Bush and Iraq.

July 24, 2007 § Leave a comment


Jon Cohen and Dan Balz write in The Washington Post: “Most Americans see President Bush as intransigent on Iraq and prefer that the Democratic-controlled Congress make decisions about a possible withdrawal of U.S. forces, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. . . .

“[B]y a large margin, Americans trust Democrats rather than the president to find a solution to a conflict that remains enormously unpopular. . . .

“Many would like Congress to assert itself on Iraq, and about half of poll respondents said congressional Democrats have done ‘too little’ to get Bush to change his war policy. . . .

White House Watch — News on President George W Bush and the Bush Administration – washingtonpost.com

The problem is that the administration lacks competenece at strategy and diplomacy. I think the situation we are in is as follows:

1. We were very wrong to go into Iraq

2. We might have been wrong to go into Afghanistan earlier. Afghanistan represents the same imperial power denying reality (our support of the Taliban against the Soviets)

3. We have stirred up a massive reaction against us, not only from within Islam, but all our Allies: Europe, Japan, Latin America.

4. To pull out of Iraq now would leave a much stronger Islamic fundamentalism and secular Islamic hatred of the US in place and entrenched.  It would also probably lead to increased cross border violence in the Middle East.

5. This logic should lead to the conclusion that we should stay.

6. But the reality is the U.S. does not have the diplomatic skill to participate in and help create the necessary multilateral relationships to carry out this policy.

7. Further, the U.S. goals for oil and bases in the Middle East would not be let go off by this administration and hence a modest strategy of trying to win friends and stabilize the Middle East is undermined by these closely held goals of the administration.

8. The result is we lack all credibility that in fact requires a change of heart and perspective towards the deeper dilemmas of the Middle East and to abandon our narrow support of economic interests and our support of Israel in its current belligerent form.

9. It follows that the only viable path is to announce that we give up the bases and the embassy and start withdrawing troops.

10. Since the White House will not agree to this Congress must take stronger steps to withdraw authorization and to fund only a drawdown of the troops and equipment.

11. This leaves to a later date the issue of the reorientation of American policies at the strategic level.  That puts great pressure on whoever wins the next presidential election.  Problems with Afghanistan and Pakistan are too likely to lead the next administration to find continuity in policy and not do the necessary reorientation.


Clinton’s speech

October 19, 2006 § Leave a comment


Bill Clinton’s speech Yesterday (excerpts and comments, link for whole at the end)

I have been asked to talk today about the common good in terms of how it affected my presidency. Therefore, I will not, unless the questions arise at — spend an enormous amount of time talking

You have heard that I came here nearly 15 years ago to deliver a series of speeches outlining my philosophy of government and the ideas that I’ve proposed to pursue if I got elected.

In the context of late 1991, I defined the common good as a new covenant for equal opportunity, shared responsibility, an inclusive community and an aggressive approach to try to create those values throughout the world at the end of the Cold War. It was what I thought America should do to advance the common good, really just a restatement of what our Founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor to, to form a more perfect union.

DC: the aggressive pushing of American values is striking, though what he means by American values, reflected in the speech, with its interest in democracy as conversation, is different from what Bush means, which I think is just media controlled voting., with elites in power. To the extent that Bush has a view).

Given the nature of the political debate today, I think it’s important to point out that that 18th-century construct in 21st- century language meant the following: we are not perfect, we never will be perfect, no one has the whole truth, but we can always do better. That’s what a more perfect union meant. It is a permanent mission for America designed to make America a permanent work in progress.

And the most important point I can make about that for the purposes of my remarks today is that I really believed more strongly when I left here than when I came that ideas matter, that evidence matters, that thinking and reasoning matter, that ideas have consequences and that in politics that means ideas lead to policies which have positive or negative effects in people’s lives.

I believed then, based on the experiences I had here, that not everyone who disagreed with me was my enemy, that I might be wrong; that as forcefully as I pursued anything I believed in and any argument that I embraced, I had to always be willing to listen to others; and that in the interplay, the dialectic, between my position and another, the searching for more facts, the searching for better argument and, frankly, just facing the evidence of what did and didn’t work and what the consequences of various courses were, that I would come to a better place as a public official. I believed that then, I believe that now.

