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CIA hacked Senate computers. Water still wet.

The NYTimes has a short blurb on the front page.

The CIA has apologized to Senators Feinstein and Chambliss.  So, you know, it’s all Ok.  We can move on now.

Update: Or maybe some of us are getting confirmation of what we have suspected for a long time.  That is, there are a lot of people spying on other people in order to influence politics.  Nothing appears to be sacred or too confidential.  We can be very angry about that.

 

How religious narcissism works

Ah, the Duggars are making headlines again.  They’re little headlines but you should pay attention anyway because they are part of the pattern of religious narcissism that I have written about previously.

Jessa Duggar, the hot one, is dating courting Ben Seewald, another obnoxious Jesus freak Southern Independent Baptist.  I can’t remember where I heard this, it might have been somewhere in the free thought skeptic media, but it turns out that the Duggars follow this self-annoited preacher named Bill Gothard.  If America has a Taliban, and it does, Gothard would be its leader and his IBLP, Institute of Basic Life Principals, would be its Sharia Law.  Wait, that would have been last year.  THIS year, Gothard has resigned his position at IBLP due to sexual improprieties, as well as failing to report child abuse cases.  Yes, the man who brought America the chaste “side hug” has been accused by dozens of young women of inappropriate touching, groping and other no-nos.  Maybe their knees were exposed briefly and were asking for it.  So much for self-control. (Funny side note: while I was writing this, the WordPress autocorrect function kept replacing “Gothard” with “got hard”.  You can’t make this stuff up.)

In the Duggars’ world, the Southern Baptists are too worldly.  Yes, those teetotalling, non-dancing, patriarchical fundies are just too wild and crazy for the Duggars so the Duggar family mostly worships at home with other similar families.  Note that they don’t form “friendships” with these families.  They “fellowship”.  The distinction is significant.  That’s because if one of these families steps out of line, they have to be ready to jettison that family before the infection spreads.  It’s cold and unloving but their own salvation is at stake, so it’s necessary.

So, Ben Seewald, who is 2 years younger than Jessa, who is all of 20 or 21, writes a twitter about his catholic friend.  It’s been erased but someone has been kind enough to save the content.

“I have nothing against individuals who are Catholic. I know a lot of Catholics who are great people. What I DO have a problem with is the teaching that man can merit God’s favor through his own works or the works of other fallen men.

“My conscience is captive to the word of God. Where my Catholic friends adhere to God’s Word, I adhere. Where they depart from Scripture, I will in no way support, but will call them out because I love them and desire that they be turned from their deadly errors.”

Where to begin.  On the face of it, it looks innocent enough.  I mean, IBLP has been around for less than 100 years and is a niche sect, appealing to authoritarians and people who watch TLC and think it’s perfectly Ok to train children to be smiling, non-thinking, personality free, well behaved, chaste automatons in the name of Christ. (As my favorite aunt says, “Someday, one of those Duggar kids is going to write a book.”) The Catholic church has been around for 2000 years and has branch offices all around the world.  Catholics don’t have anything to fear from some American fundies in Arkansas.

But the debate of “saved by grace alone” vs “saved by good works” has been raging since Martin Luther.  In retrospect, Luther ignited a firestorm that to this day we can’t put out.  To many of us freethinkers or panentheist non-Christians, this debate is intensely boring and about as meaningful as how many angels dance on the head of a pin.  Really, who the hell cares whether it’s faith or good works??  Does preferring one to the other preclude you from being a good person?

Anyway, the money quote in the above tweet is:

“My conscience is captive to the word of God. Where my Catholic friends adhere to God’s Word, I adhere. Where they depart from Scripture, I will in no way support, but will call them out because I love them and desire that they be turned from their deadly errors.”

I’m sorry, who died and made Ben Seewald god?  That tweet almost sounds like it could have come from the pages of the Old Testament.

But this is pretty typical of the religious narcissist.  YOUR faith is not important to them.  Only THEIR faith is important.  They make it their business to interfere and make it their responsibility to set your ass straight.

Let’s recap: The Southern Baptists aren’t good enough for them.  They are superior to most of the denomination they consider their closest allies.  They worship at home because it’s safer for them and they can control who can bask in their reflected glory and who can’t.  They hold themselves up as paragons of virtue and expect that you show them respect for their life choices that they say are more moral than yours.  And they do not respect your boundaries as far as your life choices or religious beliefs are concerned.  Your beliefs are inconsequential and fungible, theirs are not.

