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    • France Arrests Uber Executives
      To recap: French Taxi drivers went on strike, beat cars with metal baseball bats, and damn near shut down Paris’s airport. As a result, France arrested two French Uber executives. It has also been seizing the cars of Uber drivers. Unions work. Violence, done smart, works. (French truck drivers, when they want something, will en-masse [...]
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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.

Thursday: Things that shouldn’t need to be said but…

1.) Susie Madrak found this post by George Lakoff that I think everyone in the left blogosphere should read and commit to heart.  It’s about the Santorum Strategy and what is really going on with the Republican primary.

Liberals tend to underestimate the importance of public discourse and its effect on the brains of our citizens. All thought is physical. You think with your brain. You have no alternative. Brain circuitry strengthens with repeated activation. And language, far from being neutral, activates complex brain circuitry that is rooted in conservative and liberal moral systems. Conservative language, even when argued against, activates and strengthens conservative brain circuitry. This is extremely important for so-called “independents,” who actually have both conservative and liberal moral systems in their brains and can shift back and forth. The more they hear conservative language over the next eight months, the more their conservative brain circuitry will be strengthened.

This point is being missed by Democrats and by the media, and yet it is the most vital issue for our future in what is now being discussed. No matter who gets the Republican nomination for president, the Santorum Strategy will have succeeded unless Democrats dramatically change their communication strategy as soon as possible. Even if President Obama is re-elected, he will have very little power if the Republicans keep the House, and a great deal less if they take the Senate. And if they keep and take more state houses and local offices around the country, there will be less and less possibility of a liberal future.

I think I’ve said this before (I’ll see if I can find the links to my posts about it) but it bears repeating because the A list bloggers don’t seem to be getting it: the reason why the Republican primary is dragging on is because it works in the Republicans favor.  It changes the national dialog and keeps the issues that Republicans want to talk about out there in the media all the way to August.  Don’t be surprised if there is a brokered convention.  They *want* the whole nation sitting on the edge of its seat waiting to see who the Republicans crown.  That means they can talk about deficit reduction, entitlement reform and women’s reproductive rights for a long, long time. By the time they are done, the general public will believe that reducing the deficit at all costs is the most important thing in the world and that no one should pay for anyone’s health insurance, much less birth control.  If you made the stupid lifestyle decision to be born human and indulged in living, putting your body at risk, that’s YOUR problem. Romney and Santorum are in this together for this tag team event and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Republicans have already issued primary voters their votes in advance.  It only looks like chaos to the lefty bloggers sitting smugly at the top of Maslow’s pyramid.  But come August, the Democrats, who should have been championing Occupy Wall Street without trying to co-opt it (see more on this below) are going to be scrambling to control the message.  Never underestimate the Republicans’ desire to win.

PS: I need a job, George.  Call me.

2.) Lefty bloggers are wasting their time talking about Sarah Palin.  If Democrats need independent women’s votes, maybe they should stop assuming that Palin is the cause of their defection from the Democratic party.  She’s not.  There are just as many of us out here who are independent liberals who are Democrats in Exile, who do not give a flying fuck about what comes out of Sarah Palin’s mouth.  Frankly, we’re turned off by the Palin bashing, not because she’s a viable politician (she’s not) but because she’s a human being and we’re just tired of the left using Palin as the dumping ground for their current round of misogyny.

Can we move on from Palin already?  She disgraced herself last year during the  Gabby Giffords shooting episode and before that when she teamed up with her chum, Glenn Beck.  Palin had a choice after 2008.  She could have become a legitimate politician on the right, and still not to our tastes, or she could have become a hack.  She chose the latter.  Let’s move on.

Palin is not relevant in this election season.  OBAMA is relevant this election season.  Nothing Palin tells women who have flocked to her, and this woman is not one of them, is going to persuade them to vote for a Republican.  What might persuade them is the persistently lagging economy and anger at Obama for doing such a lousy job as president.  We could have had a V8 but we got watered down tomato juice instead.

The rest of us independent liberals are shopping around for a third party.  I would advise the Democrats to stop touting Lilly Ledbetter as the Paycheck Fairness Act.  Not only is this stupidly deceptive, women are not fooled.  It’s an insult to our intelligence.  Even we can figure out that there is still no fairness in our paychecks, if we are lucky enough to still have them.  And instead of being proactive about reproductive rights, the Democrats are not making a full throated defense of them against the Republican juggernaut.  We are going to remember who took down Rush.  It wasn’t president Obama.

By the way, if some of this diatribe about Palin sounds like something the Republican right wing nut cases are saying, it’s because even those vile mouths of Sauron have a point.  Stop being dicks, Democrats.  You’re playing right into their hands.

I’m still hopeful for a third party candidate.  The two major parties are busy talking amongst themselves and leaving the voters out of it.  They are leaving the American electorate on the table.  Some decent politician could see this as an opportunity of a lifetime and consider running as an Independent New Deal Democrat.  Think about it.

3.) When they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.  The reason why the Republicans are pulling out all of the stops over paying for women to have sex is because they are working for insurance companies.  Insurance companies do not want to have to pay for this.  They are going to pass the costs onto someone.  Are you kidding?! Did you think the CEO of United Healthcare is going to take a cut to his bonus just because some broad in Washington wants to have sex?  Please.

The argument that Democrats are making that this will actually save insurance companies money doesn’t ring true to me.  Right now, all of the women who aren’t covered by the birth control mandate are bearing the costs by themselves.  That is saving the insurance companies money.  The vast majority are already preventing unwanted pregnancy related expenses for the insurance companies.  But let’s say that the companies end up paying for some unexpected surprises.  The cost of a pregnancy is already factored into the negotiations the insurance company has made with doctors and hospitals.  There’s a flat fee for an uncomplicated delivery.  That could easily be eclipsed by 10 years of oral contraceptives.  And now, they are going to be covering millions of women that they previously didn’t have to cover.  Of course it’s a hit to their bottom line.

If the Democrats were smart, they would have adopted the message of Occupy Wall Street and associated the insurance companies with the 1%, which they are.  They are trying to make a profit at the expense of your health.  They are collecting much more in premiums than they will ever pay out to you.  It’s immoral.  They’re making money hand over fist and giving themselves huge bonuses at your expense.  It’s immoral.  They’re greedy bastards and they’re making you feel dirty for asking for something that should be your right as a premium paying individual.  It’s immoral.

But Democrats are not smart.

3.) Speaking of the morality of Occupy Wall Street, the way that Democrats participated in muting the occupy movement (temporarily) may come back to bite them in the ass.  As I have noted before, the Republicans have a moral worldview and the Democrats do not (will try to find link to my post on this.  Must make better tags.  Sigh.).  You may not like the Republicans’ worldview but there’s no question that any American you ask can explain what it is.

What the Democrats currently have is everything on the table on a slippery slope and no backstop.  Not a winning formula.  They could have let the Occupy movement build momentum and then coasted to a win on its slipstream.  They could have said, “Hey, those dirty fucking hippies have a point!  The 1% *are* greedy fucks who are destroying the American middle class.  Maybe we should redefine what it means to be successful.  Maybe we should make the system more fair and help everyone achieve their goals so that America is number one again in innovation and prosperity.  Maybe we need to treat hard working Americans with more respect and champion their free speech rights.  Maybe we should stand up with them and labor against the soul destroying corporate class. Maybe we should force bankers to be good American citizens.”

But the Democrats did none of these things.  In fact, the Democrats were ultimately behind the DHS riot police interventions and the FBI surveillance and the infiltrations.  Oh, no, you say?  Well, who the hell else is in charge of the executive branch these days?

So, you gotta ask yourself, why is it that the Democrats would be more willing to engage in a strategy to enforce learned helplessness in anyone who wants to change the conversation and redirect it away from the ubiquitous Republican austerity message machine?

Who are the Democrats working for?  Hint: it’s not for you.

