Open Thread - 01-21-22 - Are Corporations Psychopathic?

Definition of psychopath according to Miriam Webster: A mentally unstable person. Especially : a person having an egocentric and antisocial personality marked by a lack of remorse for one's actions, an absence of empathy for others, and often criminal tendencies.

Are corporations psychopathic by definition?

Today corporations hold immense power and control. Some work in lockstep with the government in the form of lobbying, writing legislation and censorship, among other forms of persuasion.

IMHO corporations by definition are psychopathic because of corporate charter's dependency on making money for the shareholders which allows them to create psychopathic policies that absolves themselves from doing the best for humanity.

Psychopathic corporations donate to psychopathic leaders that lead to a psychopathic society.

Machiavelli Inc: Are corporations psychopaths?
Corporations are legal, but it’s hard to consider them moral. A philosopher asks whether they should be thought of as psychopaths.

Psychopaths – those extremely rare people such as US serial killer Ted Bundy – are fascinating. On one hand they’re typically intelligent, personable, disinhibited and have an aura of confidence that many find alluring. But they differ from the rest of the population in one key dimension: They lack empathy and feelings of guilt and remorse.

...

Now consider a corporation. Even though it is composed of many people, it’s legally considered to be a person too. This is a necessary legal concept to allow corporations to do things such as own property, open bank accounts and buy and sell goods in their own right.

Yet we also relate to corporations as if they are singular entities, rather than agglomerations of workers. Sometimes we even anthropomorphise the corporation – we treat it like a person.

Research by Princeton psychologist Susan Fiske shows we employ the same psychological mechanisms to judge a corporation’s ‘personality’, its ‘intentions’ and ‘values’, which we use to judge other people. This is why you might catch yourself ‘hating’ your phone company, ‘liking’ your bank or wondering if your health insurance company has your best interests at heart.

But when we use that psychological machinery to judge a corporation’s moral character, it can start looking a lot like a psychopath, as law professor Joel Bakan argued in his book and film The Corporation.

Are Corporations Inherently Psychopathic?

The “corporations are evil” meme has been around for a long time. It has been said that they have “neither bodies to kick nor souls to damn.” (That quotation has been attributed to several sources, including Andrew Jackson in the 19th century and the Lord Chancellor of England, Baron Thurlow in the 18th.) The Corporation, a documentary produced in 2003, presents several examples of corporate malfeasance and asks whether these antisocial behaviors match the criteria for diagnosing psychopathy in individuals.

...

The most famous and widely-used test of psychopathy is the PCL-R, developed by Dr. Robert Hare. When he agreed to serve as a consultant to the producers of The Corporation, Dr. Hare said he was assured that the film would use “psychopath” to mean egregious corporate wrongdoing. Instead, the film portrays corporations in general as amoral, incapable of remorse, dismissive of legal or social norms, and therefore psychopathic in the clinical sense. In response, Dr. Hare has written this:

"To refer to the corporation as psychopathic because of the behaviors of a carefully selected group of companies is like using the traits and behaviors of the most serious high-risk criminals to conclude that the criminal (that is, all criminals) is a psychopath. If [common diagnostic criteria] were applied to a random set of corporations, some might apply for the diagnosis of psychopathy, but most would not."

Charming Psychopaths: The Modern Corporation

The corporation is a legal construct, indeed a legal fiction. It is not something created by God or by Nature, but rather a legally created and enforced set of relations designed to raise capital for industrialism’s large projects. Its main function is to separate the owners of an enterprise from the enterprise itself.

...

What has the corporation become?

The corporation’s central institutional function – concentrating thousands, even millions, of investors’ capital into one enterprise – also created the potential for enterprises to become very large and powerful.

There were initially limitations on their power – caps on growth, restrictions on multi-sector involvement, competition laws, and so on – but over twentieth century these were weakened and eliminated.

...

So, you have these huge and powerful institutions, compelled by their institutional characters to pursue self-interest regardless of the consequences, bent on avoiding or pushing out of the way anything that impedes their missions – such as regulations, taxes, and public provision – creating wealth for anonymous and unaccountable shareholders, and with no democratic accountability to the people (other than their shareholders) affected by their decisions and actions.

There are many examples of psychopathy in past and present politics. I think it's safe to say that corporations are in control by means of lobbyist buying politicians and writing the laws that protect them.

