Einstein Was Right – Again

Sagittarius A* (it’s unclear to me if the asterisk is an official part of its name, or is just there to indicate a strike-shortened season) is a Super Massive Black Hole (SMBH) at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy (the one you’re sitting in right now.) Scientists have observed at least three stars orbiting it, as depicted in this courtroom artists’ sketch:

Artist’s impression of the orbits of three of the stars very close to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. – Image Credit: ESO/M. Parsa/L. Calçada

By going through years of photos taken by several telescopes, scientists were able to confirm Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity regarding planetary motion around a very heavy object.

Marzieh Parsa – a PhD student at the University of Cologne, Germany and lead author of the paper – was understandably excited with these results. As she stated in an ESO press statement:

“The Galactic Center really is the best laboratory to study the motion of stars in a relativistic environment. I was amazed how well we could apply the methods we developed with simulated stars to the high-precision data for the innermost high-velocity stars close to the supermassive black hole.”

There. You learned something new today. What else have you been hearing about? Tell us all about it.

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The Weekend Hole, Sat-Sun, Nov 12-13, 2016: Super Beaver Moon

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Sometime between Sunday night and Monday night, the Moon will be closer to the Earth than it’s been since 1948, and won’t this be this close again until 2034. I’m not making plans to see that one. The orbit of the Moon is elliptical, so its distance from the Earth varies rather than staying at a steady, constant distance. Sometimes the moon is new and barely visible, and sometimes it is full or close to it. So there are always full moons that are closer than the others. These are often dubbed Supermoons, because they appear larger and brighter in the sky. And a full moon in November is called a Beaver Moon. Hence the title.

The Moon reaches its fullest at 8:52 AM EST, past moonset for most of the US. It will reach its closest point to Earth at 6:21 AM (or 6:22, depending on which article you read.) But the Moon will still be big and bright both Sunday and Monday nights, so if it happens to be cloudy one night, you might get lucky the next. This phenomenon of the Moon appearing bigger has nothing to do with a rising full moon looking bigger. So get out and enjoy your Super Beaver Moon, or Moon your Super Beaver, while it’s still a free country.

This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss Moons you like, Super or not, or even beavers.

The Weekend Hole – Sat-Sun Nov 5-6: The Fall Back Position

Tonight Daylight Savings Time ends. For now. We move to the Fall Back position. If you live in a part of the United States that, oh, what’s the right word, “celebrates”? “participates”? “recognizes”? maybe it’s “observes”, Daylight Savings Time, you should set your clocks back one hour before going to bed. If you don’t, you may end up attending Sunday Morning Worship Services an hour ahead of everybody you know from your usual service. Who knows? Maybe it’s worth a try. And on the bright side, you’ll be back in time to watch “PoliticsNation” with the Reverend Al Sharpton, who should be good and awake what with having an extra hour to sleep. And if you live in a part of the United States that does not observe DST (as the cool kids call it), life will be unchanged for you. Congratulations, the Chinese envy you.

But why do we do this? What’s the point? Well, the idea was, in not so many words, to save daylight. (You can read about the history of Daylight Savings Time to varying degrees here, here, and here.) It was believed by its proponents in recent years to save about 10,000 barrels of oil per day. The thinking is that as we shift our daily activities by an hour, businesses will use less energy. Not everyone agrees. But we do it, and our reward is to get an extra hour of sleep once a year, in exchange for our sacrifice of one hour’s sleep once a year.

Funny story. When I was in the Air Force in 1987, I was stationed at Ramstein AB, West Germany. In September of that year, I took a month’s leave to attend a friend’s wedding and to see my then-girlfriend, Jane. My leave ended after the first weekend of October, so I was here in the United States when Europe took their Fall Back position. I returned to West Germany afterwards, so I was in Europe when folks in the United States took their Fall Back position on the last weekend in October. So I missed the chance to get my extra hour of sleep that year. And while I understand why, intellectually, it’s wrong, I have always felt that for the last 29 years, the Universe has owed me an extra hour of sleep. 🙂

Okay, I promise. The 30th anniversary of that lost hour will be the last time I tell that story.

Personally, I prefer not to turn the clocks back until I wake up whenever on Sunday morning. I have no place I have to be at any set time, so if I realize it’s still real early I can just go back to bed. A fun thing you can do right before 2 AM ET is to right-click on your computer’s clock to adjust the date and time. You’re not going to adjust the date and time, you just want to see the clock face go from 1:59:59 AM to 1:00:00 AM. After it does just cancel out your “changes.” The real fun is changing the times on the wall clocks, the ovens, the coffee maker, the microwave oven, and the car dashboard. Oh, and getting the cats adjusted to your new schedule. It’s 7:00 AM to you, but it’s now 8:00 AM to them, and they wanted to go out an hour ago. Enjoy!

