I slacked off on Friday…with Christmas and all…there was no Friday Nite Lite thread. Well, I will make-up for it now with a comic filled post. I’ll throw some links in that you might find interesting.
This next one is a local NC cartoon, but the same could be said for the GOP asswipes in any double red State: 12/29/2015 Cartoon by John Cole
In Louisiana and several other states: 30,000 Louisianans Scheduled to Lose Food Stamps | Al Jazeera America
Joanika Davis relies on the $194 per month she receives in food stamp benefits every month to help her get by as she searches for employment.
But on Jan. 1, Davis is set to lose that financial lifeline — one of approximately 31,000 Louisianians set to suffer as a result of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision to reinstate the work requirement for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in his state.
SNAP rules typically allow full benefits to single able-bodied adults only if they have jobs or are enrolled in a job-training program. Otherwise, they may access food stamp benefits for no more than three months every three years. States with high unemployment can apply for a federal waiver, dropping that work requirement and allowing single adults to access full benefits regardless of their job status.
Since the beginning of the Great Recession, nearly every state in the country sought and was granted a federal waiver at some point. But recently, a number of states with Republican governors have allowed their waivers to expire, citing improved economic circumstances and a desire to get their food stamp recipients back to work. Jindal, a Republican, allowed Louisiana’s waiver to lapse on Oct. 1.
“We continue to seek opportunities for SNAP recipients to increase their self-sufficiency. Engaging in work activities is a key step in that transition,” said Suzy Sonnier, the head of Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services, in a Sept. 30 statement.
Starting in January, Davis, who told Al Jazeera that she is still hunting for a job, will have to find ways to make up a monthly shortfall of nearly $200. “Why should I have to fight for food right now?” she asked. “Why should I have to fight to drink water?”
And it is not only people in Louisiana who are losing out.
Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming have recently allowed the work requirement to be reimposed, leaving 28 states with their food stamp waivers intact in fiscal year 2016.
The people affected by the reinstatement of the work requirement tend to be among the poorest of the poor, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, an economic think tank. In 2014 able-bodied, childless, unemployed adults on food stamps had an average of $2,200 in gross income, the center found.
It also found that states that reimpose the work requirement tend to see a sudden sharp drop in SNAP participants, suggesting that thousands of unemployed recipients are unable to find work and maintain their eligibility.
“The idea that anybody is choosing not to work because of $190 dollars a month in food stamps — that’s really kind of a stereotype,” said Steve Spires, a senior policy analyst for the Louisiana Budget Project. “The reality is a lot of people want to work. There simply aren’t jobs…”
On the latest Trump news: 25% of Donald Trump’s political spending goes to his own companies – Quartz
“It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it,” Donald Trump told Fortune in 2000, during his first abortive run for president.
He was referring to a $1 million motivational speaking deal he got from Tony Robbins that he timed to coincide with his campaign stops. Then, he didn’t dominate the headlines—apparently the Clinton-Bush-Gore psychodrama was more compelling—and Trump’s greatest accomplishment was winning the Reform party nomination in California with a scant 15,311 votes. (His bon mots haven’t changed much—Fortune refers to “his usual critiques of Pat Buchanan (‘a Hitler lover’), Bill Bradley (‘a total disaster’), George W. Bush (‘no Einstein’), Fidel Castro (‘a bad guy’), North Korea (‘run by some very bad people’), and Russia (‘totally mixed up’).”)
This time around, as the leading candidate for the Republican nomination, he operates on a more rarified and lucrative plane: Trump’s companies have already earned $1.4 million from his campaign.
The billionaire builder often argues that his wealth guarantees his political independence, and describes his campaign as “self-funding.” That’s no longer true: While he was the main source of campaign funds during the early part of his run, the most recent financial disclosures through the end of September 2015, show Trump put less money into his campaign than his donors—and he stands to profit in particular from their backing.
Like the article says…”Follow the money.” And read the rest at the link.
The storms this Christmas have been terrible….The Mississippi River Is About to Have a Record Flood Completely Out of Season
The Mississippi River is flooding in a big way right now, at the wrong time of year, and is forecasted to match or break 22-year-old crest records over the next few days. Meteorologists are calling it “insane.”
Over the next three to four days, the Mississippi is predicted to reach a crest height of 49.7 feet at Chester, Illinois, one of several locations where the National Weather Service records data about the river. As of Tuesday afternoon, the river has already risen to 40.8 feet. According to Taylor Trogdon, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Memphis, that is an “absolutely remarkable” forecast.
The “great flood of 1993,” as it has come to be known, was “one of the most significant and damaging natural disasters ever to hit the United States,” according to a National Weather Service hydrologist, writing in 1996. “Damages totaled $15 billion, 50 people died, hundreds of levees failed, and thousands of people were evacuated, some for months.”
A few links regarding Cruz:
A woman spoke to C-SPAN at a recent Cruz rally in Mechanicsville, Virginia, where she explained that she intended to vote for the Texas Republican to drive President Barack Obama, who is constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third term, from office.
“I don’t like Obama no more,” the woman explained. “He’s ruined our country, ruined Christmas. He’s let the Muslims in. We can’t say that word, we’ve got to be ashamed of it — and we’re not ashamed people. We’re a proud people, and we’re gonna take our country back. So watch out, Obama! We’re coming.”
The reporter asked the woman to explain how Obama had ruined Christmas.
“He’s scared the little children,” she said. “They’re not allowed to have Santa Claus in the schools where, you know, it might offend the Muslims. But what about us?”
The woman’s loopy rant was reminiscent of remarks made earlier this month by Trump supporter Susan DeLemus, a New Hampshire state representative, during a CNN focus group.
“We’ve got people in positions of power who I know for a fact are liars. Liars!” DeLemus said. “I watch the TV — My president comes on the TV and he lies to me! I know he’s lying. He lies all the time.”
Cruz himself is a nut:
Via Conservative Tribune. com (I won’t quote the thing cause I don’t want any crazy Cruz troll nuts here making trouble…) you can look it up by the title of the article: Ted Cruz Issues Huge Statement on What the Bible Says About Killing Muslims… This Is Brutal
Sen. Ted Cruz said that he would not be violating his Christian faith if he followed through on his vow to “carpet bomb” Islamic State group militants — a statement that’s sure to upset liberals across the country.
The Texas Republican and presidential candidate told Newsmax Wednesday: ”Let’s be clear, the Bible says, ‘Thou shalt not murder,’ which is different from ‘Thou shalt not kill.’”
“Defending yourself is an obligation of any president. It is not murder,” Cruz added in the interview with Ed Berliner on “The Hard Line.”
What the fuck is that? Justified killing for “Jesus.” Sounds like what a religious zealot says after shooting and killing a bunch of innocent people at a Planned Parenthood Clinic.
But wait there is more:
Cruz pointed out that while America killed Nazis in World War II, it wasn’t murder.
“When you have the face of evil that has declared war … then it is the essence of duty to defend your nation, to defend the innocent,” he said. “When it comes to jihadists, they have declared war on us, and that’s what President Obama and Hillary Clinton refuse to acknowledge.”
The leader of the United States should fight radical Islam the same way President Ronald Reagan fought the Soviets when bringing an end to the Cold War, Cruz said. Reagan aimed his foreign policy around the notion of defeating communism — a strategy of “we win, they lose.”
Reagan “championed tax reform and regulatory reform,” Cruz said, which “unchained the American economy.” The economic growth that resulted from from his reform allowed the former president to rebuild the military and challenge Soviet communism “on every front, strategically we bankrupted the Soviet Union and won the Cold War.”
There is recorded sound from the interview at the conservative tribune link…if you must hear it. Five fucking minutes of this shit. Of course the CT (cuntservative tribune) is all hard for Cruz.
Speaking of Reagan…up next, a link sent to me from Boston Boomer: Behind the Ronald Reagan myth: “No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed” – Salon.com
Reagan embarrassed himself in news conferences, Cabinet meetings. Recalling how GOP cringed at his lack of interest
I always thought Reagan was much further gone with Alzheimer’s than we’re all led on now to believe…if that makes any sense. (As I am probably in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s myself.)
I thought many of you would find this a good read: Sudan’s midwives take on Female Genital Mutilation
My Granny would throw a bucket of water out the back door, to wash away the bad luck from the last year…I don’t remember if it was dirty water or not. Actually…I think she would toss a big pot of water. (One of her big cooking pots full…) So it would not be “dirty” and maybe that is why it never worked? She always had terrible luck…
Twenty Indian students carrying valid student visas for colleges in California were denied entry in Chicago and put on planes back to India on Sunday, following other incidents of the U.S. turning away people from certain countries.
The U.S. is in a heightened state of vigilance since the terror attacks in Paris, France and San Bernardino, California. One of the shooters in San Bernardino came in on a fiance visa, prompting concern that potential terrorists could find loopholes to enter the country on valid visas or through the visa waiver program, which allows citizens of friendly countries to visit the United States without visas.
Some foreigners have already been barred from entering the country without being told why. Last week, a British Muslim family planning a trip to Disneyland was told by United Kingdom border officials that they wouldn’t be allowed to board a plane to the United States. Another 20 British Muslim families were reportedly denied entry into the United States without explanation.
From Riese via AutoStraddle.com: Our Picks For 2015’s Best Longform By Women
Hey, so, maybe you’ve heard about this gender byline gap? Like how in print, men make up about 62% of bylines in the most widely circulated newspapers, and 58% of those at the top four online news sites, (according to the Women’s Media Center). Or how women head fewer major US newspapers today than they did 10 years ago and are underrepresented in op-eds, book reviews and photojournalism. Or maybe you read that article by Dayna Evans on Matter about the otherwise progressive Gawker Media’s treatment of women, which noted that if Jezebel was excluded from the company’s editorial statistics, its staff would be 28% female. (It’s 38% female with Jezebel included.) Perhaps you’re aware that racial diversity in media is even worse — people of color account for only 13.34% of journalists at daily newspapers.
I’ve been assembling weekly, and then bi-weekly, lists of the web’s best longform for Autostraddle for four years now, and because of all those reasons above (and because we love women around here), I wanted to do a year-end round-up of the best longform written by women. I qualified “longform” as containing 3,000 words or more, but there are ten or so articles I included despite falling under that word count. I wanted a racially diverse group of writers and I wanted to represent as many independent and women’s publications as possible — which was tougher than I’d hoped, as most mainstream women’s magazines and even some of the most hyped new media sites for women rarely publish articles over 2,000 words. Independent women’s publications, like ours, face serious budget constraints when it comes to commissioning longer pieces outside of personal essays. But even well-funded properties go light on women’s longform; it remains far easier to find longform by women in major men’s magazines like GQ and Esquire than their female counterparts, like Elle and Vogue. As Amanda Hess wrote in Slate following a controversy regarding a male-dominated Port Magazine feature about the future of print media, “I hope we can also take this opportunity to question why women’s writing is aligned so heavily with personal essays and service journalism — the forms that are the cheapest and ad-friendliest to produce.”
That being said, it wasn’t hard to find women writing amazing shit all over the internet. Longreadswas an incredible resource for me when putting this together, and if you don’t follow them, you really ought to. Specifically, Emily Perper does some incredible work over there. And although I remain bitter that Longform.org has yet to include our site on their app or website, I’m madly in love with their app and their website, and have been for years.
In some of the reporting pieces, men also were writers of the piece. I only selected a piece that had men involved if there were equal or more women involved.
In other news dealing with Women and GLBT’s Issues:
Hospital Refuses Pregnancy-Related Care Again Because of Religious Directives | American Civil Liberties Union Another Catholic Hospital..
Forty-three religious universities applied for waivers in 2015 that will allow them to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Department of Education approved twenty-two of those requests, and the rest remain pending,BuzzFeed reported.
The number of schools seeking these waivers has spiked in recent years, jumping from one school in 2012 to 43 this year, according to a new report from the Human Rights Campaign.
Another story not getting much notice: Manning: Healing Continues 125 Years After Wounded Knee Massacre – ICTMN.com
This year marks the 125thanniversary of the Wounded Knee massacre. On December 29, 1890, as many as 300 innocent and unarmed Lakota men, women, children, infants, and elders were gunned down by the United States 7thCavalry at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota. After the bloodshed, Chief Big Foot (Spotted Elk) and his band lie dead in the snow where they remained frozen for three days, until all were buried in a mass grave.
For decades, the Wounded Knee massacre was masqueraded as a battle, and marked in many American history books as such. A few months following the massacre, the United States government awarded 20 troops of the U.S. 7thCavalry with the Medal of Honor, and to this day, those medals have yet to be rescinded.
Now some other links…Science, History and Art, oh…and a huge ass natural gas leak in California:
Gas is escaping through a ruptured pipe more than 8,000 feet underground, and it shows no signs of stopping,” as according to the California Air Resources Board, methane – a greenhouse gas 72 times more impactful in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide – has been escaping from the Aliso Canyon site with force equivalent “to a volcanic eruption” for about two months now.
New infrared footage exposes the massive leak…
Go to link to see that video…also looks like Erin Brockovich is working on this…
Infographic of leak (and potential solution)
As TheAntiMedia.org’s Claire Bernish details, methane gas continues spewing, unchecked, into the air over southern California from a fractured well to an underground storage site — at such an alarming rate that low-flying planes have necessarily been diverted by the FAA, lest internal combustion engines meet highly volatile gas and, well, blow the entire area to hell.
This is, indeed, the biggest environmental catastrophe since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010; and for now, there is no way to stop it.
This methane disaster is worse than can be sufficiently described in words, because while it’s estimated well over 100,000 pounds of methane spew into the atmosphere every hour, the leak can’t be halted, at least until spring. Even then, that stoppage depends entirely on the efficacy of a proposed fix — which remains a dubiously open question.
Yeah, I am ending it on that disturbing note. There is plenty more at the link…it is a very long read. (I will say it is via a website called intellihub.com. I am not familiar with that site, however…they do quote from reliable sources i.e. LATimes, CBS News, NY Daily News, court documents etc., which you can also verify by clicking those links within the article itself.) In fact I would also suggest you read the comments…it may lead you to research into more natural gas leaks you can look up on Google…some fun for ya on the crust of the shitty year “2015” as we head over the cusp of the new year “2016.”
That does it for this Wednesday’s post…y’all enjoy this last couple of days of 2015!
What is going on in your part of the world? This is an open thread…
Already starting the second week of 2015 and things just aren’t looking like it is going to be a good year. (I am talking about the crap in Congress and so forth. Which it appears payback is a bitch: Payback? Two GOP Boehner foes kicked off House committee | Washington Watch | McClatchy DC)
So today the links are going to focus on main news items and a few history links.
The images you see are vintage magazine covers from the month of January…some may spark a memory or two…
Let’s start with the news that will be blasted all over the MSM this morning:
“The tail has been found,” Bambang Soelistyo, chief of the rescue agency, known as BASARNAS, told reporters at a news conference, adding that tail numbers were visible on wreckage. Finding the tail is significant because it may contain the plane’s voice and data recorders, or black boxes. Soelistyo said no black boxes have yet been found.
Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia, said on Twitter Wednesday that “if right part of tail section then the black box should be there.”
“We need to find all parts soon so we can find all out (sic) guests to ease the pain of our families,” Fernandes said. “That still is our priority.”
They even have pictures of the tail from underwater:
From what the pictures show, it looks like the plane is upside-down.
According to the news in Australia, via the Sydney Morning Herald:
The discovery came within what’s now known as the “second additional area” — a search zone to the west of the original focus area, because strong underwater currents have been sweeping wreckage westwards.
Mr Soelistyo said divers would now be deployed to try to recover the bodies that his agency, Basarnas, is sure are trapped in the wreckage.
A number of bodies were found overnight, bringing the total of those recovered to 40 out of a flight with 162 passengers and crew.
As bodies floating free in the ocean are decaying fast, authorities hope most of the rest of the victims will be capable of being recovered from the four or more large pieces of wreckage believed to be on the ocean floor.
Basarnas and the Indonesian National Transport Safety Committee were now trying to find the black box using the pinger locator.
It also looks like there is some strange suspensions and such taking place. Air Asia is a airline that advertises flights for the average person…with a slogan of “now everyone can fly”…meaning they are not your high dollar air travel carrier. You can read more about their launch into Indonesia/Malaysia with budget flights here Air Asia X to launch UK-Malaysia flights – Telegraph, it is a link to an article from 2008.
The breakthrough came as the government’s crackdown on what it sees as unauthorised flights continues, carrying grave risk for AirAsia’s reputation in Indonesia.
More airport and flight approval officials were suspended for allowing the doomed flight to leave Surabaya on a day (Sunday) that it was not authorised to fly the Singapore route.
The feared Corruption Eradication Commission, KPK, has been deployed to see if there was any corruption involved in that process.
But the government appears to have pulled back on its heavy-handed treatment of domestic AirAsia flight routes.
On Tuesday, airport officials announced that they had banned AirAsia from flying five of its key Indonesian domestic services out of Surabaya airport, including three from Surabaya to the capital, Jakarta, one to Bali and one to regional centre Bandung.
But the general manager of the airport authority, Trikor Hardjo, said that, after the flights were cancelled, some more negotiations led to the suspension being revoked.
“The airline has already been asked for changes, and the permit was just issued for all of those flights,” Mr Trikor said.
The crackdown, followed by the backdown, seems to the be result of over-zealous regulation in an environment that is increasingly unfriendly and difficult for commercial operators in the wake of the crash.
A spokesman for the Transport Ministry, JA Barata, tried to clear up the confusion: “Those whose flying schedule is not in accordance with their permit must be suspended, but if the changes are only about flying time or hour, they should not be suspended,” he told Fairfax Media.
“The respective airlines can simply apply for new flying time to the respective division at Transportation Ministry. This is a regular practice and it is very simply done.”
More on the banned flights here: AirAsia banned from key routes amid government crackdown
AirAsia has been banned from flying five of its key Indonesian domestic services out of Surabaya airport as part of a government crackdown on previously unenforced regulations in the wake of the crash of flight QZ8501.
The bans on the flights – three from Surabaya to the capital, Jakarta, one to Bali and one to regional centre Bandung – will deal another blow to the Malaysia-based low-cost carrier, which had already been suspended from the Surabaya-Singapore route entirely.It’s part of a broader government crackdown on lax administration of flight permits from Surabaya Airport. The fast-growing Indonesian-owned low cost carrier Lion Air has been stopped from flying nine of its weekly services, and smaller aircraft Trigana and KalStar have also been affected.
The general manager of Indonesia’s airport authority, Trikor Hardjo, said he had made the decision because the airlines had changed aspects of their scheduling and so lacked permits to fly some services. He told news portal Detik.com he had, “tightened the rules of the game”.
But the sudden move will cast Indonesia’s teeming aviation industry into disarray, and is likely to mean long delays for passengers as they are transferred to other flights.
The Indonesian government’s regulation of its burgeoning airline industry has been judged one of the worst in the world. The International Civil Aviation Organisation ranks its ability to administer aviation as worse than that in Albania, Kyrgyzstan, Cameroon and Burkina Faso.
There was another shooting last night, this time at a VA hospital in Texas: Gunman kills doctor, then himself, at VA hospital in El Paso, Texas – CNN.com
One person died Tuesday when a gunman opened fire at the El Paso VA Health Care System in Texas, Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Twitty told reporters.
“The alleged shooter is dead, and we have one casualty. That casualty is deceased. All other VA patients and staff are safe. This is an active crime scene, and the shooting incident is under investigation,” he said.
The Department of Veterans Affairs released a statement saying it was saddened by what happened.
“We will continue to cooperate fully with military and civilian authorities at Beaumont Army Medical Center. The safety and continued care of our Veterans and the staff will be our focus throughout this situation,” the statement read.
A Pentagon official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that a doctor was shot by a gunman, who later died from a self-inflicted wound.
The motive for the shooting was not immediately clear. The VA facility will be closed Wednesday.
Of course this violence is in addition to the bomb at the NAACP office in Colorado, Suspect sought after blast near Colorado Springs NAACP office | Al Jazeera America
Authorities are looking for a man who may have information about an explosion set off near the Colorado Springs chapter of the NAACP.
The Tuesday blast outside a barbershop next door to the group’s building caused no injuries, police said. There was only minor damage to the site which is which is about an hour south of Denver.
FBI spokeswoman Amy Sanders says an explosive was detonated against the building, but it’s too soon to know whether it was aimed at the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.
She says investigators are looking for a balding white man in his 40s who may be driving a dirty pickup truck.
In other depressing news: Food stamp benefit cut may force a million people into ‘serious hardship’ | Al Jazeera America
I won’t quote that one, you can go and read the thing for yourself…
Now for a few history links, these are from the History News Network website:
Now that the Republican Party―the conservative voice in mainstream U.S. electoral politics―has attained the most thoroughgoing control of Congress that it has enjoyed since 1928, it’s an appropriate time to take a good look at modern conservatism.
Conservatives have performed some useful services for Americans over the course of U.S. history. Alexander Hamilton placed the nation’s financial credit on a much firmer basis during the late eighteenth century. Determined to make knowledge available to all Americans, Andrew Carnegie funded the development of the free U.S. public library system in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. During the early twentieth century, Elihu Root and other conservatives played key roles in the establishment of international law. Also, in the mid-twentieth century, Robert Taft staunchly denounced the peacetime military draft, arguing that it smacked of a totalitarian state.
But, increasingly, modern American conservatism resembles a giant wrecking ball, powered by hate-spewing demagogues to undermine or destroy long-cherished institutions, from the U.S. Post Office (established by Benjamin Franklin in 1775 and enshrined in the U.S. Constitution) to minimum wage laws (which began to appear on the state level in the early twentieth century). Sadly, the rhetoric of modern conservatism―focused on small government, free enterprise, and individual liberty―seems ever more divorced from its behavior. Indeed, conservatism’s rhetoric and its behavior are often quite contradictory.
Is this allegation fair? There certainly seem to be plenty of discrepancies between words and deeds, and conservatives should be asked to explain them. For example:
Go to link and read the 10 questions…
Peter Stearns is a Professor of History and Provost Emeritus at George Mason University. He served as Provost from 2000-2014. This article was the basis for a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in New York in January.
I offer here some brief comments on shame, its history, and opportunities in the history of emotion. I’ve been concerned, despite the impressive flurry of work on emotion by historians at major centers that have sprung up in several countries, that we’ve not maintained adequate connections with the other fields that dominate research on emotion, notably psychology and sociology.
We know one key thing about shame and history, thanks particularly to work by John Demos some decades ago. Widely displayed in colonial America, complete with public stocks, it declined in popularity by the mid-nineteenth century. Recent Googlebooks data confirm this, by the way. But after this core discovery, historians have been silent on the emotion.
Not so social scientists, who have been pouring out impressive amounts of work on current patterns of shame, and particularly the emotion’s harmful effects. Whether we’re talking about prisoners, children, or fat people, shame targeting simply makes things worse, causing resentment and sometimes counterproductive reactions.
You know what to do, right?
This month, with little fanfare, Palomares begins its 50th year as “the most radioactive town in Europe.” If you’ve heard of Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island but are unfamiliar with Palomares, you might wonder why. All appear in Time’s top-ten list of the world’s “worst nuclear disasters.” Palomares moreover has been called the worst nuclear weapons accident in history. So why do so few people outside Spain know about it?
So what exactly happened? On 17 January 1966, a US Air Force B-52 collided with its refueling plane, killing seven airmen and dropping four hydrogen bombs. Conventional explosives in two detonated on impact with the earth, blowing them to bits and scattering radioactive plutonium—a mutagen and carcinogen—over the farming town of Palomares, population 2000.
English-language journalists, though late on the scene, rushed their books into print, replicating oversights of the rushed cleanup operation and circulating the myth of a single lost bomb. Pioneering female foreign correspondent Flora Lewis screamed One of Our H-Bombs is Missing, borrowing a title from 50s Red Scare pulp fiction. Likewise demonstrating their national allegiances, British reporter Christopher Morris lamented The Day They Lost the H-Bomb and American science writer Barbara Moran, four decades later, decried The Day We Lost the H-Bomb.
Only New York Times correspondent Tad Szulc pluralized the threat with The Bombs of Palomares. He further measured the relative importance of events. “Although the long spectacular search” for the harmless fourth bomb—at the bottom of the Med for eighty days—“was to overshadow the village’s radioactivity problem in [U.S.] public opinion, the contamination was in reality the most significant” calamity.
So what was of greatest significance in early 1966? In addition to the seven airmen, plus eight more killed in a Palomares supply plane crash, people in Palomares suffered—and still suffer—potentially fatal radioactive exposures. At the time, no was evacuated; no one was officially informed for six weeks. Even then, U.S. Ambassador Angier Duke told the international press corps an unconscionable lie: “This area has gone through no public health hazard of any kind, and no trace whatsoever of radioactivity has ever been found.” Why then were nearly 5000 barrels of hot soil and crops shipped away for burial in South Carolina? Why today is plutonium found throughout the food chain in Palomares? Why is radioactivity evident downwind, in neighboring Villaricos?
See, you need to go and read the rest of those article to find the answers to the questions.
I thought this was another interesting history link for you this morning: Nazi super cows: British farmer forced to destroy half his murderous herd of bio-engineered Heck cows after they try to kill staff – Environment – The Independent
Hey, remember that time capsule that was found in Boston a couple of weeks ago? Time capsule that was in Massachusetts State House is opened – Metro – The Boston Globe
Using a porcupine’s quill, several small pieces of paper, a strip of polyester film, and a small metal pick that resembled a dental tool, Museum of Fine Arts conservator Pam Hatchfield carefully plucked history from a box Tuesday night.
The box was a time capsule, many of its items first placed beneath the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House 220 years ago to mark the start of the building’s construction. The history came in many forms.
There were five neatly folded newspapers, a collection of 23 coins dating as far back as 1652, a medal depicting George Washington, a replica of Colonial records, and a silver plate commemorating the erection of the new State House.
