07 June 2011


SEX SCANDALS. Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) gave a press conference yesterday, in which he admitted that he "had sent lewd photos (see above, click on any image to enlarge) and text messages to six different women in the last three years -- all of whom he met online." Weiner was (for a politician caught with his hand where it didn't belong) unusually remorseful and candid in owning up to his misbehavior, but stopped short of resigning from his elected office.

Political sex scandals are nothing new, of course. Those in positions of influence or power often begin to believe that they are somehow special, and immune from the ethical standards expected of others. Witness the downfall of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the International Monetary Fund head and prominent French politician, charged with the rape of a New York City hotel maid. Neither political party in the U.S. has a monopoly on virtue. To demonstrate, here is a list of public apologies made by an assortment of politicians in recent years. Each entry includes a video of the apology, how the person was (as it were) exposed, his strategy in response, and whether or not he left office. Clearly some egos are larger than others, and some are more in denial than others. Squirm, baby, squirm. All of which ties in neatly with the next segment --

POSITIVE THINKING'S PERIL. We are taught from an early age to think positively, look on the sunny side, be optimistic, see the glass as half full. But recent research suggests that there are limits, and even dangers, in being too aggressively cheerful. A persistent optimism can amount to being in denial, when there are real problems and real threats with which to deal. A certain amount of worry over a school project or work deadline can result in one's being better prepared to deal with the assignment. In extremis, pessimists "were less prone to depression than were optimists after experiencing negative life events, like the death of a friend. The pessimists had likely spent more time bracing themselves mentally for unpleasant possibilities."

Which is not to suggest that we should all resign ourselves to a dour and gray life. My own outlook is to hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. A healthy balance between positive and negative thinking works well for me, though it may not be for everyone.

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