July 20, 2012

Margin Call

Commentary By Ron Beasley

I watched the movie Margin Call tonight. It is a fictional account of what went on at Lehman Brothers when it collapsed.  

A respected financial company is downsizing and one of the victims is the risk management division head, who was working on a major analysis just when he was let go. His protégé completes the study late into the night and then frantically calls his colleagues in about the company's financial disaster he has discovered. What follows is a long night of panicked double checking and double dealing as the senior management prepare to do whatever it takes to mitigate the debacle to come even as the handful of conscientious comrades find themselves dragged along into the unethical abyss.

The problem of course was the mortgage backed securities that tranched good loans with really bad ones.  It took time to put these together so the company became very over leveraged.  The old risk management models no longer worked as the risk management head and his protégé discovered.  The CEO described these "assets"  as bags of odorous excrement.  Lehman went down but the government could not let anyone else go down so we got TARP.  Of course the problem is that the banks are still sitting on billions of dollars of bags of odorous excrement and at some point they will hit the proverbial fan.

Wall Street was attracting people from many disciplines at this time.  The  protégé that discovered this problem had a PhD in rocket propulsion - he really was a rocket scientist.  When asked how he found his way to Wall Street he answered it payed a lot better and it's all about numbers and numbers are numbers.

 

Universal Health Care Comment

By John Ballard

The health care reform beat is making me tired. Same old stuff all the time. 
But this was left in a comment thread at The Health Care Blog and it's worth keeping. Readers can check out the post, of course, but most readers here are already on the same side of the issue. But this comment is broader than the content of the post and deserves more prominence than it will receive lost in a bunch of other comments.

Probably the only way to really understand another country is to live there. Everything you say squares with what a friend who has lived in Canada for many years tells me. Another friend, who lived in France for a number of years, told similar stories about care there. My step-son and his wife had their first baby in Germany. Great, patient-centered care in a hospital that didn’t look like a resort, but provided excellent care.

My friend who lived in France said that there health care system is so good because “The French feel that nothing is too good for another Frenchman.”
Unfortunately, Americans do not feel that way about each other.

This helps explain America’s poor being caught in a cycle of poverty. We don’t put the money into public education that would help many people break out of the cycle. Our classrooms are too crowded, particularly in schools located in low-income areas. A high student-teacher ratio means that students who learn at different rates don’t get the attention they need.

When it comes to special ed, children with emotional problems (anxiety, rage, ADD) are thrown into special ed classes with children who are mentally retarded. The angry children bully the retarded children.

Often, the schools themselves are old, dirty and crumbling. Windows that don’t open haven’t been washed in years. Even in NYC, (where school lasts until the end of June) many classrooms don’t have air-conditioning.

Imagine trying to learn (or teach) in a stifling 94 degree classroom packed with 26 sweaty bodies?

Visit public schools in Canada, or France, and you will see the difference.

July 19, 2012

Romney Bashing at The American Conservative

Commentary By Ron Beasley

What amazes me is some of the most effective Romney bashing is going on at The American Conservative magazine. Daniel Larison has been bashing his foreign policy with some help by social conservative Rod Dreher. And todayJames Pinkerton and Noah Millman are blasting his economic policy.

July 18, 2012

HCR -- Two Links -- End of Life and Tissue/Organ Donors

By John Ballard

For my little audience of readers following health care reform, today I came across three excellent links.
The first two are brief public radio features about organ and tissue donation.
I am well-informed, but I learned new information from both. 

Little Regulation Poses Problems Tracking Tissue (Seven minutes)

Calculating The Value Of Human Tissue Donation (Thirteen minurtes)

These features by Joseph Shapiro and Sandra Bartlett are both excellent. The second and longer of the two shows a dark side of a horrendously profitable business having as much to do with generating business profits as delivering of health care. 

"When you die, you don't need your skin anymore. But that 6-year-old burn victim, lying in the hospital, could really use it," says Truitt. "Your heart valves can go to a father of four who's having some serious heart issues and without those valves could die. By giving what you no longer need, you're still helping and in a way, you're kind of still living on."

Still, while that may sound like he's endorsing tissue donation, this one-time industry insider no longer feels that way — at least, for now.

