Article 43

 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Religious Diversions Part 13 - Psychology of Religion

image we invented Jesus

Religion has been the longest running form of MIND CONTROL on the planet and has served to not only keep us separated, but to depopulate the world through numerous wars, Inquisitions and Crusades in the name of God.
- How to Deprogram Yourself

God is understood to be responsive, loving and present - even when things are tough, miserable and unfair. The theology is not about explanation, but about relationship. That is what makes churches like these work for those who come to them. People stay with this God not because the theology makes sense, but because the practice delivers emotionally. When you feel lousy, reaching out to this God helps you to feel better. Under these conditions, it is often when prayer requests fail that prayer practice becomes most satisfying.
- Prayer Failure

[W]hat modern priests and pastors do all the time. They tell you to “just have faith,” to “trust in faith,” and even to “work on your faith.” Does this differ significantly from telling one to JUST STAY STUPID?
- Religious Diversions - Part 9

“Expose every belief to the light of reason, discourse, facts, scientific observations; question everything, be sceptical because this is the only chance at life you will ever get.”
- James Randi

Religion is about emotion regulation, and its very good at it

By Stephen T Asma
Aeon
October 9, 2018

Religion does not help us to explain nature. It did what it could in pre-scientific times, but that job was properly unseated by science. Most religious laypeople and even clergy agree: Pope John Paul II declared in 1996 that evolution is a fact and Catholics should get over it. No doubt some extreme anti-scientific thinking lives on in such places as Ken Hams Creation Museum in Kentucky, but it has become a fringe position. Most mainstream religious people accept a version of Galileo’s division of labour: The intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes.

Maybe, then, the heart of religion is not its ability to explain nature, but its moral power? Sigmund Freud, who referred to himself as a godless Jew, saw religion as delusional, but helpfully so. He argued that we humans are naturally awful creatures - aggressive, narcissistic wolves. Left to our own devices, we would rape, pillage and burn our way through life. Thankfully, we have the civilising influence of religion to steer us toward charity, compassion and cooperation by a system of carrots and sticks, otherwise known as heaven and hell.

The French sociologist Emile Durkheim, on the other hand, argued in The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912) that the heart of religion was not its belief system or even its moral code, but its ability to generate COLLECTIVE EFFERVESCENSE: intense, shared experiences that unify individuals into cooperative social groups. Religion, Durkheim argued, is a kind of social glue, a view confirmed by recent interdisciplinary RESEARCH.

While Freud and Durkheim were right about the important functions of religion, its true value lies in its therapeutic power, particularly its power to manage our emotions. How we feel is as important to our survival as how we think. Our species comes equipped with adaptive emotions, such as fear, rage, lust and so on: religion was (and is) the cultural system that dials these feelings and behaviours up or down. We see this clearly if we look at mainstream religion, rather than the deleterious forms of extremism. Mainstream religion reduces ANXIETY, stress and depression. It provides existential MEANING and hope. It focuses aggression and fear against enemies. It domesticates lust, and it strengthens filial connections. Through story, it trains feelings of empathy and compassion for others. And it provides consolation for suffering.

Emotional therapy is the animating heart of religion. Social bonding happens not only when we agree to worship the same totems, but when we feel affection for each other. An affective community of mutual care emerges when groups share rituals, liturgy, song, dance, eating, grieving, comforting, tales of saints and heroes, hardships such as fasting and sacrifice. Theological beliefs are bloodless abstractions by comparison.

Emotional management is important because life is hard.The Buddha said: “All life is suffering” and most of us past a certain age can only agree. Religion evolved to handle what I call the “vulnerability problem.” When were sick, we go to the doctor, not the priest. But when our child dies, or we lose our home in a fire, or we’re diagnosed with Stage-4 cancer, then religion is helpful because it provides some relief and some strength. It also gives us something to do, when there’s nothing we can do.

Consider how religion helps people after a death. Social mammals who have suffered separation distress are restored to health by touch, collective meals and grooming. Human grieving customs involve these same soothing prosocial mechanisms. We comfort-touch and embrace a person who has lost a loved one. Our bodies give ancient comfort directly to the grieving body. We provide the bereaved with food and drink, and we break bread with them (think of the Jewish tradition of shiva, or the visitation tradition of wakes in many cultures). We share stories about the loved one, and help the bereaved reframe their pain in larger optimistic narratives. Even music, in the form of consoling melodies and collective singing, helps to express shared sorrow and also transforms it from an unbearable and lonely experience to a bearable communal one. Social involvement from the community after a death CAN ACTas an antidepressant, boosting adaptive emotional changes in the bereaved.

Religion also helps to manage sorrow with something I’ll call “existential shaping” or more precisely “existential debt.” It is common for Westerners to think of themselves as individuals first and as members of a community second, but our ideology of the lone protagonist fulfilling an individual destiny is more fiction than fact. Losing someone reminds us of our dependence on others and our deep vulnerability, and at such moments religion turns us toward the web of relations rather than away from it. Long after your parents have died, for example, religion helps you memorialise them and acknowledge your existential debt to them. Formalising the memory of the dead person, through funerary rites, or tomb-sweeping (Qingming) festivals in Asia, or the Day of the Dead in Mexico, or annual honorary masses in Catholicism, is important because it keeps reminding us, even through the sorrow, of the meaningful influence of these deceased loved ones. This is not a self-deception about the unreality of death, but an artful way of learning to live with it. The grief becomes transformed in the sincere acknowledgment of the value of the loved one, and religious rituals help people to set aside time and mental space for that acknowledgment.

