March 19, 2007


Caption: Ferdinand only obeys the goddess of love.

A long time ago on Saturday Night Live, Fr. Guido Sarducci talked about the Five Minute University, an educational program that would teach you what you'd remember after you graduated.

Sample: and demand.

In the spirit of Fr. Sarducci, if you ever had a psychology class or talked with someone you had, you would probably remember "some dude who told people to shock other people and they did."

That would be the late Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram, who, in light of the many atrocities of obedience in the 20th century, wondered how and under what conditions ordinarly people would follow orders to inflict harm on people they had nothing against.

Short answer: it was WAY easier than he initially thought.

To briefly recap, Milgram set up a situation in which subjects thought they were participating in an experiment on the relationship of punishment or negative reinforcement to learning. They were to give a task invovling word memory to a learner who was in fact an actor. Each time the learner/actor made a "mistake," the subjects were asked to give them an electric shock of steadily increasing severity.

According to the website, published by Dr. Thomas Blass,

He found, surprisingly, that 65% of his subjects, ordinary residents of New Haven, were willing to give apparently harmful electric shocks-up to 450 volts-to a pitifully protesting victim, simply because a scientific authority commanded them to, and in spite of the fact that the victim did not do anything to deserve such punishment.

(Blass, by the way, wrote a biography of Milgram cleverly titled The Man Who Shocked the World. That's going on my list.)

Milgram tried lots of variations of the experiment, but the above will do if you remember nothing else.

In addition to whatever topics emerge,El Cabrero is going to ponder the issue of obedience to authority, which has probably led to more atrocities and misery than all the crimes of "deviance."

SPEAKING OF (ERODING) AUTHORITY, a new poll released this weekend reveals a further drop in support for the war in Iraq. This weekend, thousands of Americans, including several hundred West Virginians, came together to protest Bush administration Iraq policy. El Cabrero took part in an event at the state capitol sponsored by WV Patriots for Peace, WV Citizen Action Group, and allied organizations.

(Once again, I didn't bring a camera. I keep forgetting that those things work with people too...)

MORE ON PRIVATIZATION AT WALTER REED. Here's a new item that came out yesterday that shows how the administration's mania for privatization eroded the quality of care at Walter Reed:

Documents from the investigative and auditing arm of Congress map a trail of bid, rebid, protests and appeals between 2003, when Walter Reed was first selected for outsourcing, and 2006, when a five-year, $120 million contract was finally awarded.

The disputes involved hospital management, the Pentagon, Congress and IAP Worldwide Services Inc., a company with powerful political connections and the only private bidder to handle maintenance, security, public works and management of military personnel.

While medical care was not directly affected, needed repairs went undone as the staff shrank from almost 300 to less than 50 in the last year and hospital officials were unable to find enough skilled replacements.

SELF ADMINISTERED FILM CRITICISM. I'm still getting used to having DSL, which is way cool. I admit that this short Ferdinand flick is not exactly Citizen Kane. They should get better though.



Anonymous said...

woa-- way cool video. Blessed be hight speed internet!

El Cabrero said...

Why thank you! High speed is the bomb, isn't it?