James Carville and Paul Begala
James Carville and Paul Begala Oct 2006
"Lord Acton was right. ...'power corrupts, and absolute
power corrupts absolutely.'" The Republicans in Washington
today control the White House, the Senate, the House, the federal
bureaucracy, the military, the Federal Judiciary, corporate special
interest groups, the media, and most of the think tanks. The
only thing they can't control is their lust for power.
This absolute power has corrupted the Republicans. It has
corrupted our democracy, degraded our military, diminished our stature
in the world, damaged our environment, bankrupted our Treasury, and
indentured our children to foreign debt-handlers. Why?
Because Democrats let them win it. The authors go
on to describe their plan for the book in more detail and their
philosophy in writing it.
They have one paragraph with which I strongly disagree. They
start of by saying that they don't have all the answers, so far so
good. Then they go on to say, "Too many Democrats over-think
things. This is politics, not organic chemistry.
Success has less to do with brains than guts." I
strongly disagree. Technically they are right in one part,
politics is not organic chemistry. It is also not rocket
science, nor nuclear physics, it is a lot harder. There have
been a lot of very bright people working for hundreds of years to make
these topics highly precise predictive sciences. Now we can
write computer programs to carry out much of the work in these areas.
In their discussion of health care they suggest that we could
save billions by using computerized record keeping in medical care.
I am sure we could save even more by requiring that all
policy proposals be carefully modeled using publicly accessible
models to predict their costs and benefits in a meaningful (not only
financial) way. As far as the science goes, many bright
people are working on that. George Lakoff is probably the
best known theorist in the Democratic camp. The science of
human behavior (politics, etc.) is nowhere near the precision of the
previously mentioned areas and won't be for hundreds or thousands of
years if ever, but if we don't continue trying it will never bet any
better than it is now: politics based on perceived personal interest
(or mental illness in the case of some like Hitler).
Have a Problem" When Jim Lovell uttered those
words in Apollo 13, everybody immediately realized that he was right,
they did have a problem. When George Bush stole the election
from Al Gore, Democrats blamed Ralph Nader, the Florida election
commissioner, etc. but nobody asked, "How could the incumbent
party, in a time of peace and prosperity, make the election close
enough for the Republicans to steal?" Gore wasn't the only
good candidate who was beaten by a poor candidate, there were many
others who were even more blatant. What did they have in
common? They were all running as Democrats. It's
the Democrats as a party that are having problems, not the individual
The authors discuss the geography and the demographics of the recent
elections. Their conclusions: many voters see Democrats as
effete snobs, Republicans tell a story and Democrats talk about issues
without relating these issues to peoples lives and concerns.
They complain that Democrat politicians haven't been forceful
about comparing their ideas with those of Republicans since the 1970's.
Democrats need to be forceful and need to point out the
Republican policies. Democrats need to make very clear the
negative tactics and negative policies of Republicans, they need to
stop worrying excessively about negative ads. To mobilize
non-voting Republicans the party found "anger points", they "pissed
them off", they instituted (in 2004) a massive and very pointed
C2 Moral Values:
God Is a Liberal Beginning in the
mid 1960's Republicans began exploiting the race issue and to
a lesser extent the patriotism issue with the Vietnamese War.
The conservative religion issue came up a little later.
The current big three issues are abortion, gun control, and
The number of abortions declined under Clinton, not Reagan.
Clinton's philosophy on abortion was, "safe, legal, and rare."
Gun Control The Republicans have
taken the gun control issue from public safety / criminal justice and
converted it in to a cultural issue. And they have been
that different people have different views,
respect those who are pro-choice and pro-life, both parties have both.
- Move to
the middle, there will be some limits on
abortion, the agenda of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights
Action League does not speak for the entire Democratic party but
neither do the violent pro-life groups.
- Take the
fight to the Republicans. Make them
defend their stand on rejecting abortions for teenage girls who have
- Stand up
to pressure groups, let them have their say but
don't let them dictate policy. If they don't like it, let
them talk to Jerry Falwell, maybe he will change his mind.
- Agree that
the goal should be to reduce abortions.
Almost all people agree that the need or necessity of having
an abortion is a sad and tragic event. Let us agree to reduct
the need for abortions. There is a pro-life Democratic group,
Democrats for Life. They have a motto, The 95-10 Initiative,
they have a series of 17 concrete policy initiatives with the goal
being to reduce the number of abortions by 95% in 10 years.
prepared to take the fight to the states.
It is possible that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe vs.
Wade. If this happens (even if it doesn't) be prepared to
take the fight to the states. People vote because they are
angry. If abortion becomes illegal a lot of currently happy
people are going to become very angry. This will be a big
boon to pro-choice people running on the Democratic ticket.
Gay Rights Every time
Republicans (they use as specific examples the two Presidents Bush)
think that they are getting in trouble with the voters they pull out
the old gay bashing tactic.
the standoff. The Democrats don't
have the votes to pass effective gun control and the Republicans don't
have the votes to repel the current laws. Democrats need to
admit that they can't win this on the national level. Let the
battle be fought at the state level.
- Enforce the laws
already on the books.
gun owners. Many Democrats enjoy
hunting and other gun sports.
God How did God become
the private property of the Republicans? Until the 1970's the
Protestant fundamentalists were very unpolitical, "worldly" was a bad
thing. The Democrats were the religious party. Then
in the early 1970's opposition to racial integration, birth control,
abortion, school prayer, etc. motivated the fundamentalists and the
Republicans welcomed them with open arms. Democrats became
embarrassed with the religious arguments and left the field to the
Republicans. The Democrats fled the field and the
fundamentalist Republicans won by default.
the debate. Don't let Republicans focus
on the "hot button" gay related topics like Gays in the Military and
Gay Marriage. Change the focus to some other aspect; for
example employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
- Go beyond
the "Inborn versus Choice" debate.
Who cares? Do we discriminate against Lutherans
just because they are Lutherans? No, you discriminate based
on job performance or whatever, not some legal choice or biological
characteristic of a person.
the discussion. We all know gay
people. Use them as examples (assuming they are "out" and
agreeable). Mention Dick Cheney and his gay daughter Mary
Cheney. Force Republicans to personally address gay persons
and their needs.
after us: Dick Cheney is Right. Repeat
after us: Dick Cheney is Right. From a debate with
Joe Lieberman in 2000. Dock Cheney said, "The fact of the
matter is that we live in a free society, and freedom means freedom for
everybody. We shouldn't be able to choose and say you get to
live free and you don't. That means peopls should be free to
enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into.
It's no one's business business in terms of regulating
behavior in that regard." Cheney went on to say, "I think
that we ought to do anything we can to tolerate and accommodate
kind of relationships people want to enter into." Cheney is
right, this is an issue of personal freedom. Use Cheney as a
- Slow down
Gay rights will take a long time.
150 years since slavery but we still have problems. Some
can never change their minds, we just have to wait for them to die.
- Attack the
Republicans for dividing Americans and
distracting us from common challenges. Gay
rights is not
to us as a nation. The reason the Republicans are spending so
much time on it is to distract the voters from evaluating them on the
C3 National Security Democrats are
perceived as being weak on national security, and that has been the
perception for 40 years. For much of the 1900's the Democrats
were perceived as being the more hawkish party. Dick Nixon, a
naval supply officer in the Pacific, managed to make George McGovern, a
B-24 pilot with 35 missions, look like a wimp. Americans
needed someone/thing to blame for the War in Vietnam, and the
Republicans were smart enough to place the blame on the Democrats.
After 9/11 Bush managed to use it to increase his power and
to push his agenda and his friends. Generally for Democrats
politics stops at the water's edge, Republicans view war is just a
political issue. Iraq has been the biggest disaster for
America in a long while, primarily because Bush is viewing it only as a
political and religious problem.
- Give voice
to our faith. Many Democrats are
faithful church goers and believers. Jesus preached love,
protection of children, protection of environment, support the poor,
etc. all Democratic values. Another aspect of this is that
selfish moneyed interests have taken over large parts of the Republican
fundamentalist message. These are only for the policies that
benefit them, they aren't effected by the sexual aspects of morality so
that is what they emphasize.
the Right Wing's definition of "Values".
Don't attack the Republican's moral argument on pragmatic
grounds, attack it on moral grounds.
religious left. There are many religious people
who do not
agree with the religious left, organize them, let them lead the
counter-attack on the religious right.
- Fight Back.
When Republicans lie about
Democrats using religious arguements we need to fight back hard.
The authors have a great example taken from a Republican
flyer in West Virginia and Arkansas where they accused the Democrats of
trying to ban the Bible. They give a fictitious account of
what Clinton might have done in this situation. It is well
worth reading and emulating if the occasion were to come up again.
the Republicans self proclaimed moral
superiority. Every time Republicans come up on
the short end
of morality call them on it and keep calling it until they admit they
were morally wrong.
C4 Don't Just "Clean Up" Washington; Fumigate It
George Bush ran for president pledging to "restore honor and
integrity to the White House." The authors believe that honor
and integrity require more than marital fidelity. They go on
to document a number of examples of criminal and immoral behavior of
Republicans over the last several years, the CIA leak against Valerie
Plame Wilson, lobbyists appointed to top government offices, the K
Street project - limiting lobbyists to being Republicans, Jack
Abramoff, Tom DeLay, Ray Blunt, Bill Frist, Randy "Duke" Cunningham,
Enron (etc.), and the latest, Rep. Mark Foley.
- Be Strong
Democrats need to follow their
convictions. Many were opposed to the Iraq war but went along
to give the president more options. They should have
presented their own proposals and stood up for they thought was right.
- Respect the
Military The biggest mistake those
who were opposed to the Vietnam War was to confuse the war with the
warriors. The first thing we need to do is to support the men
and women in uniform, give them the training, material, weapons, and
family support they need.
- It's Our
Flag, Too Don't let Republicans take any
liberties with the flag or other symbols or our country or military.
Bush to Win in Iraq Republicans control
the White House, Senate, House, and Pentagon. They got us
into the war, they can get us out. If they can't get us out -
they can get out (resign their offices) and let the Democrats get us
out. It will not be easy, there are problems with every
possible solution, but we have got to solve the problem and the
Republicans don't seem to be able to do it.
- Redefine the
War on Terror. Terror is not a
country, terror cannot be defeated using the tactics of WW II or Korea.
Republicans like Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, etc. don't seem
to be capable of understanding this. There are many people,
some in the military, some not, who do understand this. We
must at least listen to them.
- Call for
America to Lead the World Again.
Democrats must fight for a president who can be called the
"Leader of the Free World" without generating laughter overseas.
We must support policies that work and policies meet the
needs of America and of the other countries of the world.
- Be Tough on
Terrorism and Tough on the Causes of
Terrorism. We must challenge terrorists at every
turn but at
the same time look at the reasons why people are pushed into terrorism
and try to turn this around.
- Provide for
the Common Defense. National Security
is only partially about military, Homeland Security under Bush is all
about job titles and contracts. Real security starts at the
ports and extends to every hospital, police station, and city in the
country. It must be based on true cooperation and local
initiative with national support for major problems.
- Be Certain
of Victory. Many countries have
defeated terrorism, but they do it with a combination of military,
police, political, economic, and diplomatic efforts. It is
not a quick solution but it is the only one that works in democracies.
- Help with
Military Recruitment. Invite all the
country singers, children of presidents and legislators, College Young
Republicans, and all other "supporters" to actually sign up for the
military or other federal service.
- Choose Which
Side You're On. Democrats must
decide if they are for real reform or just the transfer of sleaze to
them from the Republicans. The authors are all in favor of
- Put the
Lobbyists on a Leash. Congressmen Rahm
Emanuel and Marty Meehan have proposed legislation to reduce the power
of lobbyists. They have a number of specific items which need
- Disclose All
Contacts with Lobbyists. Every
conversation longer that a few seconds would need to be reported.
Pork, Perks, and Loopholes. Powerful
members of congress can easily insert special provisions into bills,
require that all of these be included with the members name, the
corporations or interest groups who benefit, and the cost.
Reform Campaign Finance
The authors note that most congressmen have to spend many
working on campaign finances which they should be devoting to the
countries business, they have
several specific suggestions:
As Thomas Jefferson said, "When a man assumes a public
trust, he should consider himself as public property."
- Raise congressional pay from $162,000 to $400,000 but
require that none of them can receive anything of value from anyone
other than a family member (Christmas gifts, etc.),.
- Impose a complete ban on raising campaign funds on
- Challengers could raise any amount from any party however
ALL funds must be reported electronically within 24 hours with the name
of the donor and the amount. This would include gifts of the
challengers own money.
- Within 24 hours of the report the US treasury deposits a
sum (say 80%) of the money to the incumbent.
- Any violation would result in removal from the ballot.
- If a sitting office holder wants to run for another
the answer is simple, resign their current office.
C5 A Declaration of Energy Independence
We meed to admit it, we are addicted to oil.
Unfortunately we have used up most of our domestic oil
supplies. Unfortunately for us most of the remaining oil is
where people don't like us, perhaps there is a moral here.
Global warming is here, it's getting worse, how much worse is
still unknown. Our oil addiction is bad for us, it threatens
our national security, weakens us economically, and it is destroying
our planet. We need to solve the problem.
The Republicans passed an Energy Bill, it gave $80.8 billion to the
energy interests, the oil companies reported profits of $96 billion not
counting the federal support. The benefits the Saudis got are
not so easy to exactly quantify.
C6 Work the Refs Many Republicans have
made a career of bashing the "left-wing media". Many books
have been written and they sell well, with careful presentation many of
their ideas have been accepted by media producers. They
describe several examples where this has happened.
Declaration of Energy Independence. Democrats
need a policy of energy conservation and energy independence, we need
to end our total dependence on imported oil.
Gases: Deal with Them or Die.
We need to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released
into the atmosphere immediately.
Priorities. We must set priorities, we will
loose some battles, the only ones we can afford to loose are global
warming and energy independence.
- Jobs, Jobs,
Jobs. We can never beat the Chinese
and other third world countries in terms of cheap labor. With
a serious commitment to reducing global warming and energy independence
we would create many millions of jobs and lots of customers overseas.
- Increase Fuel Economy
for Cars and Trucks.
More Than Just a Sign of "Personal
Virtue". Conservation is not just nice, it makes
business sense. During the Arab oil embargo in the 1970's we
cut energy use by 17%, reduced total oil imports by 50% (Persian Gulf
imports by 87%), and our GDP grew by 27%.
- Natural Gas:
It's Not Something You Get from a
Bean Burrito, Mr. President. America has huge
natural gas, our cleanest fossil fuel. Instead of importing
it we need to build the infrastructure to use our own.
- Make a Real
Commitment to Alternative Fuels.
People-Environmentalists, Not Species-Environmentalists.
Environmentalists have been criticized for worrying more
about other species than humans. In many cases the polluters
that the Democrats which to clean up their smokestacks are killing
thousands of people per year. We need to make this point very
- Reach Out to
the "Hook-and-Bullet" Crowd. The
right has often accused Democrats worried about the environment as
elitist. If you are rich you can afford to buy your own
private ranch and hunt on it. If your river is polluted you
can afford to dig your own lake to fish in. Democrats need to
convince hunters, fishermen, and just enjoyers of nature that
environmentalism is in their best interest.
- Praise the
Lord and Protect the Environment.
Environmentalism is mentioned many times in the bible (Psalm
104:24-25, 30, Deu. 20:19-20, Numb. 35:33-34, Math. 10:29).
Republic environmental policies are not only a "crime against
nature"; they're a sin against God.
- Tax Windfall
Oil Profits, Invest in Energy Independence.
Place a 50% tax on the sale of oil over $40 a barrel (as well
as their subsidies) and put the money into energy independence and
The "Balance Bias". The media likes to believe that they are
"Balanced", they present both sides of the issue.
Unfortunately in many matters there is only one side, the
correct side and the incorrect side. The press should feel an
obligation to determine which side is correct. When two
people disagree on matters of opinion all it takes is to report both
sides however when there are objective facts or overwhelming consensus
among experts the press should report that.
- Work the
Refs Yourself. When you notice an
inaccurate statement being made by a news organization jump on it,
circulate your letter to your like minded friends and have them write
letters or sign yours, it works. Take a pro-active stance
with the press, if they don't report your position accurately make sure
that they are informed, forcefully.
- Support the
Watchdogs. There are several watchdog
groups, www.mediamatters.org, Eric Alterman What Liberal Media?
and in The Nation
and his blog on MSNBC.com, and www.dailyhowler.com
- Be a
Populist, Not an Elitist. Use local media
and the internet. They recommend Daily Kos, Buzzflash, and
Talking Points Memo. Officeholders and candidates should use
websites to receive information. It can't be obviously
written by an uptight twenty-two-year-old straight out of the Ivy
League. It should be written by the politician. It
must be informal, folksy, and accessible
- Engage on
the Battlefield of Ideas. To influence
the media you need to influence those to whom the media turns for
information, advice, and commentary. Republicans have turned
the Think Tank into an art form. A Democratic version is The
Center for American Progress founded by John Podesta. They
have a Progress Report and a daily blog, Think Progress.
- Develop Our
Own Echo Chamber. Liberal talk shows
are growing in popularity. MoveOn.org and Cindy Sheehan's web
sites are useful.
Corporate Concentration of the Media.
Concentration of power in corporations is a Republican gold
- Attack the
Real Biases in Media. The media is
biased and always has been, but not like the right would have you
- The Market
Bias If there is no major story the
press will invent one.
Commentary Bias For journalists there are two
occupations, reporting and commentary. It should be clear
which is being practiced at all times.
- The Strategy
Bias Candidates would rather discuss
strategy, voters would prefer that they talk about issues.
Reporters should push much harder on candidates to discuss
- The Scandal
Bias Reporters are much more drawn to
scandals than the real issues. Without urging Democrats to
investigate Republicans for possible scandals they should make sure
that reporters fully cover misconduct among Republicans.
- The Conflict
Bias Journalists love a good fight.
If there is a major issue the Democrats must be prepared to
slug it out. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid won their fights
with the White House on the issue to privatize Social Security because
they were vocal and the American people supported them. They
informed the people because the press covered their fight and and
passed the information along.
Conservative Economic Bias The press is
controlled by conservatives and they would not like you to know it.
The only way to fight this is to be very clear, disciplined,
aggressive, and much tougher than we have been.
C7 The Meeting They go through a
typical Democratic campaign meeting. Then they go back over
the meeting and describe why most of it couldn't be better designed to
elect a Republican. They don't like meetings and the
resultant "group think".
C8 Taxes: The Heiress Versus the Waitress
They introduce the issue by describing a part of the tax bill
of Sept. 23, 2004. This bill did several things, it raised
$146 billion, it extended the middle-class provisions of the 2001 tax
cut, it gave $13 billion in tax breaks to big corporations and took
away the child tax credit to 4 million impoverished families with 9.2
million children. Families raising children whose incomes
were $10,750 a year or less evidently didn't need this tax credit.
The credit was $1000 per year for each child.
Republicans evidently believe in cutting taxes for the very
richest in this country but taxing the poorest at a higher rate.
- How to Take
Back the Tax Issue. Both Roosevelt
and Clinton saw taxes as a moral issue. People should pay
taxes according to their ability to pay. Under Clinton the
number of children in poverty fell by 4.1 million, under Reagan the
number fell by 50,000.
- The Morality
of the Estate Tax. Republican say
that they love to cut taxes, but they only seem to get around to
cutting them for the wealthiest Americans. But they have
never cut payroll taxes, they prefer to cut capital gains taxes which
is paid by just 9.5% of Americans. The tax they really love
to cut is the estate tax. The estate tax was first signed
into law by Abraham Lincoln to pay for the Civil War. As a
side issue he also signed a progressive income tax which taxed only the
top tier of earners. Theodore Roosevelt said, "No man should
receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned.
Every dollar received should represent a dollar's worth of
service rendered - not gambling in stocks, but service rendered. ...
Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes and in
another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective -
a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded
against evasion and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the
estate." He went on to say, "Labor is prior to, and
independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor,
and could never have existed if labor had not first existed.
Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the
- From Abe
Lincoln to Paris Hilton. In 2004 more
than 99% of all Americans were exempt from the estate tax, the richest
1% of all Americans. Half the estate taxes were paid by just
2,900 hyper rich families. They use Paris Hilton as a poster
girl. The Hilton family donates a lot of money to
Republicans. They want to remove all the taxes on the vast
fortune that Paris will inherit. Contrast that with the
waitress who brings her latte. The waitress can't afford to
stay at a Hilton, she probably makes less than $25,000 per year and
pays taxes on every penny. What would Lincoln and TR say?
- Who Would
Jesus Tax? They use the example of the
conservative governor of Alabama, Bob Riley. Riley
is a Christian conservative. When Alabama needed to raise
taxes, Riley looked at the timber companies that own 70% of Alabama
property but pay less than 2% of the state property taxes.
Riley asked himself, "Who would Jesus tax?" He came
up with a tax package that would raise taxes on wealthy Alabamians and
timber companies and reduce taxes on the poor. The Alabama
Christian Coalition was incensed. They withdrew their
support from Riley and led the fight to defeat his tax proposal.
A lot of Alabama Republicans decided to choose to serve
mammon instead of God.
Simpler, More Progressive. Republicans
have long tried to be the party of "tax reform". What they
really want to do is to cut income taxes, dividend taxes, capital gains
taxes, and corporate taxes for the wealthy and shift more of the tax
burden onto the middle class. They honor, value, revere, and
reward wealth, they want to burden, punish, and penalize work.
A Progressive Proposal for Fundamental Tax Reform The Center
for American Progress has a tax-reform proposal that would make our tax
code fairer, simpler, and more progressive.
C9 When You've Got Your Health . . .
When Toyota announced it was building a new manufacturing
in North America they choose Canada. Why? Health
Every GM car made in the US comes equipped with a cost of
paid for workers health insurance. 15% of our economy is
dedicated to health spending. Even while spending more money
health care than any other country we rank 37th in the world in health
system effectiveness. The Republicans don't seem to worry
this at all, perhaps its because they can afford health insurance.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, "Taxes are the
price we pay for civilized society." The Republican view:
"Taxes are for Suckers". Under Bush the income tax proportion
of tax receipts has decreased from 49.9% to 42.6%. Under the
Bush tax cuts the percent paid by the wealthy has decreased from 24.3%
to 22.8% but the percent paid by the middle class (earning between
$23,000 to $81,000) has increased from 25.5% to 26.2%.
Someone making $40,000 to $50,000 pays 12.2% of his income in
payroll taxes. Someone making $500,000 pays only 3.5% in
payroll taxes. In 1970 payroll taxes accounted for 23% of
federal revenue, today they amount to 40%.
Their tax proposal would be to eliminate
the different categories of taxes. All income would be taxed
at the same rate except for the first $5 million for estate taxes.
The payroll tax on working people would be eliminated but the
employer tax on payroll would be maintained with no upper limit.
The earned income tax would be expanded to people who get
married and the child tax credit would be extended down to people who
make as little as $5,000 per year.
- Keep It
In 1976 President Carter pronounced the tax code and declared
"a disgrace to the human race". Since then it has doubled.
After the Republicans took power in 1995 they have
10,000 pages to the tax code.
The Center would recommend reducing the tax brackets from 6 to 3, up to
$25,000 a 15% rate, between $25,000 and $120,000 a 25% rate, and over
$120,000 a rate of 39.6%. They would eliminate the
minimum tax. They would close $30 billion via the "Bermuda
loophole". They would crack down on other offshore tax
and not allow corporations' to "defer" taxes on overseas profits.
They would create a bipartisan commission on corporate
It would act like the Military Base Alignment and Relocation
Commission which requires a straight up-and-down vote.
It has been said that the ideal that the rich should pay more
originated with Karl Marx. Marx probably said it but he was
quoting. Somebody else said it quite a bit earlier, "From
everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom
they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more"
(Luke 12:48). The Republicans don't seem to like the idea of
progressive taxes, perhaps they should read their bibles a little bit
more. In 2005 the IRS noted that the number of wealthy
who don't pay any taxes has risen by 15%. Under Bush there
thousands of Americans who earn hundreds of thousands, even millions,
who do not pay any taxes.
We have great needs here in America, we have a huge debt, we owe
trillions to Chinese and Japanese bankers. Defaulting on that
debt is not an option, we aren'tArgentina.
How to Take Back Health Care
- When you're uninsured, you don't get preventive care.
When you don't get preventive care and your illnesses are
more expensive and you are more likely to die.
- When you don't have insurance, you put of getting the care
you need until you end up in the hospital unnecessarily.
- When you're uninsured, you're more likely to die.
- Medical care costs more for the uninsured than for the
insured. Major insurers negotiate big discounts with
Unpaid medical bills is the second leading cause of personal
- When you're uninsured, going to the doctor means going to
the emergency room. Uninsured people are 4 to 5 times as
as insured to use emergency room. Hospitals provide $35
in uncompensated care every year.
C10 The Flood: "Mr. Bill was Better Informed Than Mr. Bush"
On September 1, 2005, three days after Katrina, Bush was
interviewed by Diane Sawyer. The question, "Given the fact
everyone anticipated a hurricane [of category] 5, a possible hurricane
five, hitting shore, are you satisfied with the pace at which this
[help] is arriving?" The answer from Bush, "I don't think
anticipated the breach of the levees." The authors document a
of the many warnings of a disaster in New Orleans that were publicized
before the storm. Even Mr. Bill, the clay figure from Saturday Night Live
made a public service announcement. After the 1995 flood
and the Republican Congress created the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood
Control Project. Bush systematically reduced the funding for
project and sent the money to Iraq. Clinton staffed FEMA with
experienced managers, Bush staffed it with political operatives.
The authors give a time line of what happened and who did or
what during the disaster.
- Be Not Afraid.
America's health care problems will get worse and worse until
somebody does something about it. It will be better for
to be on the winning side even though it will be a bruising battle with
a lot of casualties.
- Make Health
Care a Values Issue.
Don't lamely accept the Republican definition of values.
Health care is a moral issue. If Republicans attack
being "too liberal", inform them that God is a liberal.
- Keep It
Simple. The more pages in the plan, the more
opportunities for attack.
- Build on
What Works to Get Everyone Covered.
Make everyone eligible for the insurance plan the Members of
Congress have. Expand Medicaid to cover all children and
poor. Require that they enroll and if they don't have the
to pay the premiums, help them.
- Focus on
Prevention. We need a national prevention
agenda. It will save us trillions in the long run.
- Bring Down
Drug companies that patent a drug should keep their profits
they have recuped their research costs plus a reasonable cost, then
they should loose their exclusive patent. Require much more
computereization of patient records, and reward hospitals for achieving
Improve record keeping, computerization, and education so
know what works, what doesn't, and how to increase the "works" side of
C11 Progressive Patriotism
Americans don't like what Republicans stand for but they
know what the Democrats stand for. This book is an effort to
correct that problem. Both Republicans and Democrats are the
heirs of a rich political tradition. The Democrats have
theirs. The Republicans have rejected theirs, mocked it, and
disgraced it. President Bush has presided over the greatest
decline in the nations history. Some of the details are
here and many more elsewhere. One of the oldest and most
persistent question in human history comes to us in the story of the
first person born on earth. Cain, the eldest son was jealous
God preferred his younger brothers sacrifice, a firstborn lamb to
Cain's fruit of the fields. So Cain murdered Able.
asked Cain where Able was. The answer, "Am I my brother's
keeper?" (Genesis 4:9). The Republicans seem to want to be
party of Cain, Democrats will be the party of our brother's keepers.
Those dead white men who wrote our constitution said things
should also remember. The first three words were, "We, the
People.", they also gave us a motto, E Plurius Unum,
From many, one. Neither the Bible or the founding fathers
to build our nation on selfishness, We are Americans because we share
values, and two of these are unity and community. America is
faced with options that are pretty limited, and pretty scary.
- It's About
Class, Not Race. The policies of the Bush presidency do
nothing to help poor people, everything to help rich people.
Persistent Experimentation, Not Failed Right-Wing
In an attempt to solve New Orleans' problems the Republicans
brought out their old standbys. suspension of wage supports, school
vouchers, deregulation, abandoning environmental regulations, and tax
cuts. We need new approaches that might have a chance of
These could be offering low- or no-interest morgages to
officers, firefighters, teachers, displaced residents and local
companies get first crack at rebuilding jobs, offer on-site
job-training programs helping rebuild. After the 1900
Galveston, Texas raised the level of the city and built a new seawall
that still stands. After a flood in the Netherlands in 1953
Dutch people spent $8 billion over 50 years and now have a hydraulic
seawall 130 feet high and 6 miles long which is 150 times stronger than
the New Orleans seawall was.
- It's About
The best protection against floods are extensive wetlands we
to stop building on them and destroying them. With global
the hurricanes are going to be getting bigger and more frequent.
Our problems are going to get worse, not simpler.
- Get Rid of
the Culture of Corruption.
Republicans see disasters as opportunities to help themselves
provide their friends with no-bid contracts. For rebuilding
need competative bids, for immediate disaster relief we need to send in
governmental employees and volunteers, no big contracts.
We have several major tasks ahead of us, we must reject the Bush-era
ethic of selfishness, we must rebuild the military, we must reclaim
self-government, we must declare a truce in the culture wars at home -
we must respect all of our people even if we disagree with them on
specific issues, we must have big, bold ideas which can change our
nation and the world for the benefit of all the peoples in the world.
We must be optimists, we must find our voice again and we can
take back our country.
There are 35 pages of notes, many of them are web sites which contain
links to the original documents.
Web site: http://www.buzzflash.com/interviews/05/02/int05008.html
Web site: http://www.sojo.net/
Web site: http://www.horsesass.org WA state politics from David Goldstein (Seattle)
The Battle over
America's Most Important Idea
In the Name of Freedom. Ideas matter, and the idea
that matters most to Americans is
Freedom. There are two different views of freedom in America
today arising from two very different moral and political worldviews.
The traditional idea of freedom is progressive and the most
treasured freedoms for Americans are:
Progress in making these expansions has not been linear and it has not
been perfect but the trend has always been there. However the
expansion of radical conservatism in America is threatening to reverse
these trends. Many of these freedoms are being eliminated.
Radical conservatives don't want to curtail freedom, they
change its direction. They want to go back to the freedoms
existed before and progressive freedoms were started. They
to go back to the original readings of the Constitution, its letter,
not it's spirit. The book asks three questions:
- The expansion of citizen participation and voting from
property owners to non-property owners to former slaves to women, to
those excluded by prejudice, to younger voters.
- The expansion of opportunity, jobs, working conditions to
the same groups and others.
- The expansion of worker rights.
- The expansion of public education from grade school, to
high school, to college, to postgraduate education.
- The expansion of knowledge.
- The expansion of public health and life expectancy.
- The expansion of consumer protection.
- The expansion of diverse media and free speech.
- The expansion of access to capital.
- The expansion of freedom from colonial rule.
By constantly using and re-using the terms freedom, free, liberty,
democracy, and their opposites, tyranny, dictatorship, slavery, etc.
and gradually excluding specific items they want to, and are, slowly
changing the definitions of these terms. Many progressives
believe that this is taking place and it totally leaves them at a loss.
How does Lakoff mean to study this? He comes from
perspective of cognitive science. He approaches it in a
- How are radical conservatives achieving their reversal of
- Why do they want to reverse traditional freedoms?
- What do they mean by "freedom"?
Lakoff has two roles in the book, the first is a scientist explaining
how our mind works and the second is as an advocate. He sees
freedom under attack and wants to provide readers with the tools to
evaluate the threat and to counter it. Most members of the
religious right are not greedy and mean, they are just using a
different morality. We just need the tools to counter it.
- We think
with our brains. Our brains are physical, neural
circuits, once established, do not change quickly.
of language has the power to change brains.
Existing patterns can be slowly changed.
- Most thought
is unconscious. We are not aware of much of what
goes on in our brains.
- All thought
uses conceptual frames. We use previously
defined relationships to form new relationships.
- Frames have
boundaries. When you think within a specific
frame you tend to ignore facts outside of that frame.
- Language can
be used to reframe a situation. Careful
selection of terms can change our understanding.
characterize ideas; they may be "deep" or "surface" frames. Moral
systems or worldview are deep frames, surface frames tend to be single
words or phrases. The person who frames the debate usually
- Deep frames
are where the action is. Shallow frames need
deep frames to gain meaning.
- Most thought
uses conceptual metaphors. Moral and political
thought is highly metaphorical and we are usually unaware of the
metaphors we think and live by.
- Most thought
does not follow the laws of logic.
Logic requires exact rules and definitions.
frames vary from person to person and from time to time.
rules and definitions don't work in such an environment.
- The frames
and metaphors in our brains define common sense. So
called common sense does not necessarily match reality.
and metaphors usually work OK in a constant environment but change the
environment and they will probably fail.
- Frames trump
be understood facts must be understood in relationship to a frame.
If a fact doesn't fit with a powerful frame it will be
and progressives think with different frames and metaphors.
Most politics in America today are either associated with
idealized models of strict father or nurturant parent families.
This is hard to see when you analyze by specific issues, it
becomes clear when you look at many issues at once.
concepts have uncontested cores.
Different people have different understanding of complex
Most of their beliefs are held in common but the contested
are not common to all people.
thought requires emotion.
Extreme emotion interferes with rational thought but total
of emotion is a pathological condition and completely destroys rational
thought in a subtle manner. Conservatives have learned how to
link emotion and rationality, they are very adept at using fear to
Part I: Uncontested Freedom
C1 Freedom Is Freedom Is Freedom
Words, concepts, and ideas
have meaning, but this meaning is shaped by other words, concept, and
ideas and they are unique to the mind they are contained in.
Words, concepts, and ideas may have similar meanings for
different people but not necessarily. He would violently
with Plato's concept of ideal forms if you are into ancient philosophy.
Most people have a simple understanding of freedom, freedom
being able to do what you want to when you want to do it.
Unfortunately when we get into the discussion of political
freedom and responsibility, etc. it gets complicated.
C2 Why Freedom is Visceral
Freedom starts with physical
freedom. Most young children react violently when they are
restrained against their will. This freedom is inherent in
an animal. Maturing is a process of learning what freedoms we
have, living within their limitations, and maximizing our desires
within limitations. Progress as a civilization is measured in
ability to overcome limitations. Humans have been fantasizing
about overcoming gravity for millenia, Icarus failed but we persevered
and now have 747's and the Space Station. More complex
like political freedom are much more difficult to quantify.
C3 The Logic of Simple Freedom
Part II: Contested Freedom
- Impositions on Freedom. A basic assumption of
freedom is that you are not free to interfere with the freedom of
others. Harm and coercion interfere with freedom.
means freedom, security guarantees freedom from harm. Taking
a right is imposing on freedom, guaranteeing a right is guaranteeing a
freedom. Human rights confer the freedom to do what is
and normal for any human being, a free society requires that its
citizens be responsible for guaranteeing rights. Justice is
required for freedom - freedom is required for justice.
is an imposition on freedom. Ideally, laws function in the
service of freedom, a threat to order is a threat to freedom.
Freedom, equality, and fairness are linked. There
opportunities for disagreements in all of these, often liberals and
conservatives come down on opposite sides of these disagreements.
- Situations where freedom is not an issue. In the
freedoms where there is an interference with a freedom, someone's
purposes are thwarted. However purposes can be thwarted
it being an issue of freedom. Where the laws of the natural
limit us (see gravity above) this is not a freedom issue. The
problem is in determining the laws of nature, being right or left
handed or short or tall may limit you but most people do not see it as
a freedom issue. Conservatives often talk about the
lifestyle", is it a lifestyle (under conscious control) or an inborn
condition. If it is an inborn condition this is a clear
issue. In the early years of the 1900's some writers
that handedness was learned, you could teach your child to become right
handed. Today this would clearly be a freedom issue.
competition exists (games, scarce resources, school grades, etc.) some
people are always deprived but this is not seen as a freedom / fairness
issue. The freedom issue comes in where all people are given
equal rights to fairly compete, "a level playing field".
- In the US (Western civilization) political freedom begins
self-government. It continues with balance of powers, an
independent judiciary, free elections, civilian-controlled military,
free-market, free press/media, and free religious institutions.
At the abstract level all agree, when it comes to specific
there is a great deal of disagreement.
- The final point is the negating of freedom. What
threats to freedom? What are the possible (likely) outcomes
C4 The Nation-as-Family Metaphor
first experience of an organization is that of a family. The
experiences and rules learned there effect all of our contacts with
organizations later in life. In America here are two
models of the family, the strict father family and the nurturant parent
family. For more complete descriptions, see elsewhere in his
writings. Some things to keep in mind as we proceed:
What Laykoff finds scary is that the radical right is trying to move
the whole country towards its strict father model.
- These family models are idealized and applied
- Real families are more complex than the ideal models, there
are many variations.
- Some subcultures have somewhat different models for raising
children, these models may be more appropriate for political life.
- When these models are used metaphorically - not literally -
they organize moral and political worldviews.
- They are descriptive, not prescriptive - they describe how
people think, not how they should think.
- In neither model are citizens literally treated as
The values that determine how people are treated are what the
- These idealized models are mostly unconscious, used but
often below our awareness.
- Almost all Americans have both models engrained in their
brains, we can understand both models.
C5 Progressive Freedom: The Basics
Progressive freedom is the original American freedom, it is
dynamic and it moves forward. The great ideas of our founders
were expandable freedoms. Progressives do not see freedom as
idea frozen in time. Progressive freedom is simple freedom
the vague parts filled in by the progressive worldview. This
worldview is is organized around the nurturant parent model of the
family. Freedom is necessary for fulfillment in life, freedom
requires opportunity (FDR's freedom from want), security is required
for freedom (FDR's freedom from fear). The nurturant family
its resources for the good of the family as a whole - for the common
good - so that each member can have the freedom to pursue his or her
individual goals. From the beginning America has a similar
principle. The common wealth of the nation us used to provide
resources so that each individual can pursue their individual goals.
This is the origin of the names of the Commonwealths of
Massachusetts and Virginia. Government provides services for
and restricts those who would violate the freedoms of others.
discusses how simple freedoms give rise to progressive freedom in more
complex cases. Empathy forms the basis for the progressive
worldview. Freedom didn't arise full blown, it has evolved
the earliest days. It was not a smooth and regular
it arose in specific moments, for example: the War for Independence,
freeing the slaves, womens votes, the labor movement, defeat of
fascism, the New Deal, freedom movements of the 1960's and 1970's,
environmental freedom. Progressives differ in therms of the
of freedoms that they support: socioeconomic, identity politics,
environmental, civil liberties, spiritual, and antiauthoritarian.
Progressives also differ in terms of their attitudes:
pragmatists, real-world pragmatists, political pragmatists, and
militants. Progressives tend to focus on their differences,
conservatives have learned to cooperate much better, or at least they
are easier to lead.
C6 Conservative Freedom: The Basics
Republicans use the words "freedom", "liberty" and others so
because because they realize the traditional definitions of these terms
are the definitions the progressives use. If everybody agreed
with their version they wouldn't have to use the words so much.
They assume they are oppressed, by whom? By the
majority of Americans who view these concepts as they always have.
The radical right or "conservative" view of freedom is defined by the
strict father model of the family. See Lakoff's Don't Think of an
Many political conservatives like to live in nurturant
conservative communities. To get in you have to display your
conservative credentials, money, politics, etc., but when you do get in
you are treated in a nurturant manner by the other residents.
fundamental frames of conservatism are based on individualism and
opposition to the commonwealth principle: individual initiative made
this country great, the unfettered free market is the engine of
American prosperity, everyone can pull themselves up by their
bootstraps - all responsibility is individual, government just gets in
the way, its your money - nobody can make a better decision than you.
Government can mess up the free market in three ways: government
regulations, taxation, and allowing lawsuits.
How does the strict father model fill in the blanks of simple freedom
to arrive at conservative freedom?
There are several types of conservatives:
- Harm: Freedom from harm is through force, military for the
nation, police at the local level, and your own guns at the family
- Coercion: Freedom from coercion by the state or
- Security: Physical security to prevent harm from
people is the only legitimate role for the government.
is more important that privacy.
- Rights: All rights are based on the individual.
- Justice: There can be no morality without
harm. Justice is retribution, criminals have forfeited their
right to freedom.
- Responsibility for freedom: Responsibility is
entirely individual except for military and police protection.
- Order: It is the fathers responsibility to
in the family, other family members must respect this and do their part
to help. The same principle holds for local and national
government. Protests and demonstrations disrupt order and
- Nature: Natural forces are God's responsibility
and have no
effect on freedom. The natural world is man's to use as he
- Competition: Normally freedom comes with the
to interfere with the freedom of others. In competition there
no moral obligations as long as you obey the rules.
Financial conservatives: Their primary emphasis is on money,
like a free market, they oppose communism, socialism, the New Deal, and
labor unions. The primary goal of a citizen is to become a
stockholder, they believe in fiscal discipline.
Libertarians: They are radical financial conservatives, they
against all government control except for the military and police.
Competition is the basis of the free market and it separates
winners from losers. Losers should just get out of the way of
Social conservatives: Their emphasis is on the family, the
father family, homosexuality, reproductive rights, and gun control are
threats to the father's control. social programs are immoral,
patriotism lies in maintaining the moral authority of this nation over
Fundamentalists: This starts with the idea that God is a
father. Christ gives you a second chance but you must be
before you die if you wish to escape hell. The fathers word
the law in the family and God's word - the Bible - should be law on
earth. The ultimate freedom is going to heaven, everything,
including politics, should be subservient to that goal.
of religion means freedom to practice their religion, not for you to
practice yours or to not practice religion.
Neoconservatives: They are concerned with applying strict
morality to foreign policy. The US is the moral authority of
world and it is our responsibility to use military and economic power
to maximize American interests which are the best interests of other
countries even though they might not recognize it yet. They
for free elections, checks and balances, civil liberties, civilian
control of the military, and a free press. All of these are
necessary to maximize the opportunities for business interests.
C7 Causation and Freedom Progressives
often argue on the basis of systemic causation and
conservatives often argue on the basis of direct causation (by a single
individual). Direct causation is simple, one action - one
no intermediate steps, examples would be flip a light switch -
light goes on or overthrow Saddam and win the War on Terror.
Systemic causation is much more complex. In a
system if you make one simple change you may or may not get a specific
result. A computer is a complex system. if one
that controls a pixel on the screen fails you can't notice it without a
magnifying glass, if a critical bit in the hard drive fails the
computer will not boot up. In complex systems a single
can usually be compensated by other similar elements. If one
light fails in an auditorium, the others may get a little more
electrical power but the light level stays almost constant.
living system other elements can take over completely, if one tree in a
forest falls, other trees quickly fill in the hole in the canopy.
However in complex systems it is possible that one simple
will completely change or destroy the system. If the power
is unplugged, the whole computer ceases to operate.
Begin potentially biased comments: Conservatives tend to look
complex systems, especially complex systems including humans or
effecting humans, in terms of specific unrelated elements.
also tend ignore the possibly that there are any causal factors in
human behavior that are not included in their narrow reading of the
Bible. For another take on this check out Bart Ehrman Misquoting Jesus.
Lakoff presents arguments that progressives might make to
their points. I object to both, the conservative because it
Bible based and takes no account of counter empirical facts, and the
progressive because it uses presumed facts which are not supported by
empirical data and even if they were before you could make such a
conclusion it would be necessary to assign weights to the various
factors mentioned. Perhaps if one were to compare variances
produced by each factor in the context of a path analysis or some other
technique to yield numeric predictions. End biased comments.
- Causation and Freedom: Simple freedom - you are
free to act
if your actions do not harm the freedom of others. Do you
consider only direct causation or do you consider systemic causation?
He discusses four different scenarios and how each would be
analyzed by progressives and conservatives.
- Causation in the Family-Based Models:
morality is based on a number of assumptions, they are a derived from a
set of rules (laws) that must be obeyed, if you do not obey you are
punished. These rules all refer to individual specific acts.
Nurturant family morality is based on making good decisions
all the data available and producing the best outcome for all people.
- Systemic Causation and the Environment: Repeat of
vs. systemic causation. Methodology rant: Lakoff
that cost-benefit analysis uses direct causation implicitly.
disagree. It all depends on how benefit is defined.
benefit is defined as clean water, lowered air pollution levels,
increased beauty, etc. and the analysis is of a complex system then
cost-benefit analysis can be successfully used in a systemic causation
model. Perhaps the best example of this is the Limits to
models and books of Meadows et. al. and the earlier work on Systems
Dynamics by Forrester.
- Causation, Ideology, and Public Policy. Katrina,
discounted a hurricane because that is God's business, therefore levy
improvements could be delayed.
- Causation and Torture: Only the people directly
the torture of Iraqi prisoners are held accountable. There
reasons for doing the torture are not relevant, only their acts.
- Causation and Sin: What we do to the earth (and
men) is not relevant. The only important thing is our direct
family and our relationship to God. And the God of the
fundamentalist is not interested in the earth other than as a place for
humans to make the decision to follow God or not.
Part III: Forms of Freedom
C8 Personal Freedom and Populism
have made a major effort to identify with "common people" in contrast
to the "elites". They want to appeal to "boys", "good ol'
farmboys, cowboys; stereotypes - country music, Nascar, beer, SUV's,
jeans, fast food, fundamentalism, cowboy boots. They use the
"liberal elite" to describe contrasting behaviors. They use
word "liberty" to mean freedom from restrictions on behavior,
especially those imposed by government, and to do whatever you want to
do without consideration of others. The only restrictions on
actions are those imposed by a strict father, those internalized by his
example, and God as the ultimate strict father. Lakoff lists
specific freedoms that they see are being attacked. These
absolute control over children and property, restrictions due to
environmentalism, and any restrictions on doing business.
list would be useful if your were to expect an argument.
Progressives are generally less informed about their moral
and where they are being threatened. Lakoff lists 24
freedoms that he sees are under attack by conservatives, they include
freedom of information, freedom from environmental degradation and the
effects of pollution, freedom to live in a nurturant society, freedom
from governmental and industry wrongdoings. Biconceptuals are
those are those who practice/believe in strict father morality in some
cases and nurturant morality in others. Conservatives have
great progress in convincing biconceptuals to support conservatives.
He lists several areas where progressives can use to convince
biconceptuals that their programs are the best.
To win the battle for which moral system will be used in the coming
years progressives must convince all progressives and biconceptuals
that the liberal view most closely matches the promise of America.
- Identification with the land in terms of enjoyment, making
a living, or in recreation.
- Identification with one's community and with leaders and
citizens who are nurturant and responsible to the community as a whole.
- Identification with one's religion. Seeing God as
loving and Jesus as a model for behavior.
- Identification with one's family. The ability to
spend time with and care for one's family.
- Identification with one's job. Many jobs are
nurturant - the freedom to effectively help others.
- Identification with one's person. The ability to
care for your person and living in a society in which care and mutual
responsibility are a value.
- Identification with one's country. The ability of
a country which supports the basic values of Americanism: tolerance,
equality, opportunity, human dignity, and mutual responsibility.
C9 Economic Freedom
Money has a lot to do with freedom, with sufficient money you
do just about anything you want to do, without money you have serious
limits on your freedom. Conservatives who speak of economic
freedom are usually concerned with making and keeping money.
Governments only purpose is military, police, and getting out
the way of profits. Given that empathy is a large part of the
worldview of progressives, they are concerned with those who don't have
enough money and they want to help - and they think that it is the duty
of government to provide this help, the common wealth concept.
The Economic Liberty Myth: the right wing Economic Freedom Story:
Individual initiative combined with free markets drives all
economic progress, government is inefficient and it gets in the way of
free markets, nature is a resource, discipline and initiative are all
that you need for success, lack of these results in failure.
is wrong to give people things that they haven't earned.
The Truths Hidden by the Economic Liberty Myth: Corporations
more like governments than individuals. No person or industry
could thrive without access to the infrastructure supplied by the
government, the common wealth. There are millions who do not
the strength, the health, the skills, or the social and cultural
knowledge to work or get reasonably good jobs. Because of the
structure of our economic system labor is seen as a resource to be
minimized or outsourced. Unions have made major contributions
our freedom. Markets are constructed, they are not natural -
example the World Trade Organization has hundreds of pages of rules.
The Progressive Work Ethic: If you work for a living, you should earn a
living. Work is a contribution to society in general.
deserves to be compensated according to its contribution to society.
Workers provide profits to business owners. A
society should have useful, fairly compensated work for everyone.
All markets are constructed, they should be designed for the
common good. Inappropriate transfers of the common wealth to
individuals or companies should be stopped. Government powers
like regulation should not be transfered to companies.
Conservatives are very big on economic rights, they are less
interested in personal responsibility, and say almost nothing about
business responsibility. The economic liberty and ownership
society myths are shams.
The Progressive Story of Economic Freedom: Since the first
of the Commonwealths of Virginia and Massachusetts we have practiced
the common wealth concept. America has always had a
work ethic based on fairness. Education and other essential
elements of cultural capital should be available and free to all.
Large corporation should be viewed as governments and all
institutions should be accountable to the public. Wealth
not be restricted to the few. Markets are constructed and
need to be viewed as moral instruments to serve the common good.
C10 Religion and Freedom
If God is seen as a nurturant parent you get progressive
Christianity, if god is seen as a strict father you get fundamentalist
christianity. Even though fundamentalists all a minority of
American Christians they have great influence over organizational,
political, and media power. To understand and compete with
power we need to study them.
Policy and Freedom
- Essence: The theory that everything in the world
is a kind
of thing, a member of a category (I repeat my comment under Part 1, C1
about Plato). In classical Greek philosophy essences have
substance, form, and patterns of change. For example: trees,
are made of a substance, wood; they have a form, roots, trunk, limbs,
leaves, etc.; and they have a pattern of change, sprout from seeds,
grow tall, sprout leaves, etc. According to this theory the
essence of the oak is already there in the seed. Just apply
same argument to a fertilized egg in a woman and you get the
fundamentalist position on abortion and stem-cell research.
- Teleology: The theory that things don't just
are a part of a larger whole that has a built-in purpose or plan.
Flowers are supposed to grow and bloom, fish swim, birds fly.
Until evolution we had no other idea as to how life happened.
In fundamentalist religion teleology is another word for gods
- Virtue Ethics: Aristotle, a student of Plato,
Plato's philosophy. One way was his thoughts on virtue.
people developed certain traits, called virtues, they would help the
possessors flourish and prosper. Different people have
essenses so they would have different virtues.
- Moral Law: In moral law certain acts are seen as
right and others are absolutely wrong. Many societies have
own lists of moral laws including the US. The lists of moral
sometimes conflict with the results of virtue ethics, this can lead to
violent disagreements - abortion and assisted suicide. Since
virtue ethics is based on individual variation and moral law is based
on an external standard they may disagree. They are both
systems, neither is relativistic, neither says anything goes.
Virtue ethics recognizes both direct causation and systemic
causation but moral law recognizes only direct causation.
- Progressive Christianity: Progressive Christians
see God as
a nurturant parent, Grace is metaphorical nurturance. Christ
offers a model for living with his empathy and responsibility.
Their rules for a Christian life are to renounce violence,
try to dominate others, be tolerant, offer forgiveness, love your
neighbor, heal the sick, help the poor and helpless. You
maximize the freedom of others, action is not merely religious action,
it also requires political action so that the state follows these
values. Progressive Christians care about life and health.
- Fundamentalist christianity. They are usually
conservative because of their strict father religious morality.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all have strict and
versions. Fundamentalist believe that we are all sinners and
would all go to hell except for the sacrifice of Jesus, He will show us
how to obey the strict rule of god.
- Strictness, Essence, Teleology, and Freedom: It
essence of women to have children, the soul is the essence of a person.
If a woman has an abortion she goes against her essence and
away her freedom (to go to heaven), the fetus (blastocyst) must have
had an essence (soul) so that goes against god's will. They
not believe there can be a morality can come from anything but god.
- Fundamentalism and Conservatism: Lakoff has a list of 15
between the strict father morality of fundamentalist and conservatives.
In most cases progressives (religious and political) have not
understood these links and have let the relationships be completely
taken over by the conservatives. The points are so dense in
area that a summary would be very difficult. Probably the
pages in the book for a quick survey of why conservative
fundamentalists take the stands that they do.
- Language: He uses the stem-cell research
illustrate his point. Conservative always try to use the term
"embryonic stem-cell research" because embryo is often confused with
fetus which is much closer to "baby". The correct term would
"blastocyst stem-cell research" because the blastocyst is a 3-5 day old
hollow sphere composed of a single layer of stem cells. They
to set the frame for embryo-fetus-baby instead of a microscopic hollow
sphere that looks identical in all animals. Another example
there modification of the definition of freedom and liberty.
- Empathy as the source of morality: The
philosophers of the
Enlightenment disagreed that religion was the source of morality, they
thought that reason was. They were wrong, modern science has
shown that empathy is. There are areas in the brain connect
emotions to our perceptions of others emotions. This linkage
occurs in childhood. Without proper nurturant parent-child
relationships this linkage never develops. This linkage is
empathy, the ability to understand what others feel. Morality
about recognizing and responding to others' needs. Our great
religious leaders, like Jesus, recognized this and used it in their
religious message. Progressives must recognize this and take
morality back from the fundamentalist conservatives, this is not
"shifting right", it is taking morality and religion back where they
The elements of the neoconservative democratic theory states:
free-markets (free elections, civilian control of military, balance of
power, civil liberties, and a free press) are essential and it assumes
the benevolent influence of large corporations and the wealthy.
Sort of a trickle-down democracy theory. Another
this is direct causation, it was assumed that the removal of Saddam
would solve all of our problems in Iraq. Rumsfeld was correct
that not many troops were required to remove Saddam, he was not correct
in that our problems would be over. Strict father reasoning
failed, direct causation will not work in complex systems,
self-interest democracy makes the mistake of essentialism (it assumes
that everyone is the same and they are all motivated by self-interest),
free-market freedom ignores the use of common wealth to build
infrastructure and it also requires jobs.
- Why did Bush speak of an "axis of evil" that
linked Iraq. Iran, and North Korea? Strict father morality
sees evil as a strong, tangible force. This is the same as
Reagan's "evil empire"
when referring to Russia. Evil requires a strong strict
and justifies doing everything to fight it, including gutting social
- Why did Bush respond to 9/11 by calling for a "war on terror"
instead of following Colin Powell's suggestion to call it a crime?
Terror is used to frighten and intimidate the American
war allowed him to assume war powers,and run the country as commander
in chief. Also a crime can be solved and the criminals
terrorism will probably go on forever so the war powers and the
justification for the strict father policy can continue indefinitely.
- Why did the Bush administration use and try to justify
torture? Since we are fighting evil any measures can be used.
- What has determined Bush's attitude towards the UN, the
Court, international treaties, and out allies. In the
nation-as-person metaphor the US is (obviously?) the father figure and
the strict father sets the laws without regard to the wishes of the
junior members of the family.
- In Iraq, the US has run the country, appointed the leaders,
and dictated the constitution. How is this seen as "freedom"
for the Iraqis? Just as a strict father leads the children
must lead the Iraqis and the US must maintain the threat of punishment
until the Iraqis have "grown up".
The rest of the chapter continues with examples of strict father or
faith-based foreign policies and why they don't work. He
concludes with examples of more pragmatic foreign policy initiatives
using examples from Clinton's presidency.
Part IV: Ideas and Action
C12 Bush's "Freedom" Lakoff devotes the
chapter to a critique of Bush's second inaugural address. He
over the speech point by point and shows how it is filled with
fundamentalist conservative ideas taken from strict father morality.
Where was Lakoff when the speech was being made and where
the Democrats who should have been asking how come the words in his
speech had nothing to do with the Republican legislative agenda.
C13 Taking Back Freedom
Freedom and liberty are progressive ideas, the radical
conservatives are trying to take them over and redefine them.
Every progressive issue is basically about freedom, some
Progressives make a lot of mistakes and conservatives love to exploit
them. Lakoff concentrates on the conceptual mistakes.
of these are:
- Opportunity: The freedom to acquire the education, skills,
and capital you need to realistically pursue fulfillment in life.
- Economic opportunity: The freedom to earn a
living by working, this requires freedom from the cheap labor trap.
- Health: Injury and illness impinge on freedom, health keeps
them from impinging on freedom
- Social Security: Helps to guarantee freedom from
want in old age.
- Unionization: The freedom of people to organize
they can be free from want and have living wages, adequate benefits,
and humane labor practices.
- Education: Provides the freedom needed for
life, freedom from the barriers created by an insufficiency of
knowledge and skill.
- Privacy: The freedom to pursue your personal life
disruption, interference, or the collection of personal knowledge about
you by outsiders or by the state.
- Framing Mistakes: The most common progressive
mistake is to use conservative frames.
The Rationalist Mistake: Many progressives
function with a folk theory of
the mind called rationalism. This says that progressive
came out of the Enlightenment in the form of rationalism. He
lists a number of statements describing rationalism and several
versions of rationalism. Most traditional liberalism and
traditional economics is based on rationalism. Modern
and cognitive science had disproved most of these statements.
Modern economics (including most of the recent Nobel Prizes)
disproved the economic aspects of rationalism. Most voters
Democratic positions but they still vote Republican, why?
The Wirthlin Effect: Richard Wirthlin, Reagan's
strategist for the 1980 and 1984 elections was trained as a rationalist
economist. He discovered the voters didn't agree with Reagen
the issues but they still voted for him. This are his answers:
- Stop using their words. Instead of the term
activism" use "freedom judge" for judges who expand our freedoms based
on the ideas contained in the Constitution.
- Avoid negating their frame. Just using their
frame or altering alternatives just keeps the idea of taxes as an
affliction to be eliminated. Stress the fact that we got
as a country to provide "common wealth" so that we could provide
infrastructure for all and make essential services available to all at
the least possible expense.
So Wirthlin ran the campaigns on these criteria and Reagan won.
George W. Bush's campaigns were run on the same principles.
The Persistence of Rationalism: Rationalism is
favorite technique of progressive candidates and their strategists.
Voters are about equally divided between Republicans and
Democrats with about 20-30% in the middle. Many of these
biconceptuals will be nurturant on some issues and strict father on
others. When progressives use the frames of the conservatives
this alienates their progressive base and doesn't give the
biconceptuals a good reason to support their ideas.
The Biggest Rationalist Mistake: If rationalists
as conscious and literal they miss framing and worldview effects.
If they see the "misuse" of critical words by conservatives
spin or propaganda they miss the entire conceptual dimension of
and make five major rationalist mistakes:
- Personal Identification: They identified with
- Values: Reagan spoke about values rather than
programs and they liked his values.
- Trust: They trusted Reagan.
- Authenticity: They found Reagan authentic; he
said what he believed and it showed.
Does this mean that we should give up on reason and truth?
No! We need to pay attention to cognitive science
reason right so people can see the truth about our social, political,
and economic realities.
Freedom Isn't Free. Earlier in our history we gained and
maintained our freedom by the force of arms, now we have to gain it
back from people who say they are loyal Americans. They are
trying to change the meaning of our democracy and we have to gain
control over the language and convince the voters that progressive
ideas truly are the heritage of America. We have to learn how
language and frames are manipulated, how to point out manipulation that
we find offensive and how to convince voters that we are right.
We have to insure that journalists and other media people are
aware of conservative framing techniques and and to guard against them.
We have to insure that universities learn more about and
their students about the properties of the mind and brain. To
complete this task will take a lot of work over many years.
However if we don't start now we are just postponing the time
when people finally realize the problems that the fundamentalist
conservatives are leading us into. We just need to stop them
before they cause more disasters like Iraq.
- Believing that you can argue effectively against
frames with raw facts - that is, thanking that the truth will set you
- Believing that voters vote on candidates' positions on
issues, rather than on identity, values, trust, and authenticity - and
on the symbolic value of the issues.
- Believing the candidates should follow the pools, rather
than try to change them.
- Ignoring how biconceptuals work.
- Believing that reframing is just spin or propaganda,
than a means of telling deep truths effectively.
The book does not include specific notes and does not have an index.
It does have a list of WEB sites used and a list of books for
I won't say I enjoyed the book, it's too scary for that. I
learn from it. I don't like the way the book was written.
It seemed to skip around and repeat a lot. I found
difficult to go over a chapter and try to extract a meaning from it
without repeating myself numerous times. Perhaps I am just
the traditional rationalist form of writing where you state the minimum
amount of arguments to support your thesis and then go on to the
next. Maybe Lakoff was just following his preaching and was
a lot of repetition to get some of his ideas into my sometimes thick