I Think, Therefore I Am...Someone who Writes

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previewofthoughts asked: It would seriously help of their parades weren't centered around sexual displays, like walking around naked, dry humping, homoerotic displays, penis shaped lollipops, etc etc etc. that's not who they are and there are better ways of showcasing on being proud of who you are.

I agree to some extent. I’d never been to it before, until I had to go this year for my work, and I’ve got to say it wasn’t really what I was expecting. I mean, yea, look, it’s a party, so there’s a lot of alcohol and sexual stuff going on, but there were actually way more parts of the parade with floats saying things like “God loves us too,” and “we love our gay children” than I thought there’d be. The other thing is that some of it is for shock value, because so much of homophobia is based around the eww, that’s icky sentiment, so I guess it’s supposed to be like, “hey deal with it, watch us trans people making out, it’s not any less gross than two straight people making out,” and stuff like that.

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Why The Gay Pride Parade Is Needed

     In the past I’ve written about why it’s so important that gay couples be granted access to all the legal benefits and protections that straight couples can access. That’s really an equality issue. Legally all couples and all families ought to be treated the same, without certain types of people being treated by the law in a different and inferior way simply because the way in which they were born is something a lot of religious zealots and homophobes feel is evil or icky. Yet, there’s a whole separate issue beyond the legal equality issues like gay marriage and LGBT employment discrimination. This other issue is the moral and social aspect of the LGBT movement.
          Forget for a second everything that comes with the idea of a legal, full and equal gay marriage. Forget for a second everything dealing with things like employment, consumer, or housing zoning discrimination against LGBT people. Forget all that, and just focus on the social attitude and moral feelings society has about LGBT individuals, couples, and families. The question is whether or not society should be accepting of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people. The question is whether or not there is anything wrong with being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered. In order to answer those two questions, you have to consider a simple pair of facts: that queerness is natural, and harmless to non-queer people. Today, we have the benefit of science and history. Science has shown us that homosexuality is something found all throughout the animal kingdom, something entirely naturally occurring in humans, and something that has many causes aside from “evil choices” (with all sorts of genetic, prenatal, and other factors having been shown to increase the likelihood of homosexuality). Meanwhile, experience has shown us that homosexual people throughout history, and throughout all corners of the globe today, are no more predisposed to behaving in any ways that do anything to hurt straight people as a result of their gayness. Our scientific, interconnected, historically observant world has helped show us that being gay is indeed natural and okay.
         Yet, the problem is that, even despite the great progress made in western nations over the past 5-10 years, in most corners of the world homosexuality is still viewed as a horrific evil that people choose, producing hysteria that leads to oppressive and even violent laws and social norms. Despite a quickly diminishing supply of oppressive laws against gayness in places like America, the social attitude towards gays is hardly as unanimously tolerant as one might think. Some mid-40’s odd percent of Americans say they still don’t believe in the push for legal equality for gays when it comes to things like gay marriage or non-discriminatory hiring practices. Many more are willing to give legal equality, but still feel like being gay is a nasty sinful choice, much in the way people might be legally opposed to laws against things like drugs or prostitution, but morally disturbed by their existence. More yet still routinely use homophobic language that’s been deeply ingrained into their dialect, despite their intellectually and morally supporting legal and social equality for LGBT people. The fact that there exists even amongst those who support things like gay marriage, subgroups that continue to do things like use phrases such as, “that’s so gay,” or “no homo man,” or “suck my dick,” shows there is a problem. The fact that some would try to convince their gay child to “be straight” despite supporting gay equality, demonstrates there is a problem. The fact that even people who support gay equality on a moral level still falsely believe in propaganda that says it’s unsafe for LGBT people to donate blood, or dangerous for children to be raised by a same sex couple shows there is a problem.
         Lots of things show there is still a big, big problem. Our society isn’t full of people who say “that’s so negro” whenever they are describing something they think is stupid. Our society isn’t full of people who would tell their Asian children that they should marry a white person despite being attracted to other Asian people. Our society isn’t full of people who say Jewish couples shouldn’t adopt children because Christians raise kids better. Our society would never be okay with non-discrimination laws that include everything but deliberately failed to include, say, age, as one of the things you couldn’t discriminate against. People may be more informed and more tolerant and even accepting than ever before, but make no doubt about it, LGBT people are hardly living in a sexual orientation blind society, or even a society where most people don’t routinely promote homophobic attitudes and use homophobic language.
          And let’s face it, the reason the reaction to a little kid calling someone on the playground a nigger would be so different in most places and cases than the reaction to a little kid calling someone on the playground a faggot is that we live in a very superstitious, insecure, religious world.  Religion is dogmatic and the three big monotheistic juggernauts (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are based on the belief that writings from ancient people, who were incredibly ignorant by modern standards, are inspired by some perfect deity. Thus, all kinds of historical writing and tall tales from the Bronze Age are viewed by many as dictatorial morality coming from a divine source of perfection. If the people back then had our science and history at hand they wouldn’t have written some of the homophobic things they wrote. I should also mention that given what we now know about homosexuality, we can know that when these ancient writers wrote something on this subject that was anything short of saying that gayness is natural and benign, they most certainly weren’t having their thoughts possessed by a perfect deity that I’m 99.99999999% sure doesn’t exist anyways. After all, if there is some perfect deity, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have made gayness a natural and benign thing and then “inspire” people to write about what an abomination it is.
        Unfortunately, too many people are just too stubbornly religious to accept that their magic book is wrong and gayness is actually quite cool with whatever god they believe in. Thankfully, a growing number of more educated, benevolent, and wealthy ( by “wealthy” I mean by global, not American standards of wealth) religious folks in western nations are starting to figure out ways to convince themselves that the homophobic parts of their infallible holy books “don’t count” or “are cancelled out by other higher scriptures,” or “symbolic,” or whatever. Quite frankly I’ve never understood that sort of bullshit, but I’m thankful that lots of people are able to reconcile in their minds the opposing ideas of a perfect and true book of dogma from presupposed master deity, and the actual facts of life that should take precedence in guiding our moral decisions. In other words I’m really glad people have figured out a way to still worship some god they can’t live without, while rejecting things like lines from Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and accepting things like the natural and benign nature of gayness, even though on an intellectual level I have zero clue how people are able to trick themselves into such bizarre, contradictory beliefs.
           However, as we all know some people are better suited to full-on ignorance than ultimately progressive, intellectually brain dead, cognitive dissonance. With that being the case, we have quite a great many people who just can’t accept that people are born gay, and are completely harmless. When a great many people feel that way, you have institutionalized homophobia. When you have such prevalent homophobia you end up with lots of both direct oppression and allowance of oppression of LGBT people. This oppression crushes the spirit of millions of gay people around the world, and it’s something that straight folks like me don’t have to deal with.
         That is why we have a gay pride parade. Everyone deserves to feel proud of who they are, and LGBT people are stripped of that most basic of human rights by the intensely homophobic world they live in. To have a day where they can line the streets of major cities, and have a big, loud, bold party where they tell the world, “hey look at us, we are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered, and we are having an absolute fucking blast, being the queer people we are,” is actually very important. A lot of homophobes fail to understand why it’s important. The harsher ones will simply denounce it as terrible, icky, evil, immoral, or whatever. The more refined ones will say things like, “oh I support gay equality, but they don’t need to shove their gayness in my face.” The first group is simply lost from an educational and moral standpoint, but to the second type of homophobe (the type that refuses to consider themselves homophobes) you need to understand that, yes, the whole point of the pride parade is to have their gayness “shoved in your face.” That’s because the whole point is that there is nothing there to “be shoved” at you. Their being gay, acting gay, and having a big, gay party isn’t going to hurt you. You don’t have to go to the party, you don’t have to march behind some float at the party, but you can’t be upset that the party is happening. If you are upset that gay people openly identifying as gay and then acting gay at a big gay bash, then you clearly aren’t as progressive, educated, or enlightened as you think. There’s no harm in the party, and the party does the confidence of perpetually oppressed (and yes, constantly hearing people use homophobic terms on the street is a form of oppression, amongst many other forms) LGBT people a great deal of good, so it needs to happen, will happen, and you will be totally okay with it, unless you are a homophobe.
        The other thing is if the “I’m-not-a-homophobe” homophobes really fail to understand why it’s not a form of inequality that straight people don’t hold a straight pride parade, then they aren’t as socially observant as they might think themselves to be. Nobody is stopping straight people from having some huge straight pride parade. Yet, no such thing exists, precisely because straight people are already proud of who they are, because society allows us to feel comfortable with the way we were born from day one. If I grew up constantly hearing, “that’s so straight” every time something went wrong, and knowing that lots of people thought my inherent desire to see tits was an evil choice I was making that was going to send me to a fiery pit when I died, I’d probably have some confidence issues, as would all other straight people, and we’d probably need things like a straight pride parade to attempt to reclaim our human dignity. But I didn’t grow up experiencing that kind of straight discrimination and hatred both legally and socially, so my security with my sexual desires was totally solid.
         So to all those straight, “I’m-not-a-homophobe” style homophobes, you need not feel jealous of gay people being “given” things like the ability to marry, not be fired for who they find sexually attractive, because you were given all those things for free, and you’re being given them for free is why you don’t need a straight pride parade. This is life in the 21st century…fucking get over it.


