Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Coming Preference Cascade

Photo of Bill Ayers by Jeff Sciortino in Chicago Magazine

Glenn Reynolds has written of “preference falsification,” where people suppress their beliefs because their culture makes them feel those beliefs are aberrational. If the cultural spell is broken, and people get a sense that their society does endorse those beliefs, they exhibit a “preference cascade” where they exuberantly display their beliefs for all to see.

Professor Reynolds uses the patriotism shown after the events of 9/11/2001 as an example. He points out that the politics of the Vietnam War caused many Americans to hide their patriotism from public view. However, after 9/11, the American flag was honored and displayed unashamedly.

Today we are seeing individual Americans demonstrating the strength of their convictions, and relying on the Constitution for support. It seems to be catching on:

In Iowa, part-time employee Teresa Wagner gets a jury trial on her claim that Carolyn Jones (former dean of the College of Law at the University of Iowa) failed to hire her for a full-time position because of political beliefs.

Who would have believed that Ms. Wagner could successfully bring suit for political discrimination at an American University? Just a few years ago, such an action would have been unthinkable.

In New York City, a fourth-year medical student visiting from Tennessee finds herself charged with felony gun possession (minimum sentence of 3.5 years). Meredith Graves has a legal carry permit in Tennessee, but New York does not honor it. Mrs. Graves is due in court on March 19, 2012 to defend her case.

The idea of challenging local restrictions on gun rights would have been preposterous in the twentieth century (except in the most extreme circumstances). Now Mrs. Graves believes she can successfully do it.

Here in Colorado, Ari Armstrong corrects the reporting in a Denver Post story by Joey Bunch and Kieran Nicholson. Our culture expects us to access print media through Opinion pages or in the Corrections section, but Mr. Armstrong instinctively went directly to a reporter to set the record straight. His efforts show how to effectively hold print media accountable.

A “preference cascade” may be an obscure term, but it is about to become better understood. With the improvement in Internet content and availability, individuals are able to get a much better understanding of their role within a culture.

We no longer have to be told whether our views are “mainstream.” We can look at Internet metrics, watch “hit counters,” and review polling data. We can follow hotlinks to verify reporting and can use Internet searches to see correlations.

Our culture might think of Americans as Sheeples, but Ari Armstrong, Meredith Graves, and Teresa Wagner are defying the conventional wisdom.

They are demonstrating the power of conviction, and many Americans find that attractive.

UPDATE 1/12/2012:
Mark Meckler relates his story, one surprisingly like that of Meredith Graves. (h/t: Instapundit)

UPDATE 8/2/2012:
Glenn Reynolds points us to this post by Bob Owens.  It's that "power of convictions"thing...
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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

One-Off Characterizations

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Governor of Hawaii Neil Abercrombie

What do the following have in common?

--Gun Owners
--Tea Party Activists
--The 1%
--Climate Change Deniers

Need a hint? They are all recipients of our culture’s one-off characterizations. They are identity groups that have been used as Republican proxies.

I had posted on this phenomenon a few years ago. When our culture criticizes gun owners, or stigmatizes the Tea Party, it is using a time-honored technique. Hatred of individuals is shielded from scrutiny when it is an identity group that is being criticized.

Gun owners are killers. Who likes killers? Tea Party activists are racists. Who likes racists? “The 1%” are greedy. Who likes greedy people? Climate skeptics are all of the above. Who likes them?

You get the idea. People may characterize these groups without appearing to be totally anti-Republican. It gives political cover. And isn’t that convenient?

Maybe that’s why we should note the press reaction associated with two recent events. One was Mitt Romney offering a $10,000 wager to Rick Perry at a debate. The other was Nancy Pelosi taking a Christmas vacation in Hawaii at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.

Mitt Romney’s bet was characterized as an indication of his out-of-touch style and arrogance. Nancy Pelosi’s vacation coverage noted that she attended midnight mass at St. Michael’s Catholic Church.

I would imagine both politicians (with well over $100 million in wealth) are in that “1%.” But one of them receives more accommodating press coverage. Why is that?

There is no need to answer the question. The point is that “The 1%” is meant to target Republicans. Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry and Jon Corzine might technically be in the 1% category, but their righteousness keeps them from being classified as greedy. That characterization is reserved for Republicans by way of an identity group.

As long as Republicans accept this as what is “right and natural,” nothing will change. But who knows? There is a deferring/dominant psychological pattern where individuals put up with abuse for a certain amount of time and then try to turn the tables.

In America, we have elections for that sort of thing. 2012 might just become the year that Republicans gain a measure of (reluctant) respectability from our American culture.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011


PolitiFact, a subsidiary of the Tampa Bay Times made news on 12/20/2011 when it published its 2011 Lie of the Year. The controversial expression was “Republicans voted to end Medicare.”

PolitiFact provides several instances of the expression being used from 3/31/2011 to 8/30/2011. In a post on the fund-raising efforts of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), I also noted its use:

Harry Reid on 9/19/2011:
“Paul Ryan dreams of ending Medicare forever.”

James Carville on 9/30/2011:
“Jim DeMint will end Medicare.”

The good news is that the “Lie of the Year” designation has caused a modification in language used by the DSCC. A 12/22/2011 fund-raising letter (two days after the PolitiFact publication) uses this phraseology:

Kick Grandma Off Medicare & Give Her a Coupon: Republicans all lined up in favor of Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s extreme budget plan earlier this year that would kill Medicare as we know it and turn it into a voucher program.

I suppose that’s progress, but the style and intent remain: Republicans are bad people who want to steal from our Seniors. Those are classic Democratic Party themes.

The use of truth or fiction by a political movement becomes subordinate to the task of repeating the themes. In the Middle East, Arabic cultures teach that Jews are bad people. In Asia, the North Korean culture teaches that Americans are bad people. The techniques of repetition are widespread in both anti-Semitic and anti-American cultures.

Is something like that going on here?

One thing we do know is that if you want to be cool like the cast members of Saturday Night Live, you had better not be a Republican.

And when you are on the DSCC mailing list, you receive an even stronger message.

In teaching a belief system, truth or fiction is not an issue. What’s important is the repetition.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Is President Obama a Socialist?

General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines on January 9, 1945, as photographed by Carl Mydans for Life magazine. To MacArthur’s right are General Richard Sutherland and Colonel Lloyd Lehrbas.

Last night, on The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly interviewed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Mr. O’Reilly (as he is inclined to do) tried to draw Mr. Romney into controversy.

