Trump Appeals to Black Voters?

I am asking for the vote of every African-American citizen struggling in our country today who wants a different future. The Democratic Party has failed and betrayed the African-American community. Democratic crime policies, education policies, and economic policies have produced only more crime, more broken homes, and more poverty.”

Despite the Republican’s lowest possible ratings with the minority communities in the last presidential election, the Donald made this pitch in virtually all-white West Bend, Wisconsin, to a virtually all-white audience.

Blacks know Jim Crow when they see him; so do Hispanics and Muslims. The new voting restrictions sweeping Republican controlled-states are designed to restrict access to the ballot box for non-white voters. That’s why the courts ruled against the restrictions, so far.

Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims, his proposed policy of “extreme vetting” for immigrants and his comments about Mexicans are clear indicators of his and Republican stalwarts’ views on minorities.

Republican attitudes towards President Obama are also a bellwether of conservatives’ cynical approach to the minority voter. It is Republicans, and especially Trump, who pushed the birther myth and the myth that Obama is a Muslim.

Don’t you suppose Black Americans notice which party is disrespectful of the President during State of the Union speeches? Don’t you suppose Blacks also notice when Republicans make obnoxious remarks about Mrs. Obama’s looks and his children?

You may ask for the Black vote, Mr. Trump, but standing in front of a lily white audience suggests you aren’t serious and shouldn’t be taken seriously until the Republican Party can find a way to engage minority communities in thoughtful and non-condescending ways.

It is particularly disingenuous to complain about the Democratic Party betraying the Black community because it is the Republican Party which has controlled the Congress and many state governments for almost the last two decades and done nothing.

Thom Faircloth

The Long Con of Don, or how the grifters took over

While much has been made of Trumps unending stream of tone deaf remarks and staff makeovers, and stories like his dad’s arrest at a clan rally Events that will be background noise in what has been the most chaotic campaign in living memory.

What all of this “controversy” so in-artfully stirred to a full boil by a complacent media has managed  to miss is how little traditional political funding sources such as the RNC are actually contributing to Trump’s campaign. And how those negative tailwinds have greatly reduced the RNC’s overall fund raising efforts , with this past July being their worst month in the past 4 presidential election cycles

According to his campaigns financial disclosures,  Trump personally invested — more than $43 million of his own money as he began his push to Make America Great Again. But shortly after announcing his presidential bid, Trump started accepting contributions, and those dollars began adding up. And by the beginning of May, his campaign had received about $14 million.

By the end of May, his campaign teamed with the Republican National Committee and 11 state-level Republican Party committees to form Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee to collect large contributions from wealthy donors and spread the money among its member committees.

Making his previous claims that he’d was prepared to spend $600 million of his own money, along with claims during one of March Republican debates that “these Super PACs are a disaster by the way, folks, very corrupt. It’s going to lead to a lot of disasters … There is total control of the candidates, and I know the system is broken,” seem like the rankest hypocrisy.

But even as his campaign continues to take money from the RNC and other super PAC’s – raising $51 million in June, and another $80 million in July  the RNC’s fund raising continues to dwindle. And as of this late date  there is no indication that Trumps campaign has any real ground game, or appears to be spending any serious money on advertising.

And if it weren’t for the efforts of long time party stalwarts like; the NRA , and the despite all of the US Chamber of Commerce “lady doth protest too much” attacks  over his trade polices it is debatable if there would be any ads for Trump.

With one unattributed source saying that “Trump may play a billionaire on reality television, but he is a deadbeat [house guest] eating all of the RNC’s food while crashing on their couch.” So if he’s got all this money, and he’s not spending it on ads, and he’s not spending it on building a field campaign, then what is he doing with it?

Perhaps he never had any intention of spending those campaign donations on ads—or anything else, and he’s conducting the greatest political con of all time; after if your supporters willingly give you their money, you don’t have to give it back.

And those suspicions seem warranted. His campaigns FEC filings show that Trump the Presidential candidate has already been a windfall for Trump the rentier, so far to the tune of $6 million. And  a review of Federal Election Commission filings through the end of May, shows that Trump’s campaign plunged at least $6.2 million back into Trump corporate products and services, roughly 10% of his total campaign expenditures.

Even $4.7 million the campaign spent on hats and T-shirts has ties to Trump, since Ace Specialties, is owned by a board member of his sons Eric’s charitable foundation. Another indication that his entire campaign is going to be run like his now discredited Trump University, filled with lots of sturm und drang,  but ultimately yielding no tangible results.

Just take a look at how his campaign has been spending their money.

Campaign Spending

And almost as soon as he started accepting donor money, speculation that Trump was using this campaign cash to enrich himself started to emerge, especially after increasing the “rent” that his campaign headquarters was paying Trump Towers by 500%.

Meanwhile from all appearances mega donors, such as the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson along with their dark $ surrogates are not funding the Trump campaign nor contributing to the RNC and are redirecting their financial support  towards the down stream races, particularly at the state level .

Where Republican control of the state houses will become crucial as they seek to tilt the 2020 realignment of all state and Congressional districts even further in their favor.

That’s not to say that the Koch’s aren’t helping Donald Trump.  While they may not wish to get any of his dirt—such as the calls to violence, or the Party’s racism and misogyny — on their manicured hands, they still need to turn out enough voters to maintain control of both branches of Congress and state legislative bodies.

Since there’s no way to turn out those voters without also helping the grifter from Queens, it has to stick in their craws to know that despite doing everything possible to ensure that Trump is reduced to playing  the tail wagging their dog, he’s managed to do it on their dime and apparently without a flea on him.

But all distractions aside, what most people aren’t aware of is how much operational control the Koch’s exercise over the Republican party.

Today, if you’re a Republican politician in their orbit, you’re completely dependent on their ground game of astroturfed organizations, like; Americans for Prosperity — and the Libre Initiative — or 60 Plus to get your supporters to the polls.

And it’s a story that starts near the end of 2012 when the Koch’s took over a wide ranging consortium of fundraising entities; super PAC’s, 501 C-3’s and C-4’s and other assorted dark money entities, becoming in the process the 3rd largest political donor in the country.

