The End of Poverty
Jeffrey D. Sachs
Dark Ages America
June 2007 Link to database
Framing The Debate
End of Poverty
Jeffrey D. Sachs
Possibilities for Our Time
C1 A Global Family Portrait He arrives
at a small village in Malawi, about an hour outside the capital, women
and children are out with water jugs and gathering fuel wood.
The weather is hot, it is dry, and the crops are withering in
the fields. But there are no young men or women in the
fields. "Where are the workers?" the answer is "AIDS, they
are nearly all dead." One woman is raising 15 grandchildren.
He asks about their health, she points to a four year old
girl and said that she came down with malaria last week. She
carried her to the hospital (10 km) but there was no medicine.
She carried her back. She did the same thing the
next day but there was medicine. Incomes are around 50 cents
per person per day. He discusses similar stories from
Bangladesh, India, and China.
What is the problem? "If economic development is a ladder
with higher rungs representing steps up the path to economic
well-being, there are roughly one billion people . . . who are too ill,
hungry, or destitute even to get a afoot on the first rung of the
development ladder." The extremely poor (about 1 billion) and
the poor (about 1.5 billion) make up about 40% of humanity.
Another 2.5 billion make up the middle-income population,
they are on their way up but they could "fall off" the ladder given bad
luck. The final 1 billion are rich, mostly in the
west or in the larger cities of Asia or South-Central
America. The focus of this book is on the 1 billion of the
extremely poor. Most of them are in East Asia, South Asia or
The author believes that we need to immediately begin providing
developmental assistance to them, to ensure that all the world's poor
have a chance to begin climbing the ladder of development making sure
that we do not set barriers in the form of inadequate development
assistance, protectionist trade barriers, destabilizing global
financial practices, poorly designed rules for intellectual property
and others that keep them from progressing. To this end all
191 members of the United Nations signed the Millennium Development
Goals (MDGs) in 2002. These goals would cut extreme poverty
in half by 2015 and end it by 2025 while not raising financial help an
extreme amount. The promised aid is 0.7% of GDP of all
nations. They have all promised this amount.
C2 The Spread of Economic Prosperity
has happened in the past? He presents the normal "J" curve of
population increase and adds an almost identical curve of per capita
income. The beginning starts at year Zero (AD or Common Era).
His discussion almost matches exactly the area under the
curve, almost nothing until 1500, slow rise until 1850 or so and then
lots of discussion from then on. Call
it recent history of the last 200 years. This typifies my
problems with economists. Primates were doing very well 35 -
20 mya, Homo arose approximately 6 mya, Homo sapiens approximately 150
kya, modern history started about 20 - 12 kya, cities started perhaps 8
- 6 kya. There has to be a very good reason to start your
curves at any other point. The world average per capita
income is express in 1990 international $. Evaluate the
differences in humans at 15 kya, 6 kya, 3 kya, 2 kya, and 1
kya using these criteria. I believe it is meaningless.
I recommend calorie intake, life span, chronic diseases, cultural
artifacts, etc. Money only makes sense when everyone has some.
It is a useful comparison artifact in industrial societies where
all (or at least some of) the commerce is carried out with money.
I would make a rough guess that 10 - 20% of all financial
transactions in my county occur without benefit of formal accounting -
ie. Uncle Sam and the IRS don't know.
C3 Why Some Countries Fail to Thrive Most
people in most countries of the world are experiencing economic
improvement. Why? Savings, Trade, Technology, and Increase
of Resources. Why are some people in some countries failing?
Lack of Saving, Absence of Trade, Natural Resource Decline,
Adverse Productivity Shock (flood, pests, disease), Population
Growth. Why do some countries fail to achieve economic growth:
Poverty (inability to save), Physical Geography, Physical Trap
(government cannot afford to build infrastructure), Governance Failure
(fail to provide a good business climate, safety, judicial systems),
Cultural Barriers (womens opportunities, discrimination, etc.),
Geopolitics, Lack of Innovation, and The Demography - Fertility trap.
A table of many of the countries of the world categorized by
economic growth, income, and fuel exporting was presented.
Reasons why countries grew and failed to grow were presented.
The basic conclusion was that even somewhat poor countries can
make economic progress but that they cannot be extremely poor.
Countries need to have a basic level of investment before they
can start to grow.
The author's spouse is a physician. Todays economists often
prescribe economic therapy on a one size fits all theory. Sachs
likens this to eighteenth-century medicine, prescribe leeches to draw
blood for all problems. He presents five lessons from modern
clinical medical practice which he feels are relevant to clinical
The author gives examples from each of these lessons and shows how
economic orthodoxy has lead to incorrect treatment for economic
problems. He presents a Checklist for Making a Differential
Diagnosis. For anyone preparing to perform an economic analysis I
would strongly recommend that this Checklist be used as a starting
point. Perhaps additional items could be considered but no fewer.
The only problem that I have with it is that it should probably
be duplicated for each "area" of a country where needed. Many
"countries" in Africa and Asia were arbitrarily put together by
colonial powers. The boundaries often cut across environmental
and cultural area. It makes no sense to evaluate areas which have
no commonalities. Perhaps the economist cannot rearrange country
borders to suit himself but he needs to be aware of these problems.
- The human body is a complex system. Many things can go
wrong and a failure of a single system can cause failures in additional
systems. Each system must be kept functioning at an adequate
- Complexity requires a differential diagnosis. All possible
causes should be examined, however the most likely causes should be
examined first. There may be multiple causes.
- All medicine is family medicine. You must examine the environment of the patient.
- Monitoring and evaluation are essential to successful treatment.
The first diagnosis is not always correct, tests may be wrong,
there may be multiple conditions.
- Medicine is a profession, and as a profession requires strong
norms, ethics, and codes of conduct. Service must be provided
with the best interests of the patient in mind, not the needs of the
He breaks the questions into seven general areas. 1) the extent
of extreme poverty, 2) economic policy, 3) fiscal framework, 4)
physical geography and human ecology, 5) patterns of governance, 6)
cultural barriers to economic development, and 7) geopolitics. For his full checklist view the linked page.
C5 Bolivia's High-Altitude Hyperinflation His
involvement with economic development started in July 1985. He
was invited to the new government of Bolivia to assist in some of their
economic problems. He consulted for Bolivia for about four years
with some successes and some failures. He learned several
specific points that would be useful later.
Return to Europe
Sachs visited Warsaw, Poland in April 1989. Shortly
thereafter began consulting with their leaders. Again, some
successes, some failures but buy in large Poland's economy survived and
became much healthier. His efforts were devoted to 5 areas.
- Stabilization is a complex process, there are many specific factors to be solved.
- Macroeconomic tools are limited in their power. These tools cannot solve all problems.
- Successful change requires a combination of technocratic knowledge, bold political leadership, and broad social participation.
- Success requires not only bold reforms at home but also financial help from abroad.
- Poor countries must demand their due. Outside organizations
like the IMF have their own agendas which do not include the needs of
the poor country.
- Stabilization - end high inflation and establish a stable currency.
- Liberalization - allow markets to function, legalizing private business, end price controls, establish commercial law.
- Privatization - identify private owners for appropriate (my term) assets held by the state.
- Social Safety Net - pensions, health care, benefits for elderly and poor, transition problems.
- Institutional Harmonization - adopt laws, etc. to become a member of the European Union.
On receiving help, the US received French support during the War of
Independence, Europe and Japan received help after WW II, Korea 10
years later, Israel has received vast financial support and Germany and
Poland had their debts canceled.
- A country's fate is crucially determined by its specific linkages to the rest of the world.
- The importance of a basic guiding concept for a broad-based economic transformation.
- The practical possibilities of large-scale conceptual thinking.
- Do not take NO for an answer. In response to a request for debt cancellation.
- By the time a society has fallen deep into crisis, it almost
always needs some external help to get back on track. First help
may be needed to get the fundamentals right and second help may be
needed to bolster confidence in the reforms.
C7 Reaping the Whirlwind:
Russia's Struggle for Normalcy
He was involved with Russia from 1990 until the beginning of
1994. He views it primarily as a failure. Some proposals
were made but they rejected by the west and by elements of the Russian
government. Conservatives were rising in power in the US with
Cheney and Wolfowitz drafting the Defense Planning Guidance which saw
Russia as a rival to be weakened. The IMF and the G7 were not
going to forgive any debts owed by the Russians and Russia was breaking
C8 China: Catching up after
Half a Millennium
He had nothing directly to do with China's economy. China
made a series of poor financial and social decisions beginning in 1434
and 1977. In 1976 the Great Leap Forward of the Cultural
Revolution ended and China began to take part in the culture of the
rest of the world. China was able to succeed because it had no
foreign debts, it had a large coastline for low-cost access to
international trade, it had access to overseas Chinese communities, it
had no major economic downturns, and it was able to build its industry
using modern technology. China still has problems, primarily one
of shifting from a single monolithic government to decentralized
control. It is still struggling with the conversion to democracy.
The Triumph of Hope
India has a long history of being conquered and being ruled by
people who were not interested in the people of India. India
received independence from Britain in 1947 and partly in reaction to WW
II and the Depression and chose the route of state planning and state
control. False statistics from the Soviet Union played a part.
After an initial bloom and bad planning debt became excessive.
In 1991 economic policy changed and Sachs became involved with
India in 1994. They are slowly making progress but it is hard
because of debt an the vast amount of need.
C10 The Voiceless Dying: Africa and Disease Africa
is currently the poster child for bad government and corruption.
The minor difficulty that the IMF and the World Bank has
virtually controlled the economy of most of the continent since the
late 1960's and that the continent is poorer now than it was in the
1960's doesn't seem to matter. For the past 500 years Africa has
been a source for slaves, raw materials, and political infighting for
the West. He disagrees with all of these evaluations, Africa's
problems stem from isolation, lack of infrastructure, disease, poverty
and the transfer of resources to the West.
C11 The Millennium, 9/11, and the United Nations In
September 2007 the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations took place
and all of the 191 members accepted the goals. One of these was
the agreement that the richest countries would contribute 0.7% of their
GNP to Official Development Assistance (ODA) - direct financial aid to
poor countries. Then came the tied election of Bush, the end of
the stock market boom, corporate scandals, and 9/11. At first it
seemed that Bush would support developmental efforts. In November
2001 at Doha, Qatar he supported revising the trading system to benefit
poor countries and in March 2002 in Monterrey, Mexico he reaffirmed
support for the 0.7% aid package. This was pretty much anyone
heard about development assistance.
C12 On-The-Ground Solutions for Ending Poverty The
first step in a solution is to observe poverty. The second step
is to realize that the poor are not lazy or corrupt, they just need
sufficient infrastructure and assistance in taking the first step
towards economic self-sufficiency. Following a visit to the
people in Sauri, Kenya. They, as well as the UN Millennium
Project, identified the following basic problems:
For a population of about 5,000 the estimated costs are about $350,000
per year or about $70 per person. Within a few years improved
crops would pay for the agricultural inputs and after perhaps 10 years
the village could likely support these improvements and build on them.
Corruption still exists, mainly from political holdovers.
If donors were to work with local officials in creating pay
scales that were enough to live on and design systems that provided
accountability the occurance would rapidly go down to levels found in
most developed countries. Many cultures have built-in monitoring
and enforcement mechanisms. If donors will work within the
existing systems progress will be much faster than if new "Western"
mechanisms that are not understood are used.
- Agricultural inputs - fertilizers, "extension", storage facilities.
- Investments in basic health - antimalarial nets and medicines,
HIV/AIDS medicines, other health services, skilled birth attendants and
sexual/reproductive health services.
- Investments in education - meals, vocational training,
infrastructure maintenance, personal hygiene, computer and mobile phone
- Power, transport, and communications services - electricity for
lights, pumps, milling grain, refrigeration. A village truck for
- Safe drinking water and sanitation - women would be spared hours
of transporting water every day. Pure water would reduce disease.
C13 Making the
Investments Needed to End Poverty The extreme poor lack six major kinds of capital:
He displays some elementary systems models of how these fit together.
The chapter ends with several examples of how investments in
these factors have been beneficial in other countries.
- Human capital: health, nutrition, and skills needed to be economically productive.
- Business capital: machinery, facilities, and motorized transport need for business and services.
- Infrastructure: roads, power, water, air and seaports, telecommunications.
- Natural capital: arable land, good soils, biodiversity, functioning ecosystems.
- Public institutional capital: commercial law, judicial systems, government services, policing.
- Knowledge capital: scientific and technical know-how.
C14 A Global Compact to End Poverty
It must be realized that there are two sided to these contracts.
The recipient countries must carry out their part by having a
serious plan of action and carry it out in a transparent and honest
manner. Donor countries should help all poor countries if the
will is there and not to use their help for political purposes.
There needs to be a system in place that can handle the
money and the reporting requirements of such a system. These
plans must have the following five parts. 1) A Differential
Diagnosis - the policies and investments that the country needs, 2) An
Investment Plan - size, timing, and costs, 3) A Financial Plan - the
financing needed and how much the donors need to pay, 4) A Donor Plan -
the multiyear donor commitments needed, and 5) A Public Management Plan
- the mechanisms of government and public administration needed to help
implement the investment strategy. He goes into considerable
detail on each of these points.
There are several issues that need to be solved at the international level, these are:
The UN would seem to be the only organization with the capability to
manage this activity. It will need greater support from the rich
- The Debt crisis - the poorest countries cannot possibly pay the
debts of loans offered by rich countries, these need to be written off.
- Global trade policy - "trade not aid" is wrong. Extremely
poor countries need both. Only after trade has become
self-sustaining can aid be reduced.
- Science for development - many scientific breakthroughs are aimed
strictly at the developed world. Money and research needs to go
into a) prevention and treatment of disease for the poor and tropics,
b) tropical agriculture, c) energy systems for remote areas, d) climate
forecasting and remediation for climatic change, e) water management -
desalination, small-scale irrigation, recovery of damaged aquifers, and
f) sustainable management of ecosystems.
- Environmental Stewardship - most climate change attributable to
humans is caused by the rich nations. They need to help the
poorer nations to cope with the changes already here and to come.
Since people in poor countries typically live closer to the land
and the sea they will be effected most by these changes.
C15 Can the Rich Afford to Help the Poor? Can
the rich afford not to help? His proposal is only to help the
extreme poor and is only asking for a small amount of money. Why
is the level of required support so small?
He recommends a needs assessment approach with the following steps:
- The numbers of the extreme poor have declined rapidly, now the
proportion is only about 1/5 of the population, 20 years ago it was
about 1/3, 40 years ago it was closer to 1/2.
- The goal is only to assist only those in extreme poverty.
- Success will be easier than it sounds, the goal is not to reach
the levels of affluence of the first world, only to where they can
begin making economic progress.
- The world today is vastly rich. Even a generation or two
ago there was not that much money available. Now there are enough
riches to get the job done.
- Our tools are more powerful than ever, we can accomplish much more with less effort.
His recommendations for a package of basic needs include:
- Identify the package of basic needs.
- Identify, for each country, the current unmet needs of the population. Additional
personal recommendation: break down the needs by appropriate area
within the country if the country is not completely uniform in
topography, climate, and culture.
- Calculate the costs of meeting the unmet needs through investments, taking into account future population growth. Additional
personal recommendation: elsewhere he mentions that certain investments
are cheaper because of the lower cost of labor. Construction
standards for certain infrastructure should be adjusted for specific
use and timing. I personally live in the rural mountain west.
During "spring breakup" while roads and roadbeds are wet, heavy
vehicles are not allowed on the county roads. This allows for
lesser construction costs while only restricting travel for a short
period of time. Another example are the so called "hoot owl"
logging restrictions. During fire season no heavy equipment is
allowed to operate in the forests except for early morning hours, say 1
am until 9 am and watchers must stay in the forest where they have
operated to watch for possible fires.
- Calculate the part of the investments that can be financed by the country itself.
- Calculate the financing gap that must be covered by donors.
- Assess the size of the donor contributions relative to donor income.
He goes on to discuss these factors with respect to developing
countries, target populations with some members at slightly elevated
economic levels, specific proposals for three countries, total
estimated cost breakdowns for meeting the needs throughout the world,
comparison of his estimated costs compared with other estimates, and
the overall affordability of the package.
- Primary education for all children, with designated target ratios of pupils to teachers.
- Nutrition programs for all vulnerable populations.
- Universal access to antimalarial bed nets in at risk regions.
- Access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
- One-half kilometer of paved road for every thousand of population.
- Access to modern cooking fuels and improve cooking stoves to decrease indoor air pollution.
C16 Myths and Magic Bullets
He begins by repeating the half truths and outright lies about
aid using Africa as the "bad" example. They simply are not true.
Some of the criticisms are listed below:
Money down the drain: "We have spent trillions and there is
nothing to show for it." In sub-Saharan Africa the entire world
spent only $30 per person in 2002. Of this total amount only $12
per person was actually spent in Africa. There was no "vast
amount" of money and this small amount was fragmented. Of that
total, the US only gave six cents. Of course we can't find any
Aid programs would fail, Africans have no sense of time: This is simply
black prejudice. They have the same abilities "we" do. They
know what their problems are.
Corruption is rampant: Corruption is another term for poor
governance. Poor countries that cannot pay for good governance
have poor governance. African countries have no better or worse
corruption than countries elsewhere in the world who are equally poor.
With good transparent governance corruption falls rapidly.
African countries are not democratic: In several cases white
minority governments imposed authoritarian governments. Many of
the corrupt and incompetent leaders who replaced them were not
democratic. Most of the countries are slowly working their way to
full democracy. However they are still saddled with debts and
need help to industrialize.
Lack of modern values: Virtually every country that was once poor
has been criticized for being lazy. Surveys show that fewer
Americans value hard work than do Nigerians, South Africans, or
Africans need economic freedom to prosper: Free economies
outperform centrally planned economies. But all economies need
the basic infrastructure to progress. Without the basics like
health, education, social security, water, power, roads, and rail
neither can progress.
There is one single factor that explains economic progress and it is X:
There is no single factor, there are many contributing factors.
Africans have no morals, look at the aids epidemic: Again, a
convenient excuse. There is no evidence that Africans have more
sexual partners than any other peoples. It is true that there is
more HIV/AIDS, we simply don't know why.
Why save hungry children who will only grow up to become hungry adults:
They will grow up to become workers. Where health is
adequate and education is available birth rates rapidly decrease.
A rising tide lifts all boats: The rising tide doesn't reach the
mountain tops or the interior of Asia or Africa. The free-trade
zones of Asia are all on coasts with harbors. Interiors still
need access to transportation.
"Nature Red in Tooth and Claw": Economic life is rough, live with
it. Neither entirely controlled economies (communism) nor total
laissez-faire economic freedom work well. Freedom tempered with
cooperation and governance provides the most fertile ground for
C17 Why We
Should Do It
There are basically two reasons why we should support a
reduction in global poverty. The first is that we said we would.
Numerous times the United States has pledged to provide 0.7% of
our GDP to reduce poverty. We need to keep our word, to "stay the
course" as it were. We have made these promises, we have failed
to keep any of them. The second reason is that most of the
problems in the world originate in extremely poor countries. This
is where terrorists are bred and raised. Virtually every case of
US military intervention abroad since 1960 has taken place in a
developing country that had recently experienced a state failure.
As a matter of historical comparison, following WW II the US provided
between 1% and 2% of its GDP every year to help rebuild Western Europe
from 1948 through 1952. The maximum expenditure during the
Marshal Plan was over 2% of GDP.
Generation's Challenge Four overarching ideas of the Enlightenment have inspired democracy as we know it today.
Sacks believes that it is now our turn:
- Thomas Jefferson and the other founders of the American Republic
who were the disciples of John Locke and David Hume: "Governments
are instituted among men . . . to secure the rights of 'Life, Liberty
and the Pursuit of Happiness.'"
- Adam Smith in his The Wealth of Nations
described how market forces work an devoted most of Book V "explaining
why the state has powerful responsibilities regarding defense, justice,
infrastructure, and education, areas in which collective action is
required to complement, or substitute for, private-market forces."
- Immanual Kant argued that peace among nations could be achieved
if self-governing republics linked through international commerce
replaced monarchies. Market forces behind commerce are
incompatible with war. The CIA Task Force on State Failure found
that "open economies are less likely to fall into state failure than
are closed economies."
- The French philosopher Marie-Jean-Antoine Condorcet wrote that
"the real accumulation of truths forming the system of empirical,
experimental, and mathematical sciences can grow constantly . . . the
progress of useful arts . . . is bound to follow that of the sciences
upon which they depend." Scientific advances would join with the
economy to continually produce "progress in medical care, healthier
nutrition and accommodation." He put enormous stress on public
He has mixed feelings toward the antiglobalization movement. Many
of the proponents of globalization have been very self serving and have
failed to take into consideration the welfare of the extremely poor.
The opponents of globalization have been responding to
superficial targets. They are responding only to the abuses and
not the promises. It is true that many of the abusing companies
have behaved very badly. A serious case of throw the baby out
with the bathwater.
- To help foster political systems that promote human well-being, based on the consent of the governed.
- To help foster economic systems that spread the benefits of
science, technology, and the division of labor to all parts of the
- To help foster international cooperation in order to secure a perpetual peace.
- To help promote science and technology, grounded in human
rationality, to fuel the continued prospects for improving the human
Sacks ends the book with nine steps that we need to take to end extreme poverty:
He closes the book with 3 pages of works cited, 4 pages of further
reading, 9 pages of notes, 12 pages of index, and a page of credits.
- Commit to Ending Poverty: halving it by 2015 and ending it by 2025.
- Adopt a Plan of Action: See Chapter 15
- Raise the Voice of the Poor: Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther
King, Jr. did not wait, they asserted their call in the face of
official arrogance and neglect.
- Redeem the Role of the United States in the World: we have
recently become the most feared and divisive nation in the world.
We need to reverse our direction.
- Rescue the IMF and the World Bank: they are needed. They
have been badly misused as creditor-run agencies instead of champions
of economic justice and enlightened globalization.
- Strengthen the United Nations: we have gotten the UN that
(mainly) the US has wanted. We need to fund the UN appropriately
and make sure it performs for the benefit of the world.
- Harness Global Science: Science is paid for by the rich for
their needs. The UN, governments, and private organizations need
to pay for more research to benefit the poor.
- Promote Sustainable Development: Continued environmental
degradation can and will destroy all of our progress. We must do
a better job of using our resources wisely.
- Make a Personal Commitment: He quotes from a speech of
Robert Kennedy (Address at the University of Capetown, South Africa,
June 6, 1966)
This is a little stupid. Some time ago I watched (on UCTV) a talk
by Sachs. I made some notes about some of his major points.
Just the other day I found the second page of my notes. I
will put them in at this point and if I find the first page I will also
put it in.
Sachs Notes from a recorded lecture which took place on 5/13/2008 at UCSB
7. Stop putting our foot into the gas tank. NOW!
8. 75-80 million people net population increase each year is not
sustainable. Have girls stay in school, have children survive so
parents are confident about reducint fertility, have family planning
available, contraception. Resume our contribution to the UN
population fund and start championing it again.
9. He seems to have forgotten to discuss this one.
10. Get the US back on the side of the world in solving these
problems. We are all signed up in supporting the Millenium
Development Goals. President Bush has said that phrase one
time in the last 8 years. We promised to devote $0.70 out of
every $100 toward this fund (all of the worlds developed countries
promised also). We are now spending $5.00 / $100 on miitary.
We are now spending $0.16 / $100 (the losest level of all the
high income countries of the world. Take out the part going to
war zones $0.035 / $100.
"I want to see the Millenium Development Goals in the Inagural Address."
He believes that Kennedy's speech at American University in June 1963 to be the greatest speech of a modern Americal President.
Dark Ages America
Berman June 2007
Subtitle: The Final Phase of Empire
Another "Bad People doing Bad Things" book. From the inside front
cover, "A sobering work that reveals how America has entered an
inescapable social, cultural, and economic Dark Age." After
struggling through the book my emotional conclusion was that the author
should dig a big hole, attach a rope to a convenient tree, hold onto
said rope while leaning over the edge of the hole, shot self.
Other than refilling the hole it would save him and us a whole
lot of pain and effort. As you might be able to tell, I was
not impressed by the book. Very negative, no meaningful
evaluation as to how we got here other than "bad people", and no
suggestions as to what we might be able to do to solve or at least
ameliorate out problems. I will go over the book just to show
that I actually read it. There were certain facts that I didn't
know but I go back to my original point, just give me (and the world) a
comprehensive database of facts and people so that a good lawyer could
bring a lawsuit against the guilty party. I found the book a
very literary (and literate) review of "Bad People" and the "Bad
Things" that they did - and why these things are bad, without the
ability to quickly search a database for people or activities to pick
Later note (Mar 15, 2009) In the Feb. 11, 2008 issue of The Nation
there is a link to web site maintained by the Center for Pulic
Integrity. It presumably contains a database of 935 false
statements made by Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld et al. in the two years
fllowing 9/11 (I haven't checked it out). It is at http://www.publicintegrity.org/WarCard
Introduction When you are at the height of your powers the only way left is down. There are four main markers of this:
This is not all the fault of Bush, these trends have been on the way since the 1960's or 1970's.
- The Triumph of Religion over Reason
- Bush believes that he is on a mission from God and faith trumps
empirical evidence, he seems incapable of acknowledging a mistake.
One of the founders of the Moral Majority, Tim LaHaye and his
co-author have sold more than 62 million copies of the Left Behind series. Loyalty is becoming more important than ability.
- The Breakdown of Education and Critical Thinking
- More and more school children and adults are ignorant of all but
basic facts. More and more subjects are left out of basic
education because they are controversial.
- Legalization of Torture -
We associate torture with the Dark and Middle Ages. Now state
sponsored torture in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay and techniques such
as "water-boarding" are common topics of political discussion and and
the man who wrote the legal briefs supporting torture is the head of
the Department of Justice.
- Marginalization of the United States on the World Stage
- Our health care system, once the standard of the world, is now rated
as a third-world country, we are losing our edge in science to Europe
and China, we have huge foreign debts, and there are more similar facts.
C1. Liquid Modernity
The name of the chapter comes from the name of the book, Liquid
Modernity, by the Polish-British sociologist Zygmunt Bauman who defines
it as the condition of a society that lacks a clear sense of
orientation. Berman criticizes our society in four main areas,
work, the media, children, and community.
C2 Economy, Technology
The economy is discussed with regards to the Bretton Woods
agreement. At the end of WW II this established the World Bank
and the IMF and set the stage for the recovery of Europe and Japan.
The beginning of its repeal by America starting in 1972-75 set
the stage for the eventual decline of the American economy. The
author has a love-hate affair with technology. He finds some
technologies useful but doesn't like others. He reminds me of
some religious groups, they pick a certain date and all technologies
existing at that time are good and later ones are bad. How do you
pick the date? It is usually the date when the founder was a
child. My 16 year old granddaughter certainly has a different
outlook than I do - and I was a computer programmer. What date
should we choose?
C3 The Home and the World This chapter is about two
topics, the relationship between the West and Islam and the rise of
imperialism in America. He has an interesting set of comparisons
between the West and Islam.
These seem basic, and they are, but in fact only item 3 is more than 4
or 5 hundred years old. They are not basic to the original faiths.
- The West champions individual freedom over relationship, or group (tribal) loyalty; Islam does the reverse.
- The West, at least theoretically, separates church and state; Islam does not.
- The West developed the notion of the "corporate body," the senate or representative assembly; Islam did not.
- The West, in a secularization of the Catholic corpus mysticum, eventually developed the idea of the corporation that lies at the heart of capitalism; Islam did not.
- Western science has the notions of the fact-value distinction,
genuine critical analysis, and provisional truth; Islam keeps reason
subordinate to faith.
Some writers trace American imperialism back to Alexander Hamilton,
Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson who were referring to American
imperialism with regard to North America and perhaps North and South
C4 Pax Americana A somewhat brief (43 page) summary of American foreign policy since WW II.
C5 Axis of Resentment: Iran, Iraq, and Israel
After WW II America picked up the policies of Great Britain,
especially with regard to the Middle East. In doing so we
inherited all of the problems and resentments of the people living
there. The chapter ignores the first 100 years of British
involvement in the Middle East and starts in about 1908 but not in much
depth until after the end of WW II. He makes an interesting point
at the end of the chapter. The middle eastern peoples do not take
well to military force, they do not forgive and forget. Just
mention the world "Crusade" and see what it gets you. You cannot
invade a country in this area without expecting retaliation for many,
C6 The Meaning of 9/11
The chapter is broken into 3 sections. The first, "The
Lies", describes the political maneuvering, the half truths, and the
outright lies that were used to justify the war in Iraq. He also
spends a fair amount of time on the destruction and looting of the
archaeological treasures of Iraq, my original reason for deciding that
the Iraqi invasion was a poor idea. The second section, "The
Costs", discusses the costs born by the US for the Iraqi war, the
foreign prestige loss, the payoffs to politically favored businessmen,
the destruction of the perceived impartiality of the press, the loss of
credibility of the CIA, the establishment of torture as a standard
practice of the military, the loss of freedoms in the US (the Patriot
Act), and the transfer of money from social, economic, and cultural
programs to the military and military contractors. The final
section, "The Choices", briefly talks about the choices America has
made and is still making. He reports that one commentator said,
"the people of New York were collateral damage of American foreign
policy." We created the antagonism in the Middle East with our
policies and we are now seeing the results of these policies. The
policies we are making now and in the future will determine how others
will react to them.
C7 The Roads Not Taken
It took me some time to come to grips with this chapter.
There is a somewhat lengthly intro and then four sections, The
American Character, The Car Culture, The Sub/Urban Landscape, and The
Restored Environment? It just didn't jell for a long time, there
were too many big words put together in creative ways to really figure
out what he was saying, then it came to me, he is really discussing
feedback. In all four of these sections he is saying that
Americans found something that worked, and continued (sort of like
compound interest or exponential growth, the same thing - just
different languages). It worked once, try it again and it still
works, so keep on trying it forever. Unfortunately forever comes
sooner than we expect. Its called positive feedback.
Negative feedback, as invented in steam engines, starts slowing
the process down when the process hits a design point. Negative
feedback can be applied either internally (as in the steam engine) or
externally (in biology when a population of organisms expand when they
are presented with a rich food source but starts to decrease as the
food source is consumed and decreases). America has been
expanding for more than 300 years and every time we have hit a
temporary barrier we have found a new replacement and our expansion has
America has been a land of unstoppable growth ever since the first.
This has effected our view of other cultures (we are growing -
they are not - therefore we are better then them). Automobile use
expanded rapidly even before railroads quit expanding. Our cities
were designed with respect to automobile culture. Now that the
first real limitations of negative feedback are hitting most of us lack
the knowledge, experience, or intellectual ability to realize that
negative feedback means that things will have to change. The
author points to our feelings of superiority and our attachments to
cheap energy and automobiles and their impacts on urban and suburban
design and complains that these are our problems. He also
exhibits a very definite anti-technology bent. In my view these
are just symptoms of a failure to realize that positive feedback
inevitably leads to crash and that negative feedback is essential.
The technology of any given age is just the background for the
C8 The State of the Union
He finds the state of the Union abysmal. He documents this
by pointing to a number of authors who agree and by pointing to a
number of examples in several areas which he calls Emptiness,
Alienation, Violence, and Ignorance. Ignorance gets the best set
of documented examples.
C9 Empire Falls The author starts out with the
suggestion that America can solve its own problems. Some feel
that the rhythm of American history is one of action/reaction or
thesis/antithesis (did we forget synthesis?). He calls these
wishful thinking and points to a number of factors which he considers
evidence that we have "passed the tipping point". Perhaps, not
owning a crystal ball I can't tell for sure but the election of 2006
would seem to be a reasonable counterpoint. He next goes on to
examine three areas to examine whether there is hope. In his
first, "Democrats versus Republicans" he compares the foreign policy of
Clinton vs. the policies of the surrounding Republican presidents.
I wouldn't say that Clinton is the only voice that Democrats
listened to or that the fact that Clinton was faced with 6 years of a
Republican majority in Congress had nothing to do with Democrats today.
In his second area, "China versus Europe", he presented an interesting
table. Not that I was totally unaware of it, I had just never
seen the figures all in one place before. It is a list of the
trade deficits of the US in 2001.
|| $86.0 billion
|| 68.0 billion
|European Union countries
|| 60.0 billion
|| 30.0 billion
|| 13.0 billion
|| 4.5 billion
|| 3.5 billion
He is making the point that America is loosing ground compared to Asia
and Europe and that one of these days the countries in these areas are
going to call in their debt and when they do there is going to be a
major problem. This is really hard to argue with. Exactly
what this means is a lot harder to evaluate. Is there an
antithesis to this thesis or perhaps even a synthesis? Who knows,
but we should take these figures and their more recent cousins very
seriously and take some actions.
In his final area, "Liberal versus Radical", he quotes a number of
sources but ends up with, "My own belief is that there is no warding
off the Dark Age; all the evidence points in that direction." To
avoid total pessimism he concludes by saying that we don't need action,
we need theory. Well, when I got this book I was sort of hoping
to get such a theory. There goes my optimism. The books by
Lakoff and Sachs do have such theories, maybe they aren't completely
accurate but at least they try.
The book is very well documented with 41 pages of notes in fine print and 13 pages of index.
Framing The Debate
Introduction: George Lakoff
Barry Goldwater was perhaps the last Republican presidential
candidate to run for office without the voters being saturated by
conservative frames. For 40 years conservatives have been framing
political debate, as well as moral systems, values, and ideas.
They have spent more than $4 billion on think tanks, media,
training, ad agencies, etc. Their values and ideas have become
widespread. Despite the Democratic victories in 2006 these values
and ideas are not going away. Progressives need to frame their
ideas in ways that can speak to American voters.
Subtitled: Famous Presidential Speeches and How Progressives Can Use Them to Change the Conversation (and Win Elections)
Frames are mental structures that characterize ideas.
Conservatives have been framing their ideas for 40 years, only
since Don't Think of an Elephant and Thinking Points in
2004 have Democrats started framing their arguments. Feldman
points out the differences between framing and messages, framing: one's
moral worldview, core values, and underlying principles. They are
often unconscious and rather uncommon in progressive discourse.
Messages are specific communications - particular policies,
programs or events. Spin is the use of language to mislead and to
get out of an embarrassing situation.
Lakoff lists a number of traditional American values and how they lead to traditional American moral and political ideas:
The heart of conservative thought is moral authority: there is an
absolute division between good and evil. Authority derives from
being good and authority has a duty to impose moral order.
Individual discipline is required for moral action. If you
obey legal authorities and know right from wrong the social order
allows you to become a moral authority. People tend to maximize
their self interest and if all obey this principal then profit for all
is maximized. A free market is the outcome of this process.
Individual discipline is rewarded by the market and lack of it is
punished by poor monetary rewards. Government can only interfere
with this process. America is inherently good so its interests
serve good in the world. Therefore America is the moral authority
for the world. Following are some of the conservative activities
that follow from this:
- Empathy - focus on others as well as self, causation is systemic and complex as well as direct.
- Responsibility - moral, legal, and financial, both individual and social.
- Character - having empathy and acting responsibly on that empathy.
- Moral Action - it is both socially and individually based.
- Role of Government - maximize freedom, both freedom from harm and freedom to pursue happiness.
- Government uses the Common Wealth - to provide the infrastructure to allow citizens to pursue their goals.
- Moral Functions - of society require public accountability for
acts. To insure that citizens (or groups like corporations,
unions, etc.) do not use their power to interfere with the freedoms and
rights of others.
- War - inherently destructive and should be used only as a last resort for the protection of the population.
- Moral Action - involves empathy and responsible action in response to that empathy.
The Progressive argument is that progressive ideas about government
help people and that conservative ideas about government harm people.
- Responsibility - moral, legal, financial - is individual responsibility.
- Character - moral strength, backbone, discipline, steadfastness.
- Everyone can act morally - all you need is discipline.
- The laissez-faire free market is both natural and normal, its results are fair.
- Anyone can succeed in a free market - all you need is discipline = character.
- The rich thus deserve their wealth and the poor deserve their poverty.
- Nature is a resource for human use; it should be turned to profit and property.
- Individual property rights outweigh any common good.
- Government programs harm people by giving them unearned goods, it
takes away their discipline. Such government is bureaucratic,
inhuman, oppressive, inefficient, and wasteful.
- Taxes are money that government takes out of the pockets of hard-working citizens and then wasted.
- Private enterprise always performs better than government.
- There is absolute, clearly delineated good and evil, America is inherently good.
- War in the name of American interests is noble.
- Morality is obedience to moral authority and failure to obey moral authority should be punished.
Preface Progressive is an old political term. Teddy
Roosevelt founded a progressive party in 1912, Robert La Follett, Sr.
in 1924, an Henry Wallace in 1948 (FDR's former vice president).
The progressive movement since 2004 has been to elect Democrats.
This has developed on two fronts. The first is a large
number of citizens getting involved in the day-to-day activities of the
Democratic party. The second is a massive effort to identify and
understand the principles of the Democratic Party and find the best way
to communicate them persuasively to the American people. "Framing
the Debate" is seen as a major part of this effort. This has been
called a "laptop revolution" referring to the emergence of politics
driven by blogs, media, and internet communications. This book is
written to help Americans evaluate political statements and react to
them in ways that clearly apply American progressive values to the
C1 Framers and Framing
Framer or framing? Is this a new term? NO! It
is a very old and honored term. One of the definitions of framer
is "One of the people who wrote the U.S. Constitution." The
people who wrote the Constitution built the frame, the structure of our
country. The Articles of Confederation failed because the
framework wasn't up to the job. To frame your arguments means to
put them in a structure that is consistent and holds together, not just
Framing the Debate
means the presentation of political ideas and principles so as to
encourage one interpretation over another. Perhaps on way of
visualizing this is to imagine touring a traditional mansion built
between 1880 and 1920. There are many pieces of furniture and
artwork that are from the same period. Then in some of the rooms
there is a single additional avant garde or abstract painting or
sculpture. It just doesn't fit, even though individually the
pieces might be great. Your overall impression remains one of a
very elegant traditional mansion with some distracting works of art.
For the last 40 years the Republicans have been building their
mansion. Democrats have been adding new artwork but leaving the
structure in place. We need to build our own house and show that
it fits the needs of the American people better than the old Republican
Framing in Five Steps
Democrats need to stop going into the same old Republican rooms.
We need to create our own. This is not easy, the
Republicans spent 40 years and over $4 billion on their effort.
However their policies are not working to support their politics.
We have better policies, we just need better politics. The
author recommends five steps to change our politics - to better frame
the debate in our terms.
Framing Is Action Ideas,
values, morals, beliefs, etc. are stored in the brain. Through 40
years of hard work Republicans have implanted many of their ideas in
peoples brains. The way to change these ideas is to implant new
ideas. The way to do this is to understand how the process works
and then repeat our ideas until they become established in the brains
of those who are not dedicated to Republic principles. With the
internet, bloggers, cheap phone calls, and other aspects of modern
communications we no longer have to wait for news and information to
slowly work its way to newspapers and radio-TV outlets. The
citizens of the US are becoming a very powerful force for spreading new
- Stop Repeating their Words:
You can't use their tools, their words, to make our point - every
time we use one of their words (Welfare Queen, Death Tax, Tax and
Spend, etc.) we reinforce their point, we need to use our own terms
even if they are just words out of the dictionary.
- Go to Another Frame:
Our problems are not new, others have thought about them in the
past, use their ideas and terms. The book is devoted to examining
the words of a number of US Presidents.
- Build a New Frame:
Republicans may look at a given problem in a particular way, look
at the problem in a different way. Feldman examines Social
Security. Republicans see this as giving money to older people,
perhaps if they would have saved the money this wouldn't be
needed. A different frame would be to see this as protection for
older people and to gradually and humanely lead them out of the work
force to make room for younger workers.
- Break It Down: A
frame is a big narrative painted in broad strokes. It needs to be
broken down into small pieces that can be used easily. Just as a
room is made up of many individual boards, nails, etc., a new frame
will take many small phrases. This is difficult and will take
much trial-and-error. We must do it now or be prepared to spend
another 40 years in the wilderness.
- Repeat Our Words:
Once we have a message and the words necessary to get our message
across we need to repeat them many times. Most of us remember
repeating our times tables. Practice really does make perfect.
We need to convince the undecided population of our ideas and it
will take many repetitions before our message gets across.
American Roots It is
false to say that progressive ideas were a part of America since the
beginning. They ARE the country. Those who did not want to
rebel from England were the Royalists and many of them fled the country
into Canada. Those who led the Revolution were the progressives.
They had differing ideas but they all agreed on the basic
principles - see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
In writing this book Feldman selected parts of 15 speeches by
Presidents of the US. Some he uses as good examples, some as bad.
He evaluates the speech and then analyzes it from 3 points of
view, as a politician, as an activist, and as a citizen. He also
points out some of the keywords from each speech. Most of the
full text of the speeches can be found on the web site of the Miller
Center of Public Affairs, http://millercenter.virginia.edu , under their Scripts heading. Other speeches can be found in the presidential libraries or government archives.
C2 Voice of the Country George Washington, First Inaugural Address (1789)
Keywords: calling, country, humble, obedience, servant, voice.
Washington says that he was called to serve his country.
This invokes religious obligation as in God calls Abraham and
Moses to have them follow his instructions. However Washington
does not hear the voice of God, he hears the voice of his country.
This could be interpreted as a religious duty, he could not say
no. By being called he is subservient, he is not elected to be
the King of Emperor, he is President and he does not rule over the
people, they rule over him.
presidents have picked up the "guest star citizen" habit where an
uncomfortable citizen is introduced during a speech, discussed, and
then shuffled off for someone else. Washington used the "humble
servant" frame to compare himself to the "voice" of the country.
describes how he was "called" to the service of his country. As
progressives we should tell how we were "called" to the service of our
country. What caused us to change and devote a portion of our
life to this service.
Citizen Washington made
it clear that he would not accept payment for his service to his
country. He is saying that he has received enough from his
country and this additional service will not add to his wealth.
The point that we can make is that we can expect leaders (of
government and business) to forego enriching themselves while there are
millions of Americans in poverty.
C3 Wise and Frugal Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address (1801)
Keywords: frugal, government, metaphor, noble, list, unity, wise.
Looking at word frequency Jefferson uses the word "government"
many times. One of his most telling phrases is "wise and frugal
government." This sounds more like describing a person.
Almost like describing a "wise and frugal uncle", someone stand
beside you and guide you, not someone to rule you, not someone to be
used, but a guide. He talked about government as being the key
piece to ensure life, liberty and happiness in American society.
talks about a "wise government" that completes the circle that ties
together our lives. "Wise government" provides many essential
pieces, an example would be so Social Security that ties together parts
of our lives and makes it possible to live more comfortably.
Activist Jefferson was
very big on principles. A principle is like a plan without the
details. Jefferson had a long list of "principles of our
Government". Feldman recommends that we all tape a copy of this
to our refrigerator door and refer to it daily. Individual items
can be used in nearly every political occasion. This paragraph
from his speech is reproduced from his inaugural address.
Citizen Law and order.
Jefferson was big on law, he mentions, "under the will of the law
and unite in common efforts for the common good." Given the
illegal behavior, the indictments, and the lack of punishment for many
people in and out of the government quoting Jefferson and others
regarding the rule of law would be useful. Link other quotes
about law and justice.
C4 Of the People Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address (1863)
Keywords: action, ground, liberty, memory, message,
sacrifice, war. How does on evaluate this speech? Most of
us had to memorize it at some point during our school years, and it is
still as powerful now as it was then. First, look for frames -
look for repeated words or phrases. Perhaps the most important is
his repetition of "people" in "of the people, by the people, for the
people." This defines the whole speech. The war was about
preserving the government of the people.
Politician A leader could
invoke Lincoln's vision to define when soldiers are asked to die for
their country, it should only be in defense of the values that the
country is based on. If they are asked to die for monetary gain
it is a betrayal of our heritage.
Activist Talk about
service. All to often progressives use the cliché, "I
support the troops, but I am against the war." NO! Talk about
service, talk about the dedication to service of the military, talk
about how this service has been betrayed by oil companies wanting
guards for the oil fields and refineries they have stolen from the
inhabitants of the countries and how this negates the very concept of
Citizen How do you
respond to Republican relative who wants to "talk about the war" over
the dinner table. "I am opposed to the war on principle."
"It was OK to go after the bombers of 9/11 and their leaders but
not the innocent civilians or the country of Iraq. True, Saddam
was evil, but never before have we gone to war based on the suspicion
that a foreign nation may at some time in the future attack us.
When we attack a foreign country because of monetary gain that is
not the country that Washington and Jefferson founded and Lincoln
defended. That is not the America that I was born in or that my
parents were born in." The main thing is that you oppose the war
- or other illegal activity - because of principle, not because of the
policy of free oil (or whatever).
C5 The Muck Rake Theodore Roosevelt, Address on the Cornerstone Laying for the Cannon Building (1906) Keywords: character, corruption, cleaning up, cynicism, lies, progress The
address chosen was the famous "Muck Rake" speech of TR. It is
probably his most famous speech attacking corruption in Washington.
He is attacking corruption with an outraged moral - almost
religious fervor. We need to acknowledge and clean up the filth
on the foundation of the nation but we need to keep our eyes on the
sublime and strive to reach it.
Politician In 2006 the
Democrats talked about a "culture of corruption" in the Republican
party. Roosevelt is saying that these individual acts of
corruption are not the important parts, what is important is that we
can't let ourselves be dragged down into cynicism, we keep our target
on the great truths of our nation and not just on the illegal acts.
disagreements arise during a campaign it is best not to just attack the
attacker. It is better to admit that there is a problem and to
honestly try to work with the other party to solve the problem or at
least to determine just what the problem is. Use the term
"honesty" to raise the level of the debate.
Citizen When you are
discussing the views of candidates and someone asks you about his/her
positions on the issues, it is better to rephrase the question so
as to deal with the principles of the candidate and show how their
positions on the issues follows from their principles.
C6 Highways of the World Woodrow Wilson, War Message (1917)
Keywords: danger, freedom, highway, international, security.
Wilson's purpose was to describe the actions of the German
government and request that the Congress declare war on Germany.
He was also trying to convince the American public that this was
the correct action. He accomplishes this by reporting that German
warships (submarines) are targeting passenger ships and killing
innocent Americans. The Germans are a threat to America and all
nations. German submarines strike without warning and innocent
people have no chance. These submarines are acting as outlaws.
Politician The reasons
for war: Wilson documents his case against Germany, a nation has
specifically targeted our citizens and we must make them stop.
The difference between 1917 and 2001 is that in 2001 Bush did not
refer to the principle that was at risk, that of the governments
ability to protect its citizens. Bush just kept talking about the
threat. Wilson talked about what it means for the nation to be secure, Bush just talked about going to war.
Activist The Danger we
face: Regarding the War in Iraq, Republicans have continually
referred to the dangers of Terrorism. Progressives should refer
to the dangers here at home. Since the war began there have been
many more people killed by terrorists and why our efforts have not
reduced terrorism either in Iraq or in other countries.
Citizen Think Big: Both
Wilson and Bush went after the direct cause of conflict but very
rapidly Bush changed his target from Bin Laden to Iraq. We need
to re-examine our priorities and go after the real threat.
C7 Happiness is Achievement Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address (1933)
Keywords; confidence, employment, fear, money, profit,
success. The "money changers" have convinced us that happiness
was doing well in the market place. FDR says happiness lays in
the joy of achievement, the thrill of creative effort. We need
jobs but we need confidence in ourselves. We need to reorganize
Politician Health and
Happiness: For FDR the problem was employment, now a similar
problem is health care. The "money changers" have seized healing
instead of the banks. We shouldn't try to "fix" the insurance
companies, we need good health. We need caring people.
Activist War is "Joining
Up": We need to break the link between war and killing and
replace it with emergency and recruiting citizens to join together to
solve the problem. We need to inspire people to service, not to
Citizen Creativity versus
Money: It is not a contest between big business and people as to
who is responsible for negative results. Frame the debate by
saying that with all the money these big corporations make off of their
customers they should be creative enough to assist us to make the right
choices. It is not enough to earn money for their stockholders
and general officers.
C8 Us Against Them Harry Truman, Inaugural Address (1949)
Keywords: belief, enemy, faith, opposition, orientation,
threat. Truman gave the speech at the beginning of the Cold War.
He describes the principles that America is based on, then
contrasts these with the principles of Communism, and explains why
these two philosophies cannot coexist. It is an excellent example
of the "enemy" frame. The difference between the Truman "enemy"
and the Bush "enemy" is that Truman spells out a number of ways that
Communism is opposed to American values. Bush doesn't explain the
differences other than to say that we are enemies.
Politician Get Oriented:
To fight terrorism we must learn about them, what makes them
terrorists, work with our allies, and fight them smarter than they
fight us. We must be honest and realistic about how and why they
work and hit them where they are vulnerable.
Activist Strong and Fast:
We must be smart, we must anticipate the moves the terrorists
will make, and we must work with our allies to defeat the terrorists at
their own game.
Citizen Burning Building:
Since 9/11 our enemy does not stand and fight. We can't
defeat him by standing still. He is like an arsonist starting
fires in buildings. Once he starts a fire we commit ourselves to
putting it out while he escapes and we are seen in the burning
building. We must build buildings in which fires do not start.
Only when he is seen trying to burn buildings which are built to
resist fires will we win.
C9 Balance in Progress Dwight Eisenhower, Farewell Address (1961)
Keywords: corporations, diplomacy, defense, research,
judgment. Eisenhower saw that America was changing and he wanted
us to maintain a proper balance between the many forces that pushed our
nation in one direction or another. We needed to keep these
forces in balance. This is is "military-industrial complex"
speech. He is using the "balance" frame first used by the framers
of the constitution when they set up three branches of government.
He saw powerful new forces pushing the government and he was
saying that they should be evaluated carefully. He wasn't a
Luddite, rejecting progress, he just wanted every option evaluated
carefully to make sure that it was consistent with our goals as a
Politician Corruption as
Imbalance: When high officials are corrupt and favor specific
companies over other companies they do more that waste money.
They destroy the basis of government. When officials stop
working for the people of the US and start working for private groups
they begin to destroy the government of the nation.
Activist The Front Door:
The best way to explicitly describe issues is a written document
or a web site. When we are standing at the front door of a
prospective voter we are attempting to sell ourselves - not the issues
of the campaign. Democracy is based on participation and input
from all and it is important that we balance the information from all
people to come up with the best alternative. We need their input
so that we can evaluate all sides and come to the best decision.
Citizen Kitchen Table
Generals: Many people see any argument as a simplistic "nuke 'em
or not" or perhaps "Whup 'em upside the head or to cut and run".
We can always answer those questions with a, "Yes, but is that
the smartest thing to do?" We can't fight everybody all of the
time. If we can get most of what we want by diplomacy, without
killing American soldiers, wouldn't that be the best thing to do?"
We should balance a strong military with the option of
negotiation with others, we might get what we want without killing
C10 Ask and Answer John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address (1961)
Keywords: call, contrasts, country, personification, service.
One of the most famous speeches in American history. "Ask
not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for
your country." The subject of the speech is service, not just
paid duties for the government, but service as answering your countries
call. In many cases he repeats a phrase, but he inverts the
second phrase, a call to arms < > a call to bear the burden, or a
call to battle < > embattled we are. He repeats himself
many times to drive the metaphors home. Again the point is that
Americans must "begin anew," and cast off traditional notions of
service to embrace a new idea. In the future service must means
that we ask as Americans what we can
do for other Americans, we ask as free citizens of the world what we
can do for the freedom of people in general, and that our elected
leaders join us in the same high principle of service.
Politician Resetting the
Clock: The administration of of Bush - 2 was one of confrontation
and intimidation. The task of Democrats in the new Congress and
hopefully the new administration will not be to change policies but to
inspire the nation to embrace a new style of governing. We need
to start again and begin to solve the current problems without bringing
along the old arguments that have plagued us recently.
Activist Activism as
Asking: To get voters to support our candidates we need to create
a personal connection between an activist and a constituent. One
way is to point to problems in government and say that our candidate is
willing to stand up to (whoever or whatever) and if we all can join him
and government can move from being the thing that we complain about to
being something that we can do something about. We can ask people
to "join the conversation" and "stand with" the candidate.
Citizen Explore the
Stars: Kennedy ask us to explore new options, to "think outside
the box." We don't want to merely argue about the price of gas,
we want to talk about how America can become energy independent and
invent and market new technologies that we can sell to the rest of the
world and not destroy our environment.
C11 Build a Society Lyndon Johnson, University of Michigan Commencement Address (1964)
Keywords: cities, classrooms, decay, environment, opportunity, poverty.
This is his "Great Society" speech. One of the reasons why
it is a great speech is that it discusses vision and values rather than
policy. He talks about building a Great Society in three places,
in our cities, in our countryside, and in our classrooms. He uses
the metaphors that (government program, social policy, cultural policy,
and moral value) is a building. Instead of specifying specific
policy proposals he talks of the decay of urban centers being declining
values, pollution and deforestation is the withered "spirit" of each
citizen, and the lack of growth in our education system as a
description of the flagging quality of American public education.
Citizens were not just voters, they were builders.
Johnson's legacy is not the legislation, it is the defining of
progressivism in terms of building society in terms of strengthening
the character of the nation.
Politician Building, Not
Blueprint: Today progressives are continually asked for their
"plan", what are their proposed policies. This is a trap.
The best use of a politician is to set goals, to determine the
tests for the completion of these goals, and to hire the appropriate
people to determine the steps (policies) needed to reach these goals.
He should ask What am I building? Where am I building?
Why am I building? Johnson perhaps would have answered
these questions with regard to education in the following way, Why?
> The world's best schools. Where? > In classrooms.
Why? > A bright future for every child. Expressed more
Comment: When politicians lay out new "visions" strictly in terms of
programs and policies there is a great likelihood of these programs
being designed to maximize the profits for their friends. Two
recent examples of this are the War in Iraq and No Child Left Behind.
In both cases the goals, the vision, was not clearly articulated
and there were no criteria to evaluate the results. After the
fact there were patriotic sounding "reasons" for each. However in
both cases a select few companies made vast amounts of money and there
was no way of determining if the goals were being met in a reasonable
- Our challenge is not just to improve education, but to build the world's best schools.
- When we build the best schools, every child has a place to sit, to learn, and to grow.
- In rising to this challenge, we not only build great schools, but
we lay the foundation for the next generation of American leadership.
Values: Republicans commonly talk about "Family Values" and most
Democrats are at a loss to answer them. The debate is framed and
we are on the loosing side. Republican "Family Values" are more
about restrictions, about rules and requirements. Democratic
"Family Values" are more about community and neighbors and communion
with nature. A sample set of values that Democratic workers could
discuss are the following:
The specific values that a given campaign wishes to discuss can be
decided in brainstorming sessions and will differ from campaign to
campaign and candidate to candidate. They need to be stated not
as rules for conduct but as beliefs in the moral purpose of activities
that enrich the lives of American citizens.
- We believe that great education strengthens the values of respect for neighbors and service to community.
- We believe in the values of people working to preserve and to enjoy the American outdoors.
- We believe in the values of teaching new technology rooted in the ideas of our American heritage.
- We believe in the values of fostering individual creativity and responsibility.
Citizen Soulless Wealth:
All progressives share in the belief that excessive material
wealth for its own sake is anathema to a healthy society. Two
possible uses of this: 1) A discussion of the stock market and
how well it is doing. Ask if a sizable portion of this money,
these profits, which are derived from the American consumer should not
go towards solving some of the problems we are having, health,
environment, energy, and religious conflict. 2) What is
money? Why not use barter? I make good bread, you raise
good cows, why not trade some bread for some meat? Well, in a
complex society like ours I don't know anyone who makes automobiles or
refines oil. We use money so that we can "barter at a distance."
But when we barter for bread and meat I don't expect 100 pounds
of steak for one loaf of bread, and I certainly don't expect to receive
1 pound of hamburger for 100 loaves of bread. Why do some people
expect millions of dollars for the time they spend helping to build a
car or refine oil. Everyone has a right to a reasonable standard
of living, why do some people expect over 400 times as much as others
in the same business? Progressives believe in capitalism, but in
a capitalism based on principles, not on a capitalism based on nothing
C12 I have Succeeded Richard Nixon, Resignation Speech (1974)
Keywords: association, boasting, misdirection, spin, work.
An example of the difference between framing and spin.
Nixon uses three rhetorical devices that constitute spin, Misdirection, Boasting, and Association.
Nixon's resignation was brought about by charges related to
criminal behavior, his speech invokes the "work" frame, "I have never
been a quitter.", "America needs a full-time President and a
full-time Congress.", and "I will not be here in this office
working on your behalf." He uses misdirection to talk about his
work when the country is concerned about the crimes that he committed.
It was successful, many conservatives still don't believe he
committed any crimes.
The second spin device used was boasting. He boasted of four
major foreign policy achievements, Ending the Vietnam War,
Diplomacy with China, Diplomacy with the Middle East, and the Nuclear
Treaty with the Soviet Union. The fact that he did his job is
somehow an excuse for breaking the law. This was a speech about
his accomplishments - tragically cut short by Watergate.
He also claimed a relationship to Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt had
made a speech in which he said that great men always have critics who
find fault with him. He is claiming an association with Teddy
Roosevelt and claiming that he (Nixon) is a great man when in fact he
escaped being charged with crimes only because he resigned and Ford
pardoned him. The spin is not the only reason many conservatives
still say good things about Nixon but it served as a starting point for
Swiftboating refers to the practice of having a group, not
directly associated with a campaign, spread lies about an opposition
candidate. Bush supporters lied about Kerry's service as a
swiftboat captain in the Vietnam war and it was successful probably
because Kerry did not fight back quick enough. It is risky,
Patrick Murphy was attacked this way in his run for congress in 2006
but he fought back and he later won the election. The goal here
is the same as the misdirection of Nixon. It is to shift
discussion away from the real issues and redirect the discussion to
falsified personal shortcomings of the target. Feldman feels that
the best defense is to attack the motives of the person making the
attack, to accuse the person/side doing the attack of using
political gangs who are trying to silence the people. The
candidate should immediately go to the attack on the person/group doing
the attacking and call attention to their lies, their attempt to change
the focus of the debate, and to reiterate his reasons for holding his
positions. He gives examples that could be used against Bush and
Cheney but might be limited in their usefulness against others.
Trolls are conservative agitators who visit progressive online
communities and use inflammatory language to disrupt and derail
discussion. Again their object is to misdirect. In the
online community they want to start a "flame-war". They are
trying to disrupt the campaign and redirect the discussion towards
their own purposes.
Citizen Trains Run On
Time: This reflects the claim made by Mussolini that he made the
trains run on time. The point here is that a crooked politician
can claim that even though he made a few mistakes, his good work is
more important. The important fact here is that the crooked
politician is using boasting and misdirection to change the debate.
The answer here is, "Yes, he did some good work, but he is still
a criminal and that is what we are discussing." Remember that the
goal is not to defeat the diehard supporter, it is to influence others
that may not have made up their mind.
C13 Down that Path Jimmy Carter, Televised Address to the Nation (1979)
Keywords: crisis, confidence, doubt, energy, progress, vision.
One of the most difficult things for any President to do is to
tell the nation that he has bad news. He was faced with rising
energy prices and increasing interest rates. In this speech he is
trying to balance the markets, shore up supplies, and give people a
sense of direction. He is saying that the nation is on a path
that leads downhill, a path that is lead by a lack of confidence.
The solution to this crisis is a path out of the hole.
Politician Talk to the
People: Instead of pointing to individuals in the audience and
talking about them, one should actually talk to people and report on
what they said.
Activist Faith in
Progress: "Faith" is a difficult word for progressives. The
Republican party acts like they own faith and religion and attacks
progressives for conducting a "war" on religion. Carter is
proposing the frame that Confidence is Faith in Progress. Faith
is more than religion, Americans have the faith that our
children's lives will be better than our own, faith in good government,
faith in democracy and faith in each other. Progressives have
never lost that faith and they work hard to maintain it in our country.
Citizen Smear Campaigns:
The "October Surprise" is well known to progressives. Late
in the campaign the candidate is hit from the side with a smear
campaign attempting to discredit him. "Swiftboating" is one
response to such an attack, another is to point out that progressives
look forward, not back. The important thing is to focus on the
future, what can be, not what someone may have said at some time in the
C14 A Small Story Ronald Reagan, Farewell Address to the Nation (1989)
Keywords: Audience, communicating, grandfather, policy,
promise. Reagan was known as "The Great Communicator". Not
so much because of what he said but how he said it. He was a past
master of framing the debate. This particular speech used the
frame of a wise old man telling stories around a blazing fire. He
used story telling to put his listeners back in time and he was able to
spin out a story so that the listeners critical facilities were never
engaged. The author calls Reagan warm of manner but brutal of
policy. It would be very helpful if more progressives could tell
a story in which the small things could have a great meaning for their
Politician Set the Stage:
Most progressive politicians jump right in and start talking
policies. A more successful strategy is to set the stage by
laying out a particular frame around which a policy is set. He
uses another example, John Edwards in his 2004 Democratic Convention
speech. He discusses how his hardworking parents helped him go to
college and how all Americans need these same opportunities.
Setting the stage is much more than a little narrative dressing:
it is the essential act of grounding the frame in actual, lived
experiences to create a bridge between the ideas and the listener.
Activist Big Meaning,
Small Things: In the 1960's and 1970's progressive protests of
hundreds of thousands of people was seen as the way to achieve
political change. Recently it has been more of "big meanings" in
"small things". Probably the best example of this was the quest
of Cindy Sheehan to talk to Bush about her son who was killed in Iraq.
Her actions let people identify with her and her personal
tragedy. Reagan had the ability to do this by telling a small
Citizen The Dinner Table:
Reagan's "all great change begins at the dinner table" ties into
the frame of a happy family around a laden table. Progressives
all to often see politics as beginning in the public square. We
need to be more willing to discuss politics in much more informal
settings. You don't do this by defending your side loudly,
you need to foster debate by asking why or how a particular issue
is important and what it means. Ask the person to explain what he
C15 Government is a Person Bill Clinton, Second Inaugural Address (1997)
Keywords: building, forward, future, journey, responsible.
His speech talked about how government can best serve the people
by helping people move forward.
Politician Begin at the
Beginning: Progressive speechs generally discuss situations that
lack something or in need of repair and then describe how we can make
it better. Conservative speechs often discuss a situation that
they view as a hindrance and want to remove it. Progressives want
to move forward, conservatives want to move backwards. Clinton's
speech asked, Where we are now? Where are we heading?
Are there obstacles ahead? Thinking in these terms forces a
progressive candidate to orient and establish their vision.
Activist Elevator Speech:
An "elevator speech" is a short, one sentence statement that
explains what it means to be a progressive. They are an old sales
technique and sales teams have then on hand at all times when they
don't have the time for the full sales pitch. An example from The American Prospect is the Republican elevator speech for the last few years.
We believe in freedom and liberty, low taxes, less government, traditional values, and a strong defense.
Feldman describes a technique that can be used to produce such a sentence. An example is the following:
We believe in prosperity and opportunity, strong communities, healthy familys and the world's best schools.
An example from Clinton's Second Inaugural is:
"Once again, we are building stronger
families, thriving communities, better educational opportunities, a
cleaner environment ..."
They will differ with different circumstances but building one is a
great way of building unity. They can be printed on cards,
memorized, and used in the field. This process will clarify our
thinking, making it easier to communicate our values to others.
Citizen Connect to Progressive Speakers: In his second Inaugural, Clinton referred to Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech.
He showed that King's comments were very similar to what he was
saying. In a sense he was receiving help from King on the podium.
This technique can be used in dinner table conversations as well
as in inaugural speeches. The following factors are used in this
He gives several examples of how this can be used in normal discourse.
- Familiarity: An active awareness of past progressive speakers and their speeches.
- Habit: Thing about the current debate in terms of progressive ideas that came before.
- Practice: Trying repeatedly to connect current ideas with the words of prior speakers.
- Signposting: Key phrases inserted into the debate that direct people to the words of past progressive speakers.
C16 Evil Will Attack George W. Bush, State of the Union (2002)
Keywords: doomsday, either-or, repetition, selling, terror.
One of the hallmarks of Republican speeches during the Bush era
has been the ideas of Frank Luntz. Luntz has spent much time and
money determining the words that elicit the proper response when
repeated by Republicans. Every month or so a set of words
defining a particular frame are given to Republican organizations and
these phrases and words are repeated endlessly by Republican political
figures. They are led in this effort by the past master of
repetition, George W. Bush. He, seemingly endlessly, repeats his
central points over and over and over again. He has based his
whole presidency on the issue of Iraq and an "us" or "them" mentality.
The concept of compromise is totally excluded.
Politician Ticking Bomb:
We need torture to get information out of terrorists before we
are bombed! It sounds good, but it doesn't work. I am
either missing something or his description is lacking something.
Activist Magic Words:
Progressives must become more adept at finding out the Republican
keywords and evaluating how they can be countered. One way to do
this is to examine all of Bush's speeches by going to the White House
website (http://www.whitehouse.gov), finding words and phrases that
seem to be "magic words" and then compare them to other sources (blogs,
Yahoo news, Washington Post, Fox news, conservative think tanks like
the Heritage Foundation) and evaluate them to see what bigger ideas
they invoke. As a final step, progressives need to post these
"magic words" in a public place - like a blog - to warn others about
Citizen Turning on the
Lights: One of the most effective frame that the conservatives
use is the fear frame. One way to counter this is to compare an
event, like 9/11, more close to home, like the number of deaths due to
drunk driving incidents or heart disease - both of which kill more
every year than 9/11. Another way is to ask the question,
"Why do Republicans talk about terrorist attacks the most when Democrats are leading in an election or in opinion polls?
The strategy is to focus attention on the politics of fear. It
may not always work, this frame has been used so much in the last 10
years that it is deeply ingrained. However every time we counter
the fear frame the less effective it becomes.
C17 The Three P's of Progressive Politics
We need to listen to and process the words we hear in newscasts
and other media. We need to pay attention to the words and
phrases used and scan for significant or "magic words". Feldman
uses as an example the report of a presidential speech. In this
several words jump out as being significant, "protect", "terrorism",
and "voted against". Our progressive framer checks several
articles in the morning newspaper, sure enough "protect" and
"terrorism" show up in them. Then she goes to the White House web
site to check the recent speeches of the President, there they are
again. On her way to work our progressive framer thinks about a
few questions running through her head, Who
is making this claim?, How are the words "protect" and
"terrorism" being used: What is the unspoken logic being driven
by this statement? Which words will I use to reframe this idea?
Framing the debate is not just about finding the one campaign
slogan or the perfect political ad, it is a set of daily habits.
It is ongoing, daily, and long-term, and involves three key
concepts -- participation, principle, and promise.
Participation -- "Bottom Up" vs. "Top Down"
The Republican party has been working on the "top down" approach
for some time. The Republican National Committee collects lists
of keywords and key phrases. These are evaluated and the "best"
are distributed to the Republican leadership. Then Bush gives a
speech with these words and phrases and the Republican leadership
chimes in by repeating these words and phrases. These are also
passed on to conservative journalists (?) and often picked of by the
The new progressive framing takes a "bottom up" approach. Ideally
attempts at framing the debate start off with local discussions of a
particular issue. This generates comments or short essays which
travel through progressive infrastructure (email lists, websites,
blogs, etc.) and end up at the in-boxes of political staffers. As
these pass up the line officials and candidates craft messages
influenced by these ideas. "top down" is the method of a
dictatorship, "bottom up" is the message of a Lincoln, Of the People,
By the People, For the People.
is important for progressives but even more important are the
principles that can be understood in reference to the following basic
The answer to the first was so eloquently stated by Lincoln, "of the
people, by the people, for the people". Feldman goes on to offer
more comments on a similar vein by Jimmy Carter, Teddy Roosevelt,
Lyndon Johnson, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, and
Bill Clinton but Lincoln still said it best. The only thing that
we should additionally understand is that "the people" should be
extended to all people of all nations. We should always fight
against government of the few, by the few, for the few which all too
often is the motto of those in power. In terms of specific issues
we can't just blindly quote Lincoln's phrase, we need to consider the
issue and evaluate the possibilities but the answer should always meet
the test that Lincoln puts forward.
- What is good government?
- What do Americans hope to achieve for themselves?
- How should America relate to other nations?
- What will the legacy of America be?
Promise The Conservative
movement over the last several decades has made a number of promises to
the American people. Then they have established policies which
they say will fulfill these promises. Unfortunately the actual
results have been more in line with their real goals, not what they
said. Their real goals have been to increase the wealth of
themselves and their co-believers, to offer military protection for
their financial assets and initiatives outside the boundaries of the
nation, and to provide an environment where their religious beliefs and
values control the culture of the United States.
||Tax refunds, market deregulation, union busting
||Concentration of wealth
||Weapons spending, military expansion, preemptive strikes
||Irresponsible use of the military
|Control over cultural values
||Promotion of religion and prohibition of certain behavior
What is the Progressive promise? There are three primary elements of this promise:
This promise frames American politics in terms of a vision of
responsibility, opportunity, and security to be codified in a core set
- Responsible Government
- Opportunity for everyone
- Smart security
While these goals point out the flaws in our current policies the main
purpose of them is to offer a new standard of evaluation, how the old
policies have failed and a way to evaluate possible new policies.
The author discusses the War in Iraq, health care, and election
reform and offers some specific policies which advance the above goals
and would have the effect of increasing the faith of America in the
ability of the government to be a positive force in their lives.
- Protecting Americans through honest and active diplomacy, a firm
policy of guarding all the gates into the country, and a shift towards
independence from foreign nation for vital sources of energy.
- To advance opportunity for everyone through universal healthcare, great public schools for all children, and fair wages.
- To return confidence in government through fair elections,
balanced and accountable representation of the people, and equal rights
for all citizens.
The 3 C's of Conservative Control
The last four Republican presidents have all attempted to force
America into their vision of morality, Nixon fought hard for unlimited
executive power, Reagan very strongly pushed his "trickle down"
economics, the "No New Taxes" of George H. W. Bush, and the tax cuts
and and conservative theology of George W. Bush. The result has
been many measures which serve to penalize the poor, deregulate market
rules that protect small investors, and undermine labor laws.
They have operated to push what Feldman calls the 3 C's:
Our goals, as progressives, must be to turn around these efforts and
move to habits, principles, and a vision that carry our American
tradition into the future.
- Corporatism top down policies that reward only the officers and stockholders
- Clericalism follow the dictates of specific religious dogma over the principles of the Constitution
- Conquest an imperial policy advocating a military conquest to expand American interests