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Monday, July 21, 2014

R. Buckminster Fuller > Quotes


R. Buckminster Fuller > Quotes > Quotable Quote

R. Buckminster Fuller

“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

R. Buckminster Fuller

Friday, July 18, 2014

Astronaut John Glenn at Cape Canaveral | NASA

Astronaut John Glenn at Cape Canaveral | NASA

ViralNova: These 20 Lethal Ladies Will Give You The Chills. Seriously Creepy.

These 20 Lethal Ladies Will Give You The Chills. Seriously Creepy.

July 16, 2014 Bizarre Culture  While it may be historically less common for you to find a woman making deadly headlines, the following ladies are all seriously lethal.

Over the centuries, these nightmare-makers tortured, maimed and ultimately killed anyone who stood in the way of what they wanted. And sometimes, they just really wanted to kill people. So disturbing.

1. Elizabeth Báthory: Largely considered the world’s most prolific female serial killer, the Hungarian countess murdered anywhere from 80-600 young girls that she lured to her castle. Witnesses at the time dubbed her the “Blood Countess” after claims of her eating the flesh and/or drinking the blood of her victims came to light.

2. Delphine LaLaurie: A Louisiana socialite in the mid-1820s, LaLaurie was notoriously cruel to her family’s slaves. Following a house fire, residents discovered dozens of gruesomely tortured, maimed, and starved slaves hidden in the attic. The family fled to Paris and never faced charges.

3. Lavinia Fisher: America’s first convicted female serial killer, Fisher poisoned and robbed from the guests in the Charleston, South Carolina hotel she ran with her husband. They were both hanged for their crimes in 1820.

4. Jane Toppan: A trained nurse, Toppan confessed to 31 murders in 1901. She conducted twisted experiments on her patients and confessed to getting a sexual thrill when they were near death.

5. Anna Marie Hahn: Sent to America by her embarrassed family in Poland after having a child out of wedlock, Hahn quickly found a husband and brought her son over to start their family together. However, she also had a gambling problem and began poisoning and robbing the elderly members of her community. After a sensational month-long trial, Hahn was sentenced to die in the electric chair in 1937.

6. Amelia Dyer: “The most prolific baby farm murderer of Victorian England.” Dyer provided housing for pregnant women and would originally attempt to place the children in adoption…or allow them to die of malnutrition. She eventually stopped bothering with the adoption and was convicted twice for neglect, hanged for her crimes in 1896.

7. Bertha Gifford: Acting as a caretaker in her community, Gifford poisoned a reported 17 people over a span of 21 years. After a trial in 1928, she was deemed not guilty due to insanity and spent the rest of her life in a Missouri mental hospital until her death in 1951.

8. Amy Archer-Gilligan: She and her first husband opened the Archer Home for the Elderly and Infirm in the early 1900s and quickly found a profit in murdering their patients with poison. After the death of her husband and a second husband, likely also poisoned, Archer-Gilligan gained sole profits from the murder of 60 patients in her care. Families began to get suspicious and she was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1919.

9. Belle Gunness: In the early 20th century, Gunness killed a string of over 40 suitors and husbands in order to collect their life insurance settlements. She found most of her victims through a personal ad she placed in the local paper.

10. The Angel Makers of Nagyrév: A group of women led by midwife Júlia Fazekas in a Hungarian village who, between 1914 and 1929, poisoned roughly 300 people. Fazekas encouraged the women to get rid of their family members because, as she said, “Why put up with them?”

11. Leonarda Cianciulli: After killing 3 women in Italy between 1939 and 1940, Cianciulli then used their dismembered bodies to create soaps and teacakes.

12. Nannie Doss: Apprehended after the death of her fifth husband, Doss had previously murdered two of her own children, two grandchildren, her for former husbands and elderly mother. She was finally discovered when she tried to collect two life insurance settlements on her final husband.

13. Judy Buenoano: Executed for the 1971 murder of her husband James Goodyear, Buenoano (a flimsy Spanish translation of “Goodyear” she began going by after John’s death) was also convicted for the murder of her son, Michael, and attempted murder of fiancé, John Gentry. All were found poisoned with arsenic.

14. Dorothea Puente: In the 1980s, Puente ran an elderly boarding house in California where she stole from, and eventually murdered, her tenants. Police found 7 bodies buried behind the property, most victims of poison. She was sentenced to life in prison and died in 2011.

