Thursday Reads: Psychological Approaches to the Current Political Situation

Harvard Bookstore, Cambridge, MA

Harvard Bookstore, Cambridge, MA

Good Morning!

Today I’m going to focus on some psychological studies and psychological ideas that relate to the news of the day.

A recent study by two social psychologists at The New School in NYC, found that reading literary fiction improves Theory of Mind, or the “ability to infer and understand other people’s thoughts and emotions” as well as the “capacity for empathy.”

From Scientific American:

Emanuele Castano, a social psychologist, along with PhD candidate David Kidd conducted five studies in which they divided a varying number of participants (ranging from 86 to 356) and gave them different reading assignments: excerpts from genre (or popular) fiction, literary fiction, nonfiction or nothing. After they finished the excerpts the participants took a test that measured their ability to infer and understand other people’s thoughts and emotions. The researchers found, to their surprise, a significant difference between the literary- and genre-fiction readers.

When study participants read non-fiction or nothing, their results were unimpressive. When they read excerpts of genre fiction, such as Danielle Steel’s The Sins of the Mother, their test results were dually insignificant. However, when they read literary fiction, such as The Round House by Louise Erdrich, their test results improved markedly—and, by implication, so did their capacity for empathy. The study was published October 4 in Science….

The results suggest that reading fiction is a valuable socializing influence. The study data couldinform debates over how much fiction should be included in educational curricula and whether reading programs should be implemented in prisons, where reading literary fiction might improve inmates’ social functioning and empathy. Castano also hopes the finding will encourage autistic people to engage in more literary fiction, in the hope it could improve their ability to empathize without the side effects of medication.

There’s a little more detail on the study at the Guardian books blog:

“What great writers do is to turn you into the writer. In literary fiction, the incompleteness of the characters turns your mind to trying to understand the minds of others,” said Kidd.

Kidd and Castano, who have published their paper in Science, make a similar distinction between “writerly” writing and “readerly” writing to that made by Roland Barthes in his book on literary theory, The Pleasure of the Text. Mindful of the difficulties of determining what is literary fiction and what is not, certain of the literary extracts were chosen from the PEN/O Henry prize 2012 winners’ anthology and the US National book awards finalists.

“Some writing is what you call ‘writerly’, you fill in the gaps and participate, and some is ‘readerly’, and you’re entertained. We tend to see ‘readerly’ more in genre fiction like adventure, romance and thrillers, where the author dictates your experience as a reader. Literary [writerly] fiction lets you go into a new environment and you have to find your own way,” Kidd said.

As the authors admit, one problem with this study is determining what is “literary fiction” and what is “genre fiction.” In some cases, there is quite a bit of crossover in the selections they used. For example, they classify Louise Erdrich’s The Round House as “literary,” and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, as “genre” fiction. But The Round House has characteristics of a “thriller,” in that its subject is crime; and Flynn is a fine writer, and Gone Girl is in many ways a “writerly” work with a heavy focus on characters’ thinking processes and internal dialogues.

The Guardian quotes a psychologist who objects to Kidd and Castano’s use of Theory of Mind tests to measure the effects of reading different types of fiction.

Philip Davies, a professor of psychological sciences at Liverpool University, whose work with the Reader Organisation connects prisoners with literature, said they were “a bit odd”.

“Testing people’s ability to read faces is a bit odd. The thing about novels is that they give you a view of an inner world that’s not on show. Often what you learn from novels is to be a bit baffled … a novel tells you not to judge,” Davies said.

“In Great Expectations, Pip is embarrassed by Joe, because he’s crude and Pip is on the way up. Reading it, you ask yourself, what is it like to be Pip and what’s it like to be Joe? Would I behave better than Pip in his situation? It’s the spaces which emerge between the two characters where empathy occurs.”

Nevertheless, it’s an interesting study. Now if we could only get the Tea Party folks and super-rich Wall Street types to read more literary fiction!

Harvard Bookstore, Harvard Square

Harvard Bookstore, Harvard Square

The results of another social psychological study, this one at Duke University, showed that people with “extreme” political views have a sense of superiority over people with different views. From Psych Central:

Duke University investigators examined whether one end of the American political spectrum believes more strongly than the other in the superiority of its principles and positions.

They found both sides have elements of “belief superiority,” depending on the issue.

When asked about nine hot-button issues, conservatives feel most superior about their views on voter identification laws, taxes and affirmative action. Liberals feel most superior about their views on government aid for the needy, torture and not basing laws on religion.

The study is found in the online edition of Psychological Science.

Investigators questioned 527 adults, (289 men, 238 women), ages 18-67, about the issues. They then examined whether those who endorse the extremes of conservative and liberal viewpoints demonstrate greater belief superiority than those who hold moderate views.

The study asked participants to not only report their attitudes on the nine topics, but also how superior they feel about their viewpoint for each issue.

According to Diana Reese at the Washington Post, 

The study was inspired by the 2012 presidential election campaign. “We were looking at things like comments on blogs and pundits and politicians on TV,” Dr. Kaitlin Toner said in a phone interview. “It seemed like there were a lot of people who felt very certain that their views were correct but they contradicted one another and there’s no way that everyone could be 100 percent correct all the time.” Toner, the lead author on the study, did the research while a graduate student at Duke….

Don’t confuse belief superiority with dogmatism, though. The latter is “a personality trait,” Toner explained. “It’s a measure of inflexibility….You’re holding a belief rigidly and won’t change.”

