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DNC learns nothing: Business as usual, courting lobbyists and corporations

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Lee Fang reports in The Intercept:

LABOR SECRETARY TOM PEREZ, one of the leading candidates for chair of the Democratic National Committee, has stumbled in recent days when asked about his position on money in politics.

Asked at a DNC forum in Phoenix last Saturday whether he will “revive President Obama’s ban on corporate donations to the DNC” and a ban on appointing lobbyists as party leaders, Perez demurred.

“It’s actually not that simple a question,” Perez responded, adding that such a move might have “unintended consequences.” Perez argued that such a ban might impact “union members who are lobbyists,” though the question explicitly only addressed corporate lobbyists.

Speaking to the Huffington Post, Perez has refused to clarify his position on resurrecting President Obama’s ban on lobbyist donations to the DNC, which was overturned by former DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., during Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency.

The only firm restriction on special-interest money Perez has announced is that he will not accept lobbyist donations for his own campaign committee formed to support his bid for DNC chair. But even this position has come under question.

The Intercept recently obtained a fundraiser invite for Team Tom, Perez’s DNC chair campaign committee, for an event on January 26 in Washington, D.C. The event invite clearly prohibits lobbyist money, but the host committee — the individuals sponsoring the event — included several federally registered lobbyists and individuals working in the lobbying industry.

One of the event’s sponsors, for instance, is Bryan Tackett, a lobbyist with the firm Drinker Biddle & Reath, who is registered to lobby on a number of issues, including on issues related to the overtime rules released by the Labor Department under Perez’s leadership.

Reached for comment, Tackett said, “As a private citizen, I support Tom Perez’s bid for DNC chair and I failed to inform his team of my background in lobbying. They have informed me of their policy to not accept lobbyist donations and I respect their decision.”

The Intercept also raised the issue with Perez’s campaign staff. Xochitl Hinojosa, Perez’s spokesperson, said: “There are currently no lobbyists hosting the happy hour or any finance events for Team Tom. If a lobbyists was on a previous invite, we removed them once we were made aware they were a lobbyist.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 January 2017 at 9:58 am

Linguist George Lakoff explains how the Democrats helped elect Trump

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Paul Rosenberg interviews George Lakoff in Salon:

George Lakoff didn’t start off in the world of politics. He was a founding father of cognitive linguistics, starting with his 1980 book, “Metaphors We Live By (co-authored with philosopher Mark Johnson). The book showed how immediate, concrete experience — bodily orientation, physical movement, and so on — structures our understanding of more complex and abstract experiences via “conceptual metaphors” such as “Consciousness Is Up,” “Love Is a Journey,” etc.

Facing the rise of Newt Gingrich in the 1990s and bewildered by how he and other liberals could not make logical sense of conservative ideology (what do gun rights, low taxes and banning abortion have in common?), Lakoff found an answer in conceptual metaphors derived form two contrasting family models explicated by Diana Baumrind as authoritarian (“strict father” in Lakoff’s terms) and authoritative (“nurturant parent”), as described in his 1996 book, “Moral Politics.” His 2004 book, “Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate,” drew on a wider range of cognitive science and gained a mass audience, but failed to fundamentally change how liberals and Democrats approach politics, as was richly illustrated by the recent election of Donald Trump.

But Lakoff is nothing if not persistent, and has penned an election postmortem like no other, “A Minority President: Why the Polls Failed, and What the Majority Can Do.” It rearticulates the arguments of his earlier books — including others like “The Political Mind,” Whose Freedom?“ and Philosophy in the Flesh — along with fresh analysis and new insights that push hard for opening up a new realm of possibilities, instead of retrenching, retreating or repeating strategies and tactics that have failed in the past. In it, Lakoff displays both an intimate familiarity with detailed examples and a broad-based visionary outlook.

Salon spoke with him to explore both, with an eye toward expanding the horizon of the possible on one hand, and avoiding potholes on the other. He’s talking with Chelsea Green about expanding the essay into a book, but the ideas in it really can’t wait. The Democratic establishment needs to be shaken up, and the rest of us need to be stirred.

You’ve been writing about politics from a cognitive science perspective for more than 20 years. A lot of people have listened to you, but the Democratic political establishment as a whole has not, and that was reflected in the election of Donald Trump. As you note in your article, “The polls, the media, and the Democratic Party all failed to understand conservative values and their importance. They failed to understand unconscious thought and moral worldviews. While hailing science in the case of climate change, they ignored science when it came to their own minds.” So let’s start there. What do you mean by that, and how did it happen?

If you’re a conservative going into politics, there’s a good chance you’ll study cognitive science, that is, how people really think and how to market things by advertising. So they know people think using frames and metaphors and narratives and images and emotions and so on. That’s second nature to anybody who’s taken a marketing course. Many of the people who have gone into conservative communications have done that, and know very well how to market their ideas.

Now, if instead you are a progressive, and you go to college and you’re interested in politics, what are you going to study? Well, you’ll study political science, law, public policy, economic theory and so on, but you’re not going to wind up studying marketing, most likely, and you’re not going to study either cognitive science or neuroscience.

What you’ll learn in those courses is what is called Enlightenment reason, from 1650, from Descartes. And here’s what that reasoning says: What makes us human beings is that we are rational animals and rationality is defined in terms of logic. Recall that Descartes was a mathematician and logician. He argued that reasoning is like seeing a logical proof. Secondly, he argued that our ideas can fit the world because, as he said, “God would not lie to us.” The assumption is that ideas directly fit the world.

They’re also, Descartes argued, disembodied. He said that if ideas were embodied, were part of the body, then physical laws would apply to them, and we would not have free will. And in fact, they are embodied, physical laws do apply to them, and we do not have absolute free will. We’re trapped by what the neural systems of our brains  have accumulated. We can only see what our brains allow us to understand, and that’s an important thing.

So what he said, basically, was that there are no frames, no embodiment, no metaphor — none of the things people really use to reason. Moreover if we think logically and we all have the same reasoning, if you just tell people the facts, they should reason to the same correct conclusion. And that just isn’t true. And that keeps not being true, and liberals keep making the same mistake year after year after year. So that’s a very important thing.

After “Don’t Think of an Elephant” was published, you got a lot of attention but your message really didn’t sink in. I think it was largely because of what you said above — what you were saying simply didn’t fit into the Enlightenment worldview that Democratic elites took for granted from their education.  

When I started teaching framing the first thing I would tell the class is “Don’t think of an elephant,” and of course, they think of an elephant. I wrote a book on it because the point is, if you negate a frame, you have to activate the frame, because you have to know what you’re negating. If you use logic against something, you’re strengthening it. And that lesson was not understood. So if people think in terms of logic — it’s a mistake that’s made every day on MSNBC — you go on there and you’ll get people saying, “Well, you know, Trump said this, and some Republicans said that and Jeff Sessions said this and here are the facts that show they’re wrong.” You just keep repeating the things that you’re negating. And that just strengthens them.

Did that happen in Hillary Clinton’s campaign?

That showed up there. The Clinton campaign decided that the best way to defeat Trump was to use his own words against him. So they showed these clips of Trump saying outrageous things. Now what Trump was doing in those clips was saying out loud things that upset liberals, and that’s exactly what his followers liked about him. So of course they were showing what actually was helping Trump with his supporters.

I tried to convince people in the Clinton campaign — early on, I wrote a piece called “Understanding Trump,” in March 2016, and it was sent to everybody in the Clinton campaign. Everybody at the PAC, for example, got a copy of it. It didn’t matter; they were doing what they were told to do.

Another problem was the assumption that all you have to do is look at issues, and give the facts about issues, and the facts about the issues supposedly show up in polls, and then they apply demographics. So there was this assumption, for example, that educated women in the Philadelphia suburbs were naturally going to vote for Hillary, because they were highly educated. They turned out also to be Republican, and what made them Republican was Republican views, like Republican views about the Supreme Court, abortion, things like that. So they didn’t all go out and vote for Hillary.

Or the campaign assumed that since Trump attacked Latinos, and Latino leaders didn’t like Trump, that the Latinos would all vote for Hillary, and many Latinos voted for Trump. Why? Because “strict father” morality is big in Latino culture. The campaign was not looking at values. They were looking at demographics, and they missed the role of values.

Which you’ve been pounding on for a long time now.

Well over a decade. During the Bush administration, I talked to the Democratic caucus. I was invited by Nancy Pelosi, and I talked to them about “Don’t Think of an Elephant,” and the strict father/nurturant parent distinction, and I pointed out that one thing strict fathers can’t do is betray trust. It turned out that the Southerners in the caucus agreed strongly, and they wanted to have me work with them on talking about Bush betraying trust. But Nancy said, “Well, we should check with the polls first,” and she checked with one of the major pollsters who said, “Oh no, my polls show that people trust Bush, therefore we can’t use it.” And the idea is to follow the polls, rather than change them. And this is a big difference between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans try to change the polls, whereas Democrats try to follow the polls.

There are other problems with polling you point out as well.

Yes. The next problem has to do with going issue by issue. This is happening right now. Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer went onto the Rachel Maddow show on the same day, and they said, “The American people agree with us, issue by issue, each case and we’re going to press Trump issue by issue, and we’re going to start with health care and go on to other things.” What they’re missing is values.

They’re missing the idea that many Americans who depend on health care, affordable health care, for example, have strict-father positions and voted for Trump against their interests. And this is something has been known for ages, that a lot of poor conservatives vote against their material interests, because they’re voting for their worldview. And the reason for it is that their moral worldview defines who they are. They are not going to vote against their own definition of who they are.

This is missed by the unions as well. Unions don’t really understand their function. Unions are instruments of freedom. Unions free people from corporate servitude. From corporations saying what hours they can work, what wages are possible, and so on. The argument against unions that has come in so-called “right-to-work” laws misses the fact that unions are instruments of freedom, and instead suggests that unions go against freedom. They go against your rights. And the unions don’t know how to argue against right-to-work laws. So that’s a problem with liberals working in unions.

There’s something more basic underlying all this, isn’t there? From “Moral Politics” on you’ve been hammering on liberals’ failure to claim and proclaim their own values.

All progressives and liberals have a moral worldview, what I described as the nurturant-parent worldview. When applied to politics it goes like this: Citizens care about other citizens, they have empathy for other citizens, and the work of the government is to provide public resources for everybody. Public resources, from the very beginning of our country, not only apply to each private citizen, but they also apply to business. From the very beginning we had public roads and bridges and public education, we had a national bank, and the patent office for businesses, and interstate commerce laws for business, and so on. And a judicial system that’s mostly used for business.

Since then the government has supported business even more, especially through the promotion of scientific research, the development of pharmaceuticals, computer science, support of public research and public universities. The Internet began as ARPANET, is in the Defense Department. Think about satellite communication — that was made possible by NASA and NOAA. Very important things we did. What about things like GPS systems and cell phones? Our government is maintaining not just our cell phones, but the world economic system which all uses GPS systems and cell phones.

People don’t see the role of public resources, which are there to run the world economy, to help you in your everyday life, to give you communications, like this interview right now. This is just something that’s never said. When I say this to progressives, they say, “Well, of course that’s true, isn’t that obvious?” The answer is no. It is not obvious, because the next question I ask is, “Have you ever said it?” And the answer is no. The question after that is, “Will you go out from now on and say it?” And I don’t get enthusiastic “Yes!” answers.

People need to know this and it needs to be said all the time. It needs to be said about every single business. The person who has done best at it has been Elizabeth Warren. When Obama tried to use the same message he got it wrong, he said if you have a business you didn’t build that, and then he got attacked and he dropped it. But in fact this is something that does need to be out there.

There are other things that need to be said that progressives don’t say because they don’t really understand how framing works. Framing is not obvious. People read “Don’t Think of an Elephant,” they got some of the ideas, but when they tried to apply it, it turned out it’s not so easy to apply. You need some training to do it, and you need some ideas.

For example. Trump said we’re going to get rid of regulation, when there’s a new regulation we’re going to get rid of two for every new one that comes in. But what are regulations? Why do people have them? They’re there for protection of the public in every place. 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!”

You’ve pointed out how Trump has actually been clever in ways that liberals, Democrats and the media didn’t understand. You laid out a number of mechanisms. So can we go through a few of those? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 January 2017 at 10:41 am

Posted in Books, Politics, Science

Big Sugar’s Secret Ally? Nutritionists

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Gary Taubes in the NY Times:

The first time the sugar industry felt compelled to “knock down reports that sugar is fattening,” as this newspaper put it, it was 1956. Papers had run a photograph of President Dwight D. Eisenhower sweetening his coffee with saccharin, with the news that his doctor had advised him to avoid sugar if he wanted to remain thin.

The industry responded with a national advertising campaign based on what it believed to be solid science. The ads explained that there was no such thing as a “fattening food”: “All foods supply calories and there is no difference between the calories that come from sugar or steak or grapefruit or ice cream.”

More than 60 years later, the sugar industry is still making the same argument, or at least paying researchers to do it for them. The stakes have changed, however, with a near tripling of the prevalence of obesity in the intervening decades and what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures reveal to be an almost unimaginable 655 percent increase in the percentage of Americans with diabetes diagnoses. When it comes to weight gain, the sugar industry and purveyors of sugary beverages still insist, a calorie is a calorie, regardless of its source, so guidelines that single out sugar as a dietary evil are not evidence-based.

Another way to say this is that what we eat doesn’t matter; it’s only how much — just as the sugar industry would have us believe. A 2014 article in an American Diabetes Association journal phrased the situation this way: “There is no clear or convincing evidence that any dietary or added sugar has a unique or detrimental impact relative to any other source of calories on the development of obesity or diabetes.”

The absence of evidence, though, as the saying goes, is not necessarily evidence of absence. If the research community had been doing its job and not assuming since the 1920s that a calorie is a calorie, perhaps we would have found such evidence long ago.

The assumption ignores decades of medical science, including much of what has become textbook endocrinology (the science of hormones and hormone-related diseases) and biochemistry. By the 1960s, researchers in these fields had clearly demonstrated that different carbohydrates, like glucose and fructose, are metabolized differently, leading to different hormonal and physiological responses, and that fat accumulation and metabolism were influenced profoundly by these hormones. The unique composition of sugar — half glucose, half fructose — made it a suspect of particular interest even then.

The takeaway is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2017 at 10:07 pm

What healthcare was like before the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare

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Paul Waldman looks back down memory lane:

At his CNN town hall yesterday, Paul Ryan met a man named Jeff Jeans, a lifelong Republican and small business owner who not long ago got a cancer diagnosis. He didn’t have insurance at the time and was told that without treatment he’d have only six weeks to live.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I’m standing here today alive,” he said. “I want to thank President Obama from the bottom of my heart, because I would be dead if it weren’t for him.”

Let’s not mince words: If Paul Ryan and the rest of the Republicans in Congress get their way, people like Jeff Jeans will die.

That sounds like hyperbole, like unnecessarily inflammatory rhetoric. But it’s the truth. These are literally life-and-death questions Congress is deciding.

There are a lot of reasons why repealing the ACA is going to be a disaster. But for now I want to focus on just one: what’s going to happen to the estimated 52 million Americans who have pre-existing conditions, like Jeff Jeans?

To begin, let’s remember what it was like before the ACA was passed. When you applied for insurance, you had to give a detailed accounting of every major medical procedure you’d ever had, every serious condition you’d ever had, every time you had sought treatment for anything for years prior. The insurer would comb over your application to see if there was any grounds on which they could reject you. That didn’t just apply to people with chronic conditions like diabetes or a major illness like cancer. In the bad old days, insurers could deny you coverage for anything. Tore some cartilage in your knee on the basketball court a few years ago? Denied. Had sinus problems? Denied. Carpal tunnel? Denied. If you were lucky, they’d cover you but just refuse to pay for anything remotely related to your old condition or that particular body part.

And when you did get sick, they’d sometimes undertake a “recission,” in which they went back through your records to see if there was any excuse they could use to cancel your policy now that you were going to cost them money. Check out this account from journalist Xeni Jardin, who was diagnosed with breast cancer before the ACA took effect. During one chemotherapy session, someone from the billing department pulled her aside and told her, “Your insurance company has opened a fraud investigation because they believe you had cancer as a pre-existing condition.” Imagine dealing with that while you’re fighting for your life.

Now here’s how getting insurance works today, with the Affordable Care Act in effect, if you have a pre-existing condition. See if you can follow along, because it’s pretty complicated:

You buy coverage. The insurer doesn’t ask you about your medical history. It’s covered. That’s all.

Here’s a list of some things that will return once they repeal the ACA: . . .

Continue reading. It’s pretty horrifying. And do read the whole thing. There’s quite a bit more.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2017 at 9:04 pm

Kevin Drum looks at what Friday the 13th has wrought this time

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His post begins:

One of the benefits of being sick—oh, bollocks. There are no benefits to being sick. However, with a couple of short interludes, I slept until about 1:30 in the afternoon today, which is 4:30 for you elitist East Coasters. That means I missed the whole day. So when I finally felt well enough to reach over to the table for my tablet, I was able to take in the entire glorious panorama of 2017’s first Friday the 13th all at once. I shall now present it to you approximately as I experienced it. . .

Read the whole thing. It’s really excellent: a USA-type snapshot of one day’s events. (I’m referring to the John Dos Passos trilogy, highly recommended.)

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2017 at 8:56 pm

Welcome to the year of living dangerously – 2017

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Matthew Flinders writes at the Oxford University Press blog:

I’m not usually a worried man but today – New Year’s Day 2017 – I am a worried man. Gripped by an existential fear, my mind is restless, alert, and tired. The problem? A sense of foreboding that the impact of the political events of 2016 will shortly come home to roost on a world that is already short on collective good will or trust. There is also a sense that games are being played by a new uber-elite of political non-politicians who thrive on the vulnerabilities and fears of the masses – the great non-uber-elite (if that is not too many hyphens and too few umlauts).

And yet to suggest that this new elite thrives on vulnerability and fear is not quite correct. I am doing them a disservice. They do not just thrive on vulnerability and fear: they create and manufacture it.

Don’t believe me? Think I’m wrong?

Haven’t you noticed the new statecraft of ‘divide and rule’ that has arisen across large parts of the world? Have you not noticed the rise of national populism with its simple rhetoric of ‘us’ against ‘them’? When Trump says ‘Let’s make America great again!’ he isn’t just acknowledging the decline of a superpower but he is also implicitly blaming certain parts of society for that decline. When the Brexiteers campaigned for the UK to leave the European Union the debate was viciously polarized to the extent that anyone who dared to even question the benefits of a British departure risked being hung, drawn, and quartered as a traitor. I exaggerate for effect…but only slightly. Across the world there is a more of a hint and a kink of a psychological warfare in which sections of the precariat are pitted against other sections of exactly the same broad body of people who exist in a socio-economic state of uncertainty. These are the workers of the ‘gig economy’ – the apex of Bauman’s liquid modernity – who exist in a hinterland of self-employed temporary employment. Employment protection, workers rights, unions…little more than quaint phrases from a long-forgotten phase of economic development.

It is the precariat – a phrase and focus of analysis originally developed by Guy Standing – who are living dangerously and their numbers are growing. As this slice of society grows from a thin seam to a major layer of the social structure, then so too do the opportunities for abusing the existence of obvious social fears and frustrations. It is easy to divide a vulnerable class, a hopeless class, a hopeful class, and for false prophets to promise the world in return for a vote. Too easy, and this is the problem with democracy that has now emerged.

I don’t want a red cap or a Union Jack. I don’t want to be told there are simple solutions to complex problems. I don’t want to be told that foreigners, immigrants, and ‘others’ – those demonized souls – are the problem when I know that the problem is really one of ‘us’ not ‘them.’ My foreboding is therefore based on a sense that the public (or really ‘the publics’ of the modern world) have been manipulated by false fears that will only generate new fears and isolationism at a historical moment when the fears and risks that really matter can only be confronted through united collective action. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 January 2017 at 7:37 am

Watch this interview on foreign relations

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Written by LeisureGuy

5 January 2017 at 2:28 pm

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