You heard in President DeGioia’s remarks — I wonder how many college presidents even quote Latin anymore; I loved it. (Laughter.) — the same conviction. When I gave these Georgetown speeches, they allowed me to set out this construct of equal opportunity, shared responsibilities, inclusive community, an aggressive approach to engagement with the rest of the world. I thought that they were consistent with the traditional American values of work and family, freedom and responsibility, faith and tolerance; that as a Democrat, that I was being faithful to Andrew Jackson’s credo of opportunity for all and special privileges for none, to President Kennedy’s call for mutual responsibility and citizen service, and to Franklin Roosevelt’s commitment to continuous innovation, to bold persistent experimentation.

Dc: progressives are choosing strange icons. For Jackson see wikipedia Jackson

He did the spils system was military minded, and was opposed (maybe not a bad idea, bt not clinton’s style) to anational bank.

I also asked there and throughout the `92 campaign for a political debate that engaged these themes, that moved away from what I then thought was an unacceptable level of partisanship and rancor, and a tendency to let elections turn on issues that had nothing to do with the decisions that leaders would make after the election was over or the consequences on ordinary people’s lives, politics of division and personal destruction.

Dc: what seems missing is an analysis of WHY this happens. See my Eighty Percent Solution

I frequently cited in that year a book that was written that I think has special relevance today, even though for all you 15 years in a lifetime ago, and I swear this was in my notes before I saw him in the audience. But E.J. Dionne, this distinguished columnist for The Washington Post, wrote a book called “Why Americans Hate Politics.” And the central thesis was that Americans hate politics because it seems irrelevant to them, and they feel like they’re being manipulated because they’re always being asked to make false choices: You’re either pro-labor or pro-business, you’re pro-growth or pro- environment, you’re for a strong national defense or for trying to make an agreement with everybody no matter how crazy they are — that there’s always an either/or choice.

Dc: I agree, as far as he goes, but WHY?

And the truth is, most of us don’t think that way, most of us don’t live our lives that way and most of us long for a politics where we have genuine arguments, vigorous disagreements, but we don’t claim to have the whole truth and we don’t demonize our opponents and we’re really trying to work on what works best for the American people.

Dc: I wonder who he means by “us”? There is a culture implied, a culture of conversation and emotional restraint while engaged with passion. Mostly lost, I fear.

Everybody knows this kind of down deep in their gut. That’s why — I think that’s why I’ve gotten such a strong response to the work I’ve done with former President Bush since I left office on the tsunami and on Katrina and with former Senator Dole, who was my opponent in ’96, when we raised $100 million to guarantee a college education to the spouses and children of all the people killed or disabled on 9/11.

It’s not that we want a bland, mushy, meaningless politics. We like our debates. The country has been well-served by its progressive and by its conservative traditions. We understand that campaigns will be heated and only one side can win. But we want it to be connected somehow to the real lives of real people to the aspirations of ordinary Americans to the future of our children and grandchildren.

Now, this sort of politics — striving for the common good — for me, stands in stark contrast to both the political and governing philosophy of the leadership in Washington today and for the last six years. The more ideological, right-wing element of the Republican party has been building strength partly in reaction to things that happened 40 years ago, Barry Goldwater’s defeat to what they saw as the excesses of the ’60s. It got a lot of legs when President Reagan was elected. But this is the first time when on a consistent basis the most conservative, most ideological wing of the Republican party has had both the executive and the legislative branch with a very distinct governing philosophy and a very distinct political philosophy, where us common good folks favor equal opportunity and empowerment, they believe the country is best served by the maximum concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the right people — “right” in both senses. (Laughter.)

Dc: he misses the opportunity to separate the followers from the leaders. He is describing the leaders and their corporate sponsors.

We believe in mutual responsibility. They believe that in large measure people make or break their own lives, and you’re on your own.

Dc: this is too simple us-them. Both sides nead a critique of what is working and what is not, of the consequences, and alternatives.

So there is this sense that the world is divided between the good guys and the bad guys, and the good guys should have their nuclear weapons, and the bad guys shouldn’t.

We might all feel that way, but it’s a very hard argument to make.

I say to that to remind you it is very hard to succeed in politics when you’re telling people they’re ugly all the time.

You have to oppose people who do things that are wrong, but it is very hard to say there’s going to be one set of rules for me and another set for everyone else.

