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    • Free Trade Is Elites Betraying Their Own Populations
      The odd thing about free trade is that it is both meaningless and vastly important. Comparative advantage, which is supposed to be a straight win for both trading partners, is a rounding error even when it works–if you don’t have full employment; it’s essentially meaningless. However, the ways in which free trade (and the free […]
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Wolf Hall, Arkansas and New Zealand #WeAreApostates

Mark Gattis as political priest Stephen Gardiner in Henry VIII’s court.

There’s a tryptych that doesn’t seem to go together, eh?

On this side of the Atlantic, there wasn’t that much of a big deal about Wolf Hall, the BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s two novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. If you haven’t had a chance to see the series, check out PBS before it’s too late and you won’t be able to find the episodes on it’s unnecessarily complicated website.

One complaint I have about the television version is that it was too short. It could have easily been three times longer. It left out several characters that I liked, like Thomas Wyatt, and skimmed over the enigma of Jane Seymour.  And then there was the impact of the Renaissance and international banking on the medieval, feudal world. It’s the three estates all over again. What was lost was the reality of who ran the government, what little there was, back then. Primarily, it was the nobility who were appointed to their offices through birth. “Oh, yes”, you say, “I learned that back in 8th grade. There’s nothing new about that.” I thought that too until I really understood what that meant. It meant that all you needed to become the treasurer or whatever was to be born into the right family. You didn’t need any other qualification. You could be perfectly shitty at your job. Didn’t matter. Your inherited wealth and status gave you automatic access to the Privy Council. A self-made, educated man who rose on his merits, had no real right to be there.

Same with the clergy. They ran a good chunk of England. During the Peasant’s Revolt of the late 14th century, the abbeys and monasteries did not side with the peasants. No, no, no. They were as much a part of the feudal aristocracy as the nobility and had even less of an incentive to cooperate with any national government. Their liege lord was in Rome. In order to bring England into the 16th century, Cromwell had to strip them of their power locally. You can bet they had their daggers poised for him after that.

Mantel has been praised for her research on Cromwell and what he tried to accomplish. He thought wars were a waste of money and thought that infrastructure projects would be a better way of keeping the population calm and under control. He was opposed in this by the nobility and the clergy who thought that poverty was God’s divine will. Why mess with it by taxing the rich? Somewhere recently in a podcast I’d heard that the stronger the social safety net in a country, the less religious it is. That’s because the common person doesn’t have to continually turn to God and charity to have his or basic needs met.

Well, the religious will have none of that. No wonder they joined up with conservative and politically connected rich people in the 30s to undermine the New Deal. You can read all about it in nauseating detail in the book One Nation Under God: How Corporate America invented Christian America.

So, you know, nothing new under the sun. And we’re still fighting the same wars between the aristocracy, the clergy and the commoner.


I’ve never been a Duggar fan, as many of you well know. Still, I find it really sad that this family has been brought down by their actions 12 years ago when their eldest son Josh was found to have been forcibly fondling his sisters while they were sleeping. First it’s sad because if he were just a regular kid instead of a TV celebrity, he might have been forced to register as a sex offender. This is what the Duggar fan base would have demanded of any other person. Secondly, but no less importantly, it’s sad for his sisters who were brought up to consider their bodies as a no touch zone for any other reason than procreation. I can only imagine what they were thinking. Were they now impure? Would any man want them after that? Instead of getting family counseling, they probably were cautioned to not tempt their older brother.

And let’s just be honest here, although he was 14-16 when this all happened, it’s probably not all that uncommon. It’s serious because it went on for a long period of time and the parents did almost nothing when they became aware of it. But I still don’t think that makes Josh the kind of pedophile that some Christians would like to make him out to be. I think it made him a troubled young person in the middle of adolescence with a ton of younger siblings and parents who admit that they parentify their older kids. That’s negligence on their part. What’s awful is that the Duggar parents have isolated these young people in an artificially created world where they imagine the only hormones their daughters will come in contact with will be from the outside world through the discerning curating eye of their father. It’s insane. Something like this was bound to happen.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a lot more going on between the siblings than we think, even without Josh present. It could happen. They’re not allowed to date, they’re not in proximity with future mates for long enough to make their own choices. Should we be surprised that some of them turn to each other? They’re human beings, not model Christian soldiers. And with 19 kids in the family, some of them are going to be gay. Whether the parents approve or not, whether that poor kid(s) has to stay in the closet for a very long time, gay is going to be there. That kid or kids knows that the minute they are exposed, they’re going to be permanently ostracized or retrained. That’s sad.

