Archive for the ‘Daily life’ Category
Fascinating essay in The Baffler no. 24 by David Graeber:
My friend June Thunderstorm and I once spent a half an hour sitting in a meadow by a mountain lake, watching an inchworm dangle from the top of a stalk of grass, twist about in every possible direction, and then leap to the next stalk and do the same thing. And so it proceeded, in a vast circle, with what must have been a vast expenditure of energy, for what seemed like absolutely no reason at all.
“All animals play,” June had once said to me. “Even ants.” She’d spent many years working as a professional gardener and had plenty of incidents like this to observe and ponder. “Look,” she said, with an air of modest triumph. “See what I mean?”
Most of us, hearing this story, would insist on proof. How do we know the worm was playing? Perhaps the invisible circles it traced in the air were really just a search for some unknown sort of prey. Or a mating ritual. Can we prove they weren’t? Even if the worm was playing, how do we know this form of play did not serve some ultimately practical purpose: exercise, or self-training for some possible future inchworm emergency?
This would be the reaction of most professional ethologists as well. Generally speaking, an analysis of animal behavior is not considered scientific unless the animal is assumed, at least tacitly, to be operating according to the same means/end calculations that one would apply to economic transactions. Under this assumption, an expenditure of energy must be directed toward some goal, whether it be obtaining food, securing territory, achieving dominance, or maximizing reproductive success—unless one can absolutely prove that it isn’t, and absolute proof in such matters is, as one might imagine, very hard to come by.
I must emphasize here that it doesn’t really matter what sort of theory of animal motivation a scientist might entertain: what she believes an animal to be thinking, whether she thinks an animal can be said to be “thinking” anything at all. I’m not saying that ethologists actually believe that animals are simply rational calculating machines. I’m simply saying that ethologists have boxed themselves into a world where to be scientific means to offer an explanation of behavior in rational terms—which in turn means describing an animal as if it were a calculating economic actor trying to maximize some sort of self-interest—whatever their theory of animal psychology, or motivation, might be.
That’s why the existence of animal play is considered something of an intellectual scandal. It’s understudied, and those who do study it are seen as mildly eccentric. As with many vaguely threatening, speculative notions, difficult-to-satisfy criteria are introduced for proving animal play exists, and even when it is acknowledged, the research more often than not cannibalizes its own insights by trying to demonstrate that play must have some long-term survival or reproductive function.
Despite all this, those who do look into the matter are invariably forced to the conclusion that play does exist across the animal universe. And exists not just among such notoriously frivolous creatures as monkeys, dolphins, or puppies, but among such unlikely species as frogs, minnows, salamanders, fiddler crabs, and yes, even ants—which not only engage in frivolous activities as individuals, but also have been observed since the nineteenth century to arrange mock-wars, apparently just for the fun of it.
Why do animals play? . . .
The editors of the NY Times comment on California’s intelligent regulation on egg production—and Missouri’s challenge to it:
California voters and lawmakers have decided that, starting next year, all eggs sold in that state must come from hens that can stand up, lie down and extend their wings fully without touching another bird. This is a perfectly reasonable effort to improve, at least for one creature, the deplorable conditions associated with modern industrial farming. It could also improve public health. Astonishingly, the attorney general of Missouri, Chris Koster, has decided to sue to overturn the rule in federal court. The court should dismiss the case.
Mr. Koster argues that the rules violate the commerce clause of the Constitution by imposing regulations on businesses in other states. But courts have long held that states can enact food, safety and other regulations in the public interest, as long as they do not discriminate against businesses in other states. California’s egg-production rules clearly meet the nondiscrimination standard, because all egg producers who want to sell their products in the state must abide by them.
Moreover, the regulations, which go into effect next year, can provide benefits to consumers by . . .
Here’s the news story that prompted the editorial
Very interesting article, especially for those with a chronic condition that is treated by continually taking small doses of antibiotics. Pagan Kennedy (obviously, not one of the Catholic Kennedys) writes in the NY Times:
IF you walk into a farm-supply store today, you’re likely to find a bag of antibiotic powder that claims to boost the growth of poultry and livestock. That’s because decades of agricultural research has shown that antibiotics seem to flip a switch in young animals’ bodies, helping them pack on pounds. Manufacturers brag about the miraculous effects of feeding antibiotics to chicks and nursing calves. Dusty agricultural journals attest to the ways in which the drugs can act like a kind of superfood to produce cheap meat.
But what if that meat is us? Recently, a group of medical investigators have begun to wonder whether antibiotics might cause the same growth promotion in humans. New evidence shows that America’s obesity epidemic may be connected to our high consumption of these drugs. But before we get to those findings, it’s helpful to start at the beginning, in 1948, when the wonder drugs were new — and big was beautiful.
That year, a biochemist named Thomas H. Jukes marveled at a pinch of golden powder in a vial. It was a new antibiotic named Aureomycin, and Mr. Jukes and his colleagues at Lederle Laboratories suspected that it would become a blockbuster, lifesaving drug. But they hoped to find other ways to profit from the powder as well. At the time, Lederle scientists had been searching for a food additive for farm animals, and Mr. Jukes believed that Aureomycin could be it. After raising chicks on Aureomycin-laced food and on ordinary mash, he found that the antibiotics did boost the chicks’ growth; some of them grew to weigh twice as much as the ones in the control group.
Mr. Jukes wanted more Aureomycin, but his bosses cut him off because the drug was in such high demand to treat human illnesses. So he hit on a novel solution. He picked through the laboratory’s dump to recover the slurry left over after the manufacture of the drug. He and his colleagues used those leftovers to carry on their experiments, now on pigs, sheep and cows. All of the animals gained weight. Trash, it turned out, could be transformed into meat.
You may be wondering whether it occurred to anyone back then that the powders would have the same effect on the human body. In fact, a number of scientists believed that antibiotics could stimulate growth in children. From our contemporary perspective, here’s where the story gets really strange: All this growth was regarded as a good thing. It was an era that celebrated monster-size animals, fat babies and big men. In 1955, a crowd gathered in a hotel ballroom to watch as feed salesmen climbed onto a scale; the men were competing to see who could gain the most weight in four months, in imitation of the cattle and hogs that ate their antibiotic-laced food. Pfizer sponsored the competition.
