Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ezra Klein explains our politics

Study: Humans think in order to score debater’s points

“ ‘Reasoning doesn’t have this function of helping us to get better beliefs and make better decisions,’ said Hugo Mercier, who is a co-author of the journal article, with Dan Sperber. ‘It was a purely social phenomenon. It evolved to help us convince others and to be careful when others try to convince us.’ Truth and accuracy were beside the point.”

If you follow politics and don’t find this result completely obvious, you’re not paying close enough attention. See also this post. Or this column.

What this says is that the process of thinking is actually nothing more than an internal rehearsal of what a person expects to say, combined with a prediction of what the response of the person he will say it to is likely to be. That makes it all conscious. The key point to remember is that actually making decisions is an unconscious process that takes place prior to the conscious rehearsal.

The original NY Times article is here.

The researchers who posted the results Ezra was quoting have provided a clarification of what they reported here.

The issue of The Journal of Behavioral and Brain Sciences devoted its entire April issue to debates over the argumentative theory of reasoning.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The media is no longer a benefit to democracy

Rachel Maddow gets most of it - and Cenk Uygar describes what is going on in the media. It's more than just what Rachel maddow describes as IOKIYAR (It's OK If You Are Republican.) It's what George Lakoff writes about in his book The Political Mind: Why Your can't understand the 21st-century American Politics with and 18th-Century Brain.

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George Lakoff describes how The brain deals with frames and scenarios. The memory is able to take in things that fit an existing frame in the brain, but things that do not fit an existing frame are discarded. So how are facts that don't fit an existing frame discarded?

That's older psychology. The term Cognitive Dissonance describes it. My previous post Global Warming threatens the very sense of self of conservatives so they reject the science reflexively describes how cognitive dissonance works for people to avoid facts that challenge core beliefs which make up their selves.

This is psychology that has been public long enough to be rather well known. What George Lakoff is writing about is how cognitive dissonance actually works in the brain and how the right wing is using that knowledge to manipulate the American voting public.

Go read the Lakoff book! What is happening in modern American politics is that the conservatives who want power and money are using the ways the human brain works to move to dominate the American voting public. Cenk Uygar describes it in this as it is playing out very well. What George Lakoff does is describe the brain science behind it.

Global Warming threatens the very sense of self of conservatives so they reject the science reflexively

The Republicans have, since being taken over by conservatives, adamantly refused to even consider the possibility that global warming is true. Their reaction has been irrational to the extreme. Rhania Kalek describes this as being a bad case of cognitive dissonance.
Climate change poses a profound threat to many things that right-wing ideologues believe in. Conservatives tend to champion individual freedom, private property rights, small government, free markets, and above all else, unfettered industrial capitalism. Industrial capitalism is an economic system predicated on the accelerating extraction and consumption of fossil fuels for energy, which is driving the climate change we face today. To accept this basic premise, one is compelled to question the wisdom of capitalism itself, which is a terrifying notion for conservatives. And it doesn't take long to recognize that conservative values are inherently antithetical to the desperately needed actions to tackle global climate change.

Seriously dealing with the threat of climate change would require government to heavily regulate corporations and subsidize renewable energy. It would entail a strong international body, most likely boosting the power of the UN. It would bring an end to the inefficient and energy-wasting free-trade agenda, as localizing economies would become necessary to sustain communities. And, most importantly, confronting climate change demands addressing climate justice for developing nations suffering from the pollution of industrialized nations, or more simply, a redistribution of wealth from North to South. Climate change poses a direct threat to the spread of free markets, the maintenance of national sovereignty, and the continued abolition of governmental regulations, all key components of the conservative agenda. These are the types of ideas that cause conservatives to gasp, point, and shout "communist!"

