Thursday, December 31, 2015

Personal Policies can help you keep those New Years Resolutions

Looks like her self-statement is still "I'm trying to quit," rather than "I don't smoke."

"Research shows that personal policies are also helpful in reaching personal goals, like losing weight—but the wording is important. According to a series of experiments published in the Journal of Consumer Research in 2012, telling yourself “I don’t skip the gym” versus “I can’t skip the gym,” for example, can help motivation.
In one experiment, 30 women, ages 22 to 53, undertook a 10-day wellness challenge involving goals like exercising more and eating more healthily. The women were divided into three groups: One was asked to use the “I don’t” strategy, another the “I can’t” strategy, and a third (the control group) was simply told to say no to temptation. Researchers sent out a daily email to remind the women to use the strategies.
While only 10% of the “I can’t” group stuck with their goal, 80% of the “I don’t” group were still using the strategy successfully 10 days later. Lead researcher Vanessa Patrick, professor of marketing at the University of Houston, suggests that when a refusal and a policy involve someone’s personal identity—"I’m someone who doesn’t skip the gym”—it can improve self-control and encourage you to stick to a goal.
In another study, published in the International Journal of Research in Marketing, the same researchers found that people who said “I don’t” in role-playing and scenario-based exercises were more persuasive than those who said “I can’t.” So the next time an eager hostess tries to break your diet by offering “just a little piece,” kindly tell her, “No thank you, I don’t eat cake,” says Prof. Patrick. Saying “I don’t” connotes a higher degree of conviction and makes it harder for someone to push back.
Because personal policies are so specific to an individual, says the writer (and avid personal policy maker) Sarah Knight, “You’ll find that no one wants to argue with you—they’ll be afraid of hurting your feelings instead."

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The secret to writing more and avoiding procrastination in 2016

User-uploaded Content

The Guardian 
"Robert Boice...was [is?] a US psychologist who’d cracked the secret of how to write painlessly and productively. Years ago, he’d recorded this wisdom in a book, ...How Writers Journey To Comfort And Fluency. ... So if you hunger to write more, but instead find yourself procrastinating, or stifled by panic, or writer’s block, I can reveal that the solution to your troubles is…

Look, you knew this would be anticlimactic, didn’t you? The kernel of Boice’s advice, based on writing workshops conducted with struggling academics, isn’t merely old. It’s the oldest in the world: write, every weekday, in brief scheduled sessions, as short as 10 minutes at first, then getting longer. Reading that, I nearly flung my £68 book across the room in impatience. But that wouldn’t surprise Boice. Because impatience, for him, is a huge part of why writing causes so much grief.
His students, he explains, tell him they can’t afford to limit their writing to short sessions, or try his other exercises: they’ve got deadlines to meet! But that proves the point. They want to have already written – and it’s precisely that manic urgency that triggers panic and procrastination. As I kept reading, a realisation dawned: the non-excitingness of Boice’s book – from its title to his step-by-step advice, which you’re meant to implement gradually, over months – is itself an exercise in cultivating patience. It’s slow going because slow is the only way forward.
This gets clearer when it comes to one of Boice’s favourite tips: when your daily writing time is up, stop dead, even if you’ve got momentum and could write more. Maybe you could. But you’d be reinforcing the notion of writing as a mysterious force, to be harnessed whenever it shows up, rather than a humdrum activity you choose, undramatically, to do. “The urge to continue,” Boice writes, “includes a big component of impatience about not being finished, about not being productive enough, about never again finding such an ideal time for writing.” Stop when the timer goes off, and you’ll build self-discipline. Keep going longer, and you’re just indulging your insecurity.
Boice would have helped nobody, then, had he offered a quick fix – because wanting a quick fix is the essence of impatience. Instead, decelerate. Make writing only a middling priority in your life. Don’t binge-write. Aim for mild happiness as you work, not storms of passion. And if all this strikes you as a waste of time, ask yourself: could that very reaction be part of the problem? Staring paralysed at the screen is an even bigger waste, after all."

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Woman’s death leap injures pedestrian

Both the decedent and the accidental victim are described as "lovely" people. By the way, 3:15 on a Friday afternoon seems like an odd time to jump out of your window. My guess is that Friday night or Monday morning are more common times for jumping. I'll have to look it up, though. 

"A pedestrian casually strolling along a Midtown sidewalk Friday was crushed by a woman who jumped to her death from the window on the third floor of her apartment building.
The innocent bystander was on First Avenue near East 51st Street when the despondent woman leapt from the window at 3:15 p.m. and fell atop of her, cops said.
People attending a holiday office party rushed outside to help.
“We held her hand,” witness Meredith Murphy said of the injured pedestrian. “She was very scared and confused.”
As she lay on the pavement, she expressed concern about the ­condition of the jumper.
“She was quite rattled,” said another witness, Diana Schumacher. “She was lovely and saying a prayer to the other lady.”
One passer-by tried to give first aid to the jumper.
“I held her head. I was trying to stop the bleeding,” said Dimitris Pahoulis, a waiter from a restaurant next door. “I was trying to communicate with her, but she was not responding.”
The unidentified jumper was rushed to Bellevue Hospital, where she died.
“She was a very lovely person. She was always friendly,” a neighbor said of the fatal victim. “I feel bad for [her husband]. He didn’t think this was going to happen.”
The pedestrian was listed in ­serious condition with non-life-threatening injuries."

Monday, December 28, 2015

Best time to have a heart attack? The week of the national cardiology conference.


"One of the more surprising — and genuinely scary — research papers published recently appeared in JAMA Internal Medicine. It examined 10 years of data involving tens of thousands of hospital admissions. It found that patients with acute, life-threatening cardiac conditions did better when the senior cardiologists were out of town. And this was at the best hospitals in the United States, our academic teaching hospitals. As the article concludes, high-risk patients with heart failure and cardiac arrest, hospitalized in teaching hospitals, had lower 30-day mortality when cardiologists were away from the hospital attending national cardiology meetings. And the differences were not trivial — mortality decreased by about a third for some patients when those top doctors were away. 
Truly shocking and counterintuitive: Not having the country’s famous senior heart doctors caring for you might increase your chance of surviving a cardiac arrest. 
It is not clear why having senior cardiologists around actually seems to increase mortality for patients with life-threatening heart problems. One possible explanation is that while senior cardiologists are great researchers, the junior physicians — recently out of training — may actually be more adept clinically. Another potential explanation suggested by the data is that senior cardiologists try more interventions. When the cardiologists were around, patients in cardiac arrest, for example, were significantly more likely to get interventions, like stents, to open up their coronary blood vessels.
This is not the only recent finding that suggests that more care can produce worse health outcomes."

I wonder also if having the supervisors away at a conference freed the cardiology residents to practice at their best, i.e., to focus on patient care rather than impressing their supervisors. Alternatively, perhaps the residents performed better than usual because they did not want to have to present their supervisors with the news that they had lost patients during the national conferences. It could be that experiencing the supervisor-resident dynamic could be what is bad for cardiac patients. It would be interesting to see data of how the supervisors did without residents around (perhaps when they were sitting for their board exams?).

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Mild is the Parting Year -- Walter Savage Landor (1775–1864)

Mild is the parting year, and sweet
         The odour of the falling spray;
Life passes on more rudely fleet,
         And balmless is its closing day.

