shuffling the empathy deck, time travel, america’s elite a sad lot

common thread

What person, trusted with great responsibility – no its not Spiderman – and coldly rational human being said this,

And that goes down the line. When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.

It also was not Judge Sonia Sotomayor, it was Supreme Court Justice and Bush appointee Sam Alito. Which brings us to conservative columnist David Brooks at the NYT and at this point in history, deep thoughts from the Stuart Smalley School, into empathy and rationalism. The Empathy Issue

Third, is she aware of the murky, flawed and semiprimitive nature of her own decision-making, and has she accounted for her own uncertainty? If we were logical creatures in a logical world, judges could create sweeping abstractions and then rigorously apply them. But because we’re emotional creatures in an idiosyncratic world, it’s prudent to have judges who are cautious, incrementalist and minimalist. It’s prudent to have judges who decide cases narrowly, who emphasize the specific context of each case, who value gradual change, small steps and modest self-restraint(emphasis mine).

Brooks sudden concern couldn’t be a coincidence since Supreme Court nominees Sotomayor made a speech in which she implied that empathy has played a role in many SCOTUS decisions and those of lower courts. In this column of 2006 Brooks sounding a lot like a less rabid version of the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue,

In 1971, Fred Dutton, an important Democratic strategist, acknowledged the rift between educated liberals and the white working class. In a short book, “Changing Sources of Power,” Dutton argued that white workers had “tended, in fact, to become a major redoubt of traditional Americanism and of the antinegro, antiyouth vote.”

The New Deal coalition, including Catholics and white ethnics, was dying, he argued, and should be replaced by a “loose peace coalition” of young people, educated suburbanites, feminists and blacks.

That plan wasn’t stupid, but it didn’t work. The party has been in a downward spiral ever since.

Besides the obviously cracked crystal ball, Brooks failed to mention that the Judiciary Committee that confirmed Alito had three Democrats who were Catholics – Patrick Leahy, Ted Kennedy, and Richard Durbin. We know that Brooks either did not do his fact checking – why would a Republican pundit taking up a large piece of media real estate as a Time’s columnist with a six figure salary bother with facts that might interfere with his thesis about Democrats losing touch with the Catholic working class – so why would we be surprised to find that Brooks also ignored Alito’s Senate confirmation remarks which drips with empathy. He should have heard them or heard about them. There are multiple choices for Brooks. A convenient loss of memory. A conscious or unconscious double standard – it never entered his mind that a male, and a Republican one at that, might get all compassionate over an immigration or discrimination case. Thus Brooks simply writes or more accurately pretentiously assumes Alito is incapable of letting his emotions get the best of him,

Finally, and most important, there is the question of demeanor. Alito is a paragon of the old-fashioned working-class ethic. In a culture of self-aggrandizement, Alito is modest. In a culture of self-exposure, Alito is reticent. In a culture of made-for-TV sentimentalism, Alito refuses to emote. In a culture that celebrates the rebel, or the fashionable pseudorebel, Alito respects tradition, order and authority.

What sort of party doesn’t admire these virtues in a judge?(emphasis mine)

All Democrats of course, the party of Constitutional architect Thomas Jefferson, are known for their high propensity for anarchy. As civil as Brooks current Empathy sounds on the surface, it reeks of pretentious assumptions about our legal system, minorities and women. We’ve already been informed by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein that the completely rational person does not exist; Brooks does not just drag out some worn truisms, he tries to buy in as part owner. Two years ago he was Mister Order and Authority. He has a right to be, as I do,  compassionate while also having a desire for order and  boundaries on behavior, but for Brooks they all seem to be cards in a deck in which he shuffles the card he needs to the top of the deck. Context means a lot and its easy to take lines from this speech to create a distorted picture of what Sotomayor meant.

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.
However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.

