“Partisan Bickering” Is Not the Problem

This article by former GOP staffer Mike Lofgren has been going around lately, and if you haven’t read it yet, it’s worth reading no matter your political inclination. Not so much for any new insights but as a coherent “where things stand” piece. It’s long and covers a lot of ground, but here are two particularly important bits:

The media are also complicit in this phenomenon. Ever since the bifurcation of electronic media into a more or less respectable “hard news” segment and a rabidly ideological talk radio and cable TV political propaganda arm, the “respectable” media have been terrified of any criticism for perceived bias. Hence, they hew to the practice of false evenhandedness. Paul Krugman has skewered this tactic as being the “centrist cop-out.” “I joked long ago,” he says, “that if one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read ‘Views Differ on Shape of Planet.'”

The problem with the debt ceiling debate was not one of “partisan bickering.” It was one of Republican obstructionism. Framing it as partisan bickering, which establishment media has a tendency to do, was negligent reporting. Every single issue ends up being described this way.

The party has built a whole catechism on the protection and further enrichment of America’s plutocracy. Their caterwauling about deficit and debt is so much eyewash to con the public. Whatever else President Obama has accomplished (and many of his purported accomplishments are highly suspect), his $4-trillion deficit reduction package did perform the useful service of smoking out Republican hypocrisy. The GOP refused, because it could not abide so much as a one-tenth of one percent increase on the tax rates of the Walton family or the Koch brothers, much less a repeal of the carried interest rule that permits billionaire hedge fund managers to pay income tax at a lower effective rate than cops or nurses. Republicans finally settled on a deal that had far less deficit reduction – and even less spending reduction! – than Obama’s offer, because of their iron resolution to protect at all costs our society’s overclass.

This was also demonstrated by the party’s eagerness to engage in deficit spending when the spending was going to enrich defense contractors in the form of war spending during the Bush administration.

(As a side note, my hopes for a left/libertarian alliance were dashed again during the deficit ceiling debate, with libertarians typically siding with the GOP on the issue even though the Dems were only pushing to close tax loopholes. I should have expected that, because even when Republicans suggest that tax loops for the rich should be closed, the general response is usually “shut up commie.”)

Truth Out: Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult

My biggest point of disagreement with Lofgren is probably his take on the Democrats. I don’t think Democrats are merely spineless any more. They serve the same corporate donors that the GOP does. It’s not in their best interest to actually pass the measures they propose. You can see the same sort of behavior, occasionally, from the GOP – the bailout for example.

The bailout was and is unpopular among the conservative base, and with good reason. But except for a few token objections the GOP, for the most part, fell in line and bailed out their masters. The way the stimulus package worked out (mostly it was tax cuts) and the health care bill (Dems happily threw-out the public option without a fight) was not a fear of the GOP, it was loyalty to their donors. They made a show of trying to enact progressive legislation for their base, but their actions show who they really serve (I’ve made this case before). As Matt Taibbi wrote last month:

The Democrats aren’t failing to stand up to Republicans and failing to enact sensible reforms that benefit the middle class because they genuinely believe there’s political hay to be made moving to the right. They’re doing it because they do not represent any actual voters. I know I’ve said this before, but they are not a progressive political party, not even secretly, deep inside. They just play one on television. […]

The Democrats, despite sitting in the White House, the most awesome repository of political power on the planet, didn’t fight at all. They made a show of a tussle for a good long time — as fixed fights go, you don’t see many that last into the 11th and 12th rounds, like this one did — but at the final hour, they let out a whimper and took a dive.

We probably need to start wondering why this keeps happening. Also, this: if the Democrats suck so bad at political combat, then how come they continue to be rewarded with such massive quantities of campaign contributions? When the final tally comes in for the 2012 presidential race, who among us wouldn’t bet that Barack Obama is going to beat his Republican opponent in the fundraising column very handily? At the very least, he won’t be out-funded, I can almost guarantee that.

That is what leads to so many of us on the left and dare I say the center feel powerless, and see the two parties as essentially being the same – not because of “partisan bickering.”

I should also note that I don’t think this is a “real” conspiracy. I very much doubt the Democrats are having meetings deciding to throw fights or even elections. I don’t think there are lobbyists calling up Obama telling him what to do. They don’t need to tell him, and congress doesn’t need to be told how to play the game.

West Memphis Three Go Free – But At What Cost?

ABC News reports that West Memphis Three are being released today after a special hearing in which the three men made an Alford plea. According to Wikipedia, an Alford plea is: “A guilty plea in criminal court, where the defendant does not admit the act and asserts innocence. Under the Alford plea, the defendant admits that sufficient evidence exists with which the prosecution could likely convince a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

What this means is that the WM3 will not be able to sue the state for wrongful prosecution, or profit financially from book, movie or speaking deals based on the ordeal. Or, in other words, it means that those responsible for railroading these kids in 1993 and putting them in prison for nearly two decades (while the real killer(s) remained free) will never be brought to justice, and the WM3 will never be compensated in any way for the years of their lives that they lost.

