Saturday, October 30, 2010

sufjan elation




last weekend i was able to see sufjan stevens at the wiltern in hollywood. if you dont know sufjan stevens, FIGURE IT OUT. especially if you like banjos, keyboards, and psychedelic folk rock. its a thing.



this was the best show i have ever seen, to date. good music, good seats, good company. plus girls dressed like robots dancing and a laser show set to crazy stop motion art. yep! i love la.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

this is a long post about politics, media and YOUR MOM.

has anyone else noticed MSNBC's new slogan? lean forward. its good cos its political and related to elections, in the sense that we talk about states as either leaning democrat or republican, and its honest (i think) in that perhaps they are addressing their tendency to be more liberal. maybe i am giving them too much credit with the new tag, but i dig it.

so given that introduction, YES I WATCH MSNBC. well, relative to other americans, or especially professors of political communication, i probably do not watch enough news, in general. but the truth of it is, that if i have more than 30 minutes of free time i am going to take a nap. if i am cleaning my house THEN i am going to turn on the news. and ill turn it up! loud. poor neighbors.

well, this post isnt about my neighbors (who i have yet to see, even having lived here 9 weeks) but instead about something keith olbermann said the other night on countdown. with the striking indignation i have come to expect from the former sportscaster he made light of something that former secretary of state, donald rumsfeld, recently said. lets talk about it.

the context is not the crux what i want this post to be about, but a little background is necessary...

rememeber the wikileaks? the illegal disclosure of 76,900 (others estimate over 400,000) reports on the US war on the Taliban/in Iraq/Afghanistan. these secrets were exposed by army private bradly manning, or "bradass87," (read: clever). could this kid possibly know what we was getting himself into? eesh.

anyways, so yes. the wikileaks largely confirmed what most of us already knew about the death toll and the torture going on in Iraq...its perverse and pervasive.

for people like olbermann (an outspoken political commentator criticizing the war in iraq and our continued presence in the middle east) the wikileaks provide what should be the nail in the coffin... the administration lied to get us into iraq, and continues to lie everyday about the civilian death toll in iraq and afghanistan. ergo, lets bolt.

in response to accusations about lies regarding the death toll, donald rumsfeld came forward this week and said:

Interestingly, all of the exaggerations seem to be on one side. It isn`t as though there simply have been a series of random errors on both sides of the issues. On the contrary, the steady stream of errors all seem to be in -- of a nature to inflame the situation and to give heart to the terrorists and to discourage those who hope for success in Iraq.


HERE COMES SNARKY INDIGNIATION. olbermann interpreted this to say that rumsfeld is blaming the media. for what is NOT entirely made clear by olbermann in the segment, but the fact that keith found it laughable that the media could be responsible for anything is what has had me reeling today...AS IF THE MEDIA ARE SOME PATRON SAINT INCAPABLE OF HAVING ANY SORT OF (NEGATIVE) IMPACT.

and now to my larger point... the effects of the media are in fact immense.

although normatively we expect the media to perform functions such as being a watch dog, providing a civic forum, and provide for mobilization, this is not what we empirically observe.
instead of performing these functions, the media tend to focus on political personalities, embarrassing gaffes, and sex scandals.

speaking of political "gaffes"...

for anyone that doesn't know, the inspiration for my dissertation largely stemmed from my dissatisfaction with the association of john kerry as a flip flopper for those terrible words he strew (strung?) together to form this sentence:
I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.

like many americans, and senators--liberal and otherwise--senator kerry authorized our going to war with iraq in 2003 by voting to allocate funds for war. when it became clear that perhaps our intentions for going into iraq were either unfounded, or maybe just because the war became unpopular, kerry did not vote to authorize the funds the second time the bill was on the floor of the senate. that means that yes, kerry approved the funding of a war in 2003... assessed situations (either on the ground in iraq, or public opinion polls, im not going with one or the other) and then did not approve the funding the second time.

