Sunday, August 30, 2015

Conservative Cognitive Dissonance


Image result for cognitive dissonance        It is called Cognitive Dissonance or Denial, if you prefer, and we all engage in it to some degree. I do it whenever I light a cigarette. I know it's bad for me but I put that reality out of my head and smoke anyway.

In today's America, cognitive dissonance is rampant. You only have to read through your newsfeed on Facebook to see it staring back at you daily. Of course, as a liberal Democrat it seems to me that conservatives are far and away more prone to cognitive dissonance than progressives. (You can tell me in comments if I'm wrong!)

For instance, five years ago Colorado instituted a new program to provide free or reduced-cost contraceptives to teenagers. By all accounts, it was a huge success. The teen birth rate dropped by 40 percent. Yet in 2015, Colorado Republicans declined to continue to fund it.

This is cognitive dissonance in action. If you have a goal (fewer teens giving birth) and a program that accomplishes that goal (free birth control) and yet you rescind that program, what statement are you making? Can anyone explain?

Likewise, research shows that teenage pregnancy rates are highest in the states with abstinence only programs in their school and yet, Republicans continue to deny teens fact-based sex education.

And, ironically, these are the same people who piss and moan about paying taxes to support the welfare costs of assisting poor families raise their children.

Let's take the Iran Nuclear Agreement. Many Republicans were adamantly opposed to it even before they knew what was in it. It was the same knee-jerk reaction they have to anything espoused by the Obama administration. Some of them admit they believe the answer is war but more say they just want a 'better" agreement.

They don't say how they would propose to arrive at this better agreement. The Coalition that negotiated the plan was composed of the United States, the European Union, Russia and China. Strict economic sanctions were what convinced Iran to come to the table in the first place but our partners have already warned they would drop their sanctions, even if the U.S. reneges on the plan. So what leverage would we use to force Iran to agree to a better deal? There is no realistic possibility.

Which means, Iran would get the sanctions lifted and be in the same position they are in today - possibly months away from a nuclear weapon. Yeah, that sounds like a better deal, doesn't it?

Illegal immigration is a pet Republican issue and has been for years. The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill a couple of years ago but the House refused to even allow debate on it. I was interested to see what their own plan would be when they took over both houses of Congress but to date, they have proposed zero, zip, nada.

Republicans , who often claim the religious moral high ground, are militantly opposed to both abortion and gay marriage but these are issues that Jesus never mentioned at all. Neither of them is cited in the Ten Commandments. But what Jesus does talk about...a helping the poor, honoring the elderly, caring for children. What? Do conservatives think he didn't really mean it? Upward and onward with Prosperity Theology!

The far right right trumpets limited government until they want the government to curtail a woman's right to plan her family or a gay person's right to marry the person they love or they need help due to a flood, drought or hurricane.

They believe in religious freedom....for fundamentalist Christians but certainly not for Muslims or atheists. They revere the Constitution....except for all the changes they want to make to it, like recalling the Fourteenth Amendment. They love them some Supreme Court long as they are voting the right way. If they uphold Obamacare, then they should be impeached.

Republicans are for a vast military and almost always vote for every bit of military spending that comes down the pipeline (except for veteran's issues, of course). On the other hand, they demand the right to buy any kind of gun and any kind of magazine and to carry those guns wherever they like because, you know, the Revolution is coming, and we may have to fight against that very military we just made stronger. Huh?

I just shake my head in amazement at how Republican conservatives are able to reconcile such conflicting attitudes.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Difference Between Democrats and Republicans

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My least favorite president of my lifetime, until Bush the Younger, was Ronald Reagan. I hated it when he fired all the air traffic controllers in order to break the unions. I hated it when he announced at Thanksgiving that the government would begin taxing unemployment benefits (I was laid off then although I didn't qualify for an unemployment check). I hated it when he showed his contempt for the poor by ordering his Secretary of Agriculture to live on food stamps for a week to show the po' folk how it was done. I hated it when he his administration declared ketchup a vegetable for the purpose of cheapening school lunches.

I thought trickle-down was idiocy back then (meant mainly to give more to the rich) and its been proven to be so in the last 40 years but here we still are, living under Ronnie's same misbegotten policies as the middle class disappears. I didn't think he'd be able to live up to his promise to reduce the deficit while also giving the wealthy large tax cuts and pouring billions into the military and sure enough, the deficit soared under his watch.

I thought it was telling that when Reagan left office, 138 Reagan administration officials had been convicted, had been indicted, or had been the subject of investigations for official misconduct and/or criminal violations - still the worst of any modern administration.

