A cowboy comes home

US President George Bush and Prime Minister of Australia John Howard like each other, and there are reasons for that which run deeper than their conservatism and their willingness to substitute power for thought in foreign relations.

Australia is the American West writ large. Both are hydraulic civilisations where aridity dominates the economy.

Indeed, had the United States been settled from west to east rather than the other way around, the big government agencies necessitated by scarce water would have preceded the freeman tradition that took root on the well-watered eastern slopes of the Appalachians in the eighteenth century, and a mild form of hydraulic civilization -- highly centralized and authoritarian regimes, like those that built the great water and earth works in India, China, and Mexico -- might have arisen here.

Australia is the driest continent on the planet, with an average rainfall of around 165mm (6.5 inches). In a certain sense we are that mild hydraulic civilisation Kaplan speaks about. Even now, all our railways and the majority of our telecommunications is governemnt-owned and operated. The 'fair go' has always been central in Australian politics and public enterprise has always been more central to our economy. The ecology ensures that.

The peculiarities of the ecology includes rivers that run intermittently, including the Darling, the second largest river in the country. Last year I found myself looking at a chunk of rusted iron near Menindee Lakes, in the far west of the State of New South Wales.

In 1871 the paddlesteamer Providence tied up at Menindee Town to take on a load of wool for shipment down the Darling, then the Murray to the Southern Ocean. The river went down and stranded the boat for a year. When they cast off, after a heavy night at the Menindee Arms, they fired up the furnace but forgot to put any water in the steam engine. The explosion, a few miles downriver, reduced the steamer to matchwood and threw the boiler tank around 100 metres up the bank. No-one survived.

Although Australians and Westerners share many common myths, the history they have forgotten is the big government agencies and big public investments in water projects without which the market economy simply would not work.

While Howard does not share Bush's cowboy style that's the image he carries in much of Asia. The weird thing about the Howard government is that Howard played much the same music as Bush long before Bush was elected president. The Howard doctrine is an example.

: "It's always a treat for a national leader to have a great policy named after him. There's the Monroe Doctrine (making the Western Hemisphere America's backyard), the Truman Doctrine (branding communism Global Enemy No. 1, to be contained at all costs), and, last month, the Howard Doctrine. As in Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Yet barely a week after the country's Bulletin newsmagazine gave his name to a policy of making Australia the regional peacekeeping deputy to 'globo-cop' United States, the PM was hastily denying parentage of the so-called Howard Doctrine. Evidently, the idea went up like a lead balloon in neighboring capitals, which are hardly leaping with glee over the prospect of battalions from Down Under deploying northward to spread peace and harmony. "

In the last week, there's been a similar fuss when Bush promoted Howard (seriously or otherwise) from deputy sheriff to sheriff. Once again, the joke went over like a lead balloon in Asia. Howard has also endorsed pre-emptive antiterrorist strikes by the Australian Defence Force in Southeast Asia. His government has made a great song and dance about UN 'interference' in Australia. Howard's mobilisation of 11 September and the whole area of security politics makes Bush's use of the issue look half-hearted and amateurish.

The parliamentary library report on the Commonwealth Election 2001 reads:

There are strong grounds for supposing that the election was effectively decided at this point, some time prior to the beginning of the formal election campaign. Within a few days of the Tampa hitting the news for the first time on August 26-27, there seemed to be a marked reaction showing up in the opinion polls. In mid-August Newspoll had found an approval rating for the Government of barely 40 per cent (ALP 42 per cent) , but the figure had risen to 45 per cent in its August 31-September 2 soundings (ALP 39 per cent). This seemed inextricably linked with the Government's determined response to the asylum seeker question, with the Prime Minister's approval rating jumping 10 points to 50 per cent. The September 11 events seemed to build on this, and by late September the Government's approval rating was at 50 per cent (ALP 35 per cent), and Howard's approval rating had climbed further to 61 per cent, the highest level in five years.(20) In early October Professor Murray Goot claimed that overall the different polls were pointing to 'considerable Coalition strength' that was likely to last.(21) Essentially this relative position remained constant during the five week campaign, with the Government remaining comfortably ahead. Early in the campaign the pollster, Irving Saulwick, remarked on the electoral mood as being 'one of conservatism and battening down the hatches',(22) and this seemed not to alter.

Writing in April 2000, journalist Richard McGregor spoke of the Prime Minister and his party needing 'to find positive reasons for people to stick with the Coalition'.(23) By mid-September 2001 the Government seemed to believe that it had found such reasons in the sudden and unexpected turmoil of the times. By early October, election analyst Antony Green's reading of the dramatic events was that so 'drastic and complete' was the turn-around of the previous six weeks, that it was difficult to see how Labor could get itself back in the race, 'let alone return to the lead it previously held'.(24) Labor needed to only win eight of its opponent's marginals but as polling day loomed, it seemed that, apart from the difficulty of winning eight, Labor could not even count on holding all of its own marginals, such as Bass, Dickson, Canning or McMillan.

