Monthly Archives: December 2016

Lulz Rules


How have we come to elevate a crypto fascist to the Chief Executive position of the world’s beacon of freedom and democracy?

A cursory reading of history shows that some form of anarchy precedes tyranny which is seen by the haves as necessary for restoration of some semblance of order (read, cling on to what the haves have in defense of the threat of the have-nots wanting to have what the haves have). Did anyone notice how rapidly the ultimate haves (Goldman Sachs/Exxon Mobil/et al), whom Trump vowed to collar, were invited into (and accepted) Trump’s bunker the second he won our sporting electoral college contest?  Chances are not for long – because far more vital information has intervened, like “trump tweeted a dis’ at Obama in response to his alleged dis’”, and “one Rockette isn’t going to show for the inauguration”, and “Michelle is ‘An Angry Black Woman’ for not praying at the Trump altar”, and “Hillary is steaming mad because Putin’s beef with her attempted intervention in Russian politics caused him to intervene in US politics”, and “Trump has already declared economic success for the common man’s economics because Wall Street speculation is bumping”, and “Trump vehemently asserts transition is a disaster and huuugely successful” (both in the same day), while on the same day America’s two most influential ‘intellectual’ media outlets report a speech on Israel as follows, clearly appealing to emotion in lieu of intellect: “Bibi Netanyahu Makes Trump His Chump” (New York Times) and “Kerry’s Rage Against Israel” (Wall Street Journal).

What form of anarchy preceded elevation of the big daddy who promises to restore ‘law and order’ at any cost (read liberty)?

We have created an information anarchy. In the age of information – where information reigns supreme over any other commodity – that translates into an anarchy in fact. We have created a public information sharing media that carries no penalty for purveying falsehood and deceit, penalizes in-depth and time-consuming investigation and presentation of relevant fact, and rewards appeals to emotion over intellect. Today’s information sharing does little to nothing to increase understanding. It does much to incite and inflame passion, prejudice and bias.

Worried about the arrival of ‘It Couldn’t Happen Here’ (yeah, break the spell for a day and read Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel by that title) in America? Fortunately, resignation to accepting realization of Lewis’ prophecy is slightly premature. Unfortunately, the only reason it is premature is that the information anarchy continues to grow exponentially. The beast that created today’s would-be Windrip (novel’s ‘populist’ tyrant) will devour Trump when he inevitably attempts to control the anarchy that created him. (Here’s a wild, ironic guess on how it might unfold: the ultimate self-interested information anarchist who helped sink Clinton out of sight will sink Trump out of sight just as soon as Trump helps him out of his legal bind – or he recognizes he’s in for the Christie-Giuliani treatment).  For the time being, lulz rules.

When Distraction Becomes Catastrophic


“Carbon dioxide is being added to the earth’s atmosphere by the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas at the rate of 6 billion tons a year. By the year 2000 there will be about 25 percent more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere than at present…

…The climate changes that may be produced by the increased CO2 content could be deleterious from the point of view of human beings.”

  • From Special Report of the Environmental Pollution Panel, President’s Science Advisory Committee, dated November 1965, entitled “Restoring the Quality of Our Environment” (Government Printing Office).

If one could manage to forego an hour of daily online distractions and spend that time instead on some directed google searches, one would find that the statistical predictions from the above report turned out to be pretty accurate.

If you would like to understand how these statistics affect our future as a species and how we are conditioned to ignore facts like these in favor of infotainment diversions, a meticulously researched book ably treats those subjects:  Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway.

At this moment, while a majority of the United States electorate is engaged in a game of who is punking who with ‘fake news’ and illegally obtained news, the climate-change denying president-elect is proposing the longtime head of Exxon Mobil (which acknowledged in writing internally as early as 1980 the truth of the above-referenced report, but buried it and continued to profiteer on oil for another 36 years and counting) to be our ambassador to the world at large, proposing a climate-change denier to uproot the Environmental Protection Agency (established by Richard Nixon largely based on the above cited report and its progeny), and proposing the most environment-antagonistic governor Texas ever had to establish our Energy policies (don’t forget, he vowed in 2011 to dismantle  the department he’s now been named to run). But Democrats and Republicans alike are cool with it because in the short term they think they might earn a few more coins in yet another fossil fuel bubble and a get a couple percentage points discount in taxes. Their kids and their grandkids be damned.

If you choose to look and think honestly with it, you may wind up asking yourself, “fifty years later, and I’ve been obsessing about what?”

The Pity Play

Apropos of current events, I offer for contemplation a passage from the book The Sociopath Next Door, by Martha Stout. Ironically, after I introduced this book on my blog in 2010, some of its most fervent subsequent promoters turned out to be described to a tee within it. The answer to that paradox is in the book, even within the following passage.

From chapter 6 – how to recognize the remorseless

After listening for almost twenty-five years to the stories my patients tell me about sociopaths who have invaded and injured their lives, when I am asked, “How can I tell whom not to trust?” the answer I give usually surprises people. The natural expectation is that I will describe some sinister-sounding detail of behavior or snippet of body language or threatening use of language that is the subtle give-away. Instead, I take people aback by assuring them that the tip-off is none of these things, for none of these things are reliably present. Rather, the best clue is, of all things, the pity play. The most reliable sign, the most universal behavior of unscrupulous people is not directed, as one might imagine, at our fearfulness. It is, perversely, an appeal to our sympathy.

I first learned this when I was still a graduate student in psychology and had the opportunity to   interview a court-referred patient the system had already identified as a “psychopath.” He was not violent, preferring instead to swindle people out of their money with elaborate investment scams. Intrigued by this individual and what could possibly motivate him – I was young enough to think he was a rare sort of person – I asked, “What is important to you in your life? What do you want more than anything else?” I thought he might say “getting money”, or “staying out of jail”, which were the activities to which he devoted most of his time. Instead, without a moment’s hesitation, he replied, “Oh, that’s easy. What I like better than anything else is when people feel sorry for me. The thing I really want more than anything else out of life is people’s pity.”

I was astonished, and more than a little put off. I think I would have liked him better if he had said “staying out of jail”, or even “getting money.” Also, I was mystified. Why would this man – why would anyone – wish to be pitied, let alone wish to be pitied above all other ambitions? I could not imagine. But now, after twenty-five years of listening to victims, I realize there is an excellent reason for the sociopathic fondness for pity. As obvious as the nose on one’s face, and just as difficult to see without  the help of a mirror, the explanation is that good people will let pathetic individuals get by with murder, so to speak, and therefore any sociopath wishing to continue with his game, whatever it happens to be, should play repeatedly for none other than pity.

More than admiration – more even than fear – pity from good people is carte blanche. When we pity, we are, at least for the moment, defenseless, and like so many of the other essentially positive human characteristics that bind us together in groups – social and professional roles, sexual bonds, regard for the compassionate and the creative, respect for our leaders – our emotional vulnerability when we pity is used against us by those who have no conscience. Most of us would agree that giving special dispensation to someone who is incapable of feeling guilt is a bad idea, but often, when an individual presents himself as pathetic, we do so nonetheless…

…When deciding whom to trust, bear in mind that the combination of consistently bad or egregiously inadequate behavior with frequent plays for your pity is as close to a warning mark on a conscienceless person’s forehead as you will ever be given. A person whose behavior includes both of these features is not necessarily a mass murder, or even violent at all, but is still probably not someone you should closely befriend, take on as your business partner, ask to take care of your children, or marry.