I’m going to be on about a month-long hiatus, perhaps 45 days. Nothing untoward, I just have some other commitments that are time consuming such that I cannot put the time and effort into the blog that I want to make it of the quality I expect out of myself. Don’t worry, I shall return.
New research (gated) in the journal Behavioural Processes shows that a certain area of a dogs’s brains is “set aside” for the human in their life. (No, not the dog’s “mom” or “dad”; please stop with the anthropomorphization of your dog. It is an animal and not a human).
But I digress. The researchers found:
Five scents were presented (self, familiar human, strange human, familiar dog, strange dog). While the olfactory bulb/peduncle was activated to a similar degree by all the scents, the caudate was activated maximally to the familiar human. Importantly, the scent of the familiar human was not the handler, meaning that the caudate response differentiated the scent in the absence of the person being present. The caudate activation suggested that not only did the dogs discriminate that scent from the others, they had a positive association with it. This speaks to the power of the dog’s sense of smell, and it provides important clues about the importance of humans in dogs’ lives.
In other words, a certain region of the dog’s brain is “reserved,” so to speak for their owner/handler. No, this does not mean your dog loves you, but it does give us an interesting look into how dogs’ inner lives work. (I am a dog owner, by the by, and I do have affection for my dog lest the foregoing be misconstrued).
So reports the local news station there. I realize the man is probably hurting for cash, but, as I’ve documented before, the man seems so tone-deaf and “OJish,” that it does appear to occur to him that this is at best tasteless (the photos at least were of him and his dog). Again, mark my words, Zimmerman will end up in prison within the next 5 to 10 years.
Forgive the quasi-pretentious title. I’ve been thinking about “flakiness,” the quality of being a flake, for a while and it seems to have some qualities, at least at the broad-brush stroke level, that are worth delineating.
The first thing to notice is that being a flake is on the rise. Indeed, I would submit that flaking’s rise has been concomitant with rise of texting, as opposed to the phone call (who even calls anymore?), as the dominant form of communication between and among friends and potential romantic partners (e.g., Tinder). And the second, related connection is that flakiness is more prevalent among Millenials, especially those under the age of 30, most of whom don’t know what it’s like to live without a full spectrum of television entertainment, cell phones, the internet, texting, etc.
Let me circle back for a moment: as we have become allergic to phone calls, and texting’s star has risen, flakiness has flourished. There seems to me a fairly obvious connection here: it’s much easier to flake via text than it is on the phone. The phone puts a person on the spot: what time are we getting together? do you want to go this party? All this requires an immediate “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.” With texting, we can ignore or wait to answer, or not answer at all – I’m just now seeing this! Sorry! – at our whim.
Texting also makes it easier to lie (let’s not sugercoat it): I forgot about these plans I made, I have to cancel. I forgot about this work dinner I have tonight. Sorry! A friend from out of town just showed up! OMG, this project at work is just taking longer than I thought.
It’s much harder to lie to someone’s “voice” on the phone; texting, you can blithely tap in a few characters and wash your hands of it. It doesn’t feel as dirty.
And this is an important point to establish. The vast majority of the time we flake — and I am not excluding myself from this — we are simply not telling the truth. Perhaps we got a better offer that sounds like more fun, perhaps we are just tired or lazy and don’t now feel like doing what we committed to . . . it doesn’t matter: we are not being honest with those flake on. We make time for the people and the things that are important to us — the flake’s excuse does not get the benefit of the doubt.
All this is not so say that Millenials are somehow more mendacious than previous generations. But it is to say that the technology they have surrounding them, embedded in their lives, has made flaking easier and therefore, if not socially acceptable, at least much easier to rationalize.
Any summation here along the lines of “let’s everyone stop flaking, guys!” would be silly. People do not change their behavior that easily. But perhaps if we’re more cognizant of what we’re doing –pre- or post-commitment — we might be less likely to say “yes” in the first place or fabricate an excuse when the time comes to put your money where your mouth was. Maybe the next I’m about to flake, I’ll remember I wrote all this. Maybe the next time I get flaked on, I’ll just send a link to this post.
