Anger vs Anxiety in politics

Nice article in Miller-McCune summarizing the political psychology of anger and anxiety.   Short version, people get angry when they feel they have some control of the situation and it spurs them to get more involved.  Turns out, anger is very politically mobilizing– hello, Tea Party rallies.  But there’s also this:

A particular danger of anger seems to be closed-mindedness. Researchfinds that when citizens get angry, they close themselves off to alternative views and redouble their sense of conviction in their existing views.

Double hello, Tea Party.  Fear and anxiety, in contrast, when there’s a sense that there’s nothing you can do about the problem.  Hence, unlike anger, they do not lead to political mobilization.  However:

Fear and anxiety, on the other hand, seem to promote openness to alternative viewpoints and a willingness to compromise.

“Fear alerts you that something is amiss in your environment and draws your attention and says you should consider your action,” said Groenendyk. “Anger tends to move people beyond that and suggests to them to invest resources in participation and pursue riskier strategies that might cost them something.”

And, here’s a nice summary:

In many respects, anger and fear in politics pose a delicate tension between competing democratic values. On the one hand, anger promotes what many observers see as civic virtues of increased participation, but it also tends to close people off from new information, to drive people to their respective sides and to encourage aggressive and punitive actions — all hallmarks of increased political polarization.

Anger also arises out of and promotes a politics of blame, but a politics of blame (which we tend not to like) is sometimes hard to disentangle from a politics of accountability (which we tend to like).

Alternately, a political culture with less accountability and fewer habits of participation would produce more pure anxiety, which research suggests would lead people to seek out more alternative sources of information and also be more willing to embrace compromise (which we also like).

Hmmm, I guess both fear and anger in moderation?

Church nurseries and irrational fears

Every now and then I like to check in on the Free Range Kids blog to check out the irrational fears of parents.  This post about church nursery rules (a place I work one Sunday every couple of months) was quite disturbing.  Make sure you read the response from the blog author, it’s awesome:

Dear Free-Range Kids: With your recent posts about risk adversity, I wanted to tell you about a horrendous trend that is starting to appear in churches: husbands and wives are no longer allowed to work together in children’s ministry.

One would think that a husband/wife team would be exactly what a church would want in helping to nourish youth.  But it seems that insurance companies and risk-adversity have gotten the better of people’s common sense.  Basically, the idea is that since spouses can’t testify against each other, we need someone else in the room.

This happened to a church I used to go to.  It was medium-sized — small enough that we were fairly short on nursery and children’s volunteer staff.  In one of the nurseries, a retired couple had been watching the children for a long time, and everyone was happy with them, and they enjoyed the chance to be together with children.  But under the new policy, they couldn’t be together unless there was a *third* person to watch them.  So, they were told they couldn’t watch the nursery together anymore.  And so they just stopped working there.

Here’s a link to a “Safe Haven” policy that is not from the church I mention, but is an example of the anti-family, pro-paranoia policies that are creeping in everywhere. Here’s the really bad part of the policy:

All workers in nursery through three years old shall not be from the same family.

Teenage boys will not be permitted to work in the nursery or toddler areas.

Only adult women shall change diapers and help toddlers in the restroom. When taking children to the restroom, the door shall be partially open.

Thought you might be interested. – Jon

Jon, I am. I am interested to know that teenage boys are, as a group, not allowed to work with young kids. I guess thousands of years of older siblings looking after younger siblings matters not when “Worst First” thinking creeps in. The “worst” being: He’s male, he’s young, why would he want to have anything to do with a child unless, of course, he’s a pervert? Get him away!

Then there’s the idea of only women changing diapers. Sometimes it feels like the easiest way to roll back feminism is to insist, “We DO believe in equality. But think of the children!”

Actually, the last time I worked the nursery we had an all-dad crew for Mother’s day.  Except one of the mom’s insisted on staying.  I told her that three of us dads were more than enough to handle to handle the 10 or so toddlers and added, joking, “or don’t you trust us?”  She took just a beat too long to answer that.  And she stayed around the whole time.

Jenny Craig and how not to do a meaningful comparison

So, I heard this NPR story the other day about how Consumer Reports had rated diet plans and that, much to my surprise, Jenny Craig came out a solid winner.  Much of the story focused on the fact that the comparison relied on studies paid for by the diet plan companies themselves.   Of course, pretty much all the studies were funded by their sponsor, so that was the best comparison they could make.  And, all the studies were peer-reviewed.

Here’s the true glaring problem, though, as I learned from the Times— it’s hard to claim that someone is “on” a diet plan when that diet plan involves shelling out hundreds of dollars per month for specialized food, but instead that food is provided for free because you are part of a study.  In the real world, long-term compliance with plans is a huge factor in their efficacy, and obviously cost is going to be a meaningful part of that.  In the real world, people shell out a lot of money for Jenny Craig and drop out.  In the study, it was all free and they stayed in:

The magazine said Jenny Craig had “the edge over the other big names” on the basis of a two-year study published last year in The Journal of the American Medical Association. In that study, 92 percent of 442 overweight and obese women stuck with the program for two years, which Consumer Reports called a “remarkable level of adherence.” They lost an average of about 16 pounds.

But the magazine failed to report that the women in the study didn’t pay a dime to sign up for the Jenny Craig program. Unlike real Jenny Craig customers, they received $6,600 worth of membership fees and food during the two-year study.  [emphasis mine]…

The study wasn’t designed to test the success of Jenny Craig in the real world, but to determine whether a free prepared-meal program could help people lose weight and keep it off.