I thought that Iran-Contra was more egregious by far than anything Nixon did. A collaboration with our worst enemies....a flat out defiance of Congress' express orders.

Still, in spite of everything above, there was no suggestion that Democrats wanted to impeach Reagan. We just wanted him gone. We thought when  suicide bombers detonated two truck bombs in Beirut, killing 241 American servicemen, with another 128 wounded, that it was a terrible tragedy. We didn't embark upon years of investigations trying to prove that Reagan was incompetent or simply didn't care or even worse, perhaps complicit.

And once Reagan was out of office, the Republicans proceeded to ignore all the negatives but instead, to canonize him. They began a massive campaign to name schools, highways and airports after him. They tried to have his image put on our money. So, over the years, he has morphed into Saint Ronnie.

Okay, fast forward to Bill Clinton. The Republicans felt about him probably much as we felt about Reagan but instead of accepting that the voters had spoken and waiting until their turn came around again, they engaged in an all-out strategy of Attila the Hun-like scorched earth. His entire eight years was mired in scandals, accusations, allegations. They posted videos that "proved" he was a drug dealer. They insinuated that Bill and Hillary had their opponents killed. We lived through eight years of Whitewater, the Rose Law Firm, Cattle Futures, etc, etc, etc., none of which turned out to be anything (shades of Benghazi!)  Eight years of implications that Hillary was gay and Chelsea wasn't Bill's daughter. They dug up women and paid them to tell scurrilous stories. They hired Ken Starr whose whose orders were to get Bill any way he could. They humiliated him by forcing him to answer ugly questions publicly. They dragged the First Lady in to give a deposition. They insisted his Secret Service agents testify against him (something that had never been done before).

And they finally impeached him on the flimsiest more a high crime and misdemeanor than declaring an earthworm a cobra. And if that wasn't enough, they published the titillating details of his sex life on the internet....for the public's good, you know.

Did they think they could force him out of office? Probably not, but that wasn't their agenda. Instead they wanted to assure that there would be an asterisk beside his name in the history books. That no schools and bridges and airports would be named after him. They wanted to tarnish him in the eyes of the world forevermore.

They said it was just Clinton, that he brought it on himself, but we know it wasn't just Clinton because they have done the same to Obama. He's not an American, he's not a Christian. Hell, he is secretly in league with the Muslims and wants to hand the country over to them. He's shredded the Constitution. He's this generation's Hitler. None of this has any basis in reality any more than the videos that purported to prove the Clintons were drug dealers and murderers.

There is a whole cottage industry of Republican smear-meisters who've made their livings off trying to destroy Democrat presidents. It is simply the way Republicans do business and we will watch it happen again, in spades, if the next president is a Democrat.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Why Do Conservatives Hate Science?

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Full Text of Iran Nuclear Deal

I've been arguing with a bunch of people on a conservative site that mostly opposes the Iran Nuclear deal. They demand transparency! They want to see the deal for themselves! They suspect there are nefarious reasons why the Obama administration is keeping it secret.

I asked them if they thought they would understand it if they did read it. After all, you have to know about chemistry and physics and how nuclear enrichment works and the mechanics of centrifuges and more. They insisted that they weren't as dumb as I seemed to think they were (though I admitted that I didn't believe I would understand all this exotic science) and they could perfectly well interpret the deal for themselves.

So, I posted it....the full deal (you can read it above if you care to). So far, no one has gotten back to me with their expert analysis.

I don't understand why Republicans seem to hate science so much. Practically every problem we face in the world today, almost every issue, involves science. Science is certainly critical to understanding the Iran deal....that's why we had our top physicist central to the negotiations....and so did the other countries in the coalition.

Climate change which may end up being THE issue of the 21st century is pure science.

Energy resources? Science.

Abortion and the mysteries of of the reproductive system? Science.

Whether homosexuality is innate or learned? Science.

We even learn about our economy through the use of scientific models to predict markets and consumer behavior.

Of course, anything to do with the world of medicine relies on science.

If we ever find a "cure" for addiction, it will be scientists who find it.

Space exploration depends on science.

Farming has become more and more about science.

Computer technology - science.

Every stride mankind has made, both positive and negative (cures for diseases versus nuclear weapons) has come about because of science. People live who would have died because of science. We gone to the moon and to Mars because of science. We've built great buildings and bridges and monuments because of science. (The creators of the pyramids and the Great Wall of China used science whether they knew it or not). We've learned about our earth and our oceans and our air because of science. It was rudimentary science that gave us fire and the wheel.

