About Wayne A. Schneider

I'm a Liberal, Libertarian, Atheist Humanist. I believe that though the world is a dangerous place, it can be made better if we stop dividing ourselves by how we're different from each other, and reach out to each other through what we have in common. And that is that we are all human beings on this planet. Please remember that.

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 23, 2016: Why Do Donald Trump’s Positions Appeal To You When He Clearly Has None?

We on the Left often talk about low information voters more than they do on the Right, but that’s only because the Right depends on them so much to stay in power. Without the low information voter and the low effort thinkers, Republicans would never have been able to grab onto and retain the political power they currently enjoy and abuse, not only on the national level, but at the state level, too. An informed voter would never vote for a Republican unless that voter was a greedy, rich, selfish bastard who couldn’t care less about helping his or her fellow human beings who are in trouble (often due to Republican policies.) And face it. If you aren’t greedy, rich, or selfish, you really have no reason to vote for a member of a party that openly admits to doing things that help the super rich far more than they help you or anyone else you personally know. I mean, seriously, do rich people need more tax cuts? We are talking about taxing income beyond a ridiculously high point at which they’ll literally be bringing in (not necessarily earning) more money than they can possibly use in their life times or their grandchildren’s, so why do Republicans insist on lying and acting like taxing more of that income will take away all incentive to make money? That’s pure selfishness talking, not sound public policy. And if it’s sound public policy you want out of your public servants, then why on Earth would you vote for Donald J. Trump? What possible argument could you have?

It can’t be because of Trump’s positions on any of the major issues. In addition to the fact that Trump often speaks in incoherent phrases, he has often been unable to state a position and stick to it. Whether it’s on taxing the rich, paying down the national debt, a woman’s right to exercise her constitutional right to an abortion, the minimum wage, money in politics, defeating ISIS, following international laws, immigration, H-1B visas, border control, the Syrian refugee crisis, banning Muslims, being so popular with white supremacists, the KKK and David Duke, the multi-national Iran nuclear deal, or even healthcare in the US, Trump has often stated, then reversed, then modified whatever position he had, sometimes within hours. He expressed three separate and conflicting opinions on abortion in less than an hour and a half. And some of his current positions are in conflict with longstanding planks in the Republican Platform. Here’s the thing: Whichever position Trump had that attracted you to him is almost certainly changed by now, possibly to be the opposite. And if his current position is appealing to you, just wait until he gets criticized on it and it will change again. “Everything’s negotiable” to Trump, even the interest paid on treasury bonds, which is ridiculous, of course. But Trump’s typical low-information, low-effort-thinking supporter doesn’t know that, nor does he know that the people who hold the highest amount of our national debt are you and your fellow American citizens, not the Chinese, as Trump often infers but never states outright (as far as I know.)

It can’t be because of his “honesty” (about which he often brags). Trumps says a lot of things on the campaign trail that simply aren’t true, or even close to true. Sadly for our nation, studies have been showing that, regardless of your political ideology, the truth doesn’t seem to matter. It would appear, to many Conservatives especially, that what you feel to be the truth is what is the truth (to you, anyway). This could explain why Trump tells lies to appeal to Conservatives emotionally, even though the lies aren’t in the least bit grounded in Reality. It feels right to Conservatives, so there must be something wrong with the evidence. It’s a shame, but not a surprise really, the Republican Party has been so antithetical to funding public education. Despite the fact that the truth may not matter, it’s still important that people learn how to think critically about a subject, regardless of whether it’s politics or religion, instead of just accepting what they’re told as true. But critical thinking requires effort, and your average Joe Sixpack conservative has neither the desire nor the ability to put a lot of thought into things. So when they do put that small amount of effort toward a position on something, they often end up choosing the Conservative point of view, even when it provably isn’t the best choice, or even the one that will move them toward their ultimate goals, whatever they are. Donald Trump may at one time in his life said something you also believed. He once said he believed in a woman’s right to choose to undergo an abortion. Now, because he panders to a bunch of low-effort thinkers, he says abortion should be criminalized (despite its being a Constitutional right) and that the doctor should go to jail for performing one, not the woman because she is also a victim. That kind of “thinking” requires you to believe the woman was not choosing to undergo an abortion and that it was done against her will. Kidnapping is already a felony so why would any new laws be needed? If taking away someone’s Constitutional rights can be done by making it illegal to ever exercise those rights, then we should be able to solve our national gun problem by making it illegal to exercise your right to own guns. But that’s not how it’s supposed to work, so these Republican efforts to ban abortion by criminalizing the performance of one cannot possibly withstand Constitutional muster. And neither will Trump’s efforts to bring back waterboarding and other methods of torture (“even worse”). Nor will barring people entry to this country because of the religion they practice. Nor will deporting people born on American soil. Trump has held many different positions on many different topics, so which position on which topic makes you believe Trump would make a good President? Or an effective one? Or even a competent one? Because by the time Election Day comes around, it’s entirely possible that Trump will no longer hold that viewpoint you thought made him better than the rest. So why would you vote for him?

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to make fun of Donald Trump, or discuss anything else you wish.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 14, 2016: The Man Who Would Be Last

Last night’s closing segment of “Real Time” had Bill Maher addressing the accusation that Donald Trump’s popularity is the fault of Liberals. Like so many things Conservatives say, this is the exact opposite of the Truth. But as we all know, in political debate in America, facts don’t matter. They don’t. Regardless of political leanings, when people are confronted with facts that contradict something they believe, they will simply refuse to accept that they are wrong. Most of what Conservatives believe to be true is not, while a substantially lower percentage of what Liberals believe is false. Studies have shown that even Liberals normally willing to be persuaded by new evidence will still cling to about ten percent of their belief system against evidence to the contrary. By comparison, Conservatives are persuaded by almost nothing that contradicts their beliefs, even personal experience. To Conservatives, facts are just somebody’s opinion about Reality. What matters is what you believe to be true. Even when it isn’t. Here’s how Bill Maher responded:

One small but important clarification about something Maher said, the Boston Tea Party (the historical event after which the modern political Tea Party takes its name) was a revolt against a tax cut. King George cut taxes on British tea going to the colonies, thus making them cheaper to sell and harder for the colonists to compete. It was not, as many in the Tea Party movement believe, a tax increase being protested. But Maher is correct that these people have had their taxes lowered since Obama took office. And the problem isn’t that we’re taxed too much, it’s that we’re taxed too little, especially the wealthiest Americans. Taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society, and a necessity if we want our government to do the things we actually want it to do. Conservative Republicans often complain about our national debt being too high, but it’s their own fault and something else for which they refuse to accept responsibility. They believed something demonstrably untrue, cut taxes because of it, but continued to increase spending while lying about its effect on the national debt. They constantly claimed that tax cuts for the rich would pay for themselves by bringing in more revenue. It was a position that defied logic and the facts, but they went ahead and kept saying, not only that it was true, but that it was good for America. Then they turned around and tried to say that money spent on social welfare programs and national infrastructure was unjustifiable when our national debt was so high. Yes, they actually tried to make that argument. They still do. No amount of spending on our military is too high to them, but try to find a couple of billion dollars to make poorer people’s lives better and it’s, “Sorry. No can do. There’s a war on.” Except that war is not being financed by a single penny of tax revenue, it’s being funded by deficit spending, the thing Conservative Republicans claim they hate so much. There’s a lot of hypocrisy and flat out denial of the truth when it comes to right wing thinking, so it should surprise no one that Donald Trump will be the Republican Party’s nominee to be POTUS. He’s completely unfit to hold public office, has no grasp of factual reality, and is completely clueless about the nature and purpose of being a public servant.

Donald Trump is incapable of being a public servant because Donald Trump serves one person, and one person only – Donald Trump. His policies are based on either pure fantasy or rampant racism and bigotry. He has no understanding about how diplomacy works, nor why it’s a good thing. He seems to think the POTUS personally negotiates trade deals and treaties with other countries, and that he can do better than all previous presidents have done. The man is not simply a narcissist. Anyone who thinks he or she is capable of being POTUS has to have a big ego to begin with or else they would become overwhelmed by the responsibilities. It’s true of President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary Clinton, Senator Sanders, Senator McCain, Governor Romney, Humanoid Dick “the Bruce” Cheney, and everyone else who has thrown his or her hat in the ring. But Trump’s narcissism is in a category of its own. He talks as if he’s never failed at anything in his life when Ivana and Marla could tell you otherwise. So can the several bankruptcies he’s filed for businesses that could not be called “successes.” And the lawsuit he’s facing for his sham of a school that made promises he had no intention of keeping. Yet he’s so thin-skinned that he constantly threatens to sue anyone who tells the truth about him. He even said he wants to limit the freedom of the press and make it easier to sue them for defamation when they say things about him he doesn’t like (such as truthful things, and things that really happened.) His campaign rhetoric has been so atrocious and despicable, that many white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and KKK groups have publicly endorsed him for POTUS. Even David Duke thinks he’d be a good choice for Trump’s running mate.

Apparently Mr. Duke hasn’t thought this out very far at all. I mean, is there any reason why Duke couldn’t be taken out first, then Trump, to prevent exactly what Duke threatened? A David Duke presidency? No, it would be much, much worse than any of that if Trump were to become POTUS. It would mean the end of America. It would mean an end to the greatest experiment in governance in the history of Civilization. Thanks to the Republican lack of support and outright disdain for Education dating back to the Reagan Administration, most Americans are unaware of just how unique this country is. For starters, in just about every other country on the planet, there is an official religion and it’s usually whatever religion the head of the country practices. The USA under our Constitution was the first country to say that would never happen here, and that people would be free to follow any religion they wished free of government interference. Christian Conservatives very much want to change that and make some unspecified version of Christianity our nation’s “official religion.” A President Trump would also bring an end to the rest of the First Amendment, too. Journalists would not be free to publish articles critical of Trump, and people would not be free to peaceably assemble to demonstrate against his inhumane, ill-conceived, and illegal policies. And do you really think the rest of the world will stand behind President Trump when he starts a war with China? No, if Donald Trump were to somehow win the election this November (and I can’t imagine how that could happen without massive Republican cheating and voter suppression of likely Democratic voters), he would be the last person to hold that office. This great country would cease to exist, and something truly evil would take its place. And someone like Ted Cruz and his dad could be in charge of it.

Daily. Open. Thread.

The Watering hole, Saturday, May 7, 2016: Who You Calling a God?

I want to talk about something that’s important to me and I know that along the way I’m going to greatly offend a significant portion of you wonderful people reading this. And even if it isn’t what I say that you’ll find offensive, I’m sure some of you won’t like the way I say it. But as the closing song in “Night Shift” (sung by Rod Stewart) goes, “That’s What Blogs Are For.” I am atheist. I do not believe in the existence of gods. To be clear, I do not believe in the existence of gods as they have been portrayed in most religions, entertainment depictions, and writings known to many. I don’t believe the set of gods worshiped by the ancient Romans and Greeks actually existed. Ever. Nor do I believe the “One True God” worshiped by Jews, Christians, and Muslims actually existed. Ever. Nor do I believe any of the other gods worshiped by billions of other people throughout human history actually existed. Ever. I do not believe that the Universe was created by some kind of sentient being, often, and for purposes of this discussion, referred to as “God.” I also do not believe that a Universe without God means we got “something from nothing.” People who say that do not understand the Big Bang theory. It wasn’t “nothing,” it was a hot, almost infinitely dense singularity that exploded, expanded outward, and eventually formed what we often think of as the “Universe.” And when I refer to “the Universe,” I am specifically referring to the Matter and Energy that directly resulted from the Big Bang event that created “our” Universe. I have reason to think there are things out there unrelated to our Big Bang, but I’ll eventually get into that in a later post. My point is simply that there is a scientific explanation for how things came to be (the Big Bang event being just one possible part of it; other scientific theories exist), and that there doesn’t need to be anything like a god to explain it all.

This may surprise some of your Christian relatives and friends, but in many other religions, the Creation of the Universe is explained in completely different ways. And what your Bible taught you is but just one of many thousands of unproven, and impossible to prove, explanations for how we came to be here. And it is no more valid than any of the others, no matter who told you otherwise. Because just like all the others, it relies completely on Faith and the cognitive dissonance needed to reject all the Science that says otherwise. It’s going to sound like I’m picking on Christians in this piece but remember a few things: I’m an American living in America. The vast majority of people I interact with believe one or another version of Christian thought. And whether or not they want to believe this, their set of beliefs about Creationism are just as much nonsense as your deity-based explanation for how we got here. But having grown up here, Christianity is the religion to which I’ve most been subjected, so I’m going to use it more than most others. But this is supposed to be more about gods in general.

Do I believe gods exist? No. Not the kinds of gods you’re thinking of. But being an ardent fan of sci-fi, especially of Star Trek, I believe there are many life forms throughout all of the universe (not just the Milky Way Galaxy), and that many of them reached different levels of Evolution far beyond our own. These creatures may be able to manipulate matter and energy simply with their own thoughts and could even bring into existence something like a Big Bang event that could eventually lead to people like you and me. (But not Trump supporters.) The important thing is that even if such beings do exist, I maintain that they would be NOTHING like the God described in the Bible (or any other deity-based religion.) And I certainly don’t believe they designed and created human beings. The human beings you see walking around today are the result of billions of years of Evolution, not the result of some being with great powers wishing us into existence, just as we are today. I mean, it’s pretty obvious we humans have genetic flaws, and remnants of body parts serving little or no purpose. Are you seriously going to say we were designed to get diseases from microscopic viruses we can’t see, and which seem to have no purpose for existence but to kill? By design? Really? That makes sense to you? A perfect being should be able to do better than we humans.

So, while I will agree that it’s possible there are sentient life forms capable of manipulating matter and energy, I don’t believe any of them could be confused for the God of the King James Bible, which can’t realistically exist. If he’s responsible for all Life on Earth, then he created horrible things that can’t be justified. And if He only meant to create Life here on Earth, then what purpose to the other stars in the Universe serve, or the other planets in our own solar system, for that matter? American Christians, particularly Conservative Christians, are often discouraged from asking too many questions about the religious stories they were taught as children. Dad says it’s true, so it’s true. And they never seem to want to question it because if it turns out Dad’s wrong about God, what else is he wrong about? And soon, Dad begins to lose his authority over his children, and they go off and learn truths about the world he’d rather they never learn. Which might not happen if he didn’t choose to lie to his children about the existence of God in the first place. It’s okay to be honest and tell them that we’re not here because some strange, sadistic, schizophrenic sociopath created us on a whim, then killed most of us when he didn’t like how we turned out, but that we’re here simply because the conditions necessary for life forms such as ourselves to evolve existed here and in few other places. Yes, it is random chance. No, there really isn’t any reason why we’re here. Does that mean Life has no purpose? Well, if you’re willing to accept the fact that we’re not here for any special reason, then your life’s purpose can be what you want it to be (within the acceptable norms of Society.) You want to help people less fortunate than yourself? Good for you. If you’re lazy, like me, you can help them by paying your taxes and letting the government do the heavy lifting. That’s what programs that help the poor are there to do. You can tell Republicans don’t want to help their fellow human beings. They’re more interested in helping those that have already helped themselves to more than their fair share.

Open thread. Have fun.

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 2, 2016: So How Was Your Week?

I haven’t been around much lately. I don’t want this to turn in to some giant complaint, so I’ll be brief. A couple of weeks ago I awoke with some minor back pain which got worse and worse over the next couple of days (along with some pain in my side if I moved wrong.) Not only was I unable to go to work, I had to go to the emergency room, since the doctor I went to said she couldn’t give me anything stronger for the intense back pain. While there were no broken bones, there were a couple of disks separated oddly (is about the best way I can describe it.) They suggested I “establish a relationship” with an orthopedic surgeon. That part’s taken care of, he’s one of the best in the country, and I’ll make an appointment with him him soon. Which is good because over the weekend, I had one of those famous home accidents in the bathroom. I was wearing very slippery socks and they gave out on the bathroom tile floor, which made me fall straight down on top of the edge of my bathtub, squarely on the right side of my chest. No blood, and no head injury. And it hurts quite a bit, but there’s no bruising or discoloration of any kind, and my breathing isn’t labored at all because of it. I think I got lucky and just got a little bruise. Funny thing is, the drugs they gave me at the ER were great for the back and side pain I had, but didn’t really help the chest bruise so much. Oh, well. Despite all that, I think I had a better week than Larry Wilmore at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner. Personally, I didn’t find it particularly funny. Maybe the jokes were too inside for me. I hope you’ve had a better week.

This is our daily open thread. Have fun.

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 18, 2016: Why Democracy Doesn’t Really Work For Americans

America is supposed to be a Democracy. It’s supposed to be a country with a government of the People (according to the dictionary), and by the People and for the People (according to President Lincoln.) Let’s face some cold hard Truths. It isn’t. Any of those things. The few rich and powerful in this country (and Donald J. Trump is one of those rich and powerful people) really do control things beyond what the People want to have happen. I’m not so naive as to think that isn’t a cold hard Truth. I know. It sounds conspiratorial. Bitter. Even a tiny bit ignorant. Oh, sure. They hold these annual or semi-annual events they call “elections,” but it’s not like we have the greatest of choices for which to cast our ballots. We get the choices the folks running the show want us to have. They decide who the parties will put up, and we get to pick from the choices we’re given. But are we really fit to be doing that?

Bill Moyers sat down with Rick Shenkman, the author of Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics (and Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of History News Network), to talk about how and why someone as clearly unqualified to be President of these United States (as opposed to the United States of Mexico, I suppose) could be so apparently close to achieving that office as is Trump. It all comes down to this: as a species, humans have not sufficiently evolved to the point where we are able to make rational decisions based on facts no matter how unpleasant, and not on gut instincts that tell us to make quick decisions about how to respond to the danger we perceive. Humans are still easily manipulated into feeling we’re in danger, and when people are afraid, they do not take the time to make well-thought out decisions on how to proceed. Instead, they go with what experience (even experience without proper training) tells them to do. When they feel safe enough to stop and assess their situation, they may find the danger was not as great as they were led to believe. They may also come to realize that had they known then, when they were being told of the danger, what they know now, they might not have done the same things they did when they thought they were in greater danger (like knock that old lady down who was taking too long at the pharmacy counter.)

The cold hard truth is that though we humans have evolved over the hundreds of thousands of years, we still have brains hard wired to look for dangers in our environment that are no longer there. In many places, we have built civilized societies, free of the dangerous roaming predators that once hunted our ancestors. You may look around and see buildings made of wood, steel and concrete, but your brain is still going to look for the hidden tiger waiting to pounce from…well, from somewhere. The amygdala in our brains looks for things that have caused us harm before and sends warning signals to our prefrontal cortexes. It’s the prefrontal cortex that does the actual analysis on what you’re encountering and decides what, if any, action you should take. Is that a snake? No, it’s a garden hose, so I don’t have to do anything to protect myself. Later, when you walk past it again, your amygdala is still going to send that danger signal to your prefrontal cortex, but this time your prefrontal cortex will tell you you’ve already determined it’s nothing dangerous and will ignore the danger warnings. The key to not panicking every time we think we’re confronted by danger is in how much thought we put into analyzing what w’re being told is dangerous. The less time your brain spends thinking about something, the more likely it will produce a conservative outcome. And Conservative politicians (mostly Republican, but some Democrats, too) have learned this, and so they constantly try to tell you that you’re in great danger, and that you should do what they tell you if you want to survive. (Yes, some even say your survival is at stake.) And what they want you to do is, of course, one of the worst things you could do if you really want to look out for what’s in your own best interests. And they tell you this because they know if you’re too scared, you won’t think and realize you’re being lied to. And you’ll do something thoughtless, like voting for a Conservative Republican.

Thanks to the destruction of our public education system by conservative ideologues, Americans lack the critical thinking skills needed to address the growing dangers we actually face – like the fact that our planet’s temperature has been steadily rising (do not believe anyone who tells you differently) and the ripple effects of that temperature rise will be dramatic changes to our overall climate. Landlocked ice will start to melt in larger amounts, causing the sea levels to rise. (The ice already in the water will not do anything to make the water level go up when it melts, just the added water from the snow and ice that melts off land surfaces into the oceans.) Nearly two out of every five Americans lives in counties directly on a shoreline. But rising sea levels won’t affect just Americans, a study found, “As of 1998, over half the population of the planet — about 3.2 billion people — lives and works in a coastal strip just 200 kilometers wide (120 miles), while a full two-thirds, 4 billion, are found within 400 kilometers of a coast.” It’s an extremely serious problem, but judging from what Americans seem to find important, it’s not one we’re prepared to address anytime soon. On account of how ill-educated and fearful we are. And because we don’t seem to want to be put people in charge who are capable of doing what needs to be done to fix it. Not when there are so many votes to be had by making people afraid of it.

Daily open thread. Don’t be afraid of it.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 9, 2016: David Barton – What a Fool Believes

I know you’re at least a relatively intelligent person. I know some of you are at least as intelligent, though nowhere near as vain, as I. I know you’re not incredibly stupid, because you wouldn’t even be trying to read this blog if you were. You’d be perplexed by the preponderance of polysyllabic put downs pointed at perennially petrified prevaricators of poison posing as presidential possibles as you probe your proboscis with a pinky. You poopy-head. So I know you’re not so foolish as to believe what self-titled “historian” and delusional snake oil salesman David Barton had to say about the relationship between how one reads, interprets, and understands The Bible (specific edition and reasons why it’s better than the other versions unknown) and the Constitution of the United States (the one that makes no mention of The Bible or God, and which even says you can’t require a religious test for any public office in the United States, including Chaplain.) Barton’s been known to say ridiculous things many, many, many, many times before, but this recent one was a real head scratcher. Even scratching someone else’s head didn’t help.

“If your religious faith is such that it doesn’t connect you to God, you’re not going to be good for the country. How they look at the Bible will tell you how they’re going to look at the Constitution. I’m not saying the Bible and the Constitution are the same thing, but I’m saying you have the same view toward authority, you have the same view toward there are absolutes, there are standards that should be followed and must be followed.

He continued…

“The fervency with which someone follows their religious faith, a biblical faith, is nearly always a direct indicator of how well they will follow the Constitution. If they don’t respect the Bible, they won’t respect other firm, fixed documents like the Constitution, so we, as citizens, ought to engage in that type of personal religious test for our president.”

Didn’t someone just mention how the Constitution prohibits any kind of religious test to hold public office in the US? Oh, yeah! It was me, just a few sentences ago. My how time flies. And my how wrong he is. So very, very wrong.

If your religious faith is such that it doesn’t connect you to God,
There are thousands of variations of what are legitimately called religious belief systems practiced, for good or for evil, throughout the world. Many of them involve no gods of any kind, but instead promote a spiritual connection to the planet and all life on it, especially your fellow human beings. Atheism is not one of the religious belief systems, because Atheism is not a religion. It’s simply the belief that there are no such things as gods. Any other beliefs about the Universe, its origins, and whether or not you should work with your fellow human beings to make life better for all of us or be a selfish conservative jerk are entirely separate.

you’re not going to be good for the country.
I’m going to stop you again right there, Davey. There is this false conceit among Evangelicals that it is impossible to have a moral center without a belief in, and fear of, one or more gods. Nothing could be further from The Truth. People can be and are good without God. No matter which God you believe will punish you or reward you after you die, that God still wants you to follow one rule above all others that even the people who don’t believe in that God follow: Treat other people the way you would like them to treat you. It’s so simple, and there’s no argument against it. Human beings are social creatures (not me; I am a creature, just not a very social one), and in order to both survive and prosper, we depend on other people. No matter how much of a rugged individualist you might think you are, you cannot prosper alone. You might be able to survive, but you won’t be able to do more than that. And you probably won’t smell too good, either. We need the help of others, so it makes sense to treat others the way we’d like them to treat us. You don’t need to fear an eternity of pain and suffering after you die on this plane of existence to understand that. So why bother fearing it?

How they look at the Bible will tell you how they’re going to look at the Constitution.
How I look at a work of pure fiction, put together for the sole purpose of controlling people’s lives through fear and intimidation, will tell people how I look at the founding document that guides how my country will govern me and treat me as a citizen? Even when the founding document makes no mention of the work of pure fiction, or whether or not I have to believe it? Not sure how they’re the same.

I’m not saying the Bible and the Constitution are the same thing,
Good, because it would prove you’re an idiot if you did.

but I’m saying you have the same view toward authority,
No, you don’t. The Bible commands the People to obey the ones in authority; the Constitution commands the ones in authority to obey the People. The Bible is not for people who want to be free, it’s for people who want to be authoritarian followers.

you have the same view toward there are absolutes, there are standards that should be followed and must be followed.
I don’t want to digress into an area in which I’m not well educated, that of moral absolutes, but I will say that throughout human history there have been people who have found excuses to commit the most heinous of atrocities against other human beings, and often those excuses had their roots in religious beliefs.

“The fervency with which someone follows their religious faith, a biblical faith, is nearly always a direct indicator of how well they will follow the Constitution.
That would mean the reverse is true, too. That how well they follow the Constitution is an indicator of the fervency with which they follow their biblical faith. There is absolutely no connection between the two. Virtually every president in our nation’s history, from all parties, has to a certain extent violated the Constitution. Some did it to test principles, and some did it because didn’t know any better. But all of them (to date) claimed to be Christians. I can only name one president who I know practiced what his faith taught him to do, who actually did what his religion said he should do for people less fortunate than himself, and to this day he continues to be vilified by the very people who claim if you’re not Christian, you’re not worth public office in the United States. And that man is President James Carter. The Religious Right wanted to deify Ronald Reagan so much that they had to make the political opponent he defeated, Jimmy Carter, out to be the most evil human to walk the planet. If Ronald Reagan was going to be a saint, then Jimmy Carter had to be the devil. Does anybody truly believe that Jimmy Carter would deliberately violate a law passed to ban him from giving money to certain people by trading arms for hostages? Religious Conservatives is so nutty.

If they don’t respect the Bible, they won’t respect other firm, fixed documents like the Constitution,
There is absolutely no truth to this statement, and it’s a mighty huge insult to anyone who does not consider him or herself a Christian, to suggest that you must respect the Bible in order to be able to respect the Constitution. BTW, Barton is also promoting the staunchly held but wrong conservative belief that the Constitution is fixed, with only one correct interpretation. To believe something like that, you would have to think the Framers had no intention of the government having a say in how things like electronic communication devices could be regulated or used. Or in how huge multi-national oil companies (which they would have objected to being allowed to exist in the first place) could exploit our habitat without concern for anyone telling them how they can run their business in the US. Such things did not exist 230 years ago, so by conservative logic, nothing in the Constitution should apply to those things.

so we, as citizens, ought to engage in that type of personal religious test for our president.”
Except for that no religious test thing again. If only the Constitution didn’t keep getting in the way of forcing everyone to follow the Bible, they could turn this place into Hell on Earth. And then they’d put Ted Cruz in charge of it. And Life as we know it on this planet would come to an end.

And then a few million years from now, asteroids carrying various minerals will crash into what’s left of the Earth. The minerals they bring will combine with amino acids to form new lifeforms, just as they did here billions of years ago. And Evolution will kick in as more and more life forms develop so that the ones most suitable to the environment as it will exist then will prosper the most, and pass on their DNA to their offspring, some of whom will be slightly different from their parents. And before you know it, Jesus will be saying, yet again, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” That is, if you’re a Christian who claims to believe in Evolution.

Daily open thread. From whom do you buy your snake oil?

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 4, 2016: How Both Sides Get Political Debate Wrong

Political discourse in this country has sunk to a depth I feared we would one day reach, and it shows no signs of rising again anytime soon. We no longer talk about issues starting from a common point of view. Liberals and Conservatives don’t agree on what role our government should have, so any discussion about what it should do is really pointless if we don’t know from where the other guy is starting. According to George Lakoff, where Liberals would see the nation through the Nurturing Parent model, Conservatives would tend to see it as the Strict Father. When you screw up, should the government find an appropriate punishment for your wrongdoing and sit you down and explain why what you did was wrong, with discussions on how to be a better person afterwards, with the goal of making you want to choose to be a better person, or should it just spank you in the ass, lock you in your room without supper, and let you out after so much time has passed saying, “Next time’ll be worse”? Who should be deciding what our government does? People who believe in doing what’s best for all of us, or people who think only certain people should get preferential treatment? We all agree in equality for all, we just don’t necessarily agree on how important that is, or to exactly what “equality for all” refers. We agree in Justice and Fairness, but we don’t agree on how important those morals should be. If we say everybody should participate in discussing Society’s problems, shouldn’t we make sure everybody agrees on exactly what the problems are that we are discussing? Are you talking about the two faces staring at each other? Or are you talking about the candlestick in between them? Both of you see a problem. but what is the problem you both see? There are many differences in the way the brains of Liberals and Conservatives process information. To find a common solution, we must first have common ground. I’m not really sure how that’s possible, but I do know our discussions aren’t getting us anywhere because it’s clear we don’t see the world and the problems within in the same way.

 

angry trumpbernies birdieAccording to one study, people right-of-center politically spend more time looking at unpleasant images, and people left-of-center politically spend more time looking at pleasant images.

“We report evidence that individual-level variation in people’s physiological and attentional responses to aversive and appetitive stimuli are correlated with broad political orientations. Specifically, we find that greater orientation to aversive stimuli tends to be associated with right-of-centre and greater orientation to appetitive (pleasing) stimuli with left-of-centre political inclinations.”

Conservatives would rather see an angry, war mongering President Trump (see left), where Liberals would prefer a peace-loving, animal friendly President Sanders (see right). It makes me wonder if Conservatives want to see all those images of what our Military Industrial Complex is doing in the Middle East, and that’s why they elect Republicans who talk about more and more bombing ISIS into oblivion, as if ISIS lives in the Middle East alone and that such bombing would not harm any civilian populations. I know we Liberals don’t enjoy seeing such images, but maybe the Conservatives do. Another study has concluded that people who react strongly to disgusting images, such as a picture of someone eating worms, are more likely to self-identify as conservative. Or maybe images of war do not bother them enough to want the wars stopped because to Conservatives, images of children being blown up is not as disgusting as it is to us Liberals. There are other key differences that Science has taught us, and understanding them can help us work toward a better solution to the problems of our Society. And, yes, I will freely admit that I omitted the word “together” in there. As you’ll soon see, I’m not entirely sure Conservatives can help us determine what’s in the best interests of all of us.

For one thing, in very general terms, both sides don’t put the same effort into solving the problem. Now, before this continues, let me say that when I speak of these groups in very general terms, unless otherwise specified I’m talking about your average Liberal and average Conservative Citizens. We’re the ones who are supposed to (somehow, it’s never spelled out how) hash out our differences and come to a consensus on how to solve our problems. The question that should be asked of anyone participating is, “How much time are you willing to spend trying to solve the problem?” Reliance on quick, efficient, and “low effort” thought processes yields conservative ideologies, while effortful and deliberate reasoning yields liberal ideologies. (Scott Eidelman, PhD, Christian S. Crandall, PhD, Jeffrey A. Goodman, PhD, and John C. Blanchar, “Low-Effort Thought Promotes Political Conservatism,” Society for Personality and Social Psychology, 2012)

“…[P]olitical conservatism is promoted when people rely on low-effort thinking. When effortful, deliberate responding is disrupted or disengaged, thought processes become quick and efficient; these conditions promote conservative ideology… low-effort thought might promote political conservatism because its concepts are easier to process, and processing fluency increases attitude endorsement….Four studies support our assertion that low-effort thinking promotes political conservatism… Our findings suggest that conservative ways of thinking are basic, normal, and perhaps natural.”

When confronted with a problem, the Conservative reaction is to look for a quick solution, preferably one that has worked in the past. Liberals tend to be more open to trying things that haven’t been tried before. When faced with a conflict, Liberals are more likely than Conservatives to alter their habitual response when cues indicate it is necessary. (David M. Amodio, PhD, John T. Jost, PhD, Sarah L. Master, PhD, and Cindy M. Yee, PhD, “Neurocognitive Correlates of Liberalism and Conservatism,” Nature Neuroscience, Sep. 9, 2007)

“[We] found that greater liberalism was associated with stronger conflict-related anterior cingulate activity, suggesting greater neurocognitive sensitivity to cues for altering a habitual response pattern…Our results are consistent with the view that political orientation, in part, reflects individual differences in the functioning of a general mechanism related to cognitive control and self-regulation. Stronger conservatism (versus liberalism) was associated with less neurocognitive sensitivity to response conflicts. At the behavioral level, conservatives were also more likely to make errors of commission. Although a liberal orientation was associated with better performance on the response-inhibition task examined here, conservatives would presumably perform better on tasks in which a more fixed response style is optimal.”

Liberals are more open-minded and creative whereas conservatives are more orderly and better organized. (Dana R. Carney, PhD, John T. Jost, PhD, Samuel D. Gosling, PhD, and Jeff Potter, “The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives: Personality Profiles, Interaction Styles, and the Things They Leave Behind,” International Society of Political Psychology, Oct. 23, 2008)

“We obtained consistent and converging evidence that personality differences between liberals and conservatives are robust, replicable, and behaviorally significant, especially with respect to social (vs. economic) dimensions of ideology. In general, liberals are more open-minded, creative, curious, and novelty seeking, whereas conservatives are more orderly, conventional, and better organized… A special advantage of our final two studies is that they show personality differences between liberals and conservatives not only on self-report trait measures but also on unobtrusive, nonverbal measures of interaction style and behavioral residue.”

Even if we agree on what the problems are, we have the issue of how best to resolve those problems? Conservatives learn better from negative stimuli than from positive stimuli and are more risk avoidant than liberals. (Natalie J. Shook, PhD, and Russell H. Fazio, PhD, “Political Ideology, Exploration of Novel Stimuli, and Attitude Formation,” Experimental Social Psychology, Apr. 3, 2009)

“In this study, the relations among political ideology, exploratory behavior, and the formation of attitudes toward novel stimuli were explored. Participants played a computer game that required learning whether these stimuli produced positive or negative outcomes. Learning was dependent on participants’ decisions to sample novel stimuli… Political ideology correlated with exploration during the game, with conservatives sampling fewer targets than liberals. Moreover, more conservative individuals exhibited a stronger learning asymmetry, such that they learned negative stimuli better than positive… Relative to liberals, politically conservative individuals pursued a more avoidant strategy to the game…The reluctance to explore that characterizes more politically conservative individuals may protect them from experiencing negative situations, for they are likely to restrict approach to known positives.”

So we have people trying to find new, innovative ways to resolve the problems we continue to have, which is why it’s still necessary to have these discussions, and people who would rather avoid making the problem worse by doing something different (even though what’s being done now continues to not work.) We Liberals want to move toward a better situation for everyone, even if only incrementally, while Conservatives don’t want to upset the status quo. Conservatism is focused on preventing negative outcomes, while liberalism is focused on advancing positive outcomes. (Ronnie Janoff-Bulman, PhD, “To Provide or Protect: Motivational Bases of Political Liberalism and Conservatism,” Psychological Inquiry: An International Journal for the Advancement of Psychological Theory, Aug. 2009)

“Political liberalism and conservatism differ in provide versus protect orientations, specifically providing for group members’ welfare (political Left) and protecting the group from harm (political Right). These reflect the fundamental psychological distinction between approach and avoidance motivation. Conservatism is avoidance based; it is focused on preventing negative outcomes (e.g., societal losses) and seeks to regulate society via inhibition (restraints) in the interests of social order. Liberalism is approach based; it is focused on advancing positive outcomes (e.g., societal gains) and seeks to regulate society via activation (interventions) in the interests of social justice.”

Life is hard. The World is a dangerous place but, unlike Conservatives, I believe it can be made better. It will never be completely safe. Ironically, this is more because of people who are Conservative (with all the aggression that often comes with that) than it is from Liberals (who would rather everybody just get along.) But if things are going to get better, we have to approach things from a new way of thinking. And this is where trying to include everyone in solving society’s problems runs into a problem. We all want Security above all else. Security brings stability, and stability brings comfort. We just want to know what the rules are from day to day. We know that Change is inevitable, and we want to minimize the effects of that change as much as possible. But in order to do that, we have to have a better understanding of what it is we face. Liberals have more tolerance to uncertainty (bigger anterior cingulate cortex), and conservatives have more sensitivity to fear (bigger right amygdala)Ryota Kanai, PhD, Tom Feilden, Colin Firth, and Geraint Rees, PhD,

“In a large sample of young adults, we related self-reported political attitudes to gray matter volume using structural MRI [magnetic resonance imaging]. We found that greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala…[O]ur findings are consistent with the proposal that political orientation is associated with psychological processes for managing fear and uncertainty. The amygdala has many functions, including fear processing. Individuals with a larger amygdala are more sensitive to fear, which, taken together with our findings, might suggest the testable hypothesis that individuals with larger amagdala are more inclined to integrate conservative views into their belief systems… our finding of an association between anterior cingulate cortex [ACC] may be linked with tolerance to uncertainty. One of the functions of the anterior cingulate cortex is to monitor uncertainty and conflicts. Thus it is conceivable that individuals with a larger ACC have a higher capacity to tolerate uncertainty and conflicts, allowing them to accept more liberal views.”

We often speak of the amygdala being the “fear center” of the brain, as the place where all our fears begin. This is somewhat misleading, and can lead to further confusion. First, it’s important to know that scientists and researchers do not yet have a complete understanding of how the amygdala works, but they’ve been getting better answers with recent research. To put it simply, the amygdala analyzes everything your senses pick up and looks for signs of something that caused you harm the last time you encountered it. It then sends a signal to your prefrontal cortex where the actual analysis takes place. So, if out of the corner of your eye, your brain thinks it sees something like looks like the snake that’s been biting and killing your caveman friends lately, your amygdala will send a signal to the prefrontal cortex (PFC) that says, “SNAKE!” It’s up to your PFC to put what it thinks your brain sees in context. Maybe it’s a real snake, or maybe it’s just a dead poisonous snake that Thag thought would be hilarious to put on your rock seat. That Thag is such an asshole. Wait ’til he finds the dead poisonous spider in his bed later. Well, he’ll think it’s dead. But in today’s America (and in other places, too), a Conservative who hears the word “Muslim” immediately associates that with “bad things” and sends the signal to the PFC, where a Liberal would say “Muslim what?” before sending any alarms. A Muslim author? A Muslim comedian? A Muslim surgeon? I’m not hearing anything to get alarmed by yet. There are many authors, comedians, and surgeons who are quite good at what they do. Some of them also happen to be Muslim. That doesn’t automatically make them a danger. Liberals and Conservatives would essentially disagree on what the dangers we face are. How are we ever going to agree on how to confront them, and how best to expend the resources we have? I don’t know. And I’m beginning to wonder if it is even possible.

Daily open thread. Do your thing.