Category Archives: T

No, “Enhanced Interrogation” Is Worse, Not Better

Several times this month, I’ve heard news stories such as this one  use the phrase enhanced interrogation to describe painful treatment of terrorism suspects.

This expression has no place in objective journalism because it is biased in favor of inflicting pain. After all, enhanced means improved.

And the claim that inflicting pain gets better results is questionable at best. For example, Joe Navarro, former FBI special agent and author of a book about effective interrogation, says that what is called enhanced interrogation does not work.

Inflicting pain on purpose is torture, but if that word seems too harsh, journalists trying to objective could use the phrase “painful interrogation methods” instead. That’s accurate and removes the assumption that the painful methods must be better than standard methods.

How do you think Framologists should respond to enhanced interrogation?

Don’t Talk about Death Taxes Till You’ve Read This

As Jacobson, Raub, and Johnson have pointed out, supporters of these taxes have seen their moral purpose as “preventing the concentration of wealth in the hands of a relatively few powerful families.” It’s fair that very large estates should pay these taxes because they have benefited from the government’s work more than others. A few examples include government regulation of securities, police protection (having more property and wealth to protect than others), and low tax rates on capital gains income.

I don’t want America to be a country in which dynasties hand vast wealth down to their children while the rest of us tread water or fall into poverty.

The taxes should be called what they are: estate and inheritance taxes. If we want to make clear that only a few pay them, we could call them “taxes on very large estates and inheritances.”

What do you think?

Can We Escape the War on Terror Through Political Violence?

Especially since 9/11, terrorism has been used to justify so many questionable things that Framologists have to fearlessly face it. I mean the word.

Among other benefits, reframing terrorism as political violence avoids the cliché. Political violence is violence, no matter who does it.
Photo Credit: Kaptain Kobold via Compfight cc

What does it mean? It’s been abused to mean almost any dissent. And as the cliché says, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” (The cliché was never taught non-sexist language.)

I see terrorism as violence meant to achieve political goals. Except when committed by governments or armies, terrorist acts are crimes, not acts of war. They deserve a law-enforcement response, not a military one.

Violence is the problem, not the solution.
What difference do you think it would make if we talked about political violence instead of terrorism?
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What if instead of talking about terrorism, Framologists turned the debate to political violence? An advantage to this is that, while terrorism is usually used to mean violence by opponents of a government, the phrase political violence can apply the other way: to government violence against dissenters.

Because of the vagueness of terrorism, reasonable people can disagree about whether, e.g., the Egyptian military is using terrorism to silence its opposition. But it would hard to deny that it is using political violence.

With the issue reframed as violence, it’s a small step to the peaceful prevention of deadly conflict. As I’ve written before, I believe this is the way out the war on terror.

What do you think? Is political violence an adequate reframe of terrorism?

How to Get Relief from “Tax Relief”

As with so much about framing, I learned about tax relief from George Lakoff. Though it’s only two words long, it says a lot. As he explains in a 2003 interview:

Taxes: Burden or source of pride and expression of patriotism?
Taxes: Burden or source of pride and expression of patriotism?
Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver via Compfight cc

The phrase “Tax relief” began coming out of the White House starting on the very day of Bush’s inauguration [in 2001]. It got picked up by the newspapers as if it were a neutral term, which it is not. First, you have the frame for “relief.” For there to be relief, there has to be an affliction, an afflicted party, somebody who administers the relief, and an act in which you are relieved of the affliction. The reliever is the hero, and anybody who tries to stop them is the bad guy intent on keeping the affliction going. So, add “tax” to “relief” and you get a metaphor that taxation is an affliction, and anybody against relieving this affliction is a villain.

The whole interview deserves reading.

He proposes a different way of thinking of taxes: as the dues we pay to be Americans and to enjoy the freedom, privileges, and infrastructure that comes from paying the dues. Although I used to resent paying income taxes, this viewpoint completely changed my view of taxes, and the more Framologists frame taxes properly, it will change many others’ perspective.

Dr. Lakoff explains tax relief in this video. The first part introduces framing, and the discussion of tax relief begins at 3:20.

Another way to think of taxes came from a financial advisor’s lecture. He said he’s glad to pay more in taxes because it means he made more money than last year! Why shouldn’t paying taxes be a source of pride?

How do you think Framologists should frame taxes?

Riding the Bus: Back to Childhood or Forward to Transit?

Transit bus
This bus is part of the public transit system.
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Although America’s largest cities tend to have robust transit systems that include rail in addition to buses, the transit systems of smaller cities often use only buses. Therefore, residents of these cities often refer to the transit system as “the bus,” as in, “I’m not taking the bus! No way!”

School bus
Is it partly because we rode buses like this as children that some don’t want to ride them as adults?
Photo Credit: redjar via Compfight cc

Although this negative attitude comes partly from limitations that their city’s transit system may have, I think it’s also connotations of the phrase “the bus.” As I child, I took the bus to school. I got so tired of riding the bus that it was a relief to be able to walk to high school.

Many of my classmates, though, rode the bus until graduation. That made not having to ride the bus seem like a step toward adulthood. Riding “the bus” as a adult to get around town, then, may feel like a developmental step backward. We may unconsciously think that riding the bus is for kids.

Speaking of transit systems, including bus-only systems, as transit avoids this connotation. Transit is a characteristic of a big, grown-up city, and good transit systems are used by people of all ages and walks of life with pride.

Transit consultant Jarrett Walker, author of the Human Transit blog, offers many posts that discuss transit and language.

Framologists should dignify their city’s transit system by calling it transit rather than the bus. But do you think it makes a difference?

Framing Taxpayers

Because we have responsibilities in many areas of life, Americans perform many roles. One of life’s complexities is that sometimes these roles have interests that conflict with one another. For example, as a taxpayer, our desire is for the lowest possible tax bill. However, as motorists, we want our streets and highways in good repair, which could mean higher taxes.

When extreme conservatives try to minimize the public sector, partly by emphasizing government debt, they exalt Americans’ taxpayer role above the others. We should remember that taxpayers include corporations as well as human beings, so it’s important to clarify who extreme conservatives are talking about when they talk about taxpayers.

But even more important, progressives should reframe the debate by talking about the other roles we perform and how they could be harmed by maximizing the taxpayer’s desire for minimum taxation.

For example:

Americans perform many roles. In politics at least, the role of citizen can encompass roles such as parent, neighbor, taxpayer, consumer, employer, worker, investor, and volunteer.
  • As parents and others that love children, will our public schools have the funding they need?
  • As citizens, will we be able to participate in elections and public meetings, visit public parks, drive on safe streets, enjoy police and fire protection, and benefit from wise urban planning and transportation systems, or will tax cuts be used to reduce our access to these public goods?
  • As workers, will the government protect our rights if we suffer discrimination or unacceptable working conditions, or will tax cuts have left the government too weak to help?
  • As employers, will the police and fire departments protect our property, or will we have to hire our own security?
  • As consumers, will we enjoy safe food and other products, or will tax cuts mean that corporations can sell us dangerous stuff?
  • As investors, will we have accurate information about where we’re putting our money, or will tax cuts mean that banks and other companies can deceive us?

Of these roles, I consider that of citizen as including all the others. Therefore, when extreme conservatives talk about us as if we were one of the smaller roles, we should reframe the debate to the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of citizenship and how easily they could be lost.

What do you think? Am I overreacting about talk of taxpayers? What roles have I left out?