Liberals and Atheists Are Smarter: Study March 3, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Religion, Science and Technology.
Tags: atheism, evolution, evolutionary psychology, intelligence, liberal, monogamy, religion, roger hollander, Satoshi Kanazawa, science, sexual morality
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Source: AOL News
Posted: 03/02/10 5:59PM
If you believe in God and are cheating on your wife, look away.
New research from the London School of Economics suggests that liberal, atheist adults who believe in monogamy have higher IQs than their conservative, religious, philandering contemporaries.
The pattern was uncovered by Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist, after analyzing data from two extensive American surveys on social attitudes and IQs in teenagers and adults.
In an article, published this month in the journal Social Psychology Quarterly, Kanazawa found that teens who identified as “not at all religious” had an average IQ of 103, while those who identified as “very religious” had an average IQ of 97, reports the Toronto Star.
The study also found that young adults who identified themselves as “very liberal” had an average IQ of 106, while those who identified themselves as “very conservative” had an average IQ of 95.
And when it comes to monogamy the study found a correlation between sexual morality and intelligence.
“As the empirical analysis … shows, more intelligent men are more likely to value monogamy and sexual exclusivity than less intelligent men,” London’s Telegraph reported Dr Kanazawa concluded in his study.
Researchers could find no clear correlation between monogamy and intelligence in women.
Dr. Kanazawa believes the link between monogamy, liberalism, atheism and IQs is based in evolutionary development. He argues that humans’ ability to deal with “evolutionary novel” situations which don’t fit into our natural tendencies towards conservatism and using religious beliefs to understand the natural phenomenon, mark a greater intelligence.
While man’s first dealings with “evolutionary novel” situations may have been the employment of logic and reasoning to deal with a flash flood or sudden fire, over time more and more of human activity has fallen into the “evolutionary novel” category. Kanazawa argues that people with a higher intelligence are better able to consider these novel elements and that a belief in liberalism and atheism show an ability to apply reason to novel events.
“Liberalism, caring about millions of total strangers and giving up money to make sure that those strangers will do well, is evolutionarily novel,” Kanazawa says.
The same is true of monogamy. Sexual exclusivity is an “evolutionary novel” quality that would have had little benefit to early man. Kanazawa argues that as promiscuity no longer confers an advantage to the modern male a decision to be monogamous shows a man’s ability to employ reason to shed an evolutionary psychology, and adopt a new model of behaviour.
“The adoption of some evolutionarily novel ideas makes some sense in terms of moving the species forward,” George Washington University leadership professor James Bailey, who was not involved in the study, told CNN . “It also makes perfect sense that more intelligent people – people with, sort of, more intellectual firepower – are likely to be the ones to do that.”
But Baily also points out that statements of atheism, liberalism and monogamy may stem for a desire to show superiority. “Unconventional” philosophies such as liberalism or atheism, says Baily, may be “ways to communicate to everyone that you’re pretty smart.”
The Massive Expansion of America’s “Hard Left” May 13, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, antonio taguba, bagram, barry mccaffrey, beltway, cheney, cia interrogation, geneva conventions, glenn greenwald, Guantanamo, hanoi hilton, independent investigation, International law, jesse ventura, larry wilkerson, liberal, Nancy Pelosi, navy seal, nuremburg, Philip Zelikow, roger hollander, ronald reagan, rule of law, sere, special prosecutor, survival escape resistance evasion, thomas pickering, torture, torture era, torture memos, War Crimes, warrantless spying, waterboarding, william sessions
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by Glenn Greenwald
Jesse Ventura was on CNN with Larry King last night and this exchange occurred, illustrating how simple, clear and definitively non-partisan is the case for investigations and prosecutions for those who ordered torture (video below):
VENTURA: I don’t watch much TV. This year’s reading, I covered Bush’s life. I covered Guantanamo and a few other subjects.
And I’m very disturbed about it.
I’m bothered over Guantanamo because it seems we’ve created our own Hanoi Hilton. We can live with that? I have a problem.
I will criticize President Obama on this level; it’s a good thing I’m not president because I would prosecute every person that was involved in that torture. I would prosecute the people that did it. I would prosecute the people that ordered it. Because torture is against the law.
KING: You were a Navy SEAL.
VENTURA: That’s right. I was water boarded, so I know — at SERE School, Survival Escape Resistance Evasion. It was a required school you had to go to prior to going into the combat zone, which in my era was Vietnam. All of us had to go there. We were all, in essence — every one of us was waterboarded. It is torture.
KING: What was it like?
VENTURA: It’s drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning. It is no good, because you — I’ll put it to you this way, you give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.
Let’s just repeat that: ”I would prosecute the people that ordered it. Because torture is against the law.” That is the crux of the case for investigations and prosecutions. That’s it. Can anyone find a “liberal” or ideological argument anywhere in what Ventura said? It’s about as far from a partisan or “leftist” idea as one can get. Yet our establishment media has succeeded (as Digby recently argued) in converting this view into a “Hard Left,” “liberal” or “partisan” argument because that’s the only prism through which they can understand anything, and that’s their time-honored instrument for demonizing any idea that threatens their institutional prerogatives and orthodoxies (only the Hard Left favors this).
Ventura himself, like the argument he’s advocating, is also about as far from being a “leftist” or partisan as it gets. He was elected Governor of Minnesota by running as the ultimate non-partisan, as a poorly-funded independent who defeated both the GOP and Democratic establishment candidates on a largely libertarian platform and on what he called “fiscal conservatism,” including large tax rebates. Unlike the establishment-revering, prosecution-opposing pundits who are the true partisans — loyal spokespeople who fiercely defend Beltway culture and legal immunity for political elites above all else — Ventura is doing nothing more than expressing definitively independent and non-ideological political principles, ones that were quite obviously ingrained in him over the course of decades as an American and a veteran: torture is wrong in all cases; it is illegal; and those who do it should therefore be prosecuted.
Former aide to Condoleezza Rice and former 9/11 Commission Executive Director Philip Zelikow yesterday became the latest to join Ventura by calling for investigations into torture, telling Laura Rozen: ”When there is this kind of collective failure, we need to learn from what happened.” Gen. Barry McCaffrey two weeks ago pointed out that numerous detainees were “murdered” in U.S. custody — which is unquestionably true — and called for criminal investigations of the top-level political officials who sanctioned torture. Gen. Antonio Taguba previously stated that “there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.” Colin Powell’s former Chief of Staff, retired U.S. Army Col. Larry Wilkerson, this month endorsed both investigations and prosecutions for Bush officials who broke the law. Bush 41 ambassador Thomas Pickering and Reagan-appointed FBI Director William Sessions wrote in The Washington Post that an independent investigation was a pre-requisite to moving beyond the torture era. Ronald Reagan vehemently insisted that torture is inexcusable in all cases — no exceptions — and that those who do it must be prosecuted.
These are the people – Gen. McCaffrey, Gen. Taguba, Col. Wilkerson, Philip Zelikow, Jesse Ventura, Ambassador Pickering, Director Sessions — that our little David Ignatiuses deceitfully dismiss as “liberal score-settlers” and that our David Broders and Jon Barrys accuse of lying by masking their Hard Left thirst for partisan vengeance with false pretenses about a belief in the rule of law and contrived disgust at torture. Our media stars have a script from which they mindlessly read — anyone who believes that political leaders should be held accountable for serious crimes must be a member of the ”Hard Left” when the lawbreaking political leaders in question are Republicans — and they recite it over and over no much how evidence piles up in front of their noses proving how untrue it is.
Our media stars accuse everyone with any actual beliefs — and especially any beliefs that deviate from Beltway establishment orthodoxy — of being motivated by ugly “partisan” impulses because that’s the only way they are capable of seeing the world. It’s the ultimate act of projection. That’s how the most non-ideological and non-partisan principles (e.g.: government leaders who commit serious crimes should be held accountable; torture is wrong; Presidents shouldn’t eavesdrop on Americans without warrants where the law makes doing so a felony) are transformed into partisan, “ideological” views of the Hard Left, even when they are plainly nothing of the sort. As commenter DCLaw1 wrote in explaining the media’s sudden obsession this week with whether Nancy Pelosi was briefed on the CIA’s interrogation program even though that issue has been known for years:
I want to point out that the main reason, if not the only reason, for this overwhelming media view is because the only lens through which they can see this issue – like every issue – is the Republican/Democrat or conservative/liberal lens. When one’s entire point of reference for even issues of egregious lawbreaking goes no further than fixating obsessively over the identity of the people and parties to the “controversy” and the issue’s putative effect on partisan politics, whether a leader of one party was informed of the crimes of the other takes on a meaning perversely greater than the evil of the underlying conduct itself.
Our establishment media simply cannot get beyond this stultifyingly narrow framework. It is pathological. Additionally, this staunch avoidance of anything approaching a substantive assessment of the actual illegal conduct, in favor of a petty fixation on the partisan “helps or harms” game, helps only the “side” that has committed the crimes and wrongdoing. No wonder our discourse is so unbelievably misshapen.
Few things better illustrate how warped our political discourse is than the media’s claim that advocating investigations and prosecutions for political lawbreakers who commit serious crimes, who torture, who illegally spy on Americans with no warrants, is the province of partisans on the “Hard Left,” even when people who are as far away from that as possible prominently advocate exactly that.
* * * * *
Beltway mavens are eager to declare that the torture controversy is ending, but these crimes are far too significant to sweep under the rug, no matter how unified the political and media establishments are in that effort. In addition to the Ventura interview and the Zelikow call for investigations yesterday, here are some headlines just from the last 24 hours:
Speaker Under Fire on Torture (“With a series of torture investigations already in the works . . . the issue simply isn’t going away“).
It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that the President’s apparent contemplation of reversing himself on whether to release 60 new photographs showing brutal American abuse of detainees (outside of Abu Ghraib) is part of an effort to tamp down what is still, quite obviously, the growing political pressure not to simply “move beyond” the serious crimes that were committed.
* * * * *
The call for prosecutions from the newest member of America’s rapidly growing Hard Left:
Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “
Good looks, nobel lineage, spineless December 16, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Canada.
Tags: Bush, Canada, harvard, human rights, ignatieff, Iraq, Iraq war, lebanon, liberal, linda mcquaig, prime minister, qana, roger hollander, torture, war crime
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Toronto Star, December 16, 2008
As a child, Michael Ignatieff probably wouldn’t have sounded unreasonable saying he wanted to be prime minister when he grew up.
The newly crowned Liberal leader has always had some impressive trappings: good looks, noble lineage, verbal dexterity, an air of gravitas and an impressive CV of teaching human rights at Harvard.
His self-imposed, decades-long exile from his native land might pose a problem in some countries. But here, where our elite instills in us a sense of inferiority to great powers like the U.S. and Britain, Ignatieff has been forgiven for finding Canada a little confining.
Still, there are some problems.
I’m not just referring to Ignatieff’s well-publicized support for George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq and for torture (but only of really bad people).
More broadly, Ignatieff seems to lack convictions, let alone basic human feeling.
In a revealing interview with the Star‘s Linda Diebel during Israel’s 2005 invasion of Lebanon, Ignatieff was asked if his call for a ceasefire had been prompted by the Israeli bombing of the Lebanese village of Qana, which left 28 dead, including numerous children. Ignatieff denied that it was the Qana bombing that had influenced him. “This is the kind of dirty war you’re in when you have to do this and I’m not losing sleep about that.”
Now, it’s okay to note that war is hell and innocent people die. But to say “I’m not losing sleep about that” – after media photos displayed the mangled remains of very small children – suggests a degree of detachment that borders on the unfeeling.
Ignatieff compensated by calling the Qana bombing a “war crime” during a French-language TV interview.
That turned out to be a far greater misstep politically, and Ignatieff struggled to distance himself from his own words. Two years later he was still backtracking, describing his “war crimes” comment as “the most painful experience of my short political career, and it was an error.”
Some observers chalked all this up to inexperience.
But does it really take experience – beyond being alive – to feel something when children are bombed to death? To then go full circle and denounce the bombing as a war crime, and then go full circle again and try to retract an arguably appropriate term, suggests the behaviour of someone who flaps wildly in the wind, who cuts and runs in the political heat, who lacks a basic moral compass.
Ignatieff showed the same moral evasiveness in his attempt to distance himself from his support for the Iraq invasion.
Given the scope of the Iraqi tragedy that has unfolded, anyone who played a role in facilitating the invasion has a great deal to account for. And Ignatieff did play a role. From his prestigious human rights perch at Harvard, Ignatieff’s eloquent defence of Bush’s war plans in the New York Times Magazine in the run-up to the invasion helped sell a preposterous war to the American people.
Rather than taking some responsibility and expressing genuine remorse in a follow-up New York Times Magazine article in 2007, Ignatieff artfully dodged and ducked any blame, absolving academics like himself of any responsibility for promoting the war. As a mea culpa, Ignatieff’s piece was long on mea and short on culpa.
Media commentators here have been quick to hail Ignatieff as a natural leader, strong and resolute.
He does have good curb appeal. But beyond the measured phrases and chiseled features, the royal stuff inside may be more Jell-O than jelly.
Murky past could haunt Ignatieff December 11, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Human Rights, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tags: Add new tag, Afghanistan, american exceptionalism, Bush, Canada, chretien, coercive interrogation, conservative, deception, haroon siddiqui, harper, harvard, hooding, human rights, ignatieff, International law, Iraq, liberal, Mackay, martin, neo-conservative, pre-emptive war, roger hollander, saddam, secrecy, sleep deprvation, Taliban, targeted assassination, torture, trudeau
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Toronto Star, December 11, 2008
Set aside the debate over whether the Liberal party has been as cynical and undemocratic in the pursuit of power as King Stephen (Harper) or just agile enough to respond well to the extraordinary developments of the last 10 days.
Ignore that Michael Ignatieff’s coronation was engineered with the same ruthless methodology used by Paul Martin – elbowing out a leader by taking control of the party machinery. Time will tell if Ignatieff’s manoeuvre works any better in the long run than Martin’s.
Rather, consider this:
While Americans have turned to Barack Obama to thoroughly repudiate George W. Bush’s agenda, Canadians are saddled with a Prime Minister and now his potential replacement as well who have both been Bush cheerleaders.
Arguably, the Liberal leader has been even more so than his Conservative counterpart.
As is well-known, Ignatieff supported the war in Iraq, a position he only semi-retreated from last year, in Year 4 of the botched occupation. Even then, he argued that he had been wrong for the right reasons (saving the Kurds from Saddam Hussein), while opponents of the war may have been right for the wrong reasons (ideological opposition to Bush).
He also supported the use of such harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects as sleep deprivation and hooding, even while saying he opposed torture.
He was also an advocate for American exceptionalism in defiance of international law.
Ignatieff’s supporters argue that he was merely thinking aloud as a public intellectual.
That won’t wash. He was an active participant in the American public debate both preceding and following the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was among those liberals – a professor of human rights at Harvard, no less – who provided intellectual cover for Bush’s neo-conservative policies.
Ignatieff’s positions were the exact opposite of where a majority of Canadians stood on issues that are a point of differentiation between Canada and the U.S.
Canadians may no longer feel as strongly, preoccupied as they are with the economy. But we can be certain that the Tories won’t let him off the hook. They will remind voters of all that he said and wrote.
We got a taste of it early this year in Parliament. On Jan. 28, during a debate on Afghanistan, Defence Minister Peter MacKay noted: “He has said previously … `To defeat evil,’ we must `traffic in evils: indefinite detention of suspects, coercive interrogations, targeted assassinations, even pre-emptive war.’”
Two days later, MacKay added that the Taliban “might also be interested to know that he said, `Defeating terror requires violence. It may also require coercion, secrecy, deception, even violation of rights.’”
This is not an ideological issue of right or left. Managing the relationship with the U.S. is one of the central duties of the prime minister. We’ve had different models – Harper’s and Jean Chrétien’s, to take two contemporary examples.
But we’ve never had a Liberal leader, let alone a prime minister, who had lived in the U.S. long enough to count himself in among “we Americans,” and worse, had been a noisy apologist for some of the worst foreign and domestic policy disasters of American history.
Ignatieff is a man of formidable intellect, who has spent a lifetime thinking through some of the knottiest issues of our age. He is well suited to articulate a liberal vision for Canada, at home and abroad, the way Pierre Elliot Trudeau did.
But he cannot do so successfully while dodging his murky past.
Haroon Siddiqui writes on Thursday and Sunday. email@example.com
Health-Care Reform Could Kill the GOP December 6, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Health, Political Commentary.
Tags: bacardi, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Bob Rae, Bush, Canada, canada health act, capitalism, castro, cato institute, chomsky, congress, conservative, Cuba, Democrat, diefenbaker, dylan, gop, health, healthcare, helms-burton, hillary clinton, Iraq, k street, kristol, lester pearson, liberal, liberalism, Lobbyists, medicare, mike harris, military industrial complex, nader, NAFTA, NDP, new democrat, new democratic party, nicaragua, ontario, ortega, perlstein, policy, republican, saskachewan, social security, socialism, socialized medicine, Stephen Harper, surge, thomas frank, tommy douglas
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“…for most of my lifetime, prominent Democratic leaders have been chucking liberalism itself for the sake of immediate tactical gain.”
This is a quote from the article posted below that appeared in the Huffington Post. Although the article focuses on the issue of universal health care, it raises much wider issues. After one reads the article, one cannot help but asking the question: Why is this the case? (Why does the right tend to implement its agenda when elected to government, while the left has a marked tendency to waffle and back track?)
My comments continue after the article.
Huffington Post, December 3, 2008
Can policy be both wise and aggressively partisan? Ask any Republican worth his salt and the answer will be an unequivocal yes. Ask a Democrat of the respectable Beltway variety and he will twist himself into a pretzel denying it.
For decades Republicans have made policy with a higher purpose in mind: to solidify the GOP base or to damage the institutions and movements aligned with the other side. One of their fondest slogans is “Defund the Left,” and under that banner they have attacked labor unions and trial lawyers and tried to sever the links between the lobbying industry and the Democratic Party. Consider as well their long-cherished dreams of privatizing Social Security, which would make Wall Street, instead of Washington, the protector of our beloved seniors. Or their larger effort to demonstrate, by means of egregious misrule, that government is incapable of delivering the most basic services.
That these were all disastrous policies made no difference: The goal was to use state power to achieve lasting victory for the ideas of the right.
On the other side of the political fence, strategic moves of this kind are fairly rare. Instead, for most of my lifetime, prominent Democratic leaders have been chucking liberalism itself for the sake of immediate tactical gain.
Former President Bill Clinton, who is widely regarded as a political mastermind, may have sounded like a traditional liberal at the beginning of his term in office. But what ultimately defined his presidency was his amazing pliability on matters of principle. His most memorable innovation was “triangulating” between his own party and the right, his most famous speech declared and end to “the era of big government,” his most consequential policy move was to cement the consensus on deregulation and free trade, and many of his boldest stands were taken against his own party.
The results were not pretty, either for the Democrats or for the nation.
Still, conservatives have always dreaded the day that Democrats discover (or rediscover) that there is a happy political synergy between delivering liberal economic reforms and building the liberal movement. The classic statement of this fear is a famous memo that Bill Kristol wrote in 1993, when he had just started out as a political strategist and the Clinton administration was preparing to propose some version of national health care.
“The plan should not be amended; it should be erased,” Mr. Kristol advised the GOP. And not merely because Mr. Clinton’s scheme was (in Mr. Kristol’s view) bad policy, but because “it will revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests.”
Historian Rick Perlstein suggests that this memo is “the skeleton key to understanding modern American politics” because it opens up a fundamental conservative anxiety: “If the Democrats succeed in redistributing economic power, we’re screwed.”
In the Clinton years, of course, it was the Republicans who succeeded. And the Democrats’ failure — the failure to deliver national health care that is, not the act of proposing national health care — was a crucial element, in Mr. Perlstein’s view, in the Republican Revolution of 1994. Assessing the accomplishments of the “party of the people” after those first months of Clintonism, middle-class Americans were left with what? A big helping of Nafta. Mmm-mmm.
Fourteen years later, we find ourselves at the same point in the political debate, with a Democratic president-elect promising to deliver some variety of health-care reform. And, like a cuckoo emerging from a clock, Mr. Kristol’s old refrain is promptly taken up by a new chorus. “Blocking Obama’s Health Plan Is Key to the GOP’s Survival,” proclaims the headline of a November blog post by Michael F. Cannon, the libertarian Cato Institute’s director of Health Policy Studies. His argument, stitched together from other blog posts, is pretty much the same as Mr. Kristol’s in 1993. Any kind of national medical program would be so powerfully attractive to working-class voters that it would shift the tectonic plates of the nation’s politics. Therefore, such a program must be stopped.
Liberal that I am, I support health-care reform on its merits alone. My liberal blood boils, for example, when I read that half of the personal bankruptcies in this country are brought on, in part, by medical expenses. And my liberal soul is soothed to find that an enormous majority of my fellow citizens agree, in general terms, with my views on this subject.
But it pleases me even more to think that the conservatives’ nightmare of permanent defeat might come true simply if Democrats do the right thing. No, health-care reform isn’t as strategically diabolical as, say, the K Street Project. It involves only the most straightforward politics: good government stepping in to heal an ancient, festering wound. But if by doing this Barack Obama also happens to nullify decades of conservative propaganda, so much the better for all of us.
Thomas Frank’s column, The Tilting Yard, appears every Wednesday at OpinionJournal.com
Continuation of remarks by Roger Hollander:
The answer to this question (Can policy be both wise and aggressively partisan?) I believe, is both simple and complex. Complex in its detail with respect to the myriads of forms in which decisions are made in a capitalist democracy; but not that hard to understand in its broadest terms.
Follow the money.
The Republican agenda, again broadly speaking, is very much in tune with the objectives of corporate America, the military-industrial complex, the financial industry, etc; in other words, with capital. If it goes to extremes, as with the current Cheney/Bush administration, some Republicans may take a longer perspective and believe that it needs to be reined in. Nevertheless, no one could seriously argue that the Republican Party is much more than a front for organized capital.
Is the Democratic Party then, the opposite, its foil? Dream on. Because even in a capitalist democracy the power structure must at times respond to popular demands, the Democrats have taken the advantage of this by being the repository for such phenomena. But within strictly defined limits.
Bob Dylan wrote, “Money doesn’t talk, it swears.” Now I have nothing against money per se, I use it all the time. It’s one of my best friends. But what we are talking about here is enormous concentrations of money that exert an influence through campaign contributions and lobbying that cannot possibly be matched by any one or ones who represent the general interest.
To go back to the original question, “can policy be both wise and aggressively partisan,” if we assume by “wise” that we mean the general interest, than from that perspective the answer in no. Lobbyists have been referred to as the fourth branch of government. The metaphor is useful to the extent that it demonstrates the colossal power of corporate and military lobbyists; but in effect the influence of lobbyist permeates all branches of government. My favourite example of the effective lobbying is the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, which tightened the restrictions regarding doing business with Cuba, and was apparently actually written by staff at Bacardi and passed on the legislators who introduced it.
Of course the most obvious example of the Democratic Party’s winning representation in support of popular sentiment only to renege on its promise is the Iraq War (or, rather, the invasion and occupation of Iraq). In the 2006 mid-term elections, the Democrats were able to gain control of both Houses of Congress based upon their support of enormous public sentiment for an immediate or prompt withdrawal. With that power and authority under its Beltway belt, the Democratic Congress proceeded to approve every budget request for the war and went so far as to allow for its escalation, which was thinly disguised by the Orwellian use of the word “surge.”
Thomas Frank, the author of the posted article on which I am commenting, identifies himself as a Liberal. We all know that the past two decades have been dominated for the most part by Conservative ideas and policies: anti-labor, anti-welfare, anti-environmental protection; pro-war, pro-corporate, pro-rich, etc. But you wouldn’t know that by looking at the results of polling American voters, which consistently support universal health care, environmental protection, more equitable taxation, etc.; that is, the Liberal agenda! But the Democratic Party (Clinton 1992-2000; Congress 2006-2008; Obama 2008?????) for a variety of reasons is neither willing nor able to give Americans what we want.
Two factors, not entirely unrelated to “money,” should be mentioned as means by which the general will and interest are thwarted in our capitalist democracy: manipulation through massive spending on public relations and influence bordering on control of the mass media; and manufactured crises or the appropriation of actual crises (this well documented in Naomi Klein’s blockbuster, “The Shock Doctrine”) to scare us into accepting unpleasant medicine. The current economic crisis is being used, for example, to give Wall Street and its supporters in BOTH parties the opportunity to maintain its advantages while millions of Americans lose their homes and/or their jobs).
In effect the United States is a one party democracy with two branches: the Democrats and the Republicans. Wikipedia lists 210,000 entries for the word “Republicrat.” The notion is not original with me. Look at the political spectrum. The Republican Party pretty much represents every interest almost to the extreme end on the right side. On the left side, the distance between the left wing of the Democratic Party (with the exception of a tiny handful such as Dennis Kucinich and Barbara Boxer) and say Ralph Nader (whose policies on the environment, the war, corporate taxation, regulation of the financial industry are virtually congruent with public opinion) and Noam Chomsky – both of whom are no where near to being criminally mendacious or as irresponsibly and ludicrously extremist as the Bill O’Reillys and Rush Limbaughs – is gaping.
Going back to the money, Barack Obama has tried to create the illusion that his massive campaign contributions came largely from ordinary Americans making relatively small donations. While it is true that much of the Obama movement has been fuelled by the enthusiasm of American youth and liberals, and small contributions have been considerable; nevertheless, the bulk of the nearly trillion dollars in his war chest came from similar sources as were traditional for both parties. Once the band wagon gets rolling, the big boys know when to jump on.
And going back to health care, Canada provides an excellent example of the thesis stated by Thomas Frank. In 1942, Tommy Douglas was elected Premier of the Province of Saskatchewan, and introduced the first democratic socialist government in North America. In 1962 Saskatchewan, after a “fight to the death” with the North American medical establishment and the provinces’ physicians, introduced universal health care, another first for the western hemisphere.
In that same year, a Conservative (!) Prime Minister of Canada, John Diefenbaker, established a Royal Commission to study health care in the country, and that Commission, headed by a former Supreme Court Judge, Emmett Hall, recommended nationwide adoption of Saskatchewan’s model of public health insurance, which led to the introduction and passage of the Canada Health Act in 1966 under a minority Liberal government, headed by Lester B. Pearson. Thus Canada became the only country in the Americas, apart from Cuba, to offer its citizens universal health care. And it did so under the political pressures that were a consequence of Saskatchewan’s successful and enormously popular and socially beneficial initiative.
It is also interesting to compare the results of leftist governments coming to power via democratic election versus those coming to power via revolution. I have not made a comprehensive study of this, but will just name some examples. In Europe, in the second half of the last century, two avowedly socialist governments came to power in France (under François Mitterrand) and Greece (under Andreas Papandreou). Neither of the two governments were able (or willing) to deliver on their promises from the standpoint of either domestic or foreign policy.
On the other side of the ledger, during roughly the same time period two socialist governments came to power in the Americas though armed revolution: the July 26 Movement (under Fidel Castro) in Cuba, and the Sandinistas (under Daniel Ortega) in Nicaragua. In the early years of both revolutions, their governments made huge inroads in eliminating illiteracy and in introducing free education (in Cuba up to and including university level studies) and universal health care, along with other progressive social programs. Although the Cuban government has ossified into a Stalinist style dictatorship (though not nearly as brutal) and had to withstand the hardships imposed by the US blockade, it has been able to maintain these social programs. In Nicaragua, the Sandinista government was seriously disabled by the US supported Contras. The major targets of their terrorist attacks incidentally, were schools and clinics. It lost power in a democratic election and recently has regained it.
I’m not saying that these examples necessarily prove anything, they are anecdotal , but I think it is worth pondering.
The example with which I am personally most familiar has to do with the Province of Ontario in Canada, where I resided for many years and where I served on the Municipal Council of Metropolitan Toronto as a elected Councillor for seven years. In 1990 the New Democratic Party (NDP), which originally considered it socialist, but over the years evolved into a non-socialist leftist social democratic opposition, won a large majority in the provincial parliament and its leader, Bob Rae, became Premier of Ontario.
