Sunday, November 22, 2015

Items That Caught My Eye on 11-22-15

Recently, The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and Sleep Research Society (SRS) reached a consensus that recognized that while individual needs for sleep vary, most adults should get seven or more hours of sleep to avoid the health risks of inadequate sleepAccording to Dr. Rosenberg, one of the most common misconceptions he encounters from the general public is that older people need less sleep.

Older folks’ sleep cycles shift, rather than shrink. “Their circadian rhythm change in a way that makes them more prone to sleeping earlier than usual, which explains why we see the elderly have a tendency to fall asleep while watching television or have 4 p.m. 

U.S. refugee policy dates to the end of World War II. During the 1930s and 1940s, the nation turned away thousands of Jews fleeing the Third Reich, even though our immigration quotas remained unfilled . Politicians justified their actions by arguing that German spies and subversives might be hiding among the refugees, but anti-Semitism was the more likely motivation for American neglect.

In 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower had to convince a wary American public that it was in the national interest to accept Hungarian refugees. A Hungarian rebellion against Soviet domination had elicited a brutal crackdown that forced more than 200,000 refugees into Austria and Yugoslavia and destabilized two countries still reeling from World War II. Opponents argued that communist spies and saboteurs would arrive with the refugee flow and harm the nation. 

Luckily, we now know for sure when old age begins. The Mirror reports that, in a survey of 2,000 Britons, 68 is the true age at which middle age ends and "old age" begins.


All thinking is wishful thinking.

You only really discover the strength of your spine when your back is against the wall.

Money is poor compensation for all of the time we lose in making it.

Image trumps information.

The best response to a great performance is not applause but silence.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Paul Krugman: The Farce Awakens

What the hell is wrong with this country? The hysteria after the Paris terror attacks have brought out the worst in many of our citizens and certainly among the leading candidates in the Republican party. I could not agree more with Mr. Krugman's article shown in its entirety below...

Erick Erickson, the editor in chief of the website, is a serious power in right-wing circles. Speechifying at RedState’s annual gathering is a rite of passage for aspiring Republican politicians, and Mr. Erickson made headlines this year when he disinvited Donald Trump from the festivities.

So it’s worth paying attention to what Mr. Erickson says. And as you might guess, he doesn’t think highly of President Obama’s antiterrorism policies.
Still, his response to the attack in Paris was a bit startling. The French themselves are making a point of staying calm, indeed of going out to cafes to show that they refuse to be intimidated. But Mr. Erickson declared on his website that he won’t be going to see the new “Star Wars” movie on opening day, because “there are no metal detectors at American theaters.”

It’s a bizarre reaction — but when you think about it, it’s part of a larger pattern. These days, panic attacks after something bad happens are the rule rather than the exception, at least on one side of the political divide.

Consider first the reaction to the Paris attacks. Lightsabers aside, are Mr. Erickson’s fears any sillier than those of the dozens of governors — almost all Republicans — who want to ban Syrian refugees from their states?
Mr. Obama certainly thinks they’re being ridiculous; he mocked politicians who claim that they’re so tough that they could stare down America’s enemies, but are “scared of widows and orphans.” (He was probably talking in particular about Chris Christie, who has said that he even wants to ban young children.) Again, the contrast with France, where President Fran├žois Hollande has reaffirmed the nation’s willingness to take in refugees, is striking.

And it’s pretty hard to find anyone on that side of the aisle, even among seemingly respectable voices, showing the slightest hint of perspective. Jeb Bush, the erstwhile establishment candidate, wants to clamp down on accepting refugees unless “you can prove you’re a Christian.” The historian Niall Ferguson, a right-wing favorite, says the Paris attacks were exactly like the sack of Rome by the Goths. Hmm: Were ancient Romans back in the cafes a few days later?

But we shouldn’t really be surprised, because we’ve seen this movie before (unless we were too scared to go to the theater). Remember the great Ebola scare of 2014? The threat of a pandemic, like the threat of a terrorist attack, was real. But it was greatly exaggerated, thanks in large part to hype from the same people now hyping the terrorist danger.

What’s more, the supposed “solutions” were similar, too, in their combination of cruelty and stupidity. Does anyone remember Mr. Trump declaring that “the plague will start and spread” in America unless we immediately stopped all plane flights from infected countries? Or the fact that Mitt Romney took a similar position? As it turned out, public health officials knew what they were doing, and Ebola quickly came under control — but it’s unlikely that anyone on the right learned from the experience.
What explains the modern right’s propensity for panic? Part of it, no doubt, is the familiar point that many bullies are also cowards. But I think it’s also linked to the apocalyptic mind-set that has developed among Republicans during the Obama years.

Think about it. From the day Mr. Obama took office, his political foes have warned about imminent catastrophe. Fiscal crisis! Hyperinflation! Economic collapse, brought on by the scourge of health insurance! And nobody on the right dares point out the failure of the promised disasters to materialize, or suggest a more nuanced approach.

Given this context, it’s only natural that the right would seize on a terrorist attack in France as proof that Mr. Obama has left America undefended and vulnerable. Ted Cruz, who has a real chance of becoming the Republican nominee, goes so far as to declare that the president “does not wish to defend this country.”

The context also explains why Beltway insiders were so foolish when they imagined that the Paris attacks would deflate Donald Trump’s candidacy, that Republican voters would turn to establishment candidates who are serious about national security.

Who, exactly, are these serious candidates? And why would the establishment, which has spent years encouraging the base to indulge its fears and reject nuance, now expect that base to understand the difference between tough talk and actual effectiveness?

Sure enough, polling since the Paris attack suggests that Mr. Trump has actually gained ground. The point is that at this point panic is what the right is all about, and the Republican nomination will go to whoever can most effectively channel that panic. Will the same hold true in the general election? Stay tuned.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Challenge of Things: Thinking Through Troubled Times by A.C. Grayling (Notes)

Notes and mental highlights:

" Christianity not only does not have a monopoly on tolerance, kindness and generosity – these are attributes of individual human beings of any religion and none – but in a bloody and tumultuous past it has often exhibited the opposite of these characteristics, and that must not be forgotten."

" If you get to the New Testament for instruction on how to live, you are told to give away all your possessions, make no plans for the future, reject your family if they disagree with you, and stay celibate if you can.  This is the outlook of people who sincerely believed that the Messiah was going to return next week or next month, anyway very soon."

" Christianity is not Christianity but borrowed Greek philosophy."

" The story of a prominent individual's life cannot be complete without the truth about what people felt at the moment of summing up, whether it is in mourning or rejoicing. Let us say what we think, and be frank about it: death does not confer privileges."

" Remember that all this Christian teacher training is aimed at Christian indoctrination of the young, not least the very young. Without indoctrination of the young religion would wither and die of its own implausibility."

" Children should be taught about religion as a socialogical and historical fact, and left to make up their own minds about the merits, such as they are, but each when they have reached maturity.

" When individuals cannot allow their religious loyalties to be trumped by their public responsibilities, they should resign; the alternative is for the public domain to be invaded and disrupted by a Babel of claimed individual religious sensitivities, or even worse, by various religious organizations whose prejudices, taboos, anxieties and antipathies distort the overall public endeavor for a decent and equitable social order which is as inclusive as possible."

"  The Internet is like the Agora of all, except that everyone can attend and have a say. The downside is the volume of rubbish, the anonymous viciousness and sneering, the ad hominem attacks, the paragraph long pretensions to authoritativeness, the degrading of debate it encourages, making the Internet what I before now called the biggest toilet wall in history."

" The sleep patterns of famous people are intriguing. Churchill slept in about two short bursts, the first in the predawn and the second in the afternoon. Lady Thatcher is said to have scarcely slept it off, and some would say it showed. As we age we sleep less, subconsciously aware that we are soon to sleep forever."

"  Is it in irony, a sense or an encouragement that the traditional gift to a retiring employee is a watch?  It is an irony if retirement is a state in which time no longer matters, and the days drift into each other, all resembling Sunday. It is a hint of mortality if retirement is seen as the last chapter in life story, for then it will measure the counting down of one's days. But it is an encouragement if it suggests that the time is at least come to have freedom, fun, opportunities, variety, classes, travel, projects, hobbies, new beginnings."

"  The chief mortuary technician told him that he would not be much needed until January; 'Not many people die at Christmas', said the technician 'but we will be swamped after new year'. My friend asked why, surmising flu and pneumonia, but the technician said, 'People see family and friends over the holidays. But for the old and ill, early January is the start of a long, cold, dark time, with nothing to look forward to. They switch off in droves.'"

"  There is not much middle ground when it comes to teachers. They are either good, in which case they are among the most important people in the world, where they are not good, in which case at best they represent a missed opportunity – which is a serious matter – and at worst they are positively harmful. Teachers are harmful when they put students off a subject of study, thus depriving them of a chance at the fullness of what it could offer. To put the matter harshly, the crime involved is not far removed from poking out someone's eye with a sharp stick."