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Fri, 09 Dec 2016
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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.

USA

America's Descent into Poverty

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© Salon.com
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.

Crusader

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?).

Stormtrooper

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?

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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.)

USA

Why the US is Out to Get Julian Assange

© Oli Scarff/Getty

Considering he made his name with the biggest leak of secret government documents in history, you might imagine there would be at least some residual concern for Julian Assange among those trading in the freedom of information business. But the virulence of British media hostility towards the WikiLeaks founder is now unrelenting.

This is a man, after all, who has yet to be charged, let alone convicted, of anything. But as far as the bulk of the press is concerned, Assange is nothing but a "monstrous narcissist", a bail-jumping "sex pest" and an exhibitionist maniac. After Ecuador granted him political asylum and Assange delivered a "tirade" from its London embassy's balcony, fire was turned on the country's progressive president, Rafael Correa, ludicrously branded a corrupt "dictator" with an "iron grip" on a benighted land.

The ostensible reason for this venom is of course Assange's attempt to resist extradition to Sweden (and onward extradition to the US) over sexual assault allegations - including from newspapers whose record on covering rape and violence against women is shaky, to put it politely. But as the row over his embassy refuge has escalated into a major diplomatic stand-off, with the whole of South America piling in behind Ecuador, such posturing looks increasingly specious.

Can anyone seriously believe the dispute would have gone global, or that the British government would have made its asinine threat to suspend the Ecuadorean embassy's diplomatic status and enter it by force, or that scores of police would have surrounded the building, swarming up and down the fire escape and guarding every window, if it was all about one man wanted for questioning over sex crime allegations in Stockholm?

Eye 1

War in the Shadows: The Psychopath's Dream

© Mr Fish
A Swedish documentary filmmaker released a film last year called Last Chapter - Goodbye Nicaragua. In it he admitted that he unknowingly facilitated a bombing, almost certainly orchestrated by the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, which took the lives of three reporters I worked with in Central America. One of them, Linda Frazier, was the mother of a 10-year-old son. Her legs were torn apart by the blast, at La Penca, Nicaragua, along the border with Costa Rica, in May of 1984. She bled to death as she was being taken to the nearest hospital, in Ciudad Quesada, Costa Rica.

The admission by Peter Torbiornsson that he unwittingly took the bomber with him to the press conference was a window into the sordid world of espionage, terrorism and assassination that was an intimate part of every conflict I covered. It exposed the cynicism of undercover operatives on all sides, men and women who lie and deceive for a living, who betray relationships, including between each other, who steal and who carry out murder. One knows them immediately. Their ideological allegiances do not matter. They have the faraway eyes of the disconnected, along with nebulous histories and suspicious and vague associations. They tell incongruous personal stories and practice small deceits that are part of a pathological inability to tell the truth. They can be personable, even charming, but they are also invariably vain, dishonest and sinister. They cannot be trusted. It does not matter what side they are on. They were all the same. Gangsters.


Comment: Such individuals could more accurately be described as Psychopaths, a pathology far deeper than an inability to tell the truth. The picture should also to be expanded beyond the low level thugs on the ground to include the equally pathological individuals that are pulling the strings. For a better understanding of the scale and depth of the problem read Political Ponerology.


MIB

It's official: British and US intelligence is directing al-Qaeda operations in Syria

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MI6 and CIA al Qaeda operatives in Syria proudly display the weapons supplied to them by their paymasters.
British intelligence on Syrian troop movements is helping rebels in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, it was revealed today.

The disclosure by a Syrian opposition official is the first indication of British intelligence playing a covert role in the civil war.

The official told The Sunday Times the British authorities 'know about and approve 100 per cent' signals intelligence from their Cyprus bases being passed through Turkey to the rebel troops of the Free Syrian Army.

'British intelligence is observing things closely from Cyprus. It's very useful because they find out a great deal,' the official said.

'The British are giving the information to the Turks and the Americans and we are getting it from the Turks.'

According to the official, the most valuable intelligence so far has been about the movements of troops loyal to President Assad towards the stricken second city of Aleppo, which is partly controlled by rebels.

Comment: Notice the lip-service to international law at the end of this article, despite having already made it clear that this is exactly what they are doing.

State-Sponsored Terrorism - Western Journalists Embedded With 'al-Qaeda' in Syria