yet instead of suggesting he changed his mind in light of new information, JOHN KERRY WAS NOW KNOWN AS A FLIP FLOPPER.
omh you might as well tattoo lindsey lohan on your head, you are almost as unpopular.
he was ruined. here are some other campaigns just from the last 10 years ruined by the showcasing of similar gaffes that need no background:
sarah palin (Vladimir Putin likes to rear his head and fly over Alaskan airspace)
howard dean (ay-YEAH!!)
george allen (macaca)

sex scandals that also need no introduction?
larry craig (current senator idaho) and his solicitation for sex in a minnesota bathroom
mark sanford (current governor of south carolina who went hiking on the Appalachian Trail, code for lover in argentina)
elliot spitzer (former NY gov caught with a prostitute).
interestingly, those mixed up in sex scandals are much more likely to bounce back, and see political life again. or at least hold on to their current positions, in the case of sanford and craig. spitzer i hear, is getting his own tv show. GREAT.

why am i writing all of this (at 1 am). well, i am a speaking tomorrow at the pasadena senior center, and the topic is THE MEDIA and the current election... and all i can think about is the polarizing effects, dumbing down, and general annoyance i have toward the whole establishment. do you think seniors would want to just watch this all afternoon? i know i could.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

paired synonyms

i love lawyers. they are smart, usually dress well, and largely respect laws and authority, which i can get behind.

BUT YO, STOP PUTTING TWO WORDS TOGETHER THAN MEAN THE SAME THING!

cease and desist
free and clear
give and bequeath
heirs and assigns
last will and testament
revoke and cancel
to have and to hold


GET REAL.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

book review: Personality and the Foundations of Political Behavior

a cleaner version of this review is to appear in the april 2011 journal of politics. but i thought i would copy and paste the review here in case other pol psychs want to get an idea of what this book has to offer.

Title: Personality and the Foundations of Political Behavior by Jeffery J. Mondak (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