Howard is sophisticated when it comes to dog whistle politics. Just as Bush announced (in a famously wrong claim) that US foreign policy is not 'subject to the decisions of others', Howard told the electorate, at the height of the Tampa crisis:

we and we alone will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come. That is a fundamental and absolute right of any Government

That was not about immigration policy, it was about blowing a large dog whistle that immigration opponents could hear but the prime minister could deny.

The Bush visit was originally planned before Bush's standing started falling. It was originally spoken of as a much more dramatic and public event, perhaps with Bush and Howard taking cheers together at the Rugby world cup. It's been trimmed back dramatically and the Australian parliament, under US Secret Service pressure, has closed its doors to the Australian people for the first time in it's centurylong existence.

Howard would almost certainly have committed troops to Iraq no matter what the circumstances. He believes in the US alliance that strongly. With hindsight, his insistence that most ADF troops be withdrawn as soon as the war ended looks like genius. His poll standings have not been battered by the constant drumbeat of casualties and his government is not seen by the electorate as responsible for the aftermath of the Iraq war. Howard's economic management has been better as well, so there are no collapsing job figures to drive his standing down. The federal opposition is simply incoherent. Howard has more going for him than (as Bush famously said) his nonexistent charisma.

They will talk in Bangkok at the APEC summit and again in Canberra during the visit itself. They agree on most issues so I'm not really sure what they will discuss. Howard would like much more access to the US market for our agricultural exports, but otherwise they're in total agreement. They don't remember the real history of heavy public investment in their economies and they certainly do not doubt that force is the key to the War on Terror. Howard is infinitely more flexible than Bush and the imbalance of power between the two leaders is dramatic so Bush will almost certainly get whatever it is he wants. Except an ADF return to Iraq.

When Clinton arrived at Sydney in 1996 most channels carried Air force One's landing to the tune of the Star Wars theme. This visit is a lot grimmer. I'm not sure they'll repeat the joke.


Shocked and Awed

Iraqi children's interpretations of the 'war on terror:' Thumbnail: child's drawing of a hospital being bombed.

The drawings were collected over a 2-month period in May and June 2003 at the request of Carl Rosenstein and the Puffin Foundation. The task proved a difficult one due to the chaos and instability created by the war's aftermath. Schools were looted. Teachers, parents, and children became casualties of war. "Real" security was nonexistent despite numerous checkpoints and the heavy-handed crackdown by American forces. My good friend Hayder Mousa, an Iraqi filmmaker with two children of his own, was instrumental in organizing the classroom settings in which these drawings were made.

Assail School is located in New Baghdad, a working-class sector in the south part of the capitol. It had been damaged during the fighting and looted by displaced and desperate locals after the massive bombing campaign devastated the city. When I arrived the school was filled with children trying to return a semblance of normalcy to their lives. Their instructors attempted to teach class despite a lack of books, desks, chairs, and ceiling fans in the hundred-plus degree heat. They taught amidst broken windows, raw sewage, and the specter of continued violence.

It's pleasing to see that the children are supportive of Saddam's being deposed, but it's definitely interesting to note the proliferation of images depicting civilians being harmed.

Boykin apologises: says he's neither an 'extremist' nor a 'zealot'

Boykin insists he's not a zealot:

"I am neither a zealot nor an extremist. Only a soldier who has an abiding faith," said Boykin, deputy undersecretary of Defence for intelligence and war-fighting support.

"I do believe that radical extremists have tried to use Islam as a cause for attacks on America," he said. "As I have stated before, they are not true followers of Islam.

"In my view they are simply terrorists, much like the so-called 'Christians' of the white supremacy groups, or extremist (sic) of any faith," Boykin said.


In one speech, Boykin recalled a Muslim fighter in Somalia who said U.S. forces would never get him because Allah would give him protection. "Well, you know what I knew, that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol," Boykin told his audience.

In his statement, Boykin said his comments about that Muslim fighter "were not referencing his worship of Allah but his worship of money and power; idolatry. He was a corrupt man, not a follower of Islam."

Well, sweetheart, maybe you should have said.

L'image du jour

Welcome to Manilla, Mister Bush!

It Is ALL Astroturf!

Please read Thom Hartmann's article, The Battle Hymn of the New Liberal Media: A Good Business Plan. It talks about how right-wingers came to completely dominate radio. It's not how you think.
"Christian broadcasters have known this equation for decades. Many radio stations will sell 'block time' - entire hours - for a bit less than they'd normally get if they had just sold all the ads on an existing show. The purchaser gets not only all the commercial minutes, but the entire hour to do whatever they want with. Christian broadcasters use that hour to evangelize and beg for money, and if they get more cash from their donors than the hour cost, they keep their show on the air on that station and grow to the next.

One step down are light sponsorships - where advertisers (often Bible publishers) buy one or a few 'seed' ads on a local station, so as soon as the program starts on the station, management knows its downside is limited.

Talk radio has a similar past - and present.

Well-funded syndicates get together and buy block time, put a conservative host on the air, and then find sponsors to pay for it. If the income from the sponsors exceeds the cost of buying the block time, they make a healthy profit. If not, the message still gets spread, Republicans get elected, and the interests of the investors are furthered. "
Richard just IM'd me: "Block time on radio, block book purchases, block form letters from soldiers in Iraq -- it is ALL astroturf." (I stole a line from my own guest blogger!)

10,000 jobs!

Need a job?

My friend David Spector has some really good news! (If you live in India or Russia.)

Randi Rhodes

OK, where have I been? I finally decided to listen to Randi Rhodes.

Wow. She's funny, smart, and prepared. Very New York (even though she broadcasts from West Palm Beach, FL).

And she and a partner are self-syndicating. Meaning she needs you to ask local radio station programming directors to get her on the air. Check out her program, either live or at White Rose.

John Podesta and The Center for American Progress are about to launch...

Dave's been talking to me about Podesta's efforts for almost a year now, so I'm really curious to see whether they're able to make a difference. What they're attempting to do is very similar to what the Commonweal Institute has been aiming at, and talking about, for quite a while. Something, after reading through their materials, that I buy into completely: the "left" (i.e., all of us non-lunatics) has got to build the same type of ideological infrastructure that has enabled the right-wing to saturate the media with their message, and shift the framework for discussion on their core issues far to the right of where it was thirty years ago.

I blogged about this briefly yesterday, on my personal site, in reaction to a NYT Magazine article on their upcoming launch (October 20th, 2003). The main thrust of the article, by my read, was that Podesta, as a member of the Democratic Party establishment, is going to be hard pressed to emulate the kind of paradigm destroying outsider recklessness that propelled the think-tanks of the right to prominence, and enabled them to recast the Republican Party in their image. I think it is a fair point... and of course, as an evil, scabbing, spoiling, vote splitting Green Party member (as Bill the Cat [am I dating myself here?] would say: "Oop! ACK! Thppt!"), my natural inclination is to point to the Green Party's total lack of inhibitions in this area, and say that its a natural to play such a role. :)

But, in respect to Dave's sensibilities, I won't go into that. :)

You can find out more by going to their web site.

Side note: is, like, George Soros the only billionaire who is willing to put his money where his mouth is? I see that he's behind funding for this, and of course he's also dropping $10 million on a broad range of projects designed to oust Bush in 2004.

"We're on a mission from God!"

Saw this item on Dave Farber's Interesting People list (one of the oldest and most prominent agglomerations of "opinion leaders" on the net - I've been subscribed since the early 1990's)... Tony Norman of the Pittsburg Post-Gazette writes about Army Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin's, uh, interesting opinions about current events. He's apparently writing in reaction to a recent column by William R. Arkin in the Los Angeles Times (also accompanied by a news article) that includes even more choice quotes.

Here are a couple of choice quotes from the man Donald Rumsfeld just appointed to be in charge of chasing down Osama Bin Laden:

"George Bush was not elected by a majority of voters in the United States," Gen. Boykin told an Oregon congregation in a moment of biblical clarity five months ago. "He was appointed by God."

"It is a demonic presence in that city [Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia] that God revealed to me as the enemy," he said, indicting the devil for the murder of 18 American soldiers.

I.e., Satan, whose shadow he apparently detected hovering over Somalia in photographs (and no, he wasn't speaking figuratively - he meant a literal, physical shadow). Mr. Boykin apparently believes it is his mission in life to protect this "Christian nation" from the onslaughts of Islamic fundamentalists and Satan's minions.

As Mr. Norman said, is this the man we want in charge of co-ordinating the effort to hunt down Osama? If this guy sets off the average American's fruitcake detector, what the hell kind of reaction is he going to generate in those Pashtun villiages on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, where we've got to win the hearts and minds of some very religiously motivated Muslim folk who are deeply suspicious of our motives?!? We're critical of Islamic fundamentalists who talk about a "jihad" against the West, but then we put a Christian fundamentalist who talks about a Chrisitan "crusade" against Islam in charge of our efforts to track down Osama? This makes sense only in the warped, completely U.S.-centric view of the neo-cons... these folks are even more insular than your old style isolationist Republicans. At least those folks didn't insist on spending America's blood and treasure abroad in pointless exercises of U.S. imperialism for political gain, while remaining devoutly ignorant of worldly reality.