"I've struggled with that decision for many years now, and the answer is no: I will not donate my tissues," he says. "Tissue donation, at the base level, at what I described of helping somebody else live a better life is a phenomenal thing. But unfortunately, just as easy as your tissues can go to something like that, they can also go to penile implants, for example."

The human tissue industry is full of contradictions like that. Tissue can save or better someone's life, but sometimes it will go to plump up lips and smooth wrinkles.

It starts with an act of generosity. Families, like the Truitts, donate bodies. But that altruism can turn to profit. Tissue companies — by the industry's own estimates — make more than $1 billion a year.

It's estimated that the tissue off of a single body can generate revenues of $80,000 or more.

Tissue grafts help 50 times more people than the number who receive organ donations, and yet it's a little known and lightly regulated business.

This morning's Washington Journal dedicated a forty-minute segment to Health Care Costs, a rich and informative discussion with thoughtful callers interacting with C-CPAN host Steve and Amanda Bennett, a Newsweek contributor whose book, The Cost of Hope, has just been published. This is a totally engaging and informative contribution to the C-SPAN Video Library.

There is no way to summarize this program, but as viewers listen to the discussion they need to let the COSTS of health care never leave their consciousness. Costs are not the main subject but this program underscores better than anything I can say how and why the most expensive part of health care in America is concentrated in the last weeks and months of life. At one point, for example, she mentions that her late husband had received seventy-six CT scans. Words fail me when I try to coment on that. 

July 16, 2012

Book Review - The Trust

Commentary By Ron Beasley

The TrustIt's not easy writing a review for a mystery novel and The Trust by Norb Vonnegut is no exception. I can't say too much without being a spoiler but I'll try.

Successful investment manager Grove O'Rourke receives a mysterious call from his wealthy mentor, Palmer Kincaid and suspects something is wrong. The next day Kincaid's body washes ashore an apparent accidental drowning victim. O'Rourke is contacted by Kincaid's daughter to get the family's financial affairs in order. He suddenly finds himself in charge of Palmer Kincaid's charitable organization, The Palmetto Foundation. One of the first issues involves The Catholic Fund and a mysterious priest, Father Frederick Ricardo. The Catholic Fund has given 65 million dollars to the Palmetto Foundation and Father Ricardo now wants to dictate where that money goes. O'Rourke is suspicious and that is only reinforced by attorney Biscuit Hughes who has discovered that The Catholic Fund is the owner of a Sex Superstore in Fayettville, North Carolina. At the same time O'Rourke's investment firm in New York is being taken over Morgan Stanley and the FBI is asking questions about him.  O'Rourke himself is contacted by the FBI but agent Torres has lots of questions but few answers.  Then Palmer Kincaid's widow is kidnapped and O'Rourke is forced to join forces with agent Torres to save her.

If you like mysteries this is a great read that includes murder, a kidnapping and financial shenanigans. It is often hard to separate the good guys from the bad ones.  

Note:

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

 

"they want to fully own the United States government."

Posted from John's Twitter feed...

Bernie

Two for the Road

By John Ballard

Mondays are typically not very interesting news days. Sunday's talking heads already had their time in the spotlight and the week's red meat is still being packaged. But today I came across two links worth checking out. Both are from the NY Times. Reader comments make them into very long reads, but both are substantive and not to be skipped. 

Policy and the Personal is Krugman's column. Mark Thoma sez it's worth reading and he's correct. This week's focus on Romney's business backstory is more than old-fashioned political nit-picking. As Krugman points out it goes to the core issue of this presidential campaign, the rich versus everybody else. 

Thus the entirely true charge that Mr. Romney wants to slash historically low tax rates on the rich even further dovetails perfectly with his own record of extraordinary tax avoidance — so extraordinary that he’s evidently afraid to let voters see his tax returns from before 2010. The equally true charge that he’s pushing policies that would benefit the rich at the expense of ordinary working Americans meshes with Bain’s record of earning big profits even when workers suffered — a record so stark that Mr. Romney is attempting to distance himself from part of it by insisting that he had nothing to do with Bain’s operations after 1999, even though the company continued to list him as C.E.O. and sole owner until 2002. And so on.

The point is that talking about Mr. Romney’s personal history isn’t a diversion from substantive policy discussion. On the contrary, in a political and media environment strongly biased against substance, talking about Bain and offshore accounts is the only way to bring the real policy issues into focus. And we should applaud, not condemn, the Obama campaign for standing up to the tut-tutters.