In other words, you can hold “superior” beliefs that you’re right and the rest of the world is wrong about a particular issue, but still be able to change your mind, unless you’re dogmatic about your viewpoint.

Previous research has shown that conservatives tend to be more dogmatic, and Toner said their study found the same results, with dogmatism increasing as views moved to the right of the political spectrum.

Another social psychologist from Duke University has a post at HuffPo called The Psychology of Being Online, in which he discusses several studies of the ways in which people react to being in virtual world. You can check them out at the link.

City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco, CA

City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco, CA

Here’s a fascinating article by Justin Fox at the Harvard Business Review. It’s based on behavioral economics–a sort of combination of economic and psychological theories. Fox attempts to explain our current political/economic impasse using game theory. You should read the whole thing, but here an excerpt:

Some portray it as a Manichean struggle between good and evil. Warren Buffett says it’s “extreme idiocy.” I’d like to recommend another way of looking at the government shutdown and the looming battle over the debt ceiling in Washington. It’s a game, played by flawed-but-not-crazy human beings under confusing circumstances. In other words, it’s an interaction among “agents” who “base their decisions on limited information about actions of other agents in the recent past, and they do not always optimize.”

That quote is from economist H. Peyton Young’s “The Evolution of Conventions,” one of several works of game theory I plowed my way through this week in an attempt to find a way to think about the government shutdown and looming debt ceiling fight that didn’t make me want to bang my head against a wall. My reading made the dynamics at work in Congress and at the White House a bit clearer — and thus slightly less maddening, if not less ominous.

The debt-limit game

There are lots of different games being played in Washington at the moment, but the main one I have in mind pits the Democratic White House and Senate against the Republican House of Representatives over the federal budget. The deadlocked players have already landed us in a partial government shutdown, but it’s the 18th since 1976 and thus really not that big a deal. The far bigger stakes involve the federal borrowing limit that is due to be breached in a couple of weeks if Congress doesn’t approve an increase. Without further borrowing, much higher taxes, or draconian spending cuts — none of which may be possible or even legal on short notice — the government might not be able to service its existing debts, leading to a default. Congress has never allowed this to happen, so the consequences are unknowable, but they could be really bad.

Now go read the rest if you’re interested, and see what you think.

Here’s another interesting article that combines economic and psychological approaches by Douglas T. Kenrick of Psychology Today: Cruzonomics: The Problem of Free Market Psychology,

Senator Ted Cruz is a fan of the classic model of economic decision-making: sometimes called the Rational Man* view.   On this view, every one of your decisions is designed to maximize “utility” – which translates loosely into personal satisfaction.  If it feels good now, or will make you feel good later, choose it!  Advocates of this position believe that we are, in general, pretty facile at processing information, and at coming to shrewd self-serving decisions.  If you read the book Freakonomics, the authors explain how even seemingly senseless decisions, like changing one’s occupation from computer technician to prostitute, or living at home if you are a drug dealer, are well explained by economic incentive structures.  We are all, on this view, continuously operating like the high-roller in the movie Wall Street, who, while considering a shady deal, asks: “What’s in it for moi?”

Ask NOT what you can do for your country…

On this view, selfishness is not a bad thing.  On the contrary, it is a virtue.  The intellectual patron saint of free-market economics is Adam Smith, who argued that an “invisible hand” moves us toward mutually beneficial arrangements when everyone pursues his self-interest.  For example, if consumers freely compare different fruit vendors at the market place, they will choose the one who charges the lowest price, but the price will not fall below the farmer’s costs of production, or he will go out of business.

But there are a few problems with the Rational Man view.  One is that people often fail to act in ways that economists regard as perfectly rational.  For example, there is a laboratory game called the Ultimatum Game.  Imagine that an experimenter hands you $100 and instructs you to divide it between yourself and a stranger in the next room.  You can divide it any way you want, but there is one stipulation: If the bloke in the next room doesn’t like your offer, nobody gets anything.  What should you offer?

And if you happen to be the bloke on the receiving end of such an ultimatum, how low an offer should you accept?

Again, I hope you’ll read the whole thing and share your views.

The science fiction section at City Lights Bookstore

The science fiction section at City Lights Bookstore

Finally, check out this sociological/psychological essay at Salon, by Michael Lind: Tea Party radicalism is misunderstood: Meet the “Newest Right.” Again, I can’t really do the piece justice with an excerpt, but here’s a taste:

To judge from the commentary inspired by the shutdown, most progressives and centrists, and even many non-Tea Party conservatives, do not understand the radical force that has captured the Republican Party and paralyzed the federal government. Having grown up in what is rapidly becoming a Tea Party heartland–Texas–I think I do understand it. Allow me to clear away a few misconceptions about what really should be called, not the Tea Party Right, but the Newest Right.

The first misconception that is widespread in the commentariat is that the Newest Right can be thought of as being simply a group of “extremists” who happen to be further on the same political spectrum on which leftists, liberals, centrists and moderate conservatives find their places. But reducing politics to points on a single line is more confusing than enlightening. Most political movements result from the intersection of several axes—ideology, class, occupation, religion, ethnicity and region—of which abstract ideology is seldom the most important.

The second misconception is that the Newest Right or Tea Party Right is populist. The data, however, show that Tea Party activists and leaders on average are more affluent than the average American. The white working class often votes for the Newest Right, but then the white working class has voted for Republicans ever since Nixon. For all its Jacksonian populist rhetoric, the Newest Right is no more a rebellion of the white working class than was the original faux-populist Jacksonian movement, led by rich slaveowners like Andrew Jackson and agents of New York banks like Martin Van Buren.

