Saturday, September 20, 2008

This is Your Nation on White Privilege

Interesting commentary by Tim Wise (who is, incidentally, white like me):

"...For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll “kick their fuckin' ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you’re “untested.”

White privilege is being able to say that you support the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance because “if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the “under God” part wasn’t added until the 1950s--while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school, requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.

White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.

White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was “Alaska first,” and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s being disrespectful.

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you’re being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college--you’re somehow being mean, or even sexist.

White privilege is being able to convince white women who don’t even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a “second look.”

White privilege is being able to fire people who didn’t support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God’s punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you’re just a good church-going Christian, but if you’re black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you’re an extremist who probably hates America.

White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a “trick question,” while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O’Reilly means you’re dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it a “light” burden.

And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren’t sure about that whole “change” thing. Ya know, it’s just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain …"


Friday, September 19, 2008

SEC Framing Technique - Barack Fu is Strong!

The flurry of punches over firing the SEC Chair Christopher Cox shows the power of Obama's counterframing technique.

When McCain said "the chairman of SEC has betrayed the public trust. And if I were president, I would fire him" he obviously expected Obama to take the emotionally weak position that, legally, the President can't do that. The McCain campaign even issued a statement imagining what Obama's response would be and saying it showed Barack's too weak to protect Americans.

But Obama didn't play McCain's game. Accepting your opponent's framing of a problem is for patzers.

Instead, Barack kicked it up a notch: he demanded that firing of, not just Cox,but the whole crooked bunch behind the scandal, from top to bottom, including the White House. And even better, he showed that we can do it - we are not weak - we have the power - we have the election!

Let's analyze this masterstroke in detail.

Christopher Cox, a former colleague of McCain, is chair of the SEC, filling a term that expires June 2009. Legally, the president can't fire anyone from the SEC, although he can demand a resignation and fume if it doesn't happen.

But forget the law; look at the emotions.

Emotionally, it feels right that someone should suffer here. The SEC Chair clearly hurt America (he was put into that office to loosen regulations, and look what happened!); it feels right that he should suffer. McCain, in saying he'd do something legally impossible but emotionally right, is presenting himself as a guy who wants to punish the wrongdoer and protect the American people. And, in contrast, he is presenting his opponent as someone who is too weak even to try. McCain expected to score big time on this.

Classic liberals fall for this all the time. Most famously, Mike Dukakis responded to a crude question about his wife being raped with a legally correct but emotionally empty answer. He should have lept over the podium and tore out the moderator's throat for insulting his wife, but instead Dukakis demonstrated that he was a thoughtful and legally correct guy, and therefore lost the election.

Some think that McCain's call for firing the SEC Chair was a gaffe; however, on the evidence, it was a well-planned setup. McCain's campaign was ready for Obama to give the weak-ass liberal legalistic response, and and condemned Obama's response in a premptive statement attacking something it admits Obama hasn't said:.
"In his rush to score political points on economic disaster, we've heard that at his next event in New Mexico, Senator Obama is about to distort the facts and attack John McCain's call for removing the Chairman of the SEC...

The President of the United States has the power to remove the chairmanship, and always reserves the right to request the resignation of an appointee and to maintain the customary expectation that it will be delivered. Perhaps Barack Obama isn't strong enough to change Washington, but John McCain is."
See? McCain Strong! Obama Weak! Bwa-Ha-Ha!

This probably would have worked against old school "Kick Me Again, Please" liberals. At most they may have complained that Obama didn't say that; the statement itself admits that it's inventing something Obama might say and attacking that. But that would be a weak response because it would, emotionally, open Obama to the charge that he changed what he was going to say in response to McCain, thus showing that McCain was stronger than Obama.

But Barack Fu is strong!
Here's Obama's devastating response:
[McCain] said that he is calling for the firing of the Security and Exchange Commissioner. Well I think that is all fine and good, but here is what I say: In 47 days, you can fire the whole Trickle-Down, On-Your-Own, Look-the-Other-Way crowd in Washington who has led us down this disastrous path.

Don’t just get rid of one guy, get rid of this administration, get rid of this philosophy, get rid of the do-nothing approach to problems and put someone in there who is going to fight for you.
In one strike, Obama:
  • Grabs the righteous anger against the SEC
  • Kicks it up a notch to "Fire all the bastards, and their little dog too!"
  • Tells us how we can do it! We don't have to fume helplessly like McCain, we can throw the bums out in the election.
In other words: McCain Weak, Obama Strong, Waaaahhh-hooooo - We're coming for you Johnny!

I must admit, I fell for McCain's trap. I felt (...and still feel...) that the legalisms are important. They always are, but politically the emotions are much more important.

I also fell for the trap of objecting to McCain's lie about what Obama actually said. Yes, every reasonable person knows McCain is a liar but so what? Emotionally, a guy who lies is demonstrating his strength by lying; he's making the other guy response "hey, he's a liar" which is weak. This is not rational, but it's true.

The true technique, the strong technique is to take McCain's pointless but strong-sounding demand for firing the SEC Chair and amplify it. Use McCain's energy against him; fire not just the one guy, but the whole corrupt bunch ... including the former Chair of the Commerce Committee who helped put Cox in as SEC Chair: John Sidney McCain.
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Marty And Bronze: Much Happiness!

Thanks to the same change in California law enabling Captain Sulu to "make an honest man" of his true love, an old high school buddy is finally marrying his partner of 25+ years .. and this has lead to much merriment, perhaps some confusion, among our high school alums.

You must understand that our school was a Catholic seminary, and by official rule as homophobic as possible. I was raised traditionally ("strong-father authoritarian" per George Lakoff) and went along with the attitude. Heck, I was a teenager, what did I know?

However, Martin was one of my best friends. Technically, he was my 2nd best friend; I suppose a ranking systems was very important back then (authoritarianism again, I suppose.) and we shared an amiable nerdishness. His interest in electronics sufficiently rubbed off on me to provide the vocabulary to talk myself into a work-study job in the Michigan State Univerity Computer Center instead of doing dishes the Brody Cafeteria, as a result of which I graduated with employable skills to supplement a worthless liberal arts degree. So I have Marty to thank for so much including my current happily married state ... but I disgress.

Martin was solidly established as my buddy when he came out to me (NOT to the public at large, you may be sure!) We were on some sort of anti-abortion walkathon (Catholic seminary, remember?), and around about mile 10 were running short of conversation. I don't know what prompted his disclosure, but it took only one sentence, after which I had a few miles to think about it, deciding it didn't make any difference to our friendship. (That's really the best way to change minds.) Thus I have him to thank also for relief from the customary and reflexive homophobia of that time and my station.

(The only bad part about the conversation was that around about mile 15 he told me his sister was gay too. This was a great disappointment to me what with her being extremely hot; but then he said he was only kidding about that, so I resumed my customary state of nerdishly hopeless desire.)

Zoom forward to 2008. Many of our seminary alumni retain old attitudes (... Lawfuls, you know how they are... ) and express them as they feel required on our listserve. I have more than once been the target of prayers, which were no doubt well meant so I don't really mind.

Therefore, when Marty & Bronze invited me by snailmail to their nuptials, it was not only my duty but my pleasure to announce the joyful tidings on that listserve. Don't we all want to hear of happy events? Don't we all want to tweak the Happy Fun Ball?

In the announcement, I didn't use of any gendered pronouns, thus leaving it up to the reader to decide about the wedding. Was I being kind in avoiding needless conflict, or being a trickster? I don't know. "Bronze" sounds male to me, but if you didn't know Marty was gay, would you assume his love just had a funny name?

I await the joyful Mazel Tovs and/or S'lichot with glee.

And ... anyway ... good luck all you newlyweds. I, with two divorces, was a greater threat to marriage than ever you were!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

McCain Visits Sarah's Tutoring Session

Dave Horsey sneaks a peek backstage at a Palin/McCain rally....

read more | digg story

Ten Thousand Days To Go!

30 years is roughly 10,000 days and, according to the actuarial tables, roughly what I can expect in this current body. Maybe a little more, maybe a little less, but it's the right order of magnitude.

Ten Thousand seems like a lot, but on the other hand, each day is one-hundredth of one-percent of what I've got left.

After that, the book is written, the file is complete, the Randy Winn Story is done. That's not necessarily a bad thing, it's not necessarily a good thing, it's just the way it is.

This greatly simplifies decisions. Each day is another paragraph to polish, another rivet to sink, another ingredient to throw into the crockpot. It can be an improvement or an embarrassment.

A decade ago, I was watching Friends reruns and thinking sadly, "Look at those people, going out and having fun with interesting friends. Why can't I be doing that?" I turned off the TV, donated it to a thrift store, and found me some friends. I didn't want my epitaph to be "He'd seen every episode of Friends".

That was a good day. But today: what shall I do to improve my story?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

PLEASE!!! Stop Re-Shouting Me - Too Many DIGG friends?

Do you have a lot of friends on Digg? It can be so annoying to keep getting the same shout over and over again. Well, here is the fix!

read more | digg story

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bush Quits Early!

DC - George W Bush resigned as President today, citing a desire to quit early as he has so often before.

"Frankly, it just hasn't been fun anymore," said Bush. "People don't realize I can't be deciding decisions all the time, like how to comfort people about the economy and their lost jobs. I may be the Unitary Executive with power to spy on you, imprison you, torture you, send you to war and even re-write the laws with signing statements, but I don't have the power to do anything about the economy.

"And people keep bugging me about our troops still dying. What's the big deal? We have to occupy Iraq until we finally catch bin Ladin, don't we?"

"I've always believed in quitting early and having one of my daddy's crew clean up. Whether it's the National Guard or Harkin Oil, I know I can count of those who come after to fix what I done. Adios, like they say on TV!"

Bush's last act was to sign a blank sheet of paper with "Pardon" written at the top. "Dick says he'll fill in the rest for me," he explained.

By coincidence, upon being sworn into the Presidency, former Vice-President Dick Cheney's first act was to sign a pardon for Bush.

"Go ahead and have your little 'election', mother fuckers!" he muttered. "We're in the clear!"
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Monday, September 15, 2008

Cell Phones for Soldiers

Cell Phones for Soldiers is a program to help our soldiers serving overseas call home, by recycling used cell phones.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Hero Who Turned Into A Liar

Once upon a time there was a Hero.

He was a heroic hero, and everyone knew it.

For his suffering, he was rewarded with medals, high office and a hot new wife. All was well.

But one day he decided he wanted more.

To get it, he had to become a liar.

But that's o.k. because everyone trusts a hero.

Even when he becomes a liar


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Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

This book tells you how to craft ideas that stick in your head like some alien worm borrowing through your brain laying eggs.


That idea sticks on your head because it follows the book's recipe - it is a :
  • simple,
  • unexpected (alien?),
  • concrete (my brain? ARGH!),
  • credible (ok, you probably WON'T meet any actual brain-borrowing aliens, but you understand the mechanical concept),
  • emotional (ICK and EUW!)
  • story.
This formula produces ideas that stick in your head better than any long, scholarly, erudite disquisition on the neurological basis on persistence memetic structures (zzzzzzzz!)

Read the book, find out how you can make brain worms too! It's fun and useful!