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Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Most Destructive Terror In America Is Not ISIS

What is the biggest threat to Americans? Politicians have convinced most people ISIS terrorists or the weak economy will soon destroy the country if leaders don't implement new policies. I ask you to read a few statistics and decide for yourself what evil entity is already successfully ripping American families and communities apart.

In a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in December 2015, drug overdoses in the USA rose again in 2014, driven by surges in deaths from heroin and powerful prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and Oxycontin.

Overdosing is now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., ahead of traffic fatalities and gun homicides. Data from the Centers For Disease Control confirms that even as far back as 2010, approximately 120 people died every day from drug overdoses. And health officials warn that we’re in the midst of a new heroin epidemic that will only get worse before it gets better.

The number of unintentional overdose deaths from prescription pain relievers has soared in the United States, more than quadrupling since 1999. The report found that in 2014 alone, a total of 47,055 drug overdose deaths occurred, a 6.5 percent increase from the year before.

And, while prescription-related deaths have been steadily rising for the past 15 years, heroin-related deaths have jumped only recently.

(Pradip et al. Associations of Nonmedical Pain Reliever Use and Initiation of Heroin Use in the US. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and QualityData Review. SAMHSA. 2013.)

The use of Vicodin, the most popular pain relief drug in the country, has grown dramatically from 112 million doses prescribed in 2006, to 131 million in the U.S. in 2011, according to a national survey done by the consulting firm IMS Health.

Experts say most of those prescriptions are unnecessary. The United States makes up only 4.6 percent of the world's population, but consumes 80 percent of its opioids -- and 99 percent of the world's hydrocodone, the opiate that is in Vicodin.

"Vicodin is the most prescribed opioid mainly because it's been incorrectly scheduled as a class III rather than a II," says Andrew Kolodny, Chair of Psychiatry at Maimonides Medical Center in New York. "Many states have prescribing regulations linked to DEA scheduling. But it is no less abusable or addictive than Oxycodone or heroin."

(Jim Avila. "Prescription Painkiller Use at Record High for Americans."
ABC News. April 20, 2011.)

In a 2015 survey, individuals who, in the past 2 years, HAD taken a strong prescription painkiller,
such as Percocet, OxyContin, or Vicodin that was prescribed by a doctor for more than a few days,
were asked the following question:“Before or while you were taking these strong prescription painkillers, did you and your doctor talk about the risk of prescription painkiller addiction, or haven’t you talked about that?” Only 36% of Massachusetts residents said “yes," compared to 61% nationally.

("Prescription Painkiller Abuse: Attitudes among Adults in Massachusetts and the United States." Boston Globe and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 2015.)

The Threat and the Future

I believe you might agree that the opioid epidemic in the United States is the domestic threat that promises to destroy life as we know it unless major measures are introduced to address the unbelievable devastation. We must increase efforts in prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery support to stop widespread abuse.

Addiction is a disease that can be treated. The illness can be described, and it has definite characteristics:

• The course of the illness is predictable and progressive.
• The disease is primary – that is, it is not just a symptom of some other underlying disorder.
• It is permanent.
• It is terminal: If left untreated, can lead to morbidity and mortality.

A study published in August 2015 in the American Journal of Public Health indicates that increased access to methadone or buprenorphine-based medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is critical to fully address the epidemic of opioid abuse and dependence in the United States.

MAT is a comprehensive approach to address substance use disorders that combines the use of medication with counseling and behavioral therapies. Despite an increase in medication-assisted treatment capacity nationwide in the past decade, the rate of past-year opioid abuse or dependence significantly exceeded treatment capacity each year, increasing from 634.1 per 100,000 in 2003 to 891.8 per 100,000 in 2012.

The study showed that in 2012, the number of people who abused opioids or were dependent, had increased to an estimated 2.3 million people; however, the maximum number of people who could access opioid-agonist based MAT was approximately 1.4 million -- a gap of nearly 1 million people. Nationally, 82 percent of federally regulated Opioid Treatment Programs reported operating at 80 percent capacity or more.

HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell has made addressing opioid abuse, dependence, and overdose a priority and work is underway within HHS on this important issue. The Secretary’s evidence-based initiative focus on three promising areas: informing opioid prescribing practices, increasing the use of naloxone - a drug that reverses symptoms of a drug overdose, and using medication-assisted treatment to slowly move people out of opioid addiction.

(Christopher M. Jones, Melinda Campopiano, Grant Baldwin, and Elinore McCance-Katz. "National and State Treatment Need and Capacity for Opioid Agonist Medication-Assisted Treatment." American Journal of Public Health: Vol. 105, No. 8. August 2015.)

And, what about a change in prescription drug attitudes and policies? The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness, and the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy reports:

"Prescription drugs are essential to improving the quality of life for millions of Americans living with acute or chronic pain. However, misuse, abuse, addiction, and overdose of these products, especially opioids, have become serious public health problems in the United States. A comprehensive response to this crisis must focus on preventing new cases of opioid addiction, identifying early opioid-addicted individuals, and ensuring access to effective opioid addiction treatment while safely meeting the needs of patients experiencing pain."

The group released a consensus statement with three guiding principles for actionable recommendations:


"Some evidence-based interventions exist to inform action to address this public health emergency; these should be scaled up and widely disseminated. Furthermore, many promising ideas are evidence-informed, but have not yet been rigorously evaluated. The urgent need for action requires that we rapidly implement and carefully evaluate these promising policies and programs. The search for new, innovative solutions also needs to be supported."


"We support approaches that intervene all along the supply chain, and in the clinic, community and addiction treatment settings. Interventions aimed at stopping individuals from progressing down a pathway that will lead to misuse, abuse, addiction and overdose are needed. Effective primary, secondary and tertiary prevention strategies are vital. The importance of creating synergies across different interventions to maximize available resources is also critical."


"Used appropriately, prescription opioids can provide relief to patients. However, these therapies are often being prescribed in quantities and for conditions that are excessive, and in many cases, beyond the evidence base. Such practices, and the lack of attention to safe use, storage and disposal of these drugs, contribute to the misuse, abuse, addiction and overdose increases that have occurred over the past decade. We support efforts to maximize the favorable risk/benefit balance of prescription opioids by optimizing their use in circumstances supported by best clinical practice guidelines."

("The Prescription Opioid Epidemic: An Evidence-Based Approach. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. November 2015.)

For specific recommendations, please read the entire detailed PDF document from Johns Hopkins here:

I write this plea for action not to understate the importance of fighting terrorism or of addressing economic issues. I write this to underscore the facts. The current opioid epidemic is a top priority -- a prevalent enemy -- that needs immediate action on many fronts. It is so ingrained in our populace, yet I fear people grossly underestimate the current death and destruction it is causing.

Rampant heroin addiction and prescription drug abuse are in all neighborhoods, cutting across every social and economic strata. It's all about pain -- physical and mental anguish -- and how Americans choose to avoid any trace of it at any cost -- tolls readily known and seemingly unknown. We must change hearts and minds with evidence-based treatment.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Why Do We Support Politicians Projecting Hatred?

