The Watering hole, Monday, May 30, 2016: Will America Elect Yet Another Overtly Racist President?

America is far from perfect. We have achieved many great things in our history, but it has been despite our flaws, not because of them. And among the worst of our flaws is this country’s history of racism and white supremacy. Yes, not just the racism but the white supremacy, too. We on the Left post many words decrying white supremacists, but we rarely admit our country has elected many white supremacists POTUS, and they weren’t all Conservatives and/or Republicans and at least a few were Progressives and/or Democrats. As a Liberal, that bothers me. I want what’s best for everyone, and the color of one’s skin does not determine whether one is a human being or not. But there are many people, white people in particular, who feel this is not so; they feel that one’s skin color DOES determine how human one is. And sadly, these people often get elected to public office, where they are able to put their racist viewpoints into law. A President Donald J. Trump would be such a racist president.

It’s bad enough that Trump lies, and lies, and lies, and lies, and lies, and lies, and, just for good measure, engages in promoting conspiracy theories. (This is not to mention the xenophobia, misogyny, birtherism and bullying tactics.) But Donald Trump’s overt racism is probably one of the least admirable things about him. And yet, it’s precisely the reason he is so admired among many of his supporters. White supremacist organizations of all kinds have been openly endorsing Trump, while he has renounced or even denounced so few of them. He had to lie (there’s no other word for it) and say he didn’t know much about David Duke, after the former KKK Grand Wizard publicly endorsed him, despite the fact that several years ago Trump publicly commented on David Duke and his association with the Klan. So why hem and haw over publicly rejecting his endorsement? Trump knew Duke was connected to the Klan. Is that not enough to say he doesn’t want Duke’s support? Why say he has to know more about him before commenting? And if Trump doesn’t want the support of white supremacists, why does he so often retweet their tweets? (He can’t claim he didn’t know when their screen name has “white genocide” in it.)

Many of Trump’s fans like him because, as they tell it, “He says what I’m thinking.” If that’s true of you, then you’re not thinking good thoughts. In fact, you’re talking like someone who wants to take us back to the 1940s and 1950s, when white men were generally (if often wrongly) perceived to be the most admired people in the country. (Are you Pat Buchanan, by any chance?) And you have a problem for which you should seek treatment. Trump appeals to people like you because he uses “Othering”, where all your problems are blamed on people who aren’t like you. In other words, people who are non-white, non-Christian, and non-American. Others. Others who can be scapegoated. It’s the very ugly secret behind Trump’s success to win the nomination of the party that, let’s be truthful here, appeals as hard as it can to low-information, low-effort-thinking, less-educated, and less-intelligent voters. People who have opinions not based on reality. Of course, as part of their juvenile “I know you are but what am I?”-style of debating, they accuse us of not being based in reality, because the way we see the world doesn’t match the way they see the world. I’m not just talking about the difference between the way Liberals and Conservatives see the world, I’m talking about people who believe so many things that are provably false. And they base their voting choice on who they think could best solve the problems of the world as they see them, meaning both their problems and the world. These people are either not very intelligent, or very afraid of something that isn’t going to happen to them. Do conservative voters in the Midwest states really believe ISIS is going to come to America and bring death and Sharia Law to them? Just because they’re taking over a country thousands of miles away from here, that doesn’t have the same history as our country, that doesn’t have the same religious makeup as ours, that wasn’t enjoying the same freedoms as ours, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen here. I mean, c’mon! I thought you folks loved our military. Have you no faith in their ability to defend us from whatever it is you imagine is going to happen to us? (And you are imagining it. It isn’t going to happen.) And whatever it is you fear is going to happen, do you really think an overtly racist president is the best choice to be commanding your military? Say what you will about Hillary Clinton (and many of you Trump supporters have been doing just that, even though much of it isn’t true, meaning grounded in the real reality), she doesn’t see our oversized military as the go-to solution where tact and diplomacy would work better. And neither does Bernie Sanders. And neither should you.

I really, really hope our country is better than to elect a crass, petulant, childish racist as our president. We deserve the consequences if we do.

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 16th, 2016: Wrong, As Always

Recent opinion pieces at The Christian Post website demonstrate that the “Christian” right – and these aren’t all what I would consider to be real RWNJs – continues to steadfastly ignore reality.

On Earth Day, Dr. Richard D. Land posted “Earth Day: How Environmentalists Hurt the Environment”. Some excerpts:

Many advocates for drastic measures to combat climate change (i.e., global warming) assert that human caused global warming is now “settled science.”

And yet, recently published data from the Department of Energy reveals that the U.S. has reduced carbon emissions for the past fifteen years by more than 10%, more than almost the entire rest of the world combined. How did America accomplish such a feat? The answer is hydraulic fracturing or fracking, which involves releasing fossil fuel (oil and natural gas) trapped in rock formations by injecting millions of gallons of water and chemicals into the formations.

As a result of widespread usage of this controversial technology, the U.S. has become the world’s No. 1 oil and natural gas producer. As a direct consequence of fracking, the price of natural gas is one-fourth what it was a decade ago, and since America has a virtually inexhaustible natural gas supplies, people keep using more and more of this environmentally clean and very inexpensive fossil fuel. [Will someone please explain to me why anyone would want to literally undermine the land to access what is, by definition, a limited energy source?]

EPA studies declaring fracking can be done safely and cleanly moved U.S.A. Today to declare that “to help the environment and economy, keep on fracking” (4/19/16). U.S.A. Today also observed in the same article that fracking “has spurred a remarkable U.S. energy boom and . . . this boom has created jobs, boosted manufacturing and brought the USA closer to energy independence.”

Still, environmental activists on the left continue to oppose fracking, as well as the only clean energy “technology with an established track record of generating electricity at scale while emitting virtually no greenhouse gases: nuclear power.” In fact, in a “Pew poll of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 65 percent of scientists want more nuclear power” (Eduardo Porter, NY Times 4/19/16).

Apparently Dr. Land is completely ignorant of WHY environmentalists – and any humans with a fairly basic knowledge of science and some critical-thinking skills – are against fracking and nuclear energy. Has he not heard about the earthquakes being caused by fracking? Is he somehow privy to exactly which chemicals are being used in fracking? The “EPA studies” that declared “fracking can be done safely and cleanly” did not say that fracking IS BEING DONE “safely and cleanly”, more simply that it “can” be done. (Here’s the Christian Science Monitor’s take on this.)

And “nuclear”?! Does “Fukushima” ring a bell? Sorry, but Indian Point is way too close for me to want any part of nuclear power. Not to mention disposal of nuclear waste, which has already been an environmental problem for decades. Or that nuclear facilities make lovely targets for terrorism. Where the hell has Dr. Land been?

Then there’s Ken Blackwell’s ridiculous drivel, “Trump is Bad But Not Worse Than Hillary”

[The blurb says “Ken Blackwell is the Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment at the Family Research Council. He serves on the board of directors of the Club for Growth and the National Taxpayers Union. He is also a member of the public affairs committee of the NRA. Mr. Blackwell is also the former Mayor of Cincinnati and a former Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.” As Blackwell says in a different context below, “What more needs to be said?”]

“…no one should doubt Hillary Clinton’s determination to expand the state at every turn.
Trump the businessman has experience in confronting bureaucracy, and the Democrats are prolific regulators. President Barack Obama has imposed costly new rules at a rapid pace. Clinton likely would set new records.

Then there’s the judiciary. Antonin Scalia’s death has upset the delicate balance on the Supreme Court. Turning those appointments over to a liberal Democrat would lose the court for a generation, undermining any future conservative political victories.

America’s international security and standing also are at stake. Clinton had a disastrous hand in her husband’s presidency, noteworthy for the debacle in Somalia, unnecessary war in the Balkans, and broken agreement with North Korea. Then she was the first term Secretary of State for President Obama. What more needs to be said?”

1) What exactly has Hillary Clinton said or done to indicate a “determination to expand the state at every turn”? What is your definition of “expand”, and the vague phrase “at every turn”?
2) Trump the con-man has minions, er, “people” – the “BEST” people – to “confront bureaucracy” for him. And those minions don’t always win, either: it’s probably not a good idea to mention “Scotland”, “golf course” or “windmills” in front of The Donald.
3) Hillary Clinton is not a “liberal” Democrat.
4) WTF did First Lady Hillary have to do with Somalia, the Balkans, and North Korea? How does being “the first term Secretary of State for President Obama” disqualify her? And finally,
5) “What more needs to be said?” A whole hell of a lot more!

Donald Trump’s expected nomination comes as a disappointment for many Republicans. However, by every standard Clinton is worse. Conservatives might reluctantly vote for Trump. But, they should consider a vote
for him nevertheless, if he becomes a standard bearer of our platform. A platform that has made us the majority party in the United States.

