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Neuroscience is one of the world's most exciting fields, challenging the ways we think about ourselves and our personalities. Our political behavior is no exception.

Some of the latest findings about the political brain are starting to upend a lot of our cherished beliefs about how politics works and the way we approach it. As it happens, it seems that our political leanings may be as much a product of nature as of nurture--that we are, in other words, predisposed by our genetics toward a more liberal or a more conservative approach to the world.

And the consequences of that are fairly enormous, as I outlined today at Alternet:

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Sun Nov 09, 2014 at 01:30 PM PST

The future of unemployment

by thereisnospoon

GE has a cute little ad called "The future of work" praising their advances in 3D printing automation:

We'll gloss over the fact that no one in the copyediting process caught the misuse of "beg the question", and get to the heart of the matter. GE wants us to praise the awesome revolution in manufacturing that is supposed to take place with 3D printing. Fair enough--it is rather exciting to consider the implications of automatically constructed on-site objects from houses to livers.

But the sleight of hand here is all the people in hardhats. Notice how all these supposedly busy people are designing and shaping and programming in factory conditions, even as the voiceover talks about factories that build themselves. In order to show visual movement, the people have to be given things to do on camera--most of which, if you look carefully, involves shifting around and setting up laptops, and the rest of which involves mapping out and designing objects.

In reality there will be no need for all of these people. The vast majority of objects will be designed off-site by a few designers, who will send the designs wirelessly to the printers. A few very low-wage employees will push whatever buttons are necessary. A few more very low-wage employees will move around or assemble the stuff the printers spit out, which will then be shipped in self-driving trucks to a destination of choice.

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Hey fellow Kossacks,

It's been a pleasure being part of this extraordinary community for almost ten years now. I started writing here in 2005, amassing hundreds of diaries before I started writing once or twice a day at Digby's place in 2011. I've also been writing at Salon, Alternet and every other weekend at Washington Monthly.

But now for the first time in over three years I'm taking a sabbatical from writing, because I'm plowing 14 hours a day into the biggest fight against Big Oil in the entire country, as campaign manager for Measure P in Santa Barbara County. I've managed and been field director on a bunch of campaigns before, including a recent hotly contested supervisor race, an Assembly race, and a bunch of local races. But none of them have had the wide-reaching national consequences of this one.

As you may know, California is sitting on some of the nastiest, dirtiest oil deposits in the country. The only way to get at them is by fracking them, acidizing them, or pumping billions of gallons of steam into them (cyclic steam injection). These techniques waste and pollute huge amounts of water during a drought, put human health and the environment at risk, and generate massive carbon emissions.

Some of us have been trying to get a statewide fracking ban passed, but without success so far. So activists in a few counties are taking it upon themselves to try to pass local bans, including in Santa Barbara County--where local oil companies are planning to drill over 7,700 new wells, generating a million cars' a year worth of carbon emissions just to drill the wells alone. Big Oil knows that if they can stop these local fracking bans, they'll have a much better chance of blunting momentum toward a statewide moratorium on fracking in California and elsewhere.

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It's that day again. If you're obsessive enough about politics to be reading this, you should probably already be registered to vote by mail (assuming you live in a state that allows it.) But if you're registered to vote at the polls, be sure to get out there and vote today.

If you believe that there really is value in seeing Democrats defeat Republicans--as I suspect most of you do--then it's very important that you vote. It's not just that your vote helps win elections today. When you vote, the Democratic Party knows that you're that much more reliable a voter. We don't have to spend as much money making sure you show up, and you won't get harassed as often. From a progressive warrior point of view, it also means that when there are intra-party primaries to pick the more progressive Democrat, the campaigns will fight harder over your vote because they know you're going to show up.

For the rest of you, this is why the people who say they're going to "punish" politicians by not voting are just deluded. You're not punishing anyone. You just fall off our radar. We stop caring about you at all.

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We hear it after every mass shooting: politicians on both sides of the aisle intoning their deepest condolences to the victims and their families. We hear a lot about thoughts and prayers and sympathies. We especially hear it from politicians who kowtow to the NRA and the gun lobby, usually framed in the language of unnamed inexplicable evil that mere humans cannot control.

But the father of one of the victims of the Isla Vista shootings put it best when he said:

“I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a s--- that you feel sorry for me,” Richard Martinez said during an extensive interview, his face flushed as tears rolled down. “Get to work and do something. I’ll tell the president the same thing if he calls me. Getting a call from a politician doesn’t impress me.”
Damn straight.

Well, some politicians do take their jobs seriously, and have the courage to get to work and do something. And I'm very proud to say that they just so happen to represent me in the California Assembly and State Senate. Das Williams and Hannah-Beth Jackson are taking action to help keep guns out of the hands of disturbed individuals by giving family members and friends more power in preventing problem individuals from obtaining firearms:

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Yesterday a deeply disturbed man committed an unspeakable crime in Isla Vista. He was motivated by the worst forms of misogyny, sexual entitlement, racism, and privileged narcissism, and engaged in a horrific murder spree as a form of deranged personal protest that women would not submit to his ownership. It is true that that sort of entitled patriarchalism is a sickness that besets our culture, and should be curbed in all its forms.

But it's also important not to focus too much on this one man's motive. The motive is less important than the common denominator between this crime and all the other massacres that have become a dull roar in America: easy access to guns.

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Gallup is out with a new poll on climate change. It turns out that while climate denialism spiked in 2010, acceptance of climate science has increased such that only 1 in 4 Americans are climate deniers today.

That's still far too high a number, of course, but more interesting is the demographic skew of the denialist rump:

These are fairly astonishing numbers. There is no particular reason for this to be an issue so radically divided by age and gender. While Gallup doesn't touch on race here, we know from other polling that climate denialism also skews heavily white. In a surprising break with some other polling on the issue, even education level seems to make little difference in the Gallup study.

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Jim DeMint, noted professor of history and respected race relations theorist, puts out his theory on the end of slavery:

"Well the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution, it was like the conscience of the American people," DeMint said on "Vocal Point" with Jerry Newcombe of Truth In Action Ministries, as recorded by Right Wing Watch. "Unfortunately there were some court decisions like Dred Scott and others that defined some people as property, but the Constitution kept calling us back to 'all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights' in the minds of God."


DeMint added that "big government" did not end slavery, a Republican did.

Of course, the Constitution did no such thing. The Declaration of Independence in which those words are found somehow didn't end slavery during the first whole century of America's existence.

Moreover, the Civil War could rightly be seen as the grandest and most successful form of Big Government federal intervention in United States history. The slaveholding South had decided to form its own nation dedicated toward the eternal preservation of slavery, and the federal government essentially exercised the largest police action in American history. That was followed by a Constitutional Amendment and coercive enforcement of the beginnings of equality under the law over the top of a resistant population. Further coercive Big Government actions were needed over the following 150 years to desegregate schools, enforce voting rights, prevent indentured servitude, and remove barriers to education and housing.

In fact, every single action that has resulted in greater racial equality was in fact a product of Big Government refusing to allow local good old boys like Jim DeMint and Strom Thurmond to exercise their own form of self-regulation.

Cross-posted from Digby's Hullabaloo


President Obama, on Democratic difficulties in midterm elections:

President Obama complained Thursday that Democrats “get clobbered” in midterm elections, blaming a “toxic” atmosphere in Washington for suppressing key Democratic constituencies.

“The challenge is that our politics in Washington have become so toxic that people just lose faith,” Obama told a group of top Democratic donors gathered at the home of former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning. “They say, ‘Y’know what, it doesn’t matter, I’m not that interested, I’m not gonna vote.’ And that’s especially true during the midterms.”

Obama noted that young, female, black and Hispanic voters were more likely to vote in elections with a presidential contest.
“Suddenly a more representative cross section of America gets out there, and we do pretty well in presidential elections,” Obama said.

“But in midterms, we get clobbered, either because we don’t think it’s important or because we get so discouraged about what’s happening in Washington that we think it’s not worth our while. And the reason today is so important, and the reason that I’m so appreciative for all of you being here is because we’re going to have to get over that. This is a top priority.”

It's not that he's exactly wrong. He isn't. But he's missing the point.
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Markos Moulitsas and the execrable Third Way are in a minor media tussle at the moment. Markos correctly pointed out that in both the House and Senate, the Democratic caucus has shifted significantly to the left over the last 10 years with the defeats of many conservative Democrats. The usual Third Way flacks Bennett and Kessler were given a megaphone to respond in Politico magazine that those conservative Democrats usually lost seats not to progressives, but to Republicans.

It's a fair point, but Markos has far the better of the argument. The issue is clouded by the specter of the 2010 redistricting and subsequent GOP gerrymandering, which made many House seats held by conservative Democrats unwinnable for either Blue Dogs or progressives. Bennett and Kessler would have readers believe that only an embrace of conservative Democrats and their policies will enable the Party to take the House back from Republicans.

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Adolph Reed has made a recent splash with his essay in Harper's Magazine and subsequent interview with Bill Moyers. His thesis essentially states that the Left spends too much of its time attempting to elect politicians that we believe will solve our problems, when in fact those politicians often betray us--in part because we have no solid liberal movement to hold them accountable.

That's not a new message, of course, but its blunt restatement is causing some consternation among a certain set of comfortable center-left types who either don't believe that a return to a pre-1980s liberal ethic would be a good thing, or that the intransigence of Republicans and the rightward shift of the country over the last few decades renders anyone to the left of President Obama an irrelevant afterthought in American politics.

It's hard not to sympathize with those working in the trenches against hardline conservative opposition every day, growing frustrated with what they consider to be progressive magical thinking. Those of us working in the everyday knife battle for the next electoral and news cycle know that it's sometimes frustrating to hear people argue for a more robust liberalism when the fight just for a $15 minimum wage looks like a monumental, 10-year struggle.

But that view loses sight of how we got here in the first place. There's a reason the country is in place where a $15 minimum wage seems like a nearly impossible fight, and the Left broadly speaking shares in the blame for our predicament. If we ever want a country that operates on different ideological footing, we won't just need to defeat the conservative opposition. We need to change our own tactics--and our own ideas.

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Now that Comcast is apparently going to be merging with Time Warner, net neutrality is dead, and vertical integration is all the rage, it's worth remembering the glorious benefit Americans are getting from all this free market magic:

More below the squiggle...

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