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"Step" up and feel free to "Take Liberties" regarding "Political Brain Pharts" here within a moderated forum....which is NOT liberal...but liberally defiant.

Certainty Bias: An Election Explained

Posted By cheekyredhead on Jun 19, 2009 at 9:56PM

(Alittle on the long side---but I think you'll find this worth reading)

The Certainty Bias: A Potentially Dangerous Mental Flaw

A neurologist explains why you shouldn't believe in political candidates that sound too sure of themselves.

Robert Burton is the former chief of neurology at the University of California at San Francisco-Mt. Zion hospital. He recently wrote a book, On Being Certain, that explored the neuroscience behind the feeling of certainty, or why we are so convinced we’re right even when we’re wrong. He and Jonah Lehrer, the editor of Mind Matters, (Scientific American) discussed the science of certainty.

LEHRER: What first got you interested in studying the mental state of certainty?

BURTON: A personal confession: I have always been puzzled by those who seem utterly confident in their knowledge. Perhaps this is a constitutional defect on my part, but I seldom have the sense of knowing unequivocally that I am right.

Consequently I have looked upon those who ooze self-confidence and certainty with a combination of envy and suspicion. At a professional level, I have long wondered why so many physicians will recommend unproven, even risky therapies simply because they "know" that these treatments work.

It is easy to be cynical and suspect the worst of motives, from greed to ignorance, but I have known many first-rate, highly concerned and seemingly well motivated physicians who, nevertheless, operate based upon gut feelings and personal beliefs even in the face of contrary scientific evidence. After years of rumination, it gradually dawned on me that there may be an underlying biological component to such behavior.

LEHRER: In your book, you compare the "feeling of certainty" that accompanies things such as religious fundamentalism to the feeling that occurs when we have a word on the-tip-of-our-tongue. Could you explain?

BURTON: There are two separate aspects of a thought, namely the actual thought, and an independent involuntary assessment of the accuracy of that thought. To get a feeling for this separation, look at the Muller-Lyer optical illusion.

Even when we consciously know and can accurately determine that these two horizontal lines are the same length, we experience the simultaneous disquieting sensation that this thought—the lines are of equal length—is not correct. This isn't a feeling that we can easily overcome through logic and reason; it simply happens to us.

This sensation is a manifestation of a separate category of mental activity—-unconscious calculations as to the accuracy of any given thought. On the positive side, such feelings can vary from a modest sense of being right, such as understanding that Christmas falls on December 25, to a profound a-ha, "Eureka" or sense of a spiritual epiphany. William James referred to the latter—the mystical experience—as "felt knowledge," a mental sensation that isn't a thought, but feels like a thought.

Once we realize that the brain has very powerful inbuilt involuntary mechanisms for assessing unconscious cognitive activity, it is easy to see how it can send into consciousness a message that we know something that we can't presently recall—the modest tip-of-the-tongue feeling.

At the other end of the spectrum would be the profound "feeling of knowing" that accompanies unconsciously held beliefs—a major component of the unshakeable attachment to fundamentalist beliefs—both religious and otherwise—such as belief in UFOs or false memories.

LEHRER: Why do you think that the feeling of certainty feels so good?

BURTON: Stick brain electrodes in rat pleasure centers (the mesolimbic dopamine system primarily located in the upper brain stem). The rats continuously press the bar, to the exclusion of food and water, until they drop. In humans the same areas are activated with cocaine, amphetamines, alcohol, nicotine and gambling—to mention just a few behaviors to which one can become easily addicted.

It is quite likely that the same reward system provides the positive feedback necessary for us to learn and to continue wanting to learn. The pleasure of a thought is what propels us forward; imagine trying to write a novel or engage in a long-term scientific experiment without getting such rewards.

Fortunately, the brain has provided us with a wide variety of subjective feelings of reward ranging from hunches, gut feelings, intuitions, suspicions that we are on the right track to a profound sense of certainty and utter conviction. And yes, these feelings are qualitatively as powerful as those involved in sex and gambling. One need only look at the self-satisfied smugness of a "know it all" to suspect that the feeling of certainty can approach the power of addiction.

LEHRER: To what extent do these mechanisms come into play during a presidential election? It seems like we all turn into such partisan hacks every four years, completely certain that our side is right.

BURTON: The present presidential debates and associated media commentary feel like laboratory confirmation that the involuntary feeling of certainty plays a greater role in decision-making than conscious contemplation and reason.

I suspect that retreat into absolute ideologies is accentuated during periods of confusion, lack of governmental direction, economic chaos and information overload. At bottom, we are pattern recognizers who seek escape from ambiguity and indecision. If a major brain function is to maintain mental homeostasis, it is understandable how stances of certainty can counteract anxiety and apprehension.

Even though I know better, I find myself somewhat reassured (albeit temporarily) by absolute comments such as, "the stock market always recovers," even when I realize that this may be only wishful thinking.

Sadly, my cynical side also suspects that political advisors use this knowledge of the biology of certainty to actively manipulate public opinion. Nuance is abandoned in favor of absolutes.

LEHRER: How can people avoid the certainty bias?

BURTON: I don't believe that we can avoid certainty bias, but we can mitigate its effect by becoming aware of how our mind assesses itself. As you may know from my book, I've taken strong exception to the popular notion that we can rely upon hunches and gut feelings as though they reflect the accuracy of a thought.

My hope is the converse; we need to recognize that the feelings of certainty and conviction are involuntary mental sensations, not logical conclusions. Intuitions, gut feelings and hunches are neither right nor wrong but tentative ideas that must then be submitted to empirical testing.

If such testing isn't possible (such as in deciding whether or not to pull out of Iraq), then we must accept that any absolute stance is merely a personal vision, not a statement of fact.

Perhaps one of my favorite examples of how certainty is often misleading is the great mathematician Srinivasava Ramanujan. At his death, his notebook was filled with theorems that he was certain were correct. Some were subsequently proven correct; others turned out to be dead wrong. Ramanujan’s lines of reasoning lead to correct and incorrect answers, but he couldn’t tell the difference. Only the resultant theorems were testable.

In short, please run, do not walk, to the nearest exit when you hear so-called leaders being certain of any particular policy. Only in the absence of certainty can we have open-mindedness, mental flexibility and willingness to contemplate alternative ideas.


Where has the U.S. money gone?

Posted By cheekyredhead on Jun 9, 2009 at 9:13PM

FACTBOX: Where has the U.S. bailout money gone?
Tue Jun 9, 2009 6:06pm EDT


- The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday said that 10 of the country's banks including Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Chase & Co were cleared to pay back a combined $68 billion in financial rescue funds.

If all the money is repaid by the banks, the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, should have unallocated funds of about $122 billion.

The calculation is based on data from TARP's special inspector general and assumes full funding of bank capital injections as well as for the government's toxic asset purchase program.

Following is an outline of funds spent or pledged from the U.S. bailout fund so far:

-- An unspecified amount pledged to recapitalize some of the country's largest banks, if needed, in the wake of regulatory "stress tests." Regulators required 10 of the 19 banks tested to raise a combined $74.6 billion. About $65 billion has been raised by these banks from private investors so far.

-- The Treasury has allotted $100 billion to seed its public-private plan to buy up to $500 billion worth of toxic assets. The figure includes $25 billion to expand the Federal Reserve's Term Asset-Backed Loan Facility, or TALF, to accept so-called legacy assets as collateral.

-- The Treasury estimates that it will provide $218 billion in capital to banks under its original Capital Purchase Program, which was initially pegged at $250 billion. In its latest transaction report, covering the period June 3, the Treasury said it had net investments of $199.40 billion under this program.

-- $50 billion pledged to reduce mortgage foreclosures by providing incentives to lenders and servicers to modify loans. It has allocated $15.17 billion in potential incentives to 15 firms so far and $10 billion for incentives to modify loans in the hardest-hit markets.

-- $20 billion investment in Citigroup as part of a package in which the government agreed to share in losses on $301 billion of assets. In addition, the Treasury has disbursed $5 billion as part of its second-loss guarantee. The $20 billion is in addition to $25 billion disbursed as part of the Capital Purchase Program.

-- $20 billion investment in Bank of America as part of a package in which the government agreed to share in losses on $118 billion of assets. In addition, the Treasury has pledged to cover up to $7.5 billion in potential losses as part of a second-loss guarantee. The $20 billion is in addition to $25 billion disbursed as part of the Capital Purchase Program.

-- $69.835 billion preferred stock investment in troubled insurer American International Group. This was reduced by $165 million from an earlier commitment, representing the amount of controversial bonuses paid by AIG in March.

-- $80.27 billion has been promised to prop up the U.S. auto industry, including bankruptcy financing and other loans to GM and Chrysler LLC, $5 billion in support for auto parts suppliers, and a $12.5 billion investment in GMAC LLC.

Of the total amount, the department said it made available up to $30.10 billion in bankruptcy financing for General Motors on June 3.

-- $20 billion has been shifted to a special purpose vehicle to cover potential losses on $200 billion in lending under the Fed's TALF. Treasury officials say they intend to provide an additional $35 billion to enlarge this program for lending against recently originated securities. When considered in conjunction with the $25 billion being set aside to expand TALF to cover older securities, the Treasury has said it intends to commit $80 billion to TALF.

-- $15 billion pledged to purchase securities backed by Small Business Administration loans.



Posted By cheekyredhead on Jun 6, 2009 at 7:37PM

The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. It is often called the Grand Old Party or the GOP.

The party supports a conservative and/or center-right platform, with foundations in supply-side fiscal policies, social conservatism, and personal responsibility.

The Republican Party has the second most registered voters as of 2004 with 55 million, encompassing roughly one-third of the electorate.

There have been nineteen Republican Presidents. Republicans currently fill a minority of seats in both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, hold a minority of state governorships, and control a minority of state legislatures.

Early Republican ideology was reflected in the 1856 slogan free labor, free land, free men. "Free labor" referred to the Republican belief in a mobile middle class that left the workforce and set up small businesses. "Free land" referred to Republican efforts to facilitate this spirit of entrepreneurship by giving away government owned land. The Party hoped that this rapid growth would help check, and eventually end slavery.

Many Republicans consider the income tax system to be inherently inefficient and oppose graduated tax rates, which they believe are unfairly targeted at those who create jobs and wealth.

They believe private spending is usually more efficient than government spending.

Most Republicans agree there should be a "safety net" to assist the less fortunate; however, they tend to believe the private sector is more effective in helping the poor than government is; as a result, Republicans support giving government grants to faith-based and other private charitable organizations to supplant welfare spending.

Members of the GOP also believe that limits on eligibility and benefits must be in place to ensure the safety net is not abused.

Republicans introduced and strongly supported the welfare reform of 1996, which was signed into law by Democratic President Clinton, and which limited eligibility for welfare, successfully leading to many former welfare recipients finding jobs.

The party opposes a single-payer health care system, believing such a system constitutes socialized medicine and is in favor of a personal or employer-based system of insurance, supplemented by Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid, which covers approximately 40% of the poor.

The Republican party has supported various bills within the last decade to strip some or all federal courts of the ability to hear certain types of cases, in an attempt to limit judicial review.

These jurisdiction stripping laws have included removing federal review of the recognition of same-sex marriage with the Marriage Protection Act, the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance with the Pledge Protection Act, and the rights of detainees in Guantanamo Bay in the Detainee Treatment Act.

The last of these limitations was overruled by the Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.

Most of the GOP's membership favors capital punishment and stricter punishments as a means to prevent crime.

Republicans in rural areas generally support gun ownership rights and oppose laws regulating guns, although Republicans in urban areas sometimes favor limited restrictions on the grounds that they are necessary to protect safety in large cities.

Most Republicans support school choice through charter schools and school vouchers for private schools; many have denounced the performance of the public school system and the teachers' unions.

The party has insisted on a system of greater accountability for public schools, most prominently in recent years with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Many Republicans, however, opposed the creation of the United States Department of Education when it was initially created in 1979.


Posted By cheekyredhead on Jun 6, 2009 at 7:19PM

The Democratic Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party.

It is the oldest political party in continuous operation in the United States and it is one of the oldest parties in the world. Today, the party supports a liberal and/or center-left platform.

Since the 2008 general elections, the Democratic Party is the majority party for the 111th Congress; the party holds a majority in both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate.

Democrats also hold a majority of state governorships and control a majority of state legislatures. Barack Obama, the current President of the United States, is the 16th Democrat to hold that office.

Since the 1890s, the Democratic Party has favored "liberal" positions (the term "liberal" in this sense describes social liberalism, not classical liberalism).

In recent exit polls, the Democratic Party has had broad appeal across all socio-ethno-economic demographics.

The Democratic Party is currently the nation's largest party. In 2004, roughly 72 million (42.6%) Americans were registered Democrats, compared to 55 million (32.5%) Republicans and 42 million (24.8%) independents.[5]

Historically, the party has favored farmers, laborers, labor unions, and religious and ethnic minorities; it has opposed unregulated business and finance, and favored progressive income taxes.

In foreign policy, internationalism (including interventionism) was a dominant theme from 1913 to the mid-1960s. In the 1930s, the party began advocating welfare spending programs targeted at the poor.

