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".