The field of political behavior may be in for a change in the wake of Jeffery Mondak’s latest book, Personality and the Foundations of Political Behavior. In his book, Mondak presents a convincing argument in favor of incorporating measures of personality into current behavioralist approaches as a means to provide the sub-discipline with a firm foundation and to advance the development of more elaborate and powerful theories. Furthermore, using empirical analysis, Mondak demonstrates that personality traits can help us explain important political behaviors such as where Americans get their news, with what political party we most strongly identify and how citizens participate in the political process.
Contrary to mainstream research on political behavior, Mondak rethinks the accepted belief that political behaviors depend on long-standing predispositions as shaped by social and political environments. He argues that those behaviors are influenced by not only environmental factors, but also biological factors, such as personality traits, which are defined as innate, enduring, and observable. According to his approach, political behaviors are the outcome of environmental influences, as well as variables that predate encounters with environmental influences and also interact with them.
The immediate hurdle to incorporating personality measures into political behavior research is addressed forthright, as Mondak focuses directly on the debate surrounding measurement issues. As Mondak carefully outlines, the history of personality research in political science has been hampered by an ad hoc approach since the early 1900s with no consensus on a theoretical framework. This ad hoc approach has led to fractured analysis with regard to personality influences, and with no means of collaboration or corroboration. To overcome this hurdle, Mondak prescribes a commitment to the “five-factor” model, or the Big Five, for measuring personality traits. The Big Five is a viable taxonomy of traits that is comprehensive, reliable, parsimonious, and uses a limited number of dimensions. The Big Five model focuses on five core trait dimensions: Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.
Incorporating personality into studies of political behavior has intuitive appeal. Indeed, we all, in some degree or another, have a personality and we experience others’ personalities on a regular basis. We know personality matters a great deal to understanding others, and if prodded, how these characteristics are important to predicting our behaviors, including those that are political in nature. Yet perhaps this apparent face validity has negated proper investigation. As Mondak notes, the probable link between personality and political behavior “has not produced a corresponding flurry of empirical research” (11). Mondak’s review of and recommendation for the Big Five serves as a prescription for the limited research incorporating measures of personality.
Up until chapter three the book has dealt with measurement issues, such as conceptualizing and operationalizing personality traits. In the next three chapters Mondak incorporates personality traits into empirical analyses of political behaviors such as the acquisition of political information, political attitudes, and political participation to investigate whether variance in personality traits leads to observable patterns of influence.
In chapter 4 Mondak focuses our attention on the potential impact of personality traits on political information, broadly defined as media use, political discussion, political attentiveness, political knowledge and opinionation. For instance, we might intuitively gather that those more open to experience would be more likely to discuss politics, and with a more diverse social network. Chapter 5 focuses on the impact of personality on internal and external efficacy, political ideology, partisanship, and policy attitudes on issues such as the War in Iraq, and abortion. Last, in chapter 6 Mondak turns his attention to the dynamics of participation. This is a particularly effective way to evaluate the added impact of personality, as data on participation are quite rich.
With such a thorough and concise investigating within the pages of Mondak’s book, the next hurdle is to refrain from dusting off our hands, and assuming that the work is finished. Certainly Mondak’s analysis seems to run the gamut of political behaviors, from participation to attitude formation. Yet as the concluding chapter makes clear, there is still plenty of work to be done such as cross-national work, analysis of personality as a mediating variable, and construction of hypotheses that consider the conditional effects of traits.
In order to spur widespread incorporation of personality measures into studies of political behavior it will require that this approach become universally adopted as a new standard, by additional prominent political behavioralists. Surely, Mondak understands that his new agenda, mainly to complement current studies of political behavior with personality measures, will require immense work and sacrifice from other scholars.
To his credit, Mondak recognizes that the incorporation of his agenda is no small feat. Yet, if the results were not enough, he is convincing in his argument of its necessity. I agree with Mondak, in that, we are remiss if our accounts of individual-level political behavior continue to assume behaviors begin and end with factors rooted in today’s information environment. If we ignore biological factors that predate our exposure to particular environments we are missing a very important piece to the puzzle. Personality and the Foundations of Political Behavior is a powerful argument for just such a critical understanding of individual-level behavior. Beyond just criticizing current theories, Mondak presents practical and theoretically sound means to achieve more clarity in the study of political behavior. Last, by extending our causal path, our research will be richer and more comprehensive, and our field will continue to develop move forward.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

cool down.

here is a list of things i used to think were cool:

(1) i used to think IT WAS SO COOOOL when the same song was playing on two different radio stations, at the same moment. i would even call my friends when this would happen, i thought it was so cool. turns out? not that cool. you see, grown up meredith, most radio stations only play the same 5 songs over and over again. not a lot of coincidences there, merebear.

(2) what music did i think was cool? hanson. mmbop? mmbetchya. i liked hanson so much that i would take my neighbors teeny bop mags (i would never dare ask my mom to buy me one of those) when she was finished with them, and cut them to pieces in order to get all the pics of the hanson brothers (sans isaac, sorry dude, yur wack). my best friend in high school, kimberlee, and i took her glow in the dark stars (you remember using those to decorate the walls in your room??) and spelling out an ENORMOUS letter "Z" in glow stars above her bed (Z is for the youngest hanson, zac, duh).

interestingly, when working for the associated press television news station in London in 2004 i had the opportunity to interview the hanson kiddos and hang out with them back stage (yes they were (and are!!) still touring), and live out my childhood fantasy of hanging out with the brothers. well, turns out, isaac really likes showing off his impersonations of kermit the frog and austin powers, so much beyond that was out of reach. although taylor did tell me "you have nice teeth for being english." "thanks. did you also notice i have an american accent?" nice kids.


(3) the place i bought my clothes was cool. 5*7*9. do you all remember this clothing store? me too. this is where i would buy my jncos. did you know "jcno" stands for "judge none choose one." pretty deep for wide leg raver denim.

