Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why do party-switchers drift ideologically? To resolve cognitive dissonance, of course.

Matthew Yglesias notes that a lot of party-switchers tend to move, post-switch, further ideologically than they'd need to:
What’s more, in the past there’s been a tendency for party switchers to suffer from ideological drift. Jim Jeffords went from being more conservative than most Democrats to being solidly liberal, and Ben Nighthorse Campbell went from being more liberal than most Republicans to being virulently right-wing.
You don't even need to actually change the letter behind your name for this to happen. We saw the same sort of pattern happen with Zell Miller, who became a virulent right-winger without becoming a Republican, and Joe Lieberman, who of course became Joe Lieberman.

What is the deal here? Here is what I think: Party-switching politicians drift ideologically because they need to reduce their own sense of cognitive dissonance about the switch.

Wikipedia (good enough for our purposes) defines cognitive dissonance as "an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously" and explains it this way:
A powerful cause of dissonance is when an idea conflicts with a fundamental element of the self-concept, such as "I am a good person" or "I made the right decision." The anxiety that comes with the possibility of having made a bad decision can lead to rationalization, the tendency to create additional reasons or justifications to support one's choices.
In the case of party-switchers, politicians have to reconcile the contradictory ideas that: a.) I am a principled, righteous representative of the people, and also b.) I have chosen for reasons of my own self-interest to switch my party allegiance.

How do you resolve that cognitive dissonance? With ideological drift! What better way to prove that "I am a good person" or that "I made the right decision" than by really believing in the ideas of the party you switched to?

I wouldn't hazard a guess about what Specter will do about EFCA or any other specific piece of legislation. But I definitely do predict that in general he will become a good deal more liberal than he was yesterday, and will almost certainly end up to the left of someone like Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska -- and who knows, maybe even considerably further left than that.

UPDATE [4/28 11:44pm] ... Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight does the numbers on how far party-switchers actually drift and the answer is: significantly.

Tweet, tweet bitch!

Andy Milonakis distills the essence of Twitter, over a beat that makes me think of Rick Rubin.


HT: Yeah Right.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Auto-tune the news #2 = Very good use of 2 minutes 40 seconds of time

Well this is just simply top-notch work. Highlights: Katie Couric's very melodious autotune vocals; Hannity guest Frank McGee, Angry Gorilla:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sentences that don't bother me

3. Crocs footwear (CROX): The decline in stock price from $72 per share in late 2007 to $2 today, ongoing financing issues, consumer belt-tightening and the end of a fad, leads to 24/7 Wall Street’s declaration that “Crocs won’t make it through the year.”
And a sentence that does:
4. Saturn vehicles: As General Motors (GM) faces bankruptcy, 24/7 Wall Street said it will almost certainly shutter the brand, whose sales dropped 59% in the first quarter of 2009.
From SeekingAlpha's "Top 12 Brands Likely to Disappear." Although I probably shouldn't be that concerned: my now 11-year-old car has been relatively free of major problems and is most assuredly out of warranty anyway. But it is a shame because of all GM's brands, Saturn at least appeared to have the most loyal customer base.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Traxx

The Clipse feat. Kanye West, "Kinda Like a Big Deal"


Rich Boy feat. Polow da Don, "Drop"


This video is a cool Rocawear promo but doesn't have the full song, go here for that But the video is cool anyway. Jay-Z, "Brooklyn (Go Hard)":

Find more videos like this on Roc4Life

We've got rankings!

NewGeography's 2009 Best Cities for Job Growth (largely based on a methodology developed for Forbes). Among the Large City category, the top 5 cities are in Texas. My own neighborhood (DC) is 12th. In the overall category, 7 of the top 10 are in Texas.

What gives?

*All Cities*
1. Odessa, TX
2. Grand Junction, CO
3. Longview, TX
4. Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux, LA
5. Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, TX
6. Austin-Round Rock, TX
7. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX
8. Laredo, TX
9. Houston, TX
10. Tulsa, OK

Austin has for many years been dominated by the service and high-tech production sectors, is littered with entrepreneurs and startups, with little in the way of "traditional" manufacturing. So it makes sense they are somewhat insulated. Also, oil producers/refiners, despite recent drops in crude prices, have posted respectable profits through last year so we would expect some other places in TX to do alright. I dont know anything about those other cities.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Reality Check

Recommend this previously unreleased J Dilla/Black Thought collabo to all fans of hip-hop AND fans of reality television.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Instapundit's wrong ideas about torture

My general feelings about the contents of the torture memos released this week are shared by many -- they are revulsion, disgust, horror, shame, etc. There are other, better writers doing the work of articulating how we all feel, and I will leave that to them.

But a footnote in the May 10, 2005 memo (pdf) did trigger a memory for me of an old Instapundit post and I think it is instructive to make this connection. Footnote #51 of that memo says:
The IG Report noted that in some cases the waterboard was used with far greater frequency than initially indicated ... and also, in a different manner.
This made me remember a huffy post by Glenn Reynolds from 2007:
[I]t appears that waterboarding, over which Andrew [Sullivan] has exercised himself so much in recent years, and upon which he has staked his many, many, many, many claims to moral supremacy, actually stopped in 2003 [...] and was only used three times. This seems pretty consistent with my view of torture, which is that I’m against it, but that it’s not quite the issue Andrew wants it -- perhaps I should say needs it -- to be.
The reason I remember the post -- I am not a super-frequent Instapundit reader -- is because it was the first time I had heard this idea that waterboarding had only been done three times. I remember I giving it at least some actual thought at the time: Did it matter if waterboarding was had only been used a handful of times? Even if if that did not change the act's moral status, did it change its political importance?

Reynolds did not ultimately convince me that waterboarding was no big deal -- but three times did not seem like a lot of times and I remember feeling like that was something worth at least thinking about.

Well, it wasn't. Footnote #51 shows that the premise was just not true.

Turns out that to even consider Reynolds' argument was to be played for a sucker. I would say that maybe Reynolds himself was played for a sucker but somehow I don't think that's what happened. Someone let me know if Instapundit issues a correction or acknowledges this in any way.

UPDATE [4/19 12:24pm] ... Not only not three times, but actually hundreds of times.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Oh, Streetcar!

Why do people like streetcars? Tyler Cowen comes up with two reasons: that street car lovers wish to "affiliate themselves with the past" and that streetcars help you avoid that "low class feeling" which all too often comes from riding on the bus.

I don't disagree with either of these but there are also substantive reasons to prefer streetcars, i.e. they are smoother and quieter than other forms of public transportation. The streetcar we rode in New Orleans (above) definitely fell into the "affiliate ourselves with the past" category, but there are plenty of modern-looking streetcars (in Amsterdam for example, probably in American cities too) that also provide a cheap, quick, quiet, pleasant way to travel. The history thing is nice, to be sure, but absent that tie the ride is still very nice.

I also like to ride buses and subways, though, so I may not be a good case study. Also because I live in a strongly car-centric city with no short- or medium-term plans to build any alternative modes of transportation.

I've got this leadoff hitter and he's f------ golden

It's customarily pompous and self-regarding, but I have it on good authority that Rod Blagojevich's advice to Lou Piniella would have been worth a shot.

Best line I read today

From my friend Garett Jones:
One of the big insights of modern unemployment research is that hiring workers or searching for a job is a lot like dating: it just takes a long time to find a good match. If we have stadium-style mass weddings, yes, we’ll raise the number of married couples, but we’ll probably create a lot of bad matches. The same is true in the job market, whether it’s the government or the private sector that’s doing the hiring.
From a "blog war" with economist Menzie Chin on CBS Marketwatch. The debate is over the effectiveness of the recent fiscal stimulus.

Judge Posner is sounding like a lefty

I used to have a semi-operative "posner" tag but I have been off the Judge Richard Posner beat for a minute now. But I think I might want to read his new book about the financial crisis. And in this new NYT Q&A, check out how he blames Alan Greenspan for the financial crisis:
The riskiness of banking can be reduced by regulation. But as a result of a deregulation movement that began in the 1970’s, the industry was largely deregulated by 2000. Then the Federal Reserve mistakenly pushed down and kept down interest rates, which led to a housing bubble (because houses are bought with debt) and in turn to risky mortgage lending (because mortgages are long term and there is a nontrivial risk of default); and when the bubble burst, it carried the banking industry down with it. [...]

The banking collapse occurred last September. The government’s unpreparedness (for which Greenspan and Bernanke, successive chairmen of the Federal Reserve, and academic economists bear a large part of the responsibility because of their failure to spot the housing and credit bubbles and their mistaken belief that a depression, as distinct from a mild recession, could never again happen in the United States) and its resulting spasmodic, improvisational responses allowed the crisis to deepen, precipitating the depression we’re now in.
Yeah, so, also, Judge Posner evidently does not mind coming out and saying that we're in a depression.

I don't know that my headline to this item is totally fair -- Posner is still pretty measured about imposition of new regulations, and besides that I'm not sure he's ever been rigidly libertarian (remember his pro-trans-fats-ban post!). But I am not the first person to find remarkable the extent to which Posner, a founding member of the Chicago School, blames lax regulation for the catastrophe. From the same Q&A:
That is the logic of profit maximization, as explained long ago by Adam Smith: the businessman cares about his costs and his revenues, but not about the costs and revenues incurred or received elsewhere in the economy. He is not an altruist. The responsibility for preventing the collapse of the banking system is the government’s, and it has been shirked, with extremely serious consequences.
All in all some interesting thinking here and reason to want to follow his apparently-forthcoming financial-crisis blog on The Atlantic's site.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Govt Get Off Our Backs


Already posted this link on Twitter, but for those interested I put some photos from the Wausau Tea Party up on my work blog.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Kanye West: I have a "long road ahead of me to make people believe I'm not actually a huge douche"


Is it me or does Kanye West actually seem kind of sheepish in his response to the (hilarious) South Park "gay fish" episode?
SOUTH PARK MURDERED ME LAST NIGHT AND IT’S PRETTY FUNNY. IT HURTS MY FEELINGS BUT WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT FROM SOUTH PARK! I ACTUALLY HAVE BEEN WORKING ON MY EGO THOUGH. HAVING THE CRAZY EGO IS PLAYED OUT AT THIS POINT IN MY LIFE AND CAREER. I USE TO USE IT TO BUILD UP MY ESTEEM WHEN NOBODY BELIEVED IN ME. NOW THAT PEOPLE DO BELIEVE AND SUPPORT MY MUSIC AND PRODUCTS THE BEST RESPONSE IS THANK YOU INSTEAD OF “I TOLD YOU SO!!!” IT’S COOL TO TALK SHIT WHEN YOU’RE RAPPING BUT NOT IN REAL LIFE. WHEN YOU MEET LITTLE WAYNE IN PERSON HE’S THE NICEST GUY FOR EXAMPLE.

I JUST WANNA BE A DOPER PERSON WHICH STARTS WITH ME NOT ALWAYS TELLING PEOPLE HOW DOPE I THINK I AM. I NEED TO JUST GET PAST MYSELF. DROP THE BRAVADO AND JUST MAKE DOPE PRODUCT. EVERYTHING IS NOT THAT SERIOUS. AS LONG AS PEOPLE THINK I ACT LIKE A BITCH THIS TYPE OF SHIT WILL HAPPEN TO ME. I GOT A LONG ROAD AHEAD OF ME TO MAKE PEOPLE BELIEVE I’M NOT ACTUALLY A HUGE DOUCHE BUT I’M UP FOR THE CHALLENGE. I’M SURE THE WRITERS AT SOUTH PARK ARE REALLY NICE PEOPLE IN REAL LIFE. THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO DRAW MY CREW. THAT WAS PRETTY FUNNY ALSO!! I’M SURE THERE’S GRAMMATICAL ERRORS IN THIS… THAT’S HOW YOU KNOW IT’S ME!
I mean, sure, it still has a completely narcissistic self-focus and distinct image-management overtones. But isn't there also a potential glimmer of self-awareness? I don't know, maybe not, and I really don't care as long as he keeps making records. I am just saying.