I’m really not sure what’s the point of even comparing the success of a plan that is not even intended to test “real world” use.  As for the real world of Jenny Craig:

Researchers led by the Cooper Institute in Dallas tracked 60,164 men and women enrolled in the Jenny Craig Platinum program between May 2001 and May 2002. Only 3 out of 4 dieters stuck with the program for a month; by 13 weeks, 58 percent had dropped out, and after a year the dropout rate was 93 percent. Those who stuck with the program for at least three months did lose about 8 percent of their body weight, but there is no long-term data on whether they kept it off.

The point here is not to slam Jenny Craig (though I have seriously been considering weight watchers on-line of late– a friend has had some good success), but rather to suggest that the Consumer Reports conclusion is totally unfounded.

Police state

Really, I’m no big fan of drug dealers– but they have the right to the privacy of their homes as much as anyone else.  I’m much less of a fan of living in a police state where police can pretty much do whatever they want with impunity.  How depressing that this Supreme Court case was decided 8-1 in favor of the police state approach.  Hooray for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, though, her logic strikes me as impeccable (I’m really tempted to read the majority opinion to see how they get around her logically airtight argument).  Anyway, enough preface, here’s the story via Lawyers, Guns, and Money:

Under the Fourth Amendment, searches of a person’s home are presumed to require a valid warrant unless there are “exigent circumstances.” The Supreme Court has also, logically enough, held that these exigent circumstances generally cannot be created by the police’s own behavior. The War (On Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs, however, is where the Bill of Rights goes to die. So, yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld a warrantless search of a home in which the police had time to obtain a warrant, but created their own “exigent circumstances” by following a suspect into his apartment complex and smelling marijuana. Nor surprisingly, the opinion overruling those Trotskyites at the the Supreme Court of Kentucky was written by “Strip Seach” Sam Alito. Dismayingly, and demonstrating again that the Supreme Court essentially lacks a real liberal wing, the decision was 8-1, with both of Obama’s appointees in the majority. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, adding to the case that she should stay on as long as she damned well pleases, dissented:

The question presented: May police, who could pause to gain the approval of a neutral magistrate, dispense with the need to get a warrant by themselves creating exigent circumstances? I would answer no, as did the Kentucky Supreme Court. The urgency must exist, I would rule, when the police come on the scene, not subsequent to their arrival, prompted by their own conduct.


That heavy burden has not been carried here. There was little risk that drug-related evidence would have been destroyed had the police delayed the search pending a magistrate’s authorization. As the Court recognizes, “[p]ersons in possession of valuable drugs are unlikely to destroy them unless they fear discovery by the police.” Ante , at 8. Nothing in the record shows that, prior to the knock at the apartment door, the occupants were apprehensive about police proximity.


How “secure” do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and, on hearing sounds indicative of things moving, forcibly enter and search for evidence of unlawful activity?

The key problem with the case, as Ginsburg convincingly argues, is that it’s the latest example of the drift of the exigency exception away from actual emergencies and toward the mere convenience of the police. If the police have time to obtain a warrant and there isn’t an actual emergency, they should be required to obtain one. But when security in the home faces the War (On Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs, it generally loses.

Seriously– do you want to live in a country where police can just start pounding on doors, decide they don’t like the noises they hear behind them, and rush on in.  I sure don’t.  But, I guess so many Americans are afraid of drugs that they are happy enough with that trade-off.

Maybe I’m not a liberal indoctrinator

Got our course evaluations yesterday and it marked a first– the first time I’ve ever taught the big Intro to American Government class without being accused of being a liberal indoctrinator (this, too).   Maybe, I’m doing something wrong :-).  I especially enjoyed this comment from my upper-level class:

Even though he was really liberal he gave the right credit where credit was due and wasn’t a self righteous whiny left wing tree hugger.

I think I might put that on a card (or yet another signature file): “Steve Greene: not a self-righteous whiny left-wing tree hugger.”

Religion and income

A friend posted this cool graphic of religion and income (and college education) on facebook.

Just a couple thoughts…

1) Didn’t know Jehovah’s Witnesses were so poor.  What does that say about me that they make regular appearances in my neighborhood?

2) I’d love to see the regression line, as having both income and education data are almost superfluous, but there’s a couple interseting exceptions, e.g., unitarians seem like they are poor relative to their education.

3) Wonder how much (obviously, far from all) is explained by race.

Veterinarians and pay equity

I had an interesting idea for a sociology/gender study while at Graduation on Saturday.  All the new DVM’s were called by name to receive their degree.  Just eyeballing it, it seemed like nearly 80% were female (oddly enough, at the picnic of a graduate a few hours later, her brother-in-law happened to be a vet and told me that the ratio is 74% women these days).  Surely, a generation or two ago, this gender imbalance was pretty much reversed.  So, the research idea… There’s a theory that one reason that women make less than men is that occupations which are majority female are devalued by the very fact that they are majority female.  Veterinarians, therefore, make a great test case.  How well are veterinarians compensated– relative to other similar benchmark occupations (whatever those would be– pharmacist?)– now in a majority female field versus how they were compensated 20-30 years ago.  If the theory about valuing women’s labor is correct, the relative compensation of veterinarians should have come down.  Obviously, there’ s some other factors to consider, e.g, it is now commonplace for people to spend thousands of dollars on chemotherapy on a pet that would’ve been euthanized in eras past.  But still, I bet you could get some very interesting results out of this.  And, if not veterinarians, surely there’s been other professions which have seen dramatic shifts in the gender balance.  For that matter, why should it be that veterinarian has become such a female-dominated occupation in recent times?

%d bloggers like this: