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BPI-MF-Logo"The worst part is the awful randomness of it all. A bullet misses you and hits the guy next to you. One guy does everything right and gets blown up. Another does everything wrong and not a scratch. It makes no damned sense at all."

So wrote an American G.I. during World War II. Yet military historian and combat veteran Trevor Dupuy, author of Numbers, Predictions, and War proposed formulas to predict unit effectiveness and casualties, and found that training is a dominant variable.

Is combat all random, as the G.I. experienced? Or is training a dominant variable, as the historian's data suggest? The answer has a lot to do with Big Narratives - the stories we live by - which 'stick' and which don't, and why the Stickiest Narratives aren't always the most reliable.

More below the fold....

Sticky Narratives, Part I - How Many Are We?

My family know I like to read wonky books, so when they're out book shopping they often browse the history and politics sections for books they think I'd enjoy. I'm now reading Daniel Yergin's The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power. Next on my list is Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains The World: an [unlikely] theory of globalization. After that, will be Wilkinson & Picket's The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. All three offer Big Narratives, stories that try to explain big swaths of history and experience.

For example, Dr. Yergin writes: "A third theme in the history of oil illuminates how ours has become a 'Hydrocarbon Society' and we, in the language of anthropologists, 'Hydrocarbon Man.'" He proposes that the past 140 years of history can be summarized as the quest, by individuals and nation-states, for oil dominance. The Big Narrative might be titled It's All About Oil, and it's a sticky narrative indeed. Yergin's book won a Pulitzer Prize, became a PBS miniseries, and has gained wide acceptance.

The Spirit Level also offers a Big Narrative, claiming that all of society's ills are caused by income inequality. This puppet show promoting the book claims it explains "everything, the whole shebang, start to finish, why we feel miserable, why we buy stuff we don't need, why we eat too much, drink too much, hurt people...."

Wilkinson & Picket have a mass of empirical data to support their Big Narrative, yet it's not widely accepted in the United States, and indeed the Tea Party GOP would doubtless dismiss it as "socialism" and say greater income equality would "kill economic growth." Why has Dr. Yergin's Big Narrative of It's All About Oil stuck, while Wilkinson & Picket's perhaps better-supported Big Narrative of It's All About Income Equality has not?

We'll explore several reasons this week, including the cultural clout of Big Narrators, but first let's go back to that G.I. and that military historian. Their Big Narratives of combat highlight an key component of narrative stickiness:

How many are we?

Is combat all random, as the G.I. experienced? Or is training a dominant variable, as the historian's data suggest? The answer is "Yes." Both are true, or seem to be, depending on your perspective. More specifically, it depends on how many your perspective includes.

For the individual G.I., who sees his own experience and those of his small unit, combat is horrifyingly random. He will see lackluster troops in his unit come through firefights without a scratch while some of best guys get hit. He may quickly scrape a few-inches-deep position and not get touched by an artillery barrage, yet see a shell crash through the reinforced roof of a well-prepared fighting hole. Why bother to "do everything right" when it makes no difference? Yet Dupuy offered data to prove training troops to "do everything right" makes a big difference ... for a big unit.

The difference is numbers, and specifically the Strong Law of Large Numbers. The wiki link explains the details, but the concept is simple and one we commonly express (not quite correctly) as "the law of averages." When you have a whole lot of individually random events, their sum will tend toward the average. Roll one six-sided die and it is equally likely to come up 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. Roll 1000 six-sided dice and their sum will probably be very close to 1000 times the average die roll, or about 3500.

In practical terms, say the soldier who "does everything right" will get hit on a 'die roll' of 1 or 2, while the lackluster soldier will get hit on a 'die roll' of 1, 2, or 3. The G.I. who wrote that diary saw a lot of good soldiers 'roll' 1s or 2s, and a lot of others 'roll' 4s, 5s, or 6s. Those aren't accurate probabilities - I made them up to keep it simple - and they're not literally rolling dice. Still the G.I. was right: whether an individual gets hit is brutally random.

But for a battalion of 750 men - and even more larger units - training and leading troops so that more of them "do everything right" will mean fewer casualties. Using my "inaccurate-but-simple" numbers, a battalion of "does everything right" troops would expect about 250 casualties, where a battalion of lackluster troops would expect about 375. The individual G.I might not see a difference, but generals and historians will.

"Doing it right" is often a small individual difference.

The key point is that "doing everything right," or not, often makes only a small difference for one person. Runner and author Jim Fixx quit smoking, changed his diet, took up running ... and died of a heart attack at age 52. Most of us know someone who smoked, ate poorly, rarely exercised, and lived well into their 80s. Those individual examples don't prove that smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise are not harmful. Jim Fixx 'rolled a 1' and those someones we know 'rolled 6s.' But all other things being equal, a nation of people who don't smoke, eat well, and exercise will be healthier than a nation of sedentary, overeating smokers.

Most of us test our Big Narratives by our own experience and the experiences of people we know. That's rarely a large enough sample set, and the slight advantages of "doing everything right" may not show up for us. So our Stickiest Narratives tend to be those that are comfortable and reinforced by our culture ... rather than the most reliable.

And that's a challenge for progressives.


Happy Thursday!

Originally posted to NCrissieB on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 04:21 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for a larger 'we.' :) (56+ / 0-)

    We progressives do advocate policies that work better, but those policies usually work better for a larger 'we.' We need to recognize that, and be ready to deal with individualized rebuttals in our advocacy.

    As always, ::smooooochies:: to Kula, and ::hugggggs:: to the Kula Krew!

    •  OT. Floridian near you needs help... (18+ / 0-)

      near you, more or less--I figure in Naples from the comments.

      Title tells it all except: the young man was 4 months from graduating with honors. he is on his way now to take refuge with his progressive aunt. she will take him in. He is 18.

      the school is private and has every right to expel him. It was in NC which offers no protection to gays.

      The question is, he will need his records to be able to enter another school. what can he do? What are his rights? What groups are best situated to help him and his aunt.

      How can we--MFers--and our FL leader help this person. If fred needs our help, certainly this fledgling fredling deserves our brainstorming.

      "Are you bluish? You don't look bluish," attributed to poet Roger Joseph McGough, for the Beatles' Yellow Submarine (1968).

      by BlueStateRedhead on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 04:41:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The problem is we always train for the last war (8+ / 0-)

      Our sense of what is right and what is wrong changes over time. Some of us learn better ways of doing things even as the majority of the well trained stick with their training.

      Progressives are actually advocating outside the box policies that are neither acting randomly or according to their programming.

      Our embrace of Climate Change and Peak Oil empirical data as opposed to well accepted theories about oil dominence, results in demands for sustainable green building, LEED, alternative energy.

      This comes even as the idea that controlling all the energy distribution infrastructure is like controlling all the communications and control infrastructure comes to be accepted as dogma in the academic boot camps training the best and brightest to dominate the future.

      That accepted taxes, economy and jobs lobbiest for the corpocracy thinking, that we need a military and industrial complex, and an insurance healthcare complex and a fifty state strategy for our political networking leads to spending 730 million dollars a year on making the world safe for big oil and gas to dominate energy policy as an important step toward military and political power.

      Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

      by rktect on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 05:11:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, we'll talk about that some tomorrow. (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JanF, addisnana, kktlaw, FarWestGirl, sjterrid

        We tend to prefer Big Narratives that are familiar and don't ask us to try new strategies. As I noted in another comment, that's not as unreasonable as it may seem. Often how well we implement a strategy matters more than the marginal difference between strategies, and we tend to implement strategies we already know better than we do new ones, at least at first.

        So we're reluctant to shift away from Sticky Big Narratives, because we know how to work with them. That's good ... until conditions change enough that the old strategies simply won't work anymore ... and indeed actually cause harm.

        Good morning! ::hugggggs::

    •  North Central Blogistan - 40s From Saturday (22+ / 0-)

      thru next week...with rain starting on Monday.

      I am hoping that reveals the crocuses and daffodils (still under piles of snow).

      There is SOMETHING GREEN poking out of one of the backyard planting beds. I have been informed that it is a hyacinth (or at least is where the hyacinths were planted).

      Much of life is knowing what to Google

      by JanF on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 04:30:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Good morning all- (20+ / 0-)

      Wow, I'm in early this morning.  
      I'm on Central Time and usually come dragging in late.

      Looks like we just might have some sunshine today- don't want to jinx it though.  Last time I though we were going to have a sunny day, it ended up snowing.

      Hope the weather stays nice (at least decent) for a couple more days-driving over to visit my son at his school tomorrow.

      "Real History is not for Sissies" Barry McCain

      by Hill Jill on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 04:32:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hello everyone. (22+ / 0-)

      Trip to my brother's was...interesting. I didn't realize his wife and I were very different when it came to political viewpoints, even when she says "I don't follow politics." So the fun of seeing my brother was offset by the pain in my tongue.


