Archive for December 26th, 2011
I agreed with much of what Ron Paul has to say about U.S. foreign policy, the so-called “war on drugs,” and his hostility to the actions of the Federal Reserve. On the other hand, I’m not a fan of many of his other policy positions, some of the reasons listed by Ashley F. Miller.
Neil deGrasse Tyson points out that the human genome overlaps 99% with the genome of chimpanzees. We’re only 1% different, but consider how much we can do that chimps cannot do. Consider de Grasse Tyson’s suggestion:
Cognitive Scientist Andy Clark has also recognized the biological similarity between chimpanzees and humans, and asked how we accomplish so much more with such a meager difference. He suggests that our trick is that we have become proficient at off-loading and making use of information out into the environment. He argues that “self” extends beyond skin and skull.
[W]e create and maintain a variety of special external structures (symbolic and social-institutional). These external structures function so as to complement our individual cognitive profiles and to diffuse human reason across wider and wider social and physical networks whose collective computations exhibit their own special dynamics and properties.
I realize that the fleet of space shuttles has now been retired, but in case you ever wanted to learn how to fly a space shuttle, all you need to do is learn to use these dashboard controls. (this is a 360 degree image)
Speaking of space shuttles, check out this gorgeous photo a space shuttle launch.
Nick Penniman, the President of United Republic, presents an update on the strategies and accomplishments of the Get Money out Campaign:
Penniman cites disturbing statistics: 40% of a Congressional representative’s time is spent soliciting donations. Almost all of that time is spent soliciting wealthy individuals who don’t even reside in their districts.
At Huffpo, law professor Marjorie Cohn adds up the horrendous damage incurred by the soldiers and citizens of the United States and by citizens of Iraq, as a result of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. It is good that she sums up these costs, because President Obama and other politicians are mightily spinning Iraq as a just war honestly began and the results as somehow worthwhile.
When he announced that the last U.S. troops would leave Iraq by year’s end, President Barack Obama declared the nine-year war a “success” and “an extraordinary achievement.” He failed to mention why he opposed the Iraq war from the beginning. He didn’t say that it was built on lies about mushroom clouds and non-existent ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Obama didn’t cite the Bush administration’s “Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq,” drawn up months before 9/11, about which Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill reported that actual plans “were already being discussed to take over Iraq and occupy it – complete with disposition of oil fields, peacekeeping forces, and war crimes tribunals – carrying forward an unspoken doctrine of preemptive war.”
While our politicians continue to lie to us about Iraq, a man who wanted the citizens of the United States to know the truth about Iraq is being treated as dangerous:
The U.S. government considers Manning one of America’s most dangerous traitors. Months ago, Obama spoke of Manning as if he had been proved guilty, saying, “he broke the law.” But Manning has not been tried, and is presumed innocent in the eyes of the law. If Manning had committed war crimes instead of exposing them, he would be a free man today. If he had murdered civilians and skinned them alive, he would not be facing the death penalty. Besides helping to end the Iraq war, the leaked cables helped spark the Arab Spring. When people in Tunisia read cables revealing corruption by the ruling family there, they took to the streets.
If Manning did what he is accused of doing, he should not be tried as a criminal. He should be hailed as a national hero, much like Daniel Ellsberg, whose release of the Pentagon Papers helped to expose the government’s lies and end the Vietnam War.
Thomas Jefferson created his own version of the Bible, which is currently featured at the Smithsonian:
[Thomas] Jefferson was devoted to the teachings of Jesus Christ. But he didn’t always agree with how they were interpreted by biblical sources, including the writers of the four Gospels, whom he considered to be untrustworthy correspondents. So Jefferson created his own gospel by taking a sharp instrument, perhaps a penknife, to existing copies of the New Testament and pasting up his own account of Christ’s philosophy, distinguishing it from what he called “the corruption of schismatizing followers.”
. . .
Much of the material Jefferson elected to not include related miraculous events, such as the feeding of the multitudes with only two fish and five loaves of barley bread; he eschewed anything that he perceived as “contrary to reason.” His idiosyncratic gospel concludes with Christ’s entombment but omits his resurrection. He kept Jesus’ own teachings, such as the Beatitude, “Blessed are the peace-makers: for they shall be called the children of God.” The Jefferson Bible, as it’s known, is “scripture by subtraction,” writes Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University.
Kahneman dissects the term “happiness,” explaining that it is so fraught with ambiguities that we should probably dispense with this word. Complicating things, we confuse experience (being happy in your life) and memory (being happy about or with your life). Making things even worse, we suffer from the “focusing illusion.” Namely, we can’t think about any circumstance that affects well being without distorting its importance. Kahneman describes the “focusing illusion” as a “real cognitive trap” that we have no hope of getting right.
The remembering self depends on stories that we construct, and what is especially salient about our stories are the changes, significant moments and endings. Whereas the “experiencing self” lives a life of a series of moments, most of these moments are lost forever–they are not remembered. Each “psychological present moment” is about 3 seconds long, meaning that there are 600 million of them in a lifetime (600,000 in each month). Most of them don’t leave a trace in our memory. We forget almost all of them no matter how much we try to remember them and no matter how much we think that they should all “count.” Because the “remembering self” has no access to most of the moments of our lives, it substantially relies on the stories we construct about our lives.
It turns out that these are two extremely different selves that bear heavily on how “happy” we are.