Sunday, January 31, 2010

No Rules For Radicals (Except For Defeat)

Hat Tip: Mind Numbed Robot

We Know More Than You Think

Show this to the next person that you hear say, "skeptics don't know everything", or some shit like that. My message back to them is, "Yea, well, we know enough!"

Enough not to be a dumbshit, anyway,...

Downfall: Hitler And Homeopathy

I've Had Another Name For It But,...Whatever

"Obama came to power because the American people were suffering from a bad case of charismaphilia,..."
-- Milt Rosenberg, a social psychologist who hosts a radio show in Chicago, in a story about the president not even being liked in Illinois - where he served as a senator - though peoples there, too, have no one to blame but themselves (with that bad, bad case of "charismaphilia") and can't go pinning nothing on what my black ass has been doing, reading The Times Online.

It Seems To Be All Coming Together Now,...

"We'd like to see some polling data to back up that last assertion."
-- James Taranto, taking what seems, to this American Citizen, as a unnecessarily cynical and confrontational stance to President Barack Obama's assertion that Americans "didn't send us to Washington to fight each other in some sort of political steel-cage match to see who comes out alive" - if I might add: another of the president's truly cosmic ideas, whose time has come so far that, if it wasn't on the table before, I vote it should be placed there as soon as humanly possible. What? It's not here yet? Why not? Hurry! - because I realize, now that we're waiting again that, being "open-minded", and helping this president get even his off-the-cuff ideas about what we don't want manifested, is each and every one of our personal responsibilities, each and every one, and yea, it's going to be hard, but The Beautiful Michelle told you not to get too excited because he expected you to work hard (you ain't got no job, right?) and look at all the problems he inherited from Oprah, and we love him so much, along with you, and little bunnies, and a box of pick-up sticks, with a whole lot of incense, lit with The Wall Street Journal.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

NewAge = A John Edwards Sex Tape With Ugly!

"John Edwards's ex-mistress is seeking to suppress what appears to be a sex tape featuring her and the disgraced politician, according to court records. Rielle Hunter yesterday secured a restraining order against a former Edwards aide in connection with 'a personal video recording that depicted matters of a very private and personal nature.' Andrew Young, the ex-Edwards assistant, has said he is in possession of a tape showing Edwards having sex with a woman he believes to be Hunter, who gave birth to Edwards's daughter Frances Quinn in February 2008. According to an affidavit filed yesterday in North Carolina Superior Court, Hunter reported that she was having an 'intimate relationship' with Edwards in 2006, and that the video was made around September of that year."
-- The Smoking Gun

I ask you: can this story get any more "spiritual"? (Jesus, how dumb can this man be? Oh yea.) And isn't this a great statement on how much "joy" NewAgers bring into the world? Their compassion for others - especially those with cancer (they're always really concerned about cancer) and their abundant respect for the concepts of right and wrong? I think it does. The whole thing is like a political fairy tale come true.

The only thing that ruined it is Edwards didn't win.

A "Two Girls/One Cup" Joke's In This Somewhere

"The portrait that emerges of Oprah is of a rather sinister figure,...and what of Okrant’s conclusions about the talk-show host? In her book they are mostly hedged, infuriatingly so at times, although she is willing to say that, 'Oprah devalues women by focusing so much on our bodies,' and that lessons on spirituality are best not delivered in a format that requires the funding of commercial advertisers. Okrant also expresses frustration about Oprah’s lectures on saving the planet, or vegan cleanse diets, when she flies by private jet and employs a personal chef. Ironically enough, these are peeves shared by a good number of Republicans, albeit for different reasons. But what about Oprah’s successes? What about the advice that’s actually worth following? Complimenting her husband was a good idea, says Okrant, and the turkey burgers were delicious, if expensive. Alas, the S-shaped stool proved to be more troublesome. 'You have to eat in a certain way,' she advises. 'Lots of fibre and water and fish oils. For a while I was just getting "C" shapes, although even that I was pretty proud of.'

But did it ever happen? Did she ever produce a bowl movement worthy of her Best Life? 'I made one,' she sighs. 'It was a good day.'"
-- Chris Ayres, on Robyn Okrant's new memoir, Living Oprah - the story of how, for one year, Okrant did whatever the NewAge talk show host declared - only to have it all come down to this, in The Times Online.

