Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Knowledge and Power turns to Idealism and Hate


The execution of the staff at Paris’ Charlie-Hebdo office is creating a stir.  The issue is whether offensive speech should be allowed in polite society.

It’s a debate that has been going on for centuries, and America is unique in defending free speech.  Our right to free speech is enshrined in the Constitution.  The problem is that if only inoffensive speech is allowed, only the offended are protected.  Our constitutional “equal protection” provisions end up being not so equally applied.

While I can’t settle the free speech argument, it is important to look at the other side of the Charlie-Hebdo violence.  That has to do with the twin pillars of idealism and hate.  Those forces were on display in Paris on January 7, 2015.
When we are born, we are totally dependent human beings.  We need someone to tend to us in every way.
When we face death, that dependency returns.
Mitch Albom wrote a book about Professor Morris S. Schwartz, titled “Tuesdays with Morrie.”  It covers the art of dying.  One of the quotes that sticks with me is this:

"You know the biggest thing I dread?" he whispered. "When I can't wipe my own rear end. For some reason, that really bothers me."

Professor Schwartz was lamenting the loss of power that comes late in life.

The same thing pertains to knowledge.  When we are born, we begin our quest for knowledge. That search is portrayed in the film WALL-E where the animated character is in “input mode,” absorbing everything available in new surroundings.
Unfortunately, late in life we tend to reach “knowledge satiation.”  We no longer want to learn new things.  We are comfortable with what we already know.  (There is something to that expression: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!”)
Thus we see a continuum in knowledge and in power.  Humans start with none of each and end with none of either.  What happens in the middle of the continuum is what is interesting.
Humans come to realize that life has limitations.  Our individual knowledge is not boundless, and neither is our power.  How do we cope?
We frequently become attracted to political-religious movements.  (Stay with me on this.  It ties with the massacre in Paris.)
On the religious side, humans find it attractive to subordinate themselves to a higher being.  We can’t know everything, so we accept that “infinite knowledge” must reside in a spiritual being.
On the political side of things, we find it attractive to use displacement to accommodate our lack of power.  We can’t control everything, so we displace our feelings.  All of our problems can be replaced with hate toward a particular identity group.
Examples of both of these phenomena are plentiful in our culture. Political organizations from sports teams to cults are happy to influence our feelings about entities that we don’t support.  We learn to “hate” the Cowboys or the Rams (football teams).  It provides intensity to our sporting experience.
All of this is right and natural.
What’s disheartening is when a political-religious movement takes our normal human tendencies and subverts them.  Our desire to limit the search for knowledge gets replaced with dogmatic idealism.  The Movement tells us we can end our search for truth.  We join the Movement and “the truth” is revealed to us.
The same can be said of power.  A political-religious movement replaces our acceptance of powerlessness with a sense of moral authority.  Our powerlessness becomes displaced by hate.
We see these effects day-in and day-out, but somehow miss the connection until something like the Charlie Hebdo killings occur, or we see police officers gunned down in New York.
Those organizations that teach us to hate rarely have our best interests in mind.

UPDATE 1/8/2015:
Claire Berlinski has a first-hand account of the aftermath of the attack.

UPDATE 1/9/2015:
Peggy Noonan has an article in The Wall Street Journal (unfortunately behind the paywall) that goes over the free speech issues associated with the attack.  Her conclusion:
A singular feature of extremist Islamists is that they are not at all interested in persuasion. They don’t care about winning you over, only about making you submit. They want to menace and threaten. They want to frighten. They enjoy posing with the severed head.
"The elephant in the room" is that extremist Islamists TEACH PEOPLE TO HATE and  Ms. Noonan avoids making that point.  Those who eschew the hate need to be heard.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Democratic Party Primacy

Danny Reise photo of a burning police car in Ferguson, Missouri
This past week brought stories and photos of violence in Ferguson, Missouri.  The rioting took place after a grand jury decision was announced by St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch on the evening of November 24, 2014.