Is Trump smart enough to do the right thing and are we smart enough to beat Hillary?

Politics is the art of the possible. That doesn’t mean abandoning principle. But if the good is unavailable, it means preferring the politically unattractive to the politically ugly. Too much is at stake for conservatives to treat the presidential election like a kamikaze mission or for Trump to be dumb.”

Two pieces about “Christian” megachurch pastor and devout Trump supporter Robert Jeffress demonstrate the extremely hypocritical and morally reprehensible “values” of religious conservatives. In one piece, Jeffress defends Trump’s childish tweet in response to criticism of Trump by another Evangelical, Russell Moore, with the equally childish (and un-Christ-like) argument that “Moore had it coming because he provoked Trump.” In the second piece, Jeffress calls Christians who won’t vote for Trump “fools”:

“Pastor Robert Jeffress, leader of the influential 12,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, declared Wednesday that Republicans who have vowed never to support Donald Trump if he becomes the Republican presidential nominee are “fools.”
“It is absolutely foolish to do anything that would allow Hillary Clinton to become the next President of the United States … at least Donald Trump has voiced a belief in a pro-life movement, he has at least talked about religious liberty as he did last Friday, you don’t hear either things coming from the lips of Hillary Clinton,” he continued.
“I believe any Christian who would sit at home and not vote for the Republican nominee … that person is being motivated by pride rather than principle and I think it would be a shame for people to allow Hillary Clinton four or eight years in the White House,” he said.

So much for ‘separation of Church and State’ – I’d like to see the IRS have a little talk with ‘Pastor’ Jeffress.

This is our daily Open Thread–talk about whatever you want.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 30th, 2016: The View from Outside

We’re all tired of the U.S. media’s love/hate minute-by-minute coverage of The Donald, so I thought that ThinkProgress’s article on Trump’s international coverage might be interesting.

Occasionally humorous, i.e.:

MEXICO: “…the man who managed to make us miss the Bush clan” and “El Deforma, a satirical news site similar to The Onion…has included articles about Canada building a wall in case of a Trump victory and Pink Floyd building the wall if Mexico doesn’t pay for it.”

SOUTH AFRICA: “South Africa’s the New Age called Trump “arguably the most successful internet troll in today’s political spectrum,” noting that much of his social media commentary “reads like a laundry list of troll tactics.”

Sometimes insightful:

CANADA: “…the Globe and Mail’s conservative columnist Margaret Wente noted that a majority of Americans “would rather swallow arsenic than vote for Mr. Trump” and predicted his fall. “If Donald Trump were a stock, my advice would be to sell it now,” she wrote. “The one thing that has to happen is that Mr. Trump will have to change. And he can’t. His most deadly foe is himself. Mr. Trump has no situational awareness. He has no ability to take advice, or build bridges, or learn from others, or direct a team.”

Some surprisingly self-serving and hypocritical:

ISRAEL: ““As an Israeli Who Loves America, I Am Worried by Trump,” wrote Ari Shavit in the liberal publication Haaretz after a series of Trump victories in February. “After the astounding victories of the vulgar populist in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, it is clear to all that America is no longer the country we have known. It is no longer a nation with a prudent economic establishment, a contented middle class and a stable political system. It is no longer a nation confident in itself, its identity and its future. It is a frightened, angry America. An America that has lost its way,” he wrote. “To an Israeli who spends considerable time in debates about Israel between Boston and San Francisco, Trump is a relief. Suddenly Israeli politics seem a little less embarrassing.”

“…in March, Naomi Zeveloff published a piece in the Forward on how Trump’s offensive style was actually winning many Israeli admirers. “If America elects a person who advocates discrimination and condescension and even resentment toward minorities, maybe we won’t be so criticized by the West,” Yaron Ezrahi, a professor emeritus of political science at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, explained to Zeveloff regarding Israeli right-wing thinking on Trump.”

The TP article is very long with loads of links, and overall it’s pretty disturbing. But I recommend wading through it.

This is our daily Open Thread–okay, it’s the now-usually-Late-Afternoon Saturday edition. Go ahead and talk about stuff.

The Watering Hole, Tuesday, April 19, 2016:

Political Genetics

gene

[jēn]

 

NOUN

  1. (in informal use) a unit of heredity that is transferred from a parent to offspring and is held to determine some characteristic of the offspring:

    “proteins coded directly by genes”

    • (in technical use) a distinct sequence of nucleotides forming part of a chromosome, the order of which determines the order of monomers in a polypeptide or nucleic acid molecule which a cell (or virus) may synthesize.
Powered by Oxford Dictionaries · © Oxford University Press ·

 

I never knew this until recently, but a grain of rice has more genes (50,000) than humans (about 25,000). You would think a more advanced creature like us would have more, but scientists theorize that rice has been around longer, and had had to make more adaptations, thus creating more genes. An organism can never reduce its number of genes, but they can be added over time but the influence of environmental factors. Genetically the two fish below are brown trout. The first one has evolved in the environment of northern Europe.

The second has evolved in Italy.

There are many more isolated populations with color morphs more drastic, but they are all salmo trutta. The color morphs reflect the effect local environments have on the species. When they reproduce in the isolated rivers where the morphs are distinctly different, the offspring resemble the immediate parentage, that is to say they are evolving in to a very different sub-species.

Can the same be said to be true for humans political evolution? Has our species had enough time in the environment of democracy to take on unique characteristics? The politics of Iceland, or Sweden seem so very different from Italy or the US. In politics, as in the animal world, do superior traits win out? Or asked this way, will the US ever get to the point of being close to the Nordic countries? Are they on a different evolutionary path?

Open thread.

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, April 2nd, 2016: A Little Humor

I’ll start with the first of two jokes which one of my co-workers sent me; the second of the two will be at the end. That way we can begin and end with a smile. (Okay, there’ll be humor in the middle, too.)

“A Lexus mechanic was removing a cylinder head from the motor of a LS460 when he spotted a well-known cardiologist in his shop. The cardiologist was there waiting for the service manager to come and take a look at his car when the mechanic shouted across the garage, “Hey Doc, want to take a look at this?” The cardiologist, a bit surprised walked over to where the mechanic was working.

The mechanic straightened up, wiped his hands on a rag and asked, “So Doc, look at this engine. I opened its heart, took the valves out, repaired or replaced anything damaged, and then put everything back in, and when I finished, it worked just like new. So how is it that I make $48,000 a year and you make $1.7M when you and I are doing basically the same work? The cardiologist paused, leaned over, and then whispered to the mechanic. “Try doing it with the engine running.””

Next, a whole bunch of political stuff from a recent Washington Post newsletter called “The Daily Trail”, including but not limited to:

-poll numbers indicating how ‘yugely’ unpopular Donald Trump is among women and other demographics;
-Trump + Reince Priebus = GOP Party Loyalty?
-Ted Cruz pulls out RNC rule book in anti-Kasich move;
-Superpac for Kasich responds with weird Pinocchio-themed anti-Cruz ad (created by the same guy who made what was called the “Demon Sheep” ad.)
-initial Electoral College projections from the University of Virginia show some good news for Democrats;
-will candidates never learn how to eat a slice of New York pizza in a New York pizzeria in the traditional New York manner? (Jon Stewart, I hope you’re not following ANY of this, please, it’s not good for your blood pressure!)
-and more!

Also from the Washington Post, an ‘April Fools’ story (okay, I’m a day behind) about two college professors who “gave up the fight to convince Americans that Africa is not, in fact, a country.”

And now the second of the two jokes:

“While the IRS agent was checking the books he turned to the CFO of the hospital and said, “I notice you buy a lot of bandages. What do you do with the end of the roll when there’s too little left to be of any use? “Good question,” noted the CFO. “We save them up and send them back to the bandage company and every now and then they send us a free box of bandages. “Oh,” replied the auditor, somewhat disappointed that his unusual question had a practical answer.

But on he went, in his obnoxious way. “What about all these plaster purchases? What do you do with what’s left over after setting a cast on a patient? “Ah, yes,” replied the CFO, realizing that the inspector was trying to trap him with an unanswerable question. “We save it and send it back to the manufacturer, and every now and then they send us a free package of plaster.

“I see,” replied the auditor, thinking hard about how he could fluster the know-it-all CFO. “Well,” he went on, “What do you do with all the leftover foreskins from the circumcisions you perform?” Here, too, we do not waste,” answered the CFO. “What we do is save all the little foreskins and send them to the IRS Office, and about once a year they send us a complete dick.” [rim shot]

This is our daily Open Thread – enjoy yourselves!