How your sense of smell may affect your politics

An ancient trait creates political leanings

 HUMANS, like other animals, have evolved to notice and avoid sources of infection, whether that be rotten food or sickly members of their own species. This “behavioural immune system” can have unexpected consequences. Studies have, for instance, shown that those whose noses are more easily offended are also more likely to shun foreigners or disapprove of homosexuals. More broadly, people who live in regions with more to fear from pathogens tend to be less promiscuous and gregarious (such risky behaviour may spread disease).
.. This led Marco Liuzza of the Magna Graecia University of Catanzaro, in Italy, and his colleagues to wonder whether there might be a link between a person’s sensitivity to malodorousness and the likelihood of them being sympathetic to right-wing authoritarian views.
.. The researchers found that those scoring highly on the BODS scale did indeed hold more authoritarian views. They found no such correlation between the BODS score and more broadly conservative opinions.
.. he effect was small, enough to explain between 4% and 16% of the difference in viewpoints (family background, economic circumstances and other factors would presumably account for much of the rest).
.. prejudices and political views can be influenced by a person’s desire to avoid disease and bad smells.

Money man: Robert Mercer

Reclusive U.S. billionaire Robert Mercer
helped Donald Trump win the
presidency. But what is his ultimate goal?

Bannon’s relationship with Robert Mercer is cited in a remarkable lawsuit brought by David Magerman, a former employee of Mercer’s hedge fund, Renaissance Technologies. On its surface, the lawsuit is a wrongful dismissal complaint against Mercer. But at its heart, it is an indictment of Mercer’s character and reputation that draws together his political views, his connections to Bannon and Trump and racist comments Mercer allegedly made to Magerman directly.

.. “I have a lot of respect for Bob Mercer. I think he’s a very intelligent person, a very thoughtful person,” Magerman told me recently. But he quickly added, “If the world knew what he was trying to do, they wouldn’t stand for it.”.. He’s fond of talking about the time, years ago, when a colleague he was visiting summoned a helicopter to his estate to whisk them into Manhattan.

There was no life-or-death reason for the extravagance, not even a business emergency. They were just going to a dinner, he says, and his friend rented the chopper to avoid the bother of traffic. From the helicopter, Magerman saw his fellow citizens travelling along a thin ribbon of perfectly good highway below.

.. “Either you are in awe of the grandeur of commuting, taking a two-hour drive and turning it into a helicopter ride, or you can just be, like, disgusted by the waste.” As though there were even a sliver of doubt, Magerman added, “I was in the latter category.”

It wasn’t just the waste that gnawed at him — it was the trespass of a moral principle. The helicopter commute was an example of something that, if everyone did it, would obviously be wrong. ”10,000 people can’t be flying helicopters from their backyard,” he said.

.. Magerman calls that helicopter trip “extra-societal” and “outside the realm of normal behavior,” words that also fit what he believes is wrong with Mercer’s relationship to the president. Magerman thinks Mercer has bought special access to impose “extra-societal” views on the Trump administration.

.. “The ultra-wealthy of today differ from the ultra-wealthy in past eras in that they have, a lot of them, no stake in the infrastructure of society,” Magerman said. He’s seen that their wealth does not depend on the health and stability of the country. In fact, they get rich on volatility and instability.

.. Mercer is not a finance guy; he is a computer scientist. But his research developing speech translation programs through pattern recognition can apparently also be used to discover obscure patterns in the financial markets and make an enormous fortune

.. Instead of poring over prospectuses and profit and loss statements, they apply their sciences to the data that affect markets. It’s called quantitative analysis, and they themselves are known as “quants.”

.. Medallion has pumped out annualized returns of almost 80 per cent a year, before fees.” Even in a bad year, it churns out more than 20 per cent returns.

.. “The people I worked with were great scientists. I mean, we could have solved a lot of important and interesting problems if we’d worked on different things. Instead, we made hundreds of millions of dollars,

.. The problem that Renaissance Technologies faced trying to predict market behaviour is, he said, essentially the same problem that Cambridge Analytica faces in voter analysis and persuasion.

.. Data analysts are largely skeptical that Cambridge Analytica could have had a decisive impact on the 2016 U.S. election or the Brexit referendum, but Magerman brushes that off with a reminder that so-called experts were also skeptical that computer algorithms could predict financial markets.

