tom friedman has an ironic daydream, retro new york, is loneliness contagious

The real Thomas L. Friedman has been kidnapped by aliens from Zork and replaced by someone who sounds as though he could be Noam Chomsky’s doppelganger,  What’s Our Sputnik?

Dick Cheney says President Obama is “trying to pretend that we are not at war” with terrorists. There is only one thing I have to say about that: I sure hope so.

Frankly, if I had my wish, we would be on our way out of Afghanistan not in, we would be letting Pakistan figure out which Taliban they want to conspire with and which ones they want to fight, we would be letting Israelis and Palestinians figure out on their own how to make peace, we would be taking $100 billion out of the Pentagon budget to make us independent of imported oil — nothing would make us more secure — and we would be reducing the reward for killing or capturing Osama bin Laden to exactly what he’s worth: 10 cents and an autographed picture of Dick Cheney.

Am I going isolationist? No, but visiting the greater China region always leaves me envious of the leaders of Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, who surely get to spend more of their time focusing on how to build their nations than my president, whose agenda can be derailed at any moment by a jihadist death cult using exploding underpants.

Could we just walk away? No, but we must change our emphasis. The “war on terrorists” has to begin by our challenging the people and leaders over there. If they’re not ready to take the lead, to speak out and fight the madness in their midst, for the future of their own societies, there is no way we can succeed. We’ll exhaust ourselves trying. We’d be better off just building a higher wall.

As the terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman noted in an essay in The Washington Post: “In the wake of the global financial crisis, Al Qaeda has stepped up a strategy of economic warfare. ‘We will bury you,’ Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev promised Americans 50 years ago. Today, Al Qaeda threatens: ‘We will bankrupt you.’ ” And they will.

Tom or Tom’s doppelganger may have also taken one of those alien sedatives. He knows that you cannot drive one of the richest nations to ever exist into bankruptcy without a certain amount of coöperation of its citizens. We just had another moron in exploding tidy whiteys botch a terror attempt and half the country peed its pants in fear. The entire industrial-military complex was thus guaranteed another year of increased funding. In an otherwise tedious public display of bed wetting a deathly afraid professor of management and economics and a very frightened federal circuit judge writing at the WSJ do make one valid observation – well its some simple arithmetic – counting the watchers watching over us,

The national intelligence apparatus of the U.S. has fewer employees than GM had in its prime, yet it consists officially of 16 separate agencies, and unofficially of more than 20. Each of these agencies is protected by strong political and bureaucratic constituencies, so that after each intelligence failure everything continues pretty much the same and usually with the same people in charge.

Gee willikers, that just sounds so much like the smart and serious thing to do, let’s keep doing it. Regardless of costs, in lives or money. There are good arguments for staying a bit longer in Afghanistan, the Taliban and Al Qaeda are scum. Are we actually accomplishing anything. It doesn’t matter to the perennially freighted, fighting in Afghanistan is connected in much of the public’s mind with incidents like the underwear bomber. So we’re not going to use the billions saved to convert to a green economy – not at the pace we could. We ‘re not going to use the billions for health care because of our national infatuation with death. One must remember that if you die of heart disease or leukemia it’s merely death, but if, by some wild twist of fate you’re murdered by a terrorist, you’re deader then dead. The 101st Fighting Bed Wetters: death by knife in an alley, car accident, cancer – no big deal. Death by foreigners with funny head-gear, you’re deader then dead. If the FBWs have to bankrupt the country to keep their socks dry they will.

Tom has not always been so Chomsky-ish.

retro new york

Is loneliness contagious,

Still, there’s something seemingly oxymoronic in the idea that loneliness can be catching. By definition, a lonely person would seem unlikely to spread anything, any more than a hermit could give someone chicken pox. But according to Christakis, Fowler, and John Cacioppo, a psychologist and leading loneliness researcher at the University of Chicago who collaborated with them, making sense of the contagiousness of loneliness demands that we rethink our idea of what loneliness is, and that we come to realize how being surrounded by people doesn’t necessarily protect us from it.

The new research also fleshes out the picture of the varying ways that social phenomena move through networks of family members, friends, and acquaintances. The spread of loneliness is shaped by gender and geography, by where a person finds himself in his web of relationships. Loneliness spreads in a different way from obesity, which spreads in a different way from happiness, and figuring out how exactly they differ may eventually help doctors, social scientists, politicians, planners, educators, and even architects figure out better ways to encourage the behaviors they think are good for us and limit the ones they don’t. With a sense of the larger picture in place, network researchers are turning their attention to figuring out in detail the different mechanisms at work, and figuring out how to use them.

[  ]….Different people, Cacioppo has found, vary widely in their susceptibility to loneliness. How lonely a person feels, Cacioppo has found, can be shaped by everything from cultural norms about friendship to childhood upbringing to even genes.

But it can also be determined by those around us. The paper Cacioppo co-wrote with Christakis and Fowler, published in the current issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that having a friend who reports feeling lonely makes a person 52 percent more likely to feel lonely. In another measure, they found that, for each additional day per week a person reported feeling lonely, his friends reported an additional lonely day per month. Not only that, having a friend who has a friend who feels lonely makes a person 25 percent more likely to feel lonely, and at three degrees of separation (a friend of a friend of a friend) the odds are still increased by 15 percent.

If this is the case its a little disconcerting regarding other feelings that can dominate individual personalities – like being domineering, hostile, paranoid and manipulative.

certain wounds

“An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind.”