I’m pointing this out now because a couple of weeks ago, a bunch of anti-choice protestors interrupted a service at a Unitarian church in New Orleans.  Amanda Marcotte wrote of the protests recently, describing the actions of the protestors:

Some of the anti-choice activists invaded the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans while members were observing a moment of silence for a deceased congregant and proceeded to abuse and harass the people inside the church. The folks from Operation Save America were hardly ashamed of this deplorable behavior, instead bragging on their website about disrupting services at the “synagogue of Satan” and making special note of haranguing the female pastor, who they called a “pastor,” in scare quotes. (But they’re in this for “life” and not because they have a problem with women!) This behavior isn’t necessarily any worse than the miseries they subject clinic patients and workers to, but it serves as a reminder that the reason anti-choice “protesters” get into the lifestyle is that they are bullies, full stop.

The protestors did not recognize the authority of the female pastor and they violated the boundaries of the congregants’ faith in a very literal way.

Now, the Unitarians are not really Christians in the strictest sense of the word.  They’re more deists or pantheist non-Christians who are respectful of Christians.  You can even be an atheist at a Unitarian church.  On the scale of churches, Unitarians are waaaaay over there on the commie left.  So, what’s going on here?  Marcotte’s theory makes sense:

There are many pro-choice churches, but the religious pluralism of the Unitarians is what really sets fundamentalists off. Indeed, there’s a strong reason to believe that the religious right is basically using the battle over reproductive rights to advance a much larger agenda against religious tolerance. And the strategy is to argue that their own “religious freedom” cannot be protected without taking yours away.

There’s an actual quote about that somewhere from one of the Christian fundamentalist imams.  I think it might be in this video from a recent free thought convention.  Found it.  Here’s the quote attributed to Gary North, former curriculum advisor for Ron Paul:

“So let us be blunt about it, we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education and no neutral government.  Then they will get busy in constructing a bible based social and political order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of god.”

But Catholics are hardly Kumbaya strumming hippies.  The church has its own authoritarian issues and, even though its members might think a bunch of red beanied single old dudes in Rome are cracked when it comes to reproductive health, it has had a significant impact on the American public through the appointment of 5 conservative Catholics to the Supreme Court.  The uber fundie independent baptist taliban in Arkansas has little to fear from Catholics.  They’re getting everything they claim they want through them.  Except that the Catholics don’t believe what they believe, and therefore, they must be “saved”.

No one is safe from this kind of religious narcissism.  First they came for the atheists and there are still laws on the books in some states that prohibit an atheist from holding a public office.  Then they came for the Unitarians because they’re all about inclusion and social justice.  They have no qualms about calling out Catholics.

When Ruth Bader Ginsberg said the 5 member majority in the Hobby Lobby case had “ventured into a minefield”, she only scratched the surface of the problem.  Political motives aside, the  conservative majority has given a tacit nod to the religious narcissists to continue to breach other people’s boundaries.  I think we’re going to see more of these protests and pretty soon, you won’t be able to go anywhere before some righteous religious person decides your beliefs need an attitude adjustment.  Countries have and are still to this day fighting religious wars.  Many people are hurt and lives are ruined over religion in other parts of the world.  For more than 200 years, we have decided we as a nation weren’t going to subject our citizens to a test when it comes to religion.  Are we now going to throw away that detente and for what reason?

What do we do about the religious narcissist?  I’m still trying to find the answer to that question.  There are some suggestions for dealing with narcissists in general.  I’ll talk about some of them in a future post.

Lions, George Bush and Libya

I’m in the middle of the third part of The Last Lion:Winston Spencer Churchill.  Midway, actually.  Get it?  Ok, never mind.

Anyway, the third part is riveting.  No, seriously, I’m completely engrossed with the story of WWII.  I am my father’s daughter.  This part starts after Britain declares war on Germany and makes Churchill prime minister.  Churchill rallies the country with inspirational speeches and vows that Britain will not go down like Czechoslovakia, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and France.  Wait, was that everyone?  No, indeed, there was much more to come.  The Brits looked across the channel at all the carnage and slavery and starvation and brutality and decided they were going to gird their loins and tough it out.  Then came the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, The Blitz, the destruction of Coventry.  Thousands of British lives were lost in incendiary bombs during nights of terror while the country waited for the invasion they knew Germany was planning.  And then there was the British navy, number one in the world, being picked off boat by boat, ship by ship, in the north Atlantic by German U-boats, battleships and bombers.  The carnage was horrific.

Meanwhile, Churchill was on his own.  No other European country was going to come to his rescue.  After years of appeasement, the ability of the military to respond to German aggression was very weak.  The RAF had far fewer planes, the navy’s ships were old, the army’s tanks couldn’t compete with the German panzers.  Churchill begged the US to send whatever was mothballed from WWI.  He turned British bases in the Atlantic over to America in exchange for some old rust buckets.  It wasn’t enough.  He pleaded with Roosevelt for help.  Britain was having trouble feeding itself.  He warned FDR that America was next, that Germany and Italy would come for them eventually.  But FDR had his own band of isolationists to deal with.  They held our country hostage and prevented any useful aid from reaching Britain.  Lend-Lease was only partially successful and Britain nearly bankrupted itself trying to purchase food and materials to ramp up weapons production.

Then came a series of British military disasters.  They initially had success in North Africa, but lost momentum to Rommel in Libya.  The Brits promised to defend Greece but after Yugoslavia signed the Tripartite agreement with Germany and Italy, then had a coup in protest, it was invaded by Germany, which rolled right on thru to occupy Greece.  Once again, the Brits had to evacuate – to Crete.  In Crete, German paratroopers captured a British airbase.  The RAF didn’t have the means to defend itself.  It didn’t have any arms.  The Brits evacuated to Egypt.  It was one retreat after another.  Pearl Harbor came as a blessing.  Finally, another country was going to share the misery.  But once the US got involved, it quickly found that it was no better off than the British.  With decades of appeasers running the show, the US military also didn’t have the ships, arms or aircraft to put up much of a fight.  If the Japanese hadn’t thought they were so far ahead of the game that they could afford to take a break refit their ships, the US might have lost all of the ships we had in the Pacific.

In the first months of 1942, Churchill was called by the House of Commons to account for all the military disasters.  Crete and Greece were particularly grating.  The Greek campaign was seen as unnecessary, especially because it was a voluntary action and it was a total loss.  But Churchill pointed out that the purpose of the campaign was to show the world that Britain was not just a sitting duck, it would resist assimilation.  Also, there was that whole business of the eastern Mediterranean.  If the area wasn’t secured for sea traffic, oil from the Persian Gulf and other goods, would have to go around Africa to get to England.  THAT’s why the British were in Egypt, to keep an eye on the Suez Canal.  That’s why they wanted to keep Tobruk in Libya.  It was the safest natural harbor in the area for the British fleet.  That’s why the Germans were bombing the shit out of Malta.  That’s why Churchill was hoping that Stalin was ready to fight Hitler in Russia, so Germany wouldn’t capture Iraqi and Iranian oil fields. By the way,  how many of us knew that when the Japanese declared war on us, it effectively cut off our rubber supply from Malaysia and that our cars and other vehicles were impacted by the Japanese navy threatening the trade routes?  I didn’t know that until yesterday.

And he was pissed off that he had to report this crap to the House of Commons because all they needed to do was look at a fricking map for the past decade to see that these areas needed reinforcement and military strength.  But while he spent a decade as a ridiculed back bencher, running around with his hair on fire about the evil brewing in Germany, he had to put up with a lot of snooty appeasers who thought keeping the peace so commerce could proceed without interruption was more important than a raving lunatic and his band of thugs in Berlin.

The House of Commons still couldn’t understand the Greek thing though.  Why pursue a battle if you aren’t sure you’re going to win?  He replied that if you have to know in advance that a win is a certainty, you never get off your ass to become a real threat.

So, now we come to our own Libya.  And I look at the map of all of the choke points in the world now for international shipments of oil and grain and all kinds of stuff and it’s really not all that different today than it was in WWII.

 

It’s still the Straits of Hormuz, the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal, Singapore and the South China Sea, the Dardanelles.  We may all divinely wish that the world didn’t run on oil.  I certainly wish it.  But the powers that be are determined to keep us addicted and, let’s not kid ourselves, we haven’t really had a choice of president since 1996.  The election was stolen in 2000, probably 2004, certainly something went terribly wrong in 2008 and that led to 2012.  George Bush was a disaster for us.  The Iraq War was a disaster for us.  Afghanistan?  It started off well but quickly devolved.  We needed to go to Afghanistan.

