Confirmation bias and bias

Someone on the internet is wrong.  That someone is Melissa at Shakesville.

Earlier today, she tweeted about the case of the unfortunate mother who was jailed for leaving her 9 year old daughter to play at a local park while she was working.  You can read a commentary on this case at Reason by Lenore Skenazy of Freerangekids.com.  Melissa and I had a difference of opinion about this case.  She seems to think race was a factor in the mother’s arrest.  I do not.  Here’s why.

As Lenore has documented over the last several years, the arrest and detention of parents because their children were left unattended is ubiquitous.  There have been cases where a mother has been pursued by family services and taken to court for leaving her kids off at the mall with a 12 year old sibling.  There have been numerous cases of mothers arrested for leaving their kids in the car while they dash into the grocery store or post office for something.  There are many other cases of mothers getting fined and served and investigated for letting their children walk to school or ride their bikes by themselves. By the way, nowhere in Lenore’s commentary does she mention race as the reason for the arrest.  That’s because it’s not the common thread that holds these instances together.

I have two personal experiences with the rampant crackdown on mothers.  The first happened when Brook was in first grade when she innocently told a Lifeskills volunteer that I had forced her to drink wine.  When the principal called me to tell me he was calling DYFS on me, I had no idea what he was talking about.  Was the kid slurring her words?  Falling off her chair?  Asking for something to treat her hangover?  I don’t keep that much alcohol in my house.  What the hell was she talking about?  Then I remembered the Easter at my mom’s house when Brook had the zooms and was driving everyone crazy and I joked about giving her a swig of my chardonnay.  That was it.  That right there nearly got me a permanent record with the state of NJ and the potential lost custody of my daughter.

In the second experience, it was about 11 am on a Sunday in November when I got a knock on my door.  There were two policemen there.  They were responding to a report that there was a mentally disabled boy wearing an orange shirt, jeans and bare feet wandering around the neighborhood doing strange and suspicious things.  They asked me if I knew anything about it.  I had no idea what they were talking about.  Then they hinted darkly that they were on the alert for that kid and left.  Then I turned around and saw my 10 year old Brook with her short hair, orange shirt, jeans and bare feet standing in the doorway trembling.  What the heck were you doing, I asked?  She burst into tears.  She got up that morning and wanted to make an art project out of acorns.  So she went out to the back of our row of townhouses without her shoes on and was looking under the trees for them.  She was very upset and neither one of us could figure out which one of the neighbors was mean enough to report her for something like that.

Butcha know, people do it all the time.

As for the case that has hit the news, I have some problems with attributing this to a race problem.  First, we have no idea who reported the kid to the police.  Are we assuming that the conscientious citizen was white and was deliberately targeting an African American mother?  We have no evidence on this.  The report doesn’t say who did the snitching or what was the race of the arresting officers or even if such a thing would have mattered in the least.

Secondly, if this were a case of race, we would have to disregard the countless reports from women all over the world who have been put through the same process.  The perps come in all shapes, sizes, colors and socio-economic groups and the punishments are all pretty much the same.

But that doesn’t seem to stop people from assuming this is a race issue or that, yes, it is primarily directed at women but maybe it’s harder on African American women or some such nonsense.  If that’s what you want to see in this case, you would be a victim of confirmation bias.  You want to see a racial angle to this when it’s much more insidious than that.

If you had been a long time follower of Freerangekids, you would see that the problem emanates from “stranger danger”.  My bet is that the person who reported that kid neglected has been hearing a steady drumbeat of stories of violence against children ever since Fox and the local news channels figured out that their audiences loved to be terrified.  Like the anti-vaxxers, it is impossible to reason with these people, particularly older white women, that the rate of violent crime has actually done down in the past 30 years.  All they see are rapes and murders of little kids on TV 24/7.  Lenore points out that the chances that your kid will be snatched is infinitesimally small but people have a hard time reasoning when their logic boards have been short circuited by violent sexual imagery.  It’s emotional, not rational.  This is what I think has happened in this instance as well.  Little girl, left in park by herself for hours playing, something I would have done when I was her age, now looks like a sitting duck for any male who can walk by to prey upon her and satisfy his filthy secret lusts.  Where is her mother??

So, if it’s not race, what do these cases have in common?  They almost always involve mothers.  You rarely hear of a father getting this treatment.  These mothers are almost always in a hurry, alone, busy, sometimes single or divorced, or simply ignorant of the unlikely possibility that their kids are going to be snatched.  What they aren’t is sheltering their children 100% of the time with their bodies, protecting with a maternal force field 10 feet wide at all hours of the day and night.  I’ve even read on some blogs that new mothers are afraid to take a shower while their newborns are sleeping because “something might happen” while they’re shampooing their hair. How did homo erectus escape the savannah??

We might speculate why the current culture in America, England and Australia, in particular, are coming down so hard on mothers but since Fox and other cable news sources seem to be popular media features in each of these countries, we can’t discount the idea that the effect that so many child rape/murder stories have on the audience is intentional.  Couple this with the attack on women’s reproductive choices and it sure looks to me like someone(s) is trying to get women to embrace motherhood or else… That is the message they send anyway.  We come down on mothers like a hammer if they step even a teensy bit outside the rigid rules of acceptable behavior that are prescribed to them.  If women give up their careers to stay home, it shouldn’t be surprising that they find it too hard to be the bodyguards to their children and work too.  Socially, they need to project full engagement with their children even when those kids don’t need it or be tagged the “bad mother” on the block.  If you’re the kind of mother who doesn’t care what people think, you may change your tune when DYFS pays you a visit.

As for women vs race, I got a little annoyed with Melissa when it was suggested that somehow we need to spread the problem around to include race.  Aren’t African American women still women?  And don’t women have the right to demand attention to the tribulations they face without having to sweep up every fricking non-priviliged group in their train?  Doesn’t that dilute the issues that women have to deal with simply because they are women?  Isn’t it about time for the African American community, the LGBT community, the Native American community to give something back?  Isn’t it time women stopped apologizing and sacrificing their primary concerns as women in order to let some other group steal the microphone?  Isn’t it enough that the accused in these cases are just women?? I only ask.

Well, I guess this makes me a racist again because I see no reason to stop championing the cause of the majority of people in the world who neglect themselves for the sake of others. Nor am I going to give in to confirmation bias because that is what my tribe would expect of me.  That’s what NOW and NARAL have done in the past and where are they now?  Seriously, where ARE they?  Why aren’t they all over these arrests?  Or did they cede too much to others and neutralize themselves?

The instances of arrest for “bad” motherhood are not going to end until women start to recognize it as another threat to their autonomy.

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Only slightly off topic, this advertisement from Pantene struck a chord with me.  How many times a day do women apologize and what makes us do it?

 

Finally, please remember that the word racism is not to be taken lightly lest it lose it’s true and serious meaning.  Use of the word will result in automatic moderation until I can fish you out of the queue.  It’s a leftover from 2008 but still a useful one.

 

Neat Trick

Dashing off a few things before I dash:

1.) The Richard Cohen thing.  The lede kind of got buried in the Richard Cohen s^&*storm.  It’s not that the Tea Party people are racist, though some of them clearly are.  It’s that they consider their views to be “conventional”.  That’s the cover that the Fox News manipulators, Limbaughians and Glen Becksters have given them.  My hypothesis about how the right wing has been able to get away with so much is that it makes it Ok for some Americans to give in to their secret desires.  They want to feel superior to some  people and exert power over others.  That’s why they tend to take it out on people of color, women, gays and immigrants.  They’re f^*(ing cowards when it comes to taking on the real culprits who are making their lives an economic nightmare.  That’s why you’ll never see them at an Occupy rally, because that might actually make a difference but would also be potentially dangerous to their physical bodies. But they’re perfectly fine bashing people who have no political power.  And they allow this because they call themselves conventional.  I think Bob Altmeyer wrote a book about conventional people called The Authoritarians.

Richard Cohen, on the other hand, makes me despair for the future of employment.

2.) When you’ve lost Bill Clinton’s support, it’s bad.  The Clintons have stood behind the party that trashed Hillary and elected an untested, inexperienced, ruthless friend of Wall Street and Obama through thick and thin.  But it looks like The Big Dog draws the line with Obamacare.  I don’t think he is enjoying this bit of schadenfreude.  Some people take policy and politics seriously.

And some people just check that box on their CVs.

3.) Sylvie Guillem recently retired from the Paris Opera Ballet but oh, how wonderful it must have been to see her dance in person.  Here’s a very short clip of her rehearsing Dulcinea.  If only every day could be like this:

The strange silence

Martin Wolf  of the Financial Times and Bill Moyers discussed the government shutdown /debt ceiling crisis last week.  Check out the whole interview here.  I was particularly struck by this part:

BILL MOYERS: Would you agree that despite what happened this week and the political victory that President Obama seems to have won, would you agree that the conservatives have really won the argument about government?

MARTIN WOLF: I think that is true. What has surprised me is how little pushback there has been from the Democrat side in arguing that the government really did have a very strong role in supporting the economy during the post crisis recession, almost depression, that the stimulus argument was completely lost though the economics of it were quite clearly right, they needed a bigger stimulus, not a smaller one.

It helped, but it didn’t help enough because it wasn’t big enough. And they’re not making the argument that government has essential functions which everybody needs in the short run. Well, we can see that with the national parks. But also in the long run the strength of America has been built, in my perspective, particularly in the post war period, since the Second World War on the way that actually the public and private sectors have worked together with the government providing enormous support for research and development.

It’s been the basic support of America’s unique position in scientific research. You look at the National Institutes of Health which are the most important medical research institutions in the world, these are all products of the willingness of the United States to invest in the long term interest. Then there’s the infrastructure, think of the highway program, which was the most important infrastructure project under the Republicans interestingly.

And those arguments seem to have been lost. So I am concerned that the government that I think Grover Norquist once said he wants to drown in the bath. If you drown your government in the bath in the modern world, we don’t live in the early 19th century, it’s a different world, that the long term health of the United States will be very badly affected.

It’s strange to me that a government which has obviously achieved very important things, think of the role of the Defense Department in the internet, has achieved such important things, that’s just one of many examples, it should be now regarded as nothing more than a complete nuisance. And the only thing you need to do is to cut it back to nothing.

And it does seem to me that the Democrats have, for reasons I don’t fully understand, basically given up on making this argument. And so in a way the conservatives, the extreme conservative position has won, because nobody is actually combating it. So it’s only a question of how much you cut and how you cut it rather than, “Well, what do we want government for? What are the good things about it? What are the bad things about it? How do we make it effective? And how do we ensure that it’s properly financed?”

I’ll touch on the effects of sequester on the future of science in this country in another post but right now, I want to talk about the strange silence from the Democrats and the dangers that wait for them if they don’t start speaking up, soon and loudly.  And part of this has something to do with Joan Walsh and Feministing and what Atrios said a couple days ago:

I don’t offer that as a defense (except for things that happened before his watch, of course), but while ultimately the man in charge is the man in charge, I think that often criticisms of things which happen during this administration are just heard as criticisms of Obama by people who are, understandably, fans and invested in his success.

I’m going to step right into this (because why stop now after five years?) and hypothesize that there are some “fans” on the left who would sell their children into neofeudal serfdom in a heartbeat before they would suffer the completely unfounded accusations of racism that other “fans” would heap upon them if they even dared to strenuously question the Obama administration.

It is pointless to tell these “fans” that there is nothing wrong with criticizing the president and his policies. It doesn’t make you the grand master of the local KKK or mean that you’ve failed Martin Luther King Jr.  In fact, I might even go out on a limb to suggest that the reason Bill Clinton gets so much negative attention from these “fans”, in spite of the fact that his record is more liberal than Obama’s, is because these “fans” are projecting their pent up frustration on a legitimate white target as a proxy. They simply cannot overcome their fear of ostracism if they criticize the president in the strong terms they would like to use.  Just thinking about it makes them feel uncomfortable and oogy.

This is ridiculous but it appears to be useless to point out that if people on the left don’t get over this conditioned Pavlovian response (courtesy of Obama’s campaign strategists) they are condemning their side to complete and utter fecklessness and continued perceptions of ineptitude.  But I might suggest that this is exactly what the bad guys want.  If you don’t raise a fuss, no effective regulation gets implemented and ideas that benefit most of the people in America never see the light of day and are considered politically impractical by the savvy people.

Not only that but I would be remiss if I did not point out that the last time the Democrats had control of the White House, the Senate and the House, they passed a much less than adequate stimulus bill and gave us Obamacare.  Yep, it had control of the executive and legislative branches and still found it politically impossible to even introduce the concept of public option or single payer or even cost controls, for gawdssakes, into the debate over a national healthcare policy.  How does that happen??  I don’t mean how does it happen that these things never even got discussed in a legitimate way with our side in complete control of the dialog.  I mean how does it happen that our side stayed so quiet about the fact that the Obama administration had effectively emasculated it?  The sequester should have been the last straw but from the “fans”?  Hardly a peep.

Russell Brand has a point.  If the side that professes to be the one that stands up for the great masses of people who are being treated poorly doesn’t do anything when it’s in charge, then why vote?  Why not do something different?

This is a BIG problem for the Democrats because there is a slim possibility that they could gain control of the House again and have complete control of government policy for 2 years starting in 2014.  And if that happens, it will be because voters will have had enough and the Republicans will have finally hanged themselves.  And if THAT happens, there’d better be some changes made.

But I personally will not take the left seriously if I don’t hear some harsh criticisms of the way this administration has squandered its first two years in office leaving millions of people unemployed, underinsured and at the mercy of very determined social security and medicare cutters.

If your demoralized, older but wiser youth vote, or ladies’ vote, or “name your base here” vote doesn’t show up for the next big election in sufficient enough quantities and decides to seek its own path, don’t say you weren’t warned.

Lambert picked out my favorite line from the Brand interview:

My new rule for when I fancy doing a bit of the ol’ condemnation is: “Do the people I’m condemning have any actual power?”

Exactly.   There’s nothing worse than spinning your wheels and becoming nasty, mean spirited old bigots in the service of the powerful.  Fox News viewers take note.

VP debate tonight and stray thought from 2008

Tonight is the Vice Presidential debate between Joe “the cop between my brain and my mouth is at the donut shop” Biden and Paul “Ayn Rand is my goddess” Ryan.  We should do another live blog but since the body language thing has become chic this year, maybe we should watch and listen this time.  OR, we could turn off the visuals and just listen.

Anyway, it just occurred to me that maybe one of the reasons Barack Obama did so poorly in his first debate appearance this year is because in 2008, he was actually running against Sarah Palin.  Oh sure he was.  That’s all the general campaign was about, how much smarter and more qualified Barack Obama was compared to Sarah Palin.  John McCain hardly entered the picture at all.  I think I noticed it back then too but it didn’t occur to me that this might be why his debate performances in 2008 were not a fiasco.  He was all confident and cocky about beating Sarah, that was the real race that his campaign had set up in everyone’s mind.

Plus, he was running a game of “whack a racist”.  ANY criticism of Obama was twisted to be a racial slur.  It was quite effective.  Combined with his race against Sarah, how was a liberal supposed to effectively evaluate Obama?  Any legitimate criticism of him was muted and he was running against a woman who the left had dehumanized and characterized as the stupidest person on the planet.

This year, it’s different.  Visually, Mitt is very presidential.  He’s a big, tall man with presidential hair and an engaging vital manner.  He’s also a Republican, which in my humble opinion, is unforgivable.  But that’s not the point.  As Obama supposedly believes, debates are sideshows.  From a policy perspective, they’re meaningless.  But I think they serve a purpose that can’t be underrated.  In the modern debate, we get as close as we can to hand to hand combat between chieftains of competing clans.  It *is* physical.  That’s why it was important that Michael Dukakis looked short, that Richard Nixon sweat and that Barack Obama looked like he didn’t want to be there.

It might have also done in Hillary because at 5’7″, she had to look feisty to compete with his taller frame and longer limbs. He took up more space and with a female opponent, he strut his macho stuff and acted dismissively when she talked. It might not have been enough that she was the smartest person in the room who had done her homework and could whip up a policy in 30 seconds flat.  To the liberals and progressives who were afraid of losing again, she had to look more like Boudicca than Hermione Granger.

Boudicca, ass-kicking queen of the Britons
(bears striking resemblance to Julia Gillard)

Nevertheless, she took him on and won her debates with him to such an extent that he refused to debate her again during the primaries after she beat him in Pennsylvania. He sought out a friendlier crowd in NC the next day to lick his wounds, flip her the bird and brush the dirt off his shoulders.  It has often been said that he doesn’t like confrontation and that NC appearance showed that he was much better at acting like the mean BMOC when he was with his adoring fans than taking her on and losing to her again.

It’s been awhile since I read MoDo but I dropped into her column yesterday and she seems to have matured ever so slightly.  She’s not so flip these days, probably because her mancrush in 2008 turned out to be far worse for women that the woman she mocked for two decades.  Maybe she’s learned her lesson.  She also seems more than a little alarmed.  Oh sure, Obama will do better next time.  Someone will have figured out how he’s supposed to debate a real general campaign opponent.  But MoDo suggests it’s more serious than that:

Just as Poppy Bush didn’t try as hard as he should have because he assumed voters would reject Slick Willie, Obama lapsed into not trying because he assumed voters would reject Cayman Mitt.

The president averted his eyes as glittering opportunities passed, even when Romney sent a lob his way with a reference to his accountant.

Obama has been coddled by Valerie Jarrett, the adviser who sat next to Michelle at the debate, instead of the more politically strategic choice of local pols and their spouses. Jarrett believes that everyone must woo the prodigy who deigns to guide us, not the other way around.

At a fund-raising concert in San Francisco Monday night, the president mocked Romney’s star turn, saying “what was being presented wasn’t leadership; that’s salesmanship.”

It is that distaste for salesmanship that caused Obama not to sell or even explain health care and economic policies; and it is that distaste that caused him not to sell himself and his policies at the debate. His latest fund-raising plea is marked “URGENT.” But in refusing to muster his will and energy, and urgently sell his vision, he underscores his own lapses in leadership and undermines arguments for four more years.

The debate was an uncomfortable window into Obama’s style in all things presidential.  What is urgent to you is not an emergency to him.  He’s smaller than we thought, less secure, confident and sure of his experience.  He doesn’t look like the alpha male commanding his clan.  He’s the guy who seeks assistance from the moderator with ingratiating comments.  That Obama doesn’t stand a chance against a real presidential candidate and not the carefully crafted illusions his campaign spun for him to do battle with four years ago.  And that is the weak prince we have had in office for four years while the barbarians knocked down the gates.

In a way, a strong showing by Joe Biden this evening might just do Obama in.

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And here’s another quote from that MoDo column that I find deeply disturbing:

Once during the 2008 campaign, reading about all the cataclysms jolting the economy and the world, Obama joked to an adviser: “Maybe I should throw the game.”

Can someone confirm whether he really said that?
Unbelievable.

White and delightsome??

Mr. Deity has a message about Mormonism.  Do Mormons running for political office really believe that dark skinned people were cursed by god?  Actually, you can apply all kinds of tests to politicians who also claim to be religious.  Is the Adam and Eve story true or is evolution true?  How should we evaluate people who believe that God cursed women to be in subjection to men?  This idea seems to be extremely important to a lot of Christians.  They need to be asked if that’s what they truly believe.  This is why I keep saying that God needs a major rewrite.  The old versions just don’t make sense anymore.

But anyway, here’s a message from Mr. Deity who was raised Mormon:

Inflection points

Black in West Virginia

You’ve probably already seen this article about race and the 2008 campaign.  Supposedly, if people in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and NY hadn’t been such ignorant bigots, Obama would have won by bigger margins.  That’s assuming that there was nothing more important on the electorate’s mind.

It’s an interesting study but I can’t imagine why this would be of any particular interest to anyone.  Obama won.  That means enough people were either able to overcome the conditioning of their culture or they were scared shitless about the market collapse.  What it *doesn’t* mean is that the people who were googling racist jokes would have voted for Obama if they had been more enlightened people.  For those of us who realize that race is a social construct and not a biological one, Obama’s skin color did not factor into our decision.  If you’re really post-racial, you evaluate the candidate by criteria that is important for successful presidents.  A candidate who weaponizes racism, whether real or merely convenient, against hard working people who are concerned for their own livelihoods, is not that much different than the guy who is googling the N word.  If anyone is being prejudiced here, it might be the Obama campaign who assumes that everyone in Appalachia is hiding an ignorant redneck heart.

There are some questions I’d like the answers to about this study, which I have only glanced at briefly.  For example, what about the people in these states that don’t have computers and have never used google.  I have relatives who fall into this category.  They’re more likely to google a recipe for halushka, if they had a computer or any interest in using one.  They were not fans of Obama but hardly racists, considering the diversity in their own families.  The study makes me think of Gallup polls that report on people the surveyers contacted by phone.  Presumably, that means landline.  But what if you don’t have a landline?  How would Gallup contact you to know what you think? A phone survey might oversample older people who may not believe in evolution while showing a drop off of people who do because younger people don’t need landlines.  Or, the study could be finding that race was part of the general atmosphere of 2008 and people were following up on stories they had heard. It might be a voyeur effect.  And how do you account for NJ turning up ranked #17 on the list?  I’ve never met any racists here in NJ and I’ve lived here for 2 decades.

Then there are the unanswered questions about whether Obama’s ill-timed remarks about bitter, gun-totin’, church goers before the Pennsylvania primary might have had any effect on the primaries in that state or the subsequent one in West Virginia. Obama seemed to go out of his way to insult everyone in Appalachia long before a single vote was cast for him there.  Why aren’t we questioning his stereotypes and prejudices towards the voters in these states? If you listened to the Obama campaign, you’d think that Appalachia consisted of nothing but toothless, moonshine smuggling rednecks.  I don’t doubt that there are some places in central PA where those people exist but I never spoke to one when I was phone banking or canvassing there.  Did the study author bother to explore the effect of Obama’s snubs on these primary outcomes?  Another question that I’m dying to have the answer to is how many searches of the form “hillary, bitch” came out of lower Manhattan or “redneck” from Chicago, Illinois?   Why don’t we find out whether making the men of this country less sexist would have lead to the first female presidency?

Or would we hear howls of protest?  Hillary must be judged by a completely different set of criteria.  She and her husband were centrists, they’ll say.

Ok, I’ll bite.  Would a guy who wanted to appoint the first female attorney general, who raised taxes on the wealthy, appointed two of the most liberal judges on the supreme court we have today, put health care reform at the front of his agenda, got the Family Leave Act passed, protected children’s health care with SCHIP, stared down Republicans when they shut down government and was in favor of having gays serve openly in the military years before Obama kinda sorta got around to reversing DADT, would that guy be considered centrist today?

I have a lot of differences with my own party even though I consider myself solidly liberal.  But one of the most striking differences has to be how history is remembered.  It is illogical to judge the Clintons as more “centrist” than Obama.  In fact, the only way that the word centrist becomes negative against the Clintons is when it is taken out of context and when the comparison to Obama is not made.  Instead, centrism is mapped to the Americans Elect, Thom Friedmanesque monstrosity, that thing without a soul.  It ignores the fact that centrism in 1993 was a primarily a description of where the Clintons were on the left.  On a scale of 1=>10, leftiest Democrat to rightiest Republican, the Clintons were about a 3.8.  Now that the scale goes to 15, it is Obama who is centrist at about an 8 and the Clintons look solidly liberal when the issues and voting records are compared.

Lefties seem disgusted by DADT and DOMA that were implemented in Clinton’s terms but forget (or were too young to pay attention) that it was during the Clinton administration when the topics first landed on the national scene and in the case of gays in the military, it was Clinton who brought it up in the first place and wanted to allow gays to serve.  I’m betting that many young Democrats don’t know that and their lefty elders aren’t setting the record straight.

