Archive for November, 2009

Evidence of plot in JFK death right before our eyes

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

Evidence of a conspiracy to assassinate President John F.  Kennedy has always been right in front of our eyes.

One glaring immediate example: the behavior of the Secret Service agent driving the limousine in which were riding the president and Mrs. Kennedy along with Texas Gov. John Connally and his wife, Nellie. It was incompetent at the very best and more likely part of the death plan.

Every existing film of the motorcade shows that when the first bullet rang out, the vehicle unaccountably slows down and almost stops. Why? There was an obvious threat to the president’s safety; mere seconds could mean the difference between life and death.

Proper action to protect the president would have been to floor the accelerator and zoom toward the freeway entrance straight ahead, on the other side of a tunnel. (I have driven this route numerous times during my 28+ years as a Dallas area resident.)

Instead, the limousine strangely crawls along while more shots are fired. Then it finally speeds up, after it is too late. Again, why the deadly delay?

“In Dallas, the Secret Service would step out of the way not just individually, but collectively,” James W. Douglass writes in JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died & Why It Matters (Orbis Books, 2008).jfk_unspeakable.jpg

Another odd aspect to the aftermath of the JFK murder. How did the authorities come up with a named suspect within 20 minutes of the president’s death? After the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, it took a nationwide search involving almost every law enforcement agent in the country two days to produce the same results.

The almost instaneous speed at which a suspect in the JFK killing emerged screams not only that the assassination was a conspiracy, but that those who conspired had high-level law enforcement connections. Lee Harvey Oswald spoke the truth before he, too, was murdered. He was a patsy.

One of the most interesting parts of Douglass’s unique account of the events leading up to and beyond Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas is his take on Abraham W. Bolden, whom Kennedy appointed to be the first African-American member of the Secret Service’s White House detail.

At the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Bolden saw the open hostility of Secret Service agents toward Kennedy. He soon asked to be sent back to the Chicago field office. After Kennedy’s death, Bolden returned to Washington, D.C., for job training. He tried to contact the Warren Commission to tell members about a Chicago-based attempt to kill Kennedy that failed when the president’s trip to the Windy City was canceled at the last minute.

For his efforts, Bolden was arrested and charged with soliciting money to commit fraud, obstructing justice, and conspiracy. The first jury deadlocked; a second one convicted him on all three counts.

Later, in a trial before the same judge, the forger charged in the case admitted to perjury when fingering Bolden on the witness stand during Bolden’s trial. Yet Bolden was not released or re-tried, instead serving more than half of a six-year prison sentence. His wife and family survived several mysterious attempts to kill them.

Bolden, who died some years ago without ever having the chacen to clear his name, and his loved ones are among the many who paid dearly for their efforts to bring the truth about the JFK plot to light.

Douglass’s book is one of the finest of many efforts to make sense of this killing, which in reality was a coup d’etat that took place 46 years ago to this day

Group looks to engineering science to cure bad behavior

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

“Physician, heal thyself.”

–Luke 4:23

Now that healthcare employers take disruptive workplace behavior seriously, and a major survey has indicated that physicians cause the majority of it, what are they doing to change the situation?

According to Dr. Barry Silbaugh, CEO of the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE), one effective method is based on the engineering concept of high reliability. “This sticks more with doctors because they think like engineers,” he says.

“There is a fair amount of overlap between disruptive behavior and medical malpractice,” Silbaugh says, although he knows of no studies examining the exact relationship.

With lives and health on the line, the healthcare field is following the aviation industry, which several decades ago brought in the principles of high reliability to improve behavior among pilots and crew in airplanes, where lives are also at stake.

The ACPE works with physicians all around the country, teaching them how high reliability applies to the practice of their profession. “We try to emphasize the knowledge and behavior competencies needed by physician leaders,” he says.

The most dangerous time for patients is when they are transferred from one department to another, such as the operating room to intensive care, Silbaugh says.  “Doctors need to learn how to behave and influence people,” he adds. “They must let go of autonomy and become part of a team” that feels free to ask questions about patients and their care without fearing attacks or reprisals.

Another huge issue for physicians is admitting that they are not perfect, that they will make mistakes. In addition, Silbaugh notes, the obsessive-compulsive behaviors that may have helped them through medical school start to work against doctors in the real world of actual medical practice.

“Medical schools use too much humiliation as part of their training,” Silbaugh adds. He says that when he speaks to doctors, he talks about the baggage they carry with them, and always cites poet Maya Angelou, who writes that people never forget how we make them feel. Amen to that.