It’s a surprise move to those of us following the case. In 2007 new DNA evidence placed two men, including one of the victim’s stepfathers, at the scene of the crime, but provided no evidence that the WM3 were at the scene. I should emphasize that this doesn’t in and of itself exonerate the WM3, nor does it necessarily implicate the stepfather in the case. However, it was widely believed this DNA evidence would be enough to get the WM3 a new trial, and, given the lack of evidence in the first trial, would likely result in the three being exonerated.

I don’t know why the WM3 decided to take this plea, and I don’t blame them for taking an opportunity to go free after 18 years in prison. If they and their counsel believed this was the best option, then it probably was. But it’s extremely disappointing that the individuals – including David Burnett, Brent Davis and Dale Griffis – who railroaded the WM3 to advance their own careers will never be held accountable for their crimes.

Interview with Timothy Wyllie of The Process Church of The Final Judgement

Timothy Wyllie

WFMU recently interviewed Timothy Wyllie, who was a member of The Process Church of The Final Judgement and is the author of Love, Sex, Fear, Death: The Inside Story of The Process Church of the Final Judgment:

During the Process salon at the Anthology Film Archives right around when Love Sex Fear Death came out you mentioned that cults could be a good thing, that there were many benefits to you spending time in one. Could you describe examples of what a good cult experience would be?

The biggest benefit is that one gets to experience a kind of life that isn’t available under normal circumstances. This especially applies to reincarnates, who require an accelerated learning curve. Most western societies these days are both risk and pain averse. Cults allow those who need to go through their own pain and anger to do it in a safe situation. Cults can become a microcosm of society, so people in cults can experience a far wider array of possibilities like service, obedience, leadership, as well as what it’s like to live without personal possessions, money, and personal freedom. Celibacy for a period is also a necessary psychic/emotional antidote in an over-sexed society. Possibly the greatest gift a cult bestows is when one leaves it. One emerges back into life with the opportunity to follow one’s own drummer–free of parental etc influences, and understanding the dire consequences of ever giving away one’s power again.

If you were involved in the start of a new cult now in 2011 what would change compared to the Process? What would you focus on?

I wouldn’t. I feel cults have had their day. At this point in time and in a spiritual sense, it’s every person for themselves. Cults in the sixties and seventies were a kind of clean-up contingency. The were so many reincarnates who needed to work on themselves (and be worked on). The kids these days are different–they don’t really need cults the way we did.

And here’s him talking about drugs:

In this way one makes some unlikely allies. I found, for example, PCP/Angel Dust, contrary to its bad rap, to be the Queen of the concocted Entheogens and an invaluable ally to bust open my head. I like DMT–and have probably done it at least 100 times–but I find I can’t work with it. It just moves too fast. I suspect, for me anyway, Salvia is probably somewhat the same. Thing about entheogens is just because they get you there, doesn’t mean they keep you there. They are one way of opening the door, but the most important aspect of them is in the assimilation of the information into one’s life so as to transform it.

WMFU: My Chat with Timothy Wyllie About Angels, Cults, the Multiverse, & the Entheogenic Impulse

There’s so much good stuff in this interview. Please read the whole thing.

(Thanks Trevor)

More posts about The Process

Here’s another interview with Wyllie, from Dangerous Minds:

Love Sex Fear Death: Inside The Process Church of the Final Judgment with Timothy Wyllie from DANGEROUS MINDS on Vimeo.

The Westboro Baptist Church is (Probably Not) a Scam

The original version of this post was a link to an article called “The Scam of the Decade.” The author argues that the real goal of the Westboro Baptist Church — the infamous “God Hates Fags” people — is to get people to attack them so they can file frivelous lawsuits. It made sense. Fred Phelps and nine of his children are lawyers. And how else could they afford the $250,000 a year they told the The Guardian they spend on traveling to funerals across the country? And how could they possibly take themselves seriously? I mean, just look at this video:

But the scam theory doesn’t hold up. In an article for Stanford Review blog, Jordan Carr looks at their history, and found that between the cost of filing those frivelous suits, and the costs of getting sued and/or arrested, they probably aren’t making very much. (Thanks to Patrick for pointing this out in the comments.)

So where do they get their money? It appears that they’re working straight jobs. Three of Phelps work for the state of Kansas as of 2006, according to the Religion News Blog. Fred Phelps Jr. is a staff lawyer for the Kansas Department of Corrections, Margie Phelps is the is director of re-entry for the Kansas Department of Corrections and Abigail Phelps is a counsilor for the Juvenile Justice Authority.

