“They Think, Therefore I Am”

Jan 26 2015 @ 3:21pm

Yatzchak Francus has discovered for himself that “having recovered from a brain injury is vastly different from having recovered from any other injury”:

No one thinks that a broken leg or a kidney stone or pneumonia fundamentally changes the essence of who you are. But when you’ve had a brain injury, people don’t believe that you are quite the same, although no one will actually say so. Perhaps it is the expression of a universal personal terror. The brain is who we are in the most fundamental sense. We are what we think, and we think with our brain. Not for nothing does Descartes’ summation endure.

The perceptions of my injury endure as well.

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The Meaning Of ’90s Sitcoms, Ctd

Jan 26 2015 @ 3:00pm

Many readers aren’t buying Ruth Graham’s view that Friends, and especially Chandler, were homophobic:

I’m sorry, but Friends is mocking homophobia, not displaying it. As a soon-to-be married gay man, I find the idea that this relatively recent show being representative of some benighted era to be an example of ridiculous outrage-mongering.

Another sees “no nastiness in the Chandler bits”:

They aren’t so much about the fear of being gay as they are part of a larger theme of the character – his insecurity – which plays itself out in a number of ways.

Another reader:

First, I grow tired of peeling apart 1994 shows with 2015 sensibilities. Second, the author of that piece has not acknowledged a major part of Chandler’s story:

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“An Atheist’s Week Of Dish”

Jan 26 2015 @ 2:45pm

A reader spells it out:

Monday: Man, these guys work hard.
Tuesday: Pretty good opinion piece.
Wednesday: Wow, that was an amazing amount of great content.
Thursday: Sully’s a great fucking editor.
Friday: Okay, that really made me think.
Saturday: Totally worth the subscription.
Sunday: Oh, for fuck’s sake.

That’s not a complaint. If only everyone nailed six out of seven.


SkyMall, surely the most interesting thing to read in your seat-back pocket, looks like it’s folding. Roberto Ferdman sums up the news:

SkyMall made its business over the past 25 years by entertaining commercial airline passengers and, occasionally, persuading them to purchase whimsical, often expensive products, including a $1,000 serenity cat pod, a $2,250 garden yeti statue and a $16,000 personal sauna system. But the company has suffered at the hands of recent changes to airline policy, which have given passengers alternative means of entertainment and flooded them with different avenues for online purchasing. The permitted use of smartphones on commercial flights has usurped the magazine’s place as the de facto way to pass the time while cruising at 30-some-odd thousand feet in the air. And the growing number of airlines providing in-flight Internet service has not only further eaten into the catalogue’s bread and butter but also paved the way for more competition in the form of online retailers.

A nostalgic Emily Dreyfuss reflects on the end of an in-flight era:

SkyMall was a tradition. An absurd, capitalistic embodiment of everything that was shallow and wrong with our lives, and yet it also brought us comfort. No matter if the plane was delayed, or we were stuck alone on a layover, missing whichever parent we were leaving, missing the friends and the life we were leaving behind each time we went between homes, it was there to make us laugh. To let us roll our eyes. To surprise us with a new level of novelty and frivolity.

SkyMall, that stupid wonderful completely American wonder that, with its insistence that you take your own free copy, announced it was your right as a human in the ‘90s to never not be shopping. Never not be consuming.

Joe Pinsker thinks through the value SkyMall has provided for businesses:

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Rather than religion, a reader points to the “double-blind experiment” as our greatest innovation:

It’s the means by which we can finally escape the illogical and incorrect claims of religion and discover the way the universe actually works.

Another is more critical:

Yuval Noah Harari has got to be joking; religion is one of humanity‘s worst inventions. The scientific method ranks far higher, the products of the enlightenment rank far higher. Why does systemic enforcement of belief in myth rank higher than actually figuring out how the universe works?

Another is even more blunt:

“Without some kind of religion, it is simply impossible to maintain social order.” What a bunch of self-severing theist bull crap.

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Ursula Lindsey is saddened by the present state of the country:

I appreciate the desire to offer some encouragement to Egyptian citizens who supported January 25, and I agree that it is important to keep thinking of how to be active, even under these terrible circumstances[.] I also agree that we are not just back to the old days — there was a huge rupture, and even if the hopes it raised were defeated, the repressive techniques employed to achieve this (media propaganda; Saudi subsidies; massive repression; a shameful politicization of the judiciary) are destabilizing and seemingly untenable in the long-term. But I take a much darker view of the kind of days we’re in. People used to say that the revolution had brought down the wall of fear and it could never be back up; I think the army and police have done a great reconstruction job. Virtually every institution in Egypt is worse off than it was four years ago; a big segment of society has been complicit — out of fear, ignorance, self-interest — with the falsification of its own history and with granting impunity for state injustice and violence.

But Eric Trager doubts that most Egyptians, content with the devil they know, will pursue another uprising:

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Why You Should Get Vaccinated

Jan 26 2015 @ 1:18pm


It prevents outbreaks like this:

A spokesman for the California state health department has told Reuters that he believes “unvaccinated individuals have been the principal factor” in a mid-December measles outbreak at Disneyland that has infected more than 70 people in six western states and Mexico, including five Disney employees.