15. Gwen Graham and Cathy Wood: The women met as nurses aides at the Alpine Nursing Home and began a romantic relationship where they conspired to smother 5 of the patients in order to form a stronger “love bond” between them. Wood’s ex-husband went to the police in 1988. Both women blamed the other for the murders, but Graham was eventually convicted of 5 counts of murder and sentenced to 5 consecutive life sentences. Wood made a plea bargain lessening her charge to one count of second degree murder and sentenced to 20 years. She is due to be released in 2021.

16. Janie Lou Gibbs: In the 1960s, Gibbs murdered her three sons, a grandson, and her husband using rat poison in order to collect on their life insurance. From 1966-197, she received $31,000 from the deaths and tithed 10 percent to her church.

17. Aileen Wuornos: The real-life inspiration behind Charlize Theron’s Oscar winning performance in Monster, Wuornos killed 7 men between 1989-1990. She was working as a prostitute and claimed the incidents happened in self-defense. Her first victim was a convicted rapist. She was sentenced to death and executed in 2002.

18. Genene Jones: Considered the inspiration for Kathy Bates’ character in Misery, Jones was a pediatric nurse in Texas where she used her position to inject the infants with drugs in order to nurse them back to health and receive praise. Though only one death was confirmed, she is likely responsible for the death of around 60 children.

19. Velma Barfield: She confessed to the murder of 6 people, beginning with her first husband and followed by her second husband, her mother, and two patients she worked with as an elderly caretaker and finally her boyfriend when she feared he had been catching on. Barfield was executed by lethal injection in 1984.

20. Mary Bell: At age 11, Bell strangled and mutilated two young boys, ages 3 and 4. Released from prison in 1980 at the age of 23, Bell has been living under court-protected anonymity.

(H/T: BuzzFeed.)

Wow, talk about some real life horror movie inspiration. I’ve got chills.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Other Date That Will Live in Infamy Posted by Sanford Rose on September 1, 2013 | The Weekly Hubris


The Other Date That Will Live in Infamy

Sanford Rose banner
Not the famous date, December 7, 1941. But another, July 30, 1914—one almost unknown but only slightly less momentous. That’s the day that Germany stops trying to cajole its ally, Austria, into adopting a more conciliatory stance toward Serbia. It is the last day to avoid World War I.” Sanford Rose
Dolors & Sense
By Sanford Rose
Kaiser Wilhelm.

Kaiser Wilhelm.

KISSIMMEE Florida—(Weekly Hubris)—9/2/2013—Not the famous date, December 7, 1941. But another, July 30, 1914—one almost unknown but only slightly less momentous.

That’s the day that Germany stops trying to cajole its ally, Austria, into adopting a more conciliatory stance toward Serbia. It is the last day to avoid World War I.

Not that Germany spends a lot of time in the business of urging conciliation. It spends only one day in that activity. It starts on July 29 and stops on July 30.

If all this sounds insane, it is, and the insanity is traceable to Kaiser Wilhelm, who is almost certainly bipolar, or, as it was described in his time, “maniacally depressed.”

Let’s briefly recapitulate:

On June 28, the Austrian archduke gets gunned down by Bosnian terrorists operating under the orders of the Serbian “Black Hand” and funded, incidentally, with Russian money.

The archduke is a friend of the kaiser, one of his few friends. The kaiser becomes enraged, rebuking his ambassador to Austria for urging the Austrians to be cautious in their reaction. No caution for him; he advocates rapid and draconian measures.

The Austrians, who cannot do anything rapidly, in part because they have to get the support of the Hungarians (the other half of the Dual Monarchy), wait until July 23 to send Serbia an ultimatum asking, among other things, for the right to participate in the investigation of, or even perhaps in the judicial proceedings against, the Serbian organizers of the assassination plot and of other anti-Austrian activities. Austria demands “integral” Serbian acceptance of the ultimatum.

Serbia asks Russia whether it should yield. Russia says: “No, we’ll protect you.”

Serbia yields on most but not all of the points in the ultimatum.

Austria severs diplomatic relations.

Russia starts preparing for war against Austria.

France, which is Russia’s ally, affirms that alliance.

Britain, which is France’s ally (although Britain’s leaders claim disingenuously that there is only an entente, not a pact), starts dropping hints that if France goes to war to support Russia, it will go to war to support France.

Suddenly, the kaiser, faced with the danger of a war against Russia, France, and Britain, and supported only by a militarily unreliable Austria, does an abrupt volte-face. He counsels moderation. In answer to an appeal from the Russian tsar that he mediate the dispute, he finds a settlement formula that would be agreeable to Britain and urges Austrian acceptance.

That’s on July 29. Then the kaiser gets a last-ditch telegram from the Russian tsar begging him to do something, lest war measures “agreed upon five days ago” go into effect.

The kaiser goes apoplectic, charging that the duplicitous tsar was mobilizing for days while at the same time urging his mediation.

Under such circumstances, says the huffy kaiser, he can’t continue mediating and urging restraint on the Austrians.

Thus an effort to make the Austrians compromise their differences with Serbia, which is prerequisite to halting Russian war preparations, abruptly stops. It starts late in the day on July 29. It ends in the afternoon of July 30. On August 1, Germany mobilizes.

“Whom the Gods would destroy . . . .”

About Sanford Rose

Sanford Rose, of New Jersey and Florida, served as Associate Editor of Fortune Magazine from 1968 till 1972; Vice President of Chase Manhattan Bank in 1972; Senior Editor of Fortune between 1972 and 1979; and Associate Editor, Financial Editor and Senior Columnist of American Banker newspaper between 1979 and 1991. From 1991 till 2001, Rose worked as a consultant in the banking industry and a professional ghost writer in the field of finance. He has also taught as an adjunct professor of banking at Columbia University and an adjunct instructor of economics at New York University. He states that he left gainful employment in 2001 to concentrate on gain-less investing. (A lifelong photo-phobe, Rose also claims that the head shot accompanying his Weekly Hubris columns is not his own, but belongs, instead, to a skilled woodworker residing in South Carolina.)
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5 Responses to The Other Date That Will Live in Infamy

  1. Tim Bayer says:
    I have always appreciated your succinct writing style. You grab onto complicated concepts; Banking, mortgages, medical discussions, economics and in your recent posts, the events surrounding World War, and break them down into concise chunks suitable for general consumption. Well done! Please keep up the fine complicated-to-understandable-language conversions.
    I, for one, appreciate the translations.
  2. S. Rose says:
    Kudos much appreciated.
  4. Danny M Reed says:
    Greetings Sanford Rose Sir,
    I have really believed for many years that if accurate historical details about the Great War and surrounding forces that contributed to the first World War in our history can be examined thoroughly, it could manifest profound answers to what has been happening ever since that time. It is said WWII was a continuation of the Great War. With the physical passing of that generation of people that lived it, I genuinely feel it is imperative that what you are publishing here be preserved.
  5. S. Rose says:
    You’re quite right. WWII was caused by WWI in two senses: First, because revanchism, which was a French attribute before WWI, became a German attribute after Versailles. And, second, because WWI, though not primarily a racist war, had undercurrents of racism–Germandom vs. Slavdom–which, after Germany’s defeat in WWI, could be, and indeed were, fully exploited by Hitler.
    There is also a close link between what happened then and what is happening now. The causal chain: defeat in WWI led to Hitlerism, which led to WWII, which led to the Holocaust, which led to the demand for a Jewish homeland, which led to Israel, which led to the Arab-Isreali conflict, which led to terrorist violence in the Mideast, exported whenever possible to other countries.

New Yorker: Love Transformed Me: Confessions of a Serially Monogamous Shape-Shifter Posted by Cirocco Dunlap

July 7, 2014

Love Transformed Me: Confessions of a Serially Monogamous Shape-Shifter

When you don’t have a constant physical form, it can be tricky to have a strong sense of self. As a shape-shifter, I’m constantly looking to others for validation, wondering, Will he think I’m more attractive as a cephalopod? Does being an arachnid make my legs look too numerous?

The first guy I really loved was a water beast. You know the Loch Ness “monster”? Krink was like him, but obviously younger. He was three or four centuries old, at most. He was very handsome, with the face of an anglerfish and the body of a beluga whale. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but that’s how he looked to me—not that physical appearance matters when it comes to romance. You know what they say: love looks not with the eyes but with an array of sensors along the body called “neuromasts.”

Soon after meeting Krink, I shape-shifted into a water beast and I moved into his cozy underwater cavern, in Lake George. For a while, things were wonderful. Krink’s laughter lit up the room. He was bioluminescent, so this was annoying when we were trying to hide from a predator. But right before he laughed he always made the cutest gargle-choke, which appeased both my anger and my pragmatic fear for our survival. On a typical day, we would gather moss in the morning and spend the next twenty-three hours not moving at the bottom of the lake. It was a comfortable relationship, but I eventually left him. He wanted a life partner, and I just wasn’t ready to commit for the next six thousand years.

I had been single for a few months when I met Rog. I’d travelled to the Himalayas in the hopes of getting some alone time, but my plans changed when I fell in with the tribe of the man-bears.

After I shifted into one of them, I was struck by how welcoming they were. Almost immediately, they cornered me and batted at me with their sharp claws to draw blood, which was a typical way to show affection in the tribe. Rog was the most brutal of the man-bears. He killed ruthlessly and without reason, so he was the majority choice for leader. Because he and I never went head to head in a death battle, I became his man-wife and co-king of the man-bears. It was a clan that consisted only of males, so, although I am a female, for this period in my life I identified as a male. Gender identity is even more confusing if you’re a shape-shifter. I left Rog soon after he ate his mother-father. I couldn’t forgive him for not saving me any of the leg bones.

I moved back home and planned to be a homebody for a while. I couldn’t date someone if I wasn’t going out, right? But, of course, that’s how I met Cleve, a ghost from 1813 who lived in my pantry. He had died in the War of 1812. He was so excited to get to the fight that he tripped on his unfastened shoe buckle and ran himself through with his own musket. He helped with the war as a ghost for a while, by knocking around wind chimes to creep out the other side, which was surprisingly effective. When the war ended, he lost his purpose and mostly took to moping.

After we met, he started to open up. He’d do small things, like heat his ethereal mass if we were in the same room so I wouldn’t feel pure terror. It was sweet. I shifted into a ghost frequently so we could swish our misty genitals together, and sneak into the neighbors’ house to watch their HBO Go. It was fun until he suddenly crossed over during a particularly bloody battle on “Game of Thrones.”

So here I am. Thirty-five, single, and doing well. I’m lonely sometimes, but it’s by choice. I’m trying to avoid the advances of the cute wood gnome who recently grew into a tree down the block. I want to take this time to figure out who I am. Am I the Cyclops I woke up as, or am I the winged horse I went to sleep as? Maybe I’m neither, but maybe—just maybe—I’m both.
Illustration by Warwick Goble.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cyanide and Happiness: One Question

Friday, July 4, 2014

Kuinka se menee? (Finnish for How Is It Going?)


America's Next Rocket | NASA

America's Next Rocket | NASA

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Galactic Pyrotechnics on Display | NASA

Galactic Pyrotechnics on Display | NASA

Liftoff! OCO-2 Heads to Orbit | NASA

Liftoff! OCO-2 Heads to Orbit | NASA Monkey Cage: On the ethics of Facebook experiments © 1996-2014 The Washington Post

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Monkey Cage
On the ethics of Facebook experiments
 By Timothy J. Ryan July 3 at 10:13
This January 30, 2014 file photo taken in Washington,DC, shows the splash page for the social media internet site Facebook. AFP PHOTO / Karen BLEIERKAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

Joshua Tucker: The following is a guest post from University of North Carolina political scientist Timothy J. Ryan.


Facebook found itself in the hot seat once again this week following the publication of a study that experimentally manipulated the content of more than 600,000 users’ newsfeeds. The study finds that increasing positive content in users’ newsfeeds makes them post more positive content themselves. Likewise, increasing the amount of negative content a user sees increases the number of negative posts.

The new study raised ethical concerns. (See here, here, here, and here.) In particular, commentators have objected that:
Facebook did not, except perhaps via an oblique reference in its terms of service, obtain informed consent from the users who were in the study
Its experiment might have caused users to feel emotional distress.

Some of the commentary has been alarmist. Writing in the New York Times, for instance, Jaron Lanier suggests that the Facebook study might have put someone’s suicidal leanings over the brink. He also equates the research to a pharmaceutical firm sneaking a drug into consumers’ drinks—a misleading analogy, as I explain below.

These are important concerns. With more and more tools to conduct experiments on a mass scale, it is worth having a conversation about how to protect subjects’ welfare. However, because the backlash has the potential to raise new obstacles to human subjects research, I wish to highlight three considerations that have been overlooked in the conversation about what Facebook did.

First, businesses conduct randomized tests similar to Facebook’s all the time. In the industry, it’s called A/B testing and is done with an eye toward increasing traffic, customer satisfaction or some other outcome. Google makes a popular application that lets almost anyone with a Web site do it. Facebook’s test is receiving scrutiny because of a seemingly noble additional step: It made the results of its proprietary research public. As University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers tweeted Wednesday, this heightened scrutiny for academic, compared to purely commercial research, creates a perverse incentive that pushes against publishing results for public benefit.

Second, there is a perception that all human subjects research requires informed consent, and that the university boards that approved the study were remiss not to require one. (See James Grimmelmann’s remark here). But this is inaccurate. In fact, consent requirements are calibrated to the potential risks and benefits of the study. (Michelle Meyer has an excellent post on the regulatory details here.) This flexibility is a good thing. Some important studies could never be carried out with a consent form that alerted subjects that they were being studied. One example is Robert Cialdini’s research, which tests how various nudges (e.g. a smiley face on an electric bill as a reward for lowering energy usage) encourage energy conservation, national park protection, and other pro-social behaviors. Within political science, Donald Green, Alan Gerber, and many others have conducted hundreds of field experiments on how to increase voter turnout, many of which could never have been run with an informed consent requirement.

What of balancing risks and benefits in the Facebook study? Judging by some reactions to the study, one might think that the “negativity” treatment was jarringly dark or disturbing. In fact, Facebook raised or lowered the probability of potential newsfeed items being displayed to a user, based on whether the item contained positive words (e.g. love, nice, sweet) or negative words (e.g. hurt, ugly, nasty). (The exact list of words used is proprietary, but there are some details here.) I think this approach would place the Facebook study comfortably in the lowest risk category — studies where “the probability and magnitude of harm or discomfort anticipated in the research are not greater in and of themselves than those ordinarily encountered in daily life.” Can we rule out the possibility that the study tipped someone, somewhere to commit suicide, as Jaron Lanier worries? We cannot, but the standard is not zero risk—there is no such thing—but rather mundane, everyday risk.

There is a good reason to allow at least some risk in human subjects research: The research generates benefits. In the case of the new Facebook study, it helps researchers understand how social comparisons influence people’s happiness. Where previous studies had suggested that seeing happy friends makes people sad (because they feel envious), the Facebook study adds an important counterpoint. Future work will have to untangle this apparent inconsistency, which we would never know about if the results had not been made public.

Third, it is important to remember that Institutional Review Boards are not the only constraint that applies to research. There are also legal constraints. This is what is inapt about Lanier’s “drug-in-drink” analogy. Putting aside the complex rules that regulate human subjects research, a person who ran a “drug-in-drink” study could be prosecuted for breaking the law. To my knowledge, nobody is arguing that Facebook broke any laws.

I am not an impartial participant in this discussion. I ran my own emotion-manipulating Facebook studies – related to political-advertising — years ago. (They generated no outcry that I heard about.) I purchased advertisements on the Web site and examined how the emotional content of the ads influenced click-through rates — the sort of research that nobody would bat an eye at if it were being done purely for business purposes. The work did not solicit informed consent from the subjects. (There were more than 4 million of them, so that would have been difficult, to put it mildly.) Nevertheless, it was approved by an Institutional Review Board. In addition to some of the factors above, my application for Institutional Review Board approval noted that Facebook users have an expectation that information on whether or not they click an ad goes to the ad purchaser. Other social scientists have fielded manipulations on Facebook without informed consent, too—see here and here—and we have learned from this research.

Subjects’ well-being should be at the forefront of any researcher’s mind, whether the research is academic, commercial or a hybrid. But we should pay attention to both risks and benefits, and we should think twice when academic researchers, who generate research for public consumption, are held to a higher standard than companies conducting research to help their bottom line.

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9:32 AM CDT
To my mind, the real ethical issue with Facebook's experiment is one that doesn't seem to have attracted anyone's attention. Facebook holds itself out as delivering your friends' posts. If it's limiting which posts you see, in this experiment to test consequences of positive versus negative posts, that's a breach of trust. Facebook's first ethical obligation is to deliver the service it claims to provide. That it failed to do.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Facebook's Sheryl Sandburg Apology Inspires New Emoticon

¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Let's see, that's:  \_("~)_/. Not quite. Back to the picture, I guess. There it is...

 And here is another after apparently changing:

Sheryl Sandberg Facebook study apology
Photo by Nadine Rupp/Getty Images

It's all Public Relations. You have to go to school for that. Why? Because We CAN! That's all it is!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

NY Times The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor Hobby Lobby Is Only the Beginning By PAUL HORWITZ JULY 1, 2014

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor
Hobby Lobby Is Only the Beginning



Credit Open, N.Y.
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Continue reading the main story

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — THE United States Constitution speaks of the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over “cases” and “controversies.” But when social controversies do come before the court, its powers are limited. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which concerned the dispute over the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, the court may have decided the case. The larger controversy, however, won’t be settled so easily.

By a 5-to-4 vote, the court on Monday held that the mandate, which requires employers to provide health insurance coverage for contraception, could not be applied to closely held for-profit corporations with religious objections to some forms of contraception. Religious groups described the mandate as part of a war on religious freedom. Supporters of the mandate countered that a victory for the plaintiffs would allow large corporations, under the cover of religious freedom, not just to impede women’s exercise of their reproductive rights but also to defy civil rights statutes with impunity.

Amid this heated talk, it was easy to lose sight of the fact that this was a statutory case, not a case decided under the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of religion. The statute in question, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, states that the government “shall not substantially burden” the exercise of religion without satisfying a demanding legal test.

It is worth noting that the act was championed by President Bill Clinton and passed in 1993, with near unanimity, by a Democrat-controlled Congress. The act was drafted in response to a controversial 1990 Supreme Court decision that made it easier — far too easy, according to critics of all political stripes — for the government to burden the exercise of religion.

The decision in Hobby Lobby was no shock to anyone familiar with the heavy weight that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act places on religious accommodation. The fate of the case was sealed 21 years ago — not by a slim majority of the court, but by virtually every member of Congress. In a dissenting opinion on Monday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued that the court’s ruling in Hobby Lobby was one of “startling breadth,” but the statute itself is deliberately broad.

So why all the shouting? If the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is clearly written, and the product of a democratic process, what explains the apocalyptic rhetoric surrounding this case? In truth, the sources of the controversy lie outside the issue of the contraceptive mandate itself. And that should be great cause for concern — to both sides of the debate.

The first source of controversy is the collapse of a national consensus on a key element of religious liberty: accommodation. Throughout American history, there has been widespread agreement that in our religiously diverse and widely devout country, it is good for the government to accommodate religious exercise. We have disagreed about particular accommodations (may a Muslim police officer wear a beard, despite police department policy?), and especially about whether religious accommodations should be ordered by judges or crafted by legislators. But we have generally agreed that our nation benefits when we help rather than burden those with religious obligations. That consensus seems, quite suddenly, to have evaporated.

Continue reading the main story

A second source of controversy is that many people view the Hobby Lobby case as concerning not just reproductive rights but also, indirectly, rights for gays and lesbians. Advocates for same-sex marriage have long insisted that their own marriages need not threaten anyone else’s, but citizens with religious objections to same-sex marriage wonder whether that is entirely true: Will a small-business owner be sued, for instance, for declining to provide services to a same-sex couple? Conversely, and understandably, gay and lesbian couples wonder why they do not deserve the same protections from discrimination granted to racial and other minorities. For both sides, Hobby Lobby was merely a prelude to this dawning conflict. Continue reading the main story

The third source of controversy is a change in our views of the marketplace itself. The marketplace was once seen as place to put aside our culture wars and engage in the great American tradition of buying and selling. The shopping mall has even been called the “American agora.” But today the market itself has become a site of cultural conflict. Hobby Lobby is one of many companies that seek to express faith commitments at work as well as at home and that don’t see the workplace as a thing apart from religion. Many companies preach and practice values, religious and otherwise, that are unrelated to market considerations. CVS, for example, recently announced that it would stop selling tobacco products, regardless of how that decision might affect its bottom line.

A country that cannot even agree on the idea of religious accommodation, let alone on what terms, is unlikely to agree on what to do next. A country in which many states cannot manage to pass basic anti-discrimination laws covering sexual orientation is one whose culture wars may be beyond the point of compromise. And a nation whose marketplace itself is viewed, for better or worse, as a place to fight both those battles rather than to escape from them is still less likely to find surcease from struggle.

Expect many more Hobby Lobbies.

Paul Horwitz, a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law, is the author of “First Amendment Institutions.”

A version of this op-ed appears in print on July 2, 2014, on page A25 of the New York edition with the headline: Hobby Lobby Is Only the Beginning. Order Reprints|Today's Paper|Subscribe

PsyBlog: Why Jerks Don’t Know They’re Jerks

Why Jerks Don’t Know They’re Jerks  
How assertive should you be?

Many people are very poor at judging how assertive they should be in business negotiations, a new study finds, which may make them look like jerks or pushovers.

The research, which is published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, examined one of the basic challenges of assertiveness at work and in life (Ames & Wazlawek, 2014).

Lead author Professor Daniel Ames explains:

“Finding the middle ground between being pushy and being a pushover is a basic challenge in social life and the workplace.

We’ve now found that the challenge is compounded by the fact that people often don’t know how others see their assertiveness.”

In one of four studies they carried out, MBA students engaged in mock business negotiations.

Afterwards, each rated their own and the other person’s assertiveness.

They were also asked to guess what the other person in the negotiation had said about them.

It turned out that participants’ self-awareness was remarkably low:

57% of people seen by others as under-assertive thought they’d been appropriately assertive or even over-assertive.
56% of people who were seen as over-assertive actually thought they’d been appropriately assertive or even under-assertive.

Ames concluded:

“Most people can think of someone who is a jerk or a pushover and largely clueless about how they’re seen.

Sadly, our results suggest that, often enough, that clueless jerk or pushover is us.”
Line crossing illusion

There was another nice finding from the study for those who did actually get their level of assertiveness right.

When Ames and Wazlawek looked at the people who were rated by others as having the ideal level of assertiveness, these people were convinced they’d been pushing too hard!

This was a pattern that emerged across multiple studies: many people thought they’d crossed the line in negotiation, when in fact they hadn’t, it was an illusion.

Feeling they’d crossed the line was particularly dangerous for negotiators because then they started trying to repair the damage they thought they had done.

This tended to lead to worse deals for both parties involved.

As so often in life, we frequently operate in the dark, without a good read on how we are perceived by others.

To avoid being seen as a jerk, or even a pushover, it’s vital to get some feedback from others — or better still some training — that will enable you to better see how you are coming across.

Image credit: Dave Appleby

PsyBlog: Could Playing Immoral Video Games Promote Good Behaviour in The Real World? (Can Doing Bad Things Make You Good? WT?)

Could Playing Immoral Video Games Promote Good Behaviour in The Real World?  
Could violent video games make you a more caring person, at least initially?

Breaking your moral code in a virtual environment may counter-intuitively encourage more sensitivity to these kinds of violations in the real world, a new study finds.

The study, which is published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, suggests violent video games make their players feel guilty for their moral indiscretions (Grizzard et al., 2014).

Matthew Grizzard, who led the study, said:

“Rather than leading players to become less moral, this research suggests that violent video-game play may actually lead to increased moral sensitivity.

This may, as it does in real life, provoke players to engage in voluntary behavior that benefits others.”

Participants in the study played a first-person shooter video game in one of two conditions:

“…participants in the guilt condition played as a terrorist soldier, while participants in the control condition played as a UN soldier.

The game itself informed participants of their character’s motivations to ensure that the experimenter did not bias result.” (Grizzard et al., 2014).

The researchers expected that people would feel guilty when playing the game as a terrorist, but not when they played as a peacekeeper.

Grizzard said:

“…an American who played a violent game ‘as a terrorist’ would likely consider his avatar’s unjust and violent behavior — violations of the fairness/reciprocity and harm/care domains — to be more immoral than when he or she performed the same acts in the role of a ‘UN peacekeeper.’”

Afterwards players were given tests of their moral feelings and how guilty they felt.

Grizzard explained the results:

“We found that after a subject played a violent video game, they felt guilt and that guilt was associated with greater sensitivity toward the two particular domains they violated — those of care/harm and fairness/reciprocity.”

This is not the first study to reach these conclusions.

Several studies have found that immoral virtual behaviours elicit real-world feelings of guilt — how long this guilt lasts, though, is not clear.

These studies can’t tell us what the long-term effects of these types of games are.

It may be that…

“…guilt resulting from playing as an immoral character may habituate from repeated exposures.

Under these conditions, we might expect that repeated play would not lead a gamer to become more sensitive to fairness or become more caring overall…” (Grizzard et al., 2014)

So while playing Grand Theft Auto — a game attacked for glamourising violence — may make you feel guilty the first couple of times, you may soon get used to to it.

Image credit: Steven Andrew Red Fortress: History and Illusion in the Kremlin Author: Catherine Merridale

Today's selection -- from Red Fortress by Catherine Merridale. In 1812, Napoleon invaded Moscow, only to find the city abandoned, and then set on fire by Moscow's leaders -- a brilliant and completely unexpected defensive move. A six-day blaze then destroyed the city along with any food and treasure that might have been used to supply the French troops. At this pivotal moment Napoleon delayed -- one of the most disastrous decisions of his career with the Russian winter approaching -- and thus sealed the doom of his army:

"[As Napoleon's Grand Armée approached], Moscow was now almost defenceless. [Moscow city leader Fedor] Rostopchin still averred that it would stand, but even as he spoke, the order had been given to pack and evacuate the city's historic treasures. Jewels, icons and gold from the Kremlin were carted south and east to the Volga and Vladimir; other items, including parts of the Chudov Monastery archive, were interred underneath the Kremlin walls. But there was very little time. On 13 September, as some of his aides were preparing to engage with the French again, [Russian military leader Prince Mikhail] Kutuzov announced his decision to abandon the old capital. 'Moscow is not the whole of Russia,' he explained. 'To save Russia we need an army; to save the army we must give up the idea of defending Moscow.' ...

"Among [Rostopchin's] final acts was an order to withdraw the fire-brigade and sink the city's fleet of fire-boats. He also had the prison-gates unlocked, and the upshot was a night of looting, the scale of which remains unknowable. ...

"For the soldiers in the Grande Armée, however, those residences still seemed good enough. Many officers were so confident about the pleasures ahead that they had packed their bags with evening dress. ...

"Here at last was a cause in which exhausted soldiers could believe, a reward equal to the price in blood and effort and months on the road. Napoleon, no stranger to the capture of great cities, paused to await the usual delegation. It was only after a long interval, when no-one turned up with the city's keys, with bread and salt, that the depth of Moscow's silence started to impinge. ... The throne was still in place, he found, and even the Kremlin's innumerable clocks were ticking. 'The city is as big as Paris,' the emperor wrote is wife. It seemed 'provided with everything'.

"That very night, however, the picture changed. While Napoleon rested in the Kremlin, surrounded by the flower of his army, his sentries on the high brick walls noticed a new glow in the Moscow dark. There had been several small fires since the French arrived, and each had been blamed on the carelessness of troops. This time, by almost all accounts, the blaze was being set deliberately, a co-ordinated campaign of arson that made the best use of an equinoctial wind. ... In the space of an hour or less, the blaze turned to a steady roar, punctuated by explosions and the clatter of collapsing masonry and metal roofs. The French emperor and his aides were in acutest peril, for there were still explosives in the Kremlin arsenal, and they themselves had recently brought a battery of artillery into the fortress stationing it, for safety, under the palace windows. For a whole night and through the next morning, the future of Napoleon's campaign, and his very life, depended on the vagaries of airborne sparks.

"For some hours, the emperor stayed in his palace suite, pacing the wooden floors and watching through each window as he passed. The longed-for treasure shrivelled up before his eyes; he cursed the Russians for their barbarism. Despite entreaties from his aides, however, he refused to make an early move. By the night of 15 September, as one of his officers recalled, the firestorm was so bright outside that it was possible to read by its light without the need for oil lamps. But the next day was the worst of all. Even Napoleon could not hold out when the Krernin arsenal finally caught fire. A decision was taken to withdraw, to make for the Petrovsky Palace on the Petersburg road. By this time, however, the citadel, as Ségur wrote, was 'besieged by an ocean of fire'. ...

"The French elite escaped that day, helped by a local man who knew the routes, but thousands of others remained trapped, condemned to the most cruel death. ... After six days of fire, the worst Moscow had ever seen, strings of pitiful figures, as insubstantial as ghosts, emerged into the wreckage of their city. Even when the smoke had cleared, the ruins stank of rot and soot and death; the stench was nauseating several miles away. There was scarcely a green leaf anywhere, hardly a tree to punctuate the horizon. A bitter economics ruled. Anyone could snatch a fine snuffbox or set of silver spoons, but food of any kind was almost unobtainable. In the fields beyond Moscow, groups of French troops built their campfires out of mahogany furniture and gilded window-frames. When it was time to eat, however, their only hope was rotten horseflesh.

"Napoleon moved back to the [Kremlin] on 18 September. His mood had soured, and two days later, his bulletin announced that 'Moscow, one of the most beautiful and wealthy cities of the world, exists no more.' Despite that loss, however, the Corsican persisted with a doomed attempt to build some kind of life among the ruins. Though almost none of the local population supported it, a Moscow government was decreed, with orders to collect the corpses and maintain the peace. Theatrical performances were commissioned, and concerts, featuring an Italian soloist with piano accompaniment, were held in the Kremlin palace to help pass the nights.The decision to indulge in makeshift luxury, bizarre enough at any time, turned out to be one of the most disastrous of Napoleon's entire career. As the milder days of autumn faded, so did the last options for the French. Napoleon could surely not have hoped to feed and lodge his army in this city through the winter. There was almost no fodder for the vast stable of horses, either. A retreat was inevitable, and the sooner it began, as Napoleon himself later conceded, the better his army's chances would have been. For now, however, the general sulked, spending long hours over his food and settling his stout frame along a damask-covered chaise, novel in hand, throughout the heavy interval of afternoon."

Red Fortress: History and Illusion in the Kremlin
Author: Catherine Merridale

Publisher: Metropolitan Books a Henry Hold and Company, LLC
Copyright 2013 by Catherine Merridale
Pages: 210 - 214
If you wish to read further: Buy Now

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