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Prophet 451's Journal - Archives
Posted by Prophet 451 in General Discussion
Sun Nov 13th 2011, 08:42 PM
...or The Rich Versus The Rest.

Politics is, at some level, about tribalism. To what degree varies from one individual to the next but, at some level, party politics is about cheering on our side and condemning theirs. Henri Tajfel proved that the very act of dividing people into groups, or them dividing themselves, creates prejudice against the outgroup and for the ingroup and that happens even when the differences are minimal, trivial or outright random. This is called Social Identity Theory and we can train ourselves to look past it but we cannot prevent it happening in the first place. So, at some level, party politics is about tribalism, us versus them.

Republicans know this. Their entire political machine is set up to exploit it. It's easier to exploit SIT with conservative politics because, while Democratic politics often tries to encourage us to look past that us against them instinct, Republican politics doesn't bother. Republican politics is entirely about "us" (the good, small-town, heartland, conservative America) against "them" (the pointy-headed elites on the coasts who think too much). Divide and conquer. Not the newest tactic but a time-tested and reliable one. What makes them Republican machine different is that they play this game of us against them for the benefit of another them: The "malefactors of great wealth", the monied elite, the Powers that Be by whatever name you choose to call them.

The PtB have a dream, you see. They've had the same dream for a long time, to create a society where the people are so desperate that they'll work for pennies, where workers can be hired and fired at will for any reason they see fit and where their employers owe nothing to the employed. It's not a complicated dream. It's the same "me first, last and only" dream that the PtB have always had. That's why so many of them love the works of Ayn Rand, because she was engaged in mankind's oldest philosophical pursuit, finding a moral cover for naked greed. And that's why the Republicans have spent so long attacking the safeguards society has in place. Because as far as they are concerned, anything that stops you falling into poverty is something that both costs them tax money and prevents you being forced to work yourself to death for them. "I owe my soul to the company store". Since the fall of feudalism, politics can be mostly summed up as the rich versus the rest and, for the least thirty-odd years, the rich have been winning. For that time period, productivity has shot up while wages have stayed flat and the tax burden has been shifted from the rich to, well, you. Yes, I've heard the excuse that "the rich pay most of the taxes" but here's the thing, that would be true even under a flat tax. They have more money coming in so even a flat tax system will take more from the rich than from the rest. I have also heard that excuse that "47% pay no taxes" and I have to laugh at that, purely because the kind of mind that could hear something that absurd and not fact-check it will believe anything. And then I think a little further and realise that what is being promoted there is yet another call to tax the poor and I stop laughing.

America doesn't treat it's poor very well. Nor does my own UK and I could do a whole essay about that but it's besides the point here. America tends to still be stuck on the Victorian notion that the poor are poor not through bad luck or simply because capitalism is designed to have winners and losers but through some moral fault of theirs. You can see this notion underlying all the myths about the poor; that the poor are lazy, fat, drug-addled (all statistically untrue); that they don't deserve medical care. It's the same notion that underlies the arbitrary time limits on welfare too. Again, don't think I'm saying that the UK is immune to this stuff (we're just as bad but it takes a slightly different form here because we have a slightly different culture), I'm just talking about the US on this occasion. The US tends to be rather anti-poor. I suspect that's because, in the fifty-odd years of the Cold War, capitalism became a sort of national religion in the USA. You can see that in the use of "SOCIALISM!" as an otherising epithet. The very idea of anything contrary to capitalism (and specifically, to unrestrained capitalism) is taken as some sort of heresy, the word "SOCIALIST!" proclaimed in much the same way as "WITCH!" was a few centuries ago. And, naturally, the label of socialism has been expanded now to cover all left-wing economic thought. The same people who would whinge like banshees if you labelled them fascist (the furthest right position), think nothing of labelling anyone of the left a socialist. Except they'll now insist that fascism was on the left and much the same as socialism. And if you can't see how that works to the PtB's benefit, you're not paying attention.

Incidently, don't think I'm propounding some grand conspiracy here. I'm not saying that the PtB work in concert. I'm using the term as a kind of shorthand for those who are both rich and politically-active. It's not a conspiracy so much as it's the case that those who are both rich and politically-active tend to see the world in a similar way (although there are exceptions, Warren Buffet being one example) and tend to work toward similar goals. Nor am I a socialist except in the manner mentioned above where everyone on the left is a socialist. Personally, I'm for a system where most things are left to private industry but a few key sectors that society relies upon (utilities, mail, healthcare and maybe telecoms) are either socialised or have a state-run competitor to provide a bottom-floor of service for price. In the US, you might call that Democratic Socialism. In my old PoliSci class, it was called a "mixed" economy. So, that's where I stand.

The last few years haven't been easy on anyone. They've been frustrating for those who think as I do. We've seen banks fall and while the solution was obvious (nationalise the damn things!), it was never mentioned by those in power. We've seen unemployment skyrocket and a too-small stimulus that helped some but not enough. And we've seen the GOP all but abandon any claim to not being the political arm of the PtB. Obama has been something of a disappointment. While always better than the Paleolithic/Pathetic ticket he ran against and always better than whichever maniac will end up representing the GOP this time (which will probably be Romney), he hasn't been the kind of transformative president everyone was hoping for. In fairness, he's also had to contend with unprecedented vitriol and obstructionism from the GOP. Obama is clearly going to be re-elected, barring massive fraud from the GOP and that too was predictable. One thing I never saw coming was the "Occupy" movement. Even now, I'm not sure if it will stick around or, really, what it wants. I understand that they're protesting economic injustice but not what they propose to rectify that, if they propose anything. Maybe, at 35, I'm too old to understand it.

Still, things are always worse on Main Street. Unemployment is high. Shops aren't selling much because no-one has money to buy anything. The GOP's control of the airwaves has turned piddle-down economics and "free markets uber alles" into common wisdom. They've waged all-out war against Keynesianism, re-written history to claim that it doesn't work. And yet, it does work. Not always and not perfectly but it does generally work. Obama's stimulus was only room-temp Keynesianism. Too large a portion of tax cuts for it to really qualify. His Jobs Bill was a good step in the right direction but that should have been proposed back when it was likely to pass but then, Obama wouldn't have been able to campaign for his second term on it (I like Obama but he is still a politician). And the GOP still push their master's agenda: Lower wages, no unions, no benefits, no entitlements. On Main Street, jobs are the most pressing issue. Without jobs, people can't buy and without people buying, businesses can't sell. Jobs are the main issue. But you'd never know it listening to Republicans. According to Republicans, the main issues are abortion, sharia and something called a "war on wealth". That last one is possibly the most disingenuous phrase concocted since "the death tax". Very few people actually resent people being rich. What we resent is them becoming rich at our expense.

In a way, I pity Americans. Not just because you have another year of campigning to sit through (campaigns here last four-to-six weeks) but also because your public debate about economics is so limited. You are not allowed to suggest alternatives to capitalism or even major modifications to it or you're marked down as a "socialist", a kook, a heretic. And it's going to take a very long time to alter that, if you can alter it at all (which will require overturning that bloody Citizens United decision). I wish it was going to be easier but I doubt it will be. But two things Americans have in abundance are energy and ingenuity and really, that's all you need.
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Posted by Prophet 451 in General Discussion
Mon Oct 31st 2011, 09:06 AM
I have an economic theory which I call the "backstop theory". The idea is that, while free-market capitalism works for many market sectors, it does not and cannot work for certain sectors because those sectors have a captive market. Those sectors (healthcare, utilities, mail, banking and one could make an argument for telecoms) have a captive market because we all need those services, or the option of them, all the time so, while you can jump from one provider to another, you cannot remove yourself from the market altogether. So my idea is that, in those sectors, the state should own and offer a not-for-profit "backstop", a bottom floor of service for cost which private companies have to compete with.

So, for example, the state would provide a basic retail banking service that you can have your paycheque deposited and pay your bills through. In order to compete with that, private companies have to offer either a better service or a better price or both. It's not the scary socialism because those state-run services are still competing with private companies but it means there is a backstop to prevent standards falling below a certain level.

