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December 21, 2006

The Blog | Alan Dershowitz: Swearing on the Koran | The Huffington Post

Re: The Blog | Alan Dershowitz: Swearing on the Koran | The Huffington Post:

The question should be whether Congressman Goode will be allowed to take his oath and sit in his elected office. He has, after all, violated his oath of office, in which he promised to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” which intentionally and emphatically prohibits any and all religious tests

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December 14, 2006

Crashing the Party of Davos

Re: Jeff Faux for Democracy: A Journal of Ideas:

... We need to transform NAFTA into a set of rules that recognizes the common economic future that now connects all of the  people of the three nations. It would need to include, at a minimum, a  “bill of rights” for citizens of North America, enforceable in all  countries, that would reestablish rights for people at least as strong  as the extraordinary privileges NAFTA gives to corporate investors.  They would include guarantees of freedom of association and collective  bargaining across borders, as well as an independent judiciary and public transparency in government dealings with the private sector.

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Re: Chico Marxism

[Posted re: Chico Marxism 12/14/2006]

While I too found Whose Freedom to be overlong for its thesis and that Lakoff had a tendency to put everything in terms of “freedom”, I think you misunderstand or distort his views about framing.

When you summarize Lakoff’s view as “forget about rethinking anything except your rhetoric”, you do a disservice.  Lakoff is quite clear, that in order to develop frames for progressive ideas that are more effective than what we’ve been using, that you have to rethink the issues: back to basics of what are the motivating values and principles that lead to that policy you are promoting?  what larger frame that is built on those values and principles helps frame the debate about your policy.  The entire book is rumination of reframing many issues in terms of freedom.

And Lakoff certainly doesn’t dismiss facts, when he points out that people tend to be convinced more by percieved values, principles and character than by facts.  Facts help, but “frames trump” as he would say.  To doubters, ask yourself why, then, do negative attacks on candidates character seem to be more effective at framing elections than facts?  Swift-boating John Kerry vs Army records and medals awarded and actions taken on and off the battlefield.

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Re: Billionaire Tom & More Education Mythmaking

[Posted re: Billionaire Tom & More Education Mythmaking on 12/14/2006]

The root issues seem to me to be: (a) that labor should not be treated like a physical commodity because it is the source of people’s financial well-being and because labor cannot move as easily as capital, (b) we need “fair-trade” not “free-trade” so that we don’t outsource pollution or labor exploitation along with jobs, and (c) our economic and trading system needs to work for most people -- and by definition it needs to work for those of average capability not just the smartest/best educated.

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December 13, 2006

Frank Luntz's take on the meaning of the 2006 election defeat for Republicans

Frank Luntz's take on the meaning of the 2006 election defeat for Republicans.

PDF: http://www.usnews.com/usnews/politics/washingtonwhispers/061212/postelection.pdf

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Framing Capital Gains

[Posted in response to How do we talk about capital gains tax rates? 12/13/2006]

Framing involves understanding the core motivating values and principles first. Then developing positioning based on that, then perhaps looking for metaphors, as well as illustrative stories.

The taxing of capital gains is clearly in the domain of the economy.  A progressive view of the economy is that “we’re all in this together”, as Jared Berstein puts it in his book. The economy is tied to prosperity and fulfillment in life (the “pursuit of happiness”).  Part of the progressive brand is tied to expanding opportunity and prosperity for most people -- that is,  expanding the middle class (reducing poverty by moving more people up the ladder of the middle class) and strengthening the middle class (increasing disposable income of the middle class).

For most people, the primary source of income is wages.

The rich are well off and don’t need special considerations and tax breaks.

There is no guarantee of good returns, not even positive returns, from speculative investments, whether stock or real estate.  [However, capital gains from homes can be “rolled over” into a new home, effectively delaying capital gains; IRAs offer deferring of taxes to later, presumably lower income periods in retirement -- these policies both reinforce savings by the middle class and economic “enfranchisement” through home ownership and savings.]

Capital “invested” in the stock market is really a buy-sell transaction between two people with different ideas of the future value of the stock relative to other stocks -- it is not investing the corporation in a way that helps the corporation; it provides no money to the corporation to invest in its business.  The benefits to the corporation are only very indirect.  Essentially, the stock market is betting on the future prosperity of the USA, with people choosing segments they think will do better than the average.

Several Republican family members of mine actually agree with most of this -- that the rich and capital gains don’t need special rates and that the “trickle-down” from the rich or “trickle-out” from stock investments is minimal.


  1. we should reward work, not penalize it by taxing it at a higher rate
  2. taxes should favor work (middle class) over wealth (rich)
  3. taxes on capital gains need no special advantageous rates
  4. there may be societal goals of encouraging savings or home ownership to encourage (i) economic “enfranshisement” and (ii) retirement capital that might moderate (c) for specific circumstances

Capital gains should be taxed at no lower rate than income, although one could imagine a progressive capital gains tax for retirement income (or as now with IRAs and 401(k)s deferred tax) up to a certain amount and preferential capital gains for a primary residence, as now.

The core progressive values to express are opportunity and prosperity, followed by fairness (to the broad population -- the working, middle class).

So, we might say something like:

  • We believe in having a fair and simple tax system that doesn't unduly burden the working class to the profit of those who have already made the most money from our system. The responsibility to pay taxes should be shared equitably with those having gotten the most from the system paying the most back into the system to increase opportunity for the next generation.
  • Taxes must encourage work & saving and must support families and the communities they live inreward work, not existing wealth
  • Taxes must be sufficient to pay for desired services for the common good, either by agreeing to reduce current benefits or by increasing taxes. 
  • Taxes should be levied fairly across economic sectors of society, reflecting the broad base of benefits across the sectors. 
  • Make civic investments when times are good, provide greater support when times are bad.

