A Psychology of Liberals and Conservatives

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt presents five moral values he claims form the basis of our political choices, whether we’re left, right or center. Haidt isolates the moral values that liberals and conservatives tend to honor most. What’s interesting to me are those values we generally share with our opponents (harm/care, and fairness/reciprocity) that we don’t take advantage of to find common cause – our differences have been discussed at length elsewhere. I think you’ll find the talk interesting and entertaining, but if your computer is like mine, the sound comes on very loud at the beginning (you’ve been warned). Haidt has a test you can take to see how you score.

W: The Movie

Like many of you, my nerves are raw from the last eight years, and so this trailer is somewhat difficult to watch. It’s for Oliver Stone’s new movie, “W”, which opens Oct 17. The casting looks great, and the music in this trailer, IMO is spot on. "A devil in a white hat", indeed.

UPDATE: I don’t normally report name-calling, but it’s pretty significant when someone of Paul Begala’s stature calls Bush a “high-functioning moron” on CNN.

Anderson, speaking of Bush’s robotic delivery of his address to America on the economic crisis, said he “did not seem to be there,” and Ed Rollins chimed in with “it was not his words,” while Gloria Borger said he was “not comfortable,” but Begala drove the final nail in W’s coffin with the magic words.

Gloria Borger turned and gave Paul a look, but Republican strategist Rollins did not interject to protest or contest Begala’s remarks. Apparently, at long last, it is now a given that the emperor has no clothes.

If only we had a parliamentary form of government, this administration would have been driven out with a vote of no confidence several years ago. I hope we can hold on until January 20, 2009.

h/t abrauer


I was reading a diary on DKos from “Sgt Major Meyers” on the subject of honor. It gave me an understanding of a word we often hear, but typically gloss over – an understanding from a career military perspective:

Throughout my life growing up in a military family and in my military career, one predominate trait or quality was emphasized and driven home by both my family and every leader I have ever met. That trait or quality was honor. Just to refresh your memory the dictionary defines honor as: honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions – a man of honor.

From the time I had what I believe was probably my very first logical thought about the subject I do not believe that there was ever any doubt in my mind of what the meaning of honor was, nor was there ever any doubt of what actions honor required. There was a second thing that I never had any doubt about, and that was that once one’s honor was compromised it was a permanent and oft never fading blemish. I know this from personal experience and from my own personal failures against which I struggle to this very day. I point this out because I believe that even the most honorable and well intentioned people with the most hard earned sense of honor can fail and that they can be guilty of being dishonorable, and I believe that this has happened in the presidential race.

This is what Obama should challenge McCain on – his honor, or lack thereof.

A parallel challenge could be made to Sarah Palin, and to her inch-deep Christianity, along the same lines, but this is a much more difficult tack in the current climate, with the current players. And Sarah, like George Bush, is a much more devious and skilled manipulator, able to turn back any such attack with ease.

Most of us during these last few days are once again, awakening to the sad realization that good ideas and good character are not enough to win an election – otherwise we’d probably be wrapping up the final years of the Gore Administration. Lying and bullying behavior has to be confronted and effectively rebuffed. If it isn’t, no one will respect Obama, no matter how great his ideas or his character.

For someone as high minded as Obama, and who is operating with a distinct handicap – “Jackie Robinson rules” – this is his greatest challenge: to move past “merely” being able to bring people together over good ideas, and to boldly confront the white establishment about its shameful lack of honor, and to make it stick. This is the next level, the next step in his growth as a leader and as a human being. And I think the Republicans know this – they know they’re dealing with a squeaky clean class nerd, who, for many reasons has difficulty fighting them effectively. They found his weakness.

I’m reminded of what it was like in high school to be a nerd. I may have been good at various scholastic subjects, but in the larger scheme of things, the jocks ruled. Had I known then what I know today, I never would have tolerated the bullying and abusive behavior of these jealous boors. And as Kurt Vonnegut so aptly pointed out, life is nothing but high school:

When you get to be our age, you all of a sudden realize you are being ruled by people you went to high school with. You all of a sudden catch on that life is nothing BUT high school. You make a fool of yourself in high school, then go to college to learn how you should have acted in high school, then you get into real life and that turns out to be high school again – class officers, cheerleaders, and all.

“Honor” and “Shame” are emotionally laden words, that Republicans, including John McCain are sensitive to, even if they don’t fully get their meanings. They’re powerful weapons waiting to be used, to turn back the far right’s wall of bullshit. Will Obama understand the challenge he faces right now, that good ideas and good character aren’t enough by themselves to get through this high school kind of world we’re in?

Getting Real

Happy Black People

Pulling back the curtain on the Republican fantasy machine….

CBS News: On Tuesday night, 15-year-old Victoria Blackstone, a sophomore at the St. Agnes School in St. Paul, led the crowd at the Xcel Energy Center in the Pledge of Allegiance. The audience heard her 434-word essay, “Pledging myself to the Flag of the United States of America”… The RNC turned that essay into a three and a half minute video, a visually stirring montage rolling over Victoria’s words about sharing the Pledge with Americans who have stood at important moments in history.

It was a video that was supposed to elicit soaring patriotism and real emotions about the Pledge of Allegiance. But to do that, it used fake soldiers and a staged military funeral instead of the real thing…

DailyKos: Apparently, the Republicans couldn’t find very many African American supporters to show on the Big Screen Of Triumph, when introducing McCain… so they simply put up stock photos of black people. You know, riding bicycles and appreciating their moms and stuff…

At Drinking Liberally last night, we counted to 12, the total number of non white people spotted at the RNC during McCain’s speech, out of about 20,000 attendees. Guess that explains the need for stock photos. At least they didn’t, to our reckoning, pepper the XCel Center with cardboard cutouts.

Remember that weird image of a large building on a green lawn that briefly flashed behind McCain last night? TPM reports: “It has been brought to the school’s attention that a picture of the front of our school, Walter Reed Middle School, was used as a backdrop at the Republican National Convention. Permission to use the front of our school for the Republican National Convention was not given by our school nor is the use of our school’s picture an endorsement of any political party or view”, declares principal Donna Tobin.

TPM continues: The California Democratic Party is actually holding a press conference in front of the school… where Dems will hit McCain for not knowing the difference between the school and Walter Reed Medical Center, which is believed to be the backdrop the McCain campaign really wanted.

These people used to be very good at this sort of thing. Are they getting sloppy, or are we getting smarter? Or do they think nobody will notice anyway?

UPDATE: More pulling back the curtain – Rachel Maddow, uses the “L” word, at long last. I cannot tell you how long I’ve been waiting for someone, anyone, in the media to tell it like it is.

Babies, Lies and Scandal

Sarah P. US magazine cover

For so many years, we on the left have been playing Jeremiah in the wilderness, anguishing all alone over the latest of many attacks on our beloved country by the far right. It’s refreshing to finally kick back for awhile and let the mainstream media, at long last, step in to anguish themselves over the weighty issues of the day. To think that an esteemed publication such as US magazine would step forward and so gloriously take up our cause… 🙂

OK, I confess to a serious/hilarious case of schadenfreude these last few days. Enjoy.

American Prayer

Written by Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. Lyrics:

This is my American Prayer

This is my American Prayer

This is the time to finish what you started

And this is no time to dream

This is the room

We can turn off the dark tonight

Maybe then we might see

American Prayer

American Prayer

And this is the ground

That keeps our feet from getting wet

And this is the sky over our head

And what you see depends on where you stand

And how you jump will tell you where you’re gonna land

American Prayer

American Prayer

My oh my

Couldn’t get much higher

Lets not kick out the darkness

Make the lights brighter

And these are the hands

What are we gonna build with them?

This is the church you can’t see

Give me your tired, your poor and huddled masses

You know they’re yearning to breathe free

This is my American Prayer

American Prayer

American Prayer

When you get to the top of the mountain

Will you tell me what you see

If you get to the top of the mountain

Remember me

h/t COwoman

Roll Up for the Misery Tour

Repo Tour Bus

Stockton, California real estate agent Cesar Dias leads weekly Repo Home Tours, filling two 18-seat buses with prospective buyers eager to view foreclosed houses that can be snapped up at dramatically reduced prices.

Dias, a Stockton native, said that when he started the free tour in September, some residents criticized it as a tasteless marketing gimmick. But as headlines announce record foreclosures and weeds sprout in the yards of abandoned homes, their tune has changed.

“We’re bringing in homeowners to get the grass green again,” he said.

As the brightly colored buses recently rolled through a subdivision dotted with “For sale” signs, a couple who were stringing up Christmas lights waved. The bargain hunters aboard waved back. Dias, who said his business was booming, offered a friendly beep…

via Los Angeles Times.

An Attorney’s Take on Paulson’s Plan

2 for 1 homes in Las VegasMaha recently wrote about Treasury Secretary Paulson’s plan to bail out the mortgage industry, relying heavily on Paul Krugman for analysis. Digby finds another perspective, highlighting an article by attorney Sean Olender in SF Gate:

…The sole goal of [Paulson’s] freeze is to prevent owners of mortgage-backed securities, many of them foreigners, from suing U.S. banks and forcing them to buy back worthless mortgage securities at face value – right now almost 10 times their market worth.

The ticking time bomb in the U.S. banking system is not resetting subprime mortgage rates. The real problem is the contractual ability of investors in mortgage bonds to require banks to buy back the loans at face value if there was fraud in the origination process.

And, to be sure, fraud is everywhere. It’s in the loan application documents, and it’s in the appraisals. There are e-mails and memos floating around showing that many people in banks, investment banks and appraisal companies – all the way up to senior management – knew about it.

…The catastrophic consequences of bond investors forcing originators to buy back loans at face value are beyond the current media discussion. The loans at issue dwarf the capital available at the largest U.S. banks combined, and investor lawsuits would raise stunning liability sufficient to cause even the largest U.S. banks to fail, resulting in massive taxpayer-funded bailouts of Fannie and Freddie, and even FDIC.

The problem isn’t just subprime loans. It is the entire mortgage market. As home prices fall, defaults will rise sharply – period. And so will the patience of mortgage bondholders. Different classes of mortgage bonds from various risk pools are owned by different central banks, funds, pensions and investors all over the world. Even your pension or 401(k) might have some of these bonds in it.

…What would be prudent and logical is for the banks that sold this toxic waste to buy it back and for a lot of people to go to prison. If they knew about the fraud, they should have to buy the bonds back. The time to look into this is before the shredders have worked their magic – not five years from now….

The goal of the freeze may be to delay bond investors from suing by putting off the big foreclosure wave for several years. But it may also be to stop bond investors from suing. If the investors agreed to loan modifications with the "real" wage and asset information from refinancing borrowers, mortgage originators and bundlers would have an excuse once the foreclosure occurred. They could say, "Fraud? What fraud?! You knew the borrower’s real income and asset information later when he refinanced!"

The key is to refinance borrowers whose current loans involved fraud in the origination process. And I assure you it was a minority of borrowers whose loans didn’t involve fraud.

The government is trying to accomplish wide-scale refinancing by tricking bond investors, or by tricking U.S. taxpayers. Guess who will foot the bill now that the FHA is entering the fray?

Ultimately, the people in these secret Paulson meetings were probably less worried about saving the mortgage market than with saving themselves. Some might be looking at prison time.

As chief of Goldman Sachs, Paulson was involved, to degrees as yet unrevealed, in the mortgage securitization process during the halcyon days of mortgage fraud from 2004 to 2006.

Paulson became the U.S. Treasury secretary on July 10, 2006, after the extent of the debacle was coming into focus for those in the know. Goldman Sachs achieved recent accolades in the markets for having bet heavily against the housing market, while Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Bear Sterns, Merrill Lynch and others got hammered for failing to time the end of the credit bubble.

Goldman Sachs is the only major investment bank in the United States that has emerged as yet unscathed from this debacle. The success of its strategy must have resulted from fairly substantial bets against housing, mortgage banking and related industries, which also means that Goldman Sachs saw this coming at the same time they were bundling and selling these loans…

It is truly amazing that right now everyone in the country is deferring to Paulson and the heads of Countrywide, JPMorgan, Bank of America and others as the best group to work out a solution to this problem. No one is talking about the fact that these people created the problem and profited to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars from it….

Read the whole piece here. The two-for-one deal is in Las Vegas.