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.

TWH 03/16/16 New Obama Conspiracy Revealed!

Mole

Guaca, The Zoo’s underground reporter digs up a new exclusive.

 

According to anonymous sources within the Democratic Party, there’s a conspiracy afoot to deny the nomination to both Hillary and Bernie and nominate Obama for a third term. Polling seems to indicate that neither candidate will garner enough delegates to win the nomination outright, which means superdelegates will control the outcome. A conspiracy amongst the superdelagates would guarantee neither gets enough votes on the first round to lock up the nomination, thus throwing the convention into a brokered nomination, out of which Obama will get the nod.

Officials high up in the White House figured out a way around the Constitution’s prohibition against 3rd terms. It seems that in the course of adopting certain amendments, like abolishing slavery and allowing people to vote regardless of the color of their skin, no one bothered to repeal the language that counted black people as 3/5ths of a person.

Since Obama is only 3/5ths of a person (or 60%, for you math wizards out there), by the end of his 8 years in office, he will only really have completed 4.8 years (or 60% of 8 years, for the math wizards). Since Obama hasn’t completed two full terms in office, he would be eligible for a third term.

OPEN THREAD 

Sunday Roast: Feel the SNL Bern

Bernie Sanders, one of the Democratic Presidential candidates for 2016, made his debut on Saturday Night Live last night.  He appeared in a Titanic skit with his twin separated at birth, Larry David.  Naturally, Bernie always gets his message across!

Sanders shouted, “I’m so upset with the one percent getting this preferential treatment,” before making a suggestion: “Enough is enough. We need to unite and work together if we’re going to get through this.”

“Sounds like Socialism to me,” David said, dismissing him.

“Democratic socialism!” Sanders countered.

“What’s the difference?” David asked.

Mimicking Donald Trump, Sanders replied, “Yuuuuge difference.”

Pretty damn good timing, Bernie!!

This is our daily open thread — What makes you laugh?

Tsipras, Corbyn, Sanders – Can there be a Rise of a new Left?

The choice between left and right in politics amounts to the choice of different brands of laundry detergent. It’s made up from identical ingredients, more or less diluted and smells differently, according to your olfactory preferences. All brands of politics are, however, brought to you by the same people very much like all the different brands of „Tide“ are brought to you by P&G.

In the years following Thatcherism and Reaganomics, most leftist European parties moved to the right and assimilated to the mainstream consensus of neo-liberal economic policies. Witness the move from Labour to New Labour or the German Social Democratic Party’s Agenda 2010.

Austerity and entitlement reform have become well-accepted concepts and the squeeze on the Middle Class is well under way.

The pendulum has moved to the right and has taken what used to be leftist parties with it, thus reducing the influence of the working class and middle class and increasing the influence of the economic elites.

Are we now at a turning point and will the movement be reversed, at least to some degree? Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Saturday, June 6th, 2015: Penny For Your Thoughts?

Just a few of my thoughts (they’re free of charge, which is about what they’re worth), then a good read from Bill Moyers.

On Caitlyn Jenner: If she’s happy and can stand the heat, good for her. It’s just a shame that most other transgender persons probably do not have the kind of money needed for such an extensive makeover.

On the Duggars: I think there’s a lot more there there, and I really hope that this sick, twisted version of a “Christian family” gets investigated thoroughly. I did not watch, or see a whole transcript of, the family’s interviews on Fox, but I did catch some snippets here and there. I’ve heard that the “mother” was terribly creepy, and some argue that it was a good thing that Megyn Kelly sort of sat back and let the Duggars talk without too many challeges, as it exposed to all just how sickly disturbed and disturbing these perverted “people” are. So, does anyone think that fans of their show will finally start to feel uncomfortable, at the least, about holding the Duggars up as a shining example of the American Christian family?

On the 2016 election in general: I don’t know if I can stand the next year-and-a-half of the media forcing the conversation in the wrong direction and, in many respects, helping to choose the nominees simply by their self-indulgent coverage. Not to mention that the idea of another 26 or so Republican debates to be covered makes me want to crawl back into bed, pull the covers over my head, and sleep ’til 2017.

On the 2016 Democratic nominee: The likely inevitability of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate for the 2016 Presidential election does NOT sit well with me. This country needs more – and better – than a continuation of the status quo, which, in my opinion, is what Hillary represents.

Which leads me to Bill Moyers, and his essay on Bernie Sanders titled “Turn Left on Main Street.” Mr. Moyers voices many of the same opinions that we all hold dear. A couple of excerpts:

“The progressive agenda isn’t “left wing.” (Can anyone using the term even define what “left wing” means anymore?) The progressive agenda is America’s story — from ending slavery to ending segregation to establishing a woman’s right to vote to Social Security, the right to organize, and the fight for fair pay and against income inequality. Strip those from our history and you might as well contract America out to the US Chamber of Commerce the National Association of Manufacturers, and Karl Rove, Inc.

 

At their core, the New Deal, Fair Deal, and Great Society programs were aimed at assuring every child of a decent education, every worker a decent wage, and every senior a decent retirement; if that’s extreme, so are the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution.”

That’s exactly right, Mr. Moyers. So why should we Americans settle for anything less?

This is our daily Open Thread–what’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 18th, 2015: This Week In Faux News

I was going to write about Rand Paul’s “Libertarian” followers, but thankfully Wayne steered me to PoliticusUSA’s “Friday Fox Follies”, which is a bit more entertaining. Well, that’s if by “entertaining” one means ‘laughing because screaming is the only other alternative.’

Rand Paul acolytes are NOT “entertaining”, by any definition in any dictionary on this or any other planet.

On the other hand, Friday Fox Follies, put together by Headly Westerfield, is a stupefying roundup of the past week’s non-stories, conspiracy theories, idiotic commentary and other nonsense, all hacked up from the fine folks at Fox “News.” This week, the Follies ‘2016 Presidential hopefuls’ edition’ provides links to anything and everything, from Media Matters’ Fox coverage, to Hillary Clinton and “Chipotleghazi” [term courtesy of Evan McMurray of Mediaite], to Jon Stewart ranting at the media**, to Bernie Sanders schooling Bill O’Reilly, to Donald Trump-or-Monkey [thank you, David Letterman, for linking those two forever in my mind.] There are so many links, you’re sure to find more than one story to pique the interest.

**Jon Stewart Watch: I’ve noticed for the last week or so, Jon has been using the first segment of his show to ream, eviscerate, and generally rant about various topics, including his amazing tirade about Dick Cheney. I think that Jon is taking advantage of the time his show has left to really get everything off his chest, in his own inimitable style. The “real news media” should sit up and pay attention, because Jon seems to be pointing in their direction.

This is our daily Open Thread – have at it!

Senator Sanders Unfiltered: How Many Years in Afghanistan?

From Senator Bernie Sanders’ page:

President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to reduce nuclear arms, ease tensions with the non-Western world and stress diplomacy. Americans should be proud that we have a president who is restoring respect for our country around the globe. This well-deserved prize is an inspiration for the president and for rest of us to do some really hard thinking about how we create a more peaceful and just world – including our role in Afghanistan. We are now in our ninth year in Afghanistan – twice as long as were engaged in World War II. We have lost more than 800 troops. We have spent more than $200 billion. What do we hope to accomplish in Afghanistan? What is our exit strategy?

What is the best way of protecting the American people from al-Qaeda and from terrorist threats? What is the most effective way of opposing the Taliban, an extremely reactionary group? How do we relate to the government in Afghanistan which is widely believed to be corrupt? How does the situation in Afghanistan relate to Pakistan – a nation with nuclear weapons? These are a few of the questions that have to be dealt with before we continue pouring more troops and money into Afghanistan. The time is now for a real national discussion about Afghanistan – including real debate in Congress. It is long overdue.

Video by BraveNewFilms.

‘Billionaires for Wealthcare’ crash tea party protest

Here’s a clip from the Rachel Maddow Show last night showing a group of counterprotesters to the ‘tea-partiers’ who showed up in Washington DC this weekend.

They call themselves “Billionaires for Wealthcare”. Clever and hilarious. One of those times where satire says it so much better..

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Sen. Sanders: All Democrats should vote to end health care filibuster

David Schuster, covering for Keith Olbermann on Countdown last night, talked with Senator Bernie Sanders about the Republicans threat to block the vote on fixing health care.

They discussed how Democrats now have the numbers to get past the filibuster (with Al Franken being seated), and asked if the Dems would do what it takes to block the Republican obstructionist filibustering so they could have an up or down vote on all the important issues coming down the pike – especially on healthcare reform.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Maher: “Joe the Plumber”, McCain, Campaign Smears

Bill Maher has a panel of guests, Martin Short, Ben Affleck, and Bernie Sanders.  The panel weighs in on “Joe the Plumber”, talks about how John McCain use to be, and all the Campaign Smears.