Category Archives: human nature

pino asks “Are we born tribal?”

It’s a fascinating question. So far only he and I are talking, but I’d be interested, as I’m sure would he, in your thinking on the subject. Go on over.

Once more, Ebert . . .

“Kindness’ covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”

I’m adding this to my QUOTES page right now. At The Week, they’ve compiled more Ebert quotes.

Take comfort. Or, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

I perused my own QUOTES page for historic words, relevant to our times – and found some. Take comfort:

In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a congress.                      John Adams

I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.                                                                                                          Will Rogers

Talk is cheap…except when Congress does it.                                 Anonymous

There is no distinctly Native American criminal class…save Congress.                                                                                                 Mark Twain

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.                                                                                                              Aesop

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.                                                                                      Mark Twain

Meanwhile, let us not forget that:

Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society            Oliver Wendell Holmes

You can have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, or democracy. But you cannot have both.                                                                              Louis Brandeis

And, having absolutely nothing to do with politics, my personal, all time favorite:

One does not stand still looking for a path. One walks; and as one walks, a path comes into being.                                                                                   Mas Kodani


My question: who owned the tanning salon?

This lady likes tanning salons. She likes how she looks. And there apparently are no limits to the delusions we humans are capable of embracing.

She’s come to our attention because she brought the kid along and that got her into a bit of trouble. (h/t friend Ed)

From a dermatologist in The New York Daily News: “In all my years of treating patients as a dermatologist, I have never  encountered anything like this.”

Let us now hang our collective heads in shame

The worst of humanity’s commercial and primal instincts are today converging in China, where it’s version of the TV show “Survivor” features condemned prisoners who are encouraged to breakdown in confession – before . . .

. . . being led off to be executed.

The show is setting records in popularity with 40 million viewers every Saturday night. The show has a market advantage of a country that can supply an endless line of subjects. The hostess of the show offers to convey messages to family and friends as well as taping a final message. Now the show will begin to appear in Britain. While there are 55 capital crimes in China, the show focuses on murderers and cases determined by the officials to be “educational.”

There is an obvious “Running Man” feel about this show that is entirely creepy. The crossover of criminal law into television entertainment has long been featured in movies and literature as the ultimate sign of social and moral breakdown. While Communist officials may insist that they are merely “educating” the viewer, the voyeuristic element is obvious.

From Jonathan Turley, here.

RIP Christopher Hitchens

The English language took a terrible blow today when it lost its finest practitioner. There haven’t been many like Christoper Hitchens – even across centuries – who, during a journey from working class to Oxford to Trotskyite to American to war supporter, enriched the body of liberal and secular literature and thought with unique and eloquent passion. With words.

In the Times obit, he is quoted thusly:

“I personally want to ‘do’ death in the active and not the passive,” he wrote, “and to be there to look it in the eye and be doing something when it comes for me.”

And there he articulates what I’ve always hoped for myself, but haven’t been able to articulate. I hear others say they want to die quickly, perhaps in sleep, ‘suddenly’ (as we say when it’s unexpected).

Not me. I want to know, I want to ponder but mostly I want to experience it and say goodbye to my world, my life. Like Hitchens.

As a woman, as a liberal, let me just say . . .

. . . that I think many claims of sexual harassment in the workplace should be viewed with some skepticism and close scrutiny. Sure, sometimes it’s real and ugly and all that stuff. But far too often it’s not. I’ve known young women who see harassment in a clumsy compliment, and seem not to know the difference.

I don’t care if Cain did or didn’t. He’s only on a book tour anyway.

Memory, myth and marketing

Just came across this fascinating marketing study of how memory works. It points to an explanation for something that’s always puzzled me – why adult siblings often remember events differently.

My older brother,  for instance, insists that about the time he was eight and I was five, our family rented a riverfront cabin for the summer. I don’t remember that at all – my memory is of a house on the ocean. Neither of us will budge. I’ve occasionally had this same experience with friends over things that happened in our twenties.

