Archive for the ‘2012 election’ Category


Sunday, November 4th, 2012

According to Nicholas Kristof in the NY Times, Mitt Romney, if elected, promises to support the following actions and policies1:
1. Cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides women with breast and cervical cancer screening as well as advice about contraception.
2. Eliminate Title X family planning funding, which would curb many women’s access to contraception.
3. Bar family planning money from going to organizations that only provide information about abortion.
4. Cut off funding for the United Nations Population Fund, which addresses a number of women’s health issues abroad.
5. Together with his running-mate, Congressional representative Paul Ryan, Romney has endorsed a “personhood” initiative which would treat a fertilized egg as a legal person. This would make an abortion for any reason a criminal act and prohibit the use of certain contraceptives.
6. If elected, Romney has pledged to appoint judges to the US Supreme Court who would likely reverse Roe vs. Wade, thereby making all abortions illegal again.
These positions of Romney’s would severely limit many women’s access to necessary health care and reproductive choice and do point to a clear choice in the election of Nov. 6th.
IPPA strongly opposes these severe restrictions and has from its inception supported the concept that abortion should be legal, safe and rare2. IPPA has also acknowledged the complex ethical issues surrounding abortion3. However, we have strongly urged access to informed sex-education as important to women and men to prevent unwanted pregnancies4. Most recently we have reported on a study which points to the reduction of abortions in a large group of women who had access to education about and free contraception5. IPPA strongly disagrees with these draconian restrictions favored by Romney that would limit essential health care and criminalize choice for many women.



Thursday, August 30th, 2012

This is election time, and time for Republicans to advocate smaller government, and repeat President Reagan’s claim that “[In this present crisis], government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.”1 This assertion deserves a prominent response. The country has recently emerged from Bush’s war of choice in Iraq, a good example of when the central government was the problem. But here are examples of the opposite, of the federal (hopefully efficient) centralized government’s ability to do great things for our country.2

FDIC and the Volcker Rule:  In 1933, under President Roosevelt, Congress passed the Banking Act of 1933. Although four sections of that Act, which became known as the Glass-Steagall Act,  have been much in the news since 2008, the part that has most protected the financial health of Americans endures without  fanfare. This is the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) law. This has protected the bank deposits of ordinary people for nearly eighty years. Before this time, a depositor’s only protection was unrealistically difficult research into a bank’s stability. The Glass-Steagall  portions limiting the relations between commercial banks and investment  organizations selling securities, was gradually whittled away starting in the 1960s, and finally repealed in 1998. Fortunately, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act  (July 21, 2010) has taken over  some of the regulatory duties and instituted new ones. It establishes a Consumer Protection Agency, increases the transparency of derivatives, and mandates the implementation of the Volcker Rule. In the abstract, this Rule aims to outlaw activity in which there is a conflict of interest between a bank and its clients, including doing high risk trading.  It forbids depository banks from trading in securities by using their own (i.e. which might include their customer’s funds) capital.3 The Rule continues to have Republican enemies who hope to eliminate it. They were able to weaken the final form, such that banks can invest 3% of their own capital in equity or for hedging purposes. Mr. Voclker has proposed that investment companies like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley wanted to get banking licenses during the economic crises so as to qualify for federal protection from failing.

MEDICARE:  The passage of Medicare in 1965 has increased the health and well-being of senior Americans. One of its major benefits has been simply to remove the fear of lacking the affordable care they would need. Before that time, some health care and its coverage was tied to employment, and was lost  when seniors became unemployed. Over half of seniors did not have health insurance, because it was too expensive.

The 1965 Medicare innovation was a bi-partisan one. Once again, there are several bi-partisan proposals out there. We need to consider them because: Congress has been unable to develop a long term solution to a reimbursement rate for doctors, which damages confidence in the program.  More doctors are considering dropping out of or limiting Medicare patients. The baby-boomers have already started enrolling in Medicare at the rate of 10,000 each day for the next 20 years. And many of the unemployed no longer pay into the program. The Medicare Trust Fund that pays hospital bills will be empty by 2022-2024, and if nothing is done, would be supported only by yearly payroll tax revenues.

Although one or both of these proposals may be “off-the-table” now as legislation, they are worth considering as examples of what compromise could look like. In a different area, the Simpson-Bowles plan for the federal debt reduction still has a following as a model of bi-partisanship. It had nothing to do with Medicare, but according to the Bipartisan Policy Center, it would have reduced the federal debt down from 73 percent of GDP now to 67 percent in 2022. Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin voted against Simpson-Bowles, because he wears two hats. He worked with Senator Wyden on a bipartisan approach to Medicare. However,  as David Brooks has said, he also thinks the Democrats will lose all political power and the Republicans do not need to cooperate with them on debt reduction.



Friday, August 10th, 2012

Voter ID laws are unnecessary and undemocratic

Reports of polling place voter fraud are very rare. The incidence was 0.0009% in a review of the 2004 Washington State governor’s race. The same year in Ohio, a review of that year’s election revealed a fraud rate of 0.0004%1. An evaluation of the 2004 election in Wisconsin came up with a 0.0007% voter fraud rate. Studies to determine the amount of improper voting showed that most was either improper voter registration or ineligibility of someone with a previous felony conviction. According to Spencer Overton, a George Washington University law professor and former member of the Commission on Federal Election Reform, “a photo ID requirement would prevent over 1000 or perhaps 10,000 legitimate votes for very single improper vote prevented”2.

Voter ID laws, which are largely championed by Republican and conservative groups, have a disproportionate negative voter eligibility effect on minority groups [African-Americans and Latinos], young voters, the elderly and people with disabilities. These groups, in a large majority tend to vote democratic. There is also a significant cost to taxpayers in states that have passed these laws to educate voters and provide for the photo ID’s. [It’s been estimated at $20 million in North Carolina.] Also in many states several identification forms are required to qualify for a government issued photo ID and many potential voters who will need to obtain them cannot do so because of cost or inability to get time off work.3

The Brennan Center for Justice says that these laws may disenfranchise as many as 3.2 million of the 29 million citizens of voting age in 5 states where new photo ID laws will go into effect for the 2012 election. [Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin]4. Charles Brow, quoting the Brennan Center, reports that prior to the 2006 general election no states in this country required a government issued photo ID as a qualification for voting5. It hardly seems a coincidence that once Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, those opposed to his reelection would come up with plans to suppress the vote of those groups who so strongly supported him and many other successful Democrats in 2008. The takeover of many state legislatures and governorships since 2008 has certainly facilitated this movement. Even in 2008 there was beginning concern that “voter fraud” was a myth and had already become a partisan issue. Also, it pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court, by upholding Indiana’s voter ID law showed that it “will not perform its historic role of protecting voters”6. This movement toward universal voter ID requirements can certainly be considered a sad, outrageous and undemocratic move to reverse the amazing progress throughout the last century, beginning with the women’s suffrage movement and the civil rights movement and voting laws of the 1960’s to encourage universal voter participation for all eligible voters.

For an excellent summary of these issues and documentation of other voter suppression laws and how these actions, if unchallenged, could change the electoral landscape please look at a summary of voting law changes in 2012 from the  Brennan Center for Justice7.  For a discussion of the complexities of evaluating the truth in voter fraud claims see the current article by Steven Rosenfeld in AterNet8   Also see an article by Bill Blum in Truthdig for a discussion of past, current and future worrisome role of the U.S. Supreme Court in evaluating these ubiquitous voter suppression laws9.


2. Diannis, Judith Browne, Five Myths about voter fraud. Washington Post opinions, 10/04/2011


4. Summary

5. Blow, Charles W. Where’s the Outrage? OpEd New York Times 7/28/2012

6. The Myth of Voter Fraud. Editorial New York Times 5/13/08

7.  changes.8.




Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

From 1954-57 I was a young officer in the U.S. Navy. I loved the Navy and learned a lot that has served me well throughout my life. Even today I experience visceral awe at the sight of a naval ship—a somewhat sacred icon for me. But I learned something else in the Navy: total faith in the Chain-of-Command, from our President and admirals, right down to me, in all matters of national defense policy. That faith was shattered when, beginning around 1968- 1969 I gradually learned (from journalists and some academics), that Presidents and generals lie (in this case about the Vietnam War). I changed my mind about which moral authorities to trust, and changed my political perspective for the rest of my life. More on this experience later. Let’s get on with how IPPA may help with changing your mind.

First, let us get the history out of the way. What is this “mind”? In the West, until the late 1960s, even in psychological circles, the mind was usually divided into three parts: knowing, feeling, and acting (including motives). To change your mind meant reasoning something through and reaching a different conclusion from your previous one. In 1968 the standard Handbook in Social Psychology1 said, “The question arises of how closely the cognitive, affective, and conative components are related. If all three give approximately the same results, one should perhaps apply Ocam’s razor to reduce conceptual baggage.” [p. 56] The use of MRI and other technology in later decades showed that the aspects of the brain where the activities of these components take place are indeed interconnected. Where there is knowing, there is usually emotion, something the early Chinese Confucian texts also affirmed. So changing the mind involves a lot of emotional activity, which influences the knowing or cognitive parts of the brain. This is especially true when it comes to thinking or judging moral or political matters.

In recent years, the terminology has evolved. Following Daniel Kahneman,2  some people now divide the mind into effortless intuitions (including gut emotional responses), and effortful reasoning. In humans, the pupils of the eyes dilate when people exert mental effort. It takes effort to keep in one’s memory a couple of different ideas needing action. Where there are beliefs and considered choices, there is effort. In contrast, our effortless gut reactions owe much to their evolution in emergencies, as ways of quick survival for humans. They are without effort, not under voluntary control.

Jonathan Haidt goes a step further in The Righteous Mind (Pantheon: 2012). He tries to demonstrate that people cannot change their minds, or “moral foundations,” where those terms refer to effortless moral intuitions. It refers to them, because he says that those intuitions rule reason. Beliefs are simply post-hoc justifications or positions to which the gut intuitions have already led us. So now, the content of “mind” is primarily the ruling sentiments/social emotions/ intuitions, and secondarily, cognition. According to Haidt, one could divide people into two political stances based on the relative strength of certain intuitions: Liberals emote positively about Care, Liberty, and Fairness. Conservatives react primarily about Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity. To repeat, most people cannot change their minds in their moral and political judgments, and their reasoning obeys these intuitions.

Is Haidt right? He has plenty of evidence that it is very difficult to use reasoning to try to change the specific moral intuitions that are dominant in anyone. So, I do not think IPPA’s target should be the very conservative right wing. The “change” we can hope for will not come by that group turning into progressives. The target should be the inactive liberals, and IPPA’s strategies should seek to persuade and push its target audience to decide to do something concrete—like vote, talk to neighbors about the issues, write letters, and donate time or money.  We should select tools for persuasion that appeal to emotionally laden values, including the the ones not cited by Haidt, that I identify below.:. Along with my experience at town meetings in the early 2000’s, Jonathan Haidt has led me to be pretty sure that this approach would be most effective.

Let us consider Haidt’s list of moral intuitions: Care/harm, Fairness as proportionality/cheating, Liberty/oppression, Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/ subversion, Sanctity/degradation:

In contrast to his list, I believe there are intuitions shared by many people on both the left and right that he does not even mention. Their presence is important because they may open the door to modifying the sense of disunity between the political left and some who are passive, or even on the moderate right. I was shocked to find that those intuitions that pop first into my mind when I judge something as right or wrong were not also in a prominent place in Haidt’s list. He gives a descriptive account of values/virtues that he and others discovered through experiments. I do not say that his list is inaccurate, just that it is odd not to mention any of the four following intuitions. (more…)


Thursday, May 31st, 2012

There have been repeated public assertions by Mitt Romney in the past few months and by his campaign recently, that successful experience in leading a private equity firm is a very good indicator of ability to create jobs once elected as President. That this is a misleading conclusion has been pointed out of late. A recent article in the NY Times by Ashley Parker states “the driving force of private equity is to create profits for investors, and while job creation may be a happy byproduct of corporate turnarounds, it is never the stated goal, and jobs cuts are [also]very often a consequence”.1 In a recent oped piece, Steven Rattner claimed that President Obama set the right tone on this argument and ongoing very public discussion in his statement on 5/21/12. Rattner pointed out Mr. Obama emphasized that he wasn’t attacking private equity, but was questioning Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital credentials to be job-creator-in-chief. Mr. Rattner further stated that, in his opinion, “adding jobs was never Mitt Romney’s private sector agenda, and it’s appropriate to question his ability to do so”2

IPPA feels that managerial skills, such as running a private equity company, may not be the most important qualification to be a successful president. Just as important and perhaps more so would be the humaneness, experience and wisdom required to understand the sacrifices and needs as well and the policies that will be necessary to support all segments of our population; the underprivileged and the middle class as well as the most financially successful among us.

1. Parker, Ashley, Both Campaigns Seize on Romney’s Years at Bain. NY Times 5/25/12
2. Rattner, Steven, Tall Tales About Private Equity. oped NYTimes, 5/22/12