When Super PACs Attack

 Posted by on January 2, 2012 at 4:00 PM
Jan 022012
 

 Romney’s Super PAC carpet bombing Baby Newt over Iowa

Poor Baby Newt, poster child of the post-Citizens United world

A month after Newt Gingrich‘s meteoric rise to the top of the GOP presidential primary, this latest anti-Romney flavor of the month bragged that he was then the  odds-on favorite to win the Rethug presidential nomination. Now, he’s looking more like a dazed survivor of a Dresden scale carpet bombing, wondering WTF.

“I can’t do modern politics,” he whined to a Rotary Club audience at a breakfast early Friday morning in Des Moines, Iowa. This from the guy who did as much as anyone to develop negative campaigning into a vicious art. Stop being such a cry baby, Newt. Take your karma like a man.

According to the latest Marist  and Des Moines Register polls, the Newtster has lost fully half of his previous support during the month of December alone.  What accounts for his sudden demise? No mystery there– just ask any Iowan with a television set, a radio, an internet connection, or a mailbox. Subjected to over $4 million worth of negative political ads from Romney’s Super PAC Restore Our Future alone, the Newtster has been the target of some 45% of all the negative tv ads flooding the Iowan airways. This has reduced the Stay Puft Marshallow man to a burnt, gooey residue of his former self.

newtmellow1

The Newtster in happier days as the Ghostbuster’s’ Gozer the Destructor

What made Super Pacs like ROF possible was, of course, the US Supreme Court‘s ruling in Citizens United.  In addition to magically conferring personhood and thus individual rights on corporations, it cemented the idea that one of those rights, free speech, was the equivalent of cold, hard cash.  In ROF’s case, it has already raised some $30 million worth of  ‘free expression.’

In addition to being able to take in unlimited amounts of cash, Super PAC  donations can be, and often are,  anonymous.  Furthermore, it enables candidates to run nothing but positive ads while their affiliated Super Pacs do the hatchet work.

Last Sunday, The LA Times pointed out that:

“This is a radical change,” said Trevor Potter, a Republican election lawyer who advised Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in his 2008 presidential bid.

If present trends continue, the 2012 election will reverse more than a century of efforts to curb the influence of big money on politics.

During his second term, President Theodore Roosevelt spoke with alarm about the ability of corporate and financial elite — “malefactors of great wealth” — to steer government decisions. In 1907, he signed legislation banning corporate contributions to federal candidates.

This is the same Trevor Potter who used to head up the Federal Elections Commission, and who was hired by comedian Stephen Colbert to set up his own Super PAC. In the clip below, Stephen elicits guidance from Potter as to what freedoms his new Super PAC  allows; and just how thin the veil between a Super PAC and its preferred candidate really is.

(At one point, Colbert summarizes his understanding of the kind of content that Super PAC commercials enables, comparing it to sexual intercourse:  “If I have my penis in someone’s vagina, that doesn’t mean we’re having sexhe postulates.  To paraphrase Bruce Lee‘s description of his martial art in the classic film,  Enter The Dragon, this is the equivalent of saying Super PAC commercials embody:  “The art of fucking without fucking.” )

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Colbert Super PAC – Issue Ads – Trevor Potter
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Stephen’s attorney explains the operational parameters of  his new Super PAC

While the $2,500 limit on individual contributions to individual candidates and the yearly limit of $30,800 to party committees still applies, Citizens United has completely blown the lid off how much corporations can give. Individuals who want to give more than the law allows can simply give it to a corporation, which can in turn give it to a Super Pac. Recall that last summer, Romney’s Super Pac received a million bucks each from three individuals working through what were basically dummy corporations. As Open Secrets.org reported it (emphasis mine):

Earlier this year, three donations of $1 million each were given to a super PAC supportive of the presidential campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The super PAC was called Restore Our Future. These large sums may not in and of themselves have raised eyebrows. But the identities of the donors certainly did.