I wait its close, I court its gloom,
         But mourn that never must there fall
Or on my breast or on my tomb
         The tear that would have soothed it all.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Lady is a Tramp -- Henry King, ft. Joe Sudy (1937)

She gets too hungry for dinner at eight
She likes the theatre and never comes late
She never bothers with people she hates
That's why the lady is a tramp

Doesn't like crap games with barons or earls
Won't go to Harlem in ermine and pearls
Won't dish the dirt with the rest of the girls
That's why the lady is a tramp

She likes the free fresh wind in her hair,
Life without care
She's broke and it's ok

Hates California, it's cold and it's damp
That's why the lady is a tramp

She gets too hungry to wait for dinner at eight
She loves the theatre, but never comes late
She'd never bother with people she'd hate
That's why the lady is a tramp

She'll have no crap games with sharpies and frogs
And she won't go to Harlem in Lincolns or Fords
And she won't dish the dirt with the rest of the broads
That's why the lady is a tramp

She loves the free fresh wind in her hair
Life without care
She's broke but it's ok

Hates California, it's so cold and so damp
That's why the lady. that's why the lady
That's why the lady is a tramp


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The New Asylums: Mentally Ill Inmates on Riker's Island

"It was not a particularly violent crime that sent Michael Megginson to Rikers Island. He was arrested for stealing a cellphone.
In his 18 months there, he was constantly involved in some kind of disturbance, his records show. He fought with other inmates and officers; spit and threw urine at them; smashed windows and furniture and once stabbed an officer in the back of the head with a piece of glass.
At least twice, his bones were broken in beatings by guards.
He also repeatedly hurt himself, cutting his body all over, banging his head against walls and tying sheets and clothing around his neck in apparent suicide attempts.       
There were times he became severely psychotic. He once stripped naked and broke the toilet in his cell, causing a flood. “I’m trying to save everybody from the devil with holy water,” he said, according to jail records.
For years, Rikers has been filling with people like Mr. Megginson, who have complicated psychiatric problems that are little understood and do not get resolved elsewhere: the unwashed man passed out in a public stairwell; the 16-year-old runaway; the drug addict; the belligerent panhandler screaming in a full subway car.
It is a problem that cuts two ways. At the jail, with its harsh conditions and violent culture, the mentally ill can deteriorate, their symptoms worsening in ways Rikers is unequipped to handle. As they get sicker, they strike out at guards and other correction employees, often provoking more violence." 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

To write well, you must read well

LA Review of Books

"Captain Ahab, that vengeful seeker puffed with "fatal pride," simply could not have been imagined without Milton's Satan, paragon of seditiousness and the heroic sublime. Both tragic heroes are solipsists and madmen who believe that God is an ill-mannered lunatic undeserving of his reign, and yet both evoke our best sympathy in their epic struggles. Ahab knows he is as "proud as Lucifer" and "damned in the midst of Paradise," and he shares Satan's mytho-maniacal poeticism: "I leave a white and turbid wake; pale waters, paler cheeks, where'er I sail. The envious billows sidelong swell to whelm my track; let them; but first I pass."
Like Shelley and Blake, Melville was charmed by the individualism and heroic striving of Milton's Satan, and he imbued Ahab with the same sense of outsized self-mythologizing. His rereading of Paradise Lost during the composition of Moby Dick significantly altered the novel's meaning and mythic scope. The extraordinary fact is that as late as 1849 (Moby Dick was published in 1851), Melville had yet to conceive of Captain Ahab and was focused instead on the non-epic bildungsroman of a shipmate called Ishmael. Take Milton’s Satan away from Melville and you can forget about the earthshaking achievement of Moby Dick.
In his biography of Melville, Andrew Delbanco contends that Melville's "immersion” in great writers at this time “lifted him to a new level of epic ambition." Delbanco gives particular attention not only to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein but to Dryden's seminal translation of Virgil's Aeneid, which Melville also reread during the writing of Moby Dick. After that "encounter" with the Aeneid, Delbanco writes, Melville "found himself recapitulating Virgil's story of a haunted mariner voyaging out to avenge a grievous loss." In other words: a vigorous rereading of epics vivified his creation of the most compelling quester in the American canon.
Delbanco's use of "recapitulate" stresses the reality that Moby Dick was not born in a vacuum, that Melville's genius, his far-reaching metaphysical vision, required the verbal and allegorical acumen of the great books. He was incapable of reading one classic without relating it to another — in his edition of Chapman's Homer he scrawled lines he preferred from Pope's Homer — or else contemplating how he himself would render the same material. Immersed in Virgil, the Bible, Shakespeare, and Milton, he recreated those myths and human truths for 19th century America, and in doing so, made them his own. As Hershel Parker emphasizes in his meticulous two-volume biography, "Melville was not reading in order to acquire knowledge for its own sake," but rather, "his evident purpose in reading epics of Western civilization was to learn how to write."
Melville remains one of the best American examples of how every important writer is foremost an indefatigable reader of golden books, someone who kneels at the altar of literature not only for wisdom, sustenance, and emotional enlargement, but with the crucial intent of filching fire from the gods.
How might Melville react to today's writers' conferences and creative writing workshops in which so many have no usable knowledge of literary tradition and are mostly mere weekend readers of in-vogue books? An untold number of Americans will finish a book manuscript this year, and the mind-numbing majority of them will be confected by nonreaders. How can a nonreader imagine himself an author, the creator of an artifact that he himself admittedly would have no interest in?"

