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    • Donation Drive: Set the Schedule for 2015
      The simplest economic principle is this: people do more of what they’re rewarded for.  Right now, I can no longer justify writing at this frequency and level for free. Over the past year I’ve written on ideology, inequality,and austerity.  I’ve discussed fundamental questions like what an economy is, the value of human life and the [...]
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Religious narcissism and its effects on children: an extreme example

Oh those daffy Duggars! Nineteen kids out there in a compound in Arkansas getting homeschooled. Look at how polite, well behaved and self-controlled they are. And they play instruments too. They play violin, piano… and violin. None of them do ballet. That’s interesting. No it isn’t. They have to dress modestly and you can’t look modest in a tutu. Ballerinas in tutus could be defrauding (that’s like being called a tease). Besides, dancing is unbiblical- or something. There’s touching involved. Touching leads to wild, lustful sex as soon as the chaperones leave the room to take a pee… Wait, where was I?

Anyway, you know the drill. People who admire the Duggars and families like them see no harm in what they are doing. It’s all about God, blah, blah, blah.

And then comes the case of Alecia Faith Pennington. Here’s her story:

This is shocking to the rest of us who aren’t slavishly devoted to fundamentalist ideology. Can you imagine parents who wouldn’t assist their children in establishing that they are citizens of the country in which they have been born and lived all their lives?

You’re shocked because you aren’t seeing this situation in the same way Pennington’s parents, or even the Duggars, see it. THEY see a disobedient and defiant daughter. To these families, Alecia isn’t entitled to any rights. She’s not entitled to her own life. She’s not even entitled to be angry about the choices her parents have made for her. She’s not entitled to her own feelings.

Her mother, on the other hand, is entitled to become hysterical with grief. She is wailing and screaming about how awful Alecia has been. It’s like the death of her daughter. (Well, that’s because she has to shun her in order to save the other kids) The rest of the family can’t understand why Alecia has left. She must be possessed by the demonic influence of a woman from the world. But even though the family has been devastated, now that she’s made an independent decision, they have no other choice but abandon her and try to make her life miserable by withholding the information she needs to get her birth certificate. They simply can not allow her to get away from them without suffering the consequences of what she has done to their happy family that now has a hole blasted through it. If only Alecia would return to them, they wouldn’t have to ruin her life.

Typical.

It’s all about them. Note that the most significant thing to ruin Alecia’s life at this point has been the intentional actions of her parents to deny her the crucial information she needs to do what every other nineteen year old in the country is allowed to do by law. What is more awful than having someone deny you the right to make a living to support yourself? Really, these parents should be arrested for negligence and abuse.

I was surprised to read that Alecia’s case is not rare among the religiously homeschooled. When these children reach 18, they’re legally allowed to leave but their parents can hold them hostage. Without proper documentation, they’re stuck in a legal limbo and without outside support, they may never be allowed to leave what they consider to be a cult and prison. Would their parents refuse to sign their financial aid papers if they decided to go to college? Yep. Or they might be disinherited, although in Alecia’s case, when she does finally get her documentation, she might be the only one of her siblings to prove her identity and, as a result, might inherit everything. You never know.

The people supporting Alecia are hoping that public pressure will cause her parents to relent and they will help her establish her identity. But the Penningtons take Duggardom a step further. They believe the US Government has no sovereignty over them, or some such nonsense. This is a deep held belief. It’s part of the reason why they chose to use unregistered midwives to deliver their children and why they didn’t register their birth certificates. For all we know, the Penningtons will assert that Alecia is only 17 and must be returned to her parents. Wait, are we sure they are her parents? Where’s the documentation? In the meantime, Alecia is staying with her grandparents who seem slightly less unhinged.

This is an extreme form of religious narcissism but all of the characteristics are there. The Penningtons are “Christians” whose refusal of the world has set them apart as “special”. They’re more holy, more worthy of respect. You should be more deferential to them because they have God on their side. They have The Truth. You don’t. They do not see their children as independent beings. Their children are part of an unbreakable family unit. They do not have independent agency. They must submit to their parents’ choices for them and that is to serve God and the family.

