GOP and torture: the love affair continues

I’ve been wanting to write a good post on this, but I realize I’m just never going to get around to it.  You should therefore read Andrew Sullivan’s post.  Or at least the excerpt from it below:

The idea that war instantly justifies torture is about as anti-American and anti-Western a statement as anyone can make. Ronald Reagan signed the 1984 Convention Against Torture with the following words:

“The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention . It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.

Notice that Reagan was not quibbling about the precise meaning of “torture”. He signed a Convention against anything that could even faintly be considered torture – any “inhuman treatment” of prisoners. This current incarnation of Republicanism is so crude, so un-American, so fascistic in its disdain for the rule of law and its relish for violence that it should have no place in a Western polity. To have leading Republican candidates embrace torture in this way renders it the only political party in the entire Western world to embrace the abuse and torture of prisoners. It is unique in the West in embracing the tactics of totalitarian states throughout the world.

Only Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman are willing to stand up to the bloodlust in the Republican party on this issue.  Just sad.  Actually, even more sad is how many ordinary Americans the Republican party has now managed to convince that torture is a good and necessary thing.

How not to study

I’ve been reading a really interesting book, Academically Adrift for a faculty “reading circle.”  The authors tested over 2300 students at 25 universities at the beginning of their Freshmen year and end of the Sophomore year on their critical thinking to assess improvement.  The main conclusion of the book is that we (i.e., university educators) are really not doing such a good job and that students just don’t care enough about learning, hence we are “Academically Adrift.”     As you might imagine, there’s also sorts of interesting findings from this data.  Last week, we discussed chapter 4 which looks at various correlates of improvement on this CLA test (Social science = good; business = not so much).  But what I thought particularly interesting was the negative effect of studying in groups and the effect of being in a fraternity/sorority (these are regression estimates, so they have all the appropriate controls).  Short version: study alone– definitely not with fraternity brothers/sorority sisters.

Photo of the Day

From George Takei’s FB feed:

Cain and media distrust

As regular readers know, political/partisan asymmetries that are generally assumed to actually be symmetrical (“everybody does it”) by the media and voters, really bug me.  In looking at the latest polling data on Herman Cain (via PPP) I’m struck  by a particularly consequential symmetry:

How is Cain holding up so well despite all the allegations swirling around him?  Mostly because voters don’t believe them- in Ohio only 17% think the accusations against Cain are ‘mostly true’ and that number is 22% in Mississippi and 17% in Iowa SD-18. There’s a lot of doubt about whether Cain’s really guilty of what he’s been accused of.

The doubt about Cain’s misdeeds seems to be driven by intense distrust of the media. 72% of Republicans in Ohio, 71% in Iowa Senate District 18, and 65% in Mississippi think the media has been mostly unfair to Cain. We also asked whether GOP voters thought the Obama campaign, one of the other Republican campaigns, or the media was most responsible for these allegations coming to the surface and a plurality of voters in all three states blame the media.

This is just nuts.  Not even Cain is alleging that the media has simply made up the stories of the sexual harassment settlements.  Maybe the women weren’t really sexually harassed, but the settlements of their claims by the National Restaurant Association is established fact.  ABC News, The New York Times, etc., did not make this up.  Yet is almost seems as if that’s what many conservative voters believe when you read various news stories.  Liberal voters may not like what the media has to report some of the time, but they haven’t been told by their elites to just ignore what they don’t like because of hopeless media bias.   We really end up with many conservatives living in an altnerate political reality where they only have to believe the stuff they hear on Fox news.   [I think this post makes sense, but blame any incoherence on a baby attacking me the whole time I’m typing]

Least surprising sub-headline of the day

Does government regulation really kill jobs? Economists say overall effect minimal.

You mean Republicans haven’t been telling the truth about all those “job-killing regulations.”  The Post gets the crazy idea of talking to economists on this score:

House Republicans have identified 10 “job-destroying regulations” they want to repeal, and a steady stream of bills have been proposed to block environmental rules governing everything from cement plants to boilers. GOP candidate Mitt Romney has vowed that on his first day as president, he will “tear down the vast edifice of regulations the Obama administration has imposed on the economy.” The White House, meanwhile, says it is making a determined effort to assess how rules are affecting jobs.

The critique of regulations fits into a broader conservative narrative about government overreach. But it also comes after a string of disasters in recent years that were tied to government regulators falling short, including the financial crisis of 2008, the BP oil spill and the West Virginia mining accident last year.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that very few layoffs are caused principally by tougher rules.

Whenever a firm lays off workers, the bureau asks executives the biggest reason for the job cuts.

In 2010, 0.3 percent of the people who lost their jobs in layoffs were let go because of “government regulations/intervention.” By comparison, 25 percent were laid off because of a drop in business demand…

Economists who have studied the matter say that there is little evidence that regulations cause massive job loss in the economy, and that rolling them back would not lead to a boom in job creation.

Firms sometimes hire workers to help them comply with new rules. In some cases, more heavily regulated businesses such as coal shrink, giving an opportunity for cleaner industries such as natural gas to grow.

“Based on the available literature, there’s not much evidence that EPA regulations are causing major job losses or major job gains,” said Richard Morgenstern, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan think tank Resources for the Future who worked at the EPA starting under the Reagan administration and continuing into President Bill Clinton’s first term.

Look, there’s legitimate differences between how Republicans and Democrats think government should function– especially the role it should play in a modern economy.    Republicans clearly must think of they were honest about their positions, it would be a huge electoral loser, because we sure get a lot of unsubstantiated hokum.

%d bloggers like this: