Abstinence = Happiness?

Here is a video I watched recently:

Here is the comment I posted on YouTube:

I love how the abstinence guy brings up ‘statistics’. If he really cared about statistics, he’d look at the scientific research showing the failure rate of abstinence. Despite Christian theology, humans are still animals who have natural sexual urges. Research shows abstinence-only programs fail in actually stopping young adults from having sex until they’re married.  A tiny fraction of a percent might manage to abstain, but they are rare exceptions.

Here is the first response to my comment made by girloffaith16:

“Where is your evidence?”

I’ve already posted the evidence in my blog:

Here is the second response to my comment made by noclip14:

“I don’t think you understood the argument. He was saying that people who abstain from sex until marriage tend to be happier. He used statistics from surveys that showed this. Christianity isn’t the only religion that preaches abstinence until marriage. Also, there are many non-religious people that abstain from sex until marriage.”

I haven’t responded to this specific point in the past and so let me take that opportunity now.

I did understand the argument. I just didn’t think it mattered that people who claim to be abstinent also claim to be happy.

First, I’ve seen enough data to know that teens define abstinence in ways that fundamentalists wouldn’t necessarily accept. When asked in studies, some teens consider handjobs or blowjobs as being included within the label of ‘abstinence’.

Second, being happy doesn’t prove one is correct or moral. Research does show that religious people claim to be happier (whether or not they objectively are happier). But I’m suspicious of anything religious people say, especially fundamentalists. Bob Altemeyer’s research shows social conservatives and fundamentalists have a stronger tendency toward Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA). The relevant facts about RWAs is that they are more likely than the average person to lie and be hypocritical.

Even so, I wanted to look at the data for myself. Are abstinent people more happy? Here is what I found:

http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2010/03/25/study-shows-happy-girls-have-sex-too/

What it found is that teen girls aren’t always driven to have sex out of depression or rebellion. In fact, of the girls who resumed sexual activity after a period of abstinence, one of the main factors was being happy and having a secure relationship.

As the authors say,

“A number of studies demonstrate associations between depressed mood and sexual risk behaviors. However, studies using daily diaries and momentary sampling have demonstrated close temporal associations between improved mood and sexual thoughts and behaviors…Adolescent sexual intercourse is frequently presented as an entirely opportunity-driven risk behavior. Our data present a more nuanced picture, in which sexual intercourse is associated with important relationship attributes, such as partner support and perceptions of relationship quality.”

I don’t know how much research there is on the issue of the correlation (or lack thereof) between happiness and abstinence. And, if this correlation does exist, I don’t know that any simple causal relationship exists. The above research seems to show the situation is complex.

My thoughts are that anyone who is considered normal and accepted by others will be happier. The US is a fairly religious country and so the average person will probably be happier if they conform with the social norms. In our society, if a teen girl has sex and her peers find out, she might be called a slut, might be entirely ostracized or might get unwanted attention. And if a teen boy has sex and adults find out, his parents might punish him or a pastor/preacher might tell him that he is going to hell. Any teen who is willing to be independent of social norms (whether having sex, doing drugs, or simply acting atypical: a boy taking ballerina classes or a nerd who reads all the time) will have a more difficult life and will probably be less happy, but that isn’t to blame the teen for being treated negatively by peers and adults.

There are many possible counfounding factors and I don’t claim to know what they all might be. However, I can speak to human nature. Humans evolved as social animals and we are happiest when we are accepted as part of a group. This is why I think religious people profess happiness. It’s simply feels good to be accepted. Even being accepted by a gang feels better than being excluded, but in our society being accepted by a church is even better because being religious gives you automatic respect in our religious society. However, in a secular society such as China, religious people are probably less happy than the non-religious. So, it all depends on the social context. In terms of abstinence, research would show very different results in countries that have cultures of more openness towards sexuality. If you had sex and everyone around accepted that as normal, then you probably wouldn’t be unhappy.

Still, even in the US religious culture, there is no simple or consistent correlation between abstinence and happiness.

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O’Reilly & Polls: Old vs Young

I love polling data, but I only fully trust data when multiple sources agree. I dislike both people who dismiss data because it disagrees with their views and people who rely on only data that agrees with them. Here is an example of someone doing both. Bill O’Reilly cites research unquestioningly when it makes him personally look good, but then dismisses out of hand a scientific study because he didn’t like its conclusions.

As for the data O’Reilly righteously dismissed, I still don’t understand his claim of subjectivity. O’Reilly doesn’t cite other scientific research that comes to different conclusions. He simply cites an opinion piece. Anyway, I immediately remembered having written about this study and having put it in context of other data: . If you’d like to decide for yourself, here is the article I think O’Reilly is referring to along with a response by another commenter, a response by the researcher, an interview with the researcher, and a response to the responses by the first author.

