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KN4M 07-02-07

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  • Robert Sterling
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2, 2007
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      Please send as far and wide as possible.

      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist


      How Your Brain Makes Political Decisions
      Ever wonder why fear-mongering seems to work so well at the polls—
      while appeals to reason often leave the electorate cold? A new book
      applies neuroscience to politics to figure out why the Democrats
      struggle to push the buttons in voters' brains.
      By Sharon Begley

      June 27, 2007 - Do you remember when candidate George W. Bush
      berated Al Gore during the 2000 presidential debates for alleged
      funny business in his fund-raising? Bush said, "You know, going to a
      Buddhist temple and then claiming it wasn't a fund-raiser isn't my
      view of responsibility." It was a direct attack on the honor of a
      fellow Southerner, and Gore wasn't taking it. "You have attacked my
      honor and integrity," the vice president shot back. "I think it's
      time to teach you a few old-fashioned lessons about character. When
      I enlisted to fight in the Vietnam War, you were talkin' real tough
      about Vietnam. But when you got the call, you called your daddy and
      begged him to pull some strings so you wouldn't have to go to war.
      So instead of defending your country with honor, you put some poor
      Texas millworker's kid on the front line in your place to get shot
      at. Where I come from, we call that a coward.

      "When I was working hard, raising my family, you were busy drinking
      yourself and your family into the ground. Why don't you tell us how
      many times you got behind the wheel of a car with a few drinks under
      your belt? Where I come from, we call that a drunk.

      "When I was serving in the U.S. Senate, your own father's government
      had to investigate you on the charge that you'd swindled a bunch of
      old people out of their life savings by using insider knowledge to
      sell off stocks you knew were about to drop. Where I come from, we
      call that crooked. So governor, don't you ever lecture me about
      character. And don't you ever talk to me that way again in front of
      my family or my fellow citizens."

      Don't remember that reply? There's a reason: Gore never said
      anything like it. Challenged by Bush on the temple fundraiser, he
      instead sidestepped the attack with a lofty but wimpy declaration
      about wanting "to spend my time making this country even better than
      it is, not trying to make you out to be a bad person." The response-
      that-wasn't-but-should-have-been is the work of psychology
      researcher Drew Westen of Emory University, one of many "what ifs"
      in his new book, "The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in
      Deciding the Fate of the Nation." After reading them you won't be
      surprised that Westen has been approached by the campaigns
      of "several" Democratic hopefuls (he is too discrete to say which)
      for advice on how to make use of findings about how the brain
      operates in the political arena. Why aren't Republicans beating a
      path to his door? Because the GOP has already mastered the dark art
      of psych-ops—of pushing the right buttons in people's brains to win
      their vote.

      Westen's thesis is simple. "A dispassionate mind that makes
      decisions by weighing the evidence and reasoning to the most valid
      conclusions bears no relation to how the mind and brain actually
      work." That's true when it comes to choosing a significant other,
      buying a car, and choosing a president. Madison Avenue has known
      this for decades. Democrats haven't. Instead, their strategists
      start from an 18th-century vision of the mind as dispassionate,
      making decisions by rationally weighing evidence and balancing pros
      and cons. That assumption is a recipe for high-minded campaigning—
      and, often, electoral failure. But by recognizing the strides that
      neuroscience, psychology and, in particular, the science of decision
      making have made in recent years, Westen argues, politicians can tap
      into "the emotional brain" that guides most political decisions.

      If you think your political decisions are coldly rational, think
      again. Even when we "rationally" assess a candidate's position on,
      say, tax policy or immigration, emotions shape our judgment. (In
      2000 the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, famously
      hostile toward federal intervention in state matters, overturned the
      decision of the Florida Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore and put the
      former in the White House. Go figure.) "Behind every reasoned
      decision is a reason for deciding," Westen writes. "We do not pay
      attention to arguments unless they engender our interest,
      enthusiasm, fear, anger or contempt . . . We do not find policies
      worth debating if they don't touch on the emotional implications for
      ourselves, our families or things we hold dear." Something you "hold
      dear" can be, for instance, a principled position in favour of
      sending more troops to Iraq; you can tell yourself that that
      position resides in an emotion-free zone, but in all likelihood it
      reflects feelings of pride, fear, commitment and the like—emotions,

      There is no shame in being motivated by wishes, fears and values.
      Emotions actually provide a reasonable compass for guiding behavior.
      Neuroscientists find, for instance, that emotions guide moral
      decisions, and do so pretty well. Although the political brain is an
      emotional brain, this doesn't mean that voters' basest instincts—
      racism, homophobia, religious intolerance, xenophobia—are the only
      or even the principle emotions in play. One can feel good about,
      say, a ban on capital punishment even if that position also has
      rational underpinnings.

      Because emotions are central to beliefs and values, if an appeal is
      purely rational it is unlikely to tickle the emotional brain
      circuits that affect what we do in the voting booth. To the
      contrary: emotions can trump rationality. "People were drawn to
      Reagan [in the 1980 presidential race] because they identified with
      him, liked his emphasis on values over policy, trusted him, and
      found him authentic in his beliefs," Westen writes. "It didn't
      matter that they disagreed with most of his policy positions." The
      same forces were at work in 2004, when pollsters found that voters
      in small-town America placed more weight on issues unlikely to
      directly affect their lives, such as terrorism and violent crime and
      gay marriage in Massachusetts, than on those that were, such as mine
      safety. Positions on issues matter to the extent they incite voters'

      Neuroscience research backs up the poll results. When voters are
      hooked up to brain-imaging devices while watching candidates, it is
      emotion circuits and not the rational frontal lobes that are most
      engaged. When voters assess who won a campaign debate, they almost
      always choose the candidate they liked better beforehand. The
      rationality circuit "isn't typically open for business when
      partisans are thinking about things that matter to them," Westen
      notes. Yet "this is the part of the brain to which Democrats
      typically target their appeals."

      Just as in the imagined response by Gore to Bush's attack on his
      character, Westen has penned powerful sound bites and mini-speeches
      that Dems could use to justify their core positions on perennial
      issues. Abortion, and bills outlawing it (as GOP platforms have long
      called for) or requiring parental consent? "My opponent puts the
      rights of rapists above the rights of their victims, guaranteeing
      every rapist the right to choose the mother of his child. . . My
      opponent believes that if a 16-year-old girl is molested by her
      father and becomes pregnant, she should be forced by the government
      to have his child, and if she doesn't want to she should be forced
      by the government to go to the man who raped her and ask for his
      consent." Tougher gun restrictions? How about an ad showing a parade
      of Arab-looking men walking into a gun store, setting their money on
      the counter and walking out with three or four semi-automatics each,
      with this voice-over: "My opponent thinks you shouldn't have to show
      a photo ID or get a background check to buy a handgun. He thinks
      anyone who wants an AK-47 should be able to buy one, no questions
      asked. What's the point of fighting terrorists abroad if we're going
      to arm them over here?"

      Pandering? Maybe. Shades of the first President Bush's infamous race-
      baiting Willie Horton ad? Probably. Effective? Let's just say that
      if John Kerry had used Westen's words to attack the Swift Boaters
      who impugned his war record during the 2004 presidential campaign,
      Bush might be clearing a lot of brush in Crawford these days.
      There's more—on how Dems can frame affirmative action, flag burning,
      domestic wiretaps, tax cuts for millionaires, embryonic stem-cell
      research and gay marriage to engage the voters' political brain.
      Read "The Political Brain" and you'll understand why Westen is
      suddenly a very, very popular guy in Democratic campaign circles.



      Time for an Ann Coulter Ban
      Ethan Morris, Jun 28, 2007

      Okay, enough is enough. Will someone please get Ann Coulter off my
      TV set?

      Seriously. The FCC needs to implement an Ann Ban as soon as humanly

      Aside from the fact that many believe her to be a raving lunatic,
      now she's all but threatened the life of a presidential candidate.

      In an interview on ABC's Good Morning America, Coulter said she
      wished Democratic candidate John Edwards "had been killed in a
      terrorist assassination plot."

      The ultra-super-duper-uber-over-the-top conservative columnist and
      frequent talk show guest says she was merely making a point, after
      notoriously liberal talk show host Bill Maher made a similar comment
      about Vice President Dick Cheney.

      In fact, what Maher said was that if Dick Cheney had been killed in
      a real (but failed) attempted assassination in Afghanistan, fewer
      people would be dying in Iraq right now. "If he did die," Maher said
      at the time, "other people, more people would live." But he didn't
      actually "wish" Cheney dead.

      Technically, Coulter didn't either. Here's her exact quote: "If I'm
      going to say anything about John Edwards, I'll just wish he had been
      killed in a terrorist assassination plot." By couching her words
      with conditionals like "if" and "I'll" and by using the past tense,
      Coulter will no doubt avoid any trouble from the law. (Presidential
      candidates get protection from the Secret Service and threatening
      their lives is a serious no no.)

      But she couldn't stave off a response from Edwards' wife, who called
      Coulter when she later appeared on MSNBC's Hardball. Elizabeth
      Edwards asked Coulter to stop attacking her husband with such hate
      language. Coulter smirkingly refused, and it quickly degenerated
      into a shouting match.

      Now listen: I'm not some liberal who hates Ann Coulter for her
      politics. I hate Ann Coulter because I, and a lot of others, think
      she's a venomous nut case.

      This is the woman who wishes Timothy McVeigh had blown up the New
      York Times building.

      This is the woman who wants to invade other countries, kill their
      leaders, and convert the entire world to Christianity. (Does that
      include Israel, Ann?)

      This is the woman who quotes God as saying man should "rape" the
      earth so we don't end up "living like the Indians."

      Now she's implying a death wish against a presidential candidate.

      I'm sorry, but this goes way beyond political debate. It's nothing
      more than venal pandering for profit. Coulter's outrageous
      statements are obviously designed for the sole purpose of selling
      her books and getting people to read her columns. (And getting
      sucker-bloggers like me to waste time writing my opinion about her!)

      And her hateful spewing crosses the line. As a writer and
      journalist, I'm as big a supporter of free speech there is. But
      Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes helped us draw an
      important line when he pointed out that free speech doesn't mean you
      can yell "fire" in a crowded theater.

      You can bet Don Imus must be wondering why he doesn't have a job
      right now.

      Seriously, it's time for Ann to go. Shame on network executives and
      talk show hosts who agree to have Ann as a guest ever again. Shame
      on viewers for watching her, or for reading her columns. Shame on me
      if I ever write another word about her.

      C'mon FCC. You can spare us all if you'll just implement an Ann Ban,
      punishable by a fine of one beeeeeelion dollars.



      Poll of Democrats reveals Gore could still steal the show
      · Clinton would be big loser if ex-vice president ran
      · Republicans also unhappy with current candidates
      Simon Tisdall in Washington
      Friday June 29, 2007
      The Guardian

      A presidential election poll suggesting Democratic voters would
      prefer former vice-president Al Gore to any of the declared
      contenders, including frontrunner Hillary Clinton, has highlighted
      continuing dissatisfaction among supporters of both main parties
      with the choice of candidates to succeed George Bush.

      The poll, conducted in New Hampshire by 7News and Suffolk
      University, confirmed Ms Clinton's nationwide double-digit lead over
      her main rival, Illinois senator Barack Obama. The former first lady
      and New York senator attracted 37% support, against Mr Obama's 19%.
      John Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, was on 9%.

      But if Mr Gore were to seek the Democratic nomination, 29% of Ms
      Clinton's backers would switch their support to him, the poll found.
      When defections from other candidates are factored in, the man who
      controversially lost to Mr Bush in the 2000 election takes command
      of the field, with 32% support.

      Both the Democrats and Republicans will contest primary elections in
      New Hampshire on January 22.

      Mr Gore has repeatedly denied he is planning a White House run. But
      the absence so far of a strong, unifying choice for the Democratic
      nomination, Mr Gore's enhanced reputation as an environmental
      campaigner, and deep Republican divisions are encouraging
      speculation that he may change his mind.

      "I have not ruled out the possibility of getting into politics some
      time in the future but I don't expect to because I don't expect
      things to change," Mr Gore says in an interview in the July edition
      of Fast Company magazine. "If they did change, then I would feel

      David Terr, a political analyst at USAelectionpolls.com, said the
      7News poll was based on a small voter sample and had a large margin
      of error. But it reinforced a pattern in the polls that showed Mr
      Gore gaining support nationally.

      "His gaining six points in six months is ... just what he needs to
      justify running for the presidency," Mr Terr said. "He can say that
      the American people wanted him to run. So the image about him being
      a sore loser or desperate to become president or someone that is not
      a man of the people can be thrown into the trash."

      "If Al Gore runs, Republicans should be very afraid," said one
      blogger on Politico.com yesterday. "As much as they like to make fun
      of him, no one can deny that he is the candidate that has the most
      appeal and ability to energise his base."

      Mr Gore's rehabilitation is accelerating as America's political
      agenda steadily moves towards issues such as climate change that he
      has long championed.

      "In what may be the greatest brand makeover in history, Gore is
      being hailed as a visionary who was right about everything from
      global warming to Iraq," writes Fast Company's Ellen McGirt. "At 59,
      he's an Academy award winner, a bestselling author, a frontrunner
      for the Nobel prize, and a concert promoter."

      Mr Gore is likely to make headlines again with the Live Earth
      concerts on July 7. He has helped to organise the eight shows, to be
      held simultaneously around the world, to raise awareness and funds
      to combat global warming.

      As Democrats struggle to measure the potential impact of undeclared
      candidates, similar imponderables are dogging the Republicans.

      Analysts say the national lead held by Rudy Giuliani, the former New
      York mayor, could quickly disappear if, as expected, Fred Thompson,
      an actor and former Tennessee senator, steps in next week.

      Another wild card is the undeclared but widely expected independent
      candidacy of the current New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg. If he
      runs, polls suggest Mr Giuliani would be the biggest loser. To
      complicate matters, Ralph Nader, the consumer activist whose third-
      party challenge dished Mr Gore in 2000, says he may also run as an



      More than half of Americans won't vote for Clinton, poll shows
      Survey provides a snapshot of the senator's challenges as she seeks
      the Democratic nomination for president
      By William Douglas
      Contra Costa Times

      WASHINGTON -- More than half of Americans say they wouldn't consider
      voting for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for president if she becomes
      the Democratic nominee, according to a new national poll made
      available to McClatchy Newspapers and NBC News.
      The poll by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research found that 52 percent
      of Americans wouldn't consider voting for Clinton, D-N.Y. Former
      Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, was second in the
      can't-stand-'em category, with 46 percent saying they wouldn't
      consider voting for him.

      Clinton has long been considered a politically polarizing figure who
      would be a tough sell to some voters, especially many men, but also
      Clinton-haters of both genders.

      Thursday's survey provides a snapshot of the challenges she faces,
      according to Larry Harris, a Mason-Dixon principal.

      "Hillary's carrying a lot of baggage," he said. "She's the only one
      that has a majority who say they can't vote for her."

      Clinton rang up high negatives across the board, with 60 percent of
      independents, 56 percent of men, 47 percent of women and 88 percent
      of Republicans saying they wouldn't consider voting for her.

      Romney struggled most with women: 50.9 percent said they wouldn't
      consider voting for him.

      "It's the flip-flop of Hillary," Harris said of Romney. "One could
      suppose it's the Mormon issue -- we didn't ask follow-up questions --
      but his religion is an issue."

      On name recognition, Clinton also led the 2008 presidential pack in
      voter disapproval, with 42 percent saying they recognized her name
      and were unfavorable toward her, versus 39 percent favorable.

      That gave her a double-digit lead in that bad-news category over
      Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former North Carolina
      Sen. John Edwards, a Democrat. They each had 28 percent unfavorable

      Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani had the highest favorable
      recognition at 43 percent, with Clinton close behind at 39 percent.
      Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was third at 36 percent, followed by
      McCain at 33 percent and Edwards at 32 percent.

      McCain rang up the highest favorable rating among independent voters
      with 39.4 percent, followed by Giuliani with 37.3 percent. Edwards
      scored well with independents, too, with 31.1 percent favorable;
      Obama had 28 percent favorable.

      The Mason-Dixon survey was conducted June 23-25 with 625 likely
      general-election voters. It has an error margin of plus or minus 4
      percentage points.
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