Terrence McNally

Would You Drink a Probiotic With the Gut Bacteria of Elite Athletes?

Can sneaker endorsements, cereals, protein powders or electrolyte cocktails get any of us closer to the peak level performance of our favorite athletes? Despite billions in sales, the answer is probably no. But how about an elite athlete’s biology?

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Winning the People’s Trust: 5 Lessons of Convention Week

Dear Secretary Clinton,

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The Ideas and Institutions Holding Up Society Are Disintegrating

Economic meltdown ... environmental crises ... seemingly endless warfare. The world is in critical condition. Bad news? Good news? Or both?

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There Are More Slaves Today Than at Any Time in Human History

The world suffers global recession, enormous inequity, hunger, deforestation, pollution, climate change, nuclear weapons, terrorism, etc. To those who say we’re not really making progress, many might point to the fact that at least we’ve eliminated slavery.

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Why Germany Has It So Much Better Than the U.S.

The European Union, 27 member nations with a half billion people, has become the largest, wealthiest trading bloc in the world, producing nearly a third of the world's economy -- nearly as large as the US and China combined. Europe has more Fortune 500 companies than either the US, China or Japan.

European nations spend far less than the United States for universal healthcare rated by the World Health Organization as the best in the world, even as U.S. health care is ranked 37th. Europe leads in confronting global climate change with renewable energy technologies, creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the process. Europe is twice as energy efficient as the US and their ecological "footprint" (the amount of the earth's capacity that a population consumes) is about half that of the United States for the same standard of living.

Unemployment in the US is widespread and becoming chronic, but when Americans have jobs, we work much longer hours than our peers in Europe. Before the recession, Americans were working 1,804 hours per year versus 1,436 hours for Germans -- the equivalent of nine extra 40-hour weeks per year.

In his new book, Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?, Thomas Geoghegan makes a strong case that European social democracies -- particularly Germany -- have some lessons and models that might make life a lot more livable. Germans have six weeks of federally mandated vacation, free university tuition, and nursing care. But you've heard the arguments for years about how those wussy Europeans can't compete in a global economy. You've heard that so many times, you might believe it. But like so many things, the media repeats endlessly, it's just not true.

According to Geoghegan, "Since 2003, it's not China but Germany, that colossus of European socialism, that has either led the world in export sales or at least been tied for first. Even as we in the United States fall more deeply into the clutches of our foreign creditors -- China foremost among them -- Germany has somehow managed to create a high-wage, unionized economy without shipping all its jobs abroad or creating a massive trade deficit, or any trade deficit at all. And even as the Germans outsell the United States, they manage to take six weeks of vacation every year. They're beating us with one hand tied behind their back."

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Who's Happier - Renter or Owner? Uncovering the Myths of Happiness

Let’s start with a true-false test. I’ll tell you a supposed fact about happiness, and you decide whether you think it’s true or false.

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Inside 'The Square': The Oscar-Nominated Documentary Egypt Doesn't Want You To See

The documentary The Square, puts you in Tahrir Square as revolution swirls around you. From the overthrow of a 30-year dictator, through military rule, and culminating with the forced military removal of the Muslim Brotherhood president in the summer of 2013 the film follows a handful
of Egyptian activists as they battle leaders and regimes to build a new society of conscience. 

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Can Computer Games Save Us All? New Research Shows How Gaming Can Help Cure Our Social Ills

There are 183 million active computer game players in the United States. The average young person will spend 10,000 hours gaming by the age of 21. More than 5 million "extreme" gamers in the U.S. play an average of 45 hours a week. Videogames took in about $15.5 billion last year.

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Why Do People Become Addicts?

Gabor Mate M.D. has been for over ten years the staff physician at the Portland Hotel, North America’s only supervised safe-injection site in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, home to one of the world’s densest areas of drug users. Mate advocates for and practices a holistic view of reality, its challenges and potential solutions. Mate’s books include When the Body Says No: Understanding The Stress-Disease Connection; Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates And What You Can Do About It, and his latest, In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction.

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How You Can Have a Billion-Dollar Income in America and Pay No Taxes

When I was growing up, people joked about how much they hated taxes, but they paid them, and we had a solid middle-class society. Real wages rose from WWII through 1973.

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Is Using a Checklist the Answer to All Your Problems?

Most of the discussion about health care these days focuses on politics. This interview talks about the need for reform and the value of reform, but it is also about the practice of medicine.

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There Are More Slaves Today Than at Any Time in Human History

The world suffers global recession, enormous inequity, hunger, deforestation, pollution, climate change, nuclear weapons, terrorism, etc. To those who say we’re not really making progress, many might point to the fact that at least we’ve eliminated slavery.

Keep reading... Show less

What Makes Religion a Force for Good or Evil?

Is religion a force for good or ill?

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How Anti-Intellectualism Is Destroying America

"It's like these guys take pride in being ignorant." Barack Obama finally said it.

Though a successful political and electoral strategy, the Right's stand against intelligence has steered them far off course, leaving them -- and us -- unable to deal successfully with the complex and dynamic circumstances we face as a nation and a society.

American 15-year-olds rank 24th out of 29 countries in math literacy, and their parents are as likely to believe in flying saucers as in evolution; roughly 30 to 40 percent believe in each. Their president believes "the jury is still out" on evolution.

Steve Colbert interviewed Georgia Rep. Lynn Westmoreland on "The Colbert Report." Westmoreland co-sponsored a bill that would require the display of the Ten Commandments in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but, when asked, couldn't actually list the commandments.

This stuff would be funny if it weren't so dangerous.

In the 2004 election, nearly 70 percent of Bush supporters believed the United States had "clear evidence" that Saddam Hussein was working closely with al Qaeda; a third believed weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq; and more than a third that a substantial majority of world opinion supported the U.S.-led invasion, according to the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. The political right and allied culture warriors actively ignore evidence and encourage misinformation. To motivate their followers, they label intelligent and informed as "elite," implying that ignorance is somehow both valuable and under attack. Susan Jacoby confronts our "know-nothingism" -- current and historical -- in her new book, The Age of American Unreason.


A former reporter for the Washington Post and program director of the Center for Inquiry-New York City, Jacoby is the author of five books, including Wild Justice, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. Her political blog, The Secularist's Corner, is on the Web site of the Washington Post.

Terrence McNally: Have things gotten worse? How were things different as you were growing up?

Susan Jacoby: Well, I have just been told that all of my memories of growing up are wrong, because memory is absolutely inaccurate. It's only a "narrative."

I'll give you an example of how stupid this country has become. I'm one of the village atheists on Faith, a panel sponsored by the Washington Post and Newsweek. In a recent post I wrote that when I was 7 years old, I was taken by my mom to visit a friend who had been stricken by polio and was in an iron lung. Polio has basically been eradicated, but I grew up when polio was still a real threat to children, before the Salk vaccine.

This childhood friend had been playing and running only three weeks before, and now he was in an iron lung. And I asked my mom, "Why would God let something like that happen?" And to her credit, instead of giving me some moronic answer, my mother said, "I don't know."

After posting this on Faith, I received an e-mail saying, "All childhood memories are unreliable. We construct narratives to justify what we now think."

Of course it would be stupid if I'd said I became an atheist at the age of 7. But I hadn't said that, only that I remembered this childhood experience as making me begin to question what I'd been taught. The whole tone of the e-mail was that nobody's memory about anything could possibly be accurate -- no fact could possibly be true.

TM: That doesn't sound like a typical evolution doubter. It sounds like an attack on rationality from a rational person.

SJ: That's right. One of the points I make in my book is that unreason pervades our culture. It's not just a matter of right-wing religious fundamentalism. There are all kinds of unreason and suspicion of evidence on both the Right and the Left.

TM: Misinformation may well have been the deciding factor in a close election in 2004. I worry not just about the lack of information and knowledge, but also the active disparagement of those who would even care about such things.

SJ: Contempt for fact is very important.

I'll give you a great example that's already obsolete. At the end of the primaries, both Hillary Clinton and John McCain endorsed a gas tax holiday for Americans this summer. Every economist, both liberal and conservative, said this would do nothing to help matters. And when Hillary Clinton was asked by the late Tim Russert, "Can you produce one economist to support the gas tax holiday?" she said, "Oh that's elite thinking."

Now to say that economists have nothing intelligent to say about whether a gas tax will give people economic relief is like saying that you don't ask musicians about music; you don't ask scientists about science. It's not just an attack on a political idea; it's an attack on knowledge itself.

TM: And this from a woman who was in the top of her class at Yale Law School.

SJ: Of course, she doesn't believe it for a minute. It shows that a lot of politicians think they have to play to ignorance and label anything that goes against received opinion as elitism.

I was quite encouraged that the actual majority of Americans -- both Republicans and Democrats -- said the gas tax was just a stupid gimmick.

TM: They were already getting a tax rebate check. At a certain point we see through this.

SJ: Elite simply means "the best," not the political meaning that's been ascribed to it. If you're having an operation, you don't want an ordinary surgeon. You want an elite surgeon. You want the best.

TM: I suspect the connotation is better known now than the actual definition. "Elite" now implies stuffy, superior, arrogant -- and, most importantly, not one of us.

SJ: These basic knowledge deficits -- the fact that American 15-year-olds are near the bottom in mathematical knowledge compared with other countries, for example -- actually affect our ability to understand larger public issues. To understand what it means that the top 1 percent of income earners are getting tax breaks, you have to know what 1 percent means.

TM: Richard Hofstadter's 1963 classic, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, described our anti-intellectualism as "older than our national identity." Yet our founders developed a form of government that demanded an informed citizenry. How do these two things fit together?

SJ: That's really the American paradox. For example, there is no country that has had more faith in education as an instrument of social mobility. No country in the West democratized education earlier, but no country has been more suspicious of too much education. We've always thought of education as good if it gets you a better job, but bad if it makes you think too much.

Hofstadter was writing at the dawn of video culture, so he could not talk about one of the key things in my book. The domination of culture by mass media, video and 24/7 infotainment has been added to the American mix in the last 40 years. Video culture is the worst possible means for understanding anything more complicated than a sound bite.

TM: I recall the book The Sound Bite Society (by Jeffrey Scheuer, 2000) said that television inherently prefers simplistic arguments, simple solutions, simple answers.

SJ: As we're talking, I happen to have my computer on. News stories are flashing and off the screen. If they're on for two seconds, you're going to miss a lot, and that's the problem with video culture as translated through computers.

TM: Having all that information at our fingertips is a plus. What's the negative?

SJ: I love that I don't have to go through half a dozen books to find a date that I've forgotten. The ability to get quick information is great, but if you don't have a framework of knowledge in which to fit that information, it means nothing.

I'll give you an example. In my talks to people, I often mention a statistic from the National Constitution Center that almost half of Americans can't name even one of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. A student stood up at a university in California and said, "That doesn't matter because you can just look it up on the Internet." But if you don't know what the First Amendment is in the first place, you don't know what question to ask the Web.

Garbage in, garbage out. The Web's only as good as our ability to ask questions of it. The ability to access information means nothing if you don't have an educated framework of knowledge to fit it into.

TM: Why America? Other countries have television and the Internet.

SJ: The network of infotainment has no national boundaries, it's all over the world. But there are a couple of things that make America particularly susceptible.

A fundamentalist is one who believes in a literal interpretation of sacred books, and a third of Americans believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. That's about 10 times more than any other developed country in the world. It's entirely possible to be a religious believer and to accept science, but not if you're a literal religious believer. You can't believe that the world was literally created in six days, and be open to modern knowledge.

There's also something else: We've always had more faith in technology than other countries. One of our problems with computers is that we believe in technological solutions to what are essentially non-technological problems. Not knowing is a non-technological problem. The idea that the Web is an answer to knowing nothing is wrong, but it's something that Americans -- with our history of believing in technology as the solution to everything -- are particularly susceptible to.

TM: I'm beginning to feel like the child who keeps asking "Why?" You say that a much larger percentage of Americans believe in the literal word of holy books. In your investigations, have you come up with some sense of why that is?

SJ: That's in my previous book, Freethinkers. One reason, oddly enough, is our absolute separation of church and state. In secular Europe -- as it's often called sneeringly by people like Justice Antonin Scalia -- religious belief and belief in political systems were united. So if you opposed the government, you also had to oppose religion. That wasn't true in America because we had separation of church and state. Many forms of religious belief survived in America, because you could believe anything you wanted and still not be opposed to your government.

TM: So because religion wasn't tied to government we had more freedom ...

SJ: And more religion.

TM: But what is it in our culture? Is our geographical isolation part of it?

SJ: You anticipated what I was going to say. There's also the idea of American exceptionalism -- that America is different from every other country.

I say in my book that Americans are unwilling to look at how really bad our educational system is because we've all been propagandized with the idea that we're number one. That may have been true after World War II, but not anymore. The idea that we're number one and special and better than everybody else is a very powerful factor in American life, and it prevents us from examining certain respects in which we're not number one.

TM: Politicians in particular tend to preface any comment by saying, "Well, of course we have the best education system," "We have the best health care," the best this and that. And people accept that even though we have clear evidence that it is no longer true.

SJ: Evidence involving infant mortality and life expectancy. Though the very rich in this country get the best health care in the world, by all of the normal indices of health, we are worse off than Europe and Canada.

TM: Our universities and particularly our graduate schools are still the envy of the world, but with the education available to everyone, that's no longer so.

SJ: Right, and to call arguments like mine elitist is wrong. I think that the basis of a society is what people with normal levels of education understand. That means we need to be concerned about elementary schools, secondary schools and community colleges -- not what people at Harvard and Yale might be learning.

TM: What are the possible solutions?

SJ: There are solutions at a social level, but they have to begin at an individual level.

After the Wisconsin primary, Barack Obama was asked a question about education, and I was very encouraged when he said, "There's a lot we can do about education, but first of all, in our homes we have to turn off the TV more ..." Not altogether, but turn it off more, put the video games on the shelf more and spend more time talking and reading to our kids.

With my book, more than making a prescription, I wanted to start a conversation about how we spend our time. I'm not one of these people who think that you should raise your kids without ever watching TV. We all have to live in the world of our time. I'm saying people ought to look about how much time we spend on this. There is nothing wrong with a parent coming home and putting a kid in front of a video for an hour so they can have a drink and an intelligent conversation with their partner. It's wrong when the hour turns into two hours or three hours or four hours or five hours, as in too many American homes.

TM: When it becomes just a habit.

SJ: Moderation. I know it's very unfashionable and it seems like a small idea, but I think more than what people watch on video, what matters is how much they watch it.

TM: I believe we're finding that as kids become more addicted to television and other screens, they become less familiar with nature, with their own bodies, with what we would call the real world.

It strikes me that intelligence has been defined by so many as just cognitive intelligence. Is part of the solution that we begin to shift our way of thinking, so that intelligence includes emotional intelligence and other forms of intelligence?


SJ: No. I don't actually recognize these different forms of intelligence. Emotional intelligence depends largely on whether we are brought up to empathize with other people. But it doesn't matter if you're kind to others and you understand them if you don't know anything about your society and history.

These are actually different things, and my point is, one doesn't substitute for the other. They're all important. In terms of society, having emotional intelligence without knowledge is useless. And, of course, having knowledge without emotional intelligence is also useless. But they're not the same thing.

I think spending eight hours a day in front of television -- the amount of time the average American family has a television on in its home -- is probably bad for both emotional intelligence and knowledge. I don't think these things are in opposition, they're both necessary. Neither of them is adequate without the other.

How Many Earth Days Do We Have Left?

Of all the resources needed to build an economy that will sustain economic progress, none is more scarce than time. That is one of the key messages of PLAN-B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, the newest book by Lester Brown -- available as a free download at earthpolicy.org.

Plan A -- the western fossil-fuel-based, auto-centered, throwaway economic model -- is not going to work for China, India, or the 3 billion other people in developing countries, and it will not continue to work for the industrial countries either.

It's time for Plan B -- an all-out response at wartime speed proportionate to the magnitude of threats facing civilization.

The four overriding goals of PLAN B 3.0 are to stabilize climate and population, eradicate poverty, and restore the earth's damaged ecosystems. Failure to reach any one of these goals will likely mean failure to reach the others as well.

"We are crossing natural thresholds that we cannot see and violating deadlines that we do not recognize," says Brown. "These deadlines are set by nature. Nature is the timekeeper, but we cannot see the clock."

Lester Brown has been described by the Washington Post as "one of the world's most influential thinkers." After working with the Department of Agriculture in international agricultural development, Brown helped establish the Overseas Development Council, then founded Worldwatch Institute, publishers of annual State of the World and Vital Signs reports. In 2001, he left Worldwatch, founded Earth Policy Institute, and published Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth.

TERRENCE McNALLY: When you were involved in agriculture in the Kennedy administration, few thought about the environment, unless it was about conservation or wilderness. A bit later, environmentalism was usually local -- a polluting factory or a threatened forest. Yet very early you had a global understanding of environmental issues. How did that happen?

LESTER BROWN: It was probably due to, first, living two and a half years in villages in India in 1956, where I could see the food/population problem beginning to unfold; and second, my training in the sciences, which gave me a feel for how natural systems work.

McNALLY: What has driven you to write Plan B, and then Plan B 2.0 and Plan B 3.0?

BROWN: One of the goals of the Earth Policy Institute is to provide a vision of a kind of world we want and a sense of how we get from here to there. Plan B was the first version of this.

With 3.0, we've changed the subtitle from Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble to simply Mobilizing to Save Civilization. We used to think about saving the planet, and that's still essential, but what's really at stake now is civilization itself.

We have a growing backlog of unresolved problems in the world: deforestation, collapsing fisheries, expanding deserts, falling water tables, eroding soils, you can go down the list. The fallout from these problems is becoming more and more difficult to manage, especially for governments in developing countries.

A number of countries have developed enough to bring down mortality but not enough to bring down fertility. With a rapid rate of population growth, they're caught in what demographers call "the demographic trap." If you can't break out of it, eventually you begin to break down.

17 of the top 20 failing states have rapid rates of population growth. These are the countries where most of the 70 million people added each year are being born. As this list of failing states grows each year, we have to ask how many failing states before we have a failing civilization? No one knows the answer. We haven't been there before.

On top of traditional environmental problems, we now have new stresses like soaring oil prices that put a lot of pressure on low and middle-income oil-importing countries. Then as the United States converts a growing share of our grain into fuel, we drive world grain prices to all-time highs, creating instability in low- and middle-income countries that import grain. We face the risk that the combination of rising oil and food prices will greatly increase the number of failing states. I think the number of failing states in the world is now the key indicator as to whether civilization is going to succeed or fail.

McNALLY: The enormous global inequity in income and wealth breeds inequity in health, in education, and in all phases of life, doesn't it?

BROWN: There is a vast opportunity gap, and those born into societies with few opportunities become recruits for international terrorist groups. In Africa, revolutionaries who want to overthrow governments simply recruit kids -- 10, 12, 14 years old -- give them guns, and let them go. As I look at the world today, terrorism is a problem and a threat, but even bigger threats are the persistence of poverty, continuing population growth, and climate change.

McNALLY: In one of the earlier versions of Plan B, you pointed out the danger of our attention to terrorism distracting us from these other issues. In 3.0, you've knit those problems together even more clearly. Now you're saying they're no longer "either/or," but they are inextricably linked.

BROWN: No question. The money we lay out to deal with things like population growth, environmental degradation, spreading water shortages, climate change, etc., is really the new security budget because these are the real threats.

The climate change threat is enormous. Last August an area of Arctic sea ice twice the size of Britain melted in one week. Scientists have never seen anything like this before.

Greenland has an ice sheet a mile thick or more, covering almost the entire island, which is three times the size of Texas. The rate at which it's melting now is extraordinary. There's a large glacier on the west coast, where the ice sheet flows into the sea, 3 miles wide and a mile deep, and it's flowing at 2 meters an hour. Glaciers normally flow at 80 to 100 meters per year. This is 2 meters per hour!

McNALLY: How much has global temperature risen so far?

BROWN: About one degree Fahrenheit over the last several decades. By the end of this century, temperature could rise anywhere from 3 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

McNALLY: But it's much greater than that at the poles, isn't it?

BROWN: Yes. We report temperature changes as a global average, but we have to keep in mind that temperature rises faster over land than over oceans, faster near the poles than near the equator, and faster in the interior of continents than in coastal regions. In parts of Alaska, Northern Canada, Siberia and areas around the Arctic Circle, including Greenland, temperatures have already gone up 3 to 7 degrees.

The west Antarctic ice sheet is not really on the continent itself, but is supported by a number of islands. When it starts to go, it could break up very quickly.

McNALLY: What might be the repercussions of that?

BROWN: If Greenland melts entirely, that adds 23 feet to the sea. The west Antarctic ice sheet adds 16 feet -- so together almost 40 feet. If that happens, many of the world's coastal cities would be under water. This is not going to happen in years or decades, but will be spread out over we hope at least a century or two. But still the rate becomes alarming. Even a one-meter rise in sea level threatens a lot of cities.

A large share of the world's population lives pretty close to the coast. If sea level were to rise 39 feet, there would be at least 600 million rising sea refugees. What happens to the price of land in the interior, if vast numbers are forced inland?

McNALLY: When people talk about melting glaciers, they usually refer to Greenland, the Arctic and Antarctica. You point out that throughout the world we depend on mountainous glaciers for a steady supply of water. Los Angeles, for instance, is vulnerable to this.

BROWN: Mountain glaciers are melting everywhere. The Alps and Andes could be almost entirely gone in half a century. But I'm even more concerned about the Tibetan plateau. All the major rivers in Asia originate in the Himalayas: the Indus, the Ganges, the Mekong, the Yangtze, and the Yellow River.

McNALLY: These rivers sustain huge numbers of people.

BROWN: During the dry season, the Ganges is fed by the ice melt from the Gangotri glacier, a vast glacier that could be gone entirely by mid-century. If we can't close enough coal-fired power plants fast enough to save it, then the Ganges will become a seasonal river that no longer flows during the dry season. Imagine the consequences of that. Think about the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers that irrigate the wheat and rice fields of Asia.

McNALLY: Along with the U.S., China and India are two of the three largest grain-producing countries.

BROWN: The two countries most affected by the melting of the glaciers in the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau will be India and China, which happen to be the two countries now building most of the world's coal-fired power plants.

McNALLY: In other words, they're putting up more and more greenhouse gases at a time when their very survival is dependent upon cutting them back. Those kinds of connections and interactions are some of our biggest blind spots, aren't they?

BROWN: We face four big challenges right now. We need to stabilize climate, stabilize population, eradicate poverty and restore the earth's damaged ecosystems.

We probably cannot stabilize population growth humanely unless we eradicate poverty. Stabilizing population means making sure that all youngsters get at least an elementary school education, girls as well as boys. It means providing basic health care, immunization against childhood diseases, the basic fundamentals of health care at the village level.

We have to provide reproductive health care and family planning services as well. There are at least 200 million women in the world who want to limit their number of children, but who lack access to family planning programs. The cost of family planning for these women over a year would be a tiny fraction of what we're spending in Iraq.

McNALLY: Iraq is now about 3 billion a week. Two years of Iraq funding could solve almost all the biggest problems we're facing. Talk about misspent resources!

BROWN: In terms of annual expenditures, the total bill for Plan B is less than $200 billion a year. I call it the New Defense Bill, because -- terrorism notwithstanding -- the real threats to our future now are climate change, continuing rapid population growth, continuing destruction of the economy's environmental support systems, the things that lead to failing states.

McNALLY: I've always said that the key to minimizing the threat of terrorism is to make terrorists pariahs in their own societies.

BROWN:
I can remember what we did in the post-World War II period. Normally after you win a war, you pillage. Instead we launched the Marshall Plan to rebuild the very countries with which we'd been engaged in one of the most deadly wars in history.

McNALLY: We did the opposite after World War I, and the result of that was World War II.

Let's imagine civilization is our patient. We've talked about some of the symptoms: climate change, peak oil, loss of water and soil. Briefly, what are the diagnosis and the recommended treatment?

BROWN: Looking at the world through an ecological lens, I see a mounting backlog of unresolved problems, many of them associated with population growth, including deforestation, expanding desert, deteriorating grasslands, eroding soils, falling water tables. Very few of these trends have been turned around; instead they're getting worse and becoming more difficult to manage. Now add to that climate change and peak oil.

McNALLY: Peak oil is the moment at which we've taken half of the oil out of the earth. One might say, "Only half ... we're in good shape." But, once we reach peak oil, we've used up the easiest half, and every subsequent barrel becomes more expensive.

BROWN: We have spent our lifetimes in a world where, except for an occasional blip here and there, oil production has always been increasing. In a world where oil production is no longer increasing, no country can get more oil unless another gets less, and that's a very different world. It creates a lot of tensions. It creates a politics of scarcity and rising oil prices.

As the United States shifts an ever larger share of its grain harvest into the production of fuel, the world is now facing quite possibly the worst food price inflation in history.

McNALLY: When we did an interview on Plan B four or five years ago, you predicted the current battle for grain. Does it go into the gas tank of a rich person or the mouth of a poor person?

BROWN: Nearly 20 percent of the 2007 grain harvest has been used to produce ethanol to satisfy, at most, 4 percent of our automotive fuel needs. From an agricultural point of view, the automotive fuel demand is insatiable. The grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV tank with ethanol would feed one person for a year.

McNALLY: So the shift of grain to ethanol raises grain prices for us and the rest of the world, condemns millions to starvation -- all to supply a speck of our energy demand.

BROWN: We're in an ironic situation where as taxpayers we are subsidizing the conversion of grain into ethanol and therefore a rise in our own food prices. So we pay twice, on April 15 when we settle our taxes and then every time we go to the supermarket checkout counter.

McNALLY: Let's shift to solutions -- eradicating poverty, family planning, education and so on. You say that for $200 billion a year we could solve them.

BROWN: Yes -- one-fifth of global military expenditures which are now over a trillion, or 1,000 billion, per year. $100 billion weapon systems are almost useless now. You can't use them to deal with the problems we're facing.

McNALLY: What are the solutions?

BROWN: To slow climate change, we've devised a plan to cut carbon emissions 80 percent -- not by 2050, which is what politicians like to talk about -- but by 2020.

McNALLY: An 80 percent reduction in 12 years. How do we do it?