Concerning the governing policy of President Obama, Mr. O’Reilly posed the question, “Is he a Socialist?”

Mr. Romney knows that our anti-Republican culture would characterize him as a “risky extremist” if he answered Mr. O’Reilly’s question in the affirmative. He chose instead this reply: “I consider him a big government liberal Democrat who thinks Europe got it right and we got it wrong.”

That was a deft response, but what if Mr. O’Reilly had posed a different question?

“Is President Obama an Authoritarian?”

That would have been a more interesting direction for the discussion. Claiming an affinity for the principles of Socialism / Communism / Capitalism is common amongst political leaders. The thing that is different about President Obama is that he appears to be seeking Authoritarianism in the governing of America.

What are the examples? Here are a few that come to mind:

--Employing American military power as a personal mercenary force.
--Operating the DOJ as though it were immune from oversight.
--Reinforcing the absolute authority of the TSA over airline travel.
--Expanding the power of the EPA.
--Politicizing the Department of Labor.
--Extending the authority of Executive Orders.
--Creating privileged opportunities for Democratic Party identity groups.
--Conducting lavish presidential excursions and family vacations.

During the Korean War, General Douglas MacArthur, though an extremely popular military figure, was removed from his duties as Commander in Chief, United Nations Command. President Truman didn’t take kindly to General MacArthur’s authoritarian tendencies, and exercised his constitutional powers.

It was a significant event at the time, and might have been one of the reasons Truman was a one-term president. Questions still remain: Did President Truman do the right thing? Was he within his powers?

President Truman’s actions demonstrate that our Constitution helps preserve the power of the people. When an elected leader or an appointed administrator takes on the mantle of authoritarianism, the Constitution provides mechanisms for the removal of said people.

Authoritarianism may work within a family unit, but it always brings about unsatisfactory outcomes for “the people” when enacted on the world stage. The recent demise of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il focuses our attention on the issue. Whether under the banner of Socialism, Communism, or national hegemony, Authoritarianism is a common theme for the world’s dictators.

Is it time to have a conversation about Authoritarianism in America?

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Dickensian (dih-ken-zee-uhn)

Lakewood Center for the Arts 2009 production of Oliver!
(Shea Mackinnon as Oliver and Jay Horenstein as Fagin)

One of the themes of the Democratic Party is that Republicans are harming our children. Newt Gingrich recently brought new energy to this theme. Speaking in Iowa on December 1, Mr. Gingrich said:

Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of 'I do this and you give me cash,' unless it's illegal.

Cue the outrage!

Joan Jacobson expressed her feelings in The Denver Post on 12/10/2011:

One benefit of Newt Gingrich’s proposal to pay poor kids to clean their schools is that it would give the rich kids in those schools valuable experience in how to treat “the help.” These kids are too young to have acquired noblesse oblige, so it’s inevitable that they will say stuff like, “Hey, Janitor Boy, mop up my mess!” in the lavatories and, “Maid Girl, take my plate away!” in the cafeterias. But we can pay for expensive counselors to teach sensitivity training to the rich kids. Or, we could just put up with bullying by the rich of the poor on the basis that this is how the real world works and so it is good training for kids on both ends of the economic spectrum.

Ed Quillen followed up on 12/11/2011:

I never encountered any stories suitable for the children of America's right-thinkers. A story where, say, most of the kids get together to beat the tar out of the new kid who's "different." Or the one with everyone cheering at the death of a character who didn't have health insurance. Or shooting the brown-eyed kid who tried to get into their gated community. Or maybe a story where the cool kids had fun mocking the kid who couldn't afford the newest styles and Newt Gingrich could lead them in chanting, "Get a haircut."

Once again, Republicans are off their meds. They enjoy mocking, bullying and killing. Our culture reminds us that Republicans are really bad people.

Or maybe that’s just The Denver Post. Keith Koffler, writing at Politico, sees it as a new political strategy employed by the Democratic Party. In an effort to get president Obama re-elected, the Democratic Party is crafting a new reality:

Obama’s is a Dickensian world in which greedy rich people and unscrupulous bankers receive special favor and the rest of us are ground under their avarice into penury.

Whether we are seeing a new reality or just a rehash of Democratic Party themes, it does appear that we are going to get a strong dose of Dickensian medicine over the next 11 months.

Let’s watch and see whether it cures America’s ills.

UPDATE 1/17/2012:
Newt Gingrich gets a standing ovation while defending his remarks at a debate held in Myrtle Beach, SC on 1/16/2012.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011


President Obama gave a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas this week in which he beseeched the American people:

“We are greater together when everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share.”
The speech opens a new campaign theme. President Obama wants to help Americans do what is fair.

That is certainly a compelling theme, but there might be unintended consequences. While Americans are reflecting on fairness, they might stumble across its central tenet:

Fairness is relative.

There are always three aspects of fairness: what is fair for the individual, what is fair for the identity group, and what is fair for the rest of society.

The censure of Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) showcases these different aspects. Representative Rangel had a very personal impression of the fairness of censure, while the identity groups associated with the House of Representatives and the Congressional Black Caucus had their opinions as well. There were also the viewpoints of those in the overall population with an interest in the Rule of Law. Which of these was the fair approach?

While considering that dilemma, note how the president’s speech also ties into the notion of Authoritarianism. When there are conflicting points of view on fairness, people are drawn to “the strong horse.” We look to an influential group to be the tiebreaker.

In that context, we are now hearing a message about a broken system that needs authoritarian figures to help us achieve fairness.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Democratic Party and president Obama are ready to fill that void.

UPDATE 12/9/2011:
Linked by Left Coast Rebel!  Thanks, Tim.

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Monday, December 5, 2011


A scene from the current production of West Side Story.

I posed this question a month ago: “Is Communism a ruse for placing large groups of people under authoritarian regimes?” It seems that the quest to achieve the ideals of Communism is never complete, and authoritarianism is always ready to step in.

History is replete with instances of authoritarian regimes, and our academics still don’t “connect the dots.” Let me shed some light on this quandary.

There are two elements present in every instance of authoritarianism: ideals and hate. In many instances, the “ideals” are provided by a movement such as Socialism or Communism. The followers are attracted to the movement because of the ideals, and authoritarianism is simply a vehicle to achieve those ideals.

But what if it is the other way around? What if the “achievement” is the authoritarian state, and the “vehicle” is simply the current political/religious movement? Doesn’t that make more sense?

We see authoritarianism at all levels of human interaction. A street gang is an example at one end of the spectrum, and both elements are present. The “ideal” is a sense of sanctuary, a protection from adverse forces that is provided by membership in the gang. The “hate” is directed at a rival gang, an ethnic group, authority figures, or whatever. Taken together, the elements help the gang become an authoritarian unit.

On the other end of the spectrum are the large political/religious groups that exist in many non-democratic countries. If you focus on Iran as an example, you see “the ideal” as the perfection of the teachings of the Koran, and “the hate” as the desire to see Israel “wiped off the map.”

From the travails of the Hatfield-McCoy feud to the Halocaust of Nazi Germany, we see a recurring pattern of authoritarian groups using elements of hatred and idealism to maintain power and authority.

With that background, shouldn’t we be marveling at the durability of the United States over the last couple of centuries? Our Founders created a Constitution that preserves the power of the people and makes authoritarianism difficult. With Checks and Balances, the Rule of Law, and Separation of Powers, the Constitution protects America and makes it a country able to withstand the constant pressures of authoritarianism.

But while many people marvel at the genius of our Founders, others don’t see it that way.

Marc J. Hetherington and Jonathan D. Weiler published a book in 2009 titled, “Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics.” It presents the thesis that authoritarianism is a bad thing, and that it finds a welcome home in (of all places!) the minds of Republicans.

The Daily Kos published an interview with Jonathan Weiler that promotes this point of view. Mr. Weiler provides an “easy definition” of authoritarianism that is illuminating:

Most succinctly, we mean by authoritarianism a tendency to see the world in simple, clear, black and white terms in support of a social order that prefers sameness and uniformity over diversity and difference. It also tends to prefer the concreteness of military conflict over the subtleties of diplomacy. A tendency to disdain complexity and nuance and to evince intolerance of outgroups are typical (though, of course not universal) features of authoritarian-minded individuals.

The polarization we've argued is now under way is a product of the degree to which this particular worldview, once broadly distributed between the parties, has now increasingly found a home in one party, the Republican Party. And to emphasize, we also identify a non-authoritarian worldview, one characterized by a preference for thinking in shades of gray and privileging diversity and difference over sameness and uniformity. That worldview, likewise, was once more broadly distributed between the two parties and has increasingly gravitated toward one party, the Democrats.

Contrast this with what Wikipedia says:

Authoritarianism is a form of social organization characterized by submission to authority. It is usually opposed to individualism and democracy. In politics, an authoritarian government is one in which political authority is concentrated in a small group of politicians.

I am struck with the perception in the minds of Weiler and Hetherington that Republicans are like a separate species of human being. Republicans cling to bad ideas in the same fashion they “cling to guns or religion.” We are afflicted with authoritarianism in the way a person is afflicted with a psychosis.

In our culture, the thinking of Weiler and Hetherington is embraced. It is research. This is science.

The curious thing is that if I as a Republican head down to the office of the County Clerk and change my voter registration to something other than Republican, I might not immediately divest myself of the scourge of authoritarianism or “the backfire effect” or whatever current theory is being used to reinforce Democratic Party themes. Rather, I must depend on the Democratic Party to reveal what lies beneath the surface: What is my intent? What are my motivations? How should I be interpreted?

Our culture does not depend on the Rule of Law or a system within our representative democracy to adjudicate this issue. Rather, it relies on the authoritarianism of the Democratic Party which, alone in our culture, can “get it right.”

Does the Democratic Party have the two elements essential to an authoritarian regime? It has The Hate, and it has The Serenity. It also has “The Deception,” which is our anti-Republican culture providing energy and legitimacy.

Does all this sound sinister? It should, but it is also a reflection of our tendency as human beings to seek out authoritarianism for our solutions. Thomas Friedman, a prominent cheerleader, looks to the authoritarianism of China for direction. The Obama administration embraces authoritarianism in enhancing the power of its agencies and czars to get things “properly changed.”

Authoritarianism is testing our Constitution. It is a Siren song, and millions of Americans draw comfort from it.

We should all hope that the Constitution is strong enough to keep the American experiment going. In the meantime, just remember that when you are on the “authority” side of authoritarianism, it is a very seductive encounter.

When you are on the receiving side, it just sucks.

UPDATE 1/9/2012:
The use of the term "authoritarianism" seems to be catching on (h/t Power Line).  I don't think people appreciate the unique anti-authoritarian nature of our Constitution.  Sometimes you have to lose something to fully appreciate it.

UPDATE 1/17/2012:
The Wall Street Journal has a column by William McGurn that finds Americans are experiencing a "Constitutional awakening."  If true, that's a good thing!

UPDATE 1/27/2012:
George Will writes a column in the Washington Post, noting that the progressive ideals of the Democratic Party are furthered by a militaristic conformity:

People marching in serried ranks, fused into a solid mass by the heat of martial ardor, proceeding in lock step, shoulder to shoulder, obedient to orders from a commanding officer — this is a recurring dream of progressives eager to dispense with tiresome persuasion and untidy dissension in a free, tumultuous society.

He completes his column on authoritarianism without once using the word "authoritarianism."  What's up with that?

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Althouse and Kimball

Ann Althouse (on the left) and Christopher Kimball

Here’s an interesting cultural juxtaposition:

Ann Althouse yesterday noted that the American Bar Association has a list of 100 influential law blogs, and hers is included. What catches the attention of Ms. Althouse is that her blog (along with one other) is described as “conservative.” Ann finds it odd that not one of the other 98 law blogs is characterized as being “liberal.”

Christopher Kimball yesterday sent an e-mail to subscribers that described his sojourn into the Vermont woods the day before deer season. In his note, he describes activities associated with guns, dogs, and wildlife. My sense is that many people would find the story anachronistic.

What Ann sees as “odd” is what our culture sees as normal. The traditions pursued by Mr. Kimball are what our culture thinks are “odd” even though Mr. Kimball sees them as normal.

We might have to accept that our culture sees Ann’s blog as an outlier, but I feel a twinge of sorrow over the drift away from America’s legacy. For those of you feeling that same sense of loss, here is the text of Mr. Kimball’s “Antler Eve” e-mail:

Dear Home Cook,

The day before the beginning of deer season is referred to as “Antler Eve,” a day even more celebrated than the day before Christmas. I installed myself in camp (a small cabin), got the fire going, and Tom showed up with the beer about an hour later. He mentioned that he saw two bald eagles across from the farm a few days before. Someone had jacked a deer at night and field dressed it, leaving a nice meal for the birds. According to Tom, one of the eagles stood guard high up in a tree while the other one fed.

The alarm sounded at 3:45 a.m. I got into my long johns, started the fire, made the coffee, mixed the pancake batter, fried the bacon, and started sorting out my gear: flashlights, compass, hats, gloves, knife, sandwiches, and mobile phone. Tom and Nate showed up and we tucked into breakfast and strong coffee. Nate dropped me at the farm around 5:30 a.m., and I headed up to the stand where I shot the 7-pointer the year before. On the way up into the woods, I startled a deer by an apple tree and then heard at least two more once I disappeared from the upper meadow into the birch and maple. The moon was bright so I didn’t need a flashlight and found the stand in just minutes. I climbed up in—it’s a double-wide—and I put the clip into my Browning 308. Just then, bark started falling on my head. Well , I thought, here’s another annoyed, territorial squirrel. I looked up and, low and behold, it was no squirrel but an angry 25-pound raccoon who was hanging onto the tree, just above my head, using its hind legs to spit bark on me. It turned its face downward, hissed, and made no attempt to move. Now, for those of you who think that raccoons are cuddly, let me just say that about the last thing you would want is a pissed-off member of this species landing on your head in total darkness, clawing your face into ground chuck. So, I took out the flashlight, shined it in its face, and made threatening noises. He moved up the tree and out onto a limb where he sat and continued his campaign of heckling.

Speaking of raccoons, Tom used to go coon hunting when he lived in Connecticut and, one night, he was out with a couple of friends and a hound. The coon headed into a beaver pond and the dog went after him. The coon lured the animal into deep water and then got on top of its head, pushing it underwater, trying to drown it. The dog owner went running into the water and rescued the dog, but it was a near thing. Sounds incredible? Well, there is a video of a similar situation on YouTube. (I will let you find it yourself, if you are so inclined, since it is not the sort of thing an animal lover, dog or raccoon, will want to watch.)

I soon finished up my stay in the stand and decided to march back up and over the ridge to the cabin to switch out ammunition. For some reason, the 150-grain 7mm shells I had bought the day before were not loading properly so I wanted to change them out for the 140-grain shells I usually use. I restarted the day and headed downwards, near the New York State line, into a valley owned by a neighbor. I came across a porcupine waddling slowly along through a stand of pines and then headed to the top of a ridge where there is a good view down the mountain, with plenty of good cover for deer. I walked a few more miles, up into a steep side-hill known as the “ledges” and sat for a bit. I headed back to the cabin for a quick lunch on the deck in bright sunlight and temperatures in the 50s.

That afternoon, I headed down to a knoll that looks down into a gut, a narrow, shallow ravine that is often used by deer to move along unnoticed. I startled a large doe just as I came over the top and sat for an hour but saw nothing more. I walked down to a stand by the edge of our summer pastures and spent the rest of the day in that spot, listening to a neighbor reprimanding his black Labrador, hearing bears calling across to one another from ridge to ridge, and watching our two Randall Linebacks graze down by the ponds. Just after 4:30 p.m., the sun slipped behind the far ridge in the west, and then twilight arrived, my favorite part of the day. The light seeped out of the meadows, the woods turned dark and impenetrable, and the forest came alive. Two small does slipstreamed into the upper pasture from deep cover. I headed back to camp. Click here for photos of Vermont Fall 2011.

Freshly showered, I drove down to Tom and Nancy’s and had an excellent game dinner with my daughter Caroline who had driven down from school—rabbit and partridge slow-cooked in Tom and Nancy’s own home-canned tomato sauce and served over pasta. Homemade bread and pumpkin bars filled out the menu. Nancy is the best gardener in town and has been feeding her family almost entirely from what she freezes and cans and what Tom shoots during the season. Locavores are nothing new!

The next day, I stopped at Sherman’s store and told the assembled locals about the raccoon. Everyone had a good laugh (at my expense, of course). Nobody was checking in a deer (the store is also a weigh-in spot for tagged deer) but it was early yet; the season still has a couple of weeks.

By the way, you should know about our post-Thanksgiving Cyber Monday Clearance Sale on cookbook titles. This is the biggest clearance sale of the year, when we offer titles at up to a 71% discount. This year, the volumes include books from our Best Recipe Series so if you want to stock up on holiday gifts at a very good price, just click here to see what’s on sale. Thanks!

I leave you with a true story about Robert Frost, a noted Vermonter. One evening, Frost and Professor Thomas Reed Powell, a native Vermonter and distinguished professor at the Harvard Law School, were sitting around trying to outdo each other in a battle of wits. Powell, recalling that Frost had been born in San Francisco, and not Vermont, commented, “You know, Robert, you’re only a bastard Vermonter.” Frost countered, “Well, Reed, isn’t that better than being a Vermont bastard?”

Enjoy the cooler weather and the second best holiday after Antler Eve!

Christopher Kimball
Founder and Editor
America's Test Kitchen

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Monday, November 28, 2011

The Hate

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sends frequent e-mail messages to its mailing list. The list comprises the Democratic Party base, and the purpose of the e-mail is to solicit contributions from the faithful. Here are some of the messages sent out over the last few months:
Guy Cecil, 9/16/2011:
Have you been watching the Republican debates? Jaw-dropping: The Tea Party audience cheered Ron Paul’s suggestion that freedom means letting an uninsured man die. Another audience cheered the 234 executions Gov. Rick Perry has presided over. Michele Bachmann calls the EPA a “job-killing” agency. Clean water and air? Who needs it?

Harry Reid, 9/19/2011:
Rick Perry calls Social Security a “monstrous lie.” Paul Ryan dreams of ending Medicare forever. And the Republican response to the thought of an uninsured coma patient? Grisly, callous shouting from the audience. They want to reverse the steps our country took to care for the sick and prevent our parents and grandparents from living in squalor.

JB Poersch, 9/20/2011:
Fair is fair. But Republicans don’t care about fair. They only care about winning. If our economy is destroyed, so be it. If the middle class withers, tough. If seniors are worried about their Social Security and Medicare, too bad. As long as Republicans control the White House and Congress, they couldn’t care less.

Dick Durbin, 9/28/2011:
Déjà vu. The House Republicans again drove us toward a government shutdown, this time holding hostage the victims of floods, wildfires, and hurricanes. Their ransom demand? The gutting of job-creation programs.

Guy Cecil, 9/29/2011:
Republican presidential candidates call Social Security a “Ponzi scheme.” They boast about how many executions they’ve overseen. They stand smug and comfortable as their debate crowd boos a gay soldier serving in Iraq.

James Carville, 9/30/2011:
Picture Washington under total Tea Party control. Mitch McConnell will privatize Social Security. Jim DeMint will end Medicare. And kiss the EPA goodbye since Tea Partiers think clean water tramples on their constitutional right to be poisoned. The Tea Party’s like kudzu – you give ’em an inch, they take MILES.

Guy Cecil, 10/6/2011:
The New York Times just reported on a brand new study on Republican voter suppression tactics, and its findings are worse than any of us could have imagined. According to the report, 5 MILLION voters – more than decided the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections – could be affected by this coordinated GOP effort to skew the 2012 elections.

Guy Cecil, 10/19/2011:
Republican strategists think that Democrats can’t win if they cripple our voter registration activity; if students, minorities, and working Americans aren’t allowed to cast ballots, and if they can disqualify 5 million Americans from voting. That’s why the Koch brothers and their corporate allies are backing a coordinated effort to manipulate the rules in 2012.

Jason Rosenbaum, 10/26/2011:
Last week, every Republican senator filibustered President Obama’s bill to put 400,000 educators and police officers back to work. You read that right: Teachers. And. Police.

Dick Durbin, 10/28/2011:
Republicans have their priorities. America’s middle class isn’t one of them. They’re all about giving more to those who have the most. Helping the 1 percent at the cost of the 99. Boosting billionaires and big corporations while demanding the rest of America pull harder on their own bootstraps.

James Carville, 10/31/2011:
I swear, if Republicans loved Big Oil any more, they’d name their kids ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil. Big Oil just posted multibillion-dollar profits – AGAIN – and what are Republicans doing? Filibustering a jobs bill. Refusing to make billionaires pay their fair share. Basically anything they can do for the benefit of their wealthy buddies in the top 1% -- and at the expense of the middle class.

Jason Rosenbaum, 11/4/2011:
For the third time in three weeks, Senate Republicans filibustered a bill to create jobs – this time through rebuilding America’s crumbling roads and bridges. Unbelievable. These lawmakers won’t lift a finger to put people back to work and get our economy moving again.

Guy Cecil, 11/22/2011:
The supercommittee negotiations have failed. Why? Because Republicans simply REFUSED to make billionaires and big corporations lift even one finger to help reduce the debt. In fact, they’re demanding TAX CUTS for their biggest benefactors, the top 1%. Instead, here’s who Republicans think should shoulder the burden: Seniors on Medicare. Middle class families who want to send their children to college.

And so, Republicans are killers. They cheer executions, favor dirty air and water, and enjoy letting the uninsured die. Republicans are homophobic and are without sympathy for victims of floods, wildfires and hurricanes. Republicans are callous and insensitive, and are bent on keeping students, working Americans and minorities from voting.

Do these characterizations seem fair? Is this what is right and natural in America?

It is definitely what is “right and natural” if you are one of the millions of people on the DSCC mailing list. The DSCC embraces the hatred without a second thought. Republicans are bad people, and that is simply a DSCC fact.

I think there is a comparison to be drawn between the actions of the Democratic Party and other political/religious movements throughout history. The Democratic Party positions The Serenity as its version of “heaven on earth” and the hatred of Republicans as the energy for the movement.

Contrast that with the current political/religious movement in Iran. The Iranian theocracy positions its concept of heaven from the Koran and uses the hatred of Jews for its emotional energy.

In the Iranian view of heaven, there are no Jews. In the Democratic Party view of The Serenity, there are no Republicans.

I know: Nothing to see here. Just keep moving…

Update 3/8/2012:
The awareness of political hate is getting stronger.  Note the iconic poster.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Serenity

What do you call the Democratic Party’s collection of ideals? I think “The Serenity” captures it.

America’s Democratic Party is a “bring your own abstraction” kind of movement, where all who come find serenity in their passions being indulged.

Note the political contrast: Republicans are a “one trick pony.” We believe in preserving the founding principles of the Constitution. That’s it. Everything else takes a back seat. Separation of Powers, the Rule of Law, Freedom and Personal Liberty: Those are our tenets. If you’ve got another agenda, go somewhere else.

That “somewhere else” is the Democratic Party. Do you envision a world free of hunger and poverty? That’s what the Democratic Party is all about. Is your passion a world independent of fossil fuels? That’s the Democratic Party. How about world peace, economic equality and freedom from personal stigma? Yes, those are Democratic Party ideals. That's The Serenity.

People are drawn to the Democratic Party because it feels their pain. In the Democratic Party, your ideals have legitimacy and sanctuary in The Serenity.

What drives Republicans crazy is the inconsistency gap between idealism and effect. How can people be for world peace and yet favor a party that supports targeted killing? How can people be for equality and yet support political favoritism?

It might drive Republicans to distraction, but it is the human condition. We accept unexpected consequences when we perceive that an individual means well. We accept the bending of rules when our leaders tell us the ideal is simply not practical at the present time.

The key is perception. As long as we perceive our political party is “with us,” we are tolerant. When that perception embarrasses us, we strike back.

The election of 2012 will be about perceptions and embarrassment. Get ready for the fireworks!

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Code of Conduct

Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, Founder and Publisher of Daily Kos

The members of our armed services are governed by a Code of Conduct. It is a document that begins, “I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.”

It is meant to provide guidance to our soldiers in the event they are captured by an enemy force. It is the document that requires them to provide only “name, rank, service number and date of birth” when questioned in captivity, and to “evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability.”

I’ve wondered if the Democratic Party is governed by a Code of Conduct. It seems that one exists, even though it is unwritten.

Why bring this up? Over the weekend, the Daily Kos had a post from a Diarist that was a spoof on the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement (h/t Glenn Reynolds). Here is the title:

The text of the post describes how the Tea Party is engaging in bad behavior. The idea is to entice viewers to read the post, and then have them be surprised by the examples that are linked. Each of the hotlinks connects to coverage of a protest action in the OWS movement, not the Tea Party.

I read the post and then went to the Comments section. That’s where the drama unfolds. The comments range from a simple “WTF?” to a spirited defense of Communism. (One is led to believe that Communism is misunderstood because it has not been implemented properly as yet.)

There is also a sense of violation. The remarks are animalistic in tone. The diarist is characterized as a troll who has defiled the content of the Daily Kos. The intimation is that the person who contributed this post must be either ignorant or terribly naïve. The submission is ridiculed with the intent to intimidate.

If there is a Code of Conduct associated with the Kos Kids, the first paragraph of "The Code" might look like this:
“I am an American with a (D) after my name. I will never accuse another member of the Democratic Party of being a racist. I will never refer to a fellow Democrat as being homophobic or bigoted. I will forever strive to increase the power and authority of the Democratic Party.”
I think that most readers of The Daily Kos are aligned with the Democratic Party. Their solidarity of spirit is their strength.  They have a single-mindedness and devotion that is inspiring.

Unfortunately, that may not be in our best interest.

Refer back to the comments in the highlighted post and the defense of Communism. Wouldn’t an interesting debate question be, “Is Communism a ruse for placing large groups of people under authoritarian regimes?”

Things are getting interesting out there, and the people at the Daily Kos are convinced they know what is best for the rest of us.

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Sound and the Fury

I couldn’t resist posting this Adobe Photoshop picture from one of the Occupy Wall Street protests (h/t

James Taranto devotes his latest Best of the Web Today column to the protesters.

Is anyone reminded of William Faulkner? Maybe a review of Macbeth’s soliloquy in Act 5, Scene 5 is appropriate.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011


This week I’ve been doing prep work for our state election being held on Tuesday, November 1 in Colorado. Most counties in Colorado (all but four) are holding a “mail ballot only” election. Ballots were mailed out just over two weeks ago, and have to be received at the county no later than 7:00PM on election day. If you are a Colorado voter and would like to check whether or not your ballot was received, go to this site and enter your voter information.  (Scroll halfway down the page to the “Mail-in Ballot Stage Information” area.) It’s a good way to ensure the United States Postal Service did its job!

I work as an “Election Judge.” That’s a lofty way of saying I help process incoming ballots. It’s not glamorous work, but needs to be done. I like to think I’m helping make sure our elections are fair and accurate.

The specific work I’m doing this time around could be characterized as “sanitizing” the ballots. Ballots come in with a signature that is verified against the legal documents the county has on file for the voter. I’m with a team whose job is to remove the ballot from its signed envelope and ensure the secrecy of that ballot.

We check for anything that might soil the ballot or make it ambiguous to the scanning equipment. We also look for any identifying marks that would allow the ballot to be traced back to a specific voter. If the voter writes something on the ballot that might identify him or her in some way, we flag the ballot so that it gets a duplicate made that does not have any identifying marks.

As you might imagine, we have a “dual control” process at work, where members of both the Democratic and Republican parties are engaged in this activity so that voter intent is preserved. We take an oath to protect the privacy of the election results and the information of our voters. On my team, I am the designated Republican, along with two Democrats.

In the interest of keeping “peace in the family,” each team is cautioned to refrain from engaging in any political discussions. However, since the days are long and the work is tedious, that rule sometimes is violated. For whatever reason, my team was quite interested in determining my political beliefs. It was as if I had been released from captivity, and my credentials needed to be checked.

My other team members were older women, one a retired teacher and the other a housewife who sells artwork on the side. I’ll refer to them as “RT” and “HW.” At one point, the conversation became quite feisty:

“So what kind of a Republican are you?” asked HW. “Are you one of those TeaBaggers?

“I guess I would identify with the Tea Party in many ways,” I replied. “I’m for limited government.”

“How about voting for President?” inquired RT. “Which of the Republican primary candidates are you for?”

I like Sarah Palin, actually,” I said. “She celebrates the Constitution. I like that.”

“Well, she quit. You would waste your vote,” said HW.

“I guess I’d vote for Herman Cain, then. He seems to be the one who would be less of a conventional politician.”

“I don’t know about that,” said HW. “Herman Cain is financed by the Koch brothers.”

“I think that might be inaccurate,” I countered, trying to be charitable.

“Well, we certainly need to do something,” said HW. “All the bankers should be in jail. And the oil companies, all they want to do is pollute our water with their fracking!”

“And the rich don’t want to pay their fair share.” said RT. “We’ve got to tax the rich.”

I tried to explain that taxing the rich wouldn’t offset the spending of the federal government. We’d have to increase the income taxes of “the rich” by 50%, and that just wouldn’t be possible.

But my words fell on deaf ears. I had underestimated the raw power of the Democratic Party in getting its message out. These were not fringe elements of the party. They were dedicated, conscientious people who held a committed point of view. The star power of our president was on display, as well as the segmentation of our populace into those who were well-intended versus those who were mean-spirited. It was eye-opening.
I bring up this incident to point out the difficulty of the “Paul Revere” effect. People who are trying to warn our culture of impending problems are largely ignored. Thankfully, we have the ability to pull back from cataclysm just in the nick of time.

The other bit of good news is that the explanations of our reality are getting better. Here is an NPR interview of New York University law professor Richard Epstein on PBS:

And here, just for fun, is a Herman Cain advertisement. How can you not like this guy?

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Weaponizing Healthcare

With apologies to Maureen Dowd, the style of this post is going to be a bit snarky.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was in the news this past week for her characterization of Republicans as killers.  The quote that is getting all the attention is her reaction to the Protect Life Act:

"Under this bill, when Republicans vote for this bill today, they will be voting to say that women can die on the floor, and health care providers do not have to intervene if this bill is passed."

The idea that Republicans want to see young women in a pool of blood on the floors of hospitals is extreme. However, some of our political leaders are clearly comfortable in expressing this sentiment. They believe that I, as a Republican, have murderous intent in my heart, directed particularly at young women.


Contrast that rhetoric with the quiet efforts of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). I noted its current work in my previous post. The USPSTF is recommending against use of the PSA test for early detection of prostate cancer.

Here is what Medscape says on its Web site about USPSTF actions from a few years ago (my emphasis):

Despite the apparent survival advantage of early diagnosis conferred by PSA screening, a 2008 US Preventive Services Task Force statement recommends against screening for prostate cancer in men aged 75 years or older. The statement also concludes that the current balance of benefits versus drawbacks of prostate cancer screening in men younger than age 75 years cannot be assessed because of insufficient evidence.

That was the USPSTF in 2008. This year, the USPSTF wants to do away with the test completely. Here are three facts we know:

1) The PSA test is useful in early detection of asymptomatic prostate cancer.

2) Early diagnosis of prostate cancer increases life expectancy.

3) The USPSTF wants our universal healthcare system to exclude the PSA test.

Here is what I find troubling: Our current healthcare legislation makes exceptions to its provisions for political favorites. That means people affiliated with Democratic Party organizations might very well have unrestricted access to PSA tests, while Republicans will face barriers.

What’s the big deal? If I want a PSA test, I can still get it. I just might have to jump through extra hoops and pay additional money. The only ones who would be negatively impacted would be those “stupid Republicans;” the ones who “cling to guns or religion.”

The “dirty little secret” is that the public policy effects will only show up years later. A study done 20 years from now will find that mortality rates for American males are higher in the universal healthcare system than in private systems. The results will be characterized by our media as “unexpected.”

And what if the study finds a political component? So it turns out a disproportionate number of Republican males are experiencing the early deaths. Males affiliated with the Democratic Party and not in the universal healthcare system have significantly longer life expectancies.

Would that be a scandal?


A scandal is when Republicans are “outed” by Minority Leader Pelosi when she exposes them as harboring murderous intent. The fact that male Republican voters will be quietly killed off by a Voodoo Healthcare System is simply “right and natural.”

Behold our anti-Republican culture.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

PSA Politics

“Wait until your Dad sees this.  He will go nuts!”

That was the comment to a family member in reaction to a New York Times article over this past weekend.  I was the “Dad” in question, and the article reported the latest government assessment of the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test.

As part of a physical exam, Americans typically get blood drawn to check for levels of cholesterol, glucose, etc.  Our culture considers these tests routine.  However, if you are a male over the age of 50, you might consider getting a PSA test.  It requires no additional effort on your part, and can tell whether or not your prostate is operating in a “normal” fashion.

Unfortunately, the PSA test has become controversial.  The U. S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends against it. A draft statement issued today (available for comment until 11/8/2011) makes this contention: “There is moderate or high certainty that the service has no net benefit or that the harms outweigh the benefits.”

Richard J. Ablin, a research professor who discovered this cancer screening tool, characterizes his discovery as a “public health disaster.”

I don’t agree.  Let me offer some personal perspective.

In 1997, I was 50 years old and had a PSA test done with my annual physical.  My level came back at 1.4.  Normal is between 0.0 and 4.0 ng/mL, so it was no problem.  Eleven years later, in October of 2008, the test showed my PSA level at 2.8, still within normal range.  In January of 2010, my level came back at 4.0.  My Primary Care Physician (PCP) counseled, “Get thee to a specialist!”

While my PSA level was still within normal range, I had experienced a dramatic rise within the space of 15 months.  That is a danger signal, and my PCP sensed that something was not right.

The urology clinic where I ended up did an “ultrasensitive” PSA test.  The level came back at 3.91, validating the earlier results.  I scheduled a biopsy for February 11, 2010.

A little background on biopsy of the prostate:  It is more involved than it sounds.  Twelve (or more) needles are sequentially injected into the prostate to retrieve tissue samples from the left, right, top, bottom and middle of the prostate.  The idea is to try to map where cancer might be located within the prostate capsule.  It could be on just the left side, or maybe just at the base.  The extent of the cancer then gets graded and staged so that you have an expectation of whether aggressive treatment is needed.

On February 16, 2010 I received the news:  I had prostatic adenocarcinoma in five of the twelve samples from the biopsy.

The problem with prostate cancer is that it is asymptomatic.  You feel fine.  The only thing that is “wrong” is that you have some abnormal readings in your blood test.  It is deceptive in this way. People don’t die from prostate cancer.  They die from adenocarcinoma that originates in the prostate, is untreated, and ends up moving to the skeletal structure or some other organ in the body that is critical to sustaining life.  It is there that you experience the symptoms.  When that organ succumbs, the disease is fatal.

I had some time to think about all of this.  The initial determination was that I had Stage II cancer.  The tumors were still contained within the prostate. The cancer was too advanced to simply cut it away from the prostate, but if I could kill the prostate, the cancer would be killed as well.

How to kill the prostate?  The choices were to remove it or radiate it.  I chose to have it removed, simply for emotional reasons.  I wanted the cancerous prostate out of my body, sitting in a Petri dish somewhere.  There it could do no harm.

On 3/17/2010, I had my prostatectomy, done through a robotic procedure that removed the prostate and seminal vesicles.  The subsequent pathology indicated that the surgical margins were clean, with no evidence of malignancy.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that when the prostate was closely examined, the diagnosis was upgraded to Stage III adenocarcinoma, based on the tumor extending slightly beyond the prostate capsule.

There was a slight chance that metastasis had begun, but even that had a bright side.  When I now get a PSA test, the reading comes back at <.01 ng/mL.  That means the removal of the prostate got rid of the primary source of the cancer.  If a subsequent PSA reading comes back at a higher level, I will know that it is due to adenocarcinoma being located somewhere else in my body.  The PSA test thus becomes a tumor marker.

I’m relating my experience to give you an idea of the advances that have been made in this area of oncology in the last thirty years, and how a PSA test is used.  Prostate cancer in men is like breast cancer in women.  It is an affliction that is best treated upon early detection.  The absence of an abnormal PSA is like the absence of a lump in the breast.  It is reaffirming.

So what does all of this have to do with politics?  Healthcare and politics are becoming inescapably entwined in our culture.  The USPSTF makes its negative recommendation and suddenly PSA tests face the prospect of not being a covered healthcare benefit.  The benefit of early detection ends up being associated with political favoritism.

It is almost criminal that we pass a healthcare law where people with strong affiliations to the Democratic Party are granted exemptions from the law.  Those of us in the non-Democrat rank and file must be medically sophisticated and have the resources to choose an early detection tool and pay for it without government support.  The benefits of the past thirty years of research in prostate cancer accrue to those with a Democratic Party allegiance while the rest of us are instructed to wait until we experience full-blown symptoms and our only treatment choices might be palliative care or hospice.

Is it possible the political calculus is that non-Democrat males will end up dying sooner?  Could this be a hidden motive behind universal health coverage?  Those of us on the universal plan end up receiving “Voodoo Healthcare” where advances in medicine are withheld by government fiat under the rubric of protecting us from our perceived medical anxieties.

This is pure speculation, but if our culture adopted a healthcare system where Republicans were given special exemptions, there would be immediate outrage.  “Occupy Wall Street” is our current political spectacle, but imagine how protests against Voodoo Healthcare would appear.  “Voodoo Denver” or “Voodoo San Diego” would feature protesters at major hospitals staging “die-ins” to highlight the attenuation of human life that would be part and parcel of universal healthcare.  It wouldn’t be pretty.