In 1954, Alexander Fleming — the Scottish biologist who discovered penicillin — visited the University of Minnesota. His American hosts proudly informed him that by feeding antibiotics to hogs, farmers had already saved millions of dollars in slop. But Fleming seemed disturbed by the thought of applying that logic to humans. “I can’t predict that feeding penicillin to babies will do society much good,” he said. “Making people larger might do more harm than good.”
Nonetheless, experiments were then being conducted on humans. In the 1950s, a team of scientists fed a steady diet of antibiotics to schoolchildren in Guatemala for more than a year,while Charles H. Carter, a doctor in Florida, tried a similar regimen on mentally disabled kids. Could the children, like the farm animals, grow larger? Yes, they could.
Mr. Jukes summarized Dr. Carter’s research in a monograph on nutrition and antibiotics: “Carter carried out a prolonged investigation of a study of the effects of administering 75 mg of chlortetracycline” — the chemical name for Aureomycin — “twice daily to mentally defective children for periods of up to three years at the Florida Farm Colony. The children were mentally deficient spastic cases and were almost entirely helpless,” he wrote. “The average yearly gain in weight for the supplemented group was 6.5 lb while the control group averaged 1.9 lb in yearly weight gain.”
Researchers also tried this out in a study of Navy recruits. . .
When you disagree with someone about evolution, global warming, vaccines, or the like, I believe that you’re likely to encounter a way of thinking that is sufficiently foreign to me that I just now figured out what might be going on. What I have experienced in such arguments has convinced me that some people view a strong belief as in itself evidence that the belief is true (presumably because “if it wasn’t true, I wouldn’t believe it so strongly—duh!”). In other words, belief is treated as though it were evidence, and the intensity of the belief measures the evidence for it: intense belief equals strong evidence, just by itself.
When you try to argue against such a belief, you probably usewhat we normally think of as evidence, namely facts. You then run into another problem. The person who views beliefs as constituting evidence for the beliefs also views facts as opinions. Thus when you point out a fact that contradicts their belief (for which they have loads of evidence, in their sense: that is, they believe it strongly), a common response is, “That’s (just) your opinion.” That is, just as they weigh beliefs as we normally weigh evidence, actual evidence—that is, verifiable facts—is weighed as we normally weigh opinions: an opinion being something that’s perfectly fine for you to accept, but really has nothing whatsoever to do with whether I accept it—that is, whether it is also my opinion/fact. Just as someone can have an opinion on something without affecting my own opinion on the same thing, so the facts you present (which are viewed as merely your opinion) don’t really effect what the other believes. Daniel Moynihan specifically warned that, while you are entitled to your own opinions, you are not entitled to your own facts, and that was not an empty warning: some, I think, do view facts as opinions (as shown by their reasoning).
That does seem to describe what happens and shows why the arguments go nowhere: the rational person has been offering something that simply has no weight for the believer—the rational one thinks he’s offering evidence, but the believer views him as offering opinion, and of course his opinion is beside the point: “I have my own opinions.”
So: the question becomes, what does have weight for the believer and thus triggers a change in view? It may be couching ideas in terms the believer already accepts: e.g., “I say to you in the name of Jesus our Lord and Savior, send a donation now.” The demand for money is accepted because of the accompanying incantations from the belief system: the system passwords, in effect. And as we’ve seen from a long string of huckstering ministers, those incantations actually work: when the ministers demand money, they tie in salvation, and so it sounds like a pretty good deal: something real and of paramount importance (salvation) for mere money. I recall that Oral Roberts once advised his radio audience that God was going to take him if his listeners didn’t contribute $44 million before some date. (I believe this may have been for Oral Roberts University.) The listeners came through (or at least the Rev. Roberts said that they did, and it’s certainly true that he did not die at the time, which sort of proves it). The response seems a little odd given that the penalty—God taking Oral Roberts into His Kingdom and Arms—actually sounds like exactly what Roberts claims to want and has been working toward.
At any rate, perhaps we must cast our case for evolution, global warming, and vaccines in theological terms—invoking the name of our Savior liberally, but also sticking with the facts: rational Christianity, in effect. And isn’t that exactly what the Moral Mondays in North Carolina are all about? Aren’t the Moral Mondays an effort to get people to look at recent public policy and legislation and view the effects in religious terms. This seems natural enough: it’s what Jesus Himself did when facing in His time circumstances similar in some ways to the US today: helping and caring for the poor and humble—and, you will recall, He condemned wealth harshly. In effect, He was head of the Occupy Jerusalem Movement. And He suffered for it, as is often the case for those who try to help the poor and humble and protect them from the wealthy and powerful.
So it’s been done before. That indicates it might work.
Using evidence to determine the fate of legislation! What an innovative and potentially fruitful idea!
Irin Carmon reports at MSNBC:
EUREKA, Calif. – It did not look particularly like a history-making day in the Redwoods. The jars of condoms and the pinned-up primer on the HPV vaccine at the Six Rivers Planned Parenthood were undisturbed, and the waiting room was no more taxed than any other Saturday. The usual lone protester, loosely referred to as “the pastor,” had come early, before the clinic even opened, and gone home.
But inside the employee kitchen, there was proof of something special about this January morning, days after the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. “Well-behaved women rarely make history,” read a note affixed to some irises. “Today we make history!!!” Another card thanked one nurse practitioner by name for “blazing the trail.”
Thanks to a law passed last year, California is actually adding abortion providers – nearly fifty nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and physicians’ assistants, trained to provide aspiration abortions in the first trimester –with more to come.
The state is bucking a nationwide trend as a wave of new restrictions is forcing abortion providers across the country to shut their doors. In Texas, the second-largest state after California, initial enforcement of a law passed last year initially put a third of the clinics of the state out of commission, and when new regulations go into effect in September, all but a half-dozen clinics are expected to close.
Meanwhile, in California, a Eureka nurse practitioner – who worried about the safety of being named in the press – had just officially become one of the new providers of vaccuum aspiration abortion, the most common procedure.
“I am used to being in a place where we are talking about all the options for birth control and for pregnancy,” she said simply. “It was just a no-brainer, a logical next step.”
The fact that it was an ordinary day – boring, even – was the whole point. The most radical move of all wasn’t just passing a law to expand abortion access. It was treating the termination of a pregnancy like any other medical procedure, and seeing if that changed women’s lives.
