Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Why do so many US Political arguments involve attacking the extremist positions of each side?

Its a version of the Strawman argument. Define your opponent’s position in the worst possible light, frame it as such and then attack the frame. The frame will crack creating the false illusion that you have discredited the opposing side. Its a cheap trick and is extremely dishonest (not to mention illogical). Why is it used? Because in the eyes of a partisan audience it appears as though you have pulled one over on your opponent.

Was the GOP the popular choice for African-Americans before 1960?

African-Americans, who could only join the Democratic Party from 1924 onward, started leaving the Republican Party as early as 1936 not 1960 as is often believed. In fact in the election that year 71% of the Black vote went to FDR. This appears to be largely a consequence of the New Deal although the tireless campaigning of Eleanor Roosevelt may have played a role.

The voting trend held firm over the next three elections with African-Americans voting  by a margin of over 3 to 1 in favour of Harry Truman over Thomas Dewey in the 1948 election. Truman of course was a key figure in ending racial discrimination in federal hiring often running afoul of key segments of his own party on this issue.

Even Eisenhower who would fully integrate the army (a process started by Truman but rejected by FDR) and opened up the schools to Black students was regularly outvoted at the polls by a margin of 76% to 24% in 1952 and 61% to 39% in 1956, with respect to the black voting demographic. However his appeal among African-American voters was a lot better than the last four Republican Party candidates (Alf Landon, Wendell Wilkie and Thomas Dewey- twice)

In short the shift had been ongoing for at least two decades before the Civil Rights debates of the late 1950s and 1960s. Economic rather than racial issues, a reflection to a  larger degree of the difficulties of  urban migration, appeared to be the key driver as the entrenchment of a racist core within the Democratic Party was still very much a truism.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

What irritates me about Quora?

I generally like Quora but I do find that it has a number of irritations
Here are a few
  1. Many Writers are condescending and rude when there is no reason to be so. I suspect that a great deal of those asking questions are kids who may be ignorant of certain facts. Responding politely with a well thought out answer is a far better option.
  2. Top Writers dominate key questions despite supplying answers that very often don’t live up to the hype associated with these writers.
  3. Obvious liberal bias. While Quora itself has no bias as an organization (as far as I can tell) the Quora community appears to be somewhat of a liberal echo chamber. Even conservative related topics are routinely dominated by liberals who regularly skew Conservative opinions to the applause of a Hurrah chorus.
  4. Too many questions are answered with anecdotal evidence only. While these are often great to read they don’t do justice to the broader question being asked.
  5. Questions on more nebulous topics are regularly answered with the language of certainty indicating that the author is reluctant to reflect on the strength of their argument.
  6. The Trump obsession - enough is enough…let’s move on here.

Are neoconservatism and neoliberalism the same thing?

Neoliberalism is more of an economic philosophy driven by laissez-faire economics, deregulation, free trade and a reduction in government spending.
Neoconservativism often include neoliberal principles in its worldview but is more focused on an foreign relations, promotion of democratic ideals and necessary action to spread such ideals. Some of the basic ideas of Neoconservatism are outlined in this list of statement from the Henry Jackson society.
The Society Believes that modern liberal democracies set an example to which the rest of the world should aspire.
  1. Supports a ‘forward strategy’ – involving diplomatic, economic, cultural, and/or political means—to assist those countries that are not yet liberal and democratic to become so.
  2. Supports the maintenance of a strong military, by the United States, the countries of the European Union and other democratic powers, armed with expeditionary capabilities with a global reach, that can protect our homelands from strategic threats, forestall terrorist attacks, and prevent genocide or massive ethnic cleansing.
  3. Supports the necessary furtherance of European military modernization and integration under British leadership, preferably within NATO
  4. Stresses the importance of unity between the world’s great democracies, represented by institutions such as NATO, the European Union and the OECD, among many others.
  5. Believes that only modern liberal democratic states are truly legitimate, and that the political or human rights pronouncements of any international or regional organisation which admits undemocratic states lack the legitimacy to which they would be entitled if all their members were democracies.
  6. Gives two cheers for capitalism. There are limits to the market, which needs to serve the Democratic Community and should be reconciled to the environment.
  7. Accepts that we have to set priorities and that sometimes we have to compromise, but insists that we should never lose sight of our fundamental values. This means that alliances with repressive regimes can only be temporary. It also means a strong commitment to individual and civil liberties in democratic states, even and especially when we are under attack.

What are the Voting trends of American Jews?

Still looking for better stats but the American Jewish Party Identification study undertaken by Gallup in 2014 may be a start. Here are some of the findings.
Key findings
  • 29% of American Jews are Republican, up from 22% in 2008
  • 61% of Jews are Democrats, down from 71% seven years ago
  • Highly religious and male Jews are most likely to be Republican
Let R = Republican/leaners D = Democrat/leaners
Highly religious R - 42% D-46%
Moderately Religious R -32% D - 59%
Not Religious R -24% D -67%
These results are based on 2014 Gallup Daily tracking interviews with 4,116 Americans who identified their religion as Jewish.

Why is Physics so badly taught?

This is an excellent question and one that teachers have been wrestling with for some time. In fact I will be giving a presentation along these lines to a group of teachers in February of this year. Here is a list of key factors that have been identified
  1. There is all too often not enough time spent making sure that the students understand the key concepts (Big Ideas) before moving on to the problem solving;
  2. Overuse of poor analogies in explaining concepts that lead to further problems down the road when application situation become more complex;
  3. Many physics teachers are transplanted math teachers who teach the subject as a type of Applied Math - Physics of course is much more than that;
  4. Lack of Laboratory work and Demonstrations that allow students to consolidate big ideas on a visual/hands-on level;
  5. North American courses are often too focused on breadth and not on depth with respect to curriculum content - in a rush to cover many teacher’s often sacrifice the deeper analysis to check off all the topic boxes;
  6. Instruction methodology often lacks diversity - Various Combinations of teacher and student orientated approaches should be intermixed as is necessary to target the broader student mosaic (and variety of learning styles);
  7. Too much focus on formula memorization - Formulas are important but students need to understand where they come from, how they apply and what are the limitations of each formula based on the Assumptions inherent in their derivation

Liverpool can win 2016/17 but its not going to be easy

Liverpool can win the title but they have to keep their focus and momentum. They have arguably the finest striking force in the English game as is evident by their lead in the goals ‘for’ category but have an Achilles heel in defense that continues to be problematic. Jurgen Klopp may address this in the January transfer window.
In addition the Reds will be without the very influential Sadio Mane for several weeks and will need some time to reintegrate Philippe Countinho back into the side following his injury.
Their greatest strength this season though is that they have proved to be tremendously capable in distributing the scoring load which makes them less vulnerable ultimately to a single injury . Lallana, Henderson, Milner and Firmino have all been wonderful.However problems could arise if injuries and suspensions pile up.
Fortunately for Liverpool have only Domestic fixtures to concern themselves with and while this is true of Chelsea as well it make work in Liverpool’s favour who after the Old Trafford match up this coming Sunday (Jan 15) will have a schedule that is even more biased towards home games for the Reds.
We will have to wait and see. Still predicting good times ahead for the Reds. YNWA.