On the other hand, Kanye seems to have sort of backslid here. Much respect to that Cheesecake Factory manager, though!

Big Boi speaks on Sir Luscious Left Foot

Big Boi of Outkast talks about the 2009 album I am most excited about, the excellently titled solo effort Sir Luscious Left Foot, Son of Chico Dusty:

One of my favorite parts, about five minutes in:
Q. Speak about putting social messages in your music.

A. That's one thing we all learned coming up in the Dungeon (Family). It's good to entertain, but if you can educate a little bit at the same time, man, that goes a whole lot further. You ain't gotta be no preacher, father figure, tough guy, nothing like that. I mean, I'm cool as a motherfucker. You know what I'm saying? I like to have fun, I'm cool like the next man. I don't want to preach to nobody, nothing like that. But if it's something that needs to be said, I'm going to say it, because I'd be a sucker if I don't speak my mind.
Yeah!

Also, did he say he's got 40-some songs?

(via h.e.r.)

Friday, April 10, 2009

GOP govs: We'll take that money after all

Ben Smith's story about how GOP governors have had to kind of come around to accepting stimulus money seems like it marks a significant moment:
The list of governors threatening to decline federal stimulus money last month read like a list of Republicans considering running for president in 2012: Governors Mark Sanford, Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin led the anti-stimulus charge.

But what began with a bang is ending with something closer to a whimper. All three of those governors have been forced to scale back their expectations, to varying degree, as the push of conservative philosophy gave way to the pull of political reality.

All three found that praise from the conservative movement in Washington meant nothing to furious state legislators of both parties. And in the end, along with other conservative Republican governors, the three submitted letters in recent days asking to be eligible for federal funds, a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget confirmed.
Governor is an especially hard political job in a recession, and I think throughout the entire stimulus debate we always kind of knew that nobody was really going to turn down stimulus money. Hard to know exactly what the long-term effects of this will be on these governors, but I don't see how this isn't a tremendous loss of face for these three.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Shameless self-promotion

My band gets a little write-up in Washingtonian Magazine on the occasion of our EP release.

"Stricter Antarctic tourism limits"

Oh no! I have been planning my fictional trip to Antarctica for months and now Hillary Clinton wants to mess everything up for me. What a bummer.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

About that "gay marriage Mecca" idea

I know this is one of those issues where Rep. Steve King and most of the rest of the world are not going to see eye to eye, but wouldn't becoming a "gay marriage Mecca" potentially be a very good thing for Iowa?

I would assume gay Midwesterners with enough mobility to relocate to Des Moines would be reasonably affluent in the first place, and that they would have dollars to spend and skills to contribute to Iowa's economy. And Iowa could certainly use the younger workers.

To be fair to Rep. King, I suppose it's possible that you would end up with a bunch of gay squatters living off the welfare rolls in Cedar Rapids or Dubuque or Sioux City or wherever, but it really doesn't seem like the most likely outcome.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

So long, "On the next ER" commercials

So I am torn between not believing that ER is really going off the air and not believing that ER actually stayed on the air for 57 seasons or whatever it was. I am not a fan, nor am I watching tonight's finale, but obviously it was a TV institution, so I guess a little tip of the hat is in order. Or not, whatever.

What I was a big fan of were the consistently brilliant commercial promos for ER. Laura and I had a running joke that the entire show was basically an ever-escalating series of ridiculous new things somehow making their way into the ER. "There's a bomb in the ER!" "There's a tank in the ER!" "There's a boy band in the ER!" "There's a rhinoceros in the ER!" ... And so on.

So every new commercial promo was an exciting opportunity to see what new calamity was going to befall the ER. And you really didn't even have to watch the show to get some enjoyment out of that.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Democracy is...

A cheeky look at Democracy, done for a State Dept. video competition, by my friend, colleague, and documentarian Rob Raffety.

The other entries into the competition were, well, a little more patriotic.