Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

What’s on your mind – Open Thread

While whiling away a late-March Saturday afternoon, I came across these results from a political compass quiz. The results seem to indicate more progressive participants than conservative ones. This makes some results stand out as a bit eyeopening. See if you can spot the ones that seem out of whack.

Currently, after 117538 submissions, the average Conservative/Progressive score is 6.04, the average Capitalist Purist/Social Capitalist score is 6.79, the average Libertarian/Authoritarian score is 5.58, and the average Pacifist/Militarist score is 4.43

1. Are our gun control laws too strict? – 27% said yes, 73% said no

2. Should gay marriage be legalized? – 66% said yes, 34% said no

3. Should we consider invading Iran? – 23% said yes, 77% said no

4. Should intelligent design be taught in public schools alongside evolution? – 52% said yes, 48% said no

5. Does the US need a system of universal health care? – 61% said yes, 39% said no

6. Should marijuana be legalized? – 58% said yes, 42% said no

7. Should we repeal [or substantially change] the Patriot Act? – 56% said yes, 44% said no

8. Does the US have a right to stop countries we do not trust from getting weapons? – 50% said yes, 50% said no

9. Should we end (or reduce the use of) the death penalty? – 40% said yes, 60% said no

10. Should there be a higher minimum wage? – 68% said yes, 32% said no

11. Does affirmative action do more harm than good? – 62% said yes, 38% said no

12. Is the United States spending too much money on defense? – 56% said yes, 44% said no

13. Should embryonic stem cell research be funded by the government? – 59% said yes, 41% said no

14. Should flag burning be legal? – 43% said yes, 57% said no

15. Should all people (rich and poor) pay fewer taxes? – 58% said yes, 42% said no

16. Should the US begin withdrawing from Iraq? – 80% said yes, 20% said no

17. Is it sometimes justified to wiretap US citizens without a warrant? – 34% said yes, 66% said no

18. Should the government be involved in reducing the amount of violence/pornography in tv/movies/games/etc? – 25% said yes, 75% said no

19. Should the United States only start a war if there is an imminent threat of being attacked ourselves? – 77% said yes, 23% said no

20. Should stopping illegal immigration be one of our top priorities? – 56% said yes, 44% said no

21. Is outsourcing of American jobs justified if it allows for cheaper goods? – 28% said yes, 72% said no

22. Are all abortions unethical? [with the exception of risk to mother’s health] – 37% said yes, 63% said no

23. Should social security be privatized? – 56% said yes, 44% said no

24. Should the United States ever go to war even if the UN is against it? – 50% said yes, 50% said no

Fighting misinformation – The Debunking Handbook

This isn’t going to be much of a diary. I came across this ‘handbook’ today. I thought some others might find it useful.


Debunking myths is problematic. Unless great care is taken, any effort to debunk misinformation can inadvertently reinforce the very myths one seeks to correct. To avoid these “backire effects”, an effective debunking requires three major elements. First, the refutation must focus on core facts rather than the myth to avoid the misinformation becoming more familiar. Second, any mention of a myth should be preceded by explicit warnings to notify the reader that the upcoming information is false. Finally, the refutation should include an alternative explanation that accounts for important qualities in the original misinformation.


It’s self-evident that democratic societies should base their decisions on accurate information. On many issues, however, misinformation can become entrenched in parts of the community, particularly when vested interests are involved. Reducing the influence  of  misinformation  is  a  difficult  and complex challenge.

A common misconception about myths is the notion  that  removing its  inluence  is as simple as packing more information into people’s heads. This approach assumes that public misperceptions are due to a lack of knowledge and that the solution is more information – in science communication, it’s known as  the “information  deicit  model”.  But that model is wrong: people don’t process information as simply as a hard drive downloading data.

The last thing you want to do when debunking misinformation is blunder in and make matters worse.  So  this  handbook  has  a  speciic  focus – providing practical tips to effectively debunk misinformation  and  avoid  the  various  backire effects. To achieve this, an understanding of the relevant cognitive processes is necessary. We explain some of the interesting psychological research in this area and inish with an example of an effective rebuttal of a common myth.

The handbook comes as a pdf. You can get it here –…

Walking the Dog – The 47% – Moochers and Takers

October is my favorite month, as it is for many other Michiganders. The usually clear sky, which is a more intense shade of blue than at any other time of year, serves as a grand backdrop for the reds and golds of the fall foliage. These are sweater days. Coats and scarves won’t come out of the closet for a few more weeks. The cool nights are perfect for sleeping and the days are perfect for being outdoors. Hunters head for the woods and the fields, fisherman to the lakes, and children romp in the fallen leaves. Homeowners are raking those same leaves and trying not to think of the snow they will soon be shoveling. The abundant wildlife is gathering the bounty of nature and storing it away for the coming months. All is right with the world.

That October weather has carried over into the first week of November this year. It was one of those perfect days today when my dog Al and I headed out for our daily walk. As we walked through the golden leaves that had fallen from the large beech tree in our backyard, I could see our neighbor, Beau, busily raking the leaves of the sugar maple that grew in his front yard. Most years, the leaves of that maple turn a beautiful orange. This year, the leaves were such a deep burnt-orange they were almost red.

As we walked by, Beau put down his rake and joined us for our walk. Beau and I might not share the same philosophy or politics, but it seems we both appreciate beauty.

His first words were, “Trees sure are beautiful this year.”

A few random thoughts – Open Thread

Why aren’t Dems pushing the line that the economic downturn is a financial disaster every bit as harmful as a natural disaster and therefore financial aid to the states is a form of disaster relief?

If right-to-work is such a great economic benefit and job creator, why do 9 of the 22 right-to-work states have higher than median unemployment than the national average? Or the flip-side, why do all four of the states with unionization rates over 20% have lower unemployment rates than the national average?

High CEO pay is justified by saying that companies have to offer high pay to attract talent. Yet the same people that make that argument also argue that public sector workers are overpaid. If you put those two arguments together then you have to accept that people who claim  public sector workers are overpaid really want to attract less qualified people for those jobs.

One last oddity. If teachers unions adversely affect student performance then the states that don’t have teachers unions should have better performance. In reality, the opposite is true. That would seem to indicate that unions actually improve performance. Why isn’t this argument being made?

What do you have to say?

How did we get here? [UPDATED]

A sure way for a person to get their life off track is to have misplaced priorities. The same is true for a business. What is true for individuals and businesses is even more true for a country. And, boy, has this country ever gotten its priorities mixed up. Recent events and news articles have made this very clear.

The world economy went into a tailspin in 2008. Credit dried up, people lost trillions of dollars in wealth, unemployment soared and, as a result, aggregate demand plummeted. Another result of the downturn was a large drop in government revenues. Government revenues will not return to their former levels until more people are employed.  But instead of finding ways to raise demand, which would increase employment, governments are cutting spending and laying off public sector workers, thus lowering demand even further. At the very moment when governments should be increasing spending, they are focused on austerity. This brings to mind sayings about carts and horses.

Can We Talk?

When Barack Obama was elected President of the United States in 2008, it opened up a new dialogue on race in this country. Suddenly, something had happened  that many thought was impossible. An African-American had been elected to the highest office in the country. Many Americans felt a sense of pride in their country on the day Obama took the oath of office. There was even talk of a new post-racial America. Now, only two and a half years later, those feelings seem foolish and utopian. Americans are now wondering if, instead of a step forward, the election was actually a step backwards.

There is no doubt that President Obama has faced a racial backlash. He has even had to deal with that backlash from within his own party, as clearly shown during the DNC Rules Committee meeting in May, 2008. That backlash did not come as a surprise for those who had paid attention to racial tensions in this country, although the ferocity of that backlash has shocked just about everyone.

The 2008 Democratic Party campaign was historic in that the two front-runners were a woman and an African-American male. Both candidacies inspired passionate supporters. A rift developed between the two camps. That rift was never fully healed and has led to strident opposition to the winner that is rarely seen within a victorious party. That opposition continues to play out in the online world of political blogging. Subtle and not so subtle racism and sexism finds its way into online discussions. When added to the overt racism from the right, this in-party opposition creates a toxic environment for any discussion about race in America.

It's October. Time for the Fall Classic.

September is always an exciting time for baseball fans as teams fight for a playoff berth. The 2011 MLB season proved to be no exception. There were many meaningful games left going into the final day with the possibility of two additional games being necessary to determine the wild card teams in both the American League and the National League. When the last game finished on Wednesday those games were no longer needed. The playoff roster is complete.

The St. Louis Cardinals clinched the wild card spot in the NL when they won their final game while The Atlanta Braves continued their late-season swoon by losing their last game. The same scenario played out in the AL with Tampa Bay claiming the wild card with a victory over the NY Yankees while the Boston Red Sox finished off a miserable September performance with a ninth inning loss to the last place Baltimore Orioles.

The playoff schedule was still uncertain until the Texas Rangers won their game against the Angels. That win gave Texas the second seed in the AL. They will open the playoffs at home against Tampa while the Detroit Tigers travel to New York to take on the Yankees. In the NL, the wild card team, St Louis, will travel to Pennsylvania to take on the Phillies while the Arizona Diamondbacks head to Milwaukee to play the Brewers.

Maybe it's time to dust off that tinfoil hat

There have been some major science stories recently. The news about CERN researchers observing neutrinos moving faster than light that Adept2 posted about the other day is certainly big news, if confirmed. It would fundamentally change the field of physics. Now there’s news that, IMHO, is every bit as exciting.

UC Berkley News Center posted this headline yesterday – “Scientists use brain imaging to reveal the movies in our mind

BERKELEY – Imagine tapping into the mind of a coma patient, or watching one’s own dream on YouTube. With a cutting-edge blend of brain imaging and computer simulation, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, are bringing these futuristic scenarios within reach.

Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and computational models, UC Berkeley researchers have succeeded in decoding and reconstructing people’s dynamic visual experiences – in this case, watching Hollywood movie trailers.

As yet, the technology can only reconstruct movie clips people have already viewed. However, the breakthrough paves the way for reproducing the movies inside our heads that no one else sees, such as dreams and memories, according to researchers.

“This is a major leap toward reconstructing internal imagery,” said Professor Jack Gallant, a UC Berkeley neuroscientist and coauthor of the study published online today (Sept. 22) in the journal Current Biology. “We are opening a window into the movies in our minds.”

I immediately thought of the movie Brainstorm while reading the article and, sure enough, that movie is mentioned in the article.

However, researchers point out that the technology is decades from allowing users to read others’ thoughts and intentions, as portrayed in such sci-fi classics as “Brainstorm,” in which scientists recorded a person’s sensations so that others could experience them.

This is an amazing breakthrough. Science fiction writers have imagined a future where some people would be paid to create virtual reality “movies” by thinking about them. Just as writers are paid to create screenplays, these “writers” would be paid to dream on-demand. Those dreams would then be available to anyone who wanted to immerse themselves into that dream. That future just got a little closer.

Is this a big deal or not?

Wayback Machine – Put me in, Coach

UPDATE: This diary was first published in January, 2010. Motivational diaries are always timely, so I decided to repost this one. As always with one of my diaries, feel free to treat this as an open thread.


The last two years have been quite a ride. The beginning of that two year period started in January, 2008. Super Tuesday was fast approaching. I was still a nominal Edwards supporter, although I had been leaning towards Obama for a while. I got on board after Super Tuesday. That’s when the real primary battles heated up. They stayed like that until Clinton conceded in June. Then we had to deal with the PUMA backlash. Time that should have been spent on kicking into general election mode was spent on repairing party unity. The Democrats were still dealing with bruised egos when Palin burst on the scene. Things got really nutty after that.

The Moose was born out of that perfect storm of politics. The first diaries were posted on about two months before the election. We agonized over every drop in a poll. We clapped with glee when things went our way. And, we watched the flameout of the ex-Governor of Alaska. Fun times, indeed.

Wayback Machine – Cooking Series – The way Mom used to make it.

[UPDATE] Made this for dinner a couple of days ago. This is a great meal for the cooler weather we’ve been having lately. It’s also a way for our new members to get to know a little about me.


Television food shows, beginning with Julia Child, changed the American food scene dramatically. The popularity of the Food Network and the celebrity status of famous chefs has changed the view of American cooking from provincial to world-class.

That change is great for food enthusiasts, like me. However, no matter how often I find myself experimenting with complicated and exotic meals, I always find myself returning to the tried-and-true meals of my predecessors. Comfort food is where it is at, as far as I’m concerned.

With that thought in mind, here is my latest offering – old-fashioned Chicken and Dumplings.