Friday, February 24, 2017

Email Forwarded by My Dad: The Upsides

Picture for #15, to show he, too, has a white beard. 

"I can't believe I'm saying this, but it looks like Trump is actually making America great again. Just look at the progress made since the election:
1. Unprecedented levels of ongoing civic engagement.
2. Millions of Americans now know who their state and federal representatives are without having to google....
3. Millions of Americans are exercising more. They're holding signs and marching every week.
4. Alec Baldwin is great again. Everyone's forgotten he's kind of a jerk.
5. The Postal Service is enjoying the influx cash due to stamps purchased by millions of people for letter and postcard campaigns.
6. Likewise, the pharmaceutical industry is enjoying record growth in sales of anti-depressants.
7. Millions of Americans now know how to call their elected officials and know exactly what to say to be effective.
8. Footage of town hall meetings is now entertaining.
9. Tens of millions of people are now correctly spelling words like emoluments, narcissist, fascist, misogynist, holocaust and cognitive dissonance.
10. Everyone knows more about the rise of Hitler than they did last year.
11. Everyone knows more about legislation, branches of power and how checks and balances work.
12. Marginalized groups are experiencing a surge in white allies.
13. White people in record numbers have just learned that racism is not dead. (See #6)
14. White people in record numbers also finally understand that Obamacare IS the Affordable Care Act.
15. Stephen Colbert's "Late Night" finally gained the elusive #1 spot in late night talk shows, and Seth Meyers is finding his footing as today's Jon Stewart.
16. "Mike Pence" has donated millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood since Nov. 9th.
17. Melissa FREAKING McCarthy.
18. Travel ban protesters put $24 million into ACLU coffers in just 48 hours, enabling them to hire 200 more attorneys. Lawyers are now heroes.
19. As people seek veracity in their news sources, respected news outlets are happily reporting a substantial increase in subscriptions, a boon to a struggling industry vital to our democracy.
20. Live streaming court cases and congressional sessions are now as popular as the Kardashians.
21. Massive cleanup of Facebook friend lists.
22. People are reading classic literature again. Sales of George Orwell's "1984" increased by 10,000% after the inauguration. (Yes, that is true. 10,000%. 9th grade Lit teachers all over the country are now rock stars.)
23. More than ever before, Americans are aware that education is important. Like, super important.
24. Now, more than anytime in history, everyone believes that anyone can be President. Seriously, anyone." -

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Understanding Attitudes to Build Truly Better World

In 2014, I was a part of research at the University of Arizona. One of the robust findings by all four research groups was that the general public viewed veganism as impossible, and vegans as annoying (to put it mildly).

Several new studies back this up. Another series of surveys showed that while people think they should eat healthier, they don't plan to. They can't imagine going vegetarian, but they can imagine perhaps reducing or changing their meat consumption.

It is important to keep in mind the implications of these surveys. The first, of course, is that we should consider the audience when designing a message, rather than saying what appeals to us. The second is that we should be very wary of the idea of "reducing" meat consumption, as this can lead to more animals suffering.

Finally, despite all the hype we may see in our Facebook feed, the real world isn't so rosy. The bottom-line fact is that people in the US have never eaten more animals than we do today. Americans have never caused more suffering with our dietary choices than we do today.

In the face of all this, it is understandable to want to work exclusively on making factory farming somewhat less bad. But if we are going to really build a truly better world, we need to actually rethink our advocacy and try a new approach, one that is psychologically sound and takes into account the lessons from the last 40 years.

If you want a truly better world, please consider being a part of this new work.

Thanks so very much!

Monday, February 20, 2017

An Updated "How To Win Friends"

How To Win Friends and Influence People is a classic, and absolutely required reading for anyone who wants to make the world a better place.

A new book – Never Split the Difference – picks up where Carnegie left off. Ostensibly a book about negotiation, it really is a book about dealing with others – how to read them, listen to them, and discern and understand their motivations.

While the entire book is interesting, with lessons framed in the context of various negotiations, here are some excerpts I found particularly insightful for anyone who wants to open anyone else's heart and mind to new ideas and possibilities.

[W]ithout a deep understanding of human psychology, without the acceptance that we are all crazy, irrational, impulsive, emotionally-driven animals, all the raw intelligence and mathematical logic in the world is little help in the fraught, shifting interplay of two people negotiating.

Tactical empathy is understanding the feelings and mindset of another in the moment, and also hearing what is behind those feelings so you increase your influence in all the moments that follow. It's bringing our attention to both the emotional obstacles and the potential pathways to getting an agreement done.
It's emotional intelligence on steroids.

[T]he Behavioral Change Stairway Model (BCSM) ... proposes five stages – active listening, empathy, rapport, influence, and behavioral change – that take any negotiator from listening to influencing behavior.
[A]s cardiologists know all too well, you more than likely haven't gotten there yet if what you're hearing is the word yes” ... the sweetest two words ... are actually “That's right.

[W]hile innocent and understandable, thinking you're normal is one of the most damaging assumptions in negotiations. With it, we unconsciously project our own style on the other side. [T]here's a [big] chance your counterpart has a different style than yours. A different ”normal.
[T]he Golden rule is wrong. The Black Swan rule is: don't treat others the way you want to be treated; treat them the way they need to be treated.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Hans Rosling, RIP


If you listen to the news and / or read your Facebook feed, it is easy to imagine that the world is going to heck in a handbasket. But it really is the best time ever to be alive (at least for a human).

Hans Rosling has shown this graphically (below; fuller version here). Steven Pinker has documented this as well. This new report – In 1990, more than 60% of people in East Asia were in extreme poverty. Now only 3.5% are. – documents just how much things have changed in only our lifetime!

Of course, this doesn't mean that everything is perfect; that is obviously not true. But we will be better off at changing the world if we are honest with ourselves and with others about the progress that has been made.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Consider The Audience

What if you were told that eating raw broccoli was the only way to be healthy? And the only way to be an environmentalist – anything else was killing the planet? And that if you ate anything other than raw broccoli, you were a murderer?

What if you were told this over and over, via email and social media, t-shirts and bumper stickers? Would you eat only raw broccoli?

Furthermore, what would you think of the broccolians? Would you carefully listen to and consider their case, or would you avoid them?

To the average American, vegans = broccolians.

I've seen it happen, first-hand, over and over, even from people who had been personally shown pictures of delicious vegan food – they think vegans eat only tasteless salads.

And people will go out of their way to avoid dealing with a vegan.

I'm not just saying this to be mean or pick fights with vegans. And I'm not just saying this from personal experience. Marketing research done in 2015 at the Eller Business School of the University of Arizona also showed this. Every one of the four investigative teams of MBA students found that the general public views veganism as impossible, and vegans as annoying.

I know this seems misplaced, to criticize vegans when they are standing up against the truly horrific brutality that is inflicted on so many animals. I also understand the argument that we just have to stand up more, be more outspoken, more in-your-face: "The further out we are, the more leverage we have to pull society with us."

Margaret Mead might be patron saint of this way of thinking, with her quote, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

But here's the punchline. You know who else likes to quote Mead? Terrorists. White supremacists. And just about every fringe group unhappy with some aspect of society.

Just because some groups of dedicated people have changed the world doesn't mean every dedicated group changes the world. The vast majority of efforts to change the world fail. Nothing – not slogans nor "scholarly" rationalizations – will change that.

In my opinion, looking closely at history, our main opportunity to lessen suffering and alter society's relationship with other animals is by choosing strategies and messages via dispassionate reasoned analysis. It may not feel good, it may not go viral in vegan crowds on social media, but it is the best way to avoid the failures of the majority of attempts to change the world.

Please consider being a part of this work. Otherwise, we may as well join the broccolians.


Creating hatred of vegans.

After I finished my Brocconian post, I came across this interview that Tobias did with Dr. Jared Piazza of Lancaster University. The entire interview is worth reading, but this is the conclusion:

“To finish, I’d like to hear some recommendations you have for activists or the movement.
I guess my first recommendation would be to do your best to avoid the moral reactance and motivated reasoning when discussing the issue of eating meat with people. This is not always possible, but put yourself in their shoes. How would you react if someone suggested to you that something you really enjoy doing and have been doing most of your life was immoral? Perhaps this is something that you never considered to be a problem before and brings you daily pleasure. Do you think you would be receptive to their message at first? Or would you question their arguments? Would you immediately stop what you have been doing all your life, or would you immediately think of ways in which what you’re doing is perfectly acceptable and not problematic? Once you have made the conversion to not eat meat, it is easy to forget what it is like to see things from the other side – from the perspective of the meat-eating majority, who are wondering what all the fuss is about.

“I’d also recommend to advocates to be inclusive and welcoming, and not to give up. We need people to think they really can make a change. We need to empower people, not only with an awareness of how meat production is destroying our world and ruining lives (lives that truly matter), but also give them an opportunity to imagine other ways of viewing the world, particularly how they view themselves, so they can reason through the arguments in a less defensive, self-preserving manner. I think we may have greater success that way.”

Not a True Democracy

In a previous post, I said that no one should claim that the US is a true democracy.

The Economist clearly agrees, having just downgraded the country. More discussion here.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Kevin Drum Sums up Republicans

This is the best post I've yet seen. Conclusion:

As always, Republicans are ruled by a mean-spiritedness that's just plain nauseating. They're perfectly willing to go along with a plan that will cause tremendous hardship for other people even though they know perfectly well it will do nothing for national security. Its only real purpose is to send a message to a GOP base eager for a show of bravado against the rest of the world. Is that worth a bit of senseless cruelty aimed at defenseless foreigners? Of course it is. Hell, that's the whole point. And the suffering this causes? As usual, they just don't give a damn.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Why This Matters

A lot of people don't seem to quite get why it matters that "progressive" votes put Trump in the White House. Let's consider just one example: his refugee ban, signed on Holocaust Memorial Day..

Every 5 minutes, this Twitter feed has sent out the name of a refugee turned away by the US, who was subsequently murdered in the Holocaust. We will probably never see the people who are murdered now because of the US's new policy, but their deaths are on us.

More: Turning back Syrian refugees isn't just wrong — it helps ISIS

Here is another view of the people now in power:

I Was Trained for the Culture Wars in Home School, Awaiting Someone Like Mike Pence as a Messiah

"A single powerful person who is convinced of their own Rightness with no thought of introspection is dangerous. We now have a government full of them. ...They want America to succeed, but in their America there isn’t room for anyone unlike them."

Friday, January 27, 2017

Stein's Votes Cost Hillary the Electoral College

I've seen smart people not getting this (because an analysis at Vox right after the election didn't use the final numbers), but Stein's votes cost Hillary Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Here is just one single day of the consequences of this.

Interestingly, not changing the votes or the Electoral College, giving Wisconsin Michigan's Upper Peninsula to Michigan, and giving Florida's Panhandle to Alabama would have put Hillary in the White House.

Hillary got ~3 million more votes. Two of the last five elections given to the Republicans because of a system designed to protect slavery. No one should ever claim this is a democracy.