 – – –

Tea Partiers Racist? Not So Fast
By Cathy Young

The Tea Party’s racial resentment
Reason’s Cathy Young says backers don’t hold racially tinged views, and when they do, they’re politically justified
By Joan Walsh

Race and the Tea Party: Who’s right?
White Tea Party supporters blame black disadvantage on not working hard enough, not the legacy of discrimination
By Christopher Parker

Pollster Responds to Your Questions
By Tom Schaller

The “racist Tea Parties” debate
By Cathy Young

 – – –

As for the data O’Reilly happily cited, what I found interesting is that it doesn’t fit in with what is known from other sources. I haven’t looked at this data close enough to have a conclusive opinion, but I must admit O’Reilly’s smugness (combined with his occasional anti-intellectual attitude) irritates me to no end. I have a knee-jerk suspicion of anything that comes out of O’Reilly’s mouth. Here is some commentary about the poll from the first video.

 – – –

Politico poll claims Fox personalities have the ‘greatest positive impact’ on political debate
By Raw Story

 Politico poll claims Fox personalities have the greatest positive impact on political debateIf there was a poll that made you wonder who was doing the polling — or what kind of sample was being surveyed — this one might be it.

It begins fairly enough: more Americans get their political news from Fox News than any other source. This seems consistent with reality: Fox News has a larger audience than any other cable news channel, and a larger share of voice than any American newspaper (though it’s still lapped by network news broadcasts).

According to the poll — conducted by Politico and George Washington University — 42 percent of those watching cable news consider Fox their “main source,” with 30 percent said to be reliant on CNN and just 12 percent watching MSNBC.

This doesn’t, however, seem to jibe with ratings reports. According to cable news TV ratings released last week, Fox News beat MSNBC in the key 25 to 54 demographic with a rating of 333 to 127. CNN came in with last place ratings, at 118 for the main CNN network and 119 for CNN’s Headline News. That would put MSNBC ahead of CNN in the ratings race.

In primetime, Fox beats MSNBC by about two times: 574 to MSNBC’s 251. If the “main source” of news is primetime television, then MSNBC should have done considerably better in the Politico poll than just 12 percent.

[…] The Politico piece remarks wryly, “The results of the poll… also reflect a trend that many commentators and media analysts find disconcerting: Voters are turning to media sources that reinforce their political worldviews rather than present them with more objective reporting that might challenge their assumptions.”

“As more people get news from cable channels and websites that offer a particular point of view 24/7, it becomes increasingly important for viewers to sample multiple sources in order to best understand the issues and proposed solutions,” the piece quotes a George Washington University professor as saying. “This trend is only increasing.”

Politico poll headline hides good news for Democrats
by truthseeking missile

Last week a Gallup poll showed Democrats evenly split with Republicans among voters on a Congressional ballot. When I diaried about it, many readers argued that it was an outlier. Since then other polls have shown the same trend. The new Associated Press poll put the generic dead even among registered voters 47 percent Democratic, 47 percent Republican — and the New York Times/CBS News survey released yesterday gave Republicans a narrow 40 percent to 38 percent edge.

Along comes another poll today by  POLITICO/George Washington University  showing the same results in the battle ground states, where Democrats are running even with the big, bad Republicans. It points to great news for Democrats in several key regions with numerous House and Senate seats in play. In the Midwest and Northeast they hold a 5-point advantage.

How then do you explain the headline on the story:

Poll: Voters see GOP takeover of Congress 
By: Charles Mahtesian and Jim VandeHei 
September 16, 2010 04:50 AM EDT

Voters, by a 9-point margin, believe Republicans will pick up both the House and the Senate, even though they are evenly divided over whom they intend to back in six weeks, according to a new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Poll.

In a generic matchup between the two parties, those surveyed were split 43-43 when asked if they would back a Republican or a Democrat on Election Day. This is good news for Democrats and at odds with many other public polls, which have shown Republicans holding a single-digit edge.

http://dyn.politico.com/…

I continue to question the motives behind this media soap opera. Why is the media burying great news for Democrats? Does the media believe they have the power to create political momentum and sweep people into power by simply creating polls to suit their agenda and looping it ad nauseum until voters cave in and accept a media created reality?

 – – –

Even if Fox News had managed to brainwash most Americans into believing their propaganda/spin, I would take that as a rather negative accomplishment. Large corporations like News Corp, which owns Fox News, have been buying up media at a fast rate. Today, most of the media is owned by a handful of companies, but it wasn’t always that way. Before the Fairness Doctrine was repealed, there used to be more diversity of media, more small business owners of media, and more local control of media.

