Thursday, April 29, 2010

More on Mulberries and A little on Sassafras

As I am having an ailment that may go on a while, I will post a short one here. I cannot stay focused on the other subject right now.

Many folks don't care for mulberry fruit. Many folks have complained through the years about the dropping of the fruits, seeds, on vehicles, laundry, and the tracking of the juicy juice on shoes. When I was growing up, one mulberry tree was great but that one didn't usually stay just one for long. They would show up in nearby yards or fence rows. These little trees grew to be fairly large trees and leave “messes”.
As you know we ate and eat them in my family. Now it turns out the mulberry tree this year is producing heavy pollenlink. (The link that still works is today's news. You can then search for the mulberry pollen article.) That pollen may be great for fruiting but not so good for allergy sufferers.

Then I find some articles of interest on the different kinds of mulberry trees. I was unaware of the “invasive”, alien, . One of the recommended replacement trees the sassafras reminded me of a discussion I had recently with the baby brother. He won't eat poke, nor does he like sassafras tea. I don't think he remembers eating poke or drinking sassafras tea when we were little but he does remember the “nasty” smells later in life when he would visit Mom and Dad. Doubt he even tried either one at that time.

Again, there were, and probably are, many who didn't want that “prolific” tree anywhere around their property. They used to say things like: “it takes over like a lilac”. I don't know but I know the tree was not “prolific” enough for some of us. Now you can buy small packets of sassafras root, sassafras oil, sassafras powder, sassafras tea bags or maybe just buy yourself a sassafras tree. Just Google sassafras and you will find places from which to purchase.

I still love sassafras tea. I can't really remember every thing about the tea making with my grandmother but I remember I loved the smell and I loved the taste. I thought it was truly “root beer”.
No fizz but same great taste and smell.

I guess to each their own.

(Well here is a coincidence for you. I have PBS Create on the tube and the host of the garden, Copia, just gave the visiting host of the Victory Garden some mulberries. Mulberries will not be found in stores because they have no shelf life.)

Monday, April 19, 2010


For this post let's reframe our questions. (The questions that were originally raised in this post)
This site gives you a better definition than I could for reframing.
Looking back at last week's post we see the questions really are:
Why are some people so easily led while others will do anything to be leaders.
Why do some people still believe things that are disproved by facts.
Why are some people so aggressive in the name of moral or political values or is it something else entirely?
Why do some people fear, in the extreme, change?
Why do some people fear those different from themselves?
Why racism? Why homophobic fears? Why fear other religions?

In these next posts, I want to give you some beginning information from two books. One is political while the other is more about the social behaviors and actions found in studies of authoritarians.

Here we need to define a few things:
Why the books Conservatives Without Conscience by John W. Dean and Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer. free here I chose to read the two books simultaneously as they are very interconnected. In an interview I saw on UCTV, John Dean talked about the studies on Authoritarianism and recommended the other book. His interest peaked my interest. Mostly however, I will be writing about The Authoritarians (Disclaimer: I am not necessarily a John Dean fan but find he can get my attention and I sometimes wondered about the reasons behind some of the chapters in Dr. Altemeyer's book. Guess I am not that easily led by “authorities.”)

Authoritarians Two kinds:
I had a hard time keeping my definitions of authoritarian out of my head at first.
My definitions were either about a form of government or a “bossy” person. But these are not quite appropriate.
Dr. Altemeyer explains that in his books on authoritarians he is mostly discussing extremely submissive “followers” of established authorities, “attacks others in their name, and is highly conventional.”
He lists 3 of the personality traits of the “followers”:
1)a high degree of submission to the established, legitimate, authorities in their society;
2)high levels of aggression in the name of their authorities; and
3)a high level of conventionalism.

(page 8)

Mr. Dean at one point describes authoritarianism as the behaviors and thinking of these personalities.

RWA Scale:
“The RWA scale is a personality test disguised as an attitude survey.”
the mid-point of the scale is 100. The higher the score the more the tendency to be an authoritarian follower.

Why the name “right-wing”:
The use of the word right as used here is “an adjective, right, lawful, proper, correct...”

Double Highs:
Social Dominators who also score high on the religion, fundamentalism, scale but the why is interesting. These people go to church more often than most but they go to “project a good image...”
and “It is more important to create a good image of yourself in the minds of others than to be actually be the person others think you are.”

