Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Articles of Politics

There's been a flood of thoughtful editorial writing analyzing recent political changes in our democracy-based republic.  There was already a lot during the election, but now there's so much more.  I try to keep up as best I can, really I do, yet I'm losing the battle.

To cope, I've started saving links to articles which I think I might want to refer to later.  That list is growing out of hand.

Meanwhile, today is the last day of February and I haven't posted to Mixed Meters yet.  I figured it ought to be easy to link to some of those articles.  Now you can not refer to these articles also.  Don't expect much continuity in this post.  Just go with the flow.

Deep Throat said "Follow the Money".  At least he said that in the movie.  Here's a short article about why the Republicans hate Obamacare so very very very very much.  (Hint, it's about money.)  Here are quotes:
at its most basic level, [Obamacare] raises taxes on the top 1 percent to pay for health insurance for the bottom 40 percent. So undoing Obamacare would undo a lot of taxes at the top, and a lot of subsidies at the bottom.
It's a reverse Robin Hood. It's taking tax subsidies from the poor to give as tax cuts to the rich. The starkest way to think about that is that the bottom 60 percent would get negative 61.1 percent of the total benefits of getting rid of Obamacare, while the top 1 percent would get 117.5 percent. That's right: the wealthiest would gain more than the country as a whole would, because the working class wouldn't be gaining anything at all. They'd be losing tax credits, and the health insurance those bought them.

Deciding who rules the country has come down to convincing a few percent of the people in a few swing states to switch sides.  Apparently these people flip from left to right based on catchphrases and short soundbites.

One author, George Lakoff, is trying to explain to the Democrats that how you say things is as important as what you say.  He's a professor of linguistics and he talks a lot about framing of an argument.

As an example he suggests that governmental regulations should be referred to as "governmental protections".  Here's a quote from an interview called Don’t think of a rampaging elephant:
what are regulations? Why do people have them? They’re there for protection of the public in every [case]. Why do you have environmental regulations? To protect against pollution and global warming and so on. Things that are harmful. Why do you have an SEC regulation? To protect investors, and protect people who have mortgages. Why do you have food and drug regulations? To protect against poisons. This is important. You’re protecting against corporate malfeasance. Corporate harm to the public. When they say, “We’re getting rid of these regulations", no one reports in the media, “They have gotten rid of protections, and they’re going to get rid of more protections!”

I have my own advice for the Democratic party.  I think that every time a Democrat talks in public they should change the subject to one of these issues:
  • protecting the environment, 
  • protecting civil liberties,
  • a living minimum wage, 
  • universal healthcare, 
  • income and wealth inequality, 
  • making college affordable, 
  • protecting the rights of minorities, 
  • women's rights,
  • freedom of the press.
Unfortunately, the Democrats are spending way too much time thinking about that goddamn elephant.  Hey Democrats, the elephant is irrelevant.  These actual issues that will protect and improve people's lives are what you should talk about incessantly.

We are repeatedly told by Republicans that government should be more like business and that successful business people would make good politicians.  This philosophy of course is a lie designed to benefit people who own big businesses.  This pro-business attitude has a name, neoliberalism.

Liberalism gets a lot of negative coverage from the right-wingnut press, but liberalism is very different than neo-liberalism.  Neoliberals never call themselves neoliberals.  It's a well-deserved term of derision.  This article entitled Neoliberalism - the ideology at the root of all our problems, by the excellent journalist George Monbiot, is a good intro to the subject.  Here are some quotes:
So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power. Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.
The freedom that neoliberalism offers, which sounds so beguiling when expressed in general terms, turns out to mean freedom for the pike, not for the minnows. Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty.

I think this Toy Story meme refers only to Democratic neoliberals.  The Republican ones want you to have lots of guns but not women's health care or marriage freedom.

Like it or not (and I don't much like it although there's nothing I can do about it), the United States has only two political parties.  This is not going to change.  The Republican party insists on being wrong about everything, so that leaves the Democrats as our only hope.  Sadly, some Democrats aren't much better.

Robert Reich, an estimable if somewhat lonely liberal voice in today's Democratic party, wrote this article The life of the party - 7 truths for Democrats, in which he speaks directly to what the Democratic party needs to do in the future if it wants to survive.  Here are his seven points (mostly as paraphrased by me):
  • The party is on life support.
  • We are now in a populist era.
  • The economy is not working for most Americans
  • The party's moneyed establishment are part of the problem.
  • Democrats have to fight like hell against regressive policies.
  • The excitement of the Sanders campaign is the future of the party.
  • The party must become a movement.