The real issue, however, goes beyond behavior, which is visible and measurable, and is therefore usually the focus of improvement efforts. Behavior, in its turn, arises out of our feelings about self and our beliefs. The baggage, in other words.

Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals dishing out disruptive, possibly criminal behavior do so out of low self-esteem. They feel bad about themselves and are insecure, and take it out on those around them. They also play politics, jockeying for position and recognition. All at the expense of patients and colleagues.

How do we heal feelings? How do we even find them within ourselves to address them? The low self-esteem and insecurities that prompt disruptive behavior are often not available to our conscious awareness. We cannot fathom why we act the way we do. It just comes out and blindsides us as well as those around us.

The irony of medicine today is that having devolved into a science devoted strictly to the physical, there is little accounting for the mental part of self, and no place at all for the emotional and spiritual aspects of our being.

Yet if physicians (and the rest of us) are ever truly to heal themselves or their patients, they/we must finally include the overlooked parts of self that cry out for succor. The emotional and spiritual are just as real and valid as the physical and mental sides of self, or our behavior. Feelings and beliefs are powerful and important.

Yet medical science ignores and leaves behind this entire half of self, rendering healthcare incomplete and ever more costly as a result.

Exploring the spiritual dimensions of JFK death

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

jfk_unspeakable.jpg“It’s never gone away, the nightmare of November 22, 1963,” a recent article in Vanity Fair laments. Yet the writer dutifully toes the line, insisting that the official explanation about the murder of President John F. Kennedy 46 years ago is correct.

Ahem. One of the major reasons the nightmare continues is because the official explanation is a tissue of lies and distortions. The 1964 Warren Report, thrown together to appease the public, instead unleashed a torrent of critical books, documentaries, and movies that is unabated close to five decades later. This onslaught was entirely predictable. For every action (the grotesque cover-up), there is an equal and opposite reaction (numerous attempts, however misguided, to set the record straight).

The nightmare goes on because we the people have never learned the truth about what happened in Dallas, and we know this, in our heart of hearts. The profound wrong of Kennedy’s death was compounded tenfold by the fact that the guilty got away not just with murdering one individual, but with undoing the U.S. Constitution and overthrowing the people’s will.

In his 2008 seminal work, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died & Why It Matters, James W. Douglass calls it the “unspeakable,” these un-exorcised national demons driving Kennedy’s murder. In examining the motives behind the death of the president, not merely who did it or the how, Douglass, a longtime peace activist, imbues the discussion with a long-missing, much-needed spiritual dimension.

Douglass’s “unspeakable” refers to so much more than merely the identities of who pulled the triggers or even the ones who hired them to do so. Part of the “unspeakable” is the sharp divergence between the high ideals of this country’s founding and our current national security state, established in the aftermath of World War II, that promotes endless war and profits from it.

It is this untreated, denied poison that, Douglass argues, corrodes the national soul and breaks out like violent boils every so often in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and, on Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City and Washington, D.C., and over the skies of Pennsylvania. Unafraid of the unspeakable, the author poses the unframed and unspoken question: Can the United States be a global empire that spends more on its military each year than all other western, industrialized nations combined, yet remain a representative democracy?

The signs are not promising. The parallels between now and Kennedy’s day make Douglass’s book about the past all the more critical to the present. Just as Kennedy stared down his generals, President Barack Obama faces truculent military leaders determined to force his hand in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

According to the Durham Herald Sun, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh recently told an audience at Duke University that the U.S. military “is in a war against the White House – and they feel they have Obama boxed in.” While Hersh may be accurate in citing racism behind the tension between today’s commander in chief and the Pentagon, the real issue is the unspeakable. Just what kind of country do we want to be anyway?

This issue goes to the very soul of this nation, and this tension has existed since before this country was born. Do we keep shedding blood for profit? Or do we beat our swords into ploughshares and make peace the cornerstone of all our national policies? The political founders of our nation were divided over whether or not to risk foreign entanglements, but from the outset U.S. business leaders saw no problem in using the power and money of the U.S. government to advance their narrow interests.

To date, business has had the upper hand, masking a profits-at-all-costs agenda behind an anti-terrorism (previously, anti-communism) smokescreen. After the implosions of Chrysler, Enron, Global Crossing, GM, and Worldcom, the massive Bernie Madoff and other investment fraud, and the Wall Street meltdown, however, it’s a little harder to pretend that business is better run or more effective than government.

How long will ordinary Americans remain silent about the unspeakable before they start roaring out loud and then, en masse, revolt?

Doctors cause workplace problems, survey finds

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

These medical “professionals” relegate notorious TV physician Gregory House to strictly amateur standing.

A recently published survey of more than 2,100 U.S. physicians and nurses reveals that almost 98 percent of them have witnessed serious incidences of unprofessional conduct that crosses into criminal behavior while on the job in hospitals and other healthcare workplaces.

The kinds of actions cited are not merely the snide remarks that the fictional House directs at colleagues, friends, patients, and other unsuspecting targets. The abysmal conduct includes groping a radiology technician while she was taking an X-ray. A nurse spreading false rumors about a new physician to get him fired or disciplined. One enraged surgeon tossing surgical instruments about an operating room and another shoving a nurse into a trash bin head first. A different physician telling a nurse, “You don’t look dumber than my dog. Why can’t you at least fetch what I need?”

The most common grievance from the survey: degrading comments and insults, which nearly 85 percent of participants reported they had experienced at their organization. Other frequent complaints included yelling, cursing, inappropriate joking, and refusing to work with one another.

Most of the survey participants (67.2 percent) were nurses, and 32.8 percent were doctors. While there were reports of bad behavior among nurses, most respondents, nurses and doctors, cited physicians as the primary source of the problem. While most (56.5 percent) said the incidences occurred either monthly or several times a year, 30 percent said they occur weekly and 9.5 percent reported witnessing problem behavior daily. In other words, more than one-third of surveyed healthcare professionals encounter poor behavior as a regular part of their workday.

This disruptive behavior negatively impacts patient safety and saps workforce morale, according to Dr. Barry Silbaugh, CEO of the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE), which conducted the survey. “It’s nothing new,” Silbaugh says about the conduct brought to light by the poll.

Indeed, anyone who has family or friends in the healthcare field has heard plenty of similar horror stories. I attended college with a registered nurse who graduated from the last nursing diploma class admitted to the profession. She was back in school to obtain the four-year degree that had been just been established as a requirement to become a nurse. It was the early 1970s.

My college classmate often regaled me with toe-curling tales about how she spent much of her time on the job trying to keep interns and residents from harming patients because of their inexperience and/or arrogance. Her view was confirmed by a good friend from later in life who is also a registered nurse and reported much the same situation. Both women are no longer working as nurses, which is hardly surprising.

Then there is the report from the hospital trenches about a different surgeon well known among his colleagues for temper tantrums. One time during a procedure he threw a scalpel. The sharp knife hit something and ricocheted back at him, slicing into his palm and ending his career in the operating room. Instant karma?

While the situation has festered for decades, it has taken on fresh urgency for several reasons, Silbough explains. The first is the current national emphasis on healthcare reform. Despite notable improvements at certain organizations, he says, the majority of healthcare systems still struggle with disruptive behaviors by doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals.

Another reason for renewed interest in solving the problem is a requirement instituted at the start of 2009 by the Joint Commission, the most highly regarded medical accreditation organization. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities must now show a written code of professional conduct to earn Joint Commission safety accreditation.

According to those who replied to the questionnaire, the fundamental issue behind much of the behavior problem is lack of respect between doctors and nurses. And there is good news in all of this. Members of the profession and professional groups like the ACPE are finally starting to talk openly about the problem and address it, instead of keeping it as healthcare’s dirty little secret. And there are actions that members of the healthcare field can take to reduce the problem.

Outstanding nonfiction examines plot to kill JFK

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

jfk_unspeakable.jpgThere is no scorn like that heaped upon those who dare suggest that the official explanation for the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy is worthless.

For decades now, the mainstream media have derided as a tinfoil-hat nut anyone who questions the 1964 Warren Report’s “lone gunman” thesis, despite the fact that the U.S. House of Representatives 15 years later determined that Kennedy most likely was the victim of a deadly conspiracy.

Congress reached this disturbing conclusion three decades ago, yet pursued it no further, a reticence echoed in the Barack Obama administration’s utter lack of enthusiasm for investigating, let alone prosecuting, the previous administration’s wholesale trampling of the U.S. Constitution.

There’s a good reason for this hesitation, according to James W. Douglass, who penned JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died & Why It Matters (Orbis Books, 2008). Backed by extensive research, Douglass argues eloquently that Kennedy was slain as a warning to future presidents and members of Congress not to challenge what President Dwight Eisenhower labeled the “military-industrial complex.” Think of it as a murderous melding of vested mutual interests between those on the warrior right who favor might-makes-right foreign policies and their business underwriters who profit handsomely from providing the hardware and outsourced support services to implement and sustain these policies.