Vast F.D.A. Effort Tracked E-Mails of Its Scientists was picked up at The Agonist. (Good catch, Steve.) Again, the reader comments may be more stimulating reading than the article. 

This is how Big Brother regards whistle-blowers, whoever they are. And anybody who doesn't think whistle-blowers are important needs to do more reading about the back-story of the scandal at Penn State. 

[I'm in trouble for time this morning or I would post a tickler or two. I thought a part-time job in retirement would be good for me, but it's cutting in on my reading and blogging time. I may need to quit work altogether and spend the rest of my life hunched over a keyboard. But I know if I let myself do that it would ultimately shorten my life. So I keep going...]

July 15, 2012

Taibbi on Crooked Banks

By John Ballard

One of this weekend's long reads for me was Matt Taibbi's piecd in Rolling Stone, The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia How America's biggest banks took part in a nationwide bid-rigging conspiracy - until they were caught on tape.  This is not only long, it's also dry. And in the end, after wanting with all your imagination to see some real justice done to at least a couple of high-profile figures, it concludes anti-climactically with a few slaps on the wrist for a handful of mid-level crooks that got caught. I mention this from the start in order to let anyone know in advance not to get their hopes up as they slog through the mess.  At the same time, I urge anybody who has the time to read it completely. In about seven and a half thousand words. Taibbi does as well as anyone to make a muddy picture as understandable as possible. 

The subject, simply said, is bid-rigging. And the bids have nothing to do with actual work or productivity. They are concerned instead with accounting and investments. There is an old scam from banking called salami slicing  It's such an obvious and old scheme that banks long ago took measures making it obsolete. But in the early days of banking it worked like this...

An example of salami slicing, also known as penny shaving, is the fraudulent practice of stealing money repeatedly in extremely small quantities, usually by taking advantage of rounding to the nearest cent (or other monetary unit) in financial transactions. It would be done by always rounding down, and putting the fractions of a cent into another account. The idea is to make the change small enough that any single transaction will go undetected.

A bank employee with a dummy account simply diverts all the uneven cents into that account to which that person has access. As you read, just remember that is the basic model of the scam. 

The "simple fraud" Waszmer described centered around public borrowing. Say your town wants to build a new elementary school. So it goes to Wall Street, which issues a bond in your town's name to raise $100 million, attracting cash from investors all over the globe. Once Wall Street raises all that money, it dumps it in a tax-exempt account, which your town then uses to pay builders, plumbers, the chalkboard company and whoever else winds up working on the project.

But here's the catch: Most towns, when they raise all that money, don't spend it all at once. Often it takes years to complete a construction project, and the last contractor isn't paid until long after the original bond is issued. While that unspent money is sitting in the town's account, local officials go looking for a financial company on Wall Street to invest it for them.

To do that, officials hire a middleman firm known as a broker to set up a public auction and invite banks to compete for the town's business. For the $100 million you borrowed on your elementary school bond, Bank A might offer you 5 percent interest. Bank B goes further and offers 5.25 percent. But Bank C, the winner of the auction, offers 5.5 percent.

In most cases, towns and cities, called issuers, are legally required to submit their bonds to a competitive auction of at least three banks, called providers. The scam Wall Street cooked up to beat this fair-market system was to devise phony auctions. Instead of submitting competitive bids and letting the highest rate win, providers like Chase, Bank of America and GE secretly divvied up the business of all the different cities and towns that came to Wall Street to borrow money. One company would be allowed to "win" the bid on an elementary school, the second would be handed a hospital, the third a hockey rink, and so on.

How did they rig the auctions? Simple: By bribing the auctioneers, those middlemen brokers hired to ensure the town got the best possible interest rate the market could offer. Instead of holding honest auctions in which none of the parties knew the size of one another's bids, the broker would tell the pre­arranged "winner" what the other two bids were, allowing the bank to lower its offer and come in with an interest rate just high enough to "beat" its supposed competitors. This simple but effective cheat – telling the winner what its rivals had bid – was called giving them a "last look." The winning bank would then reward the broker by providing it with kickbacks disguised as "fees" for swap deals that the brokers weren't even involved in.

The end result of this (at least) decade-long conspiracy was that towns and cities systematically lost, while banks and brokers won big. By shaving tiny fractions of a percent off their winning bids, the banks pocketed fantastic sums over the life of these multimillion-dollar bond deals. Lowering a bid by just one-100th of a percent, called a basis point, could cheat a town out of tens of thousands of dollars it would otherwise have earned on its bond deposits.

That doesn't sound like much. But when added to the other fractions of a percent stolen from basically every other town in America on every other bond issued by Wall Street in the past 10 to 15 years, it starts to turn into an enormous sum of money. In short, this was like the scam in Office Space, multiplied by a factor of about 10 gazillion: Banks stole pennies at a time from towns all over America, only they did it a few hundred bazillion times.

Images[1]The is the basic scam. The drama of Tabbi's article is the result of an actual trial that took place in which real characters were identified and brought to trial and judged by a jury. 

To grasp the full insanity of these revelations, one must step back and consider all this information together: the bribes, yes, but also the industrywide, anti-competitive bid-rigging scheme. It turns into a kind of unbroken Möbius strip of corruption – the banks pay middlemen to rig auctions, the middlemen bribe politicians to win business, then the politicians choose the middlemen to run the auctions, leading right back to the banks bribing the middlemen to rig the bids.

Yes, all the characters were real. This is not fiction. 

That should be enough to whet the appetite for anyone who has the time and curiosity to read the whole piece.
I recommend it highly. 

July 14, 2012

Saturday Night Tunes

Commentary By Ron Beasley

I'm not sure why but I have always liked Shawn Mullins and this is one of his best.

July 13, 2012

Weekend Listicle

By John Ballard

As soon as I learned the word listicle I couldn't wait to use it. I found it in use by

The Wikipedea definition is broad enough to allow me to celebrate Kat's return by a (wait for it...)  

Newshogger listicle:

America burning: Drought devastating 26 states is the largest natural disaster area in U.S. history
Headline says it all. The map is the reason for this link. The drought area is bigger and worse than I thought. 

Arrests reported as police close streets at downtown L.A. ArtWalk
This pisses me off just looking at the photos. The police no longer respond to violence. They anticipate it and invite it by how they dress, arm themselves and move in militia-type formations.  They make the firehoses and dogs of the Sixties look primitive by comparison. 

Hidden Government Scanners Will Instantly Know Everything About You From 164 Feet Away
Gizmodo Magazine. 

...the machine can sniff out a lot more than just explosives, chemicals and bioweapons. The company that invented it, Genia Photonics, says that its laser scanner technology is able to "penetrate clothing and many other organic materials and offers spectroscopic information, especially for materials that impact safety such as explosives and pharmacological substances."

[snip]

The machine is a mobile, rack-mountable system. It fires a laser to provide molecular-level feedback at distances of up to 50 meters in just picoseconds. For all intents and purposes, that means instantly.

The small, inconspicuous machine is attached to a computer running a program that will show the information in real time, from trace amounts of cocaine on your dollar bills to gunpowder residue on your shoes. Forget trying to sneak a bottle of water past security—they will be able to tell what you had for breakfast in an instant while you're walking down the hallway.

JP Morgan reports trading losses of $5.8bn from London 'tempest'
I heard this one on the radio this morning. The losses were almost twice as big as first reported. Hold your nose as you read. And when you're done, join me in wondering if even that is the whole truth.


Cover-2007c[1]Tiny 2-Foot Missile Could Be ‘Months’ Away From Drone War

Wired Magazine

Video at the link with a well-hung drone.

I was attracted to this link cuz I just bought the current issue of Wired which has a cover story featuring drones. I've been wanting one of those quadcopter toys ever since I saw a video of one.  This magazine is one of the hidden treasures of the news stand. I only wish it had bigger print. 

Check out how Uber, a new kind of transportation-for-hire venture falling between cabs and limos represents a proliferation of businesses now enabled by the Internet. 