But what really annoys me is that all of the focus is on making Josh Duggar to be some kind of pedophilic monster at the age of 14 when he really needed a good psychologist, and almost no attention on the radical, reactionary, mean spirited messages that his work with the Family Research Council promoted. Specifically, he and his family has gone on a tear hooking up with right wing politicians to portray LGBT individuals as disgusting, sex-crazed pedophiles who do not deserve equal protection under the law.

So, let this be a teachable moment for Josh. A lot of the godly types will find it in their hearts to forgive him for his adolescent indiscretions. But there will be quite a few who will now insist that he’s a sick, twisted sex addict who shouldn’t be allowed to be around children, whether or not his hormones have achieved their proper balance and outlet or not. Ah, yes, the backlash has started already. So much for Christian redemption. Once a 14 year old violator, always a 14 year old violator. Let’s see how he likes being treated like a paraiah by the fear conditioned Fox News junkies who used to worship his family.

They thought the Duggars had self-control. Apparently not. That smells like betrayal. Will it make them sit and think about why it is so important that right wing religious leaders feel it’s important to make the poor, women and the LGBT community out to be lazy, subservient and disgusting and how that might be tied to a 80 year initiative by the wealthy and religious to take back their feudal rights and getting rid of programs they hate like Social Security?

Probably not. That requires changing the channel.


I recommend to you another podcast from John Dehlin’s amazing podcast, Mormon Stories. (I wish I could donate, John, but no permanent full time job yet. Sorry.)

I can’t stress how good Dehlin is in terms of interviewing people. But it’s more than that. Mormon Stories is about the evolution of religion through the experiences of one man as he journeys out of the faith of his ancestors to, well, we don’t know what yet but it’s very exciting.

His latest podcast is with Gina Colvin, a half Maori Mormon from New Zealand. The first part of the podcast is about Gina’s background. It’s very colorful and entertaining. But the second part is the one that got my attention. In it, Gina describes her interaction with “Utah” Mormons, which are very different from Kiwi Mormons. She expresses her surprise and anger with the way that American Mormons are using their power to export an extremely conservative religious and political brand on the rest of the world. In one instance, she recounts how the Utah Mormon church has been trying to rouse its Christchurch Mormons to oppose gay equality in New Zealand. That, Gina says, was a lost cause. Gay equality and marriage in New Zealand was already part of the constitution. There was no going back, no way for the local Mormon church to oppose it and, more importantly, nobody cares.

She also says that a Utah Mormon official told her that Mormons are politically conservative. They are not allowed to be lefties. You just need to hear it to get a sense of how determined the unholy alliance of religion and right wing politics is to spreading its messages of fear, exclusion and cruelty around the world.

True story.

I liked this podcast because it was so cheerful and optimistic at the end, in spite of the crazy excommunications.

Worth a listen. Check it out here.

I get the feeling that the tide is turning against the religious right. It might be finally happening that it’s iron grip on the world is starting to slip. The world is evolving without them and getting impatient.

I especially like this brief post about Puritanism over at Lance Mannion’s blog:

Is this what we want, a grim, self-accusing, self-scolding, self-denying, self-abnegating, perversely and masochistically stoic, fearfully church-going citizenry, jealous, suspicious, defensively accepting of their lot in the certain, complacent, and stubborn knowledge that things could be worse without considering that they could also be better and asking why they’re not and how they could be made that way?

I’ve asked myself the same question for four decades. The answer is no, but how we reduce the influence of the Puritans without reprogramming is going to be very hard as long as we as a country reward the religious, no matter how fundamentalist they are.

