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      (Back to the top because people still don’t understand this.) His trial has been declared a mistrial. The personal is not the political. His wife seemed like a good person, but I could care less. FDR cheated on his wife. JFK screwed hookers in the White House pool while married. The facts about John Edwards [...]
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What I want to hear from Hillary if she decides to run

1.) That it is immoral for the finance industry or any industry to engage in exploitative profit mining of Americans.

2.) That the definition of success is more than how much money you make. That there is intrinsic value to many occupations that has nothing to do with the ability to exploit one’s neighbors or accumulating a hoard of cash that doesn’t serve the public good.

3.) Infrastructure in the United States requires immediate attention. That means broadband, highways and bridges, and mass transit.

4.) That retirement for most Americans is going to be a crisis situation and she plans to address the 401K ponzi scheme with expanded Social Security.

5.) That we don’t know at what temperature the earth will find its melting point so it is important to evolve away from fossil fuels.

6.) That it is more important to “Have courage and be kind” than invade other countries and cruelly kick people when they’re down.

7.) That truly good Christians do not delight in the misfortunes of others, are not proud, and don’t sound like clanging gongs when they insist on their “religious freedoms” at the expense of others.

Add what you want to hear in the comments below.

Political Realities for people on the left who have missed out on the hardship opportunities of the Obama years

STFU.

Seriously.

You know who you are. Ok, it’s anybody writing on Digby’s blog.

Oh, you didn’t know that Hillary’s voting record while she was in the Senate was more liberal than Obama’s? That was your fault that you didn’t bother to look it up in 2008.

And by the way, I’m not afraid to say “liberal”. It’s not a dirty word. It’s how we ran the country for 60 years after the Great Depression.

Speaking of Depressions, if you managed to not lose your job during the past 7 years, then please defer to those of us who have who know what true hardship is. You have no idea. And that goes doubly if you haven’t had a sick family member or have been turned down for those so-called generous ACA subsidies because you made too little income. Yeah, wrap your head around that one, oh, you precious people who are sniffing at your pitiful presidential choices.

Only people who have been spoiled by fortune would turn up their noses to be represented on the world stage by a politician with more accomplishments than all of the other presidential candidates from either party for the last 4 election cycles combined.

As for corporations, I have actually worked for corporations. Corporations are ways of getting things done. If I had a choice to work for a corporate lab again doing structural biology, I’d jump on it. Drug discovery works really, really well in a corporate setting because every function is under one roof.

The problem is not the model. The problem is the financialization of corporations. The Wall Street managers trade corporations like baseball cards, seeking only short term gain and destroying perfectly good working models.

To continue to rail on corporations is simplistic and assumes the same level of simple thinking in one’s audience. I’m not going to do that. Say what it is you are really thinking and I will show you where you are wrong. Don’t shove Americans into this rinky-dink small business model that the Republicans glorify when it doesn’t work for every industry.

In fact. don’t go on about anything you don’t really know. Stop talking to just your own little email list.

As for Wayne LaPierre’s comment about Obama and Hillary and demographic groups, you should have seen that one coming. In 2008, the left had a choice: it could go for the guy who came out of nowhere, played up his first African-American president credentials, and took the money his big financial CORPORATIONS donors were giving the party (what utter hypocrites you are) OR you could have chosen the best possible candidate you had in front of you who just happened to be a woman. You went with door number one. Obama did a lot of unhelpful things that his big financial CORPORATION donors paid for him to do in the past seven years and now everyone thinks he is a liberal. Go figure.

It should come as no surprise that the people who were really hurt by this sucky economy are going to think that the Democrats are going try to slip a cookie cutter of Obama past them in the guise of the first woman president. It’s going to be all uphill but Democrats left this door wiiiiide open by stupidly cheering every teeny little scrap of a piss poor policy Obama left his fingerprints on in the past seven years. And he’s had it easy compared to the Clintons. Where were the special investigations of the Obama years? Oh, that’s right.

There were none.

Sure, some ignorant bigots on the right said ignorant bigoted things about his skin color but he is, after all, the most powerful person in the world. Surely, he is big enough to put his racist critics in their places. After all, no one on the left is going to cut Hillary a break for being a woman, as history has shown from their shameful behavior in 2008.

Look, you people of small, parochial political thoughts, here is your reality. Hillary Clinton is not your enemy. She is the strongest politician in the country. Elizabeth Warren is not your savior. She is a less than first term senator who will need the financial backing of people who you do not like in order to become president. One of these people has been learning for the past 22 years how to deal with Republicans; the other will be at the mercy of whoever buys the Oval Office for her.

