The Conservative Mind

The differences between left and right have increasingly become a matter not of differences in opinion but in differences in facts which are accepted. This has been studied the most with regards to science, with conservative belief in science now hitting new lows. This has also been commonly seen with high profile issues ranging from false conservative beliefs that Saddam threatened the United States with WMD or was involved in the 9/11 attacks  to their false beliefs that Barack Obama is a Muslim, a Socialist, and someone born outside of the United States.

Conservative rejection of science is most striking to those who understand that science is the best way to study the world around us based upon verifiable facts, but Republican anti-intellectualism is not limited to science. They promote a revisionist history to justify their policies, and promote economic views which have no basis in any sensible economic theory, even ignoring the actual economic views of capitalist economists they claim to follow. If Adam Smith were to come back to life, he would die laughing over the economic views which today’s conservatives promote, often claiming they are based upon his views.

Chris Mooney, who has written a lot on this topic, has an article in Mother Jones coinciding with the publication of his new book on The Republican Brain. Studies have shown biological differences between conservatives and liberals. These differences certainly might have some influence as to the ideology someone holds, but I suspect that this is something influenced by both nature and the influences on an individual. Therefore we see far more liberals on the coasts then in the deep south.

Kevin Drum raises the question of why American conservatives are more anti-science than those in Europe. Similar questions could be raised based upon time. At some times, such as during the McCarthy era, conservatives were as fanatic as those today, while at other times the bulk of the conservative movement tended to be less extreme. William F. Buckley, with all his faults, would probably have tried to keep the Tea Party followers out of the conservative movement as he did with the Birchers.  Barry Goldwater was so repulsed by the direction that he saw the conservative movement moving that he considered himself a liberal in his later years. If Ronald Reagan were still alive and alert I suspect he would do the same.

I think this also comes down to the importance of environment impacting on possible biological factors. While other factors are at play, there are two main characteristics of today’s conservative movement which makes them more likely to reject facts. First, the conservative movement consists of alliances which have a vested interest in ignoring facts. This ranges from the religious right to those being duped into denying science change to support the interests of the petroleum industry.

Secondly, today’s American conservative movement has a propaganda machine which might be powerful than has ever been seen in human history, with the ability to get conservatives to internalize and spread beliefs which are totally irrational. Fox has been far more successful in promoting misinformation than the propaganda machines of Hitler or Stalin.  In many ways the American conservative movement is far closer to the authoritarian movements of the 20th century than to any beliefs held in the past by Americans. Unlike Hitler and Stalin, the conservative movement does not need to eliminate the trappings of democracy when they can fool their followers into thinking that they are promoting freedom and  limited government. Orwell certainly saw this coming.

Eliot Spitzer To Replace Keith Olbermann at Current TV

It hardly comes as a surprise that Current TV has fired Keith Olbermann. Olbermann has a long history of difficulty with employers, and there had been reports of conflicts this winter with regards to anchoring primary coverage. Current has hired Eliot Spitzer to start tomorrow, denying Olbermann a chance to say sign off on air. Spitzer’s show on CNN only lasted nine months.

Current has issued the following statement:

To the Viewers of Current:

We created Current to give voice to those Americans who refuse to rely on corporate-controlled media and are seeking an authentic progressive outlet.  We are more committed to those goals today than ever before.

Current was also founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it.

We are moving ahead by honoring Current’s values. Current has a fundamental obligation to deliver news programming with a progressive perspective that our viewers can count on being available daily — especially now, during the presidential election campaign. Current exists because our audience desires the kind of perspective, insight and commentary that is not easily found elsewhere in this time of big media consolidation.

As we move toward this summer’s political conventions and the general election in the fall, Current is making significant new additions to our broadcasts. We have just debuted six hours of new programming each weekday with Bill Press (“Full Court Press” at 6 am ET/3 am PT) and Stephanie Miller (“Talking Liberally” at 9 am ET/6 pm PT).

We’re very excited to announce that beginning tonight, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer will host “Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer,” at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT. Eliot is a veteran public servant and an astute observer of the issues of the day. He has important opinions and insights and he relishes the kind of constructive discourse that our viewers will appreciate this election year. We are confident that our viewers will be able to count on Gov. Spitzer to deliver critical information on a daily basis.

All of these additions to Current’s lineup are aimed at achieving one simple goal — the goal that has always been central to Current’s mission: To tell stories no one else will tell, to speak truth to power, and to influence the conversation of democracy on behalf of those whose voices are too seldom heard. We, and everyone at Current, want to thank our viewers for their continued steadfast support.