Filed under LGBT gay rights LGBT discrimination pride parade gay pride

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Is This Real Life?

Thad Cochran, the long-time Republican Senator from Mississippi is facing one of those nut job Tea Party challengers. All indications are that in tomorrow’s runoff Cochran is going to lose. Thus, Cochran’s team has decided to take a desperate 11th hour approach. The strategy? Go get a bunch of black people (who are almost all Democrats in Mississippi) to cross over and vote for Cochran since he’s at least politically competent and relatively speaking, moderate compared to the Mississippi Tea Party (seriously, the sound of Mississippi Tea Party should pretty much make any level headed non race-baiting person from 2014 shudder). It’s kind of deceptive, because the pitch is, hey this is Mississippi, a Republican will win the general for sure, so vote for Thad since your options are limited to him or a nutjob. That’s deceptive because it’s not entirely true. Even though it’s Mississippi, the signs are that Cochran’s opponent is crazy enough to be another one of those Todd Akin type implosion candidates in a statewide election, so having a Democrat run against him is probably actually a way to give the center-left a chance of winning in the deep south. However, this deception isn’t nearly as bad as what the Tea Party side is doing.  In response to Cochran’s sudden appeal to black Democrats to vote for him in the primary, the Tea Party is deploying the strategy of citing an out of context, erroneous interpretation of a law that will make it sound like it’s illegal for a Democrat to vote for a Republican in a Mississippi primary. They are training “poll watchers” to be around polling places tomorrow to tell any black voters they see heading for the polls that they will end up going to jail if they vote for Thad Cochran. I know, seriously, this is fucking happening. The Tea Party has literally reached the point where it’s trying to tell black people they are going to go to jail if they vote against the Tea Party guy. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Filed under Thad Cochran Mississippi primary election runoff poll watchers Republicans Democrats race voter intimidation Tea Party

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If the only motive was to help people who could not afford education, advocates of government involvement would have simply proposed tuition subsidies.
Milton Freidman (1912 –  2006) American Economist (via philosophicalconservatism)

I’d support tuition subsidies. Give them to poor kids and then they can either go to good private schools, or end up paying the out of district fees to go to a good public school in a better neighborhood.

(via previewofthoughts)

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Science Meets SCOTUS…What Today’s Scalia Opinion Means for Society

      Today SCOTUS handed down its ruling in the Utility Air Regulatory Group v EPA case. If you don’t follow politics, environmental legal battles, or climate change news, hearing of today’s ruling may leave you with more questions than answers, since our society’s mainstream headlines inexplicably presuppose that all its readers intimately follow whatever topic they are sounding off on, however niche and wonky it may be. So, first let’s talk about what today’s ruling was not about. It was not about the EPA’s legal right to regulate carbon emissions. SCOTUS ruled in Massachusetts v EPA, back in 2007, that the EPA did indeed have a right to regulate carbon emissions.
        That case has actually produced a common misconception amongst the public that there is such a thing as “carbon pollution.” In a legal sense, Massachusetts v EPA determined that CO2 was a “pollutant” since rising amounts of it in our atmosphere due to human activities are ultimately detrimental to human health (much like a true pollutant is) since such causes global warming, which produces climate change, which produces certain climatic results which are hazardous to human health and prosperity. CO2 is technically a naturally occurring gas, something that is in our air without humans putting it there. Traditionally, pollution of the air or water refers to the human placement of things in the air and water which wouldn’t have otherwise been there, a sort of “impurity,” which would more often than not be harmful to us, since our bodies are designed to healthily breathe in air and drink water containing certain things, but not those things which are not meant to be there. However, CO2, despite naturally being a part of the air we breathe, is being artificially made a larger part of the air due to human activities, and thus that extra non-naturally placed CO2 is legally considered a “pollutant,” although scientifically that might not be the most appropriate term. The best analogy would be to think about alcohol vs. water. Alcohol doesn’t belong in our body; it’s a poison to us, so it’s like a true pollutant. Water is good for us and meant to be inside us….but if you chug way too much of it you can die of water intoxication. Think of the climatic conditions on which a thriving human civilization relies as being killed off by “CO2 intoxication” that the frat guys at big coal and king oil are forcing the planet to take on as part of a cruel hazing ritual.
         Yet, for all the scientific terminology vs. legal terminology ignorance Massachusetts v EPA has created, it’s far more important historical legacy is that it allows the government to put regulations on carbon emissions coming from power plants, factories, refineries, and the likes. That crucial legal allowance has been challenged by the fossil fuel lobby, but SCOTUS declined to take the case. In a lot of ways that’s the best news of all, as it demonstrates that either one of two things are happening. It’s possible that conservative SCOTUS judges actually understand the importance of fighting climate change, and do not want to have to publicly choose between abandoning their right wing ideology by ruling to uphold Massachusetts v EPA, or turning themselves into a villain of history by ruling to overturn it. The other possibility is that while they might personally still be climate change deniers, they might view the societal pendulum as finally having swung, and fear being mocked and ridiculed for holding archaic and ignorant worldviews about climate science, so they don’t want to take the case and rule against the EPA, much as even the most hardened of racists would no longer, in 2014, want to take a case challenging, say, Brown v Board of Education.
              What today was actually about was the permit authority of the EPA. Power plants, factories, and refineries need to get permits from the EPA in order to operate, much like you need to get a driver’s license to legally operate a car. The question today was whether or not the EPA could base its handing out of permits on greenhouse gas emissions. Really, it was a matter of two questions. The first was whether the EPA could refuse to administer or take away a previously administered permit based on greenhouse gas pollution alone (GHG’s include CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor). The second was whether the EPA was allowed to consider GHG pollution as part of the permit evaluation process for plants, factories, and refineries that were already emitting other forms of air pollution. The second question was far more important, as about 97% of the places that emit greenhouse gases also emit some other form of non-GHG air pollution. Today, SCOTUS ruled 5-4, along ideological lines, that the EPA does not have the right to consider GHG’s as part of the permit process if no other pollutants are already being emitted, but for those that do spew other forms of air pollution, GHG’s can remain a part of the permit evaluation process. In other words, for that 97% of the power plants, factories, refineries, and other stationary carbon polluting facilities, the EPA retained the right to consider carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions as part of the permit process, but for those other rare places that don’t emit forms of traditional air pollution, GHG emissions cannot be considered.
                  Many are actually quite surprised both about SCOTUS’s refusal to take on cases against Massachusetts v EPA, as well as their decision to continue to allow the vast majority of stationary greenhouse gas emitters to have their GHG emissions be considered as part of any permit evaluation process with the EPA, per today’s Utility Air Regulatory Group v EPA ruling. As stated earlier, some of it might have to do with the private understanding of climate science amongst SCOTUS justices differing from their public persona, some of it might have to do with shifting in the public’s acceptance of the science of the issue, but more likely a lot of it probably can be attributed to a high court’s ruling last year that upheld Massachusetts v EPA. SCOTUS probably sees the legal, social, and scientific writing on the wall, leading them to desire an avoidance of a truly significant weighing in on this fight.
       Make no mistake; this is going to be a fight. While much of the past six years have been spent talking about healthcare and the recovery from The Great Recession, the next century is going to be dominated by climate and energy debates. If you think an economic downturn that caused unemployment to rise by a few percent and an attempt to subsidize health insurance plans for working class people has caused a bunch of political hysteria, wait until you see what the truly defining issue of the 21st century does with the political landscape. We’re talking about fossil fuels, the single thing that allowed the quality of life on earth to literally skyrocket over the past century. On the surface you might think that they’ve allowed us to develop electricity and cars, but it’s so much more than that. The 20th century saw us develop the cars, planes, and trucks that ship things from far, far away to your local communities for you to buy, sell, and use. Most important amongst these shipped goods is food. Do you live in Chicago and just had a banana and coffee with your breakfast? Well, you don’t exactly see bananas and coffee beans growing around the Chicagoland area, do you? Prior to the rise of 20th century fossil fuel transportation things found as far away as things like bananas and coffee beans are to a place like Chicago either didn’t arrive in Chicago, or if they did it was rare and ridiculously expensive. Then consider that with fossil fuel energy has come the ability of farmers to use motorized machinery and fertilizers on their farms, vastly improving agricultural productivity, as they can do infinitely more work now than in the days of muscle and animal power. Then consider what electricity has done. It’s not just about having electric lights instead of candles. Now we have things like refrigerators, which allow us to store more food, not to mention ship more refrigerated food that previously would have spoiled (most especially on a weeks-long boat or horse carriage ride, let alone an hours-long plane or truck ride). Let’s not forget what cars have done to reshape how employment and residency looks. Long gone are the days where everyone had to work within a few miles of their home, either working their own land as a farmer, or somewhere within a closely packed city. Cars have allowed people to work in cities, get their food from farms, all while living in residential suburbs sitting somewhere in between the two.
          The ways fossil fuel energy reshaped human civilization could go on all day. The point though, is that anything which requires electricity, transportation, or industrial processing is affected, and everything from our heating, to our air conditioning, to our refrigerators, to our ability to live in suburbs eating cheap food and using high tech plastic products from all around the world, while making our money tens of miles away from that home, is the result of the electricity, transportation, and industrial processing that was made possible by fossil fuel energy. Therefore, now that we’ve discovered that burning fossil fuels is actually changing our climate in ways that is going to rapidly and severely destroy the future prosperity of human beings, we’ve got a BIG, BIG situation on our hands. We have to rapidly figure out a way to produce as much electricity, transportation fuels, and do as much industrial processing, all from non-fossil fuel sources of energy, and we have to do it in a way where that alternative energy is just as affordable for people as fossil fuel energy always has been. If we can’t figure that out we’re going to end up either having to surrender our post-20th century quality of life, or continue with it until we allow climate change to destroy it. Neither is a good option, so you can see the urgency of the situation.
         Of course, that’s not all, because there are three other huge monkey wrenches in the situation. First, for a long time it was just the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and much of Europe burning fossil fuels, but in the past 10-15 years much of the rest of the world has begun to rapidly develop (most significantly India and China’s mega populations). So, the remaining supply of fossil fuels will both begin to fall exponentially faster, and the climate change it produces is going to worsen much quicker. Second, as alluded to just above, fossil fuels are finite resources. There’s only so much oil, gas, and coal on earth, even if climate change weren’t an issue. As more and more of the world modernizes we will have less and less fossil fuels left to use, causing prices to rise, both due to supply and demand, and also because an increasingly large portion of what will remain will be hidden deeper down, and in further away remote corners of earth, making it increasingly dangerous, time-intensive, labor-intensive, and energy-intensive to extract, which obviously raises the financial costs. Third, the fossil fuel industry is literally the most lucrative industry in the history of mankind. Since oil and coal in particular are so tied to our transportation and electricity, which are essentially tied to everything from a 20th-21st century world, the oil and coal industries (and also the natural gas industry) are insanely rich and have further mega fortunes to make by burning the rest of the fossil fuels on earth.
          So, to recap, the product (fossil fuels) that changed the state of human civilization, which has produced the most profitable industry in the history of mankind (coal, oil, gas industry) is creating problem that will severely harm the future of human civilization (climate change). Meanwhile, that product is literally becoming increasingly expensive because it’s a finite resource that we are using up at an alarmingly fast rate, as the rest of the old third world rapidly develops. In order to solve this problem we would have to overcome the public’s fears of abandoning fossil fuel energy, as well as the most powerful industry on earth’s attempt to remain as insanely profitable as ever, and then create a massive amount of sustainable, non-fossil fuel energy, and figure out a way to make it affordable for people all around the world. All along the way ideologues who fear and hate government will do much fighting against such an energy transition, because they will refuse to acknowledge that we must either interfere with the markets to streamline cheap low-carbon energy to the front, and heavily subsidize research that will help it’s true cost plummet faster, or watch us and our untouched free markets succumb to a post climate catastrophe world. Like I said, if you thought Obamacare created a lot of heated yelling and screaming, this is going to be like nothing we’ve ever seen.
           Don’t think you aren’t already seeing it. Virtually every topic in the news, and everything going on in your life, and every major event you’ve witnessed over the past few decades is somehow tied to climate change and energy even if you don’t think it is. The fact that the price at the pump suddenly went from under a dollar to like 4 bucks a gallon in a matter of a decade? There’s just not as much cheap, easy oil left anymore, and it will only get worse from here. The fact we had a war in Iraq, and now are screaming to go back in because it destabilized again? Iraq and Iran are the two largest oil producing countries left the west’s big energy companies don’t  have major access to, which is precisely what “American interests” means whenever you hear that phrase when talks of Middle Eastern holy wars and dictatorships arise. Remember Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, or the record Phillipeans typhoon? Those are the kind of “once in a generation” storms that are already happening within the same decade, and are well on their way to becoming yearly occurrences, not to mention that the storm surge from Sandy went further inland due to what sea level rise we have already produced, causing an extra 45,000 people and their homes to be affected. You know how Texas has been in a “Biblical drought” for several years now? Yea, that’s pretty much going to be the new norm, which, along with some other breadbaskets around the world drying up is a big reason why food prices are shooting up. Speaking of other food baskets, you know how Putin went into Crimea? Control of food is a big deal. You know how the entire state of California is literally in drought conditions right now with “thousand year fires” burning? That too is becoming more and more the norm. You know how there was that whole Somolian pirate thing that spawned the movie Captain Phillips? Yea, the oceans are becoming more acidic and economies that rely on fisheries are becoming increasingly desperate. You know all this fighting about the Keystone Pipeline? Yea, that’s some a fight about whether the US should allow a Canadian company to send a bunch of 11th hour style tar sands oil, which is even dirtier, more dangerous, and worse for climate than traditional oil, through the US, to the Gulf, to be shipped to Europe. This list could also go on all day.
          The Obama administration using the EPA to cut power plant emissions 30% by 2030, along with everything else going on right now is just the tip of the iceberg. Today’s ruling means that 83%, rather than 86% of American carbon emissions are still capable of being considered for permit evaluations on the part of the EPA (another 14% or so of human carbon emissions in this nation deal with agricultural practices). It’s a very minor detail, within the context of the challenge of our generation. This is the second global breaking point our society has faced. The last generation avoided nuclear exchanges during the height of the Cold War. Will ours be up to the task of avoiding a self-inflicted climatic and environmental breakdown? Honestly, I don’t know, but I do know that as this complex, multifaceted, interdisciplinary, wide reaching, most crucial of 21st century topics moves more and more into the singular, central, global spotlight things are going to get very, very interesting. And now you know.

Filed under SCOTUS climate change climate science global warming EPA Utility Air Regulatory Group v EPA Massachusetts v EPA carbon emissions CO2 oil coal gas power plants factories refineries politics legal rulings air pollution enviornment fossil fuels clean energy

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This Isn’t a Religious or Political Fight; It’s a Fight to Allow All Partnerships Equal Opportunities for Success in a Plethora of Areas

The reason it’s so important that gays be allowed to marry and be recognized as married couples in all 50 states, as well by the federal government, is because marriage is far more than a religious concept. Sure, some religions, including the major western religions so popular in America (all forms of Christianity and Judaism) have a religious institution they call marriage, where two people who are in love, and generally sexually active with one another, commit to a lifetime of monogamous love and friendship. We have freedom of religion in this country, so every individual religion and every church, temple, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship is allowed to make their own rules about what pairs of people they will or will not allow to take part in these religious union ceremonies. That’s not the issue. The issue is that marriage is also a legal agreement that comes with rights and responsibilities. Pairs of loving, generally sexually active best friends who are not genetically related, but would like to become legal family, and legally committed to spending the rest of their sexually exclusive lives with one another can get a legal marriage. Since most people in this society are religious, they tend to do both, having a big ceremony through their religious community, but also less flamboyantly heading to the county clerk’s office to get their marriage licenses. While religious people certainly feel the spiritual responsibilities and benefits of a religiously confirmed marriage are quite important, on the pragmatic, earthly front the far more important of the two ends of the marriage arrangement is the legal end. Once legally married your federal, state, and local government will provide you with certain legal rights and protections that sexually active, committed friends who are not legally married don’t receive. Beyond that, countless businesses, industries, and the likes will provide different sorts of offers to legally married couples, and families headed by legally married couples than the types of offers they give non legally married people and families not headed by a legally married couple.
          Some of the legal benefits of marriage include being able to collect Social Security benefits for a deceased spouse, collecting veteran’s benefits from your military spouse, being provided immigration benefits if you have an American spouse, collecting benefits of federal employees if your spouse is one, holding an exemption from inheritances taxes, holding tax exemptions on your spouse’s health benefits, being able to file joint tax returns, having family visitation rights in hospitals, being able to take bereavement leave if your spouse dies, taking time away from work to care for a sick spouse, being able to make financial and medical decisions for an incapacitated spouse, being able to share business income with your spouse listed as a family member, being able to get leases or mortgages on houses and apartments that are zoned off for couples or families, the right to automatic lease renewal of a deceased spouse who signed a lease, being offered family rates for homeowner’s, property, life, and health insurance, getting spousal tuition discount offers at various schools, the ability to sue a third party for the wrongful death of your family member your spouse, family visitation rights in prisons, having the marriage communications confidentiality clause in court, etc, etc, etc. The list could go on all day. 
      The thing is that a lot of people who are very religious, and take the religious end of marriage super seriously, feel like gay people getting married is some kind of spiritual and societal disgrace of epic proportions, which will doom their society and weaken the strength of the marriages they believe their deity allows. Generally, religious people have a lot of faith, which means they have the ability to purposefully suspend their reasoning and critical thinking skills in order to believe in things that evidence can’t demonstrate to be possible, let alone likely or blanetly obvious and true. This also ends up meaning that they can’t think reasonably about morality, as well as being unable to think reasonably about what their holy books really are. If you aren’t blinded by some kind of silly faith that softens the blow that is your realization of your own mortality and your insignificance in the cosmic picture, then you can think out your own morality. You can look at something like homosexuality and ask yourself, hmm, does people being gay, falling in love with each other, having sex with other, marrying each other, and all that jazz hurt me or anyone else? Gee, I guess it doesn’t. Furthermore, you can ask yourself hmm, is homosexuality a natural occurrence, or something evil people who have strayed from some perfect deity I believe in pretend to be? Oh, look, it’s totally natural on top of being completely harmless to me. Sweet, then let’s let gays do everything we straight people do and say that such is good. Moral introspection on this subject complete…. However, if you are religious you will think that some sort of book full of semi-plagiarized spin-off mythology stories from antiquity, mixed in with some pieced together exaggerated historical accounts is actually the inspired word of some perfect deity you assume exists for some silly reason. And the problem is the writings in books like the Bible, Koran, or Torah were written a long, long time ago by very ignorant and bigoted people. Thus, all the books are pretty clear that homosexuality is icky and evil, and that allowing it to exist and be viewed as equal to heterosexuality is going to weaken you, doom your society, and send people to some fiery afterlife pit. Whether your aim is to protect yourself, preserve your society, or prevent others from ending up in some afterlife underworld, if you can’t realize that holy books are just the views of a bunch of mere mortals who lived a long time ago when we were socially, scientifically, and in every other way in our intellectual infancy as a civilized species, then you won’t be able to accept gayness as the natural thing it is, and its presence as the completely harmless thing it is.
          So, the thing is, no matter how much anyone tries to tell you that their opposition to gay marriage is purely religious, and not homophobic, you have to remember that what these religious zealots are really worried about is the acceptance of homosexuality as natural and benign. They aren’t trying to preserve some sort of religious freedom to be a bigot, they’re just worried people are going to start realizing that it’s okay to be gay, since they are truly convinced it isn’t, per their thinking the opinions of a bunch of Bronze Age writers is actually reflective of the views of a perfect deity. Also, don’t ever let anyone tell you that the marriage fight is not about being anti-equality, because it most certainly is. Before gay marriage began to be rapidly accepted by state after state there wasn’t any kind of anti-legal marriage movement amongst libertarians who felt that the legal benefits of marriage were some sort of nasty thing that nobody should have. If you want to have some bizarre political debate where you demand that things like veteran’s benefits and social security be abolished, go ahead and have that weird debate totally separate from talk of marriage. Some fringe people might actually feel that way, but your average religious conservative does not. They love things like Social Security, veteran’s benefits, and joint tax returns as much as anyone else. Their issue is simply that gay people who have committed to lifelong, sexually monogamous best friendships could be considered legally equal to them. They find it gross, icky, and morally intolerable that gay couples be given the same opportunities as straight couples. They find it disgusting that the lifelong partner of some postal worker could receive federal spouse benefits even if the pair were both men. They find it gross that the spouse of a veteran could receive VA benefits even though they are a lesbian couple. They think America will be doomed from above if a gay widow can receive the same Social Security benefits a straight widow can. They think the spiritual strength of their marriage will be weakened if a lesbian can get family health insurance through her partner’s benefits at work. Etc, etc. These are real, tangible economic opportunities that are being afforded to one type of American, but not another. We’re saying, hey couple A and couple B have both been committed to each other for the past 25 years, but couple A qualifies for family partnership tax benefits on the business they started together, but couple B does not, because couple B is gay. We’re saying, a person from relationship A can go to the same public university for less money than a person from equal relationship B because that person from couple B is a lesbian.     
          Religious conservatives get all offended when my generation says LGBT people are our generation’s black people; oppressed, treated unequally, and held down by an unfair society. They get offended not because they want to deny the oppression, unequal treatment, and holding down…no, they are rather proud of that; instead they get offended because they’ve feel as though while darker skin pigmentation is benign, having a sexual preference for the same sex is not (because the magic book of Bronze Age rules tells them so). They think this sort of oppression is warranted, and helpful to the “good” people in our society. It’s not. It’s not good. It’s just as wrong and evil as the oppression of black and brown skin. And it’s not just social stuff. If this were really just about very mean, but still less than socioeconomic life-altering things like hospital visitation rights, we’d still fight for them, but it wouldn’t be as dire a situation. However, this is about the holding back of a group of people from equal economic opportunities. Just as we once as a society kept equally qualified blacks away from certain homes, business loans, and schools, we are currently literally making it more difficult for gay retirees to financially survive, for gay widows to stay afloat, for gay students to afford an education, for gay family-run businesses to get the same tax breaks, for foreign gays not as fortunate to be born in the US to get their citizenship, for gays to get health benefits, etc. Gay couples literally don’t have the same economic, health, property, tax, educational, retirement, immigration, and military benefits as straight couples. People who are equally skilled, equally hard working, and striving for the same thing are being made unequal in very profound socioeconomic ways simply because they weren’t able to marry a person of the opposite sex being that they weren’t attracted to the opposite sex. This is wrong.
          All these straight folks that are complaining that they are just mad that the government “requires” they get married in order to receive all sorts of government benefits aren’t complaining that they can receive them in their straight marriages. If they hate them that much they can just not get legally married, and gasp, not be served all kinds of legal rights, benefits, and protections from the government they hate so much. Again, a small few on the political fringe might actually agree to that, but for most this isn’t about hating the idea that you have to be married in the eyes of the government to get government marriage benefits, or the idea that such benefits exist overall. Rather, for them this is about wanting gays to be treated as second class citizens. This is about wanting some sort of watered down set of rights, protections, and benefits called something other than the sacred m-word which doubles as a religious sacrament to be given to gays in place of an equal legal marriage (like a civil union), if even that. It’s about holding gays down, hoping they end up poorer, less happy, more stressed, and more punished than straight people. It’s about thinking that accepting gayness is opening the lid to some Pandora’s box of superstitious evil. It’s silly, it’s ignorant, it’s mean, and it’s wrong.
       Dream equal. Dream equal.

Filed under LGBT gay rights gay marriage marriage equality dream equal

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Capitalist 99%ers Fear Atheism Because they Think Morality Is Unnatural

      Earlier this week I was thinking about how Eric Cantor was the last Jewish Republican in Congress, meaning every single Republican in the federal government is now Christian. What was most striking about this was not that Cantor was the last conservative Jew, but rather that in the absence of Jews it was a no-brainer to correctly assume everyone else was a Christian. What I’m getting at is that in order to run for political office in the United States the most important, non-negotiable qualifying trait you must possess is not wealth, a penis, a particular skin color, or an attraction towards the opposite gender (rare as it is, we do elect people of color, women, 99%ers, and LGBT folks now and then), nor is it anything that might actually matter, such as an understanding of the issues, a love of politics, good communication skills, economic literacy, or anything of the sort. No, the absolute first thing that you MUST have, no matter what, is some kind of belief in some sort of bullshit fairy tale that people use to pretend their life has meaning, good and evil are real and really get judged someday, and there is some happily ever after eternal afterlife. It doesn’t matter what kind of bullshit you believe in (just so long as you aren’t Muslim because we have to be afraid of all of them and assume them to be America hating terrorists until they prove otherwise…gag me), just so long as you believe in something. Without professing some sort of deliberate suspension of critical thinking (I mean religious faith), you cannot be trusted, because you are probably an evil, angry person who hates the totally real (because my holy book tells me so) deity everyone else believes in. It doesn’t matter if you actually know anything about that religion, or if you truly follow that religion’s rules, but so long as you call yourself a Catholic, a Baptist, a Mormon, a Jew, a Lutheran, or any of the other Judeo-Christian faiths, then you can move on to step two in the “I want to be a politician” game, sponsored by the big guy upstairs.
           I consider myself an atheist, but I hate what that word means. I don’t enjoy considering myself an atheist, probably because society has conditioned me to think that atheism is some self-centered asshole dogma that  is founded on a hatred of some clearly real deity, which selfish pricks who don’t want to follow that deities’ gloriously perfect moral rules of the universe will subscribe to out of sociopathic defiance. Of course, that’s not what the word atheism means. Atheism simply means a-theistic, or non-theistic. It’s when you don’t buy into some theology. In order words, you don’t blindly believe a bunch of Bronze Age dogmatic superstition about how the world works, why we are here, and how we got here. Meanwhile, there’s this trend that the devoutly religious have been taking part in, where they classify atheism as a religion, as though that’s somehow something they think is insulting, even though it’s been thrown out in defense of their religious beliefs. They say nobody can be sure there isn’t a deity, so to say you know that to be the case is arrogant speculation. Okay, cool, so I’m not 100% sure there is no god because I didn’t literally sit here for the last 13.7 billion years and watch the history of the universe unfold without it being guided by some magical creator; I’m still 99.9999999999999999999% sure there’s no god.
         Then people say, well you are an agnostic, and I’d say, yes, we all are, now aren’t we? After all agnostic means a-gnostic, or non-gnostic, as in “without knowledge of god.”  Unless you believe a bunch of stories about multi-century old people talking to burning bushes and guys walking around on water and rising from the dead zombie style, the truth is if there is some deity out there it hasn’t given humanity knowledge of it, so we are all agnostic. If we are all agnostic, we should also all be atheist, as everyone being without knowledge of some god for which there is no reason to believe in the existence of should logically lead people to not subscribe to some theology. Your agnosticism should lead to your being an atheist, just as your lack of knowledge about the existence of the Loch Ness Monster should lead to your not belonging to some belief system that worships it, even though, hey, we cannot know if the Loch Ness Monster really exists and there’s just always been zero discovered evidence for it, or if we can’t find evidence for the Loch Ness Monster because it’s impossible to disprove a negative. Anything you can imagine up like deities or the Loch Ness Monster can be said to be something you technically cannot disprove, since we can’t disprove negatives.
        So, I’m a simultaneous agnostic-atheist (and yes that makes perfect sense, read above again if you don’t get it yet), and because of that, if I, or anyone like me ever wanted to be a politician, we’d have to either take the Barney Frank route (not be out of the atheist closet until after our political career was over), or accept the fact we’d be completely unelectable. Why is this? This is a question I’ve thought a lot about, but earlier this week, I believe I thought of (I’m sure thousands of others have thought of it before me as well) a very strong theory that might explain this. The reason Americans fear atheism so much is because they worship the mantra of capitalism so much. Capitalism is the economic theory that says greed is good. If you just act out of your own self interest, the world will become a richer, happier, more peaceful place. To some extent, at least in the economic realm this is true. In reality, the advent of private property, and free trade is really more so what has enriched people. (if you couldn’t own your own property and couldn’t freely trade goods and services, and instead simply were forced to work the land of those higher on some hierarchy you wouldn’t end up as rich or happy) Still, acting out of one’s self interest, does in theory help grow the economy, which is something you need to do, at least up to a certain point, so that enough wealth can be created for everyone to have a good life (however, if we grow and grow forever what ends up happening is that we start to run out of finite resources, the rich keep getting richer, and we end up with a Dickensian society with a destroyed environment). So, economically, we have been taught that basically being a selfish prick is actually your righteous duty in order to help others have a better life.
         When we believe in that economic dogma, we start to assume that in all other areas we are going to be inherently selfish pricks, and that scares people. While the invention of religion serves many purposes, one of them is that it is the 99%’s way of controlling the elite, before they get way out of hand, bullying everyone else further and further into a hole. Marx called it the opiate of the masses, but I prefer to think of it as the sword of the masses. Religion is one of only two weapons the masses have, the other being their collective unity.  If you can convince the billionaires of the world that there is an eternal hell to pay for not being benevolent towards commoners, and you can convince them some perfect, post-human rule maker demands for reasons beyond our comprehension that the powerful play nice with the weak, you can build a far more peaceful, equal, cooperative society. Given that our economic mantra is one of “greed is good,” it becomes especially important to the 99% within a capitalist society that religion be something that is accepted by the rich and powerful. The powerful are the rule makers and enforcers, in addition to the rich, so politicians most definitely fall into that category.
        This is why atheism scares Americans so much. They think if they elect an atheist they are electing someone who doesn’t believe in the existence of some perfect rule maker, or the list of  invented rules from said invented rule maker. Since they also believe wholeheartedly that greed is good…except when God says it isn’t… they will end up thinking that atheist politicians, when left to rationalize what the rules should be, without considering the prescribed morality of religious books, will prescribe laws that are very greedy, and favor only the powerful, or those who can help the politician him or herself. The problem here is that Americans, and really all westerners, have been trained to think that religious morality is counter-logical, and thus only something people will accept and prescribe if they accept the existence of God and the authority of religious texts. In reality, the only thing that is illogical about western religion is the idea of God and/or Jesus and the authority of the Bible or Torah. The morality found in much of it that people enjoy following is actually quite inherently logical. What is good for others is probably good for you, so be nice and your life will be better. It seems so counterintuitive when you’ve irrationally accepted the economic dogma of capitalism that says selfishness is the key to a happy life, but it’s true. Acting out of benevolence, rather than self-interest, is actually, ironically in one’s self interest. If you recognize that, you’ll probably reject the dogma of capitalism, but despite also rejecting the dogma of Judeo-Christian belief systems, you will end up being the kind of person who accepts such belief systems’ core morality.
              In a lot of ways, this is probably why people are so stunned when they observe that most non-believers are actually “some of the most moral people.” Believe it or not, when you simply subscribe to moral relativism, the vast, vast majority of people will end up finding, using nothing more than their intellect and life experience, that they actually believe in the morality of most major religions. Religious people find this shocking, because they’ve always been taught that religious morality is counterintuitive but you have to follow it because somehow there is a magic man who knows better than you. That’s not the case at all. There’s no magic man and what the supposed deity is telling you to do is anything but illogical or running counter to our instinctual impulses as a species. We are a collectivist, benevolent, empathetic species. Capitalism, with its individualist, ruthless, asshole, greed is good dogma is the unnatural entity that one has to buy into; the one that doesn’t come naturally. Capitalist anti-morality is taught, instinctual morality is inherent, and you don’t need to believe in a silly story about a deity to follow it.
            I really think the less a society buys into capitalism as the silver bullet against poverty, the more it starts to think the only way to keep the peace is to buy into religious fairy tales. I could be wrong, but I think it makes some pretty good sense.

Filed under morality religion atheism politics moral relativism capitalism

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Iraq: When the west wants your oil, so they throw out your dictator, and as soon as they leave you decide to start slaughtering each other over a bunch of fairy tales (I mean religion).

1.) We (as in developed white western nations) drew Middle Eastern borders so maybe it’s time they drew their own fucking borders. If that means Iraq turns into three states (Shiite, Sunni, Kurds) so be it (same goes for Syria…or anywhere else for that matter…I’m looking at you Israelis/Palestinians).

2.) When people live in abject poverty the world has nothing to offer them, so the imaginative world of religion is their fallback. Unlike in the developed world where people are religious because they can’t deal with making their own moral evaluations and fear the idea of death and a purposeless life too much, people in the third world become religious and then try to make their life meaningful by engaging on holy war crusades, since it’s not like they can get a job and stable family the way we can. Pretending that anything except the Middle East becoming a wealthy, capitalist, democratically run region would stop all this crap is just lying to yourself. And they clearly aren’t ready and willing to try and run their own free societies, so maybe we should stop trying to use our military to unsuccessfully bully them in that direction.

3.) Basically Al-Queda’s more extreme sibling (the ISIS Sunni group) is fighting Iran (the Shiites). If we seriously didn’t learn from the USSR-Afghanistan ordeal that arming or aiding one side in a conflict between two looney ass places that hate western civilization is a bad idea, then we are more intellectually fucked than I already believe our society to be.

4.) Religions are always killing each other, and this is for Islam what the 16th century was for Christianity. Sometimes you just have to let them have at it and get it out of their system.

5.) Stop pretending we care about these people, because we don’t. Whenever you hear “American interests,” it means, “damn it, if they don’t have a democracy or a friendly dictatorship in place western companies won’t be able to get at their oil.” That’s the only reason we want a nation like Iraq to be both stable, and run by a dictator, religious or secular, Shiite or Sunni, extremist or moderate, who allows the oil fields to be opened up to the global ,market.

6.) If we had never gone into Iraq in 2003, the people of Iraq would have been better off. We were pissed that Saddam, a moderate Sunni dictator, had refused to denationalize much of Iraq’s oil, so we moved in under a number of guises including that this was for the people, or that somehow Saddam had WMD’s he was going to use against the US or Isreal, or that he was in bed with Al Queda, etc. None of them were true. We were just hoping to kick him out and set up a tank-forced democracy that would privatize the oil fields. It didn’t work, and as soon as we left this huge power vaccum existed, which has led to extremist Sunnis running around slaughtering Shiites. Oh, and btw, we didn’t get the oil fields privatized after all this. Oops.

Filed under Iraq ISIS religion Islam Muslims poverty religious extremism western imperialism terrorism oil

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What I’ve Thought About Since Cantor Lost

   Eric Cantor’s loss has obviously shocked the political world. Things like this just aren’t supposed to happen, and historically it was completely unprecedented. Congressional leadership members aren’t supposed to lose, and they most especially aren’t supposed to lose in a primary within the most profoundly red of gerrymandered red districts when they have nearly 50 times as much cash on hand as their obscure opponent, while outspending them 5 to 1. This is why everyone is now scrambling to figure out just how this happened, each taking their turns at slicing and dicing at Cantor’s now deceased political career. The prevailing mainstream conclusion has been that immigration killed Cantor. Such is a simplistic answer to such a spectacular fall from power is perhaps too rash a diagnosis. There’s no doubt Cantor’s theoretical if not genuine support of a most ridiculously common sense immigration stance that called for the children of illegal families who received a 4.0 GPA and served in the military to be granted citizenship (you’d have to wonder how many dreamers could this could possibly include beyond a literal handful, even before considering that anyone earning a 4.0 in high school is probably far too smart to voluntarily put themselves in mortal danger to participate in the bullshit oil wars the US engages in) may have hurt him with some of the most paranoid, vitriolic, xenophobic racists that can be found within the camp of ignorance-driven populist nativism that once supported him. Yet, if we’re going to be truly forthcoming with the results of our Cantor autopsy we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that this result is emblematic of far, far more than the simple inability of Mr. Cantor to pretend to be irrationally racist and nativist enough to retain the trust of his base.
               So, what is really happening here? Well, for starters we are witnessing what’s so incredibly flawed with our electoral process. We live in a country where in most cases the state legislature divides the federal and state level congressional districts into a series of bizarre shapes designed to cluster like-minded extremists spread around large geographical areas into the same district so they can be represented by a like-minded extremist. In blue states you’ll find more gerrymandered liberal districts, and vice versa in red states, with a nearly equal number in purple states, but in all cases nearly every seat is a partisan slam dunk where the only real threat to an incumbent is a primary challenge from an individual even further off to the far right or far left. Sure, there are your scattered districts here and there around the country where the constituency is truly balanced and moderate, but those are few and far between.
        Yet, even this gerrymandering could be largely offset if we had high voter participation. The reality of the situation is that most Americans are not extreme. The vast majority don’t call climate change a hoax, but also realize we can’t just stop using all fossil fuels tomorrow. Most wouldn’t say we should let anyone walk across our borders whenever we feel like it, but they also wouldn’t want to build some Great Wall of America and deport families who have been living peaceful and productive lives here for the past 10-15 years. Most wouldn’t say everyone should be able to carry assault weapons into bars, churches, and restaurants, but most wouldn’t want to ban people from having a handgun in their home. Most wouldn’t want to completely eliminate private health insurance, but on the other hand most wouldn’t want to turn Medicare into a voucher program and go back to the days when you could be denied coverage for having a pre-existing condition. I could go on all day, but the point is that most Americans are rational centrists who seek forward progressivism, while conservatively maintaining what works, and slowly phasing out what doesn’t.
       The problem is that most people don’t vote. There are reasons for this, and ways to fix this. Obviously, when voting is what it currently is, only those who really feel passionately about one or multiple issues will show up to the polls. People who truly believe in their hearts that a fetus has a magical soul that a magical deity says makes it a human, which this magical deity favors above all other living things and will send anyone who kills such a creature to an eternal fiery pit, and will condemn societies that condone such behavior to horrible ends, will probably show up to the polls to vote for the person who shares that belief. People who truly believe that the only reason they are not living under a communist dictatorship that takes all their property, strips their freedom of speech, outlaws their religion, and puts them into FEMA work camps is because they and others across the country have a bunch of guns the government is afraid of, will probably show up to the polls. Etc, etc. If you really feel that communists, or God, or terrorists, or someone or something else is going to doom your society if your government doesn’t elect certain types of leaders with certain extreme positions on various issues you’ll figure out a way to get to the polls on election day, even though it’s a non-holiday, middle of the week workday that may or may not have decent weather, and which may or may not require you to travel by car, foot, or public transit quite a ways to a polling place to wait quite a while in line.
         Meanwhile, everyone else, who no doubt have opinions, albeit far less extreme, more rational, and non-fear based ones, probably won’t get to the voting booth. If we lived in a country where election day was a national holiday where the schools, government buildings, and most private businesses completely shut down, much alike Thanksgiving or Christmas, we’d get more voters. We’d get even more voters if we moved it to a weekend. We’d get even more voters if in addition to the official one-day holiday we kept the polls open for several days. We’d get even more voters if all states stopped trying to suppress the common person’s vote with all sorts of things like voter ID laws to fight non-existent voter fraud, or the consolidating of polling places to save money that doesn’t need to be saved (which result in fewer people who can vote, and longer lines at further away places for many who still have or can somehow get the proper ID).  We’d get yet even more voters if all states allowed everyone to receive their ballots in the mail weeks ahead of time, or if we even set up a digital voting system people could access from their computers or smart phones. And we’d probably get nearly everyone to vote if we did all that and we had a system like in Australia where people of voting age who didn’t qualify for some sort of rare exemption were forced to vote by penalty of a fine. That’s right, much like how the ACA sought to make it so that every poor and working class person could have health insurance either via signing up for Medicaid or getting dirt cheap subsidized insurance plans, and then said now that there’s no excuse everyone who refuses to go get the insurance they can afford will have to pay a fine since that puts everyone else who relies on a healthy (no pun intended) healthcare system at risk (because the uninsured receiving emergency care they never pay for raises the cost of healthcare for everyone else, and their not going to get preventative care that insurance would cover leads to more sick people down the line, causing greater backlogs in people needing care for things like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer), in Australia they have the ACA equivalent to voting. They take all kinds of steps like some of those outlined above to make it incredibly easy to vote, and then fine those who don’t vote despite their being a complete lack of an excuse for the refusal to vote, since lower participation hurts all citizens as it leads to more extreme candidates gaining power and enacting extremist legislation.
          The fact of the matter is Eric Cantor’s primary had a 12% turnout rate. That means 88% of the adults Dave Bratt will probably end up representing in Congress (because the Democrat will not win this deep red seat) didn’t come out to vote for either him or Cantor (or the Democratic challenger if they took a Dem ballot). We’re looking at an already super extremist district (from gerrymandering) only turning out the 12% of people who are the most passionate and extreme about one or more political issues. That’s why Eric Cantor lost. It wasn’t immigration, and no, contrary to what all kinds of naïve optimists are trying to say, this doesn’t demonstrate that things like Citizens United and the McCutcheon cases have failed to ensure that a handful of billionaires with special interests get to pick who goes to Washington. It wasn’t even that Cantor lost because his campaign team simply didn’t take their opponent seriously enough (although the fact they didn’t spend nearly enough of their money on the race, relied upon an erroneous in-house poll that showed him up by 34pts, completely ignored his getting booed at town hall meetings and not being able to keep one of his loyalists as the chairman of the district’s local Republican Party, and had him out fundraising for other Republicans throughout the day, as though his race was a formality, tends to demonstrate they did miss some huge warning signs and acted too cavalier about the whole race). The simple reality here is that while those all played some part in this, Cantor lost because we allow the most extreme, of already extremist gerrymandered districts to choose who runs our country, since no one else finds it worth it, given the circumstances of our election day and voting laws.
          Yet, one big question does remain for some, and that is, why doesn’t this happen with liberals? It’s an interesting question, but one with an obvious answer. You’ll never find someone trying to primary Nancy Pelosi, or saying that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders aren’t liberal enough for them, because the far left isn’t as far to the left as the far right is to the right, and there are many more far right people than there are far left people to begin with. The reasons for these realities are a little more interesting than their obvious existence. To understand why there are more people on the far right and why they are more extreme than the smaller group of people on the far left, you have to first understand what makes someone a liberal or conservative. There is a nature/nurture balance to the formation of political morality, but nature is a far stronger influence than nurture. Certainly if you grow up in a home that cares about politics (a rarity) there’s a chance you’ll be influenced by the opinion of your family, and same goes with living in a political active community (rare), having politically involved friends (rare), or pursuing educational opportunities pertaining to politics (rare). Family, friends, teachers, neighbors and the likes can influence your beliefs, as can your life circumstances, as, say for example, growing up rich might lead one to be less empathetic towards the poor than someone who grows up poor and then becomes rich later in life, or being gay can make one feel differently about gay rights than if that same person was straight, etc, etc.
         Yet, those influences are surprisingly mild in comparison with what nature bestows us with. Essentially, the domino effect on the nature side is that different genes affect our brain structure and function, with that structure and function producing differences in our personality, which lead to the formation of different types and degrees of morality in various key areas, which serve as the basis for our stance on various issues. Neuroscientists have identified some structural and functional differences in various parts of the brains of conservatives and liberals, and many more likely exist, but have yet to be discovered. Conservatives ultimately end up with brains that produce a personality that is very much less open to new and strange people and experiences, very concitiencious, moderately less neurotic, slightly less pleasant, and slightly more outgoing. Meanwhile, liberal brains produce a personality that is very open to new and strange people and experiences, not very concitiencious, moderately more neurotic, slightly more pleasant, and slightly less outgoing. The pleasantness and outgoingness factors are minor, with the neuroticism factor being somewhat important, and the big difference being the extreme differences in openness and concitiencious. With these personality differences, liberals and conservatives end up with different moral structures. While liberals and conservatives care roughly equally about caring for the vulnerable and doing what is fair, the difference lies in how conservatives also care about loyalty, respect for authority, and purity, while liberals will be able to favor empathy and fairness over loyalty, respect for authority, and purity. The degree to which one has less of a tendency towards loyalty, respect for authority, and a desire for purity, the more liberal they will be, and the closer one is to having an equal tendency towards those three things and the first two values (empathy and fairness) the closer they will be towards being very conservative. In other words, when you are more concitiencious you will care more about things like loyalty, authority, and purity, which makes you more conservative, but if you are less concitiencious and you’re really open to strangers and change you probably don’t care so much about things like loyalty, authority, and purity. After all, if you are more accepting and trusting of strangers loyalty isn’t that big of a deal, if you are cool with change authority and traditional purity aren’t that big of a deal, and if you aren’t all that concitiencious it will matter even less. If you end up focused almost exclusively on empathy and fairness you can just ask hey how do we care for these people or things and what is the fair way to do things, without having to consider what the tribe you are loyal to thinks, what the authority says, or what the traditions of the group are. If the answer is sudden and/or drastic change it will be okay to go with such change if you don’t care about loyalty, authority, and purity.
         So, that’s how liberals and conservatives are wired differently, but that doesn’t really explain why there are more conservatives than liberals and why conservatives are more extreme. There are a number of theories on this, which each might explain some piece of the full picture. Basically, there is the evolutionary explanation, which says that being accepting of change, accepting of strangers, and lacking in loyalty (essentially lacking in respect for one’s tribe), lacking in respect for authority (essentially lacking in respect for one’s tribe’s leader), and lacking in a desire for purity, would more often than not have led to death.  If you are interested in change you are likely to deviate from what the elders who have been there instruct you to do, which can be dangerous. If you are friendly to strangers they can turn out to be dangerous and hurt you. If you are lacking in loyalty to the group or respect for its leaders you might easily be thrown out of the group, which could leave one vulnerable and in danger. If you are lacking in a desire for purity you might end up exposing yourself to more germs and dangers. So, the theory goes, the few liberals that survived sort of got lucky, because prior to civilization, holding liberal values probably put you at an incredibly increased risk of death before reproduction. Then, there’s also the theory that liberals were people from a minority of various nomadic and tribal groups of humans around the pre-civilization world that encountered very different environments than most other human groups, and thus they evolved different predispositions that were more advantageous to them. There’s also the theory that says liberals existed in every corner of humanity as a small minority within each tribe or group. They became more open to change, strangers, and less into traditional practices because they were, if male physically weaker, and if female less sexually desirable. Not being able to acquire as many resources for themselves as most other people, they had to develop brains that would allow them to first come around to the idea of, and then convince others in the group of, things like sharing, change, and openness to others; a more fluid and collectivist approach, than a stable, individualistic, and traditional one. So, liberals might be really cunning, traditionally weak minorities that were able to convince others to follow this group-oriented approach for personal survival. Or, another theory goes that groups actually liked to have a minority of liberals around, who were physically weak and/or ugly, but whom had unique brains and a desire to constantly challenge tradition, since the rest of the group would mindlessly keep on doing what they always did even if circumstances had changed and they needed to adjust their behavior. Having a few around who were always saying, no, let’s try a new way instead, might have helped groups better adapt the constantly changing world.
         Whatever the case, there are probably many reasons why a minority of liberal minded people were able to survive alongside the usual conservative majority throughout human history, but the fact that most liberal values would have put humans at high individual and group risk out in the pre-civilization wild explains pretty well why there are far more conservatives than liberals within civilization today. You might be thinking to yourself that there are actually a roughly equal number of liberals and conservatives, but this isn’t at all true. It appears that way, at least in America, because America is a diverse place and conservativism is based on moral values like loyalty, and respect for traditional hierarchies. Thus, with there being many types of minorities within a racially, religiously, and ethnically diverse nation, all those minorities will turn against the idea of traditional power structures that the powerful majority will be in favor of using, since such structures put them at a disadvantage. The reality is that most black people would probably oppress whites if the numbers were reversed. Most Mexicans would be as xenophobic about Americans if the roles were reversed. Most gays would be intolerant of straight people if those numbers were reversed. Most Muslims would fear and scapegoat Christians if the numbers were reversed. Etc, etc, etc. At the end of the day most self-identified American liberals are not actually liberal, but rather doing what today’s true liberals’ ancestors once likely did. That is, most American liberals are at a disadvantage for some reason, so they oppose the traditional loyalties and hierarchies and purities that put them at such a disadvantage. Since collectively there are far more people who are either not white, and/or not Christian, and/or not native born, and/or not able bodied, and/or not heterosexual, and/or not male, and/or poor, within a society that is majority white, majority Christian, majority native born, majority able bodied, majority heterosexual, and also patriarchal and capitalist, there are far more people who benefit from opposing the idea that the majority should rule, men are above women, and that poverty is just a reality of life that some people just have to learn to deal with. Thus, a great many number of people end up supporting liberal ideas and policies, even though they are not actually liberal (that is, they are not truly open to new experiences and strangers, while being against loyalty, hierarchy, and traditional purity) by nature.
        So, as it pertains to voting, there are a roughly equal number of self-identified conservatives and liberals in this country, but beneath the self-identification, there are far fewer people who are truly, on a biological, personality, and moral level predisposed to being passionate towards favoring liberal values than there are those who are predisposed towards passionately holding and defending conservative values. This true difference in the quantity of liberals and conservatives that seems to go against what surface observations might indicate is actually what explains the difference in the quality of conservatives and liberals on the far left and far right. There are more people who really, really care about conservative ideas than there are those that care about liberal ideas, so they vote more. Yet, that’s only part of the story. The other part goes back to that biology. You see, the kind of things conservatives care about are cared for with a far hotter burning intensity than the things even the true liberals care about. Conservatives are largely driven by fear, which isn’t a good or bad thing, it’s just a reality. Liberals are driven by softer emotions like empathy. At the end of the day the far right is more intensely afraid of things like gays, abortion, their guns being taken away, immigrants coming into their country, etc, than liberals are empathetic towards caring for minorities, poor people, the environment and the likes.
       Eric Cantor lost because there were about 1 in 10 people in his district who were so afraid of things like immigrants, losing their guns, or women getting abortions that a guy who was nearly single handedly holding Boehner back from pursuing immigration reform, who had previously single handedly halted the 2011 grand bargain Boehner had with Obama (ultimately resulting in the nasty sequester cuts), who had 100% lifetime ratings from the NRA and Right to Life groups was beaten by someone who said he wasn’t actually doing enough, being extreme enough, or trying hard enough to get those people what they were so hell-bent on either getting or avoiding having happen. Liberals, the few of them who truly are liberal by nature, (rather than for self preservation,) just aren’t that passionate. They don’t primary Harry Reid out of office because he hasn’t found a way to outlaw all fossil fuels and make gay marriage legal in every corner of the country. Liberals don’t do things like that, but conservatives on the far right do things like this. I don’t know what they want, but I do know they won’t get it out of Dave Bratt. They are never going to get to live in some world where all immigrants are rounded up and thrown back over some huge electric fence, where gays are sent to jail, where women who get abortions get executed, where every component of the government except the military gets shut down tomorrow, where all forms of welfare are completely cut out, etc. Nobody is ever going to be conservative enough for them, so things like this are always going to happen from time to time. That is, of course, unless we actually go about finding a way to get everyone to vote…but this is America, so that’s never going to happen.


Filed under Eric Cantor politics liberal conservative elections election format election laws gerrymandering voter turnout extremism political morality political personality

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Ahh and the truth comes out

Dude, it’s not some anti-Catholic conspiracy theory that there used to be debate about whether the earth was round or flat. Here are some things to consider…..1.) THE LAG TIME BETWEEN AVERAGE PEOPLE ACCEPTING THIS AND SCHOLARS ACCEPTING IT: It’s true that most scholars had understood the earth was round long, long before Magellan, dating back to the ancient Greeks, but for most non-scholars the earth simply appeared flat (if we didn’t know any better that’s what you’d guess from walking around observing earth), so they believed it was. Remember, it’s only very recently that the printing press was invented, and even more recently that all people in developed nations receive at least a basic education, so up until the past few centuries most people who weren’t rich brilliant, educated intellectual philosophers or scientists thought things like the earth was flat. 2.) HAVING NEARLY IRREFUTABLE EVIDENCE FOR IT VS. LITERALLY BEING ABLE TO ABSOLUTELY PROVE IT: Up until Magellan nobody could technical prove per say that it was round, kind of like how you can’t technically prove evolution happened even though all the evidence obviously shows it did. But once we circumnavigated the whole globe we knew for absolute sure, which is why a lot of people feel that up until Magellan’s time we didn’t know the earth was round. We technically didn’t “know” until then, but we basically knew from the other  evidence. 3.) WHO WERE THE MINORITY OF ACADEMICS THAT DENIED STUFF: Just as today there are minorities of scientists or academic organizations that will deny some well established scientific finding like evolution, climate change, or the natural occurrence of homosexuality, for various ideological, political, religious, or financial reasons, in the past it was the devoutly religious leaders who were the minority dissenting voices propping up things like heliocentric denial. Within Christianity it’s traditionally most often been Catholics who have had trouble accepting what we discover about the natural world, because they are the fundamentalist sect that refuses to evolve and adapt to our changing understanding of the world. Protestants, prior to the more recent southern Evangelical craziness that’s shown up in the past few decades since Jerry Falwell and others got them all riled up have generally been able fit their religious beliefs around reality, rather than trying to reshape reality to fit a preordained set of unshakable beliefs. I have no clue what a flat earth would do to support religion, so I don’t really think it’s something any fundamentalist believer would have a problem with, so I’d guess that Catholics probably didn’t have a hard time accepting round earth, and Protestants wouldn’t really have a reason to suggest they didn’t, because such an accusation (that you couldn’t accept the earth being round because of religion) makes zero sense. Generally it’s any kind of Muslim, Catholics, Evangelicals, and Mormons that just can’t handle certain discoveries, but this doesn’t seem to be one of them. In general, all religions tend to promote conspiracy theories about how other religions are trying to oppress their people or slandarize their people, or whatever. Persecution complex is central to religiosity because there always has to be some war to wage. It’s not enticing to people if they hear oh yea, everyone treats us fine, and we’re respectful of other religious beliefs. It’s far better for general recruitment and enthusiasm building amongst those already in the fold to be suggesting that other sects within your religion, other religions, and non-believers are all out to get the particular sect of the particular religion you’re a part of, which has a righteous monopoly on absolute truth. Waging holy wars in the Middle East, culture wars in the US, etc, etc, it’s always some kind of victim complex driven battle.




Ahh and the truth comes out

Dude, it’s not some anti-Catholic conspiracy theory that there used to be debate about whether the earth was round or flat. Here are some things to consider…..
1.) THE LAG TIME BETWEEN AVERAGE PEOPLE ACCEPTING THIS AND SCHOLARS ACCEPTING IT: It’s true that most scholars had understood the earth was round long, long before Magellan, dating back to the ancient Greeks, but for most non-scholars the earth simply appeared flat (if we didn’t know any better that’s what you’d guess from walking around observing earth), so they believed it was. Remember, it’s only very recently that the printing press was invented, and even more recently that all people in developed nations receive at least a basic education, so up until the past few centuries most people who weren’t rich brilliant, educated intellectual philosophers or scientists thought things like the earth was flat.
2.) HAVING NEARLY IRREFUTABLE EVIDENCE FOR IT VS. LITERALLY BEING ABLE TO ABSOLUTELY PROVE IT: Up until Magellan nobody could technical prove per say that it was round, kind of like how you can’t technically prove evolution happened even though all the evidence obviously shows it did. But once we circumnavigated the whole globe we knew for absolute sure, which is why a lot of people feel that up until Magellan’s time we didn’t know the earth was round. We technically didn’t “know” until then, but we basically knew from the other  evidence.
3.) WHO WERE THE MINORITY OF ACADEMICS THAT DENIED STUFF: Just as today there are minorities of scientists or academic organizations that will deny some well established scientific finding like evolution, climate change, or the natural occurrence of homosexuality, for various ideological, political, religious, or financial reasons, in the past it was the devoutly religious leaders who were the minority dissenting voices propping up things like heliocentric denial. Within Christianity it’s traditionally most often been Catholics who have had trouble accepting what we discover about the natural world, because they are the fundamentalist sect that refuses to evolve and adapt to our changing understanding of the world. Protestants, prior to the more recent southern Evangelical craziness that’s shown up in the past few decades since Jerry Falwell and others got them all riled up have generally been able fit their religious beliefs around reality, rather than trying to reshape reality to fit a preordained set of unshakable beliefs. I have no clue what a flat earth would do to support religion, so I don’t really think it’s something any fundamentalist believer would have a problem with, so I’d guess that Catholics probably didn’t have a hard time accepting round earth, and Protestants wouldn’t really have a reason to suggest they didn’t, because such an accusation (that you couldn’t accept the earth being round because of religion) makes zero sense. Generally it’s any kind of Muslim, Catholics, Evangelicals, and Mormons that just can’t handle certain discoveries, but this doesn’t seem to be one of them.

In general, all religions tend to promote conspiracy theories about how other religions are trying to oppress their people or slandarize their people, or whatever. Persecution complex is central to religiosity because there always has to be some war to wage. It’s not enticing to people if they hear oh yea, everyone treats us fine, and we’re respectful of other religious beliefs. It’s far better for general recruitment and enthusiasm building amongst those already in the fold to be suggesting that other sects within your religion, other religions, and non-believers are all out to get the particular sect of the particular religion you’re a part of, which has a righteous monopoly on absolute truth. Waging holy wars in the Middle East, culture wars in the US, etc, etc, it’s always some kind of victim complex driven battle.

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The Psychology and Science of How Liberals and Conservatives Are Made

In the past week, I’ve encountered someone at the campaign where I work asking how in the world any young woman could be conservative, seeing no way this could happen to any well-wired human being. I’ve also seen one of my conservative friends call Elizabeth Warren, who is basically a MENSA level genius “dumb” on social media. Perhaps the most productive way to overcome polarization and gridlock is to see the other side for what they are, which is anything but intellectually or psychologically impaired, but rather people with inherently different personalities, and moral attitudes that formed differently than our own because of differences in their brain structures. Below I recap all I know about what makes a liberal or a conservative what they are.

There are what are known as the “five big personality traits.” They are….
1.) Openness
2.) Conscientiousness
3.) Neuroticism
4.) Extraversion
5.) Agreeableness

Economic Views Importance:
1.) Neuroticism (more=liberal, less=conservative)
2.) Openness (more=liberal, less=conservative)
3.) Agreeableness (more=liberal, less=conservative)
4.) Conscientiousness (more=conservative, less=liberal)
5.) Extraversion (more=conservative, less=liberal)

Social Views Importance:
1..) Openness (more=liberal, less=conservative)
2.) Conscientiousness (more=conservative, less=liberal)
3.) Agreeableness (more=conservative, less=liberal)
4.) Neuroticism (more=conservative, less=liberal)
5.) Extraversion (more=conservative, less=liberal)

OPENNESS: #2 economic influence/#1 social influence/#1 overall: The more open to new experiences and unfamiliar people one is the more liberal that will shift them.  It has a little more influence on social policy than economic policy. Openness to strange people and unfamiliar experiences is the most influential of the five traits. The degree to which you are an open or closed person holds more weight than the direction you lean with any of the other four traits.

:  #4 economic influence/#2 social influence/#2 overall: The higher one scores in conscientiousness the more conservative that will shift them. It does so slightly more on social issues than economic issues, but roughly the same amount. Obviously, the less conscientious a person is the more it will shift them to the left, again slightly more with social issues than economic ones.

: # 1 economic influence/#4 social influence/#3 overall: The more neurotic you are the more economically liberal you’ll be. The more someone is a worrier the less comfortable they’ll be with the economic inequality, lack of social justice, lack of security, and inherent risk that free markets bring, preferring a more stable, certain, equal system with a much lower ceiling but a higher, more guaranteed basement and stronger protections. However, socially neuroticism leads to a more conservative outlook since they’ll be less comfortable with the uncertainty that comes with a lack of a social hierarchy and established, unshakable norms. The economic impact is much larger than the social impact.

EXTRAVERSION: #5 economic influence/#5 social influence/#5 overall: Being more outgoing makes people slightly more conservative both economically and socially, but it’s very negligible

AGREEABLENESS: #3 economic influence/#3 social influence/#4 overall: How agreeable you are has an inverse affect on your economic and social views. The more pleasant you are the more economically left you will lean, but being pleasant actually makes you more socially conservative. This is because economically pleasant people are more generous oriented, but socially they are people pleasers that don’t want to rock the boat. However, in both instances it’s a minor impact, the second smallest of the five trait influences after extraversion.

In addition to the five big traits there are five “moral foundations.” They are….
1.) Care vs. harm
2.) Fairness vs. cheating
3.) Loyalty vs. betrayal
4.) Authority vs. subversion
5.) Sanctity vs. degradation

Conservatives and liberals score approximately the same on the first two, both strongly favoring care over harm of others and fairness over cheating. However, liberals score very low on loyalty, authority, and sanctity, often favoring holding no deep loyalties, respect for authority and tradition, or the purity of things. Because they are less into loyalty and sanctity liberals are less patriotic and religious than conservatives, and because they are less into authority they are less into classism, sexism, racism, ageism, and other forms of hierarchical power structures, instead favoring a more collectivist approach with a  love of worker’s unions and the united nature of large, diverse populations under big governments. A liberal philosophy is a more simplistic philosophy. In situations like gay rights or environmental protection they’ll just see that something like pollution or gay marriage bans are causing harm and seem unfair, but a conservative will see that situation and have to weigh their desire to care for others and be fair with their co-existing desire to keep things pure or respect the decisions of business or religious authority. Or in foreign policy decisions their desire for loyalty produces a my country right or wrong attitude even if they also see the war as harmful and unfair. Conservatives and liberals are both most profoundly influenced by care/harm and fairness/cheating, but the gap between those two and the latter three is much smaller for conservatives than it is liberals.

The Brain Structure
Then there is the physiology behind where we stand in the five big personality traits and five moral foundations. They’ve conducted functional MRI’s of both types of people’s brains, and they’ve found that liberals on average have a larger anterior cingulated cortex than conservatives. The ACC is just behind the prefrontal cortex and it helps people tolerate with uncertainty. Meanwhile, conservatives had larger amygdales, which are responsible for producing our feelings of fear that then get sent up to the frontal cortex to be processed. If you have a larger amygdala and a small ACC and prefrontal cortex you’ll feel a lot of fear and then be less able to properly handle that fear or process that fear. If the opposite is true, you’ll produce less fear and also be better able to handle and process what fear you do produce. This explains why conservatives are so paranoid about change, “others,” and government. It’s large amounts of unprocessed fear their brains produce compared to ours.

Some other Notes
They’ve done studies where no matter how liberal or conservative a person is, if you get them really tired, drunk, or scared and have them fill out the same survey they previously filled out rested, sober, or relaxed they become more conservative. Anything that hinders the brain’s ability to process instinctual thoughts, or which enhances the intensity of those instinctual thoughts leaves us more conservative than otherwise. Conservatives often taught that they have more common sense, and liberals accuse conservatives of thinking like cavemen. Common sense is the common instincts we all have. The difference is how intense those knee jerk instincts are, and how deeply you process those instincts, and conservatives have very intense instincts and limited processing of them. Liberals are often accused by conservatives of being too indecisive and egghead, ivory tower thinkers. This is because their brains spend so much time analyzing and often over analyzing the instinctual thoughts they have.

They’ve done studies that have shown conservatives stare longer at unpleasant images and liberals stare longer at pleasant images.

They’ve found liberals have better eye contact

They’ve found conservatives are more likely to find a facial expression of any kind more threatening than a liberal

Conservatives have been shown to more easily be grossed out by things.

Liberals and conservatives are equally motivated by rewards for doing good, but conservatives are more motivated than liberals by the threat of punishment for doing bad.

Outside Influences:
Aside from inherent differences in the size and function of different parts of the brain, there is a “nurture” influence that determines where people fall in the five personality traits and five moral positions. The three most prominent are education, upbringing, and money. Education actually has a negligible effect, how one is raised has a moderate affect, and how much money one earns as an adult has a huge affect. The more money you make the more conservative you become.

Filed under liberal conservative politics personality morality brain structure psychology science