When we recognize the role of cognitive dissonance, it becomes clear that conservatives and Republicans are more likely to dispute or deny the scientific consensus and the claims of the environmental community, in order to defend the industrial capitalist system. It is far more simple to deny science, than to accept that one's worldview is wrong. Unfortunately, environmental organizations are in a kind of denial as well. Climate change is about an economic model that demands infinite growth on a finite planet. However, environmental groups are reluctant to relate climate change to economics and politics, probably because conservatives would see it as confirmation of the right-wing myth that global warming is a socialist plot to redistribute the world's wealth.

For a conservative whose entire identity is defined by faith in the economics of capitalism and free markets, acceptance of climate change poses a danger to their sense of self, and will be avoided at all costs. Therefore, attempts to persuade this portion of the country with science and logic is a lost cause. However, for those of us who truly care about the future of our one and only planet and our species, it is time that we face what we have been loath to highlight in the past: Unfettered industrial capitalism is unsustainable and is causing climate change to spiral out of control. Until we begin to challenge the economics fueling environmental degradation, we are no better than our climate denying counterparts.
Consider what cognitive dissonance is.
there is a tendency for individuals to seek consistency among their cognitions (i.e., beliefs, opinions). When there is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviors (dissonance), something must change to eliminate the dissonance. In the case of a discrepancy between attitudes and behavior, it is most likely that the attitude will change to accommodate the behavior.
The Republicans are going to resist any attitudes that challenge their strongly held free market beliefs. Those beliefs are core to the personality and self of strong free marketers such as Rand Paul, Lyin' Paul Ryan, David Koch, Dick Armey and Alan Greenspan. They have to deny global warming or admit that the strongest beliefs on which their core selves are based are wrong. They will not be convinced by science or facts. It is pathological with them.

The article is largely based on a sociological study entitled THE POLITICIZATION OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND POLARIZATION IN THE AMERICAN PUBLIC’S VIEWS OF GLOBAL WARMING,2001–2010 published in
Sociological QuarterlyVolume 52, Issue 2, Article first published online: 18 APR 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The destruction of Medicare is just one step in the libertarian Republican effort to destroy America

Republicans are lying to the public about Medicare. Lyin' Ryan wants to shut down Medicare and turn the people who need health care over to private insurance who would be paid to pay for the health care. Take a look at the facts as Paul Krugman lays them out.
...we don’t have a Medicare problem, we have a health care cost problem. And Medicare actually does a better job of controlling costs than private insurers — not remotely good enough, but better.

If you look at Medicare in isolation, the cost rise looks terrible, because it is:


But it looks a bit different if you look at private insurance, too:

If Medicare costs had risen as fast as private insurance premiums, it would cost around 40 percent more than it does. If private insurers had done as well as Medicare at controlling costs, insurance would be a lot cheaper.

It’s a mystery why anyone claims that shifting more people into private insurance is a good idea. Actually, no, it isn’t a mystery; it’s an outrage.

Digby points out the logic of the situation :
Imagine if people over 50 had been allowed to buy into Medicare as was proposed during the Health Care debate. They would have been paying into the system as they already are and also paying for their current insurance. And they would have been getting their care from the less costly system at a time when they are starting to have health problems.

In fact, imagine if everyone were in the less costly system.
So why do the Republicans want so badly to destroy Medicare and hand over the tax money paid to the federal government for health care to the private insurers? It's simply not cost effective. The reason is that the 'low-tax low-government benefits libertarians' have taken over the business Republicans.

Remember Grover Norquist who runs the group Americans for Tax Reform which demands that every Republican sign a no new taxes pledge? Americans for Tax Reform is funded by The uberwealthy libertarian brothers David H and Charles G. Koch who funded the libertarian think tank the CATO Institute. They are sons of Fred C. Koch and inherited their wealth from him, proving again that children who inherit great wealth usually spend their lives defending their inheritance to the detriment of the society they live in. Fred Koch was one of the founders of the hate group the John Birch Society.

Back to David Koch, This is the kind of antisocial crap he pulls.

It's not just the Koch's, but they are the most obvious right now. It is wealthy people who are either libertarian or are using the libertarian philosophy to gain political power.

These people have hated the New Deal since the 1930's and they continue even now to work to destroy it. We are right now in a major political battle with the wealthy aristocratic-wannabees.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The recent "survey" by McKinsey on ACA is not credible

Steven Benen describes the fake survey that reported that many employers would drop health care for their workers in 2014.
McKinsey claims to have done a survey of 1,300 employers. How was it conducted? We don’t know and McKinsey hasn’t said. What were the questions? We don’t know and McKinsey hasn’t said. How were the employers chosen? We don’t know and McKinsey hasn’t said. What were the statistical breakdowns among businesses of different sizes? We don’t know and McKinsey hasn’t said.

Who funded the study? We don’t know and McKinsey hasn’t said.

Kate Pickert noticed a small tidbit in the report: McKinsey acknowledged having “educated” those participating in the survey. And what, pray tell, did the company say to respondents that might have affected the results? You guessed it: we don’t know and McKinsey hasn’t said.

Politico added today that it “asked really nicely” to at least see the questionnaire McKinsey used to conduct the employers survey, but the company refused.

Raise your hand if you think the McKinsey & Company report has some credibility problems.

We can, of course, expect this pack of lies to be spread by FOX and the Koch brothers libertarian idiots as proof that ACA won't work.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Psyop - how does creativity work?

Art is a way of messing with someone else's mind through perception. Good art changes the very structure of the observer's mind.

Consider this a guide to innovation and creativity.

Tyler Cowen on the Great Stagnation

Tyler Cowan describes how America is no longer the innovative society it was. Watch this. You'll be surprised when America was at its most innovative. He also proposes one way to increase the innovativeness in our nation.

Why the economy is sputtering out

Just an economic reminder.

The red bars are the percentage of job losses per month under George W. Bush. Notice that they continued to get worse every month until Obama was sworn in. Obama took three months to get the stimulus passes and then the number of job losses per month started shrinking. There have been net positive job increases since early 2010. Unfortunately, never enough jobs increased to deal with the new workers entering the economy each month (125,000).

Now in 2011 the stimulus money has run out. The result is obvious. The economy is no longer creating very many new jobs.

No business is going to hire more workers if those new workers cannot sell more product or services. If consumers (who make up 70% of the spending in the economy) do not have money to spend then the economy will stagnate - as it is doing right now.

The Republican solution is to provide tax cuts to business, but businesses are not going to invest if there is no increasing market to sell to! Businesses do not create jobs to take advantage of tax cuts if those jobs will not increase revenue and pay for themselves. The top 1000 American firms currently have over $2 trillion is spendable cash on their books and have had that money since Wall Street collapsed in September 2008. Those businesses do not need more cash! They need stronger markets to sell to.

Without more jobs the consumers cannot increase consumption. Businesses will not hire workers without an assurance of increased consumption. Nor will they invest in more plant and equipment without increased markets, no matter what the alleged tax advantage of such investing might be.

Tax cuts will make the job situation worse, not better. So tax cuts will cause the second dip of the Great Recession to be worse.

Of course the Republicans are working hard to tank the economy so they can blame Obama before the 2012 election. Right now the Republican Party is the biggest enemy America faces, much more dangerous to the health of the economy and society than any terrorists.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Here is the source of much of the Republican idiocy

Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand teaches that the only valid morality is selfishness. All Randian morality is based on the free market, and property rights are the only rights which are valid. Ownership of property is absolute and gives one the unfettered right to use or dispose of that property in whatever way the owner desires. No one may interfere with this absolute right, including the government or the community.

Ayn Rand explicitly stated that altruism and religious ethics were meaningless and wrong. They are not based on property rights and the free unfettered market and in fact can be used to justify interference with the free market and property rights.

The Fountainhead was published in 1943 and was quickly adopted by conservative American businessmen who were fighting Roosevelt and the New Deal. Rand's philosophy was also very strongly embedded in the Robert Welch's John Birch Society. Interestingly it horrified William F. Buckley.

Here is the full 27 minute Mike Wallace interview with the Rand woman.

OK. Here is Christopher Hitchens demolishing Ayn Rand's alleged "Objectivism."

There is really very little to add to what Christopher Hitchens said, but Ayn Rand's idiocy philosophy has been adopted by a number of American individuals who either inherited great wealth they did not earn themselves or were able to claw themselves to the highest regions of monopolistic or oligopolistic big businesses. A very few exceptions were people like Bill Gates who created new markets and had the good fortune to be able to remain at the top of the organizations they created to exploit those markets as Gates was able to do with Microsoft Corporation.

None of these individuals inherently deserve the power they have been given. A few, like Bill Gates, have comported themselves in ways that justify the social and economic power they have obtained. The problem is that when such individuals achieve such power they frequently assume they deserve it and that they should be worshiped for their combination of (mostly)good luck and (to some extent) ability to exploit their position.

Ayn Rand's Objectivism is based on the assumption that they deserve what society gave them and that the privileges they receive because of their social success are beneficial to society in general. Neither assumption is true.

The tea party's ideal country

Nicholas D. Kristof">writes of the tea party fantasy country they want America to emulate. Here's what it offers:
  • Low taxes.
  • Limited government with no regulations on business.
  • A society with traditional religious values that has no problem with school prayer and does not accept same-sex marriages or equality for women.
  • The main priority for the federal government is the military budget.
Where is this country? Pakistan.

Of course, if you remove the military that Pakistan maintains you reach the Libertarian's ideal country, one surely loved by Ron Paul and his idiot son Rand. Entirely free enterprise based on markets and no long term planning of any kind.

That country with nothing but free enterprise and no government is the Libertarian paradise of Somalia. Somalia is a libertarian's delight where the lack of regulation of the seas (no Coast Guard and no regulations to enforce) has allowed the Japanese to clean out all the fish off the coast. The only two remaining industries in Somalia are militias and piracy because the rule of law does not exist.

Should we prepare for the wave of tea party immigrants and libertarians heading for these ideal nations?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Are the Republican leaders desperate or just insane?

The Republicans are saying they will create an international financial disaster by refusing to increase the debt limit unless the Democrats join them in destroying Medicare. This is not a publicly popular position so the Republicans have to have the Democrats join them and share the blame if it is going to happen. So they are setting up a hostage crisis.

This is Steve Benen's report on the hostage crisis that the Republican leadership is setting up.
One leading GOP lawmaker acknowledged that the Republican plan is “dangerous,” but the party doesn’t care. Another conceded that the GOP is inviting a “sovereign debt crisis,” but figures Obama would get the blame, so Republicans don’t care about that, either.

The key to an effective hostage strategy is creating a credible threat. When the hostage taker has a gun to the head of hostage, those expected to pay the ransom have to genuinely believe the bad guy really will pull the trigger. Yesterday, the Republican message to the president wasn’t subtle: we really will pull the trigger and then blame you for not paying the ransom.


As far as Republicans are concerned, there’s no need to compromise — they’re the ones with the gun and the hostage. Why strike a deal? If Obama caves, they get what they want. If Obama stands firm, and the GOP deliberately destroys the economy, Republicans will blame the president and destroy his chances of re-election. As far as the GOP leadership is concerned, all they have to do is wait.
It's a tough sell. Not many members of the public are buying the idea that the costs of Medicare should be shifted from the government through payroll taxes on workers to the elderly themselves. So what do the Republicans want to do about that? They are complaining that President Obama is telling the truth about their proposals. And worse, the public is listening to President Obama rather than Paul Ryan and the odious Newt Gingrich.

When politicians are demanding that they be given the power to enact a widely unpopular and irrational policy in the face of widespread opposition or they will destroy the entire economic system and conducting a campaign made up of whines and propaganda lies those politicians are performing a personally motivated power-grab. They are NOT working to make America a better nation for Americans. They are desperate and both their patriotism and their sanity is questionable.