Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 19th, 2007

Something for the pregnant, the near-pregnant, & the nursing

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I included this in the book, but I thought really I should shout it everyplace:

A woman who is pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or is nursing should, I firmly believe, avail herself of three supplements, two of which are not generally a focus yet:

1. Calcium supplement — this one is pretty well known, but worth taking anyway. It seems risky to depend solely on getting sufficient calcium for food during pregnancy. And for the body to use the calcium, it requires vitamin D.

2. Vitamin D — The study quoted here is quite informative; they are having pregnant mothers take 4000 IU of vitamin D a day. Studies have found many newborns suffer from vitamin D deficiencies. Note that people have taken 10,000 IU of vitamin D daily for 5 months with no signs of overdose. (Quoted in the study.)

3. Fish-oil capsules — Consider taking at least 6 grams of high-quality fish oil be taken daily—three 1-gram capsules with breakfast and three with dinner. Omega-3 is essential for fetal brain and nerve development, and the modern diet is sadly lacking in sources of omega-3. http://tinyurl.com/2zgnhp and http://tinyurl.com/28a8av

While it’s not a supplement, it would not be amiss to consume two tablespoons of blackstrap molasses each day as well: that delivers 40% of the adult daily requirement of iron, potassium, and calcium for just 84 calories total.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 7:17 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

Fighting crime efficiently and effectively

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Interesting notion:

Both crime and prison populations could be reduced dramatically by focusing on the “power few” criminals who commit the most crime, according to Lawrence Sherman, Director of the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania and Professor of Criminology at Cambridge University, UK. His paper will be published online this week in Springer’s Journal of Experimental Criminology.

Using data across a wide range of research, Sherman shows that most crime is committed by a small fraction of all criminals, at a tiny fraction of all locations, against a tiny fraction of all victims, during a few hours a week. By focusing police, probation, parole, rehabilitation, security and prison resources on these “power few” units with the most crime, the study shows how society could stand a far better chance at crime prevention without raising costs.

“Billions of dollars in criminal justice costs are wasted each year on people and places with almost no risk of serious violent crime,” said Sherman, “while the high-risk targets receive far too little attention.” Citing rising homicide rates in Philadelphia since 2002, his research shows how more rehabilitation for a tiny number of offenders may have been able to prevent many of the murders.

The study shows that the key to making the most out of these extreme concentrations of crime would be to test prevention strategies aimed only at these few crime locations, times, situations, victims or offenders. By investing more effort in experiments aimed at finding effective solutions to the predictably serious crime problem caused by the “needles in the haystack,” governments around the world could move much quicker to reducing crime and violence. By investing equal effort in low-risk and high-risk offenders, these strategies now yield unequal results — wasting most of the money on targets unlikely to cause serious harm.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 5:55 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

Tagged with ,

Do you feel safer now? DHS deportations…

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This is terrible—and it’s being done in our name.

Selinsgrove, PA — Dr. Pedro Servano and his wife, Salvacion, “are America … a family to parade across the world’s stage as an example of our nation’s best and brightest.”

That’s Homeland Security Department counterterrorism operative Bill Schweigart’s assessment of the Selinsgrove couple, who came to the U.S. from the Philippines more than 20 years ago.

Pedro Servano serves about 2,000 patients through his family practice at the Geisinger Medical Group near Selinsgrove. Salvacion Servano operates a small business in Sunbury. Two of their four children are Temple University graduates. The younger ones are 15 and 13.

U.S. immigration officials intend to deport the doctor and his wife.

The Servanos received a letter Oct. 25, ordering them to report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials Friday at Allenwood Federal Prison. A 17-year battle might be near an end.

The Servanos’ offense? They entered the United States in the early 1980s on visas that did not reflect the couple had married since their mothers had completed the pair’s visa applications.

Immigration officials say that’s a misrepresentation and grounds for deportation.

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Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 5:49 pm

Paying for prisons

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US Prison Population

It just goes on and on:

The US prison population has risen eight-fold since 1970, with little impact on crime but at great cost to the taxpayer, researchers say. There are more than 1.5 million people in US state and federal jails, a report by a Washington-based criminal justice research group, the JFA Institute says.

Inmate numbers are projected to rise by 192,000 in five years, costing $27.5bn (£13.44bn) to build and run jails.  The JFA recommends reducing the number and length of sentences. [And we might look at the drug laws and their effectiveness (or lack of it) and cost of enforcement. – LG]

The Unlocking America report, which was published on Monday, also advocated changing terms of parole and finding alternatives to prison as part of a major overhaul of the US justice system.

“There is no evidence that keeping people in prison longer makes us any safer,” said JFA president James Austin. The report said that US crime rates, which have been in decline since the 1990s, are about the same as those for 1973.

It says the incarceration rate has soared because sentences have got longer and those who violate parole or probation are more likely to be given prison terms. The report said that every year hundreds of thousands of Americans are sent to jail “for crimes that pose little if any danger or harm to society”.

It cited several examples including a Florida woman’s two-year sentence for throwing a cup of coffee at another car in a traffic row. Its recommendations run counter to the Bush administration’s policy of longer, harsher sentences, which the government says has contributed to falling violent crime and murder figures.

The JFA researchers found that women represented the fastest-growing sector of the US prison population.

The report was funded by the Rosenbaum Foundation and the Open Society Institute.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 5:45 pm

Total US troop deaths due to Iraq > 15,000

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So it’s not so little as we’ve been told. Here are the calculations:

The Pentagon has been concealing the true number of American casualties in the Iraq War. The real number exceeds 15,000 and CBS News can prove it.

CBS’s Investigative Unit wanted to do a report on the number of suicides in the military and “submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Defense”. After 4 months they received a document which showed—that between 1995 and 2007—there were 2,200 suicides among “active duty” soldiers.

Baloney.

The Pentagon was covering up the real magnitude of the “suicide epidemic”. Following an exhaustive investigation of veterans’ suicide data collected from 45 states; CBS discovered that in 2005 alone “THERE WERE AT LEAST 6,256 AMONG THOSE WHO SERVED IN THE ARMED FORCES. THAT’S 120 EACH AND EVERY WEEK IN JUST ONE YEAR.”

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Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 5:38 pm

A lighter moment: best first dance at a wedding

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Requires sound, so NSFW.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 5:33 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

More Peak Oil

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Via Kevin Drum, this post. Bottom line:

This analysis looks at how existing oil fields are apparently declining, and finds a trend suggesting those declines are worsening, though the reasons for this are not clear yet.

Read the whole post.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 4:29 pm

Posted in Business, Environment, Science

Tagged with

James Fallows points to important essay

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From Fallows’s blog:

From the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, the paper “Dereliction of Duty Redux?” by Frank Hoffman, a retired Marine officer and long-time military scholar, whom I know.

The paper’s title refers, of course, to Col. H.R. McMaster’s book from the 1990s Dereliction of Duty, which argued that the uniformed military leadership in the Vietnam era finally betrayed the military and the country by not more forcefully opposing policies in Vietnam it knew to be doomed. The book was extremely influential within today’s officer corps — and since McMaster himself, a youngish West Point grad when he wrote it, has been centrally involved in combat operations in Iraq (and now is part of Gen. David Petraeus’s team), it has become a cliched joke that soon there will be “McMaster’s McMaster” — that is, some young officer who describes how even the person who saw what happened to the military in Vietnam was caught by a repetition of many of the same patterns.

Frank Hoffmann’s essay goes into the similarities and differences in the military leadership’s performance in Vietnam and Iraq — and in particular the warring “narratives” inside the military about who will take the blame for what has gone wrong this time:

The nation’s leadership, civilian and military, need to come to grips with the emerging “stab in the back” thesis in the armed services and better define the social compact and code of conduct that governs the overall relationship between the masters of policy and the dedicated servants we ask to carry it out. Our collective failure to address the torn fabric and weave a stronger and more enduring relationship will only allow a sore to fester and ultimately undermine the nation’s security.

The essay is short and very much worth reading in its entirety.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 4:01 pm

Hmm. I do have a pedometer

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Look at this:

The use of a pedometer and a Web site that tracked physical activity levels proved to be powerful motivators for people with diabetes who participated in a recent walking study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan Health System and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System. The study also suggests that certain types of goal-setting may be more effective than others.

All participants in the study wore pedometers and received automated weekly goals that were based on their previous week’s walking activity. For half of the participants these goals were “lifestyle goals,” meaning that any step taken during the day counted. The other half received “structured goals,” in which only steps taken during long walks that lasted at least 10 minutes counted. These participants had a smaller target number of steps to take in a day than the lifestyle group.

Study participants in both groups increased their walking significantly during the program and there was no difference between the groups in terms of increased walking. However, the type of goals that participants were given in the six-week study strongly influenced their satisfaction with the program. Those who received lifestyle goals were more satisfied with the walking program, and wore the pedometer more days during the study period and for more hours during each day than those who received structured goals.

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Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 3:30 pm

Noah’s/Gilgamesh’s flood kick-started agriculture

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Intriguing:

The flood believed to be behind the Noah’s Ark myth kick-started European agriculture, according to new research by the Universities of Exeter, UK and Wollongong, Australia. Published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews, the research paper assesses the impact of the collapse of the North American (Laurentide) Ice Sheet, 8000 years ago. The results indicate a catastrophic rise in global sea level led to the flooding of the Black Sea and drove dramatic social change across Europe. The research team argues that, in the face of rising sea levels driven by contemporary climate change, we can learn important lessons from the past.

The collapse of the Laurentide Ice Sheet released a deluge of water that increased global sea levels by up to 1.4 metres and caused the largest North Atlantic freshwater pulse of the last 100,000 years. Before this time, a ridge across the Bosporus Strait dammed the Mediterranean and kept the Black Sea as a freshwater lake. With the rise in sea level, the Bosporus Strait was breached, flooding the Black Sea. This event is now widely believed to be behind the various folk myths that led to the biblical Noah’s Ark story. Archaeological records show that around this time there was a sudden expansion of farming and pottery production across Europe, marking the end of the Mesolithic hunter-gatherer era and the start of the Neolithic. The link between rising sea levels and such massive social change has previously been unclear.

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Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 3:28 pm

Molly in the morning sun

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Molly sun Molly again

In the first photo, note Molly’s “fenders”: back legs large for her body size. Megs, a cobby kitty, doesn’t have fenders. These were casual shots take by The Wife to try out my camera.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 3:22 pm

Posted in Cats, Molly

Alan Dershowitz has gone around the bend.

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He wants to maintain that he’s against torture but thinks that we should use it. Weird.

Alan Dershowitz has written a post that first attacks Larisa Alexandrovna for suggesting he’s pro-torture, and then goes on to accuse the Huffington Post of censorship. Regarding Ms. Alexandrovan, he apparently feels it’s “name-calling” – and worse – to state what appears to be obvious: Although Mr. Dershowitz professes his opposition to torture, he continues to advocate for its use. Specifically, he wants to make it legal for the United States government to engage in torture practices under certain conditions.

Mr. Dershowitz’s logic appears to be that making torture legal and then establishing guidelines for its limited use is actually a form of noble opposition. It’s hard to understand how he can argue that this make him “anti-torture,” but his motives and state of mind are immaterial to the discussion.

Here’s what Mr. Dershowitz told CNN in 2003: “If torture is going to be administered as a last resort in the ticking-bomb case, to save enormous numbers of lives, it ought to be done openly, with accountability, with approval by the president of the United States or by a Supreme Court justice.” He went on to advocate the use of “torture warrants” that put “a heavy burden on the government to demonstrate by factual evidence the necessity to administer this horrible, horrible technique of torture.”

Were these just slips of the tongue? Then let’s look at Mr. Dershowitz’s written words on the subject (with my commentary in parentheses). He has written:

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Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 3:14 pm

Cannabis compound may stop metastatic breast cancer

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Good news. Of course, farmers can’t even get DEA permission to grow industrial hemp, so I suggest the DEA will fight tooth and nail the growing of cannabis for medical purposes.

A non-toxic, non-psychoactive compound in marijuana may block the progress of metastatic breast cancer, according to a new study by researchers in California.

“This is a new way to treat a patient that is not toxic like chemotherapy or radiotherapy. It is a new approach for metastatic cancer,” said lead researcher Sean D. McAllister, an associate scientist at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in San Francisco.

The compound found in cannabis, called cannabidiol (CBD), inhibits a gene, Id-1, that researchers believe is responsible for the metastatic process that spreads cells from the original tumor throughout the body.

Opting for a musical metaphor, senior researcher Pierre-Yves Desprez likened Id-1 to “an [orchestra] conductor. In this case, you shoot the conductor, and the whole orchestra is going to stop. If you shoot the violinist, the orchestra just continues to play.”

In humans, the Id-1 gene is found only in metastatic cancer cells, said Desprez, a staff scientist at the institute. Before birth, they are present and involved in the development of human embryos, but after birth, they go silent — and should stay that way, he said.

But in metastatic cancer “when [the genes] wake up, they are very bad,” he said. “They push the cells to behave like embryonic cells and grow. They go crazy, they proliferate, they migrate.” Desprez said, “We need to be able to turn them off.”

According to the study, CBD does exactly that.

“We are focusing on the latest stages of cancer,” Desprez added. The cancer cell itself is not the problem, because a tumor can be “removed easily by surgery,” he said. The problem is the development of metastatic cells which is “conducted” by Id-1.

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Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 3:07 pm

Posted in Health, Medical, Science

Tagged with ,

Almost half the US cigarettes sold to mentally ill

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Interesting. Note that this does not mean that if you see someone smoking, it’s a 50-50 chance that you see a mentally ill person—the mentally ill smoke more cigarettes than those who have not been so diagnosed, so there are fewer smokers in the mentally ill group. Still…

The statistics are troubling:

Almost half of all cigarettes sold in the United States (44 percent) are consumed by people with mental illness. This is because so many people who have mental illnesses smoke (50 to 80 percent, compared with less than 20 percent of the general population) and because they smoke so many cigarettes a day — often three packs. Furthermore, smokers with mental illness are much more likely to smoke their cigarettes right down to the filters.

Obviously, it’s extremely important that we encourage people with mental illness to quit smoking. As this excellent op-ed by Steven Schroeder notes, mental health professionals have often tacitly encouraged people with psychiatric disorders to use cigarettes as a crutch.

The reasoning goes something like: “Poor Joe is suffering so much from his illness and gets such pleasure from his cigarettes that I don’t want to take them away from him.” Another reason lies in the extent to which smoking is integrated into mental health treatment. In psychiatric hospitals the denial of the opportunity to take a smoke break is used as a disciplinary tool, and cigarettes have become part of the culture — often being traded for goods or sexual favors as a form of currency.

But I wonder if something else is also going on, and that smoking acts as a form of self-medication for people with mental illness. The one virtue of nicotine as a drug is that it’s extremely consistent: when you light a cigarette you know exactly what kind of rush you are about to get. For people beset by a woefully unpredictable mind, there might be something reassuring about the pharmacological regularity of smoking. And then there’s the calming effect. (Odd for a stimulant, I know.)

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Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 3:02 pm

WSJ carries Peak Oil story

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Peak oil

The above graph shows several different projections of when oil production might peak. (None include the possibility that it has already peaked, though production has been flat for two years.) Part of the story:

A growing number of oil-industry chieftains are endorsing an idea long deemed fringe: The world is approaching a practical limit to the number of barrels of crude oil that can be pumped every day.

Some predict that, despite the world’s fast-growing thirst for oil, producers could hit that ceiling as soon as 2012. This rough limit — which two senior industry officials recently pegged at about 100 million barrels a day — is well short of global demand projections over the next few decades. Current production is about 85 million barrels a day.

The world certainly won’t run out of oil any time soon. [And no one has ever maintained that position. — LG] And plenty of energy experts expect sky-high prices to hasten the development of alternative fuels and improve energy efficiency. But evidence is mounting that crude-oil production may plateau [i.e., peak – LG] before those innovations arrive on a large scale. That could set the stage for a period marked by energy shortages, high prices and bare-knuckled competition for fuel.

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Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Environment, Science

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Luggage, etc., in the UK

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Coin purses

The above coin purses are the very type that I use. I found that loose change made my pockets wear out, so I went to a coin purse, which turns out to be more convenient as well. I like the little tray that allows me to slide out the coins to select those I need, and the little compartment for emergency folding money. Great little thing.

This is from the site Luggage Plus in the UK. They carry a pretty good range of baggage.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

DOJ trial attorneys on torture

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Very interesting article:

   If there is one thing the Bush administration is good at, it’s talking points: simple, stupid slogans. And when it comes to torture, the theme du jour is that we are all too simple and too stupid to understand just what is and is not prohibited. More than anything, White House officials want us to believe that the law of torture is so terribly confusing and vague that no lay person could comprehend its complexities. Hell, not even the attorneys can really sort it all out. How, then, the not-so-subtle implication would be, could anyone be held responsible for violating it?

Consider, for example, Dana Perino on October 5, 2007. This was the press conference where the White House spokesperson made it clear, stopping just short of stamping her feet, that she was not pleased about the reporters repeatedly asking her to define the term “torture.” She had already told them the day before: “It’s a very complicated legal matter” better left to the experts – particularly Steven Bradbury, interim head of the Office of Legal Counsel. Unfortunately, Bradbury’s memos were, and are, secret, so she couldn’t talk about those. At the same time, she noted, the memo that is public – written in December 2004 by the former acting head of OLC, Dan Levin – “is extremely dense. It’s very complicated.” Since Dana Perino is not an attorney, she couldn’t really say much about that either.

Newly sworn Attorney General Michael Mukasey, on the other hand, is an attorney, not to mention a former federal prosecutor and veteran federal judge. But, hiding behind a mask of lawyerly caution, he has deliberately perpetuated the same false idea, refusing to acknowledge to the Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats the starkly obvious conclusion that waterboarding is illegal under US law on the ground that legal opinions must be based on “real life.” Further, as if to somehow prove the difficulty of the issue, Mukasey padded his written response with a nearly full-page listing of statutes and treaties he would have to analyze before voicing an opinion on the matter.

What Perino and Mukasey are doing, of course, is deliberately obfuscating the law of torture to support the president’s effort to inoculate himself and his henchmen against possible future prosecution. Perhaps they can succeed in confusing at least some percentage of the public (an increasingly small percentage, it appears), but they are not fooling the prosecutors. Indeed, before uttering even one more patently ridiculous and legally unsupportable word in furtherance of this shameful campaign, Bush administration officials should find out what their own Justice Department career attorneys have already said about the law of torture – not in secret memos, but in publicly filed court documents.

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Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 1:16 pm

Following the money in medical swindles

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Whistle graph

The NY Times describes what could be one of the biggest whistleblower lawsuits ever. The chart above is from the article, which begins:

When Cynthia Fitzgerald started out in pharmaceutical sales 20 years ago, she received ample training on the right and wrong ways to sell medical products. Right was selling on the merits. Wrong was luring customers with perks and freebies. It was O.K. to buy doctors lunch or dinner, for example, but tempting them with lavish gifts was taboo.

“There were pretty stringent rules back then,” recalls Ms. Fitzgerald, now 50 and a grandmother living in Dallas. “It was really clinically driven.”

But she says those early lessons didn’t serve her so well when she went to work on the other side of the table in 1998, in health care purchasing. Going by the book, and expecting her colleagues and employer to do the same, cost her a job, most of her friendships and several years of her life, she says.

Eventually, Ms. Fitzgerald decided to file what could become one of the largest whistle-blower lawsuits on record. And her case, which names more than a dozen companies as defendants — some with well-known names like Johnson & Johnson, Becton Dickinson and Merck — offers a window onto a little-known world, where billions of dollars’ worth of medical products are sold each year to institutional buyers like hospitals.

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Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 1:09 pm

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

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From a Powell’s review of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, which was emailed to me:

 President Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex, but even he would be horrified by the Faustian bargain we see in today’s neoliberal model of globalization. Not to be confused with the political liberalism of John Stuart Mill, neoliberalism is characterized by investigative reporter Naomi Klein as a “holy trinity” — privatization, deregulation and cuts to social spending — in which governments dismantle trade barriers, abandon public ownership, reduce taxes, eliminate the minimum wage, cut health and welfare spending, and privatize education. She calls the means of achieving this goal “disaster capitalism” and describes how it has resulted in a worldwide redistribution of income and wealth to the already rich at the expense of economic solvency for the middle and lower classes.

Klein’s story begins in the 1970s in Latin America, where a series of CIA and corporate-guided coups replaced progressive leaders with military dictators. The military engaged in political shock therapy: massive public killings and visible “disappearances” of those believed to oppose the new economic order. Meanwhile, economic shock therapy — recommended by Nobel Prize-winning free-market economist Milton Friedman, who said traumatized economies should be shocked immediately, before the public can respond to the change — was also imposed. Finally, a form of individual torture, developed in the 1950s and employing isolation in small spaces, loss of sense of time, nudity and more conventional forms of bodily harm, was used to “cleanse” the minds of perceived enemies of their former beliefs.

Initial success in South America led to a broader vision of the shock doctrine. Political collapses in Eastern Europe and Russia were treated as windows of opportunity to further freemarket economics. Natural disasters, such as the 2004 tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, displaced the poor, while corporations reaped millions attempting to “repair” the damage. Poor nations that were unable to repay what they’d borrowed from international organizations like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank were forced to follow neoliberal principles to get their debts extended or forgiven.

In Iraq, the Bush administration used several forms of shock therapy — quick dismantling of the existing regime, massive killing that incited fear of public resistance and torture of opposition leaders. In all these cases, the victors are the economic elite and deceptive politicians who line their pockets at the expense of their constituents.

As horrifying as her story is, Klein ends on a note of hope, providing evidence that the shock is wearing off. New leaders are taking control, protecting their countries from further coups, refusing international aid and the strings attached, and establishing projects grounded in egalitarian and democratic values. Villagers in Thailand, for example, “reinvaded” their land after the tsunami (one community encircled their wrecked coastal village with rope), relying on the international media to contain those political and corporate interests that had displaced survivors of the catastrophe. A work of extraordinary synthesis, The Shock Doctrine is required reading for anyone who wants to know the roots of our current political and economic landscape and prepare for the shocks that await us.

Ronnie Steinberg is a professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University and former director of the women’s studies department.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 12:55 pm

Climate change, science, and the Right

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I’m a bit puzzled at how to respond to a comment on this post, so I thought I’d bring it to the top and seek assistance. If you follow the comments to the original post, you’ll see that Train Man initially said that global warming is caused by increased output from the sun. I then responded with information from this site, which included this conclusion:

But even if solar forcing in the past was more important than this estimate suggests, as some scientists think, there is no correlation between solar activity and the strong warming during the past 40 years. Claims that this is the case have not stood up to scrutiny (pdf document).

Direct measurements of solar output since 1978 show a steady rise and fall over the 11-year sunspot cycle, but no upwards or downward trend .

Similarly, there is no trend in direct measurements of the Sun’s ultraviolet output and in cosmic rays. So for the period for which we have direct, reliable records, the Earth has warmed dramatically even though there has been no corresponding rise in any kind of solar activity.

Train Man’s response:

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Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 12:47 pm

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