(4) trolls. those were cool. i didnt own very many. maybe like 3.

but the girl down the street had the troll jackpot! she had three sisters, so their cumulative trolls was intense. we would play "trolls" for at least 4 hours at a time. looking back, i have no idea how or why.

(5) last, my favorite band. MxPx. MxPx stood for Magnified Plaid. the "x's" represent the periods to abbreviate their longgggg (lame) name. they eventually just became "mxpx." well, sure, they were my favorite band. with lines like this how could a high school girl not get behind them?

want someone to love
a girl that when i think of
will put a smile on my face
i want to hold her hand
want her to understand
there's got to be a better place
than this world cause this
is the best time of our lives


alright meredith. so you are (WERE) a sap for sissy punk. keep it to yourself! ...well, i did NOT. for those of you who read this blog and are not members of the LDS church, in high school we attend church/sunday-school-like classes during the school week, and are asked to present devotionals. essentially a very short spiritual thought to start off the class. well, i was pretty into mxpx, and needless to say, moved by them on a regular basis. SO WHAT I DID IS USE AN MXPX SONG AS A DEVOTIONAL. here it is, ya'll:

There's nothing quite like being sure of
What's inside your heart
It's mostly simple but not so easy
To know just where to start

Today didn't have to be this way
Tomorrow is another day
Another chance to make things right
A chance to make sense of last night

A chance to fully live your life


i can see how maybe this song could be linked to the repentance process, so i suppose i should say good effort, middle school mere. but these things, cumulatively, that i used to think were cool, are clearly not. at all. thank goodness for teasing and becoming a grown up, etc etc.

xoxo gg

Monday, October 4, 2010

election season...

its october, folks. less than a month to study up on your propositions and people running for office.

in case you missed this, the following political ad IS REAL.








I PROMISE.

dan finelli is running for congress in FL, against the first term incumbent, alan grayson. alan grayson is a former DC circuit court of appeals clerk, for both scalia and ginsberg, and graduated from harvard law. i really like him. he gets flack sometime for being "crazy" and "liberal" but next to guys like finelli he is altogether reasonable.

dan finelli is one a several Tea Party candidates that surprisingly won their states primary, even without GOP establishment support. by establishment, of course, i mean the republican party. the republican party, for instance, did not suppport christine odonnell who in 1990 appeared on Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect" and admitted to "dabbling in witchcraft."

i dont know what to think of that. but i do know her response to the media attention, 20 years later, was a bad idea. see the following ad, where she begins "I am not a witch."



I AM NOT A WITCH. this is real. this is not an SNL skit, or something from the daily show. this is a real, potential member of our US Congress saying "i am not a witch," with pure sincerity.

sure, you can say its not fair that the media has jumped on the 1990 witch comment, leaving her no choice but to respond. yet there is NO WAY karl rove had anything to do with that ad; it is wholly embarrassing, and does not help her cause.

but the sad fact for both republicans and democrats is that tea party money has in fact gone to support candidates like christine odonnell who do not represent most (sane) republicans. i understand that conservatives are working off the steam provided by tea parties (and their money) but cant we agree that candidates like christine odonnell (and joe miller Alaska, sharron angle NV, alan west FL) are not the answer. oh, dan maes, too, running for governor in CO. He called the Denver bike-sharing program a socialist plot organized by the U.N.

i know many people smarter than i am predict a big turn over in november, and democrats will lose a lot of seats. but i dont necessarily think democrats are in a lot of trouble this election season...im more worried about the legislative branch, as a whole. perhaps i should celebrate what is arguably a third party movement, possibly bringing alternative perspectives to washington. but i just wish the third party wasn't being represented by the people mentioned, above.

if youre interested, here are 10 tea party candidates to watch, from politico.com

Saturday, October 2, 2010

history of hip hop

justin timberlake was on jimmy fallon last week and they put together what is the greatest 4 minutes of late night television ive seen in a while. its amazing how well jt and jimmy can mimic rap greats like eminem and notorious b.i.g. you gotta check this, yo..