Another Standin (or Standup) Blogedian

Gday, I'm another secret member of the Blogging Proliferation Initiative. I want to have fun with an Aussie's eye view of the US presidential visit as well. I might slam their electoral system a bit too.

But remember, I was not here. This conversation did not take place...

Dave's Coalition of the Willing grows

Hi, I'm Raena -- another guest blogger, checking in from the land down under. I don't often have the energy to publicly put the boot into the US administration, but with Dub-Dub visiting our fair shores this week, who can resist? Besides, we've been promoted from deputy sheriff to a real live genuine Sheriff of the US Peace. Lucky us.

Yes, they'll be closing all the roads that he'll be using, and yes, there'll be big piles of armoured vehicles and medical facilities, and yes, there'll be Marines and Secret Service and Australian Protectives aplenty. The Parliament House will be closed to all visitors and locked down tighter than a safe. There's protests planned, but it looks like they'll be shooed away like usual.

Gutless. Gutless. Gutless. It's called a democracy. Oh well, at least we're not bulldozing our slums.


History News Network

Have you been to History News Network lately?

Dave's a brave man.

Letting his crazy friends natter about in his blog. :)

But, boy, there is sure a lot to rant about... how about The U.S. Army bulldozing Iraqi farmers' orchards? Or the fact that we have to read British media to get the whole story on stuff like that, and the e-voting controversy? How about the growing backlash against the Bush Administration's political interference in the selection of scientific experts on government study panels? Or how the Bush Administration is making sure protestors are completely invisible?

Or how about some lighter fare? Like how utterly pathetic and stereotypically whiny your typical 'winger is? What planet are these people on? I swear, I could write a program to automatically generate this without ever once referencing actual content.

Or, some really serious stuff, like how totally and utterly screwed your average California municipality and county is, after granting unprecedented levels of retirement benefits (discount the 'winger source, the data's solid) during the late 1990's based on absurd projections of expected annual returns by CalPERS pension funds (12-14%?!? what were they thinking?!?)... 40% of base salary for public safety workers going to retirement pension benefits (alone, not counting healthcare, etc). This has our local City Council folk here in Santa Cruz muttering about how the city is going to be forced into bankruptcy.

Anyway, there's a lot to talk about... you're also welcome to visit my personal blog, newly upgraded to the latest and greatest version of WordPress. And now I'll shut up until Dave's gone on vacation (hehehehe...).

Why The FAA?

Commission on 9/11 Attacks Issues Subpoena to the F.A.A.:
"The federal commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks announced on Wednesday that it had issued its first subpoena, to the Federal Aviation Administration, after discovering that the agency had withheld a variety of tapes and documents that were 'highly material to our inquiry.'"
Now what? And this:
The possibility of an extension is worrying to the Bush administration, since it could mean the public release of a potentially embarrassing report in the heat of next year's presidential campaign.
It's all about the campaign and The Party. None of it is about the good of the country or about our safety.

Guest Bloggers Practicing

If you're seeing funny things on the blog, it's guest bloggers trying out the interface. Then taking things down. Or not.


My spam volume has increased tremendously in the last week. I'm getting in the hundreds again!


Want To Be A Guest Blogger?

I'm going away next week. Anyone want to be a guest blogger? Drop me a line. You have to promise to use bad words, incorrect grammar, and WRITE IN ALL CAPITALS SOMETIMES. Also lots of bold and bold italic. Rants are good. Republicans are bad.

Salon Voting Machines Story

This Salon.com story, Bad grades for a voting-machine exam, talks about how the tests of the systems aren't sufficient and the machines are not necessarily secure, etc...

But you know? None of that matters to me. I don't CARE how much testing is done of whether they tell me the machines are secure. It all boils down to this: If I can't see something on paper that shows how I voted so I can see that it is recorded correctly, and that paper goes into a secure ballot box so it can be counted separately from what the machine says, then nothing they tell me matters. There is no reason to believe or not believe what they TELL me. What I will believe is what I see with my own eyes, and I am a citizen and it is MY vote, and not someone else's place to tell me my vote is OK. I mean, I am the citizen, and I want to know my vote is OK. I want to see it for mySELF. I don't want someone ELSE telling me my vote is OK. It's not their vote, it's MY vote.

And if I CAN see for myself that MY vote is recorded on paper in a separate ballot box, then I don't CARE if the machines are secure or tested. THE SEPARATE BALLOT IS THE SECURITY AND THE TEST.


The Secondhand Smoking Gun:
"The citizens of Helena voted in June 2002 to ban smoking in all public buildings — including restaurants, bars and casinos. Soon after, doctors at the local hospital noticed that heart-attack admissions were dropping. So they, in conjunction with the University of California, San Francisco, did a study to measure the potential short-term effects of a smoking ban.

Helena is a perfect place for such a study: relatively isolated, with enough people in the region (66,000) for a meaningful population sample, and only one cardiac-care hospital within a 60-mile radius. So it was easy to control the study sample and methodology: if you get a heart attack in Helena, there's only one place to go for treatment.

The study showed two trends. First, there was no change in heart attack rates for patients who lived outside city limits. But for city residents, the rates plummeted by 58 percent in only six months.

'We know from longer-term studies that the effects of secondhand smoke occur within minutes, and that long-term exposure to secondhand smoke is associated with a 30 percent increased risk in heart attack rates,' says Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine who conducted the study's statistical analysis. 'But it was quite stunning to document this large an effect so quickly.'

It was also stunning to witness what happened next. The Montana State Legislature, under pressure from the Montana Tavern Association and tobacco lobbyists, rescinded the ban in December. The result: heart-attack rates bounced back up almost as quickly as they dropped."
How close is it to murder, to take money from pro-tobacco interests and rescind a ban on smoking in public places, leading to many deaths? How is that different from murder?


Iraq Will Hold Elections in 2004: "The president of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council said Wednesday his country will 'definitely' hold elections in 2004."

Probably in October. Surprise!


The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Tort Law

The report The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Tort Law is now available in HTML so you don't have to download a PDF. It's broken up into sections. The endnote references work. Later I'll be adding the ability to click on the endnote itself to take you back to the point where it is referenced.

Here is the Table of Contents, linked into the report itself:

Cover Page, Opening Quote (scroll down) and Table of Contents


Section 1 -- Tort Reform Organizations and the Far Right
A Network of Seemingly-Independent Organizations

The Funding Behind the Right-Wing Movement Organizations

Coordination and Interconnection of the Right-Wing Movement Organizations

The Ideology Underlying Tort Reform Arguments

The Political Agenda – Defunding Trial Lawyers
Section 2 -- Reaching the Public, Legislators and Judges
Multi-Issue Think Tanks and Communications Organizations

The Right's Communications Infrastructure

A Broad Campaign, Utilizing Multiple Channels

Coordinated Dissemination of Ideological Messages

The Tactic of Creating Conventional Wisdom

Reaching State Legislatures

Tort Reform Organizations Work to Influence, Elect, and Appoint Supportive Politicians and Judges
Section 3 -- Effectiveness of the Tort Reform Campaign
The Right Sets the Public Agenda

Influencing Jurors

Achieving Their Goals
Section 4 -- Conclusion
Fighting Back
Appendix 1 -- Example Of Coordinated Dissemination of a Strategic Message

Appendix 2 -- An Example of Interconnectedness

Appendix 3 -- Examples of Ridiculing and Demeaning of Trial Lawyers

Appendix 4 -- Examples of the Involvement and Funding of Right-Wing Organizations ThatAdvocate Tort Reform

Appendix 5 -- Examples of the Involvement of Organizations That Advocate Tort Reform

Appendix 6 -- Examples of State Tort Reform Organizations

Notes & References

If you are forwarding this to anyone, here's the address:
HTML: http://www.commonwealinstitute.org/reports/tort/tortreport.html
PDF: http://www.commonwealinstitute.org/reports/TortReport.pdf

There Will Be A Test

Have I told you how important I think George Lakoff's work is? There is a longer summary (than the one I posted below) in this article, Framing the Dems. Here is an excerpt:
. . . there are distinct conservative and progressive worldviews. The two groups simply see the world in different ways. As a cognitive scientist, I've found in my research that these political worldviews can be understood as opposing models of an ideal family -- a strict father family and a nurturant parent family. These family models come with moral systems, which in turn provide the deep framing of all political issues.

The Strict Father Family

In this view, the world is a dangerous and difficult place, there is tangible evil in the world and children have to be made good. To stand up to evil, one must be morally strong -- disciplined.

The father's job is to protect and support the family. His moral duty is to teach his children right from wrong. Physical discipline in childhood will develop the internal discipline adults need to be moral people and to succeed. The child's duty is to obey. Punishment is required to balance the moral books. If you do wrong, there must be a consequence.

The strict father, as moral authority, is responsible for controlling the women of the family, especially in matters of sexuality and reproduction.

Children are to become self-reliant through discipline and the pursuit of self-interest. Pursuit of self-interest is moral: If everybody pursues his own self-interest, the self-interest of all will be maximized.

Without competition, people would not have to develop discipline and so would not become moral beings. Worldly success is an indicator of sufficient moral strength; lack of success suggests lack of sufficient discipline. Those who are not successful should not be coddled; they should be forced to acquire self-discipline.

When this view is translated into politics, the government becomes the strict father whose job for the country is to support (maximize overall wealth) and protect (maximize military and political strength). The citizens are children of two kinds: the mature, disciplined, self-reliant ones who should not be meddled with and the whining, undisciplined, dependent ones who should never be coddled.

This means (among other things) favoring those who control corporate wealth and power (those seen as the best people) over those who are victims (those seen as morally weak). It means removing government regulations, which get in the way of those who are disciplined. Nature is seen as a resource to be exploited. One-way communication translates into government secrecy. The highest moral value is to preserve and extend the domain of strict morality itself, which translates into bringing the values of strict father morality into every aspect of life, both public and private, domestic and foreign.

America is seen as more moral than other nations and hence more deserving of power; it has earned the right to be hegemonic and must never yield its sovereignty, or its overwhelming military and economic power. The role of government, then, is to protect the country and its interests, to promote maximally unimpeded economic activity, and maintain order and discipline.

From this perspective, conservative policies cohere and make sense as instances of strict father morality. Social programs give people things they haven't earned, promoting dependency and lack of discipline, and are therefore immoral. The good people -- those who have become self-reliant through discipline and pursuit of self-interest -- deserve their wealth as a reward. Rewarding people who are doing the right thing is moral. Taxing them is punishment, an affliction, and is therefore immoral. Girls who get pregnant through illicit sex must face the consequences of their actions and bear the child. They become responsible for the child, and social programs for pre- and postnatal care just make them dependent. Guns are how the strict father protects his family from the dangers in the world. Environmental regulations get in the way of the good people, the disciplined ones pursuing their own self-interest. Nature, being lower on the moral hierarchy, is there to serve man as a resource. The Endangered Species Act gets in the way of people fulfilling their interests and is therefore immoral; people making money are more important than owls surviving as a species. And just as a strict father would never give up his authority, so a strong moral nation such as the United States should never give up its sovereignty to lesser authorities. It's a neatly tied-up package.

Conservative think tanks have done their job, working out such details and articulating them effectively. Many liberals are still largely unaware of their own moral system. Yet progressives have one.

The Nurturant Parent Family

It is assumed that the world should be a nurturant place. The job of parents is to nurture their children and raise their children to be nurturers. To be a nurturer you have to be empathetic and responsible (for yourself and others). Empathy and responsibility have many implications: Responsibility implies protection, competence, education, hard work and social connectedness; empathy requires freedom, fairness and honesty, two-way communication, a fulfilled life (unhappy, unfulfilled people are less likely to want others to be happy) and restitution rather than retribution to balance the moral books. Social responsibility requires cooperation and community building over competition. In the place of specific strict rules, there is a general "ethics of care" that says, "Help, don't harm." To be of good character is to be empathetic and responsible, in all of the above ways. Empathy and responsibility are the central values, implying other values: freedom, protection, fairness, cooperation, open communication, competence, happiness, mutual respect and restitution as opposed to retribution.

In this view, the job of government is to care for, serve and protect the population (especially those who are helpless), to guarantee democracy (the equal sharing of political power), to promote the well-being of all and to ensure fairness for all. The economy should be a means to these moral ends. There should be openness in government. Nature is seen as a source of nurture to be respected and preserved. Empathy and responsibility are to be promoted in every area of life, public and private. Art and education are parts of self-fulfillment and therefore moral necessities.
If you take anything from reading Seeing the Forest, take this. I think Lakoff's work is one key to starting to change what has been going on. We must find ways to reinforce the "nurturant parent family perspective" in the general public, and to diminish the public's acceptance of the "strick father" metaphor. (Why do you think Clear Channel pushes Dr. Laura 3 hours a day on the radio?)

The nurturant parent family is a healthier family than the strict father family. And it is obvious that a nurturant parent country is healthier AND SAFER FOR THE PLANET than the far-right's strict father parent model for the country.

Please read the rest of the article where he lays out ideas for promoting progressive values. This is so important!
Activation of the progressive model among swing voters is done through language -- by using a consistent, conventional language of progressive values. Democrats have been subject to a major fallacy: Voters are lined up left to right according to their views on issues, the thinking goes, and Democrats can get more voters by moving to the right. But the Republicans have not been getting more voters by moving to the left. What they do is stick to their strict ideology and activate their model among swing voters who have both models. They do this by being clear and issuing consistent messages framed in terms of conservative values. The moral is this: Voters are not on a left-to-right line; there is no middle.

Here is a cognitive scientist's advice to progressive Democrats: Articulate your ideals, frame what you believe effectively, say what you believe and say it well, strongly and with moral fervor.
There WILL be a test later. Post in the comments what his last line from the article is.


Why We Vote The Way We Do

I have come to believe that George Lakoff's book Moral Politics holds the key to understanding progressive and conservative politics.

This article, The Frame Around Arnold contains a good summary of what Lakoff is saying to us:
"Our politics is organized around two opposite and idealized models of the family, the strict father and nurturant parent models.

The nurturant parent family assumes that the world is basically good and can be made better and that it is one's responsibility to work towards that. Accordingly, children are born good and parents can make them better. Both parents share responsibility for raising the children. Their job is to nurture their children and raise their children to be nurturers. Nurturing has two aspects: empathy (feeling and caring how others feel) and responsibility to take care of oneself and others for whom we are responsible. These two aspects of nurturance imply family values that we can recognize as progressive political values: From empathy, we want for others: protection from harm, fulfillment in life, fairness, freedom (consistent with responsibility), open two-way communication. From responsibility there follows: competence, trust, commitment, community building, and so on.

From these values, specific policies follow: Governmental protection in form of a social safety net and government regulation (as well as the military and the police), universal education (competence, fairness), civil liberties and equal treatment (fairness and freedom), accountability (from trust), public service (from responsibility), open government (from open communication), and the promotion of an economy that benefits all and functions to promote these values. The role of government is to provide the infrastructure and services to enact these values and taxes are the dues you pay to live in such a civilized society. In foreign policy, the role of the nation should be to promote cooperation and extend these values to the world. These are traditional progressive values in American politics.

Different Family Values

The conservative worldview is shaped by very different family values.

The strict father model assumes that the world is and always will be dangerous and difficult and that children are born bad and must be made good. The strict father is the moral authority who has to support and defend the family, tell his wife what to do, and teach his kids right from wrong. The only way to do that is painful discipline – physical punishment that is to develop by adulthood into internal discipline. Morality and survival jointly arise from such discipline – discipline to follow moral precepts and discipline to pursue your self-interest to become self-reliant. The good people are the disciplined people. Once grown, the self-reliant disciplined children are on their own and the father is not to meddle in their lives. Those children who remain dependent (who were spoiled, overly willful, or recalcitrant) should be forced to undergo further discipline or cut free with no support to face the discipline of the outside world.

Project this onto the nation and you have the radical right-wing politics that has been misnamed "conservative." The good citizens are the disciplined ones – those who have already become wealthy or at least self-reliant – and those who are on the way. Social programs "spoil" people, giving them things they haven't earned and keeping them dependent. They are therefore evil and to be eliminated. Government is there only to protect the nation, maintain order, administer justice (punishment), and to provide for the orderly conduct of and the promotion of business. Business (the market) is the mechanism by which the disciplined people become self-reliant, and wealth is a measure of discipline. Taxes beyond the minimum needed for such government are punishments that take away from the good, disciplined people rewards that they have earned and spend it on those who have not earned it.

In foreign affairs, the government should maintain its sovereignty and impose its moral authority everywhere it can, while seeking its self interest (the economic self-interest of corporations and military strength)."
There's more . . . so much more . . .
"What conservatives have learned about winning elections is that they have to activate the strict father model in more than half of the electorate – either by fear or by other means. The 9/11 attacks gave the Bush administration a perfect mechanism for winning elections. They declared an unending wear on terror. The frame of the War on Terror presupposes that the populace should be terrified, and orange alerts and other administration measures and rhetoric keep the "Terror" frame active. Fear and uncertainty then naturally activate the Strict Father frame in a majority of people, leading the electorate to see politics in conservative terms. "

Vothing Machines

If you want to get really scared by a voting machines story, read All the President's Votes? Even if you don't want to get scared, go read it and get scared.

If you have been looking for the right voting machines story to forward to all your non-political friends to let them know what it is that you have been shouting and ranting and raving about, send them to this one.


Study: Price matters for broadband


Billmon Is Un-Endorsing Dean

Whiskey Bar: Deserting Dean

What Have I Been Telling You?

From Notion Building in today's NY Times Magazine, about "think tanks":
Weyrich was 31 when he and Edwin Feulner, then serving as disgruntled aides in a Congress dominated by Democrats, founded the Heritage Foundation in 1973 with early donations from a handful of wealthy families with names like Coors and Scaife. Determined to foster conservative scholarship and get it into the hands of like-minded policy makers, Weyrich and his compatriots were driven by a single, overarching conviction that grew out of the Goldwater campaign in 1964: government needed to be stingier at home and tougher abroad.

Weyrich and Feulner were not interested in securing immediate victories for a Republican Party that seemed to have, at that time, almost no hope of controlling Congress. In fact, many of the ideas they would ultimately champion -- Social Security privatization, school choice, missile defense -- began well outside their party's mainstream. They were insurgents, and they set about staging an ideological takeover of the party, a process that came to fruition sooner than they might have hoped when Ronald Reagan, a fellow outsider, was elected president in 1980.