One of the coins in the box, a Pine Tree Shilling, was printed in 1652 for the use of Massachusetts’ colonists, without the knowledge of the British monarchy. Writing about the shilling, historian Mark Peterson tells the story of the colonists’ monetary defiance, which initially went unpunished during the king-less time of Oliver Cromwell. With the Restoration in 1660, Peterson writes, Charles II “demanded a reckoning of the colony’s conduct.” In a “dexterous act of verbal tribute,” the colony’s representative convinced the king that the pine was, instead, a royal oak, “the emblem of the oak which preserved his majesty’s life.” For the moment, Peterson adds, “the bluff succeeded.” Revere and Adams may have chosen to include the shilling as a token of the colony’s early independence.
From history to science:
Some children are more sensitive to their environments, for better and for worse. Now researchers have identified a gene variant that may serve as a marker for these children, who are among society’s most vulnerable. The study found that children from high-risk backgrounds who carried a common gene variant were very likely to develop serious problems as adults, but were also more responsive to treatment.
One of eight new planets spied in distant solar systems has usurped the title of “most Earth-like alien world”, astronomers have said.
All eight were picked out by Nasa’s Kepler space telescope, taking its tally of such “exoplanets” past 1,000.
But only three sit safely within the “habitable zone” of their host star – and one in particular is rocky, like Earth, as well as only slightly warmer.
The find was revealed at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, now in its fifth year of seeking out the shadows of planets circling other stars, has spotted hundreds, and more and more of these other worlds look a lot like Earth — rocky balls only slightly larger than our own home, that with the right doses of starlight and water could turn out to be veritable gardens of microbial Eden.
As the ranks of these planets grow, astronomers are planning the next step in the quest to end cosmic loneliness: gauging which hold the greatest promise for life and what tools will be needed to learn about them.
HAVANA — The signs of the times speak loudly in Cuba, sometimes through their silence.
A 17-hour drive across the heart of the island in a battered burgundy and gray 1956 Ford Fairlane included long stretches in which there was surprisingly little ideology on display, few of the billboards that once trumpeted revolutionary slogans.
“Florida advances through its own effort,” said a sign in the town of that name.
“Quality is respect for the people,” said another.
Another said simply, “Work hard!” — a notion stripped of the ideological imperative that used to complete the thought with phrases like “to defeat imperialism” or “to build socialism.”
Dispatched to Cuba in December after the surprise announcement by President Obama that he would renew full diplomatic relations, I set off on a road trip from Havana, near the west end of the island, to Guantánamo, at the east end.
The mileage chart on my map said the distance was 565 miles. It felt a lot longer sitting on the cream-colored, quilted vinyl seat of the Ford, which had lost a lot of its spring in the years since Fidel Castro swept into power.
The vintage Ford was not part of the original plan.
I think you will enjoy that long read. Pictures too at the link…
Hope everyone stays warm, we are very cold today in Banjoville. The low tonight is 7… So, what are you all reading about today?
Maybe it’s just me, but I think today must be the slowest news day yet in 2014. I’ve gathered a hodge-podge of reads for you, some that look back over the past year and some current news stories that I found interesting or humorous. So here goes . . .
Looking back, I think the biggest story of this year has been the many events that have revealed how racist the United States still is nearly a century-and-a-half after the end of the Civil War and more than a half century after the Civil Rights Movement.
In the news yesterday: Driver Destroys Mike Brown Memorial, Community Rebuilds By Morning. From Think Progress:
A memorial set up in the middle of Canfield Drive where teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer in August was partially destroyed Christmas evening when a car drove through it. Neighbors and friends of Brown quickly came together to clean up the damage, rebuild the site, and call for support on social media….
Activists on the ground also reacted angrily to the Ferguson Police Department’s public relations officer, who told the Washington Post, “I don’t know that a crime has occurred,” and called Brown’s memorial “a pile of trash in the middle of the street.”
Since Brown’s death, the memorial has been a key gathering place for protests and prayers, and a receiving station for those that poured in from across the country to pay their respects and demonstrate against police brutality. Supporters also had to rebuild the memorial in September after it burned to the ground.
Also from Think Progress, photos of the some of the people who were killed by police in 2014.
As you can see, most of them have black or brown skin.
Sadly, we know Brown and Garner were just one [sic] of many people who died at the hands of police this year. But a dearth of national data on fatalities caused by police makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact number of deaths. One site put the total at 1,039.
What we do know is that police-related deaths follow certain patterns. A 2012 study found that about half of those killed by the police each year are mentally ill, a problem that the Supreme Court will consider 2015. Young black men are also 21 times more likely to be killed by cops than young white men, according to one ProPublica analysis of the data we have. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also compiled data which shows that people of color are most likely to be killed by cops overall. In short, people who belong to marginalized communities are at a higher risk of being shot than those who are not.
Go to the link to see a table showing which groups are most likely to be shot by police.
Mother Jones has released its yearly list of top long reads of 2014. First on the list is The Science of Why Cops Shoot Young Black Men, by Chris Mooney. It’s about the unconscious prejudices that plague all of us. A brief excerpt:
On the one hand, overt expressions of prejudice have grown markedly less common than they were in the Archie Bunker era. We elected, and reelected, a black president. In many parts of the country, hardly anyone bats an eye at interracial relationships. Most people do not consider racial hostility acceptable. That’s why it was so shocking when Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught telling his girlfriend not to bring black people to games—and why those comments led the NBA to ban Sterling for life. And yet, the killings of Michael Brown, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin, and so many others remind us that we are far from a prejudice-free society.
Science offers an explanation for this paradox—albeit a very uncomfortable one. An impressive body of psychological research suggests that the men who killed Brown and Martin need not have been conscious, overt racists to do what they did (though they may have been). The same goes for the crowds that flock to support the shooter each time these tragedies become public, or the birthers whose racially tinged conspiracy theories paint President Obama as a usurper. These people who voice mind-boggling opinions while swearing they’re not racist at all—they make sense to science, because the paradigm for understanding prejudice has evolved. There “doesn’t need to be intent, doesn’t need to be desire; there could even be desire in the opposite direction,” explains University of Virginia psychologist Brian Nosek ….
We’re not born with racial prejudices. We may never even have been “taught” them. Rather, explains Nosek, prejudice draws on “many of the same tools that help our minds figure out what’s good and what’s bad.” In evolutionary terms, it’s efficient to quickly classify a grizzly bear as “dangerous.” The trouble comes when the brain uses similar processes to form negative views about groups of people.
But here’s the good news: Research suggests that once we understand the psychological pathways that lead to prejudice, we just might be able to train our brains to go in the opposite direction.
Read much more at the second link above. Go to the previous link to see the 13 other stories on MoJo’s list of the magazine’s best 2014 long reads.
Also from Mother Jones, a list of “the stupidest anti-science bullshit of 2014.” Check it out at the link.
Another “worst of” list from The Daily Beast: 2014: Revenge of the Creationists, by Carl W. Giberson.
Science denialism is alive in the United States and 2014 was yet another blockbuster year for preposterous claims from America’s flakerrati. To celebrate the year, here are the top 10 anti-science salvos of 2014.
1) America’s leading science denialist is Ken Ham, head of the Answers in Genesis organization that built the infamous $30 million Creation Museum in Kentucky. He also put up a billboard in Times Square to raise funds for an even more ambitious Noah’s Ark Theme Park. Ham’s wacky ideas went primetime in February when he debated Bill Nye. An estimated three million viewers watched Ham claim that the earth is 10,000 years old, the Big Bang never happened, and Darwinian evolution is a hoax. His greatest howler, however—and my top anti-science salvo of 2014—would have to be his wholesale dismissal of the entire scientific enterprise as an atheistic missionary effort: “Science has been hijacked by secularists,” he claimed, who seek to indoctrinate us with “the religion of naturalism.”
2) Second only to Answers in Genesis, the Seattle based Discovery Institute continued its well-funded assault on science, most visibly through Stephen Meyer’s barnstorming tour promoting his book Darwin’s Doubt. I was a part of this tour, debating Meyer in Richmond, Virginia in April. Meyer’s bestselling book is yet another articulate repackaging of the venerable but discredited “god of the gaps” argument that goes like this: Here is something so cleverly designed that nature could not do on her own; but God could. So God must have designed this. Meyer insists, however, that his argument is not “god of the gaps” since he says only that the anonymous designer was “a designing intelligence—a conscious rational agency or a mind—of some kind” and not the familiar God of the monotheistic religious traditions. For his tireless assault on evolutionary biology and downsizing the deity to fit within science, I give Meyer second place.
Go over to TDB to read the rest of the list.
Also in this vein, Talking Points Memo offers a list of worst sports stories: From Donald Sterling To Ray Rice: 2014 Brought Out The Worst In Pro Sports.
The past year brought out the worst in professional sports players, owners, and fans alike, from domestic violence scandals in the NFL to the removal of racist team executives in the NBA.
Of course, shockingly bad behavior wasn’t limited to major league football and basketball alone. The most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, was just sentenced to probation for drunken driving. FIFA was enough of a mess to inspire a 13-minute Jon Oliver segment ahead of the World Cup this summer.
But even the most casual sports observer understands what’s at the center of the Washington Redskins naming controversy, or can form an opinion on whether Ray Rice should be allowed to play football again. The NFL frequently surfaced in the headlines this year for all the wrong reasons, and its domination on this list suggests the league needs to get its act together on a couple fronts.
Check out the list at the TPM link above.
Recently, I posted some links about the 75th anniversary of the movie Gone With The Wind and the racist attitudes it portrayed. Today Newsweek published a piece about the efforts to curtail the racism in the movie before it was filmed and released: Fixing Gone With The Wind’s ‘Negro Problem’
In the spring of 1938, Rabbi Robert Jacobs of Hoboken wrote to Rabbi Barnett Brickner, chairman of the Social Justice Commission of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, “Soon the David O. Selznick Studios of Hollywood will begin production of the play ‘Gone With The Wind.’ The book, a thrilling romance of the South, was shot through with an anti-Negro prejudice, and while it undoubtedly furnished almost half a million people in this country with many glowing hours of entertainment, it also in a measure aroused whatever anti-Negro antipathy was latent in them.”
Rabbi Brickner in turn wrote to Selznick. “In view of the situation,” he wrote, “I am taking the liberty of suggesting that you exercise the greatest care in the treatment of this theme in the production of the picture. Surely, at this time you would want to do nothing that might tend even in the slightest way to arouse anti-racial feeling. I feel confident that you will use extreme caution in the matter.”
Brickner wrote a similar letter to Walter White, Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. White also wrote to Selznick, suggesting Selznick “employ in an advisory capacity a person, preferably a Negro, who is qualified to check on possible errors of fact or interpretation.”
In his reply to White, Selznick wrote, “I hasten to assure you that as a member of a race that is suffering very keenly from persecution these days, I am most sensitive to the feelings of minority peoples.” He added, “It is definitely our intention to engage a Negro of high standing to watch the entire treatment of the Negroes, the casting of the actors for these roles, the dialect that they use, etcetera, throughout the picture.
Read the rest at the link.
At Daily Kos, David Akadjian offered a list of 21 Ayn Rand Christmas Cards–a satire, of course, but Akadjian learned that Rand actually did send out Christmas cards, despite her atheism. Here are some of her odes to a selfish Christmas.
I’ll wrap this post up with some current news stories:
USA Today: North Korea suffers another Internet shutdown.
Seattle PI: Woman who bared breasts in Vatican square is freed.
Washington Post: Baby gorilla shunned by other gorillas to switch zoos.
Washington Post: Pakistani forces kill alleged organizer of school massacre.
The Telegraph: More than 160,000 evacuated in Malaysia’s worst ever floods.
Special for New Englanders from the Boston Globe: Will The Rest Of Winter Have Lower Than Average Snowfall?
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a stupendous Saturday!
Just three more days until election day. The political pundits are hammering us day after day with the news that a Republican-controlled Senate is a foregone conclusion.That’s why I liked the NYT piece by Nate Cohn that Dakinikat included in her post yesterday on how the polls under-count Democratic voters. Cohn claims the inaccuracies may not be as important this year, because young voters and minority voters may not bother to vote. But what if he’s wrong? Democrats are making concerted efforts to turn out African American voters, and Democrats are traditionally better at getting out the vote.
Cohn’s article was based on an analysis at Huffington Post, which found that polls underestimated Democratic results in 2010 Senate races by 3.1 percent. The polls also underestimated President Obama’s vote totals in 2012. A number of important Senate races are close enough to be within the polls’ margin of error, so we really do have some reasons for hope. Mark Blumenthal and Ariel Edwards-Levy on October 16:
For the last four weeks, HuffPost’s poll tracking model has given Republicans slightly better than a 50/50 probability of winning a majority in the Senate, largely on the basis of leads of 3 percent or less by Republican candidates in critical states like Iowa, Colorado and Arkansas. On TuesdayHuffPollster noted the real potential for late shifts or polling errors of the same magnitude, a possibility that explains why considerable uncertainty remains about our current forecast of a Republican takeover.
RealClearPolitics election analyst Sean Trende added more data on this issue Thursday morning, sharing an analysis showing that polling leads of 1 to 2 percentage points in the final three weeks of the election translate into victory just over 60 percent of the time. Even candidates with leads of 3 to 4 percentage points sometimes end up behind on Election Day.
“Be wary of Senate polls,” Emory University political science professor Alan Abramowitz tweeted on Tuesday, adding that the RealClearPolitics Senate race polling averages in 2010 “underestimated D performance in all 7 tossup states.” HuffPollster data scientist Natalie Jackson checked the backtesting conducted on our current model and the same result. Our final run of the model before the 2010 election would have underestimated the performance of Democratic candidates in all seven of the Senate races rated as late toss-ups, and would have miscalled winners in two states, Nevada and Colorado.
We also looked at the the prior midterm election in 2006, and found a similar pattern. The polling model understated the Democratic performance in five of seven races rated as late toss-ups (we used the Cook Political Report classifications for both years. Cook and RealClearPolitics rated the same seven states as toss-ups on 2010).
Here’s another article by the same authors, published yesterday: How The Senate Polls Could Be Wrong.
With less than a week remaining before Election Day, HuffPost’s poll tracking model continues to report roughly the same forecast for control of the U.S. Senate as it has for the past two weeks: The polling averages show Republicans leading at least nominally in enough states to gain a 53-seat majority. The margins remain close enough, however, that the overall probability of a Republican majority is just 63 percent as of this writing. In other words, polling shows the Senate battle leaning Republican, but there is still a real potential that Democrats could hang on due to late shifts or polling errors. So how could these polling averages be wrong?
The biggest problem for pollsters is reaching people who use cell phones and have no land line. It’s often assumed that only young people do this, but I’m an old lady and I got rid of my land line years ago. There must be others like me.
…the approaches many pollsters are using to attempt to reach the cell-only population remain unproven and, effectively, experimental. Pollsters that use an automated, recorded voice methodology are barred by federal law from dialing cell phones, and many are relying on interviews conducted over the Internet to make up the difference. Live interviewer phone polls conducted at the state level in 2014 are mostly using samples drawn from cell phone directories compiled by data vendors — methods that may have their own limitations.
More important, the missing cell-phone-only voters may have been only part of the problem. Another theory is that the questions most media pollsters use to identify likely voters missed less enthusiastic Democrats who ultimately turned out to vote. In some polls, that pattern was evident in sample compositions that understated non-white voters.
The state with the greatest potential to see a repeat of these problems is Colorado, where polls understated Democratic candidates by 2 to 3 percentage points the last two elections, and two additional factors could lead to a repeat in 2014. First is the unique challenge of reaching Colorado’s Spanish speaking Latino voters, who tend to be more Democratic than those more fluent in English. Second, the state shifted to all-mail voting in 2014, with every registered voter automatically receiving a ballot via U.S. mail. Political scientists who studied similar shifts in Washington State found that a shift to all-mail voting produced a 2 to 4 percentage point increase in turnout, with the largest increases occurring among “lower participating registrants,” in particular those who had previously voted only in presidential elections. In Colorado and elsewhere, these “drop off voters” are the primary targets of the massive Democratic get-out-the-vote campaign.
And from Bloomberg, Why Political Polling Is Getting Harder.
…[I]t’s getting harder for survey researchers to corral enough people on the line for a representative sample.
“It’s becoming a much more difficult, nerve-wracking business,” said Geoff Garin, the president of Hart Research Associates and a leading Democratic pollster, who spoke to Bloomberg News editors and reporters Wednesday. “The willingness of respondents to participate in polls has declined, the move to cellphones has had an impact,” and more people are screening their calls, Garin said.
The challenges are acute in states like Iowa, where the highly competitive Senate election between Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst has drawn more than $54 million in general-election outside spending (including party committees). That’s a lot of TV, radio, mail, and phone calls.
According to Kantar Media’s CMAG, Iowa Senate ads have run on local broadcast stations more than 34,000 times in just the past 30 days, second only to the 38,948 ads in North Carolina, which has more than three times Iowa’s population.
“If you are in reasonably small state—there are only four congressional districts in Iowa—with a reasonably competitive election, you are getting a lot of phone calls at your home, and not just polling phone calls,” Garin said.
And the ones who don’t hang up immediately may have been polled before.
Finally, here’s a detailed post at Five-Thirty-Eight on how the polling “sausage” is made. There are lots of possibilities for polling error.
