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Liberals Are Simple-Minded – Reason.com January 18, 2016

Posted by tkcollier in In The News, philosophy & politics, Science & Technology.
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It is almost a truism among psychological researchers that conservatives are simple-minded and dogmatic. Liberals, meanwhile, are supposed to be more complex and open-minded thinkers. But a new paper is calling those conclusions into question.

The more interesting and telling results were found when comparing the liberal and conservative results derived from the environmentalism and religion dogmatism scales. The researchers report, “Conservatives are indeed more dogmatic on the religious domain; but liberals are more dogmatic on the environmental domain.” In fact, they note that “the highest score for simplicity was for liberals” (emphasis theirs).

They note that liberals scored high for dogmatism in response to these three items:

9. There are two kinds of people in this world: those who are for the truth that the planet is warming and those who are against that obvious truth.

3. When it comes to stopping global warming, it is better to be a dead hero than a live coward.

10. A person who thinks primarily of his/her own happiness, and in so doing disregards the health of the environment (for example, trees and other animals), is beneath contempt.

The researchers point out, “Those are not just statements about having an environmental position: They are explicitly and overwhelmingly dogmatic statements. And liberals are more likely to agree with such sentiments—for an environmental domain.” The liberal respondents are not just asserting “‘I am an environmentalist’ but rather ‘all people who disagree with me are fools.'”

Ultimately, the researchers report that both liberals and conservatives are almost equally simple-minded when it comes to topics about which they feel strongly

Source: Liberals Are Simple-Minded – Reason.com

And we may be born with a proclivity for being Conservative or Liberal.

Destined for War: Can China and the United States Escape Thucydides’s Trap? – The Atlantic September 30, 2015

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, In The News, philosophy & politics.
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ChinaUSAPuzzleWar, however, is not inevitable. Four of the 16 cases in our review did not end in bloodshed. Those successes, as well as the failures, offer pertinent lessons for today’s world leaders. Escaping the Trap requires tremendous effort. As Xi Jinping himself said during a visit to Seattle on Tuesday, “There is no such thing as the so-called Thucydides Trap in the world. But should major countries time and again make the mistakes of strategic miscalculation, they might create such traps for themselves.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/09/united-states-china-war-thucydides-trap/406756/

Why Science is so Hard to Believe March 5, 2015

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, philosophy & politics, Science & Technology.
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We have trouble digesting randomness; our brains crave pattern and meaning.

Even for scientists, the scientific method is a hard discipline. They, too, are vulnerable to confirmation bias — the tendency to look for and see only evidence that confirms what they already believe. But unlike the rest of us, they submit their ideas to formal peer review before publishing them. Once the results are published, if they’re important enough, other scientists will try to reproduce them — and, being congenitally skeptical and competitive, will be very happy to announce that they don’t hold up. Scientific results are always provisional, susceptible to being overturned by some future experiment or observation. Scientists rarely proclaim an absolute truth or an absolute certainty. Uncertainty is inevitable at the frontiers of knowledge.

Featured imageThat provisional quality of science is another thing a lot of people have trouble with. To some climate-change skeptics, for example, the fact that a few scientists in the 1970s were worried (quite reasonably, it seemed at the time) about the possibility of a coming ice age is enough to discredit what is now the consensus of the world’s scientists:

Americans fall into two basic camps.  Those with a more “egalitarian” and “communitarian” mind-set are generally suspicious of industry and apt to think it’s up to something dangerous that calls for government regulation; they’re likely to see the risks of climate change. In contrast, people with a “hierarchical” and “individualistic” mind-set respect leaders of industry and don’t like government interfering in their affairs; they’re apt to reject warnings about climate change, because they know what accepting them could lead to — some kind of tax or regulation to limit emissions.

via Why science is so hard to believe – The Washington Post.

What world can teach U.S. about entitlements April 27, 2014

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, News and politics, philosophy & politics.
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Entitlement Lessons From Abroad A new report, by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, notes that many countries have recently enacted reforms that have trimmed benefit formulas, raised retirement ages, and put in place new funded pension systems that supplement or partially substitute for pay-as-you-go government systems.

Several countries – including Germany, Italy, Japan, and Sweden – have gone further and introduced “automatic stabilizers” into their public pension systems that, directly or indirectly, index benefits to the growth in the payroll tax base. These stabilizers may differ in design, but they have two crucial characteristics in common. First, they are all expressly designed to offset the full impact of demographically driven cost growth. And second, they are all self-adjusting. In effect, they put entitlements on a new kind of autopilot – one that is preprogrammed for cost constraint rather than for cost growth.

ChangeInEntitlementBenefits 2010to2040It’s ironic that other developed countries, most of which have faster-aging populations and more expansive welfare states than the United States, are leading the way on entitlement reform.  Part of the explanation may be that, until recently, America’s age wave still loomed over the horizon, while in Europe and Japan aging populations have been burdening public budgets, forcing up payroll tax rates, and slowing economic growth for decades.

Part of the answer may also lie in America’s peculiar entitlement ethos.  In Europe, government benefit programs may be fiercely defended, with the opponents of reform manning the barricades and calling general strikes. But in the end, everyone understands that they are part of a social contract that is subject to renegotiation and revision.  In the United States, much of the public views Social Security and Medicare as quasi-contractual arrangements between individuals and the state.  This mindset, which is encouraged by the misleading insurance metaphors in which the programs are cloaked, may make old-age benefits more difficult to reform in the United States than in Europe’s large welfare states.

via What world can teach U.S. about entitlements – Global Public Square – CNN.com Blogs.

William Jefferson Gingrich January 26, 2012

Posted by tkcollier in In The News, News and politics, philosophy & politics.
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How long have I been saying it? At least for 15 years, but in private I have been aware of it longer. Newt Gingrich is conservatism’s Bill Clinton, but without the charm. He has acquired wit but he has all the charm of barbed wire.

Newt and Bill are 1960s generation narcissists, and they share the same problems: waywardness and deviancy. Newt, like Bill, has a proclivity for girl hopping. It is not as egregious as Bill’s, but then Newt is not as drop-dead beautiful. His public record is already besmeared with tawdry divorces, and there are private encounters with the fair sex that doubtless will come out. Thanks to my big brother for this piece.

via William Jefferson Gingrich – The New York Sun.

(more…)

“federal government is now an insurance company with an army” April 9, 2011

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The Government Accountability Office concludes that America faces a “fiscal gap” of $99.4 trillion over the next 75 years, which would mean we would have to increase taxes by 50% or reduce spending by 35% simply to stop accumulating more debt. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will together make up 50% of the federal budget by 2021.

For liberals, the long-term fiscal crisis should seem devastating. If entitlement programs continue to grow, they will soon crowd out almost all other government spending. Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein has pointed out that the federal government is now an insurance company with an army. This means that there will be little money left for programs to address income inequality, poverty, education, infrastructure, science and technology, research and all the other purposes of active, energetic government.

via The Ryan Budget: A Test of Character for Obama – TIME.

What Happend to Civilty and Modesty? January 15, 2011

Posted by tkcollier in Lifestyle, philosophy & politics.
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The problem is that over the past 40 years or so we have gone from a culture that reminds people of their own limitations to a culture that encourages people to think highly of themselves. The nation’s founders had a modest but realistic opinion of themselves and of the voters. They erected all sorts of institutional and social restraints to protect Americans from themselves. They admired George Washington because of the way he kept himself in check.

But over the past few decades, people have lost a sense of their own sinfulness. Children are raised amid a chorus of applause. Politics has become less about institutional restraint and more about giving voters whatever they want at that second. Joe DiMaggio didn’t ostentatiously admire his own home runs, but now athletes routinely celebrate themselves as part of the self-branding process.

In a famous passage, Reinhold Niebuhr put it best: “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. … Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.”

via Tree of Failure – NYTimes.com.

Cut Here. Invest There December 26, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, News and politics, philosophy & politics.
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Borrowing billions more from China to give ourselves more tax cuts does not qualify. Make no mistake, President Obama has enacted an enormous amount in two years. It’s impressive. But the really hard stuff lies ahead: taking things away. We are leaving an era where to be a mayor, governor, senator or president was, on balance, to give things away to people. And we are entering an era where to be a leader will mean, on balance, to take things away from people. It is the only way we’ll get our fiscal house in order before the market, brutally, does it for us.

To survive in the 21st century, America can no longer afford a politics of irresponsible profligacy. But to thrive in the 21st century — to invest in education, infrastructure and innovation — America cannot afford a politics of mindless austerity either.

The politicians we need are what I’d call “pay-as-you-go progressives” — those who combine fiscal prudence with growth initiatives to make their cities, their states or our country great again. Everyone knows the first rule of holes: When you’re in one, stop digging. But people often forget the second rule of holes: You can only grow your way out. You can’t borrow your way out.

via Cut Here. Invest There. – NYTimes.com.

Our New “Gilded Age” November 10, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, Geopolitics, philosophy & politics.
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The Boomers have been a terrible generation of political leaders. As in the case of most revolutionary generations in history, once the initial stab at change in their youth fell to the wayside, the real talent went into business and technology and changed the world–dramatically–for the better. The dregs went into politics and, in the process, have managed to thoroughly discredit it as a career and force for good in our society.

Last time it was this bad in America was those latter decades of the 19th century. The “revolution” then was the U.S. Civil War, and the crew that came out of that crucible was dramatically altered in character and vision and–most importantly–in personal connections. The bonds forged by war led to a lot of follow-on business development during a great and lengthy boom time. But it was an era much like today: frontier integration thanks to a rapidly expanding continental economy, the knitting together of a sectional economy into world-class “rising China” of its age, huge flows of people and FDI into the country–a miniature version of today’s globalization.

And during that age of booms and busts and the early populism that accompanied it, politics became a very dirty profession, so much so that when progressive icon TR decided to step into the fray, his wealthy NYC family begged him not to do so–it was considered such a huge step down from respectable obscurity. Few of us came name any politicians from that era (distant relation Grant being my favorite), but we all remember the industrial-financial titans, whose very names equal wealth: Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan, etc.

via Thomas P.M. Barnett’s Globlogization – Thomas P.M. Barnett’s Globlogization.

Born a Leftist October 28, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in health, Lifestyle, philosophy & politics.
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The research, based on 2,000 Americans, is published in the Journal of Politics. It found those with a strain of the DRD4 gene seek out “novelty” – such as people and lifestyles which are different to the ones they are used to. This leads them to have more liberal political opinions, it found.

The person’s age, ethnicity, gender or culture appeared to make no difference – it was the gene which counts. DRD4 is controlled by dopamine which affects the way the brain deals with emotions, pleasure and pain and can therefore influence personality traits.

UC Professor James Fowler said: “It is the crucial interaction of two factors – the genetic predisposition and the environmental condition of having many friends in adolescence – that is associated with being more liberal. “These findings suggest that political affiliation is not based solely on the kind of social environment people experience.”

via ‘Liberal gene’ discovered by scientists – Telegraph.

The Rise Of Youthful Secularism October 17, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Lifestyle, philosophy & politics, Religion.
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The most rapidly growing religious category today is composed of those Americans who say they have no religious affiliation. While middle-aged and older Americans continue to embrace organized religion, rapidly increasing numbers of young people are rejecting it.

As recently as 1990, all but 7% of Americans claimed a religious affiliation, a figure that had held constant for decades. Today, 17% of Americans say they have no religion, and these new “nones” are very heavily concentrated among Americans who have come of age since 1990. Between 25% and 30% of twentysomethings today say they have no religious affiliation — roughly four times higher than in any previous generation.

Sociologists Michael Hout and Claude Fischer of UC Berkeley were among the first to call attention to the ensuing rise in young “nones,” and in our recent book, “American Grace,” we have extended their analysis, showing that the association between religion and politics (and especially religion’s intolerance of homosexuality) was the single strongest factor in this portentous shift. In religious affinities, as in taste in music and preference for colas, habits formed in early adulthood tend to harden over time. So if more than one-quarter of today’s young people are setting off in adult life with no religious identification, compared with about one-20th of previous generations, the prospects for religious observance in the coming decades are substantially diminished.

via Religion, politics: Walking away from church – latimes.com.

Is It 3rd Party Time In 2012? October 3, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in philosophy & politics, Politics.
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“We basically have two bankrupt parties bankrupting the country,” said the Stanford University political scientist Larry Diamond. Indeed, our two-party system is ossified; it lacks integrity and creativity and any sense of courage or high-aspiration in confronting our problems. We simply will not be able to do the things we need to do as a country to move forward “with all the vested interests that have accrued around these two parties,” added Diamond. “They cannot think about the overall public good and the longer term anymore because both parties are trapped in short-term, zero-sum calculations,” where each one’s gains are seen as the other’s losses.

We have to rip open this two-party duopoly and have it challenged by a serious third party that will talk about education reform, without worrying about offending unions; financial reform, without worrying about losing donations from Wall Street; corporate tax reductions to stimulate jobs, without worrying about offending the far left; energy and climate reform, without worrying about offending the far right and coal-state Democrats; and proper health care reform, without worrying about offending insurers and drug companies.

via Op-Ed Columnist – Third Party Rising – NYTimes.com.

Sarah Palin the Sound and the Fury September 2, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in In The News, philosophy & politics.
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Interesting that the author was a rural guy, who was sympathetic to her, before researching for this article.

Even as Sarah Palin’s public voice grows louder, she has become increasingly secretive, walling herself off from old friends and associates, and attempting to enforce silence from those around her. Following the former Alaska governor’s road show, the author delves into the surreal new world Palin now inhabits—a place of fear, anger, and illusion, which has swallowed up the engaging, small-town hockey mom and her family—and the sadness she has left in her wake.

via Sarah Palin the Sound and the Fury | Politics | Vanity Fair.

Religionization of American Politics August 30, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in philosophy & politics, Religion.
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Obama isn’t the first president to have to deal with this. Abraham Lincoln, who never joined a church and was notoriously ambiguous and secretive about his religious beliefs, famously said, “The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession.” In his later years, despite denouncing those who were “enemies of” or “scoffed at” religion, he reiterated, “My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have become clearer and stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them.”

And Lincoln wasn’t alone, either. In fact, the United States was created by a very skeptical group of Founding Fathers. (more…)

Relax, We’ll Be Fine April 6, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, philosophy & politics.
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The U.S. is on the verge of a demographic, economic and social revival, built on its historic strengths. The U.S. has always been good at disruptive change. It’s always excelled at decentralized community-building. It’s always had that moral materialism that creates meaning-rich products. Surely a country with this much going for it is not going to wait around passively and let a rotten political culture drag it down.

via Op-Ed Columnist – Relax, We’ll Be Fine – NYTimes.com. (more…)

What The Tea Party And Hippies Have In Common March 5, 2010

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About 40 years ago, a social movement arose to destroy the establishment. The people we loosely call the New Left wanted to take on The Man, return power to the people, upend the elites and lead a revolution.

About 40 years ago, a social movement arose to destroy the establishment. The people we loosely call the New Left wanted to take on The Man, return power to the people, upend the elites and lead a revolution.

via Op-Ed Columnist – The Wal-Mart Hippies – NYTimes.com. (more…)

Bill Maher: New Rule: Smart President ≠ Smart Country August 8, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Humor, philosophy & politics.
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Just because a country elects a smart president doesn’t make it a smart country.  (Bill Maher then goes on and rants about polling examples of public ignorance. Reminds me of the “Jay Walking” interviews on the “Tonight Show”, often with College Students.)

Until we admit there are things we don’t know, we can’t even start asking the questions to find out. Until we admit that America can make a mistake, we can’t stop the next one. A smart guy named Chesterton once said: “My country, right or wrong is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying… It is like saying ‘My mother, drunk or sober.'” To which most Americans would respond: “Are you calling my mother a drunk?”

via Bill Maher: New Rule: Smart President ≠ Smart Country.

Top 1% Taxes Exceeds That of Bottom 95% July 31, 2009

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IRS data shows that in 2007—the most recent data available—the top 1 percent of taxpayers paid 40.4 percent of the total income taxes collected by the federal government. This is the highest percentage in modern history. By contrast, the top 1 percent paid 24.8 percent of the income tax burden in 1987, the year following the 1986 tax reform act.

blogTax20090729-chart1Remarkably, the share of the tax burden borne by the top 1 percent now exceeds the share paid by the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers combined. In 2007, the bottom 95 percent paid 39.4 percent of the income tax burden. This is down from the 58 percent of the total income tax burden they paid twenty years ago.

To put this in perspective, the top 1 percent is comprised of just 1.4 million taxpayers and they pay a larger share of the income tax burden now than the bottom 134 million taxpayers combined.

Some in Washington say the tax system is still not progressive enough. However, the recent IRS data bolsters the findings of an OECD study released last year showing that the U.S.—not France or Sweden—has the most progressive income tax system among OECD nations. We rely more heavily on the top 10 percent of taxpayers than does any nation and our poor people have the lowest tax burden of those in any nation.

via The Tax Foundation – Tax Burden of Top 1% Now Exceeds That of Bottom 95%.

The Skeptical Doctor December 12, 2008

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One of the effects of the concentration on the lives of celebrities, who are often people of little obvious merit or achievement, is that it transforms ambition into daydreams. Constantly comparing your own life with the fairy-tale life of celebrities means that small but achievable ambitions appear trivial and meaningless; but actually civilization is maintained not only by major achievements and talents, but by the striving of millions of ordinary people. This is undermined, I believe, by celebrity culture

The Skeptical Doctor.

The New Deal Didn’t Always Work, Either November 23, 2008

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, philosophy & politics.
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The traditional story is that President Franklin D. Roosevelt rescued capitalism by resorting to extensive government intervention; the truth is that Roosevelt changed course from year to year, trying a mix of policies, some good and some bad. It’s worth sorting through this grab bag now, to evaluate whether any of these policies might be helpful.

If I were preparing a “New Deal crib sheet,” I would start with the following lessons: Economic View – The New Deal Didn’t Always Work, Either – NYTimes.com

Will Obama Still Raise Taxes? October 13, 2008

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AN OBAMA PANIC? – New York Post
Recently, Obama said he wants to expedite loans to small businesses, so he seems to have a clue that they produce much of the country’s job growth. Yet his income-tax hike on upper brackets will hit vast numbers of small businesses (Sub Chapter-S Family Corporations) – they’d face the highest rates they’ve seen in decades.

Overall, his plan includes some of the most lethal tax increases imaginable, including a jump in the capital-gains rate. He’d expand government spending massively, with everything from new public-works projects to increases in foreign aid to a surge in Afghanistan – plus hand out a token $500 welfare check that he calls a tax cut to everyone else. (more…)

The Great “Entitled To Ownership” Society September 28, 2008

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, philosophy & politics.
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Japan had their inflated Real Estate bubble in the 90s. Remember when the on-the-books value of their land’s country was priced higher than all of our land east of the Mississippi? Their big mistake, which their economy has never recovered from with zero growth that even 0% interest rates couldn’t jump start it was they never had an RTC. We blew out all of the bad Savings and Loans paper and our economy recovered. A lot of people got rich on those holdings when Real Estate recovered. The Japanese Banks never wanted to admit their losses and “lose face”, which is a big deal in their culture.

The problem this time is that the good and bad loans have been bundled together. The “Mark to Market” change in Nov. of 2007 was a huge SEC and Financial Board mistake. It allowed the current credit swap default market to explode to 70 Trillion dollars world-wide. The only way to value these toxic securities is not mark-to-market but by discounted cash flow. In other words if 10% of the bundle isn’t paying on their mortgage than value the paper by the remaining income stream and years left to maturity.

The Faustian bargain that started all of this was when the Banks wanted permission to roll-back post-depression regulations, such as banking across State lines, selling insurance, etc. In return, Congress forced lenders to agree to stop red-lining poor neighborhoods. Now everyone wants to encourage home ownership, but the problem started when, under congressional pressure, the highly politicized, bastardized Public/Private Mortgage behemoth Fannie and Freddie lowered standards. Read Wikipedia the history of the CRA legislation that promoted this activity.  As a result, other Lenders had to drop their standards to be able to compete in the lucrative home loan business. We are now reaping the results of that race to the bottom. An ex-Miami Mortgage broker, told me how he was coached by the lenders not only what they wanted to hear but also what they didn’t want to know about. The lenders just wanted to look the other way. As long as property values kept going up their Ponzi scheme worked.

Here is a video, edited by Republicans, from a 2004 House hearing; convened to receive a report on Fannie Mae by the Office of Federal Housing Oversight that was trying to warn the Congress about “safety and soundness issues”. It became “kill the messenger”. 

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