 – – –

The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio
By John Halpin, James Heidbreder, Mark Lloyd, Paul Woodhull, Ben Scott, Josh Silver, S. Derek Turner

There are many potential explanations for why this gap exists. The two most frequently cited reasons are the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 and simple consumer demand. As this report will detail, neither of these reasons adequately explains why conservative talk radio dominates the airwaves.

Our conclusion is that the gap between conservative and progressive talk radio is the result of multiple structural problems in the U.S. regulatory system, particularly the complete breakdown of the public trustee concept of broadcast, the elimination of clear public interest requirements for broadcasting, and the relaxation of ownership rules including the requirement of local participation in management.

Ownership diversity is perhaps the single most important variable contributing to the structural imbalance based on the data. Quantitative analysis conducted by Free Press of all 10,506 licensed commercial radio stations reveals that stations owned by women, minorities, or local owners are statistically less likely to air conservative hosts or shows.

In contrast, stations controlled by group owners—those with stations in multiple markets or more than three stations in a single market—were statistically more likely to air conservative talk. Furthermore, markets that aired both conservative and progressive programming were statistically less concentrated than the markets that aired only one type of programming and were more likely to be the markets that had female- and minority-owned stations.

 – – –

One thing that connects all of this is the fact that there is a connection between Fox News and the Tea Party. Fox News pundits like O’Reilly almost always go to the defense to the Tea Party. I saw in one of the articles I was perusing a mention of a poll that showed the strongest common denominator, stronger than any particular value or policy position, among Tea Party supporters was that they tended to be viewers of Glenn Beck’s show. I couldn’t find that article again, but here is some other info to show this close relationship.

 – – –

Survey: 40% Of Republicans Watch Fox News Regularly
By David Bauder

At the same time, 7 percent of conservative Sean Hannity’s Fox News Channel viewers and 9 percent of Rush Limbaugh’s listeners say Obama is doing a good job, the survey said. Three quarters of Limbaugh, Hannity and Glenn Beck’s audiences identify themselves as tea party supporters.

DeMint Credits Fox News With Recent Tea Party Victories
By Alex Seitz-Wald

“[A]t least twenty Fox News personalities have endorsed, raised money, or campaigned for Republican candidates or causes, or against Democratic candidates or causes, in more than 300 instances and in all 50 states,” according to a Media Matters survey conducted in April. Meanwhile, a recent Pew research survey finds that Fox News’ viewership has increased in recent years due almost entirely to an influx of Republicans, 40 percent of whom now say they regularly get their news there. That’s up from just 25 percent in 2002. Of course, Fox’s parent company also recently gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association.

 – – –

One interesting fact about Fox News is that their audience is the oldest of any cable channel. In order to put this in context, the average age of cable viewers is already up there around retirmenent age.

 – – –

Median Age of Fox News Viewers is 65 – Average Dittohead Is a 67 Year Old Man
By Jon Ponder

It took some googling but I found a reliable source that confirms that during the 2007-2008 television season, the most recent season for which figures are available, the average age of Fox News viewers was 65:

According to a study released by Magna Global’s Steve Sternberg, the five broadcast nets’ average live median age (in other words, not including delayed DVR viewing) was 50 last season. That’s the oldest ever since Sternberg started analyzing median age more than a decade ago — and the first time the nets’ median age was outside of the vaunted 18-49 demo…

Among ad-supported cable nets, the news nets (along with older-skewing Hallmark Channel, Golf Channel and GSN’s daytime sked) sport the most gray, with Fox News Channel’s daytime and primetime skeds the absolute oldest, clocking in with a median age above 65. (Emphasis added.)

As usual, I don’t precisely know what all this means. But let me point out a few thoughts. 

The age factor relates to both the issue of popularity and racial prejudice. Fox News has the most popular cable channel and cable channels are more popular than the networks, but this is meaningless when considered in isolation. The Fox News audience, despite it’s relative size, is a tiny fraction of a percentage of the total population. The fact is most of the population doesn’t watch any of the mainstream media for news. In particular, the younger generations get most of their news from the internet and the New Media (a category rarely measured in most polls). So, O’Reilly’s smugness about being a trusted news source among very old people isn’t saying much. Furthermore, the Tea Party and Fox News both share this older audience which is relatively more racially prejudiced than younger generations.

Here is what interests me. This audience of the mainstream media mostly consists of the Boomer generation. They were the largest generation ever to be born… that is until the Millennial generation was born. Boomers have always been known for being loud and for getting their way. They’ve dominated politics for most of their lives and now as they enter retirement they want to continue to maintain their influence. The Old Media profited greatly from this generation and this demographic remains their loyal base.

