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Messages - washthesoap

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« on: September 01, 2006, 03:14:06 AM »

MBNA and Bank of America (BofA) already merged. The $35 billion deal creates a combined financial giant with 20% of the U.S. credit card market. Both companies have a track record of lending practices that harm consumers. Bank of America has a strikingly disparate lending record and is extensively involved in subprime lending.  MBNA's record of mortgage lending is questionable, and has a history of spending heavily to influence federal legislation that will increase its own profits at consumers' expense.

The two companies and their employees have given federal candidates and parties nearly $22 million over the past 15 years making a merged BofA-MBNA America's top corporate contributor. BofA made more than 2.4 million in campaign contributions last year. In 2004, MBNA surpassed Enron as the single largest donor to George W. Bush.  MBNA showered millions on federal candidates (more than 1.5 million in 2004 alone) as it took a leading role lobbying for bankruptcy "reform" -- legislation passed by Congress and signed by Bush on April 20, 2005 that will make it much harder for consumers to file for bankruptcy.

MBNA is one of the more aggressive enforcers of "risk-based repricing" or "universal default" contracts, in which a credit card lender scans consumer credit reports frequently and raises interest rates on existing balances if it doesn't like what it sees. If something as small as an unexpected doctor's bill goes unpaid, or a consumer's overall debt load goes up, it can mean huge changes in a consumer's financial picture. In one case an MBNA customer's credit card payments shot up from $100 per month to $300 per month when MBNA decided that it didn't like other factors in the consumer's credit picture -- despite the fact that the consumer had never gone over her limit or been late with payments.

Driven by consumer anguish, a few legislators have begun to look more closely at banning this practice. Across the big pond, the U.K's Office of Fair Trade has begun an investigation of MBNA's European affiliate, looking into what it calls "alleged unfair contract terms" and studying how it establishes late, overlimit and returned check fees.

Customers who call to complain about the practice have said that they frequently encounter rude, confrontational customer support staff who seldom use their discretion to lower rates to anything like previous levels. Even if they do work things out with MBNA staffers, complainants say, in some cases agreements change from day to day depending on who they speak with at any given point.

Current Law Students / Re: Legal Reasoning
« on: September 01, 2006, 02:52:54 AM »
Adolescents and young adults also are in a period of transition and may desire a sense of community and acceptance at a time in their live, when they are experiencing uncertainty and/or anxiety about their identities and their futures.  Therefore, this is  a stage of development wherein group membership and the new identifications made with group members can be a progressive step of separation from the object, of childhood. As mentioned previously, an adolescent becomes particularly vulnerable to cult recruitment at a time when he or she is dealing with external and/or internal losses. Those who are particularly susceptible to groups that turn out to be cults are typically those who an in order to attack the recruits' identity and belief system; and pressuring recruits to meet a new standard of perfection. These influence techniques attack the recruit's identity structure, formed from identifications made with important figures in the recruit's life. That is, without conscious awareness of this process, individuals are induced to let go of their original identity and take on a new cultic identity; and, by doing so, enter into a dissociative state. This cultic identity enables the recruit to better cope with this recruitment process.

In viewing this situation psychodynamically, it could be said that with the absence of an anchor in the past, recruits defend against feeling anxious, overwhelmed, exhausted, and confused by forming an identification with the cult leader -- identification with the aggressor. Anna Freud coined "identification with the aggressor" in "The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense," to describe how a child "introjects some characteristic of an anxiety object and so assimilates an anxiety experience which he has just undergone." This defense was not only used to describe a process of childhood, but was seen as a defensive maneuver used at later periods of life when the individual was undergoing high levels of stress. For example, the defense of identification with the aggressor was later used to understand how Jews imprisoned in concentration camps sought out discarded insignias and torn shreds of SS uniforms with which to adorn their rags.