Joseph Burgo, psychotherapist and author, has written about how religion and politics often provide us with sanctioned outlets for our hatred, reflecting the processes of splitting and projection. We are all aware of how these institutions split the populace, but, perhaps, we are not that familiar with the concept of projection.

Projection is a defense mechanism. Here is how it works -- when there are things too painful to bear or accept, we block them out or disavow them as we unconsciously disown awareness of the experiences. And because parts of our psyche don’t simply disappear when we disown them, they show up someplace else outside of us, and usually inside of somebody else. In essence, we "project" them to others. Such projection can be perfectly normal and acceptable.

Burgo explains how this works. For example, infants are completely helpless and have almost no understanding of their own experience; all they can do is make other people around them feel so uncomfortable that we’ll do something -- feed them, comfort them, change their diaper, etc. So in an entirely appropriate way, babies project their unbearable experience into us as a kind of communication.

(Joseph Burgo. "Hatred in Politics." After Psychotherapy. October 27, 2010.)

Of course, not all projection is warranted behavior. If grownups have unpleasant feelings that are hard for them to bear alone, and instead of being mature and self-aware of what is causing the discomfort, they simply choose to find something outside of them on which to project their pain, they practice the childish blame game.

Disgruntled politicians practice projection in their pitiful defense. In the political arena, participants routinely project their own shortcomings, distrust, and hatred onto others. They overtly criticize others for their own inabilities. Criticizing other people for doing something when you, in fact, are the guilty party is popularly referred to by the expression, "The pot calling the kettle black."

Intense emotion is the enemy of thought. Burgo says that emotion can be "a sentimental glow that blinds us to harsh reality" or "hatred that makes us unable to see the other side of an issue." He acknowledges that although the goal of a politician is to win, the political arena is a place where we should be having reasoned discourse about what’s best for our country. Instead, splitting and projection seem to dominate the talk, and intense emotion drives both politicians and voters.

Both liberal and conservative leaders spin agendas to elicit emotional responses from grassroots voters. Mean-spiritedness is everywhere. Lauren Ashburn, political analysis and news commentator, says ...

"All hatred is unacceptable, but political hate messages in particular have a far greater impact on the health of the country and the processes that are the core of our democracy. We know politics is always about the next vote, the next election. But this mentality to win control at all costs is having a profound and detrimental impact on the next generation of voters.

"The problem is hatred sells...

"What's needed to break away from the politics of hate is more constructive, respectful and intelligent conversation from both sides. Leaders with contradictory views need to at least view opponents as worthy partners in government. We need to make governing attractive to the next generation of leaders and above all, we need to remember that our kindergarten teachers were right."

(Lauren Ashburn. "Politics of Hate." The Huffington Post. May 25, 2011.)

Arthur C. Brooks -- social scientist, author, and president of the American Enterprise Institute -- says, "Whether or not we want to admit it, political hate is a demand-driven phenomenon. We are the ones creating a big market for it." Brooks sees our political hate as coming in three forms:

1. Hot Hate

"Imagine yourself yelling at the television, and you get the picture. Most Americans would be ashamed to say 'I hate Republicans' or 'I hate Democrats.' But our market preferences tell the true story. We reward professional political pundits who say or write that the other side is evil or stupid or both."

2. Cool Hate

"For some haters, the hot variety is a little too crude. They prefer “cool hate,” based on contempt, and express disgust for another person through sarcasm, dismissal or mockery.

Cool hate can be every bit as damaging as hot hate. The social psychologist and relationship expert John Gottman was famously able to predict with up to 94 percent accuracy whether couples would divorce just by observing a brief snippet of conversation. The biggest warning signs of all were indications of contempt, such as sarcasm, sneering and hostile humor. Want to see if a couple will end up in divorce court? Watch them discuss a contentious topic — which Mr. Gottman has done thousands of times — and see if either partner rolls his or her eyes. Disagreement is normal, but dismissiveness can be deadly.

"As it is in love, so it is in politics. With just an ironic smile, one can dismiss an entire class of citizens as uncultured rubes or mindless theocrats. Feigning shock and dismay at the resulting indignation simply adds insult to injury."

3. Anonymous Hate

"Political discourse has always had a shadowy component, all the way back to Thomas Paine’s pamphleteering in favor of American independence. But nothing has empowered casual vitriol in the Internet age like the pressure on news organizations to publish any and all anonymous feedback. This has scaled up our ability to express political hate with astonishing efficiency.

"Before you dismiss this as harmless chatter, consider a 2014 article in the academic journal Personality and Individual Differences, titled “Trolls Just Want to Have Fun.” Three Canadian psychologists found that habitual Internet commenting is strongly correlated with hateful personality pathologies. The total amount of time spent posting comments online correlated positively with sadism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism. And this held especially true for those who relished 'trolling,' the anonymous posting of negative and destructive comments. The 5 percent of participants who listed trolling as their favorite activity earned the highest scores on those unsavory psychological measures.

(Arthur C. Brooks. "The Thrill of Political Hating." The New York Times. June 08, 2015.)

 How To Overcome Political Prejudice

Burgo suggests the following:

"Whatever your political alignment, try to imagine a typical member of the opposing party. I don’t mean the politicians but rather Joe or Jane Voter. You probably hold an image of such a person already, and it likely tends to stereotype. What is your fictional Joe Voter like? Is Jane Voter a caricature? How do you feel about him or her? Have you ever actually known somebody just like that in a more-than-casual way?

"Next try to humanize Joe or Jane. For the most part, we tend to associate with people who share our viewpoint, but no doubt you’ve come into contact with members of the “other side” who don’t fit your stereotype. They feel pain, struggle to make ends meet, and experience loss just the way you do. The point here is remove hatred from the field.

"Now for the real challenge: think about their political positions without automatically rejecting them. Any areas of agreement? Any merit to their arguments, once you strip away the overcharged emotional rhetoric? If you can’t respect their point of view, at least try not to view it with contempt and hostility."

(Joseph Burgo. "Hatred in Politics." After Psychotherapy. October 27, 2010.)

My Take

Of course, I believe we allow politicians, the news media, and others with self-serving bias to project blame and spread hatred. I believe we are ultimately responsible because we refuse to accept the responsibility for intelligently choosing our views and our political candidates without letting contempt, hatred, and blame fog our vision. When this happens we allow our emotions to control our logic, and we readily "buy into" political tactics like splitting and projection.

Even though we do this disservice to ourselves, we cannot become apolitical, stop voting, and remain convinced malice is at the core of our democracy. Our two-party system should ideally promote the stability of the government as members of these parties with their divergent interests seek election, gain a majority, and then come together in compromise for the common good. The two-party system should moderate the animosities of political strife.

The recent increase in political polarization is conducive to creating hatred of the opposition while the so-called "permanent campaign" encourages constant attack of the opposition. Stubborn adherence to polarity creates dissension. And, strong dissension then creates stagnation. Besides, compromises for wise decisions never completely satisfy pure principles. The resistance to compromise undermines practices of mutual respect that are essential for a robust democratic process.

Amy Gutmann -- President of the University of Pennsylvania and Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science -- and Dennis Thompson -- Alfred North Whitehead Professor of Political Philosophy at Harvard University have written a paper titled "The Mindsets of Political Compromise" that is excellent reading. Gutmann and Thompson write ...