An emotion such as grief has many ingredients. The physiological arousal of grief is accompanied by cognitive evaluations: “I will never see my friend again”; :I could have done something to prevent this”; She was the love of my life”; and so on. Religions try to give the bereaved an alternative appraisal that reframes their tragedy as something more than just misery. Emotional appraisals are proactive, ACCODING to the psychologists Phoebe Ellsworth at the University of Michigan and Klaus Scherer at the University of Geneva, going beyond the immediate disaster to envision the possible solutions or responses. This is called “secondary appraisal.” After the primary appraisal (This is very sad), the secondary appraisal assesses our ability to deal with the situation: “This is too much for me” or, positively: “I will survive this.” Part of our ability to cope with suffering is our sense of power or agency: more power generally means better coping ability. If I acknowledge my own limitations when faced with unavoidable loss, but I feel that a powerful ally, God, is part of my agency or power, then I can be more resilient.

Because religious actions are often accompanied by magical thinking or supernatural beliefs, Christopher Hitchens argued in God Is not Great (2007) that religion is “false consolation.” Many critics of religion echo his condemnation. But there is no such thing as false consolation. Hitchens and fellow critics are making a category mistake, like saying: “The colour green is sleepy.” Consolation or comfort is a feeling, and it can be weak or strong, but it can’t be false or true. You can be false in your judgment of why youre feeling better, but feeling better is neither true nor false. True and false applies only if we’re evaluating whether our propositions correspond with reality. And no doubt many factual claims of religion are false in that way - the world was not created in six days.

Religion is real consolation in the same way that music is real consolation. No one thinks that the pleasure of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute is “false pleasure” because singing flutes don’t really exist. It doesn’t need to correspond to reality. Its true that some religious devotees, unlike music devotees, pin their consolation to additional metaphysical claims, but why should we trust them to know how religion works? Such believers do not recognise that their unthinking religious rituals and social activities are the true sources of their therapeutic healing. Meanwhile, Hitchens and other critics confuse the factual disappointments of religion with the value of religion generally, and thereby miss the heart of it.

Why We Need Religion: An Agnostic Celebration of Spiritual Emotions by Stephen Asma, 2018 is published by Oxford University Press.

SOURCE

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image: Ashtar

It performed great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of everyone.
- Revelations 13:13

Alien Confession Found: We Invented Jesus Christ

Alienviews
September 28, 2018

American Biblical scholar Joseph Atwill will be appearing before the British public for the first time in London on the 19th of October to present a controversial new discovery:

Ancient confessions recently uncovered now prove, according to Atwill, that the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats and that they fabricated the entire story of Jesus Christ.

His presentation will be part of a one-day symposium entitled ”COVERT MESSIAH” at Conway Hall in Holborn.

Although to many scholars his theory seems outlandish, and is sure to upset some believers, Atwill regards his evidence as conclusive and is confident its acceptance is only a matter of time.

“I present my work with some ambivalence, as I do not want to directly cause Christians any harm,” he acknowledges, but this is important for our culture.

“Alertcitizens need to know the truth about our past so we can understand how and why governments create false histories and false gods. They often do it to obtain a social order that is against the best interests of the common people.”

Atwill asserts that Christianity did not really begin as a religion, but a sophisticated government project, a kind of propaganda exercise used to pacify the subjects of the Roman Empire.

“Jewish sects in Palestine at the time, who were waiting for a prophesied warrior Messiah, were a constant source of violent insurrection during the first century,” he explains.

When the Romans had exhausted conventional means of quashing rebellion, they switched to psychological warfare. They surmised that the way to stop the spread of zealous Jewish missionary activity was to create a competing belief system.

That’s when the “peaceful” Messiah story was invented. Instead of inspiring warfare, this Messiah urged turn-the-other-cheek pacifism and encouraged Jews to give onto Caesar and pay their taxes to Rome.

Was Jesus based on a real person from history?

“The short answer is no,” Atwill insists, “in fact he may be the only fictional character in literature whose entire life story can be traced to other sources. Once those sources are all laid bare, there’s simply nothing left.”

Atwill’s most intriguing discovery came to him while he was studying WWars of the Jews” by Josephus [the only surviving first-person historical account of first-century Judea] alongside the New Testament.

“I started to notice a sequence of parallels between the two texts,” he recounts.

“Although its been recognized by Christian scholars for centuries that the prophesies of Jesus appear to be fulfilled by what Josephus wrote about in the First Jewish-Roman war, I was seeing dozens more.”

What seems to have eluded many scholars is that the sequence of events and locations of Jesus ministry are more or less the same as the sequence of events and locations of the military campaign of [Emperor] Titus Flavius as described by Josephus.

