Fort Hood's Killer Shrink: Was He One of the Army Docs Pressured to Misdiagnose PTSD in Soldiers?

The Fort Hood killer psychiatrist's case of pre-traumatic stress disorder couldn't be more clear.

Especially if it's true that Major Nidal Malik Hasan defended suicide bombing in an Internet post as a heroic, even life-saving, measure.

Perhaps we'll learn as details unfold that Hasan — himself a suicide killer — was one of the Army's psychiatrists and psychologists who were pressured during the first five years of the Iraq War to not diagnose screwed-up soldiers as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Instead, the Army's doctors were diagnosing soldiers as supposedly having "personality disorder," a pre-existing condition for which they wouldn't qualify for treatment. The military had a financial motive — keep healthcare costs down — in addition to the motive of covering up the huge PTSD problems of returning soldiers.

Who knows Hasan's motives at this point? (The WashPost has some good tidbits on his being a shrink assigned to study soldiers' trauma.) But perhaps his horribly twisted thinking was exacerbated by his legitimate frustration that Army docs like him were pressured for years to screw the screwed-up soldiers sent to them for diagnoses and treatment.

It's for sure that Hasan, like every other mental-health practitioner in the military, knew about that scandalous situation. Since 2007 or so, it has been laid out well in many mainstream outlets.

Caterpillar Profit Falls 53 Percent, Spurs Company to Hail Bright Future -- and High Profits

More bubble trouble: Market, reporters and company so optimistic that they can feel the earth move.

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Caterpillar, the heavy-equipment company, reported monumental losses and plummeting sales, prompting the company and reporters to proclaim that the company is speeding along the road to "rapid" recovery.

The market certainly bought into it: Caterpillar's shares hit a 12-month high today and it was the Dow's top performer.

The WSJ's Bob Tita writes that Caterpillar's third-quarter report is "one of the most bullish assessments for a global economic recovery as the U.S. heavy-equipment maker exceeded third-quarter profit expectations by a wide margin."

The world's biggest bulldozer company sees enormous future profit in the housing market worldwide and even in the U.S.

A vital part of homebuilding in the U.S., Caterpillar is well-known in the rest of the world for erecting Israel's apartheid wall, bulldozing Palestinian homes in the West Bank, and various allegations of human-rights abuses. Oh, and for crushing to death peace activist Rachel Corrie with one of its big ol' D-9s.

The company's own profit expectations had been exceedingly low. But expectations that the Great Recession is finally over are absurdly high. And the market seems so eager to believe this that some observers are ignoring reality. While Caterpillar was the Dow darling today, figures from the U.S. housing market were gloomy.

Bears Maul Pakistan -- World's Worst, Most Dangerous Market

Pakistan's stock market took the planet's worst financial nose dive today. Its biggest fuel explorer plunged into a barren green hole, and its biggest bank, MCB, plunged 5 percent after being ignominiously being downgraded by Bank of America's Merrill Lynch unit.

Very bad news in the world's seventh most populous country.

For historical value and general amusement/horror, click on the video above for the Karachi Stock Exchange's recent puff piece about what a wonderful opportunity Pakistan is for investors. The truth is that Pakistan's meltdown endangers every other South Asian economy.

Poor Pakistan. Talk about a bubble that's past the bursting point. Schools and colleges have been shut down for a week, and troops are hunting militants thought to be hiding in seminaries in the federal capital, Islamabad, as Dawn reports.

This A.M.: Obama's Prescription Makes Congressman Ill; National Poverty Climbs; Brazil's Rich Buy Armored Cars

OBAMA DRAMAIn Lawmaker's Outburst, a Rare Breach of Protocol (NYT)

Grandstanding for the folks back home in South Carolina, Rep. Joe Wilson shouts, "You lie!" at Barack Obama, and people are mortified. Parliamentary democracies are used to pols publicly jeering and hissing at prime ministers. But the U.S.'s one-party democracy isn't built that way. Rahm Emanuel says afterwards, ""No president has ever been treated like that. Ever." Except at Ford's Theatre in 1865.


Obama, Armed With Details, Says Health Plan Is Necessary (NYT)

"President Obama confronted a critical Congress and a skeptical nation ..." Ordinary Americans apparently decried the complexity and cost of his plan, ignoring the fact that the present system is horrifyingly Byzantine and frighteningly tilted away from doctors and patients and toward the drug and health-care industries. A smoother, smarter, and better-written story in the Wall Street Journal.