It’s your choice. You can get behind the best candidate we’ve got who can take on the right wing juggernaut or you can whine about how you can’t get who you really want right now.

But for gawd’s sakes, stop acting like overprivileged moody teenagers. You threw a tantrum, got what you think you wanted last time and it didn’t work out. The rest of the country has no patience for you anymore.

Lipinksi Rules, Biotech Bootcamp and Sharktank

Back about 20 years ago, a medicinal chemist named Lipinski came up his “Rule of Five” for whether a chemical compound had “drug like properties”. Never mind what they are, unless you’re planning to start a lab in your garage. There have been variations on the “rule of five”, like, do you really need a drug right out of the starting gate? Why not look for lead-like compounds? What are the properties of those? And how did you come up with these rules anyway?

The bottom line answer is, well, after you’ve seen a bajillion compounds coming out of high throughput screening and have worked on thousands more, you just know. You can look at a compound and say, ehhhh, that’s never going to be a drug. The tailpiece has too many carbons or the scaffold is too skimpy or that compound is promiscuous. (Um, that’s as sexy as drug design gets by the way). In general, this comes with years of experience and lots of practice.

But now there is a different Lipinski involved in drug discovery. This is Dan Lipinski, the Democratic representative from Illinois, and he’s all about making drug discovery more appealing to vulture capitalists. His latest initiative, hooking up labrats to the money, is profiled in a recent article in Nature called Biotech Bootcamp. It made me throw up a little. Here are some money quotes:

David Johnson was just one minute into making his pitch when the interruptions started.

“Why do I care?” barked a bespectacled man at the back of the seminar hall. Johnson, chief executive of the California biotechnology start-up GigaGen, blinked. He had condensed his company’s story into a neat ten-minute presentation for I-Corps, a nine-week course designed to teach business skills to entrepreneurial scientists like him. Now his talk was derailed.

At first Johnson did not understand the question. He thought it was aimed at the therapy that GigaGen, based in San Francisco, plans to develop for people with weakened immune systems.

“No. You. Why do I care about you?” the man demanded.
Johnson was not the only one getting gruff treatment at I-Corps’ kick-off meeting in Chevy Chase, Maryland, last October. When another team squandered a few precious minutes elaborating on the need for new therapies to treat pain, I-Corps creator Steve Blank pounced. “If you spend the next ten weeks telling us about pain, you’re going to be in pain,” he said.

Drug discovery, meet Sharktank.

You know, I just want to reach into the journal and strangle this Steve Blank guy. Here he is barking at a dude who has probably spent untold years doing research on the subject and all that matters is the bottom line. What have you done for me lately? What’s in it for Steve Blank?

It gets better, or worse, depending on your perspective:

It will take years to find out whether the approach and theory behind I-Corps is adaptable to the unique challenges of drug development. But it was already clear by the conclusion of the inaugural class last December that many of the 19 teams had learned some unexpected lessons: several companies were told to drastically change course, and in some cases to abandon promising science for something more market-savvy. “You can be a great researcher and you can think you have great ideas,” says Congressman Dan Lipinski (Democrat, Illinois), who had pushed to see Blank’s approach implemented for government-funded research. “But until you’re forced to talk to a potential customer, you never really know.”

Yes, I’m sure that’s what Watson and Crick thought when they worked on the structure of DNA. Who’s going to buy this thing?

“So, I said to Francis, who cares what we can do with it? It’s just f***ing awesome!”

They probably thought they had great ideas. Ha! What did they know? What’s really important is how much money can they make for the investor. How is this ball and stick model of some stupid polymer going to change my world? What has it got to do with me?

This quote was gobstopping:

Lipinski has long been concerned about the quality of research funded by the US Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programme. The funds are intended to stimulate translation of scientific discoveries into the marketplace, but critics have raised questions about how effective the programme is. A 2013 analysis by Nature found that the top earners of such grants were rarely focused on commercialization. “Sometimes it seems like SBIR is being used in many cases not to further a business, but to continue research,” says Lipinski.

That’s right, sometimes biotech startups will do anything to get the money to further their research. They’re utterly shameless.

Anyway, read the whole thing. I’m not saying that this approach doesn’t have some merit. But in the industry, we call them project reviews. Things *do* get cut on a fairly frequent basis. The difference is that research is (was) still thought as having intrinsic worth. It isn’t always clear to the business community why science should pursue something but each little revelation may become extremely important to someone else in another company 15 years from now. Lipinski, Blank and the sharktank approach don’t seem to get that. So, I have to ask, who put Dan Lipinski in charge in the first place??*

Derek Lowe of In the Pipeline summed up the Silicon Valley attitude to drug discovery research the other day in Silicon Valley Sunglasses, and while Derek and I have differing views on the role of government in drug discovery, we do agree on the basic problem with putting Silicon Valley entrepreuers in the driver’s seat:

There’s another problem that’s not unique to the Valley, although it does tend to give people a bad case of it. That’s the “Clearly I’m smart and successful, so clearly I have something to offer in this other field over here” one. We all succumb to that one now and then; it’s human nature. You can watch Mark Cuban display it here, with respect to medical testing.

But here are a couple of recent examples of the more localized problem. I wrote last year about Emerald Therapeutics, an outsourced-lab-assay company backed by Peter Thiel (who may also be interested in their antiviral therapy ideas). Here’s another article on them, and it asks, in so many words, “Why is new drug development so comparatively torpid when app development is so torrid?”. I couldn’t provide a more succinct version of the Silicon Valley/biopharma disconnect if I tried.

According the article, the folks at Emerald “. . .think it comes down to the difficulty of running experiments in the life sciences”. But I’d like to propose that this difficulty, at least for early-stage work like Emerald is proposing to do for people, is largely a matter of contrast. If you’re used to being able to sit down and bang out code, any time, anywhere, with all kinds of tools (libraries, compilers, virtual machines, what have you) at your fingertips, then yeah, working up a new assay protocol in a cell line is going to seem agonizingly slow. Multibillion dollar ideas can be cranked out in the coding world very quickly, if you hit the right place at the right time, but just you try that in the lab. Now, I have no problem with Emerald running assays for people, although it may yet be harder than they’re thinking. But they’re not removing as much of a bottleneck as they might think. The real bottlenecks are figuring out what assay to run, and what to do with the data once you have it. Can’t outsource those.

That’s what I think has been Valley-ized there, the idea that very, very soon now something will just wildly, exponentially take off. As much as I might like to see something like that happening in biopharma, though, I can’t quite make myself believe it. Technology, Silicon Valley style technology, is human-designed and human-optimized for other humans. As human beings, we’re playing on our home turf there. But the biology of disease is an away game if there ever was one. The inner workings of cells and the ways that they work together are flat-out alien compared to anything we’ve ever built ourselves. People who are used to coding up apps have never experienced anything like it, and many of them don’t seem to realize that they haven’t. Expecting the sorts of behavior that you get from human-built technologies, and expecting the same effects from the techniques that work to optimize them, is an expensive accident waiting to happen.

Derek is understating the challenges of research here. The thing that really ticks off the beancounters, as I have seen from personal experience, is the number of iterations researchers have to go through to understand something. It takes multiple assays, multiple rounds of synthesis, multiple trips to the syncrotron for dataset collection, multiple attempts to make the protein. There are just a lot of steps and they have to be repeated over and over again. Each one costs money. Some of them lead to dead ends but the only way to know that is to actually do the research, presumably with your small business loans. Those steps and the costs associated with them freak MBAs out. They carve a significant dent in “shareholder value”, therefore, they must be investigated, limited and controlled. And that is when researchers find themselves in a real bind because there can be no breakthroughs without the annoyingly slow, agonizingly expensive tests, assays and datasets. Public flaying of nascent biotech CEOs is not going to make this better. Ok, maybe you’ll eventually hit on another Cialis. Other than that? I have serious doubts unless there is an unusual degree of kismet involved.

Silicon Valley entrepreneurs aren’t the only ones who have no idea how complex biopharma research is. Congress seems to be buying into this mindset that these geeky researchers just need to start thinking like fast and nimble Silicon Valley types and  MBAs on steroids. They are making the challenge of drug discovery even more difficult than it already is. It’s already a long, hard slog without money.

I just hope that the presidential candidates take some time to work through these issues. Private capital is probably not going to be enough to save the drug discovery research infrastructure at this point. What is needed is long term investment, stability and continuity of research, and a lot fewer people trying to get rich quick on someone else’s backbreaking labor of trying to find that new antibiotic.