Today the Heritage Foundation, with an annual budget of roughly $30 million, is like a university unto itself. Its eight-story building houses some 180 employees, and it just completed an addition that has, among other amenities, state-of-the-art teleconferencing, apartments for about 60 interns and a fully wired 250-seat auditorium with its own greenroom. The foundation's in-house scholars are a constant presence on radio and cable TV. (Laura Ingraham, with one of the nation's largest radio followings, broadcasts from a Heritage studio.)

In all, according to a study by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Heritage and other conservative think tanks -- the best known being the libertarian Cato Institute and the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute -- spent an estimated $1 billion promoting conservative ideas in the 1990's. From their ranks sprang some credible academics whose think-tank writings spawned powerful careers, including Jeane Kirkpatrick, the former U.N. ambassador, and Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court associate justice. There also came a flood of conservative theorists -- like Charles Murray, whose book ''The Bell Curve'' attacked assumptions about racial equality, and John Lott, who proposed that we would be safer if everyone carried a gun -- whose arguments, however dubious, bled indelibly into the public debate.
. . .
The leading candidates spend their time debating questions that were put on the agenda by Republican think tanks, like tax cuts and pre-emptive first strikes, while proposing programmatic variations on old ideas, like universal health coverage and national service -- worthy notions, certainly, but no worthier than they were when Clinton put them forward 12 years ago. "
I cover this in my recent report, The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Tort Law (PDF file). This report talks about the link between the "tort reform" movement and the Right, talks about the Right and their funding, their communications infrastructure, and how they use it.

Just Not Getting It At All!

In this story in today's New York Times, Working to Spin Distrust of Media Into Votes there are further examples of New York/Washington media professionals just not "getting it." Writing about Howard Dean's appearance on Meet the Press:
"Barbara Levin, a spokeswoman for NBC News, said Mr. Russert was only doing his job. 'When Russert asks tough questions of Democrats, they don't like it. When he asks the tough questions of Republicans, they don't like it either.' "
Well, no, that's NOT what has people upset. Not at all. What absolute crap!

People were upset about Tim Russert's treatment of Howard Dean on Meet the Press that day not even a little bit because Tim Russert asked tough questions. Bullshit. People were upset because Tim Russert and the rest of the mainstream media pounded Clinton through his entire term, and do not ask Bush tough questions, and make excuses for Bush's lies and distortions! Dean did fine answering the questions. When Russert implied that Dean hadn't answered questions about the military correctly, it turned out later that Dean had his numbers right. The point is that Russert would never ask Bush or any other Republican a tough question, and would never imply that they aren't serving the country with their answers.

After YEARS of pounding on Clinton, "reporting" every nonsense right-wing smear story as "news" and DEMANDING investigations, and putting hoards of far-right commentators on the screen without comparable progressive voices, (and never, ever a Labor voice!), and letting The Party get away with every single nonsense right-wing crapola propaganda effort, now they have given Bush a totally free ride. I mean how obvious can it BE? To people who pay attention and have memories, the situation with the mainstream media is intolerable. THAT is what pisses us off.

I'm getting angrier as I write this. I mean, Holy shit, Clinton was accused by right-wingnuts of losing some money in a real estate deal, and the press hounded him and his wife and everyone they knew, even accusing them of murder, always implying that they were lying about everything, to the point of impeachment, when even the far-right's massively funded investigations -- utilizing so much of the FBI's resources that they stopped investigating terrorists like Bin Laden -- found them COMPLETELY INNOCENT OF EVERY SINGLE ACCUSATION. Only at the end, as a byproduct of the investigations, did they learn that the President had an affair. Big deal. And meanwhile, every one of the Republicans involved in going after him for having an affair turned out to be having affairs!

But Bush comes along, was involved in blatantly lying, and in illegal and unethical activities like insider trading, involvement with a company setting up offshore tax havens, stealing land to build a stadium that made him rich, involvement in his company reporting revenue from the sales of a subsidiary while hiding that the company itself PAID for the purchase... (How long could I go on with the list of Bush's illegal and unethical activities - not to mention deserting his National Guard post in a time of war?) And what do the mainstream press say about Bush? What does the public learn about this man's background? What does the public learn about this man's promise to "restore honor and integrity to the White House?" This man associated with Enron and their crimes, and given the responsibility to investigate and prosecute all the corporate crimes we are subjected to? What does the press say about him? Instead of reporting on this man's background, they spent the entire 2000 campaign calling ex-seminary-student GORE a LIAR!

It is just so fucking obvious, the difference between how Clinton was treated by the press then, and how Bush is treated by the press now! But instead of REPORTING what is GOING ON, we get stories like the one in today's New York Times saying that it's just Democrats complaining when they get asked tough questions, just like Republicans complain when THEY get asked tough questions. As if the last 10 years just didn't happen. Give me a fucking break! JEEZE!


(OK, Dave, go out for a run. Calm down.)