Month: February 2010

Are Right-Wingers a Different Species?

No More Mister Nice Guy Blog asks the question, “Are right-wingers even the same species as the rest of us?

He asked the question in response to right-wing reaction to a story New York representative Louise Slaughter told during the Health Care summit.

I even have one constituent — you will not believe this, and I know you won’t, but it’s true — her sister died. This poor woman had no dentures. She wore her dead sister’s teeth, which of course were uncomfortable and did not fit.

Do you ever believe that in America that that’s where we would be?

How did the right-wing respond? Fox News and Michelle Malkin thought the story was pretty funny. Rush Limbaugh called it the sob story of the day.

I mean for example, well what’s wrong with using a dead person’s teeth? Aren’t the Democrats big into recycling? Save the planet? And so what? So if you don’t have any teeth, so what? What’s applesauce for? Isn’t that why they make applesauce?

Obviously, right-wingers are not a separate species, but…  This got me thinking about what the latest research has to say about differences between individuals on the left and right of the political spectrum. There is some recent evidence that political orientation is related to how the brain functions.

Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work.

In a simple experiment reported today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists at New York University and UCLA show that political orientation is related to differences in how the brain processes information.

There also appears to be differences when it comes to morality.

One of the main divides between left and right is the dependence on different moral values. For liberals, morality derives mostly from fairness and prevention of harm. For conservatives, morality also involves upholding authority and loyalty — and revulsion at disgust.

Studies have shown that Liberals are more inclined to break away from habitual responses, to think creatively and to be open to new experiences.

A study of American Christians found that, when it comes to religion, political conservatives operate out of a fear of chaos and absence of order while political liberals operate out of a fear of emptiness,  According to Dan McAdams, co-author of the study,

Political conservatives envision a world without God in which baser human impulses go unchecked, social institutions (marriage, government, family) fall apart and chaos ensues. Liberals, on the other hand, envision a world without God as barren, lifeless, devoid of color and reasons to live.

Liberals see their faith as something that fills them up and, without it, they conjure up metaphors of emptiness, depletion and scarcity. While conservatives worry about societal collapse, liberals worry about a world without deep feelings and intense experiences.

Two studies conducted recently at Cornell show that Conservatives are apt to make moral/political judgments based upon personal feelings of disgust rather than on whether an action might cause actual harm. This helps explain the seemingly intractable differences surrounding issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Liberals and conservatives disagree about whether disgust has a valid place in making moral judgments. Conservatives have argued that there is inherent wisdom in repugnance; that feeling disgusted about something — gay sex between consenting adults, for example — is cause enough to judge it wrong or immoral, even lacking a concrete reason. Liberals tend to disagree, and are more likely to base judgments on whether an action or a thing causes actual harm.

Social psychologists like John Mayer (who coined the term “emotional intelligence”) have tried to categorize the personality types “liberal” and “conservative”.

Liberals:
• View social inequities and preferred groups as unjust and requiring reform.
• Prefer atheists, tattoos, foreign films and poetry.
• Endorse gay unions, welfare, universal health care, feminism and environmentalism.
• Exhibit creativity, which entails the capacity to see solutions to problems, and empathy toward others.
• Tolerate complexity and ambiguity.
• Are influenced by their work as judges, social workers, professors and other careers for which an appreciation of opposing points of view is required.

Conservatives:
• Willing to defend current social inequities and preferred groups as justifiable or necessary.
• Prefer prayer, religious people and SUVs.
• Endorse the U.S. government, the military, the state they live in, big corporations and most Americans.
• Are more likely to be a first-born, who identify more with their parents, predisposing them to a greater investment in authority and a preference for conservatism.
• Have a fear of death, reflecting an enhanced need for security.
• Are conscientious – the ability to exert personal self-control to the effect of meeting one’s own and others’ demands, and maintaining personal coherence.
• Need simplicity, clarity and certainty.

Is there a positive correlation between intelligence and liberalism, atheism and monogamy?

The latest scientist to weigh in on this issue is Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her study found that more intelligent people are statistically significantly more likely to exhibit social values and religious and political preferences that are novel to the human species in evolutionary history.  Specifically, liberalism and atheism, and for men (but not women), preference for sexual exclusivity correlate with higher intelligence.

Based on his findings, he proposes the theory of “evolutionary novel” preferences.

Apparently, more intelligent people adopt evolutionarily novel preferences and values, but intelligence does not correlate with preferences and values that are old enough to have been shaped by evolution over millions of years.”

Kanazawa explains that “Evolutionarily novel” preferences and values are those that humans are not biologically designed to have and our ancestors probably did not possess, while those that our ancestors had for millions of years are “evolutionarily familiar.”

Kanazawa said: “General intelligence, the ability to think and reason, endowed our ancestors with advantages in solving evolutionarily novel problems for which they did not have innate solutions.

“As a result, more intelligent people are more likely to recognize and understand such novel entities and situations than less intelligent people, and some of these entities and situations are preferences, values, and lifestyles.”

The study argues that humans are evolutionarily designed to be conservative, caring mostly about their family and friends.

Hence, being liberal, caring about an indefinite number of genetically unrelated strangers they never meet or interact with, is evolutionarily novel.

Kanazawa further briefed that religion is a byproduct of humans’ tendency to perceive agency and intention as causes of events, to see “the hands of God” at work behind otherwise natural phenomena.

Kanazawa said: “Humans are evolutionarily designed to be paranoid, and they believe in God because they are paranoid

“So, more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to go against their natural evolutionary tendency to believe in God, and they become atheists.”

If Kanazawa’s theory is correct, right wingers are not another species, they are just not as evolved as the more intelligent liberal, atheist and monogamist (this last applies to men only) among us.

As intriguing as they may be,  I am afraid that I don’t find these biological, neurological, evolutionary explanations ultimately convincing.  I tend to come down on the nurture side of the nurture/nature debate. Against the evidence of science and my own experience, I hold on to the hope the right-wingers can be educated.  If they are really evolutionarily stunted “lizard-brains“, hardwired to act as they do, it is too depressing to contemplate. So much for bi-partisanship.

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The Last Word on Laura Silsby?

If we lived in a rational world, Laura Silsby will have had her 15 minutes of fame and we could all move on. That, of course, will not happen. Nevertheless, I think that Timothy Egan has managed to have the final word on the whole Silsby affair in his commentary The Missionary Impulse.  In the article, Egan, rightly I believe, characterizes the case as one more example of Cultural Imperialism.

At the least, the curious case of Laura Silsby raises questions about cultural imperialism: what makes a scofflaw from nearly all-white Idaho with no experience in adoption or rescue services think she has a right to bring religion and relief to a country with its own cultural, racial and spiritual heritage?

Imagine if a voodoo minister from Haiti had shown up in Boise after an earthquake, looking for children in poor neighborhoods and offering “opportunities for adoption” back to Haiti. He could say, as those who followed Silsby explained on a Web site, that “the unsaved world needs to hear” from the saved.
Who says they are “unsaved?” And who says the world needs to hear from them? Haiti is a predominantly Roman Catholic country, and a nation full of passionate believers at that.
As it turns out, there was no orphanage for the Silsby children, just plans, many, many plans. And some of the young Haitians were not even orphans. As to what qualified Laura Silsby to jump into international relief work with a side of adoption services, well, she had once run something called Personal Shopper. And she was a charismatic Christian, with a golden tongue.
So, despite the fact that she’d been subject to numerous civil lawsuits for unpaid wage claims, and had a history of flouting the law, she could convince fellow Baptists to follow her to Haiti after the devastating earthquake last month. Under the banner of heaven, they would try to help “each child find healing, hope, joy and new life in Christ.”
Egan gives a quick history lesson to those who would believe that Silsby’s adventure is just an isolated case of naivety. The “missionary impulse” to save the heathen is just one variation of the Cultural Imperialism that Egan calls a “personality disorder” of western culture.

I give Egan the last word:

The missionaries say they have found the Word, the Truth, and feel compelled to spread it. Indeed, Paul Thompson, one of the Idaho pastors who followed Silsby to Haiti, expressed these feelings in his pastoral newsletter just before the earthquake.

“War is declared!” he quoted a 19th century British missionary approvingly. “In God’s Holy Name let us arise and build!”

But the Silsby case calls for a different type of refrain: Missionary, heal thyself.


Rep. Mike Moyle is Mad

It is a good thing Dan Popkey is willing to interview the childish, petulant members of the Idaho Legislature for the rest of us. I don’t think I could resist laughing in their face.

The latest to throw a tantrum is Majority Leader Mike Moyle.

Things were supposed to be different this year. Facing a budget crisis and united against raising taxes, Republicans running the Idaho House and Senate would set aside bad blood built over a decade and get the job done. Swiftly.

A month ago, the House’s dominant personality, that affable hothead, Majority Leader Mike Moyle of Star, said all was forgiven: “The House and Senate leadership are more on line than we ever have been before because we have a common enemy, a common problem.”

But on Tuesday, Moyle was so mad he wouldn’t speak, telling me twice to turn off my tape recorder. His beef: The Senate caved to state- and local-government retirees and didn’t have the spine to follow through on a leadership plan to kill a 1 percent cost-of-living increase in their pensions.

Ahh- that “affable hothead” Mike Moyle- all upset because the Senate refused to follow the ultra-right wing cabal in the House who were determined to deny Idaho retirees their 1% cost of living increase.  He was joined by baby number two, Rep. Tom Loertscher,

This sets the stage for a budget wreck,” Loertscher said. “You have a few retirees show up out here on the steps of the Capitol and all of a sudden they get their way. It sends a signal that the way you ply the Legislature is go stand on the steps and holler a little bit and we’ll fold up.”

Fortunately, there were a few adults in the Senate who were unwilling to listen to Moyle, Loertscher and the other babies following the lead of the impostor Captain America.  I wonder if the House babies really understand how much they have upset the adults that elected them.

[the] 48 House Republicans who thought the Senate had their backs are subject to being called anti-retiree. Among the critics is Boise City Councilman Vern Bisterfeldt, a longtime Republican who says he’s “mad as hell” and wants to tell “every retiree in Idaho so they won’t vote for those jerks again.”

Vern Bisterfeldt is also a former police officer and not someone I would want mad at me. I hope he is serious about heading a movement to give the House babies a permanent “time out”.

The Bloom Box – Fuel Cell Solution?

60 Minutes had an interesting segment on the “Mystery Fuel Cell”, the Bloom Box. Unlike most fuel cells, this one is past the prototype stage and is actually being used to provide power for a number of major corporations.

K.R. Sridhar invited “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl for a first look at the innards of the Bloom box that he has been toiling on for nearly a decade.

Looking at one of the boxes, Sridhar told Stahl it could power an average U.S. home.

“The way we make it is in two blocks. This is a European home. The two put together is a U.S. home,” he explained.

“‘Cause we use twice as much energy, is that what you’re saying?” Stahl asked.

“Yeah, and this’ll power four Asian homes,” he replied.

“So four homes in India, your native country?” Stahl asked.

“Four to six homes in our country,” Sridhar replied.

“It sounds awfully dazzling,” Stahl remarked.

“It is real. It works,” he replied.

He says he knows it works because he originally invented a similar device for NASA. He really is a rocket scientist.

“This invention, working on Mars, would have allowed the NASA administrator to pick up a phone and say, ‘Mr. President, we know how to produce oxygen on Mars,'” Sridhar told Stahl.

“So this was going to produce oxygen so people could actually live on Mars?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” Sridhar replied.

When NASA scrapped that Mars mission, Sridhar had an idea: he reversed his Mars machine. Instead of it making oxygen, he pumped oxygen in.

He invented a new kind of fuel cell, which is like a very skinny battery that always runs. Sridhar feeds oxygen to it on one side, and fuel on the other. The two combine within the cell to create a chemical reaction that produces electricity. There’s no need for burning or combustion, and no need for power lines from an outside source.

Go here to see the full 60 minute segment.

Impostor Captain America Update

It now appears that the Impostor Captain America‘s influence is only on the Idaho House, not the Senate.

The hearing set for 1:30 on HCR 42, the measure to block a scheduled 1 percent COLA for state retirees, has been canceled – which means the bill is now dead. Sen. John Andreason, R-Boise, chairman of the Senate Commerce & Human Resources Committee, said, “It seemed like the thing to do – this was the best way to handle it.” He added, “I have a lot of faith in the (PERSI) board. They’ve always done a good job. We’re just following their recommendation.”

Senate Assistant Majority Leader Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, said, “The leadership supports the chairman’s decision, and the committee is, I think, going to be supportive of that action. This is going to be an issue we’re not going to give any further time to in the Senate this legislative year.”

Or, maybe it was the pressure from Idaho retirees?

Captain America and the Idaho Legislature

You are probably aware of the recent trouble Marvel Comics found themselves in when they had Captain America observe a Tea Party protest.

According to Fox News,

A “tea bag” reference in a recent Captain America comic book that has angered the Tea Party movement will be removed by Marvel Comics in future editions, the story’s writer told FoxNews.com.

In issue No. 602 of Captain America, “Two Americas, Part One,” the title hero and The Falcon, a black superhero from New York City, stumble upon a protest rally in Boise, Idaho. They see scores of protesters carrying signs that say “Stop the Socialists!” and “Tea Bag The Libs Before They Tea Bag YOU!”

Captain America says the protest appears to be an “anti-tax thing,” and The Falcon jokes that he likely would not be welcomed into the crowd of “angry white folks.”

Wait a minute! A tea party protest in Boise, Idaho!  Sure enough, when I found a copy of Captain America (0.k. o.k., I didn’t actually find a hard copy. I stole scanned graphics from The Boise Weekly).

Anyway, according to TBW, the story goes like this:

William Burnside, who in the 1950s became obsessed with the New Deal American Hero, to the point of impersonating him, returns to find his childhood home in Boise replaced by a vacant strip mall.
“And now he was finally home … but not to a hero’s welcome,” the strip reads. “No, this country had turned its back on him long ago.”
Burnside, posing as the Captain, gathers groups of angry white truckers and returned soldiers in his compound. “Honest, hard-working Americans … ready and able to rise up and fight back,” as the strip describes.

A house in the Boise Foothills (below)

They march on downtown Boise (depicted below) and throw an African American secret agent posing as the Tax Man out of a bar, calling him Obama (with some degree of agent provocateur meddling from an undercover REAL Captain America).

Wow! I wonder if this comic is based in fact? An impostor Captain America in Boise organizing Tea Party protests and fighting the forces of Obama Statism.  While I was pondering this turn of events, I suddenly realized who the fake Captain America must be.

Yes, Wayne Hoffman. Former Statesman reporter who became spokesperson for the infamous Bill Sali and who returned to Boise to form The Idaho Freedom Foundation. The evidence is everywhere. Hoffman publicized, organized and spoke at the Boise Tea Party protest. His Freedom Foundation web site is all about helping hard working Americans stand up and fight socialism. Below is the mission statement. It sound exactly like what an impostor Captain America would have as his mission statement with all that talk about freedom and liberty and property rights.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational and research organization that develops and advocates the principles of individual liberty, personal responsibility, private property rights, economic freedom, and limited government. The Foundation’s mission is to keep Idaho free by generating research and data on key issues, and recommending the findings to opinion leaders, policymakers, media and the citizens of Idaho.

Can’t you see? That is why Hoffman exerts such control over the Republicans in the legislature. Being the gullible creatures that they are, they actually believe he is the real Captain America. How else can you explain this from Eye on Boise?

Former state Sen. Rod Beck just contacted Eye on Boise to say he didn’t just find the fiscal year 2009 PERSI actuarial report on the Internet while cruising Web sites; he got it in an email from Wayne Hoffman, who obtained it through a request to PERSI. “I just was not digging through actuarial reports – I’m not that weird,” Beck said. “The only person I sent it to was those that asked me, and it was Tom Loertscher and Lynn Luker. … Tom told me that he sent it to other members of the committee itself.”

Republicans on the House State Affairs Committee cited the report today as a reason for suddenly, and without notice, overturning yesterday’s 13-5 vote to kill HCR 42, which seeks to block a scheduled 1 percent cost-of-living increase next month for state retirees; instead, today, in a straight party-line vote, the committee sent the measure to the full House with a recommendation that it pass.

Hoffman, head of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, published an “Idaho Pork Report” at the start of the legislative session that decried PERSI retirement benefits as unduly generous. In an article headed, “Work for the state, retire like a king,” Hoffman wrote, “The question for policy makers is whether taxpayers should be forced to continue to subsidize such a generous employee benefits package at the expense of taxpayers.”