* It just occurred to me that Dan Lipinski’s thought process is more messed up than I thought. There is a pervasive misunderstanding that academic groups do basic research and they pass on their fully developed drugs onto private companies that develop them. This is wrong. Small companies, big companies, multinational companies do real research. They need to do real research because academic groups pass on frequently little more than nuggets of leads and hints of ideas with a soupçon of druggy goodness. It is very rare for an academic group to produce the fully monty. So, if Lipinski is shocked, SHOCKED that a biotech would use its small business loans to do real research and doesn’t understand why that’s necessary, we have a serious problem on our hands. That means the whole Congressional approach to funding is based on a lie.

That’s going to hurt.

Easter, the Sparrow, Myth and the Bede

Wikipedia tells me that Easter began as a celebration of spring and the goddess of the dawn. The old Anglo-Saxon word for Easter first appeared in the writings of the Venerable Bede (673-735ad). Bede wrote:

Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated “Paschal month”, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance

Jacob Grimm, who J.R.R. Tolkien would later study, wrote this about the original Easter:

OstaraEástre seems therefore to have been the divinity of the radiant dawn, of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing, whose meaning could be easily adapted by the resurrection-day of the Christian’s God. Bonfires were lighted at Easter and according to popular belief of long standing, the moment the sun rises on Easter Sunday morning, he gives three joyful leaps, he dances for joy … Water drawn on the Easter morning is, like that at Christmas, holy and healing … here also heathen notions seems to have grafted themselves on great Christian festivals. Maidens clothed in white, who at Easter, at the season of returning spring, show themselves in clefts of the rock and on mountains, are suggestive of the ancient goddess.[8]

And who could argue with that? Leaping for joy, dancing, healing, bonfires. Sounds like fun.

Incidentally, Bede recorded the details for the Easter dating controversy of the 7th century. The Synod of Whitby, presided over by St. Hilda of Whitby, happened before Bede but Bede was the smartest person in Britain in his lifetime and he wrote prolifically. Well, as prolifically as one can on vellum. At the time of the synod, the Christian church in Britain was divided. There was a Celtic version in the north and west of Britain in which confession was private, monks shaved their heads in a weird wayhaircut and Easter was celebrated on a particular date. The Roman Catholic church was spreading northward and it believed in public confession, shaving heads in a completely different way and calculating Easter by a different lunar method. The outcome of the Synod of Whitby was a typical merger and acquisition where the Roman Catholic church took over, appointed the pope as the new CEO and threw the Celts a bone by adopting the private confession. Oh, and everyone had to cut their hair the same way.

It was also probably the last time a woman presided over a synod.

It should be noted that under the Ionan (Celtic) Christian tradition, the King was the head of the church. Hilda, who was from a royal family, was pro-Ionan but diplomatically converted to Roman tradition once she saw how the vote was going. Under the Roman tradition, the pope was head of the church. In 1534, England reverted. But it kept the Roman calculation for Easter.

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

Bede wrote about the conversion of the English people in his book, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. One of his most notable stories concerns the King Edwin, pagan king of Northumbria who wanted to marry Christian princess Ethelberga. But she wouldn’t marry him unless he converted. So Edwin called for a Christian emissary to meet with his pagan priest, Coifi,  to explain what Christianity was all about. Coifi then reported to the king:

“Your Majesty, when we compare the present life of man on earth with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting-hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter’s day with your thegns and counsellors. In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall; outside the storms of winter rain or snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another. While he is inside, he is safe from the winter storms; but after a moment of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. Even so, man appears on earth for a little while; but of what went before this life or of what follows, we know nothing. Therefore, if this new teaching has brought any more certain knowledge, it seems only right that we should follow it.”

The king converted. Ok, it took two years before he converted.

The rest is history.

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

There are as many concepts of God as there are people on earth. Some of us are comfortable with no God at all, or at least not an anthropomorphic God. Our celebration of Easter probably leans toward the ancient spring festival without the goddess. It seems right to celebrate the changing of the seasons and admire the recreation of green and warmth every year. I prefer the Sparrow to the resurrection. We choose our own myths.

J.R.R Tolkien was a Catholic who believed in the power of mythology. He wrote:

“We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic ‘progress’ leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

That’s an Easter message I can live with.

Weekend Assignments: Wolf Hall, Zealotry and other stuff

What a week, What a week! With one week of work at a new job under my belt, I feel normal again. It has been very rare in the past year for me to have a whole weekend off. In fact, I think it only happened once in the last 12 months. I am going to soak up all 48 hours and try to get some stuff off my to-do list. Like clothes shopping. I *hate* to shop for clothes. But for the next two months, I have to look presentable so maybe they will give me a permanent regular job. That would be nice.

In the meantime, here are some things to check out, consider, do:

1.) Hilary Mantel’s books Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies come to PBS this weekend. I was able to find extended snippets from this BBC production on youtube before they were banished and it is really good. It’s not a trashy bodice ripper like The Tudors and it’s not improbably soapy like Downtown Abbey (which I liked initially but lost interest in over the years). This BBC production is dark and quiet. Literally dark. Some of the scenes were shot by candlelight using a special camera. I’ve read that it drove the Brits nuts, which means that Americans will whine even louder.

This version of the tale is told from Thomas Cromwell’s point of view. You will have to know some of the backstory and be a little bit familiar with the Renaissance, the Reformation and the War of the Roses. Maybe there will be a host who can bring people up to speed. But in general, this is not primarily about Henry and Anne’s sexytime. It’s about a crucial period in history when a number of factors converge to turn kingdoms into nations. This is when religion starts to take a back seat to government with its rules and regulations for everyone. Spoiler alert: both the feudal lords and the church do not like it one bit. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader as to whether this fight is over.

Also, towards the middle of the series, you may have a completely different idea about who is responsible for England’s break with Rome.

The books were very good. I’ve read them both twice. Mantel’s style is a little non-linear so if you’re going to use the audible book as a cleaning distraction device, be aware that you might have to stop and back up a few times to figure out where you are in the story. But I would still rate them five sponges.

Mark Rylance is brilliant here as Cromwell, Damien Lewis (Brody from Homeland) is Henry VIII and Claire Foy is the hard to like Anne Boleyn. Here’s a preview from PBS:

2.) I read Atrios’ puzzlement over at Eschaton yesterday about why religious people care so much about preventing gay people from loving one another. I’m not sure I can adequately answer his questions but I will give it a try. Some people are completely unhinged by the idea that two men are having sex with one another. They can spend hours haranguing you about all the various forms of gay sex. They know more about gay sex that you do. If you’re straight, you may never even think about these things for more than a minute or two but the people affected by Gay Sex Derangement Syndrome think about it quite a lot. And not because they are secretly gay.

Part of this may be due to the religious narcissism I’ve alluded to before. It is my unprofessional opinion that authoritarian religious churches and belief systems attract people with a tendency towards narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). We can go over what causes NPD at another time but I’ve done enough reading on the subject to make me want to do real research into the subject and study psychology. But I digress.

Basically, the theory is that people with NPD have had trauma early in their lives and they were too young to develop adequate coping skills. Their parents may not have recognized that they needed psychological assistance to help them deal with this early trauma. So these affected individuals have personalities that do not mature in some respects. They may have low self esteem, remain childlike in some aspects of their lives and demand attention from others. They are deeply insecure people. They are very envious of others.

Religion is like a life saver to these people. We’re not talking about average religious people who go to church in times of crisis and like to belong to the community of worshippers. No, we’re talking about people who are attracted to certain authoritarian religions because the rules and personal sacrifices give them status in the eyes of others. They go to churches that make the most demands on them because they stand out as being more holy, dedicated, superior.

That feeds their narcissism because others will look up to them, defer to them, consider them more moral people. These people go on and on about how they are “Christian”. If you want to see a younger version of this, check out this video of young Ben Seewald talking about faith and salvation with his sister-in-law Jinger Duggar. It’s a bit much. How much sinning can you do at 14 when you’re never allowed out of site from one of your same sex siblings and everything you do is videotaped for a nationwide audience? But never mind, the Duggar and Seewald kids have been thoroughly indoctrinated by their parents and there are few couples out there who are bigger religious narcissists than Jim-Bob and Michelle Duggar. They feed off their kids and there are no boundaries between parents and kids. This is also a classic characteristic of people with NPD. Family members are not allowed to have thoughts, feelings or opinions of their own. They must be controlled by the NPD parents.

Now, what happens when you dedicate a cable channel to fluffing people with NPD? We could be talking about the 700 Club or the Van Impe’s but they’re mostly religious channels. It’s quite a different thing when a news channel gets involved because news people have authority. History is replete with examples of propaganda and mob violence lowering the bounds of what is acceptable. Think of the French Revolution and fascist Europe. Little by little, propagandists were able to wear away the mental walls we put up between what we know is good and what we really want to do. Places like Fox News give permission to tear down those walls. It calls them politically correct. It flatters the religious authoritarian. It encourages them to intrude on people’s boundaries and tells them that those people who are suffering deserve it because they aren’t godly.

