best when viewed in low light


Why the US hates healthcare reform

According to the following article from the BBC, we don't hate healthcare because it's not good for US, we hate it because we don't like being TOLD what's good for US!

The Republicans' shock victory in the election for the US Senate seat in Massachusetts meant the Democrats lost their supermajority in the Senate. This makes it even harder for the Obama administration to get healthcare reform passed in the US.

Political scientist Dr David Runciman looks at why is there often such deep opposition to reforms that appear to be of obvious benefit to voters.

Last year, in a series of "town-hall meetings" across the country, Americans got the chance to debate President Obama's proposed healthcare reforms.

What happened was an explosion of rage and barely suppressed violence.

Polling evidence suggests that the numbers who think the reforms go too far are nearly matched by those who think they do not go far enough.

But it is striking that the people who most dislike the whole idea of healthcare reform - the ones who think it is socialist, godless, a step on the road to a police state - are often the ones it seems designed to help.

In Texas, where barely two-thirds of the population have full health insurance and over a fifth of all children have no cover at all, opposition to the legislation is currently running at 87%.


Instead, to many of those who lose out under the existing system, reform still seems like the ultimate betrayal.

Why are so many American voters enraged by attempts to change a horribly inefficient system that leaves them with premiums they often cannot afford?

Why are they manning the barricades to defend insurance companies that routinely deny claims and cancel policies?

It might be tempting to put the whole thing down to what the historian Richard Hofstadter back in the 1960s called "the paranoid style" of American politics, in which God, guns and race get mixed into a toxic stew of resentment at anything coming out of Washington.

But that would be a mistake.

If people vote against their own interests, it is not because they do not understand what is in their interest or have not yet had it properly explained to them.

They do it because they resent having their interests decided for them by politicians who think they know best.

There is nothing voters hate more than having things explained to them as though they were idiots.

As the saying goes, in politics, when you are explaining, you are losing. And that makes anything as complex or as messy as healthcare reform a very hard sell.


In his book The Political Brain, psychologist Drew Westen, an exasperated Democrat, tried to show why the Right often wins the argument even when the Left is confident that it has the facts on its side.

He uses the following exchange from the first presidential debate between Al Gore and George Bush in 2000 to illustrate the perils of trying to explain to voters what will make them better off:

Gore: "Under the governor's plan, if you kept the same fee for service that you have now under Medicare, your premiums would go up by between 18% and 47%, and that is the study of the Congressional plan that he's modelled his proposal on by the Medicare actuaries."

Bush: "Look, this is a man who has great numbers. He talks about numbers.

"I'm beginning to think not only did he invent the internet, but he invented the calculator. It's fuzzy math. It's trying to scare people in the voting booth."

Mr Gore was talking sense and Mr Bush nonsense - but Mr Bush won the debate. With statistics, the voters just hear a patronising policy wonk, and switch off.

For Mr Westen, stories always trump statistics, which means the politician with the best stories is going to win: "One of the fallacies that politicians often have on the Left is that things are obvious, when they are not obvious.

"Obama's administration made a tremendous mistake by not immediately branding the economic collapse that we had just had as the Republicans' Depression, caused by the Bush administration's ideology of unregulated greed. The result is that now people blame him."


Thomas Frank, the author of the best-selling book What's The Matter with Kansas, is an even more exasperated Democrat and he goes further than Mr Westen.

He believes that the voters' preference for emotional engagement over reasonable argument has allowed the Republican Party to blind them to their own real interests.

The Republicans have learnt how to stoke up resentment against the patronising liberal elite, all those do-gooders who assume they know what poor people ought to be thinking.

Right-wing politics has become a vehicle for channelling this popular anger against intellectual snobs. The result is that many of America's poorest citizens have a deep emotional attachment to a party that serves the interests of its richest.

Thomas Frank says that whatever disadvantaged Americans think they are voting for, they get something quite different:

"You vote to strike a blow against elitism and you receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our life times, workers have been stripped of power, and CEOs are rewarded in a manner that is beyond imagining.

"It's like a French Revolution in reverse in which the workers come pouring down the street screaming more power to the aristocracy."

As Mr Frank sees it, authenticity has replaced economics as the driving force of modern politics. The authentic politicians are the ones who sound like they are speaking from the gut, not the cerebral cortex. Of course, they might be faking it, but it is no joke to say that in contemporary politics, if you can fake sincerity, you have got it made.

And the ultimate sin in modern politics is appearing to take the voters for granted.

This is a culture war but it is not simply being driven by differences over abortion, or religion, or patriotism. And it is not simply Red states vs. Blue states any more. It is a war on the entire political culture, on the arrogance of politicians, on their slipperiness and lack of principle, on their endless deal making and compromises.

And when the politicians say to the people protesting: 'But we're doing this for you', that just makes it worse. In fact, that seems to be what makes them angriest of all.


Barbarians from dawn to dusk

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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It is easy to believe that we can transcend our animals selves, and maybe it's proper to believe that we should, but I would rather know who we truly are when we don't.