.. , “Bob thinks the less government the better. He’s happy if people don’t trust the government. And if the president’s a bozo? He’s fine with that. He wants it all to fall down.

.. They didn’t get rich by providing the goods, services and infrastructure that bring people into direct contact with their community and its interests — they got rich in financial markets, making money for the sake of it.

.. But the real shrinking of the role of government has been in Trump’s choice of cabinet members, whose aim seems to be to assail the policy goals of their departments.

Thus, the

  1. secretary of energy is someone who once campaigned to get rid of the Energy Department; the
  2. Secretary of Education has advocated against the public schools system; the
  3. Environmental Protection Agency director has a record of repeatedly suing the EPA; and the
  4. Attorney General has a reputation for opposing the expansion of civil rights.

Other departments are reportedly withering from neglect, as key positions are filled by unqualified people or not filled at all.

.. his daughter Rebekah was part of the transition team that helped Trump choose his cabinet.

.. Was it all worth it?

It’s like, was having surgery worth it?” Magerman says. “I mean, it was necessary. There was a disease that I thought, like, maybe I had a scintilla of a cure for.”

Sarah Polley: The Men You Meet Making Movies

He told me, in front of the publicist and a co-worker beside him, that a famous star, a few years my senior, had once sat across from him in the chair I was in now. Because of his “very close relationship” with this actress, she had gone on to play leading roles and win awards. If he and I had that kind of “close relationship,” I could have a similar career. “That’s how it works,” I remember him telling me. The implication wasn’t subtle. I replied that I wasn’t very ambitious or interested in acting, which was true. He then asked me about my political activism and went on to recast himself as a left-wing activist, which was among the funniest things I’d ever heard.

.. Women in technical jobs were almost nonexistent, and when they were there, they were constantly being tested to see if they really knew what they were doing.

.. the photo shoots in which you were treated like a model with no other function than to sell your sexuality, regardless of the nature of the film you were promoting.

.. How would one have left that meeting, or those hotel rooms, which have been described by others, with that relationship intact, when he displayed such entitlement and was famous for such anger? I was purely lucky that I didn’t care.

.. Shortly afterward, I started writing and directing short films. I had no idea, until then, how little respect I had been shown as an actor. Now there were no assistant directors trying to cajole me into sitting on their laps, no groups of men standing around to assess how I looked in a particular piece of clothing. I could decide what I felt was important to say, how to film a woman, without her sexuality being a central focus without context. In my mid-20s, I made my first feature film, “Away From Her.”

.. Most directors are insensitive men. And while I’ve met quite a few humane, kind, sensitive male directors and producers in my life, sadly they are the exception and not the rule. This industry doesn’t tend to attract the most gentle and principled among us.
.. I went into a film as an actor with an open heart and was humiliated, violated, dismissed and then, in one instance, called overly sensitive when I complained. One producer, when I mentioned I didn’t feel a rape scene was being handled sensitively, barked that Dakota Fanning had done a rape scene when she was 12 — “And she’s fine!”
.. for a long time, I felt that it wasn’t worth it to me to open my heart and make myself so vulnerable in an industry that makes its disdain for women evident everywhere I turn.
.. he was just one festering pustule in a diseased industry
.. I hope that when this moment of noisy sisterhood dissipates, it doesn’t end with a woman in a courtroom, being made to look crazy, as these stories so often do.
.. I hope that the ways in which women are degraded, both obvious and subtle, begin to seem like a thing of the past.

We need to look at ourselves.

  • What have we been willing to accept, out of fear, helplessness, a sense that things can’t be changed?
  • What else are we turning a blind eye to, in all aspects of our lives?
  • What else have we accepted that, somewhere within us, we know is deeply unacceptable?

And what now will we do about it?

Sanitized Society Puts Hygiene Hypothesis to the Test

If you think of bigotry as a germ or some other infectious disease vector, we live in an amazingly sanitized society. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist, of course. And we can all debate how prevalent it is later. My point is that the institutions — the organs of the body politic — that are the most obsessed with eradicating bigotry (as liberals define it) tend to be the places that have to worry about it the least. The Democratic party is consumed with institutionalized angst about prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry in America. But the odds are that relatively few of these people (particularly those under the age of 50) have been exposed to much real racism or intolerance.