Sunday, February 02, 2014

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Zoe Williams interviews George Lakoff about the need for progressive activists and parties to work on changing minds rather than merely pursuing an elusive (and illusory) middle ground:
(T)he left, he argues, is losing the political argument – every year, it cedes more ground to the right, under the mistaken impression that this will bring everything closer to the centre. In fact, there is no centre: the more progressives capitulate, the more boldly the conservatives express their vision, and the further to the right the mainstream moves. The reason is that conservatives speak from an authentic moral position, and appeal to voters' values. Liberals try to argue against them using evidence; they are embarrassed by emotionality. They think that if you can just demonstrate to voters how their self-interest is served by a socially egalitarian position, that will work, and everyone will vote for them and the debate will be over. In fact, Lakoff asserts, voters don't vote for bald self-interest; self-interest fails to ignite, it inspires nothing – progressives, of all people, ought to understand this.

When he talks about the collapse of the left, he clearly doesn't mean that those parties have disintegrated: they could be in government, as the Democrats are in the US. But their vision of progressive politics is compromised and weak. So in the UK there have been racist "Go home" vans and there is an immigration bill going through parliament, unopposed, that mandates doctors, the DVLA, banks and landlords to interrogate the immigration status of us all; Hungary has vigilante groups attacking Roma, and its government recently tried to criminalise homelessness; the leaders of the Golden Dawn in Greece have only just been arrested, having been flirting with fascism since the collapse of the eurozone. We see, time and again, people in need being dehumanised, in a way that seems like a throwback to 60 or 70 years ago. Nobody could say the left was winning.
Lakoff's work on the conceptual systems around morals and politics (and how they show up in language) has yielded two-dozen metaphors for morality, most of them universal across cultures. Of those, the two key frames informing political judgment involve the idea of government as a family: the strict-father model (conservative) versus the nurturant-parent model (progressive).
If the two systems are poised in pure opposition, if they are each as moral, as metaphorical, as anciently rooted, as solidly grounded as the other, then why is one winning? "Progressives want to follow the polls … Conservatives don't follow the polls; they want to change them. Political ground is gained not when you successfully inhabit the middle ground, but when you successfully impose your framing as the 'common-sense' position."
- And Sean Holman highlights USA Today's challenge to its readers as to why they focus more on celebrity gossip than substantive news.

- The CCPA takes a look at the cost of living in Regina - and finds that a living wage for a family with two working adults would be $16.36 per hour.

- Alison cuts through some of CSEC's spin about its tracking travellers passing through Canadian airports. And Ron Diebert asks what we can do now that we know about CSEC's belief that it can spy on Canadians with impunity:
The CSEC presentation describes ubiquitous surveillance programs clearly directed at Canadians, involving data associated with Canadian airports, hotels, wi-fi cafes, enterprises and other domestic locations. The presentation outlines the challenges of discerning specific internet addresses and IDs associated with users within the universe of bulk data, paying special attention to challenges involving the movement of people through airports. It outlines results of experiments undertaken at a medium-sized city airport, which could possibly mean Calgary or Halifax, and which includes observations at “other domestic airports,” “hotels in many cities” and “mobile gateways in many cities.” Observations are made with detailed graphs of specific patterns of communications, noting differences as to how individuals communicate upon arrival and during departure, how long they spend in transit lounges, wi-fi cafes, hotel visits and even places of work. The objectives, the presentation says, are to separate the “needle from the haystack” – the haystack being, of course, all of us.

The presentation specifies that at least some of the bulk data from these locations was obtained through the cooperation of what’s only described as a “Canadian Special Source,” which is likely a Canadian telecommunications provider. If so, such revelations would make a mockery of Canadian carriers advertising their services as a “safe haven” from the snooping U.S. National Security Agency. From an accountability and oversight point of view, moving data hosting from the United States to Canada is like moving from a dimly lit cave to a pitch-black tunnel at the back of the cave.

What’s this mean for Canadians? When you go to the airport and flip open your phone to get your flight status, the government could have a record. When you check into your hotel and log on to the Internet, there’s another data point that could be collected. When you surf the Web at the local cafe hotspot, the spies could be watching. Even if you’re just going about your usual routine at your place of work, they may be following your communications trail.

Ingenious? Yes. Audacious? Yes. Unlawful? Time for the courts to decide...
The revelations require an immediate response. They throw into sharp relief the obvious inadequacy of the existing “oversight” mechanism, which operates entirely within the security tent. They cast into doubt all government statements made about the limits of such programs. They raise the alarming prospect that Canada’s intelligence agencies may be routinely obtaining data on Canadian citizens from private companies – which includes revealing personal data – on the basis of a unilateral and highly dubious definition of “metadata” (the information sent by cellphones and mobile devices describing their location, numbers called and so on) as somehow not being “communications.” Such operations go well beyond invasions of privacy; the potential for the abuse of unchecked power contained here is practically limitless.
- Tabatha Southey suggests that the solution to Julian Fantino's contempt for Canadian veterans should be a fairly simple one if the Cons were willing to listen to reality. But then, the Cons and their provincial counterparts don't tend to fit that bill - as Murray Mandryk points out in discussing the Sask Party's vehement refusal to conduct a fair evaluation of P3s compared to public alternatives.

- Finally, Paul McLeod reports that the Cons have effectively eliminated federal anti-smoking programs in Canada - replacing the public health priority of reducing smoking with an industry-favoured push against contraband cigarettes alone.

1 comment:

  1. Lakoff is right as far as he goes. What he misses is that liberals don't make the strong moral arguments not so much because they are fools as because their leaders are in fact morally compromised. The Democratic leadership are collectively bought and paid for. They don't make winning arguments because they don't want to win, and they don't make moral arguments partly because this will make it harder for them to justify rejection of that morality once in office, partly because they fear whipping up real activism for the causes they pretend to back, and perhaps partly because they retain a sliver of shame.

    As to the whole "strict-father" versus "nurturant-parent" model thing . . . It's interesting. I think it holds a good deal of water, but perhaps not as much as he wants to pour in.