Political books 16

Millennial Makeover          Morley Winograd & Michael D. Hais           June 2008
Generations                        William Strauss & Neil Howe                       Sept 2008
The Fourth Turning            William Strauss & Neil Howe                       Sept 2008
How Would A Patriot Act?     Glenn Greenwald                                     Sept 2008
Broken Government           John W. Dean                                               Sept 2008
 


Millennial Makeover      Morley Winograd & Michael D. Hais           June 2008
Introduction and Acknowledgments:  an interesting blog, http://saynotopombo.blogspot.com which had a lot to do with the ouster of Cong. Pombo in N. California and his replacement by Jerry McNerney a Democrat.
  
Part I  Cycles of American Politics
C1  The Rise and Fall of Political parties in America
   Their basic thesis is that ever since the rise of political parties American politics has shown a persistent pattern of relatively long periods of stability followed by short periods of decisive change.  Usually the party which is dominant for the last 40 years is replaced by the previous minority party and this new status holds for another 40 years when it shifts back.  

Each of the five major political realignments in US history have been triggered by a critical event but the underlying forces have typically been a change in the communication technologies which have enabled the newer generations to communicate more effectively is ways that their predecessors have not responded to.  The authors believe that the new Millennial Generation, born between 1982 and 2003, will be the spark that ignites the next switch... from the Idealist generational type to the Civic generational type.  

It is generally agreed that there have been five generational shifts in American history.  They began in 1828 with the Democrats (idealistic), 1860 with the Republicans (civic), 1896 with a new type of Republican (idealistic), 1932 with the Democrats (civic), and 1968 with the Republicans (idealistic), (and he is predicting 2008 with the Democrats-civic).  However these changes are not overwhelming, the dominant party gets about 51% of the vote and the range is no more than 4 or 5%.  There are greater regional changes, for example New England was recently strongly Republican and the South was strongly Democrat, no more.  There have been many criticisms of realignment theory but the authors offer a new analysis, (Technological + Generational) Change = Realignment).  They suggest that the most important technological change is in communications technology.  They break generational change into four types:
Idealist - dominant and inner-fixated, driven by their deeply held values.
Reactive - alienated, risk-taking, entrepreneurial, and pragmatic.
Civic - dominant and outer-fixated, oriented to societal challenges, problem solving, and institution building.
Adaptive - risk averse, conformist, compromise.
They tend to follow each other in 20 year intervals but societal change only occurs with the Idealist and Civic types.  These two tend to be more dynamic.  Population increase from immigration tends to be higher in the decades preceding these change intervals.  The idealist changes seem to be associated with more independents, more split-ticket voting, negative attitudes towards politics, and a focus on divisive social issues.  Civic realignments are characterized by enhanced party identification, straight ticket voting, positive attitudes towards politics, and a focus on broader societal and economic concerns rather than social issues involving personal morality.  These movements are not directly associated with any particular party or ideology.  

C2  Idealist and Civic Eras in American History   About every 40 years America experiences a major political upheaval.  These are caused by the coming of age of a new generation and the creation of a new communications technology.  Generally these can be broken down into two types.  the civic realignment is centered on cooperative efforts to resolve societal problems and create institutions.  The idealistic realignments are driven by attempts to use the political process to achieve or defend deeply held personal values.  Voter turnout generally rises when there is an upheaval and then gradually tapers off.

There are a number of specific changes that occur during a realignment.  Some of these are:
C3  Politicians Love to Talk   Discussion of how communications technology changed the political scene.  He starts with the telegraph during the Lincoln-Douglas debates and how this fed the newspapers.  Merging of newspapers plus the telegraph and the new telephone, and the trains in 1896.  The next change was the radio, FDR was the master of this new medium.  The movies became important to both parties.  Nixon was the first to realize the power of television but unfortunately for him in his famous debate with Kennedy he failed to take his staff's suggestions about appearance and Kennedy "won" the TV debate.  Republicans are generally considered to have mastered television and radio more than Democrats.  The Democrats appear to have an edge in internet campaigning.  

C4  Meet the Millennials Millennials were born in the years 1982 to 2003.  They are the children of Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers but they are more like their GI generation grandparents and great-grandparents.  They are the largest and most racially diverse generation of Americans ever.  Both the Millennials and the GI Generation were born in an era of idealists and calls for limiting immigration.  Also limiting addictive substances, alcohol for the GI's and drugs for the Millennials.

The chapter discusses in great detail the differences among the different generations.  Too much detail to repeat.

C5  Millennials Will Spearhead the Coming Political Realignment As millennials come more and more to power what are their likely political attitudes be?  The authors have a number of predictions.
Part II  Transition to a New Era  Begin on page 111
C6  The Realignment Begins
  Usually the party of the President looses 29 seats in the House in the second term of the President.  But in 1998 the Democrats gained 5 seats, possibly because of the Republicans overreaching in their bid to impeach Clinton.  Perhaps emboldened by this, Gore did not campaign as centrists as he could have and very narrowly lost(?) the election in 2000.  The crisis of 9/11 confused the issue in 2004 but it still looks like 1928.  Led by Howard Dean's 50 state strategy the Democrats made huge gains in 2006.  There were campaign splits between this strategy and the more old line Democratic leaders in the House and Senate.  It also became obvious that having the most money did not automatically guarantee a win.
  
C7  Winning without the Mother's Milk of Politics
   It shortly became obvious that money was not the sole criterion of winning.  It seemed that if the money was relatively equal, the Democrat had a very good chance of winning.  Also the presence of a Netroots (50 state) organizer was a significant feature.  The authors present case studies of a number of Congressional and Senate races in 2006.

Videos posted on YouTube and other locations seemed to be a significant factor in many of these elections.
  
C8  The Technology Tsunami  After an extended start, technology is really starting to have an effect on our culture.  The music and video industry have been completely disrupted and the change will continue.  Perhaps the communications industry (telephones etc.) will be next.  There is a lengthy discussion of the saga of the record industry vs. the listening public with broadband.  One of the effects that this is having on politics is that one person with a digital video recorder (or digital camera) and a laptop can record, modify, and polish a political ad is a day or two, directly taking money away from political consultants.  
  
C9  Social Networks Will Change America's Political Map  Viacom based its success on MTV and Gen-Xers - When they didn't flock to its web sites they sued YouTube to enforce their copyrights.  It's not working and it is alienating Gen-Xer's.  Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's campaign manager in 2004, saw what was coming.  The strategy didn't quite work in 2004 but it did in 2006, 2008?

They describe how two 19-year old candidates for the New Hampshire House got elected by using Facebook.  It is doubtful that their technique could prove a model for many others but there are two lessons to be learned.  The economics suggests that you get much more return on your investment using the internet and the demographics of the electorate are changing.

It is taking more and more money to get your message across on television, both in terms of cost per add and the vastly increased number of stations - cable, satellite, and broadcast.  80% of Americans are online and 40% of them have broadband.  Younger voters can be reached but they just don't spend as much time watching TV, social networking sites are much cheaper and has a higher likelihood of finding them.  

Young Millennials do not tend to listen to "experts" or "bosses", they need to be individually convinced, and the best way to do it is via their friends, many of whom are online.  The chapter ends with a discussion of a problem.  A private individual created an Obama profile on MySpace and had 40,000 linked friends by the time that Obama announced his candidacy.  The Obama campaign wanted to take control, the person wanted compensation, an argument ensued.  There can be problems that campaigns have never seen before.
  
C10  Winning the Technology Arms Race It is very hard for those who have had success to change their strategy to cope with societal change.  Companies like Montgomery Ward and Packard Motors and parties such as the Federalists and the Whigs did not, and they are no longer with us.  

In 2006 the Democrats seemingly were able to do this but the Republicans were not so successful.  The Democrats have been very quick to embrace social networking sites and blogging but most Republicans have not been.  Republicans just don't seem to be able to use open-ended social networking.  Younger Democrats have no problem with this.  

This was not the case with data mining.  The Bush campaign in 2004 was able to specifically target selected groups in Ohio and New Mexico which he had not won in 2000.  Democrats had the same opportunities but problems with a dimunition of traditional power doomed the effort.  Republican efforts in 2006 failed because of the massive political changes at that time.  

McCain's organization was fairly successful with web organizing.  Dean, Kerry, and Edwards were quite successful.  Hillary Clinton was not very successful, her campaign staff insisted on too much control over the items posted.  Most Republicans were very unsuccessful.  New communication techniques are being added to blogging and messaging sites almost daily.  The candidate that can adapt quickly stands a much better chance of being elected.  
  
Part III  The New American Political Landscape
C11  Triggering a New America
 Karl Rove, the political "brain" of the Bush Administration felt that 9/11 would be the critical event that would keep Republicans in power for generations.  Not so, it undoubtedly helped in 2004 but just barely.  The political change spearheaded by the Millennial generation was too powerful for this to work in 2006.  It is up to the political parties and how they respond to 9/11, Katrina, and other crises that will determine if Millennials will support them or the other party.  Currently the Republican party's performance has not been sufficient to enable them to capture the Millennials.

Contrary to our recent experiences, it is not a given that Idealists are necessarily Republicans and Civics are Democrats.  The parties have shifted over time.  It depends upon how political parties respond to crisis situations and exactly what the crisis is.  However there will be a change in the orientation of out culture, the question is which party will benefit.  
  
C12  Who Will Party with Whom?  Following a crisis there are usually one or two presidential elections before there is a final resolution as to which political party will be successful for most of the next 30 to 40 years.  Usually, but not always, the weaker party for the past 30-40 years will become the dominant party.  

It is always difficult for a winning team/company/party to change directions.  The Republicans have been the winners for most of the last 40 years.  If they do not change their strategy they will probably become the minority for the next 40 years.   Democrats are showing most of their growth in the Millennial group by a ratio of 1.75:1 over Republicans.  Older voters are maintaining their old allegiances.  Modern research indicates that once people identify with a political party they are likely to maintain that preference for the rest of their life.  

The key issues for those who identify with the Republicans are taxation, immigration, national security, and terrorism.  Issues for Democratic party identifiers are war in Iraq, economy and national debt, Social Security and Medicare, health care, economic inequality, and the environment.  The legacy of Roosevelt ran the Democratic Patry until the 1960's or 1970's.  Then the Democrats ran out of agenda.  The Reagan legacy has been running the Republican party ever since and now it is running out of agenda.  

Bush's popularity has decreased faster than any president other than Truman.  Bush registered the highest approval rating in history (92% one month after 9/11) but recently his ratings have been around 28% to 30%.  The authors would recommend that Republican candidates pretend that Bush didn't exist.  

Would it be possible for the Democrats snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?  Yes, if it returns to the definitions of the liberalism it used in earlier generations.  The Democrats need to develop a proactive stance toward support of the military and multilateral approaches to the nation's foreign policy.  
  
C13  Who Will Lead the Realignment? It appears that America is due for a change of direction.  The signs point to a shift from the fading influence of the Idealists to a new leadership based on Civic priorities.  The authors look to the emergence of a leader in the mold of Lincoln or FDR.  Both of these leaders had a vision of America's future and worked toward it.  However both were sensitive to the political feelings of much of America an were careful to build coalitions as a necessary step in creating this future.  Clinton learned this lesson when he tried to move us towards a national health care system before he had created a national consensus.  They were both exceptional communicators who were able to convey their vision of what the country could be to voters and politicians alike.  Both also were capable of reaching across party lines and picking whom they considered the best people to help him govern the country.  

Both FDR and Lincoln both understood that the American people were wanting to move from a position of intellectual purity to effective action.  In the first decade of the 21st century Americans are again seeking leaders who can just get the job done, not someone who has a specific moral position.  
  
C14  Rebuilding America's Civic Infrastructure  The first American Civic generation were born between 1742 and 1766 and included Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Paul Jones.  They provided much of the leadership during the Revolutionary War and the founding and early building of the nation.  The authors report that Strauss and Howe do not find a Civic generation at the time of the Civil War.  However the authors feel that there were civic tendencies following the War.  There was no Civic generation to consolidate these tendencies and rebuild the nation following the War.  Reconstruction ended early, the South took a long time to rebuild, and civil rights quickly stalled.

The Great Depression and WW II provided the GI generation the needed energy to take off.  The next Civic Generation should remake the laws and government structures begun in the 1930's and '40's creating our next leap forward.  FDR took laissez-faire governmental approach and created a centralized, progressive approach.  Will the next generation use peer-to-peer communication, Google, and Wiki to create our next governmental structure?  Al Gore and the "reinvent government" approach along with Elaine Kamarck started such an effort  and George W. Bush instituted a project called President's Management Agenda (PMA) to do the same thing.  Generally legislators and agency managers resist such efforts as they are perceived as diminishing their power.

The authors think that Millennials will push this effort forward but will put more emphasis on how decisions are made and by whom.  They are more likely to support dispersed or network management, more in the tradition of Google or Wikipedia.  It is unlikely that any changes would go so far as to institute a direct democracy but incremental change is likely.  One example of how these changes may occur in a proposal that has been made in the US Congress is to require that all proposals be put on the web 72 hours before debate can begin to "harness the collective intelligence of thousands of Americans."
  
C15  Public Policy in a Millennial Era  As we move from an idealist to a civic domination the debate shifts from more emphasis on national order to local flexibility, from individual liberty to community progress.  An enduring policy debate has been where to draw the line between individual liberty and community cohesion.  Recently Republicans have argued for individual freedom in the economy and reducing freedoms in private life.  Democrats have argued for the reverse.  The resultant has often been deadlock for both areas.  

A second tension has been to determine exactly where to the draw the line between individual and states rights and the safety and security of public spaces.  A prime example of this the Articles of Confederation.  They were replaced by the Constitution which increased the power of the federal government.  However the Constitution was not acceptable to many unless the first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights, were included.  The current debate over the Patriot Act and Immigration reflect the current disagreements on these issues.  

The response is in large part determined by the crisis that the nation is facing.  When the crisis is foreign, the response is mainly towards preserving the nation and individual rights are ignored.  When times are good, moral or social issues rise to the top of the list.  When the problem is economic the response usually is a mixture of the two.

Millennials will probably demand health care and educational improvements.  Millennial policy is focused on results and pragmatic leadership, not ideology.  They will focus on environmental activism, incorporating as many countries as possible.  At first they will attempt bipartisanship but then they will coalesce around the political party that best adopts to the new policy era.

Millennials will be saddled with a huge debt.  Gene Sperling, Clinton's chief economic adviser removed debt calculations from the Budget in 1994.  John Snow, when he replaced Paul O'Neill as Treasury Secretary under Bush, did the same thing.  O'Neill had calculated the fiscal gap (between Federal income and expenditures over the lifetime of those living) at $45 trillion ($51 trillion if Medicare is added in).  In 2005 this gap was calculated at $66 Trillion.  

Health care expenses will be the big budget problem facing Millennials in the near future.  Numerous proposals have been made to reduce health care costs.  Some of these are:
  1. The Massachusetts Plan:  Require everyone to obtain heal care Insurance but subsidize those who cannot afford it.
  2. Expand the pool of those being insured, the Massachusetts Plan does this.
  3. Eliminate the use of preexisting conditions in applying for health insurance.
  4. Create more knowledgeable consumers of health care.
  5. Extend the ability to share health care information.
  6. The use of large health care information databases.   These last two require that preexisting conditions not be a reason for refusing insurance.
Education needs major investment and structural change.  Ross and Plastrick, 2007, http://www.in4c.net/index.asp (p 258-260) report on a program in Rhode Island that seems very promising.

Service to the country:  In 1993 Clinton passed AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn & Save America.  These programs have thrived.  Volunteer community service (including military) is expanding.

Due to their exposure to television and the internet, Millennials truly do, "Think Globally, Act Locally."

Millennials are ready to deal with the fact that global trade and competition is here to stay.  They are more willing to adopt the economic and educational policies that will prepare for jobs that will not be outsourced, to deal with the economic dislocations that will occur, and to provide training when jobs in a given field go away.

There 8 pages of references and 31 pages of index.

Return to   Top Directory       Main Directory File


Generations                              William Strauss & Neil Howe            Sept 2008
        Subtitled: The History of America's Future 1584 to 2069
The Fourth Turning            William Strauss & Neil Howe            Sept 2008
        Subtitled:  An American Prophecy  

These two books are being considered together because they are really just portions of a larger book.  In addition there is another book, The 13th Gen: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail? which I am not planning on reading but which was published between these two.  These works, and I am sure other materials furnished the impetus for Winograd & Hais to write their book, Millennial Makeover, which I read and reviewed first.  

Between them, these two books have 154 pages of additional material, they are definitely scholarly works.  

The first book, Generations, is a more general work, it focuses on the entire American experience from the late 1500's past the middle of the 2000's (the future).  It does discuss to a limited extent evidence that supports their hypothesis from historical figures from Moses and the Greek myths to the 1500's.  Although using some material from earlier eras the second book, The Fourth Turning, is primarily focused on the years 1908 through the year 2000.  

Strauss & Howe along with Winograd & Hais seem to be firmly in the tradition of Western Sociology and Western History.  They do not look at the phenomena from the viewpoint of either the Anthropologist or the Psychologist.  I feel that this is a definite limitation to their hypotheses.  They offer examples from about 400 years of American history and generalize it to the future taking no account of how the world outside of the United States has changes or will change in the future.  I am specifically thinking of the books by Amy Chua (World on Fire and Day of Empire) and how they compare with the book of Kevin Phillips (American Theocracy).  Phillips concentrates on 2000 years of western history and Chua looks on 3000 years of world history.  Her conclusions, while not negating the findings of Phillips, add much more depth and additional variables.  

The current authors cycles of history offer very little evidence that supports their claims from historical or current world data.  They also don't offer any help with potential very serious political disruptions which could be caused by major economic changes or environmental change (global warming).  China and other countries seem to be undergoing many changes, are these caused by the same variables as the ones they are discussing in America or are other factors in play.  Anthropological or world historical data could help us determine if these cycles are universal or not.  Psychological data would also help, do these changes effect all humans similarly or do different cultural factors change their patterns.

My other problem concerns the variability of the data and how their observations reflect actual differences in behavior.  Since there are no methods listed for measuring or predicting the responses of people in these situations.  It could be that the authors are just cherry picking facts to support their hypotheses.  The authors never say that overnight all people born after a certain date will change their world view and thus their behavior.  Obviously there is a lot of variation within each group.  Is the definition of each group 50% plus 1 supports a given world view or is the definition that each member of the group moves 10 points towards a particular world view.  In short what is the variance within each group and how does the mean reflect their attitudes.

My personal view is that this type of theorizing reflects some underlying truths but there is very little evidence to support it as yet.  They remind me of Freud.  He had a remarkable insight, unknown or unconscious elements within your brain can effect your behavior.  Unfortunately he created a model based on an very fanciful theory with no empirical data to back it up.  We are now able to verify his observations without resorting to the Id, Ego, or Superego - instead we now talk about nerve function and areas within the brain.  We still can't make perfect predictions but we can understand and treat some problems.  One specific question I have is how can we treat a newborn child to create either a Civic, Reactive, Idealist, or an Adaptive person?  (The exact names tend to change between books and authors.)  The authors state that the generations of roughly 20 years each follow each other in the order of Civic following Reactive following Idealist following Adaptive following Civic etc. but exactly what are the conditions that create this relationship.  

Again, an interesting hypothesis which has some correlational value but very few causal relationships.  

Return to   Top Directory       Main Directory File


How Would A Patriot Act?     Glenn Greenwald                        Sept 2008
            Subtitle: Defending American Values from a President Run Amok

Preliminary comments:  Mr. Greenwald is a constitutional lawyer so his comments use legal terminology and legal reasoning.  This is to be expected.  However in sticking to this formula he ignores many of the other problems with President George W Bush (Bush 43) and the current Republican party {his father George H W Bush (Bush 41)}.  There are many other / additional things to criticize about this period of American governance.  That is found in other works, just keep it in mind that this is just one argument.

Preface The author was very a-political in the days before 9/11.  He never voted for (or against) Bush 43 or other presidential candidates.  Following 9/11 he was very supportive of the President and assumed that the President and the government had perfectly good and valid reasons for doing what they were doing.  This began to break down when he heard of the case of Jose Padilla, a US citizen, arrested on US soil, labeled "the dirty bomber", and then it was announced that he was being held indefinitely without charges and denied access to counsel.  (My personal moment of revelation came when it was reported in the news that looters were stealing artifacts from the National Museum and US soldiers just watched.)  Following Padilla he still supported Bush but the questions started.  As further information became available is trust evaporated and in Oct. 2005 he started a blog reflecting his viewpoint as an independent concerned about the violation of our constitutional principles.  

C1  American Devolution  
One Nation, Indivisible
 In the days following 9/11 all America (and much of the world) were united behind Bush 43.  Bush 43 asked for and received (almost) unanimous support from both parties.  Even Al Gore in a Sept 29, 2001 supported the President, even saying, "George W. Bush is my commander in chief."  Bush 43 requested many new powers to assist in finding and stopping the terrorists.  Unfortunately these powers did not seem to be enough and even as the laws were passed he and other government agencies were violating them.

Listening In  From the end of WW II until the FISA act was passed in 1978 the government could listen to and record any conversation.  This ability was perhaps misused the most by Nixon.   

Reining in the Presidents  In 1978 there was enough controversy to secure the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  The act remained through the Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, and Clinton presidencies.  The act required that a court approve all requests for domestic spying.  Since 1978 the court has never rejected a request for surveillance.  In Oct. 2001 Bush 43 ordered the NSA to spy on Americans in violation of FISA.  This was done without notifying the courts.  

Pattern of Deceit  Many people in the White House lied about this activity.  Those mentioned include James A. Baker, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and Attorney General Ashcroft.

Unilateral Actions  Bush 43 has repeatedly refused to answer questions about the use of wiretapping.  The crime is not that Federal agencies listen to private conversations, it is that the President has authorized this without following the proper steps.

C2  The Power of One  What should one call George W. Bush?  Greenwald uses Bush 43 (and Bush 41).  Others have use other, more scatological names.  My favorite, King George III.  George I: that would be George Washington,  probably the greatest hero in our nations history, he led the fight to create out country and served as our first leader.  He rejected all titles except, Mr. President.  Lincoln rescued our country.  George II: George H. W. Bush, he was OK, a little out of touch with reality and too easily led but not bad.  George III: George W. Bush.  The other George III was the person Washington fought against.  If there is anyone "channeling" George III, it is George III (W. Bush 43).  

All of the problems mentioned earlier were caused by George III emulating his namesake and wanting supreme power over all aspects of government and daily life.

The King and Yoo  John Yoo has been a believer in a powerful executive.  Appointed to the Justice Department in July 2001 he was in a perfect position to lend his knowledge to George III after 9/11.  George III found that the courts, Congress, and international treaties getting in his way to do exactly as he wanted to.  Yoo presented the constitutional arguments that supported the moves that George III wanted to make.  Not that Yoo's arguments were valid, most violated the letter if not the spirit of the Constitution but George III is not that sophisticated, he just accepted Yoo's findings because it was a cover for his own power trip.

Matter of Decree  The next act of George III was to begin arresting American citizens in the US and calling them "enemy combatant's".  They were allowed no visitors, no lawyers, no courts, and were held without charges for and indefinite period.  The author details the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, born in Louisiana in 1980.

The Case of the "Dirty Bomber"  On May 8, 2002, Jose Padilla was arrested in Chicago by US marshals.  Padilla was born in New York City and then moved to Chicago.  This was announced at a press conference by Attorney General John Ashcroft while he was visiting Russia.  Padilla was called the "Dirty Bomber" because of shaky allegations that he was plotting to smuggle a nuclear weapon into the US and detonate it in a large city.  He was also never charged.  

Confessions by Waterboarding  On Dec. 24, 2005 the New York Times reported that much of the evidence against Padilla was based on statements made by prisoners who were tortured by waterboarding.  

Tortured Legislation  Legislation to make torture illegal had been working through Congress and in Oct. 2005 and Dec. 2005 it passed the Senate and House by wide margins.  On the same day that George III signed the legislation he also issued a "signing statement" which said that he would abide by the law except where it inconvenienced him.

C3  "What Can't He Do?"  
The Weight of the Law  The fact that the NSA listened to the conversations of American citizens is not an evesdropping scandal, it is a lawbreaking scandal.  There have been many disagreements as to the exact powers of the President, however George III is the first to argue that he has sole power in matters of national security and terrorism and that the Congress has none.  George III's lawyers have argued that FISA does not give them time to move fast to discover terrorists.  The courts have never refused a request under FISA.  All presidents between 1978 and George III have been able to keep our country safe and also live with FISA.  

In Defense of the President  When these acts of George III and NSA became public the President came under attack from all sides.  In defense of the President the Justice Department and later the White House began producing documents stating that the President had and needed these powers.

"A Strong, Robust Executive Authority"  Many, closely related to the Bushes have supported this theory.  Most say that in order to govern the nation in times of war you need the power of a monarchy so that one man has the power to control all aspects of that war.   This is the theory of the unitary executive.

C4  Patriotism Beyond Politics  
The Right Hooks  Many conservatives have disagreed with the concept of the "unitary" (that is all powerful) president.  The examples that the author gives are Bruce Fein, George Will, and Bob Barr.  

All-American Blogosphere  On Feb. 20, 2006 British historian David Irving was sentenced in Austria to three years in prison for "whomever denies, grossly plays down, approves or tries the National Socialist genocide or other National Socialist crimes against humanity in a print publication, in broadcast or other media."  This received little attention in the US media but blogs were almost of one note.  Irving's speech was abhorrent but he took no actions to recreate Nazi-ism so he should not be imprisoned.  It is a fundamental axiom of all democracies that all speech is free and that no government should imprison or otherwise punish anyone for their speech.  

Revolutionary Wisdom  The American Revolution was given birth and carried out by people who ardently believed that their George III was violating this "unseen contract" between citizen and ruler.  The Constitution was designed to limit the power of any of the branches of government by creating three separate but equal branches with separate but interlocking duties.  Article I, "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives."  Article III, "The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish."  The president does not possess the power to either make laws nor to interpret them.  Article II goes on to say, "He shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed."

The author goes on to describe the discussions of the Federalist Papers about the powers of the presidency.  He also goes on to point out that Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution says, "The president shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States."  That is the limit of the title of Commander in Chief.  Probably the Air Force would also qualify.

The Youngstown Decision  In 1952, in the midst of the Korean War the steelworkers decided to go on strike.  President Truman disagreed saying that it would hinder the war effort.  The courts slapped him down.  The arguments that the Supreme Court used then are being attacked by George III and his supporters.

"Oppressive and Lawless"  It is not that the theories that Bush 43 is pushing are about new or exotic liberties, it is the liberties that are the foundation of Western law.  In the thirteenth century the Magna Carta was forced on King John and among other things it says that the king does not have absolute unlimited power an that "no free man should be imprisoned, dispossessed, outlawed, or exiled save by the judgment of his peers or by the law of the land" (Justice Jackson, 1953 case of Brown v. Allen).  This is essential the definition of habeas corpus.  

The author goes on to discuss other portions of the Constitution that back this up as well as some of the arguments that Bush 43 and his supporters have used against it.  

C5  Fear as a Weapon  
Be Very Afraid  How could the presidency of George III manage to sell a set of beliefs that is so contrary to all of our concepts of freedom?  The answer in one word is "Fear".  He has used this time and time again and in many different guises.  The book discusses many of these.  

Freedom Fighters  Most of our founders were wealthy, educated men, who enjoyed the privilege of a gentrified upbringing in the British Empire.  But that wasn't enough, they wanted freedom and the liberties that are embodied in the Constitution that they wrote.  Compare the words of Patrick Henry, "Give me liberty or give me death" with the words of Senator John Cornyn (R Texas), "None of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead."  Another quote from the same original source, Senator Pat Roberts (R Kansas), "I would only point out that you really don't have any civil liberties if you're dead."  Quite a contrast between our founders and some of our current Republican leaders.  The chapter ends with a discussion of the use of fear in our society.

Life During Wartime  It is often mentioned by Republicans that Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War giving this as a reason why George III is now doing the same.  This is a specious argument.  During the Civil War a million Americans were wounded and a half million others died, a full 5 percent of the population.  In this war brothers fought against brothers, sons against fathers.  You never knew who was a closet supporter of the other side.  And this all happened on American soil.  Also habeas corpus was reestablished very shortly after the war ended (Mission Accomplished?).

More Safe, Less Free  In March 2006 a study was published that evaluated the effect of fear on voters.  In 2004 an experiment showed that voters in "a psychologically benign state of mind" preferred Senator Kerry over President Bush.  The other group was asked questions about their own death and then asked their preference, President Bush was preferred after visions of death.  A comparison with how other presidents have responded to fearful situations.  

C6  Fate of the Union
 
The Watergate Lesson  Following the revealing of the secret evesdropping of George III in 2005 the presidents assistants loudly defended him and after a few weeks the uproar toned down.  They loudly announced that it was a nothing, a tempest in a teapot.  They have forgotten Watergate.  There was very little reaction at the time but as more news kept dribbling out more and more Americans began to doubt the president.  It took several years before most Americans were able to overcome their belief in the American president and look at his actions critically.  He was eventually forced out.  

Nothing to Hide?  George III has always been much more secretive than Nixon.  He started blocking access to information almost upon beginning his first term.  This has made investigations much more difficult.  He has also had much more influence on Republican members of Congress and has put extreme pressure on any who threaten to think on their own.  

Muzzling the Media  George III has also put pressure on many of the foremost news organizations in the country to not publish stories which are negative about the president.  When leaks in his efforts to withhold information are discovered the White House goes to great length to cast doubt, threaten, or try to get the "offenders" fired.  

America's Choice  Most Americans are proud to live in our country because it is unique, it has freedoms that many others do not have and it has had them for its entire history.  Franklin famously said when asked what had been created at the Constitutional Convention, "A republic, if you can keep it."  Congress people can only steal from the public coffers if we permit it.  Presidents can only violate the trust they swear to in their inauguration if we allow them to.  

Epilogue  As the book was going to press George III was marshaling support for a war against Iran.  So far nothing has happened (that has reached the press) but his ardent supporters are ready.  

There is no list of references or index which makes it very hard to verify sources or find information in the book.  I also find it very unprofessional.

Web sites:   WorkingAssets.com    glenngreenwald.blogspot.com

Return to   Top Directory       Main Directory File


Broken Government           John W. Dean                          Sept 2008
            Subtitle: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches

Preface:  Dean was intimately involved in the steps that lead to the destroying of the Nixon presidency.  He is continually amazed about how little they seem to have learned from this experience.  They seem to be practicing all of Nixon's mistakes and trying to perfect them.  This Republican way of thinking most recently started in about 1997.  It gained ground slowly with a Democratic president and then with Democratic majorities in the Congress.  It really hit stride with Republican majorities (and has started to unravel with the Democratic victories in 2006.)  His first book in this trilogy, Worse than Watergate, is a polemic explaining how and why the Republicans went wrong.  His second book, Conservatives Without Conscience, attempts to explain why the Republicans were acting as they were.  This final book examines in more detail the effects in the three branches of government and how they can be remedied.

Dean is definitely not a Democrat but it is obvious that he is not a modern day Republican.  He is a Conservative in the Goldwater mode.  He seems to believe that current Republicans have gone off at right-angles to American Democracy.  Their path, if followed to its logical conclusion, would lead to autocratic rule and the destruction of the original Constitution.  He believes that at the current time the Democrats are the only party that is truly concerned with the well-being of the American people.  He feels that one of the critical things that the Republicans have done is to tinker with the process of governing.  The original process was designed around three equal but independent branches of government.  The Republicans would have an all-powerful or unitary executive.  The Congress could pass laws but the President could ignore them (with signing statements) as he choose.  The members of the Supreme Court would be selected for their standing on specific ideological issues and not on their ability to render unbiased judgments.

Intro:  Process Matters
 Most Americans believe that our government is broken, most Americans also know very little about our American government.  "Republicans do not actually govern but rule the various branches of government when they control them."  "Democrats have become afflicted with ... the 'wuss factor'
- meaning lack of intestinal fortitude needed to go toe-to-toe, nose-to-nose with Republican miscreants."

Political Process:  Process is that which makes Democracy work.  It is the sum total of all the little steps that guarantee that all get heard and no one group gains total power.  Many people, politicians out of power, pundits, journalists, etc. consider it irrelevant compared to personality and policy.  Dean considers this an error.

Candidate Rejection of Process Issues:  The problems of Democrats being cut out of the legislative process, Democrats failing to bring up process issues in elections.

CNN Presented Broken Government as a Process Issue:  In 2006 CNN broadcast a series entitled "Broken Government."  Not a single person complained about policies, they all complained about process.  The only attacks on the programs were from the far right.  

Why Political Process Matters:  The studies of John Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse (Congress as Public Enemy and Stealth Democracy) show that many Americans are more concerned about process than they are about policy.  

Republican Governing Philosophy:  The Republicans Party excels at everything in modern politics except governing the nation.  The Reagan philosophy that "government is not the solution, it is the problem" has meant that when they are in charge nothing other than police, courts, and the military work properly, and all else falls by the wayside.  This works for a while, then it fails, just look at 1929 and 2008 and the massive failures of the financial regulatory system.  Dean did an unofficial study of the careers of subcabinet-level appointmentees and members of the White House staff after they left their positions.  Republicans tend to go into business (profiting from their government service) and Democrats typically continue with some sort of public service.  Republicans seek federal power because it helps them in their careers.  Democrats seek power to assist their fellow citizens or to serve their country.  

Suggestion to Democrats:  Greatly increase the waiting period when higher level public servants can not take jobs in the private sector that contracts for service with the government.

C1  First Branch: Broken but Under Repair  All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.  Art. 1, Sect. 1, US Constitution  

The governance of the United States had gotten worse and worse since Bush 43 took office.  Thankfully the election of Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate in 2006 stopped much of this slide.  

Consensus Analysis of Failed Republican Congressional Rule:  A discussion of the Mann and Ornstein book "The Broken Branch".  The effect that these and other authors may have had on the elections of 2006.  

"Step One: Rule by Cabal"  Under Gingrich, Republicans tried to eliminate all Democratic power in Washington.  He tried to eliminate contact between Republican and Democratic congressmen,  he discouraged foreign travel, he made it very difficult to hold meaningful debate in the House.  

"Step Two: Work as Little as Possible--and Screw Up What Little You Do"  How limiting debate and omnibus bills made for bad legislation.  

"Step Three: Let the President Do Whatever He Wants"  Under the recent Republicans congressional oversight has virtually stopped, except against Clinton.  Democrats never did this between 1950 and 1995.  

"Step Four: Spend, Spend, Spend"  When Bill Clinton left office there was a $236 billion budget surplus, who knows what the final bill will be by the time Bush 43 leaves office.  Specific earmarks have more than doubled since 2004, the last year Democrats controlled Congress.  

"Step Five: Line Your Own Pockets"  Beginning with Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff there has been a string of high profile Republicans being investigated, charged, or jailed for bribery, corruption, etc.  Following Abramoff there was Conrad Burns (R-MT), Bob Ney (R-OH), Randy (Duke) Cunningham (R-CA), Tom DeLay (R-TX), and the K Street Project.

Republican Disregard for Constitutional Fundamentals:  Republicans have repeatedly cut Democrats out of the democratic process.  They have failed to pass funding bills for functions required by the Constitution.  Bills have been sent to the President that were not the same as the bills passed by both houses.  

Politics of Polarization: The GOP's Wedge-Driving Legacy: Both Republicans and Democrats have their own magazines and books, each has its own reality and seeks to distort what it perceives to be the reality of its opponents.  This is nowhere in more evidence than in Congress since 1994.  It culminated in the Presidency of Bush 43.  The chapter concludes with a history of the activities of the parties with respect to congress touching on our entire history and how the congress changed around 1880.  Before then most congresses had a high turnover of membership, short sessions, and underdeveloped party structure.  After that congresses switched to low turnover of membership, fewer contested elections, long sessions, and well developed political party structures.  Now, with the return of Democrats to power in the House and Senate the Congress is on the mend.  

C2  Second Branch: Broken and in Need of Repair  The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.  Art. II, Sect. 1, US Constitution  

On Jan. 20, 2009 a new president will be sworn in.  That president will have a very difficult time because of the secrecy and the attacks on the Constitution made by Bush 43 and Cheney.  Many historians now believe that these two have given the country the worst presidency in our history.

Bush/Cheney Presidency as the Worst Ever:  Many conservative were fairly early in condemning the Bush 43 presidency.  These included William F. Buckley, Jr, Pat Buchanan, Richard Reeves, and Jeffrey Hart.  Some people place most of the blame for national security and international affairs on Dick Cheney because Bush had no experience in these areas.

Cheney's Vice Presidential Mission: Neo-Nixonian Government:  Until the Vice President was held by Walter Mondale during Carter's presidency the Vice President was best described by John Nance Gardner under FDR as "not worth a warm bucket of piss."  Mondale was the first to become the top advisor to the president.  At first Cheney did not want the position but he then realized that given Bush's lack of interest in government, Cheney would in many ways serve as acting president to a front-man who just wanted the glory.  Dean follows with a lengthy history of Cheney before and during his tenure as Vice President.

Cheney's Legacy: Beyond the Imperial Presidency:  Cheney has been bad for America for two reasons.  The first is that he has supported unsound policies.  The second is that he has spearheaded efforts of Conservative Republicans to ignore, nullify, or simply violate the Constitution with his incorrect concept of the Constitution, primarily the separation of powers.  He simply seems to want to reinstate a King over the nation.  King George III anyone?  Dean spends many pages discussing the many ways in which Bush/Cheney have tried to move the country to an imperial or unitary presidency.

C3  Third Branch: Toward the Breaking Point
 The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme court, and in such inferior courts that Congress may from time ordain and establish.  Art. III, Sect. 1, US Constitution  

Of the three branches of the government, most Americans have the least knowledge of the federal judiciary.  Republicans clearly understand the power of the courts and how to influence them.  Why do Democrats seemingly fail to understand how this branch of our government is being changed?

Reality of Judicial Decision Making:  Judges always come to their positions with personal beliefs.  The best try to maintain their independence but many cannot get beyond their prejudices.  Conservatives commonly complain about "judicial activists" and "judges who legislate from the bench".  They are completely oblivious to the fact that very conservative judges have become the activists.  Dean lists four positions or philosophies that are currently operational among federal judges.
Nixon started the recruiting of fundamentalist judges and his GOP successors have accelerated the process.

Nixon's Politicalization of Supreme Court Appointments:  Even before Nixon was elected he started playing politics with the court.  He had Republican Senators Block Johnson's appointee and after Nixon was elected he forced Abe Fortas off the court.  Nixon's appointments were all selected by political tests.

Reagan's Hard Right Push While Perfecting Nixon's Politicized Process:  Reagan's first appointment, Sandra Day O'Connor was announced during the campaign (actually just her sex) and she was appointed as the first minimalist but she was opposed by religious fundamentalists.