What I think bothers lefties the most about Clinton was not his “centrism”, although he probably referred to himself as a centrist back then.  It was that he was not dogmatic in his lefty beliefs.  Dogmatism plagues both ends of the political spectrum. When people complain about partisanship, they’re really complaining about dogmatism, that persistence in believing in theories in spite of all evidence to the contrary.  Dogma has relatively little to do with politics and has almost everything to do with identity.  It also has little to do with rationality and a lot to do with emotion.

I was more than a little disappointed to see Charles Pierce jump on lefty revisionism in one of his latest Netroots Nation posts.  One of the reasons I stopped going to these events was because I wasn’t willing to empty my brain so that it could fully absorb the dogma saturated atmosphere.  Plus, I find crunchy granola, anti-vaccine, anti-nuclear energy, anti-genetically modified everything really irritating, not to mention that people who can’t differentiate between corporate shareholders and stakeholders have no idea what they’re talking about when they wail against all “corporatism”. Netroots Nation is not much different than a CPAC convention.  Both entities have solid beliefs that they base their solutions on but they have little to do with observation, data collection, careful analysis, construction of a model, proposing policies and evaluating the effect of those policies on the model.  Dogmatists don’t usually like to have their beliefs evaluated.

If there is a recent surge in interest in the Clintons, it’s probably because voters realize that one is still available.  And it’s not voters, specifically the working class and women, who are looking forward to Hillary in 2016.  No, voters would prefer to have her now.  It is the party leadership who wants to create the expectation of a Hillary 2016 run.  They’re hoping that delayed gratification will help focus voter attention on the here and now where they have presented Obama as the only choice.  But I don’t think that’s going to work this year.  And it’s great that Obama is finally getting feisty but I don’t think he’s trustworthy.  It’s not just his actions that make him suspect.  It’s primarily his contempt for voters in general.

Maybe quality doesn’t always triumph over mediocrity.  But I think that when people have had experience of both, without a dogmatic filter, their brains are able to synthesize an evaluation based on information they have gathered, whether consciously or not.  I made this point in 2008 about presentation and how a speaker who does his or her homework will shine over someone who has baffled the audience with bullshit.   The political consultant class who thinks that voters don’t know the difference may be indulging in wishful thinking.  Sure, there are the Fox News viewers who are suffering from acquired stupidity syndrome but what about the other half of the population?  They now have the kind of information about Obama that wasn’t available to them in 2008.

It’s not the dogmatists at Netroots Nation that will decide the election this year.  It’s going to be the base that the Democrats blew off in 2008.  I’m sure the Democrats aren’t happy about that but calling them racists is probably not going to work this time.  They gave Obama a chance and he has come up severely wanting.  This upcoming performance evaluation is based on actual performance.  And if the working people are chattering about Clinton, it’s not because Mark Penn has anything to do with it.

What we might really be seeing is frustration on the part of the party loyalists, Obama fan base and self-described intellectuals towards the electorate that refuses to eat its poison mushrooms.  Those working class idiots don’t know what’s good for them, they want a “centrist”, they’re racists, they’re stupid.  But mostly, those working people and women and independents have way too many votes.  There’s a lot of howling going on right now from the lefty dogmatists who simply want to believe what they want to believe, damn the facts and life and imminent poverty staring people in the face everyday. But might I suggest that calling people racists and politically naive is not the best way to win friends and influence people.  Since the great unwashed masses are the ones who are going to determine this election in the fall, whether the lefties like it or not, a much better idea would be to give them what they want before they go to the polls.

Who do these people think they’re talking to?

I got this picture from Corrente in one of Lambert’s posts.  It’s a picture of the inside of Obama’s campaign headquarters in Chicago.  If you’ve ever wondered why so many of his fanboys sound like young guys who don’t have families or responsibilities, well, here’s your answer:

Do you see any women in that picture? There might be a few waaaaaay in the back but mostly it looks like the library of an oversized frat house.  I like the Adidas shoes though.  They remind me of the ones I had when I was a freshman at Pitt. Very comfy.

These are the same people who get on social media outlets and have little hissy fits when you suggest that their candidate might be out of touch with the average voter.  These are the guys who tell you that the ONLY reason you could possibly be dissatisfied with Obama’s performance is because you’re a racist.  Or stupid.  Yeah, I like that one.  You’re stupid because you can’t see that not voting for him is voting against your best interests.

And voting for him would be what?  And why is there an unspoken assumption that if you don’t want to vote for Obama that you’re naturally going to vote for Romney?  Isn’t that a bit presumptuous?  There are other candidates, you know.

By the way, how is insulting your voters supposed to work anyway?  When we’re out here struggling to get by on our dwindling savings why are we confronted with another teachable moment about race?  Is the Obama fanbase trying to suggest that if we weren’t racists we’d be more prosperous?  Or are they trying to blame our stupidity for our unemployment problems? Are they trying to depress us and strip us of our self esteem and make us feel bad about our situation, because that doesn’t seem like a winning formula to me. If anyone in the fanbase wants to address the logic behind the messaging and blaming the victims, I’m all ears.  Well, I’m all ears to a message that treats me as a college educated adult that can reason my way out of a paper bag.  I like a message that doesn’t condescend to flimflam me about Obama’s “accomplishments” and tell me that Lilly Ledbetter solved all my problems.  I’m not Cindy Lou Who.  If the message is going to give me a plan and concrete examples of how Obama is going to turn this ship around in the next four years that sound convincing, I could be open to that.  But I haven’t seen it yet and none of it passes my smell test.

Charles Pierce did a post on Obama’s headquarters last week.  Besides the fact that the place is locked down like a fortress and you can’t get in without surrendering your driver’s license, the place is locked down like a fortress.  These guys are on social media sites all day shaping the message.  This a the reason why I’ve avoided facebook and why I don’t hang out at many lefty blogs.

But who the heck are they talking to?  I don’t relate to these people and I doubt that they relate to me.  To me, they’re just the online manifestation of hooliganism.  They’re loud, aggressive and intimidating in the comment threads.  It’s not that I don’t think I can handle it.  I just ask myself why I should bother.  They’re not hired to have an argument with you.  They’re there to incite a bait ball frenzy with their partners,  shut you up and drive you away.  They’re not in the persuasion business.  They’re in the enforcement business, not unlike the riot cops who the DHS sics on Occupy protestors every time they get together.  It’s almost like they’re trying to prevent us from getting together and comparing notes about Obama’s performance.  We can’t have that.  We might discover that racism and stupidity have nothing to do with it.

We’re coming up on the 4th anniversary of that infamous RBC hearing in Washington where the rules were rewritten to make sure they were more equal for Obama at the expense of all of the other voters in America who 1.) didn’t think he was ready to be president and 2.) couldn’t identify with his asshole fanbase.  And the problem with Obama still hasn’t changed.  He’s still not ready to be president and he still has a bunch of assholes working for him.  And these assholes, who appear to have all of the experience of 22-28 year old unmarried men, have the nerve to dictate to the rest of us that if we don’t vote for him again, we’re stupid racists and if he loses, all of the catastrophes that follow will be our fault.

How about we look at it this way?  It’s not the responsibility of the voters to ensure that the fanboys’ employer gets reelected.  It is the candidate’s responsibility to do a good job and make sure he is leading the country in a positive direction with a vision of the future that the rest of us can relate to.  That’s the way it works.  It is and always will be the Economy, stupid.

The candidate lucked out when the market tanked in 2008 because from what I could see, the campaign wasn’t over and his presidency was not assured back then.  Now, we know what he is and he’s going to have to do a better job before voters give him four more years.  And these guys in their shrinkwrapped, airconditioned bunkers, sealed for their own protection and away from the real world are not helping his image.

One more thing: This is for all of the blogger/pundit types out there who write witty and incisive prose about the failures of the Obama administration (you know who you are).  We read your stuff and know that you’re just as horrified as we are that Obama has given everything away to Wall Street.  We know that you can predict how badly life is going to suck for those of us who will be on the losing end of the Grand Bargain.  We know that you’re appalled by Obama’s poor performance.  It’s not hard to read between the lines.  So, do us all a favor and stop running around with your hair on fire about how we must vote for him or Armageddon will come when Romney is elected.  That assumes that nothing can be done and all hope is lost.  That isn’t helping.  You haven’t even tried yet.

If I had your megaphone, I would use it.

****************************

This video of the saucepan demonstrations in Quebec is going viral so let’s spread it around too:

See the difference?  Those are average people.  They’re not all from Sigma Pi.

Wednesday: Ponderables

Obama’s campaign stops reflect his growing problems with Appalachia left over from 2008.

So, the results are in for the Arkansas and Kentucky primaries and there’s reason to be concerned for the Democratic party:

With 61 percent of precincts reporting in Arkansas, Obama took 60 percent to 40 percent for Wolfe. In Kentucky, with nearly all precincts reporting, 42.1 percent of Democratic primary voters opted for “uncommitted” rather than backing the president, who received 57.9 percent.

For a guy who’s running uncontested in Kentucky, that’s not a good sign.  By the way, in California and NJ, there is a “write in” option for the June 5 primaries.  Might I suggest that Democrats who are most seriously displeased with Obama write in John Wolfe’s name.  Oh, I know, they’ll call you a racist:

One easy explanation — and the one regularly espoused by some Democrats — for Obama’s struggles in Appalachia and portions of the South is simply that some white voters will not vote for an African American for president.

But although no one doubts that race may be a factor, exit polling suggests that the opposition to Obama goes beyond it.

And seasoned political observers who have studied the politics of these areas say race may be less of a problem for Obama than the broader cultural disconnect that many of these voters feel with the Democratic Party.

Or stupid:

“Race is definitely a factor for some Texans but not the majority,” said former congressman Charles W. Stenholm (D-Tex.). “The most significant factor is the perception/reality that the Obama administration has leaned toward the ultra-left viewpoint on almost all issues.”

But that’s just because campaign spinmeisters can say anything to journalists who have spent their four years in college hanging out at Starbucks and avoiding science courses that have labs.  (more on this later)  They can’t reason their way out of a paper bag.  So let me do it for them.

{{tying hair back, rolling up sleeves, putting on goggles and gloves *snap!*}}

1.) Let’s consider the possibilities.  These are southern states and southern states do have a history of racism.  People who grew up in the south may be unaware of the lingering attitudes about race that they have picked up from their environment and we cannot discount this possibility. But my mom lived in the whitest of white neighborhoods of Pittsburgh and didn’t experience racism until she went to high school in the 50s.  There was racism in the north as well.  It was just different.

2.) However, in the case of these particular states, Arkansas was in the vanguard in coming to terms with its racist heritage.  In 1957, Central High School in Little Rock was the scene of ugly racism as well as courage when 9 african american students matriculated.  Some states have leadership forced upon it but I suspect that there were many white people in Arkansas who were ready for integration as those who spat on those kids.  There’s also the possibility that the resentment of forced integration remains there but has gone underground.

3.) For those who were around in Little Rock in 1957, probably a lot of older people, how many of them were for integration and how many were against? We can’t assume that all of the older people in Little Rock were against because presumably there were pockets of support for integration in 1957 or it never would have happened, even if it was a struggle.  Who were these people and who did they vote for yesterday?  And let’s not forget that the Democrats lost a lot of voters in the south in the aftermath of Civil Rights legislation in 1964.  Many of the real racists abandoned the Democrats for the Republican party in retaliation.  Did they cross back over party lines to vote against Obama?  Enquiring minds want to know.

4.) It’s is personally painful to be called a racist.  Yes, believe it or not, my feelings are hurt when I am called a racist, but I overcome it because I am strongly confident that that’s not who I am or how my parents raised me.  I wasn’t alive in 1957.  Nope, not even a twinkle in my dad’s eye. By the time I got to school, Little Rock had already changed the world I lived in.  I’m not going to say there wasn’t racism but I wasn’t aware of it in my schools with the exception of the times when I lived in the south and when *I* was one of  the white kids bussed in to an inner city school.  Believe it or not, we all got along.  It was the adults who seemed to freak out.  So, you know, people my age and with my experience of living all over the place, racism isn’t part of who we are.  There was a time when people used to have different expectations about African Americans? I can’t wrap my head around it.  But I recognize a slur when I hear it and I don’t like to be called a racist.

