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Political Morality

Although I have posted this video in the past, I realize I had not properly emphasized the significance on its impact to my thinking. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies the five moral values that form the basis of our political choices and discusses them at TED. Haidt’s studies have shown that humans have a ”first draft” of morality based on the following criteria:

  1. Harm/Care
  2. Fairness/Reciprocity
  3. Ingroup/Loyalty
  4. Authority/Respect
  5. Purity/Sanctity

Depending on political persuasion, an individual will value some of these five moral systems more than others. Liberals tend to value Harm and Fairness far more than Authority, Ingroup and Purity while conservatives tend to value all 5 more equally.

I first watched this presentation during around the close of the primaries for the election. The most profound idea that made this talk so relevant was the evidence that we need the participation of both liberals and conservatives to build a successful nation (further discussion at www.civilpolitics.org). I implore you take the 15 minutes and listen to this discussion.

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind.html

The study results came from www.yourmorals.org. I took some tests and was surprised by the results.


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Too big to fail

Maybe ‘too big to fail’ is just too big… Doesn’t that seem a little odd that the government bails out banks that are too big to fail to just have them buy up more banks that then makes the company that was in trouble even more dangerous to our economy if they fail? Hmm.

Maybe ‘too big to fail’ is just too big” by Robert Reich from Marketplace an American Public Media show.

Audio Podcast:
http://download.publicradio.org/podcast/marketplace/pm/2008/10/22/marketplace_cast1_20081022_64.mp3

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TEXT OF COMMENTARY:

Kai Ryssdal: Congress is in full oversight mode this week. There are hearings on everything from financial reforms to how this whole thing happened in the first place to what’s going on with the bailout package.

Some banks are thinking about using their share of the bailout money to buy other banks. Bigger’s usually better in the financial world. Except, says commentator Robert Reich, for what that means to the rest of us.

Robert Reich: According to Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, the biggest Wall Street banks now getting money from the government are just “too big to fail.”

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke uses a different euphemism — he calls them “systemically critical.” The point is that if any one of them goes down, it could take the whole financial system with it. So we taxpayers have to keep them up.

We’re hearing the same argument elsewhere in Washington for saving General Motors. It’s just “too big to fail.” So Congress is considering a bailout that would keep GM afloat and sweeten a merger between GM and Chrysler.

Pardon me for asking, but if a company is too big to fail, maybe — just maybe — it’s too big, period.

We used to have public policies to prevent companies from getting too big. Does anyone remember antitrust laws? Somewhere along the line policymakers decided that antitrust would only be used where there was evidence a company had so much market power it could keep prices higher than otherwise.

We seem to have forgotten that the original purpose of antitrust law was also to prevent companies from becoming too powerful. Too powerful in that so many other companies depended on them, so many jobs turned on them and so many consumers or investors or depositors needed them, that the economy as a whole would be endangered if they failed. Too powerful in that they could wield inordinate political influence of a sort that might gain them extra favors from Washington.

Maybe the biggest irony today is that Washington policymakers who are funneling taxpayer dollars to these too-big-to-fail companies are simultaneously pushing them to consolidate into even bigger companies. They’ve prodded Bank of America to take over Merrill Lynch and Countrywide. JPMorgan to acquire Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns. And now they’re urging General Motors to absorb Chrysler.

So we’re ending up with even bigger giants, with even more power over the economy and politics, subsidized by taxpayers and guaranteed never to fail because they’re just — too big!


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Deficit

Fiscal conservatism used to mean that you actually worked to reduce the size of the government and reign in government spending. Although the Republican party still claims that they are the party of fiscal conservatism, they actually are just as bad as the democrats, if not worse. When Clinton left office we had a surplus, the last 8 years the US has spent in such huge deficit that it is hard to see our way out of it… but is now the time to reduce spending? I don’t believe so.

There’s such a thing as a smart deficit” by Thomas Frank from Marketplace an American Public Media show.
Audio Podcast:

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Transcript of Thomas Frank: This is one of history’s great paradoxes: Again and again we elect deficit-denouncing conservatives to office, and again and again they proceed to run up gigantic federal deficits.

Why do they do it? Well, for one thing, deficits allow them to reward their constituents; They can cut taxes for the very rich while sluicing money to politically-connected contractors.

For another thing, deficits allow the conservatives who piled them up to demand that social programs be cut, that government operations be outsourced, that Social Security be privatized.

