The Empathy Gap

Why does Obama still lead Romney in the polls, despite the dismal state of the economy?  Charles Krauthammer says it’s because of the “empathy gap.”  People think Obama seems to have more empathy–more feeling for people, a greater ability to identify with others, especially when they are hurting–than Romney does.  That, in fact, was a major theme of the Democratic Convention, the high point of which was the speech by Bill Clinton, the maestro of empathy.

Obama and the Empathy Gap – Charles Krauthammer – National Review Online.

So is that any way to choose a president?  But isn’t empathy a good quality to have in a ruler?

Who really made that anti-Muslim movie

It turns out that the man who made that reportedly salacious movie about Mohammed, The Innocence of Muslims,  that has set the Middle East on fire is NOT Sam Bacile, an Israeli-American with 200 Jewish investors, as he claimed.  That was a fake identity for a convicted scam artist named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a Coptic Christian.  The Copts are already cruelly persecuted in Egypt, so this won’t help them.

via US Identifies Anti-Muslim Filmmaker Blamed for Attacks « CBS DC.

So do we blame this guy or defend his freedom of speech?

Bringing woolly mammoths back from extinction

As you may know, frozen woolly mammoths have been discovered in ice formations, more or less intact, since the 18th century.  So why not clone some, bringing them back from extinction?

A Russian university says scientists have discovered frozen woolly mammoth fragments that may contain living cells deep in Siberia, bringing closer the possibility of cloning the extinct animal.

The North-Eastern Federal University said in a statement on Tuesday that an international team had discovered mammoth hair, soft tissues and bone marrow at a depth of 328ft (100m) during a summer expedition.

Expedition chief Semyon Grigoryev said a group of Korean scientists with the team had set a goal of finding living cells in the hope of cloning a mammoth. Scientists have previously found bodies and fragments, but not living cells.

Grigoryev told online newspaper Vzglyad it would take months of lab research to determine whether they have indeed found the cells.

Woolly mammoths are thought to have died out 10,000 years ago.

via Woolly mammoth remains may contain living cells | Science | The Guardian.

Bringing back the mammoths.  Would that not be cool?

The new 9/11 attack in Libya

The U.S. Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, was killed, along with three other Americans, when Islamists fired rocket grenadees at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.   Mobs were protesting an American-made movie ostensibly funded by Jewish militants entitled  Innocence of Muslims, which depicts Mohammad and portrays him (some say pornographically) as a sexual predator.  (All that had been released was a YouTube trailer, since taken down.  See this on questions about the filmmaker.)  Officials are saying, however, that the protests may have only been a cover for a planned attack designed to avenge the recent assassination by drone of a major al-Qaeda leader on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The killing of an Ambassador is traditionally considered an act of war.  American warships are taking positions off Libya and Marines have moved in to secure the Embassy.  Meanwhile, the protests over the film are spreading to other Muslim countries, with the U.S. Embassy in Cairo under siege.  With the alleged Jewish connection to the movie, Israel will be a sure target.

For details, see  U.S. officials: Attack on consulate in Libya may have been planned – The Washington Post.

Also this.

So now a major international crisis breaks out just before the election.  For the political fallout, see this.  Normally, when America is attacked, the country rallies together and partisan divisions are set aside.  But Mitt Romney has chosen to take the occasion to blast President Obama for his foreign policy weakness and his poor handling of this incident.  Now Romney is getting blowback for inappropriate and unpatriotic criticism at a time of crisis.  Who’s right here?

 

Bob Dylan is back

Bob Dylan has a new album, Tempest, and it sounds really, really good.  From Washington Post music critic  Chris Richards:

For his 35th studio album, “Tempest,” Bob Dylan wanted to write religious songs and ended up hopping a freight train to the apocalypse.

Couching images of end-times America in old-time American melodies, the 71-year-old has delivered his most compelling release in more than a decade. That’s faint praise for anyone who gave up on Dylan after the Carter administration, sure, but find me another rock demigod crafting tunes this violent in their golden years. You can practically hear the guy tapping his toes in puddles of blood.

But before Dylanologists had heard a bloody note of it, it was the album’s title that made them gasp. “The Tempest” is considered William Shakespeare’s swan song, which might mean that. . .

No, no. Dylan pointed out to Rolling Stone that Shakespeare’s “Tempest” was preceded by the word “the.” Dylan’s “Tempest” is just “Tempest.” Hadn’t one of the greatest lyricists in American song taught us anything about attention to detail?

Regardless, that retirement-rumor kiboshing comes as a relief, because Dylan has found some fresh gravitas in his withering voice. His pipes sound more trashed than ever, so he pulls right up to our ears, making these sinister songs feel eerily intimate. It was a tactic he hinted at with “Christmas in the Heart,” a collection of snarled holiday carols from 2009. The band keeps everything tender and mild while Dylan softly sneers something terrifying.

Listen for it on “Narrow Way,” a nimble jump-blues number that sounds like it survived a nuclear winter. “This is hard country to stay alive in,” Dylan rasps. “Blades are everywhere, and they’re breaking my skin.”

“Duquesne Whistle” employs a similar trick. It’s a classic American train song, its chirping steel guitars channeling hope and wanderlust. Dylan pushes so much wind through his throat that his voice starts to resemble the affectionate roar of Louis Armstrong. But instead of signaling the freedom of a fresh start, this train whistle is “blowing like the sky’s gonna blow apart.”

It gets better, which means it gets worse.

“Tin Angel” recounts a love triangle that ends in gunshots and stab wounds. “Early Roman Kings” takes the 1 percent on a bluesy, five-minute frog march. And over the patter of “Pay in Blood,” Dylan yanks a refrain from his pocket and flicks it open like a rusty switchblade: “I pay in blood, but not my own.”

via – The Washington Post.

I’ve got to get this one.  I’m curious about the characterization of these violent tunes as “religious songs.”  (See this for a discussion of the album’s Christian themes.)  Has anyone heard this album yet?  You can buy it here:

Democrats running as if Mitt Romney were president

The Democratic National Convention was full of angst about how “middle class” Americans are having such a hard time, how “the system is rigged against them” (as Elizabeth Warren put it), how the rich control everything, and other evocations of national misery.  But if things are so bad and electing Obama will solve the problems, why hasn’t he done anything about them so far?  As someone has noted, the Democrats are sounding like they are running against an incumbent President Romney.  But their guy is the one in office!  Their rhetoric is geared against the status quo–but they are the status quo!


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