When you gaze into the abyss...

An Interesting Study In Cognitive Dissonance

[Long time no posting, I know. Been busy]

I’d recommend watching Governor Rick Perry  attempt to answer the question, “Why does Texas continue with abstinence only education programs, when they don’t seem to be working? In fact, I think we [in Texas] have the third-highest teen-pregnancy rate in the country right now.”

His response is, “Abstinence works.”

Obviously it doesn’t, or at least relying on it as the only method of birth control we teach hormone driven teenagers doesn’t.

A lot of people have been calling him stupid or dishonest for his comments, and I would have agreed with them until very recently. I read a couple books recently about how beliefs are formed and the cognitive dissonance that happens when those beliefs are challenged, and how our brains are hardwired to resolve it. People will mitigate or ignore evidence that contradicts currently held beliefs.


Now I’m not denying that there is a very real possibility that Perry could be stupid and dishonest. I’m only offering an alternative theory as to why he appears to be struggling for an answer. Now I might be bias because of because of what I’ve read but I think it is more likely that Perry truly believes what he is saying, especially considering his announcement, “I’m going to tell you from my own personal life, abstinence works.”


That statement reveals a lot. It could of course be a load of crap. But if it is true it makes a lot of sense. If he is as devoutly evangelical as he says, then he may have abstained from sex until marriage.

“Studies of evangelicals show, for example, that the most devout (roughly a quarter of the group) do abstain from sexual activity to a greater degree than other teens…”†

So because it worked for him, it makes sense to him that it should work for others. Taken a certain way, it is sort of humble. A sort of, “If I can do it, anyone should be able to,” logic. Though it could also be something along the lines of, “Kids too weak to keep it in their pants deserve the consequences of their actions.” I’m not trying to make excuses for Perry. He is not anyone I would want sitting in the Oval Office. But unlike Perry, whose certainty causes him to ignore alternative theories, I like to work from a position of doubt. Where Perry uses religion to enforce his certainty, I prefer to use science to guide me through doubt. I can look at the statistics, overwhelming statistics, and see that abstinence-only education can at best only delay sexual activity but after the delay only increases the chances of unplanned pregnancies and spread of STDs and STIs.

So even if I think that Perry could be honest, at least in theory, I wouldn’t want him in the White House. Honesty and conviction can be admirable, but without logical guidance it’s like a gun being fired without proper aim. And I don’t like the direction this particular gun is pointing.


Red Families v. Blue Families : Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture [Kindle Edition] by Naomi Cahn and June Carbone. Page 4 

Any know the President’s shoe size? I’ll spring for the pair of shoes.

Sen. Scott Brown has said and done a lot of thing since he came in to office that have been rather nice. While I don’t agree with all his policies I think an even slightly moderate voice in GOP is a good thing.

The folks over at Ballon Juice show an interesting correlation between those states in which unions are forbidden and those that supported slavery.

From the BBC News article “China warns US over Clinton’s web freedom call.”

"It is ironic that the Chinese are blocking an online discussion about internet freedom," [Ambassador Jon Huntsman told The Wall Street Journal.] said, in comments confirmed by the US embassy in Beijing to the BBC.

First thing, that is not ironic.


Noun -  the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning (link)

Now here is another word.


Noun - a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess. (link)  

See, the US is talking about internet freedom while trying to gag internet services from warning users about subpoenas. Good thing Twitter pretty much told them to suck it. (link)

A lot of American hypocrisy has been revealed in during the democratic uprisings in the Middle East. During all the shifting reasons for the Iraq war our leaders said bringing democracy to the Middle East. … And now people are having a freak out that there may be democracy in the Middle East. For a long time we have been choosing a phantom stability by backing autocrats. I call this a phantom stability because of what we are seeing now. Had we stopped backing these dictators we would not be looking like the bad guys right now. And we still haven’t learn our lesson. While America is willing to openly support the revolution in Iran, because we don’t like their autocrat, our leaders aren’t sure what to do with the revolution in Bahrain, because that autocrat lets us park our ships there.

I know the US has to look out for itself, but I believe supporting democracy, not bringing it at the point of the gun, is in the best interest of the US. If we continue our policy of supporting dictators and invading countries our standing in the world diminishes. How well disposed to us will these new governments be if we continue to supply the money and bullets that were used to oppress them?

Sexual encounters have their ebbs and flows. What may be unwanted one minute can with further empathy become desired.

-Geoffrey Robertson, attorney for alleged rapist Julian Assange, quoted in today’s New York Times.

I know the Assange case is old news, but I found this quotation really interesting. (Interesting : disturbing :: potato : potahto.) In particular, I was captivated by the phrase “with further empathy.”

With further empathy a woman will recognize how fervently a man wishes to put his penis inside her own personal body. With further empathy she will enthusiastically comply with his wish. With further empathy she will transform into kindness and self-sacrifice incarnate, a Patient Griselda of sexual healing.

It’s almost admirably brazen to suggest that the people lacking empathy were Mr. Assange’s victims, Ms. A and Ms. W, and not Mr. Assange himself. Then again, I suppose the phrase could go both ways: “what may be unwanted one minute (refraining from penetrating an unwilling person) can with further empathy become desired.” When I interpret the statement like that, I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly. Every would-be rapist should pause, have some empathy for the human being who has not consented to a sexual act, and choose not to rape.

Further reading (seriously, these two links are so good; please read them):
Jaclyn Friedman: Consent Is Not A Lightswitch
Thomas MacAulay Millar: Meet the Predators

(via standardreview)
Workers of the World, Gripe
We Have Reached a New Level of Crazy

“Almost anyone in the United States, and especially soldiers or the families of US Air Force members, could be under the threat of prosecution by the military, according to a recent “guidance” document issued by the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) public affairs office.” At least according to the article ‘Air Force legal office: All of our members’ families can be prosecuted for reading WikiLeaks”

The idea that anyone who has read or seen any of the leaked documents or videos could face criminal prosecution is insane. Wikileaks has been shown or linked on news organization ranging from MSNBC to FOX NEWS.

Whatever you think of Wikileaks as an organization or idea, it is hard to argue that arrests on that scale make any sense. The information is now omnipresent. Even suggesting arrests makes the military look like it is failing in its attempt to make sense of a world where information isn’t as bound up as it used to be.

This article takes a good look at the debate surrounding the shooting in Arizona. Oddly, even as some try to seek unity, this event which should have woken the nation up, has been used by the right and the left to continue the the nightmare of near constant debate over which side of the political isle is to blame for all of the nations woes. (Here’s a hint: It isn’t a zero sum equation.)

In my opinion the best line in this article is: “It may just be that modern society is impervious to brilliant flashes of clarity.” So many people have been shot, so many buildings blown up, so many innocent lives lost in the recent history of the increasingly dis-United States of America can get over itself and just work the problem. It seems we have reached that stage of perpetual conflict, like a long standing family feud—or the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, where both sides are so blinded to their own history they have forgotten any common ground. Now any move towards compromise is viewed as weakness by both sides.

So can we sit back, take a breather, and stop this never ending loop of overly inflamed apocalyptic debate, stop using every tragedy as ammunition against our opponents, stop being an America of us versus them and realize that it isn’t the “other guy” that is going to destroy America but the cyclical stupidity that we take for debate in this nation.

[Disclaimer: This was all done from my phone, so please pardon any errors. I wasn’t expecting to write more than a paragraph. It just happened.]

It is maneuvers like this that make me think the Israeli government isn’t invested in the peace process. I understand they believe it is a god given right to build there, but does it have to be done right now?