Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Shaming Trump Supporters

The New York Times published a series of short essays after the election that sought to explain or complain. I thought this one made several good points. But is it also an example of what right wing pundits would call liberals' reflex reaction to blame ourselves?

It turns out that shaming the supporters of Donald J. Trump is not a good political strategy.
Though job loss and economic stagnation played a role in his victory, so did shame. As the principal investigator on a study of the middle class for the National Institute of Mental Health, I found that working people’s stress is often intensified by shame at their failure to “make it” in what they are taught is a meritocratic American economy.
The right has been very successful at persuading working people that they are vulnerable not because they themselves have failed, but because of the selfishness of some other villain (African-Americans, feminists, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, liberals, progressives; the list keeps growing).
Instead of challenging this ideology of shame, the left has buttressed it by blaming white people as a whole for slavery, genocide of the Native Americans and a host of other sins, as though whiteness itself was something about which people ought to be ashamed. The rage many white working-class people feel in response is rooted in the sense that once again, as has happened to them throughout their lives, they are being misunderstood.
So please understand what is happening here. Many Trump supporters very legitimately feel that it is they who have been facing an unfair reality. The upper 20 percent of income earners, many of them quite liberal and rightly committed to the defense of minorities and immigrants, also believe in the economic meritocracy and their own right to have so much more than those who are less fortunate. So while they may be progressive on issues of discrimination against the obvious victims of racism and sexism, they are blind to their own class privilege and to the hidden injuries of class that are internalized by much of the country as self-blame.
The right’s ability to portray liberals as elitists is further strengthened by the phobia toward religion that prevails in the left. Many religious people are drawn by the teachings of their tradition to humane values and caring about the oppressed. Yet they often find that liberal culture is hostile to religion of any sort, believing it is irrational and filled with hate. People on the left rarely open themselves to the possibility that there could be a spiritual crisis in society that plays a role in the lives of many who feel misunderstood and denigrated by the fancy intellectuals and radical activists.
The left needs to stop ignoring people’s inner pain and fear. The racism, sexism and xenophobia used by Mr. Trump to advance his candidacy does not reveal an inherent malice in the majority of Americans. If the left could abandon all this shaming, it could rebuild its political base by helping Americans see that much of people’s suffering is rooted in the hidden injuries of class and in the spiritual crisis that the global competitive marketplace generates.
Democrats need to become as conscious and articulate about the suffering caused by classism as we are about other forms of suffering. We need to reach out to Trump voters in a spirit of empathy and contrition. Only then can we help working people understand that they do not live in a meritocracy, that their intuition that the system is rigged is correct (but it is not by those whom they had been taught to blame) and that their pain and rage is legitimate.
Michael Lerner, the rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in Berkeley, Calif., is the editor of Tikkun magazine and chairman of the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Just So There's No Confusion

Reince Priebus's Christmas message:

Merry Christmas to all! Over two millennia ago, a new hope was born into the world, a Savior who would offer the promise of salvation to all mankind. Just as the three wise men did on that night, this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King. We hope Americans celebrating Christmas today will enjoy a day of festivities and a renewed closeness with family and friends.

Hat tip to Daniel W. Drezner, who apparently actually reads Reince Priebus's Christmas messages.

UPDATE: The RNC is offended that anyone read Priebus's Christmas message as referring to Trump.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Romney Punked?

What Mitt Romney said about Donald Trump:
Here's what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He's playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.
His domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president. And his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.
Yet Romney showed up for a job interview as Trump's Secretary of State.

I guess there's a couple of ways you can look at Romney's wanting to be considered for the job. In one version, he's doing his patriotic duty by trying to insert at least one responsible adult (himself, he imagines) into the Trump Administration. Maybe he could limit the damage.

In the other version, he's a man who doesn't even pay attention to himself: "Here's what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud."

The crazy old uncle at Thanksgiving Day dinner, and a confident of Mr. Trump's, Roger Stone, clues us in on what was going on with the job interview:

“Donald Trump was interviewing Mitt Romney for Secretary of State in order to torture him,” Stone claimed.... "To toy with him. And given the history, that’s completely understandable. Mitt Romney crossed a line. He didn’t just oppose Trump, which is his democratic right, he called him a phony and a fraud. And a con man. And that’s not the kind of man you want as Secretary of State.”

The Cabinet

Here at Sempringham, we're trying to be fair to Rex Tillerson, the current ExxonMobil CEO who appears to be Trump's nominee for Secretary of State.

Steve Coll in the New Yorker says this:
In nominating Tillerson, Trump is handing the State Department to a man who has worked his whole life running a parallel quasi-state, for the benefit of shareholders, fashioning relationships with foreign leaders that may or may not conform to the interests of the United States government. In his career at ExxonMobil, Tillerson has no doubt honed many of the day-to-day skills that a Secretary of State must exercise: absorbing complex political analysis, evaluating foreign leaders, attending ceremonial events, and negotiating with friends and adversaries. Tillerson is a devotee of Abraham Lincoln, so perhaps he has privately harbored the ambition to transform himself into a true statesman, on behalf of all Americans. Yet it is hard to imagine, after four decades at ExxonMobil and a decade leading the corporation, how Tillerson will suddenly develop respect and affection for the American diplomatic service he will now lead, or embrace a vision of America’s place in the world that promotes ideals for their own sake, emphatically privileging national interests over private ones.
 Matthew Yglesias tweets:
After you float Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani honestly any Secretary of State pick ends up looking good.

