The Situationist discusses gift-giving and gift receiving. Dr. X adds that it isn't surprising that it can sometimes be quite difficult to find just the right gift. Like any human activity, gift-giving and receiving can carry multiple meanings -- some positive and some negative. The complexity of meaning expressed by a gift reflects the complex, often uneasy, intertwining of social relationships with our internal lives. There are situations in which giving or accepting a gift could be destructive, while in other circumstances giving and accepting gifts could be beneficial. And, the meanings could also be mixed, containing both good news and bad news for bearers and/or receivers. Consider that the narcissist's discomfort with the experience of need and gratitude might make it difficult for a narcissist to accept a gift. On the other hand, not receiving a gift might constitute a grave offense to the narcissist's sense of entitlement.
In an fMRI study appearing in PLOS ONE, neuroscientists report that repeated exposure to media depictions of violence diminished response in cortical networks associated with behavior regulation. Diminished response in these networks has been associated with decreased control over reactive aggression. H/T: Deric Bownds
Some notes on happiness atCognitive Daily:(1) while in general happiness is associated with earning more money, there is a decline in earnings at the highest level of happiness. (2) the very happiest people have lower levels of political involvement and education than people who are just moderately happy. (3) at the highest levels of happiness, people are significantly more likely to say they're involved in a stable romantic relationship, but unlike for income, there's no drop-off at the highest levels of happiness. ... So it seems that while in certain domains, such as education and income, more happiness isn't necessarily a good thing -- but in relationships, the happier we are, the better.Dr. X adds that there are a number of other ways to look at this. For example, while it could be that discontent drives political involvement and/or career ambition at the highest levels, it could also be that at a certain point, greater political involvement or more money (or what is required to earn more money) diminishes happiness.
the accumulating evidence suggests that physical characteristics do give clues about intelligence, that such clues are picked up by other people, and that these clues are also associated with beauty. H/T: Mindhacks
Government and politics in Illinois have been rife with corruption at all levels for as long as anyone here can remember. Last week, I wrote about recent corruption scandals at Illinois state universities. I also mentioned that three of the state's last seven governors have gone to prison on felony convictions (a fourth was tried and found not guilty). Now the feds led by Northern Illinois district prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald may be closing in on sitting governor Rod Blagojevich (D), according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.
Blagojevich (left) is a political mediocrity who owes his improbable rise to a combination of family connection, the misfortunes of scandal plagued (now jailed) Republican former governor George Ryan and a very flexible conscience that has landed him in more than a few scrapes that betray his sleaziness.
On the day after I wrote about corruption at Illinois universities, one of Blago's top advisers, Christopher Kelly, was indicted for tax evasion. Another Blago pal, real estate and pizza magnate Tony Rezko, goes on trial this coming spring. The indictments fit a pattern we've seen before in Illinois. The federal prosecutor takes down a politician's close associates, squeezing them until they turn on each other and their big shot patron.
An Obama Connection
Readers outside of Illinois may recognize the name, Tony Rezko. Rezko is a longtime Barack Obama friend and patron who made a shady real estate deal with the senator. Even though I prefer Obama to anyone else running on the Democratic side, I don't think the man is as clean as Joe Biden thinks he is. Besides the Rezko deal, there are Obama's ethically questionable investments and Michelle Obama's mind-blowing, overnight pay raise from $121,000/year to $316,000/year right after her husband was elected to the U.S. Senate. Her bosses said she deserved it. I guess they didn't notice that she deserved it until her husband became a U.S. Senator. It's not that anyone has suggested that accepting the raise violated the law, but it isn't exactly a sign of good ethical hygiene, either.
When people say that Obama transcends the usual divisive, partisan politics, they may not fully appreciate that it's because he cut his political teeth in Illinois where ideology and party affiliation are far less important than figuring out how to plug-in to what one Chicago columnist calls thecombine uniting politicians of both parties in a culture of corruption.
Anyway, it's easy when discussing one Illinois political scandal to spin off into discussion of other scandals because there are so many scandals and the characters can all be linked in a big game of six-degrees of the federal pen. Actually, it's a much easier game to play than the Kevin Bacon version because there are, at most, only one or two-degrees separating any Illinois pol from the federal inmate population.
Next up for federal prosecutors may be the most slippery Illinois politician of them all, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. They've been taking down his friends, but Daley, who was once the state's top prosecutor, always makes sure that he doesn't know anything about deals and the city money that falls from the sky all over the people standing close to him.
Last week we learned of another beneficiary of Richard Daley's ignorance, the mayor's son, Patrick Daley. In 2003, 27-year-old Patrick and a cousin, Robert Vanecko, invested in a sewer firm doing millions in business with the city. The problem is that the contractor illegally failed to disclose Daley family interests in a firm raking in cash from city contracts. Patrick Daley was conveniently unavailable for comment when the story broke last week. He is preparing to ship out for duty in the Middle East. The younger Daley, who was previously employed by a private equity firm, abruptly sold his interest in the sewer firm and enlisted in the military shortly after it became known in 2005 that federal prosecutors were investigating city contracts awarded to mayoral cronies.
If you really want to understand Illinois politics and Illinois politicians, think of the friendly relationship between Richard Daley (D-Chicago) and Jesse Jackson (D-Budweiser). In the right-wing media, the story is portrayed as a tale of Jackson's corruption, but it is more fundamentally about the way politics is conducted in Illinois. Jackson is silent on race politics when it comes to Chicago and Budweiser and the Jackson family lands a beer distributorship, a congressional seat and, more recently, an aldermanic seat. Jackson is just doing politics the way it's done in Illinois; he transcends the divisive approach whenever he's in town.
Update: Another Obama Connection
I seethat Daley cousin, Robert Vanecko, turns up in the news again today in this storyabout the transcendent Barack Obama's role in securing money from a charity for a development project that netted Obama's ex-boss, Allison Davis, $700,000 in consulting fees. Obama admits that he failed to inform the charity of his relationship with Davis when he voted to fund the Davis deal. According to the article, Vanecko [the undisclosed beneficiary of city sewer contracts] is a business partner of Obama's [undisclosed] ex-boss, Davis. Davis is also a business partner of... Tony Rezko.
Camp Lee, Virginia (1941). Click photos to enlarge.
England, 1942: Christmas card made with bullets. Click photo to enlarge.
You don't see the abbreviation Xmas much anymore. The Greek letter chi (X) was used as an abbreviation for Christ (Χριστός), although I suspect that most people didn't realize that. I guess those nuns taught us a few things, even if they frowned on the use of this shorthand for Christmas.
1942: M3 tank crew delivers gifts to English children.
Viewed separately, the incidents seemed relatively insignificant. Members of a Hasidic synagogue here wanted a neighboring YMCA to block or tint the windows of an exercise room used by women. A Muslim girl was barred from playing soccer for wearing a hijab on the field. And, in Quebec, some Muslims and Orthodox Jews refused to deal with police officers and physicians of the opposite sex.
Then came the decision in late January by Hérouxville, Quebec — a town of French-speaking Catholics — to create a code of conduct for immigrants that prohibited, among other things, the covering of women’s faces except for on Halloween and the use of public stoning as a form of punishment. This despite the fact that there are no Muslims in the town and no modern history of stonings.
Members of the 1st Army Battalion, 3rd Division , in Pietramelara, Italy (December 1943). Click photo to enlarge.
That fruitcake package in the foreground reminded me of something my my father once told me. He always enjoyed receiving packages from home, but his grandmother would send cookies that were absolutely inedible by the time they arrived. He and his pals would stage mock battles, hurling the cookies at one another.