And now we come to Libya.  Libya, the same damn place that was such a mess for the Brits in 1941.  There were probably a couple of reasons to do air strikes in Libya a couple of years ago.  The first may have been the oil.  I won’t deny it but I don’t know.  Yeah, oil is evil.  I think I’ve already mentioned that.  The second was to avoid a humanitarian crisis.  Qaddafi was going to scorch the earth.  And no, we can’t save the world.  It isn’t our jahb.  But I will remind the reader that in this case, the pre-WWII hypothesis of the military specialists was that air bombers were king. You get your best bang for your buck with a bomber.  That’s not necessarily the whole story.  It did eventually require a massive number of bodies thrown at Normandy to finally take Europe back.  But that was then and this is now.  Air strikes are incredibly effective and in Libya’s most recent case, it finished Qaddafi off.

Should we have not done it because there is now a bunch of Libyans fighting amongst themselves?  Should we only get involved if we know that people are going to not misbehave when we have our backs turned? I don’t know but I suspect that crazy dictators do not take you seriously if you don’t at least put up a fight to show that you mean business.  That doesn’t mean we should have gone to Iraq.  We shouldn’t have gone to Iraq because there was no reason besides greed to go to Iraq. Saddam Hussein had no WMDs.  And apparently, we learned our lesson back in 1941 and we are no longer lacking in military prowess.  No one is going to catch us without enough armament to turn any offending country into a glass parking lot if that’s what we want.  I just hope we don’t want.

Now our biggest problem is we are waging a different kind of war in the US.  The bad guys are so clever they ask us to disarm ourselves in completely different ways.  They are using our own safeguards against us.  I guess we can debate whether Libya was worth it or not.  Or we can pay better attention to the new dictators who are slipping in and taking over our country without shedding any blood at all.  Well, not yet anyway.

Our finest hour is coming.

 

Word Crimes

We’re all guilty.  I’m a repeat offender, especially when it comes to prepositions.  Sometimes my nouns and verbs don’t relate to one another and I hate to edit.  But at least I know when to use ‘I’ versus ‘me’.  Interior design bloggers routinely get that wrong and it drives me crazy, especially when the blogger in question majored in English and not Interior Design. (I’m talking to you, Emily Henderson.)

Weird Al Yankovic has a new album called Mandatory Fun and it has already rocketed to the top of the charts.  This song goes out to Brooke whose grammar is perfect all of the time.

 

Speaking of interior design, I made this pendant light for my kitchen using a garden spheroid thing that was on clearance from at Target and a pendant light kit from Home Depot.  I’m planning to replace the light bulb with an Edison style bulb. Check out the cool pattern on the ceiling.  It was accidental.  The kitchen is almost finished.

2014-07-24 19.27.09

Happy Pioneer Day

Today is Pioneer Day, a sort of holiday for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormons.  As you may know, I’m not religious at all but I find uniquely American religions interesting.  Mormonism grew out of the Second Great Awakening, a protestant revival movement that came into being as a response to deism and the enlightenment.  If we want to know where the religious liberty mantra of fundamentalist evangelicals got its start, we should probably revisit this era in our nation’s history.

The geographical locale for the hotbed of religious fervor was in western New York state, otherwise known as the “burn over district” because by the time the Civil War came along, everyone there had been converted to something and had burned themselves out.  It was this area where the Millerites waited out the end of the world.  Their legacy survives in the Second Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses.  It was here that the Shakers built their first communities.  This is where utopian experiments were tried.  And it was in Seneca Falls where the American feminist movement started. 

Joseph Smith was born in Vermont but his family settled in Palmyra, New York when he was young and he was still in his teens when he had angelic visions.  He must have been incredibly charismatic.  He was also a canny organizer and knew how to get his followers to vote en bloc in order to influence local election outcomes.  It was that ability to mobilize his saints to vote that got him into trouble and had him tarred, feathered and chased from town to town, state to state, with all his saints in his wake.

He finally ended up in Nauvoo, Illinois.  How many of us have ever heard of Nauvoo?  At one time, it was one of the most populous cities in Illinois.  There were something like 12,000 saints living there during Smith’s era.  It was in the mid 1840s that Smith started to either experience megalomania or was severely tempted by forces unseen.  He made some sketchy real estate investments, experimented with plural marriages and destroyed a printing press all while referring to himself as a general and declaring his intention to run for president.  It didn’t end well.  He was shot to death while trying to escape from the local jail where he was being held for trial on a first amendment violation.

