Jul 30, 2016

This Election is About Satan. Make Sure You Pick the Devil You know, the Devil Who's Going to Be FOR America not His Own Casino

The DNC show is over, and in my opinion it was by far more enjoyable to watch and probably more effective than the GOP's. Great speeches and some good memes, the ones that may appeal to those on the fence. Hard core Hillary haters won't change their minds. The purpose of the negative advertising will be to discredit Trump and discourage people for voting for him, and to motivate the hard-core Democratic base to come out and vote. Voter turnout on election day is absolutely the most important factor.

The polls that'll come out later this week should show a bump up for Clinton, otherwise it'll be bad. Polls right after the conventions don't mean much, but when we get to later August, around Labor Day, then polls begin to show trends and at that point it's very important to be leading.

The elephant in the room is the high unfavorable rates of the two candidates. Some voters will vote for the Green or Libertarian parties and thus register their strong disapproval of the candidates, parties, and the US political system. Of course, this is allowed--that's what democracy is about--but will soon be forgotten. Third-parties and their candidates rarely are a force in US politics, and usually it's the role of a spoiler.  I know people didn't like Al Gore and may even liked Ralph Nader, but the effect of that was the disastrous presidency of one of the worst presidents ever, G.W. Bush.

Bernie Sanders said this much in his speech, that this is the real world and if you think the most unqualified candidate of a major party should not get near the White House, then the choice is clear: Hillary Clinton. I very much agree with Sam Harris's take on this election:

These are some of the points and highlights of recent worth remembering:
  • Trump has not sacrificed anything for this country, nor has he helped anyone outside his family and his own interest
  • Trump has no clue of foreign relations and how the economy works
  • He doesn't have the character, experience, temperament, responsibility, ability, or willingness to learn/study complicated matters
  • Trump is anti-science (and therefore he's an anti-intellectual)
  • He has not read the US constitution
  • He keeps repeating the same lies, bullying and belittling his critics; he's juvenile
  • He's a racist, bigot, and a fear monger
  • FDR: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself"!!!
  • Could you imagine the outrage of Fox News if Michelle Obama had plagiarized another first lady's speech, lied about her degrees, and then deleted her website with this information?...
  • Bloomberg's takedown of the Donald: I'm from New York and I know a con when I see one! Plus, pointing out the trail of bankruptcies, defrauding of investors, students, and contractors by the man who wants to run the country as a casino or country club or a pyramid scheme. The same person who wants jobs in America but makes his products overseas...
  • Stronger together. Yeah, I like this theme. Together also means a more equitable distribution of resources--wealth and power
  • This election will determine the path of our country even after the next president leaves office, because of the Supreme Court. It's imperative that the high court become progressive. Many of the good things we appreciate today in our society have come via SCOTUS decisions.

Jul 26, 2016

Feelings Matter but Facts are Relevatnt Too. Which Side Will Prevail this Election Year?

So, yeah, feelings are very important and they trump reality. We have to acknowledge this. Most people are intuitive, emotional, and they pick a team or are brought up in a tribe that has their allegiance. Facts often don't change people's minds, especially during a heated argument or an strident political campaign.

(Link to video from the 2' mark)

That's why conservatives--who supposedly are big on "law and order"--keept pushing this narrative at their convention that we're about to die! Never mind that crime rates have gone down. Newt Gingrich when confronted with the facts he kept saying he was right because that's how he (and a lot others) feel. He may have found out that the crime rate on my block went up 100% last year, because someone stole a lawn mower!  You know what they say, a petty theft leads to the apocalypse. So, yeah, let us arm ourselves to the teeth to prepare for the inevitable. Whatever.

The point is that our democracy relies on the judgment of people, many of whom are very misinformed in a wilful ignorance way. I have friends and family who are all over the political spectrum. They rarely are interested in having a rational discussion about facts. I am not saying they have to agree with me--after all, values and priorities are individually based.

I teach political science and thinking about politics is a daily occupation for me. It's so rare, outside academia, to be asked, what do you think about this and how did you arrive at your conclusion.  If they're not sure where I stand on an issue, I may get the question, what do you think about it, though most often the reasoning, the path to the conclusion isn't needed. Why? Because it's confirmation bias at play.  They also hope for an answer that confirms their preconceived notion, otherwise the conversation on that topic ends there.

Republicans are better at pushing the emotional buttons. Simplistic but emotionally-laden remedies to complicated issues are preferred to details. Dems do that too, but they also tend to over-explain, and give complicated answers to hot issues. Trump does not deal in detail policies but in snake oil remedies that will fix things overnight, or at least the first thing in the morning of January 21st, 2017.

The bottom line is that if we had disagreements and true discussion based on reason and facts, there would be more common ground. But, people argue on emotions, and when perceptions of reality (who did what, when, and how) vary wildly and they are not interested in checking the facts. It's astounding to me that in the 21st century America (US) we are debating reality--debating not with facts but with feelings, like Trump, Gringrich and other cons bring to the table. Is the earth billions of a few thousand years old? Is science a guide to climate change? Vaccines? etc.

I can understand (not like it) if someone said he/she hates Mexicans, non-Xtians, whatever. But, the facts show these groups are not more violent or deal in drugs. Someone can say that homosexuality disgusts them, but they can't say that gay partners and parents are less loving or divorce more, or their children are less adjusted that heterosexuals' offspring.  Same with law and order. The conservatives should admit they want an authoritarian leader to keep them safe from imaginary crimes and real diverse society, but they can't argue that tougher punishment and incarceration reduces crime. Social programs, the safety net, and the well-being of the people makes a happier, less violent society!

More on the Dem convention in the next post..... I've watched the first night (Monday) of the convention and I was impressed by Michelle Obama, Bernie,  Warren, and Al Franken.

Jul 13, 2016

Historians on Donald Trump..

Can you maintain your objectivity when you see a train off its track about to crash and cause much harm? More and more voices, some from the conservative side, are talking publicly about the Trump candidacy for the highest office in the land as they can't sit silently on the sidelines and observe this train wreck.

Historians on Donald Trump is a Facebook page created by the famous Ken Burns. He has invited several noted historians and scholars of US politics to comment on Trump's politics. Take a look. [link

As David McCullough put it, Eisenhower said there were 4 qualifications for the office of the president, character, ability, responsibility, and experience. Donald Trump fails in all four.

In a related matter, the Republican party is putting together the planks for its platform--the official policy the party wants to implement if it could. As you'd expect, it's extremely conservative/regressive, but it reflects the Medieval nature of this party. The GOP and Trump's definition of greatness is the Dark Ages. Oh, the glory days of the strict father and subservient women, Biblical justice and intolerance of the pursuit of happiness--you know, the liberal principle that a person should be free to enjoy life on his/her own terms.

Abortion, birth control, women in battle, same-sex marriage, gun control, minority rights, separation church-state, equal pay, the environment ("coal is a clean" energy source), and of course anti-intellectualism and anti-science, are explained in the Republican policy platform...  As for the economic policies, yeah, those too are geared for the benefit of.... (you guess)

Jul 8, 2016

Is the US Condemned to High Levels of Violence? Meanwhile, another Mass Shooting in Dallas...

Mass shootings keep taking place, and gun violence is, sadly, part of everyday life here in the US. We are a violent country, but why? And, is it something we can change? Or, do we want to change that? After all, guns are connected to freedom! We need guns to fight the government, aliens, zombies, and whatever else Apocalypse may bring.

 After a deadly shooting, gun sales increase. The NRA is happy, and it has a hold on politicians. Do you know that Congress has  barred the Center for Decease Control (CDC) since 1996--when the NRA accused the CDC of being anti-gun--from doing research into gun violence, because, heck, it may lead to findings favoring gun control. Facts and science should inform public policy, right?... Since 2012, President Obama tried to reverse this, but...

The American Medical Association (AMA) has reversed its position though and now calls Congress to allow the CDC to do research into gun violence as a public health issue! 

Again, the lethal effect of powerful weapons and their availability is a big factor in US violence. I do not see why the "right" to own a gun should be above the right of others to have a ..healthier life!  We do have restrictions on all sorts of weapons not available to civilians. The right to live your life the way you want has to taken into account your actions as a direct impact on others. You can't do all sorts of things if your actions harm the community. You can't drive a car without a license, no insurance, and without emission controls. You can't cut down every tree or take every fish out of the sea. You shouldn't have certain weapons, certainly not open or conceal carry.