I think the “common good” approach on national security worked. It was a combination of carrots and sticks. We did have military encounters. We didn’t succeed at everything we tried to do, but I think on balance, the world was safer when we stopped than when we started.

Now, the same thing works in politics. I think the central challenge to American politics today is that what I would call the “uncommon good” approach has been so successful. May not be in three weeks, but it has been. We believe in a politics — us “common good” folks — dominated by evidence and argument. There is a big difference between a philosophy and an ideology on the right or the left. If you have a philosophy, it generally pushes you in a certain direction or another. But like all philosophers, you want to engage in discussion and argument. You are open to evidence, to new learning. And you are certainly open to debate the practical applications of your philosophy. There are, you might wind up making a principled agreement with someone with a different philosophy.

If you look at the welfare reform legislation which passed, for example, when I was president, I vetoed the first two bills because they took away the guarantee of food and medicine for poor people. When those things were put back in, I signed it.

Some people who shared my philosophy disagreed with my decision because they said that we shouldn’t have a hard and fast requirement for people on welfare who are able-bodied to work. I disagreed. I thought work was the best social program, and I thought it would help to overcome a lot of the pathologies in the families of poor people. And I also think you should never patronize the poor; they’re basically as smart as the rest of us without the same breaks. So I thought that.

So we had a conservative idea on welfare reform: If you can work, you got to go to work. But in addition to that, one of the reasons that it worked is that there was a huge increase in support for people to go to work. A huge increase in child care. A huge increase in transportation assistance; a lot of these people didn’t have cars. A huge increase in worker training and support. And other things that were essential. In other words, because we had a philosophical debate, with plenty of politics and two vetoes, we had a creative tension which led us to a dynamic center — not a mooshy center, a dynamic center — that worked.

The problem with ideology is if you got an ideology, you already got your mind made up, you know all the answers, and that makes evidence irrelevant and argument a waste of time, so you tend to govern by assertion and attack. The problem with that is that discourages thinking and gives you bad results. This new Bob Woodward book, “State of Denial,” is well named, but I think it’s important to point out that if you are an ideologue, denial is an essential part of your political being, whichever side. Listen to me. You’ve got to — because if you’re an ideologue, you’ve got your mind made up. So when an inconvenient pops up, you have to be in denial. It has to be a less significant fact.

And what they mean by that, in fairness to them, what they mean by that is that we are an empire, we’re the world’s only military superpower, and that you can use power to change reality. And if you don’t see that, then you will always be condemning your country to a lesser status.

I — when I was a kid, I grew up in an alcoholic home. I spent half my childhood trying to get into the reality-based world, and I like it here. (Laughter, applause.)

You can have these arguments, but in every case, the evidence is relevant. In every case, the act of entering into a conversation with someone else and listening to what they have to say means that you know you might not be right about everything. You might have something to learn. There might be an ongoing process in which, when you put all these perspectives together, you come out with something that will actually move the ball forward toward a more perfect union, that will actually make lives better for ordinary Americans.

I believe while much has changed in the last 15 years — the acceleration to an interdependent global economy based on information technology is more apparent, it’s clearer than it was then that we’re all vulnerable to terror, to weapons of mass destruction, to climate change — much has changed, but that has not changed.

The relentless search for the common good, to devise policies that promote equal opportunity, shared responsibility and inclusive community, is still relevant to the present day. And to have a politics that celebrates our partisan differences, loves our brawling debates, but has just enough humility to know that we all might be wrong and that we have something to learn from one another — I believe that is still relevant. And I believe that you can make a compelling case that it works.

My reasoning was two-fold. One is, if you get the deficit down and keep it down, interest rates will be so low you’ll be giving another couple of thousand dollars a year to working middle-class families.

And two, the baby boomers are fixing to retire and they will impose a great burden on society when they quit working, so if we were running a surplus for several years and paying down our debt, we would stabilize Social Security by putting the interest savings into the Social Security trust fund and have the funds necessary to meet whatever health care challenge was there.

But that’s a common good theory. And again, people can argue whether I was right or wrong, but I believe it was right.

Now we have added about $3 trillion to the national debt. We have a trade deficit annually that’s more than twice as big as the budget deficit.