Poverty Deepens as Recession Cuts U.S. Incomes, Census May Say (Bloomberg)

"Analysts predict a further increase in poverty and a drop in incomes this year, reflecting the worst job losses of any recession since World War II." Wall Street Journal's version.


Riding the Fed's Trading Train (Seeking Alpha, Tim Duy)

And that's a runaway train, powered by artificial and short-term stimulus measures, that could very well crash. "It is difficult if not impossible to deny the firming of economic data in recent months. But that firming has been inexorably tied to a host of fiscal and monetary stimulus measures." Also see the Wall Street Journal's "Banks Face Loss of Debt Guarantee." Alan Greenspan, on the other hand, says the recovery is real.


U.S. Foreclosure Filings Top 300,000 for Sixth Straight Month (Bloomberg)

"Largely related," a former Fed economist says, to unemployment, which is at a 26-year-high and still climbing.

MORE HEADLINES FOLLOW

No Heroes, Only Heroin: Afghan Opium Production Plummets, But Prices Stay Low

Opium production in Afghanistan has dropped 10 percent, but prices are still at a 10-year low, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (Afghan Opium Survey 2009). Somehow, this is kinda being spun as progress in the war on drugs.

Taking away Afghan farmers' livelihoods may not be the best way to win the overall Afghan War, and the farmers are fighting back the only way they know how. With an efficiency that would put the most cunning Wall Street derivatives genius to shame, Afghan farmers who haven't been rousted by narcs are extracting more of the popular derivative per poppy bulb.

So why are prices dropping? The same reason that oil prices don't really depend upon supply.

German press: Obama and Bush depressingly similar -- Obama's Cheney is Larry Summers

Climate-change activists are parading in front of the Brandenburg Gate today as German Chancellor Angela Merkel flies off to D.C. for talks with President Barack Obama.

But the climate between Merkel and Obama has already changed. "Obama, Merkel to meet under cloud of disagreement," reads a typical headline in the U.S. press.

More to the point, the German press's love affair with Obama has definitely cooled. Der Spiegel has no qualms about pinning the donkey's tail on Obama, doling out harsh criticism of U.S. economic policies in "German Chancellor Visits the Debt President."

"The president may have changed, but the excesses of American politics have remained, the German mag's Gabor Steingart writes. "Barack Obama and George W. Bush, it has become clear, are more similar than they might seem at first glance."

Yikes.

Obama even has his own Dick Cheney, Steingart contends:

Obama's Cheney is named Larry Summers. He is Obama's senior-most economic advisor, and like the former vice president, he is a man of conviction. The financial crisis may be large, but Summers' self-confidence is even larger. More importantly, President Barack Obama follows him like a dog does its master.

Obama and Merkel disagree not only about how to quell the global economic crisis but also on Germany's role in fighting the Afghan War. Merkel may be grandstanding a little when it comes to her criticism of the U.S.'s trying to spend its way out of the recession; she faces an election this fall and wants to look tough, as the AP and other U.S. outlets note. But she and many other European leaders no doubt are miffed by such episodes as one that Steingart's story points out:

The crisis, Summers intoned last week at a conference of Deutsche Bank's Alfred Herrhausen Society in Washington, was caused by too much confidence, too much credit and too many debts. It was hard not to nod along in agreement.

But then Summers added that the way to bring about an end to the crisis was -- more confidence, more credit and more debt. And the nodding stopped. Experts and non-experts alike were perplexed. Even in an interview following the presentation, Summers was unable to supply an adequate explanation for how a crisis caused by frivolous lending was going to be solved through yet more frivolity.

Steingart isn't laughing. He goes on to list what he calls the "Obama administration's five errors." All of them revolve around our spending money we don't have.

Afghan, Iraq wars: The guerrillas in the budget

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Sounding a tone that the previous administration never would have dared, Defense Secretary Robert Gates admits that the Taliban have the upper hand in Afghanistan and says public support for the war will evaporate in less than a year unless that "momentum" is changed.

Not one word about a "war on terror" and nothing about "staying the course" from Gates — the Wall Street Journal story this morning by Yochi J. Dreazen and August Cole about their interview with Gates shows a SecDef sounding shockingly candid:

"People are willing to stay in the fight, I believe, if they think we're making headway," he said. "If they think we're stalemated and having our young men and women get killed, then patience is going to run out pretty fast."

The WSJ reporters sound their own note of realism by writing that the Taliban "are inflicting heavy U.S. casualties and hold de facto control of swaths of the country."