Author and entrepreneur Lisa Gansky, in her 2010 book heralding the birth of this new type of business, put forward a metaphor to describe how it works: the “mesh.” It’s an apt image, because it captures the seamless way that producers and consumers blend together, with transactions happening wherever the resources are available: Everything can be rented or consumed everywhere. Besides Uber, the most impressive of this new generation of startups is undeniably Airbnb, which allows people to rent out their homes or rooms in them; despite a few high-profile snafus (one man had his apartment vandalized by an apparently meth-addled guest), the service has booked more than 5 million overnight stays in its four years of existence. And scores more of these sites are just getting started. There’s Getaround for renting out your car, Spinlister for your bike, Parking Panda for your parking space, ToolSpinner for your household tools. And those are in addition to the myriad sites that let you “rent” out your free time by matching your skills with demand: Cherry for car washers, Exec for personal assistants, Rover for dog sitters, and more. (Not to mention TaskRabbit, the catchall work-for-hire site I profiled in issue 19.08.) For resource sharers, all these services offer a way to earn money with minimal effort. For customers, they offer either low prices or, as with Uber, a level of convenience beyond what a more traditional business can offer.

Son of liberal financier George Soros launches anti-super PAC super PAC
Hot damn!  
This is fighting fire with fire. I was wondering when and if this might happen.
Check out the interactive graphic which I am bookmarking in hopes they will keep it up to date as the campaign continues.  Drag your mouse around to see lots of information. 

'Shadow REO': As Many as 90% of Foreclosed Properties Held Off the Market, Estimates Suggest
You think the housing bubble is about over? Not by a long shot. There is no way that anything as big as this was going to resolve in just a few years. We will be seeing and feeling this mess for years to come. Read this article closely and connect the real estate dots with the banking dots and the political dots. It's not a pretty picture. 

...Realtors who want more bargain-priced homes to sell may not get their way anytime soon. Foreclosed properties are an extreme liability to lenders, holding the potential not just to dent their profits but to actually bankrupt them altogether.

That's because when a lender carries an REO [Real Estate Owned] on its books, it is allowed to value the home at the price that the foreclosed-on borrower originally paid for it. Once the lender sells the home, it must book a loss: the difference between the original purchase price and the current value. And since home values have fallen by nearly a third since the housing bust, that translates into huge losses for the bank.

"They've already taken a loss on the loan," Khater said, "but they're going to take a loss on the asset once they dispose of it." Adding insult to injury, REOs typically sell at a 33 percent discount.

Fears of a Domino Effect

Releasing REOs onto the market also chips away at home prices in general, depressing the value of the homes of other customers -- who could already be teetering on the brink of foreclosure -- and the additional REOs that lenders hold on their books.

"Each REO that comes through has a domino impact on properties that are very close to that property," Khater said.

In fact, if lenders turn their REO release valve to full blast, the deluge of foreclosures cascading onto the market could plunge the country into a recession, said Thomas Martin, president of consumer advocacy group Americas Watchdog.

"If they let the dam essentially break. It could be a catastrophic disaster for the U.S. economy," he said, predicting that some major banks would fail and home prices would nosedive by 20 percent.

That doomsday scenario has many industry professionals supporting lenders' tactics of holding onto most of their REOs. Otherwise, they would be "causing the floor to fall out from underneath the entire market," Faranda said. He added that banks don't have the manpower to push the paperwork required to put all their foreclosures on the market.

Indeed, lenders couldn't list all their REOs even if they wanted to. Fannie Mae, for one, reported in the first quarter of 2012 that it was unable to market 48 percent of its REO inventory because many of the homes were either still occupied, under repair or being rented.

§~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~§

And finally, here are a couple of longer reads that caught my eye. The first is a civil response by Dr. Christopher Ford to a brief article in the NY Times about yet another metamorphosis now underway in Chinese leadeership. The second is a tour de force by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone which is the most damning indictiment of banking -- both here and abroad -- yet to hit the popular press. 

A Confucian Constitution for China

A State of Moral Confucian

The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia
How America's biggest banks took part in a nationwide bid-rigging conspiracy - until they were caught on tape

The themes of these readings are not formally linked but they go to the core of most world events. When everything else is tossed away, the central question we all face, both individually and as responsible citizens, is What is good leadership and how do we best go about finding it? That question played in the background during the unfolding of the Arab Awakening. It lies at the center of our own tortured path to selecting the next US president. It lurks beneath nearly every headline from Iran's latest move to the Israeli response (and Washington's response to both) to the cautious opening of Myanmar and KSA's cautious experiment with Nineteenth Century gender roles allowing women to participate in the Olympic Games. (Shocking, but true.)