Along with how going into the 2014 elections, the Koch’s brought out GOP Data Trust, the company which owned the Republican’s database and merged it with their database company , Themis (now i360)  run by Koch Brothers’ Freedom Partners and serving as repository for all of the Koch’s  — and now all of the Republican Party’s political data.

In order to get around any appearances of “influence buying” they simply gave the Republican Party full access to their database — embedding their Kochtopus tentacles even deeper.

 

Koch 2

The Koch’s operational control of the Republican Party’s national database, along with dark money donations of at least $400 million during the 2014 mid term elections were major reasons why the Republicans retook the Senate, helping to make a gridlocked Congress even more so.

And they are upping their game considerably during the 2016 election, having announced plans to spend $900 million making them by far the biggest political donor in the country.

Thanks in no small measure to the Supreme Courts 2010 Citizens United decision, they were able to leverage their immense wealth into becoming the nation’s largest political financier — I mean party in less than 5 years.

And they did by by a process which Matt Taibbi’s  described in his book Griftopia, where “all of us are being bled dry by a tiny oligarchy of extremely clever criminals and their castrato henchmen in government.”  And it is a  “long con that is breaking America.”

One detailed in Jane Mayer’s recent book Dark Money  documenting how these mega-grifters have used the tentacles of their Kochtopus to reach deep into nearly every aspect of public life in this country.

Meanwhile, these grifters will be doing everything in their power to hide those inconvenient facts amongst all the background noise of this year’s elections. Starting with the sound of Don’s long con.

Jon Taylor

Dave Brat must go too

Voters in November must make Dave Brat’s first two years in Congress his last two years in Congress.

As a tea party member of the House Freedom Caucus, he has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is nothing but an obstructionist who has accomplished virtually nothing in his first term.

Even Bearing Drift: Virginia’s Conservative Voice, has dubbed him “Do-Nothing Dave Brat,” and described him as Virginia’s most useless congressman—and an empty suit.

Two years ago, 7th District Republican voters, and many Democratic voters, bought a pig in a poke when they sent Eric Cantor packing in the Republican primary. Most everyone agreed that Cantor ignored his constituents to further his own lofty agenda. How could Dave Brat be worse?

The bright side is that he is at the bottom of the barrel clout-wise and his colleagues pretty much ignore him. The dark side is that Culpeper has virtually nobody representing its interests in the House of Representatives.

Are there lessons to be learned?

In a recent surprise development, two-term Tim Huelskamp, another Freedom Caucus Republican lost his primary to a political newcomer last month because voters in his Kansas district decided that his removal from the House Agriculture Committee in late 2012, following clashes with House Republican leaders, opened him up to criticism that he was unable to promote his constituents’ farming interests in Washington.

Could other members of the Freedom Caucus, such as our own Dave Brat, be running into trouble? What has he accomplished for his constituents—the citizens of the 7th District, including here in Culpeper County—during the past two years?

He has only sponsored one bill that has been signed into law—renaming an arboretum at the Veterans Administration hospital in Richmond. The other 20 bills he has sponsored are still languishing in committee—going nowhere.

He has “co-sponsored” 225 other House bills, and only five of them have been signed into law. It’s important to know that you don’t have to actually do anything to co-sponsor a bill, you just sign on. He talks a great story on his Web page and on his Facebook page about all the issues that are important to him, but his legislative accomplishments in those areas are exactly zero.

He is all talk, and no walk. Don’t just take it from me, do your own fact-checking—the nonpartisan resources for finding the truth are immense.

Brat’s sharp criticism of Speaker John Boehner, his membership in the minuscule Freedom Caucus, and his greater interest in ideology and theory than the practical work of serving the public, should put him on the same career path as Huelskamp. Brat has continued to vote against Speaker Paul Ryan—the last presidential election’s vice presidential candidate—and against bills offered by his Republican colleagues.

The one difference between Huelskamp and Brat is that Huelskamp didn’t support Trump and spoke critically of Trump’s language and lack of conservative credentials.

Brat on the other hand endorses and supports Trump. His Facebook page praises Trump effusively. One post begins “The Brat Pack wants to thank DONALD TRUMP for stopping in Richmond Friday to offer his support of Dave’s great work in Congress!” It goes on to associate Brat with Trump’s declared positions on a number of topics.

Not unexpectedly, another Brat Facebook post speaks darkly about the resettlement of one Syrian family in one county in Virginia. Because he has not educated himself on the issue, he seems unaware that local churches, not the Congress, place refugees in communities. He does get across the idea that this family should be feared. Perhaps following Great Leader Trump, Brat will build a wall around this Virginia county.

Like Trump, there is little Brat likes about America. The elites are corrupt; we have lost our freedoms. Some of the biggest corporations use regulations to keep the little guy from entering the market. Brat has spoken about why he feels Donald Trump will restore American principles and why he (Brat) believes the Right owns the tradition of Christian love.

Recently, he defended Donald Trump’s economic policies and criticized claims that Trump’s proposals would overwhelmingly benefit billionaires and undermine American values. Since the recently announced Trump economic plan significantly reduces taxes for the wealthiest, how can he say billionaires don’t substantially benefit?

It will be interesting to see how closely Brat continues to mimic Trump. Will he transform himself into the racist, bigoted, misogynistic, xenophobic, philandering, disingenuous and dishonest hater that Trump is? Trump is making noises about not participating in the traditional presidential debates and claiming that the election is already rigged. Despite his praise of democracy, perhaps Brat will follow suit and refuse to debate his opponent, Richmond small businessperson and lawyer, Eileen Bedell.

As she has eloquently stated, “Virginia’s 7th is represented by one of the most outspoken and ineffective members of the Freedom Caucus. Known in Washington asMr. No,” Brat attacks his own party’s leader, Speaker Ryan, while continuing to show support for Donald Trump despite the presidential candidate’s shortcomings. It is one thing to call oneself “anti-establishment”, it is another to be so far “outside” you are not even in the game. The Freedom Caucus has proven again and again, they neither represent Democrats, nor Republicans. Quite simply, the Freedom Caucus represents only the gridlock.

Want to break the gridlock in Washington? Vote out Dave Brat and all the other naysayers in the laughably named Freedom Caucus. I urge citizens to vote for Eileen Bedell and take back our Congress.

Mike McClary

Editors Note: This article originally appeared here and is reprinted with the author’s permission.

 

Solar Energy and change in Virginia

There is a quiet, but significant, revolution occurring in our energy sector, driven by dramatic declines in the cost of solar energy and exponential improvements in the technology that undergirds this section of the economy. For Virginians, the question is whether we have the policies in place to allow this sector to grow, creating economic opportunity and jobs for our citizens, producing revenue for our communities and the Commonwealth, and generating energy savings for businesses and consumers, all the while helping reduce the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere.

Solar Economy

There are now more than 208,000 solar energy employees in the United States, in jobs ranging from design to sales to installation. In fact, the solar industry has added 115,000 new jobs since 2010, with 35,000 of those in the last year alone. By contrast, oil and gas firms slashed nearly 17,000 extraction jobs in 2015. Today the solar industry workforce is larger than that of the entire coal extraction industry. Wages in the solar industry are higher than the U.S. median wage, ranging from $18 per hour to nearly $30 per hour. And the cost of solar is dropping fast. From 2009 to 2014, the average cost of solar panels dropped by 73 percent. In the first half of 2015, consumers could build rooftop solar at a cost of $3.79 per watt and were not projected to receive a return on their investment for over ten years. In Charlottesville today, residential systems can be built for $2.70 per watt and the expected time for a return on the investment has been lowered to about 7.5 years.  In other places, costs are now close to $2.50 per watt. It took forty years for the United States to hit the 1 millionth solar installation mark. The next million installations will occur in the next two years; we call that exponential growth. And while we typically think of these as rooftop residential systems, perhaps even more significant growth has occurred in the so-called “utility scale” systems installed by the Walmarts, Ikeas, and Amazons of the world, where costs are falling even faster; there were none of these as recently as 2007.

While solar is expanding in Virginia, it has been barely noticeable compared to other states. As of the end of 2015, we had about 22 megawatts of solar generation (1 megawatt can power between 150-180 homes) in our portfolio; by contrast, North Carolina already had over 2,000 megawatts of solar in its portfolio, and many independent studies place Virginia low in ranking of states for solar market penetration. There are a number of reasons for this, but one lies in the policy arena, where Virginia has lagged far behind its competitors.

Some Change in Virginia

The pace of Virginia change has been slow, but it is occurring nonetheless, and could be accelerated with some minor changes in policy. In 2015, we were able to pass a law stating that 500 megawatts of solar energy was “in the public interest,” a signal to a sometimes reluctant State Corporation Commission (SCC) that it should approve some solar projects, even if they might cause a very small increase in utility rates for consumers (the building of all new power plants, regardless of energy source, causes an increase in rates to enable a utility to recover its capital costs). Dominion Power, as part of its pledge to build 400 megawatts of solar by 2020, won SCC approval for three solar farms, one of which will be built in partnership with a company headquartered in Charlottesville, Coronal Development.  These three projects will produce 56 megawatts of power and support 800 construction jobs. In August 2016, Dominion was granted approval for a $35 million project in Buckingham County that will generate 19.8 megawatts, enough to provide electricity to 3,500 homes, and the state recently announced an agreement whereby Dominion Power would build and own a 21 megawatt facility – enough to power 4,400 homes – at Naval Air Station Oceana in exchange for the Commonwealth purchasing the generated power. The Governor has pledged that state buildings will derive 8 percent of their electricity from solar by 2019. Electric cooperatives are also getting into the act; the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative is working with Coronal on two 5 megawatt facilities expected to service 1,200 homes, and Old Dominion and A&N Electric Cooperatives just announced a partnership with Hecate Energy, LLC, to build a 20 megawatt solar farm in Northhampton County designed to provide power to 3,000 homes.  Locally, Secure Futures, a Harrisonburg firm, is building a 1 megawatt capacity system at Albemarle High School, a system designed to meet 14 percent of the school’s electricity needs. These recent developments, while productive, are just scratching the surface of solar possibilities.


Policy Initiatives for Virginia

In Virginia, we lag behind for a number of reasons. We have no mandatory Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS), a requirement that has spurred investment in renewables in other states. While we provide huge tax credits to coal companies who are failing to increase jobs, we have no solar tax credit – none. We impose artificially low limits on “net metering” arrangements by which residential consumers can sell their excess energy to the utilities. We even have prohibitions about how much energy individual solar power generators can put onto the grid at any one time.

To accelerate change in this market, we should consider the following changes in Virginia policy:

Increase the size of the caps on net metering systems.

  1. Protect the rights of individuals and groups generating solar energy to be fairly compensated and allow them the flexibility to enter into Power Purchase Agreements with third party operators and consumers of solar power.
  2. Pass a state solar credit.
  3. Modify the 2015 bill to quadruple the amount of solar that the SCC considers to be “in the public interest.”
  4. Allow for more distributive power and community net metering, including incentives for utilities to invest in these innovative approaches.
  5. Change the coal tax credit into grants designed to “solarize” portions of Southwest Virginia, creating jobs and saving energy in the process.

A Coming “Disruption” for Utilities?

Many argue that the utilities will oppose these changes because they threaten their bottom line.  There is some truth to this, as witnessed by the efforts nationally by these companies to roll back “net metering” policies that require them to purchase excess power from residential solar generators at retail price. But there is little doubt that change is coming, and regulators in several states have studies underway to determine how to grapple with this major transformation. Some analysts, including Silicon Valley entrepreneur Tony Seba in his book, Clean Disruption, go so far as to argue that the dramatic decline in solar energy prices threatens to throw utilities into a “death spiral” unless they embrace an entirely new business model. At present, this is difficult to see because the energy from the sun is now only usable during daylight hours. That could all change when technological advances permit large scale energy storage at reasonable cost. But for now, getting to a renewable energy future with the utilities is easier than without them; there is simply too much infrastructure and business acumen embedded in these companies upon which we must rely. Electrons, whether green or brown, must be transmitted and distributed. And, at present, our utilities are the only ones who can do this.

