This morning I am thinking about the Dunning–Kruger effect, anosognosia, and receptive aphasia. It seems an interesting lens through which to view the United States.

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Polarization in a Depoliticized Populace

Given the place that politics occupies in the life of most people, their preferences are unlikely ever to cluster at ideological poles.…To us, the essence of polarization is when hot-button issues become salient concerns for a large percentage of people. People feel intensely about these issues because they tap into something deep inside them. It might be the case that people’s preferences are not that different from those of their opponents, but they do not see it that way. When it becomes difficult for people to understand how their adversaries come to have the preferences they do, the political system feels polarized. Even if middle ground is available, people fail to perceive it.

—Marc Hetherington, Jonathan Weiler, Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 24-25.

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Arc of the Moral Universe

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

—Martin Luther King, Jr. paraphrasing Theodore Parker, August, 1967

Heartening words, delivered by King in an inspiring fashion. This morning I got to asking myself though, what reason have I for believing in Parker’s concept of a moral universe? I found Parker’s oratory against the war with Mexico well-crafted and affecting when I read it this summer, but I am not in the habit of studying nineteenth century cosmologists, and it occurred to me that there is no empirical evidence for believing Parker’s claim.

I was considering the question this morning perhaps as a result of attending an Our Revolution party last night, and a Brand New Congress meeting the night before. Neither organization seems to present the slightest hope of impeding a Clinton or Trump continuation of Bush and Obama’s wars. What if instead of Parker and King it was Eric Blair who was the more prescient?

But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

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Brand New Congress

I thought the Brand New Congress meeting on Harrison last night was a real waste of time. There were two very nice young women presenting with a pitch which might have made more sense given to college students than the general public. BNC was presented as a national organization which seeks to win a super majority in Congress in 2018 with candidates as yet unvetted running on an unformulated platform whose most general planks are yet to be decided on.

One of the high points of the substance communicated was that in 2017 all of the candidates will be flown to Washington, DC for a photo opportunity to kick off fundraising. This, of course, is right out of Boorstin: a pseudo-event is the goal to be worked towards.

Anyone can nominate a candidate for BNC. The three qualifications (I took notes) are that the candidates:

  1. Are good at what they do.
  2. Reflect their communities.
  3. Are able to win.

There were about fifty people attending, mostly middle-aged and older. I didn’t see a black face.

During Q&A one guy asked whether BNC will be running someone against Pelosi. He said he’d called the BNC office a couple months ago and been told that they wouldn’t be challenging her. The BNC presenters were quick to disavow this position to make it clear that no decisions have been made yet – they may be running someone against Pelosi but then again they may not, it depends on whether Pelosi endorses the as yet undecided upon BNC platform. Who is drafting the platform and what is the process? Well, we are told, there are people making those decisions – go to the BNC website and get on the mailing list for more information.

The importance of a super majority was stated several times. We were assured that if we doubted the staying power of the organization we should know it will be around until it wins a super majority, even after the 2018 elections.

I’m going to an Our Revolution meeting tonight to check that out. There were a couple people last night saying to e-mail about yet another organization also.

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In the early 1930’s a scheme was developed for using telephone circuits to pipe music into places which leased the Muzak service.…In 1957 the Muzak library consisted of 49,000 selections (about 7,500 of which were in use at any one time), each recorded on a 16-inch disk. In the New York office, housed in the large Muzak Building, these selections were combined and made up into groups of three eight-hour reels of magnetic tape, each group comprising a twenty-four-hour sequence.…Muzak became the world’s largest user of telephone line networks. It was conservatively estimated that in one way or another, music by Muzak was being heard by about fifty million Americans daily.

—Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image, (New York: Vintage Books, 1992), 175-76.

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Authoritarianism and Polarization

When a worldview structures political disagreements, it puts a premium on being involved, even if the public’s issue preferences are not neatly matched to choices available at the elite level.

—Marc Hetherington, Jonathan Weiler, Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 12.

I’ve heard the 2016 US presidential race described as a choice between love and hate. The proposition that neoliberal hawk Hillary Clinton carries the banner of love astonishes. I’m finding Authoritarianism and Polarization fascinating reading that sheds light on the cleavage in the American electorate.


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Unabashed Attempt at Cooptation

“Our country needs your ideas, energy, and passion.” When I heard this I was reminded of the ROTC guys I debated at the U. of Michigan in the fall of 1978. I’d been bicycling in Europe the previous couple summers and looked forward to doing the same the next year. One of the Army guys assured me he wouldn’t vacation in Europe because Soviet invasion was imminent. When I argued against new nuclear weapons in Europe ROTC welcomed my debating skills, encouraging me to join the Army. This is how I see Clinton’s gesture to Sanders.

One Guardian article I read this morning claimed the Democratic party came out of its convention “looking more or less united.” This was not my experience. I am curious to see where the Sanders energy goes.

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Katy Perry

Watching Katy Perry on stage in Philadelphia endorsing Hillary Clinton reminds me of ski trips to Tahoe and watching Family Guy at night for want of anything better to do at the motel. Stewie was a big fan of Katy Perry.

Best line of the evening so far was from Norman Solomon, who I’ve been reading for decades now. Solomon: “I live in California. I have no reason to vote for Hillary Clinton.”

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Joe Biden for Hillary Clinton

Could only listen to the first couple lines out of Biden tonight. Thought of Biden staffer Jeff Connaughton‘s sections in George Packer’s The Unwinding and Connaughton’s authoring The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins. Philadelphia sees a string of servants to wealth putting forth a neocon hawk as the only alternative to a loud-mouthed authoritarian billionaire. USA! USA!

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On Trees and Their Absence

Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?

—Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons

Thinking about deforestation today.

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