Nel's New Day

September 19, 2017

Follow Website on Russian Collusion

Filed under: Russia — trp2011 @ 9:43 PM
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Whenever news about the involvement of Russia in the presidential election comes up, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) diverts the news elsewhere by some outrageous statement. Rob Reiner, film director and political activist, and David Frum, former George W. Bush speechwriter and senior editor at the Atlantic, are leading a group to collect news about Russian interference in one place on a new website, investigaterussia.org. The website, launched today to disseminate information about Russia’s involvement in U.S. politics, is from The Committee to Investigate Russia. Members on the committee include James Clapper, a former Director of National Intelligence; Charlie Sykes, a conservative commentator; Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; and Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

In the past, attacks on U.S. democracy from foreign countries have brought the people of the United States together to fight these invasions, Reiner said. Russia’s offensive, however, has only separated people because Russian propaganda has been so pervasive that conservatives believe it. A strong focus of the Russia offensive now is to help undermine the credibility of our nation’s media. News about the results of U.S. intelligence agencies delving into Russia’s attempts to sway people with their lies is even more vital because social media continues to disseminate the false propaganda coming from Russia. The goal of the Committee to Investigate Russia is to put widespread data from hundreds to sources in one location.

Although none of the committee members support DDT, they come from different political parties. Reiner said:

“This isn’t about politics, which is why this project is backed by both conservatives and liberals and people with such deep national security expertise. It’s about a foreign invasion. It’s important that every American, regardless of party, can stay informed about and understand this critical threat. This is about ensuring the Russians cannot wage war on us without Americans knowing about it and making sure our elected leaders do something about it.”

David Frum said:

“Russia is not the Soviet Union. They have to leverage America’s weaknesses against America, including, above all, our intense partisan and other divisions. We are Trump skeptics of the willingness to believe things because they make you feel good in the moment.”

On-going investigations from Congress and a special investigation group led by Robert Mueller have revealed evidence of Russian interference that threatens democracy. The purpose of this group is to educate people with updates, investigations, past news, history, timelines, and people related to the danger from Russia.

Reiner explained the reason for communicating the danger that Russia presents:

“The answer is Republicans and Democrats coming together and saying this cannot stand. Make no mistake about it: if there was an atom bomb dropped on us, we would pay attention. What has happened is conceivably way worse than that. Because it’s not just disrupting the election. Cyber warfare has disrupted electrical grids, nuclear power plants and as of now, they’ve hacked into our nuclear plants and electric grids over 50 times this year.”

The right-wing press such as Breitbart has tried to persuade people that the news about Russia’s meddling is “fake,” but Jon Huntsman, DDT’s nominee for ambassador to Russia, testified in his confirmation hearing:

“There is no question — underline no question — that the Russia government interfered with the U.S. election last year and Moscow continues to meddle in processes of our friends and allies.”

 

 

The website for the Committee to Investigate Russia describes itself as follows:

The Russian Active Measures campaign aimed at the United States has been exposed. Using hacking, Twitter armies, and fake news, the Kremlin engaged in an aggressive effort to subvert the American democratic process. Now, only months into his term of office, the President and his staff are facing multiple investigations in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and by a Special Counsel for the Department of Justice.

The Committee to Investigate Russia is a nonprofit, non-partisan resource provided to help Americans recognize and understand the gravity of Russia’s continuing attacks on our democracy. All relevant information is aggregated in one place to provide context and allow users to see the full picture of what Russia has done and will continue to do unless we start paying closer attention.

For generations, people have fought to protect democracy. Now it is our turn.

DDT has consistently refused to block Russia’s interference in U.S. domestic affairs. People who want to protect democracy in the United States should sign up for this website. Investigaterussia.org

November 5, 2016

FBI Needs to Investigate Trump

The supposedly wealthy, jobs guy, Donald Trump, has been found to violate his employees’ federal labor rights by illegally refusing to bargain with his 500+ workers at the Last Vegas Trump International Hotel, according to the National Labor Relations Board. The board has ordered Trump to post notices in the hotel to admit the violation as well as immediately bargain a contract with them. He has actually broken the law while he incites his crowds regarding calls to jail Hillary Clinton—when she hasn’t violated any laws.

Yet the media continues to concentrate on the non-story of Clinton’s email, although Fox network’s  Bret Baier found himself having to make a correction on his “reporting.” After he falsely reported that investigators had determined Clinton’s private email server was hacked “by five foreign intelligence agencies,” leading to an indictment after the election, Baier admitted that “there is no evidence” for his statements. That didn’t stop Trump from constantly repeating these lies on the campaign trail.

No one has any evidence that Clinton’s emails were in any way illegal, but Clinton-hating—white, male, and conservative—FBI agents are rigging the election by spreading false information. The agents leaked so much information to the Trump campaign that the feckless FBI director, James Comey felt compelled to release information a week ago about searching for emails on Anthony Weiner’s computer—emails that were neither sent by nor sent to Clinton.

Two days before Comey sent a damning letter to members of the Congress about the emails, Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani bragged about knowing a “big surprise” and then crowed about his knowledge of a revolution inside the FBI that he had learned from active agents. Yesterday, Giuliani said that he knew about the release of information before knowledge because public; today he backed down and denied that FBI agents told him about reviewing newly discovered emails before Comey made the information public. Reps. Elijah Cummings (MD-D) and John Conyers, Jr. (MI-D), the ranking members of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees, have called on the Inspector General of the Justice Department to investigate “the source of multiple unauthorized—and often inaccurate—leaks from within the FBI to benefit the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.”

Giuliani is heavily linked to the FBI’s New York City office with his law firm’s ongoing business, concerning 13,000 agents, and the Trump campaign has an open pipeline with the New York City FBI bureau. FBI agents leaking information break their oaths of office, and intentionally interfering with elections violate the federal Hatch Act. Their actions are bringing up memories of Edgar J. Hoover, the first FBI director, who kept extensive files on thousands of people and blackmailed to get his way.

Trump’s super-PAC “Make America Number 1,” financed by Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, also paid Giuliani hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past year. Trump’s campaign leader Kellyanne Conway headed up the super-PAC and was replaced by David Bossie, head of Citizens United before he was put on Trump’s campaign. Breitbart owners, Robert and Rebehak Mercer, moved former head Steve Bannon to Trump’s campaign. leading part of the super-PAC. In addition, the Mercers funds the Bannon-led non-profit Government Accountability Institute and the video producer “Glittering Steel, a front for Bannon. GAI’s president, Peter Schweizer, wrote the smear-filled book, Clinton Cash, that FBI agents used for documentation in its Clinton investigation. Even Schweizer, the author, admits that he has no proof for many of his claims. “Follow the money” shows that the Mercers control both Trump and many FBI agents, using their billions to control the upcoming presidential election.

Their opposition to Clinton is keeping FBI agents mum about an investigation into Trump’s connection on a private server with the largest private commercial bank in Russia. Computer scientists have been following this secretive connection since last July, but the connection disappeared hours after the New York Times asked Alpha Bank about the communication. Within four days, the Trump Organization used a new host name for communication to the same private server. Although scientists were not able to obtain emails, they noted that the conversations paralleled political occurrences in the U.S., with peaks during the two conventions.

In the lengthy Newsweek cover story, Kurt Eichenwald trailed Trump’s destruction of business documents and emails over the past four decades during lawsuits. For example, investors lost a fortune in 2011 when Trump claimed that he had no liability insurance for a failed project in Florida only to have a lawyer reveal two years later that he had a $5 million policy. This is just one of thousands of times when Trump cheated people through his destruction of records. He also destroyed documents when he was the person suing, for example a suit against Cordish Cos., regarding two Native American casinos in 2000.

How crazy is this election getting? In 2000, Ralph Nadar said he preferred George W. Bush to Al Gore. The past 16 years shows where that preference led the nation. Now Jill Stein, Green Party candidate, supports Donald Trump—who thinks that climate change is a hoax from China—to Hillary Clinton. Greens are also defending Stein for her investments in palm oil plantations, the biggest cause of deforestation in the world.

On the other hand, major conservative pundits have wholeheartedly rejected Trump. Charles Krauthammer writes: “[As] final evidence of how bad are our choices in 2016, Trump’s liabilities, especially on foreign policy, outweigh hers.” He continues to discuss the dangers of Russia, China, and Iran seeing a Trump presidency as a way  “to achieve regional dominance and diminish, if not expel, American influence.”

Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson: “Most options are better than Clinton. But not all. And not this. The GOP has largely accommodated itself to a candidate with no respect for, or knowledge of, the constitutional order… Those who are complicit have adopted a particularly dangerous form of power-loving hypocrisy. It is almost beyond belief that Americans should bless and normalize Trump’s appeal. Normalize vindictiveness and prejudice. Normalize conspiracy theories and the abandonment of reason. Normalize every shouted epithet, every cruel ethnic and religious stereotype, every act of bullying in the cause of American ‘greatness.’”

David Frum, former speech writer for George W. Bush, voted for Hillary Clinton and explained:

“To vote for Trump as a protest against Clinton’s faults would be like amputating a leg because of a sliver in the toe; cutting one’s throat to lower one’s blood pressure.”

Peggy Noonan defined the GOP problem in her column for the Wall Street Journal: “The split in the party happened in the past 15 years. When you give a party two unwon wars, one a true foreign-policy catastrophe, and a great recession, it will begin to break because its members lose confidence in its leaders. When the top of the party believes in things that the bottom of the party doesn’t want (on immigration, entitlements and trade), things will break further. The bottom will begin to feel the top no longer cares about it. That will end their loyalty. Mr. Trump’s Republican foes are wrong in thinking his followers are just sticking with the party. They’re not, they’ve broken from the party.” Yet Republicans think that re-electing a GOP president and Congress will save them.

Trump hates “illegal aliens,” but it’s highly possible that his wife is one. He denied that Melania Trump came to the U.S. on a tourist visa but then worked as a professional model. Documentation has appeared that he lied about Melania Trump’s illegal status. Yet Trump supporters love their candidate in spite—or because—of his lying and illegal activities while they find Clinton, the most truthful of all this year’s candidates—to be “untrustworthy.”

April 18, 2014

GOP David Frum Writes about Republicans

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:04 PM
Tags: , ,

In looking through my archives, I found this piece from New Yorker magazine by David Frum, published almost three years ago. It’s truer now than it was then. These are excerpts; the entire article is well worth reading.

I’ve been a Republican all my adult life. I have worked on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, at Forbes magazine, at the Manhattan and American Enterprise Institutes, as a speechwriter in the George W. Bush administration. I believe in free markets, low taxes, reasonable regulation, and limited government. I voted for John ­McCain in 2008, and I have strongly criticized the major policy decisions of the Obama administration. But as I contemplate my party and my movement in 2011, I see things I simply cannot support….

This past summer [2011], the GOP nearly forced America to the verge of default just to score a point in a budget debate. In the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, Republican politicians demand massive budget cuts and shrug off the concerns of the unemployed. In the face of evidence of dwindling upward mobility and long-stagnating middle-class wages, my party’s economic ideas sometimes seem to have shrunk to just one: more tax cuts for the very highest earners….

It was not so long ago that Texas governor Bush denounced attempts to cut the earned-income tax credit as “balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.” By 2011, Republican commentators were noisily complaining that the poorer half of society are “lucky duckies” because the EITC offsets their federal tax obligations—or because the recession had left them with such meager incomes that they had no tax to pay in the first place. In 2000, candidate Bush routinely invoked “churches, synagogues, and mosques.” By 2010, prominent Republicans were denouncing the construction of a mosque in lower Manhattan as an outrageous insult….

I am haunted by the Bush experience, although it seems almost presumptuous for someone who played such a minor role to feel so much unease. The people who made the big decisions certainly seem to sleep well enough….

Extremism and conflict make for bad politics but great TV. Over the past two decades, conservatism has evolved from a political philosophy into a market segment. An industry has grown up to serve that segment—and its stars have become the true thought leaders of the conservative world. The business model of the conservative media is built on two elements: provoking the audience into a fever of indignation (to keep them watching) and fomenting mistrust of all other information sources (so that they never change the channel). As a commercial proposition, this model has worked brilliantly in the Obama era. As journalism, not so much. As a tool of political mobilization, it backfires, by inciting followers to the point at which they force leaders into confrontations where everybody loses, like the summertime showdown over the debt ceiling.

But the thought leaders on talk radio and Fox do more than shape opinion. Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics. Outside this alternative reality, the United States is a country dominated by a strong Christian religiosity. Within it, Christians are a persecuted minority….

Outside the system, social scientists worry that the U.S. is hardening into one of the most rigid class societies in the Western world, in which the children of the poor have less chance of escape than in France, Germany, or even England. Inside the system, the U.S. remains (to borrow the words of Senator Marco Rubio) “the only place in the world where it doesn’t matter who your parents were or where you came from.” We used to say “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.” Now we are all entitled to our own facts, and conservative media use this right to immerse their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information….

In funding the tea-party movement, [billionaires] are actually acting against their own longer-term interests, for it is the richest who have the most interest in political stability, which depends upon broad societal agreement that the existing distribution of rewards is fair and reasonable….

Through the debate over health-care reform in 2009–10, I urged that Republicans try to reach some kind of deal. The Democrats had the votes to pass something. They could not afford to lose. Providing health coverage to all is a worthy goal, and the core mechanisms of what we called Obamacare should not have been obnoxious to Republicans. In fact, they were drawn from past Republican plans. Democrats were so eager for Republican votes to provide bipartisan cover that they might well have paid a substantial price to get them, including dropping the surtaxes on work and investment that supposedly financed the Affordable Care Act. My urgings went unheeded, obviously. Senator Jim DeMint predicted that health care would become Obama’s Waterloo, the decisive defeat that would destroy his presidency, and Republicans accepted DeMint’s counsel. So they bet everything—and lost everything. A major new entitlement has been written into law, financed by redistributive new taxes. Changes in the bill that could have been had for the asking will now require years of slow, painful legislative effort, if they ever come at all….

For myself, the main consequences have been more comic than anything else. Back in 2009, I wrote a piece for Newsweek arguing that Republicans would regret conceding so much power to Rush Limbaugh. Until that point, I’d been a frequent guest on Fox News, but thenceforward some kind of fatwa was laid down upon me. Over the next few months, I’d occasionally receive morning calls from young TV bookers asking if I was available to appear that day. For sport, I’d always answer, “I’m available—but does your senior producer know you’ve called me?” An hour later, I’d receive an embarrassed second call: “We’ve decided to go in a different direction….”

It’s one thing to worry (wisely) about the long-term trend in government spending, and another to demand big, immediate cuts when 25 million are out of full-time work and the government can borrow for ten years at 2 percent. It’s a duty to scrutinize the actions and decisions of the incumbent administration, but an abuse to use the filibuster as a routine tool of legislation or to prevent dozens of presidential appointments from even coming to a vote. It’s fine to be unconcerned that the rich are getting richer, but blind to deny that middle-class wages have stagnated or worse over the past dozen years. In the aftershock of 2008, large numbers of Americans feel exploited and abused. Rather than workable solutions, my party is offering low taxes for the currently rich and high spending for the currently old, to be followed by who-knows-what and who-the-hell-cares. This isn’t conservatism; it’s a going-out-of-business sale for the baby-boom generation….

[David Frum is a now senior editor at The Atlantic and a CNN contributor. He serves on the board of directors of the Republican Jewish Coalition, the British think tank Policy Exchange, and the anti-drug policy group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. He is also vice chairman and an associate fellow of the R Street Institute.]

April 16, 2012

Tax Day, Tax Debate

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:27 PM
Tags: , , ,

Taxes are due tomorrow after a two-day reprieve, one because April 15 was on a Sunday and the other because Washington, D.C. commemorates Emancipation Day on April 16. Today saw a vote against moving forward to debate the ”Buffett Rule,” President Obama’s proposal for guaranteeing that millionaires pay a minimum federal income tax of 30 percent. The Senate vote was 51 yes and 45 no, which means failure in today’s Senate because the new majority for passing anything is 60 votes. The Republicans seem to be ignoring the voters’ poll about passing the  Buffett Rule: 72 percent in favor and 27 percent opposed.

Almost-anointed Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, also made news today when he was taped at a private fund raiser giving his suggestions about tax reform to solve the debt crisis: eliminate or limit the mortgage interest deduction for second homes as well as those deductions for the state income tax and property tax deductions. He would also cut budgets  within the Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It’s a double whammy: keep the poor ignorant and homeless.

Romney has thus far presented two tax plans. The first one proposed $6.6 trillion (yes, that’s a “t”) in tax cuts, giving each of the Koch brothers $8.7 billion from just one part of his plan. Romney’s own taxes—at the 13.9 percent level on his $21 million-dollar earnings—would be cut almost in half. These “cuts” would raise—yes, raise—taxes on nearly half the middle-class families with children. But that’s just the first one.

His second plan cuts taxes for the wealthy another 20 percent on top of Bush’s tax cuts averaging $264,000 to each one of the wealthiest 0.1 percent. But the poorest 20 percent of people in the United States would have their taxes raised because, you know, everyone has to have some skin in this game. With its goal of decreasing the deficit, Romney’s plan would add $10 trillion to the nation’s debt while ending Medicare, slashing Social Security, and cutting everything else except defense, the same department that lost $6.6 billion in cash that it sent by plane to Iraq.

It’s understandable that Romney would want to reduce taxes for himself. One of his campaign officials complained to the Wall Street Journal about the tax burden on Romney’s retirement account of $100 million, as compared to the average working person who has $144,000 in a 401k account. Romney’s “problem” is that he would have to pay regular income rates on the money when he withdraws it instead of the 15 percent he is allowed now. His solution for his personal tax problem is to raise the taxes for everyone but the wealthy.

As for the 13.9 percent he paid last year, no one but Romney and his accountants know how little he has paid in taxes before then because he has released only two years and has requested a six-month extension for this year’s filing. He has also state that he will definitely not release any more tax reports. President Obama has already completed this year’s taxes, paying 20.5 percent last year for his $789,674 income in addition to releasing the past 12 years of his tax returns.

With all the conservatives screaming about taxes being too high, a comparison of 50 years ago is in order. In 1955, the country’s 400 wealthiest taxpayers had an average income of $13.3 million (in 2008 dollars) and paid 51.2 percent of that in federal income taxes. In 2008, according to IRS calculations, they had an average income of $270.5 million and paid 18 percent of that in federal income taxes. Going back only 20 years, only 33 of the same top 400 paid less than 20 percent of their income in taxes; in 2008, 253, more half, paid less than 20 percent of their income. As a result of the wealthy paying so little in taxes and the rest of the people in the United States having stagnant wages for decades, the government can’t even afford to fix lethal bridges or repair roads. Certainly we can’t educate people.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has presented his personal revisionist history to justify destroying the country: “Americans were known and admired everywhere for their hopeful determination to assume responsibility for the quality of their own lives; to rely on their own work and initiative. . . . But over time, Americans have been lured into viewing government . . . as their main source of support; they have been drawn toward depending on the public sector for growing shares of their material and personal well-being. The trend drains individual initiative and personal responsibility.” That’s Ryan’s description of reducing taxes from 51.2 percent to 18 percent.