Phil Rucker at the Washington Post tweets:
Other Tillerson boosters, in addition to Gates & Rice: Stephen Hadley, Jim Baker & Dick Cheney. Full court press planned for confirmation.
It looks like Rick Perry is getting the Department of Energy post. Remember Perry's "Oops!" moment in the 2012 Republican debates? Pundits have been having a great time reminding us that it was the Department of Energy that Perry wanted to abolish, but couldn't think of.

Christopher Hayes at MSNBC wonders:
Is it crazy to think Trump named him to the post just so everyone would re-run his most mortifying moment on TV?

Thursday, December 08, 2016

The Secret Anniversaries of the Heart

The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart,
When the full river of feeling overflows....

-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Kicking Off the Holocaust - Part 2

As Yale University Professor Timothy Snyder reminded us in Thursday's post, the Nazis created or waited for crisis situations, then took advantage of them to take drastic actions. The day after the Reichstag fire, nearly all civil liberties were suspended in Germany: freedom of speech, freedom of press, habeas corpus, etc.

Professor Snyder's cautions hit home with me because for more than a year I've been immersed in 1930's Germany. I'm working on a book about Emily's family's escape from Mannheim, Germany, and because of that, parallels between that time and our own come screaming out at me.

It's scary.

The Hauptsynagogue in Mannheim, roofless after being set ablaze on Kristallnacht.

The Holocaust began with Kristallnacht, an orgy of thuggery across Germany in early November 1938.  Jewish men were arrested and taken to concentration camps, Jewish businesses were vandalized and ruined, and 1000 synagogues in Germany and Austria were destroyed. As the elimination of civil liberties was "justified" by the Reichstag fire, the destruction and arrests associated with Kristallnacht were "justified" by the assassination of a German diplomat. Interestingly, the assassination was in revenge for the deportation of immigrants.

I have a section in the book about it:
Most mornings a barber visited the Rosenberger apartment in Mannheim. Opa Freiberg had a standing appointment – not for a trim, but to have his head shaved. Heinrich Freiberg's grandchildren thought he was mostly bald anyway, but he actually had a full head of hair; he just preferred a shaved head. Because it was not safe for the barber to serve Jewish customers in his shop, he came to the Rosenberger apartment, where he would not be observed.

On the morning of November 10, 1938, a Thursday, Emil was lying in bed when the barber arrived. Emil had a cold, and his mother decided it was best to keep him home from school. As he was lying there, he might have been thinking ahead to his bar Mitzvah, planned for later that month.
But on that morning, he heard the barber arrive with a terrifying warning: During the night mobs had burned down the Rosenberger's synagogue, he said, and now the SS were going from door to door, arresting all Jewish men.


Just two weeks before the barber’s warning, 17,000 Polish Jews (called Ostjuden, or Eastern Jews), including many living in Mannheim and attending synagogue there, had been rounded up and expelled from Germany without warning.  The deportation was the culmination of a German/Polish tit-for-tat of legislation and decrees, each government determined to reduce the number of Jews within its borders.

In March 1938 the Polish legislature passed a law, targeted primarily at Jews, which revoked the citizenship of any person who had lived outside the country for 5 or more years without being in touch with the Polish government.  According to Nazi estimates, there were up to 70,000 Polish Jews living within German borders. If the Polish law  applied to them, they would be rendered stateless – with no country that would accept them – and thus permanent residents of Germany. At first, little action was taken by the Poles to implement their law, allowing the Germans to make a move of their own.

On August 22, a German police order announced that all residence permits for foreign nationals would expire by March 31, 1939. Although foreigners could request new residence permits before the end of 1938, the permits would be issued only to those considered “worthy”.  In the Nazi state, no Jew qualified as “worthy”.

The Polish government understood that the result of the German legislation would be the return of tens of thousands of Polish Jews, and moved to quickly cut off that possibility. On October 15 an order was published by the Polish Ministry of the Interior requiring citizens living outside the country to present their passports at a Polish consulate within the next 15 days. If, upon inspection, the provisions of the March legislation concerning 5 years’ absence from the country were found to apply, the presenter’s citizenship would be immediately revoked.

After seeking assurances from the Polish government that Polish Jews resident in Germany would be allowed to return to their native country regardless of the Ministry’s order – and receiving no such assurance – the German government took action. On October 27, Polish Jews were arrested throughout the country – including at least 75 men, women, and children from Mannheim. They were forced to leave all their possessions behind and transported to the border, where they were unceremoniously, and with great resistance from the Poles, deported.

North of Mannheim, in Hanover, a Polish family named Grynszpan was one of those arrested. Sendel Grynszpan and his wife, Rivka, had lived in Hanover for more than 25 years. At the trial of Adolph Eichmann in 1961, Sendel, a tailor, described his family’s deportation:
On [Thursday] October 27, 1938, in the evening, a policeman came to my home and asked us to go to the 11th precinct with our passports. He assured us that we would be returning directly and that it was unnecessary to take our belongings with us. When I arrived at the precinct with my family, we found many people there, seated and standing, and some of them in tears. A police inspector was shouting at them, “Sign this paper. You are expelled.”

