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Links With Your Coffee - Thursday


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  • Why Our Brains Do Not Intuitively Grasp Probabilities: Scientific American
    Have you ever gone to the phone to call a friend only to have your friend ring you first? What are the odds of that? Not high, to be sure, but the sum of all probabilities equals one. Given enough opportunities, outlier anomalies—even seeming miracles—will occasionally happen.

    Let us define a miracle as an event with million-to-one odds of occurring (intuitively, that seems rare enough to earn the moniker). Let us also assign a number of one bit per second to the data that flow into our senses as we go about our day and assume that we are awake for 12 hours a day. We get 43,200 bits of data a day, or 1.296 million a month. Even assuming that 99.999 percent of these bits are totally meaningless (and so we filter them out or forget them entirely), that still leaves 1.3 “miracles” a month, or 15.5 miracles a year.

    Thanks to our confirmation bias, in which we look for and find confirmatory evidence for what we already believe and ignore or discount contradictory evidence, we will remember only those few astonishing coincidences and forget the vast sea of meaningless data.

  • BPS RESEARCH DIGEST: Mirrors suppress people's prejudice
    People exhibit less prejudice when they're in the presence of a mirror, Dutch researchers have shown. Carina Wiekens and Diederik Stapel said this effect occurs because mirrors make us more aware of our public appearance, and therefore remind us of the need to fall in line with social norms.

  • God ditches the GOP / This just in: Even the Lord has abandoned the desperate, shameful Right
    This just in: Hurricane of delicious irony slams Republican National Convention, flooding the streets of Minneapolis/St. Paul with rivers of savage hypocrisy as levees of evangelical denial and sexual confusion overflow into the streets, leaving stunned party members scrambling in vain for shaky moral high ground.

  • Participating In Religion May Make Adolescents From Certain Races More Depressed
    One of the few studies to look at the effects of religious participation on the mental health of minorities suggests that for some of them, religion may actually be contributing to adolescent depression.

  • Unconsumed Holes—By Wyatt Mason (Harper's Magazine)
    “But can a novelist, or any writer for that matter, really notice too much or dwell too much on what he notices?”

  • How can smart people say such dumb things about Sarah Palin? - By Fred Kaplan - Slate Magazine

  • The Reality-Based Community: Palin v. Reality



Joe Biden Echoes my feelings on her speech

"I didn't hear the phrase 'middle class' mentioned, I didn't hear a word about health care. I didn't hear a single word about what we're going to do about the housing crisis, college education, all the things that the middle class is being burdened by now," Biden told CBS' "The Early Show." "There was a deafening silence about the hole that the Republicans have dug us into and any specific answers as to how the McCain-Palin ticket is going to get us out of that hole," Biden said.

I don't know about adolescent depression and religion, but I can tell that it definitely exacerbates middle-aged depression...

Personally, I'm feeling much better about the election of late. It always brings me cheer to watch cockroaches backpedal while trying hard to maintain a dignified, upright pose.

The wheels are coming off the "Straight Talk Express". The ass-kicking is underway. For my part, I'm taking names.

It's time we developed a permanent, comprehensive database of all the scandals and corruption in government that hit the press, and the specific words or deeds of all the duplicitous bastards who are on the record regarding them.

I am also feeling better about the election of late.

From Gallup polls

Are you certain that you will vote for [Barack Obama/John McCain] for president, or do you think you may change your mind?

Vote Obama, certain - 42%

Vote Obama, may change mind - 8%

Vote McCain, certain 37%

Vote McCain, may change mind 6%

No opinion 7%

He notes that Obama is not only leading in popular vote, but also in those who are likely to vote.

Obama, certain plus leaning, totals 50%.

McCain, certain plus leaning, totals 43%.

So McCain has a lot more work to do. This week is the week of the Republican honeymoon, but once the public learns more about McCain/Palin 's negatives, they will lose some support.

All of the negatives on Obama have already been factored into the numbers during the hard-fought primary.

Still, though, I'm feeling only cautiously optimistic.

37 million people tuned in to see "just announced yesterday, nobody" Sarah Palin give her speech. And people generally think the speech was amazing. And it was - she ripped Obama to shreds.

37 million people, folks. That's only 3 million less than a guy who's been doing the circuit for ages, who's supposed to be the 'next big thing', who bases his entire campaign around being a populist. Heck, he was even on Oprah. Things are, indeed, looking up.

But getting past the love-ins: really, I still can't understand how anybody could vote Democrat. I get that a lot of people are enthralled by Obama's non-threatening preacher voice. But to continue to pretend that we're in a mess generated by Republicans, and the Democrats are the guiding light to salvation - it's just ridiculous. The Democrats voted for every single spending bill. The Democrats voted for every single wiretap extension, every 'invasion of privacy', and they did nothing about their ridiculous promise to end the Iraq war. There's a reason their approval numbers actually dipped below those of President Bush.

All the support for Obama just shows how people prefer feeling good over doing good. So if it's going to be a battle of rousing speeches, I'll bet on the guy who loves America, and has illustrated that dedication repeatedly, over the guy who constantly says vicious things about us and associates with other people who do the same.

I'll take that bet any day.

And hey, how about Lieberman? First Clinton endorses McCain over Obama, now Lieberman does the same ... is the party of feel-good lies falling apart?

I still can't understand how anybody could vote Democrat.

Well, calligraph, there's a lot you can't understand, and we're used to that. For my part, I forgive you though. You make the most of what God gave you.

[T]o continue to pretend that we're in a mess generated by Republicans, and the Democrats are the guiding light to salvation - it's just ridiculous.

The "continue to" is the most ridiculous thing in that sentence.

I really don't think anybody here, besides perhaps you, believes that the nation's problems were all created by one party. I've met very few Democrats, but quite a large number of Republicans, who honestly believe that nonsense in their hearts. Most of us aren't so foolish as to treat politics like it's a football game - two opposing teams going head to head, one winner, one loser. Reality is not binary like that. It's not all about ones and zeros. Even you have a fractional value.

Here's another one of those things you can't seem to understand: It's not about party fidelity, or marching lockstep with any particular platform. But I can understand why that would be difficult for many people, particularly Republicans, to grasp, and that's because the Republican party is the party that makes the most effective use of proud obedience to protocol and established leadership. It's the chain-of-command party, the top-down party. That's why their base is so solid - because it's composed of people such as the religious rightists, who are highly unlikely to question authority. Thus, since authorities are so loathe to admit their own mistakes, Republicans are also the most likely to view all problems as being caused by some outside influence.

Based on my observations & conversations here, I believe that the vast majority of us would, by and large, much prefer to see honesty and cooperation in government.

So I agree with you: the Democrats are nobody's salvation.

Sane, rational, ethical, compassionate people working cooperatively for the greater good are.

And we'd love it if you were one of them.

That probability article is great norm. Good find.

And thanks for pointing it out. It is great. Is that the first post of this series on "folk" subjects? I will have to go back and see the science, etc. Isn't this an analysis of "truthiness."

calligraph, i want to try and answer you,

i am not clearly a "democrat" as maybe some on this blog, well i am pretty sure that some of the historic old very democratic views on social programs were bad ideas and ineffective. I know that throwing money at the poor and being nice to them is a totally ineffective strategy. It used to be that the repubs were small government, personal responsiblity, straight talk about real issues and not this careful politically correct talk etc.

But what has happened is that all available evidence is that the repubs have lost there way.

First off, the rise of the neocons ( in contrast to the old guys), who have been disastrous to American foreign policy. This opinion is also shared by a whole bunch of traditional conservatives who were against the Iraq war from the beginning.

Secondly was the evidence that the republicans have been involved in massive ethics scandals (maybe just because they were in power) as John McCain made clear, they have lost their way and show no evidence they are fiscally conservative or even ethical.

Thirdly, the shift that I see is that the crazy social programs without any evidence (what you talked about in an earlier post, suggesting that liberals will put in place all these stupid programs that do nothing). The crazy ineffective social programs are now the hallmark of the republicans. ie DARE an antidrug program continuously supported by republicans, a very very expensive program, has been studied extensively and has NO evidence it works. None, nada, but because the strong antidrug message is so popular, we continue to fund it. Other programs that actually help ( after school care for inner city poor, increased social supports for volunerable youth etc) are not.

So do we need democrats, or repubs? What we need are politicians that actually are not driven by ideology, that will look at what the problem is, and then look for the evidence of what works, pay for things that make improvements and work, and stop funding stupid things just because they get us votes or seems like a nice thing of politically correct thing to do.

So the republicans have been corrupted by the control of them from the religious right. They now fund ineffective abstinance programs, will not fund international aids programs that are not abstinance based, they are frozen by their ideology to look at any sensible solutions for the problems of the urban city (ie violence, drugs etc). Mostly due to needing support from the religious right.

So of the available candidates, I believed that both McCain and Obama should have so hope of doing that. Clinton was too much a old school democrat, to entrenched with unions etc.

Although people on thle left are dissapointed about Obama not being "progressive" enough, He continues to talk about programs that work. He for instance is NOT against charter schools (why? cause there is some evidence they may work) He and Biden continue to understand that international actions are complicated (ie if you put Georgia in Nato, that means we have to go to war with Russia, is this a good idea? are there other options? )

He did not promote the obigatory health care plan like some of the other democrats if you notice, he talked about personal responsibility in ALL of his big speeches unlike almost any other democrat. I do not believe he is the traditional democrat, and i also believe he will piss off the left.