Another Republican idea to save corporations money is the tax holiday, allowing them to bring money stashed illegally in other countries back to the United States totally tax-free. After a tax holiday in 2004 for these so-called “job creators,” many of the largest companies cut tens of thousands of jobs over the subsequent two years. A few companies that actually used the money for domestic investment, like Dell, spent their windfall on projects that they knew they would undertake without a tax break. Overall, corporations used 92 percent of the money they brought back under the tax holiday to enrich their executives and buy back their own shares, not to invest in job creation.

Corporations and the wealthy should be appreciative for decreased state taxes that have gutted public services. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a tax on New Jersey millionaires which would have generated $500 million mostly for public schools but raised taxes on the working poor by cutting about $45 million from the Earned Income Tax Credit. He also shredded the budget for police protection, health care safety, and college tuition grants while setting aside $640 million in surplus. Michigan cut business taxes by well over $1 billion dollars while raising taxes on the working poor by reducing the Earned Income Tax Credit by 70 percent. Ohio Gov. John Kasich eliminated the estate tax so that he could cut about $630 million in aid to local government, $700 million from public schools, and $340 million from nursing home. Kasich also campaigned to repeal Ohio’s personal income tax while Florida Gov. Rick Scott and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley repealed corporate taxes.

Republicans like to talk about the myth that half the population doesn’t pay taxes. First, they are referring to people who don’t pay federal income taxes but pay other taxes. Second, they are referring to senior citizens, students, disabled, and unemployed. Only 20 percent of all taxes are federal income taxes. If one adds up all the taxes  for people making $20,000 a year, they pay  the same rate as people making $500,000, give or take 5 percent. The difference between these two groups is that the top earners have seen their tax rate decline almost 50 percent in the last 30 years while the bottom earners pay a slightly higher percentage. Because of tax loopholes, corporations now pay 8.9 percent of federal revenue, dropping from 27.3 percent over 50 years ago.

In addition, Republicans should note that extremely low-income people owe no federal income tax because of the earned-income tax credit introduced by Republican President Gerald Ford and expanded by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) said, “Not all tax relief is created equal.” Rep. David Camp (R-MI) said that that tax reductions, “no matter how well-intended,” will push the deficit higher. A spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said the legislator “has never believed that this type of temporary tax relief is the best way to grow the economy.” These are the arguments to raise taxes for the poor and the middle-class. Their statements are forgotten, however, when they vote for reducing taxes for the wealthy.

In 2000 the government had a budget surplus. Bush spent trillions of dollars on new tax cuts, two wars, and a new drug program making the deficit on track to top $1 trillion the year that Obama took office. Now Republicans want to take more money from the poor and middle-class while giving to the rich.

Even Republicans can’t stomach Romney’s and Ryan’s proposals. David Frum, former economic speechwriter for George W. Bush, recently wrote: “Rather than workable solutions, my party is offering low taxes for the currently rich and high spending for the currently old, to be followed by who-knows-what and who-the-hell-cares. This isn’t conservatism; it’s a going-out-of-business sale for the baby-boom generation.”

March 5, 2012

Limbaugh Just Doesn’t Go Away

Why hasn’t the Rush Limbaugh story begun to die? According to media, he apologized on Saturday, and the Republicans are doing their best to avoid the topic. According to Limbaugh and Fox, it’s just the far-left media that have kept the story alive. He’s wrong.

First, his apology wasn’t really an admission of guilt or a request for forgiveness. All he said was that he should have chosen better words than “slut” and “prostitute.” There was nothing about how he should not have attacked Sandra Fluke or that he spoke inappropriately when he said that wanting free birth control was trying to get paid to have sex. (I just heard a TV ad for Viagra which promised the ability of men having sex for several hours: that’s getting paid to have sex.) Then Limbaugh said he had made a mistake by sinking to the level of his opposition.

Unhappy about the way that he has lost advertising (12 companies thus far including AOL) and networks airing his radio program (at least two so far), Limbaugh has taken a different tack.He said that Fluke might not be a slut, but she’s the pawn of a radical leftist conspiracy to infiltrate Georgetown to force the school to provide birth control coverage to students. Limbaugh may not understand that he is losing, that a new Harris poll showed him to be the least liked “news personality” on a list of 26. He’s the only one who made the bottom percentages with all three political groups—Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. In fact, Republicans like him less than the other two groups do.

Since Limbaugh felt free to attack women for their medications, whether for contraception or medical conditions, young women across the nation are forced to bear the brunt of his bigotry. One mother wrote about her 16-year-old daughter’s being called a slut, a prostitute, a horny piece of trash that is out to sleep with every guy in school. According to the mother, the harassers told her daughter that their mothers labeled her with these terms; they were just “telling it like it is, you know, like that guy on the radio! The one who isn’t afraid to tell the truth!” In one of the daughter’s classes, the teacher praised Limbaugh.

The daughter is one of many women who take hormones for medical reasons other than birth control. But it doesn’t matter whether she took it for contraception or another medical issue.

Republican David Frum refuted the far-rights complaints about double standards in the media:

Point 1: Even by the rough standards of cable/talk radio/digital talk, Limbaugh’s verbal abuse of Sandra Fluke set a new kind of low. I can’t recall anything as brutal, ugly and deliberate ever being said by such a prominent person and so emphatically repeated. This was not a case of a bad “word choice.”

Point 2: The cases that conservatives cite as somehow equivalent to Limbaugh’s tirade against Fluke by and large did bring consequences for their authors. David Letterman delivered an abject seven-minute apology on air; Ed Schultz apologized on air before MSNBC suspended him for a week without pay.

Point 3: Limbaugh’s place in American public life is in no way comparable to that of David Letterman, Bill Maher, or Ed Schultz. Letterman is not a political figure at all; and while Maher and Schultz strongly identify as liberals, neither qualifies as anything like a powerbroker in the Democratic Party. A word of criticism from Limbaugh, by contrast, will reduce almost any member of the Republican caucus to abject groveling. Among TV and radio talkers and entertainers, there is none who commands anything like the deference that Limbaugh commands from Republicans: not Rachel Maddow, not Jon Stewart, not Michael Moore, not Keith Olbermann at his zenith. Democratic politicians may wish for favorable comment from their talkers, but they are not terrified of negative comment from them in the way that Republican politicians live in fear of a negative word from Limbaugh.

Point 4: Most fundamentally, why the impulse to counter one outrageous stunt by rummaging through the archives in search of some supposedly offsetting outrageous stunt? Why not respond to an indecent act on its own terms, and then–if there’s another indecency later–react to that too, and on its own terms? This latest Limbaugh outburst is the bottom of the barrel of shock talk. And the good news is that from the bottom of the barrel, there is nowhere to go but up.

In a Huffington Post column, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) wrote about the connection between birth control and women’s health. “Birth control protects women from the risk of bearing children before they are ready. Birth control helps to ensure that women do not bear too many children or bear children too soon after their last pregnancy. Birth control is used to relieve symptoms of endometriosis, regulate a cycle, reduce acne, relieve symptoms of depression, reduce migraines, treat polycystic ovary condition, alleviate anemia, and even reduce the risk of some cancers.”

For the people who complain about insurance companies having to pay out all that extra money, Maloney pointed out that employers may save money to provide employees with no co-pay coverage of birth control because it results in fewer unwanted and/or potentially harmful pregnancies preventing huge long-term costs of care related to problem pregnancies and pre-mature births.

Another complaint from anti-birth control people is the use of their taxes for contraceptives because they don’t believe in it. As Maloney says, one of the privileges of living in this society is the use of tax dollars for activities that tax payers don’t support. She uses the example of the death penalty. I would use the example of over $1 trillion for a war that I find inexcusable. My tax dollars went to George W. Bush’s war rather than saving people in this country; others can have their tax dollars used for women’s reproductive rights.

In these difficult economic times, Republicans are exploring women’s bodies to an extent never before seen. Republicans in at least 18 states are pushing bills or ballot initiatives to define “personhood” that would illegalize commonly used forms of birth control. Republicans in seven states have filed lawsuits attacking the provisions in the health care reform act that give women access to contraceptives. Nationally Republicans have introduced legislation in both the House and Senate to outlaw many forms of commonly used contraceptives. House Republicans have voted to strip Planned Parenthood of any federal funding to keep poor women from obtaining reproductive health care and contraceptives. Senate Republicans brought legislation to the floor to allow any employer, including for-profit private sector companies, to deny insurance coverage for contraceptives if doing so is contrary to their religious beliefs or “moral convictions.”

Nebraska is proposing a “conscience clause” designed to not only give all health care providers the right to refuse any action based on personal religious beliefs but also allow these providers the right to refuse the request to any other medical professional even in a medical emergency. In Idaho a pharmacist refused to fill a woman’s prescription for a drug meant to stop hemorrhaging, but the patient was able to take the prescription elsewhere. If Nebraska passes this “conscience clause,” the woman could bleed to death, and the pharmacist would be exonerated from any blame. And if Nebraska passes this law, other states will follow them.

Religious groups are determined to impose their own religious views on those who may not share their beliefs and to limit a woman’s access to reproductive health care and contraception. While people are seething with outrage over Limbaugh’s statements or trying to figure out a way to protect him, there are important questions to be asked in relationship to the religious views being forced on people in this country. Does the conservative government have the right to legislate its view of promiscuity, to decide how much sex is “too much,” to stop contraception from being a “sex enabler,” to create consequences for women having sex,” and to state that pregnancy prevention is not a legitimate medical need”?

March is Women’s History Month. Women need to fight this horrific encroachment on our rights. In protest to an Oklahoma “personhood” bill, passed by the Senate and now being addressed by the House, Democratic State Sen. Judy McIntyre, one of only four women in the 48-member Senate, carried a sign that stated, “If I wanted the government in my womb, I’d [bleep] a senator.” McIntyre is right. Government needs to get out of our vaginas.

We need to thank the following advertisers who think that Rush Limbaugh has gone too far to sponsor: Sleep Number Beds, The Sleep Train, Legal Zoom, Quicken Loans, Citrix Systems/GoToMeeting, ProFlowers, Tax Resolution Services, AOL, Carbonite, Bonobos, Sears/Kmart, and Allstate. Tractor maker John Deere, solar panel maker Verengo Solar, and postage website Stamps.com have also reported that they would no longer advertise. Hawaii radio station KPUA, dropped Limbaugh’s show because it “crossed the line of decency,” and another radio station in Pittsfield (MA) plans to no long air Limbaugh’s show.

In the meantime, women of Missouri, contact your House Speaker Steven Tilley, who has commissioned a bust of Rush Limbaugh—paid for with your tax-payer dollars—to be placed in the state capitol.

February 20, 2012

Intelligence Separates Conservatives and Progressives

What makes the difference between conservatives and progressives? Although progressives are too polite to point this out, a variety of  studies show that the difference may come from intelligence. Gordon Hodson, a Canadian researcher, analyzed two large-scale, nationally representative United Kingdom data sets (a total of 15,874 people). According to the abstract of the study, “lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice, an effect mediated through the endorsement of right-wing ideologies (social conservatism, right-wing authoritarianism) and low levels of contact with out-groups.”

Because earlier studies found links between low levels of education and higher levels of prejudice, Hodson thought that studying intelligence was a logical next step. Hodson and Michael Busseris turned to two studies of citizens in the United Kingdom, one that followed babies since their births in March 1958 and another that did the same for babies born in April 1970. The children in the studies had their intelligence assessed at age 10 or 11. When they turned 30 or 33, the study measured their levels of social conservatism and racism.

In the first study, verbal and nonverbal intelligence tests asked people to find similarities and differences between words, shapes and symbols. The second study measured cognitive abilities in four ways: number recall, shape-drawing tasks, defining words, and identifying patterns and similarities among words. Average IQ was set at 100.

Social conservatives were defined as people who agreed with a laundry list of statements such as “Family life suffers if mum is working full-time,” and “Schools should teach children to obey authority.” Attitudes toward other races were captured by measuring agreement with statements such as “I wouldn’t mind working with people from other races.” Low intelligence in childhood corresponded with racism in adulthood. But the factor showing the relationship between these two variables was political: when researchers included social conservatism in the analysis, those ideologies accounted for much of the link between intelligence and bias.

People with lower cognitive abilities also had less contact with people of other races. “This finding is consistent with recent research demonstrating that intergroup contact is mentally challenging and cognitively draining, and consistent with findings that contact reduces prejudice,” said Hodson, who published these results with his colleagues online Jan. 5 in the journal Psychological Science.

These aren’t the first studies to find the same result. Another analysis of U.S. data “confirmed a predictive effect of poor abstract-reasoning skills on antihomosexual prejudice, a relation partially mediated by both authoritarianism and low levels of intergroup contact.” In another study, this one in the United States, Hodson and Busseri compared 254 people with the same amount of education but different levels of ability in abstract reasoning. They found that what applies to racism may also apply to homophobia. People who were poorer at abstract reasoning were more likely to exhibit prejudice against gays. As with the U.K. citizens, a lack of contact with gays and more acceptance of right-wing authoritarianism explained the link. For years, research has shown that open-mindedness, flexibility, and trust in others require an enhanced capacity for abstract thinking. Those with lower cognitive abilities desire order and need the maintenance of the status quo.

A libertarian (and probably nonpartisan) researcher, Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics and Political Science, supports the progressive-smarter-than-conservative position in a paper published in the March 2010 issue of Social Psychology Quarterly. Data from one large survey of over 20,000 young people is particularly telling. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, often called Add Health, shows that the mean IQ of adolescents who identify themselves as “very liberal” is 106, compared with a mean IQ of 95 for those calling themselves “very conservative.” Kanazawa explains the reason behind the difference in this way: “Humans are designed to be conservative and it’s unnatural for humans to be liberal, being concerned about the welfare of millions of genetically unrelated other people.”

In an analysis of authoritarians, the religious fundamentalist core of the right-wing Republican base, Robert Altemeyer, a Canadian psychologist, has done extensive testing to isolate and describe the traits of the authoritarian personality and published his results in The Authoritarians. In short: “They are highly submissive to established authority, aggressive in the name of that authority and conventional to the point of insisting everyone should behave as their authorities decide. They are fearful and self-righteous and have a lot of hostility in them that they readily direct toward various out-groups. They are easily incited, easily led, rather un-inclined to think for themselves, largely impervious to facts and reason and rely instead on social support to maintain their beliefs. They bring strong loyalty to their in-groups, have thick-walled, highly compartmentalized minds, use a lot of double standards in their judgments, are surprisingly unprincipled at times and are often hypocrites.”

Lazar Stankov, a visiting professor at Singapore’s National Institute of Education, also published “Conservatism and Cognitive Ability” earlier this year in the peer-reviewed journal Intelligence. In short: “Conservatism and cognitive ability are negatively correlated … At the individual level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with SAT, vocabulary, and analogy test scores. At the national level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with measures of education … and performance on mathematics and reading assessments.”

Using research in the United States, Philip Tetlock of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania reports that conservatives are less tolerant of compromise; see the world in “us” versus “them” terms; are more willing to use force to gain an advantage; are “more prone to rely on simple (good vs. bad) evaluative rules in interpreting policy issues”; and are “motivated to punish violators of social norms (e.g., deviations from traditional norms of sexuality or responsible behavior) and to deter free riders.” The Pew Research Center has provided some data for Tetlock’s analysis. More subtle distinctions come from a team of academic researchers collaborating at a website–www.YourMorals.org — designed to test a variety of theories about the connection between views on morality and politics.

Progressives score high on the need for peace and empathy with the world, mutual understanding, rehabilitation for criminals, fairness in income distribution, and shifting hierarchies. Conservatives emphasize the use of force in war, law enforcement, discipline of children, etc. and are more likely to believe in an “eye for an eye,” follow tradition, and accept the proposition that individuals are responsible for their own economic condition.

The increasingly authoritarian nature of conservatives explains the reason for the Congressional stalemates: 41 percent of Republicans surveyed in a USA Today-Gallup poll shortly after the November 2010 election agreed that political leaders should stand firm in their beliefs even if little gets done, compared to just 18 percent of Democrats. Nearly three-fifths of Democrats, 59 percent, said leaders should be willing to compromise to get things done, compared to just 31 percent of Republicans. Conservative politicians refuse to change their positions because “low information voters” will not re-elect them.

Any conservatives reading this will, by now, be screaming out the names of intelligent conservatives. These studies don’t show that all conservatives are more limited in cognitive abilities; clever politicians, lobbyists, journalists, etc. who promote rightwing ideologies have achieved power and influence. Many of their followers, however, don’t fit in the same category. Follow their mantras of President Obama as an “alien,” human-created climate change as an eco-fascist-communist-anarchist conspiracy, and the debt resulting from the greedy poor to identify the lower intelligence of the radical conservatives.

Respected conservatives agree that the current far-right conservatives have caused serious problems for the Republican Party. David Frum, former special assistant to George W. Bush, warns that “conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics.”  His concern is the “shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology” which has “ominous real-world consequences for American society.”

Mike Lofgren, past staff member for the highly conservative Rep. John R. Kasich and current governor of Ohio, goes farther when he says that “the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today.” According to Lofgren, the Republican Party, with its “prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science” is appealing to the “low-information voter” or the “misinformation vote.” Most office holders probably don’t believe the “reactionary and paranoid claptrap” they peddle, Lofgren said, but “they cynically feed the worst instincts of their fearful and angry low-information political base.

Chief peddlers right now are Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. They complain that President Obama is hooking America on “the narcotic of dependency” (Santorum) and warn that government programs “foster passivity and sloth” (Romney). Congressional votes show that the current GOP majority is the most conservative since 1879—and only because the estimates don’t go farther back than that.

What the “low information voters” don’t realize is that the areas of the nation that elect the most “severely conservative” politicians are also the places where government programs provide the largest share of personal income. Residents of the 10 states ranking as “most conservative” received 21.3 percent of their income in government transfers, compared to the 17.1 percent of government income in the 10 most liberal states.

Adding to the “low information” issues for conservative voters is the understanding of government programs. Of those who declare that they “have not used a government program,” 44 percent receive Social Security, 43 percent receive unemployment benefits, and 40 percent receive Medicare. Conservatives delight in confusing these people by claiming that only the idle poor are on the government dole, and they succeed! The voters will be very surprised if they elect these politicians and find themselves literally without any government programs.

Conservatives do have some hope. Overall, they’re stronger! Last year, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a paper by Aaron Sell, John Tooby, and Leda Cosmides of the Center for Evolutionary Psychology at the University of California at Santa Barbara. They measured the strength of 343 students at a gym and then asked them to complete questionnaires that measured their proneness to anger, their history of fighting, and their fondness for aggression as a way to solve both individual and geopolitical problems. According to this paper, men (but not women) with the most physical strength were the most likely to feel entitled to good treatment, anger easily, view themselves as successful in winning conflicts, and believe in physical force as a tool for resolving interpersonal and international conflicts. Women who thought of themselves as pretty showed the same pattern of greater aggression.

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