Monday Reads

le mondeGood Morning!

I’m going to try to find some interesting reads to begin this week since it’s undoubtedly going to get ugly again on the political front.  Here’s a quick one from Scientific American on the impact of how our minds compartmentalize things.  Maybe this explains all those crazy republicans that believe that cave men and dinosaurs roamed the Garden of Eden together.

If you have pondered how intelligent and educated people can, in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence, believe that evolution is a myth, that global warming is a hoax, that vaccines cause autism and asthma, that 9/11 was orchestrated by the Bush administration, conjecture no more. The explanation is in what I call logic-tight compartments—modules in the brain analogous to watertight compartments in a ship.

The concept of compartmentalized brain functions acting either in concert or in conflict has been a core idea of evolutionary psychology since the early 1990s. According to University of Pennsylvania evolutionary psychologist Robert Kurzban in Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite (Princeton University Press, 2010), the brain evolved as a modular, multitasking problem-solving organ—a Swiss Army knife of practical tools in the old metaphor or an app-loaded iPhone in Kurzban’s upgrade. There is no unified “self” that generates internally consistent and seamlessly coherent beliefs devoid of conflict. Instead we are a collection of distinct but interacting modules often at odds with one another. The module that leads us to crave sweet and fatty foods in the short term is in conflict with the module that monitors our body image and health in the long term. The module for cooperation is in conflict with the one for competition, as are the modules for altruism and avarice or the modules for truth telling and lying.

I know BB has some strong feelings about this branch of psychology so I can’t wait to see what she says.

In an interview this weekend, General Colin Powell pointed out the ugly underbelly of the Republican party with its rabid Obama hatred linked to obvious racism.  He points out some of the more noticeable dog whistles we heard during the election last year.

“There’s also a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party,” Powell said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “What do I mean by that?  What I mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities.”

Powell, who endorsed Obama, pointed to a number of statements that were directed at Obama as evidence that there is still racism within the party.

“When I see a former governor say that the president is ‘shuckin’ and jivin’.’ That’s a racial-era slave term,” Powell said, referring to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin using the term to describe Obama’s response to the attacks in Libya.

Powell also pointed to former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, who was an aggressive surrogate for Mitt Romney, for calling Obama “lazy” after the first debate during the campaign.

“He didn’t say he was slow, he was tired, he didn’t do well; he said he was ‘lazy,'” Powell said “Now, it may not mean anything to most Americans, but to those of us who are African Americans, the second word is “shiftless,” and then there’s a third word that goes along with it.”

Powell also eschewed the “birther movement.”

“The whole birther movement: Why do senior Republican leaders tolerate this kind of discussion within the party?” Powell asked. “I think the party has to take a look at itself.”

The recent spate of extreme weather ought to have every one taking global warming seriously.  Unfortunately, we have a lot of folks in denial.  US scientists are trying hard to get every one’s attention to the facts.

Global warming is already having a major impact on life in America, a report by US government scientists has warned. The draft version of the US National Climate Assessment reveals that increasing storm surges, floods, melting glaciers and permafrost, and intensifying droughts are having a profound effect on the lives of Americans.

“Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington state and maple syrup producers have observed changes in their local climate that are outside of their experience,” states the report.

Health services, water supplies, farming and transport are already being strained, the assessment adds. Months after superstorm Sandy battered the east coast, causing billions of dollars of damage, the report concludes that severe weather disruption is going to be commonplace in coming years. Nor do the authors flinch from naming the culprit. “Global warming is due primarily to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels,” it states.

The uncompromising language of the report, and the stark picture that its authors have painted of the likely effects of global warming, have profound implications for the rest of the world.

If the world’s greatest economy is already feeling the strain of global warming, and is fearful of its future impact, then other nations face a very worrying future as temperatures continue to rise as more and more greenhouse gases are pumped into the atmosphere.

“The report makes for sobering reading,” said Professor Chris Rapley, of University College London. “Most people in the UK and US accept human-induced climate change is happening but respond by focusing attention elsewhere. We dismiss the effects of climate change as ‘not here’, ‘not now’, ‘not me’ and ‘not clear’.

“This compelling new assessment by the US experts challenges all four comforting assumptions. The message is clear: now is the time to act!”

amytinaThe Golden Globes served up some happy winners yesterday.  Here’s some highlights if you missed them.

7:31 – With the exception of Lena Dunham and Jennifer Lawrence, NBC really is focusing on the oldsters. Kevin Costner had lots of interesting things to say. NOT! (That’s an old-people joke.)

7:29 – Is it true that Daniel Day-Lewis and Rebecca Miller live in a tent in the Irish countryside? Didn’t I read that somewhere?

7:28 – Oh good grief, Matt Lauer is making Aeschylus and Agamemnon jokes. What is this, mid-’90s Bravo? Get it together, NBC.

7:26 – Right now Ricky Gervais is probably standing at the window, staring out and quietly regretting saying no this year.

7:23 – Hathaway’s awards blitz has officially begun. Will we survive it? Will anyone? We will not know until February 25.

7:21 – Bahahaha, Jennifer Lawrence towering over Al Roker is wonderful. Not a very dignified week for Mr. Roker.

Hmmm.  Guess I”m glad I watched Big Bang Theory Reruns.  Here’s the list of winners if you’re interested.  The best comedy/musical went to Les Mes. The Director award went to Ben Affleck for Argo.  Quentin Tarentino’s Django Unchained got the best screen play award.

I don’t know if you or yours have had any experience with depression but it can be debilitating.  Here’s some thoughts about the condition from Noahpinion that really resonated with me as some one who has been there and done that.

Depressed people often remark that it’s impossible to remember what depression is like after it’s over, and impossible to imagine feeling any other way when you’re in the middle of it. Therefore, most of what I’m saying here comes from things I wrote when I was in the middle of major depressive episodes. I think my most colorful description was that depression was like “being staked out in the middle of a burning desert with a spear through your chest pinning you to the ground, with your eyelids cut off, staring up at the burning sun…forever.”

So, let’s hope we begin to see more real dialogue on the issues that challenge us today.  Gun Violence, Joblessness, and Global Warming are huge issues that shouldn’t be defined by liars.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


36 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. Eric Pleim says:

    As a longtime student of evolution, and a clinical neuropsychologist, I have some perspective on this question. It’s certainly true that the way the human brain has evolved has left us with several modules, if you want to call them that, performing the various functions of our alleged minds. In fact one of the most vexing problems in behavioral neurology is how do we experience our consciousness as a unitary thing at all. This is the very famous “binding problem”. How this explains why people believe in various conspiracy theories is not addressed here though. I’m guessing that the author posits that conflicts among the various modules of our brain and/or interpreting information with an inappropriate “module” somehow cause errors in logical thinking. I guess I’ll have to read the book.

  2. Greywolf says:

    Thanks for the links. Those were some very interesting reads, although I haven’t gotten to all of them yet. I’ll have to save the rest for later, but I look forward to them.

  3. Those remarks from Powell are very true indeed!

    Does anyone know if humidity affects the touch pad on laptops? Mine is acting funky.

    Oh, and Connie…what are animal right activist saying about the python hunt in the everglades? They should have made these hunts a yearly thing ages ago.

      • Fannie says:

        I really think that there should be photo’s showing us Jamie while she was dying, seeing her on the bed, looking into her eyes, and make everyone see why she was dying.

      • Fannie says:

        I don’t know if I did a very good job expressing myself in regards to Jamie’s death………..The lesson here (and JJ, several times you have pointed out how it can happen to others), it can happen again at the hospital and at jailhouse too. There is a lesson for all of us, and most definitely for hospital staff (nurses who are mostly females) and jailers (who are mostly women who deal with female inmates), and it is those who make policy that need to learn, and should include women who are out degrading women as we speak, they need more learning. You know I am not talking about the learning you get from textbooks. This is a woman who had a mountain of pain, and specially wrenching pain in her abdominal area. Thanks to all involved Jamie did not die a comfortable death………….I wonder if any photos were taken just before she died, I’d like show them the photos and ask the nurses and the doctors, and the jailers, what did it feel like to watch her die this painful and unnecessary death.

      • Delphyne says:

        OMG – that is beyond cruel. I am simply speechless.

        • dakinikat says:

          I wish I could say unbelievable to this … but unfortunately it’s very believable given what we’ve heard some of these misogynists say recently and do recently in terms of their awe of fetuses.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      Fannie……Just to let you know Joe Scarborough apologized to Mika this morning for his chauvinistic outburst last Thursday morning. Damn!!!! Apparently MSNBC is listening to it’s viewers. Joe also said he will try to keep his New Years resolution of not interrupting Mika. I’m not going to hold my breath on that one. Joe Scarborough needs to understand the wisdom of the adage that “people who live in glass houses should not throw stones”. The Morning Joe show is NOT a model for or of Diversity.

  4. dakinikat says:

    More evidence that JIndal is not moderate: His law letting creationism be taught as science:

    Evolving Louisiana’s classrooms from creationism

  5. dakinikat says:

    Obama Presser:

    “The person who had the most influence on my foreign policy was a woman” –Obama

  6. dakinikat says:

    Succinct explanation of the platinum coin idea by Matt Y of all people:

    Direct discussion of the platinum coin was a good reminder that many people, including influential media figures, appear to have no idea what money is or how the monetary system works. Apart from the shockingly widespread view that the value of coins is determined by their metallic content, there was a lot of insistence that creating money was somehow an act of “magic.” In fact, the way all legal currency is created is that a government agency creates the money. Typically that’s the Federal Reserve accommodating bank demand for base money. But all kinds of things can happen. Forget “Quantitative Easing.” When the Fed does the thing that reporters call “raising interest rates” it doesn’t pull an interest rate lever. It sells bonds on the open market in exchange for money. And when that money enters the Fed, it vanishes. When they “lower interest rates” they buy bonds on the open market in exchange for money. Where do they get the money? From nowhere. They just make it. That’s money. Whether the electronic process of attributing more or less money to an account is accompanied by a little piece of platinum or not is wholly irrelevant.

    The key part here is
    good reminder that many people, including influential media figures, appear to have no idea what money is or how the monetary system works.

    I just didn’t want to spend weeks explaining why this was so much silliness and total ignorance of fiat money and fractional reserve systems.

    • RalphB says:

      He has been quite good for the past couple of months, at least, in covering the economic arguments. Matt definitely has not bought into the conventional wisdom this time.

    • RalphB says:

      More from Matt Y. This is pretty hard to dispute.

      Why Nobody Believes Obama on the Debt Ceiling

      Watching the president talk about the debt ceiling and his unwillingness to give up any ransom in exchange for it, I find it impossible not to confront the point that as of now nobody seems to believe him.

      • dakinikat says:

        Go to Pierson’s coverage of the presser … it’s great.

        The President’s Priorities Are Not In Order

        When he talks about The American People, and the Middle Class thereof, he ought not to convince himself that he was re-elected because he’s the guy who’ll best bring down The Deficit. He got re-elected because the other guy convinced America that he wouldn’t much care if people ate grass by the side of the road. The people who voted for this president did not do so because they wanted a balance program to bring down the deficit. They did so because they thought he was less likely to make their everyday lives harder than they already are. Because, as the blog’s First Law Of Economics states: Fk The Deficit. People Got No Jobs. People Got No Money.

        and this one’s great too while you’re at it …

        The two presiding geniuses behind Tiger Beat On The Potomac have checked in today with another insidery insider’s account of the Very Important People who return all their phone calls. Today’s action-packed episode is another in their continuing series: Stuff Republicans Tell Us That We Will Print Verbatim. In this installment, our intrepid gumshoes manage to pry loose quotes from various vandals and dumbasses in and out of the Republican House caucus, and in and out of government as well, to the effect that they have every intention of blowing up the American economy over the next few weeks if they don’t get absolutely everything they absolutely want. (There are drug gangs in Mexico who are more open to negotiations than these people.) The hero of the tale seems to be the embattled prince of Orange, John Boehner who, the authors tell us, may just have to agree to a government shutdown so that some of the angrier feral children over whom he presides won’t take flamethrowers to the classroom rather than take their afternoon naps.

        Read more: Politico Government Shutdown – Things In Politico That Make Me Want To Guzzle Antifreeze, Part The Infinity – Esquire

      • RalphB says:

        Fk The Deficit. People Got No Jobs. People Got No Money.

        Can’t be said often enough!!!!!

        • dakinikat says:

          Ben Bernanke just basically said that Congress wasn’t doing it’s job in the fiscal arena in no uncertain terms. He also said the deficit isn’t the immediate problem but a more intermediate-long term problem. He also how much the Fed is audited … it was a good listen.

      • RalphB says:

        Detaching politics from the people — and, thereby, detaching political maneuvering from its real-world consequences — is the worst journalistic malpractice that can be committed in a self-governing republic and, in that, Politico is the Dalkon Shield of American journalism. A class-action suit by citizens wouldn’t be out of place at this point.

        This is true of damn near all the mainstream media now.

      • RalphB says:

        I think Bernanke is trying but there’s only so much the Fed can do now. We need fiscal stimulus.

  7. dakinikat says:

    Clarence Thomas spoke at oral arguments today, for the first time since 2006

  8. bostonboomer says:

    Anonymous hacked MIT and posted a tribute to Aaron Swartz.

    NOTE: Link goes to Dailykos.

  9. ANonOMouse says:

    Way off topic, but I thought y’all might like to see how some sisters called out Pope Homophobe during his regularly scheduled weekend Window speechifying. .

    Proceed with Caution…….Boob alert!!!

  10. dakinikat says:

    George Packer / New Yorker:
    SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT — The New Year’s Day vote in Congress that brought a temporary truce to the fiscal wars showed the Republicans to be far more divided than the Democrats, and the division broke along regional lines. House Republicans from the Far West and from the Northeast favored …

  11. RalphB says:

    A Pierce takedown of J-LO 🙂

    The Nuttiest Post About Chuck Hagel

    The voices inside the head of Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin are unanimous in their dislike for Chuck Hagel, the former Republican senator from Nebraska who is the president’s nominee for Secretary Of Defense. I think this is an unusual display of harmony for the voices inside Jennifer Rubin’s head since, during the presidential campaign just past, all the voices in Jennifer Rubin’s head had different opinions regarding Willard Romney. Was he merely awesome? Super awesome? Super-duper awesome? Super-duper-infinity awesome? Or was he a steaming super-duper-infinity awesome hunk of brilliantly coiffed man-meat who could make the bobsleds run on time while hitting Lady Liberty’s G-spot until she crooned “Columbia, The Gem Of The Ocean.” Now, though, all the voices hate Chuck Hagel. It must be a lot quieter around Rubin’s ears these days.