In the short run, then, policymakers face a choice. Will we take advantage of improving market conditions and accelerate changes to help our constituents and the environment? Or we will remain on the sideline, losing benefits that are now available while ignoring changes in the industry that may disrupt our utility companies and affect energy distribution in unpredictable ways? The solar market is changing and the revolution is coming; Virginians would benefit by us becoming more proactively engaged in the process.

David Toscano

Editors Note: this was reprinted with the authors permission.

Fox News Toxic Legacy and the rise of Authoritarianism

Recently, I received a YouTube link to a 2004 documentary called Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, which can be seen here. But before diving into watching this hour and a quarter plus video, you might want to get some sense of how the dynamics described in this movie have affected your local community and more importantly who represents you at the local, state and congressional level.

Over two years ago, I wrote a letter to our local paper, the Central Virginian which they titled, “Media blamed for creating fearful tribal mindset,” although FOX Derangement Syndrome might have been a more accurate title. The number of responses that this letter generated was something to behold.

Where local conservatives demonstrated their skill at inadvertently making others points for them, with comments like; “Fox reports the news as it happens”, and they are “the most fair, accurate, and balanced news organization in existence today’ along with claims that they are “the only news outlet that has not been co-opted by this government.”

With several going out of their way to let us know how proud they are “to be labeled as a conservative Christians”, and are “offended by the notion that they are on the wrong side of moral and social progress. I believe our country was founded on Christian Judeo values and hope it is not trampled by those who disagree! God bless the USA!,” along with “I thank God for Fox News.”

fox informs us

Given how often we see arguments like this in the CV and other regional papers, one has to ask why? Is it because they are utterly  convinced of their own infallibility, or are they suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect, completely oblivious to the inherent contradictions of their arguments?

Regardless of one’s personal beliefs, understanding how this cultural virus has affected the nation is the first step in making informed decisions. Nor should anyone believe everything they hear, or read no matter what the source.

But when it comes to FOX News, study after study have shown that their viewers simply accept whatever they hear on FOX as the gospel truth, particularly their older viewers. Making it far more likely that their motto of Fair and Balanced is closer to this:

Deceive and Believe

According to this article multiple studies have show that FOX viewers are not only the most misled — especially in areas of political controversy, and that over the past few decades, but that FOX has “brought about a hurricane-like intensification of factual error, misinformation and unsupportable but ideologically charged beliefs on the conservative side of the aisle.”

These studies it cites are derived from are public opinion surveys which asked about their beliefs on factual but contested issues, and also about their media habits. And they show that a significant percentage of FOX viewers were misinformed about the facts in a highly politicized way—and that their views of reality were being skewed in a right-wing direction. And that watching more FOX makes the chances of their viewers being misinformed even more likely.

The evidence is clear that Fox viewers are the most misinformed, but why?

To answer it, we’ll start by looking at the pioneering work by Stanford psychologist, Leon Festinger, who in his classic 1957 book, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, built around his study of a doomsday cult  about why human beings contort the evidence to fit their beliefs, rather than adjusting their beliefs to match the evidence.

That book predicted that those who are highly committed to a belief or view will actively go about seeking information that touches on that powerful conviction. And that once people have settled on a core set of beliefs, it shapes how they gather all other information. More specifically, people are likely to try to avoid encountering claims and information which challenge those beliefs, because these will create uncomfortable feeling of cognitive dissonance.

And that we are far more likely to seek information which affirms our beliefs. The technical term for this phenomenon is “selective exposure” which means that we selectively choose to be exposed to information which is congenial to our beliefs, thus avoiding any “inconvenient truths.”

If those theories about selective exposure are accurate, then the problem may not be just that FOX is actively misleading its viewers or even that conservative viewers are seeking FOX out— because they highly predisposed to being misinformed, and temperamentally inclined to becoming even more so.

They are also highly likely to supremely confident about their incorrect beliefs and in imparting them to others, utterly convinced of many falsehoods which dovetail with their beliefs, allowing that misinformation to become a self reinforcing feedback loop, where both FOX and its viewers contribute to making the problem worse.

According to University of Alabama psychologist William Hart, who with a team of researchers did a meta-analysis — a statistically rigorous overview of published studies on selective exposure — pooling together 67 relevant studies, he noted that “Selective exposure is the clearest way to look at how people create their own realities, based upon their views of the world.”.

Finding that people overall were nearly twice as likely to consume ideologically congenial information as to consume ideologically inconvenient information—and in certain circumstances, they were even more likely than that.

When are people most likely to seek out self-affirming information?

Hart found that they’re most vulnerable to selective exposure if they have defensive goals—such as being highly committed to preexisting views, and especially if those views are tied to a person’s core values. Another defensive motivation identified in Hart’s study was closed-mindedness, since the definition of being closed-minded, or dogmatic, is that you prefer to consume information that agrees with what you already believe.

Multiple studies have shown that political conservatives—e.g., FOX viewers–tend to have a higher need for closure. Including a group called right-wing authoritarians, who are becoming increasingly prevalent within the Republican Party.

The evidence on selective exposure, as well as the clear links between closed-mindedness and authoritarianism, are grounds for believing that this phenomenon should be more common and more powerful on the political right. And that they are far more likely to select themselves into belief-affirming information streams, like Fox News or right-wing talk radio or Right wing conspiracy sites like, Breitbart and the Drudge Report, all filled with opinions which unlike facts can never be dis-proven — or confirmed.

In another related study, psychologist Robert Altemeyer of the University of Manitoba has documented an above average amount of selective exposure in right wing authoritarians. Saying that authoritarians,  “maintain their beliefs against challenges by limiting their experiences, and surrounding themselves with sources of information that will tell them they are right.”

None of which is to suggest that FOX isn’t also guilty of actively misinforming viewers. It certainly is.

The litany of misleading Fox segments over the years is quite extensive — especially on global warming.  Just take a look at this internal FOX staff email which Media Matters disclosed about how FOX’s journalists should:

    . . . refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.

Boiling Frogs

And after watching the Outfoxed  documentary, which is now 12 years old, it should be clear that this ideologically slanted approach to journalism continues to be repeated on issue after issue. A Project on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) study conducted in 2009 was very telling, because it didn’t just show that FOX News viewers were more misinformed than viewers of other channels.

It also showed that just watching more Fox made believing in nine separate political misperceptions far more likely.

A unique effect, unlike any observed with the other news channels. With PIPA’s director, political psychologist Steven Kull saying, “with Fox, the more exposure you had, the more misinformation you had.”

This effect was even present in non-Republicans–another indication of FOX’s ability to influence people. With Kull explaining, “even if you’re a liberal Democrat, you are affected by the station.” If you watched FOX, you were more likely to believe those nine falsehoods.” And since other media outlets like CNN, MSNBC, and even NPR have copied FOX’s style of reporting, it’s likely that this dynamic has intensified.

The FOX  “effect” occurs both because the media churns out falsehoods which conservatives readily accept —and even convincing liberals on occasion — and while conservatives are overwhelmingly inclined to choose to watch FOX, it’s important to note that they’re also disinclined to watch anything else.

Since Fox keeps constantly repeating the idea that the rest of the media are “biased” against their brand of “fair and balanced” reporting, is it any surprise to see conservatives duly respond by saying other media aren’t worth watching—and that they are nothing but a pack of lies.

There is an even more telling study of “FOX-only” behavior among conservatives, from Sanford University’s Shanto Iyengar who did a classic left-right selective exposure study, giving members of different ideological groups the chance to choose stories from a news stream with a headline and a news source logo—FOX, CNN, NPR, and the BBC—but nothing else.

The experiment was manipulated so that the same headline and story were randomly attributed to different news sources. The result was that Democrats and liberals were definitely less inclined to choose FOX than other sources, but spread their interest across the other outlets when it came to news.

But Republicans and conservatives overwhelmingly chose FOX for hard news and even for soft news, and ignored other sources. With the author saying, “The probability that a Republican would select a CNN or NPR report was around 10%,” making FOX both the deceiver and the enabler simultaneously.

Whose existence creates the opportunity for conservatives to exercise their biases, by selecting from the FOX information stream, and imbibing FOX-style arguments and claims which fuel their biased reasoning about politics, science, and anything else.

And while the root of much of today’s political dysfunction appears to be rooted in differences in brain physiology and psychological outlook, with the penchant for selective exposure and closed-mindedness and authoritarianism — running much stronger in some than in others. It took the emergence of an organization like FOX before these tendencies could be fully activated — polarizing America not only over politics, but over reality itself.

Which brings us to the emergence of Donald Trump, who from all appearances has become the de-facto leader of what appears to be a white nationalist party, and who is currently being “advised” by the disgraced former CEO of FOX News, Rodger Ailes.

Ailes2

Who just replaced his former campaign manger, Paul Manafort amid charges that he orchestrated an illicit and likely illegal lobbying campaign, with Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway who has no experience running a campaign.

And who appointed Stephen Bannon the executive chairman of the right wing conspiracy web site Breitbart as his campaigns new CEO. Oblivious to the fact that Bannon has been described as the “Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement” and such stand up guy that he’s been called “the most dangerous political operative in America”.

When a former spokesperson for Breitbart, Kurt Bardella in an op-ed for The Hill wrote, What eventually caused me to terminate my relationship with Breitbart was Steve’s guidance of Breitbart to become the de facto propaganda machine for Donald Trump. […]This is one of those times where the best interests of the whole outweigh any partisan allegiances or any specific issue. It’s why I’ve made the personal choice to vote for Hillary Clinton in November. Donald Trump is dangerous for America.”

And when asked on FOX if these changes were a sign that the Trump campaign was now back on track, his reply was” one speech on message doesn’t make an entire campaign, and certainly doesn’t erase an entire year’s worth of work.”

With the exception of Rodger Ailes, Trumps latest inner circle has nobody with any significant campaign experience or ties to the Republican Party’s leadership. Making it clear that this campaign will be run by partisan hacks and in Trumps case, new and innovative ways to fleece the rubes .

Chumps for Trump

That Trump has succeeded in becoming the Republican Party’s nominee was in many ways the predictable end product of nearly 30 years of non-stop propaganda by FOX, and other corporate controlled media outlets.

So I suppose it’s a matter of perspective, whether Trump rise to the top of the Republican’s heap represents the pinnacle of his political success, or if he has managed to do what even FOX couldn’t — bury the Republican Party beneath their own hubris.

Dumps for Trump

To say that the widespread dissemination and acceptance of propaganda has done incalculable and perhaps even irreparable damage to our political system is an understatement.  But there may be an even more corrosive legacy of FOX’s brand of indoctrination lurking in the shadows.

There is growing body of evidence which shows that notions of what constitutes reality have shifted so far, that a significant portion of the population now accepts the supremacy of their beliefs over facts, and have become almost pathologically contemptuous of any new evidence, regardless of its source or validity.

Evidence

And we’re not talking about the usual garden variety “conspiracy theories,” such as aliens in Area 51, or who shot JFK.  We’re talking about fundamental distortions of reality as these graphics from a recent media analytic study below indicate.

Conspiracy1

Conspiracy 2

Over the course of this presidential election, and the elections between 2017 through 2020 we must choose between two radically different visions of what this nation is all about.

One hand; a fearful, tribal and deeply suspicious mindset little removed from the magical thinking of the Dark Ages. And on the other, those who still believe in rational choices.

Which side will ultimately prevail in this struggle will depend mostly on “whichever side is feed the most.”   And it remains to be seen if the American people have the courage to reject this authoritarian fantasy.

Or will they continue to be caught in a endless loop of propaganda becoming both the medium and the message — just like FOX News.

Jon Taylor

Why States Matter, Virginia is one election away from becoming North Carolina

Many Virginia citizens are actively engaged in the 2016 presidential race and Congressional races down-ticket from the Clinton/Trump contest. But as we focus intensely on the national races, we should not ignore the state gubernatorial and legislative races, including those which will occur in Virginia next year.

The conservative movement in this country recognized a long time ago what many of us who seek common-sense solutions to everyday problems in an atmosphere of civility and genuine political exchange have neglected at our peril, and that is that states matter!

The statistics clearly bear this out. According to the Pew Research Center, Republicans have been very successful in electing their candidates to state legislatures in the last decade. The GOP gained 721 state legislative seats in 2010 and has continued to build their margins in the succeeding years. In 2009, Republicans controlled both legislative chambers in 14 states; by 2015, they had 30. They now control 70 of 99 legislative chambers. The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) is committed to spending in excess of $100 million to expand their margins.

Our Southern Neighbor

Where Republicans have taken over, the results have been dramatic. Witness our close neighbor, North Carolina. In 2008, the state chose Obama for president, but by 2011, both the House and the Senate in the state had flipped to Republican control. With Republicans in control of redistricting, they drew new lines that further solidified their election victories, and began their “conservative revolution.” In August 2012, North Carolina banned the state from basing coastal policies on scientific predictions of sea level rise. A Republican governor was elected in 2012 and the state took a dramatic turn to the right.

In February 2013, North Carolina cut maximum weekly unemployment benefits by 40 percent, from $530 per week to $350 per week, and shortened the period of time when workers could receive the benefits, at a time when North Carolina’s unemployment levels were approaching 10 percent.

Under the guise of “tax reform,” the state imposed a greater tax burden on the middle class. It repealed “teacher tenure” for any teacher hired after July 2013, invested more taxpayer dollars in “private school vouchers,” and repealed many of the measures previous legislatures had passed to increase voter participation throughout the state.

In 2015, North Carolina reduced a fine on Duke Energy from $25 million to $7 million in the aftermath of 40,000 tons of toxic coal ash and 27 million gallons of wastewater being spilled into the Dan River from the company’s defunct coal plant. In 2015, the legislature abolished a wildly successful solar investment tax credit, which had generated substantial revenue for the state and created thousands of jobs. The legislature and Governor approved the termination of the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit, a program hailed by Ronald Reagan as the most effective anti-poverty program that we have in this country. Almost one million low-income North Carolinians were affected. The president of the University of North Carolina was ousted and replaced by a former Bush appointee, Margaret Spellings.

Then, in late March 2016, the conservative turn became national news when, in a Special Session that took less than 12 hours, the state passed a bill that not only prevented localities from enacting anti-LGBT discrimination measures, but made it more difficult for any person to enforce claims of discrimination in state courts. The publicity from its so-called “bathroom bill” has generated protests around the nation and has prompted many businesses to stop expansion plans in the state or consider relocating.

While our state elections are another 17 months away, the actions of our neighbor to the south show what can happen in the absence of the checks and balances of divided government. And we are not even talking about the next regular redistricting process, which will occur under the scrutiny, and potential veto, of the next governor. Clearly, a lot is at stake.

The “Virginia Way”

In Virginia, we celebrate the so-called “Virginia Way.” The Virginia Way implies a civil approach that embraces moderate changes focusing on core services of government and supporting a good business climate. For years, Virginia had “divided government;” Democrats and Republicans each controlled either the House, Senate, or Governorship.  In addition, there was a group of moderate Republican Senators who would stop some of the most socially regressive legislation passed by the Virginia House of Delegates from ever getting to the Governor’s desk. Unfortunately, most of those moderates are now gone from the Virginia Senate and all that stands between Virginia and North Carolina is a Governor who is willing to exercise his or her veto pen in the service of moderation. If you look at the vetoes in Virginia’s last General Assembly session, you can see this in full force. The Governor successfully vetoed efforts by the Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood, prevent the state from producing a state-initiated clean power plan, allow discrimination under the guise of religious freedom, continue inefficient and special tax benefits for coal companies and utilities, and place further restrictions on Virginians’ ability to register and vote.

Our ability to influence state races is dramatically affected by voter turnout. Although it is unlikely that voter participation in the presidential race will reach the historic levels of the 2008 Obama campaign, the percentage of registered voters who will make it to the polls this fall is likely to exceed 70 percent. Contrast that to the last Virginia gubernatorial race when only 43 percent of registered voters appeared at the polls, and state delegate races which often produce participation numbers even lower (under 30 percent in 2015).

Virginia’s Elections Matter

So as we rightfully focus on the Presidential election, we should not lose track that in Virginia we could be only one election away from our state adopting the politics of North Carolina and producing a new redistricting plan that will put the checks and balances of divided government at further risk for the next decade. The stakes could not be higher.

David Toscano

Editors Note: reprinted with authors permission

 

Why States Matter: Voting Rights and the Judiciary

Several weeks ago, in  a piece entitled “Why States Matter,” I argued that while we are rightly  focused on the Presidential election, we should not lose sight of what is happening in our states, where  the concerted efforts of conservatives around the country over the last decade have skewed the political composition of our state legislatures – with dramatic results.

As we focus on Congressional, Senate and Presidential contests, we must remember that the actions of state legislatures greatly impact their outcome. What we have seen over the last decade from conservative-dominated legislatures are new laws designed to make it harder to vote and to reduce turnout, especially in minority communities. These laws are justified by so-called voter fraud, which numerous independent studies have shown either to be non-existent or so small that it has no impact. State legislatures, including Virginia’s, continue to impose new requirements for voter identification. Prior to 2006, not a single state required a person to present photo ID in order to vote; by 2015, 34 states had such laws. Virginia enacted its current law in 2014. Many were enacted after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision that struck down certain portions of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder. This coincidence has not gone unnoticed.

Courts Take Action

A number of courts have recently ruled that these state actions are unconstitutional. Statutes similar, though not identical, to those in Virginia were just struck down in Wisconsin and Texas. A federal district court in North Dakota has now blocked implementation of that state’s 2013 voter ID law. In Wisconsin, the federal court wrote, “The Wisconsin experience demonstrates that a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement.” And last week, the U.S Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit struck down North Carolina’s voter suppression law, among the most draconian in the country, the court stating that the law’s provisions targeted African-Americans with “almost surgical precision.” This same court will hear the case against Virginia’s photo ID law on September 22, 2016.