Appointing the First Fundamentalists: Rehnquist and Scalia:  Long before Scalia was appointed Atty General Meese came up with a list of potential appointees.  When Burger resigned there was a ready made candidate.  As a part of the deal Rehnquist was appointed as Chief Justice, during this process he lied to the Senate Committee but he was still confirmed.  Because of the controversy surrounding Rehnquist Scalia was pretty much ignored.  The second person on the list was Robert Bork and when Louis Powell resigned Reagan nominated Bork.

Slouching Toward Extremism with Robert Bork:  Bork was so blatantly reactionary that the Democrats would not confirm him.  Reagan next nominated Douglas Howard Ginsburg but he resigned due to pressure from the religious right.  Reagan next nominated Anthony Kennedy (a minimalist) who was easily confirmed.

Bush I and II: Continuing Reagan's Push to the Right:  Like Reagan, neither of the Bushs are attorneys so their appointments are primarily political.

President George H. W. Bush:  David Souter was almost unknown when he was nominated and confirmed.   He became a disappointment to conservatives when he commonly agreed with Sandra Day O"Connor and Anthony Kennedy.  His next appointment was Clarence Thomas.  He was the first appointment who did not receive a unanimous grade of "qualified" from the American Bar Association since 1969.  He was confirmed by a the lowest vote any nominee to the Supreme Court, 52 to 48.  His only distinguishing characteristic is to be exceptionally conservative.

President George W. Bush:  When Rehnquist died Bush nominated John Roberts as his replacement.  Although not much not much was known about him he was confirmed by a vote of 78 to 22.  Justice O'Connor wished to resign and Bush 43 nominated Harriet Miers but she quickly withdrew when it became obvious that she was not sufficiently conservative for the conservative fundamentalists.  He next nominated Samuel Alioto.  He was sufficiently conservative for the Republicans but his record is still unclear.

American Law Radicalized by a Fundamentalist Supreme Court:  Many respected observers of the courts are worried about the direction the courts are taking.  A number of predictions are made as to what direction the court will take if this trend continues.
C4  Repairing Government: Restoring the Proper Processes   Democracy is like sex--it works best when you participate.  Anonymous (sign in store window)  

Recent Republican Congresses, Presidents, and Supreme Court Justices have all failed to live up to their duties under the Constitution.  They have also worked hard to change the meaning of the Constitution.  Most Americans understand that this is happening but they don't know exactly what is being done nor how to do anything about it.  In general we just do not know what we can do about it.  

Public Perceptions of Process:  Two people who have done a great deal of studying and writing about how government works, and doesn't work, are John Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse.  They come up with a surprisingly simple explanation.  Do people (voters) believe that decision makers are acting for the good of the people or are they only working for their own self interest?  Seen in this light all of the discussion of process and separation of powers becomes very simple.  

Ignorant and Apathetic American Voters Are Content -- and Irresponsible:  Many if not most Americans are sadly uninformed about the issues of the day and how our government works.  No one seems to have any really good ideas as to how to correct this.  Dean also has no idea as to how to "fix" this, the only thing that gives him hope is that Americans are very quick to get involved if they perceive that a problem does effect them.

Restoring Proper Processes:  The breakdowns in our government do not require any special reforms, they simply need responsible leaders to run the government in the way that it was designed to be run.  If the Republicans will not do this, they do not deserve to have any say in the governance of our nation.  Dean's suggestion: encourage their cheerleaders like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Ann Coulter to continue serving as spokespeople for authoritarian conservatism.  They are destroying the Republican party even faster than they are destroying America.  Since coming to power in 2007 the Democrats have been working to restore a sense of duty and civility to the legislature and are beginning to hold the Executive departments responsible for their actions.  They are having more difficulty in controlling the excesses of the Justice Department and the Judiciary.

The Republicans have not changed.  In an unofficial survey Dean compared all of the apparent Republican contenders for the presidency an found them all more authoritarian than any of the contenders for the Democratic contenders.  In closing, Dean reports that he talked to a longtime friend from the Nixon White House, who had been a lifelong Republican.  This man voted for George Bush and Dick Cheney because he knew them both.  He refused to give Dean a signed statement because he feared retaliation.  He did agree to an anonymous statement, "Do not vote for any Republican, because they're dangerous, dishonest, and self-serving."  

Appendix A:  Separation of Powers:  An Essential Process Envisioned by the Framers
 A description of how the constitution was written following the failed experiment with the Articles of Confederation. The second part of this appendix describes the many powerful Democratic Chairs of committees who have made life miserable for their Democratic president with their diligent investigations of governmental activities.  A stark contrast to recent Republicans.

Appendix B: Republican Appropriations Process Abuses: Shutting Down the Government
 The Constitution is very clear on this point, the Congress and only the Congress has the ability to raise taxes and spend federal money.  They are also charged with maintaining the proper functions of the government.  Recent Republican Congresses have been failing to raise enough taxes, to properly authorize the spending of federal moneys, and failing to maintain the necessary operations of the government.  Reagan blocked the authorization process many times, Bush 41 closed down the government for a lengthy period.  Republicans lead by Newt Gingrich closed down government for 25 days at the end of 1995 and the start of 1996.  

Appendix C: Bush and Cheney's Radical Lawyer:  The Remarkable Source for Unconstitutional War Powers  The worst legal advise ever taken by a United States President was the opinions of John Yoo who was an assistant attorney General in the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel.  He justified the legality of the War on Iraq and the use of torture by the United States.  He also came up with many of the arguments supporting the unitary presidency.  Being a lawyer Dean spends much more time on this than on the other two appendices.  

There are 65 pages of notes and 16 pages of index.

Return to   Top Directory       Main Directory File