5.) But let’s say there are Democrats who are a bit older than I am who watched the Civil Rights turmoil and were cognizant of their privilege and felt guilty about it but also grew up in an environment where those expectations about African Americans still existed.  That would probably be the older generation of baby boomers.  For them, there might be an inner conflict.  This is all just speculation.  I can’t know what older boomers are thinking and it might not be all older boomers, just some (so save your breath and comments for some other thread.  You know who you are.)  But that number of older boomers might be *just* enough to be useful for political spin doctors.  Those older boomers probably also went to school at a time when girls had to wear skirts and dresses and where the genders were segregated into wood shop and auto repair class for boys and home ec and sewing for girls.  I blissfully escaped that crap but older boomers did not.  So older boomers lived in a twilight period where there might have been enough indoctrination of stereotype about race and gender but they were forced to reprogram themselves.  The Civil Rights era reprogrammed them on race but left gender pretty much untouched.  Legally, feminism just didn’t have the same bite. For these voters, intellectually, racism is unacceptable but on a deeper level, it’s never completely gone away.  There might be some guilt about it, like a mental smack on the wrist whenever those older feelings of race start to bubble up.  And maybe it’s not just age related.  Maybe if you grew up in a town that was mostly white, the shock of the new is just as unsettling.

6.) Obama as president has done a lousy job.  Sorry, you can call me what you like but I’m evaluating him by the same criteria as I would have evaluated any of my elementary school classmates in Hawaii in 1970 and he definitely would have been in my cohort.  As one of my potential classmates, I am judging him by the standards of my generation and he just sucks as president.  That doesn’t make me a racist.  That’s just me, saying to Barry who may be sitting two desks over, “Barry, we’re walking to that store up the road to get some cracked plum seeds after school.  Are you coming?   My dad came back from Japan and got me a new Sony tape recorder, do you want to try it out tonight at my house? (My gadget addiction started young, I blame my father.) Did you vote for Patty Smith for class president?  I don’t know, I just think she’s really smart.”  So, when I go to the primary, I’m going to pick the best candidate based on past performance and future projections.  And Barry does not get my vote.

7.) But if I have an inner conflict, my trip to the voting booth may be quite different.  I  may not like the job that Obama is doing but I have to evaluate that assessment based on my background.  Am I making that assessment because I have residual feelings of racism or because Obama is really a lousy president?  Well, there have been other lousy presidents and I didn’t feel this level of discomfort.  Instead of saying to myself, “Jeez, how is it that a Democratic president could be worse than George W. Bush, is that even *possible*?” or “it’s because his skin color is interfering with my ability to judge his performance”, I might attribute my discomfort to my own character flaw.  If I can’t tell the difference, then the shame of not being able to tell the difference might persuade me to vote for Barry so that I overcome my inner perception of racism or to reinforce my political tribal affiliation.

8.) One of the things that disturbs be greatly about the “Well, they must be racists” memes is that it presumes that otherwise, Obama’s about as close to Jesus level perfection as a human can possibly be.  If a voter is critical of Obama’s caving to Wall Street on the economy, or his pronouncements about equality or the war that he fails to deliver on, or his slavish devotion to putting everyone’s retirement and social safety net on the table, all of that are just trivialities.  We voters are being unnecessarily harsh and peevish if we complain about how Obama’s mere presence in the White House has given the Republicans carte blanche to destroy the quality of life for the generations of Americans who have not yet reached the magical age of 65.  We have no right to be angry at this man whose delicate feet never touch the soil as he floats ethereally from issue to issue without a political compass.  He’s got a lot on his plate (that he asked for against many of our objections and concerns with his shocking inexperience). We must have some petty and embarrassing reason for rejecting him that has nothing to do with our ruined careers, foreclosed houses or children’s future indebtedness to the banks.

Now, I am just speculating about this here and all of this might be pulling it out of my ass but there is the possibility that the people most affected by perceptions of race yesterday were the ones who actually voted for Obama.  The stigma of being called a racist is powerful and in order to prevent that inner discomfort, they go along with the crowd and vote for Obama so that they don’t have to listen to those voices.  Then there are others who just evaluated Obama by their own standards of performance and observations and decided that Obama is not a very good president and needed to be opposed in order to send a message to the Democratic party.

You know, I don’t know what to say to those people who are struggling with the potential accusations of racism.  Those accusations, and repetitions of them by journalists, must be working because they keep popping up over and over again to explain why it is that a guy who is unchallenged is suddenly getting stiff comptetition from “uncommitted”.  At least be aware of the possibility that they are attempting to manipulate you with them. But sometimes, you have to do the painful thing and live with people calling you names.  Ask yourself if the country is going in the direction you want it to go and whether Obama is capable of taking you there.  If the answer is no, vote for the other guy in the primary or write a name in.  There is too much at risk to let the spindoctors roll over you and poke at your inner turmoil.  Ignore all of the other messages.  Obama will do ok if he doesn’t get the nomination this year, trust me on this.  He can make a mint on the speech circuit.  Maybe he can even take a genuine interest in social issues, though I wouldn’t count on it.  It’s not something he’s spent a lot of time on in the past and he shows no real affinity for it.  Let him manage The Foundation for Poor Facebook Millionaires and their Mashie Niblicks.  He’d be good at that.  Let him earn money the old fashioned way- through his Harvard connections.  Just get him out of the Oval Office, fergawdssakes.  I promise not to call you a racist.

Another thing I wonder about is the idea that DEMOCRATS are rejecting Obama because they think he is too “ultra-left”.  What are the chances?  The people who really think this are the ones who abandoned the Democratic party for the Tea Party in 2008.  Those people will believe anything, but how many of them are participating in closed Democratic primaries?  I find this cohort very interesting because I’m not sure that they actually went to the polls yesterday to vote in a Democratic primary for John Wolfe whose positions are, if anything, to the left of Obama.  Wolfe is a civil rights lawyer who thinks that Wall Street has gotten away with murder.  I guess it’s possible that a bunch of brain dead Democrats went to the polls thinking Wolfe was more right than Obama but shouldn’t we find out?  If I were a journalist, this is the question I’d be most interested in finding an answer for because it could be very important to the general election.  Who were the 40% of the voters who passed on Obama and voted for Wolfe?  And what about the people in Kentucky who would rather put their votes in limbo in uncommitted territory rather than give them to Obama?  Would the have picked someone more or less left than Obama had they been given a choice?  Appalachia benefitted from the New Deal and it voted heavily for Hillary in 2008.  It’s a lot to untangle but could make for some very interesting reading.  Maybe Wolfe is just speaking their language or maybe there’s something else going on that the other states haven’t had the opportunity to express.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped journalists and pundits from idly speculating on voter discontent and then, sweeping it away as distraction from what’s really important- the disastrous Facebook IPO.  Nothing to see here, people, move along.

Get on it, journalists, and stop taking dictation.

Speechless

Instructions for Digby to be administered to Thereisnospoon

I was headed out to the library but I bopped over to Digby’s to see if she’d posted.    She hadn’t but the next young clueless pundit-in-waiting-for-a-paying-gig male who stalks her site had.  I don’t know how you felt about your tax return ordeal yesterday but I was shocked by how much I had paid in taxes in my layoff year.  Yes, I got some of that back in unemployment benefits but I paid more than I got back.  A lot more.

So, I was gobsmacked when I read that apparently my problem with the tax system is due to my racism.  Yep, that is my problem.  It has nothing to do with the fact that my former salary is high enough that I fit into one of the highest tax bracket but not anywhere near high enough to hit that magic $250,000 sweet spot that everyone is yearning to get to, and now I don’t have a salary at all because some wealthy shareholders decided I was abusing their generosity.  It has nothing to do with the fact that my property taxes are outrageous in this township and state income taxes in NJ are meh so that middle class suburbanites end up carrying all the weight for themselves and everyone else.

No, no, I am resentful of the unfair tax system because I am white and I don’t want to pay for poor black and hispanic people.  It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with my anger that the rich managed to get out of their fiduciary obligations.  Apparently, it is not my concern that I will not be able to put away money for my kid’s college education or my own retirement that makes me opposed to further tax increases.  It’s not my opposition to the wars sucking up so much taxpayer wealth or faith-based initiatives that are actively promoting the relegation of women or gay people to second class status.  It isn’t my informed indignation that we pay a hell of a lot in taxes compared to the Europeans (I have the return to prove it) but get very little in return in government services.  Our healthcare costs are outrageous ($960/month on COBRA, the cost just went up), tuition is unaffordable, and every service that gets privatized means that it will cost more for us to use it.

No, all of that is irrelevant.  The only reason I am opposed to higher taxes is because I don’t like black people.  Nevermind that I’m not actually a racist.

Is it any wonder why independents, even independent liberal Democrats in Exile can’t stand Democrats, especially the young, white, male twit variety of Democrat?  It doesn’t even matter that some of his proposed solutions are worth discussing.  I can’t get past the idea that once again, in a major election year, I am a racist.

Obama’s “post-racial” presidential campaign starting early

Corrente has the links to James Clyburn’s accusation that criticism of Obama’s performance is driven by racism.  Actually, he’s saying something completely different.  He’s saying that the president’s problems are due to his skin color.  I assume he is referring to the question about Obama’s future electoral prospects.  You be the judge:

QUESTION: What do you think of Obama’s election prospects?

CLYBURN: I think they’re improving every day. I think the president has been a good president, a great commander in chief. I think when people allow themselves to — you know, I’m 70 years old. And I can tell you; people don’t like to deal with it, but the fact of the matter is, the president’s problems are in large measure because of his skin color. All you got to do is look at all the signs they’re carrying out there and look at the mail that I get. As I said, I’m 70 years old, I been going through this kind of stuff all my life. I know what kind of mail I get, I know what kind of phone calls I get, I know what people are saying who call the office.

I’m sure he didn’t mean what is underlined. It would be really bad if he was saying that Obama needs a four year handicap because he’s African American.  THAT would be a very racist, unfair, demeaning and untrue thing for Clyburn to say.

It also doesn’t speak well of Obama’s character if his feelings are hurt by the mail Obama is getting.  If it’s racist, it should go directly to the spam filter.  There’s no reason to read it or give it a second thought.  As I have told female bloggers over and over again, trollish comments are only little black pixels on your display.  They cannot hurt you.   They’re meant to make you feel bad for no other reason than to make you feel bad.  Why the hell is Obama reading them??  So, someone out there doesn’t like you.  You’re the fricking president and leader of the free world.  Are you going to let some asshole in Mississippi ruin your day because he doesn’t like your skin color?  It’s such an absurd idea I’m surprised a man like Clyburn would even bring it up.

Lambert also links to a post from Sean Wilentz in April 2008 about the outrageous accusations of racism directed at the Clintons and anyone who did not enthusiastically endorse Obama as the second coming of Jesus.  Many of us do not need to be reminded of one of the most disgusting aspects of the 2008 campaign season.  That was the year we became ugly, kkk grand poobah sheet wearing, knuckle dragging, racists even if we were young enough to grow up in an integrated society, in schools that were racially diverse and were brought up to judge people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.  It was beyond insulting.  My parents did not raise me to be a racist.  Not only did Obama’s droogs smear us, they smeared our parents.

Some Democrats took those insults seriously and didn’t want to be forced out of the tribe.  They capitulated so the Obama campaign would stop calling them dirty names.  Some of us would not be manipulated by false accusations to vote for a man whose political philosophy and accomplishments were vaporous and indistinct.  We judged Obama by what he did and said, not on any other factors.

And we’ll do it again in 2012.

Clyburn can go jump in the spam filter.

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