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The Employment Index: Wish me luck

This week’s version of the index will be brief.  I have an interview this morning and I need to jump in the shower.  The job is in a different area of research than I’m used to but I passed the preliminary placement exam so there’s that. Just in case, I looked up some material on YouTube. I bought a new suit, that I will probably never wear again, and got an investment haircut.  Got my berry smoothie ready.  Everything copacetic.

Now all I need is a little bit of luck to go with the preparation.

This is ze time on ze Confluence vhen ve dahnse.

The Politics of Personality Disorder

I’ve had a few commenters who think the posts on narcissism and the Dark Triad are interesting but they really wish I wouldn’t bring politics into it.

I’m confused about this.  This is a blog where Democrats in Exile and others can talk about politics and not be shouted down for not adopting the dominant narrative.  So, there’s that.

But more than that, humans are herd animals.  Being in the group is highly desirable.  Being out of the group makes us anxious.  So, if the dominant narrative is shaped by a small evil group of people, to whom no one we know belongs,  who use political rhetoric and religion as dissemination tools, we should be aware of it.  Shouldn’t we?  Isn’t it better to know what techniques may be used to manipulate us to act in a herd like fashion?  And if the people who are manipulating us have severe unchecked personality disorders, which looks more and more likely, isn’t it better to see them than to have them hide behind the masks of authority and holiness?

Now, I’m not saying that I have proof of any of it.  I’m just looking at behaviors that have been growing steadily for about 40 years and the results of those behaviors on all of us and trying to find cause and effect.  In the end, I don’t really care why people behave the way they do as long as they don’t behave badly.  In other words, it’s not interesting to me that a narcissist might have experienced childhood trauma or that a psychopath may have a genetic predisposition.  Not remotely interesting.  Psychologists might be interested in the sources of these personality disorders so that they can nip them in the bud in kids in the future but once those kids become adults, their behaviors are pretty much fixed.

Personality disorders are very difficult to treat. The first step in dealing with a person with a personality disorder is accepting the fact that you can’t change them.  You are not going to be able to teach them to be more empathetic, less selfish, less manipulative etc.  It’s not going to happen because they have no reason to change. Curing these people is almost impossible because they don’t think they have a problem. YOU have a problem.  So, getting inside their heads is not my goal.  My goal is finding a way to react to them in a way that neutralizes their power over us.

What I am concerned with is that we don’t always know when we are being manipulated and exploited, and we often fail to detect patterns of behavior that will lead to us acting against our best interests.  When we start to understand the patterns, we have an opportunity to take action to make it stop.  In other words, if we find that the finance industry is hiring a disproportionate number of psychopaths to play with our money, we can presumably take away the incentive to hire psychopaths or take away our money.  If we find that a bunch of Machiavellians are saturating the airwaves with manipulative language, we might be able to point out the way the manipulation works so that people turn off their radios and cable TV.

If we find that a couple of attention seeking, control freak authoritarians are getting narcissistic supply out of exploiting their kids on a reality show by adopting a super conservative religious lifestyle and parading themselves as holier than thou and then campaigning for a super conservative politician, we should be aware of what they are doing and promoting and what they are trying to accomplish.

Let’s just call it as we see it, shall we?  Let’s not play “these are not the droids you’re looking for” because we don’t want to look at the dark underworld of human interactions only to find our favorite politicians and religious superstars lurking there.

Politics and religion are two very powerful influences on human herds.  We need to make very sure that the people acting as shepherds aren’t coyotes in disguise.

Dark Triad or Tetrad?

dark_triadPutting a finger on what’s going on in this country and the world in general since the financial crisis of 2008 has been slow going.  Part of that might be because when you are in the midst of it, trying to make a living and keeping your head above water, it’s difficult to see the forest from the trees.

Recently, I came across the term “dark triad”, which as I understand it is the convergence of three personality types: Machiavellianism, psychopathy and narcissism.  It’s a real personality type.  I’ve gone over the traits of narcissistic personality disorder previously and it’s pretty clear to me that many of our financial overlords suffer from it to one degree or another.  But I’ve been puzzled about how it is that the narcissists managed to convince so many ordinary Americans to ignore their best interests. Something was missing. That is where I think the Dark Triad comes in and can explain why the airwaves are saturated by the pundits who encourage the worst behavior and thoughts, and why they can get away with it.

But there’s a new theory in town.  It’s called the Dark Tetrad.  The psychologists who are studying these negative personality disorders say that the fourth component is sadism.  I’m wondering if sadism is the natural outcome of the convergence of the previous three traits.  Is it cause or effect?  If it is true that cruelty results from the need to assuage our guilt for taking advantage of someone, wouldn’t it make sense that setting up a system that exploits other people will naturally lead to more cruelty?  But if a person feels guilt, wouldn’t that negatively correlate with psychopathy?  Doesn’t the quality of remorselessness, which is associated psychopathy imply sadism?  It feels like there is a PLS model just waiting to be constructed to figure out what the principal components are.  How do we know which qualities of the dark triad or tetrad can be derived from the others?

If there is anyone out there with more information on the Dark Triad or Tetrad, or has links to papers that don’t cost an arm and a leg (I like free), let me know.  I’m not a professional and only took one course in psychology (but I’m beginning to think that I should pursue a degree in the subject.  Just hit the tip jar at the upper left to help defray the cost of tuition.  Damn, if I were just Machiavellian enough, I could *make* you hit that tip jar.) so I’m going to have to rely on iTunes U, youtube and Kno to teach myself all the lingo.

Still, it might be worth the effort.  If we can figure it out, maybe we can develop a psychological vaccine.

One more thing: it looks like the Dark Triad is used to describe predatory men who use manipulation to mate, or at least a lot of the early papers seem to focus on “players”.  But I’ve often found that the metaphor of the player has been very useful to explaining what happened to the political system in 2008 especially the evolution of Democratic activists in support of whatever it is that infiltrated the party.  For example, what was the purpose of this?  I don’t think this picture was leaked:

Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau with HRC cutout after Obama victory.

I’m not picking on Democrats here. Republicans are worse and they’ve got a bigger megaphone. But there’s no doubt that something dark and malevolent snuck into the party while we weren’t looking.
 

Hokay, I’m done with Coke

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 8.22.25 AMNYTimes has an article on the “accidentally” leaked documents of the 501(c)(4) that contributes to the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA).  This advocacy group is called Republican Governors’ Public Policy Committee.  The Democrats have one too but it’s called something like The Center for Innovative Policy.  I guess they solicit all kinds of policy, not just Democratic ones. (that explains a lot)

Anyway, the members of this advocacy group contribute up to $250,000 in order to attend swank soirees and bend the ear of the Republican Governors in attendance.  Access “offers the ability to bring their particular expertise to the political process while helping to support the Republican agenda.”  And I used to think that these were equal opportunity corporate schmoozers.

So, you might be wondering who is in this shadowy group that is supporting the attack on women’s reproductive rights and cutting social safety net programs to the bone.  The usual suspects are here.  But there are also a couple of surprises:

The most elite group, known as the Statesmen, whose members donated $250,000, included Aetna; Coca-Cola; Exxon Mobil; Koch Companies Public Sector, the lobbying arm of the highly political Koch Industries; Microsoft; Pfizer; UnitedHealth Group; and Walmart. The $100,000 Cabinet level included Aflac, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Comcast, Hewlett-Packard, Novartis, Shell Oil, Verizon Communications and Walgreen.

Exxon, the Koch brothers and Pfizer don’t surprise me.  But Coca-Cola and Microsoft?  Really??

You mean every time I drink a diet Coke or buy another annoying Word license, I am contributing the the erosion of women’s rights or depriving some kid of food stamps?

Um, that’s disgusting.

I might not be able to get around Microsoft but I can definitely cut Coke out of my life.  Boycotts might be ineffective but this is a personal choice and I’m not consciously contributing to my own demise.

 

WWII: The Sequel

I haven’t been following the reboot of the Iraq War brought on by the ISIS atrocities.  For one thing, I don’t watch cable or network news so I missed the beheading videos.  Is it just me or should there be a law against showing that kind of thing on TV?  It feels like gratuitous snuff film porn for the purpose of horrifying people and stirring up strong emotional reactions.  I’m agin it.

I’m also against war in general but I’m not a pacifist or an isolationist.  I sat through a bajillion hours of The Last Lion, the biography of Winston Churchill and realize how dangerous pacifism and isolationism can be.  The peaceniks “at all costs” crowd are as unsettling to me as the Cheney types.  My attitude towards war is a Tolkienish one.  I don’t like it, don’t crave it, wouldn’t seek it out except for the protection of friends and innocents.

But there is a really good reason why the US can never be an isolationist country.  Going back to WWII, Churchill repeatedly threw the British Army (or what was left of it after Dunkirk) at different places in the Mediterranean and southeast asia for a purpose.  It was more than just a case of pestering Hitler like a biting sand fly.  And it did have something to do with the British Empire.  But more than that, he had to do it to maintain open sea lanes.  Take a look at the map below of the world’s chokepoints today:

If you follow the thickest blue line, you’ll notice that the most significant battles of WWII happened along it.  You can also see why the Axis came to be.  The countries that controlled the north Atlantic, Mediterranean and South China Seas pretty much ruled the world.  That big blue line represents the quickest route from East Asia to North America.  A vital choke point is right about where the Suez Canal is and what countries surround the entry and exit to the Suez Canal?  Egypt, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia.  If we follow the Red Sea southward, we see Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia. Then we swing around the Arabian Pennisula and into the Persian Gulf to Iran, Iraq, Bahrain and all that oil.

Like it or not, we are dependent on keeping those chokepoints open for international trade, not only for ourselves but for the rest of the world. It helps if the country in charge of patrolling the hot spots is above reproach.  Bush and Cheney kinda ruined our global reputation in that respect.  The rest of the world has to trust us to not act completely in our own best interests.

What Bush and Cheney did was take a giant dump in a very sensitive place.  And then they left a very naive but extremely cocky novice president to keep the place in order.  The naivety, coupled with an upcoming second term, caused a series of very bad decisions.  Pair that up with local instability in the region around the Suez Canal and you have our present situation.

There probably was a better time to intervene in Syria but in general, the region is always going to be a sensitive spot.  It’s geographically important, and you can bet the people who live there know it.  The Arab Spring might have been prompted by that realization.  We are probably never going to be able to completely reduce our presence there.  Our economy depends on keeping this chokepoint open.  Until we get rid of our dependence on foreign oil, we’re going to have to be there.  And even after we move on from sucking the mideast dry, that area is still the quickest way from point A to point B for many countries other than our own.

So, there’s my take on it.  We’re still fighting the world wars of the previous century and will be for the foreseeable future.  Obama was not thinking past his re-election and anyone who made their decision of presidential candidate in 2008 based on a war vote or promises to get out of Iraq wasn’t thinking it through to its logical conclusions.  It has always been clear to me that the president who took over from Bush/Cheney was going to have to make peace with the isolationists before he or she would ever make peace with the Iraqis and their neighbors.  It was never going to be simple or easy.  The best we could hope for was an uneasy status quo for a long time.

But somebody blew it and here we are.

Next time we elect a president, we might want to choose one who is explicit about these things.

One more thing: Considering what a sensitive area the Mediterranean is, you have to wonder why the ECB is being such a dick to Spain, Italy and Greece.

No, they really don’t get it, Digby

Digby has a post about a rather nasty but extremely to the point ad that the Republicans are running.  It’s of a woman discussing her bad boyfriend and how he made promises he didn’t keep and now she wants nothing to do with his friends.  And, you know, we’ve used that same metaphor here at The Confluence.  The other one is “Don’t hand me no lines and keep your hands to yourselves”.

The difference is that we’re liberals.  Yep, we’ve never been onboard the Obama bandwagon because we knew he was bad news.  That didn’t stop the other Democrats from jumping into bed with him.  I would have distanced myself a long, long time ago if I had been a Democrat running for Congress but who listens to us?

Oh, that’s right.  We’re liberals.  Wait, I already said that. But you know, you don’t have to be a knit-your-own-sandals type to be bashed by your own side as being insufficiently servile to the Obama mystique.

It’s sad that I have to keep repeating it though because suddenly we’ve become Rush Limbaugh listeners.  How did that happen??  I’ve never listened to Rush in my life except in those clips at Media Matters- that I chipped in to help fund back in 2006.

Apparently, I have swallowed the line that all slutty women want is for government to pay for their free birth control too, is that what you’re saying, Digby?  After all the stuff I wrote about the red beanie gang, the forced conversion of women to Catholicism and the defense I made of Sandra Fluke?

The Democrats have got a real problem.  There is a war on women, no question about that.  But they have done nothing to fight back.  In fact, they made it worse by tying themselves to Obama and his campaign, which, incidentally, was the most sexist political campaign that I have ever seen.

I don’t know how many women this ad will appeal to.  I am of the opinion that “friends don’t let friends vote Republican” but Democrats are not giving me a whole lot of material to work with.

If I were Democrats, I’d be uncomfortable too but blaming the victim is uncalled for.  But they are so taken in by their own self-delusion that they just don’t get it.

**********************************************

Here’s a little reminder of what they put us through to get Obama into office:

 

Occasionally, even Stiglitz gets it wrong

If you can name these guys (collectively and individually), you might be a Joneser. 

In Saturday’s post, I mentioned briefly that Stiglitz was in Australia recently warning the Aussies not to import American ideas regarding privatization and capitalism.  You can watch the video here.  It’s about an hour and a half long but it’s pretty good.

He also touched on the plight of the over 50 crowd.  Actually, he says that the problems the over 50’s are facing are spreading downward to people in their 30s and 40s.  He says that the guys in charge of the country have written the over 50 crowd off in terms of the market and jobs in general.  Well, that would explain a lot, like why it is so difficult to get an interview.

But where Stiglitz gets it wrong would be when he says that we lack the technical skills to succeed in this environment.  He says that the economy thinks we are a “disposable commodity” and “technologically obsolete”.

I’d just like to set the record straight here.  I am what commenter r u reddy refers to as Generation Jones.  That is the generation that is wedged in between the baby boomers and the millenials.  Most of us were too young to be radicals.  We lived through the Civil Rights Era but were more likely to attend integrated schools.  We were the bussed generation.  We were the generation that didn’t experience the gender divide between wood shop and home ec. We were the ones who faced the first cuts to post secondary school education.  We didn’t get income averaging or interest deductions on our income taxes.  We were the generation that had to pay more for our social security in the surplus fund. (There’s a quiz to see if you belong.  Check it out here.)

And we were also the generation of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  We cut our teeth on Lotus, basic and the original Macs.  In many of our first jobs, we were expected to know how to create macros, run lab equipment with computers with tiny RAM and floppy disks to collect data.  We had to learn VMS to run the VAX, Windows to write reams and reams of reports with Microsoft Office, and Unix, followed by linux, to configure web accessed databases.  Younguns got it easy.  I remember the first days of the web when we had to use ftp at the command line to check the temperature of the cokes in a CMU vending machine, when there weren’t any search engines, and we had to write online tutorials with nothing but HTML tags and we liked it.  But when new technology came along to replace the insufficient, kludgy and tedious, we embraced it and learned it like everybody else.  We’re not the baby boomer managers who wouldn’t know linux if it bit them in the ass.

I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone sometimes when I get interviewed by someone and they say, “Do you really know how to use Microsoft Office and Email?”   I keep thinking that they must be addressing someone standing behind me.  Of course I know Microsoft Office and Email. Do I look Amish to you?  There’s not an office application, database application, web based application, email application, fill in the blank, that I haven’t used regularly, configured, played with until I got bored or haven’t been able to figure out given a few hours and a lot of questions. (never read the manual)  I imagine that the vast majority of my generation is well adapted to technology and hasn’t met a gadget they didn’t want to overpay apple to possess.

So, I’m not sure who Stiglitz is referring when he says the over 50s have a problem with technology  but it sounds like conventional wisdom, that beautiful theory destroyed by ugly facts.  I really wish Stiglitz wouldn’t perpetuate the myth that Generation Jones isn’t technically able and, therefore, have no prospects.  It is hurting us.

Here’s my beautiful theory: the wealthy do not want to be encumbered with taxes to pay for anyone’s retirement.  They’re owners of equity, not the actual owners who made arrangements or were forced into a government enforced retirement plan back in the day.  If these over 50 year olds spend a decade or more in low level jobs at subsistence wages so they end up taking less in social security payments than they might have otherwise, problem solved!

I’m still collecting data on this.  I might open up an Excel spreadsheet to keep track.

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