Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

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Book Summary: The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman


The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman

The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman

Chapter One – While I Was Sleeping

As we are introduced to Friedman’s theory that the world is flat, we accompany him on a journey to the various locations around the globe that led him to this conclusion. We start off in Bangalore, India, where he finds himself surrounded by advertisements of traditionally American companies such as Pizza Hut, Epson, HP and Texas Instruments during a round of golf. Traveling with a crew from the Discovery Times channel, he encounters Indian workers and businesspeople working for American companies, speaking in American accents and even adopting American names in their own country. A visit to Infosys Technologies Ltd leaves Friedman in wonder at the massive conferencing system they have created that allows people from around the globe to congregate and collaborate in one giant room via satellite and teleconferencing technology.

Friedman guides us through the different eras of globalization as he has defined them in an historical narrative from the days of Columbus to our present day state. We see the ever increasing pace of globalization through his encounters with people such as Jaithirth “Jerry” Rao, an outsourced businessman in India, and others. Through Jerry, we learn about the process of information exchange online and the effect it has on businesses to perform various duties from remote locations with everything from tax preparation to hair appointment scheduling to hospital bookings cited as examples of outsourcing.

As Friedman travels through Japan, China and back to America, we study various examples of the business outsourcing phenomenon and its impact, positive and negative, on the players involved. Homesourcing and military outsourcing are explored as Friedman explains the sheer prevalence of outsourcing in our society.

Chapter Two – The Ten Forces That Flattened the World

We are introduced to Friedman’s interpretation of the ten influencing factors that led to globalization and world flattening, the first being the falling of the Berlin Wall in 1989, which tipped the balance of power across the world towards democratic free market and away from authoritarian rule. A second flattener is identified as our ability to not only author our own content, but to send it worldwide with the 1995 launch of the Internet. Subsequently, free workflow software was developed, allowing people from around the world to collaborate and work together on projects using a shared medium. As Apache and Wikipedia came into play, we became able to develop and upload web content and community collaboration became another flattening force. Preparations for Y2K required resources beyond those available in the United States and as a result, we see that India became responsible for a huge portion of these preparations. Offshoring, using the Chinese manufacturing sector as a prime example, has forced other developing countries to try to keep up with their low cost solutions, resulting in better quality and cheaper products being produced worldwide.

The seventh flattening factor is our introduction to supply chaining, which is discussed in much greater detail later in Chapter Fourteen. Rounding out his list with insourcing, in-forming and “the steroids”, Friedman examines his flattening factors, their origins and the effect they will have on the way we do business in the future.

List of Ten Forces

  1. Collapse of Berlin Wall–11/89: The event not only symbolized the end of the Cold war, it allowed people from other side of the wall to join the economic mainstream. (11/09/1989)
  2. Netscape: Netscape and the Web broadened the audience for the Internet from its roots as a communications medium used primarily by ‘early adopters and geeks’ to something that made the Internet accessible to everyone from five-year-olds to eighty-five-year olds. (8/9/1995)
  3. Work Flow Software: The ability of machines to talk to other machines with no humans involved. Friedman believes these first three forces have become a “crude foundation of a whole new global platform for collaboration.”
  4. Uploading: Communities uploading and collaborating on online projects. Examples include open source software, blogs, and Wikipedia. Friedman considers the phenomenon “the most disruptive force of all.”
  5. Outsourcing: Friedman argues that outsourcing has allowed companies to split service and manufacturing activities into components, with each component performed in most efficient, cost-effective way.
  6. Offshoring: Manufacturing’s version of outsourcing.
  7. Supply-Chaining: Friedman compares the modern retail supply chain to a river, and points to Wal-Mart as the best example of a company using technology to streamline item sales, distribution, and shipping.
  8. Insourcing: Friedman uses UPS as a prime example for insourcing, in which the company’s employees perform services–beyond shipping–for another company. For example, UPS itself repairs Toshiba computers on behalf of Toshiba. The work is done at the UPS hub, by UPS employees.
  9. In-forming: Google and other search engines are the prime example. “Never before in the history of the planet have so many people-on their own-had the ability to find so much information about so many things and about so many other people”, writes Friedman.
  10. “The Steroids”: Personal digital devices like mobile phones, iPods, personal digital assistants, instant messaging, and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

Chapter Three: The Triple Convergence

Acknowledging that the ten factors he discussed in Chapter Two could not have flattened the world all on their own, Friedman explains that as each of the factors came together, they had to spread and take root to create the environment rich for flattening. He credits this spread, the creation of complementary software and the internet, and political factors that caused several developing countries, including China, Russia, India and Latin America, to open their borders at this time with the creation of the perfect storm that led to the rapid-fire pace of globalization.

Through interviews with U.S. Embassy officials in Beijing, we explore the desperation of Chinese students to study and work in America. For the first time in history, we see that talent has become more important than geography in determining a person’s opportunity in life. We follow the path of a Boeing jet as components of its manufacture are outsourced to Russia and then India, allowing for faster and cheaper development of more planes as Friedman demonstrates the need for individuals and businesses to be able to compete in a global marketplace.

Friedman works to dispel common myths about globalization as we explore the dot.com boom and bust, the American government’s misinformation of the public as the triple convergence took place and the IT revolution we have heard so much about in the last 20 years.

Chapter Four – The Great Sorting Out

Friedman calls for a reality check as we explore the manner in which countries and societies will cope with and adapt to the dramatic changes that globalization brings to the way we do business, as individuals and entities. His comparison of the Industrial Revolution to the current IT Revolution leads us to believe that the world flattening we see today could have been predicted by Karl Marx.

An interview with Harvard’s noted political theorist Michael J. Sandel discusses whether or not exploitation is globalization; are the outsourced people from India being exploited or given opportunity they would not otherwise have had? In search of an answer to this question, Friedman examines the India-Indiana story from 2003, where an Indian company was outsourced to upgrade Indiana’s unemployment computer system, effectively taking work from people in Indiana in order to provide more work for people in India. We examine the blurring boundaries between companies and different groups of workers, as well as the relationships between communities and the businesses that operate within them. Friedman demonstrates that as little people begin to act big, so too are big people able to connect on the smallest level. Identities become harder to define, which will also need to be sorted out. The traditional roles of consumer, employee, citizen, taxpayer and shareholder have all become blurred and intertwined.

Friedman summarizes the chapter with an examination of intellectual property law and means that must be put in place to protect it, as well as the death of the human bond in the online world.

Chapter Five – America and Free Trade

Does free trade still exist in a flat world? As he sets out to explore this dilemma, Friedman considers the banning of outsourcing, an action called for by many, to protect our country’s workers and the effect such an action would have on globalization. He concludes that erecting borders and walls would be detrimental to our goals and that Americans must instead be prepared to compete on a global playing field.

Friedman encourages better education and training, as Americans now compete not only with other Americans, but with the most brilliant minds around the globe for positions. We explore the “lump of labor” theory and new job creation in a global economy. He identifies the workers that will suffer most, should they be unable to keep ahead of the globalization trend, and offers large-scale suggestions to remedy this problem. Using the history of the American agricultural industry as an indicator of future trends in various industries today, he stresses the importance of an ability to adapt and specialize where there is a need. We learn that fear stimulates change and that this is a good thing.

Chapter Six – The Untouchables

Friedman addresses a concern shared by many Americans: what do we tell our kids? As the competition for jobs stiffens, how do we prepare them for the increased competition? His suggestion that we must make ourselves “untouchables” is explored in detail as he identifies three broad categories of workers who will have job security in the flat world. Synthesizers, explainers, leveragers, versatilists and more are identified and explained as viable career options, as well as strategies for preparing for these positions.

Chapter Seven – The Right Stuff

In a frank discussion of the fear amongst Americans regarding competition and education, Friedman explores the “right stuff”; the educational requirements needed to survive in the flattened world and more importantly, the availability of said education in our current system. Stressing the importance of self-learning and learning to learn, Friedman offers valuable advice to parents unsure of their children’s educational and professional futures. He recommends building right-brain skills, or those that cannot be duplicated by a computer, and explores different vehicles to higher learning, including music. Friedman examines the factors necessary to create the right environment for this learning and contemplates methods of achieving this in modern day America.

Chapter Eight – The Quiet Crisis

We begin by examining the U.S Olympic Basketball Team’s unexpected loss at the 2004 Games as an example of our complacency as the rest of the world is learning and catching up in areas we are used to dominating. An interview with Shirley Ann Jackson, 2004 President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, demonstrates that a quiet crisis is happening slowly but surely as multiple and complex forces are at work creating the perfect storm; demographic, political, social, cultural, economic, etc., that could lead to America falling behind in innovation, science and technology. We explore the dirty little secrets that no one is talking about – a lack of highly skilled scientists and engineers, disinterest in math and science by our younger population, lack of ambition as television and video games take over, an outdated basic education system, lack of funding for research, lack of infrastructure as we focus on war and other countries focus on developing sustainable and innovative business. Friedman explores the differences between different country’s educational systems with Bill Gates and ultimately poses the question, why are we so focused on idolizing Britney Spears when competing countries are idolizing Bill Gates?

Friedman contemplates The “Innovate America” Report, a well-meaning document ignored by the President as he chased his own agenda – and wonders whether China will beat us to the implementation of our own innovation. He sums up the chapter with a call to action to kick-start the long process of preparing ourselves for the future into motion before we are literally left behind.

Chapter Nine – This Is Not a Test

In a call to action, Friedman stresses that we simply cannot do things the same old way anymore and people must be willing to change and adapt. He compares our current crisis to that we faced in competing with the Soviet Union and the launch of Sputnik; the main challenge then came from those who wanted to put up walls while we now have to face those who want to tear them down. Now, as then, we must change our strategy to overcome these issues. He discusses the difficulty in getting America to stand up and take notice of the importance of this issue in a supercharged society where hype and terror are needed to get the public’s attention and support.

Friedman stresses the importance of shoving political barriers aside in what he calls “compassionate flatism” to prepare our country for what lies ahead. He questions leadership and education; who will lead us into the forefront of this new globalized economy? The necessity for lifelong learning and benefits to allow workers to remain mobile and adaptable is very real, though it seems to be at the bottom of our to-do list.

Finally, Friedman examines how companies such as Capital One are working on the lifelong learning objective by providing training and upgrading to employees, increasing their own productivity and bottom line in the process, as he calls for social programs that encourage workers to be creative and hardworking.