The Politics of Personality Disorder

I’ve had a few commenters who think the posts on narcissism and the Dark Triad are interesting but they really wish I wouldn’t bring politics into it.

I’m confused about this.  This is a blog where Democrats in Exile and others can talk about politics and not be shouted down for not adopting the dominant narrative.  So, there’s that.

But more than that, humans are herd animals.  Being in the group is highly desirable.  Being out of the group makes us anxious.  So, if the dominant narrative is shaped by a small evil group of people, to whom no one we know belongs,  who use political rhetoric and religion as dissemination tools, we should be aware of it.  Shouldn’t we?  Isn’t it better to know what techniques may be used to manipulate us to act in a herd like fashion?  And if the people who are manipulating us have severe unchecked personality disorders, which looks more and more likely, isn’t it better to see them than to have them hide behind the masks of authority and holiness?

Now, I’m not saying that I have proof of any of it.  I’m just looking at behaviors that have been growing steadily for about 40 years and the results of those behaviors on all of us and trying to find cause and effect.  In the end, I don’t really care why people behave the way they do as long as they don’t behave badly.  In other words, it’s not interesting to me that a narcissist might have experienced childhood trauma or that a psychopath may have a genetic predisposition.  Not remotely interesting.  Psychologists might be interested in the sources of these personality disorders so that they can nip them in the bud in kids in the future but once those kids become adults, their behaviors are pretty much fixed.

Personality disorders are very difficult to treat. The first step in dealing with a person with a personality disorder is accepting the fact that you can’t change them.  You are not going to be able to teach them to be more empathetic, less selfish, less manipulative etc.  It’s not going to happen because they have no reason to change. Curing these people is almost impossible because they don’t think they have a problem. YOU have a problem.  So, getting inside their heads is not my goal.  My goal is finding a way to react to them in a way that neutralizes their power over us.

What I am concerned with is that we don’t always know when we are being manipulated and exploited, and we often fail to detect patterns of behavior that will lead to us acting against our best interests.  When we start to understand the patterns, we have an opportunity to take action to make it stop.  In other words, if we find that the finance industry is hiring a disproportionate number of psychopaths to play with our money, we can presumably take away the incentive to hire psychopaths or take away our money.  If we find that a bunch of Machiavellians are saturating the airwaves with manipulative language, we might be able to point out the way the manipulation works so that people turn off their radios and cable TV.

If we find that a couple of attention seeking, control freak authoritarians are getting narcissistic supply out of exploiting their kids on a reality show by adopting a super conservative religious lifestyle and parading themselves as holier than thou and then campaigning for a super conservative politician, we should be aware of what they are doing and promoting and what they are trying to accomplish.

Let’s just call it as we see it, shall we?  Let’s not play “these are not the droids you’re looking for” because we don’t want to look at the dark underworld of human interactions only to find our favorite politicians and religious superstars lurking there.

Politics and religion are two very powerful influences on human herds.  We need to make very sure that the people acting as shepherds aren’t coyotes in disguise.

My advice, whether you want it or not- 1

I’m dispensing advice to the blogosphere.  You’re welcome.

1.)To Digby, Corey Robin, et al, regarding whether the recent set backs in the rights of women in America have something to do with protecting the influence of the traditional hierarchy in the home, you’re not quite seeing the whole picture.  The backlash against women started about the time that more women were moving into the workforce, competing with men who used to get all the good jobs, frequently with little more than a high school diploma.  This was also about the same time that african americans were moving into the middle class.  It also roughly corresponded with a lag in wages compared to productivity.  We should do more research to find out if there is a correlation and what it is.

I think the push to put women “back in their place” has less to do with protecting the home than to protecting the traditional privileges of the workplace.  How can we decide which is the case?  We can look to countries with better and worse gender equity scores than the United States and do some comparisons of what cultural and legislative changes they have made in the past 100 or so years.  My gut feeling is that we are experiencing a backlash because we have rewarded the persons who promote it via their outsize representation in the media and through their culturally protected religious affiliations.  It is OK these days to say racist things and insult women by referring to them as sluts.  No harm done, says Limbaugh and the Fox News team.  There’s no law against being an ignorant bigot.