The third misconception is that the Newest Right is irrational. The American center-left, whose white social base is among highly-educated, credentialed individuals like professors and professionals, repeatedly has committed political suicide by assuming that anyone who disagrees with its views is an ignorant “Neanderthal.” Progressive snobs to the contrary, the leaders of the Newest Right, including Harvard-educated Ted Cruz, like the leaders of any successful political movement, tend to be highly educated and well-off. The self-described members of the Tea Party tend to be more affluent and educated than the general public.

Read the rest at Salon.

I hope you’ll find something useful and/or enlightening among these psychological approaches to our current crazy political environment. Now what stories are you focusing on today. Please share your ideas and links in the comment thread.

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102 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Psychological Approaches to the Current Political Situation”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Now see if you can explain this.

    Gohmert shrugs off debt limit: Government can’t default if it stays shut down

    Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) asserted this week that the government shutdown could actually keep the U.S. from defaulting on its debts if and when Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling — unless President Barack Obama is plotting a conspiracy not to pay the nation’s bills.

    “He’s been saying ever since the shutdown and before the shutdown that he’s willing to talk,” Gohmert told Newsmax TV’s Steve Malzberg on Tuesday. “But he will not negotiate on anything, and he’s the one who keeps bringing up the threat of default and that kind of stuff. You know, it’s ridiculous to have a president that is trying to inflict as much hurt on the American people as possible.”

    • bostonboomer says:

      More word salad:

      “But we know he is willing to spend money just to inflict hurt,” he opined. “So, it’s hard to say what people like that would be willing to do. And I think it has more to do with Chicago thuggery. You know, Al Capone was willing to make people hurt if they didn’t go along with the proposals.”

      As for the president’s call for Congress to be allowed to vote on a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government without crippling the health care reform law, Gohmert predicted that it would never pass.

      “There’s no such thing as a clean CR,” Gohmert remarked. “He just wants his big sack of cash. And forget the Constitution. We’re moving toward monarchy here, where we want the money, no strings attached. Well, the Constitution attaches strings.”

    • RalphB says:

      Makes Michael Lind’s story sound really screwed up. Unless Gohmert is a highly educated, smart man of influence,

    • Fannie says:

      Come again, what the hell, to default means that when the bills come due, and it doesn’t matter if it’s from China or medicare, if they go unpaid…..it is defaulting. He doesn’t get Standard and Poor”s? Tell me again, do the people in his district believe this fool?

  2. Air conditioning, TV, and cell phones…the ugly side of entitlements for our corporate media…

    During Thursday’s Fox & Friends, Hasselbeck plugged a report that libertarian Fox Business host John Stossel is running this week that he claims will show how welfare creates a culture of dependency.

    “Do these folks really need to be on welfare,” she asked, followed by video of Stossel interview apparent welfare recipients on the street.

    “Yeah, I have a TV,” one woman says.

    “Yeah, I have a television,” a man tells Stossel.

    “Do you have air conditioning,” Stossel presses. “Yes,” the man replies.

    “John Stossel checking into that and exposing the ugly side of entitlements,” Hasselbeck remarked following the video clip.

    In a second teaser, Stossel probed welfare recipients about having cell phones and the Fox News host again called it “the ugly side of entitlements.”

    “Is welfare creating more victims than it’s actually helping?” she later wondered.

    Stossel pointed out that he was getting “free stuff” like Medicare, but welfare encouraged people “not to look for work.”

    “The motivation to go get a job is almost non-existent in 35 states,” Hasselbeck opined.

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/10/10/fox-news-hasselbeck-calls-air-conditioning-the-ugly-side-of-welfare/

    • Beata says:

      “Being a Sociopathic Moron: The Ugly Side of Working for Fox News”

      • It’s not just Fox unfortunately. All of our media contributes to this kind of scapegoating and perverse discussion of “the little people,” especially by even conceding to the “entitlements” framing to begin with.

        • I mean Stossel’s “well I get Medicare, but whatever” reminds me a lot of all these asshats who are part of unions for reporters and media workers but go on railing against unions like nothing…and yeah the worst of it is the dunderheads on Fox but CNN and MSNBC have some pretty vile insidious commentary that comes out on their channels too, made even worse by the fact that they’re supposed to be less hysterical, more reasoned than the Fauxrage network.

          • ANonOMouse says:

            Stossel’s a hypocrite of the highest order. He doesn’t have to use Medicare as his insurer, there’s no law that forces him to do that. He can go on out there to the private market and buy health insurance or pay right out of his own pocket. And that reminds me of Ron Paul who spent years railing against Social Security, yet it was revealed during his last run for the GOP nomination that he is a Social Security recipient. Again, no one can force him to take SS. especially if he considers it “welfare” or “insolvent” or whatever. And no one can make him take his completely Government subsidized, Gold Plated healthcare, that he gets as a former member of the U.S. Congress. These guys are hypocritical Asshats.

          • I can’t stand him. He’s so ridiculous and mean-spirited and tries to pass it off as rational libertarian, blech.

          • ANonOMouse says:

            Mona…..He is ridiculous. When the internet first became a tool for social networking, I had outraged friends forwarding me info on Ron Paul regularly, especially info concerning his Newsletters. Paul is a chameleon who cloaked himself as a Libertarian. He’s a racist, sexist, phony who hated the dissolution of Jim Crow and argued against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Affirmative Action. Rand Paul basically has the same belief system. When Rand ran for the Senate he was asked a question during a debate concerning whether or not private businesses had the right to deny service to people they didn’t want to serve, i.e. Jim Crow. He basically said “yes”. Ron/Rand it’s all the same thing.

          • Oh I was still ranting about Stossel, but yeah Ron Paul is disgusting too

    • ecocatwoman says:

      This raises a question for me. Those with AC, do they rent? If they are on “welfare”, it’s highly likely they rent. Did he bother to ask whether or not the AC came with the apartment? Are utilities included in the rent? Do they live in low income housing because they can’t afford non-subsidized housing? I think Elizabeth has found someplace she really fits. And I think since there are few jobs available, the motivation to “get a job” doesn’t exist in any of the states.

      Stossel is a privileged a-hole. I remember his reporting following a hurricane. His beachfront home was destroyed, but since insurance covered it, he would rebuild even though that would add to increasing insurance rates for everyone, not just the wealthy who own beachfront homes. His attitude, if I can get then why not? Screw everyone else. Creepazoid Supreme.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      Thanks for linking this article Mona. I just finished reading this at Raw Story when I saw your link here. The article made me hopping mad.

      This mindset that “air-conditioning” or a “TV” or “Phone” is too much luxury for the poor is exactly the issue that began my battles at JWS (who, by the way, is in blog limbo, but is still advertising his psychic services on KEEN)

      A commenter there, whose name I shall not speak here, engaged me in an ongoing argument for weeks over this very issue, From that commenters perspective (and also the perspective of several of the female commenters, whose names I also shall not speak here. and apparently the blog host) the only way you qualify as poor in this country is to live in squalor. He even told me about how badly the poor live in 3rd world countries (because he’d been to some of those countries) compared to the poor in the U.S.A. He too used A/C, refrigerators, Microwaves and TV as his examples of comforts the poor did not need. I pointed out to him that WE’RE NOT a 3rd world country, despite the wishes of the GOP/Tea Party, and that because we aren’t a 3rd world country our nearly 100 year old social compact mission is not only to assist the poor with food and housing, but to raise the quality of life with things like, refrigerators, Air Conditioning and Heat.

      Again, the mindset expressed on FOX by Hasselbeck & Stossel, takes us back to the Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, TP Republican AYN RAND point of view. That point of view is that the poor should not only be poor, they should ACT POOR and LOOK POOR and SWEAT in the summer and be COLD in the winter, and be isolated in inferior, downtrodden housing, in areas of our cities that are out-of-sight . The conclusion I came to after the smoke cleared is the Ayn-Rand types are self-serving, egotistical assholes, who are incapable of empathy, sympathy, compassion. They want to keep the poor out-of-sight and out-of-mind because having to see the poor, enjoying even the simplest pleasures, like cool air or refrigerated food, fucked with their personal sense of well-being.

      Sorry for going on and on, but this is a very personal issue for me.

      • Lol, when I saw JWS–at first I thought Wall Street Journal, which also fits ;), instead of John Smart’s.

      • Beata says:

        Yes, it is a very personal issue for me, too.

        I remember going to a local government agency to apply for income-based help for my mother several years ago. For some reason the caseworker mentioned my modest-looking earrings, as if they were “proof” that my family has money that it is hiding somewhere! I told her the earrings were costume jewelry that my mother had won at the nursing home bingo game and given to me for Christmas. They were the only thing my mother had to give me and she was very proud of them. I still wear those earrings every day. When my mother dies, her “estate” will consist of clothes I have bought her and small items she won at bingo.

        • ANonOMouse says:

          I hate that you were treated in such a disrespectful way, but I’m not surprised. If you remember Beata, one of the commenters at JWS, claimed to have been a manager or a director over a social welfare agency in NY City. She was one of the biggest critics of the poor, especially poor women with children. It just made me want to scream knowing that people who need assistance have to deal with the haughty, pompous attitudes of some of the very people who are being PAID to assist them. It’s heartbreaking.

        • bostonboomer says:

          That’s horrible, Beata. The behavior of that caseworker is sickening and inexcusable.

      • dakinikat says:

        You should put the link I put up yesterday on the poverty thread that shows how are poor are actually worse off than most of the poor in third world countries.

        • bostonboomer says:

          That was really shocking.

          • I’m actually not surprised to hear that….all the sociology research I’ve read over the last decade or so pokes a hole in the myth that we’re still so much better off than third world countries no matter how unequal/huge the gap between haves and have-nots gets. That may have been true before, but ever since I’ve been alive this country has been under deregulation and privatization and the poorest of the poor in this country really are living in a third world country.

          • dakinikat says:

            The rural poor–like in Appalachia–are as bad off as a third world country. Even the urban poor aren’t “well off” on anything. I see multiple generations trying to pool their food stamps to take advantage of big discounts on things so they can get meat. I also see them buy those huge loaves of white bread that basically have no nutritional value too. You rarely see them buy things like fresh fruits and vegetables because they are way too expensive.

          • The south Bronx is the worst

          • ANonOMouse says:

            Rural poverty in my area of the South is very high. Many of the rural poor get absolutely no or very little public assistance. People who don’t know about our Federally subsidized system of assistance don’t understand how many hoops the poor have to jump through to get and keep assistance. They also don’t know that only people who are disabled physically/mentally or are elderly can remain on social assistance for extended periods of time. The current system requires regular proof of financial, work or health circumstance. Many of the rural poor have no way to complete the on-going re-certification process required to get food stamps or other assistance because they live in remote areas with no access to transportation and many of them have no idea what to do to get assistance. Even the WIC program has strict rules that require the mother to re-certify and to take the baby or child in for regular wellness visits and immunizations at the WIC office. A lot of rural poor are simply to poor to get help. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true.

