Authoritarian Followers: How Ordinary People Come to Embrace Paul Ryan's Cruelty

Scientific research into the way we think explains the reasons decent people wind up supporting horrific policies.

Earlier this year, Democratic operatives looking for the best way to define Mitt Romney discovered something interesting about Paul Ryan's budget. The New York Times reported that when the details of his proposals were run past focus groups, they found that the plan is so cruel that voters "simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing."

In addition to phasing out the Earned Income Tax Credit that keeps millions of American families above the poverty line and cutting funding for children's healthcare in half, Jonathan Cohn described the "America that Paul Ryan envisions" like this:
Many millions of working-age Americans would lose health insurance. Senior citizens would anguish over whether to pay their rent or their medical bills, in a way they haven't since the 1960s. Government would be so starved of resources that, by 2050, it wouldn't have enough money for core functions like food inspections and highway maintenance.

Eye 1

More People Ask: Are Politicians Psychopaths?

It's no secret that politicians can be driven by outsized egos. I mean, who among us really thinks he or she deserves a seat in Congress -- or a desk in the Oval Office?

But can egotism alone explain why so many elected officials seem to get caught telling lies, having affairs, committing financial improprieties or engaging in other scandalous behavior? Not everyone is convinced that it can, and some in the blogosphere have gone so far as to wonder if bad-boy (and bad girl) politicians are actually psychopaths. And a recent article in The Atlantic asks of these pundits:
Could they be right? If these pundits mean that the targeted office-seekers are evil or "crazy," probably not. But if they are pointing out that politicians and psychopaths share certain characteristics, they could be on to something.


Authoritarian Followers: The temptations and perils of blind obedience to authority

Indie film Compliance recalls notions that the past decade's worst events are explained by failures to oppose authority

© Greg Wahl-Stephens/AP
Some noted a disturbing thirst for leader-worship that drove followers of Barack Obama.
One can object to some of its particulars, but Frank Bruni has a quite interesting and incisive New York Times column today about a new independent film called Compliance, which explores the human desire to follow and obey authority.

Based on real-life events that took place in 2004 at a McDonalds in Kentucky, the film dramatizes a prank telephone call in which a man posing as a police officer manipulates a supervisor to abuse an employee with increasing amounts of cruelty and sadism, ultimately culminating in sexual assault - all by insisting that the abuse is necessary to aid an official police investigation into petty crimes.


America's Descent into Poverty

The United States has collapsed economically, socially, politically, legally, constitutionally, and environmentally. The country that exists today is not even a shell of the country into which I was born. In this article I will deal with America's economic collapse. In subsequent articles, I will deal with other aspects of American collapse.

Economically, America has descended into poverty. As Peter Edelman says, "Low-wage work is pandemic." Today in "freedom and democracy" America, "the world's only superpower," one fourth of the work force is employed in jobs that pay less than $22,000, the poverty line for a family of four. Some of these lowly-paid persons are young college graduates, burdened by education loans, who share housing with three or four others in the same desperate situation. Other of these persons are single parents only one medical problem or lost job away from homelessness.

Others might be Ph.D.s teaching at universities as adjunct professors for $10,000 per year or less. Education is still touted as the way out of poverty, but increasingly is a path into poverty or into enlistments into the military services.

Edelman, who studies these issues, reports that 20.5 million Americans have incomes less than $9,500 per year, which is half of the poverty definition for a family of three.


Austerity for the masses while the elite stash trillions in tax havens

A new Tax Justice Network (TJN) USA report reveals an estimated $21 - $32 trillion of hidden and stolen wealth stashed largely tax-free secretly.

Titled "The Price of Offshore Revisited," it explains what financial insiders know but won't discuss. Many of them have their own hidden wealth.

TJN describes a "subterranean" systemic "economic equivalent of an astrophysical black hole." The higher estimate above exceeds US GDP twofold.

It's mind-boggling. It's hard imagining a tiny percent of privileged elites control this much wealth secretly. It's worse knowing it's largely tax free. It's appalling that governments let them get away with it.


How Are US Religious Fundamentalists Any Different Than Middle Eastern Ones?

© Dan Gill / The New York Times
Congressman Todd Akin.

In the American media, the news from Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan and elsewhere generally runs along the same themes: scary, violent and religious nutsos. But isn't it time the US media and the American public agreed that America isn't much different? America has just as many religious fundamentalists and nut jobs, and they are making public statements just as often - if not more often - than the religious fundies elsewhere.

Are we to believe that a fundamentalist in a suit is less scary than a fundamentalist in a beard, even if both are spouting hatred against women?

