Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
I think we knew that backers of Keystone XL (those who stood to make ginormous sums of money) would think hard about how to make it happen, and they naturally would know one major opponent would be the various environmental groups. So they tried to figure how best to approach the issue and deal with the threat. I see nothing at all wrong with that picture (save the Keystone XL pipeline itself, that is—but if you’re going to support it for whatever reason, the steps being taken seem totally reasonable to me). The article at the link above provides backstory, the link below is what they came up with.
What is interesting is to see the specifics of the analysis as presented.
From his column today:
Then there are those who look to politics for identity. They treat their partisan affiliation as a form of ethnicity. These people drive a lot of talk radio and television. Not long ago, most intelligent television talk was not about politics. Shows would put interesting people together, like Woody Allen with Billy Graham (check it out on YouTube), and they’d discuss anything under the sun.
Now most TV and radio talk is minute political analysis, while talk of culture has shriveled. This change is driven by people who, absent other attachments, have fallen upon partisanship to give them a sense of righteousness and belonging.
This emotional addiction can lead to auto-hysteria.
Hmmm. Am I guilty? I certainly find politics enthralling, as some are reported to find baseball. And, like baseball, you follow not only the games (the legislation and court decisions), but also the players, the prospects, the trade-offs, and so on. I think the difference is that politics, through enacting and enforcing the laws and regulations that so shape our lives.
His point on TV talk shows is interesting. We do not have cultural talk shows—all our talk shows seem to be some variant of the news: politics, sports, business, actual news. Nothing that is of this moment. Little to provide intellectual context to what we witness.
UPDATE: It strikes me that this NY Times Op-Ed by Gary Gutting is directly relevant—and in fact also relevant to the minimum-wage discussion:
“Crisis” and “decline” are the words of the day in discussions of the humanities. A primary stimulus for the concern is a startling factoid: only 8 percent of undergraduates major in humanities. But this figure is misleading. It does not include majors in closely related fields such as history, journalism and some of the social sciences. Nor does it take account of the many required and elective humanities courses students take outside their majors. Most important, the 8 percent includes only those with a serious academic interest in literature, music and art, not those devoted to producing the artistic works that humanists study.
Once we recognize that deeply caring about the humanities (including the arts) does not require majoring in philosophy, English or foreign languages, it’s not at all obvious that there is a crisis of interest in the humanities, at least in our universities.Is the crisis rather one of harsh economic reality? Humanities majors on average start earning $31,000 per year and move to an average of $50,000 in their middle years. (The figures for writers and performing artists are much lower.) By contrast, business majors start with salaries 26 percent higher than humanities majors and move to salaries 51 percent higher.
But this data does not show that business majors earn more because they majored in business. Business majors may well be more interested in earning money and so accept jobs that pay well even if they are not otherwise fulfilling, whereas people interested in the humanities and the arts may be willing to take more fulfilling but lower-paying jobs. College professors, for example, often know that they could have made far more if they had gone to law school or gotten an M.B.A., but are willing to accept significantly lower pay to teach a subject they love.
This talk of “a subject they love” brings us to the real crisis, which is both economic and cultural (or even moral). The point of work should not be just to provide the material goods we need to survive. Since work typically takes the largest part of our time, it should also be an important part of what gives our life meaning. Our economic system works well for those who find meaning in economic competition and the material rewards it brings. To a lesser but still significant extent, our system provides meaningful work in service professions (like health and social work) for those fulfilled by helping people in great need. But for those with humanistic and artistic life interests, our economic system has almost nothing to offer.
Or rather, it has a great deal to offer but only for a privileged elite (the cultural parallel to our economic upper class) who have had the ability and luck to reach the highest levels of humanistic achievement. If you have (in Pierre Bourdieu’s useful term) the “cultural capital” to gain a tenured professorship at a university, play regularly in a major symphony orchestra or write mega best sellers, you can earn an excellent living doing what you love. Short of that, you must pursue your passion on the side.Teaching should be an obvious solution for many humanities majors. But . .
Really interesting to those of us who grew up on comics.
Elias Isquith has a very interesting column in Salon. From that column:
. . . While most people at least intuitively understand that big-time political campaigns are financed largely by the very wealthy, Ferguson and his co-authors’ paper reveals the degree to which these national operations are funded by a vanishingly small number of people. “We really are dealing with a system that is of by and for the one percent — or the one-and-a-half percent,” Ferguson told Salon in a recent interview. And the numbers bear him out. Assuming that contributions over $500 come largely from the one percent, the paper finds that no less than 59 percent of Obama’s funding, and 79 percent of Romney’s, emanates from that small sliver of society. This contrasts rather jarringly with the popular image of the 2012 campaign as one pitting Obama’s middle-class constituency against Romney’s plutocratic backers. It was more of a plutocrat vs. plutocrat affair.
Even on that score, however, the lines of demarcation are fuzzy at best. It’s undeniable that Romney was more popular among big business than Obama, but the differences between the two were smaller than you’d imagine. In fact, the authors “suspect” that “the president probably enjoyed substantially higher levels of support within big business than most other modern Democratic presidential candidates, even those running for reelection.” Obama got walloped when it comes to what you could call Koch brother industries — oil, gas, plastics, etc. — but he did OK with Wall Street and, especially, the telecom and tech industries.
It’s that last point — Obama’s popularity among the industries that make up the surveillance state — that forms the most surprising and relevant takeaway of the paper. In the wake of the ongoing revelations from Edward Snowden of a national security state-turned-surveillance behemoth, the level of financial support the president enjoys from the industries working with the government to spy on Americans starts to make sense. But to compare this synchronicity to Obama’s 2008 campaign, and its pledges to rein in and civilize the Bush-Cheney post-9/11 national security leviathan, is to risk vertigo.
The distressing conclusion to be drawn from all this is that those interested in truly curtailing the surveillance state will find few friends within the two-party system. Democrats, after all, were supposed to be the ones who were more cautious, pragmatic, and civil liberties-minded when it came to surveillance. Voicing a sentiment that’s no doubt still held by many, if not most, Ferguson told Salon that, prior to his research, he “thought there was more distance between the Democrats and the Republicans on the National Security State.” That distance, if it ever was significant, is certainly gone now. . .
A very interesting project to improve accuracy of predictions of (e.g.) political developments. The article, by Michael Horowitz, begins:
The Economist’s The World in 2014 issue just hit newsstands, focusing international attention on the geopolitical outcomes we can expect to see over the next 12-14 months. The issue features an article by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Phil Tetlock and journalist Dan Gardner on the Good Judgment Project, a research study funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA, the U.S. government’s analog to DARPA), which makes such geopolitical predictions every day.
Since 2011, IARPA has posed about 100-150 questions each year to research teams participating in its ACE forecasting tournament on topics such as the Syrian civil war, the stability of the Eurozone and Sino-Japanese relations. Each research team was required to gather individual predictions from hundreds or thousands of forecasters online and to generate daily collective forecasts that assign realistic probabilities to possible outcomes.
The Good Judgment Project emerged as the clear winner and the Good Judgment Project forecasters have demonstrated the ability to generate increasingly accurate forecasts that have exceeded even some of the most optimistic estimates at the beginning of the tournament. The accompanying graphic shows the predictions from three GJP forecasting methods on a recent question concerning whether the first round of chemical weapons inspections in Syria would be completed before Dec. 1 –- an incredibly important and complex topic. Each prediction is a probability forecast that can range from 0 (a forecast of a 0% chance that the event will occur) to 1 (a forecast that the event is certain to occur). . .
Kevin Drum has it. The weakness, of course, is that someone will propose a bill to cover those 8 million that the GOP is so concerned about it, and then we can enjoy once more the spectacle of the GOP fighting its own measure.
Previous episodes include the intense GOP battle against the GOP idea cap-and-trade, the hatred the GOP has for the GOP-designed (and adopted) healthcare model (the Heritage Foundation proposed it, the Republican governor of Massachusetts implemented it), and even Mitch McConnell filibustering his own bill in the Senate.
Gotta say this: they’re consistent. In an odd sort of way.
Michael Klare writes:
A week after the most powerful “super typhoon” ever recorded pummeled the Philippines, killing thousands in a single province, and three weeks after the northern Chinese city of Harbin suffered a devastating “airpocalypse,” suffocating the city with coal-plant pollution, government leaders beware! Although individual events like these cannot be attributed with absolute certainty to increased fossil fuel use and climate change, they are the type of disasters that, scientists tell us, will become a pervasive part of life on a planet being transformed by the massive consumption of carbon-based fuels. If, as is now the case, governments across the planet back an extension of the carbon age and ever increasing reliance on“unconventional” fossil fuels like tar sands and shale gas, we should all expect trouble. In fact, we should expect mass upheavals leading to a green energy revolution.
None of us can predict the future, but when it comes to a mass rebellion against the perpetrators of global destruction, we can see a glimmer of the coming upheaval in events of the present moment. Take a look and you will see that the assorted environmental protests that have long bedeviled politicians are gaining in strength and support. With an awareness of climate change growing and as intensifying floods, fires, droughts, andstorms become an inescapable feature of daily life across the planet, more people are joining environmental groups and engaging in increasingly bold protest actions. Sooner or later, government leaders are likely to face multiple eruptions of mass public anger and may, in the end, be forced to make radical adjustments in energy policy or risk being swept aside.
In fact, it is possible to imagine such a green energy revolution erupting in one part of the world and spreading like wildfire to others. Because climate change is going to inflict increasingly severe harm on human populations, the impulse to rebel is only likely to gain in strength across the planet. While circumstances may vary, the ultimate goal of these uprisings will be to terminate the reign of fossil fuels while emphasizing investment in and reliance upon renewable forms of energy. And a success in any one location is bound to invite imitation in others.
A wave of serial eruptions of this sort would not be without precedent. In the early years of twentieth-first century, for example, one government after another in disparate parts of the former Soviet Union was swept away in what were called the “color revolutions” — populist upheavals against old-style authoritarian regimes. These included the “Rose Revolution” in Georgia (2003), the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine (2004), and the “Pink” or “Tulip Revolution” in Kyrgyzstan (2005). In 2011, a similar wave of protests erupted in North Africa, culminating in what we call the Arab Spring.
Like these earlier upheavals, a “green revolution” is unlikely to arise from a highly structured political campaign with clearly identified leaders. In all likelihood, it will erupt spontaneously, after a cascade of climate-change induced disasters provokes an outpouring of public fury. Once ignited, however, it will undoubtedly ratchet up the pressure for governments to seek broad-ranging, systemic transformations of their energy and climate policies. In this sense, any such upheaval — whatever form it takes — will prove “revolutionary” by seeking policy shifts of such magnitude as to challenge the survival of incumbent governments or force them to enact measures with transformative implications.
Foreshadowings of such a process can already be found around the globe. Take the mass environmental protests that erupted in Turkey this June. Though sparked by a far smaller concern than planetary devastation via climate change, for a time they actually posed a significant threat to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his governing party. Although his forces eventually succeeded in crushing the protests — leaving four dead, 8,000 injured, and 11 blinded by tear-gas canisters — his reputation as a moderate Islamist was badly damaged by the episode.
Like so many surprising upheavals on this planet, the Turkish uprising had the most modest of beginnings: on May 27th, a handful of environmental activists blocked bulldozers sent by the government to level Gezi Park, a tiny oasis of greenery in the heart of Istanbul, and prepare the way for the construction of an upscale mall. The government responded to this small-scale, non-violent action by sending in riot police and clearing the area, a move that enraged many Turks and prompted tens of thousands of them to occupy nearby Taksim Square. This move, in turn, led to an even more brutal police crackdown and then to huge demonstrations in Istanbul and around the country. In the end, mass protests erupted in 70 cities, the largest display of anti-government sentiment since Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party came to power in 2002.
This was, in the most literal sense possible, a “green” revolution, ignited by the government’s assault on the last piece of greenery in central Istanbul. But once the police intervened in full strength, it became a wide-ranging rebuke to Erdogan’s authoritarian impulses and his drive to remake the city as a neo-Ottoman showplace — replete with fancy malls and high-priced condominiums — while eliminating poor neighborhoods and freewheeling public spaces like Taksim Square. “It’s all about superiority, and ruling over the people like sultans,” declared one protestor. It’s not just about the trees in Gezi Park, said another: “We are here to stand up against those who are trying to make a profit from our land.”
