Are Trump’s Tweets the Newest Pavlovian Bell?

I felt a bit out of control yesterday,as if threatened, while in actuality I sat in the cool comfort of my suburban home, the only threat being the heat index outdoors. Disclaimer – I am an empath, ’nuff said. While I don’t subscribe to network TV, I admit I am a social media addict.  I write, and human contact isn’t an everyday occurrence, and this works well for me.  But after yesterday, I may just become a hermit.

Most of us are familiar with Pavlov’s dog and the conditioned response.  For those who are not, the short version goes: a dog will associate a neutral stimulus with food until that stimulus is always present at the time of feeding (like the can opener, or the crinkle of a bag).  At that point, the can opener becomes a conditioned stimulus.  Pavlov proved the concept of conditioned response by making his dog salivate every time he rang a bell (the dog believed it would be fed).

Over the past two years, Donald Trump tweeted a ton, and every tweet received press.  In the summer of 2015, in large part due to his provocative tweets, Trump received ten times the press of Hillary Clinton, and more than 20 times the press of his closest primary rival. No press is bad press, and in this case, the press and comedians helped elect President Trump through increased exposure, which has the effect of normalizing an idea.

Not only Americans, but people the world over lap up the President’s tweets like southern gravy and take to social media to either support or fight against what he said, dipping our psyches in conflict day after day, month after month.  So many of these conflicts are values-based, with no hope of changing anyone’s mind, yet we try anyway because core values are vital. The conflicts escalate because conflict hijacks the amygdala while the prefrontal cortex shuts down along with our ability to consider other perspectives.  Until scientists can prove the effects of prolonged exposure to Donald Trump’s tweets and the ensuing conflict, I am jumping off the tweet train because I hate feeling manipulated and now that my brain is working properly I can see the President’s tweets about football players and the NFL for what they are – a fun game for one of the most powerful men on earth.

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Leave Joe Biden Alone

U.S. media and the Democratic Party are propelling Joe Biden toward a 2016 presidential bid that he does not want, but why?  Joe cusses when he doesn’t know the microphone is on, calls for wheelchair-bound Senator Chuck Graham to stand up and let the crowd see him, and extends condolences to the Irish Prime Minister on his mum’s death while she is alive and well.   Joe Biden is not smooth; he is genuine.  They will rip him to shreds, every gaffe in Joe’s past revisited by the G.O.P., who mistakenly admitted the Benghazi investigation was a political move to degrade Hilary Clinton’s support.  With Joe’s more than 40 years of public service, they are  likely collecting mud already.  He is a t.v. producer’s dream.

And how will he hold up after all he has endured?  In true Irish fashion, I imagine he will give his honest opinion, as he usually does, however when faced with stupidity he won’t hold back.  Joe’s colorful rhetoric is yet another potential distraction from the very real American concerns about costly education and healthcare, job creation, immigration, justice equality, environmental conservation, and gun-violence.  I voted for Joe in the 2008 presidential primary, eight long years ago.  In September Joe said in a speech that he was unsure if he had the emotional reserves for a campaign and told the Democratic National Committee that his “heart and soul are pretty banged up”.  I believe him.  Beau and Hunter, Joe’s sons, survived a car accident which killed his wife and baby girl in 1972.  While recuperating from broken bones that put him in a body cast, 4-year-old Beau often laid next to his brother Hunter who had a skull fracture and said, “Look at me, Hun.  I love you.”  Beau sat his dad down two months before he died from brain cancer this year and made Joe promise that he would be o.k.  Joe says Hunter, his wife Jill, and loving family and friends are supporting him and he has to get up every day or he would be letting them down; he’d be letting Beau down.  If Joe decides not to run for president, he is not letting America down, he is letting his heart mend, something only time and care can accomplish.

Why Don’t We All Celebrate MLK Jr. Day?

martin-luther-king-quotes-educationWe moved to a tiny village north of the city shortly before our daughter started 8th grade.  It was the first year she attended school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  When she asked why it was not considered a holiday, like it was for her friends in the city, she was told it was because, “we don’t have many black kids who go here”.  The next year she was given the same answer by another teacher.  I shuddered at the message that children in her class took away from that statement.  Would they ever know that Martin Luther King Jr. championed equal rights not only for black people, but for all people?  For us it provided an opportunity to discuss people’s prejudice and Dr. King’s message of equal opportunity for people of every economic status.  Dr. King recognized the inconsistencies between classes, the lack of opportunity for children in poorer neighborhoods and the discrimination faced daily by those considered less-than.  Dr. King’s dream was inclusive of all people.  We talked about compassion, even for educated people who are still ignorant, and our responsibility to speak up.  And so my child went to school armed with “my Mom said I can tell you that you are wrong” the second year.  You never know if risking your neck for a truth will make a positive difference, especially when you are only twelve, which is what makes it a brave action.  Brave action is what changes the world.

Charitable Opportunities Abound This Christmas!

Bell Ringer NYCWe are blessed this holiday season with endless opportunities to give to our fellow-man.  The Christmas season is typically a time of generous sharing with those “less fortunate”, but this year you could toss a stone and hit a needy person!  Seriously, you do not have to look far for a chance to brighten someone’s holiday.

Now that our state’s highest court deemed panhandling a protected activity under the 1st amendment, there is a beggar at every corner and off-ramp in the county.  We donate to them through the local soup kitchen and despite the convenience of giving at a red light, I encourage you all to find an alternative to funding substance abuse, as well.  The Salvation Army’s bell ringers are pretty easy to find, as are the charity jars in every gas station.

Congress has provided extra giving opportunities this year by cutting food assistance to over 47 million families in November, so we gave a bag of groceries to the food bank and a couple of cans of veggies at a local food drive to help offset that.  I’m confident that this need would not be filled by 10,000 bags of groceries in December, but we can all give a bit.  Most of us believe in kids eating no matter the circumstances.  While we are thinking of children, we must donate at least one gift for the Angel Tree or Toys for Tots.  With this year’s reductions in early education spending, may as well give an educational toy or game.  You get the idea.  Simply look at the day’s headlines, then apply your charity where needed.  Know someone who is unemployed?  Offer to help edit their resume or take them out to lunch.  Mail someone an anonymous Christmas/gift card.  Open the door at a store for someone.  Check that little box on your utility bill to give $2 a month to someone struggling to stay warm this winter.  Go through your closets and give away unworn coats, hats, sweaters, boots, and gloves.  Simple gifts can make a difference.  Have you ever felt uplifted by someone’s caring?  Have you felt uplifted by giving?

This is the season of giving and the opportunities are endless.

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What Price for Work? The Karachi Factory Fire

 

Yesterday a fire in a Lahore factory claimed the lives of at least 25 young workers who tried in vain to escape through windows that were barred.  In another Pakistani city today at least 300 died in a fire at a Karachi garment factory.  Trapped by bars on the windows and a bottleneck of panicked workers at the one exit to the building, many phoned their loved ones before the fire and toxic smoke overtook them.  The back stairs exit leading to the roof was locked.  Faulty generators are blamed as possible catalysts, but our own Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire may hint at another catalyst altogether – greed.

I found the timing of these tragedies especially meaningful due to the Michigan Supreme Court’s recent approval of a Bargaining Rights amendment for our November ballot.  As a firm middle-of-the-road moderate I buck the system of reviewing media that supports my beliefs because experience has taught me that I am often misinformed and always biased.   My fact-finding missions are frustrating, but that is another topic for another post.  One of the constants I count on is factual history and we know the when, why, and who of the Triangle fire in New York City on March 25, 1911.  146 women perished in that factory because most of the exits were locked by the owners to prevent theft and the one fire escape collapsed.  Many of the women jumped to their deaths.  There was no need for bars on the windows of the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of the Asch building.   The Ladies Garment Worker’s Union was born from the Triangle factory tragedy and I credit the women that perished with the realization of worker’s rights, safety standards, and organized labor.  They did not die in vain.  Now the voters in Michigan are being asked to trust that these rights are secure and freely given by the generous owners of the corporations we work for.  Recent history indicates otherwise as does personal experience.  In a bottom-line work world can we afford to not learn from our history?

Although Pakistan is a world away, globalization connects us, as does our need to work to live.  We mainly affect our own communities with our votes, but we affect the world with our dollars.  My stomach turned when I read that more workplace tragedies happen at this time of year as third-world factories increase production for Christmas.

As always: take what you want and leave the rest behind.

 

 

 

Birth Control Debate Attempts to Hit Men Where it Hurts

In a bid to show ‘em how it feels State Representative Yasmin Neal has proposed an amendment to Georgia’s anti-abortion law that would ban vasectomies unless necessary to prevent serious injury to a man’s organs or death.  Missouri State Representative Stacey Newman soon followed suit with a similar bill that also limits where a vasectomy can legally be performed to surgical centers and hospitals.  Both Representatives cited the fairness of legislating men’s bodies in the same fashion that predominantly male government bodies have attempted to legislate women’s reproductive health choices.

While women across the country are cheering for these bills, I see a couple of errors in this blatant strategy to encourage empathy in our male counterparts.  If you have not yet fully realized the inherent differences in women’s and men’s decision-making processes, I suggest Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus as a primer.  While many women are furious about recent debates over what a woman should be allowed to do with her body and affordable access to all birth control options, men will focus on one thing only- an attempt to mess with their genitals.  I call it “dick-sensitivity”.  When a man’s genitals become part of an equation, he loses the ability to think multidimensionally.  Last night I spoke briefly to my husband of writing a post on a proposed vasectomy ban.  He immediately covered his groin and started saying, “nanananana” to drown out my words.  Admittedly, I would greatly enjoy a video of the Georgia General Assembly when they debate Representative Neal’s proposed ban.  The looks on male lawmaker’s faces during such a conversation have great entertainment potential.

The second error in the bid to equally share government control over reproductive rights is thinking that men will fight for their right to a vasectomy.  Think about it.

On the heels of FDA recommendations that men be tested for underlying causes of erectile dysfunction, Virginia state Senator Janet Howell introduced a bill last month that would require a man to get a rectal exam and cardiac stress test before receiving a prescription for a drug such as Viagra.  Ohio state Senator Nina Turner has also proposed a similar bill stating that she is equally concerned with men’s health and believe they have the right to be fully informed of the risks associated with erectile dysfunction medications.

While I appreciate the clever maneuverings of our female politicians as entertaining, I am skeptical that such tactics will do more than add to explosively divisive rhetoric.  There are some things that need not be debated because they fall under our 4th amendment rights, and some things that are serious enough to fight head-on with a resounding “No!”  I would prefer female lawmaker’s efforts be strongly straight forward in their fight for women’s reproductive and healthcare rights.

Keep your politics out of my sex

Even George Orwell could not have predicted the current level of absurdity surrounding women’s health in general and birth control pills specifically.  What chicanery are the men that run this country up to that they are seriously debating accessibility to birth control in the year of Our Lord 2012?  I feel as though I’ve stepped through a looking glass and been transported to a long-ago era before Margaret Sanger sought funding from Planned Parenthood to research a progesterone pill that would stop ovulation in the early 1900’s.  This is not an issue of religious freedom or morality, but one of politics and diversion by both political parties.

First corsets made a comeback and 4-inch stilettos returned to torture the next generation. Then in 2009 U.S. District Judge Edward Korman not only questioned the White House’s interest in the FDA’s decision-making process regarding  whether Plan B should be made available to women of all ages without a prescription, but rebuked the FDA for departing from its usual procedures.  Korman wrote that the FDA’s lack of good faith was evidenced by, “repeated and unreasonable pressure emanating from the White House.”  The federal court ordered that Plan B be made available over the counter to those 17 and older while the FDA continued its research, all of which turned out to be a huge waste of resources when Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health, overruled the FDA’s conclusion that Plan B is safe for all ages citing concerns for parental rights and eleven-year-olds who may not understand the packaging.  I find it utterly ridiculous that the current administration believes they can ever appease social conservatives by claiming to have such concerns.  If a parent considers it their right to know about their daughter’s sex life, then it is their job to build a trusting relationship.  Tell a teenager that it is a Washington mandate and see how far that gets you.  The Department of Health and Human Services has never before said to hell with science, never before trumped the FDA, but then politics has never paid so well, either.  Perhaps HHS’s efforts would be better spent educating a country with the highest teen pregnancy rate among any developed country.

To be perfectly clear, Rick Santorum did not say he is against birth control.  What he said is that the Supreme Court was wrong to say that states cannot outlaw contraception in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965, YES, 196frickin’5).  1.5 million women in the United States, including me, take birth control pills for health concerns other than pregnancy prevention, but why would the average male politician be well-versed in women’s health?  Mr. Santorum also stated that sex has been deconstructed to the point where it’s simply pleasure.  And your point, Mr. Santorum?  With infidelity’s wild ride through political bedrooms, I am hardly looking to you for relationship advice or spiritual counseling.  My money is on hypocrisy.

The cherry on top of the movement to turn back time is the “religious freedom” debate regarding insurance coverage for no-cost contraception.  When I went to pick up the birth control pill that my doctor thought would work best for hormonal changes I was told that my insurance company wouldn’t cover it, just as my daughter was told about the name-brand pill her doctor prescribed as birth control.  Because I cannot afford $110 per month for those pills, we are trying a generic that might work, but certainly not as well.  These costly limitations on prescription contraception coverage were addressed in the health care reform bill that was passed in 2009.  Now, if I go to work for a religious hospital or university I am not entitled to coverage of that cost, nor is my daughter.  In my case it means night sweats, hot flashes, and mood swings.  For my daughter, who was married last summer and is watching her college investment pay off with a burgeoning career, it is her future and her children’s future.  The religious exemption may be extended to ANY employer that has religious issues with contraception coverage.  Religious freedom or money? Are women so threatening with our equal share of the job market, number of seats in university lecture halls, and longer life spans that the power structure has resorted to a paternal barefoot and pregnant strategy?  I may seem paranoid, but how does automated packaging of 1 million birth control packages go awry?  See…that’s the type of thinking that results from taking the cheapest pill instead of the right one.