Saturday, September 24, 2016

This Racist is Right (Wing)

You have perhaps heard the remarks made by North Carolina Congressman Robert Pittenger. While being interviewed for BBC Newsnight, the U.S. Representative for the people of Charlotte explained the city's recent riots like this:
The grievance in their minds — the animus, the anger — they hate white people, because white people are successful and they’re not. I mean, yes, it is, it is a welfare state. We have spent trillions of dollars on welfare, and we’ve put people in bondage, so they can’t be all that they’re capable of being. And, you know, America was - is - a country of opportunity and freedom and liberty. It didn't become that way because of a great government who provided everything for everyone; no, the destiny of America, the freedom to come to this country where they're still coming to our shores is because they can take their work ethic, and their hard effort, and put up their capital and their risk and build out their lives.
Congressman Pittinger makes a habit of saying asinine things

It would be hard to find a paragraph that so clearly illustrates the values of the free market conservative mind, which George Lakoff describes in Don't Think of an Elephant!
[There is a] connection between the strict father worldview and free market capitalism. The link is the morality of self-interest, which is the conservative version of Adam Smith's view of capitalism....[my emphasis]
... [I]f everyone pursues her own self-interest, then by the invisible hand, by nature, the self-interest of all will be maximized.
... A good person [this viewpoint holds] – a moral person – is someone who is disciplined enough to be obedient to legitimate authority, to learn what is right, to do what is right and not do what is wrong, and to pursue her self-interest to prosper and become self-reliant.
... When the good children are mature, they either have learned discipline and can prosper, or have failed to learn it. From this point on the strict father is not to meddle in their lives.
This translates politically into no government meddling.
From Congressman Pittinger's pespective, the inequality of "success" among the races is attributable to government meddling in the form of welfare. It is implicit in his statement that he believes black people are on welfare, and white people are not. Welfare has put black people "in bondage" because it has destroyed their work ethic. As a result, white people are successful, and black people are not.

So their anger is not about another black person being shot by a policeman. It is about hating white people for being (financially) successful. Great analysis, Congressman.

Okay, I promise this is the last post about Don't Think of an Elephant!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Reframing "Concealed Carry"

[Edited Friday, September 23]

A few months ago, we talked about the importance of how political ideas are "framed" when we talk about them. In his book, Don't Think of an Elephant!, George Lakoff, a cognitive scientist and political thinker at UC Berkeley, says this about "frames":
Frames are mental structures that shape the way we see the world. As a result, they shape the goals we see, the plans we make, the way we act, and what counts as a good or bad outcome of our actions. In politics our frames shape our social policies and the institutions we form to carry out policies. To change our frames is to change all of this. Reframing is social change.
But reframing is not easy. As an illustration, Virginia Ted (who repeats himself) provided a quote from Will Storr's book, The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science:
By the time you have reached adulthood, your brain has decided how the world works—how a table looks and feels, how liquids and authority figures behave, how scary rats are. It has made countless billions of little insights and decisions. It has made its mind up. From then on, its treatment of any new information that runs counter to those views can sometimes be brutal. Your brain is surprisingly reluctant to change its mind. Rather than going through the difficulties involved in rearranging itself to reflect the truth, it often prefers to fool you. So it distorts. It forgets. It projects. It lies.
All of which is true. But it is also true that the brain can change its mind. As evidence of this I offer the history of attitudes about homosexuality and same-sex marriage. I could dig up the statistics about it, but I'm sure there's no need. We all know there's been a massive change in the last three decades. Straight people thought they knew what homosexuals were. When millions of gay men and lesbians showed incredible courage and "outed" themselves, there was new information. "So-and-so says he is gay. I have always held so-and-so in great esteem, and still do. My understanding of what it means to be gay is now different." In Lakoff's terms, I have reframed my understanding of homosexuality. And "reframing is social change."

Politically, you can try to change people's frames, but you often don't have to. You just need to choose the right language, so that what you are describing fits their frame. Lakoff gives this example:
Think of the framing for relief. For there to be relief, there must be an affliction, an afflicted party, and a reliever who removes the affliction and is therefore a hero. And if people try to stop the hero, those people are villains for trying to prevent relief.
When the word tax is added to relief, the result is a metaphor: Taxation is an affliction. And the person who takes it away is a hero, and anyone who tries to stop him is a bad guy. This is a frame. ...The language that evokes the frame comes out of the White House, and it goes into press releases, goes to every radio station, every TV station, every newspaper. And soon the New York Times is using tax relief. And it is not only on Fox; it is on CNN, it is on NBC, it is on every station because it is "the president's tax-relief plan." And soon Democrats are using tax relief – and shooting themselves in the foot.
It is remarkable. We have seen Democrats adopting the conservative view of taxation as an affliction when they have offered "tax relief for the middle class."
They were accepting the conservative frame. The conservatives had set a trap: The words draw you into their worldview.
And they've done it again and again. The "inheritance tax", which most people didn't think about, became "death tax"; a tax on death is ridiculous, so the inheritance tax now becomes ridiculous. Counseling for people facing the end of their life became "death panels." And so on.