And I think there’s another common good question. Is it in the interest of the common good for the United States to borrow money every day from China, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom to finance my tax cut and our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan? That’s what we do. We basically knock on the door of these banks every day and say — this is a weekday — we’ll say, “Can you give us a little more money to pay for Bill Clinton’s tax cut and our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq?” We don’t use those words, but that’s what it is. And we say, “Our kids will pay you back.”

Now, to me, that’s not consistent with the common good. Our 10th-biggest creditor — you know who our 10th-biggest creditor is? Mexico.

So we’re having all these big debates now about immigration, but we know, whatever you think should be done there — and I have my own views — but we know one thing. The overwhelming majority of these poor Mexicans that pour across the Rio Grande River, wherever they can get across every day, are coming to this country because they can make more money here, and they send a bunch of their money home to their mothers and fathers and their children. Whatever you think about it, no one disputes that, right?

So it seems to me like it would be better deal if the Mexicans kept their money, invested it in their own people, gave them a good education and gave them a good chance to have a decent job.

There was a story in the paper yesterday said they’re about to get a trillion dollars in cash money — the Chinese. Forty-five percent of our debt is now held by people who are non-Americans. One country alone could trade with the currency.

So I was a big free trader, and a lot of people thought that was inconsistent with the common good, but I did believe in enforcing our agreements. There are only 20 percent as many trade enforcement actions taken today as there was — were when I was president. Part of the reason is that a lot of our trade disputes are with the Chinese, and they’re our banker. When’s the last time you got tough on your banker? (Laughter.)

The point I want to make is, you don’t have to agree with me about any of this, but we should solve this problem based on what we think is the common good.

I do not think it makes any sense to borrow money to pay my tax cuts and ask my daughter’s generation to pay it off. I don’t think it’s good economics today or good economics tomorrow. And I think it is a big gamble to say that everybody will always have to pay our debt.

But we don’t talk about it in these terms. I haven’t heard anybody say — actually get up and explain to the American people how we finance our deficits. From whom do we get the money? What are the consequences? What are the alternatives?

I try always to mention in every speech I give now that when the human genome was sequenced, the most interesting finding to me was that all human beings are genetically more than 99.9 percent the same. Yet all of us spend over 90 percent of our lives — I know less than anyone else — thinking about that one-tenth of 1 percent. I’m older, I’m younger, I’m taller, I’m shorter, I’m smarter, I’m richer, I’m poorer, I’m this, I’m that or the other thing. You think about the way we organize our lives, it’s all about that one-tenth of 1 percent. All the common good is is a reaffirmation of the fact that in the end, in order for your one-tenth of 1 percent to flower, to amount to a hill of beans, you have to give others the same chance, that the 99.9 percent is ultimately more important. And without tending to that, you can’t possibly unleash the one-tenth of 1 percent.

I long for the day when my party does not represent both the progressive and the conservative strains in the search for the common good, but we do today.

We are the conservative party on the budget, on natural resources, on military resources; and the progressive party on the minimum wage, on health care, on education.

I long for the day when we will return to a debate that is not about who’s a good person and who’s a slug, not about who represents the religious truth and who is basically running for office on his or her way to Hell. (Laughter.) We’re laugh — you laugh, but you know I’m telling you the truth. (Laughter.)

I long for the day when Republicans and Democrats will sit around and have these raucous, exciting arguments and actually love learning from one another, and when we create the common good out of a dynamic center.

It works. You can just look at the evidence and compare it to what went before and what happened after. Ideological, divisive, demonizing, distracting politics, they may be very good for an election, particularly when people feel unsettled and insecure, but they don’t do much to advance the common good.

So whatever your politics are, I hope that throughout your life, you will try to advance it, because that’s what our Founders told us to do, and they turned out to be pretty smart. They figured it out more than two centuries before the scientists discovered that we are 99.9 percent the same.

Inserted from <http://www.rawstory.com/news/2006/Bill_Clinton_talks_about_common_good_1018.html>

On George Lakoff’s Thinking Points

October 18, 2006 § Leave a comment

    Further thoughts on Lakoff. and his new book (with the Rockland Institute), Thinking Points. I am fairly negative because I think the misconception is so undermining of the real political choices the voters feel. My comments follow each “dc:”


    dc: the first sentence is

    America today is in danger. It faces the threat of domination by a radical, authoritarian right wing that refers to itself as “conservative,” as if it were preserving and promoting American values.

    In fact, it has been trampling on them.

    dc: not a way to appeal to people beyond the progressive edge. It also makes the right wing into really bad guys, but my perspective is that those voting republican are in reaction to a system, which we can call modernism, which is the same system creating the increasingly distorted distribution of wealth, threatening the environment, and handing power to corporations. Why create an “us-them” division when we all have a similar diagnosis?

    American values are inherently progressive, but progressives have lost their way. As traditional Americans, that is, as progressive  Americans, we are beginning to lose our identity, the very values that have made America a great and free country—a country where tolerance has led us to unity, where diversity has given us strength, where acting for the common good has brought our dreams to fruition, and where respect for human dignity has increased opportunity, released creativity, and generated wealth.

    dc: The Founding Fathers were progressive in some ways but not others. It is a mixed story of private property, elite leaderships, and slavery. ” Progressive” now is also mixed, is also aligned with, and often equated, in the minds of voters, to modernism, which is also technocratic.

    We have lost hold of the terms of political debate, and even ceded the language of progressive ideals—like “freedom” and “liberty”—to redefinition by an extremist right wing.

    dc: Freedom and liberty have not been taken over by the right wing, but by free market capitalism.

    We perceived a need among grassroots progressives for a short, easy-to-read, systematic account of the progressive vision, for the principles that apply across issue areas, and for all the essentials of framing—a handbook that can be carried around in pocket or purse and accessed over the Internet. Here it is.

    dc: this sounds good. But we are not off to a good start with the quotes above. The following lays out their method.

    Along the way, we have introduced some new concepts. For instance, we present up-to-date research on deep framing—the moral values and political principles that cut across issues and that are required before any slogans or clever phrases can resonate with the public. We look at argument frames—the general overall structure of argument forms used by both liberals and conservatives. And we inquire as to why conservatives focus on direct causation while liberals see systemic, or complex, causation.

    Most important, we examine and reject the idea of an ideological “center.” It is not made up of “moderates,” nor is it defined by issues spread across a left-to-right spectrum. Instead, the “center” is made up of biconceptuals. The idea of biconceptualism is essential to understanding—and changing—American politics. We explain why progressives can and should talk to biconceptuals in the same way they talk to their base.

    dc: I certainly agree that the center is not the average of left and right, I do not agree that “the center” lacks in its own integrity to this degree. What they call bi-conceptual, a kind of political schizophrenia, may actually be a more coherent reaction to a system that makes things seem worse both for progressives and conservatives.

    We now shift to the introduction

    Our greatest patriots have been those who articulated and acted on these principles. They gave life to our Constitution through their courage and their convictions. Their legacy is our proudest common heritage. It humbles us. We write so we, too, may act on our deepest convictions.

    dc: the problem is the founding fathers have a Lockian view of the dominance of private property, and wanted to prevent a tyranny of the majority, what we call a democracy. The book’s full list of good guys is an interesting one.

    George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglass, Harriett Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Stanton, Martin Luther King jr, ,Rosa Parks, Mother Jones, Ceazar Chavez, and Sojurner Truth, John Muir, Rachel Carson, and Daniel Ellsberg.

    This is a very narrow reading of American history, even of progressive history, and hardly defines a system.

    Lincoln and the two Roosevelt’s are then added but Lincoln gave us what Edmund Wilson called “patriotic gore”, and the first Roosevelt was quite conservative, an extreme nationalist, and very much in favor of war and empire. His attack on the corporations was handed over by him to Taft, who sided with the corporations. These details help explain complex currents of American political life and pasting them over to define good guys and bad guys is not a good model for dealing with the complexity of our future.

    But the book’s real identification of progressive is with a second Roosevelt.

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt went a step further and permanently established government’s central role in using the common wealth for the common good by launching the New Deal. It was more than a set of programs—it was a movement imbued with the core progressive values of empathy and responsibility, with the idea that government should not only care about people but also act on that caring.

    dc: yes, but Roosevelt also created an advanced example of the administrative state and solidified the power of large institutions, government, corporations, and unions. This might be all to the Good but it is worth remembering that many people would be opposed to those tendencies today, including many on the progressive side.

    They ( I say “they”, because the pamphlet is an creation of the Rockland institute is not just written by George Lakoff) then give us a list of issues, children, environment, income inequality, but include also ethnic and sexual orientations. These issues were made a divisive by the republican leadership, building on the anxieties of some of their constituency. But I don’t think that calling attention to them has made their life particularly more comfortable, free or livable. To me that is an open question but I don’t think it helps the politically progressive side to mix these identity questions the with economic, military and environmental ones. That would be a good discussion.

    We now go to chapter one

    Reagan talked about values rather than issues. Communicating values mattered more than specific policy positions. Reagan connected with people; he communicated well. Reagan also appeared authentic—he seemed to believe what he said. And because he talked about his values, connected with people, and appeared authentic, they felt they could trust him.

    For these four reasons—values, connection, authenticity, andtrust—voters identified with Reagan; they felt he was one of them. It was not because all of his values matched theirs exactly.

    It was not because he was from their socioeconomic class or subculture. It was because they believed in the integrity of his connection with them as well as the connection between his worldview and his actions.

    dc: What this ignores is the voters’ judgment in the context of whom Reagan was running against, the wonderful but weak Jimmy Carter, and then Michael Dukakis. The voters were not choosing between Ronald Reagan and the founding fathers. (There follows a description of the twelve issues traps that I’ve discussed before and are available at their site).

    dc:Next Comes chapter two on biconceptualism.

    They start with the Joe Lieberman.

    His progressive worldview appears in his staunch support of environmental protection, abortion rights, and workers’ rights.2 His conservative worldview emerges in areas like his support of faith-based initiatives, school vouchers, and most notably, the current policy on Iraq.

    dc: their analysis of this as biconceptual, gets it in the way of the possibility that Lieberman’s view is coherent, not my favorite coherence, but coherent nevertheless and needing to be understood as such.

    They then go on to describe five “partial progressives” in a quite helpful way

    • Lovers of the land
    • Communitarians
    • people of faith
    • Socially conscious employers
    • civil libertarians

    dc: then comes an analysis of the myth of the middle with which I largely agree. The whole analysis assumes that ” progressive” is good and “conservative” is bad, but avoids any analysis of the tendency of the US system towards technocratic quasi fascist bureaucratism and it is that system creating wealth inequality, rapacious globalization, dependence on the oil industry, and a preference for militarization. It just might be that this “system” is what both progressives and conservatives are frustrated with.

    The rest of the book is not online so that is as far as I can go

American politics and American values -The 80% solutin post #5

April 22, 2006 § Leave a comment

American politics and American values. The 80% solution

Post # 5.. Conservative and Progressive values are not the values of the leadership.

To see the earlier posts in this series go to posts 1-5

My intent is to lay the groundwork for the idea that there is a platform that 80% of the population would easily assent to. It combines the best of progressive and conservative thought in the large territory where, in their modem form, they do not conflict. It basically is an approach that says common sense requires a vibrant economy, but a better distribution of benefits. An economy that is highly entrepreneurial, but where the rewards are less likely to be controlled by the largest business, but work on a smaller scale more regionally or locally. An economy that uses the best of technology in the context of very tough environmental regulations – a combination that drives innovation and new business opportunities. An economy that requires much higher levels of education for everyone, and a social view that brings us into responsible mutuality. The core is  a tone of hopeful social contract in the context of vigorous multinational cooperation in those hopes. The goal is increased quality of life, not a faster racetrack. It means using the fruits of technology and democracy wisely, not just as a means of wealth transfer to those who already hold the cards.


 Last week I described the dynamics of an economy that pull this society apart. "The economy is doing well but the people are doing badly." The current trends cannot hold. The forces of the dynamic economy that produces wealth in one layer  and the increasingly marginalized in another, because it can't produce fairer distribution, are tearing us apart. The Internet based on corporate and military models of communication has created a new commons in free public space more or less world wide probably can't be stopped,  and will continue to tear apart national boundaries, taxability, and corporate privacy. Perhaps governability is at risk. The US- Mexican wall is a sign of exasperated sense of danger.  Did we not learn from Palestine, from the Berlin Wall, from the Maginot Line – and from the great wall of China? We have been led by the use of exaggerated fears, dealt with by impulsive tactics that treat others as enemies,  rather than thought out strategies that regard others as peers to a civilizational dialog.. We have not lived with leaders who had a realistic and hopeful vision of putting technology, people capital and the environment together in a project in which the US could lead by example that could be shared with the world's people. We have been led by series of administrations  that are neither conservative nor progressive.


I'd like to use he world "liberal', but it has floated in so many directions as to become meaningless. If it stated with the idea of political and cultural openness and tolerance, as in John Stuart Mill, it became limited to freedom for property and the right of corporations to be free from state interference. This use of "liberal" moves in the direction not of freedom for all but a new kind of corporatist feudalism, as in  the use of "liberal world order" to describe  a financial regime that puts corporate sovereignty in the center of law and policy.


We have neither a conservative nor a progressive leadership. Part of my proposed 80% solution is based on the idea that progressive and conservative values are rather more similar than we are led to think, and more attractive than in the form we usually hear about them. What we call right and left, conservative and progressive,  and at times liberal, are  deer frozen in the headlights images of "the other" made to help us hold on to our own dwindling sense of hope and legitimacy. We make our vision of "us" and the "other" based on a few fragments lifted from a more vital and full versioned conservative or progressive perspective.


Conservatives believe in a rich texture of society and tradition, where families and forms of governance arise through a constant and slow adaptation of institutions to the reality of managing the human species in the real world. Conservatives like the idea of mixing churches, families, communities, officials, press, banks, and local geography, all in a complex arena of mutual adapting. They see this structure as vulnerable, and needing constant attention. Conservatives are not egoists centered in self, but care about society, knowing that the whole affects the development of the individuals who then care for society.


Conservatives appreciate the histories and achievements of the different nations, and enjoy learning from others, travel, reading history and bringing home what they have learned. Conservatives tend to be modest and not flamboyant. Conservatives prefer solid friendship to opportune relationships, and they are suspicious of motives yet kind to those they find worthy. They are protective of their own and challenging of others. They prefer complexity of character behind selfless love to the blatant psychology of the deal. They tend to see decisions in multigenerational terms more than in multi-factional differences. They see time more than opportunity and tend to accept hierarchy as the price of stability. Their basic tendency is to want to hold on, fearing loss. Conservatives at their best are organic . At their worst attracted to frozen hierarchy and militarism, using technology but hostile to science.


It is clear that we do not have a healthy conservative leadership.


Progressives tend to have a delight in growth and development, in expression and talent, and also have a good ear for the pain and suffering caused by social life and institutions. They tend to love the stranger and be casual towards those at home, feeling that we can learn from others and those around us are good natured and can figure it out for themselves, and good at cooperating for the good of the nested communities from local regional national and international, and see their mutual interdependence. Progressives know that our fate is dependent on institutions and rules. They want openness with some security. They tend to be open to all comers who are willing to aide by limited restraints. Progressives like change and find the past constraining of action. At their best progressives hope more than despair and are good experimentalists naturally aligned with science. At their worst they are self satisfied, mechanical, and shallow.


It is clear that we do not have a healthy progressive leadership.

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American Politics and American Values # 4

April 7, 2006 § Leave a comment

American Politics and American Political Values – the 80% Solution

by Douglass Carmichael  doug@dougcarmichael.com

Chapter 4. The leaders and the lead – reality vs. values.

There is conceptual confusion in our use of the labels that best fit the leaderships of the two parties, and the labels that best describe the supporters of the two parties. Much of the confusion is because the supporters do not have the values of the leaders. Moreover the President, a "conservative" is not following much of a conservative agenda, but leads a kind of corporatist presidency in support of a politically controlling disorganized group of large money holders. Yet we are led by the politicians and the press to believe that there are two different parties and we are to believe that most people are identified with one or the other, and that key issues seriously divide the voters who are adequately divided between these two parties. Nader and Buchanan, instead of being seen as having positions that significantly overlapped and were at least as well matched to (real, not poll based) voter preferences, were portrayed as marginal at best, and probably destructive.

We are also told that the Bush administration relied on neo-conservatives, especially for the lead into Iraq, and we are told that globalization is part of a neo-liberal agenda. The terms "neo", "liberal", and "conservative" are seriously intertwined with each other making thinking difficult.

And what are the implications of the promiscuous term "neo"? Does it merely mean "modern" or something else? Hard to believe it means "new" when both the neo-conservatries and neo liberals are seen to support protecting the current arrangements. « Read the rest of this entry »

American Politics and American Values # 3

April 7, 2006 § Leave a comment

American politics and American values. The 80% solution

By Douglass Carmcihael doug@dougcarmichael.com

Chapter 3 Why is Leadership and Benefit so Narrowly Distributed?

My view is that the centers of power: Washington, Wall Street, industrial centers, and real estate interests (rent and interest on loans), have created a very dynamic but fenced in merry-go-round of activity that is set up in such a way that most of us can’t get on. There is not room. In post #1 two weeks ago I described it.

The economy is like a merry-go-round. Dynamic and attractive, it has not got places for everyone. For the merry-go-round to keep going it must generate money. It hires those people and sells those projects in which the circle of cash can be kept going. Beyond a certain point including more people, especially poor, would slow down of the merry-go-round, and force changes in its current economic system of ownership, investment, regulations and jobs. This economy is not big enough to hold everyone, and even moves toward greater inclusion threaten the operators of the merry-go-round, either threatening that it will come apart, or that the salaries to the owner/managers would be cut. Politics is the mechanism of governance of those Republicans and Democrats who own significant rent or interest earning property, manage parts of the system, or serve it as professionals and media.

Remember, or imagine, (both will get us there) being a child at the County Fairgrounds at night, the glitter, the milling crowds the lights, candy cotton, and the merry-go round -and you are entranced by the horses, the young girls’ pony tails flying, the parents protecting the little ones, the music and the gathering speed, and you can’t afford a ticket to get on, and you know it. The people on the merry-go-round are somehow different, inaccessible and in the national society those of the larger carousel relate to those who have power or money, or their lawyers and lobbyists. The game has to do with status enhancement – and survival – and uses power and money. Other issues such as educating the people, maintaining the quality of infrastructure such as roads and bridges, or the attractiveness of government buildings, and replacing war with peace, are of no interest to them. They remain networked internally with each other, and un-networked with the issues and people that make up the great part of the nation. « Read the rest of this entry »

American politics and American values. The 80% solution # 2

April 7, 2006 § Leave a comment

By Douglass Carmichael doug@dougcarmichael.com

By Douglass Carmichael doug@dougcarmichael.com

Chapter 2. Not enough Room at the Top

To start, a quote “According to Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon of Northwestern University the wage and salary income of Americans at the 90th percentile of the income distribution increased by only about 1 percent per year between 1972 and 2001 whilst over the same period that at the 99th percentile rose by 87 per cent and at the 99.99th by 497 percent. ” from http://crookedtimber.org/2006/03/10/against-schmidtz-for-equality/more-4413

This week as I’ve been driving around I’ve been listening to Diane Ackerman’s “dystopian” novel, Oryx and Crake, and I heard this: “There are leaders and the led, then tyrants and slaves, then the massacres begin. It has always been this way.” Realistic perhaps but optimism requires a vision of what even with a small probability, is possible. So I say, any politics which does not aim toward the gardening of the world and the humanization of its people is not an adequate politics.

Last week I proposed that there is a solution to the doldrums of the Democratic and Republican parties’ inability to address the needs of most of – if not all – the population. Such a platform – one that merely reversed the worst curves and was framed in the Founding Father values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and the avoidance of tyranny – would be able to gather 80% of the vote and return the country to a more virtuous path and gain the tolerance of the world and respect for ourselves .

It is clear that the difficulties of the Republican leadership are profound. The Democrats have been unable to provide a coherent alternative. As Bush’s poll numbers went down in the face of his mistakes and incompetence, the Democrats failed to respond, and consequently the Bush favorable ratings would creep back up. They may now be staying down despite the Democrats feeble response, and this suggests a general lack of confidence in government. Meanwhile the ship of state lists. How dangerously is open to discussion.

There is a widely held view that just as markets have been assumed to go up after going down there is also an ebb and flow of power between the two parties. This view implies a fundamental bias against significant change. This view suggests that appropriate and sufficient changes will happen, a version of the invisible hand, as reform and retrenchment oscillate. It certainly is true that with everyone trying to make their life better, solutions that work might emerge and we will cope sufficiently to prevent a real catastrophe. If this works as anticipated it implies that the Constitution, the role of large corporations, and government are basically healthy and can do enough about the obvious problems in this or the next administration.

The alternative view is that the curves of the trends that are causing us trouble, such as narrowing wealth and incomes, increased national debt, and budget deficits, will continue because normal politics reinforces these cycles, and does not discuss, much less engage, the more serious issues.

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