Quacks: Arousing "An Unkind State Of Mind"

Nov. 20. 1905

J. H. Todd 
1212 Webster St.
San Francisco, Cal.

Dear Sir,

Your letter is an insoluble puzzle to me. The handwriting is good and exhibits considerable character, and there are even traces of intelligence in what you say, yet the letter and the accompanying advertisements profess to be the work of the same hand. The person who wrote the advertisements is without doubt the most ignorant person now alive on the planet; also without doubt he is an idiot, an idiot of the 33rd degree, and scion of an ancestral procession of idiots stretching back to the Missing Link. It puzzles me to make out how the same hand could have constructed your letter and your advertisements. Puzzles fret me, puzzles annoy me, puzzles exasperate me; and always, for a moment, they arouse in me an unkind state of mind toward the person who has puzzled me. A few moments from now my resentment will have faded and passed and I shall probably even be praying for you; but while there is yet time I hasten to wish that you may take a dose of your own poison by mistake, and enter swiftly into the damnation which you and all other patent medicine assassins have so remorselessly earned and do so richly deserve.

Adieu, adieu, adieu!

Mark Twain
[Click Twain's name to see the actual letter.]

Hat Tip: I Lost My iPod

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Smile Is Just A Frown Turned Upside-Down

"[Barbara] Ehrenreich begins with the history of Christian Science and the other think-yourself-well religions that thrive in the American culture of individualism. Those faiths are the obvious forerunners of things like The Secret. The latter's New Age Wingnuttery claims you can control the world with your wishes and the universe is just one big mail-order catalogue. Of course the corollary of The Secret is that if you're poor, uneducated, or unhealthy it's your own damn fault for not wishing hard enough. (It's just so terribly Ayn Rand, despite its Australian author, Rhonda Byrne.)

But before the law of attraction, there was Protestant minister Norman Vincent Peale's 1952 book, The Power of Positive Thinking, which infected the business world via his proselytizing with sales people. That thinking inspired the money-making 'human potential movement' of the ‘70s, which spawned all sorts of revenue streams in the form of cults delivering self-empowerment workshops and motivational speakers. (Remember EST? Have you heard of the contemporary Landmark Forum?)

Ehrenreich traces how combining religious notions with healthcare led to the self-help movement, including the 12-Steppers, who demanded we all acknowledge a higher power. (As an aside, I had long wondered why reiki practitioners and other energy healers demand their patients have some sort of 'spiritual belief,' which makes them sound like faithhealers from another era. Ehrenreich's history confirms this is exactly what they are, albeit under a new label.)

She takes unseemly pleasure in skewering popular but academically-dubious 'happiness' psychology. In a particularly funny chapter, she fences with University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman, the author of pop psych books with titles like Authentic Happiness. She tries to pin down what he's really saying with his meaningless equations and vague terms. But this isn't science-based psychology; it's the armchair version that brainwashes people into thinking whatever serves authorities best.

Seligman is expressly opposed to changing the external circumstances that cause misery, which he writes can be can be 'impractical and expensive,' preferring to get people to adjust their attitude. One can only imagine what Seligman and his colleagues might have said about slavery...

Ehrenreich doesn't mention it, but it's worth noting that in the 1960s Seligman was influential in developing 'aversion therapy' for curing homosexuals -- which reveals the sinister underpinnings of his optimism training, and much of what passes for positive psychology.

Surprisingly, Ehrenreich was blissfully unaware of much of this delusional thinking when she got breast cancer in 2000. She was exhorted to be cheerful or die, which just piqued her curiousity and led to this book. The woman has a PhD in cell biology, so she knows the difference between knowledge and belief. She also knows that the so-called research these people cite about how happy thoughts affect your health is just so much superstition.

But faced with surgery, chemo, and other medical horrors, she needed a distraction. So she began looking at exactly why otherwise sensible people were embracing the notion that you must pretend to be 'positive' to get well. She found that constant demand to be cheerful for the convenience of others, downright oppressive. Or would that be Oprah-essive since, as she notes, many of the silliest positive thinking ideas are touted by Lady O.

Positive thinking has also reinvigorated the opiate of the masses. The so-called prosperity preachers like Joel Osteen (Your Best Life Now) advise their flocks to embrace a lavish lifestyle because, essentially, God wants you live large. So be positive and go buy that house with a mortgage you can't afford, assured that your higher power will help you out. Even a conservative magazine like Time has traced the U.S.-led financial collapse to the American obsession with 'spirituality' in all its variations. 'Maybe we should blame God for the subprime mortgage mess,' was the headline on a 2008 article.

Ehrenreich also documents how economists and government officials who warned of the impending financial meltdown were ignored or even fired for being 'negative' -- they pointed out the facts. In fact, the term negative seems to have become codespeak for knowledgeable and realistic. It's obvious to anyone with RRSP that those leadership coaches that advise purging negative employees from the body corporate were (and still are) in the depths of denial. In effect, they're claiming that if you deny the Doppler snow forecast it will guarantee sunny weather. And yet, most of us believe it.

But then, the alternative to spouting upbeat slogans is being labeled with 'a bad attitude,' and as Ehrenreich records that's a career-limiting move.

Besides, there's no arguing with people who believe the Emperor actually has new clothes. Bright-Sided might be funny, if it weren't for the fact that this Dark Age anti-thinking is destroying our economy, threatening our health, and undermining our quality of life."
-- Shannon Rupp, reviewing Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America (yes: again) and discovering pretty much the same thing I blog about - though in Ehrenreich's telling (as with the approach of most secularists) NewAge "spirituality" takes a back seat to the "Oprah-essive" movements it's spawned - and also finding herself similarly repelled, in The Tyee.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

We're Still Not Reaching Our True Potential

"To hear one manipulative [James Arthur Ray] speech is to hear them all. Each one is a mish-mash of falsely defined problems and equally sham solutions, with a few phony promises peppered into the mix."
-- George Neumayr, who was not attempting to provide a quote for calling Obama's ruling strategy cultishly NewAge - or for some damn fool to show replacing the president's name with James Arthur Ray's changes nothing - Neumayr just wanted to let it be known he's finding the whole Obama thing wanting, whatever it is, and was doing so in the pages of The American Spectator.

O.K., This Is Interesting: We Can Work With This

"An unclassified study from a military research unit in southern Afghanistan details how homosexual behavior is unusually common among men in the large ethnic group known as Pashtuns -- though they seem to be in complete denial about it."

By Jove, I Think He's Got It!

And. You. Must. Learn.

Hat Tip: Althouse and Boing Boing.

The Sermon That Made No Sense

"The president went on to say global warming is worth fighting even if imaginary,...his laughable assertion about 'the overwhelming scientific evidence' was greeted with laughter."
-- James Taranto, pointing to the moment when our president - who's supposed to be smart-as-a-whip - revealed himself to be just another dummy, to me and probably The Wall Street Journal.

God Damn, That Song You Did Was Good, What?

"Just after midnight last summer, in a tent in Dorset's End of the Road Festival, a Biblically bearded Texan is talking to God. Josh T Pearson looks like a terrifying preacher, and as he comes to the climax of his song's violent guitar noise, his pleading look to the heavens is more than theatrics. This is a man who seems truly to be wrestling for his soul while playing rock'n'roll. It is as if nothing's changed since the August 1957 day in Sun Studios when Jerry Lee Lewis entered into impassioned theological debate over whether recording 'Great Balls of Fire' would send him to hell."
-- Nick Hasted, on the subject of religious hellraisers - I once had a drummer ask me, seriously, if I worked for the Devil - like vegetarians, they're kind of an occupational hazard, at least for any musician who regards him/her self as The Independent.

Atheists And Evangelicals (Got Nothing For IOU)

"The Rev Pat Robertson, infamous American televangelist, sees the hand of God in the earthquake, wreaking terrible retribution for a 1791 pact that the Haitians made with the Devil, to help to rid them of their French masters. 1791? Ah, but don’t forget 'I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me'.

Needless to say, milder-mannered faith-heads fell over themselves to disown Robertson, just as they disowned those other pastors, evangelists, missionaries and mullahs at the time of the earlier disasters.

What hypocrisy. Loathsome as Robertson’s views undoubtedly are, he is the Christian who stands squarely in the Christian tradition. The agonised theodiceans who see suffering as an intractable 'mystery', or who see God in the help, money and goodwill that is now flooding into Haiti, or (most nauseating of all) who claim to see God 'suffering on the cross' in the ruins of Port-au-Prince, those faux-anguished hypocrites are denying the centrepiece of their own theology. It is the obnoxious Pat Robertson who is the true Christian here.

Where was God in Noah’s flood? He was systematically drowning the entire world, animal as well as human, as punishment for 'sin'. Where was God when Sodom and Gomorrah were consumed with fire and brimstone? He was deliberately barbecuing the citizenry, lock, stock and barrel, as punishment for 'sin'.