Some courts are acting to correct the most insidious voter suppression laws. But in states where these laws  remain, they  will likely depress turnout, especially among minority voters. A new study by researchers at the University of California at San Diego suggests that Democratic turnout drops an estimated 8.8 percentage points in general elections in states with strict ID laws and Republican turnout drops 3.6 percentage points. In Virginia, the Department of Elections says 179,000 “active voters” have no DMV-issued photo ID. These numbers are so high that they are almost hard to believe. Nonetheless, it is clear that conservative legislatures are attempting to suppress the vote in order to keep power.

Some citizens will be encouraged by court decisions, saying that “the Courts and the Constitution will have our backs” by overturning these suppression efforts. But lawsuits cost money and take time, and despite these recent decisions, courts generally defer to legislatures; the battlegrounds remain, therefore, in the legislatures.

Gubernatorial overreach, or voter suppression?

In Virginia, the rallying cry has become “they are making it harder for people to vote – make sure you bring your ID to the polls.” But voting should be made easier, not harder. And when Virginia Democrats proposed to make it easier, for example, with measures that would allow early voting for persons over 65, same day registration, and no-excuse absentee voting, the answer from the Republican House of Delegates has been a resounding “No.” In Virginia, the only thing preventing more draconian voter suppression efforts from being enacted into law is a Governor’s veto, together with  enough Democrats in the legislature who will sustain it.

One way to view the recent dispute surrounding Governor McAuliffe’s efforts to restore voting rights to felons who have paid their debt to society is through a lens of voter suppression. We have heard a lot about “second chances” and “redemption,” but when the Governor attempted to accelerate the process for reviewing individual applications for rights restoration by hiring more staff, the House Republicans just  said “No,” and offered no alternative to help  streamline the individual application process. In fact, they have voted against all legislation that would do so. Consequently, to speed up restoration of these rights, the Governor acted to restore rights to all felons who met specific criteria. The Virginia Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision in Howell v. McAuliffe, the swing vote coming from the recent Republican appointee in the aftermath of Justice Jane Roush’s firing, overturned the Governor’s Executive Order, despite the plain language of Article V, Section 12 of our Virginia Constitution that states “The Governor shall have power…to remove political disabilities consequent upon conviction….”

State House to Courthouse

In Virginia, not only does the state legislature make the laws about who can vote, when they can vote, and how they can vote, but it appoints the judges who interpret these laws. And slowly but surely, our judiciary is being populated with conservative judges; the decision in Howell v. McAuliffe shows clearly how these appointments matter. This is yet another reason why we need to work to change the House of Delegates. Who knows how Justice Roush would have approached the felon restoration of rights issue, or whether her presence would have changed the vote. We do know, however, that rules about voting and the interpretation of laws by judges appointed by state legislatures again show “Why States Matter.”

David Toscano

Editors Note: reprinted with authors permission

Why Eileen Bedell should be your congresswoman

While there has been no shortage of evidence of how unfit Donald Trump would be as our President, or how abysmally ignorant of the issues his supporters are. Don’t take any satisfaction over his falling numbers, since many will support him to the bitter end.

Nor does making monumentally stupid remarks mean much, even as super PAC’s and mega donors and prominent Party members refuse to support him. Nor should anyone pay much attention to the hints of outright panic  about his negatives costing Republicans the Senate, and possibly control of the House and key state legislatures.

Because when push comes to shove, money talks and all else walks, particularly at the state level ; leading to speculation that Trump’s candidacy is nothing more than a carefully choreographed distraction. And while it’s been clear for over a decade that most voters regardless of their political affiliation intuitively understand that our two Party political system is fundamentally broken, it has not translated into any meaningful political momentum.

Just look at the wild voter swings in 2006, and 2008, where the American people decisively demonstrated their lack of confidence in the Republicans — about the war and particularly the economy, giving the Democrats control of the House for the first time in 22 years.

Only to turn around two years later and reject the Democrats in 2010, giving the House back to the Republicans.  Meanwhile, Republicans were hard at work in states they controlled to gerrymander themselves into permanent — at least for the next decade — conservative Congressional and State districts.

While their leadership may have been oblivious to the fact that the American people had soundly rejected their economic policies, they also understood that repackaging their rehashed policies as “new and improved” wouldn’t work anymore. So they went with a host of coded “social issues” to distract the American people from how actively they were obstructing the legislative process.

Hoping to ride a wave of voter discontent and racial dog whistles about that “man” in the White House. Using a cynical “policy” designed to retake the Senate while hiding in plain sight the fact that 111th and 112th Congresses were the “do-nothingest” ones in this nation’s history.

In the meantime, their control of all 3 branches in 31 states, including Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio allowed them to pass unimpeded a wide range of radical solutions — emergency managers, healthcare and reproductive restrictions, and draconian voting laws.

This election, we have two Presidential candidates who are arguably the most disliked in the modern era, while the level of obstructionism in Congress remains unprecedented, and it will continue for as long as we continue to re-elect ideological dead-enders like Dave Brat.

Two years ago, many held their noses and voted for him to get Eric Cantor out of office. Now they have another choice: to continue this dysfunctional status quo, or to end this cycle of irresponsible representation, and elect Eileen Bedell as your next Congresswoman.

Lewalta Haney

Editors Note: this is this first letter supporting Eileen’s campaign which the Louisa Democrats have submitted to our local paper the Central Virginian. In addition, we have sent a follow up letter which expands on some of the themes in this letter which may be found here.

Values Matter more than a Fact Free Philosophy

For those of you unfamiliar with Eileen Bedell  who is running for the 7th Congressional District seat, let me paraphrase from her web site.

Leadership in the 21st century requires both an eye on the problem at hand and how any solution will meet the larger goal of creating an even stronger nation. The many complex issues facing our country are inextricably intertwined with each other.”

“…we cannot discuss ways to strengthen Virginia and our nation’s economies without talking about new investment and job creation that would come from a much needed, aggressive response to the issues of climate change and the future of clean energy in this country.  Similarly, we cannot discuss jobs in these emerging fields without discussing a plan for educating and training our citizens to compete for the same.  Job creation which leads to discussion of wage equality and child care costs and education proposals which address concerns like student loan debt and college costs.”

Compare that to Dave Brat’s web page which is filled with factoids, not solutions. He’s so filled with solutions, that only one bill which he sponsored actually passed — HR 2693 — to rename an arboretum in Richmond.  Of the 225 pieces of legislation he co-sponsored, only 5 of them made it through a House controlled by his own party. Such an ineffective level of representation is almost enough to make one miss Eric Cantor.

The most critical difference between the two is how their values drive their thinking about ways to solve problems. For example, in an interview with Business Insider, Brat endorsed Donald Trump, saying his lack of specific policy proposals doesn’t bother him, saying “I don’t find it alarming because the same thing is true for every party throughout. Everyone uses code language for all their policies.

And thus far using “code” has allowed him to deflect attention away from his own lack of strategic thinking. Like how he wants to protect the public from gun violence.

With HR 3516, the disingenuous Social Security Beneficiary 2nd Amendment Rights Protection Act, where seniors who are no longer deemed competent enough to manage their own financial affairs, can still buy and sell guns.  Along with HR 3799, the Hearing Protection Act  which would refund any taxes paid on silencers.

Now compare those ideas with Eileen’s, “When it comes to the issue of guns, all Americans must agree on a number of things.  We must agree the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution protects an individual’s right to own a gun. Further, we must agree persons with a history of threatening behavior such as violent criminals, domestic abusers, stalkers, and the severely mentally ill should not be able to endanger the American people by having access to guns.”

Brat has co-sponsored so much bad legislation, there’s even a Facebook page called “Brat Facts. ” Compare those “facts” with Eileen Bedell’s proposals, and ask yourself, who would you rather have representing you?

Jon Taylor

.

Dr. Strangelove must go

Can Donald Trump possibly get any more disgusting? I was appalled and perplexed by Donald Trump’s latest outrage.

“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the 2nd Amendment. If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks,” Trump told a crowd Aug. 9 in Wilmington, North Carolina. “Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Suggesting “2nd Amendment remedies” goes far beyond what could normally be expected in a political campaign even as contentious as this one. Despite the efforts of his cowardly apologists, these remarks amount to nothing less than inciting violence against his opponent.

Considering the slaughter of innocents every day in this country by gun-toting crazy people, like Dylann Roof and John Hinckley, it is not hard to imagine some nut-job acting out on Trump’s insinuation and actually trying to kill Hillary Clinton.

This is exactly what happened to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated by an ultranationalist crank inspired by the Likud Party’s and Benjamin Netanyahu’s hate-filled rhetoric. Joking about assassination is a wake-up call to all who believe in the ballot box.

Up until now, most previous presidential campaigns, while at times raucous, have mostly been conducted in a civil manner — up until Trump announced his candidacy and subsequently won the Republican nomination.

His commentary has been off the cuff, deliberately insulting, demeaning and untruthful. Caught in some ghastly comment, he and his supporters, while reveling in its outrageousness, suggest it was only a joke. Well, responsible leaders, especially at the national level, don’t joke about serious matters — and certainly not about political assassination.

Even former conservative congressman Joe Scarborough, host of “Morning Joe,” wrote an Op-Ed in the Washington Post on August 10 that called for the GOP to “dump Trump.”

Scarborough cited, “The Muslim ban, the David Duke denial, the ‘Mexican’ judge flap, the draft dodger denigrating John McCain’s military service, the son of privilege attacking an immigrant Gold Star mother and the constant revisionism and lying about past political positions taken are but a few of the lowlights that have punctuated Donald Trump’s chaotic chase for the presidency.”

And this after Scarborough and his co-host, Mika Brzezinski, on MSNBC’s star three-hour morning program spent months promoting the Trump candidacy, providing him with countless hours of free media publicity.

Just this past Thursday, Trump exhorted his fans that ISIS was honoring President Barack Obama as the founder of ISIS. While some of Trump’s most fanatical fans may believe such nonsense, it is patently ridiculous.

More and more responsible Republicans are coming forth to denounce Trump’s litany of outrageous statements: among them are Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, Mark Kirk of Illinois; 10 Congressmen including Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, and Virginia’s own Scott Rigell, who is leaving the Virginia Beach Republican Party because of its support for Trump, along with scores of former Republican elected officials and former Republican administration officials.

On the contrary, our very own Congressman Dave Brat remains an enthusiastic supporter of Trump, once again demonstrating his ignorance of foreign policy and national security, as well as his very poor judgment.

Fifty prominent Republican national security and international relations experts of past Republican administrations have denounced Trump arguing that the possibility of Trump’s finger being near the nuclear button is a clear and present danger to the safety and security of not only our own country, but the rest of the world as well.

Every day, more and more people are coming to the conclusion that Donald Trump cannot be allowed to become the president of the United States. Don’t just take my word for it, you can find out for yourselves by taking a look at the ever-growing list published and updated frequently by nonpartisan newspaper,“ The Hill.”

Trump famously had no idea what makes up the “nuclear triad” (bombers, missiles and subs), doesn’t seem to have a clue about arms control treaties and is very vague on nuclear nonproliferation, while suggesting that Japan and South Korea pursue obtaining their own nuclear weapons.

Add to this his admiration for former KGB officer and current president of Russia Vladimir Putin, along with equally distasteful Kim Jong On, dictator of North Korea, and we are talking way beyond scary.

Trump has even hinted that he might use nuclear weapons against ISIS, and wouldn’t rule out their use in Europe. In an interview on the evening of August 10, Dan Rather noted that “History is watching and history will judge how America deals with this situation. The rhetoric IS the candidate. Is this or is this not an acceptable form of behavior for a presidential candidate? The answer is absolutely not. He has moved beyond offensiveness and moved to recklessness.”

On Nov. 12, 2015, the Republican candidate said: “This is the Trump theory on war. But I’m good at war. I’ve had a lot of wars of my own. I’m really good at war. I love war, in a certain way, but only when we win.” Really, people? Really?

Donald Trump’s behavior is unacceptable by someone vying for the highest office in the land. If the Republican Party does not have the guts to remove this man as their candidate, then all freedom-loving American patriots must do their duty to their country by decisively and unequivocally voting him down, along with all his Congressional supporters, in the November elections.

Donald Trump cannot be allowed to become the president of the United States.

Mike McClary

Editors Note: This article originally appeared here and is reprinted with the author’s permission.