I'm British. Here, the NHS provides a backstop in healthcare. The NHS tends toward generic drugs and spartan hospitals to keep costs down. There's also a waiting list for certain, elective, operations (that's a bug, not a feature). We still have private insurance companies here and people still take out private insurance for various reasons. Some want the option of skipping the waiting list, some want luxurious hospitals, some just want the status symbol. But because the NHS provides that bare bones service, private companies have to be better in some way to compete. The idea is to marry the low-cost, high-access of state ownership with the best features of private industry.
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Posted by Prophet 451 in General Discussion
Fri Aug 19th 2011, 09:14 PM
A new study featured in the New York Times ( http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/17/opinion/... ) tells us exactly what we already knew about the Teabaggers: They are, and always have been, the conservative base. The Teabagger "phonomenon" was only ever a Koch-funded rebranding of the same coalition of groups that make up the GOP's base: Racists, borderline fascists, outright fascists, anti-government kooks, backyard anarchists/Libertarians (I'm aware that the two have differing meanings but the Teabagger's variety of Libertarianism is essentially just anarchism), Randroids, single issue anti-gay and anti-abortionists and theocrats, united by living in a completely manufactured reality supplied by Faux News and the talk radio barkers.

The Teabaggers will take offence at both the study and my description of them. They'll dismiss the study the same way Bill O'Lielly dismisses studies he dislikes: By repeating the main points in a sarcastic tone (which stupid people think is a rebuttal) and describing the conductors as far-left radicals or extremists. It's so predictable as to be laughable, a worldview immune to self-knowledge or self-examination, "pay no attention to the nasty man" for grown-ups.

But this is the reality the Teabaggers live in, one where the way things are morphs into The Way Things Ought To Be and the teachings of Jesus are filtered through Ayn Rand (who preached that selfishness was a virtue). This is a world where the left were just as bad to Bush as the right are being to Obama; where fascism and socialism are pretty much the same thing and Glenn Beck is a prophet. Where Reagan shrank government and balanced the budget while Clinton did the opposite, where Bush was a liberal (yeah, I only just heard that too), Social Security adds to the debt and Obama is a far-left socialist.

Now, none of the above is actually true. In most cases, they're the exact opposite of truth. The fact, for those of us living in a reality where facts matter, are that the left were nowhere near as bad to Bush, that fascism is corporate control of a nation and directly opposite to socialism; Reagan both grew government, never submitted a balanced budget and exploded the debt while Clinton shrank the debt and submitted several balanced budgets; Bush was ultraright and Obama is a fairly wimpy moderate.

But the Teabaggers, who are now the majority of Republicans, have a seperate world manufactured just for them. It's a world which not only tells them the above non-facts but provides a source they can quote. They have think-tanks like the Heritage Foundation that pushes absurd reality-denials from the right fringe into the mainstream; they can turn on their TV and listen to Fox tell them, they can turn on their radio and hear the barkers repeating their preferred "truths" all day long. Often, they can listen to them from an increasingly conservative mainstream media (in fact, the flat denial of reality that insists the most conservative media in the free world is actually liberally biased was probably the forerunner to all of this). This is a world where facts are not decided by things like verifiability or accuracy but purely by whether they agree with what Republicans are saying. If something agrees with a Republican talking point, it is revealed truth, gospel and unquestionable. If something disagrees with a Republican talking point, it's a scandalous lie and everyone knows it to be a lie. It's a completely self-insulating world where the gate-keeper of truth is purely convienience, whether it accords with the talking points or not.

One cannot reason with these people. It is a mistake to try because you are approaching the discussion from two completely incompatible angles. You, being relatively liberal, are approaching from a position of using verifiable facts. They, being conservative, are approaching from a basis where talking points are automatically gospel truth because they are talking points. Anything which disagrees is, by definition, a lie and can be disregarded. You're not just speaking a different language; by questioning the talking points, you're speaking heresy.
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Posted by Prophet 451 in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Mon Dec 13th 2010, 04:17 AM
Such people are properly defined as psychopathic. That doesn't mean they're violent, most psychopaths aren't. It means they're lacking conscience, remorse or empathy. Concepts like "good" and "evil" don't really apply to them because the concepts imply a moral choice and they have no internal moral compass to make such a choice. The psychopath is entirely self-interested. If their desires can best be satisfied by ruthless acquisition of money, they'll do that, regardless of who suffers. If their desires can best be satisfied by sexualised torture, they'll do that too. The higher levels of business and politics, which require such traits to operate, are full of people who test out as psychopathic.

When I was a child, I used to wonder how the people in power; who kicked others out to starve on the streets, who beat down protesters, who shaved wages down to pennies; I used to wonder how they slept at night. Then I grew up and recently, I started the process of qualifying in Criminology and I learned that they sleep just fine. They're psychopaths and they don't have a conscience to bother them.
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Posted by Prophet 451 in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Fri Dec 10th 2010, 05:49 AM
In terms of what "message" something delivers to the world, no nation's closet is clean. The UK has Royalty. The US puts profit above people and is wildly hypocritical. France is extremely racist in many areas. You see my point? In terms of messages, the fact that we have Royalty, when they have zero power and we're entirely honest that they're there by accident of birth, is fairly minor.

With regard to the protests: I walked away from the fight a few years ago when my mind started to fall apart. These days, I can barely walk, I can't stand for more than ten or twenty minutes and I get panic attacks when I leave the house but still, I wish I'd been there because I get the feeling this is the last time in my lifetime that this kind of street protest will even be tolerated. With as bad as things are going to get in the next few years (and they're going to get really bad), I so desperately wish I was able to stand with the students. Because teh bastards in charge are sociopathic and they're going to fuck everything up and people are going to die. I just wish I knew what to do.
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Posted by Prophet 451 in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Thu Dec 09th 2010, 05:27 PM
Well, nearly everyone.
I'll blame Republicans for being the bootlicks of the corporate class and utterly sociopathic toward everyone else.

I'll blame (some) Democrats for not getting this f'ing thing done back when they had a super-majority and for assuming Republicans would be in any way reasonable on, well, anything. And if they intended to use this to embarass the right, they should be f'ing ashamed.

I'll blame Obama for not using the bully pulpit enough but I'll spare him some of the blame because he seems to have accepted this shitty f'ing deal to get unemployment extended. Could have done more but, hell, that might well end up being the story of his presidency.

I'll blame Bill Clinton for "reforming" welfare in the first place and Dumbya for crashing the economy and making this a life-or-death issue and Reagan for starting the whole "government can't ever help people" crap in the first place.

I'll blame the media on the right for pushing the "lazy unemployed, undeserving poor" bullshit and I'll blame the media on the left and centre for not firebombing the right-wing media (metaphorically. Well, mostly metaphorically).

I'll blame a good portion of the public for being stupid and vicious and mean-spirited enough to buy the aforementioned bullshit.

I'll blame the unemployed for not marching on Washington and scaring the living shit out of the politicians but that's only a little bit of blame because most are, understandably, more concerned with staying alive.

I'll blame the corporate class for not fucking hiring people and Congress for not fucking making them or just directly employing the unemployed to rebuild the infrastructure that's falling apart before our eyes.

I'll blame my own (British) government for following along with the most detestable, cruel and sadistic aspects of Republicanism and Fox for making me redundant when they brought out my employers and myself for being mentally ill and not getting the fuck out of this fucking country when I had the chance.

I have anger issues. I am aware of this.
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Posted by Prophet 451 in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Thu Sep 30th 2010, 11:00 PM
I originally posted this a few months ago to very little interest. Now that it looks like Linda has a realistic shot at winning in Connecticut, it's important that people actually know what she and her family are like:

As I write this, it seems likely that Linda McMahon will be the Republican nomination for Senator from Connecticut. As most might well know, she was previously the CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment. That sounds more impressive than it is. Her husband, Vince McMahon, runs the creative side of the business and it's well-known that he is the ultimate man in charge. Linda's job was to manage the likeness licenses, DVD rights, endorsement dals and so on. And, credit where it's due, she's done that very well. Since Linda only handled the business side, it's probably not fair to blame her for the numerous distasteful storylines WWE has run (although special mention must go to the Katie Vick necrophilia storyline we suffered through years ago) but Linda's "executive experiance" in the WWE is shaping up to be a major pitch point in her campaign. I've been a wrestling fan all my life and I was a semi-pro worker (essentially, a hobby you get paid a few bucks to do) for a few years. I say that so it's understood that my concerns with Linda's candidacy don't come from any hatred of the wrestling business generally. But I have concerns.

First off, since everyone asks about it, let's talk about steroids. Steroids aren't universal in wrestling but they are fairly widespread in the major promotions (the smaller promotions don't pay enough for steroids). WWE has always been a big man's promotion, right back to the territory days, and there's nothing wrong with that in itself but when Vince brought the promotion, then called WWWF, from his father (also called Vince) in 1984, he shifted the focus from big men who were still athletic like Bobo Brazil, Ernie Ladd and Bruno Samartino to big men with superhero physiques. It's been observed before that Vince likes bodybuilding, he tried starting a bodybuilding promotion in the eighties (the swiftly doomed WBF) so it probably shouldn't be a surprise that he insisted his performers have Superman style bodies, his favourite performer during the eighties was Hulk Hogan, who had a superhuman body and charisma but no actual talent to speak of. The problem is that very few people can build those kind of physiques naturally and even fewer can wrestle with them without injury (hyper-inflated muscles make muscle injuries far more likely). From the beginning, the WWE turned a blind eye (at best) to the dangerous level of steroids most performers had to take to build those kind of bodies. And that's the best case scenario but there's every reason to believe their involvement was deeper than that. In 1992, Vince was charged with steroid distribution. The details of the case are rather complicated but the basics are that WWE had employed a crooked doctor called Zahorian for the specific purpose of supplying it's workers with dangerous amounts of steroids and narcotic painkillers (painkiller abuse is even more widespread in wrestling than steroid use). The doctor sent several packages by Fed Ex to Titan Tower (WWE's corporate headquarters) where Vince would extract some for himself and send the rest on to a performer (usually Hogan although sometimes others). Vince admitted that he had abused steroids himself. He never denied, under oath, the basic allegations I have just outlined, which were backed up by statements from various wrestlers. What he did dispute, and what eventually resulted in his acquital, was his receiving and sending on of the two specific packages which the prosecutor used to establish jurisdiction. The very high probability that the allegations were correct didn't matter because without those two packages, the prosecutor could not stablish jurisdiction and so, Vince walked. The details of the case make it clear that Linda McMahon was heavily involved with the decision to keep Zahorian on the payroll. It's clear that Linda, through intermediary Pat Patterson, gave the order to rehire Zahorian after he was released (he was released because the state athletic commission no longer required a doctor to be present at wrestling matches) and that he was rehired specifically because of his willingness to supply dangerous quantities of steroids and narcotic painkillers. During Vince's trial, WWE established a stringent drug testing program for PR reasons and, for a while, virtually eliminated steroids from their locker room. Smaller, more athletic workers like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were "pushed" (heavily promoted). The matches were entertaining and athletic and the wrestlers were healthier. But in 1994, with the steroid trial safely over, the drug testing program was abandoned and the rock-like muscles returned. Profits were down but one could easily argue that was due to the negative PR of the steroid trial so why was the drug testing program abandoned?

WWE would have no drug testing program at all for the next eleven years. During that time, numerous wrestlers died. Not all were because of steroids but in many cases, steroid abuse played at least a part. WWE policy was to acknowledge the deaths if the performer had recently worked for WWE or made a big name there but never to comment on how and why they died. Then, in 2005, Eddy Guerrero died and that was one WWE couldn't ignore. Eddy was a main event star and scheduled to win the WWE title the day he died. His death ripped a hole in WWE's plans and they had to acknowledge his death. Eddy's death may or may not have been steroid related. Certainly, Eddy took steroids throughout his career but it's also possible that the years of abusing painkillers and recreational drugs played a part. Ironically, Eddy had gotten clean some time before his death but the damage to his body had already been done. WWE, feeling that they had to do something to counter the negative PR, instituted a drug testing program shortly after Eddy's death. However, unlike the 1992 program, this one had holes you could drive a truck through. Most egregiously, it allowed performers to use steroids and painkillers if they had a prescription. Now, that might sound OK to the layman but that's because they don't understand how wrestling works. Virtually all wrestlers have joint problems virtually all the time. I only wrestled for a few years and the joint damage to my knees and back still cause me agony some days. Most wrestlers are also on the road most of the time. That means that, in several towns around the country, a wrestler can go to a doctor and complain of joint problems and those doctors, perfectly professionally, can prescribe them steroids to strengthen and lubricate the joints and narcotic painkillers to handle the pain. I was never a performer for the WWE. I was a bottom-rung indie worker for less than half-a-dozen years and if I can pick out that loophole just from reading WWE's drug policy, you can be certain that the WWE know full well that loophole is there. If they know that loophole makes the drug policy worthless (and they have to know that), then the only possible explanation is that the drug policy is intended to be worthless, a friendly PR blanket that doesn't actually affect anything.

And that's discounting those who get steroids through more dubious means. In 2007, the online drugstore Signature Pharmacy was busted for supplying all kinds of controlled substances. What emerged was a list of no less than fourteen WWE performers who had purchased steroids or steroid-related medications from the pharmacy (for the record and using stage names: Randy Orton, Edge, Booker T, Shane Helms, Simon Dean, Tony Carelli, Johnny Nitro, William Regal, Charlie Haas, Ken Kennedy, Umaga, Sho Funaki, Chavo Guerrro and Rey Mysterio). All of them had taken and passed WWE drug tests during the time they were receiving steroids from Signature. Doesn't that suggest something damning about the tests? Incidently, all of these performers were suspended from WWE but none were prosecuted by authorities. There's also always the possibility of finding a shady doctor. Zahorian has already been mentioned but he was neither the first nor the last. After him came Joel Hackett who became so known for supplying steroids that a running locker-room joke became "I have to see the doc, I just can't Hack-ett anymore". Dr Astin, who supplied steroids to Chris Benoit (more on him in a second), is currently serving ten years for 175 counts of illegally prescribing controlled drugs. I have never personally taken steroids but I've known several steroid users. Based on visual evidence and what I know of WWE's drug policy, I'd estimate that about two-thirds of the WWE roster are still abusing steroids.

The Benoit tragedy reminded the public how widespread steroids were in wrestling but most of the media took the wrong lesson from it. When Benoit killed his wife and son before hanging himself, most of the press jumped straight to the conclusion of "roid rage". The specific details of the crimes make that extremely unlikely. Roid rage is sudden onset, brief duration and rage driven. The Benoit murders took place over three days and showed evidence of pre-meditation. They weren't roid rage. However, it is entirely possible that Benoit's phonomenal steroid intake (Astin was prescribing him a six-month supply every three to four weeks) exacerbated his depression and brain damage and thereby contributed to the crimes. Yet, Benoit had been regularly drug tested during this period and never came up as violating the policy. Benoit had been suffering from severe depression ever since Eddy Guerrero's death. He had told friends that he "wanted to go be with Eddy". When he made a mistake during a match, he would punish himself by performing hundreds of Hindu squats. Benoit's friends had been worried about him for months yet, despite his increasingly erratic behaviour and a physique that was obviously not natural, he was still booked to perform. The weekend he murdered his family, Benoit was scheduled to win the ECW title (WWE brought the ECW name and assets in bankruptcy court in 1991 and has since used them in it's shows). While no-one could have predicted the murders, Benoit's behaviour would have been ringing gigantic alarm bells in any other business or any other promotion.

That's enough about steroids. Let's talk about WWE's practices with it's talent. How about union busting? Wrestlers are the only athletes without a union to represent their interests (if gymnasts are athletes, so are wrestlers) and the primary reason for that is WWE's aggressive anti-union policies. Bob "Sgt. Slaughter" Remas and Jesse Ventura were both fired directly because they tried to start a union. According to rumour, Roddy Piper has been fired before for the same reason (that said, Roddy has been fired from pretty much every promotion on the planet for his inability to keep his mouth shut). How about the fact that WWE habitually books it's performers at over two hundred shows a year and the talent has no holidays (although top-level stars can request and receive time off). WWE doesn't pay medical benefits and numerous performers have been fired while injured (most glaringly, Andrew "Test" Martin was fired while recovering from a broken neck). One performer (Dawn Marie) was fired because she fell pregnant. Performers habitually come back from injuries too early or refuse to take time off because they're worried they will be demoted or fired during their absence which, naturally enough, leads to painkiller abuse. How about the fact that WWE continues to falsely and illegally classify it's workers as "independent contractors" to avoid paying benefits? Perhaps in the early days of the WWF, when talent worked for several promoters, that was excusable but you're still doing it now, when talent is locked into exclusivity contracts months or years in advance and WWE controls their performance and appearence right down to the level of controlling their haircuts. How about the fact that WWE's pay structure is so complicated and so vague that you get paid more-or-less whatever WWE feels like paying you? How about your repeated refusal to pay due royalties to performers after they've left the company? Jesse Ventura sued you over this and won but you were still doing it as recently as 2003 when you stopped paying Jeff Hardy royalties on the autobiography about Jeff and his brother.