Chapter Ten – The Virgin of Guadalupe

We see the Chinese manufacture of statuettes of The Virgin of Guadalupe and their subsequent importation into Mexico as an example of the problem created when one developing country competes with another, as China replaced Mexico as the U.S.’s number two importer in 2003. Friedman discusses the need for developing countries to put policies in place to create the right environment for their companies and entrepreneurs to succeed in the flat world. He states that countries must be brutally honest with themselves in determining their place in the world market if they are to adapt and survive. A comparison of countries who have opened their borders and adopted free trade policies versus those who have not and been left behind illustrates his point.

The concept of reform retail and wholesale is introduced as we explore changes in education, infrastructure and governance. Ireland becomes a case study for financial success as their per capita GDP has risen to second highest in the European Union. Friedman contemplates a society’s ability and willingness to sacrifice for the purpose of economic development and leaders with vision as vehicles of change and conversely, the reason some countries will not.

Chapter Eleven – How Companies Cope

Friedman opines that companies willing to change and accept change are more likely to do things than have things done to them. In profiling Jill and Ken Greer, creators of Greer & Associates multimedia company, we learn of their experience with the rise of freelancers as their competition, as well as the fact that technology that should have simplified their operations made it more difficult by requiring more of them.

We look into commoditization in a wide range of industries, where everything is the same and supply is plentiful. Clients are flooded with options and everyone becomes the same. Each company is driven to be more creative and innovative, or risk falling between the cracks. At this point we meet Fadi Ghandour, cofounder and CEO of Aramex, a home-grown package delivery service. His web-based global network cut costs and allowed him to compete with the biggest in the business and come out ahead. We see through other business models that globalization forces the big to act small: case in point, Starbucks learning from their customers to use soy milk in their coffees. We learn that companies must be willing to collaborate and focus on niche markets, doing themselves what they need to do to stay in front of their customers and outsourcing the rest. The best companies use outsourcing as a method of growth, not to shrink their workforce. Outsourcing allows them to provide more and better services more efficiently.

We also explore socially responsible outsourcing; giving the outsourced workers a good wage and opportunity within their own country that they would not have otherwise.

Chapter Twelve: The Unflat World

Friedman shares stories of the world flattening but humbly announces that he does indeed realize the world is not yet flat. He wants to draw attention to the flattening and the ever-increasing pace at which it is occurring. Part of this understanding must come from a recognization of factors that are preventing globalization from occurring in some people.

Friedman examines different groups of people he believes are disadvantaged for one reason or another and the way that this keeps them from moving forward into a flattened world. The AIDS epidemic affects people who are too sick to hope they will ever make it to middle class. Disempowered people are those who live in areas touched by the flattening of the world but lack the means, knowledge and infrastructure to benefit from it. For example, in India only 2% of the entire population are involved in the high-tech and manufacturing for export sectors.

Different societies and cultures are coming into contact with each other more frequently and more quickly than ever before, leading to great frustration. Using the Arab-Muslim world and his journalistic encounters with their youth as an example, Friedman explores the impact of freedom of thought and expression that world flattening has created and its impact on a traditionally closed society. He warns of a potential threat lurking in the not too distant future: a depletion of our natural resources as people compete to have more and better.

Chapter Thirteen: Globalization of the Local

In this examination of the impact of globalization on world cultures, we learn that globalization came to be seen by many as Americanization, creating a backlash by those who felt that they would be steamrolled and homogenized into being mini-Americans.

But as new forms of communication and innovation create a global platform for the sharing of work, entertainment and opinion, Friedman believes that globalization serves more to enrich and preserve culture than to destroy it, as each person is given their own voice and vehicle of expression through podcasts, websites, etc. The nature of the beast is such that the bad will always be there with the good. As humanitarians and businesses connect online to share ideas, so too do terrorists and predators.

Chapter Fourteen: The Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention

We begin with an in-depth study of the supply chain, using the purchase of Friedman’s own computer as a case study. This leads to an examination of how geopolitical conflicts could derail or slow globalization.

Friedman’s theory is that two countries invested in a business together by being part of the same global supply-chain are less likely to go to war, as they are now heavily invested in the success of the business venture. Any interruption to that supply chain would be critical. As we reflect on the evolution of supply chains and the effect they have had on politics and the stability of countries they affect, we remember that Asia, as opposed to much of the Middle East, has become more stable because they are part of many supply chains and therefore more interested in doing good business. Overall, the price of war is higher than it used to be and countries will have to consider the effect of a war on their place in the business world. Friedman explores both the China-Taiwan relations and India-Pakistan as examples of how the flattening of the world and supply chain have a calming effect and cause countries to think rationally about the true cost of war, making diplomatic solution more likely.

As we explore the darker side of the supply chain phenomenon, we understand how Al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks form mutant supply chains for the purpose of destruction, not profit. In a flat world, the transmission of terror is much easier. We must examine our abilities to derail the nuclear threat by using our capabilities to disrupt the terrorists supply chain.

Chapter Fifteen: 11/9 Versus 9/11

We begin by examining two significant dates in world flattening: 11/9 as an example of creative imagination and 9/11 as destructive imagination. 11/9, with the destruction of the Berlin Wall, was the door opening to a freer, flatter, and more democratic world, where 9/11 saw our world try to snap shut against outside threat. This is Friedman’s call for positive creativity and giving people the tools to do positive things with what is available through the opening of so many doors.

We see the innovation and creativity that Bin Laden put into his 9/11 plan, as horrible as it was. Friedman concludes that the forces that flatten the world can be used to bring everyone up to the same level, or to bring them all down to the same level. Those of us who live in free and progressive societies must lead others to use their imaginations without allowing their imaginations to get the best of them – or us. Technology cannot protect us; we must harness that technology and decide how it will be used. This requires us to define the line between precaution and paranoia to keep things in perspective in a flat world. We are called to remember who we are to avoid losing our identity in a flat world. In exploring eBay as a virtual community, India as the second largest Muslim country where the context and imagination are different than in other parts of the Arab world, and the curse of oil and how it keeps countries from moving forward in other ventures, we learn about different types of creativity.

Friedman reflects on his story of Aramex from Chapter Eleven as an inspirational closing thought; one of a small Arab company that made it big in the world platform.

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Book Summary: The Conscience of a Liberal by Paul Krugman


The Conscience of a Liberal by Paul Krugman

The Conscience of a Liberal by Paul Krugman

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Chapter 1: The Way We Were

 

In opening his call for new social welfare infrastructure in America, Krugman describes how he joined many Americans in protesting the country during one of its greatest times, the 1950s and 60s. Krugman does not discount the necessity and importance of the Civil Rights and anti-war protests, but in academically-developed hindsight, he illustrates that America transitioned from a pre World War II era of economic disparity to a post-war era of vast economic equality. Krugman contends that Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, coupled with unprecedented bipartisan cooperation throughout American governmental institutions, blessed the country with these pecuniary fortunes, thereby creating the middle class. After discussing America’s bounty during the 1950s and 60s, the author begins to develop his theory regarding its collapse: movement conservatism.

Krugman defines movement conservatism as a radical force that possessed the Republican Party with the drive to regenerate the pre World War II inequality in America by repealing the New Deal measures that created the middle class. The author asserts that movement conservatism’s seeds were planted in the 1960’s with Reagan’s governance of California and William F. Buckley. The seeds took root with Nixon, and then movement conservatism blossomed when Reagan entered the White House. While Bill Clinton wilted the conservative tree somewhat, Krugman hold’s that George W. Bush perfectly embodies movement conservatism’s ideologies and that movement conservatism blossomed fully with Bush’s re-election in 2004 when Bush attacked the New Deal at its fundamental base, Social Security.

Krugman not only explains the evolution of movement conservatism, but the 2008 Nobel Laureate in Economics engages in economic heresy by stating that economic trends do not establish the political order. To the contrary, Krugman states that the economic environment lags political developments. He lists four pieces of evidence to support his argument. First, the pre World War II economic inequality did not reemerge following the removal of wartime controls. Instead, New Deal prosperity reigned for thirty years in America. Second, the staying power of New Deal prosperity did not retreat until after movement conservatism had captured the political helm for over a decade. Third, economists have begun to understand that technological innovation was not the cause of the new economic inequality because even the most highly educated Americans have not realized appreciable financial gains unless they reside in the top one percent of the American population. Fourth, the rightward shift in politics and the resulting economic inequality is unprecedented among advanced countries. Krugman explains that the Democratic Party in America has remained steady since the time of Roosevelt. Instead, Republicans have shifted right significantly. Krugman supports this contention by analyzing how Clinton’s policies were often to the right of Nixon, while Bush’s policies far surpassed the conservatism of Gerald Ford.

Krugman closes the chapter with the idea that Americans have had enough of movement conservatism and its concomitant disparity in income. Krugman believes that America began the transition in 2006, when Democrats regained control of the House and Senate. However, he cautioned that one election does not make a trend. After the election of Barack Obama as president and the further strengthening of the Democratic position in the House and the Senate in 2008, Krugman appears politically perspicacious.

Chapter 1 left me with two questions, one rather conspiracy theorist and one legitimate. First,is it possible that George Bush, at the behest of movement conservatism, went to war in Iraq to preserve his post September 11th popularity and retain control of the White House for four more years? Next, how can middle class Americans who claim that they support the middle class embrace a party that wants to destroy the very policies that created the middle class?


“Chapter 2: The Long Gilded Age”

Chapter two opens with comparisons of Bush era inequality of income to that of pre New Deal America. In 2005, distribution of wealth to the top ten and one percent of Americans mirrors the average for the 1920’s. One must remember, however, that while distribution reflects the past, the standard of living has drastically increased thanks to the development of social programs.

Before expanding upon resemblances, Krugman breaks to name the era between the 1870’s and the 1930’s as the Long Gilded Age. This period is characterized by great economic inequality.

This chapter reveals a main theme of the text. Krugman argues that middle-class societies must be created via political persuasion. In other words, middle class societies are not the natural sequence of events of a developing society.

So why did Americans allow for such prolonged inequality? Why did they not demand a political structure which addressed their needs? Other countries had developed welfare states, and America had the knowledge and resources to make changes. To begin, voting rights were a privilege of the upper class and were not extended to all. Next, the Republican Party was dominant and had three times the funding to devote to campaigning, which essentially assured a spot in the White House. Additionally, election fraud was abundant. As one gentleman stated, it’s not the vote it’s who counts the vote.

Cultural and racial tensions split the nation. Americans were classified as rural or urban, immigrant or national, and by race. Such issues inhibited groups from joining together to overcome inequality. American’s needed a transformational leader to establish the middle class. Such divides are still prevalent today, but to a far lesser extent.

Further extenuating conservative dominance is the phenomena that popular opinion was accepted as fact. It was widely accepted that taxation was detrimental, attempts to alleviate poverty were wrong, and those who opposed pure capitalism were radicals.

Though Federal legislation rejected any movement towards a welfare nation, states began to take smaller steps. States began to develop workers compensation and age-based pension laws. However, such steps were slow and small and it took the Great Depression to unite the nation.

The topics of this chapter are an eerie reflection of today. Throughout the early 2000’s Americans willingly accepted the ideology of the conservative party. Many Americans simply refused the challenge the extravagant behaviors of the reigning party. I often wondered what it would take for Liberals to gain accreditation. It now appears, after the election of a Democratic president, that it required another great financial crisis.


Chapter 3: The Great Compression

After summarizing the history of the Long Gilded Age in Chapter 2, Krugman continues to develop his thesis that political changes have led economic changes throughout America’s history. Thus, Krugman discusses “The Great Compression,” a term first coined by the economic historians Claudia Goldin and Robert Margo. “The Great Compression” refers to the time between the 1920s and the 1950s when America’s economic inequality narrowed significantly. While Krugman relies on his earlier statements that New Deal bipartisanship contributed to “The Great Compression,” he becomes specifies some other reasons as well.

Krugman states that America’s wealthiest citizens exercised far less buying power than they did in the 1920s. The author attributes this decrease in buying power to one main factor: taxes. America’s wealthiest citizens relinquished up to ninety percent of their income to taxes by the 1960s. Interestingly, America’s economy did not collapse, and the wealthy did not substantially change their investing habits. For instance, Krugman illustrates that in the corporate sector, sixty-seven percent of pretax income was invested in labor and thirty-three percent was invested in capital in 1929. By 1955, those numbers remained essentially the same at sixty-nine percent for labor and thirty-one percent for capital.

At the same time that America’s wealthiest citizens were contributing more of their income to the country, America’s emerging middle class recognized an explosion in purchasing power. Members of the middle class earned higher wages, and they received greater social welfare benefits, either from work or from the government. Specifically, retirement benefits, health care benefits, and unemployment insurance programs solidified during the New Deal and became the expected way of life during the 1950s and 1960s. The middle class enjoyed these benefits do to the rise in unionized labor, increased employment and wages, and governmental bipartisanship previously mentioned.

Krugman illustrates that the decrease in economic inequality was apparent throughout America in the 1950s and 1960s. For example, Long Island’s Gold Coast transitioned from an environment dominated by mansions to an environment dominated by tract housing and charitable or social organizations. Furthermore, the ease and popularity of automobile ownership facilitated this neo-suburban lifestyle. (This following statement is not in this chapter; instead, I took Krugman’s arguments to the next logical step.) Finally, Eisenhower’s interstate highway system, another form of government spending by the way, aided the growing middle class by providing a means to use their new automobiles. As a result, the economy improved because corporations sent workers to new geographic locations with greater ease and decreased costs and tourist destinations blossomed due to the ease of taking family vacations.

More information raises more questions. If the wealthy will not invest their after tax earnings in the face of higher taxes, why did this not happen in the 1950s and 1960s? If taxes are bad for the economy, why did higher taxes help lead America out of an economic depression? Finally, is government spending not good if it creates jobs and serves as a source of labor competition for the private sector, which will increase wages and working conditions?


“Chapter 4: The Politics of the Welfare State”

In 1948, the fear of change named Harry Truman the 33rd President of the United States. Americans had watched a Republican controlled Congress diminish the progress of the New Deal, and feared the outcome of a Republican White House. Political progress was at a standstill throughout the Long Gilded Age, but an increasingly privileged lower-economic class embraced liberal ideals. By the early 1950’s, policies and programs associated with the New Deal were enduring and conventional.

Many factors contributed to a nation more inclined to endorse a welfare state. To begin, naturalized immigrants, usually Democrats gained the right to vote. The South, a place of explicit discrimination, also shaped the political landscape. Still demoralized by the loss of the Civil War, Southern Democrats could win via effectively campaigning against Lincoln. Additionally, the South stood to reap great benefits from the New Deal for the South was predominately poor. Potential gains associated with a welfare state swayed southern, whites to vote liberally. (Remember, the South still held deeply rooted beliefs on equality and abandoned ship as Democrats promoted civil rights. This explains why the Southern states are traditionally Red States.)

Unions also provided leverage for the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is characterized as unorganized and the unions provided the structure the party needed. Unions also provided financing and willing supporters. They were also a means of informing blue-collar workers and influencing them to get out and vote.

So how were Republicans able to gain votes? Throughout the late 1950’s and the 1960’s it was difficult to distinguish between the economic policies of each party. Therefore, voter’s income played a smaller role in their decisions. Consequently, many low and middle income individuals voted for Republican candidates.

While I agree with Krugman’s statements on change, it is interesting to note that change was the motto for of recent President-elect Barack Obama.


Chapter 5: The Sixties: A Troubled Prosperity 

Krugman captures the subject of this chapter with its title. Accordingly, Krugman dichotomizes America by juxtaposing America’s prosperity with America’s rising social and political tumult in the Sixties. Specifically, Krugman discusses the civil rights movement, the explosion of crime, the growing welfare rolls, the Sixties’ counter culture, and Vietnam.

Despite the social upheaval that occurred during the Sixties, middle class Americans continued to realize economic growth. In 1966, the federal minimum wage equaled approximately $8.00 per hour in today’s wages, which is twenty-two percent higher than today’s federal minimum wage at the time of this writing. Additionally, Americans enjoyed greater coverage under health care, unemployment, and disability insurance than they do today. However, movement conservatism and neoconservatism learned how to exploit the Sixties’ climbing social unrest.

Krugman explains that a good portion of the Sixties’ disquiet resulted from issues surrounding the civil rights movement, especially Johnson’s push for enactment of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Krugman touches on the gross violence and the recalcitrant rejection of federal intervention with Jim Crow laws.

Urban disorder and rising crime became another factor that soiled the Sixties’ historical legacy. While crime rates are hard to predict, and later, to describe, Krugman illustrates that the African-American migration from the agricultural South to the urban North and West contributed to the urban unrest that struck during the Sixties. For instance, while African-Americans were moving into the inner cities in the Northeast and on the West Coast, American jobs were moving from the inner cities to the suburbs. Therefore, African-Americans did not enjoy the boon in economic prosperity that white Americans did. Furthermore, police brutality plagued cities across the country, but African-Americans did not fear authorities in cities outside the South like they did in the Southern cities. As such, African-Americans felt emboldened to act against social injustice. This, coupled with African-Americans’ frustrations with the ineffectiveness of peaceful demonstration to effect change, led to more violent behavior in the face of racial atrocities.

In regards to welfare rolls, Krugman states simply that this government program grew because people began feeling comfortable with its function and due to new civil rights laws, they were not negatively persuaded from pursuing this help. However, Krugman cautions that many facts and figures surrounding welfare were grossly exaggerated. For example, Krugman notes that AFDC (welfare) payments totaled $4.9 billion in federal spending while Social Security payments accounted for $39 billion in federal spending in 1970. While this chapter does not list these statistics, federal spending totaled $195.3 billion. This demonstrates that AFDC payments consumed only 2.5 percent of all federal payments.

For all the notoriety that hippies and Vietnam garnered, Krugman shows that these forces may not have had the impact that people attribute to them. In fact, Krugman states that one possible reason for the rise in the Sixties counter culture was the economic prosperity. In other words, the cost of experimenting with unemployment and social acceptance was low because jobs were plentiful. As the author demonstrates, the unemployment rate soared from 3.5 percent to 6 percent near the end of the hippie movement. Krugman highlights that a number of technological changes also contributed to the social change in the sixties, such as birth control and an entire generation that had watched television since birth.

Finally, Krugman debunks the myth that Vietnam killed the Democrats. For instance, Krugman shows that the Democratic composition of the House of Representatives and the Senate fluctuated, but ultimately grew from 1967-68 to 1975-76. As Krugman scribes throughout the chapter, and the book, movement conservatism killed the Democrats.

Krugman writes that the explosion of “intellectual” movement conservatism blossomed in the Fifties and began to mature in the Sixties with Reagan’s election as Governor of California. While this ties into the next chapter, Reagan captured the well-funded “scholarship” of conservative think-tanks, and he articulated in a message that the new conservative base could understand. Furthermore, with the Democrats alienated the South with civil rights legislation and the Republican Party courting them with alternative rhetoric, Democrats lost their faithful, southern constituency.


“Chapter 6: Movement Conservatism”

A young, brash, and media savvy group of well financed conservatives, headed by William Buckley, led movement conservatism. Among their objectives was the continued disenfranchisement of Blacks. They viewed this as acceptable, for Whites were the majority and therefore entitled. Their ideology was echoed in Buckley’s novel God and Man at Yale. Unlike Generalissimo Franco, the new conservatives needed to find a broad, popular base to take control of the Republican Party.

Goldwater proved to be a false glimmer of hope, but Reagan soon captured the spotlight. In 1964 Ronald Reagan delivered a speech later called “the most successful national debut.” Reagan’s rant filled the minds of listeners with unfounded claims and statistics. His antics appealed to the outlook of many.

Although a genuine threat, the fear of communism further aided movement conservatism. Many American’s felt that communism should be eliminated and not contained. Following the ideology of McCarthy, some viewed containment as an indicator of weakness. Movement Conservatism took advantage of rampant paranoia to attract followers.

The movement also caught the eye of the business sector, first attracting mid-sized business owners. Throughout the 30’s and 40’s organized labor greatly increased employee benefits, posing a substantial threat to mid-sized businesses. Big business could handle the increased costs and small businesses were not a target of unions. Movement Conservatism gained the support of such owners, and hoped to expand to regions not yet dominated by organized labor.

Increasing its scope, Movement Conservatism was also backed by neoconservatives. The Great Depression drove support for government involvement in economic affairs, but as the air cleared many reverted back to old conceptions. Respected Chicago economists, although perhaps dishonest, called for separation of government and economics. Additionally, sociologists spoke out against liberal ideology. Both groups were supported with generous financing, which later went to the development of conservative-minded organizations. These foundations only endorsed and printed material which met rigid conservative ideology.

Reagan’s advancement of the movement was later eclipsed by Richard Nixon. However, Nixon was a transitional leader leading the exploitation of Republican politics. Movement Conservatives disliked Nixon’s policies. However, the movement regained strength due to foreign affairs and perceived economic crisis.


Chapter 7: The Great Divergence

Krugman opens this chapter by focusing on a major debate among modern economists, which involves whether a majority of Americans have fared better financially since 1973, the year generally accepted as the point that the post WWII economic boom ended. Of course, Krugman recognizes the big picture surrounding this debate and that is that economists must entertain this debate at all. However, Krugman does not avoid the debate by arguing that by having the debate, Americans must suffer worse financially than they did in 1973. Instead, Krugman confronts the debate fully and fairly by discussing both sides of the controversy.

First, Krugman explains that complex issues of measurement surround the debate. He explains that while Americans enjoy greater prosperity on average, median income has deteriorated significantly. He accomplishes this through a “Bill Gates-in-a-bar” analogy. For instance, if Bill Gates walked into a bar, then the average wealth of the people in the bar would increase dramatically; however, the median income of the bar’s patrons would not fluctuate at all. Krugman argues that the bar represents an accurate microcosm of America financially, not because Americans are impecunious drunkards, but because only a small portion of the American population has benefited from an increase in income despite our steadily increasing level of production. In fact, median household income, adjusted for inflation, has grown by only sixteen percent from 1973 to 2005. Although Krugman does not numerically state the increase in the number of dual income households over this time, he argues that the increase in dual income households accounts for the sixteen percent rise in median household income. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Krugman’s argument is valid. The Department of Labor’s website states that the number of dual income households had nearly doubled between 1980 and 2005. In an attempt to strip away the impact of dual income households on the rise in median household income, Krugman shows that the median wages of men aged thirty-five to forty-four have actually decreased by twelve percent. Considering that this is the demographic that typically would have supported a household in the early 1970s, it appears that Americans face tougher financial times now than they did in 1973, which of course signals growing financial inequality among Americans over the last three decades.

Returning to the Bill Gates-in-a-bar analogy, Krugman explains why average income has risen dramatically while median income has grown phlegmatically, if at all. Krugman illustrates that only the top one percent of American earners has realized greater economic gain since 1973 than it did during the postwar boom. Moving up the income scale, the top tenth of one percent of American earners has witnessed a fivefold increase in income, and the top one hundredth of one percent has realized a sevenfold increase in earnings. Therefore, the growth in the members of the super wealthy classes have driven the climb in Americans’ average income.

To demonstrate the reasons for this widening inequality, Krugman evaluates arguments offered by two groups of economists. One group states that growing international trade and immigration have depressed the wages of unskilled labor in the U.S. while technology has driven the demand and compensatory rewards for skilled, educated workers. Krugman certainly acknowledges that immigration of unskilled labor into a market will depress the wages of that market’s indigenous labor force; however, he demonstrates that the rise in immigration has not warranted such a dramatic decrease in unskilled wages across the board. Similarly, Krugman asserts that imports have not been of the scale to explain such an effect. In fact, the economists that posit this argument admit that this is the case because they use technology to fill the gaps that are unsupported by immigration and imports. As a matter of fact, technology has become a religion to these economists in the way that societies throughout history have referenced God when no other cause manifested to describe an otherwise unknown occurrence. Since technological advances demand highly skilled workers, these economists contend, then these skills dictate higher salaries. Krugman disposes of this argument as well by comparing CEOs and schoolteachers. Both may hold master’s degrees, yet schoolteachers have benefited from modest gains in income while CEOs have enjoyed salary increases from thirty times that of the average worker in 1970 to over three hundred times that amount today. As such, Krugman attributes the expanding American income inequality to changing institutions and norms.

As discussed in previous chapters, unionized workplaces have diminished dramatically since the 1970s. Unions advocated for wages that increased with productivity as well as health and retirement benefits. Since the decline of unionized workplaces, wages have not continued to keep pace with productivity. To illustrate, Krugman compares GM in 1969 to Wal-Mart today. In 1969, GM production workers earned the equivalent to a little more than $40,000 per year in today’s money. In contrast, Wal-Mart’s non-supervisory employees receive about $18,000 per year. Additionally, Wal-Mart’s employees do not experience the same non-wage benefits that GM employees did in 1969 despite an institution such as Wal-Mart, with no foreign competition, being a better candidate for unionized labor than a manufacturer such as GM. Finally, unions and political and social institutions no longer stigmatize the Brobdingnagian compensation packages lavished upon CEOs. As such, CEO salaries have increased at the expense of many corporate constituencies, including employees and corporate shareholders. Furthermore, this increase in CEO compensation has not been accompanied by an increase in CEO productivity. Instead, the market has accepted extraordinary CEO compensation as a positive signal that the company is paying to recruit and retain superior executive talent, and the market punishes the stock of companies who do not comply with this new paradigm.

Can shareholder activism fill the void of unions and refocus attention on undeserved CEO compensation? Will clawback provisions offer an effective mechanism to align the interests of CEOs with the interests of the shareholders they supposedly serve?

One transcendental theme of Krugman’s book is how income inequality has increased over the last thirty-five years. Krugman offers the decline of unionized labor as a reason for this. In this chapter, Krugman states that rising CEO pay and celebrity pay has contributed to this inequality as well. Interestingly, and I did not see this in Krugman’s discussion, celebrities have relied on unions to increase their pay over the years, e.g. Additionally, even corporate leaders are somewhat united in compensation practices, e.g.  If celebrities and corporate directors should be allowed to unite, why should the average American worker be denied the same freedom?

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This is a Summary from Wikisummaries available under GNU Free Documentation License 1.2

Book Summary: HardBall by Chris Matthews


HardBall by Chris Matthews

HardBall by Chris Matthews

Chapter 1: It’s Not Who You Know; It’s Who You Get to Know

Good politicians get to know a lot of politicians. Lyndon Johnson would take four showers a day and brush his teeth over and over again so he would be in the same room with a bunch of politicians and he could talk to them briefly and make good connections. Lyndon Johnson also hired a man who would later turn corrupt named “Bobby” Baker who answered phones for the White House cloak room (a cloak room is like the break room for politicians.) With Bobby Baker, Johnson was able to know the inner workings of politics. Ronald Reagan also worked very hard to have good relationships in politics although he talked about Washington as if he’d never visited the place. Read more of this post

Letter to the President by Sen. Byrd: Reviews


Letter to a new President

Commonsense Lessons for our Next Leader

By: Robert C Byrd with Steve Kettmann

Chapter 1

Chapters 2 – 3

Chapters 4 – 6

Chapters 7 – 10

Review

Brief Summary: (full summary above)

This is a letter written to “New President”. It was written before Obama eve won the primaries, so it’s alwaays vague who he’s talking to. It could be McCain or Clinton as easily as Obama or Ron Paul. It is written as a very personal letter, sometimes sounding like a lecture, other times like an old man retelling an old favorite story, and then mixed up with lots of talk of Faith, and love of Country.

The Good?

The good parts was the conversation tone and the general “old timerness” of the book. It was fun to read, and his occassionaly bombs thrown at Bush were always amusing. Especially in the chapter where he calls for an end to partisan (exuse me while I throw a bomb) warfare. The chapters though also covered a lot of things that I do think is important for not just the president, but us all: knowing the Constitution (Rush! Read up!) lies, not doing knee-jerk diplomacy, etc.

The bad?

There is a hypocritical thread through out the whole book. The book speaks as if on a moral white horse, all the while attacking the previous administration. If you think the Bush Administration was as bad as he does, you won’t find this hypocritical. But I would imagine McCain reading this and not finishing it.

Conclusion?

I give it a B. Good read. Great thoughts from an older erra.


Chapter 1

I feel silly saying that I like the old guy. I mean, I think “Robert Byrd” I instantly think “He’s the guy that was the KKK guy.” Can you imagine what the Democrats would do to him if he were a Republican? *grimace face* But there is something nice about his writing. I want to use the word quaint. He reminds me of an elderly grandfather sitting around chatting. It’s hard for old people to chat without lecturing, and certainly, Mr. Byrd spends most of the chapter lecturing. But it comes across as from a guy so old, it’s nice. It’s comforting almost to listen to this guy explain events he lived through but I consider ancient history. Part of that is also the content of the chapter.

I think I let my summary run away with me. I’ll make a point to keep the upcoming chapter summaries shorter (it’s a very short book after all). The chapter talks about how the president should be a calming influence, not a fear monger prodding people along from the back. It’s a very good chapter, and I think the fact I let the summary run away from me speaks to that. Looking forward to finishing the book

  

Chapter 2

This guy writes with an amazingly patriotic tone that is contagious. Very good chapter. His stance on the Constitution is nice to read, even as he writes in hismuch very conversational/lecturing tone.

Chapter 3

In this chapter, we get a bit more personal with the anecdotes, getting an interesting story about going to Russia and arguments he’s had with colleagues about comparing each other to Nazis. Personally, I think it’s all bad, but hey, let them make their points however they want.There’s a lot of talk of history and the importance of it, but he never attempts to go into real depth, which would be silly in a chapter l2 pages long. Essentially, the chapter can be summed up as thus: Learn your history Mr. President.

Chapter 4

One thing I didn’t like about this was that after setting up the lie about Clinton, Byrd basically just drops it to the side and says “blah”. Mind you, I understand, I think most Americans thinking back about him lying about a BJ tend to think “blah”. Still, he’s talking about lying, specifically brings it up to make the point that you need to stand up to lies, and then he backs down instantly without adequate reason. I know why I think impeaching a President is stupid over a simple BJ, but since he brought the issue up, I expected him to answer why he did so. The thing I liked the most was the several quotes. I like how he quotes lots of other wise people to make points. He’s got the bible, Nietzsche, Mark Twain, even Plato! It’s very cool. I like that a lot. Better, he uses those quotes very well to move his point forward. The point being, George Bush lied to America frequently with big and bold lies that were believed and that hurts Democracy, so please, New President, don’t lie like Bush did.

On the left I put in a link to Bushlies.net I do not endorse the site, I only breiefly read it. But they’ve gathered the assorted “lies” people accuse Bush of and you can judge the merit of them on your own. Additionally, I put in a link to the Greatest Story ever Sold. The entire book is about how the Administration mislead America.

Chapter 5

This chapter deals mostly with a comparison between Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan. Harry Truman, it seems, was a very good man. Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush are less so. Specically, the (criminal) actions surrounding the Inra-Contra scandal and the cover-up at the very top where Bush pardoned six people to protect himself from his own criminal behavior. 

Now, one could make the argument that by making the pardon himself and not just doing some back-door sneakyness is a level of accountability. Who is to blame for those 6 guys walking? George H. W. Bush. There’s no ambiguity about it. But that’s aside the point, which is that our elected leaders broke very important laws involving them interfering in other countries and selling weapons to our enemies. These serious actions were under investigation when those being investigated were pardoned so they’d not testify against thoes who gave them their orders. The result is a loss of accountability. Which is a compelling narrative.

Of course, politicians doing everything they can to avoid getting in trouble is hardly limited to those of Byrds opposing party. The only example he can think of is Clinton’s pardon of Mark Rich. Regardless, it was a decent chapter

Chapter 6

A nice chapter. There is a bit of awkwardness as the author is trying to tie in the failure of the media to the president. I don’t think it’s really fair to blame Bush for the media being useless. That’s like complaining that the kid who stole a cookie is to blame for his mom not watching him better.

That said, the chapter chronicles a few instances of how the Bush Administration did they’re part to help the Media down the pit into uselessness.

Chapter 7

I did not like this chapter very much. It was really unorganized and the thoughts seemed to ramble and lose cohesion. It starts with Nazi’s and obedience, ties that into 9/11, complains about the press, segues to negative campaign commersials being less about substance than emotion, does the same about campaigns, and then disses Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice and elevating Madeline Albright.

There isn’t really any discussion at all of photo ops. I re-read the chapter and don’t see any clear definition of what “photo-op diplomacy” means. So, the chapters not a waste, but it doesn’t carry any sort of driving point and then ends in whimper

Chapter 8

This was a much better chapter. The best one so far. I had no idea how close Clinton was to treaty with North Korea, nor how badly Bush F’d that up. It was also creepy seeing the numbers of positive opinions of America drop the world over. You have to wonder if that has really made us safer. How has it helped us for Bush to have insulted North Korea and their leader? How did it help America to drive away Turkey? Isn’t that the exact right country to get closer relations with?

Chapter 9

A decent chapter. There’s a big part in the middle about Attorney General Ashcroft. I’ve never been particularly impressed with the whole story. I mean, Ashcroft approved the thing lots of time. He wasn’t standing up on principle, he agreed with the thing, he was standing up for work-place ettiquette. Essentially, it’s my offday. Talk to my assistant. So maybe if someone reads this they can explain for me why it’s such a big deal that the encounter has been in several books and discussed so much on cable tv. (hmm, sorry for the rant)

Otherwise it’s a decent chapter. But everyone always talks about how bad Partisanship is. Just before and after they engage in it. Only a few chapters before this he was  comparing the Republicans to Nazis. Ah well. Politics my friends, politics

Chapter 10

The book ends on a bit of a personal reflective tone. He talks about his past, and (swear I’m not teasing) complains about the kids of this generation moving too fast. He gives several examples of how everything has spead up and how he prefers the movies of the thirties, which were slow enough you “could sit down and enjoy”. It was very amusing in the sense that he’s an old man complaining about the “those darned kids now-a-days”. But the larger point was interesting, and that was essentially, sit down, think the matter over, and don’t be impatient


From Publishers Weekly

In this book-length letter to the next president, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) draws on his 56 years of experience in Congress to offer advice, admonition and encouragement. With frequent references to past presidents, especially his personal favorite, Harry Truman, Byrd claims that his passion for the Constitution is only rivaled by his love for his wife. He presents a readable, if slight, survey of past presidencies and a scathing evaluation of the “greatest crisis” in the nation’s history brought about by the “failings” of the Bush administration: the buildup to the war in Iraq and the president’s bungled handling of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath. Chapter headings such as “Bring Back the Fireside Chat” and scads of references to Emerson, Jefferson and Thoreau provide a rich philosophical context to Byrd’s political thought, even as much of his advice feels familiar and anodyne: “Build Your Presidency Around Accountability.” The book’s detailed analysis of the great power and responsibility of the executive branch is timely, and prospective presidents and concerned citizens would be well-advised to read Byrd’s book. (July)

Link

President Jimmy Carter:

“Senator Byrd draws on a lifetime of experience to offer a guiding hand to our country’s next Commander in Chief. His unfailing faith in God and country provides an example of the best we should hope to find in our leaders as well as any of our fellow citizens.”

Godless: Review


Godless

The Church of Liberalism

By: Ann Coulter

Summary

Reviews

Bookmark and Share

I read Godless early last year. It was horrible. I hated it. To do the summary of it I went to the library, borrowed it and tried to write a summary. But it just kept pissing me off. So I’m using someone else’s summary. You’ll note that as the chapters go each chapter summary gets shorter. I assume the writer was suffering the effects of too much hate and stupid.

The problem with Ann Coulter is that she takes something good like “Don’t teach sex to children” and then to argue her point she
1. Lies about what her opponents are saying
2. Lies about what the facts are
3. Throws hate at anyone who disagrees with her
4. Throws hate at anyone who points out her lies and hatred and fascism
5. Lies some more, but in newer and more creative ways (Link)

One simple example of how she lies.

On page 175, Coulter says:

But in contrast to liberal preachiness about IQ, there would be no moralizing when it came to sex. Anal sex, oral sex, fisting, dental dams, “birthing games” — all that would be foisted on unsuspecting children in order to protect kindergarteners from the scourge of AIDS. As one heroine of the sex education movement told an approving New York Times reporter, “My job is not to teach one right value system. Parents and churches teach moral values. My job is to say, ‘These are the facts,’ and to help the students, as adults, decide what is right for them.”9

Okay, real real simple, notice the twin-bolded words. At the start of the paragraph she’s pissed that we are teach anal sex to kindergarteners. Then to prove that, she quotes someone talking adults. When you read the end-notes, you see it’s college-aged adults being given optional college classes. There’s no foisting here. In fact, lets’ actually look at the definition of the word. To Foist means to pass somethig off as valuble, when really it’s fruadulant and then to impose it with trickery or coersion. Okay? Well guess what, that is Ann’s specialty. She has foisted off the belief that Liberals want to teach Anal Sex to 3-year olds by (1) pretending what she’s saying is important for the protection of children, (2) is actually about voluntary adult college classes, and (3) if you don’t agree with her you are Godless. Is that trickery or coersion? I don’t know. I do know you can’t trust anything in her books. Click the link above for dozens of lies in her book. Some are petty, but most are valid. And bare in mind, whenever anyone lies to prove their argument, its because they know they’re wrong.

So, I get it Mrs. Coulter, you believe in God and have some policy disagreements with Democrats. But why lie about your opponents? But why do you shit on the Constitution? Why do you burn the flag? Why do you call on us to hate each other? Why do you give us Conservatives such a bad name? And at what point in time did Christianity become a requirement to be Conservative? Remember, please, the Declaration of Independence names only a “God of Nature”, a title specifically chosen because it wasn’t Christian, and the Constitution has no mention of god at all. Traditional values in this country, especially political value, aren’t Christian.

There is no good in this book. I do not recommend it to anyone.

From the Book Reporter:

I have been deeply fond of Ann Coulter since the 1990s when I first came across her weekly column in an issue of Human Events, a conservative magazine. I fell in full-blown love with her when, during an appearance on “Hannity and Colmes,” she dismissively described John Kerry as “a kept man.” Given that I had been saying basically the same thing for years, it was refreshing to hear someone else not only reach the identical conclusion but fearlessly state it.

Link

From Powells:

H. L. Mencken once responded to a question asked by many of his readers: “If you find so much that is unworthy of reverence in the United States, then why do you live here?” His answer was, “Why do men go to zoos?” Sadly, Mencken is not here to ogle the newest creature in the American Zoo: the Bleached Flamingo, otherwise known as Ann Coulter. This beast draws crowds by its frequent, raucous calls, eerily resembling a human voice, and its unearthly appearance, scrawny and pallid. (Wikipedia notes that “a white or pale flamingo … is usually unhealthy or suffering from a lack of food.”) The etiolated Coulter issued a piercing squawk this spring with her now-notorious book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism. Its thesis, harebrained even by her standards, is that liberals are an atheistic lot who have devised a substitute religion, replete with the sacraments of abortion, feminism, coddling of criminals, and — you guessed it — bestiality. Liberals also have their god, who, like Coulter’s, is bearded and imposing. He is none other than Charles Darwin. But the left-wing god is malevolent, for Coulter sees Darwin as the root cause of every ill afflicting our society, not to mention being responsible for the historical atrocities of Hitler and Stalin.

Link

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: Reviews


The Great Story Ever Sold

The Decline and Fall of TRUTH, from 9/11 to Katrina

By: Frank Rich

Chapters 1 and 2

Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 5 and 6

Chapters 7 and 8

Chapters 9 and 10

Reviews

Bookmark and Share

Brief Summary:

The Bush Administration were experts at message control, media manipulation and stagecraft. They used those skills to control public opinion so well that they came to believe their own lies, that they could create their own realities based on how they controlled the message. They sold the war in Iraq to Americans by controlling the message so well that the American people never really was given a choice of supporting the war. Their stagecraft though finally came to a crash as the actual-realties on the ground in Iraq and Katrina finally bore witness to their lies.

Would I recommend the book?

Yes. I liked it very much. This is an older book now, but I wanted to put the summary up because I thought it was underrated when it came out and the message it tells is one that has to be told. The Bush Administration wasn’t evil. They were just inept and governance, skilled at story telling, and focused on issues and goals the American people didn’t agree with or understand. The real villain in the book isn’t Bush, he’s the MacGuffin. The villain is the Media that so willingly let themselves be controlled and manipulated and turned into cheerleaders. The villain is the stagecraft that allowed ineptitude to prosper, let message become more important that substance, and let the American people become so horrible misinformed they allowed their government to attack a country that hadn’t attacked us, and then get stuck there.

The good?

The absolutely best part of the book isn’t actually part of the book per se, it’s in the back of the book, a parallel time-line comparing what was known privately and what was said publicly. Page 246 for example has on the left side of the paper the time when George Tenet privately telling Bush that the State and Energy Department and the CIA all had serious doubts about the aluminum tube story-line. On the Right side of the paper, publicly, at the same time, Bush gave a radio address using the Aluminum tube story to sell America on the necessity of war.