The Ningbo Rebellion
The same trajectory of events — a small-scale environmental protest evolving into a full-scale challenge to governmental authority — can be seen in other mass protests of recent years. . .
John Halpin posts at ThinkProgress:
Contemporary punditry suffers from many shortcomings, but among its most egregious errors is a widespread failure to examine how political ideology shapes public opinion among whites. Contrary to what you may have been told, there is really no such thing as “white” opinion anymore.
White liberals and white conservatives hold diametrically opposed views on many topics related to the economy and government — divisions that simply do not exist among other groups. Whites may be ideologically polarized, butAfrican-Americans, Latinos, and Asians are not.
A recent CAP/PolicyLink study on attitudes about rising diversity provides clear evidence for this view. Respondents were asked to choose which of the following two statements they agree with more, presenting a clear ideological choice between a more individualistic or collective view of the economy and government. The options were either “In today’s economy, average Americans are on their own. Jobs and benefits are less secure and you can’t really count on anyone but yourself and your family to get ahead” and “In today’s economy, we all face common challenges. Jobs and benefits are less secure, so we all need to work together to make it easier for average Americans to get ahead.”
On the face of it, Americans seem divided on this essential framing of our society — 47 percent believe that people are basically on their own while 49 percent believe that we must work together on common challenges. Under the surface, however, some fascinating trends emerge. A huge divide between whites is one of the most important: while 58 percent of white liberals believe that we must work together on common challenges, 59 percent of white conservatives said that people are basically on their own (overall, 36 percent of white respondents self-identified as ‘liberal’ and 50 percent of whites as ‘conservative’).
By contrast, majorities of African-Americans and Latinos -– regardless of ideological self-identification -– hold a more collective understanding of the economy. 73 percent of African-American liberals and 60 percent of African-American conservatives believe that we must work together on common economic challenges (46 percent of African-Americas self-identify as ‘liberal’ and 38 percent as ‘conservative’). Fifty-six percent of Latino liberals and 53 percent of Latino conservatives believe similarly (45 percent of Latinos self-identify as ‘liberal’ and 43 percent as ‘conservative’). Asian responses on this particular question more closely resemble those of whites than other people of color.
These same ideological patterns emerge on beliefs about reducing racial and ethnic inequality. In a separate test, we asked respondents to choose between two competing ideas about the connection between inequality and growth: “Government policies and investments that reduce racial and ethnic inequality would help us grow faster” and “Government policies and investments to reduce racial and ethnic inequality would not work and would just interfere with economic growth.”
By a 50 to 43 percent margin, Americans overall agree that government policies to reduce racial and ethnic inequality would help with economic growth. Nearly 7 in 10 white liberals (69 percent) take the majority position, but more than 6 in 10 white conservatives (63 percent) disagree. By contrast, significant majorities of African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians believe that government investments to reduce racial and ethnic inequality would be beneficial to growth — again, regardless of whether they identify as ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’. This pattern is repeated on other questions as well.
Although these new results should be replicated by additional studies, the conclusions are nonetheless striking. White liberals think far more like the bulk of African-Americans, Latinos and Asians than white conservatives on the country’s biggest ideological questions. That’s particularly true on diversity questions: . . .
Continue reading. The graph that follows in the text at the link is quite interesting.
The essence of fairness is reciprocity: the same rules apply to either side. The GOP either does not grasp this or simply is uninterested in fairness. For example, I blogged earlier about how GOP Senators who strongly condemned filibustering a judicial nomination now are filibustering judicial nominations, the difference being simply that the shoe is on the other foot. But take a look at the rule they laid down earlier, from a post by Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress. All of these plan to vote in favor of a filibuster of judicial nominees:
- Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA): “Every judge nominated by this president or any president deserves an up-or-down vote. It’s the responsibility of the Senate. The Constitution requires it.”
- Tom Coburn (R-OK): “If you look at the Constitution, it says the president is to nominate these people, and the Senate is to advise and consent. That means you got to have a vote if they come out of committee. And that happened for 200 years.”
- John Cornyn (R-TX): “We have a Democratic leader defeated, in part, as I said, because I believe he was identified with this obstructionist practice, this unconstitutional use of the filibuster to deny the president his judicial nominations.
- Mike Crapo (R-ID): “Until this Congress, not one of the President’s nominees has been successfully filibustered in the Senate of the United States because of the understanding of the fact that the Constitution gives the President the right to a vote.”
- Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “I think filibustering judges will destroy the judiciary over time. I think it’s unconstitutional”
- Chuck Grassley (R-IA): “It would be a real constitutional crisis if we up the confirmation of judges from 51 to 60, and that’s essentially what we’d be doing if the Democrats were going to filibuster.”
- Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “The Constitution of the United States is at stake. Article II, Section 2 clearly provides that the President, and the President alone, nominates judges. The Senate is empowered to give advice and consent. But my Democratic colleagues want to change the rules. They want to reinterpret the Constitution to require a supermajority for confirmation.”
- Jeff Sessions (R- AL): “[The Constitution] says the Senate shall advise and consent on treaties by a two-thirds vote, and simply ‘shall advise and consent’ on nominations…. I think there is no doubt the Founders understood that to mean … confirmation of a judicial nomination requires only a simple majority vote.”
- Richard Shelby (R-AL): “Why not allow the President to do his job of selecting judicial nominees and let us do our job in confirming or denying them? Principles of fairness call for it and the Constitution requires it.”
- John Thune (SD): Filibustering judicial nominees “is contrary to our Constitution …. It was the Founders’ intention that the Senate dispose of them with a simple majority vote.”
All of these statements were made when George W. Bush was president. But that should not matter because, as Sen. Cornyn said at the time, “we need to treat all nominees exactly the same, regardless of whether they’re nominated by a Democrat or a Republican president.”
