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Windmills and Lances

confessions of a quixotic unicorn fanatic

Malcomson v. Topps: ENDGAME
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Scott Malcomson's "Eridani Light Horse History" is a contribution to the Battletech property.

Absent a work-for-hire contract or transfer-of-copyright agreement, Malcomson remains the copyright holder in his contribution, which is now recognized as part of Battletech.

Although both Malcomson and Topps argued in their filings that Malcomson would be a co-owner in the entire property if he were recognized as a co-author in it, the 9th Circuit disagreed.

Malcomson's confirmation as a Battletech contributor appears to have been based on the following:

1) Statements by two ClassicBattletech.com website administrators (Warner Doles, Jason Knight) that Malcomson's work had been published to the website's "canon universe information" area, as well as a statement by Randall Bills that if something were "canon", that meant it had been "adopted as the official version of the Battletech universe".

2) The site's "Terms and Conditions of Use", which stated that the site was "owned and operated by WizKids LLC and its affiliates" at the time of publication.

3) A lengthy letter from Jason Knight, which included critical admissions of mishandling Malcomson's work, including that the company had not ordered or suggested that Malcomson's work be removed from the site or repudiated from canon.

"That decision was MINE," Knight wrote, alleging that Malcomson's inclusion of material from the 1987 "Mercenary's Handbook" amounted to plagiarism. This was despite the common tendency for re-use of previous Battletech material in other official publications, one such example being the 1999 "ComStar Sourcebook". In that book, Randall Bills wrote a version of the ELH history which also re-used some of the same material Knight was complaining about. Knight provided no explanation for how Malcomson's work would differ from Bills' in terms of plagiarism, except to assert "insider information" for which he provided no details.

Knight stated that he removed Malcomson's work anyway in what he called a "DCMA takedown", a direct assertion that Malcomson was violating the company's copyrights. But the company demonstrated no such belief. To the contrary, Knight admitted, a company representative ordered him to re-accredit Malcomson for his work during a server rebuild following a crash in 2005 ("and this was done"). Malcomson had already been accredited on the site's Credits page in 2002.

He also affirmed that WizKids had at least "minimal oversight" over the website, that the use and operation of the site was conducted with WizKids' permission, and a number of other things that solidly established the company held liability for the site's operations --- to include the publication of Malcomson's work.

Interestingly enough, although Knight called for Topps' legal counsel to bring Malcomson up on criminal charges of "plaugiarism and theft" --- which Topps ignored --- he also stated that Malcomson's work had originally been plagiarized (his term was "copypasta'd") by WizKids to begin with.

Currently, Malcomson's co-ownership of the entire Battletech property has been denied on basis that he did not show that he met the "three factors" of a previous 9th Circuit case [Aalmuhammed v. Lee].

However, his recognition as a contributor to the property, and his retention of copyrights in those contributions, means he is empowered to create, publish and profit from new Battletech works, so long as they are specifically derivative of his contribution.

As the contribution was an extensive historical outline of one of Battletech's most famous and enduring mercenary units, with a history spanning centuries of the game-universe timeline, he is exploring possible new Battletech products for development on this limited basis. Projects under consideration include a BattleForce-style MMO, new sourcebooks filling gaps in previous Battletech history and events, and possibly a line of novels presenting a "3052 Alternative Timeline" focused on ELH cooperation with ComStar.

No, there will be no "furries". That would be silly. And besides, only the Star-League era Canopians got into hybridized genetics (see original Periphery Sourcebook). It's LosTech at best. Malcomson previously published an article, stating otherwise, expressly to yank the chains of certain people who were giving him grief over drawing a cartoon unicorn as a Battletech character.

The US Supreme Court does not hear arguments about errors in law committed by lower courts. It is primarily concerned with resolving conflicts between lower court decisions, preferably related to weighty matters of substance. A mere allegation by Malcomson that the 9th Circuit erred would not be enough to sustain a petition for certiorari, the first step to having the case appealed further.

Fortunately for Malcomson, the 9th Circuit's recent decision arguably conflicts with the 9th's own express definitions in Aalmuhammed v. Lee, the 7th Circuit's extensive statements on submissions and copyrights relative to corporate copyright holders in Gaiman v. McFarlane, and the US Supreme Court's similarly-extensive doctrine regarding the definition of an author in cases such as Feist Communications and Sarony.

As the arguments presented by both Topps and Malcomson for co-ownership in the entire Battletech property revolved around whether or not he was a co-author, and were denied on grounds which actually redefine how to determine who IS an author, his co-ownership claim may ultimately be upheld as being in agreement with Topps' own assertions.

The Three Shells (Mass Effect 3 Ending, SPOILERS)
Telling it like it is
Yes, yes, by now you've all heard the ranting and raving from the Mass Effect fanbase about the ending of ME3. I couldn't possibly have anything new to say, could I? Well if I didn't, I wouldn't be writing this. Because I'm lazy enough that if someone else said it, I don't need to repeat it. Why bother?

First, let me note that I am VERY MUCH a latecomer to Mass Effect fandom. I purchased, and played through, ME1 and ME2 in the weeks preceding the launch of ME3. I have NOT been deeply invested in the game or its characters for years and years and years. I have not explored every nook and cranny of the decision trees or even done more than a single playthrough of any of them. I DID purchase the DLCs and enjoyed them thoroughly, as I did the rest of the series right up until The Last Ten Minutes.

So. Without getting into any of the rest of it? Let's just point out the logical non-working-ness of the three main ME3 ending choices. And in case you missed it, the title of this blog includes the word SPOILERS, so no whining about that now.

God-Child tells you that the Illusive Man could not control the Reapers, because they already controlled him.

And guess who the Illusive Man demonstrated HE had control over previous to this statement? No points if you didn't answer "YOU, THE PLAYER". The Illusive Man forces you to shoot one of your oldest friends, you get to see all kinds of wavy black indicators on the screen that your mind is not entirely your own, and the only reason you can kill him is because he briefly stops controlling you, in order to concentrate on murdering Anderson himself.

If the Illusive Man can't control the Reapers because THEY control HIM, then there's no logical reason YOU should be able to control the Reapers. And even if you did, it wouldn't deal with the central reason the God-Child has for giving you the decision to make in the first place: the need for "a new solution" to the "problem" of organics creating synthetics.

Just because YOU are now in control of the Reapers doesn't mean new races will magically refrain from creating synthetics --- and if you do anything differently to influence that fact one way or the other, it begs the question of why God-Child didn't think of it first, over the millions of years it's been exterminating trillions of sentient beings. The implication is either that you just became the galaxy's new mass-murdering god-being, or that the original God-Child was just a bloodthirsty moron.

You are told that this option will cause all life in the galaxy --- organic and synthetic --- to fuse "at the molecular level" into a single form of life. The entire reason for this is to eliminate the basis of the argument that synthetics (the created) will always rebel against organics (their creators), by making them one and the same.

This is not "at the atomic level" or "at the quark level" or "at the quantum-entanglement level". It's molecular. Molecules are what you get when you combine atoms. If you are combining all life into a new form of life with combined molecules, YOU WILL NOT GET SOMETHING THAT LOOKS DAMN-NEAR IDENTICAL TO WHAT IT WAS BEFORE. Yet Joker and EDI look like they merely swapped a little flesh here and some circuitry there.

Worse, as with Control, Synthesis does NOTHING to prevent anyone from creating NEW synthetics. It just merges the existing ones with existing organic life.

All of this also, of course, entirely ignores the fact that the Geth (the created) did NOT rebel against the Quarians (their creators). Quite the opposite; the Geth tried to reason, begged, held back, and rarely engaged in violence except in self-defense. Almost all the violence was instigated and maintained by the Quarians. And in the end, there is an ending to that particular conflict where both sides resolve to co-exist peacefully --- completely blowing out the God-Child's argument from top to bottom.

Synthesis solves nothing, and is conducted solely to "solve" a problem that has a clear alternate solution --- which you are not allowed to even MENTION in your dialogue with the God-Child. By railroading your character into acting like an idiot, in order to avoid a simple and obvious question from potentially derailing the central plot device, Bioware introduced a horribly bad deus ex machina at the worst possible point in the series. This was simply BAD WRITING.

It's made clear that this works by destroying ALL synthetic life in the galaxy, thus offing the Reapers into the bargain. And it's pointed out that, due to the extensive rebuild on your body Cerberus and the Illusive Man sprung for, you yourself are substantially synthetic at this point. You're Darth Vader as a good guy; kill the machine part and the rest of you will (nobly, of course) follow.

But it's ONLY in the Destruction ending, and then ONLY if you raised your Effective Military Strength above 4000, that we get treated to the sight of a suit of "N7" armor whose occupant takes a single breath before we cut to the credits. IF this is Shepard, then the premise of the Destruction option killing off your synthetic parts was a flat-out lie. It could be argued that the God-Child (which, itself, created and controls the Reapers) was lying to you in order to get you to spare them through either of the other (utterly illogical and inconsistent) options.

Then again, if it's NOT Shepard the cutscene has no function or context in the story. You've already been treated to a visual of other soldiers, Earthside, surviving the blast. Why show us a no-name N7, and why only show the scene as the result of a highly successful main-game Effective Strength score? If not Shepard, the whole scene becomes a non-sequitur (or, worse, an elaborate "PSYCHE!" guaranteed to piss off the fan base even further).

In terms of being able to bullshit something out, the Destruction option at least has some wiggle room by drawing the conclusion that God-Child was lying. But it still falls afoul of the same core issue the other endings had: nothing prevents the creation of new synthetics.

None of the choices reflect the objective the God-Child has in giving you the choices to begin with. None stand up to dispassionate examination. At best, we have ONE that could be considered consistent in and of itself --- but only if you make certain assumptions. If the ending is supposed to have been taken at face value, it also falls apart under the weight of its own nonsense.

Finally, here's why I call this little article "The Three Shells".

First, all three endings are essentially a shell game. No matter which you pick, it is logically and internally inconsistent with not only the rest of the game, but also the decision itself. You cannot make a "right" decision; the pea is not actually under any of the shells at all.

Second, you might recall a fun little moviegoing romp called "Demolition Man". In it, two fresh-faced cops from the future are laughing at Sylvester Stallone because, after he goes to do his business on the crapper, he doesn't know what "the three shells" are for. Toilet paper doesn't exist in the future. It's never explained how "the three shells" are actually used, but their function is clear:


Thanks for reading.

Scott Malcomson's Three-Step Plan to Budgetary Solvency
Welcome to 2011, where no one running for President has any plan for balancing the United States budget. The hard reality is that we are now so far in the deficit hole that no amount of mere tweaking is going to fix the problem --- and you know it. Nonetheless, political partisans of every stripe continue to focus on their petty power struggles instead of the nation's actual needs.

Here is the 2011 US Budget: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/usbudget/fy11/pdf/budget.pdf

I would advise you to read it, but I know most people simply won't bother, so let's cut to the chase.

First, the military budget is by itself larger than all other federal spending EXCEPT for Social Security and Medicare. Yet, even if you completely eliminated all military spending, dissolving the whole of our armed forces in the process, you would NOT balance the federal budget. Similarly, no amount of trimming from the remainder of the non-military/SocSec/Medicare budget will balance the books, either. Not even in collaboration with any amount of trimming from the military budget.

That is how far in the hole we are. The reality is that we cannot balance the budget, at this point, without targeting Social Security and Medicare.

Even raising taxes "on the rich" will not cut it; you could double the income tax rate to an upper end of 70% and we would STILL not achieve balance. And that's assuming the rich, with all their tax attorneys and knowledge of gaming the financial system, didn't simply do what they did in the '70s in the face of high taxation: take their money out of the country and put it in places it couldn't legally be touched. Like those Caribbean micro-nations you might have forgotten existed by now. The rich have the resources necessary to evade taxation without breaking any laws in the process; you don't.

So here's my idea:


The amount paid in, for every American, has always been on record with the IRS, so everyone can be fairly repaid their proper share. Make the refund part of a standard tax period and handle the payback like you would any other federal tax refund, which means to get your refund you have to properly file your taxes in the first place. Tax dodgers and identity thieves won't therefore get no-question refund checks out of this.

The big drawback here? One huge, up-front, deficit expense. But hey, that hasn't stopped us from paying for Iraq and ObamaCare, has it? And at least this one will be for a single year, not an ongoing bleed-out. It's over and done with fast, and everyone can re-invest their refunds as they see fit for their own retirements and medical needs.


This will slowly reduce, from year to year, the amount of interest which must be paid on the debt, thus in turn slowly accelerating the payoff speed. If government wants to spend more money, it can't be spent either from this locked-in surplus or the saved interest resulting. All of that can be mathematically tracked year-to-year so none of it "slips" into general spending.


In all frankness, this will probably require a Balanced Budget Amendment, though it might have a "sunset clause" which would cause it to expire when zero-out occurs. Do you have any idea how much money we pay, every year, just in interest on the national debt?

For 2011 alone, it's $454,393,280,417 --- nearly HALF A TRILLION DOLLARS. A YEAR. We could pay for ObamaCare four times over, into infinity, with just what we're currently spending to keep the nation from defaulting on its debt!


When we hit Zero-Out, we can consider re-investing in programs like Social Security and Medicare again --- with systems built from the ground-up to meet the realities of the 21st Century, not the 1960s where the current models are perpetually stuck.

And let's face it, both programs provide terrible returns for what they are: a retirement account and a medical insurance program. SocSec isn't even good enough to avoid being considered by all and sundry as "supplementary income" --- if it's your only retirement source, you're already essentially screwed. Plus it's largely understood that if you're under 40, you're not even likely to see a dime of it at all, if we keep to the current course. And Medicare? There are hundreds of private-sector programs that'll give you more support for your dollar than Medicare does.

These are default fallback programs, which are already in danger of default. I say, we refund everyone their money, cut loose the albatross, and eliminate our national debt with a long-term strategy instead of soup-of-the-day quick-fixes aimed at getting your political dollar --- your vote --- while leaving your real-cash future up in the air.

The world has only recently opened.

Terabytes of information --- video, audio, text --- comprise our new era of communications. Too much to sift. Some truth, some lies, some obvious...much not. It's that last part we aren't coping with.

Humanity, I mean.

We know that there are those who lie, but there are also those who are our friends or allies. We prefer not to think of these latter as even possibly lying to us. It's natural --- we want to trust those we care for.

But in an era where anyone can spread a lie, without even meaning to, we become sinlessly complicit. Rumors, anger and fear, interpretations of data we do not wish to scrutinize closely, because doing so means questioning the source --- usually, our friends and allies. Even if there is no intent to mislead, no actual sin, we don't want to accuse. After all, we might be wrong when we do so, and do we really want to risk friendships or alliances over miscommunication?

And so because of the initial miscommunication, which has passed virus-like into our minds, we accept falsehoods as true because we know no better.

Nor is this state of affairs endemic to only one set of ideals. It is tempting to say that only one's opponents lie, that only they are misled, because this reinforces our existing belief structures. Our own comfortable lies naturally form an illusionary bedrock, upon which we lay the foundations of our politics.

It's not that no one is lying to us, or that everyone lies. It's that everyone wants the facts to speak only in their own favor.

Like children on the playground after a fight; each with a story either carefully or hastily fabricated to take what little is actually known, and portray it as best suits their own desired ends. Getting someone else in trouble, pointing the finger, avoiding the blame.

As we age, as we absorb and emit more information, the same schoolyard mentality persists, merely growing more complex. And why should it not? Who can read everything about anything? Even if they did, they would only have the totality of the views and knowledge passed on from those whom they've read and heard from.

It is not even that everyone is equally wrong or right. It is that most people can't really be bothered to try and find out which is which.

And why should they, when there are so many bloggers and reporters and commentators and politicians with fingers ready to point in whichever direction is preferred?

In an age where all the world's data seems at our beck and call, we would rather give up and hand the reins to someone else.

Someone we trust. Because they'd never be wrong. If they were...we wouldn't listen to them.


No Dole, Still No Job Either
For two-and-a-half years now, since AT&T closed up its "U-Verse" office here in Mesa and cut loose all of us support techs, I've been looking for a new job.

I use Careerbuilder, Monster, and even Craigslist. I've filed hundreds of applications and resumes, been to dozens of interviews. I always make sure, for interviews, that I'm upbeat, outgoing, well-groomed and -dressed, and I even check out those "job-tip lists" you sometimes see on Yahoo or elsewhere --- you know, the types that suggest how best to impress and what NOT to do (fidget, let your eyes wander, etc).

And there's nothing.

The closest I've come is getting options for one-to-three month temp contracts, and even those have been rare. And I'd've taken them, too --- except that if I did, and I DIDN'T get hired on permanently at the end of the contract, my unemployment benefits would be slashed under Arizona law. Any new claim requires that you have been employed during at LEAST the two quarters prior to filing...meaning I needed at least four months of contract work (or, if I wanted to finagle the system, at least two months very strategically placed on the calendar).

I never got any such offer, so I had to decline the few offers I have had in order to keep paying for rent, gas, car insurance and food. And that's without paying off my old credit debts, or even the IRS. Don't even ask about my college loans.

Two weeks ago, my unemployment benefits (including emergency extensions) ran out. I'm lucky to have been renting a room from a good, decades-long friend who's in no hurry to get paid, or I'd already be on the street. And the food bank, which I've been going to for more than a year now, gets me by on the essentials. Heh, maybe I'm finally going to lose some weight.

Mind you, this is just me venting about an impossible situation, and I seriously don't know what I'm going to do about it. I'm not about to turn this into a begging session, nor do I plan to head out to the street corner with a "PLZ HELP A VETERAN GOD BLESS" sign. Although that recent story about the guy who robbed a bank for a dollar in order to get medical treatment from the prison system is starting to look like an option, har har.

I suppose what actually set off this ramble is the fact that, despite the supposed "economic recovery", the want ads seem to be getting even MORE dried up than before. I normally have at least half-a-dozen reasonable prospects to file for every week, but these last few...and it's not like I'm ONLY looking for tech support. I have a few years' experience in each of security and pizza delivery. But I'm getting no responses from any of the applications I fill out.

As I understand it, there's something like a 5-to-1 unemployed-to-available-jobs ratio nationwide right now. Arizona remains one of the hardest-hit states in that regard. Heck, I'd go pick crops, except it's summer and there aren't any, plus you have to pay for your own gas to drive out to the sticks and then they STILL don't pay even minimum wage. I could actually do better with the aforementioned "PLZ HELP" sign.

So I dunno. Oh, and since someone already suggested it, yeah, I AM currently looking for contract jobs at this point, and have been for a couple of months now.

Pull the other one
To those who have been interested in attending ZonieCon, I'm afraid I must announce that we are cancelling the event for general lack of interest.

In large part, this is simply because we have done very little, as a convention, to promote ourselves. And that, in large part, is because I personally do not have the resources as one of the millions of long-term unemployed in this country, to pay for significant advertising out of pocket. Frankly, most of what I've been able to spend has been limited to flyers, plus gas money distributing those around the Phoenix Metro area.

Nor have the flyers been moving in any significant numbers. At Further Confusion earlier this year, I brought 500 flyers to distribute across the numerous areas where they were allowed, but despite an attendance of some 2500 furries, less than 100 flyers moved. Many of those were handed out at a dealers' room table by GoH Mitch Beiro and convention staffer Ted Sheppard.

Locally, there has even been active hostility against the idea of having an Arizona furry convention from other Arizona-based furries. In furry-frequented places where our flyers have been provided, they have subsequently been trashed, and artwork has been posted indicating hostility towards myself (in one prominent instance, dismemberment). I have no idea if this is just a few people or many, since no one has actually communicated any problems to me, but since the flyers are all I can personally do, it's effectively hamstrung my efforts at getting word out.

Flyers, however, were not planned to be our big advertising venue. We were supposed to have an active website up by the end of February, and with this I was planning to network banners with other conventions and popular furry websites. I had said that, if we could not find someone to do the job, I would do it myself, but that my HTML skills are stuck in 1995. In response to this, I was told by one of our core convention staff that they had a qualified volunteer for the website, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

As March rolled past without any sign of such a website or even any confirmation of who exactly was supposedly working on it, I began asking for updates on this and other progress issues from certain of our convention staff --- such as contact information for the volunteers our staff had rounded up. Weeks would pass, and then I would get a "I've been busy" notice, no response to my previous progress queries, and then silence again. Phone calls would go to voicemail and I would never get a callback. IMs went ignored.

I have to admit I was concerned from the outset this might happen: I'm unemployed and in Phoenix, whereas the rest of the convention staff are in Tucson. I do not have the money for gas, or even a Greyhound ticket, just for purposes of finding out what I should be able to learn from a two-paragraph IM or email. And in the past, communications with the same convention staff have been difficult even when I lived in the Tucson area because all of them are used to face-to-face meetings and otherwise easily distracted by the needs of day-to-day life.

Because we have no website and have not moved any significant number of fliers, we currently have exactly two pre-registrations (money orders which will be refunded within the week), and NO hotel room block reservations. Unless things were to dramatically turn around in the next month or so, this convention was nothing but a nose-dive into many of the same problems ZonieCon has always had in the past. And I saw no such indication in the offing.

