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      Yeah, I know, Trump is wrong on everything. But I agree with Thomas Walkom on NAFTA. The bottom line is that what Trump wants is what the left should want, and if it doesn’t, it isn’t the economic left. And Trudeau’s pretty face and lovely abs don’t change that. Trump wants to: raise the minimum […]
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The first (and possibly last time) I have ever agreed with ThereIsNoSpoon

David Adkins, aka ThereIsNoSpoon, tells it like it is on the contraception debate at Digby’s Hullabaloo:

These things don’t happen by accident. The conservative establishment decided early on that this was going to be a hill for them to die on. They weren’t forced to die on that hill. They could have let the Bishops stand alone. But they didn’t. They decided to run this ball all the way down the court.

And guess what? As Digby points out, it’s working. What just a few weeks ago was considered so mainstream as to an afterthought (providing contraception) is now seen as some sort of controversial touchstone, even as “religious freedom” has become a buzzword in the press.

Democrats can high-five one another about Republican overreach and laugh hysterically at the increased number of votes Barack Obama will receive in 2012 over Mitt Santorum. But ultimately the joke’s on us. It’s been on us ever since the Obama Administration decided to concede an inch to the misogynist conspiracy of extremist fanatics that are the Bishops, rather than mock them immediately for being out of touch with their own flock, to say nothing of the mainstream American public.

The political ground on contraception has suddenly shifted to the right faster than I have seen on any social issue in my lifetime. It’s incredible.

I think my tinfoil antenna were picking up the “Religious Liberty” meme a couple of months ago (damn, I really should be more thorough with tags) and wondered what the heck the Republicans were up to.  For some strange reason I thought it would have something to do with Faith Based Initiatives or something like that.  Definitely, this was going to be The Big Deal during the 2012 election season, The Wedge Issue of the Year.  Who knew it would take the form of a War on Contraception?

When are Democrats going to realize that the Republicans have a crack operation of skilled psychmetricians and marketing people who have have done expert data analysis and have strategized the best way to get their voters to the polls in November?  Democrats SUCK at this.  Yes, all you Kool-Aid addled Obots, Barack Obama didn’t win because he was some kind of wonderful.  He won because part of the Republican war machine got behind him in 2008 to take out the real Democrat.  He’s a fricking one-off.  His election was historic and that was the wedge issue of 2008.  Now, he’s no longer historic.  He’s just a lousy president.

So, while the feminists are justifiably tearing their hair out over the loss of more bodily autonomy, let’s examine why this is such a phenomenally successful wedge issue.  First, Obama and his entourage went on a rampage in 2008 and slashed and burned their way through the Democratic base.  Misogyny went unchecked and even gained a foothold.  Congratulations Democratic party!  You’ve just made a substantial portion of your base second class citizens.  Any woman who jumped on this bandwagon seeing a ticket to ride to the top of the access list should really have her head examined and none of us should be forced to listen to her or read about her anymore.  For damn sure, she should not be sitting on panels in places like the local branch of NOW in Kansas.   (H/T Katiebird)

It goes without saying, even though some women are apparently dumber than a box of rocks, that women should NEVER put their own interests second to the political ambitions of any man.  No, no, no.  Not until we have achieved full equality, which means not for the forseeable future. If you have an opportunity to vote for a reasonable woman, even if you do not agree with her 100%, you should vote for her if she represents your interests as a woman and is willing to fight for your equality. Your focus should be on what she will do for women because we are the majority of citizens in this country and what is best for us, tends to be best for everyone else as well.  You should not be distracted by someone else’s priorities and unless she is personally leading the convoy into Baghdad on the top of a tank like some modern day Boudicca, her views on war should be put into the same context as other candidates. In the future, I hope that women will hold each other accountable for maintaining unity.  Any stepping out of line should be met with swift and thorough correction.  We need to be a voting bloc to be feared, uncompromising and retributive.  Let’s learn from the Christian coalition playbook, shall we?

And let’s dispense with the idea that the Republicans are ignorant of the scientific method.  What did the Republicans learn by observation from 2008?  They learned that Barack Obama is a self centered, ambitious guy.  He’s a guy who doesn’t have any particular interest in women’s rights.  His fealty is to the banking class.  That’s who’s footing the bills.  Unfortunately for Obama (and this is what makes him such a lousy politician), he still needs women he’s been blowing off in order to win.  He needs their votes.  He doesn’t need banker votes because there aren’t enough of them to make a substantial dent in the electoral college. And what do bankers care about contraception?  Do they even have an opinion?  No.  The only people who really care about contraception are the conservatives and Obama’s not going to get their votes anyway, unless he intends to kiss up to them. And the only reason he would bow to their votes would be if he was intending to blow off his base and go right.

This is where we are.  Obama had a choice.  He could either stick up for women’s equality and bodily autonomy and tell the religious they were being intrusive.  Or he could try to be all things to all people and hope that the bishops would negotiate with him in good faith so he could grab the religious while keeping the women relatively quiet.  Remember, this is no-drama Obama we’re talking about.  He’s not into confrontation.  He prefers quiet little negotiation sessions where no one raises their voices and everything is on the table- because that’s worked so well in negotiations on our behalf with the bankers in the recent past {{rolling eyes}}.

(Note to loyal Democrats: Once you experience the “Pain of Independence“, you’ll never be able to look at Obama in the same way again. The nausea and disorientation can be alarming but your perspective will change and you will be almost desperate to get him out of the Oval Office.)

The Republicans see this as passivity, which it is.  In the corporate world, we have management training courses on personal power and dynamics.  The facilitator would describe Obama’s modus operandi as a losing strategy.  Imagine there is a passive-aggressive scale from 1-10 with passive on the lower end and aggressive on the higher end.  To be truly effective as a negotiator, you should stay in the sweet spot of 5-7.  A 4 or below is too passive; 7 and above is too aggressive.  Ideally, both parties want to stay in the sweet spot.  But if you normally operate as a 4 and your opponent is at 7, you need to go up to level 7 to be effective.  If he goes to 8, you need to go to 8.  He has to see that you’re not backing down so that he must in order to strike a deal.

The problem with Republicans is that they are always at level 8.  And if you don’t come right back and smash them at 8 or above, they’ll escalate.  We are now at escalation.  They’ve gone to 11 and Obama et al are at level 5.  Great, just great.

That’s why ThereIsNoSpoon is disconcerted by the way Republicans have dominated this issue.  They went from 8 to 11 and now anything Obama does is going to look defensive.  If he had come out swinging in the first couple of days and told the Republicans that they were setting new precedent and moving the goalpost back on women’s rights and he, Obama, was not going to yield on contraception unless Jesus tapdancin’ Christ came down personally to negotiate on behalf of the bishops, he would have ruled the day and even *I* might have had some kind of grudging respect for him.

But he’s a baaaaaaad politician.  Craven, selfish, indifferent, calculating and a poor decision maker with equally bad political consultants.  So, now, the idea that a religious institution can have a say over whether or not you get birth control when 98% of its own adherents ignore said religious institution’s very clear, very unambiguous proscriptions against it, suddenly, that idea looks pretty reasonable.  Americans don’t tend to think these things through very carefully these days because they are overwhelmed with personal and financial obligations, so they rely on the media to tell them what’s going on.  Obama managed to be so ineffective at stopping the meme through his own inept handling of the matter that the right wing noise machine’s religious liberty meme is just hitting its stride.  It’s going to be repeated and repeated and repeated until it seems normal until suddenly, women will start having a devil of a time getting their prescriptions filled without some byzantine procedure.

And let’s not forget that the only people who really care about denying people contraceptives are highly conservative seniors and their church hierarchy.  No one else gives a damn.  The wedge issue is just a clever way for Republicans to separate a few more women’s votes from Obama when they realize that, once again, he threw them under a bus and doesn’t seem to understand how much harder he has made their lives.  In the meantime, the religious right will think they’re being persecuted (oh PLEEZE) and will have a very good reason to show up at the polls this November to toss the Democrats out on their asses.

Now, I could be wrong about this but I don’t think that there is anyway *this* president is going to be able to fix this particular issue at this point in time.  He may go on to win as a result of some other catastrophe but he’s lost the edge he had on the contraceptive issue.  Maybe another player will be able to change this around but not Obama.  So, the Democrats better have something else up their sleeves or the Republicans will eat their lunch.

Just because they don’t like their present candidates doesn’t mean the Republicans can’t get their voters spitting nails by November.  And Democrats shouldn’t count on independent liberals to save their bacon at the last minute.  We’ve got our eyes on a different prize these days.  We’ll just sit on the sidelines and watch the bloodbath.  We’re into solving problems and this election isn’t going to solve any problems.  If I were the Democrats, I might have curbed the impulse to squash OWS and women and ignore the unemployed for so long.

And don’t look now but the Republicans are going to turn off the gas spigot this summer and stop UI bennies in September.  If the Democrats had stored up some goodwill over the past four years, the impending pain and chaos wouldn’t look so horrible.  But they didn’t and it will.  If I were them, I’d pass on the White House and work like madmen to elect new faces to Congress.

**********************

More of Titli’s Busy Kitchen.  This recipe is for Caramel Shortbread.  Stick with it.

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Sunday: Ok, I think we’re on to something here

We few, we happy, happy few Conflucians might be a shrieking band of paranoid holdouts, or some such Kossakian nonsense, but we have something the rest of the left blogosphere doesn’t have with few exceptions (corrente, Ian Welsh and Avedon Carol, for example): The pain of independence.  What the heck does that mean?

Well, it’s just a single point right now and I need to collect more data.  (“fricking scientists”, they mutter)

The term “pain of independence” is what psychologists say  people experience when they refuse to conform to peer pressure.  Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” cites a psych experiment where a group of people are shown a couple of 3D objects and are asked to decide whether the first object can be turned into the second.  Think of it as an exercise in group mental paper folding.  You have to turn the object around in your head and look at it from all angles.