How about your highly dubious business tactics in building the WWF? Back when the WWF debuted on pay-per-view, you were competing with Jim Crockett Promotions. You booked your first Survivor Series PPV opposite one of Crockett's events and then told all the PPV companies that if they carried Crockett's event, they wouldn't be allowed to carry future WWF events. Today, that's called "block-booking" and it's highly illegal. While I know we shouldn't hold one spouse responsible for the misdeeds of the other, do you have any comment on Vince's collosal cocaine intake during the eighties? Do you have any comment on why the WWF machine was used to hunder the investigation into the very suspicious death of Jimmy Snuka's girlfriend, Nancy Argentino, in 1983? While Snuka was never charged in her death, Argentino's parents won a civil lawsuit about it in 1985 so why is Snuka in the WWE Hall of Fame while fellow never-charged-but-virtually-certain murderer Chris Benoit isn't? Would you like to comment on why at least ringboy was fired after complaining that WWE office worker Terry Garvin had molested him? That same ringboy claims that you, Linda, personally blocked his application for unemployment benefits, that you personally attended his final hearing where his benefits were finally awarded, care to comment? While you haven't personally run on a "family values" ticket, your party habitually does. Do you think that's compatible with Vince's numerous affairs and the four seperate occasions that he's tried to put an incest storyline on screen, including the proposed storyline where he would have committed incest with his daughter?

I love wrestling and I make no apologies for that. If you don't like wrestling, no problem. Not every show is to everyone's taste and that's fine. But Linda McMahon isn't campaigning to run a wrestling promotion, she's campaigning to be one of the people who runs the country. In a business full of shady characters, the McMahon's are among the worst. So if you know anybody considering voting for her, please share some of the information above. All of this is public record and can be easily verified. All of it should rule out any of the McMahon's from ever holding public office but just in case, one more story:

Owen Hart was the youngest son of the Hart wrestling clan. Stu and Helen Hart had twelve children, all of whom either became wrestlers or married wrestlers. Owen was the youngest and probably the most talented. Some commentators consider him the best wrestler to never win a world title. He was small for a wrestler (five foot ten, 220lb) but he was a superb talent and dedicated family man who adored his wife and children. In May of 1999, Owen was performing as a hokey superhero called the "Blue Blazer". It was a comedy character and he was funny in the role. At the Over The Edge event, Owen was booked in the third match on the card (wrestling cards usually have eight to ten matches building to a main event so this was an early match). His entrance was originally supposed to be that he would descend to the ring on a zipline with a midget wrestler held between his legs. The midget wrestler part was removed just hours before the show but the rest of the stunt remained. Later that night, as TV viewers watched an intro package, Owen stepped off the catwalk eighty feet above the ring and the release mechanism of the rope snapped. He plumetted eighty feet, landing with his chest across the top rope, catapulting him into the ring. He managed, on sheer instinct, to sit up before he lost consciousness. Owen Hart died in the middle of the ring, choking to death on his own blood.

Perhaps one could argue that Owen's death was a tragic accident. Perhaps one could argue that the decision to continue the show even as Owen's blood was soaking into the canvas was a flawed decision made under pressure and, with more consideration, the show would have been stopped. Perhaps. But Owen's widow, Martha Hart, filed a lawsuit over Owen's death and what came out in the course of that suit moved the incident from "tragic accident" to "negligent homicide". The release mechanism that snapped was originally designed for use on pleasureboats, not for supporting a 220lb man eighty feet in the air. Owen had no backup or safety harness. The safety latches that are supposed to prevent this kind of incident weren't used because it would have held up his entrace for a few seconds. Martha spoke openly about how uncomfortable her husband had become with the increasing amount of stunts and non-wrestling content. He was a wrestler, a very good one but not a stuntman and even a stuntman would have had a safety net. The WWE eventually settled the case for $18 million but, the night following Owen's death, WWE aired a special tribute episode of their show. Where they showed footage of his funeral. After Owen's widow had expressely asked them not to.

Lovely people, the McMahon's. Just the kind you want in the Senate.
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Posted by Prophet 451 in Religion/Theology
Sat Sep 18th 2010, 11:22 PM
I've noticed several threads here rebutting Christine O'Donnell's latest lunacy. Reading through them, I notice that several of you go out of your way to explain that you aren't Satanists. Fair enough, you're not. I am though and I know there's a couple of others here as well.

Now, I'm sure it was unintentional but in your understandable urge to both explain that you aren't Satanists and explain that you don't eat babies, sacrifice animal, etc, you seem to be implying (again, accidently, I'm sure) that Satanists do do this stuff and/or that being a Satanist is something terrible. Needless to say, apart from a few teenaged posers, we don't do any of this shit either and being a Satanist isn't something to be ashamed of.

Again, I'm sure you didn't mean to give that impression but please, for those of us who actually are Satanists, could you be a little more careful with your phrasing or at least include something like "Satanists don't do this stuff either"? It would be appreciated.

Thanks.
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Posted by Prophet 451 in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Tue Jun 29th 2010, 09:10 AM
As I write this, it seems likely that Linda McMahon will be the Republican nomination for Senator from Connecticut. As most might well know, she was previously the CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment. That sounds more impressive than it is. Her husband, Vince McMahon, runs the creative side of the business and it's well-known that he is the ultimate man in charge. Linda's job was to manage the likeness licenses, DVD rights, endorsement dals and so on. And, credit where it's due, she's done that very well. Since Linda only handled the business side, it's probably not fair to blame her for the numerous distasteful storylines WWE has run (although special mention must go to the Katie Vick necrophilia storyline we suffered through years ago) but Linda's "executive experiance" in the WWE is shaping up to be a major pitch point in her campaign. I've been a wrestling fan all my life and I was a semi-pro worker (essentially, a hobby you get paid a few bucks to do) for a few years. I say that so it's understood that my concerns with Linda's candidacy don't come from any hatred of the wrestling business generally. But I have concerns.

First off, since everyone asks about it, let's talk about steroids. Steroids aren't universal in wrestling but they are fairly widespread in the major promotions (the smaller promotions don't pay enough for steroids). WWE has always been a big man's promotion, right back to the territory days, and there's nothing wrong with that in itself but when Vince brought the promotion, then called WWWF, from his father (also called Vince) in 1984, he shifted the focus from big men who were still athletic like Bobo Brazil, Ernie Ladd and Bruno Samartino to big men with superhero physiques. It's been observed before that Vince likes bodybuilding, he tried starting a bodybuilding promotion in the eighties (the swiftly doomed WBF) so it probably shouldn't be a surprise that he insisted his performers have Superman style bodies, his favourite performer during the eighties was Hulk Hogan, who had a superhuman body and charisma but no actual talent to speak of. The problem is that very few people can build those kind of physiques naturally and even fewer can wrestle with them without injury (hyper-inflated muscles make muscle injuries far more likely). From the beginning, the WWE turned a blind eye (at best) to the dangerous level of steroids most performers had to take to build those kind of bodies. And that's the best case scenario but there's every reason to believe their involvement was deeper than that. In 1992, Vince was charged with steroid distribution. The details of the case are rather complicated but the basics are that WWE had employed a crooked doctor called Zahorian for the specific purpose of supplying it's workers with dangerous amounts of steroids and narcotic painkillers (painkiller abuse is even more widespread in wrestling than steroid use). The doctor sent several packages by Fed Ex to Titan Tower (WWE's corporate headquarters) where Vince would extract some for himself and send the rest on to a performer (usually Hogan although sometimes others). Vince admitted that he had abused steroids himself. He never denied, under oath, the basic allegations I have just outlined, which were backed up by statements from various wrestlers. What he did dispute, and what eventually resulted in his acquital, was his receiving and sending on of the two specific packages which the prosecutor used to establish jurisdiction. The very high probability that the allegations were correct didn't matter because without those two packages, the prosecutor could not stablish jurisdiction and so, Vince walked. The details of the case make it clear that Linda McMahon was heavily involved with the decision to keep Zahorian on the payroll. It's clear that Linda, through intermediary Pat Patterson, gave the order to rehire Zahorian after he was released (he was released because the state athletic commission no longer required a doctor to be present at wrestling matches) and that he was rehired specifically because of his willingness to supply dangerous quantities of steroids and narcotic painkillers. During Vince's trial, WWE established a stringent drug testing program for PR reasons and, for a while, virtually eliminated steroids from their locker room. Smaller, more athletic workers like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were "pushed" (heavily promoted). The matches were entertaining and athletic and the wrestlers were healthier. But in 1994, with the steroid trial safely over, the drug testing program was abandoned and the rock-like muscles returned. Profits were down but one could easily argue that was due to the negative PR of the steroid trial so why was the drug testing program abandoned?

WWE would have no drug testing program at all for the next eleven years. During that time, numerous wrestlers died. Not all were because of steroids but in many cases, steroid abuse played at least a part. WWE policy was to acknowledge the deaths if the performer had recently worked for WWE or made a big name there but never to comment on how and why they died. Then, in 2005, Eddy Guerrero died and that was one WWE couldn't ignore. Eddy was a main event star and scheduled to win the WWE title the day he died. His death ripped a hole in WWE's plans and they had to acknowledge his death. Eddy's death may or may not have been steroid related. Certainly, Eddy took steroids throughout his career but it's also possible that the years of abusing painkillers and recreational drugs played a part. Ironically, Eddy had gotten clean some time before his death but the damage to his body had already been done. WWE, feeling that they had to do something to counter the negative PR, instituted a drug testing program shortly after Eddy's death. However, unlike the 1992 program, this one had holes you could drive a truck through. Most egregiously, it allowed performers to use steroids and painkillers if they had a prescription. Now, that might sound OK to the layman but that's because they don't understand how wrestling works. Virtually all wrestlers have joint problems virtually all the time. I only wrestled for a few years and the joint damage to my knees and back still cause me agony some days. Most wrestlers are also on the road most of the time. That means that, in several towns around the country, a wrestler can go to a doctor and complain of joint problems and those doctors, perfectly professionally, can prescribe them steroids to strengthen and lubricate the joints and narcotic painkillers to handle the pain. I was never a performer for the WWE. I was a bottom-rung indie worker for less than half-a-dozen years and if I can pick out that loophole just from reading WWE's drug policy, you can be certain that the WWE know full well that loophole is there. If they know that loophole makes the drug policy worthless (and they have to know that), then the only possible explanation is that the drug policy is intended to be worthless, a friendly PR blanket that doesn't actually affect anything.

And that's discounting those who get steroids through more dubious means. In 2007, the online drugstore Signature Pharmacy was busted for supplying all kinds of controlled substances. What emerged was a list of no less than fourteen WWE performers who had purchased steroids or steroid-related medications from the pharmacy (for the record and using stage names: Randy Orton, Edge, Booker T, Shane Helms, Simon Dean, Tony Carelli, Johnny Nitro, William Regal, Charlie Haas, Ken Kennedy, Umaga, Sho Funaki, Chavo Guerrro and Rey Mysterio). All of them had taken and passed WWE drug tests during the time they were receiving steroids from Signature. Doesn't that suggest something damning about the tests? Incidently, all of these performers were suspended from WWE but none were prosecuted by authorities. There's also always the possibility of finding a shady doctor. Zahorian has already been mentioned but he was neither the first nor the last. After him came Joel Hackett who became so known for supplying steroids that a running locker-room joke became "I have to see the doc, I just can't Hack-ett anymore". Dr Astin, who supplied steroids to Chris Benoit (more on him in a second), is currently serving ten years for 175 counts of illegally prescribing controlled drugs. I have never personally taken steroids but I've known several steroid users. Based on visual evidence and what I know of WWE's drug policy, I'd estimate that about two-thirds of the WWE roster are still abusing steroids.

The Benoit tragedy reminded the public how widespread steroids were in wrestling but most of the media took the wrong lesson from it. When Benoit killed his wife and son before hanging himself, most of the press jumped straight to the conclusion of "roid rage". The specific details of the crimes make that extremely unlikely. Roid rage is sudden onset, brief duration and rage driven. The Benoit murders took place over three days and showed evidence of pre-meditation. They weren't roid rage. However, it is entirely possible that Benoit's phonomenal steroid intake (Astin was prescribing him a six-month supply every three to four weeks) exacerbated his depression and brain damage and thereby contributed to the crimes. Yet, Benoit had been regularly drug tested during this period and never came up as violating the policy. Benoit had been suffering from severe depression ever since Eddy Guerrero's death. He had told friends that he "wanted to go be with Eddy". When he made a mistake during a match, he would punish himself by performing hundreds of Hindu squats. Benoit's friends had been worried about him for months yet, despite his increasingly erratic behaviour and a physique that was obviously not natural, he was still booked to perform. The weekend he murdered his family, Benoit was scheduled to win the ECW title (WWE brought the ECW name and assets in bankruptcy court in 1991 and has since used them in it's shows). While no-one could have predicted the murders, Benoit's behaviour would have been ringing gigantic alarm bells in any other business or any other promotion.

That's enough about steroids. Let's talk about WWE's practices with it's talent. How about union busting? Wrestlers are the only athletes without a union to represent their interests (if gymnasts are athletes, so are wrestlers) and the primary reason for that is WWE's aggressive anti-union policies. Bob "Sgt. Slaughter" Remas and Jesse Ventura were both fired directly because they tried to start a union. According to rumour, Roddy Piper has been fired before for the same reason (that said, Roddy has been fired from pretty much every promotion on the planet for his inability to keep his mouth shut). How about the fact that WWE habitually books it's performers at over two hundred shows a year and the talent has no holidays (although top-level stars can request and receive time off). WWE doesn't pay medical benefits and numerous performers have been fired while injured (most glaringly, Andrew "Test" Martin was fired while recovering from a broken neck). One performer (Dawn Marie) was fired because she fell pregnant. Performers habitually come back from injuries too early or refuse to take time off because they're worried they will be demoted or fired during their absence which, naturally enough, leads to painkiller abuse. How about the fact that WWE continues to falsely and illegally classify it's workers as "independent contractors" to avoid paying benefits? Perhaps in the early days of the WWF, when talent worked for several promoters, that was excusable but you're still doing it now, when talent is locked into exclusivity contracts months or years in advance and WWE controls their performance and appearence right down to the level of controlling their haircuts. How about the fact that WWE's pay structure is so complicated and so vague that you get paid more-or-less whatever WWE feels like paying you? How about your repeated refusal to pay due royalties to performers after they've left the company? Jesse Ventura sued you over this and won but you were still doing it as recently as 2003 when you stopped paying Jeff Hardy royalties on the autobiography about Jeff and his brother.

How about your highly dubious business tactics in building the WWF? Back when the WWF debuted on pay-per-view, you were competing with Jim Crockett Promotions. You booked your first Survivor Series PPV opposite one of Crockett's events and then told all the PPV companies that if they carried Crockett's event, they wouldn't be allowed to carry future WWF events. Today, that's called "block-booking" and it's highly illegal. While I know we shouldn't hold one spouse responsible for the misdeeds of the other, do you have any comment on Vince's collosal cocaine intake during the eighties? Do you have any comment on why the WWF machine was used to hunder the investigation into the very suspicious death of Jimmy Snuka's girlfriend, Nancy Argentino, in 1983? While Snuka was never charged in her death, Argentino's parents won a civil lawsuit about it in 1985 so why is Snuka in the WWE Hall of Fame while fellow never-charged-but-virtually-certain murderer Chris Benoit isn't? Would you like to comment on why at least ringboy was fired after complaining that WWE office worker Terry Garvin had molested him? That same ringboy claims that you, Linda, personally blocked his application for unemployment benefits, that you personally attended his final hearing where his benefits were finally awarded, care to comment? While you haven't personally run on a "family values" ticket, your party habitually does. Do you think that's compatible with Vince's numerous affairs and the four seperate occasions that he's tried to put an incest storyline on screen, including the proposed storyline where he would have committed incest with his daughter?