This fails the basic test of fairness, a virtue considerably less important to the conservative mind than, for example, loyalty (the virtue that leads a military officer to protect a rapist under his command). And the GOP attitude toward fairness—i.e., toward not changing one’s position based on the political party involved, is also evident in campaign contributions. Josh Israel notes at ThinkProgress:
Tuesday, as he conceded defeat in the Virginia governor’s race, Ken Cuccinelli II (R) told supporters that he had come closer than polls had indicated “despite being outspent by an unprecedented $15 million.” But while he and his conservative supporters now lament that money cost them the victory they felt they deserved, they have long been the defenders of the system of campaign finance non-regulation in Virginia and nationally.
Conservative groups like the Center for Competitive Politics have long argued that “money doesn’t buy elections.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), whose own political action committee gave $5,000 to Cuccinelli’s campaign, has for years advocated for an end to limits on campaign contributions, believing “money is speech.” While the 2010 Citizens Unitedruling weakened federal contribution limits, Virginia has long been one of a handful of stateswith no limits whatsoever. The only restriction Cuccinelli supported over his time in the state senate was on contributions from foreign nationals.
Because of the Old Dominion’s anything goes system, candidates can accept millions of dollars from any individual or corporation seeking to ensure their victory. While Governor-Elect Terry McAuliffe raised over $32 million, Cuccinelli himself reported at least $19 million in donations — including hundreds of thousands from fossil fuel companies who preferred a climate-change denier to a candidate focused on green energy.
Leading up to the election, the Cuccinelli campaign repeatedly highlighted the money gap, attacking McAuliffe for as being “bought and paid for,” “exclusively driven by big money,” and “willing to sell his out Virginia families to the highest bidder.” When McAuliffe embraced campaign finance reform in an April interview, agreeing that “there’s just way too much money in politics,” Cuccinelli’s campaign pooh-poohed the idea as “hypocrisy.” “McAuliffe complaining about money in politics is the equivalent of Bobby Knight criticizing cursing among college basketball coaches,” they answered.
In campaign post-mortems, conservatives from Linda Chavez to Ralph Reedboth echoed the candidate’s concession and blamed Cuccinelli’s loss on money. Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots,lamented that the pro-corporate U.S. Chamber of Commerce went from making seven-figure investments in the 2009 campaign for Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) but spent nothing on Cuccinelli. “Just think what would have happened if the business and donor classes of the Republican Party would have helped.” Ben Domenech blamed the “donor class” as “sore losers” who threw a “temper tantrum” by not opening up their wallets for a more conservative nominee.
As Zack Beauchamp noted Thursday, Cuccinelli got “killed in the fundraising race,” in large part because business leaders did not care for his anti-corporatist stances against a tax increase to increase transportation funding and corporate welfare. Cuccinelli embraced anti-government populist ideas — as well as socially conservative ones — but not the priorities of some business interests. Had Cuccinelli embraced their agenda, as McDonnell did in 2009, others in the business community might well have supported him as enthusiastically as the energy sector did.
In an October press release called “Big Money,” the Cuccinelli campaign highlighted a fundraising appeal, sent by the chairman of the University of Virginia Council of Foundations to a hedge fund manager, explaining that he hoped to enlist a large number of UVA alums to support McAuliffe. “The more influential names we have associated with our shared voice the more likely we are going to have the future Governor’s ear,” he wrote.
Therein lies the problem. If money really is the determining factor in who wins elections, candidates who agree with powerful moneyed interests like the Chamber will always have the upper hand over those who do not. And as Virginia saw with McDonnell’s Star Scientific scandal, those wealthy benefactors will be the ones with the freest access to the politicians they bankroll. And if states are the laboratories of democracy, as the late Justice Louis Brandeis suggested, the experiment of unlimited money in Virginia might be a warning sign to conservatives nationally that “anything goes” campaign finance laws may not always work out in their favor.
There’s a lot to be said for drawing up rules that apply to a situation without knowing on which side you’ll be: the rules then are apt to be more fair. In this case, the GOP loved a rule that allowed them to spend any amount of money they wanted on a campaign until they encountered a campaign in which they were heavily outspent, and now they don’t like the rule. Well, then perhaps the rule should be redrawn to limit campaign spending for all parties—and public financing of elections is the way to go.
He’s the guy who aced courses by cheating, copying papers, and so on. When accosted my friends, he’d just scoff and say that it wasn’t that big a deal, for Chrissake—it’s just high school. Only, of course, the point is to develop an awareness of just how very serious such things are in the real world, a lesson Rand Paul is learning now. I can almost hear him: “What’s the big deal? I copied a few thoughts that I agreed with, that said just what I was thinking. So what? Why’s everyone making a stink? It’s just words. The ideas are mine.”
Joshua Holland interviews Chris Mooney at Moyers & Company:
A growing body of research suggests that we are a nation divided not only by partisanship or how we view various issues, but also by dramatically different cognitive styles. Sociologists and psychologists are getting a better understanding about the ways that deep seated emotional responses effect our ideological viewpoints.
Last week, Moyers & Company caught up with Mother Jones science writer Chris Mooney, host of the Inquiring Minds podcast and author of The Republican Brain: the Science of Why They Deny Science – and Reality, to talk about what this research may tell us about the attitudes of those involved in the tea party movement. Below is a lightly-edited transcript of our discussion.
Joshua Holland: Chris, let’s talk about morality. I’m personally offended by the tea partiers’ resistance to giving uninsured people health care. I find it a bit shocking that a political movement could be so filled with animosity toward the idea. But according to NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt — and other scholars — conservatives have a different moral compass entirely. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Chris Mooney: Absolutely. There are many people doing research in the psychology of politics. Jonathan Haidt is a pioneer in the psychology of morality and how that feeds into politics, and it really helps with something like this where you have strong emotional passions that are irreconcilable on the left and the right.
So what you’re describing is his moral foundation of “harm,” which liberals tend to feel more strongly about. These are emotions relating to empathy and compassion – measured by the question of how much someone is suffering and how much that suffering is a moral issue to you. How much is caring for the weak and vulnerable a moral issue to you?