In other words, the language is being used in the service of the previously privileged.  It was and always will be the economy, stupid.  When money gets tight, women should get the f^&* out of the way and go home.  Making it hard for her to get out of the house when she’s tied to babies and lacks good childcare serves the guys very well indeed.  They’re just all hoping it’s the next guy who has to put up with the domestic situation, not them.  It’s purely opportunistic.

2.) Countries that have had a history of secret police and neighbors spying on neighbors in a manner that lead to mass murders and ruined careers tend to have a negative reaction to their allies spying on them for unknown purposes.  It’s just freaks them out in a way that Americans cannot fathom (yet).  Think twice (or thrice) about doing it.

From the NYTimes article on the expulsion of US spies from Germany, we get this nugget and advice from Angela Merkel:

As is usual with intelligence matters, the United States Embassy had no comment on the expulsion request. But in a statement, the embassy also said it was essential to maintain close cooperation with the German government “in all areas.”

“Our security relationship with Germany remains very important,” the embassy statement said. “It keeps Germans and Americans safe.”

Ms. Merkel, speaking two hours before the expulsion request was announced, said in response to reporters’ questions that spying on allies was “a waste of energy.”

“We have so many problems,” she said. “We should focus on important matters.”

Waste of energy indeed, not to mention money.  Money that could be used on mass transit and infrastructure improvements that the Republicans seem to think are unnecessary.  I guess it’s OK if New Jersey looks like Mississippi.  Mississippi might be what America looks like to Republicans and NJ is just being uppity.  How would they know the difference?  Come to think of it, I’m tempted to start a “…You might be a Republican” thing.  Like, If your friends would describe you as a greedy old prick, you might be a Republican.  Or If they would describe you as a grumpy old prude, you might be a Republican.

Wait, I’m getting off topic.

Yeah, don’t spy on your friends.  It’s unnecessary.

3.) With tensions and rockets flaring in Israel, be prepared for your local fundamentalist Christians to be almost ready to pee themselves with delight at the impending rapture.

4.) To the Republicans who are itchin’ to impeach the president– DO IT!  Yes, by all means, find something to nail on him.  Tie him up with congressional hearings.  But please, do it Blitzkrieg style, ok?  Don’t waste any time drawing the whole procedure out.  Wrap it up quickly.  Better yet, take Biden down first.  Then we can appoint Hillary to VP while you guys go for the jugular.  Then when Obama is forced out, Hillary can step up to the presidency.  It will save us a lot of money in 2016.  And it’s what everyone wants anyway.  You’d be doing us all a big favor.  Oh sure, we’ll have to put up with your nonsensical grandstanding and foaming at the mouth over a guy who is mostly ineffectual rather than criminal but when has reason ever curbed you and your destructive waste of legislative privilege?  Just do it and make it quick.

5.) When you’re planning your next kitchen renovation, do yourself a favor and pick the refrigerator first.  Make sure that the one you want will fit through your doorways and won’t bang into the expensive teak cabinets you just had to have above the refrigerator.  Because once those cabinets are up and you’ve spent thousands of dollars getting the look you want, you are going to have a hard time taking them down to accommodate the behemoth refrigerators that appliance makers are manufacturing these days.  If you have a small kitchen made smaller by those annoying cabinets that are only good for seasonal ice buckets and Rubbermaid containers, you should know that appliance makers don’t really make a lot of nice refrigerators in the small to medium category.  Yes, they are still living in 2008.  Adapt accordingly.



This is why more and more people are turning away from religion:

Any god that leaves little children to die because their government said their teachers couldn’t lead them in what would be overwhelmingly Christian prayers is an evil god. Or non-existent.

Yeah, I said it.  That god bystander who shrugs his shoulders at the bloody death of innocents when he could intervene and stop it?  That’s evil.