I love wrestling and I make no apologies for that. If you don't like wrestling, no problem. Not every show is to everyone's taste and that's fine. But Linda McMahon isn't campaigning to run a wrestling promotion, she's campaigning to be one of the people who runs the country. In a business full of shady characters, the McMahon's are among the worst. So if you know anybody considering voting for her, please share some of the information above. All of this is public record and can be easily verified. All of it should rule out any of the McMahon's from ever holding public office but just in case, one more story:

Owen Hart was the youngest son of the Hart wrestling clan. Stu and Helen Hart had twelve children, all of whom either became wrestlers or married wrestlers. Owen was the youngest and probably the most talented. Some commentators consider him the best wrestler to never win a world title. He was small for a wrestler (five foot ten, 220lb) but he was a superb talent and dedicated family man who adored his wife and children. In May of 1999, Owen was performing as a hokey superhero called the "Blue Blazer". It was a comedy character and he was funny in the role. At the Over The Edge event, Owen was booked in the third match on the card (wrestling cards usually have eight to ten matches building to a main event so this was an early match). His entrance was originally supposed to be that he would descend to the ring on a zipline with a midget wrestler held between his legs. The midget wrestler part was removed just hours before the show but the rest of the stunt remained. Later that night, as TV viewers watched an intro package, Owen stepped off the catwalk eighty feet above the ring and the release mechanism of the rope snapped. He plumetted eighty feet, landing with his chest across the top rope, catapulting him into the ring. He managed, on sheer instinct, to sit up before he lost consciousness. Owen Hart died in the middle of the ring, choking to death on his own blood.

Perhaps one could argue that Owen's death was a tragic accident. Perhaps one could argue that the decision to continue the show even as Owen's blood was soaking into the canvas was a flawed decision made under pressure and, with more consideration, the show would have been stopped. Perhaps. But Owen's widow, Martha Hart, filed a lawsuit over Owen's death and what came out in the course of that suit moved the incident from "tragic accident" to "negligent homicide". The release mechanism that snapped was originally designed for use on pleasureboats, not for supporting a 220lb man eighty feet in the air. Owen had no backup or safety harness. The safety latches that are supposed to prevent this kind of incident weren't used because it would have held up his entrace for a few seconds. Martha spoke openly about how uncomfortable her husband had become with the increasing amount of stunts and non-wrestling content. He was a wrestler, a very good one but not a stuntman and even a stuntman would have had a safety net. The WWE eventually settled the case for $18 million but, the night following Owen's death, WWE aired a special tribute episode of their show. Where they showed footage of his funeral. After Owen's widow had expressely asked them not to.

Lovely people, the McMahon's. Just the kind you want in the Senate.
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Posted by Prophet 451 in United Kingdom
Thu May 06th 2010, 04:49 PM
I read this recently and didn't take it seriously but listening to the Tory spokesscum being interviewed on the Beeb, they are clearly laying the foundations for just such a power-grab.

From liberalconspiracy.org:
"Despite accusations of Conservative complacency in the run up to Thursday’s General Election, a great deal of effort has gone into what happens if the result is not a clear cut one but results in a Hung Parliament with the Tories some way short of an overall majority.

Here is what has now emerged as the Tory plan:

• Declare victory anyway.
• Have the party’s media allies strain every sinew to make that a self-fulfilling prophecy.
• Insist on being given the keys to number 10 without having to talk substantively to any other party first – to avoid a coalition or any substantive policy concessions.
• Make a partisan challenge to the civil service in seeking to overturn any existing constitutional convention or practice that might conceivably get in the way, or even slow this down a little.
• Threaten to drag the Monarchy into political controversy for partisan advantage, by challenging the conventions designed precisely to avoid this.
• Hold out against electoral reform, whatever the election result.
• Threaten apocalyptic political and financial meltdown if anybody disagrees.

The key objective of this strategy is to use the vociferous campaigning of the press – no doubt amplifying interventions from friends in the City – to argue that any negotiations between parties would be democratically illegitimate, without first putting the Conservatives into power, even (or especially) if Labour and the Liberal Democrats could between them muster a majority of both votes and Commons seats.

See David Cameron’s interview with Monday’s Independent – in which the Tory leader says “there is convention and there is practice and they are not always quite the same thing”.


The rest is here: http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/05/04/th... /

I'm honestly not sure how such a power-grab could be prevented, given that HRH has virtually no power and our media is dominated by the right-wing.
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Posted by Prophet 451 in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Mon Mar 01st 2010, 04:02 AM
You've probably heard of Ayn Rand. Most people have these days. She was the author of such inexplicably widely-read "novels" (really, barely-disguised political diatribes) as "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged". Her books are currently enjoying something of a boom among those who misguidedly believe they would be in the self-righteous community of "Atlases" at Galt's Gulch. The novels themselves are of only passing interest, being long, melodramatic and mediocrely written. Rather, it is the "philosophy" at the core of the novels which bears attention.

Hear ye, hear ye, I come to bury Rand, not to praise her. While numerous conservative thinkers (and, oddly, Neil Peart) have lauded Rand as a philosopher, few academic institutions include Rand or Objectivism as a philosophical discipline. Conservatives, such as Chris Sciabarra, tend to believe that the academic left decries Rand due to her anti-communist, pro-capitalist slant. Like much of the witterings of conservatives who presume to know what the left thinks, that presumes firstly, more power than the academic left has had in decades; secondly, assumes that the left was universally pro-communist and anti-capitalist, something which has never been true and thirdly, that Rand was saying anything worth studying. She wasn't. Rand's "philosophy" was the same defence of endless greed which mankind has been engaged in for eternity, the same attempt to place a moral cover on pure selfishness that has long been pursued by any number of exploiters down the centuries. Nietzche was, and is, pilloried for saying "God is dead", Rand is lauded for effectively saying "the self is God". There is nothing new here, save perhaps for the self-delusion that allows so many professed "Christians" to adhere to a philosophy that glorifies greed and athieism. There is also a cult-like deification of Rand by her followers and "swarming" of those who dare criticise her which reminds one very strongly of Scientology (and Glenn Beck followers but that's another matter).

There is another name for those who hold that the only proper moral consideration is the happiness of the self; for those who view empathy and compassion as weakness; who view selfishness as the only virtue: Psychopaths.

Contrary to popular belief, the psychopath is not automatically violent. Rather, the psychopath is defined by a near-complete lack of empathy. Robert Hare (who created the widely used "Hare Psychopathy Checklist") describes psychopaths as "instraspecies predators" who use a combination of charisma, manipulation, intimidation, sexuality and violence to satisfy their own desires. The more human qualities of conscience, empathy, remorse or guilt are either completely absent or extremely limited. It must be repeated that the psychopath is not necessarily violent. Indeed, many are not because their lives have never placed them in a position where violence was the only means to satisfy their desires. Many businessmen (and therefore, many politicians) profile as psychopaths because they exhibit the core characteristics or some section thereof. Ayn Rand should also be considered a psychopath.

Hare's checklist lists certain personality factors as indicative of psychopathy. The average person will perhaps exhibit one or, at most, two. The psychopath will exhibit all but on or two. In no particular order, these items are Glibness/superficial charm. After her writings became popular, Rand collected around herself a group of cultists who virtually worshipped her. However, shallow affect, the psychopath's charm is only ever superficial. As one comes to know and understand the psychopath more fully, the charm which initially attracted one to them is revealed as only skin-deep. In this, Rand was entirely textbook. She was described by most who knew her best as a bitter, friendless child who grew into an equally bitter and acidic woman. Grandiose sense of self-worth would certainly fit Rand. A woman who names her beliefs "Objectivism" out of a belief that any reasoning person who observes the objective truths of the world would necessarily come to full agreement with her would probably qualify. The fact that her little cult were required to memorise her works and discounted as "imbecilic" and "anti-life" if they asked questions simply seals the deal. Her sincere belief was that thinking freely would automatically lead to total agreement with her views. The ruthless policing of her cult would also qualify her under the Cunning/manipulative qualifier. Patholigical lying is one that Rand is probably innocent of. So far as we know, there is no reason to believe she was a pathological liar. Lack of remorse or guilt and Callous/lack of empathy could be described as "Ayn Rand syndrome". These two qualifiers are really the core of her books, philosophhy and worldview. In one of her books (The Fountainhead), her "hero", Howard Roarke, blows up a housing project he designed when a minor alteration is made and then orders the jury to acquit him (the fact that, as an architect, Roarke was presumably contracted for his work and therefore, it wasn't "his" anymore piddles all over the supposed respect for property too). In Atlas Shrugged, her ode to the super-rich which imagines them going on strike against progressive taxation, Rand describes the rest of the world (without whom, let us not forget, the super-rich would be unable to make anything) in such niceties as "savages", "refuse" and "immitations of living beings". When one of the strikers engineers a train crash (because they don't just strike but commit acts of terrorism too), Rand makes it clear that she believes the murdered victims deserved their fate because they supported progressive taxation. A stewing hymn of Nietzchean will-to-power, misanthropy, failure to understand economics, feudalism and sexual politics verging on the obscene, Atlas Shrugged is full of this stuff. Her heroes spend their time both insisting that they are the heroic producers (and without labour, what are they producing exactly?) and bemoaning that others do not worship them as such. In her spare time, Rand was an admirer of serail killer William Hickman (I'll spare you the details of his crimes save to say that they were brutal even by serial killer standards), describing him as "a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy"; "other people do not exist for him and he does not see why they should" was her evaluation of his crimes and Rand considered this worthy of praise. Finally, on the personality factor, there is Failure to accept responsibility for one's actions. Since our record of Rand's life isn't fully detailed, it's difficult to say how much she satisfied this one. Certainly, when her lover Nathaniel Branden found another partner, she blamed him rather than herself or her increasingly poisonous views. We shouldn't sympathise with Rand as injured party too much here, she was herslelf married to someone entirely different and cruel enough to carry on the affair without regard to discretion. Indeed, if the only duty of the superman is to please himself, Brendan was acting according to Rand's ideals and she should have applauded him. She once said the the USA should be a "democracy of superiors only" with "superior" being defined as "rich". One scarcely needs to point out that such a system wouldn't be democracy at all but oligarchy and interestingly elitist for all her followers claim to despise elitism.