One of the donations came from the company W. Spann LLCNBC News reported that the organization was established in March by a Boston lawyer, but that corporate records gave no information about the owner. Nor did the company exist at the listed address. Furthermore, W. Spann LLC was dissolved on July 12, two weeks before the Restore Our Future PAC reported the donation on its first campaign finance filing to the Federal Election Commission. The other notable $1 million donations came from two Utah companies: Eli Publishing and F8 LLC. When a local Utah reporter from Fox 13 visited the address listed for both companies on Restore Our Future’s FEC filing, he found only an accounting firm not affiliated with the pro-Romney PAC.

Since then, employees of Romney’s former (?) vulture capitalism firm, Bain Capital, have ponied up at least another $1.25 million, according to The Center For Responsive Politics.

Though coordination between a candidate’s campaign committee and a Super Pac is nominally illegal, one need only look at the individuals behind Romney’s Super Pac, Restore Our Future, to show just what a joke, or  legal fiction,  that is.  According to The New York Times:

They include Carl Forti, the political director of Mr. Romney’s 2008 campaign; Charles R. Spies, Mr. Romney’s former chief counsel; and Larry McCarthy, an alumnus of Mr. Romney’s media team who was known for producing some of the more compelling positive spots for Mr. Romney four years ago, but has nonetheless earned a reputation as one of the most fearsome political ad makers in the country — he produced the Willie Horton commercial that devastated Michael S. Dukakis’s presidential campaign in 1988.

As I wrote two years ago in A Supreme Screwing,  just after Citizens United was decided:

Well, we Americans had a good run. We began as a government of the people, for the people, and by the people. But, almost inevitably it would seem, given the impersonal forces of unrestrained materialism, we have become a government of, for, and by the corporations.

Nothing short of constitutional amendment is likely to change that.  And with corporations free to buy as many politicians as they need, the odds of that occurring  in our lifetime are slim and none.  (And Slim just slimed his way out of  town.)

To trust buster Teddy Roosevelt, who founded the Bull Moose Progressive Party in 1912, corporations were “malefactors of great wealth” to be kept on a short leash and out of the people’s business.  A century later, thanks to our Republican Supreme Court,  it is as Willard told us in Iowa last August:

“Corporations are people too…”

Why corporations, who are now people, can give unlimited campaign contributions while people who aren’t corporations can not, is a logical inconsistency that the Court should address some time soon.  Or maybe not. The  anonymity that Super PACs provide has its own advantages.  I mean, what politician wants to have Tony Soprano listed as a million dollar contributor?  Better to make him a back door man.

So that little legal inconsistency will probably be with us for awhile, at least until people accept that the unholy alliance between corporations and government that Mussolini called “fascism” is accepted as the natural Darwinian order of things.

Welcome to our Brave New Citizens United World.

Eat The Rich II

 Posted by on November 10, 2011 at 11:37 AM
Nov 102011
 
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In Eat The Rich, I referenced an article by Matt Taiibbi about AIG, the allegedly too big to fail insurance company that played a crucial role in keeping the Wall Street Casino open 24/7.  Said Matt:

AIG is what happens when short, bald managers of otherwise boring financial bureaucracies start seeing Brad Pitt in the mirror…who acted like making huge bets with other people’s money would make [their] dick[s] bigger.

Two and half years later, the peasants have grabbed their pithchforks and pitched their tents, Occupying Wall Street and hundreds of other cities in the US and across the world.

One can understand if the 1% are getting a bit nervous about the “barbarians…at the gated communities,” as Stephen Colbert describes them in a segment  titled Wealth Under Siege.

“They know we’re delicious,” he says plaintively. Corn fed and pampered by Japanese masseuses, he confesses: “I’m Human Kobi beef.”

After instructing the 99% to leave the room and do some “extreme couponing” or something, he offers some timely, survival tips to the uber rich. Pulling out a copy of Yacht Magazine, he notes that the zeitgeist has definitely changed. Yacht’s are no longer being sold as luxury items of conspicuous consumption, but as survival necessities. Secure, “artificial libertarian Islands” await the Job Creators if only they can beat the ungrateful, angry mobs to the docks.

Ahoy!

But there’s help for that too. Either an armored SUV limousine with a custom poop humidor, guaranteed to withstand a fusillade of bullets for 24 hours; or a decked out RV that looks “like a Storm Trooper banged a Winnebago.”

Stephen concludes by asking the age old theological question:

Could God build a yacht so big that even He couldn’t fill with bitches?

I’m sure Bill O’Reilly has an answer for that one.

Nein Nein Nein!

 Posted by on October 19, 2011 at 12:06 PM
Oct 192011
 

Stephen explains Cain’s tax and immigration policies

 As pizza magnate Herman Cain moves to the front of the GOPer presidential pack, his proposals for fixing everything from the nation’s economic woes to its immigration problems have come under increasing scrutiny. While Herman seems undecided over whether to span the country’s 1951 mile long southern border with Mexico with a lethal electrified barb wired fence or a moat full of snapping alligators (land mines would be cheaper), he does seem more certain about his tax reform and economic plan — forever branded as “9-9-9.”

In our previous post Herman Cain: Bizarro World’s Robbin’ Hood (Koch Bros Update), we noted the regressive nature of the proposal.  Since then, a number of economists have crunched the numbers and find that everybody making less than $200,000 will have their taxes increased, while those above that level will enjoy a tax cut.  The poorest of the poor will pay the most, an increase of 20%, while the richest of the rich will be paying 20%+ less than they’re paying now.

Firedog Lake’s David Dayen, who provided the chart abovecomments on some of the implications of Herman’s vision for America:

In last night’s debate, Cain mumbled something about “empowerment zones,” which would rebate some level of tax if you live in a poor neighborhood. This would be a developer’s dream, to force poor people out of their own neighborhoods, suddenly desirable because of the tax benefits. There’s simply no way to make that work. The idea that “used goods” would have no sales tax does little for people trying to buy food, unless the idea is literally to have people eat shit, for the tax break.

Eat shit, indeed. Sounds like a bumper sticker in the making.

[Editing note: Added better res graph, with attribution]

Taking Credit For Bin Laden’s Death

 Posted by on May 4, 2011 at 9:21 PM
May 042011
 
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Stephen ruminates on the aftermath of the Obama Administration’s elimination of the the world’s most wanted criminal

In response to  Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and other Fux News asshats getting their knickers in a twist over President Obama‘s respect for the traditions of the Muslim religion by giving Usama Bin Laden full Muslim funeral rights, Stephen Colbert proposes an alternative that should satisfy them: hollow out Bin Laden’s corpse,  fill it with candy and hang it from the St Louis Arch, pinada style.

He notes that sadly, Obama has already politicized this historic achievement by being president during it.

And he points out that Obama’s plea for “working together…[to] remember the sense of unity that defines us as Americans” are just socialist code words for, wait for it:  working together and unity.

“This man is so desperate  for a bump in the polls to push his agenda that he took the easy road in  killing the world’s most wanted man. It’s  the same reason  FDR killed Hitler-- he was just pandering to the anti-genocide lobby.”

And when Andy Card and Karl Rove claim that it was the tools left to Obama by the Bush Administration  that contributed directly to Bin Laden’s demise, Stephen has no problem identifying who the real tools are.

Stephen concludes by asking:

“When is Obama going to kill Ghaddafi? It’s time that Bush took credit for that too.”

Indeed. Nothing agitates Obama Derangement Syndrome more than an Obama victory highlighting a George W. Bush failure.

Atlas Mugged: Making The World Safe For Sociopaths

 Posted by on April 25, 2011 at 10:28 AM
Apr 252011
 

What do Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan, the Teabaggers, and Lucifer have in common?
(If you want to feel the backward, you must click it.)

In Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel and current movie, Atlas Shrugged, the ideological template for those wishing to usher in a new Gilded Age run by billionaire plutocrats like the Koch Brothers, Atlas is meant to symbolize the Titans of industry who hold up the world by their individual, heroic efforts. The rest of us are mere leeches sucking the mighty Titans’ blood dry with taxes to construct an elaborate welfare state where lazy souls and Welfare Queens live in idle carefree comfort. Should the PTB decide that enough is enough, however– if Atlas should shrug– then the world will come tumbling down.