I therefore contacted our beneficiary, Eric Bitton, to let him know how things stood, and recommended we pull the plug. After mulling the possible options over, Eric agreed. There is simply no reason to rent a hotel at the cost of thousands of dollars for a convention that could just as easily be held at a Denny's.

Given that all of this happened because I once said I would run ZonieCon again given the time and money, I am now retracting that statement. I do not see a future for an Arizona convention which does not have a stronger and more active commitment towards building attendance, or which has a chairman, like myself, unable to provide for its needs.

I would like, nonetheless, to thank everyone who has invested what time and effort they were able. But ZonieCon is simply not to be.

So Osama is Dead...and People are Complaining

I suppose I should say that it's mostly "the usual suspects" --- people who, for the last ten years or so, have accused the United States (and particularly Bush) of everything from creating a "Reichstag Fire excuse to destroy civil liberties" to "invading to seize the Afghan oil" (hint: there isn't any). And of course the 9/11 Truthers.

In large part, the current outcry seems to be a move to try and exonerate bin Laden (usually via one or more of the above routines) in order to claim that his killing was of an "innocent man" and that we should all REALLY HATE AMERICA for his death. To a lesser extent, there's a demand that there be no celebration or exultation because either/and:

A) No one should ever cheer for the death of another human being and you are horrible for doing so

B) Osama will just be replaced, so nothing's been accomplished

C) He's now a martyr, killing him just means Al Qaeda will REALLY get SERIOUS NOW and start blowing up half the planet.

At what point did people decide it was a bad thing to celebrate the death of someone who directed the hijacking of civilian jetliners in order that they be plowed into buildings full of civilians? How about those of these types who believe BUSH was the one who arranged it all --- the ones who want him put on trial, found guilty and hung from the neck until dead? Can we expect that they would actually treat the event of Bush's death (even from an accident, such as getting hit by a bus) as anything short of a reason to scream their joy to the heavens?

To me, all of this comes across as Extreme Sour Grapes. America can't be cheered for, even if Obama's in charge now and personally ordered the hit to go ahead, because it is now ingrained in them to hate anything America does in the Middle East. Admitting something good and right was done is anathema. It must be attacked, denied, because doing otherwise enters a grey area where America is Not Entirely Evil.

It is this disassociation from real facts, the promotion of preferred mythology over substance, that many of the same people are quick to assume on the part of their opposition, and which ironically helps feed their willingness to widen that disassociation on their own part.

It is like watching half the world slowly go mad with rage.

The Virus Has Claimed Me
...and now I'm a Pony. Ponies are cool.

Europe Continues to Dither, Civilians Continue to Die
The Crusader
QUOTE: "Europe has moved closer to doing what it said it wouldn't do in Libya — directly jump into the bid to overthrow leader Moammar Gadhafi."


Ya gotta love this "eat our cake and still have it after" mentality from Europe.

They WANTED a nice neat civilized-sounding UN resolution where all they had to do was "protect civilians from military attacks" --- when it looked like the rebels were going to win with just a little extra help.

Then airstrikes against military targets NOT going after civilians were okay.

Then military troops on the ground, despite the resolution prohibiting them, because they're "just advisors" in a "non-combat role". Hey, why not put in 50,000 "non-combat support forces" while they're at it, like we still have in Iraq?

And NOW they're talking about putting actual combat troops on the ground...like they should have done in the first place, except they wanted to look all "civilized" about toppling Gaddhafi while keeping their own hands nice and shiny and blood-free (by some arcane philosophic standard, perhaps).

And meanwhile, civilians are dying in Misrata because of these DAMN POSERS and their IMAGE ISSUES.

Scientists Claim Liberal Brains Smarter Than Conservative Brains --- Again
Gonna Whap 'Im One
It's not the first time someone's done a study on the human brain and then claimed the results meant liberals are inherently more intelligent and thoughtful than conservatives.


But again, as before, it turns out that the claim is apparently based on spin conducted by (no surprise) scientists who identify themselves as liberals. The data from the study itself doesn't support the claim unless you squint and look at it sideways.

The short of it is that the study showed people with self-reported liberal views tending to have a larger anterior cingulate cortex -- a brain area involved in processing conflicting information. And those with conservative views were more likely to have a larger amygdala -- a region important for recognizing threats.

"Conflicting" became "complex", and "recognizing threats" became "fear and anxiety", in the spin-doctoring that immediately followed the report's release.

"To me it makes a lot of sense," said Dr. Marco Iacoboni, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA and director of the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Lab at the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center. Iacoboni, a liberal, has been using brain imaging to study political preferences since 2004.

"I'm glad to see liberals have a large anterior cingulate cortex -- the more sophisticated part of the brain," he said. The amygdala, on the other hand, is a "really old structure, and not as developed."

News and medical outfits are following that lead, with comments like "Prior research has suggested that conservatives are more sensitive to threat or anxiety in the face of uncertainty, while liberals tend to be more open to new experiences".

The reality, of course, is that the anterior cingulate cortex ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anterior_cingulate_cortex ) handles "functions such as error detection, anticipation of
tasks, motivation, and modulation of emotional responses". The ACC's main overall job seems to be the detection of conflicting data, which it then attempts to rationalize.

Consider for a moment, however, the example of the student who became flustered on realizing he was having to correct himself during an exam in order to maintain the teacher's view of correct terminology, and ended up referring to natives of the African continent as "African-Americans living in Africa".

He was presented with a conflicting order to rationalize, and was guided to a conclusion largely based on emotional response to the conflict, existing motivations in resolving it, and anticipation of task completion once the conflict was resolved.

It should be apparent, therefore, that the ACC is the part of the brain which attempts to rationalize "double-think". Given the number of political doctrines which have sprung up from the liberal mindset that require adherents to literally change the way they think about things and people, this is not necessarily surprising.

By contrast, the amygdala ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amygdala ) has been shown in research to perform a primary role in the processing and memory of emotional reactions --- not merely "fear and anxiety", but ALL of the emotions. Whereas the ACC may modulation emotional responses, it is the amygdala which actually processes and remembers them.

"In complex vertebrates, including humans, the amygdalae perform primary roles in the formation and storage of memories associated with emotional events."

The reason "fear and anxiety" are used by researchers to describe this, is simply because their main line of research into the subject has involved Pavlovian fear conditioning. Nonetheless, it is recognized as well that "amygdalae are also involved in positive conditioning. It seems that distinct neurons respond to positive and negative stimuli, but there is no clustering of these distinct neurons into clear anatomical nuclei".

Moreover, the amygdalae are also strongly involved in memory consolidation. Following any learning event, the long-term memory for the event is not instantaneously formed, but is slowly created and assimilated into long-term storage over time, and during the consolidation period this memory can be modulated. In particular, it appears that emotional arousal following the learning event influences the strength of the subsequent memory for that event. Greater emotional arousal following a learning event enhances a person's retention of that event. Learning can occur without the involvement of the amygdalae in modulating memory consolidation, but such learning appears to be impaired.

Another interesting fact is that Buddhist monks who do compassion meditation have been shown to modulate their amygdala, along with their temporoparietal junction and insula, during their practice. Increased activity in the amygdala following compassion-oriented meditation is thought to contribute to social connectedness.

As early as 1888, rhesus monkeys with a lesioned temporal cortex (including the amygdala) were observed to have significant social and emotional deficits. Later studies served to focus on the amygdala specifically. Monkey mothers who had amygdala damage showed a reduction in maternal behaviors towards their infants, often physically abusing or neglecting them.

* * * * *

So what does all this mean?

I COULD do the same thing that liberal scientists are doing and spin-doctor this to make conservatives look "more compassionate", right off the bat. I COULD make a comment about how these findings uphold the old saw about how "(GOP) elephants never forget".

But the reality is, both of these parts of the brain serve crucially important functions for human beings. We need the ability to resolve conflicting data, we need to be able to moderate our emotional reactions, we need to remember emotional events, we need to have compassion for our fellow beings.

We need all these things. All this study has actually shown is that liberals tend towards preference in one manner of looking at the world, and conservatives another.

Does it still mean that conservatives can be reactionary as well as compassionate? Of course.

Does it still mean that liberals can be double-thinkers as well as thoughtful? Certainly.

But beware those who would sit on the shoulders of science to tell you that your political opposition is less worthy of consideration or basic respect than those who already agree with you. We've been there before --- just google "Nazis" and "eugenics".