“I don’t really see the need for this bill here,” said Assemblyman Don Wagner, an Orange County Republican, at a committee hearing last April for AB154, which would eventually make the nurse practitioner’s day possible. He wondered why there were no women testifying that they had been unable to access an abortion.
“Where is the evidence that there are underserved populations out there?” Wagner asked.
Evidence was something of a magic word to Tracy Weitz, testifying that day in her capacity as a medical sociologist at the University of California, San Francisco. Weitz had overseen a massive peer-reviewed study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, that had trained the Eureka nurse practitioner and dozens of other advanced-practice clinicians on providing aspiration abortions. Armed with a waiver from the state, the study set out to determine whether such clinicians could provide early aspiration abortions as safely as physicians. Eleven thousand abortions later, there was no meaningful difference.
Weitz doesn’t perform abortions, but her colleagues at San Francisco General Hospital do, and they specialize in later ones. And over the years, they’d noticed something.
“We were serving an extraordinarily high number of women later in gestation who were coming from throughout California,” Weitz told Wagner.
The later in pregnancy an abortion occurs, the more expensive it is. And though abortion remains an extremely low-risk procedure – the study had actually shown it was even safer than previously believed – complications rise too. Someone who doesn’t want to be pregnant anymore likely isn’t interested in drawing out the process, either.
“When you talk about, where’s the evidence of lack of access,” Weitz continued, “it’s in the disparity in the number of low-income women geographically located in [remote areas]…who do not access their abortion until later in the second trimester.”
In other words, lifting the barriers would make it easier for women to get abortions earlier in pregnancy. . .
In other news, Michael Meved spoke at the conservative CPAC conference to say, ““There has never been a state in this country that has ever banned gay marriage. That is a liberal lie.”
For the record, this article lists 30 states that have banned same-sex marriage.
I think perhaps Mr. Medved was going for the Big Lie, but picked one a little too big: instead of a size 2 or 3, he went for size 8, and it was just too big to fly (cf. elephants, symbol of the GOP).
Many people seem still to be angry that Edward Snowden revealed to us the surveillance state in which we now live. Most of those people, I suspect, have yet to be questioned about their sex life because of private messages they sent. James Fallows pointed out this article at “Papers, Please.”
At first blush, a lawsuit filed last week by the ACLU on behalf of a sociology professor at Indiana University wrongly detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection seems to be about whether CBP is exceeding the limitations on its police powers, and detaining US citizens for purposes unrelated to customs and borders.
That’s bad, but unsurprising in light of the history of abuse of limited administrative search powers as a pretext for unrelated police purposes by CBP and other DHS components, notably the TSA.
What’s more unusual, however, is the complaint that the DHS is using email messages, presumably obtained from the NSA (unless the DHS has some email interception program of its own) as the basis for detention and interrogation of US citizens who aren’t trying to travel or ship any goods across US borders.
And what was the subject of this warrantless custodial interrogation of a non-traveling US citizen by armed “Customs and Border Protection” officers, based on email intercepts? Her sex life.
No, we’re not making this up.
Professor Christine Von Der Haar of Indiana University tells the story in her complaint, in an interview with the Bloomington Herald-Times in 2012 at the time of the bizarre CBP doings that led to her lawsuit, and in a video interview with the Indianapolis Star last week when the lawsuit was filed.
A few years ago, Dr. Von Der Haar, a US citizen, reconnected online with Dimitris Papatheodoropoulos, a Greek freelance transport and logistics manager and consultant who she had been friends with as a teenager, 40 years earlier, at an international school they both attended in Switzerland. After a year’s exchange of email, some of which Dr. Von Der Haar says was “flirtatious and romantic in nature”, Mr. Papatheodoropoulos arranged for a visit to Dr. Von Der Haar in Bloomington during her summer break from university teaching.
Von Der Haar believes her friend is a victim of a cultural misunderstanding. His emails signed off “I love you. I miss you. I kiss you.” Marriage, though, was beyond the pale for two adults in their mid-50s who hadn’t seen each other for decades, they say.
Sure, his language is flowery, but Von Der Haar laughs about it, slightly embarrassed: “We’re silly. He’s a Greek man. What can I say?.”
Mr. Papatheodoropoulos obtained a 10-year, multiple entry B1/B2 business and tourism visa to the US, allowing him to consult with business associates and negotiate contracts as well as visit friends. Since he works as a freelancer, and wasn’t sure how long he would be staying in the US, he shipped a computer and some other electronic equipment by air freight, but removed the hard drive with his data and carried it with him.
On arrival, Mr. Papatheodoropoulos cleared US customs and immigration and was admitted to the US without incident. But when Dr. Von Der Haar took him back to the Indianapolis airport a few days later to pick up the items he had shipped by air freight, they were referred to the CBP office at the airport.
According to Dr. Von Der Haar’s complaint, armed CBP officers detained both her and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos, took them into separate rooms, and stood blocking the exit door while they interrogated Dr. Von Der Haar about, “the nature of her relationship with Mr. Papatheodoropoulos … the contents of email messages that Dr. Von Der Haar and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos had sent each other … [and] if she and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos were having sexual relations.”
Given that Mr. Papatheodoropoulos had retained his hard drive that contained the emails, the only way that the Customs and Border Protection Agents could have reviewed the emails is for someone to have surreptitiously monitored the communications between Dr. Von Der Haar and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos and reported those communications to the agents questioning her. Defendant Lieba admitted that employees of the United States had read email communications between Dr. Von Der Haar and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos.
Dr. Von Der Haar was taken into the back room of the CBP office for questioning twice, for a total of about half an hour, while Mr. Papatheodoropoulos was questioned for “approximately 4 1/2 – 5 hours” before he emerged and was allowed to leave. His Greek passport (property of the Greek government) was confiscated without warrant, leaving him unable to leave the US even had he decided to cut his visit short, and he was “served with notice that a proceeding was initiated against him for removal from the United States” on the basis that:
You obtained your B1/B2 visa by misrepresenting your intentions to come to the United States to wit; It is your intention to immigrate to the United States, you abandoned your foreign residence, you intend to overstay your admission to the United States.
“None of this was true” according to the complaint. Mr. Papatheodoropoulos requested an expedited trial on these allegations, but “the removal action did not proceed. His passport was returned to him and he left the United States at the end of August of 2012 and has not returned.”
