Thursday, November 10, 2016
The importance of good definitions
I mentioned recently what a mess a poor understanding of conservatism makes out of Leftist research into conservatism. Because they have only the vaguest notion of what drives conservatives, Leftist psychologists end up with some hilarious conclusions when they attempt to do surveys of conservative opinion.
Herbert McClosky was typical. He devised a set of statement (a "scale") which he believed to reflect conservatism and looked at who agreed with those statements. He found that they were a really bad lot. They were dumb, poorly educated, psychologically maladjusted etc etc. And that made him famous. It was exactly what Leftists wanted to hear about conservatives and corresponds with what they mostly believe to this day.
Problem: How did people vote who showed up as conservative according to McClosky? About half voted for Democrat Presidential candidates! His "conservatives" showed no tendency at all to vote conservative. Not so satisfactory! McClosky read up lots of books about what conservatism was but he still got it wrong. Like most Leftists he probably avoided like the plague talking to conservatives so had no real grasp of how they think at all.
But it is not impossible to do survey research into politics that has some validity. I too put together a set of statements that I believed reflected conservative thinking. But I got my statements not from books but from my long association with actual real-life conservative-voting people. I am sure I read a lot less than McClosky but I knew conservastives a lot better. So what happened? I got correlations as high as .50 between my scale and vote -- which is a high correlation in the general context of psychological research.
Some psychologists think they can slip past the measurement problem by correlating various things with Presidential vote directly. But that gives you the opposite problem: Lack of generality. What did a vote for Bill Clinton mean? The great compromiser, or "triangulator", to use his term, spent so much time defending the travels of his penis that very little policy change can be attributed to him. Some conservatives look back on his time in office with nostalgia.
Even more pertinently, what does a vote for Trump mean? Is he a conservative? Many in the GOP establishment say not.
So you see there is no substitute for seeking a broad range of opinions among the people you are interested in. But those opinions do have to be validated as the opinions of actual conservative voters. It is the only way you can get both generality and at the same time be sure that you are talking about something real. There is no doubt that there is something liberal about the penis-Clinton and something conservative about Trump and both your definitions and your scales should be able to pick it up. Because of the individual peculiarities of Bill and Donald, you will not expect a correlation between scale and vote that is anything like complete but it should at least be substantial.
So who do I think conservatives are? I think they are the contented people and Leftists are the discontented people. The only thing in politics that conservatives get upset about are leftist attempts to mess with their contentment -- most notably these days the huge array of political correctness that Donald Trump has highlighted.
That conception is of course only a basic rule. There are exceptions influenced by time and place but the rule still works well in most applications. As we see, it explains the popularity of Donald Trump among conservative voters very well. He voices dissatisfaction with the meddlers who want to upset just about everything in a society that most of us feel reasonably content with. A lot of Americans REALLY LIKE America and feel blessed to be Americans. They are VERY content with America as it is and resent people who want to "fundamentally transform" it, to use Mr Obama's famous and wildly cheered phrase.
A lot of GOP Congressmen have from time to time denied that Trump is a conservative. All that shows is how heavily they have been brainwashed by the Left. They stand for watered down Leftism, not conservatism. They think it would be "racist" to exclude Muslim immigrants from America whereas most ordinary Americans are pretty content with the sort of neighbours they already have, rather than wanting a whole heap of potential Jihadis suddenly plopped down in their neighborhoods.
Another thing that my definition fits is the fact that political stance is highly hereditary. The happiness research almost all comes to the conclusion that happiness is dispositional: Some people are born to be happy and some are born to be miserable. Both conservatism and happiness/contentment are dispositional. Conservatives tend to have a happy personality.
And the statements in my scale did reflect a contentment with the status quo. Note for instance the item: "Queen Elizabeth and her family do a good job and she should remain Queen of Australia". Clear contentment there. Even innovations in music are disliked: "Modern pop music is often disgusting and degenerate". But what about "Girls should remain virgins until they marry"? What has that got to do with contentment? It reflects traditional arrangements, which still had relevance in the 1980s when the research was carried out. Probably few conservatives today would agree with it but at that time it was only conservatives that did. And most of the items in my scale did reflect a satisfaction with traditional arrangements rather than the vastly changed arrangements that began in the '60s.
So seeing conservatives as the contented people explains most of what we see of conservative opinion. It is a definition that works and leads to valid research.
Reference: McClosky, H. (1958) "Conservatism and personality". Amer. Polit. Sci. Rev., 52, 27-45.
Michelle Obama and Political Correctness
For those who follow popular culture, the slide into debasement is palpable. From the f-bomb to pornographic exposure, America has become the land of anything goes. The once provincial, laced up nation, challenged by the liberal view of expression, has lost. Victorian notions of modesty are as outmoded as horse-drawn plows.
A couple of months ago an eleven-year-old tape of Donald Trump was aired in which he employed vulgar and uncouth language about women. It was inexcusable, notwithstanding the debasement in the culture. As one might guess, this matter became the focus of the Clinton campaign for president. First lady Michelle Obama said she was "shaken...to my core" by Trump's comments and, alas she has a point.
However, if Trump's lewd remarks are so meaningful, it is worth asking why she and the president have openly promoted rap "artists" who glorify misogyny, sexual objectification of women, date rape and cop killing. Kendrick Lamar was invited to the White House for President Obama's 55th birthday party, the same Lamar who wrote "Bitch, Don't Kill Me" and even raps about killing police officers. Another invitee, Rick Ross, glorifies date rape with lyrics, "Put molly all in her champagne | She ain't even know it | I took her home and I enjoyed that | She ain't even know it." Molly, by the way, is slang for the date rape drug, Ecstasy.
Nicki Minaj, who often outdoes even the most vulgar of the rappers, has been invited to the White House with her husband despite lyrics such as "Make sure mama crawls on her knees keep him pleased rub him down be a lady and a freak." This is the respectable side of Ms. Minaj.
Then there is the King and Queen of Rap, Jay Z and Beyoncé, who have been guests of the Obamas dozens of times. Jay Z in "Drunk in Love" wrote, "Slid the panties right to the side | Ain't got time to take drawers off" and "We sex again in the morning, your breasteses is my breakfast." This, by the way is the least profane of the lyrics.
The Queen of Rap - admired by the First Lady - wrote, "He popped all my buttons and ripped my blouse | He monica-lewinski'd all on my gown" and then adds, "Hand prints and good grips all on my ass." And this is the part of her rap that can be printed without redaction.
The N word and sexually explicit lyrics are the calling card for rap. Mine is certainly not the first condemnation of this art form. Nor do I use it to excuse Trump's coarse and crude language. What I cannot abide, however, is the sheer hypocrisy. If Trump has shaken the First Lady to her core for using the "p" word, then she must be shaken continually by the rap she and her daughters listen to which uses this vulgar expression repeatedly. At the risk of appearing incorrect, what is good for the goose should be good for the gander.
Is it possible Hillary's husband gets a free ride for his indiscretions, but Donald Trump doesn't? In 1994-5 when the story about President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky broke, many liberals would say dismissively, "well it's just about sex." Well isn't the Trump vulgarity just about sex?
One dimension of the debasement in culture is the double standard. An average white person who uses the "n" word is ipso facto a racist; an African American rapper who uses the same word, very often in a negative context, is enlightened. The Media Control Police will determine if it is acceptable or beyond the pale.
But before Michelle Obama gets shaken any longer, I would suggest she read the lyrics of the best known rap songs with her daughters and compare what she reads to the ignorant indignities of Donald Trump. Which shakes her core more? Or is that core suffering from a severe case of political correctness?
More Leftist stupidity
An attack on those devilishly incorrect guns backfires
Welcome to Seattle, where a “gun violence” tax implemented in 2015 has predictably turned into an abject failure — though don’t expect city officials to admit it. We begin with one gun dealer’s experience and the tax’s harmful effects on business. Via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
“Mike Coombs, owner of Sodo’s Outdoor Emporium, says he has laid off three employees and taken a $2 million hit in sales so far in 2016. His customer count, he says, is also down by 32 percent. Meanwhile, Coombs says his other store — Sportco in Fife — has seen a 10 percent to 12 percent increase in sales. He blames the Seattle gun violence tax, passed last year and implemented Jan. 1. The ordinance charges a $25 tax for every firearm sold in the city and 5 cents for every round of ammunition of .22 caliber or greater. Given that ammunition comes bundled in boxes, those nickels can add up.”
The tax hasn’t exactly been a boon for the city, either. The story goes on to note, “Coombs estimates he’s sent the city $60,000 through the third quarter from the gun tax, but says the city has also lost more than $600,000 in sales tax due to his plummeting sales.” Talk about misfiring. Despite several efforts by both gun advocates and journalists to force the city’s hand in revealing tax numbers, it isn’t budging. The Seattle Post Intelligencer notes the city pledged “to fund a program at Harborview Medical Center that aims to reduce the aftereffects of gun violence” by using increased tax revenue from gun sales. No wonder there’s secrecy — publicly exposing the lack of funds would only serve to irreparably tarnish the city’s conjured up narrative.
It would also create a firestorm among taxpayers. Even though gun tax revenue has fallen short, that hasn’t stopped city officials from robbing everyone else. As the report also explains, “Harborview Medical Center confirmed [last] week that because the ordinance remains contested in court, the tax revenue remains untouched and the hospital is instead getting the money for its gun violence program from the city’s general fund.” Sure, city gun sales are down — which is exactly what leftists wanted. But Seattle lost a serious cash flow too in its ridiculous pursuit to purge the city of guns. Even more damning, it didn’t exactly purge them from surrounding areas, as gun dealers are responding by moving business elsewhere. The more neutral suburbs are more than happy to revel in the windfall.
Australia: No body, no parole for murderers in Victoria
Leftist governments do sometimes get things right
Victorian murderers won't get parole unless they reveal where they hid their victims' bodies under tough new laws.
The government's "no body, no parole" laws will be introduced in 2017 and will affect at least seven convicted murderers who have not revealed where they put their victims.
"This is the right thing to do, but it needs to be done properly ... it's what we've been considering for some time," Premier Daniel Andrews told question time on Tuesday.
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said the laws should be introduced immediately to give families of victims some closure. "There are murderers in our prison system who treat the parole as their right. It's not their right, it's a privilege that's afforded to people who've done the right thing," Mr Guy said.
Labor has rejected a previous opposition bid to bring the laws in and Mr Andrews says there is no immediate need to rush them through.
"There are seven individuals in custody for whom this might be relevant and none of them are eligible for parole in the next 12 months," Mr Andrews said.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.