Monday, August 22, 2011

Revelation: Tired People Screw Up And Make Bad Calls

There was nothing malicious or even unusual about the judges’ behavior, which was reported earlier this year by Jonathan Levav of Stanford and Shai Danziger of Ben-Gurion University. The judges’ erratic judgment was due to the occupational hazard of being, as George W. Bush once put it, “the decider.” The mental work of ruling on case after case, whatever the individual merits, wore them down. This sort of decision fatigue can make quarterbacks prone to dubious choices late in the game and C.F.O.’s prone to disastrous dalliances late in the evening. It routinely warps the judgment of everyone, executive and nonexecutive, rich and poor — in fact, it can take a special toll on the poor. Yet few people are even aware of it, and researchers are only beginning to understand why it happens and how to counteract it.

Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice. Ducking a decision often creates bigger problems in the long run, but for the moment, it eases the mental strain. You start to resist any change, any potentially risky move — like releasing a prisoner who might commit a crime. So the fatigued judge on a parole board takes the easy way out, and the prisoner keeps doing time.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

President Obama bends to blackmail

Pretty much the whole story here:

A six-shooter lies gleaming on the table. There are five bullets in its chambers. You spin the cylinder and hold the gun to America’s head.

“Stop, don’t pull the trigger!” says Barack Obama. “We can’t risk America’s future.”

“Aww, go ahead and shoot,” say the Republicans. “Maybe it will reduce the size of government … permanently.”

And that was the debt ceiling debate. President Obama was not willing to risk a default that might ruin the American economy and topple the world’s financial system.

The Republicans, or more specifically the tea party Republicans in the House, simply did not care. Some said that they wanted default. It would be healthy. America could sell off its national parks and the gold reserves in Fort Knox. I kid you not. You didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Or we could simply not pay the military. Now there was an idea! There are 1,137,568 members of the military currently stationed in the United States. They have rifles, tanks, artillery, jets and missiles. And we’re not going to pay them? I don’t think so.

In the end, the Republicans got what they wanted.


Money quote:

In a new CNN poll, 77 percent of Americans said that the elected officials who dealt with the debt ceiling acted like spoiled children.

Spoiled children everywhere should be insulted.