Now, throw in a soupçon of disgust. I think I have a previous blog post on it. Disgust is very powerful in propaganda. You can bet that Fox and their affiliates milk the disgust angle for all it’s worth. It’s both tittilating and revolting. That is why your 76 year old aunt may know all the details about fisting even if you never gave it a second thought. People have a visceral reaction to disgusting things. And a lot of women who came of age before birth control were conditioned to respond with disgust to sexual behavior. It probably didn’t help that some of them joined religions that TOTALLY FREEEEEEAAAK OUT over pre-marital sex. We are talking extreme over reactions. There is nothing normal about this. It is a pathological reaction to non-marital sex of any kind. As I said before, I think societal conditioning and especially a ton of guilt conditioning has something to do with this.

Nevertheless, we’re talking about regular human beings here. They might be conditioned to overreact but they still have hormones. Just because society may have come down like a hammer on them, doesn’t mean they don’t get what it’s all about. But why should other people be allowed to enjoy what they never were allowed to enjoy? Why should they have donned a life long hair shirt while two gay guys do what they’re going to do with all their orifices (ewwww, disgusting)? If they can get away with it, what was the point of all this self-sacrifice? Doesn’t it diminish their own status if society starts to find gay behavior acceptable?

The last part of this overly long explanation is that people suffering from NPD do not experience empathy for other people. You might say that religious authoritarianism encouraged their NPD but it’s a chicken-egg conundrum. Why would anyone voluntarily subject their families to these harsh, unforgiving, joyless religions, intrude on their personal boundaries and toss them out of their lives at the first sign of independent thought? This happens to many children in fundamentalist Christian families. Dissent is not allowed- at all. You could get thrown out of your house, cut off from your family and torn from the community you’ve known all your lives. You can bet the Duggar kids know this.

Lack of empathy is necessary to behave this way towards people. It means that the NPD affected individual does not have the capacity to look at another person and see that person as a unique individual with feelings that are as strong and personal as oneself’s. Gay people, poor people, other people, children and spouses, well, they’re not really people to the NPD sufferer. They aren’t perceived as having true emotions, or love. They’re not allowed to be sad. Jeez, never say you’re upset about something to a person with NPD. You have no right to your feelings or personal needs. They don’t recognize that humanity in you. Only they are entitled to feelings. You are not.

If you don’t have empathy, it’s easier to be mean, cruel, unsympathetic and still sleep at night. I suppose this can vary throughout a NPD sufferer’s life but from what I have read, NPD sufferers tend to get worse as they age. In a way, this is understandable, especially if they are the religious NPD kind. It is likely that throughout their lifetime of religious zealotry, no one has adequately challenged them. That’s because in this society, we revere the religious devotee. We don’t see them as people who potentially have NPD. We simply see them as moral and godly. It is impolite to challenge them. It’s OK to say they’re nutz behind their backs but normal people who have empathy do not do this to other people’s faces. It might hurt their feelings. The religious NPD person counts on you to have respect for their feelings even as they have no intention of respecting yours. If you never challenge them, they get the idea that this religious gig is working for them. That makes it easier for them to control others, pass judgement and crap all over your life. They’ve been conditioned to behave intrusively.

The solution is to challenge the religious NPD sufferer. I’m not talking about the normal religious person who goes to church on Sunday and tells you about all the fun they had there. I’m referring to the person who conflates religion with their privilege to be part of the moral majority to tell you how to live. We are talking about the people who derive status from their judgmentalism.

We are now at a cross roads of sorts. If our evolving society wants to be inclusive and non-judgemental towards people whose lifestyles are none of our business, we have to become unpleasant towards people who have used religion as a screen behind which they hide their personality disorder. Those NPD sufferers have a very powerful media microphone right now and they are being used unwittingly by some very wealthy and well connected individuals who have a very specific agenda. The weird thing is that even knowing that they are tools of rich, powerful people might not be the turn off you would think it is. So, persistence is key here.

(If you DO successfully challenge, expect to be subjected to narcissistic rage. That’s a whole other blog post. It’s not like the kind of rage people experience rarely because they’re tired or frustrated with an ongoing situation with uncooperative people. No, this is something completely different. The mask comes off and you can see the real person hiding behind it. Their status and image has been threatened snd they want revenge. But once the mask comes off, you can’t be fooled again. You will see what all that religion has been hiding and it is not. pretty. Needless to say, it is not religious or holy either. Bill O’Reilly does narcissistic rage extremely well.)

Also, to challenge them, you simply need to reassert your boundaries. Their goal is to get you to lower your boundaries and allow them to control the conversation. They will rely on your conditioning to be polite to let them get away with it. Just don’t let them get away with it. If someone is intruding on your boundaries, THEY are the ones being rude. Assert your opinion until they either back down or go away. You have a right to believe that is not right to treat people badly, their families and loved ones unequally, just because some religious people find what they do behind closed doors icky. You have a right to demand that all public places and businesses treat everyone with courtesy, dignity and equality. You have the right to tell people that they’re being mean and their behavior is bullying and they need to stop or you’ll have nothing more to do with them. Deprive them of their status.

As Seth Andrews said last week, coexistence is not possible. Because if you back down in the name of coexistence and comity, they’re going to be the only ones speaking out about whatever the hell they want. Challenging the religious narcissist is not going to be easy or pleasant but it is vitally important because they are not going to stop with gay people.

Finally, people with NPD do not change. They aren’t going to have an epiphany and realize they have being bigoted jerks all their lives and suddenly become enlightened human beings. If they do, it’s because they see some advantage to it. They won’t change because NPD is a personality disorder. It is the way they see the world. They can’t change because they are not able to step outside the world they have carefully constructed for themselves. They will go to the grave wrecking vengeance on people who stood up to them. But eventually, they will go to their grave. That’s a prospect that the religious narcissist finds extremely unappealing. I predict you’ll find more religious NPD sufferers in rapture sects of Christianity because it is the ultimate status high. You never have to die but all those ungodly types who didn’t listen to you will.

So much for the whole resurrection concept. Happy Easter.

3.) The bus thing is going very well. Someone wrote in the comments yesterday that there is an attitude that only poor people take the bus. Well, I am here to tell you that if that’s true, they are incredibly smart poor people. The people on my bus are a diverse crowd but I’m just as likely to see businessmen in suits with briefcases and ladies in heels as anyone else.

In the last week, I’ve walked from a cold parking lot to a clean warm bus, read on the way, didn’t have to pay for parking and got off at my desired stop just a block from a Crazy Mocha where I was able to pick up a coffee and enjoy a nice brisk walk to my office.

I’d be stressed silly if I had to take a car downtown and pay for parking. So, mega Kudos to the PAT bus system, route P1 for making my life so easy last week. It was so much fun, I’m going to do it again next week.

Seth’s Sleepless Night

Seth Andrews at The Thinking Atheist recently returned from Australia to his hometown in Oklahoma. This is just after Mike Pence signed the RFRA bill in Indiana. Welcome home, Seth!

Seth went to a birthday party where all his relatives are “Christian” and they wasted no time talking about “The Signs”. Jet Lag and The Signs. Sounds like the name of an alternative jazz-rock fusion group. Nope, what came out instead was a perfect, well, rant would undercut the seriousness of the monologue. Let’s just call it a monologue.

Here it is. It’s called Coexist?

Unlike Seth, I am willing to coexist with the religious. I’m not an atheist but I have strong sympathies in that direction. So, I have no problems with liberal Christian denominations. But I consider myself an enemy of fundamentalism of any kind and this country has given Christian fundamentalists way too much attention and deference.

Yesterday, I met a man from Syria while I was at work. He was frantic. I think he needed someone to talk to. He said he was employed by the Saudi Royal family. I got the impression that it was his job to manage the families properties. But recently, he was kicked out of the kingdom- because he was a Christian. Not a good move. His wife is a dentist. They had to leave. They were able to get out of the middle east. Some of his friends are refugees in Sweden or other places in Europe. HE, he regrets to say, ended up in the United States. He thought that when he got here that because this is a Christian country, there would be some help for him. Not so. He has a job washing dishes. His wife can’t practice. He has an autistic son. He doesn’t know where to go for help.

His friends landed in countries that have a real safety net and health care. He has nothing.

Thank you, Fox News!

Serial update: What Susan Said

Ok, one more post on Serial. Hey, it’s Sunday.