Still not convinced that Hoffman is the impostor Captain America?  Could this be the smoking gun?

I report, you decide.

The Climate Change Conundrum

When it comes to climate change, those who understand it the best are the least effective at explaining it.

One obvious reason for this is that the science behind climate change is complex and resists sound bites. A less obvious reason has to do with the nature of science itself. Certainty is the enemy of science. Scientists are always open to new evidence and abhor absolute truth claims. It is the nature of science to test and retest explanations against the natural world. Thus, scientific explanations are likely to be built on and modified with new information and new ways of looking at old information.

Unfortunately, the average person wants to know if climate change claims are “true” or not. The unwillingness of climate change scientists to make absolute truth claims continually gets them in trouble as they are seized on by the deniers in the media and the blogosphere. For example, Paul Jones, the Director of the British Climate Research Unit and the scientist at the center of the recent “Climategate” idiocy was interviewed by the BBC last week.  In the course of the interview, Jones said that an observed warming trend of 0.12 degrees C per decade between 1995 to 2009 was “not significant at the 95% significance level.” On the other hand, he said, it was quite close to being statistically significant.

The UK paper, The Daily Mail, ran the headline: “Climategate U-turn as scientist at centre of row admits: There has been no global warming since 1995.” The story went viral as the right wing echo chamber spread the news. For the hardcore climate change deniers, this was vindication that they had been right all along.  Most bloggers reprinted the Daily Mail article verbatim with only a slight variation to the original headline. For example, the headline at Marc Morano’s Climate Depot shouted, “The Jig is Up! Climategate U-turn as Phil Jones admits: There has been no warming since 1995”. Morano and the other bloggers neglected to link to the original BBC interview, so readers were not able to confirm the Daily Mail claims.

But, even without the actual interview, anyone who understands statistics would see that Jones was not claiming there had been no warming since 1995. Far from it. He said the the warming trend was “not significant at the 95% significance level”. To say that something is significant to the 95% level means there is only a 5 percent chance of a particular finding occurring purely by chance. So, what Jones was saying is that there is just less than a 95% chance that the measured warming of 0.12 degrees C per decade between 1995 and 2009 actually happened.

I don’t know about you, but if my doctor told me I was dying of cancer, but had close to a 95% chance of recovery if I took chemotherapy treatments, I would want to start the treatments immediately. Notice, no doctor is going to tell a cancer patient that recovery is guaranteed if they take a particular treatment.  Medicine, like climate change science, is not about claims of absolute certainty.

I wonder if the deniers like Morano are just ignorant themselves and don’t understand what statistical significance means or, are they willfully deceiving their readers by feeding into their already existing biases?

Well, here is Morano receiving the “Accuracy in Media” award from CPAC after addressing them at the 2010 Conference last week. I guess my question has been answered. Feed them the red meat and you will be rewarded.

Thus, The Conundrum

Al Gore understood the importance of communicating the science about climate change if there was to be any hope for policy addressing the issue. Unfortunately, Gore lacks the political capital inherent in being an elected official. If fact, until recently, the only elected officials talking about climate change were deniers like Inhofe and DeMint.

Yesterday, Obama finally decided to weigh in while at a town hall meeting in Nevada.

This is the answer to the conundrum. Obama is able to explain, in language anyone can understand, the absurdity of the deniers. Why does this message not end up in the mainstream media?

Courting Nike

Butch Otter Courting Nike at Midnight (apologies to Norman Rockwell)

Banner Headline in the Idaho Statesman–

Dan Popkey: Could Nike swoosh into Idaho?

Answer- No.

The Idaho economy is in the dumpster with plunging tax revenue after the housing boom of the last decade crumbled, numbers of unemployed swelling to nearly 70,000, and record numbers of people applying for food stamps. The legislature continues gutting state agencies and higher education in order to balance the budget. Governor Otter writes a whining editorial complaining about the unfair treatment he has received in the media:

There was a time when most newspaper columnists at least paid lip service to the good intentions of public officials. They might be misguided, shortsighted or simply stupid, the writers would suggest, but at least they meant well.

His complaint? Reporters claim that he wants to make the draconian cuts and to shut down state services.  He doesn’t want to make the cuts, he is forced to make them.* He has no option because,

…the political reality [is] that nobody wants to raise taxes – especially in an election year

That says it all. With no way to increase revenue, our state leaders are forced to dream. Maybe, just maybe, a billionaire will come and save us. Maybe, just maybe we can court someone like Nike’s Phil Knight to leave business hating Oregon and come to Idaho. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

Which leads us to the story under the banner headline:

Nike founder Phil Knight is hopping mad at $727 million in tax increases on corporations and the wealthy in Oregon. Idaho leaders long to catch their rich neighbor’s eye.

Idaho has wooed Nike before – a revelation offered by Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who salivates at the prospect of landing one of the world’s best-known brands.

He showed the company a 640-acre parcel he owned north of Eagle as a possible site for a satellite campus. Little’s land included a piece of Goodale’s Cutoff, a branch of the Oregon Trail. “These guys were going to spin it to Nike that they could go out and run on the Oregon Trail.”

Department of Labor Director Roger Madsen helped develop the pitch. “We created a beautiful video that showed a lot of people in athletic situations – golfing, skiing, tennis, running – wearing Nike apparel,” Madsen said. “It was very attractive.”

The 1990s search was driven by complaints about multiple taxing authorities in Oregon, said Jeff Malmen, Gov. Phil Batt’s chief of staff, who attended a meeting with Nike executives in Batt’s office. The visit likely occurred in 1997, according to the best recollection of several officials.

Nike also looked at Washington, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and British Columbia. In the end, the company resolved a dispute with Beaverton and expanded what is now a 193-acre campus with 17 buildings named for Nike-affiliated athletes.

Little takes heart knowing Nike seemed keen on Idaho. “They’ve got a high frustration level with governance in Oregon and they’ve been here before,” Little said.

So, Little is “salivating” because he wants Nike to purchase and relocate on land he currently owns?  The spin is that Nike athletes could run on the Oregon trail? They created a beautiful video showing lots of people in athletic situations?

Okay, so the pitch might not have worked in 1997, but now that Knight is “hopping mad” it just might work this time around.

Gov. Butch Otter also has Nike on the brain. He’s working on a legislative package to lure business. Otter said he seeks “incentives for folks to take flight from Oregon and come over here, because we’re getting a lot of phone calls about their tax increase.”

There are a couple of reasons Nike is not relocating to Idaho.

Number one, Knight is a smart businessman and will be aware that the tax situation in Idaho is not all that conducive to business. According to the just released State Business Tax Climate Index for fiscal year 2010, Idaho ranks below all of its surrounding states, including Oregon: Wyoming #2, Nevada #4, Montana #6, Washington #9, Utah #10, Oregon #14 and Idaho #18. When Butch goes courting, he better realize that Nike’s other suitors will have more that a nice video and a box of candy.

Number two, hidden deep in the Statesman article:

Nike spokeswoman Erin Dobson wouldn’t comment on the company’s interest in Idaho in the 1990s. But she ruled out Nike moving its headquarters from Beaverton, writing in an e-mail, “Nike has no plans to relocate.”

Economic midnight is approaching. I Just hope a desperate Governor Otter doesn’t refuse to take Nike’s “no” for and answer and move from courting to stalking.

___________________________________

* If that is what he wants, I, for one, will be happy to concede that while Otter means well, he is misguided, shortsighted and simply stupid. The Mountain Goat Report has more on the Governor’s hypocrisy here.

Farmer Crapo

In this case, at least, the Angry Gnome got it right. When Americans like the Baptist 10 break the laws of another country, the United States respects that country’s sovereignty.

When it comes to the criminal justice system in other countries, there is very little that the United States government can do to inject themselves into the process.

Idaho’s senior Senator, Mike Crapo, is not so concerned with legal niceties. He is going to “speak with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in coming days to voice his concerns on how the church’s volunteer group of 10 people was treated.”

We should understand by now that Crapo will never miss a chance for political posturing. With his mentor Larry Craig (a master at political posturing) gone,  it is up to Crapo to pick up the mantle.

However, it was not the posturing that caught my attention when I read the headlines in the Idaho Statesman this morning- Is U.S. doing enough for the 2 Idahoans left in Haiti? No, it was this quote:

There were significant efforts to ensure the interests of our detainees were properly handled,” Crapo said Thursday. “There were also a number of circumstances where the water didn’t get to the end of the row.”

I can visualize readers throughout Eastern and Southern Idaho smiling and nodding at that last line. “See Maude, even though that Crapo boy got his law degree from that high falutin Harvard back east, he is still a farm boy at heart.”

He might have to translate when he has his visit with the Secretary of State.

Slouching towards Idiocracy

After spending a few hours reading right wing blogs I start to feel like Luke Wilson.
The latest example of the anti-intellectual idiocy that crops up daily and then spreads virally across the wingnutosphere is from SayAnythingBog.com (I can only assume this is the short version of the author’s credo, “If you don’t have anything intelligent to say, say anything”).
The SayAnything blogger, Rob, just happened to be in Washington D.C. for ground zero of Idiocracy, but, because he got the dates wrong and arrived a day early, decided to go on a tour of the White House and while on the tour… Let’s let Rob finish the story,
Now, according out [sic] the person who guided our tour, the library is stock [sic] with books picked out by the First Lady, Michelle Obama.  Being a bit of a bibliophile, I started to peruse some of the books on the shelves…and lookie, lookie what I found
By itself, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But in the context of Anita Dunn saying Chairman Mao is her favorite political philosopher? In the context of the Mao ornament on the White House Christmas tree?
In the context of Obama’s economic policies?

Where to start?

1) First of all, peruse means to read with thoroughness and care, not to look at books on a bookshelf and take a photo with your cellphone camera.

2) Regardless of what the Gateway Pundit, It figures. Michelle Obama stocked the White House Library with books on socialism, and the other moronic bloggers who ran with this story seem to think, having a book on your bookshelf with the word “Socialist” in the title does not make one a Socialist. Following that logic, I assume that most of the participants at CPAC, or at least the ones who can read, has a copy of Liberal Fascism wedged in between Going Rogue and  Atlas Shrugged on their own bookshelves. Following Rob’s logic, they are likely Liberal Fascists.

3) The books with the scary titles (“The Socialist Party of America: A History,” “The American Socialist Movement 1897-1912” and “The Social Basis of American Communism.”) are histories and are part of the library dedicated to political movements in US history sorted chronologically. Rob seems to be unaware that there was a populist movement in the 1890s, a socialist movement in the 1900s and 1910s culminating with the socialist candidate (Eugene Debs) getting over 1,000,000 votes, and a communist movement in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Not all of these books are supportive of these movements, some of them are critical and some are just histories. In fact, as Matt Yglesias points out, “The Social Basis of American Communism” was written by Nathan Glazer, an rabid anti-communist and one of the founding fathers of the Neo-Conservative movement.

4) I happen to have the two books on American Populism, Goodwyn’s “The Populist Moment,” and John Hick’s “The Populist Revolt” on my bookshelf right now.  I suppose, given the content of those two books, it could be argued that the Obamas sympathize with the Tea Party movement.

5) Here is a photo of the White House Library when George W. was President.  Hmm… “The Autobiography of Malcom X” and “The Other America” by the Socialist Michael Harrington. Does that make Bush both a Socialist and a Negro?

6) O.K.,while I was writing this post, an update from Rob.

According to the Washington Post it was First Lady Jackie Kennedy who oversaw the placing of the books in the White House library, and they’ve been there since 1963.  Apparently no administration since has changed the contents of the library.

So the guide I was with didn’t give me the whole story.  Either that, or we misunderstood one another.

Funny, sad or just idiotic.  If this were some fringe blogger, it would be bad enough, but SayAnythingBlog is the 43rd most popular blog on the net.  At least that is what Rob claims. Here is the chart to prove it.

And the chart comes from Lucianne.com which is undoubtedly a reliable… wait a minute! Isn’t that Lucianne Goldberg’s website? Lucianne Goldberg, mother of the Doughy Pantload” and infamous for her role in the Monica Lewinsky scandal? I am starting to become suspicious of Rob’s sources. First the White House tour guide (who he might have misunderstood) and now Lucianne.

Well, even if SayAnything.com is a fringe blog, The Gateway Pundit, Neo-Neocon, The Lonely Conservative, Maggie’s Notebook have made sure the message is spread far and wide by regurgitating it to the loyal followers. Not an update or retraction from any of them so far.