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PODCAST: Bill Moyers talks with Dr. Bandy Lee About THE DANGEROUS CASE OF DONALD TRUMP

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/01/2021 - 7:26am in

Four years ago, Dr. Lee felt a duty to warn the country about dangerous possibilities stemming from a man who lacked the mental fitness to be president, breaking the "Goldwater Rule." Continue reading

The post PODCAST: Bill Moyers talks with Dr. Bandy Lee About THE DANGEROUS CASE OF DONALD TRUMP appeared first on

Trailer for HBO Series on Heaven’s Gate Suicide Cult

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 13/01/2021 - 5:26am in

The ’90s were a decade marred by the mass deaths of cult members. There was the Order of the Solar Temple, the horrific immolation of the Branch Davidians in their conflict with the FBI and Heaven’s Gate. HBO Max started screening a documentary series about the latter on December 3rd last year. I found this trailer for it on YouTube. Although it’s just over 2 minutes long, it shows the cult’s main beliefs and the background to the tragedy.

The cult was led by a man and woman, here identified as ‘Do’ and ‘Ti’. They died wearing badges announcing that they were an ‘away team’, and believed that after they left their bodies, they would ascend to become aliens of a superior species and take their seats in a spacecraft in or following a visiting comment. Several of the men had been castrated. Their bodies were discovered covered in purple sheets.

The blurb for the series on its YouTube page gives a bit more information. It says

“Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults” is a thorough examination of the infamous UFO cult through the eyes of its former members and loved ones. What started in 1975 with the disappearance of 20 people from a small town in Oregon ended in 1997 with the largest suicide on US soil and changed the face of modern new age religion forever. This four-part docuseries uses never-before-seen footage and first-person accounts to explore the infamous UFO cult that shocked the nation with their out-of-this-world beliefs.

“Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults” is a Max Original produced by CNN and Campfire. Directed and executive produced by Clay Tweel (“Gleason”), the docuseries is also executive produced by Campfire CEO Ross Dinerstein (“The Innocent Man”) and Shannon Riggs, with Chris Bannon, Eric Spiegelman, Peter Clowney and Erik Diehn executive producing for the digital media company Stitcher (“Heaven’s Gate” podcast, “Sold in America” podcast).

Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults | Official Trailer | HBO Max – YouTube

The Fortean Times did a piece about the cult. As the TV series’ blurb says, the two cult leaders had been knocking around the UFO world for years. I can’t remember their real names, except that they had a couple of nicknames. Apart from ‘Do’ and ‘Ti’, they were also called ‘Him’ and ‘Her’. I think their message had started off claiming that they end was nigh, but that the Space Brothers were coming to help us. It’s a message shared by several UFO religions and Contactees. In the 1950s a Chicago psychic had claimed she had received similar messages telepathically from alien telling her that the world was going to end, but she was to assemble as many followers as she could. These would then be saved by the aliens, who would take them aboard their spacecraft. The psychic and her followers duly assembled on the date of the predicted arrival of the aliens, but the world didn’t end and the aliens didn’t show up. The group had, however, been joined by a group of sociologists from Chicago University, who were studying them. They were particularly interested in how the cult’s members continued to believe in its central message even after it had failed to come true. One of the sociologist’s published a book about it, entitled, When Prophecy Fails, which I think is now a classic of academic studies on UFOs and their believers. The psychic’s group differed from Heaven’s Gate in that none of them, I believe, committed suicide.

The aliens in which Heaven’s Gate believed were bald and asexual, and look very much like one of the stereotypes of UFO aliens taken from SF ‘B’ movies. The bald heads and large craniums show that the aliens are super-intelligent. It ultimately comes from a 19th century evolutionary theory, which held that as humanity evolved, the brain would expand at the expense of the body, and the sensual aspects of humanity would similarly wither. As a result, humans would become smaller, with larger heads and brains. The ultimate endpoint of this evolution are H.G. Wells’ Martians from The War of the Worlds. Astronomers at the time believed that Mars was an older world than Earth, and so Wells’ Martians are similarly far more advanced in their evolution than terrestrial humanity. They consist of large heads with tentacles. As their brains have expanded, their digestive systems have atrophied so that they feed by injecting themselves with blood.

It’s because their supposed aliens were asexual that some of the men in the group had travelled to Mexico to be castrated. It’s also been suggested that it may also have been because the group’s male leader was gay. If he was, and the group’s rejection of gender and sexuality stemmed from his failure to come to terms with his sexuality, then it’s a powerful argument for the acceptance of homosexuality. It’s far better for a gay person to be comfortable with their sexuality than to feel such shame and confusion that they mutilate themselves. This aspect of the Heaven’s Gate ideology also seems to me to be similar to the reason for some families referring their children for treatment as transgender. Opponents of the contemporary transgender movement have claimed that the majority of children referred to clinics like the Tavistock Clinic come from extremely homophobic backgrounds. They’ve argued that they’re seen as transgender by their parents, who have convinced the children of this, because it’s the only way the parents can cope with the child’s sexuality. They can’t accept that their son or daughter is gay, and prefer to believe that they have instead been born in the wrong body. Gay critics of the trans movement and their allies thus see the transitioning of such vulnerable children as a form of gay conversion therapy. That’s certainly how Iran views it. Homosexuality is illegal there, carrying the death penalty. However, gender reassignment surgery is paid for by the state. I got the impression that Iranians gays were offered the choice between death and having a sex change.