His saints had a succession crisis but the bulk of them rallied around Brigham Young and they headed out of Nauvoo on the way to the west where they were determined to live by their faith without interference.  Some of them used handcarts to transport their belongings.  It was an arduous journey.  

 

 

The Mormons are currently undergoing a sort of reformation. It isn’t of the Church’s making but there are a growing number of progressive members who are forcing it upon the church leadership.   So history repeats itself but this time it is turning back to reason.  The LDS church is no longer growing.  More and more members are leaving, troubled by the hierarchy’s slow evolution on the subject of homosexuality and women in the priesthood, as well as faithful members disturbed by what the church is covering up in Joseph Smith’s biography.  I’ve been listening to these dissident voices at the podcast MormonStories, hosted by John Dehlin.  What I find is a rich cultural tradition that is uniquely American, forged in the fire and fervor of religious revival, and hardened by pioneers making their way across America to live in Zion.  After the religion is stripped away, the Mormon experience is still a forceful one that brings people together and whose ancestors shared a common story that is as powerful as any religious mythology.

I’d like to have the progressive and secular Mormons on my side.  They’re a determined bunch.

This song, Come, Come, ye Saints, was written by Mormon poet William Clayton in Iowa on his way from Nauvoo to Utah.  The music is based on an old English folk tune, All Is Well.  Enjoy.

We want answers from the pols: Why do Americans have to put up with Exploitative Profit Mining?

(This was written in steam of consciousness mode.)

This is an invitation to the politicians out there to answer this question.  Why are Americans expected to tolerate exploitative profit mining by the wealthy and well connected?  Why are we supposed to just sit here like crops to be harvested?  As soon as there is even a teensy bit of disposable income, that we are supposed to sock away for the future, some capitalist on steroids has to find a way of siphoning it off for his own use and profit.

We all know the game is rigged and yet we’re expected to put all of our precious savings in the stock market or in the hands of fund managers or pay a steep tax penalty to cover our living expenses if we have the misfortune to suffer periods of extended unemployment before we turn 59.5.

We’re all expected to get a college degree if we have even a prayer of getting a good job but then we are tied to these monstrous student loan debts or we spend years pursuing a PhD in a difficult subject only to find we have to take a series of $37K/year jobs.

We’re all expected to pony up hundreds and thousands of dollars for lousy health care policies and an ACA that has separated the country’s workers into two classes.  But the minute we ask for a fairer system that imposes cost controls on medical costs and profit limits on insurers, you’d think we were being irreligious.  Same with internet providers who can’t be bothered to improve their infrastructure even while they intend to reduce competition and split the proceeds from mergers amongst their shareholders.  Apparently, there is no one in Congress or the executive branch who thinks it is possible to stop what consumers think of as destructive mergers and loss of net neutrality.  Why are we expected to put up with that?

Every business and industry has figured out how to extract the maximum amount of pain and we rely on Congress to help us have a say in the matter and they do nothing to stop the extraction.

There’s got to be a better reason than the fact that campaign finance reform is broken.  We want answers as to why we are expected to tolerate the intolerable.

It’s one damn thing after another and no one is buying the excuse that nothing can be done because of the Republicans.  We’ve been watching this unfold for more than a decade and we haven’t even seen you Democrats putting up much of a fight.

Why does exploitative profit mining seem so unstoppable among the politicians that we elected to keep the playing field level so that we can all benefit from the fruits of our labors?

We want answers.  Feel free to use the comment thread below to provide them.  I think we have a right to expect a response of some kind.

Come on, Al Franken.  We supported you from the beginning.  What say you?  How about you, Elizabeth Warren?  And you, Hillary Clinton?  Enough of the foreign policy.  We want to hear about domestic issues.  What are you going to do about this?

Another fine product from Jane Caro

Jane Caro is a former advertising executive and now a public speaker in Australia.  Her presentations cover many topics but she’s particularly outspoken about politics, education and feminism.  Some of you might remember a former video of hers on how politicians can gain the trust of their constituents.  I think it might be this one where Caro was one of 4 panelists talking about political spin from an advertising branding point of view. Pick her up at minute marker 19:00-ish.*

This latest one is about feminism and not being “nice”.  According to Caro, and our own site statistics, we must have been doing something right in 2008 because the push back, name calling and ostracism was ferocious.  She also makes a point about women on the internet that I have been trying to emphasize for some years now.  When it comes to the blogosphere, the internet is the best friend women ever had.  It is the great equalizer.  Yeah, your potential allies can leave you off their blog rolls and the trolls can be hostile pains in the asses.  But they can’t shut you down.  Nope, you can go on saying one irritating thing after another and if you don’t like the comments you get, well, they’re just pixels on a monitor.  They can not hurt you.

Anyway, enjoy the latest from Jane Caro.

 

I found Caro’s eight rules of political branding.  Before the purists out there get all bent out of shape that using advertising is somehow “dirty” in politics, know that to get elected, you need to advertise yourself and show the voters that your services are worth purchasing for a length of time.  Politicians that do not advertise do not get elected.  It goes with the territory.  Here are the Eight Rules:

1.) Underpromise and overdeliver.
2.) Be voter centered. Convince your voters that you put them first. Take risks in defense of what you believe even if it may cost you personally.
3.) Don’t sacrifice what your core voters always liked about you to buy new voters.
4.) All voting decisions are made emotionally and then post-rationalized. There are two emotions that change behavior: Hope and Fear. If you want to change behaviors, get to know what are the voters’ hopes and fears.
5.) While voting decisions are made emotionally and are post-rationalized, you must give voters ammunition to defend their choice.
Policy is important.
6.) Raise voters’ morale and your own. We want to vote for people who look like they want the job and once they’ve got the job, look like they love the job.
7.) Lower voter anxiety about YOU.
8.) Voters want politicians to love their constituency.

What’s in my Instapaper queue?

It’s getting crowded in the Instapaper queue.  Time to clean it out.  This is what I’ve found interesting lately:

1.) The Dragons of Inaction is a 2011 paper from the journal American Psychologist listing the reasons behind the resistance to climate change claims.  As you may expect, resistance can be grouped into ideological and non-ideological causes.  One of the most interesting causes is mistrust.  We should expect that the people most likely to benefit from climate change denialism will play on trust issues in their target audience.  The conclusion section is light on recommendations but I thought it would be a good exercise to learn how the Fox News crew might put this information to use.

2.) An Ominous Health Care Ruling is the latest editorial by the NYTimes on the two Obamacare rulings yesterday regarding subsidies.  The editorial board is remarkably frank, given its boosterism for the ACA:

The 2-to-1 decision issued by the panel hinged on how to interpret language in the Affordable Care Act that most experts agree was poorly drafted and would ordinarily have been corrected by a Congressional conference committee. In this instance, there was no conference committee because the law was passed on a take-it-or-leave-it vote in the House to avoid a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

But then it reverts to form at the end by stating that regardless of what Congress did or didn’t do by rushing the bill through, the judiciary has a responsibility to not use ideology as an excuse to take subsidies away.  IMHO, the ACA perfectly demonstrates my former advanced inorganic chemistry prof’s saying, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” In other words, we are all potentially screwed by the effects of this bad legislation until Congress decides to do it over the right way.  When it has time.  And when it also has the rare astronomical convergence of a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, a majority in the House and a president in the White House who, you know, actually gives a crap.  Maybe some time next century. Maybe that was the plan.

3.) In A $650Million Donation to Psychiatric Research, we find research into the causes and a cure for bipolar disease funded by a billionaire with deep pockets who also has a son afflicted with the condition.  It’s great for people with bipolar spectrum disorder but not so great in that it takes a private person to fund it.  The reason so many pharmaceutical companies are pulling out of psychiatric research is that it’s incredibly expensive and there is an extra hurdle to jump when it comes to the brain.  It’s called the blood brain barrier and it gives drug designers and medicinal chemists fits because only compounds with certain physical properties can cross this barrier and they are devilishly hard to make and get approved.  So, you know, there’s not so much profit in it for Big Pharma.  And now we have to rely on billionaires with a personal stake.  {{sigh}}

By the way, the recipient of this largess, the Broad Institute in Cambridge, MA, is primarily a computational biology outfit.  That will be very useful for tracking down the genetic causes and systems biology associated with bipolar spectrum disorder and schizophrenia but biologists don’t make the drugs.  That’s what medicinal chemists, structural biologists and drug designers are trained to do.  It will be curious to see going forward whether the Broad Instituts recruits more of these specialties or decides to farm them out.  Farming it out would be a mistake, I think, since project teams need to see the same material and work on it together.  On the other hand, if Broad doesn’t mind hiring modelers remotely, I am available.  😉

