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I feel your pain. Really, I do.

Ah the wonderful world of politics. A world where the normal rules of common sense, reasonable expectations, and responsibility are alien entities. A world populated by those who revel in their lack as if they were living in a Utopia. A world where the basest, most avaricious facets of human nature underpin reality and the populace represents a mindless herd; valued for its sheer numbers, and disdained for its gullibility.

Why shouldn’t I see it that way? After the last nine years, I don’t think I could possibly see it any other way. And I even dare say I’m not the only one who does. This kind of cynicism is everywhere you look and it’s there with good reason.

For eight years we had a political party in control that seemed more concerned with the growth and consolidation of its power than it was with the productive and beneficial management of a nation. One after another, examples of abuses rolled down the pike and were splashed across the news pages. Each time you could almost feel the collective grumblings of a beleaguered American public as these abuses washed over them. The 2000 election fraud allegations, Enron, Haliburton, Valerie Plame, Tom Delay, John Ashcroft, Jack Abramoff, The Iraq War, suppression and distortion of scientists and studies, USA attorney firings, Abu Gharib, and on and on and on. From the first four years of George Bush’s term, it seemed the American public was in for one hell of a ride, and for eight years a hell of a ride it was. Over a year after Bush left office the fallout still lingers. Thick as ever, permeating and poisoning an American political system that wasn’t too healthy to begin with.

For awhile it seemed like relief was at hand. The Bush administrations end was drawing near, and a feeling that it could only get better seemed to be taking root. A vicious presidential election tempered this optimism, and resentful, irrational partisanship drove a spike through its heart. What should have been the clean start of a new administration has turned into a battleground. Every glimmer of opportunity for the American public is quashed under a torrent of political infighting. New players have entered the stage exploiting every move towards recovery and healing as a tool for the acquisition of partisan control. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, only worse.

So why shouldn’t I feel cynical? Why shouldn’t I feel as if the country I love and live in is being eaten alive from within by the division and hatred of ridiculous faux political ideologies? Am I supposed to be heartened by the headlines? How can I when every morning brings with it another update on why the Republicans hate the Democrats and will do anything within their power to obstruct them, and the Democrats can’t get past being scared of losing their first taste of control in a decade long enough to actually get something done?

Why shouldn’t I be sick of Sarah Palin, Rod  Blagojevich, Mark Sanford,  Joe Wilson, William Jefferson, Michele Bachmann?

And who suffers? The political and rich, or the victimized and trampled public? Does anyone buy any elected officials claims to understanding and feeling our pain? How can they feel our pain? How can they when their healthcare is assured? How can they when unemployment is just a word, and despair a tool for manipulation? What kind of pain comes from losing an election, then making millions pandering to the fears of the voters? What kind of pain comes from stealing millions, then getting a slap on the wrist and a vacation on a far away island?

I was always under the impression that pain was an impetus for action. That hurt spurred efforts at relief. I’m not seeing any relief. Neither is anyone else if the news has got anything even half right. I’m seeing more and more injury. It’s in the lost jobs and the uninsured. It’s in the giant bonuses for corporate failures and the bailouts for dismal investments.  How does the saying go? “It’s easy to hurt others, when you can’t feel pain”?

I’m no longer interested in who’s the latest victim of political gotcha. I started calling myself an independent 9 years ago when the disgust with our political system first began settling in and my then fledgling appreciation of objectivity forced personal appraisals. But holding no political affiliation is not insulation from the effects of partisanship run amok. I DO feel the pain. I feel it every time our twelve year old has to go to the doctor and the rent is due. I feel it every time my spouse complains of the exhaustion that never seems to go away. I feel it every time the Republicans attack a modest proposal, and Democrats do their deer in the headlights impression.

The public does feel the pain. Their world is not the world of politics. Theirs is the world of realities. Where pain is real and present, and actions have consequences. But it must not hurt enough yet, because although the public is ultimately the victim in the game of ideological facades, it’s also the ultimate rules maker as well. Rather than use its ability to enforce the rules, to kick out of the game those who would lie, cheat, and steal, it gives them power and control in exchange for promises to play nice, then wonders why nothing ever changes.

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Psychology and the Supreme Court

cubicle_feverUnless you’ve been under a rock or hiding out in your cave, you’re by now all too familiar with the recent ruling by the supreme court that says Corporations have the right to contribute freely to campaign advertisements. The riff in the media contains all the usual sound bytes we’ve become accustomed to hearing at every political twist and turn. Rarely is much insight given into what any of these politically charged incidents actually mean. Ok, so big money gets to spend loads on getting someone elected who is friendly to their interests or vice versa. Got it.

But why does it work? You would think that no amount of money could buy away the public’s common sense, or its rationality. Well, actually, it apparently can. Not only can it buy it, it can keep it. In the Jan 22nd issue of USA Today a small piece on the psychology of political advertising appeared that is absolutely unsettling in its implications. It’s common knowledge that political advertisements have an effect.

But what is perhaps not so common knowledge, is just how strong that effect can be, and lasting.

Even confronted with irrefutable evidence after the fact, voters swayed by political advertisements will STILL accept the erroneous claims as truthful. Worse, psychologist’s state there is a tendency for refuting evidence to amplify the bad.

Add into the mix, an influx of corporate cash not seen in decades, and this misleading type of advertising is almost guaranteed to reach unprecedented levels as corporate decision makers seek to install their candidates of choice based on how favorable they are to their business, and not the best interests of the public.

Read for yourself, and try not to shudder.

Psychologists: Propaganda works better than you think

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