BROWN: There are three components to the plan: first, dramatically and systematically raise the efficiency of the world energy economy; second, massive investment in renewable sources of energy; and third, increase the earth's tree cover by planting billions of trees.

On efficiency, let me offer one simple example that most people are familiar with. If we replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents, we can cut global electricity use 12 percent, allowing us to close 700 of the world's 2,360 coal-fired power plants.

40 percent of the world's electricity currently comes from coal, but by 2020 we see wind providing 40 percent.

McNALLY: In a dozen years ,you see wind replacing coal as the dominant energy source?

BROWN: There's 100,000 wind turbines in operation today, so that means building about a million and a half more, producing two megawatts each: 3 million megawatts in global wind-generating capacity. But a million and a half wind turbines over a dozen years is peanuts compared with producing 65 million cars a year, which we do now.

The Texas State Legislature and the Republican governor, Rick Perry, are putting together a package to harness that state's abundant wind energy. They're planning about 23,000 megawatts of wind energy, which will do away with 23 coal-fired power plants and supply half the state's residential electricity.

McNALLY: How quickly will that happen?

BROWN: By 2020. They're moving very fast.

We can install a million and a half wind turbines and combine that technology with plug-in hybrids. Add a second storage battery and a plug-in to a Toyota Prius, and you can recharge the batteries at night. The car's batteries become a storage facility for wind energy.

McNALLY: Toyota says they'll have plug-ins by 2010, and they're in competition with other companies who say they'll have it quicker.

BROWN: The big competition right now is between Toyota with the modified Prius and GM with the Chevrolet Volt. The gasoline equivalent cost of running cars on cheap wind-generated electricity is less than a dollar a gallon.

McNALLY: Wow! Will it take tax subsidies or incentives to get us to ramp up wind and renewables?

BROWN: The key is to get the market to tell the environmental truth, and right now the market does not do that. The market does a lot of things well, but it does not do a good job of incorporating what we call the "indirect cost" or what economists call "externalities." For example, the climate change and pollution costs of fossil fuels. The simple way to do that is to add carbon taxes and offset that increase by lowering income taxes.

McNALLY: Make it tax neutral, so that your pocket book bite is the same at the end of the year. But instead of taxing labor or work, which we want more of, we tax pollution and greenhouse gases, which we want less of.

BROWN: So we end up with more jobs and less climate destruction -- a win-win situation.

McNALLY: In terms of transforming our industries, you point to World War II, which you lived through.

BROWN:
In his State of the Union address one month after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt announced that we were going to produce 25,000 tanks, 60,000 planes, 20,000 artillery planes. It was extraordinary. No one had ever seen arms production like this.

Then he called in the leaders of the auto industry and said, "Guys, guess what, we're going to ban the sale of private automobiles in the United States." The automobile industry had no choice but to switch to producing arms. And we didn't produce just the 60,000 planes, which was the goal, we produced 229,000. We exceeded every one of those arms production goals.

McNALLY: So it is your sense that we could make that same kind of a massive shift if leaders take this seriously?

BROWN: No question. It didn't take decades to restructure the U.S. industrial economy. It didn't take years. We did it in a matter of months. That's the exciting and encouraging thing about what we're challenged with now. It is entirely doable.

We have it in our power to restructure the world energy economy and avoid disastrous climate change. All we need is the leadership, the vision, and the will.

Consuming Our Way to Unhappiness

Everywhere we turn lately, ads -- holiday, post-holiday, and year-end -- have been encouraging us to shop in a concerted and somewhat desperate effort to salvage the economy. But where does all the stuff we're buying actually come from?

Over the last few weeks I've received a number of emails encouraging me to watch The Story of Stuff, an online video that asks and answers that question. With amusing graphics and plenty of humor, host Annie Leonard delivers a complex analysis in an audience-friendly tone. It's produced by Free Range Studios, creators of The Meatrix, the wildly popular animated short about factory farming.

An expert in international sustainability and environmental health issues, Annie Leonard has spent many years investigating factories and dumps around the world. She has worked with Health Care Without Harm, Essential Information and Greenpeace International, and is currently coordinator of the Funders Workgroup for Sustainable Production and Consumption.

Terrence McNally: How did The Story of Stuff happen? This is not the kind of work you've done before. What led you to this action?

Annie Leonard: I'm fortunate enough to have been able to spend literally 20 years visiting factories all over the world where our stuff is made as well as where our stuff is dumped. Doing that has given me a kind of social neurosis where I cannot hold an item without imagining its upstream and downstream life: where it came from and where it's going. Going through life in this way is actually incredibly illuminating, so I wanted other people to join me in ...

TM: -- In your neurosis!

AL: Yes exactly, so I would be less lonely.

I wanted other people to join me in thinking about where all this stuff in our life comes from, where it goes, and how we -- as well as communities on the other side of the world -- are paying a price for our excessive consumerism.

TM: Tell people a bit about it. First of all, how long is it?

AL: It's a 20-minute film, but really fast, I don't even take a breath.

TM: So it's not a two- or three-minute clip people can watch on impulse. Twenty minutes calls for a bit more commitment. How did you decide on the length and on the internet as the primary or initial venue?

AL: Yes, it's longer than a TV commercial, so it requires some actual interest in hearing about these issues. The film is based on an hour-long live presentation that we condensed. We chose to distribute it over the internet to disseminate it far and wide, and to allow people to see it for free. We knew that it would be more challenging to engage people online than in person, so we thought 20 minutes was a good compromise.

TM: What's the message?

AL: The message is a number of things. One, there's a cost to this excessive consumption. There's an environmental cost, there's a social cost -- and there's a personal happiness cost. This is what's really interesting. A lot of people think buying all this stuff is making us happier, but recent data has come out showing that it's not so. So we're trashing the planet, we're trashing communities -- and we're not even having fun. If we were at least having fun, we might want to reconsider. But it's not even fun anymore, so we need to rethink how we make, use and relate to the stuff in our lives.

TM: In the book Deep Economy, Bill McKibben pointed out that the happiest Americans have ever shown up on surveys was in the mid '50s, and that we are much less happy now. He concludes that our loss of community cannot be made up for by any gain in material goods. That's the U.S. -- is this a global phenomenon?

AL: It's increasingly global. We export our waste, we export our dirty technologies, but I'd say the most dangerous thing that we export is our way of living.

TM: This appetite.

AL: As other countries get on board the throw away, disposable, consumption-above-all mentality, they're seeing the erosion of their communities, of their social fabric, and of their civic life. This then leads increasingly to social isolation and loneliness.

TM: If consumption-above-all is not making us happier, why do we buy into it, as it were?

AL: There are a number of different forces driving our excessive consumption. Perhaps the most significant one is the advertising industry, which spends billions of dollars each year in the U.S. alone, aimed at creating desire for new stuff. If you think about it, what is the point of an ad except to make us unhappy with what we have? So throughout the day, we are bombarded with messages that stimulate desire, that artificially create need. Then the same companies that create this artificial need turn around and justify their products as responding to "consumer demand."

TM: Did you do any research into how little people know about where stuff comes from?

AL: I didn't do any particular research on that, except for talking to everybody for 20 years -- to the point of ridicule by my friends for constantly drilling them. I find that most people don't think about the upstream or downstream life of their products. And they're certainly not going to get that information from the mainstream media.

This film talks about the fact that the mainstream media encourages us to buy not only by bombarding us with advertisements, but also by hiding the true life cycle and impact of all this stuff we're buying.

TM: What do upstream and downstream mean?

AL: Upstream basically means the extraction and production -- the item's life before it got into your hands. And downstream means where it's going afterwards -- the dump or the incinerator or the third-world village, where it's going to end up when you chuck it out in the garbage or the recycling bin. The upstream and downstream life of a product together means its whole life.

TM: The worst effects on the environment, of course, happen before and after we use it. So pick a product, and tell us some of the grisly facts.

AL: Let's pick an iPod or a little radio or something.

These little electronic gadgets have materials from all over the world. They have toxic chemicals that are produced in some factory where the workers and the host community were likely contaminated.

They have metal, which means that there had to be mining, and there are all kinds of disastrous practices in mining. They have plastics, which means they're connected to oil drilling. Some of the social disruptions of these electronic components are really huge, especially coltan. Coltan is a metal that's mined in the Congo, and it's used for our cheap and disposable electronics. The mining and selling of coltan has been linked to funding civil war in the Congo. So from environmental health impacts, to the pollution of water, to actual civil war, there's a whole variety of negative environmental and social impacts associated with getting and making the stuff that goes into these electronics.

TM: Are you talking about Democratic Republic of Congo?

AL: Yes.

TM: The unending civil war there is one of the grisliest -- 3.3 million dead, the world's most devastating conflict since World War II, with rape of women used as a weapon of war. And you're saying part of that is being funded by materials that are used in an iPod.

Al: That's right. And iPods and other electronics are loaded with toxic chemicals. That means the production of them is toxic and the disposal of them is toxic. The European Union has recently passed legislation to get those toxic chemicals out of electronics. If you buy an iPod, a stick of lipstick, a sunscreen or a whole variety of other things in Europe, you're not going to have these toxic chemicals. But if you buy them in the U.S., you will. Why is it that European governments are protecting their citizens more than our government is protecting us?

TM: One factor is the precautionary principle. I don't believe it's universal in Europe, but there is a leaning toward the notion that a new product or a new chemical process or a new extraction process is guilty until proven innocent. In other words, "We've gotten along without it so far ... prove that it's safe before we start using it." Except perhaps at a local level, we've never been willing to go that route in the U.S. Here, any convenience, any so-called advance is innocent until proven guilty -- until you can prove people have been harmfully affected by it. Sometimes that harmful effect might be cumulative, might take five or ten years, and might only happen to infants in the womb. So the chances of the harm ever being sufficiently researched and proven are small.

AL: Absolutely.

TM: It's not just the stuff that's a problem, it's also the prices, isn't it? What does it mean to externalize costs, and what are the hidden costs of cheap stuff?

AL: The term "externalized costs" refers to those costs of doing business that are shifted to others, so the producer doesn't have to pay. There are loads of examples in our current system. For instance, a factory that belches pollution into a community, causing asthma and cancer, is externalizing those costs of production onto the community, which has to figure out how to cover their own healthcare expenses. Externalizing costs allows company owners to maximize profit while keeping prices low.

That is why an electronic gadget can be sold for five bucks, even if its production contaminates drinking water supplies, makes workers sick and creates piles of toxic waste along the way. The price tag doesn't include the true cost of making the item.

TM: Finally, can things be any different? Do you see signs of hope?

AL: Absolutely! Things can, and must, be different. Trashing the planet and contaminating communities is not inherent to doing business and running a society. The things that are not working in our system didn't just fall from the sky; they are the result of decisions made by people. And, as I say in the film, we're people too, and we can make different decisions.

In communities all over the world, people are opting out of seeking happiness and self-worth through accumulating ever larger piles of stuff. There is a revival happening that includes community organizations, clean production, green chemistry, green jobs, fair trade programs, etc. These are the building blocks of a new society, based on sustainability and equity, that can provide a more lasting happiness than the fleeting thrills of acquiring the latest consumer gadgets.

Consumer-Driven Culture Is Killing Our Democracy

Here's a quick quiz. Do you love bargains? Do you enjoy the power and convenience of shopping online for the best deals on electronics or travel or anything else? Do you favor cutthroat corporate competition that devours small, local businesses? Do you applaud the sweatshop labor it takes to produce your sweatpants for less?

Feeling schizophrenic, yet?

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich believes we are all suffering from this split agenda -- as consumers we want low prices, while as citizens we may oppose corporate behaviors that make them possible. And he believes -- at least on a national scale -- our citizen selves are losing.

Shoppers are elbowing citizens out of the public arena. The last three decades have seen the emergence of a supercharged capitalism fueled by open markets and cutthroat competitiveness. According to Reich, "supercapitalism" is overwhelming government with lobbyists and money, while citizens are dazzled by the promise of previously unimaginable riches and consumer choices.

In his new book, Supercapitalism, Reich tackles the big question: Can democracy survive in this environment?

Professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, Reich served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He is co-founding editor of the American Prospect, and his weekly commentaries on public radio's "Marketplace" are heard by nearly 5 million people. He is the author of eleven books, including The Work of Nations, The Future of Success and his latest, Supercapitalism.

Terrence McNally: In Supercapitalism, you describe the almost golden age of the '50s and '60s. What are some things you value from that period that your sons will never experience?

Robert Reich: Well, stable jobs. My father was a retail merchant. He had a little store that catered to factory workers and their families, and those factory jobs were pretty stable. People typically stayed with the same company for 40 years. I'm not sure we should or can go back to those days, but job stability was a value that people held very dear. These days nobody knows whether they're going to be working for the same company next week, next year or tomorrow.

There's the issue of inequality. In the '50s and '60s, the "almost golden age," we had less inequality of income and wealth than at any time before or since. I'm not saying everybody's income necessarily has to be the same, but inequality is bad for society and bad for democracy.

TM: You're not in any way saying that we can return to that age?

RR: No, and I don't think we should. I call it "the not quite golden age," because a lot of things were wrong with our society. African-Americans were still relegated to second-class citizenship. We passed a civil rights act and a voting rights act, but we still had a long way to go. Women were blocked from most professional careers. The environment was more polluted. We passed the Environmental Protection Act of 1975 and made progress on that. Joe McCarthy and the communist witch hunt of the 1950s scarred American politics. The CIA was up to no good abroad. I don't want to paint this era as a wonderful place we should necessarily go back to, but it's important to understand that our democracy, although far from perfect, was trying to grapple with all of those problems.

When people were asked in opinion polls, "Do you think that our system is working in your interest and in the interest of things you believe in?" the vast majority of Americans between 1945 and 1975, said "Yes." These days it's just the reverse. In most polls, when asked that same question, "Do you think that the democratic system is working in the interests of average Americans like you?" anywhere from 68 to 75 percent of Americans say, "No, it's working for the big guys."

TM: In his recent book, Deep Economy, Bill McKibben looks at whether our gains in material possessions since the '50s and '60s have made us happier. According to polling, people are not as happy now as they were then, and he believes it's because they've paid too high a price in the loss of community.

RR: As consumers and investors, we've made great progress over the last 30 years -- if you put quotation marks around the word "progress." We have access to a much greater range of choices. We get better products, more gadgets, more bells and whistles. We comparison shop like mad on the internet. We're getting great deals, and those great deals have become progressively better. But as citizens, we are doing arguably worse and worse, because we have fewer and fewer ways of expressing the values and goals we share with other people.

TM: There were two surprises for me in this book. First, despite the title, it seemed to me the subject of this book is democracy. Second, you seem to say that campaigning for social and environmental responsibility from corporations is either a distraction or a failed strategy.

RR: Yes on both counts. Let me explain briefly.

I don't think we can separate capitalism from democracy. If capitalism is working well and democracy is working poorly, democracy is working poorly in part because capitalism is working so vibrantly. Capitalism has overrun democracy. In the 1940s, '50s and '60s, we talked about "democratic capitalism" with a small "d." We talked about it very proudly -- to ourselves and to the world -- as the alternative to Soviet communism.

Secondly, your point about corporate social responsibility -- a very important theme in the book is that corporations are not people. They are just contracts, they are just pieces of paper. And it's a fallacy to treat them as people, whether it's giving them constitutional rights or the right to engage in our political process, or treating them as people in terms of requiring or assuming that they can be moral.

It's kind of an anthropomorphic fallacy, and it's very dangerous. Corporate social responsibility is a nice idea, but corporations will not be socially responsible, if by socially responsible we are suggesting that they sacrifice consumer deals and investor returns. They won't.

TM: Though they may do things that can be described as socially or environmentally responsible, we should not expect them to do these things unless they are also profitable ...

RR: Exactly. It's a distraction from politics to push companies to be socially responsible when it runs counter to their bottom line.

For example, I dislike Wal-Mart's hiring practices very strongly, and I dislike that Wal-Mart pays rock bottom wages. I could go on against Wal-Mart for a long period of time.

I'm sympathetic with people who are climbing on the anti-Wal-Mart bandwagon, but it seems to me the one productive thing we can do is to make things so hot for Wal-Mart that they have to recognize a union.

Don't expect Wal-Mart to suddenly become more moral. Wal-Mart is a piece of paper, it's a contract. Wal-Mart has consumers who love the good deals they can get, and it has investors who want the highest possible return. Wal-Mart is not going to do anything that hurts its bottom line.

TM: It seems to me we're talking about two big problems in this book. One is the power and influence of corporate money on politics. The other is the social and environmental consequences of corporate behavior. It looks to me like we can't hope to solve the second till we solve the first.

RR: People may disagree on what the problem is. I've talked to a lot of conservatives who say the biggest problem we face with our market economy is the coarsening of our culture, the spewing forth of sex and violence from the media. I don't want to get into a debate about what is the biggest problem. Let's just all agree that companies are not going to change their ways because we are yelling at them to do so. They spew out sex and violence because there are consumers who love sex and violence, and investors make a high return on sex and violence. So the real issue is, what kind of laws and regulations do we have to constrain the market?

In the first decades of the 20th century, we enacted laws against child labor and laws that said the 40-hour work week will be the norm and above that is overtime. We've since enacted laws with regard to workers' safety, laws against discrimination at work. So if we're unhappy about the social consequences of our current supercapitalist economy, then we've got to work through politics and pass legislation. To do that, we've got to rescue democracy from the supercapitalism that is now overwhelming it.

TM: How are we going to pass needed regulations when the corporate dominance of democracy makes passing such legislation harder than ever?

RR: We need to wall off democracy. We say highly competitive supercapitalism, that's fine for the private sector where we're going to be consumers and investors. We recognize the cognitive dissonance between the part of our heads that's a consumer and an investor and the part that may be a citizen. We're going to wall all of that off -- in order to address the trade-offs and have a democracy that is not going to be engulfed by the lobbyists and money coming from supercapitalism.

How are we going to ever get to that point and rescue democracy? The system is not going to reform itself from the inside.

Stop trying to get corporations to be socially responsible. Stop trying to achieve any particular social objective like global warming or a national healthcare system ... Put all of our efforts into a citizen's movement for democracy. That would include the public financing of campaigns and would require any network, any broadcaster using the public airwaves to provide advertising for all candidates.

We have a long list of what we all know democracy needs in order to be shielded from supercapitalism. I actually offer one additional idea to that list that I think is important and useful.

Each candidate sets up a blind trust that receives all political contributions, so that no candidate can ever know who contributed what. Once all political contributions become anonymous, I would predict a substantial drop in contributions, because there can no longer be any quid pro quo.

T: You may still be inclined to give a candidate money based on past record or on current promises, but the candidate won't know it, so no strict quid pro quo would happen.

You say corporations are just pieces of paper, that you can't expect them to serve anyone but shareholders. Is this as true in other cultures?

I've heard that in Germany, for instance, the customer is rated higher than in America and that in some of the European countries, the employee's rated higher. Is that true, and is it becoming less true?

RR: It used to be true. In large companies Germany still has a separate board that's supposed to represent other stakeholders, including employees. Japan has until quite recently had a fairly egalitarian pay structure, but that's being eroded by the power of American supercapitalism.

Money is now global. Investors are now demanding high returns wherever they are around the world. These days if a company in Germany wants to sacrifice shareholder returns for the sake of employee benefits, global capitalists say, "No, you can't do that." There's an irony here -- there are people inside our pension plans trying to get the highest return for us by putting pressure on Germany and other countries to reduce the extent to which those companies cater to employees or other stakeholders.

TM: In the U.S., has the shareholder always been in the paramount position with any other stakeholder a distant second?

RR: Yes, but look again at what I talk about as the not quite golden age, the period 1945 to 1975, when 35 percent of Americans were unionized in the work force -- you had industrywide bargaining, you had pluralist interest groups and regulatory agencies. You had political parties that were not just sump pumps for campaign financing but were political organizations that reached down to the community level. In those days corporate investors were not kings, consumers were not kings. The power was divided in a way that gave us much more say as citizens.

TM: At the time, even if a corporation wanted to focus on shareholder return, they couldn't ignore the power of the unions.

RR: Exactly.

TM: I've been saying since the 2004 election that we need a Restore Democracy Trifecta: media reform for a more informed democracy -- stop (and reverse if possible) media consolidation, offer less false balance (i.e., global warming skeptics are equal to global warming scientists) and more statements of fact. Campaign reform -- public financing, free TV time. Election reform -- transparent, accurate, inclusive and verifiable.

If all progressives got together, campaigned for those three things and succeeded to a meaningful extent, only then would they have a realistic chance to get environmental, healthcare, education, civil liberties or whatever legislation passed. Is that basically in sync with what you're saying?

RR: Absolutely. I keep telling progressives who have particular issues they want to advance [that] nothing is going to happen on your issue or any other progressive issue unless you get together with everybody else who wants change and rescue democracy first.

TM: In some sense you're saying we could nibble at the problem, we could hit a few singles, steal a base, sacrifice -- or we could go for the home run. The home run is to restore democracy, and let the chips fall where they may.

How is that going to happen? In working on this book, you must have talked to Public Campaign, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, etc. Do you feel there is the energy, the interest, the passion in an election year for people to actually go there?

RR: There are three steps.

Step No. 1: Buy my book.

Step No. 2: Don't be cynical. I think cynicism about politics and our democracy is one of the most corrosive things that we have to deal with. A lot of people use cynicism as an excuse for not taking action. They say nothing will change, the big guys are in charge, I'm not going to get into politics, I'm going to look at my own little community and work there. That's fine. I respect that. But if people are motivated by cynicism to not roll up their sleeves and do something that rescues democracy, then we are all in deep trouble.

Step No. 3: This is the most important. We have had in America social movements that have produced tremendous change. I'm thinking of the suffragettes and others in the first decades of the 20th century, all the way through civil rights and the environmental movement. The anti-war movement during Vietnam. These were successful movements. Now why can we not have a citizens' movement to rescue democracy?

TM: It seems to me when people look at Katrina, when they look at the healthcare issue, when they look at education ... I'm talking about everyone in America who has an impulse to take action -- Boy Scouts, PTAs, seniors ... Why not take this on with no regard for the particular partisan policy that might follow, but just go for democracy?

RR: And the beauty of this is, it transcends ideological lines. I mean, we all believe in democracy. Regardless of what we want democracy to accomplish, we want democracy to work.

Emotion Trumps Logic in the Voting Booth

An August op-ed in Kenya's Daily Nation included this sentence: "The candidates will do well to go out and buy a book entitled The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation, by Drew Westen." Quoting the article's author, Charles Onyango-Obbo, "Westen has studied elections over the years, and found an inconvenient truth: People almost always vote for the candidate who elicits the right feelings, not the one who presents the best arguments."

Closer to home, as Westen points out, the Republicans led by Karl Rove consistently beat the Democrats at playing to the electorate's emotions. All logic points to Republican losses in '08. But logic doesn't vote -- and logic doesn't win elections. Will the Democrats once more snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, or can they finally learn the crucial lesson that hearts lead minds? Drew Westen weighs in.

Drew Westen received his B.A. at Harvard, an M.A. in social and political thought at the University of Sussex (England) and his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Michigan. For several years he was chief psychologist at Cambridge Hospital and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. He is a commentator on NPR's
All Things Considered and teaches at Emory University.

Terrence McNally: Your Ph.D. is in clinical psychology. You were chief psychologist at a hospital. What was your path to your current focus on politics?

Drew Westen: I think that's a question I've never been asked in about 200 interviews. As a clinical psychologist, I do research in psychology and neuroscience, but I've also been a practicing clinician for 25 years. Many might assume it's an easy move from studying personality disorders to studying politicians.

As a clinician, when people are talking with you, you're listening to hear what's whirring in the background. What thoughts and feelings are connected in the back of their heads, leading them to do things they wish they could stop doing? You're also listening for things they're in conflict about.

In many ways, you're listening for the same thing in politics -- or you should be. What is whirring in the background when people get angry about immigration, or when there are only two flags burned a year, but they cast their votes based on flag burning? What's getting triggered? That's the piece that I think is continuous between my life as a clinical psychologist and now as a political strategist and adviser.

McNally: Thomas Frank's big question in What's Wrong with Kansas was why do people vote against their own self-interest? And that's the same thing that a clinical psychologist is looking for, isn't it? Why do people behave against their own self-interest?

Westen: Over the last year, I found myself speaking to a lot of Democratic and progressive organizations -- particularly donors who've been giving lots of money to the Democratic Party and watching it go down the tubes. Almost invariably we get the question from somebody, "So what's the matter with Kansas? How come people are voting against their self interest?" And my response was often the same, "Well, what's the matter with you? Here you are, someone with the wealth to contribute to a Democratic campaign, which means you're in the Republican tax bracket, yet you're voting against your own self-interest. You're doing it because of your values. And that's the same reason that a lot of voters in Kansas are voting against theirs."

As much as anything else, it's the role of a leader to set the emotional agenda for what values are most central in an election year. And that's where I think Republicans have been so much more effective than Democrats over the last 40 years.

McNally: Why did you write this book?

Westen: To tell you the truth, I've always followed politics carefully. I still remember to this day sitting in my living room with a group of people watching Michael Dukakis offer that horrible answer about what he would do if his wife were raped and murdered -- which Bill Maher has summarized as "whatever."

What really got me to write this book was having two little kids. Looking at the world that this administration -- and at that point, the Republican Congress, who was pretty much rubber-stamping anything they asked for -- were leaving my kids. I just couldn't stand it anymore.

McNally: Everyone writes a book hoping it matters, but you've touched a nerve, people want to know what you've got to say. Why do you think that's so?

Westen: I wish I could say, well, of course it's a brilliant book, and that's why people are reading it, but I'm enough of a scholar of intellectual history to know that the times are often ready. It's in the zeitgeist. Ideas are brewing in the air, waiting for somebody to spell them out systematically. In some ways, all I've really done is to articulate an idea that many of us understood in our gut.

When I say to you "the environment," do you feel anything? Probably not. Or I say to you, "consumer affairs." Go through the list of words that we on the Left use to describe things, and you'd have no idea that they matter to us. Emotion is central to everything we do in politics. It's what arouses people's interest as well as their motivation. Values actually matter. People on the Left have values just like people on the Right. We have competing value systems, and we ought to be enunciating exactly what those are so that people can make a choice. I think those are things that people were waiting for somebody to say in a way that they could hear.

McNally: The fact that you've got a book with buzz gives you an opportunity. You've got the ear of some people with power. You've spoken with Obama, Edwards and Clinton people. What do you hope to accomplish with this moment?

Westen: Two things.

One, to get people to rethink the words they use. I want them to talk about the environment in a way that's emotionally compelling to people so that they'll care. Right now 20 percent of pregnant mothers have enough mercury in their systems to damage the brains of their unborn children. Why don't we talk about that when we talk about the environment?

In a wonderful speech the other day, I heard the House minority leader here in Georgia, a Democrat, say "I'm so tired of talking about the environment, let's talk about the fish. I want to be able to eat the fish that my son and I catch in the streams of Georgia." There's a way to talk that appeals to rural America. So that's the first thing I'd like people to hear. And that message I think is getting through.

The second one seems harder because it runs against the grain of the way Democrats have been thinking and taught to think for many years. If you find yourself having trouble defending the Constitution or protecting American troops from being slaughtered in somebody else's civil war... If you're having trouble voting for the things that you believe in, and talking about them in a way that people find compelling, then you need to find a better way to talk. And the better way is probably more the language of honesty and emotion, than it is political calculation.

I think the most devastating thing that Democrats continue to do right now is to cast votes for bills that they don't believe in, because they're afraid that they're going to get branded as something or other. If you worry about what the other side's going to say about you, instead of saying something about yourself through your actions, you're going to lose a lot of elections.

McNally: About halfway through the '04 campaign, I got the feeling that one of Bush's distinct advantages was that he seemed to be saying what he actually believed, while Kerry seemed to be figuring out what to say. Whatever you thought about their positions or their arguments, Bush seemed authentic, and Kerry, like Gore before him, did not. How does that perception fit what you're talking about?

Westen: It fits in exactly with what I'm saying. The data show that all voters are values voters. The biggest influence on people's voting behavior is their feelings toward the parties and their principles. With the exception of the Clinton years, Democrats have not enunciated their principles effectively in over 40 years. Clinton talked explicitly about values -- about opportunity for all and responsibility from all -- he was very specific about that. On the major wedge issues -- whether it's gays or guns or abortion -- most Democrats are consistently trying to be as quiet as they can because they're afraid that the people aren't with them.

McNally: When issues touch emotions, they get nervous.

Westen: And when they get nervous, they run.

They look like they're searching the polls for their principles -- and the reality is that they are. If voters reject a party that says, "I'm not going to tell you what I really believe on this," or "I'm going to hedge and get defensive," or "Let's not talk about abortion, I want to talk about social security" -- I think the voters are picking up something accurate.

McNally: We've been talking about words, but you actually say that deeds matter more than words. From watching the way a Democrat responds in a debate, people are deciding how they'd respond in a crisis or in a confrontation with another country. Is that pretty fair to say?

Westen: In much of America, I think the way you answer a question about abortion has more of an influence on what people think about you on national security than how you answer one on national security. If you project cowardice to people, if you back down when the president says boo, it doesn't matter what words you use. People get the message that this is a person who's afraid of aggression and doesn't know how to stand up to a bully. Do you want somebody who doesn't know how to stand up to a bully running your foreign policy? I don't think so.

McNally: In the book, you offer some speeches you wish Democrats had given. Can you give an example?

Westen: When George W. Bush presented his Protection of Marriage Constitution Amendment in 2004, John Kerry issued a quiet little press release that he hoped would be buried in the news. It essentially said, "This isn't very nice." That was the extent of his response. To use Republican language -- all it did was embolden the enemy. It led the Republicans to put anti-gay ballot initiatives on the ballot in 10 or 15 states, and those initiatives actually carried the election for them.

McNally: What would you have said?

Westen: I would have had John Kerry come out swinging. I don't mean to ignore the electoral reality that people have prejudices against gay people, and that a lot of people have religious beliefs about what constitutes marriage. But I think Kerry could have very effectively answered George W. Bush in the very same idiom he was using, which was a religious one. He could've begun by saying, "Mr. Bush, that was one of the most un-American, hateful, blasphemous things I have ever seen a president of the United States do in my lifetime. I don't know what God you think you're worshiping, but the God that most decent Americans worship, and the God that I worship is a God of love, not of hate. He would never countenance building hatred into the sacred Constitution of the United States. And you owe every American -- and not just gay Americans -- an apology for trying to wrap hatred in the language of sanctity."

McNally: You now have set up shop as a political consultant, but the book includes some of the actual clinical research that backs up your theories. Can you describe the key study that a lot of people are referring to?

Westen: The book is filled with research. It's really about how to run a campaign based on a 21st century understanding of how the mind and the brain actually work. I was tired of watching Democrats run campaigns over and over that seemed mired in 18th century philosophical understandings of the mind.

McNally: Why not use what we know?

Westen: Absolutely. It's an irony that Republicans actually know the scientific research that bears on elections very well. So the party that governs with faith and intuition tends to campaign with science. And the party of science, the Democrats, tends to campaign with faith and intuition.

The study I think you're referring to is the brain imaging study we did in 2004 looking at the way partisan Democrats and Republicans responded to threatening information about their candidates. The quick version is that we presented partisans with threatening information about Bush and Kerry, and watched what their brains did in response.

We first presented one slide with something good about their candidate, then the next slide presents him contradicting himself or showing something slimy he's done. Then we asked them to consider whether or not there's a contradiction.

We found that partisans did a wonderful job of standing by their man. They were able to twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until it came up with emotionally gratifying results, and they ended up believing whatever they wanted to believe. The most fascinating thing, though, was to watch what happened in the brain as they did it. Probably the two most important things I could say are: One, the reasoning circuits did not turn on.

They were supposed to be engaged in a simple reasoning test: Are A and B compatible or incompatible? They were always designed to be incompatible, so they can't both be true. But the circuits that have been shown to be active in dozens of studies where you give people reasoning tasks were essentially a dead zone. What turned on instead were circuits involved in emotion, particularly distress, and emotional regulation attempts to turn off that distress. The partisan brain was remarkably adept at doing that.

The major conclusion of it all is really the central point of the book, that the political brain is an emotional brain. It is not a dispassionate calculating machine. If you try appealing to people by picking the issues that are 60 percent in the polls and listing all the facts and figures behind them, while the other side is using emotion effectively and talking about values, you are pretty consistently going to lose.

McNally: Your simplest piece of advice to Democrats is to go back and look at Jim Webb's response to Bush's 2007 State of the Union. Why?

Westen: Because he was able to wed reason and emotion in just the ways that are most effective in elections. To give an example from that address, he made this statement: "You know when I was in college, the average CEO made about 20 times what the average workers in his company made. Today that's 400 times. What that means is that your CEO makes more in one day than you make in an entire year."

Now why is that effective? He's using numbers, and a lot of people accuse me of saying we shouldn't rely on facts and figures. But what do those numbers do? They immediately elicit two things: one is a value, fairness, and the second is a feeling, this is not right. It gives you a sense of righteous indignation. Those kinds of moral emotions are -- and rightfully should be -- central to the electoral process.

How Do We Cure a Sick Health Care System?

Every day, millions of hard-working people struggle to find affordable medical treatment for themselves and their families -- unable to pay for prescription drugs and regular check-ups, let alone for hospital visits. Some of these people end up losing money. Others end up losing their health or even their lives.

The United States is the only country in the developed world that does not guarantee access to medical care as a right of citizenship. As outrageous as that fact is, why is it so? What does it mean in the lives of individual Americans and their families? And what can we do about it?

Like Michael Moore's critically and commercially successful documentary, SiCKO, Jonathan Cohn's new book, SICK probes the larger problems by focusing on the stories of individuals -- most of them working members of the middle class -- who are cruelly let down by our failing system.

Jonathan Cohn is a senior editor at The New Republic, where he has been since 1997. Prior to that, Jonathan worked for six years at The American Prospect, where he remains a contributing editor. A senior fellow at Demos, Cohn has also written for many other publications, and is the author of SICK: The Untold Story Of America's Health Care Crisis -- And The People Who Pay The Price.

Terrence McNally: How did you grow to focus as much as you do on health care?

Jonathan Cohn: It happened a little bit by accident. In the 1990s, I was working at The New Republic both as an editor and a writer, and picked up some stories about health care here and there along the way. This was in the years not that long after the fight over the Clinton health care plan. People in Washington really didn't want to talk very much about health care, and the country wasn't in the mood for another big health care debate. As I started learning about the issue, it quickly became apparent that all the problems that had led to that earlier debate hadn't gone away. In fact, they were getting steadily worse. As I read more about the history of health care in this country, I learned that we keep coming back to this debate every 10 to 20 years.

In Washington we talk about numbers, and we have lots of jargon to refer to this policy and that policy -- "the crowd-out effect" and "reimbursement levels." That's all well and good, but for too long not enough people have cared enough about health care politics to actually make a change. I set out to write a book that could build a bridge between the world of policy and the world of everyday lives.

TM: You said there haven't been enough people caring enough to fix health care. To me, that's similar to the War on Drugs. I believe many people agree that drug prohibition doesn't work, but changing it isn't one of their top priorities. On the other side, however, there's a moneyed interest group -- the correctional unions and the corrections industry -- for whom the status quo is issue number one. In health care, you have a diffuse bunch of people who know something's wrong versus a single minded and well-financed group for whom preserving the status quo is their number one priority -- so far, in both cases, that's a losing battle.

JC: I'm hardly an expert on the drug war, so it would be wrong of me to really weigh in on that. But I think your description of the way the fight over health care has played out in this country is very true.

If you look over the history going back to the 1920s, which is really when our insurance system comes into existence, the roster of people opposed to change has evolved slightly. In general, some constellation of the insurance industry, drug industry, hospitals and doctors move in and out of the list, depending on what period you're talking about and what particular issue.

People who are making a lot of money off the way we provide health care now don't want to change the system, and the number of Americans who find this situation a personal threat to their livelihoods and to their lives has not been large enough to overcome that.

TM: Not large enough or powerful enough.

JC: Exactly. I'm one of those people who would love there to be a world where somehow we could limit the power of corporations and special interest groups. I'm all in favor of things like campaign finance reform. But, I don't think we're likely to achieve that in the next two to three years, so it's incumbent upon us to fortify the support.

You know, polls generally find people in favor of universal health care. It's a very nice sounding idea. Everybody likes to think that health care is a right. But when the fights start, people get cold feet. They say maybe it'll mean I have to pay higher taxes or whatever, and they back off. Work has to be done on the organizing front.

TM: The nurses union in California put forth a public financing initiative, which many believe was intended as a precursor to single payer health care -- and they failed. Are we unlikely to see single payer health care unless we can mobilize the power of numbers to defeat the power of dollars.

JC: I believe in public financing of campaigns, but I don't think at the end of the day you'll ever really tip the balance in favor of the people. Business groups with money are going to find a way to influence politics. I think that's a reality, there's nothing we can do about it.

I spend a lot of time looking at history. What happened in 1993 and 1994? What happened in the 1940s when Harry Truman tried it? What happened in the 1960s when Lyndon Johnson succeeded, when the Democrats in Congress created Medicare and Medicaid?

Compare today and '94 for example. Two differences stand out that I think might be really important in the next few months. The business community has traditionally been lukewarm at best, but pockets of the business community are now not only coming out in favor of universal health care, they actually seem committed to putting some muscle into making it happen.

I think this is not because they're particularly benevolent or because they've become quasi-socialists overnight. They see this as a bottom line issue. They're sick of paying for these benefits. I think they've come to the conclusion that they're better off if somebody takes this off their hands.

The other positive difference is that groups like the nurses in California, like SEIU, the Service Employees Union, are really putting a lot of time and energy into organizing around this.

It's very easy to focus on all the people in '94 who were against reform -- pharmaceutical companies, the health insurance associations, the people who gave us "Harry and Louise" -- but the big problem back then was the lack of push on the other side. During the 1990s, when Clinton was rolling out his health care plans, he was also pushing NAFTA. The unions were so busy fighting him on NAFTA that they didn't have the stomach or the resources to really support him on universal health care.

TM: So they were at best lukewarm allies.

JC: Yes, exactly. Going forward, I hope that whoever is going to push this in the next few years would think more strategically about how to build support -- because that's what it's going to take.

TM: With regard to the business community, one of the statistics that we hear a lot is that every automobile that comes off an assembly line in our beleaguered American auto manufacturers includes $1500 or more for health care. Their Japanese, Korean and German rivals don't bear that cost because those countries have universal health care. For the first time ever, in July foreign cars outsold domestic cars in America.

JC: I live in Michigan so this is a local story for me. People throw around these numbers pretty easily, so whether it's $1500 or what have you, it's unquestionably true that the older industrial companies committed themselves to providing a certain level of benefits that their competitors abroad do not have to provide.

In California, the grocery strike from a couple of years ago was all about health benefits. The grocers feared that Wal-Mart was coming in and was not obligated to pay its non-unionized employees health benefits. I think most people concluded that the grocers basically won that strike. The existing union workers at grocery stores got to keep their benefits, but new workers don't and over time, they'll all see the benefits go down.

TM: Yes, they ended up with a two-tier system of those who were grandfathered and those who were not.

JC: Which was a pretty big concession from the union. The irony is, one of the grocers, Steve Bird, the CEO of Safeway, is probably the most recognizable face who's come out very enthusiastically for universal health care. Now it's easy to sort of roll your eyes and say "Oh, he's just looking for PR," but I can tell you, I've written about this guy, he's put a lot of energy into it.

His ideas of universal health care are a little different than mine -- in terms of what kind of benefits should be provided and who exactly should administer them. But a few months ago when Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon and a very committed advocate of what I would call good universal health care, got up to introduce his plan, Steve Bird was standing right next to him, saying this is basically a good idea and we need to go forward with it.

TM: Your book covers the history well. Let's talk for a moment about why health care in the United States is linked to employment.

I've read it goes back to World War II, when there were wage and price controls and a labor shortage. Not allowed to compete on wages, one of the competitive perks a company could offer was health insurance. Then, though Truman, Nixon, Johnson, all wanted to go toward universal health care, we ended up with a gerry-rigged system. While America's manufacturing base and its unions were strong and workers were less mobile, it seemed to work, but it doesn't make much sense anymore.


JC: There are lots of historical circumstances along the way that encouraged and propelled it down this path. There was a very logical reason why at the end of the day we came to the corporations. The reality is that to make health insurance work you need a group of people.

TM: You need a large pool.

JC: At any one time you have a bunch of people who are healthy, and you have a few people who are unhealthy and have very large medical bills. Money from people who are healthy covers the expenses of those who are sick. That's the whole point of insurance.

You need a sort of randomly selected group of people, that's the only way insurance can work. This is one of the reasons that every other developed country has eventually said "Look, the most logical way to do this is to take the largest pool, get the whole country contributing, so we're all in this together.

When we started this conversation about health insurance in the 20s and the 30s, there were people talking about having national health insurance as part of the New Deal along with the Social Security Act. At that time the AMA was very opposed, and so we didn't get national health insurance. But they had to come up with some other way to do it. If you're looking for large groups of people in society, where are you going to find them? The workplace.

TM: Why do you believe people are made so easily afraid of single payer universal health care? Let me suggest that it's because of the way it's been defined and defamed. People talk about being for or against "government health care," when, in fact, we're really talking about "government health insurance."

JC: That's absolutely right. Universal health care, single payer health care, is a term that a lot of people consider radioactive. But no one's talking about taking all the doctors and hospitals in the country and turning them into government employees like you find at the Post Office. The irony, however, is that some of the best health care in America -- if you believe the experts -- is actually the VA, an example of doctors paid by the government.

But let's leave that out, because we're a long way from creating that for the rest of the country. Single payer health insurance basically means that the government provides health insurance to everybody. These are still private doctors and private hospitals. You can even have universal health care that is not single payer. I mean if you're really wedded to this idea that you can't have the government be the insurer, you could do it through private insurance. I think at the end of the day it's less efficient, but it can be done that way too.

If the idea of government run health insurance sounds really scary to you, then ask yourself what is the most popular health insurance program in the United States today, the one that everybody treasures, that if you take polls and ask people, are you happy with your health insurance, you get the highest positive response? It's Medicare. And who runs Medicare? The federal government.

TM: Exactly. Why the disconnect?

JC: I can tell you, in my own interviews people say, "Don't let the government get its hands on my Medicare." Now that's a disconnect.

I think there's two things going on: In America -- and this goes back to the founding of the country, back to why we're different than Europe, back to the 17th century -- we're more independent-minded and more suspicious of the State.

That's one part of it, but another is that we've spent the last 20 to 30 years in a fairly conservative era, hearing over and over again that the government screws things up, the government can't do anything right, the private sector is better, business is better. This has been drummed into our heads.

TM: ... When you link that to the confusion between insurance and care ...

JC: It's a very combustible mix.

You can argue about other parts of the economy, but on health care I think the evidence is unambiguous. The government does it better. That's true here, and it's true abroad.

There's obviously a demonization of national health insurance abroad -- which takes by the way 30,000 different forms. Every country does it in a different way that meets its own cultural preferences. But look at Germany, France, Switzerland and Japan -- four countries who do health insurance in radically different ways. All of them manage to provide their citizens with good care, and cutting edge -- when they need it. Nobody seems to do preventive care that well, but there they're as good as we are.

All these countries have convenience, they have choice of doctor, they cover everybody and they spend less than we do. To hear conservative predictions, you would think that to have universal health care means you're going to have to wait five months to get treatment for your heart attack, you could never choose your own doctor, and you'd be paying all of your money in taxes.

TM: What's the overhead in private health insurance in this country that goes to insurance, marketing, administration etc.? ... Something like 21, 22 percent?

JC: It depends on the insurer. The best, the most efficient are down to 10, 12, 15 percent, but in general you're talking 15, 20, 25, 30 percent.

TM: And Medicare?

JC: Two to three percent.

TM: How much of our GDP do we pay on health care compared to Canada? The last time I looked it was over 15 percent here and around 10 percent there.

JC: Yes, I think we're at three or four percent GDP more than Canada.

TM: That means we've got a fudge factor equal to four percent of our GDP. Our GDP is enormous. You can ask how long do they wait or how much do they ration? But then you have to look at the fact that we would have four percent of our GDP to pick up the slack. Do you agree?

JC: Absolutely, no question.

TM: Finally, I believe you can't counter a good story -- even a false one -- with facts. As persuasive as those numbers we just laid out might be, you have to do it with stories. Though your book fills in the policy questions and the history -- like Michael Moore's movie, SiCKO -- it focuses on personal stories, especially of working and middle-class folks who probably believed they were going to be okay.

JC: At the end of the day, people are going to ask, "How would universal health care affect me?" You can throw all the statistics in the world out there, but I think stories are finally going to get people's attention -- which is why I wrote the book the way I did. They'll remember a story.

I hope that they read my book or see Michael Moore's movie, and say, "Oh, that could be me ... But for a little bit of luck here or there, I could have gone through that ... And this is not fair. It shouldn't have happened to that person, and I don't want it happening to me. This is wrong. We need to change it."

Personal narrative has the power to make seemingly abstract numbers and figures suddenly seem personal. I think that's really the whole ball game.

Why Do We Pay Our Plumbers More Than Our Caregivers?

Why does the stock market rally when workers are laid off? Why are working people consistently losing ground? Why do so many women and children live in poverty? Why is the average age of a homeless person in the United States 9 years old? Why are so many seniors forgotten? Why don't we plan ahead or invest well when it comes to things like the environment, education or healthcare?

Can the answer be that our economic signals are out of whack with reality?

An interview with Riane Eisler, author of The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, shows how our current economic systems aren't solving our problems. If we want to address issues like poverty and environmental devastation, Eisler says, we must realize that the answer isn't in money; rather, it lies in the "contributions of people and nature."

An excerpt from The Real Wealth of Nations follows the interview.

Terrence McNally: Can you share a little bit about how your childhood experiences have influenced your life's work?

Riane Eisler: In terms of the social categories introduced by my earlier work -- the domination system and the partnership system -- I was born in Vienna at a time of massive regression to the domination side. From one day to the next, my whole world was wrenched asunder.

I was a little child on the first night of official Nazi terrorism against Jews, called Kristelnacht because so much glass was shattered in Jewish homes and synagogues. A gang of Gestapo broke into our home, and I watched horrified as they pushed my father down the stairs. But I saw not just this cruelty, I also saw spiritual courage, the courage to stand up against injustice out of love. My mother, recognized one of the men who had been an errand boy for our family business and got furious. She said, "How dare you do this to this man who has been so good to you?"

She could have been killed that night, but she survived and by a miracle was able to obtain my father's release. Eventually, of course, some money passed hands. By another miracle we escaped to Cuba, where, having lost everything, we lived in the industrial slums of Havana.

Now all of these experiences brought questions. When we have this enormous capacity for caring, for empathy, for love, for what I saw in my mother -- why is there so much cruelty, so much insensitivity and so much violence? Is it inevitable, or are there alternatives?

Seeking answers to those questions, I discovered that the conventional categories such as right versus left, religious versus secular, capitalist versus socialist, or east versus west, simply are not adequate. I could see patterns through my research for which there were no names, so I called one the partnership system and the other the domination system.

TMN: The Chalice and the Blade came out in 1987. It was a best seller and has been translated into many languages. As you look back, what do you feel has been its influence over time?

RE: I am very honored whenever people say that The Chalice and the Blade has changed their lives. Doing the research for that book has, of course, also changed my life in many ways. Categories are lenses, and these lenses are ways of connecting the dots, of showing how things that seem random are actually connected. Once we have that clarity, it not only empowers us individually, but it also empowers us to be more effective agents for cultural transformation.

TMN: Why did you write your new book, and what did you hope to accomplish with a book about economics?

RE: This is the third in a trilogy. The chalice and the blade are two symbols of power. The blade appropriate for the domination system, the power to dominate, to destroy, to take life. The chalice, very important but much ignored as a symbol of power, the power to give life, nurture, illumine, to empower rather than disempower. In the next book, Sacred Pleasure, I used the same analytical lenses of the partnership and domination systems to look at sex. Now The Real Wealth of Nations completes the trilogy of power, sex and money.

TMN: I considered asking the questions, "Why write about economics? Do people really pay attention to economics that much?" Today other things like war or religion or global warming seem to dominate our consciousness. But I came up with this answer: Economics are important because they determine how we keep score, how we track progress, how we reward, how we incentivize, how we express value, how we punish, how we plan, how we anticipate, how we evaluate and even perhaps how we envision the future.

RE: So many people -- especially if they've had an econ course in college -- don't want to touch it. They say it's dull. Well, it doesn't have to be dull, and The Real Wealth of Nations shows that. They also think it doesn't affect our lives. But, as you just pointed out, it profoundly affects our lives. Finally, a lot of people say there's nothing we can do about it. And again, the book shows that there's a lot we can and must do about it.

TMN: What do you hope to accomplish with this book?

RE: The book is an analysis, but my work isn't just about deconstruction. It's about reconstruction: What do we do so that we can move to a way of living and making a living that supports our enormous human potential for caring, for empathy, for creativity and for love -- rather than inhibiting them.

I had to go very deep, as I always do in my research -- first of all to show that, as strange as it may sound, you can't change economics by just focusing on economics. You really have to look at the culture and the values in which economics is embedded. One of the most shocking things that I found -- though if we think about it, it's very clear -- is that present economic systems, be they capitalist or socialist, fail to give visibility and value to the most important human work, to real wealth, to the contributions of people and of nature.

So every one of us can do something very simple to change the conversation about economics. We can start talking about what I call a caring economics. I'm well aware that just putting caring and economics in the same sentence is not exactly conventional, is it?

TMN: I suspect that when you say something like "caring economics," a lot of people hear it as some soft notion that doesn't apply in the real world. But you make clear that there are at least five economies in action in our everyday world. There's the market economy, the political economy and the grey or underground economy -- and economics tends to spend some attention on those three. But you point out that it fails to account for two other economies: the nonmonetary economy of care and the natural economy of resources and environmental services.

Yet, if one really thinks about it, these two form the foundation on which all else rests. So, while someone may discount a word like caring as soft, and dismiss you as not being hard-nosed enough, you're actually the one who's being realistic. It is unrealistic and false to think that an economics that doesn't deal with caring or with nature can have any validity at all. That kind of abstract economics will inevitably lead us down the wrong path.


RE: I love the way that you have summarized it, because that's the point that I make again and again in this book. Caring pays, and it not only pays in human and environmental terms, it pays in dollars and cents.

TMN: Can you supply some of those hard numbers?

RE: Let's start with the market. It doesn't really take a neurosurgeon to figure out that when people feel cared for in a company, they come to life, they want that company to succeed. I have a lot of statistics on higher employee retention levels, less absenteeism, higher productivity, and greater company loyalty. Not surprisingly, companies that regularly appear in Working Mother or Fortune on the lists of the "best companies to work for" -- and it's a relative matter, they're not perfect companies -- show a higher return to shareholders.

So here, just staying within the market for a moment, a lot of data shows that caring pays in dollars and cents.

Economists love to talk about the high quality human capital that we need in a post-industrial economy -- more flexible, more creative, able to solve problems, able to work in teams, etc. Again in purely economic terms, when it comes to social policies, the best investment -- and this has been documented by study after study -- is in caring for children.

I write about nations as well as companies and families because they're all part of the same system. Nations like Norway, Sweden, and Finland were very poor at the beginning of the 20th century, but because they invested in caring policies -- healthcare, child care, very generous paid parental leave -- today they are not only regularly in the top tiers of the United Nations Human Development reports, they are also in the top tiers of the World Economic Forum Global competitiveness reports.

So the data is there. We have to go beyond the data, however, and deal with the emotional, the unconscious, with the values that we have learned. Values inherited from earlier times, values oriented more to the domination style, have distorted not only economic indicators and economic models but also economic practices and policy.

TMN: Americans tend to be very provincial and believe the way we do things is the way of the world. You were just pointing out other countries that do the right thing. Likewise, in his new film, Sicko, Michael Moore spends some time on the problems in American healthcare, but then he points to countries that do it right.

Let me ask you to clarify something. You say the Scandinavian countries pay more attention to quality of life, and it pays off in terms of competitiveness. Are they actually employing a "new economics" or just using the current economics more sensibly?


RE: Both. When you talk about single-payer healthcare, Americans very often say socialism. Whereas in England, people talk about a caring society. That takes it beyond socialism to where the issue really lies. The former Soviet Union was a disaster environmentally, and there were huge gaps between haves and have-nots. People stood in queues forever while the elite ate caviar. So we're not really talking socialism versus capitalism.

Caring is a soft word, and that's precisely why I use it. Economists will often say that the market determines value -- you know, supply and demand. But that's just a small part of it. To a huge extent what determines economic value are the underlying cultural values.

Professions that don't involve caring, like plumbing or engineering, are uniformly higher paid in the market than professions that do involve caring, like child care or elementary school teaching -- both highly skilled, highly important professions. We have this bizarre situation where people pay $50 to $90 to the plumber, to whom we entrust our pipes. But according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the child care worker, to whom we entrust our children, averages $10 an hour, no benefits.

And, of course, we insist the plumber be trained. How could we entrust our pipes to somebody who isn't? But we don't insist all child care workers be trained. This is not logical, it's pathological. And we have to look at why we have such a distorted system of values driving our economic system?

TMN: At one point it sounds like the economics might drive the values, at others that the values might drive the economics. It seems to me it's probably a dance in which neither is actually leading. You point out that as the status of women rises in a nation, the value system changes, and that actually has measurable effects on things like public health and mortality.

RE: We did a study at the Center for Partnership Studies, comparing measures of the general quality of life with measures of the status of women. And the status of women can be in significant ways a better predictor of the general quality of life than gross domestic product, which by the way is a very poor measure.

The reason that we have such bizarre comparative values, like the plumber vs. the child care worker, is that unconsciously we've inherited a larger system of ranking for domination -- ranking of one half of humanity over the other half, man over woman, man over man, nation over nation, religion over religion, race over race.

I talk in this book about everything from history to neuroscience, because you can't really understand and change economics without also understanding the larger context. It is a dance. Economic changes will change the culture, but, at the same time, we have to become aware of the pathological values that drive economics.

TMN: Do you really expect to change the way economists account or the way that economics is taught? Or do you simply hope to change the way people think, so that it might not matter as much what's taught in Econ 101?

RE: It'll be hard to penetrate the academies and economic establishments because people don't like to say, "I was wrong, you know, isn't it wonderful?" On the other hand, there are economists who are moving in this direction, and I cite some of them in The Real Wealth of Nations. It's very clear today, however, that we must demand from our political leaders and policy makers, different policies that invest in nature and in humans. It's a matter of survival at this point.

TMN: If your book has been successful, in five years what will be different?

RE: We'll be talking about economics differently. There will be much more emphasis on funding for caring policies. Businesses will become much more aware that caring pays. Families, of course, will be far less stressed.

It won't all happen within five years though, but it will begin to happen. And every one of us can help make it happen. Call-in shows, op-eds, send The Real Wealth of Nations to elected representatives, start study groups, action groups. I want this book to be a tool for people to use.

I'm very passionate and deeply concerned about this, not only in terms of my research and my writing, but as a mother and a grandmother. Change only happens because people make it happen.

*****

Excerpt: The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics

Much of my life has been a quest. This quest started in my childhood, when my parents and I fled my native Vienna from the Nazis. It continued in the slums of Havana, where we found refuge, and later in the United States, where I grew up. It was a quest for answers to a basic question: Why, when we humans have such a great capacity for caring, consciousness, and creativity, has our world seen so much cruelty, insensitivity, and destructiveness?

In the course of my quest I looked for answers in many areas, from psychology, history, and anthropology to education, economics, and politics. And again and again, I came back to economics.

I saw that in our inextricably interconnected world none of us has a secure future so long as hunger, extreme poverty, and violence continue unabated. I saw that present economic systems are despoiling and depleting our beautiful Earth. I saw that there is something fundamentally wrong with economic rules and practices that fail to adequately value the most essential human work: the work of caring for ourselves, others, and our Mother Earth.

An economics based on caring may seem unrealistic to some people. Actually, it's much more realistic than the old economic models, which strangely ignore some of the most basic facts about human existence -- beginning with the crucial importance of caring and caregiving for all economic activities.

Consider that without caring and caregiving none of us would be here. There would be no households, no work force, no economy, nothing.

A new economics

To move forward, we must include the full spectrum of economic relations -- from how humans relate to our natural habitat to intrahousehold economic interactions. This requires a complete and accurate map that includes all economic sectors.

This new economic map begins with the household as the core inner sector. This sector is the real heart of economic productivity, as it makes possible economic activity in all other sectors. The household is not, as most economics texts have it, just a unit of consumption. Its most important product is people -- and this product is of paramount importance in the postindustrial economy where "high-quality human capital" is a business mantra.

But no attention is given in conventional economics to what is needed to produce high-quality human capital: caring and caregiving.

Nor is that all. Not only is the work of caregiving given little support in economic policy when it's done in the home. Work that entails caregiving is paid substandard wages in the market economy.

So in the U.S., people think nothing of paying plumbers, the people to whom we entrust our pipes, $50 to $60 per hour. But child care workers, the people to whom we entrust our children, get an average of $10 an hour according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And we demand that plumbers have training, but not that all child care workers have training.

This isn't logical. It's pathological. But to change it, we have to look beyond areas traditionally taken into account in economic analyses.

Our beliefs about what is or is not valuable are largely unconscious. They have been profoundly affected by assumptions we inherited from times when anything associated with the female half of humanity -- such as caring and caregiving -- was devalued. In our Western world today, the ideal is equality between women and men, and men are increasingly embracing "feminine" activities, like fathers caring for young children in ways earlier considered inappropriate for "real men." But the failure of most current economic systems to give real value to caring and caregiving continues to lie behind massive inequities and dysfunctions.

Values and policies

If we look at our current fiscal priorities, we see that policy makers always seem to find money for stereotypically "masculine" control and violence -- for prisons, weapons, wars. But we're told there's no money for caring and caregiving -- for "feminine" activities, such as caring for children and people's health, for nonviolence and peace.

This imbalanced system of values is deeply entrenched in our unconscious minds. Most of us aren't aware that much of what we value or devalue -- and thus our economic system -- is based on a system of gendered values. As a result, the devaluation of caring -- and its real-life consequences for us all -- remains largely unrecognized.

It's not realistic to expect real changes in world poverty rates unless we address this gender economic double standard. As long as the devaluation of women and anything associated with women remains unchanged, women and their children will continue to swell the ranks of the world's poor. Even in the wealthy United States, government statistics show that women over 65 (most of them caregivers or former caregivers) are twice as likely to be poor as men of the same age.

This is not to say that economic inequities based on gender are more important than those based on class, race or other factors. But a basic template for the division of humanity into "superiors" and "inferiors" that children in dominator families internalize early on is a male-superior/female-inferior model of our species. As long as people internalize this mental map for relations, it's not realistic to expect changes in the in-group versus out-group patterns of thinking that lie behind so much injustice and suffering.

Nor can we realistically expect more generally caring social and economic policies unless the life-sustaining work of caring and caregiving is no longer devalued as "just women's work" by both men and women. If caring is not socially valued, it will not be valued in economic policies and practices.

Caring pays -- in dollars and cents

I want to say that when I speak of caring and caregiving as "women's work," I'm only echoing conventional beliefs we inherited from times when gender roles were much more rigid. The goal is an economic and social system that supports caring and cargiving in ways that put food on the table and a roof over people's head -- one that no longer bars women from areas traditionally reserved for men and no longer views caring and caregiving as fit only for women or despised "effeminate" men.

The reality is that caring pays -- not only in human terms but in strictly economic terms. Nordic nations such as Finland, Norway and Sweden (where women are approximately 40 percent of national legislators) have found that investing in caring policies -- from universal healthcare and child care and education for caregiving to family stipends for caregiving and generous paid parental leave -- is an investment in a higher general quality of life, a happier population, and a more efficient, innovative economy. In 2003-04 and 2005-06, Finland was even ahead of the much richer and powerful U.S. in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness ratings.

Businesses are also finding that concern for the welfare of employees and their families translates into increased competence, creativity and better business relations. In short, a caring orientation is good for people and business.

We also cannot solve our environmental problems by just trying to introduce less polluting technologies or changing consumption patterns. Even if we succeed in these efforts, which is doubtful without going deeper, new crises will erupt unless we make more fundamental changes.

In our time, when high technology guided by values such as conquest, exploitation and domination threaten our survival, we need economic inventions driven by an ethos of caring. We need a caring revolution.

America Has Oil on the Brain

Americans buy ten thousand gallons of gasoline a second, without giving it much of a thought. Where does it come from? How far does it travel? Why does it cost so much? Who's making money along the way?

Lisa Margonelli traveled thousands of miles from her local gas station to oil fields half a world away. Along the way she stopped at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the New York Mercantile Exchange's crude oil market, oil fields from Venezuela to Texas, to Chad, and even an Iranian oil platform. I jokingly call her book, Fast Fuel Nation. She calls it Oil on the Brain.

I spoke with Lisa about her book, the economy of gas stations, and how oil money can hurt a developing country like Chad.

Terry McNally: What kind of car do you drive? Where do you normally buy your gas? How many miles per gallon do you get?

Lisa Margonelli: I drive a 2000 Honda Civic hatchback that gets about 35 miles to the gallon. I actually buy my gas at a Shell station that is quite cheap and relatively near the freeway entrance near my house. But ideally, if it were convenient on my route, I would buy from an independent gas station.

McNally: Why?

Margonelli: Because the independents exert pressure to keep the prices down, and I support the struggling independent work ethic. But the Shell station is extremely convenient, and normally I never think about gas until my tank is almost empty.

McNally: Where do independents get their gas?

Margonelli: They get it from wholesalers called jobbers who buy it on the spot market. It comes from all the same refineries that are owned by the chains. They put their surplus each day on the spot market -- it's exactly the same gas.

McNally: There's a major right now running commercials warning about low quality gas...

Margonelli: -- Chevron.

McNally: Chevron with Tech-Ron and their little talking cars...

Margonelli: -- "Avoid the hazards of low quality gas."

McNally: What are the hazards of low quality gas -- lower prices?

Margonelli: Yup. Techron is apparently a special additive, but we'll never know because it's a trade secret.

McNally: Of course.

Margonelli: I don't know of any statistics on Techron. But the independents sell their gas with a standard detergent package that is perfectly adequate to clean the car.

You know there are nice looking independents and then there are super crappy ones. When I started the book, I had this impression that perhaps the very crappy looking independents were putting water in it or something. Of course water and gas don't mix, so that's a very naive idea. No, it's all the same gas, all the tanks are inspected by the same inspectors, it all comes from the same big pot.

McNally: How much was gas going for when you started the book?

Margonelli: Gas was really cheap in 2001. In 2003 I think it was $1.61 a gallon. It's been an amazing time to watch the market.

I got to see was how all the different economic wheels are pushing against each other and meshing. We tend to think of the oil industry as this big monolithic thing, but in fact it's made up of so many moving parts and so many different agendas, that you can't really predict where it's going.

McNally: You could predict that sometime it's going to run out, and before that it's going to get more expensive.

Margonelli: But we had big oil experts in 1998 lamenting the possibility that oil was soon going to be $7 a barrel.

McNally: I'm guessing you didn't set out to be an energy policy wonk. Tell me a little bit about the evolution -- of you and this book?

Margonelli: In the beginning, I was fascinated by the world at the other end of the pike, in Iraq or in Alaska. I just wanted to hang out along this supply chain. I also really wanted to get into places that were off limits, onto oil fields and into refineries.

I'm really curious too about how huge policies or huge historic trends actually impact individuals, because I think that's the way we understand them. So I thought the way for me to do oil, was to get to know individuals along the way and see how they understood their place in the supply chain.

What started as a project of understanding individuals turned into a project of trying to understand a large economy. And then as I was beginning the writing of the book, I got a fellowship from the New America Foundation, kind of a centrist think tank. For the first time I wasn't just standing outside shaking my finger. I was trying to do something constructive and that opened up a new world to me.

McNally: I've started calling the book to myself, Fast Fuel Nation.

Margonelli: That's a better title. Thank you.

McNally: Eric Schlosser did for a Happy Meal, how it got here, who and what got hurt along the way, connecting the dots... It seems to me you're doing the same thing for a gallon of gas at the pump.

Margonelli: I certainly hope to. I used to buy hamburgers without thinking about it. Then all of a sudden every time I picked up a fry, I was thinking about the man who changed the potato farming process in Idaho. I don't expect people to agonize about buying gas, but when people fill up, I hope that they have a sense of where it came from and what it cost along the way.

McNally: I want to go to what seems to be both your passion and your strength -- the stories.

Margonelli: When you hang out in a gas station, you realize what a strange place it is. It's familiar, a neighborhood spot for a lot of people. At the same time, it's also a slightly dangerous place, with a fair number of holdups and crime.

I hung out in my local gas station. There was a man named DJ who had come from Punjab, India and made it all the way around the world in little hops. He'd ended up in San Francisco running a gas station.

You've probably noticed that convenience store clerks sometimes have this sort of drowsy I-don't-care look about them. One day I was standing there early in the morning. DR was drowsy, we hadn't talked very much, people were coming in, buying gas, doing their usual thing.

This van appeared -- I hardly even saw it, maybe out of the corner of my eye. Suddenly, DJ came to life. I hadn't realized he was so tall. He sprung to life, flew out to the lot, yelled at the man, and the man got back into his van and drove away. It turned out that this guy had been planning to ditch his van in the gas station for the day and take the bus somewhere else in the city. You don't even think of the things that we do to gas stations, partly because people have huge anger towards gas station.

Part of the American bargain with oil is that we feel the gas station owes us something. That means gas stations make about five cents a gallon profit, selling us gas. They make up for it by selling us other things we don't mind paying for, like corn nuts and sodas and bottled water.

McNally: That bottle of water costs much more per gallon than gasoline, even at $3.50 a gallon.

Margonelli: Absolutely, and water doesn't explode.

McNally: Oil companies are making record profits based on the price and the demand. How does a gas station do?

Margonelli: Gas stations are the face of the oil companies on the street, but the gas stations themselves often have complicated relationships with the oil companies.

Independents may fear one of the majors coming in across the street to sell gas cheaper than they can afford to buy it on the wholesale market. The people with franchise deals often have fraught relationships, because the oil companies have been closing down a lot of them over the years.

As they become less and less profitable, the companies want to only sponsor the ones with the highest volume. They've been slowly putting mom and pops out of business, sometimes by raising the price they charge for gas until it's not feasible for them to sell it.

The owner of the gas station I was at is constantly trying to figure out the oil market. Trying to psych it out, to keep from being crushed between retail and wholesale.

McNally: Are the independent stations doing well right now with the price of gas so high?

Margonelli: No, when the price of gas is high, the independents have a hard time, because their wholesale prices rise above the cost that the refineries provide it to their own stations.

McNally: Is the person who runs the Shell doing really well right now?

Margonelli: They might be, it depends upon his individual deal with the gasoline distributor or the refinery.

McNally: How about life at the supply end of the chain?

Margonelli: CD Roper, a fourth or fifth generation oilman, invited me to join him on a gas-drilling rig in East Texas. The intimacy that CD has with this 100 million year old geology is extraordinary.

As [CD's family] drove across central Texas -- probably in the 1950's, his grandpa described this huge red mountain that used to stick out of the cretaceous sea, and how the geology of that mountain had been worn down by the sea and spread out over the sediments. And how when you drill down a mile or two beneath the surface of the earth, you come upon those red sediments from what's called the Lano Uplift.

He allowed me to sit on the rig at night as he would catch samples from the drill bit. The drill bit that they were dealing with was maybe 15 or 18 inches. It's actually three rotating cones that crush the rock underneath and smush it up between them. It looks like the mouth of a housefly, that's the feeling you get when you look at it.

McNally: You wrote an amazing point -- that drill bits come and go within 18 months, about as quickly as laptops.

Margonelli: Right, they have a very fast development cycle, because the drill bit is key to getting to the gas. At this point a lot of US oil is gone, so people are looking for gas.

McNally: Natural gas.

Margonelli:
Small, difficult to find pockets. It's not like the Beverly Hillbillies' finding a big gusher. It's finding a pocket of gas and getting there as quickly as possible. So you need a really fast drill bit, and everything about your drill bit and they way that you drill becomes very important. Every minute counts.

CD would go up and catch samples and bring them down and wash them with this kind of sand. Then he'd put them under the microscope, and you'd be seeing sand from 100 million years ago. I found it just thrilling. I could really feel the romance of that life and that work. It was great to be given a window into this, which I would have had no access to otherwise.

McNally: Let's go across the world to Chad, one of the poorest nations in the world. They now have an oil industry and Exxon is there. Can you give us the big picture of what effect that's had on Chad?

Margonelli: Chad is a very poor landlocked African country, surrounded by oil producers, including Cameroon, Libya, Sudan and Nigeria, who've all had negative experiences with oil. Chad has had about 30 years of civil war, and, although [the country] had a semi-legitimizing election in 1996, [its] leader is essentially a warlord. Exxon, along with a consortium of other oil companies, invested 3.7 billion dollars building an oil field and pipeline to get the oil out of Chad.

It was a relatively small amount of oil, which shows how desperate the majors are to find new deposits of oil in places that are not OPEC countries with big national oil companies.

McNally: In other words, you can make deals with the OPEC countries, or you can go outside that system and try to find it somewhere else?

Margonelli: Right, and with a place as unstable as Chad, commercial banks wouldn't sign on to the deal. They thought it was too risky. But the World Bank came in, and made some guarantees about environmental standards and about supposedly distributing the oil wealth to develop the country.

When I was there in 2003, the first check was about to arrive and people were very anxious. Basically nothing comes out well in Chad. People say, "When Chad shoots an elephant, it dies in Cameroon."

One of the things that really broke my heart was a conversation I had with a professor who had been a member of Parliament. He was a very thoughtful man, very mellow.

He said that the Parliamentarians hadn't really been allowed to sign off on the oil proposal, but they had been expected to ratify it. At the very end of the discussion, one of the Parliamentarians stood up and said, "You know, in my village there's a certain kind of bird, and when you see that bird in the forest, you know that something will change. You don't know if your mother will die or your father will die, but someone will die whether you like it or not. And I think oil is like that bird. We don't know what this is going to change for us, but something will change."

Exxon made a bet on Chad, the World Bank made a bet on Chad, the U.S. made a bet on Chad. But really, all the chance of loss in that bet fell on the people of Chad.

McNally: That loss would be?

Margonelli: Essentially, losing the fragile peace that they had, and losing the hope of developing a better economy.

Oil money has come into Chad, lots of it, and it hasn't really developed the country. Some of it has been siphoned off through corruption. A whole economy of war has developed where people attack the government and then get paid off with oil money. The World Bank has been forced to change their agreement with the government, to allow Chad to spend more money on weapons. It has been just a disaster.

McNally: So, Exxon wins? They did find oil, there is money flowing.

Margonelli: They got a very good deal.

McNally: But the money, instead of solving problems, creates new ones. I've heard you describe it before, that when oil comes to poor countries, people become dependent on it, and whatever else was working falters, and whatever else they might have developed as an alternative, doesn't happen. Usually a few rich people get the money and no one else wins.

Margonelli: Right, and in Chad, in addition to the oil economy, there's an economy of war, and so the country's very destabilized.

Recently that professor, the former parliamentarian, wrote me an email, and said "Things are okay here. I have a job. My family is safe, although the children were disturbed when they saw bodies burning in the street during the coup attempt."

I wanted to cry. The combination of stoicism and horror. And the fact that none of the rest of us really heard about this. We heard a lot about the marvelous new oil project in Chad that was going to change things, but we haven't really heard about the all-but-war that's going on there.

McNally: What's the biggest thing that you took from doing this book?

Margonelli: If you get to choose, you really want to live in an oil importing country. That's one thing. Life in an oil exporting country can be really terrifying, and you don't have much control.

On the other hand, for so many years, the U.S. has gone to the ends of the earth, focused on finding bigger supplies of oil, and ensuring them through military arrangements, through money, through subsidies, through whatever it takes. We need to start focusing on using less, and on being responsible to some of our oil suppliers.

How To Solve the Diabetes Epidemic

Nearly 21 million Americans are believed to be diabetic, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and 41 million more are prediabetic -- their blood sugar is high and could reach the diabetic level if they do not alter their living habits. Nationwide, the disease's cost for 2002 -- from medical bills to disability payments and lost workdays -- was conservatively estimated by the American Diabetes Association at $132 billion. All cancers, taken together, cost the country about $171 billion a year.

The disease could actually lower the average life expectancy of Americans for the first time in more than a century. According to the CDC, one in three children born in the United States five years ago are expected to become diabetic in their lifetime, and a child found to have Type 2 diabetes at age 10 will see his or her life shortened by 19 years.

''Either we fall apart or we stop this,'' said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. 'I will go out on a limb,'' he said, ''and say, 20 years from now people will look back and say: 'What were they thinking? They're in the middle of an epidemic and kids are watching 20,000 hours of commercials for junk food.' ''

According to the Office of Minority Health and the American Diabetes Association, the threat of diabetes is related to ethnicity and economic class. African Americans are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as non-Hispanic whites. One in every four African-American women over 55 has diabetes. And African Americans are 2.1 times more likely as non-Hispanic whites to die from diabetes.

Similar trends are true for Hispanics who, on average, are 1.7 times as likely to have diabetes as whites, and for American Indians and Alaska Natives, who are 2.2 times as likely as non-Hispanic whites of similar age to have diabetes.

Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes, which accounts for about 90 percent of all diabetics, is pretty clearly a disease of diet and lifestyle. And that's the good news. According to Neal Barnard, M.D. and founder and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a change in diet can not only prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes, but can reverse the disease and even get some Type 2 diabetics off insulin.

NEAL BARNARD, M.D., is the author of several books:Eat Right, Live Longer; Food for Life; and his latest, Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes: The Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes Without Drugs.

Terrence McNally: Is it safe to say that lifestyle, nutrition, and prevention were not the cornerstones of medical education when you were in med school?

Neal Barnard: Well, not only were those things neglected in medical school, they were completely neglected in my personal life. I grew up in Fargo, North Dakota. My grandfather was a cattle rancher. My father grew up on a cattle ranch, and all my uncles and cousins are still in that business. I think I ate roast beef, baked potatoes and corn every day of my life -- except for special occasions, when it was roast beef, baked potatoes and peas.

When I went to medical school, we learned a great deal about how to diagnose conditions, how to manage them medically, and how to prescribe drugs. Unfortunately, one thing we did not pay much attention to was how to prevent conditions like cancer or heart disease. The number one thing when it comes to preventing illness is what we eat. Diet plays a more substantial role than smoking for most major cancers. But with regard to public awareness, even among physicians, with diet we're now where we were in about 1940 with tobacco. People have inklings -- "maybe I should do something..." -- but no one is doing much about it.

When people finally figured out that tobacco caused lung cancer, they got serious and took action -- not only individually but as businesses, as schools, and as a country. I'm optimistic. I think we're on the cusp of making a major diet change.

McNally: John Robbins in Reclaiming Our Health quotes a startling statistic: Medical students were asked how important nutrition was to health, first as they entered medical school and again when they graduated. At graduation, the number who felt it was an important factor had fallen by about half.

Barnard: Not just during medical school but also afterwards. All doctors need to have continuing medical education in order to keep their hospital privileges. It's rather expensive, and regrettably the drug companies have absolutely cornered that market.

I'm not saying that there's not a role for pharmaceuticals. There is. But that should be our alternative medicine. Mainstream medicine should deal with what's causing the illness in the first place. If it's your diet, let's change that. If that is not enough, then let's add medications.

We've got a ways to go, but the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine aims to change that emphasis. We advocate for preventive medicine, good nutrition, more sensible and more ethical research. My hope is that we'll be able to change the face of medicine.

McNally: How would you describe prevention?

Barnard: I think of prevention simply as not getting the diseases that would otherwise be in our future. Others get more sophisticated about it, and say there's secondary prevention and tertiary prevention, meaning once you've already got the disease, can we stop recurrence or can we stop the complications of it.

I have an ambitious goal: Let's preserve the very best of health for as long as we can. If you look at kids today, kids 12, 13, 14 years of age, they don't yet have heart disease so far as they're aware. They don't yet have cancer. They don't yet have diabetes in most cases, although some do. If we intervene with their diets now, we can spare them a miserable future. If we fail to do that, we condemn them.

We need to do more than change the face of medicine. We need to change our culture, and we need to change the way our government deals with nutritional issues and prevention. Right now we have a federal government that, on the one hand, says eat more fruits and vegetables and reduce fat in your diet. On the other hand, there are active programs to promote the consumption of meat and dairy products. Subsidies for meat and dairy are dramatically higher than subsidies for fruits and vegetables.

So confronting all those economic pressures that keep cholesterol on our plates, we've got a big challenge in front of us. But I believe we can do it, frankly, for this reason: People know there's a problem and they're sick of it. If you have a family member who's dealing with weight problems or who has diabetes, it's thankless. People have tried all kinds of solutions, they know that we need a bigger picture, and I think that's where we're going.

McNally: The food industry now admits there are problems, but claims it just wants people to make their own choices. They say the answer is public education, so those choices can be informed. Let's be serious. Nutrition education, if it were robust, might be $100 million, while billions are spent on an opposing form of education -- known as commercials.

Barnard: Every day you can flip on the evening news and half the commercials are for snack foods and fast food restaurants. The other half are for medications to undo the effects of our bad diet. That's the culture we're in. Just to make it explicit: This is not entirely the government's fault, though the government I think supports it.

In the early parts of the 20th century people had lung cancer, and it was unclear why. As time went on, people suspected that tobacco may be the reason. The tobacco industry said, "No way. Tobacco's good for you." You can see commercials and advertisements from not that long ago where doctors would say a particular brand of cigarettes was healthy.

Nowadays we have many forms of cancer, we have heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. I am suggesting that these do not occur primarily due to genetics, bad luck or stress. The main contributor to all of these is what we're dosing our bodies with three times a day.

If you look at Asian countries where meat is not the staple of their diet, where their staple is rice, there's very little cancer, very little diabetes. But if they move to Los Angeles or Chicago or Washington DC, stop eating rice and start eating cheeseburgers or fried chicken -- the rate of diabetes goes up 400 percent and cancer rates explode. Or they can stay in Japan and MacDonald's comes to them. An affluent woman in Japan who has Westernized her diet has nine times the breast cancer risk of a poor woman living nearby who has not abandoned rice and vegetables.

If you go back to the Great Depression or before -- and frankly for much of our sojourn on earth -- people couldn't afford to eat meat twice or three times a day. We ate beans and vegetables and fruits and things, much of it coming from our own gardens. Nowadays, for whatever reason, our culture has allowed us to have bacon and eggs for breakfast, baloney sandwiches for lunch, and fried chicken for dinner. And we are paying a terrible price.

McNally: Briefly what's the current state of things with regard to obesity and diabetes? Are things getting better or worse?

Barnard: Things are getting worse. Some recent statistics: in 1994, fewer than 5 percent of the California population had diabetes. Fast-forward ten years, to 2004. We're up to over 7 percent now, and the Centers for Disease Control say one out of every three kids born today will develop diabetes in their lifetime -- one in three.

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, a leading cause of amputations, a leading cause of loss of kidney function. It can take 10 years off your life if things don't go well -- which they normally don't. Three quarters of people with this disease die prematurely of a heart attack.

People come into my office with a sack full of medicines. Typically two for diabetes, one for cholesterol, two or three for blood pressure, plus others. It adds up to anywhere from $2,000-$5000 per person. Multiply that by the 20 million or so Americans who've got the disease, and you can see why it's bankrupting us.

McNally: What's the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Barnard: In diabetes, the main problem is that there's too much sugar in the blood. Sugar is supposed to get into the cells to power your muscle cells, power your brain cells. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that travels in the bloodstream to the cell's surface. It's like a key that opens up little doors to let the blood sugar inside.

In type 1 diabetes, what used to be called childhood onset, the insulin is not made any more, the pancreatic cells to make it are dead. Some people believe that early exposure to cow's milk proteins triggers an allergic reaction that causes antibodies to be formed that wipe out those cells.

McNally: Only in a small percentage of people?

Barnard: That's a leading theory. Researchers are still trying to tease out the different causes. Viruses may play a role as well. You seem to need a genetic predisposition to it, but the genes aren't determinate. If one identical twin has type 1 diabetes, usually the other one will not. So we're still sorting it out.

Ninety percent of diabetes is type 2, the adult onset form that's on the rise because of diet and lifestyle. These people have insulin in their body, but when the insulin key arrives at the cell and tries to open up the doors, it can't do it. It's as if somebody has gummed up the lock.

McNally: Haven't people used diet for a while? What's radically different about your approach?

Barnard: Anybody who's been on a typical diabetes diet knows it's an exercise in drudgery, and not very effective. The old approach says, "You can't handle sugar." Sugar's building up in the blood, so don't eat sugar and don't eat anything like white bread or potatoes that digests to sugar in the body. With that approach, people on a diabetes diet carefully monitor their carbohydrate intake, counting up carbohydrate grams. In most cases, they need to lose weight, so the diet says go to bed a little hungry to knock 500 calories a day off your diet. By Wednesday that gets very old.

Our muscle cells, however, are powered by sugar and glucose. Marathon runners carbo-load before a race, trying to increase the amount of sugar stored in their muscles and in their liver. But tiny little droplets of fat have accumulated inside the muscle of a person with type 2 diabetes. So insulin arrives in the blood, like a key, it goes into the lock, trying to open up the doors -- but there is so much fat inside the cell that the insulin signaling cannot take place.

We had some insights that allowed us to change the dietary approach to one that is easier and dramatically more effective. It starts with observations. As I mentioned, people on plant-based diets have relatively little diabetes. When they up their fat content they get more diabetes. Vegetarians have much less diabetes compared to meat eaters.

The diet we use says, "Okay, let's not worry so much about carbohydrate, let's take the fat out of your diet." It's not low-carb; it's a vegan diet. Now vegans are not people from the planet Vegas. A vegan diet means no animal products at all -- no chicken, no fish, no dairy, no eggs, and zero animal fat. Step two, keep the oils low. People who take olive oil all over their salad and their pasta, are learning how to use non fat dressings and cooking methods. Step three, we take the sugar out of the diet.

McNally: And you've clinically tested your approach?

Barnard: Our most recent study, starting in 2003 and finishing last year, was funded by the National Institutes of Health and published by the American Diabetes Association. Among those people where everything stayed absolutely constant -- their medicines didn't change, their exercise didn't change -- this new diet was three times more powerful than the current American Diabetes Association diet.

In fact, it was more powerful than any of the oral medicines that people with diabetes use. Individuals with diabetes in our study lost weight dramatically and easily, even though we weren't telling them to count calories. Their cholesterol levels fell, their symptoms improved, they felt better, and many of them got off their medicines or reduced their dosage.

McNally: A positive side effect: The environmental benefits when you stop buying from the poultry and meat industries are phenomenal.

Barnard: When I talk to a lot of younger audiences, they can't picture having diabetes or prostate cancer or arteriosclerosis because they're animal activists or environmentalists.

Americans now eat a million animals per hour -- mostly chickens. Americans now have this tremendous appetite for chicken, naively imagining chicken is somehow a health food, which it's clearly not. Chicken has chicken fat in it. The leanest beef that my Uncle Harold can raise is about 29 percent fat, as a percentage of calories. The leanest chicken, even without the skin, is about 23 percent fat. A bean is about 4 percent.

We have 100 million belching cows on the North American continent. People talk about global warming. There's a lot you can do, but the first thing by all means is retire those cows.

McNally: It's not just the methane they're putting out, it's also the enormous amounts of waste that pollute the water.

So to prevent diabetes, your prescription is stop eating meat and dairy?


Barnard: Avoid animal products completely -- meat, eggs and dairy, even skimmed milk. We are very clear, I can't reverse your diabetes or improve it if you continue to eat poultry and fish.

McNally: But don't we need some of the fats in fish and fish oil?

Barnard: Chinook salmon is about 50 percent fat, and people will say, "It's all good fat." Here's the bad news, I'm going to have to prescribe Prozac to everyone after I tell them this, because they're going to be so depressed. Yes, there are good fats in fish, the omega three fatty acids, for example, which reduce inflammation. But there's also a lot of bad fat in fish. About 15-30 percent of the fat in fish is plain old saturated fat.

McNally: People who avoid all fat miss some elements essential for brain development, etc., don't they? Where does that come from in your diet?

Barnard: There's not a lot of fat in vegetables, beans and fruits, but what there is, is heavily weighted toward omega three. If you want a little extra you can get it from walnut or flax, but I'm not sure anyone really needs that. A man whose grandfather died at age 30 came into our study at 31 when he was diagnosed with diabetes. We didn't tell him to count calories; we didn't tell him to say no to extra portions. He just did vegan, low fat, low sugar. He lost 60 pounds in a year, and in the course of the study his blood sugar values returned absolutely to normal. His doctors stopped all of his diabetes medications. His erectile dysfunction went away. He said, "Why didn't I do this diet 20 years ago?" He never would have had diabetes in all likelihood, had he been on this diet as a child.

McNally: Are people able to comply with this diet? Probably the reason they have diabetes and obesity is because they're eating a fast food diet. When they make that huge switch, how does it go?

Barnard: It goes terrific. Everybody has exactly that question: Can I do it? It sounds extreme, but it's like sticking your toe in a swimming pool. It feels a little cold, but once you jump in, you're going to love it. It beats the socks off continuing to carry that extra weight.

We have some online support for people at the Web site, pcrm.org. We have Q&A and we have a weekly live video conference support group that you can join.

People enjoy it. Start your breakfast with a big bowl of oatmeal. Have a bean burrito instead of that meat taco for lunch. At dinner top your pasta with a marinara sauce instead of the Alfredo. Easy as that and your body starts to heal.



American Democracy From the Eyes of a Democratic Fundraiser

Terry McAuliffe, former head of the Democratic National Committee, is a very accomplished player in American politics, and as the chair of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, he will be in the spotlight again for the next two years.

McAuliffe claims he does what he does so the average American can enjoy a chance at the American dream. A self-described Irish storyteller, he's written a lively book about his political career, the kind an average American can enjoy.

The book, "What a Party," is a fun read. But I also wonder what Terry McAuliffe has learned in the trenches about why that vision of an America that serves the people has been so difficult to achieve? Why has it been so hard to win elections with that laudable objective? And why so hard to implement when in power? Think universal healthcare.

After years of fundraising for Democrats, McAuliffe chaired the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, then served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005. For the first time the DNC raised more than the RNC -- over $535 million.

McNally: When did you start your first business?

McAuliffe: When I was 14. My father had said, "Terry, you want to go to college, that's great. You'll have to pay for it." I was walking home one day in Syracuse, N.Y., after caddying -- carrying two golf bags up and down hills for five hours. I got about ten dollars, so basically I was getting $2 an hour. I figured I was throwing my life away. I got to start my own business. I got to get going.

I saw a guy out doing his driveway, hot tar all over him, and I said that's what they'll hire young kids to do. Got home, typed up a letter, went door to door, had 10 to 15 jobs my first day, From there, I went out and conned my uncle out of a truck, started buying all the tar wholesale, and I was off to the races. It was a great experience.

McNally: How did you first get involved in politics in a big way?

McAuliffe: My father was the treasurer of the Onadaga County Democratic Party. Ever since I was just a toddler, he had me going to events with him. I met LBJ when I was just a little tyke. I'll never forget huge LBJ looking down and asking, "How you doing, son?" Probably the only time in my life I was speechless. And I just stayed active. I did petition drives, licked stamps, sealed envelopes ...

McNally: You were financial director for Carter's reelection campaign at 22 ... ?

McAuliffe: I was going to law school. Friend of mine working in the Carter campaign said they needed help raising money. I'd never done it before, but I said, "Oh, heck, I can always go to law school." I left, and within a year I became Carter's No. 1 fundraiser and then his finance director.

McNally: "What a Party" is not your normal political memoir. How did you decide to write this book in this way at this time?

McAuliffe: I put it all out there -- about Yassir Arafat rubbing my leg at dinner one night, about the Korean Secret Service thinking that Bill Clinton and I were lovers. It's about 400 pages, and I think you'll actually laugh at most of 'em.

But on the serious side, I got really upset after the 2004 election. We should have beaten George Bush by 10 points. I thought the Kerry campaign blew it. Now I don't write this book to be negative. In fact, I sat with John Kerry at dinner and said here's what I'm writing. A lesson is learned by mistakes, so I figure it's time to lay it out. I talk about what we did wrong in 2000, and about the three or four things we really screwed up in 2004. Absolutely handed the election to George Bush. Got to learn by that if we're going to win in 2008.

McNally: Tell us those three or four things.

McAuliffe: You should know Kerry agrees with me, so it's not like he's mad.

He should have responded to the Swift Boats ads immediately. The man went to Vietnam, fought for this country; George Bush didn't -- and we lose the issue.

Second thing, we're not allowed to use George Bush's name at the Democratic Convention in Boston. Could not use his name. So how do you beat a guy if you can't even talk about him at your convention?

McNally: That was the word put out by the Kerry campaign ... Bush had shown such incompetence, and they wouldn't let anyone criticize ... ?

McAuliffe: Including me. The chairman of the party, that's your job.

And third, the day Bush said on the Today show that he couldn't win the war on terror. In the book, go through this one ad nauseam, which will sicken your stomach. How I tried to call John in Nantucket. "Get off the island. Go to Pennsylvania, where United 93 went down, and say, 'I'll win the war on terror.'"

Bush just said he couldn't win what was his only argument for reelection, and no one told John about it supposedly. And the press asks him, and he's out windsurfing. Huge mistake for us. Blown opportunity, Bush went out the next day, cleaned it up.

And one thing I'll never get over -- they had $15 million left in the bank on election day. Here I am at the party, having outraised the Republicans. I even secretly borrowed an extra $10 million the weekend before, just in case. And they were sitting on this money. For the life of me, I can't understand why.

McNally: Could that $15 million have made a difference in Ohio?

McAuliffe: Absolutely. Do you know what $15 million could do for turnout? The Kerry campaign was not doing any black radio two or three weeks before the campaign; they were not building up the grass roots. You could have done phone banking.

McNally: Would that have just made voters wait 12 hours instead of 10?

McAuliffe: In fairness, a couple of colleges had the 10-hour wait, but many places they didn't have to wait. We just had to increase the vote and change the vote. $15 million. People didn't give money for it to sit in a bank account after an election. I just can't get over it.

McNally: Two workers in Ohio were convicted of acting improperly with the regard to the recount. In Ohio, if someone asks for a recount, you count a few sample precincts. If they line up with the original vote, you don't have to recount the rest. These two locked the doors and cherry picked the precincts -- found some that aligned with the original vote, and put those out as the sample precincts. It should be front page news.

McAuliffe: I hadn't heard that. They ought to put them away for 100 years.

McNally: -- about page 17 of the L.A. Times.

You say that the reason for your work in politics is not just about raising the money or winning the elections, it's about making the American dream available to more Americans.

You also make the telling point that it's one thing to talk and write about politics. It's another thing to do politics, and you've been willing to get down and dirty and fight the fight.

You made enormous progress at the DNC -- in terms of developing a database, harnessing electronic media and raising money. Yet against a party and an administration that got very little right and some important things tragically wrong, Democrats lost in '02 and in '04. How did that happen?


McAuliffe: Pretty much 9/11. The 2002 election was all about the war on terror. It was too close to 9/11 and Bush very effectively -- with the White House and the bully pulpit -- scared the daylights out of voters.

I mean, they ran ads against Max Cleland in Georgia, you know, Max a triple amputee from Vietnam. They ran ads of him with Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein. But Max should have swung back.

Joe Lieberman came up with the idea of Homeland Security. They took the issue away from us and all of a sudden somehow, we're not patriotic 'cause we weren't supporting all the legislation the way the Republicans want it.

McNally: They put the vote up just before the election. They were forming Homeland Security, a former Democratic idea, but you couldn't unionize the workers.

McAuliffe: They were collapsing nine federal agencies into Homeland Security. So people who were going into this new agency wanted to take the benefits that they'd accrued working for the federal government. The bill said no, you're starting at Ground Zero. Well that was crazy, if you've worked for the federal government for 25 years ...

McNally: It was a set up. That's only fair to people who've worked all their lives.

McAuliffe: So that was 2002.

2004 we should have won. I mean we won a lot of elections around the country. I talked about a few things that John did. He also did a lot of things right, but you know he had some bad breaks. I mean six days before the election Osama bin Laden did the video -- which I knew was going to happen -- and he talked about red states, blue states ... This guy knew more about American politics than many Americans.

And it scared the daylights out of people. The swing voters we had we lost overnight. The problem was, John did not establish the basis that he was keeping us safer than George Bush. And when John said, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion [October 2003 supplemental funding bill for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan] before I voted against it," we lost our foundation.

So 2004 I can explain very easily. Never has another party beaten an incumbent president in a time of of war, but these were extraordinary circumstances. We should have beaten him by ten points.

McNally: The team of Bush and Rove are electoral savants -- good at demonizing and defining opponents, winning elections, but with no inclination to govern.

McAuliffe: John Kerry came to my office on March 10th, sat with me for an hour one on one: "Terry what are you worried about?" I said, "John, they're going to come at you hard," and he said, "Terry, don't worry about it. They come at me, I'm going to go back at them harder."

McNally: When Bush and Cheney won -- not were elected, but won -- in 2000, I had the image of the 20th century reaching up out of the grave and saying not so fast, I'm not going without a fight. Gore's was to be the first 21st century administration, but it was stolen, and we end up with two oil guys in the White House. We've gone backwards the last six years -- on energy, on environment, corruption, war.

McAuliffe: Look what Enron did here. I started raising heck about that day one. We were all proven right. They manipulated your supply, your prices, look what they did to you folks out here in California. This administration was bought and paid for by the huge energy concerns, plain as day. They write an energy policy, and they don't want to tell you who's in the room with them. I mean, come on, this is democracy?

McNally: You're willing to fight like the Republicans, and you're able to raise money like them. What have you learned in the trenches about why your vision of an America that serves the people has been so difficult to achieve?

McAuliffe: What Hillary took on in 1993 -- and she's quoted all through my book -- she had no idea they'd come at her the way they did. They made it look like her plan was so complicated and you could not go to your own doctor. Her idea was, listen, let's make it universal healthcare, make it more affordable. Let's make it competitive.

At the time we had 32 million Americans with no health insurance, now we have 50. She was right. Did we go about it the wrong way? Yeah, probably. Tried to do too much too quick. Live and learn, I'd rather have somebody who made mistakes and gets up and does it again.

But you've got to understand there are very powerful interests in Washington who spend a lot of money lobbying. I hate these earmarks. Nancy Pelosi, God bless her, she said let's get rid of all the earmarks. I cannot say enough, how much I respect her for doing that. We need to clean up Washington.

McNally: What if money is the obstacle? What if the way we finance politics no longer serves your reason for doing politics? Everyone points to the Kennedy-Nixon debate as the dawn of the age of television. A few elections later began the even more influential age of television ads -- and the cost of campaigns skyrocketed. What if the price of democracy has become too high for the average American to afford?

You're a great salesman. How would you sell public financing of elections?


McAuliffe: I don't take any pay for this ... I'd love it if I didn't have to raise anymore money. I think the public financing system we have today is absolutely broken, there are so many holes in it.

McNally: The system where you check off a box on your tax return. In 2004 the lead candidates said they wouldn't take it in the primaries. Hillary's already said she's not taking it in the primaries or the general, and people say any candidate who's going to run seriously is going to have to do the same ...

McAuliffe: You can only give at the most $2,100 to Hillary or any of the candidates. Or twice, $4,200. But on the outside there are all these independent groups, 527's, who literally spend zillions of dollars. The Swift Boat campaign was a 527. There's no control, they can say whatever they want. So unless you shut the 527's down, it sort of defeats the whole purpose.

McNally: What about real public financing? The kind of system that's in place in Vermont, Maine, Arizona? I've said since the 2004 election that people may care about the environment or healthcare or anything, but if we focused on getting public financing of elections, then we'd have a chance to pass things for the average Joe you talk about.

McAuliffe: It's really not the campaigns that you're beholden to, because nobody can give more than $2,100. We've really got to raise most of our money through the Internet and small donors. The big distinction is the lobbyists and the lobbied interests.

I wish you'd get rid of all of it, I couldn't agree with you more. We raise all this money to go on television and do these ads which I don't think anyone's paying attention to, now with TiVo and everything else.

McNally: And the money channels right through. You take it from a corporate donor, you pay for a television commercial, you go on television and it's gone.

So you would be for public financing?


McAuliffe: Sure. I have never lobbied. I'm not into that game up there on Capitol Hill, but I know enough of what goes on. These people need to raise money to run their ads and all that. Lobbyists raising a lot of money, it's how the system works. If you can get rid of all that -- I would love a shortened season, the way England does it, I think it's terrific. And give people equal access to television. I would love debates where people actually get to ask questions. I think the debates are the best part of the whole presidential process.

McNally: So you're for free TV, real debates, and shorter campaigns. Of course, this is going to be the longest one yet.

McAuliffe: It's going to be the longest general election, 'cause the primaries will be over on Feb. 5th, unfortunately.

McNally: If Hillary gets elected, would you devote yourself to passing public financing?

McAuliffe: You think these candidates enjoy this? They hate it. I can't get Hillary to make a money call; she hates it. Every candidate hates it. Bill Clinton never would make a call in his life. And when you're in the House and Senate, you've got to go to these fundraisers every night. It stinks.

Is the Deadly Crash of Our Civilization Inevitable?

Humankind is doing more things, faster, across a greater space than ever before, producing changes of a size and speed never seen before.

Thomas Homer-Dixon compares our current situation to driving too fast along a country road in a dense fog. Some ignore the fog and keep their foot pressed on the accelerator, but most of us feel like fairly helpless passengers on this wild ride.

In 1870, the average income in the world's richest country was about nine times greater than that in the world's poorest country. By 1990 it was forty-five times greater.

In 2006, the world's 793 billionaires held combined wealth of $2.6 trillion. (If liquidated in 2006), this wealth could have hired the poorest half of the world's workers -- the 1.4 billion workers who earn a few dollars a day -- for almost two years.

Between 1977 and 1996, the weight of the average American cheeseburger grew over 25 percent, and the volume of the average soft drink grew more than 50 percent. About 40 percent of the world's population now lacks sufficient water for basic sanitation and hygiene, and nearly one out of every five people does not have enough to drink.

Between 2000 and the beginning of 2005, China's daily oil imports soared 140 percent. Saudi Arabia, has pumped a total of 46 billion barrels of oil in the past 17 years, without admitting to any decrease in its stated reserve figure of about 260 billion barrels.

Since 1950, industrialized fishing has reduced the total mass of large fish in the world's oceans by 90 percent. The atmosphere's level of carbon dioxide is the highest in 650,000 years.

Is a deadly crash inevitable?

Thomas Homer-Dixon is director of the Trudeau Centre for the Study of Peace and Conflict at the University of Toronto. He is the author of "The Ingenuity Gap" and his newest book "The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization."

Terrence McNally: What are the biggest questions driving you right now?

Thomas Homer-Dixon: I have a 20-month-old son, and I'm concerned about the future for him. I'm trying to figure out what might happen and how we can make it better.

It's unlikely that the future is going to be a linear extrapolation of the present, but I've pretty well arrived at the conclusion that the diversity and power of the stresses that we're encountering are going to cause some major volatility. I expect social, political, economic and technological crises and breakdowns. It's hard to say what they're going to look like, but the probability of some major problems developing is rising.

So how are we going to respond in times of crisis?

In the book I introduce the metaphor of earthquakes. I talk about tectonic stresses building up under the surface of our societies and of global society. Now this is something that Californians are very familiar with. Everybody in the state knows that there are mighty tectonic plates pressing together along the San Andreas Fault, among others. Potential energy builds up, and at some point it's released in earthquakes that can have devastating consequences.

And I think the same is at least metaphorically true for our world. Stresses are building, and at some point I expect there will be a release of pressure because our institutions and our adaptive capability will be overloaded. We just won't be able to cope.

TMN: You point out that it's not linear, and it isn't any one thing that's going to do it. It's the combination and interaction. In his book Collapse, Jared Diamond puts forth five factors that have led to collapse -- human environmental impacts, climate change, the behavior of your enemies, the behavior of your friends and how you respond. What are the converging stresses you see?

THD: Demographic, energy, environmental change, especially scarcity of water, shortages of cropland and forest in poor countries, climate, and then finally widening gaps between rich and poor people around the world.

You touched on something a moment ago that's very important. The real problem is that they're all happening together. We've learned in recent decades that revolution or societal collapse tends to happen when societies are stressed from multiple directions simultaneously.

Any one of the problems we face could be a major challenge for human society, but we have things going in the wrong direction in five different ways at the same time. Millions around the world are in a situation of severe water scarcity. That's already having major economic impacts, causing poverty and dislocation, and undermining institutions. Add climate change and the problem becomes that much worse. The two things will multiply each other. You could have a really catastrophic problem where, say, the precipitation fails and there's already water scarcity.

TMN: And the energy issue impacts everything -- moving water, moving people.

THD: Or drilling deeper into the ground to pull more water out of the ground. Energy is kind of a master resource. If we have enough cheap, high quality energy, we can cope with a lot of our other problems. But once energy becomes a lot more expensive, then the combination of climate change and water scarcity will be that much harder to deal with.

TMN: I recall Buckminster Fuller made the basic point that truly accurate economic value is related to energy.

THD: In fact there's a whole way of approaching economics that uses thermodynamics. Herman Daly in particular has pioneered this. Energy is a currency that is fundamental and physical, and it gets you away from prices, which are often distractions. The price of something -- a barrel of oil, a bushel of grain -- includes so many other factors that may not have anything to do with underlying abundance or scarcity of these things.

TMN: The economics of a snail, or a pond, or an entire society -- all have to do with the energy that keeps the organism alive.

THD: Physicists would tell you all of those things are far from thermodynamic equilibrium. That basically means they're complex systems, and they require a constant input of high quality energy to maintain that complexity. Human beings have created cities and societies and technologies that are extremely complex. We use those things to solve our problems and to raise our standard of living, but that takes enormous inputs of high quality energy. The energy footprint of Los Angeles, for instance, is hundreds of times larger than the city itself.

The question is ultimately whether we can sustain that indefinitely, especially since we're probably moving to a post-petroleum age. Energy is going to become steadily more expensive, in terms of the amount of energy that it takes to produce energy.

TMN: Peak oil is either already here or perhaps it's a decade away. That may not sound like such a bad thing -- the fact that we've used up half the oil in the ground. Many might say, my God, only half in a hundred years.

THD: We still have half of it left.

TMN: But every single barrel from now on is harder to get. We've gotten the easy half.

THD: Once you've passed peak production in a field or a region, the decline can be quite rapid. The major oil field in Oman and a lot of the fields in Texas are declining at 12 percent a year. The North Sea field that the U.K. depends upon is declining 8 percent a year. That's a very rapid shift from increasing production to decreasing production -- a shift into a world of scarcity. When we pass the peak in global oil production, energy prices will rise dramatically and very quickly.

TMN: Our current way of feeding ourselves in America is unsustainable. Everything on our plates travels an average of 1,300 miles to get there. We've rigged all of our economic systems and our agricultural systems as if energy would never run out.

THD: Here's a statistic that I came across in writing this book that really astonished me. We've quadrupled the human population in the last century, from 1.5 billion to 6.3 billion, in part because we've had a lot of cheap energy. In particular, that cheap energy has allowed us to increase the amount of energy in our food production systems by 80 fold.

TMN: So it takes 80 times more energy to feed four times more people.

THD: Exactly. We've created a food system, a water system, and cities that are fundamentally dependent upon a resource that is not indefinitely available.

TMN: The whole idea of free trade is built on globalized exchange, which depends on long distances.

THD: In his book "The Flat Earth," Thomas Friedman says we're moving to a frictionless global economy where everybody can compete on an equal plane. But that's only the case if we have abundant cheap energy. As energy becomes more expensive, people will start moving production closer to consumers. It won't make sense to have your production facilities in China if you're selling your goods in the United States. You're going to want them at least on the Mexican border.

TMN: It's going take playing the film backwards to save ourselves.

People have heard about the litany of crises in your book, but what's unique I think is the stance you're willing to take about what's going to happen. Jared Diamond says that there are two main factors that define whether societies succeed or collapse. Societies that survive practice long-term thinking and are willing and flexible enough to change their values when they no longer serve them.

What do you feel will save us from ourselves? What is The Upside of Down?


THD: I agree with Jared on both those factors. At the end of my book I spend a fair amount of time talking about the importance of value change. We need to move away from what I call strictly utilitarian values which focus on simple likes and dislikes that emphasize consumption of material goods, towards moral values, and even what I would call existential values. These relate to what we consider to be the good life, what brings meaning into our lives, what kind of world do we really want for our children and our children's children. These are fundamentally values conversations.

My difference with Diamond is that I don't think we're going to really begin those conversations in a proper way until we face some crises or breakdowns. In other words, my impression of his argument is that collapse is something we have to avoid, in all cases and in all forms. On the other hand, I believe there is a spectrum of forms of collapse. At one end is the ideal, optimistic future where we solve all our problems and we live happily every after. At the other end is catastrophic collapse. We have tended not to fill in all the spaces in between, but that's actually where things might be very interesting. There may be some forms of disruption and crisis that will actually stimulate us to be really creative. Most importantly, they may allow us to get the deep vested interests that are blocking change out of the way.

TMN: And that will be part of what allows us to finally have that values conversation?

THD: Exactly.

TMN: It seems that we're more willing to admit that when we talk about individuals. The 12-step notion, for instance, that people don't change till their backs are against the wall, till they hit bottom. We're usually not willing to say that about society because it's too frightening.

THD: I introduce it very much in personal terms, exactly the kinds of things that you mentioned. Many of us have had times in our lives where crises have challenged us in the most fundamental ways. We've had in some sense a breakdown of the basic systems that we rely upon to manage our lives. And we've had to rebuild, we've had to think very carefully about what we're doing, re-examine our values, break patterns. And often we've ended up much better off afterwards.

When you look at research that's come out over the last 15 to 20 years, the most complex adaptive systems in the world all go through patterns of growth and increasing complexity till eventually they become rigid and break down. Then they reorganize themselves, regenerate and regrow. All highly adaptive systems have breakdown in them at some point or other.

The key thing though -- and this is where I think that Jared Diamond's argument just doesn't give us the purchase that we need -- is that we have to keep the breakdown from being catastrophic. There has to be enough resilience in the system, enough information, enough adaptive capacity that things can be regenerated. With catastrophic breakdown, recovery is often impossible.

TMN: So you're saying, let's be realistic and not afraid to talk about breakdown. If an intervention is needed -- if things are that bad or about to become that bad -- we've got to be able to deal with it and not be disempowered.

THD: We need to start thinking now about what we're going to do in those occasions.

There will be times of frustration and fear and anger on the part of many people when fundamental verities and patterns of life are suddenly challenged. They'll be scared. And in those moments, extremists can take advantage of the situation and push our societies in directions that are very bad. Those of us who are nonextremists need to be prepared to push in other directions and create something that's good.

TMN: I recently interviewed Niall Ferguson about his book "War of the World." He quotes Franklin Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler as both come to power in the midst of the Depression. They sound remarkably alike, and yet one of them took things one way and one of them another.

THD: In fact that's exactly the example I use in my book. The great depression was a breakdown that challenged the fundamentals of the capitalist system. In fact, in the 1930s a lot of Americans thought that capitalism was a failed system. FDR used the opportunity created by that catastrophe to rebuild the fundamentals of American capitalism, to introduce a lot of Keynesian policies that laid the groundwork for American economic power for the next five decades. On the other hand, that crisis was used by Hitler to generate one of history's most horrific regimes.

TMN: Another lesson of history -- In his book Plan B 2.0, Lester Brown says that we should take hope from the fact that we turned our economy and our productive capacity around on a dime to fight and win World War II.

THD: And that turning on a dime occurred in the midst of a crisis. My suggestion is that we're not going to see fundamental shifts until we confront a major crisis. Whether we're able to exploit such crises effectively will largely depend upon whether we've planned well in advance, whether we've thought through how we're going to mobilize at those critical moments.

TMN: What is the role of religion in this?

THD: Our religious institutions are supposedly the places where we think about these larger values issues. But when we go in the door of our church or our mosque or our synagogue, we're given a creed, we're told what to think. We're not given a space in which to have a conversation about these things. So one of the issues that I discuss at the end of the book is how can we create what I would call an "open source democracy," an environment in which we can have some of those really deep discussions about values that we can't within our current religious institutions.

TMN: You're saying that we're in bad shape, and things are probably going to break down -- though not necessarily collapse, and it's that breakdown that's going to finally give us the impetus to change. But you're also saying that we're going to have to adapt our values institutions -- our politics and religion -- in order to successfully prepare for that moment.

THD: Whether we effectively take advantage of what I call "moments of contingency" will largely depend on whether we know where we're going. And we won't know where we're going unless we've had those values conversations ahead of time. Those conversations have to start now.

Globalization Has Increased the Wealth Gap

Globalization was meant to be the great equalizer. Goods would flow easily across borders. Standards of living in poor countries would be raised. Governments would become more stable. Instead it has brought citizen protests, greater economic disparities between first- and third-world nations, and a complex trade regime that may well benefit only the richest in richest countries. What went wrong?

In his new book, "Making Globalization Work," Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz argues that the special interests of governments, corporations, and international organizations like the IMF and the World Bank have thrown globalization off its proper path. But he doesn't stop there. He offers a practical vision for making globalization the equalizing force he believes it was always meant to be.

Joseph Stiglitz, University Professor at Columbia University, was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton administration and later chief economist and senior vice president of the World Bank. His book, "Globalization and Its Discontents," was translated into 35 languages and has sold more than 1 million copies worldwide.

Why did you become an economist?

JS: Like one of the first Nobel-prize winners and one of the greatest economists of the 20th century, Paul Samuelson, I grew up in Gary, Indiana. When you grow up seeing the problems of the economy -- problems of poverty, discrimination, unemployment -- it's hard not to want to do something about them.

But why did you decide that an economist was someone who could do that?

JS: Well, maybe that was optimistic ... but it was always my hope that if I could understand the nature of the problems, maybe I could make them better.

In layperson's terms, what were you awarded the Nobel for?

JS: For 200 years or more, economists have constructed models to analyze the economy, under the assumption that there was perfect information. Not that they really believed there was perfect information, but they didn't know how to analyze markets where information was imperfect, at least not with the precision of the mathematical models that were fashionable.

I figured out how to do this in a rigorous way, focusing particularly on the problem of "asymmetric information." That just means when one person knows something that others don't, which, of course, is the way everything is in the real world. The startling result was that a world with imperfect or asymmetric information was very, very different from a world of perfect information.

Anyone who's bought a used car, anyone who's bought a house, probably anyone who's bought a salami, knows that people have differing amounts of information, and more or less accurate information. The fact that such an unrealistic assumption was embedded in economics for hundreds of years is a very strange thing.

JS: I thought so too. And it had some very strange implications. For instance, it implied that there was no such thing as unemployment. Now, remember, I had entered the field of economics because I wanted to understand unemployment. Yet the standard models I was taught as a graduate student implied that the problem I was interested in didn't exist.

How did you end up becoming interested and identified with the problems of globalization?

JS: I was always interested in the problems of developing countries, the poorest of the poor. Just out of graduate school, I was asked by the Rockefeller Foundation to go to newly independent Kenya and help them think about their economic policies. That experience gave me an enormous number of ideas that have influenced my thinking for the rest of my life.

Later, the major turning point came in 1996, when, after winning a second term, President Clinton asked me to stay on as a member of his cabinet and his economic adviser. At the same time I was approached by the World Bank to become its chief economist. I thought long and hard about it. At that point America was doing very well, and I finally decided that the real economic challenges of the world were in the very poor countries. Moving to the World Bank brought me into the center of an entirely new set of problems.

That led to your book, "Globalization and Its Discontents". Although you've written a book on fair trade in the interim, this new book is really the next big development, isn't it?

JS: That's right. My earlier book focused very particularly on the two major international institutions, the IMF and the World Bank. They help govern the international financial institutions and help direct how development occurs. In the United States we don't typically pay much attention to these institutions. But if you lived in a developing country, you would understand the power they have over your government to dictate economic policies, and how often the policies that they dictate are misguided.

That first book was directed at the discontent that these institutions had generated. My new book broadens the issue to take in a much wider set of problems. "Making Globalization Work" begins by saying that globalization isn't working in some very important ways. It tries to diagnose what went wrong and, on the basis of the diagnosis, to figure out how we can make it work better.

You write, "This book is as much about how politics has been used to shape the economic system as it is about economics itself. Economists believe incentives matter. There are strong incentives -- and enormous opportunities -- to shape political processes and the economic system in ways that generate profits for some at the expense of the many." Not news to a lot of us, but can you say a few words about that?

JS: One of the themes of the book is that economic globalization has outpaced political globalization. Because we are more interdependent, there's a greater need to take collective action and work together. But our political institutions and our mindsets have not really kept pace. We do have certain international political institutions, but they are very removed from democratic processes.

The World Trade Organization and the like --?

JS: Exactly. There's been a heavy engagement in these institutions by the multinational corporations who know how to shape the policies in ways that benefit themselves.

The WTO was basically created by them, wasn't it?

JS: Not really. The idea that you would have a rule of law in international trade is a very old idea, and actually ...

-- not the notion perhaps, but it's always seemed to me that the system of secret tribunals, for instance, in which a corporation is basically able to take a government to court, was set up to serve the multinationals.

JS: Very much so. But I want to point out that this is not inherent in globalization. The idea that a rule of law would govern international trade relations is a very important idea that many idealists thought was good. Back in the '20s one of the factors that contributed to the Great Recession was a series of trade wars, and one of the ideas behind the establishment of the WTO was to try to prevent that from ever happening again.

But you're exactly right; the agenda got seized. In the book I talk about how in the last round, patents and intellectual property rights got shoved into the WTO. The result was that access to generic medicines was reduced, forcing poor countries to pay very high prices that they cannot afford. That agreement, signed in Marrakesh in 1994, was in effect a death warrant for thousands and thousands of people in sub-Saharan Africa.

And as folks like Vandana Shiva point out, it has led to "bio-piracy," the patenting by corporations of things which were native to certain cultures for millennia.

JS: One of the most amusing ones I talk about is the patent on basmati rice, or on the medicinal use of turmeric. In the latter case it was actually an Indian doctor working in America that took out the patent. These are examples of what I call an unbalanced intellectual property regime. Interestingly, I was on the Council of Economic Advisers at the time, and in the office of science and technology policy, we thought these intellectual property provisions were not good for even the United States. They weren't good for science in America or for global science, and we opposed them. But in the end the drug companies and the entertainment industry prevailed.

Tell me if I'm wrong, but since 1999, very little has actually been agreed to ... ?

JS: The problem is, as you suggested, that Europe and the United States have both reneged on the commitment that they made in Dohar, November 2001, to remedy the problems of the past. There's been some progress on the particular issue of access to drugs. But that progress has been undone by the United States in a large number of bilateral trade agreements. These are not done at the WTO but country by country.

If a multinational's agreements within the WTO don't play out as planned, then they switch to bilateral ones, right?

JS: Exactly, and there the imbalance of power is even greater than in the multilateral context. So the United States is making agreements with small countries like Qatar or Chile. The good news is that none of them have involved a significant fraction of global trade. But for the people of these particular countries, these agreements have potentially been a disaster.

I was having dinner the other night with one of the main trade negotiators of the Morocco agreement. He was opposed to it, and pointed out it was hardly a negotiation. The United States made demands, which Morocco had to either accept or reject. Morocco was hopeful that signing it would at least lead to a burst of new growth, but it hasn't. All it did was reduce access to AIDS medicines.

Changing subjects, what is your take on the potential economic crisis facing the United States at this time -- the enormous amount of debt we carry as households and as a nation, our trade and budget deficits, the extent to which we're in hock to China and a few other countries? Some of your peers, Paul Krugman among them, are alarmed, but it seems under the radar to most Americans. How serious do you think this is, and if you have to guess, how do you think it's going to play out?

JS: I'm very strongly in agreement with Paul Krugman's analysis. I think we are in a precarious position. We might be lucky and wander our way through this mess. There is a significant probability, however, that global interest rates could rise. If that happened, households with a large amount of debt would find it very difficult to meet their mortgage payments, and home prices would go down, which would lead to a reduction in consumption. Last year Americans consumed more than their income, something that is obviously not sustainable. The only way they could get away with it was by taking out money from their houses. But if home prices go down, they won't be able to do that any more. So there is a significant risk of a large economic slowdown. And government, by piling on so much debt and having such a large deficit, does not have much room to maneuver.

In terms of housing, an awful lot of people bought or refinanced with innovative mortgages over the last few years. Some of their five-year balloon payments or rate changes are going to happen in 2007.

JS: That's what I'm worrying about too. When it comes to refinance, if interest rates are high, they're going to be in a difficult squeeze. They could almost pray for a global slowdown to keep interest rates low, but that's not good for the American economy either.

Though some numbers say the economy is healthy, growth has not been shared, and it has been propped up by the housing and mortgage market. I saw a study the other day that said, housing, pharmaceuticals and healthcare are the only things that have been growing.

JS: I would emphasize that the growth is not widely shared. The income of the median American household -- half the people are richer, half are poorer -- is lower today than it was five years ago. More broadly, for 30 years people at the bottom have seen their real wages not only stagnate but actually fall. Part of that has to do with globalization, but only part of it.

Let's return to globalization. What are some of the key issues for which you prescribe solutions?

JS: On the issue of health, access to medicines and intellectual property, one of the proposals we put forward here is a medical price fund. Right now the developing countries have to pay high prices and get essentially nothing for it. The drug companies spend more on advertising and marketing than they do on research. More on research for lifestyle drugs than lifesaving drugs, and almost nothing on lifesaving drugs for malaria and other diseases of tropical countries.

When your primary objective is shareholder value and short-term profit, these decisions make sense.

JS: Exactly, but if your concern were the diseases that are causing enormous losses of life and productivity, that's not necessarily where you'd direct your research.

How would you solve that?

JS: By offering a prize for innovations that lead to vaccines or cures for diseases that affect lots of people in very serious ways.

In other words, an incentive beyond the profit motive?

JS: We wind up paying the drug companies one way or another. We pay through Medicare or Medicaid, but under the current monopoly system, the drugs are only made available at very high prices. Under this alternative system, first you provide the incentives to do the research. Then you use market competition to make these things as available as possible at as low a price as possible.

You're not only saying globalization is not the problem, but also that market forces are not the problem. It's really comes down to their wise use.

JS: Exactly. The primary lesson of economics is that incentives are important. Markets don't always provide the right incentives, so in those cases you have to reshape them.

It also sounds like it's about timing -- an incentive that rewards controlling the drug for its lifetime versus meaningful incentives that reward discovery and licensing.

JS: Exactly, it makes a lot more sense to have the incentive linked to the discovery rather than to driving up the price and spending all this money on marketing.

Finally, how would you deal with the enormous power of multinational corporations?

JS: Corporations have brought forth many of the benefits of globalization, and I should make clear that there have been benefits. Some of the countries of the world, China and India, for example, have been growing very rapidly. China's been growing at 9.7 percent for 30 years, India for over 5 percent for a quarter of a century. Millions of people have moved out of poverty as a result.

Corporations have been an important vehicle for the transfer of technology and access to global markets that have improved the lives of people in these countries. The corporations also are a source of a lot of the problems. When they take natural resources out of countries, they often leave environmental devastation behind. They're often associated with bribing governments and contributing to corruption.

Here again, one of the simple ideas is to try to make incentives work better. Right now the only incentive for corporations is the bottom line, and that means if bribing a government official will get the natural resource at a lower price, that's what they're going to do.

I could argue that political forces also have to have the right incentives. There needs to be more understanding of these issues and more citizen engagement, in order to put pressure on our government officials to do the right thing. Because it will take government action to alter the incentives structures corporations face.

And I can't imagine that happening until we change how we finance political campaigns.

JS: Once again it comes down to incentives.

Frank Rich Reviews the Bush Follies

In his new book, The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina, Frank Rich writes, "... whatever else 9/11 was, we can see now that it was the beginning of a new national narrative -- a compelling and often persuasive story that was told by the president of the United States and his administration to mobilize a shell-shocked country desperate to be led."

According to Rich, the administration's highest priority was not to eliminate Al Qaeda, but to consolidate its own power, and this aim called for a propaganda presidency in which reality was consistently replaced by "truthiness."

Rich, who became a New York Times op-ed columnist in 1994 after serving for 13 years as the newspaper's chief drama critic, talked to Terrence McNally.

Terrence McNally: Paul Krugman, fellow New York Times op-ed writer, joined the Times as a mild mannered Princeton economist. In fact, he'd been attacked by the left for being a cheerleader for globalization. Then, on the job, he morphed into a fiery critic of the Bush administration. Now here you are, for years an entertainment writer ...

Frank Rich: There's something about the Bush administration that brings out the best or worst in everyone I guess.

McNally: Tell us a bit about that evolution.

Rich: I've had a very strange career. I grew up in Washington, D.C., in a family that was not involved with politics, which is sort of like growing up in Beverly Hills in a family that's got nothing to do with show business. I was always captivated by politics, but I was also stage-struck as a kid and interested in theater and culture. I've always written about both, though I did have a long period when I was a drama critic at the Times. But even then I was writing a bit about politics and culture for the New Republic and Esquire and elsewhere.

I think that in the case of Paul, he's a numbers guy who really understands economics, and he was appalled -- and rightly so -- in the earliest days of the Bush administration when he saw their fuzzy math. The numbers just didn't add up, and I think it offended his professionalism as an economist. I don't think there was anything particularly ideological about it.

In my case, it wasn't the numbers that caught my eye, but the stagecraft. Why are they always putting on a show? Why does everything have a backdrop with Orwellian words telling you what to think? What are they hiding? What is this "Wizard of Oz"-like theater they've set up?

After all the time I spent thinking about the theater, including Washington theater, if I know nothing else, I know empty spectacle when I see it. Not to make light of something that's been tragic for many Americans and the world, but their whole spectacle is like a big empty Andrew Lloyd Webber contraption -- chandeliers rising and falling, people landing in planes on aircraft carriers and celebrating victory -- and it's empty inside.

McNally: I imagine you've wished you could have the same power as a critic of the administration that you were said to have as a critic of Broadway --

Rich: Unfortunately this is not a show that could be closed out of town. It's had quite a run.

McNally: Why did you write this book? Is it because you began to see that the primary narrative of this administration was the fact that they were putting out a "story"?

Rich: That's exactly right. I started talking about this book with my editor at Penguin a year and a half ago, maybe even longer. Because of my strong belief in wanting to tell this as a narrative as opposed to just throwing together collected columns, I felt it had to have a third act curtain. I'm such a creature of the theater and of narrative, that I felt I couldn't sit down and start writing this book unless I knew, in at least some figurative sense, when it was ending.

One place to look for an ending was in the 2004 election. I made an informal agreement with my editor that if Kerry won, well that's the end of the story, but, as we know, that did not happen.

I finally decided to write the book when I realized that Katrina was the third act curtain. That disaster and the Bush administration's response to it stripped bare everything that had been true about the administration all along. All in one place, happening 24/7, in real time, on television with all the network anchors watching: the use of spin, the claiming of triumphs and successes that hadn't happened, the slowness to react to a city under siege, looting -- just as in Baghdad after the invasion of Iraq -- everything playing out in fast motion.

I rolled the dice and said, this is the end of my book, he can't come back from it. That's when I started to write.

McNally: You felt Katrina, tragic as it was, might be the end of this story. You also wrote an article in which you said -- I'm going to misquote you -- "The Iraq war is over, someone tell the president." Is that close?

Rich: Yes, I actually wrote that quite some time ago.

McNally: Is it possible that events are going to make you as wrong as the administration was when they claimed "Mission Accomplished?"

Rich: I'm not declaring something quite as definitive as they did. There are many things that can scramble the situation in Iraq and at home, events that have nothing to do with politicians, such as, God forbid, another domestic terrorism attack -- but I have felt for some time that with the Iraq war, all we're talking about is the negotiation of how we draw down.

Sadly, the war is going to go on for a very long time, but American engagement at this level is -- as the vice president said of the insurgency over a year ago -- in its last throes. There's almost uniform agreement everywhere, except in the White House, that we have to start figuring out the terms under which we're going to turn this over to the Iraqis. We're not going to get out all at once, and no one really is advocating that in either political party in Washington.

Now we have conservative Republicans, including columnists like George Will saying it's untenable, or Max Boot, a conservative writer for the Los Angeles Times, likening the war to Vietnam and saying either we've got to throw in a bunch more troops or cut back to 50,000. I don't think we have the "more troops" to put in there, so we're just really talking about the terms of what is going to be some kind of slow fade.

McNally: So you meant not the actual end, but the tipping point?

Rich: The tipping point to American involvement. And when I said, "Tell it to the president," no kidding, because this is a guy who keeps saying, "We planned for victory, we will stay the course" -- and there's no plan. Other people are going to make the plan for him and, depending on what happens in the election this November, those plans may proceed quite quickly ... If one of the houses changes hands, and this guy is a lame duck ...

McNally: I agree. If even one house shifts, the conversation will shift. Suddenly the media may not feel the need to kiss up as much in exchange for access.

Rich: I think we've already seen that shift. One point I make in my book is that for the longest time, you had to watch Jon Stewart to see the administration get caught in a lie. Dick Cheney would go on a network talk show and say, "I never said that there was a pretty well confirmed connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein," and Jon Stewart would show you the "Meet the Press" clip where he said it.

Starting with Katrina, the media had to get with the program of actually being news people again. Whether it be the infamous Michael Brown, or, for that matter, Michael Chertoff saying, "What's going on in the Superdome, we've heard nothing about that," while you can see in split screen exactly what's going on. They've finally brought on themselves a media that's not as compliant as it was in the months and even years after 9/11.

McNally: In reading your detailed description of the almost daily development and execution of their propaganda, I found myself remembering events that had shocked or infuriated me when they happened, but that I'd almost forgotten since. For instance, Enron or Abramoff, which at the time seemed so huge and so tied to them. Somehow I feel so much gets swamped by our ridiculous focus on Iraq.

Rich: I was trying to write a very lean, almost screenplay-like narrative of the past four or five years, told almost entirely through their PR stunts and presentations.

I tell you how they presented something, and then show you what was behind the curtain that renders it false. For instance, the first half of the book ends with the official war in Iraq, the 43 days between the day we invaded Iraq and the day that Bush went on the aircraft carrier outside of San Diego and said the major combat operations had ended -- "Mission Accomplished."

I realized that this war -- despite the fact that there were reporters embedded and we were getting all this coverage -- was essentially a series of discrete shows put on for the American public. Many were fairly meaningless in terms of the actual war, but all served the purpose of keeping casualties -- our own and Iraqi civilians -- off screen.

If you look back on it, what happened in those 43 days?

First we had shock and awe, this strange beginning, which was very telegenic and which people were riveted to on television. As someone later said, we were watching munitions and bombs going off in a city of six million people, yet we had no sense of what they were hitting or if anyone was being killed. It was just like watching a Lumiere display.

Then we started to take some casualties, there was a little bit of nay saying about the conduct of the invasion, and suddenly we had this drama about the rescue of Jessica Lynch, which we would later find out was at variance with the facts as Jessica Lynch herself knew them -- though she was out of it at the time.

McNally: -- which meant she was perfectly cast. She couldn't contradict the story.

Rich: Exactly. They manufactured this Rambo-like scenario and a dramatic rescue. Now she was a brave young woman who suffered a grievous injury and was captured, but the sort of Audie Murphy drama created by the Pentagon had nothing to do with reality.

Next came the toppling of the Saddam Hussein statue, one of many such statues in Baghdad. As some people pointed out at the time, it was a contrived event done with the help of the Americans. Television commentators, following the lead of Rumsfeld and others, kept referring to it as a moment in history tantamount to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, but the Berliners tore down their wall, the Americans didn't. This was a completely different and somewhat staged event.

Then finally we get to "Mission Accomplished," like a big MGM musical first act finale, celebrating the end of combat operations. But sadly, as we well know, they weren't ending.

So that's sort of the pattern of the whole book: I've looked at everything as they presented it, and then tried to puncture the balloons and, where appropriate, show what was actually inside.

McNally: In fact, quite a long section of the book offers a timeline.

Rich: During the early days of the Valerie Plame/Joseph Wilson leak case, I began to notice reporting about the evidence of WMD's that had been presented to the public in the run up to the war -- through the press, including somewhat notoriously through the New York Times. We started to learn for the first time that there was a discrepancy between what they had been saying and what they actually knew, and when they knew it.

As an aid to myself, almost like Cliff's notes, I started keeping a calendar. I'd just say, "They said on x-date, January 2003, that Saddam had uranium from Africa ..." Then I would find out that Joe Wilson or someone else had reported earlier that it wasn't true. I started noting these discrepancies, and it became almost like a game. That appendix is up to 80 pages now.

It's rather eye opening -- two columns side by side: their own words on one side, on the other published information through which we later learned that they were telling us things they knew to be false.

McNally: Can you speak just a bit about the role of the New York Times and Judith Miller in pushing the administration's story?

Rich: I talk about Judy Miller in the book. Essentially, for whatever reasons, Judy ran articles that the Times published in the run-up to the war that were overly credulous about WMD claims. Intentionally or not, these often backed up the scenario the administration was cooking up to take us into war against the "grave threat" presented by Saddam Hussein.

McNally: One could almost construct another visual aid -- two columns side by side, the administration's talking points and Judith Miller's articles.

Rich: Indeed. In the timeline I have some excerpts from Miller's activities when they relate to the main narrative. She was not alone in doing this, however. Many others did too.

There were also good reporters at the New York Times, the Washington Post and elsewhere, particularly at the Knight-Ridder chain, that did have accurate stories, questioning the administration line. But those stories were often buried. It was a huge failure of the media in which, of course, the Times was complicit.

This is, however, a separate issue from her involvement with the Plame case, which is much more complicated. I'm not so sure that she did anything wrong in that regard, and, in fact, she went to jail for a worthy principle.

McNally: You've put this book out a couple of months ahead of the November elections. It reminds people, "In case you've gotten foggy about it, here's just how much they were lying, here's just how much they were manipulating you." Are you hopeful at this moment that voters will hold them accountable?