The Penningtons have a newsletter where they tell the world how perfectly they are adhering to The Truth and God’s plan. By going public, (OMG, YOUTUBE!!) Alecia has ruined their reputation among other families like the Penningtons because she has decided she didn’t want to live in the perfect world that her parents had created for her. There goes the admiration the Penningtons crave. Maybe Alecia should threaten to write a book. That ought to bring her parents around toot sweet.

So, she must be punished. She can’t just leave. She doesn’t have a right to leave. She doesn’t own herself. She is property of the family. This is a major feature of narcissists. They do not respect the boundaries of others. Alecia has decided she doesn’t want to live like a religious fundamentalist away from the world and subject to her parents who will choose her husband and decide her future. For this, she must be punished and she will be declared dead within the family. It’s all about the Penningtons. It’s not about Alecia.

The Penningtons say they will give her what she needs but as with all religious narcissists, that help is going to come with strings. Alecia will probably have to return home and go through some counseling with them so that she, once again, sees the world through their eyes. They have to have one more chance to shape her mind, subject her to one more lecture on the dangers of the world, put one more oppressive guilt trip on her before they symbolically kill her and shun her forever from their presence. Because they love her.

Apparently, this love does not extend beyond the fence around their compound. They can not love her from a distance. They can not love her if she decides to get an education, save the world or marry someone she loves who her parents did not choose. She is ungrateful and disobedient. There’s nothing worse. She could be a bad influence on the other children. She might give the others ideas. Therefore, her independence poses a real threat to their peace of mind. She will have to be excluded from their presence. This is what will happen to any of the Duggars who dare to step out of line.

Not so charming anymore, is it?

*It’s bound to come up but as far as I know, the Duggars have had their kids in hospitals. That’s because Michelle Duggar has had so many children that she should have a zipper on her C-section incision. Labor became difficult and in some cases, dangerous, for her ever since she had her first set of twins more than twenty years ago. Physician attended deliveries have become necessary for her. But she started popping out the brood more almost thirty years ago. Who knows how she might have done things these days? The Quiverful movement has moved towards home births in a big way, and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as the midwives are professionals, registered and have an admitting hospital nearby in case of an emergency. the Penningtons have decided that is too restrictive for them and they are apparently not alone among the fundamentalist community. So, presumably, the Duggar kids all have their birth certificates, or can access them if they ever get a moment to themselves and can put together an escape plan. But in every other way, the Duggars are just as oppressive as the Penningtons.

Snow and Chocolate

It snowed all day today in Pittsburgh. It’s not too deep outside. The snow is light and fluffy. I’ve already taken the top layer off. But it did keep me indoors all day. The snow plough passed through a couple of times. The snow closed around its wake and within a half an hour, the road was covered again.

In the meantime, I kept myself occupied with audio books and scouted YouTube for good recipes when I ran across this one. It’s for a spiced chocolate pudding. I had every ingredient except the whole milk. But I’m making it tomorrow for sure. Imagine snuggling up to the fire with a good book and a bowl of this:

Re: Vaccine and Silicon Valley

Digby has a post up about lack of herd immunity in Silicon Valley schools. Note from the graph that the biotechs (Gilead, Genentech) are pretty much up-to-date with their vaccines. They’re over 90% vaccinated. It’s the Googles, Ciscos and Pixars that are slacking.

Ahem, I would just like to say that those IT people are probably the same people who think that drug discovery would be so much more efficient if we all just worked for little start up companies and removed all the complexity from the process.

{{rolling eyes}}

They really haven’t got a clue. Of course, my ability to code is minimal, though I can hold my own in the hardware area.

In the IT world, Moore’s Law is pretty easy to understand. The physics of electricity, magnetism, doping, transistors and the like is fairly well understood. It’s all perfectly straightforward, mostly. There’s very little ambiguity. That’s what science is like for the Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Knowing that the physics is understood and no longer very complex makes it sooooo much easier to “innovate”. So, what’s the problem with pharmaceuticals?