Meanwhile, the meter's running. The Nation points out (in a tiresomely tendentious piece about the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars) that overall U.S. military funding will consume a fifth of all mandatory and discretionary spending and is "the proverbial $704 billion gorilla in President Obama's $3.4 trillion budget."

WABC notes that Congressman Anthony Weiner is talking about how New York City's cops, firefighters, and other municipal workers who have been sent to the two war zones have missed 800,000 days of work since 2001, costing the city's taxpayers more than $148 million to cover their military leave. He wants the federal government to pick up that tab. (Good luck with that.)

For cost-of-war figures and factoids, check out the National Priorities Projects calculations.

Huge, costly bailout by panicky U.S. of panicky Pakistan in the offing

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Stun Valley: Swat's ski resort, where Pakistanis played -- until the Taliban torched it.

Grimmest news this morning from Pakistan, where the U.S. will very soon launch a giant offensive against the Taliban there and in neighboring Afghanistan that will drain billions of dollars from our recession-fucked economy.

Here's how Agence France Presse describes what's happening in the aptly named Swat Valley:

Pakistan's northwest was on Sunday reeling from a wave of violence as the toll from a car bomb rose and the army hit Taliban hideouts in an offensive that has sent a million civilians fleeing. The number killed in a devastating car bomb that hit the northwestern city of Peshawar on Saturday reached 12 after a teenage boy died overnight, a police official said, while 36 people have been reported wounded in the attack. The blast ripped through a packed street, leaving severed body parts on the road near an ice cream shop and an Internet cafe.

Many of the tide of refugees fleeing a punishing three-week military offensive in swathes of the North West Frontier Province had taken refuge from the bombardment in Peshawar, the provincial capital.

In case you're wondering, the Swat Valley is not some anus mundi place like western Iraq. No, it's a verdant, Colorado-looking area that wealthy Pakistanis used to flock to for vacations and skiing.

Well, they used to go to Malam Jabba to ski. Until the Taliban torched it last June.

For a broader — and scarier — view, check out Ahmed Rashid's "Pakistan on the Brink" in the latest New York Review of Books. Frightening for Americans and probably costly in lives and money in the near future, as Rashid points out:

American officials are in a concealed state of panic, as I observed during a recent visit to Washington at the time when 17,000 additional troops were being dispatched to Afghanistan. The Obama administration unveiled its new Afghan strategy on March 27, only to discover that Pakistan is the much larger security challenge, while US options there are far more limited.

Highly unstable Pakistan, by the way, has between 60 and 100 nuclear weapons, Rashid notes, and a rapidly growing anti-American sentiment among the general populace. Never mind that the Taliban are gobbling chunks of Pakistan as we speak.

Up in arms: Lavish spending on non-9/11 defense set us up for a bigger fall

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From CBPP'S March 2008 report "Federal Spending, 2001 Through 2008."

The global financial crisis seemed to take us by surprise, and now the fallout and drive toward recovery are daunting, but if we'd been looking in all directions, especially behind us, we might have been able to at least brace for the impact.

The legend on rear-view mirrors is in fact true: "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear." Go back a year, when George W. Bush was about to drop a steaming load of his legacy on our heads.

We weren't quite sure that we had a financial crisis — other than the usual one — when the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities unveiled on March 8, 2008, its "Federal Spending, 2001 Through 2008" report.

As if we need a reminder of how Bush and the country's real CEO, Dick Cheney, settled the guns vs. butter debate in their own heads, the report noted that "Bush called for large funding increases for defense and related programs while demanding considerable restraint in domestic appropriations."

We spent eight years under an administration that valued defense firms more than the public. We're paying for that right now.

Delving deeper into the topic, the report — written by people who, unlike most members of Congress, actually pore through and parse the budget figures — added:

Between fiscal year 2001 (the last year for which appropriations levels were set under President Clinton) and fiscal year 2008, funding for domestic discretionary programs has been more constrained than any other area of the budget and has shrunk both as a share of the budget and as a share of the economy. In contrast, appropriations for defense and other security-related programs have increased more rapidly than any other area of the budget — even more rapidly than the costs of the "big three" entitlement programs: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

You think that's because of 9/11? It's not. Take a look at the graphic atop this item; it's plucked from the report. To repeat what the preceding paragraph and the graphic say: The "regular" Department of Defense budget — not counting Iraq, Afghanistan, and the rest of the "war on terror" — rose at a higher rate than those of all parts of the domestic budget.