Conservatives: Two kinds political and social: As Dr. Altemeyer explains you can have high RWA's even within the Communist party in a Communist country. Remember submission to “his” authorities and highly conventional. So keep in mind we are not always talking about political conservatives.
Though, if you will, take a look at the chart on page 203. I found it very enlightening and interesting.
I had forgotten about the “Southern Democrats”. Historically an interesting bunch.

I found so much about the people studied confusing-hard for me to get my head around all the seeming inconsistencies in logic as I call it but as pointed out in the book the compartmentalization of their ideas allows for some pretty interesting, conflicting, thoughts.

Now let's look for some answers to our questions. (I think we can actually lump our questions into fewer questions yet.)

1.Why are some people so easily led and hang on to false “facts”?
2.Why are some so aggressive...?
3.Why the prejudices?
4.Who are their authorities and why?

Question 1:

Dr. Altemeyer, as I do, doesn't get into the genetics of High RWA's but allows for it. He begins with parental guidance, then to “missed experiences”. They are not introduced to different groups and ideas.
“They got a “2 for 1 special deal on fear...they were raised by their parents to be afraid of others...”
They “traveled around on short leashes in relatively small, tight, safe circles all their lives.”
Their parents “try to send their kids to “safe” colleges.”

(Also remember the group thing, individuals into the group Venn diagram)

The compartmentalization of their ideas allow for holding conflicting ideas at the same time and can lead to confusing justifications for various actions and decisions.
The high RWA has not further developed or “thought through their ideas as much as most people have...”
In Chapter three How Authoritarian Followers Think, “...a high RWA can have all sorts of illogical, self-contradictory, and widely refuted ideas rattling around in various boxes in his brain and never notice it.”
Dr. Altemeyer gives the usual disclaimer so do we all have “inconsistencies in reasoning” then:
“...research reveals that authoritarian followers...exhibiting sloppy reasoning, highly compartmentalized beliefs, double standards, hypocrisy, self-blindness, a profound ethnocentrism, and ...a ferocious dogmatism (see definition 2) that makes it unlikely anyone could ever change their minds.

...they do not in general have a very critical outlook on anything unless the authorities in their lives have condemned it for them.”

Thus they are easily led and easily become apprehensive, or fearful.

What about hanging on to false “facts”:
One example given concerns the Iraq war. The compartmental mind had no trouble in “believing that America stands for international cooperation and the peaceful resolution of conflict on one hand, while on the other hand insisting it has the “right” to attack whomever it wants...”

After all, in the ethnocentric mind “We are the Good Guys and our opponents are abominations”...

Will some of these people ever change their minds? Dr. Altemeyer believes some will by revising their personal histories. Others? “petrified by their dogmatism” never. (99)

I have given you a only a few of the explanations found in the book The Authoritarians for the first question. Partly because there is so much information and partly because I have a hard time compartmentalizing. I see so much about the high RWA conflicting and yet interconnected.

But there we have the beginnings of my studies.

I hope you learned something as I did and still do from this book.

Next post will look at the Dr. Altemeyer's book for some insight into aggression and if I can keep more focused, so much information, hopefully question 3.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I Just Can't Keep Quiet.

OK I know I should be working on the next post about psych. and social movements.
I couldn't let a couple of things go by.
First is this: Krugman. The hook, first sentence and the following paragraph are great. You know how I love sarcasm.

Then there was the NYTimes/CBS poll this week. Whole poll.

I read the Times article, the synopsis, and listened to a few news broadcasts concerning the poll. I have not heard any one mention much about a couple of things that stuck out to me.

These people fear and just don't like Pres. Obama. I think the man could hand out 10,000 cash to them and cut the deficit by 1/2 and they still would disapprove of him.

Now look at questions 95 and 96 on page 35. Hello world.

No more to say.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Why Are We the People Easily Led and Aggressive

Lately there are many questions about the nature of we the people. Why is it that there are people who still believe Sadam had weapons of mass destruction: why do people think the health reform law is either socialist or so afraid of it for some other reason: why did people believe the Republican party was the “Christian” party? Then there are the Pres. Obama questions: How can some people still believe Obama is not a U.S. Citizen: Why do some still believe the President is a Muslim plant? Do you realize that many people believe the President is going to take over the U.S. Either to a be a dictator or to turn it over to a world government? Why such aggression lately. Aggression such as carrying a gun so near the President of the U.S. Aggression such as seen during the health care reform debates in Congress and at the town-hall meetings. The list goes on and on.
There is also the question of how someone can tell people one thing for years then turn around and tell them the opposite is true and many ignore it or choose to believe it. Here is a little poll.

So let us take a look at possible reasons. There are many possibilities depending on the types of psychological or sociological theories and studies you use or choose. Nothing is simple. It is like the old question nature vs. nurture. Are we “Tabula Rasa”, blank slates, when born or ... Then breeding horses, who has the stronger influence on the disposition of the foal, the mare or the stallion? Many have decided it must be the mare as she is in closer contact with said foal. Sounds like a good answer but what about those everyday experiences that happen, those unexpected experiences? Personally I get frustrated with any one answer I want to yell it is all of the above and maybe more. I like to envision Venn or maybe Euler diagrams for such questions.
We don't really know much about humans as individuals or as groups. I, for one, am sure there is so much more to learn. (With the advances of science in the body chemistry, DNA studies and with the new ways of watching the brain without being as invasive, we begin to learn more and more.)

First things first; we are humans. We are part of a group of Animals called Primates. (OK some of us don't even agree with that. For my research and thoughts I accept it.) So look at how Primates act. They have group, herd, characteristics and within that group they are individuals. Some are more “individual” than others. Some lead and some follow usually for the good of the group. There are times when different groups group, for protection against other groups or predators. Then those groups, after the predator is gone, may well turn on each other. I am sure you get the picture. ( We could go even further and look at humans as part of the world or the universe but let's focus in or down a little tighter for these studies. )

We all have certain undeniable things in common. We have, for instance, opposable thumbs, a supposedly large brain for our body size, we have a long developmental period. (Well sometimes I am not so sure that last one shouldn't be an arrested developmental period. We seem, at times, to develop no further.) Again though for the purposes of this writing I accept the long developmental period.

Have you ever noticed that groups basically are made of the followers, submissives, and the leaders or dominators. In a small church congregation you will always have the same people over and over who volunteer and the volunteers that want to lead the volunteers, again the same ones over and over. Then you have the rest of that congregation, the ones who want to come to service or “Sunday school” but want the Minister or the Sunday School superintendent and teacher to tell them what they need to “think” about. Well, the same thing happens in most any group. Think about it. What about PTA groups or what about political groups. At work have you noticed that even among the non-management workers there are groups and the group divisions appear within those small groups. All the groups have the same patterns. The reasons behind each participant, individual, and their fit within the group may be different but the group divides along the same lines.

So now we can begin to look at some of the theories that abound about our individual as well as our group think.

Time, both mine and yours, is a problem. My attention span is pretty short-I am an American.
So I am concentrating a few different theories and studies. But hope to cover several, each in a different post.

Here is a partial list of some I am studying or reviewing: The Authoritarians, Social Darwinism, Just World theories, Bandura's theory of aggression, A study of overcrowding and aggression in rats, Effects of birth-order, some history of Social Movements particularly in the U.S. As I have a hard time with genetics, I won't probably spend much time on that branch of science though I acknowledge much is to be found there. (nope, I don't really believe in Tabula Rasa.)

This will take time and many posts to cover so be patient. I hope both the reader and I can learn a little.
When I find something that surprises me I will try to let you know. If, no when-I know me, I find things I don't like or with which I don't agree I will try to let you know. “Even if it kills me.”

Next: The Authoritarians, By Dr. Bob Altemeyer.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Heroes and Idols

Yes, I am still researching and reading for the promised post so here is another one in the meantime.

A short while back Thomas and I were ,commenting in a small way, back and forth about John Wayne.
Then today I saw this about the “Duke” in the N.Y. Times. Watch out it is a little bit of a tear jerker.

My Dad was a huge John Wayne fan. Many people were. I still am. Find that strange?
Let me explain a little.

My Dad had John Wayne Syndrome and once my older brother told me many men did. The Duke was the epitome of the strong silent hero. In many of his movies he was a black and white, pun intended, straight forward kind of guy. Most of the time his character met the bad guy or guys head-on and won the day not just for himself but for those who weren't as strong but were more silent. That must be hard to live up to anytime. But I thought we were supposed to outgrow that kind of thing I never thought I would be like June Cleaver. (Though I sometimes think if my spouse would be like Ward, I would be glad to be June. Easier life that.) Guess you had to be a male to get it.

