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America Predicts the Future!

June 26th, 2010 No comments

I’ll finish my daily blogging with a fun piece. Thanks to “LadyFriend” for re-tweeting the link to this article with some of the most interesting poll results I’ve read in a long time.

A recent Pew Research Center poll asked Americans whether or not they believed that X would happen by the year 2050. Here are some the results, with commentary:

By mid century, 71 per cent believe cancer will be cured, 66 per cent say artificial limbs will work better than real ones and 81 per cent believe computers will be able to converse like humans.

We sure are optimistic, aren’t we? Even I have to admit that if medical science and computer technology continue to advance at the rate they’re advancing now, we’ll probably have cybernetic limbs with all kinds of advantages over regular limbs and computers that can chat with us about bullshit (I still doubt they’d be able to have serious philosophical conversations).

But curiously, we’re not just optimistic–we’re also freaking scared:

But Americans are also braced for a major energy crisis and a warming planet, according to the survey. More than half, or 58 per cent, fear another world war in the next 40 years and 53 per cent expect a terrorist attack against the United States using a nuclear weapon.

No surprises there. We’re about evenly split on what’s going to kill us. I’d put my money on an energy crisis and massive problems due to climate change, but I still think a nuclear terrorist attack is somewhat unlikely. But you never know.

The least surprising statistic was this:

The poll also shows a sharp dip in overall optimism from 1999, when 81 per cent said they were optimistic about life for themselves and their families. The current poll found just 64 per cent were.

No shit. The economy is crumbling. We’re bogged down in two wars–one out of sight and the other with no end in sight. The middle class is evaporating and our representatives in Washington aren’t doing anything about it. Mine will be the first generation in a very long time that will have a lower standard of living than previous generations, and almost nobody disputes that. What’s amazing that is that more than half of Americans are still optimistic about the future. I guess even less of us watch the news than I thought.

Here’s another gem:

53 per cent say ordinary people will travel in space

Yeah, good luck with that. We were supposed to have flying cars by now too.

Yet 72 per cent believe the world is likely to experience a major worldwide energy crisis by 2050.

Good. At least most of us don’t have our heads buried completely in the sand.

66 per cent say the Earth will definitely or probably get warmer but it breaks down strongly along political lines, with just 48 per cent of Republicans saying so and 83 per cent of Democrats.

Democrats–brace yourselves for a big “We told you so” in the near future. Then get ready for the republicans to somehow blame the environmentalists.

42 per cent say it is likely that scientists will be able to tell what people are thinking by scanning their brains but 55 say this will definitely or probably not happen.

I sure hope it won’t. The last thing we need are brain-scanning devices at airports–and you know they’d put them there. I don’t want some airport security guard knowing what I’m thinking about the sexy woman standing in front of me.

89 per cent believe a woman will be elected US president by 2050.

Definitely. Let’s just hope that woman is not Sarah Palin.

61 per cent say almost no one will send letters by 2050.

Um…who still sends letters now?

31 per cent expect the planet will be struck by an asteroid.

Not if Bruce Willis can help it….But seriously, we should be much more worried about blowing ourselves up than giant rocks from space. We’re much more likely to destroy ourselves than to be destroyed by an outside force.

Which brings me to the most highlighted statistic of the poll, which is the headline of the article itself:

41 per cent say Jesus Christ will return within the next 40 years while 46 per cent say this will definitely or probably not happen.

At least 46 percent of us are sane, but still…forty-one percent? That’s a shitload of Americans expecting Jesus to come rapture them away soon. That’s two out of every five people! It’s statistically impossible that you don’t know someone who believes in End Times prophecies.

If Armageddon comes, it’ll be because we brought it about. Prophecies tend to be self-fulfilling, and if a large enough portion of us believe that the world is going to end in some kind of catastrophic conflict, they may–consciously or unconsciously–help that conflict to come about.

But they certainly won’t care about the environment or improving the lot of humanity for the sake of future generations. Their grandchildren won’t suffer as long as they’re good Christians. It’s all the non-believers who will have to suffer, and who gives a crap about those goddamned libs anyway? Let ‘em burn.

It’s anybody’s guess what the next 40 years have in store for us, but I’d bet heavily against waking up one morning to find that all the Christians have dissappeared. Then again, if Jesus does take all the fundamentalists away from us, the chances of a better future will have dramatically improved!

We’re America, and We’re Here to Help

June 26th, 2010 No comments

I’ve been reading a lot more conservative articles recently thanks to Twitter, where I don’t just follow other liberals but people like John Boehner and Sarah Palin as well. When a conservative Tweets a link to a conservative article, I like to check it out.

There’s been a lot more talk in conservative media this week about Iran than there has been in the liberal media. I’m not sure why that is, but these articles are giving the impression that we are currently teetering on the brink of some kind of armed conflict with Iran, possibly all-out war:

Just last Friday an armada of more than 12 U.S. and Israeli warships passed through the Suez canal amid extreme security provided by Egypt. The ships are headed for the Red Sea and from there to the Persian Gulf. Another four U.S. warships will be making their way to the region to join the Strike Group. The Americans have also conducted joint air and naval strike practices with France and the U.K. under the command of American forces, while Germany is sending warships to the area, also under the command of American forces.

