Archive for the 'Human Behavior' Category
Many former Obama supporters…especially the younger crowd…have lost considerable faith in Obama and the Democratic Party. Neo-Neocon notes that the political disillusionment encompasses both parties, and cautions that the “throw the bums out” mentality, however understandable, can be dangerous. She quotes from a book by Milton Mayer called They Thought They Were Free, which is an exploration of German attitudes from the 1920s through World War II. Interviews were conducted with 10 “typical” Germans, who Mayer refers to as “friends,” a couple of years after the war’s end. Excerpt:
National Socialism was a repulsion of my friends against parliamentary politics, parliamentary debate, parliamentary government—against all the higgling and the haggling of the parties and the splinter parties, their coalitions, their confusions, and their conniving. It was the final fruit of the common man’s repudiation of “the rascals.” Its motif was “throw them all out.” My friends, in the 1920′s, were like spectators at a wrestling match who suspect that beneath all the grunts and groans, the struggle and the sweat, the match is “fixed,” that the performers are only pretending to put on a fight. The scandals that rocked the country, as one party or cabal “exposed” another, dismayed and then disgusted my friends…
My friends wanted Germany purified. They wanted it purified of the politicians, of all the politicians. They wanted a representative leader in place of unrepresentative representatives. And Hitler, the pure man, the antipolitician, was the man, untainted by “politics,” which was only a cloak for corruption…Against “the whole pack,” “the whole kaboodle,” “the whole business,” against all the parliamentary parties, my friends evoked Hitlerism, and Hitlerism overthrew them all…
Indeed, revulsion against the dysfunctionalities of a parliamentary democracy can lead to something much, much worse. Weimar government and Weimar society had their problems, but they were infinitely preferable to what replaced them.
Also, most Germans in the 1920s and 1930s—like people in other European countries—keenly remembered the spirit of self-sacrificing idealism that had prevailed in 1914, and a considerable proportion of them believed that this idealism had, in one way or another, been exploited and betrayed. Idealism betrayed leads to cynicism, and cynicism can lead to new and twisted forms of idealism.
On May 5, 2013, Barack Obama warned Ohio State students about the dangers of political cynicsm. As it happened, this speech came only a few days before the public revelations about the Obama administration’s use of the IRS to target political opponents…which is, of course, only one of this administration’s many failures and violations of trust.
Erich Maria Remarque’s novel The Road Back is largely about the loss of idealism and social trust in the years following World War One…although it is set in Germany, the same factors were operative, if to a lesser degree, in the other European belligerent countries. One of the characters in the story is Ludwig Breyer–a serious aspiring intellectual as a student, a dedicated and responsible officer in wartime. A few years after the war’s end, he is shattered by the feeling that it was all for nothing:
They told us it was for the Fatherland, and they meant the schemes of annexation of a greedy industry.–They told us it was for honour, and meant the quarrels and the will to power of a handful of ambitious diplomats and princes..They stuffed the word Patriotism with all the twaddle of their fine phrases, with their desire for glory, their will to power, their false romanticism…And we thought they were sounding a bugle summoning us to a new, a more strenuous, a larger life. Can’t you see, man? But we were making war against ourselves without knowing it!…The youth of the world rose up in every land believing that it was fighting for freedom! And in every land they were duped and misused; in every land they have been shot down, they have exterminated each other.
One could do a present-day riff on this speech: “They told us it was for the environment, and they meant the handouts of taxpayer money to crony capitalists. They told us it was about improving education for the poor, and they meant protecting the privileges of incompetent administrators and teachers’ union…etc”
In the book, Ludwig Breyer’s despair drives him to suicide…and there were doubtless many real-life veterans who came to similar ends. Others, though…among veterans but also among those who had been too young or too old to fight..attempted to recapture the 1914 sense of idealism and unity through involvement in extremist politics of one band or another…and we know how that ended.
Good discussion thread at the Neo-Neocon post.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 1st November 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Fernandez begins with a discussion of Obama’s technique with favored columnists.
get him in an off-the-record setting with a small group of opinion columnists — the David Brooks and E.J. Dionne types — and he’ll talk for hours. …
“It’s not an accident who he invites: He reads the people that he thinks matter, and he really likes engaging those people,” said one reporter with knowledge of the meetings. “He reads people carefully — he has a columnist mentality — and he wants to win columnists over,” said another. …
These people are, like him, unsophisticated in technology. They are lawyers or journalists and the numbers of math and science courses represented in the room are few.
The other blog post is titled “Government is magic.”
Our technocracy is detached from competence. It’s not the technocracy of engineers, but of “thinkers” who read Malcolm Gladwell and Thomas Friedman and watch TED talks and savor the flavor of competence, without ever imbibing its substance.
These are the people who love Freakonomics, who enjoy all sorts of mental puzzles, who like to see an idea turned on its head, but who couldn’t fix a toaster.
This strikes me as a huge insight into why this administration doesn’t understand the trouble it is in.
In spite of the widely popular beer festival going on in Exposition park …
My daughter wanted to stop at Schilo’s Delicatessen for lunch – and this was the first time we have ever been downtown where it wasn’t packed to the point of an hour wait for a table. So we got to Alamo Plaza after the participants had pretty well scattered. But there were a lot of them still, sprinkled here and there, among the tourists, AF Basic graduates, and beer enthusiasts.
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There is a profound moral dimension to the photos and videos coming out of Kenya.
They are showing a multiracial civilization — an up-scale mall is the commercial epitome of modern civilization — under attack with multiracial cops and generally black African military saving multiracial civilians from faceless terrorist barbarians.
There is a huge message about the nature of our terrorist enemy that will resonate with the Western public in much the same way that pictures and video from Sarajevo did in the 1990s vis-a-vis the Serbs.
This Al Shabaab atrocity for publicity and fund raising will cost them and their Islamist co-belligerents far more in the long run.
Dehumanization works both ways.
Cross-posted from zenpundit.com
David Ronfeldt, RAND strategist and theorist has done a deep two-part review of America 3.0 over at his Visions from Two Theories blog. Ronfeldt has been spending the last few years developing his TIMN analytic framework (Tribes, Institutions [hierarchical], Markets and Networks) which you can get a taste from here and here or a full reading with this RAND paper.
David regards the familial structure thesis put forward by James Bennett and Michael Lotus in America 3.0 as “captivating” and “compelling” for ”illuminating the importance of the nuclear family for America’s evolution in ways that, in my view, help validate and reinforce TIMN”. Both reviews are detailed and should be read in their entirety, but I will have some excerpts below:
….Bennett and Lotus show at length (Chapter 2, pp. 29-45) that the nuclear family explains a lot about our distinctive culture and society:
“It has caused Americans to have a uniquely strong concept of each person as an individual self, with an identity that is not bound by family or tribal or social ties. … Our distinctive type [of] American nuclear family has made us what we are.” (p. 29)And “what we are” as a result is individualistic, liberty-loving, nonegalitarian (without being inegalitarian), competitive, enterprising, mobile, and voluntaristic. In addition, Americans tend to have middle-class values, an instrumental view of government, and a preference for suburban lifestyles.
As the authors carefully note, these are generally positive traits, but they have both bright and dark sides, noticeable for example in the ways they make America a “high-risk, high-return culture” (p. 38) — much to the bane of some individuals. The traits also interact in interesting ways, such that Americans tend to be loners as individuals and families, but also joiners “who form an incomprehensibly dense network of voluntary associations” — much to the benefit of civil society (p. 39).
In sum, the American-style nuclear family is the major cause of “American exceptionalism” — the basis of our freedom and prosperity, our “amazing powers of assimilation” (p. 53), and our unique institutions:
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Posted in Academia, America 3.0, Civil Society, History, Human Behavior, Markets and Trading, Morality and Philosphy, Organizational Analysis, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, USA | 5 Comments »
Commenter CR on “slutwalks” and leftist/feminist moral reasoning:
Their position on rape has a lot of parallels to the Trayvon Martin case… They continuously believe that people should face absolutely no consequence for any decisions they make and are shocked when people who do potentially risky things (like bashing someone’s head into the ground) end up having something bad happen that could have been avoided if they hadn’t been told that they had no responsibility for what happened to them at all and were free to act in any way they wished.
From the ‘Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce’, Volume 6 some ‘Fantastic Fables’:
THE LASSOED BEAR
A Hunter who had lassoed a Bear was trying to disengage himself from the rope, but the slip-knot about his wrist would not yield, for the Bear was all the time pulling in the slack with his paws. In the midst of his trouble the Hunter saw a Showman passing by and managed to attract his attention.
“What will you give me,” he said, “for my Bear?”
“It will be some five or ten minutes,” said the Showman, “before I shall want a bear, and it looks to me as if prices would fall during that time. I think I’ll wait and watch the market.”
“The price of this animal,” the Hunter replied, “is down to bed-rock; you can have him for a cent a pound, spot cash, and I’ll throw in the next one that I lasso. But the purchaser must remove the goods from the premises forthwith, to make room for three man-eating tigers, a cat-headed gorilla and an armful of rattlesnakes.”
But the Showman passed on in maiden meditation, fancy free, and being joined soon afterward by the Bear, who was absently picking his teeth, it was inferred that they were not unacquainted.
FATHER AND SON
“My boy,” said an aged Father to his fiery and disobedient Son, “a hot temper is the soil of remorse. Promise me that when next you are angry you will count one hundred before you move or speak.”
No sooner had the Son promised than he received a stinging blow from the paternal walking-stick, and by the time he had counted to seventy-five had the unhappiness to see the old man jump into a waiting cab and whirl away.
MORAL PRINCIPLE AND MATERIAL INTEREST
A Moral Principle met a Material Interest on a bridge wide enough for but one.
“Down, you base thing!” thundered the Moral Principle, “and let me pass over you!”
The Material Interest merely looked in the other’s eyes without saying anything.
“Ah,” said the Moral Principle, hesitatingly, “let us draw lots to see which one of us shall retire till the other has crossed.”
The Material Interest maintained an unbroken silence and an unwavering stare.
“In order to avoid a conflict,” the Moral Principle resumed, somewhat uneasily, “I shall myself lie down and let you walk over me.”
Then the Material Interest found his tongue. “I don’t think you are very good walking,” he said. “I am a little particular about what I have underfoot. Suppose you get off into the water.”
It occurred that way.
Bierce’s contemporaries weren’t used to this kind of cynicism and sarcasm, so they gave him the moniker ‘The bitter Bierce‘.
How did Estonia become a leader in technology?
Richard Fernandez on the creation of a whole generation of risk-averse elites
Flying aboard the PanAm–Boeing Clipper, circa 1940
Transoceanic aircraft navigation in the Clipper era. (The author uses the term “bearing” incorrectly: the proper term for the direction the airplane is headed in is actually “heading.)
Sometimes you come across a comment that passingly mentions a central truth that you just want to climb up on a roof and shout it out to the world. That! Pay attention to that!
Trent Telenko comments on his own excellent post:
Reality lives in the details.
You have to know enough of the details to know what is vital and to be able to use good judgement as to which histories are worthwhile and which are regurgitated pap.
No one has bothered to do that with MacArthur’s South West Pacific Area, especially as it relates to the proposed invasion of Japan.
Yes, reality lives in the details and we are living in a world that both has more of those details available and has fewer of those details capturing our attention. We leave important details unexamined and fixate on the exciting but unimportant details of celebrity and titillation.
What makes the situation supremely frustrating is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Computers are both becoming cheaper and more powerful. We’re deploying new technologies such as the Semantic Web to fix it but the progress is agonizingly slow.
…and lots of other things, by the always-interesting Paul Graham. Excerpt:
People trying to be cool will find themselves at a disadvantage when collecting surprises. To be surprised is to be mistaken. And the essence of cool, as any fourteen year old could tell you, is nil admirari. When you’re mistaken, don’t dwell on it; just act like nothing’s wrong and maybe no one will notice.
One of the keys to coolness is to avoid situations where inexperience may make you look foolish. If you want to find surprises you should do the opposite. Study lots of different things, because some of the most interesting surprises are unexpected connections between different fields. For example, jam, bacon, pickles, and cheese, which are among the most pleasing of foods, were all originally intended as methods of preservation. And so were books and paintings.
Whatever you study, include history– but social and economic history, not political history. History seems to me so important that it’s misleading to treat it as a mere field of study. Another way to describe it is all the data we have so far.
How very interesting that über-celeb (and possibly former über-celeb) Oprah Winfrey has now tried to walk back a very publically-made accusation of being treated with racial bias in an expensive Swiss handbag shop in Zurich with one of those lame apologies which aren’t really apologies, more of that sniveling, ‘I’m sorry that you were offended,’ statements which are framed so as to throw blame on the offended party merely for being offended. At least, she has skipped over the second part of the pro-forma excuse and non-apology, which is usually some variant of, ‘gosh, don’t you have a sense of humor?’ Both statements of which, I am obliged to confirm, do not remove the sting that a party thus abused takes away from the experience. Or even that that such an apology has been honestly and fully rendered to the aggrieved party.
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What proportion of all social-media communication is by bots, spammers, people with agendas who misrepresent themselves, or severely dysfunctional people who pass as normal online? I suspect it’s a large proportion.
There’s not much hard evidence, but every once in a while something like this turns up. I’m guessing it’s the tip of an iceberg. See also this. And who can overlook the partisan trolls who show up on this and other right-of-center blogs before elections. Where do they come from?
None of this apparently widespread Internet corruption should come as a surprise. Given the low costs and lack of barriers to entry it would be surprising if attempts to game the system were less frequent than they appear to be. Nonetheless it’s prudent to keep in mind that a lot of what appears online is probably fake and certainly misleading.
Interesting stories and thoughts from Kathleen Fasanella:
Saw this comic book cover displayed at the Computer History Museum last summer:
…had to search around the Internet to find the story. It seems that a friend, knowing that Lois will never get anywhere with Superman, tricks her into appearing on a TV program in which the UNIVAC computer is used to find ideal matches for people. When she is called on stage, Lois agrees only because she thinks it might make a good story for the newspaper.
How does it turn out? You can read the whole story here.
In a BOOKWORM post about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Book’s mother was in a Japanese concentration camp at the time–read the link), the discussion turned to the Japanese maltreatment of prisoners. I noted that Japanese treatment of Russian POWs in the Russo-Japanese war (1904) seems to have been quite decent, in strong contrast with their abominable treatment of just about all prisoners in the period…only 30 years later…beginning with the invasion of Manchuria and continuing through the Second World War, and I said:
“It is interesting and frightening how quickly a culture can change. If you were looking for a place to live in Europe in 1913, Germany would have looked pretty good…even (especially?) if you were Jewish. Only 20 years later, a significant % of the population was barking mad, and almost all of the rest were clueless or cowed into submission.”
Commenter Danny Lemieux, agreeing with the point about culture change, cited a Cherokee legend: the story of the two wolves.
One of the main reasons why Barack Obama is such a disaster as a leader is that he always chooses to feed the Bad Wolf.
Re-reading Doctor Zhivago, I was struck by the following passage:
That’s just the point, Larisa Feodorovna. There are limits to everything. In all this time something definite should have been achieved. But it turns out that those who inspired the revolution aren’t at home in anything except change and turmoil, they aren’t happy with anything that’s on less than a world scale. For them transitional periods, worlds in the making, are an end in themselves. They aren’t trained for anything else, they don’t know anything except that. And do you know why these never-ending preparations are so futile? It’s because these men haven’t any real capacities, they are incompetent. Man is born to live, not to prepare for life. Life itself, the phenomenon of life, the gift of life, is so breath-takingly serious. So why substitute this childish harlequinade of immature fantasies, these schoolboy escapades?
Zhivago’s words here provide an interesting parallel to the observations of Sebasian Haffner from inter-war Germany…
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 6th July 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
This essay has been around for a while but I saw it for the first time today. It is powerful but depressing. I wonder how applicable it is to the Chicago school system? I have a nephew who has a step daughter in a public school that is about half black. Her mother has to go to the school about once a week to complain about bullying. Catholic schools’ tuition is far higher than it was when I lived there.
A few excerpts: Until recently I taught at a predominantly black high school in a southeastern state.
The mainstream press gives a hint of what conditions are like in black schools, but only a hint. Expressions journalists use like “chaotic” or “poor learning environment” or “lack of discipline” do not capture what really happens. There is nothing like the day-to-day experience of teaching black children and that is what I will try to convey.
Most whites simply do not know what black people are like in large numbers, and the first encounter can be a shock.
One of the most immediately striking things about my students was that they were loud. They had little conception of ordinary decorum. It was not unusual for five blacks to be screaming at me at once. Instead of calming down and waiting for a lull in the din to make their point — something that occurs to even the dimmest white students — blacks just tried to yell over each other.
This must be an impossible place to try to teach. Are there any kids who want to learn?
What archaeologists are finding in the lost city of Heracleion
Is too much collaboration hurting worker productivity?
12 old words that survived by getting fossilized in idioms
How typeface can influence the believability of written communications
How a kids’ clothing consignment business…started as a small home business and now operating in 22 states…is being threatened by mindless government regulation
Speaking of government regulation…Indiana man faces possible jail time for nursing a bald eagle back to health
Another fine photo essay from Bill Brandt: in the footsteps of Hemingway
Several years ago, I was having lunch on the restaurant deck at my local airport. At the table next to me was a couple with a young girl, maybe about 4 years old.
“What makes the airplane fly?” asked the mother.
“Buh..buh,” said the little girl.
“That’s right,” the beaming mother completed the phrase, “Bernoulli’s principle!”
Now, I give this couple credit for taking the kid to the airport and trying to encourage cause-and-effect thinking about why things happen. But I really don’t think that teaching a 4-year-old to parrot “Bernoulli’s Principle” is the right way to do it. Far better, IMO, to say something like “When the airplane goes fast, that makes a wind under the wings, and that holds the airplane up.” This explanation would not pass muster with an aerodynamicist, but is far more useful, in terms of actual understanding, than giving the girl a keyword as explanation. To tell someone that Bernoulli’s Principle makes airplanes fly, when they don’t know what Bernoulli’s Principle IS, is no more useful than telling them that lift is generated by friendly invisible fairies under the wings. (And the fairies are much more charming.)
I was reminded of this little incident by a story in the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of Scientific American MIND. The headline says that “the trend in early education is to move from a play-based curriculum to a more school-like environment of directed learning.” An excerpt from the story:
On a perfect Southern California morning not long ago, a gaggle of children gathered in the backyard of a million-dollar home in an upscale Los Angeles neighborhood to celebrate the birthday of twin four-year-old girls…Most of the kids at the party attend the same preschool. The father of one child enrolled there, where tuition is $14,300 a year for half a day, was asked what he likes about it.
“I like that my daughter can tell me what kind of whale it is we see in a movie,” said the man, sporting a seersucker jacket. “They seem to be teaching things that other schools don’t.”
“You ask them what they did in school today,” chimed in another day, “and they’re like, ‘Oh, today we learned about pointillism.’ There’s a whole series on Picasso, a four-month project on Klimt.”
I submit that, for a four-year-old, it would be much, much more valuable to spend time doing their own painting and drawing than on learning to categorize well-known works according to the accepted categorization scheme. Having them also view the works of great artists is also fine, but should be done with an emphasis on seeing, not on name and category recognition.
Forty years ago, in The Age of Discontinuity, Peter Drucker commented on the role of the arts in education:
Today music appreciation is a respected academic discipline (even though it tends to be a deadly bore for the kids who have to memorize a lot of names when they have never heard the music). Playing an instrument or composing are considered, however, amateurish or “trade school.” This is not very bright, even if school is considered vocational preparation for the scribe. When school becomes general education for everyone, it is lunacy.
The art program in the preschool described above sounds a lot like the kind of music appreciation courses that Drucker was criticizing.
I’m afraid that American society is increasingly dominated by a kind of faux intellectualism that values “smartness” very highly (Smart cars! Smart diplomacy! Smart power!) but defines such smartness largely in terms of being able to fit everything in the world into approved categories.
Moliere, in The Imaginary Invalid, mocked a group of physicians whose “explanation” of the effects of opium was that the drug induced sleep because it contained “dormative powers.” There is still plenty of this kind of “thinking” going on today.
John Barnes asks: Are we as a society putting too much emphasis on abstract categorization rather than practical application? The so-called Flynn Effect says that average IQs worldwide rise by about 3 points per decade, but:
Stuart Brown has described younger engineers at advanced research facilities who are “good at filling in bubbles” but don’t seem to be able to make a machine work. Senior engineers lament that the next generation overvalues its high test scores and undervalues the things that get the job done. Fine arts teachers tailor assignments to students who want to express simpler ideas with easier tools rather than acquire more open-ended and sophisticated skills.
A smug and depressing post on “innovation” by a French bureaucrat. Reminded me of my old post Leaving a Trillion on the Table (although “trillion” probably considerably understated the real amount of potential wealth left on the table in this matter.)
Speaking of 3-D printing, GE is running a couple of interesting contests. First, there is the GE jet engine bracket challenge–participants submit a design taking advantage of additive manufacturing capabilities to meet all performance criteria while minimizing mass. Submitted designs will be evaluated by simulation: the top ten will then be fabricated and subjected to actual loads. There is also the 3-D printing production quest: high precision and advanced materials. This one is focused on making parts requiring extreme precision with complex geometries, especially for healthcare applications–entrants are going to need production as well as design capabilities, and in addition to the $50K prizes there may be an opportunity to become a GE supplier or otherwise “collaborate” with the company.
Unlikely animal friendships (photos)
John Hawkins and friends select the 20 hottest conservative women in the new media. (photos, obviously)
The historian T.R. Fehrenbach postulated that the unique character of Texas came from one thing which differentiated it from other trans-Mississippi states; that it was in a constant state of war for the best part of half a century and so the readiness to fight for life at a moment’s notice became ingrained. Usually the fight was with the Comanches, who lived for war, plunder and ransom. While the Anglo settlers occasionally took a break from fighting to farm or ranch, or take up some peaceable trade, the Comanches never did; there was no other means of advancing in their culture, save being a fearless warrior and raider. At the high noon-time of their peak, they were the lords of the southern plains, from the Arkansas River to the Balcones Escarpment, having ruthlessly pushed other tribes out – the Tonkawa, Lipan Apache, the Karankawa and others. The Comanche ranged and raided as far as they pleased, occasionally interrupted by a fragile peace treaty.
A relative period of peace between the Penateka, or southern Comanche, and the Republic of Texas came to a spectacularly violent end in the spring of 1840 during the course of what had been intended as a peace conference in San Antonio. A contingent of chiefs and Texan peace commissioners met in a large building adjoining the town jail, on Main Plaza and Market Street. In token of their good faith, the chiefs had promised – or led the Texans to believe they had been promised – to turn over a number of captives, and sign a peace treaty. But the Penateka only released one; a teenaged girl, Matilda Lockhart, who had been savagely abused, raped and mutilated during a year of captivity. She told the disappointed and outraged Texan officials that the Comanches camped outside the town held more than a dozen other captives, including her own sister, but meant to extort large ransoms for each. When the chiefs and the peace commissioners met again, the commissioners asked about the other captives. The leader of the chiefs answered that they had brought in the only one they had. The others were with other tribes. And then he added, insolently, “How do you like that answer?”
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Here’s some color footage of London in the 1920s
More old color film: New York City in 1939
Following a scary mammogram experience, a GE researcher is working on the development of high-resolution MRI technology
Former FDCI head Sheila Bair says that low interest rates are hurting, not helping, the economy
Boring, narrow, think-alike apparatchiks.
Rita King is not impressed with Marissa Mayer’s ban on remote work at Yahoo
19 emotions for which English has no words
AT&T predicted the future in these 1993 ads…but how many of these possibilities-turned-actualities was it really able to convert into sources of revenue and profit?
The CEO of Siemens USA thinks young people should seriously consider careers in manufacturing. (When he talks about high-level executives at Siemens who started as apprentices on the shop floor, I have to wonder how many of these success stories are in Siemens USA versus Siemens in Germany)
An interesting case. Bellesiles? East Anglia? Don’t be silly — this is the Times, after all. But interesting nonetheless.
Science may be a noble endeavor. However, as with professional sports, if there’s enough money or opportunity for self-aggrandizement in it some people will cheat, and some people will be attracted to the enterprise precisely because of the opportunity to cheat. Stapels, the subject of the Times profile, looks like a real piece of work. It will be interesting to see if he succeeds in rehabilitating himself, even if non-academically, as he seems to be trying to do. Perhaps his post-academic career is just beginning.
(Via @blithespiritny on Twitter.)