In 498 CE, after rival church factions elected two bishops of Rome -- Symmachus and Lawrence, Theodoric the Great picked Symmachus to assume the papacy, a decision he soon came to regret. There were numerous scandals associated with Pope St. Symmachus (498-515), including rumors of a sexual relationship with a woman known around town as 'Conditaria' (Spice Girl).
from Raymond Davis: The Book of Pontiffs, The Ancient Biographies of the First 90 Roman Bishops to AD 715.
Asked by Fortune Magazine about the political impact of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil, McCain strategist Charlie Black replied: "Certainly it would be a big advantage to him (McCain)."
Obama's spokesman Bill Burton sharply criticized Black's response: "The fact that John McCain's top adviser says that a terrorist attack on American soil would be a 'big advantage' for their political campaign is a complete disgrace, and is exactly the kind of politics that needs to change."
Yeah, the health of our political system rests on the ability of campaign aides to dodge gotcha questions from reporters and take false umbrage when their opponents slip up and tell the truth.
This is the front page of the redesigned Orlando Sentinel. It looks just like the management company newsletter at my office building.
I hit the Sentinel's website and scanned a few articles. The stories are so brief you could almost pick up as much information watching cable newscrawl.
The Sentinel is owned by the Tribune Company, which is drastically overhauling its newspaper business under new owner Sam Zell. With readership and revenue way down, we will continue to see some interesting things from the papers that survive.
Chris Kanan (UCSD) has developed an online version of a dual N-back game aimed at increasing fluid intelligence by increasing working memory and attentional capacities. Whether fluid intelligence can actually be improved is a hot topic with tremendous implications. But beyond the possibility of increasing fluid intelligence, the idea of assessing and targeting specific cognitive bottlenecks is a fascinating subject with real life implications for many people suffering cognitive impairments (See, for example, work being done by Michael Merzenich at UCSF).
I'm familiar with some of the issues and questions, but far from well-versed in the subject. Rather than present a discussion of the issues, something others are much better prepared to do, I'll just link you over to Chris's online memory and attention training task. Be sure to read the instructions carefully and give it a try. It's challenging and fun. The idea is to work at it over time and progress to higher levels.
The Washington Post reports on a recent study linking bumper stickers and road rage. The authors of the study speculate that bumper stickers are territorial markers and that aggressive driving and road rage are "confused" expressions of territorial defense. Here is the abstract from that study:
Territorial Markings as a Predictor of Driver Aggression and Road Rage
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Vol 38 (6) p1664-1688, June 2008
William J. Szlemko, Jacob A. Benfield, Paul A. Bell, Jerry L. Deffenbacher, Lucy Troup
Aggressive driving has received substantial media coverage during the past decade. We report 3 studies testing a territorial explanation of aggressive driving. Altman (1975) described attachment to, personalization of, and defense of primary territories (e.g., home) as being greater than for public territories (e.g., sunbathing spot on a beach). Aggressive driving may occur when social norms for defending a primary territory (i.e., one's automobile) become confused with less aggressive norms for defending a public territory (i.e., the road). Both number of territory markers (e.g., bumper stickers, decals) and attachment to the vehicle were significant predictors of aggressive driving. Mere presence of a territory marker predicts increased use of the vehicle to express anger and decreased use of adaptive/constructive expressions.
Consider an alternative explanation for the association between bumper stickers and road rage. Bumper stickers might actually be markers of narcissism.
Narcissists feel a heightened need to be seen and recognized for their uniqueness and superiority. Bumper stickers afford a narcissistic car owner just such an opportunity. Narcissists may invest in the specialness of their tastes, their moral sensibilities, their group affiliations, their intellect, their politics, their humor, their children, their school or their team -- anything that they believe marks them as superior to others. But for the narcissist, it is not enough to merely feel this way. Others must recognize the narcissist's superiority. While bumper stickers generally fail to impress the average person, they are, potentially, markers and badges of personal superiority for narcissists who display them.
Why would narcissism also be associated with road rage?
The narcissist's psychic survival depends upon a heavily-defended sense of superiority. When the actions of others defeat those defenses, the narcissist is filled with humiliation and rage. A psychologically wounded narcissist becomes consumed with fantasies of retaliation aimed at restoration of the sense of superiority.
Driving is fraught with experiences that disaffirm any pretensions to superiority. Other drivers whiz past us, grab parking spaces we hoped to get, fail to grant right of way, drive too slowly or too fast -- all of these are potentially enraging to the narcissist whose sense of superiority is insulted by other drivers who fail to appreciate the special deference the narcissist requires. The subjective sense of psychic threat from these failures of deference is so great that the narcissist's momentary need to retaliate supersedes reasonable considerations for physical safety.
But the problem doesn't just occur when the narcissist is wronged in some objective sense. Narcissists are highly reluctant to take full or even partial responsibility for commonplace errors. So, the narcissist rages at the driver that he just cut off or gives the finger to someone he just beat to a parking space. If there is a conflict or a dispute, it can never be explained by the narcissist's fallibility. It's always the other guy's fault.
I find much of the conservative commentary on Obama -- the Wright stuff and the whitey stuff -- to be more revealing of the writer's sleaziness than it is revealing about Obama. But in an excellent piece in today's NY times, David Brooks gets what most of them miss: a quiet ruthlessness lies in the shadows of Obama's graceful, eloquent exterior. While I disagree with Brooks's "Fast-Eddie" characterization (Fast Eddie Vrdolyak was out for nothing but personal financial enrichment), his observations are otherwise reasonably fair and on target. Just as Obama's Democratic opponents grossly underestimated him, conservatives continue to underestimate Obama.
As do I, Brooks finds Obama's ruthless pragmatism somewhat disconcerting, yet he appreciates that Obama could end up being one of the most effective foreign policy presidents we have seen in some time. Notwithstanding the obvious stylistic contrasts, there's a certain amount of Nixon in Obama -- the ruthlessly pragmatic, street-smart Nixon who, for example, could effectively engage the ruthless communist leadership in China. Like Nixon, Obama would be the anti-Dubya of foreign policy. He would seriously attempt to understand his enemies and proceed unsentimentally from that understanding. If he is elected, I'm sure Obama will take plenty of positions I don't like, but maybe he is just the kind of president we need at this moment in our history.
As they continue to fire racist spitballs at Obama, one thing apologists for Rovian tactics are going to come to despise about him is that Obama won't lay down and die as other Democrats have. Obama has dealt with their kind of trash all his life. They may yet find out that scalding hot latte burns like the devil even when it's tossed on you with panache.