States Cut School Funding

via The Maddow Blog

Massachusetts still hanging in there!


Unemployment Driven by Persistent Joblessness

via The Maddow Blog

The Tipping Point – 10%

You can fool some of the people some of the time and all of the people if ten percent of them are really convinced of their position

By Will Femia, Fri Jul 29, 2011 8:29 PM EDT, The Maddow Blog
Wait, what?

Well, the story is that “scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.” That’s a pretty bold statement. How the heck could you even test for such a thing?

It turns out, the study, Social consensus through the influence of committed minorities (pdf), used an algorithmic model called a binary agreement model. Not as messy as asking people about their opinions and how strongly they hold them, the idea here is that a person can have opinion A or opinion B. If you interact with someone with the same opinion, you keep your opinion. If you interact once with someone with a different opinion, you hold both opinions. And if you interact a second time with someone of a different opinion, you switch to that opinion.

Here’s the chart from the study that shows how all that works:

In this case, the Bs don’t change their mind; they’re “unshakable.”

So the question is how many unshakable Bs does it take in a group having random interactions to convince all the As? As you might imagine, the study is a whole lot of the maths and not a lot of case studies or anecdotes. If you don’t believe this model reflects real humans, I don’t know how to convince you otherwise. I’m only a social science spectator but it seems plausible that when people interact with others of different opinions they can end up adopting those opinions.

Looking for this at play in the wild after the jump…

Where do we see this dynamic at play in the real world? The researchers cite “the suffragette movement in the early 20th century and the rise of the American civil-rights movement that started shortly after the size of the African-American population crossed the 10% mark” as examples of their 10% tipping point.

Of course, it’s backward to take an example and try to make it fit a study’s conclusion but hey, does the sudden change in public opinion they’re talking about remind you at all of the trajectory of polling on gay marriage? You don’t see it so much in this gallup chart, but check out the trend line on this chart (pdf) from a survey released yesterday, commissioned by a group called Freedom to Marry:

I think we’d have to dig deeper into the “strongly support”/”strongly oppose” numbers to get at the unshakables described in the Rensselaer study, but it’s an impressive demonstration that a tipping point exists at all. The whole subject gives me a new respect for the ability of small groups to break into the mainstream. I wonder if there’d be a way to graph the opinions of the Tea Party. Or if there’s a discernible tipping point in the public opinion of alternative rock in the late 80s/early 90s. Did Lollapalooza 1 mark a 10% tipping point?

Bonus reading: While looking for a free version of the Rensselaer study I found a free book on the subject of minority influence: The social psychology of minority influence (pdf).  /// strangely, this link only seems to work when Google Scholar is the referring URL. It’s the first result here.

“The state Senate voted 29-19 to cancel Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of a bill that seeks to limit abortions.”


NC Senate overrides veto of abortion restrictions

By Rebekah Dryden, The Maddow Blog
Thu Jul 28, 2011 1:12 PM EDT


On last night’s show, Chris Fitzsimon from NC Policy Watch told TRMS guest host extraordinaire Melissa Harris-Perry that the only thing standing in the way of extreme abortion restrictions busting free of Democratic Governor Bev Perdue’s veto stamp in North Carolina was a single Republican state senator.

This senator had voted against the measure the first time around. Then Governor Perdue vetoed the bill, the House overrode the veto and the Senate was about to hold its own override vote. The Republican in question hadn’t announced, as of last night, whether he’d vote against the restrictions again — in other words vote to uphold the veto — or whether he’d sit out the vote entirely. Sitting out the vote would mean the veto would be overridden and the new abortion restrictions (24-hour waiting period, state-mandated scripted counseling, sonograms, etc.) would stand.

And today, that’s what happened in the North Carolina Senate. From the Raleigh News & Observer:

The state Senate voted 29-19 to cancel Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of a bill that seeks to limit abortions. … Sen. Stan Bingham, a Republican who voted against the bill in June, left the building before the override vote.

Wealth Gap By Race Increases

Chart: Record income gap by race

By Laura Conaway, THE MADDOW BLOG
Tue Jul 26, 2011 3:59 PM EDT

Pew Research Center

From the Pew Research Center:

The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly available government data from 2009.

Those are unsettling numbers. From 1984 to 2009, Pew reports, the closest ratio of white wealth to black or Hispanic wealth was 7:1. That happened in each category in 1995. We’ll have more on the show tonight.

Only 18,000 Jobs in June

Jobs report is awful. Politicians’ response worse.

Fri Jul 8, 2011 10:14 AM EDT

Private-sector job growth, charted by Steve Benen.

The June unemployment report is in, and it is bad, maybe even terrible. The unemployment rate edged upward from 9.1 percent to 9.2 percent. What’s worrying is that the economy seems to have stopped adding jobs. We already know we have millions of people out of work. Now we need businesses to hire some humans so the unemployment rate can go down.

Overall, the economy added just 18,000 jobs. Statistically, it almost might as well not have added any — we need more to add 150,000 jobs or so each month just to keep even. The private sector kicked in 57,000 jobs, but government laid off 39,000 people.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has been going around the campaign trail saying that President Obama made the recession worse, and then saying he never said that. Today he released this statement:

“Today’s abysmal jobs report confirms what we all know – that President Obama has failed to get this economy moving again. Just this week, President Obama’s closest White House adviser said that ‘unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers’ do not matter to the average American.

“If David Plouffe were working for me, I would fire him and then he could experience firsthand the pain of unemployment. His comments are an insult to the more than 20 million people who are out of work, underemployed or who have simply stopped looking for jobs. With their cavalier attitude about the economy, the White House has turned the audacity of hope into the audacity of indifference.”

Notice that Mr. Romney left off the part about Mr. Obama making things worse. As bad the situation is — and it seriously is bad — it’s not worse than before the president took office.

House Speaker John Boehner again referred the nation to his party’s 10-page clip art plan (pdf) for job creation. As Ezra Klein writes, this chronic unemployment started as a financial crisis. It has become a political one. “We could do more,” he writes. “We should do more. But Congress won’t do anything more.”

Maddow, Planned Parenthood, and Medicaid

Since losing funding in states such as Indiana, Planned Parenthood has had to make some difficult decisions, one of which has been to cease to cover Medicaid patients.  Without federal funding, Planned Parenthood of Indiana (PPIN) has been covering Medicaid patient services through private funds.  Unfortunately, they are running out of donations to continue to cover these services, and therefore Medicaid recipients will need to find a new health care provider.  Which options are they left with?  “A Salvation Army addiction center, a homeless shelter, several mental health centers, a juvenile detention center and the Indiana Women’s Prison.”

The home page of Planned Parenthood of Indiana now reads: “Beginning Tuesday, all Medicaid patients will need to pay for their own care or access other funding to be seen at Planned Parenthood of Indiana health centers. On Wednesday, June 22, all health centers will be closed, except Indianapolis – Georgetown, which will be closed Thursday, June 23. All health centers will reopen with normal hours the following day.”

The Maddow Blog reports that: “Well over a month after being defunded by the state, Planned Parenthood of Indiana has figured out a way to avoid shutting down any of its health centers — yet. By making some “difficult decisions,” including laying off two employees, furloughing almost everyone else and closing all of their health centers for a day, and no longer covering Medicaid patients through private funds, they’ll be able to stay operational until a judge’s ruling, expected by July 1, on whether their funding should be restored while they challenge the new law in court.”

Read the entire post, and watch Maddow’s interview with PPIN’s CEO & President, here.