Weekly Review — January 31, 2012, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Christian martyr, 1855]

A Christian martyr.

Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich released their most recent tax returns. Romney’s showed that he made $21.6 million in 2010, paid taxes at a rate of 14 percent, and gave $4 million to the Mormon church over two years. Gingrich’s return showed that he earned $3.1 million last year and may have cheated on his taxes. Washington PostChristian Science MonitorForbesLos Angeles TimesPresident Barack Obama made increasing the tax rate on the super-rich a theme of his State of the Union address, saying, “Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary,” whom experts calculated earns between $200,000 and $500,000 a year.Daily MailA Wall Street Journal reporter compared the practice, begun in 2011, of having Republicans and Democrats sit next to each other during the State of the Union to date rape, and a Chrysler 300C once leased by President Obama was listed on eBay with a starting bid of $1 million. “It’s all about the money for me,” said the car’s owner, a self-described Reagan conservative. Raw StoryCNN Money via WGALThe Republican candidates faced off in their nineteenth primary debate, and former presidential candidate Herman Cain, jailed former congressman Duke Cunningham, and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin threw their support behind Gingrich. “Both party machines… are trying to crucify Newt Gingrich for bucking the tide,” explained Palin. “Rage against the machine, vote for Newt. Annoy a liberal, vote Newt.”CNNRaw StoryHuffington PostWashington PostPETA was offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who killed an Arkansas Democratic campaign manager’s cat and left it on his doorstep with the word “liberal” written across its body, and a penguin named Paula defecated in the chamber of the Kentucky Senate.CBSRaw Story

Outside the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, protesters built igloos to stay warm, while inside, software company Tibco announced a new social-networking site that would allow the planet’s 200 richest people to friend world leaders.New York TimesDaily MailTwitter announced that it would selectively censor tweets at the request of governments, and clashes in Syria between government troops and armed militias escalated following the Arab League’s suspension of its monitoring mission there.CNNChristian Science MonitorA suicide bombing of a funeral procession in Baghdad killed 32 people, and the government of North Korea declared it a war crime to use a cell phone during the country’s 100-day mourning period for Kim Jong-Il.Las Angeles TimesThe TelegraphThe French senate voted to jail anyone in France who denies that the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Turkish forces amounted to genocide.Raw StoryA German court blocked the release of an annotated version of “Mein Kampf,” and an online auction house in Slovakia sold for $42,300 a painting of a full moon over a shimmering ocean by Adolf Hitler.New York TimesRaw StoryA U.S. military-court judge ruled that a Marine sergeant who oversaw the massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians in 2005 should serve no time in prison.Raw StoryU.N. security staff revealed that they had received a duffel bag filled with $2 million worth of cocaine from Mexico at U.N. headquarters in New York.Raw StoryA welfare office in Dublin banned claimants from wearing pajamas to interviews.BBC

Scientists discovered 11 new planetary systems with 26 orbiting planets, and a solar storm of high-energy particles pummeled the earth. DiscoveryBBCPeople worldwide celebrated the Chinese New Year, marking the beginning of the year of the dragon, the luckiest year in the Chinese Zodiac, while the Pennsylvania state assembly passed a resolution declaring 2012 the year of the Bible.Raw StoryFour police officers in East Haven, Connecticut, were arrested by the FBI for harassing and beating Hispanic residents. Asked by a reporter how he would make amends with the Latin American community, the town’s mayor, Joseph Maturo, said, “I might have tacos when I go home. I’m not sure yet.” Two days later, activists sent 500 tacos to the mayor’s office.New York TimesCNNThe city of Los Angeles passed a bill requiring porn actors to wear condoms.ReutersAn Oklahoma state legislator introduced a bill to ban the use of aborted human fetuses in food.Las Angeles TimesOccupy Oakland protesters broke into City Hall, where they smashed display cases, cut electrical wires, and burned an American flag.Los Angeles TimesA school in suburban Philadelphia banned Uggs because students were hiding cell phones in the boots’ tall, furry cuffs, and 76 high school seniors were erroneously told they’d been accepted to Vassar College, only to have the acceptances rescinded a few hours later. “My mom called, like, my entire family,” said one of the rejected students. “It was just a big letdown.”ReutersNew York Times

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Progress is impossible without change,” George Bernard Shaw wrote in 1944, “and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” But progress through persuasion has never seemed harder to achieve. Political segregation has made many Americans inaccessible, even unimaginable, to those on the other side of the partisan divide. On the rare occasions when we do come face-to-face, it is not clear what we could say to change each other’s minds or reach a worthwhile compromise. Psychological research has shown that humans often fail to process facts that conflict with our preexisting worldviews. The stakes are simply too high: our self-worth and identity are entangled with our beliefs — and with those who share them. The weakness of logic as a tool of persuasion, combined with the urgency of the political moment, can be paralyzing.

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On a balmy day last spring, Connor Chase sat on a red couch in the waiting room of a medical clinic in Columbus, Ohio, and watched the traffic on the street. His bleached-blond hair fell into his eyes as he scrolled through his phone to distract himself. Waiting to see Mimi Rivard, a nurse practitioner, was making Chase nervous: it would be the first time he would tell a medical professional that he was transgender.

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In the summer of 2016, when Congress installed a financial control board to address Puerto Rico’s crippling debt, I traveled to San Juan, the capital. The island owed some $120 billion, and Wall Street was demanding action. On the news, President Obama announced his appointments to the Junta de Supervisión y Administración Financiera. “The task ahead for Puerto Rico is not an easy one,” he said. “But I am confident Puerto Rico is up to the challenge of stabilizing the fiscal situation, restoring growth, and building a better future for all Puerto Ricans.” Among locals, however, the control board was widely viewed as a transparent effort to satisfy mainland creditors — just the latest tool of colonialist plundering that went back generations.

Photograph from Puerto Rico by Christopher Gregory
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In 1899, the art critic Layton Crippen complained in the New York Times that private donors and committees had been permitted to run amok, erecting all across the city a large number of “painfully ugly monuments.” The very worst statues had been dumped in Central Park. “The sculptures go as far toward spoiling the Park as it is possible to spoil it,” he wrote. Even worse, he lamented, no organization had “power of removal” to correct the damage that was being done.

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"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

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