4.) The Atlantic posted an article on The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence.  In short, being acutely attuned to the emotional states of everyone around you might be great for salespeople but it sucks for people working in professions that require concentration and contemplation.  For the latter group, paying attention and kissing up to the people around you is a distraction.  The resulting effects on the working environment of those people expected to play the EQ game when they don’t have time for it are predictable. From the study cited in the article:

Cote’s team assessed how often the employees deliberately undermined their colleagues. The employees who engaged in the most harmful behaviors were Machiavellians with high emotional intelligence. They used their emotional skills to demean and embarrass their peers for personal gain.

Seen that happen with my own eyes.  Depressing but all too common, especially in the uber-competitive environments engineered by biz school grads and propagated throughout the industries they manage.

5.) The website, Ask the Headhunter, has a video for those of you who can’t get through the HR filters that you are required to navigate to apply for jobs.  If you are lucky enough to already have a job and haven’t been through this exercise in futility, it goes something like this: You see a job on a website for which you are (probably over)qualified and are directed to the company’s HR application system.  Then you spend hours per application uploading your resume and then reformatting it (god knows why the reformatting step is necessary but the OCR never gets it right.  Besides, didn’t you just upload a copy of your resume??).  Anyway, after you have edited and reformatted and written a brilliant cover letter telling the company all of the reasons why you would be more than perfect for the job, you never hear from them again.  Oh, sometimes you’ll get a form generated reply saying they received your information.

The truth is, there are filters that are set to weed people out and nobody knows what they are.  In some cases, the HR filter is set so unproductively that most applicants who qualify never make it to the resume review round.  That may be why so many employers whine they can’t get good help anymore.  If they would only hire people who could reset the filters for them they might get better candidates.  But to do that, they’d have to reset the filters themselves in the beginning and that takes vigilance, time and probably one FTE. It’s a vicious circle. Nick Corcodilos says to scrap the resume and don’t bother going through the HR application process.  The best way to get a job is to hang around people in your field or the area that you want to get into, and make connections.  In other words, you need to be a human with a face because HR filters do a lousy job of staffing and are probably not worth your time.

6.) Alistair McCauley reviewed the current production of the Bolshoi’s Swan Lake at Lincoln Center.  It’s not pretty but it is a fun read:

At the start of every dance, my heart would lift again, noting some marvelous feature of Bolshoi style. The communicative generosity of manner! The thick-cream legato flow and keen dynamic sense! The juicy red-meat richness of texture! The unaffectedly erect posture of the torsos and their gorgeous pliancy! The easy amplitude of line! The powerful sweep through space! Yet nothing availed. Each dance soon grew monotonous.

I can’t remember, is McCauley the critic who thinks all ballerinas could stand to lose a little weight?  Anyway, I’m not a fan of companies with a lugubrious ballet style.  Give me something livelier, and, er, probably not Swan Lake.

7.) I. Must. Have. This. Desk from CB2.  I am confident that my life and blogging will be improved by it.

And a heads up to you IKEA fans.  The 2015 Catalog is supposed to hit the interwebs tomorrow.  I can hardly wait!

8.) Finally, I am on the third part of the longest Audible book I have ever “read”.  It’s The Last Lion, a biography of Winston Churchill.  It’s excellent and probably more detailed than any biography has a right to be.  Highly recommended.  5 sponges.

So, I ran across a page on some of his predictions and inventions.  For example, did you know that Winston invented the tank and the onesie?  Ok, maybe not his finest hour.  But he was a great futurist.  Check it out.

The funny thing is, Churchill was never a great student but he had a formidable intellect.  He was definitely not Ivy League material in the most 2014 sense of the word.  That would have been a great loss for England if our current standards of performance were in effect then.  He might have ended up writing Op/Eds for WaPo and gone no further in life.

And here are a few Winston quotes for good measure:

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” (Sound familiar?)

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.”

“It is no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

He made his share of mistakes and was on the wrong side of history as far as women’s suffrage was concerned (they turned out for him anyway).  He failed many times but he learned from his failures and he never surrendered.  Cool dude and an honest guy.  We need someone like him right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obamacare subsidy rules overturned by Republican judges.

