Like taking candy from a baby

These are an interesting group of studies:

Seven studies using experimental and naturalistic methods reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals. In studies 1 and 2, upper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals. In follow-up laboratory studies, upper-class individuals were more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies (study 3), take valued goods from others (study 4), lie in a negotiation (study 5), cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize (study 6), and endorse unethical behavior at work (study 7) than were lower-class individuals. Mediator and moderator data demonstrated that upper-class individuals’ unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed.

But some parts of the study seem overstated. According to Bloomberg, the participants weren’t always rich or poor. They were divided into a group that was told to pretend to be rich and another group that was told to pretend to be poor:

In the candy test, 129 undergraduates were manipulated to view themselves as wealthy or poor. They were then presented with a jar of individually wrapped candy, which researchers said would go to children in a nearby lab, though the participants could take some if they wanted. The undergraduates believing themselves to be upper income took more than those believing themselves to be low income, the study found.

And the study was conducted by a PhD candidate at the University of California at Berkeley.

I’ve had my problems with the attitudes of the rich during this economic crisis, but in terms of this study, there may be a socioeconomic agenda here.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney won the Michigan primary yesterday. Rick Santorum, who came in second, said Romney was a bully and a cheat during the race.

Acting, and greatness

I’m not a big fan of awards shows so I only tuned in to the Academy Awards briefly Sunday night to see the Oscars for best actor and best actress.

Last one first: I think Meryl Streep is the greatest living actor in the world today. She has been so great for so many years that people think it’s just a matter of course that she’s going to be nominated, but don’t seem to realize that in the years she has been nominated, she has given the best performance and out of 17 nominations and only three wins, I’d say she was robbed of the Oscar eight times. Look at the past three nominations:

– How could she have lost in 2009 after that performance in “Julie and Julia” as Julia Child? And to Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”?

– How could she have lost in 2008 after the performance in “Doubt” as Sister Aloysius Beauvier? And to Kate Winslet in “The Reader”?

– How could she have lost in 2006 after the performance in “The Devil Wears Prada” as Miranda Priestly? And to Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth in “The Queen”?

(OK, that’s a tough one. Helen Mirren was great in “The Queen.” But then, that’s why you have ties. Remember Barbara Streisand in “Funny Girl” and Katherine Hepburn in “The Lion in Winter” back in 1968?)

And if you watched the show, you saw she was actually shocked that it happened. She was sure Viola Davis was going to get it. And I think, one day, Viola Davis will get it. But I’m glad Merrill Streep got this one, even though she was more deserving of the three previous one she lost. The last time she won the big one was 30 years ago: That in itself is an outrage. The world’s greatest actor has been denied the top acting honor for three decades? The Academy owes her big time.

Now to the Best Actor.

I saw “The Artist.” I thought Jean Dujardin was great in it. And I thought I didn’t know who he was.

Then I turned on France 24, the English-speaking news channel out of you know where and saw its story on Dujardin.

They said that his first major role was as “Brice de Nice.” Holy crap! I hated Brice de Nice! It was a bad French movie that was advertised forever in Belgium when I was there. I didn’t want to see it, I didn’t want to be exposed to it, but everywhere I turned, there were huge posters for “Brice de Nice.”

Then they said he was in the television series “Un gars, une fille.” Holy crap! I hated “Un gars, une fille.” It was an annoying series of vignettes about a married couple that played on every stereotype of male/female relationships. One I’ll never forget is the couple running a marathon. She is talking on her cellphone to her friend when the race starts. The next shot is the end of the race. He’s wasted and she’s still talking on the phone as they cross the line together, and she doesn’t even realize the race is over.

The worst part of “Un gars, une fille” (for you non-French speakers, that’s “A guy, a girl”) was that I bought a DVD in Brussels once that was labeled as “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” And they had put in “Un gars, une fille” by accident. I didn’t take it back, because I figured I’d take a look and find out what it was and learn a little French in the process. Big mistake.

So, Jean, you deserve your Academy Award for “The Artist.” But someone should take it away from you for putting me through all that misery in my early years in Brussels.

A-ha: A North Korean interpretation

Here’s a group of accordion players from North Korea.

There is a segment of the population whose raison d’etre focuses solely on making the rest of us hate our enemies, but really, if they’re playing a-ha in the Axis of Evil, they can’t be all that bad.

Back in business

Kind of odd missing a day after a year and a half of doing this, but I did need a recovery day. So with the exception of some soreness in the side, everything seems OK.

Although the nights haven’t been that great. I’ve been having what only can be described as a writer’s nightmare. I’m putting together a blog item, then when I finish, I run a spell check. When it comes across a misspelled word, I get an immediate pain inside the right side of my rib cage … kind of like being stabbed and feeling the knife twist.

This is the first time I can recall having dreams about words on a computer screen. So now, I’m extra careful about having clean copy.

A night or two at the hospital

Here’s one of those life experiences not worth going through. I’ve been in the hospital the past two days. Severe pains in the neck, chest and back two nights ago led to an ambulance call and a night in a crowded emergency room.

Ended up at a university hospital, which meant going through a list of  repeated questions from interns, residents, students and specialists. Got poked with assorted needles, turned into a pin cushion for blood samples, was X-rayed then later scanned behind a door that said nuclear medicine. Answered more questions from more doctors.

Spent 14 hours in the emergency room, where sufferers of every possible disaster gather: homeless people, who don’t know where they are; old people unable to breathe; drunks from car accidents who, as a matter of routine are asked “do you have suicidal thoughts.”

I listened behind a curtain as a 91 year old former Hungarian general with chest pains told a Vietnamese ultrasound technician how resourceful the Vietnamese when he was helping build roads during the war. Both decried the evils of Communism. The general, whose aide said had once been sentenced to death by the communists was asked by a nurse if he had suicidal thoughts. “Of course not. I love myself.”

This sounds interesting in retrospect, but when your sitting on a gurney and your chest feels like it will explode if you breathe too deeply, the only really interesting thing is who’s going to make the pain go away.

Got out of the emergency room, and spent a day in a hospital bed for the first time ever. More tests, x-rays and blood drawn.

And the diagnosis? No idea. No blood clots. No cancer. No pneumonia. Nothing broken. According to the results, I’m healthy.

Best guess: it might be pleurisy, an inflammation around the lungs that results in severe chest pains. They’re saying I can leave today.

It’s a good thing I have health insurance. The co-pay isgoing to be a bear. But a more definitive diagnosis would have been nice.

President Obama: the musical interludes

So the President was given a microphone and sang again. There was a blues concert at the White House two nights ago. B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Mick Jagger were just a few of the performers. And as their closing song, they did a group rendition (in the non-kidnap sense of the word) of “Sweet Home Chicago.” So guess who sang the first lyric:

We heard him doing Al Green‘s “Let’s Stay Together” at the Apollo Theater in Harlem a few days ago. It turns out the guy is constantly singing. Here he is:

– at a speech in New Jersey during his senate days, singing “Walk on By.”

– at a rally in Detroit, as a senator, singing “Chain of Fools.”

– with Paul McCartney at the White House, singing “Hey, Jude.”

He’s got the vote of the R&B base.

The GOP 2012 presidential race: Like they have a choice?

And as the search continues, The Onion (that satirical news outlet that the Republican base constantly confuses for reality) has this piece that could be fodder for future misguided rants:

WASHINGTON—Saying the now critically endangered species of politician is at high risk for complete extinction within the next 10 years, Beltway-area conservationists announced plans Monday for a new captive breeding program designed to save moderate Republicans.

According to members of the Initiative to Protect the Political Middle (IPPM), centrist Republicans, who once freely roamed the nation calling for both economic deregulation and a return to Reagan-era tax rates on the wealthy, are in dire need of protection, having lost large portions of their natural terrain to the highly territorial Evangelical and Tea Party breeds.

“Our new program is designed to isolate the few remaining specimens of moderate Republicans, mate them in captivity, and then safely release these rare and precious creatures back into the electorate,” said IPPM’s Cynthia Rollins, who traces the decline of the species to changes in the political climate and rampant, predatory fanaticism. “Within our safe, enclosed habitats, these middle-of-the-road Republican Party members can freely support increased funding for public education and even gay rights without being threatened by the far-right subgenus.”

Selective breeding. Sound like one of those Democratic plots to make us all believe in evolution.

Border patrols

Here’s a map of what are supposed to be U.S. interventions around the world since the end of World War II.

Seriously? We haven’t done anything in Canada or Mexico? In Mexico’s case, doesn’t the War on Drugs count? It’s right there in the title. We’re at war. Mexico supplies drugs.

Anybody have any idea what we could have been doing in Australia? Everywhere else seems to make sense, but what secrets could koalas and kangaroos have been hiding?

(A little research, and it looks like it had something to do with influencing an election during Nixon’s term in retaliation for the Aussie PM’s opposition to the Vietnam War. Learn something new every day.)

Via Informed Comment.

Presidents’ Day highlights

Happy Presidents’ Day.

And judging from the way things are going in the political world, this time next year, this guy is going to be president of the U.S.

Even with his “radical Islamic policies” as Rick Santorum‘s spokeswoman said today:

Over at Talking Points Memo, they described Alice Stewart’s “comment” as a Freudian Crypto-Islamic Slip.

She later called MSNBC to say that she meant to say “radical environmental policies.” An honest mistake, no doubt. I, too, tend to confuse the environment with Islam. Doesn’t everybody?

It does show what the rabid right truly believes. They are in a holy war … a jihad, if you will. Santorum has said that Protestants and professors are under the sway of Satan, and his spokeswoman says Obama is a Muslim. There are still a bunch of religions left to insult. Let’s see how many they go for in the next eight months.

One other interesting bit of polling data. According to Public Policy Polling, 10 percent of Michigan Republicans think Santorum is too liberal. Here’s the PDF. Check out page 8. I didn’t think people could be more delusional. I was wrong.

Religious right wronged?

The current “not-Romney” frontrunner in the GOP presidential campaign, Rick Santorum, is getting a lot of scrutiny these days. You’d think he wouldn’t want anyone to look into the things he said in the past.

But here’s a little head scratcher from 2008 (From Think Progress):

In a 2008 speech at Ave Maria University, Rick Santorum, a devout Catholic, warned about the dangers of “the NBA” and “rock concerts,” but also said that while Protestants founded America, mainline Protestantism is in such “shambles” that “it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it”:

Santorum: We all know that this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic but the Judeo-Christian ethic was a Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic, sure the Catholics had some influence, but this was a Protestant country and the Protestant ethic, mainstream, mainline Protestantism, and of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it. [...]

So, the Catholic guy seeking the backing of the evangelical right, says mainline Protestantism is gone from the world of Christianity.

I’m really underestimating the Republicans. I once asked if the worst case scenario was “Will they charge ahead full speed and drive that bus of the cliff and into a river of hungry crocodiles.”

Now it’s more like “Will they charge ahead full speed and drive that bus off the cliff and into a river of hungry crocodiles next to a nuclear plant during an earthquake just as the tsunami wave reaches 50 meters.”

But I’m sure it could get worse. We still have less than eight months to go.