Modern Republican party

Great post from Joe Klein.  I’ll just excerpt some highlights:

Now we have this craziness. The Republican party has rejected all of the polices mentioned above, except for financial deregulation. It has gone off the deep end on taxes. It has denied the long-term economic and societal benefits of universal health insurance. It has gone into climate change denial…it is hard for any card-carrying Republican to say: I believe that Darwinian evolution is God’s plan. These sad realities probably led to Haley Barbour’s decision not to run for President and may well lead to the same decision for Indiana’s Mitch Daniels. They have led Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty to make mortal fools of themselves.

A hundred years from now, historians will be having a field day: How did the Republicans go so far astray? Why did it work, from time to time, electorally? Why weren’t the Democrats more effective in stopping them? Why didn’t the society’s major conservative economic stakeholders (outside the uber-reactionary Oil Patch) renounce the sideshow and demand a more reasonable brand of conservatism?…

For most of the 40 years that I’ve been a working reporter, the country chugged along pretty damned well. There were plenty of important issues, but none that threatened the essence of our American miracle. That’s no longer true. We face a future dominated by the celebration of ignorance and sloppy short-term thinking. I think those of us who are trying to actually report the world as it is–flawed and mistaken as we sometimes are–are facing a great challenge right now. We really owe the public a good, smart, rigorous couple of years between now and election day, 2012.

Good stuff.  I’ve also linked here an awesome Lawrence O’Donnell takedown of Rush that Klein has on the page:

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Fair and Balanced

Via Drum:

Will the birthers double down?

Okay, first, I don want to mention what a sad commentary on our country that the release of the long-form of Obama’s birth certificate is dominating the news today.  The fact that the lunatic fringe (I guess the real problem is, though, that this isn’t exactly a “fringe” among Republicans)  is able to set the agenda is plenty disturbing.  There seems to be some sense of “okay, the birthers can give up now.”  But I really doubt they will.  This really reminded me of a classic story of cognitive dissonance.  In When Prophecy Fails (nice summary at Wikipedia), Leon Festinger tells the story of a cult that believed a flying saucer was going to rescue them from the end of the world.  When that didn’t happen (obviously), many of the cult members became even more pronounced in their crazy beliefs.  I think my lovely wife’s comment on the last post, pretty much sums up what will surely be the response for many:

Sadly, at least one of my facebook friends has already said “a man in his position could forge anything” (can’t delete the “friend” as we are related).

It will be interesting to see what happens with the “birther” movement from here on.  Every reason to believe they go further down the rabbit hole.  And I am quite curious to find out from my wife which family member this is.

Clearly a forgery!

The White House released the long form of President Obama's Hawaii birth certificate on Wednesday.

Sex surveys: when computers are better than humans

So, the latest results from a survey of American sexual practices.  Nothing all that surprising here.  What caught my attention from the graphs is that if you are going to engage in a sexual practice, there’s a damn good chance you are going to start doing so before the age of 30 (take home:  if your sexual partner over 30 hasn’t done it already, just give up?):

What really interested me, though, was the survey methodology:

It is not easy to ask people about their sex lives, and getting honest answers may be even harder. But there are ways to do it. One good method is to have a computer ask the questions, while the interviewee listens through earphones and enters the answers on the screen — without the intervention, or even the presence, of another human.

Last month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published areport on sexual behavior that used this technique with laptops to gather data on Americans’ sexual behavior, attraction and identity by age, marital status, education and race. Anjani Chandra, the lead author, said the process was developed to assure total anonymity for the respondents.

Dr. Chandra, a demographer with the agency, explained: “The computer tells the interviewees what key to press to lock away the responses. When they return the laptop to the interviewers, they can’t get in. It’s transmitted to a central place where the data processing happens without names or addresses. We get a file that can’t be linked back to the person.”

When it comes to getting sensitive information from survey respondents, there’s good evidence that you are better off interviewing them with a computer than a human.  From a political science perspective, I’m not sure you’d want to go to this extreme (sounds expensive for one), but certainly when measuring attitudes such as racism, sexism, etc., something along these lines seems much more likely to get accurate answers.   It’s one thing to admit to another human you don’t like Obama because he is Black– probably easier to admit to a computer.

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