The very first thing that Rae did upon being inaugurated was to travel to New York and speak on Wall Street to assure that they had no fears from his government. Although his government was mildly progressive in some areas (a large percentage of women in the cabinet, some environmental protection), on the whole it could not be distinguished from traditional Liberal or Conservative governments when it came to protecting corporate interests and other instruments of capitalist control (policing, for example, where the Rae government failed to implement effective civilian oversight). It’s most notorious legislation was blatantly anti-labor. It introduced what it called the “social contract” for government workers, a measure whereby they could accept voluntary roll backs or the government would do it for them.
Ironically, the Rae government was attacked viciously by the right and the corporate media as if it had in fact introduced a democratic socialist progressive policy agenda. It was soundly defeated after a single term in office despite its efforts to appease capital. It may as well have implemented its “radical” platform and left the province with a progressive legacy. Instead,the Rae government was replaced by the government of Conservative Mike Harris, who did not hesitate to keep his promises to deregulate, privatize, and drastically reduce social and environmental programs. He left office in disgrace, but his legacy remains. Not only that, his major advisors and cabinet members are now effectively in charge of the Conservative government of Canada under Stephen Harper, another rightist who more or less “keeps his word” when it comes to his regressive policies on labor, social programs, taxes, environmental protection, etc.
A final and unpleasant irony. One of the major arguments coming from the right when progressive measures are on the table is that such things as taxing business or increasing government spending on social programs (which involves more taxation) have the effect of driving business out of the jurisdiction. If we increase corporate taxes or increase costly benefits and wages in X state or Y province, business will abandon them and move elsewhere.
When the Woodrow Lloyd (successor to Tommy Douglas) government introduced universal health care before the Saskatchewan parliament in 1962, the right and the medical establishment went ballistic. Saskatchewan doctors went on strike and threatened to leave the province. The opposition used this to play on latent racism by raising the specter of having to be attended to by “foreign” doctors, who would be brought to the province to replace the good White Saskatchewan docs.
Of course, as we have seen, exactly the opposite occurred. When the general public in one jurisdiction can see that progressive social programs can actually work in another, it puts enormous pressure on their governments to act in a similar way. No political party, no matter how far to the right, would dare suggest that the Canada Health Act be repealed (although they do their best to hack away at it whenever they get the chance).
Those of us from the Vietnam era remember the phrase “domino effect.” It was used to frighten Americans into believing that if Vietnam remained a Communist state, all of Asia (if not the entire world) would follow. In this case it was a bogus argument, but as the Republicans seem to be well aware, the Democrats actually being able to achieve a workable universal health care plan for the country could cause other dominos to fall (Kyoto, disarmament, affordable higher education, etc.) and undermine what the Republicans have so laboriously built up in the way of firewalls against progressive domestic and foreign policy. This “Chicken Little” strategy along with the enormous lobbying influence on both parties of the AMA and the private health insurance industry (of whom Hillary Clinton had become the major beneficiary in the Senate) is what Barack Obama and his Democratic Congress has to face if they are serious about universal single payer health care. Place you bets.
A final word about universal health care. Plans that involve the Byzantine network of private health insurance are probably doomed to failure once in operation for a variety of reasons not the least of which is cost and unworkable bureaucracy. The weakness of existing single payer health plans such as that of Canada is that, while the coverage is “socialized,” the costs remain private. In Canada the government negotiates with the Medical Association on a schedule of fees, but cost containment remains a serious problem. In Canada drugs and dental care are not covered. In the US, when the drug benefit was introduced to Medicare, it specifically prohibited the government from negotiation with the pharmaceutical industry for lower prices. In Great Britain, where the National Health Service represents genuine ”socialized” medicine in that it is government “owned and operated,” pressures to limit services in order to contain costs persist, of course, because costs are directly related to taxation.
This takes us to the question of the role of the state in a capitalist society and what might things be like if and when capitalism were replaced with genuine democratic socialism, a minor issue but one which I will leave for future discussion.
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