In the old days psychopaths were dealt with differently than they are today, in a permanent manner, if you know what I mean. Today corporate psychopaths are rewarded with huge salaries and bonuses. How do we fix that?

Solutions: Reform corporate charter? Reform corporate personhood?

Thanks for reading.

Further reading:
Are Corporations Psychopathic? A Corporate View of “The Corporation”

Are corporations psychopaths?

Corporation as Psychopath

This is an open thread so talk the talk.

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usefewersyllables's picture

yes.

Ain't enough lithium in the world to fix that...

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Twice bitten, permanently shy.

@usefewersyllables
IMHO, there is no monetary incentive to do so.

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hope this chilly morning finds you all bright eyed and bushy tailed.

Help Wanted

There is now an opening for the Tuesday Open Thread if anyone is interested. Please inquire within.

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zed2's picture

Lets brainstorm this.

Why can't businesses end the corporation and instead be individuals with their actual names dba-ing as whatever. End the cities of shells.

That way there is accountability the world lacks now.

A single person who can be held liable for what they do.

Then if THEY want to lobby THEY can. But the faceless corporations, no longer existing then can't. The making of corporations into people was a lie and a fraud on the country anyway.

Corporations have gone out of control. They are now literally trying to take over the world. This cant be allowed to happen. Its killing democracy, allowing it.

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@zed2

They are now literally trying to take over the world.

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Lookout's picture

and yes they are psychopaths. But it isn't just the corporations. We have to include their governmental wing as well.
national...
corporate flag_1.jpg

State...
corporate states_1.jpg

and individual.
pledge_0.jpg

We might finally justify our oversized prison system if we would institutionalize these criminals, but since they run the show, I ain't holding my breath.

Thanks for the thoughts and the OT!

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

@Lookout
the sickness goes back a long ways, dunnit? I would prefer the old way of taking care of them rather than prison, but they write the laws and congress and the executive pass them, with the judicial backing them up if needed. Citizens United sucks.

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snoopydawg's picture

@JtC

It seems to have been awhile since any corporate person has been sent to prison. Corporations now just have to pay fines on their crimes which they then get to right off on their taxes. Jamie Dimon has been charged with numerous crimes, but he’s still ceo of Goldman Sachs and gets paid millions more every year for getting away with his crimes. Pfizer was charged with criminal charges and only had to pay the biggest fine in history. Even when they knowingly kill people they can split their company in parts and the division that was fined can just declare bankruptcy so they don’t have to pay their victims. PG&E is responsible for many deaths due to negligence and after paying fines they still don’t do proper upkeeps on their equipment.

Psychopathic corporations donate to psychopathic leaders that lead to a psychopathic society.

We see in broad daylight what that has wrought us. It’s just the price they are willing to pay to suck every penny in profit they can. The hell with how many of our lives it costs us. Our psychopathic leaders are just as fine with it as they are. And we just keep voting for them. Go figure.

Oh yeah look at what chevron just got away with.

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It is not until the tide goes out that you discover who has been swimming naked.

@snoopydawg
money can buy.

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shaharazade's picture

@Lookout @JtC are privatized corporation and for profit. Can't see anyway out of this psychopathic grip of corporations as they own it all. Our government on every level local, state, and Federal are all owned and run by psychopathic entities be they corporations or their minions the politicians, justice system, electoral system,any system that kept some semblance of separation of powers and law alive is gone daddy gone.

In order to do something about this our nonexistent government would need to repeal CU, The Patriot Act, get rid of der Homeland Security and all the psycho and acts that empower them and start anew. Yeah right and pigs will fly. It's unregulated disaster capitalism run amok globally.Nothing seems able to stop the wholesale psychopaths who now own and run our planet. No where to run and nowhere to hide.

Still I have faith that people will one way or ant other get together to stop this insanity. Although as Emma said 'If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal." They kind of have what with the powers that be running the whole corrupt show. Oh well. Empires come and go and this one like Babylon will fall. Where are the barbarians when you need them?

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say it as @Lookout

Liberty and Justice for $ale

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Ya got to be a Spirit, cain't be no Ghost. . .

Explain Bldg #7. . .

If you’ve ever wondered whether you would have complied in 1930’s Germany,
Now you know. . .
Sign at protest march

zed2's picture

How many are bad apples? Its hard to say. Lots are bad apples. The corporation was empowered with personhood frauduently. Cant they clean up their act?

I have not made up my mind, but every time I ask corporations to rise to a challenge, they don't.

They are now a Frankenstein monster.

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zed2's picture

They were designed for that purpose mostly, to shirk accountability, and evade debts they incurred to society..

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@zed2 corporations can live forever.

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zed2's picture

See the United States Schedules of specific commitments and lists of Article II exemptions >Annex supplement 2 end Filed Feb 26, 1998
last page

During the Uruguay Round of negotiations (1986-1994), participating countries undertook specific commitments on market access and national treatment, which are contained in their original services schedules. Some participating countries also drew up a list of MFN exemptions.

www.wto.org > english > tratop_e > serv_e > serv_commitments_e.htm

You must see the video while reading the US's Schedule of Specific Commitments whih shows the reason for the 2008 financial crisis, while watching the WTO deny what you are looking at's its cause. the smoking gun they are pretending doesn't exist.

The US was behind the WTO's Ban on Bans. And therefore the 2008 crisis.

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Corporations are a construct, made by people. Think of them as robots. Think of every aspect of capitalism as a CPU, and a corporation as a nanobot with limited programming. People invented this and designed it to operate under a specific set of instructions.

If a corporation resembles a psychopath it's because it's what the programmers wanted, and those that allow it to exist and flourish.

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@Snode
I wish it was as easy as just pulling the plug. Since the states are holding the cord and the feds the mainframe, good luck with that.

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@JtC It's hard to talk about, because those in power keep altering the definition, and rules, of capitalism. Right now it seems anything goes. When I was growing up it was like baseball, at least on the surface. Clearly defined rules, parameters and lines that shouldn't be crossed. Today, out right theft can be called capitalism, if it's not prosecuted, and that theft can land the perp on the Forbes 100 richest, giving instant respectability. Steal a sack of groceries, get arrested and do time. Steal 100 million, hang out with Zuckerbergs.

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enhydra lutris's picture

@Snode @Snode

You use the robot analogy, but beware the Turing Test. If a robot that could pass the Turing Test and were to behave in a psychotic fashion, how could we not call it psychotic? So why stop at Robots most corporations, if provided with an appropriate interface, could pass the Turing Test, so why should we not call them psychotic? This is not a completely silly question. A corporation is a legal entity, but so is a person. Personhood is defined by a vast array of sources. For example, most states and nations have various definitions of "person" that apply to various arenas; for Federal Tax purposes, you'll find it, if I recall correctly, somewhere in Internal Revenue Code Section 7701.

We think we're special, but we aren't really. If a dolphin, porpoise or chimp were to behave psychopathically, again, by what standard do we not apply that term to it. The point is that, as a legal entity endowed with certain rights, powers and obligations it has the capacity to act psychopathically were it only human, but why restrict that term to humans? Most for profit corporations are, technically, legally required to lack empathy and to render all other operational and/or behavioral principles, including obedience to law, subservient to the maximization of shareholder value, which can be and often is interpreted in strictly pecuniary terms and requiring that all things be subject to risk avoidance and cost-benefit analysis.

be well and have a good one

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

@enhydra lutris may not have been the clearest description. I was thinking more along the lines of the robot welders on automotive assembly lines. I guess bot would be a better description. Not thinking machines but one designed to carry out a function using actions defined by it's programming. Which is what I was trying to say....that capitalism, corporations, economics is an invention thought up by by people. If capitalism is seen as exhibiting psychopathic behaviour it's because the people who design and maintain it keep it that way.

All those Harvard MBAs aren't psychopaths. They just find ways to tweak a law in their favor, adjust a tariff, avoid a tax, gain a subsidy, market share or monopoly. There is no one master capitalist psycho pulling the strings, just an army of MBAs tweaking capitalism every day, in every way, to the detriment of the environment and us. None wholly responsible but each doing their part.

We just can't seem to find another way.

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Sure they can be, and are, psychopathic.

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@on the cusp
about psychopathy.

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@JtC coming from Her. On that bs, the two of them would be in complete agreement.

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enhydra lutris's picture

colloquial meanings of pyschopathy and sociopathy have overlapped and largely merged since I was a kid, witness your definition, which is closer to the "sociopathy" of my youth. For grins I did a quickie search on both terms and got some quasi definitions as follows:
https://health.clevelandclinic.org/sociopath-personality-disorder/

Sociopathy is another term for antisocial personality disorder. “It’s a mental health condition where somebody persistently has difficulty engaging appropriately with social norms,” says Dr. Coulter.

...

The list of common traits you might see in someone who has antisocial personality disorder, says Dr. Coulter, include:

Not understanding the difference between right and wrong.
Not respecting the feelings and emotions of others.
Constant lying or deception.
Being callous.
Difficulty recognizing emotion.
Manipulation.
Arrogance.
Violating the rights of others through dishonest actions.
Impulsiveness.
Risk-taking.
Difficulty appreciating the negative aspects of their behavior.

The list seems to go well beyond the definitional paragraph, which, imho, describes any rational person since societal norms are so often irrational and/or kaka.

One thing that doesn't seem to apply to corporations per se is impulsiveness. Corporate behavior is most often calculated, planned and thought out (and argued) in detail and generally based on some form of cost-benefit analysis. An exception is the closely held corporation (which can include some surprisingly large and prominent ones) which can act upon the whims of the CEO where the CEO is the controlling shareholder.

Accepting, arguendo, your definition of psychopathy, we can check for the differences:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/psychopath-vs-sociopath#psycho...

According to a 2015 articleTrusted Source, healthcare professionals characterize psychopathy as involving:

shallow emotional responses
impulsivity
lack of empathy
increased chance of antisocial behavior
However, psychopathy is not an official diagnosis.

Some researchersTrusted Source state that psychopathy is a form of ASPD, and healthcare professionals might diagnose ASPD in a person who demonstrates psychopathic traits. For instance, the American Psychological Association describes psychopathy as another term for ASPD.

...

The symptoms of ASPD and psychopathy overlap, but there are differences between them.

ASPD
For a healthcare professional to diagnose ASPD, a person must display at least three of the following criteria:

disregarding the law
being deceitful
acting impulsively or being incapable of planning
being irritable and aggressive
disregarding safety
being consistently irresponsible
having a lack of remorse

...

ASPD and psychopathy share many symptoms. However, additional signs that may indicate that a person has psychopathy include:

lack of empathy
arrogance
charisma
excessive vanity
lack of guilt
difficulty processing other people’s facial expressions
goal-oriented behavior
insensitivity to punishment

And there lies the crux of the matter: goal-oriented behavior.

Corporations are artificial entities, arguably creatures of the state, with rights, duties, goals and obligations defined by State Law, their own specific State Charter, and their own Specific Corporate Charter. Hence my yes and no. The simplistic version of no is that there can exist "charitable" or "Public Service" corporations which must have a so-called eleemosynary or charitable purpose. These latter allegedly MUST direct their activities and actions to something which could be considered to be some sort of fragment of the greater good, a lesser good, if you will. That's as opposed to the ordinary or business corporation which has profits and growth of capital as its goal or purpose to the extent that some court cases have held that it's sole legitimate function is the pecuniary benefit of the shareholders. This latter class is, pretty much by definition, psychopathic.

The reluctance of the courts to inspect and second-guess the actions of the boards of directors and other various factors, however, allow many putatively "charitable" corporations to also be psychopathic, witness a lot of "Churches", adoption or orphan placement mills, propaganda mills and greenwashing combines. Often times the goal is not per se profits, but something else like ever expanding membership in the case of hard core proselytizing churches or selling ever increasing units of this or that dogma or ideology to the populace. Hence, one can probably argue that the non-psychopathic corporation, though they do exist, is a rarity.

sorry for the extreme verbosity, but corporations and their behavior is something I have studied and looked into overmuch.

be well and have a good one

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

@enhydra lutris
for the extreme verbosity and expounding on my hurried treatise (I knocked this out in about an hour this morning, heh). I seem to work within your wheelhouse quite often to my and the reader's benefit. We're all better informed with your expertise.

Thanks.

Edit to add: Your "pre" tags were breaking the margin so I removed them.

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AND goal oriented behavior @enhydra lutris
Seems an opportunity knocks sort of thing

Evolutionary?

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Ya got to be a Spirit, cain't be no Ghost. . .

Explain Bldg #7. . .

If you’ve ever wondered whether you would have complied in 1930’s Germany,
Now you know. . .
Sign at protest march

enhydra lutris's picture

@Tall Bald and Ugly

and risk management based, it takes a nimble corporation to act that way, most likely a closely held and relatively smallish one.

be well and have a good one

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

of the Postal Service has been ongoing since 2006. Chris Hedges has an interesting interview up about this with author Christopher W. Shaw. Basically, the effort is to privatize the post office and so ruin the post office for the American People. Just another example of how corporations make life worse for most people.
https://www.rt.com/shows/on-contact/546583-corporate-assault-us-postal-s...

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@randtntx
Standing inline(long) at the PO and a guy behind me starts loudly complaining about the ‘service’ and how a private business would be more ‘efficient’.
I asked him efficient for who? Lunchtime it was and three clerks are busting ass tonroll people through. I tell him if it was private you’d have one person at the counter If You Were Lucky!
Tell him to check out the lame duck(limp dick) congress of ‘06 and how they mandated By Law the P.O. fund its pensioners out 75Years.

Which, BTW, no business will Ever do.

I got a ‘downlow’ five from the clerk that waited on me and a shitton of smiles from people in line.

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Ya got to be a Spirit, cain't be no Ghost. . .

Explain Bldg #7. . .

If you’ve ever wondered whether you would have complied in 1930’s Germany,
Now you know. . .
Sign at protest march

@Tall Bald and Ugly . That guy should just go and stand in line at FedEx. What's he using our post office for anyway? I'm sure he doesn't want to help fund it. Same goes for public parks, libraries, schools, roads, etc. These people don't want to pay for them but they sure do like to use them.

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@randtntx
thanks, rand.

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snoopydawg's picture

@randtntx

That just left 89 for DeJoy to close which it looks like he will get the chance since Biden hasn’t removed him yet. The shitlibs have moved on from caring about it.

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It is not until the tide goes out that you discover who has been swimming naked.

@snoopydawg . It does get tiresome when those with TDSyndrome try to blame it all on the orange one instead of recognizing it's a bipartisan grift.

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CB's picture

as a stick or a stone or a gun by itself is. It is how it is permitted to be used/abused by a sentient being or a group thereof (society, government) that endows it with "pathology".

BTW, I was working on a diary with this theme as focal point for the current plandemic. You can get a glimpse of its outline here: https://caucus99percent.com/comment/557306#comment-557306

Unfortunately, I've contracted something that has caused almost complete loss of hearing in my right ear and partial loss in my left since Xmas/New Years. I've got a scheduled Dr's appointment on the 25th.

Food for thought in the interim:

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@CB
It's like Dr. Frankenstein giving life to the monster, to humanity's detriment.

Flesh out that essay and I hope you get better soon.

Thanks CB.

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enhydra lutris's picture

Studies have shown that psychopaths and sociopaths generally rise to the top of corporate ladders, are the preferred candidates for positions such as CEO and/or on the boards of directors, and, in fact, occupy such positions in the larger corporations more often than not.

be well and have a good one

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13 users have voted.

That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

QMS's picture

then, yes corps can be both socio and psycho paths
as determined by the people that run them for 'profit'.
A more precise question may be what accountability
is there for these constructs. If they ruin the planet,
kill people, destroy civilizations 'for profit' what court of
planetary justice will hold them liable? Just making' a buck,
judge ..

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@QMS

If they ruin the planet, kill people, destroy civilizations 'for profit' what court of planetary justice will hold them liable? Just making' a buck, judge ..

nor the depths of corruption.

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mimi's picture

What do you think?

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mimi

@mimi
but they may be speciesist.

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mimi's picture

@JtC
it is not an urgent request. Take your time, and thank and have a good one. Thanks for all you do, I hope you and your family is doing fine.

Good Night from my parts of the world.

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mimi

Lily O Lady's picture

@JtC

my avatar, is a speciesist. He seems to hate huskies. We have no idea why, but it can be embarrassing.

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"The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

Bisbonian's picture

Since they are not really human, but a construct giving them an amazing amount of power, with limited consequences, the real psycopaths are the people using them to avoid punishment for their own crimes. This is the bedrock of the country, that we need to change. End the false statement that "Corporations are people, too", and punish the real criminals.

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X