Dr. Ford employs a word I have not seen before, meritoligarchy, which returns surprising little as a search term. I think it may be an original neologism with him. I don't know, but that is not important. What is important is the notion that in some way there may be merit in oligarchy. At first glance this looks like an oxymoron. But when viewed through a Confucian lens it begins, like a lot of inscrutable Eastern notions viewed from half the world away, to make sense. 

In fact, I relied on a variant of the idea during my career as a cafeteria manager. It lay at the heart of my management style and is best described by an exchange between a disciple and his master.

Disciple: Which is the better, that a leader be loved and respected by all the people in the community or feared and hated by everyone?
Master:  The best leader is the one who is feared and hated by all the bad people in the community but loved and respected by all the good people in the community.

I remembered just enough pop literature about Eastern philosophy to be dangerous. This model helped me in many situations to find a moral center -- quickly, when it mattered -- and not get distracted from more pressing issues (like if that guy doesn't get that basket out of the fryer in the next 30 seconds he's gonna burn up sixty dollars worth of shrimp). This model makes an important part of good leadership the response of those being led. When you examine the model closely it is what results in combat units following orders, even in situations where they know that by doing so some of them will be killed and injured. Irrational behavior is not confined to leadership. It also applies to those who follow. 

The Confucian tradition is steeped in meritoligarchic thinking, of course, and this paternalism survived into the 20th Century with the emphasis placed by Kuomintang (KMT, a.k.a. Nationalist) theorists upon the need for an extended “tutelary” phase of elite rule before the Chinese people would be ready for anything more like real democracy.

More broadly, however, meritoligarchy tends to pop up whenever a ruling elite faces pressure to give more political power to the masses. One can find variations on this theme, for instance, in 19th Century American and British debates over the expansion of the franchise, or in pro-slavery apologetics coming out of the 19th-Century American South, or in Rhodesian rhetoric employed after Ian Smith's “unilateral declaration of independence” in 1965. In a fascinating prequel to the Jiang/Bell proposal for a “tricameral” Chinese legislature, in fact, apartheid-era South African authorities themselves set up a tricameral parliament in 1984 in order to provide white rule with the appearance of greater legitimacy by giving “Coloured” and “Indian” citizens subservient roles in the apartheid political system while leaving black Africans to rot in their “own” separate political “homelands.” (As do Jiang and Bell with their Confucian constitutionalism, South Africa’s “separate development” racial ideologists of the apartheid era felt that their theory provided a “more comprehensive and culturally sensitive way of judging … political progress” than looking merely at conventional standards of democratic legitimacy.)

Dr. Ford does not allow navel-gazing to cloud his thinking. His position, expressed in civil but unmistakable language, is clear.

My concern, however, is how well the neo-Kong approach meshes with the Chinese Party-State’s ongoing efforts to develop and maintain a Sinicized meritoligarchic vision as a baldly antidemocratic political theory – that is, one designed forever to preclude giving the Chinese people the ability to exercise their inherent right to choose and change their rulers. It is not hard to why CCP authorities in Beijing – who exercise a “guiding” role (and veto power) over basic lines of research pursued in Chinese universities, and who have encouraged Confucian revival studies since the late 1980s – are happy to see the Neo-Kong discourse promoted, both at home and in the West, as an alternative vision to genuinely democratic governance. Neo-Kong politics are ripe for cynical and opportunistic appropriation by the CCP, and the process is already underway.

Hold those thoughts, now, as you plow through Taibbi's piece. And as you read, let the rhetoric of the presidential election echo in the background, from Obama's relentless but thus far futile effort to find a corrective to the economic inequities of wealth in America, to the relentless efforts on the part of his political opponents to thwart anything he endorses.

170px-Fred_Barnard07[1]I printed out the Rolling Stone piece and am still wading through it. But I can tell where it is going. And the ugly part is two-fold. First, these slimy manipulative Uriah Heep figures from the world's biggest financial institutions will not only escape punishment but the system will not likely be changed to prevent the same scams from happening again. The form, time and architecture will change, but the underlying greed and corruption will remain the same.

And second -- and this is related to the twisted relationship that easily derives from Dr. Ford's piece before -- too many followers see no difference between meritocracy and meritoligarchy. And like well-disciplined troops following orders in combat, they too often charge bravely into situations that may later be remembered as either heroic or shameful. The same dynamic that drove the invasion of D-Day also animated those who followed orders from Auschwitz to My Lai. 

 


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