The action by the grand jury was characterized as Raaaaacism in America.  Here’s another way to look at it:
The Democratic Party objectifies African Americans.  If you have dark skin tone, you are assumed to be associated with the Democratic Party.  In fact if you are a black voter, the odds are ten-to-one that you are a Democrat.
What does this tell us about Ferguson?  With very few exceptions, all those individuals participating in the violence last week were Democrats!
Of course, we don’t actually know that, because nobody is sampling riot participants for their political affiliation.  But it is a conclusion that can be drawn using inference.
The Democratic Party has the power and resources to create protests across the country, and it did so the week of November 24, 2014.  But why the intensity of feeling at Ferguson?
Here comes another “we don’t actually know” response, but (again using inference) we can conclude that it has to do with control of a governmental institution.
The Democratic Party exerts great power and authority over our nation’s police.  That power extends from the federal domain of the Department of Justice down to local jurisdictions such as the Ferguson Police Department.  When a police cruiser displays the logo “To Serve and Protect,” there is an expectation by the Democratic Party that the prime recipient of that service and protection is in fact the Democratic Party.
This explains the harsh response to Officer Darren Wilson’s actions.  As a police officer, Officer Wilson made the mistake of promoting the general welfare in Ferguson.
He had received notification of a petty theft, and had a description of the individual involved.  When he encountered an individual matching that description, he had two choices: He could protect the neighborhood from the behaviors associated with the reported theft, or he could carry out his duty to “serve and protect” the Democratic Party.
The latter course of action would involve noting that the individual had dark skin tone, and was therefore likely to be (or become) a lifelong Democrat.  The proper reaction would then have been to move on and avoid confrontation with that individual.
Instead, Officer Wilson embarked on a course of action intended to curtail neighborhood thuggery.  It was a decision that has now become a public accounting of the power of the Democratic Party.  Those who fail to show proper deference are at risk of personal destruction.
Our culture does not yet focus on the human costs associated with the Democratic Party transition into a political-religious movement.  We watch as a sporting event becomes theater with Tavon Austin (11), Stedman Bailey (12), Chris Givens (13), Kenny Britt (81), and Jared Cook (89) of the St. Louis Rams showing their solidarity for the Democratic Party.
Although there was talk of sanctioning the players, their desire to demonstrate allegiance to the Democratic Party at a football game is properly recognized as free speech.  Just as an athlete may use a sporting event to exhibit devotion to a religion, players may emphasize their dedication to a political-religious movement.
Ferguson, Missouri may be the moment when Americans begin to see the Democratic Party as a political-religious movement.  That would be remarkable!

UPDATE 12/18/2014:
The Democratic Party control over America's police force results in a New York kerfuffle!  The New York Post has a story on the contention between New York's Mayor, Bill de Blasio, and the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.  Either way, the Democratic Party is the power player.

UPDATE 12/22/2014:
The rift in the Democratic Party is becoming more obvious.  The idea that you "own" law enforcement and yet accept declarations calling for the death of cops is becoming more difficult to sell to Americans.

UPDATE 12/29/2014:
The rank and file take matters into their own hands as the rift in the Democratic Party continues.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Iconoclast

Sharyl Attkisson has written a book about her experiences in the journalism profession.  She characterizes her work as “fearless reporting” on “untouchable subjects.”
Ms. Attkisson is an iconoclast.  She is also courageous, in that she has the political power of the Department of Justice arrayed against her.
While that may not seem like a formidable proposition, when the DOJ sanctions operations against an individual, that person is in grave danger.  Ms. Attkisson deserves our respect and support.
We’ve also got Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Elbert Guillory in the news of late.  These are two individuals who cast off the constraints of their identity groups to “speak truth to power.”
They represent the best of our consummate American ideal by displaying the “Give me liberty, or give me death!” mindset we have treasured in our past.
Our current culture does not celebrate these behaviors.  They are “swept under the rug” by our media organizations.

That’s unfortunate.

UPDATE 12/5/2014:
James O'Keefe provides an example of our justice system being manipulated in a political fashion.  I don't think my description of Sharyl Attkisson being in "grave danger" is an overstatement:


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Are Congratulations in Order?

Scott Rasmussen, founder of Rasmussen Reports

 A Rasmussen voter survey from November 3, 2014 found that 87% of black voters believe those who oppose Obama's policies do so because of racism.

What to make of this?

Given that "those who oppose Obama's policies" are Republicans, and that nine out of ten black voters are Democrats, we see that the Democratic Party is successful in teaching its constituents to hate Republicans: Democrats accept as fact that Republicans are racists.

With very few exceptions, every black Democrat voter sees Republicans as racists.

Are congratulations in order?  Is this the Democratic Party’s "Mission Accomplished" moment?

We know the Democratic Party is consistent in its themes.  My earlier post on The Quiz suggests that if we could track people’s feelings about the Republican Party over time, we would see the gradual adoption of those themes.  Americans don’t start out hating Republicans, but with continuous repetition, the Democratic Party is able to inculcate that perception into our American culture.

The Rasmussen survey provides a snapshot of this effect, and is a testament to the power of the Democratic Party.