As one of the commenters to this video said:

so god is a petty, sulking baby because we dont kiss his butt?

stay classy god

God 2.0 needs a major rewrite and a better PR apparatus. (Hint: don’t hire this guy)

Update on the NPR “expert” and patterns:

This morning on Weekend Edition, it sounded like a different expert was on to tell us that, sure, we can find “patterns” but those patterns are not “profiles” and are therefore useless. It is only with “profiles” that we are able to predict the future and we can’t predict the future so that’s that.

Bullshit. Any dark skinned man passing through an airport or thrown off a plane by a bunch of hysterical passengers will tell you this isn’t true. Oddly enough, none of the recent shooters, with the exception of the psychiatrist at Fort Hood, were dark skinned or middle eastern looking dudes.

Any “profile” you develop is only as good as the data you have. You can’t predict with absolute certainty which compounds in a library of millions is going to be THE next PERFECT drug. All you can do is identify the potential drugs that you can work on. During the discovery phase, we add to our knowledge of the drug-target interaction and we get better at predicting future drugs but we’re never going to be able to just look at the structures of all of the compounds and pick out the blockbuster on the first, second or third go around.

What we can do is eliminate the non-starters and focus in on the potential winners. That investigation is still worth a lot of money because the potential winners still exhibit significant activity even if they are not perfect. We’re never going to get to the stage where we can identify them just by looking at them without any additional testing and that’s the case with people too.

So, it is still worth screening and testing even if you end up with a lot of first round hits that you have to narrow down later. I think most Americans would agree that we don’t want to take away the guns from every person who fits a pattern. What we want to do is take away the guns of people who can’t be eliminated. We don’t have to predict the future. We just need to find the pool of most likely shooters and take away their guns, if only temporarily.

The alternative is to treat all 300 million of us as false positives and force all of us to undergo ritual bodyscanning and metal detecting before we can pick up our kids from school for their dental appointments. While I’m sure the security industry is going to LOVE that idea, it’s another burden of time and frustration for busy parents and others who do not fit any pattern at all except that they’re human. Are “experts” suggesting that we are all potential shooters because they refuse to come up with a set of criteria that eliminates the vast majority of us? Is the second amendment so precious that a whole country has to be constantly inconvenienced to take off our shoes and be exposed to radiation on a regular basis? There isn’t any set of patterns that we could use to prevent that?

Right now, insurance companies can charge you a fortune based on your record and your peer group. Marketing companies can profile you and target ads to you based on your purchases, demographics and other behavior. But for some reason, the “experts” say that it will not be possible for the ATF to reduce the number of mass shooters from killing people because “we can’t predict the future”. There’s something very wrong with that picture aside from it being completely unbelievable. Normally, I’d be a freak about privacy but owning a lethal firearm puts things in a different light. Should you be able to own a gun for hunting purposes or to defend yourself against intruders or a potentially tyrannical government? Yep. Should you be able to own a gun if you’ve got the makings of a mass shooter? Probably not, at least not until you’ve been thoroughly checked out.

Today, we learn that the mother of the shooter was the registered owner of the guns. Leaving aside the fact that looking through patterns probably wouldn’t have prevented this tragedy, I have to wonder why she felt she needed these guns and how they came to be at her house. That’s a lot of firepower for a Kindergarten teacher. It was probably not to protect herself from 20 five year olds.

On the other hand, when your auto insurance representative asks you whether there are any permitted drivers or kids of a certain age living with you, they are recognizing the fact that cars can be dangerous in the hands of inexperienced or recklessly young drivers and presumably, their statistics back that up. So, gun buyers should be asked similar questions. Do you have any young males living at home with a history of behavioral or mental problems? Has your family undergone any significant changes lately? Divorce, loss of job, bankruptcy, relocation? This is not an insurmountable problem.

The Mourning After Pill

Brought to you by Mr. Deity and Lucy

Mr. Deity has a regular youtube series satirizing religion and features guest skeptics, like Michael Shermer.  But he’s gotten some flak over this video and accusations that he’s shilling for the Democrats, which shows that some people don’t really *get* Mr. Deity.  Mr. Deity is about how ridiculous religious judgmentalism is and pokes holes in the reasoning behind it.  While Mr. Deity and Lucy (for Lucifer) step out of character for this video, the video is not inconsistent with their criticism of religion in general.

Still, it must be annoying to have to answer comments like these:

  • When did Mr. Deity just become a spokeshole for the Democratic Party? I suppose there’s some snarky response chambered and “We’ll return to our regularly scheduled broadcast after the election” but I am disappoint. Lord knows I don’t want a social conservative in any office, let alone one that’s been insulated to the extent that he believes in mythical biological mechanisms, however it’s genuinely douchey to be a shill for the Dems and trying to tie in Paul Ryan.

    promontorium 1 day ago

  • First of all, I find it enlightening that in your mind standing up for rape victims makes me a schill for the Democrats. That’s apparently not something a Republican would do(?). Second, Ryan is connected because he and Akin co-sponsored a bill redefining rape as “forceable rape.” You don’t need an adjective before the word rape — as Ryan now understands… “rape is rape.” It saddens me when good people like you see this stuff only through the lens of politics, rather than right and wrong.

    misterdeity in reply to promontorium 18 hours ago

And that affects me HOW exactly?

The New York Times is all aghast that the Republicans are about to roll out a ginormous, humongous Super PAC ad campaign against Obama using all kinds of nasty wasty buzz words and meanspiritedness.


Are we talking about the same Obama who bumped a whole generation of adult women down to “sweetie” status, brushed Hillary’s dirt off his shoulders and connived with conman extraordinaire John Edwards to monkeywrench the Democratic primary process in Michigan?  Surely, SURELY, he has nothing to fear from some well funded ad campaigns because his record of “accomplishments” will speak for itself.  And anyway, a guy this callous, ruthless and insensitive to the way his behavior will set a precedent for the actions of others won’t stay up at night worrying about whether people are calling him names.

At least a front group calling itself Citizens United Not Timid (oh, how droll their abbreviation is.  Jocularity! Jocularity!) didn’t produce a documentary about him.  Well, not yet anyway.  Still, nothing to worry about as long as unemployment is back to pre-2008 levels and GDP rises to a crisp 3% per anum, right?

Anyway, the only people who are going to believe that crap in the ads are the religious nutcases- er, that Obama seems to be dumping his base for…

Whatever.  Not my problem.


BTW all you Democratic blogger activists carrying Obama’s water, did you know that Robert Kennedy once broke a beer bottle over the head of one of his Harvard classmates who had the audacity to celebrate his birthday in the same bar that Bobby chose for his own birthday celebration?  Yep, true story.  Turns out the guy was an arrogant prick when he was young.  Most people grow out of it.

Not that we like Mitt but to those of us out of jobs with dwindling savings and 401Ks that are about to be swallowed by some bad bets on a European debt crisis, what Mitt did as a kid is just not very important to us.  It’s what the people in charge did as adults that makes the difference.  If we were going to judge character by youthful and college age behavior, you guys would be kissing the ground the Clintons’ walked.  They were the very models of responsibility and maturity.

A little consistency please.


Hey, Bernie, why don’t you run?


My dream vacation:  Lake Powell, Arizona.


“These men…are devils and the wrath of God is upon them…”

Father Gerald Fitzgerald

Father Gerald Fitzgerald

Those words were written in 1957 in a letter from Father Gerald Fitzgerald to the Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Edwin V. Byrne. The National Catholic Reporter uncovered documents containing letters that Fitzgerald wrote to Bishops, Archbishops, and even the Pope, warning that priests who sexually abused children could not be rehabilitated.

Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, founder of the Servants of the Paracletes, an order established in 1947 to deal with problem priests, wrote regularly to bishops in the United States and to Vatican officials, including the pope, of his opinion that many sexual abusers in the priesthood should be laicized immediately.

Fitzgerald was a prolific correspondent who wrote regularly of his frustration with and disdain for priests “who have seduced or attempted to seduce little boys or girls.” His views are contained in letters and other correspondence that had previously been under court seal and were made available to NCR by a California law firm in February.

The NCR has made the letters available here (warning, PDF file). Continue reading


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