Sarah Kliff spells out how more individuals getting vaccinated could have protected the six infants who got sick:

The measles vaccine is not licensed for use on babies younger than 12 months. That means that, for the first year of life, babies depend on the fact that everybody else around them gets vaccinated. This essentially creates a firewall: if other people are vaccinated, they won’t catch the disease — and won’t spread it to young children who cannot get protection.

This is what scientists call “herd immunity,” and its a huge reason we get vaccines in the first place. The shots aren’t just about protecting ourselves from measles, mumps, the flu, or other diseases. They’re about making it really hard for those who are medically frail (like the elderly) and those who can’t get the vaccine (often babies and pregnant women) to catch a disease that could be devastating to them.

Another reason herd immunity is important is because vaccines don’t always work. Katie Palmer explains:

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The GOP’s New Year

Jan 26 2015 @ 12:20pm


This was to be the winter of their deep content. Having won the mid-terms on a platform of pure fear and panic, they had Washington DC in their pocket. The agenda was going to be theirs – even if they hadn’t run on much of a platform. They would prove to be a capable governing party again, get the Congress in order, and finally put an asterisk next to Obama’s name for two years.

And what has happened since? We’ve had an attempt to ban all abortion past twenty weeks, with an implicit claim that some rapes are not legitimate (because they weren’t reported to the cops). Critical Republican congresswomen balked, and a largely symbolic vote on a day devoted to pro-life activism collapsed in disorder. Before that, the House voted on the most draconian legislation yet that would require, by some analyses, deporting up to 10 million undocumented immigrants. Moreover, the polling of the base shows, as Aaron Blake argued, that

Although [Republicans] supported citizenship over deportation 43 to 38 percent in November 2013, today they support deportation/involuntary departure over citizenship, 54 to 27 percent. That’s two to one — a stunning shift.

Meanwhile, Obama’s ratings among Latinos have sky-rocketed and Jorge Ramos is now unrelenting in his attacks on the GOP. On economic policy, the Republicans have focused on the Keystone Pipeline and free trade treaties. And that may be it. Dave Camp’s real tax reform proposals fizzled. Cutting Medicare or social security in today’s climate is a very heavy lift. Reform conservative policies have not found a compelling advocate. On foreign policy, the decision to invite Binyamin Netanyahu to address the US Congress (again!) over the head of the sitting president is a grotesque blunder. That’s particularly so as the speech will take place two weeks before the Israeli elections – a piece of meddling that really will hurt the US-Israel relationship.

But don’t take it from me, take it from Fox News:

And what is the argument the GOP wants to make on Iran? That it should be the US that derails the critical last stage of the talks? And that, after doing that, we should respond with a new war in the Middle East to prevent what would then be a rush to get the bomb in Iran? Makes. No. Sense. If the GOP wants to fight the next election on the basis of re-entering the Iraq War with ground troops or a huge bombing campaign against Iran, they’re welcome to try. But the American public is not as obsessed as Sheldon Adelson and AIPAC with the Middle East. And the Iraq war was not a Clint Eastwood fantasy. Even Americans haven’t forgotten that.

Then we had the spectacle of last weekend’s Steve King confab in Iowa. In Roger Simon’s words, the clown car became the clown van. The crowd egged on the far right to go further over the edge. The one candidate who might begin to appeal to more than the base – Bush – was a no-show. By all accounts, Scott Walker gave a bravura performance, which may be the only salient thing to last once the vapors have lifted (and he’s worth watching). But to have so many wackos deliver such red meat to a far right base – with Palin and The Donald delivering random strips of steak tartare – is not a basis for appealing to the broader middle any major party has to, if it wants to govern and not merely scream.

The Palin speech was truly a wonder – an Allan Ginsburg-style Republican “Howl”. I know that with respect to her, I’m an alcoholic who shouldn’t go near a bar – but I couldn’t help myself. Watching the stream of narcissistic, delusional consciousness was like downing three shots of Jäger at once. And there were times when it seemed as if she’d done the same thing (just pick any three minutes at random):

Read On

It appears to have drawbacks:

In research just published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, they uncovered a surprising result among children in the U.K.: Low-income boys who grow up around wealthier peers have more behavior problems like lying, cheating and fighting than their counterparts who grow up immersed in poverty. That result implies that there may be unintended negative consequences to efforts at creating the kinds of communities where poor and better-off families live side by side.

One theory on why this is:

Something called the “relative position hypothesis” may help explain the findings, [Duke’s Candice] Odgers said. Previous studies have suggested that children often evaluate their social rank and self-worth based on comparisons with those around them. Simply put, being poor may be more distressing to a child when he is surrounded by others who are better off.

Is Christie Too Unpopular To Win?

Jan 26 2015 @ 11:41am


The New Jersey governor looks like he’s prepping for a run:

[ launched a federal political action committee, or PAC, Monday as he seeks to lay the groundwork for a likely 2016 presidential campaign.

Harry Enten deflates the Christie hype with the above chart:

Some nominees, such as Democrats Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton, weren’t well known at this point in the campaign. Some, such as Republicans Bob Dole and Ronald Reagan, were very well known and popular. There was George W. Bush in 1999, who was particularly well liked, even if he wasn’t universally known. But no prior nominee had a net favorability rating more than 10 percentage points below where you’d expect given his name recognition.

Christie is 25 percentage points off the pace.