      Because I was biting it.

      We need another Huey P. Long and federal funding for abortion. -9.00, -4.05

      by KVoimakas on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 04:36:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  A balmy 34 degrees here in Hudson Valley NY (20+ / 0-)

      does that mean spring is on the way?

      Hugggs...running off to school.

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 04:46:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  G'morning all... (17+ / 0-)

      Passing through on my way to work.  Looking forward to catching up on this 'narratives' series and catching up with you all this weekend.

      Hugs atcha...

    •  Tuna for the can. Warm wishes for ... (13+ / 0-)

      the Tuna seekers. Bluestate profits from this place of social banter to register a discomfort:

      her Blue (now brownblue) sense of history leads her to regret the fact that can is tuna's rather than salmon's or sardines'.

      For her, a tuna that is not edible is Bill Parcells. The Big Tuna. And if MF is looking for a sports role model, we can do better.
      Now if we were the other kind of MF'er, we might consider him. Except Bill Belechick is more an MFer in that domain than many, they say (see his divorce and his press conferences in which facts and information were never provided.

      I think it goes back to my first time with the Patriots. There was an old commercial from StarKist with Charlie the StarKist tuna. So my players were trying to con me on something one time, and I said, 'You must think I'm Charlie the Tuna,' you know, a sucker, and that's kind of how it started. We started with it that year and [Charlie and the other fish] used to wear those little tuna helmets, you know, tuna pictures on their helmets. That's where it all started.

      "Are you bluish? You don't look bluish," attributed to poet Roger Joseph McGough, for the Beatles' Yellow Submarine (1968).

      by BlueStateRedhead on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 04:58:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Good morning and hugs (9+ / 0-)

      Another sunny day here and the snow is disappearing fast.  I just can't help but smile, even though I kind of liked the snow.  I can't seem to formulate a coherent comment about the diary, although I think it is very interesting.  I guess I keep thinking anecdotally and can't see the big picture on this topic.

      •  Yes, today's topic is ... icky-sticky. (11+ / 0-)

        It will make more sense tomorrow, I hope. The key is that individual experience is rarely broad enough to determine if the stories we live by - our Big Narratives - are reliable:

        Jim Fixx quit smoking, changed his diet, took up running ... and died of a heart attack at age 52.

        Or, more relevant for progressive politics:

        Americans can still get wealthy if they work hard. Look at Bill Gates! Poor people are just lazy.

        If the Canadian health care system is so good, why did Danny Williams (Premier of Labrador and Newfoundland) come to the U.S. for heart surgery?

        Conservatives (and some progressives) often use those individual examples to "prove" or "disprove" the stories their Big Narratives ... the stories they want us to live by.

        The individual examples may be factually accurate, just as the G.I.'s impression of combat - that it doesn't matter whether you "do everything right" because who lives or dies is random anyway - was true from an individual perspective.

        But how many are we?

        Good morning! ::hugggggs::

        •  It makes me crazy (7+ / 0-)

          Best health care means, among other things, modern surgeries that have better outcomes, so people come here for them.

          Best health care does not mean everybody gets care.

          And yet the Rethugs use the first as if it meant both.

          Let there be light. Then let there be a cat, a cocktail, and a good book.

          by JG in MD on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 06:15:23 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, but some people don't even (7+ / 0-)

          recognize an individual perspective because they have no awareness of themselves as an observer.  What they see, in an almost myopic sense, is what is.  If they were color blind, to boot, there would be no red or green or blue.
          And it's not just what they see.  It's also what they hear.  And while hearing is harder to shut down than seeing (eyes can be shut; ears can't), sound is like smell in that, after a while, unless it's a smell you like, it goes unnoticed.

          That's probably why Limbaugh and ilk keep repeating what their followers like to hear.

          by hannah on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 07:06:16 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Figure/ground problem (9+ / 0-)

            ... they have no awareness of themselves as an observer.

            I believe I've seen you make versions of this point several times, and it always interests me.

            I've had a similar insight, but phrased the other way 'round: conservatives are narcissists, in that they have no sense of the world as existing separate from themselves, or of its elements as having significance separate from their utility to themselves.

            It's a figure/ground phenomenon, I guess. No sense of the world existing separate from themselves is about the same as no sense of the self as something not identical to the world.

            BTW, I came to my "conservatives are narcissists" recognition through a kind of reverse-engineering process. If the cardinal trait of liberals is empathy, and empathy consists of awareness of others, their situations, and their feelings, and if conservatives lack empathy, then what can we say about conservatives? That they are narcissists.

            Actually, there is one other possible construction. Conservatives could be aware of others, their situations, and their feelings, but simply not care about any of those things. The word for that is "sociopath". If I were them, I'd prefer the "narcissist" tag.

            •  Our 'we' is bigger.... (6+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JanF, DBunn, NCrissieB, addisnana, kktlaw, sjterrid

              When liberals say 'we', it's usually more inclusive and more likely to refer to humanity at large. When conservatives say 'we', they're more likely to be exclusive and  mean their family,  their church group, their party or people who share their view, period. The rest of humanity are assumed to be competition, opposition or enemies, where we seem more inclined to perceive others as potential friends and allies. The narcissists only see what's directly related to their personal interests because nothing else really exists for them. The sociopaths just don't care. The conservatives, or at least their leaders,  seem to be mostly a mix of the two types, though a certain percentage have just been raised without exposure to anything else. ::sigh::

              I think they're more likely to assume a scarcity of resources and are inclined to reserve as much as possible for their immediate allies, where we see a more complicated surfeit and recognise that there can be enough for all if we work it right.

              It does come back and bite us when we are afraid to recognise implacable opponents or those who will always be opposed, regardless of how much they are appeased. That weakens us. We need to acknowledge that there are those who will never be recruited. They can only be contained, the way the body encapsulates an infection and turns it into an abscess to isolate it from the healthy tissue and then expels it.

              Hmm, a not flattering way to view conservative/evangelicals, an abscess in the body politic.

              Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

              by FarWestGirl on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 09:55:13 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  The perception of time also seems key. (5+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                JanF, DBunn, NCrissieB, FarWestGirl, sjterrid

                Conservatives are, in the main, stuck in the present.  Their existence is in the present tense from which they resist being moved.  If everything is happening in he present, then everyone's wants and needs cannot be satisfied.  Never mind that not everyone wants the same things anyway.  But, when time is taken into consideration and we envision people taking turns, then it's immediately obvious that many people can use the same thing, just not all at once.

                A sense of time is of the essence.

                It struck me as peculiar from the start that all economic data and the analysis of it aims to represent a point in time.  In other words, economists are looking at a snap-shot as the economy keeps moving on.  So, they and their analysis never catch up.  Galbraith said the problem is that none of the economists' models are dynamic, taking changes over time into account because the web of trade and exchange is too complex.


                by hannah on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 10:13:05 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  That's a key insight, FWG. (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                JanF, addisnana, FarWestGirl

                Yes, progressives tend to argue from a bigger 'we' - what you might call Systems Think - and sometimes we forget that most people don't see the world that way, or they don't most of the time. We need to be able to (and take the time to!) tell progressive narratives that work for people who don't do Systems Think.

                Good afternoon! ::hugggggs::

              •  you said it exactly right, n/t (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
            •  Yes, it strikes me as strange that (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JanF, DBunn, NCrissieB, sjterrid

              the narcissist is self-centered without being self-aware.  But, how else to explain that their behavior is so often self-destructive?

              Which is why I now hypothesize that not having an awareness of self makes it impossible to be aware of the other because there's no basis for comparison.  How can the other be different when there's nothing for him to be different from?

              I was actually influenced in my thinking by Grayson's observation that Republicans have no conscience.  Conscience, basically, means to know with or in conjunction, similar to empathy.  But, if there is no knowledge, there can be no knowing with or without.  So, knowing is key and "know thyself" is not a platitude.

              We tend to think of conscience in connection to guilt for having done something inconsiderate.  But, again, to con-sider is to be on the side of--i.e. not autistic nor autonomous.


              by hannah on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 10:03:33 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Further thoughts (5+ / 0-)


                The sense or consciousness of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one's own conduct, intentions, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good

                Well, there it is: requires a sense of one's own character.


                Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French considerer, from Latin considerare to observe, think about, from com- + sider-, sidus heavenly body

                A bit more complex, but seems to suggest gazing at distant astonishing entities such as the stars, and contemplating one's place in the universe.

                Your comment about time was also interesting

                Conservatives are, in the main, stuck in the present.

                Puts me in mind of a comment by Orinoco from a few days back, I believe in the context of why we pay taxes, something to the effect that conservatives seem to think that the world sprang into being when they first noticed it, and that all the good things that we accomplish through the medium of government are either automatically there without anybody doing anything, or somehow pay for themselves without them (the conservatives) having to contribute anything. Yet another instance of narcissism, or of lack of awareness of oneself as part of a whole system.

                That lack of awareness of systems seems to characterize a lot of conservative thought. Whether it's the environment, the economy, climate change, or why the terrorists hate America, conservatives just don't seem to get that there are dynamic systems out there, that we are part of those systems, that what we do affects how they operate, and that whatever we are experiencing at a given moment is likely to be greatly impacted by their operation.

                One could go on, but one also has to stop sometime. Just one last thought, about conservatives' sense of time and of self in relation to what we call conservative hypocrisy. First, the definition of hypocrisy:

                A feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion

                To be sure, we see enough behavior from conservatives that exactly meets this definition. But we also see cases where conservatives' contradictory statements and/or behavior are separated by some amount of time. For instance, the fellow who bellows about high taxes and big government one day, and then cries out for government help when it's his home that is flooded. For this guy, both positions were true reflections of how he actually felt at the moment, so they are not dishonest in that sense. The contradiction arises from the lack of a sense of the continuity of identity over time.

                •  Great thoughts, both hannah and DBunn. (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  hannah, JanF, DBunn, addisnana

                  Our 'testing' of Big Narratives hinges on something we progressives too often take for granted: a large enough 'we' (in numbers and over time) to be a good sample set. I call it Systems Think, and not everyone does it. Fred usually doesn't, as I noted back in November:

                  In terms of being in touch with ordinary people's lives, his "news" is as good as or better than than what he'd get from the media. It's anecdotal, but that's okay with Fred. He's not a systems-and-statistics kind of guy. He takes life one day at a time, one person at a time, and one problem at a time. On the one hand, that means he's pretty grounded; he knew there was something wrong with the economy long before the media were thinking of using the word "recession," because he saw it happening in the lives of his regulars.

                  On the other hand, Fred doesn't have a unifying political theory. He'd like to feel more secure in his job and his home, and he'd like to see his regulars happier than they have been for the past few years. He'd like government to help where it can, or at least not make things worse, and that's his political theory. Because Fred is a people person who takes life one day, one person, and one problem at a time - based mostly on personal anecdotes from his own life and the lives of his regulars - he's what George Lakoff calls biconceptual: progressive on some issues, conservative on others, often depending on how the issue is discussed. His core values are mostly progressive values, but he doesn't trust government enough to be a reliably progressive voter.

                  That doesn't make Fred "badly informed." It makes him "differently informed." It doesn't mean Fred "reasons badly." It means he "reasons differently" ... one day, one problem, one person at a time.

                  The problem that presents for progressives is that many of our Big Narratives are best proven by facts that only apply in Systems Think. So we often won't do well appealing to Fred with Systems Think facts-and-figures. That doesn't mean we can't appeal to Fred. It means we need to appeal to him differently.

                  Good afternoon! ::hugggggs::

                  •  Agree, of course (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    hannah, JanF, NCrissieB, addisnana

                    We can't make a case to Fred that depends on him understanding an arcane concept that he is not familiar with. And we really can't get mad at Fred and call him stupid because of that unfamiliarity. Both because that's bad politics, and because Fred really isn't stupid. He just doesn't live inside our brains, thinking all the same stuff that we think.

                    Al Gore proved that with his film 'An Inconvenient Truth', where he had two uninterrupted hours to explain climate change in systemic terms. Not too many Fred's left the theater failing to understand, and the overall impact of the film was to completely change the political defaults around the climate change issue.

                    Now, we're not often going to have two full hours to explain our systems case, and most of us won't have so well developed an explanation ready to go anyway. But we might be able to talk about relevant, connected parts of a system. Like for instance, the way that our broken, wasteful health care system hurts the economy, so fixing health care is necessary for job creation. If Fred started the conversation worried about jobs, he'll leave it wanting to help Obama fix health care.

                    If even a limited systems approach won't work for a particular Fred, then a specific example of how rising insurance costs have resulted in jobs being cut at a local business might do the trick. By illustrating systemic effects, we can activate systemic awareness even if we never use system-type vocabulary like "the economy" or "capitalism".

                    Oh, almost forgot-- huggs etc!

                •  I think we forget this sometimes (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  hannah, DBunn, NCrissieB, addisnana

                  the fellow who bellows about high taxes and big government one day, and then cries out for government help when it's his home that is flooded. For this guy, both positions were true reflections of how he actually felt at the moment, so they are not dishonest in that sense. The contradiction arises from the lack of a sense of the continuity of identity over time.

                  When we forget this, we start sounding as ridiculous as the teabaggers because it is what leads us to thinking that these people are stupid. They aren't...they really don't get the connection. But some of these people (not all) can be made to see the connection and can be a purple voter trending  blue.

                  We sometimes forget that the complaints about "high taxes" and "big government" have been burned into people's brains since 1980 when the Reagan republicans said it so often that it became "the truth". You can't blame people for believing well developed propaganda.

                  We can counter it with our own stories and convince some of these people.

                  Here is the Orinoco quote (it won a Nuttie™):

                  "One of their problems is an episodic view of reality, that the freeways; the houses with electrical outlets on each wall, eight feet apart; the drinking water piped in from a large reservoir, have always been there, will always be there, are just part of the scenery provided for their benefit. They don't get that this stuff was realized because prior generations deliberately decided to do the work."

                  Much of life is knowing what to Google

                  by JanF on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 04:38:07 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

        •  Jeebus on a cracker (7+ / 0-)

          I read the Premier of Labrador (woof!) story in a LTE in my local paper this a.m.  The "writer" went on to yammer about how HCR would destroy the "Best Healthcare System in the World."  (Should be intoned in KO's "Worst Person's" voice).

          The "best healthcare" meme has stuck, despite the reality that being number 37 is not generally considered "best" in most rankings.

          :::bangs head against wall:::

          Oh wait.  Must stop before I injure myself.  I still have $5000 to go before I meet this year's deductible.

          There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.

          by puzzled on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 08:33:09 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Shameless diary pimping (11+ / 0-)

      I've just published Your Child's School is next. It's a rant with links about how public schools are being set up to fail by the odious details hidden within No Child Left Behind.

      Other than that, good morning! and ::hugggggggggggggs:: to the Kula Krew! :)

      "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

      by Orinoco on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 05:33:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Late to the party (7+ / 0-)

      I am with my son's family in MN. Girl 3 1/2 boy 1 1/2 and quite a change from my 92 year old aunt in Nebraska. Mornings here are a whole 'nother deal. It is pretty wonderful to be jumped on by two happy little beings first thing in the morning, but it makes checking in here happen late.

      The birds are singing great is that? And it was warm enough (40's) to wash my car and not worry about the doors freezing shut.

      Good morning, hugs and fist bumps.....

  •  Top of the Morning ( A New Day Dawns ) (19+ / 0-)

    (TotM is a featurette of Morning Feature – a meta recap of the previous day’s blogging and a stopping off point for catching your first breath. Feel free to join in or hang out.)


    Last day to vote for kOSCARS: Links are here.


    Coffee Spew Award™ - The Spewie™
    (these spews are from Tuesday)

    From LI Mike: "Last time we were in Canada we visited Montreal and the bell hop asked where we were from: NY. He proceeds to speak very loudly. NEW YORK IN THE HOUSE."

    From JanF (nominated by NCrissieB):
    "I am of French Canadian descent, btw. So the French part (which disdains everything) was warring with the Canadian part (which was warm and friendly). "


    BPI Nutshell Award™ - The Nuttie™

    From addisnana:

    If I treat every person I meet as vote 51, I'm hoping that they will turn into voters and supervoters."

    From NCrissieB:

    Do we expect everyone we contact to vote, and vote for Democrats in every race? No. But more will vote if we contact them than if we don't.
    It's back to that old adage: "Put a shot on goal and hope to get 'lucky.'" Because that isn't really 'luck.'

    Elsewhere on the Internets
    I am breaking my rule about not linking off-site because this Sidewalk Art  is too cool to miss. There are 19 images total...I linked to my favorite.

    TotM Top Comment Digest
    From the Top Comments team.
    (right-click link, choose open new tab to view without disturbing your browser window)
    (Editor’s Note: Editor’s Notes are from JanF)

    From sardonyx:
    It's a good thing cacamp reposted and yet we love our homelands in today's "Revealing Pine Ridge Rez Demographic Information" diary by navajo, because it was overlooked for Top Comments on Monday, and it deserves to be more widely read.

