Sunday, April 01, 2012

Another brainless Leftist psychologist

It's not uncommon for psychologists to do research into conservatism. But psychologists tend to live in a little Leftist bubble. It's doubtful if many of them have ever actually met a conservative to talk to. So their conception of what conservatives think is a rather hilarious caricature of actual conservatism.

In particular, they are thoroughly wedded to the notion that conservatives are people who oppose change. But every conservative I know has a whole list of things he would like to change in the society in which we live. So the poor old Leftist psychologist can't even get past first base in his research. He doesn't even know what he is studying. The idea that a preference for individual liberty and minimal government might be the lodestar for conservatives is simply unknown to him. He has certainly never read or heard a Ronald Reagan speech.

The guy below makes the usual howlers but adds another one. He says conservatives are acceptant of hierarchy. How that ties in with a preference for individual liberty and minimal government escapes me. Anyhow, just for fun below is the abstract of his paper. I guess he is studying something but who knows what it is?
Low-Effort Thought Promotes Political Conservatism

By Scott Eidelman et al;

The authors test the hypothesis that low-effort thought promotes political conservatism. In Study 1, alcohol intoxication was measured among bar patrons; as blood alcohol level increased, so did political conservatism (controlling for sex, education, and political identification). In Study 2, participants under cognitive load reported more conservative attitudes than their no-load counterparts. In Study 3, time pressure increased participants’ endorsement of conservative terms. In Study 4, participants considering political terms in a cursory manner endorsed conservative terms more than those asked to cogitate; an indicator of effortful thought (recognition memory) partially mediated the relationship between processing effort and conservatism. Together these data suggest that political conservatism may be a process consequence of low-effort thought; when effortful, deliberate thought is disengaged, endorsement of conservative ideology increases.



A mind-blowing performance

Someone sent me a link to the video below and it left me with a blown mind for some time. I was just limp and not knowing what to do next. It is a rendition of "The Prayer" by Celine Dion but done in the best operatic style.

Commentary here


The Fed Obliterates the Savings Ethic

Depression babies learned early that "saving for a rainy day" was not something one hopes to do but a requirement. The saying originated when most people worked on the farm. And when it rained, the fields were too wet to plow, and the farmer — not to mention the hired hands — made no money.

Of course, my grandfather was the diligent sort who would use rainy days to do required maintenance on his implements, noting with derision other farmers who spent rainy days at the bar in town. He believed they would surely end up with broken equipment when the sun would reappear, keeping them from making hay.

So the idea of savings is not necessarily the return one receives on the money that's socked away, but the piece of mind that, when the weather doesn't cooperate, the saver has a little stash to tide him over. Of course, the vast majority of us don't have to worry about the weather.

But an economic storm hit a couple years ago and plenty of people have not had work, rain or shine. Those who took heed of that old saw have no doubt weathered the storm better than those who didn't. Most financial advisors recommend that a person have three month's worth of living expenses saved — and some say six months worth, just in case. But how many people heed that advice?

There is no caveat to the counsel that says, "Keep six months of savings around if the money is earning at least six percent." Even if the money sits there all shiny, not earning a thing, it's the liquidity and insurance against the unknown that's the issue.

Unfortunately, a central bank's debauchery of the currency serves to raise people's time preferences and impair their judgment. In a blog post recently, I highlighted the advice of life coach and author John P. Strelecky, who advises people to spend their tax refunds on an experience they will remember forever, rather than saving the few hundred or thousand dollars that the IRS may be giving back.

Live your life for today, says the life coach — a couple thousand bucks isn't going to matter anyway. I posted to the Mises Blog to point out how ludicrous this advice is. But most who commented sided with Strelecky:

I think his advice is spot-on, at least given the constraints of the times in which we live. What's the point in saving if inflation will ravage whatever you manage to accumulate?

You play by the rules of the game. Your savings growth will be puny due to pathetic interest rates, erased by inflation, and confiscated by a rapacious state. So go ahead, enjoy the "money" now, while it still has some value.

Most people don't really have a better place to put the money than into a pleasurable experience, which is all you will want in the end.

Gotta agree with the comments. Maybe not trips or other "experiences." But I feel safer with stuff than I do with Federal Reserve notes going forward.