What many people don’t see coming or would rather ignore is that all of this is going to change in the coming years and decades. Obama didn’t win because of the older white audience of Fox News and the rest of the MSM. It was the multicultural Millennial generation that made it’s debut by voting Obama into office. If you want to know what young, white, and low-income voters (i.e., the opposite of the Tea Party), ignore what you hear at Tea Parties and on Fox News and instead check out the data: .

The last piece is the element of race. Older people are both more white and more racially prejudiced than younger people. White kids in school right now are already the minority among their peers. The younger generations have grown up with multiculturalism and interracial dating/marriage, with multi-racial friends and with those who are openly homosexual.  Research shows that when kids grow up with diversity that they end up having more accepting attitudes of those who are different. Or, in other words, they grow up to be socially liberal. Millennials are a larger generation than even the Boomers. Conservative outrage (whether expressed by Tea Party protesters or right-wing pundits) won’t be able to stop this massive change on the horizon.

Trust & Compromise, Science & Religion

I noticed several different sets of data about trust in terms of public opinion. (My thoughts here are somewhat a continuation of my thoughts in one of my other recent posts: .)

The first piece of data was something I’ve come across before. Basically, Democrats tend to trust government whether or not they’re in power and Republicans only trust government when they’re in power.

Imbalance of Trust
By Charles M. Blow

Is it partly the utter gullibility of some people? Sure. Is it partly deep-seated resentment of the black man in the White House? No doubt. But it’s also about something more fundamental: fluctuations of basic trust in the federal government.

These fluctuations highlight a peculiar quirk of recent American politics — according to an analysis of The New York Times/CBS News polls from the past 33 years, Americans seem to trust the government substantially more after a Republican president is elected than they do after a Democratic one is elected — at least at the outset.

Since 1976, the polls have occasionally included the following question: “How much of the time do you think you can trust the government in Washington to do what is right — just about always, most of the time, or only some of the time?”

The first poll taken in which this question was asked after Ronald Reagan assumed office found that 51 percent trusted the government in Washington to do the right thing just about always or most of the time. For George H.W. Bush, it was 44 percent, and for George W. Bush it was 55 percent. Now compare that with the Democrats. In Jimmy Carter’s first poll, it was 35 percent. In Bill Clinton’s, it was 24 percent, and for Barack Obama’s, it was only 20 percent. (It should be noted that the first poll conducted during George W. Bush’s presidency came on the heels of 9/11.)

Surprisingly, Democrats’ trust in government was the same or higher after a Republican was elected than it was after a Democrat was elected. That in spite of the fact that all three Democratic presidents came into office at the same time that their party had won control of both chambers of Congress.

There are two parts to this data.

First, Republican administrations are trusted more for the very reason that Democrats trust government in general. Democratic administrations can’t win because Republicans won’t trust them from the moment they take power, no matter what they promise or accomplish.

Second, Democrats are seemingly more open to being self-critical. Maybe this is because Democrat voters have high expectations of Democratic politicians. Or it could be that the Democratic Party is big tent and the Republican Party is small tent. It’s easier for the GOP to keep it’s narrow base satisfied. The diversity of Democrats, on the other hand, will always contain much disagreement.

This relates to another poll which shows the differing views on compromise. Unsurprisingly, the small tent Republican Party dislikes compromise and the big tent Democratic Party likes compromise. Independents are halfway between the two parties, but what is interesting in that same poll Independents identify more with the Democratic Party than with the Tea Party which would seem to imply that Independents realize a party that compromises (however imperfectly) is more likely to represent them. The Tea Party likes compromise even less than the Republican party which corresponds with data showing the average Tea Party supporter is more conservative than the average Republican.

Many Say Ending Tax Cuts for Wealthy Would Hurt Economy
The Pew Research Center

There is little agreement among the public about compromise in politics. About half (49%) say they most admire political leaders who stick to their positions without compromising, while slightly fewer (42%) say that they most admire political leaders who make compromises with people they disagree with.

The latest Pew Research/National Journal Congressional Connection poll, sponsored by SHRM, conducted September 16-19 among 1,005 adults, finds that Republicans, in particular, admire politicians who stick to their positions (62%) over those who compromise (33%). Although independents are more divided on the question, a majority (53%) says they favor leaders who do not compromise; four-in-ten independents (40%) say they most admire leaders who compromise. The balance of opinion is reversed among Democrats; 54% of Democrats say they prefer politicians who compromise with those they disagree with, while 39% say they prefer politicians who stick to their positions without compromising.

