links for 2008-11-29

  • "Remember, a party predicated on the notion that government sucks and can't do anything right can't possibly run an administration that doesn't suck and can do anything right. Competent conservative governance would instantly invalidate conservatism's core tenets. That's why Bush named horse lawyers to FEMA, and why fourth-tier law school grads have infested every corner of the Justice Department. George W. Bush wasn't an anomaly, he delivered the most effectively conservative administration in history."
  • "Naipaul has a saxophone and an oboe, too, a hard sound and a softer one. These two sides could be called the Wounder and the Wounded."
  • "Today, anthropology is at war with itself. The discipline has divided into two schools of thought – the social anthropologists and the evolutionary anthropologists. The schism between the two is simple but deeply ingrained. Academics in the subject clearly align themselves with one side or the other; once that choice is made it defines their career.

    The division lies in the question of whether or not anthropology is a science, and if it accepts that Darwinian evolutionary theory guides research into human behaviour and the development of societies."

  • "His recent book The Anti-Intellectual Presidency is not one more rant about the limited cognitive abilities of George W. Bush but a brisk, methodical deconstruction of 'the relentless simplification of presidential rhetoric in the last two centuries and the increasing substitution of arguments with applause-rendering platitudes, partisan punch lines and emotional and human interest appeals.'"
  • "Why do people see faces in nature, interpret window stains as human figures, hear voices in random sounds generated by electronic devices or find conspiracies in the daily news? A proximate cause is the priming effect, in which our brain and senses are prepared to interpret stimuli according to an expected model." "… the inability of individuals—human or otherwise—to assign causal probabilities to all sets of events that occur around them will often force them to lump causal associations with non-causal ones. From here, the evolutionary rationale for superstition is clear: natural selection will favour strategies that make many incorrect causal associations in order to establish those that are essential for survival and reproduction."
  • "Zalmen Mlotek is the Artistic Director of the city's last surviving professional Yiddish theatre – the Folksbiene.
    With the help of his piano, he has been telling Radio 3's Dennis Marks how the language influenced jazz music – and the likes of George and Ira Gershwin."
  • "Read right to left, top to bottom, the text states that Kuttamuwa fashioned the stele during his lifetime, and that at its inauguration in the mortuary chapel offerings were made to various gods, including the storm-god Hadad and the sun-god Shamash. But the part that is causing the greatest stir is a line explaining that one of the offerings was 'a ram for my soul that is in this stele.'" "Although the inscription and image of the deceased remained intact, the machinery destroyed the top register, which once featured a winged sun-disk motif. Remnants of the feathers and 'curlicue' designs can still be seen."
  • "he cache of cannabis is about 2,700 years old and was clearly "cultivated for psychoactive purposes," rather than as fibre for clothing or as food, says a research paper in the Journal of Experimental Botany.
    The 789 grams of dried cannabis was buried alongside a light-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian man, likely a shaman of the Gushi culture, near Turpan in northwestern China."