          • dakinikat says:

            Exactly. There is no transportation to the places where the offices are and there are very few advocates of the poor in rural areas too. I’ve always thought that rural schools should also house community services programs for the elderly and the poor including health care and food banks. That way–at least–folks could get on school business and get to the services. That’s a bit of out-of-the-box, however, for the kinds of state that have the highest concentrations of rural poverty.

          • ANonOMouse says:

            “You rarely see them buy things like fresh fruits and vegetables because they are way too expensive”

            That’s so true. When I hear people complain about folks on food stamps and what they buy (which is another battle I fought regularly at JWS) I always challenge them to try to feed a family of 4 with a food stamp allotment for a family of 4 at the poverty level. Usually I’d get, “then they shouldn’t have children”, which almost always comes from the same people who don’t believe that the mother living in poverty should have access to birth control or abortion in Medicaid.

      • Delphyne49 says:

        Oh, Mouse, I remember that “discussion” very well and was so impressed with your fortitude with those folks who shall remain unnamed! Yes, they are incapable and unwilling to empathize with people in dire straits typically caused by those without empathy or compassion. I hold no hope of redemption for them and wish they could simply be jettisoned off our planet immediately, never to return.

        Always great to read your comments.

        • ANonOMouse says:

          Thank you Delphyne….Those were some marathon “who-can-get-the-last-word-in” discussions/arguments. I knew even then I couldn’t change any minds, but I enjoyed the jousting. And it’s great to see read your comments too.

        • ANonOMouse says:

          Delphyne….. I don’t know whether you continued to lurk at the JWS blog or not, but the guy who shall remain nameless, stopped commenting almost immediately after the 2012 election, That solidified my gut feeling that he was a rat fucker. Before I quit commenting there I came to the conclusion that most everyone there was a RF’er. Live and learn. 🙂

          • Beata says:

            Mouse, I remember the commenters at JWS very well, particularly the cesspool of ratfucking who shall remain nameless ( his name rhymes with “Sal”, btw ). I’ll never forget the way you defended me against his attacks. I’ll always be grateful for that.

          • ANonOMouse says:

            LOL….Yeah Sal, he was/is a piece of work. The things he wrote to you were deplorable and impossible for me to read and not respond to. I would have liked to have kicked his ass, unfortunately cyber ass kicking hasn’t been perfected yet and I probably couldn’t lift my foot high enough to accomplish it anyway. Still, I feel certain that what goes around, comes around, and in the end karma will get even with old Sal.

      • NW Luna says:

        Those people are sadists. Suffering is good for everyone else. And they want to watch the suffering.

    • Fannie says:

      Talk about psychological nightmares…….honestly, she doesn’t believe in intergration, not for people of color, or women, or the working class. Her problems lies within herself. I’ve never in my time, my life seen such psychological seperations………..Somebody needs to attend some self reflection classes and get educated, she might start at the community college level.

      • It’s not an education problem…these are all educated people. not postgrad level or anything but they’ve all got basic college educations by and large. it’s just willfully buying into the Welfare Queen type propaganda and pitting little guy against littler guy, keeping the 99% focused on each other and cheesy tribalism rather than on the oligarchy.

        • Even this shutdown has been used to rev up the cheesy tribalism of “socialist” vs “teabagger” to the advantage of both parties (=oligarchy) and isn’t a fight about anything real, IMHO.

          • ANonOMouse says:

            Mona baby, are you calling me a cheesy socialist? 🙂

          • Well if that were the case, I’d be in the cheesy socialist category too Lol 😉 so either no or we’re together in that 🙂

            I just meant more generally and more a frustration at the upper crust 1% succeeding with this back and forth between people getting mad at each other and name-calling at the grassroots level–I just think this all works to the oligarchy’s advantage. They get our partisan heartstrings all rankled, convince us there’s some meaningful alternative that each party is offering its respective ostensible bases/constituencies, then they get back together and tell us austerity measures are unavoidable and go on their bipartisan scarefest reminding us that if we ask for more they’re just going to attack our safety net even more. Even the tea party grassroots brat pack are often for social security and Medicare (well for themselves anyway, not so much always for the dreaded “others” )….so I don’t know. I just am not that swayed by this. I think it’s meant to keep us thinking that crumbs are entire meals and that nothing significant policy wise is actually possible. Which then just becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

        • NW Luna says:

          Yeah, it’s the ol’ distract, divide and then conquer idea.

    • From the link:

      PESHAWAR, Pakistan — The Taliban does not regret the murder attempt on 16-year-old education activist Malala Yousafzai last year and will make “all out” efforts to kill her in retaliation for her relationship with the West, a spokesman for the organization in Pakistan told NBC News on Tuesday.
      “Everyone should understand that we didn’t want to shoot her for promoting female education and thousands of girls are still going to schools as we are not against female education,” Shahidullah Shahid said by telephone.
      “The reason we decided to kill her was her anti-Islam and anti-Mujadeen campaign on media.”
      Malala was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen last October for disobeying the Taliban’s ban on female education, but survived her injuries and continued to speak out for women’s rights in Pakistan.
      The Taliban spokesman said that it “will be a pride for the Taliban if she is silenced.”

      • NW Luna says:

        “will be a pride for the Taliban if she is silenced.”

        Proud that they murdered a girl? They are despicable.

  3. ANonOMouse says:

    Great post BB. Thanks.

    • Beata says:

      Agree. I need to come back later and read it in more depth. I found the articles on literary fiction especially interesting.

      • NW Luna says:

        Agree! How fascinating about the literary fiction. My first undergraduate degree was in literature, so this strikes a chord. How can one read Dickens, or Austen, or George Eliot, and not be aware of the complexity of personal inter-relationships, behavior, consequences?

        • Beata says:

          I also recommend reading Chekhov, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy. Of the three, Chekhov is my favorite. He had such exquisite insight into human nature; perhaps because he was a doctor as well as a writer.

  4. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/10/us/california-expands-availability-of-abortions.html

    LOS ANGELES — Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday expanded access to abortion in California, signing a bill to allow nurse practitioners, midwives and physician assistants to perform a common type of the procedure, an aspiration abortion, during the first trimester.

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    Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Hampshire allow nurse practitioners to perform such abortions, which use a tube and suction, while several other states, including California, permit nonphysicians to provide drugs to terminate pregnancy.

    But the new California law goes further, allowing a wider range of nonphysician practitioners to perform surgical abortions. While other states have passed a tide of laws restricting abortion access, California has gone against the political tide.

    “We are trending in a different direction, and we’re very proud of it,” said Toni Atkins, the state assemblywoman who wrote the bill. “California has a strong history of support for reproductive health care for women.” She said women in rural parts of the state had trouble finding an abortion provider.

    “This is an issue of accessibility,” Ms. Atkins said. “California is a very large state, and more than half the counties don’t have an abortion provider.”

    This gets right to the heart of the matter, since abortion only became illegal in the US when the newly formed American Medical Association wanted to keep midwives and other abortion specialists from performing any kind of medical procedure and infringing on their profit territory.

    It’s always about resources and profit. Always.

    • NW Luna says:

      Great news! And as an NP from the enlightened state of Washington, I’m all for expanding the legal ability of clinicians to practice healthcare to the full extent of their training and education — especially when it benefits women and the underserved.

      There’s so many people out their who need healthcare services. I can’t understand the squabbles about turf — or rather, I do understand — it’s really about $$$.

  5. Latest CNN “alert”

    “Obama is happy that cooler heads seem to be prevailing in the House on debt ceiling, White House spokesman says.” — CNN

    This fits Black Agenda Report’s predictions on this Shutdown kabuki…

  6. dakinikat says:

    http://feministing.com/2013/10/10/new-report-claims-that-cleveland-kidnapper-ariel-castro-may-not-have-committed-suicide/

    via ABC news and it’s weird

    Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro may have died from auto-erotic asphyxiation, not suicide, and two prison guards falsified logs documenting their observation of him in the hours before he died, the state said Thursday.

    Castro’s pants and underwear were pulled down to his ankles when he was found, leading the state to forward those facts to the state highway patrol to consider the possibility of auto-erotic asphyxiation, according to the report from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

    The report suggests — but does not conclude — that Castro may have died as the result of auto-erotic asphyxiation, whereby individuals achieve sexual satisfaction by briefly choking themselves into unconsciousness.

  7. ANonOMouse says:

    Y’all please forgive me for going on-and-on today. Since my baby kitty jumped in the shower with me at 7AM this morning, I’ve been wired. I had no idea that a watered down, terrified kitty could be so hard to grab and even harder to hold on to. I almost killed both of us trying to get her out of the shower.

  8. ANonOMouse says:

    Thank you BB

  9. dakinikat says:

    ThinkProgress ‏@thinkprogress 4m
    Indiana sues to prevent its residents from receiving insurance subsidies under Obamacare http://thkpr.gs/19qsAj3

  10. dakinikat says:

    Mother Jones
    Report: President Obama has rejected the GOP’s offer of a short-term debt limit increase http://nyti.ms/15X8bTU

    (The GOP’s plan didn’t seem to make much sense in the first place: http://mojo.ly/1cAvchs)

    • I’m sure there will be an agreement, they just need to draw out the chorus refrains of this theatre a little longer

      • bostonboomer says:

        That’s pretty cynical. I’d need quite a bit more evidence before I accept that Obama is doing this deliberately in conjunction with House Republicans. Is that what you’re saying?

    • RalphB says:

      Looks like The Turtle finally said “fuck the tparty” and decided to see about a deal.

      The Hill: Senate GOP rallies around rival plan on debt ceiling, shutdown

      Senate Republicans are unhappy with a House GOP plan to raise the debt ceiling for six weeks without funding the federal government. They are coalescing around their own proposal to pair a short-term debt-ceiling increase with a year-long stopgap to fund the government.

      Under their plan, the government would be funded for a year at the $967 billion level set by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

      The package would also include a repeal of ObamaCare’s medical-device tax and language to require income verification of people who apply for healthcare subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, said GOP sources familiar with the talks.

      Some Senate Republicans are willing to extend the debt limit for as long as six months, while others say the extension should only last for a few months.

      Republican lawmakers say Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who did not support the push to shut down the government in order to win concessions on ObamaCare, is at the center of the talks.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I guess he has half a brain left anyway.

        • RalphB says:

          I hope he does.

          • ANonOMouse says:

            I’m just kidding you Mona. I love your fighting spirit And don’t totally disagree that this is political theatre. But I remain concerned enough that to my Congressional Rep 2 times today.

