Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Topic for Here's a Thought with Charles Shaughnessy for Thursday, Dec 11th


As his follow-up "Return of Here's A Thought" show, Charles will segue from the current debate on Race and Policing in America to:....Democrat or Republican? ....is it a matter of Nature or Nurture? Is political affiliation a genetic or environmental choice?
Something he has been talking about for a long time! For those of you who are new, Charlie has been blogging for years now.  To get an idea of what he has on his thoughts about this, read his blog from April of 2003 when we called it Charles Shaughnessy's Soapbox & what the comments were from the people who were following him all the way back then! 

Here are a couple of other articles to get YOUR thoughts on this subject flowing! 

Op Ed from the LA Times September 24, 2014 Similarities between Democrats, Republicans Make them so different

Republican Brains Differ From Democrats' In New FMRI Study from Feb, 2013 from huffingtonpost.com

So it will be just Charlie and YOU again for the whole hour.  If you can listen LIVE, you can find him at tradiov.com at 3 pm PST. If not, you can always catch the show in the archives at Here's A Thought with Charles Shaughnessy previous shows.

PLEASE put your questions & comments for him here in the comments section and we hope we will have even more of you calling in to discuss with him this time!! You can also tweet your questions and thoughts on this topic to his twitter account @C_Shaughnessy with the hashtag #HATdec11

Additional comments on the blog in response to your comments from Charlie!
Charles Shaughnessy 10 December, 2014 17:15
charles shaughnessy12 December, 2014 15:41
charles shaughnessy14 December, 2014 09:55
charles shaughnessy14 December, 2014 10:08
charles shaughnessy14 December, 2014 10:25

Thanks for that awesome cartoon Janne Nordvang!  

Thanks to all of you who are participating and welcome to all the new folks!

Did you miss today's LIVE #HeresAThought with Charles Shaughnessy? It's up for you to watch now on TradioV! Just click on this link http://bit.ly/HAT121114and you can watch it! Thanks to everyone who called in and sent in their questions. I thought it was a great show! It was definitely an hour that inspired, challenged, confronted & made you think! Even for me! Love getting all of your thoughts and I truly appreciate each and every one of you that are listening and participating & supporting me! Remember . . . Only Connect! ~Charlie 

62 comments:

  1. There may be some truth to the idea that liberals and conservatives are fundamentally different due to gray matter being prevalent in different parts of their brains, but I'm not completely sold on it! I do think that people become so entrenched in their liberalism or their conservatism, they won't even consider anything the apposing side proposes, despite the fact that it would perhaps be good for the country, simply because it was proposed by the other party! This is exactly what happens in Washington all the time!
    My question is in two parts:-
    1. Do you think where a person is born, and to whom they are born, ie. their family, impacts their political ideology?
    2. Can they change this ideology at some point?
    In other words, can nature overcome nurture?
    Looking forward to another interesting Here's A Thought!
    Thanks Charlie!

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  2. I totally agree with Sharon! I'm not buying much of this either, especially with a sample pool of 35 men and 47 women. Male and female brains differ greatly, so how much of it was due to gender? Both articles you linked were very heavily biased against "the right". They could ALSO be interpreted as "conservatives consider the logic and long term effects while liberals vote based on emotions and feelings".
    Like Sharon, I feel nurture plays a much bigger part, especially life experiences. Adult children of alcoholics who were the eldest in the family(especially if they are female) tend to be conservative and very adamant about people bearing the consequences of their choices instead of others having to clean up the mess for them. That would be *me*. I'm sure that experience greatly affects who I am and my political views. That's just one factor, I'm sure location, gender, religious faith, and life experiences have much more to do with it than genetics.
    My question would be: What about people who are very emotional, caring, and generous....but believe it is not the role of government to provide the answers? Especially in today's world, where leaders(not just USA) are corrupt and driven by greed? The money would go a lot further without their hands in the pot.

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  3. I agree with JoAnn about the faulty research (honestly, if a student submitted that to me, I'd tell the student that the sample size was too small to make such broad generalizations and make them redo the assignment). It makes me wonder what government agency funded that study and if they intended to get results that matched what they wanted to learn (big shock: Democrats have liberal values, while Republicans have conservative values). I would think life experiences would be a greater factor in determining someone's political views than just how their brains function. For example, African Americans voted solidly Republican--the party of Lincoln--until the New Deal, when their allegiance shifted to the Democratic Party because of the social programs. The reason why they supported the Republicans? The social programs passed by the Republicans during Reconstruction provided compensation (aka reparations) for the freed slaves and helped them adjust to freedom. The social programs of the New Deal caused the shift in party affiliation; it wasn't that the Republicans were presumed to be racists (and, in actuality, it was the Democrats who were the racists then).

    At the same time, you cannot automatically presume that all African Americans vote Democratic, just like you cannot presume that all white males in the South are Republicans. There are a lot of factors that influence a person's political views, and there are a lot of people who vote for the candidate and not the party affiliation. Just because I voted for a Democrat for governor doesn't make me a Democrat; just because I voted for a Republican for my U.S. representative doesn't make me a Republican (but it does explain why I’m an Independent—which isn’t even part of the discussion in that study). There is a reason why an increasing number of people are deciding not to affiliate with a political party; they don't like the way the leaders of the two parties are behaving. As one of my colleagues said last year, right now our choices are the party of evil and the party of stupid, and you can pick which party is evil and which is stupid.

    So here is my question: Why does it have to be a question of nature versus nurture? Are we to the point in which people cannot be considered independent beings and not considered to be of a certain political affiliation based on race, gender, socioeconomic status, geography, job, etc.? As an example, as an actor (or a college professor like me), you are automatically presumed to be a left-wing liberal, but certainly there are actors who are not liberals, just like there are college professors who aren't. Why can’t someone be a fiscal conservative who still supports social programs (but wants to make sure the funding is there before these programs are expanded)? We need to get away from these broad generalizations and stop thinking of those who support the other party as evil or stupid, as that doesn’t advance the discussion.

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  4. Enjoying your "take" on my upcoming topic. Interesting how my "Rightist" friends are already seeing some kind of anti-GOP bias in the studies. I'm not sure where "emotional" was equated with "caring," but I'm pretty sure it wasn't in the study. Hope you all get a chance to listen in and join the conversation ! :-)

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    1. oops sorry! The "caring" part was my knee-jerk reaction to the comments in the HuffPo article. What I "heard" in the study was "Conservatives vote based on fear, Liberals vote on their emotions". But you're right...that doesn't mean caring.

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    2. 90 young adults from the University College London were examined in the original article in Current Biology from April 2011 referred to by the article in Huffington Post (yes, I located the original and read it, not just relying on the summary in Huffington Post). 200 adults were paid $50 to participate in a study published in Political Psychology in 2011 that concluded that it is possible that political attitudes can be influenced by genetics, but they weren't able to reach definitive conclusions because of the small sample size. Meanwhile, over 13,000 people were examined in a separate study published in Journal of Politics in January 2011--and the authors concluded that there is no correlation between genetics (DNA) and political attitudes. Yes, I know this can be perceived as a bit of a pissing contest between academics, but again the sample size for either of the first two studies is far too small to make reasonable conclusions. I could ask a series of questions about politics to the students in my two sections of the U.S. history survey (total 90 students), but those conclusions definitely could not be used to determine the political views of all college students, much less everyone. However, essentially the article in Current Biology that is referenced in the Huffington Post article did exactly that. And did they actually examine the participants' brains, or did they have the participants answer a series of questions to determine the results? People's answers to those questions do change over time; I know that if someone asked me some of the questions from those surveys that my answers when I was a college student in the late 1970s would be different than they would be in 2014.

      I'm not disputing that it's not possible--just like the authors of the article in Political Psychology. But at the same time, there are so many other factors that influence a person's political attitudes that while genetics might be one component, it certainly is not the only one. It's not like people are predetermined to be liberals or conservatives from birth, which is what the Current Biology article implies. The implications of that honestly are pretty scary; prenatal DNA testing could determine whether the child would have certain political beliefs, and segments of the population could be killed/aborted because they don't match the political beliefs of the dominant group. The last thing I--or anyone else, for that matter--should want is a society in which everyone has the same political beliefs. Anyone who lived in eastern Europe/Soviet bloc from 1945-1989 could tell you that isn't exactly a political system that encourages freedom, which is one reason why the United States was founded.

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  5. Though I have difficulties defining my own position regarding this topic, I can appreciate the desire and the science of determining what causes us to hold specific ideologies. Based on the evidence presented in the study, I believe that there is some credence in the concept that liberal and conservative brains are wired differently. I also believe that the way we view the world is not solely influenced by our genetic makeup and the way our brains are put together. The way we use our brains also plays an important role in the way that they develop and wiring within them. To me, that means that our ideologies, be they conservative or liberal, are a product of the combination of both nature and nurture. I do believe that this is something that warrants continued research and study because of the potential to help us understand the how and why people think the way they do.
    Now here’s my question: if our political ideologies are so greatly affected by the way our brains are put together, could the reason some people might resist the idea so much be related to the fact that it means that conversation and logic are not as able to sway the opinions and thoughts of others as we previously thought? Also, echoing some of the other comments and questions so far, if the way that the brains of both conservatives and liberals are wired so differently, how does the brain of someone who is neither truly conservative nor truly liberal fit into that spectrum?

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  6. Hi! I have read all the comments from the precedent blog you've posted. Very interesting!
    I also welcome Becky and Jude!

    I really like to follow this conversation you, Janelle and the thoughters are having here and during the live show about political, social and racial issues!
    Unfortunately I'm not able to join it in -what I would consider- the "right" conditions : I think indeed that in this complicated case it's essential to show reserve & a certain subtlety and my English is not good enough. I can't easily share my thoughts with a minimum of arguments.

    And because I am rather what one would call a "french socialist", I think I could really quickly feel myself expressing some strange and maybe even extrem political concepts that aren't the habit in the US LOL :-p

    Anyway... I am also very pleased to read Charlie's comments/interventions here on the blog. Please continue! :-)

    Looking forward to watch the show today!
    A potentially controversial topic... that will surely match the teaser of #HeresAThought : "1 hour that will inspire, challenge, confront & make you think"? right ;-)

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    1. Hi Nadia, I had an entire response written, and then my internet decided to reset itself and log me out. . .Technology makes life easier, right?
      Anyway, from one language learner to another, let me tell you that you are doing fine. You are able to get your point accross, and that's what matters. It doesn't matter if your words aren't elegant, you are able to express your opinion and mak yourself understood, and that's what matters. And trust me, the more you use the langauge skills, the better you will be at it, so don't be afraid, even though sometimes the words you want in one language can become a jumbled mess with the words you would use in your first language in your head. Besides, when it comes to being the one who might express some thoughts that are strange to those of us in the U.S., there is nothing wrong with that either. It's always good to get a different perspective on things. One of the problems with perspective is that it always affects our understanding and can sometimes keep us from being able to see the big picture. And, since this whole discussion is about how the way that our brains are wired can affect our political ideologies, you can fit into the conversation just as well. We tend to use the terms for our political party affilitiation interchangeably with the terms "conservative" and "liberal", even though those terms can be applied to people with political affiliations that differ widely from what we are used to here in the U.S. Please don't feel that, because you come from a different culture that you are limited in what you can say about a topic as broad as this simply because you don't use the same political definitions as we do. Rightists are rightists no matter where you are, and leftists are leftists no matter where you are. In fact, given your cultural background, your thoughts and perspective might shed some light on the issue that we had not thought of because our view is focused entirely on our own perspectives.

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    2. Even the thoughts of a "French socialist " would be welcome Nadia! It's all our different ideas from the whole spectrum of political thought that makes this all so interesting and makes us all consider other points of view!
      I am looking forward to a very interesting show!

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  7. I remember reading about this research and recoiling from the deterministic implications. Not that I know anything about brain science but I do think minds can be changed. Is there a genetic component that makes this inherently more difficult in some cases? Well, maybe. But there are so many factors. From my own experience, I guess I like to think that I have come to my own views having read and thought reasonably widely, and having had many conversations. If I'm pushed, I will also admit that growing up with a narrowly conservative father who disliked me - not least because I was a girl - probably helped to steer me in an opposite direction. On the other hand, my maternal grandfather, who died many years before I was born, was an old-school intellectual socialist - a Fabian, like George Bernard Shaw. He wrote for the Manchester Guardian, he was a city councilor and championed slum clearance. Do I take after him? I think what's important is to avoid labels, and especially to avoid polarities. As I am not a US citizen and don't get to vote, I'm going to steer clear of Republican v Democrat and stick with what I think of as liberal versus conservative values. If "conservative" means keeping what's from the past, appreciating tradition even to the point of disliking or resisting change, then on some level I think we all do that. If "liberal" means being open to different ideas in our own lives, being tolerant to the ideas and lives of others, then I think most of us do those things too, in practice. Labeling means taking up a position, assigning a position to others, then defining those positions as fixed, stereotypical, representing unhelpful dualities. In political terms, I have called myself a liberal my whole life on the basis that liberalism is a middle way, as it used to be in the UK. Here in the US, though, that label comes with a different set of assumptions. The middle way is lost in misunderstandings, and it is also being subverted by ideologies. For example, Karen asks, why can't a fiscal conservative believe in social programs yet want to be sure the funding is available first. I ask, where does the funding come from if not from equitable rates of taxation? Or self-funding programs like Social Security? And then - from my experience - your reaction to the notion of Social Security as self-funding may well depend on your politics - on which news you get, on who you believe. My roommate says that if she is poor, she will vote Democrat, if she is rich she will vote Republican, which I guess is the straight self-interest ticket. I counter with the, to me, self-evident argument that it is in all our interests to work toward a fairer, more caring society, because such a society is more economically successful, safer, more peaceful for everybody. I know, though, that this is at odds with many people's idea of who they are, who "Americans" are. In the end, I think it's all about balance, and as any tightrope walker will tell you, that means paying attention all the time, making endless small adjustments to the reality of the situation, because losing balance, whichever direction you fall, has catastrophic - and identical - consequences.
    So my question is, can we - or how can we - get beyond party to consensus on the broad issue that we live in society not on our own individual islands? Because I think until we do, we don't deserve the luxury of debating the finer points.

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    1. Jude--I'm all for more self-funding programs like Social Security. I think the earnings cap should be eliminated for employee contributions (I think it's around $117,000--just think of how solvent Social Security would be just with the increased contributions from professional athletes). My problem is with developing programs that don't have the funding, and therefore they don't succeed--think of how successful the War on Poverty would have been in the 1960s if the government wasn't also spending billions of dollars fighting an unwinnable war in Vietnam (I'll support the spending for the space program because of the technological advances that resulted). And if the question is about where they will get the funding--the government raises revenue in a lot of ways. It's not just tax revenue. Of course, the liberals don't want to hear my thoughts about tax reform--limit the amount for itemized deductions and don't allow them if you earn more than a certain amount (of course, conservatives don't want to hear that, either). I would love to meet someone who earns more than I do opt to take the standard deductions and doesn't itemize deductions to reduce the tax burden.

      By the way, I wholeheartedly agree about avoiding labels. The meanings of terms/labels change over time and mean different things in different parts of the world (such as your example about liberals in the UK vs. the US). A Democrat today is not the same as a Democrat even 20 years ago--and the same goes for Republicans.

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    2. I agree with you Jude! I think, despite the chemical make up of the brain, people who care form their own opinions, hopefully from reading and research and listening to all sides! I also think people are both a little conservative and a little bit liberal. If they could keep this balance, it would help a great deal. Instead, we put labels on people and they often lose this balance!
      Another question. Do you think it would work out better if we voted for the person and what they stand for, without knowing the party they are in! Interesting thought!

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    3. Karen, good to hear from you. I think what you say about tax reform is very interesting. The tax code in the US does seem to be in urgent need of an overhaul. I think, too, that there are still a few better-off people out there who willing to be taxed more - isn't Warren Buffett the poster boy for that campaign? I mention him also because I think he is a good example of the underlying issue I raised about our collective responsibilities to society as a whole, including those who, for whatever reason, are struggling. While any burden, including taxation, falls disproportionately on those least able to bear it, and while those most able are blatantly avoiding their responsibilities - not only as individuals, but as corporate "individuals" - then in addition to lowered revenues there is the knock-on of resentment and further avoidance. I think Buffett gets this, and so he wants to give more. However, as long as a majority of the better off believe that it is their duty to themselves to contribute as little as possible to anyone but themselves - or, in extreme cases, to use their extreme wealth to buy government - then taxation will not be seen as necessary, not only to raise revenues but also, through those revenues, to fund the social contract. Because a social contract will not exist. This sounds like I think there's a perfect answer. I don't. I especially dislike some of the things that governments have done with my money in the past - I definitely agree with you about useless, expensive wars. Current spending on the military is horrifying. Nor am I naive enough to believe that, the way things stand now, the whole answer lies in getting out the vote. I do, however, believe that the systems which come closest to working are those in which as many people as possible feel personally invested. I don't get to vote in the US, but I do pay taxes here - taxation without representation, I guess that's karma - and I don't mind. I don't mind, even though I know my paltry contribution will go toward things I disapprove of, and will not fund things I do approve of. I don't mind because when I pay taxes I'm buying in to this whole big adventure that is living in a country I choose. Makes sense to me. But yes, let's try and fix the detail.

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    4. Jude, Once Warren Buffet decides to take the standardized deduction when he files his income taxes, then I'll believe his sincerity. Otherwise, it's nice rhetoric, but he needs to put his money where his mouth is. Nobody is holding a gun to his head forcing him to itemize deductions, and his deductions are certainly a lot more than I earn in a year.

      In a previous show, Charlie mentioned about a need for a new Constitutional Convention. I fully support that idea; while there is a reason why it's so difficult to amend the Constitution, there are some things (like term limits for members of Congress) that it is highly unlikely Congress would ever approve so they could go out for a ratification a vote by the states. We haven't had an amendment in over 20 years (and that one took 200 years to pass); it is time for change. If I had the power to propose them, I would start with two: term limits for Congress (like we have for the president), and public campaign financing. I would love to see presidential candidates have a fixed amount to spend on their campaigns to see how well they can handle a budget, with perhaps some bonus given if they actually visit those "flyover" states that haven't seen a presidential candidate in decades (of course, those of us in the battleground states sometimes see them as the lucky ones). Harry Truman had the right idea with his "whistle stop" campaign in 1948, just like Bill Clinton and Al Gore did with their bus tour in 1992. Just think of how much money could be saved if the president campaigned for reelection by riding in a tour bus instead of flying in Air Force One. Of course, I'm also old enough to remember that they couldn't show Ronald Reagan movies back in 1980 because it was considered an unfair campaign advantage (like "Bedtime for Bonzo" really would convince people to vote for Reagan?).

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    5. Jude, there are also different 'takes' on conservatism. Liberals will often describe conservatives as "wanting the status quo" or even longing for the 1950's with no womens' rights and the days of Jim Crow and segregation. There is a social conservatism that is causing many to leave the Republican Party(like me), which tries to legislate morality. We could also try to nail jello to the wall, and get the same results. You can NOT force people to follow your moral code, and I don't want another faith being forced on me. The social cons are causing division within the party. There is also FISCAL conservatism, which means limiting the government programs to what is laid out in the Constitution, and being fiscally efficient with the programs which meet that criteria. The programs we have now, though well-intentioned at their conception, are broken, bloated, riddled with fraud, and very wasteful. We will balk at giving MORE money to these programs, until they are streamlined and overhauled. Programs that were developed when LBJ was president are still around 40 yrs later, and are not working, and we can SEE it with our own eyes. To ask the middle class to give more and more(and call them greedy and heartless if they fight it), is causing great division. The poor get the programs, the wealthy get tax cuts, and the middle class gets taxed. It's unsustainable, plus it's all being administered by a government that we know to be broken, dysfunctional, and bought like prostitutes! Who wants to give more money to such an organization? And we need to find a line where people are responsible for the consequences of their actions, and not expect the other citizens to subsidize it. That has been the impetus behind social conservatism...if you want my money for your bad choices, then it gives me the right to an opinion on your lifestyle! As we say....I really don't want to be in your bedroom, but you keep taking my wallet in there with you.