This is clear evidence of a deliberately constructed pattern. The biography of Jesus is actually constructed, tip to stern, on prior stories, but especially on the biography of a Roman Caesar.

How could this go unnoticed in the most scrutinized books of all time?

Many of the parallels are conceptual or poetic, so they aren’t all immediately obvious.

After all, the authors did not want the average believer to see what they were doing, but they did want the alertreader to see it. An educated Roman in the ruling class would probably have recognized the literary game being played.

Atwill maintains he can demonstrate that, “the Roman Caesars left us a kind of puzzle literature that was meant to be solved by future generations, and the solution to that puzzle is We invented Jesus Christ, and we’re proud of it.”

Is this the beginning of the end of Christianity?

“Probably not,” grants Atwill, but what my work has done is give permission to many of those ready to leave the religion to make a clean break. We’ve got the evidence now to show exactly where the story of Jesus came from.

Although Christianity can be a comfort to some, it can also be very damaging and repressive, an insidious form of mind control that has led to blind acceptance of serfdom, poverty, and war throughout history.

To this day, especially in the United States, it is used to create support for war in the Middle East.

Atwill encourages skeptics to challenge him at Conway Hall, where after the presentations there is likely to be a lively Q&A session.

Joining Mr. Atwill will be fellow scholar Kenneth Humphreys, author of the book “Jesus Never Existed.”

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 10/10/18 •
Section Spiritual Diversions
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Tuesday, October 09, 2018

National (In)Security

image: dying america

Economic recovery is now treated as consistent with declining standards of living. Lowered expectations and acquiescence in long term working-class hardship are now built into what we are told to regard as recovery.
- Still Trapped in Unemployment

The United States Has a National-Security Problemand It’s Not What You Think
Conflict abroad is not the biggest threat to most Americans lives.

By Rajan Menon
Tom Dispatch
July 16, 2018

So effectively has the Beltway establishment captured the concept of national security that, for most of us, it automatically conjures up images of terrorist groups, cyber warriors, or “rogue states.” To ward off such foes, the United States maintains a historically unprecedented CONSTELLATION of military bases abroad and, since 9/11, has waged wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere that have gobbled up nearly $4.8 trillion. The 2018 Pentagon budget already totals $647 billionfour times what China, second in global military spending, shells out and more than the next 12 countries combined, seven of them American allies. For good measure, Donald Trump has added an additional $200 billion to projected defense expenditures through 2019.

Yet to hear the hawks tell it, the United States has never been less secure. So much for bang for the buck.

For millions of Americans, however, the greatest threat to their day-to-day security isn’t terrorism or North Korea, Iran, Russia, or China. It’s internal - and economic. Tha’ts particularly true for the 12.7 percent of Americans (43.1 million of them) classified as poor by the government’s criteria: an income below $12,140 for a one-person household, $16,460 for a family of two, and so on until you get to the princely sum of $42,380 for a family of eight.

Savings aren’t much help either: A third of Americans have no savings at all and another third have less than $1,000 in the bank. Little wonder that families struggling to cover the cost of food alone increased from 11 percent (36 million) in 2007 to 14 percent (48 million) in 2014.

The Working Poor

Unemployment can certainly contribute to being poor, but millions of Americans endure poverty when they have full-time jobs or even hold down more than one job. The latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that there are 8.6 million “working poor,” defined by the government as people who live below the poverty line despite being employed at least 27 weeks a year. Their economic insecurity doesn’t register in our society, partly because working and being poor don’t seem to go together in the minds of many Americansand unemployment has fallen reasonably steadily. After approaching 10 percent in 2009, it’s now at ONLY 4 PERCENT.

Help from the government? Bill Clinton’s 1996 “welfare reform” program, concocted in partnership with congressional Republicans, imposed time limits on government assistance, while tightening eligibility criteria for it. So, as Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer show in their disturbing book, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, many who desperately need help don’t even bother to apply. And things will only get worse in the age of Trump. His 2019 budget includes deep cuts in a raft of anti-poverty programs.

Anyone seeking a visceral sense of the hardships such Americans endure should read Barbara Ehrenreichs 2001 book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. ItҒs a gripping account of what she learned when, posing as a homemakerғ with no special skills, she worked for two years in various low-wage jobs, relying solely on her earnings to support herself. The book brims with stories about people who had jobs but, out of necessity, slept in rent-by-the-week fleabag motels, flophouses, or even in their cars, subsisting on vending machine snacks for lunch, hot dogs and instant noodles for dinner, and forgoing basic dental care or health checkups. Those who managed to get permanent housing would choose poor, low-rent neighborhoods close to work because they often couldnt afford a car. To maintain even such a barebones lifestyle, many worked more than one job.

Though politicians prattle on about how times have changed for the better, EhrenreichԒs book still provides a remarkably accurate picture of Americas working poor. Over the past decade the proportion of people who exhausted their monthly paychecks just to pay for life’s essentials actually increased from 31 percent to 38 percent. In 2013, 71 percent of the families that had children and used food pantries run by Feeding America, the largest private organization helping the hungry, included at least one person who had worked during the previous year. And in Americas big cities, chiefly because of a widening gap between rent and wages, thousands of working poor remain homeless, sleeping in shelters, on the streets, or in their vehicles, sometimes along with their families. In New York City, no outlier when it comes to homelessness among the working poor, in a third of the families with children that use homeless shelters at least one adult held a job.

The Wages of Poverty

The working poor cluster in certain occupations. They are salespeople in retail stores, servers or preparers of fast food, custodial staff, hotel workers, and caregivers for children or the elderly. Many make less than $10 an hour and lack any leverage, union or otherwise, to press for raises. In fact, the percentage of unionized workers in such jobs remains in the single digits - and in retail and food preparation, its under 4.5 percent. That;s hardly surprising, given that private sector union membership has fallen by 50 percent since 1983 to only 6.7 percent of the workforce.

Low-wage employers like it that way and Walmart being the poster child for this - work diligently to make it ever harder for employees to join unions. As a result, they rarely find themselves under any real pressure to increase wages, which, adjusted for inflation, have stood still or even decreased since the late 1970s. When employment is “at-will,” workers may be fired or the terms of their work amended on the whim of a company and without the slightest explanation. Walmart announced this year that it would hike its hourly wage to $11 and that’s welcome news. But this had nothing to do with collective bargaining; it was a response to the drop in the unemployment rate, cash flows from the Trump tax cut for corporations (which saved Walmart as much as $2 billion), an increase in minimum wages in a number of states, and pay increases by an arch competitor, Target. It was also accompanied by the shutdown of 63 of Walmart’s Sams Club stores, which meant layoffs for 10,000 workers. In short, the balance of power almost always favors the employer, seldom the employee.

As a result, though the United States has a per-capita income of $59,500 and is among the wealthiest countries in the world, 12.7 percent of Americans (thatҒs 43.1 million people), officially are impoverished. And that’s generally considered a significant undercount. The Census Bureau establishes the poverty rate by figuring out an annual no-frills family food budget, multiplying it by three, adjusting it for household size, and pegging it to the Consumer Price Index. That, many economists believe, is a woefully inadequate way of estimating poverty. Food prices havenҒt risen dramatically over the past 20 years, but the cost of other necessities like medical care (especially if you lack insurance) and housing have: 10.5 percent and 11.8 percent respectively between 2013 and 2017 compared to an only 5.5 percent increase for food.

Include housing and medical expenses in the equation and you get the Supplementary Poverty Measure (SPM), published by the Census Bureau since 2011. It reveals that a larger number of Americans are poor: 14 percent or 45 million in 2016.
Dismal Data

For a fuller picture of American (in)security, however, its necessary to delve deeper into the relevant data, starting with hourly wages, which are the way more than 58 percent of adult workers are paid. The good news: Only 1.8 million, or 2.3 percent of them, subsist at or below minimum wage. The not-so-good news: One-third of all workers earn less than $12 an hour and 42 percent earn less than $15. That’s $24,960 and $31,200 a year. Imagine raising a family on such incomes, figuring in the cost of food, rent, childcare, car payments (since a car is often a necessity simply to get to a job in a country with inadequate public transportation), and medical costs.

The problem facing the working poor isnt just low wages, but the widening gap between wages and rising prices. The government has increased the hourly federal minimum wage more than 20 times since it was set at 25 cents under the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. Between 2007 and 2009 it rose to $7.25, but over the past decade that sum lost nearly 10 percent of its purchasing power to inflation, which means that, in 2018, someone would have to work 41 additional days to make the equivalent of the 2009 minimum wage.

Workers in the lowest 20 percent have lost the most ground, their inflation-adjusted wages falling by nearly 1 percent between 1979 and 2016, compared to a 24.7 percent increase for the top 20 percent. This can’t be explained by lackluster productivity since, between 1985 and 2015, it outstripped pay raises, often substantially, in every economic sector except mining.

Yes, states can mandate higher minimum wages and 29 have, but 21 have not, leaving many low-wage workers struggling to cover the costs of two essentials in particular: health care and housing.

Even when it comes to jobs that offer health insurance, employers have been shifting ever more of its cost onto their workers through higher deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses, as well as by requiring them to cover more of the premiums. The percentage of workers who paid at least 10 percent of their earnings to cover such costs - not counting premiums - doubled between 2003 and 2014.

This helps explain why, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 11 percent of workers in the bottom 10 percent of wage earners even enrolled in workplace healthcare plans in 2016 (compared to 72 percent in the top 10 percent). As a restaurant server who makes $2.13 an hour before tipsand whose husband earns $9 an hour at Walmartחput it, after paying the rent, it’s either put food in the house or buy insurance.

The Affordable Care Act, or ACA (aka Obamacare), provided subsidies to help people with low incomes cover the cost of insurance premiums, but workers with employer-supplied healthcare, no matter how low their wages, weren’t covered by it. Now, of course, President Trump, congressional Republicans, and a Supreme Court in which right-wing justices are going to be even more influential will be intent on poleaxing the ACA.