… On Friday night they put us in police vans, 20 to a van, and took us to the station. The street was full of people chanting, “The Jews to Palestine!” We were taken to Neu-Bentschen, the last German city before the Polish frontier, arriving at 6:00 a.m., Saturday the 29th.

… At the border we were searched and our money taken from us. They left us with only 10 RM each. German law forbade the export of capital. They said to us, “When you arrived, you only had 10 RM; there’s no reason for you to leave with more than that.”
Arrested and deported with Sendel Grynszpan were his wife, a daughter, Berta, and probably others of the couple’s six children. A son, 17-year-old Herschel, was in Paris for schooling.

Herschel received a note from his sister Berta on Thursday, November 3, describing what was happening to his family. On Friday he pored over lengthy and graphic accounts of the deportations in Paris’s Yiddish press, becoming increasingly agitated. Sunday Herschel purchased a pistol, and on Monday morning, November 7, he appeared at the German embassy, intent upon assassinating the German ambassador to France in revenge for what had been done to his family. Instead, he shot and wounded the first embassy officer to appear, a third secretary named Ernst vom Rath.
Herschel Grynszpan in French custody after shooting Ernst vom Rath.

Vom Rath died on the afternoon of November 8. Reaction from Berlin was swift in coming.  All Jewish periodicals in Germany were ordered to cease publication immediately. On Wednesday, November 9, inflammatory articles in the non-Jewish newspapers quoted Joseph Goebbels as saying, “The German people are entitled to identify the Jews in Germany with this crime.”
 And that night, using the excuse of a murder by a Jewish immigrant, Kristallnacht began.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Kicking Off the Holocaust – Part 1

The Reichstag Fire, 1933. Hitler used it as justification to suspend civil liberties.

To be clear: we are not predicting that America will become a fascist state. But we will not say it couldn't happen, either.

Timothy Snyder, a professor at Yale University and a scholar of the Holocaust, is disturbed enough about the President-elect that he offers "twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today."

A number of items on his list are chilling, like:
15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks. 
17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.
19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.
 One item, number five, touched on something I've been meaning to write about for months:
5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don't fall for it. [My emphasis.]
Professor Snyder mentions the Reichstag fire, but he may just as well have mentioned the assassination in Paris of the German diplomat, Ernst vom Rath, the event that Joseph Goebbels seized upon to launch what became known as Kristallnacht, the first pogrom of the Holocaust.

More about that tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Henri Huet – A Guest Post

On Memorial Day I happened to call my eldest brother, Mike.  ("Eldest" sounds better than "oldest", doesn't it?) In the course of the conversation he mentioned that he was dedicating his Memorial Day to the memory of a photographer he met in Vietnam, Henri Huet. The more he talked, the more interested I became, and I eventually told Mike I would write a Sempringham post about Huet.

Then the Republicans nominated a megalomaniac as their candidate for President, and ambition went out the window.

Happily, Mike picked up the torch and wrote the post for me, in the form of an email to our siblings. He has given me permission to edit it slightly to make it more like a blog post, and to publish it here:
It's interesting: you can find many of Henri Huet's photographs in Wikipedia but little of his life. He was born in Vietnam of a French father and a Vietnamese mother. He was sent off to school in France at about the age of five. He studied art while in France and one observer wrote his photos were composed like paintings rather than photos. I can't comment one way or another on that but I do know that he was called "the best photojournalist of the Vietnamese war" by the Saigon AP bureau chief.
Henri Huet
I met him on only one or two occasions at the press club in Danang, Vietnam. One of his bureau chiefs wrote that it was enjoyable working with Huet because he always had a smile on his face. I observed that smile, and even then I thought it was not a smile of a happy man but of one who had seen so much that he felt it was better to smile.
The Marines of the Third Battalion, who were stationed in and around Danang then, thought highly of him. He had been in Vietnam during "The First War". He was in the French Navy, where he learned the basics of photography. He stayed in Vietnam after the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu. Henri had a wife in France and a mistress in Vietnam.
Medic Thomas Cole, wounded himself, assists a wounded soldier from the First Cavalry Division.
The Marines thought highly of him for several reasons. First, because he was the "old man"; he had seen this war back when it was a French war and now it was an American war. He had seen much carnage and death. Second, because he really immersed himself in the life and ways of  the Marines in "I Corps", unlike many photojournalists who were there to "cover the war". It was these people that I saw angrily pushed away by the Marines who didn't want "a goddamn camera" pushed into their faces while they were recovering the bodies of their buddies. I remember distinctly a group of college kiddies from some school in Ohio who came out to report on how horrible the war was. I was seriously afraid that we would have to get those kids out of there before the Marines slit their throats. You don't preach antiwar stuff to Marines who have just finished a firefight. Third, Henri could speak French, English, and Vietnamese, which made him useful. And interestingly, most of all the Marines considered Henri a good luck charm, since he always seemed to come back from even the worst battles with whatever group he went out with. I realize that I met Henri only once or twice but he made an impression on me that lasts until this day.