"Political compromise is difficult in American democracy even though no one doubts it is necessary. It is difficult for many reasons, including the recent increase in political polarization that has been widely criticized. We argue that the resistance to compromise cannot be fully appreciated without understanding its source in the democratic process itself, especially as conducted in the U.S. The incursion of campaigning into governing in American democracy--the so called 'permanent campaign' -- encourages political attitudes and arguments that make compromise more difficult.

"These constitute what we call the uncompromising mindset, characterized by politicians' standing on principle and mistrusting opponents. This mindset is conducive to campaigning, but not to governing, because it stands in the way of necessary change and thereby biases the democratic process in favor of the status quo. The uncompromising mindset can be kept in check by an opposite cluster of attitudes and arguments--the compromising mindset--that inclines politicians to adapt their principles and respect their opponents. This mindset is more appropriate for governing, because it enables politicians more readily to recognize and act on opportunities for desirable compromise."

(Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson. "The Mindsets of Political Compromise." 
Perspectives On Politics, 8. 2010)

Please read the entire article by clicking here:

We can do a great service for democracy by vowing to support and elect candidates who are open to compromise and who are unwilling to project problems upon the opposition. What a wonderful day it will be when politicians rededicate themselves to working together and finding positive common ground. We can dream.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Dancing -- Smarter and Happier Brains

My wife and I thoroughly enjoy going to the American Legion Post 23 club to interact with friends, listen to music, and dance. We receive a sense of pure joy in a place where nice adults of all ages enjoy fellowship and social contact -- it is truly a blessing to gather in a place where people who respect our armed forces and who celebrate democracy can have fun.

We especially enjoy dancing at the Legion. I have often touted the obvious physical benefits of dancing along with the social rewards the activity offers. Not only is dancing known to be great exercise, but, more recently, research supports that dancing is good stress reduction as it increase serotonin levels. Scientists say it also increases a person's sense of well-being.

As if that is not enough to encourage folks to dance, a relatively new major study has added to the growing evidence that stimulating one's mind by dancing can ward off Alzheimer's disease and other dementia. Dancing increases cognitive acuity at all ages.

This 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Richard Powers, teacher of historic and contemporary social dance for 40 years and full-time instructor at Stanford University's Dance Division, says ...

"The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity. They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect. Other activities had none.

"They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments. And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.

"One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia. There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind.

"There was one important exception: the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing."

Reading - 35% reduced risk of dementia
Bicycling and swimming - 0%
Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week - 47%
Playing golf - 0%
Dancing frequently - 76%. That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.

(Joe Verghese, M.D., Richard B. Lipton, M.D., Mindy J. Katz, M.P.H., Charles B. Hall, Ph.D., Carol A. Derby, Ph.D., Gail Kuslansky, Ph.D., Anne F. Ambrose, M.D., Martin Sliwinski, Ph.D., and Herman Buschke, M.D. "Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly." The New England Journal of Medicine. June 19, 2003.)

(Richard Powers. "Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter."
Stanford Dance. July 30, 2010.)

Your Brain On Dancing

Why does dancing offer great benefits to intelligence?

Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Coyle explained in an accompanying commentary to the study: "The cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are critical to these activities, are remarkably plastic, and they rewire themselves based upon their use."

When brain cells die and synapses weaken with aging, our nouns go first, like names of people, because there's only one neural pathway connecting to that stored information. If the single neural connection to that name fades, we lose access to it. As people age, some of them learn to parallel process, to come up with synonyms to go around these roadblocks.

In other words, our brain constantly rewires its neural pathways, as needed. If it doesn't need to, then it won't. We should do whatever you can to create new neural paths. The opposite of this is taking the same old well-worn path over and over again, with habitual patterns of thinking and living. Powers gives this "rocky" analogy to brain health:
"The more stepping stones there are across the creek, the easier it is to cross in your own style.
Randomly dying brain cells are like stepping stones being removed one by one. Those who had only one well-worn path of stones are completely blocked when some are removed. But those who spent their lives trying different mental routes each time, creating a myriad of possible paths, still have several paths left."

Jean Piaget (1896 – 1980), renowned Swiss developmental psychologist and philosopher, put it like this: intelligence is what we use when we don't already know what to do.

Why is dancing better than other activities for improving mental capabilities?

The New England Journal study does not answer this question, but Richard Powers believes the best advice, when it comes to improving your mental acuity, is "to involve yourself in activities which require split-second rapid-fire decision making, as opposed to rote memory (retracing the same well-worn paths), or just working on your physical style." 
One way to do that is to learn something new. Not just dancing, but anything new. Powers suggests taking a dance class, which can be even more effective. Dancing integrates several brain functions at once — kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional — further increasing your neural connectivity.

What kind of dancing seems best suited to split-second decision making?

Powers thinks the best is social dancing involving freestyle lead and follow. He even concludes that older Americans who still dance the basic foxtrot, waltz, swing, and maybe some rumba and cha cha find great benefits.

Understand that women don't really just "follow" a partner's lead, they interpret the signals their partners give them, and this requires intelligence and decision-making, which is active, not passive.

And, men can also match the degree of decision-making if they choose to do so. Powers says ...

"Here's how:

1) "Really pay attention to your partner and what works best for her. Notice what is comfortable for her, where she is already going, which signals are successful with her and which aren't, and constantly adapt your dancing to these observations. That's rapid-fire split-second decision making.

2) "Don't lead the same old patterns the same way each time. Challenge yourself to try new things each time you dance. Make more decisions more often. Intelligence: use it or lose it."

This benefit is greatly enhanced by dancing with different partners, not always with the same fellow.  With different dance partners, you have to adjust much more and be aware of more variables.

The Powers summary: "The most succinct definition I know for intelligent dancing: a highly active attention to possibilities. And I think it's wonderful that both the Lead and Follow role share this same ideal.  Dance as much as you can -- the more, the better. And, Once this highly active attention to possibilities, flexibility, and alert tranquility are perfected in the art of dance partnering, dancers find it even more beneficial in their other relationships, and in everyday life."

Even limited dancing can help with a host of problems.

Christopher Bergland -- world-class endurance athlete, coach, and author -- says, "Through regular aerobic training that incorporates some type of dance at least once a week anyone can maximize his or her brain function." Bergland also speaks of dance as a benefit to improve treatment for patients with chronic dizziness.

An Italian study in 2006 has shown that dance is a very good exercise for heart patients compared to other aerobic exercises like cycling. This may be partly because the patients enjoyed it much more.

("Heart failure patients can waltz their way to healthier hearts."
America Heart Association. 2006.)

Swedish researchers, writing in the Journal of American Medical Association Pediatrics, studied 112 teenage girls who were struggling with problems including neck and back pain, stress, anxiety, and depression. Half of the girls attended weekly dance classes, while the other half didn't. The girls who took the dance classes improved their mental health and reported a boost in mood—positive effects that lasted up to eight months after the classes ended.

(A. Duberg; L. Hagberg; H. Sunvisson; M. Moller. "Influencing Self-rated Health Among Adolescent Girls With Dance Intervention." JAMA Pediatrics 167. 2013.)

Dance therapy is suggested as treatment for emotional and therapeutic support, as dance allows individuals to connect to their innermost emotions and minds. People, music, dancing = fun. And, if I've said it once, I've said it a million times: "There is no better path to social mixing than dancing."

I've always encouraged boys and men to overcome the paranoia of others making fun of their dancing style and get on the floor. Dancing, like any other physical activity, improves with practice. Most ladies love to dance, and they are more than willing to help build a guy's confidence and his ability to move. Fast dance; slow dance. Lead and follow. Just dance. Enjoy the music and the rhythm, and soon you will be smiling on the inside and on the outside.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Hot Babes With Curves: The 45.5% Spine Curvature

Speaking as a man, I have always been a proponent of curves in an attractive woman. The societal pressure today put on women to achieve a waif-thin look, that body style often associated with famous models and the unsupported philosophy of "the thinner, the better," makes no sense to me.

Of course, women with great curves make most guys think of the lovely body contours of waists, breasts, and buttocks. Yet, I think few men who view a set of lovely curves break down the undulating attraction to just one specific area of mass.

So, science has done that for us ...

"A recent study by the University of Texas at Austin, published in Evolution and Human Behavior, revealed that men do find women with curves more attractive, but those curves aren't breasts or big behinds. Instead, the study showed that when researchers presented 100 men photos of women's bodies, each having a different angled spine curvature, the men found the images with a larger angle more attractive."

(Mandy Velez. "Study Proves That Men Really Do Prefer Curves -- But Not The Ones You Think. A Plus: Positive Journalism. March 20, 2015.)

A study of "vertebral wedging" by University of Texas Austin alumnus and Bilkent University psychologist David Lewis found that men love a particular spinal curve.   

And, even when Lewis then conducted a second study to see if the men actually preferred bigger booties, or just the 45.5 degree spine curvature, 200 men preferred the images with the optimal spinal curve -- regardless of the butt size. Yep, despite all the purported love for the badonkadonk and the   unparalleled popularity of ass-shaking music videos, it appears the back is "where it's at."

These findings enabled the research to state conclusively that men prefer women who exhibit specific angles of spinal curvature over buttock mass. This seems to put a deep crack in bountiful bottom worship.

Why? It's the same old mating preference connection that seems to be the answer in so many studies of human attraction. The researchers agree a biological preference was at play since women with the optimal spine curves were more apt to carry the weight of a baby during pregnancy, and therefore, make more suitable mates.

In a UT press conference, Lewis spoke of evolutionary design ...

"This spinal structure would have enabled pregnant women to balance their weight over the hips. These women would have been more effective at foraging during pregnancy and less likely to suffer spinal injuries. In turn, men who preferred these women would have had mates who were better able to provide for fetus and offspring, and who would have been able to carry out multiple pregnancies without injury."

How about guys who love a woman's bodacious butt? "Men who think they like big bottoms may actually be more into spines. They may be directing their attention to the butt and obtaining information about women's spines, even if they are unaware that that is what their minds are doing," Dr. Lewis said.

The study's co-author David Buss, a University of Texas at Austin psychology professor, says ...

"What's fascinating about this research is that it is yet another scientific illustration of a close fit between a sex-differentiated feature of human morphology -- in this case lumbar curvature -- and an evolved standard of attractiveness. This adds to a growing body of evidence that beauty is not entirely arbitrary, or 'in the eyes of the beholder' as many in mainstream social science believed, but rather has a coherent adaptive logic."

A "coherent adaptive logic" based on a woman's ability to forage and carry out multiple pregnancies without injury. What a babe! What a curvaceous, beautiful creature! What a lovely backbone for babies!

I bet this image of utility in beauty does not sit well with many readers. Yet, modern men in this study have affirmed the overwhelming attractiveness of the 45.5 degree spine curvature, and I would guess that many of those admiring eyes operated with the one-track male propensity to view a lovely lady with "sex in mind."

Who can deny the subtle, suggestive beauty of this flexible, feminine curve? No wonder healthy backs draw particular attention.

It is the back that puts the "rock" in the euphemism "rock and roll." Consider the seminal blues favorite "Rock Me" by Muddy Waters:

"Want you to rock me baby, rock me all night long
Want you to rock me baby, rock me all night long
Well I want you to rock me baby, like my back ain't got no bones"

In a more classical sense, the sensual appeal of "bone deep" beauty in the famous poem "I Knew a Woman" by Theodore Roethke (1908–1963) offers beauty in the image of near-perfect motion: 

"I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;   
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:   
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I’d have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek)...

(She moved in circles, and those circles moved)."

The small of the back has always been considered a very sensual spot, and fashion dictates this. In fact, the practice of showing explicitness on the lower back has been performed for centuries. Certain articles of clothing, such as the haltertop and the backless dress, are designed to expose the back in this manner.

The lower back is typically exposed frequently by many types of shirts in woman's fashion, and even the more conservative shirts and blouses will reveal the lower back. This happens for a variety of reasons:

* The lower waist area is a pivot point for the body and lengthens and arches as a woman sits or bends. Woman's fashion typically favors tops that are waist length, allowing the back to be left bare during slight movement, bending or sitting.

* And now, of course, the back also serves as the largest canvas for body art on the human body. Because of its size and the relative lack of hair, the back presents an ideal canvas on the human body for lower back tattoos, mostly among young women.

So, whatever goes through a man's head when he spies his conception of the perfect female curvature, he might want to acknowledge the appeal of a particular tilt at the small of the back. Sir Mix-a-Lot may need to alter the lyrics of his famous hit song "Baby Got Back" to keep up with the research at hand. I'll give him a little help here ...

"I like nice backs and I can not lie
You other brothers can't deny
That when a girl walks in with a springy waist
And a 45 degree curvature in your face
You get sprung, want to pull up tough
'Cause that spine above her duff
Is the perfect curve she's wearing
I'm hooked and I can't stop staring ...

Baby got back!"

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Trust and Faith in Government -- What's In the Political "Sausage"?

According to the Pew Research Center, public trust in the government remains near historic lows. Only 19% of Americans today say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always” (3%) or “most of the time” (16%).

This lack of confidence is no surprise to anyone with a pulse. The public has instant access to a sea of information from cagey pundits who stir, spin, and endlessly sustain the most juicy political scandals and contentious reports of governmental ineptitude. Talking heads survive by analyzing all the questionable actions of government officials and then pontificating with particular bias about the "right" or "wrong" of something as simple as a breath out of place.  

Justin Wolfers, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, says for over 60 years overall trust in government has been in steady decline -- even in good times. He thinks the tremendous increase in transparency may contribute to part of the blame.

Wolfers explains ...

"Although government is more transparent now than it was in the 1940s and '50s -- when people trusted government more -- the very transparency might be the problem... We actually now get to see ... into that smoke-filled room where we're seeing the deals being cut. You see how sausage is made; you don't like eating sausage as much anymore."

Wolfers says he isn't sure whether that trust in government that existed in the late '50s and early '60s can return. "The political landscape and the technology with which we monitor our government has changed," he says.

(Mary Altaffer. "Trust In America: Recovering What's Lost."
National Public Radio. October 30, 2011.)