Ads Implant False Memories
By Johah Lehrer

 It turns out that vivid commercials are incredibly good at tricking the hippocampus (a center of long-term memory in the brain) into believing that the scene we just watched on television actually happened. And it happened to us . . . [called] memory reconsolidation. In essence, reconsolidation is rooted in the fact that every time we recall a memory we also remake it, subtly tweaking the neuronal details. Although we like to think of our memories as being immutable impressions, somehow separate from the act of remembering them, they aren’t. A memory is only as real as the last time you remembered it. What’s disturbing, of course, is that we can’t help but borrow many of our memories from elsewhere, so that the ad we watched on television becomes our own, part of that personal narrative we repeat and retell.

. . .  It reveals memory as a ceaseless process, not a repository of inert information. The recall is altered in the absence of the original stimulus, becoming less about what we actually remember and more about what we’d like to remember. It’s the difference between a “Save” and the “Save As” function. Our memories are a “Save As”: They are files that get rewritten every time we remember them, which is why the more we remember something, the less accurate the memory becomes. And so that pretty picture of popcorn becomes a taste we definitely remember, and that alluring soda commercial becomes a scene from my own life. We steal our stories from everywhere. Marketers, it turns out, are just really good at giving us stories we want to steal.

Simple kindesses

Sometimes I find gentleness in unexpected places – like in this comment from Duane in a thread about the poor and homeless . It’s on his own blog, The Erstwhile Conservative, and is in response to a persistent ‘blame the victim’ series of comments. Here’s the thread and here’s Duane:

I hate to interrupt your discussion, but I must comment on at least one of the issues raised: putting money “in the hands of those with the placards asking for such.”

I almost never pass such people by without putting some money in their hands. Oh, I realize that some, or even most of the money, may go to booze or drugs or whatever. But I tell myself: So what? So what if a person in that situation uses the money to escape for a while from the plight he or she confronts? Recently I gave money to a woman who I knew—because I had met her before in a different part of Joplin—who was telling me a lie when she told me her “hard luck” story. She told me a complete lie when she was asking me for money. I knew it and told her just to ask me for money without the story. It was okay to just ask. Later the same day I saw her and her male companion, whom she had previously told me was too sick to go to work, in Wal-Mart. I said something to her to remind her that she didn’t have to lie.

But I still ask myself, What kind of life are these two living? Isn’t it worth a few bucks to keep them from otherwise starving to death? If you could have seen both of them you could easily see that there isn’t an employer in Joplin who would hire them. There is exactly no chance that either one of them could get a job. So what if they conspire to get a few bucks from a few strangers who have it to spare? What harm is done? These folks have figured out a way to keep their heads above water. And no matter if we think they “deserve” their fate, what a fate it is. And, in my opinion, it diminishes all of us, if we allow such people to simply starve and die, no matter why they are in the state they are in.

And if you want to look at it from a purely practical point of view, if they weren’t scheming to get a few bucks on Range Line road, they might be up at Snob Hill breaking into the house of a certain Joplin blogger.

Teh sex!!!

In a comment thread below about Planned Parenthood, ojmo links to these smart-and-more-adult-than-our-congress-critters college students from Oberlin. Gotta love these kids.

I know this is a cheap shot. But it’s irresistible.

This headline at Raw Story brings us to a study conducted at University College London in the UK. Here’s the headline:

Conservatives have larger ‘fear center’ in brain

” . . . conservatives’ brains have larger amygdalas than the brains of liberals. Amygdalas are responsible for fear and other “primitive” emotions . . . If the study is confirmed, it could give us the first medical explanation for why conservatives tend to be more receptive to threats of terrorism, for example, than liberals. And it may help to explain why conservatives like to plan based on the worst-case scenario, while liberals tend towards rosier outlooks.