She admits that she comes fully equipped with a healthy human psyche and the intellect to wrestle with a human’s natural impulses toward some bias. Or put another way, she is not an unfeeling robot or a sociopath.

time travel

Harvard MBAs Debut Oath for the Most Dishonest Profession

On Friday, the New York Times profiled a group of Harvard Business School students who have taken an “MBA oath” to act responsibly and “serve the greater good.” The ethical pledge of “responsible value creation” can’t come too soon for America’s future business leaders. After all, a February 2009 Marist poll found that in the wake of the nation’s financial meltdown, a majority of Americans give corporate leaders a D or F for their honesty and ethical conduct. And as it turns out, a 2006 Duke University study revealed more MBA students cheat than those pursuing other professions.

That study of 5,300 students at 54 institutions by the Center for Academic Integrity at Duke found that 56% of MBA seekers acknowledged cheating, more than those in fields such as education (48%), social sciences (39%) or even law (45%). Contrary to Republican mythology, apparently it is the country’s CEOs and managers and not its lawyers Americans should trust least

The average American thinks of the major threat to their safety, savings and general well being as a thug from a line up they see on a crime drama or a smug shot from the evening news. MBAs with corner offices and a copy of Excel are probably a bigger threat. They can ruin your life all at once or they can operate in stealth mode leeching off your labor for years. Its a strange cultural struggle in which everyone wants more police protection to deal with the statistically lower threat from the street thug, but fight regulation, frequently portrayed as unpatriotic, to protect us from the thugs in the two thousand dollar suits.

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does not object to coercion or arbitrary power, gates explains physics to congress, polar bear fate

does not object to coercion

Bush 43 has left the retirement palace to grace us with a a sense of denial, a shirking of moral responsiblity equivalent to verbal sewerage.

“I made a decision within the law to get information so I can say, I’ve done what it takes to do my duty to protect the American people,” he told the largely sympathetic audience. “I can tell you, the information gained saved lives.”

He lied about the WMD, the urgency of the threat, the connections to al-Qaeda, left the country bankrupt as he spent a trillion dollars on Iraq, but dag gummit he’s telling the truth about torture. His oath of office was very short, simple and does not leave room for much interpretation, but Dubya thinks that his duties as a civil servant, the nation’s highest manager were as he was inclined to define them,

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

At one point it was revealed that Bush read Camus. Difficult to believe, but if he did the moral of the story was over his head,

Camus wrote The Fall during the Algerian War, when France was beginning to face a crisis of conscience over torture similar to what the United States faces now. Indeed, clear parallels exist between the French experience in Algeria and the American experience in Iraq: Like the war on terror, much of the French effort to pacify and retain Algeria was waged against a nearly invisible enemy that tended to melt into the landscape. Intelligence-gathering was crucial—and that led to torture.

The French complicity in torture eventually was publicly exposed and denounced in La Question, a firsthand account of his torture at the hands of the French army written by Henri Alleg, editor of the newspaper L’Alger Républicain. La Question was published in February 1958 and quickly banned by the French government—but not before it made its mark. No longer was it possible for the French public to refuse to see what was going on. It was the French equivalent of the New Yorker photos of Abu Ghraib and exploded upon the French conscience in much the same fashion.

Unlike Camus who at least agonized over the use of torture, Bush’s attitude is more pathological. He thought his lies and actions were right, thus any self reflection is time wasted, moral reflection a sign of humanity, humanity was declared obsolete at a time it was needed most.

And from F. A. Hayek,

“In general, it can probably be said that the conservative does not object to coercion or arbitrary power so long as it is used for what he regards as the right purposes. He believes that if government is in the hands of decent men, it ought not to be too much restricted by rigid rules. Since he is essentially opportunist and lacks principles, his main hope must be that the wise and the good will rule – not merely by example, as we all must wish, but by authority given to them and enforced by them.[7] Like the socialist, he is less concerned with the problem of how the powers of government should be limited than with that of who wields them; and, like the socialist, he regards himself as entitled to force the value he holds on other people.”

no starch

Robert Gates, our current Secretary of Defence has his faults, but his short timers disease, especially for the Washington beltway, makes for some rare blunt honesty,