If you are addicted to Serial, you really should be reading Susan Simpson’s blog at The View from LL2. Susan is a DC criminal lawyer. In her spare time, she’s been combing through the trial transcripts, police interviews, and FOIA requests to try to piece together what might have actually happened to Hae Min Lee. Is it likely that Adnan Syed, her ex-boyfriend, actually killed her? So far, and based on what she’s been reading, Susan is leaning heavily in the “Adnan didn’t do it” direction.

Her latest post is about Hae’s new boyfriend, Don, and his unbelievably sketchy “air-tight” alibi. Don’s story is that he couldn’t have killed Hae because he was working all day. He worked for Lenscrafters at the Owings Mills Mall where Hae worked but on the day Hae disappeared, he filled in a shift at the Hunt Valley Lenscrafters. But what Susan has found out is that the Hunt Valley Lenscrafter location didn’t need Don that day, the timecard showing Don was there was produced several days after the franchises produced his other timecards, the employee number on the Hunt Valley time card is different than his Owings Mills employee number, it was newer, and Don’s mother is the general manager of both stores. There are some performance reviews that show that Don was a problem employee. He seems to have been immature, hot-headed and had a history of fudging his time. Still, Susan explicitly says she doesn’t think Don was involved in the murder. She just thinks that with all this stuff from the store, the cops dismissed him too soon as a suspect while zooming in on Adnan with laser like intensity.

But the thing that got my attention is something Susan wrote in her comments section. This is about the timeline of the murder and the fact that Adnan has an alibi for most of his day but the cops keep coming back to him. Here’s what Susan said:

The state’s timeline wasn’t designed to reflect the truth, it was designed to prevent Adnan from being able to raise a defense. By having a timeline that could shift a million different ways, any alibi evidence can be rendered meaningless by simply shifting the times to something more convenient for the prosecution.

This is what is currently going on in the heads of the Adnan Guilty crowd over at Reddit. So, Asia has the 2:15-2:40pm time period covered and the track coach is pretty convincing when he says he saw Adnan at 3:30pm, even though he didn’t take attendance. (The track coach says he spoke to Adnan about Ramadan) But there’s that 50 minute window between the library and track. Fifty minutes! He could have intercepted Hae in the parking lot, driven her car somewhere secluded, strangled her, walked to a pay phone, popped the trunk for “neighbor boy”, no, wait, popped the trunk for Jay in the Best Buy parking lot, no, that’s not right either, popped the trunk for Jay at Jay’s Grandmother’s house, then rushed back to the school for track at 3:30pm.

Right.

What Susan is saying is twofold: 1.) Forget the timeline. The state is going to move that around to suit its needs. It wants Adnan to be the guilty party, therefore, if the only free period of time is when Adnan goes to the bathroom to take a pee, the state will find a way for him to murder Hae between unzipping his fly and tapping off. The state is convinced that Adnan did it so it will find a time. 2,) The state doesn’t actually have a theory of the crime. This is the more important thing, IMHO. If it can shift the timeline around in order to convict Adnan, that means it doesn’t know when the crime was committed. And because it doesn’t know when the crime was committed, it doesn’t know where, or by what means (manual strangulation, but how did she get the blunt force trauma to her head?), or when the car was moved or when the body was buried. That’s because the state has no physical evidence tying anyone to the crime or forensic evidence that pins down when the crime happened.

The state is making stuff up in plain sight and so far, no one seems to be getting this point. The state hasn’t got a case. It doesn’t have a theory, except Adnan did it. That’s all it’s got. It stopped investigating after it settled on Adnan. It didn’t follow up on Don’s time card, it didn’t ask the forensics experts about how long Hae might have been dead before she was buried, it didn’t check out other murders of young women in the area, it didn’t try to figure out how Hae was strangled in her car or even if the murder took place in the car at all, it didn’t check up on the wrestling match schedule (it turns out there wasn’t a wrestling match the day she went missing) or whether she had something else she wanted to do (she did). All of these other unknown unknowns? Not important to the state. It still has no idea what happened to Hae, who was there, how it was done, when it was done or for what purpose. All they’ve got is this ex-boyfriend. That’s it.

Ineffective assistance of council is only the tip of the iceberg here. Adan’s lawyer, Cristina Gutierrez should have pointed this out: The state still doesn’t have a clue and it keeps shifting the timeline around because it didn’t do its job. How can you even have a suspect if you don’t know where, when and how the crime even happened? This farce of a case was made up out of increasingly thin air and the state and the justice system threw a person behind bars on less than nothing.

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