What are we to make of this episode?
First, . . .
We’re getting reports about Paul Ryan’s performance at CPAC, the big conservative gathering — and they’re actually kind of awesome, in the worst way.
I mean, the caricature of Ryan and people like him is that they treat the hardships of poverty as if they were merely psychological, that they talk big about dignity while ignoring the difficulty of getting essentials like food and health care. Well, it’s not a caricature: Ryan says never mind having enough to eat, it’s about spirituality:
“The left is making a big mistake,” Ryan predicted. “What they’re offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul. People don’t just want a life of comfort. They want a life of dignity, they want a life of self determination.”
Um, yes, but how dignified can you be on an empty stomach? How much self-determination do you have?
And who is supposed to value dignity over having enough to eat? Children. Ryan tells an anecdote about one sad child:
“He told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch, one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids,” he continued. “He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him. This is what the left does not understand.”
And if the child’s mother can’t provide that lunch in a brown paper bag, then what?
The total failure to accept that the poor face real physical hardship, that affluent politicians have no business lecturing people having trouble buying food or having trouble paying for health care about dignity, is just stunning.
UPDATE: Not only that, the story is totally bogus.
Ryan Koronowski writes at ThinkProgress:
Alpha Natural Resources, the third-largest coal company in the U.S., agreed to pay a $27.5 million fine after violating water pollution permits in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
Over the last seven years, Alpha and its subsidiaries discharged heavy metals into waterways across those five Appalachian states 6,289 times, through 794 different discharge points, sometimes by as much as 35 times the legal limit.
The pollutants that spilled from the coal mines throughout Appalachia include “iron, pH, total suspended solids, aluminum, manganese, selenium, and salinity,” according to an EPA press release.
The giant coal company will also spend $200 million to stop sending toxic discharge into the nations rivers and streams. According to the AP, which obtained details about the settlement on Wednesday, “under the agreement, the mine operators will install wastewater treatment systems and take other measures aimed at reducing discharges from 79 active coal mines and 25 coal-processing plants in those five states.”
Cynthia Giles, who runs the Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement office, told the AP that the settlement was “the biggest case for permit violations for numbers of violations and size of the penalty, which reflects the seriousness of violations.”
“This is the largest one, period.”
A big part of the reason this settlement was so comprehensive and expensive is because in 2011, Alpha Natural Resources bought a coal company called Massey Energy. Massey’s coal operations account for more than half of the violations represented in Wednesday’s settlement.
Alpha spent $7.1 billion to purchase Massey, and it has been picking up the pieces ever since. Months after the purchase agreement was announced, Massey was still fighting a legal battle over dumping 1.4 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry into old underground coal mines — knowing all the while that the mines leaked into the water supply. Alpha settled the lawsuit with hundreds of West Virginia residents in 2011.
Massey received global headlines for the tragic explosion in 2010 that killed 29 miners, and stayed in the headlines as Massey CEO Don Blankenship’s confrontational relationship with safety regulators prompted shareholder calls for his resignation. In 2009, Blankenship called the idea that safety regulators cared more about coal miners than he did “as silly as global warming.” This despite the small world encompassing coal industry and coal regulators: President Bush appointed a former Massey official to an MSHA review commission in 2002.
In 2012, Massey mine superintendent Gary May pled guilty to charges of criminal conspiracy over deceiving federal safety regulators. When the Mine Safety and Health Administration would come for an inspection, May would warn miners, increase air ventilation, falsify records, and cut corners in order to hide dangerous safety violations.
Though 2014 is barely two months old, the U.S. has seen a raft of coal spills — in West Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia again, and West Virginia again — signalling the problem of dirty coal is not going away.
Andrew Briner writes at ThinkProgress:
Add attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to the list of ailments attributed to the popular painkiller acetaminophen. A new study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that more than half of mothers who took acetaminophen during pregnancy were more likely to have children with ADHD-like behavior or hyperkinetic disorder, a severe form of ADHD.
It’s unclear at this point whether acetaminophen use is actually causing these symptoms or if both are a sign of other unnoticed factors, as the Globe and Mail pointed out. And the long, shameful history of blaming and criminalizing pregnant women for pretty much anything they do during pregnancy means this news should be taken carefully. But even if proof of a causal link is demonstrated, the FDA’s record on regulating over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, specifically acetaminophen, shows it wouldn’t be up to the job of dealing with it.
And this news comes just as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it would berevamping its process for approving and regulating over-the-counter drugs, in response to just such concerns that it’s too slow to respond to new products and safety issues.
Acetaminophen is one such failure, as ProPublica extensively documented in September. The FDA convened a panel of experts to evaluate its safety in 1977, as the drug was first becoming widely popular. The panel determined it was “obligatory” to include a label warning that acetaminophen could cause “severe liver damage.” The FDA didn’t add that warning until 2009.
Acetaminophen is both one of the most commonly-used pain relief drugs in the United States and the primary cause of acute liver failure, nearly half of all cases. Overdoses kill an estimated 458 Americans each year, and are responsible for more than 56,000 emergency room visits and 2,600 hospitalizations.
No painkiller or drug is without risk. But for comparison, the entire class of drugs that includes ibuprofen, the Advil ingredient that is similarly popular to acetaminophen, was responsible for 15 deaths in 2010, according to CDC data as reported in ProPublica. In the same year acetaminophen killed 321, 166 of which were accidental overdoses.
The main problem is that the difference between a therapeutic dose and a life-threatening one is small. . .
Last night I watched the first episode of Foyle’s War, “The German Woman,” on Netflix Watch Instantly. Foyle’s War is an extremely well done mystery series set in England during WWII, with the series advancing through the chronology of the war from season to season. The first episode, set very early in the war, involves the region’s first civilian encounter with the war: a German bomber, off course, drops one bomb on a small village, hitting a pub: a beautiful sunny afternoon, then the sound of a plane, and suddenly a violent explosion and the aftermath.
It seems interesting and instructive to watch the episode in the context of our drone attacks. In the episode, our sympathies are with the bombed, and we completely understand the hatred they express toward the Germans and the sorrow felt for the innocent child killed by the bomb. In our drone attacks, of course, we generally view the attacks from the other perspective: from the view of the power dropping the bomb (or firing the missile).