As long as we're into lists, this one about how to deal with the Republican administration appeared on the Internet.  It's unattributed.

Rules of Engagement
  1. Don't use his name (he who shall remain nameless)
  2. Remember this is a regime and he's not acting alone;
  3. Do not argue with those who support him--it doesn't work;
  4. Focus on his policies, not his orange-ness and mental state;
  5. Keep your message positive; they want the country to be angry and fearful because this is the soil from which their darkest policies will grow.
  6. No more helpless/hopeless talk
  7. Support artists and the arts
  8. Be careful not to spread fake news. Check it.
  9. Take care of yourselves
  10. Resist!

It's very possible that the Republican presidential candidate was a con-artist.  This article How I Accidentally Helped Elect [The Republican Candidate] was written by a man who produced infomercials for a living.  He lists five ways in which the Republican campaign was like an infomercial.  These are:
  • Use gaudy, fake wealth to lure people.
  • Build credibility via conspiracy theories.
  • Create a problem we didn't know we had.
  • Establish a mantra.
  • Repetition.
The article goes into a bit of detail on how the Republican candidate used these techniques in the last election.

Here's another article about [his] salesmanship techniques.  It's called [He] Sold America A Miracle Cure and the reference is to huckster traveling snake-oil salesmen.  The article addresses the question of what will happen when his supporters figure out that he sold them a bill of goods.  Answer - not much.  Quotes:
When people make big bets on miracle cures that fail to work, they rarely turn against the treatments or their merchants. Instead, they rationalize their misplaced faith, in order to save face, remain hopeful, and preserve an identity that’s defined by their courageous ability to reject the status quo.
Many who trust Trump to heal our body politic do so for the same reasons that people like my friend—normal, reasonable people—trust quacks to heal their bodies. They have been swayed by a powerful confluence of factors—specifically, epistemic uncertainty, existential panic, and anti-elitism. These factors ensure that even when reality hits, when insurance rates go up but the wall does not, the marks will place the blame somewhere else.
Those fancy terms get explained in the article.

It's my belief that SCROTUS wouldn't have won the presidency without his appeals to the very real racism in America today.  This article from Vox details a statistical study which shows a stronger correlation between racist and sexist attitudes and voting Republican than between economic concerns and voting Republican.  Here's a quote:
voters’ measures of sexism and racism correlated much more closely with support for [the Republican candidate] than economic dissatisfaction after controlling for factors like partisanship and political ideology:

What if statistics just isn't your thing??  What happens if words like correlation send you running for the aspirin?  Here's another article, this one written by a musician, albeit a very smart accomplished musician who just happens to be a college president.  His name is Leon Botstein.  In the article he says this:
What [...] white America has expressed by endorsing [the] campaign to “Make America Great Again” is not merely anger against elites in general but targeted resentment against the recent history of success by Americans of color. The racism in this year’s election was not about an older stereotype of the Willie Horton-type, but directed against Barack Obama. It is precisely the parity in the achievements of black Americans, those who have become CEOs, scholars, scientists, artists, doctors, lawyers and politicians—and now even president—that has fueled the resurgence of intolerance and anti-immigrant sentiment.

This article Debunked: The Myth That Ralph Nader Cost Al Gore the 2000 Election is the link I have needed to refer back to most often.  It is about the presidential election sixteen years ago.  This usually happens in Facebook discussions with Democrats who haven't admitted to their defeat in the 2000 election yet, let alone the one last November.

Yep, people misapply blame for Al Gore's loss to George II in Florida to Ralph Nader, rather than to Gore himself who surely deserves the blame.  Nader is still around and still saying things which most Democrats don't want to hear but should listen to.  One can hope that Bernie Sanders, who is not responsible for Hillary Clinton's loss (she is), will still be around in sixteen years saying whatever needs to be said.

Here is an excellent recent interview that Nader did with Tavis Smiley.  A couple quotes:
While the media is distracted with Trump’s braggadocios, falsifications, personal accusations, etc., the playbook is clear. He has invited big business to completely take over the U.S. government. So it’s a government of big business by big business for big business like never before in American history.
you can’t beat the entrenched Republicans with people who sound like Republicans
Finally, here's a Republican who's starting to sound like a reasonable person, even though he made a really lousy governor.  This is his most important movie ever.  It's called "Why Herpes is More Popular Than Congress".  It's about gerrymandering.

Move along.

1 comment :

ericnp said...

I'm flabbergasted, #45 has made me respect Arnold Schwarzenegger.