Infantrymen in a bomb crater search for snipers firing at them.
I don't know if any of you are familiar with his photographs. They made the front page of Life Magazine in the 60's. You might want to look some of them up, they are in Wikipedia. One I had never seen before was in the book that a brother sent me about photojournalists in Vietnam. You see a soldier dragging a wooden ammunition box up the bank of a river and in the background you see a 40 mm machine gun. I thought, "Gee it was pretty clever of them to set that machine-gun up on a sliver of soil in the middle of the Mekong River." And then you look more closely and you see that the machine-gun is being held up by one great big hand! Some soldier was crossing the river and didn't want to get the machine-gun wet so he was holding it up high over his head and that means the river water was over his head, he was walking on the bottom carrying an M60 machine gun (not one of those dinky AK47's)! This is an incredible photo.
Huet also captured this photo, similar to the one Mike describes above.
Henri's luck ran out in the early 70s – not with a bunch of Marines in a firefight but in a helicopter carrying several photojournalists and a Vietnamese general. The crash site was finally found after the second (i.e American) Vietnam War had been settled. They found small pieces of bone along with the helicopter wreckage. At that point there was no way of determining whose bones had been found and there was a big brouhaha about where to bury them. They were finally interred at the Newsmuseum in Washington, DC, in a small ceremony with about 100 attendees.
Huet took this photo of a chaplain administering last rites for photojournalist Dickey Chapelle as she died from a booby trap explosion.
Every Memorial Day I think about Henri and wonder if there are any people left in France who remember him and his accomplishments. Soon we will probably all be gone and people will have to look them up in Wikipedia.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


J. Alex Halderman, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Michigan, explains why, though he does not believe the voting system in Wisconsin was hacked, it makes perfect sense to do a manual recount of the votes there.

For the record, I hope no evidence of hacking or otherwise miscounting is found. I hope they find that the votes were counted correctly. The Trump people just wouldn't be able to handle it otherwise.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Good-bye Public Schools?

Betsy Prince DeVos prepares for her confirmation hearing.
Here's a 2011 article about Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy Prince DeVos, and her husband, Dick DeVos. They have been campaigning for years to end public education in America.
The decades-long campaign to end public education is propelled by the super-wealthy, right-wing DeVos family. Betsy Prince DeVos is the sister of Erik Prince, founder of the notorious private military contractor Blackwater USA (now Xe), and wife of Dick DeVos, son of the co-founder of Amway, the multi-tiered home products business.


The conservative policy institutes founded beginning in the 1970s get hundreds of millions of dollars from wealthy families and foundations to develop and promote free market fundamentalism. More specifically, their goals include privatizing social security, reducing government regulations, thwarting environmental policy, dismantling unions -- and eliminating public schools.

Whatever they may say about giving poor students a leg up, their real priority is nothing short of the total dismantling of our public educational institutions, and they've admitted as much. Cato Institute founder Ed Crane and other conservative think tank leaders have signed the Public Proclamation to Separate School and State, which reads in part that signing on, "Announces to the world your commitment to end involvement by local, state, and federal government from education."
 Only they're not calling it public education:
Dick DeVos also explained to his Heritage Foundation audience that they should no longer use the term public schools, but instead start calling them “government schools.” He noted that the role of wealthy conservatives would have to be obscured. “We need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities,” said DeVos, and pointed to the need to “cut across a lot of historic boundaries, be they partisan, ethnic, or otherwise.”
The whole article is worth reading.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn – Oh, Jeez!

Be sure to read Nicholas Kristof's take on Trump's new team, including our next National Security Advisor, Lt. Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn. It's called Trump Embarrasses Himself and Our Country.

A few clips:
Flynn had a brilliant military career and did an outstanding job in Iraq and Afghanistan. Five years ago, he was widely admired as the best intelligence officer of his generation.
Then President Obama nominated Flynn to become director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and he began to unravel. He turned out to be a catastrophic manager. Colin Powell, former secretary of state, explained in hacked emails why Flynn was fired: “abusive with staff, didn’t listen, worked against policy, bad management.” Powell added that ever since, Flynn has been “right-wing nutty.”


Indeed, for an intelligence officer, Flynn seems to have trouble distinguishing truth from falsehood. Earlier this month, he tweeted an obviously fake story claiming that the police had found emails linking Hillary Clinton to sex crimes with children. When he was in government, subordinates had a special name for his delusions: “Flynn facts.”
Another problem is Flynn’s ties to foreign governments. He took money from Russia to attend an event in Moscow, sitting near President Vladimir Putin. He also appears to have taken money from Turkish interests and, without publicly disclosing the money, wrote an op-ed shilling for Turkey.
For his chief of staff, Flynn chose his son, who is a looney on social media, calling President Obama a communist and fascist, tweeting racially insensitive comments and sharing absurd conspiracy theories. [My emphasis]
Scared yet?

Hat Tip to Kevin Drum, who pointed us to Kristoff's column.

The Hamilton Fracas

Since Sempringham readers are, to a person, well-read, informed people, there's no need here to do more than summarize the incident this post will refer to. Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a performance of Hamilton in New York City. When he entered the theater he was met by boos from the audience. At the conclusion of the play the actor playing Aaron Burr (hmmm) – with the support of the cast and the play's author – read a seemingly respectful statement to him, singling him out in the audience, affirming their hope that he will value diversity.

Whereupon Donald Trump tweeted that the cast should apologize. Whereupon Mike Pence stated he was not offended.

Here at Sempringham we were at first supportive of the Hamilton casts' action. Let's face it: no Trump/Pence fans here. But we were persuaded otherwise by the Chicago Sun-Times' drama critic, Hedy Weiss. In her column this morning, Ms. Weiss writes:
[W]hile I oppose almost everything this new administration stands for (aside from infrastructure repair) and admittedly cast my vote for the electoral loser in the race, I think both the New York audience protests and the emotional, carefully worded speech from the stage aimed at Vice President-elect Mike Pence were mistakes. How or why he went to see “Hamilton” in the first place remains a mystery. But perhaps, had he been allowed to just absorb the message of the musical, he might have been changed, if only in the most minute and imperceptible ways. Now, like a bull reacting to a red cape, any possibility of the show itself for serving as an agent of positive change or a subtle awakening in Pence has been lost forever. A missed opportunity, and a pity.


I think it is for Hamlet, not Hamilton, to have the last words on the whole matter: “The play’s the thing/Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”
Find Hedy Weiss's whole column here.

Addendum, November 23: Be sure to read Uncle Ted's comment, below.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

This for You, and That for Me

On November 17, 1884, European nations met to divide up Africa. It was called the Berlin Conference. Here's how it turned out:

Germany lost its colonies in the Treaty of Versailles; it was one of the things that made them so angry they started World War II.

Friday, November 18, 2016

I'm a Stranger in a Strange Land

Here in Chicago we loved the World Series, but the coverage by Fox Sports came in for a lot of criticism. Mostly it was Joe Buck. He always seemed say something that sounded wise (in a baseball way), but proved to be twaddle. But that's okay – part of the fun is yelling "You MORON!" at the TV.

There was another aspect of Fox's coverage that bothered me more than that:

What were Pete Rose and Alex Rodriguez doing on their panel of "analysts"? Both these guys have disgraced themselves in the sport – Rose with gambling on his own games and lying about it, and Rodriguez by taking performance enhancing drugs and lying about it – and their reward is a gig as  Fox "analysts"? [By the way, although they both were awful, I point out with some delight that before the first game Rose predicted the Cubs' designated hitter, Kyle Schwarber, would "strike out, strike out, and strike out"; Schwarber batted .412 for the Series and got a double in the first game.]

And while we're on the subject:

Kanye West interrupts an award presentation at the Emmys to say, in effect, that the awardee didn't deserve it, and he's allowed back in the door the next year?

Ryan Lochte embarrasses his country by being a lout in Brazil, and his reward is an appearance on Dancing with the Stars?

I don't get it.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

What's Next?

Your neighbors will gladly murder you, given the nod by authority, then blame you for bringing your own death upon yourself. They’ll then move into your empty house, live there guilt-free, and years later, should anybody be so impolite as to raise the subject of your death, deny it ever occurred.
That, in brief, is the lesson of the Holocaust....
So writes Neil Steinberg in today's Chicago Sun-Times.

But there's another lesson of the Holocaust, just as important, and that is that the power of denial is strong: denial that such a thing could ever happen here.

Now we have a president-elect who once kept a book of Hitler's speeches, called My New Order, as bedside reading; whose chief policy advisor will be a white nationalist; whose national security advisor will be an unbalanced retired general who sucks up to Putin; and now, whose pick for attorney general used to walk around calling black attorneys "boy". A president-elect who openly mocks the disabled, who encourages his audiences to beat up protesters, who threatens to put his political adversary in jail, and who threatens to get even with newspapers that told "lies" about him.

It's never been easier to hyperventilate about the possibility of extremely ugly things happening in America, and I'm really struggling not to be a Henny Penny. But I have to admit that, when I posted the item below about Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, I started worrying that someday it would get me in some serious trouble. I've never had that feeling before, and it's unsettling, to say the least.

Steinberg concludes his article with this:
The Holocaust was in part a failure of imagination. Jews just couldn’t imagine it. Which has to trouble anyone insisting it can’t happen now. Because that’s exactly what they thought then.
If you can’t see how this could turn really bad, really quick, let me ask you this: When Donald Trump fails to provide the boon he promised, when his protectionist trade policies crater the economy, who is he going to blame? Himself? Donald Trump does not blame himself.
Who will he blame? When he’s in Pennsylvania, talking to coal miners whose industry he did not revive; when he’s in Youngstown talking to factory workers whose jobs never returned, who will he blame? Who?
You know the answer.
I think he wants us to say "the Jews", but the answer could be "you".

Soul-Crushing Despair

From The New Yorker:

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn: Threat or Menace?

Okay, so it looks like Trump is going the Dangerous Goofball route when it comes to choosing his close advisors. The latest addition: Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (ret.), who was fired as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 because the national defense is too important to be run by goofballs.

Kevin Drum thinks he's "the most gullible guy in the Army."

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Jared Kushner

Kevin Drum says It's Time to Pay More Attention to Jared Kushner.

Kushner's father's history of jury tampering sounds like something out of The Godfather.

Getting a Feel for the Transition

From Frank Bruni in the New York Times:
[Obama is] a patriot, always has been, which is what’s so rich here. Trump bangs on about putting America first, when he really puts himself before all else. That shriveled, unhinged hood ornament of his, Rudy Giuliani, is on the record questioning Obama’s love for America. 
But Obama loves this country enough to summon the same grace for his successor that other presidents did for theirs, though his is a nasty, juvenile breed apart.
And he loves this country enough to try to calm it when it most needs calming, even if that means a willed optimism about Trump that’s oh so difficult to share.
From the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition was in disarray on Tuesday, marked by firings, infighting and revelations that American allies were blindly dialing in to Trump Tower to try to reach the soon-to-be-leader of the free world.
One week after Mr. Trump scored an upset victory that took him by surprise, his team was improvising the most basic traditions of assuming power. That included working without official State Department briefing materials in his first conversations with foreign leaders.
Two officials who had been handling national security for the transition, former Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan and Matthew Freedman, a lobbyist who consults with corporations and foreign governments, were fired. Both were part of what officials described as a purge orchestrated by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser.
The dismissals followed the abrupt firing on Friday of Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who was replaced as chief of the transition by Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Mr. Kushner, a transition official said, was systematically dismissing people like Mr. Rogers who had ties with Mr. Christie. As a federal prosecutor, Mr. Christie had sent Mr. Kushner’s father to jail.
From Republican Eliot A. Cohen in the Washington Post:
Trump was not a normal candidate, the transition is not a normal transition, and this will probably not be a normal administration. The president-elect is surrounding himself with mediocrities whose chief qualification seems to be unquestioning loyalty. He gets credit for becoming a statesman when he says something any newly elected president might say (“I very much look forward to dealing with the president in the future”) — and then reverts to tweeting against demonstrators and the New York Times. By all accounts, his ignorance, and that of his entourage, about the executive branch is fathomless. It’s not even clear that he accepts that he should live in the White House rather than in his gilt-smeared penthouse in New York.
In the best of times, government service carries with it the danger of compromising your principles. Here, though, we may be in for something much worse. The canary in the coal mine was not merely the selection of Stephen K. Bannon for the job previously filled by John Podesta and Karl Rove, that of counselor to the president and chief strategist. Rather, the warning signs came from the Republican leaders excusing and normalizing this sinister character — and those who then justified the normalizers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


In two of their last three presidential election victories, Republicans failed to win the popular vote but prevailed by winning a majority of the Electoral College vote. So of course social media is full of outrage from Hillary supporters. There's at least one on-line petition where you can demand a change to the Constitution.

Good luck.

Eliminating the Electoral College is the Squirrel! of this post-election period. Republicans are in the majority in 32 state legislatures. Republican governors hold office in 33 states. The Republicans would like nothing more than to have Democrats go chasing after trying to get the Constitution changed.

David Brooks, who's kind of a conservative guy, thinks Donald Trump will be a 1-year president – that he will either resign or be impeached in his first year. That may be wishful thinking, but maybe you'll agree there's a pretty good chance everything will be FUBAR by the midterm election in 2018.

Whadaya think? Pretty good chance? We're certainly off to a good start, and Trump hasn't even taken office yet.

Well, in 2018 EVERY seat in the House of Representatives is up for grabs. Although Democrats hold 23 of the 33 Senate seats up that year (and are theoretically more vulnerable), this year's election shows pretty clearly that expectations can be wrong.

Thirty-six states will be holding gubernatorial elections.

Fifty states will be electing legislators.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) needs to make sure every Republican seat is contested, even if the chances of winning seem slim right now, and it needs to guarantee campaign assistance and resources. If they can get over the post-election blood-letting quickly, and show they finally understand what needs to be done, they should be able to make a good case for us to send some money their way.

In the four years leading up to Obama's 2008 victory, Howard Dean served as DNC chair. His 50-state strategy laid a lot of the groundwork for that historic win. Anybody at the DNC who doesn't think we need a 50-state strategy after this election is a Republican agent. [I'm lookin' at YOU, Terry McAuliffe!]

Howard Dean is willing to serve again. We should grab him.

Quotes Worth Quoting

From David Brooks' eulogy for Gwen Ifill:
These days it is normal to bash Washington, to want to “drain the swamp” and to attack the mainstream media. The populists are in and the establishment is out.
But I confess, when I looked at the front of The Times website on Monday and saw a photo of Stephen K. Bannon, on leave from Breitbart as chairman and rising in power, and then underneath it a photo of Gwen, who is passing from this world, I wanted to throw up. This is not progress and this is not good news.
 From Gail Collins, in a conversation with Arthur C. Brooks:
Reader email has informed me it’s way harder to leave the country than one might think. We Americans aren’t in all that much demand.

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.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Should You Vote Libertarian?

The best reason we've found for voting for the Libertarian Party!

Some very well-meaning people are tempted to support the Libertarian candidate, former Republican governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson, and his running mate, former Republican governor of Massachusetts William Weld.

So let's have a look some of the tenets of the Libertarian platform (bolded and underlined words are by me):

Section 2.1

As respect for property rights is fundamental to maintaining a free and prosperous society, it follows that the freedom to contract to obtain, retain, profit from, manage, or dispose of one’s property must also be upheld. ... For voluntary dealings among private entities, parties should be free to choose with whom they trade and set whatever trade terms are mutually agreeable.
  • Translation: Overturn the Civil Rights Act of 1965. We don't want to rent to Blacks, Mexicans, or Jews, or, for that matter, serve them in our restaurants.
Section 2.2

Competitive free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems. Private landowners and conservation groups have a vested interest in maintaining natural resources. Governments are unaccountable for damage done to our environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection.
  • Translation: We think the best way to protect the environment is to leave it to people who are trying to make a profit. We are living in La-La Land. 
Section 2.4

All persons are entitled to keep the fruits of their labor. We call for the repeal of the income tax, the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service and all federal programs and services not required under the U.S. Constitution. We oppose any legal requirements forcing employers to serve as tax collectors.
  • Translation: We are going full-bore Social Darwinism. No welfare. No Social Security. Every man for himself. And really, since "all persons are entitled to keep the fruits of their labor," no taxes. We are bat-sh*t crazy!
Section 2.6

Individuals engaged in voluntary exchange should be free to use as money any mutually agreeable commodity or item. We support a halt to inflationary monetary policies and unconstitutional legal tender laws.
  • Translation: Back to the gold standard! Viva bitcoin! We are loons!
Section 2.8

Employment and compensation agreements between private employers and employees are outside the scope of government, and these contracts should not be encumbered by government-mandated benefits or social engineering.
  • Translation: Women should be paid less than men for doing the same job, because that's what the market will bear, and we can get away with it. If a woman doesn't want that, she can work for someone else. If somebody is so desperate that they'll work for 25 cents and hour, by golly that's what we'll pay them.
Section 2.9

Education is best provided by the free market, achieving greater quality, accountability and efficiency with more diversity of choice. Recognizing that the education of children is a parental responsibility, we would restore authority to parents to determine the education of their children, without interference from government. Parents should have control of and responsibility for all funds expended for their children’s education.
  • Translation:  Grandma never got past the third grade, and she turned out fine, so why should I send Suzie Jean to school? Besides, I need her at home.
Section 2.11

Retirement planning is the responsibility of the individual, not the government. Libertarians would phase out the current government-sponsored Social Security system and transition to a private voluntary system. The proper and most effective source of help for the poor is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals. We believe members of society will become even more charitable and civil society will be strengthened as government reduces its activity in this realm.
  •  Translation:  Because a private voluntary system is what we had before Social Security, and it worked out so well.
Section 3.5

Libertarians embrace the concept that all people are born with certain inherent rights. We reject the idea that a natural right can ever impose an obligation upon others to fulfill that “right.” We condemn bigotry as irrational and repugnant. Government should neither deny nor abridge any individual’s human right based upon sex, wealth, ethnicity, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference or sexual orientation. Members of private organizations retain their rights to set whatever standards of association they deem appropriate, and individuals are free to respond with ostracism, boycotts and other free-market solutions.
  • Translation: Well, really, we know what that one's all about, don't we. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Legitimately Sinister Figure?

Why has former KKK grand wizard David Duke decided to get back into politics? Because he sees something in Donald Trump that excites him.

It's not a common thing for Sempringham to refer you to a "conservative" web site, but Ben Shapiro, former editor-at-large for the Breitbart web site knows Steve Bannon, Donald Trump's new campaign manager.  He thinks we should be concerned about the next couple of months.

Under Bannon's leadership, Shapiro says, Breitbart "has become the alt-right go-to website, with Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers."

I don't think Breitbart OR Ben Shapiro are usually worth reading, but this and this are exceptions.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Why People Who Disagree with Us Won't Listen to the Facts

Here at Sempringham we've been trying to figure out how to enlighten people who are clearly misguided on policy issues.

In Feelings vs Facts, we looked at the insights of cognitive scientist George Lakoff, who believes people can be usefully categorized by their attitudes concerning child rearing. Conservatives, in his model, are people who instinctively adhere to a family structure with a strict father. Liberals, on the other hand, believe in a "nurturant" [hate that word – why not just say "nurturing"?] parent for whom discipline is not a critical focus.

Lakoff believes we see events through these "frames", and, to put words in his mouth, this explains why liberals are more likely to see Black Lives Matter as people who who are seeking justice while conservatives are more likely to see them as people who are misbehaving.

David Ignatius brings another dish to the party in this morning's Washington Post.  Ignatius cites the work of some social scientists who have demonstrated "that attempts to refute false information often backfire and lead people to hold on to their misperceptions even more strongly."

Trying to correct misperceptions can actually reinforce them .... [Researchers] documented what they called a “backfire effect” by showing the persistence of the belief that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in 2005 and 2006, after the United States had publicly admitted that they didn’t exist. “The results show that direct factual contradictions can actually strengthen ideologically grounded factual belief,” they wrote.
...[A]ttempts to debunk myths can reinforce them, simply by repeating the untruth. [Researcher Christopher Graves] cited a 2005 study in the Journal of Consumer Research on “How Warnings about False Claims Become Recommendations.” It seems that people remember the assertion and forget whether it’s a lie. The authors wrote: “The more often older adults were told that a given claim was false, the more likely they were to accept it as true after several days have passed.”
When critics challenge false assertions — say, Trump’s claim that thousands of Muslims cheered in New Jersey when the twin towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001 — their refutations can threaten people, rather than convince them. Graves noted that if people feel attacked, they resist the facts all the more.