According to Kansas Open Gov, Fred’s salary in 2012 was $62,060.44, Margie’s was $67,398.40 and Abiggail’s was $38,560.58. Not quite enough to cover $250,000, but there’s still several other family members out there.

Because I kept seeing people link to this post as evidence that the church is a scam, even after I updated the post and even changed the headline, I decided to completely re-write it. It is possible that it’s a scam. Carr admits there could be a number of small, local suits that the Church is winning across the country. But it seems unlikely.

See Also:

The Duggars and Quiverfull – The Cult Behind The Family

Why is this anti-gay Leviticus tattoo extra absurd?

Who really said “When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross”?

Good News: West Memphis 3 Get New Hearing

West Memphis 3

After analyzing new DNA evidence, the Arkansas Supreme Court has ordered a new hearing for the “West Memphis 3,” three men convicted as teens in the 1993 murders of three West Memphis Cub Scouts.

The justices also said a lower court must examine claims of misconduct by jurors who sentenced Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin.

CBS: “West Memphis 3” Get New Hearing in Murders of Three 8-Year-Old Cub Scouts

(Thanks Bryce!)

Steve Pavlina Plunges Into Full Blown Egoism


It seems that “personal development” guru Steve Pavlina has plunged fully into Stirner-esque egosim. Duff McDuffee analyzes Pavlina’s world view:

I hate to break it to you, but if you’re reading this and your name isn’t Steve Pavlina, then you don’t exist. Nope, you’re just a dream character in his reality. Only his identity and consciousness are real, only his impulses matter. You and I, well, we’re merely projections of Pavlina’s inner world. In his reality, all these images that appear to be other people, other subjective consciousnesses, are actually just dream characters. Or at least these are some of the results of Pavlina’s recent experiments into what he has aptly named “Subjective Reality.”

My last two posts have been about what I’m calling “the logic of evil”—the self-justifying rationalizations that lead a sincere seeker to become a psychopathic guru. In what could only be explained as an act of The Universe, I just happened to cruise by A-list personal development blogger Steve Pavlina’s blog today and found that he had produced a great example of exactly what I’ve been writing about. In fact, in the last few months he has been experimenting with taking the plunge into full and complete narcissism—and even Solipsism—which even he admits that he won’t be capable of turning back from once he has fully done so.

Beyond Growth: How to Take the Plunge into Complete Narcissism: on Steve Pavlina’s Subjective Reality

Pavlina has been a proponent of law of attraction, so this is none too surprising.

See also Duff’s referenced two articles on the logic of evil:

The Logic of Evil in Personal Development

The Logic of Evil, part 2: Trapped by the Void vs Freed by the Void

Racism? In My Tea Party? It’s More Likely Than You Think

Tea Party: We Need a Christian President

The NAACP has released a report on racism in the Tea Party movement. From a press release:

Based on exhaustive research, a new report “Tea Party Nationalism: A Critical Examination of the Tea Party Movement and the Size Scope and Focus of it National Factions,” demonstrates that despite Tea Party claims that its solely concerned with budget deficits, taxes and the power of the federal government, Tea Party membership and actions are permeated with radical views about race, national identity and other so-called social issues.

What’s in it:

*The report’s website, teapartynationalism.com identifies and maps Tea Party membership, provides an interactive map, and breaks down membership of different factions state-by-state, town-by-town;
*Analyzing the work of the party factions, demonstrating how racism, bigotry and the dismantling the birthright citizenship provision of the 14th amendment dominate their agendas, far outweighing fiscal policy concerns. (can we move this up)
*Demonstrating the lack of influence of the widely-quoted and fiscally-oriented FreedomWorks faction, which is run by Dick Armey and has the second-smallest membership of the groups.
*Listing all Congressional members who are part of the Tea Party caucus, as well as those in support sponsoring of a law aimed at birthright citizenship that aims to would challenge the 14th amendment;
*Documents the long history of connections and interactions among various Tea Party factions and their connections to right-wing fringe groups such as Stormfront, David Duke and others, which are essential to understand the character of this movement;
*Showing leaders of five of the six factions subscribe to the “birther” theory that President Obama is not a natural born American

Tea Party Nationalism

I haven’t had time to read the report yet, only the press release, so I can’t speak to how convincing the data is. But they make some very interesting claims that surprise even me.

Christine O’Donnell on Church and State: Gaffe or Political Position?

By now you’ve probably seen the above video of Christine O’Donnell’s disbelief that the First Amendment establishes the separation of church and state. If not, start the video around the 5 minute mark and see for yourself.