This was the kind of careless spending that helps make this year's budget decisions so tough: Even without the current global financial crisis, our budget was out of whack and worsening.

Making up ground during this crisis is practically impossible, especially with a recalcitrant Congress that seems to want to protect the tax status of the wealthiest 1 percent of the populace.

But at least Barack Obama's administration recently proposed tax aid that might actually reach many of the rest of us. Like the Making Work Pay Credit — awkwardly named but aimed at more than 100 million American taxpayers. Here's a brief rundown of this part of the economic-recovery package. Don't count on its surviving intact, but here it was as of late last month:

Tax credits in the economic recovery package provide tax relief to most workers. The centerpiece of the tax relief is a new Making Work Pay Credit of up to $400 per worker. The credit phases in at the same rate as Social Security taxes and is available to all workers (except those claimed as another taxpayer's dependent) earning up to $95,000 and married couples earning up to $190,000. In 2009, the credit would be reduced by the amount (if any) of the family's Economic Recovery Payment, a one-time payment of $250 for recipients of Social Security, SSI, and certain other benefits.

As many as 6.8 million New Yorkers would qualify — we're third behind the 12.4 million Californians and 8 million Texans who would get help this way.

George W. Bush himself undoubtedly won't qualify. More importantly, defense firms like Northrop are obviously ineligible because they're not human beings, but they're doing pretty well anyway, despite the planetary crisis.

If you figure that the defense industry is actually doing pretty well while the rest of the economy is tanking, then it stands to reason that defense firms will have plenty of money for lobbying and for campaign contributions to pols.

And they're not going to be pushing for the domestic budget, of course. That probably makes the survival of such budget morsels as the Making Work Pay Credit problematic, especially if you go by past history.

No depression here: Markets in drugs and guns just keep humming along

Recession? What recession? You can't sell individual newspapers on the street or newspaper companies on Wall Street. Trying to hustle up some cash money, conglomerates like Citigroup are trying to shed subsidiaries, but they're acting like desperate hustlers trying to peddle inferior goods to broke-ass customers.

Pimpin' ain't easy these days, even on Wall Street. Straight-up robbery — banks holding up taxpayers for bailout money — is much easier.

But the money's liquid for drugs and guns. The big drug dealers have still got the cash flow to transact big business. In Zurich, Roche has enough money to absorb U.S. biotech giant Genentech. And the Wall Street Journal points out that mergers and acquisitions among drug dealers are proceeding apace and even more energetically these days, despite the global financial crisis:

The spike in drug sector M&A activity occurs when share prices of many pharmaceutical companies are being seen as undervalued by many players after the past year's sharp declines, despite the sector's often lauded defensive character in times of turmoil.

Still, with their strong cash flows and balance sheets, top-rated drug companies find it easy to raise cash to finance deals. The sector's M&A activity also reflects the fact many big drug makers face losing top moneyspinners as best-selling products lose patent protection.

When it comes to guns and other weapons, yes, those dealers have been hurt by the global recession. But things are looking brighter, as Barron's noted the other day in "Northrop Grumman: Full Speed Ahead!":

Most major defense stocks, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Dynamics, have been underperforming the market for the past year, and none more so than Northrop. At about $35, the stock is down 58% from its 2008 high.

Along with the group, Northrop's stock has been hit by fears the Obama administration will sharply curtail defense spending....

The general defense-stock rout began when candidate Obama started talking of an Iraqi pullout, giving some the impression he was an out-and-out dove on defense. It continued as President Obama has struggled with the economic slump and the need for billion-dollar bailouts of Wall Street and Detroit, money that otherwise could have been spent on the military.

But Northrop has no need to shift from swords to plowshares. Not only does the Los Angeles-based company have an order backlog of $78 billion, equal to twice its expected '09 revenue, but, also, the 2010 federal budget released 10 days ago firmly projects 4% annual increases in defense spending over the next few years, a growth rate many sectors can only envy.

This spring's U.S. surge into Afghanistan can only be good for the war industry. And shellshocked soldiers returning to U.S. soil will require drugs — not to mention the medication that many other people will seek while trying to endure the loss of their jobs and houses or the increases in health-care (requiring even more drugs) that Obama is trying to push through.

Even GOP governors like California's Arnold Schwarzenegger are embracing Obama's plans to pump money into health care and the like.

Synergy — that's what you call the continued appetite for drugs and guns. But we're only human.