Saturday, December 10, 2011


This is hilarious.

"Law and Order" recreated the Occupy Wall Street site to film a segment of the show.

The real Occupy Wall Street people heard about the fake.

The real Occupy Wall Street occupied the fake Occupy Wall Street on fake Wall Street.

At the behest of the fake cops, the real cops drove out the real OWS so the fake OWS could occupy the fake OWS.

Life is full of wonders.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Married Parents Are More Likely to Think That Their Lives Have an Important Purpose

The 2011 edition of The State of Our Unions has just been released by the National Marriage Project and the Institute for American Values. This year's report, by Brad Wilcox and Elizabeth Marquardt, has the wonderful subtitle "And Baby Makes Three: How Parenthood Makes Life Meaningful and How Marriage Makes Parenthood Bearable."

Among their findings, drawn from a new Survey of Marital Generosity, is that married people are more likely to think that their lives are meaningful than are unmarried people.  Even more interesting, as this table shows, is that among married people, parents are more likely to think that their "life has an important purpose" than are childless husbands and wives.  In fact, a majority of married mothers, and a near majority of married fathers strongly agree that their lives have an important purpose.

Believing that your life has an important purpose is one of the strongest components of a happy life.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Civil War Was the Heroic Birth of Black America

Ta-Nehisi Coates has an excellent essay in the Atlantic Monthly special issue on the Civil War. His main point is to call on African-Americans to know and own and cherish their role in the Civil War in winning their freedom and making democracy real in America.

More than that, Coates calls on all Americans to see the Civil War as a "good war," in the sense that we see the Second World War as a "good war" - a just struggle that defeated a manifest evil. He argues that to see the Civil War as a tragedy that divided brother against brother is to collude in the exclusion of the "darker brother" from existence in America.

I think Coates is quite right. The collusion of northern and southern whites in the myth of the Lost Cause after the war may have seemed worth it to foster national white reconciliation. But it came at the high cost of racial apartheid, terrorism, and oppression for another hundred years.

Only now, on the 150th anniversary of the start of the war, can we start to appreciate the Civil War as a heroic war for the American ideals of liberty and equality for all Americans. And no matter which side, if any, your ancestors were on (and I have ancestors on both sides), all Americans can come to see the Civil War as the heroic birth of the whole nation.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Daily Show vs. Swamp Loggers

Entertainment Weekly commissioned a survey of the favorite television shows of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans.

At the top of the liberal Democratic list: "The Daily Show."

At the top of the conservative Republican list: "Swamp Loggers."

Democrats favor snark and literate humor. Republicans favor work and literal reality.

I don't see a deep lesson in this difference. But I do think it reinforces the notion that there is some cultural polarization in America. This is not just a matter of official partisan positions, either. Pop culture shows a party, if not partisan, divide.

So now I have to go find out what "Swamp Loggers" is about. :-)

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Pinker's Main Point About Why Violence Has Declined

Steven Pinker's main point in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined is this:

The “Kantian triangle of democracy, open economies, and engagement in the international community” (310) is his main causal theory of the decline of violence. Each of these institutions justifies itself by the reasonable gains that people get from them, and from the spread of Enlightenment culture as a whole.

The spread of competent states with somewhat open economies has reduced violence because
a) violence by citizens is bad for states;
b) violence by the state against citizens is bad for states, unless it is necessary for a);
c) violence is bad for commerce;
d) interstate institutions have been somewhat successful in preventing interstate violence (wars).

The places that we see violence in the world today are in failed states, weak states, and relatively lawless corners of otherwise competent states. And these places are shrinking as states and globalized commerce fill the remaining lawless corners of the world.