It’s not that conservatives don’t feel that emotion, but they don’t necessarily feel it as strongly. They feel other things more strongly. So to Haidt, this explains the health care debate because liberals feel, most of all, this harm-care-compassion thing. Conservatives feel it a little bit less strongly, even as they have this other morality. Haidt compares it to karma — it’s really interesting — where basically, you’re supposed to get what you deserve. And what really bothers them is somebody not getting what they deserve. So the government getting involved and interfering with people getting what they deserve is really bad. That, I think, is the clash.
Holland: Jared Piazza — a scholar at the University of Pennsylvania — did a study which found that political and religious conservatives tend to avoid what he called ‘consequentialist thinking.’ So basically, they tend to see something as right or a wrong, in black and white, and if a policy that they believe to be right — say, not having the government get involved in health care — causes real world harm, they’re more likely to dismiss that. That seems consistent with what Haidt is saying, right?
Mooney: Sure. Part of his whole theory is that you feel these views before you think these views, and then you rationalize your beliefs.
Now, he would say that both sides do it. But it’s actually an open debate whether one side does it more. But certainly, if conservatives have reached a position for moral reasons, are they then more likely to discount evidence suggesting some problem with their position? Absolutely. They’re also more likely to take whatever evidence there is out there and twist it so that it supports their view. And, the more intelligent ones will be better at doing that. [laughs] That’s what all the research shows.
Holland: Right. And it all seems fairly consistent to me. I’ve interviewed George Lakoff at UC Berkeley. He talks about how people don’t judge a political issue on its merits, but tend to filter the world through a moral lens. He talks about a “moral cascade,” where we connect policies with deep-seated values. All of this research seems to be very consistent with what other people are doing.
Mooney: That’s right. And you wouldn’t want to believe it if it were just one paper in just one journal by just one researcher. That’s what, as a science writer, we’re skeptical of. We look for multiple people working in multiple fields all converging and then we say, ‘okay, there’s knowledge here,’ something reliable is being discovered. With the psychology of politics – the psychology of ideology — it is actually surprising how rapidly all of this knowledge has come together. I don’t think we’re completely there yet, but I think that you can’t miss the fact that there are huge commonalities between Lakoff, Haidt and a lot of other people that we haven’t mentioned who are doing research in this same field.
Holland: Let’s dig a bit deeper into Haidt’s moral foundation theory. In your Mother Jones interview with Haidt you have a graph comparing how liberals, conservatives, and then also libertarians score on what Haidt calls the “seven moral foundations.”
And when you look at the graph, the biggest disparities between liberals and conservatives — and, again, libertarians — are “purity” and “authority.” That’s where you see the biggest gaps between the groups. What is purity in Haidt’s reckoning?
Mooney: Purity is basically whether you feel moral emotions when someone does something you view as disgusting or indecent. A lot of this is going to involve your judgments about what’s sexually proper, but it could be other things that are disgusting. Basically, this is a way of measuring the emotion of disgust, and what this shows — this is the most striking disparity of all of them — is that liberals and libertarians really don’t sense disgust very much. And they’re together on that completely. There’s an amazing number of things that liberals and libertarians are together on. But conservatives feel it much more than either of them. And so this can explain a great deal in politics — it’s most regularly invoked to explain gay rights and how people respond to that, which I think is very appropriate. But I think it also gets into a lot of bioethical issues.
Holland: And we’ve discussed authority before. That’s really central to understanding the conservative mindset. There’s been a lot of research on the so-called authoritarian personality type, and I want to connect this with the idea of political polarization.
One of the things that we understand about authoritarians is that they have a stronger sense of the importance of loyalty to one’s own in-group. How does that factor into this equation, do you think?
Mooney: Again, this is an area where liberals and libertarians differ from conservatives markedly. Liberals and libertarians aren’t particularly tribal in the sense of having loyalty to their group, and they aren’t particularly authoritarian in the sense of thinking you have to follow a strong leader. And basically, authoritarianism is also associated with sort of black and white, ‘you’re with me or you’re against me’ thinking. But it’s also about deference to authority, whether that’s the police officer or your father or God. You must obey authority and if you don’t, that’s a moral wrong.
Holland: Jonathan Weiler at the University of North Carolina did a study which found that you can predict a person’s ideological leanings by how they answered just a few questions about child rearing. And one of the questions was whether someone values obedience or creativity more in a child. It’s really — it’s telling stuff. . . .
Kevin Drum has an extremely interesting post on the results of a recent study. From his post (but read the whole thing, which includes charts and graphs):
The key personality test used to construct the maps above, after all, was a study of the“Big Five” personality traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. This is a widely accepted model of studying personality (and no, it is not the same thing as Myers-Briggs). For many years, scientists have known that some of the Big Five dimensions are highly political. In particular, liberals tend to score much higher on Openness (interest in novel experiences and ideas), while conservatives score much higher on Conscientiousness (preference for order, stability, and structure in your life).
The study, and the resulting maps, put an exclamation point on this finding. After all, the “friendly and conventional” part of the US scores quite low on Openness in the study—much lower than either of the other two regions—even as it outscores both of the other two regions in Conscientiousness. The “friendly and conventional” region was also the only Republican-voting region of the three, and the most Protestant.
Granted, not every state with a “friendly and conventional” personality voted Republican in the last election, and there are some oddballs and outliers in other regions, too. But the overall trend is clear. The residents of more liberal and more conservative states differ in personality: In how open their residents are to new experiences, and in how much they prize order and stability in their lives.
How do these personality dimensions drive ideology? Well, put simply, people who are Open embrace change. Fixing healthcare with a big new system and way of doing things? Bring it on. By contrast, people who are low on Openness and high on Conscientiousness are interested in stability and just not messing with it. Yes, that’s right: The core of the left-right divide, which turns on one’s relative embrace of change versus the status quo, is rooted in an individual’s psychological makeup. And personality traits, in turn, aresubstantially heritable and run in families.
So how did we end up so divided? On the individual level, psychological differences between people have always been present, but geography seems to be becoming ever more important as a factor. In particular, the study by Rentfrow and colleagues suggest that people who are high on Openness are naturally more daring and experimental, and often all too eager to leave traditional parts of the country, where they know they just don’t belong, and relocate. Indeed, the Time.com version of the map, which lets you take a personality test and then figure out what state you belong in, in effect encourages precisely this sort of psychological mobility.