    From the Top Mojo jars (combined):

    1. Speaking of Good Manners... by JekyllnHyde — 115 *
    1. Glad you wrote this up by Dallasdoc — 105 *

    * Top Mojo (cskendrick/sardonyx-style) excluding search-identifiable tip jars, first diary comments, Cheers and Jeers, and various pooties
    ** Top Mojo with No Exclusions


    From High Impact Diaries
    h/t jotter :

    Tuesday’s Morning Feature authored by Caractacus was ranked 26th with 47 recommenders, 54 connections and 111 viewers.
    (Connections is the total of commenters and recommenders, without duplication.)

    2010-03-02 00:00:39 - 2010-03-02 23:51:28
    DailyKos diaries = 237;  237 per day;  9.9 per hour
    Active Kogs: 3953 (writes a diary, recommends a diary, or comments on a diary)
    Lurkers: 3863 (only view diaries)

    For addisnana

    Welcome to ExBack2010 (uid 234820) who registered at 2010-03-03 05:08:46 EST, the most recent of 56 in the preceding 24 hours


    *TotM (JanF version) schedule: Sunday, Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Subject to change without notice.
    Searchable Tags: Morning Feature featurette TotM

    Much of life is knowing what to Google

    by JanF on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 04:27:15 AM PST

  •  You Know, "The Law Of Averages" (15+ / 0-)

    Myself and a few family members are HUGE St. Louis Cardinals fans. And of course baseball is all about numbers. Heck a few of the "wonky" baseball blogs I read I can't even keep up with all the new number crunching they are doing.

    But with that said our manager is a huge numbers guy. In fact, he is doing things that no manager has ever really done, like batting the pitcher in the eight, not nine spot.

    Another thing he does is pull say a 285 hitter (which is about average to above average) early in a game when there is a scoring opportunity cause the guy is like 1-20 against the current pitcher.

    I look at that, 1 for 20, which is a pretty good sample size coupled with the fact the guy is a lifetime 285 hitter and think "it is do" statistically speaking. Or put another way, you can look at that 1 for 20 several different ways.  

    I don't know why I just said all of that, but you got me thinking about it with your talk of numbers.

    "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

    by webranding on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 04:46:24 AM PST

  •  Sticky narratives... (20+ / 0-)

    You're quite right that the stickiest narratives are the ones we can see play out close to home.  Our experience seems to reinforce them quite often.

    The Oil narrative is easy to buy especially when we can see how much oil we use, and most of us are uneasily aware that we went into Iraq for oil, not for freedom.  (Big shock, wasn't it, when we learned that under international law, we couldn't just help ourselves to that oil.)

    But those who have insurance, for example, and are surrounded by insured people, certainly find it easy to believe that they have insurance because they "earned it" (by getting a particular job, or by having plenty of money of their own) and can easily believe that those who don't have insurance are to blame because they didn't earn it.  

    Or the narrative that the government screws everything up:  My stepmother told me she was opposed to national healthcare because the government screws everything up.  I said, "Oh are you having trouble with your Medicare?"

    Answer, "Oh no, we love Medicare."

    The missing link was obvious.  So the question becomes: what has she seen government screw up that makes that narrative stick?  I honestly don't know.  She waves the flag, is proud of her sons who served in the military.  I honestly suspect her suspicion of government has more to do with having it drummed into her than with any experience.

    How do we bridge that divide?   I certainly couldn't.

    Huggs and good morning!

    "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

    by winterbanyan on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 04:47:19 AM PST

    •  Re: oil in Iraq (12+ / 0-)

      Hi Winter

      I read a month ago or so that the Iraqis ae leasing some of the oil fields to companies from places other than the USA.

      •  Yup, but we all heard how Iraq was (12+ / 0-)

        going to pay for the war through oil.  After what we did, why should they pay us for anything?  They have an entire country to rebuild, and a lot of grief to deal with.

        If we'd pulled out right after we toppled Saddam, when we were still "heroes" things might have been different.  Instead we became the unwanted "guests" who never go home.

        The irony is killing me.  So are the number of killed and maimed.

        Hugggs and good morning.

        "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

        by winterbanyan on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 04:59:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Question- When exactly did 'troop' become the (6+ / 0-)

          singular rather then 'trooper'? Dammit, it's very irritating and utterly ridiculous. Deer, fish, moose, fine. Troop is a group and a damned plural. :::grumble, grumble, fuss:::

          Good morning, Winter! Hope you're feeling better. :::Huuugggsss:::

          Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

          by FarWestGirl on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 10:12:50 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  It's day by day, FWG (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JanF, NCrissieB, FarWestGirl

            Some days better than others.  But overall, getting better.  I'm getting to the age where I've had so many losses I'm learning to deal with it.  Cry when I need to cry, rage when I need to rage, then let go.

            But I'm never getting another dog.  They don't live long enough, and I don't want to outlive another.  At least I had nearly 60 years with my dad, and 56 with my mom.

            But dogs?  Oh, man... that's just too short.

            Hugggs and thanks for asking. :)

            "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

            by winterbanyan on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 03:02:09 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  "The equation - oil equals power - ... (9+ / 0-)

      "was clearly proved by World War I," Dr. Yergin wrote to open a chapter.

      Oh really? Czarist Russia was oil-dominant vis a vis Imperial Germany in 1914, yet the Russians lost so humiliatingly as to trigger the Revolution. Oops.

      The French were oil-dominant vis a vis the North Vietnamese, as were the U.S. Oops.

      Soviet Russia was oil-dominant vis a vis Afghanistan, as again are the U.S. Oops.

      The U.S. is oil-dominant vis a vis Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, yet their people live longer, healthier, safer lives than Americans do. Oops.

      Dr. Yergin tells a story - It's All About Oil - that we find comfortable and hear reinforced in our culture. But there are so many counterexamples that we should treat that Big Narrative with caution.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

      •  Without having read Yergin (7+ / 0-)

        ... I am nevertheless inclined to think there is at least some merit to an "it's all about the oil" hypothesis. 'Course, at the same time, I have to recognize that any hypothesis, no matter how excellent, can be over-spun, and if you tell me that's the case with Yergin, I couldn't argue.

        Using the 'big numbers' idea from this diary, it seems to me that one cannot expect to predict the outcome of all individual encounters (US vs North Viet Nam) based solely on one metric, such as which side had greater oil dominance. But if you look at groups of hundreds of millions (or billions) of people over the course of a century, there does seem to be at least a correlation between their ability to marshall energy resources and their relative 'dominance' over that time.

        Also: even if it's not really true that oil = dominance, all that is necessary for the concept to be a mainspring of history is for strategic decision-makers to believe it's true.

        Final thought: I have long been fascinated by the ways in which one's greatest strength can contain the seeds of one's downfall. The beauty queen who never needed to develop a warm heart. The brilliant man who is such a know-it-all prick that no one can stand him. The nation that became so full of itself when the oil was briefly plentiful, that it forgot how to act when historical conditions reverted to the norm.


        My, the coffee is good today! I sure have a lot to say, for a guy who didn't read the book :)

        Huggs etc to all...

        •  I was a bit unfair in the comment above. (7+ / 0-)

          It's actually a good book, very readable and worth your time despite its length (773 pages). There are fascinating character studies, some of people whose names are familiar (e.g.: John D. Rockefeller) and others largely unknown. I've had more than a few "So that's where that came from!" moments, and I like those.

          I've found only one significant error so far: that the Triple Entente of France, Russia, and Britain was born when Russia and Britain agreed to partition Persia as part of the St. Petersburg Convention of 1907. The problem: the Franco-Russian Alliance was formed in 1892, fifteen years earlier. As late as July 1914, while France and Russia were allied and Britain and Russia had an economic entente, there was debate over whether Britain would intervene in a European war: in St. Petersburg, in Paris, in Berlin, and in London (see: Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of August). To imply the chain of events that led to World War I began with an oil deal in Persia is ... stretching the facts by a good margin.

          But if that's the biggest fact error in the book, it will be better than many histories I've read. I do recommend it. Just read it as you would any Big Narrative ... with reasonable caution.

          Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  •  Good morning (14+ / 0-)

    Drove up I-95 last night to visit friends who are reverse snow birds. Used to stay in Fla for 4 months and back on LI for 8. Flipped it and now have their primary residence in Fla.

    They showed us some spec condo units that a friend recently purchased hoping that the market rebounds (good luck) and it was mind boggling the prices for which these places were recently purchased. Condo on the intracostal, beautiful views looking out toward Palm Beach. 3 bedroom 2 bath -- sold to the lady in the red hat for $130,000. Purchase price in 2004 $500,000.

    •  I've Always Felt That Righ People Are Going (13+ / 0-)

      to get much richer in this economic downturn, if for no other reason then buying up cheap homes, being able to sit on them for a few years, then double their profit.

      "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

      by webranding on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 04:52:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Define rich (9+ / 0-)

        A few years ago, we had enough collateral to borrow a sizeable sum of money to purchase some prime real estate to develop.  The day after we signed the ink on the loan, the housing market fell and our acreages are as unsold as when we bought them.  The Stock Market tanked and there went our collateral.

        We still live in a lovely home, have enough to eat, and will survive, but for sure, we aren't as 'rich' as we were before.  It bothers me that 'rich' here is undefined, but is defined as a negative.

        •  Well I Mean Super Rich (10+ / 0-)

          I wasn't talking about you. I was talking about somebody that has the ability to buy and entire set of condos. An entire block of homes in a place like Vegas, where they are selling for maybe less then half of what they once did, but in a few years will have regained most if not all of their value.

          "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

          by webranding on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 05:13:51 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  That is exactly what we were doing (8+ / 0-)

            Only with the hope of a faster turn-around on our investment.  We pay the bank loan yearly, and as we are annexed by the city, we pay all the taxes and city water/sewerage assessments on all the lots.  My point is that it doesn't always take the super rich to recognize an entrepreneurial way to make one's children and grandchildrens' live a little more secure.  

          •  Anecdote re "an entire set of condos" (10+ / 0-)

            Back in the early 70s, my first job after moving to CA was apartment maintenance. Guy I worked for and with (Jim) was on his way to getting rich quick. His secret? Maintenance-- which he did himself.

            Here's how it worked: "Rich guys", like maybe a group of dentists, would buy an apartment complex as an investment. Say, 100 apartments. Cash flow from rents would pay the mortgage and other expenses, plus maybe an annual profit, and the property would appreciate, rents would rise, etc. No way to lose, right? Actually, there was a way to lose, because tenants tend to be hard on their rented homes, and the rich guys didn't have a plan for keeping the apartments in good shape. Over the course of a few years, there would be fewer and fewer rentable units, so lower cash flow, and the accumulated cost of bringing all the units up to par growing ever larger. Eventually, the rich guys find themselves in an intolerable cash bind.

            Enter this guy Jim, with a smaller complex of say 50 apartments, all in good shape and rentable. He swaps his 50 units with positive cash flow straight up for their 100 units, only 50 rentable. The rich guys get out of their cash bind, and Jim doubles the core value of his holdings. He goes to work, and in a year or so has 100 rentable units-- all spiffy and ready to trade up for a 200-unit complex that some other rich guys have allowed to run downhill.

            Cool story, huh? I'm thinking, there's a metaphor here for our current financial crisis. The nitty-gritty of apartment maintenance is like the real economy, and the rich guys with their spreadsheets are like the Wall Streeters and the neo-liberal economists. It's easy for a spreadsheet (or an economic theory) to be fatally flawed by "small" omissions or false assumptions. Sooner or later, the abstract constructions have to link back to material reality-- and if the two don't agree with each other, material reality will prevail every time.

            So ends today's sermon :) Huggs etc...

    •  The housing bubble has caused a lot of that. (8+ / 0-)

      I've heard it suggested that the only reason banks aren't moving to foreclose on even more homes is that the market is so soft that they couldn't cover the loans anyway. It's hard, for a whole lot of people.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  •  Could it be (19+ / 0-)

    The big narratives that sell are the ones that tell us we should do more of what we are already doing whereas the big narratives that do not catch on are the ones that require us to make big changes. The big oil narrative is the we need it and damn well do everything possible to get more of it so our standard of living will remain high (the promised tangible reward). That means we may even need to invade countries that have large reserves and drill every square inch of America. The income inequities narrative means going against the consumption and predatory capitalism model that has been preached since after the WWII. Doing everything right when it comes to income inequities will mean little or no personal (tangible) benefit if you are a have, but requires advocacy for the have-nots. Doing the right thing to benefit others means finding gratification from the intangible benefits of building a society that works better for all.

    Please help the people of Haiti

    by DWG on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 04:49:59 AM PST

    •  Good points, DWG (12+ / 0-)

      Very good points indeed.  Yes, many of the big narratives are just easy and/or don't require change.  But lately some of them are collapsing badly.  We can hope that as more and more folks run into the death of materialism in their own lives, they'll begin to see the benefit of pulling up the entire society and closing the wealth gap.

      We're living on 1/3 of what we were living on only a few years ago.  It's not comfortable, it's not fun.  I'm prepared to continue this way indefinitely if it will help this country.

      Unfortunately, my cutting to the bone doesn't seem to be helping anyone else at all.  I can't even do the charity donations that used to be so important to me.  

      So as the rich get richer and the median income families get poorer (I'm now below median income) fewer people are getting helped.

      We're going to reach a breaking point before long.  I keep saying, "We're already a third world country.  We just can't see it yet.  It's still hidden."

      Hugggs and good morning.

      "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

      by winterbanyan on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 05:06:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  We'll discuss familiarity tomorrow, and yes ... (8+ / 0-)

      ... a key component of "stickiness" is whether a Big Narrative asks us to change how we look at a problem and the solutions we adopt.

      And to be fair, that is not as unreasonable as it may seem. We tend to implement strategies we already know better than we implement new strategies, and better implementation is often more important than the marginal difference between the strategies. That's especially true at the individual level, and that's why we individuals sometimes improve more by getting better at the Big Narratives we already know than by learning new Big Narratives.

      But sometimes no amount of Doing This Better will offset the fact that we should be Doing That Instead. To mangle a metaphor - and a tuber - even The Most Perfect Possible Turnip Squeezer won't help a patient in need of a blood transfusion.

      The problem, of course, is that most progressive policies don't offer that decisive a difference. They so offer a difference, and over the experience of an entire nation may be clearly better - but a given individual may not see a difference at all.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

      •  Big Coal (8+ / 0-)

        I got an email from CREDO yesterday asking me to sign a petition to be sent to Adrian Smith R/Ne who will push for lesser coal regulations in defiance of the Clean Air Act.  Of course, I signed it, to no avail of course.

        More than oil, our country was based on coal and still is, so the Clean Coal is simply a new big narrative on an old theme being used to mislead.  

        •  Big Coal is killing us (9+ / 0-)

          From an environmental standpoint, big Coal is far more destructive than oil. Coal is killing us in three ways. 1) Deforestation and destruction of Appalachia by mountaintop removal mining; 2) greenhouse gas emissions promoting climate change; and 3) mountains of coal ash that contains high levels of toxic heavy metals which leach into water. So far we are losing on all three fronts. The EPA under Obama has slowed but not stopped mountaintop removal mining. The Dirty Air crowd is fighting the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air act. The EPA wants to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste, but is running into fierce opposition. Republicans and conservative dems have joined in fighting all three initiatives.

          Future generations will hate us for allowing coal to destroy Appalachia, promote climate change, and leave billions of tons of toxic coal ash to poison water supplies.

          Please help the people of Haiti

          by DWG on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 07:10:20 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I look forward to tomorrow's discussion (8+ / 0-)

        Progressives have great ideas, but we suck at moving the Overton Window to increase the success of policy implementation. That is particularly problematic because we are often going against the stasis of the status quo against well-funded special interests. Policies often are timid reflections of an underlying good big idea.

        Please help the people of Haiti

        by DWG on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 07:00:41 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Likewise, Doing It WRONG Has Only Tiny Penalties (13+ / 0-)

    on an individual basis, which is why institutional superstition and sociopathic political movements are thriving these days.

    It only takes a relatively little distraction and propaganda on the part of forces that stand to gain from it, combined with the relatively little success of rationality, to sell scores of millions of people on philosophy and lifestyle that is collectively destructive.

    Add some no-cost perks to build a nuturing community --it helps if you can promise eternal life-- and people will gladly band together and tear down their entire civilization.

    And that's just fine with the leadership in the background. They don't need the civilization.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 04:57:06 AM PST

    •  Yes, that's the flip side. (6+ / 0-)

      I'm glad you're here today, Gooserock, because this speaks directly to a point you've made often: for many individuals, the Big Narrative of religion offers guidance they find more useful and explanations they find more comforting than the Big Narrative of science and reason. They see Aunt Mary pray when she's sick, and she gets better. Or she doesn't, but maybe she feels less afraid when she's dying. We're all going to die sooner or later. Isn't it better to be less afraid? And didn't science and reason bring us nuclear weapons?

      It took the Black Plague - where Europeans watched entire villages and cities die despite their prayers and the blessings of priests - to shake the Big Narrative of religion enough to allow the dawn of modern science.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  •  How many are we? (14+ / 0-)

    I thought this was going to be about the enormous amount of money raised in just 36 hours for the candidate running against Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas.  Reportedly, she is going to use his support from 'liberals, pinkos, tree huggers, and the unholy like' against him, all the while knowing that the majority of her $$$ come from outside the state also.

    The Big Narrative involved with this instance and others like the dollars raised for the S.D. Reservations and Sheltertents for Haiti, is that with very little effort, there are many who will rise to a good cause.  

    •  That Is Pretty Funny (insert sad) Isn't It (11+ / 0-)

      Reportedly, she is going to use his support from 'liberals, pinkos, tree huggers, and the unholy like' against him, all the while knowing that the majority of her $$$ come from outside the state also.

      More than 60% of her money is from out of state. And I don't know the numbers how, but when the total was just under a million for Halter the average donation was like $27.

      Good luck with that point of attack Lincoln.

      "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

      by webranding on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 05:02:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Narratives (18+ / 0-)

    Democrats often lacked these...until 2008. We have a sliver of a narrative but the leadership will have to prove itself worthy of those of us in Obama's "army", just imo. We sweat blood and tears to get these people elected is my narrative today. They need to show up in big ways and be the party of the people, not the rich. And soon, please. We need a real spring - where things are looking brighter for as many people as possible.
    In other news, the snow is melting fast!  The birdseed pile under the feeders is pretty ugly but the weekend promises to be nice enough to work outside - I've got bulbs to put in as well. And a new grandpuppy to go with my other grandanimals to pal around with, as well as neglected grandchildren. I'm cooking Sunday dinner for everyone, yay!
    Bouncing off to work in the sunshine, here. Happy Friday Eve!

    Think what you are doing today. -Fred Rogers

    by JanL on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 05:01:21 AM PST

    •  Our progressive narratives are better, but ... (7+ / 0-)

      ... from a "sales" perspective the problems are how they're better, and how much better they are. Our progressive narratives - the stories we'd like our nation to live by - are better "for all of us," and by implication they should be at least somewhat better "for each of us." And they are somewhat better "for each of us," but not so much that every individual is certain to experience that improvement.

      In reality, some individuals won't see improvement from our progressive narratives, and conservatives will highlight those individuals' stories as "proof" that our ideas don't work. (They'll ignore the many more people who do even worse using their ideas.) We need to recognize that, and be ready to discuss it as more progressive narratives start to take root in policy.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  •  "Lies, damned lies and statistics" (13+ / 0-)

    It seems like you can make anything look probable if you tweak the numbers.

    The problem we as humans have is that we look at the narratives and tie them to our own lives. So like the soldier, it would be easy to think that training doesn't help.

    That is when Big Picture (the casualty figures for the entire battalion) gets lost.

    (Big Picture different from Big Narrative)

    In 1994, a dear friend was killed in an automobile accident on a Milwaukee highway during the winter months. In April, the newspaper said in an article "Last winter was a good one for driving as there was only one fatality on Milwaukee County highways because of the weather.". When I read that, I started crying. Why? Because it was not true? No, because in a statistical sense it was true but in a personal sense it was a TERRIBLE year for fatalities.

    Three random thoughts tied together by their source: my brain trying to think about numbers.

    Good morning and hugggs!

    Much of life is knowing what to Google

    by JanF on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 05:11:25 AM PST

    •  Exactly what I (11+ / 0-)

      was trying to say.  I can be all "big narrative" about the earthquake in Chile being less destructive than the one in Haiti because of stricter building codes, but it doesn't change the way Chileans experience the earthquake if a loved one died or if they lost their home and they're living on the street with no food and/or water.  

      •  A scientific narrative about the Chile quake (11+ / 0-)

        one which we're not readily hearing.  Because of its location, it tipped the earth 33 feet, and made our days just a teensy bit shorter.

        Now 33 feet isn't much considering the size of the globe, but imagine the power and force unleashed to move something as big as a planet that far.

        If you pause to think about it, really think about it, you could conclude that what happens anywhere on this planet can affect us all.  

        Chile was lucky in terms of damage and loss of life compared to Haiti, but you're right, that doesn't make it any less painful for the victims.

        Nor does it hurt the rest of us to realize that we've all been affected by that quake in a less measurable way.

        We live on a tiny planet, and are far more interdependent in every way than most of us can grasp.

        "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

        by winterbanyan on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 05:55:35 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Another great example, myrealname. :) (6+ / 0-)

        In terms of the total suffering, Chile's stricter building codes reduced the damage of the earthquake. But the families who've lost loved ones won't find much (direct) comfort in that. They may, however, get some indirect comfort ... as more of their friends and relatives are likely to still be alive to help them through the grief and rebuilding.

        Good morning! ::hugggggs::

    •  Great example, JanF. :) (6+ / 0-)

      The flip-side is the answer an AIDS counselor gave me in an interview, when I asked about the mortality rate: "It's the same for AIDS patients as it is for everyone else ... one each."

      He wasn't making light of the disease. Rather, he was placing it in the context he used when discussing it with his patients, encouraging them to focus on how they live while they're alive, just as we should all focus on how we live while we're alive.

      We progressives need to tell effective stories. Sometimes "the numbers" are important, and we need to understand when and how to use them. But sometimes "the numbers" are meaningless, and we also need to understand when and how to ignore them.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  •  Just A Comment Or Two About Narratives (14+ / 0-)

    As a marketing guy this is something I talk to clients about all the time. I'll look at their copy on their web site or in their brochures and it is impossible to read. Bulleted list of features, specs, and sometimes benefits (always talk benefits, never features). Industry slang and jargon. Ugh!

    They don't tell me a story.

    I explain there is something in our DNA that likes stories. It is why 10,000 years ago when humans were living in caves they painted stories of a successful hunt on the walls.

    We like to be told stories. So tell them a darn story.

    They rarely if ever get what I am talking about ....

    "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

    by webranding on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 05:12:02 AM PST

    •  Yes, I often get quizzical looks ... (6+ / 0-)

      ... when I talk about religion, politics, or science as Big Narratives. "Huh? Those are belief systems or ways of learning, not 'stories.'"

      I use the term because you're right: we are a storytelling species. It seems to be hardwired into our DNA; at the very least, the facilities for telling and understanding stories are. Most of us find it easier to 'get it' from stories than we do from abstract ideas.

      But that's a two-edged sword, because it's also easy to tell fictional stories, or stories that are true for that person but not representative of more likely consequences.

      We progressives need to tell stories that are true ... and that are also effective.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  •  Loved it! (9+ / 0-)

    All I believe in is randomness. :-D If there was a church for randomness, I'd be the minister.

    The universe is large enough, imo, to allow for the random good fortune of the habitability of the earth.

    You can have a bag full of 26 Scrabble tiles, each with one letter from the alphabet. At least once in idk...4 quadrillion times, those letters are gonna spill out in alphabetical order.

    That's what happened with the evolution of human beings from the creation of the moon that regulates the seasons and keeps the earth's axis, to the extinction of dinosaurs, to the diversifying of mammals, to the ascension of highly adaptable primates who were gonna die if they didn't's all just random.

    I do believe that the tools of humanity were created for a reason, though. To conquer the helpless inevitability of randomness and chaos. One day a random asteroid could hit our planet. I don't like that kind of random. That's kind of random sucks.

    Good mornin' NCrissieB! :-D

    •  It's All Just Random is another ... (6+ / 0-)

      ... Big Narrative. We can certainly tell a story of the universe and recent history built around It's All Just Random, and that Big Narrative may offer useful guidance and even comfort in times of hardship ... for some.

      For others, that Big Narrative is too terrifying to contemplate. And if that Big Narrative is so scary that they would be paralyzed by it, it won't work for them, no matter now well it may correlate to what we think we know from science.

      The marginal utility of It's All Just Random - as compared to God Does It All - is so small for any given individual that emotional comfort may matter more than empirical evidence.

      But the increased utility of Let's Consider The Odds (a slightly different framing) may be huge for an entire nation. Again: how many are we?

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

      •  Wow. I like it! :-) n/t (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JanF, winterbanyan, NCrissieB
      •  I went away for a minute and thought about (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JanF, NCrissieB

        probability. Is that the "let's consider the odds" part of it? Probability would be a component of randomness. Perhaps that's why the random narrative doesn't scare me. I'm still aware of the probability of a place like earth which, imo would be affected by the size of the universe, with the probability increasing according to size. But that random "bang" that sets all the probable outcomes in motion, starts quite randomly, imo.

        That's the part of random I feel comfortable with. Why are we here? To me, there's no reason. It just randomly happened. I no longer ask that burning question anymore. I've found peace in the "random". I've had use it as therapy at times. Especially for a person that had constant random bad fortune at times. You just learn to live there and be prepared for the worst. You dont always like it. It's just a fancier way of saying "shit happens".

        And so your point about "emotional comfort" is absolutely correct. I really didn't realize that until you said it.

        I hope I'm making sense. You seem much more astute about this than me.

  •  except Jim Fixx lived longer than his (10+ / 0-)

    father (and many in his family) and they always said that his little fixes (ha! I punned) made the difference to giving him a few more years.

    Well there's another book on my every growing list .. and I can't read that fast.

    Thanks (that's not snark - I mean it)

    Don't want to pay for the uninsured? You already are! All You MoFos are Going to Pay!

    by Clytemnestra on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 05:26:24 AM PST

  •  Some things I thought would squeeze through the (12+ / 0-)

    dominant narratives are these

    1. Post Soviet Union collapse market fundamentalism became all the vogue, Glass-Steagall repeal, eliminate regulation, market efficiency provides all you need to succeed. CDOs. SIVs, CDS, naked short selling will make us all rich. BAM! We crash. Congressman Waxman has Alan Greenspan before Congress and gets him to admit that his Ayn Randian ways were wrong and I think great, now we can get back to reality and develop good "rules to the road" for finance capitalism and -- lameness.
    1. Widening, I mean WIDENING income/wealth gap between wealthy and the rest of us. Staggering numbers separating the top 1% and the rest of us in the 95% bracket. This didn't happen when more people were in unions. Passing the ECFA will be easy. Nope.
    1. Health care is breaking up before our eyes. In NY State we provide hospitals over $1 billion to cover their bad debt and charity care needs. More special arrangements to keep certain hospital doors open. Every state has these difficulties, HCR will be an easy sell. Nope.

    The power of the powerful is staggering.

  •  Generalship (8+ / 0-)

    Law of averages aside, Generalship matters.

    Well trained soldiers have met grim fates due to bad Generalship.  Think of Lee at Gettysburg.  Think of the stubborness of British Generals during WWI in the Somme.  In WWII, think of Ike and Omar Bradley insisting we take the Hurtgen Forest.

    Contrast these blunders to this one example(among many) of enourmous success.  Perhaps the greatest feat of Generalship on a tactical level occurred during the Battle of the Bulge.  The Commander of the 2nd Infantry Division, Major General Walter Robertson, was able to not only save his division and his neighboring division, the 99th, his actions were vital to stemming the German advance early in the Battle of the Bulge.  

    Between December 13 and 19th, the 2nd Div. had penetrated a heavily fortified section of the West Wall, then executed an eight mile daylight withdrawal while in close contact with the enemy and assumed defensive positions facing in another direction.  There they came immediately under heavy attack, held the villges for two days and nights while troops of the 99th Div. streamed through (to take up new positions further to the rear.  They then broke contact with the enemy and withdrew to positions along side the 99th on Elsenborn Ridge.

    It was, as the Division Commander said, "a pretty good day's work for any division.  General Leavonworth (War College) said it couldn't be done, and I I don't want to have to do it again.

    He was not alone in his assessment, for the Commander of the First Army, General Courtney Hodges, told Robertson:  "What the 2nd Division has done...will live forever in the history of the United States Army."

    For those of us who read military history at this level, this is what we want to see, to some degree, from our political leaders.  I don't think it is too much to ask.  

    General Robertson took all his textbook learning and applied it perfectly to the situation before him.  He did so without hesitation, where hesitation would have meant disaster for his men and the US Army as a whole.

    Can you you think of a situation today where such leadership is necessary?  I can.

    Is very bad to steal jobu's very bad

    by jobu on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 05:41:43 AM PST

    •  Generalship helps, yes. (5+ / 0-)

      But again, you're looking at a Big Narrative view. For the ordinary G.I.s who died defending Krinkelt-Rocherath - holding open the door for the operation you described - General Robertson's outstanding leadership didn't help at all. They still died.

      The point is that leadership and superior training do make a difference in combat ... if your answer for "How many are we?" is a large enough number.

      More progressive Big Narratives, implemented as policy, would also improve our lives ... if your answer for "How many are we?" is a large enough number.

      That's a problem when people tend to test their Big Narratives against their own experience....

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

      •  Testing against experience (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jim W, NCrissieB, FarWestGirl, sjterrid

        The individual G.I might not see a difference, but generals and historians will.

        In this context, I disagree.  The GI, throughout his training, understood that he was going into harm's way.  He also understood and accepted, with a good deal of gallows humor, his fate.

        But they were accutely aware, as their lives depended on it, of good leadership.  Their chances of rolling a 1 or 2 were greater with poor leadership.  All the literature I've read confirms this.  Think of the Band of Brothers scene where the non-coms risk being shot for mutiny to tell their regimental commander that they would not go into battle with Captain Sobel.

        I submit that "Fred" understands this too.  Life is not fair, but he recognizes leadership that increases or decreases his chances at a better life for himself and his family, despite, IMHO, the concerted messaging designed to confuse him.

        Because I believe this, I have been extremely frustrated by the Democratic Party's failure to move decisively, in this time where indecision could very well prove to be costly to not only Democrats but more importantly, to the country as a whole.

        I could go on and on about this but I will end with General Robertson's counterpart to his south, Major General Alan W. Jones, commanding the green 106th Division.

        Where Robertson correctly recognized in advance the perilous position of his attacking division, he had in place a contingincy for the situation now in front of him.  It is important to know that the likelyhood of a German attack was considered very low, yet plans were drawn nonetheless.  This man was the Sully Sullenberger of the US Army.

        General Jones had no such plans.  The position of his three regiments were vunerable due to a key tactical bottleneck.  Jones made no plans to sucure this town and its key bridge in the event of a German attack, despite having been warned in a debriefing by the departing General, none other than Walter Robertson.  

        As a result, although facing a lesser German force, his soldiers wound up averaging a 1 or a 2.  They were chewed to pieces and forced to surrender, the largest surrender of American forces in the ETO.

        Leadership matters, and Fred knows in his bones who is going to increase his chances of rolling a 1 or a rolling a 6.

        Progressives need to make sure that their leaders act as Walter Robertson did, not Alan Jones.  Fred demands it.  

        In this reagard, its seems that you are one of the diarists here who understand this best.

        Late post due to some important 'generalship' of my own.  As always, Best Regards.

        Is very bad to steal jobu's very bad

        by jobu on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 09:39:53 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree, mostly. :) (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JanF, jobu, winterbanyan

          (And don't ya hate it when I add that "mostly?")

          Have you read Company Commander, by Charles MacDonald? If you haven't, you should. It's a first-person memoir by a young 2nd Infantry Division officer. He fought at Krinkelt-Rocherath - the engagement you mentioned in your first reply - and gives a vivid but confusing account of his experience there. Vivid, because he was there. Confusing, because it was very confusing for him. He and his company ended up cut off in a woods, exposed because other elements had withdrawn (under orders or not) and he wasn't sure what to do. He thought he'd screwed up, and was ashamed of himself. Only later - when he was recovering from his wounds and was decorated for his actions - did he have any idea how his little piece of the war had fit into the larger picture.

          Needless to say, his account doesn't mention General Robertson at all. That's not to say General Robertson's decisions were irrelevant for Captain MacDonald. They set the stage for MacDonald's decisions. But MacDonald did not know anything about that at the time. He was just trying to do his little piece, confused and scared and ashamed of how little he could accomplish, so much that he thought he might be courtmartialed for decisions that ultimately earned him a commendation.

          I agree that General Robertson handled that situation brilliantly. It may have been the high point of his military career. And yes, we'd all like our leaders to be that brilliant. But even when they are, the G.I. in the forest may not see it at the time.

          As for General Jones, that wasn't his finest hour. In his defense, he was worried sick about his son and also suffering a heart attack. His career was better than that incident suggests.

          Progressives need to make sure that their leaders act as Walter Robertson did, not Alan Jones.  Fred demands it.  

          In this regard, its seems that you are one of the diarists here who understand this best.

          Thank you for that very thoughtful compliment!

          Good afternoon! ::hugggggs::

  •  Busy this morning, but Barry Schwartz from the (10+ / 0-)

    TWLTW this week is the scheduled guest tonight on the Daily Show.

    Since we just discussed his work on practical wisdom in some depth on Tuesday morning, I thought I'd pop in this morning and share that update.

    Will check back later in the day when I have a few more moments to read comments. Love this diary topic, though...

    Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. - H. G. Wells

    by Caractacus on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 05:42:27 AM PST

  •  I've been pondering this (12+ / 0-)

    recently.  Why do some narratives stick and some just fade away?  Why do years of scientific evidence on global warming disappear in the face of one extraordinarily cold North American winter?

    Yes, we can blame Fox News, and they, and the rest of the Right-Wing noise machine bear much of the responsibility, but part of it is the guy in the foxhole--we believe what we see over what someone in "authority" tells us.

    I'm reading a book by Ralph Nader (stop laughing).  No really, stop it.  You can't read with those tears in your eyes.