            Scott: It would be greatly appreciated by the people of your district if you would quit obsessing and obstructing the regular order of business in the U.S. Government over LAWS you do not like and begin to do your job, not only for our State, but for the United States of America. Unless you can legislate away the Affordable Care Act or your other targets like Social Security and Medicare you CAN NOT win, Thank God!!! And contrary to the wishes of the tiny bubble universe you and the other Tea Party members live in, the vast majority of American’s do not support your ultimate goals SO GO TO WORK, end the shutdown today, or get the hell out of Congress.

            Scott: I received your “FORM LETTER” response to my earlier email. I’m an old woman, but I’m not so old I don’t recognize an attempt to blow smoke up my butt when it happens. So, let me see if I can say it more plainly. Scott, you and your tea party pals are on the verge of destroying our country. Your actions are irresponsible and creating a threat to the safety and security of your constituents and the lives of 315 million other Americans. Grow up, do your job, quit trying to get nonsensical concessions that the majority of Americans do not want. Either do your job and open our government and raise the debt ceiling or get the hell out of Congress and return to your previous work.

          • Where are you at, Mouse? Which ignoramus is your Rep? 😉

          • ANonOMouse says:

            Sorry about replying in the wrong place in the thread. Oh well!! Maybe Mona will find it and figure out what I’m responding to.

          • ANonOMouse says:

            I hope you figured out those were 2 emails I sent today to my idiot congressman. I expect he won’t write me again, because I feel certain he’s in hock over all of the Government workers in his district and in nearby districts, who are furloughed because of his dumb-asshattery.

            Here we sit in the Middle of 3 major TVA operations, with the U.S. Corp of Engineers nearby, and 3 TVA Nuclear plants, at our doorstep and just a couple of hundred miles northwest of us sits the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which is the primary Nuclear Laboratory in the country.

            The anger here is growing by the minute. All these rednecks who put the TP’er fools in the Congress are having second thoughts today. The fools had no idea that shutting down the government would actually shut down jobs & services.

          • RalphB says:

            Mona, That;s a melodramatic whiny ass titty baby pile of garbage, It appears you got what you deserved while the rest of us get royally screwed by the tea party House.

          • Ralph, considering what you were blogging at that time and which candidate you were actually supporting, your amnesia is astonishing.

          • And stop with the personal attacks. I’ve had enough.

          • Okay…now I have been way off the radar with this staph thing I got going on…but I log on to see this shit? Ralph. Really?

            whiny ass titty baby

            WTF man?

            No one deserves that kind of bullshit disrespect. And to see you giving it to Mona? My beloved blogging sister, that makes this a bit more personal. Come on now…watch yourself…please.

            I respect your opinions Ralph, whether I agree with them or not. ( Hell, I have not even been able to catch up on what the fuck is going on in the world the past 24 hours. ) But I will not tolerate anyone calling Mona a, whiny ass titty baby pile of garbage…you got it.

            If you can’t keep the dialogue civil, then keep the fingers off the keyboard…

            Anyone else got a problem with that…you let me know, okay? Otherwise, please continue with the discussion at hand.

          • Seriously says:

            Ralph, what IS your problem? Why can’t you just stop these repeated nasty personal attacks on Mona?

            Mona has never, ever endorsed any Republican candidates or tea party ideas, so when it comes to pointing that finger of blame maybe she’s marginally less responsible than say people who posted things like:

            Mickey Kaus on Obama’s anti-Ryan speech, which certainly didn’t produce any budget plan at all.
            with a lovely update…

            Update: So the difference between Obama’s Medicare and the Ryan Plan, according to Paul Krugman is whether you get your coverage denied by “insurance company executives” or by ”health care professionals.” To the barricades! … P.S.: Like I said, Obama and Ryan are on the same side when it comes to abridging Medicare’s promise to pay for “any care that helps.”…

            Not to mention those “health care professionals” may be no such thing. Could be any fool appointed to the Independent Payment Advisory Board by the President.
            What’s worse? Telling someone honestly, that they’ll be expected to pay the first $5000 or whatever of their health care costs, but beyond that, we’ll pick up every dime, or lying to someone, telling them Daddy Government Got De Healthcare squared away, paying for minor shit that people really could pay for themselves, but then, when they’re old and desperately sick, having death panelists step in and say “Too expensive; you’ve lived long enough. We’re pulling the plug. Here, here’s some advil and codeine. God Speed you on your way.”

            That last part is a nasty surprise. But Obama prefers that scheme, because the people alive and voting are getting paid by the government and will vote for him, whereas the people death-paneled out of existence aren’t going to be voting.
            Some of them will be voting Democrat, of course. But they’ll be the minority.

            Give you a hint, Mona didn’t say that so I’m pretty sure she didn’t get exactly what she deserves. I know she doesn’t deserve being treated so crappily.

          • ANonOMouse says:

            Mona, I’m in southern Middle TN. I wrote that Oak Ridge is Northwest of where I live, but I meant to write that it’s northeast of us. Sorry I didn’t reply sooner, but the day finally caught up to me.

          • no worries Mouse, and thanks! here’s hoping against hope and sending good juju for good policies/politics to Tennessee and across the land 🙂

          • ANonOMouse says:

            FYI…..We have 4 TP Members in TN

            Diane Black, Scott DesJarlais, Stephen Fincher, Phil Roe
            Even though she is not “officially” a tea party member, we also have Rep. Marsha Blackburn in the House. And you know what a complete douche she is.

