Category Archives: Framing

Who is Worthy of Love?

This originally posted on June 6th, but I’m reposting in light of the announcement of Paul Ryan for VP.

This video on Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and a foremother to our current extreme right politics, is educational to me. It’s outrageous really, she says that a weak man or woman is beyond love. The interviewer asks:

I: If a man is weak, if a woman is weak, he is beyond, she is beyond love?

Rand: He certainly don’t deserve it, he certainly is beyond.

I: There are very few in this world, by your standards, who are worthy of love?

Rand: uh, unfortunately yes, very few.


The video was created by Think Progress, an unashamedly progressive but non partisan info center. Even though Paul Ryan has recently turned against her, her work is still undoubtedly read, seen (Atlas shrugged came out on film last spring), and admired by a healthy portion of the Republican leadership and constituency. From a National Review – an unashamedly conservative magazine – piece this spring:

“You know you’ve arrived in politics when you have an urban legend about you, and this one is mine,” chuckles Representative Paul Ryan, the Budget Committee chairman, as we discuss his purported obsession with author and philosopher Ayn Rand.

“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says.

Several have called Ryan out on his rewrite, such as Lawrence O’Donnell here. O’Donnell’s delivery is a bit dramatic (to a discredit), but start watching at 5:00 to hear an expanded version of Paul Ryan’s own speech on Ayn Rand. The post, The Hording Hoarde discusses the clash of Rand’s philosophy and that of Jesus.

Rand eventually found it necessary to accept social security and Medicare. Her thoughts were recorded in a paper she did called, A Question of Scholarship:

The recipient of a public scholarship is morally justified only so long as he regards it as restitution and opposes all forms of welfare statism. Those who advocate public scholarships, have no right to them; those who oppose them, have. If this sounds like a paradox, the fault lies in the moral contradictions of welfare statism, not in its victims.

It does indeed sound like a paradox. Talk about getting the facts to fit the frame! I wonder if she still found herself worthy of love while she had cancer from smoking too many cigarettes? Jesus would have.

Chart courtesy of UPWORTHY.com.

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An Honest Conservative’s Response

Some of you may be following along and know that I’ve recently done a presentation on some of the concepts I try to talk about on this blog. One of my principles in modern political discourse is that people will relate to and follow along with values more easily than policies or programs, so values is where you need to begin connecting with your audience.
For the presentation, the room was full and I had several interesting conversations following the program. One was with Mike Butrum, the Government Affairs Director of the Asheville Board of Realtors, a self proclaimed conservative. His response relates to the discussion from last week, Authority Rules (or does it?). He offered me some constructive criticism, see if you agree with some of these excerpts…

Rest assured, I was very much intrigued by the subject matter and by your presentation. The political discourse  certainly needs a more “Civil Tongue” for sure. I think there is real substance within the presentation. I also think you are open minded in as much as you asked for feedback so I’m taking the time to offer some from my perspective. Keep in mind, I’ve always thought it doesn’t matter as much what as person says  but more important what they hear. I also fully subscribe to the notion that what a person says is generally not the way it’s heard. With that said, let me try to explain what I heard.

I do not agree at all that conservatives see authority as a basis for structure in their lives or in their discourse. I think conservatives value freedoms and private rights. It’s been my personal belief that too much authority is  wrong particularly in the executive branch of government.. Now, if the prescribed answer to this is, I don’t realize how progressive I am, then I have a bridge for you to buy in Brooklyn. That’s demeaning. If it’s possible to spin freedoms and private rights  into some form of authority then I would be all ears. We have sufficient and proper authority and it’s called the Constitution of the United States. Of course the debate over this document that the Constitution is not and is not designed to be a living document is one worth having. The founding fathers purposely made it difficult to change the document but it can be changed and it has been 27 times. To allow a temporary executive to change the document on a whim would merely allow another temporary occupant to change it again.

He does not like emotion in the political discussion and decision making process:

…I was in a war and unlike today, I did not volunteer. My daughters husband has volunteered and has made 13 appearances in Afghanistan and Iraq as a member of the U S Army Special Forces Aviation Unit. He volunteered, took his chances defended America and is proud of his service and so is his family. To be against the war is to be against the warriors mission.  He help bring down a dictator, an enormous task and incredibly worthwhile to the world and especially to the people of Iraq was necessary and important. If the current administration doesn’t totally demean the efforts of hundreds of thousands of veterans, we will give another country the taste of freedom and the ability to join with all other free nations to develop their economies that end up helping all that participate especially America. It’s not emotion that works. It’s common sense. Unfortunately, common sense is not very common. Have American’s become so complacent that we no longer have an obligation to others that need our help? Do we offer them our cold shoulder? How many lives have been lost due to complacency?  Is it because we feel that we need to pay more attention to our own problems. After 16 trillion dollars of debt, mostly given to Americans, how much is enough?

Emotion in political discourse is bad. Passion is good. Crying and laughing to me are emotions. If you laugh at the supposed ignorance of the other side in the political debate, that’s wrong. If you cry because your candidate lost, that’s wrong. Passion on the other hand allows for a vigorous debate without resorting to degrading your opponent. Passion will allow for a person to live with their losses and offer compassion to the other side all the while critiquing there efforts and trying to improve their arguments. As I stated in our brief discussion before I left on Wednesday night, bad manners are innate. Good manners are a learned trait.

Allow me to point out a classic example that occurred that night. I sat down in the front of the room(I’m somewhat hard of hearing) and I was drinking a beer which I sat down on the table in front of my chair. I stood up to engage a friend in conversation in front of the table. A lady came and sat down in the seat next to the one I was occupying. She placed her bag on by seat. I noticed this and politely said that’s by beverage and my seat. She said nothing. During my conversation, a gentleman sat down at my seat and spilled my beer. He asked if he had done that. I stated, that was my beer. I went on to say that apparently, I’ve lost my beer and my seat. Neither said anything and I went to the back of the room where I missed some of your presentation due to the bad acoustics. My point is, and this is real not fained, although no one has a lock on bad manners, liberals are the worst. I advocate on behalf of the REALTOR Association before city council, county commission, state legislature and at times our congressmen. I take no political side in these discussions. I advocate for the REALTORS and let the chip fall way they may. Liberals are not generally nice people in the debate. No sense of manners or even half truths. Anything goes. I’ve always wonder where does their sense of decorum go when they debate politics. They despise conservatives with a visceral hatred. Is it a sense of entitlement? Is it because their mothers never taught them manners? Are the just bad to the bone? What is it? It’s virtually impossible to have a meaningful discussion with zealots and disciples from either political party.

At this point some people would point out that conservatives do the same thing and I would agree. However, the contempt that progressive liberals have for their opponents can only be learned and having the opportunity to have hired hundreds of young people in my career, I have come to the conclusion that colleges and universities are the grounds on which these emotions have been spawned. Extremely disappointing. In my day, we would enter college with a mind full of mush but come out thinking for ourselves. Today, and for the past three decades and more, student’s come out truly believing that liberal concepts and anti capitalism is the better way. They loose love of country in the process. They loose a need to join a church, they raise environmentalism to the level of a form of religion. But there is hope. To me it’s like potty training a baby. Babies are adamant against this necessary basic need at first but they finally get it. At least most do. Some remain committed to the cause their entire lives never understanding the simple concept that dumping where they live is harmful and has no redeeming value. Interestingly, after the 60’s anti government movement, most of the combatant’s turned their significant aptitudes toward accomplishing something. In the process the finally “Got It”. Capitalism is what has made America what it is. Warts and all. A democratic Republic. Most of these people flourished in the process.

Without capitalism, America cannot and will not work. America is unique. American’s believe that you have to do and pay your way. We are teaching people that this is no longer necessary. If anyone has the slightest doubt about this concept, just look where we are headed. If you have the slightest doubt that the direction of the country could be wrong, you have an obligation to do something about it. America and Americans have been given this power. It’s called the vote.   I know some people hate America  but so far, in all of humane mankind, America represents the best hope. I have traveled the world many times over. I can assure you, the most downtrodden people in America, live a higher standard of life then most of the people in the world. If the bleeding hearts really were serious about helping the most needy, then join Mother Theresa’s church, go to India and make an effort. If environmentalism is your calling then go to Russia to the yards where they have parked their old nuclear fleet, dip one cup of water and dispose of it properly, you would do more good then anything going on in America.

Lastly, as I stated when we spoke on Wednesday, I would suggest that you consider doing this worthwhile presentation with a conservative offering a point counterpoint message. Rehearse so that both of you find something you can compromise on. Something of substance. Doing this will allow you make the same presentation without pandering to the audience. The audience will always discount a pandering message. It would also give the presentation substance and credibility. Singing to the choir is not very fulfilling. …

I appreciate the thought put into the feedback, and permission from Mike to reprint. I know that we are not going to totally agree, but we have to be able to talk to each other.

I am especially interested in the challenge to the idea that authority is not the driving value for conservatives – that freedom and private rights are a higher priority. Conservatives definitely have a social conservative bent (faction?, branch?) that is not about freedom. GLBT rights would be a non issue if conservatives embraced their freedom of expression and freedom to live under the same protections and benefits as the rest of us. In a local school district, religious conservatives have pushed the idea of “religious freedom” a la religious literature and representation in school so far that kids will find freedom from religion to be difficult. Encouraging small town monopolies – like Wal-Mart – actually lessen the options and quality of life for folks in the surrounding area. Polluting industries that go unchecked and unregulated reduce the freedom that health gives us.

These are the values worth exploring, what do you think?

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The Republican Brain – the podcast

Chris Mooney has written a book The Republican Brain, that is getting a lot of attention. I have not gotten a chance to read it yet, but it is on my short list. Mooney is a journalist who takes a special interest in psychology and ideology. He has studied the studies and comes up with some interesting findings – they support the principles from which this blog is founded, mostly picked up from the work of George Lakoff. He supports the values based approach of communication. Mooney does a pretty good job of being respectful, conversational, and realistic when talking about academics – I’ve included a podcast from him below.

“Arguing facts when the divide is about values doesn’t work” Mooney says (start listening around 29min – 31 for a good explanation of this). Think about news sources you actually trust; the news is relevantbecause of that trust, it would be irrelevant without it. When you hear an unbelievable news story cited, the first thing you want to know is “who says so?”, so that you can determine whether or not it is information to believe.

The recording is rather long so I will give you the very shortened version of the Cliff’s notes. Conservatives and Liberals tend to self select stories that support ideas they already believe in, however, liberals are much more willing to accept new information and be open to change. Liberals relish nuance, conservatives crave decisiveness. Liberals are messier, conservatives want order. Mooney talks about belonging to a club of sorts, and how the language we use philosophically indicates what club we’re in. If we can avoid that language, we are more likely to keep minds and doors open to change destructive ways.

The podcast is about fifty minutes, so if you have some drive time or similar – it’s an interesting discussion for armchair political scientists. If you want to hear some of the meat, hit it at about 29 minutes, then try again around 41 minutes for a bit of advice on how to connect from the perspective of a secular group. Here is the piece –  Chris Mooney Center for Inquiry The Republican Brain.

The bottom line is emotion. Everyone first thinks with their emotions. Those politicians that connect on that level will do better than those that don’t. These could be fear based or positive, but nuance and facts are still not winning elections. It is not against liberal values to show emotion, to show passion for what you believe in, even in the case of atheists. We can all find our moral code and work on a language to talk about it honestly and connect with folks no matter their political stripe.

We live in dynamic political times, you never know what meme will catch on – maybe it will be one that you created. Make it one of values, make it count.

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Socialism: American as Apple Pie

For the next 3 days, I will be taking a respite. Instead of leaving you wanting the edgy commentary and values based discussions you crave, I will post some fodder for consideration.

This one from upworthy.com

The bottom line is…no, we can’t do it better as individuals. We need each other. Even Especially the rich need this stuff to keep their wealth.

(BTW this is a good text for Progressives, but bad visual. Progressives do this too much. They believe that the sarcasm and tongue in cheek statement in red “Say No to Socialism” is understood, when in reality the readability and visual “pop” with the red banner kind of negates the message. Since it is already a negated message “saying ‘no’ to socialism”, I’m not sure how that works, maybe it does reinforce socialism… that one’s tricky in case anyone has a speculation there.)

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Star Wars Ghetto

George Lucas is tired of his homeowners association. Some of the members have a problem with the film making studio he wanted to build (in addition to other studio space but part of the original plan). Fearing a legal hot mess, Lucas has ditched the idea for a film studio and decided to donate the land to a local non-profit that would use the land to develop affordable housing.

Some neighbors feel that Lucas is encouraging poor people to move into the neighborhood for spite. Lucas denies it.

Whether this is the high dollar version of a neighborly spat or simply a generous gift to society is difficult to judge, but the end result is that lower income people get housing and those same people get the advantages of living in a beautiful natural setting. Some of the neighbors aren’t very happy. This from the New York Times:

“It’s inciting class warfare,” said Carolyn Lenert, head of the North San Rafael Coalition of Residents. …

Whatever Mr. Lucas’s intentions, his announcement has unsettled a county whose famously liberal politics often sits uncomfortably with the issue of low-cost housing and where battles have been fought over such construction before…

In a telling fact, a family of four with an annual income of $88,800 can qualify for housing assistance in Marin,

This quarrel raises the old question: which comes first poverty or crime? Are those even the causes or effects that should be measured? What psychological studies show is the greater the inequality, the greater the loss of trust and sense of unfairness, the more unhappiness. A psychological science study finds this conclusion  “Americans are happier when national wealth is distributed more evenly than when it is distributed unevenly.

“If the ultimate goal of society is to make its citizens happy,” they add, “then it is desirable to consider policies that produce more income equality, fairness, and general trust.”

So, back to Marin county, we find a beautiful and wealthy portion of the country that are sympathetic to progressive causes, but have a NIMBY attitude (Not in my backyard). From the NYPost piece, one neighbor wrote to another, ” You’re going to bring drug dealers, all this crime and lowlife in here.” Are their fears founded?

When everyone is poor, it’s harder to notice how exactly poor you are, when most are poor but a few are very rich, it’s easy to see how poor you are. When 40 hours of labor is not enough to afford the basic necessities, but another person can work fewer hours and live a life of opulence beyond most citizens wildest dreams, a question of fairness is bound to be asked.

That seems to be the staying meme of this election, “What is fair?

A grown, working man in poverty looks at another grown, working, man with wealth and does not trust the system that rewards only one of them so richly for hard work. The game feels fixed and most Americans do not have the time or background to pursue the injustice (because they have to work so hard to stay right where they’re at). The lower income man distrusts the rich man for being suspect of gaming the system while breaking his back. The rich man doesn’t trust the poor man and suspects laziness, jealousy, and low morals. At some point, figuratively “stickin’ it to the man” might sound like fun to the working class. The security industry lets us know that there is no shortage of mistrust on the end of the wealthy either.

High disparity in income makes for an unhappy society. This is exacerbated when family and life sustaining jobs are very few and far between. When someone can find a job, the job may not suit them, may injure them, they may perform poorly, they may hate – in fact that describes lots of the part time, temporary, and off the books work that is constituting much of the work that goes on in America today.  To actually find a job you are well suited for, prepared for, are paid a livable wage for, that has benefits, and can afford a middle class lifestyle is like finding a needle in a haystack. It used to be that most of the people I knew had those type of jobs, now, most of the people I know do not have those type of jobs.

For all of the cries of “social engineering” from “free marketers”, they must have missed the memo: Our society has been engineered, the corporations and their legion won. Bain Capital is a prime example. Companies like Bain have changed our society to one where most Americans can no longer afford the dream.

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