Sunday, September 21, 2008

No. Blank. Check. For. Crooks.

On the economic bailout front, don't miss:
As one commenter put it,

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Listen up, Dems: here's why people vote Republican

They live in a different moral universe. And we need to take it seriously.

Republicans have different gut feelings than we do, because they use a different mix of the morality spectrum.
That's the thesis of a piece called "What Makes People Vote Republican?" It's overly long, but a must-read for anyone working in the fields of persuasion or reconciliation:
Not everyone who votes Republican has been 'duped'. Conservative ideals appeal to some because they reflect heartfelt visions of a 'good society.'
The author is a Penn-trained psychologist who has studied morality in the special subculture of politics and come to two conclusions. First, and this is not news, gut feelings trump reason:
[W]hen gut feelings are present, dispassionate reasoning is rare. In fact, many people struggled to fabricate harmful consequences that could justify their gut-based condemnation. [...]

These obviously post-hoc rationalizations illustrate the philosopher David Hume's dictum that reason is "the slave of the passions, and can pretend to no other office than to serve and obey them." This is the first rule of moral psychology: feelings come first and tilt the mental playing field on which reasons and arguments compete. If people want to reach a conclusion, they can usually find a way to do so. The Democrats have historically failed to grasp this rule, choosing uninspiring and aloof candidates who thought that policy arguments were forms of persuasion.

Second, morality differs across cultures, including cultures like R and D:

[M]orality is any system of interlocking values, practices, institutions, and psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make social life possible. It turns out that human societies have found several radically different approaches to suppressing selfishness [...].
He goes on to explore five different kinds of morality:
  • harm/care
  • fairness/repricocity
  • ingroup/loyalty
  • authority/respect
  • purity/sanctity
You can see where this is going. Put together, these values function in our lives almost like the sliders on a stereo equalizer. Conservatives use a mix that is distinctively different from that of liberals; therefore, our messages don't "sound right" to each other. A story that makes beautiful music to us may sound thin and incomplete to people we are trying to persuade.

I can't excerpt it further. Go read. And you can test yourself at

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Former National Review publisher speaks out on McCain, Obama

Friends, relatives, countrymen… if you know and love any Republicans (or are one), I beg you to read this piece by Wick Allison, former editor of the National Review. It’s an extraordinary repudiation of the conservative movement as it stands today, along with a thoughtful look at Obama. Then send it on:
In 1964, at the age of 16, I organized the Dallas County Youth for Goldwater. My senior thesis at the University of Texas was on the conservative intellectual revival in America. Twenty years later, I was invited by William F. Buckley Jr. to join the board of National Review. I later became its publisher [...]

[T]oday it is so-called conservatives who are cemented to political programs when they clearly don’t work. The Bush tax cuts—a solution for which there was no real problem and which he refused to end even when the nation went to war—led to huge deficit spending and a $3 trillion growth in the federal debt. Facing this, John McCain pumps his “conservative” credentials by proposing even bigger tax cuts. Meanwhile, a movement that once fought for limited government has presided over the greatest growth of government in our history. That is not conservatism; it is profligacy using conservatism as a mask.

Today it is conservatives, not liberals, who talk with alarming bellicosity about making the world “safe for democracy.” It is John McCain who says America’s job is to “defeat evil,” a theological expansion of the nation’s mission that would make George Washington cough out his wooden teeth. This kind of conservatism, which is not conservative at all, has produced financial mismanagement, the waste of human lives, the loss of moral authority, and the wreckage of our economy that McCain now threatens to make worse. [...]
I held my breath and sent the piece to my entire family and some RW friends, along with a pre-emptive apology and a request for humble bipartisan outreach. Because of this segment:
I now see that Obama is almost the ideal candidate for this moment in American history. I disagree with him on many issues. But those don’t matter as much as what Obama offers, which is a deeply conservative view of the world. Nobody can read Obama’s books (which, it is worth noting, he wrote himself) or listen to him speak without realizing that this is a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man. It gives me comfort just to think that after eight years of George W. Bush we will have a president who has actually read the Federalist Papers.

Most important, Obama will be a realist. I doubt he will taunt Russia, as McCain has, at the very moment when our national interest requires it as an ally. The crucial distinction in my mind is that, unlike John McCain, I am convinced he will not impulsively take us into another war unless American national interests are directly threatened.

“Every great cause,” Eric Hoffer wrote, “begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” As a cause, conservatism may be dead. But as a stance, as a way of making judgments in a complex and difficult world, I believe it is very much alive in the instincts and predispositions of a liberal named Barack Obama.
hat tip kos.

UPDATE: And if you're wondering what makes people vote Republican in the first place, head over here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

This is your nation on white privilege

I hadn't heard of Tim Wise, author of White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, until a recent email. He's thought-provoking, to say the least. Excerpts:
  • White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because "every family has challenges," even as black and Latino families with similar "challenges" are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.
  • White privilege is when you can call yourself a "fuckin' redneck," like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll "kick their fuckin' ass," and talk about how you like to "shoot shit" for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.
  • White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.
  • White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don't all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you're "untested."
  • White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.
  • White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was "Alaska first," and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she's being disrespectful.
Emphasis and formatting added. Read the whole thing here.

Count the lies

The DNC is tracking lies over at McCainpedia.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Life vs. death: how can a wingnut tell?

An entirely fresh take on the cell-war debates, from a doctor in the family:
If McCain and Palin believe that life starts at conception when there is but one cell, how do they define death? When someone is dead and their heart stops and they stop breathing and their brain stops working, there are still trillions of functioning cells that are very much alive and carrying out their individual routines, even when they run out of oxygen. And some of these cells are those beloved, protected progenitor cells like stem cells. So is death when all those cells finally die and we are just a big pile of goo? I mean if they are going to use microbiology and biochemistry to define life then the same rule should apply for death! You can't use a strict definition for one and an "arbitrary" one for the other.

Anyway, thought educated minds should be informed!
I'm going to start using this argument wherever I can, because at least it might make people stop and blink. (And wouldn't it be great if voters cared about things like logic and being informed?)

Monday, September 01, 2008

A local (Alaskan) on Palin: "This pick floored me."

This interesting take on Sarah Palin comes from Pete Hauschka, a school principal who has lived in Alaska for ten years. He's the brother of Warner Chabot, a colleague of my husband. Pete requests that we pass his words on "to those who will use them well." Emphasis added by me:
Good evening, lots of friends and relatives have been asking me (as an Alaskan) what I think of Sarah Palin, our Governor and new choice for McCain as a VP candidate.

Here it goes:

This pick floored me. Sarah Palin is a nice person. I've met her, I've even talked to her for a few minutes at a principal's conference a couple of years ago. She has lots going for her superficially. She speaks from the heart, like a spitfire mother; she can even be sort of funny sometimes. She is quite beautiful; athletic, and has that radiant glow of someone who actually spends time doing things outside. Unlike many politicians, she has lived a "real life" and done things that few living and working in DC could ever dipnettin' fish, shootin' stuff and eating it out on the tundra, and havin' 5 kids.

Personally, I'd never vote for her. She has an extremely simple view of the world. I don't even think she has ever been abroad. As governor she has repeatedly shown us that she is unable to grasp the demands of leadership. She is very prone to cronyism of the worst kind. Every cabinet level political appointment she has made she has over-ridden suggestions of our state advisory boards, and instead promoted those who had granted her direct political favors. Not that other politicians don't do this, they do, but most of them are able to balance their appointments to ensure that at least a few people with real skill and experience are running big state agencies.

She also has been unable to pay attention to her Alaskan constituency. Personally, I've written several of our previous gov's and been asked to comment publicly on education policy. All the previous gov's have always acknowledged that contribution, criticism or comment; sometimes by direct reply, or at least by that of a staff member. Palin's office has been a zone of silence. Not I, nor one person I know commenting has ever gotten any sort of reply. Her claim of running an open or transparent government is totally false; the public simply has no role in her administration.

Her previous claim to fame was being mayor of Wasilla, a growing town about 40 minutes from Anchorage of about 15,000 people. Wasilla is a hellhole, even by Alaskan standards, where there are plenty of hellhole towns and villages. Wasilla is an ugly place that shows a complete absence of planning, design, or sense of public vision. Gov't agencies and services are completely overrun in this town; things are so bad that they can't even track their population or build schools in the right place, because most parts of the town don't require building permits, so the only clue about where people are settling are utility receipts. Imagine trying to be an emergency responder in this kind of place: Houses don't just catch on fire in Wasilla, they burn to the ground, because by the time the fire department has figured out which road to take (no signs) or whose house it is (no directory), the place is done for. Palin was mayor this town for at least 2 terms before being elected gov. a year and a half ago.

Her moral sense is simplistic and not inclusive. She is the sort of person who is used to using their "faith" to divide and isolate minority groups of human beings instead of uniting them. To her credit as Gov. she has kept out of this arena pretty well, but when in comfortable company (i.e the Matanuska Valley Republican Women's Club), she lets her moral cat out of the bag.

I will do what I can to ensure her defeat and that of her running mate as well. :) Please share this information with those who can use it well.

Cheers, Pete Hauschka