Thursday, December 03, 2020

The Lost Arts of Empathy and Conversation. We need to revive them, and not let the extremists among us dominate our political conversation.

From The Atlantic monthly:

How We Got Trump Voters to Change Their Mind
[...] Typically, when volunteers engage in a canvassing campaign, the effort basically amounts to verbal leafleting. They make a one- to two-minute targeted pitch for a candidate or a ballot initiative, and then they leave or hang up the phone.


In a deep canvass, we want to have a real conversation. To get people to open up, we start by asking the basics: How are you doing? How are you holding up in this global pandemic? We respond not with canned answers, but with more questions: Oh, you’re watching football? Who is your team? How is your family doing? We’re really asking, and we really listen. Eventually, a true back-and-forth begins, one where we exchange stories about our lives and what is at stake for ourselves and for our communities in this election. Usually, by the end, what emerges is some kind of internal conflict—why the person is frustrated, why she can’t decide who to vote for, or why she is skeptical of Biden.


Research has shown time and again that people vote from an emotional place. It’s not so much that facts don’t matter. It’s that facts and talking points do not change minds. And arguing opinions at the start of a conversation about politics causes the interview subject to keep his defensive, partisan walls up and prevents him from connecting with the canvasser.

We don't try to directly persuade people to change their minds on a candidate or an issue. Rather, we create intimacy, in the faith that people have an ability to reexamine their politics, and their long-term worldview, if given the right context. We’ve found that when people start to see the dissonance between what they believe and what they actually want, their views change—many of them come around to a more progressive perspective. For example, if a woman says she believes that immigrants are the main problem in our society, but reveals that her top personal concern is health care, then we talk about whether immigrants have anything to do with that worry. When a man says he wants to feel safe, we ask questions about what, in particular, makes him feel unsafe. If he answers COVID-19, then we talk about which candidate might be better suited to handle the pandemic.

Throughout our effort, I’ve been struck by how willing people are to be vulnerable with our canvassers. Amazingly, more than 85 percent of those we engage in an actual conversation have shared something with which they are deeply struggling. In these personal exchanges, we are embracing empathy for people who are sometimes wildly different from ourselves, and empathy, it turns out, is an extremely effective conversion tool.


Such discussions are not transformative just for the people on whose doors we’re knocking (or whose phones we’re on the other end of)—they are also transformative for the canvassers. In our podcast, To See Each Other, about rural communities that are often described as Trump country, our organizer Caitlin Homrich-Knieling shared her experience of having deep-canvass conversations about immigration in rural Michigan. We’re strangers, she said, “starting out with a blank slate, and in that conversation, we’re showing them so much care and empathy about their own hard times and asking so many questions about their own life. We really honor their story and their wisdom and their dignity.”

The connections she made while knocking on doors made her see that she was not bringing that same spirit—of listening and radical empathy—to her relationships back home, in the state’s upper peninsula, where she and family and friends didn’t always see eye to eye. That realization has changed her relationship with her mother, her aunt, and her childhood best friend. Now, when they talk about politics, race in America, or immigration, they approach their talks with a willingness to learn and listen.

Overall, our conversations have not modeled the broader narrative of division that this election tells. They show that on the individual level, we all want to understand one another—how we have come to see the world, what we are up against—and we all want to be heard. [...]

I really liked the part where the canvasser realized that if she can find empathy with strangers she disagrees with politically, then why can't she, why isn't she doing that, with friends and family? Can't we ALL be doing that more?

The art of conversation requires the ability to listen. It seems to be a lost art. Perhaps it's time to revive it? The full article gives examples of what it's talking about, and has embedded links. It's worth reading the whole thing.

I don't strictly belive in either the Republican Party or the Democrat Party; they are both flawed and imperfect, and anyway are supposed to be political vehicles for people to use to form alliances around, not ideologies in and of themselves. I do believe in our two-party system, and the balance of power. When either party becomes too powerful, we tend to get their lunatic fringe and worst ideas trying to rule everything.

The current polarity in our politics, has eliminated conversation. Too often, it's like one side is wanting to destroy the other. It's insane, to vilify one half of the country's population. I live in a rural area that is very conservative, and have a business in town, where the politics are more liberal. Politically they are worlds apart. But I live in both of them. I have friends in both, and have to function in both. I don't attack people in either, and I don't want to see one destroying the other.

In a civilized world, people can agree to disagree, and work together to find compromises based on concensus. If we can't get back to that, I fear we will not survive. Nor will we deserve to.

A house divided against itself cannot stand. Nature does not favor the weak. We have enemies, who would like to see BOTH sides destroyed. What is it going to take, to wake us up, before it's too late?


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Jordan Peterson, on Liberals and Conservatives

And why we need them both:

Jordan Peterson (Trump vs Biden 2020 Election)
A plane needs both a left wing and a right wing to fly.  Sometimes, to fly without crashing, it needs to lean more to the left, or more to the right.

It's insanity for one side in our political system to try to destroy the other.   Vilifying half the people in the country, will solve nothing.  A house divided against itself, cannot stand.  We, as a nation, need to straighen up and fly right.   We need to find common ground, and work together to solve our problems.

Or we will crash and burn. 

 The Root of Our Partisan Divide

Christopher Caldwell gets it right, in this analysis.  It's what has polarized our politics so severely.  Unfortunately, he doesn't have a solution.   I don't know that anyone does.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Oregon voted to stop Daylight Savings Time. Yet we fell back anyway. Here's why.

Didn't Oregon do away with daylight saving time? Why you still have to 'fall back' Nov. 3
[...] Oregon lawmakers said the change takes effect the first November after both Washington and California adopt year-round daylight saving time. 
Washington lawmakers passed legislation to do so, and California voters cast ballots directing lawmakers there to do the same. But the bill stalled in the state senate; California lawmakers say they will revisit the issue in 2020. 
All three states also face one final hurdle: Congress needs to sign off on the deal. And while legislation has been introduced to allow the change, daylight saving time isn't at the top of the agenda in Washington, D.C., as an impeachment inquiry and the 2020 presidential election approach. 
So stay tuned: Oregon lawmakers built a 2029 deadline into the law, so there's time for the change to happen in coming years.
The folks in D.C., are more interested in fighting with eachother, than dealing with anything we care about.

And so it goes.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Death of the working class... and of Capitalism, as we knew it?

How fighting one pandemic can deepen another Review of “Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism” by Anne Case and Angus Deaton
By Carlos Lozada, Book critic
May 1, 2020 at 5:00 a.m. PDT
By Anne Case and Angus Deaton.
Princeton University Press. 312 pp. $27.95

Even before the coronavirus struck, America was suffering an eviscerating epidemic. Its cause was not a virus; its spread could not be blamed on foreign travelers or college kids on spring break. No masks or gloves could slow its contagion, no vaccine could prevent new cases. Its toll is clear in the rising deaths of white Americans in their mid-40s to mid-50s over the past two decades, particularly in states such as Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and West Virginia.

Princeton University economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton call these “deaths of despair” — the deaths from suicide, drug overdoses and alcoholic liver disease ravaging swaths of the country. The victims, overwhelmingly, are less-educated Americans whose loss of life was preceded by a loss of jobs, community and dignity, and whose deaths, the authors argue, are inextricable from the policies and politics transforming the U.S. economy into an engine of inequality and suffering. “The American economy has shifted away from serving ordinary people and toward serving businesses, their managers, and their owners,” Case and Deaton write in their new work, “Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism.”

Although the authors completed this book before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic — it was published four days after President Trump declared a national emergency — their diagnosis is still painfully relevant. Mass unemployment and mass infection, occurring simultaneously in a nation where health insurance often depends on employment, threaten to both prove and aggravate the conditions Case and Deaton describe. The debate over how quickly to ease social distancing restrictions and get the economy moving again forces a reckoning: How do we balance the risk of increased coronavirus infections if we reopen the economy too soon against the risk of more deaths of despair if we do so too late? “Jobs are not just the source of money; they are the basis for the rituals, customs, and routines of working-class life,” Case and Deaton write. “Destroy work and, in the end, working-class life cannot survive.”

Reading this book during a pandemic, I found myself bracing for more death — from the virus or from despair, and, more likely, from both.

Many memoirs, histories and investigations have been written on America’s white working class in recent years, probably too many, but fewer purely economic studies. Case and Deaton are world-renowned practitioners of the dismal science (Case is a top expert on the links between economic and health status, while Deaton snagged a Nobel in 2015 for his work on household poverty and welfare), and their lens on the subject makes for stark reading. They estimate the magnitude of the deaths of despair in the United States by comparing the improving trend lines of recent decades — i.e., if mortality rates had continued falling as before — with what actually came to pass.

“When we add up those numbers from 1999, the critical point where the turnaround began, to 2017,” the authors report, “we get a very large total: 600,000 deaths of midlife Americans who would be alive if progress had gone on as expected.” Case and Deaton liken that number to “what we might see during the ravages of an infectious disease, like the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918.” They also compare it to the roughly 675,000 deaths of HIV/AIDS in the United States since the early 1980s.

Case and Deaton are largely dismissive of arguments that stress the supposed individual or cultural failings of the white working class, and they focus instead on systemic shortcomings that lead to deaths of despair. Manufacturing towns and cities have seen their factories boarded up, they write, and “in the wreckage, the temptations of alcohol and drugs lured many to their deaths.” Education is another consideration, the authors argue, with “almost all” of the increase in deaths due to suicide, alcoholism and drug overdoses found among people who lack bachelor’s degrees. Deteriorating health matters as well. “Many people are experiencing pain, serious mental distress, and difficulty going about their day-to-day lives,” Case and Deaton write. These conditions make it harder for them to work, which reduces income and undercuts work as a source of “satisfaction and meaning” in their lives.

Who lives, who dies, who decides: How the virus makes us weigh the value of one life

More than 30 million Americans have sought unemployment aid since mid-March, a level of dislocation not seen since the Great Depression. In this context, the impulse to return to work is understandable. Yet the loss of earnings, Case and Deaton contend, is just part of the challenge. “Much more important for despair is the decline of family, community, and religion,” they write, a decline they regard as related to falling wages and disappearing jobs, but distinct from them. Other authors have tackled this problem recently — see, for instance, Timothy P. Carney’s insightful 2019 book, “Alienated America” — and collectively, their conclusion is clear: Long before we began social distancing, Americans had already grown far too distant from one another.

Case and Deaton focus on the white working class because it is undergoing a particularly harrowing shift, not because they believe this demographic matters more than others (they don’t) or because it is worse off in absolute terms than others (it isn’t). Black mortality rates remain persistently higher than white ones, the authors point out, even considering the increased deaths of despair among white Americans. But black mortality rates are falling faster than white rates — and the deaths of despair among white citizens are the difference. “The main reason why death rates of blacks fell more rapidly than death rates of whites at the beginning of the twenty-first century is that blacks were not suffering the epidemic of overdoses, suicide, and alcoholism,” Case and Deaton explain. [...]

It's worth reading the whole thing. While I don't consider myself an anti-capitalist at all, there have been changes in the economy, locally an globally, that have been eliminating working class jobs and incomes. It's a reality.

When Obamacare tried to force small businesses to provide health care for full time employees, the employment industry responded by making all employees part time. I worked as a tax preparer, dealing with all their W-2 forms, and was astounded at how many families were raising children, with two parents working at an assortment of part-time jobs, to pay their bills and keep thier families alive.

This article touches on many causes, and asks many questions we need to face, as it's only going to continue to get worse for the majority of people, if viable solutions are not found.

Many of these people are Trump supporters. And they will vote for Trump, no matter what anyone says, because they feel that the Democrats don't care wether they live or die, so they will vote for anyone who opposes the Democrats. You can argue about wether that perception is right or wrong. But it won't change the fact that they percieve it that way. If the Democrats are serious about winning more votes, they should be addressing this, instead of only attacking Trump non-stop. They have been doing that for the past four years, and it hasn't worked. Isn't it about time they try something that does?

I have Democrat friends who believe that all Trump supporters are racists, bigots and morons. And that if they keep repeating that mantra, it's going to win them the elections. But I think they have forgotten, what every election is about: it's the economy, stupid. Duh. It affects the most people. And the majority will vote for whoever they think, whoever they perceive, will do the better job of that.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Kamala Harris: an interesting choice

From the Guardian:

What to make of the Kamala Harris VP pick? Our panel's verdict
[...] Harris, like Biden, is a remarkably malleable candidate. She is not an ideologue; she’s a political animal, someone who will move with the changing tides – a representative, one might say. That makes her untrustworthy to people who want a true believer in office. But it also means that the most dynamic movements, such as Black Lives Matter, and the laudable efforts of disappointed Bernie Sanders fans to get more progressives into office, create an environment into which Harris will fit herself. As the Democratic base goes, so go both Harris and Biden. This is good news for the progressives who are winning the hearts and minds of Democratic voters. [...]
[...] In this election, it’s clear that Donald Trump is going to run as a bulwark of law and order who stands between Americans and roving anarchists and antifa. He regularly paints Democrat-run cities as “totally out of control” on crime. In a sit-down interview with Fox anchor Chris Wallace last month, Trump claimed that Biden wants to “defund the police,” which Wallace pointed out was inaccurate on-air.

That line of attack is going to be difficult when your opponents are the author of the 1994 crime bill and a hard-nosed prosecutor who laughed about cracking down on truancy.

In much the same way that partisan discipline put the kibosh on the Tara Reade accusations against Joe Biden, Democrats and the liberal media that support them will put daylight between Democrats and the disorder in the street.

Turns out all the opposition research that progressive activists used against Biden and Harris in the primary is suddenly a strength in the race against Trump. [...]

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Covid-19: it's not your grandfather's Influenza. In fact, it's not Influenza.

The Covid 19 Pandemic is frequently compared to the Influenza pandemic of 1918-1920. But is the comparison correct? Corona viruses are not the same as Influenza viruses.

What Does Disappearing Immunity To Covid-19 Mean For A Vaccine?
[...] SARS-CoV-2 is broadly similar to the four coronaviruses that cause about one third of all common colds. Each year, the same four viruses infect us the world over, sweeping the Northern Hemisphere from December to February; south of the Equator from May to July; and in the tropics, year-round. These waves of infection, which with rare exceptions cause minor symptoms only, have repeated year in and year out since the discovery of the virus in the 1960s. The ability of this coronavirus quartet to persist absent alteration is highly unusual. Influenza infections occur annually, too, but the dominant strains differ each time to evade the population’s protective and persistent immune responses.

In the 1970s two independent teams of medical researchers conducted experiments to determine whether or not the same coronavirus strain might reinfect and give a cold to the same person. Volunteers who were deliberately exposed to the virus contracted colds and recovered. A year later, they were again exposed to the same virus—and again were infected and developed cold symptoms. These experiments established that protective immunity to the cold-causing coronavirus is short-lived.

I call this phenomenon "get it and forget it,” and it describes the interaction between these viruses and our immune systems that is so unique. Confronted with a cold-causing coronavirus, our bodies evidently forget that we were infected at all. For us, this leaves us susceptible to annual colds, which are generally harmless but a nuisance besides. For the viruses, this is a winning strategy, as it rids them of the need to change to survive. At present, we don’t understand coronaviruses in sufficient detail to know why our immunity to them so short-lived.* What we do know is that if SARS-CoV-2 behaves as its coronavirus cousins do, Covid-19 is sure to become a seasonally recurring pandemic. [...]

Studies Report Rapid Loss of COVID-19 Antibodies
The results, while preliminary, suggest that survivors of SARS-CoV-2 infection may be susceptible to reinfection within weeks or months.
This is not Influenza. Is this going to keep circulating around, like the common cold corona viruses? God I hope not.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Windows 7 support ends. So where to now?

Microsoft suggests upgrading to windows 10. That would be fine... if it worked. They offered free windows 10 upgrades. I tried that, and it was disastrous. It seemed to work well at first, but as time went on, updates would cause different parts or functions of the the computer (like SOUND) to stop working. Turns out, that unless your computer hardware -all of it- has been "Windows 10 certified", Microsoft does not guarantee that it will work on YOUR computer. Wish I knew that before I installed it. By the time I discovered this, it was too late to roll it back from Windows 10 to Windows 7.

So if you want to "upgrade" to Windows 10, you are probably better off getting a computer with it already installed and certified for that hardware. Then, the Windows 10 fun can begin. It has some good features. Yet, some things never change:

But... what should you then DO with your old Windows 7 machine? You can keep using it for a while longer of course, but as time goes on, without security updates, it will become riskier and riskier to use.

Personally, I found a solution with my aborted Windows 10 computer, that couldn't be rolled back to Windows 7. I'm using it with all my Windows 7 machines now. The solution is a Linux operating system called Linux Mint. It's a complete, free opensource operating system that you can download and install, free of charge.

There are several versions you can choose from. I prefer the Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE), because it's a "rolling" distribution; you only have to install it once, then it updates itself continuously after that. Other versions use Ubuntu as a base, and major upgrades require a complete reinstall every three to five years.

It's probably the easiest Linux system for a novice to download and use, and easy to learn and use too. A perfect way to extend the life and usefulness of older computers that cannot be successfully upgraded to Windows 10. Highly recommended.

Friday, January 03, 2020

Richard Bandler (How to keep your New Years Resolutions)

Richard Bandler is one of the founders of NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming). I've been reading his book, "Guide to TRANCE-formation". In this video, he's talking about how your mindset, what you tell yourself, about what you are doing, determines wether you will follow through with it and be successful. Also, to think it through first, so when the inevitable happens, you aren't taken by surprise, and have a plan to deal with it. It's good stuff: