For The Trees

Who is our economy FOR, anyway?

About the Authors:
Dave Johnson
John Emerson
Richard Reich
Thomas Leavitt


Recent Posts:
Moved to Seeingtheforest.com
This Blog Has Moved
Democracy Arsenal
Thought Crimes
Think Progress
Bill Bradley Describes VRWC in NY Times Piece Toda...
Blog Change Coming Friday
How the Liberal Media Myth is Created
Interest Rates
Finally Leaving Blogger


BEST OF STF:

Dave's:

Articles not at STF:

The ATLA Speech on building a progressive infrastructure
Lowering the Bar
The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Tort Law
Who's Behind the Attack on Liberal Professors

On the Right and their communications infrastructure:

Why Republicans Win
Win or Lose
The "Conventional Wisdom" Machine
Some History of the Conservative Movement
HOW TO FIGHT BACK
An Amplifier Of Our Own
Don't Blame the Democrats
How They Do It 1 2 3 4
Getting Rolled

Other:

You're Gonna Get Drafted
Scalia and Self-Government
Who is Our Economy For?
Voting Machine Story Link Collection
What's Wrong with this Picture? (Voting Machines)
Like Meat in the Supermarket
Get Active
Thin Line 1 2 3
Fixing Social Security
Seeing the Forest I, II, III
"Incredibly Positive News"
The Breadth of It
The Republican Crony Club
Moon Bush
Ralph Nader is a Scab


John's Best Of:
Kerry Smear Page
Bandar Bush
9/11 Commission Report Damages Bush -- if you read it
Florida Goon Squad Intimidated the Supreme Court
The Use and Abuse of George Orwell
Zizka's Archives (John's previous identity)
Zizka Sampler


News Sources:
AlterNet
BuzzFlash
Common Dreams
Cursor
Drudge Retort
Information Clearing House
Smirking Chimp
TruthOut
What REALLY Happened

Links to Other Weblogs:




2/21/2004
 



Bin Laden

If the, Sunday Telegraph - Bin Laden 'surrounded', is true, they have Bin Laden cornered and are awaiting orders to go get him:
"'The timing of that order will ultimately depend on President Bush,' the paper says. 'Capturing bin Laden will certainly be a huge help for him as he gets ready for the election.'"
But they're waiting for the right time, and everyone seems to agree that election politics are the determining factor. So here's this guy who has had his forces attack us, is engaged in planning further activities to attack and kill Americans and others, and we're not getting him until the time is right to help Bush's election prospects. Just one more example of Party over Country.


 



Bush / Bin Laden 2.0

Bush / Bin Laden 2.0

We can expect a dirty Presidential campaign, and I agree with Kerry that we should go tit for tat and not lie down the way Dukakis did.

George W. Bush's unhealthy friendship with the Saudis and the fraudulence of his War on Terror are valid political issues. They are also red meat quite suitable for political hardball. What's not to like?

I've revised my long file documenting Bush ties with the Saudis (including the Bin Ladens), Bush favoritism to the Saudis, Saudi involvement in terrorism, Bush indifference to counter-terrorism before 9/11, the irrelevance of the Second Iraq War to terrorism, blowback, Pakistan, etc. All the material is available elsewhere; what I've done is sift and sort the material and organize it into an anti-Bush storyline.

It isn't fun reading and doesn't really break new ground. I mean it to be a resource for the campaign. Anyone who wants to can pirate it, excerpt it, reformat it, etc. I would be very happy to have it mirrored.

I also welcome for updates, corrections, and suggestions.

UPDATE:

I am planning to keep this page updated and am promoting it under the brand name "Who is Bandar Bush?". I hope as many sites as possible give it a permanent link: http://www.johnjemerson.com/zizka.binladen.htm .

I suspect that Kerry and the official Democrats will want to keep their hands off this, which is all the more reason for us freelancers to keep the question alive.





2/20/2004
 



They're In Baghdad Now

Chalabi, asked whether his Iraqi National Congress manipulated the Bushies into invading a country that did not attack us and did not threaten us, has this to say:
"'Our objective has been achieved. That tyrant Saddam is gone, and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important.' "
Yep. Just like their friends the Republicans, you gotta learn to watch what they're DOING not what they SAYING if you want to know what they're up to. As I wrote before, "They're in Baghdad now."

All the Iraqi and American dead and wounded don't figure into this at all. And, of course, the casting away of international law, the hundreds of billions spent, the militarization of our culture, the possible coming Iraqi civil war, the credibility and reputation of the United States... None of that figured into the calculations at all. After all, they're in Baghdad now. They got what they want, fuck you very much.

Update - Thinking about this, I think this is huge. Just huge. This story needs to get OUT THERE. Chalabi as well as admits that the INC pursued a scheme to manipulate American intelligence. Fine, but the Bush people wanted war and fell for it. The cost is tremendous. The potential for disaster is vast.


 



Patriot Games

I think Billmon has some election ideas worth projecting to a wide audience. In Patriot Games he writes (along with so much else, all of it important):
"To really crack the GOP coalition, though, economic populism has to be wrapped in something larger -- like the flag. I'm coming around to the view that the winning theme for the Democrats in this election -- the one that could really tear the bark off Bush (to borrow somebody else's phrase) is 'economic patriotism.' The Dems need a rhetorical and substantive program that ties the job/trade issue into a broader set of arguments about the privileges and obligations of citizenship, the relationship between fiscal stewardship and national strength, and the enduring worth of basic American principles like opportunity, community and fairness. And they have to contrast those priorities with the increasingly warped values of the corporate crony capitalists and their Republican water boys in Washington.

In other words, the Democrats need to make the case that the GOP has been selling ordinary hard-working, middle-class Americans down the river - and thus selling the country down the river."
"Economic patriotism." I REALLY like that idea, and especially his wording. Some have called for "economic democracy" but I like this wording much better. There is a lot that can be done with this idea. After all, who IS our economy for, anyway?


 



the american street

Everything over at the american street for the last several days is good. Go read.




2/19/2004
 



Duh!

The NY Times actually notices that Iraq is about politics, not security. The Transfer: U.S. Presidential Politics and Self-Rule for Iraqis:
"'This is entirely a schedule dictated by Karl Rove,' said an Arab diplomat who maintains close contacts with the administration, referring to the White House's political director. 'Anyone who thinks otherwise is naive.'"



 



More on Free Trade and the Democrats

Matt's earlier piece was a response to Daniel Drezner. Drezner, in turn, responded to Matt. He made this interesting point:

"NAFTA has become unpopular among Republicans, while Democrats like it fine. It gets -5 from white evangelicals, -6 from rural whites, -4 in exurban counties, -5 among white male seniors, and a whopping -17 among white non-college married men."

These are Republican voters to whom a free-trade Democratic Party has nothing much to say, but whom a free-trade-skeptic Democratic Party might be able to recruit.

Right now the Republicans are working on making inroads on the Democratic core: labor, Jews, Hispanics, and blacks. They don't need to win those constituencies -- if they get 20% of the black vote or 30% of the Jewish vote they really hurt the Democrats. The Democrats have been playing a defensive game for at least the last 16 years. Are there any Republican core constituencies that the Democrats might be attacking? It seems to me that Drezner just named some prospects.

Democratic unanimity on free trade is driven by the donors, tby he media (who all have their own axes to grind), and by the party pros. Not by the voters. Considering how well the pros have been doing recently, I think that we should ask whether we need some replacement pros.



 



Free Trade and the Democrats

Two comments from a thread on Matt Yglesias (edited to stand alone, more or less).

Matt is a standard knee-jerk free-trade Democrat. My points below are, first, that while free trade is not the only bad thing or even the worst thing to happen to labor in the last 23 years, it's part of a larger anti-labor pattern; and second, that many of those hurt by free trade are part of the Democratic core, and that to remain viable as a party the Democrats have to take care of their constituents. If they were going to support free trade because it's a good thing "on the average", they should have extracted concessions to soften the blow. They knew this, they wanted to do this, and they failed. We're living with the consequences, and the party is weakened.

An example of a concession: make education more accessible. Retrain Americans for well-paying jobs. But education is becoming less accessible, not more.

The degree of contempt that middle-class white Democrats feel for the Democratic core constituencies ("can't pander to them!") is really appalling.


************

Yes, it was very wise of the Democrats to hurt one of their major constituencies. It really strengthened the party for its future battles. Certainly it would be wrong if Democrats actually represented ("pandered to") its constituents. And labor knows, deep down in its heart, that the Dems would have liked to have done some things to make the transition easier, retrain displaced workers, make education more accessible for their children, etc., and that it's not the Dems fault that that part of the bargain wasn't kept.

None of the statistics whizzes on Brad DeLong's site ever gave a specific number on the "few" Americans who have been hurt by free trade, leading me to suspect that nobody cared much how many they were, and that nobody wanted to ask that question for fear of finding that the "few" were indeed far too many.

I think that part of the indifference here comes from a disdain for the kind of corny, tacky,people labor is thought to consist of. The Democrats seem to have become the smart yuppie party.

The unanimity about free trade is among media people, Democratic political pros, donors to the Democratic party, and rich Republicans. Not among voters, especially not Democratic voters. (Given the overwhelming free-trade buzz coming from the media, stated opinions about free trade are not necessarily well-informed, but support for free trade is only about 50% even so.) So the Democratic party leadership has got itself into a position where a significant proportion of its own constituents are enemies not to be trusted. That's not a recipe for political strength, I don't think.

Certainly the Democrats' self-sacrifice was a noble one, though, as we move on our way toward the one-party state. Economically, averaging across the whole population, free trade may be as good as you said, but politically it was suicidal.

Talking to Democratic pros I've always met intense resistance to the idea of finding new support among those who seldom vote. Non-voters are most common among people near the poverty line -- the people who used to be represented by Democrats, but who are now essentially unrepresented. But to recruit them you'd have to make an effort, spend money, and make a solid offer of some kind of concrete benefit. And within the neo-conservative / neoliberal consensus, you can't do that.

**********

Politics (as opposed to economics) is like an activity in which general-good lump benefits averaged out over the whole population are less significant than the particular outcomes impacting specific individuals and groups, since it's individuals who vote and they're often recruited as group members.

Economists and lumpen-utilitarians all condemn politics and essentially dream of a politics-free world, but politics can give a voice to minorities who would otherwise be steamrollered. In our present situation, small minorities who have large amounts of money are well represented indeed, whereas much, much larger minorities such as industrial labor have been abandoned. (Matt himself is completely deaf to the losers, if the utilitarian calculation comes out positive on the average).

Right now Matt and Brad DeLong are explaining that the bad things happening right now are not the result of free trade, but are for other reasons. Fine, but when the Dems joined the Republicans in a bipartisan free-trade policy, they should have gotten a quid pro quo on the "other reasons". They failed to do so, and now we're screwed. Free trade is only part of the long-term (since 1980) national anti-labor policy which the Democrats have been unable to resist. And the other aspects of this anti-labor policy affect everyone working for a paycheck, not just industrial labor.

When the party leadership has the degree of hostility to its core constituency (can't pander to them!) that the Democrats do, it's no surprise if the party is weak.




 



Are You Having Problems?

I received an e-mail from a reader who has started having technical problems viewing Seeing the Forest recently. If you are having any problems please leave a comment or send me an e-mail. Thanks.

Update - That's TECHNICAL problems only, please. I'll say what I want and Bush does too suck.




2/18/2004
 



Surprise, Surprise

Look where more than $75 of Education funds have gone!

People For the American Way | Funding a Movement:
"An initial People For the American Way analysis of federal education grants has uncovered a pattern of major — and at times unsolicited — grants made to a small cadre of pro-voucher private advocacy groups. The funds diverted to these groups total more than $75 million over the last three years, and were doled out by the U.S. Department of Education despite chronic underfunding of the Bush administration’s own landmark ‘No Child Left Behind’ education legislation. "
If the Education Department is funneling this kind of of money to far-right voucher proponents, how much do you think other departments of our government have channeled into the Right's network of organizations? For example, the founder and funder of the far-right Libertarian Cato Institute received the government contract to supply oil to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Now, there's a HUGE chunk of cash funneled to the far right!

Is anyone investigating this? (Hint, hint.) We know that more than $10 million went into running Medicare ads that are actually Bush campaign ads.


 



Dean

Everyone is talking about what did Dean in. The Confederate flag comment. The scream. The Gore endorsement...

I actually think this was the turning point, before the Iowa primary. It was played on the news there, and had an impact:
"Perhaps the most resonant was a recent campaign appearance where Dean told a Republican heckler to sit down -- 'You've had your say, now I'm going to have mine.'"
I've seen a tape of it, and it was not pretty. Dean WAS mean. Better would have been to ask the heckler up on the stage and have a friendly discussion with him about hte merits of Democrat vs Republican values. Let the Republican be nasty if he wanted to, show that you're willing to pleasantly engage.


 



Bloggers - Trackbacks at Seeing the Forest

Fellow bloggers - Seeing the Forest is on Blogspot, which means we do not have automatic trackbacks. If you refer to a Seeing the Forest piece you can let readers here know by setting up a Trackback manually.

Here's how:

Click on the Trackback link following the piece you want to link to.

A window pops up, and gives you a "Trackback URL". In the "Must Read" piece below, you'll see this Trackback URL: http://www.trackback.org/tb.php?uid=78&tb_id=107714393430380616. Copy that entire URL because you will be pasting it somewhere in a minute.

To set up your Trackback you can go here: http://kalsey.com/tools/trackback/

The first field is where you will paste that Trackback URL you copied. It wants the special Trackback URL, not the URL of the piece you are referencing!

Put the name of your weblog where it asks, then the name of the weblog entry that you are linking to a Seeing the Forest piece from...

In Entry URL field you paste the permalink to the posting in your weblog where you link to the Seeing the Forest piece.

Then click the Ping button. Your Trackback will appear at the Seeing the Forest post, and you will start to enjoy the benefits of thousands - no, millions - of new readers.

Blogger-using bloggers who want to add trackbacks, go to http://www.trackback.org to set up this capability.


 



Absolute Must-Read

America as a One-Party State, in American Prospect, is an absolute must-read. "The target is not the Democrats but democracy itself."
"There have been moments in American history when we kept our republic only by the slenderest of margins. This year is one of those times. "
Read it with everything from this piece in mind. This is not like previous "elections." There is not a pendulum that naturally swings back and adjusts politics -- the things that happen do so because people make them happen. This right-wing crowd is not fucking around and they are not concerned with your -- or the country's -- best interests. This is a true turning point in American history. The choices you make and they way you spend your time between now and election day will determine whether there is right-wing theocratic ideological domination of the country -- and therefore the planet -- for the foreseeable future.


 



Is George W. Bush Capable of Fighting the War on Terror?

Note: The below is the short form of a much longer piece which can be found here. The long form documents everything I say at length, with over a hundred links.

They say that the 2004 election will be about defense and security. On these issues, Bush's ties with the Saudis are his weak spot. If we attack this weak spot, we win.

I hope to get wider circulation for this piece, but for the moment I'm soliciting advice, corrections, criticism, suggestions, and additions. I don't promise to take anyone's advice, but I'd like to hear it:
zizka@johnjemerson.com .

IS GEORGE W. BUSH CAPABLE OF FIGHTING THE WAR ON TERROR?

Some question the Democrats' credibility on defense and the War on Terror, but in reality, George W. Bush is the one we should be questioning. Both before and after 9/11 his performance was unsatisfactory -- in large part because of his close ties to the Saudis. The 9/11 attacks were led, manned, and funded by Saudis, and Bush's war in Iraq was a diversion which had nothing to do with fighting terror.

Bush was uninterested in terrorism during his campaign and during the first months of his term, and Republicans ridiculed and sabotaged President Clinton's efforts in that area. We can expect the 9/11 Commission's report to be a coverup, but there is already ample evidence that the Bush administration was grossly negligent in its handling of the terrorist threat during the months leading up to 9/11. And rather than 9/11 being "the day that changed everything", for the Bush administration it was the day that changed nothing. They just went ahead with their pre-existing plans to invade Iraq.

Saudi Arabia is the key to terrorism -- but the Saudis haven't even been touched yet, and in fact have repeatedly been favored by the Bush administration. 9/11 was only the most recent and most lethal of several attacks by Saudis on Americans, and the Saudis have never cooperated with the United States in the investigation of any of these crimes. Contrary to what we've been led to believe, Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda still have supporters in Saudi Arabia -- some them influential in government. For decades the Saudis have been financing fundamentalists and terrorism in foreign lands (including Osama himself until not too long before 9/11.)

George W. Bush is incapable of fighting the War onTerror. He and his family (as will be seen below) have too many Saudi friends and business partners to be willing or able to confront them effectively. The United States needs a new President who is able to get the job done.

Democrats should make this their issue, amd they should also prepare themselves for some kind of big surprise between now and November -- a new war, a new terrorist attack, or the capture of Osama. We should have our responses ready: This is not the time to fight a new war. If there's a new terrorist attack, then Bush has failed. And capturing Osama (who?) has already taken far too long.

It's not the Democrats who lack credibility. It's George W. Bush.


 



National Voice

I urge readers to check out National Voice.




2/17/2004
 



How Clear Do You Want It?

Greenspan says Congress should cut Social Security to keep tax cuts:
"Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said Thursday that Congress should make President Bush's tax cuts permanent and cover the $1 trillion price by trimming future benefits in Social Security and other entitlement programs. "
Pass our retirement money up to the top. Work till you're 70. No unemployment insurance extensions. Privatize Medicare. Cut welfare. No more overtime pay. Fuck you. Shut up.

Who IS our economy for, anyway?


 



Perfect Sense

It all makes perfect sense.


 



The Whiniest People in the Country

Kos:

"Except that I don't really fit in DC. I'm a fish out of water. I steadfastly maintain my "outsider" status even as I work with the biggest insiders of them all. As such, I have a front-row seat to the show that few share. And I can quite honestly say -- DC Democrats are some of the whiniest, most afraid people in the country."

That's my experience, in spades. Every time I talk to a Democratic Party pro, the message is negative. Can't be too liberal, can't attack a popular president (Bush!), don't get your hopes up. "That's already be tried" is the answer to every proposal. Bush's negatives as high as any President's have ever been, and those guys are still afraid of him.

You can't argue with them either. If you try, they'll read back the Indiana county-by-county results since 1980, or something like that, and make you look ignorant. Something tells me that when the Republicans won Congress in 1994, no one on the Democratic side lost his job.

Bonus:
South Knox Bubba's President's Day Message



UPDATE:

I'd like to respond to two comments below, one by Scott and one by "^=^". Combining the two (though they aren't identical) , what's being said is approximately this: "Both sides always complain about the media and about the weakness of their leadership " and "The media aren't biassed, just incompetent".

I hear these things said often, as if they were self-evidently true. I think that they are not only not self-evident, but not true at all. They are convenient beliefs, since they justify cynicism and a noncommital attitude, but this seemingly-sophisticated stance is actually a sucker's game.

The Republicans have figured out to work people who think that way -- they always complain, no matter what. "If both sides complain about me, I must be doing something right!" Cute, but wrong.

And the media have also figured out how to mask their bias by pretending that they're just being shallow, cute, hip, in-groupy, and "ironic". That doesn't actually sound so wonderful at all, but it's much less painful than admitting that they're actually working for Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.

It was Bob Somerby's coverage of Gore-Bush 2002 which convinced me that the media are, in fact, effectively right-wing. Gore was hamstrung with one false accusation after another, while Bush was never confronted with enormous problems with his record and with his program. That wasn't Gen-X shallowness or irony. That was bias pure and simple.

As for complaints about the party leadership -- Bush's recent orgy of political opportunism has roused a bit of grumbling from his supporters, but by and large both Bush and the Republican leadership in Congress have pushed a strong Republican line, and by and large Republican party discipline in Congress has been excellent. Some of the hard right in the Republican core constituency probably believe that Bush has sold them out, but they need to realize that they're a minority even within their party. By contrast, even very moderate Democrats frequently complain about the feebleness of the Democratic Party leadership.

"They all say that, and both parties are about the same". You can't just comfortably assume that. Maybe it's true, maybe not. I say that it's not.

(Edited to change "lost" to "won" in the last line of the opening piece. Thanks to Scott for the correction.)



 



Pictures Over Words and Facts

Remember what I said about pictures have more impact on people's perceptions than words and facts?

Bush to Meet With National Guard Members.




2/16/2004
 



Those Ads -- Go Visit

I suggest visiting the campaign sites advertised over on the right there. Knowles for Senate in Alaska, Chandler for Congress in Kentucky, and Haines for Congress in Georgia. These candidates are smart enough to be reaching out to the weblog community, and you should go visit their sites and, especially, donate something to help them win. If you're SERIOUS about wanting to do something about taking the country back, you've got to be ready to sacrifice a bit.

Even if you can only donate $5, why not do that? It only takes a minute. It helps them a lot (because there are a lot of you) and it helps YOU. And it boosts your karma. Click on the ads and go visit the sites.


 



Record Budget Surplus

President Clinton announces another record budget surplus - September 27, 2000
"President Clinton announced Wednesday that the federal budget surplus for fiscal year 2000 amounted to at least $230 billion, making it the largest in U.S. history and topping last year's record surplus of $122.7 billion."
OOPS - wrong president.


 



Cost Of War Counter




Get one for your web page


 



Sums It Up

This USA Today story, Why Bush stopped flying remains a mystery, sums it all up without getting into nit-picking about dates or records. The fact is that Bush suddenly stopped flying and gave no reason. Members of the Guard aren't allowed to do that. Why, after the government spent over $1 million to train him as a pilot, did Bush stop flying, and why wasn't he punished?


 



Making Americans Poorer

Here's Grover Norquist, writing about Bush's accomplishments, from the Right's viewpoint:
"Four more years of united GOP government will lead to the expansion of NAFTA to the entire hemisphere and another Doha round of trade liberalization, leading to the unions' further decline. Teamsters will have to compete with Mexican truck drivers. Why pay union dues if you aren't being shielded from competition like this?

Public sector unions face a similar squeeze. Bush and Congress have begun the process of competitively sourcing 850,000 jobs. That's almost half of all civilian workers in the federal government. This will save taxpayers 30 percent of present cost, as the civil servants who now cut the grass for the Pentagon will have to compete for their jobs with private contractors.

Four more years of competitive sourcing at the federal level will inevitably trickle down to the state and local levels, affecting one third of the 15 million state and local workers. For every 100 jobs contracted out, the Association of Federal, State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) loses 37 dues-paying members. If only one fifth of the 5 million jobs available to be competitively sourced are privatized, it costs AFSCME 370,000 times $500, or $185 million."
Each of these Republicans "accomplishments" lowers wages and makes Americans poorer! And their purpose is to weaken those who oppose the Right, further consolidating the Right's power.

And another perspective on Norquist's column, discussing the increasingly violent tone of the Right's language, can be found here.

And more on the increasingly violent tone here:
"...I hate all you f*ing Democrats. You f*ng deserve to be die. Hopefully we can kill the f*ing bunch of you soon..."



 



Making My Point

Here's a news story about a Bush visit to a factory that demonstrates my point in my previous post:
"As he entered, a half-dozen workers were steadily polishing windows, as if Bush had walked into an ordinary shift on President's Day. News cameras snapped away as Bush picked up a caulking gun and hugged workers.

Five minutes after Bush and his entourage of journalists left, the factory floor was deserted, and there was no sign later in the day that production had resumed."
Here's something the Reagan people knew: only the pictures matter. Once Michael Deaver, one of Reagan's marketing wizards, was asked about a news story that showed pictures of Reagan at photo-ops, while the voice-over talked about how Reagan was misleading people by using these photo-ops to give impressions that were actually the opposite of Reagan's policies. Deaver thanked them for showing the pictures (just spell my name right) and said the voice-over and the facts don't matter -- what mattered were the pictures people saw because that is what formed their impression of events.

Here we have Bush touring a supposedly busy factory. Five minutes after he left the factory was deserted. You and I, the informed news junkies will scoff at how this proves what we have been saying. (Like the time Bush appeared in front of boxes that had "Made in China" covered up. Remember? Regular people don't.) But the Bush people understand that most of the public will see Bush visiting a busy factory and hugging employees and this means that Bush is a caring guy who has revived the economy.


 



The Arrogance of the Informed

Also posted at the american street.

I wrote at american street a while back about “tiers” of voters, and how there are informed voters – namely us online, the readers and writers of news sites and weblogs – and then there are concerned but less informed voters, and how I think it was those voters who heard only the short, last-minute characterizations of messages – “Dean angry” and “Edwards nice” and Kerry Vietnam vet.”

Many months ago I had a long phone conversation with Mathew Gross, until very recently the blogger for the Dean campaign. In that conversation he asked if I thought the power of the Internet and weblogs would be enough to go around the media and get Dean’s message out to people directly. I quickly said I didn’t think so. I said it almost before thinking, sort of instinctively. Of course, up until a few weeks ago, with Dean 30 points ahead of Kerry everywhere, I felt like that would be one of those stupid statements – me of little faith – that I would regret for years. But now I think that perhaps my age and experience was leading me to understand something that is going on here with our views of blogging and politics and the electorate.

[I'm not saying here that Mathew thought they would or wouldn't be able to bypass the media - we were bouncing around ideas, and this was long before it started to look like the Dean campaign actually would be able to use the Internet to reach a wider audience.]

Let me tell you how I learned my most important lesson about marketing. Many years ago I was an engineer who had wound up running a software company. I was approached by a direct mail consultant with an idea to sell something to my customers using direct mail. I agreed that the idea was a good one and we got started, but very soon I became uncomfortable with the sales pitch that the consultant was writing for use in the letters. I felt the language was insulting and obvious, even slick and sleazy, and that the customers wouldn’t fall for that kind of trash. So we decided to put it to a test (that’s the beauty of direct mail, you test everything) where I would write a letter and we would mail each of our letters to several thousand people and see what happened.

I wrote by far the best sales letter I had ever written or even imagined. It was a letter I would read if it came to me, and that would cause me to purchase. It was extremely respectful of the customers, used the best grammar, gave details and described features… anyway it was just superb. He, on the other wrote a sleazy, trashy, salesy typical direct mail letter that had nothing technical in it at all, nothing about the features – that said this remarkable new breakthrough product was being offered exclusively to them and only them and only for a very limited time so they must act now or lose out and by the way if they bought NOW they would also get a free gift that was so valuable... – a letter that I would have thrown out immediately assuming I even opened the envelope.

We mailed the letters and a week or so later the orders started to come in. After two weeks the results were becoming obvious, and after three weeks and his letter outselling mine almost four to one I wrote out by hand and FAXed to him a long letter that said only, “I will never question Jim Johnson again. I will never question Jim Johnson again. I will…” which went on for three pages so that it would come out of his FAX machine as one long scroll. I understand he still has that FAX hanging up in his office.

So I learned a very, very important lesson: There is a REASON that direct mail is all so similar and reads the way it does. BECAUSE IT WORKS! Because they have been doing it for decades and have studied it and refined it and refined it and tested it and refined it again, and it makes money – more money than other things they have tried because more people respond to it. And by extension, I came to understand that there is a reason that there are all those stupid ads on TV that we all hate, and ads in magazines, and billboards, and posters in subways, and huge ads on the sides of buses. And I came to understand why big companies spend BILLIONS on advertising when they are otherwise so cheap they ration pencils to their employees. BECAUSE ADVERTISING/MARKETING WORKS!

And I came to understand why they use such stupid appeals that are insulting to me. Because it works on most people, even if it does not work on me. And this is because I am informed BUT MOST PEOPLE ARE NOT.

Years later I worked for a while as a consultant, mostly helping other engineers who found themselves in the position of having companies learn from my mistakes, and helping turn the companies into real businesses – setting up Boards of Directors, and other businessy things. The very hardest part of that job was convincing engineers that they really didn’t understand marketing, and that they needed marketing professionals to handle their marketing. The engineers invariably were much like I was before that direct mail challenge. They assumed that other people were like them, knew what they knew, and understood what they understood. They were dismissive of stupid and obvious marketing appeals and felt they had read and knew a lot about marketing and could do a better job themselves. They felt they could certainly word things more intelligently, that they understood their products better, and that people would flock to buy the products because they are better. I only occasionally succeeded in convincing them to bring in professional marketing people AND allowing those professionals to do their jobs with minimal interference – and the companies that did not almost universally failed eventually.

So where is this leading? How many of you think you are too smart to fall for ads and blatant sales pitches? You probably are, and that is the problem that I am trying to write about today. The very fact that you are reading this means that you get your information online, and that you seek out alternative sources of deeper information than you get from your newspapers and TV. I am trying to say that you and I are informed and that blinds us to some realities. The very fact of OUR awareness can mislead us about most voters because most voters are NOT particularly informed at all. And they are busy or have other reasons that they are not likely to ever become highly informed about what is going on. Our state of informedness causes us to lose sight of what it is like to only hear what I call the “surface” messages that circulate – messages like “Dean angry” and “Edwards nice.” I think THIS is the reason that 50% of Americas STILL believe that Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attack – because what news they DO hear has the President using 9/11 and Iraq in the same sentence repeatedly. Things like that. It isn't going to change. We need to learn to hear what THEY are hearing, and understand how those things are going to affect them.

As I like to say, the people behind the Republicans are the people who sold tobacco – people so skilled they convinced others to kill themselves and to hand over their money in the process. They are people who DO understand regular Americans. We should learn from them. That bulge in Bush's flight suit and the Marlboro man are are both designed to convey simple, basic, short messages on an emotional level to specific target audiences. That's marketing.

Simple, basic, short messages that reach the target audience on an emotional level, repeated and repeated.

I fear that we online consumers of news suffer the arrogance of the informed. I think we all, bloggers and readers alike, might benefit from taking a step back, seeing a bigger picture – one that encompasses millions of less informed voters – and trying to understand what THEY think and how THEY react to things they hear.


 



President George W. "Otter" Bush

Otter (to Dean Wormer): "You fucked up -- you trusted us!"

(Animal House
).

A lot of people are asking grave questions about Sen. Kerry's vote for the Second Iraq War. Is he flip-flopping? How much confidence can we have in a guy like that? And so on.

Well, I'm asking questions too, but it seems to me that there's one person who shouldn't be asking this question, and that's our frat-boy President: George W. "Otter" Bush.


 



Was W's Guard File "Scrubbed?"

Kevin's got the scoop.

After interviewing the principals himself, Kevin believes some sort of scrubbing did take place. That certainly would explain the rather small file, wouldn't it?

Good job on this, Kevin.




2/15/2004
 



A Free-Trade-Skeptic Economist

I'm a free trade skeptic, as is Dave. At a minimum, free trade has been oversold, without serious consideration of the transition costs and -- above all -- without concern for the particular people who are hurt (mostly labor). On the whole and in the long run, free trade may very well be a good thing, but right now for a lot of people it's a bad thing.

As a non-economist, I'm always at something of a loss arguing this point over at Brad DeLong's site. So here's Max Sawicky, an economist who isn't a born-again free-trader.

Read it all, but here's a sample: "Some people defend outsourcing on the grounds that its ill effects could be alleviated by a non-existent safety net. This cold comfort for obvious reasons. We might add that the trend in the Federal budget makes any such safety net ever more unlikely. Nor is the liberal urge to balance the budget helpful in this dimension."




 



GOP == KKK

Tell me how this is different from the KKK, in language and intent, except I don't think the KKK is big in Rhode Island: College Republicans offer whites-only award:
"A student group at Roger Williams University is offering a new scholarship for which only white students are eligible, a move they say is designed to protest affirmative action.

The application for the $50 award requires an essay on 'why you are proud of your white heritage' and a recent picture to 'confirm whiteness.'

'Evidence of bleaching will disqualify applicants,' says the application, issued by the university's College Republicans. "
I'm sure they're complaining about the Jew Liberal media's reporting of this.


 



Why Care about Bush's Military Service?

I haven't jumped into the Bush AWOL fray so far, though I'm glad that Kevin Drum and others have done so. This is something that I researched briefly a year or two ago, so I've known for that there's a problem there for awhile. Of course, it's also true that many from that generation (mine) have skeletons in their closets, and I have never thought that military service should be a prerequisite for political leadership. So this is a tricky one.

I also somewhat agree with those who think we shouldn't pin too many of our hopes on this issue. Even if GWB's Guard service turns out to have been adequate, he will remain one of the worst Presidents in American history. And if it turns out that Bush's service was unproblematic, then all the usual suspects will be able to feign horror at Democratic slime tactics, and we'll be seeing the same old "Democrats are no better than Republicans" meme again.

(Isn't it interesting, though, that "The Democrats are just as bad" always counts as a defense of the Republicans? No one ever argues that the Republicans aren't creeps.)

And while the hypocrisy issue still can be raised, there's so much hypocrisy in politics that for many voters indignation fatigue has set in.*

However, the problems with Bush's military service do make a pretty good wedge issue. A lot of Bush's support comes from people who vote more on character than on issues. For them physical courage, personal integrity, and a strict sense of honor are primary requirements for leadership. Those who think this way aren't terribly analyitic or curious, but they do care about details -- for them, certain acts are just inexcusable. Many of them have been flimflammed by Bush so far, but they will turn against him if they find out that his record is seriously blemished. This group might be small, but it's part of Bush's core constituency, so it's important.

And on the other hand, perhaps this issue (ignored in the 2000 campaign) might just be the last straw for a lot of people. Problems with the Iraq War and its justifications, Bush's loopy economic plans, his waffling on tariffs, the weird marriage-promotion boondoggle, the weird Mars mission trial balloon, etc., etc., might have pushed a lot of centrists and moderate conservatives to the point that they're willing to look at the evidence (which has always been there) about Bush's military service. Once someone loses the benefit of the doubt, people start looking at the little things. I think that's what has happened, and it's about time.

There's still a problem here: the kingmaker role of the corrupt monopoly media. If they've actually turned against Bush, that's a good thing, but it's a very limited good. As long as the media select our Presidents for us, we're in trouble.

* This makes it seem that I myself don't care much about personal character. I have to admit that after more than forty years on the scene, the idea that someone in politics might be full of integrity strikes me as a dream from a bygone day, like King Arthur or Good King Wenceslas.






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