Tom Brokaw is a newsman who remembers when government and public institutions were much more trusted in the country. He reflects on the past of post-World War II America:

"We trusted big institutions; we trusted government to do the right thing. It was a robust time in American in which there was enormous pride in what this country had become coming out of the Great Depression and World War II."

Brokaw says that much of the current loss of faith is that things people took for granted and put faith in turned out not to be true.

"The younger people who are coming out of college now ... have watched their parents lose jobs or get furloughed," he says. "That's led them to return home in many instances ... because they say, 'We can trust our parents, we don't trust corporations.'"

It's often been said that the current generation does not expect to do better than the generation that came before. But Brokaw says we have to re-examine what that means. The idea that we'll have ever-larger homes, second homes, more cars and more of everything can't go on infinitely, he says.

"I think the question should be reframed in terms of: What does that mean to have a better life than your parents?" he says.

Brokaw says more emphasis should be placed on the quality of life and life's experiences such as the education that you get, the contribution that you make to your country and how you fit in to your community.

"Those are really more important measures of society over the long haul than the piling up of toys and things," he says. "We've kind of lost sight of that."

(Mary Altaffer. "Trust In America: Recovering What's Lost."
National Public Radio. October 30, 2011.)

In Government We Trust?

Have politicians always been unscrupulous? Have they always made many unpopular decisions? I would say yes to both questions. It seems that the nature of the business itself leads to questionable alliances and partisan decisions. But, the question here has more to do with perception. The question is "Why do Americans show such a lack of trust in their elected officials?"

If transparency is largely responsible for our distrust of government, we are merely seeing more clearly the actual workings of people involved in politics -- more ... more of both the "bad" and the "good." Evidently, although we citizens cherish that clarity, we have also convinced ourselves that some politicians get elected to do mostly "bad." 

Our faith in government should rely upon confidence and belief that the people we elect will not harm us in any way and will always look out for our best interests. History shows that in the past (although we may then have been seeing through a glass, darkly), when someone from the opposing party was elected, most of us used to chalk it up to majority rule and had faith that the official was going to work in concert with others to advance the common good. Faith in the government then was spiritual in the sense that we felt confidence in our souls that our leaders would practice core American beliefs.

What is the main tenant of that faith? When a person took office, we understood that person would fairly represent all of us -- whether the officeholder was a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent. Even when we were given opportunities to distrust politicians, we maintained faith in the governmental process.

But, of course, the inevitable does happen. For whatever reasons, elected officials often break our trust and betray our ideals. Then, when we see this time and again (even though we know  Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt committed major gaffes), our trust dwindles, and the end result is a complete loss of faith in our most cherished institution.

So, I believe, a shift in trust has occurred that divides the government and causes continual, internal warfare.

Today, people tend to trust a particular party and rally behind it as the "keeper of their sacred faiths." Rigid, unwavering party loyalty has become paramount to trusting the personal integrity of politicians. Thus, political parties have largely usurped public trust in government by promising like-thinking voters the moon and a key to the private restroom. People believe more in the power and the policy of the party than they do in the individual who truly represents the democratic ideal.

Parties presently push the strategy of divide and conquer: They have successfully stolen the trust people once gave to the government in which both Democrats and Republicans faithfully served. The public no longer reveres a government comprised of political diversity. Faith in the party, not faith in the government, rules the political landscape. The faith is driven by selfish interests and perpetuated by fear. Purposeful division in the name of the party creates stalemate, inaction, and ultimately molds unfaithful servants who simply work for reelection.

I agree with Brokaw that we should re-examine the American definition of prosperity -- carefully delineating wants and needs in the process -- while understanding that "bigger" and "more" seldom lead to a substantially better life unless society, as a whole, becomes stronger in the process. To do that, we must include, not divide; we must embrace, not thwart; and we must compromise, not stonewall. A strong belief in humanity must take precedence over selfish interests.

We can and must build foundations of trust between all people, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, Christian and Muslim. We must once again instill faith in the government. Only a government that works together to achieve common goals is worthy of our trust. The present state of constant animosity and blame shakes the foundation of a progressive democracy. 

And, what about transparency? Just because we can see how the "sausage" is made doesn't mean we shouldn't eat it. Yet, I think it does mean that it should be formulated with full disclosure.

I hope that bipartisan support will reduce conniving, dealing, and wrongdoing. In a government that is truly controlled by the people, the majority vote puts the candidate in office. For the term, the elected official deserves cooperation, not total condemnation. Perhaps it is time to call for the faithful to respect government and to stop distrusting the opposing political party. The oppressive hatred shames our nation.       

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Israeli Terror and How It Relates to Fear In America

"The effects of terrorism are not limited to its actual victims.  They can be wide-ranging and far-reaching.  They include the direct and indirect economic costs of terrorist attacks, the psychological effects
of terrorism upon the population, and the social and political
impact of terrorist attacks." 

(Dov Waxman. "Living with terror, not Living in Terror: The Impact of Chronic Terrorism on Israeli Society." Perspectives On Terrorism, Vol 5, No 5-6. 2011.)

Dov Waxman is an associate professor of political science at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He specializes in International Relations, Middle East politics, Israeli politics, and Israeli-Palestinian relations.  Click here to read the entire article:

What lessons can the United States learn from Israel concerning combating terrorism? Dov Waxman has examined the effects of Palestinian terrorism during the time known as the second Intifada (2000-2005), the second Palestinian uprising against Israel. He suggests some of the same coping strategies employed by Israel may help America combat the growing wave of terrorism and the widespread fear of terrorist attacks.

Waxman says ...

"Israelis were seriously affected by Palestinian terrorist attacks during the second Intifada, this did not result in major, lasting changes in Israeli behavior.  Despite being profoundly affected by terrorism, Israeli society was not demoralized by it, and in this respect Palestinian terrorism failed to achieve its aim.  This is because the Israeli public grew accustomed to chronic terrorism and possessed a high level of social resilience."

Terrorism is very old. It is a type of political violence that dates back thousands of years. Dealing and coping with terrorism is important as efforts to eliminate it completely will likely fail. Yet, Waxman says in so far as the effects of terrorism can be minimized, the overall effectiveness of terrorism can be reduced.  Thus, Waxamn believes studying the severity and longevity of the effects of terrorism is crucial to assessing its effectiveness.

(Walter Laqueur, A History of Terrorism. 2001.)

Terrorist attacks mostly focus on the impact of terrorist attacks on public opinion, elections, government policy, and peace processes. The public suffers under constant threats to life, liberty, and happiness.

Palestinian terrorism took a huge toll on Israeli lives during the second Intifada -- from September 2000 until May 2004, 1030 people had been killed, and 5788 injured in more than 13,000 terrorist attacks, which means that approximately 0.1 percent of Israel’s population was injured or killed. The same percentage in the United States would equate to a staggering 295,000 people being injured or killed. It is evident that the ability of Israeli society to cope with this terrorism is quite remarkable.

(Avraham Bleich et al, “Mental health and resiliency following 44 months of terrorism: a survey of an Israeli national representative sample,” BMC Med 4. 2006.)

How Israelis Cope?

No one is suggesting accepting huge death tolls inflicted by terrorists like ISIS. Yet, the United States cannot accept a climate of fear that threatens to paralyze life in a democracy.

* Acclimatization to Chronic Terrorism. Waxman claims acclimatization to chronic terrorism is important in the struggle. Israeli society basically became accustomed to terrorism and adapted accordingly. The threat of chronic terrorism simply became part of normal life in Israel during the second Intifada.

(Alan Kirschenbaum, “Adapting Behaviors of Israeli Civilians to Palestinian Terror” in Nehemia Friedland et al. “The Concept of Social Resilience.” Samuel Neaman Institute for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology. Working Paper. December 2005.)

* Less Exposure to Media Coverage. Second, Israeli media attention to terrorist attacks declined during chronic terror -- repeated terrorist attacks received less television coverage and less television viewing during the second Intifada. Thus, since exposure to media coverage of terrorist attacks has been shown to generate symptoms of anxiety and distress, as the media pays less attention to terrorism, this helps the society to become less affected by it.

(Michelle Slone. “Responses to Media Coverage of Terrorism.”
Journal of Conflict Resolution, 44. 2000.)

* Social Resilience. Finally, and most importantly, social resilience in Israel got stronger.  Resilience is a characteristic of both individuals and societies.  Like individual resilience, social resilience involves the “ability to withstand adversity and cope effectively with change.” Thus, with regards to terrorism, social resilience prevents terrorism from seriously disrupting the normal functioning of a society.  It means that a targeted population is able to cope with the threat of terrorism and not be intimidated or demoralized by it.

(Nehemia Friedland. “The Elusive Concept of Social Resilience” in Friedland et al. 2005.)

What contributes to social resilience in Israel?

* A Cohesive Society. Israeli-Jewish society is still very cohesive, notwithstanding its serious political, cultural, and social divisions. 

(Meir Elran. “Israel’s National Resilience: The Influence of the Second Intifada
on Israeli Society.” Tel Aviv University Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies.
Working Paper No. 81. January 2006.)

* Social Trust. Social trust is another factor behind social resilience. In Israel’s case, the high level of trust that Israeli Jews have in the country’s army and security services boosts their social resilience. During the second Intifada, the Israeli-Jewish public had confidence in the Israeli military and believed that quick and effective actions were being taken against Palestinian militant groups that were carrying out terrorist attacks (at least during the tenure of the Sharon government).  In this respect, Israel’s counter-terror actions helped prevent Israeli society from becoming demoralized.

(Gabriel Ben-Dor et al. “The Social Aspect of National Security: The Impact of Terror on Israeli Society.” Unpublished paper. 2007.)

* Patriotism. Israelis Jews are very patriotic -- this is most apparent in their high level of willingness to perform military service—which also contributes to their social resilience.

(“Patriotism survey: 88% proud to be Israeli.” Ynet. January 29, 2009.)

(Gabriel Ben-Dor et al. “The Social Aspect of National Security: The Impact of Terror on Israeli Society.” Unpublished paper. 2007.)

What We Know -- Terrorism In America

Terrorism tests a society’s unity and resolve.  Waxman reminds us that Israeli society essentially passed that test in the second Intifada due to its social resilience. Terrorism does spread mass fear and anxiety, but it does not have to destroy a society’s morale and willpower. America has to understand that now.

But ...

(a) Cohesiveness

Is America a cohesive society?

James Gimpel, a political scientist at the University of Maryland who co-wrote Our Patchwork Nation: The Surprising Truth About the “Real” America, said there is less cohesion today than in the past. Political divisions, he said, once were simply stand-ins for people’s socioeconomic status. Now, he said, partisanship has come to represent all sorts of other differences between Americans.

Michael Lind, co-director of the Economic Growth Program and the Next Social Contract Initiative at the New America Foundation, took issue with the claim that Americans are more divided today.

Randall Kennedy, author and American Law professor at Harvard University, identified poverty as America’s deepest fault line. Poor people in America, he said, don’t have the chance to participate fully in society because their circumstances hold them down.

("Keeping the United States United." Washington Conference. Center for Social Cohesion.)

(b) Trust

Is America a trusting population?

These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question. Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful” in dealing with people.

An AP-GfK poll conducted last month found that Americans are suspicious of each other in everyday encounters. Less than one-third expressed a lot of trust in clerks who swipe their credit cards, drivers on the road, or people they meet when traveling.

In fact, some studies suggest it’s too late for most Americans alive today to become more trusting. That research says the basis for a person’s lifetime trust levels is set by his or her mid-twenties and unlikely to change, other than in some unifying crucible such as a world war.

Associated Press writer Connie Cass says, "The best hope for creating a more trusting nation may be figuring out how to inspire today’s youth, perhaps united by their high-tech gadgets, to trust the way previous generations did in simpler times." Hackers and viruses and hateful posts eat away at trust. And sitting home watching YouTube means less time out meeting others.

"A lot of it depends on whether we can find ways to get people using technology to connect and be more civically involved," states Thomas Sander, executive director of the Saguaro Seminar.

(Connie Cass. "In God we trust, maybe, but not each other." November 30, 2013.)

(c) Patriotism

Is America a patriotic country?

Lynn Vavreck of The New York Times reports patriotism is on the decline. But, she writes that the decline seems to have more to do with reactions to the symbols of American democracy than its values. Vavreck says, "Older Americans remain remarkably high in their devotion to symbols like the flag, while young citizens are cooler toward Old Glory but express higher support for classic American ideals like equality and opportunity."

These patterns suggest the shifts are generational and not driven by stages in the life cycle. Past generations have declined only marginally in their nationalism over time – they start out high and mainly remain so. But today’s youngest generation begins adulthood with much lower levels of fondness for the symbols of America, and if the past is a guide, there is no reason to expect increases as they age.

The American National Election Study, the nation’s longest-running data collection (since 1948) on political attitudes and behavior is funded by the National Science Foundation, and they conduct interviews in person every four years in the homes of nearly 2,000 randomly selected Americans.

Here are some telling results of the interviews:

(a) 81 percent of the Silent Generation (those who are 69 to 86 years old in 2014) say they "love America" while only 58 percent of millennials (18 to 33 years old) feel the same. Born between 1928 and 1945, the Silent Generation fought both the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Thirty-one percent of them report that they personally served on active duty in the United States Armed Forces. Only 4 percent of millennials have done so.

(b) Seventy-eight percent of the older generation consider their American identity to be "extremely important." That drops to 70 percent for baby boomers (50 to 68 years), 60 percent of Generation X’ers (34 to 49 years), and only 45 percent of young adults define themselves this way.

(c) And while 94 percent of the Silent Generation say that "seeing the U.S. flag flying makes them feel extremely or very good," only 67 percent of millennials muster the same affection.

(Lynn Vavreck. "Younger Americans Are Less Patriotic. At Least, in Some Ways."
The New York Times. July 04, 2014.)

According to Vavreck, in general, millennials have more appetite for egalitarian principles than older people. Still, they may look less patriotic than the rest of America at first glance, but coming of age in the era of globalization and being a more racially diverse generation may simply mean that traditional symbols of American democracy hold less meaning for them. She says, "Milliennials may be less devoted to the symbols of America, but they are no less devoted to democratic ideals."

