(b) that it shall terminate the measures specified in paragraphs 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
and 12 of resolution 1737 (2006) as well as in paragraphs 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 above as
soon as it determines, following receipt of the report referred to in paragraph 12
above, that Iran has fully complied with its obligations under the relevant
resolutions of the Security Council and met the requirements of the IAEA Board of
Governors, as confirmed by the IAEA Board;

It is the United States, not Iran, which is introducing extraneous factors, banging on about Yemen, Iran and Hezbollah, which are nowhere mentioned in the Security Council Resolutions.

The way this is being reported in the media is the exact opposite of the truth. The United States is attempting to welch on a deal which was not only open, but forms the very text of the security council resolution. None of the BBC’s highly paid analysts, reporters, or guest commenters is capable of noting this basic fact.

Posted in USA, Iran, UKComments Off on The Embargo on the Truth About the Iranian Arms Embargo

Ethics Director Among Top Psychologists Who Aided CIA Torture and Cover-Up

NOVANEWS
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By Claire Bernish 

An alarming recent report revealed not only that prominent psychologists colluded with the Department of Defense and CIA to create a framework of justification for appalling and inexcusable torture, but the person heading that partnership was none other than Stephen Behnke, the Ethics Director of the American Psychological Association.

The APA’s collusion with the national security apparatus is one of the greatest scandals in U.S. medical history,”declared a statement by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) following the report’s release. That statement called for a full investigation by the Department of Justice over the APA’s actions—and inactions—that gave the Bush administration the greenlight for cruel and inhumane torture of the highest order.

“The corruption of a health professional organization at this level is an extraordinary betrayal of both ethics and the law and demands an investigation and appropriate prosecutions,” implored PHR’s executive director, Donna McKay. “Rather than uphold the principle of ‘do no harm,’ APA leadership subverted its own ethics policies and sabotaged all efforts at enforcement.”

Acting in concert with DoD officials, the APA became the de facto “PR strategy” [read: propaganda campaign] that sanitized gross human rights abuses in order to “curry favor” with the DoD. Sleep deprivation, waterboarding, stress positions, and other forms of torture were both spuriously justified and allowed to continue through the creative editing and generalization of the very ethics standards that should have prevented any torture from taking place. According to the report:

[K]ey APA officials were operating in close, confidential coordination with key Defense Department officials to set up a task force and produce an outcome that would please DoD, and to produce ethical guidelines that were the same as, or not more restrictive than, the DoD guidelines for interrogation activities.”

The 542-page report, first obtained by the New York Times, resulted from seven months of investigation by a team headed by David Hoffman of the law firm Sidley Austin, at the request of the APA’s board.

Physicians for Human Rights summarized the “overwhelming evidence of criminal activity by APA staff and officials”—whose involvement is evidenced in the report by the following four key conclusions:

  1. “Colluding with the U.S. Department of Defense, the CIA, and other elements of the Bush administration to enable psychologists to design, implement, and defend the post-9/11 torture program”
  2. “Allowing military and intelligence personnel to write APA ethics policies regulating their own conduct to ensure they were ‘covered’ in their roles for the torture program”
  3. “Engaging in a coordinated campaign to cover up the collusion and blocking attempts to oppose these policies within the APA” and
  4. “Obstructing and manipulating ethics investigations into psychologists involved in the torture program”

Hoffman’s report posits several motives—all with “organizational conflict[s] of interest”—that the APA had for its rather astonishing partnership:

“[The] DoD is one of the largest employers of psychologists and provides many millions of dollars in grants or contracts for psychologists around the country. The history of the DoD providing critical assistance to the advancement and growth of psychology as a profession is well documented . . .”

Further, the group of DoD and APA officials who crafted the laughable ethics policy actively dodged international law of the Geneva Convention, where its strictures were tighter than U.S. law. [I] cannot take a stand opposed to the U.S. government,” said one. Even the APA’s president-elect called it a ‘distraction’ to draw international law into APA’s ethics guidance.” This falls in line with President Bush’s outright rejection of the conventions following 9/11 as a deplorably whimsical way to land al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees in a “legal black hole,” as human rights groups and U.S. allies described it.

In a press release, former APA president Dr. Nadine Kaslow stated, “The actions, policies, and lack of independence from government influence described in the Hoffman report represented a failure to live up to our core values. We profoundly regret, and apologize for, the behavior and consequences that ensued.” Listing adopted and proposed strategies to prevent the possibility of a recurrence of such abhorrent ethics violations, Kaslow also admitted, “This bleak chapter in our history occurred over a period of years and will not be resolved in a matter of months.”

Resolved? For whom, exactly? PHR has called for the APA to change its policies for a full decade now—and has pleaded for a federal investigation for at least as long.

Despite the execrable abuses in the CIA torture report—the entirety of which hasn’t even been fully disclosed—one simple, and utterly indefensible, fact overshadows every new revelation.

Something that appears to be a minutiae from the torture report is, in actuality, a glaringly tragic prediction. One interrogator told a detainee that he would never go to court because, he explained, “we can never let the world know what I have done to you.”

But we do know. The entire planet knows.

And all those who suffered or died, enduring unspeakably heinous crimes at the behest of the U.S. government—know.

Yet no onenot a single personhas ever even been charged for their crimes.

Posted in USA, Human RightsComments Off on Ethics Director Among Top Psychologists Who Aided CIA Torture and Cover-Up

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