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Tag: Obama

Truncated Scale

A friend recently commented on how our country is politically polarized. Yes, I feel that — but I also feel that many of us are apathetic and alienated from the political process.

How could these both be true? It seems contradictory, paradoxical.

Perhaps the answer, or part of it, has to do with our narrowly circumscribed political dialog. I’ve been puzzling over how to better express the idea.

Say you’re looking at two marks on a wall. If you’re standing very close, with your nose practically touching the plaster, you will see the two marks as rather far apart. But if you stand back and look at the whole wall, you might say that that the marks are quite close together.

Or take a bar graph. It’s a well-known fact that if you chop off the bottom of a bar graph you can exaggerate differences and make them seem bigger. There’s a whole chapter on this in How to Lie with Statistics.

Or say you listened to nothing but grandpa’s record collection. You might think dixieland and bebop represented the absolute opposite ends of the musical spectrum. And you’d be right, insofar as 1940s jazz was concerned.

All of these seem like variations on the same phenomenon. This has surely been observed and documented by those who study human cognition. What’s vexing me is I can’t think of the name for it. The only term I’ve encountered that seems to make sense is “truncated scale,” but that’s hardly ubiquitous.

Anyway, my theory is that some of us are “zoomed in” on two marks on the wall.

Tightly Circumscribed

From this close view, the differences are vast and passions run high. There is a sense of polarization between these two diametrically opposed points.

Field Hearing Notes

I made it in to the Louisiana Supreme Court for the Senate field hearing, “Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: Outstanding Need, Slow Progress.” Just getting in was an object lesson. First we (members of the publiuc) were shoved back out the door to wait in the cold, then we went through the obligatory metal detectors, then we were photographed and tagged. I’m now wearing a sticker with my name, picture and barcode. I’ve been told more than once that cell phones must be turned off but I see plenty of people using them so that’s how I’m posting this. I may be able to post updates here throughout the day or I may wait until it’s all over…

Update: The hearing started off with a bang. A young man stood up and unfurled a sign that said “PROBE THE WHITE HOUSE.” He urged Senator Lieberman to “probe the White House” and was yelling “stand up for justice!” as he was escorted from the chamber.

There were three senators at the hearing: Barack Obama, Joe Lieberman, and Mary Landrieu. All Democrats, you’ll note. Hmm. Coincidence? Or could Katrina be shaping up as a campaign issue for 2008 after all?

I’ll be the first to admit I’m out of my depth. Nevertheless here are my notes on the day’s hearing, rough and unfiltered…