Motivated Avoidance

"Research suggests the feeling that an issue is 'above one's head' leads people to feel dependent on the government, and this dependence is managed by trusting the government more to deal with an issue, and this is managed by avoiding the issue. This is psychologically easier than taking a significant amount of time to learn about an issue, all the while confronting unpleasant information about it."

Those findings come from research that looked at issues like the economic downturn or global warming and how people deal (or don't deal) with the troublesome aspects of such facts of life. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology uses terms like "Motivated Avoidance" or more strongly "Motivated Ignorance" to report their findings. 

The study found that when problems were presented with complex information and data, people were more likely to defer to some higher authority like government or scientists. When issues were presented in more simple terms with real world references, people were less likely to head for the avoidance behaviors. 

All of which implies that when presented with life real complexity, we tend to act like a Monty Python character. 

Occupy Oakland

Oakland has once again become the center of the Occupy movement on the West Coast. Last night was the largest confrontation with the most extreme violations of law and civil rights by both sides. Again I got close enough to the action to report but not so close that I am in jail. Over four hundred protesters and bystanders were arrested. Lots of tear gas and bean bag projectiles were fired by the renegade Oakland police and their support troops. Yes, rocks and bottles were thrown by protesters; I have already said their were violations on both sides.

But I wonder just how Yahoo News justifies this type of reporting, when all over the internet were onsite commentaries like this one. In fairness, it looks like the NYTimes basically rewrote the main stream media's press release as well. "Three police officers injured and one protester." I was three blocks away and saw over two dozen battered protesters receiving medical attention.

By the way if you want to feel the moment of conversion from a peaceful protester into a radical police hating revolutionary, read this post.

Here There Be Dragons

Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations continue this week, in honor of the year of the dragon I offer several Chinese images along with a Welsh great lizard, only a single breastplate fantasy image and one film dragon.

Draco, voiced by Sean Connery, in Dragonheart.

The Olde Middle

"On everything but the size of government, Tea Party supporters are increasingly out of step with most Americans, even many Republicans. Indeed, at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, today’s Tea Party parallels the anti-Vietnam War movement which rallied behind George S. McGovern in 1972. The McGovernite activists brought energy, but also stridency, to the Democratic Party — repelling moderate voters and damaging the Democratic brand for a generation. By embracing the Tea Party, Republicans risk repeating history." 
-David E. Campbell & Robert N. Putnam          
NYTimes Commentary Aug. 2011

I've been saving that quotation in my blog queue since last August. Campbell & Putnam wrote a book - American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, the New York Times commentary piece was the beginning of their promotional tour. I considered reading the book after running into a number of other promo lectures and appearances last fall but the quote above kept bothering me.

I have thought about what it was exactly and today I hit on it. They have managed in a few sentences to insult and condemn anyone who seeks to stand against the status quo of the two party system. Too far right or too far left and you just repel the moderates and damage the party for years. 

Well boys you are talking about the "moderate middle" that doesn't exist anymore. As the "middle class" fell, so did the "political middle" and the "olde middle" ain't coming back, at least not quietly and not in the hip pocket of republicrats. About the only thing "the middle" is good for anymore is for finding political apologists like Campbell & Putnam and tossing them on the scrap heap of olde political wisdom.

The game has changed gentlemen and you are still reading from the rule book of the "olde middle."

Top Five Articles of the Recent Past

#1 - (The 1%)
"Of the 1 percenters interviewed for this article, almost all — conservatives and liberals alike — said the wealthy could and should shoulder more of the country’s financial burden, and almost all said they viewed the current system as unfair."

Groups, no matter how we define them, are not homogenous. Here is a very interesting article from NYTimes on who are the real 1% and how do they feel about all the talk and anger directed at them in the recent political conversation. A more nuanced look at the rich, how they got there and how they feel about the rest of us.

#2 - (U.S. Economy)
"For most of U.S. history, most people had a slow and steady wind at their back, a combination of economic forces that didn’t make life easy but gave many of us little pushes forward that allowed us to earn a bit more every year. Over a lifetime, it all added up to a better sort of life than the one we were born into. That wind seems to be dying for a lot of Americans. What the country will be like without it is not quite clear."

From the Atlantic 'Making It in America' a well written fact-based analysis of how the true "middle class" of the U.S. economy has been displaced and what the near and long-term future might look like for those in the declining middle.

#3 - (Obama)

This one is difficult for me. It comes via Newsweek, I seldom like anything in that glossy rag. The piece is written by Andrew Sullivan and I rarely agree with anything he says or thinks. Finally, the article defends Barack Obama and I certainly do not. However . . .

If you are a republican who loathes the president or a democrat who is completely disappointed by him, you need to read this article. Quite simply you must face the half of the article that puts forward the rebuttal of your position. If you can't rewind what Sullivan has to say then you  are simply making noise when you criticize the present administration. Now is not the time for silly slogans and softball positions, there is enough of that in the super PAC presidential olympics running all year on television. If you need some help, here is a conservative response by Joel Pollak, which deserves just as much ridicule as the original article.

This is a really telling test for you to sharpen your critique of the president and if you can't, well then maybe you just ought to vote for him in November. Or stay tuned here for the third side of the debate.

#4 - (Wall Street)
"If there was ever a news story that crystallized the moral dementia of modern Wall Street in one little vignette, this is it."

If you're not reading Matt Taibbi, you should be. He writes for Rolling Stone but his work appears everywhere on the web. This piece is a tale that clearly summarizes just what went wrong on Wall Street and how that brought us all to the brink of a global depression.

#5 - (Bizarro/Terrorism)

The Waffle House Terrorists from Esquire magazine. I swear if you can read this rather longish article and then tell me who the bad guys are or even who the whackos are; then you are a better reader, a better american and a stranger person than I. Who needs fiction when the federal government is involved?

Kung Hii Fatt Choi

The Chinese Lunar New Year marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon.

It's Really Not All About Politics

The System That Couldn't Count

We hear these same platitudes each and every election cycle.

"Voting is your civic duty!"

    "If you don't vote, don't complaint."

"Voting is our greatest right as free citizens!"

The problem is that "Your Vote Counts" are empty words if there is no one responsible enough to accurately and fairly count the votes. Once again we see, this time in Iowa, that addition is a really difficult task for some members of our society. And we seem to allow these math challenged people to run our elections.

Apparently Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucus a couple of weeks ago but Mitt Romney got the boost going into New Hampshire when the counting in Iowa went less than perfectly. Now it seems that eight precincts in Iowa have completely lost their ballots so the republican party of Iowa is calling it a draw, a tie, a non-decision. But what we really have is an admission that there was no fair and legal vote in Iowa. Voters in 8 precincts have had their "greatest right" which they exercised as their "civic duty" - well for lack of a better word - 'lost' or perhaps 'taken away' or simply 'not counted.'

After all the sound and fury, after all the campaign noize and money spewed around Iowa for over a year, they couldn't count the damn votes. OK, so it was only Iowa. But need I remind you that we had a similar problem a few years ago in Florida, which led to the supreme court picking the president.

Now I am sure my liberal friends are waiting for me to go off on the current republican campaign to restrict voter access in the November election. Yes, of course, they are doing that - it's called politics. Need I remind you that the democrats feel you need only be breathing to vote, which of course leads to voter fraud on the other side of the shaky two-party scale. Sorry partisan folks, I just don't care. Why should I? Why should you? Have you not been paying attention - the vote is not fixed by who does or doesn't get to enter the sanctuary of the polling place; the vote is fixed by who does or doesn't do the counting.

It's all about the math and who is holding the abacus in a few key states. You trust this system? Really? Ask the voters in Iowa.

Closed for Today

Much of the internet is dark today to protest a grossly overreaching bill in the US Congress. While the bill purports to halt online piracy, it does so at the expense of free speech and gives unnamed and unknown government agencies the right to shut down any part of the net they feel threatens whatever they believe should not be threatened. Egypt, Libya, China and other countries have attempted to shutdown free speech over the internet when those fine examples of democracy felt that their citizens should not be speaking up about the restriction of human rights.

This is not a justified cause of governmental authority and needs to be stopped. Email your senators and tell them you oppose Protect IP Act in the senate and contact your house member as they consider the Stop Internet Piracy (SOPA) act in the house. 

Do It Tomorrow

Tomorrow marks another in a year-long list of Occupy actions to bring economic sanity and fairness back to the American people. If you are in or around Washington D.C. please consider participating in any of the planned events for Occupy Congress.

Not in the capitol area, then take a moment to write to your elected senators and congresspersons and ask them to take the time meet with Occupy members who are there to make our needs known.

We can't all be there for every demonstration or every cause, but we can lend our support and our voice to those who are. Do It Tomorrow.

Find contact information for your congressional representatives.

Top Seven Articles of the Recent Past

Here are seven of the best articles I have surfed across in the past month or so. With my added commentary of course.
#1 (Politics)*
"In the wake of the Tea Party, the Occupy movement, and a dozen or more episodes of real rebellion on the streets, in the legislatures of cities and towns, and in state and federal courthouses, this presidential race now feels like a banal bureaucratic sideshow to the real event – the real event being a looming confrontation between huge masses of disaffected citizens on both sides of the aisle, and a corrupt and increasingly ideologically bankrupt political establishment, represented in large part by the two parties dominating this race."
-from The Meaningless Sideshow Begins in Rolling Stone

*This comes as close as anything to capturing my own rationale for and disgust with the 2012 U.S. election.

#2 (Media)
We all know that what passes for Main Stream Media has become at best infotaintment, if not outright sleazy reality tv instead of news. But have you noticed recently that the political stories, particularly those on the presidential election have become more like the Sunday NFL pregame show. The SportsCenterization of Politics.

#3 (Psychology)
Bloomberg.com asks and answers the burning question: Did Psychopaths Take Over Wall Street?

"It took a relatively obscure former British academic to propagate a theory of the financial crisis that would confirm what many people suspected all along: The “corporate psychopaths” at the helm of our financial institutions are to blame."

#4 (Politics)
This next one is a book review from the New York Times, but before my conservative readers pass this one by... let me say that you will probably like this a lot more than my liberal visitors. Take for instance this quote:

"President Obama has betrayed the voters who elected him. He ran like a populist, but he has governed like a plutocrat, or at least a friend of plutocrats."

What I liked most about this piece was the rolling argument the reviewer has with the "liberal elitist" views of Thomas Frank, the author of the book - Pity the Billionaire. Very informative to see the left wrestling with itself.

#5 (Tech)
This one comes from Tina Fields a good friend of mine. Her post is about the reaction she had to a really wonderful radio piece by Mike Daisey. I recommend my friend's blog post as a contextual teaser to the actual radio program which can be found on NPR's This American Life website. Both of these links are mandatory for progressive Mac users.

#6 (Marginalia & Fun)
If you are a fan of marginalia and fun (both are necessary) take a look at this NYT piece on both. And did you know you can share marginalia between many eReaders, which means if you and I are reading the same book on your kindle we can trade liner notes. I understand the archives of several great marginalists (Twain, Coleridge, Plath, Nabokov, Melville) are planning to make such available for eReaders.

#7 (Bizarro)
The estate of a deceased teenage boy is being sued by a woman who has hit by parts of the dead youths body after he was struck and killed by a locomotive. Really you just can't make these things up. The Illinois court ruled that the boy's death was "reasonably foreseeable" and that his estate (no he wasn't rich) can be held responsible for his negligence. Full story.

And the Losers Are . . .

Results 2008 New Hampshire Primary

             John McCain          86,571          7 delegates
             Mitt Romney          75,546          4 delegates
             Mike Huckabee      26,859          1 delegate
             Ron Paul                  18,308         0 delegate

             Hillary Clinton        112,404        9 delegates
             Barack Obama         104,815        9 delegates
             John Edwards            48,699        4 delegates

Results 2012 New Hampshire Primary*

            Mitt Romney              97,532        7 delegates
            Ron Paul                     56,848         3 delegates
            John Huntsman         41,945        2 delegates
            Newt Gingich             loser
            Rick Santorum           loser 
            Rick Perry                   loser

*Only 12 delegates at stake reduced from 23 by the republican national committee for moving the primary up to January.

Speaking of relevance, the Jan. 31st republican primary in Florida already has more absentee ballots requests than all the votes cast in Iowa and New Hampshire combined.

2286 - number of delegates to republican convention
1144 - number of delegates to win nomination
    37 - number of delegates decided thus far
    20 - number of delegates committed to Mitt Romney
So how is it possible that Mr. Romney is now being declared the winner by so many knowledgeable sources or when did 20 become 1144?

Pie Chart Your President

Mother Jones magazine has this really cool interactive tool that allows you to predict who will win, lose or draw each of the upcoming republican presidential primaries. They call it the GOP Primary Predictor: Play Along at Home. You can prognosticate on what percentage of the votes each of the candidates will get in all of the upcoming 55 primaries.  Yes, I did say fifty-five.

Here is a list of the primaries along with my less than scientific commentary.

Jan. 3   Iowa - Santorum or Romney they don't really know yet

Jan. 10 New Hampshire - Romney wins big
Jan. 21 South Carolina - the last real chance to derail the Mitt
Jan. 31 Florida - 50/50 chance for Romney to wrap it up

Feb. 4  Nevada
Feb. 7  Colorado
Feb. 7  Minnesota
Feb. 11 Maine
Feb. 25 Mariana Islands
Feb. 28 Arizona - it's over, Romney wins both; everyone else quits
Feb. 28 Michigan - it's over, Romney wins both; everyone else quits

None of the remaining 44 primaries matter as far as the presidential nominations go

Mar. 3  Washington
Mar. 6  Alabama
Mar. 6  Georgia - March 6th: eleven states in one day with no meaning
Mar. 6  Idaho
Mar. 6  Massachusetts
Mar. 6  North Dakota
Mar. 6  Ohio
Mar. 6  Oklahoma
Mar. 6  Tennessee
Mar. 6  Vermont
Mar. 6  Virginia
Mar. 6  Virgin Islands

Mar. 10 Kansas
Mar. 10 Wyoming
Mar. 12 Guam
Mar. 13 Hawaii
Mar. 13 Mississippi
Mar. 13 American Samoa
Mar. 17 Missouri
Mar. 20 Illinois
Mar. 24 Louisiana
Mar. 24 Puerto Rico

Apr. 3  Washington
Apr. 3  Maryland
Apr. 3  Wisconsin
Apr. 6  Alaska
Apr. 6  Texas - Rick Perry who?
Apr. 24 Connecticut
Apr. 24 Delaware
Apr. 24 New York - sorry it was Romney two months ago
Apr. 24 Pennsylvania
Apr. 24 Rhode Island

May 8  Indiana
May 8  North Carolina
May 8  West Virginia
May 15 Nebraska
May 15 Oregon
May 22 Arkansas
May 22 Kentucky

June 5   California - largest single electoral state votes 3 months too late
June 5   Montana
June 5   New Jersey
June 5   New Mexico
June 5   South Dakota
June 26 Utah

Now I would be happy to be wrong about this, if only for the entertainment value a longer race would give to The Daily Show and Colbert Report. But my overall 2012 position remains the same - whether you are choosing the lesser of two evils or seven, you still get evil.

So You Believe This is a Free Country

I am reluctant to say it, but if you are shocked by this story you must still be living under the impression that the government is on your side and that the USA is a free country. 

Early this week the space occupied by Global Revolution was raided by the NYPD. The group for months has been aggregating live streams from the Occupy Wall Street movement and putting them out on the web. They operated for several months under a tarp at Zuccotti Park and recently moved to an indoor space in Brooklyn. A space that had been occupied (lived in, paying rent) for the last year by one of the GR members. 

Suddenly on Monday the premises became "imminently perilous to life" according to the notice posted. On Tuesday the NYPD raided the site and arrested the members of GR who ran the video operation. Now if you have been to Brooklyn in the last twenty years you know there clearly are spaces perilous to life, probably scores of them within a block or two of the raided studio, but none of them were deemed so dangerous as to provoke a NYPD raid.

Could it have been a coincidence that the Occupy Wall Street live streaming team was operating from that location? Surely they weren't targeted by the NYPD on orders from the mayor, the governor or homeland security. No that could never happen here in the land of the free. 

Move along folks, nothing to see here; which is why the NYTimes has yet to report this story even though they have done pieces in the past on the video team from Global Revolution.

The Real Iowa Numbers

Romney wins in Iowa but Santorum finishes incredibly close in a great moral victory. Ron Paul hangs in there while Bachmann and probably Perry step out of the race. That's what you could hear all last night and all day today on every "news" show you could dial up. But let me point out just three numbers to demonstrate just how ludicrous it is for "the greatest democracy on the planet" to select it's leader this way.

-that's how many Iowa voters showed up to caucus last night; over five times that many people were at the Rose Parade on Monday, why not let them vote?

-that's how many Iowa votes John McCain got in the 2008 general election, last night about 18% of that total caucused and were the object of all this media attention. Less than 1 in 5 probably voters bothered to go to a caucus. Oh by the way McCain lost Iowa to Obama 54% to 45%.

-that's how many Americans voted for McCain in 2008; last night .24% (1/4%) of that number boosted Romney, Santorum and Paul but ended at least two and possibly four other presidential campaigns.

Iowa - Is this really how we want to select the "Leader of the Free World"?

New Hampshire next, then South Carolina.

God Bless VespuciLand.

Happy New Blog Year

I apologize to those who miss the old light-hearted posts, I liked them too. I really don't want to do a Lenny Bruce and become mired in the endless crap of American politics but... this is going to be an interesting even a historic year in the U.S. Should that not turn out to be true I will get off the political sinking ship as fast as a congressman talking to broke lobbyist. Until then...

Good news for those who are not so fond of all the political commentary, the italicized opening above represented my thoughts early in December when I was planning my year end blog break. Since then I have been thinking about this here blog and I can honestly say I haven't come to any striking conclusions. So for now, I will continue with whatever wanders across my consciousness. I am giving myself another month to ponder what's it all about going forward.

Several major anticipated shifts in my personal life have been sidetracked, put on the back burner or discarded completely. So life that was planned to be in flux is more likely to be in stasis. 

Wait! I'm sure I can be more convoluted than that...

The more things change the more they stay the same
Is it just me or does everybody see
The new improved tomorrow isn't what it used to be
                                                              Bon Jovi