    I'm no Naderite, but he makes some interesting points in Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us.  He imagines some of the richest Americans getting together to remake America, and one of his characters is Ted Turner, who he has saying something like: "You don't fight lies with truth, you make fun of them, or humiliate them."  I dunno, something like that.  I was pretty tired when I read it last night.

    But, he has a point.  We keep fighting the crazy with facts and get zero traction.  They have the "government is bad" narrative that has gotten so much traction with the teabaggers, while our "corporations are robbing us blind" narrative is stuck in neutral.

    Interesting book, even if it is typical Nader--far too long and overblown for its own good.

    There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.

    by puzzled on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 05:58:35 AM PST

    •  I Can't Address Your Specific Question (8+ / 0-)

      about global warming, but narratives work that play into our construct of the world. Also our need to understand the world around us (insert religion for example).

      When you attempt to explain complex scientific data to explain global warming vs. there is snow on the ground it is cold outside, which do you think is easier to understand and/or comprehend?

      I should also note many narratives are easy to understand and/or form. You just need a couple of data points and it all becomes clear, cause you've heard it hundreds of times before.

      This is why thy are so powerful. So creating a new narrative that goes against everything the person knows, well that isn't easy to say the least.

      "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

      by webranding on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 06:07:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I was day dreaming yesterday (8+ / 0-)

      about what to do about the situation we find ourselves in. Fears about losing the house and senate and having a terrible 2010. (I'm with Gov Dean that we'll do better than most pundits think.)

      In NY CD#1 in 2008 the Repubs had to scrape the barrel to find a Rep challenger to our mod/lib Dem Congressman, this year every Republican and their brother are coming out of the woodwork to challenge. 10 challengers.

      This is a nightmare. So my daydream was to take out a full page ad in the local paper just excoriating the Republicans, ala the Ted Turner tact you describe.

      •  LI Mike - I think this is less of a problem (6+ / 0-)

        than you think.

        Out of the 10 challengers I think 8 of them are likely teabaggers who see their "chance".

        In my opinion (dreams?), the teabaggers will rip each other apart and the republican candidate in a lot of races is going to be not very attractive.

        Consider Kentucky: Ron Paul's son (the one named after Ayn Rand) is the likely candidate in the Senate race. Once his libertarian roots are exposed, I think that even Kentuckians will cringe. Do you really want a candidate whose focus is on closing the federal reserve? Like that resonates with anyone at all?

        HCR will pass, some re-regulation will pass and Democrats will have something to run on in the fall.

        Much of life is knowing what to Google

        by JanF on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 06:27:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  If it doesn't affect me, it doesn't exist (8+ / 0-)

      and is not a problem.  My in-laws lived in Santa Ana, Ca. and they did not acknowledge there was smog in their area (and this was in the 60-80's.)  They couldn't smell it or taste it, and the haze over the mountains was humidity, despite the fact it was green in color.  

      •  Yes! (8+ / 0-)

        I was griping to a friend the other day about my wing-nut in-laws wanting to cut the deficit and fully fund Medicare payments to doctors, even though it will cost $250 billion.

        Her response was that everyone looks out for their own interests.  My reply was that Republicans and Teabaggers only look out for themselves, progressives and liberals see the big picture.  We can empathize with others who are hurting, and not be threatened by them.  

        I dunno.  How are some people all "me,me,me" (apologies to dKos user with that name), and others are more concerned with the collective well-being of everyone in our society?

        There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.

        by puzzled on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 07:32:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  "Who are you gonna believe, a scientist ... (7+ / 0-)

      ... or your own lying eyes?"

      We've all heard the joke. Sadly, it isn't a joke. It's the reality of how we human beings think, and it speaks directly to the point you raised.

      No, we progressives can't overwhelm the existing Big Narratives with facts. If mere evidence were enough, The Spirit Level would have transformed our society when it was published. It hasn't. Why not?

      Recognizing how we humans think - that we usually test Big Narratives against our own experience and that isn't a large enough sample set for many progressive narratives - should make us step back and ask how we can tell our stories better.

      "People should reason better and think bigger" won't work unless and until we evolve as a species ... and we can't wait that long. I have some ideas for what can work, and we'll explore them later this week.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  •  Big Narratives is a great discussion Crissie (13+ / 0-)

    and then raises the issue of who shapes them, and pushes them into the popular psyche and acceptance?

    I happen to have a book at hand this morning in the office  entitled "The Myth of the Male Breadwinner", by anthropologist Helen Safa, and was thinking about this as one of those narratives which includes "men" as "head of household" as the norm, and women as ancillary.  This narrative shapes thought around equal pay for equal work, maternity leave, childcare access and affordability... the permutations  are endless.

    How do we change the narratives?

    Look forward to the discussion of this during the week.

    As always - you offer much food for thought.  

    Now off to class to try to get students to examine some other big narratives about religion (which I'm defining as mythology) They are willing to look at the beliefs of "others" as myths - but not their own.  


    (need coffee)

    "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

    by Denise Oliver Velez on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 06:01:27 AM PST

  •  Hope your class goes well- (7+ / 0-)

    I remember many years ago sitting in a comparative religion class where the Professor suggested, (very gently) that Christianity had its roots in Middle Eastern Mythology.  There was a conservative right-wing student who just blew a gasket and accused the professor of being every thing from a pagan to a Satanist.  This was a visiting professor just in for one semester and so none of us knew his background.

    I did not care for the student at all-we had had several classes together and I thought he was smug and self-righteous.  (I thought many things but I won't post them here)

    I really liked the Professor, on the other hand and greatly enjoyed his class.

    Turns out he was a highly respected Episcopalian Minister with several well received published theological papers, as well as holding a Doctorate in Archeology.

    I throughly enjoyed the ensuing fireworks.    

    "Real History is not for Sissies" Barry McCain

    by Hill Jill on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 06:25:47 AM PST

  •  I was reading (6+ / 0-)

    recently and a link to climate science 101 uses the roll of the dice example to explain weather vs climate.

    Roll the dice enough times, as Crissie shows, and it will avg 3.5. On any given day in the NE it could be 32 and snowing but look at 1000 days and its not 32 and snowing every day.

    Not a hard concept, yet it snows, were in a cold snap and so there must not be climate change.

  •  Same kind of problem, seems to me, (8+ / 0-)

    is seen wrt global warming (among many other things): long-term trends being "countered" by local weather events—i.e., big snowstorm (or series of snowstorms) means that our planet isn't heating up. Exceptional (or in this instance, even normal for winter) local weather conditions are being used to rebut facts about long-term weather (climate) and trends.

    My being cold here in Aix and neighbors complaining about unusually wet/cold conditions this winter may indeed mean that this particular part of France will end up wetter and colder over the next few years. But it won't offset what is happening in the rest of the world. (And fortunately for me, so far none of my French neighbors have pooh-poohed global warming on this basis... or any other basis, for that matter.)

  •  The college degree story: (8+ / 0-)

    Getting a college education is the KEY to success and the good life. Statistically that would be true looking at average incomes of various levels of educational attainment. What this big narrative gives us is one approach to preparing for one's adult life and focuses way too much attention on this one story. The kids who don't learn in traditional ways rarely have a role in this story. And because this is our society's big story, we don't write other stories for people who learn differently or don't have the funds to attend college.

    With this narrative for success, blue collar jobs and union jobs are bad and because profit is king and the educated elite are making the jobs decisions, it's perfectly legitimate to outsource to jobs to lower paying, less regulated countries.

    Because college is our big story, we don't do a very good job of creating other stories for employment and income. Other than John McCain and his $50/hour lettuce pickers, that is.

    Do I have another story? Gees I wish I did.

    •  That is a great example. :) (6+ / 0-)

      Yes, our Big Narrative for individual success is It's All About A College Education, and you can find empirical data showing that people with college degrees earn more over the course of their lives than those without. But....

      1. Increasingly, the young adults who are able to attend college and get a degree are children of upper-middle-class or better families. They not only get a college degree, but also have other advantages that increase their earning potential.
      1. Again, it's easy to find individual counterexamples: people with a college or even graduate degree who are unemployed and poor. Many of those, it turns out, come from lower socioeconomic class families and don't have those other advantages, but not all.
      1. Regardless, our society still needs janitors, road workers, maintenance workers, etc. ... and they should be able to support themselves and their families too.

      To say "Well they should go to college and get better jobs" - even if such jobs were available, and they're not - ignores the fact that we still need people to do those non-college-educated jobs.

      Excellent example of a dysfunctional Big Narrative, addisnana.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  •  Big Narrative Poster (7+ / 0-)

    As a visual aid, I know of no better to illustrate the goals of progressivism vs. the goals of pseudo-conservatism.

    Is very bad to steal jobu's very bad

    by jobu on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 10:09:13 AM PST

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