'Oh but that’s the Old Testament. No one believes those stories literally any more. The New Testament is all about love.' Dear modern, enlightened, theologically sophisticated, gentle Christian, you cannot be serious. Your entire religion is founded on an obsession with 'sin', with punishment and with atonement. Where do you find the effrontery to condemn Pat Robertson, you who have signed up to the odious doctrine that the central purpose of Jesus’s incarnation was to have himself tortured as a scapegoat for the 'sins' of all mankind, past, present and future, beginning with the 'sin' of Adam, who (as any modern theologian well knows) never even existed?

Yes, I know you hate the word 'scapegoat' (with good reason, because it is a barbaric idea) but what other word would you use? The only respect in which 'scapegoat' falls short as a perfect epitome of Christian theology is that the Christian atonement is even more unpleasant. The goat of Jewish tradition was merely driven into the wilderness with its cargo of symbolic sin. Jesus was supposedly tortured and executed to atone for sins that, any rational person might protest, he had it in his power simply to forgive, without the agony. Among all the ideas ever to occur to a nasty human mind (Paul’s of course), the Christian 'atonement' would win a prize for pointless futility as well as moral depravity."
-- Richard Dawkins, who doesn't appear to have had a first beer before he got to rollin' (or, maybe, he missed a chance to get on the m-i-c) - to make the same point I've made before elsewhere - but with the fire and brimstone (and over-the-top hilarity) that seem to be a requirement of The Times.

Forget That: Arrest Him On A Fashion Violation

"The doctor at the centre of the MMR controversy faces being struck off after the General Medical Council today ruled he 'failed in his duties as a responsible consultant', and went against the interests of children in his care.

Dr Andrew Wakefield - who believed he had uncovered a link between the jab and bowel disease and autism - was told he 'acted dishonestly' and had been misleading in the way he described his research, which was published in The Lancet in 1998."
-- Sophie Freeman, bringing more good news our way - this time on the anti-vaccine front: this quack, Wakefield, wrote the B.S. paper that started the whole thing, which lead eventually to us having to listen to Jenny McCarthy act as some kind of medical authority on Oprah (where everybody gets the idea that Oprah's our friend, I don't know,...) - anyway, I'm happy with this latest turn of events, just as I am with England and The Daily Mail.

He's The Biggest Selling Author On Pandora

"[Third "wife", Joyce] Maynard described Salinger, who had been influenced by Zen Buddhism and Hinduism, as consumed with yoga, meditation, and a strict diet of whole grains and vegetables. She also said he could be 'moody and cranky' and critical of her 'worldly' habits, including her desire to publish and give interviews.

In 2000, Salinger’s estranged daughter Margaret wrote the memoir 'Dream Catcher.' In it, she described a neurotic father obsessed with health fads, including homeopathy and the drinking of his own urine."
-- Nancy Moran, on J.D. Salinger, the now-deceased literary wackjob icon of the '60s - who (as also evidenced by "Catcher In The Rye") appears to have been really onto something - like how to be humiliated in death, here, and kinda in the pages of BusinessWeek.

Click the tags, below, for more on ol' J.D. and the gang.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A "Spiritual Warrior" Ain't Like The Real Thing

"I don’t know how to answer that."
-- James Arthur Ray, The Secret's (and Oprah's) self-help guru, when asked how the age-old practice of killing suckers has changed his "personal beliefs" - the enlightened one used to have all the answers, like all NewAgers, before they go traipsing into trouble - but alas, now Ray - who claimed The Secret was "science"** - can't give us much (except a "White Paper" - along with a notice his lawyer's on the phone) during an interview in New York Magazine.

**Yea, yea - The Secret is "science", Global Warming is "science", Homeopathy is "science",...everything's fucking science - except science. They'll fight to the death over that.

An End To The Chemical Brothers (Not Techno)

"Iraq yesterday executed by hanging Ali Hassan al-Majid, Saddam Hussein's chief enforcer and supervisor of mass killings, also known as 'Chemical Ali' for using chemical weapons to kill tens of thousands of people.

He was the cruellest and most violent of top Iraqi leaders under Saddam Hussein, his first cousin to whom he was wholly loyal. He had already been sentenced to death four times, most recently earlier this month for the killing by poison gas of 5,000 Kurdish civilians at Halabja in 1988."
-- Patrick Cockburn, trying his best to cheer me up - and it's working really well - unlike those liberals**, who keep claiming going to Iraq was a "waste", while posing as The Independent.

**Isn't it funny how calling liberals "liberals" really pisses them off?