Archive for February 5th, 2012
Glenn Greenwald takes a look at the disturbing reports concerning Afghanistan drone attacks by the United States, suggesting a pattern to many of the attacks:
the U.S. first kills people with drones, then fires on the rescuers and others who arrive at the scene where the new corpses and injured victims lie.
Experts quoted by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism conclude “targeting rescuers and funeral attendees is patently illegal and almost certainly constitutes war crimes.”
Bill Maher draws a line between religions and atheism, prior to conducting (presumably) the world’s first unbaptism:
In the NYT, Diane Ackerman asks why human animals flock to zoos.
More than 150 million people a year visit zoos and aquariums in the United States. Why do we flock to them? It’s not just a pleasant outing with family or friends, or to introduce children (whose lives are a cavalcade of animal images) to real animals, though those are still big reasons. I think people are also drawn to a special stripe of innocence they hope to find there.
Today is that time again when about 1.5% of the world will be watching a particular ball game in America, The Superbowl. Although Superbowl madness has been addressed on this forum, I’d like to put forward a couple of observations.
The Superbowl is the culmination of the 20th century adaptation of sports to mass media. The packaging, production, and marketing of this one game is a major profit center based on what is essentially a sedentary activity. There are 22 players on the field, and 100,000,000 people watching, most in comfy chairs via television.The game play is nominally an hour long, but the coverage lasts many hours. This includes pre-game and post-game coverage, plus the three hours needed to watch the sixty-minute game.
Worse than just sedentary, a predictable large fraction of the audience will be eating badly and drinking immoderately during the event. The advertising in all the media up to and during the event panders to and fosters this market segment. The message is clear: If you are not eating fried things and washing them down with booze, you are a weenie. If you are not buying these things for the family, you are not a good provider.
So let’s take a look at the activity itself. You have nearly two dozen buff young men in shiny tights periodically thrusting their bodies together to accomplish the explicit task of firmly holding a tapered cylinder with the goal of placing it repeatedly into the opponents end zone.
The result of this “scoring” is brief solo dancing and many a manly fanny patted.
What do I do on Superbowl Sunday evening? I go to a contradance. I spend the evening with a couple of dozen women in my arms, moving in rhythm and breathing hard. And the jocks in school called me gay.
From Moyers & Company, Bill Moyers discusses our contentious culture with social psychologist Jonathan Haidt.
Here is my summary of the excellent conversation, in which Haidt offers a roadmap for those of us weary from years of unproductive cultural clashes:
Groupish tribalism is generally good because it ramps up cooperation among those in the ingroup while animosity toward outsiders is usually minimal. But tribalism evolved for purposes of “war,” so that when a certain intensity is reached, “a switch is flipped, the other side is evil. They are not just our opponents. They are evil. And once you think they are evil, the ends justify the means and you can break laws and you can do anything because it is in service of fighting evil.” (min 4:30). Haidt argues that though “morality” often makes us do things we think of as good, it also makes us do things we think of as bad. In the end, we are all born to be hypocrites. Our minds didn’t evolve simply to allow to know the truth. In social settings, our minds are not designed to really let us know who did what to whom. “They are finely tuned navigational machines to work through a complicated social network in which you’ve got to maintain your alliances and reputation. And as Machiavelli told us long ago, it matters far more what people think of you than what the reality is. And we are experts at manipulating our self-presentation; we are so good at it that we believe the nonsense we say to other people.”
Robert Scheer writes the following at Common Dreams:
That Lawrence Summers, a president emeritus of Harvard, is a consummate distorter of fact and logic is not a revelation. That he and Bill Clinton, the president he served as treasury secretary, can still get away with disclaiming responsibility for our financial meltdown is an insult to reason.