Monday, August 31, 2009

From The Daily Show

 US Healthcare Debate: Glenn Beck v Glenn Beck 

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From The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan:

Chris Wallace, A Teenage Girl Interviewing The Jonas Brothers

by Andrew Sullivan
Here are the tough and penetrating questions asked by Chris Wallace of a man whose critics accuse of war crimes, and whose administration presided over the death of over a hundred prisoners in interrogation, who authorized torture techniques once trade-marked by the Khmer Rouge:
Why are you so concerned about the idea of one administration reviewing, investigating the actions of another one?
449px-Chris_Wallace_while_doing_an_interview_on_Fox_News_Sunday Do you think this was a political move not a law enforcement move?
The attorney general says this is a preliminary review, not a criminal investigation. It is just about CIA officers who went beyond their legal authorization. Why don't you think it's going to stop there?
The inspector general's report which was just released from 2004 details some specific interrogations -- mock executions, one of the detainees threatened with a handgun and with an electric drill, waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times.  First of all, did you know that was going on?
So even these cases where they went beyond the specific legal authorization, you're OK with it?
President Obama has also decided to move interrogations from the CIA to the FBI that's under the supervision of the National Security Council, and the FBI will have to act within the boundaries of the Army Field Manual.
What do you think that does for the nation's security? And will we now have the tools if we catch another high-value target?
Republicans have made the charge before, do you think Democrats are soft on National Security?
Do you think that it was a mistake, while you were in power, while your administration was in power, not to go after the nuclear infrastructure of Iran?
Was it a mistake for Bill Clinton, with the blessing of the Administration, to go to North Korea to bring back those two reporters? 
Now look: there are softball interviews; and then there are interviews like this. It cannot be described as journalism in any fashion. Even as propaganda, which is its point, it doesn't work - because it's far too cloying and supportive of Cheney to be convincing to anyone outside the true-believers. When it comes to Cheney, one of the most incompetent vice-presidents in the country's history, with a record of two grotesquely botched wars, war crimes and a crippling debt, Chris Wallace sounds like a teenage girl interviewing the Jonas Brothers.
My two favorite moments:

CHENEY: I am going to -- if I address that, I will address it in my book, Chris.
WALLACE: It is going to be a hell of a book.
CHENEY: It is going to be a great book.
And then the apology for asking the questions Cheney wanted asked:
WALLACE: Well, we want to thank you for talking with us and including in your private life putting up with an interview from the likes of me.
CHENEY: It's all right. I enjoy your show, Chris.
WALLACE: Thank you very much, and all the best sir. 
When future historians ask how the United States came not only to practice torture but to celebrate it and treat torturers as heroes, a special place in hell among the journalists who embraced and justified it should be reserved for Chris Wallace.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

From Daily Kos:

How to get a good deal when buying a car! Hotlist 

by potatohead

Digg this! Share this on Twitter - How to get a good deal when buying a car!Tweet this submit to reddit Share This
Or, as otherwise known as:  I'm fried on health care, need a small breather and my comment on another thread sparked what I think might be a fun diary!

So then, if you've purchased a vehicle at or very near MSRP, you paid 30 percent more than you really could have.  If you offered a trade, it's highly likely they took your car, gave you a purchase credit, then wrote the dollars back in on the contract.

Interested in not doing that again?

Follow me into the very ugly world of car buying.  Roll up your sleeves, this won't be pretty!
Dealers get the car for an invoice price.  This price is often inflated by 2-5 percent and that's called a hold back.  The manufacturer gives this money back to the dealer in other ways, enabling them to boost their margins by working off a higher fixed cost perception to the buyer.

It is often difficult to obtain the actual invoice price of a car.  It is possible to guess at it, and in the course of your dealings figure out where you are in relation to it though.

Rule number one in any sales deal.  If you can't walk, you are going to pay the highest price you can bear.

Rule number two:  If you don't know something about their real cost, you have no way to know whether or not you are negoiating a good deal for yourself.

So, let's fix that!

Buying a car is a process.  It takes some effort on your part, and it will take some of your time.  The first time committment is your personal prep time that you invest before walking onto a lot.
  1.  Pick your car out well in advance.  
  1.  Do the homework on it to determine as closely as possible what the dealer price is.  There are various sites on the net that will help you with this for a fee.  Compare a few and pay for some data.  Average the numbers you get and that's somewhere near the price the dealer paid for the car.  
Generally speaking without considering the hold back, if they sell below this price, they take a loss.  This is very important information.  Here is how it adds up.
a.  There is the raw price to build the car.

b.  Add to it some percentage of Manufacturer markup.  You have no control over this, so  just accept that it is there.

c.  Add to this the dealer hold back percentage.  3-5 percent.

d.  This is the hard price of the car, below which the dealer takes a loss.

e.  Anything above this is the margin they get for selling the car.
MSRP is typically 30 percent over invoice, if not more.  These days, I'll bet they've shaved that down some, but I'll also bet they pack it into the back end contract.

As an example of what kind of money we are talking about, When I bought an Expedition a few years back, the MSRP was 42K.  I ended up buying the vehicle for 31,500!  The invoice for the car was somewhere just under 30K, for reference.  I guessed at 28, and in the course of dealing, they showed me it was 30.

That's 25 percent, all of which would have went to the deal, in addition to the built in 3-5 percent typically included in the hold back as cited above.  Had I not done an equally good job on the back end with contract, they would have nailed me for another 15 percent, for a total of 40 percent total markup on that car.

This is not small change.  We are talking over 10-15 grand EASY on all but the very low end cars.
Be aware though, these tricks can turn a 9K go cart into a 16K go cart, and you will be paying interest on that meaning the cost of the car to you will double, rising over 20K without much effort on the part of the dealer and bank.

Doing this stuff is clearly worth your time.
  1.  Now you establish your target purchase price.  Some margin is reasonable.  That's what they earn by doing the work to show, store and sell the car.  Service is another profit center for them, unless it's a higher end car.
Add 5 percent to the hard price for the car established above. This is about the price you should close on.  Any more than that, and you are handing money to them, while getting NO value.  Don't do this.
  1.  Your homework isn't done yet.
Are you gonna trade in a car?  Great!  Determine the blue book cost of your car, then subtract maybe 20 percent.  That's an effective trade in value for the car.

If you owe on the car, do the subtraction to determine whether or not your trade actually has any value. It might not, or you might be negative.  If you are negative, add this amount to the purchase price you established above for a new, higher purchase price.

Nobody will take a loss for you, and there are no "free" deals.  Do the math, and know that will be your cost no matter how they position the numbers to make you think otherwise.
  1.  Now you are ready to hit the lot.  I still think the best deals are on the lot, done old school hard core sales style.  Online deals are good though.  I'm assuming you are going to actually get out there and buy your car the old fashioned way.  The financial rewards and the sport of it are there for the taking!
  1.  Compare your dealers.  Ask around and get to know who is who and what they do.  Info is your friend.  Did they just hire a new sales guy?  Have they recently redone their lot?  Do they have a ton of the kind of car you want?
These things matter because you find where you have leverage, or they might have leverage on you.
If they have lots of cars, you can deal.  If they don't, you can't deal as hard.  The new sales guy thing is great because you can hammer them and perhaps cut down on the time it takes to get the car, or have more fun, etc...
  1.  Enter the lot, but DO NOT IDENTIFY THE CAR TO THEM YET.
  1.  Show your trade.  Get them to commit to a value for it, if you determined you have positive value in the trade as outlined above.  They will want you to pick a car first, but don't do it.  The value of your trade is the value no matter what car you pick, so make them do it.
If they give you an acceptable trade value, great!  Lock it in and note it.

If they don't, KEEP YOUR TRADE, unless you need to roll a loan over or something and then I can't help you because your ability to deal is comprimized when you do this.

Let's assume you've got some money down and continue.  Don't tell them that yet either.
  1.  Now the fun part!  Go and pick your car!
If you really want to be evil, have a deal with your spouse, a friend, or somebody that they hate the color, no matter what you bring home.  Test drive one, have them reject it, then test drive another one just to compare cars.

An alternative is to test at another lot, telling them nothing but enough to get into the car. The purpose of two drives is so that you can actually know the car as compared to another car.  Simple lemon filter.
  1.  Now it's time to deal.
See the MSRP sticker?  You are absolutely not gonna pay that.  You are going to ignore all the offers on the table too.  What this part is about is the actual selling price of the car from them to you.  Nothing else matters.
  1.  You offer them a price that is the hard price of the car, minus one half the difference between that and your target purchase price.  This makes your first offer unacceptable to them because they would take a loss.
They will come back with a counter offer and the game is on!

Just doing this saves you about 10 percent, often more because MSRP is now totally off the table.
Now they will play silly games like, "if we meet your price, will you buy the car?".  Keep pushing a bit below your target price, walking off a few times, get your free coffee, etc... until they offer something very near your target price and take it!

If they leave the desk, you do too.  Take a nice long walk, and they will have to go and find you.  This cuts down on the back and forth dealing between the lackey you are dealing with and the sales manager who is really controlling things.

Ideally, you can get them out there, if you push hard enough.  No matter what you do, keep pressing until either they yield with your price, or you tire and leave.  There is always the next day.  Remember the rules.

So you reach a price and agree to buy the car.
  1.  Now you talk through rebates, cash back, etc...
At all times maintain that price of the car.  The reality is the rebates and such won't mean too much because those are meant for MSRP suckers.  Keep your purchase price and deal down from there.  It might be special promos put the hard cost of the car lower than you thought.  You won't get this savings unless you stick to the plan I've outlined.  Push, push, be nice, but push, push.

Be sure you get your trade in value subtracted from any promo price and your agreed upon price. Accept no special options or anything.  That lets them confuse the deal.  Once it's price, it's only price. If we go back to options, then we go back to negoiation again.  Options missing lower the value of the car, meaning you have to go back re-establish your target price, then deal again.

At some point the deal is made, you shake hands and... It's time to do it again!!  You've locked in price, but now have to haggle payment.
  1.  Time to go do contracts.
Offer your down payment, and do the credit stuff NOW.  Don't do it before, do it NOW.

If everything checks, you move to the contracts stage.

They will take the margin you dealt away, and pack it back into the contract for the car!!!  For a real sucker, they just take their margin twice for one hell of a deal, and most people I know, don't know this.  They are the ones that pay double for a car.

So, you look at the contract and focus in on the amount financed.  Not the total cost of the financing, but the amount financed.  If that amount of dollars is significantly more than the price you agreed to (and it will be), then you take out your pen, or borrow theirs and go cross out a bunch of numbers.  Undercoating, advertizing fees, delivery fees, storage fees, prep fees, and other fees.

There will be some taxes and such, those are just part of doing business.  No worries on those.  Read that contract and ask really ugly questions about every item on it.

You don't pay advertizing fees.  You don't pay lot fees.  Unless they will actually deliver the car, you don't pay delivery fees.  If it sounds like a bull-shit fee, it is.  Cross it out.

Don't buy the sucker insurance either.  You can always buy your own policy after the fact, or extend one you have.  Theirs costs too much and won't really pay but for a very small set of cases.  Skip it.

For things like undercoating, ask them if it's already on the car!  If you are really evil, you ask this during the pick the car stage, so they commit to selling it to you.  Otherwise, if it's on the car, and you've accepted a price offer from them, they are obligated to sell THAT car at THAT PRICE.  Cross it off.
  1. When you get to your purchase price agreed upon, plus the tax, consider your interest rate.
The number one thing they will do is jack your rate up when you deal on contract.  They get kick backs for this.  Cross it off and either you qualify for the good rate, or you don't, and that's the end of it.
After haggling over a few contracts you will see a good one, and sign that, pay your down, and now you've got a car at a fair price.

See?  Wasn't so hard was it? (damn right it was – f¨ç˚ing brutal, but there you go!  Have fun, get your sleep and be ready and eager to deal, or don't go until you are.  This will take hours, but you save tens of thousands of dollars.)

One other thing.  If they don't take your trade, they will offer to "take the car off your hands for a small consideration".  Don't do it.  Keep the car and tell them you will donate it for a nice tax write off.  They hate that.  Many trades go to their wholesale lot, where they mark them up more than double and sell them to suckers.  You just dealt away the last of their bonus money and got a very solid deal.

Drive off, knowing that the vast majority of people pay way too much, and that they will be upside down in the car for the life of the loan, where if you have a nice amount down, you won't be.

I wrote this because the dealers are highly likely to be marking up cars to pad their margin with Cash for Clunkers money.  Do it the way I outlined, and you won't be a victim of this.

From The Sacramento Bee: Girl Found Alive After 18 Years

Click here to read article.

Jaycee Lee Dugard, an 11-year-old girl abducted from her South Lake Tahoe home in 1991, has been found alive in the Bay Area and two people reportedly have been detained in connection with the case.

The El Dorado County Sheriff's Office this morning confirmed the identity of the 29-year-old woman who walked into a Bay Area police station claiming to be Dugard.

From the Exquisite Corpse

Active Image
photo by David Gallent
To the Oscars, the Grammys and the Emmies, you can now add a wonderful new distinction, The Dobbies. Awarded by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Dobbies, named after Lou Dobbs, the CNN commentator, honor the year’s greatest acts of bigotry, chauvinism, and plain stupidity. My candidate for the Dobbies this year is the Birther Movement, which claims that President Obama’s Hawaian birth-certificate is not kosher and therefore he may not have been born on American soil. Was he even born in American air space? Was he even born in American outer space? Good questions, all raised by this supposedly dubious piece of legal paper.

What makes this movement Dobbie-worthy is that there is no other evidence of the President’s non-Americanness: he has no accent--unlike this commentator who wouldn’t be President if you waterboarded him--he has shown nothing but ardent love for this country, he has actually dared to consider the welfare of Americans a foremost priority, and he has even gone beyond rhetoric to get to know actual Americans--all suspicious activities by their very Americanness. If that piece of paper turns out to be irregular, all that presidential effort plus the votes of a majority of Americans may turn out to be only a cover. Under that American facade may lie a foreigner.

What is a foreigner? This is a question I can answer with some authority. A foreigner is someone like Henry Kissinger, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and myself, people with accents who are distinguished by an unnaturally fervent dedication to this country. Unlike some of the people born on American soil, who take American democracy for granted and can make a big deal of trouble for people whose papers are not in order, foreigners have to think about the place where they are living because it isn’t like the place they came from. Of course, the same thing pertains to a person from Chicago who finds him or herself in New York: the native-born Chicagoan will find New York strange enough to learn it from  scratch because people in New York say funny things, walk differently, produce inferior pizza, and have this funny law that you can’t be mayor of New York if you weren’t born in one of the borroughs.  Oh they don’t? Sorry. I guess the Birther Movement isn’t as mighty as I thought.

A foreigner is also someone who speaks more than one language, which can cause someone to be sympathetic to an alien expression, a gateway to UFOs and alien invasions. Polyglots are a threat to the American dream, which should be dreamt in English by a person with a valid birth certificate. It is this proud ignorance that makes the Birther Movement the only likely candidate for a Dobbie.

Listen to Andrei on NPR:

From Physicians for Human Rights

Last December (2008), the Physicians for Human Rights presented Senator Kennedy with an Outstanding Leadership Award on the Right to Health. Last night PHR issued the following statement:

In our lifetime, no one has done more to champion health as a universal right than Senator Ted Kennedy. He was a passionate advocate for quality, affordable, accessible healthcare for the many, not just for the few, and a tireless champion of the human rights of all people everywhere. During his career spanning five decades, he passed landmark legislation to secure the right to health for all.

A Lifetime of Leadership on the Right to Health

* In 1966, Senator Kennedy created a national health center system.

* In 1972, he became Chairman of the Senate Health Subcommittee, enhancing his ability to champion the cause of quality health care for all Americans.

* Another priority for Senator Kennedy was the Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program. This program, popularly known as WIC, offers food, nutrition counseling, and access to health services for low-income women, infants, and children.

* He became a champion of the 1978 Declaration of Alma-Ata, which called on the international community, and all health and development workers, to protect and promote the health of all people of the world.

* Senator Kennedy authored the Refugee Act of 1980, which established a comprehensive U.S. policy to provide humanitarian assistance, admission and resettlement to refugees around the world.

* In 1990, Senator Kennedy introduced, along with Senator Hatch, the groundbreaking Ryan White CARE Act, which provided emergency relief to the thirteen cities hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic, and also provided substantial assistance to all states to develop effective and cost-efficient AIDS care programs, aimed particularly at early diagnosis and home care.

* In 1994, as Chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, Senator Kennedy worked closely with President Clinton to expand opportunity for working families. His leadership brought about the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

* In 1997, as Chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, Senator Kennedy worked closely with President Clinton to expand opportunity for working families. His leadership brought about the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

* In 2006, Senator Kennedy sponsored and helped pass the Family Opportunity Act, which provided states the opportunity to expand Medicaid coverage to children with special needs, allowing low- and middle-income families with disabled children the ability to purchase coverage under the Medicaid program.

* In 2007, he sponsored the Health Care Safety Net Act of 2007.

* So deep was Senator Kennedy's commitment to the highest attainable standard of health, that on July 9, 2008, while recovering from brain surgery, he made a surprise trip to Capitol Hill. There he cast a critical vote to secure healthcare coverage for senior citizens.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) mobilizes the health professions to advance the health and dignity of all people by protecting human rights. As a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, PHR shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.
Israel: A Stalemated Action of History

In late 1949 I worked on a boat taking Jews from Marseilles to Haifa, Israel. Jews from Arab nations were in the front of the boat, Europeans in the rear. I was regarded by many of the Europeans as some sort of freak because I had a United States passport and so could stay in the land of milk and honey. One man wanted me to marry his daughter – which meant he too could live in the land of milk and honey. My Hebrew became quite respectable but the experience was radicalizing or, I should say, kept me radical, and I have stayed that way.

Later I learned from someone who ran a displaced persons camp in Germany that the large majority of Jews wanted to go anywhere but Palestine. They were compelled to state Palestine or else risk receiving no aid. I understood very early that there was much amiss in the countless Arab villages and homes I saw destroyed, and that the entire Zionist project – regardless of the often venal nature of the Arab opposition to it – was a dangerous sham.

The result of the creation of a state called Israel was abysmal. Jews from Poland have nothing in common with Germans and neither has anything to do with those from the Arab world. It is nationality, not religion, that counts most. Jews in Israel, especially the Germans, largely ghettoized themselves by their place of origin during the first generation, when a militarized culture produced the mixed new breed called sabras – an essentially anti-intellectual personality far different from the one the early Zionists, who were mostly socialists who preached the nobility of labor, expected to emerge. The large majority of Israelis are not in the least Jewish in the cultural sense, are scarcely socialist in any sense, and daily life and the way people live is no different in Israel than it is in Chicago or Amsterdam. There is simply no rational reason that justifies the state’s creation.

The outcome is a small state with a military ethos that pervades all aspects of Israel’s culture, its politics and, above all, its response to the existence of Arabs in its midst and at its borders. From its inception, the ideology of the early Zionists – of Labor Zionism as well as the rightist Revisionism that Vladimir Jabotinsky produced – embodied a commitment to violence, erroneously called self-defense, and a virtual hysteria. As a transcendent idea, Zionism has no validity because the national differences between Jews are overwhelming.

What Zionism confirmed, if any confirmation were needed, is that accidents are more important in shaping history than is all too often allowed. Here was the intellectual café, which existed in key cities – Vienna at the turn of the twentieth century or the Lower East Side of New York before World War I – filled with immensely creative people full of ideas and longing for a golden era to come. Ideas – good, bad, and indifferent – flourished. In this heady atmosphere, Zionism was born.

But Zionism has produced a Sparta that traumatized an already artificially divided region partitioned after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire during World War I led to the Versailles Treaty and the creation of the modern Middle East. The state of Israel has always relied on military solutions to political and sociological problems with the Arabs. The result is constant mobilization.

Even more troublesome for peace and stability in the vast Middle East, Zionism has always been symbiotic on some great power for the security of its national project, realized in a state called Israel. Before 1939 it was the British; during the 1950s it was France. Israel has survived since the late 1960s on the influx of US arms and money, and this has allowed it to encourage its fears of annihilation – a fate its possession of nuclear weapons makes most unlikely. But Israel also has an importance far beyond the fantasies of a few confused literati. Today its significance for American foreign policy is far greater because the Soviet Union no longer exists and the Middle East provokes the fear so essential to mobilizing Congress and the US public. “The best hopes and the worst fears of the planet are invested in that relatively small patch of earth” – as George Tenet, the former head of the CIA, put it in his memoir – and so understanding how and why that patch came into being, and the grave limits of the martial course it is following, has a very great, even transcendent value.

In July 2003 Foreign Minister Shalom predicted that Iran would have nuclear bomb capability by 2006. It did not have nuclear weapons in 2006, though in fact a successful strike by conventional missiles on Dimona, Israel’s nuclear facility, would radioactivate a good part of Israel – and both Iran and Syria have such missiles. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, during Vice-President Dick Cheney’s visit in late March 2008, stated that “Iran’s weapons program threatens not only the stability of the region, but of the whole world,” and he did not rule out a war with it. By spring 2008 Israel was also very concerned about the growing ascendancy of Hizbollah in Lebanon and its greatly increased firepower – mainly in the form of rockets capable of striking much of Israel. It regards Hizbollah as a tool of Iran, and its focus on Iran concerns its control over Hizbollah as well as its ability to challenge Israel’s nuclear monopoly. But there can be no doubt that Hizbollah’s strength has only grown since Israel attacked it in Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Israel now has an enemy that can inflict immense damage on it, probably resulting in highly skilled Jews migrating far faster than they already are at present – even now, more Jews are leaving Israel than migrating to it.

The existence of Israel is scarcely the only reason American policy in the region is as bad as it is. After all, it did not take Zionism to encourage Washington to seek the elimination of British influence in the region, and today no one can tell how long the US will remain mired in the affairs of the Middle East. But Israel is now a vital factor. While the extent of its role can be debated, without it the politics of the entire Middle East would be different – troubled but very different.

At least equally nefarious in the long run, Israel’s existence has radicalized – but in a negative sense – the Arab world, distracting it from natural class differences that often overcome religious and tribal ties. It has fanned Arab nationalism abysmally and given it a transcendent negative identity.

I am very realistic – and pessimistic – about an eventual negotiated solution to the crisis that has surrounded Palestine and Israel. Given the magnitude of the changes needed, the present situation justifies the most dismal conclusions. After all, the Arabs that live under Israeli control will quite soon outnumber the Jewish population, leaving a de facto Jewish state in which Jews are a minority! This fact is becoming deeply troublesome within Israeli politics today, causing former expansionists to reverse their position and leading to more and more internal controversy. Nor will there ever be an administration in Washington ready to do diplomatically what none has ever dared do since 1947, namely compel Israel to make an equitable peace with the Arabs.

Neither a one- nor two-state solution will come to pass. But the Jewish population is very likely to decline, and if it falls sufficiently then demography may prove to be a crucial factor. The ratio of Jews to Arabs would then become highly significant. The Jews in Israel are highly skilled and many have gotten out, migrating abroad. The Israeli military is the most powerful in the region because it has been deluged with American equipment, which it has learned to service. But US forces need repairmen to service the very same equipment, more than ever because recruitment into the American military is now lower than it has been in a quarter-century (not to mention its astronomical suicide rate), and skilled Israelis can take jobs with America’s armed forces that they are eminently qualified to fill. Moreover, Iran and the other Arab states will eventually develop or acquire nuclear weapons, making Israel incredibly insecure for its highly mobile Jewish population – one exhausted by regular service in compulsory reserves. And as already suggested, destroying Dimona with conventional missiles or mortars would be a cheap way to radioactivate a good part of Israel. Even worse, Osama bin Laden, or someone like him, may acquire a nuclear device, and one nuclear bomb detonated in or near Israel will effectively destroy what is a tiny area. Whoever destroys Israel will be proclaimed a hero in the Arab world. To those with skills, the answer is clear: get out. And getting out they are.

There are also Orthodox Jews in Israel but Israeli mass culture is now virtually indistinguishable from consumerism anywhere – in many crucial respects, there is more Judaism in parts of Brooklyn or Toronto than in most of Israel. The Orthodox too may be ready to leave behind the insecurity and troubles confronting those who live in a nation that is, after all, a part of a highly unstable region.

Sober and quite rational Israelis exist, of course, and I cite them often enough, but American policy will be determined by factors having nothing to do with them. Unfortunately, rational Israelis are an all too small minority.

Gabriel Kolko is the leading historian of modern warfare. He is the author of the classic Century of War: Politics, Conflicts and Society Since 1914, Another Century of War? and The Age of War: the US Confronts the World and After Socialism. He has also written the best history of the Vietnam War, Anatomy of a War: Vietnam, the US and the Modern Historical Experience. His latest book is World in Crisis, from which this essay has been excerpted.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Legendary Senator, Edward M. Kennedy, is Dead

Statement from President Obama:

Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy.

For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.

I valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I've profited as President from his encouragement and wisdom.

An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time.

And the Kennedy family has lost their patriarch, a tower of strength and support through good times and bad.

Our hearts and prayers go out to them today--to his wonderful wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family.

From His is Historic Speech at the Denver Democratic Convention:

Ted Kennedy on Health Care

Last month, Senator Kennedy wrote a piece for Newsweek titled "The Cause Of My Life" describing his dedication to universal health care:
This is the cause of my life. It is a key reason that I defied my illness last summer to speak at the Democratic convention in Denver--to support Barack Obama, but also to make sure, as I said, "that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American...will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege." For four decades I have carried this cause--from the floor of the United States Senate to every part of this country. It has never been merely a question of policy; it goes to the heart of my belief in a just society. Now the issue has more meaning for me--and more urgency--than ever before. But it's always been deeply personal, because the importance of health care has been a recurrent lesson throughout most of my 77 years.

Senator Kennedy recently finished his memoir, which should be published in a few weeks.

The Tree of Liberty

I just received the following from a good friend:

Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter while he was in France in 1787 and in that letter he wrote:
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
This line has become a favorite of the “Tea Bagers.” It is a great line but it’s use has nothing to do with the debate over health care for our citizens, and it’s use shows the ignorance of both what patriotism really means (healthy debate on issues) and what real tyranny is not (we are pushing our representatives to represent us). Duh!!

Read on in Jefferson's letter for what seems to be a picture of how Jefferson would have viewed the Tea Baggers who are spouting off about “The tree of liberty”:
"The people cannot be all and always well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the facts they misconceive."
Thanks Ed for the insight.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

From Media Matters:

Press Should Take Finger Off Button in "Nuclear Option" Health Care Coverage

Media conservatives aren't content to merely misinform regarding the content of progressive health insurance reform legislation. They want to misinform about the legislative process used to pass that legislation, too. Just think of it: Death panels passed using a nuclear option. What American could support that?

In recent days, talk of Senate Democrats using the budget reconciliation process to pass health care reform legislation has grown. According to Senate rules, bills advanced through the process can't be filibustered, and so the 60-vote threshold that must be met to defeat a filibuster would not apply. Republicans used reconciliation in exactly this way during the Bush years to pass tax cuts in 2001, 2003, and 2005. Senate Republicans also used the reconciliation process to pass a bill permitting oil drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (The final version of that bill signed by Bush did not contain the provision on drilling.) So long as the legislation in question impacts the budget, doing so is within regular Senate order.

Conservatives in the media, however, have now chosen to portray such a course of action as the dreaded "nuclear option." As usual, a little history reveals a lot of hypocrisy. The phrase was actually coined by former Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) in 2003 during the Democratic filibuster of U.S. Court of Appeals nominee Miguel Estrada. At the time, Republican aides discussed changing the rules of the Senate to make filibusters of judicial nominees out of order. Lott, reflecting the drastic nature of such a change, called it a "nuclear option." Starting in 2005, Republicans noted that the term polled badly. They began referring to such a rules change as the "constitutional option," and claimed that only Democrats called it a "nuclear option." The media quickly fell in line, repeating the falsehood.

Unsurprisingly, the hypocrisy has continued. Passing budget-related legislation through the reconciliation process and the "nuclear option" have nothing to do with each other.

This hasn't stopped the conservative media from conflating the two. The goal is to portray progressives as a group of anti-democratic radicals, forcing through a supposedly unpopular bill using procedural tricks -- or, in Chris Matthews' words, "blow[ing] up the Senate rules." Fox News vice president and Washington managing editor Bill Sammon was one of the first to draw the false equivalency back in June, and in recent days, the chorus has only grown. Dick Morris did the same on August 10, and Sean Hannity has repeatedly pushed the distortion. The Fox Nation website even chose to illustrate the story using a mushroom cloud.

Just as they did several years ago, multiple mainstream media figures have taken up the right's deceitful talking point, among them A.B. Stoddard of The Hill, Matthews, and even CNN hosts Anderson Cooper and Kiran Chetry. Thus far, factual explanations, such as the one provided by CNN's Josh Levs, have been few and far between.

This distortion has jumped from the media to the highest levels of the Republican Party. When Hannity hosted RNC chairman Michael Steele, he asked about the "by any means necessary" approach Democrats were considering. "Does this mean the will of the American people," Hannity asked, "as evidenced by just about every credible poll, means nothing to them?" (It seems as though NBC/Wall Street Journal polls are no longer credible to Hannity.) Steele agreed: "If it means the nuclear option, it's going to be the nuclear option."

The right-wing distortion here is obvious and blatant. For the sake of its credibility, the media needs to take its finger off the "nuclear" button.

Friday, August 21, 2009

From Truthout

Joe Scarborough Is Shocked, Yet Awed by Single-Payer Logic

by: Leslie Savan | Visit article original @ The Nation

Former Republican Congressman-turned-pundit and talk show host Joe Scarborough. (Photo: Getty Images)

Something rather remarkable happened on Tuesday's Morning Joe. Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York pointed out that the health insurance industry has no clothes, and Joe Scarborough, after first trying to spin it some gossamer threads, broke down and said, By God, you're right, this emperor is a naked money-making machine!

Well, he didn't use those exact words, but Joe did seem to finally get that America has granted insurance companies the right to create bottlenecks in the financing of health care in order to extract profits out of the suffering of ordinary people-without providing any actual health care whatsoever.

"Why are we paying profits for insurance companies?" Weiner asked Scarborough. "Why are we paying overhead for insurance companies? Why," he asked, bringing it all home, "are we paying for their TV commercials?"

Weiner, who recently warned that President Obama could lose as many as 100 votes on a health bill if a public option is not included, really wants single payer-Medicare for all Americans is his goal. What a crazy, way-out, reckless notion, Joe went into their encounter believing. But Weiner asked some simple, direct questions that no politician, much less Obama or HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, has managed to pose:

What is an insurance company? They don't do a single check-up. They don't do a single exam, they don't perform an operation. Medicare has a 4 percent overhead rate. The real question is why do we have a private plan?

"It sounds like you're saying you think there is no need for us to have private insurance in health care," Joe asked at one point.

Weiner replied: "I've asked you three times. What is their value? What are they bringing to the deal?"

Scraping the bottom of a seemingly bottomless pit of spin, Joe is repeatedly left speechless, "stunned" and "astounded," he said, by the questions themselves. Indeed, when confronted with unfettered capitalism's massive failures, the right usually has nothing to say. The "free market" is supposed to eternally grow, not crash under its own greed. They're left ideologically crippled.

But unlike, say, Lou Dobbs, who began dobbering when confronted with similarly direct argument for single-payer, Joe was able to take a deep breath and return from a break with his eyes opened.

He even repeated Weiner's points clearly: The goverment would take over only the "paying mechanism" of health care, not the doctors or their medical decisions themselves. His ears perked up every time Weiner mentioned that the nonprofit Medicare spends 4 percent on overhead, while private insurers spend 30 percent.

And Joe, who has been criticizing mob rule at town halls, seemed to appreciate the way Weiner counters the fearmongering over Medicare: After decades of railing against the program's wasteful, "runaway" spending, Republicans have done a 180 and are now trying to scare seniors that the Democrats' proposed Medicare cuts will come directly from their medical care and not, as is actually proposed, from wasteful, stupid practices in the system-like, as Weiner mentions, putting people into a $700-a-night hospital bed when all they really need, and often prefer, is a visit by a homecare attendant in the two-digit-a-day range.

Maybe the real turning point came when Weiner asked, "How does Wal-mart offer $4 prescriptions?" Joe and co-host Mika Brzezinski looked as if they'd been thwacked by a hardback copy of Atlas Shrugged, and sat back to let the congressman explain it all to them:

They go to the pharmaceutical companies and say, "Listen, we have a giant buying pool here. You're going to give us a great deal."

Who's bigger than Wal-Mart? We are, the taxpayers. Do we do that? No. Because we have outsourced this to insurance companies who don't have necessarily as much incentive to keep those costs down because, frankly, they are getting a piece of the action.

Progressives tend to understand this stuff, but many conservatives won't trust such logic, especially in the abstract, which is how most Dems have been communicating. But Weiner, aware that if you can't visualize something it ain't going to stick, argued with a specific, familiar visual-that of a successful, supercapitalist, and, as Mika might say, "real American" company. And suddenly, as the mote dropped from the MJ crew's eyes, Weiner went from "scaring American citizens," in Joe's words, to instant celeb.

"That was SO great!" said Mika, as she and Joe asked Anthony to please, please come back soon, this week if possible!

"You have succeeded in doing something that no one else has done on this show in two years," said Joe, his fists rapidly knocking the table in excitement. "You made me speechless. And you made me speechless because you so clearly came here and stated your position."

While maintaining that he and Weiner have "different worldviews," Joe nevertheless raved, "This is fascinating, and one of the problems with the president's message is that it's muddled." And, damn, that's true.

Could this episode herald a Single-Payer Awakening? Or is this just the thrill of logic running up Joe's leg, soon to be forgotten as corporate media try to undermine real reform of a system that feeds the nets millions in ad revenue? When the big mainstream players shouted in unison to prematurely declare the public option dead, I couldn't help but think: In the corporate media's total takeover of ideas, they, too, have a death panel-made up of three or four conglomerate owners and chaired by Rupert Murdoch-that will determine whether an idea lives or gets its plug pulled.

On Thursday, Morning Joe replayed Weiner's best hits, but Joe was occasionally dobbering himself, complaining that our health care problems come down to costs, costs, costs but "now all the President is talking about is a moral imperative." (Of course, Obama put morality on the table only yesterday; until then, he focused on costs, costs, costs.)

We'll see how far this relative openness to single-payer goes. In the meantime, though, the education of Joe Scarborough is, as always, a sight to behold.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Truthout: The Policy-Speak Disaster for Health Care

by: George Lakoff, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Obama on stage at a town hall meeting.
President Obama takes a question at a Grand Junction, Colorado, town hall meeting on August 15. (Photo: AP)

Barack Obama ran the best-organized and best-framed presidential campaign in history. How is it possible that the same people who did so well in the campaign have done so badly on health care?

And bad it is: The public option may well be gone. Neither Obama himself nor senior adviser David Axelrod even mentioned the public option in their pleas to the nation last Sunday (August 16, 2009). Secretary Sibelius even said it was "not essential." Cass Sunstein's co-author, Richard Thaler, in the Sunday New York Times (August 16, 2009, p. BU 4), called it "neither necessary nor sufficient." There has been a major drop in support for the president throughout the country, with angry mobs disrupting town halls and the right wing airing its views with vehemence nonstop on radio and TV all day, every day. As The New York Times reports, Organizing for America (the old Obama campaign network) can't even get its own troops out to work for the president's proposal.

What has been going wrong?

It's not too late to turn things around, but we must first understand why the administration is getting beat at the moment.

The answer is simple and unfortunate: The president put both the conceptual framing and the messaging for his health care plan in the hands of policy wonks. This led to twin disasters.

The Policy-List Disaster

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Howard Dean was right when he said that you can't get health care reform without a public alternative to the insurance companies. Institutions matter. The list of what needs reform makes sense under one conceptual umbrella. It is a public alternative that unifies the long list of needed reforms: coverage for the uninsured, cost control, no preconditions, no denial of care, keeping care when you change jobs or get sick, equal treatment for women, exorbitant deductibles, no lifetime caps, and on and on. It's a long list. But one idea, properly articulated, takes care of the list: An American Plan guarantees affordable care for all Americans. Simple. But not for policy wonks.

The policymakers focus on the list, not the unifying idea. So, Obama's and Axelrod's statements last Sunday were just the lists without the unifying institution. And without a powerful institution, the insurance companies will just whittle away at enforcement of any such list, and a future Republican administration will just get rid of the regulators, reassigning them or eliminating their jobs.

Why Do Policymakers Think This Way?

One: The reality of how Congress is lobbied. Legislators are lobbied to be against particular features, depending on their constituencies. Blue Dogs are pressured by the right's communication system operating in their districts. Congressional leaders have a challenge: Keep the eye of centrists and Blue Dogs on the central idea, despite the pressures of right-wing communications and lobbyists' contributions.

Two: In classical logic, Leibniz's Law takes an entity as being just a collection of properties. As if you were no more than eyes, legs, arms, and so on, taken separately. Without a public institution turning a unifying idea into a powerful reality, health care becomes just a collection of reforms to be attacked, undermined and gotten around year after year.

Three: Current budget-making assumptions. Health is actually systematic in character. Health is implicated in just about all aspects of our culture: agriculture, the food industry, advertising, education, business, the distribution of wealth, sports, and so on. Keeping it as a line item - what figure you put down on the following lines - misses the systemic nature of health. The image of Budget Director Peter Orszag running constantly in and out of Sen. Max Baucus's office shows how the systemic nature of health has been turned into a list of items and costs. Without a sense of the whole, and an institution responsible for it, health will be line-itemed to death.

Obama had the right idea with the "recovery" package. The economy is not just about banking. It is about public works, education, health, energy, and a lot more. It is systemic. The whole is more than the sum of its parts.

The Policy-Speak Disaster

Policy Speak is the principle that: If you just tell people the policy facts, they will reason to the right conclusion and support the policy wholeheartedly.

Policy Speak is the principle behind the president's new Reality Check web site. To my knowledge, the Reality Check web site, has not had a reality check. That is, the administration has not hired a first-class cognitive psychologist to take subjects who have been convinced by right-wing myths and lies, have them read the Reality Check web site, and see if the Reality Check web site has changed their minds a couple of days or a week later. I have my doubts, but do the test.

To many liberals, Policy Speak sounds like the high road: a rational, public discussion in the best tradition of liberal democracy. Convince the populace rationally on the objective policy merits. Give the facts and figures. Assume self-interest as the motivator of rational choice. Convince people by the logic of the policymakers that the policy is in their interest.

But to a cognitive scientist or neuroscientist, this sounds nuts. The view of human reason and language behind Policy Speak is just false. Certainly reason should be used. It's just that you should use real reason, the way people really think. Certainly the truth should be told. It's just that it should be told so it makes sense to people, resonates with them and inspires them to act. Certainly new media should be used. It's just that a system of communications should be constructed and used effectively.

I believe that what went wrong is (a) the choice of Policy Speak and (b) the decision to depend on the campaign apparatus (blogs, town hall meetings, presidential appearances, grassroots support) instead of setting up an adequate communications system.

What Now?

It is not too late. The statistic I've heard is that over 80 percent of citizens want a public plan, but the right-wing's framing has been overwhelming public debate, taking advantage of the right's communication system and framing prowess.

The administration has dug itself (and the country) into a hole. At the very least, the old mistakes can be avoided, a clear and powerful narrative is still available and true, and some powerful, memorable and accurate language should be substituted for Policy Speak, or at least added and repeated by spokespeople nationwide.

The narrative is simple:

Insurance company plans have failed to care for our people. They profit from denying care. Americans care about one another. An American plan is both the moral and practical alternative to provide care for our people.

The insurance companies are doing their worst, spreading lies in an attempt to maintain their profits and keep Americans from getting the care they so desperately need. You, our citizens, must be the heroes. Stand up, and speak up, for an American plan.


As for language, the term "public option" is boring. Yes, it is public, and yes, it is an option, but it does not get to the moral and inspiring idea. Call it the American Plan, because that's what it really is.

The American Plan. Health care is a patriotic issue. It is what your countrymen are engaged in because Americans care about each other. The right wing understands this well. It's got conservative veterans at town hall meeting shouting things like, "I fought for this country in Vietnam and I'll fight for it here." Progressives should be stressing the patriotic nature of having our nation guaranteeing care for our people.

A Health Care Emergency. Americans are suffering and dying because of the failure of insurance company health care. Fifty million have no insurance at all, and millions of those who do are denied necessary care or lose their insurance. We can't wait any longer. It's an emergency. We have to act now to end the suffering and death.

Doctor-Patient Care. This is what the public plan is really about. Call it that. You have said it, buried in Policy Speak. Use the slogan. Repeat it. Have every spokesperson repeat it.

Coverage Is Not Care. You think you're insured. You very well may not be, because insurance companies make money by denying you care.

Deny You Care ... Use the words. That's what all the paperwork and administrative costs of insurance companies are about - denying you care if they can.

Insurance Company Profit-Based Plans. The bottom line is the bottom line for insurance companies. Say it.

Private Taxation. Insurance companies have the power to tax and they tax the public mightily. When 20 percent to 30 percent of payments do not go to health care, but to denying care and profiting from it, that constitutes a tax on the 96 percent of voters that have health care. But the tax does not go to benefit those who are taxed; it benefits managers and investors. And the people taxed have no representation. Insurance company health care is a huge example of taxation without representation. And you can't vote out the people who have taxed you. The American Plan offers an alternative to private taxation.

Is it time for progressive tea parties at insurance company offices?

Doctors Care; Insurance Companies Don't. A public plan aims to put care back into the hands of doctors.

Insurance Company Bureaucrats. Obama mentions them, but there is no consistent uproar about them. The term needs to come into common parlance.

Insurance Companies Ration Care. Say it and ask the right questions: Have you ever had to wait more than a week for an authorization? Have you ever had an authorization turned down? Have you had to wait months to see a specialist? Does your primary care physician have to rush you through? Have your out-of-pocket costs gone up? Ask these questions. You know the answers. It's because insurance companies have been rationing care. Say it.

Insurance Companies Are Inefficient and Wasteful. A large chunk of your health care dollar is not going for health care when you buy from insurance companies.

Insurance Companies Govern Your Lives. They have more power over you than even governments have. They make life and death decisions. And they are accountable only to profit, not to citizens.

The Health Care Failure Is an Insurance Company Failure. Why keep a failing system? Augment it. Give an alternative.

The Needed Communication System

A progressive communication system should be started. It should go into every Congressional district. It should concentrate on general progressive ideas. President Obama has articulated what these are.

  • The basic values are empathy (we care about people), responsibility for ourselves and others, and the ethic of excellence (making ourselves better and the world better).

  • These values form the basis of democracy: It's because we care about our fellow citizens that we have values like freedom and fairness, for everyone, not just the powerful.

  • From that, it follows that government has two moral missions: protection (of consumers, workers, the environment, the old, the sick, the powerless; and empowerment through public works; communication, energy and water systems; education; banks that work; a court system, and so on. Without them, no one makes it in America. Taxes are what you pay for protection and empowerment by the government, and the more you make the greater your responsibility to maintain the system.
  • Appropriate language can be found to express these values. They lie at the heart of all progressive policies. If they are out there every day, it becomes easier to discuss any issue. This is what it means to prepare the ground for specific framings.

    The Culture War Is On! You Can't Ignore it

    President Obama wants to unify the country, and he should. It is a noble idea. It is the right idea. And he started out with the right way to do it. Campaign for what you believe - for empathy, social responsibility, making the nation better. Activate the progressive values in the many millions of Americans who have some conservative values and some progressive values.

    But also inhibit the radical, harmful conservative ideology in the brains of our countrymen by directly saying what's wrong with it. Yes, there are villains. They have a very potent communications system and can organize their troops. Every victory makes them more powerful. They have put together powerful narratives. We need more powerful ones.

    And avoid Policy Speak and Policy Lists.

    What Should Have Been Done?

    It is useful to review what should and should not have been done, because we need to understand the past to avoid future mistakes.

    First, it was obvious to the framing community what the right wing would do. Almost every move could have been predicted and most of them were. There should have been a serious counter effort from right after the election.

    Second, an effective communication system should have been built. Not for dictating what to say, but for creating a system of effectively trained spokespeople, who can get the basic progressive values out there every day to compete with the very effective conservative system. It should not work issue by issue, but in addition to the issues of the day; it should promote general values that apply to all issues.

    The elements are all in existence. The money is there. Indeed it would be a lot cheaper to build than spending tens of millions of dollars on health care ads. What it would accomplish is laying the groundwork in advance of any particular issue. The work of such a communication system would be to activate ideas already there in the millions of citizens who have progressive as well as conservative worldviews in their brain circuitry. The idea would be to make progressive ideas stronger and conservative ideas weaker, balancing what the conservative communication system is doing now.

    It is rather late in the game for the stimulus, cap and trade and health care, but better late than never. And it would be indispensable for future policy campaigns. Framing a powerful message is a lot easier when the groundwork for it has already been laid. Without the groundwork, it is much harder.

    Third, a serious framing education effort with folks who do know the science should have been organized, not just for the communications system, but for the policymakers themselves.

    Fourth, the villainizing of real insurance company villains should have begun from the beginning. As it is, the right wing turned the tables. They attributed to government all the disasters of insurance company health care: rationing, long lines, waits for authorizations and visits to specialists, denial of care. The administration is trying to turn that around, but it is harder now, and they are trying it using Policy Speak, which is the most ineffective of means.

    Fifth, the positive policy should have been made in moral terms, with clear and vivid language. The term "public option" is a Policy-Speak loser. The public is the American public; it is all of us; it is America, and it should have been called the American Plan.

    Sixth, the administration should have been on the offensive not the defensive all the way. The use of conservative language should never have been used in debunking.

    Seventh, it was a mistake to shut out single-payer advocates. They should have been welcomed into the debate. Though the term "single payer" is hopeless Policy Speak and "doctor-patient care" would have been more accurate, nonetheless, the doctors, nurses and unions advocating for such a plan could have done a lot of the work of villainizing the health care industry and would have drawn fire from the right. An alternative on the left would have made the president's plan a compromise. Besides, there is so much to be said in favor of single payer, that there might have been fewer actual compromises with the right.

    Eighth, it was a mistake to put cost ahead of morality. Health care is a moral issue, and the right wing understands that and is using it. That's why the "death panels" and "government takeover" language resonates with those who have a conservative moral perspective and have effectively used terms like "pro-life." Health care is a life and death issue, which is as moral as anything could be. The insurance companies have been on the side of death, and that needs to be said overtly.

    Ninth, accepting the idea that health is a line item separate from agriculture policy, the food industry, regulation of food and drugs, education, the vitality of business, banking reform etc. is just bad economics. These are all tied up together. In this, health care might have been treated like the "recovery" package, but in reverse.

    A causal approach to economics would be appropriate. Instead of putting funds in many places, it might have taken funds from sources of health problems. For example, big agriculture and the food industry produce and heavily market foods that have been central causes of the obesity epidemic and heart disease - corn syrup, too much meat, and so on. They might have been called upon to pay the costs of treating heart disease, strokes and diabetes. It would not be popular with those industries, but it would be causally fair, and might even save a lot of lives - and money.

    Or, take another example of causal economics. Hugely high private taxation (that is, high costs and profit taking) by the health insurance industry helped drive American automakers into bankruptcy. The health insurance industry should have had to use a portion of their profits for bailouts of the auto industry, and the equivalent amount of bailout money could have been used for providing health care to those without it.

    Given the systemic nature of our culture and our economy, a move in the direction of such causal economics should start to be seriously considered. At the very least, it would bring up the question, alert the public to systemic causation and start people thinking about the justice of causal economics.

    All this is not just 20-20 hindsight. My colleagues Glenn Smith and Eric Haas and I have made many of these points before. See our reply to the May 2009 memo by Frank Luntz.

    And take a look at an even earlier memo of the logic of the health care debate.

    Where Policy Lists and Policy Speak Come From

    Framing is everywhere, not just in language. What people do depends on how they think, on how they understand the world - and we all use framing to understand the world. Truth matters. But it can only be comprehended when it is framed effectively and heard constantly.

    This point is too often misunderstood that it is important to understand why. It is also important to understand where Policy Lists and Policy Speak come from and why they have the powerful grip that they have. This is especially important now, when there might still be a chance to turn the health care debate around.

    The source of these political disasters lies in an unlikely place: our most common understanding of reason itself.

    What Is Reason Really Like?

    Policy Speak is supposed to be reasoned, objective discourse. It, thus, assumes a theory of what reason itself is - a philosophical theory that dates back to the 17th century and is still taught.

    Over the past four decades, cognitive science and neuroscience have provided a scientific view of how the brain and mind really work. A handful of these results have come into behavioral economics. But most social scientists and policymakers are not trained in these fields. They still have the old view of mind and language.

    The old philosophical theory says that reason is conscious, can fit the world directly, is universal (we all think the same way), is dispassionate (emotions get in the way of reason), is literal (no metaphor or framing in reason), works by logic, is abstract (not physical) and functions to serve our interests. Language on this view is neutral and can directly fit, or not fit, reality.

    The scientific research in neuroscience and cognitive science has shown that most reason is unconscious. Since we think with our brains, reason cannot directly fit the world. Emotion is necessary for rational thought; if you cannot feel emotion, you will not know what to want or how anyone else would react to your actions. Rational decisions depend on emotion. Empathy with others has a physical basis, and as much as self-interest, empathy lies behind reason.

    Ideas are physical, part of brain circuitry. Ideas are constituted by brain structures called "frames" and "metaphors," and reason uses them. Frames form systems called worldviews. All language is defined relative to such frames and metaphors. There are very different conservative and progressive worldviews, and different words can activate different worldviews. Important words, like freedom, can have entirely different meanings depending on your worldview. In short, not everybody thinks the same way.

    As a result, what is taken as "objective" discourse is often worldview dependent. This is especially true of health care. All progressive writing supporting some version of health care assumes a progressive moral worldview in which no one should be forced to go without heath care, the government should play a role, market regulation is necessary, and so on.

    Those with radical conservative worldviews may well think otherwise: that everyone should be responsible for their own and their family's health care, that the government is oppressive and should stay out of it, that the market should always dominate, and so on.

    Overall, the foundational assumptions underlying Policy Speak are false. It should be no wonder that Policy Speak isn't working.

    The Biconceptual Audience

    A property of brains called "mutual inhibition" permits people to have contradictory worldviews and go back and forth between them. Many people have both progressive and conservative worldviews, but on different issues - perhaps conservative on financial issues and progressive on social issues. Such people are called biconceptuals. President Obama understands this. He has said that his "bipartisanship" means finding Republicans who happen to share his progressive views on particular issues and working with them on those issues - and not accepting an ideology (radical conservatism) rejected by the American people.

    The people the president has to convince are the millions of biconceptuals. That means he has to have them thinking of health care in progressive moral terms, not conservative moral terms. How can this be accomplished?

    Why Do the Nature of Reason and Language Matter?

    It's all in the brain. Words activate frame-and-metaphor circuits, which in turn activate worldview circuits. Whenever brain circuitry is activated, the synapses get stronger and the circuits are easier to activate again. Conservative language will activate conservative frames, which will activate and strengthen the conservative worldview.

    Conservative tacticians may not know about brain research, but they know about marketing, and marketing theorists use that brain research. That is why conservatives place such importance on language choice, from the classic "socialized medicine," to Luntz's "government takeover" to Palin's "death panels." When repeated over and over, the words evoke a conservative worldview, with many of the specific bogeymen - abortion, socialism = communism = nazism, euthanasia, foreigners, taxes, spending, the liberal elite, Big Brother, and so on. The most effective language has emotional appeal and, to conservatives, a moral appeal because it activates the conservative moral worldview. And such language, repeated every day, changes brains, strengthening the synapses of those who listen.

    Conservative language will activate and strengthen conservative worldviews - even when negated! I titled a book "Don't Think of an Elephant!" to make this point. The classic example is Richard Nixon's "I am not a crook," which made everyone think of him as a crook. And yet I've heard President Obama say, "We don't want a government takeover," which activates the idea of a government takeover.'s major story, as I write this, is: "The media have debunked the death panels - more than 40 times." It then gives a list of 40 cases of debunking, each one of which uses the term "death panels." And you wonder, after so many debunkings, why it is still believed! Each "debunking" reinforced the idea. The first rule of effective communication is stating the positive in your own terms, not quoting the other side's language with a negation.

    The Conservative Communication System

    The serious reporting on the role of conservative think tanks began in the mid-1990's with works such as:

  • "Buying a Movement: Right-Wing Foundations and American Politics" (People for the American Way, 1996).

  • Sally Covington, "Moving a Public Policy Agenda: The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations" (National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, 1998).

  • Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado, "No Mercy: How Conservative Think Tanks and Foundations Changed America's Social Agenda" (Temple University Press, 1996).
  • In 1996, my "Moral Politics" appeared, outlining the conservative and progressive moral worldviews and how the conservatives used language to frame public discourse their way.

    In 2004, Rob Stein tracked the conservative communications system, traveling the country with his detailed PowerPoint, "The Conservative Message Machine Money Matrix." Stein tracked not only conservative think tanks, but also the language experts and training institutes training tens of thousands of conservative spokespeople. He also tracked the communications facilities and the collections of "experts" on every issue, together with a booking agency booking the experts daily on media all over the country. Daily talking points are repeated by those "experts." The conservative communications system extends into every Congressional district, including the districts of democrats. In the case of the Blue Dog Democrats, who come from relatively conservative districts, the Blue Dogs have to deal with constituents who hear conservative framing over and over every day without anything effective countering it. That is a major factor in Blue Dog resistance to administration proposals.

    With all this information, you might think that progressives would set up their own communications network going into the heart of conservative districts everywhere, day after day, effectively countering the conservative framing.

    It didn't happen. Instead, Policy Speak prevailed. The old philosophical theory, which is taught in every policy school, won out. Progressives thought such a communications system would be illegitimate - what the conservatives do. They believe, in 17th-century fashion, that if they just state the facts, people should reason to the right conclusion.

    So, progressives set up truth squad web sites and blogs to negate conservative lies - like Media Matters, The Center for American Progress, the People for the American Way, the Center for America's Future, MoveOn, Organizing for America, and so on. These are all fine organizations, and we are fortunate to have them. But ... they are preaching to the choir (because they don't have an adequate communications system), and they are using Policy Speak: just stating the policy truths will be enough.

    As I was writing this, I received the viral email written by David Axelrod, which he refers to as "probably one of the longest emails I've ever sent." It is indeed long. It is accurate. It lays out the president's list of needed reforms. It answers the myths. It appeals to people who would personally benefit from the president's plan. It drops the public option, which makes sense of the list. And it is written in Policy Speak. It has 24 points - three sets of eight.

    Ask yourself which is more memorable: "Government takeover," "socialized medicine" and "death panels" - or Axelrod's 24 points?

    Did the administration do a reality check on the 24 points? That is, did they have one of our superb cognitive psychologists test subjects who were convinced of the right-wing framing, have them read the 24 points and test them a couple days or a week later on whether Axelrod's 24 points had convinced them? Policy Speak folks don't tend to think of such things.

    I genuinely hope the 24 points work. But this is the kind of messaging that created the problems in the first place.

    I respect Axelrod deeply. But the strategist who ran the best-framed campaign I've ever seen is giving in to Policy Speak.

    The Irony

    There is a painful irony in all this and I am aware of it constantly. Highly educated progressives, who argue for the importance of science, have been ignoring or rejecting the science of the brain and mind. Why?

    Because brains are brains. A great many progressives have not grown up with, nor have they learned, the new scientific understanding of reason. Instead, they have acquired the old philosophical theory of reason and assume it every day in everything they do. The old view is inscribed indelibly in the synapses of their brains. It will be hard for those progressives to comprehend the new science that contradicts their daily practice.

    They may find it hard to comprehend framing, metaphor and narrative as the way reason really works - as what you need to do to communicate truth. Instead, they may well think of framing as merely manipulation and spin, as the mechanism that the right wing uses to communicate lies.

    An excellent example of such old-theory thinking appears in the Rahm Emanuel/Bruce Reed book, "The Plan," where framing is seen only as manipulation, not as the structure of ideas. Emanuel and Reed (p. 21) assume that policy is independent of what they incorrectly understand framing to be. As a result, they assume that framing can only be illegitimate manipulation.

    This is, of course, the very opposite of what I and other cognitive scientists have been saying. They are right that real reason can be manipulated in that way, as Frank Luntz has shown us. But it need not be. An understanding of how the brain really works can be used to communicate the truth effectively, and that's how it should be used.

    In the Obama campaign, honest, effective framing was used with great success. But in the Obama administration, something has changed. It needs to change back.