Monday, March 05, 2012

The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives: Personality Profiles, Interaction Styles, and the Things They Leave Behind

The above is the title of a 2008 academic journal article by Carney, Jost, Gosling and Potter. I can't remember commenting on it previously so better late than never.

It regurgitates an approximately 80 year old theory that Leftists are more "open" to experience and conservatives are not. I found something similar in my own research. I found that Leftists were sensation-seekers across the board. They even liked the sensations offered by the consumer society.

But being "open to experience" and being "sensation seekers" are broadly opposite in tone, however. The same behaviour could merit either description depending on your point of view and your value set. The same behaviour could also merit either condemnation or praise depending on your point of view and value set. Carney et al might perhaps have delved into that a bit but were really concerned only to document the politics/personality comparison. And the reason they worked so hard at it is that the previous psychological research on the relationship is pretty inconclusive.

And one reason why it is inconclusive is that nearly all the so-called "research" on the subject is based on handing out a bunch of questionnaires to college students in the classes you teach. A poorer environment in which to study conservatism would be hard to imagine!

In that connection I found the following report from Carney et al amusing: "In the context of the experimental situation, conservatives behaved in a more detached and disengaged manner in general. Although this behavior was not indicative of conscientiousness, it did reflect the kind of withdrawn, reserved, inhibited, and even rigid interaction style".

If Carney et al. had the slightest inking of sociological sophistication, they would have understood that finding very well. A conservative in the far-Left environment of an American university would have every reason to act in a withdrawn manner. A conservative speaking his mind in that setting could bring no end of trouble down on his head!

But Carney et al were apparently unfazed by all that and did the usual: handed out a bunch of questionnaires to college students as the basis for their research. So I have to confess amusement at their findings. On the "sample" they used which had most demographic variety, their set of personality measures accounted for only 4% of the variance in social conservatism. To portray that in another way, if you had 100 people who were open to experience, 52 would be Leftists and 48 would be conservatives. Knowing a person's personality gave you essentially zero chance of guessing their social conservatism, in other words.

The authors hyped their findings way beyond that but that 4% is their most well-founded result.

My study on the subject was based on a proper random sample of the general population so if it is people at large that we are talking about, we do well to look at the results there. I also found correlations that explained little of the variance in political attitudes. So the various versions of "openness" have been a red herring when it comes to explaining political stance. And my study looked at actual vote, as well as one's political self-description -- which is a big step beyond what Carney et al did. And what did I find? I found that personality gave ZERO prediction of vote!

Leftist psychologists have been grinding away at that "liberals are more open" theme for decades. They desperately want it to be true but it isn't! It is other personality types that we will have to look at to predict vote. How about tendency to rage? The amount of rage that we conservative bloggers get directed at us from Leftists answers that question without need for further research, I think.


The Obama birth certificate


What really happened in the Pennsylvania "zombie Mohammed" case?

The story that flew around the blogosphere last week was guaranteed to cause an uproar: A Muslim assaults an atheist for mocking Mohammed, and a Muslim judge dismisses the charges and berates the victim-and it all happens here in America. Suddenly, warnings about the threat of Sharia law on our shores got a strong boost.

In fact, there was no "Sharia court," and the judge is not a Muslim. But, however egregious the misreporting of the story and the vilification of the judge-Cumberland Country, Pennsylvania magistrate Mark W. Martin, who graciously answered my queries in an email exchange-the actual facts of the story are troubling. Judge Martin's intent may have been entirely benign, but his handling of the case sends a bad message not only about freedom of speech, but about the place of Islam in American culture.

It is not unusual for judges to admonish the parties in a case, sometimes harshly, about their conduct. In this instance, though, the lecture was startlingly one-sided. Judge Martin lambasted Perce for his disrespect for other people's culture and faith while not one critical word was spoken to Elbayomy.

There is nothing wrong with telling someone that just because he has a constitutional right to say something doesn't mean he should say it (which Judge Martin told me was his point). Yet there is something inherently disturbing about a public official chastising a citizen for engaging in constitutionally protected expression, however obnoxious. It is especially troubling when it's a matter of criticizing or even lampooning religion, an area in which free speech has so often been trampled.

Meanwhile, Judge Martin had before him a defendant who, by his own and his lawyer's admission, was grossly ignorant of the protections for free speech in America. Surely, a lecture on civics would not have been amiss.

When I posed this question to the judge, he replied that his remarks about First Amendment rights were addressed to both parties: "It was a dual message . that the victim was within his constitutional rights to do what he did." But, given that Perce was the one being chided, that message was likely lost on the defendant-particularly since it came with the disclaimer that these rights should not be used to "piss off other people and other cultures" and with the baffling statement that Perce was "outside [his] bounds on First Amendment rights."

The case has another worrisome aspect. While no religion has a monopoly on fanaticism, it is no secret that, for many complex reasons, religious intolerance is at present far more entrenched, more common, and more extreme in Islam than in other major religions. Some argue that violent suppression of dissent is in the nature of Islam, and insinuate that every Muslim in the West is a potential agent of sharia tyranny.

Judge Martin did not, of course, invoke sharia law as a basis for his ruling; nor did he suggest that Elbayomy would have been justified in assaulting Perce because his religion commanded it. But he did seem to suggest that insults to the Muslim faith are especially bad because of how impermissible blasphemy is in many Muslim countries and because of the role religion plays in Muslims' lives. Indeed, he specifically drew a distinction between "how Americans practice Christianity" and how Muslims practice Islam: "Islam is not just a religion, it's their culture . it's their very essence, their very being."

Of course, there are many different ways in which Americans practice Christianity and Muslims practice Islam. Some American Christians respond to perceived slights to their faith in ugly ways (such as threats of violence against productions of Terence McNally's play, Corpus Christi, featuring a gay Jesus). But American religious practice, overall, is strongly tied to a hard-won tradition of freedom of religion-and irreligion. Judge Martin's comments seem to suggest that Muslims are far less capable than Christians of dealing sensibly with insults or challenges to their faith. That does a serious disservice both to American democracy and to American Muslims.

Already, this case has given ammunition to peddlers of "Muslim menace" panic (some of whom are now spinning the paranoid fantasy that Judge Martin really is a Muslim but is hiding it to mislead the infidels). The main culprits are those who would sensationalize and twist facts to advance their agenda, be it atheism or Muslim-bashing. But a misguided notion of cultural sensitivity that amounts to a special concern to avoid giving religious offense to Muslims can only lead us further down that path.



The Pill is a Taxing Matter

Dick McDonald

I must admit I have paid little attention over the years to the condom-pill and birth control issues. So it was a great awaking when the current flap came to light. I saw a 30-year old Georgetown law student advocating for the university to supply her with birth control pills free of charge. Later I heard Debbie Wasserman Schultz claim that the birth control pill is an expensive $3,000 a year issue.

It came as quite a shock that government and insurance companies were involved. In my day it was an private matter handled by the individual. I knew there were debates on it I just didn’t pay much attention.

Hearing more about it I learned that Obamacare mandates that insurance companies must supply women with free birth control pills. As a mandate transfers the insurance company obligation from - a risk they can refuse to cover to one they have no choice but must cover - it changes the nature of the cost to that of an indirect tax imposed by Congress.

Rather than get exercised over a new tax or my lack of knowledge on the subject I first called my Rite Aid pharmacy to check on a few things. First of all they asked if I had insurance. My antenna immediately went up only to find out that most health insurance policies already cover birth control pills.

Needless to say I realized that if insurance already covered it why didn’t a $3,000 a year bill or $250 a month “tax” raise some public concerns before. The pharmacist had the answer. She had generic birth control pills that ran about $30 a month or $360 a year not $3,000. Further almost all women bought the generic passing up the brands which cost up to $113 month.

Received via email


Israeli Confidence-Building Measures: An absurdity

The perennial Arab war on Israel — which we dignify with neutral titles like “Arab/Israeli conflict” — tries the patience of bystanders, yet politicians are continually tantalized at the prospect of another round of talks, and predictably support what are termed Israeli “confidence-building measures.” Two recent examples:

* Jerusalem Post, February 3: “Quartet envoy Tony Blair is involved in intensive talks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu about putting together a package of economic gestures to keep the Palestinians directly engaged with Israel in low-level talks in Jordan.”

* Agence France Presse, February 2: “[UN Secretary-General] Ban [Ki-moon] has this week urged Israel to make ‘goodwill gestures’ to tempt the Palestinians back to talks.”

Note that Israel is not being asked to make these “gestures” in return for anything. It is urged to do so merely to entice the Palestinian Authority (PA) to negotiate with it. In other words, the intended “gestures” are unilateral Israeli concessions. Unfortunately, peace has never been facilitated by Israeli unilateral concessions. Quite the contrary.

Last October, Israel freed 1,027 Palestinian prisoners — including hundreds of convicted terrorists — in exchange for kidnapped Israeli serviceman Gilad Shalit. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal greeted this not as a step on the road to peace but as a great victory over Israel.

Note: this was the reaction of Israel’s enemies to a negotiated (though stunningly lopsided) deal. Following this behavior, imagine how unilateral Israeli concessions are received by the same people: not as laudable efforts to bring peace closer, but as acts of weakness heralding eventual Israeli defeat.

Take the biggest Israeli unilateral concession of them all — the 2005 evacuation of Gaza. How was this received? Here is the view of senior PA official Muhammad Dahlan: "The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is a victory for the Palestinian people’s will. … The withdrawal should take place without an agreement and with no political gains [for Israel]."

The estimate of Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri: "We are completely confident that … the Palestinian resistance will kick them out of the Palestinian territories, and we will continue our resistance."

In 2009 came another major — indeed, “unprecedented” (Hillary Clinton’s description) — Israeli confidence-building measure at the behest of President Barack Obama: a 10-month unilateral freeze on the construction of Jewish homes in the West Bank. Did negotiations take off? No. The PA stayed away from talks until well into the tenth month, spoke across the table to the Israelis for a few days, and then broke off — and demanded a permanent freeze.

Worse than failure, Israeli confidence-building gestures can also be dangerous. Freed terrorists have often returned to terrorism and murdered more Israelis. Removing security checkpoints and roadblocks have enabled terrorists to carry out attacks and escape. A study by the Almagor Terror Victims Association showed that 177 Israelis were killed in 30 terrorist attacks since 2000 by previously freed terrorists — many of them freed within the framework of confidence-building gestures.



There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


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