I know: Nothing to see here; just move along…

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The 2014 Midterm Elections

The 2014 midterm elections are now a week away, and it’s time for a prediction on how the election will turn out.  (My 2012 attempt at prognostication indicates this may be an exercise in futility, but here goes.)

In Colorado, we have a new mail voting system, so results will be different from prior years.  Even so, I’ll provide two charts for comparison.

The first is for 2012, and has Colorado turnout results from October 31, just under a week prior to the 2012 General Election.  The second is for this year, and has Colorado turnout results from October 27, just over a week before our midterm election.  Because of the timing difference and the fact that turnout for midterm elections is generally lower than for general elections, the overall voting for Colorado so far this year is about one-half (660,113) of what it was in the 2012 report (1,150,698).

For comparison, let’s assume that if 2012 behavior occurred in 2014, we would have about twice the number of votes in place for 2014.  I’ll compare three counties: Douglas, Denver, and Boulder.  Douglas has a majority of Republican voters; Denver and Boulder are Democratic Party strongholds.

Here’s a chart of numbers for 2012 and 2014, with 2014 numbers doubled (approximately) to facilitate a comparison with 2012:

County      2012D    2014D (actual)   2012R    2014R (actual)

Douglas       18,158      20,000 (9,864)      44,487     55,000 (27,672)

Denver         68,204     74,000 (37,296)    21,483     30,000 (15,048)

Boulder        38,672      37,000 (18,512)    16,440     20,000 (10,239)

TOTAL       125,034     131,000 (65,672)   82,410    105,000 (52,959)

Comparing the three counties, we see that 2014 Democrats are voting in slightly higher numbers than they did in 2012 (about 5 to 10% greater turnout) while 2014 Republicans are voting with greater intensity (about 25 to 30% more).  If turnout is a guide, Republicans have a good chance of making Colorado “less purple” in 2014.

But what about other state elections?  Two polling services worth a look are and

Real Clear Politics gives a listing of public polling results, with an average (RCP Average) calculated for the last five polls.  Five Thirty Eight uses roughly the same polling results, but “handicaps” the data based on the voting fundamentals of a given state and the past performance of the various polling agencies.  Here is a listing of the ten “battleground” states that will determine control of the U. S. Senate next year:

State   538          RCP Average

AK      R+1.8  R+2.2 (R=Sullivan; D=Begich)

AR      R+3.7  R+5.0 (R=Cotton; D=Pryor)

CO      R+2.1  R+3.3 (R=Gardner; D=Udall)

GA      R+0.6  R+0.5 (R=Perdue; D=Nunn)

IA        R+0.9  R+2.1 (R=Ernst; D=Braley)

KY      R+3.5  R+4.4 (R=McConnell; D=Grimes)

KS       I+0.4   I+0.9 (R=Roberts; The “Independent” is Orman)

LA       R+4.7  R+4.5 (R=Cassidy; D=Landrieu)

NC      D+1.6  D+1.0 (R=Tillis; D=Hagan)

NH      D+2.6  D+2.2 (R=Brown; D=Shaheen)

With one week until the election, here are two things we know:

--Real Clear Politics seems to have a slight polling bias in favor of Republicans.
--Four  races (GA, IA, KS, NC) are within the “Margin of Fraud.”

That “Margin of Fraud” terminology might need some clarification.  It is a term promoted by Glenn Reynolds to describe the fact that close races are routinely decided in favor of the Democratic Party.  Republicans, unfortunately, have to win elections by at least a 2% margin.

Here in Colorado, we see the Margin of Fraud potential in places like Boulder.  With our new mail voting system, the only check on widespread fraudulent voting is Signature Verification.  Without a dual-party control mechanism, those counties dominated by one political party can easily manipulate voting.  And keep in mind you don’t have to be a citizen to vote in Colorado.

We will know the results of the 2014 election next week (assuming no run-off in Georgia or Louisiana), and my prediction is that Republicans will take control of the Senate by a 51 to 49 majority.

That means Republicans must win six of the ten races shown above.  Maybe Colorado’s Cory Gardner will be one of the six!

UPDATE 10/31/2014:
Here is the Colorado turnout report for today.  The data are similar to the 2012 report referenced above.  It shows unaffiliated turnout about the same as 2012, but 33,680 fewer Democratic Party voters and 36,408 more Republican Party voters.  In Douglas County, Republicans are voting in the same numbers as 2012, but Democrats and unaffiliated voters are turning out in fewer numbers.  If that trend holds, it will be good for Republicans in Colorado.

UPDATE 11/5/2014:
Republicans currently have 52 states in the Senate and the Democrats 46.  Alaska and Louisiana are still in play.  My prediction of 51 states for Republicans was too conservative.  More than likely, the Republican pickup will be 54 states.  We'll know on December 7, 2014.

UPDATE 11/11/2014:
Nate Silver analyzes the polling bias in the 2014 Midterms, showing there was a 4% bias in favor of Democrats.  As a result, few pollsters were predicting the extent of the Republican "wave."

It appears that about half the time there is a greater than 2% bias in polling data.  (About half the time, there is a less than 1% polling bias.)  What determines that effect?  Perhaps it's the American media.

In my next prediction, I'll see if I can determine if there is a 2% bias going on, and adjust for it.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Art of Rhetoric

Statue of Aristotle at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece via Flickr.

On September 5, 2014, The Denver Post presented opposing points of view on the issue of repeal of broadband regulation (Senate Bill 152) in Colorado.  The “No” opinion was presented by Dr. Ron Rizzuto of the Daniels College of Business at Denver University.  The “Yes” opinion was given by Tim Wirth and Ken Fellman.

The two presentations differ markedly in style.  The work by Dr. Rizzuto is data-driven:
--SB 152 serves as an important protection for Colorado citizens.

--I have reviewed the financial track record of more than 75 municipal telecom systems that are competing with existing providers.

--My research shows that 75 percent of the competitive municipal systems do not “pay their own way.”  All are operating below the break-even point.

--Given the risky nature of municipal broadband operations and the sizable financial investments required, laws such as Colorado’s are necessary to provide citizens sufficient transparency and oversight of municipal decision makers.

--Why on Earth would Colorado want to take a step back from this level of transparency, voter empowerment, and accountability?

The work of Tim Wirth and Ken Fellman makes an appeal for us to “just do the right thing:”
--Competitive high-speed broadband networks are critical to the future of Colorado’s communities.

--Indeed, broadband access should be considered an essential service just like water, sewer and electricity.

--Incumbent service providers that do not want competition are blocking access to competitive, high-speed broadband.
--Colorado’s statute causes delay in local decision-making and increases costs.

--Our schools, businesses, health care facilities and service institutions deserve nothing less than the highest quality of service, at affordable rates.
--Our [state] legislature should not continue to hamstring our local officials in order to protect incumbent service providers from competition.

--SB 152 should be repealed, and unrestricted authority to make broadband decisions should be returned to the local level.

 Which technique appeals the most to you?  If you were a decision maker in our state legislature, which approach would sway you?
Your choice could indicate a susceptibility to authoritarian techniques.  Depending on your degree of left-brain dependence, you will be attracted to one argument or the other.

Note how the second argument brings in the pairing of idealism and hatred.  Idealism is validated with the understanding of broadband being “critical to the future of Colorado’s communities.”  (It is as essential as water!)
The hatred is directed at “incumbent service providers” who are shielded from competition.

This argument makes us feel very comfortable.  We are all part of the same mindset.  We know who the bad guys are, and we keep our idealism intact.
Dr. Rizzuto’s argument brings a “power to the people” libertarian appeal.  He believes local governments should have restrictions placed on their authority, and the people being governed are just the ones to do that.

It turns out the principle of this debate is really about control: How should local governments be restrained by the electorate?
Not surprisingly, the argument for unrestrained government is made by two Democratic Party politicians.  Tim Wirth, currently Vice Chair of the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Fund, is a “high priest” within the Democratic Party.  Ken Fellman is more associated with the Democratic Party’s “muscle.”  (He has been accused of stealing political yard signs while serving as mayor of Arvada, Colorado.)

For reference, posted below are the two articles.  Note how The Denver Post describes the question as allowing “communities” more flexibility.  This obscures the central differentiation between local government and the people being represented.  Also, the description of the participants fails to note Dr. Rizzuto's PhD and omits the Democratic Party affiliation of Tim Wirth and Ken Fellman.  (Just an oversight, no doubt.)

First the Wirth/Fellman article:

Should Colorado broadband law be revoked? Yes

Eliminate barriers to local decisions on broadband networks

By Timothy E. Wirth and Ken Fellman

Updated:   09/08/2014 12:12:40 PM MDT

Editor's note: Colorado Senate Bill 152, which was passed in 2005, prevents the state's municipalities from creating their own broadband networks. Nearly a decade later, some say the law is outdated. We asked key players in the debate to answer this question: Should SB 152 be revoked or changed to allow communities more flexibility for broadband accessibility?

Competitive high-speed broadband networks are critical to the future of Colorado's communities. Access to fast, affordable and reliable Internet service is required for job growth, enhanced educational opportunities, and improved health care.

Indeed, broadband access should be considered an essential service just like water, sewer and electricity. Communities without access, or those relying on first-generation networks will find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide.

The Federal Communications Commission has challenged us to create "gigabit communities." Only a handful exists today. In places like Chattanooga, Tenn., and Lafayette, La, city-owned fiber networks provide high speed, cost-effective connectivity, and have resulted in private companies upgrading their networks and lowering prices due to the competition. This has led to significant job growth and investment. Why don't we see these activities in Colorado?

Incumbent service providers that do not want competition are blocking access to competitive, high-speed broadband. These are usually the largest telecommunications companies that want to expand their monopoly or duopoly positions at the expense of consumers. This monopoly-like behavior takes many forms: lobbying at local town meetings; millions of dollars spent lobbying at the national decision-making level; and more lobbying dollars spent to convince legislatures to pass laws either prohibiting or creating barriers for local governments from building broadband networks.

Colorado's state law, Senate Bill 152, was passed in 2005, and generally prohibits local governments from providing broadband without a local vote. When Longmont tried to re-establish its local authority through a vote in 2009, the industry spent $240,000 to defeat it. In 2011, despite another $400,000 spent by the industry, Longmont prevailed. Now Longmont is poised to become a gigabit city.

We don't suggest all cities should provide broadband services. Communities can leverage excess capacity on internal government networks to incentivize the private sector to provide new and better broadband. Cortez, which was not affected by SB 152 because it had a pre-existing network, has been collaborating with the private sector for years. Montrose tried to get its incumbent providers to upgrade broadband networks, to no avail. After passing an election to re-establish local authority to build broadband networks, the telecom companies are now interested in upgrading their networks in Montrose. Imagine that! And imagine how interested they'd be in upgrading networks throughout Colorado if they knew that the failure to do so might result in local government stepping in to make 21st century services available.

Municipal broadband networks are not perfect. There have been local failures, just as there have been private telecom ventures that have gone bust. Yet opponents of municipal broadband often cite examples from the mid-2000s or earlier, and do not acknowledge the hundreds of communities around the United States that successfully provide broadband today — either directly or through public-private partnerships.

Colorado's statute causes delay in local decision-making and increases costs. It's one of the reasons Google chose to bypass Colorado and invest millions in new broadband networks in neighboring states. Localities took the lead a century ago to ensure that Colorado communities would not be without reliable, affordable electricity. In the 21st century, broadband is an essential service. Our schools, businesses, health care facilities and service institutions deserve nothing less than the highest quality of service, at affordable rates. Our legislature should not continue to hamstring our local officials in order to protect incumbent service providers from competition. SB 152 should be repealed, and unrestricted authority to make broadband decisions should be returned to the local level.

Timothy E. Wirth served Colorado in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Ken Fellman is a former Arvada mayor and is currently Littleton city attorney.

 And now, Dr. Rizzuto’s piece:

Should Colorado broadband law be revoked? No

Municipal broadband is a risky financial proposition

By Ron Rizzuto

Updated:   09/08/2014 12:12:21 PM MDT

Editor's note: Colorado Senate Bill 152, which was passed in 2005, prevents the state's municipalities from creating their own broadband networks. Nearly a decade later, some say the law is outdated. We asked key players in the debate to answer this question: Should SB 152 be revoked or changed to allow communities more flexibility for broadband accessibility?

The two most commonly cited reasons for wanting to revoke or change the 2005 law governing broadband services in Colorado, Senate Bill 152, are:

1) It hinders the expansion of high-speed broadband networks across Colorado.

2) It prohibits cities from providing free Wi-Fi in libraries or other public buildings.

Neither claim is correct.

In fact, SB 152 serves as an important protection for Colorado citizens.

First, Colorado law does not prevent local governments from selling broadband services.

Rather, the existing statute simply empowers citizens to vote on whether their local government should enter this risky, high-stakes industry. And that's a prudent requirement, given that publicly subsidized missteps could hit the wallets of these same citizens.

The record of municipal broadband throughout the nation is very uneven and cities have made costly mistakes.

Two very recent examples include Groton, Conn., and Alameda, Calif.

Groton was in the telecom business from 2004 until 2013. The municipality invested more than $34 million and never generated any positive cash flow. Each year the municipal utility in Groton had to subsidize the telecom operation.