The public/private side by side comparison is damning in the least. Frightening too. There can be no doubt that the people making the decision for war knew what they were doing, the only people misled about Saddam’s WMDs were the American people.

The Ugly?

The Author uses a huge litany of examples through out the book to make his points. Now, the he uses these examples well, but sometimes the examples start taking on a life of their own. Perhaps it is just the nature of the beast, covering six years of mistakes from Bush is probably tough to do succinctly, but I often felt the chapters were just broken lists of mistakes lies and misleading statements. I suppose the point was to show the breadth of lies and deceit, but at the same time it made the narrative messy.

Conclusion

I give the Book an A. It covers a great deal of terrain and does an excellent job of showing just how disconnected the truth was to the message coming out of the White House. It chronicles in horrifying detail the path that took America from fantasizing about war to being stuck in an unnecessary one.

From the New York Times:

As a former theater critic, Frank Rich has the perfect credentials for writing an account of the Bush administration, which has done so much to blur the lines between politics and show business. Not that this is a unique phenomenon; think of Silvio Berlusconi, the media mogul and master of political fictions, or Ronald Reagan, who often appeared to be genuinely confused about the difference between real life and the movies. Show business has always been an essential part of ruling people, and so is the use of fiction, especially when going to war. What would Hitler have been without his vicious fantasies fed to a hungry public through grand spectacles, radio and film? Closer to home, in 1964, to justify American intervention in Vietnam, Lyndon B. Johnson used news of an attack in the Gulf of Tonkin that never took place. What is fascinating about the era of George W. Bush, however, is that the spinmeisters, fake news reporters, photo-op creators, disinformation experts, intelligence manipulators, fictional heroes and public relations men posing as commentators operate in a world where virtual reality has already threatened to eclipse empirical investigation. 

Link

 

From the The Washington Post

Throughout George W. Bush’s presidency, no columnist has been more perceptive than Frank Rich of the New York Times. A longtime film and drama critic, Rich, for the past decade, has used his insights into performance and stagecraft to explain a political culture increasingly dominated by simulation and spectacle.

Link

 

From The Huffington Post

The Kirkus review for NYT columnist Frank Rich’s “The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina” was released this afternoon, praising Rich for his “savaging sermon” on the “White House’s greatest hits, from the 2001 defense of gas-guzzling as essential to the American way of life to “Heckuva job, Brownie” to the ongoing morass of Iraq.” The Kirkus reviewer seems to be in agreement with Rich on the spinning of it’s own administration’s missteps: “In an effort to disguise that track record, the Republicans have exercised single-minded control of the grand narrative of the last five years, at least in part because they have exercised quasi-totalitarian control over the news media.”

Link

From Frank Rich (author)

When America was attacked on 9/11, its citizens almost unanimously rallied behind its new, untested president as he went to war. What they didn’t know at the time was that the Bush administration’s highest priority would not be to vanquish Al Qaeda but to consolidate its own power at any cost. It was a mission that could only be accomplished by a propaganda presidency in which reality was steadily replaced by a scenario of the White House’s own invention—and such was that scenario’s devious brilliance that it fashioned a second war against an enemy who did not attack America on 9/11, intimidated the Democrats into incoherence and impotence, and turned a presidential election into an irrelevant referendum on macho imagery, Vietnam and “moral values.”

Link

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: Summary (Chapters 9-10)


The Great Story Ever Sold

The Decline and Fall of TRUTH, from 9/11 to Katrina

By: Frank Rich

Chapters 1 and 2

Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 5 and 6

Chapters 7 and 8

Chapters 9 and 10

Reviews

Bookmark and Share

Quotes

Part Two

Chapter Nine: When we act, we create our own reality

“If a story isn’t on TV in America, it’s MIA in the culture.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 154“The Bush Administration didn‘t just settle for demonizing, stiffling and spinning the press.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 166

“The more real journalism fumbled its job, the easier it was for such government info-ganda to fill the vaccumm.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 167

The first casualty of the Value-Voter Mandate was self-censorship ay the Networks. They dropped a showing of the “Band of Brothers” though it had been accepted in the previous years without problem. A cameraman who captured a Marine killing an unarmed Iraqi was chastised, and all talk of Abu Ghraib fell off the Networks.Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was caught unprepared for a question on armor supplies, though it had already been known that as many as 80% of Marine deaths could have been averted with the missing body armor. Soon thereafter the President gave his inaugural speech, without mentioning Iraq, and then held a ball for soldiers injured in the wars (without cameras) where they were told to “clap their hands” and “dance to the beat,” though many had lost their hands and legs.

A senior advisor to George Bush had claimed that they could create their own reality. So when US soldiers attacked Falluja, the Government created a “Mission Accomplished” by inflating the body count, downplaying the damage done to the city, and lying about the actions of the Iraqi soldiers who were supposedly “leading” the fight, but who had actually shown up after the fighting was done. When the identity of Deep Throat was revealed, he was attacked for “dishonoring” the President by Charles Colson, who had been convicted and served time in jail for his crimes, all without the Media pointing out his sordid past.

When seventeen people were killed in riots, the White House blamed Newsweek. Though the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the President of Afghanistan both disagreed, the preposterous charge allowed the White House to both attack the ‘filter’ and turn the Newsweek into the scapegoat for all the anger at America from Muslims. After the long back and forth with controlling the media, the Bush Administration decided to jump to the bottom line, hire their own reporters and create their own news broadcasts. But the post-9/11 slumber of journalism was coming to an end.

More Information

Review, Critique, Thoughts

Book Notes

Frank Rick

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

George Bush

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

Middle East

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

This was one of the better chapters so far, and highlights one of my personal grievances with our government, and that’s the failure of the media to pay attention and do their jobs. (just look at the recent posts, I ranted about this just last night). So through this chapter the Author goes through a long list of examples of how the media failed and how the Bush Administration failed. How the Bush Administration succeeded only in fooling Americans.He uses the many examples to demonstrate the many different ways that the Media was censored, scared, and controlled. The examples also go to show exactly how people were fooled, and how far the Administration was willing to go to fool people, that the Administration was vastly better at stagecraft than governance, better at writing speeches than running wars, and better at assigning blame than acknowledging their own mistakes and correcting them.

Quotes

Part Two

Chapter Ten: Reporting for Duty

“But this scandal didn‘t begin, as Watergate had, simply with dirty tricks and spying on the political opposition. It began with the sending of American men and women to war in Iraq under false pretenses.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 181“The White House no longer had any more control over an expanding political insurgency at home than it did over the one in Iraq.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 196

“Rove, tellingly, was officially put in charge of the New Orleans reconstruction.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 202

While Iraq slowly turned into a far-worse Afghanistan, Bush continued to repeat the same speeches with the same misinformation and instill fears of another 9/11, but the American people were moving away from him, with a majority thinking the war wasn’t worth it. Then Patrick Fitzgerald presented his case, revealing that Karl Rove had leaked the identity of an undercover CIA operative as a political attack against a guy that had tried to warn the Administration that there were no WMDs in Iraq. The political stakes couldn’t be higher, this wasn’t a case about a simple leak of classified information, this was about the deliberate and intentional crime of sending American soldiers to war under false pretenses.Journalists, following the lead of a professional investigator began to work the story. The more the White House denied cherry-picking the intelligence, the more reports came out contradicting them. It was becoming apparent that not only was the evidence used by the Administration to sell the war wrong, it had intentionally exaggerated the evidence for a pre-intended goal.

Four years after responding to a memo outlining Osama’s plan to attack America by going fishing, Cindy Sheehan set up camp outside Bush’s Crawford ranch. Despite Rumsfelds claims that Iraqi soldiers were leading the fight, when Iraqi Militiamen showed up to Casey Sheehan, the soldiers ran away and Casey and several others were killed. The militiamen belonged to al-Sadr, who controlled one of the larger blocs in the Iraqi National Assembly. Bush loyalists attacker her, but there was no way to get around the fact her son was dead and Bush refused to speak to her. Only 34% of America approved of his handling of the war.

The Bush Administration was already in trouble when Katrina hit. The American people had come to realize the good news and warnings from the Administration were all either exaggerated, recycled, unsubstantiated or lies. When Katrina hit, Bush, again, flew away from Washington rather than towards it. It was 9/11 and Iraq déjà vu, the same obliviousness to danger, the same AWOL behavior, the same lack of preparation, the total disregard for the people on the ground and the incompetence is handling the disaster. The White House tried to use their well-practiced stagecraft to cover up their disastrous behavior, but the American people would have none of it.

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The final chapter is well written, finishes the circle of the book if you would. It looks at the crumbling stagecraft of the Bush Administration after the election and then through the prism of all that stagecraft, looks at the response to Katrina. Katrina really did end the Bush Administration, with this chapter showing that the problems with the response to Katrina were the same that had plagued the Administration from day one.Now, through the prism of Katrina you can find any number of problems and faults with anything and anyone, but at the same time, Katrina was a disaster of such epic proportions, you can’t look at the Bush Administration and ignore the federal response. And the federal response was to ignore it and call it a success, and that was the real disaster, a point the author really nails down in the final chapter.

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: Summary (Chapters 7-8)


The Great Story Ever Sold

The Decline and Fall of TRUTH, from 9/11 to Katrina

By: Frank Rich

Chapters 1 and 2

Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 5 and 6

Chapters 7 and 8

Chapters 9 and 10

Reviews

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Quotes

Part Two

Chapter Seven: Slam Dunk

“In the 23 months I was there, I never saw anything that I would categorize as evidence of weapons of mass destruction,” Paul O’Neill The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 113

“The White House’s prohibition on photo’s of flag-draped coffins from Iraq, it seemed, did not extend to the politically useful pictures of casualties from 9/11.” – Regarding such pictures in campaign commercials. The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 119

“Such protests raised a question: If the country was so firmly in support of the war, as Bush loyalists claimed, by what logic would photographs of its selfless soldiers, either of their faces or of their flag-draped coffins, undermine public support?” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 127

Thirteen after leaving his job in the administration, Paul O’Neill, with Ron Suskind, wrote a book attacking the administration. According to O’Neill, the administration was focused on deposing Saddam from the very first National Security meeting and were just looking for a way. Shortly after Richard Clark, Bush’s counterterrorism czar released a book supporting O’Neill and providing more damning evidence towards an Administration that had dropped the ball. Most of the facts revealed by the two were already known, but they did what facts couldn’t, they put a human face to the facts. The Administration tried to write them off and sent agents to attack their message, but none worked.

Over the next several months bad news continued to pile up; dead Americans hanging from a bridge, Abu Ghraib, Pat Tillman’s brave death fighting insurgents. The Media began turning to the families of the dead for ratings. Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Rush Limbaugh and others did their best to the defend the Administration, but pictures of American’s fake-raping Iraqi’s needed no commentary.

The election year was coming up, and the Administration fought back hard against the bad stories. They blamed Liberals and Democrats for the Jersey Girls wanting a 9/11 Commission, though the head of the group had voted for Bush. They accused cowardly journalists in Iraq of not leaving their hotels to see the good things occurring in Iraq, though 34 journalists had already died doing just that. They blamed the mounting deaths of Americans on thugs and terrorists. They twisted and lied about the death of Pat Tillman, they lied about the President’s actions on 9/11, they exaggerated Iraqi police forces, and they downplayed or ignored the crimes committed in Abu Ghraib. The American people were slowly turning against the war in Iraq.

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This chapter was hard to summarize due to the breadth of information covered, and I hope I did it justice. Frank Rich goes through more than a dozen events highlighting both the bad news coming out of Iraq or former Bush insiders, and the Administration’s attempts to silence that news. Going through it it’s hard not to get a pessimistic view of the entire timeline.

The important point though, I think, is that even as all the bad news was coming out, the Administration was more concerned with fixing the message than fixing the mess. Highlighted by a poignant Karl Rove quote a year after the Mission Accomplished banner, he said he wished the banner hadn’t been there. But the banner wasn’t a problem it was just a symptom of a problem, it was a visible reminder of a disconnect between facts on the ground and the information spoon fed to the media. Karl Rove wasn’t wishing the Iraq war was done better, he was wishing it was sold better. And that was the problem with the Administration through out this whole period. Even as things kept getting worse and worse, rather than rushing to attack the problems, they rushed to attack the whistleblowers.

Quotes

Part Two

Chapter Eight: Reporting for Duty

“As the Press would report, many of the Swift Boat vets’ charges were easily debunked.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 139

“Having brought up Vietnam in the backdrop of this incipient quagmire, Kerry then choked. It turned out he had almost nothing to say about the subject” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 148

“The Republican right, for its part, saw an opening to use the ‘values’ mandate as a means to shove its own values down people’s throats.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 151

The Republicans were looking for someone they could easily make out to be weak on defense and a 70’s radical, instead they got John Kerry, who could do play the role of soldier far better than George Bush. John Kerry had won multiple awards during the Vietnam war including the bronze star for valor in rescuing an overboard crewmate. Yet, for all his attempts, his campaigns skills at stagecraft were unprepared for the Swift Boats Vets for Truth, and for all the loaded weapons the White House had given him, his fumbling speeches and gaffes made him an easy target for ridicule.

After staking his entire Presidential campaign on his past military service, and having most of that chipped away by the Swift Boat Vets, Kerry did himself in by having nothing to say on the Iraq war. While the President and his men set about scaring America into making a safe choice, Kerry hid from his anti-war past and offered no specific alternatives to the Iraq war.

Despite being a horrible candidate, and going against an entrenched Administration able and willing to manipulate the terror warnings for political gains, Kerry held George Bush to 51%. This somehow became a “mandate,” an election determined by so-called ‘value-voters.’ The Media knew a sexy story when they heard it, and they went with it. When voters were given a list of specific reasons for their vote, and a final unspecific “value issues” reason (abortion? Gay rights? Helping the poor?) the majority selected matters connected to national security, but since no single matter of national security was singled out as much as the broad umbrella of “values”, that was the story. And it’s a narrative that threatens to doom political discourse for years.

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This chapter reads a little whiney. The author starts off making the case that Kerry was a good candidate, and any cursory look at the guy would show he’s a great politician. Fought in a war he volunteered for, volunteered to go to the front lines and was awarded multiple awards. Came home and began a political career by saying the Vietnam war was wrong, a point that most people would agree with today. He then spent many years in political office, requiring him to run and win many campaigns. Then he slams him for not responding and having enough to say on the war. Now, he might well be right to a point, but Monday-morning quarter backers can normally make a point or two too.

The parts that read a bit more informative are where he talks about John Ashcroft using his podium to scare Americans for political gain. Since then, he’s written a book admitting that he was under political pressure to do just that. Complaining about the fact that Kerry was a bad candidate and lost a campaign, whether true or not, really doesn’t fit in well with the rest of the book.

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: Summary (Chapters 3-4)


The Great Story Ever Sold

The Decline and Fall of TRUTH, from 9/11 to Katrina

By: Frank Rich

Chapters 1 and 2

Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 5 and 6

Chapters 7 and 8

Chapters 9 and 10

Reviews

Bookmark and Share

Summary

PART ONE Chapter Three: “I don’t think anyone could have predicted…”

“Bush was either suffering from memory loss or outright lying.” The Greatest Story Ever Told, Page 43

“Bush was either suffering from memory loss or outright lying.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 43

“Bush had never run a successful business…. The inexperience showed. The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 51

George Bush had been sold to America as the first CEO President, and the American people had been Sold no one could have predicted the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Over the next several months the Bush Administration had to run the gauntlet of corporate corruption cases and congressional investigations concerning pre-9/11 intelligence.

In the first State of the Union since his speech to the joint session of Congress on the eve of war with Afghanistan the only part of the speech to be remembered by the next morning would eventually come to be called the Bush Doctrine, preemptive war against “regimes that sponsor terror” and branding Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as the “axis of evil.” Forgotten in the speech was public enemy number one, Osama bin Laden.

The news of bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora was only the first of several embarrassing 9/11 revelations. CBS broke the news that the president, while on vacation, had been warned by the intelligence community bin Laden was trying to hijack planes. An FBI agent had also sent a Memo asking for muslim flight students to be investigated. Condoleeze Rice was sent in to argue that no one could have predicted that anyone hijack a plane, ignoring the memos to the contrary. The revelations of pre-9/11 failures kept coming. As more attention was paid to these stories, John Ashcroft and Dick Cheney began accelerating the pile up of terror alerts.

Two weeks before his inauguration Bush invited a bevy of CEOs to Texas to showcase his, and his soon-to-be administrations business acumens. Bush surrounded himself with former CEOs. Rather than channeling the successful corporate environments of companies like GM, they implored the cooked-book, smoke and mirror tactics of Enron and Tyco. The White House put together an economic forum of Bush-donators to help the staggering economy, when critics complained the White House added enthusiasts for his fiscal policies. The managerial policies of Bush’s inner circle continued to abound, with John Ashcroft boasting of a 13-month investigation leading to the arrest of 12 people for prostitution, a boast that did nothing to inspire confidence in his ability to arrest terrorists.

The mid-term elections were coming up, Karl Rove came up with a strategy for winning despite all the bad news coming in waves, summed up in the first three words: “Focus on the war.”

Summary

PART ONE Chapter Four: “Don’t introduce new products in August”

“Bush: ‘If we tried to do too many things, two things for example… the lack of focus would have been a huge risk.’ The follow-up question that was not to be found in Bush at War was simple enough: If it was a huge risk to split our focus between Saddam and AlQueda then, why wasn’t it now? ” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 67

“The unofficial motto of the 9/11 anniversary may have been ‘Never forget,’ but the war on Al Queda was already fading from memory as the world was invited to test-drive the new war in Iraq.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 60

“To question Bush on anything more substantive was an invitation to have one‘s patriotism besmirched.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 62

“The Washington press corps was more than willing to buy fictions if instructed to do so by the puppeteer.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 69

The White House was so good at managing the media it began bragging about its skills. They took the accepted political Skillman ship of political visuals and turned it into an art. They understood that was next to the head is as important as the head itself. In that backdrop of masterful message control came the selling of the war in Iraq.

The initial, and subliminal, release of the new product occurred only two months after 9/11 when Bush said Iraq would be held accountable for harboring weapons of mass destruction. Not till the fall of 2002 though did the full weight of Bush Administration roll out the new war. Cheney, Rice, and Powell all played their roles carefully marrying Iraq to Al Queda.

Even as the evidence of weapons of mass destruction was unraveling, the Administration continued to sell the evidence as fact. When a corner piece of the evidence proved to be a forgery, it took 5 days for any of the Washington Press Corps to ask a question. The Bush Administration kept saying no decision was made, war had been long planned. It was thought a failure to go to war after what the president said would lead to a collapse of confidence. Yet as more and more of the war evidence fell apart, the Washington Journalists continued to toe the line.

Bush’s supposed opponents, the Democrats, managed to turn a midterm election with a crumbling economy, one war on the backburner and on the eve of another into the election about nothing. Without journalists or Democrats to challenge the Bush Administration, they continued to repeat long-discredited claims for several years. Colin Powell put the final touches on the products in his speech before the UN General Assembly, and the Bush Administration hade their sale.

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: Summary (Chapters 1-2)


The Great Story Ever Sold

The Decline and Fall of TRUTH, from 9/11 to Katrina

By: Frank Rich

Chapters 1 and 2

Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 5 and 6

Chapters 7 and 8

Chapters 9 and 10

Reviews

 

 

PART ONE Chapter One: Home of the Heartland

“The vapid Pearl Harbor was an essential historical artifact anyway-not of its ostencivle subject but of the tranquil American summer of 2001.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 9

“Patience and humility were not words that came to mind when thinking of Bush.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 16

“Once in Office Bush turned the presidency into an ongoing festival of audiovisual cognitive dissonance.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 19

In the summer of 2001 America was had decided that Robert Blake was too B-list to qualify for a OJ Simpson-like coverage. Instead we focused on the possible affair of Gary Condit and the dissapearance of his intern. In the summer of 2001 we also enjoyed war through the sanitized PG-13 glasses of Pearl Harbor the movie. Raising the questions of Right or Wrong would have hurt the box office sales, so the movie scrupulously avoided any mention of why Japan attacked us or why anyone at all fought in the Asian theatre.

In preparation for the celebration the Aircraft Carrier John C. Stennis was set as a stage for revelers. Navy Seals parachuted in to entertain the celebrities. By celebrating the patriotism of our forbearers we were able to practice “virtual patriotism” that made us look noble by association, a virtual patriotism that helped us forget Vietnam, a war cooked up by WWII vets and dodged by both of our boomer presidents.