Take that, socialist biatches.

Before exploring Rand’s influence on today’s Libertarians, Teabaggers, and establishment Rethugs like Paul Ryan and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, it would behoove us to review some of the initial criticisms of her book. In Ayn Rand’s first television interview, conducted in 1959 by 60 Minutes’ Mike Wallace, Wallace asks:

Q.  . . . Other reviews have said that, “You scorn churches, and the concept of God.” Are these accurate criticisms?

A.  . . . I’m challenging the moral code of altruism. The precept that man’s moral duty is to live for others. That man must sacrifice himself to others. Which is the present day morality . . .

Q.  . . . You say that you do not like the altruism by which we live. You like a certain kind of Ayn Randist selfishness.

A.  I will say that, “I don’t like” is to weak a word. I consider it evil. And self-sacrifice is the precept that man needs to serve others, in order to justify his existence. That his moral duty is to serve others. That is what most people believe today.

Q. . . . We’re taught to feel concern for our fellow man. To feel responsible for his welfare. To feel that we are as religious people might put it, children under God, and responsible one for the other. Now why do you rebel?… What’s wrong with loving your fellow man?  Christ, every important moral leader in man’s history has taught us that we should love one another.  Why then is this kind of love, in your mind, immoral?

A. It is immoral if it is a love placed above oneself.  It is more than immoral, it’s impossible . . .

So much for Christ’s proclamation that  “Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends.” And “He who would be greatest among you let him be server of all.”

For further contrasts between the teachings of Christ and those of Rand and Christ, see Friday’s post by Isaiah J. Poole titled: Atlas Shrugged. Jesus Didn’t, in which he underscores the inherent tension between the GOPers two largest voting constituencies— fundamentalist Christians, and Randian Teabaggers who are, at their core, anti-Christian:

Rand is very clear: walking in the path of Christ and walking in the path of “Atlas Shrugged” hero John Galt will take you to two very different places. Which ought to give pause to political leaders who claim to embrace the values of Christ but adopt the politics of Rand.

Rand is certainly entitled to her atheistic beliefs and to reject the teachings of religious teachers throughout the ages. But I have to wonder what her Objectivist, rational mind would make of findings by today’s evolutionary psychologists of reciprocal altruism:

“. . . behaviour whereby an organism acts in a manner that temporarily reduces its fitness while increasing another organism’s fitness, with the expectation that the other organism will act in a similar manner at a later time.”

Behavior that geometrically improves the survival of a larger group as it cascades through its socially networked system.  Additionally, Matt Osborne over at Crooks and Liars informs us that:

. . . [S]tudies have found that charitable giving is more closely related to class, with have-nots giving at a higher rate than have-mores.  Man being a social animal, it seems that we tend to share more in common when we all have less — a survival trait of our species that Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism rejects.

Wallace again:

Q. How does your philosophy translate itself into the world of politics?  Now one of the principle achievements of this country in the past 20 years, particularly I think, most people agree, is the gradual growth of social and protective legislation, based on the principle that we are our brothers keepers. How do you feel about the political trends of the United States?

A. The way everybody feels except more consciously. I feel that it is terrible, that you see destruction all around you, and that you are moving toward disaster, until, and unless, all those welfare state conceptions have been reversed and rejected.  It is precisely these trends which are bringing the world to disaster, because we are now moving towards complete collectivism or socialism.  A system under which everybody is enslaved to everybody, and we are moving that way only because of our altruist morality.

Can’t you just smell the arrogance?  Rand feels what everybody else feels, except more consciously.  She considers the ability to expand one’s individual identity to include the whole a bug, not a feature.

Moving on.  In a 1961 review of Atlas Shrugged by Gore Vidal published in Esquire Magazine, Gore cuts to the core of her moral philosophy and anticipates the Teabaggers’ fascination for her:

This odd little woman is attempting to give a moral sanction to greed and self interest . . . to pull it off she must at times indulge in purest Orwellian newspeak . . . . She has a great attraction for simple people who are puzzled by organized society, who object to paying taxes, who dislike the “welfare” state, who feel guilt at the thought of the suffering of others but who would like to harden their hearts . . . .