4.) Greg Smith, formerly of Goldman Sachs, now joins the ranks of the unemployed, possibly forever, after he immolated himself on the Op/Ed page of the NYTimes.  I hope he has a stash to fall back on.

I believe Smith.  I think he was what he says he was and do not question his descriptions of business as usual in the hallways of Goldman Sachs.  Let’s not forget that Jon Corzine was once a top executive at Goldman Sachs and look what wonders he did for the muppet investors of M. F. Global.  Or the Democratic base for that matter.  He has a habit of taking what is not his and giving it away to the undeserving.

Anyway, lest any of us in the pharma research forget, it was Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan who coordinated the merger mania that lead to Pharmageddon and all of the jobs we have lost in the past several years.  They do not care that what they are doing to the research industry is destroying it and is going to result in a vastly reduced portfolio of new drug therapies in the future.  All that is important is extracting the last bits of wealth from these ailing industries for the big shareholders and gigantic bonuses for themselves.  The ruined lives and careers that are left in the wake of these restructurings and mergers do not matter to them at all.  We’re losers, muppets and carrion.

This is not going to stop as long as executives are rewarded for short term planning.  It’s really not their fault that they behave the way they do.  It’s what they get paid for.  When we stop rewarding them for it, they’ll stop destroying us and not a second before.  It is stupid and foolish to expect them to act like decent human beings when they don’t have to.

So, what are Democrats planning to do to make sure the incentives are directed towards long term investment and prudent risk and financial stability?  Fuck if I know.

5.) Last but not least, I was looking at the lineup for the Reason Rally and while I am impressed by the great speakers who are going to be big draws for the Humanist, Freethought, Skeptics and Atheist movement, I was a little disappointed to see that many of them are not American.  If the Reason Rally organizers are trying to get attention for their voting bloc, it would be a good idea to ask Dawkins to serve more as MC, rather than headliner and let the American superstars take center stage (Dan Barker, Greta Cristina, Adam Savage etc.).  Otherwise, this rally is going to backfire.  You can already see the spin the Republicans are conjuring up.  Don’t fall into their trap.  I know that the rally attendees are going to be good, hard working, patriotic Americans who want reason to prevail over superstition.  That is what you need to work with.  The last thing you want is an international lineup of eggheads, much as I like Dawkins.  You need to have speakers who can connect with their audience, who come from a genuine place in the American experience and who lead Americans to a better way.  Sort of like this guy, Jerry Dewitt, former Pentacostal-Dominionist pastor and current executive director of Recovering from Religion, who in the span of 12 minutes manages to honor Tim Tebow, Christopher Hitchens, Thanksgiving and Christmas in a genuine, uplifting, positive  and non-theistic way:

Can I get an “Amen!”?

Recovering from Religion is an organization that is helping clergy and other believers make a transition away from more oppressive religious sects.  Dewitt says he gets a lot of inquiries from conservative Christians, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses because these communities tend to isolate their members so when a believer tries to get out, they lose much more than their religions.  They lose their families, community, sometimes their jobs, and they lose their identities.  Dewitt calls it “identity suicide”.  It’s a hard transition to make but people of good conscience who can no longer bear living a lie need a place to go where they will find acceptance and help.  Imagine Jinger Duggar trying to escape her captors and looking for a safe mental haven.  That’s what Dewitt is trying to provide.  So, if you are looking for a place to make a charitable contribution this year, consider donating to Recovering from Religion.  For every person who comes out of the spell, there is one more American who can help set the country back on the right track.  I think this is a mission that is worthy of our support and may even cough up a few bucks myself from income tax return.

By the way, I am astonished by the number of freethought meetings and organizations there are in the reddest states of the union.  I’m talking about Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Nebraska.  These people are very active and they are posting their meetings and media podcasts all over youtube.  Here in NJ?  Ehhhhh, not so much.  I guess that’s because New Jerseyans already feel comfortable as godless heathens and don’t feel the need to organize. I think they’re wrong.  The suburbs of central Jersey are sometimes indistinguishable from the bible belt.

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