This is our Weekend Open Thread. Feel free to discuss any topic you wish. Have a great weekend, and enjoy your extra hour of time.

The Watering Hole, Monday, June 6, 2016: Can American Democracy Actually Work?

I want to believe. I want to believe that democracy can work in America. But can it? Can it really?

Although it was originally posted more than two years ago on Alternet, Raw Story reprinted an article that makes me wonder. It seems humans will believe what they want to believe, facts be damned. People who thought there were WMDs in Iraq clung to that misperception even harder when shown an article correcting that story. People who thought President George W. Bush banned ALL stem cell research still believed that even when told only a partial ban was put in effect. (No new stem cell lines could be created for research, but research was allowed to continue using the 60+ lines then in existence. Which isn’t nearly enough.) These were examples making conservatives look bad, but political leaning has nothing to do with it. It’s true of all humans, regardless of political philosophies. Facts simply don’t matter. But Education does. If you’re taught the truth about things when you’re younger, you’re less likely to believe false things when you get older. Kids grow up believing what their parents teach them to believe, which is fine if the parents aren’t complete idiots. But if they are, by the time kids enter the public education system they’re already off to a bad start. It would help if schools were allowed to teach actual critical thinking skills, as people would learn how to verify new information and not just accept it because it confirms what they already believe. But as the study shows, that seems to be the essence of the problem. We do not seem to be wired to process information this way. At least, according to how the scientist interpreted the results. There was no measure beforehand of how well the participants could use critical thinking skills, and therefore may have had pre-conceived ideas (however false) but couldn’t process the new information in a way that would make them change their opinion. Hence, the tendency to cling harder to what they previously believed to be true.

Religion may also be responsible for much of this. And not just Christianity, but organized religion of any kind. Particularly in America, we have a lot of people who claim religion is important in their lives, but who don’t even know basic facts about their own religion as well as atheists and agnostics do. But the areas in America where religion is least important are also the areas where literacy rates tend to be higher. Religion requires no critical thinking, and discourages questioning what one is told to be the truth. And while there have been men (almost entirely) who were allowed to explore questions about faith, their answers were heavily censored and only allowed publication if approved by the religious leaders. In other words, not a lot of objectivity, and essentially just an addition to what people are being told to believe. The approved philosophical writings were used to justify why what you were being told is the truth, which is what the study seemed to indicate happens even with so-called smarter people. People still believe what they want to believe and use their reasoning to justify it afterwards. The problem is, there are way too many people in this country who believe provably false things like the Sun revolves around the Earth, and a large percentage who don’t know the Universe began with some kind of large explosion (as opposed to being brought into existence as is). Even more frightening is that more than half do not understand or believe in Evolution. How many times have you heard someone (often a religious conservative) say, “If we’re descended from monkeys, how come there are still monkeys?” (Evolution doesn’t say all monkeys turned into humans. Evolution says humans and monkeys share a common ancestor.) If you can’t start with the most basic of factually correct information, how can you possibly make a well-reasoned decision on which direction to take our country? If you think voting for someone who actually believes the Earth is less than 10,000 years old is going to solve our nation’s problems, then you’re one of the problems.

As I said before, Education can help, especially when started at an early age. As soon as children learn there are natural explanations for the way the Universe works (even if we don’t fully understand them yet), and that it’s not all attributable to an impossible Being with severely psychotic tendencies who kills at a whim, there is hope for Democracy in this country. And a better life for all, too. Studies have shown that elsewhere in the world, the highest standards of living tend to be found in the least religious countries, and the poorest in the most religious. America seems to be the exception. We have both a higher-than-average standard of living and yet are among the more religious countries in the world. But that will change if more Americans grow up believing nonsense before they are taught to think for themselves. Otherwise we just end up with another generation that doesn’t have enough sense to realize someone like Donald Trump is too ignorant and unqualified to run this country. And because he loves the poorly-educated, he’ll create more because they love him so much. And the Great Experiment known as America will have finally failed.

Please don’t let anyone you know vote for Donald Trump. You’ll just be voting for the end of America.

This is our daily open thread. feel free to discuss whatever you wish. Just don’t vote for Donald Trump.

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

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

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

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

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

Open thread. Have fun.

The Watering Hole,Tuesday April 12, 2016 – Environmental News and Food Politics

Six to 10 million years ago: Ice-free summers at the North Pole

Finally, Republicans can tout real science that global warming is not a man-made event. It happened before millions of years ago.

See, it happened before, when man was not around in sufficient numbers to eff things up.

Open thread.

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.