The party had a pro-business wing, typified by Al Smith, and a Southern conservative wing that shrank after President Lyndon B. Johnson supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The major influences for liberalism were labor unions (which peaked in the 1936–1952 era), and the African American wing, which has steadily grown since the 1960s. Since the 1970s, environmentalism has been a major new component.

In recent decades, the party has adopted a centrist economic and more socially progressive and social democratic agenda, with the voter base having shifted considerably.

Today, Democrats advocate more social freedoms, affirmative action, balanced budget, and a free enterprise system tempered by government intervention (mixed economy).

The economic policy adopted by the modern Democratic Party, including the former Clinton administration, may also be referred to as the "Third Way".

The party believes that government should play a role in alleviating poverty and social injustice and use a system of progressive taxation.

Tagged with: democratic party, democrats


Posted By cheekyredhead on Jun 6, 2009 at 6:37PM

The Green party---one which has grown tremendously over the past 6 years---is defined or described by wikipedia as:

A Green party or ecologist party is a formally organized political party based on the principles of Green politics.

These principles include environmentalism, reliance on grassroots democracy, nonviolence, and support for social justice causes, including those related to the rights of indigenous peoples, among others.

"Greens" believe that the exercise of these principles leads to the health of people, societies, and ecosystems.

The distinction is very often made between "green parties" (lower-case letters) and "Green Parties."

Any party, faction, or politician may be labeled "green" if it emphasizes environmental causes. Indeed, the term may even be used as a verb: it is not uncommon to hear of "greening" a party or a candidate.

In contrast, formally organized "Green Parties" follow a coherent ideology that includes not only environmentalism, but also other concerns such as social justice, consensus decision-making, and pacifism. Greens believe that these issues are inherently related to one another.

Depending on local conditions or issues, platforms and alliances may vary. In line with the goal of democracy, neighboring ecoregions may require different policies or protections.

Green Parties are often formed in a given jurisdiction by a coalition of scientific ecologists, community environmentalists, and local (or national) leftist groups or groups concerned with peace or citizens rights.

Some Greens find more effective alliances with more conservative groups (Blue-Green Alliance) or indigenous peoples - who seek to prevent disruption of traditional ways of life or to save ecological resources they depend on.

Although Greens find much to support in fostering these types of alliances with groups of historically different backgrounds, they also feel strongly about forming diverse communities through encouragement of diversity in social and economic demographics in communities, especially in the United States.

Literal Liberals

Posted By cheekyredhead on Jun 6, 2009 at 5:49PM

Penguin HugPenguin Hug
The Libertarian Party according to the Wikepedia:

Libertarians state that their platform follows from the consistent application of their guiding principle: "mutual respect for rights."

They are therefore deeply supportive of the concept of individual liberty as a precondition for moral and stable societies.

In their "Statement of Principles," they declare: "We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose."

To this end, Libertarians want to reduce the size of government (eliminating many of its current functions entirely).

Among outside political watchers, some consider Libertarians to be conservative (primarily because of their support of the right to bear arms, their opposition to economic regulation, opposition to entitlement programs in pretty much all forms, and their views on taxes — with strong support for the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment - and states' rights); while others consider them liberal because of their advocacy of a non-interventionist foreign policy, the repeal of drug prohibition, and the elimination of laws that interfere with private consensual acts (such as prostitution and gambling).

Libertarians consider themselves neither conservative nor liberal; rather, they believe they represent a unique philosophy that is all their own.

In the early eighties, Libertarians for Life was formed to support a change in the Party's pro-choice stance. To some extent, those efforts succeeded as the platform was eventually altered to acknowledge that many Libertarians consider themselves to be pro-life.

Conversely, in 1987, another group of Party members were concerned that Dr. Ron Paul (at the time seeking the Party's presidential nomination) might promote his belief that all abortion (apart from when the mother's life is at stake) should be outlawed by the states, and thereby confuse voters about the Party's actual platform stance.

Some Libertarians concluded that libertarianism itself could not be effectively promoted through political means, and left the LP to form a specifically non-political arm of the libertarian movement, the voluntarists...and there is an on-going argument about this statement.

Libertarians continue to surmise that a libertarian political party is perhaps a contradiction in terms, and continue to leave the LP. Many form non-party independent groups to assist libertarian candidates in their campaigns as independents for political office.

Who is the RIGHT?

Posted By cheekyredhead on Jun 6, 2009 at 5:34PM

Who is the Right? To gain an idea about what the "right views" are the Wikepedia states:

The spectrum of right-wing politics ranges from centre-right to far right--advocated considerable social spending on education and infrastructure development, as well as extensive economic regulation but a limited amount of the wealth redistribution measures more characteristic of social democracy.

Today, the definition of the term centre-right is necessarily broad and approximate because political terms have varying meanings in different countries.

Parties of the centre-right generally support liberal democracy, capitalism, the market economy, private property rights, the existence of the welfare state in some form and opposition to socialism and communism. Such a definition generally includes political parties that base their ideology and policies upon conservatism and economic liberalism.

Most contemporary right-wing ideologies and movements support a free market. Right-wing libertarianism (sometimes known as libertarian conservatism or conservative libertarianism) supports a decentralized economy based on economic freedom, and advocates policies such as property rights, free markets and free trade.

Linked with tradition is cultural conservatism and family values. Cultural conservatism supports the preservation of the heritage of a nation or culture, usually in the face of external forces for change. The culture in question may be as large as Western culture or Chinese civilization or as small as that of Tibet. Cultural conservatives try to adapt norms handed down from the past.

It is common for those with strong religious views to be associated with right-wing causes. The original French right-wing defended the Roman Catholic Church against the anti-clerical forces of the left.

Religious conservative and right-wing groups generally oppose abortion and LGBT rights, define marriage as between one man and one woman (rejecting same-sex marriage), and desire regulation of the public media to reduce profanity and sexual references.

Some right-wing libertarians, including Barry Goldwater, have come into conflict with religious conservatives.

Look to the LEFT

Posted By cheekyredhead on Jun 6, 2009 at 5:09PM

Look LeftLook Left
Just gaining an over-view...a brief understanding of the "LEFT" and by no means am I implying that the left is the only place to look...It is only a title!

According to Wikipedia:

In politics, left-wing, political left, leftist and the Left are terms applied to positions that focus on changing traditional social orders and creating a more egalitarian distribution of wealth and privilege.

The phrase left-wing was coined during the French Revolution, when left-wing referred to the seating arrangements in parliament; those who sat on the left opposed the traditional hierarchies and supported radical reform.

The concept of a distinct political left originated with the June Days Uprising of 1848. The organizers of the First International saw themselves as the successors of the left-wing of the French Revolution.

In contemporary political discourse, the term the Left usually means either social liberal or socialist. The term is also used to describe ideologies such as communism, anarchism and social democracy.

Some branches of the Left have also encompassed views supporting modes of capitalism and "free" markets, such as in China or social democracies in Europe.

Various counterculture movements in the 1960s and 1970s were associated with the "New Left". Unlike the earlier leftist focus on union activism, the "New Left" instead adopted a broader definition of political activism commonly called social activism.

U.S. "New Left" is associated with the Hippie movement, college campus mass protest movements and a broadening of focus from protesting class-based oppression to include issues such as gender, race, and sexual orientation.

The British "New Left" was an intellectually driven movement which attempted to correct the perceived errors of "Old Left".

The New Left opposed the prevailing authority structures in society, which it termed "The Establishment", and those who rejected this authority became known as "anti-Establishment."

Many early feminists and advocates of women's rights were considered politically radical left-wing by their contemporaries. Feminist pioneers such as Mary Wollstonecraft were influenced by radical thinkers such as Thomas Paine.

Religious beliefs have been associated with some left-wing movements, such as the American abolitionist movement and the anti-capital punishment movement.

Recently, the relationship between the Left and Islam has been a controversial issue. Many on the Left support the Palestinian liberation movement, but some liberal hawks, including Christopher Hitchens, see Islam as reactionary, especially in its treatment of women.

Left-wing postmodernism opposes attempts to supply universal explanatory theories, including Marxism, deriding them as grand narratives. It embraces culture as the battleground for change, rejecting traditional ways of organising, such as political parties and trade unions, and focusing instead upon critiquing or deconstruction.

Left-wing critics of post-modernism assert that cultural studies inflates the importance of culture by denying the existence of an independent reality.

Tagged with: Left wing politics, Left

Taking Liberties!

Posted By cheekyredhead on Jun 6, 2009 at 1:35PM

First: This is NOT a liberal platform...but is a "freedom of speech" platform.

Welcome to a place to take liberties. I welcome your views, your ideas, and the political opinions of everyone.

As a veteran I fought for you to have the ability to have liberty. Feel free to let freedom ring---take liberty with that great American right to free speech!

You will find that in each forum I have placed a wikipedia definition of each party--an highly unreliable resource--but is as accurate as anyone that will defend on or another party or affiliation. How can I say that? Because those party platforms change and evolve and sometimes even dissolve. Your opinion and definitions will be interesting to read.