-The latest in meaningless political news! Rand Paul won the CPAC straw poll with 31 percent. Ted Cruz got 11 percent of the vote and Christie took 8 percent. Remember when Michelle Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll in 2011? Me neither.
-Radley Balko has a great post on prosecutorial misconduct and how the entire criminal prosecution bar seems allergic to accountability. I would submit that this is because they see the world in black and white, and they’re the good guys. Cognitive dissonance strikes again.
-A link to a number of articles on The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson’s latest.
It is not a happy Friday for some former employees of Dewey LeBeouf, a BigLaw shop that imploded a couple years back. As the New York Times reports, the evidence appears pretty overwhelming:
Four men, who were charged by New York prosecutors on Thursday with orchestrating a nearly four-year scheme to manipulate the firm’s books to keep it afloat during the financial crisis, talked openly in emails about “fake income,” “accounting tricks” and their ability to fool the firm’s “clueless auditor,” the prosecutors said.
Start thinking about plea deals, boys, a jury ain’t buying what you’re going to try and sell them.
In not so related news, as more and more people understand that law school is a bad bet, fewer are applying. And the ones that are applying have worse LSAT scores in the past. This is especially true among the lower-tier schools:
In 2010, there were only nine law schools with a median LSAT of less than 150 and only one with a median LSAT of 145, according to University of St. Thomas law professor Jerry Organ. In 2013, 32 law schools had a median LSAT of less than 150, while nine had a median LSAT of 145 or less.
Here’s your silver lining if you’re still thinking about applying: it’s easier to get into law school than it has been in quite some time. So there’s that. Bottoms up.
Its official: Wendy Davis v. Greg Abbott. Both won their parties’ respective primaries in convincing fashion with Davis garnering nearly 80 percent of the Democratic vote and Abbott prevailing with over 90 percent of Republicans backing him.
Let me take the suspense out of this race: Abbott will win in convincing fashion. As I’ve noted before, there are simply not enough women and minority voters in Texas who will support Davis such that she can win. Indeed, setting aside gender, there aren’t enough white Democrats in Texas. What is more, Abbott has three times as much cash on hand as Davis.
Finally, mark my words: Abbott is going rain down hell-fire — in the form of TV ads — that question the propriety of Davis’ work while at her law firm (and another) vis-a-vis funneling state contracts to those same law firms. The Texas Tribune reported on this a while back, and it is now starting to gain traction in the right-wing blogosphere which means Fox News will pick up the story, thus forcing the MSM to cover it as well. Davis has never been found guilty of any actual wrong-doing, but this is politics, and Abbott’s team will use this as a blunt cudgel to sully Davis’ reputation.
What else do we know from last night? Well, the Tea Party can count the Lt. Governor’s run-off as a win. Dan Patrick actually won a plurality of the votes (41.5 percent) while “Establishment” candidate David Dewhurst won only slightly more than 28 percent. Dewhurst also lost to Ted Cruz in the 2012 Senate race when Cruz was able to paint Dewhurst as not conservative enough. If you are a Democrat, you should be scared of having someone as conservative as Patrick in the Lt. Governor’s seat, which is considered the most powerful state-wide office. Patrick is a fire-breathing conservative. Allegedly, Dewhurst has been saving his campaign funds for the run-off.
But the Tea Party can’t take much solace in Senator John Cornyn’s spanking of Steve Stockman, nor Pete Sessions, who is Chairman of the important House Rules Committee, easy win over his Tea Party challenger. And I would be remiss to not note that George P. Bush is on his way to becoming your newest Land Commissioner.
In sum, we didn’t learn much we didn’t already knew. Texas is almost certain to remain red all over, both in state wide and national races. Davis’ star may soon take a hit, but she’ll live to fight another day (one can foresee a run for Congress in her Fort Worth district in 2016), and the Tea Party remains a force to be reckoned with in Texas state politics.
Last night on Fox News, Sarah Palin told Sean Hannity:
“People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates.”
Before you roll your eyes and say so what? Sarah Palin says a lot of inane things, I submit that this statement is worth some analysis. This statement, as much as any, shows one the id of the Tea Party member, right-wing conservative Fox News viewer.
First, notice the visceral delight it invites the listener to share: Obama, at once a raging socialist Muslim Kenyan who is taking over the government with his czars and executive orders, is feminized and emasculated: he wears “mom jeans.” Indeed, Palin, using carefully chosen rhetoric, also told Hannity: “Look, the perception of Obama, of him and his potency across the world is one of such weakness.” Obama is weak and impotent.
It doesn’t matter whether there is any truth to the statement that the larger world community thinks of the U.S. as led by an unfashionable Obama who “equivocates and bloviates” (though it is worth noting that Obama is still more popular in world opinion than Bush). The id wants the instant gratification of putting Obama in his place. Palin’s commentary does that masterfully, if not truthfully. Palin is so popular amongst her supporters because she has her finger on the pulse of the Tea Party. This is the bloodiest of red meat.
Notice, further, the contrast Palin then paints of the emasculated Obama with Putin, who people around the world ostensibly believe wrestles bears (!) and drills for oil. Again, this is masterful rhetoric. Playing on a popular and inane internet meme — Putin wrestling bears and other masculine adventures — Palin feeds into another need for the conservative id: a man’s man. This is not mere arm-chair psychoanalysis; there are real, empirical differences in the psychological make-up of conservatives and liberals. What is more, Putin drills for oil, with the implicit criticism, which every viewer will be aware of: the Keystone XL pipeline.
So upon deeper analysis, one might say: Sarah Palin may be dumb, but she’s not stupid.
Jeffrey Toobin’s article criticizing Justice Clarence Thomas as “downright embarrassing” has been got a lot of attention last week, including on the Sunday morning talking heads shows (e.g. CNN’s Reliable Sources). Toobin’s issue is this: Justice Thomas hasn’t asked a question or meaningfully participated in oral argument in eight years. To Toobin, this is an appalling dereliction of his duty as a Supreme Court Justice.
Toobin is well wide of the mark on this criticism. First, as Toobin shows in his piece, the other eight Justices participate in oral argument with a high level of frequency. Let me put it another way: oral argument before the Supreme Court has become a way for the Justices, using the lawyers’ oral argument as their foil, to argue amongst themselves. Scalia will help out a lawyer who is fumbling for a good answer to a question he wants answered a certain way. Breyer will do the same. Breyer and Scalia will argue back and forth — like it’s a debating club — and many times Supreme Court advocates will get less then a couple sentences into their argument before the Justices begin peppering them with questions.
And this should tell you something: Justice Thomas knows this is all somewhat of a spectacle and a way for the Justices to “perform” for the insular world of Supreme Court watchers. Did Kennedy give away which way he’ll vote? That question from Roberts showed he’s definitely leaning x way.
It might not rise quite to the level of kabuki theater, but it’s close. In other words, Thomas knows that oral argument rarely if ever actually makes a difference in the way the Justices will vote. They have already read hundreds of pages of briefs (or least lengthy memorandum/a composed by their clerks) and they and their clerks have certainly spent time talking about the case at length: the oral argument is the least important part of Supreme Court advocacy.
So perhaps we should actually praise Justice Thomas for refusing to give into this dance. As Professor Jamal Greene noted yesterday on CNN, the presence of a “hot bench” is a relatively recent phenomenon (the 1980s) and as recently as the Warren Court, there was a whole lot more listening by the Justices than there was talking. There is probably no coincidence that the presence of the Court’s hot bench coincided with the timing of Supreme Court appointments being seen as proxies for the culture war and the concomitant media attention that drew.
At all events, you might criticize Thomas for a number of different things, but this particular criticism is silly and picayune. Mr. Toobin: you’re better than this.