Quick hits





But what makes Rand interesting has never been her work, which is universally middling. Instead, it’s the reactions her work inspires, especially from the kind of socially awkward white men who seem disproportionately drawn to libertarianism and for whom Rand is a mascot of sorts. The Randian view of the world is pitiless, cruel—”Whenever there’s a sneer of disgust at the disadvantaged, the ghost of Rand is hovering near,” Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig writes in The New Republic.









And because of this new evidence of the serious ramifications of loneliness, some researchers are investigating what it is, exactly, that makes lonely people stay lonely. In particular, could some behavior be at the root of their isolation? One long-held theory has been that people become socially isolated because of their poor social skills — and, presumably, as they spend more time alone, the few skills they do have start to erode from lack of use. But new research suggests that this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the socially isolated. Lonely people dounderstand social skills, and often outperform the non-lonely when asked to demonstrate that understanding. It’s just that when they’re in situations when they need those skills the most, they choke.





What the 8th Circuit panel did yesterday goes far beyond admitting evidence from a discredited “expert” or two, willing to testify to conclusions that have been long debunked by serious scientific and medical organizations. This court actually usedthat faux science—without testing or weighing it or even allowing it to be evaluated at trial—to advance their argument that Roe and Casey are bad law because they just don’t like them. They would just take the assertions of “one doctor” and “one woman” as proof that abortions are bad and states should regulate them however and whenever they see fit. For all their alleged faults, Roe and Casey represented judicial attempts to calibrate the complex and competing interests of medical science, state interests, pregnant women, and the unborn fetuses they carried. They were not a series of Post-it notes from one side of the abortion debate.




http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/donald-trump-joseph-mccarthy/399056/ Beinart on Trump and Joe McCarthy?  They are both opportunists.





What is worse, though, is the corollary to Trump’s smugness: his open disdain for people who aren’t fortunate. Being poor, he suggests, is as much the fault of poor people as being rich is entirely to his own credit. If they are not rich, then they are losers—and Trump knows what he thinks about losers. Luntz had originally brought up the war-hero point to ameliorate Trump’s comment that, although he had raised money for McCain’s 2008 Presidential campaign—“a million dollars!”—he had “never liked him much after that, ’cause I don’t like losers.” The contempt he has for undocumented immigrants or for a child in a rough neighborhood is of the same species as that he exhibited toward McCain. He likes the people who aren’t struggling. The other Republican Presidential candidates are now trying to distance themselves from Trump’s slurs against prisoners of war; they have been slow to do the same when it comes to his comments about Hispanics and immigrants and a half dozen other groups. They also need to look at how an unexamined affinity for the wealthy has become part of the G.O.P.’s ethos, too.









What’s fascinating is that Kahneman’s work explicitly swims against the current of human thought. Not even he believes that the various flaws that bedevil decision-making can be successfully corrected. The most damaging of these is overconfidence: the kind of optimism that leads governments to believe that wars are quickly winnable and capital projects will come in on budget despite statistics predicting exactly the opposite. It is the bias he says he would most like to eliminate if he had a magic wand. But it “is built so deeply into the structure of the mind that you couldn’t change it without changing many other things”.



So Bush has managed to clear the ankle-high bar of looking relatively adult in the quadrennial freak show known as the Republican primary. This is not the same, however, as demonstrating that his ideas are particularly thoughtful or moderate. While he breaks with his party’s rabid base on immigration and education, when it comes to the all-important issues regarding the size and role of government, his positions seem to be GOP boilerplate mixed with a dash of hardcore conservative fantasy, all dressed up with some rhetorical gimmicks. Bush might be the grown-up in the room. But you have to consider the room.




Real science fiction is about ideas, which means that real science fiction is rarely seen on movie screens, a commercially minded canvas that’s more at ease with sensation and spectacle. What you more often get from movies is something that could be called “science fiction-flavored product”—a work that has a few of the superficial trappings of the genre, such as futuristic production design and somewhat satirical or sociological observations about humanity, but that eventually abandons its pretense for fear of alienating or boring the audience and gives way to more conventional action or horror trappings, forgetting about whatever made it seem unusual to begin with.

“Ex Machina,” the directorial debut by novelist and screenwriter Alex Garland (“28 Days Later,” “Sunshine”), is a rare and welcome exception to that norm.





Photo of the day

Love this inventive gallery of Star Wars Storm Troopers doing cool things:

CSI: Death Star by Julia Vazquez on 500px


You are an experiment

Loved James Hamblin on the misguided-ness of GMO labeling.  Here’s his awesome conclusion:

Long-term effects of introducing certain crops into certain ecosystems, and the business practices with which they are grown and sold, are enormously important and remain to be seen and carefully considered. Some effects of agriculture will be desirable, some untoward, and effects of both kinds will come from crops that run the gamut of what has been “modified” by human intervention, and to what degree. But “GMO-free” does not mean fair trade, and it does not mean sustainable, and it does not mean monoculture-averting, and it does not mean rainforest-enabling, and it does not mean labor-friendly, and it does not mean healthy, though it puffs its chest and carries itself alongside those claims. Activists march with signs that say “I AM NOT AN EXPERIMENT.” But the state of having 7 billion food-consuming humans on this planet—6 billion more than there were two centuries ago—is an unprecedented experiment.

It’s because of this meaninglessness, and fear perpetuated by a “natural” food industry, that a right to know is in this case a right to be misled. And this act continues to give food companies the right to tout and sell “GMO-free” as some halo of wholesome virtue, which would be lovely and elegant if it meant progress toward sustainably feeding the world healthful food, but it does not.

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