Thursday, November 27, 2014


This story brought to you by Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL):
There was a filibuster in the U.S. Senate last week. Yes, I know, that’s hardly news. And a cloture vote to end that filibuster. That’s hardly news, either. And the cloture vote failed. Not news.

The vote was, among other things, to end the National Security Agency’s collection of records of every phone call that you make. Which, sadly, also is no longer news. What would be news is if someone did something about it.

Fifty-eight senators voted in favor of ending the filibuster, and the “bulk collection.” Only forty-two voted against. But we no longer live in a country where the majority rules, so every single time you make a phone call, the NSA will know to whom you spoke, and for how long.

Regarding the failed vote against the filibuster, the D.C. newspaper Roll Call opined that: “It’s probably going to take another series of revelations about NSA programs for strict legislation to get momentum again.” But I’m wondering how much of the last series of revelations has been absorbed by the body politic. So I’m offering to you excerpts from a little-noticed interview that Edward Snowden did with The Guardian a few months ago, complete with British spelling. File it under the category of “read it and weep.”

Monday, November 03, 2014

"Nonpolitical Images Evoke Neural Predictors of Political Ideology"

From my experience growing up, I know that people who feel homosexuality is a sin don't merely say so because God says so. They also feel disgust at the thought of homosexual acts. Much as I felt disgust as a young boy about the concept of kissing girls. Anyway, so an interesting study was done:
A new study shows that the way your brain responds to photos of of maggots, mutilated carcasses, and gunk in the kitchen sink gives a pretty good indication of whether you're liberal or conservative. "Remarkably, we found that the brain's response to a single disgusting image was enough to predict an individual's political ideology," Read Montague, a Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute psychology professor who led the study, said in a written statement. 83 men and women viewed a series of images while having their brains scanned in a functional MRI (fMRI) machine. The images included the disgusting photos described above, along with photos of babies and pleasant landscapes. Afterward, the participants were asked to rate how grossed out they were by each photo. They also completed a survey about their political beliefs, which included questions about their attitudes toward school prayer, gun control, immigration, and gay marriage. There was no significant difference in how liberals and conservatives rated the photos [emphasis mine]. But the researchers noted differences between the two groups in the activity of brain regions associated with disgust recognition, emotion regulation, attention and even memory. The differences were so pronounced that the researchers could analyze a scan and predict the person's political leaning with 95 percent accuracy. - Slashdot
I think you can see the role of disgust when you hear certain U.S. conservative opinion pieces and talking points. They are sometimes counting on a disgust reaction from conservatives, while liberals aren't swayed because they are not as easily disgusted.

One wonders about how this works. So are people conservative because they are easily disgusted? Are people liberal because they have learned to suppress disgust? Is there really some universal "disgust factor" that affects our reaction to both cockroaches and tax increases? Hmm, that doesn't sound right. More likely, if there is some universal "disgust factor", it affects our reaction to cockroaches, homosexuality, homeless people, drug addicts, and other issues with a potential "eww" factor. Then, because the U.S. is a two-party system, people that are against homosexuality end up being against social services and the ACA by cultural association. After all, if you were against homosexuality but in favor of higher taxes & services, you'd be terribly confused about who to vote for, and who to hang out with on Facebook.

It's only 95% accurate, though. There's still room for free will ;^) I await more studies...