9-8-12 Hodgepodge

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Fall Guy

I found this vignette amusing for a brief instant when I first ran into it:

The Obama campaign rolled out the red carpet this week for a former top Energy Department official who was at the center of the ill-fated government loan to Solyndra, a California solar panel firm that wound up in bankruptcy.

Steven J. Spinner joined other top fundraisers for a VIP tour of the Democratic National Convention floor in Charlotte Monday evening, posing and waving for a photographer while standing behind the podium. When he saw ABC News cameras, however, he ran for the exit.
While it amusing to see this rat scurrying, a problem immediately arises: Although he is guilty as sin, all this media attemtion and any government attention he receives will merely serve as a distraction from the real problem. The real problem is that government backing of some businesses with looted funds is regarded as a good thing.

The problem isn't that a noble effort like Solyndra fell due to corruption, it's that the whole "green energy" gravy train is wrong.

 Weekend Reading

"[Physicians] could face significant conflicts-of-interest when they consider a patient readmission medically necessary but the hospital administrator thinks otherwise." -- Paul Hsieh, in "Will Obamacare Play Games With Your Actual Life?" at Forbes

"Magical thinking, in the form of ritual behavior, helps soothe their dread over 'what can happen.'" -- Michael Hurd, in "Is Your Thinking Magical?" at DrHurd.com

"[K]eeping employees who are hurting a company's bottom line isn't good for anyone--not even the employee whose unproductive job is (temporarily) allowed to weigh down the enterprise." -- Yaron Brook and Don Watkins, in "The Virtue of Employee Layoffs" at Forbes

Magical Thinking and Risk Aversion

The Hurd piece helped me make a connection regarding the prevalence of risk aversion in modern culture, which is thoroughly saturated with the influence of pragmatism -- the rejection of principles on principle and the dismissal of the whole idea that knowledge is an integrated, comprehensible whole.

When one does not actually understand how things work -- across the board in the case of a more consistently unprincipled pragmatist -- rituals end up filling the emotional void left by the certainty that someone who has and applies valid principles feels as a normal part of his daily life.


These full-color, high-resolution images from a century ago have to be seen to be believed.
[P]hotographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) undertook a photographic survey of the Russian Empire with the support of Tsar Nicholas II. He used a specialized camera to capture three black and white images in fairly quick succession, using red, green and blue filters, allowing them to later be recombined and projected with filtered lanterns to show near true color images.
Oh, and did I mention that many are quite beautiful?



Anonymous said...

HI Gus,

Reading Dr. Hurd's piece makes me wonder if there is a phenomenon that straddles the magical thinking world and the real world.

There are athletes who have a standard ritual that they adhere to prior to a competition; for instance, certain foods to eat, dining at a specific time period before competition, lacing their footware in a specific way, etc. Do these qualify as magical thinking? Or could they be a physical means of actuating mental focus on the objective?

c andrew

Gus Van Horn said...

I've heard such things called "mind hacks".

Considering in what bad shape most people are philosophically, as well as the newness of psychology as a science, such rituals are understandable, at any rate.

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, it's always great to see Produkin-Gorsky's pictures. I first saw them in a museum exhibition maybe thirty years ago, and then every seven or eight years I stumble across a book or a magazine article about them. You'd think they'd be more famous, but they're not.

Gus Van Horn said...

Exactly. My first thought -- after "Wow!" -- was, "Why hadn't I ever heard of these until now?"