Smell Yo Dickathon

Piggy v Peaches


Lookin good Mr Macopolous

Ari, I'm not sure but I think this makes you a totally legitimate artist...

NOW what the fuck are you going to do?!


A look into the World Values Survey

The World Values Survey attempts to collect and synthesize a broad range of statistical indicators that are intended to provide a much more insightful look at the world than is offered by more traditional measures (e.g. GNP, population).

Some economists, especially feminists, are proposing that the United States and other countries adopt the indicators of the WVS as the markers for political, social and economic advancement, with an eye towards more inclusive participation and holistic value.

The first image shows the Inglehart-Welzel cultural map of the world

And on the WVS website, you can find maps of Interpersonal Trust, Confidence in the Government, and Happiness.

It's shocking


You should be watching The Bachelor

Move beyond your initial intellectual rejection, and please consider the following:

1. The Bachelor is great TV. And I don't mean it's just entertaining and junky and easy to watch, though it is. I mean it is cast, scripted, and expertly constructed to make you want more - at every commercial and at every turn of events through its HOUR AND A HALF of programming each week. Not only does that require an incredible amount of foresight on the part of the producers, it requires hours and hours of editing to create characters and plotlines out of real life interactions between humans. And that brings me to my second point...

2. It's more real than reality. We humans understand the world through stories - when we talk about ourselves, we rely on stories that (we hope) illustrate the qualities we like about ourselves. When we explain where the world came from (in religious contexts or not) we tell stories about how gods or universal forces constructed our lived experience through ancient examples meant to convey a set of values and behavioral norms that we find acceptable in our society and culture. Today, we explore these norms through media - television being the most accessible and mainstream because it's free and ubiquitous.

3. The cast - as we experience them, anyway - is not a group of "real people"; we don't see them as whole selves, we see them as characters. Each represents a different archetype of the way that people behave in relationships. One is loveable but very jealous, one is a tease, one is two-faced, one is relaxed but stand-offish, and so on. They are as much a commentary on how NOT to date, than how to win the game and find true love in the process.

4. Not only are the characters unrealistically exaggerated, the ironic part of the show is that the bachelor is the least important character. He may be the star, and the nominal focus of plot development, but it is the relationships among the women that make up the bulk of the drama. And that's no accident. Jake is an everyman. In this highly stylized scenario, he represents the fantasy of every man - to be the object of desire for many women. More women than one man can actually handle. And though it appears that Jake is the one that gets to make all the choices, as we watch each episode, and each round of eliminations, it is the women who have made their choice to leave. Maybe they don't like him enough to put themselves out there, maybe they are so bothered by the competition that they excuse themselves, or maybe they just don't recognize that it is, in fact, a game.

5. And love is a game. The competitive element of the show is a replica of real life, with all the good and bad parts exaggerated so as to make the most mundane events appear dramatic and meaningful. But this is what we do in our own minds as we navigate our own romantic stories. We cast ourselves as the hero or heroine, and everyone else as players in the narrative of our romantic lives. This one was too needy, that one was too controlling, this one would have worked if only... And we're not so much competing with every other man and woman out there, as we are competing with ourselves and our own expectations. And good luck with that.

6. And last, but most definitely not least, for all you snobs out there who think that trashy reality TV is below you: Years ago, before TV and even books were around to entertain us, everyone sat on the porch watching their neighbors intently and talking about them. I mean, really, what do you, in your own lives, spend the majority of your time thinking and talking about? PEOPLE! And, more specifically, what people do and what people do to you! And, of course, all the things that people are doing to and with each other behind closed doors. It may be true that gossip isn't intellectually demanding (though I would argue that it takes a great deal of intuition and acute perception to observe and understand all the little nuances that give away people's real thoughts and feelings about each other), or that having curiosity about other people's relationship has somehow become taboo, but... when you really come right down to it, knowing how to relate to people, find love and procreate is ALL THAT REALLY MATTERS. It is, after all, why we're here.

I give you, The Bachelor: On The Wings Of Love


Tetris flipped

Thanks to Elan for posting this - I spent some of the best years of my life totally entranced by this game.

Come to think of it, I haven't really played since the morning of September 11, 2001. I happened to be playing an early morning round or two, waiting for an interview at the World Financial Center (back when I wanted to work at the Mercantile Exchange), and heard a really big bang.

At first, I thought nothing of it, given that at the time, Williamsburg was still industrial with only tidbits of trust-funded hipster infiltration. A minute or so later, my roommates phone starts ringing like crazy and she relayed the message that A plane had hit the twin towers.

By the time we got to the roof, it was clear that it was more than an accident. I stood there amazed, knowing that we would go to war.

Funny when something as mundane as a computer game can remind you of a life- or world-changing event. In that sense, it's totally appropriate that it's the POV that flips.

Crystal cave found

Thought to be the home of the Doozers (sp?) of Fraggle Rock fame

Or the natural home of Superman

[But actually discovered by two brothers and believed to be one of the natural wonders of the world... but what in nature isn't wonderful, really?]


Blondes have more attitude

I've never been a big believer in blonde cliches - that we get more attention, are more desired, or more entitled. And as much as I appreciate a good blonde joke, I've never believed that blondes are dumber than other women. At least, I know I'm not.

Interestingly, according to the findings of a research team at [what I can only assume must be] UCLA, blondes are more aggressive about getting their way. And this was true of natural blondes as well as the fakers.

The unfortunately disturbing part of the study was that much of the conclusions were based on already existing cultural stereotypes about blondes - as they put it:

"They found blondes were used to getting more attention and being treated better by others.
The researchers believe this sense of entitlement is what makes them more willing to "go to war" over an issue."

It is, however, interesting to note how many female world leaders are, or have been, blonde.

Hottie German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Elegant and uncontroversial Queen Beatrix

Severe and ass-kicking Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

The original Queen of Mean Elizabeth I


A wasted money making opportunity

I am shocked and amazed that all of Tiger's sponsors are running for cover, as if the "I fucked my way around the world" image is something they can't support.

Except, Tiger was living the dream! Hot wife, two kids, fame, hotness, and all the groupies he could possibly manage.

The biggest offender of the sponsors has to be Accenture. As a financial management company, it's their JOB to see you through the tough times. And the tough times are when you're a rich guy, you get caught cheating, and your wife - with the moral backing of the mass media and the public - is going to take you to the fucking cleaners. THAT's when you need a good financial adviser!

It's true that Tiger handled himself badly - cell phone calls? voicemail messages? TEXTS?! I mean, the guy was asking to get caught. But abandoning him in his hour of need? Sponsors, you should be ashamed of your short-sightedness and your completely false moral high ground.

This SHOULD have been the new campaign


Happy birthday to me!

My friend Steve is the only person so far who's been unequivocal about the Marines being a good fit for me. I quote:

"honestly I think you would be running the Marine Corps in 5 years! What made you think of that??? You'ld be an exceptional marine, but prepare yourself for HELL! well good luck and keep me posted, hey don't you think your getting a bit old for such a crazy ass move? You could do it though, and I gotta admit a lot of the shit looks awesome, plus you'ld get ripped! I'm pretty sure you have it in you to be a total badass, so I say rock on, maybe you could learn to fly!! dude if you learn to fly you better take my ass up! lata chica, keep rockin with yer badself!"

That, and a little of this

gets me SO pumped.


What is primitive?

I am often offended by human exceptionalism, and I find our research into primates and proto-humans to be rife with this type of arrogance. It's not that were aren't biologically special - we are - it's just that we're not the only ones. Evolution doesn't play favorites like that, and if we really want to understand ourselves, I think it would serve us well to be more respectful of what the other beings sharing out planet have to contribute.

I read an amazing article in NatGeo about this woman, Jill Pruetz, who's done extensive research in a chimp community in I don't remember where [Senegal]. Among the things she's observed, the female chimps in this community have developed spears to hunt bush babies for food.

Though scientists are often unwilling to speculate, here's where I go with this: it was probably human females who used tools for hunting, not because hunting is evidence of particularly violent or gender-specific tendencies, but because females were less likely to have enough food. Innovation comes from necessity. The dominant males don't need to (or, maybe can't) because they're the ones that collect the wealth from their community. Sounds familiar.

Our arrogance about our relative superiority even extends to our own ancestors. It's never an attitude that they are just like us, but operating within different environmental and physiological parameters, but that they're "primitive." *Sigh*

This attitude is, helpfully, undermined by discoveries like the two recent ones about Neanderthals - not only did our genetically similar but distant relatives look kind of like us, they also acted just like us! They used the tools they had available to adorn and beautify themselves, just like we do today.



south beach images

[from m&d: "we hope your trip to south beach is everything you want it to be"]

[what you can't really see from this picture is that the round part of the 9 is actually a three quarter circle drawn in black marker over the 7]

[they really had it figured out in the 50s - bottle opener and ashtray in arm's reach from the john]

[cousin Amy is having a baby! ... Waran Bedi was proposed as a solid front runner for names]

[I call this "the Dr. No series"]

[bibb lettuce, gorgonzola, crispy speck and an olive encrusted swordfish steak...YUMMY]

[hi Pharrell!]

[best thing about the's so cool that you feel like a rockstar just walking in. even better, they don't make you feel like you're not]

two o one o

resolution: be true to myself

but really, what does that mean?

as far as this blog is concerned, it means that i can reveal a bit more of my life and interior thought process... pictures to follow

as for the rest, well, here's what i'm thinking about right now
1) becoming a Marine...yeah, i want to be a total badass, and no, i'm not scared of comes when it comes
2) finishing my thesis project in a reasonable amount of time = by April 1

i guess that's pretty much it for now

oh, and
3) i look forward to warmer weather


Pronounce Pershing

Is it Pershing with a J-like sound, or Pershing with a "shhh"?

Here's who Pershing is

and here's what you find when you google "pronounce Pershing"

In the past...