Print Story You can put your mind at ease
By TheophileEscargot (Sun Mar 27, 2016 at 12:46:47 AM EST) Reading, MLP, Watching (all tags)
Reading: "Bare-Faced Messiah". Watching: "Nightcrawler". Links.

What I'm Reading
Bare-Faced Messiah by Russell Miller, unauthorised biography of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Though I knew the big picture it's interesting to go through the details.

From a fairly early age he seems to have been a charismatic liar, fond of telling exaggerated stories of his exploits and getting away with it because of his charm. He seems to have had a tremendous imagination and used his mildly impressive real experiences as the basis for lies: turning a few glider lessons into being a record-breaking pilot, holiday trips into expeditions of explorations, exaggerating his war record. Was surprised to see his actual record included commanding a minesweeper: his confident blagging seems to have served him pretty well.

After a period of poverty as a pulp fiction writer, eventually specializing in science fiction, he wrote "Dianetics" which at the time was presented as scientific way of improving your brain by resolving past traumas in a process called auditing. He built a cult around this, turning it into a religion, expanding the theory into resolving traumas from past lives. These included previous stages of evolution, including the stage of being the Piltdown Man.

He became immensely rich from this, selling courses and "e-Readers", taking in $40 million a year in the Seventies. He claimed to his followers to be not earning money. He moved his cult headquarters from place to place around as trouble struck, including an estate is East Grinstead.

Eventually he started the "Sea Org", living on large ships moving around the world. This seems to have been the cult at its worst, with elaborate hierarchies and ritual humiliations. Those who displeased Hubbard or their superiors were punished: sometimes thrown into the sea and made to swim back, deprived of sleep, imprisoned in lockers, and given a punishment status involving no bathing or grooming. Hubbard had a group of messengers, mostly teenage girls in uniforms of hotpants and halter-tops, who were allowed to scream abuse and give orders in his name. (According to the book though, he didn't have any sexual activity with them.)

Eventually Hubbard disbanded the Sea Org and returned to the United States where he moved around, eventually disappearing into hiding. As he got older he got angrier and less charismatic, regularly screaming abuse, but his organisation protected him. He never had great relationships with his wives and children, abandoning his wife to take the rap for "Project Snow White" where the Scientologist actually infiltrated the US government and retrieved all the documents on Scientology. The book's author doesn't seem to have been able to find out much about his last years and death.

Overall, a fascinating book about the rise of a cult and a monstrous personality. Well written with an eye for the bizarre details. Worth a read if you're interested.

What I'm Watching
Saw Nightcrawler on disk. A minor criminal in L.A. takes up the life of freelance cameraman, rushing to crime scenes and accidents in the night. Great movie with a wonderfully creepy performance from Jake Gyllenhaal as the amoral Lou Bloom, who spouts business buzzwards as he builds his little empire. Well worth watching.

Socioeconomics. Something really weird is driving inequality in the UK. Self-employed slide further into poverty. OBR decides economy's as good as it gets. Drug tests and credit checks may increase African-American employment.

Politics. Cruz-loving Tea Party blogger Erick Erickson has to hire private security to defend him from Trump fans. "Conservative MPs support public spending cuts while opposing nearly all attempts to cut public spending". Why voters will stay angry. Labour right don't want Labour to win.

Articles. Whatever happened to Complexity Theory? Hong Kong port suffers from competition. Inside Jacobin. The grogger rattle.

Pics. Just be yourself. Jan Senbergs art. Wonder Woman's costumes.

Sci/Tech. Pro animation software to be open sourced. Screwdrivers. Bronze Age battle site discovered, via.

Random. Munchy Box. The lobster bustle skirt, how to sit down. Russia bans Polish shop-queue board game.

News. Adam Johnson sentencing remarks. Legal ruling brings student deportations to a halt. Government debt has increased by £555 billion since George Osborne took office in 2010. Paris terrorists used burner phones, not encryption. Questions answered about initial stages of coming to Rojava. Graph of people killed by terrorist attacks in Europe.

Video. Lake Superior ice stacking.

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You can put your mind at ease | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)
Hong Kong by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #1 Sun Mar 27, 2016 at 05:16:42 AM EST
Buried in the subtext of the article is that for many years "trans-shipment" was a way to work around various quotas and trade restrictions between China and the rest of the world. As those restrictions have changed, there's less and less advantage in shipping stuff from China to a warehouse in HK, stitching a "Made in HK" label into it and sending it out into the world.

Of course, even now people (e.g. Brexiteers) hold up Hong Kong as some kind of capitalist paradise...

UK inequality by Metatone (4.00 / 2) #2 Sun Mar 27, 2016 at 05:27:11 AM EST
My banal explanation is that our "employment" measures are terribly blunt and not at all able to keep up with the new realities of the workplace.

Lots of self-employed/contractors/small business workers are underemployed. They aren't getting "full time" hours, so they are earning less.

"Zero hours" contracts are another are of massive underemployment.

Many jobs have been structured around a relatively low base pay in the expectation of overtime. Weak demand = no overtime needed = person in a job earning noticeably less than before 2009.

All this adds to and comes back to weak demand overall.

Complexity... by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #3 Sun Mar 27, 2016 at 05:39:16 AM EST
1) Terminology bites.

Most of the SFI stuff went into other disciplines as "chaos theory."

Dave Snowden's work uses "complexity" and "chaos" in this way, but uses "complicated" differently, but his Cynefin concept is pretty much the easiest way I've found to set out the field.

2) I'm endlessly surprised and depressed how attractive people find the SFI "simple rules, self-organising" concepts. It should have always obvious that it only really helped for analysis of a specific set of systems. I think it's something about the desire for there to be a "master algorithm" at the back of things, rather than the reality of different contexts that each require thought to analyse.

I guess that's where the frustration comes from. "Laws" like Snowden has for "complex systems" (e.g. cause and effect are decoupled/long chain) don't provide answers, they just direct you towards a different mode of questioning and action. They aren't like laws of physics, they don't provide nice analytical solution methods.

Wage Stagnation by jimgon (4.00 / 1) #4 Sun Mar 27, 2016 at 09:09:40 AM EST
Wouldn't it make sense to survey employers as to why they are not raising wages?  The last thirty years were about structuring the labor market to give employers more control.  The countervailing force of unions was targeted and mainly eliminated.  Isn't stagnated wages exactly the goal of thirty years of corporate strategy?   

Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
Fascinating... by ana (4.00 / 1) #5 Sun Mar 27, 2016 at 09:42:51 AM EST
The bronze-age battle site is pretty amazing.

Also, I love the physics of ice and water and all the wild things it gets up to... Thanks for the video link to ice stacking along Lake Superior.

Or get rabies. Also don't do that. --scrymarch

You can put your mind at ease | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)