It’s little surprise to me that they don’t get their kids vaccinated. For all their bravado about how to innovate in the realm of science, to them the cell is still a “sufficiently advanced technology that is indistinguishable from magic”. You put vaccines in your body. You don’t inject chips. (It’s coming) They want to give the illusion that they’re geeky types but just like every other animal on earth, they fear what they don’t completely understand and many of them didn’t study quite enough biology.

I never liked the IT department at work. I had to interact with those guys but it was my group that found it necessary to learn their trade, mostly in order to figure out how to circumvent it. They seemed to be completely clueless when it came to the core science that actually paid their bills. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of power in IT. We all use it and we’re all at their mercy. Resistance is, to some extent, useless. We will be subject to their obtuseness during epidemics as well.

Ian Welsh on Revolution (or is there an alternative?)

I share Ian’s frustration about the state of the country and discourse and what it will take to wake up the general public. But I’m not quite as pessimistic. We know what works. We have seen Republicans and then Democrats in 2008 (or were they really Democrats or just disaffected Country Club Republicans in disguise?) shape the narrative and drive voters towards it. The techniques for influencing people are the same whether they are liberals or conservatives. They are humans, herd animals and can be treated as such for maximum impact. It’s not really that difficult, provided you have a big microphone where you can amplify your message.

The trouble is we tend to think of people with big microphones as those with the most money. This has proved to be the case in the past but it doesn’t have to be in the future.

No one I know trusts the news, not even the ones who I feel are most influenced by it. What I have noticed is that the people most influenced by consensus reality are the least exposed to alternative voices. That sounds pretty obvious but the problem is that it getting the great sea of voters to hear differing opinions is going to take ingenuity, not money.

As for revolution, I’m against violent revolutions but if there is going to be violence, it’s most likely to come from the people with the guns. That would pretty much exclude our side. Anyway, I’d rather try reason first before resorting to chopping off people’s heads. For example, when I post on policy advice to Hillary, I’d like to read about real ideas for policy. Don’t propose revolution until you’ve tried to solve a particular problem by proposing a real, thoughtful solution.

In the meantime, might I suggest that the activists on the left concentrate on ensuring the integrity of the primary process in 2016. They should let voters make up their minds without interference or vote manipulation.

If the left wants to change the world, it should start with shoring up its own moral authority.

Time for a Serial update

Where Lee met Davis?

Where Hae Min Lee met Roy Davis? The corner of Essex Rd and Liberty Rd in Baltimore, MD.

Katiebird is killing the world with Plague on her new iPad so I think I might have lost her temporarily when it comes to Serial. But there has been a lot going on lately with Adnan’s case against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune so I’m doing an update and revising (slightly) my hypothesis on how Hae Min Lee died.

First, a disclaimer: I am firmly in the “Adnan is innocent” camp. I haven’t seen any convincing or physical evidence tying Adnan to the crime. His conviction hinges almost exclusively on the testimony of a witness with a significant conflict of interest.

What has been going on lately is that Rabia Chaudry, Adnan’s family’s friend, and former immigration lawyer, has been speaking at different law schools and universities about Adnan’s case. Just search “Rabia Chaudry” on YouTube and filter by upload date. There are numerous appearances to choose from. Her purpose is to keep the story alive while Adnan’s case winds through the appeal process. She is also raising money to hire lawyers and private investigators so Adnan gets an opportunity to mount a vigorous defense.

The most significant outcome of the Serial podcast so far is that Adnan has been granted another appeal as a result of a hearing that happened last week. His lawyers were able to raise questions about the missing alibi witness, Asia McClain and whether Adnan’s lawyer effectively defended her client when she didn’t call Asia to the stand in the trial back in 2000. The appeal will be heard in June 2015. There are a couple of possible outcomes from the appeal. One is that nothing will change and the judges will rule against Adnan. The second is that he will get a new trial. That could drag things out a bit but I think by the time a new trial comes along, there will be enough evidence to show that the state doesn’t have a case against him. The third possibility is that the state could cut a deal with Adnan for something called an Alford plea. I think that’s a face saving deal for the state where they make the defendant plead guilty while maintaining his innocence. That could get Adnan released on time served but the conviction would still haunt him for the rest of his life. Rabia might be hopeful about this kind of deal but I wouldn’t want that hanging over my head for the rest of my life, especially because the case has been so public. People will always be wondering.