Undaunted, the legislators pressed their case — especially the Republicans, who seemed convinced, as one said, that the Pentagon budget was part of a nefarious Obama Administration plot: “Fiscal restraint for defense and fiscal largesse for everything else.” Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona was very concerned about anti-missile defense — a gold-plated pipe dream, if there ever was one — and especially a product dramatically called the Kinetic Energy Interceptor. To which Gates replied, in a manner so casually dismissive that Franks seemed to shrivel in his seat, “I would just say that the security of the American people and the efficacy of missile defense are not enhanced by continuing to put money into programs … that are essentially sinkholes for taxpayer dollars.”
And as for that kinetic contraption, it was a “five-year development program, in its 14th year, not a single flight test, little work on the third stage or the kill vehicle, etc., etc., no known launch platform …”

Rat-a-tat, Gates continued on, in that flat, unassuming Kansas twang that screams: No bull here.

For those that may not have been keeping up with our Marvel Comicish anti-missile defense system, it is based on a the premise that if someone shoots at you, you can effectively defend yourself by hitting their bullet in mid air with a bullet from your gun.

Yet the time came

from The King of the Polar Bears by L. Frank Baum

The King of the Polar Bears lived among the icebergs in the far north country. He was old and monstrous big; he was wise and friendly to all who knew him. His body was thickly covered with long, white hair that glistened like silver under the rays of the midnight sun. His claws were strong and sharp, that he might walk safely over the smooth ice or grasp and tear the fishes and seals upon which he fed.

The seals were afraid when he drew near, and tried to avoid him; but the gulls, both white and gray, loved him because he left the remnants of his feasts for them to devour.

Often his subjects, the polar bears, came to him for advice when ill or in trouble; but they wisely kept away from his hunting grounds, lest they might interfere with his sport and arouse his anger.

The wolves, who sometimes came as far north as the icebergs, whispered among themselves that the King of the Polar Bears was either a magician or under the protection of a powerful fairy. For no earthly thing seemed able to harm him; he never failed to secure plenty of food, and he grew bigger and stronger day by day and year by year.

Yet the time came when this monarch of the north met man, and his wisdom failed him.

He came out of his cave among the icebergs one day and saw a boat moving through the strip of water which had been uncovered by the shifting of the summer ice. In the boat were men.

The great bear had never seen such creatures before, and therefore advanced toward the boat, sniffing the strange scent with aroused curiosity and wondering whether he might take them for friends or foes, food or carrion.

When the king came near the water’s edge a man stood up in the boat and with a queer instrument made a loud “bang!” The polar bear felt a shock; his brain became numb; his thoughts deserted him; his great limbs shook and gave way beneath him and his body fell heavily upon the hard ice.

That was all he remembered for a time.

aesthetics and forgeries, cherries and roses, distance and ethics

The NYT is doing a series on two books about the famous Vermeer paint forger Han van Meegeren, Bamboozling Ourselves (Part 1)

To be sure, the Van Meegeren story raises many, many questions. Among them: what makes a work of art great? Is it the signature of (or attribution to) an acknowledged master? Is it just a name? Or is it a name implying a provenance? With a photograph we may be interested in the photographer but also in what the photograph is of. With a painting this is often turned around, we may be interested in what the painting is of, but we are primarily interested in the question: who made it? Who held a brush to canvas and painted it? Whether it is the work of an acclaimed master like Vermeer or a duplicitous forger like Van Meegeren — we want to know more.

I looks like an apple, smells like an apple and tastes like an apple, but in the end it is Van Meergeren’s imagined imitation of what a Vermeer apple might be. If you ate those imitation apples your whole life, looked forward to them, they made your life a little richer, would it matter that what you got, was for all practical purposes the same thing. A commenter of this story or mystery, since you’ll ave to read all the installments to find out the writers final judgment, left this link to a book on the philosophy of aesthetics that mentions art forgery,

The question of the artistic status of good forgeries is a vexing one. If two paintigs are indistinquishable, why should it matter that one is a forgery? Here Alfred Lessin(1936-) argues that what a forgery lacks is a particular kind of originality, one that is particularly valued in the western artistic tradition. Neverthless it makes no difference whether or not a painting is authentic.

