It’s not much of a choice for Americans come November 4

Thalia Mendoza has h...

Shaun Carney: “Every political contest is a question of relativities — as in, which candidate do I dislike least? — and when John McCain and Barack Obama went mano a mano for the first time in the presidential debate on Saturday morning our time, it gradually became clear that American voters will face a genuine dilemma on November 4. Both candidates are a substantial risk and a further sign that the political system of the world’s most powerful nation is not functioning very well.” (


This is being circulated by email:

U.S. Republican pre...

It was just before John McCain’s last run at the presidential nomination in 2000 that my husband and I vacationed in Turtle Island in Fiji with John McCain, Cindy, and their children, including Bridget (their adopted Bangladeshi child).
It was not our intention, but it was our misfortune to be in close quarters with John McCain for almost a week, since Turtle Island has a small number of bungalows and their focus on communal meals force all vacationers who are there at the same time to get to know each other intimately.

He arrived at our first group meal and started reading quotes from a pile of William Faulkner books with a forest of Post-Its sticking out of them. As an English Literature major myself, my first thought was “if he likes this so much, why hasn’t he memorized any of this yet?” I soon realized that McCain actually thought we had come on vacation to be a volunteer audience for his “readings” which then became a regular part of each meal. Out of politeness, none of the vacationers initially protested at this intrusion into their blissful holiday, but people’s buttons definitely got pushed as the readings continued day after day.

Unfortunately this was not his only contribution to our mealtime entertainment. He waxed on during one meal about how Indo-Chine women had the best figures and that our American corn-fed women just couldn’t meet up to this standard. He also made it a point that all of us should stop Cindy from having dessert as her weight was too high and made a few comments to Amy, the 25 year old wife of the honeymooning couple from Nebraska that she should eat less as she needed to lose weight.
McCain’s appreciation of the beauty of Asian women was so great that David the American economist had to move his Thai wife to the other side of the table from McCain as McCain kept aggressively flirting with and touching her.

Needless to say I was irritated at his large ego and his rude behavior towards his wife and other women, but decided he must have some redeeming qualities as he had adopted a handicapped child from Bangladesh. I asked him about this one day, and his response was shocking: “Oh, that was Cindy’s idea – I didn’t have anything to do with it. She just went and adopted this thing without even asking me. You can’t imagine how people stare when I wheel this ugly, black thing around in a shopping cart in Arizona . No, it wasn’t my idea at all.”

I actively avoided McCain after that, but unfortunately one day he engaged me in a political discussion which soon got us on the topic of the active US bombing of Iraq at that time. I was shocked when he said, “If I was in charge, I would nuke Iraq to teach them a lesson”. Given McCain’s personal experience with the horrors of war, I had expected a more balanced point of view. I commented on the tragic consequences of the nuclear attacks on Japan during WWII –- but no, he was not to be dissuaded. He went on to say that if it was up to him he would have dropped many more nuclear bombs on Japan. I rapidly extricated myself from this conversation as I could tell that his experience being tortured as a POW didn’t seem to have mellowed out his perspective, but rather had made him more aggressive and vengeful towards the world.

My final encounter with McCain was on the morning that he was leaving Turtle Island. Amy and I were happily eating pancakes when McCain arrived and told Amy that she shouldn’t be having pancakes because she needed to lose weight. Amy burst into tears at this abusive comment. I felt fiercely protective of Amy and immediately turned to McCain and told him to leave her alone. He became very angry and abusive towards me, and said, “Don’t you know who I am.” I looked him in the face and said, “Yes, you are the biggest asshole I have ever met” and headed back to my cabin. I am happy to say that later that day when I arrived at lunch I was given a standing ovation by all the guests for having stood up to McCain’s bullying.
Although I have shared my McCain story informally with friends, this is the first time I am making this public. I almost did so in 2000, when McCain first announced his bid for the Republican nomination, but it soon became apparent that George Bush was the shoo-in candidate and so I did not act then. However, now that there is a very real possibility that McCain could be elected as our next president, I feel it is my duty as an American citizen to share this story. I can’t imagine a more scary outcome for America than that this abusive, aggressive man should lead our nation. I have observed him in intimate surroundings as he really is, not how the media portrays him to be. If his attitudes toward women and his treatment of his own family are even a small indicator of his real personality, then I shudder to think what will happen to America were he to be elected as our President.