In other words, there’s a huge ideological sort going on, probably much of it driven by Open people leaving to be closer to other Open people—so they can all hang out at coffeehouses and complain about the Tea Party—and more traditional people staying behind where they prize family and community. And this, in turn, likely explains a substantial part of the US’s growing political polarization. Or as the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt just put it on our newly launched Inquiring Minds podcast, . . .
Pretty wonderful. Hayes Brown reports at ThinkProgress:
Former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden is more used to being the one listening in on conversations than the one being eavesdropped on himself. The tables were turned on Thursday, however, as Hayden suddenly found his supposedly private conversations blasted across the Internet.
Riding on the Acela express train between New York and Washington, DC, Hayden had the bad luck of sitting near entrepreneur and former MoveOn.org director Tom Matzzie. “Former NSA spy boss Michael Hayden on Acela behind me blabbing ‘on background as a former senior admin official’,” Matzzie wrote on his Twitter account. “Sounds defensive.” For the next twenty minutes, Mattzie continued to livetweet Hayden’s conversations slamming the Obama administration, all the while insisting that he be referred to only on background.
The conversation also seemed to touch on Hayden’s time as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President George W. Bush as well. “Hayden was bragging about rendition and black sites a minute ago,” Mattzie wrote. Hayden has in the past defended the use of waterboarding against detainees held in various sites around the world, and dismissed torture as a “legal term.”
“On Acela listening to former NSA spy boss Michael Hayden give ‘off record’ interviews,” Mattzie joked minutes later. “I feel like I’m in the NSA. Except I’m in public.” Hayden has been a vociferous defender of the NSA’s ongoing surveillance tactics, claiming repeatedly that the leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden have harmed U.S. security.
It’s unclear precisely which news outlets Hayden was speaking to during the train ride, which passed through Philadelphia around 4:45 PM, though he was apparently speaking on the recent stories revealing the extent of NSA spying on allies like Germany and France. Mattzie speculated that one of the reporters was Massimo Calabresi at TIME magazine, but it will be impossible to determine until stories attributable to a “former senior administration official” begin to be published. See the full stream of tweets describing the situation here: . . .
Very interesting op-ed in the NY Times by Peter Schweizer:
WE have long assumed that the infestation of special interest money in Washington is at the root of so much that ails our politics. But what if we’ve had it wrong? What if instead of being bribed by wealthy interests, politicians are engaged in a form of legal extortion designed to extract campaign contributions?
Consider this: of the thousands of bills introduced in Congress each year, only roughly 5 percent become law. Why do legislators bother proposing so many bills? What if many of those bills are written not to be passed but to pressure people into forking over cash?
This is exactly what is happening. Politicians have developed a dizzying array of legislative tactics to bring in money.
Take the maneuver known inside the Beltway as the “tollbooth.” Here the speaker of the House or a powerful committee chairperson will create a procedural obstruction or postponement on the eve of an important vote. Campaign contributions are then implicitly solicited. If the tribute offered by those in favor of the bill’s passage is too small (or if the money from opponents is sufficiently high), the bill is delayed and does not proceed down the legislative highway.
House Speaker John A. Boehner appears to be a master of the tollbooth. In 2011, he collected a total of over $200,000 in donations from executives and companies in the days before holding votes on just three bills. He delayed scheduling a vote for months on the widely supported Wireless Tax Fairness Act, and after he finally announced a vote, 37 checks from wireless-industry executives totaling nearly $40,000 rolled in. He also delayed votes on the Access to Capital for Job Creators Act and the Small Company Capital Formation Act, scoring $91,000 from investment banks and private equity firms, $32,450 from bank holding companies and $46,500 from self-described investors — all in the 48 hours between scheduling the vote and the vote’s actually being held on the House floor.
Another tactic that politicians use is something beltway insiders call “milker bills.” These are bills designed to “milk” donations from threatened individuals or businesses. The real trick is to pit two industries against each other and pump both for donations, thereby creating a “double milker” bill.
President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. seemed to score big in 2011 using the milker tactic in connection with two bills: the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act. By pitting their supporters in Silicon Valley who opposed the bills against their allies in Hollywood who supported the measures, Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden were able to create a sort of fund-raising arms race.
In the first half of 2011, Silicon Valley had chipped in only $1.7 million to Mr. Obama’s political campaign. The president announced that he would “probably” sign antipiracy legislation — a stance that pleased Hollywood and incensed Silicon Valley. The tech industry then poured millions into Mr. Obama’s coffers in the second half of 2011. By January of 2012, Hollywood had donated $4.1 million to Mr. Obama.
Then, suddenly, on Jan. 14, 2012, the White House announced that it had problems with the antipiracy bills and neither passed. “He didn’t just throw us under the bus,” one film executive and longtime supporter of Mr. Obama anonymously told The Financial Times, “he ran us down, reversed the bus and ran over us again.”
To be sure, not all legislative maneuvers are extortive; sincere and conscientious political deeds occur. Still, the idea that Washington gridlock is an outgrowth of rank partisanship and ideological entrenchment misses a more compelling explanation of our political stasis: gridlock, legislative threats and fear help prime the donation pump. . .
And the thing I still can’t get my head around: Republicans are doing everything they can short of throwing themselves bodily under the bus—and figuratively they did that with the shutdown/debt-ceiling debacle—with one goal in mind: to prevent low-income Americans from getting healthcare. That’s it: that’s the goal. And it was presaged in the fact that the Affordable Care Act passed without a single Republican vote. But it did pass, it is the law, and the Supreme Court found it to be so.
I have a very conservative friend who was a minister—he’s now retired—and in a discussion of this, he said that giving the poor healthcare would harm them by making them become dependent on the state and simply want free handouts.
I replied that I knew quite a few people who were working at two or three jobs, often only part-time jobs without benefits, and they have no health insurance or any hope of affording it. They are not sitting back and living on handouts. I have never encountered any of the group he thinks are so numerous, but I do know quite a few who have the mindset that they’re in it for themselves and they will take what they can get and they’re not about to give anything away. That type is depressingly common.