Bush was on his way to being a forgettable president, a “colossal boob” were the words of David Letterman, the prevailing thought at the time. In the untroubled pre-9/11 world, George Bush as Cheerleader-in-chief was not necessarily miscast. In those months he used the common practice of photo ops, not to highlight his policy initiatives, but to disguise them. His earth-tone photo ops at national parks hid his D-Rating from the National Parks Conservation Association, his photo op with Philadelphia police hid his 17% cut in police pay, and his visits to the Boys and Girls Clubs occurred just before slashing their funding.Those were the last days before 9/11.

 

PART ONE Chapter Two: Dead or Alive

“Overnight, World War II fetishism was almost ludicrously obsolete.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 22

“Press adulation was not all the White House wanted; it also wanted control.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 30

“The Thrust of a war against terrorism going forward was becoming blurry, however, now that the Taliban had been routed.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 40

Despite there being at most two U.S. shark attacks a year since 1990, in 2001 the media found the Shark threat a good diversion from sex scandals. After 9/11 People magazine dropped their Shark cover to make way for the thousands killed by Al Queda. Anchors didn’t make any of the mistakes they made with the OJ and Monica mediathons that could have caused wide-spread panic. They reverted to pre-Druge, pre-cable news standards sans blather and rumor.

A decade of dreaming was coming to an end. There was a hope that terms like Survivor and Fear Factor would regain their true meanings. Hope that the fear of 9/11 would shock the don’t-worry-be-happy president into growing up and telling Americans that was wasn’t possible to cut taxes and increase spending all without dipping into Social Security cash. Perhaps he’d ask for a generation to sacrifice. Perhaps 9/11 was the day everything changed. Perhaps not.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Bush disappeared. A story, which would later turn out to be false, was spread that there was intelligence to suggest the White House was a target. So Bush fled from one military base to another with long hours in-between where no one knew where he was. He resurfaced three days after 9/11, where many agree, he finally found his voice in promising to track down those responsible and get them, dead or alive. On September 20th at a joint session of Congress he reiterated those words but this time with more substance setting a distinction between “Islamic extremism” and “Islam”. He asked for patience as his administration prepared a counter-strike and Americans of all type were willing both to go to war to get those responsible and to give him the time he needed.

The Right Wing was ready for war, with pundits calling for America to invade Muslim countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity, and others calling for us to invade Iraq, even if no direct link could be found. Christian evangelicals blamed gays, liberals and the UCLA for the attacks. The turn to religious extremism at home to combat religious extremism overseas went unnoticed by Fox News and the Bush Administration.

94% of Americans approved of the war in Afghanistan. The Bush Administration demanded obedience from the media, and it got it. Press access to U.S. troops was restricted for months and news was spoon fed to the media. The only sacrifice requested of the American people was to take vacations and keep spending. Putting flags on foreign cars burning foreign fuel was “literally the least you can do” in the words of Bill Maher. We leapt at that option.

After the fall of the Taliban we moved on to Iraq. Cheney asserted direct links between Al Queda, 9/11 and Iraq. The media that fell in line behind Afghanistan quickly fell in line behind the new war.

Audacity of Hope: Summary of chapter 9 and Epilogue


This is the summary of chapter9 and the Epilogue of the Audacity of Hope, written by then Senator now President Barack Obama. Like him, love him, or even if you think he’s an undocumented illegal, he’s the President so you should educate yourself about him. This is a good place to start. The rest will follow over the next few days, followed then by my review.


• Book Summary •

200px-AudacityofHope

The Audacity of Hope

Thoughts on reclaiming the American Dream

Chapter 1-2

Chapters 3-5

Chapters 6-8

Chapter 9 and Epilogue

Review

Chapter 9: Family

“I hung up the receiver, wondering if Ted Kennedy or John McCain bought ant traps on the way home from work.” – page 327

“I have little sympathy for those who would enlist the government in the task of enforcing sexual morality.” – page 335

“When it comes to my daughters, no one is buying the tough guy routine.” – page 346

In the final chapter Obama talks about his family life, how he met Michelle and what her family is like. The decline of the traditional family is discussed, and the value of the a traditional family is espoused. Many of the problems facing families and society can be agreed by us all, whether it is teen pregnancy or high divorce rates or kids growing up with their dads. Some blame feminism for women leaving the home, but with today’s economy, for many women not having a job means less safe neighborhoods and less competitive schools.

After the births of their two kids his family life got harder, and in hindsight he realizes how much his wife sacrificed for their family. The difficulties inherent in two professionals managing their daily lives and caring for their young children were a constant source of stress for both. Their situation though was vastly better than most, as they had money to have day care, babysitters when needed, the flexibility to take time off to care for sick children and a healthy mother-in-law that lived nearby.Parenting is hard, and Obama offers several suggestions on how America can work to help families, from subsidized childcare to longer school hours. He also offers his personal fears and insecurities with being a father, as well as his happiness and successes at it.

Epilogue

“It was my first day in the building; I had not taken a single vote, had not introduced a single bill-indeed I had not even sat down at my desk when a very earnest reporter raised his hand and asked, ‘Senator, Obama, what is your place in History?’ Even some of the other reporters had to laugh.” – page 354 Obama ends his book with a few amusing anecdotes of the weeks leading up to his swearing in and his keynote speech. DC is an odd place, he finds his sudden fame amusing and he finds his position, at the center of American politics a daunting task. He thinks of men like Lincoln and King who died making America a more perfect union, and for love of country, he wants to join in on their work.

 

Audacity of Hope: Summaries of chapters 6-8


This is the summary of chapters 3-5 of the Audacity of Hope, written by then Senator now President Barack Obama. Like him, love him, or even if you think he’s an undocumented illegal, he’s the President so you should educate yourself about him. This is a good place to start. The rest will follow over the next few days, followed then by my review.


• Book Summary •

200px-AudacityofHope

The Audacity of Hope

Thoughts on reclaiming the American Dream

Chapter 1-2

Chapters 3-5

Chapters 6-8

Chapter 9 and Epilogue

Review

Chapter 6: Faith

“It is a truism that we Americans are a religious people.” – page 198

“If I have any insight into this movement towards a deepening religious commitment, perhaps because it’s a road I have traveled.” – page 202

There are certain things that anchor my personal faith, “The Golden rule, the need to battle cruelty in all its forms, the value of love and charity, humility and grace.” – page 224

 

The chapter starts with two stories about conversations he’s had with pro-life supporters. The resulting conversations led him to realize that not all opponents of abortion are ideologues, and though he may be fully against those who block abortion clinics, he intends to “extend the same presumption of good faith to others that” others had extended to him.

This chapter is a continuation of his conversation about the polarization of politics. Most Americans 95% even, believe in god. During the 60’s numerous judicial cases, from desegregation, to the removal of prayer from schools, the sexual liberation and Roe v. Wade all came together to give Christians the feeling they were being mocked and were under attack. As those Christians, in their view, fought back against a far distant federal power attacking their way of life, they grew to be the heart and soul of the Republican party. As Republicans have embraced the “Religious Right” many Democrats have had a knee-jerk reaction to move in the opposite direction.

To maintain a balance between our collective religious views and our politics, a sense of proportion is required. Americans intuitively understand this. Minor uses of the word God in the public domain do not oppress children and do not threaten our democracy. There are certain things that anchor my personal faith, The Golden rule, the need to battle cruelty in all its forms, the value of love and charity, humility and grace.

When I visited Birmingham Alabama for a speech, I remembered the deaths of four little girls killed by a bomb. I remember my mother on her deathbed and the fear in her eyes, and I remember the way my daughter told me she didn’t want to die, and I know I hope that somewhere my mother is some how capable of embracing those four girls.

Chapter 7: Race

“There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America– there’s the United States of America.” – page 231

“my family get-togethers over Christmas take on the appearance of a UN General Assemble meeting.” – page 231

“As much as I insist that things have gotten better, I am mindful of this truth as well: Better isn‘t good enough.” – page 233

Two months after Katrina hid the Gulf Coast, I sat in a church for the funeral of Rosa Parks. We commemorated her death with presidents and American leads from all across our country. As I sat there, I thought of the legacy of Katrina, and what that woman would say of our actions and inactions.

I have a black Kenyan father and white mother, a Indonesian sister who looks Mexican, a neice of Chinese decent, blood relatives who look like Margaret thatcher and Bernie Mac, I’ve never had the option of restricting my loyalties on the basis of race. I understand the troubles of African Americans, and share in the many petty slights, but I also have seen enormous progress in race relations in my lifetime.

I am convinced, partially through viewing Illinois politics and the success blacks have had at statewide office, that any preconceived notions white Americans may have, the overwhelming majority can look past race when making judgments about people. Much prejudice isn’t fundamentally race-based, but simple unfamiliarity.

Illinois has always been a bastion of black business, in the past, there were few wealthy by the standards of white Americans. That has changed, and though the many black doctors and businessmen can tell of roadblocks they faced, none of these men or women allow race to be a crutch or excuse for failure. So even as we have to continue to progress as a nation past racial inequality, African Americans have to give up our past victimhood and embrace the American entrepreneurship and accept the simple notion that one isn’t confined in one’s dreams.

Chapter 8: The World Beyond our Borders

“I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than the best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Queda.” – page 295

“If we pulled out of Iraq tomorrow, the United States would still be a target.” – page 304

“Once we get beyond matters of self-defense, though, I’m convinced that it will almost always be in our strategic interest to act multilaterally rather than unilaterally” – page 309

 

Growing up in Indonesia, I got a good look at how people in other countries live and view America. We helped liberate them, brought about a democracy that didn’t like us, viewed their actions through the schism of the Cold War, and fought hard to push American-styled capitalism. Our actions had mixed results. An understanding of Indonesia and her history can’t be used as a blanket understanding for every other country, but it can be a useful tool to understand Americas foreign policy successes and failure over the past fifty years.

In the years since World War two, our focus has been on the giant movements between us and Russia, with little left for the rest of the world. With the collapse of the USSR and the fall of the Berlin Wall, many Americans refocused on domestic issues. Despite the foreign policy successes of Bill Clinton and the first George Bush, few in America saw or understood an overreaching foreign policy guiding our actions. That all changed with 9/11.

He argues that American military and foreign policies have not yet well adapted to the post-cold war and emerging state of world affairs. Americans need to become more aware of global and international affairs, and that as a country we need to take a more forward looking view at our foreign policy, rather than a shortsighted one. We need to make sure our actions abroad strengthen us today and leave us stronger tomorrow, while helping those countries we interact with.