Archive for September, 2009
As I have not been around DI of late, I thought I’d pop in just momentarily to reiterate my adoration (no, that’s not too strong a word) of Jon Stewart. His show recently won an Emmy and in a poll conducted by Time Magazine over the summer, he was once again named the most trusted journalist in America.
Some find that appalling, that a comedian doing “fake news” would be trusted – but not only do I not find it a surprise, I find it emblematic of what is great about our country. Yep, strangely enough, I believe that beyond all of the nonsense foisted upon us by the fear-mongers and the naysayers and the hand-wringers, above the greed and corruption, the re-emergence of public racism and class-ism that has knocked the very wind out of us over this last year – we, as a culture, have maintained one vital component of our identity as a nation.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|America: Target America|
We still have a senses of humor. Most importantly, we can still poke fun at ourselves.
Stewart takes on the rightwing nutjobs with LMAO-level attacks, but he just as willingly puts Obama and the Democratic congressfolk smack in their liberal places. He brilliantly points out the hypocrisy by putting videos back-to-back in which politicians completely contradict themselves. He forces us to see the political blustering for what it is, and gives voice to sanity in the midst of complete crazy. He makes sure we never forget our humanity.
Last week, he took on the absurdly ridiculous overreaction to the elementary school in New Jersey in which children sang a song about the new President during Black History Month. As he points out, no one complained about it at the time. And Stewart’s lampooning of the way the rightwing media turned this non-story into something murky and evil became especially potent when he pulled out video of school children in New Orleans singing a song in which they THANK THE LORD for Bush and FEMA!!! Good grief. The twinkle in Stewart’s eyes as he reads the lyrics that group of kids sang is priceless.
Carry on -
What is intelligence? Let us count the ways. Actually, the many definitions you’ll find below are merely the tip of the iceberg. I have listed my sources at the end of this post.
“I’ve become more aware of and impressed by how much of leadership is about emotional intelligence. The more you lead, the more you understand how much of it is about motivation – and motivation is about emotions…To lead, being smart isn’t sufficient. You have to connect with people so that they want to help you move the organization forward.”
Robert Joss, Dean of Stanford University’s Business School.
“Knowing a great deal is not the same as being smart; intelligence is not information alone but also judgment, the manner in which information is collected and used.”
“I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.”
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer”
“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”
“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
“The capacity to acquire and apply knowledge, especially toward a purposeful goal.”
“We define emotional intelligence as the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”
Salovey & Mayer, Emotional Intelligence (1990)
“Does a president need to be smarter than his advisors? The key is how to define ‘smart.’ A president can hardly be more expert than, in sum, a collection of advisors…”
Ron Suskind, The Price of Loyalty
“Much evidence testifies that people who are emotionally adept — who know and manage their own feelings well, and who read and deal effectively with other people’s feelings — are at an advantage in any domain of life, whether romance and intimate relationships or picking up the unspoken rules that govern success in organizational politics.”
“Intelligence is solving a problem or creating a product that is valued in society.”
Image by Brunosan at Flickr (creative commons)
Image by Brunosan at Flickr (creative commons)
Edge.org recently posted Daniel Dennett’s discussion of “The Computational Perspective.” At the linked site, you’ll find the video of Dennett’s lecture, along with Dennett’s PowerPoint slides. Dennett’s focus was whether things that are more complex can result from less complex things. Dennett assures us that the answer is yes, and that this is exactly what Darwin demonstrated. This same principle was demonstrated by Alan Turing: The net result is “competency without comprehension.” For the second half of his talk, Dennett applied this same principle to the magnificent aspects of human culture, including the words of our languages, which have “tremendous replicative power.” Dennet concludes that humans are the effect of the purposes of life, not the causes. We tend to project our views back onto nature, and we have the capacity to “discover the reasons everywhere in the tree of life.” Looking forward, we are also “the first intelligent designers of the Tree of Life.” At the this same page at Edge.org, you can also view 45-minute lectures regarding evolution by Alvaro Fischer, Leda Cosmides, John Tooby, Steven Pinker, Matt Ridley, Helena Cronin, Nicholas Humhrey, Ian McEwan.
Occasionally, items in the news make me sit up and take notice of how far from a constitutional republic we really have come. Like this:
There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the “Obama problem.” Don’t dismiss it as unrealistic.
That’s the opening salvo from John Perry, a regular columnist with the right-wing website Newsmax, in an article entitled “Obama risks a Domestic Military ‘Intervention’”. I would like nothing more than to provide you with a link to the whole article, but it has apparently disappeared down the memory hole. Perhaps the editors at Newsmax realized it would be inconvenient to have an article speculating on the potential for a military coup at the same time they are trumpeting the peacefulness of the tea-party protestors and wondering why anyone would accuse them of encouraging dangerous, violent extremism. The quote I harvested above came from Mediamatters.org, which detailed this story yesterday. Unfortunately, the did not reproduce the full column. I managed to grab a screenshot of the Newsmax website search function, which proves that the article really did exist, although the hyperlink for the article now returns visitors to the main Newsmax page.
If you want to study the history of thriftiness (and the lack thereof), check out “Saving Yourself,” an article by Daniel Akst that appears in the Wilson Quarterly. One of the key figures in Akst’s article is Thorstein Veblen:
Thorstein Veblen, the peripatetic Norwegian-American economist (he died in 1929, shortly before the great crash that might have brought him grim satisfaction), is best known today for his theory of conspicuous consumption, which argued that a lot of spending is just a wasteful attempt to impress. In effect, Veblen explained consumerism in terms of status and display, bringing evolutionary ideas to bear on economics and consumer behavior to powerful effect. Reading Veblen is a little like reading Freud or Darwin, albeit on a smaller scale: Do so and you’ll never look at the world in quite the same way again.
As you might imagine, the iconoclastic Veblen took a dim view of all the conspicuous consumption around him, regarding it as a species of giant potlatch in which competitive waste had run amok. You might call Veblen’s the voice of thrift, and it is still heard today from leftist intellectuals who, from their tenured pulpits and Arts and Crafts homes, reliably denounce the spending of others. The truth is that nobody listens to these people, except to submit to their periodic floggings as a kind of penance for sins we have no intention of ceasing.
Where are we now? Akst points out some good news:
Conspicuous consumption, like tobacco, has fallen into social disrepute, a change that removes some of the pressure felt by many families to keep up with the Joneses (who may well have been foreclosed by now).
Akst ends his article with lots of avuncular advice on surviving our current and future materialist downsizing. A lifetime thrifty person, Akst is not pessimistic: “Thrift is far from the worst thing we can have thrust upon us.”
We’re about to spend hundreds of thousands of American dollars incarcerating a Canadian who was busted for selling marijuana seeds. He never set foot in the United States, but he’s being extradited. Who did he hurt?
“There isn’t a single victim in my case, no one who can stand up and say, ‘I was hurt by Marc Emery.’ No one.”
Here’s the conclusion of an article by Ian Mulgrew of the Vancouver Sun:
Emery is facing more jail time than corporate criminals who defraud widows and orphans and longer incarceration than violent offenders who leave their victims dead or in wheelchairs. Whatever else you may think of him — and I know he rankles many — what is happening to him today mocks our independence and our ideal of justice.
Emery’s crime is so incredibly serious that he would have spent an entire month in a Canadian prison for his crime. But, apparently, we have nothing better to do with American tax dollars than incarcerating people who sell marijuana seeds to people who want to buy them.