Quote of the Day: "We did not see (as a result of brain scans of partisan loyalists) any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning. What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts. None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged. Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones . . . The result is that partisan beliefs are calcified, and the person can learn very little from new data."
-- Drew Westen, Director of Clinical Psychology at Emory University
Subject: To avoid partisan misunderstandings
We want to be clear. DownsizeDC.org is, by law, non-partisan. But the managers of DownsizeDC.org go one step further. We are philosophically and tempermentally ANTI-partisan. We believe political parties are a problem, not a solution.
Likewise, we're skeptical of politicians. Any person who thinks he or she is qualified to make decisions for others, and to coerce others to abide by those decisions, is automatically suspect in our eyes. Politicians, almost by definition, are people who feel qualified to use government coercion to manage other people's lives.
We disagree with them. They aren't qualified. No one is.
In our view the best a politician can do is work to limit the use of government power. These boundaries are required by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Sadly, most politicians are too impressed with themselves to limit themselves in such a way.
This fact motivates us to be both anti-partisan and anti-politician.
Where most people look to parties and politicians for solutions, we favor skeptical thinking, limited, decentralized power structures, individual liberty, and personal responsibility. We prefer to deal with issues, ideas, and principles.
Here's where the potential for misunderstanding arises. Most people are used to thinking in terms of parties and personalities. Thus, if we support or oppose a policy associated with a particular party or politician, some jump to the conclusion that we are being partisan -- that we're picking sides.
Nothing could be further from the truth. We care about the issue, not the party or the politician.
For the past four years we've opposed (and only occasionally supported) policies associated with Republicans in general, and President Bush in particular. Some have assumed from this that we're anti-Republican, anti-Bush, and pro-Democrat.
Now we have the opposite problem. The Democrats have gained control of Congress and the White House. We've responded by opposing coercive Democratic proposals. As a result . . .
Some people jump to the conclusion that we're anti-Democrat, anti-Obama, and pro-Republican. Again, nothing could be further from the truth.
What we are, and intend to remain, is consistent.
Once again, we believe all politicians, of all parties, are fundamentally unqualified to decide how other people should live. We do not believe in top-down social engineering by Republicans, Democrats, or anyone else. We believe in critical thinking, limited, decentralized power structures, individual liberty, and personal responsibility.
One hallmark of critical thought is the rejection of special pleading. Special pleading is when you have one standard for yourself, and a different standard for others. Loyalty to parties and politicians lends itself to special pleading and rank hypocrisy. We believe such loyalty is inherently toxic to the mind. We think it also damages the social fabric via unnecessary culture wars.
We've pointed before to brain scan studies showing that partisan loyalists experience pleasure from lying on behalf of their own party. Our "quote of the day" comes from the lead scientist in these studies. We want to protect ourselves from this kind of dishonesty and non-thinking.
We do this by being loyal to our principles and nothing else.
Therefore, anyone who writes to us accusing us of being anti-Democrat, anti-Obama, or pro-Republican, is mistaking us for someone else.
Personally, we (the undersigned) admire Obama's intelligence and composure. We also take pleasure in the fact that an African-American family will soon occupy the White House. But . . .
This won't keep us from criticizing things like his vote to legalize warrantless spying and to immunize the telecom companies that aided such spying. Neither can we endorse his eagerness to spend a trillion dollars to supposedly stimulate the economy.
We opposed the stimulus package when Bush wanted it. We'll continue to oppose it now that Obama wants it. We don't do special pleading.
If you believe as we do that the stimulus bill will be full of waste, corporate welfare, and favors to political interests, then please send Congress a message opposing this bill. Do it now, and keep doing it until the vote is held. You can use our quick and easy Educate the Powerful system to send your message.
Then, if you really agree with this focus on principle over partisanship and cult of personality, please go to our blog, located conveniently on our home page at www.DownsizeDC.org, and "Digg" the blog version of this message. If you've never used Digg before, please, go sign up!
Thank you for being a member of the growing Downsize DC Army, which allows you to particpate or not participate on individual issues, depending on your own principles.
Jim Babka & Perry Willis
President & Communications Director
P.S. This Congress is still just getting started. Not all new office holders have Internet contact pages yet. We are updating our system to reflect the new Congress, just as quickly as the information comes to us. If you have one or more new elected representatives, its possible that you won't be able to get a message to them. But your message should go through to any of your representatives that remain the same, or for which we have already received new information. Don't let this transition deter you from taking action. Your message will get through to someone, and will make a difference.