In 2013, the municipality sold the operation for $150,000 but is still required to repay the $34 million that it borrowed to build and operate the business.

Likewise, Alameda sold its telecom operation to Comcast in 2008 for $17 million after operating it for 10 years. It is estimated that the municipality lost $60 million on this venture.

In April, the city just completed dealing with the lawsuits from its bondholders and third-party partner in this venture.

I have been doing research on the economics of municipal telecommunications since 1997. In the course of my research, I have reviewed the financial track record of more than 75 municipal telecom systems that are competing with existing providers.

In reviewing this performance, I have used the annual reports prepared by the municipal utilities and the financial performance from the date of inception to the current period.

My research shows that 75 percent of the competitive municipal systems do not "pay their own way." All are operating below the break-even point.

Given the risky nature of municipal broadband operations and the sizable financial investments required, laws such as Colorado's are necessary to provide citizens sufficient transparency and oversight of municipal decision makers.

Second, local governments in Colorado can legally today offer free Wi-Fi in public places like parks, and libraries — and they do so.

There are prominent examples of local governments providing free Wi-Fi, including Denver International Airport, the Denver Public Library system, the Golden Library, and Boulder Public Libraries. This is just a sampling.

Beyond these real-life examples, there are legal bases to support the idea that free Wi-Fi at a public park, library, government office or the like is permissible under Colorado law without a vote. Free Wi-Fi could satisfy the "internal and intergovernmental purpose" exception in the law, for example.

Given these realities, it is no wonder that free public Wi-Fi is increasingly available in certain communities.

Time and again, Coloradans have demonstrated their desire to vote on important financial questions that impact them. If a local government can make a compelling case to voters for investing in broadband, no doubt these voters will support the investment — just as they support ballot questions to fund schools or other public priorities.

Why on Earth would Colorado want to take a step back from this level of transparency, voter empowerment, and accountability?

Ron Rizzuto ( is a professor of finance at the University of Denver.

UPDATE 9/25/2014:
Cory Gardner, running to replace Mark Udall as U.S. Senator from Colorado, has the following ad playing on Colorado television:

Note his use of statements of fact.  Contrast that with the DSCC response:

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Communications Director Justin Barasky released the following statement on Congressman Cory Gardner’s disgusting attack on Senator Mark Udall’s family:

“It’s clear Congressman Cory Gardner’s campaign is struggling to overcome the damage done by his support for laws that could block a woman’s access to common forms of birth control, take away women’s personal health care decisions even in cases of rape or incest, and roll women’s health care rights back decades. It’s disgusting that Congressman Gardner would stoop as low as attacking Senator Mark Udall’s late father and it is beneath a candidate running for the U.S. Senate. Congressman Gardner should apologize to Senator Udall and his family and pull the ad off the air.” 

Mr. Barasky uses rhetoric to (once again) pair up idealism and hate.  The idealism is the protection of women and respect for the deceased.  The hate is the "disgusting" Representative Cory Gardner.

It's formulaic, and it works.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Video Recruitment

Video frame of James Foley and his Sunni captor courtesy of New York Magazine
Nancy Snow, writing today for The Guardian, has an interesting depiction of the recent videos of American journalists being killed by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).  She characterizes the videos as a propagandist recruiting effort.  “I know good propaganda when I see it,” she states.

Ms. Snow says the recruiting efforts are directed at “people who have lost all other meaningful points of reference.”  In her view, these people are simply searching for meaning.

I disagree.  I see it from the perspective of those in pursuit of Authoritarianism.

The videos clearly elicit a differential reaction in people.  We either find them abhorrent or we find them attractive.  What accounts for the differences in our perception?

Rather than simply dismiss the individuals attracted to the violence as aberrational and “in search of meaning,” let’s do some research.

England and the United States can identify over 1,000 citizens who have travelled to the Middle East in search of the sanctity provided by ISIS.  What common experiences and behaviors define these individuals?

Were they bullies in elementary school?  Did they seek out particular cliques?  Did their peers, parents, guardians, or instructors have particular perceptions of them?  What is the evidence?

Authoritarian behaviors do not suddenly appear.  They develop over time.  It would be interesting to find out what drives these individuals to seek out opportunities to act with impunity.  Why do they search for life and death authority over other human beings?  What were the early manifestations?

Establishment institutions of our academic community apparently do not see this as a worthwhile area of study.  Our culture has no interest in early identification of authoritarian tendencies.  Why is that?

Maybe the culture needs some study as well.

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