June 17, 2015 archive

Stupid Leadership Games

As part of my training to be capo di tutti I attended innumerable seminars where we would break into teams and play “Leadership Training Games” that were supposed to teach us this or that lesson about being an effective leader.

Now the one I actually learned the most from was one in which our team was split into two groups with one group sent into exile while the rest of us were supposed to find a way to teach them how to solve a paper puzzle, you know the type, like making a representation of a house or a duck from various squares and triangles.

Since I am assertive and leadership-like I soon enough dominated my directions team into submission where we proceeded to write totally idiot proof instructions for solving the puzzle.  It was a complete failure.

I have mercifully blotted from my mind whether we finished dead last or didn’t complete the puzzle at all, but the winning team simply removed it from the test area and showed it to their exiles, put it together once or twice, and then let them practice which was not against the rules, all without saying a word, which was.

I think that was the begining of my retreat from neo-liberalism though I still have a counter-productive tendency to imagine I control more than I do.

Why the Trans Pacific Partnership is Nearly Dead

Robert Reich

Sunday, June 14, 2015

(C)onsider a simple game I conduct with my students. I have them split up into pairs and ask them to imagine I’m giving $1,000 to one member of each pair.

I tell them the recipients can keep some of the money only on condition they reach a deal with their partner on how it’s to be divided up. They have to offer their partner a portion of the $1,000, and their partner must either accept or decline. If the partner declines, neither of them gets a penny.

You might think many recipients of the imaginary $1,000 would offer their partner one dollar, which the partner would gladly accept. After all, a dollar is better than nothing. Everyone is better off.

But that’s not what happens. Most partners decline any offer under $250 – even though that means neither of them gets anything.

This game, and variations of it, have been played by social scientists thousands of times with different groups and pairings, and with remarkably similar results.

A far bigger version of the game is being played on the national stage as a relative handful of Americans receive ever-larger slices of the total national income while most Americans, working harder than ever, receive smaller ones.

And just as in the simulations, those receiving the smaller slices are starting to say “no deal.”

Some might attribute this response to envy or spite. But when I ask my students why they refused to accept anything less than $250 and thereby risked getting nothing at all, they say it’s worth the price of avoiding unfairness.    

Remember, I gave out the $1,000 arbitrarily. The initial recipients didn’t have to work for it or be outstanding in any way.

When a game seems arbitrary, people are often willing to sacrifice gains for themselves in order to prevent others from walking away with far more – a result that strikes them as inherently wrong.

The American economy looks increasingly arbitrary, as CEOs of big firms now rake in 300 times more than the wages of average workers, while two-thirds of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

I’m a bit more generous, I think a 50/50 split is fair and even a dollar is better than nothing, but I’ve been trained.


So why is Dr. Josef among the most hated and despised humans ever?

By July 1942, the SS were conducting “selections”. Incoming Jews were segregated; those deemed able to work were admitted into the camp, and those deemed unfit for labor were immediately killed in the gas chambers. The group selected to die, about three-quarters of the total,[a] included almost all children, women with small children, pregnant women, all the elderly, and all those who appeared on brief and superficial inspection by an SS doctor not to be completely fit. Mengele, a member of the team of doctors assigned to do selections, undertook this work even when he was not assigned to do so in the hope of finding subjects for his experiments. He was particularly interested in locating sets of twins. In contrast to most of the doctors, who viewed undertaking selections as one of their most stressful and horrible duties, Mengele undertook the task with a flamboyant air, often smiling or whistling a tune.

Mengele and other SS doctors did not treat inmates, but supervised the activities of inmate doctors forced to work in the camp medical service. Mengele made weekly visits to the hospital barracks and sent to the gas chambers any prisoners who had not recovered after two weeks in bed. He was also a member of the team of doctors responsible for supervising the administration of Zyklon B, the cyanide-based pesticide that was used to kill people in the gas chambers at Birkenau. He served in this capacity at the gas chambers located in crematoria IV and V.

When an outbreak of noma (a gangrenous bacterial disease of the mouth and face) broke out in the Romani camp in 1943, Mengele initiated a study to determine the cause of the disease and develop a treatment. He enlisted the aid of prisoner Dr. Berthold Epstein, a Jewish pediatrician and professor at Prague University. Mengele isolated the patients in a separate barrack and had several afflicted children killed so that their preserved heads and organs could be sent to the SS Medical Academy in Graz and other facilities for study. The research was still ongoing when the Romani camp was liquidated and its remaining occupants killed in 1944.

In response to a typhus epidemic in the women’s camp, Mengele cleared one block of 600 Jewish women and sent them to the gas chamber. The building was then cleaned and disinfected, and the occupants of a neighboring block were bathed, de-loused, and given new clothing before being moved into the clean block. The process was repeated until all the barracks were disinfected. Similar disinfections were used for later epidemics of scarlet fever and other diseases, but with all the sick prisoners being sent to the gas chambers. For his efforts, Mengele was awarded the War Merit Cross (Second Class with Swords) and was promoted in 1944 to First Physician of the Birkenau subcamp.

What?  You’re going to condemn a man to the 9th circle of hell just for stifling an outbreak of gangrene and another of typhus?  And two weeks is plenty to indulge malingerers, ask Patton.  Desperate times and all.

Oh, it’s the human experimentation that’s got you all worked up.

Well first of all you can hardly call Jews human.  They’re more like chimps and you couldn’t possibly object to that if it was in the name of science.  Secondly our very own “exceptional” government makes, well, ‘exceptions’ because we’re good and pure and couldn’t possibly do anything nasty or evil except when we do and then it’s ok as long as you don’t have to wrap your pretty little brain around it.

The Tuskegee syphilis experiment was an infamous clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service to study the natural progression of untreated syphilis in rural African-American men in Alabama. They were told that they were receiving free health care from the U.S. government.

The Public Health Service started working on this study in 1932 during the Great Depression, in collaboration with the Tuskegee Institute, a historically black college in Alabama. Investigators enrolled in the study a total of 600 impoverished sharecroppers from Macon County, Alabama. Of these men, 399 had previously contracted syphilis before the study began, and 201 did not have the disease. The men were given free medical care, meals, and free burial insurance for participating in the study. None of the men infected were ever told they had the disease, nor were any treated for it with penicillin after this antibiotic became proven for treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the men were told they were being treated for “bad blood”, a local term for various illnesses that include syphilis, anemia, and fatigue.

The 40-year study was controversial for reasons related to ethical standards, primarily because researchers knowingly failed to treat patients appropriately after the 1940s validation of penicillin as an effective cure for the disease they were studying. Revelation in 1972 of study failures by a whistleblower led to major changes in U.S. law and regulation on the protection of participants in clinical studies. Now studies require informed consent, communication of diagnosis, and accurate reporting of test results.

See, it happened long ago (it’s been 43 years, get over it) and far away (Alabama!  Who cares about Alabama?) and African Americans are hardly humans, they’re more like chimps and you couldn’t possibly object to that if it was in the name of science and your government was “exceptionally” good.

Project MKUltra – sometimes referred to as the CIA’s mind control program – was the code name given to an illegal program of experiments on human subjects, designed and undertaken by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Experiments on humans were intended to identify and develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations and torture, in order to weaken the individual to force confessions through mind control.

Organized through the Scientific Intelligence Division of the CIA, the project coordinated with the Special Operations Division of the U.S. Army’s Chemical Corps. The program began in the early 1950s, was officially sanctioned in 1953, was reduced in scope in 1964, further curtailed in 1967 and officially halted in 1973. The program engaged in many illegal activities; in particular it used unwitting U.S. and Canadian citizens as its test subjects, which led to controversy regarding its legitimacy. MKUltra used numerous methodologies to manipulate people’s mental states and alter brain functions, including the surreptitious administration of drugs (especially LSD) and other chemicals, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, verbal and sexual abuse, as well as various forms of torture.

The scope of Project MKUltra was broad, with research undertaken at 80 institutions, including 44 colleges and universities, as well as hospitals, prisons and pharmaceutical companies.

Look man, it was the 70s.  Everybody was doing drugs anyway.  This was like pharmaceutical welfare for hippies and Canadians are hardly humans, they’re more like chimps and you couldn’t possibly object to that if it was in the name of science.  They were harboring draft dodgers for goodness sake and that makes them traitors even if they aren’t citizens, the commies.

CIA torture appears to have broken spy agency rule on human experimentation

by Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Monday 15 June 2015 07.33 EDT

The Central Intelligence Agency had explicit guidelines for “human experimentation” – before, during and after its post-9/11 torture of terrorism detainees – that raise new questions about the limits on the agency’s in-house and contracted medical research.

Sections of a previously classified CIA document, made public by the Guardian on Monday, empower the agency’s director to “approve, modify, or disapprove all proposals pertaining to human subject research”. The leeway provides the director, who has never in the agency’s history been a medical doctor, with significant influence over limitations the US government sets to preserve safe, humane and ethical procedures on people.

CIA director George Tenet approved abusive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, designed by CIA contractor psychologists. He further instructed the agency’s health personnel to oversee the brutal interrogations – the beginning of years of controversy, still ongoing, about US torture as a violation of medical ethics.