The cult’s description of themselves as an ‘Away Team’ was taken from the Star Trek series, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space 9 then on television. The ‘Away Team’ were what had been called in the Original Series the ‘landing party’ – the group that would beam down from the Enterprise to explore that episode’s planet. One of the cult’s members and victims was the brother of actress Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura in the Original Series and subsequent films.

Their belief that the world was about to be visited by an alien spaceship was the unfortunate consequence of a misidentification of a known star by a pair of German amateur astronomers. They had been out looking for a comet that was due to come close to Earth. They found it, but with it was an object they couldn’t find on their star maps. They therefore went on the web to inquire what it might be, and the myth developed that it was some kind of alien spacecraft many times bigger than Earth, which was following said comet. Of course, it was no such thing. It was a star that didn’t appear on the maps the pair were using because it was too dim to be visible to the naked eye. It was, however, bright enough for them to see it using binoculars. The Cult’s leaders took the appearance of this supposed alien spacecraft to be the spaceship they had long expected to take them all to a higher plane with tragic consequences. Although the world was shocked by this disaster and the cult’s apparently weird beliefs, folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand pointed out that their idea of being taken to heaven in a ship actually came from a strand of American Christianity. There have been a number of hymns written describing Christian believers going to heaven in just such a vessel.

The trailer for the series also says that the cult’s members were intelligent and came from good families. I don’t doubt this. I’ve heard that members of new religious movements are often of above average intelligence. Perhaps it’s because such people are more intellectually curious and less satisfied with conventional religion. However, it also seems, at least according to the Fortean Times article, that many of the cult’s members also had problems functioning independently. They apparently were always contacting somebody to help them solve ordinary, every day problems like how to peel an apple correctly. I wonder if they suffered from a psychological or neurological condition like autism, which left them unable to cope with ordinary life and so vulnerable to being dominated by a charismatic personality with a message that appeared to solve all their problems.

The series looks like a fascinating insight into one of the decade’s apocalyptic, extreme religions with its roots in the UFO milieu. However, the series will be over by now, and if it was on HBO Max, it’s doubtful that very many people will have seen it. But perhaps it’ll be repeated sometime on one of the more popular TV channels. And I hope that events and the landscape of religious and paranormal belief have changed in the meantime, so that there will never be another tragedy like it.

The Powerful Rhetoric of Post-Truth Politics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/12/2020 - 7:28am in

Fact-checking 2020 is an exercise in futility. Post-truth politics creates its own reality.

Michael Hudson at 80 – reflects on his remarkable life:

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/12/2020 - 9:05am in

This is one hour and five minutes so I must indicate, not a quick listen. But nonetheless, given the connections and career of the economist and polymath, Michael Hudson, it is a very interesting verbal autobiography… He’s both been there and done that and also later researched something else… I think it was Steve Keen... Read more

The Psychology of Makeup Sex

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/12/2020 - 2:08am in

New research shows that couples engage in makeup sex to dampen hurt feelings in the moment. But there may be no long-term benefit for the relationship.

A Schoolmate’s Death Makes Headlines 40 Years Later

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/12/2020 - 1:26am in

A long-ago death provokes soul searching among social psychologists.

Visual Memories Linger

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/11/2020 - 8:30am in

For memory, the meanings of words may matter less than their ability to inspire mental pictures.

Hard-Knocks Restaurant Workers Are Embracing Mental Wellness

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 14/11/2020 - 3:01am in

When employees clock into work at Mulvaneys B&L, a popular farm-to-table restaurant in Sacramento, California, they’re encouraged to slip one of four color-coded cards into a cardboard box. The cards have faces on them: one is happy, one is angry, one is neutral and one is stressed (in restaurant parlance, that’s “in the weeds.”)

“It’s like the pain signs at hospitals,” explains co-owner Patrick Mulvaney. Though the cards are anonymous, they give employees a chance to assess their own moods and share them with the manager or the peer helper on duty. During the staff’s pre-service meeting, the manager can share how many angry or stressed employees there are that day and ask if anyone needs additional support, empathy, or patience.

The box, which was co-owner (and Patrick’s wife) Bobbin Mulvaney’s idea, is just one measure put in place by I Got Your Back, a year-old peer-to-peer counseling program that the Mulvaneys helped start in response to several suicides in the Sacramento restaurant community in early 2018. In May of that year, Noah Zonca, the beloved, larger-than-life longtime chef of Sacramento’s the Kitchen, where Mulvaney also worked, died by suicide. He was one of 12 Sacramento restaurant workers to die by suicide that year. A month later, the issue of restaurant industry suicides was thrust into the spotlight when celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain hanged himself in a hotel in Alsace, France.  

Frankie Lopez, a manager at Mulvaneys B&L, and bartender Dan Mitchell. Photo courtesy Patrick Mulvaney

Even before Zonca’s death, the Mulvaneys had been having conversations with Sacramento chefs and restaurant owners, health care professionals, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, state senators and even Governor Gavin Newsom about how to tackle mental health issues in the hospitality industry. But the losses of Zonca and Bourdain added a sense of urgency. The final iteration of I Got Your Back came out of a design workshop at the Innovation Learning Network conference in October 2018. With the financial support of the James Beard Foundation and all four major area health systems — Dignity Health, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health and the UC Davis Medical Center — a pilot was launched in September 2019.

Restaurant workers are especially prone to mental health and substance abuse issues. As journalist Kat Kinsman, founder of the blog Chefs with Issues, has written, “People who deal with mental health and addiction issues are drawn to this work because it has always been a haven for people who exist on the fringes; restaurant jobs have brutal hours and often pay very little and don’t offer health care; there is easy access to alcohol and illicit substances; and workers have traditionally been rewarded for their masochism — shut up and cook.” 

Kevin Ritchie, executive chef at Mulvaneys B&L, wearing an I Got Your Back pin. Photo courtesy Patrick Mulvaney

Indeed, research shows that the hospitality industry is especially vulnerable: a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that service workers in tipped environments are more likely to develop depression, sleep problems and stress than those in salaried industries. And mental health experts say that the Covid-19 pandemic — and its subsequent closures and layoffs — have only exacerbated anxiety, depression and substance use. 

This makes peer-to-peer mental health support programs like I Got Your Back more crucial than ever. The concept is simple. Restaurant workers are more likely to confide in their peers than they are in their boss or manager. “They’re not going to talk to me as the chef,” says Mulvaney. “But they’ll talk to Kevin, Jana, or Lisa.” Members of the staff are asked if they’d like to be peer helpers, called Purple Hands. After an eight-hour Mental Health First Aid training (some of which are conducted in Spanish), these staff members wear a Purple Hand pin during service so that everyone knows they are the point person for anyone experiencing a mental health challenge. Each restaurant aims to have one Purple Hand on staff for each shift.

Anonymous face cards let employees assess their own moods and share them with the manager or the peer helper on duty. Photo courtesy Patrick Mulvaney

Twelve Sacramento restaurants participated in the pilot, which ran from September to November 2019. The results were promising. Nearly 70 percent of restaurant workers said that they would be somewhat or very likely to discuss their mood or mental health concern with a Purple Hand co-worker. And 22 percent of respondents reported that they had talked to a Purple Hand at their restaurant about their mood or other mental health concerns.

Jana Rogers, a server and sommelier at Mulvaneys B&L, has worked in the restaurant industry for 29 years, 12 of them at Mulvaneys. “The people I work with are family to me,” she says. “I love the people I work with.” So training to be a Purple Hand peer mentor was a no-brainer. Part of her role, she says, is to help build a culture where “it’s okay to not be okay.” In that respect, she says, the program has succeeded. Co-workers often check in with her mid-shift and tell her they’re struggling with something. “They’ll say, ‘Before you leave tonight, can we chat? I’ll be brief.’ And even if it’s one in the morning, we’ll chat,” Rogers says. “And we’ll at least get something started, so the person doesn’t feel alone and isolated.” 

restaurantJana Rogers (center), a server and sommelier at Mulvaneys B&L, wearing a Purple Hands pin. Photo courtesy Patrick Mulvaney

If necessary, she also connects her co-workers with mental health professionals or other resources. At Mulvaneys, when employees clock out at the end of the night, they each get a slip of paper that says, “I Got Your Back — we’re there for you!” with all the Purple Hand peer counselors’ names and phone numbers on it. That way, if they are anxious or depressed later — or during a day they’re off — they’ll have easy access to their co-workers’ contact information.

Rogers thinks the program has already helped change the culture at her restaurant — just by normalizing mental health issues. “As the conversation is becoming more prevalent, it’s shifting the reaction we have to the words ‘mental health,’” she says. “It is removing part of the stigma.” 

Patrick Mulvaney is frequently invited to speak about the program. He’s spoken at the California Restaurant Association conference, Slow Food Nation in Denver and the James Beard Foundation’s Chef Action Summit. And he’s talked to restaurateurs in at least ten other states who plan to implement the initiative. He’s even gotten calls from the State of California, NYC Thrive (the city’s mental health care initiative) and Active Minds, all of which are interested in adapting the program to other industries.

Chefs are good at making stuff happen, notes Mulvaney, but not too good at asking for the money to make it happen. But they should get over this, he says. “Especially on this issue, people continue to be generous, so don’t be afraid to ask for money, advice, or guidance,” he says. “Especially money.” 

The post Hard-Knocks Restaurant Workers Are Embracing Mental Wellness appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

The Psychology of Political Polarization

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/11/2020 - 1:08am in

One reason for political polarization may be our decision strategy for making choices by trying to get one option to dominate the other on all the dimensions that matter to us.