As far as evidence goes, DC lawyer Susan Simpson has been ripping through the state’s case against Adnan. The case was based on cell phone records and witness testimony. That witness was Jay and his testimony is pretty worthless by now. You can find Susan’s invaluable analysis of the “evidence” against Adnan at her blog TheViewFromLL2. Susan is meticulous and thorough. She is able to pull apart the evidence in a way that Sarah Koenig and Dana Chivvas of Serial did not. That’s not to say that Sarah and Dana did anything wrong. They just had a different area of expertise. Susan has a very logical mind and she’s very good at data analysis. If I’m ever accused of murder, I want Susan as my lawyer. She doesn’t miss a thing.

Ok, so on to my updated hypothesis of how the murder of Hae Min Lee happened. You can read about my initial hypothesis here. I am starting with the premise that Adnan is innocent and was unaware of any of the events surrounding the death of Hae on January 13, 1999. Additionally, I am also supposing that Jay also had nothing to do with the crime. He just happened to be on the cops radar for another reason altogether.

Someone killed Hae. My best guess is that it was a serial killer and my best suspect is Roy Sharonnie Davis. Davis is currently serving a sentence for the murder of Jada Danita Lambert, another young Woodlawn woman who died about 7 months before Hae. Lambert’s body was found in Herring Run Park about 30 minutes east of Woodlawn HS and there’s a gas station not far from this park where Hae’s credit card was used. So, here’s my best guess as to how the whole thing went down:

Hae Min Lee is at the school until almost 3:00pm on January 13. She talks to several reliable witnesses who say they remember her being there. She speaks to her co-coach for the boy’s wrestling team who reports that Hae says she is not taking the bus to the wrestling match. She is driving herself there. She has other things to do in the meantime, the first of which is picking up her cousin from daycare.

Hae leaves the school at about 3pm and heads to Campfield Early Learning Center. (Consult the Serial Podcast Locations map to follow the route).  She can take two possible routes to get from Woodlawn HS to the daycare center. One is the Rt 695 main artery running north-south. The other route is the back way through a residential area. If we think back to the Serial episode on “Route Talk”, we may remember that the area between the school and Rt. 695 is congested at that time of the day. If you’re in a hurry, you’d probably want to stay clear of that area. It takes almost 20 minutes for Sarah and Dana to go about 2 miles. So, let’s assume that Hae took the residential route.

Hae gets on Woodlawn Dr, makes a left onto Windsor Mill Road and a right onto Essex Road. That will eventually intersect with Liberty Road. Hae would stay on Essex and cross Liberty to get to the Campfield daycare. Along this route are two known addresses for Roy Davis. The first is at a place called Woodgreen Circle. Woodgreen Circle is a street behind Essex on the way to Liberty. The other known address is in the 7500 block of Liberty Road.

This is where I enter the realm of speculation but that’s Ok because that’s all the cops have with regard to Adnan’s involvement so my guess is as good as theirs is at this point.

I’ve tried to think of how Hae might have encountered Davis in this area and my best guess is that it happened in a gas station parking lot. I’m guessing that Hae was low on gas so she stopped to get some at the gas station at the corner of Essex Road and Liberty Road. There’s a Shell station at that corner along with some other stores. If you just want to get a few bucks of gas, you go in to the store to pay for the gas with cash before you pump it. Credit cards for high school students in 1999 are for emergencies only. I know because I had a teenager with a car living in my house back then.