“Geraint Rees, the neurologist who carried out the study, heads up UCL’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and was originally asked half-jokingly to study the differences between liberal and conservative brains for an episode of BBC 4’s Today show that was hosted by actor Colin Firth. But, after studying 90 UCL students and two British parliamentarians, the neurologist was shocked to discover a clear correlation between the size of certain brain parts and political views.

A PARABLE: The Monkey Story

Friend Jane sent this:

Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all the other monkeys with cold water. After a while another monkey makes the attempt with same result, all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put the cold water away. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his shock, all of the other monkeys beat the snot out of him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm.

Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs he is attacked. Most of the monkeys that are beating him up have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs OR even why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

Finally, after replacing all of the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana.

Why not?

Because as far as they know, that is the way it has always been done around here.

And that, my fellow monkeys, is how congress operates.

(LET ME ADD that is how societies operate. Generation after generation fighting a traditional enemy for a transgression lost in the mists of history.)

I know what you mean . . .

I had a lovely long email from another blogger yesterday who’d suspended blogging for a long month. I’d dropped a few comments at his place asking where he was and if he was alright. In yesterday’s email, he said he’d run into the ‘why do I do this and what difference can it make?” moment.

Such a human moment. We ask those questions all our lives. Some answers are so apparent we’re not ever aware we’ve asked the question. Why do I acquire a residence? Shelter. Why do I work at a job? To shelter, feed and clothe myself. Why do I take a long walk? To sooth my soul.

And when one bumps up against the why of an activity like blogging, there’s a tendency to miss the obvious and look outside ourselves.  But the answer is much closer to home. It’s simple and obvious: We do it because we want to.

J.P. will be blogging again. Welcome back – I look forward to reading you again.

In your absence, you’ve missed a bit of my countdown. So to bring you up to date: today is the 237th day of the ninth year of the war in Afghanistan.

War and the three R’s

We (humans) fight wars for three reasons:

Real Estate



We really need to get over it now.

Everything old is new again. And again. And again.

Well, I may have nothing to say, but Jeff Toobin does. And he says it so very well in The New Yorker.

“In the United States, at the time the Constitution was adopted, abortions before “quickening” were both legal and commonplace, often performed by midwives. In the nineteenth century, under the influence of the ascendant medical profession, which opposed abortion (and wanted to control health care), states began to outlaw the procedure, and by the turn of the twentieth century it was all but uniformly illegal. The rise of the feminist movement led to widespread efforts to decriminalize abortion, and in 1973 the Supreme Court found, in Roe v. Wade, that the Constitution prohibited the states from outlawing it.”

I gotta say, I’ve got nothing to say

And I will defend to the death my right to say it and my right to have nothing to say and my right to say that.

So just don’t tread on me.  There.

Going in both directions

About to have some painting done, so I spent a few hours over the last two days clearing out shelves and cabinets. You’ve all been there. Setting up the three categories: 1.) Save; 2.)  Goodwill; 3.) Garbage. And then wondering  how in the world I  accumulated all this stuff? Again. And as I write, I’m making a mental note to order some books. Dear lord.

And better looking too?

Do insurance companies have better bureaucrats? Is that why we need to be protected against government bureaucrats?

Not really a mystery

A favorite, tiresome complaint of conservatives – always delivered with an indignant tone – laments the liberal bias in journalism, the arts, universities education etc.

Let us stipulate; it is so. Why argue it; as long as we add that there is a conservative bias among CEO’s,  members of the Chamber of Commerce, small business owners, and those in all financial industries.

(And as usual, liberals will continue to fail in positing this other truth. They will deny or defend. I would like to complain about THAT. )

There are reasons for these differences and fer god’s sake, they are apparent to any who bother looking – conservatives pursue profit, liberals pursue learning and human potential.

A simple, but not simplistic, explanation. Liberals are attracted to the liberal arts. Conservative are not. Liberals always have questions and look for answers. About all sorts of things that confront human beings. The professions they dominate offer mostly modest earnings. These people are not looking to get rich; they are pursuing their passions.