It’s quite interesting to watch the movie while focusing on the feelings of those attacked and to see the events from their views, while keeping in mind that this attack is very much like what the US does to villages in Pakistan, Yemen, and who knows where else.
Of course, the story soon moves away from the attack into unraveling the mystery, but the attack’s effects resurface at several points, and the analogy with US drone attacks on villagers again becomes striking. It’s easy to grasp the anger and hatred aroused in the British, and perhaps it gives us a window into the reactions of the people bombed by the US.
This story by Kevin Sieff in the Washington Post describes some reactions to the US drone strikes in Afghanistan. From the story:
Hamid Karzai was in the midst of negotiating a security agreement with the United States when he met a 4-year-old girl who had lost half her face in an American airstrike.
Five months later, the Afghan president’s eyes welled with tears as he described visiting the disfigured little girl at a hospital. He took long pauses between words. Sitting behind his desk Saturday night, the man who has projected a defiant image toward the West suddenly looked frail.
“That day, I wished she were dead, so she could be buried with her parents and brothers and sisters” — 14 of whom had been killed in the attack — he said.
In an unusually emotional interview, the departing Afghan president sought to explain why he has been such a harsh critic of the 12-year-old U.S. war effort here. He said he’s deeply troubled by all the casualties he has seen, including those in U.S. military operations. He feels betrayed by what he calls an insufficient U.S. focus on targeting Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. And he insists that public criticism was the only way to guarantee an American response to his concerns.
To Karzai, the war was not waged with his country’s interests in mind.
“Afghans died in a war that’s not ours,’ he said in the interview, his first in two years with a U.S. newspaper.
In Karzai’s mind, al-Qaeda is “more a myth than a reality” and the majority of the United States’ prisoners here were innocent. He’s certain that the war was “for the U.S. security and for the Western interest.” . . .
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) is a scientist who is perfectly willing to take on climate change denialists using evidence and studies. The Salon article at the link is interesting and Rep. Holt is quite convincing—which, as it turns out, will make denialists cling even more fiercely to their idea that climate change is a gigantic hoax engineered by climate scientists eager to cash in—scientists so desperate for grant money that (presumably) they have actually heated up the Earth!
And, unfortunately, that’s what humans are like. As Aaron Carroll writes in a summary of efforts to counter the harmful and erroneous idea that vaccines are harmful:
When they gave evidence that vaccines aren’t linked to autism, that actually made parents who were already skittish about vaccines less likely to get their child one in the future. When they showed images of sick children to parents it increased their belief that vaccines caused autism. When they told a dramatic story about an infant in danger because he wasn’t immunized, it increased parents’ beliefs that vaccines had serious side effects.
Basically, it was all depressing. Nothing was effective.
And check out this Slate article.
The question, of course, is why does evidence work to convince some people while having no effect on others? Is it a matter of genetics? of education? of prior experience?
That would be a good question to answer.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum also has a post on this issue.
Paul Krugman has a good blog post:
Suddenly, or so it seems, inequality has surged into public consciousness — and neither the one percent nor its reliable defenders seems to know how to cope.
Some of the reactions are crazy — it’s Kristallnacht, they’re coming to kill us — with the craziness quite widespread; notice how many billionaires, plus of course the Wall Street Journal, rallied around Tom Perkins. But even the saner-sounding voices evidently have a hard time wrapping their minds around the notion that anyone might find 21st-century finance capitalism a bit, well, unfair.
A case in point: this article by Arthur Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute. Brooks is deeply worried about changing popular attitudes toward wealth:
According to Pew, the percentage of Americans who feel that “most people who want to get ahead” can do so through hard work has dropped by 14 points since about 2000. As recently as 2007, Gallup found that 70 percent were satisfied with their opportunities to get ahead by working hard; only 29 percent were dissatisfied. Today, that gap has shrunk to 54 percent satisfied, and 45 percent dissatisfied. In just a few years, we have gone from seeing our economy as a real meritocracy to viewing it as something closer to a coin flip.
And how does he see this sea-change in attitudes? Why, it must be about growing envy of the rich, which is a terrible thing.
But the polling data don’t say anything about envy: when people say that they have lost their belief that hard work will be rewarded, they aren’t saying that they are envious of the rich; they’re saying that they have lost their belief that hard work will be rewarded. To the extent that people have negative feelings about the one percent, the emotion involved isn’t envy — it’s anger, which isn’t at all the same thing. Envy is when you have negative feelings about rich because of what they have; anger is when you have negative feelings about the rich because of what they do.
Think about it: Did the Occupy protests focus on how the one percent lives? Does muckraking journalism obsess over lifestyles?Yes, everyone knows about Mitt Romney’s car elevator, but it was the dorkiness rather than the luxury that made it a story. Actually, considering just how much the lives of the superelite have diverged from those of ordinary Americans, it’s kind of amazing how few articles there have been salaciously describing parties in the Hamptons and all that.
No, what’s really driving most of the ire is the sense that many of the rich didn’t actually earn that position, that they grew rich at the rest of America’s expense.
And what has happened since 2007 that might justify such a belief? Um, how about all those .01 percenters who were boasting aboutwhat a great job they were doing, but turned out to be leading us into a catastrophic financial crisis? What about the much-admired leaders who assured us that Wall Street was doing great stuff, and turned out to be totally clueless?
Or what about the remarkable fact that since the crisis, profits have soared, while workers’ incomes have stagnated?
People aren’t envious, they’re angry — and with good reason.
Ariana Eunjung Cha reports in the Washington Post:
Standing in a Wisconsin State Capitol hearing room surrounded by parents hugging their seriously ill children, Sally Schaeffer began to cry as she talked about her daughter.
Born with a rare chromosomal disorder, 6-year-old Lydia suffers from life-threatening seizures that doctors haven’t been able to control despite countless medications. The family’s last hope: medical marijuana.
Schaeffer, 39, didn’t just ask lawmakers to legalize the drug. She begged.
“If it was your child and you didn’t have options, what would you do?” she said during her testimony in Madison on Feb. 12.
The representatives were so moved that they introduced a bipartisan bill to allow parents in situations similar to Schaeffer’s to use the drug on their children.
Emboldened by stories circulated through Facebook, Twitter and the news media about children with seizure disorders who have been successfully treated with a special oil extract made from cannabis plants, mothers have become the new face of the medical marijuana movement.
Similar scenes have been playing out in recent weeks in other states where medical marijuana remains illegal: Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, Utah, New York, North Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky.
The “mommy lobby” has been successful at opening the doors to legalizing marijuana — if only a crack, in some places — where others have failed. In the 1970s and ’80s, mothers were on the other side of the issue, successfully fending off efforts to decriminalize marijuana with heartbreaking stories about how their teenage children’s lives unraveled when they began to use the drug.
Mothers have long been among the most powerful constituent groups in the United States, and the reason is clear. Groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving are able to draw so much public support because they tug at a universal human emotion: the desire to protect children from harm. And while national gun-control efforts after the Sandy Hook massacre faltered, mothers’ groups worked to keep the issue on the public radar, helping to get some new measures passed at the state level.
Today, mothers are fighting for access to the drug, and they have changing public attitudes on their side. For the first time, a majority of Americans in opinion polls say they support the full legalization of marijuana.
Last year, Colorado and Washington state made marijuana fully legal, and there has been a groundswell of support in several states for ballot initiatives or legislation to do the same, including some in the conservative South.
Medical marijuana is now legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia. The diseases and conditions for which it can legally be used are limited and vary by jurisdiction. Most states have additional requirements for children: Instead of one prescription, parents must get two from different doctors.
Even in states where marijuana is available for children, the mothers say it is often a challenge to convince physicians that the potential benefits outweigh the risks.
The drug the mothers are seeking is an extract that contains only trace amounts of the part of the plant responsible for the euphoric effect of the drug but is still high in cannabidiol, or CBD — a substance that scientists think may quiet the electrical and chemical activity in the brain that causes seizures. Instead of leaves that are smoked, it is a liquid that is mixed in food or given to a child with a dropper. . .
Continue reading. Video at the link.
Surprisingly engrossing. Stu Woo writes in the Wall Street Journal:
The winds on San Francisco Bay started kicking up in the late morning. Before long, they were blowing more than 20 miles an hour.
Jimmy Spithill and his 10 teammates put on their crash helmets and flotation vests and climbed aboard the AC72, a menacing, 13-story black catamaran capable of near-highway speeds. As a powerboat pulled them into the bay for Race 5 of the 2013 America’s Cup, Mr. Spithill shot a glance at the Golden Gate Bridge. It was shrouded in fog.
An unfamiliar, uncomfortable feeling was tugging at him. Mr. Spithill, skipper of Oracle Team USA, the richest and possibly most prohibitively favored team in the history of the world’s most famous yacht competition, had lost three of the first four races. Something was wrong with the way the Oracle boat was performing. Now he was facing the unthinkable: His team might lose.The America’s Cup, first held in 1851, is believed to award the world’s oldest international sporting trophy. The contest also is one of the least professionalized. There is no permanent organization, commission or governing body. The winner gets to pick where and when the next race is held—typically every three to five years—and what type of boat is used. All that tends to make the racing rather lopsided. In most cases, the faster of the two boats in the finals wins every match—and the faster boat is usually the defending champion.
Fast boats, then and now. (All race footage courtesy America’s Cup Event Authority)
The 2013 Cup wasn’t supposed to be any different. But a competition that was expected to be humdrum turned into one of the most remarkable ever. This account of how that happened was pieced together through extensive interviews with the sailors, engineers and other team leaders.
Largely because of team owner Larry Ellison, the founder of software giant Oracle Corp. and one of the world’s richest men, Oracle had all the advantages conferred upon the incumbent, plus some.
The 11 sailors were a collection of international superstars. The engineers who designed the yacht and the programmers who built the software used to plot strategy had no peer. Oracle’s computer simulations suggested the AC72—which cost at least $10 million to build—wasn’t just the better boat in the final, it was the fastest sailboat ever to compete for the Cup, capable of 48 knots, or about 55 mph.
Mr. Spithill wasn’t sure why Emirates Team New Zealand, Oracle’s opponent in the final, had been faster so far. The prevailing theory among Oracle’s sailors was that they were just rusty. As the defending Cup champions, they hadn’t had to race in the preliminaries.
Mr. Spithill on Oracle’s tactics at the start of Race 5.
As the AC72 dropped its towline on Sept. 10 and headed for the starting line, Mr. Spithill hoped that in Race 5, the Oracle crew would get its act together.
The start of an America’s Cup race is an exercise in pinpoint execution. The two boats can’t cross the starting line until a countdown timer hits zero. On this day, both boats hit the line simultaneously.
The five legs of the racecourse sent the boats from near the Golden Gate Bridge to the downtown San Francisco waterfront and took anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes to complete, depending on wind. Through the first two legs, Oracle was in total control, building up an eight-second lead.
The upwind third leg was the one that had been keeping Mr. Spithill awake at night. Sailors have known since ancient times that sailing against the wind requires plotting a zigzag course—called tacking—steering the boat back and forth at a roughly 45-degree angle to the wind. Oracle’s aura of invincibility had crumbled on this upwind leg. If New Zealand was behind at the upwind turn, it would take the lead. If the Kiwis already had the lead, they would turn the race into a rout.
How sailors use a technique called tacking to sail upwind. (Animations: Alberto Cervantes and Jarrard Cole/The Wall Street Journal)
Tacking involves an elaborately choreographed routine. To initiate the turn, eight sailors crank winches resembling hand-operated bicycle pedals, powering the system that moves the sail. Two sailors pull ropes to adjust the angles of the enormous mainsail and the smaller jib. At precisely the right moment, the skipper—Mr. Spithill—spins the helm. Then all 11 sailors scurry from one hull, across a patch of trampoline-like netting, to the other side.
If everything goes right, the boat loses little speed. A small misstep or two, however, can cause the boat to bog down—or in extreme cases, to capsize.
As the upwind leg began, New Zealand headed out toward the San Francisco waterfront while Oracle vectored toward Alcatraz Island. Mr. Spithill looked over his shoulder and saw he was ahead of New Zealand by 2½ boat lengths. But the Kiwis edged closer with every turn. Within three minutes, New Zealand’s red yacht crossed in front of Oracle. Mr. Spithill had blown another lead.
Mr. Spithill on how Oracle blew the lead in the upwind leg of Race 5.
By the time the boats reached the fourth leg, the gap was too large for Oracle to recover. New Zealand won by more than a minute. In racing terms, that might as well have been a week. New Zealand was now nearly halfway to the nine wins it needed to secure the Cup—and the time gap between the boats was only getting larger.
Even the Kiwis were surprised. After the race, Team New Zealand’s managing director, Grant Dalton, passed one of his sailors in the hallway and said: “I can’t believe we just won.”
As the AC72 skulked back to its berth, Mr. Spithill heard the voice of Russell Coutts, the New Zealand-born chief executive of the Oracle team, on his walkie-talkie: “Have you thought about using the postponement card?”
A postponement card is the America’s Cup equivalent of a timeout, envisioned as a way for teams to fix problems like broken equipment. By using it, Oracle would be able to delay the afternoon’s second race to the next race day, 48 hours later.
“We’re going to play it now,” Mr. Spithill told Mr. Coutts.
At the postrace news conference, the grim-faced skipper said: “We feel like we need to regroup, really take a good look at the boat.” . . .
Fascinating article at Pacific Standard by Ethan Watters:
One morning last fall, the evolutionary biologist Randy Thornhill was standing with me in front of the gorilla enclosure at the Albuquerque zoo. He was explaining a new theory about the origins of human culture when Mashudu, a 10-year-old western lowland gorilla, decided to help illustrate a point. In a very deliberate way, Mashudu sauntered over to the deep cement ravine at the front of his enclosure, perched his rear end over the edge, and did his morning business.
Mashudu, I suspected, had just displayed what evolutionary theorists call a “behavioral immune response”—a concept central to Thornhill’s big theory. So I asked him whether I was right about Mashudu. “Pooping downhill is pretty smart,” Thornhill said after some consideration. “He got his waste as far away from him as possible. I think that would probably count as a disease avoidance behavior.”
It might seem strange to fixate on how a gorilla goes about answering the call of nature. But according to Thornhill’s hypothesis, much of what we humans like to think of as politics, morality, and culture is motivated by the same kind of subconscious instinct that likely drove Mashudu to that ledge.
Anyone with a basic grasp of biology knows that all animals have immune systems that battle pathogens—be they viruses, bacteria, parasites, or fungi—on the cellular level. And it’s also fairly well understood that animals sometimes exhibit outward behaviors that serve to ward off disease. Just around the corner from the fastidious Mashudu, Thornhill and I watched an orangutan named Sarah grooming her six-month-old son Pixel, poring through his hair for parasites. Some species of primate, Thornhill told me, will ostracize sick members of the group to avoid the spread of disease. Cows and other ungulates are known to rotate their movements among pastures in such a way as to avoid the larvae of intestinal worms that hatch in their waste. And in ant societies, only a small number of workers are given the task of hauling away the dead, while sick ants will sometimes leave the nest to die apart from the group.
At the most quotidian level, Thornhill finds it easy to convince people that humans likewise manifest such instinctual behaviors to avoid infection and illness. Some of these habits very much parallel those seen in other creatures. I admitted to Thornhill that I had recently been displaying a bit of grooming behavior myself after the youngest primate in my care came home from preschool itching with head lice. Like Mashudu, we humans remove waste from our living quarters. We ostracize our sick, at least to the extent that we expect those with the flu to stay home from work or school. And similar to the lowly ant, we assign a small number of our fellows the solemn duty of hauling away and disposing of our dead. On examination, everyday life is full of small defensive moves against contamination, some motivated by feelings, like disgust, that arise without conscious reflection. When you open the door of a gas station bathroom only to decide you can hold it for a few more miles, or when you put as much distance as possible between yourself and a person who is coughing and sneezing in a waiting room, you are displaying a behavioral immune response.
But these individual actions are just the tip of the iceberg, according to Thornhill and a growing camp of evolutionary theorists. Our moment-to-moment psychological reactions to the threat of illness, they suggest, have a huge cumulative effect on culture. Not only that—and here’s where Thornhill’s theory really starts to fire the imagination—these deep interactions between local pathogens and human social evolution may explain many of the basic differences we observe between cultures. How does your culture behave toward strangers? What kind of government do you live under? Who are your sexual partners? What values do you share? All of these questions may mask a more fundamental one: What germs are you warding off?
The threat of disease is not uniform around the world. In general, higher, colder, and drier regions have fewer infectious diseases than warmer, wetter climates. To survive, people in this latter sort of terrain must withstand a higher degree of “pathogen stress.” Thornhill and his colleagues theorize that, over time, the pathogen stress endemic to a place tends to steer a culture in distinct ways. Research has long shown that people in tropical climates with high pathogen loads, for example, are more likely to develop a taste for spicy food, because certain compounds in these foods have antimicrobial properties. They are also prone to value physical attractiveness—a signal of health and “immunocompetence,” according to evolutionary theorists—more highly in mates than people living in cooler latitudes do. But the implications don’t stop there. According to the “pathogen stress theory of values,” the evolutionary case that Thornhill and his colleagues have put forward, our behavioral immune systems—our group responses to local disease threats—play a decisive role in shaping our various political systems, religions, and shared moral views.
If they are right, Thornhill and his colleagues may be on their way to unlocking some of the most stubborn mysteries of human behavior. Their theory may help explain why authoritarian governments tend to persist in certain latitudes while democracies rise in others; why some cultures are xenophobic and others are relatively open to strangers; why certain peoples value equality and individuality while others prize hierarchical structures and strict adherence to tradition. What’s more, their work may offer a clear insight into how societies change. According to Thornhill’s findings, striking at the root of infectious disease threats is by far the most effective form of social engineering available to any would-be reformer.
If you were looking for a paradigm-shifting theory about human behavior, . . .
Perhaps I can be accused of special pleading (I’m among the elderly), but I do recall vividly my own grandmother and how I wished I had spent more time learning about her life. Casey Cep writes at Pacific Standard:
I knew only one of my grandparents: three of them died before I was born, but my maternal grandmother lived into her seventies and I knew her for two decades. I remember her with great joy and profound gratitude, but I also remember her as old.