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    6. Karen, I'm not even going to ask how you know Warren Buffett itemizes - but I'm willing to take your word for it!
      JoAnn, yes, I agree that conservatism in this country has become an ungainly lumping together of policies, theories, special interests and ideologies to the point where it's difficult to know how anyone with more traditional conservative views - those now known, I believe as RINO's can bring themselves to vote, especially for the national party - although I guess the discussion on the show did shed light in that direction. Certainly, my friend who works for Merrill Lynch and is I guess the person I know best who would call herself a fiscal conservative, did not vote in the last presidential election, for the first time ever, exactly because she could neither support the Republican agenda across the board nor make the paradigm shift (for her) to voting Democrat. I think she might go for Hillary, though. I get, too, that working people are feeling exceptionally pinched and naturally resentful, and meanwhile Washington is broken. It seems to me that Karen is right, that there will need to be constitutional changes at some point. Meanwhile, though, perhaps what separates the conservative from the liberal still is that when I (I will only speak for myself) look back to the constitution, which I think is an inspiring and remarkable document, I see it in historical context as a great but still flawed attempt even at the time, which has been amended and needs to keep being amended - not only added to but sometimes subtracted from - the sine qua non but not the last word. And then, I also believe that when the center is getting squeezed financially, the place to look for redress is up, not down. This is hugely simplistic of course. There's so much I'm sure we could all say around causes and effects in all these issues. But if we are talking about natural, or innate tendencies, perhaps the direction of that gaze, whether moral or any other way, is one of them.

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    7. Karen I found your point about tax reform very interesting. However I'm not in agreement with you. I do think that the wealthy should pay more in taxes but I think it would hurt the working man in the long run. Actually I know a lot of people who have to take the standard deduction (and who make good money) but they just cannot itemize enough to even bet the standard dedication on their taxes. My husband and I are in that group. When you have no mortgage interest to deduct because your house is paid off, and you don't have a lot of out of pocket medical expenses you have nothing to itemize.
      I think reform really needs to start with the earned income credit. There are so many people out there getting "free money" through the earned income credit. It is being abused so badly that it's ridiculous. There are people out there who work just enough to get the maximum credit and then they don't work the rest of the year, then come tax time some can get back upto $10,000 back for just a few months of work. Meanwhile a single mother can work all year to support her family and get squat or someone who has made decent money ends up owing. I actually believe that there should be a tax percentage that everyone pays based on their income.

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    8. Tracy, thanks for disagreeing! I don't itemize (I don't have enough deductions either), which I guess means I also don't support the economy and pay someone else to do my taxes. A flat tax rate (such as you suggest) already is in place for the state and local level in PA, and I think it would work on the federal level if deductions were limited. The fact that people who work at the White House pay a greater percentage of their income in taxes than the president does is a huge problem. I also agree about the earned income credit issue. Honestly, we need comprehensive tax reform, but it's not going to happen when Congress instead is basically turning over Wall Street regulations to the people who caused the crash a few years ago.

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    9. Jude, I can't say 100% that he does (I don't work for the IRS). But when he says that he pays a lower percentage of his income in taxes than his employees do...he's not taking the standardized deduction.

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  8. I found Sharon's comment, about voting without knowing the political party of the person, on today's show very interesting. I think that it would get people to vote the issues and not by political affiliation. I also believe that a lot of people would be surprised that they would agree with a Democrat or a Republican, and others wouldn't be surprised at all. I firmly believe that in the primary elections we should be able to vote for whom ever we want regardless of party lines. I that by doing that there would be big changes in both parties.
    On another note...I find it absolutely shameful that there are so many people who don't bother to vote. There should be ramifications for the people who don't vote. All states should have mail in ballots for everyone. I also believe that if you are on any kind of government assisted programs you should be required to vote or loose your assistance. I think that if you are not on assistance you should still have to vote and if you don't, you should have to pay a penalty. It's sad that we live in the land of the free and only 40% or less of the people vote. I get so angry when I here someone complain about the government only to hear them say they didn't vote. My response is usually "Oh really..why not? Oh you couldn't be bothered! Well I suggest you go vote or shut the heck up!"

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  9. Exactly Tracy! People would be very surprised at how much they might like a candidate, who may be in the apposing party!

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    1. Sharon, I definitely think that people would be surprised who they might agree with if they could get past party lines and divisions before voting. They might surprise themselves as well as those around them. It shouldn't be a bad thing to agree with someone of a different affiliation than you, but it almost seems like reaching across the isle is looked at as being a traitor to the political party labels we have. Maybe taking the labels off the table would force people to think about the actual policies they believe in. Now, the question is, do you think that removing party affiliation might encourage more people to vote because it would take out the pressure of the party affiliation? Or do you think that it could keep people from voting because it would require far more effort on the part of the voter in researching what each political candidate believes and has to say?

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    2. Becky, you ask an interesting question! I would hope it would encourage people to vote. Perhaps they would feel that their vote might actually count for something. I feel that more people would vote if they felt that their vote was going to make a difference and, if they felt excited about a candidate.We saw that when President Obama first ran. Maybe if they really like a candidate, they would be willing to put in the extra work!

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  10. Thanks to work, I had to listen to the show from the archives this evening, but I have often thought that one of the biggest problems in the bipartisan political system is the propensity to focus far too heavily on the political labels and “tribalism”. The multitude of cases mentioned where, regardless of the actual policies involved, the political party lines got in the way of people being able to listen to the actual policies are perfect examples of that. It reminds me of my great uncle who was known in the family for saying “I don’t care how many times you prove me wrong, I’m still right!” This to me has been one of the biggest problems in politics today because all it does give politicians a reason to simply try to stop the other political party from accomplishing anything. Too many people feel that they need to be loyal to the political label they place themselves under. For this reason, I would very much be in favor of a system that would remove the political party label from the candidates. It would have to be carefully developed and crafted, but I think that, if done properly, it would potentially solve the “tribalism” loyalty to political parties and labels. I admit that I probably enjoyed Sharon’s suggestion of a voting system similar to “The Voice” a little too much, seeing as my tired brain just ran with it, filling in the blanks with aspects from various “reality” T.V. shows. So thank you, I needed a good laugh and momentary diversion. I do believe, however, that removing the party labels from elections could help people focus more on the policies and platforms held by each candidate. Each side has some valid points and positive approaches to how to make the country the best possible. It takes both perspectives to have a functional society, but we can’t allow ourselves to get so caught up in the labels that we put upon ourselves to keep us from working within the good found on both sides of the spectrum. It would greatly benefit the nation to focus on that and use it in continued conversation to determine which policies and ideologies people support. If we let the party lines obscure our view of what we believe are the most effective policies, we will consistently find ourselves stuck in a battle of "tribalism politics".

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  11. I just watched the archives, and LOVED it(and how much do I love seeing Janelle?!). Discussing how we have "personality traits" which MAY give us a propensity to one ideology is much more palatable to me than those flawed "brain studies". It does lead to stereotyping though, and not just in politics. As an Evangelical Christian, I hear "you're not what I expected AT ALL!" when I meet someone who has only "known" me online or from the blogs. It's actually fun to break those molds.
    Two comments really, #1 being the 'tribe'. I think that is true in a lot of circumstances, but you have to be rational and see the flaws in your own demographic, instead of just blindly supporting them "because they are xyz". In American politics, however...we are forced to pick a tribe. We hold our nose and vote for someone we really can't stand, but we have to pick if we want to vote. There ARE more political parties in the US, but the two-headed beast in Washington won't let them have a seat at the table and sabotage any attempts to join in. And Janelle is right....it's the MONEY. Why are the debates held without the other candidates? Where are the Libertarian and Green candidates(who got most of the protest votes in 2012)? Most people don't even know that they exist. Even those of us who do take a good look at the alternatives, still go in and vote D/R at the end of the day. America is seeing a big rise in "Independents", because people are so disgusted with the 2 current parties. We're leaving the tribe, but the tribe has the $$$ so they still win in the end. I'm so pleased to hear you talking about how the union money needs to go too, Charlie.
    Secondly, the Torture Report. I don't know what the point of releasing that was, except to give the ousted Dems one last dig at the Republicans. This is putting American lives in danger overseas, and for what? Political Payback? We all knew it had happened, there was no need to make the details public now, IMHO. That said, you are right, Charlie. Watching the beheadings, the heads of children impaled on sticks, the pure EVIL that is going on in the Middle East....it's hard to drum up sympathy for those who were interrogated. I live 50 miles from Ground Zero, and my state suffered great loss of life. This was an unusual situation and may have required extreme measures, though this should not become the 'new normal' with any perceived enemy. But these Islamic Radicals, much like the Nazi SS who facilitated the Holocaust, this is a level of depravity that makes 'enhanced interrogation' seem almost warranted in order to stop the madness. From what I'm seeing online, many people(esp. on the right) believe we should not treat humans that way, but have a hard time seeing these enemies as humans. They ARE human, but are behaving like animals, no disrespect meant to animals. Like the concentration camp enforcers, there is a level of sadistic glee that makes it hard to like them very much. Gone are the days when POWs would be used as farm hands and attend church in the village.
    Again, bravo to you and Janelle for a wonderful show! xoxo

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    1. I have to say something about the Torture Report. If I thought that anyone on the show was suggesting that the moral argument against torture is a relative one, then I would truly be horrified. Surely there can be no question that torture is morally wrong, Of course there have always been those that thought otherwise, that the end justifies the means, and I think it's that possibility that was raised on the show. That's what I heard, at least. I hope not just because I wanted to. Torture is also illegal, of course, although there are always questions of definition. Why is it important to publish the report? Precisely because people knew about it and did nothing. If ever there was an issue that needed to be openly debated, surely this is it. As for the effectiveness of so-called enhanced interrogation: first, is anyone showing a direct link between information gained and catastrophe averted? And yet study after study shows, on the other hand, the propensity of people under extreme stress to say anything to make it stop. JoAnn, what do you see as the link between ISIS and extraordinary rendition? I think that many would argue the current situation in the Middle East is largely the fault of Western interference over the years, not the other way around. The UK and other European nations are of course also implicated. But we're talking about a vast area, and a variety of complex situations, and scary as it is to see what ISIS supporters are capable of, I am even more afraid of the mindset that sees the terrible acts of a few as standing in for the humanity of the many. Of course 9/11 was a terrible thing, but how many have died since, especially in the Middle East? Were all those people guilty? Of what? Were all the people interrogated using "enhanced" measures guilty of something, of anything - did they even have information to give? How do we know? Quis custodet custodes? That's why it's important to publish.
      I'm not much of an optimist. These days, it's hard to avoid the sense that civilization is descending into a new dark age. I especially feel that when I hear otherwise decent people, often self-avowed people of faith, defending injustice and inhumanity on the grounds of an eye for an eye. But then perhaps it depends if one can put that document into historical context, also.

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    2. I think the Torture Report is just another way to start more finger pointing in Washington. I don't care what the Democrats or the Republicans say, BOTH SIDES have known that it been going on for years. So now this report comes out and they act like a bunch of little kids. "It wasn't us...It's their fault...We didn't know." It's like they need mom to come along and put them in the corner.
      As far as I concerned the Torture Report didn't need to be made public. To be honest if torturing someone gets us information to stop ISIS or prevents another 9/11 then so be it. We don't need to know about how they get the information. It's obvious we cannot be nice to these people so we need to be hard.

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    3. Jude, I didn't mean to imply that I am condoning torture, just that this is giving us all "cause for pause". My main point was the TIMING of this, it's just too dangerous to those who are still fighting this battle. It's seems a little suspect that Feinstein et al put this out just as they are "leaving power", and it looks like another case of "the end justifies the means"...all that's important is that they make the Republicans look bad for the next election. Yes,people knew and did nothing...POLITICIANS did. On both sides of the aisle, including Nancy Pelosi who was on the committee. Then, as Tracy said, they all feign shock and outrage, and claim they knew nothing about it. Sgt. Schulz from "Hogan's Heroes" has nothing on these people. Even Obama's current CIA director is saying that information was gathered, but admits that it may have happened without EI. The left/Dems look like they are just singing another chorus of "But But But Buuuuu-sh!". This should have been kept classified, they have no problem keeping OTHER things classified that the people ask to know.

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    4. JoAnn, I just typed out a longer reply to you only to be met with a character limit - which I assume is for the page. So, let me just say sorry - it was late, I was tired, and as ever trying to say a lot in a small box. I wish we could have a longer conversation!

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    5. JoAnn, I'm sorry. I wrote last night late, and I was tired - and once again I think we are all trying to say a great deal in a small space, and with so many implications. I guess my point was - and is - that the sometimes the importance of getting an issue out into the world is greater than the to-and-fro tug of party politics. In regard to timing and the safety of those serving overseas, I would have to ask, as others have, when would be a good time? If John Kerry says this is a particularly bad time, we may suppose he knows what he's talking about, but he also said that it was up to Senator Feinstein to make the decision. How much of this is politics? Isn't it Congress's job to act independently, as Secretary Kerry suggests? I have read some news report that claim the torture report was ready and could have been made available earlier, perhaps even years ago, but according to other sources - I'll cite Bloomberg News as an example, and as a source which I think is respected nationally and internationally - Senator Feinstein has until very recently been engaged in negotiations with the CIA over what information could be released. And after all, this is a Senate committee - with a Democratic majority, yes, but with Republicans on there too, including some who are extremely conservative.It's not some kind of Democratic conspiracy, it's Congress at work, isn't it? So it seems to me that the timing of this report's release is political, yes, in that the decision was based on "it's now or never" - given that the committee will be chaired by a Republican from the start of the year. But I also still think it's important that the Torture Report comes out, even if the timing isn't perfect and even if some see it as a stunt. I would say that it's never too late, even if there is never a good time, for getting as much information out into the public domain where it can be discussed and debated, because I think the alternatives are way worse.

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    6. Thank you, Jude. You're right that this was not a "Democrat vs Republican" issue, so that does change the story a little. I'm just still not comfortable with releasing the report while our military is still engaged with battle. And truthfully, if there's one person who should understand that you don't criticize the military while the war is still going on....it's John Kerry. I would THINK that if the Sec'y of State says it's not a good time to release the report, then that would settle it. John Kerry isn't exactly known for his conservative views, so that makes it even more likely that the report could have been kept confidential for now. We have lots of "armchair generals" in this country. As for "who will watch the watchmen", it's just tragic that we have a corrupted Congress pointing fingers at the CIA. Perhaps that is the crux of my "attitude", thinking "Who are you to talk about not following the rules?"

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  12. I don't usually just defer to someone else's work, but I think this NYT article illustrates exactly what we are talking about. Each party's base has become increasingly "tribal" and dogmatic, forcing it's leaders to follow suit. Yes, it is the extremists on both sides who are responsible for the deadlock, but, whilst they are the only ones voting, they call the shots!!
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/13/us/turmoil-over-spending-bill-shows-the-demise-of-compromise.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

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    1. Thanks for the article. The point it makes couldn't be more clear: unless the members of congress can learn to compromise, our government will not progress or accomplish anything. In my opinion, it's deplorable that so many of the extremists on both sides are allowed to continue refusing to compromise or even attempt to work with members of the opposing party. But, one of the biggest travesties is the fact that they are consistently allowed to remain in office because, as you pointed out, the extremists are the ones who will bother themselves enough to vote. When the extremists are the ones who are more willing to vote than anyone else, the votes also go the extremes. The votes also often tend to have one of two motivations: 1- keep the power and influence that you already have or 2- replace the existing power and influence with that of your own party. With the election last month, the extremists were the ones either bemoaning the fact that they were no longer "in control" of the legislature or celebrating the fact that they are now "in control" of it. The fact that the election was focused on being in control meant that it was not about making changes or doing what is best for the country, but about being bigger and more prevalent than somebody else. Why should we have to deal with this refusal to compromise when one of the main purposes of our governmental setup is to allow the American people to say that, if our elected leaders are not doing their job, they will be replaced. That's why we have elections as often as we do. In any other profession, not showing progress or having anything to prove that you are doing your job would mean you'd be replaced. Yet, in Congress, this happens all the time without repercussions for our elected officials. Compromise is a part of the job description of governing a country, and yet, too many lawmakers refuse to do so for fear of appearing weak or not in control. And you are right, the only way that we will see compromise brought back into the lawmaking picture is by having more than just the extremists vote. Personally, I would be in favor of systems similar to those found in some Latin American countries like Argentina and Bolivia wherein everyone has the right vote, but they also have a responsibility to do so,The people face a strict penalty if they don't cast a vote. I believe that the penalty should start at a base level, like a fine for the person who does not vote in one election. Some people, however, would likely say that they don't mind paying the fine because it's easier than doing the research and casting a vote. So it would then make sense to make the penalty increasingly unpleasant for consecutive offenses in which an eligible person does not vote. If it starts with fines after not voting in one election, then maybe someone should lose the privilege to participate in the next election if they don't vote a second time. Perhaps, if the American people faced the possibility of losing a privilege and right, it would provide enough motivation to do what is necessary to keep it. Voting needs to be viewed as a responsibility and not just a privilege in which we decide whether or not to participate. Until that happens, though, the extremists from both sides will remain in control of what happens in the country, or what doesn't happen because they can't get an all or nothing deal and don't want to compromise. The silence of the majority allows the extremists to bicker incessantly without fear that they will be replaced for not doing what they have been elected to do; It allows them to continue touting their own control, or seeking to thwart the control of the opposing party, in a situation where "control" should not be the most important objective.

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    2. Thanks for the article! It points out, what I and others, have been saying all along. The people we are electing are more and more refusing to compromise! It's getting worse and worse and hence the stalemate we have in government. Nothing can get done! No one wants to compromise in fear of upsetting the power base of their party!
      I feel it falls on we the people to elect representatives who are willing to work with the opposition. It is up to us to choose people who are more to the left or right of their particular party. Of course, to do this, people need to get out and vote!

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    3. What *I* see, as a "recovering Republican", that frightens me more than the gridlock, is the Party Machines locking arms to keep out new people who are (for now) trying to flush out some of the corruption! The R's just campaigned on blocking Obama's Immigration Plan, but yesterday they funded it! The Dems just voted for a Bank Bailout!! Whiskey Tango Foxtrot???? Since when does Jamie Dimon write legislation? Who elected him?
      The progressives are excited about Elizabeth Warren, so the establishment Dems double down on backing Hillary Clinton. The conservatives are interested in Cruz, Paul, Lee, Amash(stop gagging Charlie), so out comes the establishment choice....Jeb Bush. Clinton vs. Bush? SERIOUSLY? We are so screwed. Rant over LOL

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    4. While we're on the subject, what about what the lame duck Congress just did? We just saw another example of "let's get one last dig in before we're no longer in office." I guess compromise occurred with that "cromnibus" bill that prevented blocking appointments and a government shutdown, but at what cost? Allowing the same Wall Street financiers who caused the crash in 2007 to rewrite regulations (goodbye Dodd-Frank, hello Citigroup!) to get a budget passed? Republicans voting to fund the executive order on amnesty they oppose because they wanted to go home for Christmas? This is one instance in which I would love to see President Obama exercise his veto power and reject this bill, although I seriously would be shocked if that happens. Signing the budget bill into law, however, would indicate that he supports everything that is in the bill (of course, this bill is a prime reason why the president needs to have the power to do a line item veto on legislation).

      First, the budget should have been approved this summer, not now. The fiscal year ended June 30. Second, about the appointments--what difference does a month really make? Is the position of Surgeon General really that important that it has to be filled right now and couldn't wait until January? If that's the case, why was the position of Secretary of Commerce vacant for over a year (June 2012-June 2013)? It's not like that position wasn't important (although if you recall, during the 2012 presidential campaign President Obama did state that we needed a Secretary of Business—whose proposed duties would have duplicated what the Secretary of Commerce does). On the bright side, they say that politics creates strange bedfellows—who would have thought that we would see Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Al Franken voting the same on an issue (even if their reasons for that vote were different).

      One final note about tribalism—I loved Charlie’s analogy of supporting sports teams. Sometimes supporting a team is based on upbringing; I still remember my maternal grandparents watching Phillies games (and cursing at them in Pennsylvania German when they didn’t play well, which was quite often back in the 1960s). Sometimes it’s based on geography; I seriously doubt I would have become a Red Sox fan if we hadn’t lived in northern Connecticut in the late 1960s. But in many ways, I think the tribalism about supporting sports teams is perhaps stronger than affiliating with political parties. I haven’t met a Red Sox fan who will root for the Yankees to win (even if we respect Derek Jeter as a leader), nor have I met a Michigan fan who would root for Ohio State in college football. At least in politics, you can have people who will support the ideas of people from other political parties, although more frequently the bipartisan support might be more like what we saw with the “cromnibus” bill (vote for this even if you have to hold your nose while voting; it’s better than a government shutdown) than actually sticking to your principles. It’s really nice to know that our national legislators took to heart the election results in November that clearly stated that the voters were not happy with what is going on in Washington (note the sarcasm). Instead, they ignored the will of the people and, in fact, defied it. Too bad this will probably be like the typical Friday afternoon news dump and not be remembered when we hold elections in 2016.

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  13. Of course, the other elephant in the room is the willful ignorance of so many in our society. Finding dogma or sloganism easier to digest than any attempt at critical thinking, millions of Americans don't even engage in the issues but rely on dubious third parties to do all their "thinking" for them. It's hard to blame the politicians for stubborn posturing and extremism when all they see coming from the constituents that they are meant to represent is either an echo of the same ill-informed rhetoric or mute apathy.

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    1. Political advertising is responsible for a great deal of this. Far too many people allow the content of negative advertising influence them, in allowing it to form, or confirm preconceived opinions, about candidates or issues. Both paties succumb to this. I have said this before, but in order for people, who are not willing to do the research before voting, to actually think for themselves, we should allow each candidate or proposition, to say what they stand for, believe in, and hope for and that is all. No attacking other candidates! No advertising where candidates with more money get the advantage. Maybe then, people will have to think for themselves, and not rely on this dubious third party to think for them!

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    2. It's very interesting that you mention the fact that so many Americans just let a third party do the thinking for them. I know I have seen that happen a multitude of times, from both sides. For too many Americans, it's not worth finding out the details, studying the issues and determining what would be the best approach to problem solve. And the sad part is, when that happens, anyone that's content to just let someone else do the thinking is only ever going to get one interpretation of any of the facts. That singular perspective is what leads to the rehashing of the same rhetoric, doing nothing but dismissing anything that doesn't follow suit. When it comes to the mute apathy, I can see a couple of underlying causes. The first is the lack of understanding of exactly how the politicians actions directly affect the lives of the average American. This tends to bring out an attitude of "If I can't see how it affects me, then what's the point?" The second cause that I see is the idea that it won't make a difference one way or another simply because, some of those third parties doing the thinking are more vocal about their interpretations, and therefore drown out other voices. Again, this causes the "what's the point?" feeling because it seems like no one listens. Neither of these reactions are productive and only make the voices of the extremists more prevalent and dominating, exaggerating that mentality and perspective. And now, how do we get Americans to recognize that their voices, votes and opinions have a point?

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    3. Totally agree, Becky, with your point about apathy and how many people are only concerned about how voting, for anything, is going to affect them. This happens all the time from both sides and, it is happening more and more with the youth. If it's not going to help or hurt them personally, then they don't bother to vote. It's very sad and it is a trend we need to stop. The question is, How?

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    4. Starting with the question about how to convince the youth that voting and voicing opinions is worth the while, I believe that we need to help instill in the youth a deeper sense of community and importance of voting. Perhaps, one way to do this would be to include instruction on how, world-wide, the right and ability to vote on who will run the country. The main objective of including that type of instruction would be to help the youth understand how valuable the right and privilege it really is, and therefore help them understand how important it is to participate. Next, I believe that we need campaigns that focus on how legislation can affect us individually. When people know that it's important and can see a purpose in what they are doing, they are more likely to participate in something. I know that I've seen that in my students all the time: the more they understand why they are doing something, the more willing they are to do it. The same holds true for adults; campaigns that focus on the impacts of policies would help give people a sense of purpose in voting, and therefore convince more people to vote. Along these lines, however, many campaigns would have to shift focus from the negative impact of the opposition to the positive impact of the respective policies and candidate. When the discussion becomes nothing more than a political diatribe about the all of the negative points of the opposition, it's easy to simply tune out. Campaigns that do nothing but nit-pick, find fault and refuse to listen to what that opposition might have to say only succeed in stopping conversational progress and making many people tune out. Who wants to listen to or participate in a conversation that doesn't go anywhere? I know that I've found myself tuning out if the conversation ends and the diatribe begins because I don't find it productive to do nothing but point out the negative. Yes, we should recognize the negative, but we shouldn't focus on it. If people aren't listening to, or participating in the conversation, they won't ever get a sense of how the issue affects them, or by extension, how voting can affect them individually. And if we don't understand how something can affect us, we become apathetic.

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  14. It is hard for me to equate America's insistence on its own "exceptionalism" ( a hangover from our creed of "manifest destiny," ) and the attendant role of Global Policeman, with an ambiguity over the place of torture ( EIT, if you insist!) in our moral universe. We can either see ourselves as a beacon on the Hill, shining a way to higher moral ground and a better Democracy to those people struggling with corrupt or decadent governments OR we have to accept that we have no greater purpose in this world than simply surviving in the same morally bankrupt, "dog eat dog" barbarism that threatens to engulf this civilization.

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    1. The U.S. really has never been a "beacon on the hill," nor was it ever a democracy. Outsiders have seen it that way compared to their homelands (having the chance to vote in a constitutional republic certainly was attractive to people who emigrated from regions in which minorities were oppressed and property requirements limited participation). But that beacon on the hill is a myth, as it refers to a settlement in which religious dissenters were welcomed as long as they dissented the same way the Puritans did, and you had to be a white male church member in order to participate in government. And if you chose to be different—execution and exile were the two main responses. So torturing people who were perceived as a threat isn’t that new to the U.S., either. Another common misperception is that the United States was a land of opportunity and that the streets were paved with gold—and immigrants in the late 19th century found that not only were the streets not paved with gold, but they were the ones who were expected to pave them.

      The American exceptionalism of which you write is a 20th century phenomenon (since the U.S. was the only global power that didn’t suffer significant loss of life in World War I); in fact, the U.S. did not see itself as a global policeman until after World War II, although it certainly intervened in Latin American affairs before then. Manifest destiny is quite different from American exceptionalism, as it refers to continental expansion and not global. Then again, maybe the best sign of American exceptionalism is that we do still have a problem with illegal immigration—why would anyone try to enter a country that was in decline?

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  15. I don't mean to "pile on" here but, MissJoAnn, isn't this what we are talking about. Rather than discussing the merits of a report ( that was initially bi-partisan ) on its merits and importance to our moral health going forward, you immediately see "partisan" plots by one side against the other. Suddenly, the discussion that should be occurring is hi-jacked by yet another round of "gotcha!" If we are going down that road we have to dredge up the Benghazi report and the Republican's politicizing of that tragedy. BUT I am suggesting that we don't fall into that same, dysfunctional spiral: it doesn't work. It is disingenuous to "cry foul" about the risks to assets in the field when both parties "tit for tat" with the lives of spies, soldiers and their families all the time. How many of our Iranian assets died or are in prison after the Plame "outing"? This country has always had a very hard time looking at itself in the glass. We have done and continue to do very ugly things for very ugly reasons. Until we can admit to, and take responsibility for,those things we will never move our society forward but stay stuck in a morass of name-calling and paralysis.

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    1. Not a pile-on at all, I do agree with you, as I said in my reply to Jude. It was a bipartisan committee, and Dianne Feinstein was just the face of the study. But John Kerry, as Secy of State, said that DF could decide when to release it. THAT'S where I got my idea that the left(Feinstein) was using it as a political football, as the Bush-bashing started on social media. The posts I saw didn't blame the Dems on the committee. Deep down, I still just have a gut feeling that it was released NOW for political reasons, same as other crises have been used by the right and the left. The politicians are masters at making us fight amongst ourselves about whose side is worse, while they are making policies and legislation that harm us.
      I really wasn't meaning to ''cry foul", I do realize that both sides play this sick and twisted game of Stratego with our lives and livelihoods. THIS time I was mad at a Democrat, today I'm mad at anyone who voted for the CRomnibus. Who knows who it will be tomorrow? I'm sure someone in DC will piss me off ;)

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    2. oops, hit publish too soon. I think with THIS report though...people don't want to talk about it. It's too ugly, so you say "well that was wrong let's not do that again", and hope it just dies a natural death. Reminds me of people I know from Germany(not just our mutual friend) who can't discuss the Holocaust. They will change the subject, or explain that Hitler told the people what they wanted to hear, or just not reply at all. I understand that, and I think that's where my mind is with the torture report. It's not right, I don't like it, but I don't want to talk about it in great detail. Not necessarily the right response to have, but it's how I feel right now.

