Monday, April 30, 2012

Vince Bugliosi's Magnificent Obsession - and Delusion (3)

We now continue to skewer Vince Bugliosi's "6 myths" of the JFK assassination, at the heart of his massive propaganda piece, Reclaiming History.

Myth 4: A second gunman shot Kennedy from the grassy knoll

Bugliosi claims there “is no substantive evidence that any shot was fired from the grassy knoll” but he is totally wrong. In fact, as we saw with 'Myth 3' (previous blog) if we take Jackie's actions and account for them as genuine (as seen in frame 313 of the Zapruder film) there is no wiggle room other than there had to be a second gunman. No other explanation accounts for a piece of JFK's skull being sent hurtling backwards over the limo trunk with Jackie in pursuit. Such a dynamic effect would never have come from a rear (to the limo) shot.

Indeed, the ONLY full governmental investigation (remember the Warren Commission was organized at the behest of LBJ, not congress!) by the House Select Committee on Assassination, concluded there was a 95% probability of two gunmen, one of which fired exactly from the grassy knoll based on the careful analysis of echograms from impulses retrieved off a dictabelt recording by Dr. James E. Barger and Mark Weiss. This original work was also later fully reinforced by the paper 'Echo Correlation Analysis and The Acoustic Evidence in the JFK Assassination Revisited' by D.B. Thomas, published in 'Science and Justice' , 2001, (Vol. 41, pp. 21-32)

Though the FBI, and a percussionist (Steve Barber, using a recording from a Gallery magazine) and the NSA under a team by Dr. Norman Ramsey, all attempted to refute the acoustic findings their efforts were basically for naught. A key impediment to the analysis of the latter was that: a) the team was not compromised of acoustic experts, and b) their conclusions could not be confirmed, nor did they offer any basis by which the results might be replicated - a necessary condition of good science.
On the other hand, the paper by D.B. Thomas went over all the acoustic data with much more refined analysis and arrived at the conclusion that the Barger-Weiss team was correct, and there were at least 4 shots as indicated by the telltale impulses, two of which were spaced 1.66 seconds apart .

Lastly, analysis of the Nix film as well as a print taken at the instant of the head shot by Mary Moorman, shows the face and figure outline of the grassy knoll shooter, now nicknamed “badge man” because a police uniform and badge stand out after the image is computer enhanced. Most of the work on this was due to photo-optic and film specialists Jack White and Gary Shaw. Their astounding results are visibly evident in the excellent Nigel Turner BBC documentary, The Men Who Killed Kennedy, Part 6. When witness Tom Arnold was presented with a photographic blowup of the enhanced image, he studied it, quickly perceived his own outline in the photo and also that of the shooter. At that point, he broke down and had to stop the interview. He added that if he had known in advance what he would be shown, he’d not have consented to the interview.

Bugliosi’s other claim in connection with this myth, that “the knoll would have been within view of all the people coming down Elm Street” is just factually wrong. Mark Lane’s video documentary- Rush to Judgment- wherein he actually walks from Elm Street to behind the picket fence on the knoll with S.M. Holland, clearly contradicts Bugliosi. The fence (at that time) is easily taller than either of the two men, and one could certainly crouch down and not be seen. If the prospective shooter wore a police uniform (or even a suit), he’d have the perfect camouflage and no one would ask questions. If they did, a response like “Security!” would trigger an instant backoff

We also know several Secret Service Commission books (equivalent to IDs) were stolen the night before and anyone operating behind the picket fence could have thenproduced one or more as cover, even if observed by a curious person. Hence, even if someone had observed anyone near or behind the fence, the encounter would be easily neutralized.

Myth 5: Oswald was timid and easily manipulated by the CIA or the Mob

Here, Bugliosi seems to be oblivious to the well-known CIA process of “sheep dipping”. 'Sheep-dipping' is a code word employed by the CIA to refer to the manipulation of a 'sponsor'(decoy) to be used in one or more covert operations. The goal of the manipulation is generally to associate with the sponsor some image, to enable the more ready belief later, that the decoy is solely responsible for a given course of action, including one leading to executive action (assassination of a head of state).  In Oswald’s case, the sheep-dipping would have been initiated years in advance from the time of his fake defection (in the CIA’s Fake Defector Program). Thereafter, bogus communications and even body doubles would have been employed to advance and consolidate the ruse.

Military Science Professor John Newman gives the best documented instance in the case of an Athens, TX cattleman, Eldon Hensen, while attempting to make contact with the Cuban Embassy in July, 1963 (Newman,: 1995, Oswald and the CIA, Carroll & Graf Publishers, pp. 362-63.)   According to Newman (ibid.):
"What the CIA Station in Mexico City did to Eldon Hensen in July, 1963 was to 'step into' his reality and direct it in a way designed to achieve the Agency's objectives- in this instance to see what he was up to.

This CIA capability, to surreptitiously enter into someone's life to control or manipulate it, was made possible in this case by the telephone taps."

Henson isn’t the only example, and author James Douglass (JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, 2007, Orbis, p. 266.)  also shows that Thomas Arthur Vallee, who was to have been the Chicago assassin for Kennedy’s proposed visit on Nov. 2, 1963, was also sheep-dipped, and likely selected for patsy-hood using a false defector program that the ONI set up in 1959.  Had JFK traveled to Chicago, we’d likely only have heard of Vallee and never known a Lee Harvey Oswald. Vallee and Oswald were simply interchangeable pieces on the CIA’s chess board for executive action, yet Bugliosi professes not to have a single clue about it. Incredible then, how in 1,518 main pages, and over a thousand endnote-footnote others, he couldn't muster evidence that Douglass could in a book less than one third the size of Bugliosi's!

Frankly, if I needed a research assistant, and with this monumental display of inefficiency, Vince Bugliosi would be the last one I'd ask for!

Myth 6: Jack Ruby was working for the Mob when he killed Oswald

Here Bugliosi evinces just plain, unfathomable ignorance. An ignorance that might have been even mildly remedied had he simply been energized enough to try to locate the relevant, documented FBI files on Ruby’s past connections. But clearly it was too much trouble,  or he realized finding such threatened to subvert his propaganda piece, so he elected to just write them off.

Mark North, using actual FBI files, documents many of Ruby’s Mob connections in his book, Act of Treason- including his reported “gangster connections in Dallas”, especially to Joseph Civello, the Mafia boss in Dallas The same files disclose that Ruby, on October 26, 1963, “placed a 12 minute person to person call to Irwin S. Weiner at Weiner’s Chicago home”.

It is further noted that Weiner was a “prominent Chicago Mafia associate” and “instrumental in coordinating the flow of cash between the Teamsters and Las Vegas casinos." (North, op. cit., pp. 333-34).  

Of course, it is more than possible that Bugliosi’s Myth 6 is conveniently founded on “what the meaning of ‘is’ is”. That is, in restricting the definition of “working for” to a fully vested worker, as opposed to a contractor- temporary operative. This pseudo-difference also emerged in connection with Clay Shaw in New Orleans, and whether he worked for the CIA or not. Years after the (Jim) Garrison trial, with release of files, it would become evident that Shaw was indeed a CIA Contract Agent.

As CIA Doc. (JFK 1993: notes:

"A memorandum marked for files says that J. Monroe Sullivan, #280201, was granted a covert security approval as of 10 December 1962 so he could be used in Project QKCHANT [Clay L. Shaw has #402897]"

Was Shaw therefore “working for the CIA”? Well, if one is a word purist or pedant he’d likely say ‘No’, disavowing all contract agents (which likely would also negate Lee Oswald as a contract agent for the FBI or ONI despite his having operative numbers). However, I find these distinctions purely artificial, and to all intents, counterproductive. If one is a contract agent- then he or she is assuredly working for the agency that hired him or her as a contractor. Splitting hairs over these semantic nuances is a sterile game in the end, and a fool’s errand.

In the same way, whether Ruby worked for the Mob in the 50s, and was (by 1963) merely possessed of “Mob connections” – is neither here nor there. As a former Mob operative (for Santos Trafficante) in the 50s, gun-running into Cuba, all that was required for his operational re-emergence in late 1963 was an outstanding liability, with which he could be assisted.

Such a liability might well have been his outstanding owing of more than $40,000 in back excise taxes to the federal government, plus $20,000 in other back taxes. A phone call could then have assured Ruby his tax problems would “disappear” if he performed one more job: offing Oswald. (Particularly critical since Carlos Marcello – New Orleans Mob boss- was involved in at least one contract offer that Hoover knew about since September, 1962 – hence North’s insistence Hoover was guilty of treason. Eliminating Oswald would make even the more remote Marcello connections go away.)

Is Bugliosi’s book believable? Credible? Sure, if one has consciously ignored the multifold aspects of the assassination, and not ascertained the connections between all the players.  Or, if one is a Hollywood-ish dilettante and looking for a new "gig" for the 50th anniversary of the assassination, and fancies that a monstrous tome of 2,646 pages is all that's needed to convince people (and himself)  that history is "reclaimed". But those of us who have actually done the work, our own investigations, such as those I disclose in the Appendices of my book, will not be swayed.

The sad truth is that any major HBO series produced by Hanks and his Playtone buddy Goetzman, will merely add to the ambiguity and distortion matrix that’s prevented us from arriving at the truth for more than four decades. In the final analysis, all Bugliosi has succeeded in achieving is adding another layer of  protective cover for those behind the “Unspeakable”. Sadly, Hanks and Goetzman will have been his accomplices if their specious series is televised. And no, Mr. Hanks, it will not "upset conspiracy types" so much as disappoint those of us who had taken you for a sincere truth-seeker, as opposed to a poseur and CIA media asset - like Max Holland.

Next: Bugliosi's Other Errors of History, Fact and Science.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Vince Bugliosi's Magnificent Obsession - and Delusion (2)

We continue now with our examination of Vince Bugliosi's "myths" - by which he seeks to "reclaim history" - but which is more in the line of reclaiming bollocks  (and disinformation) a la Gerald Posner in his Case Closed.

Myth 2:  It would have taken a magic bullet to hit both Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally given its crooked trajectory.
Bugliosi’s problem here revolves around timing and denial of the laws of physics and human biology. First, to expose his myth for the codswallop it is, one needs to examine carefully the original Zapruder frames. One also needs to be cognizant that the moving frames of the film constitute the “clock” for the assassination, since each frame moves at one eighteenth per second.

The first shot, a throat shot, is clearly visible in Z-224 as the limo emerges from a street sign and JFK is clutching at his throat. What else would he be doing, trying to scratch off a large butterfly or mosquito?

At frame Z-228 Kennedy’s throat clutch is clearly visible and meanwhile, Connally bears no evidence of being shot. This is four frames advanced from 224 and amounting to a time differential of 4/18 second, or 0.22 sec. Meanwhile, for an alleged Mannlicher-Carcano bullet travelling at 1600 ft/ second, and given 3 feet (maximum) separating the two men, this yields a time differential of t = 3’/ 1600f/s = 0.0018s. In other words, the observed time differential in the Z-movie is over 120 time slower than the real bullet would take to traverse the distance from Kennedy’s throat to Connally. Is it possible that Connally is evincing some seldom seen superhuman restraint or postponed reaction? Not very likely, given the damage inflicted to him! What is clear is that the throat shot must be distinct from the shot that actually struck him.

Corroborating that there’s been no unusual biological reaction, Connally is clearly seen holding his Stetson in his right hand through frame Z-235. If the bullet had struck him, and shattered his wrist, there is simply NO way he’d have been able to hold the hat by its brim with his right arm straight up. What Bugliosi is asking is for us to accept a pure mental delusion or visual fiction not supported by the film evidence. Even allowing for some ambiguity, in terms of frames Z-234, 235 (the latter of which Connally’s shoulder is seen going downward), and allowing that Connally could have been struck at Z-234, this is a total time differential of 10/18 sec or 5/9 of a second between Kennedy’s throat shot and Connally’s shoulder-wrist wounds. Nellie Connally in her Warren testimony, and later to LIFE magazine, also confirmed two separate shots. As she put it:

“First I heard the shot, or strange loud noise,…back behind us- then I turned to my right and saw the President gripping at his throat. Then I turned back toward John and heard the second shot that hit John

Reinforcing this is the fact that, had Gov. Connally been hit at frame 230 (as single bullet adherents posit) it makes no sense he could have continued holding his heavy white Stetson for about another second and a half, after being struck in the right wrist with his ulnar nerve shattered! Anatomically this is nonsense. Close examination of the key frames discloses he firmly retains his grip on his Stetson between right thumb and forefinger. Nellie also reiterated this in an NBC TODAY show interview Nov. 19, 1998.

It is the ulnar nerve which permits this apposition of finger and thumb to hold an implement. But any bullet fired into the wrist (i.e. at Z-230) would have severed that nerve, making any continued grasp of his Stetson totally impossible. Hence, lone nut adherents are asking us to subscribe to a physically impossible situation. This is also what Bugliosi must resort to in order to support his “myth”.

The usual skeptic rejoinder that he “suffered a delayed reaction” is patent nonsense. It is nonsense to stretch the laws of physical, anatomical nature as violently as the single bullet lunacy tortures the Newtonian laws of physics into deformed caricatures subservient to political agendas rather than natural laws. Indeed, the level of willingness to perform such perversion of natural laws bespeaks an ulterior motive or agenda, most likely in the political cleansing realm. LBJ, the WC and their cronies all wanted the conspiracy Zeitgeist to recede, and they confected an endless stream of bullshit to try to make it so.

Now, why is it so important that the two shots separated by 5/9 sec be conflated into one? Because if the two separate shots were accepted, it meant there had to be at least TWO shooters- hence satisfying the minimal condition for conspiracy. (Which was the found conclusion of The House Select Committee on Assassinations, in 1978  - which one supposes Bugliosi also believed were off their rocker). Oswald’s alleged bolt-action rifle could only be recycled about once every 2.33 seconds, so there’s no way two separate shots could be made in less than one second.

Why are these biological/neurological and mechanical laws being so desperately convoluted and deformed? They’re deformed deliberately to serve a politically expedient solution and a whitewash that seeks to dismiss the real evidence. They only succeed by betting on the mass scientific ignorance of the American people, to be able to challenge the specious contentions. Hence, we see it is the lone nut advocates like Vince Bugliosi that are the real pseudo-scientists throughout this case. It is they who are concocting the 'delayed reactions', or 'neuro-muscular spasms' or (sic) 'jet effects' or pure serendipitous coincidences (pristine bullet CE399 on stretcher) to drive their political commitment to the 'lone commie' gunman, which, of course, conveniently removes the spotlight from the political -militant Right and associates within the national security state.

Myth 3: Kennedy’s Head Snap to the rear proves he was shot from the front.

To bolster this one, Bugliosi invokes Zapruder frame Z-313 specifically, and Z-frames-313-321 overall. In this rear snap frames he says Kennedy’s head is going backward because of a “neuromuscular action”  and the bullet entering the brain causing such specific nerve damage that it triggered a violent rearward response.
This is rubbish on a number of counts. First, the actual term was “neuromuscular spasm” and first introduced by Dr. George Lundberg in a paper he did for The Journal of the American Medical Association in 1994. The problem is that, even as Lundberg pointed out, the spasm has only been observed in felines. At no time and under no other conditions has it ever been observed in humans.

Other lines of evidence also disclose Bugliosi is on a misinformation bend in his book. One of the most significant alternative cross checks, is a critical Zapruder photo (second after frame Z-313), which clearly shows Jackie lurching over the limo trunk. Readers can see this frame and Jackie lurching backwards over the trunk in the image to the lower left of this blog from last year:
Study it carefully. What was she doing? Why did she lurch in that particular direction? Her own special testimony delivered in secret and not formally printed with the main volumes of the Warren Commission Hearings (but in their Appendices), is telling: she was trying to retrieve a dislodged piece or fragment of JFK's skull. (Note: This is also affirmed by her in recently released audio tapes she made, dated from 1964, in interviews with historian Arthur J. Schlesinger, Jr.).

But here's the problem: If this is indeed so (and a number of other films, photos, e.g. the Nix film shown in the Italian documentary The Two Kennedys, appear to bear it out), then it could not have been Lee Oswald firing from the Texas Book Depository at the REAR of the limo! The reason is linked to basic physics, specifically Newtonian mechanics and the transfer of linear momentum. Hence, if a piece of skull fragment is displaced over the rear of the limo, it could not have been from a bullet fired to the rear of the limo, but rather from the front. But the front is not where Oswald is claimed to have been by the Warrenites! In other words, the account of the Warren Commission is exactly 180 degrees opposite to the principles of basic physics.

As to Bugliosi's Myth 2, Kennedy's head snap to the rear may not have proven conclusively that he was shot from the front (since many researchers believe two separate shots from two directions may have been conflated at that frame) but Jackie's movement over the REAR of the trunk - as well as her sworn testimony - DOES!

There is no reason Jackie would have been pursuing a fragment of JFK's skull had it not been blown off in THAT direction, which would have necessitated a FRONTAL shot, from basic Newtonian Physics.

Me thinks that even if Mr. Hanks never took a basic physics course in his life, he can at least grasp the basic principle of linear momentum transfer! He would do well to think about this principle before committing himself to a 13-part project next year supporting Bugliosi's Bollocks!

Solution of Solar Corona Conductivity Problem

Following on from the blog to do with the solar corona, e.g.

We had the problem at the very end:

Find the temperature of the corona at the distance r = 2R_o. From this estimate the flux at this distance.


Recall the temperature at distance r is given by:

T(r) = T_o (R_o / r) ^2/7

Then at a distance, r = 2R_o:

T(r) =  (2 x 106 K) (Ro /2 Ro ) 2/7

T(r) =  (2 x 106 K) (1 /2 ) 2/7 =   1.6 x 106 K

To get the flux, we assume: F = 2/7 [4 π R k T ]

Where: k = 1.8 x 10-10 (T ^5/2 / ln Z) W m^-1 K^-1

k = 1.8 x 10^-10 [(1.6 x 10^6 K) ^5/2 / 20] W m^-1 K^-1

k = 3. 1 x 10^4 W m^-1 K^-1

Therefore: the flux F =

2/7 [4 π (14 x 10^8 m) (1. 1 x 10 ^3 W m^-1 K^-1) (1.6 x 10^6 K)]

F = 2.5 x 10 ^20 W

Vince Bugliosi's Magnificent Obsession - and Delusion!

"How do we know that our own rational rejections of conspiracy theories are not themselves infected with beliefs so strong that they are, in effect, conspiracy theories too?"

- Matt Ridley in 'Maybe We're All Conspiracy Theorists'The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 10-11, 2011

Two days after my dad's funeral in Port Charlotte, FL, on Sunday, July, 19, 2009, I found myself with some time on my hands and decided to trek down to the 'Books-a-Million' bookstore in Murdock about a half mile from The Days Inn where I was staying. My objective was to attempt to at least get a hold of Vince Bugliosi's book, 'Reclaiming History' - his Magnum Opus on the Kennedy assassination and the claim that the case was essentially a wrap and "Oswald done it".  But rather than offer his brief (no pun intended) in a more or less digestible form, Bugliosi went off the deep end with over 1,518 pages of main text supplemented with a CD containing 958 pages of End Notes and 170 pages of footnotes. In other words, a total of 2,646 fulsome pages, to say what? That Oswald acted alone and oh by the way, the main evidence was his rifle and refusal to 'fess up!

Anyway, I was informed by a clerk at the Murdock 'Books-a-Million' that they didn't carry the "cinder block"  (her appellation) and further, she was not aware of any stores in the area that did. It took up way too much space, was too heavy and bulky ...and besides...did I not know it was "remaindered" after a year? ("Remaindered" means a book's life expectancy for any kind of continued reader interest has basically expired and most of the left over copies, of which there were likely hundreds of thousands, are either scrapped or made available to discount book sellers, like Edward R. Hamilton Bookseller, of Falls Village, CT. )

Unable to get Bugliosi's monstrosity I passed the time reading an excellent book entitled 'The Riemann Hypothesis', by Karl Sabbagh (which I ultimately purchased).

Still, I had to deal with Bugliosi's claims in some way in one of the chapters (Three) of my own book: The JFK Assassination: The Final Analysis. Fortunately, on returning home, I found a distillation of Bugliosi's complaints in an AARP Magazine article entitled, 'Six Myths About JFK's Assassination'.
What I plan to do in this and the next several blogs is challenge each of Buglisoi's Myths, and show why his case falls apart, and indeed, why he's compiled 2,646 pages of content for nothing. This is why I refer to the work as a "magnificent obsession" predicated on delusion. (For those who'd like a comprehensive review of Bugliosi' book, you can check out James Di Eugenio's online, entitled, 'Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman and Bugliosi's Bungle'. )

How did comedian and HBO mini-series (e.g. 'The Pacific') producer Hanks get into the picture? Well, evidently Tom plans to do a 13-part series next year - based on Bugliosi's material - for a 50th anniversary "last chance" effort to disabuse thinking Americans of conspiracy in the JFK assassination.  Nice try, Tom, but you're wasting your time and HBO's money, as I will show. The balance of evidence is that Bugliosi doesn't have a clue, and the size of his book cannot be interpreted as any barometer of facts, history or truth!

Anyway, let's go to some of Bugliosi's "myths":

Myth 1 : LBJ was involved:

Here, Bugliosi is hostage to his own emotional impediments, as I believe too many Americans have been, for over 49 years.  Simply put, their brains melt down into cognitive dissonant mode when remotely confronted with the probability (which too many deem "unthinkable").  In fact, Johnson is the leading suspect as facilitator, who had more than ample means, motive and opportunity to organize the motorcade route, personnel, motorcade seating etc., and we know he controlled the investigation that followed (via the bogus Warren Commission).  Some have opined this basis is such a “gimme”, based on past human history (the ‘Et tu, Brute’ paradigm) that it’s a no—brainer. Well, perhaps  for Italians (familiar with the Borgias) not for Mom, Apple pie, Flag –waving Americans!

Now the term "involved" is tricky so we need to make clear the level of involvement. No one would say LBJ was the prime "mastermind" or "architect" here, only that he was aware of the clique that was (likely an alliance of Big Oil, military higher ups - such as Gen. Curtis Le May, sick of what they saw as Kennedy "appeasement" -especially in the Bay of Pigs, and then the Oct. 1962 Cuban Missile crisis- and renegade CIA assets) and that he'd "cooperate" with them. The payoff? Finally having his dream come true and sitting in the Oval office. (In return, most serious researchers believe he signed National Security Action Memorandum 273, to overturn Kennedy's NSAM-263 - which otherwise would have seen all U.S. military pull out of Viet Nam by the end of 1965. In other words, the price for getting his wish was giving the militarists and Oil men their war.)

History is an important basis by which to logically justify this claim, so it's critical we know some details. There was first Johnson's profound sense of entitlement to the highest office. Johnson personally felt Jack stole the 1960 nomination from him using a political end around worked out by the Kennedy campaign planners, including his father Joe in cahoots with Mayor Richard Daley in Chicago. Johnson felt a supreme entitlement to the Presidency (some would say he believed he had a destiny), based on his Senate leadership, but he was wrong. Jack Kennedy outmaneuvered him in the primaries and had the mainstays of the Party sign on to ensure his success at the LA Convention.

But instead of acting like a grownup, LBJ forever pouted and held in his grievance that the office had been "stolen", by his overt and covert behavior.  This is very well confirmed in Evelyn Lincoln’s book: Kennedy and Johnson,  Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1968, pp. 149-151. Therein JFK’s former Secretary makes known how LBJ would enter the West Wing each morning – through one of the doors into her office, and "hang around". On one occasion, Kennedy surprised him by already being present in his office. He later went to Lincoln and asked her: “What is he doing in these offices?” Clearly, LBJ felt he belonged in those (West Wing) offices, perhaps one reason he once suggested “sharing” the presidency as “co-president”. (Jack wouldn't take him remotely seriously, dismissing the suggestiion as a poor joke before shagging LBJ back to his own humble digs- and providing him with extra make-work!)

While the Bill Sol Estes circus slowly seeped into the background by mid-1963, the same couldn’t be said for Johnson’s close personal friend, Robert G. (“Bobby”) Baker- the Secretary to the Senate Democratic Caucus, and key player as the Baker scandal erupted. The scandal revolved around Baker’s influence peddling and by mid –September it had become embarrasingly public.  Kennedy, always leery of his political self-interest,  gave the go-ahead for full and open investigation, leading to Baker’s public resignation on Oct. 7, 1963.
Kennedy ultimately realized that any 1964 ticket with LBJ  would be irreparably tarred, and this probably resulted in his expressed intent to have him removed, as signified by his last dictation to Secretary Evelyn Lincoln, before his Texas trip (documented in her aforementioned book). This assuredly signed Kennedy’s death warrant. It meant that Johnson had to organize some way of eliminating Kennedy, since there was no other way to ascend to the highest office. LBJ knew from his pal Hoover that even JFK’s dalliances wouldn’t cost him politically, he was too popular, charismatic.
It appears certain that by October, 1963, Johnson made known his wishes to be part of expediting any assassination effort up to and including laying down the motorcade route and possibly choosing the personnel to ride in the key cars. The most likely and plausible link or contact was probably Texas Oilman H.L Hunt who himself detested JFK as a "communist", and was responsible for having produced the ‘Wanted for Treason’ posters put up all over Dallas on the day of the assassination. Readers can view one of the posters at this link from an earlier blog (the content concerning Gen. Curtis LeMay will also be of interest):
Hunt also had lambasted JFK’s Catholicism in his ‘Facts Forum’ talk radio show. The connection to Johnson was exposed when the Senate commenced an investigation into Hunt for violating federal election laws (in the 1960 campaign)  after he dispatched 200,000 pamphlets excoriating JFK’s Catholicism and instilling the fear that the pope would rule and religious freedoms be destroyed. The Senate investigation was called off after Hunt apologized, saying he was “only trying to help Lyndon".
Ex post facto, the most revealing evidence for Johnson’s complicity in the assassination was his deplorable and criminal behavior starting with the strategic destruction of evidence. Worse, it was done with unseemly haste. Within just 12-72 hours of the assassination, all of the following evidence was either confiscated, totally compromised, lost, or destroyed:

-The alleged Mannlicher-Carcano rifle (remains at National Archives – inaccessible)

- Kennedy’s brain (missing from the time the body arrived at Bethesda)
- All of Kennedy’s clothing (ordered destroyed)

- The blood spattered and bullet- impacted limousine (ordered dispatched to Ohio, where it was disassembled, then completely rebuilt)

- Zapruder film (seized and altered with attempted juxtaposition of frames at TIME-Life, Inc.)

- The original autopsy notes of Dr. J.J. Humes (Humes burned them).

- Kennedy’s skull (re-imaged using mattes in re-done autopsy photos to make the massive wounds appear in the front and the entry wound in the rear- to comport with the Warren Commission Single Bullet theory)

Note that none of these could be done by the Mafia, angry Cubans or even rogue CIA agents. The orders had to come from the top, since the evidence was all material, and in addition under control (at various times) of federal agencies, including: FBI, and Secret Service. In fact, the relevant records disclose that none other than long time LBJ right hand man Cliff Carter (one of the co-conspirators found guilty by a 1984 grand jury in the Henry Harvey Marshall slaying) gave orders for the actions which, if refused, were followed up by Johnson himself making telephone demands.(cf. Noel Twyman, in Bloody Treason, p. 792)

Johnson also violated federal and state law with this type of usurpation, destruction of material evidence, not to mention hijacking Kennedy’s body instead of allowing the autopsy to be performed at the same Parkland Hospital in Dallas. But, of course, in that event the body would be out of Johnson’s control and he’d be unable to order removal of the brain (with the bullet cavitation path), or have the staff he needed rebuild Kennedy’s cranium to conform to the rear shot, lone –nut myth. The deliberate delay of Johnson in remaining in Dallas (until the oath of office was taken)  also plays into this. As Noel Twyman observes (op. cit. p. 797):

Johnson’s insistence on taking the oath in Dallas and delaying the flight back to Washington raises the suspicion that he wanted to take control of Kennedy’s body, which was also placed on Air Force One.

More ominously, after settling in with the power of the presidency at his disposal, Johnson’s first kneejerk reaction was to form a “Texas Commission” to look into the assassination, with staff entirely composed of Texans. When eyebrows were raised and not a few tongues, he changed tactics and instead (ibid.):

“..ordered that the entire investigation be conducted by the FBI under the supervision of J. Edgar Hoover. Furthermore, he ordered all other investigations under federal government or local government to be stopped. This placed Johnson in virtual control of the investigation through J. Edgar Hoover, who detested the Kennedys and had everything to gain by John Kennedy’s death, and everything to lose if Kennedy lived.”

Why, if Johnson had been seriously committed to learning the truth in the assassination, would he go this route? Why terminate all other investigations when they might turn up significant leads and critical information that his Warren Commission couldn’t? Why appoint Hoover at the helm, when it was already revealed he failed to act on known information that Carlos Marcello planned to eliminate Kennedy, from as far back as September, 1962, thus making Hoover a traitor? (See, e.g.: Mark North: 1991, Act of Treason: The Role of J. Edgar Hoover in the Assassination of President Kennedy,Carroll & Graf Publishers).

Again, the purpose was to control all key material evidence: allow what could be easily ambiguated or compromised, and reject the rest. Also, hand-pick a “commission"  that would knuckle under both to Hoover, and to Allan Dulles, the former CIA Director fired by JFK after the Bay of Pigs, and (incredibly) named as one of the key Commission members by LBJ.
Thus, by way of his creation of The Warren Commission on November 29, 1963, LBJ acquired the total power to block any House, Senate or Texas state investigations, while awarding himself the power to control all evidence that might possibly surface, and either ignore it, suppress it or allow it to be distorted- thereby further distancing himself, all in the name of “seeking justice”.  To quote a notable wit: “To commit the perfect crime it is only necessary to be in charge of the investigation that follows.” 

Hence, it’s logically plausible that by examining the warp and woof of Johnson’s Commission, we can at least gain an approximate perception of his degree of involvement, ex post facto. If the inquiry itself was a sham, and a put-on, then more than likely the whole Warren Commission was merely the contrived, complex pseudo-legal artifice to conceal LBJ’s cooperation or compliance in the actual Kennedy killing.

Readers can see my in -depth skewering of the Warren Commission (as a Whitewash) in the context of Stephen King's recent novel, 'November 22, 1963':

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Conductivity in the Solar Corona

The outermost envelope of the Sun, the corona, remains a subject of intense study and observation. One aspect which has drawn increasing interest is the conductivity of the plasma in the corona. This remains a work in progress but in this blog I look at some of the quantitative aspects.

The coronal heat density is generally given by:

q = - k grad T

where k denotes the conductivity and grad T is the gradient of the temperature.

The simplest physical model is a static corona for which heat inputs cancel outputs, so:

div q = 0

Assuming a spherical symmetry for the corona one can write:

1/r^2 [d/dr (r^2 k_o T^ 5/2 dT/dr) = 0

Obviously the preceding assumptions mean there must be some distance where the coronal temperature becomes zero. From the above equation. one should be able to show:

d(T^ 7/2) = 7/2 (F T_o 5/2)/ 4π k_o d(1/r) = C d(1/r)

where C is a constant.

The integral is:

To ^7/2 - T^ 7/2 = C[ 1/R_o - 1/r]

Now, set the temperature at infinity (T) to zero and obtain:

C = R_o T_o ^7/2

which fixes the total flux at:

F = 2/7 [4 π R_o k_o To ]

After another step, one finds:

T(r) = T_o (R_o / r) ^2/7

which gives the temperature T(r) as a function of a distance r based on taking the reference 'boundary' of the corona as having T_o = 2 x 10^6 K.  For example, at the Earth's distance, r = 1.5 x 10^11 one would find:
T(r) = (2 x 10^ 6 K) [7 x 10^8 m/ 1.5 x 10^11 m] ^ 2/7
where R_o is the solar radius, hence T_o is referenced to the base of the corona. Then:
T(r) = 4.3 x 10^5 K
Find the value of the constant C at the solar corona boundary.


We use: C = R_o T_o ^7/2

So: C = (7 x 10^8 m) (2 x 10^6 K) 7/2 = 7.9 x 10 ^30 m K^7/2

There is also an "empirical" thermal conductivity given by the formula:
k = 1.8 x 10^ -10 (T ^5/2 / ln Z) W m^-1 K^-1
here ln Z = 20.

If we separate out the T^ 5/2 factor, then it follows that the 'baseline' thermal conductivity is:

k_o = [(1.8 x 10^-10 )/ ln Z ] W m^-1

Or: k_o = (1.8 x 10^-10 )/ 20 W m^-1 = 9 x 10^-12 W m^-1


Find the temperature of the corona at the distance r = 2R_o. From this estimate the flux at this distance.

Can One Molecule Bring Virtuous Morality?

Paul J. Zak, author of "The Moral Molecule" would have us believe that just one little molecule: oxytocin, can bring humanity much greater morality (WSJ Review, today, 'The Trust Molecule' p. C1). In this short WSJ piece, basically a distillation of his book, he attempts to show the degree to which just a little bit more oxytocin in our lives could make some of us  (who'd otherwise remain churlish rogues and curmudgeons) more trusting, optimistic and generous.  As he puts it:

"In our blood and brains, oxytocin appears to be the chemical elixir that creates bonds of trust not just in our intimate relationships but also in our business dealings, in politics and in society at large."

Ahhh, just imagine then a congress in DC that actually works together harmoniously most of the time as opposed to incessantly jabbing for political one-upmanship. And a government that actually works for the people, as opposed to subjugating their interests too often to corporations.  Imagine also, Wall Street traders that worked for their clients' benefit for once, as opposed to exploiting them while calling them "dumb order flow" or "chickens to be plucked". Imagine - be still my heart- doctors who actually worked to first and foremost enhance their patients' best health outcomes as opposed to making extra bucks by finding problems that aren't there.

It's almost a dream come true! Hell, a Repub congress under the influence of an oxytocin nasal hit (for each one) might then yesterday have voted outright to approve letting the interest on the student Stafford loans remain at 3.8% with no strings, as opposed to gouging women's Wellness programs to get the $5.8 b to pay for the loans interest status quo for a year. Instead, the House bill demands all women's screening, including for mammograms and pap smears be cut!  Help the students, screw the women! (And if this doesn't reinforce the point that the GOP is waging a war on women, I don't know what will! I mean, the first thing they think of to defray the cost of keeping the interest the same on student loans is cutting women's health screenings? How 'bout closing corporate tax loopholes?)

Such a moral cure for Repuke hijinks would also be kind of ironic in this case given,  as Zak writes, that oxytocin is "known primarily as a female reproductive hormone".  For example, it's the hormone that secretes in lactation, which spurs on the continued inclination to lactation and also "is responsible for the calm, focused attention that mothers lavish on their babies while breat feeding". Those breast fed babies in turn, tend to grow up to be more likely to trust others, and access higher oxytocin levels. (Which leaves those of us who were bottle-fed for whatever reason, out in the cold! (:

In the article, Zak then goes on to briefly describe a set of experiments he and colleagues performed in 2001, wherein a synthetic oxytocin was "sprayed in subjects' nasal passages- a way to get it directly into their brains". The responses in terms of generosity (by money- giving) were then noted, measured and in every case in which there weren't unseen impediments (i.e. oxytocin receptors malfunctioning) the subjects responded in the positive.

Zak later elaborates by noting that increased oxytocin doesn't render one a continuous, total sheep (which would be very bad in a world replete with wolves) but rather "helps us to maintain our balance between behavior based on trust and behavior based on wariness and distrust."

Unfortunately, Zak doesn't go much into the latter behavior or why it emerges, especially in those suffering PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome) especially developed in childhood trauma or war. He doesn't explain that in such people, it is the brain's amygdala which is sensitized, leading one to be wary and hyper-alert almost 100% of the time. Nor does he relate whether (in such further tests-experiments) any synthetic oxytocin ever caused the amygdala's relentless warning radars to abate (say using PET, or SPECT-scans) in affected subjects.

The conclusion one must take away, in the absence of such further experiments, is that the addition of one chemical  - even an alleged "trust" chemical- is unlikely to make much of a difference.  The main reason? Human morality plausibly evolved over millions of years, and putatively commenced when there was little or no trust hormone in the primitive brain.

For example, in the era of 1.1 to 1.2 million years ago it was common practice for our primitive human ancestors to leave the weak, frail and elderly for the saber tooth tigers. They otherwise would have slowed up the nomadic hunting tribe(s) and made them more susceptible to extinction en masse. Thus it served group survival value. But by the time of widespread agriculture, perhaps 10,000 years ago, group survival value was enhanced by cooperation. In the agri-setting, then, there was much more in the way of contribution each member could make - not just the very strong. There was more reason to keep all alive. The earliest morality then was based on the preservation of the tribe or community, and it largely remains so. A single molecule isn't likely to overturn 1-plus million years of such evolution.

Add to this the other fact that in the course of brain evolution many atavistic structures remain from our primitive past and still militate against moral advancement.  Thus, the reticular formation retains its hold over much human behavior via territoriality, lust and outright aggression. In effect, it's unlikely that merely spraying humans with a synthetic oxytocin will make them less likely to wage war, invade other nations, or enslave the vulnerable.

What we really need then, is another quantum jump in brain evolution, but as Sagan has noted (see: 'The Dragons of Eden'), this will likely have to wait another million years- if we last that long!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Wall Street Disses Students for Seeking Relief from Loan Debt

Two weeks ago in an op-ed The Wall Street Journal ranted about "Obama loans" and how they'd break the country's back if Obama's efforts succeeded, i.e. to cap private loans' interest and offer more federal loan low-interest options. In truth, they were really ranting about how investors' share prices would dive, as well they should! It's more critical for those share prices to dive than more students be inundated with debilitating private loan debt from the equivalent of usurers and loan sharks.

This week Mr. Obama launched visits to college campuses (e.g. in North Carolina and Colorado) and made a plea to congress to allow the government - linked Stafford loans to remain at their current  3.4% interest level- as opposed to being raised to 6.8% which would permanently debt-cripple millions. Well, today' WSJ op -ed ('Freshman Class President', p. A14) didn't like that at all. Apart from castigating Obama for "fuzzy math", The Journal went off on student "deadbeats" who because of their selfish greed (in seeking to preserve 3.4% interest on Stafford loans), would "sock it to taxpayers". Hardly! More like socking it to deep pockets, spoiled brat investors....griping about a $24 /share price only going up to $28,  while the rest of us make do with 0.4% money market accounts!

The Journal also whines that:

"the fixed rate of 3.4% is barely above the 3.1% that the Treasury is now paying on the 30-year bond, and not far above the 1.9% on the 10-year."

Left unsaid is how the students themselves (or their parents), are having to pay off 3.4% loans (which may soon become 6.8% loans in July) off using money that barely earns 0.2% in bank savings or checking accounts, thanks to the Fed's near zero interest rates! Yet no one is barking about that! We are instead to feel sorry for the poor widdo speculators....errr...."investors", who stand to lose some of their pocket change if any of these kids manages to keep their heads above water.

In a previous blog:

 I showed how the student loan system has been gamed by the speculator -investor class to rip students off and shackle them to permanent debt servitude by outrageous interest rates (often made variable in the contracts) and refusing any flexibility or attention to real hardship cases. Instead The Journal disses all students as "deadbeats" if they seek to escape from their "responsibilities" including by siding politically with Obama for a sane and rational student loan policy.

Thus The Journal's further whine that "the government has seized almost the entire student loan market" doesn't hold water. What Mr. Obama is trying to do is initiate more sensible federal loan options that terminate hardship cases after a defined period - say ten years- and also offer more flexible options. Meanwhile, the Journal and its investor denizens would prefer to see millions in strangling, suffocating debt the rest of their lives so long as share prices for the private lending companies remain high.

Perhaps the most outrageous insinuation in the whole editorial is one where the Journal accuses students of deliberately opting for "low skill jobs" because of being "desperate for paychecks".

Well, uh DUH! Yuh think! The implication is that if these  recent grad "dead beats" and "slackers" just bestirred themselves to pound the pavement a bit harder they'd end up with a high paying job to pay off their loans muy rapido, and there'd be less whining. Right, and pigs fly and Mitt Romney feels the pain of the common man when he enters a Safeway or King Soopers and gets sticker shock from the milk, bread, cereal and pork prices!

There isn't one scintilla of understanding that we're in a low aggregate demand environment and corporations are sitting on nearly $2.7 trillion rather than creating decent -paying jobs for the grads to have a chance. Instead all the blame is placed on the students, for seeking to escape the millstones round their necks and not looking hard enough for great jobs, or Mr. Obama ("the freshman prez") for attempting to help them!

The sad fact is that the reactionary financial elites have no clue of the suffering of millions of students, and why they face insurmountable pain if their interest rates are raised. Like Mitt Romney, the finance mega-elites could care less, so long as the investor class makes out like bandits, while ordinary savers are left to suck salt at the hands of the Federal Reserve's low interest rates.

As for the incessant whine that the "taxpayers are being shafted" - last I checked the students ARE the taxpayers, as are their parents (who may have co-signed for their loans). From where I sit the taxpayers ARE being shafted, but not by the effort for a saner student loan policy! Rather, they're being shafted by a renegade clique of financial gamesters and speculators who thrive off debt and the bigger the better. These creeps are cousins to the same scoundrels that created the credit default swap driven financial meltdown 5 years ago.

Students will have a chance to send a message to the reactionary elites in November, but they had better be sure all their voting documents (including state IDs)  are ready well before!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Asteroid Mining? Maybe in 100 Years!

The news that a consortium of guys with deep pockets, including movie-maker James Cameron and Google's chief Exec Larry Page, are keenly interested in "mining asteroids" caught my attention this past week. At an event at the Seattle Museum of Flight these hotshots along with others unveiled "Planetary Resources, Inc." and declared its objective to developing a "low cost series of spacecraft to prospect and mine near-Earth asteroids for water and metals"  and thereby "bring the natural resources of space within humanity's economic sphere of influence".

According to Peter Diamandias, quoted in an WSJ piece ('Asteroid Mining is Outlined by a Start up',  p. C3) yesterday, the "solar system is full of resources, and we can bring them back to humanity".

Maybe, but it'll take a hell of a lot more than big talk, or "beer talk" (as we used to call it in Milwaukee) to do it! Never mind, the company said it expects to launch its first spacecraft into low Earth orbit (between 100 and 1,000 miles up) within two years. Well, that's a start and I will wait to see if they can at least succeed in that humble goal.

A bit further on in the article, things get more down to earth, as co-founder Eric Anderson asserted the company's spacecraft could essentially "catch a ride on rockets that are scheduled to be launched into space thus bringing down the cost." He added that he "believed" it would "take $25-30 million to send a group of around 6 craft to study an asteroid".

Wait, are you guys going to STUDY an asteroid or mine them? If it's only to study, as seems clear now on getting more details of this ride-hitching theory, then it will be decades before any actual attempts at mining take place. I say "attempts" because serious asteroid mining will require powerful rockets at least twice the size of the Saturn V that took Apollo astronauts to the Moon. After all, it's a far different brand of effort to actually land and dredge up then haul back resources, than to fly by a large space rock!

Even for a small, say 250'  (75 m) wide rock, mining would hardly be worth it unless you can retrieve at least 10^5 kg of metals, say. And even then, that loot of 100 metric tons of material may only yield 10 metric tons (or less) after refining. (And we won't even think about the energy to do that mining in an age approaching Peak Oil. So unless these guys have nuclear reactor scale energy, say in the exajoule class,, I don't see how they can refine, far less just bring the stuff-ores back).

Consider the job of hauling 100 metric tons (10^5 kg) of residual ore back to Earth. Let this be essentially what we call all the "final mass" - i.e. after the mining rocket has exhausted all its fuel in getting at least that much mining equipment to the rock. Then, we will need at least 1,000 times more fuel mass to do the passage.

Thus: M(i) = 10^8 kg and M(f) = 10^5 kg

To operate as a mining rocket - and not merely "study" asteroids, it will have to be a self-launch. Unless the Russians allow you to ferrry about 400 times to Earth orbit to assemble the mining ship there, you will have to launch from the surface which means achieving escape velocity. That is, about 11, 200 m/s. (Note: Since the shuttle's retirement, the U.S. has no major rocket plans on the drawing boards, given the Orion seems to have been scrubbed....though it may re-emerge in a diminished scale in 10 years.)

The basic rocket equation, which relates the difference in initial and final velocities (v(f) - v(i)) to the mass ratio (M(i)/ M(f))  and the velocity of the exhaust gases relative to the rocket, v', is"

v(f) - v(i) = v' ln (M(i)/ Mf))

Then, if v(f) - v(i) = 11, 200 m/s we find:

v' =  [11, 200 m/s] / ln (10^8/ 10^5) = 11,200 m/s / 6.9 = 1, 620 m/s

which will require an enormous amount of thrust. Much more than small commercial -type craft have developed. Or may ever develop! Again, bear in mind this is assuming liftoff with 100 metric tons of mining equipment, drilling, etc. which will be needed. I also assume, very generously, that the ship and crew will be able to use the same equipment to process enough rock resources for fuel to get back to Earth. (If they can do this getting back won't be as traumatic as leaving Earth because the escape velocity from a space rock is negligible even with 10^5 kg of ores aboard the ship).

Indeed, the WSJ piece notes:

"Planetary Resources executives said that after reaching the first asteroid, the company would mine it for water, set up a fuel depot, then mine the asteroid for iron and other metals. By establishing fuel depots, Planetary Resources hopes to cut costs."

Again, the problem is mainly mass: the mass of mining equipment to get the job done on leaving Earth (whether from the surface or near Earth orbit) and the mass of mined material on the return.

Other mentioned objectives appear to border on the preposterous, such as: "trying to capture a smaller asteroid and bring it into orbit around the Moon so it can be studied closer to Earth."

In this case, we are talking of effecting a change in gravitational potential energy,

V = - GMm /r

where r will change from maybe 3.5 x 10^11 m to 1.5 x 10^11(considering the Moon as part of a double planet system with Earth).  G = 6.7 x 10^-11 N-m^2/kg^2, the Newtonian gravitational constant, and M = the mass of the Sun (2 x 10^30 kg) and m the asteroid mass, maybe 10^12 kg.   The difference, V2 - V1 comes to about 5.1 x 10^20 J.

Simply put, there simply isn't the technology to effect such a massive change in energy and perhaps not for decades, maybe more than a century.

Even a professor of planetary science from MIT, Richard Benzel, quoted in the article - acknowledges that asteroids will eventually be mined for resources and become "operational stepping stones" but that the effort by Planetary Resources "may be many decades ahead of its time".

To put it via understatement!

Is the "99%" REALLY the "46%" ?

The latest polls show President Obama and Mitt Romney tied in a dead heat: 46% to 46%.  How can this be if Romney is amongst the 1% and his agenda and plans inveigh against the interests of the "99%" - which the Occupy Wall Street Movement was said to represent? One possible answer is that we are seeing first hand that the "99%" is a myth created in the heat of a protest movement and it doesn't really exist. If it did how could Romney garner 46% of a randomized polling sample? At most, and this is being generous, he shouldn't be getting more than 15%. We are forced to conclude that, as much as OWS envisioned 99% with them, it's more like maybe 46%.

In addition, since the 1% are such a minuscule proportion of the populace and number barely 930,000 families, we must conclude that either Romney and his cohort have brainwashed a sizeable chunk of the working class to subdue their own economic interests, OR they (working -blue colllar class) actually fancy that one day they will be among the 1%.

Seven years ago, a survey conducted by The Economic Policy Institute asked randomly selected respondents where they thought they were in the economic spectrum: upper 1% (earning $320,000 year or more); upper 5% (> $80,000) or where. A full 19% in this random survey claimed they were in the privileged class of the top 1%. A virtual statistical impossibility in any random study!
In fact, internal survey cross-check questions on income category showed many of these working at a little above minimum wage, and even the highest at barely $44,000/yr. Nowhere near the 1% threshold!  Other commentators on this study (e.g. Froma Harrop, Ellen Goodman) pointed to this vast income  ignorance as a basis for supporting such crap as the Bush tax cuts. Thus:

A) They didn't know where they themselves fit, and indeed inflated their wealth and positions and

B) they actually believed they'd be millionaires one fine day and be able to partake of the tax cuts. (Or 'death tax' benefits).

In fact, they were deliriously out of touch with reality. As author Michael Parenti has noted ('The Dirty Truth') 94% of all wealth comes by way of inheritance not paid work. So, they are fooling themselves. I believe this partly explains the divergence from the 99% to support the 1%, along with a visceral dislike of Obama ......for any number of the white working class.

I have already (in blogs last year and the year before) gone into this racial basis for jumping on the insane bandwagon of "anyone but Obama" but let me instead focus on why these white working class folks ought to be screeching "anyone but Mitt".

Since most of the white working or middle class doesn't likely read The Economist, they may not have seen its recent article, 'Work in Progress' under Mitt Romney's Economics in the April 21st issue (p. 39). Though blue collar workers and many middle class independents, may think Romney is the "best person" to handle the economy, they would be scared into shitting bricks if they actually read this article.  Here then are some of the things we learn therein:

- Romney has promised a budget plan that would "share Paul Ryan's objectives". One of those was to cut Medicare spending by up to 50%. Ryan proposed using "vouchers" or "premium support" - where each senior is issued about $10,000 each year to try to get health insurance on his own.

As I noted before, this can't work because the whole basis for a successful senior - elder health care program (or indeed ANY program) is that it relies on POOLED risk. If people -seniors are left to fetch policies on their own, then they are detached from the risk pool and we know insurance companies will demand more money. This is why you can see some hospitals and plans demanding $180,000 for an appendectomy while those in managed pools pay only $13,000 and many even less.

Thus, if Romney is not going to go by Ryan's voucher program but still insists on meeting its objectives, then the only alternative left is one discussed in a recent Denver Post article (April 25, p. 19A) in which we see hospitals starting to turn their operations over to collection companies, starting in the ER (the first place seniors denied regular Medicare coverage are likely to turn up - say after Republicans massively cut payments to Medicare docs if they get in)  In the Post article we learn that the collection company, Accreta Health:

"has contracts with dozens of hospitals around the country"

We also learn that it is alreadyunder fire in Minnesota for:

"placing its employees in emergency rooms and other departments and demanding that patients pay up before receiving treatment - according to documents released Tuesday by the Minnesota attorney general. The documents also say the company used patient health records to wrangle for more money on overdue bills."

So let us try to help the working class (or middle class) lover of Romney to grasp what he or she might face if they get their wish, and dispose of Obama in the November election.

Imagine then, you're in agonizing abdominal pain and it gets worse and worse. You are beside yourself and phone 911. The ambulance comes, and a resident quickly diagnoses appendicitis and that your appendix may soon burst. However, reps of the collection company that have taken over the hospital's ER descend on you and demand full payment - a tab of $13 thousand, before they lift one scalpel.

What do you do? Cry boo hoo hoo. Wish now that you had not voted Romney? Or what? (Understand again that under Obama's health care law such shenanigans will not be allowed, but Romney says he will shoot it down).

So what do you do? Well, how does one say this, repent at leisure? All we can tell these 99 percent determined to support this 1 percenter, is 'be careful what you wish for' because those birds may come home to roost on your own head!

Under a Romney presidency and with Reep help in the House and Senate and Obama's health care law repealed (possibly thanks to the SC), it is possible to envisage hospitals across the nation with Accreta Inc. employees "registering patients, taking down sensitive health info and championing aggressive bill collection" (D. Post, ibid.)  even as sickly patients (mostly working class and middle class) lay groaning in the halls begging for help. Think it can't happen? Think again!

Going back to The Economist summary of what Romney plans (op. cit., p. 40:) we see in addition to the preceding:

- Cutting all tax rates by 20% which will send the first year deficits up to ~ $1. 8 trillion.

How in Hell's Bells is this being economically responsible? Especially when (p. 39) Romney plans to put Glenn Hubbard- the architect of the Bush tax cuts (that already added $3 trillion to the deficit) in charge of shepherding them in? Can't people understand why or how we got in this deficit predicament in the first place? So why would you want to repeat it? As Einstein said: "Insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result"

And in this case, we know that same thing is tax cuts.

- Medicaid - conversion to block grants to the states.

This means that instead of matching federal dollars the states will get zip. They will have to sink or swim with their Medicaid rolls, which more likely means sink, as thresholds to enter the program are made more severe because of lack of money. This portends millions of suffering people across the land, kids dying from simple infections because they can't get care, moms dying in childbirth, dads from heart attacks or even gun shots.

Are people that het up to get rid of Obama that they're willing to open the door to this manner of Hell?

- Social Security

Here, Romney will raise the retirement age to 70, meaning most African -Americans, Hispanics and working class whites will not see one red cent of their full benefits - because they will die first. Meanwhile, those who elect to take benefits early (age 62) , will be lucky to collect $500 a month if that - so radically will the early benefits option be pared down.

- Dodd-Frank Finance Reform law:

Romney will repeal it, meaning the chances of another financial meltdown like the one in 2007-08 will rise to 90 percent or more.  You all working and middle class Romney lubbers, you ready to have your 401ks melted down to half their value once more? To see your home prices plummet? To see your credit frozen up? To see your kid on the bread lines? To see another risk of a Great Depression emerge? This what you really want from the 'Wonder Boy CEO'? Is this payment worth the price to get Obama out of the WH?

- Global Warming:

Romney plans to use an Executive order to "prohibit the EPA from regulating CO2 emissions".

This means there will be no means for halting carbon deposition, since a likely Reep congress wouldn't pass anything. Hence, expect climatic catastrophes to increase under a Romney term: more extreme weather, more twisters wrecking homes - and likely little emergency help to rebuild because the Reeps will claim the need for "austerity" because of all the deficits.

You really want that world? You love Romney THAT much that you would risk it? You hate Obama that bad that you'd vote Romney?

- Federal spending below 20% by 2017

If this is so and Romney achieves it, kiss all your safe drinking water, food and other clear air regs good bye. Enjoy the brain parasites infesting your pork, the mad cow in your beef, and the salmonella in your chicken, eggs and milk. Combine that with Romney and the GOP's plans to pare down health care spending too - a la collection agency companies like Accretive managing hospitals, and you have a nightmare world.

All because a certain large element of the '99%" believed they had to send Obama packing!

Fortunately, at least 46% are opposed to the 46% who'd rather usher in RomneyHell in America. What we need to do is entice the residual 8% Undecided to come to our side and understand that their interests are not supported by a Romney presidency. Then, with a 54-46 electoral advantage we can send Mitt back to his pampered life as a $32. 5 million a year rentier, living the easy life  off his dividends as he enjoys his 2000 sq. foot swimming pools, $1m commode and $2.3 m car elevators in his gold-lined garage outside LA.

And, in the aftermath of another Obama win, we may well ask ourselves how we even came within light years of putting a guy like this in the Oval office!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Eat Gulf Sea food? Don't think so!

It's no wonder that corporatization in a government is a slow painful takeover process almost like a cancer.  One day or year you have a "government for the people, by the people" etc. and flash forward and you get one that hates transparency, sees people - ordinary citizens- as threats. Even as it chums up to the lobbyists and corporate interests that fund it.

One of the nasty ways this process has metastasized is to do with our food supply. The problem is that when health threats are obvious and clear, we are told by some agency or the other - usually the CDC, or FDA or USDA, to just ignore them. Thus, the CDC told us for years that flouride in water was no threat, despite clear evidence to the contrary. (See, e.g. Project Censored Yearbook (1999, p. 74) ,  Joel Griffiths and Chris Byron: 'Fluoride, Teeth, and the Atomic Bomb.')

The same Project Censored also noted that 'Mad cow" had never really abated from the U.S. beef supply, so no surprise cases turned up in 2003 and three human deaths from the disease. Do I still eat beef? Perhaps a beef roast, but rarely if ever burgers.

Then, two years ago we had the horrific BP oil spill off the Gulf coast. Eventually, they managed to get it cleaned up using primitive "boom" technology more than 30 years old. We were then led to believe (by the FDA) that all was well and that Gulf sea food - fish, lobsters, cray fish etc. were fine to eat. Well, what would you expect an agency trapped in the corporo-nexus and matrix to say? That it wasn't okay to eat, and therefore cost major industrial concerns millions? Hardly!

Fortunately, like Project Censored in the case of flouridated water supplies and Mad Cow disease (much of it traced to feeding cattle the rendered parts of other, deceased animals- hence setting the stage for prions) the 17th annual Tulane Environmental Law Summit has kept us updated on the continuing impacts of the BP Oil Spill.

To that end, scientists at the summit presented recent photographs of shrimp with no eyes and fish with cancerous tumors born long after the gulf was declared “safe” for fishing. While FDA's conclusions were based on testing seafood close to the surface, this isn't very revealing. When BP sprayed chemical dispersants containing a slew of toxic heavy metals including arsenic, the oil didn’t magically disappear, it sank into the sediment to affect any and all denizens that came near.

Disturbingly, the allowable levels set by the government for the toxins in our seafood are based on health impacts for a 176-pound adult eating less than two medium shrimp a day, wich is totally foolish. (I am about that weight and eat 9-10 jumbo shrimp at least!)  The testing also is for one chemical out of a crude oil mixture containing thousands of chemicals. In addition, NO synergistic effects were considered (i.e. the interplay between chemicals). This in no way protects children, fetuses, people who weigh less than 176 pounds or anyone who eats seafood on a daily basis such as citizens on the Gulf Coast!

One must therefore conclude these were mock tests, and the conclusions mock conclusions....or maybe better, a mockery of scientific conclusions! What do the testers on high take us for? Idiots?

Dr. Patricia Williams, Ph.D., Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology, Associate Professor, Coordinator of Toxicology Research Laboratories, Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences, University of New Orleans, spoke at the summit about what she sees as a failure to properly assess the impact of the spill on seafood and on human health. She said:

"In 1996, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration acknowledged that direct measurement of tissue for PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) concentrations generally does not provide a useful indicator of exposure of fish to PAHs from petroleum spills. Regardless, an extremely expensive seafood testing program was launched using this method. Testing included only 13 PAH parent compounds out of 200 PAHs present in crude oil. PAHs act on each other resulting in greater toxicity than expected from a single PAH (synergism). The synergistic nature of the PAHs were ignored in interpretation of the results. Additionally, the Levels of Concern were calculated for a 176 pound individual. This does not address toddlers and children or the developing fetus and placental transfer. The public was not warned of these deficiencies in the seafood testing program."

So this brings into question whether the citizen can trust ANY government agency conclusions or studies. (Including a recent one which finds a new chemical derived from "Agent Orange" to treat weeds, (2,4, D)  is safe and non-carcinogenic. The FDA assures us this is the case. But when a guy downwind of the spraying of this crap sees his tomato plants curl up and die, I don't believe it.)

Dr. Williams explained that “PAHs are endocrine disruptors that interfere with the normal blood-borne hormones (e.g., estrogen and testosterone) that are responsible for the regulation of reproductive and developmental processes. Only very low amounts of chemicals are needed to disrupt the normal endocrine balance of both humans and animals. Evidence of reproduction imbalance is seen in the second generation of white shrimp in the 2011 harvest. Shrimp were harvested with defective eye stalks, pleopods, and pereiopods. Such anatomical defects are occurring in the markedly reduced white shrimp population in the Gulf and warn of endocrine dysfunction that could result in the loss of the species.”
She also added:

The heavy metals known to be present in crude oil are being ignored in the testing of seafood. Metal toxicity can produce neurobehavioral abnormalities in sea life such as: alterations in avoidance or attraction responses; critical swimming speed; changes in social interactions (e.g. aggression), reproduction, feeding, and predator avoidance; food foraging with reduced feeding ability; loss or orientation in swimming and changes in schooling behavior. Heavy metal testing in BP Oil clean-up workers has documented increased arsenic levels in 24 hour urine specimens.”

And what of health effects down the line? According to Dr. WIlliams:

"The future chronic health effects from consumption of contaminated seafood and biomagnification along the food chain are yet to be realized in both sea life and humans. Chronic effects may take years to present and may elude an analysis of their causal origins. ”
To me, this translates into an explosion of cancers and other (hormone disruption) problems.  But are they or will they be as nefarious as the effects from flouridated water?, e.g. (op. cit.)

- perinatal deaths 15% higher than in neighboring non-fluoridated areas.

-impairment of immune system function

- skeletal fluorosis, from chronic exposure, including: severe joint and bone pain, sensations of burning, pricking in the limbs, muscle weakness, chronic fatigue, gastrointestinal disorders

- lowering of IQs, in children exposed to fluoride over prolonged time, and animal studies disclose shrinkage of brains.

Who knows? What we do know is that our corporatized gov't doesn't appear to share the concern for its citizens' health that other industrial nations do. Hell, it won't even make available a single payer health system to halt all the abuse, profiteering and billing excess. (More on this in a future blog)

The "Land of the free and home of the brave"? More like the land of the perpetually-kept ignorant and exploited for corporate gain.

As noted in my Elements of the Corporatocracy, it is only a very few citizens - perhaps 5% if that - that at any time know what the hell is going on in this country (economically, societally and healthwise) and aren't fooled most of the time. Tragic...but true!

How Did College Grads Acquire the Debt "Millstone" Round Their Necks?

We read in numerous media (e.g. WSJ, The Economist, NY Times etc.) that there is now nearly $1 trillion in outstanding college debt. Many recent grads are so buried in debt (especially from the the usurious interest rates of private loans) that it will be decades before they get out from beneath it, if at all.

And the mountain of student debt threatens to become much more horrific a problem if the interest on gov't-linked Stafford student loans are increased from 3.4% to 6.8% this June, as the House GOP wants to do (in conformance with terrific Wall Street pressure to maximize profits for private lenders).

In fact, the worst error a student can make is taking on any private loan from a private lender. My advice on this score would be if you can't obtain a federal loan of some type (or combination), don't even think of going to college. Perhaps attend a community college, get an associate degree and done.

The reasons are obvious to any one who knows anything about these loans starting with the fact they usually carry uncapped variable interest rates, and they aren't required to have flexible payment options. As if these aren't bad enough there is no statute of limitations on collections, no chance to file for bankruptcy protection and the collection agencies can dog you into old age, even collecting your social security monies! Most current students are finding that though on paper they may owe $70,000, the actual total is more like $210,000! No wonder many are in despair!

Other downsides of these private loans are also clear:

- Delay in buying a car - purchasing a home

- Postponement of marriage

- Inability to rent because of high debt to income ratio

- Being forced to deal with sharks from private collection agencies

- Having liens placed on bank accounts and property

- Wages garnished, tax refunds seized

As one can see the misery index is incalculable, and the cost to benefit ratio in the end may not be worth it. Indeed, the only jobs noted in one WSJ piece three days ago that a grad can be certain of getting, are:  home health aid, Starbucks barista, or waste service ("sanitary") engineer.. The highly paid technical and skill jobs are almost all gone and unlikely to re-appear given a starved demand economy. That's the bottom line. So, what's the point of taking out $150-200 k in debt when one's life time earnings may not reach even twice that? (Debt to income ratio of 50%)

When I graduated from the University of South Florida in 1971, I had roughly $1, 500 in National Defense Student Loans outstanding. These were easily paid off after I left Peace Corps, at the federal 1% interest rate. By 1972, the government - enabled loans had essentially dried up after Nixon launched the Student Loan Marketing association or "Sallie Mae" which grew into a private-gov't hybrid with the main aim to shift the burden of paying for college loans from government to students.

So long as loan amounts remained in line with inflation there was no problem. Once inflation began galloping away in the late 70s, much of it owing to the higher price of oil, all bets were off. Loan interest now began to ratchet up and more private burdens were imposed as government assistance was pulled back. By the end of Reagan's adminstration, the balance between need-based grants and interest-bearing loans had shifted dramatically, to the extent Pell Grants covered barely one half what they did in 1981. And the student loan industry began to see its profits soar.

The catalyst was an ambitious Sallie Mae executive named Albert Lord. Within a decade of joining the company as comptroller in 1981, Lord rose to CEO with a plan to take Sallie Mae private and shift the company’s center of gravity from Washington to Wall Street. The desire was mutual and Sallie Mae’s assets multiplied eightfold during the Reagan years. Investors were salivating over the chance to get a piece of Sallie Mae’s expanding $15 billion portfolio of government-backed loans.It's been downhill for students ever since.
In 1996, Sallie Mae went private and began trading as the SLM Corp. All of the trends of the 1980s accelerated, and by the early aughts Lord sat on a personal fortune of $230 million. Sallie Mae’s 2003 annual investors report boasted of “strong fee income growth, largely from debt management operations.” With his profits Lord began building a private 18-hole golf course on his Maryland estate. Shortly after breaking ground, he bitched to The Baltimore Sun about having to deal with zoning officials. “I hate rules,” said Lord.
Not all rules. When he uttered these words, Sallie Mae had just spearhead the lending industry’s lobby effort behind the 2005 Bankruptcy Act, which stripped private student loans of bankruptcy protection. (Such protections around federal loans had long been chipped away.) Leading the effort in Congress was Lord’s golfing buddy and current majority leader, John Boehner. It was around this time that Sallie Mae hired Boehner’s daughter as an executive at one of its largest collection companies. Sallie Mae remains the largest donor in the history of Boehner’s PAC, followed by the unctuous for-profit education industry, where private student loans are most common, most toxic and least likely to result in a college degree.

Students, especially in massive loan debt, need to remember who their friends, and who their enemies are, as this November approaches. One big objective for them, and Occupy: Get out the vote and take back Boehner's House from underneath him! Show him that payback can be a bitch! This ought to be doubly motivating if the Goopers allow an increase in the interest rates of the Stafford loans to 6.8%..