You are browsing the archive for 2020 December 25.

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The moral case for feeling extending equal empathy to strangers and family alike

December 25, 2020 in Blogs

By Zoë Fowler

Brendan Gaesser, University at Albany, State University of New York and Zoë Fowler, University at Albany, State University of New York

The year 2020 has been no stranger to suffering. In the midst of a global pandemic, widespread financial hardship and violence arising from systemic racism, empathy for others’ suffering has been pushed to the front and center in U.S. society.

As society grapples to find its moral compass in a time of such hardship and strife, a critical question emerges: Whose suffering should one care about?

When you ponder who is worth feeling empathy for, friends, family members and children might come to mind. But what about strangers, or people not connected to you through nationality, social status or race?

As cognitive scientists, we wanted to understand what moral beliefs people hold about empathy and how these beliefs may shift depending on whom someone is feeling empathy for.

Empathy as a force for good

Evidence suggests that empathy – broadly defined as the ability to understand and share in someone else’s experience – can be a force for good. Numerous studies have shown it often leads to altruistic helping behavior. Further, feeling empathy for a member of a stigmatized group can reduce prejudice and improve attitudes toward the entire stigmatized group.

But there has also been research suggesting empathy may contribute to bias and injustice. Studies have shown that people tend to feel more empathy for the suffering of those who are close and similar to themselves, such as someone of the same race or nationality, than for those who are more distant or dissimilar. This bias in empathy has consequences. For example, people are less likely to donate time or money to help someone of a different nationality compared with someone of their own nationality.

Neuroscientists have shown that this bias is evident in how our brains process both firsthand and secondhand pain. In one such study, participants received a painful shock and also watched another person receive a painful shock. There was greater similarity in participants’ neural activity when the person they observed rooted for the same sports team as themselves.

Whether empathy has a positive impact on society or not has been the subject of a fierce debate spanning politics, philosophy and psychology. Some scholars have suggested empathy should be denounced as …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Just another wacky weekend in Trump land

December 25, 2020 in Blogs

By Terry H. Schwardon

Even for Donald Trump and the Republican Tabernacle Choir of the Senate, this weekend was an all-star level of crazy-making. The White House again ignored a pandemic killing 3,000 Americans a day, widespread misery and an attack on the nation while discussing the possibility of martial law over Trump’s election loss.

What saved it was the last-minute, roller-coaster deal in the Congress for a coronavirus aid bill, as ugly a compromise as possible, but an agreement nevertheless. Stand by for the conflicting credits and new discoveries about what actually passes today in the multi-hundred-page bill.

The whole weekend made me, at least, feel as if I live on a different planet – with theirs being one in which it is impossible to separate the important from the inane. We all can agree the White House continues to make seeing the news an emotionally exhausting experience.

Just a sampling:

Transition interruptus: Trump ordered halted any transition meetings between the Defense Department and the incoming Joe Biden team for the next few weeks. In what universe other than the Trump ego-fantasy does it make any sense for incoming Pentagon leadership not to know about the readiness of military forces, the global danger signs that the Pentagon is tracking, even the Defense spending patterns. Apparently, such meetings were halted because Trump was angered by seeing a Washington Post article that suggested the Biden team was looking at how many billions of dollars could be saved from re-routing money taken from the Pentagon for the border wall construction back to the military. I would hope that is something they should be considering.

Screwing up coronavirus economic aid: Even to their own members, the movement among Republican senators to find new religion for relief from debts and deficits by blocking coronavirus aid to Americans reportedly was being seen as nuts. The situation was fluid, but barely, as Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), led a late charge to stop lending by the supposedly independent Federal Reserve for businesses that need credit to stay afloat. A compromise finally got through around narrowing the proposal, setting Congress toward bill approval. Once again it put hunger and evictions over non-payment of rent for millions on real display and requiring a third, brief reset of the deadline clock for the final votes. Republicans had seen it as a fiscal necessity; Democrats saw a bid to throttle the incoming Biden administration even before it takes …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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FBI conducting 'large-scale' investigation of Nashville explosion believed to be 'an intentional act': report

December 25, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Early Christmas morning, Downtown Nashville was rocked by a major explosion that resulted in three people being taken to a hospital with non-critical injuries. And according to the Daily Beast’s senior national security correspondent Spencer Ackerman, Nashville Police believe the explosion to be “an intentional act.”

After the explosion, Ackerman reports, Nashville residents saw “black smoke shooting up from a burning car” and “knocked down trees.” According to Ackerman, the explosion “blew out windows from multiple storefronts nearby the Cumberland River.”

“Video making its way across social media showed a terrifying blast that left businesses aflame and prompted wails from people in the area calling for help,” Ackerman explains. “Law enforcement responded to a suspicious vehicle parked on 2nd Avenue and Commerce Street, near the AT&T Building, shortly after 6 a.m.”

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A deepening democracy crisis: More than 70 percent of Trump voters distrust the best-run election in years

December 25, 2020 in Blogs

By Paul Rosenberg

Angela Clark-Smith, a lawyer, started learning about the intricacies of observing elections when she was a member of the same sorority as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. In 2020, three decades later, she was deployed by the Georgia Democratic Party to observe the presidential election and, most recently, the processing of returned absentee ballots in its Senate runoffs.

“There’s a process. It is very straightforward,” Clark-Smith said during a break at an early voting center in an Atlanta suburb, where she praised poll workers and the process of verifying signatures on ballot envelopes and flagging problems for follow-up with voters. “Watching it was like watching a work of art.”

Elections in Georgia are better run than those in many blue states. But as the state has become a national battleground following Joe Biden’s narrow win there and during Senate runoffs that could return control of Congress to the Democrats, the artful process that Clark-Smith has seen and praised has become a “circus,” she says.

Clark-Smith witnessed the turmoil that is tearing apart American democracy: where partisans do not understand the process; do not know what they are seeing as they view election administration up close for the first time; and are part of a tidal wave—nearly three-fourths of Republicans, according to an NPR poll conducted in early December—who don’t trust that the 2020 election results are accurate.

“It went from a really dignified process to feeling it was like a circus,” Clark-Smith said, referring to the Republican observers who came to watch the initial processing of the runoff’s absentee ballots. “You had people who were jumping on tables and making accusations. There was this one man who said, ‘We should count this vote!’ And I’m like, ‘Sir. It’s a write-in vote for Mike Pence. He’s not on the ballot! Relax… Sit down… Come on!”

A Deepening Democracy Crisis

American politics and elections have always had dark sides: Suspicions versus inquiries. Fictions versus facts. Conspiracies versus realities. Yet the darker impulses seem to be worsening. In every close presidential election since 2000, growing numbers of partisan activists and voters whose side lost are angrier.

The 2020 election stands apart because the president has been leading this truculence by making false claims to rally his base, raise hundreds of millions of dollars and dangle …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump campaign suffers yet another humiliating legal defeat — this time, on Christmas Eve

December 25, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign has suffered yet another humiliating post-election defeat — this time, on Christmas Eve, which found a three-judge panel for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals throwing out a lawsuit challenging the election results in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin was among the five states that Trump won in 2016 but lost to President-elect Joe Biden in 2020; the others were Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona. Trump’s legal team has been claiming, without evidence, that he was the victim of widespread voter fraud in all of those states.

One judge after another, however, has disagreed, and the 7th Circuit panel saw no reason to believe that Biden didn’t win Wisconsin fairly.

“In essence, the judges unanimously ruled that Wisconsin’s election was conducted correctly and that Trump waited too long to complain about the procedures employed,” according to Law & Crime reporter Aaron Keller.

The 7th Circuit panel consisted of three judges who were appointed by Republican presidents. While the 84-year-old Judge Joel Flaum was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, Judge Ilana Rovner was an appointee of President George H.W. Bush. And Judge Michael Y. Scudder was appointed by Trump himself.

Flaum, Rovner and Scudder, in their Donald J. Trump v. Wisconsin Elections Commission ruling, wrote, “We agree that Wisconsin lawfully appointed its electors in the manner directed by its legislature and add that the president’s claim also fails because of the unreasonable delay that accompanied the challenges the president now wishes to advance against Wisconsin’s election procedures.”

According to Keller, “Trump’s complaint was rooted in the Electors Clause of the U.S. Constitution. That clause allows each state’s legislature to choose how to appoint presidential electors. The 7th Circuit rubbished Trump’s moaning and groaning about how the legislature delegated the specifics to various state officials. Trump’s lawyers argued those officials overstepped the authority granted to them and conducted an out-of-control election.”

…read more

Source: ALTERNET