One doesn't need to work very hard to diagnose Rand. Her life and writings paint a vivid picture of psychopathy so clear and obvious that it is only surprising so many miss it. She was a phonomenally damaged woman for whom one can feel an element of pity (an emotion that disgusted her) even while aware of how terrifically dangerous she and her philosophy was and are. Rand herself died alone except for a hired nurse. Her deranged views had driven away anyone who might have been close to her. Like L. Ron Hubbard, however, her lunatic ideas have spawned a cult that would turn all of us into happy little psychopaths; a cult that includes many of the world's foremost economists, politicians and rabble-rousers (Beck again, although "intellectual terrorist" might be more appropriate). Like George Orwell, Rand imagined a dystopian world characterised by the powerful's exploitation of the powerless. Unlike Orwell, Rand wanted to live there.
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Posted by Prophet 451 in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Tue Feb 16th 2010, 08:39 AM
Ann Coulter once said that liberals "take a perverse joy in lying", that liberals actively enjoy telling untruths. She was, of course, wrong about liberals (as she would have difficulty even understanding a thought process so different to her own) but I am increasingly of the opinion that her remarks were correct if applied to conservatives (projection, in other words). How else can one explain the warped version of reality which so many conservatives carry around in their heads? I'm not talking about subjects which reasonable people can disagree on, like the existence and disposition of god(s) or the merits of direct democracy. Those are issues without clear answer which reasonable people can have a discussion about. I'm talking about believing and not just believing but vehemently defending beliefs which are provably, factually wrong. Believing something which is untrue would be understandable if it were done out of ignorance but such people, when exposed to the facts, will vehemently attack or dismiss them and often the messenger as well. In an individual, this would be considered mental illness (and in the case of some, such as Glenn Beck, that would be an accurate description) but the mental health community is understandably reluctant to label whole swathes of the public as crazy. If someone believes they are being followed by a man-eating hedgehog, you can just give them a heavy stick and a chair to stand on and let them get on with it but when a whole section of the public is holding beliefs which are no less crazy, those beliefs somehow become an accepted part of the public dialogue. For example:

- Fascism is a left-wing ideaology
I think it was Goldberg who started this one. Since the end of WWII, fascism has been identified as a right-wing (right-fringe, really) ideaology. There has never been any significant doubt about that. It's only fairly recently that some conservatives have decided that everything unpleasent is teh fault of the left and so, fascism must be a left-wing ideaology. Partly, this is based on the mistaken belief that state control of everything was the aim of communism, rather than the result of communism being unworkable in the real world. It's the same mentality which claims that because I dislike legal abortion, child molestation and homosexuality, all those things must be caused by the teaching of evolution, which I also dislike. One can find the same mindset in those who tout that the Weather Underground proves that the left is more likely to be violent while forgetting, for example, Timothy McVeigh. It's rewriting history, stealing history really, for use as partisan political points. And while we're on the subject:

- Obama is a socialist/communist
This one is based on a misreading of history so obvious that it must have been deliberate. To claim that Obama, a wimpish moderate in any sane world, is socialist in any way is not just wrong but outright insane and yet, it persists. And it persists because most people don't actually know what "socialism" means. They don't understand that when socialism says "communal ownership of the means of production and distribution", it means ALL the means, not just an interest or equity in a few firms which would otherwise have collapsed. But the right-wing media machine doesn't like that reality and so, they endlessly promote the lie that any communal ownership of anything is automatically socialist. Part of me wonders if this societal case of the fallacy of the excluded middle is the result of decades of Cold War rhetoric or simply the decades of propoganda on behalf of capitalism or if there is even a difference between the two.

- Republicans have been better for minorities
There are two strands to this one. The first is based on a very selective misreading of history. There certainly was a time when Republicans were the better party for minorities, that's inarguable. The Democrats, pressured by a group of conservative Southern members known as "Dixiecrats" were rotten for minorities for some time. But this reading of history ignores everything that's happened since integration, when the Dixiecrats almost universally defected to the Republican party. Since then, the Democrats have (overall and in general) been better at minority rights. And minorities know it. There was a time when black people almost universally voted Republican, seeing it as the party of Lincoln. These days, better than 90% of black people vote Democrat. Which brings us onto the second strand of this argument. This strand holds that minorities typically vote for Democrats because Democrats give them more "government hand-outs". Now, firstly, let's remember that it was Bill Clinton who ended welfare as an entitlement program (for which, I don't think he's been criticised enough) but secondly, notice the inherent bias and racism in the allegation. It assumes that A) government can never do anything good and B) that black people will vote for Democrats because they're all lazy work-shys who depend on "government hand-outs". Sometimes, for those less overt with their racism, some vague theory about a "culture of dependence" will be added.

Those are just three examples of what could be dozens. Indeed, so devoted are conservatives to their alternate universe view of reality that I could write a book on the subject (and may yet do so). To be a conservative, it seems, is to be a conspiracist; to believe that there exists some secret cabal of leftie elites constantly rewriting the world in their favour (at which, the leftie responds "have you seen us? We can't even keep a radio station running"). This is what psychologists call "projection", the seeing of one's own faults in others and it is agravated by the conservative trend toward "purity" i.e. calling oneself a Republican means accepting all these points wholesale or we'll call you a RINO and make you a non-person in the party. A whole faction of the populace believes that Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and President Obama are left-fringe radicals (and "left-wing radical" now means anything to the left of Bush who really was a radical) and if you call these people crazy, which would seem the obvious reasponse, they start screaming about Stalin labelling people insane and protesting their patriotism (every kook, crank and domestic terrorist in American history has proclaimed their patriotism). You cannot reason with these people because they have left reason entirely behind. Rather, their allegiance to this talking point version of reality is closer to that of a religion or cult, their accusations of liberals worshipping Obama as a messiah just more of their endless projection (and nowehere is this more true than of Glenn Beck's acolytes who swarm liberal publications whenever an article is unflattering of Dear Leader). The conservative model is well established by this point: Lie about something until you convince a small portion of the populace, force publications to label well-established facts as controversial and then shout "teach the controversy!" and rely on social pressure to do the rest.

So, how can they be beaten? I'm honestly unsure. Education would be an obvious point but children spend far more time learning the talking point reality at home than they do learning the reality-based version at school and the textbooks of those schools are now largely drawn to Texas standards and already corrupted anyway. Conservative control of the media is now so pervasive and so entrenched that we should expect no help from that quarter either. I wish I had an answer but every future I envision ends up with the USA accepting a version of reality entirely at odds with the one the rest of the world accepts.
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Posted by Prophet 451 in General Discussion: Presidency
Sat Feb 13th 2010, 01:45 AM
Well, in all but name anyway. It's called Domestic Partnership but it's considered identical in law. They can even marry in full dress uniform like straight people if they so choose.

Total effect? Need to build a few more married couples quarters. Otherwise zero.
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Posted by Prophet 451 in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Fri Jan 22nd 2010, 01:51 AM
The ramifications of yesterday's Citizen's United decision are difficult to comprehend. In one fell swoop, in a decision which relied on no precedent or legal rule, the Supreme Court of Justice Roberts destroyed any and all limits on corporate financing of campaigns. No, it's too big. Let's walk back a little and take a brief look at how we got here.