But I got off why I still like John Wayne, the actor. In the late 60's Mr. Wayne went a little too far in his support of the Vietnam War, for me but that was before I worried about actors and politics. I didn't pay much attention to them except for enjoying, or not, movies. For some reason I always understood these were people playing roles . Sometimes the movies had much to say but the actors were just that to me, actors. Here is a pretty good link about the Duke, actor, his movies, and his life.

Some of my favorite Wayne movies: Three Godfathers, The Searchers,The Cowboys, True Grit, and Rooster Cogburn and the Lady, and of course, The Shootist. My list goes on. He sure was a prolific actor.
Here is a great site listing his movies.

and now that I look at the list I see so many I enjoy but hadn't thought about in years.

Here is Wayne quotation from the above wikipedia John Wayne link that I find poetic:
Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday.

(Surprising to me as I didn't expect such wisdom from the Duke. See, I am a reverse snob sometimes.)

In considering my own thoughts about John Wayne and his movies, I am regretting that we do not have such a hero today for folks. It is a confusing world and sometimes we need idols. The problem is in picking the idols. Maybe I should say heroes as idols are of stone and make no mistakes while heroes, as is often seen, are human and make mistakes.

The past few years I had times I felt young folks needed a hero. A black and white, good vs. evil, moral type even if they are the stuff found only in movies or good books. But I was wrong they do, Harry Potter maybe. Someone the media leaves alone to do good while having clay feet would be very nice. Why not leave a little fantasy and enjoyment to the young. A guide along the way of discovery of the society around us. The stage after parents lose their wisdom and no longer know just everything.
(I warned my son that there would be a time that his parents would get a disease. They would suddenly know nothing and it would last for many years. Then one day they would recover and they would be very wise once again.)

Maybe today the problem is many do not grow beyond this stage or something. We have our idols and some of us revel in every lurid tale about them. It is as though part of us wants our idols to be less than we think we are. Why are Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood still popular?

I leave you to your answers.

We admire them, we envy them, for great qualities which we ourselves lack. Hero worship consists in just that.
- Mark Twain's Autobiography site link

Monday, April 5, 2010

Frank Rich Again

As I still have much research and thought to go on social movements, I have a short thought or two on Frank Rich' column this past weekend.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Obama!

...Remnick returns repeatedly to the notion that Obama is a “shape-shifter,” with a remarkable ability to come across differently to disparate constituencies. Some of that reflects his agility at shifting rhetorical gears...

Let us face facts. We have a President who is excellent at “shifting rhetorical gears”. I enjoy it.
And there may be some “racism” from the left:
He (a friend of Mr. Rich) theorized that race also plays a role in “the often angry and intemperate talk” he has been hearing from “left-liberal friends for the past many months about what a failure and a disappointment” the president has been. In his view, “Obama never said anything, while running, to give anyone the idea” that he was other than a “deliberate, compromise-seeking bipartisan moderate.” My friend wondered if white liberals who voted for Obama expected a “sweeping Republicans-be-damned kind of agenda” in part — and he emphasized “in part!” — because “they expect a black guy to be intemperate, impetuous, impatient” rather than “measured, deliberate, patient.”

Probably not as indicated here though race may have played a partial roll in President Obama's election. I believe Some white Democrats and Independents voted for him to show the world the nation would elect a black President.

As far back as 2004 — when Obama was still in the Illinois Senate — a writer at The Chicago Tribune, Don Terry, framed what remains the prevailing Obama takeaway to this day. “He’s a Rorschach test,” Terry wrote. “What you see is what you want to see.”

As for this far left but pragmatic Socialist Democrat, I see what I expected to see as this President works-a very pragmatic person. He is like his “health reform” law-the best we can get. He is much more centrist than I would like to see but he is certainly better than the other offerings. And even though I am very far left of center I am pragmatic.
I do admire his new found energy and almost always enjoy listening to him whether in an interview or giving a speech. Of course after what we had in the White House, just having one “rhetorical gear” is something to behold.

And not a moment too soon. The speed with which Obama navigates out of the recession, as measured by new jobs and serious financial reform, remains by far the most determinative factor in how he, his party and, most of all, the country will fare in the fractious year of 2010. If he succeeds in that all-important challenge — or, for that matter, if he fails — the enigmatic, Rorschach-test phase of Obama’s still young relationship to the American people may rapidly draw to a close. It will be the moment of clarity that allows us to at last judge him, as we should all presidents, on what he’s actually done rather than on who we imagine he is.

As far as his ability to produce jobs, I hope he can. But I do not expect miracles.