Thursday, March 31, 2005

Yet another "Don't Think of an Elephant" review

Lots of people have read and commented on Lakoff's book, Don't Think of an Elephant, which argues that "framing" left/progressive issues under the "nurturant parent" overall framework (as opposed to the "strict father" framework that unites righties), will help bring victory to liberal causes. Here's yet another comment.

Definitely worth reading - I think its description of the right works pretty well, but the description of the left not quite as well. It places "anti-authoritarian" personalities under the left nurturant parent framework, which doesn't make a great deal of sense to me. Since that probably describes me the best, maybe I'm over-emphasizing the problem. It also places Nature-worshipping Deep Ecology types in the nurturant parent model. That works, I guess, but people like me who are deeply alarmed about environmental issues for merely rational reasons get left out.

Concepts of overall framing for an issue, of wedge issues that help drive your overall frame, and of building coalitions are all good.

Another interesting perspective, that environmentalism is a completely alternative framework to the nurturant parent/strict father dichotomy, is here. I'd say libertarian beliefs are also cross-cutting, and don't quite fit the left-right divide.

keywords: environment, Lakoff, wedge, framing

Monday, March 28, 2005

What advertising is doing to us

This is a great video clip from a British magician/hypnotist, Derren Brown. Stuff to watch out for...


Sunday, March 20, 2005

9-11 and the semi-limits of evil

Last night I obnoxiously joined a group of people to watch a "9-11 was a big US government-run conspiracy" movie titled, The Great Conspiracy. I was obnoxious because I had little chance of believing the movie, and couldn't restrain myself from saying so afterwards.

I'd divide 9-11 conspiracy theories into 3 groups: 1. active conspiracy theories, like this movie, that say the US government or people therein were in charge of the attacks; 2. passive conspiracy theories that say that people in the US government knew Al Qaeda was going to cause 9-11 levels of destruction and deliberately chose to do nothing, and 3. negligent semi-conspiracies, where people in the US government knew they weren't doing enough to stop terrorism on US soil that could kill hundreds of Americans, but they either didn't care or thought it might benefit their right wing agenda. The categories can shade into each other to some extent.

The second and third categories are hard to prove or disprove. I personally believe the third category is quite possible.

The first category is a very different thing though, and I have two reasons for thinking it's wrong. First, none of the evidence seems very convincing, and many events do not fit the way I would have done things if I were in charge of a conspiracy to subvert American democracy and find a pretext to invade Iraq.

The second reason may be more convincing to me and less to others, but I do think there's a semi-limit to the evil that people in the US government will do. I say a semi-limit because there's no limit to the evil they'll cause, but if they can't hide the question from their conscience, "shall I unambiguously murder thousands of white, middle and upper class American citizens to advance my political agenda?" then they won't do it. Or at least there's not enough people who'd say "Sure!" to that question in the right places in government to pull it off.

Now using fake evidence to invade Iraq, causing the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis, and the death of 1,500 American soldiers (many of them white), now that's okay. Just like police are willing to use fake evidence to frame people they think are guilty. The rudimentary consciences of people in the Bush Administration doesn't stop evil from happening, but it does stop certain kinds of evil. Just my intuition of what they're like; your mileage may vary.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Short-term military duty - Teddy Roosevelt would approve

My latest idea that will go nowhere is this: let war supporters, not just Iraq war supporters but any war supporters, put their money where their mouth is by giving them a real option to serve in the war they support. Signing up for a two-year-plus stint in the military doesn't quite cut it - that's a little much to ask when the war could last a much shorter time, and the volunteer wouldn't even be able to guarantee she'd be serving in the war theater.

So my idea is enabling people to volunteer for 6 month periods, in the war zone, doing something simple but still in harm's way that requires minimal training. They wouldn't be an all-purpose soldier, maybe they wouldn't even carry a gun or be allowed to shoot someone. They could still be an extra pair of eyes standing sentry though, or do the simple aspects of construction grunt work that military contractors are getting paid big bucks to do because it's dangerous.

I got this idea listening to Teddy Roosevelt on a public radio program called The Thomas Jefferson Hour. Normally the Jefferson Hour has a historian who takes on the persona of Thomas Jefferson and answers questions that reveals Jefferson's ideas, but this time the historian played Teddy Roosevelt. I was initially struck by how similar Teddy's worldview was to our current president (expansionist beacon of freedom, blah blah blah) and wondered why conservatives don't play up the similarity. Then I found out why - Teddy said he'd never ask anyone to take a risk he wouldn't take himself. As a middle-aged man he volunteered for the Spanish-American War and served under dangerous conditions. He told his 3 sons that he'd disown them if they didn't serve in World War I, and one of them died. He begged his political enemy Woodrow Wilson for a military commission in the war as well, but was denied.

The contrast between Shrub and TR became pretty clear, and I started thinking about how the modern military could allow people to have Roosevelt's consistency on this one type of moral issue. Maybe people would be a little less warlike under a circumstance that realistically gives them a chance to serve.

UPDATE: corrected the number of sons from four to three.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Volokh correction #4

From the Volokh Conspiracy blog, Juan Non-Volokh again describes the Bush Administration's Clear Skies Act as better than the current Clean Air Act, and criticizes enviro opposition to Clear Skies. He's wrong, mainly because he attacks the other side's evidence while providing no evidence to back up his own position.

His main argument relies on a Washington Monthly article stating:

John Kerry summed up the conventional wisdom on the left during his second debate with President Bush by observing that Clear Skies is “one of those Orwellian na- mes. . . . If they just left the Clean Air Act all alone the way it is today—no change—the air would be cleaner than it is if you passed the Clear Skies Act.” In fact, this oft-repeated green bromide turns out to be false.

Clearing a path through the disorganization of that article eventually gets you to the heart of the argument. Enviros are relying on an EPA government document showing the current Clean Air Act is stricter than Clear Skies, but this document was supposedly, deliberately skewed to make the Clean Air Act look tough so that the power companies would support a version of the Clear Skies program. In effect the Clear Sky supporters are saying, "we lied to industry in this document to get their support, so you shouldn't hold us now to those numbers we used."

I'm not well-disposed to allow the government to casually lie and then change the lie when it suits them. We lawyers would say they should be "estopped" from doing that. But let's be generous and say it's possible this EPA document was exaggerated - the Washington Monthly article provides no evidence that Clear Skies is a better outcome. What should the document have stated? No answer from the article, or from the Volokhs.

Juan says "Compared against any set of realistic assumptions . . . Clear Skies would clearly result in greater emissions reductions." He provides nothing to back up this argument.

P.S. Here's the comparison from original EPA numbers. Let's see what numbers the anti-enviros can produce.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Moderately wealthy v. the rich, part 2

Republicans again confront whether to choose the moderately wealthy or the rich, although none of the blog commentary that I've seen on the new bankruptcy bill focuses on this issue. For a good general post on the bill, see Kevin Drum's, although he doesn't hit on this issue either.

The new bill reduces bankruptcy protections, but only for those over the median income level. This seems to pit the Republican upper-class constituency against itself, but I don't think that's exactly the case. Instead it pitches bankrupts in the top half of median income against credit card company stockholders. Most of the "qualifying" bankrupts will be near the median income, so they'll just be moderately wealthy. I'll bet a shiny nickel that the most of the stocks will be owned by people a lot better off than the moderately wealthy bankrupts.

Even the moderately wealthy can't win against the wealthiest.

(The first wealthy v. the super rich battle concerned fixing the Alternative Minimum Tax v. making Bush's tax cut permanent. See here - scroll down to April 21 - for more.)

keywords: class warfare, AMT