Aug 092012
 

John Dean referenced Bob Altemeyer’s work extensively in his 2006 book, “Conservatives without Conscience.”

A 27-page condensed and abstracted version is available on this site at: http://sociodynamics.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Bob-Altemeyer-The-Authoritarians-Abstracted.pdf 

To read the complete 254-page original, your link is http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

Also, I have found an audio CD, read by the author at: http://cherryhillpublishing.com/Bookstore/en/nonfiction/14-the-authoritarians-cd-audio-9780972329880.html

Altemeyer explains: “This book is about what’s happened to the American government lately. It’s about the disastrous decisions that government has made. It’s about the corruption that rotted the Congress. It’s about how traditional conservatism has nearly been destroyed by authoritarianism. It’s about how the “Religious Right” teamed up with amoral authoritarian leaders to push its un-democratic agenda onto the country. It’s about the United States standing at the crossroads as the next federal election approaches.”

“The feedback I’ve gotten from those who have read The Authoritarians enables me to give you the major reason why you might want to do so too.   “It ties things together for me,” people have said, “You can see how so many things all fit together.” “It explains the things about conservatives that didn’t make any sense to me,” others have commented. And the one that always brings a smile to my face, “Now at last I understand my brother-in-law” (or grandmother, uncle, woman in my car pool, Congressman, etc.)”

Ever since John W. Dean published his Conservatives Without Conscience in 2006, much interest has been vested in the research of Dr. Bob Altemeyer that was so prominently featured in the book. In CWC, Dean set out to learn why modern conservatives seemed to think and behave in ways diametrically opposite the righteous and moral values they so publicly espoused. What he discovered was an existing body of scientific research tracing back to the cinders of the Holocaust. This research focused on the Authoritarian Personality, which social scientists believe was the enabling element within German society that was so deftly exploited by Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich.  Bob Altemeyer’s research on the Authoritarian Personality, summarized in this book, won the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Prize for Behavioral Science Research.

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Jul 312012
 

I would like to have one more go at the effects of the core philosophies of the elites among us. I have described those working from an early “Puritan Ethic” of community betterment and their opposite, those working from an early “Plantation Ethic” of being above the law with the freedom to control and exploit others and their property at will. How is this playing out in 2012?

The Republican Party seems to have been seized by elites with the Plantation Ethic during the past few decades. They love their money and privilege and will do anything to protect their private advantages. They have been preaching a host of destructive circular arguments. Here are a few examples:

They describe government as being out of control and being the root of all evil. They say that government needs to be slashed, reduced, and killed. No joke. Grover Norquist, the lobbyist and conservative “No Taxes” activist said, “… I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” Then they work to systematically cripple government so that it has trouble doing the good things that government is supposed to do. Finally, they point at this damaged government and say, “See, government really is worthless.”

They describe our government’s financial, pollution, and safety regulations as being out of control and the root of all evil. They say that government regulations are preventing businesses from making a profit and so there are fewer jobs. They have been working to systematically cripple important regulations so that financial, pollution, and safety issues pop up more often. Then they point at these preventable problems and say, “See, government really is worthless.”

They describe our public schools as being ineffective and the root of all evil. They work to underfund schools and lay-off teachers while burdening them with mountains of paperwork. With teaching becoming a thankless struggle against parental and community apathy, overwork, and buying your own books and supplies, good teachers give up. Then the elites point to these problems and say, “See, public education really is worthless.”

What is their alternative? Well, of course: contracts for private companies to provide services that were previously provided by public employees. Now, do you think that a corporation with these private contracts will actually work in the best interests of their employees and of those they “serve?” Or, will they work to maximize profits? Color me real skeptical. I absolutely believe that there are some things that public agencies and public servants are better able to do, and one of those things is caring for neighbors. The “public sector” isn’t just some big anonymous bureaucracy; it’s your neighbors and mine. When was the last time that a big multinational corporation brought you a casserole or tutored your child for free after class?

And, have you forgotten that “the love of money” is named as the root of all evil? While our economy is still struggling to recover from the last big private adventure in financial risk-taking, corporate profits are at a record high and employee wages, as a proportion of our economy, are at an all-time low. Yeah, tell me that the “job creators” need more tax cuts so that they can create more jobs. We’re fools to keep on thinking that the moisture we feel is the start of trickle down from the corporations who love us. I don’t think its trickle down; I can tell when I’m being pissed on.

© 2012, David Satterlee

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Jul 312012
 

Last week, I talked about the inevitable presence and place of elites in American Society. While we believe that all men are created equal and certain of their rights are unalienable and should never be threatened, we understand that some of us have advantages and abilities that others do not. Nonetheless, we hope that our children and grandchildren might yet find exceptional success for their efforts.

America has continued to struggle to define, expand, and guarantee our liberties. American slaves have been granted the rights of citizenship. Their descendants are increasingly able to vote freely, serve in the military, and sit, as free people, on any free seat on any bus. Women have been given the right to own property, vote, earn equal wages, and use birth control. Recently, more of us have received additional health care protection so that we don’t face the choice of staying healthy or dying quickly.

Nonetheless, America has always faced groups determined to twist government to favor their private wealth, power, and industry. In the years before World War I, this was called “The Gilded Age.” Corruption was open, corporations organized violence against their workers, stark poverty ravaged the lives of the poor crowded into tenement housing. If you were hurt on the job, you could consider yourself fired before you hit the ground.

The “Panic of 1893” was the result of corporate corruption and embezzlement on a massive scale. They even got the US Army to intervene in labor disputes. The “Great Depression” preceding World War II was triggered by the collapse of unregulated financial speculation by financiers. The Financial Collapse of 2007 was also the work of bankers and financiers trading in fabricated instruments derived from bundled lots of high-risk investments. Greece, other countries, and banks bought these investments, thinking that they could lower their own interest payments. The inevitable collapse shook the finances of not just Europe, but the entire world.

Today, self-serving business interests seem to have seized the reigns of the Republican Party. This goes far beyond the conservative or liberal dispositions of voters. They are dismantling needed regulation of finance, pollution, and labor practices. They are undermining and trying to privatize public workers including teachers, law enforcement, and even the military. They are outsourcing and cutting jobs while reducing wages and benefits for those who do still work. They are making it harder for most students to get or afford the college degrees that are demanded for entry into everything but minimum-wage service jobs. And, they are even trying to eliminate the minimum wage.

Today, well into our struggling recovery from the collapse of their economic house of cards, corporate profit margins are again at record highs while U.S. wages, as a share of our economy, are at record lows. If there is “class warfare” going on, they started it. Income inequality is stunning and it is getting worse. I believe that Americans of both parties need to push back against those who are intent on compounding their private wealth and power at the expense of everyone else.

© 2012, David Satterlee

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Jul 312012
 

You have seen me struggling to make sense of the differences between conservatives and liberals, the balance between personal liberties and public responsibilities, and persistent class differences in America. Today, I read an article that suggested a difference between American elites that fills in a gap in my thinking. Naturally, I’m excited and want to share.

Despite our belief that all men are created equal, we have always understood that some of us have advantages of education, wealth, connections, and influence that are not shared equally. And, as a competitive capitalistic society, we mostly accept these class differences in the hope that someday we, or our children, might get rich and powerful too. We expect to always have our elites.

 

The thing that got my attention was the idea that, in America, there are two major background philosophies among our elites. Some derive their life-views from Puritan thought while some get their thinking from Plantation attitudes. This makes a difference in how a person of privilege thinks about what they do with their wealth, what responsibilities they feel for others, and how they define liberty and freedom.
The Puritan ethic emphasizes community and the conviction that those having wealth and power also have the responsibility to use some of it to improve their societies. Historically, they typically responded to an inner call to community service and doing good for others. They have endowed universities and public libraries. They have endorsed government policies that improve the lot of the common man. The Roosevelts and Kennedys have fit this mold. People like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are determined to use their fortunes for good.

Holders of the Plantation ethic are very much different. Sara Robinson’s article describes its origins in the West Indian slave states and its “…utter lack of civic interest, its hostility to the very ideas of democracy and human rights, its love of hierarchy, its fear of technology and progress, its reliance on brutality and violence to maintain “order,” and its outright celebration of inequality as an order divinely ordained by God.”

David Hackett Fischer further describes Plantation Elites that, “…always feared and opposed universal literacy, public schools and libraries, and a free press… they… sank their money into ostentatious homes and clothing and pursuit of pleasure – including lavish parties, games of fortune, predatory sexual conquests, and blood sports involving ritualized animal abuse spectacles.” They held themselves to be unaccountable and above the law.

In the Puritan Ethic, both liberty and authority reside with the community. Individuals are expected to balance their personal desires against the greater good and occasionally make sacrifices in behalf of others. This kind of support maximizes each citizen’s liberty, dignity, and potential. In the Plantation Ethic, one’s sense of liberty depended on their God-given place in society, and gave them the freedom to “take liberties” with the lives, rights, and property of other people. This results in their feeling the right to dominate, exploit, and abuse others and their property with impunity. This defines them, in their own eyes, as “free men.”

What sort of elites do you want writing your laws and running your government?

© 2012, David Satterlee

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Jul 262012
 

Bill Moyers is his old, quiet, direct, and serious self. No car chases. No gun fights. Just the presentation of ideas worth discussing.

“On the Oregon Trail, more settlers died from gun accidents than from Indian attacks.”

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May 312012
 

Letter to the Editor

Fort Dodge Messenger

 (Published May 16, 2012)

In 1936, FDR (that would be President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the young whippersnappers) gave a speech in Madison Square Garden, New York, just days before his re-election. It was powerful; defiant; inspiring.

I was startled by how circumstances now reflect that time of monopoly, grave financial risk-taking, pocket government, and the resulting Great Depression. I was astonished at how FDR’s words could just as easily be coming from our current president.

“For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away.

Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair!

Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent. For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace, business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs.

We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred.”

This speech was introduced as part of a “crusade to restore America to its own people.” FDR hoped that, as the forces of selfishness and lust for power had met their match in his first term, they would meet their master in his second.

FDR concluded: “…the recovery we seek, the recovery we are winning, is more than economic. In it are included justice and love and humility, not for ourselves as individuals alone, but for our Nation.”

After watching the recent PBS Frontline report on “Money, Power, and Wall Street,” I am more determined than ever to do what I can to help, yet again, restore America to its own people.

David Satterlee

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May 312012
 

Christianity started out as a very liberal way of life. Take a look at the things Jesus personally did and said. A red-letter version of the New Testament will help. I won’t cite chapter and verse, but if you’re up for this discussion, you will already feel right at home.

Above all, Jesus lived and taught love. He even made the blunt assertion that “God is Love.” Jesus pointed out that the greatest law was Love – of God and neighbor – and he used the parable of a good Samaritan to point out that everyone is our neighbor.

In contrast to the popular idea that “you are on your own,” a core liberal belief is that “we are all in this together.” That is, we are all neighbors and need to care about our common good at every level, not just our own family or religion.

While teaching personal responsibility, Jesus also taught us to not focus overmuch on individual liberties. He washed his disciples’ feet to set an example of submitting in service to others.

Jesus really came down hard on the Pharisees. These were the nation’s  religious and political leaders. Often the wealthiest, they created, enforced, and defended a system of traditions and laws that supported and sustained their own positions of privilege and power.

The Pharisees claimed the high ground of faith and values, but Jesus condemned them and called them hypocrites. Notably, he drove money changers, members of the privileged financial elites, out of the temple.

Jesus was tolerant of those in other social classes; He ate with tax collectors and sinners and he cared about the health and welfare of all. He gave his gifts freely to the poor and downhearted and he encouraged others to do so as well.

Finally, stop a moment to contemplate the fact that Jesus, along with folks such as Martin Luther. were the radical liberals of their time. They took issue with the existing systems of unfair power, privilege, and oppression. Without extending the point too far, they were, in fact, progressive community organizers.

©2012, David Satterlee

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May 312012
 

Men of the fields, like all men of faith, are optimists. As defined at Acts 17:11, faith is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Optimists are able to contemplate the future with eyes of hope. They can imagine the substance of a reality that does not yet exist.

Pessimists are more likely to behave as faithless men of fear. They contemplate the future and imagine losing what they already have. This motivates them to worry about preserving things the way they are and conserving resources already at hand.

As children, we are usually relatively weak and understand that we could lose anything at any time. Someone stronger, having more authority or power, can take property or liberties from us at will. This makes us more focused on near-term risks and immediate gratifications.

As adults, there are several typical reactions to this fear of loss. Some may store up that which they fear losing or, like a prodigal, spend carelessly on whatever they can get now. Some may follow teachers who prey upon their fear. They may work to undermine even the best parts of our own elected government-of-the-people. They may even arm themselves and prepare against a day of “Second Amendment remedies.”

Others, as they develop toward adulthood, exhibit the emotional maturity associated with accepting delayed gratification. This is related to “self-control” – one of the Fruitages of the Spirit. Without this, no one would effectively invest in the future of their children, community, or nation.

By being open to faith in a good outcome, either as the result of hard work, the blessings of a loving  God, or  both, these optimists are willing to invest their resources – energy, blood, and treasure – in an uncertain future.

The further out these liberals are able to imagine the “substance of things hoped for,” the more radically they are willing to invest in the common good of their communities – voluntarily walking in self-sacrificing love rather than fear.

©2012, David Satterlee

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May 232012
 

John Dean referenced Bob Altemeyer’s work extensively in his 2006 book, “Conservatives without Conscience.”

In case you wanted to dig deeper, your link is http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

Altemeyer explains: “This book is about what’s happened to the American government lately. It’s about the disastrous decisions that government has made. It’s about the corruption that rotted the Congress. It’s about how traditional conservatism has nearly been destroyed by authoritarianism. It’s about how the “Religious Right” teamed up with amoral authoritarian leaders to push its un-democratic agenda onto the country. It’s about the United States standing at the crossroads as the next federal election approaches.”

“The feedback I’ve gotten from those who have read The Authoritarians enables me to give you the major reason why you might want to do so too.   “It ties things together for me,” people have said, “You can see how so many things all fit together.” “It explains the things about conservatives that didn’t make any sense to me,” others have commented. And the one that always brings a smile to my face, “Now at last I understand my brother-in-law” (or grandmother, uncle, woman in my car pool, Congressman, etc.)”

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May 212012
 

My sweet wife and I were sitting on the front porch swing, reading the Sunday paper and enjoying the cool breeze of the early morning. It still amazes me how many things we don’t know about each other, even after all these years. She was reading the obituaries. I knew something was up when she lowered the paper into her lap and just stared off into the distance. Eventually she explained, “I almost married a Republican lawyer.”

Being my usual smart-ass self, I quipped, “Yeah, that would have been tough. Lawyers like to argue, and they especially like to win arguments. And, you can’t argue rationally with a Republican.” Fortunately, my beloved knows that, once I get the smart-ass out of my system, it’s safe to move on as if nothing had happened. She finished her story.

“Someone I dated in high school died. I might have married him. It turns out he became a lawyer.” I put my arm across her shoulder. She likes to lean her head back and rest that way. “We were actually pretty serious for a while, and then I called it off.” She leaned her head back and rolled it toward my shoulder. “You know what a liberal hippie chick I was back then, with protest marches and folk songs. Well, he invited me to go with him to a Young Republicans Club meeting. So, we started comparing ideas and, pretty soon that was it.”

Well, that’s about it here too. When you’re been married for a long time, some of the best things are the quiet, delicate, unexpected joys that land on you, like the cool flutter of a butterfly, for just a moment. I kissed her gently on the head and told her that I loved her. And then I just stared off into the distance for a while, surprised that I would find myself so suddenly grateful to a Republican lawyer.

©2012, David Satterlee

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Mar 092012
 

If you don’t already know, Stratfor is a private company, founded by George Friedman, that gathers international intelligence and creates reports which they sell to individual subscribers, businesses, and governments. They have been in the news recently because their data and email were seriously hacked. This is very interesting and sensitive stuff. WikiLeaks is publishing excerpts, and it is a big deal. Stratfor is being straightforward about the event, fixing the problem with a vengeance, and offering their clients extra value. I subscribe to their free newsletter and love it. I also love Friedman’s recent books including “The Next Decade” and “The Next 100 Years.”

I picked up my copy of the Fort Dodge Messenger this morning (Friday, March 9, 2012) and flipped to the editorials on page four. They are often more entertaining than the comics. Rachel Marsden’s column “The new WikiLeaks stash” jumped right out and grabbed me. Sure enough, it was a critical (if not gloating) diatribe [yes, I admit to taking an emotionally-charged swing at some things myself] against Stratfor. The topic seemed out of place in Fort Dodge, Iowa. [Admittedly, I’m kinda out of place too. If there is anyone else around here who takes an interest in Stratfor or issues of global geopolitical existentialism, please introduce yourself; we probably ought to meet.]

First, if you don’t already know, Rachel Marsden describes herself as a: “political/geopolitical and communications strategist/analyst, Radio/TV presenter, internationally syndicated columnist with (Chicago) Tribune Company, author, and speaker.” Whew. I’ve read that she is Canadian and lives in Paris (France, not Texas). Rachel has been compared to Ann Coulter and has done work for Fox News, Spectator Magazine, The O’Reilly Factor, the New York Post, Washington Times, and conservative politicians.

Ms. Marsden also has a new book called American Bombshell, which  prominently [The entire cover, actually] displays her attractive face and flowing dark tresses with the title information plastered across her chest. I’m not suggesting that there is something wrong with any of this, and I haven’t read the book. I suspect that the book addresses serious explosive national and international issues, and that the subliminal implication that Rachel is an “American Bombshell” is entirely unintentional. But, I’m drifting into Rush Limbaugh territory here, so let’s backpedal real fast and move on.

In today’s column, Rachel reviews recent Stratfor events and then begins to pick at the fatty pieces [I visualize a vulture ripping at road kill]. Her second paragraph leads with a statement about the CIA using private intelligence firms for “black ops” in a way that seems to imply that Stratfor is involved in killing people for hire. Does she really think that or is she just shredding a victim? Not nice, smarty pants.

My favorite rant (a real beaut) is buried in the middle of the piece:

  • “Do you know how a lot of these outfits in the thriving private intelligence sector operate? The company CEO, usually a former agency employee who has maintained UMBRA or “Top Secret” clearance, meets with a private or state client to pitch his outfit’s services, then passes off the analysis work to some book-smart/sidewalk-stupid naif who has just been dragged kicking and screaming into the real-world workforce after frittering away a good decade or so ringing up a party tour of Ivy League schools on mommy and daddy’s AmEx black card.”

You know, I just somehow doubt the objectivity at work here. Smarty pants may even have her pants on fire. It’s an impressively mind-numbing run-on sentence that runs you over and sets your hair on fire. For another thing, it sounds a lot like a liberal’s take on George W. Bush’s early years. But, that’s another story.

How do you answer a statement like that? How about: “Um, what are your sources for that and how did you come to that conclusion?”

I also want to ask, “As an advocate for conservative causes, such as private business contracts to replace big government control of the means of serving public interests, aren’t you eating one of your own sacred cows?”

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Mar 082012
 

I found a relatively new poster at open.salon.com. http://open.salon.com/blog/not2late4 She writes with thoughtful passion about ways that she has had to face and reason about controversial situations. It turns out that I was the first one to “favorite” her and we exchanged several messages. She was distressed by the strong anger that one her articles had provoked and was considering withdrawing from the site. I hope that she will carry on.

Dear Kat,
People who write like you do are really annoying. This is actually a good thing. Don’t worry about it. Keep it up. Perfect your art. I got a bumper sticker for my wife’s car that said, “Well behaved women seldom make history.” Margaret Mead is quoted as saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  You may also draw more encouragement from http://herestothecrazyones.com/ As an award-winning elementary school teacher, my wife always kept the quote prominently framed on a wall … at student’s eye level.

If you read some of my stuff posted at SocioDynamics.org (some of which is cross-posted at open.salon) you will see that I have been wrestling with the questions of why some people are persistently fearful, angry, ignorant, or bigoted. I’ve found many answers in the science of psychosocial development. Unfortunately, the answers point to the fact that, in sequential developmental stages, there will just be things that many people can’t understand yet. And, they will dislike you intensely for discussing those things.

Introducing a new idea is, for them, like bringing a new cat into the house. There is no, hello-how-do-you-do. There is just reflexive hissing, arched backs, and hair on end. But, in time, it (usually) settles down to shared naps in the sunny spot on the floor. If there is hope for cats, there is hope for the public discourse of ideas… and maybe even all of humanity.

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