I’ve got to ask this final question: Is it possible Sarah was right?
UPDATE 10/12/2011:
Here is a good follow-up article in The New York Times by Tara Parker-Pope.  The comments indicate this is an area of medicine where patient choice should figure prominently in the treatment.  It makes it even harder to understand why a governmental organization feels compelled to side with a particular point of view.  Aren't there more important things that should occupy the time of the USPSTF?

UPDATE 10/15/2011:
A blog post at Ricochet by "Western Chauvinist" continues to stir the pot.  Note the comments by "Dr. Bean" (Albert Fuchs, MD of Beverly Hills, California).  Dr. Fuchs deceptively explains why facing early death is preferable to managing non-life threatening discomforts.  He also stipulates that results of a PSA test can be "false-positive PSAs, meaning abnormal PSAs but no cancer."  The implication is not that another PSA test will be performed to verify the results, but that a biopsy must follow.

While that might very well occur, I think most people will be like me and get another confirming test before undergoing the biopsy.  When pathology of the samples from the biopsy either confirms the existence of cancer or not, that is not a "false-positive" problem with the PSA test.  Rather, it is a result from further testing.  To characterize the PSA test as suffering from a "false-positive" problem is like saying a five-day weather forcast is a "false-positive" because subsequent observations refine that forecast and provide additional detail.

UPDATE 5/22/2012:
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has reached its final decision:

"The Task Force concludes that many men are harmed as a result of prostate cancer screening and few, if any, benefit.  The USPSTF recommends against the service."

UPDATE 6/17/2012:
Diane Carmen has a thoughtful analysis of the issue in The Denver Post this weekend.  Dr. Richard Augspurger had a companion piece that features this quote:

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently recommended against routine use of the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test to diagnose prostate cancer.  This recommendation was given despite significant opposition from urologists, oncologists, patients and advocacy groups.  No urologists or medical oncologists who regularly treat prostate cancer participated in the recommendation.

Why would it be important for the USPSTF to exclude urologists and oncologists?

UPDATE 11/19/2015:
The New York Times notes that early detection of prostate cancer is declining in the United States:

Fewer men are being screened for prostate cancer, and fewer early-stage cases are being detected, according to two studies published Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association. The number of cases has dropped not because the disease is becoming less common but because there is less effort to find it, the researchers said. The declines in both screening and incidence “could have significant public health implications,” the authors of one of the studies wrote, but they added that it was too soon to tell whether the changes would affect death rates from the disease.

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Are Republicans Islamophobic?

Waiting for a doctor’s appointment last week, I was looking for a magazine to read and came across an issue of TIME from last year. The cover hits us with the question, “Is America Islamophobic?” 

That might have been an interesting analysis to pursue, but the story in the magazine was even more direct. It didn’t investigate if America might be islamophobic, but that “Islamophobia has become the accepted form of racism in America.” It questions, “Why has Islamophobia suddenly intensified?”

TIME wants to know, “What is the matter with you guys?”

The article is worth reading as an example of how a major publication pivots from its role of reporting and shedding light on contemporary issues, to embarking on a mission of instilling guilt and shame.  It gives us an interesting focus on American culture.

You might want to keep in mind that the writers for TIME are anti-Republican in their viewpoint.  While not every TIME writer fits this generalization, studies over the last few years put the ratio at something greater than 90% within every American news organization.  You can rest assured that the writers of TIME do not see themselves as those within America who are stricken with Islamophobia.  They are above that type of emotion.

What is TIME trying to accomplish?  It’s a classic distraction.  They are asking us to confine our perceptions to a specific construct.  We are to become guilt-ridden and anxious because of our cautious feelings.  Those feelings are to be classified as religious hatred.

Culture, religion, and science are aspects of human endeavor.  We group ourselves by perception and outlook, and our ideologies often classify us.  The problem comes when our ideologies take on the mantle of a political movement.  That’s when things go awry.  A political movement might take root in a culture or in a religion or in an area of scientific inquiry.  Once in place, political movements create all sorts of havoc.

Let’s take Islam as an example.  It begins with a body of faith and philosophy and is rightly classified as a religion.  However, at some point, "the religion” becomes secondary to “the movement.”  Secular objectives become paramount:

--Make the power of the leaders the goal.

--Employ deception to advance the movement.

--Use censure and violence to force adherence.

The tools of deception and censure are clear signs of an ideology becoming a movement.  TIME references them within Islam but does not connect the dots.  Instead, it uses description from a Duke University associate professor: “Oh, my God, these people are totally against my religion.”

The problem is not that people are against the religion.  People are against the political movement and its consequences.  They are against suicide bombings.  They are against the execution of aid workers.  They are against the use of hospitals and mosques as military garrisons.  These activities are not signposts of a religion.  They are indicators of a religion that has been hijacked by a political movement.

Our culture has a perceptual set of “blinders” in this area.  In the science of climate change, we see the same circumstance.  A scientific inquiry is taken over by a political movement and people who challenge the direction of that movement are labeled as “anti-science.”

An anti-discrimination effort becomes a Black Power movement and concerned citizens are “racists.”  A pacifistic ideology becomes an anti-war movement and non-followers are “war mongers.”  In each case, we see the predictable concentration of power, the deception in principles, and then censure and violence.

The next time you see a “phobia” attached to an ideology or group of people, consider whether the emotions are directed at a people or at a political movement.

Keep in mind that you’ll have to do the analysis for yourself.  Our culture is not inclined to help your understanding.

UPDATE 9/27/2012:
Pat Condell has some thoughts on the religion of peace after the killing of our Libyan ambassador  (h/t Roger Kimball).

UPDATE 1/10/2013:
Jonathan Schanzer reviews the book "The Islamophobia Industry" in today's Wall Street Journal.  Mr. Schanzer understands that Islam is part of a political-religious movement, and makes this distinction:
In reality, Islamophobia is simply a pejorative neologism designed to warn people away from criticizing any aspect of Islam. Those who deploy it see no difference between Islamism—political Islam and its extremist offshoots—and the religion encompassing some 1.6 billion believers world-wide. Thanks to this feat of conflation, Islamophobia transforms religious doctrines and political ideologies into something akin to race; to be an "Islamophobe" is in some circles today tantamount to being a racist.
What's surprising is that Americans don't see anything extraordinary about the words "racist" and "islamophobe" only being used to characterize Republicans.  Our culture makes that possible.