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Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Daily Drift

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And I Quote

Scientists Are Beginning to Figure Out Why Wingnuts Are…Wingnuts

Ten years ago, it was wildly controversial to talk about psychological differences between liberals and wingnuts. Today, it's becoming hard not to. .
by Chris Mooney
Scientists are using eye-tracking devices to detect automatic response differences between liberals and wingnuts. University of Nebraska-Lincoln
You could be forgiven for not having browsed yet through the latest issue of the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences. If you care about politics, though, you'll find a punchline therein that is pretty extraordinary.
Behavioral and Brain Sciences employs a rather unique practice called "Open Peer Commentary": An article of major significance is published, a large number of fellow scholars comment on it, and then the original author responds to all of them. The approach has many virtues, one of which being that it lets you see where a community of scholars and thinkers stand with respect to a controversial or provocative scientific idea. And in the latest issue of the journal, this process reveals the following conclusion: A large body of political scientists and political psychologists now concur that liberals and wingnuts disagree about politics in part because they are different people at the level of personality, psychology, and even traits like physiology and genetics.
That's a big deal. It challenges everything that we thought we knew about politics-upending the idea that we get our beliefs solely from our upbringing, from our friends and families, from our personal economic interests, and calling into question the notion that in politics, we can really change (most of us, anyway).
It is a "virtually inescapable conclusion" that the "cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and wingnuts are quite different."
The occasion of this revelation is a paper by John Hibbing of the University of Nebraska and his colleagues, arguing that political conservatives have a "negativity bias," meaning that they are physiologically more attuned to negative (threatening, disgusting) stimuli in their environments. (The paper can be read for free here.) In the process, Hibbing et al. marshal a large body of evidence, including their own experiments using eye trackers and other devices to measure the involuntary responses of political partisans to different types of images. One finding? That wingnuts respond much more rapidly to threatening and aversive stimuli (for instance, images of "a very large spider on the face of a frightened person, a dazed individual with a bloody face, and an open wound with maggots in it," as one of their papers put it).
In other words, the wingnut ideology, and especially one of its major facets-centered on a strong military, tough law enforcement, resistance to immigration, widespread availability of guns-would seem well tailored for an underlying, threat-oriented biology.
The authors go on to speculate that this ultimately reflects an evolutionary imperative. "One possibility," they write, "is that a strong negativity bias was extremely useful in the Pleistocene," when it would have been super-helpful in preventing you from getting killed. (The Pleistocene epoch lasted from roughly 2.5 million years ago until 12,000 years ago.

President Obama Sends A Strong Signal That He Will Veto The Republican Budget

House Republicans saw their budget dreams go up in smoke as President Obama is already signaling that he will veto the unpopular, but freshly passed House budget.
In a statement the White House said:
Budgets are about priorities. This evening the House Republicans made clear that once again their priority is to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires and return our economy to the same top-down economics that has failed the American people before. House Republicans voted in favor of locking in draconian sequestration cuts to investments in the middle class like education, job training, and manufacturing. House Republicans also failed to responsibly fund our national security, opting instead for budget gimmicks.

The Republican priorities stand in stark contrast to the President’s plan to reverse sequestration and bring middle-class economics into the 21st Century. Through critical investments needed to accelerate and sustain economic growth in the long run, including in research, education, training, and infrastructure, the President’s Budget shows what we can do if we invest in America’s future and commit to an economy that rewards hard work, generates rising incomes, and allows everyone to share in the prosperity of a growing America.

The President has been clear that he will not accept a budget that locks in sequestration or one that increases funding for our national security without providing matching increases in funding for our economic security. The Administration will continue to abide by these principles moving forward.
The budget showdown between President Obama and Congressional Republicans could be the most significant budget battle since then President Bill Clinton vetoed the Republican budget in 1995. At the time of his veto, Clinton said, “With this veto, the extreme Republican effort to balance the budget through wrongheaded cuts and misplaced priorities is over. Now it’s up to all of us to go back to work together to show we can balance the budget and be true to our values and our economic interests.”
Both President Clinton and President Obama mentioned priorities for a reason. The budget is never about dollars. Budgets are about ideology and priorities. The 2015 Republicans are repeating the behavior of the 1995 Republicans. They are trying to use the budgetary process to force their ideology on a Democratic president. The stage is being set for an epic budget throwdown the likes of which the country has seen in almost two decades.
President Obama message to Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McConnell is clear. If the Republicans want a budget fight, they’ve got it.

Bernie Sanders Stands Up For The Middle Class By Dropping a Huge Fact Bomb On The Senate

Bernie Sanders minimum wage
In the midst of a Senate budget vote-a-rama that Republicans are filling with anti-Obamacare and economy killing votes, Senator Bernie Sanders took the Senate floor and dropped the fact bomb that raising the minimum wage is real job creator.
Sen. Sanders said, “The simple truth is that in America people working full time should not be living in poverty. Since 1968, the real value of the federal minimum wage has fallen by close to thirty percent, and people all over this country and in state after state on their own have voted to raise the minimum wage. And, by the way, in state after state where the minimum wage has gone up, more jobs have been created. Let us stand today with the tens of millions of workers who are struggling to put food on the table to take care of their families.”
The Sanders amendment to raise the federal minimum wage failed to pass 48-52. The good news for Democrats and the left is that Sen. Sanders fell just three votes short of passage as just a simple majority of fifty-one votes are required to pass budget amendments.
Labor Department data for the first six months of 2014 revealed that the 13 states that raised their minimum wage created more jobs than the 37 that didn’t, “In the 13 states that boosted their minimums at the beginning of the year, the number of jobs grew an average of 0.85% from January through June. The average for the other 37 states was 0.61%.”
There are decades worth of data and studies that confirm what Sen. Sanders was saying. The Republican opposition to raising the minimum wage is ideological. The anti-minimum wage position lacks credible non-partisan statistics and data to support its claims. Republicans hang their opposition on a myth that raising the minimum wage kills jobs, but 64 studies have proven that the Republican talking point to be false.
Sen. Sanders dropped a dose of reality on Senate Republicans today. If the 52 Republican Senators who voted no really wanted to boost the economy, the first thing they should do is reverse course and support raising the minimum wage.

Snooze Cruz


Big Victory For Voting Rights As Supreme Court Tosses Lower Court Ruling on “Vote Packing”

Gerrymandering in Alabama
The Supreme Court’s ruling in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama was a huge victory for voting rights and voting equality.  The issue in this case was “vote packing.”
By the usual margin of 5-4, the Court ordered the District Court to review the case. The bad news is this victory may be temporary, because the Supreme Courts didn’t throw out Alabama’s maps.  Instead, the Supreme Court punted the case back to District court, with instructions.
“Vote packing” is a form of gerrymandering that limits the impact of minority voters by concentrating them in as few, typically urban, districts as possible.
Alabama tried to say said it interpreted the Voting Rights Act to mean that it is required to “maintain roughly the same black population percentage in existing majority-minority districts.  Therefore, the vote packing really was the Voting Rights Act’s fault.
In essence, the lower court concluded that since this form of gerrymandering didn’t occur in every one of Alabama’s majority-minority districts, that there was no gerrymandering, overall, within the state.  Even if it was gerrymandering, the Voting Rights Act made them do it.
The Supreme Court’s majority argued that doesn’t mean vote packing didn’t occur in some districts and therefore the District court must consider racial gerrymandering in each of the individual districts identified by the plaintiffs in this case.
The District Court found the fact that racial criteria had not predominated in the drawing of some Alabama districts sufficient to defeat a claim of racial gerrymandering with respect to the State as an undifferentiated whole. But a showing that race-based criteria did not significantly affect the drawing of some Alabama districts would have done little to defeat a claim that race-based criteria predominantly affected the drawing of other Alabama districts. Thus, the District Court’s undifferentiated statewide analysis is insufficient, and the District Court must on remand consider racial gerrymandering with respect to the individual districts challenged by appellants.
The state said it interpreted the Voting Rights Act to mean the state must “maintain roughly the same black population percentage in existing majority-minority districts.”  So, after seeing that one predominately black district needed 16,000 more voters to achieve the goal of equal population, Alabama added 15,785 new individuals to the district.  Only 36 of these individuals were white.
This is a misreading of the Voting Rights Act, which not only reduced the impact of minority voters, it also gave Republicans an advantage.
As Justice Breyer explained, the VRA ”does not require a covered jurisdiction to maintain a particular numerical minority percentage. It requires the jurisdiction to maintain a minority’s ability to elect a preferred candidate of choice.”
The difference in interpretation is significant.  Choosing a candidate involves a majority vote of 51%.  If Black voters already comprise a majority in a district, then, in reality, increasing the population within that district, decreases the ability of minorities influence in other districts.  As Justice Breyer pointed out when explaining the results in an example:
Other things being equal, it would seem highly unlikely that a redistricting plan that, while increasing the numerical size of the district, reduced the percentage of the black population from, say, 70% to 65% would have a significant impact on the black voters’ ability to elect their preferred candidate.
The result of Alabama’s redrawn districts was, in reality, a reduction of influence by Black voters in the state legislature. Simply because the district was already predominantly Black, this move amounted to wasting votes on candidates that would have already won by simple majority in that district.
As Ian Mllhauser said in his analysis of the ruling, the way Alabama redrew its maps also effected the composition of the legislature in favor of Republicans.
In 2008, for example, 98 percent of African Americans voted for Democratic future President Barack Obama and 88 percent of whites voted for Republican candidate John McCain. This meant that, when the state drew maps that reduced the power of black voters, it also effectively boosted the power of Republican voters.
In a concurring dissent, Justice Thomas used the same flawed interpretation of the VRA, used by the District Court, to conclude it was to blame it for gerrymandering in Alabma.
In tandem with our flawed jurisprudence, the DOJ has played a significant role in creating Alabama’s current redistricting problem. It did so by enforcing §5 in a manner that required States, including Alabama, to create supermajority-black voting districts or face denial of pre-clearance.
While one cannot remove the importance of this victory, this case reflects the new reality of a Voting Rights Act without pre-clearance rules.
The maps that the Court ruled on were drawn in 2012.  Now the case will be heard again by the District Court and, in reality, it could still take several years to arrive at a final ruling on these maps.
In the meantime, Alabama’s legislature will have the opportunity to come up with new ways to suppress the vote, which will also wind their way through the courts at a pace akin to watching grass grow.
In short, for every ruling that scuttles an attempt to suppress the vote or minimize the impact of some votes, Republican lawmakers who benefit from vote suppression can pass another set of rules that will be in effect until they eventually wind their way through the judicial process.
This is the very problem that the Voting Rights Act pre-clearance provision, for the most part, had overcome.

A New Report Proves Republican Governed Red States Are Economic Parasites

A new report reveals that those same red state Republican voters who want the federal government cut to shreds are leeching substantially more assets from the federal government…
By now only comatose Americans or fools dependent on Fox News for their information, are aware that states that consistently vote Republican and against their own best interest suck more money from the federal government than Democratic states. It leads one to marvel at the relevance of George Carlin’s saying “never underestimate the power, or danger, of stupid people in large groups.” Residents in red states across the nation are already suffering from Republican policies that are raping the economic life out of the people, and in most cases the only thing keeping the people, particularly the poor people, from starvation and ill-health is the federal government; the entity they hate with religious fervor and elect Republicans to eviscerate.
Now, yet another report reveals that those same red state Republican voters who want the federal government cut to shreds are leeching substantially more assets from the federal government they want destroyed at the expense of blue states that are supporting them. This time the report is not from a liberal-leaning think tank, or any government agency; it is from a commercial organization with no political or economic stake in the study’s results. If this were the first report of its kind showing red state economies would wither and die, and the people would starve, without leaching federal funding from blue states, one may be inclined to dismiss it as an aberration. However, study after study has consistently  exposed anti-federal government Republican states as being incredibly dependent on the federal government they hate with religious passion and just voted for Republicans to fulfill their wishes and decimate it. Never, never ever, underestimate the power of stupid Republican voters in red states who are a Presidential veto away from seeing their evil dream reach fruition.
The new report is courtesy of WalletHub; a commercial personal financial web site that rated all 50 states on the basis of their dependence on the federal government to support their economies and keep poor people alive. The report was compiled from data and condensed into “four metrics” not unlike other studies, but without a political motivation for conducting the research. The categories were; the return in federal dollars on taxpayer investment, or how many federal dollars a state receives as opposed to what the residents pay in.  The percentage of state revenue from federal funding that keeps the state from declaring bankruptcy and its residents from starving or dying from lack of medical care. The number of non-defense (civilian) federal employees in a state, as opposed to states supported by large military installations. And last, the per capita federal employee rate in the state such as federal marshals, park rangers, federal highway workers, and federal regulators keeping air, water, and food safe.
Obviously, the two most important metrics in the study were the return on taxpayer investment, and the percentage of federal dollars a state depends on to prop up its economy and provide for the people’s general welfare from federal programs. Republican states have benefitted greatly from federal healthcare such as Medicaid, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act, and it is relatively common knowledge that the largest percentage of SNAP (food stamp) recipients are poor white Republicans in red states; likely because red state legislators enacted Draconian ‘right to work’ laws keeping wages at or below poverty levels. What informs the epic stupidity of red state Republican voters is that they are the morons who consistently send Republicans to Washington to rein in the federal budget and cut the federal government down to size.
True to their word, and according to their base’s wishes, the Republican congressional representatives their mindless supporters just handed control of Congress to just passed a seriously Draconian budget that does precisely what red state voters yearned for; ended “federal interference” in their lives. If the Republican budget stands, red state voters will get their wish and can finally stop bemoaning the horrid ‘federal interference’ in their lives; the interference that kept food on their tables, their families in relatively decent health, and their state economies from going bankrupt. It is likely that the same morons and racists are too stupid to comprehend that the damage their state legislatures have been wreaking on them is about to be magnified a hundred fold due to less federal interference (funding) in their poverty-stricken lives. In fact, it may seem inhumane, but one almost wishes President Obama was not inclined to veto the Republican budget proposals just to let the real Americans, those patriotic “rugged individuals” comprehend just how much worse their pathetic existence would be without the federal government, blue states’ largesse, and humanitarian Democrats unwilling to allow their fellow citizens, no matter how stupid, suffer so the rich get richer.
One also wonders exactly how red state legislatures will fund their wealthy residents’ tax cuts when their already fragile economies’ revenue streams completely dry up due to budget cuts congressional Republicans voted for to ‘balance the budget and rein in the federal government. It is no secret that, for instance, every dollar spent on SNAP (food stamps) returns $1.70 back in red states’ floundering economies that in turn creates jobs. Obviously, Republicans in Congress could not care less that crucial federal dollars keeping their home state economies from disaster is being transferred directly to the wealthy and the military industrial complex instead of sustaining their idiotic constituency. Some of the poorest states, all red states, are dependent on federal funding for 30 to 45% of their total revenue and the GOP’s budget will slash that revenue and make dire revenue shortfalls already decimating red states seem like an economic bonanza.
There is no accounting for stupid people who, as equally stupid Sarah Palin claims, are the real Americans sitting on their porches holding their guns, their god, and their Constitution while supporting Republicans who promised to ravage the federal government they are convinced is stealing their liberty. It has always been a mystery where those dunces who receive federal assistance in food and healthcare think their government assistance originates. Maybe if they would lose that assistance for a while they would get a clue that the federal government they sent Republicans to Washington to demolish is all that prevents them from starving, working for a dollar an hour seven days a week, or going without lifesaving medical care, but even that eventuality is debatable.
What is noteworthy is that the blue states that receive 20, 30, or 40 cents in return for every dollar they invest in the federal government are not revolting and threatening to secede. But that is the difference between blue state residents and hateful red state Republicans; they accept that Americans assist their fellow citizens no matter how stupid they are for voting against their own best interests and the federal government that is likely all that stands between their demise and survival. Unfortunately their stupidity is a threat to the rest of the population and it is beginning to appear that they comprehend exactly what they are doing; if that is the case they are not just stupid, they are evil.

Stopping the next Tom Cotton stunt before it starts

by Steve Benen
Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., attends the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., Thursday, March 14, 2013.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)The controversy surrounding the Senate Republicans’ letter to Iran has started to die down, but some congressional Democrats still aren’t happy about the fact that 47 GOP lawmakers tried to sabotage American foreign policy.
In fact, one Senate Democrat in particular came up with a creative response intended to stop stunts like these in the future. Zach Carter reports today:
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) delivered a pitch-perfect trolling lesson to the Senate on Wednesday, filing an amendment calling to defund “the purchase of stationary or electronic devices for the purpose of members of Congress or congressional staff communicating with foreign governments and undermining the role of the President as Head of State in international nuclear negotiations on behalf of the United States.”
In other words, Stabenow wants to defund Tom Cotton letters.
The full text of the Michigan Democrat’s amendment is online here (pdf).
Is there any chance Stabenow measure will actually pass? Well, no, and by all appearances, that’s not really the point. Instead, this is the senator’s not-so-subtle way of reminding Cotton and his cohorts that they made a very serious mistake and Democrats aren’t prepared to just forget all about it.
As of last week, some proponents of the sabotage letter tried to defend Republicans by saying they didn’t literally, physically put their message in an envelope before sending it off to Tehran. Note that Stabenow’s amendment includes “electronic devices.”
I’ll let you know the outcome of the vote, but there’s a very real chance that party leaders will limit the number of votes on amendments and Stabenow’s measure won’t actually reach the floor.

Republicans are trying to 'legally' rig elections: The Ohio Edition

Ohio via Shutterstock.
By now, Americans no strangers to the variety of inventive and ill-conceived ways that Republican state legislators have found to build barriers to the ballot box.
Republicans rigging elections what else is new

Republican Pretender Candidates Are Now Opposing Something That Doesn’t Exist

More Republican ‘Freedom’

Arizona Lawmakers Ban Women From Buying Obamacare Abortion Coverage
The Republican controlled Arizona legislature has passed a restrictive abortion bill, and sent it to Republican governor Doug Ducey.According to Reuters, the bill will prohibit Arizona women from buying insurance policies on the federal Healthcare.gov exchange that include coverage for abortions. The state House of Representatives passed the bill on March 23 by a 33-24 margin. The vote in the Senate was 18-11, with two Democrats joining Republicans in support of the bill. Governor Ducey, who opposes abortion, has not yet said whether he will sign the bill into law.
Proponents of the Arizona bill say that it will prevent taxpayers from paying for abortion services. They make that claim based on the fact that many who sign up for insurance coverage through the federal or state exchanges receive subsidies to help them pay for their policies. This is a similar argument to that made in the Hobby Lobby case, where owners of the store chain argued that they should not be required to pay for insurance that covered certain types of birth control.
The bill’s opponents counter that there is no proof that public money has been used to pay for abortions.
While the bill includes exemptions that permit women to obtain abortion coverage in the case of rape, or incest, opponents point out how ridiculous those exemptions are when it comes to buying insurance. Tuscon Democrat Victoria Steele says,
That is a cruel joke, because imagine that someone, your daughter, is pregnant as the result of a rape. They would need to talk to their insurance company to prove they qualify for this exemption? How humiliating, how traumatizing that is.
The bill also includes language about reversing the effects of the abortion pill.
The bill also requires that patients be told that the effects of taking an abortion pill can be reversed by receiving high doses of a hormone. Katie Hobbs, a Phoenix Democrat, who is the Senate minority leader, said, “This is junk science, this is quack medicine. There is absolutely no evidence anywhere. . . that supports this as a valid medical procedure.”
There is at least one published paper that suggests that the effects of the RU-486 abortion pill can be reversed by giving a dose of the hormone progesterone. However, that paper indicates that the effect of progesterone was observed in a very small group, of only six women. The abstract of that paper notes that, as of 2012, there had been no studies or clinical trials that have been done to investigate the claim that progesterone can reverse the abortion pill.
According to ABC News, Dr. Kathleen Morrell, who performs abortions, says this about the procedure.
It’s experimental. It’s untested, and if we don’t know it works then why are we doing it? Show me the evidence, because we have piles of research behind what we’re doing. They don’t have a pile.
The Arizona action on abortion proves once again, that when Republicans are in power, they show that their concern about “freedom” only extends to the bank accounts and financial activities of big business, and millionaires. Women’s control over their own bodies, or even over the type of health care coverage they choose to purchase, doesn’t make the cut.

Perpetual Poverty

O’Reilly Declares Himself Vindicated Over Accusations Of Fabrications – Because Ratings

O’Reilly Declares Himself Vindicated Over Accusations Of Fabrications – Because RatingsBill O’Reilly visited The Late Show with David Letterman last night where he argued that “folks decided” he was not guilty of any of the many fabrications he has been accused of – because his ratings went up.