Monday, December 21, 2015

My 2015 Predictions -- How did I do??

50% correct. Not so hot, because I was aiming at 100%.

Original Post (12/31/2014)

On (or by) December 31, 2015,

1. Vladimir Putin will still be in power


 2. China will still be a Communist dictatorship.


 3. There will be no peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.


 4. A major scandal will have emerged involving the Obama Administration (and not just within on the various federal agencies, e.g. the VA, the IRS).


 5. Two Supreme Court Justices will have died or retired.


 6. Iran will NOT have tested a nuclear weapon (but international experts will agree that they have achieved nuclear capability).


 7. A major entertainer's career will implode in a serious scandal.

CORRECT -- I'm giving myself credit for the Charlie Sheen/HIV thing.

 8. There will be no significant progress made by the U.S. toward a Mission to Mars or a return to the moon.


 9. There will be a confrontation between the Japanese and Chinese navies that results in one or more fatalities.


 10. The number of U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan will exceed the 9,800 originally planned.

INCORRECT, it's still 9,800 BUT they are going to be there until 2017, at least.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Attempted Rescue -- Alan Dugan (2002)

I came out on the wrong
side of time and saw
the rescue party leave.
"How long must we wait?"
I said. "Forever. You
are too far gone to save,
too dangerous to carry off
the precipice, and frozen stiff
besides. So long. You
can have our brandy. That's life."

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Best is Yet to Come -- Frank Sinatra (1964)

That's the Count Basie Orchestra backing Frank up on this track.

Out of the tree of life, I just picked me a plum
You came along and everything started to hum

 Still it's a real good bet, the best is yet to come

The best is yet to come, and won't that be fine
You think you've seen the sun, but you ain't seen it shine

Wait till the warm-up is underway
Wait till out lips have met

 Wait till you see that sunshine day
You ain't seen nothin' yet

The best is yet to come, and won't that be fine
The best is yet to come, come the day that your mine

Come the day that your mine
I'm gonna teach you to fly

 We've only tasted the wine
We're gonna drain that cup dry

Wait till your charms are right, for the arms to surround
You think you've flown before, but you ain't left the ground

Wait till you're locked in my embrace
Wait till I hold you near

 Wait till you see that sunshine place
There ain't nothin' like it here

The best is yet to come, and won't that be fine
The best is yet to come, come the day that your mine

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Is Donald Trump the Jesse Jackson of this campaign?

"Yes, it's a bit embarrassing that the press wants to talk to Don King and not us, especially since I'm running for president and you own this wonderful casino hotel. But listen -- just because you are a bloviating nincompoop doesn't disqualify you as a candidate. Look at me and all the idiotic things I say. Wait 20 years, maybe 25, and give it a whirl. It's fun -- you'll see. Just remember that you're running for President of the United States, not recipient of the Nobel Prize for Medicine. You don't have to be wise or good -- this is a democracy for Pete's sakes. Just be entertaining and let the people decide."

