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    • A word on Abenomics, QE and doing Stimulus right
      Quantitative Easing, to put it simply, no matter what form you do it in, is only marginally effective. Most of the money goes to the rich, you may or may not get a technical win in GDP, and in many cases the money may flow out of the country. If you want to improve the [...]
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The Narcissism Epidemic

A brief note before I start: The right has a habit of finding significant trends and memes and then overusing or distorting the meaning of terms in order to desensitize populations that might be getting a clue.  I suspect this is going to happen with the term narcissism. Once it starts to make an impact and the general population to see connections, expect the right wing to start conflating, confusing and overusing.  It’s what they do.  We might assume that we’ve hit a nerve when it happens.

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

Anne Manne is an Australian author who recently gave a talk on the predominance of narcissism in the most unequal cultures.  (See video below) This is a pretty good talk and gives some insight into how narcissistic, low empathy cultures are created, and asks whether those cultures can right themselves before the effects of climate change become irreversible.

We can’t rule out the role of helicopter parenting styles in the epidemic of narcissism.  Both of my kids grew up in an era when children were neither seen nor heard on the streets of our ultra safe New Jersey suburb, though I think it was worse for my younger daughter.  Every kid is scheduled to within an inch of their lives in career enhancing activities and competitive sports.  See Freerangekids for more horror stories about our warped American childhoods and how the culture of “stranger danger” has kept children from exploring their environments, making new friends and, probably, prevented them from developing empathy for people who are not like themselves.  Thank you, Fox News.

She briefly touches on religious and malignant narcissism at the very end of this video when referring to ISIS and says something very insightful about how religious narcissism works.  In essence, when you claim “all good” to yourself, looking down on non-believers as undeserving, the result is the dehumanization of others who do not share your belief.  When that happens, it’s much easier to behead others.  I am immediately reminded of end-times religions that claim that non-believers will be annihilated at the second coming.  And these religions make it quite clear that it doesn’t matter how “good” a non-believer is because “good deeds” do not count.  They are saved by grace alone and that requires surrendering reasoning to pure, unquestioning belief.

As Tony Robinson pointed out in his documentary on The Doomsday Code, this is a dangerous trend because adherents are so caught up in the anticipation of the end times that they may exacerbate bad conditions or allow them to go unchecked.  The resulting spread of inequality and evil reinforces their concept that the “system of things” is spiraling out of control and the second coming is imminent.  Consequently, religious narcissists may be quite content to sacrifice the poor and disenfranchised in the name of bringing on the end.  They may be even more tolerant of rising inequality because it represents another sign of the end.  This is how people like Glenn Beck survive and make millions.  It doesn’t take too much extrapolation to figure out that uber capitalists and corrupt political parties can take advantage of this complacency to grab more resources for themselves and permanently ensconce themselves at the top of the food chain. When the history books are written, the rise of fundamentalist eschatological Christianity is going to be a significant factor in the rise of extreme inequality.

It is also very difficult to combat because the eschatological mindset is almost impervious to reason.  In this respect, fundamentalist eschatological christianity is similar to ISIS.  It has no empathy for the feelings of people unlike itself.

Manne also briefly mentions that Joseph Stiglitz visited Australia recently (maybe it’s this video?) and warned it to not to import American values especially with respect to privatization and capitalism.  Stiglitz apparently thinks we are out of control.  The end timers must be peeing themselves with excitement.

Here is Manne’s talk:

Tuesday: Exasperation

How to administer a dope slap

Update:  I didn’t know this but today is “Pay a Blogger” day.  Jeez, is it that time again?  It seems like it comes earlier and earlier each year.  We now have a button in the left sidebar but it may disappear and reappear randomly.  Zhat vay, ve vill train you to hit zhe bar vhen it appears.  Ve haff found zhat habituation leads to disinterest.  Yah?  Zo, hit zhe button vhen you zee it.  Proceeds will help me get to various events and will keep Katiebird in her technical manuals.

I haven’t criticized Paul Krugman for awhile now, and I don’t really like to do it.  I feel like we’re almost neighbors, what with Paul living just down the road a-spell and all.  Theoretically, I could run into him.  {{Paul shivvers at the thought of that and considers hiring body guards}}

It’s not that I disagree with him in any way.  In fact, I don’t.  But one of his latest blog posts bugs the stuffing out of me.  In Mission Not Accomplished, Krugman writes:

Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum say the right thing about revelations that big banks got very easy terms during the financial crisis: the real scandal isn’t so much that those banks got rescued as that the rest of the population didn’t.

For sure, the Fed and Treasury should have driven harder bargains. I think the political landscape would look different and better right now if the Obama administration had in fact taken at least one big bank into receivership. But in the crisis, money had to flow freely, and the truth is that the gifts bankers received are more a source of annoyance than a source of current problems.

