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 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.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 26, 2016: God Doesn’t Want To See You Pray In Public

No matter what the Evangelicals tell you, God does not want you to pray in public. God doesn’t need to hear them out loud, because God knows what you do in secret. God knows when you secretly give to the poor with your right hand without letting your left hand know what’s happening. And God doesn’t want you to gather out in the streets and in the public square and pray to him so everyone can hear you. Instead, God wants you to go into a private place in your own home, a closet even, and pray silently to God. Bryan J. Fischer told me that the admonition against praying in public was about the reason for doing it, to be seen doing it. [I’ll update it if he answers me. I’m surprised he did at all, considering how rude I’ve been to him before. And it wasn’t just because I’m from New York, he had it coming.]

Conservative Christians are so afraid of (among many, many other things) religious persecution against them, as opposed to from them, which they have no problem doing. This is despite the fact that we’ve had 43 different men occupy the highest political office in the country, and every single one of them practiced some version of Christianity. How it could be considered the “one true religion,” as all deity-based religions do, baffles me. It would seem unnecessary to have more than one. If there’s only one God, then why are there different ways to do what He wants? FTR, I believe there is no such things as gods at all, at least not in the sense that most humans think of them. I suppose it’s possible there are more highly-evolved creatures than us capable of doing things we’d think only a god could do, but then you’re straying so far from the image of God as portrayed in the monotheistic religions that it becomes clear we’re taking about two different things. OTOH, even the religions that do believe in gods claim there is more than one. If you’re Judeo-Christian, the First Commandment says not to put any of those other gods (you know, the ones that created all the people God didn’t, such as Cain and Abel’s wives) ahead of Jehovah because he is a jealous god. I can say his name, you can’t, because I don’t have anything to fear from him. Which brings up something else. For those who believe in God being perfect and humans being sinners, if envy is a sin, why is a “perfect being” like God allowed to have it? If God is perfect, and if he’s capable of being envious, then why should being envious be a mortal sin? What’s wrong with envy if it’s a trait of the most perfect being in the universe?

Still ducking the question:

The reason Religion is so rife with con men is because it’s easy to go around telling everyone, “Listen to me, Folks. I just had a chat with God and he has some things he wants me to say,” and have people believe you. Why? Because the truth is there’s a lot of stupid people out there who either don’t like to think, on account of it hurts too much, or they can’t, on account of they’re stupid. They don’t ask for proof that the person talking really did talk to God, they actually think it’s neat and wish it was they to whom God spoke. And they believe every thing this con man says, even when it makes no sense at all to those who are capable of critical thought. At some point you have to acknowledge that the instructions we’re being given by these men, who supposedly know what God wants us to do, are self-contradictory. Why do we persist in believing them when what they say can’t possibly be the truth? And why do we believe what they’re saying to be the Word of God, who is supposed to be perfect, when what they’re saying is so clearly and obviously imperfect? Faith alone isn’t going to change the fact that sometimes the Bible says one thing and sometimes it says something in complete contradiction to it. In Logic, which I know you’re not supposed to use where the Bible is concerned, if you start with a premise and show that the premise leads to a contradiction, then you’ve proven the premise false, and any argument derived from it must find another premise. If your premise is that the Bible (the word means a collection if little books, which were assembled, translated, and chosen for inclusion by flawed human men working for King James) is the inerrant Word of God (even if you believe Him to be the only God, which contradicts his First Commandment), and you find it contains a contradiction, then it cannot be “inerrant,” since a contradiction is an error. It is not a test of one’s faith, it’s a mistake. Which means the premise that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God must be False. That’s how Logic works.

I tried a different tack with Fischer, since he doesn’t want to answer the question I’m asking him. Fischer thinks we should vote for Ted Cruz. But Teddy Panderbear likes to make a big show of praying in public. We’ve all seen the pictures.

BTW, notice how he tries to paint a Nazi-esque picture of Liberals with the “Uberleftwing”? Of course, if one thinks about it for a moment, why wouldn’t Right Wing Watch be as far left as possible when the entire reason they exist is right at the top of their webpage: “A project of People For the American Way dedicated to monitoring and exposing the activities of the right-wing movement”? If they aren’t very far left, then they’re too far right to be counted on to do what they tell us they do. But conservatives don’t really like to think about things for a moment. And why would they feel they need to? Conservatives often do not see hypocrisy as negating their argument. They’ve also been known to project a lot, and Fischer probably thinks that since he would use such a website to advance his own secret agenda, Norman Lear must be doing that, too. Frog-Human Hybrid The Least Reverend Jimmy Faye Bakker must think like that, too. He thinks that American Christians are being persecuted in America (as opposed to the real phenomenon of American Christians being captured and killed by murderous scumbag assholes who wrongly use religion as a cover for their evil elsewhere in the world), and that if we continue down whatever path it is he imagines we’re traveling, in the end people who pray in public will be gunned down by machine guns. If you watch the following clip carefully, you can see Bakker catch and eat a fly with his 24″-long tongue.

Okay, that must have been a different clip. But he’s totally wrong, of course. Not only about the eventual outcome being people like him who pray in public will be machine gunned down, but about whether or not people should be praying in public in the first place. Jesus thought that people who made a show of praying in public so that others would see them, including inside houses of worship, were hypocrites, and that if all they wanted was for others to see them praying, they got their reward. He said that God would prefer that you not pray where everybody can see you but in the privacy of your own own. Specifically, your closet, where I’m sure many, many Conservative Christians can be found. He said praying in public was unnecessary because God knows what you’re going to ask him before you ask it (which makes me wonder why praying is necessary at all), and so you should do it where no other people can see you doing it. God hears your secret prayers which, again, makes me wonder why it’s necessary to vocalize them at all. In fact, if He can hear you when you’re “praying” quietly to yourself, there shouldn’t be any formal procedure necessary. You should just be able to keep walking along and say to yourself, in your own mind, “God, could you please make that asshole Wayne burst into flames and be gone for good?” and it will happen. But since it didn’t happen, and because I know at least a few of you asked for it to happen, we must logically conclude that prayer doesn’t work. Which makes the premise of God answering prayers a false one. Yeah, sometimes the answer is, “No.” I know. But that would mean He can’t really be an all-loving God, since that would take away from the premise of him being a perfect being. Why would a perfect being hate anyone? Why would he make someone he would hate? Why would He make me, and let me sit here denouncing his very existence after so many of you asked Him a few moments ago to make me burst into flames? I know, I was there. I heard you. And yet I’m still here. Which makes the premise of him being some kind of “perfect being” a false one. Which I’ve been trying to tell you for years.

Open thread. Go for it.

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 21, 2016: How The Right Gets The Left Wrong

John Hinderaker and Jeffrey Lord, two men who can best be remembered from me mentioning their names at the start of this blog post without the word ‘miscreant’ attached to either of them, are at it again. And by “it” I mean “spreading falsehoods about Liberals”. I was going to use the word “lying,” but then somebody would say it’s not really lying because they honestly believe it’s true. Fine. It isn’t true, it’s false, so I said they were spreading falsehoods. Whether they knew they were falsehoods or not is irrelevant, because they still spread them. But if it makes you feel any better, I think they knew they were falsehoods when they spread them like manure. I say that because I don’t think they’re entirely stupid, and you would have to be entirely stupid to believe the things they said about Liberals and MoveOn.Org recently. [Full disclosure: I am a member of MoveOn.Org. I had my picture used in a commercial they ran several years ago. I wish I could find it.] So I think they know they were spreading foul-smelling crap when they sprinkled it throughout their columns. Because they know their fans just eat that shit up, on account of that’s much easier than having to actually think about it. And Conservatives do not like to put a lot of effort into their thinking, which explains their Conservatism. (Science has been able to document many ways in which Conservative and Liberal minds differ. Read more about them here. Truth be told: the science does not support the idea of Conservatism being a bastion of curious, inquisitive, intellectual discovery. Or even one of just trying to learn the basic truth about things.)

A little over a week ago in Dayton, OH, a man named Tommy DiMassimo attempted to get up on the stage where Donald Trump was speaking but was stopped by the Secret Service. This, and this alone, is probably the only indisputable fact one can glean from Hinderaker’s column. By his third sentence (first if you don’t think the incident itself could accurately be described as “scary”), Hinderaker was already spreading the lies. “His intent was unclear, but there was every reason to assume he intended to injure or kill Trump.” Really, Hinderaker? “Every reason” to believe that? Look, I know you Conservatives are accustomed to seeing danger everywhere, but the only explanation for why you think he meant Trump harm is Projection. You assume he meant Trump harm because in your mind, if you ever rushed a stage, it would be to injure or kill someone. So that must be the reason this guy did it. Hinderaker offers no other explanation for why DiMassimo did what he did, only his personally limited imagination.

Framing is everything in today’s political discourse. With attention spans being so short – SQUIRREL! Sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah. Attention spans are short and time is limited, so the Conservatives want you to spend as little time thinking as possible and just react. And the best way for them to do that is to lay the groundwork for what they’re about to say and force you to accept it, process it, and reply to it within the framework they’ve presented it. From this point on, Hinderaker wants you to view the entire incident as a violent attack. If you reject that framing, nothing else he says or, by extension, what Lord says later, will make any sense. Not only is Hinderaker projecting in this column, he’s shining a bright burning light on his own cognitive dissonance. He has already admitted he has no idea why DiMassimo tried to get up on stage, but that doesn’t mean to him he can’t he know exactly why he did it. DiMassimo boarded the stage for an unclear purpose that must have involved injuring or killing Trump. Lacking the intellectual capacity or imagination to come up with any other reason for DiMassimo’s actions, Hinderaker goes for the violence motive, another trait of Conservatism. (If it were me, and I was able to get to Trump, I would have mussed up his hair in front of everybody, so that he would have had to look ridiculous putting it back together.) So now he hopes that in your mind, we’re talking about a violent person. This is important because he’s about to launch into a rambling, anti-intellectual, anti-tax, anti-union, anti-regulation, and anti-LBGTQ diatribe transferring every lie he can think of about DiMassimo onto every Liberal in America. I’m not a psychologist, nor do I play one on TV, but it’s plain to me that Hinderaker has insecurity issues so severe he has to lash out at anyone he perceives as differing from the image he has in his mind of what it means to be a man. And given his propensity for projection, it’s not hard to imagine why. And as bad as Hinderaker’s column was at reflecting reality, Jeffrey Lord took it to an even lower level.

Lord opens with a link to MoveOn.Org‘s site. Despite everything he’s about to make up about them, the first thing you notice on theri website is a request for donations. “Join our nonviolent campaign standing up for love and democracy, and against Trump’s bigotry and incitement, by making a contribution today.” Then Lord immediately calls us “the new Ku Klux Klan. The newest leftist incarnation of that old leftist formula that combines racism with violence to push the progressive agenda.” I have noticed more and more Conservatives using the term “leftist” in their comments, probably because it’s reminiscent of the term “Communist.” I’m guessing this was Frank Luntz’s idea, but who knows? (Luntz is the “pollster born in Hell” to whom I referred in my song parody “Republicans Lie“.) This is another falsehood, of course. Communism involves a level of Authoritarianism many Liberals reject (but which many Conservatives find appealing, oddly enough.) Lord’s lies continue. “The American Left has a horrendous history of flat out racism and bigotry, liberally salted with violence. From the 19th and early 20th century Klan,…”

I’m stopping him right there. Lord has done what I’ve seen many Conservatives do when I’m hanging out on the Twitter: He presumes that because the KKK was founded by Democrats, that it was founded by Liberals. Nothing could be further from the truth. You cannot look at someone’s political affiliation alone, without context or reference to a year, and know what that person’s political leanings were. A Republican of 150 years ago was likely to be a Liberal just as a Democrat of that time was likely to be a Conservative. The KKK was founded by Conservatives who happened to be members of the Democratic Party. They were white supremacists and they were ugly human beings and their actions were in absolutely no way defensible. They were violent, reprehensible troglodytes, and they are nothing like we Liberals in MoveOn. I have never heard of a single MoveOn event where someone was targeted by the organization for violence. Yet that was the entire purpose of the KKK getting together – to direct violence against someone. And whether they think it matters or not, it is a fact that Trump has the support of many of the major groups today who believe in that for which the KKK stands. Even State Senator David Duke (R-LA) supports Trump. David Duke would never join an organization like MoveOn. I cannot conceive of how anyone with an IQ in the three-digit range would equate MoveOn with the KKK, so I have to believe Lord does not have one.

Based on nothing but Hinderaker’s character assassination of DiMassimo, Lord then declares that he is “absolutely typical of the American Left.” He also points out that DiMassimo’s a Bernie Sanders supporter, but if he’s “typical” of the American Left and he supports Sanders, why is Hillary Clinton ahead in the delegate count? But I digress. Lord goes on to give a distorted history which paints all liberal activists as violent (because of the few violent actions of a few extremist liberal groups) before circling back to the Klan as being liberal. Then he tries to paint us as the racist ones by completely mischaracterizing and distorting an article he quoted. When students at the University of Illinois Chicago decided to organize a protest against the appearance of Donald Trump, MoveOn “chipped in money to get signs and a banner printed and blasted out an email to members in the Chicago area encouraging them to join the protest.” The protest was promoted on Facebook and about 1.5 million people saw it. Out of that number, about 1% pledged to show up. The end result of the protesters’ efforts was the last-minute cancellation of the event, out of a misplaced fear for the candidate’s safety. But that’s not the way Lord chose to frame it. “Got all that? MoveOn.org, in the finest traditions of the Klan, organized a mass shutdown that was specifically directed to people because of their race.” If that’s what you got then you didn’t read the same story I did. MoveOn did not organize that protest as the story he quoted clearly said. His proof that this was “directed to people because of their race” is the sentence “Hundreds of young, largely black and brown people poured in from across the city, taking over whole sections of the arena and bracing for trouble.” Note the logical fallacy he employs: Just because hundreds of people of color showed up to protest the event, the call for the protest must have been directed only at people of color. Then there’s the idea that when the KKK organized something directed at people because of their race, it was done for the exact same reason, and with the exact same level of support of those people, as when MoveOn organized an event specifically directed at people of color, even though they did no such thing. MoveOn didn’t organize the event, and they didn’t direct their efforts to people of color. And if MoveOn ever WERE to direct their organizing at people of color, it wouldn’t be for the purpose of killing and lynching them, or setting fire to their homes. But that is how people like Jeffrey Lord and John Hinderaker see us. Because it’s what THEY would do.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss the KKK, Hinderaker, Lord, Trump, or anybody else like them.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 19, 2016: Please Don’t Feed The Bible Literalists

There are people going around expounding ridiculous theories on the history of Earth and the Life that has existed on it, and we have to stop encouraging them. I’m not suggesting they be locked up in prisons or mental institutions (the former might be a bit harsh but I do think the latter might do them some good), but I am saying that we have to stop treating these ridiculous ideas as if they have any merit whatsoever just because there are still people around delusional enough to believe them. There are many such ideas, but the one I want to talk about today is the Biblical story of the farmer’s daughter and the traveling salesman Noah’s Ark and the Great Flood. They never happened. There was no flood 4,400 years or so ago that wiped out all humans and other living land-based animals on the planet. There may have been flooding in various parts of the world, but it wasn’t a global phenomenon, and it didn’t rain for nearly six weeks, and then take nearly six months for the waters to recede. For one thing, even if all the ice on all the land melted, the waters would never rise enough to submerge all the mountains or come anywhere close to doing that. And if, as the story goes, the waters rose high enough to cover the mountains all over the world (not just in the know part of it at that time), then to where did the water recede? Did it just evaporate off the planet? Did it go down some giant drain that God temporarily plugged up while it rained? The water that rained down had to have come from somewhere. If it came from the oceans, then they would have been depleted by the amount of water they gave up to become rain. So the water coming back down out of the sky couldn’t possibly have been more than what went up into them. So the waters from the rain couldn’t possibly rise higher than the mountains. It’s just not possible.

But don’t waste your time trying to explain that to Wayne Propst, of Tyler, Texas. [First name Wayne = Red Alert.] Wayne is convinced he found evidence of Noah’s flood in his aunt’s front yard. “How much better can it get?” he asked, unfortunately to a reporter from a local television station as opposed to no one in particular. I guess that would depend on your definition of “better” and in which direction you want this story to go. For example, Wayne wants to claim the fossil he found is proof that Noah’s flood happened. (Why do they call it Noah’s Flood? He was the one good guy on the planet. He didn’t flood the earth. God did.) But if that were true, then when would the flood have happened? About 4,400 years ago? So his fossil couldn’t be older than that. But fossils, by definition, are at least ten thousand years old. If you find a fossil, then you have found something that, by definition, pre-dated the story of Noah and His Technicolor Dream Flood. Therefore it cannot be proof that the flood story ever happened, because it was already there in the ground when the flood supposedly happened above it. In fact, if you’re a Bible literalist, it was in the ground before the Earth was created.

Speaking of Noah and Worldwide Synchronous Drowning Event, I hear many people wrongly say that God’s Covenant to Noah was that he would never destroy the world again, and that the rainbow in the sky would be a reminder to Him (God, not just Noah and the other remaining seven people on the planet) of that covenant. Okay. Why would an omnipotent being need some kind of reminder about something? Does that make any sense at all to you? He’s all-knowing, yet there are things he can forget happened. He’s all-powerful, except against memory loss. But that’s not what God promised Noah. He only promised Noah and his family that he would not destroy life on Earth by flood again. Read it for yourself. But why would He have even done so in the first place? He’s an all-powerful entity, isn’t He? Doesn’t he later send out a mysterious ankle-deep fog that killed the first-born male child of every household (according to Cecile B. DeMille)? If He had the ability to do that, why not do the same thing without the first-born male filter? Why the scientifically wrong flood story? But He never said he wouldn’t do the opposite, either. He never said he wouldn’t destroy all life on Earth by drying it up, and letting it catch fire. Or by making the air unbreathable. Or by setting loose a killer virus, unstoppable by modern medicine (which some people think violates his wishes, too.) He created the world in six days, but he needed forty to flood it with extra-terrestrial water and another 150 days to let it dry up? He couldn’t do all of that with the same wave of His Hand he used to create all Life on this planet? Does that make any sense to you at all? Because it sure as shit doesn’t make any sense to me. Why do people believe such nonsense? And why do we treat them like they’re sane when they tell us they do? How can “the Bible” (which is just a collection of little books) be the “literal word of God” when it was translated from stories written in languages unspoken in centuries, by flawed human men who obviously mistook the ancient word for “moon” or “month” as the word for “year” (hence, all these old men living twelve times longer than normal), and it contains such blatant falsehoods? Please, tell me you don’t believe the Bible is literally true. I want to be able to talk to you again.

This is our daily open thread. You know what to do, and what not to do.