In a decision in the nineteenth century, a no less misguided Supreme Court decided that corporations were, in certain important respects, persons and thus entitled to some of the protections laid out in the United States Constitution. Too much ancient history for you? OK, perhaps you'd feel better if we only went back about thirty years. It was about thirty years ago that the public began to be fed an endless diet of anti-union propoganda. Not coincidently, that coincided with the rise in Washington of a class of politicians who believed Ayn Rand was right; that corporations should be entirely unregulated. My opinions on Rand are fairly irrelevent here (although I believe she may be the most evil woman in history) but what that led to was a systematic dismantling of the limits on corporate activities that had been put in place after the Great Depression (also caused by corporations). Those politicians, in union with a media almost completely controlled by the right-wing, preached that the corporation was your friend and the public, so forgetful, so endlessly trusting, believed them.

Perhaps you would say that, since today's decision was made by judges, not politicians, that political movement is irrelevent. Sadly, that's untrue. Judges are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Congress. Because of that, the only judges considered for selection are those whose worldview matches that of their selector. President Reagan would not have even considered a judge who was pro-choice, for example. Confirmation is a little more complex but, given the Republican minority's effective current veto power (via their unprecedented lockstep filibuster on absolutely everything and no, wingers, the Democrats were nowhere near this bad to Bush) can be worked around. Bush just went with recess appointments (and it's unclear whether that was even meant to apply to judicial nominations). The lifetime appointments given the Supreme Court justices were originally meant to insulate judges from political pressures. In reality, they've done exactly the opposite and simply given a lifetime term to any justice's political biases.

Ah, now we can get to the ramifications of the decision. Keith Olbermann did a good job of scratching the surface in his special comment yesterday but, given the time limits of his medium, he could go only so far. Let's start with these: A lowering and eventual abolition of corporate taxes and, shortly thereafter, of taxes on the rich who run those corporations. How about the abolition of minimum wage laws? From now on, your salary will be whatever the corporation decides to pay you. Think you can go to another corporation and get paid better? Good luck. With corporations in control of Congress, expect ever more incentives to move jobs overseas. You're going to be competing for jobs with ever more people and if you won't take that job for fifty cents an hour, there's someone who will. Oh yeah, your taxes are going to go up as well. With the lowering and elimination of corporat tax and taxes on the wealthy, the money has to come from somewhere and it's going to come from you.

Oh, you think the politicians wouldn't go that far? Sorry, you will now choose your politicians from a pool of candidates funded (and therefore, vetted and approved) by the corporations. The corporations now control whether your politicians get elected and that means that politicians will do whatever the corporation demands. From now on, you don't have a senator from California, you have a senator from Aetna or Wellpoint or... Well, pick a corporation.

The dream of the corporations is and always has been to have a class of people rich enough to buy their crap and a much larger class poor enough and desperate enough to work for pennies to make their crap. So you can kiss any form of healthcare reform goodbye. If you get sick, tough luck, you're fired and out to starve in the gutter. Any and all forms of employee protection will go. You will now be employed for as long as the corporation wants you, at whatever wages they want to pay. Forget workplace safety laws, forget employer funded healthcare. Forget the enviroment too. The corporate sector has always resisted enviromental protections and now, they're in a position to do something about it. Forget same-sex marriage, some red meat thrown to the evangelicals while the corporations take over. Reproductive choice will go the same way and, since the corporation always wants to lower wages, ever more people competing for ever fewer jobs is always in their interests. Forget banking reform too, there are few corporations more powerful. Credit card reform is the same story. Oh, and forget consumer protections as well. So your drugs may or may not work anymore. Expect more wars, expect a draft or "national service" because the corporations that manufacture bullets and bombs and all that fancy equipment are still corporations, after all.

Think I'm being too alarmist? Perhaps. But look up the position of the average person during the Great Depression, or the Dark Ages or any age where those with the gold ruled openly. Your wages have already stagnated for years. Now, with nothing to stop them, they're going to start falling. Expect the few remaining rules on media ownership to be swept aside as well. The corporations need to control those to control you, to keep you distracted.

So who can you turn to to save you? Sorry, there's not much better news here. A Supreme Court decision, through the doctrine of stare decisis, establishes enforceable law for all courts within US jurisdiction. Through the principle of judicial review, any law passed by Congress will have to be compatible with this decision or it will simply be overturned, either by the Supreme Court or by a lower court with no choice but to follow this precedent. You could try for a Constitutional amendment, the Supreme Court can't overrule that but the chances of getting a Constitutional amendment through Congress with the current Republican veto are nil and if you think a lter Republican Congress will do so, you're dreaming. The Republican party has become the political arm of the business lobby and, through the right's control of the media, has managed to convince much of the populace that that's a good thing.

Enjoy your remaining time to complain about this on the internet as well. Because Net Neutrality will shortly become a thing of the past. And if you think "the people" are going to rise up and institute a revolution, forget it. History shows us that revolutions only happen when people's basic needs are threatened or removed and even then, it's only fifty-fifty. Bread and circuses. If the bellies of "the people" are full and they have, say, American Idol to distract them, they may grumble but, chances are, they won't do anything about it. They'll go to the polls every few years and cast their vote for the corporate-approved shill who sounds slightly better than the other corporate-approved shill. The people of Germany didn't rebel against Hitler, nor did the people of Rome rebel against Nero. Until the food stops coming, there will be no revolution and even if there was, who do you think makes your guns and bullets? I can make ammo, as can a lot of firearms hobbyists but the gun you need to fire them comes from those same corporations and, incidently, the chances are fairly good that you'd be too busy fending off the poor bastards now starving in the streets to take up arms against the corporations.

Amid all the accusations of socialism and communism the right has been throwing around lately, it seems that fascism has snuck in by the back door (shh, don't tell the wingers, they think fascism was a left-wing ideaology). Mussolini, the original fascist leader, once said that fascism should more properly be called corporatism as it represented the union of state and corporate power. "The people" or, as I like to call them, "the mob" may not know this because their education has been woefully limited and they have been lied to their whole lives but corporate control of the political sphere is the very definition of fascism. There might not be tanks in the streets (as people seem to believe fascism requires) but it's fascism all the same. You now live in a fascist country.

Let me put this in simple terms so that it cannot be misunderstood: The American experiment is over, it failed. Government of, by and for the people is done. Legislators are now for sale to the highest bidder. Government is now (as Olbermann brilliantly said) of the people, by the corporation, for the corporation. If you want to know what the future looks like, read some William Gibson or the rulebook for the roleplaying game Shadowrun (although, sadly, you won't get the magic). You have, generously, five years to destroy this monstrous decision, to save your country and the dream of America. If this decision is not overturned, cut down or otherwise circumvented, your entire way of life is over.

Get to work.

"Saint Peter, don't you call me 'cause I can't go / I owe my soul to the company store" ~ Johnny Cash
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Posted by Prophet 451 in GLBT
Tue Dec 01st 2009, 10:05 PM
OK, we all knew he was a douchebag but even so... From HuffPo (all emphasis mine):

"Meanwhile, on his Twitter page, Warren seemed to question the fuss. "Globally last yr 146,000 Christians were put to death because of their faith. No one, except Christians, said anything," he wrote.

* * * * *

Rick Warren, the pastor who delivered the invocation at President Obama's inauguration, is once again on the defensive -- this time for his work with a Ugandan pastor who would like homosexuality to be punishable by death.

Newsweek tried to get Warren's reaction to the anti-gay work of Martin Ssempa, a Ugandan pastor who has come to his Saddleback Church multiple times. (Warren has distanced himself from Ssempa in general terms, saying the Ugandan minister does not represent him or his church.) Warren wouldn't reject the idea:

But Warren won't go so far as to condemn the legislation itself. A request for a broader reaction to the proposed Ugandan anti-homosexual laws generated this response: "The fundamental dignity of every person, our right to be free, and the freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God, our creator. However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations." On Meet the Press this morning, he reiterated this neutral stance in a different context: "As a pastor, my job is to encourage, to support. I never take sides." Warren did say he believed that abortion was "a holocaust." He knows as well as anyone that in a case of great wrong, taking sides is an important thing to do.

Ssempa has also burned condoms "in the name of Jesus," helping roll back a highly successful anti-AIDS campaign in Uganda.

-------------------------------------------------------

I'm pretty sure he's pulling that 146K number from his ample ass. I'm also pretty sure Jesus would have dropkicked this guy.
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