So, why do so many conservatives pooh-pooh science and scientists? Why would they rather believe fundamentalist preachers than those who devote their lives to research and actually know what they are talking about? Albert Einstein or Mike Huckabee? Stephen Hawking or Rick Santorum? Carl Sagan or name your garden variety "send me $50 and I'll say a prayer for you" preacher.

One possible answer is that conservatives like to be assured that they are absolutely, positively right about everything. Science hardly ever makes such definitive statements. Scientists speak in terms of theories ("what we know so far") because they accept that knowledge is ever-changing and there will be times when they will have to change or expand their theories due to new evidence coming to light.

Preachers don't do that. The Bible is forever correct on all things. Once you know what the Good Book says, you can put that subject aside and never consider it again. There, isn't that much more comfortable than engaging in a constant quest for further enlightenment? Never knowing for sure what all the answers are causes stress and insecurity.

With the casting out of science by conservatives, we are watching the dumbing down of America going on right in front of our very eyes.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

What Did We Learn From the Republican Debate?

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What did we learn from the Republican debate?

We learned that people are interested. The Fox debate garnered one of the largest viewing audiences ever....24 million....for any type of program.

We learned that having Donald Trump on the stage probably contributed greatly to that number.

We learned that Fox News is more interested in creating headlines for their network than helping Republican voters make informed choices about their candidates.  Most of the questions seemed to be "gotcha" questions, either meant to catch a candidate off-guard and put him on the defensive or to pit one against another. The Fox trio seemed to me to be inquisitors rather than reporters trying to garner honest information regarding policy differences.

This was especially true of Donald Trump. It started with the first question trying to elicit a promise not to run as a third-party candidate and moved on to his quotes about women and finished by asking - "when did you become a Republican?" And naturally, being who he is, he faced them head-on, coming across as crass, boorish and arrogant in doing so.

That's what I thought anyway but viewers didn't necessarily agree with me. In the first poll after the debate, from NBC, Trump was judged the winner. Here are the first seven winning percentages according to those polled: Trump (23), Cruz (13), Carson (11), Fiorina (8), Rubio (8), Bush (7) and Walker (7). So, it's Trump by double digits. Take that, Megyn!

We learned in the first gathering....a forum I guess it was called....of what Fox judged to be the also-rans, that Carly Fiorina won big. I'm not a Carly Fiorina fan by any means but she did give clear, concise, commonsense (for a Republican) answers although she needs to work on smiling more. Mostly what I remember about the others was that Lindsay Graham, cannot wait to start bombing somebody, anybody! Pataki and Gilmore were too nice and soft-spoken and mainstream....they don't have a prayer in a Republican field. Rick Perry...I might have slept through his cameo. There were two more but I can't remember now who they were.

In the Big Show, we learned that Republicans just can't manage to look like they give a damn about any woman who doesn't have a fetus in her womb and then it's only for the duration. Most of them want to ban abortion without exceptions for rape or incest or in some cases, even to save the life of the mother. The rest weren't quite as openly demeaning about females as Trump but almost. To Republicans, women are simply lesser beings who should keep their mouths shut and let the men make the decisions because, you (that would be white, straight, Christian men, of course).

We learned that they also don't have much use for African-Americans, Latinos, gays or poor people although they all vied with one another to show that they had definitely been poor people and knew what being poor was all about. Bush and Trump must have felt like they were at a real disadvantage in that discussion.

We learned that, next to Iran, Planned Parenthood is the greatest threat the country faces.

We learned that Scott Walker and Jeb Bush are just flat boring.

We learned that John Kasich was the adult in the room and had enough self-assurance to allow himself to show compassion among a group where compassion was in short supply.

We learned that Republicans are mostly against things...unless it is lowering taxes on the rich.

We learned that Marco Rubio is an appealing young man who needs to season for another four years. (Isn't it the Republicans who have always complained about electing an inexperienced, one-term Senator?)

We learned that you'd be lucky to come up with one witty sense of humor if you put all the Republican candidates together.

We learned that Chris Christie was, in fact, not appointed prosecutor by George Bush the day after 911, as he stated he was.

We learned that Mike Huckabee is a religious extremist and Ted Cruz is just an extremist, period.

Well, I could go on but that's enough for now.

Winners and losers? Well I'm a Hillary-supporting Democrat liberal so I thought they were all losers, including Fox who turned what should have been a serious debate into reality t.v. If I absolutely had to vote for one of them, which thank God, I don't, it would be John Kasich.