...The study showed two interesting things: People are more likely to accept information if it’s presented unemotionally, in graphs; and they’re even more accepting if the factual presentation is accompanied by “affirmation” that asks respondents to recall an experience that made them feel good about themselves.

...The final point that emerged from Graves’s survey is that people will resist abandoning a false belief unless they have a compelling alternative explanation. That point was made in an article called “The Debunking Handbook,” by Australian researchers John Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky. They wrote: “Unless great care is taken, any effort to debunk misinformation can inadvertently reinforce the very myths one seeks to correct.” 
It seems a shame that you have to be so manipulative in order to help someone understand what the Kochs are doing to him.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Trump's Success Explained, Part 2

As we learned last week, 99 percent of new jobs created since 2010 have been filled by people with college degrees or at least some college, and Donald Trump is more popular with non-college-educated voters than with college-educated voters.

If you've been paying attention during the campaign, you know that another profile of Trump supporters is that they're white men. That being the case, consider this chart from Kevin Drum:

White men, alone among the ethnic groups and genders charted, have had a net loss in income over the past 40 years.

For years, all the smart guys have been saying that education is the key to "getting ahead" during the technological revolution. And they've been right. So our efforts have concentrated on education: Common Core, charter schools, and the like. And the smart guys have sat back and patted themselves on the back for being so right.

But there's a problem they didn't address: a huge part of the population ain't good at book larnin'. They're smart, but not in that way. Emily's late father-in-law didn't finish high school, but he could take an automobile apart and put it back together when he was a teenager. In World War II, he kept his Army unit's trucks on the road. When the war was over he took classes in electricity and got a job at a plant where he learned about something called metal spinning, a high-skill industry that shapes metal into Weber grills and rocket nose cones. He moved from shop to shop to learn the secrets of the metal spinning masters, and they did keep secrets.

Finally, he started his own business which he and his wife grew into a shop with 60 employees and millions of dollars worth of specialized machinery.

The business is still operating today, but many of its competitors have closed their doors and sold their machinery to China, where much of the metal spun products we buy is now made.

We have shipped our no-college-needed jobs overseas. What's going to happen to these guys?

One thing that's going to happen is that some are going to get angry about it, and look for someone to blame. And they'll look for a leader who will focus their anger. Like Donald Trump.

Or worse.

Lyin' Hillary

Via Kevin Drum, who writes, "Hillary is one of America's most honest politicians".

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Feelings vs Facts

Last week John Oliver did a hilarious take-down of speakers at the Republican Convention who expressed their "feelings" that things were awful in the country. If you haven't seen it, go there now, then come back.

I bring it up because of the segment with Newt Gingrich:

Gingrich says, "The current view is that liberals have a whole set of statistics which theoretically may be right, but it's not where human beings are."

And despite our laughter and disdain, Gingrich is probably right.

The reason this is so is explained by cognitive scientist George Lakoff in his book, Don't Think of an Elephant! : Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, who speaks of "a set of myths believed by liberals and progressives:"
These myths come from a good source, but they end up hurting [progressives] badly.

The myths began with the Enlightenment, and the first one goes like this:

... If we just tell people the facts, since people are basically rational beings, they'll all reach the right conclusions.

But we know from cognitive science that people do not think like that. People think in frames. The strict father [conservative] and nurturant parent [progressive] frames each force a certain logic. To be accepted, the truth must fit people's frames. If the facts do not fit a frame, the frame stays and the facts bounce off. Why?

Neuroscience tells us that each of the concepts we have – the long term concepts that structure how we think – is instantiated in the synapses of our brains. Concepts are not things that can be changed just by telling us a fact. We may be presented with facts, but for us to make sense of them, they have to fit what is already in the synapses of the brain. Otherwise facts go in and then they go right back out. They are not heard, or they are not accepted as facts, or they mystify us. Why would anyone have said that? Then we label the fact as irrational, crazy, or stupid. That's what happens when progressives "just confront conservatives with the facts." It has little or no effect, unless the conservatives have a frame that makes sense of the facts.

Similarly, a lot of progressives hear conservatives talk and do not understand them because they do not have the conservatives' frames. They assume that conservatives are stupid.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Trump's Success Explained in Two Sentences

I spotted this as a "Noted" comment at the bottom of page 16 in the July 15 This Week magazine. It seemed so ridiculous I couldn't believe it, so I went looking for verification elsewhere. I found it at Bloomberg:
Of the 11.6 million jobs added since the rebound took hold in 2010,  about 99 percent — or 11.5 million jobs — were filled by people with either at least some college education, a bachelor's degree or better, according to a study by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce. Only 80,000 spots went to workers with a high school diploma or less ....

That's amazing, and I'm still having trouble believing the numbers, if not the direction the statistics are pointing.

Although we saw plenty of articles claim that the median income of Trump supporters was as high as any of his primary opponents, that did not tell the whole story.

According to Politico in March:
[V]oters without a college education are Trump’s core base of support. More non-college-educated voters than ones with college degrees have supported Trump in every single primary and caucus so far, according to exit polls. In those states, voters without degrees were over 11 percentage points more likely to support Trump, on average.
Our failure to create a balanced economy – one in which there are employment opportunities for everyone – is the cause of this threat to the Republic named Trump. We've got work to do.