Must-see video of the day

Okay, I love birds and have always found their flocking behaviors kind of amazing to watch, but I’d have to think this video is pretty astounding no matter what (as always with Vimeo, its even better when you click through to watch larger at the vimeo site):

Photo of the day

Via John Dickerson’s FB feed, came across this set of very cool, extremely rare, color photography of Paris from over 100 years ago:

On love

Just read this about love.  Not a lot to say.  Just really good.  Hard to come up with a good excerpt though, just read it. Here’s the deal:

We kick-started the year with some of history’s most beautiful definitions of love. But timeless as their words might be, the poets and the philosophers have a way of escaping into the comfortable detachment of the abstract and the metaphysical, leaving open the question of what love really is on an unglamorously physical, bodily, neurobiological level — and how that might shape our experience of those lofty abstractions. That’s precisely what psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, who has been studying positive emotions for decades, explores in the unfortunately titled but otherwise excellent Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become (UKpublic library). Using both data from her own lab and ample citations of other studies, Fredrickson dissects the mechanisms of love to reveal both its mythologies and its practical mechanics…

Fredrickson zooms in on three key neurobiological players in the game of love — your brain, your levels of the hormone oxytocin, and your vagus nerve, which connects your brain to the rest of your body — and examines their interplay as the core mechanism of love, summing up:

Love is a momentary upwelling of three tightly interwoven events: first, a sharing of one or more positive emotions between you and another; second, a synchrony between your and the other person’s biochemistry and behaviors; and third, a reflected motive to invest in each other’s well-being that brings mutual care.

And, there’s this, of course:

Really obvious gun control legislation

Anybody honest about gun policy will admit that the assault weapons ban is mostly (though not all) for show.  It would make a tiny dent at most in gun deaths.  You really want to cut down on gun deaths, you need to cut down on the extraordinary amount of gun trafficking, both legal (i.e., private sale loophole for background checks) and illegal– straw buyers.  The fact that the NRA and assorted gun nuts opposes even these blindingly obvious steps as “the first step towards government confiscation of all firearms!” is what is so frustrating about all this.  Greg Sargent has a nice post on Democratic plans to have a straight up or down vote on simply cracking down on straw buyers:

But beyond that, there’s still another major provision of Obama’s gun package that also has a shot — and it will be introduced in Congress this week with bipartisan support.

I spoke this afternoon with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who will introduce a measure tomorrow or Wednesday, with GOP Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, that would impose much more serious penalties on so-called “straw purchasers” who currently get little more than a legal slap on the wrist for buying and reselling guns to those who fail background checks. Gillibrand believes this will be a very difficult proposal for Republicans to oppose, since it is designed only to target gun sales that are explicitly all about putting guns into the hands of those who presumably shouldn’t have them, having failed background checks.

“This piece is bipartisan already,” Gillibrand told me. “I think it has a great chance of success, because it doesn’t effect law abiding gun owners at all.”

Crucially, Gillibrand said she will be calling for a straight up or down vote juston this proposal. Just as a vote only on the universal background check piece would do, this will force Republicans — and red state Dems who are reportedly skittish about gun reform — to take a position directly on something that is only about keeping guns out of the hands of those who don’t have them. “Eighty five percent of weapons used in crimes in my state come from out of state and 90 percent of them are illegal,” Gillibrand said.

Pressed on whether the House GOP would really allow a vote on this provision, given GOP hostility to gun regulations, Gillibrand insisted it would, given that it should be a no brainer: “It’s a bill that can be significantly bipartisan.” She even said Kirk has been reaching out to some House Republicans to gauge support.

Safe to say if Republicans cannot bring themselves to defy the NRA and vote for this, there’s really no hope of any sensible gun policy whatsoever.  And to the gun nuts who would oppose such obviously sensible legislation– what the hell is wrong with you?!

I haven’t written about the new assault weapons ban proposal because I’m a slacker, but I think it will ultimately prove to be politically useful because it will allow various people to say they opposed new gun control by opposing it and allow Democrats to compromise by giving up on it while, hopefully, allowing more important legislation to go through.  From what I’ve read, the new ban is actually much smarter policy than the old one and would very likely actually save some lives.  Alas, far too many Americans love their AR-15’s more than they love other people’s children.

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