Is this the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?  From ThinkProgress:

On Tuesday, two Republican judges voted to rewrite this history. Under Halbig v. Burwell, a decision handed down by Judge Raymond Randolph, a Bush I appointee, and Judge Thomas Griffith, a Bush II appointee, millions of Americans will lose the federal health insurance subsidies provided to them under the Affordable Care Act — or, at least, they will lose these subsidies if Randolph and Griffith’s decision is ultimately upheld on appeal.

[…]

The two Republicans’ decision rests on a glorified typo in the Affordable Care Act itself. Obamacare gives states a choice. They can either run their own health insurance exchange where their residents may buy health insurance, and receive subsidies to help them pay for that insurance if they qualify, or they can allow the federal government to run that exchange for them. Yet the plaintiffs’ in this case uncovered a drafting error in the statute where it appears to limit the subsidies to individuals who obtain insurance through “an Exchange established by the State.” Randolph and Griffith’s opinion concludes that this drafting error is the only thing that matters. In their words, “a federal Exchange is not an ‘Exchange established by the State,’” and that’s it. The upshot of this opinion is that 6.5 million Americans will lose their ability to afford health insurance, according to one estimate.

Done in by a drafting error.  Huh.

I think I am being too hopeful about it being the end of the beginning and that maybe the country will get serious about a national healthcare policy that includes true universal responsibilities and cost controls.  After all, if you’re still receiving insurance from your employer, there’s probably no rush on your part.  You probably feel either distant compassion for those of us poor souls who have to put up with this ACA crap or indignant that we are insufficiently grateful for the miserly coverage we are forced to pay for.

But the Republicans might have done us a favor for being the obstinate, selfish, mean-spirited, take-no-prisoners, uncompromising assholes that they are.  At some point, the sheer weight of all of this pigheadedness, coupled with insurance insecurity, may actually provoke a backlash against them and we could end up with Democratic congresspersons motivated to actually fix the gigantic flaws in this byzantine, unworkable and deeply unsatisfying act.

Well, we can dream.

Update: Top comment from the NYTimes article on the same subject shows the bitterness towards the Democrats who compromised too much:

Kevin Rothstein

is a trusted commenter Somewhere East of the GWB 1 hour ago

Someday, our nation will adopt single payer. The Democrats in name only in Congress sold the people down-the-river by failing to adopt a public option.

The blame lies with Sen. Max Baucus and the former Senator from Aetna, Joe Lieberman, among others.

We also have a president who was not willing to argue forcefully enough for the public option, as Obama is also a centrist Democrat elected to maintain the status quo while pretending to offer hope and change, just as another centrist Democrat, from a town called hope, allowed Wall Street to hijack his better angels.

That’s assuming they actually had better angels, Kevin.

The Doomsday Code

I noticed a common thread on twitter tonight was from adults who were brought up in evangelical families.  That’s because one of the “signs of the end” is that the world would turn against Israel.  Evangelicals operating within a zionist eschatological framework have been waiting for this as a sure sign that the rapture, tribulation and second coming are upon us.  Many of us who have had to tolerate this stuff for years have been aware of how dangerous this kind of thinking is.  The reason it’s dangerous is because these religious zealots will tolerate, and in some cases, even promote, all kinds of evil because the worse the world situation is, the nearer their own salvation.

George Bush starts a crazy war?  Sign of the end.

Israelis bomb Gazans to smithereens?  They’ll all start converting to Christianity pretty soon.

Plutocrats rob billions from innocent people, leaving them impoverished in their retirement years?  There’s nothing we can do to stop corruption.

It’s just a symptom of the evil system of things that we live in.  They actually seem to be glad of all the suffering because it means their own salvation is nigh and, anyway, anyone who dies before the tribulation gets a second chance!  Isn’t that wonderful??

No. It’s demented.  Let’s not kid ourselves and be respectful of these lunatic beliefs that have the potential to propagate evil behavior without any checks.

If any of you are interested in learning about the Doomsday Code and why your Christian neighbor is looking especially anxious and giddy this week, look no further than this comprehensive documentary by Tony Robinson. Robinson has a thorough understanding of the code and spells out what it means to the rest of us towards the end of the video.  It’s long but it will tell you all you need to know and what the end timers are looking for in the near future. Why, Yes!, it is scary as all get out even if it is selfish, wishful thinking on the part of some very misguided people.  Imagine having the living daylights scared out of you 24/7 when you were a kid.  These people are not safe, their religion is more unhinged than Scientology and there are a lot of them in America.

Enjoy!