Its housing, though, that takes the biggest bite out of the paychecks of low-wage workers. The majority of them are renters. Ownership remains for many a pipe dream. According to a Harvard study, between 2001 and 2016, renters who made $30,000-$50,000 a year and paid more than a third of their earnings to landlords (the threshold for qualifying as rent burdened) increased from 37 percent to 50 percent. For those making only $15,000, that figure rose to 83 percent.

In other words, in an ever more unequal America, the number of low-income workers struggling to pay their rent has surged. As the Harvard analysis shows, this is, in part, because the number of affluent renters (with incomes of $100,000 or more) has leapt and, in city after city, they’re driving the demand for, and building of, new rental units. As a result, the high-end share of new rental construction soared from a third to nearly two-thirds of all units between 2001 and 2016. Not surprisingly, new low-income rental units dropped from two-fifths to one-fifth of the total and, as the pressure on renters rose, so did rents for even those modest dwellings. On top of that, in places like New York City, where demand from the wealthy shapes the housing market, landlords have found ways - some within the law, others not - to get rid of low-income tenants.

Public housing and housing vouchers are supposed to make housing affordable to low-income households, but the supply of public housing hasnt remotely matched demand. Consequently, waiting lists are long and people in need languish for years before getting a shot - if they ever do. Only a quarter of those who qualify for such assistance receive it. As for those vouchers, getting them is hard to begin with because of the massive mismatch between available funding for the program and the demand for the help it provides. And then come the other challenges: finding landlords willing to accept vouchers or rentals that are reasonably close to work and not in neighborhoods euphemistically labelled “distressed.”

The bottom line: More than 75 percent of “at-risk” renters (those for whom the cost of rent exceeds 30 percent or more of their earnings) do not receive assistance from the government. The real risk for them is becoming homeless, which means relying on shelters or family and friends willing to take them in.

President Trumps proposed budget cuts will make life even harder for low-income workers seeking affordable housing. His 2019 budget proposal slashes $6.8 billion (14.2 percent) from the resources of the Department of Housing and Urban DevelopmentԒs (HUD) by, among other things, scrapping housing vouchers and assistance to low-income families struggling to pay heating bills. The president also seeks to slash funds for the upkeep of public housing by nearly 50 percent. In addition, the deficits that his rich-come-first tax reformғ bill is virtually guaranteed to produce will undoubtedly set the stage for yet more cuts in the future. In other words, in whats becoming the United States of Inequality, the very phrases “low-income” workers and “affordable housing” have ceased to go together.

None of this seems to have troubled HUD Secretary Ben Carson who happily ordered a $31,000 dining room set for his office suite at the taxpayers’ expense, even as he visited new public housing units to make sure that they weren’t too comfortable (lest the poor settle in for long stays). Carson has declared that itҒs time to stop believing the problems of this society can be fixed merely by having the government throw extra money at themunless, apparently, the dining room accoutrements of super bureaucrats aren’t up to snuff.

Money Talks

The levels of poverty and economic inequality that prevail in America are not intrinsic to either capitalism or globalization. Most other wealthy market economies in the 36-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have done far better than the United States in reducing them without sacrificing innovation or creating government-run economies.

Take the poverty gap, which the OECD defines as the difference between a countrys official poverty line and the average income of those who fall below it. The United States has the second-largest poverty gap among wealthy countries; only Italy does worse.

Child poverty? In the World Economic ForumҒs ranking of 41 countriesfrom best to worstҗthe United States placed 35th. Child poverty has declined in the United States since 2010, but a Columbia University report estimates that 19 percent of American kids (13.7 million) nevertheless lived in families with incomes below the official poverty line in 2016. If you add in the number of kids in low-income households, that number increases to 41 percent.

As for infant mortality, according to the governments own Centers for Disease Control, the United States, with 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births, has the absolute worst record among wealthy countries. (Finland and Japan do best, with 2.3.)

And when it comes to the distribution of wealth, among the OECD countries only Turkey, Chile, and Mexico do worse than the United States.

It’s time to rethink the American national security state with its annual trillion-dollar budget. For tens of millions of Americans, the source of deep workaday insecurity isnt the standard roster of foreign enemies, but an ever-more entrenched system of inequality, still growing, that stacks the political deck against the least well-off Americans. They lack the bucks to hire big-time lobbyists. They can’t writelavish checks to candidates running for public office or fund PACs. They have no way of manipulating the myriad influence-generating networks that the elite uses to shape taxation and spending policies. They are up against a system in which money truly does talk - and that’s the voice they don’t have. Welcome to the United States of Inequality.

SOURCE - SOURCE 2

Posted by Elvis on 10/09/18 •
Section Dying America
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Sunday, October 07, 2018

Lost All Hope

image: lost all hope

Just because a person attempts suicide doesn’t mean they want to die. Rather, often they have lost what I call the “power of hope.” When faced with a BAD SITUATION that has NO END IN SIGHT, coupled with the helpless feeling that NOTHING YOU CAN DO will make a difference, it’s all too easy to LOSE HOPE. AT SOME POINT suicide for some becomes a viable option, rather than CONTINUNG TO FACE the constant pain and suffering that life has become. If you can give someone who is contemplating suicide merely the glimmer of hope, that is often enough to get them through the rough patch to consider other options.
- White, Middle-Age Suicide In America Skyrocket

[P]eople who went through “post-traumatic growth” after life-events such as serious illness, divorce or the loss of a job, as well as near-death experiences. Initially, most of them experienced a DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL, where their previous values were thrown into question, and life ceased to have any meaning. After this, they went through a phase of spiritual searching, trying to make sense of what had happened to them, and find new values. And finally, once they had found new spiritual principles to live by, they entered a phase of “spiritual integration,” when they applied these new principles.
- Psychological Healing

“I doubt whether such suffering improves a man; but I know that it makes him deeper.”
- Nietszche

Somewhere today, perhaps while you were reading this, someone has taken their life because they felt useless, with no hope of gainful employment, their self-esteem ground down, the sense of meaning and connection severed by redundancy and societal disconnection.
- Unemployment is Killing People

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While the U.S. Department Of Labor PROPAGANDIZES a healthy economy:

U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta today issued the following statement regarding the September 2018 Employment Situation report: “In September, the unemployment rate fell to 3.7%, the lowest since 1969.

... another THANKSGIVING is around the corner, and another job is gone for me.  The company let go of a bunch of Americans while keeping everyone OVERSEAS.  There wasn’t a peep on the local news.

What else is NEW?

Like I explained HERE, the economic recovery they talk about today is as HOLLOW as the JOBLESS RECOVERY president Obama talked about five years ago:

Economic recovery is now treated as consistent with declining standards of living. Lowered expectations and acquiescence in long term working-class hardship are now built into what we are told to regard as recovery.

The only thing I can say good about loosing my crappy CALL CENTER job is - it’s a job, not a career - so it’s less of a big deal than loosing a well-paid position.

But the JOB HUNT is JUST AS BAD as it was when I started this site IN 2004.

CNBC REPORTS:

A separate measure of unemployment that includes discouraged workers and those holding jobs part-time for economic reasons sometimes called the “real unemployment rate” - edged higher to 7.5 percent.

Those counted as not in the labor force did increase by 74,000, bringing that number to nearly 96.4 million.

image: not in labor force 9/2018

I live paycheck to paycheck. The nest egg is gone, and fear of GROWING OLD alone, penniless and HOMELESS - haunts me every minute of every day.

FEELINGS OF STRESS, failure, isolation and paralyzing fear kept surfacing in our analyses with alarming regularity. With severe stress, comes further debilitating self-destructive ways of thinking including avoidance, denial and isolation. As the ability to manage stress spirals, it inevitably moves toward physical dysfunction and chronic disease.

I’ve THOUGHT about - and WRITTEN about - SUICIDE so many times, that it’s HARD TO DECIDE if I’m a whiner like teenagers that slit their wrists for attention, or deserve a medal for fighting the urge to kill myself year after year.

Neither.

I’m a coward.

When my mother fell to her knees crying SIX YEARS AGO after I told her I can’t afford a plane ticket to visit her anymore - I went in the garage, hooked up a hose to the car’s tailpipe, sat in the front seat with it, turned on the engine, shut it off a few seconds later, and chickened out.

I WISH I had the strength to PULL IT OFF and end the suffering right there and then. 

SUICIDES ASSOCIATED WITH UNEMPLOYMENT totalled a nine-fold higher number of deaths than excess suicides attributed to the most recent economic crisis.

I still can’t afford to visit mom, and live with the feelings of ultimate looser, coward, rotten son, and weak, INSECURE MAN:

Nowadays, being a white male is the single biggest risk factor [for suicide]. Why is that? According to Case and Deaton, drastic changes in the labor market is the most significant factor. Meyer claims another driver.  “Hegemonic masculinity,” or a perception that heightened masculinity must be portrayed at all times, a goal that no male can live up to. Sooner or later everyone needs to be vulnerable and let their emotions out. This inability to fit into such a rigid framework causes psychological pain in the form of guilt, shame, disgust, and self-hatred. This builds to the point where the person can no longer take it.

The years long suffering COMES from LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYMENT/UNDEREMPLOYMENT and resulting financial ruin that led to all sorts of things from loss of self-esteem and friends, to selling my possessions, to frightening dreams of living in the street preyed on like a wounded, bleeding animal.

ASK SOMEONE - a relative, friend or neighbor - who is unemployed at this age, you hear the same things. Endless applications, unreturned calls, useless job searches, financial losses, anger, guilt and fear. Being jobless can be a soul-killing experience. For many, the work we do is an important part of our identity and a source of dignity.

Besides giving up on myself - everyone else gave up on me.

THE JOURNEY has been a solitary, lonely event.  A few have offered to walk down THIS PATH with me for a little while, but then DISAPPEAR.  That’s a real killer.  One friend who I met at Sprint while we were both WORKING AS CONTRACTORS still takes me out to dinner twice a month.

There’s no guardian angel, no best friend, no wife and kids, no JESUS, and no Buddhist mantra - to SHARE - or help lift - the pain.

Nobody’s around to hand me a tissue to wipe away the tears, or even notice I’m crying.

The thought of being homeless is as frightening as going to jail. I’m not strong enough for either, but spend weekends sleeping on the floor trying to prepare for a future without a bed:

ONE IN TEN CITIES nationwide has a law prohibiting residents from giving homeless people food, 53% of American cities prohibit sitting or lying down in certain public places and 43% of cities prohibit someone from sleeping in their car.

Unless the economy changes, or a pot of gold falls on my head, I’m pretty sure I’ll die by my own hand.  Maybe not today or tomorrow, but I’ll break.  There’s only so much agony any one person can take.  How long it will take for someone to even notice I’m gone?  Days? Weeks?  Knowing nobody cares eases my conscience, but also means nobody will try to stop me.

We all need one good friend. Someone you know will be there for you no matter what. Someone you know will never hurt you. Someone you feel the same for.  If you have one good friend - a friend that doesn’t draw lines - a friend that loves and supports you through terrible times - coping is MUCH MORE EASIER:

“I surrounded myself with people who helped me keep it together, so to speak, when I started to lose hope,” she said. I have one friend, in particular, who I leaned on quite heavily. Without her, and the counseling, I’m not sure how I would have survived. My family was a great help also. My dad, especially.

LAST MONTH when I poured my guts out to my only relative (other than my elderly mom) :

[he] brushed me off. The same cousin who I grew up with, is tired of listening to my venting, and tired of giving me pep talks when I talk about how depressing the experience of hunting for a job year after year is, and HOW FRIGHTENED OF THE FUTURE I am. Polls show that most older people are more worried about running out of money than dying.

IF YOU’RE FACED WITH A TRAGEDY and someone tells you in any way, shape or form that your tragedy was meant to be, that it happened for a reason, that it will make you a better person, or that taking responsibility for it will fix it, you have every right to remove them from your life.

In our society today, there’s only two types of of people - strong and weak.

LOVE AND COMPASSION are for the weak.

BURNED OUT BOOMERS like me DON’T STAND A CHANCE surviving in A PLACE LIKE OURS.

image: help me

Posted by Elvis on 10/07/18 •
Section Personal
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True Evil Redux

greedy-exec.jpg

“What is the chief end of man?--to get rich. In what way?--dishonestly if we can; honestly if we must.”
- Mark Twain, 1871

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
- Edmund Burke

Studies involving money games show that upper-class subjects keep more for themselves, and U.S. surveys find that the rich give a smaller percentage of their income to charity than do the poor.
- Rich And Spoiled, Science Magazine, February, 2012

Did you see the Brett Kavanaugh SPECTACLE last week?

Can you believe he’s now a SUPREME COURT JUDGE?

Umair over at Eudamonia NAILED IT:

He flipped, in this strange, polarized, binary way, between extreme narcissistic rage - shouting, red-faced, about his many accomplishments, thundering how he’d been first in his class, and so on - and just as extreme unctuous self-pity, in great broken sobs “how can they have done this to me?”

Violence is the only language such men really understand

What was it that we saw Senators - at least the male conservative ones, who are part of these structures - doing in response to Kavanaugh’s classic pattern of borderline narcissistic flipping between extreme rage and extreme self-pity? A little pecking order of violence was being established, wasn’t it? In that very room, you saw the enactment and creation of the very social structure were talking about - the threat of violence, dominance, creating a little hierarchy. Senators at the bottom, Kavanaugh at the top. Through a kind of ritualistic gang violence - which was a double abuse, because it was conducted upon a woman who had already been assaulted - the group bonded, formed a tribe, and sorted itself into strongest and weakest, top, middle, and bottom, with the most vicious and threatening man at the top.

Why do American men of this kind, or men in these systems more generally, prey on people, so constantly, perpetually, relentlessly?

Good question.

The Kavanaugh appointment may be one small expression, but shines a light on the bigger picture of a society run by the PUREST OF EVIL:

Malignant narcissists are the personification of human evil. Well-known psychologist and author, Erich Fromm, coined the phrase “malignant narcissism” back in 1964 and characterized it as the “quintessence of evil.”

THESE PEOPLE:

have no boundaries, no sense of shame, no limits to what they are willing to do to get what they want.

Next time you see politicians or corporate CEOs conduct themselves, watch how they act and RECOGNIZE the patterns.

More:

TRUE EVIL

THE SCIENCE OF EVIL AND ITS USE FOR POLITICAL PURPOSES

THE POLITICS OF CRUELTY

BULLY ECONOMY

SPIRITUAL CRISIS

Posted by Elvis on 10/07/18 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America • Section Spiritual Diversions
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Analog Malicious Hardware

image: computer chip

This Demonically Clever Backdoor Hides In a Tiny Slice of a Computer Chip

By Andy Greenberg
Wired
June 1, 2016

Security flaws in software can be tough to find. Purposefully planted oneshidden backdoors created by spies or saboteursחare often even stealthier. Now imagine a backdoor planted not in an application, or deep in an operating system, but even deeper, in the hardware of the processor that runs a computer. And now imagine that silicon backdoor is invisible not only to the computers software, but even to the chip’s designer, who has no idea that it was added by the chips manufacturer, likely in some farflung Chinese factory. And that it’s a single component hidden among hundreds of millions or billions. And that each one of those components is less than a thousandth of the width of a human hair.

