Nel's New Day

February 17, 2017

DDT: Week Four – Part 1

The judges overturning Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) Muslim ban was his most obvious disaster last week. This week it was, to swipe the words from Judith Viorst, DDT’s “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad” press conference. But I’ll avoid talking about that for this post because his entire purpose was to “detract, deflect, and deflect” attention from the Russian scandal that led to the resignation of DDT’s National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. Not only did the Russians help DDT win the presidency, but Michael Flynn talked to them about President Obama’s sanctions immediately after they were placed in late December before DDT was inaugurated and then lied about it—at least to the public.

DDT claims that no laws were broken, not even the Logan Act banning U.S. citizens from trying to influence foreign policy, but Flynn resigned after 24 days in office because DDT asked him to step down, according to Press Secretary Sean Spicer. DDT also said his only problem was that people learned about the discussion regarding sanctions. Despite the possibility that Flynn was giving secrets to Russia, he sat in on national security briefings and deliberations until a few hours before his resignation.

DDT knew about the problem before he was inaugurated because Acting Attorney General Sally Yates told DDT about Flynn’s lies weeks before he was inaugurated, yet last week, DDT fired Yates because she would not defend his unconstitutional actions in the Muslim ban. White supremacist Steve Bannon is the winner in Flynn’s resignation because of his increase in power. Watch for the disintegration of Reince Priebus, most likely Bannon’s next target.

Other disasters during DDT’s past week:

security-key

Lack of Security: A photo from the Oval Office shows a key left in a packet with intelligence documents while DDT was hosting a number of people. The smart phone DDT uses for tweets is also unsecured, with the Internet connection making it vulnerable. It’s the same phone he used to tweet about his daughter Ivanka during his intelligence briefing. Some White House staffers are still using personal email addresses, and others have private email accounts with the RNC.  The biggest GOP hypocrisy—for the moment—is that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) is demanding a grand jury or charge against Bryan Pagliano, the computer specialist who helped establish Clinton’s server while she was secretary of state. The so-called chair of the House Oversight Committee has also refused to address any of DDT’s conflicts of interest or his involvement with Russia although he’s investigating Sid the Science Kid.

At Mar-a-Lago DDT was surrounded by waitpeople and other diners at the terrace dining room table while he took a call about North Korea launching an intermediate-range ballistic missile and then moved on to a strategy session.  Then he proceeded to have a sensitive intelligence meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo while club members with no security clearance snapped photos and put them on social media. Aides used phone camera lights to illuminate the national-security documents that DDT and Abe were reading which allows others to see the objects. The morning after that event, DDT tweeted a complaint about all the “leaks.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) responded:

“I would suggest that the president get a briefing on the handling of classified information.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), leader of legislators with heads in the sand, tweeted last summer, “Individuals who are ‘extremely careless’ with classified information should be denied further access to such info.”  That belief is gone; he can’t cross DDT because he needs the president to sign his lovely bills.

White House Leaks to Russia: Earlier the U.S. intelligence community expressed concern that DDT would “tell all” to Russia. Now, according to the Pentagon, Russia has “ears” in the administration’s situation room. A senior Pentagon intelligence official said, “There’s not much the Russians don’t know at this point.” U.S. intelligence officials were so concerned about DDT’s leaks that they have withheld sensitive intelligence from the president.

Miller’s Declaration of DDT as Supreme Leader: Last Sunday, white supremacist White House aide Stephen Miller said on Face the Nation “that the powers of the president to protect our country will not be questioned.” On ABC he said, “The judiciary is not supreme.” To Fox’s Chris Wallace, Miller said, “The president’s powers here are beyond question.” He also declared that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was “always” 100 percent correct and repeated the lie that thousands of people were bused from Massachusetts to New Hampshire to vote.

DDT praised Miller for his performance, but even DDT-supporter Joe Scarborough thought Miller was out of line. On Morning Joe, Scarborough said:

“Oh my God. It’s so much worse than I ever thought…. It’s called ‘judicial review.’ Alexander Hamilton and James Madison wrote about it in the Federalist Papers; it was enshrined in Madison’s Constitution.”

DDT’s Counselor Violation of Law: The director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Schaub, called on disciplinary action against White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway, for her television hawking of Ivanka Trump’s product line.

Border Checks: No one knows if ICE has stopped detaining people from the seven magic countries, but border agents are still threatening people if they won’t give up the passwords for their cell phones. Natural-born U.S. citizen Sidd Bikkannavar has never visited any of the targeted countries, but he was forced to give up his PIN number and cell phone after he returned from Chile where he drove a solar-powered car in a race. Despite his being a member of the Customs and Border Protection Global Entry program that waves people through after scanning their passports and fingerprints, the NASA scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for over a decade was threatened with detention and seizure—even after he told border agents that the phone belonged to NASA and contained sensitive information. It is not known whether the border agents copied the information. The law: agents can detain people, but they cannot legally force them to unlock their phones. A U.S. judge has also ruled that people cannot be forced to use their fingerprints to open electronic devices.

Immigrants with green cards have also been threatened with deportation if they don’t sign a form that was actually a I-407 form that erases their lawful permanent residency in the U.S. Border agents falsely claimed that not signing these forms would bar them from entering the U.S. for five years; in reality it does just the reverse. Although the goal was to deport criminals and rapists, ICE is still detaining an immigrant vetted and protected under President Obama’s DACA program for over a week although DDT did not overturn that order.

Violation of Law Preserving White House Records: Members of the DDT administration are using an app called Confide that encrypts messages and destroys them after they are read. Using Confide violates the Presidential Records Act passed by Congress, mandating that all official business correspondence be carried out on White House email so that it can be preserved. A year ago, the GOP and DDT screamed about the “missing 30,000” Hillary Clinton emails after the Bush White House “lost” 22 million emails on a private email server owned by the RNC while they used false claims to plan wars and fired U.S. attorneys for no clear reason. A major criticism of Clinton was that she “destroyed” emails.

The Great Negotiator: While president-elect, DDT raised hackles by congratulating Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen for his win, directly conflicting with the position of “One-China” policy:

“I don’t know why we have to be bound by a One-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things.”

Last week, DDT told Chinese President Xi Jinping that he will honor the so-called “One China” policy—at the request of President Xi. No negotiation, nothing from China, just acceptance of China’s “request.” DDT owns business ventures in China.  He was negotiating with one in Taiwan, but it may have fallen through.

Labor Department Nominee Resignation: On the home side, Andrew Puzder, well-known for his abuse of his own workers and employing an undocumented immigrant as housekeeper, withdrew his name after the surfacing of a video showing his ex-wife, Lisa Fierstein, describing her husband’s physical and emotional abuse. Although Fierstein later denied the abuse, the description of the abuse on the video may have been too close to the domestic violence that white supremacist Steve Bannon, the man running the White House, perpetrated on his wife. Wife abuse is something that the White House men want to sweep under the carpet. Puzder was the first nominee to withdraw.

DDT’s Refried News: The new Intel factory in Arizona, scheduled to employ 3,000 workers, was first announced by President Obama in 2011. As for the creation of jobs, Intel is still down 9,000 jobs in Oregon during the past year, making DDT a net loss of 8,000 jobs with Intel. DDT takes credit for jobs already considered, including the January job increase while he wasn’t president, and ignoring other job losses.

National Security Advisor Non-replacement: Retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward told a friend that chaos and dysfunction in the White House meant that DDT’s offer to make him national security adviser amounted to “a sh*t sandwich.” It’s another example of the new abnormal as a senior military officer rejects the commander-in-chief’s request and gives cover to other patriots who take the same path. Death by a thousand cuts.

trump-cover-finalDDT has always bragged about the number of times that he has been on the cover of Time. Once again, he has received this placement, but he may not be bragging about it this time. Brooklyn-based Tim O’Brien said that his intent was to show the chaos surrounding the White House. Time explained the cover: “In the first month of his presidency, the New York billionaire has witnessed the lesson of Samson: toppling the temple can be painful if you try it from the inside.” Nothing to See Here.

[Update: This post has been changed to reflect a ruling on February 23, 2017 that prevents law enforcement officials from demanding people open their electronic devices using their fingerprints without having a warrant for those specific people.]

“Indifference about the distinction between truth and lies is the precondition of fascism. When truth perishes so does freedom.”—Simon Shama, British historian

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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