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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Welcome to the Diary's of Facts Bain and Mitt Romney Don't Want Known

Daily Kos

News, Community, Action

Mitt Romney Bain Chronicles

    What we are searching for here, seeking to accomplish and will be displaying - are the real nitty gritty dirty details of how Mitt Romney and Bain make their money. We will discuss the one issue that he really doesn't want discusssed - Paul Traub and how he confessed to lying intentionally to a federal court in perpetrating fraud on the court. Yet, inexplicably, though fraud on the court by officers of the court is such a heinous and egregious civil crime - that the U.S. Supreme Court has stated there can be NO Statute of Limitations on such acts - no investigation or arrests have transpired.

    You will only get facts here, not hyperbole or conjecture. Thus, if you disagree - it is okay to do so - but you are bound by the Kos Enter One's House RULE. Many ite's chose to despire me more - for pointing out tyranny, cronyism and corruption - than those who do the bad faith acts. That is your choice - but - this is my Diary. So be nice and please stick to the facts.

    Yes, this is a "personal" issue for me. Bain, Romney and their cohorts (including Goldman Sachs) - stole our company eToys by federal fraud and federal corruption. They offered me an inducement to join them and the key to the "good ole boys" club. I had been trying - all my life - to climb the ladder to make Laser the Liquidator actually be more than a coin of phrase and become part of the elite. Landing the job of eToys was my pinnacle and they offered me the Golden Goose. But not for a nano-second, did I consider selling out those who hired me.

Romney Chronicles - Where to Begin - Allegations & Sen Kerry's Warning

Daily Kos



Thus we begin our journey. Mitt the pitts is a wannabe POTUS and all his pals that have been protecting his organized criminal empire of Bain are now all hoping to join the likes of Karl Rove and John Ashcroft with massive paydays. As we go on this journey, the chance that they will take me out grows larger with each and every day we get closer to November. It is my hope, that if they succeed, some of you will carry on the case and I am here to provide you the evidence - all within public docket records.

           I, Steve Haas, more commonly known as "Laser Haas" do testify Under PENALTY of PERJURY, this, the 29th day of March 2012 - that;
       Bain Capital, managed and owned by Mitt Romney in 2001 - did conspire with Goldman Sachs, Paul Traub, the MNAT law firm in DE (that works for both Goldman Sachs and Bain) to dump the public company of eToys and Steal the Federal estate thereof clean. There's proof of more than one-hundred (100) crimes committed in this case, including, but not limited to, Perjury, Collusion, Intimidation of Victim/ Witness, MisPrison of a Felony, Bankruptcy Fraud, SEC Fraud, Federal Corruption and Racketeering.
                                                                         s Steve "LASER" Haas
                                                                         100% sole Owner of "CLI"
                                                                         The Federal Court Approved  
           Any 1L student can prosecute this case. The fact is the evidence is almost all within the public docket records. We even have confessions to lying more than thirty-five (35) times, while under oath and even confessions that many were left to deceive the court "intentionally". So that you understand this issue (for those who want to do as I have and learn about the LAW) - just read about the book written of a Wall Street Lawyer put in prison for Bankruptcy Fraud (yes, there actually was 1). It is about John Gellene from the NY firm of Milbank and Tweed. The crime Gellene committed was also committed here in the eToys case - as well as 100 more.
   Professor Nancy Rappaport's Review
  Georgetown University review of John Gellene case
  My Favorite - Lou Jones Breakfast  - but I can't find the link. Google has made it where I have to link to them  1st (and hope you get it) - but I will download the PDF and post it online. It is a fantastic review against the many arguments attorneys would use to find fault with Gellene being arrested.
What do you say, you wanna be able to have a beer celebration some day after Thanksgiving and know you helped sting Romney/ Bain/ Goldman Sachs

Mitt Romney Bain Chronicles V - eToys Fraud - The Beginning of a Monopoly (Updated)

Daily Kos

News, Community, Action



      Having made allegations profuse, in the previous Diary (here), stating, what amounts to opening remarks. That Bain and Goldman Sachs have committed federal fraud in the eToys case - with many cohorts - with more than 100 felony counts. It is now time to give the easy part of this organized criminal enterprise. How they planned to make a company worth alot of money, then steal that money, again and again and again. It is worth your time to read and learn - it will Free Your Mind and open your eyes.

     In 1999, several major business dealings transpired. Mitt Romney  and various Bain associated parties were involved in Stage Stores and The Learning Company. Also in 1999, an online internet retailer during the Clinton years, eToys,  made the decision to go public. Goldman Sachs is the firm that took eToys thru its "IPO" (initial public offering). The contracts were written for an projected $18 to $20 per share price. When the stock soared to above $78 - a pump/n/dump scheme began. Goldman Sachs was limited to $1.50 per share commission.

     Yet, inexplicably, eToys only received $16.50 and the balance of money Goldman Sachs was sued to explain. The case is in the New York Supreme Court (case 601805/2002). To make sure that they would not have to explain where the money went, Goldman Sachs arranged for a [solvent] eToys to file bankruptcy March 7, 2001. They then [illegally] destroyed the evidence and obstructed justice. Then the NY Supreme Court case of Goldman Sachs,(in essence suing Goldman Sachs), was put entirely under SEAL from public view.

      Goldman Sachs is represented [secretly] in Delaware by the Law firm Morris Nichols Arsht & Tunnell ("MNAT"). The Law firm that handled the merger of Romney's Bain "The Learning Company" with Mattel - was also the Delaware law firm of MNAT. Originally, eToys, located in California, hired the Californian firm of Irell & Manella. Corrupt federal employees within the Department of Justice in Delaware, substituted MNAT [illegally] - as eToys bankruptcy Debtor's counsel. To complete the conspiracy and collusion to defraud, MNAT, working hand in hand with the Creditors Committee attorney (Paul Traub); put in a new President and CEO of eToys - Mr. Barry Gold. Being that many crimes were already transpiring and Paul Traub has a secret relationship with Romney/ Bain and cohorts; it should not knock you off your chair to learn that secretly - Barry Gold and Paul Traub are also partners.

How they then engaged in Racketeering to monopolize the retail toy industry is below

Bain, Toys R Us, Monopoly, Goldman Sachs & Racketeering

. They Broke the Law

     If you are saying to yourself, that all the relationships that we mentioned above, sounds like a conflict of interest - You are Correct. Furthermore, unlike in the government or Wall Street; where conflicts can be resolved by negotiation or distancing. In federal estates, ANY undisclosed conflicts of interest are totally forbidden by law. As per Section 327(a) - the failure to disclose a relationship - MUST result in disqualification and, at the judge's discretion - disgorgement of fees and expenses.
     To recap what was just presented above, the relationships are incestuous and systemic. Though they have been boasting and enjoying their brilliant, ruthless and successful business plan; it is also - Totally - Illegal. Attorneys who practice in bankruptcy cases, must have the court's approval per § 327(a)  as a Professional Person. They must "disclose" any and all relationships to other parties and be a "Disinterested Person" (per Section 101(14)). They may self police themselves (a recipe for disaster in the eToys case). The check-n-balance is that they must submit a Rule 2014 Affidavit, testifying - "Under Penalty of Perjury" - that they have NO Conflict of Interest.

