Thursday, August 27, 2009
I asked for comments about the larger font I have started using on my two new sites: Political Correctness Watch and Eye on Britain. Most people liked the larger font but those who did not seemed to dislike it mainly because it made a narrow column slow to scroll through. I have therefore changed the template on both blogs to the one with the widest main columns available for the site. I think that should go closer to suiting everybody. Sadly, though, in both cases, the wide column templates had no colour whatevever! I am hoping that someone who knows their way around templates a bit better than I do might eventually tell me how to change them into my usual green and yellow pattern.
Study Demonstrates How We Support Our False Beliefs
The study reported below is reasonable on the whole but what it overlooks is that most people take only the most cursory interest in politics and know very little about it. So their picture of politics will inevitably be oversimplified. Sad to say, it is the personality of the candidate that determines most votes that are not already "rusted on" to a particular party. Exit interviews with Obama voters after the 2008 Presidential election showed that most voters had quite mistaken ideas of what the Republican and Democrat policies were. They were just taken in by the con-man personality. So the "motivated cognition" explanation offered below is unparsimonious (needlessly complex). Sheer ignorance is sufficient to explain the results
In a study published in the most recent issue of the journal Sociological Inquiry, sociologists from four major research institutions focus on one of the most curious aspects of the 2004 presidential election: the strength and resilience of the belief among many Americans that Saddam Hussein was linked to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Although this belief influenced the 2004 election, they claim it did not result from pro-Bush propaganda, but from an urgent need by many Americans to seek justification for a war already in progress.
The findings may illuminate reasons why some people form false beliefs about the pros and cons of health-care reform or regarding President Obama's citizenship, for example.
The study, "There Must Be a Reason: Osama, Saddam and Inferred Justification" calls such unsubstantiated beliefs "a serious challenge to democratic theory and practice" and considers how and why it was maintained by so many voters for so long in the absence of supporting evidence.
Co-author Steven Hoffman, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo, says, "Our data shows substantial support for a cognitive theory known as 'motivated reasoning,' which suggests that rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe. "In fact," he says, "for the most part people completely ignore contrary information. "The study demonstrates voters' ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information," he explains.
While numerous scholars have blamed a campaign of false information and innuendo from the Bush administration, this study argues that the primary cause of misperception in the 9/11-Saddam Hussein case was not the presence or absence of accurate data but a respondent's desire to believe in particular kinds of information. "The argument here is that people get deeply attached to their beliefs," Hoffman says.
"We form emotional attachments that get wrapped up in our personal identity and sense of morality, irrespective of the facts of the matter. The problem is that this notion of 'motivated reasoning' has only been supported with experimental results in artificial settings. We decided it was time to see if it held up when you talk to actual voters in their homes, workplaces, restaurants, offices and other deliberative settings."
The survey and interview-based study was conducted by Hoffman, Monica Prasad, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology at Northwestern University; Northwestern graduate students Kieren Bezila and Kate Kindleberger; Andrew Perrin, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and UNC graduate students Kim Manturuk, Andrew R. Payton and Ashleigh Smith Powers (now an assistant professor of political science and psychology at Millsaps College).
The study addresses what it refers to as a "serious challenge to democratic theory and practice that results when citizens with incorrect information cannot form appropriate preferences or evaluate the preferences of others."
One of the most curious "false beliefs" of the 2004 presidential election, they say, was a strong and resilient belief among many Americans that Saddam Hussein was linked to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Hoffman says that over the course of the 2004 presidential campaign, several polls showed that majorities of respondents believed that Saddam Hussein was either partly or largely responsible for the 9/11 attacks, a percentage that declined very slowly, dipping below 50 percent only in late 2003. "This misperception that Hussein was responsible for the Twin Tower terrorist attacks was very persistent, despite all the evidence suggesting that no link existed," Hoffman says.
The study team employed a technique called "challenge interviews" on a sample of voters who reported believing in a link between Saddam and 9/11. The researchers presented the available evidence of the link, along with the evidence that there was no link, and then pushed respondents to justify their opinion on the matter. For all but one respondent, the overwhelming evidence that there was no link left no impact on their arguments in support of the link.
One unexpected pattern that emerged from the different justifications that subjects offered for continuing to believe in the validity of the link was that it helped citizens make sense of the Bush Administration's decision to go to war against Iraq. "We refer to this as 'inferred justification,'" says Hoffman "because for these voters, the sheer fact that we were engaged in war led to a post-hoc search for a justification for that war. "People were basically making up justifications for the fact that we were at war," he says.
"One of the things that is really interesting about this, from both the perspective of voting patterns but also for democratic theory more generally, Hoffman says, "is that we did not find that people were being duped by a campaign of innuendo so much as they were actively constructing links and justifications that did not exist.
"They wanted to believe in the link," he says, "because it helped them make sense of a current reality. So voters' ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information, whether we think that is good or bad for democratic practice, does at least demonstrate an impressive form of creativity."
A Clunker Q&A
by Jeff Jacoby
Q: CONGRESSMAN, was "Cash for Clunkers" a success?
A: Of course it was! I'm surprised you'd even ask. "It has been successful beyond anybody's imagination," President Obama said last week. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said he was thrilled "to be part of the best economic news story in America." GM executive Mike DiGiovanni raved that "it really is all thumbs up," a rare example of an undertaking "that it's hard to find anything negative about." If that's not success, I don't know what is.
Q: If it has been such a wonderful program, why did it end this week?
A: Well, nothing wonderful lasts forever. All the money available for rebates has been claimed, so the program has come to a close.
Q: But why close down "the best economic news story in America?" You extended it once; why not a second time? Why not keep it going forever?
A: You forget that Congress has other priorities too. Cash for Clunkers has been terrific for automobile dealers, but there is more to the economy than cars.
Q: Oh, you mean you're now going to offer rebates to consumers who buy other things, like new couches or paint jobs or airplane tickets?
A: No, that wasn't exactly what I --
Q: But aren't those purchases as deserving of subsidies as cars? Surely Congress wants to help furniture dealers and housepainters and airline employees too?
A: Yes, of course, but -- I mean -- well, let me think about that.
Q: By the way, if the "clunkers" program were really such a boon for the auto business, why did so many car dealers back out of it early?
A: "So many?" Don't exaggerate!
Q: It's no exaggeration, congressman. Associated Press reported that AutoNation, the largest dealership chain in America, pulled out of Cash for Clunkers last Thursday -- three full days before the deadline. Automotive News ran a story about other dealers who found the government so difficult to deal with that they got out even earlier. "It's just a mess, an absolute mess," one of them said. The News surveyed dealerships, and more than one-eighth of those responding said they had stopped doing "clunker" deals because it was such a bureaucratic nightmare. According to the New York Post, half of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association dropped out early. Does that sound like something the president should be calling "successful beyond anybody's imagination?"
A: OK, maybe there have been snafus with the government's computers and whatnot, but you're missing the forest for the trees: This has been an incredible shot in the arm for the economy. Thousands of jobs have been created or saved, and hundreds of thousands of cars were sold.
Q: Yes, but for every car sold, a car had to be destroyed. I understand why that might make GM happy. But how does the destruction of 750,000 used cars -- all of which had to be in drivable condition to qualify for a rebate -- help your constituents who can't afford a new car? All this program did for them was guarantee that used cars will become more expensive. Poorer drivers will be penalized to subsidize new cars for wealthier drivers. Isn't that immoral?
A: Look, there are tradeoffs to everything. You're overlooking all the benefits that those new car sales will generate.
Q: No, I'm refusing to ignore all the costs that inevitably accompany those benefits. Congress and the administration took $3 billion from taxpayers in order to boost car sales. That's $3 billion taxpayers will not be able to spend on groceries or tuition or a down payment on a new house. Before you can credit Cash for Clunkers with the "multiplier effect" of those new-car sales, you have to charge it with a negative multiplier effect at least as great: all the jobs and growth and stimulus that won't materialize because the government decided to spend $3 billion disabling, crushing, and shredding used cars. Don't you see that everything government does, it does at someone's expense?
A: You can say what you like, but this was a popular program.
Q: According to the polls, 54 percent of Americans opposed it. You call that popular?
A: Look, I have to go. But let me just say this: If Cash for Clunkers were as dubious as you suggest, it wouldn't have had so many takers.
Q: Oh, for heaven's sake, congressman: If you give away money, won't people always line up to take it?
Dead Ted: Good riddance to bad rubbish: "Mr. Kennedy, a one-time presidential hopeful, nine-term senator and last of the major public figures from the American version of Camelot, died at age 77 of brain cancer, his family said early Wednesday. He leaves a controversial personal history, a complicated legacy of defiance and compromise, and a gaping hole in American liberalism." [He wasn't as bad for America as he was for Mary Jo but he tried]
NY: Democrat fundraiser charged with fraud: "A wealthy investment banker and prominent fundraiser for President Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and other top Democrats was arrested Tuesday on charges that he lied to get a $74 million business loan. Prosecutors accused Hassan Nemazee of giving Citibank ‘fraudulent and forged’ documents showing that he owned millions of dollars in collateral. A criminal complaint also accuses Nemazee of providing false verifying information for financial institutions, including a phone number that actually belonged to him.”
SCOTUS: Priest records should be unsealed: “The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday against a Roman Catholic diocese in Connecticut, saying that thousands of documents generated by lawsuits against six priests for alleged sexual abuse cannot remain sealed. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Tuesday denied the Bridgeport diocese’s request to continue a stay on the release of the papers until the full court decides whether to review the case.”
“Stimulus” checks went to inmates: “The federal government mistakenly sent out stimulus checks to 1,700 inmates, the Social Security Administration said Tuesday — a $425,000 error. Social Security spokesman Dan Moraski told FOXNews.com in a written statement that the money went out because official records ‘did not accurately reflect that they were in prison.’ The inspector general’s office for the Social Security Administration is now looking into the problem as part of its broader audit on stimulus spending. The Social Security Administration acknowledged the glitch following a report that nearly two-dozen inmates in Massachusetts had wrongly received the $250 stimulus checks.”
When the rich get poorer, look out below: “The positive effects of market capitalism have been felt around the world. Even in countries such India and Brazil, the number of poor people have declined markedly since 1980. Worldwide the number of extreme poor has fallen by 50%. Trickle-down economics appears to be have more a waterfall than a drizzle. As Andrew Carnegie once said, ‘Capitalism is about turning luxuries into necessities.’ But what about the future? The answer is simple: When times are good, the rich get richer and the poor get richer too. But when times are tough, the rich get poorer … and so do the poor and middle class.”
The high cost of liberalism: "“Which tax increases do the current administration and Congress intend to enact? There are more than a dozen, all of which would negatively affect our economy, says Pete du Pont, the former governor of Delaware and current Board Chairman of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA). One has already been signed into law by President Obama: an increase in the tax on tobacco, to $1.01 a pack of cigarettes from 39 cents, and to as much as 40 cents a cigar from a nickel — increases of 159 percent and 700 percent, respectively (this is expected to bring in $8 billion a year).”
Fascism and communism: Two sides of the same coin: “In an article in last week’s Guardian, Jonathan Steele objects to the joint condemnation of communism and fascism. The moral he draws is that ‘History is too complex and sensitive to be left to politicians.’ Quite right, but it is also too complex to be used to defend a failed political ideology by crudely trying to show that another is worse. Mr Steele was upset that the ‘23 August be proclaimed European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, in order to preserve the memory of the victims of mass deportations and exterminations.’”
Madison checks Obama: “Like most presidents, Obama took office intending to bend history to his liking. This impulse, while understandable, leads to overreach. In the case of Obama, it has been abetted by two significant misjudgments. The first was following the counsel of his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who famously declared, ‘You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.’ The assumption being that the American public in the midst of a deep and prolonged recession yearned for government action — not just on the economy but on the environment and, especially, on health care. The Obama administration views this as a once-in-a-generation moment, plastic and rich with possibilities. It is Obama’s chance to reshape the American political landscape through a series of bold initiatives. It turns out the president reacted in precisely the wrong way to the situation he confronted. Most Americans — whose instinctive conservatism has been reinforced by the fear and uncertainty created by the financial crisis — long for stability.”
Spending ourselves to death: "Government expenditures are running at 185 percent of revenue, which is like the lone family breadwinner earning $50,000 a year, while the family spends $92,500 a year. With families that do that, it is not too long before the credit cards are cut off, the mortgage is called in and the family Chevy is repossessed. According to those same White House figures, this year’s deficit will be closer to $1.6 trillion than the $1.8 trillion previously projected. Now, there are only three basic ways to finance that deficit. The first is by borrowing the savings of one’s own citizens, thus consuming the seed corn of the private economy. The second is by borrowing from abroad. The third is by having the Fed, ‘through a roundabout process,’ writes Buffett, ‘printing money.’”
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
Posted by JR at 12:34 AM