McCain also had a chance here, he could have picked Liberman or a competent smart conservative (not Romney who is a pompous ass) someone who would actually show them back to their old roots. He did not, he choose someone in a Rovian play to get a large turnout from the religious right.

The only good speech at the convention if you looked at content was from McCain himself. He really tried to show what he was about and if i had any hope he would be that guy, the guy he could be, i would be happy to see him president. Unfortunately he did not do the brave move, he did not show me any evidence that the republican party has any interest in being bypartisan, the convention was just blame the liberals for everything, then, except mccain, they sneered scarcastically like the elitists they are.

If you want a true conservative, someone who thinks about what is really best for the country, makes careful decisions and shows that they will not just give in to the party faithful's demands, McCain has not done that. He has changed his stance on many, many things that made him the maverick he used to be. He just gave in the crazy right and Karl Rove himself.

So you don't want crazy social programs, neither do I, but show me evidence that the republicans actually care about funding things that work. I mean they want to build a wall, a wall across the US. Is that going to work? Is that going to be a cost effective solutions that works? No that is a pandering to trying to solve a very challenging problem.

So the most fiscally conservative administration since i could vote. Clinton, a democrat.

Anyway Why Mccain makes Obama Conservative",8599,1838571,00.html

k - You know, Democratic programs are not an area I have any expertise in so maybe you know much more about it but - I really want to question some of your statements.

I know that throwing money at the poor and being nice to them is a totally ineffective strategy.
What does this mean?

The programs you don't think worked in the past - are you talking "The New Deal" and/or "The Great Society" programs? And are you talking some specific ones or all of them?

(And, BTW, what lack of personal responsibility do you feel from Democrats - that is a crafted Republican talking point to me. The Democrats would like to extend the opportunities to those outside the wealthy - the wealthy where the networking for a job after an automatic Ivy League education is not quite personal responsibility. Should we look at the top Republican of today, GWB, to see how that responsibility thing plays out? The buck sure doesn't stop there.)

Do some things go too far? Yep - in my experience there is always someone ready to game a system and, from what I have read, that's how a lot of people become rich. Sometimes they get caught -you know - like the Keating Five, Enron, Abramoff, etc. Are you saying no one is really helped by this or that the fraud outweighs honesty? Reagan said LBJ declared war on poverty and poverty won but I don't think that's true - I think they actually came down a lot (I haven't read as much as I would like about LBJ - he is a very interesting man - but I'm pretty sure about that. I'll go look it up if that is relevant to what you're talking about.)

And, to me, wanting to create a healthy, strong society with the largest number of well-educated, working masses seems like a smart thing to do and the best way to create a safe society. I understand that's not what the neocons are going after and as the class division increases in the U.S. with the real opportunities for upward mobility declining and middle class burdens increasing....seems like some real, serious discontent is going to arise. When you've got nothing - you've got nothing to lose.

Looking back on when Clinton was in office, what I notice the most is how uninvolved with politics I was - how mainly it didn't affect me except for issues I had a personal passion for. OBL didn't change that - that changed the first 100 days of Bush coming to office and it's never stopped.

But - like I said - this is not my area of expertise and I'm probably missing something. So - I'm really curious what you are talking about.

I do not believe he is the traditional democrat, and i also believe he will piss off the left.

k., I definitely agree with you here (and as someone who has tried to defend both Obama's health care and economic plans against the charge of not being "progressive" enough, I evidently like the fact that he is not a 'traditional' democrat). But I might sum up most of what you said that for me, esp. after the Bush years, curiosity is among the first traits I look for in a politician seeking public office.

The line the republicans keep using and will continue to use is that he's a 'tax and spend liberal'. Not that that was ever very true of most democrats today--here I agree with Jill, unless you want to go all the way back to Carter--but it's especially untrue of Obama. One of the best things Obama has said is that we have all these political discussions about government spending, but never make distinctions between spending that is investment and spending that isn't. That is what Democrats should have been saying loud and clear for a long, long time--making college education more widely available is an investment in the quality of life for more citizens, and typically a stronger economy in the long run, particular in an 'information' economy like the U.S. which relies less and less on old manufacturing jobs. Government investment in alternative energies, particularly those that can only be effective locally, likewise has the potential to create more jobs that can't be outsourced and get us off reliance on fossil fuels.

But yeah, the Republicans: they like to sneer at the fact that Obama spent his time helping the urban poor as a young man (When Palin was the same age, she was a sports news caster, so it's hilarious that she would mock Obama on that score).

Biden sums up the Republicans complete non-acknowledgment of any serious economic or social issue during their convention here.


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