And anyway, as I recall, Jesus didn’t charge for the healings that He did, and He didn’t seem to worry about creating dependency. (Come to think of it, He rather encouraged it: ‘Depend on Me.’) Since my friend knows the New Testament better than I, I suggested he could sort of scan through it in his mind and see where “helping the poor get access to healthcare” would fit in. I don’t think it would be under the “Fight to the death” column.
In ThinkProgress Igor Volsky reports on the fight against healthcare for low-income Americans:
Conservative advocates funded by the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch have launched a massive campaign pressuring states to deny health care coverage to lower income Americans through the Medicaid expansion contained in the Affordable Care Act.
The effort, orchestrated by the group Americans for Prosperity, is targeting lawmakers in Virginia tasked with deciding whether the state should accept federal dollars to provide insurance to individuals and families below 133 percent of the federal poverty line ($31,321 in income for a family of four). Volunteers with the organization are distributing flyers through door-to-door canvassing, attending committee hearings, and according to one lawmakers who has become a target of the campaign, intimidating constituents.
As many as 400,000 Virginians could qualify for coverage if the state expands the Medicaid program, but AFP is warning Virginians that the system “will cost Virginia taxpayers billions,” require “future tax hikes and budget cuts to vital services like schools, police and fire departments,” undermine the “doctor-patient relationship,” increase wait times and even endanger lives. “Medicaid patients are almost twice as likely to die during surgery than individuals with private insurance,” the group writes on its website.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the cost of growing the program from 2014 to 2016 and states would contribute 10 percent thereafter. Analysis from the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis in Richmond finds that “net savings from Medicaid expansion would average about $135 million per year in the upcoming budget cycle” since expanding Medicaid “would allow the state to use federal funds instead of state dollars for these programs that already provide care to the uninsured in Virginia.”
Seventy-six percent of Virginia doctors treat new Medicaid patients, and the “share of doctors accepting new Medicaid patients is nearly the same as the share who are accepting new patients with private insurance or Medicare,” the Institute reports. While Medicaid beneficiaries tend to be less healthy than the general uninsured population, people who do enroll in the program “are 25 percent more likely to report that their health is ‘good’ or ‘excellent.’”
The GOP’s refusal to fully implement the Affordable Care Act will leave more than half of the nation’s uninsured working poor, approximately 8 million people, without access to health insurance. The 26 GOP-controlled states not participating in the law’s Medicaid expansion are home to a disproportionate share of low-income Americans who aren’t poor enough to qualify for the existing Medicaid program and make too much to be eligible for subsidies in the ACA’s insurance marketplaces.
Americans for Prosperity has spent millions “in states around the country, including Arkansas, Florida, Ohio, Louisiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania, to run the kind of aggressive campaign that it is now waging here in Virginia, where much will depend on the governor’s race,” the New York Times notes. Democrat Terry McAuliffe favors expansion, while his Republican opponent, Ken Cuccinelli, does not. The Virginia panel weighing in on the matter will decide the question after the Nov. 5 election.
Fascinating story by Kim Barker for ProPublica:
In a sharply worded ruling, a federal judge in Montana said Tuesday that documents found inside a Colorado meth house pointing to possible election law violations will not be returned to the couple claiming the papers were stolen from one of theircars.
Instead, the thousands of pages will remain where they are — with a federal grand jury in Montana, investigating the dark money group American Tradition Partnership, once known as Western Tradition Partnership, or WTP.
The documents, detailed last fall in aFrontline documentary and ProPublica coverage, point to possible illegal coordination between candidates and WTP, which since 2008 has worked to replace moderate Republicans with more conservative candidates in both Montana and Colorado. The documents, including a folder labeled “Montana $ Bomb,” provided the first real glimpse inside a dark money group. Such so-called social welfare nonprofits, which have poured more than $350 million into federal election ads in recent years, don’t have to disclose their donors.
Conservative political consultant Christian LeFer, a former WTP official, and his wife, Allison LeFer, who helped run the couple’s printing shop, sued Montana’s former Commissioner of Political Practices Jim Murry and the state of Montana to recover the documents.
On Tuesday, the LeFers lost in almost every way possible. They didn’t get their documents. They didn’t get any money; instead, they’ll have to pay Murry’s fees, which haven’t yet been totaled. They won’t be able to file their complaint against Murry ever again.
And on every page of his ruling, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy seemed to somehow insult them.
At one point in his 34-page ruling, Molloy referred to “the procedural morass caused by the LeFers’ posturing.” Since last fall, the LeFers have filed at least five separate complaints in different courts, sometimes with factual errors.
Although WTP operated at the state level, . . .
Yesterday we saw the heavy hand of JP Morgan quashing a case (through its representative on the Federal Reserve). Now we see the NJ governor quashing a case against a sheriff (who supported Christie). These examples of corruption and naked power are starting to add up, don’t you think? This story is in the NY Times, by Michael Powell:
Prosecutors sent tremors through rural Hunterdon County when they announced a sweeping indictment of the local Republican sheriff and her two deputies in 2010.
The 43-count grand jury indictment read like a primer in small-town abuse of power. It accused Sheriff Deborah Trout of hiring deputies without conducting proper background checks, and making employees sign loyalty oaths. Her deputies, the indictment charged, threatened one of their critics and manufactured fake police badges for a prominent donor to Gov. Chris Christie.
When the charges became public, the indicted undersheriff, Michael Russo, shrugged it off. Governor Christie, he assured an aide, would “have this whole thing thrown out,” according to The Hunterdon County Democrat. That sounded like bluster. Then the state killed the case.
On the day the indictment was unsealed, the state attorney general, a Christie appointee, took over the Hunterdon prosecutor’s office. Within a few months, three of its most respected veterans lost their jobs there, including the one who led the case.
Not long after, a deputy attorney general walked into a local courtroom and handed in papers that, with little explanation, declared that the indictments were littered with “legal and factual deficiencies.”
A judge dismissed the indictments. Soon after, officials took the unusual step of shipping all evidence to the capital, Trenton.
The killing of an indictment is a rare event in New Jersey, and all the more surprising as it came during Governor Christie’s first months in office. The new governor was elected on the strength of his record as a United States attorney prosecuting corrupt officials.
There is no evidence that Mr. Christie ordered the dismissal of the charges against Sheriff Trout. But his attorney general, Paula T. Dow, who had served as his counsel at the United States attorney’s office, supervised the quashing of the indictment and the ouster of the respected prosecutors.
Sheriff Trout had political ties to the administration. She led an association of county law enforcement officials that backed the candidacy of Mr. Christie and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who had previously served as sheriff in Monmouth County.
Ms. Guadagno and Ms. Trout exchanged chatty e-mails, according to court records. After the election, Ms. Guadagno thanked Sheriff Trout for sending her deputies to work on the campaign.
Ms. Trout left office in 2010. But the case and the Christie administration’s role in killing it have surfaced again because one of the dismissed prosecutors, Bennett A. Barlyn, has filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming that the attorney general killed the indictment to protect prominent supporters of the governor. . .
We don’t see reports like this one very often, because of course the media does not print reports that reveal the constructed mechanisms they use to infuse the news with conflict, because conflict is what sells. Without conflict, news is boring. So, naturally enough, reporters/editors/papers/programs/networks in effect are business competitors in the news market, and thus are competing for audience share. Audiences want to see conflict, so they start competing to see who can present the dramatic conflicts (or cliffhangers: there obviously are several different audience-pleasing templates into which a story can be sorted; romance, there’s another; tragic deaht; etc.). An obvious (and somewhat extreme) example of constant conflict all the time is Fox News. But the Sunday talk shows do it, too. When I happen to see one, I don’t recognize it because it’s ludicrous: today there’s no pretense of sharing ideas or seeking to understand and figure out the real disagreement or whatever—there’s really no listening at all. Instead, you have the presenters/guests talking over each other, interrupting each other, shouting slogans, ignoring questions: totall conflict. But back in the day, that sort of behavior would have been inconceivable—”uncivilized” would probably be the term used, or “discourteous” or the like. These were harsher criticisms than they sound, because making a serious judgment about a person, in terms of how s/he measures against understood standards of behavior and in keeping with respect and common decency. Perhaps the apotheosis of where the evolution of this meme has gone, consider Fox News: all conflict, all the time. It’s the 24/7 conflict channel. But when you look around, you see all the media exploit (and encourage) conflict to some degree. “Senator? How do you respond to Sen. X’s statement that… ” and the most provocative version of the statement comes out to get a solid counter-quote and get the conflict rolling. Then the two will be invited to competing Sunday talk shows, and be encouraged through questions to make new advances in the conflict. Conflict sells, and businesses are competing.
The result, of course, is that the extremes grow: people are pushed to extremes by the constant diet of conflict. The Eldest was telling me this, but I wasn’t getting it. I guess it just needed time to gestate.
Once you see the role journalism plays… well, you‘ve seen the man behind the curtain. Like seeing how the vase is two faces in profile: once you see both ways of looking at the image, you then can look at it either way. The same with news: you can see the content and accept it as presented, or you can look at it with an eye out for manufactured conflict. You start to see that the important slant is not toward liberal or conservative; it’s the slant toward conflict. That‘s the slant they play to grab audiences, and then the audiences then become accustomed (and addicted) to a certain level of conflict, and then want more.
And by God, this time they’ve got it. They’ve (in effect) worked toward this for years, egging them on: “Let’s you and him fight.” And now we have a good chance the US will default on its debt. What a story! People will be glued to their TV sets. But perhaps a bit more conflict than we really wanted.
Well, perhaps journalism is not totally responsible for the upcoming debt default, but it certainly greased the skids. Which is the point of the linked article, which I’ve more or less summarized above—that’s what the article looks like filtered through my mind and sort of getting mixed in with the (fascinating) book I’m reading, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constituitonal System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism, by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein. Indeed, what I wrote above is the point of the early part of the book, which describes exactly how it worked: the role of journalism in creating the first shutdown threat in 2011 is exactly what they describe.
Ezra Klein interviews Christopher Parker in Wonkblog:
The story of the shutdown is, in large part, the story of mainstream Republicans realizing they can’t control tea party Republicans — and deciding that it’s better to go along than to try and fight. Christopher Parker, a political scientist at the University of Washington, is co-author of the book “Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America“, which employs large surveys and content analyses to better understand how the politics of the tea party differ from the politics of the Republican Party. We spoke on Wednesday, and a transcript of our conversation, edited for length and clarity, follows.
Ezra Klein: Tell me a bit about the scope of your research on the tea party.Christopher Parker: So I run a survey research lab at the University of Washington. In 2010, I began to see these opposing views on the tea party. You had Peggy Noonan and Juan Williams basically saying, the tea partiers are just angry Republicans, no big deal. Then I read Frank Rich, and he says no, these people are completely different. He says they’re more in line with Richard Hofstadter’s “Paranoid Style of American Politics.” And I thought, I can get real data on this! And when I looked at it empirically, I found that people who supported the tea party tended to be more racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and anti-Obama.
EK: So I’m not exactly a tea partier myself. But when I hear you say that I bristle. The description members of the tea party would give of themselves is that they’re really concerned about the growth of government and the rise in taxes and the management of the economy. Labeling them things like racist, sexist and homophobic sounds like an attempt to just write them out of civilized discourse. So persuade me that this isn’t just an attack.
CP: What I do in these surveys and models is I account for desire for limited government. I account for ideology. I account for all these other things where people could say they’re just more conservative. There’s just this empirical connection between support for the tea party and antagonistic views toward quote-unquote marginalized groups, or, if you prefer, toward quote-unquote not real Americans. If you look at the historical and social scientific literature on American national identity, the portrait that emerges is mainly white, male, middle class, straight, at least a bit educated, and a bit older.
Look at who rose during this period. It’s not all about Obama. Nancy Pelosi was the first female speaker of the House. Barney Frank wielded real power. Two women, one of whom was a Latina, went to the Supreme Court. Undocumented workers have gotten a ton of attention. There’s been the rise of same-sex rights.
That’s the crux of the book. The title is ‘Change They Can’t Believe In’. This isn’t new. Whenever there’s rapid social change it triggers this kind reactionary conservatism. People see their social prestige threatened, their way of life threatened. And they react.
EK: Tell me about the surveys. Who are you talking to? . . .