Al Gore & Joel Hyatt
Current’s Founders

Olbermann has been responding on Twitter, including the longer version via TwitLonger:

I’d like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV.
Editorially, Countdown had never been better. But for more than a year I have been imploring Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I’ve been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff. Nevertheless, Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program, finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract.
It goes almost without saying that the claims against me implied in Current’s statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently. To understand Mr. Hyatt’s “values of respect, openness, collegiality and loyalty,” I encourage you to read of a previous occasion Mr. Hyatt found himself in court for having unjustly fired an employee. That employee’s name was Clarence B. Cain.
In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out. For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one. That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it.

Media Decoder pointed out the difference between Olbermann’s audience at Current as compared to MSNBC:

In his forty weeks on Current TV, Mr. Olbermann had an average of 177,000 viewers at 8 p.m., down from the roughly one million that he had each night on MSNBC. Just 57,000 of those viewers on any given night were between the ages of 25 and 54, the coveted advertising demographic for cable news. Still, Mr. Olbermann ranked as the highest-rated program on Current, as Mr. Hyatt acknowledged earlier this month.


Facebook App Allows Users To Declare Enemies: Santorum and Limbaugh High On List

Some people would prefer to list, and perhaps interact with, enemies than friends. A new Facebook app, entitled EnemyGraph,  allows them to do so.  If Facebook was around in Richard Nixon’s day, he could have listed all his enemies but would have had no need for listing friends.

The most common enemies are well deserving of this list:

The ten most popular enemies among EnemyGraph users currently include Senator Rick Santorum, Justin Bieber, Westboro Baptist Church, Internet Explorer, Fox News, Farmville, Racism, the Twilight Series, Nickelback, and Rush Limbaugh.

Apparently their attacks on sex and women moved Santorum and Limbaugh high up on the list.

At the moment the app is down, needing to move to new servers due to higher than expected demand.

Quote of the Day

“Fox News sent Dick Cheney flowers. MSNBC sent chili cheese fries.” –Jay Leno re Dick Cheney’s heart transplant.

Bonus Quote:

“This weekend 71-year-old former Vice President Dick Cheney received a heart transplant. The heart is working so well that Cheney has already gone to Whoville and returned all their Christmas presents.” –Conan O’Brien

Mad Men Water Balloon Scene Really Happened

Megan’s birthday song for Don became the main topic of conservation about the season premiere of Mad Men, but there were also many other memorable scenes. The episode was framed by the dropping of a water balloon on a civil rights march by employees of a competing advertising firm and the consequences after Sterling Cooper Draper Price responded with their equal opportunity ad. The New York Times reports that the dropping of a water balloon was based on an actual incident in 1966:

Everything in the scene really happened, written almost verbatim from an article on Page 1 of The Times on May 28, 1966.

“Poverty Pickets Get Paper-Bag Dousing on Madison Avenue,” the headline read. The article described more than 300 people picketing the Office of Economic Opportunity, between East 40th and 41st Streets, the day before, chanting, “O-E-O, we’ve got the poverty, where’s the dough?” Executives upstairs at Young & Rubicam, half a block from the building, shouted at the protesters, and hung up signs saying “If you want money, get yourself a job.”

And then, the article said: “A container of water was pitched out of one of the windows of the building, splashing two spectators. Later, two demonstrators were hit by water-filled paper bags thrown from the building.”

A 9-year-old boy was struck. Several women in the protest, including the boy’s mother, hurried up to the advertising agency’s sixth-floor offices and confronted a secretary about the water throwing.

“This is the executive floor,” the secretary said. “That’s utterly ridiculous.”

“Don’t you call us ridiculous,” a protester shouted. “Is this what Madison Avenue represents?”

“And they call us savages,” a protester named Vivian Harris said.


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Romney Unable To Handle Health Care Questions From Jay Leno

Mitt Romney is having a tough time answering questions on health care, even from Jay Leno:

On health care, Leno pushed Romney to explain what he would offer Americans with pre-existing medical conditions so that they might retain their coverage, perhaps the most popular provision of the president’s healthcare law.

“People with pre-existing conditions, as long as they have been insured before, they are going to be able to continue to have insurance,” Romney said, describing his vision for health care if the Affordable Care Act were to be struck down or repealed.

“Suppose they haven’t been insured,” Leno countered.

“If they are 45 years old and they show up and say I want insurance because I have heart disease, it’s like, ‘Hey guys. We can’t play the game like that. You’ve got to get insurance when you are well and then if you get ill, you are going to be covered,’” Romney responded.

But when Leno pushed back, telling Romney he had friends who had worked in the auto industry who had never had insurance before and now were able to get coverage, Romney seemed to soften his stance somewhat.

“We’ll look at a circumstance where someone is ill and hasn’t been insured so far, but people who have the chance to be insured – if you are working in the auto business for instance, the companies carry insurance, they insure their employees, you look at the circumstances that exist – but people who have done their best to get insured are going to be able to be covered,” Romney said. “But you don’t want everyone saying, ‘I am going to sit back until I get sick and then go buy insurance.’ That doesn’t make sense. But you get defined rules and get people in who are playing by the rules.”

Leno  turned out to be a harder interviewer than most of the journalists in the mainstream media, actually asking a sensible follow up question. In the past Romney, like most Republicans, supported an individual mandate because of situations such as this, but he has flip flopped on that. I’d also like to know how he would handle the common situation of people losing their insurance coverage because of becoming too ill to work, along with the frequent cases of people losing their insurance because their employer dropped coverage.

Romney’s inability to give a sensible answer is characteristic of his entire campaign. Perhaps this is why Romney’s unfavorability rating has hit 50 percent, why Obama now leads Romney by 11 percent in a head to head match-up, and why Obama leads in key battleground states. Of course Romney isn’t helping himself by telling a “funny anecdote” about his father closing down a factory.


Leonard Nimoy on The Big Bang Theory

Here is a longer clip from Leonard Nimoy’s appearance (so far voice only) on The Big Bang Theory. Pictures and a briefer video were posted on Sunday.

More on the episode at The Hollywood Reporter.

Frequent Chocolate Consumption Reduces BMI

This might be the most important scientific finding ever: A study in the March 26 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine found that frequent chocolate consumption was associated with lower body mass index (BMI). Here is a summary from Medscape:

A recent study showed that frequent chocolate consumption was associated with lower body mass index (BMI), even when adjusting for calorie intake, saturated fat intake, and mood.

Beatrice A. Golomb, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues described their findings in a research letter published in the March 26 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The authors used data from 1018 patients already being screened for inclusion in a widely sampling clinical study evaluating noncardiac effects of statin medications. Of the 1018 participants, 1017 answered the question, “How many times a week do you consume chocolate?” BMI was calculated for 972 participants (95.6%); and 975 (95.8%) answered the validated Fred Hutchinson Food Frequency Questionnaire.

The investigators performed analyses with and without adjustment for calorie intake, saturated fat (satfat) intake, and mood. Fruit and vegetable intake was not associated with chocolate consumption (β, 0.004; P = .55), but satfat intake was significantly related to both chocolate consumption (β, 0.035; P < .001) and higher BMI.

The amount of chocolate consumed was examined, in addition to the frequency of chocolate consumption. Activity (number of times in a 7-day period the participant engaged in vigorous activity for at least 20 minutes) and mood (Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale [CES-D]) were also examined.

The relationship between chocolate consumption frequency and BMI was calculated in unadjusted models, in models adjusted for age and sex, and in models adjusted for activity, satfats, and mood.

Study participants consumed chocolate a mean 2.0 (SD, 2.5) times per week and exercised 3.6 (SD, 3.0) times per week. Frequency of chocolate consumption was associated with greater intake of calories and satfats and higher CES-D scores (P < .001 for each of these 3 associations); these all related positively to BMI. Chocolate consumption frequency was not associated with greater activity (P = .41), but it was associated with lower BMI (unadjusted P = .01). This association remained with and without adjustment for age and sex, as well as for calories, satfats, and depression.

Although chocolate consumption frequency was associated with lower BMI, the amount of chocolate consumed was not (eg, per medium chocolate serving or 1 oz [28 g], β, 0.00057 and P = .97, in an age- and sex-adjusted model).

“The connection of higher chocolate consumption frequency to lower BMI is opposite to associations presumed based on calories alone, but concordant with a growing body of literature suggesting that the character — as well as the quantity — of calories has an impact on [metabolic syndrome (MetS)] factors,” write the authors.

They further explain that as chocolate products are frequently high in sugar and fat, they are often assumed to contribute to an increased BMI. The authors note that this may still be true in some cases.

“[O]ur findings — that more frequent chocolate intake is linked to lower BMI — are intriguing,” write the authors. “They accord with other findings suggesting that diet composition, as well as calorie number, may influence BMI. They comport with reported benefits of chocolate to other elements of MetS,” the authors write, noting that a randomized trial studying the metabolic benefits of chocolate in humans may be warranted.

Mad Men: Zou Zou Bisou

Here is Megan’s gift for Don at his surprise party on the season premiere of Mad Men, along with some reaction at the end of the video.

Last night I posted this version by Sophia Loren. (The spelling of the name appears more authentic on this version).

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Doctor Who Official Trailer

The BBC and BBC America have released the official trailer for season 7 of Doctor Who. It is much better quality than the unofficial copies which were posted after the Doctor Who convention last weekend.