The Washington Post is at it again, reported leaks from “law enforcement sources” who claim that the DOJ isn’t going to have enough evidence to bring civil rights charges against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for killing teenager Michael Brown.
Justice Department investigators have all but concluded they do not have a strong enough case to bring civil rights charges against Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., law enforcement officials said.
That is so vague as to be meaningless. What law enforcement officials? Are they from Ferguson PD, St. Louis PD, the St. Louis DA’s office? It doesn’t sound like they’re from the DOJ.
“The evidence at this point does not support civil rights charges against Officer Wilson,” said one person briefed on the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
One person did speak on the record:
Justice spokesman Brian Fallon said the case remains open and any discussion of its results is premature. “This is an irresponsible report by The Washington Post that is based on idle speculation,” Fallon said in a statement.
But, says the Post:
Other law enforcement officials interviewed by The Post said it was not too soon to say how the investigation would end. “The evidence we have makes federal civil rights charges unlikely,” one said.
F**k you, Washington Post!
A few more Ferguson links:
Ryan J. Reilly at HuffPo, Police In Ferguson Stock Up On Riot Gear Ahead Of Grand Jury Decision.
KSDK.com, MSU paper prints racial slurs directed at Ferguson protesters. Stay classy, MSU!
Kaci Hickox talks about the judge’s decision that she doesn’t have to be locked in her home under police guard and can simply follow CDC guidelines on Ebola. From ABC News:
A nurse who fought quarantine rules after returning from treating Ebola patients in West Africa said a court ruling in her favor today will ensure that other health care workers returning from Africa are given “human treatment.”
“I am humbled today by the judge’s decision and even more humbled by the support that we have received by the town of Fort Kent, the state of Maine, across the United States and even across the border,” Hickox, 33, told reporters today from her home in Fort Kent.
A judge in Maine this morning ruled that Hickox could leave her home and spend time in public spaces despite other state officials’ attempts to force her into a mandatory quarantine until a 21-day potential Ebola incubation period ends.
The judge noted in his ruling that although the state’s fears may be irrational, they are real and Hickox should be mindful of them.
“I know Ebola is a scary disease,” Hickox said today. “I have seen it face-to-face.”
I can’t begin to say how much I admire this woman’s courage. Some reactions to Hickox from the Maine town she’s living in, Fort Kent residents divided on feelings over Kaci Hickox.
FORT KENT, Maine — On Friday afternoon Kaci Hickox, the nurse released from isolation after returning last week to the U.S. from West Africa, where she treated Ebola patients, thanked the residents of Fort Kent for their support and assured them she was sensitive to their concerns.
But not everyone in this northern Maine community is convinced Hickox has their best interest at heart and some say the fears people have of possibly being exposed to Ebola are negatively affecting local businesses.
The situation “is bound to affect the whole town,” Steve Daigle, owner of Stevie D’s Panini Plus said Friday. “The economy around here is already so fragile, every dollar we lose hurts us.” ….
On Friday, another business owner in Fort Kent, who did not want to give his name, said he, too, has heard from customers planning to shop out of town in the wake of the Ebola concerns.
A local dentist also voiced his displeasure that Hickox has not committed to home quarantine.
“I think that is very irresponsible of her,” Dr. Lucien Daigle said. “She cannot guarantee 100 percent she will not become symptomatic [and] in that worst-case scenario the ramifications will be beyond what you can imagine.”
Daigle said he has spoken to several customers who have told him they plan to shop out of town until the 21-day incubation period for the virus ends for Hickox on Nov. 10.
“People are afraid,” Daigle said.
At least people named Daigle are afraid…
A few more links:
Boston Globe, Vermonter being monitored for Ebola, governor says.
Politico, Why a GOP Senate could be short-lived.
The Daily Beast, If you like personhood, you’ll love the GOP Senate.
Five Thirty Eight, Senate Update: With 4 Days Left, Here’s The State Of The Races
Business Insider, A Virus Found In Lakes May Be Literally Changing The Way People Think.
Boston.com, How GamerGate Is Influencing MIT Video Game Teachers.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a wonderful weekend!
This is the time of year when lots of people get the urge to watch old horror movies, and I’m one of them. Actually, I love horror movies any time of year, but October is when the TV programmers provide the most opportunities for horror fans to indulge their cravings.
I love to watch old Hitchcock movies like Psycho and The Birds. They never seem to get old. And then there are the cheesy slasher movies like Halloween and Friday the Thirteenth that are still kind of fun to sample this time of year.
I love George Romero’s classic zombie films like Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, and dystopian films from the 1950s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I’ve enjoyed more recent zombie classics too–28 Days Later comes to mind. Old creature features are fun too–have you ever seen Them? It’s a 1954 film about giant ants in the New Mexico desert created by radiation from atomic tests.
Of course there are plenty of new horror offerings these days too. Dakinikat recommended a couple of TV shows that I plan to try over this long weekend: American Horror Story on FX and Z Nation on the Syfy Channel. These days there is plenty of real-life horror going on, so I don’t know why so many people like to escape into horror films and TV shows, but it seems they do. There’s also The Walking Dead on AMC. I watched the first season, but kind of lost interest after that because I find the characters so unlikable.
It’s interesting that zombies and vampires have been very much in vogue in the 21st Century. Why is that? Do they somehow reflect our culture like the movies of the 1950s and ’60s seemed to comment on the cold war and fears of nuclear disaster?
Anyway, since it’s Saturday and long weekend (Monday is Columbus Day, a horror story in itself), I’m going to devote this post to the psychology of horror–why are some of us so drawn to it? Believe it or not, psychologists have systematically studied this. Here’s a survey article published in The Psychologist, a UK psychology magazine: The Lure of Horror (pdf). There’s an easier-to-read version here.
Fear coils in your stomach and clutches at your heart. It’s an unpleasant emotion we usually do our best to avoid. Yet across the world and through time people have been drawn irresistibly to stories designed to scare them. Writers like Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker continue to haunt the popular consciousness. Far longer ago, listeners sat mesmerised by violent, terrifying tales like Beowulf and Homer’s Odyssey.
‘If you go to your video store and rent a comedy from Korea, it’s not going to make any sense to you at all,’ says literature scholar Mathias Clasen based at Aarhus University, ‘whereas if you rent a local horror movie from Korea you’ll instantaneously know not just that it’s a horror movie, but you’ll have a physiological reaction to it, indicative of the genre.’
So horror is a universal language recognized by our brains?
Clasen believes the timeless, cross-cultural appeal of horror fiction says something important about humans, and in turn, insights from evolutionary psychology can make sense of why horror takes the form it does. ‘You can use horror fiction and its lack of historical and cultural variance as an indication that there is such a thing as human nature,’ he says.
This nature of ours is one that has been shaped over millennia to be afraid, but not just of anything. Possibly our ancestors’ greatest fear was that they might become a feast for a carnivorous predator. As science writer David Quammen has put it, ‘among the earliest forms of human self-awareness was the awareness of being meat’. There’s certainly fossil evidence to back this up, suggesting that early hominids were preyed on by carnivores and that they scavenged from the kill sites of large felines, and vice versa. Modern-day hunter-gatherers, such as the Aché foragers in Paraguay, still suffer high mortality rates from snakes and feline attacks.
Such threats have left their marks on our cognitive development. Research by Nobuo Masataka and others shows that children as young as three are especially fast at spotting snakes, as opposed to flowers, on a computer screen, and all the more so when those snakes are poised to strike. Modern-day threats, such as cars and guns, do not grab the attention in this way. That we’re innately fearful of atavistic threats is known as ‘prepared learning’. Another study published just this year by Christof Koch and his team has shown how the right amygdala, a brain region involved in fear learning, responds more vigorously to the sight of animals than to other pictures such as of people, landmarks or objects.
Viewing the content of horror fiction through the prism of evolutionary evidence and theory, it’s no surprise that the overriding theme of many tales is that the characters are at risk of being eaten. ‘Do we have many snakes or snake-like creatures or giant serpents in horror fiction?’ Clasen asks. ‘Yes we do: look at Tremors – they were really just very big snakes with giant fangs’. In fact, many horror books and movie classics feature oversized carnivorous predators, including James Herbert’s The Rats, Shaun Hutson’s Slugs, Cat People, King Kong, and the Jaws franchise, to name but a few. Where the main threat is a humanoid predator, he or she will often be armed with over-sized claws (Freddie Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street) or an insatiable taste for human flesh (e.g. Hannibal Lecter in the 1981 novel Red Dragon).
Still, horror is a minority taste. Why are some people–like me–so attracted to it, while others are simply grossed out?
Who are these people who pay out money to be scared? A meta-analysis of 35 relevant articles, by Cynthia Hoffner and Kenneth Levine published in 2005 in Media Psychology, highlights the principal relevant traits: affective response; empathy; sensation seeking; aggressiveness; gender; and age.