But the revelation of the guidelines has prompted critics of CIA torture to question how the agency could have ever implemented what it calls “enhanced interrogation techniques” – despite apparently having rules against “research on human subjects” without their informed consent.

Wait.  What?  But we’re exceptional.  We wear the white hats.  We’re the good guys.

Besides, those terrorists are brown and don’t worship the same god of Abraham we do.  They’re hardly humans, they’re more like chimps and you couldn’t possibly object to that if it was in the name of science.

Yeah, even Dame Helen can’t put lipstick on this pig.  Welcome Good Germans to 1942.  You live right next to the gates.  Tell me again how it is that roaches go in and they don’t come out.


The Breakfast Club (Starry Starry Nights)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

The Watergate scandal begins to unfold; The Battle of Bunker Hill during the American Revolution; O.J. Simpson arrested in the slayings of his ex-wife Nicole and Ronald Goldman; Singer Kate Smith dies.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.


On This Day In History June 17

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

June 17 is the 168th day of the year (169th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 197 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1885, the Statue of Liberty, a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States, arrives in New York City’s harbor.

The Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World, French: La Liberté éclairant le monde) is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, designed by Frédéric Bartholdi and dedicated on October 28, 1886. The statue, a gift to the United States from the people of France, is of a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who bears a torch and a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) upon which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence. A broken chain lies at her feet. The statue has become an icon of freedom and of the United States.

Bartholdi was inspired by French law professor and politician Édouard René de Laboulaye, who commented in 1865 that any monument raised to American independence would properly be a joint project of the French and American peoples. Due to the troubled political situation in France, work on the statue did not commence until the early 1870s. In 1875, Laboulaye proposed that the French finance the statue and the Americans provide the pedestal and the site. Bartholdi completed both the head and the torch-bearing arm before the statue was fully designed, and these pieces were exhibited for publicity at international expositions. The arm was displayed in New York’s Madison Square Park from 1876 to 1882. Fundraising proved difficult, especially for the Americans, and by 1885 work on the pedestal was threatened due to lack of funds. Publisher Joseph Pulitzer of the World initiated a drive for donations to complete the project, and the campaign inspired over 120,000 contributors, most of whom gave less than a dollar. The statue was constructed in France, shipped overseas in crates, and assembled on the completed pedestal on what was then called Bedloe’s Island. The statue’s completion was marked by New York’s first ticker-tape parade and a dedication ceremony presided over by President Grover Cleveland.

The statue was administered by the United States Lighthouse Board until 1901 and then by the Department of War; since 1933 it has been maintained by the National Park Service. The statue was closed for renovation for much of 1938. In the early 1980s, it was found to have deteriorated to such an extent that a major restoration was required. While the statue was closed from 1984 to 1986, the torch and a large part of the internal structure were replaced. After the September 11 attacks in 2001, it was closed for reasons of safety and security; the pedestal reopened in 2004 and the statue in 2009, with limits on the number of visitors allowed to ascend to the crown. The statue is scheduled to close for up to a year beginning in late 2011 so that a secondary staircase can be installed. Public access to the balcony surrounding the torch has been barred for safety reasons since 1916.

The Daily/Nightly Show (Digital Dating)

It seems strange in a way because I have ten fingers (or I did before that tragic snowblower accident) and computers count in binary or quaternary or octal or hexidecimal which means 6+10 which is the number of fingers I used to have (I mean 10, to count to 16 I had to take off my shoes.  Oh, frostbite.  Why do you think I needed the snowblower?).

Dazed and confused

Tonightly Lewis Black!  You know, I don’t even care who the rest of the panel is or what they’ll be talking about.



Wheat… lots of wheat… fields of wheat… a tremendous amount of wheat…

This week’s guests-

Aziz Ansari will be talking about his new book, Modern Romance: An Investigation, about how technology has changed our romantic relationships.

Ladies, if you’re not imagining a pimply Cheeto stained teenager blogging from Mom’s basement in their pajamas I’ve given you entirely the wrong impression and I deeply and sincerely apologize.

Why did I just send you an emoji of a pizza?  It’s very simple, there is no emoji for Combos which I think is a billion dollar idea right up there with Facebook.  No, really, think of it.  I could just sit here in the basement designing branded emojis for multi-mega nationals in my pajamas (umm… I would be the one in pajamas, not the elephant) brushing the crumbs off my orange stained keyboard.

But to save time and effort I think I’ll let you do it and sic my DCMA copyright troll lawyers on you after you make some money.

Judd Apatow’s web exclusive extended interview and the real news below.