December 21, 2013

Annals of paranoia

Here's the latest from the realm of Whack. A conservative website has found further proof that President Barack Obama is a communist. So that explains why the stock market is doing so well...

The evidence proof? The writer opines that Obama's daughter Sasha's real name is Natasha, which is obviously Russian. I guess the fact that Sasha was born 10 years after the collapse of communism in the former USSR only proves how devious these guys are. Besides, we all know that anyone named Natasha has to be a pinko.

But I'll do him one better. Sasha was actually the nickname of V. I. Lenin's brother Alexander, who was executed by the czarist government for his revolutionary activities in 1887. Some people believe the failure of Sasha's anarchist friends to unsettle the government ultimately inspired him to create the Bolshevik party.

Hmmmm....I guess now we need to decode Malia.

December 20, 2013

December 19, 2013

The better angels

One recent book that has made a huge impression on me (and to which I may devote some serious blogging at some point) is Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature, which is about the world-historic decline in violence over much of human history, as hard as that may be to believe.

Pinker kicks over an idol in that book which was long overdue for smashing: the idea that we were nicer 100,000 or so years ago than we are today. That bogus myth was a mainstay of bad social science for a good while but it no longer holds up.

According to that bogus myth, early humans were peaceful and holistic (if not dietary vegans) while modern humans were warlike and violent.Short version: good then, bad now.

A closer examination of the evidence of history, archaeology, and evolutionary science suggests that Hobbes was closer to being right than those with a more optimistic view of "original" human nature. For most early humans, life probably really was "nasty, brutish, and short."

Undoubtedly many more individuals died violently in the 20th century than in ancient hunter/gatherer times. But, taken as a percentage of the population, the rate of violent deaths may actually have declined.

In other words, sad as it may seem, we may actually be getting nicer.

December 18, 2013

A moment I'm glad to have missed

El Cabrero has been devouring recorded books at an alarming rate lately. Almost anything will do. To give just one example of how desperate I am for listening material, I'm about to finish a book about the typhus epidemic in Napoleon's army during its invasion of Russia in 1812.

Hot damn!

(It's titled The Illustrious Dead: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon's Greatest Army by Stephen Talty. And it's actually a good read. Or listen, as the case may be.)

It's full of battle scenes, lice, hospitals, fevers, amputations, antiquated medical practices and all kinds of jolly stuff. But mostly what I got out of it is that I am SOOOO glad I wasn't part of any army that invaded Russia and had the misfortune not to get out of Dodge (or Moscow) before things got cold. There is no comparison between the WV winter and that of Russia, but I've got all I can handle here, even without lice and angry Russians.

So there's that anyway.

BACK TO BUSINESS. Maybe the best that can be said about the budget deal that the US Senate passed today was that it could have been worse. Here's another look. At least it didn't involve a whole lot of lice, an epidemic, being stuck in Russia in winter without food or supplies, or cannibalism.

Stay warm.

December 17, 2013

The new face of coal?

For 10 years or more, Don Blankenship was, or tried to be, the face of West Virginia's coal industry.  It looks like there may be a new contender for that gig. I was kind of hoping the vacancy would last longer.

WOULD THAT IT WERE SO. This writer predicts that 2014 will be a year of economic populism. I'm not sure I'm that optimistic.

LET THE DEAD BURY THEIR DEAD? Neanderthals didn't.


December 16, 2013

Four for the road

El Cabrero is feeling a bit overwhelmed lately. I thought things were supposed to slow down for the holidays...

Anyway, here are some items worth a look:

LOW WAGE NATION. Here's a look at how we got there.

TALKING BUT NOT WALKING. Here's E.J.Dionne on some real family values.

INEQUALITY. It matters.

WEIRD BUT COOL. Water jets seem to be spurting from one of the moons of Jupiter.