Archive for February 28th, 2012

Expansion of police powers- now are you upset??

| February 28, 2012 | Reply
Expansion of police powers- now are you upset??

In the years since 9/11, America’s police state has been expanding rapidly. The “Patriot Act” gave nominal legal approval to a vastly expanded surveillance and detention authority, but in some startling new cases, police are not even seeking legal justification for working in areas that are clearly illegal and unconstitutional.

The latest abuses come courtesy of the New York Police Department. New reports indicate that the NYPD has been surveiling and profiling Jewish and Christian communities and individuals, often in areas that are far outside of NYPD’s jurisdiction, including Buffalo, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. As always, the bogeyman of “terrorism” is cited as the justification for these acts.

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To understand American politics, understand the halo effect

| February 28, 2012 | Reply
To understand American politics, understand the halo effect

Consider the kinds of things we see and hear on the campaign trail:

“Vote for me because I have a square jaw, because I support the troops, because I’m tall, because I wear denim like you, because I wear a flag on my lapel, because I read rousing speeches and because I believe in God. I also stay in shape, I can recite the pledge of allegiance.”

Notice that politicians are doing all kinds of things to show us that they are capable and likeable. Lost in this commotion is that none of them are showing us that they are well-informed people who know how to lead a country. They don’t know how to show us that they are good leaders–that would be an expensive signal in order to be reliable, and very few politicians could pass this Zahavian test. Instead, they are engaged in a beauty pageant, showing us a lot of things that might impress us and resonate with us, hoping that we assume that they are also good at governing. In their efforts to get elected, politicians are heavily relying on the “halo effect.”

In his excellent new book, Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011), Daniel Kahneman describes the halo effect:

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