What? Me Worry?

All of this has caused the Pew Research Center to conclude that millennials -- the young people who largely represent the future of the United States -- are “detached from institutions … linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry -- and optimistic about the future.” They are, the report concludes, “different from older adults back when they were the age millennials are now.”

Damn right, I definitely believe they are different from older adults. Maybe they just need large doses of encouragement from the older population to build their own positive aspects of cohesiveness, trust, and patriotism.

In fact, maybe the millennials -- one large segment of American society -- are already becoming more acclimatized to chronic terrorism and showing their own brand of social resiliency – an attitude that any fear should be allayed by retreating into a shell of narrow-mindedness With all of the doom and gloom in the news stories about terrorism, perhaps this acceptance is occurring out of a false sense of necessity.

In fact, in the new America, more and more citizens seem to display fear and distrust not only of terrorists but also of anyone or anything remotely “different” from a narrowly defined political “norm.”

It is not enough for people to say they are devoted to democratic ideals. It is the responsibility of each American to accept the fact that the country's strength lies in its great diversity. Beyond this acceptance, they must dedicate themselves to the patriotic concept of working together to defeat evils that threaten to destroy the collective trust of a great democracy. Unfounded mistrust and stereotypical thinking are strong tools of terrorists that flourish when division is held above cohesion.

Just above our terror, the stars painted this story
in perfect silver calligraphy. And our souls, too often
abused by ignorance, covered our eyes with mercy.”

--Aberjhani, I Made My Boy Out of Poetry

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Broken Government -- The Need For a Centrist Movement

As American political parties attempt to take complete control of the government and get everything they want -- in the process, creating a monopoly on what they selfishly perceive is "good for the country" --  the yearn for total domination as Charles Wheelan, senior lecturer and policy fellow at the Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College, points out, is analogous to the goals of the Sunni and the Shiite branches of Islam.

In the face of being called a traitor or a Jihadist sympathizer (which, of course, I am not), I agree. What is wrong with the government is not the presidency of Obama or of Bush, not the view of the liberal or of the conservative, not the party of the Democrat or of the Republican; but the incessant partisan commitment of those in the Congress that creates eternal divisiveness. I, for one, am sick of it. And, I also see it as corrosive and potentially deadly to the ideals of Democracy.

In America today, most people acquire enough resources to get at least a decent portion of "what they want" from the government. Yet, that is not good enough for the mass of polarization. They are used to finding slanted support and daily grooming from talking heads that beg them to view everything as black-and-white and good-or-bad, and they have been conditioned to blame the opposition for all their problems and difficulties. Finding an unbiased source in the middle is nearly impossible.

The result is the lack of public confidence in government. We now have a government divided, not united. Two distinct sides now view important issues and stand behind their unwavering views supported by party "big guns" whose purpose is to hold office, build the party, and secure a forceful, narrow-minded monopoly of a single platform. 

Wheelan expounds on his views ...

"This (quest for domination) is a ridiculously bad plan. First, from a practical standpoint, neither party is going to win 60 votes in the Senate, and without 60 votes in the Senate, neither party will get everything it wants.

"Second, from a philosophical standpoint, neither party should be able to dominate the other. We should not pass major legislation if it cannot attract even a few votes from the minority party. It’s not fair to the minority, and it’s not durable. (See the Affordable Care Act.)

"So our two major parties really don’t have a plan — at least not a good one. Meanwhile, the political ill will generated by this all-or-nothing approach is ruining our capacity to do even basic bipartisan housekeeping (e.g. confirming judges)."

(Charles Wheelan. "The Plan That Beats No Plan." U.S. News

1. Build a movement of pragmatic problem solvers who are fed up with the partisan dysfunction. Define what it means to be a centrist in America.

According to Wheelan ...

"Centrists ought to stop defining themselves using a political spectrum that no longer has any meaning. Instead, the political middle ought to start from scratch, building a set of guiding principles that:

1) make sense;
2) appeal to the large and growing segment of Americans who are disaffected with the two-party system; and
3) embody the tools necessary to deal with America's most serious policy challenges."

(Charles Wheelan. "Do You Belong in the Political Middle?" U.S. News. Jan. 06, 2014.)

You can even take his Centrist Pledge by clicking here:

 2. Use that organization to influence a handful of key U.S. Senate races.

Wheelan describes the organization ...

"This is the leverage point: 50 states of centrists focused on supporting pragmatic problem solvers (Republicans, Democrats or independents) in targeted races. When the U.S. government works, the Senate tends to lead. And when the Senate leads, it always begins with some bipartisan 'gang.' So elect people who are likely to be part of that gang."

3. Scale up the model.

Wheelan defines the scaling ...

"Support moderate, pragmatic candidates wherever they happen to emerge. Build a sustained movement that can push back against the entrenched partisan interests. The bigger and better organized the movement, the more good candidates it will attract. And the more good candidates it attracts, the more powerful the movement becomes. And so on."

My Conclusion

A centrist movement toward a political middle that uses pragmatism, negotiation, and compromise is desirable. Given the present sad state of affairs, I would even say it is essential. In a system filled with little opposition, America is unjustly controlled, but in a system with so much opposition that the wheels no longer turn, America languishes in stagnation.

Changing the aim of government from overwhelming partisan control to bipartisan pragmatism is a tall order in the 21st century when television-fed voters seem to relish blaming opposing party scapegoats while refusing to research independently the issues. Yes, I am a firm believer that we have become a nation of listeners and viewers that prefer sound bites over substance, easily swayed toward polar opposition by our own laziness.

Now, public confidence in government may be at an all-time low. A national exit poll conducted by Edison Research found that a majority of voters disapproved of Republicans and Democrats alike, and only 20 percent trust Washington to do what’s right most or all the time.

Oh, how political times have changed. In a recent article (2011), David Frum, senior editor at The Atlantic and the chairman of Policy Exchange, reminisces ...

"When Tip O'Neill retired in 1987, he was asked how the quality of people elected to Congress had changed in his 30-plus years of service. The former Speaker of the House answered: 'The quality is clearly better, much better.' But, he added, 'The results are definitely worse.'

"He meant: as compared to the Congresses of the 1950s, the Congresses of the 1980s contained fewer drunks and fewer crooks. Members were better educated and harder working. Yet the Congresses of the 1950s managed to balance the budget, confirm presidential nominees in reasonable time and enact programs, like the one that created the interstate highway system. The Congresses of the 1980s could do none of those things.

"And of course the contemporary record is even worse. This past summer, Congress very nearly pushed the United States into an unnecessary default. Another government shutdown looms. The budgeting of the United States is in chaos. The Federal Reserve has been left for months with two vacancies on its seven-member board because of secret holds by individual senators.

"Politics is a contest, limited by certain unwritten rules. And over the past two decades, old rules have broken down."

(David Frum. "Why our government is broken." CNN. September 26, 2011.)

Political scientists Nolan McCarty, Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal have charted the attitudes of the political parties back to 1879, and they found party polarization in recent years to be greater than at any time since their charts began. Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for The New York Times, says ...

"Politicians have also figured out what works for their own careers: playing to their base, denouncing the other side, and blocking rivals from getting credit for anything. Since many politicians are more vulnerable in a primary than in a general election, there’s not much incentive for compromise... Yet we also get the national government we deserve, and that’s an indictment of all of us."

(Nicholas Kristof. "America’s Broken Politics." The New York Times. November 05, 2014.)

Broken voters produce broken lawmakers and, in turn, those politicians perpetuate a broken system. We, the people, are, indeed, the ones to blame. We are at the root of the decisions to hug the poles of polarization and to blame the opposition for a lack of centrist actions. We need to change.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Yes, GOP, This IS Who You Are -- Trump Supporters

Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, has called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what ('the hell') is going on.”

Chemi Shalev, Israeli newspaper columnist, said Trump’s remarks “must have delighted the Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” the leader of ISIS.

“For some Jews, the sight of thousands of supporters waving their fists in anger as Trump incited against Muslims and urged a blanket ban on their entry to the United States could have evoked associations with beer halls in Munich a century ago,” he wrote.

A spokeswoman for British Prime Minister David Cameron called the remarks “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.”

“The prime minister has been very clear that, as we look at how we tackle extremism and this poisonous ideology, what politicians need to do is look at ways they can bring communities together and make clear that these terrorists are not representative of Islam and indeed what they are doing is a perversion of Islam,” she said.

"This is not who we are as a party or a country," Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, told his House GOP colleagues during a meeting at the Capitol Hill Club. Ryan's remarks were met with applause.

Ryan said Trump's proposal violates at least two amendments: the First Amendment protecting the freedom of religion, and the 14th forbidding guaranteeing due process of law and citizenship to all persons "born or naturalized" in the U.S.

(Scott Wong. "Ryan condemns Trump's Muslim ban." The Hill. December 08, 2015.)

Before his recent inflammatory proclamation on December 7, The latest Rasmussen Reports weekly "Trump Change" survey of December 4 found that 68% of Likely Republican Voters believe Trump is likely to be their party’s nominee next year, up from 53% two weeks ago and the highest finding since late October.

("Trump Change: Trump Change: Trump’s Chances Continue To Improve." 
Rasmussen Reports. December 04, 2015.)

Yet, one journalist, Igor Volsky, Director of Video and Contributing Editor of, believes Trump's plan to ban Muslims is not that far out of line with the rest of the GOP. Volsky says ...

"But Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric didn’t come out of nowhere. Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Republican candidates have sought to energize conservative voters and shore up their anti-terror credentials by denouncing Muslims. Anti-Muslim rhetoric reached its height in the aftermath of the Paris bombing and the presidential candidates continue to back policies that would discriminate against Muslim immigrants and refugees and could have the effect of intimidating the American Muslim community. Below is the comprehensive guide to this year’s anti-Muslim sentiment."

(Igor Volsky. "Trump’s Plan To Ban Muslims Is In Line With The Rest Of The GOP." December 08, 2015.)

Volsky cites the following in his "comprehensive guide to this year’s anti-Muslim sentiment":

* During an appearance on Fox News, Marco Rubio said he would consider shutting down mosques or “any place where radicals are being inspired.” [11/20/2015]

* Rick Santorum blasted Muslims at the Values Voter Summit, arguing that the Middle East conflict is the result of an age-old fight between the West and those who see the world in a “fundamentally different” way — namely, Muslims. “[There is] a fundamental foundational problem in Islam of embracing issues of freedom of conscience and religious persecution,” he said. [9/29/2015]

* During a campaign stop in South Carolina, Jeb Bush responded to the ongoing debate about the status of refugees fleeing ISIS by saying, “At a minimum we ought to be bringing in people that have — orphans or people that clearly aren’t going to be terrorists. Or Christians.” He added, “I mean you can prove you’re a Christian. I think you can prove it, if you can’t prove it, you are on the side of caution.” [11/17/2015]

* During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Ben Carson said that taking in refugees “from that area of the world, I think, is a huge mistake. … To bring them over here, under these circumstances, is a suspension of intellect” that would ignore “the reason the human brain has these big frontal lobes, as opposed to other animals.” [11/16/2015]

* Scott Walker claimed that only a “handful” of the world’s Muslims are “reasonable” or “moderate” while answering a question in New Hampshire. “It is a war against not only America and Israel, it’s a war against Christians, it’s a war against Jews, it’s a war against even the handful of reasonable, moderate followers of Islam who don’t share the radical beliefs that these radical Islamic terrorists have,” Walker said. [8/25/2015]

So ...

According to the Monmouth University poll released on December 7, Ted Cruz had already taken a slight lead over Donald Trump in Iowa. In the Monmouth poll, Cruz received 24 percent of the vote and Trump received only 19 percent. Yet, a CNN/ORC poll (November 28-December 6) on the Iowa presidential caucuses showed Trump had 33% support among likely GOP caucusgoers, followed by Cruz at 20% with Carson at 16%.

Will Donald Trump lose support after his statements
about shutting down Muslims entering the U.S.?

Janet Hook of The Wall Street Journal reported "Ted Cruz ‘disagrees’ with Trump's Muslim ban, but he won't criticize him for it." Hook wrote Cruz said ...

“I disagree with that proposal. I like Donald Trump. A lot of our friends here have encouraged me to criticize and attack Donald Trump. I am not interested in doing so.”

Asked if he would support Mr. Trump if he were the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Mr. Cruz said, “I will absolutely support the Republican nominee but I hope and intend for that nominee to be me.”

(Janet Hook. "Ted Cruz ‘Disagrees’ With Trump Muslim Ban, But Won’t Criticize
Him For It." The Wall Street Journal. December 08, 2015.) 

Perhaps Mr. Volsky is right -- the GOP frontrunner needs to keep views concerning Muslims similar to Trump's to get the nomination of his conservative party. The substance of a person seems to pale when he is confronted with the reality of manipulating public opinion to gain votes. Cruz is happy to sit on the fence until the dust clears completely after Trump's latest incendiary blast. You can bet Ted Cruz will have much more to say about Trump's December 7 rant in the near future ... after he sees how the majority Republican voters react.

And, the GOP seems to be devoted to maintaining political ranks at all costs, despite growing fear over a possible Trump presidency.

In an interview Sunday on the CBS program “Face the Nation,” presidential candidate Jeb Bush said  the idea of frontrunner Donald Trump receiving the Republican nomination is “kind of scary.” Bush elaborated ...

"He (Trump) doesn't talk about the issues at hand that are of national security importance for our country -- to keep us safe is the first priority of the president. And he's all over the map, misinformed at best and preying on people's fears at worst."

But asked if he would support Trump if he is the nominee, Bush said he would “because anybody is better than Hillary Clinton.”

Oh my, "anybody"? That includes a wide, wide range of applicants who might fill the position of Leader of the Free World. I guess if you consider a loud-mouthed, offensive megalomaniac a viable candidate, the "anybody" comment is understandable. Shame on the GOP candidates for not sharing their real views of Donald ... well, all except one who is constantly telling anyone who will listen "I am the best" ... the obnoxious, ginormous-egoed Trump.