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January 28, 2012

conservatives are dumb and prejudiced, research sez

This is the pullquote, the money, that you saw splashed around the Internet yesterday:
There’s no gentle way to put it: People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb, according to a new study that is bound to stir public controversy.

The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. These findings point to a vicious cycle, according to lead researcher Gordon Hodson, a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice, Hodson wrote in an email to LiveScience.

Easy to heart, easy to reblog; a perfect storm of validation and Schadenfreude.  But, if you have a moment, I recommend clicking through and reading the entire story, as the writer, Stephanie Pappas, does a good job of explaining that it's not as simple as all that.

Studies have found correlations: between low abstract reasoning capabilities and homophobia, between low IQs and social conservativism, between low levels of education and prejudice.  But finding correlations is not the same thing as explaining the link.  As in, is conservatism appealing to dumb people, or are dumb people predisposed to be conservative?  But, and not to give the GOP yet another reason to wage jihad against science, there is data supporting the premise that conservatism, prejudice and dumbness tend to occur all grouped together.

Which is of course plainly evident to the casual observer, and evident in the electoral strategies of the Republican Party for the past twenty years, but is a useful thing to give more thought to than slapping it on a bumper sticker, if you're looking for a way to combat it.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:22 AM

January 27, 2012

timothy egan knocks it out of the park

In lieu of the regularly scheduled Newt Gingrich post, go to the NYT's Opinionator blog, where writer Timothy Egan writes the best, most honest, truest (and most snazzy) takedown of Newt Gingrich I've read since the last time Newt Gingrich was relevant.  It's titled "Deconstructing a Demagogue," and that is a very accurate description of the piece.

Have some:

Gingrich, as he showed in a gasping effort in Thursday night’s debate in Florida, is a demagogue distilled, like a French sauce, to the purest essence of the word’s meaning. He has no shame. He thinks the rules do not apply to him. And he turns questions about his odious personal behavior into mock outrage over the audacity of the questioner.

After inventing, and then perfecting, the modern politics of personal destruction, Gingrich has decided now to bank on the dark fears of the worst element of the Republican base to seize the nomination — using skills refined over four decades.

And of course it is Gingrich's odious lack of character that would enable him to read the whole thing and be entirely unmoved by it — perhaps attack the American-ness of Egan, or change the subject with a well-placed racist dogwhistle  But Newt (and those that love him) is certainly Exhibit A in the inquiry over why the rest of the world thinks that Americans are feckless idiots.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:48 PM

the darcys

Every eighteen months or so I stub my toe on a new band that I don't see getting a lot of air from the usual media outlets and they're so good that they set my hair on fire.  Now is one of those times, and the Darcys, from Calgary, BC, is that band.

They are trippy and textured and make a slow quiet noise.  I will compare them to Destroyer's Kaputt even though Kaputt (pretty much the best album of last year) has a deeper/wider range of influences.  Atmospheric yet tuneful, let's say.  (My iTunes sez that it's "rock/shoegaze," so I'll include that even though that's a pretty wide net you're casting there, sir.)

The album that you absolutely have to here is Aja.nbsp; And yes, THAT Aja.  It's a cover of the entire Steely Dan classic.  And you might be skeptical of a shoegaze cover of Steely Dan tunes — in fact, you should be.  But it works, and if there is a finer rendition of "Deacon Blues" out there, then I'm a ham sandwich.

It's streaming until Monday on AOL's The Spinner, although the band let me know via tweet that's it's for sale/free download at their site, as well.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:32 AM

January 26, 2012

to the moon, newt

Another thing that happened yesterday is that Newt Gingrich made news without being pompous, deluded or plain mendacious (for once) when he told some Floridians in the Spaceport area that were he to be president for two terms, we'd have a base on the moon by the end of the second one.

Pandering aside, the proposal is a little out of character for Gingrich, for specific economic reasons (which I suppose Gingrich could sidestep if he were to entirely privatize NASA).

Which gets to the true flaw of his plan: even if, in an effort reminiscent of our effort to put a man on the moon in ten years during the Sixties, could somehow manage to design/test/implement some sort of safe permanent moon-bound base, we don't have a way to get there and back.  (I've done a little research on this.)  And forget the space shuttle: even if we could magically unretire the remaining space shuttles, they're not designed to go above low-earth orbit (putting them about 380,000 km short of the moon, or, "most of the way").  Even the big guys we use to put satellites in orbit A) are not recyclable and B) are still hundreds of thousands of km shy of lunar orbit.  It'd be like having a mission to get from Baltimore to San Francisco while only having a conveyance designed to get you as far as the end of your driveway.

So yes: a lunar base would be awesome (and useless, until we figure out how to get precious metals off the moon back to here), but eight kinds of implausible.

Which is not the kind of thing to dissuade Newt Gingrich, of course, on his crusade to bestow dignity on the human race for the first time.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:11 PM

introducing jan brewer

Where to start with the heaping heap of yesterday's news?  How about with Gov. Jan Brewer.

She's the governor of Arizona, and a controversial figure down there—heavy on the GOP firebrandism, very immigrant unfriendly.  The president is visiting the state, and yesterday the governor met him on the tarmac and engaged in a finger-pointing dispute with him.  There's no love lost between them, she's a bit of an insane person, etc., etc.—there's not a whole lot of there there when it comes to the story.  It's a bit of a yawn.

But I feel like I have to bring it up because of my pre-presidential-run fascination with Michele Bachmann: Jan Brewer is playing for national conservative attention and eventual national campaigns for office (or at least lucrative speaking fees on a national basis).  For you and me, to badger the president after immediately after he deplanes and in front of TV cameras is a lapse in manners, but to others, it's the equivalent of Bachmann being all over President Bush like ugly on a gorilla five years ago.— It's a strategic introduction to the base of the Republican Party, who view such un-niceties as a positive quality.

Don't bother remembering her name; you'll be seeing plenty of it over the next twelve months, and even more thereafter.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:38 AM

January 25, 2012


On one of my social media feeds (could've been any, really), some dude put up a post about how an economics professor has a class that "insisted that Obama’s socialist economic practices worked," so the prof says that the entire class will get the same grade based on the average grade of everyone, and as the semester progresses the average grade keeps falling (because the lazy get lazier and the achievers want a free ride, see) and then eventually everyone fails.

Now, this account is labeled as a "parable," so we'll have to shut up about, "Pictures or it didn't happen!"  But the author, in case the reader was unsure as to the purpose of a parable in the first place, ends with five lessons the reader is supposed to learn:

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!
5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

Remember, there IS a test coming up. The 2012 elections.

I'm not linking/IDing this because I'm assuming the dude means well, and this argument is not exactly a novel one, and one that you find without looking very hard.

And I could hammer away at his takeaways (such as, I would call a more favorable tax rate for capital gains as the very definition of "receiving without working for," or, are we counting potable water and sewage disposal as things the government gives? etc.), that the refutations are also out there and easy to find.  Actually, the president had a nice little passage relevant to this last night:

We don’t begrudge financial success in this country. We admire it. When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it’s not because they envy the rich. It’s because they understand that when I get a tax break I don’t need and the country can’t afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference — like a senior on a fixed income, or a student trying to get through school, or a family trying to make ends meet. That’s not right.

But what I do find even more annoying than the thinly veiled greed and disregard for others displayed by those worried about the trammeling of the fundamental rights of the rich to rig the game is speciousness.  Believe what you want about about how society should operate, but you don't get to make up your own personal fairy tale and then cite it as proof of your righteousness.  No one is entitled to their own axioms.  Because, you know what, at my college economics class, a bunch of us were yelling at our fatcat professor about Marxism Now!, so he said he'd give us all the same average grade, and we ended up with a A-, because we were a bunch of fucking college students and therefore pretty smart/privileged to fucking begin with.


If you got some data that supports the notion that the social safety net is somehow toxic, or that the trickle-down economy has any trickle to it at all, then please: share.  Otherwise, there are plenty of website comments pages (New York Post is one I'd recommend) that need more commenters.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:52 AM

January 24, 2012

the apocalyptica of warren jeffs

Hey, here's something creepy.  Last week, I noticed that jailed polygamist Warren Jeffs, who has declared himself spiritual head of a renegade Mormon sect fashioned as "The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints," took out an ad in newspapers imparting some important information:  Namely, while imprisoned in Texas, he's been talking to Jesus.  And Jesus has got some things he'd like us to know!

For example, the Eastern Seaboard?  It will be tsunamied.  Phoenix?  Volcanoed.  And Cincinnati?  Removed from the map.  Plus tons more apocalypitca!

Ordinarily I'd hunt down whatever whack-job website they're running, but this time I don't have to, as some kind soul decided to plot all the Jeffs/Jesus disasters on a Google map, which is a true service to we who are about to perish in flames/water/whichever.

Go check for yourself!  And maybe send Jeffs a note down in Palestine, Texas where he is incarcerated, and he'll put a good word in with Jesus for you.

(Via Ellis.)

Posted by mrbrent at 12:53 PM

January 23, 2012

how much more does chinese food cost today?

You know how you've been sitting around all day wishing that you could read 3,000 words about the history of Chinese food in America?  Well, almost good news: I wrote something like that for The Awl.  It's a couple hundred words short of three grand, but hopefully long enough that someone will leave me a TL;DR (because TL;DR is the HEIGHT OF WIT!)

And since you're all so nice all the time, here's a free tibdit that I could not fit in: you know the packets of soy sauce that come with your moo goo gai pan or your orange beef?  They are made entirely without soy beans, in the industrial food production equivalent of test tubes.  So if you have a soy intolerance, maybe you can eat that stuff, and save the bucks you've been spending on soy-free versions from the health food store.  Also, ick.

But I do not wish to extend the ick to Chinese cuisine in general, by which I am obsessed.  The fake-soy sauce is made in a factory in New Jersey, so there's your ick right there.

And happy Year of the Dragon.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:55 PM