“The worst-case scenario is what’s happening now.” Web comic xkcd succinctly sums up the state of the oil spill coverage on the news.
The reason human beings seem to care so little about mass suffering and death is precisely because the suffering is happening on a mass scale. The brain is simply not very good at grasping the implications of mass suffering. Americans would be far more likely to step forward if only a few people were suffering or a single person were in pain. Hokget did not draw our sympathies because we care more about dogs than people; she drew our sympathies because she was a single dog lost on the biggest ocean in the world. Our hidden brain — my term for a host of unconscious mental processes that subtly bias our judgment — shapes our compassion into a telescope. We are best able to respond when we are focused on a single victim. -the Hidden Brain by Shankar Vedantam
from the magazine The Week, 12/25/09 to 1/8/2010:
Feeling down sharpens your attention and makes you less gullible. …happiness…(removes) a layer of skepticism. …sadness “promotes information processing best suited to dealing with more demanding situations,” says psychologist Joseph Forgas.
Recessions may help us all live a little longer. When the economy tanks, people drink and eat less, sleep more, suffer fewer accidents, and live longer. Researchers found that americans were actually healthier during the Great Depression than they were in prosperous times immediately before and after…
Sometimes…sometimes, mob rule results in something surprisingly positive!
via the Calgary Herald
Estimated cost of the 2008 presidential campaign and congressional races: $5.3 billion
Estimated amount of money spent in 2008 on Halloween candy, costumes, and decorations: $6 billion
Source: USA Today
“It’s a bit odd that we give the Undecided Voter such a privileged place in American elections. Because from a civic standpoint, few creatures are as contemptible. This election has dominated every form of American news media for the better part of two years. Newspapers, magazines, networks, cable, radio, blogs, people on street corners with signs — it’s really been rather hard to miss. Further, it pits two extremely different candidates against each other. Whether your metric is age, ideology, temperament, race, funding sources, healthcare plans or Iraq strategies, it would be hard to imagine two men presenting a starker contrast.
But despite this, the Undecided Voter wakes up each morning and says, in effect, “I dunno.” And the political system panders to him. Undecided voters are believed to be the decisive slice of the American electorate, so they get the debates and the ads and the focus groups (assuming, that is, that they live in a battleground state).” -Ezra Kelin, L.A. Times
I would go so far as to say that, despite the efforts of the “get out the vote” groups, people who aren’t familiar with the issues and people who don’t quite understand the differences between Obama and McCain and their positions simply should not vote. To leave important political and policy decisions to people who, in effect, wake up on Election Day and decide “hmm…I dunno…I guess I’ll vote for X” is absurd beyond belief.
Yes, it is your civic duty to vote. But even more important is your civic duty to vote responsibly. If you know of any “undecided” voters who couldn’t or wouldn’t learn enough about the issues and candidates to cast an informed vote, please do your civic duty and encourage them not to vote!
Hopefully a few years from now, this will be funny:
I NEED TO ASK YOU TO SUPPORT AN URGENT SECRET BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP WITH A TRANSFER OF FUNDS OF GREAT MAGNITUDE.
I AM MINISTRY OF THE TREASURY OF THE REPUBLIC OF AMERICA. MY COUNTRY HAS HAD CRISIS THAT HAS CAUSED THE NEED FOR LARGE TRANSFER OF FUNDS OF 800 BILLION DOLLARS US. IF YOU WOULD ASSIST ME IN THIS TRANSFER, IT WOULD BE MOST PROFITABLE TO YOU.
I AM WORKING WITH MR. PHIL GRAM, LOBBYIST FOR UBS, WHO WILL BE MY REPLACEMENT AS MINISTRY OF THE TREASURY IN JANUARY. AS A SENATOR, YOU MAY KNOW HIM AS THE LEADER OF THE AMERICAN BANKING DEREGULATION MOVEMENT IN THE 1990S. THIS TRANSACTIN IS 100% SAFE.
THIS IS A MATTER OF GREAT URGENCY. WE NEED A BLANK CHECK. WE NEED THE FUNDS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. WE CANNOT DIRECTLY TRANSFER THESE FUNDS IN THE NAMES OF OUR CLOSE FRIENDS BECAUSE WE ARE CONSTANTLY UNDER SURVEILLANCE. MY FAMILY LAWYER ADVISED ME THAT I SHOULD LOOK FOR A RELIABLE AND TRUSTWORTHY PERSON WHO WILL ACT AS A NEXT OF KIN SO THE FUNDS CAN BE TRANSFERRED.
PLEASE REPLY WITH ALL OF YOUR BANK ACCOUNT, IRA AND COLLEGE FUND ACCOUNT NUMBERS AND THOSE OF YOUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN TO [email protected] SO THAT WE MAY TRANSFER YOUR COMMISSION FOR THIS TRANSACTION. AFTER I RECEIVE THAT INFORMATION, I WILL RESPOND WITH DETAILED INFORMATION ABOUT SAFEGUARDS THAT WILL BE USED TO PROTECT THE FUNDS.
YOURS FAITHFULLY MINISTER OF TREASURY PAULSON
“Swiss biologists determined that stupid flies live longer than smart flies because intelligence wears out flies’ brains…”
From Harper’s Magazine, August 2008