The next poll I came across (The AP-National Constitution Center Poll) dissected how much trust people had in various institutions and news sources. The data shows a split between what is trusted and who trusts it. There wasn’t a majority trust any of them, but here is the order of most trusted (least mistrusted) to least trusted (most mistrusted):

  1. Military
  2. Small and Local Business leaders
  3. Scientific Community
  4. Organized Religion
  5. Broadcast News Media
  6. Print Media
  7. US Supreme Court
  8. Local Government
  9. Public Schools
  10. State Courts
  11. Organized Labor
  12. State Government
  13. Federal Government
  14. Independent or Citizen Media
  15. US Congress
  16. Banks and Financial Institutions
  17. Major Companies

AP-NCC Poll: Not Much Trust in Major Institutions
By Alan Fram and Jennifer Agiesta

Republicans most trust the military, followed by small business and religion. Democrats prefer science, small business, then the military. Just one in five Republicans expressed strong confidence in science, about the same proportion of Democrats who said so about religion.

Only 10 percent of Republicans expressed strong confidence in state governments, despite frequent GOP demands that Washington cede more power to the states.

Just 10 percent of Democrats voiced strong trust in Congress, even though their party controls it.

The print and broadcast media were strongly trusted by just 13 percent, only slightly more than the 8 percent with faith in blogs. Those under age 30 were far likelier than older people to voice confidence in what they read.

I would criticize one part of this poll, especially as it was described above. The poll lumped the professional New Media with the blogosphere. Some blogs are good and some aren’t. Some blogs are written by professional journalists and some aren’t. Anyway, the New Media isn’t limited to blogs. Cenk Uygur has been running an online news show for years and has been a guest on the mainstream media. Of course, most people don’t trust blogs written by often anonymous people. But I’m willing to bet that if New Media would be higher on the trust ranking if it were categorized separately from the blogosphere.

This seems indicated by the fact that the younger generation has more trust in non-traditional media. The reason for this is probably because the younger generation is able to distinguish the New Media from the general blogosphere. Older people don’t trust anything on the internet because older people know less about how to vet sources. As a side note, liberals are the demographic that gets more news from the internet than any other demographic and this goes along with the present younger generation being more liberal than other generations at the same age. This younger, liberal generation is also more trusting in general of big government and big business. So, public trust will probably be increasing in the coming decades.

What some might find surprising is that both Republicans and Democrats trust small businesses. Republicans are always trying to portray Democrats as anti-capitalist, but other data (Beyond Red vs Blue) shows Liberals have high rates of small business ownership and high rates of trading in stocks and bonds.

Not surprising is that Democrats trust science more than religion and Republicans trust religion more than science. I was glad to see that Americans in general trust science more than religion (or at least organized religion). So, on this issue, Democrats are in line with the majority position.

This issue of public opinion about science is what got me started on this whole line of thought and the research that ensued. I heard on NPR about a global poll about science. The global data should offer clear context for where US public opinion stands and how Democrats and Republicans respectively compare to people in other parts of the world.

Scientific beliefs vary by culture, says global poll
By Margaret Munro

Americans are far more pronuclear and willing to trust flu experts than Europeans, and much less concerned about genetically modified crops, according to a survey by Scientific American and the journal Nature.

But the most notable difference was between East Asia and the rest of the world. The survey found 35 per cent of Japanese and 49 per cent of Chinese respondents agreed there is “reason for doubt” that evolution can explain the incredible variety of species on Earth. That view was shared by about 10 per cent of respondents from the rest of the world.

Japanese and Chinese respondents were also less likely to say that they trust scientific explanations of the origins of the universe. And almost one-third of Chinese respondents said that scientists should stay out of politics, compared with about 10 per cent of respondents from other countries.

That would seem to put US conservatives more in line with Asians and US liberals more in line with Europeans. I don’t know what that means, but it’s interesting. I was glad to see that the world’s overall trust in science is strong and growing stronger. And liberals would seem to be in line with people worldwide in trusting scientists more than religious authorities.

The survey did find some common ground. Worldwide, respondents agreed that scientists are more trustworthy than other public figures. Religious authorities were deemed least trustworthy, followed by politicians and company officials.

And more than 70 per cent of respondents agreed science funding should be spared in tough economic times. When asked what should be cut instead, defence spending was the overwhelming choice — 82 per cent of Canadian respondents favouring cuts to defence over cuts to education or social-welfare programs.

And despite a recent controversy over leaked emails by climate researchers and the UN’s climate panel, the survey found climate change denial is in decline. Among Canadian respondents 41 per cent said that over the past year, they’ve become more certain that humans are changing the climate, compared with 12 per cent of respondents who have grown more doubtful.

In conclusion… well, actually I don’t know if I have any conclusion. I just found the data interesting and even more interesting when compared. The closest to a conclusion I could offer you is that there are distinct demographics (such as those belonging to the two parties) which have consistently distinct positions and attitudes. Most significantly: among Democrats, there is a correlation between trusting the government and trusting science; and, among Republicans, there is a correlation between being against compromise and being in favor of religion. Maybe that doesn’t provide any grand insight, but it does provide data to back up what many would suspect to be true.

GOP Busted On Talking Points!

In the past, I’ve noticed various talking points being repeated using very similar and sometimes exact phrasing (). I was frustrated because most people don’t seem to notice this form of propaganda/brainwashing. Even the liberal media in the past seemed oblivious to this technique used by conservatives. But it seems the liberal media is finally catching onto this game.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/24/gopers-parrot-lines-from-_n_710541.html

An extensive review of GOP campaign literature, floor speeches and public statements reveals that Republican candidates and officeholders routinely use GOP talking points verbatim in their speeches and campaign literature, while passing off the language as their own personal views.

Using the plagiarism detection software program iThenticate as well as Google and the Library of Congress, HuffPost found that more than 30 members of the House and Senate eschew originality when it comes to making their case.

A search for Democratic violations turned up far fewer instances. But if Democrats show less of a penchant for blatant copying, it may reflect their traditional unwillingness to follow the party line more than any higher ethical standards. Will Rogers’s oft-quoted declaration — “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat” — has worn well over time.

– – –

State of Confusion by Dr. Bryant Welch

p.136:

Advertising succeeds on the basis of repetition. Assert the reality you want over and over again. Be absolute and never tentative. Tentativeness encourages independent thinking. The more people think independently, the less malleable they are. If there is a gap between your position and common sense, simply rewire the connection with “associational logic” that obscures the gap. Associational logic… creates the illusion of logical connections where there are none.

pp. 143-4:

While the ostensible joke is that these people are all ike puppets articulating a canned message…, there is much more than that at play. If the same language is used, the words can be transformed from language into symbols. University of California at Berkley linguist George Lakoff writes:

When a word or phrase is repeated over and over for a long period of time the neural circuits that compute its meaning are activated repeatedly in the brain. As the neurons in those circuits fire, the synapses connecting the neurons in the circuits get stronger and the circuits may eventually become permanent, which happens when you learn the meaning of any word in your fixed vocabulary. Learning a word physically changes your brain, and the meaning of that word becomes physically instantiated in your brain.

Repeating over and over does not simply persuade someone that what is being said is true; it actually makes it true in the inner workings of the mind. The target audience may not even be aware that they have adopted the particular point of view in question, but a space that was once filled with uncertainty is now filled with an idea. Further, it is an idea shared by a very self-confident and powerful other person. If that idea is repeated over and over, it begins to play a symbolic role in the mind.

pp. 134-5:

Symbols, primitive emotional states, and repetition are not the only vulnerable aspects of the mind. Associational thinking also plays a key role in current political gaslighting. Sometimes it is very humbling to recognize the true nature of the mind. It is made out of symbols that are connected to one another by associations of emotional connections. What we think of as logical connectiosn play a much more limited role in mental functioning. This has tremendous implications not just for advertising, but also for political reality formation. Gaslighers can build emotional connections between symbols without their target audience really even knowing what is being done. In 2000, the Republican Party spent over two and a half million dollars running an advertisement attacking the Gore prescription plan that ahd the word rats written across it but that flashed with such speed that it was invisible to the naked eye. With today’s technology, people can literally build a connection in the mind between rats and an opponent’s policy position.

These same associational connections once established can also create a pseudologic in which associations create the illusion of logical connections used to support policies and positions that simply have no logic behind them. The fact that two items are in some way associated in the mind serves as a substitute for the formal logical connections that people associate with cause and effect and rational thought. The mind is tricked just as our eyes are tricked in a shell game. For an undiscerning audience, this can be very effective. People frequently do not appreciate, or even notice the role that highly subjective emotional states play in formulating what they take to be rational and logically constructed “thoughts.” Psychologist William James said, “People often think they are thinking when in fact they are just rearranging their prejudices.”

If these associational forms of “logic” lead to a pleasant emotional state such as a simplistic and self-gratifying conclusion about a difficult and complex problem, people are even less likely to challenge the faulty reasoning behind it. If one’s mind is saturated with images that are the psychological equivalent of a trademark that brands Fox News as fair and balanced, it will for many people completely override any assessment of whether Fox News is actually fair and balanced.

Tax Cuts: Reagan vs Bush

I’ve been thinking about Republican presidents recently. I had a particular thought comparing Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Reagan is remembered as great by conservatives and remembered as less than perfect by liberals. Either way, the best liberal argument is simply that Reagan would be considered a RINO by today’s Repbulicans. Bush jr is the closest these far right purists have come to their ideal of a ‘real’ Republican. That is a sad state of affairs.

I only want to point out one detail: tax cuts. Both Reagan and Bush campaigned on fiscal responsibility and both implemented tax cuts once in office. The comparison, on this point, ends there. Both Reagan and Bush faced economic problems after having implemented tax cuts, but they responded differently. As everyone knows, Bush kept the tax cuts to the bitter end. Neither 9/11 nor the wars following could stop Bush from implementing and maintaining his tax cuts. It is hardly fiscally responsible to massively increase spending while cutting taxes. I realize Starve the Beast seems like a wonderful policy to wealthy Republicans, but it can’t honestly be called fiscal responsibility.

So, what did Reagan do when it became obvious that tax cuts were failing and the economy was in trouble? He increased taxes. I was just reading that Reagan raised taxes 16 times. These tax increases also included the largest, at least at that time, tax increase during peacetime. Reagan was imperfect in his fiscal responsibility. He made the same mistake of increasing defense spending just because a big military gives rightwingers a hard-on.

Both Reagan and Bush followed the policy of Starve the Beast. The difference is that the latter did so with more enthusiasm. For Bush, reality was less important than ideology. That is what the American public gets when they elect a born-again fundamentalist. Reagan must be given blame for creating the deficit we now have, but his relative moderation kept him from having created an even greater deficit had he refused to increase taxes.

This is centrally important. Republican politicians haven’t shown they’ve learned any lesson from Bush’s failure and Reagan’s willingness to compromise. I was just listening to Boehner speak and he basically said that Republicans don’t plan to change which seemingly implies that there perfectly fine with the Republican policies during the Bush administration. Like Bush and unlike Reagan, they would want to keep all tax cuts (especially tax cuts for the rich) no matter what is going on with the economy and no matter how many wars are going on. They want to push Starve the Beast to its inevitable conclusion of economic crisis and broken budget. The Tea Party’s platform seems to fit perfectly into the vision of Starve the Beast. The Tea Party turned out just to be a maneuver for the GOP to reign back in former Republicans who strayed away because of Bush’s unpopularity.

Sadly, most of the American people and most of the American media won’t see past the GOP rhetoric. The resignation and cynicism right now is overwhelming. Even Obama doesn’t seem to genuinely believe in the hope he campaigned on.

Public Opinion On Government & Tea Party

I’m endlessly confused (and curious) about trying to understand public opinion and where it’s heading (see some of the posts on my US Data page), but it usually seems clear to me that Americans are becoming more liberal on at least social issues. Issues of the government and economy are a bit more complex. When I listen to the conservative rhetoric about fiscal conservatism, I’m left deeply confused considering how it compares to the Republican record. I really don’t see a clear connection between fiscal responsibility and fiscal conservatism. I’ve even argued that liberals are the new ‘fiscal conservatives’, although I don’t mean to dismiss the few fiscally responsible conservatives such as Ron Paul.

The main confusion is that the data I’ve seen shows that most Americans identify as conservative. I even think I’ve seen data showing the number of self-identified conservatives has been growing. But on many specific issues most Americans are becoming more liberal and progressive. I suppose there are many ways to make sense of this seemingly contradictory data. First, it’s not really contradictory. Labels of self-identification don’t necessarily have any relationship to the actual social and political positions people hold. Labels such as liberal and conservative are relative. Since the data shows the country moving left, it wouldn’t be surprising if most Americans were to some extent aware of this trend. So, maybe most Americans feel ‘conservative’ relative to the increasingly liberal direction the country is going in. However, compared to the conservatism of the past, most Americans today are definitely liberal.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing yet another post about this topic is because I’ve come across new data that confirms the previous data I’ve seen. Here is the new data:

http://projectvote.org/voter-poll-results

I came across this polling data from this site:

http://www.openleft.com/showDiary.do;jsessionid=9F4259A9B9DBBAC1A619FD723F6ECE38?diaryId=20244

The poll looked at the 2008 voters and looked at the different demographics.

“We wanted to learn more about the views of the black, youth, and low-income voters who overwhelmingly participated in 2008 election,” said Lorraine C. Minnite, director of research for Project Vote. “These voters represent roughly a third of the electorate, they will play an increasingly important role in American politics, and they fundamentally believe in a government that does more, not less. Yet their voices are largely ignored, and their views are not being represented.”

Instead, the new report says, over the past two years the opinions and values of these populations have been drowned out by the anti-government rhetoric of more affluent, older, and mostly white Americans who have organized under the “Tea Party” banner.

“The winning coalition in 2008 included an unprecedented number of young voters, who were more racially diverse than any cohort in the history of American politics and more progressive than any young voters since the 1960s,” said Peter Levine, director of CIRCLE (Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement). “The new poll from Project Vote provides essential information about these young people’s hopes and beliefs in 2010.”

That verifies other data about the Tea Party. The average Tea Party supporter is slightly more white, older, and wealthier than the average American (and so it’s not surprising that the ). But the biggest difference is seen in the positions they advocate. Ignoring the demographic data, Tea Party supporters simply don’t represent the views of the average American.

The poll finds that the policy preferences of these three voting constituencies are far more closely aligned with the views of average Americans—represented by the poll’s national sample—than the minority views of the self-identified Tea Party sympathizers.

Most helpful from the second link is the summary of the specific views supported by majorities of black, young, and low-income voters:

  • Increasing taxes on investment income, increasing social security taxes on incomes greater than $107,000, and ending combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as a means to reduce the deficit.
  • Spending money on infrastructure, as do two-thirds of all 2008 voters.
  • Spending the same or more on income support programs such as Food Stamps for less well-off Americans. Two-thirds of Tea Party sympathizers support spending less.
  • Tea Party sympathizers, while almost universally dissatisfied with the way the country is going, report they themselves are doing very well: more than three out of four say their personal economic situation is fairly good or very good.
  • Meanwhile, one in five young voters, and nearly two out of five black voters and low-income voters, reported that there were times in the past 12 months when they did not have enough money to buy food for their families. Just over one in 20 Tea Party supporters said the same.
  • Strong majorities of black voters, young voters, and low-income voters agree that government should work to provide for the needs of all citizens. Half of all voters agreed with that sentiment, while only one in five Tea Party sympathizers agreed.
  • Together, the three “surge” groups represent a larger portion of the electorate than those who self-identify with the Tea Party.

At the same time, I came across some other data:

http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1735/political-compromise-unpopular-neither-party-favored-on-economy-four-in-ten-say-cutting-tax-cuts-for-wealthy-hurts-economy

The first thing I noticed is that mostly Republicans identify with the Tea Party. No surprise there, but what was rather telling is that most Independents identify with the Democratic Party, more than identify with the Tea Party. So, the Tea Party can’t honestly claim to be the party of Independents.

The one area that the American public leans slightly conservative is in being less supportive of compromise. This piece of data is significant in another context because it substantiates the claim that Democrats are in reality more bipartisan than Republicans (which I spoke about in a previous post: )

One of the areas where the liberal view predominates is the American public’s view on tax cuts for the rich. Most Americans state they want the tax cuts for the rich to end. This new data shows that most Americans don’t think ending the tax cuts for the rich will hurt the economy. They either think it will help or that it will have no impact at all. According to this data, Republicans are the only demographic that has a majority opinion of it hurting the economy. However, going by the various polls, even the Republicans are split on whether the tax cuts for the rich should end or not.

Poverty Rate Jumps (The Onion)

Poverty Rate Jumps

The U.S. Census Bureau found that during 2009 the number of Americans living in poverty increased from 39.8 million to 43.6 million. What do you think?

  • Rick McKenzie
    Account Executive
    “Yeah, that seems about right. Over the past year, I guess there have been a few hundred thousand more street people that I have to pretend not to notice on my walk to work.”

  • Annie Watson
    Nib Adjuster
    “I’m shocked. I thought poverty was something that happened to other countries that systematically obliterated their middle class, but not us.”

  • Michael Stapleton
    Reactor Operator
    “Quick, print another 4.8 million copies of Atlas Shrugged.”

US Corporations & Fascism: a history lesson

Rightwingers love to obsess about McCarthy era communist hysteria and witch-hunts, but most Americans seem oblivious of the history of fascist ties in America. I think the reason for this is that these fascist ties were with many corporations and many wealthy families that are still around today. Those who control the media tend to not like focusing too much public scrutiny upon their own dark histories, but since so much time has passed information has slowly trickled out about that shameful era.

The most interesting of these fascist connections involve US businessmen and Nazis. Even more interesting was the failed coup planned to take out Franklin D. Roosevelt. The most well known of these people was Prescott Bush, father and grandfather of the two Bush presidents. Isn’t that intriguing? It’s particularly intriguing when you also consider the first president Bush’s career in the CIA. It’s not a surprise that George W. Bush was one of the most secretive presidents and did more than any president before to implement policies that if pushed to their furthest reach would create a fascist state.

I think that this is a very important issue considering corporations have gained even more power as the collusion with politicians has grown even more extensive and considering the military-industrial complex has grown as state secrecy has grown. Some argue that corporations have one this fight against democracy and that we now live in a corporatist state.

So, why aren’t we taught this history in our public schools? This isn’t just another conspiracy theory. This is actual history.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/document/document_20070723.shtml

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/sep/25/usa.secondworldwar

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/3832141.stm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/mar/29/humanities.highereducation

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/03/27/print/main504730.shtml

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/daily/nov98/nazicars30.htm

http://news.cnet.com/2009-1082-269157.html