This all came to mind this morning while reading Gail Collins' column in the NY Times about the big role gun control issues are playing in the Missouri Senatorial campaign. It seemed like the words used in the debate had been chosen by the NRA:

How does entering a grade school with a loaded gun tucked in your pants become "concealed carry"?

How does walking around in the local hardware store brandishing a loaded automatic rifle become "open carry"?

Bevis and friend at Home Depot

Should we allow the debate to be framed like this?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

More Reasons not to Like Gary Johnson

Kevin Drum (yes, again!) lists reasons not to vote for Gary Johnson:
  • He supports TPP.
  • He supports fracking.
  • He opposes any federal policies that would make college more affordable or reduce student debt. In fact, he wants to abolish student loans entirely.
  • He thinks Citizens United is great.
  • He doesn't want to raise the minimum wage. At all.
  • He favors a balanced-budget amendment and has previously suggested that he would slash federal spending 43 percent in order to balance the budget. This would require massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and social welfare programs of all kinds.
  • He opposes net neutrality.
  • He wants to increase the Social Security retirement age to 75 and he's open to privatization.
  • He opposes any kind of national health care and wants to repeal Obamacare.
  • He opposes practically all forms of gun control.
  • He opposes any kind of paid maternity or medical leave.
  • He supported the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • He opposes any government action to address climate change.
  • He wants to cut the corporate tax rate to zero.
  • He appears to believe that we should reduce financial regulation. All we need to do is allow big banks to fail and everything will be OK.
  • He wants to remove the Fed's mandate to maximize employment and has spoken favorably of returning to the gold standard.
  • He wants to block-grant Medicare and turn it over to the states.
  • He wants to repeal the 16th Amendment and eliminate the income tax, the payroll tax, and the estate tax. He would replace it with a 28 percent FairTax that exempts the poor. This is equivalent to a 39 percent sales tax, and it would almost certainly represent a large tax cut for the rich.
But 26 percent of young voters support him. The Reagan myth that smaller government = better government lives on. And it's going to kill us.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What Short Memories We Have

Via Kevin Drum, Kevin Lamarque reminds us that "The George W. Bush White House 'Lost' 22 Million Emails."
The money paragraphs:
... Between 2003 and 2009, the Bush White House “lost” 22 million emails. This correspondence included millions of emails written during the darkest period in America’s recent history, when the Bush administration was ginning up support for what turned out to be a disastrous war in Iraq with false claims that the country possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and, later, when it was firing U.S. attorneys for political reasons.
Like Clinton, the Bush White House used a private email server—its was owned by the Republican National Committee. And the Bush administration failed to store its emails, as required by law, and then refused to comply with a congressional subpoena seeking some of those emails....
... According to the Boston social media analytics firm Crimson Hexagon, which ran a study for Newsweek, there have been 560,397 articles mentioning Clinton’s emails between March 2015 and September 1, 2016.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Colin Kaepernick

For several days I've been mulling through thoughts about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the National Anthem, with the aim of putting something here.

As life has pointed out to me on many occasions, sometimes procrastination is the best policy. In this case, unknown to me, my eldest brother was composing the perfect response, and he has agreed to let me share it here:
Dear Mr. Kaepernick,
I happened to be watching the 49ers on the first day you became quarterback. I was amazed that you performed so well on your first appearance. When you weren't throwing the ball and connecting with your receiver, you were running it and outdistancing the competition.
Therefore this recent brouhaha about you not standing for the national anthem was a great disappointment. You see I am a gay person and spent eight years in the Navy. I was always concerned that someday I would be outed. I even had a gay sailor in my division whom I tried to protect. Unfortunately he was as we say "a screaming queen." It was a difficult job keeping him from being dishonorably discharged (and I include in that the general discharge that was in vogue when I was on active duty). Unfortunately he attempted suicide and then there was no protecting him. One day he was aboard the ship and the next day he was gone.
I also spent a year in country in Vietnam while in the Navy. I met three other gays while serving there. Again all of us were in fear of being outed. We all felt  kindred with Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, an Air Force Sergeant whose epitaph reads "When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one." After Vietnam I worked for the Navy as a civilian and again had to keep my sexual orientation a secret. I was always hopeful whenever something came along that appeared to allow me more freedom, such as "Don't ask don't tell" but was always suspicious that someone was lying. That's the way things were.
Now I am retired and I cannot believe the changes that have been made. After more than 200 years (Yes, you could be put in stocks in early America for being gay) we are now free to even marry. All the members of my generation wanted, was not to be kicked out of the service, military or civilian. We wanted to serve our country.
The point of all this is, is that in all that time I never once refused to stand for the national anthem. This was my country warts and all. But we do try and sometimes we even win! I do wish you had picked another way of expressing your understandable anger at the way things have been going recently. It is of course your right. But things do change. I am now 80 years old can attest to that. Please don't lose faith in our country, like I said we do try.
 I have nothing to add to that.