Monday, September 29, 2008

Hi Amy Rosenbaum and Arshi Siddiqui on Pelosi's Staff

This is for:
Amy Rosenbaum, Policy Coordinator.
Melissa Shannon, Legislative Aide, Tax
Arshi Siddiqui, Legislative Aide, Tax

My friend Digby has a great idea that I want to make sure you see. She suggests that your boss, Nancy Pelosi, use this crisis as an opportunity for a "Progressive Shock Doctrine" (based on the concept of the Shock Doctrine used by movement conservatives for years. You probably have heard about it from the book put out by Naomi Klein. )

Here is a post detailing the ideas in this Progressive Shock Doctrine AND the political calculation that can be used to sell them.

Check it out, I've pulled a few paragraphs and highlighted some key phrases that I think will resonate and might support your thinking and writing on this issue.
But the Democrats are failing to take advantage of the complexity of the situation and use simple politics to sell it. They should say that the economy is failing and we need massive government action to solve it. That's what Democrats do in a crisis like this. But they need to make the political message about the Democratic agenda for restoring the economy not about rescuing "the financial system" which nobody understands anyway.
But the Democrats must also make the case that conservative policies creating massive income inequality, starving of the nation's infrastructure, neglect of the health care crisis and ignoring of the immediate need to invest in alternative energy and green jobs (not to mention useless wars) are part of the economic instability we are experiencing --- and addressing those needs is vital to restoring the economy. These aren't just good ideas on the merits, they are necessary for our security.

As my readers know, I believe that the Democrats should make an aggressive argument for progressive policies and liberal principles. I don't mind someone saying they can work with others, but I do object to saying Republicans have good ideas when they don't. The radical policies that have led us to this moment have failed but somebody needs to tell the American people exactly why and offer them a clear alternative. This crisis is an opportunity to spell that out so clearly that there will be no question for a generation that these ideas are as toxic as an adjustable rate mortgage.

Amy and Arshi, I'm sure that you have billions of ideas thrust upon you. Ideas from highly paid lobbyists representing the people who got us into this crisis. You know what their agenda is. You also have been treated to proposals from experts who have been wrong time and time again. I suppose the 27th time is a charm.

I'm a brain in a box, a blogger named for a character from Star Trek, what do I know? (You might have read about some of my work in the New York Times) I know that you can't take the word of Digby either, another blogger, even though the economist and New York Time columnist Paul Krugman called her, "one of the best writers you’ll ever encounter, on or off the Internet."so you will want to talk to other people who are "real" who have had the same idea. The best example?


This is an FDR idea, it worked out pretty well for him.

Quote FDR, mine his legacy. After all, if you are going to look to an expert, look to one who did it right, not the ones who oversaw the collapse and said, "More of the same! Trust us, this time for sure!" (Reminds me of a Bullwinkle cartoon. "Watch me pull a Rabbit out of a hat! (Lion comes out of hat) "No doubt about it time to get a new hat!"bullwinkle

If you want to talk to some experts who are still living Digby suggests her friend Rick Perlstein.

If you want to talk to an economist that correctly predicted all this and can say want might really be next, Nouriel Roubini is the guy.

I'll bet that you folks have already had some ideas like this. Now, with the rejection of the joint bill and the Republicans playing Lucy to our Charlie Brown for the 27th time, maybe you can say, "Instead of going MORE your way, we are going to go more OUR way. We are going to make the bill STRONGER for progressive values and put in some measures for restoring the economy -- the FDR way."

Read Digby's post for the various ways to sell the idea to push back on the Republican right-wing noise machine. They are really good.

Good luck Amy Rosenbaum and Arshi Siddiqui. Hopefully you will know how to get this information to the right people and talk to some of the people I suggested to make these concepts come alive.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Video of John McCain Changing Positions for No Good Reason

My good friend Robert Greenwald from Brave New Films put this together. It's a really nice comparison of times where John McCain contradicts himself. Now it's one thing to change your tactics because the situation changes or you get some significant new information. I actually think that is an important quality in a leader. And when new information demands that you make a different choice, I expect smart leaders to acknowledge the changing situation. To keep doing the same thing and saying the same thing because you are afraid of being called a "flip-flopper" is stupid. In this day and age of video taped archives, when you change what you are saying from one interview to the next depending on who is in the audience you are being reckless.

Over at Digby and at Atrios' place they talk about the media constructing a "narrative" and then looking for examples that fits into that narrative. Three things to know:

1) If someone is pushing that narrative they will provide evidence of that narrative
2) For some people all it takes is ONE example of a narrative to make it stick, but the press likes three ("With three it's a trend!" as my buddy D. likes to say.)
3) If the example is funny enough, the press and the comics will keep using it, EVEN IF IT ISN'T TRUE

That is why we get stupid lines about Nobel Prize winner Al Gore. Someone decided to make some stuff up about Oscar winner Al Gore and others jumped on board. I sometimes wonder if the people who made up crap about Vice President Al Gore are happy now. If they had to do it over again would they still make stuff up? Would they check their facts better? Would they, in their attempt for parity, to alleviate their guilt make funny stuff up about the other person?

Conversely, if the media DON'T want to accept a narrative they will reject example after example of that narrative using lots of excuses.

For example, take the video above. Note how Bob and his team put it together with dates and times (to show you that the situation couldn't have changed that quickly) and with actual media figures confronting McCain so that there would be plenty of context.

Now the people who don't like that narrative can't point to a lack of context or a long period of time over which his views changed as the situation required it. But that might not matter because the media don't want to confront a core belief that they hold about McCain. Their core belief is that he is an honorable man who maintains strong views that are against his own party. If you wanted to maintain that view you would avoid and ignore examples where it is challenged and look for times where it is maintained.

Since this changing of positions doesn't fit their core belief, the media will work overtime to either discount or simply ignore it. Even when the late Tim Russert confronts McCain with his lack of honesty, the narrative is still not changed. You wonder how many times it would take for them to change to that narrative. The current John McCain is not honest. The John McCain of now has been confronted with his lies and kept lying. I don't like that in a leader, even someone on my side. I know that there are times leaders have to keep stuff from us for security reasons, but these are not those times.

They will make excuses for all the things that McCain said. In fact they might EVEN use the comments that I made above to excuse McCain. I can hear them now:

"It's not a flip-flop if it is a 'change of position on something because the situation changed'"!
(Hey, did I do that punctuation right?)

You can see here that Robert has a narrative. He has proved lots of examples, it's kind of funny. And if you want to question it and argue with him about it, go to his site, Brave New World Films. Or make your own response disputing all of the video and posting it on YouTube.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wish it away into the Cornfield Daddy

Remember that creepy episode of the Twilight Zone where Billy Mumy played 6 year old Anthony who had the power over an entire community? Just by using his mind he could change reality. It was about power and what an immature mind does when it gets absolute power.

You know what they say, absolute power blah, blah, blah. (No cliche's from ol' Spocko today) But I do know that Sterling was very concerned about power and fascism.
  • How do you warn the people about it creeping into their lives?
  • How do you tell them what it looks like? (What if it looks like a cute boy?)
  • What are you supposed to do about it?
  • What happens if you don't?

Millions of words are being written about this so called financial crisis. I've got a different perspective based on that episode of the Twilight Zone dealing with a child wielding power.

Investment bankers won't tell you this, in fact NO ONE in the financial industry or their powerful lobbyists will tell you this, but actually they really crave rules and regulation and secretly they want them.

How do I know? Because I know these people. They are like the powerful child in the story, who can do almost anything with no consequences. And then they become warped. The toy breaks and if they can't run away or get another they want a parent to fix it.

I've heard both Chris Matthews and David Brooks were craving this authoritarian parent to fix things. That is because they too are like children with a desire to make the pain go away and go away quickly. It is the authoritarian mind set that led to the some of the horrors in Germany in WWII. It is the authoritarian mind set that has led to some of the horrors in America after 9/11.

I understand avoiding scary things. I know what it is like to face down scary people. When I do it I try and figure out what it is that they want and give it to them. The best thing for the investment banking community is some serious regulation. Like a parent setting boundaries, it will actually make them feel better. THAT is the authority that they want but won't admit.

As I've said. Regulation. Good for Business. Good for Americans.

In the show if you didn't do what Anthony said or you displeased him he would "wish you away into the corn field." The show title was "It's a Good Life" it was written by Rod Sterling based on a story by Jerome Bixby (who wrote the classic Spocko in a goatee episode Mirror Mirror)

I'll never forget that episode, especially the scene where he turns a man into a Jack in the Box. The shadow on the wall of the man and then the photo. (It's funny, I don't remember this image as much as I remember the shadow on the wall.)

The adults must satisfy the child's every whim, or risk displeasing him. Nobody is safe from Anthony, not even his own family, although they can sometimes influence him slightly; after a "smiling" suggestion from his father, Anthony sends the remains of his victims into the cornfield behind the Fremont home after he has finished with them. (link)

I just watched an update called "It's Still a Good Life" starring Cloris Leachman (and the grown up Billy Mumy. We get to see what happens to the community after 40 years being ruled by a bully and a tyrant. For some of them they have only known what life is like living under Anthony. It's a sad impoverished life. Leachman regrets not standing up to her son and the pain and death it caused everyone. Challenging the boy meant death to everyone in the community except the mother. If only Leachman had acted sooner it might have saved lives, but she didn't.

Sterling and Bixby wanted us to see that power can look like a child and when people have it they can act like a child. Real adults need to act to discipline the child because it is really doing the child a service. Regulation will be the best thing to happen to the financial industry since the development of compound interest.

Friday, September 12, 2008

John McCain's Distortions and Lies in his Ads

Watch the video. Hard hitting. Accurate.

I've met some of the people at Brave New Films, nice people, very smart.

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