In fact, researchers at the University of Michigan haven’t just imagined that computer security nightmare; they’ve built and proved it works. In a study that won the “best paper” award at last weeks IEEE Symposium on Privacy and Security, they detailed the creation of an insidious, microscopic hardware backdoor proof-of-concept. And they showed that by running a series of seemingly innocuous commands on their minutely sabotaged processor, a hacker could reliably trigger a feature of the chip that gives them full access to the operating system. Most disturbingly, they write, that microscopic hardware backdoor wouldn’t be caught by practically any modern method of hardware security analysis, and could be planted by a single employee of a chip factory.

“Detecting this with current techniques would be very, very challenging if not impossible,” says Todd Austin, one of the computer science professors at the University of Michigan who led the research. “It’s a needle in a mountain-sized haystack.” Or as Google engineer Yonatan Zunger wrote after reading the paper: “This is the most demonically clever computer security attack I’ve seen in years.”

Analog Attack

The “demonically clever” feature of the Michigan researchers’ backdoor isn’t just its size, or that it’s hidden in hardware rather than software. It’s that it violates the security industry’s most basic assumptions about a chip’s digital functions and how they might be sabotaged. Instead of a mere change to the “digital” properties of a chip - a tweak to the chip’s logical computing functions - the researchers describe their backdoor as an “analog” one: a physical hack that takes advantage of how the actual electricity flowing through the chip’s transistors can be hijacked to trigger an unexpected outcome. Hence the backdoor’s name: A2, which stands for both Ann Arbor, the city where the University of Michigan is based, and “Analog Attack.”

Here’s how that analog hack works: After the chip is fully designed and ready to be fabricated, a saboteur adds a single component to its “mask,” the blueprint that governs its layout. That single component or “cell” 0 of which there are hundreds of millions or even billions on a modern chip - is made out of the same basic building blocks as the rest of the processor: wires and transistors that act as the on-or-off switches that govern the chip’s logical functions. But this cell is secretly designed to act as a capacitor, a component that temporarily stores electric charge.

Every time a malicious program - say, a scripton a website you visit - runs a certain, obscure command, that capacitor cell “steals” a tiny amount of electric charge and stores it in the cell’s wires without otherwise affecting the chip’s functions. With every repetition of that command, the capacitor gains a little more charge. Only after the “trigger” command is sent many thousands of times does that charge hit a threshold where the cell switches on a logical function in the processor to give a malicious program the full operating system access it wasn’t intended to have. “It takes an attacker doing these strange, infrequent events in high frequency for a duration of time,” says Austin. “And then finally the system shifts into a privileged state that lets the attacker do whatever they want.”

That capacitor-based trigger design means it’s nearly impossible for anyone testing the chip’s security to stumble on the long, obscure series of commands to “open” the backdoor. And over time, the capacitor also leaks out its charge again, closing the backdoor so that it’s even harder for any auditor to find the vulnerability.

New Rules

Processor-level backdoors have been proposed before. But by building a backdoor that exploits the unintended physical properties of a chip’s componentsחtheir ability to “accidentally” accumulate and leak small amounts of chargerather than their intended logical function, the researchers say their backdoor component can be a thousandth the size of previous attempts. And it would be far harder to detect with existing techniques like visual analysis of a chip or measuring its power use to spot anomalies. “We take advantage of these rules ‘outside of the Matrix’ to perform a trick that would [otherwise] be very expensive and obvious,” says Matthew Hicks, another of the University of Michigan researchers. “By following that different set of rules, we implement a much more stealthy attack.”

The Michigan researchers went so far as to build their A2 backdoor into a simple open-source OR1200 processor to test out their attack. Since the backdoor mechanism depends on the physical characteristics of the chip’s wiring, they even tried their “trigger” sequence after heating or cooling the chip to a range of temperatures, from negative 13 degrees to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, and found that it still worked in every case.

As dangerous as their invention sounds for the future of computer security, the Michigan researchers insist that their intention is to prevent such undetectable hardware backdoors, not to enable them. They say it’s very possible, in fact, that governments around the world may have already thought of their analog attack method. “By publishing this paper we can say it’s a real, imminent threat,” says Hicks. “Now we need to find a defense.”

But given that current defenses against detecting processor-level backdoors wouldn’t spot their A2 attack, they argue that a new method is required: Specifically, they say that modern chips need to have a trusted component that constantly checks that programs haven’t been granted inappropriate operating-system-level privileges. Ensuring the security of that component, perhaps by building it in secure facilities or making sure the design isn’t tampered with before fabrication, would be far easier than ensuring the same level of trust for the entire chip.

They admit that implementing their fix could take time and money. But without it, their proof-of-concept is intended to show how deeply and undetectably a computer’s security could be corrupted before it’s ever sold. “I want this paper to start a dialogue between designers and fabricators about how we establish trust in our manufactured hardware,” says Austin. “We need to establish trust in our manufacturing, or something very bad will happen.”

Here’s the Michigan researchers’ FULL PAPER - [ LOCAL COPY .pdf ]

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 10/07/18 •
Section Privacy And Rights
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