That's just what central bankers like to hear. They are worried about deflation. A few months ago, the Chicago Fed's Charles Evans said,
It seems to me if we could somehow get lower real interest rates so that the amount of excess savings that is taking place relative to investment is lowered, that would be one channel for stimulating the economy.

Lord Keynes was constantly worried that people were saving too much and consuming too little — thus the need for more and cheaper money to stimulate the economy. Mr. Bernanke is nothing if not a good Keynesian, and his low rates make even the savviest question whether to forgo consumption.

And likely no retiree, when contemplating leaving the workforce, figured 1 percent interest rates (or less) into their retirement cash-flow planning. In a front-page article, the Wall Street Journal took a look at "retirees who find themselves on the wrong end of the Federal Reserve's epic attempt to rescue the economy with cheap money."

The WSJ rightly points out that the Fed's low rates have been a windfall for banks and borrowers, but a problem for those needing income from their savings to live on. People who thought they played the game right, worked hard, saved money, and now want to take it easy, are panicked that money-market funds are throwing off but 24 basis points. "That's one-tenth the level of late 2007 and the lowest on records dating back to 1959," the Journal reports.

As bad as the Fed-engineered low rates are for those trying to live off past savings, reporter Mark Whitehouse makes the point that the low rates keep young people from building up funds for the future — whether it's for emergencies or retirement. Working Americans put less money into financial assets last year than at anytime on record — except 2009, when people pulled money out. And while the Department of Commerce says the personal savings rate has risen to 5.8 percent, Whitehouse explains, "That's in large part because it counts reductions in personal debt, such as mortgages and credit-card balances, as savings." But most debt reduction, Whitehouse writes, has been driven by defaults, rather than saving.

The Fed's interest-rate policy also leads people into taking more risk with their savings than they should. "That's why most of us are in the stock market, because there's no place else to go," says 70-year-old John Lehman, who would rather have his money in bank certificates of deposit but must resort to speculating. "I hope my assets don't run out before I die."

Many retire with next to nothing as it is. According to AARP, 16 percent of Americans have not saved a dime for retirement, and nearly half have saved less than $50,000.

Those with no savings are more dependent on government and others when the unexpected occurs, whether it's job loss or the washing machine quits. Professor Paul Cantor reminds us in his article, "Hyperinflation and Hyperreality: Mann's 'Disorder and Early Sorrow,'" that "money is a central source of stability, continuity, and coherence in any community. Hence to tamper with the basic money supply is to tamper with a community's sense of value."

When the Fed makes saving seem futile and immediate pleasure seem rational, the world has been diabolically turned upside down. Just one step away from hyperinflation, the central banks' actions are threatening "to undermine and dissolve all sense of value in a society."

"Thus inflation serves to heighten the already frantic pace of modern life, further disorienting people and undermining whatever sense of stability they may still have," Cantor explains.

The social order is upended in Mann's story as wealth is transferred from those who diligently saved all of their lives to speculators. As it was in the Weimar Germany that Mann describes, so it is today, as people believe it futile to sock away a little money here and there, and instead feel compelled to either speculate or just blow what they have on good times.

And while the retirees mentioned in the WSJ article are being crippled financially, Cantor points out that Mann's portrayal of hyperinflation uncovers "something psychologically more debilitating happening to the older generation." Impetuous, high-time-preference behavior displayed by the young appears rational in an inflationary period, while prudence and conservatism appear to be not even quaint but downright silly.

As Mann described so long ago, the world of inflation is the illusion of wealth, created by the government's printing press, distorting everything we see and perverting our judgment. Meanwhile the cry for stimulus continues, while our culture and values are buried under a pile of paper.



Overplaying the hate card

Martin case shows race baiting harms everyone

If Oscars were awarded for liberal hysteria, California’s Rep. Barbara Lee would be a perennial contender. On Tuesday, at a congressional forum on the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, Ms. Lee proclaimed that it was the result of “a toxic and deadly mix.”

“While this issue has shocked American culture, it hasn’t shocked me,” she said in a press statement. “The combination of the powerful gun lobby, racial profiling and hate crimes makes this local matter one of national attention.”

Who knew that the alleged shooter (did you notice how fast the word “alleged” disappeared in news reports?), neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman, was possessed by all those evil spirits when he began following Mr. Martin before the tragic confrontation on Feb. 26? Or that people who defend the Second Amendment are somehow responsible?

The New Black Panther Party, last seen intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place in 2008, has offered a $10,000 reward for the “capture” of Mr. Zimmerman, who has not been arrested as of this writing. The police say he acted in self-defense. Maybe so, maybe not, but we won’t know until all the facts come out.

Speaking of which, as Trayvon’s own problems with the law come to light, organizers of racially charged mass marches want any such facts suppressed, contending that asking questions amounts to smearing the dead. On the other hand, Mr. Zimmerman, identified constantly as “white-Hispanic,” is fair game. The whole thing is a sad, terrible business that unscrupulous race baiters are making worse.

So far, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s Justice Department, which withdrew the Black Panther voter case despite a conviction, has issued no public warning to the Panthers that they might be flirting with incitement or intimidation. The Justice Department also has ignored the execution-style shooting of two white British tourists in Sarasota, Fla., last April by a black teen who has been convicted of murder. President Obama, who has fanned racial flames in the Trayvon Martin case, apparently has ignored three letters from a friend of the slain tourists, who told the British press that he thinks the absence of presidential condolence is because the case has no “political value.”

Meanwhile, at the request of New York Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the Justice Department is reviewing the constitutionality of state laws that allow people to use force in their own defense. The “stand your ground” laws are meant to spare people who defend themselves from being sued by assailants. Liberals hate those laws because they reinforce the Second Amendment and interfere with the paradigm of criminal as victim.

The left’s constant accusations are getting a bit thick. Last month, an NAACP delegation actually complained to the United Nations in Geneva that state photo ID laws that prevent vote fraud are a violation of “human rights.”

In Loudoun County, Va., a local Democrat-owned newspaper, the Loudoun Times-Mirror, ran a banner headline on Wednesday that screamed: “Delgaudio’s advocacy group an anti-gay hate group, SPLC claims.”

Eugene Delgaudio is a county supervisor and founder of Public Advocate of the United States, a conservative advocacy group. SPLC is the Southern Poverty Law Center, which began as a small group fighting racism and morphed into a fabulously wealthy bully used by the left to apply the “hate” stamp to people and groups with whom the left disagrees.

The SPLC tracks real hate groups such as skinheads, neo-Nazis and the like, and when it does, it performs a valuable public service as an early-warning system. But recently, SPLC jumped the shark, lumping orthodox Christian outfits like the Family Research Council, Coral Ridge Ministries and others with real hate groups. That’s because those Christian organizations resist the cultural blitzkrieg to accept homosexual and transgender behavior as healthy, normal and unchangeable. The groups contend that people tempted in those ways deserve the same chance for repentance and salvation as everyone else.

Liberals used to play the race card at the drop of a hat. The conservative joke was, “How do you know you’re winning an argument with liberals? They call you a racist.” Now, liberals play the hate card just as often.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has become a mirror of its own allegations. It makes false charges of hate and equates good people with violent extremists. The Anti-Defamation League ought to be all over the SPLC, but it, too, has bought into a radical leftist agenda that redefines traditional morality as a form of hatred.

In a society trained to react in Pavlovian fury toward someone accused of harboring “hate,” this charge is a powerful weapon for crushing dissent. Gradually, people are being conditioned to be race-obsessed and to associate traditional religious morality with bigotry and extremism.

The uneven, overheated nature of hate allegations undermines our cultural consensus that hate really is a bad thing. It cheapens the language, like redefining marriage, as Great Britain’s formerly “Conservative” Party is inexplicably championing. Words are losing their meaning. When the SPLC calls somebody a “hater,” you don’t really know until you look more closely.

The good news is that surveys show the progressives’ “hate” parade is wearing out its welcome. How many people really believe that the Catholic Church and the Republican Party are “waging a war against women” because they want to restore conscience protections? How many people think Rush Limbaugh should be driven from the air while foul-mouthed liberals like Bill Maher assail conservative women with impunity?

Does anyone really believe anymore that march/protest/newshounds Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who never miss a chance to fan the flame of racial resentment, really want us all to get along?

Justice needs to be done in the Trayvon Martin case, but a racially charged circus atmosphere won’t make it any easier.




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