"Historically, in fact,7 there has been nearly a one-to-one correspondence between a candidate’s share of media coverage and his share of the vote in the polls. That is, other things held equal, a candidate earning 30 percent in national polls tends to get about 30 percent of the media coverage, while one polling at 10 percent will get 10 percent of it instead. It’s just that simple.8
Thus, we can readily compare a candidate’s share of media coverage to his polling average. Trump, for example, has received an average of 28 percent of the Republican vote in national polls since July, according to HuffPost Pollster. Prorate that number upward to exclude undecided voters and candidates who have exited the race, and you get him up to 32 percent. By comparison, Trump has received 54 percent of the media coverage of the GOP race, so his media coverage has exceeded his share in the polls by 22 percentage points.
That is a big gap, although not the largest on record. Instead, the record belongs to Jesse Jackson, who received 33 percent of the media coverage in the run-up to the 1984 Democratic primaries despite usually polling only in the high single digits.
Candidates with more support in media than in polls
Jesse Jackson1984 D33%9%+24%
Donald Trump2016 R54%32%+22%
Douglas Wilder1992 D40%19%+21%
Rick Perry2012 R37%18%+19%
Howard Dean2004 D40%21%+19%
Pat Robertson1988 R23%7%+16%
Hillary Clinton2016 D77%65%+12%
Mitt Romney2008 R24%13%+11%
It’s odd to compare Jackson and Trump, but their candidacies have some similarities: Both were nationally renowned (and controversial) figures before embarking on their campaigns, and their candidacies were strongly opposed by most members of their party establishment. Eventually, Jackson fared reasonably well, winning two states and 18 percent of the Democratic vote in the 1984 primaries and advancing political participation in the black community, although he never came close to winning the nomination."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"You can't study psychology with statistics." -- Freud

"I suggested to Freud that his views on falling dreams might be easily confirmed by statistics. "This is a typical American idea," he said. "You can't study psychology with statistics. Falling has other meanings besides femininity; it may mean giving birth." He was apparently displeased with the suggestion and though I said another word or two in its defense, I soon changed the subject."
-- Joseph Wortis, My Analysis with Freud (1984/1994), p. 86

Monday, December 14, 2015

Wife of slain Dallas jogger commits suicide two weeks after husband’s machete murder

Dave and Patti Stevens, shown here in an undated family photo. This was among the photos that Patti Stevens left in her kitchen beside a note addressed to a reporter.
"He held doors open for her. He got excited about putting together new furniture. They had no kids. For 25 years they were all they needed." Sad, sad story. Her suicide note to a reporter is just a list of educational credentials.

"The wife of the Dallas-area jogger who was hacked to death with a machete committed suicide at the couple’s suburban home Sunday, police said.
Police found Patti Stevens, 54, dead of a suspected suicide in the Sunnyvale house she shared with her husband Dave Stevens around 2:30 p.m., according to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department.
Police said former Texas A&M football player Thomas Johnson, 21, killed Stevens, who had been married to Patti for 25 years, on White Rock Creek Trail during his morning run on Oct. 12.
Patti Stevens was struggling to eat, sleep or think clearly a week after her husband’s death, she told The Dallas Morning News at the time.
“Dave was the love of my life and I’m lost without him,” she said. “People need to know that this was a wonderful person going out and doing what he loved to do.”
Officers found her in the garage of the Brazos Lane home a week later, and police believe she died from carbon monoxide poisoning, neighbors told the Morning News.
Her late husband’s former colleagues at General Electric had alerted police to their concern for Stevens, a physical therapist, after she didn’t answer phone calls Saturday and Sunday. County medical examiners didn’t release an official cause of death on Monday, KDFW-TV reported.
Johnson, the onetime freshman receiver standout who dropped out of school in 2012, admitted to murdering Stevens’ 53-year-old husband, according to investigators. He’s charged with murder and incarcerated in Dallas County jail on a $500,000 bond, county inmate records show. Friends and family have said Johnson is a schizophrenic and had become delusional and resistant to help, according to the Morning News.
Patti and Dave Stevens met on their graduation day at Michigan State University and moved to Dallas together in 1989. Opinion writer Mike Hashimoto called Patti Stevens' death “stunning news" and "heartbreaking beyond belief” on Monday.
“Even with as hard a shell as this business can put on a person, I can't imagine a sadder story than the widow of a random murder victim taking her own life,” Hashimoto wrote in the editorial."

See Previous Post:

Former A&M football player with schizophrenia kills stranger with machete

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Anything, Anything (I'll Give You) -- Dramarama (1985)

They put Edie Sedgwick on the cover of their first album. That was really cool in 1985.

Okay, what is it tonight?
Please just tell me what the hell is wrong?
Do you wanna eat? Do you wanna sleep?
Do you wanna drown?

 Just settle down, settle down, settle down

I'll give you candy, give you diamonds
Give you pills, give you anything you want
Hundred dollar bills
I'll even let you watch the shows you wanna see

 Just marry me, marry me, marry me

I'm so sick of you tonight
You never stay awake when I get home
Is something wrong with me?
Something wrong with you?

 I really wish I knew, wish I knew, wish I knew

I'll give you candy, give you diamonds
Give you pills, I'll give you anything you want
Hundred dollar bills
 I even let you watch the shows you want to see
Because you marry me, marry me, marry me

Marry me, marry me, marry me

I was young, I learned a game
That love and happiness were the same
Now I'm older and I don't play
I found out the hardest way

I got wasted, she got mad
Called me names then she called her dad
He got crazy and I did too
Wondered what I did to you

I gave you candy, gave you diamonds
Gave you pills, I gave you anything you want
Hundred dollar bills
I even let you hear the songs I want to sing
I gave you anything anything anything

I'll give you anything, anything, anything
I'll give you anything, anything, anything
Anything, anything, anything

John Easdale

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Dream a Little Dream of Me -- Cass Elliot (1968)

Stars shining bright above you
Night breezes seem to whisper: "I love you"
Birds singing in the sycamore tree
Dream a little dream of me

Say "nighty-night" and kiss me
Just hold me tight and tell me you'll miss me
While I'm alone and blue as can be
Dream a little dream of me

Stars fading, but I linger on, dear
Still craving your kiss
I'm longing to linger 'til dawn, dear
Just saying this

"Sweet dreams 'til sun beams find you"
Sweet dreams that leave our worries behind you
But in your dreams, whatever they be
Dream a little dream of me

Stars fading, but I linger on, dear
Still craving your kiss
I'm longing to linger 'til dawn, dear
Just saying this

"Sweet dreams 'til sun beams find you"
Sweet dreams that leave our worries far behind you
But in your dreams, whatever they be
Dream a little dream of me

Friday, December 11, 2015

Moynihan's Reading List for Nixon

Image result for nixon reading book

Anecdotal Evidence
"Early in his first term, [U.S. President Richard] Nixon named [future U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick] Moynihan – a liberal Harvard professor with close ties to the Kennedys – his urban affairs adviser. Hess calls them “the oddest...of all the odd couples in American political life.” 
In a chapter titled “Tutorial,” [author Stephen] Hess reports the president asked Moynihan for a list of his favorite political biographies, and quotes Nixon as writing in a memo to Moynihan: “As you know, I do quite a bit of evening reading, and I want to be sure that I’m reading the best!” One is touched by Nixon’s earnestness and eagerness to please his staff intellectual. Limiting himself to ten titles, Moynihan leaves out Erik Erikson on Gandhi, Arthur Link on Woodrow Wilson and Catherine Drinker Bowen on Oliver Wendell Holmes. Here is the list Moynihan gives Nixon: 
Autobiography, John Adams (1802)
Abraham Lincoln, Lord Charnwood (1917)
The Education of Henry Adams, Henry Adams (1918)
Talleyrand, Duff Cooper (1932)
Melbourne, David Cecil (1939)
Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, Alan Bullock (1952)
The Republican Roosevelt, John Morton Blum (1961)
Alexander Hamilton and the Constitution, Clinton Rossiter (1964)
Disraeli, Robert Blake (1966)
Zapata and the Mexican Revolution, John Womack Jr. (1969)" 
What my fellow blogger fails to mention is that Nixon shocked Moynihan not long afterwards by saying, "I've read them all, now let's discuss them." Moynihan himself had not read Disraeli, which is close to 900 pages.

I can't say that political biographies are really my thing. I didn't like Henry Adams, which apparently some people think is the greatest work of 20th century non-fiction in English. I have owned the Bowen, Bullock, Blum, and the Blake, but can't say I ever read them all the way through. I might take a look at Erikson on Gandhi. Duff Cooper's Tallyrand looks pretty fun. I feel a duty to read the Charnswood on Lincoln, which probably means I won't.

A chacun son gout.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Clausewitz on ISIS

It's a shame that this book isn't required reading at more colleges.

"Clausewitz...views war as a subject that can be studied, understood and that, like engineering (say) or architecture, or any other discipline, improved on. It is possible to get good at killing, and if you’re better at it than your enemy — if you break your enemy’s will to resist (as he would say) — you’ll win. On War provides a slew of these undiluted but axiomatic understandings. Though Clausewitz was a civilized man who recognized war’s horrors, he issued these axioms with a stern warning: “Kind-hearted people might think there was some ingenious way to disarm or defeat an enemy without too much bloodshed,” he writes, “and might imagine this is the true goal of the art of war. Pleasant as it sounds, it is a fallacy that must be exposed: war is such a most dangerous business that the mistakes which come from kindness are the very worst . . . This is how the matter must be seen. It would be futile — even wrong — to try and shut one’s eyes to what war really is from sheer distress at its brutality.”
It is this unblinking ability to call war what it is that has given Clausewitz such a dedicated following that large numbers of military officers have worked to grasp his thinking, and vocabulary. “Clausewitz says that the purpose of war is to achieve a particular political end,” Stoker says. “He argues that the best route to doing this is to attack the enemy’s center of gravity, the center of his strength. That might seem obvious now, but many of the most important parts of our current military thinking were first identified by him.”
Of course much of what Clausewitz tapped into in On War was a reflection of what professional soldiers already knew, and know. Thus, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman issued his famously Clausewitzian statement on war without, apparently, ever having read him. “War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it,” he said. “The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.” Sherman’s unflinching calculus (that true humanity consists in waging war unrelentingly, so as to end it sooner) is, in many ways, a perfect distillation of the U.S. military’s traditional mistrust of the narrative propounded by counterinsurgency advocates that the “center of gravity in a counterinsurgency is the protection of the population that hosts it.” That might have been true in western Iraq, but few would argue that it’s the case with ISIS — particularly after the attacks in Paris. “The Germans and Japanese were held in a vice grip by their leaders in World War Two,” Christopher Bassford says, “but that didn’t stop us from burning down their cities. If it’s safer to be with ISIS than against it, ISIS will retain its hold on the population it now controls.”
In fact, Bassford’s views reflect a growing consensus inside the U.S. military’s upper echelons that a cruel war against ISIS now, no matter how distasteful, will save the lives of many decent people — including many Americans — later.
...Clausewitz, Johnson notes, understood this problem. “To win you have to seize the initiative and keep it,” he says, “and right now we’re not doing that. Right now the tail is wagging the dog. ISIS kills and we respond. But you know, the dog’s supposed to be in charge, not the tail.”
Bassford too is skeptical of airpower alone. “These ISIS guys ultimately will have to be dug out of their holes and slaughtered to a man by fighters on the ground,” he says, then adds that it would be far better if those fighters were Muslim: “We need to help them wipe out the stain on Islam that ISIS represents, but it really has to be their fight.”
While neither Stoker, Bassford or Johnson cited the passage from On War that best reflects this view, it is well known to both military strategists and Clausewitz scholars, and is one of his earliest and most crucial maxims: “If one side uses force without compunction, undeterred by the bloodshed it involves, while the other side refrains,” Clausewitz wrote, “the first will gain the upper hand.” For a growing number of senior U.S. military officers, and particularly for those devotees of the Prussian’s masterpiece, the escalation marked by the Paris attacks requires a shift in U.S. strategy to seize the initiative: to hit them, and relentlessly, before they hit us. Inevitably, and ultimately, such a decision will test not only ISIS’s will to resist — it will test ours."

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Federal Judge proposes bringing back the firing squad

I will go you one better, Judge Kozinski: I've thought for a long time now that the citizens of death penalty states ought to participate in the executions of condemned criminals, just as they serve on juries. If you're willing to have it done in your name, you ought to be willing to do it yourself.

60 Minutes

"Lethal injections were supposed to be a civilized step up from the brutality of electrocutions and the spectacle of public hangings. Former President Ronald Reagan described execution by lethal injection as just like falling asleep.
Alex Kozinski: I just think that the whole idea of using drugs is foolish.
Alex Kozinski is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit which covers the West -- including Arizona, where Joseph Wood was executed. Kozinski was appointed to the bench by President Reagan and is one of the most prominent conservative judges in the country. He is in favor of the death penalty but is opposed to lethal injection.
Alex Kozinski: The state of Arizona and other states want to make this look like it's benign, want to make it look like "Oh, it's just a medical procedure." They ought to just face the idea that this is cruel and this is violent. And they ought to use some method that reflects that.

Bill Whitaker: Well, we used to do all kinds of things to kill people. We used to have the electric chair. We used to have the gas chamber. We used to hang people, even publicly.
Alex Kozinski: Many people were executed by electric chair but then it was switched away from that because it was thought to be something that caused pain.
Bill Whitaker: So, that's why most states moved to lethal injection.
Alex Kozinski: And as a result, those people who strongly opposed the death penalty moved to stop the flow of drugs that are available for execution. So now states have to scramble for ever-more-exotic drugs to try to carry out the death penalty.
Pharmaceutical companies also grew alarmed that drugs developed to heal were being used to kill and they refused to sell them for use in executions. The U.S. government now prohibits the import of the drugs. We found 15 states have begun to improvise their own lethal concoctions. The result: a number of bungled executions.
Alex Kozinski: I would eliminate the entire controversy. I would use a bullet or a series of bullets. They're fast. They're effective. Nobody ever survives.
Bill Whitaker: Go back to the firing squad?
Alex Kozinski: Make it look like an execution. Mutilate the body. And this would express the sense of that's what you're doing, that we're actually committing violence on another human being.
Bill Whitaker: I read that you have even thought the guillotine might be a good way to execute.
Alex Kozinski: Oh, yes.
Bill Whitaker: Really?
Alex Kozinski: The guillotine works. Never fails. It's quick. It's effective.
Bill Whitaker: You do know what that sounds like, hearing a judge sort of be an advocate for the guillotine?
Alex Kozinski: Tell me.
Bill Whitaker: Barbaric.
Alex Kozinski: The death penalty is barbaric. And I think we as a society need to come face-to-face with that. If we're not willing to face up to the cruelty, we ought not to be doing it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Ridiculously strong negative correlation between U.S. homicide and suicide rates, 2001-2013


This is U.S. data on suicides and homicides from 2001 to 2013. The correlation between those two lines is -.96! It's an almost perfect negative correlation. Homicide rate is dropping, hurrah! But suicide rate is climbing, as if compensating for the decline in homicides. The suicide rate increased 18% just as the homicide rate dropped by 20%.

Could those psychodynamic guys have been onto something?

  Suicide Homicide
Suicide 1.00
Homicide -0.96 1.00