[Rand] has declared war not only on Marx but on Christ….I doubt if even the most anti-Christian free-thinker would want to deny the ethical value of Christ in the Gospels For to justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind not only immoral, but evil . . . .

[S]ince we must live together, dependent upon one another for many things and services, altruism is necessary to survival.  To get people to do needed things is the perennial hard task of government, not to mention of religion and philosophy . . .  We often fail.  That predatory demon “I” is difficult to contain but until now we have all agreed that to help others is a right action . . . .

Both Marx and Christ agree that in this life a right action is consideration for the welfare of others….Miss Rand now tells us that what we have thought was right is really wrong. The lesson should have read: One for one and none for all.

Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous…as we enter a curious new phase in our society.

Curious, and I would add, dangerous. Lest there be any doubt, Rand also authored an essay titled: The Virtue of Selfishness: A Concept of New Egoism (1964), where she expounds on the illusionary benefits of a Me versus a We society.

Though Rand’s fictional characters are written as ethical, standup individuals, a closer examination shows an extreme individualism that is in fact, pathological.  Fast forward to the present and Mark Ames article at Think Progress where he describes her as:

. . . a textbook sociopath.  In her notebooks Ayn Rand worshiped a notorious serial murderer-dismemberer, and used this killer as an early model for the type of “ideal man” she promoted in her more famous books.  These ideas were later picked up on and put into play by major right-wing figures of the past half decade, including the key architects of America’s most recent economic catastrophe — former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan and SEC Commissioner Chris Cox — along with other notable right-wing Republicans, such as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Rush Limbaugh, and former South Carolina Governor, Mark Sanford.

The loudest of all the Republicans, right-wing attack-dog pundits and the Teabagger mobs, fighting to kill health care reform and eviscerate “entitlement programs,” increasingly hold up Ayn Rand as their guru.  Sales of her books have soared in the past couple of years;  one poll ranked Atlas Shrugged as the second most influential book of the 20th century, after the Bible.   The best way to get to the bottom of Ayn Rand’s beliefs is to take a look at how she developed the superhero of her novel, Atlas Shrugged, John Galt.

Back in the late 1920s, as Ayn Rand was working out her philosophy, she became enthralled by a real-life American serial killer, William Edward Hickman, whose gruesome, sadistic dismemberment of 12-year-old girl named Marion Parker in 1927 shocked the nation. Rand filled her early notebooks with worshipful praise of Hickman. According to biographer Jennifer Burns, author of Goddess of the Market, Rand was so smitten with Hickman that she modeled her first literary creation — Danny Renahan, the protagonist of her unfinished first novel, The Little Street — on him.

What did Rand admire so much about Hickman? His sociopathic qualities: “Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should,” she wrote, gushing that Hickman had “no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel ‘other people.” This echoes almost word for word Rand’s later description of her character, Howard Roark, the hero of her novel The Fountainhead“He was born without the ability to consider others.” (The Fountainhead is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas‘ favorite book — he even requires his clerks to read it.)

I’ll get to where Rand picked up her silly superman blather later — but first, let’s meet William Hickman, the “genuinely beautiful soul” and inspiration to Ayn Rand.  What you will read below — the real story, details included, of what made Hickman a “superman” in Ayn Rand’s eyes — is extremely gory and upsetting, even if you’re well acquainted with true crime stories — so prepare yourself.  But it’s necessary to read this to understand Rand, and to repeat this over and over until all of America understands what made her tick, because Rand’s influence over the very people leading the fight to kill social programs, and her ideological influence on so many powerful bankers, regulators, and businessmen who brought the financial markets crashing down, means her ideas are affecting all of our lives in the worst way imaginable . . .