This is from an article in Forbes entitled “There Will Be War“. I can’t help but wonder if the authors are saying that because they’re predicting it or because they want it. No doubt it’s what the neocons want: War on Terror, Part III. More money for the military industrial complex and private contractors, and more of an excuse to cut domestic spending back home: “Sorry, but we can’t keep paying unemployment benefits and bring democracy to Iran.”

There seems to be a consensus that the best way to bring a war-wary public around to their side is to frame it in terms of helping the Iranian people overthrow their government. They’re using the Green Revolution and the overwhelming support it had from Americans from across the political spectrum to their advantage. As though what the Green Revolution needs is the full public support of the American president.

In an editorial, Leon Wieseltier at the Washington Post writes:

Real realism consists of the recognition that nuclear peace and social peace in Iran will be reliably achieved only with the advent of democracy, and that since June 12, 2009, the advent of Iranian democracy is not an idle wish. Morally and strategically — this is one of those perplexities in which they go serendipitously together — President Obama’s refusal to strongly support the Iranian resistance against the Iranian tyranny is not prudent, it is perverse.

May I remind you that the American government is not too popular among the Iranian people? They’re still a little sore from all that Shah business 30 years ago, and the last thing either side needs if for America to be on their side.

Nothing will undermine the Green Revolution faster than strong supportive rhetoric from the American president. And if we give the neocons what they want and actually send troops there to help the Greens overthrow Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, it won’t be long before the Greens turn against us. Our track record of helping Middle Eastern countries to set up democratic governments isn’t exactly perfect. In the past ten years, we’re essentially 0 for 2. As much as I hope the Green Revolution succeeds, America does not need to get involved and make it 0 for 3.

Tea Party Targets Lizard Brains

June 26th, 2010 No comments

A piece in Playboy this past week called Rogues of K Street got some attention. It’s written by an anonymous Tea Party consultant who provides some behind-the-scenes glimpses of Tea Party strategizing. It’s a bit of an odd read because while the author is clearly very proud of his work (you can tell he feels particular glee over the destruction of ACORN) he nevertheless reveals a few things that one would think no Tea Party consultant would want to be made public.

For one thing, he openly admits to using underhanded tactics:

That’s when I realized this isn’t an average fringe movement. This one is credible, legit and—for the first time in a decade—scaring the crap out of the left. In my years as a campaign hack and then as a consultant, I’ve created more than my share of fake grassroots organizations. Some were downright evil but effective beyond expectations. Did you get an automated call from the sister of a 9/11 victim asking you to reelect President Bush in 2004? That was me. Did you get a piece of mail with the phrase supports abortion on demand as a means of birth control? That may have been me too.

He just admitted that the Tea Party isn’t really a grassroots movement. That’s not news to me or anyone who operates outside the Fox News bubble, but I’m shocked he’d admit it in Playboy. Groups like Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity are funded by rich donors with an interest in keeping the anger of middle-class Americans misdirected enough to get them to march against reforms that would actually be to their benefit.

And how do they go about misdirecting that anger? This is the part of the article that received the most attention:

A good piece of mail gets its message across in 10 seconds. Television gives you 30 seconds, maybe. We’re playing to the reptilian brain rather than the logic centers, so we look for key words and images to leverage the intense rage and anxiety of white working-class conservatives. In other words, I talk to the same part of your brain that causes road rage. Ross Perot’s big mistake was his failure to connect his pie charts with the primordial brain. Two years after Perot’s first White House run the GOP figured this out, and thus was born the “angry white man” and with him a 54-seat swing in the House of Representatives.

He very clearly states that they’re appealing to emotion rather than logic. Get those folks all riled up about Big Bad Government and it won’t matter what you say about policy. You can convince them that more affordable health care is a bad thing, that regulating Wall Street would somehow hurt Main Street, that the proper response to a catastrophic oil spill is more oil drilling, and so on. It’s not about whether a claim is true or false–it’s about whether you can make that claim in a way that reaches the primordial part of the brain that needs to yell and shout and scream at something.

And what better to yell and shout and scream at than the Big Bad Government, which takes a [relatively small] portion of your hard-earned money every year and presumably wastes every penny. In reality, most of those pennies go to things completely essential for a functioning society, but never mind that. As long as the people are furious at their own representatives instead of the corporations that have bought those representatives thus causing all of the problems they’re so angry about, the corporations can keep on causing those problems.

If you don’t trust the source because it’s anonymous, read the whole article. The guy is obviously a true believer. I only picked the most damaging quotes, but the article as a whole is very favorable to the Tea Party. This guy, whom I’d really love to punch in the face if I ever met him, is obviously very proud of the work he’s doing–helping wealthy people and giant corporations to keep kicking Americans in the kneecaps and then getting them to take it out on someone else.