Maybe she didn’t make it into the store because the gas station attendants should have remembered her. Maybe Davis encountered her in the parking lot, forced her back into the car and took her on a drive. Did he pretend he was a full service attendant? Did she roll down her window? Did he threaten her? Catch her off guard? Smack her on the right side of her head with something to scare her? Does he force himself into her car?

Somewhere between the corner of Essex and Liberty and the Crown Gas Station on the corner of Northern Parkway and Harford Road, Davis presumably killed Hae. If Davis wants to relive his previous experiences with Lambert, he heads east on Liberty towards Herring Run Park. He makes a left onto Northern Parkway. Then, after he kills her, he realizes that the car was almost out of gas so he stops to put a gallon in the car at the gas station at the corner of Northern Parkway and Harford Road. Otherwise, he’s got to get rid of the body and he’d be stuck in a stalled car at the side of the road. Someone might notice him walking away from the car that they later find contains a dead body.

We can all speculate why he chooses to bury the body in Leakin Park. It’s closer to home if he’s going to have to ditch the car. Is there a bus route on Edmonson Ave? Yes, there is and several routes come off of it going north towards Davis’ home. There might have been too many people around in Herring Run Park to dump the body there so he found somewhere closer to home where the notoriety of leaving a dead body there would look almost commonplace. He leaves the body face down in the car, waits until later that night and buries the body in Leakin Park. Then he ditches the car on Edmonson Ave and takes the last bus towards home.

I’m not the first person to speculate on this route or encounter with Davis. Reddit has a few adventurous types who stray far from the Adnan-Jay nexus of culpability. Koenig has probably thought of it as well. The reason why it has been underplayed may be that a.) Davis is still alive and it’s improper for Koenig to defame him before he’s officially a suspect (?) and b.) Davis is at the same correctional facility that houses Adnan and the last thing you want is for Adnan’s story to get the attention of a violent serial killer in jail with you. Yeah, that would keep me up at night too.

Meanwhile, Deirdre Enright’s Innocence Project at UVA is sitting on a DNA request. They’re hoping that the samples are not contaminated and biding their time.

Stay tuned.

Re: Pharma, Yes! The left can be taught.

Matt Stoller at Ian Welsh’s blog gets a clue using Pfizer’s acquisitions as an example of the financialization of the pharmaceutical industry. At least he isn’t beating up on R&D for making crappy drugs. He’s opened the door a crack and peered in. Fascinating, eh, Matt? There’s a career making piece in there.

The Conflucian policy advice to Hillary Clinton on economics

It’s a bit much for one dragon.

She didn’t ask for my opinion but she’s getting 200 advisors to tell her theirs. The problem she is facing is how to rebalance the country in terms of income inequality without, you know, pissing off the ultra wealthy. I’m not sure it can be done. A little bit of a snit is to be expected in all likelihood. Although, maybe she could have someone from Vox put together one of those cool and groovy graphics that demonstrate that no matter how hard the vanishing middle class works, we will never be able to afford our own yachts. That might bring a tear to the eyes of the 1%. The graphics should show how big a boat you can buy on a lifetime of $32000/year (if you’re lucky enough to get that these days) compared to what Steve Ballmer can buy.

Ok, so what would I recommend? Well, the rich are not going to like this but I’m not really interested in how the rich feel about these things. I’m only interested in bringing back prosperity, income security and innovation to the American middle class. It’s not all about them, except they are behaving like greedy dragons sitting on a giant pile of gold. If they’d just get off the stash we wouldn’t have any problems with the rich. I don’t envy their wealth and don’t want to be like them. I just want to be fairly compensated without feeling like I just got a handout that i didn’t deserve.

What I see as the biggest obstacle to income equality is what I call “exploitative profit mining”. That is the idea that Americans  can be harvested for various wealth through rents, fees and deregulation. I don’t want to feel like a crop anymore. The number one biggest policy initiative that I would propose is to eliminate the incentives to take advantage of everyday Americans simply because there is no one making sure it doesn’t happen. Than means reregulation. I can already hear the screams and howls from the flaming swamp monsters of the ridiculously rich. We can start at Wall Street. Let’s stop rewarding excessive financialization and risk taking. Maybe this would mean that Wall Street bonuses have to be capped at no more than 15% of income. That’s right, give those guys a straight salary. Maybe this would mean you can’t work an analyst to death at 100 hours a week. Go through every industry and increase the compensation to all stakeholders, not just the shareholders. Hire good managers and stop making CEOs co-owners who have an incentive to increase the values of their options at everyone else’s expense. That’s not socialism. That’s fairness.

Speaking of shareholders, I would like to see an alternative to the 401K. Americans should not be forced to gamble their retirement savings at a global casino. It’s immoral to require non-wealthy Americans to do this. Sorry, I’m not into it. I don’t like risk, especially when I’m going to have to live on that money. Plus, the 401K system undermines industries and innovations that create jobs. We have all seen investments gain in value when jobs are eliminated. The work still has to be done but it’s sent overseas or heaped onto the backs of people who are left after the lay off bloodbath. It’s inefficient and it destroys wealth of the middle class. Again, shareholders are not the only people who count. Bring back defined benefit pensions.

Medicare for all. There I said it. It’s ridiculous that anyone in this country has to be at risk of losing everything they’ve worked for all of their lives because cruelty is the flavor of the day on TV and radio. Let’s stop beating people when they’re down. If there are going to be sacrifices, everyone should have to make them, including the people getting rich on hip joint replacements and hospital beds. If you can’t get Medicare for all, at least impost cost controls and uniform fee schedules. Insurance companies shouldn’t have to negotiate different payments for each course of treatment based on how much profit providers think they can reap. Obamacare is not the wonderful panacea it’s been made out to be and it was never supposed to control costs. Let’s stop lying about it.

For god’s sakes, do something about long term unemployment. We’ve been hanging out here for too long. The jobs numbers are not telling the whole story. There are too many part time positions, too many temp positions and salaries are too low. Plus, ageism is rampant. Those of us who have decades to go before we can retire need to live on something. In the meantime, our lives are on hold. We can’t spend money because we don’t have it. That’s a drag on the economy and it depresses the wages of everyone else. People in the sciences especially need help. There’s a blighted generation that needs to be working. Set up some  private-public research labs, pay us a living wage and let’s get on with it already. We’re being wasted out here.

Those are some of my suggestions. I can think of a zillion more. We need to work on infrastructure, especially broadband. We need to gradually free ourselves from fossil fuel. The lefties will make climate change the reason but I’m just as interested in loosening the control of the super rich oil barons on the rest of our lives. Their price manipulations affect everything from mass transit initiatives to food prices. We should be allowed to choose whether we want to be owned by oil. I choose not to.

By the way, I don’t want profit sharing. I want a nice, steady income with a living wage. I’ve seen profit sharing schemes and they’re not serious. They are no substitute for stability. Our corporate overlords have a different value system than average Americans. Some of us do not want to be our own bosses, aren’t particularly turned on by playing capitalist games and just want the sweet relief of a regular paycheck. Recognize this. It’s important. Let’s stop measuring success in terms of how many yachts we can buy. Success can mean many things from discovering a new drug to being the best baker around. It’s not all about money.

I invite other Confucians to chime in here. What would your advice be to Hillary?

Finally, here is a video from one of my favorite straight talking Australians, Jane Caro. Caro has a background in advertising but she has been a popular speaker on education and feminism as well. In this video, Caro speaks about Dangerous Ideas. Her bit on quotas for women on boards and other institutions is brilliant. Not to be missed. So, I would add as a final suggestion to Hillary to institute a Gender Glasses program like they have in Finland. That is a government office that actually gathers cold, hard statistics from workplaces that demonstrate whether there is discrimination that prevents women from succeeding. No more “he said/she said”. If statistics are good enough in sports, they’re good enough to prove sexism in the workplace. Let’s measure everything. This country is way too deferential to men’s needs and ignores the economic impact on women’s lives.

Fast forward to about the 3 minute mark to Jane’s introduction.

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