Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Night Jazz Blogging

Tonight's selection is dedicated in honor of the Giuliani Shagapalooza Fund.

Hobo Jazz: Mr. This and Mr. That

(be sure and check out the Hobo Jazz website)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Apropos Return of Friday Night Jazz Blogging

Steely Dan: Black Friday

Monday, November 12, 2007

This Is Your Brain on The New York Times

Yesterday, the Gray Lady published an op-ed online, This Is Your Brain on Politics, written by seven researchers for the results of a study based on MRIs of swing voters. The researchers conclusions are based upon the results of 20 test subjects evenly divided between men and women. The article presents their conclusions in this extensive study "to reveal some voter impressions on which this election may well turn." Accompanying the article, there is a multimedia slide show with the same title, This Is Your Brain on Politics, which contains 8 slides (although the slideshow claims to have 9 images, selecting next from the 8th presents the same image with a popup for returning to the 1st slide).

The following procedure was followed in the testing:
Our 20 subjects — registered voters who stated that they were open to choosing a candidate from either party next November — included 10 men and 10 women. In late summer, we asked them to answer a list of questions about their political preferences, then observed their brain activity for nearly an hour in the scanner at the Ahmanson Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. Afterward, each subject filled out a second questionnaire.

While in the scanner, the subjects viewed political pictures through a pair of special goggles; first a series of still photos of each candidate was presented in random order, then video excerpts from speeches. Then we showed them the set of still photos again. On the before and after questionnaires, subjects were asked to rate the candidates on the kind of 0-10 thermometer scale frequently used in polling, ranging from “very unfavorable” to “very favorable.”

I had serious doubts about the accuracy of the presented results and accompanying slide show. So, I conducted my own extensive study based on MRIs of swing voters. I used significantly more test subjects, evenly divided between men and women. In addition, I included their children, pets, and least favorite in-law from their spouses family. The following contains my peer reviewed results and own multi-media slide show series (containing 8 of 9 images just like the NYTs).

The identical procedure as in the NYT's study was followed for collecting data from the test subjects. I then compared the questionnaire responses with the brain data, and here’s what I found:

1. Voters sense party brands. When I showed subjects the words “Democrat,” “Republican” and “independent,” they exhibited brain activity.

2. Emotions about Rudy Giuliani are mixed. Voters who rated Mr. Giuliani unfavorably on their questionnaire appeared entirely comfortable with their assessment. When viewing images of him, these voters exhibited significant activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, a cognitive center of the brain containing von Economo neurons that respond to humor. It looked as if they were experiencing impulses to laugh at Mr. Giuliani.

This phenomenon, found to a lesser degree in other candidates, suggests that Mr. Giuliani may be able to support himself on the comedy club circuit.

3. Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani are on opposite sides of the gender divide. I found indications that Mrs. Clinton was female and Mr. Giuliani was male.

For men, Mrs. Clinton is a woman. For women, Mr. Giuliani is a man. This is evidence that swing voters’ responses change when they see a woman or a man.

4. The gender gap may be growing. Shown the latest U.S. Census Bureau data that a woman earns only 75.5 cents for every dollar a man earns and that women's wages shrank 0.6% between 2000-2003 while men's remained the same, most subjects agreed there was a growing gap.

5. Mitt Romney, "Show me the money!" Of all the candidates’ speech excerpts, Mr. Romney’s sparked the greatest amount of brain activity, especially among those who didn't stop listening. His still photos prompted a significant amount of activity in the nucleus accumbens septi, indicating voter apathy, but when subjects watched his video, their apathy changed to confusion. Perhaps voters will become more comfortable with Mr. Romney when he stops changing his position on issues.

6. In Rudy Giuliani versus Fred Thompson, the latter evokes more sympathy. There is much discussion this year as Republican candidates strive to be worse than Bush. On this front, Mr. Thompson may have a disadvantage over Mr. Giuliani. When my subjects viewed photos of Mr. Thompson, I saw activity in the superior temporal sulcus and the inferior frontal cortex, both areas involved in sympathy. When subjects viewed photos of Mr. Giuliani, they laughed.

My subjects also exhibited a much stronger sympathetic response to a minute-long excerpt from a stump speech by Mr. Thompson than they did to an excerpt of a Giuliani speech. This feeling toward Mr. Thompson showed up in the swing voters’ answers on the questionnaires where they compared him to Grandpa Simpson and Giuliani to Mr. Burns. This suggests that if swing voters see more of both candidates, Mr. Thompson may gain an advantage over Mr. Giuliani.

7. Mike Huckabee has a problem. When looking at pictures of Mr. Huckabee, subjects who rated him high on the theocratic scale showed activity in the insula, an area associated with disgust and other negative feelings. This suggests that swing voters’ negative emotions toward Mr. Huckabee can be quite powerful. So Mr. Huckabee has a strong effect on swing voters — they consider him the new Elmer Gantry.

8. Tom Tancredo and John McCain have work to do. The scans taken while subjects viewed the first set of photos and the videos of Mr. McCain and Mr. Tancredo indicated a notable lack of positive reactions. The male subjects showed some interest in Mr. McCain while looking at still photos, but their engagement fell off after the third or fourth time he said "my friends" on videotape. Women remained outraged throughout the session. My findings suggest that Mr. Tancredo has created a racist impression on some swing voters.

Slide Show: This Is Your Brain on The New York Times
(click any slide to enlarge)

Men’s brains* were activated when they looked at the words “Democrat” and “Republican” and were shot by a taser.

* The images do not represent individual brains, but rather reflect the combined hive consciousness of the Borg mind collective.

Icons by Matt Groening


* Op-Ed: This Is Your Brain on The New York Times

Photos of Rudy Giuliani elicited increased activity in von Economo neurons, a part of the brain that responds to sight gags and language-dependent humor, in swing voters who reported having an opinion of him.

Icons by Matt Groening


* Op-Ed: This Is Your Brain on The New York Times

Men and women reacted differently to still pictures of Rudy Giuliani. Men (left) showed little engagement, while women responded strongly.

Icons by Matt Groening


* Op-Ed: This Is Your Brain on The New York Times

In response to images of Republican candidates, men exhibited activity in the amygdala neurons, indicating erectile dysfunction.

Icons: The Three Stooges as "Drunk Stooges"


* Op-Ed: This Is Your Brain on The New York Times

Looking at photos of Mitt Romney led to activity in the in the nucleus accumbens septi, a brain area linked to apathy, but viewing his videos resulted in confusion over his changing positions on issues.

Icons by Matt Groening


* Op-Ed: This Is Your Brain on The New York Times

Images of Fred Thompson led to increased activity in the inferior frontal cortex, a brain structure associated with sympathy.

Icons by Matt Groening


* Op-Ed: This Is Your Brain on The New York Times

Subjects who had an unfavorable view of Mike Huckabee responded to pictures of him by reading Elmer Gantry.

Icon: Burt Lancaster as Elmer Gantry


* Op-Ed: This Is Your Brain on The New York Times

When first shown photos of Tom Tancredo and John McCain, swing voters’ brains had little activity in areas of the brain associated with thought or feeling.

Icon by George Baker; photo of David Duke


* Op-Ed: This Is Your Brain on The New York Times

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Another Story Missing from National News

Must have been dropped in favor Veterans Day stories with a George Bush photo-op abusing recovering war veterans while he plays video games or reports from outside a courthouse for the latest Brittney Spears and O.J. Simpson appearances.

Chinese sub pops up in middle of U.S. Navy exercise, leaving military chiefs red-faced:
When the U.S. Navy deploys a battle fleet on exercises, it takes the security of its aircraft carriers very seriously indeed.

At least a dozen warships provide a physical guard while the technical wizardry of the world's only military superpower offers an invisible shield to detect and deter any intruders.

That is the theory. Or, rather, was the theory.

American military chiefs have been left dumbstruck by an undetected Chinese submarine popping up at the heart of a recent Pacific exercise and close to the vast U.S.S. Kitty Hawk - a 1,000ft supercarrier with 4,500 personnel on board.

By the time it surfaced the 160ft Song Class diesel-electric attack submarine is understood to have sailed within viable range for launching torpedoes or missiles at the carrier.

Actually, there are probably 500 billion reasons for the story's absence -- the $500 billion Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Appropriations Bill just passed by Congress.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Greenwald: No "60-vote requirement" for Mukasey?

Once again, Glenn Greenwald concisely presents another failure of the Democratic controlled congress.

What happened to the Senate's "60-vote requirement"?:
Every time Congressional Democrats failed this year to stop the Bush administration (i.e., every time they "tried"), the excuse they gave was that they "need 60 votes in the Senate" in order to get anything done. Each time Senate Republicans blocked Democratic legislation, the media helpfully explained not that Republicans were obstructing via filibuster, but rather that, in the Senate, there is a general "60-vote requirement" for everything.
Greenwald asks for an explanation on how the Senate could confirm Mukasey on a 53-40 vote after the excuses from Senate Democrats on votes regarding Iraq (and immigration and warrantless surveillance).

A couple of questions I asked last night regarding the missing votes of the four Presidential candidates were partially answered:
Beyond that, four Senate Democrats running for President missed the vote, and all four had announced they oppose Mukasey's confirmation. Thus, at least 44 Senators claimed to oppose Mukasey's confirmation -- more than enough to prevent it via filibuster. So why didn't they filibuster, the way Senate Republicans have on virtually every measure this year which they wanted to defeat?
He points out the sad, pathetic statement by Senator Schumer:
The most amazing quote was from chief Mukasey supporter Chuck Schumer, who, before voting for him, said that Mukasey is "wrong on torture -- dead wrong." Marvel at that phrase: "wrong on torture." Six years ago, there wasn't even any such thing as being "wrong on torture," because "torture" wasn't something we debated. It would have been incoherent to have heard: "Well, he's dead wrong on torture, but . . . "

Now, "torture" is not only something we openly debate, but it's something we do. And the fact that someone is on the wrong side of the "torture debate" doesn't prevent them from becoming the Attorney General of the United States. It's just one issue, like any other issue -- the capital gains tax, employer mandates for health care, the water bill -- and just because someone is "dead wrong" on one little issue (torture) hardly disqualifies them from High Beltway Office.
It's impossible for me to disagree with Greenwald's conclusion:
The so-called "60-vote requirement" applies only when it is time to do something to limit the Bush administration. It is merely the excuse Senate Democrats use to explain away their chronic failure/unwillingness to limit the President, and it is what the media uses to depict the GOP filibuster as something normal and benign. There obviously is no "60-vote requirement" when it comes to having the Senate comply with the President's demands, as the 53-vote confirmation of Michael Mukasey amply demonstrates. But as Mukasey is sworn in as the highest law enforcement officer in America, the Democrats want you to know that they most certainly did stand firm and "register their displeasure."

Kerik Indicted: Bye Bye Bernie

Rudy responds to Kerik indictment:
(Rudy singing)
Bye Bye Bernie
I'm gonna miss you so;
Bye Bye Bernie,
Why'd you have to go?
No more sunshine,
It's followed you away;
I'll cry Bernie,
Till you're home to stay.
I'll miss the way you smile,
As tho' it's just for me;
And each and ev'ry night,
I'll write you faithfully!
Bye Bye Bernie,
It's awful hard to bear;
Bye Bye Bernie
Think I'll always care,
Guess I'll always care,
Guess I'll always care!

(image from LOLrudy)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

LOLrudy Launches

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

FBI Identifies Top Terrorist

FBI Hoped to Follow Falafel Trail to Iranian Terrorists Here:
Like Hansel and Gretel hoping to follow their bread crumbs out of the forest, the FBI sifted through customer data collected by San Francisco-area grocery stores in 2005 and 2006, hoping that sales records of Middle Eastern food would lead to Iranian terrorists.

The idea was that a spike in, say, falafel sales, combined with other data, would lead to Iranian secret agents in the south San Francisco-San Jose area.

The brainchild of top FBI counterterrorism officials Phil Mudd and Willie T. Hulon, according to well-informed sources, the project didn’t last long. It was torpedoed by the head of the FBI’s criminal investigations division, Michael A. Mason, who argued that putting somebody on a terrorist list for what they ate was ridiculous — and possibly illegal.

A check of federal court records in California did not reveal any prosecutions developed from falafel trails.

How ridiculous is this considering that falafel is thought of as a pan-Middle-Eastern recipe as well as the national food of Israel?

(h/t Christy @ FDL)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Straitjacket Hunter

In a recent Los Angeles Times piece, Rosa Brooks writes that it is time to Straitjacket Bush:
The president's warmongering remarks on the Iranian threat suggest he is psychotic. Really.

Forget impeachment.

Liberals, put it behind you. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney shouldn't be treated like criminals who deserve punishment. They should be treated like psychotics who need treatment.

Because they've clearly gone mad.

Well, it is time to straitjacket Duncan Hunter. In his quest to out do others in The Continuing GOP Presidential Competition To Be Worse Than Bush, Congressman Hunter has come up with a cunning plan, which was released in this press statement (from his House website):

U.S. Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA), ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, will be meeting with President Bush today regarding his Wounded Warrior proposal to Congress. During today’s meeting, Congressman Hunter intends to also suggest that State Department personnel who refuse deployment to Baghdad be replaced with wounded veterans at Walter Reed and Bethesda hospitals.

“When the State Department appears to be filled with reluctant personnel, let’s turn to those who have bravely followed the American flag in the most dangerous of assignments,” said Congressman Hunter. “The U.S. Marines, soldiers, airmen and Navy personnel presently recovering at our national military hospitals have all the character required by the Department of State. They are brave, loyal, intelligent and fiercely determined to win the War on Terror.

“They are veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters and you can be sure that when called on for difficult assignments, they won’t convene a town meeting to protest. Especially for those whose mobility has been impaired by wounds, State Department positions, not only in Baghdad but around the world, will provide excellent jobs as well as availing our nation of their enormous talent.”

Hunter will recommend a team of State Department recruiters be immediately sent to Walter Reed and Bethesda hospitals, as well as posting application forms on relevant employment websites.

“Let’s replace these reluctant Nellies with America’s finest citizens,” concluded Hunter. “Our wounded warriors will serve our country efficiently, effectively and with undying patriotism.”

Sure, demented Duncan, let's place Iraq and Afghan war veterans suffering from PTSD and "whose mobility has been impaired by wounds" back into a war zone as part of the diplomatic service in which they have no background. Perhaps, you should demonstrate your leadership by immediately assuming the DCM of the US embassy in Baghdad and promise to maintain a minimum 5-year tenure.