Democracy

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Michael Finley’s blog is now named worldgonewrong. See this excellent piece on responsibility in democracy. A bit of it to get you to go there and read:

Every decision is a moral act. Every time you tell a pollster, “Sure, drop bombs on those people,” you have just dropped a bomb on someone, with you heart and soul. It was a sin of intent, a sin not of deed but of thought. If leadership uses your vote or remark or letter to the editor to justify violence, then you have done something even worse: you aided and abetted in the commission of a sin.

Some History of the Conservative Movement

The following is adapted from my article, Who’s Behind the Attack on Liberal Professors?, February 10, History News Network.

Part 2 of this piece, HOW TO FIGHT BACK, is now posted.

Some History of the Conservative Movement

In 1971 the National Chamber of Commerce circulated a memo by future Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell among business leaders which claimed that “the American economic system” of business and free markets was “under broad attack” by “Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic.” Powell argued that those engaged in this attack come from “the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians.”

According to the Powell memo, the key to solving this problem was to get business people to “confront this problem as a primary responsibility of corporate management” by building organizations that will use “careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing only available in joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.” It helped immeasurably, Powell noted, that the boards of trustees of universities “overwhelmingly are composed of men and women who are leaders in the system,” and that most of the media “are owned and theoretically controlled by corporations which depend upon profits, and the free enterprise system to survive.”

Powell wrote that these organizations should employ a “faculty of scholars” to publish in journals, write “books, paperbacks and pamphlets,” with speakers and a speaker’s bureau, as well as develop organizations to evaluate textbooks, and engage in a “long range effort” to correct the purported imbalances in campus faculties. “The television networks should be monitored in the same way that textbooks should be kept under constant surveillance.” Powell said that this effort must also target the judicial system.

The “Four Sisters”

In 1973, in response to the Powell memo, Joseph Coors and Christian-right leader Paul Weyrich founded the Heritage Foundation. Coors told Lee Edwards, historian of the Heritage Foundation, that the Powell memo persuaded him that American business was “ignoring a crisis.” In response, Coors decided to help provide the seed funding for the creation of what was to become the Heritage Foundation, giving $250,000.(1) From David Greenberg’s New York Times review of Edwards’ book, The Power of Ideas:

“Coors told Edwards that Powell’s manifesto had “convinced” him that American business was “ignoring a crisis.” Coors was moved to act. He “invested” the first $250,000 to fund the 1971-72 operations of the Analysis and Research Association (ARA) in Washington, D.C., the original name of the [Heritage] foundation. Other wealthy contributors followed Coors’ lead. Their aim was to counter liberal power in Washington, and aggressively market policies and legislative proposals to Congress and the President that reflected the conservative agenda. Heritage became the trend-setting model for scores of policy institutes and lobbying operations that compose the radical-right apparat. Heritage has been a major beneficiary of the Coors’ Castle Rock Foundation ever since.”

Subsequently, the Olin Foundation, under the direction of its president, former Treasury Secretary William Simon (author of the influential 1979 book A Time for Truth), began funding similar organizations in concert with “the Four Sisters“–Richard Mellon Scaife’s various foundations, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Olin Foundation and the Smith Richardson Foundation–along with Coors’s foundations, foundations associated with the Koch oil family, and a group of large corporations. (2) (This core group of four funders was dubbed the “Four Sisters” in the article. Funding the war of ideas, 19-26, July, 1995 issue of Christian Century. See Funder of the Lott CCW Study Has Links to the Gun Industry, Violence Policy Center for a discussion of this. In this article, I will refer to this group of funders as the “Four Sisters Funding Group” or FSFG.) The organization Philanthropy Roundtable was founded to coordinate this funding.

Following Powell’s long-term plan to “build a movement,” FSFG has funded and built a network of think tanks, advocacy organizations, and expanded into media, lobbying, and other areas. The work was slow but effective. As Christopher DeMuth, president of the American Enterprise Institute, told a group of conservative business people, “things take time. It takes at least 10 years for a radical new idea to emerge from obscurity.”

“Funds generated by business…must rush by the multimillions to the aid of liberty…to funnel desperately needed funds to scholars, social scientists, writers and journalists who understand the relationship between political and economic liberty. [Business must] cease the mindless subsidizing of colleges and universities who departments of economy, government, politics and history are hostile to capitalism.”
–William E. Simon, Time for Truth (1979)

Creating “Conventional Wisdom”

Now, after 30 years of effort, this core FSFG has built a comprehensive ideological infrastructure. There are now over 500 organizations, with the Heritage Foundation at the hub, all funded by this core group. David Callahan’s 1999 study, $1 Billion for Ideas: Conservative Think Tanks in the 1990s, found that just the top 20 of the organizations spent over $1 billion on this ideological effort in the 1990s.

The right-wing movement’s messages are orchestrated and amplified to sound like a mass “movement” consisting of many “voices.” Using “messaging”–communication techniques from the fields of marketing, public relations, and corporate image-management–the movement appeals to people’s deeper feelings and values. Messages are repeated until they become “conventional wisdom.” Examples include lines like “Social Security is going broke” and “public schools are failing.” Both statements are questionable, yet both have been firmly embedded in the “public mind” by purposeful repetition through multiple channels. This orchestration has been referred to as a “Mighty Wurlitzer, ” a CIA term that refers to propaganda that is repeated over and over again in numerous places until the public believes what it’s hearing must be true. From “The Mighty Wurlitzer,” by Robert Borosage, American Prospect, May, 2002

“With all that ideological money, institutional heft, coordination, and credentialing, the right has perfected what the CIA used to call a “mighty Wurlitzer” — a propaganda machine that can hone a fact or a lie, broadcast it, and have it echoed and recycled in Fox News commentary, in Washington Times news stories, in Wall Street Journal editorials, by myriad right-wing pundits, by Heritage seminars and briefing papers, and in congressional hearings and speeches.”

As a study by the People for the American Way, has put it:

“The result of this comprehensive and yet largely invisible funding strategy is an extraordinary amplification of the far right’s views on a range of issues. The various funding recipients do not march in ideological lock-step, but they do promote many of the same issues to their respective audiences. They have thus been able to keep alive in the public debate a variety of policy ideas long ago discredited or discarded by the mainstream. That, in turn, has been of enormous value in the right’s ongoing effort to reshape American society. The success of the right-wing efforts are seen at every level of government, as a vast armada of foundation-funded right-wing organizations has both fed and capitalized on the current swing to the right in Congress and in the state legislatures.”

The Money Comes With Strings

The FSFG money comes with ideological strings attached. Their think tanks are not independent; their organizations must espouse their ideology. “Cato, for example,” as Gregg Easterbrook pointed out in an article in the Atlantic in 1986, “flatly states that it will not release any study that calls for a government program. The institute’s president, Edward Crane, says that he receives one or two commissioned reports each year that are ‘inconsistent,’ and he does not publish them. The analyst Jonathan Stein lost his job at [the Center For Strategic & International Studies] CSIS several months after he published a book highly critical of Star Wars, the study of which is worth millions to think tanks that toe the line. (CSIS denies there was any connection.) ”

The core group that controls this movement is now attacking even Republicans who would previously have been considered “conservatives” for inadequate ideological purity. Members of the moderate wing of the Republican Party are derided by the radical right as nothing more than RINO’s — Republicans In Name Only. The FSFG is funding efforts to drive these moderates out of office and out of the party.(3)

The Movement is Coordinated

Currently the core of the “conservative movement” meets weekly with representatives of the FSFG. As Eric Alterman has revealed:

Their weekly agenda was hammered out every Wednesday at a meeting chaired by Grover Norquist, a rightwing Leninist who believes in an ever-shifting tactical alliance. Among those who attend the invitation-only meetings are spokespeople and representatives of NRA, the Christian Coalition, the Heritage Foundation; corporate lobbyists, the top people from the Republican party and the Congressional Republican leadership, and chief White House aides. Trusted rightwing journalists and editors also attend, though the meetings are off the record.

While the ostensible purpose of the meeting is to share information and coordinate strategy, they also give Norquist the opportunity to act as an ideological enforcer. When one member of the Bush administration worried to a New York Times reporter that the administration’s plan to repeal the estate tax would cripple charitable giving, he was publicly warned by Norquist that this was “the first betrayal of Bush”, and was gone not long afterward. When a conservative pundit named Laura Ingraham criticised a fellow conservative in the House of Representatives for overzealousness, she was immediately informed by Norquist to decide “whether to be with us or against us”. She was no longer welcome at the meetings.

David Brock, in his book Blinded By the Right, described from inside this “movement” how different parts of the right-wing web and their funders interacted during the attempt to remove President Clinton from office. Brock writes that funding was supplied by Richard Mellon Scaife, Federalist Society (funded by Scaife) lawyers and judges working behind the scenes assisting Special Prosecutor Ken Starr and supplying information to (Scaife-funded) American Spectator magazine.

Even the Justice System

A review of the 1993 Alliance for Justice study, Justice for Sale by Richard L. Grossman, says Powell’s recommendations for changing the legal system have led to “a multi-faceted, comprehensive, and integrated campaign,” coordinated and funded by large corporations and rightwing foundations, “to create taxpayer subsidized law firms…to rewrite American jurisprudence…advanc[e] their agenda before judges, lawyers, legal scholars, and government policy makers…[and] sought to assure control over the future direction of the law” by installing ideologically friendly faculty in law schools, as well as organizing and rewarding students with scholarships and clerkships under conservative judges, and placing those judges on the bench.

The influential Federalist Society, an organization of ideologically conservative lawyers, law students, law professors, bureaucrats, activists, and judges, with chapters on most law school campuses, was also founded and funded by the core FSFG. The Federalist Society also serves to assist members with job placement — its members screen and make up many of the Bush administration’s appointees to the Justice Department, Federal judgeships and other prominent positions. (6)

A Case Study

Often it is possible to discern how the timing of a “Mighty Wurlitzer” chorus relates to a planned conservative policy initiative. A recent example is the flurry of articles that hit the press starting in late November, originating from the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform and the Tax Foundation, which claimed that the poor do not pay enough income taxes. The Wall Street Journal even referred to the poor as “lucky duckies.” The paper did not mention that poor people do pay Social Security taxes. The publicity appears to have been timed to the release of the president’s latest tax-cutting program.(4, 5)

The Effect on Society

The core right-wing web of organizations funded by the FSFG has increasingly been able to set the public agenda, shifting national and local politics consistently to the right and away from the mainstream public interest. As a result, right-wing ideological premises and arguments dominate public-issue debate, with big money using this communications infrastructure to drown out other voices, virtually creating a one-dollar-one-vote society. “As one investigative journalist stated years ago in a pioneering investigation of the conservative philanthropy of Richard Scaife,” wrote Sally Covington in a 1997 study,

“layer upon layer of seminars, studies, conferences, and interviews [can] do much to push along if not create, the issues, which then become the national agenda of debate…. By multiplying the authorities to whom the media are prepared to give a friendly hearing, [conservative donations] have helped to create an illusion of diversity where none exists. The result could be an increasing number of one-sided debates in which the challengers are far outnumbered, if indeed they are heard from at all.”

Now Posted — How to Fight Back

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Notes:

1.See Jerry Landray, From The Powell Manifesto: How A Prominent Lawyer’s Attack Memo Changed America.

2. See also The Machine’s Origins, Consortium News, and Buying a Movement, People for the American Way Foundation.

3. See http://www.commonwealinstitute.org/information.html#moderates.

4. See:

Heritage Foundation, May 8, 2001 http://www.heritage.org/Research/PoliticalPhilosophy/loader.cfm?url=/commonspot/security/getfile.cfm&PageID=4327

Americans for Tax Reform, May 7, 2002 http://www.atr.org/caucus/article050702.html

Tax Foundation, November, 2002 http://www.taxfoundation.org/prtopincome.html

5. The Wurlitzer:

Nov. 20, 2002 http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110002937

Nov. 26, 2002 http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A39211-2002Nov25&notFound=true

Nov. 26, 2002 http://slate.msn.com/id/2074666/

Dec. 3, 2002 http://www.washtimes.com/commentary/20021203-415124.htm

Dec. 4, 2002 http://www.naplesnews.com/02/12/perspective/d856951a.htm

Dec. 10, 2002 http://www.whitehouse.gov/cea/taxnotes30th_anniversaryspeech_dec10_2002.pdf

Dec. 15, 2002 http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A59577-2002Dec15&notFound=true

Dec. 16, 2002 http://slate.msn.com/id/2075483/

Dec. 21, 2002 http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2002/12/21/duckies/

Jan. 7, 2003 White House proposes tax changes: http://www.treas.gov/press/releases/kd3739.htm

Jan. 9, 2003 http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/01/09/ED210726.DTL

Jan. 14, 2003 http://slate.msn.com/id/2076725/

Jan. 16, 2002 http://slate.msn.com/id/2077089/

Jan. 20, 2003 http://opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110002938

Jan. 20, 2003 http://slate.msn.com/id/2077201/

6. See

The Federalist Society – The Conservative Cabal That’s Transforming American Law by Jerry Landay, The Washington Monthly, March, 2000.

After All, It’s Your Money

I posted this as a comment over at Daily Kos: I think Bush is going to get the vote (at the UN). He has announced that the Treasury’s checkbook is open (Turkey). So now it’s just a matter of settling up the price. That’s all. Lots of secret agreements, lots of “aid” deals, lots of promises for a share of the “rebuilding” contracts.

The Bushies are going to pay what it takes – after all, “it’s your money,” not theirs.

HOW TO FIGHT BACK

This is a follow-up to February 25′s piece, Some History of the Conservative Movement. This is a much revised version of something I posted here a few months ago.

There is a version of this, designed and formatted to be sent as an e-mail message for forwarding, available online at: http://www.commonwealinstitute.org/ltr030403.rtf

HOW TO FIGHT BACK

The right seems to be taking over everywhere. They are tearing down so much that we care about – environmental programs, family planning programs, basic “safety net” programs, causing massive budget deficits, etc. How did we get into this predicament and what do we do to get out of it? How did the right shift the center of American public opinion? And how can we beat them at their own game?

The Predicament – The extreme right-wing took complete control of the Federal Government on Nov. 5th. The solution — Fight Back with the Commonweal Institute.

Those of us fighting for common sense policies that protect the environment, prevent corporations from abusing workers, investors and the communities around them, provide pregnant women with basic health care, and ensure that the rich pay their fare share of society’s needs (among other things) are now reduced to fighting a rear-guard action to prevent further damage.

We see it every day in the headlines – education, health care, public parks and even roads, police and fire departments — all face massive budget cuts. It seems you can’t open up a paper or turn on the television without hearing about an environmental setback, a school closing, a hospital shutting down, the cost of health insurance rising or another corporation laying off massive numbers of workers after moving production overseas. It’s just overwhelming!

This is not your grandmother’s country.

What happened to the common sense, mainstream middle of the road politicians like Sen. James Jeffords that your grandmother used to cast votes for without hesitation? He had to leave his own party, saying the extremists have taken over! Why has the extreme right-wing pulled the country so far to the right that sometimes you have to look very closely to tell the difference? How did the “center” of the American political spectrum shift so radically to the right over the last three decades? And what can we do to shift it back?

What can we do about it?

It is important to understand what has been happening to us! How did the right shift the center of American public opinion? And how can we beat them at their own game? They have been so effective, maybe we ought to be doing some of what they’ve been doing! (Acting with honesty and ethics, of course!)

So I’d like to write about the right-wing movement’s campaign to move the public to the right. By examining how it was done we can learn how to counter it, and move the public and the country back into balance, back to the center back to sanity. And then I’ll describe the Commonweal Institute’s plan to do something about it.

Part 1 – What has been happening to us?

Pushed to the right.

The American public has been the target of an ongoing, deliberate, planned campaign to push them to the right.

Who is funding this campaign?

A small group of wealthy far-right and Christian-right individuals, foundations and corporations. Since the early 1970′s, they have been pouring literally hundreds of millions of dollars into a small group of think tanks and organizations in order to create the appearance of a much larger “movement.” You might recognize some of the following names: The Heritage Foundation (founded in 1973), The American Enterprise Institute (founded in 1943, but whose budget exploded from $1 million a year in 1970 to $11 million a year by 1981), the Cato Institute (founded in 1977), the Free Congress Foundation (founded in 1977 by Paul Weyrich, who also helped found The Heritage Foundation), The Federalist Society (founded in 1982), the Competitive Enterprise Institute (founded in 1984). These organizations did not exist a few decades ago, but now are cited with overwhelming regularity by mainstream media and politicians. The research to back this up is on the Commonweal Institute’s web site, at http://www.commonwealinstitute.org/information.html. I also go into detail about this subject in a recent article, Who’s Behind the Attack on Liberal Professors?, online at http://hnn.us/articles/1244.html.

What’s remarkable is that when you look at these, and about 500 other similar organizations that have sprung up since the early 1970’s, they are all funded by the same few people, corporations and foundations! You’ll find that Richard Mellon Scaife and his family foundations, and the Bradley Foundation, Olin Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, and Coors family foundations and a few corporations and individuals are funding and coordinating almost all of the activities of this right-wing “movement.” What seems like a number of different organizations and individuals is really just a small group.

What do they get for their money?

Studies and policy papers (“idea product”) specifically designed to support right-wing political positions. Translated by modern marketing techniques (polling, focus groups, psychological profiling…) into easy to digest sound bites that resonate emotionally and culturally, these “ideas” are promoted by “independent experts” and “scholars” through far-right outlets such as TV’s Fox News, the Internet’s Drudge Report and NewsMax, Rush Limbaugh and talk radio, newspapers like the Washington Times, and a multitude of right-wing columnists, pundits, authors and celebrities (many of which are dependent on right-wing institutions for their paychecks).

How pervasive are these ideas?

The “communications engine” of the right-wing goes far beyond the self-consciously “conservative” institutions cited above. An extraordinary number of the “talking heads” on network television (“Meet The Press” on NBC), cable (CNBC) and public TV (McLaughlin Group), articles and letters on the editorial pages of national newspapers (the New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today), “sources” and experts in news stories, “studies” referred to in magazine articles (US News and World Report, Time, Newsweek, etc.), and books reviewed in the paper get their “talking points” from these extreme right-wing organizations. This is all well documented in the research gathered by the Commonweal Institute at .

What are some examples of these right-wing “ideas”?

“The public schools are failing.” “Raising taxes slows economic growth and takes money out of the average worker’s paycheck.” “Social Security is going broke.” Sound familiar? These are part of a very conscious and deliberate attempt to frame public opinion in a way that makes the otherwise extreme sounding solutions favored by the right wing seem reasonable. The organizations funding the right wing think long term: contracting out the operation of public schools to private, for-profit corporations would have been unthinkable just decade or two ago (along with other schemes that privatize and commercialize public education, such as “vouchers” and “Channel One”), but now that we’ve had thirty years of continual harping on the “failure of public education”, it sounds vastly more reasonable to an American public that rarely hears any dissent from this manufactured “conventional wisdom”.

How much money are we talking about?

Over $1 billion dollars in the last decade, alone. A BILLION. One, followed by nine zeros. That doesn’t even count more conventional attempts to influence the political process and public dialogue, such as donations to candidates and paid “issue” advertisements. They’ve been so successful at flooding the nation’s “marketplace of ideas” that moderate and “left wing” opinions go almost completely unheard in the mainstream media. The right’s “success” hasn’t stopped the flood of money – over the next two years, these organizations anticipate pouring over $400 million dollars into the 500+ right wing groups working to influence the American public’s views and perspectives on key issues.

How can I see this in action?

When you read a commentary or hear from an “expert” that seems right wing, make a note of what organization(s) they are associated with. Then go to MediaTransparency.org at http//www.mediatransparency.org/ and use their excellent Search capability to look them up and see where they get their money. For those individuals whose associations are unmentioned, use Google and search on the author’s name to discover what organizations they are affiliated with. If you do this a few times, you’ll begin to see a pattern of a small group of right-wing foundations showing up again and again. Mention this the next time you’re talking with a friend or neighbor – encourage them to check this out as well. Over time, this will increase the public’s awareness and decrease the effectiveness of these tactics.

Where can I find out more information about these groups?

The Commonweal Institute has made available a collection of links to research that details the establishment and financing of the “conservative movement”, as well as the individuals, organizations, institutes and foundations that fund it. See Commonweal’s Information page, online at http//www.commonwealinstitute.org/information.html. Studying these resources will help you better understand the biases and influences underlying media coverage.

Scott Rosenberg’s Salon weblog summed this process up just the other day

“What did the Republicans do in the 1970s? They went back to their roots and created institutions for the long-term. They spent money on think-tanks and local organizations and decided to build a new party from the ground up that appealed to conservatives. They elected Ronald Reagan in 1980, and the party they built then is the same party that Karl Rove is orchestrating today. The fringe-y think tanks of the ’70s — like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute — now provide an endless supply of talking-head and op-ed support for right-wing policies. And, give them credit, they’re just full of ideas.”

Part 2 – How is the Commonweal Institute going to shift the center of American public opinion?

The Commonweal Institute will provide message leadership.

The Commonweal Institute is committed to advancing moderate and progressive principles through message leadership, using strategic marketing and aggressive communication of ideas. We are working to bring positive moderate and progressive messages to the public and build widespread support for the issues we care about. Our goals: to swing American public opinion back towards a moderate/progressive perspective; to restore balance to the marketplace of ideas; to revitalize and reenergize the democratic process; to advance the values of fairness, justice, and opportunity and to help create a equitable society with sustainable economic development.

Here’s how.

The Commonweal Institute will use modern marketing and public relations methods to advance moderate and progressive principles to the broad, mainstream public — some of the same techniques that the right wing has used so effectively to dominate our nation’s marketplace of ideas, but used honestly and ethically. The “idea product” of moderate/progressive think tanks and other organizations will be translated into researched, effective messaging that resonates with target audiences. This means polling & focus groups to uncover issues important to the targeted demographic & psychographic groups and cognitive interviewing, linguistic analysis, framing analysis, etc. to determine effective emotional messaging that reaches these target groups. Because people respond best to stories that trigger an emotional response, using words that evoke images in the mind and metaphors that hook facts to their deeper feelings, giving them a sense of “Oh yeah, that’s right.”

The Commonweal Institute will work with other organizations to use multiple channels of communication to reach the widest possible set of audiences. These channels of communication will include books, articles, columns, commentaries, letters to the editor, newsletters, on-line information, expert speakers, scholars, talk show guests, video clips, tapes, media training for activists and advertisements, as well as providing talking points and other ready-to-go materials for use by opinion leaders, public speakers, educators, activists, talk show hosts and guests and the general public — the exact same set of tools and techniques that the right wing has been using to shape public opinion over the past three decades.

An example: If the rumored “liberal radio talk show network” does gets started, the talk-show hosts will need things to talk about, and will need to know how to talk about them in ways that reach out and grab a mainstream general public audience. THIS is what Commonweal will do. The Commonweal Institute will provide the wording, data, issues, framing, even many guests.

Manufacturing “conventional wisdom”.

The right has used the technique of repeating something often enough that people believe it (the “public schools are failing”, “Social Security is going broke,” “we need to cut taxes to stimulate the economy”). Commonweal Institute will provide message leadership, creating conventional wisdom that reflects moderate and progressive principles by repeating messages that build support for moderate and progressive principles, over and over again, through many outlets, using words that resonate with people, until public opinion changes.

A battle of ideas.

We progressives and moderates have a clear advantage in the battle of ideas — we don’t have to lie, trick or otherwise fool the public to get them to agree with us! In fact, we are going to do the opposite — we’re going to tell it like it is. The right wing is trying to convince the public to do absurd things, such as giving up their Social Security, pensions, healthcare, environmental regulations, workplace safety rules, environmental protections and all the rest of the benefits and protections we have built up over the years, just so that some rich white guy can upgrade his five car garage to a seven car garage and park another couple of Ferraris in it. That’s why, even with all the billions spent and all the domination of the media they’ve developed, they STILL can’t get a majority of the voters to agree with them, even after convincing so many people to give up voting entirely!

Multi-issue vs. single issue.

While many issue-organizations offer good information for their issues, they tend to be financially dependant on reaching out to their own base of supporters. Many have limited budgets and cannot reach as many as they would like. Fundraising is difficult and ongoing, and it makes sense to reach people who will tend to support your cause. It is not typically economical for single-issue organizations to spend the money to reach out to the mainstream, general public. So out of necessity there is a lot of preaching to the converted. In addition, more and more, they are fighting shorter-term defensive battles, as they endure constant attack by right-wing elements.

To reach out to wide general audiences, talking about a number of issues, you need a different kind of organization. Moderates and progressives need to fund and develop infrastructure. This is what the Commonweal Institute is.

The beginnings of a foundation for progress.

What we’re creating at the Commonweal Institute is an “infrastructure” organization. These are what the right-wing has been building over the past three decades. The Commonweal Institute will work to change underlying public attitudes, by translating particular issues and causes into a larger framework of understanding, and communicate that general perspective to the public at large.

Growing the base.

Changing underlying public attitudes toward the moderate/progressive perspective will bring the growth of the base of support for moderate and progressive organizations and leaders. Environmental, social, health, and other types of organizations will see their own support and funding base increase. They will also have some of their burden reduced as government again picks up some of the load.

It’s not about picking the right politicians.

Politicians and parties follow the lead of the people. Once the Commonweal Institute is able to change the public’s core attitudes, moderate and progressive leaders and officials will have an easier job convincing voters that they have the right solution, since the public will already understand the issues it faces, and will already be asking for what they are suggesting. This will be a lot easier for candidates and elected officials than having to explain the background of issues, introduce the programs, and convince the voters that they have the right ideas and solutions, all at the same time, and in a single 15 to 30 second sound bite.

Some good news.

Lack of money is not what has been handicapping moderates and progressives. There is actually a lot of money available on the moderate/progressive side. It just hasn’t been used as effectively as the money poured into right-wing idea machine infrastructure. There are some good articles about this on Commonweal’s information page, online at http://www.commonwealinstitute.org/information.html.

Much of the money supplied by moderates and progressives goes to fund narrow programs with limited and specific goals. This once worked well as a way to get a lot done with limited funds. But “program funding” is not as effective in a time when so much that we care about is under attack from right-wing organizations! There is no “fight back” component in this kind of funding.

This style of funding creates organizations that lack the flexibility to quickly respond to changing needs. Opportunities are often lost as a result, when the resources to take advantage of them are unavailable until the next annual budget cycle. The right has provided general operating funding money for use any way the organizations want, as long as it is spent to further the right-wing ideological movement, according to their specific long-term strategic goals. Moderate and progressive donors need to do much more of this.

So the money is there, but until this funding pattern changes, organizations like the Commonweal Institute must be funded by individual donors who understand the necessity of the task at hand and want to help out. You, in other words.

Return on investment.

Here’s an example of the funding problem. Many of us support local members of the national Land Trust Alliance, such as The Sempervirens Fund in Santa Cruz County, California, which is working to permanently protect the area’s remaining ancient old growth redwoods by acquiring land and integrating it into the public parks system. They are currently working to raise $13.4 million to save the San Lorenzo River Redwoods. But that huge investment, and others like it, can be undone overnight, wasting all the money, if public officials decide to gut anti-logging protections in the state parks under the guise of “forest fire prevention”, or even sells off the state parks. (Yes, they’re even talking about selling state and national parks)!

Progressives and moderates face losses like this across our entire “investment portfolio” of programs, because they have failed to build infrastructure that works to change underlying attitudes, along with funding specific projects and programs. Without this infrastructure, progressives and moderates will continue to experience losses and lack the ability to generate the kind of large-scale public reaction that makes ideas like clear-cutting our national forests under the guise of “fire protection” non-starters.

The Commonweal Institute will increase our return on the investments we make in organizations and programs that work on specific issues.

Whew!

OK, I wrote a lot here today. Let me sum up

Please visit Commonweal Institute’s website at http://www.commonwealinstitute.org.

Tell others!

Please take a look at the collection of resources on Commonweal’s Information Page at http://www.commonwealinstitute.org/information.html. No matter what else you take away from reading this, learning about what the right-wing has been doing and telling others is one of the most effective ways to immunize yourself and combat their pervasive messaging!

Donate money.

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Voting Machines Front Page Story

The San Jose Mercury News has a front page voting machines story today, Board faces key decision on voting by computer – POTENTIAL FOR FRAUD WORRIES SUPERVISORS It focuses on a local county decision, but covers many of the important points.

Trusting the machine to self-audit, critics say, is akin to an IRS audit on someone who created his own receipts.

This has also been added to Seeing the Forest’s Collection of Links to Voting Machine Articles and Websites.

Michael Kinsley has written one of his best columns ever, Losing on the Bush Diet:

Suppose you had a friend who was grossly overweight for years but lately had been looking very trim. Suddenly, though, he puts on 30 or 40 pounds and is waddling around like his old porcine self. He explains that he’s found a marvelous new diet: “You eat like a pig and stop exercising until you get so fat that you just have to lose weight.” Would you say that your friend is kidding himself?

And if your friend went on to complain that he was getting fat because other people were eating too much, and that this diet was the only way to stop these other people from putting those unsightly pounds on him, would you think his self-delusion was becoming clinical? Or would you start to suspect that the joke is on you?

Yet this is essentially the logic adopted by the Bush administration and the Republican congressional leadership to rationalize turning the federal budget surplus back into huge deficits.

Go read. Get mad at stupid Republicans. YEAH!

Major Paper Acknowledges Voting Machine Issue

A San Jose Mercury News editorial today acknowledged the voting machines problem! The editorial, If voters get a record of their ballot, they can check on the system includes (there’s more),

I know zip about software code, but if I were the supervisors, I’d put a lot of stock in the views of Stanford computer professor David Dill, SRI Computer Lab scientist Peter Neumann and other experts who have spent their careers matching wits with hackers. When they say security is a problem, there’s cause for worry.

The clearest explanation I’ve heard of the security problem with touch screen systems and the commonsense solution to it came from Alan Hu, an associate professor of computer science at the University of British Columbia and a protege of Professor Dill. He offered it during a hearing this month. It’s worth repeating.

Imagine a store, he said, where the clerk shows you the total of your purchases on a handheld electronic calculator. Behind the counter, he enters your purchase amount into a ledger. He shows you the total, then clears the calculator for the next customer.

Suppose the clerk occasionally pockets the cash and “forgets” to enter the purchase in the ledger book. Or maybe he skims off cash and enters a smaller amount than what you purchased.

A computerized voting machine that shows your votes on a display screen only and records your votes internally is like a clerk using a handheld calculator. To reduce the risk of cheating or help catch sloppy errors, you can do a background check on the clerk, just as you can certify a voting machine’s hardware and software. You can have the clerk fill out duplicate ledgers, analogous to redundant hard drives in voting machines. You can encrypt the ledger books to prevent others from forging them — and encrypt data storage and transmission in voting machines. But in both cases, no amount of security or auditing of records will catch cheating or errors, because the cheater is the one preparing the audit record.

The solution to a dishonest clerk is simple. The clerk enters each transaction on a cash register, and the customer sees what is on the cash register tape. If there’s any doubt about the clerk’s accuracy or honesty, you compare what the clerk recorded with the cash register tape.

The solution for the voting machine is essentially the same: You show a printed copy of the ballot for the voter to confirm; if there’s a discrepancy, the voting machine can be shut down. If there’s any doubt about the correctness of the voting machine, you can compare the totals it reports with a separate count of the printed copies.

Hooray!