Have you thought about killing somebody?

The answer is probably yes.  Fabulous episode of Radiolab recently about the evil and human nature.  Apparently, there’s been studies that have found that 91% of men and 84% of women have actually thought about killing another person.  Really?!  I’m pretty sure that I never really have thought about killing someone.  Am I really that rare.  I suppose I have thought about how one would get away with a murder– I do like to plan out crimes sometimes as an intellectual exercise– but I don’t think that should count.

Anyway, the show quickly moved onto the infamous Milgram obedience to authority experiments.  If you are not familiar with these, you absolutely must listen to this episode of Radiolab.  I mean it.  Otherwise you are dead to this blog (that is, unless you keep reading).   Anyway, what I especially appreciated is that the story actually spent a lot of time discussing the various permutations of the experiment.  What most people with only a glancing familiarity do not appreciate is that Milgram tried to think of just about every factor he could that might affect obedience in ran the experiment in dozens of different ways.  This is all covered in his terrifically readable book on the topic.  It’s really almost a master class in experimental research design.

There seems to be a paucity of youtube videos that have good footage of the original experiments, but this one was pretty good:

Mitt’s Money

Lot’s of interesting stuff being written about how Mitt’s wealth, low tax rates, etc., may play out in the general election.  I enjoyed Greg Sargent’s take:

At a time when Democrats are salivating to paint their opponent as the candidate of the one percent, the GOP is set to nominate a candidate who regularly says things that (fairly or not) can be used to feed this narrative. To name just a few, Romney has said that “corporations are people”; confided that he likes to “be able to fire people” who provide him services; and has refused to say whether any and all questions about inequality and Wall Street excess are rooted in anything other than “envy.”

Now, none of this means that Romney isn’t the strongest general election candidate, and indeed, polls show he’s locked in a dead heat with Obama nationally and in key swing states.

Right.  Romney is easily the strongest of the Republican candidates, but I do think it is intriguing that his obvious issues regarding his personal wealth so nicely play into the narrative and debate that Democrats want to have in this election.  Not that these issues wouldn’t come up if someone like Perry or Santorum were the nominee, but the truth is, Romney being the nominee gives the media much more incentive to focus on these issues and thereby gives them much more legs.

What I also think is telling is that writings similar to the above are not restricted to the left-wing blogosphere, but also appearing in places like John Dickerson’s latest Slate column.  Dickerson, though writing in Slate, is definitely no lefty blogger and a good bellwether of what campaign journalists are paying attention to:

Romney has an uncanny ability to create moments that highlight his wealth. He said part of his income came from “speakers’ fees from time to time, but not very much.” “Not very much” to Romney turned out to be nearly $400,000. Romney also made a $10,000 bet with Rick Perry. He joked that he was unemployed. When he talks about his grandchildren he doesn’t tell warm stories about throwing spaghetti, he describes how they caused him to change the distribution of his estate. Romney tries to narrow the vast gap between his life and the daily struggle of regular people. It often doesn’t work out well. His talk of worrying about pink slips offered an opportunity for Rick Perry to joke that it was Romney’s fear of running out of them that really worried him.

The political question is whether voters think Romney’s wealth makes him more able or less able to turn around the economy in a way that helps them. Political scientist John Sides has run the numbers and suggests a strong correlation between those who think Romney is wealthy and those who think he doesn’t care about their lives. We’ve had rich presidents before—FDR and John F. Kennedy—but their wealth was not seen as an impediment because voters believed those guys were looking out for them.  [emphasis mine]

Romney may win, he may not, but either way, I do believe that his personal wealth and difficulty in connecting with the economic concerns of ordinary voters will be a definite impediment to him.  Perhaps most prominently in allowing the Democrats to focus the campaign narrative in ways that are definitely more conducive to an Obama re-election.

Photo of the day

Okay, these are just awesome.  A series of movie posters that take fairly recent vintage movies and reimagine the posters from a different period in time.  If you are a movie fan, definitely check them all out.  My favorite is the Avatar poster (because I cannot resist William Shatner):

He’s really not like us

Honestly, I don’t begrudge Mitt Romney this:

He also characterized as “not very much” the $374,327 he reported earning in speaking fees last year, though that sum would, by itself, very nearly catapult most American families into the top 1 percent of the country’s earners.

When you are worth hundreds of millions, as Romney is, a few hundred thousand really is “not that much.”  Dare, I say, pocket change.  It is revealing, though, that Mitt Romney inhabits a world where nearly $400,000 is “not that much.”  I have no idea what the world is like, and nor do the vast majority of Americans.  It’s not to say that Romney doesn’t really understand what our world is like, but I think, on balance, the evidence suggests that he actually doesn’t.  If he did, he would not try and suggest that he was worried about “pink slips” or that all concerns about inequality were simply matters of “envy.”  I don’t think understanding the average American is the most important thing for a President.  But it sure helps.

This blog is still here today

When I first heard that WordPress was going to join a number of other prominent websites and go dark today, my first thought was, “oh no, my blog!”  Sure SOPA’s a bad thing, but I’m sure I’m going to have oh-so-many really important and fascinating things to say today!  Honestly, though, hard for me to imagine a non-holiday weekday without blogging.  Anyway, turns out that WordPress allows for an “easy peasy protest”– the little “stop censorship” ribbon in the upper right corner for today (as well as the option to go all black or to do nothing).  I just don’t see the value in going dark, but maybe I’m missing something.  So, gaze about the stop censorship ribbon and fight the power!

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