Paul Krugman:

Heart of Cheapness: “In one of the oddest enterprises in the history of development economics, Bono – the lead singer for the rock band U2 – has been touring Africa with Paul O’Neill, secretary of the treasury. For a while, the latent tensions between the two men were masked by Bono’s courtesy; but on Monday he lost his cool.”  NY Times

Angry outbursts linked to brain dysfunction. In my work as a psychiatrist, I have paid much attention to the relatively neglected, related areas of irritability, anger dyscontrol, impulsivity and violence. In the extreme, patients with a degree of impulsive angry outbursts warranting a psychiatric diagnosis are labelled with intermittent explosive disorder. Not surprisingly, IED is associated with dysfunction of frontal lobe areas; the frontal cortex, among other things, mediates inhibition and control of impulsive behaviors.

What is interesting about this study is that patients with IED differ from controls in some other aspects of frontal lobe function, and particularly those mediated by a particular frontal subregion called the orbitomedial prefrontal cortex (OMPF) — observed to be impaired in patients with known OMPF lesions. For example, IED patients do not learn to consistently avoid making choices associated with a high degree of punishment; and they may have impaired recognition of facial expression and a tendency to overinterpret others’ emotions as negative or hostile.

The authors appear to be interested in establishing, from the similarity in neuropsychological deficits between IED and OMPF-lesioned patients, simply that the frontal region contributing to aggression is likely to be the OMPF. But I think the significance of the study is broader. It is easy to see how these other frontal deficits might be additive with impaired impulse control in causing or contributing to anger outbursts, which may thus in a sense be overdetermined neurobiologically. And even in people who have not qualified for a frank IED diagnosis, a lesser degree of similar orbitomedial dysfunction may predispose to an angry temperament.  New Scientist

Here’s the abstract of the journal article, from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Why Angry People Can’t Control the Short Fuse: ‘ “People with short fuses are often very self-righteous and unsympathetic about the effect of their anger on other people,” said Dr. (Norman) Rosenthal, author of a new book on the science of feelings, The Emotional Revolution. “Angry people don’t come into psychiatrists’ offices. They think it’s everyone else’s problem…’ NY Times

Cleanliness indeed next to godliness?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder linked to piety: “The notion that a strict, possibly even God-fearing, upbringing may contribute to obsessive-compulsive disorder has been boosted by a survey which discovered that devout Catholics were more likely to show symptoms than less religious people.” From reading the article it is not possible to determine the direction of the causal link; I think it is much more likely that people’s obsessive-compulsive predispositions may contribute to their piety. New Scientist

The men who would be McCain: “Despite high-profile recruitment by the New Republic and the Washington Monthly, John McCain has evinced no public interest in the 2004 Democratic nomination for president. But the McCain fans in the Democratic Party needn’t worry. If he doesn’t run, somebody else will run as him.” Slate

Memoirs of a sexual predator: “…(Catherine) Millet was until recently known primarily as the founder/editress of a highbrow art magazine, Art Press. Evidence would suggest, however, that her mind was not always on her job.” Review of The Sexual Life of Catherine M.   Telegraph UK

Philosopher Who Challenged Postmodern Radicalism Is France’s New Education Minister: ‘(Luc) Ferry is sometimes identified as one of the “New Philosophers” — a group of young thinkers who, in the late 1970s, challenged the hold of Marxism and other radical currents on the French intelligentsia. In 1986, in a collaboration with Alain Renaut, Mr. Ferry published an influential critique of Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Pierre Bourdieu, and Jacques Lacan, treating them as manifestations of what the book’s title called “68 thought.” (The reference to the mass protests by students and workers in May 1968 is unfortunately lost in the volume’s English translation as French Philosophy of the Sixties: An Essay on Antihumanism, published by the University of Massachusetts in 1990.).’ Chronicle of Higher Education

Ignorance never dies:

Graying Now, McCarthyites Keep the Faith: “Appleton, Wis. — For more years than he can remember, Jerome Flemming has been coming to St. Mary Cemetery here every May for a memorial service at the grave of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. Like others who make this pilgrimage to McCarthy’s birthplace and resting place, Mr. Flemming, 87, was both a friend to the senator and a supporter of his cold war crusade against what he called communist subversion in Washington.” NY Times

Books for Summer Reading: “This list has been selected from books reviewed since the Holiday Books issue of December 2001. The books are alphabetized under genre headings; the book titles are linked to the original reviews.” NY Times Book Review

Well-known but not well known?

‘Scratch an important nineteenth- or twentieth-century thinker and the chances are good that you will find a warm word or two for the work of G. C. Lichtenberg.’ G. C. Lichtenberg: a “spy on humanity”. ‘Lichtenberg once said that he would give part of his life to know what was the average barometric pressure in paradise. He never discovered that quantum, but in his aphorisms we have an extraordinary register of the barometric pressure of the human heart.

As a literary form, aphorisms have the liability of their strength. Aphorisms are insights shorn of supporting ratiocination. Sometimes they are arrived at in an instant, in a sudden illumination; sometimes, as Lichtenberg’s draftings and redraftings of the same phrase or idea reveals, they are arrived at through a process of intellectual and rhetorical honing. Bertrand Russell reports that when he told Wittgenstein that he should not simply state what he thought was true but should provide arguments, Wittgenstein replied that arguments spoil the beauty of insights and that “he would feel as if he was dirtying a flower with muddy hands.” Just so, aphorisms are the blossoms of thought. They may depend on stalk and soil, but their beauty is independent of those prerequisites.’ A 19th century herald of the weblogging spirit? Viz —

…(T)he notebooks were something else, a general repository, an intellectual clearinghouse, “a Book wherein I write everything, as I see it or as my thoughts suggests it to me.” Lichtenberg’s notebooks are a sort of omnibus. As J. P. Stern put it in Lichtenberg: A Doctrine of Scattered Occasions (1959)—the best book in English on Lichtenberg—they consist of “jottings, extracts, calculations, quotations, autobiographical observations, platitudes, witticisms, drafts as well as polished aphorisms.” Lichtenberg considered publishing at least portions of his notebooks but never did. His feelings about their value seemed to vacillate with his moods, which themselves vacillated wildly. Sometimes he referred to their contents as Pfennigs-Wahrheiten—“penny-truths”—at other times he waxed grandiloquent: “I have scattered seeds of ideas on almost every page which, if they fall on the right soil, may grow into chapters and even whole dissertations.”

…Lichtenberg’s acts of espionage on mankind were unsystematic even about being unsystematic. They were raids on the interesting, conducted as time, mood, and inspiration permitted. There is no unifying thread, though there are recurrent themes. One familiar theme is part description, part admonition: “It is almost impossible to bear the torch of truth through a crowd without singeing somebody’s beard.”

“The U.S. government has alerted airlines and law enforcement agencies that new intelligence indicates that Islamic terrorists have smuggled shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles into the United StatesThe Washington Times

“As international attention zeroes in on weapons of mass destruction, a new security matter is brewing out of the limelight: terrorist smuggling. Already, German authorities have issued a Europe-wide alert suggesting that at least 30 “important people” from Afghanistan’s deposed Taliban regime and Al Qaeda who may have been smuggled into Europe, are said to be regrouping in Britain.” Christian Science Monitor