January 21, 2012

Nobel Prizes and neoliberalism

Turns out that Barack Obama is not the most recent Nobel Peace Prize winner who drinks deeply from the cup of neoliberalism. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wants to sell much of her nation's land to foreign investors, much more than what she's already been selling.

And, much of what she has already sold, or sold rights to, has been to groups like loggers not known for their progressive thinking in general.

So, how peaceful will Liberia be in a decade, when more and more poor farmers, booted off their land and hungry, become unrestful?

And, if she's already been doing this for five years, contra the column's pleas, she's not going to change now.

January 20, 2012

SCOTUS gives Texas GOP 2/3 a loaf

That's my briefer take on the Supreme Court's ruling on the Texas redistricting lawsuit.

The Supremes said the San Antonio federal district court should have considered the original legislature-drawn redistricting maps, and that it should have confined the focus of its ruling and new map-drawing only to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, ignoring the Section 5 preclearance lawsuit in the District of Columbia Appeals Court.

The high court was following fairly clear precedent. Between that and the fact that there's no strong, old-e liberals on the court makes it little surprise the ruling was unanimous, even though the San Antonio court had the right ideas in mind.

But it's not a 100 percent loaf for the GOP. The San Antonio court can still do some tweaking, per the ruling, within Section 2, and the preclearance suit could still effect 2014 elections, or, plaintiffs in the district court suit could seek an expedited ruling from the D.C. Appeals Court, maybe.

Of course, a 2012 map in place itself sets precedent.

Basically, the state GOP decided to push the envelope as far as it could and challenge courts to try to do something about it.

Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned

Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the DamnedClarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned by John A. Farrell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ideally, this would be a 4.5 star book, but I'll give it the bump. Beyond the famous Scopes trial, good labor liberals know Darrow defended the McNamara brothers in the LA Times bombing case.

He also defended the poor. Mobsters.

And, rich people presumably politically conservative. And, despite his acquittal on charges, he may well have tried to bribe jurors in the McNamara case.

Darrow was sui generis, in other words, and this book shows that well.

He was also a freethinker, a womanizer and more.

He said he defended the rich because he needed money somehow, but ... it seems more than that.

And, some of his closest friends of earlier life, like Edgar Lee Masters,k had become estranged from him years before he died.

This is an informative bio of the what of Darrow's life, but Farrell doesn't quite get all the why, IMO. Hence, the ideal rating of 4.5 stars.

View all my reviews

January 19, 2012

Political stance: It's all about location?

Whether one leans politically conservative or liberal, on a particular issue, may be influenced in part by how close the person is to either a church or a government building, respectively.

So says a Baylor study:
 Passersby who stopped to answer surveys taken next to churches in the Netherlands and England reported themselves as more politically conservative and more negative toward non-Christians than did people questioned within sight of government buildings — a finding that may be significant when it comes to voting, according to a Baylor University study.

The study, published online in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, adds to a growing body of evidence that religious “priming” can influence both religious and nonreligious people, Baylor researchers said. Priming occurs when a stimulus such as a verbal or a visual cue — for example, the buildings that were in participants’ line of vision during questioning — influences a response.

The findings are significant in that churches and other buildings affiliated with a religious group are among the most common polling places, said psychologist Jordan LaBouff, Ph.D., lead author for the Baylor study.

“The important finding here is that people near a religious building reported slightly but significantly more conservative social and political attitudes than similar people near a government building,” said co-author Wade Rowatt, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor. “In a close election, the place where people vote — a school, a church, a government building — could affect the outcome . For example, a higher percentage of people voting in a church instead of a school might vote for a conservative candidate or proposition.”

He noted that a Stanford University study of an Arizona school funding referendum in 2000 showed that voters polled in schools were more likely to support a state tax increase than were those polled in churches or community centers. That study was published in 2008 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Interesting, to say the least.

The study appears carefully done and controlled, and not the first of its kind. Obviously, it's not likely that a lot of non-church AND non-government building polling places could be found, if we stopped using both, so that's not likely.

However, pushing for or against a certain candidate, referendum issue, etc.? That's different. Private individuals and groups advocating for or against ballot items or candidates probably have some serious food for thought here.

Not that George Lakoff is all right, but this is a bit of "framing."

January 17, 2012

Juan Williams knows who he was sleeping with

It looks like the birds have finally come home to roost for Juan Williams of Faux News, fired by NPR for violating company policy and directives for getting too close to Faux.

In South Carolina's debate last night, Williams asked Newt Gingrich if he didn't think his comments about having students work as janitors at school and other things might seem especially sensitive to minorities. When Newt said no, and Williams asked a follow-up, he got booed like hell.

Too bad, Juan. You could see this ugliness in the GOP, especially its Tea Party wing, when you got cozy with Faux in the first place.

January 15, 2012

JP Morgan Chase's Jaime Dimon says he has a plan to end the housing doldrums. Shorter Dimon: Let the feds do all the regulating, to get those damned state AGs out of the way, then let the feds stop regulating me, but, don't make me responsible!

You expected something different?

Apparently, Joe Nocera did. Via a financial adviser, he looked solely at Dimon's "regulations are too complex" complaint, which probably has some validity, ran with that like he was flogging a straw man and ignored the rest. He does admit that the Dimons of the world will likely game overly complex regulations, but that's about as skeptical as he gets.