Conflict of Interest in eToys - the Players

        Despite what you have heard by the press, Mitt Romney founded Bain Capital and did NOT give up all business pursuits in 1999. He needs you to believe that line of BS, because the crimes in eToys - if [when] investigated - makes the Chief Executive of Bain accountable. Mitt Romney still ran Bain Capital (and hundreds of sub entities therefore) in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
  Paul Traub and Barry Gold met with Romney's Bain at NeoStar, Jumbo Sports, TSS or earlier. Both Mr. Gold and Mr. Traub have admitted that they get employments thru Jack Bush of Dallas Texas. Jack Bush was a director at Stage Stores and also CEO of Bain's IdeaForest. He was also with Barry Gold and Paul Traub at Jumbo Sports in Florida. Also at Stage Stores as director was Michael Glazer, who was the CEO of Kay Bee Toys too. Don't forget, MNAT works for Goldman Sachs, Bain/ Mattel and partnered with Paul Traub to [secretly] put in Barry Gold as the [Illegal] President/ CEO of eToys


Mitt Romney was CEO of Bain in 2001 and still benefits from fraud

     As "transitive logic" goes - A=B B=C thus A=C. Thus Romney=Bain  and Bain=Traub then Romney=Traub. Wherefore, we have MNAT equals Bain, Romney equals Bain, Traub equals Bain and Traub equals Barry Gold. Their relationships are incestuous beyond compare. As this chart shows, Romney is connected by the dots to everything. Including fraudsters Marc Dreier and Tom Petters. But more on that in future Chronicles.

Mitt Romney, not Bain, had been the controlling owner (800,00 shares) of Stage Stores in 2000/ 2001; which filed bankruptcy in 2000. Barry Gold worked for the Stage Store directors and "they" got caught because Barry Gold personally signed the letter at Stage Stores to hire Paul Traub (see Supplement Rule 2014/ 2016 Affidavit (here)). Then they all went to illegally seize and controll the entire federal bankruptcy estate of eToys. Except for 1 little wrench. The court approved Liquidation Consultant CLI was keeping eToys alive and was going to remain a public company due to CLI's sole owner = Laser Haas = (me).

Schemes + Plots + Ploys and More Schemes

Scheme 1 - A classic pump n dump
         You have to be somewhat amazed at the Lottery these crooks won. You have a public company (eToys), where the stock soared to above $78, but Goldman Sachs only gave eToys around $16.50. Even though they had contract to earn no more than $1.50 per share; the amount of money and above the law mentality - was just too much of a temptation. So a classic pump-n-dump occurs.

Scheme 2 - Buy a Billion $ company for a few million

        You now control all 3 parties necessary. That being Debtor (Barry Gold as President/ CEO), his partner (Paul Traub) as the Creditors attorney (they are required by law to NOT be connected). With the coup de grace of also having the Debtor's attorney MNAT (also forbidden by law, against having any beneficial connections with the creditors and/ or their attorney).

Scheme 3 - When you have to pay more millions to buy - also be the one to sell

        There's a wrench in the works. Laser Haas. You have the perfect world, a way to own a company worth billions for $3 to $5.4 million. Along comes Haas and the next thing you know - the ambitious clown has driven up the price to $50 million. How in the hell are you going to get that money back?

         Simple - sell it to yourself.

         I know, right now you are saying "Huh" - how do you do that? Actually it is really simple when you think about it. Just answer this question. What happens when anyone or any company files bankruptcy? I mean in the sense of what "we" - the general public/ persons - think about a bankrupt person or company?  You forget about them - right! You toss them out of your mind. Once anyone or any company goes belly up - it is Buried from our minds. This is how they have been stealing from us for decades.

       When a company or person files for bankruptcy - they become an "alter ego" = sort of like a Corporation (did the light bulb just go on)? Bankruptcy is the realm of finality. Once someone files bankruptcy - anyone who is a creditor - is lucky to get 10 cents on a dollar. Romney/ Bain/ Traub and MNAT know this. So do all the creditors in the country. Like the Post Office, UPS, Fedex, Sony, General Mills --- HASBRO and Mattel. They have to pay their attorneys $500 to $1000 per hour (I know - it sucks how much they can get away with).

When your business is bankruptcy - Bankrupt Every Business

      Now keep up. This is the place where they snow everyone. How Goldman Sachs,  Bain, Bank of America Fleet Retail Finance and even GE - are making millions faster than a whole bunch of check cashing branches at once. They make money on both sides of the fence. You make fees for handling the bankruptcy case, stiff everyone you owe, re issue stock to yourself (do you hear me Mitt Romney and Ron Burkle)? Then, when you want to buy the bankrupt federal estate - Become the Seller. 
       Let me say that again, cause I know it is confusing - until you say "OH" I get it.

       If you are Bain and you want to buy eToys for as little as possible, you have to bid against everyone else that wants eToys. This is a problem. If you have been watching the TV Shows "Auction or Storage Wars" - you see junk go for high prices. When we 1st watched, there were 4 or 5 groups bidding. Now there are 100 people. Same thing with Pawn Stars in Las Vegas. They are SO busy, that there's a coffee and hot dog wagon outside and a LINE at 5 a.m. in the morning. Sometimes people wait for hours in 110% heat or freezing cold. NUTs.

        So, Mitt Romney and his Bain had a problem, Laser Haas was doing to their plan to buy eToys for pennies, the same thing TV did for Storage Wars. Being that I have been in the Liquidation business for 25 years, had handled over 1000 bankruptcies, liquidations, auctions etc. All I did was call everyone, tell them how great a deal they could get and that $3 million that MNAT, Traub and Barry Gold "thought" they were going to sell eToys to Bain/ Kay Bee for - jumped to tens of millions. There were two (2) problems, that the criminal cohorts needed to resolve.

    1.  Get rid of Laser Haas - he is a pain in our ass.

    2.  How do we get back the extra money he made us spend?

      My power center was good faith creditors and honorable employees at eToys. Over 1000 people were losing their jobs. I told them I could save them. They asked for proof and I took them to my 150,000 sg ft warehouse and presented them with a bank letter to guarantee them $5.4 million. Thus, I had the room to move everyting and the money equal to the highest bid. So everyone believed.

     Unfortunately, there were snakes in the grass. I was too naive, even with my 25 years of experience. I knew that Paul Traub was up to no good. So when the new, extremely funny and charming Barry Gold came to meet me and asked if he could help - I said yes.

Don't Laugh too loud - it cost me $3.7 million

   Yep, you are laughing at me now, saying You Fool - You Fool. Sad to say - you are correct, I was foolish enough to believe in honorable United States Trustee's. I was foolish enough to believe that I had a Chief Federal Justice's signed contract. That I was getting back more than $50 million and saving the company when they were only getting $3 to $5.4 million. I was foolish enough to believe that Barry Gold had NO connections to Paul Traub - RIGHT. After all, it would be against the law. It gets worse, but you are gonna laugh your ass off.   I was also foolish enough to pull Barry Gold over and say

                            "Watch out for Paul Traub - I think he is a crook" "
     Now that I know what was really going on - it must have taken everything in the world for Barry Gold not to choke on his own tongue and get away to his laughter. I had to be the joke of all the lawyers bars on Wall Street for months. Can you imagine being Eliot Ness and pulling over a Taxi driver named Frank Nitti and tell him - Look, go away, Al Capone is possibly a crook? Well, there's my SIGN.....(thanks Engvall) 
Implementing Bain's plan to steal Everything

      The Chairman of the Creditors Committee in eToys is an honest man. He had been working at Mattel for 22 years. But, both he and I did not know that MNAT and Mitt Romney were actually inside Mattel thru The Learning Company. There's also the fact that Mattel and Hasbro very Top - their CEO's and General Counsels, had to be in on the plan for Bain to take the monopoly of the toy industry. So they helped Romney/ Bain and Goldman Sachs - by giving the Creditors Chairman in eToys early retirement.

      Then, they simply refused to pay Laser Haas and locked me out of my company. Making me lose career, life savings, money borrowed from others - etc. It has been a decade long battle, costing more money than I would be happy to have today - as my life savings. Because, like the fool that I am, believing in the federal judge's contract I had signed - I naively thought I would just settle one day. How can a court stiff me when I helped get back $50 million - after they were only going to get $5 million?
       With me gone, they turned their focus to the final issue - How to get all that extra money back? Remember, as we discussed before, the best way not to lose as a buyer, is to also be the seller. What happens then will amaze you.

The Distressed Debt Business

       In bankruptcy, there is a seldom discussed business, that is better than Credit Default Swaps. It is called "Distressed Debt". Sony, the Post Office, Fedex, the toilet paper suppliers, the Utility companies - they all know - it is going to take 3, 4 or maybe even 10 years to get paid. At $500 to $1000 per hour - that could end up costing you millions. But you can't simply throw away the debt; such would encourage everyone to file bankruptcy tomorrow. So what big companies do, is sell their claims to people to buy them. It is a win - win. You get money now, save money in legal fees and the people or companies that buy the claims will make a good profit. Correct?

     But here is the $64,000 question.

      If, let's say XYZ company has $10 million in cash after selling everything that was once worth $100 million and the lawyers are going to get paid $500 to $1000 per hour. With accountants like Price Waterhouse, Ernst & Young, Liquidators, Security, Rents and on and on. How does anyone know what to pay for a claim? How is there any guarantee that you will make money?

     Again - Real Simple.

      Bain and Goldman Sachs will NOT pay 1 cent for the claim and get 50% of the net proceeds - when the bankruptcy court settles it. Then, after awhile, Bain and Goldman Sachs (and several other lucky bastard companies) - realize they can do even better. if you could somehow - CONTROL - who gets paid and who doesn't. Then, also keep that item a Secret. You can do a 50/50 deal with who you have to. But, you can buy a few claims that will be given PRIORITY. When you know which is a Priority claim, instead of doing a 50/50 deal - you buy it for CASH. Typically, they pay less than 3%. (after all, the most anyone can expect is 10%).

BAIN actually gets PAID to buy eToys

      Yes, I know, again you are saying "Huh" - how does that happen?
      Well, continuing along the line of "When you are a buyer - also be the seller" - The plan is really simple. MNAT is eToys Debtor's counsel and Paul Traub is the Creditors attorney - they are partners. They put Barry Gold in and kick Laser Haas out. Now you have $50 million, your customers of Bain/ Kay Bee and Goldman Sachs. Bain wants to own eToys for as little as possible and Goldman Sachs wants all the paperwork that shows how much it stole in the case - GONE.

        Barry Gold signed an Declaration to the Chief Federal Justice and said - I quote

       "This Plan (contract) was drafted in "extensive good faith" and  extensive arm's length between Debtor and Creditor. That is to say that Barry Gold just told the court that the Debtor (Barry Gold) was "extensively" acting in good faith and Totally 'arm's length" from the Creditors - His Partner Paul Traub.

         Wait - it gets better.

       In that contract, what the lawyers call a Confirmed PLAN. It actually states that the Administrator (Barry Gold) may settle all claims under $1 million - without asking the Court's permission. The only permission that the Administrator (Gold) needed - was that of the Creditors Post Effective Date Committee (PEDC) - that was being represented by - PAUL TRAUB.

       That's how you are both buyer and seller. You buy up the claims - which is legal for ANYone - even the Debtor to do. HOWEVER, you MUST DISCLOSE all the relationships. If you are a "Connected" party - you are Forbidden to profit One (1) single penny. Because that would be a Conflict of Interest. If you paid $5 dollars - the most you can get back is $5 dollars. If you paid ZERO, the most you can get back is ZERO.
            That's enough for today  guys and gals. - More to come
                                  MUCH MORE
            including a Corrupt United States Attorney - PROOF

 NEXT -   Toys R Us is in Possession of $1 Billion in Stolen Property


America’s bankrupt morality

Salon Home

Thursday, Mar 29, 2012 4:44 PM EDT

America’s bankrupt morality

It's not just Wall Street. Every profession from medicine to academia has been corrupted by our money obsession

Members of Occupy Sacramento march through downtown Sacramento as part of the "National Day of Action to Stop and Reverse Foreclosures," Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011
Members of Occupy Sacramento march through downtown Sacramento as part of the "National Day of Action to Stop and Reverse Foreclosures," Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011  (Credit: AP/Rich Pedroncelli)


The following article is an excerpt of a piece that first appeared in The Baffler. Click here to subscribe to The Baffler and read articles by David Graeber, Barbara Ehrenreich, Chris Lehmann, Jim Newell, Maureen Tkacik, and James K. Galbraith in the current issue.
“The “sound” banker, alas! is not one who sees danger and avoids it, but one who, when he is ruined, is ruined in a conventional and orthodox way along with his fellows so that no one can really blame him.” —John Maynard Keynes
The BafflerIn the 12 hapless years of the present millennium, we have looked on as three great bubbles of consensus vanity have inflated and burst, each with consequences more dire than the last.
First there was the “New Economy,” a millennial fever dream predicated on the twin ideas of a people’s stock market and an eternal silicon prosperity; it collapsed eventually under the weight of its own fatuousness.
Second was the war in Iraq, an endeavor whose launch depended for its success on the turpitude of virtually every class of elite in Washington, particularly the tough-minded men of the media; an enterprise that destroyed the country it aimed to save and that helped to bankrupt our nation as well.

Thomas Frank's most recent book is "Pity the Billionaire." He is also the author of "One Market Under God" and the founding editor of "The Baffler" magazine.  More Thomas Frank

Thursday, March 29, 2012

From Corporate Watchdogs to Corporate Reformers

Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice

From Corporate Watchdogs to Corporate Reformers

Corporate America along with its three pawns, the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our government, are slowly driving our nation to ruination. The signs of the rot and ruin are everywhere, not just from sea to shining sea across our land but on foreign land as well. Corporate America and its pawns for self-serving purposes are directly responsible for murderous imperialism on foreign land, for America among industrialized nations having the worst socio-economic conditions, and for harming Americans sometimes fatally through the services and products they buy, the air they breathe, and the water they drink.
Government reforms would go a long way toward slowing our decline and even reversing it eventually. Government reform could take away the enormous favors it bestows on corporate America, favors sometimes so large that they keep otherwise drowning corporations afloat. But government is intransigent and will continue to be corruptible at the hands of corporate America. More attention therefore needs to be turned toward corporate reform.
Furthermore, while corporate America may be too obtuse or complacent to realize it, their own reform may be good for them in the long run. As an organizational psychologist for nearly half a century I know how inefficient the corporate organizational structure is and how poorly corporations are run. Most of them would probably have a very tough going if they lost government handouts and hands-off corporate wrongdoing. A corporation that was properly organized and well run with the proper standards of performance and self accountability ought to be able to make up for its ill begotten profits.
Corporate America: An Overview
Big government is undeniably too big yet it is dwarfed by the number of corporations and their people and is totally overpowered by corporate America (if corporate reform were a success, there would be no excuse for a bloated and massive government). Corporate America is very heterogeneous spread as it is across many different manufacturing and service industries yet has a common goal of advancing itself regardless of the means. There are about 17,000 corporations in corporate America if we arbitrarily define any of its corporate members as having over 500 employees.
Since size, corruption and abusive power usually go together we ought to divide corporations or their industries into three categories of size, small, medium, and large as modified by the scale of harm done and assign reform priorities accordingly.
As big and powerful as it is overall, Corporate America nevertheless accounts for only about 20% of all businesses in America. The rest is referred to as small business, but it is not small in the size of its total workforce. Small business employs far more people than do corporations. Small business, if it would unite into a coordinated counterforce could be a powerful opponent of the entire corpocracy.
Corporate America’s Allies: An Overview
Not counting its “marriage partner,” that is, government, corporate America has many allies it can depend on to further its interests either by supporting and/or accepting them: the touts and shills; the cultists; NGOs; small business; compromised professions and sciences; the bystanders; and even foreign enemies. With the possible exception of the bystanders, an ally benefits directly or indirectly from its explicit or tacit alliance with corporate America. An ally that is explicit and very active in its support of corporate America ought to be considered accomplices in contrast to tacit and passive allies. Any corporate reform strategy must include corporate America’s accomplices or risk being blindsided by them.
Touts and Shills. They are a motley lot of accomplices and the difference between a tout and a shill isn’t always clear cut. Touts (that’s what Winston Churchill called lobbyists) are hired and paid to swarm inside government and lobby it for their clients. Anyone, any organization, any association can be a shill. Even politicians or judges can be shills. As a matter of fact, if you want to call government the biggest shill, I won’t disagree with you.
A shill’s focus is usually not as laser beamed as a tout’s. Shills generally offer paeans to the corpocracy and its conservative, free-market ideological underpinnings. Think of shrill shills like ideologically blinded, ranting and raving radio talk show hosts as an extreme example. Touts, on the other hand, concentrate on getting specific favors for particular corporate members of the corpocracy, be they a certain corporation or a particular industry.
Consider the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an extremely influential shill and tout. As I wrote in the December 13, 2011 issue of OpEdNews.com the USCC was instrumental in furthering the imminent US Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell’s “battle” plan to revive a dormant corporate America. The USCC has been called by the authors of a Washington Post story the “goliath of the lobbying world,” making Big Pharma look like a piker.
Shills that I’ll lump together include: talking-head pundits and the rabble rousers shouting into a mike; “Erudites” squirreled away in think tanks authoring corporate gospel; and “front” groups, whose purpose is to mask corporate intent and consequences and call them what they are not. Then there are in varying shades of shill the business and law schools that mint the new recruits for the managerial and executive ranks throughout corporate America and supply it with lawyers paid well to argue the legality of any corporate action no matter how harmful.
The cultists. One of the most insidious cults is the “cult of growth,” preferably fast growth, every quarter. The cultists in it generally aren’t shrill shills but their views on, and promotion of, unbridled growth sometimes go to the extreme and the actions sometimes condoned for achieving growth go to the extreme. In this cult are mostly mainstream economists, management gurus, and speculative investors and their brokers. There is even a politically activist organization called the “Club of Growth” that is for bridled taxes and unbridled growth.” This cult helps fuel corporate America’s wrongdoing by reinforcing speculative investing, globalization, environmental exploitation and what author Roger Terry in his book calls a kind of “economic insanity.”
Another cult is the conservatives who mostly occupy the right wing of the once proud Republican Party that called Abraham Lincoln its first U.S. President. This Party has become, says the Nobel laureate in economics, Paul Krugman, a strident group of malcontents “acting out of pure spite like a ‘bratty 13-year-old.” They spew provocative and deceitful exhortations and slogans (e.g., “let’s reload,” “don’t tread on me,” “freedom works”) and are against government solutions, particularly social welfare (so miserly it is dwarfed by corporate welfare).
“Anticorpocracy” NGOs. What you see is not necessarily what you get when it comes to the realm of NGOs that purport to be opposed to one or more facets of the corpocracy. In the February 23, 2012 issue of OpEdNews.com I wrote about my frustrating experience in trying to get what I call “two-fisted democracy power” organized and unleashed, and I included profiles of two financially well-endowed and large NGOs that appear to depend more for their existence on the corpocracy’s continuation than on ending it and reclaiming democracy. I had been forewarned about this and so I expect I will encounter many more compromised NGOs as I continue contacting them. If they refuse to unite or at least coordinate their separate government reform initiatives, then putting more emphasis on corporate reform becomes paramount.
Small business. Small business is no longer the backbone of our economy. Its backbone has been crushed. It has become both a victim of, and to some extent a compromised ally, corporate America.
Compromised professions and sciences. Probably the most shameful of this diverse lot are people of the cloth; that is, the religious profession. It is full of “pulpiteers” who mouth scripture and generalities about sin for fear of alienating those in the pews who put profit and power before honor when not in a house of worship. Next would have to be the legal profession, especially its corporate lawyers who specialize, to take an excerpt from the title of Ralph Nader and Wesley Smith’s book, in the “perversion of justice.” Next might be the mainstream journalism profession that has been compromised by the media magnates. I would also not leave out most of the other professions as well as the sciences because they have been compromised in various ways such as receiving government and corporate funding. Society tends to place far too much unguarded trust in the performance of professions and sciences because of their education, training, and standards of performance.
The bystanders. This passive and amorphous lot usually known as the silent majority is the most populous of all the allies. It includes fatalistic people, cowed and fearful people; bamboozled and distracted people; and exhausted people too busy trying to eke out a living.       
Foreign enemies. This is not a mistaken inclusion here. Sociology professor Charles Derber contends in his book, Regime Change begins at Home that “—today’s regime (aka today’s corpocracy) “can survive only by practicing a foreign policy of bad faith that [he calls] ‘marry-your-enemy.’” Carrying out this policy fattens the defense industry, including beefing up its sale of arms (the U.S. is the world’s top arms seller); opens up, protects, and expands corporations’ foreign markets and exploitation of natural resources (oil and minerals) and cheap labor; keeps politicians in office; and distracts the American public from growing socio-economic deterioration at home
Finding the Scoundrels
There are dozens of non-governmental watchdogs monitoring various industries, their corporations, and to some extent their accomplices (e.g. the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, certain think tanks, etc.)
Vetting over 17,000 corporations and countless accomplices (allies that actively aid and abet scoundrel corporations) would be silly. Relying on a random sampling of them would net a catch of scoundrels, but the overall goal of ending the corpocracy and reclaiming democracy obviously must not be left to chance. The best approach would be a coordinated search among many existing watchdog groups.
Here is a suggested plan these groups could follow for vetting corporate America and its accomplices:
1. Set a threshold of wrongdoing. There are so many ethical values and so many harmful ways to breech them that the severity of the harm done needs to be graded, starting with determining whether there is any reasonable evidence that harm has occurred in the first place. For each of the three dimensions of harm — psychological, physical, and economical — there needs to be a consensus on a threshold of harm that excludes immaterial consequences. Determining the thresholds would be very easy to do but necessary. There is plenty enough reform work to do without getting bogged down in trivia.
2. Name the obvious first. Some industries, their corporations, and their allies do not need to be vetted. They are the most rotten apples in the barrel. Offhand, I can think of six. Merchants of death, such as corporations in the “defense” industry would be first. Second would be the nuclear industry and its corporations. Third would be the agribusiness industry because of its poisoning of our food and drinking water. The fourth would be the financial “disservices” industry and its gangsters. The fifth would be the pharmaceutical industry where health often takes a backseat to wealth. The sixth would be certain allies like the trade lobbies (e.g., for the defense and pharmaceutical industries) and the USCC.
3. Vet the rest. Doing this will take some time so this is a good place to mention Jamie Court’s “corporateer quotient” that he wrote about in his book, Corporateering and who is president of Consumer Watchdog. The quotient is derived from answers to 18 questions (e.g., “what percentage of total expenditures is spent on political contributions and trade lobbying”). His questionnaire or some adaptation of it could be used in the vetting process while keeping in mind the complication, as Court does, that not many of the answers are publicly available even though “none of the questions are trade secrets.”
4. Don’t overlook any saints. There surely must be a few honorable exceptions among corpocracy America and its allies who could conceivably serve as inspiring exemplars. The search might turn out embarrassing though. I remember, for example, the pundits who were featured in a business magazine after having extolled Enron very shortly before that corporation imploded from its own misdeeds. An exemplary corporation therefore ought to be one that has passed rigorous screening.
Onward to Corporate Reform
Watchdogs that only watch are nothing more than lapdogs. We Americans ought to have had enough of an over-fed, lazy-fed lapdog that lets corporate America exploit and harm us. Once the vetting is done, therefore, a strategic approach to reforming the scoundrels needs to be planned and pursued.
How Not to Proceed: Three Stories of Mice at the Table with Hungry Cats
Confrontation, collaboration and/or compromise are stances instigators of corporate reform might take toward corrupt industries and their corporations. I will tell you three short stories of collaboration and compromise. The lesson taken from them is that mice should never sit down at the table with hungry cats.
The “apparel industry partnership.” Several unions, human rights groups, and religious groups sat down at the table with the apparel industry to seek a compromise solution on curbing or controlling sweatshops. Guess who got suckered and walked away with nothing?
The Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics.  Its mission is to bring “together leaders from business and academia to—renew and enhance the link between ethical behavior and business practice through executive education programs, practitioner-focused research and outreach.” Do you know anything about the Business Roundtable? If you do, you know which “partner” carries the day.
Peace through commerce. This is the partial title of a book I reviewed a year ago. Its editor advocates collaborations between multinational corporations and NGOs aimed at reducing violence. The editor lets various contributors illustrate with true stories their collaborations in several different countries.  The cited corporations mostly have a history of corruption and the illustrations clearly tell me that the editor, the NGOs, and the contributors (except for contributors who were executives in corporate PR departments) were hoodwinked.
A Possible Strategy for Instigating Corporate Reform
1. With the exception of the death merchants, for each of the industries and their corporations with records of the most harmful wrongdoing a large strike force cadre of NGOs and the most relevant movement(s) would be established. Where a bona fide movement did not exist the cadre would be responsible for developing one (possibly relying on the guidance of authoritative sources such as Si Kahn and his book Organizing guide for grassroots leaders). A large cadre would also be established for allies that are common to all of the industries such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and think tanks. This strategy of using specific cadres would represent a modified and scaled-down version of my two-fisted democracy proposal.
2.  For each selected industry the corresponding cadre would target specific corporations and any specific allies unique to them. Priorities in order and timing of the confrontations would depend on the behavioral profiles of the corporations and their allies.
3. The different cadres would coordinate their plans and strategies but tailor them as necessary to the specific nature of each target. All of the cadres should collaborate in planning and carrying out a campaign of blitzing the public about their entire venture and soliciting support for it (such as joining in any planned massive demonstrations or boycotts).
Once a cadre was ready it would begin confronting its target corporations/accomplices, escalating the confrontation to a more aggressive stage if the corporation’s response in the previous step was unsatisfactory.
4. In the initial confrontation, regardless of whether the corporation/accomplice had been a target before, a certified letter would be sent to the corporation’s CEO and chair of the board of directors with a copy to any accomplice.
Letters to corporations that have already been confronted by activists would reflect that fact. The letters would also a) present an assessment of each corporation’s profile of  wrongdoing along with a request for a self-assessment to be made such as completing the questionnaire developed by Jamie Court and introduced in his book, Corporateering;  b) make the case for why the corporation should reject the corpocracy and undertake self-reforms such as those I suggested in my first book, Tall Performance from Short Organizations Through We/Me Power and in my most recent book, The Corporacy and Megaliio’s Turn Up Strategy; c) advise the corporation to repair major harms its actions have caused; and d) advise the corporation to resolve whatever longstanding or current issues have already been raised by activist groups. The notice would close by requesting a response within one month and saying the response would influence the cadre’s next steps.
5. Complying corporations, if there are any, would be closely monitored and issued progress reports until, and if, it was cleared by the cadre. Recalcitrant corporations would be hit by a barrage of escalating confrontations that would include massive boycotts, massive protest demonstrations, lawsuits, blitzing the public with publicity, and telling the obsequious, relevant government agencies to get on board pronto with the reformers, not their targets.
Is Corporate Self-reform Realistically Possible?
My answer is “yes” if corporations are aggressively confronted; if they are shown models of properly organized and run corporations, along with any real exemplary corporations; and if the monitoring and pressure never ease or cease until there is the right kind of self reform.
The Special Case of the Death Merchants
I will close with this sobering thought. If the death merchants and their government pawns aren’t stopped. they will eventually be the death of America. This part of the corpocracy is the one part where it will be absolutely imperative to organize and unleash a (civil) war on war. The only way to do this would be to confront not only the “defense” industry but also those parts of our government that depend the most on militarism and endless wars.
Gary Brumback, PhD is a retired psychologist and Fellow of both the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science. He is the author of The Devil’s Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch. His most recent book, The Corpocracy and the Megaliio Corporation’s Turn Up Strategy, is freely available at www.democracypowernow.blogspot.com. Gary can be reached at: democracypower@bellsouth.net. Read other articles by Gary, or visit Gary's website.

How Americans Have Gotten Played -- Over and Over and Over Again


In the 12 hapless years of this millennium, we have looked on as 3 great bubbles have inflated and burst, each with consequences more dire than the last.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
 The following article is an excerpt of a piece that first appeared in The Baffler. Click here to subscribe to The Baffler and read articles by David Graeber, Barbara Ehrenreich, Chris Lehmann, Jim Newell, Maureen Tkacik, and James K. Galbraith in the current issue.
"The “sound” banker, alas! is not one who sees danger and avoids it, but one who, when he is ruined, is ruined in a conventional and orthodox way along with his fellows so that no one can really blame him." —John Maynard Keynes
In the twelve hapless years of the present millennium, we have looked on as three great bubbles of consensus vanity have inflated and burst, each with consequences more dire than the last.
First there was the “New Economy,” a millennial fever dream predicated on the twin ideas of a people’s stock market and an eternal silicon prosperity; it collapsed eventually under the weight of its own fatuousness.
Second was the war in Iraq, an endeavor whose launch depended for its success on the turpitude of virtually every class of elite in Washington, particularly the tough-minded men of the media; an enterprise that destroyed the country it aimed to save and that helped to bankrupt our nation as well.
And then, Wall Street blew up the global economy. Empowered by bank deregulation and regulatory capture, Wall Street enlisted those tough-minded men of the media again to sell the world on the idea that financial innovations were making the global economy more stable by the minute. Central banks puffed an asset bubble like the world had never seen before, even if every journalist worth his byline was obliged to deny its existence until it was too late.
These episodes were costly and even disastrous, and after each one had run its course and duly exploded, I expected some sort of day of reckoning for their promoters. And, indeed, the last two disasters combined to force the Republican Party from its stranglehold on American government—for a time.
But what rankles now is our failure, after each of these disasters, to come to terms with how we were played. Each separate catastrophe should have been followed by a wave of apologies and resignations. Taken together— and given that a good percentage of the pundit corps signed on to two or even three of these idiotic storylines—they mandated mass firings in the newsrooms and op-ed pages of the nation. Quicker than you could say “Ahmed Chalabi,” an entire generation of newsroom fools should have lost their jobs.
But that’s not what happened. Plenty of journalists have been pushed out of late, but the ones responsible for deluding the public are not among them. Standard & Poor’s first leads the parade of folly (triple-A’s for everyone!), then decides to downgrade U.S. government debt, and is taken seriously in both endeavors. And the prospect of Fox News or CNBC apologizing for their role in puffing war bubbles and financial bubbles is no better than a punch line: what they do is the opposite, launching new movements that stamp their crumbled fables “true” by popular demand.
The real mistake was my own. I believed that our public intelligentsia had succumbed to an amazing series of cognitive failures; that time after time they had gotten the facts wrong, ignored the clanging bullshit detector, made the sort of mistakes that would disqualify them from publishing in The Baffler, let alone the Washington Post.
What I didn’t understand was that these weren’t cognitive failures at all; they were moral failures, mistakes that were hard-wired into the belief systems of the organizations and professions and social classes in question. As such they were mistakes that—  from the point of view of those organizations or professions or classes—shed no discredit on the individual chowderheads who made them. Holding them accountable was out of the question, and it remains off the table today. These people ignored every flashing red signal, refused to listen to the whistleblowers, blew off the obvious screaming indicators that something was going wrong in the boardrooms of the nation, even talked us into an unnecessary war, for chrissake, and the bailout apparatus still stands ready should they fuck things up again.
Keep on Dancing Till the World Ends
My aim here isn’t to take some kind of victory lap or to get in the granite faces of our eternal pundit corps one more time. Nor is it to blame Republicans for our problems. It is true that, from the scandal of CEO pay to the scandal of lobotomized regulators, each of the really monumental mistakes of our time arose from the trademark doctrines of the political right. And, yes, it was the Bush administration that muzzled government scientists and declared war on organized intelligence in a hundred other ways.
But the problem goes far beyond politics. We have become a society that can’t self-correct, that can’t address its obvious problems, thatcan’t pull out of its nosedive. And so to our list of disasters let us add this fourth entry: we have entered an age of folly that—for all our Facebooking and the twittling tweedle-dee-tweets of the twitterati—we can’t wake up from.
Besides, the reign of corruption has taken plenty of right-wing scalps, too. In fact, one of the most interesting comments on the machinery that is making us stupid came from the libertarian Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute, after he had temporarily lost his job (he got it back a little while later, don’t worry) for puffing clients of Jack Abramoff in exchange for the lobbyist’s largesse. But what was the big deal? fumed Bandow in a 2006 cri de coeur called “The Lesson Jack Abramoff Taught Me.” Living in Washington was expensive; and besides, everyone was basically on the take:
Many supposedly “objective” thinkers and “independent” scholar/experts these days have blogs or consulting gigs, or they are starting nonprofit Centers for the Study of... Who funds their books, speeches or other endeavors? Often it’s those with an interest in the outcome of a related debate. The number of folks underwriting the pursuit of pure knowledge can be counted on one hand, if not one finger.
Bandow had been caught, yes, but he wasn’t the only culprit, he insisted—with some accuracy. All opinions are paid for. Everything written in this city—everything in this land that is thought and tweeted and toasted with a hip hip hooray . . . is Abramoffed. We are all slaves to the market; there is no way to stand outside that condition.
I can remember the contempt I felt when I read Bandow’s essay, back in 2006. Of course there was a place where ideas weren’t simply for sale, I thought: the professions. Ethical standards kept professionals independent of their clients’ gross pecuniary interests.
These days, though, I’m not so sure. Money has transformed every watchdog, every independent authority. Medical doctors are increasingly gulled by the lobbying of pharmaceutical salesmen. Accountants were no match for Enron. Corporate boards are rubber stamps. Hospitals break unions, and, with an eye toward future donations, electronically single out rich patients for more luxurious treatment.
And consider the university, the mothership of the professions. For-profit higher education is today a booming industry, feeding on the student loans handed out to the desperate. Even the traditional academy, where free inquiry nominally lives, has become a profit center, a place where exorbitant tuition somehow bypasses the adjuncts who do the teaching but makes for lavish executive salaries; where economists pull in fantastic sums for “consulting”; and where the prospect of launching the next hot Internet startup is a gamble that it is worth bending any rule to take.
Another thing Doug Bandow got right was one of the basic reasons for all this: for most Americans, the building blocks of middle-class life—four years at a good college, for example—are growing ever more expensive and out of reach. For other people and other entities, though, they grow relatively cheaper; they are baubles to be handed out as necessity requires. The result is exactly what our nineteenth-century ancestors would have expected. Think of Jack Grubman, the superstar stock analyst of the nineties, who famously upgraded AT&T’s shares in exchange for getting his children into a ferociously competitive  preschool. Or the congressional aides on Capitol Hill, surrounded by the inaccessible luxuries of Washington, D.C., who would do nearly anything for a lobbyist in exchange for a shot at a future job on said lobbyist’s staff. Or the actual members of Congress who sold their votes in exchange for little bits of sushi or a blowout party in Hawaii or good seats at sporting events.
And as we serve money, we find that money wants the same thing from us: to push everyone it beguiles in the same direction. Money never seems to be interested in strengthening regulatory agencies, for example, but always in subverting them, in making them miss the danger signs in coal mines and in derivatives trading and in deep-sea oil wells. You can have a shot at being part of the 1 percent, money tells us, only if you are first committed to making the 1 percent stronger, to defending their piles in some new and imaginative way, to rationalizing and burnishing their glory, to exempting them from regulation or taxation, to bowing down as they pass, and to believing in your heart that their touch will heal scrofula.
So money gives us not only the bond-rating scandal of 2008, in which trash investments were labeled super-wholesome so that the rating agency in question could win more business from the manufacturers of said trash; and not only the Enron scandal of 2001, in which head-spinning conflicts of interest were over- looked by Enron’s accountants in order to preserve the nice ka-ching those conflicts delivered to everyone involved; but also the analyst scandal of 2002, in which Wall Street insiders pushed certain corporate securities on their sappy middle-American clients in order to win those corporations’ business—and then while it is corrupting all the watchmen, money also dashes off an enormous body of literature assuring those sappy middle Americans that they are in fact financial geniuses who can outsmart any possible combination of Wall Street insiders, because together the saps reflect the wisdom of markets or some other such reassuring bullshit. And all of it— the airy populism of the market and its simultaneous complete negation by reality—is as determined by the current distribution of wealth as gravity is by the mass of the planet. Both of them will continue indefinitely regardless of the constant violence the one does to the other simply because that’s the way money wants it, and every dollar in the nation will strain at its leash to ensure that financial naïveté  persists on into infinity in complete ignorance of financial fraud.
Thomas Frank is the founding editor of The Baffler and the author of Pity the Billionaire. To read the complete piece, visit The Baffler’s website, or go ahead and subscribe to The Baffler, by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How the Right-Wing Brain Works and What That Means for Progressives



There really is a science of conservative morality, and it really is vastly different from liberal morality. And there are key lessons to be drawn from this research.
Photo Credit: ShutterStock.com

Editor's Note: This essay draws upon Chris Mooney’s forthcoming book, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality (due out in April from Wiley), as well as his interviews with George Lakoff, Jonathan Haidt and Dan Kahan on the Point of Inquiry podcast.

If you’re a liberal or a progressive these days, you could be forgiven for being baffled and frustrated by conservatives. Their views and actions seem completely alien to us—or worse. From cheering at executions, to wanting to “throw up” over church-state separation, to seeking to “drown” government “in the bathtub” (except when it is cracking down on porn, apparently) conservatives not only seem very different, but also very inconsistent.

Even the most well-read liberals and progressives can be forgiven for being confused, because the experts themselves—George Lakoff, Jonathan Haidt and others--have different ways of explaining what they call conservatives’ “morality” or “moral systems.” Are we dealing with a bunch of die-hard anti-government types in their bunkers, or the strict father family? Are our intellectual adversaries free-market libertarians, or right-wing authoritarians—and do they even know the difference?

To borrow from Wallace Stevens, it seems like there are quite a lot of ways of looking at an elephant.

But to all you liberals I say, have hope: It’s not nearly so baffling as it may at first appear. Having interviewed many of these experts over the course of the last year, my sense is that despite coming from different fields and using different terminologies, they are saying many of the same things. Most important, their work suggests that there really is a science of conservative morality, and it really is very different from liberal morality. And there are key lessons to be drawn from this research about how to interact (and not interact) with our intellectual opponents.

That’s what I’m going to show—but first, let me first emphasize that morality isn’t the only way in which liberals and conservatives differ. They differ on a wide variety of traits--and it is not necessarily clear, as Jonathan Haidt recently put it to me, what’s the root of the flower, what’s the stem and what’s the leaves.

But set that aside for now. Moral differences between left and right tend to draw the greatest amount of attention, and for good reason: They seem most directly implicated in policy disputes and the culture wars alike.

Another thing that you need to know at the outset about conservative “morality” is that it’s not at all the sort of thing that moral philosophers debate endlessly about. We’re not talking about a highly developed intellectual system for determining the way one ought to act, like deontology or utilitarianism. We’re not paging Immanuel Kant or Jeremy Bentham.

Rather, we’re talking about the deep-seated impulses that push conservatives (or liberals) to act in a certain way. These needn’t be “moral” or “ethical” at all, in the sense of maximizing human happiness, ensuring the greatest good for the greatest number, adhering to a consistent set of rules and principles, and so on. Indeed, they may even be highly immoral by such standards—but there’s no denying that they are very real, and must be contended with.

The Science of Left-Right Morality

So how do conservatives think—and more important still, what do we know scientifically about how they think?

Perhaps the earliest and most influential thinker into this fray was the Berkeley cognitive linguist George Lakoff, with his classic book Moral Politics and many subsequent works (most recently, this item at Huffington Post). Lakoff’s opening premise is that we all think in metaphors. These are not the kind of thing that English majors study, but rather real, physical circuits in the brain that structure our cognition, and that are strengthened the more they are used. For instance, we learn at a very early age how things go up and things go down, and then we talk about the stock market and individual fortunes “rising” and “falling”—a metaphor.

For Lakoff, one metaphor in particular is of overriding importance in our politics: The metaphor that uses the family as a model for broader groups in society—from athletic teams to companies to governments. The problem, Lakoff says, is that we have different conceptions of the family, with conservatives embracing a “strict father” model and liberals embracing a caring, empathetic and “nurturing” version of a parent.

The strict father family is like a free-market system, and yet also very hierarchical and authoritarian. It’s a harsh world out there and the father (the supreme and always male authority) is tough and will teach the kids to be tough, because there will be no one to protect them once the father is gone. The political implications are obvious. In contrast, the nurturing parent family emphasizes love, care and growth—and, so the argument goes, compassionate government control.

Lakoff has been extremely influential, but it’s important to also consider other scientific analyses of the moral systems of left and right. Enter the University of Virginia moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, whose new book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion has just come out. In his own research, Haidt initially identified five (and more recently, six) separate moral intuitions that appear to make us feel strongly about situations before we’re even consciously aware of thinking about them; that powerfully guide our reasoning; and that differ strikingly from left and right.

Haidt’s first five intuitions, or “moral foundations,” are 1) the sense of needing to provide care and protect from harm; 2) the sense of what is just and fair; 3) the sense of loyalty and willingness to sacrifice for a group; 4) the sense of obedience or respect for authority; and 5) the sense of needing to preserve purity or sanctity. And politically, Haidt finds that liberals tend to strongly emphasize the first two moral intuitions (harm and fairness) in their responses to situations and events, but are much weaker on emphasizing the other three (group loyalty, respect for authority, and purity or sanctity). By contrast, Haidt finds that conservatives more than liberals respond to all five moral intuitions.

Indeed, multiple studies associate conservatism with a greater disgust reflex or sensitivity. In one telling experiment, subjects who were asked to use a hand wipe before answering questions, or to answer them near a hand sanitizer, gave more politically conservative answers. Haidt even told me in our interview that when someone like Rick Santorum talks about wanting to “throw up,” that may indeed signal a strong disgust sensitivity.

More recently, Haidt and his colleagues added a sixth moral foundation: “Liberty/oppression.” Liberals and conservatives alike care about being free from tyranny, from unjust exertions of power, but they seem to apply this impulse differently. Liberals use it (once again) to stand up for the poor, the weak; conservatives use it to support the “don’t tread on me” fulminating against big government (and global government) of the Tea Party.

This, incidentally, creates a key emotional bond between libertarians on the one hand, and religious conservatives on the other.

Haidt strives to understand the conservative perspective, and to walk a middle path between left and right—but he fully admits in his book that conservative morality is more “parochial.” Conservatives, writes Haidt, are more “concerned about their groups, rather than all of humanity.” And Haidt further suggests that this is not his own view of what is ethical, writing that “when we talk about making laws and implementing public policies in Western democracies that contain some degree of ethnic and moral diversity, then I think there is no compelling alternative to utilitarianism.” It’s hard to see how thinking about the good of the in-group (rather than the good of everyone) could be considered very utilitarian.

But to my mind, here’s the really telling thing about all of this. When you get right down to it, Lakoff and Haidt seem to be singing harmony with each other. It’s not just that they could both be right—it’s that the large overlap between them strengthens both accounts, especially since the two researchers are coming from different fields and using very different methodologies and terminologies.

Lakoff’s system overlaps with Haidt’s in multiple places—most obviously when it comes to liberals showing broader empathy and wanting to care for those who are harmed (nurturing parent) and conservatives respecting authority (strict father). But the overlaps are larger still, for the strict father family is also an in-group and quite individualistic—in other words, prizing the conservative version of freedom or liberty.

What’s more, both of these systems are also consistent with a third approach that is growing in influence: The cultural cognition theory being advanced by Yale’s Dan Kahan and his colleagues, which divides us morally into “hierarchs” and “egalitarians” along one axis, and “individualists” and “communitarians” along another (helpful image here). Conservatives, in this scheme, tend towards the hierarchical and the individualistic; liberals tend toward the egalitarian and the communitarian.

Throwing Kahan into the mix—and yes, he uses yet another methodology--we once again find great consistency with Lakoff and Haidt. Egalitarians worry about fairness; communitarians about protecting the innocent from harm; hierarchs about authority and the group (and probably sanctity or purity—hierarchs tend toward the religious). Individualists are, basically, exercisers of the conservative version of freedom and liberty.

Terminology aside, then, Lakoff, Haidt and Kahan seem to have considerably more grounds for agreement with each other than for disagreement, at least when it comes to describing what actually motivates political conservatives and political liberals.

Morality as Impulse and Instinct

And in fact, that’s just the beginning of the expert agreement.

In all of these schemes, what’s being called “morality” is emotional and, in significant part, automatic. It’s not about the conscious decisions you make about situations or policies—or at least, not primarily. Rather, the focus is on the unconscious impulses that shape how you think about situations before you’re even aware you’re doing so, and then guide (and bias) your reasoning.

This leads Lakoff and Haidt to strongly reject what you might call the “Enlightenment model” for thinking about reasoning and persuasion, and leads Kahan to talk about motivated reasoning, rather than rational or objective reasoning. Once again, these thinkers are essentially agreeing that because morality biases us long before consciousness and reasoning set in, factual and logical argument are not at all a good way to get us to change our behavior and how we respond.

This is also a point I made recently, noting how Republicans become more factually wrong with higher levels of education. Facts clearly don’t change their minds—if anything, they make matters worse! Lakoff, too, emphasizes how refuting a false conservative claim can actually reinforce it. And he doesn’t merely show why the Enlightenment mode of thinking is outdated; he also stresses that liberals are more wedded to it than conservatives, and this irrational rationalism lies at the root of many political failures on the left.

Getting Through

On the one hand, the apparent consensus among these experts is surely something to rejoice about. Progress is finally being made at understanding the emotional and cognitive roots of the culture war and our political dysfunction alike.

But if all of this is really true—if conservatives and liberals have deep seated and automatic moral and emotional differences—then what should we do about it?

Here, finally, we do find real disagreement among the pros. Lakoff would have liberals combat conservative morality by shouting their own values from the rooftops, and never falling for conservative words and frames. Haidt would increase political civility by remaking our institutions of government to literally make liberals and conservatives feel empathetic bonds and the power of teamwork. And Kahan has done experiments showing that talking about the same issue in different value laden “frames” leads to different outcomes. For instance, if you discuss dealing with global warming in an individualistic frame—by emphasizing the importance of free market approaches like nuclear power—then you open conservative minds, at least to an extent. We’ve got data on that.

It shouldn’t be surprising that the experts become dissonant as they move from merely describing conservative morality to outlining strategy. After all, there’s a heck of a lot more uncertainty involved when you start to prescribe courses of action aimed at achieving particular outcomes. Understanding conservatives in controlled experiments is one thing; trying to outline a communications strategy with Fox News around, ready to pounce, is another matter.

Nevertheless, here’s what I’ve been able to extract.

Clearly, you shouldn’t try to persuade your ideological opponents by citing threatening facts. Rather, if your goal is an honest give-and-take, you should demonstrate the existence of common ground and shared values before broaching anything controversial, and you should interact calmly and interpersonally. To throw emotion into the mix is to stoke automatic, moralistic, indignant responses.

Such are some scientific tips about trying to communicate and persuade--but liberals should not get overoptimistic about the idea of convincing conservatives to change their beliefs, much less their moral responses. There are far too many factors arrayed against this possibility at present—not just the deeply rooted and instinctive nature of moral intuitions, but our current political polarization, by parties and also by information channels.

You can’t have a calm, unemotional conversation when everything is framed as a battle, as it currently is. Our warfare over reality, and for control of the country, is just too intense. And in a “wartime” situation, conservative have their in-group preferences to naturally fall back on.

But if we merge together Lakoff and Haidt, then I think we do end up with some good advice for liberals who want to advance their own view of what is moral. On the one hand, they should righteously advance their own values, not conservative ones. But they should remain fully aware that these values are somewhat limited since, as Haidt shows, conservatives seem to have a broader moral palette.

To reach the political middle, then, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to demonstrate much more loyalty than liberals are used to emphasizing, and to show respect for authority as well—which doesn’t come so naturally to us. What authority should we respect? I suggest either the authority of president, or perhaps better yet, the authority of the Founding Fathers. Let’s face it: Conservatives have insulted, defiled, and disobeyed the secular, rational, and Enlightenment legacy of the people who founded this country (if you want to get moralistic about it).

When it comes to loyalty and unity in particular, liberals could stand to look in the mirror and try to be more…conservative. Not in their substantive policy views, but in their ability to act as a team with one purpose and one goal that cannot be compromised or weakened. Diversity is great for our society—but not for our objectives. And that means we have something to learn from conservatives: They may not know how to make America better, but they certainly know how to take a strong, united and moralistic stand in order to get what they want.

That’s an example that liberals could do worse than to follow.

Chris Mooney is the author of four books, including "The Republican War on Science" (2005). His next book, "The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality," is due out in April.