Why we disagree

I thought this was interesting:

Lately, I’m tempted to believe it’s because, while they’re both looking at the same Scriptures, they actually see something different. And the reason they see something different is mostly about brain chemistry.

New research reveals black and white thinkers (somebody like John Piper) may have less than average amounts of Norepinephrine, less than average amounts of Serotonin and excessive amounts of Dopamine in their brains. When I say less than average, I don’t mean to suggest inferiority. Some brains have more and some brains less of each of these chemicals, and there’s no “perfect combination.”

The specific chemical combination I just described causes the brain to see the world as a somewhat hostile place, and as such causes a person to divide people into a for and against dichotomy. When looking at a text, they look for right and wrong, true and untrue, and they don’t like ambiguity or mystery because they see vagueness as a threat. Because the world is a hostile place, they look for security in absolute answers.

Again, this is not to say this chemical combination means a person is an inferior thinker. It’s just that the combination of these three chemicals affects our personalities and makes us “who we are” in a sense. For certain, there are many realities that can be divided up into right and wrong, and there are certainly hostile people in the world, so a person with this chemical makeup may be, quite objectively, right about the reality they perceive.

Another kind of thinker who does not see the world in black and white, sees a given issue from multiple perspectives and is quite comfortable juggling multiple ideas without deciding which one is absolutely true (somebody like Brian McLaren) may have a very different chemical makeup. Serotonin is average, Norepinephrine is higher than average and Dopamine is low. This person is much more relaxed in their studies, does not see the world as a hostile place, does not associate their beliefs strongly with their egos and instead sees truth as outside themselves, as something they are discovering rather than something they already understand. They simply don’t need to explain everything. They are comfortable with five or ten possible explanations, and enjoy considering each of them. They may land, but they don’t have to.

One kind of thinker has learned, and the other kind of thinker is learning. And it’s all in their brain chemistry.

H/t Thomas Soldan.

Bright idea

koch-brothers

Ezra Klein on how Tribune employees can screw the Koch brothers:

The newspaper employees of Tribune — those who haven’t lost their job or driven away in disgust — have had their pensions robbed, their pay and benefits cut, their professional dignity assaulted and their enthusiasm sapped by the financial types who have serially raped these once-great newspapers over the past six years. As it turns out, they now have a golden opportunity to turn the tables on their tormenters and exact some revenge.

At its heart, any news organization is only as good as the journalists who put it out. Without the journalism, there are no readers, and without the readers there are no advertisers and subscription fees. It all starts with the news and opinions and graphics and photographs that journalists produce. And if those journalists decide collectively to walk out the door one day, the readers and advertisers are almost certain to follow.

A new owner, of course, could hire new journalists, and certainly there are plenty of them out there looking for a job. But it would take time to attract them, get them working as a team and weed out the inevitable clunkers – and in any case, they are unlikely to have the experience and institutional memory of the people they replace. And in the meantime, competing news organizations would be quick to pick up Tribune’s stars and use them to lure away readers and advertisers at a time when circulation and revenue are already under pressure. Hell, in the age of the Internet, the rebellious journalists could easily start their own news organizations and grab a good chunk of their old readership within weeks.

This is a rare moment for Tribune’s beleaguered journalists. For the first time in a long time, they actually have leverage. They’d be crazy not to use it.
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The agenda

If you ever had any doubt that the so-called “reform” movement was about privatizing public schools, this should settle it:

Money is so tight in the Philadelphia School District that the unthinkable has happened. For the first time in 17 years, CAPA – the High School for Creative and Performing Arts, the district’s arts gem on South Broad Street – cannot afford to put on a musical.

“I was shocked and upset,” said Jack Schmieg, a freshman vocal major at Oberlin College in Ohio who starred as Jean Valjean in CAPA’s production of Les Misérables last year. “I couldn’t imagine not having a musical. . . . I was in the musical every year at CAPA, and it was the highlight of every year for me and everybody else that participated.”

Senior Daniel Wisniewski was disappointed, too. He played Javert in Les Mis and had expected to audition for an even bigger role this spring.

“I feel bad for all the other seniors,” he said. “This was going to be our year.”

But disappointment turned to disbelief when they heard that a new performing-arts charter high school that the School Reform Commission approved last year planned to buy GlaxoSmithKline’s former North American headquarters at 16th and Vine Streets for $29 million.

“Really?” said Wisniewski, who will major in theater at Ithaca College in the fall. “And we can’t get a musical?”
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Good news

This is some real progress:

Health and environmental advocates have fought for years for a federal labeling program for genetically engineered food. Now, for the first time, their battle has bipartisan support in Congress.

On Wednesday, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) introduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right-To-Know Act, a bill whose nine cosponsors in the Senate include Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and whose 22 cosponsors in the House include Don Young (R-Alaska).

Criminal bankers

Of course, not a chance any of these bastards will ever be charged. Matt Taibbi:

Conspiracy theorists of the world, believers in the hidden hands of the Rothschilds and the Masons and the Illuminati, we skeptics owe you an apology. You were right. The players may be a little different, but your basic premise is correct: The world is a rigged game. We found this out in recent months, when a series of related corruption stories spilled out of the financial sector, suggesting the world’s largest banks may be fixing the prices of, well, just about everything.

You may have heard of the Libor scandal, in which at least three – and perhaps as many as 16 – of the name-brand too-big-to-fail banks have been manipulating global interest rates, in the process messing around with the prices of upward of $500 trillion (that’s trillion, with a “t”) worth of financial instruments. When that sprawling con burst into public view last year, it was easily the biggest financial scandal in history – MIT professor Andrew Lo even said it “dwarfs by orders of magnitude any financial scam in the history of markets.”

That was bad enough, but now Libor may have a twin brother. Word has leaked out that the London-based firm ICAP, the world’s largest broker of interest-rate swaps, is being investigated by American authorities for behavior that sounds eerily reminiscent of the Libor mess. Regulators are looking into whether or not a small group of brokers at ICAP may have worked with up to 15 of the world’s largest banks to manipulate ISDAfix, a benchmark number used around the world to calculate the prices of interest-rate swaps.

Interest-rate swaps are a tool used by big cities, major corporations and sovereign governments to manage their debt, and the scale of their use is almost unimaginably massive. It’s about a $379 trillion market, meaning that any manipulation would affect a pile of assets about 100 times the size of the United States federal budget.

It should surprise no one that among the players implicated in this scheme to fix the prices of interest-rate swaps are the same megabanks – including Barclays, UBS, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and the Royal Bank of Scotland – that serve on the Libor panel that sets global interest rates. In fact, in recent years many of these banks have already paid multimillion-dollar settlements for anti-competitive manipulation of one form or another (in addition to Libor, some were caught up in an anti-competitive scheme, detailed in Rolling Stone last year, to rig municipal-debt service auctions). Though the jumble of financial acronyms sounds like gibberish to the layperson, the fact that there may now be price-fixing scandals involving both Libor and ISDAfix suggests a single, giant mushrooming conspiracy of collusion and price-fixing hovering under the ostensibly competitive veneer of Wall Street culture.

The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia

Why? Because Libor already affects the prices of interest-rate swaps, making this a manipulation-on-manipulation situation. If the allegations prove to be right, that will mean that swap customers have been paying for two different layers of price-fixing corruption. If you can imagine paying 20 bucks for a crappy PB&J because some evil cabal of agribusiness companies colluded to fix the prices of both peanuts and peanut butter, you come close to grasping the lunacy of financial markets where both interest rates and interest-rate swaps are being manipulated at the same time, often by the same banks.

“It’s a double conspiracy,” says an amazed Michael Greenberger, a former director of the trading and markets division at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and now a professor at the University of Maryland. “It’s the height of criminality.”

(h/t/ William White.)

Just move along

Nothing to see here:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two years ago, federal mining engineers found potentially serious safety concerns at seven slurry impoundments scattered across West Virginia’s southern coalfields.

But the government has yet to finalize a report on the matter, and on Thursday refused to make public detailed findings from a draft prepared in 2011.

U.S. Office of Surface Mining officials refused to release the complete data, even after local citizen groups made public a leaked, one-page summary that described poor construction techniques, lax quality control for safety testing, and inadequate compaction of embankment materials.

“There are a lot of things there that the public isn’t being told,” said former miner Joe Stanley, an activist who has been monitoring impoundment issues. Stanley was among about a dozen citizens who gathered Thursday morning outside OSM’s field office in downtown Charleston to urge agency officials to make public the details.

OSM officials refused the request, saying they are working with the state Department of Environmental Protection on additional testing to try to verify the original results.

DEP officials said their additional testing, conducted in January, February, July and August 2012 and again this month, found no violations or safety concerns. But like OSM, DEP refused to release data from its testing.

The issue, simmering behind the scenes for months, burst into public view Wednesday night, with the release — initially in a Washington Post report — of the one-page summary of the OSM report drafted in 2011, when federal officials had initially planned to make public the entire study.

What the hell, it’s only about protecting poor people, amirite?

(h/t William White.)

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