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        Recent Articles

        Measuring the Deep Corruption of the U.S. Political System

        How corrupt is the U.S.? This video by Represent US gives us the shocking result. We have the best government that money can buy.

        January 24, 2019 | By | Reply More

        More on Political Opinions and Tribal Pressures

        At The Atlantic, Jay Van Bavel discusses recent experiments showing that we are not permanently polarized with regard to our political positions. The article is titled, How Political Opinions Change.

        In a recent experiment, we showed it is possible to trick people into changing their political views. In fact, we could get some people to adopt opinions that were directly opposite of their original ones. . . . A powerful shaping factor about our social and political worlds is how they are structured by group belonging and identities… We are also far more motivated to reason and argue to protect our own or our group’s views. Indeed, some researchers argue that our reasoning capabilities evolved to serve that very function.

        People tend to take more extreme positions of their same viewpoint when challenged with information supporting the opposite view. The trick is to suggest to the person that they actually held the opposite view through false-feedback. The take-away: “people have a pretty high degree of flexibility about their political views once you strip away the things that normally make them defensive.”

        January 23, 2019 | By | Reply More

        Scientific Reasoning, Tribal Reasoning

        It’s not enough to be a scientifically savvy person, because your scientific savviness can be hijacked by your tribal impulses, leading to such things as intelligent people vigorously arguing that climate change is a hoax.

        That is the conclusion of Dan Kahan, writing for The Atlantic in “Why Smart People Are Vulnerable to Putting Tribe Before Truth.”

        Unless accompanied by another science-reasoning trait, the capacities associated with science literacy can actually impede public recognition of the best available evidence and deepen pernicious forms of cultural polarization.

        January 22, 2019 | By | Reply More

        Quotes about Parenting

        My two daughters are now living far away, attending college. I thought it might be a good time to reflect on what it means to be a parent. I looked hard for some quotes that reflected my experiences:

        “Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories. ”? John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (1647-1680)?

        “One thing I had learned from watching chimpanzees with their infants is that having a child should be fun.”  Jane Goodall 

        “Parenting without a sense of humor is like being an accountant who sucks at math.” —Amber Dusick, blogger

        January 15, 2019 | By | Reply More

        Giving Space to a Romantic Relationship

        From “Brain Pickings,” a blog by Maria Popova – first, Popova quotes Rilke:

        “I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other.”

        Then Popova begins her blog post:

        ““Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls,” the great Lebanese-American poet, philosopher, and painter Kahlil Gibran counseled in what remains the finest advice on the secret to a loving and lasting relationship.

        Our paradoxical longing for intimacy and independence is a diamagnetic force — it pulls us toward togetherness and simultaneously repels us from it with a mighty magnet that, if unskillfully handled, can rupture a relationship and break a heart. Under this unfiving magnetism, it becomes an act of superhuman strength and self-transcendence to give space to the other when all one wants is closeness. And yet this difficult act may be the very thing — perhaps the only thing — that saves the relationship over and over.”

        December 28, 2018 | By | Reply More

        Addiction as dysfunctional Bonding – TED talk by Jonathan Hari

        Wonderful TED talk by Journalist Jonathan Hari. Two Quotes stand out:

        Professor Peter Cohen in the Netherlands said, maybe we shouldn’t even call it addiction. Maybe we should call it bonding. Human beings have a natural and innate need to bond, and when we’re happy and healthy, we’ll bond and connect with each other, but if you can’t do that, because you’re traumatized or isolated or beaten down by life, you will bond with something that will give you some sense of relief.

        . . .

        And I think the core of that message — you’re not alone, we love you — has to be at every level of how we respond to addicts, socially, politically and individually. For 100 years now, we’ve been singing war songs about addicts. I think all along we should have been singing love songs to them, because the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.

        See also, Rachel Wurzman’s TED talk: How Isolation Fuel’s Opiod Addiction.

        The effects of social disconnection through opioid receptors, the effects of addictive drugs and the effects of abnormal neurotransmission on involuntary movements and compulsive behaviors all converge in the striatum. And the striatum and opioid signaling in it has been deeply linked with loneliness.

        When we don’t have enough signaling at opioid receptors, we can feel alone in a room full of people we care about and love, who love us. Social neuroscientists, like Dr. Cacioppo at the University of Chicago, have discovered that loneliness is very dangerous. And it predisposes people to entire spectrums of physical and mental illnesses.

        Think of it like this: when you’re at your hungriest, pretty much any food tastes amazing, right? So similarly, loneliness creates a hunger in the brain which neurochemically hypersensitizes our reward system. And social isolation acts through receptors for these naturally occurring opioids and other social neurotransmitters to leave the striatum in a state where its response to things that signal reward and pleasure is completely, completely over the top. And in this state of hypersensitivity, our brains signal deep dissatisfaction. We become restless, irritable and impulsive.

        November 13, 2018 | By | Reply More

        Ellis Haizlip: Soft-Spoken Art Activist

        A friend and I attended a session of three films at the St. Louis Film Festival Friday evening, at Washington University. All three films were wonderful, but we were enthralled by the main feature, “Mr. Soul,” featuring one of the most amazing people I had never before heard of, Ellis Haizlip. The film was directed by his niece, Melissa Haizlip, who attended, explaining that this film was a labor of love for ten years of her life. If you ever have a chance to view this (which you will, in coming months), don’t hesitate. Here’s a link to the film’s description.

        November 12, 2018 | By | Reply More

        The age at which a woman has her first baby – consequences

        Fascinating article in the New York Times. The age at which a woman has her first baby has dramatic ramifications.

        First-time mothers are older in big cities and on the coasts, and younger in rural areas and in the Great Plains and the South. In New York and San Francisco, their average age is 31 and 32. In Todd County, S.D., and Zapata County, Tex., it’s half a generation earlier, at 20 and 21, according to the analysis, which was of all birth certificates in the United States since 1985 and nearly all for the five years prior.

        Many graphs in this article. Well worth a review.

        November 12, 2018 | By | Reply More

        Matt Taibbi’s Ten Rules of Hate

        Here’s something almost everyone can agree about: Dysfunctional public discourse is ubiquitous. What is feeding it? There are many ideas out there, but one that I find compelling is that the mass media has adopted “Dysfunctional public discourse” as its favorite method of providing us with “news.” Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone boils down his criticisms into the form of “Ten Rules of Hate.”

        First, here is an excerpt from his article:

        We’ve discovered we can sell hate, and the more vituperative the rhetoric, the better. This also serves larger political purposes.

        So long as the public is busy hating each other and not aiming its ire at the more complex financial and political processes going on off-camera, there’s very little danger of anything like a popular uprising.

        That’s not why we do what we do. But it is why we’re allowed to operate this way. It boggles the mind that people think they’re practicing real political advocacy by watching any major corporate TV channel, be it Fox or MSNBC or CNN. Does anyone seriously believe that powerful people would allow truly dangerous ideas to be broadcast on TV? The news today is a reality show where you’re part of the cast: America vs. America, on every channel.

        The trick here is getting audiences to think they’re punching up, when they’re actually punching sideways, at other media consumers just like themselves, who just happen to be in a different silo. Hate is a great blinding mechanism. Once you’ve been in the business long enough, you become immersed in its nuances. If you can get people to accept a sequence of simple, powerful ideas, they’re yours forever. The Ten Rules of Hate.

        Here are Taibbi’s Ten Rules, but I highly recommend reading the entire article:

        1. THERE ARE ONLY TWO IDEAS – Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative. Boolean political identities.
        4. EVERYTHING IS SOMEONE ELSE’S FAULT (“The overwhelming majority of “controversial news stories” involve simple partisan narratives cleaved quickly into hot-button talking points. Go any deeper and you zoom off the flow chart”).
        5. NOTHING IS EVERYONE’S FAULT (“If both parties have an equal or near-equal hand in causing a social problem, we typically don’t cover it.”)
        6. ROOT, DON’T THINK (“By the early 2000s, TV stations had learned to cover politics exactly as they covered sports, a proven profitable format. The presidential election especially was reconfigured into a sports coverage saga.”)
        7. NO SWITCHING TEAMS (“Being out of touch with what the other side is thinking is now no longer seen as a fault. It’s a requirement.”)
        9. IN THE FIGHT AGAINST HITLER, EVERYTHING IS PERMITTED. (“If the other side is literally Hitler, this eventually has to happen. It would be illogical to argue anything else. What began as America vs. America will eventually move to Traitor vs. Traitor, and the show does not work if those contestants are not offended to the point of wanting to kill one another.”)
        10. FEEL SUPERIOR. (“We’re mainly in the business of stroking audiences. We want them coming back. Anger is part of the rhetorical promise, but so are feelings righteousness and superiority.”)

        November 4, 2018 | By | Reply More