There were a couple stand out features of this experiment.  First, the subject didn’t know that the group was seeded with people who knew the right answer but deliberately gave the wrong answer.  The other thing was that everyones’ brains were being monitored. The experimenters already knew in advance that a certain percentage of people were going to go along with the group and give the wrong answer too.  The question that the experimenters were asking was, did the subjects choose the wrong answer because they knew that it was wrong but consciously decided to go with the group to fit in (pointing to the prefrontal cortex) or were their perceptions changed unbeknownst to them (pointing to the parietal and occipital lobes)?

The disturbing answer is that the subject’s perceptions were changed and they weren’t even aware of it.  Yep, peer pressure affects your sense of space.  Maybe this is not entirely mysterious.  A sense of space would seem to be important to how you fit into a group of individuals.  Think of herds or flocks of birds.  People presumably once travelled in such pods before, hundreds of thousands of years ago.  So maybe this is an artifact of that.

The question that next occurred to the experimenters is: what was happening to the brains of the people who didn’t go along with the crowd?  Ahhhh, this is interesting.  It turns out that their amygdala was activated.  The amygdala is the small almond shaped structure located near the middle of the brain that processes emotions.  If you were a holdout, your amygdala lit up indicating the emotion of knowing you were alone on this one.  Sending this signal to the prefrontal cortex is too cold and logical.  No, to be a dissenter means you know the emotional pain of not fitting in.

And that, my friends, appears to distinguish the dissenters from the joiners.  The dissenters appear to be able to tolerate that pain better than the joiners.

If you were a Hillary holdout in 2008, because you had used the rest of your brain to process the information about the candidates, you likely knew the pain that comes with resistance to peer pressure.  And it *is* painful.  No one likes to be left out from that emotional tug that enveloped everyone else.  That’s why love bombing is so effective.  It alleviates the pain of being alone and drops your resistance to peer pressure.  If you attempt to dissent later in the indoctrination process, the love is withdrawn and you know the pain of independence.  It is not pleasant.  Ask the many former Hillary supporters who changed their allegiance in 2008 because they didn’t want to be ostracized.  Oh, yes, the emails I got during that summer when the pain got to be too intense for some people.  Talk about embarrassing.

Cain reports that something like 40% of the people in peer pressure experiments will go along with the group.  It’s hard to believe that there are 60% of us who won’t because we always seem to be on the losing end.  On the other hand, our elections have been really close over the past 12 years.  Gore actually won, Kerry probably did, we know that Hillary beat Obama in the primaries by a slim margin in spite of the horrific peer pressure tactics.  So, there are more people resisting than it appears but the bad guys keep winning anyway.  I suspect that’s because there are a lot more people who experience the pain of independence than care to admit.

According to Cain, the reason why democracies exist is because  of the dissenters.  That would be the 2008 PUMAs who were mocked and humiliated, and the Occupiers who were treated like radical, lice ridden troublemakers.  And maybe I shouldn’t be surprised to have counted myself in both groups’ numbers.  A Jehovah’s Witness child knows all too well the pain of independence from the group.  We have been brought up to be isolated.  Our very first day in the classroom is a lesson in dissent when we are instructed by our parents to not salute the flag.  (when I think about it, it’s a shitty thing to do to a 5 year old, but I digress.)  Our amygdalas have been exercised so much throughout our childhoods that we are used to the sensation, even if it is still unpleasant.  We realize that we aren’t going to die of embarrassment or ridicule if we don’t go along with the crowd.  I’ve said in the past that my purpose here at The Confluence is to give people a place where it is safe to be unpopular.  I knew it was important but until today, I didn’t know why.  Same with Lambert, Avedon and Ian.

The left blogosphere might want to think about that for awhile.  If it thinks that nothing it does makes a difference to the powers that be, maybe it should try dissenting and allow the pain of independence work its magic.  DON’T say you’re going to vote for the bastards even if they treat you like shit.  And then mean it. They’re counting on you to go along with the crowd in order to alleviate that pain and fear.  Peer pressure only works if you let it.  And those of us who have resisted from the beginning can’t reason with you to make you see our point of view.  Resisting peer pressure is something you need to come to grips with on an emotional level your own.  It *is* painful but worth it when your thoughts are your own. It’s sometimes physically disorienting and nauseating, I won’t lie to you. People aren’t going to like you.  They’re going to call you stupid or mentally ill.  They’ll say they were wrong about you and you’re not as sexy and smart as they thought you were.  They’ll tell you that you will bring Armageddon down on everyone’s head if you let the Republicans win.  They know how the brain game works because they’ve read the studies and it’s always worked this way.  If you give in to them, they win and they can do whatever they like because they know you will go along in order to feel good about yourself.

They need you more than you need them.  They still need the momentum of the crowd, the frenzy of the mob, the mounting pressure as the election gets nearer.  They need your vote.  If you refuse it, you monkeywrench their entire peer pressure apparatus and then they have to start paying attention to you and addressing your demands.  They’d rather not have to do that.  They have other people to win over.  It’s easier for them to know that they have checked you off their list so they can move on to tougher nuts.  Don’t make it easy for them.

Accept the pain of independence, learn to dissent and triumph over them.  Think of it this way, dissenting is the best way to preserve our democracy.  That’s an idea that is worthy of the pain.

********************************

The dissenter’s theme song since 2008: