October 06, 2012

#PowerLine — Hindlicker is a doofus indeed

Now, remember, I’m a Green voter, not a Democrat.  So, while I could care less about Obama, I don’t care that much about him.

Nor do I care about a corporation-run pseudo-debate that antidemocratically excludes third-party candidates.

And, take note, I agree that Obama probably did lose the first debate. I don’t buy the arguments that he was so nice as to make Romney look over-aggressive. Nor do I buy the Chris Mooney claims that he was too liberal-nice, too eggheady or whatever.

Rather, it’s clear that he succumbed to incumbent-itis; there’s a history of incumbent presidents getting lazy on prepping for their first debates against their challengers; Reagan vs. Mondale in  1984 is the best example yet.

So, The New Yorker is spot on to have, in a riff on Clint Eastwood’s empty chair speech at the GOP convention, Romney debating an empty chair as its cover art.

But, for John Hindraker of the Power Line blog to claim Obama has “lost” The New Yorker is a full-of-shit lie even judging him by his own self-set standards.

The cover is about the debate, and nothing else. AND, this is the same The New Yorker that had the famous Barack and Michelle fist-bump cover a couple of years ago.

It’s stuff like this that has Big John richly earning and deserving the name of Hindlicker.

More #GlennGreenwald is not a liberal, I think

He has a decent article on the first presidential debate. He says that while many people decry the alleged lack of bipartisanship in America, that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama agree on many things.
Fair enough, and true enough.

However, all the top items of those "many things" that he goes on to list is a foreign policy or civil liberties issue. He does mention Wall Street issues of bankster coziness, health care reform and free trade as non-civil liberties issues where they are Tweedledee and Tweedledum, without mentioning his own stsances.

Their similar policies on neoliberal-to-conservative lack of financial institution policing and regulation (which the libertarian Greenwald might like), their similar policies on energy and environmental issues, their similar stances on cozying up to Wall Street for campaign money do get attention lower down, but, that doesn't convince me.

Glenn has written favorably about the Occupy movement in the past, but, the focus has generally been more on the banksters breaking the rule of law than on income inequality. As for free trade issues, I Googled that phrase plus his name, and didn't get any hits to actual columns he wrote.

I still say Greenwald is as much if not more libertarian than true liberal, and a bit peculiar of one at that. He touted Ron Paul as a good presidential candidate long after it was clear he not only had no traction in the GOP but would not seek the Libertarian Party nod. He didn't tout then-presumative Green nominee Jill Stein at the same time.

And, on the "peculiar libertarian" side, Glenn also at the same time didn't tout Gary Johnson, who already way back then had hinted he WOULD seek the Libertarian nod. And, under that rubric, I don't recall that Greenwald's been that denunciatory of Paul's racist past (and probable racist present). Nor has he ever, to the best of my knowledge, "called out" Paul for being a goldbug fiat-money-fearing nutbar.

October 05, 2012

No, Romney did NOT have a 'cheat sheet'

Mitt Romney and the handkerchief that's
not a cheat sheet./Image via BuzzFeed.
Unfortunately, via Daily Kos and other sites, notably, the Washington, D.C., CBS station with uncritical reporting, liberals, I mean Democrats, are making the claim that Mitt Romney brought a cheat sheet, “illegally,” to the US presidential debate Wednesday night.

But, showing that liberals, or I should say, Democrats, have just as much Chris Mooney type motivated reasoning to lie as Republicans, it was actually, apparently, a handkerchief, per Buzz Feed. Wish I had thought to look on a place like Memorandum FIRST before sharing the original link above on Facebook.

That said, in what's not actually a debate, sponsored by mega-rich corporations that anti-democratically excludes third-party candidates, the whole thing is nothing but theater and who the fuck cares who cares about real democracy and real political choices? Isn't the real problem, if you're a Democrat, that Obama didn't think of something similar, if Mitt had cheated? Just think of Michio Kaku's wet-dream Internet contact lenses!
Anyway, truth is, Mitt didn’t cheat.

But, Daily Kos, via one of its “contributors,” goes more conspiratorial than the “Bush had an electronic receiver on his back” from 2004.

Read Kos:
Yes it could be a hanky.  But it falls kind of heavy, and stays uniform in it's fold.  Plus it is flat.  I have never seen a man's hanky be so uniform and flat coming from a front pant's pocket.  Back pocket, yes, breast pocket in a jacket, yes.. but not the front pant pocket.
He was also wearing make up and to wipe any sweat from his face with a hanky would have taken off his make up.  Plus remember that old saying "Never let them see you sweat?"  If he was seen to wipe sweat from his brow, the optics would have been very bad ("Obama makes him nervous, he can't stand up to him.")
Wow. Of course, the proprietor of that website once claimed the CIA was full of closet liberals, so what can you expect? And froze my account for being too liberal and too green.

Since my friend posts all his statuses as “public,” I consider the comments by the friend of the friend legitimate to grab. Here it is:
Folks, he can be seen clearly returning to his podium at the end of the debate to pick up a sheet of paper, fold it, try ineptly to stuff it in his jacket pocket and then rope in his kid to have the son put it in his own pant's pocket.
Conspiracy thinking. Both parties do it … Democrats “pull a Chris Mooney” too.
Update: A second friend of this friend has weighed in, first making the assumption that I'm a typical conservative, rather than a left-liberal (at least for America, and a skeptical one, too) who voted Green in 2004 and 2008 and plans to do so again. That's despite comments on the link the second friend of a friend posted, that said Rachel Maddow had already debunked this.

And, yet another reason to say Chris Mooney is full of motivated reasoning bullshit with "The Republican Brain."


What’s wrong with Chris Mooney’s #TheRepublicanBrain?

Image via Goodreads
The Republican Brain has become a hot item among Democrats seeking to bash many Republicans for their climate change denialism, above all else. It's true that they do this, and that many Republicans do operate from a different mindset than many Democrats.

So, what's wrong with this book?

In a word, “scientism.” Mooney’s not as bad or as blatant about it as a Sam Harris, but, yes, the book does veer off into scientism.

And, Chris is not a scientist, but he is a science journalist of several years standing, and the author of previous books. He should know better.

And I suspect he DOES know better. But, not applying his own writing about “motivated reasoning,” or, as I have called it before on this blog, “pulling a Chris Mooney,” he’s engaged in politically driven motivated reasoning himself. As a left-liberal, albeit a skeptical one, I can say that without being a conservative ax-grinder of the likes of whom he obsessively-compulsively writes about to the degree of posting info about “bad” Amazon reviews of his book to Facebook.

Anyway, let’s look more at this scientism and motivated reasoning.

The scientism starts in the title.

The mind isn’t the brain, and no, I’m not saying that as an epistemological or ontological dualist. The mind arises from the brain, but it arises in interactions with other minds in social settings, perceptions of the world, etc. The mind isn’t a reductionistic artifact in a vacuum.

More below on other problems with the title, too.

Problem No. 2? Mooney fails to grapple with issues of evolutionary psychology, as properly done. I’m not talking about Pop Evolutionary Psychology. (That said, Mooney might possibly be guilty of what I’ve labeled in the past as Pop Evolutionary Sociology, what I consider Pop Ev Psych applied to particular social groups as a “just-so” explanatory device.

Yes, the personality issues on the five-type scale (more on that in a minute, in several ways) that can well be used to separate liberals and conservatives, did evolve hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years ago.

Others, though? If they didn’t evolve more recently, at the least, the modern degree of emphasis on them didn’t socially evolve until relatively modern times.

I think in specific about “authoritarianism.” Until the start of civilizations with the invention of agriculture about 10,000 years ago, there was much less call for authoritarian psychological issues than before, with small bands of hunter-gatherers.

But, major psychological changes don’t evolve that quickly, and Mooney knows that, too. Rather, among many people in early civilizations, the emphasis on authoritarianism socially evolved, and hence, authoritarian leaders gained in popularity, plural wives, etc. Whether even that contributed toward evolutionary growth in authoritarianism in a marginal way may be open to dispute, or at least, strong discussion.

Problem No. 3 is related to that, and back to the title.

“Republicans” didn’t exist 10,000 years ago, let alone 100,000 years ago. And, today’s GOP is not the party of Lincoln, or arguably even of Richard Nixon, recently named second-best environmental president ever by a group of environmental organizations.

Problem No. 4 is related to that.

The GOP is not the British Conservative Party, or Canada’s Conservatives, or the Rally for the Republic party in France, or the Christian Democrats in Germany. To think there’s a “Republican brain” that has specially come to exist in the U.S. is scientism squared.

These parties have a number of differences, between one another and even more, all of them in general vs. the US Republican Party.

Details in those differences include that most Conservatives (with the possibility of a fair minority of Canadian Conservatives) accept the facts of global warming. Ditto on evolutionary theory. And, other conservative parties accept the idea of national (and usually, single-payer) health care. And, I don’t know, because I’ve not read Chris’ book and won’t bother, if he allows for religiosity differences as a factor between the US and elsewhere.

Related to this, Chris executes a mainstream media error. Because he talks about Republicans vs. Democrats, from the title on, rather than liberals vs. conservatives, he plays the two-party game.

Left-liberals, whether buttering their bread more with Green types or with Socialists, are somewhat different from today’s Democrats. Libertarians, especially true libertarians like Gary Johnson, unencumbered with Ron Paul religiosity (or racism vestiges) are even more different from today’s Republicans. But, there’s no room for them in Mooney’s dyadic world.

And, here’s more thought on the five-type scale, and on using personality assessments, whatever they are, to make political assessments.

The five-type personality assessment scale, while an improvement over the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (which isn’t all bad, either, and may in some ways still be better than the five-type scale), let alone Jungian type theory before that, isn’t perfect. Mooney is putting his eggs in a pretty new, possibly somewhat weak, basket. (Sidebar: Enneagram devotees have already tried to co-opt the five-type system.)

Beyond that, not all conservatives fit neatly in one half of each of the five personality traits, nor do all liberals.

For example, many liberals, whether through heredity, child or adult trauma, or other reasons, rank as high as the average U.S. conservative on neuroticism. I know I do.


This is a decent three-star book, doing good work on collecting a lot of anecdotal evidence for different thought patterns between typical US conservatives and liberals. But, between scientism and all the omissions listed above, as well as thin explanatory information, it’s no more than three stars. And, because of all of these issues, on Goodreads, I classified it as a “politics/public policy” book, NOT a “science” book.

Jonathan Haidt, whom I don’t totally like for other intellectual reasons, seems to have a better take on these issues in “The Righteous Mind.”

October 04, 2012

Smarter ideas for newspaper paywalls

Matthew Ingram at GigaOm appears to have a Jeff Jarvis/Clay Shirky/Jay Rosen paywall-hating burr up his ass.

But, as I told him, his anti-paywall complaint is too narrowly focused.

One could charge a minimal general rate, plus have a freemium on top of that. Or have a metered paywall, that works like cell phones, with a minimal rate to read anything, rather than the NYT (which is so leaky as to not have a paywall) and start the meter at 0, not 10, 20 or whatever, and then ramp up rates from there. Or to be more creative, to charge more for looking at videos and stuff, take a page directly from cell phones and charge by the time spent on a page. I’m assuming that that would be easy for newspaper IT staffs to set up.

Beyond that, the real problem, of course, is that the Associated Press, largely under the leadership of the idiotic Dean Singleton, didn’t have a clue about the Internet and undercharged news aggregators for running AP material.

Since this isn’t Matt’s first anti-paywall post, in a separate comment, I said:
What’s obvious is that you, like Shirky, Rosen and other new media “gurus,” simply hate paywalls.

As for Jeff Jarvis? My left butt cheek knows more. Serious(ly), as for any specific ideas (h)e discusses, I’d Google Evgeny Morozov to see if he has some sarcastic takedown, first.
And, that’s the bottom line.

Beyond that, this is a “framing issue.” A metered paywall, a freemium wall, or anything other than a straight paywall can always be reverse-framed as a “membership” program. Hell, you can even give away PBS/NPR-type tchotchkes, if you want.

Update: Columbia Journalism Review totally agrees with me.

Prime ministers, presidents and principles

One thing last night’s presidential debate illustrated is that prime ministers, except where directly elected like in Israel, simply have to have more principles than presidential candidates. (Along with that, as Fact Check shows, the debates, here in the US, lead to gotcha moments and zingers, rather than detailed proposals about planned future policies.)

When you're running to represent a party, not just yourself, and executive and legislative are combined and you can't blame gridlock, you have to stand by at least a few principles, not just for the public and votes, but to control your own backbenchers. Now, the difference isn’t absolute. In the UK, MPs within the Labour Party disliked Tony Blair in part for running “presidential-style” campaigns.

But, it is largely true. The British have had debates between prime minister candidates, and they’re nothing like American presidential debates.

And, beyond that, Britain has the unique custom of “question time” on Fridays.

That said, this isn't totally true, even in coalition governments. Why Nick Clegg still has the Lib Dems in coalition in the UK after the failure of the proportional representation referendum, I don't know.

Could the US become slightly more parliamentary? While still retaining aspects of its presidential system? That is, becoming like France?

Yes, although it would require some constitutional amendments as well as simple changes of law.

My modest proposals:
1.     Up the House of Representatives to, say, 800 people. Of those, we would increase state-by-state single member districts from 435 to 600. To boost third parties, we would proportionally elect the other 200 off a national list, similar to what Germany does. (That part would require constitutional amendment.)
2.     Add, either by regions or nationally, 50 Senators to be elected proportionally off a national list. (Constitutional amendment.)
3.     Remove the Senate’s power to amend money bills, therefore putting the power of the purse more firmly in the House’s hands. (Constitutional amendment.)
4.     End the Senate’s filibuster power.
5.     Increase House terms to four years. (Constitutional amendment.) Possibly increase Senate terms to eight years, or else reduce them to four. (Constitutional amendment.)

Those few changes would not weaken Senate power too much, so, hopefully would not raise too many hackles. The third-party issues would not threaten a vast third-party wave, at least not immediately, and so would not draw two-party opposition, I think.

The money bill issues, and modest weakening of Senate power, might force the Speaker of the House and the House Minority Leader wanting to become Speaker to actually campaign on their own, by parties. And, it would force the presidential nominees to co-ordinate policy more with House leaders.

October 01, 2012

Let's end the charitable tax deduction

Why, you may ask? Because, if you understand the word “charity” the way I do, it’s not a “charitable” deduction, it’s a nonprofit deduction.

A New Yorker article about disgruntled billionaire financial mogul Leon Cooperman is interesting enough for showing him being moronic enough to claim Obama is "anti-private aviation." However, beyond that, the article in general is good for pointing out why we should probably just eliminate the charitable contributions income tax deduction.
Many billionaires have come to view charity as privatized taxation, paid at a level they determine, and to organizations they choose. “All things being equal, you’d rather have control of the money than the government,” Cooperman said. “Even if you’re giving it away, you’d rather give it away the way you want to give it away rather than the way the government gives it away.” Cooperman and his wife focus their giving on Jewish issues, education, and their local community in New Jersey, and he is also setting up a foundation that will allow his children and grandchildren to support their own chosen causes after he dies.

Foster Friess, a retired mutual-fund investor from Wyoming who was the backer of the main Super PAC supporting the Republican primary candidate Rick Santorum, expounded on this view in a video interview in February. “People don’t realize how wealthy people self-tax,” he said. “If you have a certain cause, an art museum or a symphony, and you want to support it, it would be nice if you had the choice.” The middle class anonymously and nervously pays its thirty-five per cent to the I.R.S., while the super-rich pay fourteen per cent, and are then praised for giving five or ten per cent more to pet causes, often with the perk of having their names engraved above the door.
It hugely favors the rich and their "charities" of choice, which are often fine arts groups, not real charities. Just nonprofits. Note that Friess’ two listed types of “charities” were actually nonprofit arts organizations. Not “charities” as I understand them and distinguish them from nonprofits. How much does he, or Cooperman, give to food banks? Goodwill or Salvation Army?

Beyond that, of course, this whole idea that giving to ANY nonprofits, even if they were true charities, is a “self-tax” is bullshit. And, the easiest way to prove it’s bullshit is to get rid of tax deductions for contributions to nonprofits.

True, that may hurt food banks’ middle-class contributions. We could address that by revamping the IRS code to put true charities in a class called human service organizations or something.