If this process is prolonged, the new cultic personality, initially formed as a role played in response to stressful circumstances, will be superimposed upon the original personality which, while not completely forgotten, will be enveloped within the shell of the new cultic personality. This new cultic identification encapsulates the general regression that occurs in recruits to cults. The pre-oedipal cult world is seen as black and white and objects as good and evil. This view, which defines the cult world as the only true path and the outside world (often including family and friends) as satanic, further binds the recruit to the cult. This also has implications for memory of past relationships and events. Typically, over time, life prior to the cult begins to be seen in a more negative light. Furthermore, there is a sense of omnipotence gained by sharing with the all-powerful cult leader (mother). This sense of omnipotence is experienced as euphoria by the recruit. The boundaries have blurred and the recruit's sense of individuality is weakened.

Cult members become aware of the positive effect of belonging to a single-minded community. Whitsett describes how this sense of belonging can be used as a powerful tool to keep recruits in cults. However, the pressure for uniformity has a regressive influence on the ego, precluding any type of critical assessment of this coercive and highly suggestive experience. Recruits are actively discouraged from differentiating their own thoughts and feelings from those of the group. This single-mindedness is reinforced through a strict system ol reward and punishment. There is constant pressure to be obedient to the cult leader. If recruits have doubts or go against the cult leader's wishes, they are humiliated or, worse, threatened with excommunication -- which cult members come to believe is being d**mned to Hell. Furthermore, their doubt is defined as a reflection of their personal problems, not as reflection of deficiencies within the leader or the ideology, Therefore, by punishing any expression of doubt, the leader induces cult members to become more and more dependent on receiving his approval through obedient behavior. In this way, ego functions that interfere with group functions are attacked and diminished. The cult member becomes child-like and suggestible. Therefore, in order to continue to feel good the recruit must continually be locked into an idealizing transference the cult leader, which never ends and never is interpreted.

Current Law Students / Re: Legal Reasoning
« on: September 01, 2006, 02:52:18 AM »

Here are some of the signs:

1. People who avoid answering the issues you raise with them;
2. A group that uses psychologically coercive techniques to recruit and indoctrinate members;
3. An organization that uses falsehood in their indoctrination and recruiting methods;
4. A group that maintains that "the end justifies the means";
5. An organization that forms a totalitarian society;
6. A group that has a charismatic, dogmatic leader who plays "Messiah" and demands total devotion: he or she can seem like the most wonderful person you have ever heard of;
7. A group that obtains funds through deception for the personal gain and/or power of the leader;
8. A group that performs no real service to society, although they claim to do so (remember, deceit is one of their tickets);
9. A group that destroys existing relationships with family and friends -- if your family is aware that something is happening to you, the group tells you that your family is evil, or doesn't want you to progress, or that your family is the only reason you have ever been sick or unhappy in your life. (This is another major tool destructive cults use: they tell you your family members or close friends, if they are critical of the organization, are "negative" or "suppressive", or whatever buzzword the group uses for its enemies, and that your family and friends are actually making you sick, and trying to hold you back);
10. An organization that teaches fear, hatred, and rejection of society, while claiming to promote the cause of world peace and universal love. (A good example of a group that teaches hate, fear and rejection is the Ku Klux Klan -- under the definition of most religions, political parties, the Mafia, any terrorist group, the KKK -- all of these could claim they are a religion, since they follow the same definition used by most of the pseudo-religious cults and mind control groups);
11. A group that practices intimidation of critics by threats (which they sometimes carry out) or lawsuits, allow no development of the individual. (If a person in the group questions or wants to be an individual, he or she is told that the way to be an individual is to become more and more involved with the organization);
12. An organization that isolates their members, either mentally or physically, polarizing the group and society into opposing camps, creating an "us/them" mentality, making the members identify exclusively with the group;
13. A group that demands full-time or lifetime commitment: if you are allowed to work in the outside world, it is to get money for the cult, or for further programming or training within the cult for yourself;
14. An organization that has secret practices and docrines and/or objectives that the average new recruit has absolutely no idea about;
15. A group that has simple black-and-white solutions for the world's problems: if everyone becomes a member of this particular cult, then there won't be any war, hunger, or oppression;
16. An organization that makes its members afraid to dare to speak up, even afraid to think about how the cult is oppressing them;
17. A group that suppresses critical thought, blocking out questions and doubts by various methods, such as: chanting; rules of silence; long hours of meditation, study, processing, or counselling; speaking in tongues; various forms of repetitive action; inadequate diet or sleep;
18. An organization whose methods rob their members of free will, destroying family relationships;
19. A group that creates an attitude of willing slavery in its members: people in the group become willing to work long, long hours for the benefit of the organization -- not for their own individual benefit;
20. An organization that creates neuroses and psychoses in its members, so that some members become very angry if anyone points out that their organization may not be what it says, and may even be a destructive cult, and other members can even become violent towards anyone who disagrees with them;
21. A group that creates physical deterioration in its members, often caused by malnutrition, sleep deprivation, overwork, or emotional stress;
22. An organization that destroys its members' judgment, reducing their ability to evaluate for themselves what is most important to them individually, so each member thinks only of the group, losing sight of his or her own self.,3169.msg39724.html#msg39724

In 1921, upon publishing "Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego," Freud was among the first to study the powerful influence that group leaders can have over group members. In his paper, Freud referred to the contagious and regressive nature of groups described by LeBon and McDougall, but he added the dimension of intrapsychic cathectic shifts that could occur in groups. Freud described the similarity of such groups as the Catholic Church and the army with the hypnotic situation. In all of these situations, there is a leader and one or more followers. The follower obeys the leader and gives up his own superego and ego ideal as he identifies with the leader's superego. Freud also compared the psychological changes occurring in group members to changes that occur to those who fall in love. In both cases, the ego can disregard the previous standards of the superego, because it gains a sufficient amount of narcissistic support and gratification of instinctual wishes elsewhere.

After the Korean War, under assignment by the U.S. Army, Lifton Singer, West, and others studied the effects of mind control techniques on the returning POWs. They described how these soldiers had been influenced to accept communist ideology while captive. They explained how these techniques of coercive persuasion went beyond normal group influences described by Freud through the use of deliberate manipulation processes that increased guilt, shame, and anxiety in the POW's. These mental health professionals were the first to describe the fact that some of the same mind control dynamic are used in modern day cults. Today there is a recognized body of literature by mental health professionals about mind control techniques used in cults. Of course, in addition to examining the coercive techniques, the clinician must examine the vulnerability of the cult recruit. Individuals become vulnerable to cults at times of stress, particularly during periods of transition (e.g., when dealing with loss of a relationship or employment).

The large majority of people who join cults do so in late adolescence or early adulthood. With puberty, there is an increase in the sexual and aggressive drives. Along with this, there is a revival of oedipal feelings and, therefore, there is a need for distancing from the oedipal objects of childhood. Parents are de-idealized and healthy young adults attempt to develop a vision of the world that is different from their parent's view. Also, during this time, there often is physical distance from the family. This distance and the concomitant feelings of separateness is engenders may trigger pre-oedipal anxiety and/or depression. Additionally, there are specific personality dynamics of late adolescence which were first described by Anna Freud -- intellectualization, asceticism and idealism -- which make adolescents vulnerable to cults. Furthermore, the adolescent superego is highly susceptible to environmental influences as a result of parental de-identification. Therefore, this is a time of life that the group or group leader can have a powerful influence.

Current Law Students / Re: EXAMS' TIME: STUDY AS LESS AS YOU CAN
« on: September 01, 2006, 02:37:30 AM »
You mean 21?

Current Law Students / Re: Law Schools To Avoid At All Costs!
« on: September 01, 2006, 02:23:40 AM »
Pyramid promoters are masters of group psychology. At recruiting meetings they create a frenzied, enthusiastic atmosphere where group pressure and promises of easy money play upon people's greed and fear of missing out on a good deal. It is difficult to resist this kind of appeal unless you recognize that the scheme is rigged against you. 

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