A Fish Rots from the Head

In the hundreds of thousands of words that have been written about the impeachment of Donald Trump, there is a singular omission: the word “corruption.” Maybe it does appear in places. I certainly have read only a minute fraction of everything that has been written, but the focus has been almost entirely on what is impeachable. Merriam-Webster defines corruption in several ways: 1a : dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people (such as government officials or police officers) : depravity 1b : inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (such as bribery) //the corruption of government officials 1c… Read More

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More Technology Will Not Bring Us Flourishing

I am generally a fan of David Brooks. That doesn’t mean that I always agree with him, but I think he has a pretty good handle on what needs to be said at the right time. But his column today in the New York Times bothers me a lot. In a nutshell, he paints the possibility of technological breakthroughs as the bright light against all of today’s dark shadows. I think he is wrong, but worse, very wrong. I am not a Luddite, given my doctorate in Chemical Engineering from MIT, standing athwart the road to the artificially intelligent, autonomous,… Read More

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Reality and Democracy

The craziness of life in the US has abated a little following the inauguration of President Biden, but its causes still lurk in the background, but not far below the surface. Faced with a serious attack on our democracy, we are told by the pundits that our institutions held and we were saved (at least for now). Perhaps, but the institutions that hold us together are really in trouble. Institutions are nothing more than linguistic creations. We tend to talk only about the very big ones, but we exist within many, many of them. In today’s highly technocratic society, we… Read More

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Brainwashed Nation

A democratic, free nation can exist only when truth and civility abound. With neither in place, the bonds that hold the polity together shrivel and eventually disappear. The assault on the Capitol attests to that. Some level of shared truth is critical to enable the common good to emerge. Without a clear vision of that good, no collective action can be put forth and enacted by consent. The only alternative is action through force and fiat. Biden’s election will return truth to the White House, but little else. And even that will not matter so long as the body politic… Read More

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Too Much Wealth in the Wrong Place

The Washington Post welcomed in 2012 with this story, “World’s richest men added billions to their fortunes last year as others struggled.” A few of the stunning statistics: The pandemic has forced untold hardships onto many Americans, with tens of millions of families now reporting that they don’t have enough to eat and millions more out of work on account of layoffs and lockdowns. . . America’s wealthiest, on the other hand, had a very different kind of year: Billionaires as a class have added about $1 trillion to their total net worth since the pandemic began. And roughly one-fifth… Read More

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An Angry President Cannot Be A President (Re-posted)

(I posted this first in October 2020 before the election. It seems right to repost it after the events of this week.) Anger is an emotion that arises when our left-brain determines that it has lost control of the situation. Iain McGilchrist, in The Master and His Emissary, offers evidence that anger, somewhat unique among emotions, is associated only with this hemisphere. In his divided-brain model, control and manipulation are the primary functions of this hemisphere. The left-brain is also the seat of power, both in the sense of dominating others and empowering success in consensual acts. Because anger and… Read More

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The Divided Brain in Action

I have just finished reading My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor in which she describes having and recovering from a serious stroke. I have been aware of the book and the main plot line of her remarkable story, but hadn’t realized its close tie to McGilchrist’s work. She is not mentioned in his tome, but should have been highlighted, as she is a living example of his brain model. This post is quite long, but is worth reading right to the end. Taylor has a serious stroke involving the left-brain hemisphere that impaired her ability to walk, talk,… Read More

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Only Connect

The title of this post, is the epigraph of E. M. Forster’s novel, Howard’s End. Forster’s novel is all about relationships, internal and external. Margaret Schegel, the older of the two sisters around whom the story unfolds, becomes impassioned about the phrase, “only connect.” The phrase conveys two meanings in the novel. The first relates to two internalized, opposing forces that battle each other in an individual persona. Margaret refers to them as the beast and the monk or to the prose and the passion. The second is an imperative to make and nurture personal relationships. Forster has caught the… Read More

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The Hidden Danger in Global-Warming [Quick] Fixes

The danger in focusing on such “solutions” is that insufficient attention will be paid to more deeply rooted causes. In systems-dynamics lingo, such defocusing is called shifting-the-burden (see image). This occurs when little or no attention is given to finding and addressing root causes. Root causes are those aspects in complex systems that are often found buried deep in the hierarchy of determinative relationships. I believe that this is exactly what is happening today with virtually all discussions about climate change. The argument that follows is not against applying fixes altogether, but only in conjunction with sufficiently large and comprehensive… Read More

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Finding McGilchrist in Aristotle’s Virtues

  “According to Diogenes society was an artificial contrivance set up by human beings which did not accord well with truth or virtue and could not in any way make someone a good and decent human being; and so follows the famous story of Diogenes holding the light up to the faces of passers-by in the market place looking for an honest man or a true human being. Everyone, he claimed, was trapped in this make-believe world which they believed was reality and, because of this, people were living in a kind of dream state.” (From the Encyclopedia of Ancient… Read More

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