O’Donnell’s campaign and the right are trying to spin this by saying O’Donnell was only expressing disbelief that the words “seperation of church and state” appear in the constitution (which they don’t). It’s clear, however, that that’s not what Coons is saying. Coons quotes the amendment and says that decades of procedural law establish the separation.

So it sure sounds like a gaffe. But a belief that the Constitution doesn’t separate church and state is a widespread belief in certain parts factions of the right.

Ron Paul wrote:

The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers. On the contrary, our Founders’ political views were strongly informed by their religious beliefs. Certainly the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both replete with references to God, would be aghast at the federal government’s hostility to religion. The establishment clause of the First Amendment was simply intended to forbid the creation of an official state church like the Church of England, not to drive religion out of public life.

It’s a strange statement, since the Constitution is anything but replete with references to God.

Number of references to “God” in the Constitution: 0
Number of references to “Jesus”: 0
Number of references to “Christ”: 0
Number of references to “Lord”: 1 – in reference to the “year of our lord”
Number of references to “Providence”: 1 – In reference to how many representatives the Providence Plantations get.
Number of references to “Religion”: 1 – in the first amendment when stating that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

The Declaration of Independence does make one reference each to God and one to Divine Providence. But what of it? The Constitution is the law of the land, not the Declaration.

The idea that someone could be elected senator and not know what the First Amendment says is scary. But here’s another scary idea: the Tea Party knows what it says but still does not believe in the separation of church and state. That’s clearly the case with Ron Paul, though he seems to have little influence over the Tea Party movement anymore. However, according to the NAACP’s Tea Party Nationalism paper released today, there are a number of leaders within the movement who also believe that. And it all ties back, rather uncomfortably, to the Christian Identity movement.

So what do we have here – simple ignorance, or a theocratic agenda?

PS – Wes Unruh is doing a good job of following this stuff on Twitter.

The True Face of Faith Healing

faith healing

The image above was taken by the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office. In it, Rebecca Wyland is holding Alayna, who has a massive growth completely covering her left eye. The growth, a hemangioma, is a mass of blood vessels. Some infants are born with them, and they are typically corrected while very small. In this case, the Wylands chose not to take their daughter to a doctor. Instead, Rebecca Wyland anointed her daughter with oil and wiped off the discharge from Alayna’s eye each time she changed the child’s diaper.

At this point, the growth has begun to erode Alayna’s eye socket, and may have caused permanent damage to her eye.

Both parents have been charged with first-degree criminal mistreatment, a Class C felony which may earn them each five years in prison.

Meanwhile, the Wylands are trying desperately to regain custody, even offering a plan to ensure the child gets medical care, including such ideas as a live-in supervisor of sorts, or regular visits from state employees to check up on them.

Secular Daily News: The True Face of Faith Healing

(via OVO)

L. Ron Hubbard Movie to be Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Paul Thomas Anderson the Master

Paul Thomas Anderson is working on a film, working title The Master to star Philip Seymour Hoffman as a L. Ron Hubbard analogue:

Let’s look at what we know about the P.T. Anderson project. It centers around a man (Philip Seymour Hoffman, the only name currently attached to the film) who starts a faith-based organization that becomes popular in 1952 America — exactly the year L. Rob Hubbard expanded his Dianetics self-help system and established the Church of Scientology. The film explores “The Master’s” relationship with a young drifter named Freddie who joins the fold and becomes his Number 2 officer, only to later question both the faith and its figurehead in later years — something plenty of high and low ranking Scientologists alike have done over the years, many publicly denouncing the organization on their way out. The Master employs interrogation-style psychotherapy procedures not unlike the “audit” process basic to Scientology, and spends time living in seclusion with his inner circle on a ship, which Hubbard himself did in the 1960s. […] More recently, trade paper Production Weekly reported that Reese Witherspoon had been offered a role in The Master; The Wrap’s Deal Central speculated she would play Mary Sue, the young, pregnant wife of Hoffman’s character. Mary Sue Whipp, of course, was the name of Hubbard’s much younger third wife who became involved in Dianetics in the 1950s and helped him run his Scientology empire. The role of The Master’s daughter is also being cast, with Amanda Seyfried, Emma Stone, and Deborah Ann Woll rumored to be in the running. Also linked to the project is Jeremy Renner, who had been up for the role of Freddie, though his involvement is as yet unconfirmed.

Film.com: Will Scientologists Declare War on Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master?

Playlists’s comparisons between the movie and Hubbard’s life

Universal passed on the film, reportedly balking at the $35 million budget, but of course there’s rampant speculation that the budget wasn’t the only reason. The Wrap reports that River Road picked up the film instead.

(via VBS)

© 2024 Technoccult

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