Nel's New Day

July 6, 2016

‘Political Correctness’ – Just Being Nice

“Political correctness” is a term initiated in the 1793 Supreme Court case Chisholm v. Virginia upholding the rights of people to sue states. Justice James Wilson wrote in his opinion that people, rather than states, hold the most authority which makes a toast given to the United States” is not “politically correct.” He preferred the greater accuracy of “People of the United States.”

For almost 200 years, the term was largely obscure until conservatives co-opted the term in the 1980s for their personal political gain by using the phrase for a leftist conspiracy that infiltrated the higher education system. For decades, people argued about being “politically correct” in teaching and language in university classes.

In the 2016 presidential campaign, political correctness was highlighted in the first GOP debate after Fox network Megyn Kelly asked Donald Trump about his verbal sexist attacks against women. He was ready with an answer:

“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”

The audience applauded, and other GOP presidential candidates adopted the tactic. Erica Hellerstein and Judd Legum wrote:

“The term “political correctness,” particularly in the Republican presidential primary, does not have a specific definition. Rather it functions like a Swiss army knife—it is the answer to every kind of issue that a candidate might confront. It’s a “get out of jail free card” for bigotry, sexism and lying.”

Dr. Warren Blumenfeld wrote:

“The political Right coined the terms ‘political correctness,’ ‘politically correct,’ and ‘PC’ as pejorative rhetorical ploys to intimidate, discredit, and outright dismiss the statements, policies, and actions of the progressive Left generally, and more specifically, to inhibit anyone from thinking critically and challenging societal inequalities.”

Trump and his surrogates use the term the most. The candidate complains that he can’t even use the word “thug” without criticism. Corey Lewandowski has been fired from Trump’s campaign but still defends the candidate, describing the accusation of anti-Semitic content of Donald Trump’s tweet using the Star of David, Hillary Clinton, images of $100 bills, and the word corruption “political correctness run amok.”

In the past, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), former GOP presidential candidate, blamed political correctness on 9/11 and used it for collecting email addresses. Ben Carson tweeted that we should “#StoPP funding political correctness and Planned Parenthood.” Asked what they have in common, he said that “political correctness” is making people amoral. Carson also said tried to connect political correctness and his opposition to Obamacare and accepting Syrian refugees. Criticized for saying that a Muslim should not be president, a statement that violates the U.S. Constitution, Carson said, “Political correctness is ruining our country.”

The opposition to political correctness (aka civility) is supported by 68 percent of people in the U.S.—81 percent of Republicans. Even 62 percent agree that “a big problem this country is being politically correct.” GOP candidates know these high figures and play on them in order to avoid any difficult topics. It’s all in the repetition.

In today’s News-Times (Newport, OR), Gilbert Schramm provides his take on “political  correctness”:

Like most Americans, I was horrified by the shooting in Orlando—and by Trump’s response. He immediately tweeted, “We can’t afford to be politically correct anymore.” Wait, “political correctness” wasn’t the cause of the shooting; political incorrectness was the cause.

Obviously, if you subject any group to unrelenting bigotry and hate-speech, some unstable person will eventually act on the lies and hatred they have been fed. It doesn’t really matter whether the hatred in Orlando came from a radical Christian, Jew, or Muslim, extremist fundamentalists from all three religions can have equally ugly attitudes about the LGBT community.

To truly understand Orlando, you need to understand the systematic conservative attack on the term political correctness. Nothing defines what the modern Republican Party has become more clearly than its misuse and abuse of this term: Trump and his supporters take an obscene pride in mocking it.

This is truly puzzling. In general usage, “ correct” means right, and “incorrect” means wrong. Why do they reverse our traditional values and language and pretend that the term is an insult?

Through American history, as progressives fought for women, religious, ethnic and racial minorities, they developed new language that reflected their concern for equal rights. The whole idea of political correctness was to improve communication, to reduce conflict, and to be more civil. Not a bad idea.

In creating a better language to express American values, there was sometimes a silly notion that re-labeling problems simply made them go away. Some bigots may have used the new terms insincerely. Some good people may have been unfairly criticized for not keeping up with the changing language. But true progressives not only amended their language, they did other concrete things to rectify the scars caused by institutional racism.

Affirmative action was necessary to help correct the deep institutional disadvantages left by centuries of racism. The GOP has been attacking affirmative action for years by arguing that it constituted “reverse racism.” This is an absurd argument. Its very existence proves that those who use it don’t truly understand the lasting damage left by the real racism.

Then there is the term “colorblind.” Just recently, a Trump spokesman complimented Trump for being “colorblind.” Colorblindness is not vision enhancement; it is a vision deficit that removes a whole dimension of nuance.

So when you hear terms like political correctness, reverse racism, or color-blindness, you are hearing someone who doesn’t understand racism, bigotry, or gender bias at all, and who likely doesn’t care. Yet in spite of conservative efforts to turn the truth upside down, being politically correct (right) is better than being politically incorrect (i.e., just wrong and offensive).

The Trump attitude that “correctness is a bad thing has now spread from opinion to facts. His casual attitude towards facts is noteworthy—in most of what he says he just doesn’t have much use for the truth. For him, it’s right to be wrong.

Trump’s abuse of the term political correctness may have more to do with the “political” part than with correctness. After all, he has won so far by disclaiming any past experience as a politician. Republicans believe that the existence of governments is only excused by the fact that total anarchy is just a tad bit worse. Progressives, on the other hand, feel that government can play a positive role. History has repeatedly proven the progressives to be right.

If GOP conservatives don’t believe that government can make life better, they should leave governing to those who know it can do some good.

Meanwhile, they should stop turning the truth (and our very language) upside down. Corruption of language leads to corruption of thought. That corruption makes it possible to believe that suppressing the vote protects democracy, that there is something called “legitimate rape,” that more guns will make us safer, that gun-free zones attract violence, and other GOP nonsense.

Whatever mild annoyance has been caused by politically correct language, the carnage in Orlando is a stark example of the alternative.

Republicans brag that Donald Trump is honest because he says what he thinks. They seem to admire him for calling undocumented Mexicans “rapists” and stating that sex appeal is responsible for a woman’s success. Zeba Blay wrote:

“To yearn for the opposite of the ‘politically correct’ is simply to yearn for the ability to be comfortable, to maintain the right to trivialize issues that affect people’s lives…. Using “politically correct” as an insult or dismissal is emblematic of an inability to approach difficult conversations with the complexity they demand. Being uncomfortable or annoyed is not a good enough reason to dismiss every conversation that hinges on social justice, as if actual social justice were the worst thing in the world.”

Political correctness is accepting Spanish-language messages on service lines, not telling racist jokes at work, and being less demeaning to women. It’s a way of showing sensitivity toward others, especially those who have been invisible or expected to be submissive. Conservatives don’t like it because it’s hard work. They just want to say what they think—and what they think can be very unpleasant.

Noted author and illustrator Neil Gaiman said, “I started imagining a world in which we replaced the phrase ‘politically correct’ wherever we could with ‘treating other people with respect’, and it made me smile.” It makes me smile too.

December 4, 2014

Conservatives Blame Police Killings on Big Government

Some conservatives have joined progressives in decrying the lack of an indictment for a police officer who killed a 43-year-old Staten Island man with a chokehold. Last July, Daniel Pantaleo joined other police officers in taking down Eric Garner while he was standing on the street. Within minutes Garner was dead, as a video of the tragedy shows. After the grand jury released its decision not to indict Pantaleo, people across the country filled streets in protest.

Conservatives objection, however, comes from their belief that big government is responsible for Garner’s death. Without high cigarette taxes in New York, Garner would not have died, according to Lawrence McQuillan in the Washington Times:

“[E]very vote for higher taxes gives police increased authority to exert more force on citizens in more situations. Higher excise taxes inevitably lead to more violent clashes between police and smugglers…. Eliminating punitive cigarette taxes would shrink the underground market and help redirect police resources to combating real crimes of force and violence, rather than empowering police to employ violence in the name of tax collection.”

Those who question such taxes fail to understand the benefits of a law that gives people a better quality of life through reducing smoking. Libertarians argue that these taxes are an undemocratic intrusion into private lives. Yet McQuillan’s logic requires the elimination of all taxes because they use police resources “to employ violence in the name of tax collection.” He fails to understand that no taxes means no government services—including police.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), potential presidential candidate, followed the same distorted line of reasoning last night when he appeared on Chris Matthews MSNBC program, Hard Ball. After expressing initial dismay about the video of Garner crying out “I can’t breathe” multiple times, Rand concluded:

“I think it’s also important to know that some politician put a tax of $5.85 on a pack of cigarettes. So they’ve driven cigarettes underground by making them so expensive. But then some politician also had to direct the police to say, ‘Hey, we want you arresting people for selling a loose cigarette.’ And for someone to die over breaking that law, there really is no excuse for it. But I do blame the politicians.”

Rand ignored the fact that Garner died because a police officer violated NYPD rules by putting Garner in a chokehold and holding his head against the ground.

It’s not the first time that Rand has exonerated police action by blaming “politicians” and “the war on drugs.” In a Time op-ed piece published after the grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson (MO), Rand wrote:

“Escaping the poverty trap will require all of us to relearn that not only are we our brother’s keeper, we are our own keeper. While a hand-up can be part of the plan, if the plan doesn’t include the self-discovery of education, work, and the self-esteem that comes with work, the cycle of poverty will continue.”

According to Rand, Brown was responsible for his own death because he failed to participate in “self-discovery.” Nowhere did Rand mention that Brown was only one month away from attending a vocational education school after having graduated from high school—those pieces of “education” and “work.”

Rand also got his information wrong. According to his op-ed, “In Ferguson, the precipitating crime was not drugs, but theft.” Much of the information released before the grand jury proved that Wilson didn’t know that Brown had participated in an alleged crime. Brown’s crime was jaywalking.

According to conservatives, the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner had nothing to do with racism: it was only because of the liberals’ insistence on the “nanny state.” Without taxes and handouts, the poor would disappear, and the police would have no need to kill those who they are employed to protect.

Yet conservatives ignore the problem of police across the United States who evidence racial prejudice in their community. Five officers in Montgomery County (OH) are being investigated but are still being paid, three of them remaining on the job, for such text messages as “I hate n*ggers. That is all” and “What do apples and black people have in common? They both hang from trees.”

Brown and Garner aren’t the only black men recently killed by white officers. John Crawford is dead after he shopped in Walmart and picked up a toy gun; Darrien Hunt was killed with multiple shots in his back for carrying a toy sword; and 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed in Cleveland because he openly carried a toy gun—legal in Ohio.

According to footage, Rice was shot within two seconds of the police officer’s pulling up in his car. The killer, Timothy Loehmann, had been judged unfit for police work two years ago by his then-employer, Independence (OH), that cited his “dismal” handgun performance. An investigation into Cleveland’s police division for the past 18 months revealed that officers “carelessly fire their weapons, placing themselves, subjects, and bystanders at unwarranted risk of serious injury or death.” Two examples were police shooting an unarmed hit-and-run suspect in the neck and firing 24 rounds in a residential neighborhood, hitting 14 parked cars and another six hits of houses. A police chase two years ago used at least 62 vehicles and 137 bullets to kill two unarmed black suspects, each sustaining over 20 gunshot wounds.

Last spring, a police officer, 47-year-old Frank Phillips, was photographed choking a drunken student at an end-of-the-year party at the University of Tennessee. Two other police officers handcuffed the man. Within hours of the photo being published in the UK Daily Mail, Phillips was fired, and the officers handcuffing him were placed on leave. The choked man is white and still alive.

Ethan Couch is still alive after he killed four people and injured two others in a drunken joy ride. He is now safe in an upscale rehab facility and facing another nine years of rehabilitation and probation. Kevin Miner, who kicked an officer and broke his hand when found hiding in a stranger’s basement, was arrested with no one shot or otherwise hurt. Cliven Bundy is considered a hero after he organized an army in Nevada that threatened government officials with high-powered weapons. All these men are white. White people are inconvenienced; black people are killed. Much more information is available at hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite where white people are recording their easy escapes from police action after committing crimes.

Satirist Andy Borowitz has a solution for the grand jury lack of indictment: supply them with eyes. Dorrinson is a mythical senator used in several of Borowitz’s columns. In this one he said:

“Body cameras are an important part of the solution. But I strongly believe that if you take video evidence and add eyes, the combination would be unstoppable.” [In response to the request for working brains:] “Yes, in a perfect world, all grand juries would have brains. But progress is an incremental thing. Let’s start with eyes and eventually work our way up to brains.”

Even former RNC chair Michael Steele understands the problem in the United States when white police officers can kill black people with impunity although evidence shows that the police are in the wrong. He said that “a black man’s life is not worth a ham sandwich” to grand juries and the prosecutors who are hired to fight for an indictment.

Those who are convinced that there was no racial motivation in no indictment in the Garner case should imagine the response from Fox and other far-right sources if the police officer had been black and the victim a wealthy white man.

July 28, 2014

Time for GOP Shill Gregory to Leave ‘Meet the Press’

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:38 PM
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Back in the day of Tim Russert, Meet the Press had good journalists who verified its news. After Russert’s death six years ago, host David Gregory, who took over from interim moderator Tom Brokaw, has demonstrated a serious bias on the conservative side. Last Sunday was no different: he played an unconfirmed Israeli video allegedly showing Hamas shooting rockets from a UN school. This video was accompanied by a sympathetic interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who explained, among other positions, that the only way to “peace” is to militarily destroy Hamas.

In response to Gregory’s question about whether Hamas is using civilians and the UN in a propaganda war, UN Relief & Works Agency spokesperson Chris Gunness pointed out the ridiculousness because of his inability to even see the video:

“To bring me on a live program and expect me to comment live on air on pictures I haven’t actually seen, I think anyone looking at this program would agree that’s really unfair. I mean, if I can see it, I’ll happily comment on it.”

Although Gregory did say at the end of the program that the UN confirmed the video does not show what Gregory early purported, he still gave credence to the Israeli report, “So this is a back and forth that we are not able to settle at this point.”

Gregory’s conservative bias is nothing new. Over a year ago, I wrote a piece beginning with his pandering to conservatives from his start on the show when he promised Mark Sanford the ability to “frame the conversation” when he talked about abandoning South Carolina for an assignation with his mistress and lying about his whereabouts.  Esteemed journalist Frank Rich pointed out that Gregory may be “playing the part [of Joe McCarthy] to make some noise” when Gregory attacked Glenn Greenwald for supporting Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks.

On the Jay Leno show, Gregory said:

“I think it’s deeply disturbing when someone takes it upon him or herself to decide they’re uncomfortable with some program and they decide they want to undo a government program. I don’t think that’s what the founders of the country envisioned and it’s not a real way to do that.”

That position is in direct opposition to journalism’s requirement of  in-depth reporting.

On a program last October, Gregory called for more “leadership” from President Obama. Typical of conservatives, Gregory wanted to know when Obama was going to “demonstrate he can bring along converts to his side and actually get something meaningful accomplished.” Unfortunately for the host, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne was present to gently explain the confusion between presidential “leadership” and giving in to GOP demands:

“A lot of times, though, when people say the president should lead, what they want him to do is adopt Republican positions and then push for those. That’s not leadership, that’s capitulation. I think we should stop talking about a Grand Bargain and try to have normal government in the next two months.”

The Republicans have refused to have a “normal government.”

Gregory specializes in asking leading questions that permit his conservative guests to present their far-right positions. An example occurred during his interview with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s role in the 2012 Benghazi deaths. Gregory allowed Paul to again smear Clinton with the false opinion that she denied additional security forces at the compound although she knew the need. Not satisfied with Paul’s attack on Clinton, he then encouraged more smears by asking if Benghazi disqualified Clinton for presidential candidacy.

