Archive for March 3rd, 2010

Eli’s Obsession With The Google

Multi Medium is the #2 search result for bookkeeping puns.


1 comment March 3rd, 2010 at 08:43pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Eli's Obsession With The Google

Evolution And Culture

Fascinating story in yesterday’s NYT about how culture has shaped human evolution (the prime example was how the domestication of cattle led to the development of lactose tolerance in adults).  What was particularly surprising to me was that the notion of culture driving evolution was until recently in disfavor, on the grounds that the development of civilization has sheltered us from the harshness of nature.

While it’s true  that civilized life protects us from some physical dangers, it has its own completely new set of dangers, opportunities, and pressures: New foods, new social and technological complexities, new living environments.  In effect, every time our culture progresses to a new level, it’s like we’ve migrated to an entirely new habitat.  How could that not cause us to change?

3 comments March 3rd, 2010 at 06:20pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Science

Whatever Happened To The Cheney Doctrine?

Peter Daou takes on the climate change deniers – I found this passage particularly compelling:

Another conservative writer goes on about “unsettled science,” as though we were engaging in a hypothetical legal exercise about the merits of reasonable doubt. In fact, this is our only planet. It’s the only place we can survive. We can’t afford to take chances. We can’t afford to do anything less than everything in our power to rectify the problem. We have no choice but to be alarmists — there’s no second chance. We get it wrong and we’ve doomed our children and their children. For what? Because we don’t want to recycle? Because we don’t want to stop polluting? Because we don’t want to bother making sacrifices? Because we don’t want some eager young kid who cares about the earth to dictate to us? Because we don’t like Al Gore? How profoundly selfish can someone be, to deny what they see with their own eyes: car fumes, bus fumes, truck fumes, factory fumes, chemical waste, human waste, toxins coursing through our waterways, in our food, filth we create in immense quantities turning our planet into a garbage dump.

If anything, we should be outdoing one another trying to address the issue, not smugly questioning the need for action under the guise that the science is imperfect. Reversing the damage we’re doing to the earth should be a priority for every citizen. Instead, environmentalism is treated like an annoyance that the media will occasionally poll about and that we bring to the fore once every April.

The right’s willingness to take the hugest of chances that global warming is junk science or some elaborate Al Gore hoax is particularly striking when you consider the Cheney Doctrine that they’re so enamored of:

Cheney defined it: “If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It’s not about our analysis … It’s about our response.” Suskind writes, “So, now spoken, it stood: a standard of action that would frame events and responses from the Administration for years to come.”‘

Why such a heavy bias towards action on an improbable threat, and such a heavy bias against action on a much more probable and truly existential one?  Republicans embrace a 1% Doctrine on terrorism, yet it’s more like 99.9% when the fate of the entire planet is at stake.

If I didn’t know any better, I might almost think that their policy prescriptions aren’t really about protecting us from harm.

March 3rd, 2010 at 11:29am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Cheney,Environment,Politics,Republicans,Terrorism

Shock Doctrine Troops

Psychologist Michael Bader confesses his dislike for the teabaggers, but also advocates empathy as well:

People can’t tolerate feeling helpless and self-hating for very long. It’s too painful, too demoralizing and too frightening. They have to find an antidote. They have to make sense of it all in a way that restores their sense of meaning, their feeling of agency, their self-esteem, and their belief in the possibility of redemption. They have to. They have no choice. That’s just the way the mind works.

The paranoid strategy is to generate a narrative that finally “explains it all.” A narrative — a set of beliefs about the way the world is and is supposed to be — helps make sense of chaos. It reduces guilt and self-blame by projecting it onto someone else. And it restores a sense of agency by offering up an enemy to fight. Finally, it offers hope that if “they” — the enemy, the conspirators — can be avoided or destroyed, the paranoid person’s core feelings of helplessness and devaluation will go away.


For new Tea Party members… the drift toward paranoia is facilitated by the right-wing media machine that offers several ready-made narratives perfectly designed to help its consumers clear up their confusion, understand their helplessness, absolve them of any blame and offer a way out. The conspiratorial alliance of business and government, a growing tyranny intended to disenfranchise, disarm and exploit ordinary citizens, secret pacts to overthrow the Constitution, etc. all currently led by an un-American, godless, colored, elitist, contemptuous foreigner: Barack Hussein Obama. A grim and frightening picture of the world to be sure. Psychologically speaking, however, it offers relief from helplessness and a sense that things are falling apart. It offers a sense of cohesion and identity based on certainty, a commonality of interests, innocence, and even martyrdom. While the world of the Tea Partiers is filled with danger, it is a danger mitigated by moral certainty, clarity of purpose and a definable external enemy.

This is truly horrifying if you think about it.  The right is actively manufacturing and promoting extremist narratives to exploit these people’s sense of helplessness and fear – caused by their own destructive policies – and turn them into an army of fanatics.

Imagine this guy, we’ll call him Rob, secretly schemes to get his friend Tee fired from his job.  Tee then confides in Rob his sense of helplessness and despair.  But instead of helping him find a new job and get back on his feet like a real friend would do, Rob instead tells Tee that it’s all Rob’s bitter rival Dan’s fault and that Tee should show Dan that he’s on to him and teach him a lesson.  That, in a nutshell, is what the Republicans are doing, and it’s amoral and disgusting.

Republicans aren’t just obstructing meaningful economic stimulus and health care reform because they want Democrats to fail, but because every person who loses their job or their health insurance is another potential convert to Glenn Beck’s teabag gospel.

March 3rd, 2010 at 07:11am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Economy,Politics,Wankers

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