Kennedy’s so-called crimes in the eyes of this longstanding cabal, Douglass contends, were thwarting top military officers who urged a first nuclear strike on the Soviet Union and opposing the CIA’s expansion of conflict in Vietnam. There were also the president’s transgressions of not backing up the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, of withdrawing defense contracts in 1962 from U.S. steel companies that reneged on their promises not to raise prices, and of the 1963 treaty with the Soviet Union to ban atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.

Kennedy’s worst sin? Secretly reaching out to Russian leader Nikita Kruschev to explore ways to make peace between the post World War II superpowers. Douglass shows how a series of letters between the men humanized the “enemy” for each side, a highly subversive act for those who peddle and exploit hate and fear, both in this country and abroad. The cold warriors who ordered (and still run) the U.S. intelligence community and their corporate allies would not stand for a president actually using the power of his office to reign in their war-making activities and curb their profits. Peace? Absolutely out of the question!

“Those who designed the plot to kill Kennedy were familiar the inner sanctum of our national security state,” Douglass writes.  “Their attempt to scapegoat the Soviets for the president’s murder reflected one side of a secret struggle between JFK and his military leaders over a preemptive strike against the Soviet Union. The assassins’ purpose seems to have encompassed not only killing a president determined to make peace with the enemy but also using his murder as the impetus for a possible nuclear first strike against that same enemy.”

There’s a familiar ring to exploiting a national tragedy to propel pre-emptive strikes against an enemy that had nothing to with the calamity. Its contemporary counterpart was the Bush administration’s post Sept. 11, 2001 modus operandi. The bloody debacle in Iraq is one of the reasons that Douglass’s take on the Kennedy murder is essential reading. This book helps us recognize and understand the darker side of our nation’s past, present, and likely future course. The pointless loss of life, enormous tax-payer burden, and pitting of American against American are all the poisonous effects of the endless-war profit cycle.

Douglass calls this “the unspeakable,” and argues compellingly that it corrodes this nation’s very soul. He does not hesitate to pose difficult questions that our national dialogue since the end of World War II has avoided even asking, let alone answering. One of the toughest: Can the United States be a military and financial empire and still be a representative democracy?

Money doesn’t make holidays rich

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

silversnowflake.jpgOnce Halloween is history, the winter holidays are upon us in the blink of an eye.

This is not the year for the must-have toy that causes fist-fights and prompts parents to shell out big bucks. U.S. consumers are paying off debt at record levels and spending only on essentials, leaving retailers with more nightmares before Christmas than Charles Dickens’ Ebeneezer Scrooge.

It’s a sad irony that we trade prosperity for introspection and thrift, convinced that we may have one but not the others. Something has to pry our attention away from the shopping malls and TV sports, however. And there’s nothing so good at dispersing distractions and focusing attention than a mound of bills without a paycheck, or one too small to make it through the month.

If not a record retail season, then, what do we have to rejoice about for these winter holidays? Maybe it can be found within the dearth itself. When money doesn’t flow so freely, it’s less likely to drown the spirit of the season.

We all have our own definitions for said spirit, depending on our religious convictions, or lack thereof. But perhaps this time of year boils down simply to love and appreciation. Even without a penny to our name, we are wealthy indeed when we have someone to love and to love us in return, and are able to show and express appreciation for this greatest of all blessings.

Appreciation is the key, and it is the true foundation for seasonal giving. A gift is a material token that states, “I appreciate you and your love.” Gifts selected to flaunt money or one-up the neighbors devolve into a burden and a curse. No wonder so much “giving” has landed us into debt. We seldom pay attention to the motives that drive our holiday sprees. Now at least we are forcing ourselves to watch our wallets. (One among many websites designed to help us do that this season is PoorSanta.com.)

gold-snowflake.jpgThe simplest gifts are often the best. Two of my favorites are a decorative pillow with my initials in needlepoint done by a colleague from a job long ago, and a hand-carved print of a winter snow scene made by a childhood friend. Neither was fancy or expensive, but I have kept them both for decades because they are authentic works of the heart. The feelings that went into these presents make them literally priceless to me.

Above all, this is the season for love, appreciation, friendship. The true challenge is not how much money to spend, or how much to save. It is how do we best express these feelings?

For most of us, part of such expression involves getting together with loved ones – friends and family from near and very often far. Yet even that dissolves into a stressful grind if we do it out of a sense of duty and obligation or try to put on a lavish spread to impress others.

The truest spirit of the season is gathering only with those we want to be with, giving only what we may offer with joyous, unencumbered hearts, and telling them in any way we can how much we love and appreciate them. Those are the real gifts for this time of the year, and they are not usually found close to where money changes hands.