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    3. I'm not sure that the timing of the release of the Report was planned or not and I'm not sure if it would make a difference, but it was something that had to be released. It is only by bringing these things out in the open, that things will start to change. We also need to show the world that we accept responsibility for what went on, and will bring about change! It is hard for us to deal with, as most of us would like to believe that we, as Americans, are above torture. It is very distressing to discover, we are not!

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    4. There are really 2 simultaneous things happening here...the release of the CONTENT of the report and the suspected INTENT of Dianne Feinstein. One does not negate the other. Politicians don't go to the loo without calculating how it will look and when the best time to go is...that's just the nature of corrupt politics. My reaction is always to look at the political machinations, and sometimes I'm wrong and it's all just a coincidence. I'm betting that no one is going to talk about it much. Already today, we're more interested in Christmas, Hanukkah, the hostage crisis in Australia, and a looney with a gun running around Philly.
      As for the torture itself, of course I'm not for it. We all knew it had happened, I never suspected otherwise. I'd also assume that most of the civilized world is going to have to face hard choices as this Islamic Terrorism makes its way around the globe. It's not how we like to see ourselves, not just the USA. I assume that the CIA and their counterparts around the world have been doing stuff like this for a VERY long time. Will the people discussing it bring about change? I don't have faith in that any more. Too many politicians(see point #1) were in on this from the ground floor, and they will manipulate and stop any consequences for this. Too many political hands are in this mess. And while WE may all talk about it for a little while, not much will change. And that's very sad, but I fear it's reality.

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    5. I do have to wonder though...Tom Coburn(R) is leaving the Senate in January. What if *he* had been the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and released the report after being told by the Secy of State that it was an unwise time to do so? Would we be having this discussion? Every progressive I know would have had a stroke and ranted about how Coburn just wanted to make Obama look bad and have increased attacks under his watch, and who died and left Coburn in charge? I don't think we'd be debating how the report was important and needed to be told. Though this time, I do think we'd all be on the same page, I can't picture two many "Rightists" defending Coburn in this hypothetical situation. Without even realizing it, we all see things through ideological lenses.

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  16. Hi. I'm watching your radio show
    here in Israel! (Funny concept – watching a radio show). Fascinating how you talk about the American political system and tens of thousands of miles away I find it relevant to what is going on in our world here on this side of the
    ocean. In Israel we have a multiparty system, very democratic, very chaotic in
    a way. In America you wake up in the
    morning of elections day and you know you are going to vote for one of two options. Usually, as you said, you are traditionally a democrat or a
    republican. Here, every 3-4 years you have to start all over again, examining your political positions towards the main issues that affect your life: security, economy, social issues. Etc. but at
    the end of the day you find yourself voting for the person you are able to
    imagine as your prime minister and the people he brings with him to the
    government. And that's also not easy cause those politicians change parties,create new ones every few years, to
    improve their positions. So as a citizen you have so many choices to make, youfeel lots of responsibility on your shoulders. So be careful what you wish for…
    still in an odd way, we do have relatively high percentage of voting. Go figure..
    coming elections March 17th

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    1. It's wonderful to know that you are watching the show in Israel and how, despite us talking about US politics, you can find relevance to your situation. I think many of the issues we face here are faced in other countries too.
      It is very interesting to see that, despite your voting system being "chaotic", you still have a high percentage of people voting, Maybe we will need to mix it up a little more here to get people voting!
      I hope you will continue to watch the show and even call in sometimes!

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    2. welcome, Galit!! So good to have you here. My boss' son lives in Tel Aviv. As much as America likes to think that THEY are the center of the universe, I firmly believe that it is Israel and am a stalwart supporter. Chag Urim Sameach!

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    3. thank you so much for your warm welcome! Now I'll definitely stay and watch and join the conversation from time to time. Chag Sameach MissJoAnn. and happy holidays to you all!

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    4. Welcome Galit! Fantastic to get perspectives outside of our American bubble.

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  17. This is rapidly becoming one of my favorite ways of avoiding work. The only hard part is deciding where to begin and end, reining in my usual tendency to talk forever about everything because one thought inevitably leads to another.
    Well, perhaps as a sometime educator I can offer a few thoughts about ignorance, willful and otherwise, in the general population. Charlie, I think that blaming voters for their own ignorance and apathy sounds a tad too much like blaming the victim, especially if you plan to exonerate legislators not only from perpetuating ignorance but from ignorance itself. Voters - and especially non-voters - may get the representation they deserve but it's more "chicken and egg" than that. For example. I live in the great state of Georgia, which boasts, among other outstanding lawmakers, Rep. Paul Broun, the qualified physician and climate change denier who in one memorable speech described various branches of science as "lies straight from the pit of hell." Is it better to believe that he is a genuine convert to ignorance, or that he is simply paying the price for getting elected? I don't know, but I do know from my own experience of teaching freshmen, also in GA, that they are often beset by similar notions, variations on what I would call bequeathed ignorance. In addition to a lack of critical thinking skills, which they have not been taught in high school, they are handicapped in varying degrees by growing up within the narrow ideologies of conservative religion, conservative social and family influences, conservative historical views - their whole lives are tied up with the one-sided stories they have been told by the people they care about most. These are bright kids, and many do go on to discover that their are other ways of looking at the world, other sides to those stories. Whether or not they change their core beliefs, at least they may be able to give them some context. But then there are the Paul Brouns, who have there reasons, or motivations, for being willfully, proudly ignorant - they may be pandering to their constituencies, but they are also confirming beliefs, giving authority to the process of dumbing down. If sport is more important than scholarship, if the bottom line rules over objective reporting, if fundamentalist faith demands obedience, if special interests snatch power and buy politicians, then what chance does the average voter have of being reliably informed in order to send an equally well-informed fellow citizen to Washington? What's to be done about it? Well, this is easy to say, but I think we have to go back to basic principles again. The social contract, education being not for the self but for the good of society, the separation of church and state, success being about more than money - it seems to me that these concepts are supported by the Constitution, although the Puritans would no doubt have been - and still are - more conflicted. Perhaps that's an issue - when some commentators talk about the founding fathers, I get the sense that they are really hankering after, not eighteenth century rationalists, but their puritan forebears. Big difference.

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  18. Note to self - don't go to the Blog at school during a free period as you then never get any grading, or anything else, done!

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    1. Sharon--Why do you think I waited until after I had finished grading finals before jumping back into the conversation?

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    2. If it makes either of you feel any better, I have done the exact same thing, because, well, the grading was still going to be there later. And my response was one that my brain cooked up while I was on a 30 ft ladder doing my second job. Productivity at its finest!

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    3. Smart thinking Karen! At least I don't have finals to grade. Thank goodness for small miracles!

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