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Negativity merchants

I just saw this in our Twitter feed:

 

This comes on the heels of a hilarious August 7 segment on Colbert Nation on the Ebola panic that makes the serious point that an Ebola outbreak is something we’re being told to be afraid of, even though no one has come down with Ebola in the United States yet.

 

All of this gives some context for a new university study published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences that says that conservatives tend to be more responsive to negative news than liberals. Salon.com refers to the study in their July 29 article, “Secrets of the right-wing brain: New study proves it—conservatives see a different, hostile world.

The more nuanced journal article (which unlike Salon doesn’t mention birthers) says:

…A rapidly growing body of empirical evidence documents a multitude of ways in which liberals and conservatives differ from each other in purviews of life with little direct connection to politics, from tastes in art to desire for closure and from disgust sensitivity to the tendency to pursue new information, but the central theme of the differences is a matter of debate. In this article, we argue that one organizing element of the many differences between liberals and conservatives is the nature of their physiological and psychological responses to features of the environment that are negative. Compared with liberals, conservatives tend to register greater physiological responses to such stimuli and also to devote more psychological resources to them.

The State of the Union

The President will deliver his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday. My interest was piqued by a line from pre-address coverage at The Hill saying:

President Obama hopes to push the reset button on his second term Tuesday when he delivers the State of the Union address to Congress and a primetime television audience.

If there were to be a birther rebuttal to the State of the Union, it might well have the theme of pushing the reset button on Obama’s first term. But that’s not going to happen and as far as I am concerned, whatever birther relevance there was ended with the re-election of Barack Obama last year. A news article mentioning “birther” today is more likely to be about Ted Cruz or someone else, than about Barack Obama.

While the state of the birthers today is abysmal, irrational right-wing beliefs about Barack Obama, and world affairs in general, are strong, and this should be no surprise. The most successful news organization in the country is the Fox News Channel, and it is run by a man who believes that Barack Obama is a socialist and that climate change is a hoax spread by foreign countries to try to get an advantage over the United States. Roger Ailes1, President of Fox News Channel, was instrumental in the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. His message of fear and division is not only on home television screens, but in many restaurants and medical waiting rooms in this area. The Colbert Report this week had a piece on a recent court decision about “net neutrality” and gave three clips from three news organizations, highlighting by comparison Fox News fear mongering:

CBS: The way we use the Internet could change after a federal appeals court struck down “net neutrality” rules.

PBS: The fallout over a big decision may change now the web works and the future of so-called “net neutrality”

Fox News: We could be witnessing the end of the Internet as we know it.

Some furor has arisen after a recent series remarks by a Republican House candidate Joshua Black from Florida who said on Twitter of Barack Obama:

I’m past impeachment. It’s time to arrest and hang him high.

and

He should be executed for treason. I think the appropriate punishment is death. They killed Benedict Arnold.2 (Obama) shouldn’t be allowed to kill Americans without a trial.

The liberal web site Politicus USA wrote of this incident:

The real issue isn’t the mental health issues of Joshua Black, but the fact that so many Republicans agree with him.

But look at right-wing news coverage that leads to this kind of thinking:

  • Obama Care Exemption – None Dare Call it Treason (Washington Times)
  • Treason Season at the State Department (Fox News)
  • Cheney: Obama Giving ‘Aid and Comfort to the Enemy’ (Fox News)
  • ‘Fast and Furious’ an Act of Treason? (Fox News)
  • Romney supporters mock Obama, Call Him Treasonous (Newsmax)

If one wonders why so many people believe something as crazy as Barack Obama being a socialist doing everything he can to destroy the country, it is because they belong to a community where this belief is the norm, lead by a powerful persuader who actually believes it. Folks like me do not understand the seeming insanity of extreme conservatives because we do not live in the world as it is portrayed to them by Fox News and its kindred.

A nation only survives when it shares some basic level consensus and good will, so I conclude that the State of the Union is precarious so long as divisive voices have such professional skill and reach. Only time will tell. I will leave you with this quotation from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.


1There’s a lot on the Internet this month about Roger Ailes due to the publication of a new biography of him: The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News—and Divided a Country by Gabriel Sherman.

2Actually Benedict Arnold went to England where he eventually died of natural causes.

The Doc goes political (again)

I try to maintain a neutral political stance on this web site. I have only endorsed two political candidates that I recall in over 4 years, Paul Penzone who was running against Joe Arpaio for Maricopa County Sheriff, and Herman Cain who was a proxy for Stephen Colbert in the Republican Presidential Primary in South Carolina. I’m going to do it again.

Photo of Mark SandfordIn a special election to fill the vacant US House seat from the 1st District of South Carolina, former Governor Mark Sandford (left) lead in the Republican Primary vote yesterday, although not with a clear majority in the field of 16, and will face a runoff. Gov. Sandford embarrassed the state when he told everyone that he was hiking the Appalachian trail, but in reality he was shacked up with his mistress in Argentina, a trip paid for by South Carolina taxpayers. Sandford was also noted for his obstruction of federal stimulus funds headed for the state then facing a 9.5% unemployment rate. Sandford was backed by contributions from conservative billionaire David Koch.

Elizabeth Colbert Busch photoOpposing Sandford is Democrat and job creator Elizabeth Colbert Busch, who handily won the Democratic Primary with 96% of the vote. Busch is the sister of comedian Herman Cain Stephen Colbert (sorry, I keep getting those two confused) who himself was raised in the 1st District. According to a recent statement from Congressman John Lewis of South Carolina, she is his sister too.

Elizabeth Colbert Busch is my friend and my sister. I am endorsing her in the Special Election for South Carolina’s First District.

I am officially announcing my support for Busch too, even though she is not my sister.

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Obama and gay roommate traveled to Mars

Image credit: Comedy CentralAn old story takes on new significance in the light of the fact that Comedy Central discovered it. The gold band worn on the left hand of President Obama long before he was married was declared by Jerome Corsi in a YouTube video as proof that Obama was gay. (We’ll ignore for narrative sake that he now claims the ring means Obama is Muslim).

We had a hugely popular discussion earlier in the year on my article “Is Obama a Marsist?” and it’s comment overflow article. Now conservative pundit Stephen Colbert has taken up the baton in his “This Changes Everything” series (3:45 in the video). With interviews and exclusive footage, Colbert provides shocking new evidence and expert testimony by Captain James T. Kirk that Obama teleported to mars.

The saga of the black Mormon birther

Yeah, caught my eye too. The article in the Washington Post by Jonathan Capehart was, “I met a black Mormon birther Ron Paul delegate”.

I was watching the Colbert Report and saw the poll result below:

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The Republican National Convention delegate who is the subject of this article was not, however, the “margin of error” in the poll above, but a Ron Paul delegate.  In 2008 John McCain received only 4% of the black vote. The sea of white faces at the Republican Convention was underscored by a truly shocking incident, reported by the Washington Post, and others:

On Tuesday, convention organizers ejected two attendees after they reportedly threw peanuts at a black CNN camerawoman and told her, “This is how we feed animals.” Organizers called the conduct “inexcusable and unacceptable.”

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told the Post:

The demographics race we’re losing badly. We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.

Being a black Mormon carries its own bit of strangeness. From 1849 to 19783, blacks were excluded from the Mormon priesthood (all worthy Mormon males become members of the priesthood) because the Book of Mormon said that the black color was a mark of a curse from God. (The red color of American Indians was also a punishment according to early Mormons.) The early Mormon leader Brigham Young expressed his views in this graphic language:

You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind …. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race—that they should be the ‘servant of servants’; and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree.4

Later inerrant divine revelation corrected prior policy (see also: Polygamy), allowing full participation by blacks in the Mormon church. Nowadays, the Latter-day Saints are growing fastest outside its traditional white Anglo-Saxon origins.

So back to Allen Johnson, Republican delegate from Texas. Johnson thinks the Republicans are getting more and more liberal1 and if that weren’t enough, that Barack Obama’s long form birth certificate is a fake.

“Mommy, tell me more about the birther.”

“…Obama was raised a communist. His parents were communists. His grandparents were communists. What do you expect from him?2” I challenged him on that last assertion, which garnered this reply. “Yes, they were CIA.”

Then, without my asking, Johnson volunteered, “Was he born in Kenya? He said he was born in Kenya.” And the long-form birth certificate that President Obama released last year? What did Johnson make of that? “It does not appear to be real. No. I could go on and on. That’s radical enough,” he said with a chuckle as our mind-blowing conversation ended.

Read Mr. Capehart’s article for a much more nuanced and contextual version of the story. Also, check out the Comedy Central link for Colbert’s revealing interview with former presidential candidate and fellow-Mormon Jon Huntsman.

Also, check out this MSNBC interview including Capehart. Apparently Capehart was unable to find any black delegate at the RNC supporting Romney.


1Based on deficit spending.

2Johnson said he voted for Obama in 2008.

3It is interesting to note that the First Presidency of the Latter-day Saints who confirmed the revelation of priesthood for all worthy males to President Kimball in 1978 included one Marion George Romney, born in Mexico, as was Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney.

4This quotation comes from the Journal of Discourses, an early Mormon publication of 26 volumes of the writings and sermons of early Mormon leaders, in which can be found the stranger bits of Mormonism. When dealing with Mormonism it is important to distinguish between “doctrine,” and “speculation.” Mormon apologists will say, and perhaps reasonably so, that the JD is not doctrine.

Colbert highlights Romney/birther connection

I said it first: Romney needs the birthers to become President. Stephen Colbert’s staff perhaps reads my blog because last night he did a deliciously funny piece on just that topic. Highlighting the connection between birther Donald Trump and and Mitt Romney through a major fundraising event last night in Las Vegas, Colbert did the math showing that Romney needs birthers to win (and 9/11 truthers, alien abductees and a few more) 50.1%.

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Watch the video. The Romney/Trump section starts at 6:10.