I’ll spare you the details.  Trust me, it couldn’t be more gruesome and sick.  Ames continues:

This is the “amazing picture” Ayn Rand — guru to the Republican/Tea Party right-wing — admired when she wrote in her notebook that Hickman represented “the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatsoever for all that a society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own.  A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul.  Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should.”  The fear that some felt at the time was that these philosophers’ dangerous, yet nuanced ideas would fall into the hands of lesser minds, who would bastardize Nietzsche and Schopenhauer and poison the rest of us.  This aptly describes Ayn Rand, whose philosophy developed out of her admiration for “Supermen” like Hickman.  Rand’s philosophy can be summed up by the title of one of her best-known books:  The Virtue of Selfishness. She argues that all selfishness is a moral good, and all altruism is a moral evil, even “moral cannibalism,” to use her words.  To her, those who aren’t like-minded sociopaths are “parasites,” “lice,” and “looters.”  But with Rand, there’s something more pathological at work.  She’s out to make the world more sociopath-friendly, so that people [like] her hero William Hickman can reach their full potential, [and are] not held back by the morality of the “weak,” whom Rand despised . . .”

Sure, Rand in her journals rationalizes her admiration of Hickman by disavowing his actions— it’s his character she admires, not the particular pathological consequences derived therefrom.

” ‘[My hero is] very far from him, of course. The outside of Hickman, but not the inside.  Much deeper and much more.   A Hickman with a purpose.  And without the degeneracy.  It is more exact to say that the model is not Hickman, but what Hickman suggested to me.’ “

That’s like saying: Forget the degenerate actions of Peter Pederast.  It’s his deep love of children that should inspire us all.

Ames concludes:

Republican faithful like GOP Congressman Paul Ryan read Ayn Rand and declare, with pride, “Rand makes the best case for the morality of democratic capitalism.”  Indeed.  Except that Rand also despised democracy, writing that, “Democracy, in short, is a form of collectivism, which denies individual rights:  the majority can do whatever it wants with no restrictions.  In principle, the democratic government is all-powerful.  Democracy is a totalitarian manifestation;  it is not a form of freedom.”  “Collectivism” is another one of those Randian epithets popular among her followers.  Here is another Republican member of Congress, Michelle Bachman, parroting the Ayn Rand ideological line, to explain her reasoning for wanting to kill social programs:

“As much as the collectivist says to each according to his ability to each according to his need, that’s not how mankind is wired.  They want to make the best possible deal for themselves.”

Too many critics of Ayn Rand — until recently I was one of them — would rather dismiss her books and ideas as laughable, childish, and hackneyed.  But she can’t be dismissed because Rand is the name that keeps bubbling up from the Tea Party crowd and the elite conservative circuit in Washington as the Big Inspiration.  The only way to protect ourselves from this thinking is the way you protect yourself from serial killers: smoke the Rand followers out, make them answer for following the crazed ideology of a serial-killer-groupie, and run them the hell out of town and out of our hemisphere.

Continue reading »

Not Intended To Be A Factual Statement

 Posted by on April 12, 2011 at 6:35 PM
Apr 122011
 
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Stephen explains Senator Kyl’s factual faux pas

Retiring AZ Senator Jon Kyl took to the Senate floor the other day to proclaim that well over 90% of Planned Parenthood‘s budget is dedicated to abortion and should be hacked from the budget accordingly. The actual number is 3%.

Pressed by the press to justify the 90% number, his office responded with a classic defense destined to be included in the Inane Hall of Fame:

“His remark was not intended to be a factual statement.”

Yeah, I mean, why would someone who has served in Congress since 1968, who rose to Number Two in his party’s Senate hierarchy, want to blemish his 43 year long career by entering into the Senate record such a blatant, easily provable lie? Unless he’s angling for some kind of weird, undefined lobbying gig…

Stephen Colbert has another explanation, dismissing the controversy as just a matter of Kyl rounding up to the nearest 90%.

 

The GlennPocalypse

 Posted by on April 5, 2011 at 7:34 AM
Apr 052011
 

 

Stephen picks up where we left off in The Nutty Professor, offering his very own emergency Beck pack:

Everything you need to survive in a post Glenn world.”

Among other essential survival items, it includes two dozen cans of pure distilled Glenn:

Keep your Beck pack on at all times and we need never face our greatest fear: not knowing what to be afraid of.

Good to know.

Unreasoned fear is a master intellectual fraud practiced upon the evolving mortal soul.

-The Urantia Book