Mary-Kay Gamel
Professor of Classics, Comparative Literature, and Theater Arts
Cowell College
University of California, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, California 95064
831-459-2381 (office); 831-429-8803 (home)

Important to circulate if true, but it sounded abit over-the-top and stereotyped (e.g. the comment about their adopted child) so I wrote to Dr. Gamel for verification. She denies writing the piece but knows who does and, curiously, doesn’t address directly why her name was attached to it:

Friends: Little did I think when I forwarded this story to four or five friends on 16 September that I would be identified as the author or receive so many questions. Some of you have clearly received the email without the preface attached. Most simply ask whether the story is true, some praise “my” courage, some angrily accuse me of distortion and lies.

I’m sorry that I did not check the story more carefully before forwarding it. I am paying for my mistake by sending this clarification to every person who contacts me. Here’s as much of the truth as I know:

First of all, I did not write this story. Here is the preface to the story as I received and forwarded it:

To: Mary-Kay Gamel
Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2008 11:13:22 -0400
—– Forwarded Message —-
From: Kate Marianchild <>
Sent: Sunday, September 14, 2008
Subject: My Holiday with John McCain: a first-hand account
(Note from Kate: This shocking account was written by Ana Dubey, a friend of my cousin and her husband, who have known Ana for many years. Ana has a PhD in psychology and has a private practice in San Francisco . My cousin’s husband went to business school with Ana’s husband, who has since started and sold a number of successful companies. Ana’s husband is currently a Managing Director of a private equity firm in the Bay Area. Ana and her husband are not political activists and don’t have any personal ax to grind. In fact, in writing this account of her experience with John McCain, Ana is acting outside of her own economic self-interest as she and her husband are among the top 3-5% of our population who would benefit from the McCain tax/economic policies. Please pass this on to anyone you know who might vote for John McCain. Also please post it on blogs and send it to newspapers and radio stations.)

I am not Ana Dubey (whose full name, I believe, is Anasuya Dubey, apparently the daughter of a former Indian Consul in San Francisco). I gather that Turtle Island costs $2000/day–I could never afford such a holiday. After the email was further forwarded and people wrote with questions, I wrote to Kate Marianchild. Here is our exchange:

Dear Ms. Marianchild: I got your email with the shocking story and forwarded it. Some recipients are questioning it. I googled Ana Dubey and got a husband/wife team who run a bakery in Honolulu. Can you assure me that Ana Dubey really is a psychologist in San Francisco?


Yes, I can assure you of that. She is a private person and psychologist. And perhaps you can send this on to your friends:

Dear Friends,

Everyone is asking to talk to Ana Dubey or receive a direct email from her validating the “Holiday with John McCain” story. I emailed Ana and asked her how to handle all the correspondence I was receiving. She didn’t reply to me, which is understandable as we have never met and I am sure she is totally besieged with emails right now. I don’t feel comfortable forwarding lots of emails to her or giving out her email address.

However, I did forward one email – one I received from Frances Moore Lappe (author of Diet for a Small Planet, Food First, Democracy’s Edge, Hope’s Edge, Getting a Grip, and etc, and founder of the Small Planet Institute – Frances (aka Frankie), said she would like to pursue the story by talking to Ana, and that she would distribute it if she were convinced it was authentic.

Here’s what I just received from Frankie (Frances) Lappe. If you still have doubts perhaps you can contact Frankie, as she is a more public person than I believe Ana to be.

Kate Marianchild

I just spoke with Ana, who was wonderful.
Sounds like NBC is on it. Sure hope an interview gets aired.
Thank you so much for asking her to call me. I admire Ana very much.

Frances Moore Lappé
Small Planet Institute
25 Mt Auburn St., Suite 203
Cambridge MA 02138
617.441.6300 x 115

I have not contacted Ms. Lappe, and the story is still quite uncertain. As a reader of texts I think it has the ring of truth (especially given McCain’s well-documented temper). Some have questioned the idea of McCain shopping and pushing his then no longer infant adopted daughter in a shopping cart, but those could have been references to earlier times. Presumably the holiday took place in December 1999, and some have pointed out that the US was not at war with Iraq then, but bombing raids based on the sanctions were being carried out. The NEW YORKER portrait of Cindy McCain attests that the adoption of Bridget was indeed her idea. And so forth.

There are various sites where the story is being discussed. There is a lot of corroborating information at

There is much discussion on the web about the veracity of this meme, e.g. here. And here is what a Google search on “Ana Dubey OR Anasuya Dubey” will reveal. In summary, it seems too farfetched to believe, but just barely. As my friend Julia, who originally forwarded the email to me, observed, we’ve all had conversations with idiots like the man McCain is made out to be here. I’m saddened by this; McCain will hoist himself by his own petard easily enough without such scurrilousness.

Democracy on the Wane?

//...In country after country, democratic reforms are in retreat. The surprising culprit: the middle class. This Boston Globe article is quite shabbily argued. Beginning from the recent massive populist uprising against the government in Bangkok, the author opines:

“The events unfolding in Thailand are part of a gathering global revolt against democracy. In 2007, the number of countries with declining freedoms exceeded those with advancing freedoms by nearly four to one, according to a recent report by Freedom House, an organization that monitors global democracy trends.

And the villains, surprisingly enough, are the same people who supposedly make democracy possible: the middle class. Traditional theories of democratization, such as those of Harvard professor Samuel Huntington, predict a story of middle class heroics: As a country develops a true middle class, these urban, educated citizens insist on more rights in order to protect their economic and social interests. Eventually, as the size of the middle class grows, those demands become so overwhelming that democracy is inevitable. But now, it appears, the middle class in some nations has turned into an antidemocratic force. Young democracy, with weak institutions, often brings to power, at first, elected leaders who actually don’t care that much about upholding democracy. As these demagogues tear down the very reforms the middle classes built, those same middle classes turn against the leaders, and then against the system itself, bringing democracy to collapse.”

An alternate way to read these events is that the protests are not antidemocratic at all, but rather protests against the sort of pseudo-democracy that has been foisted off as an excuse for the real thing for a long time… at least since the West “won” the Cold War. These forces are antidemocratic in the same sense that Bush says the terrorists hate us because we are free. Our smugness about our “freedom” lulls us into a false complacency; Americans should be taking to the streets over the sham that passes for democracy here as well. It has long been evident that the US is at the pinnacle of perfection of authoritarian social control, so subtle that its victims do not even know they are being controlled. Maybe, in places like Thailand, it is just done more clumsily, so that the remaining capacity for outrage in the middle classes can be mobilized as it cannot here?


Auto Anthropomorphism

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Human Or Animal Faces Associated With At Least 90 Percent Of Cars By One-third Of Population: “Do people attribute certain personality traits or emotions to car fronts? If so, could this have implications for driving and pedestrian behavior? Truls Thorstensen (EFS Consulting Vienna), Karl Grammer (Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Urban Ethology) and other researchers at the University of Vienna joined economic interest with evolutionary psychology to answer these questions.

The research project investigates our perception of automotive designs, and whether and how these findings correspond to the perception of human faces.

Throughout evolution, humans have developed an ability to collect information on people’s sex, age, emotions, and intentions by looking at their faces. The authors suggest that this ability is probably widely used on other living beings and maybe even on inanimate objects, such as cars. Although this theory has been proposed by other authors, it has not yet been investigated systematically. The researchers therefore asked people to report the characteristics, emotions, personality traits, and attitudes that they ascribed to car fronts and then used geometric morphometrics to calculate the corresponding shape information.

One-third of the subjects associated a human or animal face with at least 90 percent of the cars. All subjects marked eyes (headlights), a mouth (air intake/grille), and a nose in more than 50 percent of the cars. Overall, people agreed which type of car possesses certain traits. The authors found that people liked cars most which had a wide stance, a narrow windshield, and/or widely spaced, narrow headlights. The better the subjects liked a car, the more it bore shape characteristics corresponding to high values of what the authors termed “power”, indicating that both men and women like mature, dominant, masculine, arrogant, angry-looking cars.” (Science Daily)

I’m glad that’s settled. I have always, since I was a child, seen facial expressions on the fronts of cars and ascribed an emotional valence to each one. I always wondered how common that was. Up to now, my only clue was that my daughter once commented that she saw cars that way as well. It makes evolutionary sense, given the importance of figuring out what stance to take vis a vis an approaching stranger. The machinery of facial recognition takes up a disproportionate volume of the cortex. In fact, I have previously written here about the accumulating evidence that those with autism process human faces with their object-recognition circuitry, not the facial-recognition areas. This anthropomorphism is in a way the flip side of the coin. (I wonder if people with autism see facial expressions in cars…)

How to Land a 747

Kottke pointed me to this checklist, presumably if you are the civilian closest to the cockpit when the captain suddenly keels over. But also, probably, useful to the would-be hijackers among you. I’m going to store this with the other electronic memos I carry around with me for ready access at any time.

Timothy Garton Ash:

The time has come for a final report on the 43rd president of the US: “The man who set out to reinforce unbridled American power has weakened it in all three essential dimensions…

As the two men who would succeed him train like Olympic athletes for tomorrow’s foreign policy debate, pause for a moment to complete your final report on the 43rd president of the United States. What would you say?

I would sum up his two terms in four words: hubris followed by nemesis.” (Guardian.UK)

Timothy Garton Asch:

The time has come for a final report on the 43rd president of the US: “The man who set out to reinforce unbridled American power has weakened it in all three essential dimensions…

As the two men who would succeed him train like Olympic athletes for tomorrow’s foreign policy debate, pause for a moment to complete your final report on the 43rd president of the United States. What would you say?

I would sum up his two terms in four words: hubris followed by nemesis.” (Guardian.UK)


Popularity of a Hallucinogen May Thwart Its Medical Uses

“Until a decade ago, the use of salvia was largely limited to those seeking revelation under the tutelage of Mazatec shamans in its native Oaxaca, Mexico. Today, this mind-altering member of the mint family is broadly available for lawful sale online and in head shops across the United States.

Though older Americans typically have never heard of salvia, the psychoactive sage has become something of a phenomenon among this country’s thrill-seeking youth. More than 5,000 YouTube videos — equal parts “Jackass” and “Up in Smoke” — document their journeys into rubber-legged incoherence. Some of the videos have been viewed half a million times.

Yet these very images that have helped popularize salvia may also hasten its demise and undermine the promising research into its possible medical uses.

Pharmacologists who believe salvia could open new frontiers for the treatment of addiction, depression and pain fear that its criminalization would make it burdensome to obtain and store the plant, and difficult to gain government permission for tests on human subjects. In state after state, however, including here in Texas, the YouTube videos have become Exhibit A in legislative efforts to regulate salvia. ” (New York Times)


Vertical Bed

Many homeless keep all their possessions with ...

“Vertical Bed is a sort of static prostheses that allows a person to fall asleep in a standing position. By bolting into cracks between the sidewalks, subway grates, or other rigid contact points, the suit will support it’s wearer with a minimum of visible hardware or occupied space, holding the sleeper’s weight with concealed harnesses. One-sided privacy will be achieved through noise canceling headphones and double-mirrored sunglasses. Additionally, an umbrella will clip in the rigid infrastructure for shelter. The project is designed for the visual performance of an alternate way of occupying urban space, born partly out of fantasies of minimal need and elegant futurism, and partly out of fears of the dehumanization of space. Occupants will absorb the vertical structure of urban architecture into their bodies. The vertical sleeper is in a constant state of readiness, never succumbing to collapse. Homelessness is most often marked by the forbidden act of lying down on the sidewalk, an act that the vertical bed circumvents. The vertical bed will imply a streamlined, rather than failed, infrastructure.” (Conflux Festival)

Economics Lesson

Not all villains are intentionally evil, but d...