Missouri Republican Congressman Todd Akin's recent comments about how women can't become pregnant from what he called "legitimate rape" was just the latest in a long line of pronouncements from American leaders with strong religious backgrounds who believe they are an authority on women's needs and health. Akin is no different than the numerous Iranian clerics who've said such ridiculous things as women who have extramarital sex "cause earthquakes," or the Egyptian cleric who first said that a husband and wife cannot be completely naked while having sex. (This was then modified by scholars, and it was agreed that the most important thing is that no one look at the vagina at the scene of the sex act.) Or the fatwa after fatwa about men and women working together, schooling together and all the rest (sounds a lot like segregation, doesn't it America?).


Hysterical Police Wounded New York Shooting Victims

© RobFrehse /CNN
Gunman who fatally shot former co-worker killed in gun battle with police

All nine people injured in Friday's shooting in front of the Empire State Building were wounded by police gunfire, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters Saturday.

The officers unloaded a total of 16 rounds at a disgruntled former apparel designer, killing him after he shot and killed a co-worker and engaged in a gunbattle with police, authorities have said.

Authorities said an investigation is under way after one officer shot nine rounds and another shot seven. Three victims suffered gunshot wounds, while the remaining six were hit by fragments.

Police identified the gunman as Jeffrey Johnson, 58, who was apparently laid off from his job as a designer of women's accessories at Hazan Import Co. last year.

Alarm Clock

Signs of impending global cataclysm in August 2012

Note: this video does not imply the world is going to end in 2012... but it sure is a striking collection of signs of the times.

Extreme weather, Earth Changes, earthquakes, sinkholes, floods, drought, snow, mass animal deaths... and perhaps most symbolically of all, the US flag falling at an Olympics medal ceremony.

This is just a snapshot of events from around the world during the first two weeks of August. Has the Universe got your attention yet?

Comment: The latter half of August is proving no less portentous:

Fireballs impacting the ground

Honduras Investigates Alleged Meteorite Crash

Large meteorites found after fireball lands in Manitoba, Canada

Meteorite starts fire in Itatiba, Brazil following separate Fireball incident in neighbouring Campinas days earlier

Meteorite hits moving car in Sioux City

More strange sky sounds

More strange sky sounds, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Strange Sounds Over Suffern, New York

Strange Sounds in Germany

Multiple tornadoes/waterspouts

Nine waterspouts spotted on Lake Michigan

Multiple waterspouts touch down in Black Sea, near Foros, Ukraine

Multiple waterspouts touch down off Polish coast

Unusual lightning strikes

Lightning kills two brothers in Russia's Kursk region

3 Lightning strike survivors on Mt Whitney, CA: 'We thought we were on fire'

Lightning injures 10 New Jersey soldiers at New York's Ft. Drum

Lightning-sparked huge fire burns to edge of 3 small California towns

Authorities ID Wisconsin boy killed in lightning strike

Increase in Lightning Observed Across Japan... What the Hell Is That?!

Five seriously injured in French lightning strike

Lightning Strike Kills Wisconsin Boy, 9, and Injures Seven Others on Sailboat

Red Flag

Intelligence bulletin prepared by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security warn of possible anarchist activity at conventions?


Law enforcement is concerned about potential violence by anarchists at upcoming political conventions

Law enforcement officials are concerned about possible violence by anarchist extremists at the upcoming Republican and Democratic national conventions, according to an intelligence bulletin prepared by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. The bulletin, which was obtained by CNN, says that anarchists could try to use improvised explosive devices.

It also says that, as of March, the FBI had intelligence indicating individuals from New York "planned to travel to Tampa and attempt to close" all of the Tampa Bay-area bridges during the Republican National Convention next week.

According to the document, the FBI's information as of March showed that anarchist extremists proposed "engaging in potentially destructive criminal activities against critical infrastructure outside the security perimeter throughout the Tampa Bay region because they expected access to the main RNC venue to be tightly controlled."

Bad Guys

Are People Being Thrown Into Psychiatric Wards For Their Political Views?

Mental Health Diagnoses Are Sometimes Politically-Motivated

Many psychologists and psychiatrists are good people, who are only trying to help their patients.

But the Nazi government substantially supported psychologists ... many of whom, in turn, espoused extermination of the people they considered to be "racially and cognitively compromised".

Soviet psychiatrists famously aided Stalin in applying fake insanity diagnoses to political dissenters. The official explanation was that no sane person would declaim the Soviet government and Communism.

American psychologists created the American program of torture which was specially-crafted to produce false confessions to justify U.S. military policy. And see this.

And authoritarian American psychologists are eager to label anyone "taking a cynical stance toward politics, mistrusting authority, endorsing democratic practices, ... and displaying an inquisitive, imaginative outlook" as worthy of a trip to the insane asylum. (Those traits may also get one labeled as a potential terrorist.)