The Worship of Sports in America

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How The Middle-Class Got Screwed (Video)

A most simplistic explanation of how the economic problems of the middle-class has become an actual threat to their well-being.

Why I'm Not A Democrat...Or A Republican!

There is a whole lot not to like about either of the 2 major political parties.

Whatever Happened To Saturday Morning Cartoons?

Whatever happened to the Saturday morning cartoons we grew up with? A brief look into how they have become a thing of the past.

ADHD, ODD, And Other Assorted Bull****!

A look into the questionable way we as a nation over-diagnose behavioral "afflictions."

Monday, September 6, 2010

“Our Politicized Thinking Explained” (…or “Half-Wit Will Travel”)

Most non-aligned political analysts—a rare commodity to be sure—will agree that the American public has become politicized more in its collective thinking than it ever has in recent memory. Everything from our foreign policy to our favorite flavor of ice cream seems to be divided between red and blue states. Take for example a recent news item…
I like I was astounded at the news of the young New York City man who fell 39 stories and survived after a failed suicide attempt. The 22 year-old had the mathematically-improbable luck to have landed on the trunk and rear window of a car parked on the street below…a happenstance which saved his life and angered the owner of the severely damaged auto. As I read the various online news accounts of this story,

I began reading the reader commentary section of one particular daily online newspaper. On USAToday’s site there were public comments posted blaming this episode on, of all things, President Obama’s economic policies…thus turning a not-so-simple human interest story into a battle of political ideologies. Personally, I have always wondered about the upbringings, if not the overall mental health of individuals who cannot see reality outside purely dichotomous perspectives…as if Conservatives and Liberals were the only two known life forms in the known universe.
But I was harkened yesterday when I read a very interesting article from the August 16th edition of Newsweek. In “The Limits of Reason,” author Sharon Begley argues that the often irrational thinking we apply to our political (and social) beliefs and understanding of those beliefs have a basis in science. According to Begley

“…psychologists have been documenting since the 1960s, humans are really, really bad at reasoning. Its not just that we follow our emotions so often, in contexts from voting to ethics (page 14).”

The upshot is that, according to modern philosophers and cognitive scientists, there is a purpose for the kind of confirmation bias (seeing and recalling only evidence that supports your beliefs) and willful blindness to sound opposing views which leads us to stick to our beliefs. Failures of logic are simply “ploys to win arguments.” Simply put, arguing is more about overcoming opposing views and using our biased beliefs to persuade others more than it is about seeking truth or finding a common ground. It also explains the idea of motivated thinking, another faulty reasoning attribute that people employ. Motivated thinking forces individuals with certain political/social beliefs to look harder for flaws in studies when they don’t agree with their conclusions, which forces them to become more critical of “evidence” that undermines their initially-held beliefs.

This is why the notions of impending One-World Governments, health reform “death panels,” 9/11 government-backed conspiracies, and issues surrounding President Obama’s fake birth certificate remain so entrenched in the political discussions of many Americans, despite their proven invalidity.
This particular approach to our thinking on political and social issues is ridiculously easy to remedy…don’t believe everything you think! As I have alluded to so often in past postings, we Americans emote way too much and reason way too little. It is simply not practical to “feel” our way through life, especially when it comes to concepts and issues that beg that we use reason, which according to Begley “is supposed to be the highest achievement of the human mind and the route to knowledge and wise decisions.” When it comes to thinking which may affect social, economic, and political policies in America, we should think rather than feel.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Change We Can Set Our Watches By (Or…”Let’s Do It Again Like We Did Last Election!)

The American electorate is a marvel to behold at times. It has just the right combination of (the) occasional public weariness with incumbent political officials, collective short-term memory/selective memory, and often misplaced optimism which leads it to every couple of election cycles, vote in political party representatives who seem to offer a better alternative to the party in power. This is especially true if the representatives if of the political party in power fall out of public favor due to corruption of some other type of malfeasance. It’s a sad cycle that has unfortunately become of how our democracy operates and governs.
During the 2006 election season, Democrats were swept into control of Congress in nearly unprecedented numbers due in part to the various scandals which plagued the Republican Party prior to those elections. Given the current growing—some say unfair—discontentment with the Obama Administration’s economic (and social) policies as well as events in Congress within the past couple of weeks, it looks as if the see-saw of Congressional representation will soon start to tilt in back in favor of the Republicans.
A couple of weeks ago, three Democrat members of Congress, Maxine Waters of California, and Charles Rangel of New York found themselves facing ethics charges by the Office of Congressional Ethics in Congress (on a side note, 2 Republican members of Congress are also under the ethics probe gun.

The fact that such alleged ethics violations/accusations occur with sad regularity among elected representatives such as Waters and Rangel should not be fully faulted with those facing the legal process of accountability or even Congress itself…the fault lies with us, the American people. Americans proudly—and rightfully—boast about the advantages and joys of having free and fair elections in a democracy. But what good is electing representatives at the federal (or even local) levels if we are forced to choose between the lesser of 2 evils every time voter disenchantment reaches critical mass every other election cycle? The cycle we tolerate—become “fed-up” with one party representative, vote in another party’s representative, vote back in the party which peed us off in the first place—only proves how much we should just sit back and take our lumps by representatives who violate the public’s trust.
Congressional perks that smack of entitlement, ethics charges on an annual basis, influence peddling (i.e., “lobbying”), and our own collective short-term memories are what we deserve. Why? Because we have forgotten that Congress works for us, and are not meant to be an autonomous political class.
If the conservative-leaning Tea Party and liberal-leaning organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union can mobilize and help crank out support and successfully put into public office candidates who support their ideological beliefs, then why can’t the rest of us follow their examples and shake off our apathetic fatalism and take more of an active role in a government which is supposed to represent us?
As someone who has spent inordinate amounts of hours volunteering in various political causes, I can find no viable excuse for any American not to become more involved in a process which affects us on a daily basis on a myriad of levels. So get off your collective butts and hold to the fire the feet of those who violate the trust of we who send them to represent us!