You said at the top that you feel they can't get their credibility back. For me, watching Bush, Rove, and the GOP is almost like watching Jason or Chucky from the slasher movies. They keep coming back no matter what you do to them. I call them "electoral savants," phenomenally good at demonizing their enemies and winning elections, but with no inclination or competence for governing. Up until November 8th I will be afraid that they're going to pull this off again.


Rich: Look, anything can happen. It's foolhardy to predict an election like this, which is, after all, hundreds of individual local elections, where most people are not voting with some big national picture in mind. I don't know what's going to happen. I guess anything's possible, That said, 60 percent of the country is against the war the government's fighting in Iraq, and 70 percent feels that the country is on the wrong track.

McNally: That's an amazing number.

Rich: People are discontented for a lot of reasons. Iraq is very high on the list, but so are certain economic issues, particularly the inequality of gain for the middle class, in terms of tax cuts and everything else. I think these things eventually do have consequences.

I believe that the Bush propaganda machine -- and this as a big point in my book -- has been enabled by two things. One is the media environment, whether it be the credulousness of newspapers like the Times in the run up to the war, the obsequiousness on the part of a lot of television news, which is still the main way that most Americans get their news, or the press's self-inflicted errors, like ours, like CBS's. All of that has helped them.

But so has a not very interesting or brave Democratic party with a rather lousy bunch of leaders, including potential presidents. One reason I feel the tide is changing -- I felt this even before the 2004 election and before I started to write this book -- is that Kerry was an incredibly ineffectual candidate. He was clumsy, and his views about the war were incoherent. Even so, he lost by only three and a half million votes against a war president. I think that if the Democratic party had had its act together, they could have probably done better than they did in 2000, when, as we know, they won the popular vote.

It didn't happen largely because you can't fight something with nothing. The Democrats have to start fighting something with something. That doesn't mean doctrinaire positions, but it means leadership and sticking their necks out there and taking stands, and I think we're finally beginning to see some of that.

The Struggle Between Mothers and Daughters

Daughters, do you feel that your mother is always criticizing you? Mothers, do you feel that your daughter shuts you out? Do you habitually bicker with each other, yet long for approval and understanding? In her newest book, "You're Wearing That? Understanding Mothers and Daughters In Conversation," linguist Deborah Tannen untangles the knots that daughters and mothers tend to get tied up in.

Tannen's bestseller, "You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation," brought gender difference in communication style to public awareness. A later book, "The Argument Culture: Stopping America's War on Words," explored why America seems to make everything a battle, a debate, or a war -- and what that costs us as a society.

TERRENCE MCNALLY: In the new book, "You're Wearing That?" you mention that you would often ask yourself, "Would my mother understand this? Read this? Appreciate this?"

DEBORAH TANNEN: My father would read my academic articles. My mother would be impressed, maybe, but she wouldn't read that kind of thing. So I wanted to write things she could read and talk in a way that people like her would be interested in hearing.

MCNALLY: "You're Wearing That?" grew out of a previous book, didn't it?

TANNEN: My previous book, "I Only Say This Because I Love You," was about adult family relationships. The reactions I got -- in frequency, but also in passion -- disproportionately focused on the mother/daughter relationship. In fact, many people told me they heard the title in their mother's voice.

It kind of captures one of the central conundrums of that relationship. Mothers see their job as being helpful, taking care of us, being protective, but anything you do in that vein always implies criticism. If you weren't doing something wrong, you wouldn't need that advice, help or protection.

MCNALLY: Women tend to communicate about personal things more than men. A father may feel that his role is to protect and to care for, but he's unlikely to do it as much in conversation. With a mother and a daughter, "You're wearing that?" can almost never be heard as a neutral question, can it?

TANNEN: I talk about the big three -- hair, clothes and weight. "You're wearing that?" could stand for any comment about appearance. And it's daughters turning that same critical eye on their mothers. Women are judged by appearance, and mothers and daughters feel that the other represents us to the world. Mothers, in particular, do get blamed if their daughters appear unacceptable in some way.

MCNALLY: But it's not just about the Big Three. The same phenomenon occurs with life choices, career choices, relationship choices. Often these two adults are speaking out of their first relationship as a child and a parent, aren't they?

TANNEN: It's about much bigger things -- how you raise your children becomes very loaded. Your choice of partners, lifestyle, all those things. Also tiny things. I cite one conversation where a daughter was making a salad and her mother said, "You're gonna quarter those tomatoes?"

The daughter answered, "Something wrong with that?"

Mom: "Oh no, no, no. It's just that, personally, I'd slice them."

And the daughter's thinking, "Can't I do anything without my mother telling me to do it another way?"

We think we're having a perfectly lovely conversation and then, suddenly, somebody says something and feelings are hurt. When your feelings are hurt, you react and then the other person's feelings are hurt. Each one thinks the other introduced the note of contention into the conversation. No matter now old we are, we want to feel that our mothers think we're great, maybe even perfect -- even though nobody's perfect.

And daughters are the only ones who can give their mothers the final stamp of approval that she was a good mother, which all mothers worry about.

MCNALLY: Your own mother died during the writing of this book. You write that you spent more and more time with her as she grew weaker. How did that experience influence the process of writing the book, if not the content?

TANNEN: I actually did the major writing after she'd died, when I think my emotions were much closer to the surface. The importance of that relationship was so present and real to me. I think it enhanced the book.

I would almost say I was at war with my mother, except I don't want to use a war metaphor. We struggled when I was younger. I put quite a few examples in the book where she talked in ways that I was critical of.

But when I put an example in a book, I always have to show both speakers' points of view. It forced me to look at conversations as my mother might have looked at them. It helped me understand her motives and took away some of the resentment and anger that I'd felt at the time.

MCNALLY: You say that the experience of caring for your mother toward the end transformed your relationship. My guess is that the writing of the book transformed your understanding of the relationship.

TANNEN: That's a good way to put it. As our mothers age, and we do a lot of physical caretaking, many of us come to look at our mothers in a new way. Taking care of another person in that basic way fills you with a kind of love that I don't think you feel in other context. I think it's quite a bit like what mothers feel taking care of young children.

Writing the book "You Just Don't Understand," I noticed that women and men often walk away from a conversation having focused on different elements. Whenever we talk to each other, we're negotiating how close or distant we want to be, as well as who has more power.

Women seem to focus more on the constant question, "Are we close or are we distant?" When I talk to women about their mothers and daughters, almost in the first sentence, every single one tells me, "We're close," or "We're not close," or "I want to be closer than I am, or closer than I was to my own mother."

I think that physical closeness is one of the things that makes the relationship so rewarding. We have to keep in mind these are the best conversations, as well as the worst.

MCNALLY: I want to turn to an earlier book. Most of your work is about one-to-one communication, but "The Argument Culture" looks at the whole of society. You wrote:

"The argument culture rests on the assumption that opposition is the best way to get anything done. The best way to discuss an idea is to set up a debate. The best way to cover news is to find people who express the most extreme views and present them as both sides. The best way to begin an essay -- you point out how this is perpetuated in academia -- is to attack someone or someone's idea. The best way to show you're really thoughtful is to criticize. The best way to settle disputes is to litigate them."

What has come to you over the years about this?

TANNEN: I had delusions of grandeur that things would actually change because I wrote that book. It got quite a bit of attention from journalists, not all of whom were happy with what I call "agonism," using a war-like approach. They don't really see a way out.

It seems so self-evident at first blush to Americans: "Oh, of course, let's debate. That's the best way to learn something." But it's not the best way to bring out nuances or complexities. Often people who don't have extreme views feel left out of the conversation.

The audience on cable for shows like "Cross Talk" is actually pretty small -- political junkies. But the majority of people quickly get turned off because of all the yelling, and because the information is so confusing.

Global warming is a perfect example because producers think that they must always have two sides. Even print journalists feel you should always present the other side. Right after they tell you about the scientists who believe global warming is a significant problem, they quote others who say it's not. You don't see that the dissenters are a tiny minority, often funded by the fossil fuel industry. Too often people end up thinking, "Who knows what the truth is?"

MCNALLY: It works in other ways too. In the lead-up to the Iraq war, too few Democrats were willing to take a strong opposition position because they were afraid of how that might be perceived. So journalists only reported the pro-war side.

TANNEN: I think you're right about that, but sometimes the Democrats say something that doesn't get reported because it's not punched up. It's thoughtful, or nuanced, or complex. Politicians catch on quickly that if they want to get on the evening news, they'd better insult somebody.

MCNALLY: You also point out that extreme positions are less likely to lead to solutions or to learning. When I moderate panels, I say to the panelists, "I don't want you to just repeat what you already know. I want everyone -- even the panel -- to learn something new today."

TANNEN: When you have a debate format, you can't acknowledge when your opponent comes up with a good idea. You can't bring forth any ideas that might support the other view rather than your own. So all kinds of information gets suppressed. The goal is to win the argument.

We see this in classrooms too. If you ask, "What do you see wrong with the article you read?" you'll get certain kinds of information. But other kinds of information may not come out, like how this relates to other things we've read, or what we should know about the background of this approach. There are so many nuances, so many ways of integrating ideas other than fighting over them.

MCNALLY: I've noticed folks in the Bush administration often use the technique of the "straw man" in order to have an argument even when the other side isn't even there.

To defend illegal wiretapping, Bush will say, "There are some who believe that we shouldn't investigate terrorist organizations." Or about Iraq, "There are those who believe we should just get out tomorrow." These people, who aren't named and don't necessarily even exist, basically embody the argument 180 degrees from his position. He pretends that the only choice is between those two extremes.

TANNEN: Worthless information can get out there, masquerading as the other side of a debate. Holocaust deniers have had more success in the United States than anywhere else because they masquerade as the other side.

Deborah Lipstat wrote a book about deniers, and TV producers wanted to invite the deniers to debate her. Of course, this would give them a national forum that they shouldn't have because there's nothing to debate.

MCNALLY: You quote John Dewey, "Democracy begins in conversation."

In this debate format, most people find themselves going to one side or the other. Yet it's likely that any solution that's going to work in Iraq, or with Social Security or health care or global warming, is going to be some better-fashioned new idea that is neither A nor B.

TANNEN: Another part of the problem is the 24-hour news cycle. Nobody really has enough time to put together the shows or write the articles. They're all running to stay in place. It's very easy to put on a show by getting two people to fight with each other. There's a fear that you might lose the audience if you don't keep it at that level.

MCNALLY: The journalist or the producer has to do very little research.

TANNEN: It's easy and you don't have to think too much. Cross-cultural contrasts are often interesting. I had a student who studied talk shows in Japan, and she found that it was quite unusual for a show to have two experts. They would have one or they would have more than two. In fact, one that she studied had 13.

Can you imagine that in the United States? Having two makes it tempting, first of all, to put the extreme views in those two slots, and also for the two to stake out opposing positions. Of course, that's a war metaphor -- staking out positions.

The Mommy Wage Gap

There's a lot of talk about family values in this country. Yet in most states women with children can be denied jobs or given less pay, just because they are mothers. The wage gap between mothers and non-mothers is now greater than the wage gap between women and men. In their new book, The Motherhood Manifesto: What America's Moms Want and What to Do About It (Nation Books), Moveon.org co-founder Joan Blades and consultant and author Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner ask: Isn't it about time that we actually started supporting families and mothers?

Terrence McNally Joan, briefly how did you get to this book?

Joan Blades: I only became aware of the huge bias against mothers in the workplace a couple of years ago. I went, "Wait a minute, what's that about? You mean to say mothers are half as likely to be offered a job as non-mothers -- and they get paid less for doing the same work?" All of a sudden I could see why there are so many women and children in poverty, and why there are so few women in the halls of power, be it corporate or legislative.

TM Kristin, what led you to team up with Joan on this project?

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner I'm a mom of two kids, a 9-year-old and a 7-year-old, and I've been juggling work and family for years. I've spent time as a stay-at-home mom, time doing contract work and time as a journalist. These issues are near and dear to my heart.

The book "The Motherhood Manifesto" and the organization momsrising.org came about because Joan and I saw problems shared by so many women in this country not being addressed. We both want to bring these issues into the daylight, so we can talk about them and work on solutions.

TM What are some of the most revealing or important numbers in terms of the raw deal for mothers?

KRF: One study found that women without children make 90 cents to a man's dollar, women with children make 73 cents to a man's dollar, and single mothers, who often bear the burden of supporting their families the most, make 56 to 66 cents to a man's dollar.

Dr. Shelley Correll of Cornell looked for the root of the wage gap between mothers and non-mothers. She compared women with equal resumes and equal job descriptions -- with only one difference. One bio said the woman had children and the other bio did not have that information. Between equally qualified people, women with children were 44 percent less likely to be hired and were offered $11,000 lower starting salaries.

TM Everything else about the person and the resume was the same?

KRF: Identical, absolutely identical. And this is important because right now a quarter of our families with children under 6 live in poverty. Having a baby is a leading cause of poverty in this country. Most families need two working parents in order to stay financially solvent, and wages of mothers are a very important part of the family economy.

TM In some of the personal stories, you show families where both parents work to make ends meet. They parcel out vacations and sick leave very carefully, and it hardly leaves room for the miracle of birth.

JB: Of 168 countries in a global study, 163 have paid maternity leave. The U.S. is one of only five countries that does not. The only other industrialized country that doesn't is Australia, but they have universal health care, a year off unpaid, and some kind of subsidy for kids.

In the book we write about Salina. Pooling all her potential days off, she and her husband figured out that she could take one month off. Now only a month off with a newborn is bad enough, but then she went into labor early and the baby had to be in the hospital for the first couple of weeks. She was not about to spend her month off with the baby in the hospital, so she went back to work days after giving birth.

She took her month off when the baby came home, which was wonderful. But then what does she do? Well she was lucky -- her employer was highly sympathetic. She took her baby to work with her and learned how to breastfeed while working.

TM So she took a one-month-old to work?

JB: Yes. So here we have women learning how to breastfeed and type at the same time.

TM I'm sure there are stories where women have to be in bed the last two weeks of pregnancy. The two weeks off that they were planning to share with the child are now spent waiting for the child. And then they're asking, "Are we going to be able to pay our rent? Are we going to be able to afford our car payment? Or am I going to have to go back to work two weeks after the baby is born?" Correct?

JB: Exactly, and that's where the poverty spells come in, because bottom line: Infants take really close care, and it's a hugely hard thing to leave your infant with anyone but the father or grandmother. Most mothers of new mothers are working too now.

KRF: I think you really hit on a point here with the paid family leave issue, because it radiates out into most of the other points in "The Motherhood Manifesto."

For example, we have somebody like Salina, who isn't in a high wage job, and has now taken all of her sick leave and all of her vacation leave. You can't even do that in all states, but she lives in Washington state and you can do it there. Now, what happens when the baby gets sick or she gets sick? She doesn't have any leave; she's used that up already.

She also has an issue of the cost of child care, which in this country is between $4,000 and $10,000 a year -- while the minimum wage is only $5.15 an hour. That's around $12,000 a year if you work full-time 52 weeks a year without breaks.

So all of these points are tied together: the high cost of child care, the lack of paid family leave, the low wages and even the health care issues. Most industrialized countries have some form of universal health care. We do not. All of this burden is mainly placed on the mother.

It's important to point out that in countries where there are family-friendly policies, we do not see the maternal wage gaps that we have here -- women with children making 73 cents to a man's dollar.

TM Why do the conditions exist in the U.S. that lower mothers' wages?

KRF: When we talk about work and family balance in America -- and we often use that phrase -- we put it all on the mother as an individual to figure out how to balance these issues. As if buying a calendar, maybe with a cute kitten on it, would fix everything. If you could just write in neater handwriting where you're supposed to be at what time … But in fact, it's not just up to the mother.

We have a country of rugged individualists, but it's not just up to the individual mothers. When this many people have the same problems at the same time, this is a societal issue -- not a personal scheduling failure.

With MomsRising and with the book, we're saying: Let's bring these issues to light. Let's join together on MomsRising.org and say, look, we share these problems and we need to share our solutions. It's time to do that.

TM What underlies the discrimination -- employers just can't be bothered? They don't want to worry about having to be more flexible. They don't want to worry about what happens when your child gets sick. They don't have room or time for natural human care and compassion and being part of a community …?

JB: All that may be true, but the book also offers stories of businesses that have chosen to make their work flexible and parent-friendly in a broad variety of ways -- and those businesses are thriving. It's good for business when work is good for the workers.

TM By being rigid and exclusionary, they're losing enormous talent, aren't they?

JB: Exactly.

TM A woman who left a career to have a child and wants to come back into the work force -- someone who has experience, who's managed time well, who's handled lots of responsibilities -- will be rejected in favor of someone who may be just starting out …?

JB: On the other hand, when you give parents good jobs that are respectful of their responsibilities, you get huge loyalty, hard work and a very cohesive workplace. That has great value to the employer as well as the employee.

TM Worrying about the day or two she might take off because her child is sick ignores the fact that she's likely to be there for years if treated well.

KRF: People assume that maybe it's the mother's fault; they're not committed to their jobs. In fact, studies show that mothers who know their children are relying on them for food and a roof over their heads are often more committed to their jobs.

Retaining employees saves businesses a lot of money in recruitment and retraining costs. Often when there are flexible work options, we see a higher level of productivity because of that increased loyalty.

Flexible work options can be had in a number of different types of companies. One in the book, Johnson Moving and Storage -- not typically the kind of place you expect to find flexible work options -- worked it out with their moving van dispatchers in a way that was helpful for the company as well as for the employees. The owner told us very frankly that he was able to attract more highly qualified employees due to the flexible work options.

TM Why do you think things in the U.S. are so much worse in so many ways than most other countries? What drives the status quo?

JB: I think we're having a problem with long-term thinking. Frankly, to have a vibrant future, we have to be taking good care of our kids. In 20 years they're going to be the engine of our country. We have to invest in them, and the best way to invest in them is to make it possible for their parents to do a fine job raising them.

Unfortunately, we keep thinking too short-term. For example, it's crazy that there are millions of kids without health benefits. It's crazy that we're not investing in quality early child care, because kids that get to school not ready to learn end up costing much more. They repeat grades and need extra tutoring.

Child care workers are pretty much the lowest paid workers in America. They have families to support too, and if they get an offer to do some other kind of work, they're going to take it. So kids don't get stability of caregivers, and young children need continuity.

You've got a lot of pieces that are all interacting here. We're thinking quarterly, or the next election, and we need to be thinking the next decade.

For more information or to get involved, visit MomsRising.org.

The Electric Kool-Aid Medicine Test

In 1954, when the national mood was one of suspicion and conformity, Aldous Huxley wrote, "All ... the hallucinogens that ripen in berries or can be squeezed from roots -- all, without exception, have been known and systematically used by human beings from time immemorial."

Ten years later Timothy Leary was fired from Harvard for "systematically using" LSD (admittedly not from a berry or a root) with students. Leary's sensational promotion of turning on and dropping out closed the door on serious dialogue or research into the potential benefits of psychedelic substances. Yet today, in the midst of the current revival of patriotic and moral paranoia, some are beginning once again to scientifically consider their value as visionary or psychological medicine.

Charles Grob, M.D., is director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine. He conducted the first government-approved psycholobiological research study of MDMA, was the principal investigator of an international project in the Brazilian Amazon of ayahuasca, and is now studying the use of psilocybin with advanced-stage cancer patients. He is editor of "Hallucinogens: A Reader" and recently co-edited, with Roger Walsh, "Higher Wisdom: Eminent Elders Explore the Continuing Impact of Psychedelics."

Terrence McNally: How and when did you decide to work with psychedelics?

Charles Grob: Growing up in the '60s, it was impossible to not be exposed to the controversies and the extraordinary powers of these compounds. In the early '70s, I read much of the literature that was available at the time, and I was struck by the potential these compounds had to help us understand the mind and mental illness, and to help us develop new and novel treatments. I was aware that, in order to speak out on this issue, one needed credentials, so I went back to school and got all the degrees and training I needed. It was always my intention to conduct proactive approved research in this area, though in the late '70s and early '80s there was virtually nothing going on in this country or elsewhere.

McNally: In 1973 I interviewed Stanislov Grof, who was then doing government-funded research in Maryland on the use of LSD with terminal cancer patients. Six months later I tried to follow up, and the state of Maryland wrote back that Dr. Grof was no longer in its employ. He had been let go, and the government funding had ended.

Grob: Around the same time, I heard Grof speak at the annual meeting of the Humanistic Psychology Association in New York City, and I was impressed with the enormous potential of the work he was doing.

McNally: Tell us about your study on anxiety in cancer patients.

Grob: At the L.A. Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, we have full regulatory approval to conduct a study using psilocybin -- the active alkaloid in hallucinogenic mushrooms -- in the treatment of the anxiety associated with advanced-stage cancer.

McNally: What is the status of the study at this time? Do you have any preliminary results?

Grob: We've been treating individuals for the past year and a half who fit all our inclusion/exclusion criteria. To date, we've studied five subjects in entirety. We're approved for a total of 12, so we hope to treat seven more. We're finding recruitment very challenging because we have very tight inclusion/exclusion criteria. We've interviewed a number of individuals who at first seemed to fit our criteria, but whose medical condition then drastically deteriorated so that they could no longer participate. We're very interested in talking with individuals who might fit.

McNally: Where would potential candidates learn about this, and how would they apply?

Grob: Our website -- canceranxietystudy.org -- details the inclusion/exclusion criteria and provides information about the methodology.

McNally: Can you verify Huxley's contention that all plant hallucinogens, without exception, have been known and systematically used by human beings from time immemorial?

Grob: Certainly the anthropological and historical evidence is very rich that even pre-civilization cultures highly valued hallucinogenic plants. Aboriginal cultures often used them as one of the core activities for reinforcing belief systems and tribal cohesion. This is quite apparent if you look at the indigenous peoples in the Amazon basin in South America, where the plant ayahuasca is used for religious, spiritual and healing purposes. As far back as human habitation of the Amazon basin has been established, there are indications that ayahuasca was an integral part of their lives and belief systems.

McNally: I've traveled a bit in the rainforest of Ecuador, and among the Achuar people it is an important and seldom-used ritual taken at key passages in life.

Grob: These are not by any stretch of the imagination recreational compounds. Indigenous peoples use them for very serious purposes, often having to do with healing.

McNally: Do you view the recent Supreme Court decision to allow ayahuasca to be taken in a religious context as an isolated instance based on specifics of the particular case or something more?

Grob: On February 21st, the court ruled unanimously that a branch of a Brazilian syncretic church, the Unial de Vegetal, or UDV, in Santa Fe, N.M., had legal sanction to continue to utilize ayahuasca as a psychoactive sacrament in their religious ceremonies. This is really an extraordinary decision and establishes a remarkable precedent, although at this point I believe it only applies to the UDV.

I was an expert medical witness for the UDV, and so followed the case very closely. I had been the principal investigator of a series of research studies in Brazil, using members of the UDV as subjects. I did not expect the case to win in a conservative federal court in the throes of a vicious decades-long drug war.

McNally: This was one of the first decisions of the Roberts-Alito court, wasn't it?

Grob: I believe it's the first decision that Chief Justice Roberts penned himself. Though Alito was not part of the decision because he had not heard the arguments, he subsequently stated that he would have gone along with the majority.

The Justice Department appealed, and the appeal was heard by a panel of the Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. Again I was not overly optimistic and again I was surprised: the UDV's position prevailed. It was then appealed to the full Circuit Court of Appeals and won again. Then it went to the Supreme Court, where on February 21st they issued their unanimous decision.

McNally: There was the precedent of the peyote churches of the Native Americans, yes?

Grob: The Native American Church has for some time had permission to use peyote as part of their religious ceremonies. Whereas peyote use among native peoples is established by treaty between the sovereign Indian nations and the United States, the Santa Fe case does not involve indigenous people. This was the first time in almost 1,600 years that a nonindigenous people had gained permission from the government to use a plant hallucinogen for religious ceremonial purpose -- not since Alaric the Hun sacked Elevsis in the year 396.

McNally: I guess you can't use that as precedent. What leads you to believe that psychedelic substances might have therapeutic use?

Grob: There's a very rich body of literature dating back to the mid-late 1950's that demonstrates it. Though methodologies at the time were not like methodologies today, they offer ample indication that we should at least study this further.

There were a number of studies which demonstrated therapeutic response among patient populations that did not normally respond well to conventional psychiatric and medical treatments -- first and foremost, chronic hardcore alcoholics and drug addicts. In the late '50s and early '60s, Humphrey Osmond in Western Canada demonstrated that some seriously ill alcoholics who had not responded to any conventional treatment did remarkably well after even a single dose treatment.

McNally: So your mission is to reopen the pursuit of this knowledge for the benefit of society?

Grob: Absolutely. My goal has always been to get this research back on track. By the early 1970s, all of the exciting and promising studies were forced to terminate because of the cultural turmoil of the time. Thirty-plus years later, I think it's high time that we review the old data and initiate new research.

McNally: In addition to your cancer anxiety study, are there other studies ongoing?

Grob: Dr. Francisco Moreno at the University of Arizona just completed a pilot study using psilocybin to treat chronic refractory obsessive-compulsive disorder. A psychiatrist named Michael Mithoffer in Charleston, S.C., has permission to use MDMA in the treatment of chronic post-traumatic stress disorder.

Though there are no clinical application treatment studies in Europe, Franz Volenwieder (also affiliated with Heffter) at the Burhholzi Clinic and the University of Zurich has done extraordinary work mapping the effects of MDMA and other hallucinogenic substances on the brain, using state-of-the art brain imaging technology.

McNally: What's your aim in the new book, "Higher Wisdom," which includes Ram Dass, Hofman, Sasha Shulgin, among others.

Grob: In the late 1980s, when I moved from Johns Hopkins to the University of California, I established a friendship with Roger Walsh, a psychiatrist at UC Irvine, who felt that it was important to preserve the stories and experiences of the leading early investigators and theorists on the issue of psychedelics. Along with Gary Bravo, another UC Irvine psychiatrist, we interviewed anyone we could find who had established a reputation in the field of psychedelic research in the 1950s and 1960s.

McNally: What were a couple of the big lessons you drew from your conversations with them?

Grob: These individuals were profoundly influenced personally by their experiences. They shared the vision that, under optimal circumstances and with all the proper safeguards in place, these compounds had an extraordinary capacity to help heal, to help enlighten and to help us learn.

McNally: MDMA was originally used in therapy, wasn't it?

Grob: In the late '70s and early '80s a large number of psychotherapists, mostly in California, formed an underground where MDMA was used for a variety of clinical indications, though very little of their clinical work was published.

Unfortunately the secret got out to the greater society at large, and it became a very popular recreational drug, particularly among the youth culture in California and Texas. It then spread throughout the country, over to Europe and around the world, setting off the ecstasy rave phenomenon.

McNally: What are the dangers, warnings and cautions with MDMA?

Grob: Oh, there are certainly dangers with MDMA, and individuals really need to be apprised and not to take foolish risks. There's a serious danger of malignant hyperthermia, or overheating, which is exacerbated by vigorous exercise in a hot, stuffy environment, and the failure to replace lost body fluids. This is just what happens in the rave setting, and there have unfortunately been some fatalities secondary to malignant hyperthermia.

The flipside risk is water intoxication. Several young people have actually drunk so much water that they have lowered their serum sodium and experienced seizures, and died as well. It can be a very tricky compound.

Perhaps the biggest danger, though, is drug substitution. A large percentage of what passes as ecstasy actually does not contain MDMA, but other drugs. Some are relatively benign like caffeine or aspirin, but others are potentially dangerous or lethal, like paramethoxy amphetamine, PMA, the most potent and potentially lethal amphetamine known. You have no idea what you're getting.

McNally: Because it's illegal, the greatest danger comes from buying something on the street with no oversight or regulation, correct?

Grob: There are absolutely no controls. In fact, I can't think of a drug which is more frequently misrepresented and substituted than the ecstasy MDMA compound.

McNally: In other words, the fact that we have closed our eyes and pushed all of these psychedelic substances aside as illegal creates many of the problems associated with them.

Here's a big two-part question. Do you suspect that the roots of any cultural or scientific trends grew out of the use of psychedelics in the '60s and '70s? For instance, the rise of Buddhism or other Eastern spiritual and health practices, or the internet or electronically networked organizations?

Grob: Yes, of the several million people who presumably took psychedelics back in the '60s in this country and in Europe, many were profoundly influenced. It influenced their attitude towards their own career choices, their relationships, their attitudes towards peace and conflict. During the '60s there was a tremendous sense that these compounds, if utilized optimally, could catalyze very salutary changes around the world.

Until his death in 1963, Huxley held the vision that if these compounds were introduced wisely, quietly and discreetly to the leaders of our culture, there would be a ripple-down effect with enormous positive changes. He believed it might be a mechanism through which the very likelihood of world survival would be enhanced.

The cultural turmoil, with youth culture radically split off from mainstream culture, led to a move not only to shut down research but also to distance mainstream culture, mainstream scholars and scientists from even exploring the potential benefits of the use to individuals, families and culture.

McNally: Final question. What do you know of the current cultural context? What's happening out there these days?

Grob: There's certainly a concern for widespread misuse and abuse of compounds like ecstasy. Serious use of these compounds has had to go deeply underground. There's increased interest in ayahuasca, particularly in the Amazon basin. A big article in a recent National Geographic Adventure magazine highlighted ayahuasca shamanism, and has had a very strong apparently positive response.

I think individuals are starting to wake up to the possibility that, when taken under optimal conditions, these plants might have profound potential to facilitate positive change. That being said, one also has to employ all the essential safeguards to minimize the likelihood of harm.

What Is Plan B?

Of all the resources needed to build an economy that will sustain economic progress, none is more scarce than time. That is one of the key messages of Lester Brown's new book, "Plan B. 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble." The world may finally be listening.

China now consumes more grain, meat, coal and steel than the United States. If China's income grows as projected, in 2031 its income per person will match incomes in the United States today. At that point, it will be consuming the equivalent of two-thirds of the current world grain harvest, driving 1.1 billion cars (versus 800 million in the world today) and using 99 million barrels of oil per day, well above current world production of 84 million barrels. That's Plan A.

New threats -- climate change, environmental degradation, the persistence of poverty and the loss of hope -- call for new strategies. Brown -- who left World Watch in 2001 to found Earth Policy Institute -- says it's time for Plan B -- a renewable-energy-based, reuse-recycle economy with a diversified transport system: time to build a new economy and a new world. The world is now spending $975 billion annually for military purposes. Plan B -- social goals and earth restoration -- requires an additional annual expenditure of $161 billion.

Brown, founder of the World Watch Institute, was in Europe recently to address the Royal Geographic Society in London, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and the OECD in Paris. He will speak to the World Affairs Councils of San Francisco and Los Angeles the first week of February.

TERRENCE MCNALLY: For many, environmental issues are local -- the beach, the nearby polluting factory, the smog. Yet you focused on the global environment at a time when few were. Where did that come from?

LESTER BROWN: Well I suppose there were a number of things that contributed to it. One was, when I was farming I was very much aware of the environmental issues that one has to deal with, whether it's water resources or weather or soils or crop diseases or what have you.

Beyond that, after I graduated from Rutgers in 1955 with a degree in agricultural science, I had the chance to spend half of 1956 living in villages in India, and there I was exposed very directly to the food population issue, though India at that time had only 430 million people or so compared with over a billion today.

Then I became a foreign policy adviser to Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman during the Kennedy-Johnson administration. The population pressures on resources and the problems associated with that, whether it's deforestation or overgrazing or soil erosion, aquifer depletion, those problems were becoming evident way back then. By 1974 I was convinced not only that these were going to be major issues, but also that we needed a research institute to focus on environmental issues at the global level.

TM: Yet you also make clear that we need a vision of the future, not just the bad news.

LB: No question. If we don't have a sense of where we want to go, we're probably not going to get there. I think one of the things that's lacking in the global environmental movement is a vision. We spend so much time being against things, it's not always clear what we're for.

TM: In the first paragraph of the Preface to "Plan B: 2.0," you write: "If our goal is to sustain economic progress, we have no choice other than to move onto a new path." Two things -- first, you don't mention the word "environment" in that sentence, you're talking about economic progress. Second, why isn't that reality being recognized and acted on?

LB: Two things are driving the recognition of the need for a restructuring of the global economy. One is the knowledge of what's happening to the economy's environmental support systems, whether it's forests or fisheries or rangelands or soils or aquifers or the climate system. Many environmentalists have been clear for some time that we have to restructure the economy if we want progress to continue. If we don't, we're going to be in serious trouble.

In Jared Diamond's book, "Collapse," he looked at earlier civilizations, many of which also got on to an economic path that was environmentally unsustainable. He pointed out was that some of those early civilizations realized they were in trouble and made the needed course corrections to survive. Others either did not understand they were in environmental trouble, or understood it but politically they could not mobilize an effective response.

TM: "Plan B" came out two years ago. Why did you feel the need to deliver "Plan B: 2.0"?

LB: Enough things have changed over the past two years, both in terms of what we can do and the potential of new technologies like gas-electric hybrid cars and advances in wind turbine design, and so forth. But more importantly, the evidence first of all, that China has already overtaken the United States in the consumption of most basic resources.

Ever since you and I can remember, we've been saying that the U.S. with 5 percent of the world's people consumes a third or 40 percent of the world's resources. That was true for a long time. It is no longer true. China is now consuming more of these basic resources. Look at the food sector -- grain and meat, the energy sector -- oil and coal, the industrial sector -- steel. China now consumes more of all of those than the United States except for oil. Their consumption of meat is nearly double that of the United States, and their steel consumption, 258 million tons a year. We consumed 104 million tons a year last year.

TM: India is expected to overtake China in terms of population. We hear about India mostly in terms of outsourcing jobs to India. What's its take on resources?

LB: India has a huge population, but they're still mostly poor; they're a good 20 years behind China. They're probably where China was in 1980 or '85.

TM: Having said that, India still has a middle class of about 300 million, about the size of the entire U.S. population.

LB: That's right and it's growing fast.

Now that China has overtaken the U.S. in the total consumption of resources, we have license to ask the next question: What if China catches up to the U.S. in consumption per person? If their economy, which has been growing at 9 or 10 percent a year in recent years, drops down to 8 percent a year, by 2031, income per person in China will be the same as that in the U.S. today. By 2031 we're probably talking about 1.45 billion Chinese.

TM: 1.45 billion consuming at the rate we consume today is impossible. China alone would consume more than one earth at that point.

LB: Based on those projections, in 2031, China would be consuming two thirds of the current world grain harvest. Their consumption of paper would be double current world production. There go the world's forests. If China in 2031 has three cars for every four people, as we now have in this country, it would have a fleet of 1.1 billion cars.

The current global fleet is 800 million. They would have to pave over an area comparable to the land they now have in rice, and they would be consuming 99 million barrels of oil a day. The world is currently producing 84 million barrels a day and will probably never produce much more than that.

TM: Because we're also close to or about to hit peak oil. We've heard the diagnosis. What's the prescription? What is Plan B?

LB: The Western economic model, the fossil fuel-based, automobile-centered throw-away economy, is not going to work for China. It won't work for India, which by 2031 will have an even larger population, nor will it work for the other three billion people in the developing countries, who are also dreaming the American dream. Most importantly, it will not work for the industrial countries either in a world that is more and more integrated economically and where we all depend on the same oil, grain and iron ore.

So then the question becomes, if the old economy won't work, what will the new economy look like?

We can see this much more clearly than we could even two years ago, and that's exciting. It will be powered by renewable sources of energy. It will have a comprehensive re-use recycle system, and it will have a much more diversified transport system, not as much the automobile-centered system we now have.

We can now see the new economy beginning to emerge in various places around the world. We see it in the wind farms of Western Europe, the solar rooftops of Japan, the bicycle-friendly streets of Amsterdam, the reforested mountains of South Korea and the growing fleet of gas-electric hybrid cars in the United States. It's beginning to take shape, but it's not moving fast enough.

TM: What is it going to take to accelerate that?

LB: It's difficult to say. I play around with scenarios that will wake us up. The situation today reminds me a bit of the United States in the early 1940s when we were trying to ignore the war in Europe and the war in Asia, somehow thinking that we could get through without getting involved -- and then came Pearl Harbor. Overnight literally everything changed, and we mobilized for a war like you've never seen a country mobilize before. It was an extraordinary performance, but it took a very clear, distinct wake-up call.

TM: At the point at which we get a wake-up call that extreme, it may be too late to reverse some of those things, isn't that true?

LB: It's quite possible that the wake-up call will come too late.

TM: I'm an optimist. I look at the negatives that we see right now -- the incompetence in the war and the response to Katrina, the rampant corruption in D.C. -- as perhaps offering a teachable moment. Could Plan B offer the kind of dream -- like Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil rights dream or John Kennedy's Apollo mission -- that could rally people to take on a big challenge that's not a military challenge?

LB: That's an exciting way to put it. I think of King from time to time -- "I have a dream." He kept repeating that theme and described various parts of it, and it became a shared vision of our society.

The wake-up call could come with another disruption in the supply of oil that would drive prices up to, say, $100 a barrel, which is entirely feasible. Another less direct possibility: When the price of oil gets up to $60 a barrel, it becomes profitable to convert many agricultural commodities into automotive fuel. Almost everything that we eat can be converted either into ethanol or bio-diesel to run automobiles. As we develop the ethanol distilling capacity and the bio-diesel refining capacity, the price of oil begins to set the price of food. If the food value of a commodity is less than the fuel value, it will be converted into fuel.

TM: In other words, we would take food out of the mouths of the poor and put it into the fuel tanks of the rich?

LB: That's right. One of the consequences of high oil prices is that it sets up direct competition between supermarkets and service stations for the same commodities. The difference is that, in agricultural terms, the appetite of service stations is basically insatiable.

TM: If the world gets hammered this year and next year as they did last year by weather disasters, the people or the insurance companies are going to say, something has to be done about climate change -- another possible wake-up call. What is Plan B?

LB: Plan B has three components: (1) a restructuring of the global economy so that it can sustain civilization; (2) an all-out effort to eradicate poverty, stabilize population and restore hope in order to elicit participation of the developing countries; and (3) a systematic effort to restore natural systems.

Virtually everything we need to do to build an economy that will sustain economic progress is already being done in one or more countries. In Europe, for instance, which is leading the world into the wind era, some 40 million people now get their residential electricity from wind farms. The European Wind Energy Association projects that by 2020, half of the region's population -- 195 million Europeans -- will be getting their residential electricity from wind.

TM: But it's not just about new technologies, is it?

LB: That's right. Building an economy that will sustain economic progress also means eradicating poverty and stabilizing population -- in effect, restoring hope among the world's poor. Eradicating poverty accelerates the shift to smaller families. Smaller families in turn help to eradicate poverty.

The principal line items in the budget to eradicate poverty are investments in universal primary school education; school lunch programs for the poorest of the poor; basic village-level health care, including vaccinations for childhood diseases; and reproductive health and family planning services for all the world's women. In total, reaching these goals will take $68 billion of additional expenditures each year.

TM: Where does the environment fit in all this?

LB: A strategy for eradicating poverty will not succeed if an economy's environmental support systems are collapsing. This means putting together an earth restoration budget -- one to reforest the earth, restore fisheries, eliminate overgrazing, protect biological diversity and raise water productivity to the point where we can stabilize water tables and restore the flow of rivers. Adopted worldwide, these measures require additional expenditures of $93 billion per year.

Combining social goals and earth restoration components into a Plan B budget means an additional annual expenditure of $161 billion. Such an investment is huge, but it is not a charitable act. It is an investment in the world in which our children will live.

TM: Where's the money going to come from?

LB: The world is now spending $975 billion annually for military purposes. The U.S. 2006 military budget of $492 billion, accounting for half of the world total, goes largely to the development and production of new weapon systems. Unfortunately, these weapons are of little help in curbing terrorism, nor can they reverse the deforestation of the earth or stabilize climate.

If the United States were to underwrite the entire $161 billion Plan B budget by shifting resources from the $492 billion spent on the military, it still would be spending more for military purposes than all other NATO members plus Russia and China combined.

TM: I hardly imagine the slightest move in that direction for at least the next three years of a Bush administration …

LB: Of all the resources needed to build an economy that will sustain economic progress, none is more scarce than time. With climate change we may be approaching the point of no return. Nature is the timekeeper.

Like earlier civilizations that got into environmental trouble, we can decide to stay with business as usual and watch our global economy decline and eventually collapse. One way or another, the decision will be made by our generation. Of that there is little doubt. But it will affect life on earth for all generations to come.

Election Theft Emergency

For GOP voters, the 2004 presidential election was little short of miraculous: Behind in the Electoral College even on the afternoon of the vote, the Bush-Cheney ticket staged a stunning comeback. Usually reliable exit polls turned out to be wrong by an unprecedented 5 percent in swing states. Conservatives argued, and the media agreed, that "moral values" had made the difference.

In his latest book, Fooled Again: How The Right Stole The 2004 Election, And Why They'll Steal The Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them), Mark Crispin Miller argues that it wasn't moral values which swung the election -- it was theft.

TERRENCE McNALLY: You're a professor of media studies. According to your bio, you write about "film, television, propaganda, advertising and the culture industries …" Why did you write this book?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Out of a sense of civic emergency. I believe that "Fooled Again" makes the case quite persuasively that there is actually no convincing evidence that Bush and Cheney won re-election.

This is a civic story of the utmost importance. It has to do with the dire need for election reform in the United States. But it's also a story about the colossal failure of the American press to do precisely the kind of job that the framers had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment. What they had in mind was that the press would function as a reliable check on executive power. It would keep the people informed about what their government was up to, and it would keep them politically engaged in national debate.

The newspapers, as limited and defective as they were in the 18th century, did perform that function, and I believe they performed that function for much of our history. We now have a corporate media system that is not answerable to the people nor concerned about the people, but [is] in the service of its pay masters. And it is far too close to the government for the health of anything like a democratic system.

One of the points of "Fooled Again" is that this is a story of tremendous importance, as far as a democracy is concerned. Yet the press has for the most part ridiculed those who have come up with very solid evidence of fraud. They've been in the business less of talking about the situation than of preventing anybody else from talking about it. And this includes some of the progressive media as well. In fact, the most hostile reviews that I've received have been in Mother Jones and Salon.

TM: I read the transcript of you on Democracy Now! with Mark Hertsgaard, a progressive journalist who has been fairly dismissive of those questioning Bush's victory. By the end he seemed to be agreeing that everything should be more fully investigated.

I would think that the 2004 election story, if tracked and broken, would be huge for whoever breaks it. Any other thoughts about why it's so ignored?

MCM: We have to understand that for some decades the press has served basically an establishmentarian function. They have the reputation, and they certainly have the self-image, of being terribly skeptical, prone to disrespectful questions, probing dark matters that authority would just as soon have them leave alone. That's a very flattering view of the press but completely undeserved. The press will not deal with any story that goes beyond a particular scandal to cast doubt on the very viability of the entire system. The press in this country will studiously ignore any story that too violently rocks the boat, whose implications are too shattering.

This is not new. Watergate was a story that the press avoided for months and months. Only the Washington Post pursued that story; everybody else made fun of it. Now we look back on Watergate with tremendous nostalgia and self-congratulation, telling ourselves the press saved the system. But since Watergate the press has preferred to deal with meaningless and trivial scandals like the Clinton scandals. They will not talk about 9/11, they will not talk about the theft of the last three elections.

TM: You also include the 2002 congressional election. That one also broke too consistently against predictions?

MCM: That's exactly right. In Colorado, in Minnesota, in Georgia, and in a couple of other states -- there was what we might call "Diebold magic" everywhere. In all these states, you had far-right-wing politicians predicted to lose by pre-election newspaper polls and by exit polls, and all of them won.

TM: Why do you believe the two successive Democratic candidates have given in so easily?

MCM: I think basically Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry this last time are far too concerned with establishment opinion, far too worried that they'll seem to be sore losers, conspiracy theorists, etc. They have therefore refused to go public with what they actually believe. Kerry told me personally on October 28th at a fundraising party that he believes the election was probably stolen.

TM: He then disavowed that in the press, didn't he?

MCM: Exactly -- a few hours after the story broke. The Democratic Party is as much a part of the problem as the Republican Party.

TM: Are there exceptions among the ranks of mainstream politicians? I think of Barbara Boxer and John Conyers. Any others?

MCM: Tom Daschle has told me he thinks very highly of the book and has given me permission to quote him to that effect. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Rush Holt. There are growing numbers of Democratic politicians who are willing to take the risks of facing the truth on this issue.

Let's put it less dogmatically. All right, maybe I haven't proven that the election was stolen, but I am completely confident that I've provided ample grounds for a serious investigation of what went on last year. It seems to me that any Democrat who refuses to even go for that kind of inquiry is really failing his or her constituency.

TM: -- and failing the voters. As a citizen, it bothers me that we leave it to a Gore or a Kerry, who's thinking about his future reputation or his future career, to stage the protest. I don't care about their careers. I care about my vote getting counted or discounted.

What's the statement that you're willing to make in "Fooled Again" about the 2004 election: stolen? worthy of investigation? evidence clearly shows in six states …?

MCM: The evidence in Ohio, as anyone who followed the story knows, is copious. Bush allegedly won that state by 118,000 votes. As I point out -- and this part of the book is largely based on John Conyers' report to the House Judiciary Committee -- the various stratagems, tricks and tactics used to prevent people from registering, to prevent them from voting, to throw away provisional ballots -- all these add up to a number far greater than 118,000.

TM:: That's news to me. Many people have said, yes, there were long lines, yes, there was disproportionate distribution of voting machines, yes, there was trouble with provisional ballots, yes, there was intimidation -- but the margin was 120,000. You're saying that they add up to over 120,000?

MCM: Oh easily, easily. It was in the urban parts of Ohio that most of this stuff went down. All the urban centers in Ohio were Democratic. If people want to get a strong sense of what was happening at the grassroots level coast to coast last year, go to a website called the Election Incident Reporting System, EIRS. Then type in the name of a state or a county, and you'll get a transcript of all the complaints that were lodged that day by people who called 1-866-MY-VOTE.

Now a lot of them couldn't get through because it was understaffed, but those who did get through left messages. You can find copious firsthand evidence of what the average person had to go through to try to vote against Bush. This didn't happen only in Ohio. Electronic touchscreen machines flipped Kerry votes into Bush votes in at least 11 states.

TM: You say similar practices (and occasionally worse ones) were applied in several other key states -- Florida, Oregon, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and even New York?

MCM: In New Mexico, for example, we're told that Bush won by some 7,000 votes. We know of over 17,000 Democratic voters who were unable to cast a vote for president because the touchscreen machines in their districts refused to record a vote for president.

These 17,000-plus New Mexicans turned out to vote in Democratic areas, and they didn't record a vote for president. Seventeen thousand is 10,000 more than 7,000. That glitch alone can account for the ostensible victory margin of Bush over Kerry in New Mexico. Greg Palast's new book will have a whole chapter on New Mexico. It's hair-raising stuff, and we haven't heard a word about it. The same kind of thing happened in Iowa, where Bush supposedly won by under 10,000 votes.

Tom Daschle was supposedly beaten in South Dakota by 4,500 votes. There was so much chicanery going on there, that it's easy to argue that John Thunes should not have won. I know Daschle believes he was robbed.

This isn't only a matter of the White House, it's also a matter of the Congress. I don't believe that this government represents the people of this country. The people of this country, however frightened some of them may be by terrorism, are essentially not theocratically inclined. They don't want a Christian republic. They were not happy with the way the government dealt with the Terry Schiavo case. Americans basically believe in the American system of government. Checks and balances, the separation of church and state.

The press kept telling us after the election that a huge outpouring of religious voters account for Bush's miraculous victory. Well that's nothing more than a talking point that the religious right itself put out after the election. There is no statistical evidence whatsoever that there was any increase in the number of religious voters.

TM: The big thing that people seized on was one particular exit poll in which people, when given a choice of a few things, said moral values was the No. 1 reason for their vote. More people answered moral values in 1996 and in 2000 than in 2004. There was actually a drop in the number of people who attributed their vote to moral values in 2004, not a rise.

Let me check a couple of things with you. I've heard that exit polls were most inaccurate -- by a big margin -- in those areas that used electronic voting machines with no paper trail. True?

MCM: That's basically true, and it was particularly noticeable in five swing states. There's a lot of stuff floating around out there in cyberspace about the exit polls. The question of the exit polls has been very badly muddied by a lot of disingenuous argument. Now a lot of people think that it's not a reliable gauge, it doesn't tell us anything. That's actually the result of propaganda obfuscation. The exit polls' sudden divergence, sudden wrongness in these five states is really a remarkable deviation from the norm.

The guy doing the best work on that particular issue is a statistician at the University of Pennsylvania named Steve Freeman, who will have a book coming out in a few months primarily about the exit poll question.

Bogus reasons for why the exit polls were so wrong include the reluctant responder argument, which holds that Bush voters were strangely reluctant to tell exit pollsters how they voted. Well, Freeman has read the raw data at precinct level and has discovered that, as a matter of fact, if anyone showed a greater reluctance to come forward and say honestly who they voted for when confronted with an exit pollster, it was actually the Democrats. There's no evidence of any numerical kind that can support the view that somehow Republicans wouldn't fess up.

TM: I would assume that the very ones being referred to as reluctant are the ones who would be proud to say they voted for God's candidate.

MCM: One of the weirdest things about this whole election business is that one of the two parties has, for over the last year and longer, been vociferously complaining about the dangers of election fraud, and that's the Republican party.

TM: Thus the ID card in Georgia, right?

MCM: Exactly. They're the ones who are always screaming about Democratic fraud, but the Republicans in this last race were really the only ones engaging in election fraud.

This has to do with the peculiarly paranoid quality of the crusading mindset. I believe this theft was to a great extent carried out thanks to a kind of crusader mentality. I've got plenty of evidence in the book that the religious right played an enormously large role in the theft of the election last year.

TM: I think first of Diebold, I think of the Ken Blackwells or the Kathryn Harrises. How does the religious right itself play a role beyond mobilizing its own troops?

MCM: That mobilization is significant when you consider that a lot of those troops have actually become embedded inside the election system.

TM: Local polling officials, that sort of thing?

MCM: One Democratic election judge tried to observe the vote count in Pima County, Arizona. A roomful of polling personnel who all belonged to the same evangelical church in the area started to call him a liberal demon, a liberal scum.

TM: When you talk about a crusader mentality, you basically mean that if you do not support my candidate you are an infidel -- and the ends justify the means?

MCM: Precisely. See, all these crimes that I attest to in the book were committed with impunity by people who regard their political adversaries as demons. And that's not an exaggeration. You know, this government is to a great extent dominated by people who have that metaphysical view of the current political situation.

It is a very serious mistake I believe to think that all of this is happening only because of the excessive greed of certain corporate powers. That greed is decisive It played an enormous role. There is no question about it. But it could not have succeeded without the vigorous grassroots assistance of a lot of people who are religious true believers. And I think that they include the likes of Tom DeLay and others.

TM: I've heard that almost all irregularities worked in Bush's favor. True?

MCM: Absolutely true. I have not yet heard of a single example of a touchscreen voting machine flipping a Bush vote into a Kerry vote. This does not mean it never happened. I'm just saying I haven't heard about it if it has.

TM: I've read that in New Hampshire, Ralph Nader's Green Party campaign paid for an actual recount. They picked the precincts they thought were suspicious, and the hand recount confirmed the actual vote totals and showed that the exit polls were, in fact, wrong. What do you say to that?

MCM: Well, the recount that they paid for found no evidence of fraud in that particular case.

TM: It confirmed the hand recount, showing that the exit polls were in fact wrong. So how does that fit your analysis of the whole scheme?

MCM: The only thing one can say about that with any scientific certainty is that the particular hand count that they carried out did not reveal any evidence of fraud. That does not mean that no fraud was committed. This is a very fine point, but when we're dealing with questions of electoral honesty and accuracy, I think we have the right to make fine points. The distinction must be made -- that particular hand count involved a sample, that sample revealed no fraud, but that does not mean that we can then sit back and say, well, OK, so the exit polls were wrong.

TM: To the question "What is the point of revisiting the last election?" you point out that there has never been a great reform that was not driven by a major scandal. Do you believe that true election reform is not going to happen until the people and the media finally wake up to this?

MCM: I think it's going to depend on the people. It's going to depend on the people simply and irresistibly insisting that the media finally deal with this subject. That's why I wrote the book.

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