She was, in the way grandparents are meant to be, a living encyclopedia of years I’d only ever read about in history books. She grew up during the Great Depression and could recall in rich detail when Neil Armstrong took his giant leap for humankind; she could remember using outhouses and riding to town by horse-drawn wagon. Her hobbies in the years I knew her were playing bingo and looking through photographs of her seven children and 21 grandchildren; in my lifetime, she had knees replaced and arteries cleared, walked first with a cane, and then with a walker.
I have photographs of her, but also, because a few years before she died I bought a digital camera that was capable of making short videos, a little film of her talking to me. It’s only 20 seconds long, but it can, no matter how many times I watch it, bring me to tears. There’s the excitement in my voice as I start recording too soon: “OK, go!” And then her hurried tenderness because I wasn’t sure how long a recording I could make with the small memory card: “Casey, when you go to college, don’t forget that you have a grandmother that loves you. You be sure and write to her, and remember to pray for her. I love you very much.”
I did write her, several times a week, and called her every Sunday for the years of college that I spent a few hundred miles away from home. She was, especially when I was surrounded almost exclusively by peers, a link to the kind of experience and wisdom that often seemed in short supply. I thought of her so many times last week while reading Roger Angell’s extraordinary New Yorker essay “This Old Man.”
Angell is 93 years old, and he writes just brilliantly about what is like to be old. There are the expected health troubles (arthritis, angioplasty, macular degeneration, and shingles), but also endless delights, chief among them, sex (“More venery. More love; more closeness; more sex and romance. Bring it back, no matter what, no matter how old we are.”) and intellect (“I’ve not yet forgotten Keats or Dick Cheney or what’s waiting for me at the dry cleaner’s today.”). Every word of Angell’s essay should be read not once, but twice, and not only by his peers, but especially by those of us who are younger.
Older Amercians are one of the fastest growing demographics in our country: Baby Boomers began turning 65 in 2011, and by 2030 older Americans will number 72 million, nearly 20 percent of the total population. In a culture so obsessed with youth, it is easy to underestimate this demographic because they are so often invisible. While the median age of America’s newspaper columnists is 60, those writers are rarely writing about their own lives: they’re pontificating about the young or prognosticating about the future. . . .
An interesting book review in the NY Review of Books by Marcia Angell:
by Alison WolfCrown, 393 pp., $26.00
In just the past two or three decades, women in more than token numbers have taken their place alongside men at the upper levels of government, the professions, and business. They now earn more than half of all college degrees, and they will shortly make up a majority of lawyers, doctors, and college faculty. While they still account for only a small minority of political and business leaders, that, too, is changing. The rapid ascension of women to the most influential sectors of society—occurring in all advanced Western countries—is likely to have profound implications for public policy, and perhaps even more for the way families construct their lives and raise their children.In her remarkably wide-ranging book, Alison Wolf describes these women at the top—why their numbers have grown so fast in recent years and what their lives are like. She estimates they make up roughly 15 to 20 percent of working women in advanced countries, or about 70 million women worldwide. (Whether she is defining them by education or income is not clear, but it doesn’t much matter, since the two are so closely correlated.) She calls them variously “professional women” (an unfortunate choice), “graduates,” and the “elite,” but none of those terms quite captures the combination of education, ambition, and professional commitment that characterizes them. Clearly, we need a term that refers to something more than just graduating from college, but it’s hard to come up with one, as Wolf demonstrates. I’ll call them “upper-middle-class,” although that is not very precise either. Whatever the term, if you are reading this, the chances are that you are one of these women or living with one.
The book says relatively little about the other 80 to 85 percent of women, and virtually all Wolf’s interviews are with women in the upper-middle class, mainly her friends and colleagues; and, it seems to me, disproportionately women in business or finance. But that is a small cavil (mainly with the subtitle, which seems to promise a focus on all working women) in a book that is so interesting and well documented, drawing on a variety of surveys as well as interviews. Moreover, the focus on upper-middle-class women seems justified, since their rise to the top is a new and largely unexamined phenomenon. Despite the mountain of data Wolf amasses, however, she does not say very much about what she thinks the reader should conclude from all of it. I will try to draw some conclusions here, based on her book, on other publications, and on my own experiences.
Until the 1960s, with few exceptions, the only way even educated women could gain security, let alone status, was to make as good a marriage as possible as early as possible, leave the workforce (if they were ever in it), and spend the rest of their lives caring for their families and homes. Their social standing was that of their husbands. For practical reasons, sex, marriage, and children were tightly bound together, at least in respectable circles. There was no reliable birth control, the social stigma of extra-marital pregnancy was great, and unmarried men often did not take responsibility for the children they fathered, leaving single mothers barely able to support their children. Smart women made sure not to get pregnant before marriage, and the best way to ensure that was not to have sex.
From earliest history right through the 1950s, there was therefore a transactional element to marriage. In return for the security and protection and social approbation the husband provided, the wife provided sex and children and management of the household. If the man was wealthy and the woman beautiful and charming, so much the better. Of course, there was often love and companionship as well, but throughout history, as Wolf writes, “sex proffered, sex withheld were the main assets that girls possessed.”
All that changed almost overnight when the birth control pill hit the market in the early 1960s. Suddenly, premarital sex was no longer risky. Very quickly, the Pill (everyone knew what that capitalized word meant) came into widespread use, and for the first time, both women and men could have sex without fear of pregnancy. That certainly suited the times, and the Woodstock generation enthusiastically embraced free sex—or at least a certain segment of that generation did—and premarital sex generally lost its stigma. Both women and men often had multiple sex partners before marriage, and began to marry much later. The median age at first marriage for women increased from twenty-one in 1960 to twenty-seven in 2011.
Reliable contraception also made it feasible for women to undertake long years of education and commit to careers in a way that had not been possible before, and they began to be encouraged by, of all people, their fathers—their “besotted” fathers, in Wolf’s words. One reason for the change in the attitudes of fathers is that in the second half of the twentieth century, . . .
Both fascinating and useful. Pennebaker is also the author of Opening Up, a practical guide to recovering from (and making sense of) personal tragedy. He discovered (he’s a scientist, so he’s tested his ideas) an effective approach that you can do easily on your own—and he pretty much demolishes the idea of talking a lot about the event immediately after it happens—the usual “grief counseling” approach, which turns out to be counter-productive in fact.
The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us: $1.99 for a little while. (Obviously, the subtitle might well have been “What People’s Words Tell Us About Them.”)