Earlier this month on Meet the Press, Gregory supported House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) lawsuit against the president because Democrats would have been just as upset if a Republican president had delayed some of the Affordable Care Act’s implementation. Fortunately, former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm was present to bring the program back to reality. She reminded Gregory that George W. Bush had delayed parts of the Medicare Part D implementation with no negative reaction from Democrats. That was before she called Boehner’s lawsuit “the legal equivalent of birtherism.”

Granholm also filled in Gregory’s omission that the Republicans had voted overwhelmingly—time and again—to delay the exact provision that they are now using to sue the president. But that wasn’t all. In talking to former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who was discussing the problems within the Republican party needing a positive message for blue-collar workers, Gregory said, “the Obama economy,” blaming one person for the disaster that the GOP has supported. This was the same show when he asked if the border immigration crisis is “Obama’s Katrina moment.”

That Gregory is in trouble with the network has been obvious for some time. In March, the head of NBC News, Deborah Turness, met with him and executive producer, Rob Yarin, to discuss “format changes” for the show. Fourth-quarter 2013 ratings showed the lowest total viewers in the show’s history which started in 1991. A “format change,” however, won’t change the fact that the program caters to Republicans, with its base of old, white men. A diverse guest list that didn’t include John McCain and his cohorts almost every Sunday could make the difference. Hispanics and blacks are almost invisible on the show except for a few appearances on the panels; the women, segregated to the roundtable, are mostly members of the media.

Beyond adding accuracy and lack of bias to Meet the Press, these ideas could improve the show:

One way that Tim Russert used to grill politicians was to put some of their past quotes that contradicted their statements on the show and ask them to explain their positions. No host now uses this approach; it’s a “format change”! And it works well on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. 

Russert also appeared skeptical of all answers. Gregory needs to expose inconsistencies while being respectfully aggressive.

Gregory could also invite guests that aren’t visible elsewhere. Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell, who appear on MSNBC almost every day, frequently appear on Meet the Press.

The drums beating the rumor that Gregory will be gone after the fall elections are getting louder. Viewership is down 43 percent since he took over six years ago, and only the Winter Olympics saved the show from third place this year. Sadly, suggestions for a replacement are Chuck Todd, Joe Scarborough, and Mika Brezezinski—more conservatives. At least Brezezinski would mean that a woman would finally host one of the Sunday political talk shows, but she needs to lose the submissive behavior that she demonstrates on the Scarborough show.

On June 15, when Iraq was the focus of all Sunday talk shows on CNN, Fox, CBS, NBC, and ABC this Sunday, no women or people of color were featured on the solo interviews. Two-thirds of the participants on the roundtable discussions were men. Of the 38 guests on the shows were five people of color, and no one show had more than two women or two non-white guests.

That same week, Melissa Harris Perry’s show had ten guests: four women and five people of color. It was the only show to feature an Iraq war veteran. Now there’s an idea: replace Gregory with a black woman.

March 10, 2014

CPAC Reviewed

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:35 PM
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Ukraine got almost eclipsed last week in the media by the Conservative Political Action Conference, an amazing feat considering that only 2,500 people attend the annual event in Washington. The press does show the GOP lack of understanding, lack of regard for humanity, and just downright craziness. Because the conference has been so entertaining—in a very noir fashion—I can’t resist writing about it.

In an effort to shine a negative light on free school lunches, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) told a heart-wrenching tale of a little boy who would rather his folks fix him a school lunch in a brown paperback rather than get a free hot lunch. The  speech went viral and got a fact check from Washington Post, receiving Four Pinocchios—the highest number possible for a falsehood. Ryan credited Eloise Anderson, who serves in the cabinet of his “buddy, Governor Scott Walker,“ as the person who met this little boy.

Anderson told the story at a congressional hearing last summer, claiming that she had spoken to him. When pressed for the truth, Anderson said that she hadn’t actually met the boy but was referring to a television interview with Maurice Mazyck, who repeated the story that occurred over 25 years ago which may have come from Laura Schroff’s The Invisible Thread. Both Anderson and Ryan got four Pinocchios because “politicians need to check the facts in any prepared remarks.” The question is whether Ryan will learn his lesson faster than Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) who continued to plagiarize after he got caught.

cayden-pay-it-forward-5A better school lunch story comes from Howell (MI) where an eight-year-old boy started raising money because he didn’t want his classmate to have his lunch taken away and replaced with a cheese sandwich. That’s what my state representative calls a “scarlet sandwich” like The Scarlet Letter.

Cayden and his mother collected cans and bottles to fund lunches, and friends and neighbors helped them raise $64, enough for other 100 lunches. After a radio station broadcast the story, they had enough money for 5,000 lunches the next week. Almost 30 percent of students in the county where Cayden lives are on free or reduced-price lunch, better than in my county where almost two-thirds of the kids eligible for the school lunch program because of poverty. Detroit’s ABC affiliate picked Cayden as its “Detroit 2020 Person of the Week.”

And he’s doing all this while conservatives at CPAC were blowing hot air about how poor people don’t deserve any help. The richest country in the world is now at the place where eight-year-olds have to go out to raise money to help his friends.

Right-wing talk show host Michael Medved said, “There has never been a state in this country that has ever banned gay marriage.” He claimed that this was a “liberal lie.” Try telling that to same-sex couples in the 33 states that deny them marriage licenses. Thirty of the states have banned marriage equality through state constitutional amendments and the other three by statute.

Thanks to John Hudak, Fellow of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institute for this photo of the room for the minority outreach panel, “How do we grow our ranks in areas where we traditionally underperform?” The seats stayed empty, according to Mediate, until people rolled in for the next session with NRA’s Wayne LaPierre.

CPAC-2014-minority-panel-empty-room

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose personal hopes for presidential candidate were revived with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s debacle, compared the Obama administration’s opposition to George Wallace trying to keep black students out of which schools. Jindal also advocates a policy of “health for handshakes” because that’s what his folks did when he was born.

Donald Trump mentioned the “late, great Jimmy Carter,” forgetting that the 39th president of the United States is still helping people all over the world.

A panel on “Why Conservatism is Right for Women” pushed the point that the “real” GOP War against Women is the insistence of people on the left to point out the GOP positions and statements. If the media didn’t print what GOP members said, no one would notice.

Conservative author Kate Obenshain asked GOP members to lay off their dumb comments: “We cannot have any stupid comments this year. Please think before you make pithy, obnoxious comments.” She added, “White men stay behind, let the women talk about this issue.” Letting GOP women talk might not even be a good idea. At CPAC, Ann Coulter said about unwed mothers, “Shaming is good.” 

Possibly the strangest part of CPAC was Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) waving a musket rifle in the air on-stage. Actually, he was make a NRA presentation to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) who is retiring with a 100-percent approval for his voting record on giving guns to everyone with no restrictions. The strange part was not the gun but what McConnell said today about the Tea Party, those people at CPAC. “I think we are going to crush them everywhere. I don’t think they are going to have a single nominee anywhere in the country.”

White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer summed up the speeches: “Based on today’s speeches, I am not sure we will be able to tell the difference between CPAC and the SNL spoof of CPAC.”

A bit about CPAC:

 

  • While claiming to be grassroots, the American Conservative Union, parent of CPAC, is supported by guns, big oil, cigarettes, and the Koch brothers.
  • Among the CPAC sponsors was Facebook. They may have used all their money to go there because they’re not scheduled to be at Netroots Nation in July.  
  • Casual encounter ads on CraigsList greatly increase for the CPAC with many attendees searching for man-on-man relationships in a wild variety of weekend love fests. Read this for the graphic language.

 

Hard to believe, but some people are even too extreme for CPAC. Family Research Council leader Jerry Boykin wasn’t invited so he gave his own speech. After he was finished, an open mike mistakenly picked up his comments: “The Jews are the problem, the Jews are the cause of all the problems in the world.” An unknown person answered, “I know, I know, that’s why we’re trying to fix everything.”

For people who want to check the veracity of GOP statements, Media Matters has started Mythopedia and encourages tips. The online database has about 400 entries but may evolve in a Wikipedia-style site.

At CPAC, GOP presidential wannabes compete with each other in the straw poll. Rand Paul won for the second consecutive year, this time with 31 percent of the vote. Conservatives and libertarians agree with Paul that businesses should be able to discriminate to anyone they wish–minorities, pregnant women, etc. Other issues, however, caused divides at CPAC.

One major division was whether the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is a hero or a coward. Libertarians think that the constitution means absolute privacy while conservatives think that he is helping “to dismantle the defenses of this nation in a time of maximum danger,” as former Virginia governor James Gilmore said.

Even more disunity occurred at the panel to determine whether “libertarians and social conservatives” can unite. Referring to the Christian right’s anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion, anti-pot messages undermining the GOP’s election chances, a member asked, “Will conservatives ever ease up on social issues, or do we have to wait for our generation to do it?” An attendee responded, via Twitter, “It’s unfortunate that this conference has been hijacked by libertarians. Libertarians are not conservatives. They should hold their own conference.” Oops.

Polls show that the next generation may make a significant change. More millennials, born after 1980, view themselves as liberal than conservative. About 32 percent call themselves liberal compared to the 25 percent who identify as conservative. Almost half of them say that they grow more liberal as they become older, and 57 percent of them say that their views on social issues become more progressive with time. Almost 70 percent support marriage equality, and millennials are twice as likely to view same-sex couples raising children as positive rather than negative. Over half of them favor a “bigger government providing more services” rather than a smaller government. Now if we can just get them to vote!

July 17, 2013

Conservatives Follow Tribal Leaders

Rachel Maddow sometimes refers to the “crazy uncle,” the relative who hates liberals but doesn’t have any support for his beliefs. The same thing happens with commenters on blogs, for example the person who responds to statistics about the dangers of “stand your ground” laws who fails to substantiate claims that these laws are vital and the country needs stronger self-defense laws.

As an idealist, I believe that I only need to provide supporting facts in a discussion to persuade others to understand my position. Not so, wrote Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion and a social psychologist in the New York University Stern School of Business.  The argument is about something other than the subject being discussed. Politics has nothing to do with facts, figures, and rational policy debate and everything to do with a person’s basic moral beliefs and group loyalties.

One question I continually ask my partner is how people can oppose something that will help them. Obamacare, for example, which makes health care cheaper and better for almost everyone in the country. Or the conservatives on food stamps  or Social Security who vote for politicians who will take these programs away from them.

Haidt has become more conservative, and the book can be simplistic at times. Yet he has some interesting points to make. He said:

“We were never designed to listen to reason. When you ask people moral questions, time their responses, and scan their brains, their answers and brain activation patterns indicate that they reach conclusions quickly and produce reasons later only to justify what they’ve decided.”

According to Haidt, six fundamental ideas provide the foundation for individual moral systems: care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority, and sanctity. With these principles, other related themes contribute to the moral weight: divinity, community, hierarchy, tradition, sin, and degradation.

Haidt explains that politics is “a tribal phenomenon,” in which belonging to a group is more important that individual need. The greater a person’s investment in an ethnic group, city, occupational group, etc., the more the inclination to vote for politicians who are thought to advance those interests.

Political beliefs give a sense of belonging, meaning, and purpose. Because they display a person’s moral character, people won’t change their minds about climate change or abortion because doing so would betray the tribe. Political debate shows a “team membership,” according to Haidt. Because of the focus on membership in a group, conservatives care primarily about their own tribe and are more indifferent to the people they consider outsiders. Helping people in another community isn’t natural, according to conservatives.

To Haidt, morality is like food: if something tastes good, we keep with it. If not, we reject it. In the same way, people may accept God, authority, and karma because these appeal to the moral taste buds. Conservatives find feminism and welfare distasteful while the themes of faith, patriotism, valor, chastity, law and order appeal to them. Those on the left, conversely, focus on care and fighting oppression.

Much of the difference between people on the right and on the left lies in their separate perceptions of fairness. While the left focuses on equality, the right cares about whether people deserve the outcome. Social conservatives are convinced that poor people didn’t do the necessary things to overcome their poverty and don’t deserve bailing out. The left, however, has far more compassion for people who are suffering.

 

The conservatives’ rage comes from their desire to “catch cheaters and slackers.” Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted out “You lie!” during President Obama’s 2009 speech on healthcare when the president said his healthcare reforms would not be available for people who are in the country illegally. Wilson could not believe he was wrong about people getting something that Wilson thought they didn’t deserve.

People on the left appear to show more compassion for the vulnerable, whether or not they are in the country legally. Rational discussion does not make the people on the right more compassionate or the ones on the left less caring about those who need help. Haidt explained the difference in this way:

“If you believe that it’s faster to drive to the airport than take mass transit, and I give you evidence that mass transit is faster, there’s a good chance that I’ll change your mind, because your goal is actually to get to the airport more quickly. With political and moral questions, our goal isn’t ‘the truth.’”

Although where the person grows up is important to political views, so is genetics, according to Haidt:

“Our genes predispose us to seek change, diversity, and variety, or order, stability, and predictability. People with different brains will find different kinds of arguments and different social settings attractive. To understand political attitudes fully, you have to understand a range of factors, including genetics, neuroscience, childhood development, adolescent development, and cultural psychology.”

Despite his position that people don’t reason, Haidt believes that a person’s mind can change after two minutes of reflection on a good debate. There is less and less chance of debate, however, because the country suffers from severe partisan segregation. In 1976, 27 percent of people in the nation lived in highly partisan counties. That percentage increased to 48 percent in 2008.

The segregation also comes from the lack of communication in Congress. Haidt believes that returning to the practice of federal lawmakers moving their families to Washington, where they would socialize and build a friendly basis, would greatly increase cooperation.

Rapid globalization has begun to destroy such traits of a dispersed world as tribalism and righteousness. Unfortunately, the inability of people to adapt to this change is leading to greatly increased promotion of violence. The moral tastes for sanctity or authority may indeed destroy all of us.

It does appear that people in the United States are more connected to each other than with the people they elect as lawmakers. Using a recent American Values Survey, Don Baer and Mark Penn concluded that outside of abortion and the Second Amendment, people in the United States have a great deal in common:

“According to the poll, large majorities of Americans now say that contraception, interracial marriage, sex education in schools, unmarried cohabitation, stem cell research, gambling, and divorce are morally acceptable. Even pre-marital sex and having children out of wedlock are morally acceptable to the majority of Americans under 65, and homosexuality is morally acceptable to the majority under 45. While marijuana is still about a draw (47 percent morally acceptable to 51 percent morally objectionable), for the most part what used to be ‘counterculture’ is now, simply, culture.”

Baer and Penn also found from the survey that most people distrust corporations and oppose the wealth inequality. “Over 80 percent of Americans say that if we want to regain our unity, we need to shrink the gap between rich and poor.” Only 40 percent of people think that the rich worked harder than others, and a majority thinks that people who are elected are just working for the wealthy.

“Americans aren’t feeling divided by a failure to agree on a set of common values; they feel divided by the failure of our civic and corporate leaders to represent those values themselves.”

Yet the tribal belief will keep people voting for conservatives even if they disagree with how these lawmakers represent them. Unfortunately for the conservative tribal leaders, young people are largely developing a different moral taste.

July 11, 2013

Perry an Example of Conservatives

What’s worse than cutting the amount of food stamp funding from the farm bill? Eliminating them entirely. And that’s what the GOP House members did this afternoon in a 216-208 vote—no Democrats for the bill and 12 Republicans voting against it. The farm will has always been a total package: subsidies and benefits to farmers and nutritional programs such as SNAP to the poor, but House GOP leaders hope that separating them will entirely get rid of this help for hungry people.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) pointed out that the bad policy ignored the bipartisan policy of the House Agriculture Committee. The farm bill that the House passed is for five years, but the food stamps would be on an annual basis if it could even pass, which is most unlikely. The biggest cuts to food stamps in history came in 1996 when then Speaker Newt Gingrich proposed turning the program over to the states, but the bill had to provide food stamps for it to pass the Senate. The law authorized SNAP for only two years.

Republicans are perfectly happy spending the bulk of taxes to make military toys that don’t work and to go into other countries to kill people while denying food the poor—primarily women, children, and elders. Stuart Varney, who hosts a Fox “business show,” rants against providing help to people while ignoring the fact that many of them are hard-working employees at places like Walmart with salaries below the poverty level.

Texas is a fine example of poverty, both physical and intellectual, in this country. The state has known only the devastation of George W. Bush and Rick Perry as its leaders for almost two decades. Last Monday, Perry announced that he will not run for another term, and instead finish by  “working to create more jobs, opportunity and innovation.” He may be considering another run for president so that he can destroy a much larger area of the world.

Only 18 percent of Texas Republicans support him in this, and a survey showed him coming in sixth with 7 percent. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had 27 percent support. Republican strategist Ford McConnell said that Perry was pretty much gone after the famous “oops” episode when the governor failed to remember the third government agency (EPA) that he wanted to eliminate even after his co-debaters tried to help him. I also remember the time in Vermont when he had a goofy smile on his face while cuddling a small bottle of maple syrup. Another “oops” moment was when he couldn’t remember how many justices sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Perry’s legacy in the state of Texas shows how he would rule the nation if such a disastrous event were to occur:

Self-identified “pro-life” Perry presided over more than 260 executions—thus far—more than any other governor in history. After vetoing a bill banning executions of mentally disabled people, he executed a Mexican national who had been denied his right from the Mexican consulate and at least one man who was probably innocent.

Perry supported the state in its immunity for corporations and obsessive deregulations that resulted in the disaster of the fertilizer plant explosion in West.

Perry lambasted the government’s so-called socialist policies and swore he would gut FEMA while he begged the president for federal assistance after the fertilizer plant’s explosion.

Perry decried the 2009 federal recovery package, recommending that the state reject the money for the sake of independence, but balanced the state’s budget with billions of dollars from federal stimulus funding.

Perry called climate change a “contrived phony mess and a scam to make money.”

Perry, after the horrific drought and heat in 2011, tried to solve the problem by betting Texas residents to “pray for rain.”

Perry called evolution “just a theory that’s out there.”

Perry’s latest debacle is that his vigorous fight for the bill to close clinics in favor of ambulatory surgical centers would greatly profit his sister. In 2011 he pushed for and signed “emergency legislation” requiring women to have unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds before they were permitted to have legal abortions. Texas is also the place where two women were subjected to cavity searches—without a change in plastic gloves—after they were picked up for speeding.

Perry led Texas into becoming the nation’s worst polluter, leading the nation in carbon dioxide emissions and providing the home to half of the worst mercury-emitting power plants. His solution to avoid complying with an EPA ruling when he was in violation of the Clean Air Act was a lawsuit against the federal government. The governor also called the 2010 BP oil spill an “act of God” and then call for more oil drilling.

Perry tried to opt the state out of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, claiming that these programs are “Ponzi schemes” and unconstitutional. These programs actually bring billions of dollars into Texas.

Perry worked to continue legal discrimination against LBGT people. A staunch defender of the state’s unconstitutional anti-sodomy law, he blasted the Supreme Court after they overturned the law in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003. Calling the justices “nine oligarchs in robes,” he evidently remembers the number of SCOTUS judges ten years ago. During his presidential campaign in 2012, his anti-gay ad against open service by gays and lesbians in the military accused President Obama of holding a “war on religion.” His speech last Monday boasted the state’s defense of “the sanctity of marriage” through writing discrimination into the state’s constitution.

Perry supported nullification of federal laws and threatened the secession of Texas from the United States.

Perry refuses to let the federal government provide healthcare for low-income residents in the state. More than 25 percent of Texans, 6,234,900 and growing, lack health care coverage. Then he has the gall to claim that Texas has the “best health care in the country.”

Perry vetoed bipartisan Equal Pay legislation after a GOP-controlled legislature passed the bill. He stated that he didn’t want regulations regarding women before he pushed through the highly restrictive restrictions against women.

Perry wants to repeal the 16th and 17th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution to eliminate federal income tax and to stop people from electing federal senators. In his book Fed Up!, he wrote that both were passed only “a fit of populist rage.”

Perry is an example of the wacko, narcissistic Republicans, many of whom are in Congress. Like Perry, they are obsessed with opposing the president, keeping health care from a large number of people in the United States, and creating a government based on fundamentalist Christianity which includes the submission of women to men.

Now they’re readying the fight to take the debt ceiling hostage, demanding big budget cuts from President Obama and other Democrats. Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI), authors of the draconian budget, and John Boehner (R-OH) are meeting with other conservatives such as Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) who bragged about their talks.

One of their goals is privatizing Medicare; another is drastically cutting spending in  the SNAP food stamp program and block-grant Medicaid while incorporating the chained CPI which would artificially revise the cost of living to disadvantage those on Social Security and Medicare. Another GOP plan raises the eligibility age for Social Security.

Conservatives continue to stall because these plans won’t pass the Senate. While they appear to give options to the White House, they plan rigid positions. As usual, Ryan is the key to debt-ceiling strategy walks. His major problem is that the deficit is falling faster than at any time since World War II which takes away their bargaining power.

The GOP is alienating everyone except white men, mostly older ones. Conservatives refuse to move forward on immigration reform unless all undocumented immigrants are criminalized. Conservatives refuse to do anything about voting rights, hoping that keeping minorities and poor people from the polls will put Republicans into control. Conservatives refuse to pass a reasonable interest rate for student loans, despite the fact that the current rate nets $51 billion for the U.S. Conservatives refuse to help poor people who lack food, shelter, and health care. Conservatives refuse to pass legislation that would improve the economy while they try to control women through taking away their reproductive rights.

Those actions—or inactions—leave them with a base of fewer than 30 percent of the people in the country. Having gerrymandered districts in the majority of states to control state legislators and the U.S. House, the GOP is convinced that it can continue with its lack of responsibility. The election in less than 16 months will show whether they are right.

July 2, 2013

Conservatives Hate the U.S. Constitution

When the United States Supreme Court ruled 50 years ago in Brown v. Board of Education that all public schools must be desegregated, almost ever Southern Congressman signed the Southern Manifesto that declared their states would nullify this ruling. Within the past decade, almost 80 percent of the states have adopted laws opposing federal legislation regarding marijuana use, gun control, health insurance requirements, death with dignity, and identification standards for driver’s licenses.

Federal authorities delayed implementation of the 2005 Real ID Act, an anti-terrorism law that set stringent requirements for photo identification cards to be used to board commercial flights or enter federal buildings, because half the states oppose the law. Gun control nullification started with Montana’s 2009 law declaring that federal firearms regulations don’t apply in that state. Since then eight other states have followed suit, and Missouri is trying to be the tenth state, also allowing people to own machine guns. Because the Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that local police did not have to comply with a federal gun control law, some states declare they don’t have to follow any federal laws that they don’t want to.

July 2 is actually the nation’s “Independence Day” become on that date in 1776 the Continental Congress voted for the Declaration of Independence.  The U.S. Constitution was adopted over 11 years later when the Constitutional Convention accepted it on September 17, 1787 and then sent it to 11 states to be ratified. March 4, 1789 is the actual date that the document went into effect.

During the drafting of the constitution, framers discussed the possibility of states nullifying parts of the document. One framer, James Madison, argued that nullification would “speedily put an end to the Union itself” by allowing federal laws to be freely ignored by states. Conservatives in the 21st century proclaim their love and reverence for this foundation of the nation’s laws, but they spend their time legislating it out of existence.

The media has shown how dependent some conservatives are on the Second Amendment, so much so that they read far more into it that it declares. They want individual ownership of as many and as powerful weapons as they can purchase with their credit cards with no responsibility for knowing how to use these. Although the Second Amendment doesn’t address background checks and lists of buyers, they claim that this is infringement on their rights.

Those who claim that they are fighting for freedom in the United States probably approve of a few other amendments. States rights (Amendment Ten) and lack of foreign rights (Amendment Eleven) fit the selfish conservatives’ need for no federal meddling in their affairs.  The two amendments involving prohibition (Amendments Eighteen and Twenty-One) are a nonissue for most conservatives. Election rules (Amendments Twenty, Twenty-Two, and Twenty-Five) are fine with them as long as they don’t let anyone of color vote. (See Amendment 13.)  And the last amendment, Twenty-Seven, limits the rights of Congress to increase its own salaries, fine with all conservatives except those in Congress.

Conservatives, however, have shown that they want to destroy the rest of the amendments.

Amendment One: Conservatives really hate freedom of religion, and they’re not happy with freedom of assembly if it’s progressives who are gathering. Even the FBI has tried to stop protesting since the reign of J. Edgar Hoover began.

Amendment Three: Quartering soldiers in the home is prevented only in peacetime—and the U.S. is permanently at war with someone. Conservatives would likely go ballistic if soldiers are housed in their personal domain.

Amendment Four: The freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures without warrants issued for probable cause has gone by the wayside through NSA’s technology. A secret court gave NSA a warrant to obtain “on an ongoing daily basis…all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad (and) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.” The man who leaked this information is now labeled a “traitor” by both conservatives and progressives.

Amendment Five: SCOTUS ruled in Salinas v. Texas that the silence of the defendant, Genovevo Salinas, could be used as an admission of guilt because he was questioned voluntarily without having his rights read to him. Forget the part in the amendment that a person has the right to remain silent. That will show the person’s guilt, according to the 5-4 SCOTUS ruling decision. In addition, Rep. Mo Brooks (R- AL) wants a law that would automatically fire federal employees if they “take the Fifth” while testifying before Congress. Due process of law has long gone with the faintest whiff of “terrorism”—which is defined anyway that conservatives wish.

Amendment Six: No longer do people have the right for the accused to a speedy trial. The people who can’t escape the “no-fly” list are just one prime example of this problem.

Amendment Seven: The right to a jury trial if the amount exceeds $20 was severely cut back by a Texas law that orders the loser to pay for the winner’s legal fees. Corporations are far more likely to win: there goes the “right to a jury trial.”

Amendment Eight: Freedom from excessive bail as well as cruel and unusual punishment–gone. For example, Bradley Manning, of the infamous WikiLeaks, was forced to sleep naked in a cell with no sheets or pillow where he was left for 23 hours each day and then allowed no physical exercise during his remaining one hour.  At least 80,000 prisoners in the U.S. are in solitary confinement, leading to serious mental problems when they are released.

Amendment Nine: Conservatives are passing more and more laws that infringe on the rights not listed in the Constitution including the reproductive rights of women and the equal rights of LGBT people.

Amendment Twelve: The Electoral College is a thorn in conservatives’ side because it allows for somebody like President Obama to win the election—twice. Instead of repealing it, however, they’ve decided to rig it so that the popular vote will never elect a president again.

Amendment Thirteen: Not every conservative thinks that the country should have abolished slavery.

Amendment Fourteen: Conservatives largely object to this amendment because it confers citizenship on anyone born within the country. Many conservatives are also not happy with the freedom from discrimination and equal protection under the law because they want to decide who they discriminate against and deny legal rights to.

Amendment Fifteen: The right of blacks to vote is being abrogated through a large number of state voting restrictions. With SCOTUS overturning the guts of the Voting Rights Act, voting will be a privilege for only whites and the elite.

Amendment Sixteen: Obviously conservatives want to do away with the income tax—in fact, any taxes.

Amendment Seventeen: Conservatives really hate the idea of a popular vote for U.S. senators; they want the original method of state legislators appointing them, especially with the majority of red states.

Amendment Nineteen: Many conservatives are almost as distressed about women voting as they are about the people of color voting. Think about Rush Limbaugh’s objection to this amendment.

Amendment Twenty-Three: After voters in Washington, D.C. got permission to vote in presidential elections, they seem to think that they should have the right to make their own rules. Conservative Congressional legislators are quick to disabuse them of this notion, making sure that they aren’t allowed their laws in gun control, abortion rights, and financial control. After all, according to one representative, D.C. leaders are like children who would go crazy if they were given rights.

Amendment Twenty-Four: Conservatives have found a way to get around the abolition of poll taxes for voting: they just make people pay lots of money for the extensive documentation necessary for voting. And SCOTUS now lets all the states do this.

Amendment Twenty-Six: The right of people to start voting at the age of 18 has also enraged conservatives who think that they’re not smart enough to make the correct decisions. That’s one of the reasons that GOP legislators have worked to disenfranchise college students from voting.

The conservatives want to overturn 19 of the 27 amendments, almost 75 percent of them. Even within the first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights, only two suit their purposes, and they are badly distorting the meaning of one of them.

The next time that conservatives talks about the importance of following the Constitution, ask them how they feel about some of its amendments.

June 10, 2013

Political Civil War in the U.S.

Conservative Republicans want to shut down government—except for all the benefits they get from Social Security, Medicare, etc. According to Robert Reich, they’ve succeeded. “No jobs agenda. No budget. No grand bargain on the deficit. No background checks on guns. Nothing on climate change. No tax reform. No hike in the minimum wage. Nothing so far on immigration reform.”

The third leg of the government stool to support people has been broken. The branch designed to create law has disappeared, leaving only the sequester that destroys both the country’s infrastructure and limits national defense. Control has moved to the states which have become more and more mono-partied, politically speaking. Both the legislatures and governor’s offices have one-party control in 37 states, 24 GOP and 13 Dem. Only a dozen states are split, and Nebraska claims to have a non-partisan legislature. Obviously, the blue states stay moderate or move left while red states pull in the opposite direction.

In blue Minnesota, hikes in the top income tax rate, increased cigarette taxes, and elimination of some corporate tax loopholes resulted in funding for better education and economic development. Early-childhood education has expanded, and state universities have frozen tuition costs. The state budget deficit has shrunk. Similar success has occurred in California, Colorado, and Maryland. California actually has a budget surplus.

In bright-red Kansas, the higher-education budget was cut by almost five percent, and Gov. Sam Brownback—who occasionally considers running for U.S. president—wants to repeal state income tax and replace it with an increase in sales tax to shift taxes from the wealthy to the middle class and poor. North Carolina millionaires are close to saving $12,500 a year, as sales taxes on electricity and other services for the poor will be raised. Missouri has shaved 50 percent from its transportation budget from five years ago.

Social issues are equally split. Twelve states and the District of Columbia legalized marriage equality, and two states made recreational marijuana use legal. Red states are clamping down on abortions even more; in Alabama, a woman has to wait longer to get an abortion than to buy a gun. Blue states have made it harder to buy a gun, while red states have relaxed laws. In Texas, it’s legal to shoot someone who’s committing a “public nuisance” in the dark, for example, maybe someone spray-painting a highway underpass.

Health care is split between red and blue states because conservative states are refusing to accept over $8 billion in federal funding for Medicaid, with the feds picking up almost the entire health care tab for the poor.

There was a time when the term “one nation” in the Pledge of Allegiance had meaning, but no longer. The wealthy will move to states that give them the greatest advantages while the poor may move to ones that provide better services. It’s literally a race to the bottom.

Despite the attempt of blue states to provide safety to their residents, the spillover from red states allowing anyone to buy guns—even felons and the mentally ill—means that these weapons will end up in states with background checks and other restrictions. States that provide good public education may find these young people moving to cheaper states after graduation.

Minorities are also losing any ability to elect government representatives. The term “states’ rights” has included the attempts of whites to oppress voting for blacks. Red states can allow white supremacists to control voting districts that eliminate the voting power of minorities.

The control of the destructive Tea Party concerns even moderate to conservative GOP members. In Oklahoma, the state legislators’ response to a tornado killing 24 people and destroying millions of dollars of property was to defund Planned Parenthood. GOP state Rep. Doug Cox answered this action with an op-ed piece asking whether his Republican colleagues live in “the real world.”  As a medical doctor, he mourns the fact that his GOP colleagues fail to understand the importance of family planning:

“I cannot convince my Republican colleagues that one of the best ways to eliminate abortions is to ensure access to contraception. A recent attempt by my fellow lawmakers to prevent Medicaid dollars from covering the ‘morning after’ pill is a case in point. Denying access to this important contraceptive is a sure way to increase legal and back-alley abortions. Moreover, such a law would discriminate against low-income women who depend on Medicaid for their health care.

“But wait, some lawmakers want to go even further and limit everyone’s access to birth control by allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraception.

“What happened to the Republican Party that I joined? … What happened to the Republican Party that felt that the government has no business being in an exam room, standing between me and my patient? Where did the party go that felt some decisions in a woman’s life should be made not by legislators and government, but rather by the women, her conscience, her doctor and her God?”

The conservatives have become so obstructive that they labeled former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) as leftist during the hearings for his appointment to Secretary of Defense. They only accepted Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) as the new Secretary of State because they thought they could replace him with a Republican, a decision to determined by a special election on June 25.

Who does the president have to nominate to avoid these internecine wars in the Senate for appointment? Or who can’t he appoint? Here are a few individuals destined for GOP rejection:

Thomas Jefferson: “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

Barry Goldwater: Objections to this person crediting with inspiring modern conservatism would be that he supported LGBT rights, abortion, and, later on, denunciations of the religious right. From time to time, he also defended President Bill Clinton.

Santa Claus: Conservatives would hate the fact that he gives away “free stuff.”

Ronald Reagan: His record of backing moderate immigration policies and championing union rights would make him anathema to the GOP. He also supported gun control and pulled U.S. troops from Lebanon, making him rife for accusations of “cutting and running” from terrorists.

Mitt Romney: The New York Times reported about his “administration relentlessly scour(ing) the tax code for loopholes.” Even corporate tax loopholes. His health care act was also the model for Obamacare, considered by the GOP as socialism or Nazism.

Dwight D. Eisenhower: In a speech soon before he left the presidency after two terms, he warned the nation about the threat to a democratic government—”the immense military establishment” joined with “a large arms industry.” His concern was that this military-industrial complex would take resources from other areas such as building hospitals and schools. He also said, “We must learn how to compose differences not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.”

Dick Cheney: As defense secretary, he oversaw the last big push for cutting the defense budget and derided neocons, claiming that invading Baghdad and occupy Iraq would cause the United States to be mired in an unwinnable “quagmire.” Conservatives probably won’t notice that he got over this attitude as leader of the free world during George W. Bush’s two terms.

Theodore Roosevelt: Conservatives would see him as a radical environmentalist who attacks property rights because, according to the National Park Service, “Roosevelt used his authority to protect wildlife and public lands by creating the U.S. Forest Service and establishing 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 4 National Game Preserves, 150 National Forests, 5 National Parks, and enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act which he used to proclaim 18 National Monuments.” He protected—or as Republican senators would claim, “socialized”—230 million acres of public land.

Jesus Christ: Conservatives would oppose him for many reasons, including support for peace, belief that the meek inherits the Earth, criticism of the right, advocacy for the poor, willingness to change water into wine without a profit, giving free healthcare to those in need, and opposition to free market economics.

God: He would be viewed as a Big Government ideologue. Just consider the Fourth Commandment (“Remember the Sabbath Day”) and the Eighth and Tenth (orders against stealing and coveting) as violations of free market capitalism.

Major polls out a couple of weeks ago, however, show a growing distaste for the Republican party: support is up to 52 percent for Democrats and unfavorable opinions of Republicans is up to 59 percent. The GOP standing is at its third-lowest point since CNN started polling on this issue twenty years ago. Asked whether Congress is concentrating on issues important personally, 43 percent said Democrats have the correct priorities while only 33 percent said the same about Republicans.

President Obama’s approval rating continues to rise. And these polls were taken after Republican legislators tried to smear him with their manufactured scandals of Benghazi, the IRS, and the AP reporter subpoenas.

Now the GOP hopes that the leaks about the National Security Administration collecting metadata on everyone will drop the president’s ratings. They might want to remember that the GOP initiated this problem.

May 29, 2013

Fear Drives Conservative away from Rational Thought

Recently, my blog about the plight of women prisoners in Arizona received several comments connecting the horrible treatment of women imprisoned for white-color crimes and prostitution to the guilt of Jody Arias, who viciously killed her ex-boyfriend five years ago. Some of the messages seemed to follow the traditional faulty syllogism of (il)logic: Arias is a bad person, and Arias is a prisoner—therefore prisoners are bad people. People who think like this attribute the actions of a few to the whole.

Recently, studies about the difference between conservatives and liberals have proliferated. One essay, “Differences in Conservative and Liberal Brains,” cites 16 peer-review studies in describing thought-processing differences between self-identified conservatives and liberals.

Conservatives spend more time looking at unpleasant images, and liberals spend more time looking at pleasant images.

Reliance on quick, efficient, and “low effort” thought processes yields conservative ideologies, while effortful and deliberate reasoning yields liberal ideologies.

Conservatives react more strongly than liberals to disgusting images, such as a picture of someone eating worms.

Liberals have more tolerance to uncertainty (bigger anterior cingulate cortex), and conservatives have more sensitivity to fear (bigger right amygdala).

Conservatives have stronger motivations than liberals to preserve purity and cleanliness.

Conservatives and liberals react similarly to positive incentives, but conservatives have greater sensitivity to negative stimuli.

Conservatism is focused on preventing negative outcomes, while liberalism is focused on advancing positive outcomes. Thus conservatism seeks to regulate society via inhibition, and liberalism seeks to act in the interests of social justice.

Genetics influence political attitudes during early adulthood and beyond.

Compared to liberals, conservatives are less open to new experiences and learn better from negative stimuli than positive stimuli.

Conservatives tend to have a stronger reaction to threatening noises and images than liberals.

Liberals are more open-minded and creative whereas conservatives are more orderly and better organized.

When faced with a conflict, liberals are more likely than conservatives to alter their habitual response when cues indicate it is necessary. Liberals are more willing to accept risk with a tendency to seek out novelty and uncertainty. These characteristics come from the larger anterior cingulate cortex, the region of the brain that helps people cope with complexity. The difference in the liberals’ brains means that they are more likely to accept analytical data and scientific proof, and to reason problems out.

Conservatives are far more afraid than liberals, perhaps due to the conservatives’ larger right amygdale, active during times of fear and anxiety. Fear keeps people from change and learning while magnifying threats. conservatives have far more intense physical reactions to threatening stimuli. Conservatives want a huge system of national defense; in the United States, any threat is considered terrorism except for real threats like domestic violence and sexual assault.

Being fearful may enlarge the amygdale–the more fearful, the greater the increase.  The larger amygdale means the brain’s owner is more emotion-based and more resistant to change. The research about conservatives’ fear explains why there have strong anti-immigration and pro-segregation attitudes. Anyone outside their group cannot be accepted, according to their brain processing.

Conservatives’ fear of the world makes them pro-gun, mostly religious, more hostile to immigrants and all other ethnic minorities, fearful of attacks from other nations, anti-government involvement in their lives, pro-family, anti-welfare (because they see the poor as parasites on success), and pro-wealth. In addition, they hate complexity and compromise.

On the other side of the coin, liberals are more optimistic about the world, consider government as a vehicle for solving problems and improving well-being, want citizen protection left to police, less religious, more welcoming to immigrants, rely more on science and education to solve problems, favor negotiation and consensus-building over wars, willingly pay taxes to improve people’s lives, and are less interested in family ties for personal protection. They also support welfare programs for the poor to reduce social problems, crime, and child poverty; are suspicious of wealth that is inherited or obtained through unethical business practices; and feel that concentrating resources in the hands of the one percent impoverishes everyone else thereby undermining social trust.

One study successfully guessed the party affiliation of a large majority of the subjects. Determining the risk-taking behavior during a gambling experiment monitored by brain scans let the researchers guess those on the right and on the left for 83 percent of the participants. The risks were not necessarily different, but the brain activity varied.

Extreme conservatives, between 1 and 4 percent, have an even larger problem than the standard conservatives. Because their amygdalae are extremely small or inactive, they have absolutely no empathy. These people come under the classification of sociopaths or even psychopaths.

Sociopaths know exactly what they are doing and are very aware of how they are functioning socially. Their characteristics include glibness and superficial charm, narcissism, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, cunning/manipulative behaviors, lack of remorse or guilt, lack of empathy, pleasure in cruelty, need for stimulation, tendency to boredom, parasitic behavior, poor behavioral control, impulsivity, irresponsibility, sexual promiscuity, multiple marriages, and criminal versatility.

These people congregate in leadership roles in both the private and public sector, CEOs and politicians in particular. Sociopaths study people who possess emotions that they can best exploit, and fear is at the top of the list. The sociopathic leader knows how to push all the right buttons of the most fearful and then make false promises of reassurance to get their loyalty. Ayn Rand was a top example of a sociopath—an empowering figure for the frightened masses who leveraged their insecurities and fears to great personal advantage and aggrandizement.

While liberals try to lead with reason and collaboration, conservatives control the debate because they attack the person, not the problem. They deny reason in favor of emotion because they are controlled by the amygdale, the “white matter”  fight-or-flight center of the brain. Liberals try to process the problem through their “gray matter,” the anterior cingulate cortex.

Capitalism today is a prime example of sociopathy in its concept of “I’ve got mine so screw you.” More and more people suffer because of the concentration of wealth and power at the very top. Any attempt to move this to a greater sense of equity brings howls of class warfare, socialism, and government overreach from the conservatives. Any move toward taking away even one of the wealthy class advantages brings more howls of “unfair treatment.”

Homelessness, poverty, hunger, bad health—none of these is the responsibility of the conservatives.

The positive side of this research is that education may help conservatives  become more open and positive. Instruction in history, critical thinking, literature, and art can develop a person’s mind. A greater diversity of experiences in the world and exposure to different cultures can also lessen the fear. Brain change was proved more than ten years ago when brain scans showed the growth of London cab drivers’ hippocami as they spent more time driving and therefore learned more about the city.

The other side of the coin is that increased fear increases the size of the amydala, making people more and more conservative.  That’s the reason that conservative leaders operate on the hysteria of fear. Their mantra is “They’re coming after you!  Be afraid—be very afraid!” They also know that education changes people: that’s the reason that they try to control or block it.

These studies may upset conservatives. But they don’t believe in science so none of them will believe any of this information.

[Additional Note: A recent study shows that Republicans lie three times as much to the people of the United States as the Democrats do! More sociopathic behavior.]

December 31, 2012

Myths, Odd Stories

For the end of the year, a few myths that conservatives have pushed enough to persuade some progressives—and the rest of the populace–in their validity.

  1. Social Security is causing the deficit. No, it doesn’t! Social Security would be self-sustaining for the next few decades if the government would just replace the $2.7 trillion that it took out of the Social Security fund. And it could be permanently self-sustaining if the tax were proportionately raised on the wealthy.
  2. The “morning-after pill” causes abortions. No it doesn’t!  Also known as Plan B, the pill just delays ovulation, the egg’s release, but it doesn’t cause abortions. It works the morning after unprotected sex, not the morning after fertilization. Because sperm takes up to five days to fertilize an egg, emergency contraception allows time for the sperm to die off before an egg is released.
  3. Tax cuts help the economy. No they don’t! Maine governor Paul LePage just found that out—and he’s surprised. After the tax cuts didn’t grow the state’s economy, he slowed payments for bonds. That didn’t work so he claimed more tax cuts would solve the problem. Maine now faces its largest deficit in history and is considered the worst state in the nation for business.
  4. Alan Greenspan is gone. No, he isn’t. The Fed chair behind the great recession during George W. Bush’s terms, the man who ignored the $8 trillion housing bubble because he believed in the “integrity” of banks, may not have an official position in the government but he’s working with “Campaign to Fix the Debt.” This is the group of more than 80 CEOs that has raised over $60 million to lobby to reductions in corporate taxes made up for added costs to poor and elderly, including lessening Social Security payments.
  5. Republicans want to be bipartisan. No, they don’t. If they were, we would have increased the minimum wage to $10; that’s still $.40 under what $7.25 would be if indexed to inflation. We would have had transparency in campaign finance instead of the opaque wall that the Supreme Court created through Citizens United. We would have had a minimum tax on millionaires, a non-discrimination act in employment, a U.N. treaty to protect the equal rights of the disabled, and the Payment Fairness Act to ensure that men get the same pay as men.  

Beyond the myths are the stories that tell how peculiar far-right conservatives are. Possibly the oddest story of the year—and there’s a lot of competition—is the one about Dick Armey’s separation from FreedomWorks after being a co-founder of the ultra-conservative Tea Party group. At first, it appeared to be a difference of opinion with Matt Kibbe, the organization’s president. Freedomworks offered Armey $8 million to leave, and he walked. But the story become even more bizarre.

Washington Post reported that the day after Labor Day Armey went to the group’s Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide wearing a holstered gun. Army’s assistance took two top employees off the premises, and Armey suspended several others. The coup lasted six days before Armey was gone, and the ousted employees had returned, thanks to Illinois millionaire Richard J. Stephenson who offered to pay Armey $400,000 annually during the next 20 years if he would leave.

After Armey’s departure, Stephenson put over $12 million into two Tennessee corporations that then fed the money into FreedomWorks’ Super-PAC for a last-minute campaign push. A goodly sum, $1.7, was provided to Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), Stephenson’s local congressman, in his disastrous campaign against Iraqi veteran winner Tammy Duckworth . Nobody’s talking, but two watchdog groups have asked the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department to investigate these donations.

Add to this, the bizarre story of Washington, D.C.’s police investigation of David Gregory after he help up two empty high-capacity magazines while questioning NRA’s Wayne LaPierre on Meet the Press two days before Christmas. Possession of the 30-round magazine is illegal in the city where the program was filmed. But the police did nothing about Armey’s armed security guard carrying a concealed weapon, also illegal in Washington, D.C.

Three federal judges in California, two appointed by Ronald Reagan and the other by George H.W. Bush, have ruled that only publishers have the right to determine the content of newspapers. The case started in 2006 when reporters gave the address of a lot that Rob Lowe, the publisher’s friend, wanted to develop. Lowe complained, and the publisher sent letters of reprimand to the reporter and three editors. The remaining employees joined the union, and the publisher fired them for this affiliation. Yes, wealthy people can purchase the control of the media in the United States.

This is something that should be closed down! A website called “Potential Prostitutes” allows anyone—anyone!—to post a woman’s photo, phone number, and location without her consent. Anyone wishing to be removed from the site must pay $99.95.

Another “blame the woman” judgment comes from Iowa’s all-male Supreme Court. After Dr. James Knight, an Iowa City dentist, fired his female assistant because she was “irresistibly attractive” and a threat to his marriage. Melissa Nelson, employed in Knight’s office for ten years, sued, and lost in what Knight’s lawyer called a home-run for family values. “These judges sent a message to Iowa women that they don’t think men can be held responsible for their sexual desires,” Nelson’s attorney, Paige Fiedler, said. “If [the bosses] get out of hand, then the women can be legally fired for it.”  Nelson said, “I wore a long-sleeve or short-sleeve T-shirt and I wore scrubs.” She added that she’s “happily married.”

It’s just a few hours before midnight in Washington, D.C., the time when the 112th Congress can no longer address the fiscal issues of the country. Rumors fly about whether an agreement is close, whether the president is going to cave, whether there will be a disaster because of the stalemate.

“Tomorrow is another day,” as Scarlet O’Hara said at the end of Gone with the Wind 73 years ago. And tomorrow is the 113th Congress.

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