What’s unforgivable is the way policymakers, both at the Fed and elsewhere, basically declared Mission Accomplished as soon as the panic in financial markets subsided and stocks were up again.

This is not news to any of us who have been paying attention.  It’s certainly not news to Krugman either because I read his blog and column pretty regularly.  No, what ticks me off is that we have another example of citing male bloggers as having had a great revelation, in this case Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum.  Kevin, Paul?  Kevin, “I trust Obama’s judgment because he’s smarter than I am” Drum?  Or Matt Yglesias, who snickered in 2008 that if only the Clinton voters knew how the party powerbrokers were setting things up they’d go with their second choice and stop wasting everyone’s time (but they won’t do that because they’re not that bright)?  Come to think of it, that post by Matt Yglesias in The Atlantic in 2008 has to be the most stunning example of what the Obama contingent was thinking when they decided to f^%& over the Clinton voters that I have ever seen.  Let me cite it for you because it really is that breathtaking:

After all, consider the situation in Pennsylvania. All indications are that a clear majority of Pennsylvania Democrats would prefer for Hillary Clinton to be the nominee than for Barack Obama to be the nominee. But there are few indications that they understand the real structure of the race — that a miracle Obama comeback in PA would mean that Democrats enter May with a nominee and a financial advantage, whereas a sizable Clinton win in PA may mean that Democrats don’t get a nominee until August and that that nominee, who’ll almost certainly be Barack Obama anyway, will have a much tougher time winning in November. I think if voters better-understood the situation, they’d be much more inclined to vote for their second-favorite Democrat in the race, much less eager to do volunteer work for Clinton, much less inclined to donate money to her campaign, etc. But people won’t understand the dynamic unless it’s explained to them by credible party leaders.

Did you catch that?  What Matt said was that he was talking to party movers and shakers and they told him that it didn’t matter if Clinton won Pennsylvania or any other state after that.  The party had already decided that she wasn’t going to be the nominee no matter how many people voted for her and that continuing to vote for her wasn’t going to change this outcome.  I cited this Yglesias post back in March 2008.  MARCH.

So, Yglesias and Drum haven’t had the best judgment in the world and they’re late to the “bailing out the banks was only part of the solution” party.  It doesn’t surprise me.  Neither one of them live in the middle class of the research worker that my friends and I live in.  They don’t know what it’s like to experience a devastation of their industry or see every one of their friends go through a layoff.  They don’t know what it’s like to be unable to find anything but contract work with no bennies in spite of degrees in the hard sciences.  Life is hard out here.  Three days after Thanksgiving, there is no one at the Mall and the parking lots are not full. I haven’t seen Central New Jersey’s retail sector look like this since 2008.  Matt and Kevin are somewhat insulated from that by what Elizabeth Bennett would call “their connexions”.  Why are guy bloggers so much more likely to have “connexions” that lead to jobs that pay?  Can you answer me that, Paul?  Greg?

By the way, in a couple of years, will we be reading Matt and Kevin’s posts that say, “Golly!  We don’t have a research infrastructure anymore.  The finance guys and MBAs with executive hair at all of our research companies gutted their R&D departments in order to extract “shareholder value” and big bonuses.  And now, there are no new therapeutic agents in the pipeline.  Dadgummit! Why didn’t I know this until now?  I thought President Obama, whose judgment I trust more than my own, said we needed more STEM workers.  Why are hundreds of thousands of them destitute or working for Wall Street?”

In any case, Elizabeth Warren was a proponent for bailing out the middle class way back in 2009 in that notorious interview that she had with Adam Davidson on Planet Money, an interview that we and other bloggers have cited on more than one occasion to make the same point that Yglesias and Drum are just now figuring out.  By the way, did you notice the dismissive contempt that Davidson had for Warren in that interview?  I wonder if guys realize they sound like this to those of us who know they are full of it. And if it is true that Matt and Kevin are suddenly discovering that, “Hey! We should have given money to people who weren’t rich so they could keep their jobs and pay their mortgages.  That way, we would have refilled our bank and treasury coffers from the bottom up!”, should Paul Krugman be using them as examples of bloggy enlightenment?  Putting aside whether female voices are underrepresented in the more prestigious online opinion journals, how do Slate and Mother Jones justify putting on their payrolls two people who have been so disastrously behind the zeitgeist, with histories of suspending their own judgments to adopt the clueless or malicious opinions of others, especially now that we know that our own judgment was correct and theirs was wrong?

Over and over again, we have seen male bloggers used as voices of authority in online opinion pieces.  Whether this is just a bad habit or preference doesn’t matter.  It could be that Paul Krugman is surrounded by sycophantic, toe licking, ego-massagers and these people just happen to be male grad student types and Yglesias and Drum seem familiar to him.   But if we want to make sure that voices like Christina Romer’s and Elizabeth Warren’s are not trampled on in meetings with the next president, we need to encourage Krugman and Sargent to go outside of their comfort zone.  We have to make sure that the public gets used to hearing opinions from people other than the toady male grad student types as authority figures at the grassroots level so that future presidents have a harder time ignoring and dismissing them.  Don’t whine about it three years later, Paul.

If Krugman is wondering why it took so long for the powers that be to realize that helping the middle class should have been a priority, he need look no further than Matt Yglesias, Kevin Drum and Adam Davidson.

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

A little off topic: I found this clip of John Dominic Crossan, scholar of early Christianity, on the dangers of fundamentalism.  He sounds like what I have been trying to say about the malignant nature of fundamentalist Christianity.  I guess you need to live with it up close and personal to understand how dangerous it is.  When I say malignant, I am saying that fundamentalist Christianity spreads, it doesn’t contribute to the well being of society because it isn’t interested in the survival of that society, it’s harmful to other people that don’t follow its strict interpretation of scripture and the best you can do is suppress it and keep it in check.  You will never be able to eliminate it.  That’s why it has been such a disaster for the country to continue to treat fundamentalism so respectfully.  We must challenge it a lot more strenuously because it is dangerous if it gets out of control.

Why is Health Care Reform Being Held Hostage by a Fundamentalist Cult?

300px-Bart_Stupak_official_109th_Congress_photo

Bart Stupak

No, I don’t mean the Catholic Church. I mean the super-secret, ultra-creepy fundamentalist sect that calls itself

“the Family,” or “the Fellowship,” and they consider themselves a “core” of men responsible for changing the world. “Hitler, Lenin, and many others understood the power of a small core of people,” instructs a document given to an inner circle, explaining the scope, if not the ideological particulars, of the ambition members of the avant-garde are to cultivate.

That’s a quote from the introduction to Jeff Sharlet’s The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.

Early this morning I learned from Jeff Sharlet’s piece in Salon that the two men responsible for the Stupak amendendment–Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA)–are both members of the Family and both live in the group’s C-Street residence. These two nutty fetus fetishists are trying to end abortion in this country by making sure that insurance companies will stop covering this essential and perfectly legal medical procedure.

I’ve been obsessing on this news all day long while trying to concentrate on writing an exam. As hard as it is for me to accept, I now have to face the face that the forces of theocracy not only control of the Republican Party, but also they are well on the way to taking over the Democratic party.

Sharlet writes:

American women will pay the price for the Democratic dithering that allowed Saturday’s passage of the Stupak-Pitts amendment, a worm virus inserted into the House healthcare reform bill with surgical precision. But the Democratic Party will suffer collateral damage.

Stupak-Pitts isn’t just “the biggest restriction on women’s right to choose in our generation,” as Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado puts it; it’s also evidence that on abortion the Democratic Party is now captive, just like the GOP, to Christian conservatism. Of course, Republicans traded away their party’s moderate wing for real electoral gains, a base that propelled them to power for decades. The Democrats, already in power, sucker-punched themselves, and all they have to show for it is a big fat shiner in the shape of Bart Stupak’s knuckles.

Sharlet thinks it’s unlikely that Stupak and Pitts came up with their plan on their own. The Family supposedly doesn’t directly try to influence political policies–they just offer support, guidance and powerful connections to their followers.

Pitts

Joseph Pitts

Which raises the question: Who’s pulling whom? Did backbencher Bart Stupak really come up with the bluff that led pro-choice Democrats to abandon not one but two compromises, one of which Stupak himself seemed to be signing off on earlier this summer? Or was it Pitts, an abortion-wars warrior since the 1970s, and a longtime leader of the House Values Action Team — an off-the-record caucus of religious right organizations and members of Congress — who drew up the blueprint?

Neither Stupak nor Pitts is talking. Of course, if they just keep quiet, the press will pin it on the bishops — who, to be fair, are more than happy to take credit. That version of events neglects the role of relationships forged within the evangelical context of the Family — a group founded in the spirit of virulent anti-Catholicism, and which maintains to this day that being Catholic brings you no closer to Christ than being Jewish or a Muslim — and the growing evangelical movement within the Democratic Party. A source close to the Faith Table, a gathering of ostensibly progressive Christians gathering of ostensibly progressive Christians helmed by evangelical leader Jim Wallis, notes that the group has been agitating for Stupak-Pitts for months, with Wallis declaring Stupak-Pitts the most important vote of the year.

May I remind you that Jim Wallis was a major supporter of President Obama and is one of his close “spiritual advisers?”

Terri Gross did an interview with Jeff Sharlet last summer. You can listen to it here and read an excerpt from Sharlet’s book if you’re interested. I heard that Rachel Maddow covered this story last night, but I couldn’t bring myself to watch the video.

What is happening to our country? Is there any way to turn it around?

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