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The Blog | George Lakoff: Building on the Progressive Victory | The Huffington Post

Re: The Blog | George Lakoff: Building on the Progressive Victory | The Huffington Post:

Take the 100-hour agenda. It breaks into two parts, for the two aspects of progressive values, empathy and responsibility. The minimum wage, college loan interest, prescription drug prices, and stem cell research are all empathy issues: they are about caring about working people, young people, old people, and those with debilitating diseases. Lobbying reform, pay-as-you-go budgeting, and enacting the 9-11 Commission recommendations are all responsibility issues. What the progressives, blue dogs, and centrists can agree on are all instances of progressive values.
Democratic winners didn't shrink from pointing to those traumas, nor did they soft-pedal their progressive views. They created a narrative of good guys who care and bad guys who don't; good guys who use government to get things done for people and bad guys who are out to destroy government and don't get things done.

In the process they have started a new progressive populism. Not a mere economic populism, but a thoroughgoing progressive populism. It was not just about economic issues. It was also about renewable energy and global warming, about honest government, about a government to count on in case of disaster, about not getting people killed in Iraq day after day, about keeping good jobs here and creating more of them, and about the importance of science in fighting disease. In short, it was about government that cares about its citizens and acts responsibly toward them and toward others in the world. And as with a real populism, there was a handy oppressor -- radical conservatives in Washington who were lying to the citizenry; taking bribes; outsourcing jobs; getting our troops killed; letting a beloved city die; and all the while getting rich on no-bid contracts. If that isn't rot at the top, I don't know what is.

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December 06, 2006

Race Against Time - World AIDS Day Speech | U.S. Senator Barack Obama

Re: Race Against Time - World AIDS Day Speech | U.S. Senator Barack Obama:

.... I also believe that we cannot ignore that abstinence and fidelity may too often be the ideal and not the reality - that we are dealing with flesh and blood men and women and not abstractions - and that if condoms and potentially microbicides can prevent millions of deaths, they should be made more widely available.  I know that there are those who, out of sincere religious conviction, oppose such measures.  And with these folks, I must respectfully but unequivocally disagree.  I do not accept the notion that those who make mistakes in their lives should be given an effective death sentence.  Nor am I willing to stand by and allow those who are entirely innocent - wives who, because of the culture they live in, often have no power to refuse sex with their husbands, or children who are born with the infection as a consequence of their parent's behavior -suffer when condoms or other measures would have kept them from harm.
We should never forget that God granted us the power to reason so that we would do His work here on Earth - so that we would use science to cure disease, and heal the sick, and save lives. And one of the miracles to come out of the AIDS pandemic is that scientists have discovered medicine that can give people with HIV a new chance at life.
My faith also tells me that - as Pastor Rick has said - it is not a sin to be sick. My Bible tells me that when God sent his only Son to Earth, it was to heal the sick and comfort the weary; to feed the hungry and clothe the naked; to befriend the outcast and redeem those who strayed from righteousness.
Or we can embrace another tradition of politics - a tradition that has stretched from the days of our founding to the glory of the civil rights movement, a tradition based on the simple idea that we have a stake in one another - and that what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and that if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done for the people with whom we share this Earth.

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December 04, 2006

Re: Obama Happens: A Cautionary Tale for Perfect Little Hilary's Everywhere

[Submitted Re: Obama Happens: A Cautionary Tale for Perfect Little Hilary's Everywhere  12/4/2006]

One of the problems with “triangulation” is that it is a governing strategy -- a way to get basically what you want to done -- and not a values- and principles-centered, character-defining strategy.

I think that what Bill Clinton really did in the beginning was to use two strategies, not just triangulation.  The other strategy, when he was laying out his position,  was “co-option” -- take the other person's issues and, if there is some real validity to them), (1) acknowledge the issue but then (2) recast them with a solution from your own principles and not from theirs.

So co-option to reframe the other side's issue with your own solutions and triangulation to get it passed on a bi-partisan basis.

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Re: What happened to the immigration wedge? - The Democratic Strategist

Re: What happened to the immigration wedge? - The Democratic Strategist

[On immigration, Democrats] called for toughness on the border, fairness to taxpayers, and practicality in terms of dealing with the existing problem and restoring the rule of law. They excoriated President Bush for failing to enforce existing laws. And they defined the path to citizenship, not as the compassionate solution for illegal immigrants, but as the best solution for taxpayers.

It worked. Because Democrats supported immigration reform, their margin among Hispanics jumped from eleven to thirty-nine points. In part because they messaged reform to appeal to taxpayers, their deficit among whites dwindled from fifteen to four points. In nearly all races where immigration became a major issue, Democrats thumped Republicans. In Arizona, ground-zero in the immigration debate, two house seats flipped from R to D. Some of the most virulent foes of immigration reform were sent packing. And Democrats who began the year on the defensive cruised to victory.

Now what? We have already heard from some Democrats a reluctance to take up the issue at all. They see it as overly controversial, and they don't want to tempt fate with another foray into this issue. But they don't have a choice. We have an immigration crisis in this country and if nothing is done Democrats will be blamed.

At Third Way, we are confident that Democrats can pass immigration reform without alienating non-Hispanic voters. If Democrats cling to the substance in the Senate-passed McCain-Kennedy bill and stick to the message of tough, fair to taxpayers, and practical, they will not only repel the immigration wedge -- they will receive credit for solving one of America's most vexing problems.

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