  11. RalphB says:

    Hahaha 🙂

  12. bostonboomer says:

    Please everyone, avoid personal attacks. I haven’t read everything yet, but I will. I’ll just say for now that I consider it a personal attack to post years-old comments and blog posts from other people. People change, and their opinions change. I know mine have.

    I honestly don’t see the point of harping on old grudges from 2008, but if people want to do that, we need to disagree politely.

    I’ve followed politics my whole life, and for me the essence of politics is that you fight hard and if you lose, you move on and deal with reality. Once Obama was POTUS, I let go of the PUMA stuff. I was still angry about some things, and I know I wrote some things that would embarrass me now. But I’ve come to terms with what happened, and I’ve come to appreciate some things about Obama. I still have problems and disagreements with him–but it would be the same for me if Hillary were POTUS.

    I hope that Hillary runs for president in 2016, and I don’t think she’ll be carrying a grudge about things Obama said and did in 2008. I hope Obama will campaign hard for her, and I’m sure she wants that too.

    So for those of you who are still angry about 2008, we get it. It’s OK. For those of us who have moved on, please don’t take it out on us. And everyone please be aware that both name-calling and posting and/or describing old blog comments or blog posts from years ago are unacceptable.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      “I’ve followed politics my whole life, and for me the essence of politics is that you fight hard and if you lose, you move on and deal with reality. Once Obama was POTUS, I let go of the PUMA stuff. I was still angry about some things, and I know I wrote some things that would embarrass me now. But I’ve come to terms with what happened, and I’ve come to appreciate some things about Obama.”

      Ditto to all of the above.

      • Mouse, all I can say to you personally, since you’ve actually engaged in civil discourse with me–this isn’t about PUMA. I was kicked out of PUMA for being too much of an Obamabot in 2008 anyway–largely for simply being happy and emotional and teary-eyed to see the Obama girls on stage on election night.

        • bostonboomer says:

          My reference to PUMA wasn’t directed at you, Mona. I was writing about my personal experience. Unlike you, I wasn’t in any way happy on election night 2008.

          I’ll say it again. Name-calling and other kinds of personal attacks (e.g., posting years-old comments /blog posts here) are not acceptable at Sky Dancing. I think RalphB may have been referring to something you linked to at your blog–but the “whiney-ass titty baby” comment was out of bounds. I would edit his comment above, but so many commenters have repeated it that I don’t see the point.

          I wish you and Ralph would discuss your differences and come to some kind of agreement to disagree. In the meantime, no personal attacks please.

          • Okay, I am going to say this real quick, and I hope y’all understand what I am writing cause my brain does not work well in the morning.

            What ever the hell is going on right now, just remember this…it is between some of our closest Sky Dancing family. It isn’t just a strolling commenter or a troll. We are people who have been together through a lot of shit, for a lot of years. So like any other kind of family, if we argue or fight, remember get over it, cause there will always be that next mealtime to start a new discussion that will probably end up like all the others. I mean what family doesn’t have its “ups and downs.”

          • bostonboomer says:

            I agree. Mona and Ralph are both like family members to me. We need to find ways to get along even when we disagree with each other.

          • You know, in my family we yell and fight and cuss each other out…but then ten minutes later all’s back to normal. That is just the way it is.

          • ANonOMouse says:

            “You know, in my family we yell and fight and cuss each other out…but then ten minutes later all’s back to normal. That is just the way it is.”

            Oh brother, My family too, must be the Latin blood.

          • My reference to PUMA wasn’t directed at you, Mona. I was writing about my personal experience.

            Thanks for clarifying that, BB. I appreciate it.

            I follow Hillary’s example too, but she’s also a pol working from within a system and has to make certain compromises to do so. I have more leeway than she does. I’m not bound to the Dems.

            I support some individual Dems, particularly women Dems, but overall the D side still isn’t a party of women for me or much of a meaningful alternative on any of the other issues that are most important to me.

            We’ve had to deal with the repercussions of Stupakistan here in Texas very intensely. So that still matters to me, yes.

        • ANonOMouse says:

          “Mouse, all I can say to you personally, since you’ve actually engaged in civil discourse with me–this isn’t about PUMA”

          Mona….I don’t really know anything about the history of folks here. I respect your enthusiasm, your energy and your willingness to state your beliefs. I have absolutely no problem with our differences concerning the ACA. On some aspects of the ACA we agree, on others, we do not. From my perspective that’s no big deal.

          My ditto to BB was about regretting my own behavior. I regret not getting my head screwed back on quickly enough. I stayed angry for far too long and there are I wish I could change. I should have know better, I’m an old woman. Just know my reply to BB had nothing to do with you, it was about me.

    • Beata says:

      Very well said, BB. Thanks.

      I have moved on since 2008. Now I am interested in how we work to create a better future. That is what I see Hillary doing. I learn from her example.

    • Seriously says:

      If you want to address me, feel free to do it directly. 😉 I’m sorry that you feel that posting old comments constitutes a personal attack. Personally I feel like personal attacks constitute personal attacks. The fact that people’s opinions have changed is exactly my point. None of us (except Mona ;)) are perfect and it helps to remember that when we’re in a frenzy of repeatedly personally attacking someone for the same or lesser sins. I’m not harping on old grudges in the least, just feel like self-reflection is sometimes an asset in trying to stop pointing fingers and blaming everybody else. I don’t care about 2008 in this context and I don’t think someone’s views on it however popular ot unpopular should open them up to being called a bunch of nasty names. The only thing I care about in this context is Mona.