Quick Hits

FBI begins tracking hate crimes against Sikhs, Hindus, and Arabs
Two alleged ISIS supporters arrested on charges of plotting attack on Illinois military base
DEA agents threw wild sex parties -- which were funded by drug cartels: watchdog report
Dating website for adulterers: Most of our members are christians -- 'it is incredibly ironic'

Republican Says A Rape With Witnesses Is A ‘Really Great Party’

Republican State Rep Says A Rape With Witnesses Is A ‘Really Great Party’ (VIDEO)Of all the horrible and stupid rape comments that have spewed out of the mouths of Republicans, this one definitely competes with the worst of them all.

This Republican Introduced A Bill To Prevent Low-Income Women From Having Children

This Republican Introduced A Bill To Prevent Low-Income Women From Having ChildrenThis Republican seems to want to adopt child policies like China.

Profit Fear

Politicians are the only people who can't be addicted to their phones

Jon Wardby Jon Ward
On the trail and off the phone
Life inside a presidential campaign bubble has long been maligned as a suffocating, alienating experience.
But there is one way in which living in the political fishbowl has become strangely liberating. In an age when smartphones have become our taskmasters, presidential candidates may be the last human beings in the developed world who, because they are captive to the harsh spotlight of a campaign, are actually freed from the gadgets that enslave the rest of us.
At least in public.
On a trip here in mid-February, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul sat a few feet from the basketball court inside the Hilton Coliseum, watching Iowa State and Texas Tech hoopsters streak up and down the court. During breaks in the action, he turned to his left to talk with Iowa businessman Steve Sukup, who had brought him as a guest to the game. Not once over the course of the hour or so that Paul was in attendance (he left after the first half for another event) did the likely presidential candidate pull a phone out of his pocket and bury his face in it.
He was highly unusual in that respect. The arena was filled with people who took their eyes off the court and each other — mostly during time-outs — to whip iPhones from their pockets and sit, shoulders hunched, scrolling alone through Facebook posts and text messages.
The smartphone is a hymnbook that commands the devotion of most of the industrialized world. We look at these things everywhere: in line to pick up lunch, at the playground when we should be watching our kids, even — for some reason — in elevator rides that last less than 10 seconds. And the smartphone has atomized public gatherings. Masses of people who once participated in events together now withdraw into their own private universes.
Not so the presidential candidate. Ignoring other people and scrolling endlessly on a screen in public is probably not a good idea for someone entering the crucible of a presidential contest. The candidate must be fully present. Or he or she will suffer the consequences.
The smartphone is a hymnbook that commands the devotion of most of the industrialized world.
“They’re the last human beings susceptible to human shame. Politicians are the only people left for whom, occasionally, shame hurts them,” said Jon Lovett, a former speechwriter for President Barack Obama. “Everyone else, we’ve sort of done away with it as a concept and we’re hurtling through space like animals, basically.
“But for politicians there’s still something to be gained by treating people with a modicum of decency and respect, because it helps them politically,” Lovett said.
Timmy Teepell, an adviser to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, one of roughly a dozen likely candidates for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, agreed with Lovett’s assessment. “There’s nothing on the phone more important than the next hand to shake or baby to kiss,” Teepell said.
This is the first presidential election to see two technological trends converge: Device absorption is now a cultural norm, and the field of candidates includes several younger politicians who regularly use hand-held phones. President Obama was a BlackBerry user in 2008 and fought to retain one after he was elected, but smartphones were primarily used for email back then, and the iPhone had been around only since the summer of 2007 and had not yet acquired its cornucopia of apps and photo-sharing power. BlackBerrys were still used mostly by elites and the business class. Even in 2012, Republican candidate Mitt Romney did not use a smartphone himself. He read email and articles on his iPad, and he relied on aides to dial phone numbers for him and to brief him on moment-by-moment news developments.
That makes 2016 the first presidential election where many of the would-be candidates are regular smartphone users who will have to think through how often to check their phones in public. The two current front-runners, from both parties, are well-known device users. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got some of the best media coverage of her long time in public life when a photo of her checking her BlackBerry on a military transport plane became a viral meme that spawned its own website, Texts From Hillary; she now faces the biggest controversy of her time as a prospective presidential candidate over her email use. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made his email address public and replied to as much email as possible while in office. He even made sure that his BlackBerry was included in his official governor’s portrait.
2016 will be the first presidential election where candidates will have to think through how often to check their phones in public.
It’s not as if the rules are hard-and-fast. Obama had no problem looking at his phone on the sideline of a college basketball game in 2013. But he was well into his second term then — it’s unlikely he would have done this during the height of a presidential campaign.
And there is always going to be the concern that under the partisan glare of a campaign, even the most innocent moments can be misconstrued and magnified.
“You could watch 38 minutes of a basketball game and show total interest in the game and be enjoying the game, but if you take out your phone for two minutes to either answer a call or check your messages, when you’re a candidate, that’s when the shutters start clicking on the camera,” said Kevin Madden, a senior adviser to Romney during the 2012 campaign. “That could be the depiction of your level of interest in the game in a way that didn’t really square with reality. So you’re better off keeping the phone off and tucked away.”
Even so, the way forward for this microscopically scrutinized group of people is probably not one of total abstention in public. Toby Lawless, a casting director in Los Angeles, understands the importance and impact of a person’s image. But he said that the key for presidential candidates will be to use their smartphones properly in public.
“[If] it’s at a Clippers game, are they using it when they should be watching the game? Then I think, ‘Dude, watch the game.’ Are they using it to take a selfie with Blake Griffin? I’d probably do that, so then I identify and I think, ‘Hey, you’re sort of like me,’” Lawless said. “So while I think a candidate using their phone in a public gathering is OK because it makes me identify with them, I very well may judge them if I think they’re using it with poor etiquette.
“Because while it’s probably the most useful tool we all have, it’s also our worst addiction — and I want to see them using it well!”
And it’s here that the pressure of being watched everywhere may actually help a candidate’s mental health. Studies have shown that smartphone usage can cause higher levels of stress, and most people are familiar with the sensation of feeling distracted and even somewhat disoriented by the pace at which information comes rushing at us, and the degree to which our egos drive us to compulsively check our social media accounts and emails for virtual affirmation.
The candidate must be fully present. Or he or she will suffer the consequences.
In 2012, Newsweek writer Tony Dokoupil wrote that the Internet was making us “psychotic” and creating “a whole new mental environment.” It is, Dokoupil wrote, “a digital state of nature where the human mind becomes a spinning instrument panel, and few people will survive unscathed.” Our brains are being rewired and suffering atrophy from compulsive overuse of electronic devices and the Internet, often leading to depression, he said, citing numerous scientific studies. He recounted the story of filmmaker Jason Russell, the creator of the “Kony 2012” film about Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony. Russell was found naked and ranting on the side of the road days after his film had gone viral on YouTube, to the tune of 70 million views in a week. Dokoupil suggested that Russell’s explanation — temporary insanity — was brought on by the onrush of online feedback and attention. The New York Times last year produced a documentary about the lengths to which Chinese parents are going to help their teenage children break from addiction to the Internet, sending them to boot camps that border on prisons.
And while the average American, Dokoupil wrote, is struggling to try to curtail phone usage, presidential candidates’ shame-enforced public abstinence could help shield them from the technology’s ill effects.
“The good news is they get to experience events as they happen. They get to talk to people who are actually in the room. They don’t have the burden of trying to be instantaneously responding to all the incoming as it happens,” said Ben LaBolt, who was Obama’s spokesman in the 2012 campaign.
LaBolt said that candidates don’t need to be “robots” in avoiding phone usage, but that “when you’re meeting with voters, when they’re getting a chance to look under the hood and kick the tires, you’re all theirs.
“It’s as much of what they evaluate as your policy positions,” he said.
There is one group of people, however, whom candidates can blow off if they want to, said Teepell.
“I think it’s OK to glance at your phone as a way of telling your staff that you are no longer interested in whatever they are saying,” he said.

New Jersey privatizes its water in the worst way possible

Global water, via Shutterstock
Many New Jerseyans will soon have private water with no public recourse.
Private Water

Lunatic ‘christian Family Band’ Battles Eight Police Officers In Walmart Parking Lot

Lunatic ‘Christian Family Band’ Battles Eight Police Officers In Walmart Parking Lot (VIDEO)“This was an all out knockdown drag out battle.. pretty much for 10 to 15 minutes, it was everybody fighting for everything they had,” Police Chief Jody Fanning said. “I’ve been a police officer for 28 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.”