And now we have a conservative Republican running for president who is outraged by the deficits run up by another conservative Republican. That candidate, John McCain, promises — and you guessed it — a balanced budget in his first term in office. After all, his campaign tells us that individual families don’t get to run deficits — they have to pay their bills on time, and therefore so should the federal government. So what we need to do is slam on the brakes.

McCain’s approach would be calamitous. The federal government isn’t a family; it’s allowed to run deficits when they’re called for, and believe me, they’re called for right now when we’re in recession and everything is contracting.

Maybe there’s another way of looking at the problem. Suppose we understand the current deficits that benefited the rich and the well-connected as stupid deficits that didn’t stimulate much more than the market for yachts and lobbyists. Smart deficits, on the other hand, would come from federal spending that gets the economy going again. Spending money on infrastructure, on stabilizing the housing market and on a massive energy independence program — that’s the kind of energetic and intelligent governing we so urgently need today.

Look, the alternative is to deliberately bring on some economic day of judgment. But the right answer to our problem is not to steer for an iceberg while shouting ‘every man for himself!’


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Voting in SF

Seal of the City and County of San Francisco
Here is what I am thinking about for November 4 on a city level. The propositions can be found in the Voter Information Pamphlet (PDF), further information can at SF City voter’s web site.

Download a calendar reminder to vote: vote.vcs.ics

Prop Decision Reason
A undecided I will probably vote “Yes” BUT it is a lot of money that will ultimately raise my rent. I don’t think that it really improves the number of beds or services or even reduces the risk of an earthquake destroying a large portion of the hospital due to the neighboring brick monstrosities that will likely fall upon it since they are not seismically stable, yet.
B No This is the wrong way to raise money for low income housing. setting asside 2.5% of the budget to a cause ties the hands of our elected officials.
C Yes Keeping the powers separated is very important.
D Yes Bring more business and tax revenue into SF!
E Yes Let’s follow state standards
F Yes Most people in SF don’t vote on odd years. This allows for voter manipulation.
G No The more I read about it, the more I think the law needs to be better written.
H No I don’t like the idea of anyone having the ability to have a blank check when putting the tax payers into debt, even if it is for a noble cause. I also wonder if SF can run power better than private industry.
I Yes We need more independent advocates to keep our costs under control.
J No It makes sense to have a single authority for building but shouldn’t preservation be weighed with other planning needs?
K Yes I don’t believe that sex workers should be prosecuted as criminals. Pimps and human traffickers on the other hand should get all that is coming to them. Does this law address this? I don’t know.
L Yes We need to fund community justice center to help keep our system fairly for people of all income.
M No I feel like there are a lot of protections for tenants already.
N Yes Encourages the installation of Solar energy systems on private residents.
O Yes My issue is really with more taxes, though it sounds like the amount of money would be the same just updates the law to include newer technologies like IP Phones, etc… So I will vote yes.
P No This is not necessary or fixes any core issues.
Q Yes It needs to be updated.
R G. W. Bush did enough harm, do we really want anything named after him, even a sewer plant? Is this really needed?
S Yes Seems like good government.
T No Where does the money come from? I think it will just tie the hands of people who need to allocate money.
U No I truly disagree with us going into Iraq to begin with. But we are there and we can vote for Obama to get us out.
V Yes JROTC had been a really positive influence on many people’s lives. I just think people need a choice.

What is your opinion?


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San Francisco – Vote for Hope

Vote
The San Francisco Department of Elections would like to provide you with important information about the upcoming November 4, 2008 Consolidated General Election.
Download a calendar reminder to vote: vote.vcs.ics

Important Dates and Deadlines:

  • Early voting began October 6, 2008 on the ground floor of City Hall.
  • The last day to register to vote is October 20, 2008. If you have moved, changed your name, or would like to change your party affiliation, you must re-register to vote.
  • The last day to request a vote-by-mail is October 28, 2008.

The Voter Information Pamphlet (PDF), Information on the statewide measures can be found in the Voter Information Guide

You can now confirm your voter registration status online using the voter registration status lookup tool. The look-up tool will display information on your party affiliation and permanent vote-by-mail status. It will also provide you a sample of your ballot and the location of your polling place.

For more information on the upcoming election, visit the Department’s web site or call (415) 554-4375.

Vote for Hope