The more negative affect a person reports experiencing during horror, the more likely they are to say that they enjoy the genre. Media experts like Dolf Zillmann make sense of this apparent contradiction as a kind of conversion process, whereby the pleasure comes from the relief that follows once characters escape danger. This explanation struggles to account for the appeal of slasher films, in which most characters are killed. Part of the answer must lie with meta-emotion – the way we interpret the emotional feelings we’re experiencing, with some people finding pleasure in fright. Another possibility is that, for some, pleasure is derived from the sense that film victims are being punished for what the viewer considers to be their immoral behaviour. Consistent with this, a 1993 study by Mary Oliver found that male high school viewers who endorsed traditional views on female sexuality (e.g. ‘it’s okay for men to have sex before marriage, but not women’), were more likely to enjoy horror movie clips, especially if they involved a female victim portrayed with her lover.
Other findings: people with low self-reported levels of empathy and younger people tend to be more attracted to horror. Neither of those explains my interest–I score high on empathy, and I’m an old lady. So what’s my problem?! Maybe I just never really grew up?
Read much more at the link. Since it’s a scholarly article, there are references to research articles too.
Here’s another interesting article at Filmmaker IQ: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SCARY MOVIES.
There’s something about horror that speaks directly and instinctively to the human animal. Millions of years of evolutionary psychology have ingrained in our minds certain fear triggers – a survival instinct – Fear of the Dark where predatory animals might be laying in wait – Fear of animals with large sharp teeth who would make a quick meal of us. Fear of Poisonous Spiders who can kill with one bite. So ingrained into our developmental psychology that research done by Nobuo Masataka show that children as young as three have an easier time spotting snakes on a computer screen than they do spotting flowers. Research by Christof Koch show that the right amygydala, the portion of the brain associated with fear learning, responds more vigorously to images of animals than to images of people, landmarks or objects even though those are much more dangerous in our civilized world.
This may explain the shape of our movie monsters: creatures with sharp teeth or snake like appearance. The fear of being eaten alive also explains the cannabilistic traits of human monsters like Dracula and Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
But brain scan research in 2010 by Thomas Straube at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena show that scary movies don’t actually activate fear responses in the amygdala at all. Instead, it was other parts of the brain that were firing – the visual cortex – the part of the brain responsible for processing visual information, the insular cortex- self awareness, the thalamus -the relay switch between brain hemispheres, and the dorsal-medial prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain associated with planning, attention, and problem solving.
So we’re not really being scared at the movies – at least not necessarily in the brain chemistry way… what’s going on?
Three things, according to Dr. Glenn D. Walters.
The first is tension – created through mystery, suspense, gore, terror, or shock. This is pretty straight forward elements of horror, the craft and technique of filmmaking.
The second factor is relevance. In order for a horror film to be seen, it has to be relevant to potential viewers. This relevance can take the form of universal relevance – capturing the universal fear of things like death and the unknown, it can take on cultural relevance dealing with societal issues. Audiences can find subgroup relevance – groups like teenagers which many horror films are about. Lastly, there’s personal relevance – either in a way that identifies with the protagonist or in a way that condemns the antagonists or victims to their ultimate fate.
The last factor, which may be the most counter intuitive is unrealism. Despite the graphic nature of recent horror films, we all know at some level that what we are watching is not real. Haidt, McCauley and Rozin conducted research on disgust, showing students in 1994 a series of gruesome documentary videos… few could make it to the end – and yet these same students would pay to see even worse acts conducted on a movie screen. Why? Perhaps its because when we walk into a theater we know what we’re seeing on screen is fabricated reality. Movies are edited from multiple camera angles with soundtracks and sometimes horror is tempered and made palatable with black humor – a sly wink that what you’re seeing on screen isn’t real. This also explains why we all remember that scary movie we saw when we were way too young but looks hokey now. Children have a harder time separating reality and fiction especially when its on a movie screen.
There’s much more to the article, including a brief summary of “8 incomplete theories on our attraction to horror.”
One eminent psychologist, Joseph LeDoux, a professor at NYU, has a particular interest in emotion and the brain and more specifically fear and the amygdala. Here’s the intro to a brief interview with him at Cognitive Neuroscience:
With Halloween around the corner, fear may be on your mind. As a basic emotion, fear develops when we react to an immediate danger.
Understanding exactly how our brains detect and respond to such danger has been a goal of Joseph LeDoux of the Center for Neural Science at New York University for much of his career. His pioneering work on “fear conditioning,” which he now calls “threat conditioning,” revealed the neurological pathways through which we react to threats.
This Pavlovian-type conditioning uses a neutral stimulus like an auditory tone at the same time as a painful event, and over time, this tone becomes associated with the discomfort and can trigger a fear response in the brain, specifically the amygdala. The neural processing in the amygdala causes chemical processes in the brain cells that lead to our natural defenses in the face of a threat – whether a spider or a robber.
LeDoux’s work has not only contributed to our understanding of these processes but also to ways we can work to overcome pathological fears, including through work on memory and fear.
Read the interview at the link. And here is an audio interview with LeDoux at ConstructingHorror.com.
LeDoux told the LA Times in October 2013 that intense emotions like fear stimulate the brain.
Arousing situations, “whether joyful or frightful, juice up the brain,” says Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist and director of New York University’s Emotional Brain Institute and author of “The Emotional Brain.”
Horror movies energize the system: Hearts pump faster, blood pressure rises and dopamine releases, as does norepinephrine (which readies the body for flight-or-fight response) and endorphins (which kill pain), Fanselow says.
But experts agree that children’s brains are too vulnerable for scary movies.
And some adults are vulnerable too. “There have been case reports of people having stress symptoms after watching ‘The Exorcist,’ ” says Richard J. McNally, a Harvard psychology professor. “But these folks already had histories of mental disorders and thus were vulnerable.”
And many people want nothing to do with Halloween frights. “Genetics, epigenetics, upbringing and all the other individual experiences they’ve had probably all contribute,” LeDoux says. “It’s a matter of degree.”
Read more about the effects of horror on the brain at the LA Times link.
A few more horror links:
The Atlantic, Horror-Movie Marathon: The Brilliant, Not-So-Scary Classics.
The Atlantic, How Clowns Became Terrifying.
What Culture, 10 Best Horror Movies Of 2014 Ranked.
Rolling Stone, Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Horror Movies of All Time.
The Washington Post, The sums of all fear: Horror makes a Hollywood comeback.
So . . . are you a horror fan? If so, what are your favorite horror movies and books? Why do you think you enjoy them? If you’re not a fan, why do you think that is?
Of course you should feel free to post links to real-life horrors or even good news stories if you can find them!
Did you hear about the speech John Boehner gave on Tuesday? He was talking to the International Franchise Association. He warned owners of McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and other franchise businesses that Obama’s NLRB is out to destroy them. My goodness! If these one-percenters were forced to pay their employees something approaching a living wage, it would be a nightmare! From The Hill, Boehner warns biz: NLRB is ‘coming right at you’.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), lamenting the rise of “arrogant agencies” he said is threatening the American dream, warned the franchise industry on Tuesday that a politically motivated National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is intent on unionizing its workers.
In brief but forceful remarks to the International Franchise Association, Boehner called the NLRB a “political horse,” controlled by Republicans when they occupy the White House and by unions when a Democrat is president.
“They’re going to do everything they can to try to change the rules and try to find a way to organize your businesses,” Boehner told the group.
He cited the NLRB’s recent finding that the McDonald’s corporation has joint-employer status, along with its franchises, over the chain’s thousands of workers.
The designation, if upheld, could force corporate managers to the table in collective bargaining discussions and expose them to claims of labor rights violations from workers at chain stores and businesses.
Horrors! Because everyone knows the American Dream is about a few rich assholes getting richer on the backs of millions of minimum wage workers who can barely feed their families.
But here’s the good part. During his remarks, Boehner complained about the Republican “knuckleheads” he has to deal with as Speaker of the House. The Hill reports:
“On any given day, 16 of my members decide they’re going to go this way, and all the sudden I have nothing,” he said. “You might notice I have a few knuckleheads in my conference.”
As a result, Boehner claims he only has a “paper majority.”
A group of the most conservative Republicans has frequently plagued the Speaker and upended plans for votes, most recently in July when GOP leaders were forced to pull a vote on their bill responding to thousands of unaccompanied children crossing the southern border.
In April, Boehner mocked some members of his conference for being reluctant to vote on immigration reform. “Here’s the attitude: ‘Ohhhh. Don’t make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard,’ ” he said.
Boehner added in his comments on Tuesday that “dealing with Democrats is one thing, dealing with the knuckleheads is another.”
A specialized sort of barometric collapse hit Washington, D.C., last night: a sudden knowledge that the capital’s stocks of Merlot and unfiltered cigarettes had been depleted, and Speaker John Boehner was turning surly. And the target of his abuse, yet again, were the very specimens over whom he attempts to leverage power: the House Republicans conference.
Boehner, speaking to the International Franchise Association (read: people who don’t want to pay their fast-food workers more), described the House majority over which he lords as a “paper majority,” and then went on to label a dissident faction within his conference as “knuckleheads.” ….
Newell mentions Boehner’s complaint about House Republicans who are afraid to vote for an immigration bill (see above in The Hill piece), and an earlier rant by the Speaker from 2012.
“We got some of the smartest people in the country who serve here, and some of the dumbest. We got some of the best people you’d ever meet, and some of the raunchiest. We’ve got ‘em all.”
Why don’t Democrats pull together a bunch of these Boehner quotes and use them in the Midterm campaigns, Newell asks. As for Speaker Boehner,
Why was Boehner insulting members of the House GOP less than two months ahead of an election? Because he’s a strange dude, for starters. Gets his Irish up sometimes, as Paul Ryan would say. But Boehner’s comments were also part of an elaborate pitch to the assembled franchisees to elect more House Republicans this November. He has a “paper majority” in which a few wiseacres can separate themselves from the herd and force the House leadership to pull legislation from the floor. Pity the speaker.
It’s a midterm election cycle in the sixth year of the Obama administration, so the odds are that any new members added to the speaker’s Republican roster this November will be natural fits for the Knucklehead Caucus. The problems Boehner has had (not) moving pieces of legislation these past four years won’t go away, because they’re problems with Boehner’s leadership style. He’s too tentative to threaten the knuckleheads’ committee assignments and access to party campaign cash. He’s abandoned earmarks. And his members know that, except in a handful of cases, his threats to pass legislation with Democratic votes are bluffs. The new knuckleheads will find him just as easy to roll as the previous ones have.
We’ve talked many times here about the differences between liberals and conservatives, and how hard it is for us to understand right-wingers’ thought processes. Well, did you know that liberals and conservatives even smell different?
From The Washington Post, Study: Liberals and conservatives sniff out like-minded mates by body odor.
According to a study published this month in the American Journal of Political Science, people can literally sniff out ideology — and this may explain why so many couples share political beliefs. Or, as the study’s title says, “Assortative Mating on Ideology Could Operate Through Olfactory Cues.”
Researchers led by Brown University political scientist Rose McDermott found that, to a small but significant degree, people prefer the body odor of those who vote as they do.
Previous studies showed long-term mates are more similar when it comes to politics than anything else besides religion. Researchers set out to determine whether this is a purely socially driven phenomenon, or whether biology plays a role.
To test the link between smell and party affiliation, researchers rounded up 146 people aged 18 to 40 from “a large city in the northeast United States.” They used a seven-point scale to determine where they fell on the political spectrum. They sent 21 of these —10 liberals and 11 conservatives — home with fragrance-free soap and shampoo and a gauze pad taped to their armpit. The subjects were told not to smoke, drink, use deodorant or perfume, have sex, eat fragrant foods, sleep with people or pets or linger near strong odors.
They returned the stinky armpit pads 24 hours later. Then 125 participants sniffed the stinky pads, taking a break between whiffs to cleanse their nasal palate with the aroma of peppermint oil. The sniffers, who never saw the people whose smells they were evaluating, then rated the attractiveness of each armpit sample on a 1 to 5 scale.
The subjects found the smell of those more ideologically similar to themselves more attractive than those with opposing views.
Read about the conclusions researchers drew from these results at the WaPo.
How about some archaeology news? German archaeologists have discovered a “long lost Roman fort.” dating to the 1st Century. From Science Daily:
In the course of an educational dig in Gernsheim in the Hessian Ried, archaeologists from Frankfurt University have discovered a long lost Roman fort: A troop unit made up out of approximately 500 soldiers (known as a cohort) was stationed there between 70/80 and 110/120 AD. Over the past weeks, the archaeologists found two V-shaped ditches, typical of this type of fort, and the post holes of a wooden defensive tower as well as other evidence from the time after the fort was abandoned.
An unusually large number of finds were made. This is because the Roman troops dismantled the fort and filled in the ditches when they left. In the process they disposed of a lot of waste, especially in the inner ditch. “A bonanza for us,” according to Prof. Dr. Hans-Markus von Kaenel from the Goethe University Institute of Archaeology. “We filled box after box with shards of fine, coarse and transport ceramics; dating them will allow us to determine when the fort was abandoned with greater accuracy than was possible before.”
Up until now, little was known about Roman Gernsheim, even though findings from the Roman era have been cropping up here since the 19th century. “Previously, the only thing that seemed certain based on the finds was that an important village-like settlement, or “vicus,” must have been located here from the 1st to the 3rd century, comparable with similar villages which have already been shown to have existed in Groß-Gerau, Dieburg or Ladenburg,” explained dig leader Dr. Thomas Maurer. He has been travelling from Frankfurt to South Hessia for years and has published his findings in a large publication about the North Hessian Ried during Roman imperial times.
“It was assumed,” continued Maurer, “that this settlement had to have been based on a fort, since it was customary for the families of the soldiers to live outside the fort in a village-like settlement.” “We really hit the jackpot with this excavation campaign,” said a delighted Prof. Dr. Hans-Markus von Kaenel. “The results are a milestone in reconstructing the history of the Hessian Ried during Roman times.” For almost 20 years now, von Kaenel has been studying this area with the help of his colleagues and students using surveys, digs, material processing and analyses. The results have been published in over 50 articles.
Read the rest at the link.
There was more bad new for the NFL yesterday. Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer (pictured in cuffs at right) was arrested for two domestic violence incidents that happened in July. Dwyer reportedly attacked his wife and caused a bone fracture in one incident, and in the other he threw a shoe at his 18-month old son. He is also charged with preventing his Kayla from calling 911 for help. Fortunately, Kayla immediately took the child and left the state. The New York Daily News reports, Arizona Cardinals shut down running back Jonathan Dwyer over domestic violence charges.
Police said Dwyer hit his wife, causing a fracture. It was not immediately clear if the shoe hit their baby, Jonathan Jr.
Officers went to Dwyer’s home on July 21 after neighbors reported a domestic disturbance. His wife brushed cops off, but later told detectives Dwyer was there when authorities were looking for him, but hid in a bathroom until police left.
The following day, Dwyer snatched a cell phone from his wife’s hand and threw it from the second floor of their home to prevent her from calling the cops, Crump said.
Dwyer is also accused of sending his wife text messages threatening to harm himself if she reported the assaults.
The Cardinals immediately deactivated Dwyer. They really had no choice after what happened with the Vikings and Adrian Peterson.
“We became aware of these allegations this afternoon when notified by Phoenix police and are cooperating fully,” the Cardinals said in a statement. “Given the serious nature of the allegations we have taken the immediate step to deactivate Jonathan from all team activities.”
One local Boston sports station has nominated Dwyer for “biggest asshole in the NFL.” I’ve been listening to the two Boston sports stations and ESPN radio quite a bit, and I’ve been really heartened by the reactions of the male program hosts and callers. One host said yesterday that he had read a parenting book over the weekend. He has never hit his kids, but he was so shocked by Adrian Peterson’s reported behavior that he wanted to know more about good parenting. Another host said that he had been beaten as a child, and for the first time he has begun to understand that his parents abused him.
Also yesterday, attorney Gloria Allred held a press conference in Atlanta with the best friend and the father of Rasheeda Watley, a survivor of abuse by Chicago Bears player Brandon Marshall and called for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to step down. WSB TV Atlanta:
At a news conference Wednesday, Allred detailed the case of Rasheeda Watley, who claimed then-boyfriend Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos had physically abused her….
Allred was joined by Watley’s father and best friend, who both said they reported the abuse to the NFL and Goodell but nothing was done.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s handling of family violence issues has come under fire in recent weeks after a video was released showing former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancee Janay Palmer twice inside the elevator of an Atlantic City casino in February.
Allred said the investigation process is flawed within the NFL organization and it needs to change.
“Our focus is on the process and we want the process to be fair. We want the investigation that is conducted in the future, investigations, of NFL players to afford due process to victims as well as NFL players,” Allred said. “The present process is obviously not fair.”
According to Watley’s father, no one from the NFL even talked to himself, his daughter, or any witnesses of the abuse.
I need to wrap this up, but I want to mention one more article from Bloomberg Businessweek, Roger Goodell at the 50-50 Yard Line. It’s a fairly long read that explains why Goodell’s job is not yet on the line. He has made tons of money for NFL owners, and–let’s face it–money is all they really care about.
So . . . what else is happening? Let us know in the comment thread, and have a great Thursday!