One of the reasons that we have that tradition of valuing the original is not simply because the painting is something we value as an end product. An end product, that true enough, if we are not told the difference approximate the same aesthetic experience, but the original came from an original idea. The forger acted as a parasite on the idea. Just as the human eye can be fooled doesn’t make magic real so the ability to fool our aesthetic judgment doesn’t make a forgery as valuable as the original. The author of the book – Nigel Warburton claims that the aesthetic experience cancels out everything else, to insist the original is more valuable is just snobbery. As a society we’ve decided that is not the case – copyrights and patents are about money of course, but they are also about noting artistic merit and quality of  imagination. They differ in degree, but merit is divided into both the execution of the work and the imagination to conceptualize the composition. The forger has only attributed half the value to his best imitation. Even more fundamental is that the truth matters – is it snobbery to think that since an impression of a thing is satisfying enough, it is just as good as the truth.

steel and concrete spiral

I found this in the most popular stories section at Yahoo, Detainee abuse in Iraq & an abduction hoax

Most-read stories overnight: A 2004 report into detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq apparently includes photographs showing sexual abuse, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported. U.S. Major General Antonio Taguba, who conducted an investigation into the incidents, confirmed the existence of the photos and said he supported President Barack Obama’s decision not to release them to the public. “These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency,” Taguba said. Do you think the images should be released to the public? Click here to share your thoughts.

Readers were also interested in this AP story about a suburban Pennsylvania mother who allegedly faked her own abduction. Bonnie Sweeten called 911 and said she and her 9-year-old daughter had been carjacked by two black men. Although a nationwide search was launched, authorities soon learned that Sweeten had actually boarded a plane and flown to Orlando, Fla., with the girl. The pair was taken into custody on Wednesday night. Sweeten now faces charges of identity theft and making false reports.

It just seems odd that people have such malleable moral concerns. It seems the further away from their backyard the less Americans – and one would assume other cultures are just as shortsighted – care about improper behavior. Distance seems to make the heart care less; latitude and longitude, culture and language seem to dull empathy and outrage.

cherries and roses

Does this mean that women are obsessed with men, that men have some strange power over women, or that sentiment and a great voice sells records and there is enough ambiguity to internalize and fill in the meaning with whatever the listener would like or its just a nice song so shut up and enjoy it,

And I need you
And I miss you
And now I wonder….

If I could fall
Into the sky
Do you think time
Would pass me by
‘Cause you know I’d walk
A thousand miles
If I could
Just see you
Tonight

from “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton.

fortune and bliss, music by matisse, just in case finding a future earth

Achieving Fame, Wealth, and Beauty are Psychological Dead Ends, Study Says

“People understand that it’s important to pursue goals in their lives and they believe that attaining these goals will have positive consequences. This study shows that this is not true for all goals,” says author Edward Deci, professor of psychology and the Gowen Professor in the Social Sciences at the University. “Even though our culture puts a strong emphasis on attaining wealth and fame, pursuing these goals does not contribute to having a satisfying life. The things that make your life happy are growing as an individual, having loving relationships, and contributing to your community,” Deci says.

The research paper, to be published in the June issue of the Journal of Research in Personality, tracked 147 alumni from two universities during their second year after graduation. Using in-depth psychological surveys, the researchers assessed participants in key areas, including satisfaction with life, self-esteem, anxiety, physical signs of stress, and the experience of positive and negative emotions.

Aspirations were identified as either “intrinsic” or “extrinsic” by asking participants how much they valued having “deep, enduring relationships” and helping “others improve their lives” (intrinsic goals) versus being “a wealthy person” and achieving “the look I’ve been after” (extrinsic goals). Respondents also reported the degree to which they had attained these goals.

Even if the questions such as which is more important, a large income or family is asked by an interviewer or the study participant is alone in a room there is a socialization barrier to answering with absolute honesty. Society says that the quality of our lives is determined by the intangibles – valuing intrinsic values. I would not argue that we do not have ideals as a society, only that many people are very quick to rationalize compromising those high ideals to get ahead at work, to buy a bigger house, to drive a car brand that carries a certain social status. We’re not all shallow materialists or saints, but rather continually conflicted. In Intro to Business 101 the fundamentals begin with talking about people’s basic motivations – shelter, food and clothing. Yet, because no person is an island those things are not enough especially in western culture, but more and more so in authoritarian capitalist systems like China and Russia. Most people in those cultures would consider a TV, radio, refrigerator, clothes washer necessities. In the U.S. a net connection and cell phone are considered among the basics, along with personal transportation. For even the most idealistic loners among us there is a tipping point where society, the crowd, has decided that to live below a certain level of material possessions and services equates to a life lived as an outsider, a life that that goes wanting. In an odd way having a cell phone and the number of messages we get equates to how many friends and family value us enough to constantly barrage us with voice mail and texts, a barrage that validates our intrinsic values. Its gets difficult to differentiate between the extrinsic and the intrinsic because possessions made possible by income are enmeshed in how we evaluate how happy we are. If because of age or disability you’re shut off from much of the daily human contact that other people enjoy, the material means to afford a netbook and a net connection items that become your lifeline to the outside world – they are material goods that make it possible for one to participate in society. You might value that interaction more then the money to pay for them, but money makes it possible to read, write, comment, blog, e-mail, instant message – the intrinsic things that make one’s isolation an easier adjustment.

Music by Henri Matisse. 1910. Oil on canvas

New technique could find water on Earth-like planets orbiting distant suns

Since the early 1990s astronomers have discovered more than 300 planets orbiting stars other than our sun, nearly all of them gas giants like Jupiter. Powerful space telescopes, such as the one that is central to NASA’s recently launched Kepler Mission, will make it easier to spot much smaller rocky extrasolar planets, or exoplanets, more similar to Earth.

[   ]…Using instruments aboard the Deep Impact spacecraft, a team of astronomers and astrobiologists has devised a technique to tell whether such a planet harbors liquid water, which in turn could tell whether it might be able to support life.

Liquid water on the surface of a planet is the gold standard that people are looking for,” said Nicolas Cowan, a University of Washington doctoral student in astronomy and lead author of a paper explaining the new technique that has been accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal.

At some point did the heavenly body required to sustain life as we know it, regardless of income, political power, or completeness of one’s old Blue Note Records catalogue, become disposable. Contrary to some odd bred of optimists, that almost make Mary Poppins seem dour, who still keep chanting that left to our own devices people will act in their own best interests, regulations be damned. Shellfish reefs are ‘most imperilled sea habitat’

In most bays, shellfish reefs are down to around 10 per cent of their historical abundance. In many former strongholds – such as in North America, Europe and Australia – they are all but extinct.

So, you know, just in case we can not bring back the 90% of the shellfish reefs that constitute so much of the oceans essential food web, maybe we should be looking for some new earth to which to move.

bus in a storm

chemo or death, owl eyes wallpaper, but can cheney handle paying for the consequences

I was all set to make the its not a personal choice when it comes to children argument, but Dr.Parikh makes it at the end, Don’t judge the chemo kid

But I would also like to turn down the volume on the talk-radio chatter and outraged editorials. That’s because nobody seems to be talking about what it takes to beat Hodgkin’s (or any other cancer). What it takes is a grueling regimen that can indeed give even a dying person pause. In fact, the Hausers didn’t refuse chemotherapy outright. They defied doctors and a judge’s ruling only after Daniel experienced some of its violent effects following one round. If you don’t understand why, listen to my friend, Arun Ponnusamy, 36, who beat acute lymphocytic leukemia. “Surviving cancer is one thing,” he says. “Surviving chemotherapy is another thing entirely.”

Chemo and its side effects are  like packing an additional aliment on top of the one the sufferer already has. That said we have laws to protect children – the reason we no longer have 12 year old coal mine workers or 9 year old girls working in sweat shops. In this case, the child with his mother’s duplicity, has decided in effect  to commit suicide. A decsion he is not mature enough to make and one that his mother should not be assisting him with. Though her decision doesn’t make her a monster or a saint.
22 Beautiful Example of Brochure Designs – There are a few that I especially like, but the see through 3d effect of the one for 3rock Corporate is amazing modern origami-like.