“What was the greatest wealth-creating film of all time? Titanic might be a popular guess, but the answer, according to Columbia University’s Nobel laureate economist Robert Mundell, is Taxi Driver.

The 1976 classic, directed by Martin Scorsese with Robert De Niro as the bitterly alienated protagonist, gave the world De Niro’s catchphrase “You talking to me?,” and also introduced a young Jodie Foster. But what does it have to do with the world economy?

John Hinckley, the deranged would-be assassin who attempted to kill Ronald Reagan in 1981, claimed that he was inspired by it. He said that his action was an attempt to impress Foster. (The movie features a scene in which a mohawked De Niro attempts to assassinate a politician.)

According to Mundell, the wave of sympathy for President Reagan that was engendered by the assassination attempt deterred Democrats in Congress from voting against his proposed tax cuts. Due to this accident of history, the US administered a big fiscal stimulus at the same time that Paul Volcker at the Federal Reserve was administering tight money. This, for Professor Mundell, was vital in creating the era of prosperity that followed.

Taxi Driver is the most important movie ever made from the standpoint of creating GDP,” Mundell told delegates. “It’s the movie that made the Reagan revolution possible. That movie was indirectly responsible for adding between $5 trillion and $15 trillion of output to the US economy.”

So says a May 15, 2008 report in the Financial Times. (Improbable Research via julia)

Cheney Unchained

All the best details from Barton Gellman's new book on Vice President Dick Cheney: “It’s often said on late-night TV that given Dick Cheney’s cardiovascular problems, George W. Bush is just a heartbeat away from the presidency. In his new book, Angler, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Barton Gellman suggests that this joke contains more than just a grain of truth. By immersing himself in details about national security and numerous other hot-button issues that the president was too lazy or too incurious to study, Cheney often managed to position himself as the real ‘decider.’

For those of you who are too lazy or too incurious to read Gellman’s lengthy exposé, Slate has put together a breezy executive summary.”

If There Ever Was:

Nasal Ranger in use.

A Book of Extinct and Impossible Smells: “Robert Blackson is a trailblazer in the nascent field of conceptual scent art. He recently curated an exhibition at the Reg Vardy Gallery in Sunderland, England, that took viewers through fourteen significant points in time and space using only the olfactory sense.

…Blackson tasked perfumers, chemists, botanists and even a NASA scientist to engineer smells that most humans might never experience. Scents created include everything from long extinct plants to the fragrance immediately following an atomic bomb explosion. They even recreated the smell of the surface of the Sun, which scientists approximated by using the scents of seven earth metals heated to their melting point.

If There Ever Was is the companion book to the art exhibit. It features paper inserts that correspond to the exhibit smells, all manifested through scratch-and-sniff technology. That way, you can smell the putrid odor of Russian gym socks on the Mir space station without having to leave the comfort of your home (Cool Hunting)

Eve Ensler on Sarah Palin

Crazy Sarah Palin

Drill, Drill, Drill: “I am having Sarah Palin nightmares. I dreamt last night that she was a member of a club where they rode snowmobiles and wore the claws of drowned and starved polar bears around their necks. I have a particular thing for Polar Bears. Maybe it’s their snowy whiteness or their bigness or the fact that they live in the arctic or that I have never seen one in person or touched one. Maybe it is the fact that they live so comfortably on ice. Whatever it is, I need the polar bears.

I don’t like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life trying to build community, help empower women and stop violence against them. It is hard to write about Sarah Palin. This is why the Sarah Palin choice was all the more insidious and cynical. The people who made this choice count on the goodness and solidarity of Feminists.

But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism which for me is part of one story — connected to saving the earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war.

I believe that the McCain/Palin ticket is one of the most dangerous choices of my lifetime, and should this country chose those candidates the fall-out may be so great, the destruction so vast in so many areas that America may never recover. But what is equally disturbing is the impact that duo would have on the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this is not a joke. In my lifetime I have seen the clownish, the inept, the bizarre be elected to the presidency with regularity.

Sarah Palin does not believe in evolution. I take this as a metaphor. In her world and the world of Fundamentalists nothing changes or gets better or evolves. She does not believe in global warming. The melting of the arctic, the storms that are destroying our cities, the pollution and rise of cancers, are all part of God’s plan. She is fighting to take the polar bears off the endangered species list. The earth, in Palin’s view, is here to be taken and plundered. The wolves and the bears are here to be shot and plundered. The oil is here to be taken and plundered. Iraq is here to be taken and plundered. As she said herself of the Iraqi war, “It was a task from God.”

Sarah Palin does not believe in abortion. She does not believe women who are raped and incested and ripped open against their will should have a right to determine whether they have their rapist’s baby or not.

She obviously does not believe in sex education or birth control. I imagine her daughter was practicing abstinence and we know how many babies that makes.

Sarah Palin does not much believe in thinking. From what I gather she has tried to ban books from the library, has a tendency to dispense with people who think independently. She cannot tolerate an e nvironment of ambiguity and difference. This is a woman who could and might very well be the next president of the United States. She would govern one of the most diverse populations on the earth.

Sarah believes in guns. She has her own custom Austrian hunting rifle. She has been known to kill 40 caribou at a clip. She has shot hundreds of wolves from the air.

Sarah believes in God. That is of course her right, her private right. But when God and Guns come together in the public sector, when war is declared in God’s name, when the rights of women are denied in his name, that is the end of separation of church and state and the undoing of everything America has ever tried to be.

I write to my sisters. I write because I believe we hold this election in our hands. This vote is a vote that will determine the future not just of the U.S., but of the planet. It will determine whether we create policies to save the earth or make it forever uninhabitable for humans. It will determine whether we move towards dialogue and diplomacy in the world or whether we escalate violence through invasion, undermining and attack. It will determine whether we go for oil, strip mining, coal burning or invest our money in alternatives that will free us from dependency and destruction. It will determine if money gets spent on education and healthcare or whether we build more and more methods of killing. It will determine whether America is a free open tolerant society or a closed place of fear, fundamentalism and aggression.

If the Polar Bears don’t move you to go and do everything in your power to get Obama elected then consider the chant that filled the hall after Palin spoke at the RNC, “Drill Drill Drill.” I think of teeth when I think of drills. I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination. I think of military exercises that force mindless repetition, emptying the brain of analysis, doubt, ambiguity or dissent. I think of pain.

Do we want a future of drilling? More holes in the ozone, in the floor of the sea, more holes in our thinking, in the trust between nations and peoples, more holes in the fabric of this precious thing we call life?

Eve Ensler
September 5, 2008 (HuffPo)

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Hubble Finds Unidentified Object in Space, Scientists Puzzled

#62 astrodeep200407 a g HUDF heic0611aa

“This is exactly why we send astronauts to risk their life to service Hubble: in a paper published last week in the Astrophysical Journal, scientists detail the discovery of a new unidentified object in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know about you, but when a research paper conclusion says ‘We suggest that the transient may be one of a new class’ I get a chill of oooh-aaahness down my spine. Especially when after a hundred days of observation, it disappeared from the sky with no explanation. Get your tinfoil hats out, because it gets even weirder.” (Gizmodo)

The Ugly New McCain

Richard Cohen: “Following his loss to George W. Bush in the 2000 South Carolina primary, John McCain did something extraordinary: He confessed to lying about how he felt about the Confederate battle flag, which he actually abhorred. ‘I broke my promise to always tell the truth,’ McCain said. Now he has broken that promise so completely that the John McCain of old is unrecognizable. He has become the sort of politician he once despised.” (Washington Post op-ed)

Amazon Does the Obvious, Finally:

Adds Video on IMDb: “Amazon has finally done what many have been asking it since the time the company bought IMDB: it has enabled video on the film and TV database/info site. The company says users can now watch 6,000 full-length feature films and TV episodes for free on’s video section.” (

Dark matter ‘bridge to nowhere’ found in cosmic void

“More than a dozen galaxies seem to be lined up along a bridge of dark matter inside a region of nearly empty space. This ‘bridge to nowhere’ could shed light on how small galaxies formed in the early universe.

Galaxies in the universe are arranged in a lacy structure that contains many holes, or voids, that are largely bereft of galaxies. But the voids are not completely empty; astronomers expect they are criss-crossed by filaments of dark matter.

Now, astronomers have found a total of 14 galaxies that appear to be part of a dark matter bridge at least 1.5 million light years long.

The string of galaxies spans just 0.5% of a ‘mini-void’ – a region of space containing mostly dim, dwarf galaxies kept small by their relative isolation from other matter. But the underlying dark matter bridge may be far longer than that.” (New Scientist)


On Stupidity

“The anti-intellectual legacy [Richard Hofstadter first] described has often been used by the political right — since at least the McCarthy era — to label any complication of the usual pieties of patriotism, religion, and capitalism as subversive, dangerous, and un-American. And, one might add, the left has its own mirror-image dogmas.

Now, in the post-9/11 era, American anti-intellectualism has grown more powerful, pervasive, and dangerous than at any time in our history, and we have a duty — particularly as educators — to foster intelligence as a moral obligation.

Or at least that is the urgent selling point of a cartload of books published in the past several months.” — William Pannapacker, an associate professor of English at Hope College, in Holland, Mich. (Chronicle of Higher Education)


What Makes People Vote Republican?

Book cover of

Jonathan Haidt: “What makes people vote Republican? Why in particular do working class and rural Americans usually vote for pro-business Republicans when their economic interests would seem better served by Democratic policies? We psychologists have been examining the origins of ideology ever since Hitler sent us Germany’s best psychologists, and we long ago reported that strict parenting and a variety of personal insecurities work together to turn people against liberalism, diversity, and progress. But now that we can map the brains, genes, and unconscious attitudes of conservatives, we have refined our diagnosis: conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer “moral clarity”—a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world.”

[Jonathan Haidt is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, where he does research on morality and emotion and how they vary across cultures. He is the author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom.] (The Edge)

Science as an Ethical Community

Cosmologist Lee Smolin: “…[S]cience works because scientists form communities defined by a set of ethical principles which, even if imperfectly applied, tend to lead to progress in our understanding of nature. While these communities have long been international, the combination of the internet with cheap airfare and easy migration of educated people makes scientists into ‘global souls’, in Pico Iyer‘s phrase. This opens up new opportunities and also new challenges for the thriving of scientific communities.”
(Perimeter Institute)

John McCain’s health records must be released

Signed by 13,742 people, 473 doctors: “John McCain has not yet released his medical records to the public. McCain is 72 years old, and has been diagnosed with invasive melanoma. In May of this year, a small group of selected reporters were allowed to review 1,173 pages of McCain’s medical records that covered only the last eight years, and were allowed only three hours to do so. John McCain’s health is an issue of profound importance. We call on John McCain to issue a full, public disclosure of all of his medical records, available for the media and members of the general public to review.”

To defeat Palin, ignore her

Errol Louis: “The Democrats’ Palin problem won’t be going away any time soon. And it could derail Barack Obama’s fight against Republican John McCain – unless Dems summon the discipline to ignore the GOP vice-presidential candidate’s celebrity and instead focus like a laser on campaign basics.” (NY Daily News op-ed)

Making America stupid

(FILE PHOTO) Former New...

Thomas L. Friedman: “Imagine for a minute that attending the Republican convention in St. Paul, sitting in a skybox overlooking the convention floor, were observers from Russia, Iran and Venezuela. And imagine what these observers would have been doing when Rudy Giuliani led the delegates in a chant of ‘drill, baby, drill!'” (International Herald Tribune)

McCain-Palin Crowd-Size Estimates Not Backed by Officials

Republican U.S. P...

“Senator John McCain has drawn some of the biggest crowds of his presidential campaign since adding Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to his ticket on Aug. 29. Now officials say they can’t substantiate the figures McCain’s aides are claiming….

In recent days, journalists attending the rallies have been raising questions about the crowd estimates with the campaign. In a story on Sept. 11 about Palin’s attraction for some Virginia women voters, Washington Post reporter Marc Fisher estimated the crowd to be 8,000, not the 23,000 cited by the campaign.” (Bloomberg)

The secret benefits of fandom

National Football League

“…[A] few scholars have started to suggest that there may …be another kind of benefit from big-time sports. There’s a catch, though: the team has to be good. In a forthcoming paper, economist Michael Davis and the psychologist Christian End say that having a winning NFL football team increases the incomes of the people who live and work in its hometown by as much as $120 a year. And while the study doesn’t identify exactly what causes the boost, the authors point to psychological literature suggesting that winning fans are at once harder workers and bigger spenders. In short, buoyed by the team’s success, we work longer hours, take bigger risks, and shop more avidly, all of which helps the local economy.” (Boston Globe)

In other words, just another way of making you a better cog in the machine. Didn’t Marx say that spectator sports is the opiate of the masses, or something like that?

Tea ‘healthier’ drink than water

Mineral water (original German description ind...

“Public health nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton, and colleagues at Kings College London, looked at published studies on the health effects of tea consumption.They found clear evidence that drinking three to four cups of tea a day can cut the chances of having a heart attack.Some studies suggested tea consumption protected against cancer, although this effect was less clear-cut.Other health benefits seen included protection against tooth plaque and potentially tooth decay, plus bone strengthening.Dr Ruxton said: ‘Drinking tea is actually better for you than drinking water. Water is essentially replacing fluid. Tea replaces fluids and contains antioxidants so it’s got two things going for it.'” (BBC)


Tying Knots with Light

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Researchers find a new theoretical way to tie light into complex knots and links. “Imagine twisting a beam of light into a knot, as if it were a piece of a string. Now grab another light beam and tie it around the first, forming its own loop. Tie on another and another, until all of space is filled up with loops of light.

Sounds preposterous, but a pair of physicists has shown that light can do just this — at least in theory. Visible light, along with all other forms of electromagnetic radiation, is governed by Maxwell’s equations, and the researchers have found a new solution to these equations in which light forms linked knots. The team is now working to create light in this form experimentally.” (Science News)

To defeat Palin, ignore her

Errol Louis: “The Democrats’ Palin problem won’t be going away any time soon. And it could derail Barack Obama’s fight against Republican John McCain – unless Dems summon the discipline to ignore the GOP vice-presidential candidate’s celebrity and instead focus like a laser on campaign basics.” (NY Daily News op-ed)

Harvard Law School Langdell Library in Cambrid...A friend wrote [thanks, Mags]:

I’m a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight….

* If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you’re “exotic, different.”

* Grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers,� a quintessential American story.

* If your name is Barack you’re a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.< Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you’re a maverick.

* Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.

* Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you’re well grounded.< If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor,� spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate’s Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a� state of� 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran’s Affairs committees, you don’t have any real leadership experience.

* If your total resume is: local weather girl,� 4 years on the city council an d 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you’re qualified to become the country’s second highest ranking executive.

* If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you’re not a real Christian. If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married heiress Cindy the next month, you’re a Christian.� * If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.

* If , while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state’s school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant , you’re very responsible.

* If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family’s values don’t represent America’s. If your husband is nicknamed “First Dude”,� with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn’t register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

OK, much clearer now.