Video from 1956 of Eames Lounge chair introduction.

Torture Is Not a New US Foreign Policy Tool

On November 16, 1989, six Jesuit priests, a co-worker and her teenage daughter were massacred in El Salvador. I knew one of those killed, Ignacio Martin-Baró, vice-rector of the Central American University. He was the closest I have ever been to a saint. A U.S. Congressional Task Force concluded that those responsible for their deaths were trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

That would have been during George H. W. Bush’s presidency as a continuation of the Saint Ronnie Reagan’s Latin American policy. Like father like son, like political mentor.

black and white sandstone

owl eyes wallpaper

If torture is a credit-deficient situation and Cheney wants to take credit for saving thousands of lives – a yet to be documented claim, but when has that ever mattered to cons. Then he must also take the blame and appropriate punishment for any American deaths by institutionalizing torture, I’m Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans.

happy monkeys and delusional monkeys, heads and asses collide far too often

happy monkey

In a mental world far far away – that bygone scent of neoboneheadedness wafted through the air like the heady old days when Bush thought it was hysterical to look for WMD under his desk; preconceived notions, urban myth like version of world events were confirmed by a serial liar…burp…and so excuse the liars that lead your sons and daughters to premature deaths and wounds, if that that was not a remarkable series of knock out punches, The 10 punches Dick Cheney landed on Barack Obama’s jaw. I’ve read that confronting people with deep delusional disorders may cause reactions that range from flinging applesauce against the wall, to chewing on one’s toe nails to thumb sucking. Never the less the Grand Emperor of Desk Jockey Machismo lied and then lied some more. These are the bloody patriots Mark Twain warned us about.

on air

What, No Waterboarding?

The Irish government has released a report detailing the vicious beatings, rape, and emotional abuse inflicted on tens of thousands children entrusted to the care of Catholic orphanages for 60 years, until the 1990s. The Times pulls out this description: “Punching, flogging, assault and bodily attacks … burning, scalding, stabbing, severe beatings with or without clothes, being made to kneel and stand in fixed positions for lengthy periods … beaten while hanging from hooks on the wall, being set upon by dogs …” Not to mention relentless sexual assault. In response to the report, the Vatican is silent, and the government names none of the abusers—a result of Church pressure and lawsuits. An apology and some cash is what is being offered to the victims. But how is it the perpetrators get to decide they will not be prosecuted? And how can this chapter be closed until every rapist and sadist still alive is tracked down and tried?

Torture, abuse and a general tendency toward sadism is the new hipper then thou deviance – just ask Dick or George or Sean or Rush. The victims and society are all the better for it. The excuses, the rationale are the stinking  bile scraped from garbage bins. Our grave and oh so serious guardians of national insecurity, values and political thought will find a twisted song and dance to differentiate themselves. Those Catholics did it for fun, neonconservatives did it to save lives? It has worked before. There is no sense facing reality now. Maybe its for the best, think of the expense for the rest of us, having to pay to have so many heads removed from so many asses.

palm over house

age of paranoia, tropical waterfall, we’re doomed anyway

21st century could be the “age of paranoia”, warns expert

Paranoia is on the increase and could go unchecked unless we take urgent action, claims a leading scientist. Dr Daniel Freeman, a Wellcome Trust fellow, warns that changes in how we live and work could mean that we are entering an “age of paranoia”.

[  ]..”These days, we daren’t let our children play outside. We’re suspicious of strangers. Security cameras are everywhere,” says Dr Freeman. “We seem to have entered an age of paranoia. And the indications are that things may only get worse.”

Dr Freeman believes that a combination of factors is fuelling this new era of suspiciousness, including the increasing number of people living in cities, the physical environment in which we live, growing wealth inequalities and the over-reporting in the media of crime and terrorism.

For the first time ever, 2008 has seen the urban population of the world outnumber the rural. In 1800, only five per cent of people lived in urban areas worldwide, but this figure is set to rise to 65 per cent by 2030. This does not bode well for our mental health: scientists have known for some time that rates of paranoia are twice as high in cities compared to those in rural areas.

“Social bonds are much looser in cities than in smaller, rural communities where ready-made, relatively stable support networks exist,” says Dr Freeman. “Social isolation, a frequent drawback to urban life, is closely associated with paranoid thoughts. In the UK nearly four times as many people live alone than 50 years ago. Increasing paranoia is certainly one more challenge posed by galloping urbanisation.”

Poverty, deprivation and wealth inequality are also linked to poor health and to increased levels of mental illness. Research conducted in the USA has shown that the people in the US with the widest income inequalities also displayed the lowest levels of trust and higher rates of mortality. Mistrust is associated with higher rates of death from cancer, heart disease and strokes.

Paranoia isn’t confined to Western nations, but it does appear that societies in which people are divided by huge differences in income and where the emphasis is on individual economic success run the risk of breeding conflict, unhappiness and distrust, argues Dr Freeman. An increasingly flexible employment market, with more reliance on short-term contracts, breeds uncertainty, stress and fuels competition in the workplace, encouraging us to see our colleagues as rivals and potential threats.

[  ]..”Every age has its bogeymen, and ours includes terrorists, ‘hoodies’ and paedophiles, but the amount of coverage they receive in both tabloids and broadsheets greatly outweighs coverage of our real killers, such as heart disease, cancer, and road accidents.

The good doctor also reports that paranoia is catagious. That as people around you seem to be more on edge, some in what I call a low level panic, its difficult to avoid joining the crowd.

Just an armchair theory, but I tend to think that some people enjoy being parnoid in a way that is similar to thrill seekers. Thrill seekers get an endorphin rush from the scariest roller ccoasters or climbing the shearest rock faces. Those that always seem to be paranoid about something might also be getting some kind of high from the feeling.

The researchers also mention the media’s credo if it bleeds it leads. Its difficult to tell without another study, but there seems to be the traditional media’s bleeding leads, then the yellow journalism’s version – Fox, The New York Post, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal and some webzines like The Weekly Standard who take the same stories about terrorism, pedophiles etc and pump them up even more. In a way Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert owe some of their success for the desire of some of us to have that kind of news put in a little perspective. Having been shot at once I have some personal experience with life threatening situations, so  its not my intention to belittle victims. Still car accidents and cancer remain bigger threats to the average person and their family the the media’s newest boogieman.

little tropical waterfall
Everyone has probably heard about this by now, 4 Accused of Bombing Plot at Bronx Synagogues. Potentially very tragic consequences has these assclowns not been stopped. That in mind we’re also having a overwrought debate about bringing the prisoners from Gitmo into U.S. prisons – our federal prisons are reasonably well kept places with professional guards. As far as prisons go, federal prisons are much better then most state run prisons and more secure – though convicted murderers, kidnappers, rapists ,etc are kept at both. Hilzoy looks at today’s New York arrests in that light,We’re Doomed!

This raises the difficult question: what should we do with these would-be terrorists while they await trial? And if they are convicted, what then? I assume that if it’s too dangerous to move people at Guantanamo to the United States, it must be much too dangerous to allow these jihadists to run loose in our prisons. After all, they might provide financing for other jihadists from their supermax cells, or radicalize other prisoners, or use special Terrorist Mind Control Techniques to create a whole army of brainwashed convicts under their complete control.

I’d suggest killing them, cutting them into pieces, and shipping their parts to parts unknown immediately (trials? who can afford trials under these circumstances?), if I weren’t afraid that some hitherto unknown al Qaeda trick might allow their reanimated body parts to slither around in search of one another and, eventually, reconstitute themselves as the Islamofascist Undead.

Did I mention that a dark ironic sense of humor also helps keep paranoia in its place.

the dead one (1961). this would have been around the time schools had those duck and hide drills in case of nuclear attack by the commies.