Northfielders for Obama, McCain

election08 I searched Meetup for Northfield-area groups who support the various presidential candidates but couldn’t find any.

Are there any organized gatherings yet?

If you know of any, attach a comment with the info.

1/31 update: I’ve removed Edwards and Giuliani from the blog post title since they dropped out this week.

2/9 update: I’ve removed Romney from the blog post title since he dropped out this week.

4/17: I’ve removed Huckabee and Paul from the blog post title

6/3: I’ve removed Clinton from the blog post title


  1. Felicity Enders said:

    There is an active Obama network in Northfield. I have to admit I’ve been so busy with them that I haven’t been on this site recently – my apologies. Anyone who wants to get in contact with the Obama folks can email me at Tom Hayes and Mary-Lewis Grow are more involved than I am, but I can help make connections. Anyone who wants to lurk a bit and read up on the issues or catch a speech online can do so at or I was personally inspired to get into this campaign (never having been involved in a campaign before) by hearing Barack speak, so I highly recommend that venue. Also, I do have Obama buttons and bumper stickers for those who are interested; I’ll have some with me while I’m out and about this weekend. I’ll even endeavor to belatedly get a picture posted here so people can find me in public!

    Of course, the most important activity is coming out to caucus next Tuesday. The DFL caucus is at 7pm at the new Northfield middle school on south Division. Eligible voters must be there by 8 at the latest in order to participate. Taking part in the presidential preference part of the caucus is easy – you just complete the form and then if you don’t want to get involved with the rest of the caucus you can leave.

    Finally, please note that the DFL caucus is binding in terms of delegates, not a straw poll such as the Republican caucus apparently is.

    January 31, 2008
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks, Felicity. I found the Northfield for Obama group on his site. I see you and Tom Hayes there and have sent you both requests to pretty puhleeeeeeeease ‘be my friend.’

    Are there any F2F gatherings planned for the area? 

    January 31, 2008
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve removed Edwards and Giuliani from the blog post title since they dropped out this week.

    January 31, 2008
  4. Felicity Enders said:

    Glad to “meet” you, Griff!

    CORRECTION: although the caucus itself does begin at 7 on Tuesday, voting for presidential preference will start at 6:30 and run to 8pm. Again, this info is just for the DFL caucus.

    January 31, 2008
  5. Patrick Enders said:

    Are there any F2F gatherings planned for the area?

    We had one at our house last weekend, and Tom Hayes (I believe that’s his last name) had a gathering a couple days ago. I’m sorry we missed you. I’m not sure where these things are announced, as I was just in charge of the cleaning for our gathering. We didn’t mention anything here because as of a week ago or so, national politics didn’t seem to fit within the purview of Locally Grown.

    I’ve also heard a rumor that there’s a gathering “for women” somewhere in town tomorrow. Perhaps my dear friend Felicity might stop by and tell us all where to go to find out about these things?

    February 1, 2008
  6. Felicity Enders said:

    Hi all,

    The gathering for women Patrick alluded to is very targeted at those feeling conflicted about this decision, so the organizer has asked me not to open it up by posting here. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any others between now and Tuesday – the campaign has shifted into a “get out the caucus” mode. That being said, I am planning to attend Sunday’s Politics & a Pint, which seems like a reasonable forum to discuss differences between the candidates (assuming the P&P folks meant presidential candidates as well as senatorial candidates).

    February 1, 2008
  7. Bruce Morlan said:

    Actually, I was focused mostly on presidential first, then senate.

    February 1, 2008
  8. Felicity Enders said:

    Thanks Bruce. Great timing for this P&P, it’s clearly on a lot of people’s minds.

    February 1, 2008
  9. I just want to say that I would never dislike anyone for their political preferences. I always associate with anyone who is sincere and friendly
    towards me and others. At first I am human and then an American
    and I can use those as common denominators. I hope everyone can.

    February 1, 2008
  10. John George said:

    Bright- I like your perspective. It really doesn’t matter what our political convictions are if we are not willing to accept one another and live together in the community. I believe that is a choice we can make that goes above our feelings. I like to expreass it this way- “both and”, rather that “either or”. One is inclusive, the other devisive. I highly respect any person of conviction. I may not agree with them, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk and come to some type of agreement. I like to think I am more of a pragmatist (although I know I may not always sound like one).

    February 1, 2008
  11. Felicity Enders said:

    Patrick once had a teacher who used to say “the only thing worse than being dead is not having an opinion.” I absolutely agree with this – even if the opinion is not the same as mine. After all, the world would be a pretty boring place if everyone agreed about everything. More importantly, a diversity of opinions are needed to reach real resolution on problems of enormous complexity, such as those faced by the current presidential candidates.

    February 2, 2008
  12. Johnny B. Good, I like that you like my perspective!

    February 2, 2008
  13. Griff Wigley said:

    I took these photos Friday — the first yard sign and bumper sticker for the ’08 presidential race I’ve seen in Northfield.

    IMG_0459 IMG_0458

    February 3, 2008
  14. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Now that Edwards has dropped, I am also in the Obama camp. I just need assurance he will tackle the flawed world trade agreements, NAFTA being the most glaring example. The rush of immigrants over the border was one of the unanticipated consequences. Would I trust Hillary to break from her husband who is largely responsible for the mess? Not really.

    February 3, 2008
  15. Although I like Obama, he is a very good orator, likable smile, and some good morals, I wonder what experience he has to draw upon when he starts talking to heads of state, heads of tribes, and those who may harm the USA interests. No one has been able to answer me, or no where that I research do I get some reassuring answer based in truth. Oh, dear.

    February 3, 2008
  16. John George said:

    Bright- As far as drawing from experience when working with heads of states, etc., take a look at Reagan. His resume was that he was a good actor. He also proved to be a good statesman. If I remember right, it was on his watch that the Iron Curtain fell, and democracy came to the Soviet Union. I may be too pragmatic, but I think a person’s depth of character and ability ablility to work with people of differing viewpoints is most important. I put more stock in actions than words. If a person (leader) doesn’t walk his talk, I really don’t give him much credibility as a leader. I think it is more important to see who a leader’s advisers are, or will be, than to rely solely on his experience or lack thereof. There are many more facets to this whole thing, but I think this is an important one.

    February 3, 2008
  17. Josh Hinnenkamp said:

    Go McKinney

    February 3, 2008
  18. Good points, JG. Reagan was also a uber major student of history.
    So who would Obama bring into his cabinet? The reason I wonder so,
    is because he is from my old part of town, and I never heard of him
    ten years ago…nothing on the street, nothing amongst my neighbors
    who may be black and very political. Not a word.

    February 4, 2008
  19. John George said:

    Bright- Interesting first hand insight on your part. Might make for some good conspiracy grist. Illinois seems to have a history of mob controled politics. Wonder who is behind his arising? I haven’t researched this, but it does raise a question in my mind.

    Another thing this points out is that not every candidate has grass roots background. Those things always wave a red flag for me. It seems the founding fathers set up our government system so that anyone could serve. Nowadays, it seems that politics has become a profession. Even Paul Wellstone fell prey to this trap.

    February 4, 2008
  20. Patrick Enders said:

    The reasons Obama has risen so quickly are simple: he’s an amazingly good orator, and the party really needed some fresh blood.

    When I heard he was going to speak for Kerry in 2004, I said, “who”? After I heard him, I said “I want that man to run for President.” He can think, he can write, and he can inspire. Those are very rare things. Bill Clinton had some of that leadership quality. Reagan had lots of it – even though I disagreed with where he led.

    If the Democratic Party had other, better candidates for leadership, Obama may not have risen so quickly. But the competition is thin, and inspiring leaders are very rare. Hillary Clinton is the only other decent candidate the party has right now, but many of us wanted an alternative to her.

    So that’s why he was encouraged to run. As for actually having a chance to win, that’s the result of who he is, who Hillary is, and what he has done as a candidate.

    February 4, 2008
  21. Thanks to everyone who has replied to my cry for help in understanding these candy dates.

    Patrick said:

    “I want that man to run for President.” He can think, he can write, and he can inspire.”

    Patrick, I am sure you are right all across the board here, and btw good answer!

    But here I fear, the description you give for Obama can also be true for
    some of the serial killers we have run across.

    Are we voting for the these people because that’s all we have been offered?
    Where are the great people of this country? Where are the real visionaries with actual dreams to give us and where are our own voices? It’s just seems like the same old circles we are traveling in, with nothing new to move this country forward. Maybe I am just getting jaded.

    February 4, 2008
  22. John George said:

    Patrick- I think you expressed some very good points. If you look through history, there are some really good examples of these qualities. Lincoln, Roosevelt, John Kennedy are some that come to mind (I’m sure there are others I’m missing). It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out.

    February 4, 2008
  23. Patrick Enders said:


    Of course, I can’t be sure, but I consider it highly unlikely that Barack Obama is a serial killer.

    February 4, 2008
  24. John George said:

    Patrick- That would be especially important to Malto Meal. Oh rats! That’s “serial”!! Thought spell check was decieving me!

    February 4, 2008
  25. Patrick Enders said:

    Rats? In Northfield?

    February 4, 2008
  26. I just saw Obama on the tube, it was a flash shot, but I could see he looks
    mighty tired, and a good chunk older than he did a week ago. I know the newest Hollywood make up is killer, in that in can cover up a whole lot of
    what people don’t like to see in a way that has never been done previously.
    Maybe this is the first time I see him without make up.

    So I hope it’s just that, cuz as people know, the Presidency can cause rapid aging. If someone is that tired just from campaigning, I don’t think they’ll hold up more than a year or two. It may not be true, but the instinct tells me otherwise.

    February 19, 2008
  27. Patrick Enders said:

    Is anyone suffering from OCS (Obama Comedown Syndrome) yet?

    Nope. But then, I merely believe that – among the current Presidential candidates – he has the most potential to be a good leader. Nothing more.

    This messianic talk has been more than a little silly, and seems mostly to be spread by his detractors.


    February 20, 2008
  28. What Patrick said. Mostly!

    I imagine things will be getting pretty ugly soon (both from the Clinton camp and the McCain camp), with Swift-boating, Willy Hortoning, etc., etc., ad nauseam, as an Obama-McCain general campaign appears increasingly likely.

    February 20, 2008
  29. William Siemers said:

    OCS…maybe I’m getting it. Just too smooth…too handsome…too young… He better choose some old, balding white guy as in a rumpled suit for vp, or I’m outahere.

    February 20, 2008
  30. Paul Zorn said:

    I’d be glad to vote for Obama (and rather expect to do so, given how things are going). And Obama seems able to write prose that scans, which is almost enough for me after our long national linguistic nightmare.

    But … in a spirit of contrarianism … I don’t see others praising Hillary, and that needs doing, too.

    The prevailing narrative in the press seems to be that it’s all over, that Hillary has too many negatives, etc. This could be right, or it could be wrong. We’ve still got the same press, after all, that mindlessly dissed Al Gore in 2000, and the press hasn’t gotten any smarter or more diligent since then. Right- or left-wing, they’re mostly parroting a few simple scripts.

    Hillary seems to me to be just as smart and disciplined as Obama, and she is arguably a better bet to be able to work the political system effectively to effect change. Obama may be more inspirational, but it’s reasonable to ask whether inspiration or street-fighting political ability will matter more in the next four years.

    Hillary’s policy on health insurance, for instance, appears to me to be better designed and is in some ways gutsier and more progressive than Obama’s. Neither O. nor C. is coming anywhere near clean on the real economic problems of the nation, or on what may need to be done about (say) Medicare funding, but again it’s reasonable to ask whether hard practical problems, when they can no longer be denied, are best solved by Obama-esque inspiration or by Hillary-esque political horse-trading. It takes both kinds.

    Viva Hillary, too.

    February 21, 2008
  31. One thing you have to give to Bush is that he has never caved when under real, not fabricated, pressure. What other candidate will live up to that?

    February 22, 2008
  32. Paul Zorn said:

    What do you mean, Bright, by “real” as opposed to “fabricated” pressure? Where does the Harriet Miers nomination fiasco fall on this scale? What about Bush’s (original) adamant opposition to establishing a Dept of Homeland Security?

    Steadfastness in tough times is a good thing, but how should we distinguish it from stubbornness in defense of folly? Or willful ignorance?

    February 22, 2008
  33. Or Bush’s opposition to independent investigation of 9/11?

    February 22, 2008
  34. Well, I meant to say “foreign opposition” but I had to let the dog out. He was crying and I only have 20 lbs on him, so I thought I would let it fly and I am glad I did because I like see some more specific focus on our discussions,
    especially about the presidential candidates because I am so tired of hearing, oh, he’s so cute, or she’s too predictable, as reasons to vote or not vote for someone.

    February 22, 2008
  35. Fabricated means stuff like what the NY Times did to McCain on the front page no less with no facts whatsoever to back the statement. Real means when N. Korea tries to poke a stick in your eye.

    February 22, 2008
  36. Paul Zorn said:

    Sorry, Bright, I still don’t get it.

    Do you really *know* that the NYT article about McCain’s possible lobbyist entanglement is “with no facts whatsoever”? The article certainly makes many assertions of concrete fact, such as that McCain rode on various corporate jets, etc.

    Are you saying that (a) these facts are false or in some sense “fabricated”? Or (b) that we shouldn’t care much one way or the other about implications of the NYT piece? Or (c) that it’s none of our business if McCain is or was shacking up with the lady lobbyist.

    If (a), I wonder how you know. If (b), why would you say it makes no difference if McCain cozies up to big corporate donors? If (c), I agree completely.

    February 22, 2008
  37. What I loved about the McCain piece in the NYT wasn’t the journalistic integrity therein, because it certainly was speculative on a number of points and brought up some ethics issues about anonymous sources, etc…, but, at the end of the article the McCain camp responds to the allegations with a bizarre statement, in part:

    John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.

    I say bizarre because McCain himself has repeatedly admitted his involvement in the Keating 5 / Savings and Loan scandal in the early 1990s which was nothing but favors for special interests. Perhaps, his advisers should have released a statement that said, instead: “John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country, the past 17 or so, with honor and integrity…” That would not have contradicted their candidate’s own contrite and published admissions about violating the public trust in that matter.

    I’m not saying he’s a bad guy, and, honestly, I’m not concerned about his sexual past or present, but it seems rather odd for his campaign to issue a statement that so baldly flies in the face of their own candidate’s confessed behavior. We’re left to wonder whether or not McCain and his campaign consider the Keating 5 issue, and McCain’s involvement in it, to be honorable behavior.

    I’m not sure how they will talk their way around such an obvious contradiction. Probably, they will ignore it, and hope nobody notices.

    February 23, 2008
  38. McCain’s involvement was so minimal he was actually re-elected by the people. Let’s face it, a lot of people do a little cheating once in a while.
    It’s the American way, why it may even be the way of the world since commerce began on the salt trail.

    It surprizes me to know that some people think cheating on a spouse is okay though. To me, if you are taking your energy from your family commitments and going off a on little tryst, just for the heck of it, you are a big fat cheater and don’t deserve the love and loyalty of a fine family…although a fine family would prolly give you another chance.

    February 23, 2008
  39. I didn’t say cheating on your spouse was okay, Bright, only that it is not my concern. We should leave politicians their personal lives. McCain’s involvement was not so much “minimal” as much as it was reframed effectively enough for him to be re-elected.

    The issue, for me, is that McCain has been in public repentance, anti-lobbyist vigilance mode for years because of that scandal. These new allegations about very close relationships with lobbyists paint a rather hypocritical picture of him.

    In addition to his campaign’s boneheaded, contradictory assertions that I detailed in comment #39, I caught this from Newsweek by way of reprint in the Huffington Post:

    A sworn deposition that Sen. John McCain gave in a lawsuit more than five years ago appears to contradict one part of a sweeping denial that his campaign issued this week to rebut a New York Times story about his ties to a Washington lobbyist.

    On Wednesday night the Times published a story suggesting that McCain might have done legislative favors for the clients of the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, who worked for the firm of Alcalde & Fay. One example it cited were two letters McCain wrote in late 1999 demanding that the Federal Communications Commission act on a long-stalled bid by one of Iseman’s clients, Florida-based Paxson Communications, to purchase a Pittsburgh television station.

    Just hours after the Times’s story was posted, the McCain campaign issued a point-by-point response that depicted the letters as routine correspondence handled by his staff–and insisted that McCain had never even spoken with anybody from Paxson or Alcalde & Fay about the matter. “No representative of Paxson or Alcalde & Fay personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the FCC,” the campaign said in a statement e-mailed to reporters.

    But that flat claim seems to be contradicted by an impeccable source: McCain himself. “I was contacted by Mr. Paxson on this issue,” McCain said in the Sept. 25, 2002, deposition obtained by NEWSWEEK. “He wanted their approval very bad for purposes of his business. I believe that Mr. Paxson had a legitimate complaint.”

    I’m not sure why his campaign keeps making such easily-confirmed contradictions to their candidate’s own claims and admissions. Looks very bad.

    Wouldn’t the better path be to make claims that McCain was contacted (because he was), but that he wrote the letters because of his personal convictions? Sure, it’s a little wishy-washy and gray, but at least your campaign isn’t flat-out lying.

    February 23, 2008
  40. This is why discourse is so good. We obviously haven’t actually been
    anywhere where we might have any opinion of our own to develop, and
    have to rely on the media which is full of sauerkraut. Do you remember
    the term ‘fog of war?’ and do you remember the telephone game from
    second grade? This holds true, where there is one intrepretation,
    there is one mistake which will be denied. We cannot deny that we
    aren’t getting the whole story and we cannot say okay, we are not
    getting the whole story, but let’s act like we do cuz we don’t know
    what else to do. See, My take on media is to simply throw opinions
    into the stew and watch it bubble. Maybe McCains’ camp is purposely
    issuing contradictory statements in order to swoggle the mind. Maybe
    there are DFLers on his staff.

    Cheating on the spouse shouldn’t be overlooked, because it is very
    telling of the person’s morality overall. And either we care about how
    much money and favors are passed, and how the politician treats the
    family, or we don’t care about either. Otherwise you are saying that
    the politician’s family doesn’t deserve the same consideration that the
    American people do.

    Attention to cheating, although it looks like a matter of privacy, it’s
    more a matter of the lack of good judgement which we derive from
    knowing the public figures habits and follies. Sure, everyone has their
    character flaws, but some are more consequential to the running of
    nations than others, adn for that reason should not be overlooked, imho.

    Oh, and Happy Birthday to you and Anne, and the other February babies
    around here, ykwyr!

    February 23, 2008
  41. Felicity Enders said:

    Curt, thanks for the link. Mr. Hoyt seems to have missed the (or at least my) biggest concern about this article – the timing. How can the NYT justify releasing this after sitting on it until the Republican nomination process was basically resolved? I find it very troubling.

    February 24, 2008
  42. Curt,

    Yeah, I saw that. It’s not surprising. As I mentioned in my first post about that article, it wasn’t the merit of the piece I was defending; it was the McCain camp’s obvious contradiction of McCain’s own confessed behavior.

    In my opinion, the NYT undermined the credibility of a fairly solid article about McCain anti-lobbyist stance by dropping hints of a romantic liaison with little to go on. They shot themselves in the foot in that regard.

    February 24, 2008
  43. Felicity,

    Did they sit on the information for a long time? I got the impression that it was an ongoing investigation that they just finished. Maybe I’m wrong.

    I think, in some ways though, it still makes sense. Once McCain becomes the nominee (for all intents and purposes), then he’ll gather more and more coverage, especially long articles like that one which reach into his past to examine how his actual behavior jibes with his professed positions.

    I don’t actually know when they had the story ready to go, or if they sat on it, but I would be more troubled if they finished it now, then released it one week before the general election.

    February 24, 2008
  44. Nice! I liked the “Are you mad at me?” line.

    Not the best Obama impersonator, but not bad.

    I really loved the Hillary impersonator’s “Losing to Obama in Wisconsin, Virginia, Maryland, etc… has been a life-long dream of mine”… downplaying the significance of her recent primary losses in an appropriately overstated manner.

    February 25, 2008
  45. Felicity Enders said:

    Brendon (re #46); yes, they were working on it for over a year. However, I consider it reprehensible that they didn’t release ANYTHING until after the Republican nomination process was tied up. See for discussion around this from NYT staff. I understand wanting a story to be backed up by facts prior to release (though one could argue that goal wasn’t realized fully in this story) but any story that impacts a presidential election really ought to come out in time to influence the election if the electorate so wish.

    February 25, 2008
  46. Paul Fried said:

    McCain had been trying new scripts lately that included a lot of humility: “I will listen to the American people and and learn from them as I campaign… but___” (But I’ll still be the strong leader you want to see in me, etc.) I had not heard him use that script before so much. It added a nice soft touch. His singing “Bomb-Bomb-Bomb, Bomb Iran” was a little over the top for me.

    I think Hillary should sing more. Something like the old camp song, “Ya gotta have skin.” Or she should do a campaign commercial in which she sings to her largest contributors that great song from Guys and Dolls, “Take Back Your Mink.” It would be a stitch. It would save her campaign. She has a bubbly, singing side that’s just dying to get out. If politics don’t work for her, she could have that to fall back on.

    February 26, 2008
  47. Felicity,

    Okay, I get it. You were saying that it should have been released when they had the information. I thought you were arguing that the McCain NYT article was poorly timed because it WAS influencing the election, and you were actually saying the opposite. It was ambiguous for me, and I interpreted your comments as meaning the NYT should not have printed the article. But, now, I see you were wondering why the article was held until after McCain had sewn up the nomination.

    February 26, 2008
  48. Paul Zorn said:


    I’ve been traveling and so may have missed some twists and turns on the McCain story. In particular, I must have missed whatever led to your impression that ” … some people think cheating on a spouse is okay”.

    If my view that “it’s none of our business if McCain is or was shacking up with the lady lobbyist” suggests that I’m among the “people” you refer to, let me hasten to aver, on the record, that “cheating on a spouse” is a Bad Thing, if not a Very Bad Thing, or even Right Out.

    My point is that personal behavior of this sort is, in my view, none of the voters’ business as long as it isn’t illegal and doesn’t materially affect parts of the job that *are* the voters’ business. True, there’s not always a bright line, but IMO we should err, if at all, on the side of enlarging rather than reducing the zone of *personal* privacy that candidates deserve. I want a candidate to do the job well, not to validate or reinforce my views on personal morality.

    It’s often said that a candidate with a crummy family life will probably mess up the country, too, but it just doesn’t follow. I’d just as soon believe that the candidate with the perfect spouse and well-scrubbed kids will be so addled with marital bliss that he or she can’t think straight.

    February 26, 2008
  49. William Siemers said:

    This has been a great campaign so far and by far the best thing about it is the political engagement of the formerly disengaged. African-American voters, Hispanic voters, and young voters, are turning out in record numbers for the primary elections. These are groups that in the past have been under represented at the polls. It would seem to bode well for democrats if this enthusiasm for voting carries through to the general election. If these folks vote near the per centage of core republican constiuencies, democrats should win the general election. Republicans count on apathy and alienation in order to win elections.

    All this momentum will be lost if Clinton manuevers to take the nomination away from the choice of the voters. I don’t put it past her. I hope there is a clear cut Clinton loss next Tuesday, so she can drop out and Obama can begin making his case to independents.

    His most important decision will be the selection of a VP. I think he needs someone with a good bit of foreign policy experience…I would not look forward to a campaign where both Obama and his running mate were portrayed as inexperienced. And someone who is more of a ‘traditional’ candidate…i.e. male, and for all intents and purposes…white. (Please don’t get me wrong…I would be happy to vote for the ticket if he added Asian lesbian…with foreign policy experience.) The goal is to improve the chances of getting elected. Move toward the center. The country is still very conservative in many ways…that is… adverse to change. Obama is a heck of a change. His VP choice should mitigate that fear of change not exacerbate it. I like Bill Richardson…I know he’s offically Hispanic…but he’s also ‘for all intents and purposes…white’. And he is more of a centrist politically. There is absolutely not reason to move the ticket to the left by making a choice like John Edwards.

    Don’t even think about the ‘Dream Ticket’ of Obama and Hillary…that would be playing right into the republican’s hands.

    February 26, 2008
  50. Paul Zorn said:


    I agree with a lot your posting #53, and I’ll vote enthusiastically for Obama if that’s the choice.

    But why the anti-Hillary animus? I expect it from Republicans, but I don’t understand what drives it in Democrats.

    How would Hillary “maneuver to take the nomination away from the choice of the voters”? If you’re thinking of the superdelegates and their role in the nomination, then maybe there’s a discussion to be had about what policy is correct, fair, wise, etc. But the system, good or bad, has been in place for both candidates from the beginning, and it seems harsh to castigate Hillary for what could be construed as playing by the rules.

    February 26, 2008
  51. William Siemers said:


    I think these newly engaged voters (and many usually engaged voters), would perceive it as ‘stealing’ the nomination if the popular vote and elected delegate count were ignored by super delegates in favor of Clinton. And no amount of explaining the ‘system’ could overcome these voters’ disillusionment after that happened.

    And then there is the question of Florida and Michigan delegates…

    Let’s just hope her campaign ends Tuesday, so all those possibilities become moot.

    February 26, 2008
  52. Paul Fried said:

    Paul Z.:
    You write, “But why the anti-Hillary animus? I expect it from Republicans, but I don’t understand what drives it in Democrats.”

    This is an interesting comment, in part because I hear so many Democrats expressing dislike for Hillary. What I’m hearing:

    Many Democrats (and independents, and some Republicans) worked to elect a Democratic majority, in part to bring better oversight to a Bush administration that walks on the constitution, and in part because of Iraq.

    To them, Hillary represents betrayal of their hopes and endless political compromises; doing things in a calculated way because of how they appear, or might play, for harvesting votes rather than for principles, etc. She is viewed as positioning herself toward what is assumed to be the center, but is viewed by many as a kind of Republicrat, a sell-out to special interests. Expand health care so more are covered, but for God’s sake, even if a majority of US citizens want single payer, save the insurance companies, accept the contributions, protect the status quo.

    This contributes to the perception of some Democrats that “Republicans are the party of bad ideas, and Democrats are the party of no ideas.” Vote for more Iraq spending, or to approve wiretapping, or to approve the new Attorney General in spite of his views on torture and the unified power of the executive. Democrats hear elected Democrats being described as “Dumb-o-crats,” and it sometimes seems to fit. And sometimes, Hillary seems to fit all that. Votes on Iraq and Iran, etc.

    Even Ann Coulter says (jokes?) she may campaign for her instead of McCain.

    So to some, she appears to be the kind of leader who would lick a finger and check which way the wind is blowing, always, before stating a position. (In other words, she is a politician, which to some extent means a liar: Slick Willie, Slick Hillary, Tricky Dick, etc.).

    And she represents one form of the recent status quo. She’s also a kind of revisitation of her husband’s years: Bill Clinton had fairly high ratings, especially compared to the Bushes, but he had the affairs, that impeachment thing, lying under oath, equivocations, etc. Many of us who voted for him, when he was the last Democrat in the running in ’92, were not pleased with various aspects of his legacy.

    So we can say, well, give them privacy. But people also look at Bill and Hillary and wonder, is this marriage all show, no substance? And if that’s what these people are, then are the politics all show too? In the end, will important values be betrayed but explained away as necessary compromises, the harsh realities of politics? Make sure you protect the profits of the health insurance companies, and the Exxon tax breaks, before you work for the common good?

    Whether Hillary deserves this kind of characterization she receives is another matter, but that seems to be the way many view her.

    Yet there is another view one hears now and then: The view that even FDR would not have done many of the best things he is remembered for if not for pressure and circumstances, so one occasionally hears that Hillary could turn out to be much less a Republicrat, and more an FDR. If faced with the challenges of climate disasters, recession or depression, rising oil prices, economic upheaval, what if she ended up stopping some of the runaway privatization and profiteering? What if she ended tax breaks for the rich, because the times — and an aroused eletorate — demanded it? She could out-FDR even FDR.

    If the superdelegates end up reversing the will of the people, expressed in primaries and caucuses, and if she were elected in spite of that, she may have even greater challenges. Saying “Obama and Hillary both knew about the system and the superdelegates” is, in a way, like saying “Al Gore knew Jeb Bush was the Florida Governor, and the Republicans there might fix the vote, and/or the recount.”

    It may be true, but it doesn’t make either situation right.

    They also both know that, if they use the superdelegates to reverse the will of the people, expressed in elections, they deserve the consequences that follow (perhaps loss in the general election).

    February 26, 2008
  53. Paul Zorn said:

    Paul F.,

    Thanks for the litany of problems some Democrats have with Hillary. As you observed, some question remains as to which perceptions are valid and which aren’t. One could also ask which of these perceptions, valid or not, represent legitimate campaign issues. It seems a bit … well … illiberal … to hold Bill’s personal peccadilloes against Hillary, or to speculate as freely as seems the rule about the Clintons’ “marriage of convenience”, etc.

    What continues to puzzle me is not that some Democrats disagree with Hillary’s votes, policies, etc. — I dislike some of it myself, and see a lot of it as opportunistic — but rather the level of venom (“Republicrat”) and *personal* invective she seems to attract (not necessarily on this listserv, but see Stanley Fish’s blog on the NYT if you have the stomach for it). I normally hate pop psychology, but this tempts me to rethink. (Yielding to the temptaion for a moment, I fear that canonization of Obama and demonization of Hillary are two symptoms of the same illness. OK, enough of that.)

    What puts all of this in a different light for me is that (the Iraq war authorization aside) I know of little difference, in terms of *policy*, between Hillary and Obama, either looking forward or in terms of their former service in the Senate. So why doesn’t the Republicrat schtick stick to Obama? On health coverage, for instance, is there some reason to think that Obama would kowtow less than Hillary to the big bad insurance companies?

    Both O. and H. seem to me to advocate basically similar policies, but would bring very different style and political skill sets to the table.

    February 27, 2008
  54. Paul Zorn said:

    Paul F and William S (and others) seem to hate the Democrats’ super-delegate system, fearing that cynical, crafty pols might somehow twist it to thwart the “will of the people”.

    That’s a heavy charge, to be sure, and there is certainly precedent for political machinations under almost any system. But …

    1. It’s not axiomatic that a fair, will-of-the-people-respecting system could never include some type or number of super-delegates. It seems perfectly reasonable that some party professionals and insiders, with various sorts of special knowledge and experience, might play some special role in selecting a party’s candidates. How many and what role is certainly debatable.

    2. If indeed super-delegates should play some voting role, then it makes no sense to *require* that they go along with whatever the non-super-delegates decide; that would be tantamount to disenfranchisement. Were such a requirement in effect the only reason to be a delegate would be to wear funny hats and get free booze. (I’d still take the deal, I admit.)

    3. The “will-of-the-people” may be the Holy Grail of politics, but it is far from clear that the present primary/caucus system detects that will with perfect fidelity. Throwing some superdelegates into the voting mix could just as well improve as degrade the reception.

    4. The devil is probably in such details as the number of superdelegates, when they vote, and the “weight” of their votes. No particular setting of such dials is likely to be perfect, but that’s a far cry from chucking the whole idea — especially in the middle of the process.

    February 27, 2008
  55. Paul Fried said:

    Paul Z:
    You write, “I fear that canonization of Obama and demonization of Hillary are two symptoms of the same illness.” Good observation.

    You asked how people criticize Hillary, but we have heard questions about Obama too: If Hillary is carreer-political, always checking the wind direction before calculating her discourse, Obama is certainly calculated at times via the vagueness in his message (be vague so as to seek a broad, general appeal). If Hillary has been criticized for accepting large campaign contributions from various individuals and sectors, Obama has done much of the same (while, on the other hand, Obama seems to be attracting more small donations from a wider spectrum). Neither one of them agreed to the contribution guidelines Edwards agreed to so as to qualify for the matching public funds, etc. They don’t talk about single-payer health-care, lest they get the health insurance lobby against them. They both have warn, but are now arguing about, wearing international tribal/cultural garb, etc.

    What is the illness? Campaign funding? The founding fathers never would have thought it a restriction of free speech to limit the ability of the ultra-rich (individuals or corporations) to influence elections through campaign contributions.

    Is the illness also the way mega-corporate media has too much control of defining converage and issues?

    Paul, you also speculate about super-delegates: I’m a bit torn. One part of me likes the idea of a simple democracy and majority vote. If we don’t have that within the Democratic party, it’s hard to complain about Florida, etc.

    The other part of me, at times, wonders if the crowd (which some describe as lemmings at times) needs some elite shepherding (pardon the mixed lemming-shepherd metaphor) for their own good.

    But then I’m back, hearing the voice of George W. and Dick Cheney, the elite leaders, telling us again and again that we can’t have the answers to certain questions because everything is an elite thing, a state secret:
    – We can’t investigate 9-11 because it would take elite people away from the war on terror.
    – Why did the White House start taking the anti-anthrax drug, cipro, right after 9-11, but not the legislative and juciciary branches of government? A non-partisan group that sometimes gave Bill Clinton a hard time, Judicial Watch, petitioned or sued the White house for answers to that. Response? National security secrets. So the anthrax went to two Democrats, no Republicans, and meanwhile, the White House was taking cipro, just in case. Now that’s elitism in action.

    I think it’s hard for people who have been tracking the news to put much faith, for now, in the argument of a need to have some elite group in the government — or in the Democratic party as well — watching over us and re-directing us from, in this case, possibly the huge mistake of electing Obama. After all, he has so little exprience.

    That’s why we didn’t elect Kennedy (inexperienced senator) or Carter (inexperienced governor) or Reagan (inexperienced gov/actor).

    Oops, never mind.

    Want experience? We elected George H. W. Bush, who was a CIA/Washington insider and a Vice President, and no matter what some fringe people say about the links of the Bush family to the kid who tried to shoot Reagan, GHWB certainly had experience. Did it help us? During the GHWB years, when we didn’t have enough support for going to war over Kuwait, there was that PR firm that was hired to rehearse with that young Kuwaiti girl who claimed that Iraqi soldiers were taking premature babies out of incubators and leaving them to die. It was fiction. Great political theater, but total fiction. Yet it worked, and US public opinion shifted in favor of war, so GHWB got a war.

    Now that’s elite leadership, and experience. You don’t wait around for the winds of public opinion to shift in your favor when you’re a leader. No, you change the direction of the wind, as progressive evangelical Christian Jim Wallis says. But unlike Wallis, in the case of the Bush family, you change the wind not though truth-telling and having an authentic claim to a moral high-ground, but by manipulating public opinion, hiring PR firms to tell elaborate lies, etc. This helps convince the little people that being against war is silly, and the elite know better, so they’ll lead you there.

    Jimmy Carter may have started the Russio-Afghani conflict covertly, but I don’t think he would have thought of a trick like the Kuwaiti baby thing. GHWB was fumble-mouthed, he had some prescription drug problems, but he had his people hire (or recommend the hiring of) the right PR firms. That’s elite. If he had only drawn out the Iraq conflict somehow, he might have beat Clinton. His son W (even more elite) learned from that mistake of his father’s and did his dad one better.

    My tongue is so far inside my cheek it’s coming out my ear.

    So after all that elitism, even though the Democratic elites may seem a different breed than the Neocons, it’s hard not to be inclined toward wanting to give the popular vote a chance instead of democracy with an elite group of babysitters (yeowch, did I use that metaphor? I guess I did).

    Then again, to be fair, Bush-Bush and Cheney are not the only ones who have been a manipulative elite: FDR seems to have believed that when it came to war, the little people could not be trusted. The little people were against the prospect of war after the Great War, and polls showed that many Americans wanted Europe to handle their own problems. So FDR, elite Democrat that he was, based our Navy at Pearl Harbor, and he put in place various policies to provoke Japan to attack (according to documents released in the late 90’s via Freedom of Infromation Act requests). Some of the details are still debated, but it seems FDR wanted to get into the world war via the back door. Why? Because Hitler was that evil? Or because, if he hadn’t gotten in the game, he would not have had the right to help cut the global pie afterwards? (Global US economic empire rising from the dust of the crumbling British Empire?) Or both?

    If FDR had not provoked Japan to attack, what would it have taken, what kind of elite PR, to convince the silly average American war-weary fool of the wisdom of getting into yet another war (after that first “War to End All Wars” was still so fresh in memory)?

    If we had not gotten into that war, what kinds of evils would have unfolded in Nazi Europe, and in Japan’s war with China? Was WWII really a “good war,” and a necessary one? Or do we just tell ourselves that stuff, to justify our militaristic legacy in hindsight?

    (How necessary were the “elite” decisions FDR made? He was his own super-delegate….)

    When do we need to trust democracy (fairly often? always? or just for show?), and when do we need the elites to step in and manipulate things the average person might not comprehend, or might not be interested to know?

    I don’t know about you, but I’m still leaning in favor of democracy, in spite of its flaws.

    (Sorry, perhaps by talking about uber-delegates and elites, we’re contributing to thread-drift….)

    February 27, 2008
  56. William Siemers said:

    Paul… I don’t hate the super-delegate system. I see the rational behind it…in a real deadlocked situation.

    My point was about how newly engaged voters would perceive a nomination that did not reflect the results of primary elections and caucuses.

    There are about 4049 democratic convention delegates. Let’s say that in primarys and caucuses Obama has won 1750 pledged delegates and Hillary has won 1550. (This is not a deadlocked situation to me.) But Hillary gets 500 superdelgates and Obama gets 250. Hillary becomes the nominee.

    No amount of explaining the system will reignite the enthusiasm of these new voters in the Obama camp. They’re gone and they ain’t coming back. Hillary already trails McCain in head to head polling…when these ‘likely voters’ become ‘unlikely’, democrats can hang it up.

    February 28, 2008
  57. Paul Zorn said:

    Paul F and William S:

    Lots to enjoy in Paul’s … substantial … posting #59, including the memorable image of elite shepherds directing lemming traffic. Did you envision the canine or the human variety of high-class shepherds? And were they pointing toward or away from the coastal cliffs?

    Seriously, though, I think Paul overstates, big time, the risk to democracy supposedly posed by the presence of superdelegates. The choice is not really between ideal democracy on the one hand and surrender to fascism on the other. All representative government involves delegating (oops, almost said super-delegating) *some* powers to others, and I don’t hear much call for ending that plan. Sure, the superdelegate thing is debatable as regards many details, but (IMO) it poses little threat to basic big-D Democratic principles, and even less to the small-d variety. We have much more to worry about in this area coming from the (big-R!) Republican direction.

    William S., are you saying that superdelegates might be OK but only in tie-breaker situations (like the veep in the Senate)? I guess that makes mathematical sense, but then we’d need just one superdelegate, who would almost never vote. Is this what you’d prefer?

    And why, William, are you so pessimistic, about the behavior of the “new” Obama-preferring voters? Are they more likely to stay home and pout if they don’t get their way than, say, Clinton-preferring voters? How do you know this?

    As for Hillary trailing McCain in head to head polling … that’s a real problem. Alas, Obama shares it. Things could change, of course — for either candidate.

    February 28, 2008
  58. Paul Fried said:

    Paul: I’d better go with canine, just to be consistent re: furry quadrupeds. (Thanks for “…substantial…” — you are gentle and kind….)

    You overstate to describe my position as a choice “between ideal democracy on the one hand and surrender to fascism on the other.” We never get ideal democracy. If we simply trust popular vote, yes, the masses will make mistakes. Nothing ideal There. And if it’s true that FDR, GHWB and GWB (and/or their administrations) each had a hand in manipulation to get us into wars, this alone doesn’t equal fascism. There is no ideal choice, but it may be preferable to risk the mistakes of the masses, and adjust later as needed, than to risk some of the worst consequences of elite intervention.

    February 28, 2008
  59. can anyone tell me what would have been the proper action to take after
    the destruction of the world trade towers and the 6 plus thousand people
    who were lost to us?

    February 28, 2008
  60. William Siemers said:

    Paul…Maybe some would stay home and pout…but many of these young black, white and hispanic voters would just figure that the ‘winning’ candidate had been manipulated out of the nomination. These are not groups that have turned out well in the past. I don’t think a candidate chosen by super delegates rather than the democratic process will inspire them out of their usual apathy.

    As to the roll of super-delegates…I understand how they could play a roll if the ‘elected’ delegates are extremely close in number…and no…one delegate would not serve the purpose. The point is that these delegates should consider the states and districts that they come from, along with their personal accordance with the candidates’ platforms, their sense of the relative electability of the candidate, their input on the running mate…etc., etc. Not to mention which candidate might appoint their brother postmaster.

    I also understand that the way states porportion delegates is not always strictly democratic. And super-delegates can have some sway in addressing that.

    Regarding head to head numbers…average of 7 polls

    Obama leads McCain by 3.7% (6.7% undecided)

    McCain leads Clinton by 1.5% (6% undecided)

    February 28, 2008
  61. Paul Fried said:

    Bright: Regarding your post #64, at risk of thread drift, I’m curious what you think would have been proper.

    Many options:
    1. As with Pearl Harbor, JFK assasination, shuttle disasters, etc., have an investigation to see what went wrong and how we can do better to avoid it in the future. If anyone inside the US government, or issuing visas overseas is found negligent, hold them responsible, fire them, etc. Have a full investigation, not a cover-up or whitewash.

    2. Once it’s determined who did it, who financed it, who organized it, go after ’em:
    – If it’s found that Osama did it, find him and bring him to justice (Osama got away; some within the US military and CIA claim we * let * him get away. What gives?).
    – If it’s found that it was a conspiracy financed through Pakistan, funded by some from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, instigated by some inside the US government so as to advance some geo-political agenda, then bring charges of treason against ’em.

    3. Skip the investigation and assume you know who did it, and look outside the US for people to blame and go after, especially if they have oil in their country, or opium, or an oil pipeline planned.

    4. Revenge: Kill as many of “them” (who? Terrorists? Muslim civilians?) as “they” did of us (already done that, many times over.)

    5. Reform the way we issue visas, etc.

    6. More protection and security at airports, harbors, other resources, etc.

    Take a poll: You’ll find that 3 and 4 are popular, but so are 1 and 2 in some circles. It’s a hard call. People would often rather hear and believe what they want to believe rather than seek a potentially painful truth. It’s just human nature.

    This may not be totally unrelated to the presidential elections: If there isn’t another catastrophe before they are held, or an assassination, some might call for a new investigation to bring to light those things the first 9/11 commission ignored or glossed over. At least one (perhaps two) of the “also ran” candidates have raised this issue.

    Brendon might support a new investigation (see post 35 on this thread).

    February 29, 2008
  62. Paul F. Thank you for your response to my earnest question. I’ll tell you all I seem to know, seem to know, seem to know about 9/11.

    I have heard on CNN book channel that there were weapons of mass destruction that were buried and disassembled, that Saddam Hussein
    (Aka – It’s a damn shame but whose sane?) I have heard also that Saddam did not have any weapons, but made it a point to send out that rumor so that he would be feared even more than he was…and then he would refute the rumor to keep his enemies, of which he had many, guessing.

    A short time after the destruction of the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon and the PA flight disasters…I refuse to call them all 9/11 for convenience or whatever….I saw a video of Osama Bin Laden and his right hand man, you know the one whose name I cannot think of, but was supposedly the mastermind and Doctor who engineered the offense, well,
    they were sitting in their cave, being recorded by a US spy, unbeknownst to them. The voiceover the video said that OBL was saying that he did not know the buildings (tall towers) would melt down like they did, that OBL was only trying to make headlines with a much smaller strike, and then, he laughed in what seemed to be sheer delight in his surprize and results.

    After that, I heard from an astute friend that the reason OBL was allowed to be uncaptured (I know, I know, it’s not a word, yet) is because the reprisals and repercussions from his capture would be much more than anyone wanted to deal with as he would be considered a martyr for the cause, and given his state or his position or level with the people would
    be out of control. The last thing the Saudis want is a few million young
    men who have no jobs or no future hope for jobs be set up behind a cause like that.

    Given all that, and that Dubya wanted to continue his Dad’s Kuwait war, for
    repletion of US status ,and oil, I suppose, as Big George did not leave that
    in such prudent shape.

    As for trying to work it out, I think there were attempts. Who is to say if the attempts were enough. It was a long time I think before anyone got
    that we weren’t dealing with the familiar western mind. The middle eastern people are very, very different from anyone else around in that they do think in things in terms of hundreds of years and longer. Not to mention the fact that there are so few interpreters of their languages.
    While we can barely hold onto one thought blah blah blah…now what was I saying? Oh, many haven’t shifted one paradigm in 1200 million days, I am certain.

    Their salt roads and silk roads are still actually made of salt and silk respectively. I hope your eyebrows stay on your heads. And I will admit
    to being completely wrong, but then I just don’t know cuz I wasn’t there.

    I don’t have a clue as to what to do. I think George W is doing the best he knows how to protect American interests, be it oil, or democracy. I don’t think there is a good way to handle war, cuz it’s like I said about using food for fuel, when you start with a bad premise, you promise yourself a bad outcome in the end.

    I do know that I am still here and still using oil for fuel and for heat, like most of us are. I’d say that’s a good thing til we get something better going
    full time. But don’t hate the Bushes because they gave you what you needed or wanted or wouldn’t do without…blame that on the industrial revolution. Who voted for that?

    February 29, 2008
  63. Paul Zorn said:


    Re #67 (about 9/11, OBL rumors, etc.): Are you proposing some connection between all this and the present election?

    March 1, 2008
  64. Paul, not exactly sure what you mean, so I guess no, but I was thinking about how
    when Bill Clinton as the ex-President, was touring around the country
    and on CNN, I saw him practically beg the American people to allow
    phone tapping and credit card information because he said that the men involed in the tradgedy of
    the World Trade Center, the PA plane crash and the Pentagon destruction where thousands of people were
    killed and injured, had been using credit cards and phones openly and that we should have been able
    to avert the whole disaster if we had watched those areas closely. Everyone is down on Bush
    for the Privacy Act stuff, but no one has actually read the thing, yet Clinton went all out
    for that sort of thing as well. I am just trying to line up the truth so that people will
    see to vote for the most deserving of the candidates and not for any other implied contrived
    or petrified reason. Personally, I am not all that enamoured of any of the candidates, and
    can only hpe that what they say is true about how the Office uplifts the President-elect.
    I am sure both sides of done their share of blustering and wrecking our country.

    Also, please don’t forget Clinton knew about this terrorist stuff early on, and could have worked on it
    but chose to ignore it so that his presidency wasn’t damned by it. Furthermore, we had been in
    Afganistan a long time ago when the Russians were getting sent home from there in shoe boxes.
    This isn’t new stuff.

    And, two more things and I am all out, and that is that the economy is the number one reason
    people are going to elect or not elect some one…or so say polls in double digits.
    Usually the party in power at the time gets the boot, but I just wonder how people are going
    to like it when taxes go up again in an economic correction cycle.

    And that the war will be secondary in determining voting preferences, as it is over there and not so much
    here, my prayers and gratitude going out to the soldiers and families as I speak.

    That’s about it for me, cuz, as I have said in other threads I am no political whiz, I just want
    to do my part as best as I can to help people see alternative views.

    March 1, 2008
  65. Paul Zorn said:

    Paul F:

    In ref to #62, in which we were discussing the degree to which “elite” superdelegates in the Democratic nomination process compromise democratic principles. You wrote:

    … We never get ideal democracy. If we simply trust popular vote, yes, the masses will make mistakes. … There is no ideal choice, but it may be preferable to risk the mistakes of the masses, and adjust later as needed, than to risk some of the worst consequences of elite intervention.

    As a card-carrying member of “the masses”, I certainly agree that we (well, everyone but me) sometimes make mistakes. We mass folk elected W (in 2004, anyway … ) and Jesse, for instance, and apparently we’re reluctant, in our group wisdom, to elect folks with too many X chromosomes, the wrong racial or ethnic characteristics, the wrong religion or — worst of all — no religion at all.

    But what stumps me, Paul, is your preference for “adjust[ing] later as needed” as opposed to “elite intervention”. Who, if not some “elite”, decides when and how to adjust? I can hardly think of a better definition of “elite intervention.”

    PS. Concerning membership in the masses, I treasure the memory from my college years of attending a political event put on by a Maoist or perhaps Trotskyist organization. (I was politically clueless, but food was promised.) When the event started one of the organizers explicitly welcomed various subgroups of the (very small) crowd, including “intellectuals” and “lumpen.” I was certainly nobody’s idea of an intellectual, but chafed a bit to be thought “lumpen.”

    March 1, 2008
  66. Paul Fried said:

    Bright: Beware thread drift, but as far as 9/11 relates to the presidential election, I know that Ron Paul, Mike Gravel, and Dennis Kucinich have openly supported new investigations of 9-11, but this does not mean they explicitly claim it was an inside job; Ron Paul claims it was more bungling and negligence, for instance, but some of these second-tier candidates have been explicit about the limitations of the initial investigation, and in favor of a new one.

    When heckled at a campaign event by people claiming 9-11 was an inside job, Bill Clinton responded firmly, “…inside job? How dare you. How dare you.” Some might expect that Hillary would not favor a new investigation. Or maybe Bill was just pandering to the anti-conspiracy-theory folks.

    Obama has responded to the 9-11 question this way:
    “While I do not believe the U.S. government was complicit in the attacks, I do think it should be held accountable for the unacceptable mistakes it made in the run-up to that terrible day. The blunders that occurred prior to the 2001 attacks were inexcusable and often outrageous. The series of clear warnings about the potential use of hijacked planes as weapons is just one example of why the “surprise” of 9/11 should have been anticipated. In my view, proof of government complicity is not necessary when making the argument that the U.S. should accept some responsibility for what happened on 9/11.”

    Regarding Saddam, that’s not really a 9-11 issue. No substantive connection to 9-11 was uncovered, and Bush admitted as much, after misleading many to believe there was a link (at one point about 70% of Americans believed we were attaching Iraq because of a link to 9-11). But it is a presidential campaign issue. Candidates might be asked: If you wanted to go to war, and the polls were against it, would you manipulate intelligence, as Bush-Cheney did with the office of special plans, or work with countries that hired PR firms to tell lies, as GHWB and Kuwait did?

    Regarding video of Osama after 9-11, the first reports showed that Osama claimed no involvement in 9-11. Then a video whose authenticity is disputed showed a man claimed to be OBL, who looked remarkably unlike OBL in a number of key ways, conveniently claimed knowledge or reponsibility. It’s probably as fake as the yellow-cake documents. Some key CIA and military who were involved in certain operations to get OBL as he fled to Pakistan have gone on record saying they believe certain scape routes were intentionally not covered so that OBL could escape. Kissinger, who was first chosen to head the 9-11 commission, and the Bush family, have ties to the bin Laden family. The press in the rest of the world is all over this kind of stuff, but the US media is relatively silent because it just doesn’t sell well, or because it goes against the grain of corporate advertisers, etc.

    About two months before she was killed, Benazir Bhutto claimed that OBL had been murdered by a man with connections to the Pakistani military and intelligence community. But even after he’s dead, OBL continues to make tapes and videos. These may be creative productions by others to manipulate US opinion or policy.

    March 1, 2008
  67. Yes, this is why I spoke of the “Fog of War”, the Telephone game, and now, ‘The calling for a new investigation makes me look like I would be a good President ploy.”

    Bo states, as you said,Paul, In my view, proof of government complicity is not necessary when making the argument that the U.S. should accept some responsibility for what happened on 9/11.” I wonder what that really means.
    I think we have noted that we had blundered as a nation, and as many nations have, you can always find blame. Blame for being too trusting, blame for being lax in security measures, blame for not recognizing the truth when it looks so much like other truths and untruths. Good grief. People, we are the government, men and women just like us run this country…in both little and small ways. The same people that err on my insurance payouts, that take phone numbers down from me, me, myself not even being able to interpret my own dh’s simple sentence to me correctly. Maybe it is so much more about appearance than one can even
    imagine. So, back to Hill and Ob…

    When Hill says something, she looks all bent out of shape, when Ob says something he looks like that’s exactly what he should be saying. Why is that? Hill is from a suburb of Chicago. We talk fast and say what;s on our mind. Ob’s been brought up on the midwest farm-africa-hawaii connection with some preacher thrown in there for effect.

    Iraq was chosen for the war theatre stage due to it’s readiness for change,
    due to the fact that we realized we should not have installed Saddam in the first place and had to correct that error, and because of it’s geographical location that would make it easy for terrorist or insurgents to get to on foot and such. Bush has admitted the error. We have admitted the responsiblity to having allowed the terrorists to invade our country and attack us in a brutal and terrible way. Whether or not OBL is still alive,
    I care not. If it wasn’t him, it would be another and another until they are wiped out, surrender or they all start worshiping Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie and playing the lotto. Gotta go.

    March 1, 2008
  68. Paul Fried said:

    Paul Z.: You write,

    But what stumps me, Paul, is your preference for “adjust[ing] later as
    needed” as opposed to “elite intervention”. Who, if not some “elite”, decides
    when and how to adjust? I can hardly think of a better definition of “elite

    Hmmm…. So if the electorate finally wakes up and decides (after 6-7 years) that, even if elections were stolen or electoral fraud committed, perhaps too many made the mistake of voting for Bush, then this process of waking up could be described as citizens becoming more enlightened and elite?

    So why not have some elite folks just meddle early on, instead of waiting that long? Is that where you’re going?

    Well, one risk is that if you let the DFL leadership be the meddlers, why not let the folks in Italy who arranged for the forgery regarding the yellow cake be the elite meddlers? Etc.?

    My point: If you start having the elite meddle, and if you design systems by which an elite can meddle, then you might get a system in which you can’t always choose what kind of elite are meddling. You might get the elites in the Bush White House deciding that, starting on 9/11, the White House staff needs to start taking that anti-anthrax drug, cipro, but not the legislative or judiciary.

    In other words, having the elite meddle is fine as long as you have a benevolent elites. But you can’t always choose your elites once you surrender that power to them systematically.

    The choice is not between foolishness and facism, but the choice may be (in part) between the risks of those extremes. Does that distinction make sense?

    And more than all that, I think the choice involves much more. We don’t operate on a single, linear scale between the risks of popular vote and those of elitism:
    – We also live in a materialistic culture of excess and distractions;
    – we live in a country where, too often, we view politics as a spectator sport and expect the “experts” (the elected officials, the elites) to do all the work while we watch or stay home.

    Consider the record-attendance at NFLD caucuses; it took seven years of GWB to wake us up this much. If more of us would be this active, and less distracted, more of the time, we might not be pushed around lemming-style.

    Might not. But I watched a documentary recently called “Uncounted,” which included the story of a software programer–a conservative Republican–who was asked by some Republicans in FL to design a program that would make it possible to “flip” the results on a voting machine; if Harpo got 567 votes and Zeppo got 321 votes, you click the right (non-intuitive, hidden) spot or character on the screen, and suddenly the results are flipped, and Harpo gets 321, while Zeppo gets 567. For those comfortable being labeled “conspiracy theorists,” one could believe that, at least in some cases, the citizens may have made a wiser choice (or at least a different one), and had their will overturned.

    But anyone who raises questions of voter fraud or sham investigations is quickly marginalized, sometimes by those who were not following the stories very closely, sometimes by insiders. If even Bill Clinton condems and marginalizes those who claim 9/11 was an “inside job,” this speaks volumes.

    March 1, 2008
  69. Paul Fried said:

    Bright: regarding your post #69, I don’t think it’s a Clinton vs. Bush issue. If Obama were elected, and if there were new investigations (as he indicates an interest in them), and if both Clinton and Bush were found criminally negligent and/or complicit, I think it’s OK to bring treason charges against anyone shown to be involved. It’s not a partisan thing in which the guilt or failings of one party cancels out those of the other (tho’ Anne Coulter and other conservative shock jocks played it that way, as a partisan finger-pointing exercise).

    March 1, 2008
  70. Paul Zorn said:

    Paul F,

    I suspect we agree much more than we disagree about the goodness of democracy and the badness of elite intervention. When you wrote

    … it may be preferable to risk the mistakes of the masses, and adjust later as needed …

    I thought that you envisioned the necessary “adjusting” being handled by somebody smarter than the error-prone “masses”. Now I see that’s not what you meant: if I read #73 correctly it’s the masses themselves who ultimately have to adjust earlier mistakes. I agree — there *are* no smart guardian angels waiting out there somewhere to save us from ourselves. We have to do the best we can.

    The original thread question, as I recall it, was about superdelegates in the Democratic party nomination process, and the risk they may pose to democratic (small-d) principles. I still think this risk is slight-to-none, and that superdelegates should vote as they think best. Sure, they could make a mistake, just as the “masses” could, but that doesn’t in itself make the system undemocratic or high-handed.

    March 1, 2008
  71. I don’t think it is a Bush V Clinton thing, I think it is a democrats v republican thing…with the media heavily influencing everyone’s thinking beyond a healthy dose of information giving. The way they ignored Edwards is a good example.

    I don’t think we should talk democracy. If 51 percent of the people want something, they get it, under our system and the other 49% can only wait and hope. We have a republic and our voting system is somewhat democratic and needs some improvement.

    Don’t talk to me about Shock jocks, they are a bunch who act like they have a clue, when all they really have is a half an inkling.

    Treason! I wouldn’t go that far. I think we are trying to undo all the bad history we have done heretofore in that area. See any site summarizing the history of the Iran-Iraq war and US involvement. And remember that what iseems steel cut Irish oatmeal in the now maybe gruel mush later.

    Let me finish by saying how honored I am to be able to speak with such learned people, the two Pauls, especially, and how important it is for people like me who only know bits and pieces of information we pick up here and there, to be able to say what it is we think and not be berated or bashed for saying it. It is important to have misconceptions cleared up, and to have insights into overlooked ideas. This type of discussion really helps to facilitate those sorts of things.

    Thanks to the LoGroNO three for allowing this rather meandering but important discussion to take place in this thread.

    I have never been involved in starting a war, and have actually marched against wars, and even diverted a neighborhood war back in the day where I had friends on both sides and told them both the wrong day to show up. They never fought that war, and each one went away thinking they were brave and the other guys were chickens. No offense to chickens. Oh, yeah,
    there were pipes and knives to be used as WMDs. I wish I could do that
    in the Middle East and Africa right now.

    March 2, 2008
  72. Paul Fried said:

    Paul Z.: What do you think of the stories regarding Bill Clinton’s visit to Kazakhstan, and the very large donation to his foundation– And Hillary’s dismissal, citing that Cheney visited Kazakhstan too? Nazarbayev sounds like a dictator if there ever was one, but strange to hear he’s been such pals with not only Bush and Cheney, but Bill as well. It seems there are more little stories like this that might concern voters regarding Hillary than there are about Obama, but maybe I’m not reading enough of the news.

    Bright: Thanks for your kind words to Paul and I. You certainly have a rich and educated perspective yourself. What you say about that 51% (or less, sometimes, in a 3-way race) is a good point. When I first graduated from college and worked in the field of youth ministry and religious education, there was a professional organization I belonged to that was just starting out, and they decided to write their constitution by consensus; everyone had to agree on each article, and if there was disagreement, we listened, discussed, and often accommodated the new insights (or sometimes the dissenting voice changed their mind via dialogue). It was very different from majority-vote democracy, much more complicated, but for a church-related organization, it worked out, and was also a good learning experience. It made me think that democracy works best when there’s active dialogue and involvement, not only within parties, but perhaps especially across party lines.

    March 2, 2008
  73. Paul Zorn said:

    Paul F:

    I don’t know anything more than I’ve read in the NY Times about Clinton’s Kazakhstan connection, but it certainly doesn’t smell very good to me. Conceivably Bill got snookered here a bit, though he’s hardly a babe in the woods. In any event, I don’t hold it against Hillary.

    Paul and Bright:

    Re 51% rules vs decision by consensus … I, too, have some experience with a religious group that uses consensus in a very disciplined way for most decisions. IMO consensus works quite well in that particular setting — if consensus is very hard to reach it often indicates that a decision isn’t really ready to be made, or perhaps doesn’t really need to be made.

    In a political system, on the other hand, looking for literal consensus is IMO both impractical — decision-making is just too slow — and in some sense logically problematic: waiting for consensus often amounts, in practice, to a decision to continue present policies, even bad ones. (This may be OK in a church, but it’s certainly not OK in a government.)

    Deciding everything by majority or plurality plebiscite also has its problems, including that of protecting some level of minority rights. So, if “democracy” is taken to mean simply 51%, then it’s a good thing we have some (in this sense) anti-democratic institutions, like constitutions, courts, and elected legislatures.

    March 2, 2008
  74. I agree with Paul (which Paul? you say, just kidding, I say). Democracy on a mass scale doesn’t seem so possible. Maybe someday. But in the meantime, I just hung up from a telephone conversation (yes, they do still happen) with my friend who is 60ish, English and lived in WW2 and now lives in Tulsa, OK
    where it snows but it doesn’t stick.
    Last week, I asked her if she knew where BO came from. She didn’t know,
    but she has had some time to ruminate and now today she has suggests that BO is part of the Daley Machine. I say, very possible because it is so quiet. That’s how Richard . ran it and that’s how Little Richie runs it now. I ain’t saying it’s so, I’m just sayin.

    March 4, 2008
  75. Paul Zorn said:

    Re #80: For more on Obama/Clinton/NAFTA/Canada, have a look at

    NAFTA itself is certainly a legitimate potential campaign issue, but O. and H. appear to agree on the substance, so it’s hard to get worked up over their policy differences. (I think they’re both pandering.)

    The “NAFTA-gate” dustup over who said what when to which Canadian official seems just silly, ginned up by some unholy combination of campaign hacks, witless reporters, and (perhaps) inside *Canadian* baseball players. Read the account for what seems to have happened, but it’s tediously technical, involves several levels of hearsay, and falls far short of anything sexy or exciting.

    I blame the H. campaign for trying to fan the flames, and the O. campaign probably could have been more forthright about the (very small) story. Some of the mainstream commentariat also deserves blame. The problem, IMO, is not that that the press as a whole is biased right or left, but that a lot of it is lazy and, lemming-like, easily led over cliffs. Maybe there’s a role for elite shepherds after all …

    March 7, 2008
  76. With the exception of our local heroes, don’t even get me started on the press who rarely bother to show up on the scene these days.

    March 7, 2008
  77. Well, we have had a chance to look at the top three candy dates.

    Now I think about what Ronald Reagan said, ” The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’ ”

    Isn’t there anyone else out there who wants to run for the Office?

    March 10, 2008
  78. Paul Fried said:

    From the Boston Globe:
    Republicans vote for Hillary to avoid Obama:
    Ann Coulter’s in that pro-Hillary Republican crowd.

    If they can help Hillary get the nomination, the next step would be to bomb Iran; undecided voters would much rather have McCain inherit a Bush-Cheney bombing of Iran than have Hillary inherit it, don’t you think? Or would boming Iran help any Dem?

    March 17, 2008
  79. McCain Wins by Default! would be my guess of what the headlines would read next November…what with Googly Eyed Bobble Head Hillary and Eight FLags Baracko, I can only be wrong if McCain kicks the bucket before the Inauguration, which I hopefully doubt.

    (It’s not so much that McCain is 70 something, but that he’s been through a life diminishing ordeal, imho.)

    March 19, 2008
  80. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    If Hillary is involved in conservative Bible study groups, as the report Paul Fried posted here suggests, I doubt Republicans will shine a light on it since that would give her more in common with the religious right.

    Meanwhile, McCain is concentrating on his war message. If he keeps on saying the surge is working and Democrats are wrong in planning to pull out our troops, Dems are assured of victory in November. I encourage him to keep it up.

    Something I do find troubling is the constant stirring of sentiment against the Democratic Party for blocking representaton of delegates from Florida and Michigan. This was obviously a setup, at least in the case of Florida. The Republican Governor (no longer Jeb Bush) was just gloating over this on CNN, while not wanting to admit that he and the Republican-controlled State Legislature saw to it that the caucuses were scheduled early, in conflict with DNC rules. Why isn’t this getting out?

    March 25, 2008
  81. Paul Fried said:

    Stephanie: Have you a link for the Florida election angle you describe? I had not heard the Florida story from that angle (that it was the action of the Republican governor there, or other Republicans there, which led to the Florida Democratic party violating the national Democratic rules for primaries).

    Regarding Hillary’s involvement in the group as representing “conservative” religion, I’d like to think that some religious conservatives would find this somewhat insulting.

    I’m reading John Dean’s book, “Conservatives without Conscience,” and Dean describes himself as a “Goldwater Conservative,” yet critical of the likes of Bush-Cheney. For Dean, conservatism is not about Rovian strategy and pressing your advantages on every front, by any means. For Dean, it includes moral conservatism (of a kind that might build coalitions with liberals and progressives on some issues).

    How can one be a “Goldwater conservative” like Dean, or a moral conservative in general, and find common ground with the likes of Rove and Cheney?

    I’d like to think that at least some conservative Christians don’t define religious conservatism the way Ehrenreich describes Hillary’s sect in the article. But the word “conservative” has been undergoing some radical Orwellian redefinition, to a point where it’s hardly recognizable. This is true within the Republican party too: There was a time in the Republican party when Rep. Jeanette Rankin and retired Marine General Smedly Butler could be pacifists of sorts, and critical of corporate war profiteering.

    Those in the Republican party who considered themselves constitutional conservatives are upset with Bush-Cheney, and many who considered themselves fiscal conservatives are disappointed as well. It’s hard to tell what conservatism means, in practice, anymore.

    I think the brand of Christianity the author describes Hillary as being involved in seems to be more like a cross between selective scriptural literalism and Dyanetics. But fundamentalism’s links to the rich and powerful go back to the origins of the word “fundamentalism,” with a series of booklets (“The Fundamentals”) published by a Lyman Stewart, an early president of Union Oil (before the 1920’s, I think). Fundamentalism was attractive to conservatives and the rich because, of all the “fundamentals” it listed, none were directly related to the “social gospel” that Jesus often preached.

    March 25, 2008
  82. Patrick Enders said:


    I caught some interesting (well, to my ear, anyway) rebroadcasts on CSPAN this weekend of the DNC meetings which 1) laid out the Primary schedule, and 2) voted to exclude Florida’s delegates due to the violation of those scheduling rules. These included selected arguments for and against each decision.

    You can watch them here, posted under “RWH: DNC Primary Calendar Meetings & Sen. Obama Speech on Race (03/23/2008).”

    March 28, 2008
  83. Paul Fried said:

    Thanks, Patrick.

    I’m also still struggling to grasp all this stuff about why we’re scrutinizing comments by Obama’s pastor (or former pastor?) while we’re not scrutinizing the pastors (and political endorements, and advisors?) of other candidates.

    Here’s a clip from a piece called “The Swiftboating of Barak Obama” by “David Michael Green…a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York”:

    John McCain has been actively wooing televangelist… John Hagee for his endorsement, despite that the good reverend has called Catholicism “a godless theology”, blamed the Holocaust on Jewish “disobedience and rebellion”, argued that Katrina was “the judgment of God against New Orleans”, and claimed that the Koran gives Muslims “a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews”. Notwithstanding any of those slightly controversial remarks, McCain sought this clown’s support, got what he wanted, and thus stated at a campaign event that “I was pleased to have the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee yesterday”…. If it seems like a helluva logical conundrum that Obama gets trashed for comments his pastor makes, over which he has no control, while McCain goes scot-free after seeking the endorsement of a king-size bigot, well then welcome to Swiftboat Land.

    March 29, 2008
  84. Patrick Enders said:

    I think the difference is that we’ve seen enough extremist white ministers on our televisions, that we’ve lost our ability to be shocked by the outlandish assertions that some of them make.

    On the other hand, the kinds of shocking statements that can be made by fundamentalist black ministers are still something that white Americans are unfamiliar with.

    March 31, 2008
  85. True, Patrick. Another difference, maybe even more politically relevant in this case, would be that Obama’s minister’s comments were liberal “fundamentalist” statements (as it were), as opposed to the more commonplace conservative “fundamentalist” statements such as McCain’s televangelist friend has made.

    March 31, 2008
  86. I think it is because Wright came off as anti-American, and the others wouldn’t dare spit in that pond…as far as I know.

    I grew up in that area and I know two things. When Louis Farrakhan (sp)
    tries to foster hatred of the white man by blacks, it is for the sole purpose,
    or soul purpose of getting the black man to stand up for himself and have
    him looking better, more tailored and together than any white man alive,
    for the purpose of giving them confidence to build a strong community or black nation. Jeremiah Wright and Farrakhan are buddies.

    The other thing I know is that If Barack ever intended from the outset to become President of the USA, then he would not have associated with Wright. He would know what sort of effect that has on his constituents.
    And, if anyone was looking out for him, they would have told him about
    Wright’s act being too extreme for prime time.

    I am still trying to find out who plucked Barack out and into the run for the oval office.

    March 31, 2008
  87. Paul Fried said:

    The real question is, Who dug up the dirt on Wright to smear Obama?

    The media loves dirt, and the idea of a black preacher, talking about the evils whites have committed, has the sort of appeal that preacher-stealing-from-the-collection stories have. It’s sensational, it sells.

    But who dug the dirt and passed on the tip? Someone from the McCain camp? Hillary’s camp? Or just reporters doing their due dilligence– the way they did not in the lead-up to the Iraq war, or they way they did not during the cover-up sham that we called the 9-11 commission? Why do we have more scrutiny, suddenly, of Obama’s minister, than we had of Bush and Iraq, or Bush-Cheney and their refusal to appear, under oath, independently, before the 9-11 commissioni? It’s a joke.

    I’ve attended and worked for various churches as music director, youth minister and director of religious education, and there have been pastor-preachers with whom I strongly disagreed. Their opinions did not define me. People belong to churches for a variety of reasons, sometimes because they have strong ties to the neighborhood in which the church is located, sometimes because they love the music at a particular church more than other churches. Some pick a church based on architecture: Does the place feel like a holy place when you sit down to pray, or does it feel like a suburban motel lobby? Etc. To judge Obama on the basis of the minister’s opinions seems very bogus unless we apply the same, fair scrutiny to Hillary and McCain.

    March 31, 2008
  88. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    I see I did not answer Fried’s question as to source of my comment on Republican Legislature in Florida orchestrating the change of caucus date that was in conflict w/DNC rules. I saw the Governor taking questions on this on CNN, and again when it was rerun. Irritated me greatly both times, to see him gloating over this and shifting blame onto the Democratic Party.

    In talking with one of our Minnesota DNC members, I learned that Democrats in the Florida Legislature tried to amend it (caucus date) on the floor, but failed. And also that Dem Party was not well organized or forceful in their attempt. Obama did not campaign and was not on the ballot, though Hillary was. Now she understandably wants to claim the delegates she picked up.

    April 1, 2008
  89. Paul Fried said:

    Stephanie: I just read a piece fby Wayne Barrett on the Huffington Post that explains some of it:

    It favors Hillary in its bias, but also explores the GOP involvement you described. It’s very long, but here are a few clips:

    The DNC is charged, under its rules, to determine whether the Democrats in a noncompliant state made a “good faith” effort to abide by the party’s electoral calendar, and to impose the full weight of its available penalties, namely a 100 percent takedown of a state’s delegation, only if Democratic leaders in that state misbehaved. So the fact that it was Republicans who fomented the move-up of primaries in both these states to dates out-of-line with the DNC calendar is at the heart of the matter.

    What a probe might have discovered was a rationale for doing, at worst, what the RNC did to its own overeager primary schedulers in the same two states — cutting the delegations by half. That’s precisely the penalty specified in DNC rules, but the committee, exercising powers it certainly had the legal discretion to exercise, upped the ante as far as it could. In a bizarre reversal of public policy, the RNC, surely aware that the principal miscreants in both states were Republicans, applied a sane yet severe sanction. The Democrats opted for decapitation.

    The presumption of much of the national coverage about Michigan, to start with, has been that the Dems did this one to themselves — a presumption based, in large part, on Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm’s endorsement of a January 15 vote, a date far ahead of the anticipated February 9 primary. All Clinton-backer Granholm did, however, was a sign a bill. The bill originated in a Republican-controlled Senate and passed by a 21-to-17 straight party-line vote — with every Democrat casting a no vote.

    Florida’s Republican governor, Charlie Crist, is, like Granholm, seen as a prime player behind the state’s acceleration of the primary calendar. But Crist isn’t half the Florida story; Marco Rubio, a Jeb Bush protégé who runs the nearly 2-to-1 Republican Florida House, drove that bill through the legislature like it was a tax cut limited by law to top GOP donors.

    Indeed, the tracks under this train wreck trace back, in each case, to Republican maneuvers in state legislatures, political no- man’s-lands for all who’ve blithely dismissed the disenfranchisement of the millions of registered Florida and Michigan Democrats.
    The Republicans don’t just control both houses of the Florida legislature. Their combined 103-to-57 majority allowed them to dictate the terms of the bill that moved the primary to January 29. It is true that all but one of the state’s Democratic legislators supported the bill. But a closer look reveals that vote to be more an indication of a realistic and productive compromise with the ruling Republicans than any intent to breach Democratic rules.

    Florida’s leading news outlets, just like Michigan’s, converted an early primary into a matter of state patriotism, and that point of view, coupled with the mathematical inability to even slow the Republican push, forced Democrats to roll over.

    Another factor attracting Democratic votes in the legislature for the bill was one the DNC should certainly appreciate. Governor Crist threw a reform long sought by Florida Democrats into the bill: a mandatory paper trail for all votes cast in future elections. “The Democrats have been fighting for a paper trail bill since 2000,” said State Senator Nan Rich, “and Governor Bush never would support it. So finally we got a governor who was willing to support it and it ended up connected to the early primary bill. That was unfortunate. If the paper trail hadn’t been there, I believe we Democrats would’ve all voted no. Still, if all the Republicans had voted one way and all the Democrats had voted another way, the bill would’ve passed.”

    But “the driving force behind the move,” as the Tampa Tribune put it, was 36-year-old House speaker Marco Rubio, who announced that pushing the primary up was a top goal before he took over the House at the start of 2006. Branded a “Jeb acolyte” by the Florida press, Rubio, a Cuban from West Miami married to a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader, was given a gold samurai sword by Bush in a passing-of-the-conservative-mantle gesture in 2005. Rubio is a member of a wired Florida law firm whose chairman is so close to Bush that he rushed down to the county jail when the governor’s daughter Noelle was arrested on a drug-related charge. When Rubio’s term as speaker ends later this year, he is slated to go to work for a think tank headed by a Jeb Bush business associate. The primary bill originated with Rubio and ultimately passed the House unanimously — but only after Democrats made what they knew would be a losing effort to alter it.

    April 1, 2008
  90. Patrick Enders said:


    I was starting to believe that the Florida Democrats may have been forced into moving the primary up against their will, until someone dug up the following clip:

    It’s of the Florida Democratic leader laughing during his own official act of protest against the date change. Clearly, he was just as much in favor of moving up the date of the Florida Primary as were his Republican colleagues.

    April 1, 2008
  91. Paul Fried said:

    Patrick, the video is quite ambiguous about how the laughter and text should be interpreted. Not enough context. The Daily Kos clip offers one interpretation, but the Huffington Post article I posted earlier suggests another (with the incentive for Dems to vote in favor of the paper trail for balots, sought since 2000, etc.). I think that the very same video and text could seem to support the opposite conclusion from that suggested by the Daily Kos take on it: That the Dems would show, later, that they had opposed the move, and perhaps were working to amend. I’m still trying to understand it all. I don’t claim that the Huffington article is the final word, but it’s far more helpful in providing background than the brief video. At the very least, one might want to read the transcript for a larger chunk of the day when the video was made, at least to understand more clearly what they’re talking about. It’s simply not clear, and the laughter may be a bit of light-hearted, good-natured sarcasm from the minority party in that state.

    April 1, 2008
  92. Patrick Enders said:


    I admit the video is ambiguous. But it certainly does not look like a man who is sincerely protesting being forced to do something against his will or better judgment.

    Anyway, it’s just one more bit of info that complicates the tales various groups are trying to tell. Hopefully, someone will dig deeper to dissect the origins of Florida’s mistake. However, that clip suggests that just reviewing the transcript may be misleading. It certainly looks possible that the Democrats in Florida were just going through a sham protest. (Remember – no matter what else is in the bill – the bill was passed unanimously.) The video clip suggests that a full review of the video of the proceedings may be indicated.

    On the other hand, time is moving relentlessly forward, and any hope of running a legitimate vote in Florida has already been lost.

    April 2, 2008
  93. Paul Fried said:

    If I were a Florida legislator and I’d been asking for a paper trail for voting since 2001, and if the Republicans in the vast majority there would likely have voted for the bill with or without the paper trail provision, I think I would have reluctantly given up the right to seat delegates, and would have voted for the bill, if only for the paper trail. But yes, nothing like more research (I’m correcting papers in mid-semester; any volunteers?)….

    April 2, 2008
  94. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    I, for one, am grateful Barack Obama has opened up yet another valuable discussion,
    this time on the crisis in rural communities and root causes. It is a subject very
    close to my heart.

    In my travels across the state, I have seen dying rural communities where poverty
    is not the exception, but the norm. People live from day to day, as if without hope.

    Yes, I am glad Obama sees it too and has opened up the dialog. Shame on the other
    two presidential candidates, for seeking to use it against him.

    April 15, 2008
  95. William Siemers said:

    Stephanie…Yours is an attitude shared by Obama. The problem is… it is not widely shared by the people in those communities. The words “…without hope” and “bitter” would most likely not be used by these people to describe their lot. It is this kind of disconnected rhetoric, if not attitude, that is giving pause to democrats who see what once seemed to be a sure presidential victory getting less likely by the day.

    Democrats can not hope to engage rural voters by telling them how bad off they are. IMHO these voters are instilled with values widely held by most Americans…self sufficiency and optimism among them. They may recognize that times are tough…but down does not mean out. “Victimization” doesn’t play well in the heartland.

    April 15, 2008
  96. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Being a virtual unknown to the DFL in southern Minnesota in l996, I became a delegate to Democratic National Convention in Chicago by stressing up front that my main concern was farming and that rural communities were in dire straits. I said it would be my intention to network with others, appeal to Secy of Ag Glickman, whatever I could when I got to Chicago. And I did.

    Call a spade a spade. Obama knows he might have phrased it better, in retrospect. But the trust in Obama is still there among Democrats, I think. Hillary is playing it for all it’s worth and that’s sad. We know “big ag” in both parties is pulling for her to get the nomination (for different reasons). Headquarters of “Hawkeye” hog systems in Emmetsburg, IA, my hometown, has a big Hillary sign.

    The Pennsylvania primary will be tough because the governor has endorsed Hillary. Head of Democratic Party for the state was on Ed Schulz radio show yesterday, stressing the problem with the Obama remarks. He slipped up in saying “we” in referring to the Clinton campaign, so we know what side he’s on, too.

    April 15, 2008
  97. Paul Fried said:

    I agree with William on the importance of self-sufficiency and optimism, and yet people in rural communities are not stupid and out-of-touch. Many are very intelligent and well-read.
    – They have children who get married and face the prospect of buying homes. They know that, 20 years ago, homes were much cheaper, and some of the same homes sell now for 4 times the price, while prices for crops don’t go up as quickly as consumer goods.
    – Many of them follow the stories about most of the Ag subsidies going to the wealthiest interests, and often to big corporations (sometimes insurance) that use a “farming” status as tax breaks (besides getting hefty subsidy checks).
    – They know about big tax breaks that go to big oil.
    – They know that, in a recession, the people on fixed incomes get hit hard.
    – Many know that, in the last 40 years, the rich have gotten much, much richer, while the middle class has barely held their place.

    Some have sent their sons and daughters off to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of those, some don’t come back; many others come back shot up (more than any other war, the wounded and maimed are surviving). Yes, some in rural America believe the Bush line about staying the course, but some are very critical of our reasons for getting into Iraq, being over-extended, fighting a very costly war, and making many mistakes if we were to fight it at all.

    I’m somewhat surprised, when I talk to Republicans from rural areas, at how disappointed they are in Bush. There are some diehards who still support him, but if you want something to be bitter about, you don’t have to look far.

    Of course, “bitter” and “without hope” are strong words, and as William says, perhaps a put-off for many.

    But leaders should not be judged for how well they protect the strong and wealthy. That has been the Bush standard. If Obama has been listening to some who have been hard-hit, and who are bitter or feel a lack of hope, then more power to him. Governments should be judged for how well they protect the weak. The strong do a fine job as it is.

    Unfortunately, Bush’s political party was not called the “plutocracy” party; political parties never guarantee truth-in-advertising (as political fact-checking web sites strive to remind us). We tend to vote more for what we think we’re getting, and what we think we want, and we take our chances on what the politicians actually give us.

    April 15, 2008
  98. I am sitting here wondering what the heck people are thinking. And as importantly what am I thinking.

    If you want to be rich in this country, you have to come up with something people need or want very much…or you have to create an illusion so that people will think they need or want your product or service, even if they don’t .
    People used to live off the land entirely a few hundred years back or less, and some stlll do. There is no pity in that, imho. The best things in life are free, like a beautiful sunrise, or infinite blue skies, or fields of green or the smile on the face of a child or an elder.

    But, people lost a lot of life years back then, oftentimes…or at least so often that the people began to make trade offs…here, I will give you my labor,
    I will loose my freedom to spend all day looking up at the forever sky, in
    return for a way to save my child from certain bacterial death, or make it
    so I can live another ten or twenty years and be sure to have income until I die. I will give up my right to make my own home and pay taxes so someone will come and save my home in case of fire, and protect me from
    burglars and thieves and murderers and rapists and carpetbaggers and
    every sort of son of a gun there is…daughters of a gun, too.

    What have we gained truly and what do we truly want? Should our politicians be leading the whole way? Don’t we know what we want?
    Don’t we know what to think ? Just wondering out loud.

    April 15, 2008
  99. Paul Zorn said:

    About the dustup over Obama’s “bitter” remarks …

    What Obama said (according to NPR’s summary) was that “Pennsylvania’s small town voters are bitter about losing jobs and that to explain their frustrations, they “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.” ”

    Stephanie and Paul H, you seem to be saying that there are indeed serious problems in small town America, which need to be addressed much more effectively, and that it’s good for Obama to point to these. That’s (IMO) clearly true, and I doubt that many of us would disagree. Hillary certainly wouldn’t.

    The politically live question for me is not whether small-town and rural America needs help, but rather whether Obama, intentionally or not, was dissing “small town voters.” Seems to me his remarks can certainly be read this way, and I’m pleased that he’s distanced himself (if only in the politician’s standard half-straightforward way) from at least his phraseology. He knows that he said something infelicitous (even if not necessarily false) and he’s appropriately backing off.

    As for Hillary and McCain jumping on this, I find it mildly, but only mildly, disappointing. Like most people in most circumstances, politicians will use any club that happens to be lying around to beat up their opponents. Obama is not above opportunistic behavior either. C’est la vie politique. Big deal.

    Politics aside, was Obama right that stress and bitterness can lead people to behave badly, or against their own interests? I’d say yes — but that there’s no reason to single out “small-town voters” as especially at fault. The idea that “large-town”, urban, well-educated voters are somehow above reproach in indulging bad instincts is absurd.

    Paul Zorn

    April 15, 2008
  100. Paul Z, I think you have hit the nail on the proverbial noggin. The media and the urban dwellers often have no idea of the wonders of country living.
    I can attest to the fact that I had to teach my first thru fourth graders to look at the sun set. No lie. More than that I will leave to the imagination as to the
    wide range of differences between urban dwellers who have not been out, and rural dweller who have not been in much.

    April 15, 2008
  101. William Siemers said:

    Obama is begining to get scrutinized…maybe it’s a little late…maybe much ado about nothing. But he can’t run from his record which is the most liberal in the senate…granted he hasn’t been there long. He will, to paraphrase steve colbert, have to give lunch bucket democrats plenty of hits on the ‘hope bong’ to overcome a record that includes support for a complete ban on guns and for partial birth abortions. Could this be a rerun of Dukakis or McGovern?

    Of course Hillary has her own problems. As the wall street journal said today…’half the country thinks she rides a broom’.

    As for me…I’m hoping Obama will offer Richardson a place on the ticket…at the top of the ticket that is.

    April 15, 2008
  102. Paul Fried said:

    William: Richardson might be a great running mate for Obama.

    Paul Z.: Thanks for the context.

    Bright: You’re showing off your wisdom again. Thanks!

    Here’s a link to a piece by Robert Reich, Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton, defending Obama and the “bitterness” remark –
    – but not attending to the context Paul Z. mentions… proving what Paul Z said… politics is about moments as brief opportunities, as springboards or soap-boxes, more than it is about careful attention to facts or context?

    Or in this case, is the larger story and context of the economy and its history the real fact and context, and the bumbling, groping rhetoric of one candidate only an attempt to gesture toward it?

    If the economy has been growing many times over decades, but the richest being the only ones who benefit, while real wages for the middle class stagnate, and the middle class suffer layoffs, etc., whenever CEO’s take their bonuses while downsizing their workforce….

    Bitterness helps no one. But activism about economic injustice is a different thing….

    April 16, 2008
  103. William Siemers said:

    We may think we know what politics ‘ought’ to be about. But what politics is about is what issues drive people to vote for candidates. So we can say ‘you should be thinking about the economy and the war’ not flag pins, ministers, friends and lovers, etc…but isn’t that elitest? Telling people that ‘we know better’… is what drives them crazy.

    Reich seems to expect the pundits to ignore these issues even though they are important to many voters. Isn’t this just more elitism at work?

    I’ll argue that it is in fact best to get these issues out in the open and let Obama…or any candidate for that matter…deal with them. We can be assured that those same issues will be brought up in the general election.

    April 17, 2008
  104. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Thanks, Paul Fried, for the link to the Reich piece. Do read the responses from readers, among them this one:

    Cafferty on CNN did state that they got 3000 emails right away on this…and that none thought Obama had mistated anything and they totally understood it.

    The last sentence in Chap 6 “Growth of hate groups” (Osha Gray Davidson’s “Broken Heartland” 1990, revised 1998):

    If genuine alternatives are not provided, a significant number of rural ghetto residents–bitter, desperate, and increasingly cut off from the nation’s cities–are sure to seek their salvation in the politics of hate.

    April 17, 2008
  105. Paul Fried said:

    William: you wrote, “But what politics is about is what issues drive people to vote for candidates.” I will beg to differ. Why?

    1. Many of the so-called “issues” are artificially inflated by hype and spin, so while Hillary and McCain may think they’re milking this mis-step by Obama, well, they might be toying with possible spin related to this little corner of the poitical universe, but this doesn’t necessarily mean this reflects much on the real issues that matter to voters, or how to get them to vote.

    2. The media does an incredible amount of sifting. If what the bible says is true that it’s “easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom,” then the media seems to act in the same way: If it’s sensational, if it sells ad time or papers, if someone made a mistake (that doesn’t define them, and doesn’t reflect best on the heart off their candidacy), the vultures are ready to strike. But when Richardson or Edwards were saying things that might have been thought (by citizens now, and by people of other ages) to be important stuff, sometimes it only gets attention if you say it with a primal scream, or make some other mistake. This is not about the issues that make people vote, but about the eye of the needle (or eyes of the needles; FOX may be a bit more conservative, at times, than NPR).

    3. Related to #1: You can also create fictional events to tug at the heartstrings of our Forrest Gump citizenry; you can hire a PR firm to coach a girl named Nariah to testify about Kuwaiti babies taken from incubators by evil Iraqi soldiers and left to die on the cold hospital floors, even if it never happened. Then later, you’re in the middle of a war, and it’s unpatriotic — not supporting the troops — to question the war and its basis. This is about manipulation on an obscene scale (perhaps not that different from the war with Mexico, or the Spanish-American War, though). This has little to do with the “issues that get people to vote.” This part is about the lies that get public opinion moving in a desired direction.

    Yes, in the end, it’s not just about who is talking about what we (or some elites) claim we “need” to hear. It’s about votes and electability, yes. So I s’pose we need to find good candidates, with good ideas, and get ’em top-notch campaign staff who will “sell” their ideas, as long as we have our current system, and the greatest democracy money can buy.

    Until we get real campaign and lobbyist reforms, none of that will change. And even if we got reforms, we’d still need constant vigilance; the tricksters always try to stay a step or six ahead of the laws and regulations.

    But constant vigilance is so hard when you have iTunes, cell phones, American Idol, video games. (Maybe constant vigilance will always be for the elite?)

    April 17, 2008
  106. Paul Fried said:

    Curt: What a great comparison. I liked his “Lincoln at Gettysburg” quite a bit.

    Nice Lincoln quote from Wills:
    “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

    Some favorite Wills quotes:
    (1) “Martin Marty, the respected church historian at the University of Chicago, had often attended Wright’s services and found inspiration there. In some ways, Marty is to Jeremiah Wright what Emerson was to John Brown.”

    (Martin Marty — great guy. Olaf was lucky to have him as their interim pres. and on their board. I met him years ago when I’d been accepted to the U of Chicago Div. School, and a few other occasions since, including an Olie Xmas concert.)

    (2) The charge that AIDS was a white plot against blacks is obviously unjustified, but to some blacks it did not seem crazy, since their accurate oral history remembers a time when syphilis went untreated among blacks so as to study its effects.

    (We need to know our history: If you took a poll to find out how many US citizens who planned to vote knew this about the syphilis scandal, I think you’d find the numbers very low among white voters.)

    (3) It reminded me of the way the pacifist David Dellinger used to shout back on a bullhorn at antiwar demonstrators calling for violence—he said, “Pay no attention to those calls, they are coming from police provocateurs.”

    (4) “Obama’s deepest criticism of Wright was not in terms of personal attack. On that, he would hold his brother with a trembling hand. The problem was that Wright saw the whole people as the black people, while Obama sees the people as the entire nation. Wright did not reach his hand to the wider circle of brothers and sisters.”

    April 17, 2008
  107. William Siemers said:

    Agreed: We have a flawed system of electoral politics. It is filled with petty distractions. It focuses on negatives.

    My point is that, given the system, intense media scrutiny of personal behavior can be expected. Every utterance, no matter the context, will be parsed for political correctness and acceptability. The system searches, no…hopes, for gaffes. Whether we like it or not, these things become “issues”. In close general elections, when only 5 to 10% of voters are really in play, these “issues” become incredibly important. The fact that they are, for the most part, pretty much bogus, doesn’t change that. Candidates have to deal with them.

    Up until a few weeks ago, Obama was given a pass by the mainstream media with regard to these bogus ‘issues’. (Not to mention very little discussion of his voting record). Democrats were not well served by this lack of scrutiny. It was love at first sight. I’ll admit myself, to falling in love, if not on the first date, on the second or third. And now it appears our betrothed has some bad habits.

    I would like to see Obama deal with these ‘issues’ with more of an eye to the center…to conservative democrats and independents. ‘Spin’? Maybe…but we are talking about getting elected here. I think his speech on race was eloquent and thoughtful. It improved the discussion on that subject well beyond the usual platitudes. I think Hillary’s statement…”I would have left the congregation” is more politically expedient.

    It looks like Obama will be the nominee. I’ll get behind him…somewhat reluctantly I admit. There will be negative campaigning on both sides. Swift boating. I think Obama is much more vulnerable to this than McCain. On the other hand, we can hope for a big turnout of new voters.

    April 18, 2008
  108. Paul Fried said:

    Well said, William. But McCain is vulnerable for saying Chelsea Chinton was ugly because Janet Reno was her father. He’s vulnerable for “Bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb Iran” and for not calling for civility when asked how he’d “beat the bitch” (Hillary) in a question from a voter.

    Of course, perhaps he’s not as vulnerable because he’s a white guy with white hair and a tortured vet, but we had a glimpse of the friendship/or/affair with the lobbyist, and there may be more dirt on that, if dirty politics and swift-boating is inevitable.

    April 18, 2008
  109. Paul Fried said:

    Here are some clips from of a piece called “Let’s Pretend” from a Kucinich supporter named David Michael Green, who also doesn’t see the problem with Obama’s remarks about small town bitterness, guns and religion:

    Obama’s big crime was to tell the truth. Here’s what he said:

    You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

    So, silly me, I’m reading that, and reading that, and waiting to come to the controversial part! Still waiting, as a matter of fact. I’m sorry, but anyone who thinks that the right hasn’t been using race and immigrants (actually, race again) and foreigner workers (actually… well, you know) and religion and guns and gays (who somehow fell off Obama’s list) to win elections, hasn’t been paying attention. For decades. More likely though, since even the intentionally deaf, dumb and blind could hardly miss this crap, it would require a willful denial, just like the cavemen (and a certain cavewoman) now falling all over themselves to trash Obama as an elitist snob. The irony of this is as profound as it is disgusting. The stink of plutocratic Republican/Clintonist contempt for American voters could overwhelm an abattoir. These multi-millionaire elitists and their Madison Avenue image-crafting machines have been successfully manufacturing an absurd ‘Ah-shucks-we’re-just-one-of-the-people’ image for their candidates for decades now. “Oh look, he eats pork rinds!” “Wow, she bowls!” “Hey, he’d be more fun to have a beer with!” That turned out real well, didn’t it?

    Anyhow, is this some sort of a bad joke to suggest that race and the rest haven’t consistently been used as conservative cudgels in American politics? Anyone remember George Wallace? Believe it or not, he was actually once a bit of a progressive in his early years, and toward the end of his life he also apologized for the damage he had wrought as governor of Alabama and, subsequently, as a presidential candidate. In between, though, this bombastic foe of civil rights was among the ugliest of American politicians. He had learned quickly what sells in America. Having lost his first race for governor in 1958 to a candidate who outflanked him to the racist right, he explained to his friend Seymore Trammell what happened, and what he intended to do about it. “Seymore,” he said, “you know why I lost that governor’s race? I was outniggered by John Patterson. And I’ll tell you here and now, I will never be outniggered again.” Nor was he.

    Republicans figured that one out about a decade later, if not even earlier, as Nixon’s 1968 Southern Strategy successfully peeled disaffected conservative whites away from the Democratic Party. Then, in 1980, you had Ronald Reagan signaling his racist sympathies to white voters by opening his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi — a town whose one claim to historical fame is that it hosted the murder of three civil rights workers. And there he was, the soon-to-be president of the United States, talking about “states’ rights”. Subtle, eh? ….

    Among the things you’re not ever supposed to admit in American politics is that the inherent appeal of racism for the overclass is to soothe the shame of inferiority and domination felt by economically struggling and socio-politically lorded-over working-class whites — without, of course, actually having to share any power or wealth with them. You don’t need a PhD in psychology to figure out that giving them someone else to dominate and feel superior toward is a cheap remedy readily available to economic elites and their political minions….

    So much for elites….

    April 18, 2008
  110. Paul Fried said:

    From the LA Times blogs / Top of the ticket:
    Obama, as mentioned, offered his initial response to this new furor while campaigning in Terre Haute. Here are the pertinent parts:

    “I was in San Francisco talking to a group at a fundraiser and somebody asked how’re you going to get votes in Pennsylvania? What’s going on there? We hear that it’s hard for some working class people to get behind you’re campaign. I said, ‘Well look, they’re frustrated and for good reason. Because for the last 25 years they’ve seen jobs shipped overseas. They’ve seen their economies collapse. They have lost their jobs. They have lost their pensions. They have lost their healthcare.

    “And for 25, 30 years Democrats and Republicans have come before them and said ‘We’re going to make your community better. We’re going to make it right’ and nothing ever happens. And of course they’re bitter. Of course they’re frustrated. You would be too. In fact many of you are. Because the same thing has happened here in Indiana. The same thing happened across the border in Decatur. The same thing has happened all across the country. Nobody is looking out for you. Nobody is thinking about you. And so people end up — they don’t vote on economic issues because they don’t expect anybody’s going to help them. So people end up, you know, voting on issues like guns, and are they going to have the right to bear arms. They vote on issues like gay marriage. And they take refuge in their faith and their community and their families and things they can count on. But they don’t believe they can count on Washington. So I made this statement — so, here’s what’s rich. Sen. Clinton says ‘No, I don’t think that people are bitter in Pennsylvania. You know, I think Barack’s being condescending.’ John McCain says, ‘Oh, how could he say that? How could he say people are bitter? You know, he’s obviously out of touch with people.’

    “Out of touch? Out of touch? I mean, John McCain — it took him three tries to finally figure out that the home foreclosure crisis was a problem and to come up with a plan for it, and he’s saying I’m out of touch? Sen. Clinton voted for a credit card-sponsored bankruptcy bill that made it harder for people to get out of debt after taking money from the financial services companies, and she says I’m out of touch? No, I’m in touch. I know exactly what’s going on. I know what’s going on in Pennsylvania. I know what’s going on in Indiana. I know what’s going on in Illinois. People are fed up. They’re angry and they’re frustrated and they’re bitter. And they want to see a change in Washington and that’s why I’m running for President of the United States of America.”

    All well and good. But we’re betting not nearly enough.
    — Don Frederick

    April 20, 2008
  111. Gee, does anyone else feel like I do when I say the media has finally reduced the candidates to caricatures of themselves. How pathetic is that?

    April 28, 2008
  112. Paul Zorn said:

    Seems to me that “bittergate” is over — at least until the Republicans try to resurrect it, as they surely will if Obama is the candidate. Whether it will have any legs in a few months isn’t clear to me, but I’m inclined to doubt it. In any event, pitting Obama against McCain in terms of ridiculous pronouncements will be a losing battle for the R side.

    The whole Rev Wright thing seems to me potentially more of a problem for Obama, who IMO has done the best possible thing with a difficult situation. The Rev W seems not quite the “wackadoodle” that Maureen Dowd describes, but he’s not doing O. any good either.

    What do others think about this?

    April 29, 2008
  113. Paul Fried said:

    Rev. Wright raised the discourse a bit in a piece on MPR, observing that God doesn’t bless everything a country does; sometimes God condemns. Even Republicans say this when liberals get their way.

    I’m glad we’re hearing about Wright’s military service and how statements were taken out of context (gee, does that happen?), and that Wright is talking back.

    But whether it hurts or helps is hard to say. More potential fuel for the fires of distortion and swift-boating? Or is it good to wear out certain topics well in advance? Depends on many factors.

    How will the parties and candidates spend their money and deploy their volunteers to get out the messages?

    What will unfold in events and discourse before the election?

    How much money are defense contractors and related industries willing to put into “protected” organizations that have no donation limits? Etc.

    I’m not as concerned about the return of bitter-gate (more symptom than cause) as I am about who will fund the swift-boating, and how well they fund it.

    If I were the CEO of Lockheed-Martin, Blackwater or Haliburton (or many other contractors) and faced the prospects of an Iraq pullout, I’d be donating big bucks to Fredom’s Watch and it’s sister-organizations to promote McCain, smear Hillary or Obama, and keep us in Iraq forever. It would be a no-brainer: Invest a million now in order to keep hundreds of millions of contracts and money flowing. What defense industry CEO would hesitate for a heartbeat in contemplating the choice? Who cares if the war is right or wrong, or winnable; the business of business is to make money, not to be moral philosophers (?); self-interest clarifies; greed is good, as Reagan said (?).

    (I may sound cynical here, but I’m trying to be realistic, having read about the Burger King exec. who used his daughter’s email to discredit the labor movement complaining about wages for picking tomatoes in what has sometimes seemed close to slavery conditions.)

    We might do well to brace ourselves for the swift-boating to come (and another terrorist attack before the election?), and determine to work hard for change. Polls may show Obama ahead against McCain now, in some states, but money and media control can make that lead disappear.

    April 29, 2008
  114. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    I felt so much better after seeing the full Bill Moyers interview of Rev. Wright on Friday night. The key part was the opportunity to see the video of the full sermon. I noticed that Wright was in a purple robe, whereas the soundbite being played over and over had him in a black/gray one with white sleeves. But it was the same sermon, I believe, given at different times.

    Is it unpleasant to be reminded of misdeeds of our own government from the time when Native American people were driven from their land and forward? Yes. But I don’t fault Wright for it. Even Hillary Clinton’s own minister sided w/Wright, if I am to believe a letter dated March 26 I have shared w/Fried after finding it on the web today.

    The media is still not taking ownership of the damage they did in playing the soundbite over and over, out of context. Particularly CNN. But I wish Wright had not gone before National Press Club (NAACP dinner the night before was OK). That was overkill. I, too, hope all this will pass.

    April 29, 2008
  115. Paul Zorn said:


    I listened to a podcast of the Wright/Moyers interview and wasn’t as happy with it as you seem to have been. At best it gave Wright a chance to show his best side, which seems genuinely appealing. It seems clear, for instance, that Wright’s ministry has genuinely helped many people who needed help, and that certainly deserves respect.

    Still, I thought Moyers skirted the wacky stuff, like Wright’s dancing around with Farrakhan, and with the really poisonous belief that the US government concocted AIDS. And Wright’s National Press Club appearance yesterday did nothing to rehabilitate him. In his worst moments he seemed defensive and paranoid, and he was self-promoting throughout.

    I don’t personally hold Obama in any way responsible for the good Rev’s pronouncements — least of all those that Obama has explicitly condemned. Nor do I think Obama or any politician owes the world any accounting or apology for his or her church membership. Every religion I know of involves potential logical or political embarrassments, and there seems little point in keeping score. (If a candidate *chooses* to parade his or her religion politically, that’s different.)

    My real worry is that the whole dustup will distract the (all too readily distractible) press and public from legitimate political and policy issues.

    April 29, 2008
  116. William Siemers said:

    A month after Obama said he could not ‘disown’ Wright, he has done just that. None too soon.

    April 30, 2008
  117. BruceWMorlan said:

    Paul Z., you thought the Republicans (R) would revive “bittergate” (nice term, by the way) but it seemed to me from talking to (R)s that they did not see bittergate at all the way the broadcast press did (in my case broadcast press means MPR and NPR since I don’t have a working TV). It was a non-issue for most of them.

    Now, if we could actually see some good “principles-to-policy” discussions that highlighted the candidates principles and how they would apply them to specifics, well, maybe we’d have a discussion. We did do that pre-primary at Politics and a Pint and once the two parties have actually picked candidates we’ll do it again.

    In the meantime (back to “bittergate”), Paul F’s quote shows once again how poorly served we are by the sound-bite media. Taken in context, it is clear that Obama was referring to the political experience of “promises, promises but nary a working program” that has caused a loss of faith in the government’s ability to cure problems from above. The reaction to that experience is a signature component of both major parties.

    • The (D)s seem to think the answer is “smarter government”, which relies on getting it right and telling everyone to do it that way. We discussed this strategy at P&P (Unintended Consequences”) where we discussed the problems caused by years of trying to tweak laws (especially taxes and programs) to try to mandate solutions.
    • The (R)s think the answer is “smaller government”, which then relies on market forces to drive out bad ideas (like big cars) and create better solutions using grass-roots innovations and entrepreneurs. We talked about some of the downsides to that (“tragedy of the commons”) at yet another P&P (Adam Smith’s Invisible Fist). This is why I work so hard with the township, trying to solve some big problems one corn field at a time.

    Why we and the media are talking about bittergate, Wright-Mania and who can cry while looking strong at 3AM is beyond me. Interestingly, politicians in both parties, in my personal experience, are much deeper thinkers than the press will let them appear. And I think that’s more our fault than the media’s. But then, I am just one small voice on this issue.

    April 30, 2008
  118. Paul Zorn said:


    I agree with a lot of what you say, though I might tweak a bit your capsule descriptions of R and D approaches to government. In particular, it’s by no means only D’s who like to tweak tax laws to achieve political ends. Seems to me that both parties do (and should do) this, but they like different tweaks and aim for different results.

    One place I disagree, on the other hand, concerns whether the R’s will try to revive the “bittergate” nonsense. Want to bet a pint on it?

    I don’t doubt that R’s you know see this as a non-issue, and this may well be true of *most* R’s. But if Obama is the nominee I fully expect the Swift Boat crowd to emerge from under their rocks on bittergate, Wright-gate, and any other gate that might have been left unlocked. That’s how the game is played.

    April 30, 2008
  119. Paul Fried said:

    Bruce: I think Paul Z is probably right about the gulf between you and some of the R’s you know, on the one hand, and some that will do the swift-boating.

    R’s nationally have been talking about the sea-change in their party. I’ve been following the American Freedom Agenda — which includes constitutional conservative Bruce Fein, Bob Barr and Richard Viguerie (of direct mail, Reagan campaign fame), and reading John Dean’s Conservatives without a Conscience. Many Republicans feel hijacked and betrayed.

    Unfortunately, Bruce, many people don’t view the R party and conservatism in the more moderate, practical way you see yourself as viewing it. Many now associate conservatism and the R party with being pro- preemptive war (multi-trillion-dollar war), and with being Machiavellian (or Rovian, which is now the interchangeable term). And all of that, while reading in the Bible every day about our favorite philosopher, the Lord Jesus.

    What’s conservative about any of that (except the last part, in some circles)?

    I think you’re right about the media and sound-bites, and right about how we all share in the blame for the current situation.

    But I think the D and R approaches you describe are both flawed. Yes, sometimes government really doesn’t work very well at solving some problems, especially the lobbyist-driven, earmark-saddled system we’re now operating with. Look at all the compromises and subsidies they’ll leave in the farm bill. (It’s better to look at programs on a case-by-case basis, but in general, we all know there’s a lot of waste).

    But the market doesn’t do well with health-care. And look at the sub-prime crisis — shows that smaller gubmit often doesn’t work. Free markets often mean un-regulated lawlessness where the strongest, most clever, and wealthiest make a killing at others’ expense, and then sometimes we all suffer from the fallout.

    The market alone won’t get rid of the “problem” of big cars you describe, because the market that now depends too much on big oil and big auto is nothing like the nimble markets Adam Smith envisioned, and which did not involve anything like the extent of the passive partnership/stockholder behemoths we now have (and which he was not at all fond of).

    The large players like oil and auto have too much inertia and/or momentum, so big cars will dominate and be a problem for much longer than they should, especially if we shrink government involvement.

    If the more ideal paradigm is domestically-produced renewable energy where you plug in a car to recharge it overnight from a wind-turbine or solar-array (all current technology), you can bet that big oil and big auto will see to it that we have to wait till hell freezes over (or the polar ice caps thaw) before they budge an inch from that paradigm. There’s too much money in it for them.

    And too many small-town folks who cling to their guns, religion, and big cars, mind you, in order to forget how bitter they are. ( O ;

    When you have such big players in the economy like that, you sometimes need an equally big and strong gubmit to wrestle them to the ground and then drown them in the bathtub (to paraphrase Mr. Norquist).

    April 30, 2008
  120. Bruce Morlan said:

    Thanks Pauls! You are right, I have stereotyped (D) and (R), each steals from the other’s playbook when it suits them, and we are often the worse off for it. Now, how do we get the flawed leaders from both groups into that bathtub?

    Of course, the full story I tried to present was exactly what PF said, both solutions (smarter and/or smaller gubmits) have their failings, and the fact that neither (D) nor (R) are listening to the important historical examples of such is very frustrating. Only Obama (of the big 3) is correctly calling for the gas tax to not be used as a palliative measure, he’s the only one not pandering to the people for votes using that issue (can’t say the same about other issues and positions he takes).

    As for the market getting rid of big cars, oh it will, it will indeed. When gas is $10 or $20 a gallon (bring it on, cry the conservationists) we’ll see people buying RV’s to park in their yards as “mother-in-law” cabins. Wheels off, of course. And, as always, the poor will pay the most dearly (NYTimes headline: “World ends tomorrow, poor hit hardest“).

    And Paul F, your comment “big oil and big auto is nothing like the nimble markets Adam Smith envisioned” is right on the mark. Big oil and big auto are clearly examples of industries that are unable to be nimble enough to change with the economic (let alone meteorological) climate. They are still avoiding the implications of “The World is Flat”, but I saw a nifty little counterexample at Just Foods this weekend (a tiny all electric car). Not to be confused with the tiny human-powered enclosed three-wheelers I used to lust after in the 70’s, during the last “the sky is falling end of the world” times. I think that the dinosaurs that we call governments are just not nimble enough either, which is why I work on local autonomy and local solutions.

    May 1, 2008
  121. Bruce Morlan said…we’ll see people buying RV’s to park in their yards as “mother-in-law” cabins. Wheels off, of course.

    Wheels on, everyone, wheels on.

    (I am just kidding, everyone adores their m-i-l for bring their dear spouses
    into this world, if for nothing else. I’m kidding, really.)

    May 1, 2008
  122. Paul Zorn said:

    Concerning candidates and their wacky preachers, have others seen this opinion piece in today’s NY Times, by Frank Rich?

    If the link doesn’t work, google on “frank rich ny times elephant “. The subject is the televangelist John Hagee, whose endorsement McCain sought out, according to the piece.

    I see little point in balancing one embarrassing preacher against another … there’s plenty of embarrassment to go around. But it does illustrate the danger of candidates’ parading religiosity in public. I’m ready for (but don’t expect) a break from all political churchliness.

    May 4, 2008
  123. How do people feel about forgiving our presidents and presidential candidates of their prior trespasses? Have you forgiven Clinton, the male, for defiling the office of the president, I mean the notion, not the physical office so much? Should we forgive John F. Kennedy for his lack of devotion to wife and family? How about Obamarama and Silly Hilly? Should they be pardoned for all their little human frailties and lack of good judgement? And what about McCain, well I guess there is no forgiving age, but I am sure there is something he’s done that’s unforgivable, isn’t there?
    Should we forgive someone, even when we know they are not sorry?
    Are we forgiving them because we have no choice? Or our we not
    forgiving them in the name of exercising our voice? I wonder.

    May 6, 2008
  124. Paul Zorn said:


    Re candidates’ and politicians’ trespasses …

    In my view candidate’s *personal* peccadilloes, such as marital infidelity, are normally none of my (or other voters’) business, so it’s neither our right nor our responsibility to give or withhold forgiveness. Nobody’s perfect.

    Nor do I think we should normally hold *any* candidate’s feet too close to the fire in matters of religion, whether theirs or that of their friends, spouses, advisors, priests, shamans, palmists, astrologers, etc. Every religion has elements that looks crazy, illogical, or misguided to adherents of every *other* religion, and there seems little point in keeping score.

    The weasel word “normally” (used twice above) is there because some candidates insist on dragging their own religiosity, personal virtue, kindness to pets, and other possibly laudable but politically irrelevant qualities into the political debate. If they then mess up in these properly private areas they undercut their own argument, and so invite — and deserve — our scorn.

    May 6, 2008
  125. Paul Fried said:

    Bright and Paul Z:
    One of the things I like about Shakespeare and about literature in general is that it’s fair, in a play or a novel, to explore how a leader or candidate’s personal and public choices and contradictions are sometimes threads that run through their lives, and do matter.

    Should we pry? Probably not, although good investigative journalism certainly helps at times (if only to point to the way politicians sometimes fail to walk their talk).

    Should we be suspicious of some of the prying and spin? Of course. Who do we forgive for that?

    As far as forgiveness goes, there are two sides to the equation or exchange: For our own sakes, yes, we should always forgive. If you don’t forgive, you can get pulled down too easily by all the wrongs and injustices, not only of others, but our own.

    Life’s too short. My kids are still young. I’m going to have some fun, regardless of the wrongs we all sometimes commit. For our own sake, it’s always better to forgive.

    On the other side of the exchange, some folks are not ready to accept forgiveness. People who can’t see how their actions are destructive, and who keep harming others, are not ready. Forgiveness shouldn’t mean pretending something wrong didn’t happen. It should assume the wrong is recognized, at least on our part, if not on the part of the offender. Forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending her husband doesn’t beat her, or that she’s not an alcoholic.

    We get so much thrown at us about the candidates: people watch and pick apart every word, every gesture, and much of it finds its way to YouTube or somewhere. If you and I had to live that way, we’d go nuts if we didn’t forgive the world for its crazy habits.

    So forgive, but still pay attention and vote wisely.

    May 7, 2008
  126. While, on the whole I agree with both Pauls, I take acception to one view,
    I am a bit appalled, if you can be a bit appalled,
    actually I am really quite appalled at the fact that you-Paul Z
    consider the situation where a woman, who is yet to
    reach the age where her brain is fully developed,
    is asked to sit under the presidential desk and perform
    sexual acts on the President of the United States of America,
    both a private issue that should not be judged, and as a mere peccadillo.

    This issue sends a clear message to the world that woman are
    to continue to be used as tools, much as Saddam Hussein used
    the many women of Iraq.

    Exactly where does the line that determines what is private and what
    is public action of any large public figure? I think every action of
    a person in high position is subject to judgement and forgiveness…
    no one is above the law or moral code, no matter which gender is victimized.

    May 7, 2008
  127. Paul Zorn said:


    Uff da.

    It would be hard to count the ways in which you’ve misinterpreted my views, which are virtually opposite to what you seem to believe. The link to Saddam Hussein is especially jaw-dropping. For the record, I am not now and have never been a member of the Baath party.

    My point, in case there’s any question, is not that personal peccadilloes (“small sins”, etymologically) are good things, but rather that not everything is the public’s business. Some large sins (peccagrandes?) and virtually all law-breaking behavior by public figures, *are* the public’s business. Where the Monica-Lewinsky-related events fall on this spectrum is open to discussion, but I’m not interested in having that discussion now — or in defending a caricature of my views.

    One of your points does make sense to me: Drawing the line between what’s public and what’s private for public figures is a good question. I suspect we’d answer it differently. But that’s a different question from what’s right and what’s wrong.

    Enough … gotta get back to oppressing Iraqis, nuking whales, and poisoning the environment. So much iniquity, so little time …

    May 7, 2008
  128. And I also wonder if Barack actually knew what was going on in his church of record for the last 20 years, if the voters also agree that this country is going to hell and that they are sending a message that business as usual in Washington, DC is not going to be accepted any longer? I’m not making this up, a friend of mine in Indiana and a lot of his friends are voting this way.
    Does anyone see it like this around here?

    May 7, 2008
  129. Britt Ackerman said:

    I’ve just got to reply to Bright’s comments in # 134, although I’m getting off on a tangent from the topic of this thread. I consider myself to be a feminist, and as such, I am offended when people suggest that women are somehow less empowered to make decisions than men, less able to speak for themselves than men, less responsible for their own actions than men. Women are not victims of their own gender.

    Having said that, Monica Lewinski was 22 years old when Clinton got his BJs. She was not a victim of her upbringing (daughter of privileged, educated, wealthy people) nor was she a victim of her gender. If it could be said that she was a victim of a power imbalance, well, it seems that she had an equal role in what went on, as there was never any allegation that Clinton took advantage of his position of authority to convince Lewinski to do anything against her will. She was an educated, privileged adult with the ability and responsibility to make her own choices and take her own actions.

    That being said, I’m surely not going to condone what happened. And I think that Clinton committed an abuse of discretion and that the Oval Office and White House were impugned by his conduct. It’s legitimate for voters to take into consideration the acts of politicians when those acts affect their office.

    But I don’t agree that Lewinski was a victim because I would then need to agree that she’s less fortunate due to her gender, that she’s less empowered because she’s a woman.

    When consensual sexual (mis)adventures occur outside of the official office, outside of the official’s duties, then maybe it’s not a matter for public debate. It’s private and between the people involved.

    May 7, 2008
  130. Hi, Britt! It was good to hear your thoughts and most of them I agree with wholeheartedly. However, having been 22, and well educated and given a good sense of morals, oh so many years ago that it was, I can easily look back and say this to you…if Monica was so darn smart why did she blab her story to Linda Tripp? If Monica was so in charge of her own life, why was she messing around with Slick Willy in the first place? If Monica knew what she was doing, she would have done something else besides hug the President in full view of the world like she hugged the President in that famous video. She was a victim alright, of the media, of the culture, and of her own destructive tendencies, in the form perhaps of low self esteem,if nothing else.

    Not wanting to start a war or anything, just letting everyone know that I don’t make statements thoughtlessly, though I may not always have occasion to explain them all, just like some of my other e-pals around hereabouts.

    May 7, 2008
  131. Paul Fried said:

    Good to know Paul Z is not now, and never was, in the Baath party. This clears a lot of things up.

    And good to hear Britt’s views of Monica. We send kids off to college at a younger age, and they often act quite irresponsibly, all on their own, or in groups. If they’re old enough to vote, might we start holding them accountable for their actions?

    Regarding the scandal about McCain, his cozy relationship with Catholic-haters and those who blame Katrina and the suffering of its victims on gays and lesbians, I wonder how much McCain knew about Pastor John Hagee and his lunatic, hateful ranting before he stooped so low as to accept his endorsement. Is this a sign that McCain is so desperate, he’ll accept an endorsement from any loonie? (Aside from all questions of religion?)

    Why is the mainstream media covering for McCain’s obvious indiscretion on this point? Do they figure they have to protect him because he’s an old white-haired veteran who frequently sounds rather confused about things, and who lashes out unexpectedly with harsh jokes, or who comes close to blows with members of congress?

    Why is the mainstream media neglecting his rude past remark that Chelsea Clinton was so ugly because Janet Reno was her dad?

    Is it because General Electric, a major defense contractor, owns one of the networks, and other large corporations have similar connections, so they’ll tend to prefer the candidates who will prolong war profiteering at the expense of human lives?

    Should we have a law that would say newspapers and television can’t be owned by the same companies as defense contractors, in order to keep media at least somewhat independent (or challenge it to pretend better)?

    Here’s the URL of some reflections of an aging Catholic priest and sometime-novelist, Andrew Greeley, on the imbalance of media attention on Reverend Wright, and the lack of attention on the Pastor John Hagee endorsement of McCain, which has been vastly under-reported in comparison:,CST-EDT-greel07.article

    May 7, 2008
  132. William Siemers said:

    Paul…I don’t think we have to worry about getting all the negative information on either candidate’s personal and political life, past and present, that we could possibly want to hear. Whatever is omitted by the ‘mainstream media’, will be more than compensated for by the ‘new’ media. If there is a negative about either one, the blogs and talk radio will beat on it until the mainstream picks it up. Anything to keep the discussion away from the real issues…and the future.

    May 8, 2008
  133. BruceWMorlan said:

    Britt, I think that Bright’s comment about Lewinsky being too immature to think correctly through the whole situation was reflecting recent studies that seem to show that adults do not form the mental capacity to make good decisions until their mid 20’s, so it did not reflect a male-female bias so much as an application to an individual of the results of group-based analysis. And, while predicting for one (Ms. L) from the general rule is risky, it is a good bet. (if I may paraphrase without attribution, “The fastest horse may not always win, but that’s still the best way to bet”).

    May 8, 2008
  134. Britt Ackerman said:

    I don’t know….I think the best way to bet is to gamble on the long shot. If your horse is 40 to 1 and comes in your trifecta, you’ll win hundreds more than if you bet the three fastest horses. 😉

    I mean, look at Obama go! He was probably 50 to 1 at the start of this thing, and now he’s going to win with even odds! (Too bad the betting is still open, or my $2 win wager placed last year would have paid out $102!)

    May 8, 2008
  135. William Siemers said:


    So how do billions (world-wide) of young adults make good decisions if they lack the mental capacity to do so? (I consider following good advice a good decision).

    Or to put it another way…Don’t we all personally know many young adults who made good decisions? In fact didn’t the vast majority make more good decisions than bad ones?

    May 8, 2008
  136. I am replyin got #137, but I see #143 got into the play as well.
    Bruce is right about his interpretation of what I was saying about age and full brain development.

    Isn’t it correct to say the skill set used to vote for as President of the United States is different from the skill set used that to perform a sexual act for the President of the United States is different from the skill set used to join the military and fight for the United States of America?

    I sincerely ask as my educational background is in electronics technology, applied science and lots of art and crafts, and I tend to read books along those lines rather than social studies and psychology books.

    May 8, 2008
  137. Jane Moline said:


    Britt, I have to disagree a bit–Monica Lewinsky was an employee and the President of the United States had all of the power–she may have agreed, but it was his job not to ask.

    Bruce and Bright, your analysis of decision making capabilities is flawed and unsupported scientifically. By 22 you may be INEXPERIENCED (because you do not have experience!) but you do not have developmental flaws unless you have an underlying condition that affects your cognitive abilities. Our brain continues to develop our entire life–if we use it. At what point is it enough for decision making?

    Although some 22-year-olds are impulsive, most are mature and capable of weighing the consequences of their decisions. What they lack is experience, which, in most cases, makes us old and wise like….US!

    Under the law, majority is achieved at age 18, at which age most young adults are pretty capable. That’s why they can join the army and die for Bush’s war. On the other hand, maybe we should make a case for immaturity and claim they don’t reach majority until they are 25.

    (The Republicans will love that one, then they can cut them out from voting, too.)

    I think we should empower as many people as possible with the right to vote–my removing artificial barriers, and even consider “kid votes” so that we can hear from our MINOR citizens (how better to get them interested and involved in the political process?)

    May 8, 2008
  138. BruceWMorlan said:

    Sorry, Jane, but I was referring to real science, not global warming science. The recent research suggests the it is the mid-20’s before we get impulse-control of any value.

    “Maturation of the brain, including the regulation of impulses, thinking ahead, planning and weighing risk and reward lead to improvements in self-regulation and can permit the individual to put the brakes on the sensation-seeking behaviors,” said Steinberg. “But they occur very gradually and are not complete until the mid-twenties.”

    That said, unless we want to go back to polling tests (Question: Who is president of the USA?. Answer: Uh, Long Chinny. Response: No ballot for you!) we will continue to use age as a weak but reasonable surrogate. Luckily for us, the law of large numbers (passed in 1713) says that on average it won’t matter.

    May 8, 2008
  139. BruceWMorlan said:

    Gack! I hit Submit before I followed up to say that of course I believe in global warming. The evidence is clear, there is no (published) difference of opinion and only a complete Neandertal would still be claiming otherwise. Please do not start a flame war (remember, only you can prevent overheated rhetoric).

    Cheers. 😉

    May 8, 2008
  140. William Siemers said:

    Bruce…all the synopsis of the study states regarding impulse control, is, as you quote, “…not complete until the mid-twenties”. But that’s different than what you seem to say…that they don’t have the ‘mental capacity’ for impulse control until the mid-twenties or don’t have any of ‘any value’ until that age.
    I don’t think you really mean that, but if so….then I think that you must have kept your kids pretty close to home until they were 25.

    Bright…So are you saying that most 22 year old women would have acted like Monica? I think most 22 year olds have the judgment and/or the moral compass to stay out from under the president’s desk. Those that don’t have those qualities, probably won’t have them when they are 40.

    Presidents have had mistresses, lovers, and just plain old ‘hook-ups’ since the office was established. Not all of them, but many of them. The Lewinsky affair was a little more tawdry and a whole lot more public than the others. It was 99% about partisan politics and 1% about sex between two consenting adults.

    May 8, 2008
  141. Well, I’d like to see the stats on the number of people who married based on an intelligent decision over a heartfelt one, and along those same lines who votes based on intelligent decision making only. Oh, yeah.

    May 8, 2008
  142. BruceWMorlan said:

    William, the synopsis was just that, the more extended discussion I had heard on NPR suggested that this differential in development was a factor in lots of young adult’s poor decision making skills, with examples being speeding, choice and use of recreational drugs, etc. As for my own kids, I was much more tolerant of their experimentation in part because their tests of limits were not (usually) tied to these behaviors (well, the one son did crash a borrowed motorcycle because of speed). And they all were pretty much out and on their own once they entered college.

    May 9, 2008
  143. Paul Zorn said:

    Interesting stuff about Monica Lewinsky, *Bill* Clinton, and the cognitive/moral abilities of 20-somethings. But perhaps we’ve strayed a little from the ostensible thread of this discussion.

    Here’s something completely different …

    In reference to the Clinton/Obama race, we keep hearing that, when either one is anointed, quite substantial percentages of the other’s supporters will refuse to vote for the other. Does anyone in this group feel that way? If so, why, and would you then back McCain, or just sit it out? If not, why not?

    I’ll go first, in a spirit of full disclosure. I have a favorite between Hil and Barry, and I might pout a bit if I don’t get my way. But I’ll vote for either one long before McCain, who for me is right out. (If by some miracle Jesse Ventura ended up opposing McCain I might reconsider.)

    May 9, 2008
  144. Patrick Enders said:

    I’ve backed a lot of losers in my day, but in the end I’ve gotta vote for the candidate who comes closest to reflecting my views on how government should be run. So I’m used to voting for people who’ve ticked me off in the campaigning process – because you’ve gotta go with the best candidate available, and not voting is just, umm, not wise.

    I’m happy Obama is winning with a majority of votes and delegates. I’dve been fine with Clinton as the nominee if she had won the nomination process with a majority of votes and delegates. The possibility that superdelegates might overturn the votes of the people was disturbing, to say the least. But mercifully, we have been spared that crisis.

    May 9, 2008
  145. Didn’t the DemoRats promise to get us out of the war in 2006? Gee, it’s 2008 and counting, counting dead and wounded. The Media has forgotten about the war now. The R word party is no better. Write me in, I can do more than that! Don’t send cookies, send some one to get our boys home now. We did what we could to help the Iraqi people to get free, now, let’s get our own house in order.

    May 10, 2008
  146. Paul Fried said:

    Paul Z: Thanks for getting us back on track. Sure, I’d vote for Hillary (without much excitement) over McCain. (When you sad Hill or Barry, I realized I’ve not yet made the leap from Barack to Barry, so I wondered: Goldwater? Manilow? White?). I think the news media loves to find voters who claim they would vote McCain, or not vote at all, but I don’t know how much of that will play out on election day, and how much of it is the media stirring up a distraction.

    On a different note, we still are not talking much about the major issues. What are the major issues (besides Iraq, which Bright was good to bring up)? Is there consensus on the major issues, if not on what to do about them?

    On a different note, William S. said (back in #140), “I don’t think we have to worry about getting all the negative information on either candidate’s personal and political life, past and present, that we could possibly want to hear. Whatever is omitted by the ‘mainstream media’, will be more than compensated for by the ‘new’ media.”

    I disagree. I think part of what we see playing itself out is that there are different rules for different candidates and parties. And I’m quite serious about the claim that it matters, that General Electric is both in the business of the defense industry and the media.

    There are areas of blackout: We see this in the recent New York Times article about the retired so-called military “consultants/analysists” who were receiving talking points from the Pentagon, in apparent violation of US laws against targetting our own citizens with propaganda. The mainstream media has ignored this story, and I think they do not because it’s not newsworthy, and not merely because it discredits them, but because they have too many links to the military-industrial complex.

    May 10, 2008
  147. Patrick Enders said:

    Did anyone else catch the speeches tonight?

    No one will be able to claim that there are no differences between the two (or, in some minds, three) candidates in the race.

    June 3, 2008
  148. Paul Zorn said:

    Yes, I watched/heard the two speeches on CNN. As a Hillary supporter (who also likes Obama just fine) I’m disappointed that Hillary didn’t concede gracefully last night, when the mathematics became overwhelming. It’s understandable, perhaps, that Hillary wants a little downtime before doing anything spectacular, but let’s hope the drama ends soon. As in opera, 5 or 6 acts is just too long.

    The difference *in style* between Hillary and Obama was indeed striking. If this is what you mean, Patrick, by differences between the candidates, then I agree. But we’ve known about style differences all along, so I don’t think last night’s speeches told us anything new about *substantive* differences between the two candidates, which I continue to feel have been small. And (not that it matters any more) I still think Hillary’s position on health care was smarter and tougher than Obama’s.

    While I’m on about moot points, I may as well add that the rap (to which you allude, Patrick) about Hillary actually being Bill-and-Hillary has been misguided from the start. Sure, Bill would have been an influential First Spouse, but IMO that would have been more good than bad. Like him or not, Bill Clinton knows his way around Washington, and that would have been an advantage in actually enacting policies.

    June 4, 2008
  149. BruceWMorlan said:

    Paul Z said

    “I’m disappointed that Hillary didn’t concede gracefully last night, when the mathematics became overwhelming. “

    As a fellow mathematician (applied though I may be) I have learned that many people do not believe the mathematics that rule their lives. Every time I try to explain a simple descriptive mathematical concept like supply and demand I get lots of “but I don’t want the world to behave that way!” push-back. Gee, I don’t want F=m1*m2*G/r^2 either, but don’t be expecting me to step off a cliff just because I don’t want to believe that particular equation. 😉

    But I have digressed. Clinton may be getting advice that says “the ongoing turmoil serves the party well, we’ll tell you when to concede“. Of course, the advisability of that strategy is a hotly debated question amongst politicians and their handlers; is the “bad” press of within-party competition better than the no press of being the presumptive nominee? I don’t have the numbers, so I’ll defer to the parties choice on this one, but I’ll bet that this far out the damage is small and the gain not much smaller.

    June 4, 2008
  150. Anne Bretts said:

    I really liked Clinton in the beginning, but her credibility crumbled over time, revealing naked ambition and a case of narcissism that in the end was downright scary.
    I think Clinton should have been gracious and should have offered to do whatever Obama needs to win and leave it at that. Of course she would be a top contender for VP, but forcing the issue was just wrong. I think he should choose someone else and after he wins, he should appoint her to the Supreme Court as soon as there’s an opening. She’d be out of politics – and his hair – forever, and she could make the conservatives in the court miserable instead of her own party. Now that would be sweet justice.

    June 4, 2008
  151. Patrick Enders said:

    I wasn’t referring to Bill at all, but yes, I was alluding mostly to the tenor of each of the three speeches last night – Barack’s, Hillary’s, and McCain’s.

    I’m never one to be all that enthusiastic about McCain (being a liberal and all), but I found Hillary’s speech last night pretty shocking.

    I’ve backed a lot of primary losers in my days, and they’ve always been gracious in defeat. Also, I’ve always sucked it up and adopted the next-best candidate as my own. If she would’ve won the primaries, I’m quite certain that Obama’s speech would’ve been much more gracious.

    I can’t help avoid the suspicion that her goal is to sabotage Obama, in order to set up a run for herself in 2012. Considering that I once proudly supported the campaign of Bill Clinton, she now makes me feel quite sad and ashamed.

    June 4, 2008
  152. Patrick Enders said:

    Anne wrote,
    he should appoint her to the Supreme Court as soon as there’s an opening. She’d be out of politics – and his hair – forever

    I wouldn’t be too sure about that. Obama has a strong background and interest in law (Harvard Law Review editor and all that), and was reported to quite enjoy a suggestion that he might someday be appointed to the high court himself.

    It would, however, be quite entertaining to see them both on the bench together many years from now.

    June 4, 2008
  153. Anne Bretts said:

    Good point, Patrick. I think by then the politics between them would be over and they could get along. Maybe by then she’d be Chief Justice and he could work for her.:-)

    June 4, 2008
  154. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    I am so relieved, now that the frontrunner has been publicly identified. I should have gone to see Obama’s speech in person, just for the memory.

    I was dismayed that an important DFL personality, Koryne Horbel, came up with the idea of a petition signed by disgruntled persons who would now vote for McCain. It hasn’t had as much media play as I expected, though.

    June 4, 2008
  155. Patrick Enders said:

    There’s a very interesting article on how the Obama campaign put together its win over on the Washington Post.

    SLOGGING TO VICTORY: Strategy Was Based On Winning Delegates, Not Battlegrounds

    Personally, I hope he’s equally shrewd in dissecting the general election. The Democratic Party has had a long tradition of allowing itself to be outmaneuvered by Republican campaigners. See Florida 2000, for the best example.

    June 4, 2008
  156. Although I was never a huge supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton, I realize part of that is due to the fact that any woman looks wrong in the element
    of the old boys’ world of politics or business.

    Women Unite! Let’s get our own world, no wars, no pseudo wars, and no
    movie wars.

    All we need now is a big space ship and a another blue planet.

    June 4, 2008
  157. Paul Fried said:

    My brother called me yesterday when he heard Obama was coming to St. Paul and offered to meet me, so I went. A few impressions:

    1. It was very moving to wait in line and hear the stories of others waiting in line, and why they were Obama supporters. The line snaked around many city blocks. I was surprised to see a number of people I knew, a few from Northfield.

    2. Various individuals and groups went down the line, some selling buttons and T-shirts, many of these African-American. Some of the T-Shirts were very African in coloring (colors we associate with African flags or Kwanza: Green, yellow, black). One T-Shirt design was gold, with gold sun-rays emanating from behind Barack’s face. It looked ancient Egyptian.

    3. One group was offering to help with voter registration for out-of-towners, recently moved to St. Paul. My immediate response was to yell to the crowd that they were Republican plants, that they would not be registered, and that they would be put on mailing lists to be bombarded with McCain literature, and that people can register at their voting place. Something was just not right about these four guys. I wish I’d taken pictures.

    4. The police told us we might not get in (considering how many blocks away we were), but could get in position to view from the jumbotrons. We got in.

    5. The staduim was filled except for a few seats way up high, some of the reserved suites, and a few other seats — more on that later (they might have stopped letting people in once Obama started talking). We had a friend whose son-in-law had tickets to a suite, so we had a good view.

    6. It was interesting to see how staged things were:
    – A limited number of people were allowed on the main floor, some of whom shook hands with Barak and Michelle at the end.
    – At one end of the hockey rink, the press was set up with cameras on a stage, and behind that stage there were tables for the press to write their stories. Because the stage for the cameras was so high, there were many seats behind the press stage that had a very obstructed view, and they were not seating people in the lower seats in that area.
    – Opposite the main press camera stage, behind the podium, campaign organizers gave many signs to supporters so they could be a more — visually effective? — backdrop.

    7. But the crowd was very electric. I had ear plugs when I went there to hear Clapton, and the crowd was just as loud: deafening. After Hillary spoke of her many accomplishments (and, I’m glad, stressed the importance of counting every vote), Barak was very humble and conciliatory. His remarks were intelligent and showed that he and his speachwriters are familiar with Lincoln’s speaches, among other famous American texts.

    It was good. I might add more comments later. In line, some of us felt that it was as important that we were there, and backed our committments with our feet and actions, as it was that we get inside. Once inside, I was only disappointed that he spoke of health “insurance” for all, not single-payer. We’ll have to work on him.

    June 4, 2008
  158. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    I envy you, Paul, for hearing Obama in person Tuesday night. This came in an email and I like it very much.

    This is our time. As Senator Obama said:

    “If we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. “

    June 6, 2008
  159. William Siemers said:

    Republicans might think they are facing a perfect political storm: A deeply unpopular president, a faltering economy and an opposing candidate who seems to be teflon coated.

    But McCain will highlight his much heralded independent streak and distance himself from Bush; the economy seems to be improving; and republicans can do what Hillary would not (could not) do in the primaries- make the “L” word stick. And he, or his proxies, will play the race card.

    Obama is a very attractive candidate. He is a gifted orator who inspires his listeners with his core message. But republicans are going to resurrect some version of the ‘Where’s the Beef?’ line with regard to ‘Change’, and ‘Reaching across the Aisle’ and ‘No Red States, No Blue States’. Just how does he plan to accomplish these nebulous, if very appealing, ideas? Hillary began to ask these same questions and gained traction by doing so…but it was too late. (Forget reaching across the aisle for her…just give her democratic majorities and she’d ram her agenda down the republicans’ throats). Hopefully, Obama can continue to deflect these questions through sheer charisma, but I’m inclined to think that some of the independents he needs to get elected will begin to demand some answers.

    Defusing the ‘too liberal’ tag might be easier than some people think. He doesn’t have much of a record to run on, which could be a good thing. And I think the country is ready for a dose of economic populism. He needs to tailor his message (and his policies) to a middle class that is by no means down and out, and is still essentially optimistic, but nevertheless feels less well off than they did in the past. Americans who started with few advantages, who work hard, pay their mortgages and have hope for the future. Americans like him.

    But most importantly he has to address the racial issues that continue to dog his campaign. Many voters are afraid that he shares the views of Wright and Pfleger. Most Americans despise racism no matter who promotes it. He needs to renounce the divisive racist baggage of black liberation theology and erase any doubt that he really wants to move into a non-racial future.

    I think Obama is a great candidate. He has shown the ability to adapt, I hope he continues to do so.

    June 6, 2008
  160. Great article. I like getting the whole pie at one meal.

    I am sorry to see Obama back off on the peace initiative already, though I thought he might…like the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, a whole lot of hoo ha coming out of the golden tongue senator’s mouth.

    As for health care, the problem that I have seen in the health care system over the last ten years is still fear of being sued by patients, lack of health care professionals by quality, and a lack of health care professionals by quantity. Also, there is a lot of dishonestly going on from several ends.
    I don’t mean to diss the profession overall. It is a difficult area to work in
    over time and do well in it. Lord knows I’d last about a week as a intensive care nurse. No, I take that back, maybe a minute. I faint, and keep fainting. Can’t help it. Same for police and fire, these people are not human.
    And I mean that in the best way possible.

    June 6, 2008
  161. Paul Fried said:

    Another impression from seeing Obama in St. Paul: He had a very well-prepared speech, but what was interesting is that his speech really didn’t anticipate the enthusiasm of the crowd that would interrupt it. And while there was interest in some of the issues —
    health care, economy, global warming and environment, Iraq, etc. —
    the most enthusiastic responses from the crowd had to do with their sympathy with Obama when he talked about changing things from what Bush has done with America to its own citizens and in the eyes of the world.

    So more than any single issue, it seems that people are really fed up with the whole Bush phenomenon. At least, judging by the reaction of the crowd, that seemed to be the case at the Xcel center.

    But it was interesting that Obama, who is often considered so good in many ways at giving speeches, did not anticipate the anti-Bush enthusiasm.

    I was suprised the other day that even my cousin, an enthusiastic and very spiritual Christian who usually votes conservative, spoke of the Bush disaster. Something’s up when even conservative Christians are noticing that the self-described conservative Christian emperor has no clothes.

    June 7, 2008
  162. John George said:

    Paul- One thing to remember about us Chrisitans is that our hope is not in any political party or person. Neither party is God’s chosen. Our hope is in God. If He can use even the vilest tyrants, like Nebbuchanezar or Ceasar, to further his Kingdom, he can use any Democrat that comes along. I’m in this life for the long term. I have preferences that run more along Biblical moral lines, but if Obama or Hillary is elected, God’s purposes will still be carried out for His people in our nation. I am not particularly concerned about this next election. I’m not going to be passive in who I support, but my world will not crumble around me if that person is not elected. There is something stirring toward this country, because of what we have done over the last 40 years, and it will be accomplished no matter who is elected.

    June 7, 2008
  163. Paul Fried said:

    John, the kind of faith that believes God’s will triumphs regardless of the decisions of the “princes of this world” is admirable and, in the end, I think true.

    My complaint is that too many Christians didn’t heed Matt. 10:16: “See, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. So be as cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves.”

    Too many people who describe themselves as Christian didn’t heed this at all, thinking that in voting for Bush, they were being sent as sheep voting for sheep, and not verry cunning at all — and therefore perhaps not innocent, but complicit in the disaster that followed, it would seem.

    June 7, 2008
  164. kiffi summa said:

    One needs to go back and read a bunch of source material from about 1650 -1800, philosophers in general but religious writers also, to see how new the idea was that “man” could have some control over “his” world, and not just be a victim /puppet of some higher force, whether religion or monarchy.

    The fact that it was basically this awakening that caused the whole Age of Enlightenment to sweep the western world and its thinking , from religion, to science, to mercantilism, and on through every discipline, makes it very difficult to now even entertain the idea that man is not the creator of his own destiny.

    Who desires it to be otherwise? I cannot see the value of a life with a predestined outcome.

    Having taken class from Ian Barbour on the merging of Science, Ethics and Religion, and having listened carefully to all the opposing views expressed, I would say that all agreed (or all who spoke in that class) that our planet and all its inhabitants, acting in harmony … as best as we can define that as we become more and more knowledgable as a species … is in the best interest of all life as we know it.

    That’s what my mother meant went she spoke to us of the crucial importance of “NOT breaking the Circle”. A bit of wisdom from Seneca elders (for the most part women, in that strongly matriarchal governance society).

    June 7, 2008
  165. Holly Cairns said:

    John George said:

    God’s purposes will still be carried out for His people in our nation

    Is there ever a time he is disappointed in us? Or are we all pawns in the game of life? Vote your conscience. And who are His people? You? Me?

    Think about it. Do you think God gave us free will? Why create us at all, if there is no free will?

    Side note: What I don’t get is how people use “faith” to justify horrible action.

    Perhaps, religion isn’t the same as faith, and both of those should probably be separate from power/ politics in this country. Yes?

    Anyway, independents, if you have convictions that seem to be different from either D or R, better choose one of them or your vote helps to elect the one that you really don’t like.

    We’ll probably have to choose between one of the Keating 5 or Obama.

    Hillary tried hard, but at the end, I thought the message was lost in persona and even statements warning of racism (which meant more supporters for her since there was racism). It makes me mad we can’t be a nation who looks at candidate, instead of “woman” or “black” and etc.

    I like Obama because of what he says, does, and intends to do.

    June 7, 2008
  166. I believe that we are all in a dream, dreamed by the Master Dreamer of all time and space and that the Master Dreamer experiences part of his/her existence on this physical plane through us, through our free will choices, which are infinite as the dream is infinite and that all the things we do are part of that Circle and within that Circle is place of our medicine, meaning strength and power, and the medicine is given and created by the Master Doctor who dreams us.

    I believe that the Power of the Universe, the Intelligence, is infinite and with my measly little pea brain, I can never know if there is a Plan or if there is no Plan, or if I know anything at all, I am surprized by it and should be grateful because I didn’t originate any idea at all, really.

    I believe that Obama is the new Jimmy Carter…full of idealism and hope but with no solid practical working plan. He’ll make a great ex-President though.

    June 7, 2008
  167. Holly Cairns said:

    Hmm, Carter was set up by Bush, perhaps. Or did we come to some agreement re: the Iran Contra Affair? Perhaps none of us can “recall” what happened.

    Bright, you might enjoy Plato’s idea about the fire and the shadow on the wall. I think that was Plato. But even Plato thought we had the power to act on our own, instead of suggesting some Master who lives through us.

    I think God doesn’t want to live through me. He might want me to do better, sometimes. He might want me to act a certain way– but live through me? He’s probably better off being His own entity.

    Anyway, storms tonight. I lived in Omaha a few years, and Yikes! Those were tornados!

    June 7, 2008
  168. Holly Cairns said:

    Hey, I commented that the October Surprise Conspiracy is just an allegation, not proven as truth. Wiki resource. Here’s the comment, again, since I don’t see it.

    June 7, 2008
  169. john george said:

    Holly- I won’t go into a whole disertation in this thread about the basis of my faith. You can read that in Griff’s other thread about the churches and the cognitive revolution. We are not puppets being wielded by an uncaring supernatural entity. I do believe there is a providential will of God, and that is what I was refering to. I am simply saying that I must follow my convictions in this election and not be driven along by the other winds blowing.

    Kiffi- If the Age of Enlightenment was was such a good thing, why do we see the same evil traits in mankind today that have been there since recorded history began? Why is there still poverty, greed, murder, theivery, subjugation of women, racism, and every other ill of mankind through the ages? It would appear to me that us becoming gods hasn’t really had any universal benefit to people as a whole. Perhaps it has more to do with our misunderstanding of God and lack of personal revelation of and relationship with Him?

    Back to the thread, I still will not vote for a party that has taken a medical procedure and redefined it as “choice” to give it human rights that can be imposed on the whole society. Nor will I vote for a party that has taken a moral issue, given it minority rights, and forced it upon society as a whole to be superior to the values of the majority of that society.

    As far as any wisdom in our envolvement in the Middle East, I do not trust anyone who would try to replace Israel with an Arab state. History will prove our choice we made a few years ago in our involvement in Iraq. I suspect there is a judgement that is like a two edged sword here. It has cut our opponent, but the other edge is pointed back at us. That is why I believe this coming election is small change in the whole scheme of things. In fact, I believe it will take an act of God to redeem us out of the mess we are in. And that is my hope, not the election.

    June 7, 2008
  170. Holly Cairns said:

    Hmm, on that note, I guess I’ll go back to lurking, instead of posting. I don’t have a good reply to those thoughts.

    June 7, 2008
  171. Holly, I don’t think I meant to infer that we are being used like puppets by a Master.

    Johnny G, I don’t think the US Presidents hold any quiet power around the world now anyway, without the use of force. They don’t seem to be able to engender any respect from anyone.

    Obama is playing an old vaudeville scam. Be neutral and let people read into you whatever they want to see. McCain is playing the hero card. Not sure how far that will get him with people so tired of war. Let us pray.

    June 7, 2008
  172. Holly Cairns said:

    Bright: So I misunderstood your puppet idea. Okay, sorry about that. Obama playing the vaud scam? C’mon. He’s got integrity.

    Kiffi, good idea to read the philosophers. Sometimes I find I’m short on attention span or time.

    June 7, 2008
  173. Paul Fried said:

    Holly: I agree with your side note: “What I don’t get is how people use ‘faith’ to justify horrible action.”

    Kiffi: I’m an enlightenment fan, but when I agree with John George that God’s will wins in the end, I don’t intend this statement to have anything whatsoever to do with the idea of predestination (for my part, anyway — I can’t speak for John). I tend to think that people who have the most problems with the idea of God (or get tangled in the logic of predestination) are the folks who are having trouble with the too-literal, anthropomorphized ideas (and I have problems with that stuff too).

    Bright: Every great or poor president in US history was, once, a first-time president. Some surrounded themselves with incompetent and corrupt pals. Some surrounded themselves with wise and relatively good advisors. Lincoln is now famous for having picked a remarkably diverse, but smart cabinet. Presidents don’t really rule alone.

    Obama could be a great president, or not. He seems to be able to listen and learn from others and his own mistakes, and to make the best of even difficult challenges. He can inspire, and perhaps he’s already a better uniter than our current occupant-divider. Obama also had enough savy to pick folks to help with his campaign who knew how to get the needed delegates. There seems to be a lot of promise there, on a number of levels. He wasn’t my first pick, but I’m not writing him off yet.

    June 8, 2008
  174. I think a lot is being attributed to Obama, making it seem like accomplishing ordinary things makes him a deity like figure. I listen and learn from my mistakes all the time. :)) I inspire people, though maybe not around here. 🙁 And Obama won over Hillary by just a few percent. He’s no landslide guy.

    He’s like Joel Osteen, the ever popular preacher from Houston, TX with 7 million tv followers… a buttery accent and rhythm, easy to listen to, talks about everyday positive generalities and his family life, kinda cute, tall, and somewhat humble. Anybody likes a guy like that. But I am still waiting to hear what he has done to make him presidential.

    So what, he found some people to look at all that’s gone before and count up some states and apply a smathering of strategy. Could have gone either way. Don’t mean to be argumentative, just would like to elicit some clarification from Obama supporters.

    Holly, I think we are not like Plato’s fire and shadow, God is the fire, the fuel, the burnt up oxygen, the shadow, the wall and the earth, etc, etc, etc. We are God, as manifested on this physical plane.

    June 8, 2008
  175. Paul Zorn said:

    John George,

    Re some parts of your posting #179, which I’m not sure I understand:

    You wrote:

    I still will not vote for a party that has taken a medical procedure and redefined it as “choice” to give it human rights that can be imposed on the whole society.

    Is this about abortion? And how can “rights” be “imposed” on a society?

    And then you wrote:

    Nor will I vote for a party that has taken a moral issue, given it minority rights, and forced it upon society as a whole to be superior to the values of the majority of that society.

    Is this about gay marriage? And should “moral issues” be decided by “majority”?

    Does either party embody the “right” moral values?

    June 8, 2008
  176. kiffi summa said:

    I just have one more thing to say here,
    John, re: your post #179 … I must have missed the national plebiscite ( 1 person =1 vote) on abortion rights and GLBT rights. And I think that is correcting something stated as fact; not a sarcastic remark, on my part.

    June 8, 2008
  177. john george said:

    Holly- You don’t have to respond to my comments in post 179, and please don’t go hide in the woodwork. You have just as much right to express your viewpoints as anyone here. Understanding one another doesn’t necessarily infer agreement on all points.

    Bright- I agree that our presidents don’t have much “quiet” power around the world. That thought could produce much speculation and discussion. Perhaps a different thread sometime.

    Paul F.- You and I agree on the predestination thing, and you expressed it well.

    Paul Z.- question 1- yes. Question 2- part of my taxes are used to pay for these abortions, and I have no say over that. Question 3- yes. Question 4- no. When looking through history, it is usually a minority that will actually embrace God’s laws when faced with death. Question 5- right now, when comparing the platforms of the major parties, there is only one that seems to represent my convictions. I believe there is coming an unfortunate time in this country when neither party will be willing to represent them.

    Kiffi- I’m not sure I understand your comment, but that is ok. We don’t usually agree on much of anything, anyway, and you don’t have to explain it further.

    June 8, 2008
  178. Goodness, John, now I am going to backtrack on my quiet power statement…maybe they do have it and it’s so quiet, we never know for years and years, if then.

    See, that’s where they get us. If things don’t happen because of diplomacy and such, we never know about what might have happened. Gheesh. This is why I loathe politics…twisting, winding paths of lies, deciets and hooo haa, just to name some of the things that go on in the name of security. It just makes a body feel insecure, iykwim.

    It’s also why I like politics, it’s a big puzzle, and I like puzzles.

    June 9, 2008
  179. kiffi summa said:

    John : I know you didn’t want an explanation , but…
    There are possibly many things our taxes pay for that we as individuals do not support… Wars , for just one big fat example.

    You feel your taxes may help pay for abortions, and that is an affront to you. I understand that; but we are a country that lives under the rule of law. It may not always work for us, in totality. But we must live by those rules if we are not to deny the agreed-to, and law-supported , rights of the people.

    If we are affronted by the laws of a civil gov’t, we have two choices: live with them and work for change, or isolate ourselves and live according to whatever “voice” guides us.

    June 9, 2008
  180. Paul Zorn said:


    Re #179 again, you wrote (in reference to gay marriage):

    … Nor will I vote for a party that has taken a moral issue, given it minority rights, and forced it upon society as a whole to be superior to the values of the majority of that society.

    The last part above is why I asked whether you think moral issues should be left to the majority. You said no to this, but I’m having trouble squaring it with what you wrote above, where you seem to be dissing the Democrats (or some Democrats, anyway) for *not* going along with the majority. Is that really your beef on this issue?

    Everybody has the perfect right, of course, to vote on any grounds: abstract principles, divine instruction, moral imperatives, chicken entrails … you name it. If you (and others) bring religious motives to the voting booth, that’s fine, but I don’t understand how you can also both repudiate and invoke the majority-should-rule principle.

    June 9, 2008
  181. BruceWMorlan said:

    Majority rule without the rule of law is a lynch mob. The Constitution is specifically set up to protect the rights of minorities (in a voting sense) against the simple tyranny of the ballot box. Remember, a majority voted (in effect) for the death-camps in Europe in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Of course, that does not prevent us from grousing endlessly about which rights are protected and how to protect them. And sometimes (as when we amended it to permit an income tax) we do so at great risk to the Republic. I just hope (slowly we drift back to the topic) that the media will fire the pollsters and start hiring the pundits. At least they rail about the issues.

    June 9, 2008
  182. Paul Fried said:

    John and Paul Z: I think it’s OK for John and others to agree with the majority on some moral issues, and to disagree on others. Our moral reasoning is not based exclusively on majority opinion, although sometimes that opinion may seem to support some of our stances.

    Bruce: I’m not sure that you’re correct in saying that, “in effect,” Europe “voted for” the death camps, unless you mean that even in dictatorships, those who have been intimidated and made fearful “vote” by failing to oppose a dictatorship that would set up a death camp. In fact, governments that violate constitutional rights and set up death camps or Guantanamos usually tend to be working against the will of the majority, and the mobs that follow the dictators often tend to be a powerful minority, usually the ones with guns and official sanctions from the dictator.

    John G, if you have these litmus tests of why you would not vote Democrat, you may be aware that there are Democrats who are pro-life (MN’s longest serving US Rep. is a member of “Democrats for life,” as is Patty Fritz). You may also be aware that many Democrats feel the same about other issues: they could not vote for a Republican because of the many things Republicans have done, including support of preemptive war, torture, illegal wiretapping, etc.

    If you use these litmus tests to dismiss every candidate of a particular party, you quickly find you have no one to vote for, and then the future of the country is decided by those others who show up to vote.

    June 9, 2008
  183. john george said:

    Paul F.- In your first paragraph in post 192, you stated my reasoning very well. Thank you.

    As far as litmus tests, as I have stated in another thread, I try to make my decisions obut issues as to how they align with my understanding of Biblical principles. Do I understand them all? Heavens no! That is why I keep pressing into God. It is another reason I am involved in this blog. I don’t want to surround myself with people who just agree with me. I like to be challenged in my thinking, and I like to challenge others. It always takes me back to the standard I align things with, and in processing the challenges, helps me find greater understanding of what I believe in and why. I believe there are greater levels of revelation of God’s word that I can come into.

    As far as how we vote, we are each accountable to vote along the lines of our convictions. The apostle Paul stated it best in Romans 14- “Let every man be convinced in his own mind.” As far as running out of candidates to vote for, I expect I will at some point in time. I hope that I will have wisdom as to what to do at that time. I would rather stand before God and answer to how I aligned with His word than have to answer for how I aligned with the majority.

    June 9, 2008
  184. Paul Zorn said:

    Paul F and John G:

    Paul F wrote:

    John and Paul Z: I think it’s OK for John and others to agree with the majority on some moral issues, and to disagree on others. Our moral reasoning is not based exclusively on majority opinion, although sometimes that opinion may seem to support some of our stances.

    Of course it’s OK for a person to agree with the majority sometimes but not always.

    My question for John is something else: It makes good sense to me — though I suspect you (John) and I disagree on the substance — for anyone to disagree with any person or party on gay marriage, and if the issue is important enough, to make it a voting deal-breaker.

    What stumps me, John, is not your conclusion (opposition to gay marriage) but its logic and political implications: In #179 you say you can’t vote for a party that claims its view to be superior to that of a majority, while in #187 you praise the courage of those who take minority views. With such ground rules it seems to me the Dems can’t win for losing.

    June 9, 2008
  185. john george said:

    Paul Z.- Ah! Thanks for clarifying your question. You are correct in your assesment of my statements. I did not make it clear what I was reacting to. When I’m doing one of these posts, I try to go back and edit it for clarity and quality. If I don’t like the way I stated something, I will delete it. Sometimes, I lose track of my direction when I do this, and I certainly did.

    At this point in time, there appears to be a majority of the populace that does not support gay marriage. It is this majority that I feel aligns with my convictions. It is this majority that I feel is being forced into subjection by the minority, and not by legislative process so much as by legal caveate. This will probably change at some point in the future, and my convictions will be a minority. That is the statement I deleted because I didn’t like the way I had stated it. I then didn’t restate it, although it was still in my thought process for the post. Thanks for sticking in there. Does it make sense, now?

    Kiffi- I missed your post 189 until just now. Thanks for restating that. I agree with you on this 100% (Note- the sun will come up in the west tomorrow- Ha! Ha!). What a great country we live in that we can be free to work with a government system and not have to go into hiding to do it. Bruce M.’s comment in 191 is just that. We refer to our form of government as a democracy, but it isn’t in that purest sense, and it is a good thing. We are a republic, and as such, do enjoy the rule of law, yet we have the freedom to amend those laws. The question we always have to answer is what code or reason we use to support these amendments.

    June 9, 2008
  186. Holly Cairns said:

    John, I’m not hiding, just listening.

    June 9, 2008
  187. Let’s all remember the big number one reason for government, and that is…

    can you guess?

    June 9, 2008
  188. Okay, no takers. Government is here to protect us from foreign invaders.
    That’s the first and only reason people who came here within the last few hundred years ever established a government. It’s just too hard to win if
    individual households have to defend themselves against an invading army.

    Tell me if I am wrong about this. Please.

    June 10, 2008
  189. john george said:

    Bright- I think that establishuing a standing army is one function that falls under government auspices. The government itself does not do the fighting. As we see government functioning (I use that term loosely) today, it basically takes care of all the public business that cannot be efficiently administrated by individuals. But then, again, isn’t government efficiency an oxymoron?

    I believe the founding fathers of our country saw the need to establish a central government to provide unity and cohesiveness to the nation. We people need an authority over us to keep civil order in society.

    June 10, 2008
  190. Paul Zorn said:

    Bright, do you really mean to say in #198 that government was established in America only to protect against foreign invasion? Then why did they bother with all that other tiresome stuff in the Constitution? The Pilgrims were anarchists? I don’t think so.

    John, your little jabs at government bumbling (efficient government as an oxymoron, etc.) may be amusing, but I wonder how deeply you, and others, really believe this stuff. Sure, every big bureaucracy sometimes does some things inefficiently or foolishly, and you don’t get any bigger than the feds. But the now-so-popular idea that government — and, by extension, g-men and g-women — are by default wrong, wasteful, harmful, incompetent, etc. strikes me as a canard. (I don’t say this is your view, John … I’m asking.)

    Like other simplistic narratives, this one serves a particular political agenda. A special beneficiary in this case is the no-taxes-ever contingent: If indeed government can’t do anything right, then why support it? I expect to continue hearing this riff, ad nauseam, from the Republican side in the pending campaign.

    June 10, 2008
  191. john george said:

    Paul- As far as efficiency goes, the most efficient application of resources is one man seeing a need and taking care of it. This, of course, is an idealistic impossibility in a country of our size. As our government has been given more and more responsibilities by the electorate, there has been a greater need for redundancy and accountablility on all levels. This, unfortunately, arises out of the common trait of greed in men. There has to be watch dogs of the watch dogs. It is just the nature of the beast, and this is what I’m refering to in my quip. It is the proverbial catch 22. I don’t believe that government employees are, as you say,”…by default wrong, wasteful, harmful, incompetent.” I think they, for the most part, get a lot done with the resources they actually receive.

    My greatest concern for growth in government is the loss of taxable production of goods and services as they are taken over by non-taxable government. If everyone ends up an employee of the government, and more businesses are turned into government entities, then where does the government get its money? This is one of my greatest concerns in the socialization of the health care industry, for one example. Another industry that concerns me is the oil industry. As there is a greater and greater outcry against the rising cost of energy and transportation, will this be the next industry to get federalized? Even farming, where the farm program has for years been a pay-out to farmers to not produce crops because of the vast oversupply of grain, is now coming under scrutiny because of the percieved shortage of grain for food. Where does it stop?

    June 10, 2008
  192. William Siemers said:

    Bright…One of the reasons our government was established was to guarantee individual rights. Not majority rights, not minority rights, but individual rights. Sorting out those rights in relation to a civil society has been one of the central issues that has faced the republic.

    June 11, 2008
  193. BruceWMorlan said:

    The primary reasons for nations are: (1) provide for the common defense, (2) coining of money, (3) provide for enforcement of contracts. Our Constitution adds several other novel ideas (free speech, an armed citizen, protection from the legal system’s agents (search, seizure)). And these protections are reinforced by a system that used to protect the minority by requiring supermajorities for some sorts of changes. I’m not so sure that is working out though, watching abberations like earmarks eat away at the shared society, turning from “what can we do for our country” into a bunch of “what can my country do for me?” types.

    June 11, 2008
  194. Paul Z and others, I said “first and foremost”, not “only. ” You can’t have the other things so nicely delineated by Bruce WM as easily if you are busy trying to knock off people who are trying to harm you and blow up your house.

    June 11, 2008
  195. Paul Zorn said:


    In #204 you wrote:

    Paul Z and others, I said “first and foremost”, not “only. ”

    But in #198 you wrote:

    Government is here to protect us from foreign invaders.
    That’s the first and only reason people who came here within the last few hundred years ever established a government.

    Hence our confusion.

    John, in #201 you wrote:

    As far as efficiency goes, the most efficient application of resources is one man seeing a need and taking care of it. This, of course, is an idealistic impossibility in a country of our size.

    The idea that individual action is inherently more efficient than group action is just wrong. Have you built your own highway recently? Or mined your own ore? The problem, I think, is not a failure of idealism or an excess of “man’s greed”, but the fact that large, complex tasks sometimes require large, complex responses. Governmental and other large-scale action obviously poses its own problems, but what’s the alternative?

    Then you wrote:

    My greatest concern for growth in government is the loss of taxable production of goods and services as they are taken over by non-taxable government. If everyone ends up an employee of the government, and more businesses are turned into government entities, then where does the government get its money?

    Of course it’s a problem is “everybody” works for the government, but I see no immediate prospect of this. Do you? Do you know how the US compares with other rich countries as regards the fraction of the economy controlled by government?

    This is one of my greatest concerns in the socialization of the health care industry, for one example.

    The present structure of health care is not exactly a poster boy for the wonders of no government. It doesn’t necessarily follow, of course, that government should do everything about health care, but there’s a lot of room between here and there.

    Another industry that concerns me is the oil industry. As there is a greater and greater outcry against the rising cost of energy and transportation, will this be the next industry to get federalized?

    At last we agree — indeed, “federalizing” the oil industry is a bad idea. But neither of us should lose sleep worrying about such a prospect. I’d put its chances somewhere below those of vanquishing evil and achieving world peace.

    June 11, 2008
  196. I apologize…senior moment? You are right, Paul Z. Well, I meant foremost. lol.

    June 11, 2008
  197. John George said:

    Paul Z.- Your comment, “… Have you built your own highway recently? Or mined your own ore? The problem, I think, is not a failure of idealism or an excess of “man’s greed”, but the fact that large, complex tasks sometimes require large, complex responses. Governmental and other large-scale action obviously poses its own problems, but what’s the alternative?” is a better way of stating what I was thinking about. I probably shouldn’t try working on these things late at night, but sometimes that is the only time I have. You had one other comment, “…The idea that individual action is inherently more efficient than group action is just wrong.” I would have to argue that this statement is true depending on the scale of the project. Your examples of major projects are good. I’m not sure that having a whole department concentrating on being sure that our neighbor’s child gets fed when you have food in your own home to give him is a proper use of resources. Does this make sense?

    As far as the health care system in its present state, I feel there is so much government involvement at this time as to make it a veritible quagmire for the average person to try to wade through. My concern is the push to a single payer (government) system as the only solution for this.

    As for the oil industry, I’m not losing any sleep over this, but things are changing much more quickly, now. When Roe v Wade came around, we were assured that abortion would not be used as a method of birth control. This is exactly the major use of it today. That is why I don’t completely trust the opinions of the social engineers.

    As far as everyone working for the government, of course personal income taxes will always be a source of revenue. Perhaps this is why some of the Scandanavian countries have 35% plus tax rates for everyone. They are some of the largest socialized societies in the free world. The last I looked, I think the government accounts for about 42% of the GNP. What happens when it becomes 50% or more?

    June 11, 2008
  198. Paul Fried said:

    An issue that isn’t talked about enough is the fact that the US spends more money on defense than the rest of the world, friends and enemies combined. A Republican president, Eisenhower, warned us of the military-industrial complex, but only just before he left office.

    Now with the deregulation of major media, we have companies like GE that do defense contracts, and which also owns NBC, which decides what is news, what we should hear about, and how we should hear it– so we have the military-industrial-media complex.

    After 9-11, we have a huge spike in spending on private security firms like Blackwater, so some talk of the military-industrial-security complex.

    There has been a push toward privatization of prisons in recent decades, and some of the same corporations involved in the military-industrial complex have gone into the business of privatized prison management. They can also then lobby for tougher prison sentences, which then gives them more money from the government trough. Some call this the prison-industrial complex.

    The above described sectors are where a huge portion of our tax dollars go. It is war and prison profiteering, with the mainstream media as cheerleaders when we go to war.

    Sadly, when people complain about their taxes, they complain about property taxes, and welfare, while private companies are making huge profits of what they claim is for the common good.

    Republican Smedley Butler, a much decorated Marine general at the end of World War I, suggested that if we draft young men to serve in war at low pay, then we should draft industry at low pay to make weapons and boots and uniforms (and other services) instead of tolerating the profiteering. He was not a socialist, but his suggestion was that taking the profit out of war would make us much less likely to get into wars of agression for the sake of profit.

    Along these lines, treating oil and coal as a public utility, with profit caps, and with regulation requiring investment in a conversion to a renewable energy economy, would actually do a lot of good (John G, I disagree with you on that point). This is not the same as socialism in which the state runs things; a public utility is still a profit-earning business, but because it’s too much like a monopoly, it’s highly regulated, and because it supplies a public need, it’s profits are limited.

    In the same way, health care should not be run by insurance companies whose goal is to make profits. Health care should be a nonprofit enterprise for the common good, and this would actually save costs when you add health care to taxes, not increase the total.

    June 11, 2008
  199. john george said:

    Paul F.- Interesting thoughts on oil & coal being public utilities. What I’m not clear on is why there has been no investment in new refineries. I checked the EIA sight for some stats, and it appears that the 149 refineries we have had since 2002 are only running at about 85-88% capacity. There is quite a bit of discussion about alternative energy sources on one of the other threads.

    Back to Obama and McCain, whomever gets elected is going to have his hands full trying to sort out what is going on. I’m not sure years of experience or lofty ideals in and of themselves are the complete answer. I think Bruce M.’s comments, “…turning from ‘what can we do for our country’ into a bunch of ‘what can my country do for me?’ types,” touches on part of the problem with attitudes in our society right now. I believe we need to move away from this concept of entitlement.

    June 11, 2008
  200. Paul Zorn said:

    Paul F,

    What do you mean by coal and oil being “public utilities”? Would this be something like the regulated monopoly system in place for electricity? Or something like the US postal service? Would coal miners, roustabouts, and roughnecks become civil servants? And would profit ceilings be complemented by profit floors? Who would set prices? Would there be production quotas? Who takes the hit in a bad year? Seems to me there are lots of devils in such details.

    As for health care, you wrote:

    In the same way, health care should not be run by insurance companies whose goal is to make profits. Health care should be a nonprofit enterprise for the common good …

    I agree … passionately … that acceptable health care is a right, properly guaranteed and assured by government. But I don’t see it as axiomatic that profits and “the common good” are as fundamentally opposed as you seem to imply (unless I’m mistaken). Profit (and loss) are powerful motives, and they can (sometimes) be harnessed to good purpose.

    June 12, 2008
  201. Bruce Morlan said:

    This conversation has drifted a bit, it now sounds more like a Politics and a Pint conversation than a candidates’ merits debate.

    And there are some really long, involved and deep into the system arguments going on here. Could some of you remember that most voters are of the “bumper-sticker” and t-shirt slogan generation? Condense those long, referenced and cross-referenced discussions down to bumper stickers for the rest of us. I’ll start with:

    Arm the whales!

    June 12, 2008
  202. Anne Bretts said:

    Forgive me for adding to the drift, but I have been awed and amazed by the personal, individual responses to the weather-related tragedies of recent weeks. From the tornado in Hugo to the one at the scout camp last night to the seemingly endless demand for help sandbagging against flood swollen rivers, people have shown up in such numbers and so quickly that in some cases they have had to be turned away. As the waters recede there will be more need for aid and volunteers, and I’m sure they will come.
    What struck me was that these weren’t FEMA efforts, or Red Cross efforts of church mission teams. These were people who saw the news and got in their cars and came to help. Nobody asked whether the person in need or the person working next to them was gay or straight or had an abortion in their past or was overweight or behind in their mortgage or here illegally. They just pitched in and worked for the common good.
    This is the most inspiring demonstration of the good in America and power of individual good will that I’ve seen in my lifetime. I think the purpose of government is providing the tools to help people continue this kind of nonjudgmental community achievement.
    I think Obama may be tapping into something that’s already there, a feeling that it’s not going to be government that solves the problems but people who come together to solve them.

    June 12, 2008
  203. Patrick Enders said:

    I prefer the right to arm bears.

    June 12, 2008
  204. John George said:

    Patrick- I thinks bears are mean enough as it is without giving them guns. Oops! There I go, shooting off my mouth again!

    June 12, 2008
  205. Paul Fried said:

    Pardon the thread drift, but I guess I believe we need citizens to discuss and learn about issues, and to get away from bumper-sticker mentality.

    Paul Z.: To take the issues (public utility and health care) backwards:

    Healthcare: Too many citizens don’t know the difference between single-payer and universal health care. When we talk about single-payer, most mean that it should be modeled after the medicare model, which is many times more efficient than private for-profit health insurance. Universal could mean any number of things, including perhaps a government handout to private insurance companies who might provide insurance for those who can’t afford it for themselves.

    Single-payer health care could still have some degree of competition and profit. Clinics and doctors who have a higher success rate in treating certain conditions might deserve some kind of bonus, or more business than those that experience more failure, except in cases where literacy and poverty might become greater obstacles to completing care.

    Regarding coal and oil as public utilities, or deregulated private corporations, or state-run, or windfall profit-taxed, either applying windfall taxes or treating them as public utilities would be preferable to the current situation. I’m not in favor of a fully state-run coal and oil, and don’t see how it would work for the US (as long as we depend on foreign oil) to send US ships to other countries to get their oil (guarded by US military?). Some have talked about using windfall profit taxes to speed up development of renewable energy infrastructure, but I think it should be more than just windfall profits designated for this.

    And to connect back to the thread topic: No matter who we elect, there is strong need for reform in health care and in the burning of fossil fuels. McCain and Obama both speak more in terms of universal than in terms of single-payer health care. They both favor some kind of reforms related to greenhouse gasses and global warming. To predict how they might differ on these issues when elected, one might consult not only their stated positions on the topics, but also examine their voting records on related legislation in the past.

    June 12, 2008
  206. Regarding the health care issue, I haven’t given it a great deal of thought, but I know from my experience of living around US Steel and later, Bethlehem Steel, and the people who worked therein, that there is much to be learned from that whole scenario.

    These people were hard working people, they were amongst the highest paid skilled and not so skilled laborers. They had families. The kids had eye glasses, and glasses, and glasses. Why? Because they knew they could get as many glasses as they needed. So, the needed to break them about once a month, and they needed to toss them over the side of the boat about once a summer, and they need to do all sorts of things, and they got more glasses everytime. After a while, because of the way they thought about the glasses being replaced, and the hearing aids and the colds that needed emergency care, and all sorts of things like that, the companies went out of business. OH, yeah, you can tell me about cheaper foreign steel workers and all that. Well, yeah. It’s just how the workers felt so put upon, and that they deserved every thing they could get, well, maybe they did, but that doesn’t keep the butter bubbling in the pan, you know. Eventually, we run out of glasses and hearing aids and butter and the time by professionals who see the patients. Maybe there is an endless supply, but I don’t think so.

    June 12, 2008
  207. Paul Fried said:

    Bright: the waste you describe (if real and not urban legend) is never justified, but the waste via contractors in Iraq is much worse. There are eyewitness accounts of fully-loaded SUV’s used to transport civilian contractors being burned, destroyed, merely because they needed an oil change. Contractors have cost-plus contracts, so if they found an excuse to replace an SUV, they would, and made a profit on it every time. Health care and welfare waste pales in comparison. Yet it’s more popular among working class folks to go after health care and welfare fraud and waste instead of the larger forms of waste and corruption. Until and unless we take on the military-industrial complex, we won’t get spending and taxes under control. It’s the elephant in the living room.

    June 14, 2008
  208. john george said:

    Paul F.- No matter what industry or government system where there is fraud and graft, the basic motivation that seems to drive this is greed. This is not a characteristic of the industry or the department involved. It is most often a characteristic of the people who fill the divisions of these areas. I know from my wife’s own discriptions from her involvement with the system of entitlements, if your department does not use the money given it for a year, you will be cut back the following year. So, instead of looking for cost savings, the whole idea is to spend more than was budgeted so that more can be requested the next time around. I think this same attitude permeates both the private and public sectors. That is why I believe it is a people problem and not necessarily an organizational problem. Obama is correct in his assesment that we need change in this country. I’m not sure we would see eye to eye as to WHAT needs to be changed and how to go about doing it.

    June 14, 2008
  209. Good Morning, Paul F and John G. Myth, no, this is from the mouths of the parents of the kids who were left to be that irresponsible. And many other accounts like that…I only gave the easy outstanding one as an example.

    John, I have always said that the government is people, albeit people over a period of time, as the society is people and the companies are people. When people blame the govt, society or the company, they are somehow trying to cover up for the people themselves, as the one blaming is often one of the “people”, one of the perpetrators of corruption and greed.
    Then, others learn it as a customary way of speaking, inaccurate as it really is. So, John I think we find agreement once again.

    As for Obama and the ‘Change’ chant, things change all the time. Everything is constantly changing in relationship to other things whether or not the original thing actually changed or not. haha. It’s kind of amusing, isn’t it?

    June 15, 2008
  210. Paul Fried said:

    JohnG: It’s true that greed and waste are often people problems more than systems problems. But just as some people are greedier and more wasteful than others, some systems (government and industry) are more wasteful than others.

    It’s wrong to generalize from anecdotal evidence via your wife or anyone in government (“entitlement”) work, and to claim that it’s just a people problem, and therefore all systems are equally wasteful and corrupted by greed. It’ just ain’t so.

    The medicare system is far less wasteful, far more efficient, than the current health insurance industry. A single-payer, medicare-like system would be a much more efficient way of spending our health-care and tax dollars than the systems we have now.

    June 17, 2008
  211. john george said:

    Paul F.- You are correct, that all the waste cannot be lumped onto greed of men, nor can it be all lumped into the ineffeciency of various systems. I think we are maybe trying to define a very complex problem with too simplistic terms, none of which really does the job. As far as anecdotal evidence, who is actually going to document these practices?

    As far as health care goes, I do not know all the ins and outs of a single payer system. I do have some figures from my mother’s estate that we are in the midst of settling. Over the last couple years of her life, (it is said that over 80% of a person’s lifetime health care costs are in the last 10 years of their life) she amassed over $200,000 of health care costs. There were two heart related episodes, one at Abbott and one at Mercy in Iowa City, plus some home health care. I don’t have the exact figures in front of me, but Medicare picked up about $80,000 of this and the State of Iowa picked up about $11,000. That is less that half the actual value. Are we dealing with inflated values here, or is the medical industry just out the remainder? There is a lot of $$ that were written off, according to the billings. I think it is this type of disparency that needs to be resolved before we can have successful medical care for everyone. Someone has to pay the bottom line.

    June 17, 2008
  212. William Siemers said:

    John…The benefit of a single payer is that risk and administrative costs are spread amongst a large group…the entire population of the country. The medicare system, as Paul F. points out, is quite efficient in controlling costs…gaining economy of scale, leveraging market dominance (other than the drug benefit), and reducing duplication of overhead costs, not the least of which are the advertising and marketing expenses required in a competitive environment.

    The disadvantage of a single payer is that there is a single payer. There is no competition for health insurance dollars which can reduce innovation in both coverage and service. There is a risk that the single payer will reduce and ration health services.

    But in general people in countries with single payer systems are quite satisfied with their health care. More satisfied it seems than are Americans with their system. The alternative to a single payer system is mandatory insurance (the Swiss have a system like this) that must be purchased by individuals or, if they lack funds, is provided by a government payment or a government pool. It is important that the insurance policies all have the same coverages…I say use the policy options that federal government employees have as a standard.

    I don’t know which system is best. In either case I think it is safe to say that the cost of health insurance would be reduced for most people. Some would probably pay more since additional payroll and/or income taxes would pay for the system, but that would only be the top earners. Somehow the dollars spent by employers for health insurance would have to be distributed to employees to offset their higher taxes or insurance costs. I think employers would do that…if not there could be some kind of mandate that would make it happen.

    Single payer or mandatory health insurance…I don’t care which. There has been enough talk on this issue. It’s time for this country to join the rest of the developed world and provide universal health care.

    June 18, 2008
  213. Curt Benson said:

    John George (221), I received the Northfield Hospital’s Annual Report yesterday. I’m assuming the report was mailed to every Northfield address.

    The report has a table titled “Northfield Hospital Community Benefit Summary”. The total value of community contributions is $13.5 million. $5.5 million of this is “costs in excess of Medicare payments”. So it appears that some of the “efficiency” of the Medicare system stems from its ability to pay providers less for services than the services cost the providers.

    June 18, 2008
  214. BruceWMorlan said:

    John George’s experience with medical bills being written off is an indicator of the mess we find ourselves in. Just as Canadian drugs are cheaper because US patients pay more than their fair share, so is our billed care cost much higher than necessary because hospitals are expected to not refuse patients who present at the ER, to not kick people out when their insurance has run out and are expected to accept what the government will pay. All of which means that an honest patient paying their own way will end up “taxed” to cover those uncollectable bills. Is that bad? Only if you think that people should be honest with each other. If you think that “Free coffee with every meal” means you don’t pay for that coffee (indirectly), then maybe the smoke and mirrors of the current system or the single-payer systems will appeal to you. (And as Curt points out, Medicare is one system taking advantage of that smoke and mirrors system. It’s too bad that so many voters think that bullying translates to efficiency. )

    William S, you say you’d like a single payer system that offers what federal government employees get. Unfortunately the fed employees are a powerful group and have bullied their way into incredibly good coverage. We simply cannot afford to give that coverage to everyone. Ask GM how well it works to give high quality coverage to a large unproductive group (in GM’s case, retirees).

    As for rationing health care, that has to happen in any system. Look at this discussion in the Australasian Legal Information Institute ( and ask how you want us to handle this delicate question. Consider the fine, well-meaning people who brought FEMA to New Orleans, and who are now figuring out how to continue that stupidity by allowing rebuilding behind levees so we will certainly get to see another multi-year crying jag. Do you want them deciding your access to health care? The primary criticism of HMO’s is that they are so powerful that they almost become governments. Hmmmm.

    As for “only the top earners” getting to pay more, I think it is important to remember that most of our “top earners” do not produce wealth directly, so any taxes they pay are actually paid by the producers who work for them. We may have an income disparity problem, but trying to solve it through government means (taxes, etc.) is exchanging one bad system for another.

    Sorry if this if off-topic, but this whole thread is off-title at least. 😉

    June 18, 2008
  215. Based on one couple I know only, she works for the Fed and he works for an applicance company. She has diabetes and heart problems, is obese, so also has multiple other health problems related to that, such as bad knees, and he has had a bypass. They use his company insurance exclusively because it pays better.

    We here in the US have a lot of really unnecessary emergency room bills due to the violence in the cities. Get shot, go to ER, get repaired, be back again next year. No, not a myth. Spend a few days at Cook County Hospital ER in Chicago sometime. I think it has improved somewhat in the last decade, but what it used to be was beyond the beyond. We hear about the murders, but not so much the day to day injuries. A dead person doesn’t cost nearly as much as an injured live one.

    June 18, 2008
  216. Paul Zorn said:

    Bruce and others,

    Seems to me that discussion of health care models is at least near the supposed topic, since health care is (or should be) an important issue and, I hope, point of difference, in the presidential campaign. To bring the discussion directly to the advertised topic, perhaps someone could briefly summarize or offer pointers to Obama’s and McCain’s proposals for doing something about this.

    I’m with William in favoring universal coverage, but not being deeply committed, either way, to a single-payer or private-insurance-based system as the means to the universal coverage end. I can imagine either approach working well or poorly, depending on how costs and incentives are managed.

    There are European models of both systems that appear to work at least decently well. Sure, there are anecdotes (my grandmother’s best friend’s cousin’s daughter’s fiance in Ireland had to wait two hours for a prescription, and then the chemist was rude), but (a) no system is perfect; and (b) the big picture should rule. Sometimes the perfect is the enemy of the good.

    Paul Zorn

    PS to Bruce, on another live election issue, taxes:

    We may have an income disparity problem, but trying to solve it through government means (taxes, etc.) is exchanging one bad system for another.

    Do we indeed have an income disparity problem? If so, how else but through “government means” would you propose addressing it? A la Robin Hood?

    June 18, 2008
  217. BruceWMorlan said:

    Paul Z. Well, we have seen the horror’s that governments bring when they think they have the “Truth”. I think that is why we are a republic with a written Constitution to temper the will of the majority. So while I put a marginal comment in about income disparity and suggest that it is a problem, I do not think that we can simply legislate away the symptom and think we have solved the problem … I have discovered a truly wonderful proof of this, but the margin is too narrow to hold it. Perhaps a continuation of some previous Politics and a Pint discussions would be in order.

    June 18, 2008
  218. Paul Zorn said:


    Indeed, this sounds like the sort of discussion that calls for at least a pint of grain-derived ethanol … the prairie-grass version tastes awful.

    Still, taxes are a key issue in the campaign, and I hope we’ll get some chance to discuss them here. IMO, the principal object of taxation is not to reduce inequality, even though that may be an inevitable side effect. Taxation exists mainly to raise the money needed to pay for public goods of all kinds. Everyone loves to argue over what qualifies as a public good, but these arguments tend to be over what we should buy, not how much we should spend.

    Accepting (as we must, IMO) that government needs a lot of money, it follows that the money needs to be raised from somewhere. Since the poor are … uh … poor they can’t possibly pay their numerically “fair” share, so *some* element of redistribution (known in some quarters as “class warfare”) is *mathematically* required — no need for a marginal proof here, Monsieur Fermat.

    The live argument, like it or not, is over the parameters.

    June 18, 2008
  219. Paul Fried said:

    Regarding the cause of high costs of health care, and also the incentive or lack thereof for competition and quality:

    Bruce is correct in noting that emergency rooms won’t refuse care to patients without insurance. But this does not mean that health insurance companies pick up all of this cost. Sometimes the hospitals themselves do, so some of these costs are not passed on to insurance companies.

    High costs are due in part to expensive technologies, but hospitals and clinics are finding ways to share CAT scan and other equipment on moveable truck trailers, as does the Allina clinic in town.

    There are some illnesses that can be treated with vitamins and home remedies (studies show that lemon juice and honey is good for sore throats; changing diet can help with cholesterol etc.), but many doctors prefer to prescribe drugs. This drives up the cost of health care, and it lines the pockets of drug companies nicely.

    Higher administrative costs are the prime culprit for higher costs via private health insurance as compared to medicare, period. This is due in part to high CEO and other executive pay.

    Regarding competition or lack thereof in a single-payer system:
    It would not be hard to build-in requirements for competition. Doctors and clinics that had a higher success and/or customer satisfaction rating could receive bonuses or more referrals. You simply find ways to build it in. There’s nothing intrinsic to a single payer system that rules out competition in some aspects of the system.

    June 18, 2008
  220. BruceWMorlan said:

    Paul Z, you said the true argument is over the parameters (and therefore the functional form). Spoken like a true mathematician. We’ve talked taxes at Politics and a Pint, where we evaluated lots of possible methods. Perhaps we should reprise that discussion and extend it.

    June 18, 2008
  221. This is off the off topic even, but it’s the way I roll, so hopefully I don’t have to apologize for it everytime.

    If people would be allowed the opportunity to work for a few hours per week,
    if that’s all they can do, to pay for insurance or meds or whatever, we could see some headway through the endless sea of papers, rules, negotiations and other red tape issues that do nothing to help the patient heal up faster. You know, the stress of getting well while dealing with insurance companies, etc., can kill somebody sometimes.

    Also, just a thought on my part, maybe you don’t need one system to cover everyone. Maybe you need two or three. One for emergencies, one for chronic health care and one for the operate, patch em up and get them out of here types…and a seamless way to pass some through from one to the other.

    June 18, 2008
  222. William Siemers said:

    Bruce…I misspoke with regard to rationing. You’re right, there is rationing going on now (socio-economic) and it will go on in the future regardless of the kind of health care system we have. How care will be ‘rationed’ to the elderly in the future is a situation that faces every country. The problem has not caused other developed nations to abandon universal health coverage. There will probably have to be some kind of limits of coverage imposed…it is indeed a ‘delicate question’…but one we are not alone in facing.

    You mention that ‘we’ can not afford to provide to all Americans, the type of coverages that are offered to government workers. I disagree…these employees have a wide variety of plan choices. No one forces insurers to bid for their business by proposing a choice…I don’t consider this bullying…unless you think the free market is bullying. It seems to me that adding millions of Americans to these policy pools will just make that business that much more attractive to those bidding for it now.

    Regarding GM’s problems with retiree health care costs. GM’s concern was the competitive disadvantage of their US plants in relation to companies based in countries with universal health care. And while the big 3 automakers can’t quite stomach the idea of endorsing universal health care here, (prefering bailouts for their high health care costs) they have had no problem endorsing it in Canada, where they have been enthusiastic supporters of that country’s popular single payer system.

    I keep coming back to a simple question. If all these other countries can afford it why can’t we?

    June 18, 2008
  223. Curt Benson said:

    William Seimers (#222), how do you know about the satisfaction levels of people in single payer systems in other countries? I’m not taking issue with you, I’m just wondering. (I got on the google and didn’t the right info.)

    June 18, 2008
  224. Ray Cox said:

    Paul Z I always appreciate your mathematical mind in analyzing issues. One thing that seems to get lost in the discussion of individual health care and its related costs is the simple question “How much should an individual be expected to pay for their personal health care?” I’m sure all of us have differing opinions on what dollar amount, or percent of income, that an individual should dedicate to their own health care.

    One of the ideas that I have always liked is one that answers that question….and was put forth by Tom Neuville a couple of years ago. Work out a figure that seems reasonable and realistic….say 10 percent of ones income. Once an individual has reached that threshold, government health assistance could kick in. Using a straight percentage of income is a pretty fair way to calculate health care costs. I imagine many of the people reading this thread would never cross the 10 percent threshold, and would therefore be on their own for their health care. But once the threshold is crossed the government would step in and take over payments. It seems a plan like this would allow the best of both worlds…individuals make their choices for care as we have done for years, but there is a government safety net for the big costs.

    I agree with others in this thread that a pure government plan is not something I would want to see in America. We have a free market system that has produced what many feel is the best health care system in the world. I say our system is the best in the world because it operates in the free market. Everyone should pay for their own health care—we just need to figure out to what degree.

    June 18, 2008
  225. Paul Zorn said:


    I like the basic thrust of Tom Neuville’s 10% solution, and I appreciate Tom’s courage in floating an idea that, I think, many Republicans would diss as socialist (which it is, after all, in a sense, and that’s fine with me).

    But I’d change some of the parameters. For instance, it’s a lot easier for you or me to pay 10% toward health care than it is for somebody living hand to mouth. So (were I czar) I might exempt something like the first $15K of income per person in a family, and then make something like 12% or 15% of the rest vulnerable — whatever it takes. As with any general idea, there would be some details to work out (how to treat single parents, for instance, or wards of the state), but I think there’s the germ of a good idea here.

    I think we’d agree that, for better or worse, a workable and enact-able American health system will have to involve some elements of user choice and, probably, some free-market ingredients, like insurance companies or doctors competing with each other. Where we might differ is in your view that the American system is right now the best in the world. True, many Americans might feel this way, but I see no evidence to support such a sweeping conclusion. And if it *were* true, why should we support any change?

    June 18, 2008
  226. Ray,

    You say  “We have a free market system that has produced what many feel is the best health care system in the world. I say our system is the best in the world because it operates in the free market.” I don’t see why, just because we have a (supposedly) free market system, that means it’s the best in the world.

    Would the best health care system in the world spend more per capita (by a wide margin) on health care than any of its peer nations in the OECD, yet leave 14.8% (43.6 million) of its citizens uninsured, (while all the other countries cover everyone), and yield a US life expectancy significantly lower than most (or all) of its peer nations? It doesn’t seem to compute.

    I don’t care how we get it done, but we need to:

    • Provide adequate health care for EVERYONE, and
    • Spend less on health care administration than the obscene amount we spend now in our supposedly free market system.

    If single-payer is the best way to get there, so be it. If there is a better mechanism, let’s do that. I’m no health care expert, but surely the (arguably) most affluent and innovative society the world has ever seen can provide decent, affordable health care for everyone.

    June 18, 2008
  227. William Siemers said:

    Curt B.

    Here are some links that will aid you in comparing systems and citizen satisfaction levels in industrialized nations….As I said…In general people with single payer systems are quite satisfied. I think these surveys of 15 systems bears that out. I’ll add that only one country’s citizens (Italy) were less satisfied with their system than citizens of the US

    June 18, 2008
  228. Scott Oney said:

    Bruce (#236): I just have a footnote to your link to the CDC site. You’d think their numbers would be accurate, but in this case I’d check before giving them out. They don’t say so, but I think they’re including foreign nationals living in the United States, as well as people who make enough to buy insurance but just don’t feel like it. I’m not sure why they’d to this other than to inflate their numbers.

    On a more personal note, I never thought of throwing money away on health insurance until I got married (at which point my wife, responsibly, signed me up for it). So I was uninsured between the ages of 18 and 27, which is about 10% or better of average life expectancy.

    June 19, 2008
  229. Ray Cox said:

    Bruce, I say we have the best medical system in the world because we do. You don’t see people heading to any other countries for top notch care. Right here in Minnesota we have people coming here daily from all over the world to access this great care.

    We have developed more medical devices to help humanity than any other country. Many of these devices, and care protocol, are exported all over the world. America’s care reaches far and wide.

    It sounds like your measurement for ‘best health care’ is based on how little is spent per capita. To do all the things we do costs money. If we don’t do them who will? When you need a less invasive procedure to fix your heart, you will get it here because we are developing those systems. You might get it eventually in one of the socialized medicine countries, but then again you might not.

    And Scott notes one of our increasing problems with a private system…those who opt out of paying for the system—but do in fact share in the benefits of the system when they show up in the emergency room of a hospital. I totally agree that there are many people who can afford health insurance but elect not to purchase it. That should be a very simple fix. Something tied to our tax return such as providing concurrent evidence of health care for the year. We all submit our W-2 forms to prove income….one more could prove health insurance. Can’t do it? Then the government can add a surcharge to your income taxes.

    I again ask, espeically Bruce, what is wrong with a system that relies on our private system of delivery, and incorporates new administrative efficiencies, but provides government coverage for all health care costs an individual incurrs over 10 percent of their income? People with little or no income meet the test virtually right away. Many wealthy people would most likely never receive any government support for their health care….they would pay for it themselves, as they should. Personal responsibility would drive such a plan very nicely.

    June 20, 2008
  230. Ray Cox said:

    Paul Z, I assume as you do that we would incorporate such ideas in a “10%” health care plan. Remember, we already do much of that using our earned income tax credits. Millions of people today receive a tax rebate from the government that is far greater than the total of the taxes they pay in in a given year. I think that is a pretty good way to get the tax burden off the low income folks. We can do the same thing with the “10%” health plan that Tom and others have promoted. This plan really does address health care in a proper, caring manner without creating massive government programs…something any good conservative should want!

    June 20, 2008
  231. Jane Moline said:

    Health care costs are astronomical and cause hardship for every part of our life. Our schools, hospitals and every business that is trying to provide health insurance for their people must constantly increase their spending just to stay even (if that is possible.)

    We are self-employed. Health insurance costs about $15000 per year for my family. It has DOUBLED in 6 years. DOUBLED.

    We have a right to a free and appropriate education through the 12th grade, but we do not have the right to preventative health care.

    Ray, the measurement of the quality of the system is not what we produce that the rich can afford, but on the ability of our system to provide health care for its citizens. If they can’t afford to get the care, they are not benefiting from all the medical devices we produce.

    Among states in the USA, Minnesota is probably one of the best off, with a high ratio of medical professionals to population and several world-wide reputation health care facilities, so do not judge the level of health care in the United States by how well we do in Minnesota.

    And it is difficult to judge people who decide to take a chance and not carry health insurance so they can pay their mortgage, put gas in their car and food on the table. Unfortunately, if they get sick, we all get to pay when they go to the emergency room for care.

    Our system is WAY broken. Health group executives receive excessive salaries (see United Health Group) while denying coverage for “experimental” but life saving cancer treatment. It is an area where greed has made for a bad market.

    Tax credits maybe would work, but there are many, many more people who need health care than file and pay taxes (or get EIC refunds.) Certainly, an expansion of the EIC would be reasonable, but it really seems unfair to give tax credits for paying health insurance to companies that are gouging the public in order to provide excessive salaries to their executives.

    Many insurance companies are running over 20% for management expenses, while Medicaid is at about 2%. This is one where we have to take the private greed out of the equasion for the good of everyone.

    Imagine….an insurance policy that does not depend on your employer–if corporations thought about how much they would save in administering and paying for health insurance, they could easily pony up a special tax for universal insurance.

    There are just some things that don’t work well in the capitalistic system, and should be public. Parks. Roads and bridges. Schools. And the right to good health.

    June 20, 2008
  232. john george said:

    Jane- In your post #241, you said,”We have a right to a free and appropriate education through the 12th grade…” Surely you do not mean that. The last I looked, we do not have a free education system through the 12th. grade. If that is the case, then where are my property taxes going? You went on to say,”… but we do not have the right to preventative health care.” Health care for anyone costs money, but I believe there is a difference between preventative health care and medical treatment for chronic deseases. The latter are the expensive things. I know, just from what I have to spend in co-pays to stay on top of my diabetes and atrial fibrilation. I can’t imaging what a person with a more serious debilitating desease, such as fibral myalgia, would have to pay. The task Ray is trying to address here is how to do that equitably. There is a question as to whether private interprise or government administration is the best method to do this. For many of us, the prospect of government administration of this care does not produce hope on the horizon. A case in point is the quality of care being administered in our own VA facility in Minneapolis.

    June 20, 2008
  233. Paul Fried said:

    Jane: Thanks for your fine statement on the problems in the current system and the need for serious reform.

    John, I mean no offense, but you nit-pick when you comment on Jane’s statements about “free” education. You know what she means. She knows it costs money to provide health care, education and freeways. Everyone reading this knows. It doesn’t help the discussion.

    John, you write, “The task Ray is trying to address here is how to do that equitably.” In fact, all proposals Ray has put forward, including Neuville’s 10% proposal and health savings accounts, have been designed not for equity, but for preserving the profits of corporations that have their fingers in the health care pie.

    If we’re going to talk about equity, you can’t ignore elephants in the living room like obscene CEO pay and high administrative costs, and just go after small fish (relatively).

    Recent (2007) Nobel Prize-winning economists (on Mechanism Design Theory) noted that the “invisible hand” of the market may be good at regulating some things, but it’s not good at regulating health care, clean air or clean water — things that are in the public sphere and matters of public good:

    But if you’re stuck in an ideology that says private market economics MUST be better in all situations, regardless of evidence or facts, then you will only hear and see what you want to hear and see.

    Some of us still believe that government has a job to do, and can do it.

    Others believe (or want us to believe) that government will always mess things up, or even if they don’t, it would be better to have things privatized so someone can make a killing. To this end, lacking any faith in the possibility of good government, they always seek to shrink government and taxes.

    This has no basis in fact, as private enterprise shows every indication that it has just as much capacity for waste and corruption as does government. But such people, for some self-defeating reason, sometimes run for public office, and sometimes win.

    It’s best to vote such folks out of their jobs as soon as possible. Anyone who is that negative about the prospects for government to do a job and do it well has no place in government.

    Too much of the health care debate is not about health care or reality at all, but simply about political ideology.

    Norm Coleman got up at the Republican convention in Rochester and complained that the Democrats want single-payer, which he said means that the Democrats
    want to put the same people in charge of your health care as were in charge of Katrina relief.

    Pretty devoid of fact or substance. This is pure spin. Why in the world would Democrats put Bush political appointees Michael Brown and Michael Chertoff in charge of a single-payer health care system?

    You’d think that the Republicans in Rochester would have choked on this remark, given the fact that Bush appointees Brown and Chertoff messed up so badly on Katrina. It seemed like a Freudian slip: In trying to disparage Democrats and single-payer, Coleman ended up evoking one of the worst episodes and signs of greatest incompetence in this Republican presidency.

    There’s something really sad about listening to Coleman on this, like watching someone spit or pee into the wind, or watching a nervous breakdown, or a seriously dysfunctional family.

    June 21, 2008
  234. Curt Benson said:

    I think de-linking health insurance from employment makes sense and should appeal have way more support in the Republican Party than it does.

    Health insurance costs are passed along in our manufactured products, making them less competitively priced.

    People with entrepreneurial ideas are reluctant to take the risky move into self employment because they can’t afford the insurance, and can’t take the risk of being uninsured.

    Many of the self employed people I know have their family insurance needs met by an employed spouse. Those that don’t have this option are out of luck.

    June 21, 2008
  235. john george said:

    Paul & Jane- I don’t mean to nit-pick on this, but I have heard all my life, it seems, that if you get something from the government, it is free. It isn’t, and I appologize for projectiing my past experiences into this discussion. In fact, I think Curt B. expressed this very well in his post. There is, I believe, a need for community approach to taking care of major infrastructure. My question is whether health care should be included in the infrastructure. It is an ideology difference, and I respect your freedom to disagree with that. I just disagree that this is the only approach. Social care used to be a ministry of the churches, but we have dropped the ball so badly on this that the government has no choice but to step in in most cases.

    June 21, 2008
  236. Ray Cox said:

    John and Curt, you both make excellent points on the health care issue. It absolutely should be decoupled from employment. It ended up there as a result of wage and price controls the government imposed after WWII, not from following any well thought out plan. Businesses could ‘give’ the perk to employees as a benefit and stay under the government price controls. In the same manner, Duluth is now facing a $300 million per year defecit due to the fact that city leaders ‘gave’ health care to just about anybody during the 1960’s and 1970’s without making provisions to pay for it. I know none of them ever thought they would see health care premiums where they are today.

    We need to ask ourselves “how much should each individual pay for their health care”. Until that question is identified, we will continue to struggle. This is no different than the question “how much does it take to educate a student for a year”. We have to address that fundemental issue. There can be quite a range in the answer.

    Some, who want complete government take over of health care, feel the answer should be ‘zero’ out of your pocket, but 100% out of taxes. I don’t share that plan at all, but do think we can and should move to a system, such as the 10% payment plan, that keeps individuals with ‘skin in the game’ but creates a government managed and paid for portion for those that have significant needs.

    June 21, 2008
  237. William Siemers said:

    Regarding the 10% of income plan-

    As I understand it, this is essentially a high deductible single payer plan. A family of 4 with a household income of $100,000 would have a deductible of $10,000. Then government insurance would kick in for any additional medical costs over the deductible. On the face of it this looks like a good step toward universal coverage.

    What is the cost of such a system and how will it be funded? High deductible plans typically cost 25% below the cost of traditional health care plans. The average cost for a traditional individual policy was about $4500 in 2007. A high deductible plan (typically a $3000 initial deductible) costs about $3400 per year on average. The single payer system should reduce private insurance overhead by a minimum of 10%, so I’ll figure the government cost at $3000 per individual. Using a similar analysis, family coverage would cost the government cost of about $10,000 per year. So the total cost of such a system is the cost to the government for providing a high deductible policy, plus the deductible amounts, up to 10% of income, paid by citizens who have income.

    Most high income individuals and families will never reach the 10% of income threshold. Low income citizens will certainly reach it, or be eligible immediately because of some variation of an earned income credit. Middle income folks have a very good chance of satisfying the deductible and becoming eligible for the single payer system. Median individual income is $32,000. Median household income is $47,000. Since per capita health care spending (less Medicare) is about $6000 per year, it seems safe to say that most people will use their 10% of income and come into the single payer system.

    My point is that if most people will end up in a single payer system…Why not start them in the single payer system? At any given time ten percent of the population uses 70% of health care resources. People getting preventative and primary care treatment through office visits, therapy, medications, etc. are not straining the system. Children getting a broken arms set are not straining the system. Normal pregnancies are not straining the system. But paying for this kind of care does strain the budget of anyone with a high deductible plan, except for the most well off. If, as the 10% plan suggests, the government can afford to pay for insurance for the most expensive parts of healthcare…surgeries, extended hospital stays, transplants, cancer care, chronic conditions debilitating conditions, etc…. why not pay for the least expensive portions of health care?

    The 10% payment seems equitable but is really not fair. A healthy family will have similar health care costs regardless of their income. The proponents of this system know that 9 times out of 10 the wealthy will pay the same as the middle class…that’s why they like it. And, for the one time out of ten, they know the wealthy will have purchased bridge insurance to cover the unexpected catastrophic shortfall. A more equitable method is to tax everyone on all income and/or wealth, depending on the circumstances, and provide health care for all from day one of every year.

    June 21, 2008
  238. Curt Benson said:

    Ray, re #246, I think Duluth’s $300 million unfunded retiree health insurance liability might be $300 million total–not per year. If it is per year, it would cost each Duluth resident $3500/year. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    And to open another potential can of worms, how does Northfield (city and school district) fare regarding unfunded retiree health benefits? Do we have a potential problem?

    June 21, 2008
  239. Ray Cox said:

    You are correct Curt…fingers flying too fast; not annual, but an annual budget item. Duluth now has about a $340M unfunded health care liability. Due to GASB 45 rule they, and all cities, have to show the liability in their budget. They also have to propose how they plan to pay for the noted liability if they want to secure public bonds. I have no idea how they plan to resolve this issue. They’ve talked about raising revenue from new taxes on electricity. They recently changed the number of years that an employee must work for the city to qualify for ‘free’ lifetime health care from 3 to 20. But it seems the clock keeps ticking on this time bomb for Duluth.

    I think this is actually a very good accounting rule as public bodies really should line item identified costs for obligations like this, unused sick days, etc. I remember well when I was on the school board here and went through my first budget session. I couldn’t find where we accrued sick days. I ask about it and was told ‘schools don’t have to show that obligation.’ That is terrible accounting, especially when so many teachers bank the days and are paid a good many when they retire.

    June 21, 2008
  240. Jane Moline said:

    William, regarding comment 247, there are many ways a 10% plan could work. You have laid out one method. I think the approach most are taking is that you would be able to purchase insurance from whatever provider you wanted and would pay the premiums and the high deductible, but that the government would step in a provide a tax credit for amounts that exceed 10% of income.

    Tax policy is complex. When you provide a tax credit for private purchase choices, you subsidize those that chose to spend more. One of the criticisms of tuition deduction is that it leads to colleges charging higher tuition rather than a general lowering of the costs. The same would be true for a “10% plan”, as the insurance companies would encourage expensive plans since they would lead to a tax credit for the insured, i.e., “buy this more expensive plan and it will only cost you a little bit more since it puts you in the bracket that gets a credit.”

    I don’t care for these types of plan or, in general for a tax-based plan as they tend to be regressive–still costing the poor substantially more as a percentage of income. In addition, it requires taxpayers to pay for a year out of pocket before they file their return and get a tax-credit refund. When deciding between a future refund or food on the table, insurance loses out and they go without coverage.

    Congress could easily lighten the health-cost by not limiting the deductibility of medical expenses by a percentage of AGI. Again, this is regressive and also discourages economies in the industry.

    Some of the proposed plans retain insurance companies as administrators but require all citizens to have insurance, with those unable to afford insurance eligible for public subsidy. Others provide basic insurance through the federal government for everyone while allowing individuals to purchase additional coverage if they so wish.

    My concern is that the system we have is now broken. My husband and I are both self-employed. Our insurance is $975 per month (family of 5) with about $4500 deductible. It is good insurance, but it is not $3500 per year.

    Anyway, I agree with you William that the “10% plan” is flawed. Just trying to administer this type of tax credit would be expensive. Then you would have plenty of fraud as people falsely claim excessive medical expenses in order to be eligible for the credit. On top of that, you would be subsidizing the insurance companies instead of incenting them to reduce administrative costs.

    Ray’s comment asking how much should we have to pay for decent health care is the real question. Is it really an area where corporations should be looking to provide profits to shareholders? Or is that going to incent them to deny coverage and continually raise premiums?

    June 21, 2008
  241. Really appreciating everyone’s participation on this oh so complicated insurance question.

    I just want to mention two problems that have not yet been touched upon.
    One is that insurance may not be taken from one job to another, My dh used to work contract and got insurance as an employee of the company. Everytime we changed jobs, we had t wait for insurance to kick in on another contract. We since hire through a company that works for us as admininstrators and we can get our insurance through them as if we were
    part of a larger network.
    The second thing to consider big time is that when we are paying for health care with our insurance dollars, we are also paying for insurance company employees, not just the ceo’s big salaries, but lots and lots of lower salaries, too. I don’t have any stats off hand on what percentage of American workers work for insurance companies, but I bet it is significant. When we solve the problem of high premiums, we will probably have to create new jobs for the cut work force.

    June 21, 2008
  242. William Siemers said:

    Curt (#244)…I agree…’de-link’ insurance from employment. Insurance gets in the way of making good decisions about employees; it costs billions to investigate and compare insurance carriers and proposals and billions more to administer the policies.

    Jane(#250) …The $3400 figure was for the average cost of an individual’s high deductible policy in 2007. High deductible family policies averaged about $11,000 in 2007.
    You are right…the system is broken. Our family coverage through a small group policy costs $14,000 per year AND has a $7000 deductible. When the group is small and fairly old…watch out…rates sky rocket.

    We need universal coverage for essential health insurance and we need it now. Whether single payer or mandatory insurance through a choice of qualified government plans. In either case the government either is the insurer, or makes a risk adjusted payment to one of the qualified plans on every citizens behalf. No more cherry picking (and lemon dropping), no more swollen beauracracies, no more means testing for second rate systems like medicaid, no more duplication of effort by state systems, and, most importantly, no more uninsured.

    The 10% plan is not the answer. It will perpetuate the current private insurance business (with all the inefficancies) for healthy people AND establish a single payer system, funded by taxpayers, for the unhealthy. It is not progressive -low and middle income people will in actuality pay a much higher porportion of their incomes for health care than do the wealthy.

    There are many ways to pay for universal care. An additional payroll tax, or a income tax surcharge, or a net worth tax, or even a value added tax, or a national sales tax…or a combination. Anyway, we should be able figure out what the rest of the developed world already has.

    June 22, 2008
  243. David Bly said:

    This is a very good discussion and I am glad that many are focused on health care as it is an ongoing problem that needs attention. President Truman proposed a single payer universal health plan and we are still trying to move such an idea forward fifty years later. I would encourage you to look at the Minnesota Health Plan introduced near the end of the 2007 session. It got a hearing in the Senate Health Policy Committee and was passed on to other committees but was not given a hearing on the House side and went no further in the Senate.

    I would encourage you to visit the Minnesota Health Plan website, read about it and offer suggestions. This plan would cover all Minnesotans, offer coverage that was portable and would be payed for by premiums paid to the Minnesota Health Fund based on one’s ability to pay. Everyone would pay in and have the same coverage and it would be comprehensive. The fund would be set up separate from the budget so it could not be raided for other expenditures. This is not socialized medicine as it would allow our various public, private, health providers to function as they do now. It would actually create more choice of provider than currently exists because our private insurance plans reduce choice of provider in an attempt to save costs. The coverage would be truly universal because everyone would be covered. Plans that force you to buy private insurance can never really achieve universal coverage because there are always exceptions.

    There should be a forum or public discussion of the bill coming up in the next month or so. Watch for it.

    June 22, 2008
  244. Paul Zorn said:

    I’ve been gone a few days and so, alas, missed most of the interesting health care e-discussion. Here are few late thoughts, if anyone’s still interested, on the general 10% solution idea.

    I still think the idea has some merit, though it would (like any complicated approach to a complicated problem) need careful design and tweaking to avoid perverse incentives. In an earlier posting I suggested some ways to add some progressivity. The key feature — that individuals should have some financial exposure, but not too much, to the cost of their own care — seems sound to me.

    A straight 10%-of-everything exposure could be too much (or more likely, too little, as we’re now spending much more than 10% of GDP on health), and it might be criticized from the left as not being progressive enough. And William S is right that almost no tycoon would actually pay 10% of income on health, while many of the poor would. That’s unfortunate, but perhaps very hard to avoid, just as it’s hard to avoid the poor paying a higher fraction of income for, say, food. To some extent these problems are mathematical as well as political. In any case, these are technical problems, much more amenable to tweaking than the big, big problems we now have with health care funding.

    Thanks, David Bly, for pointing to the Minnesota Health Plan, which seems to me to represent another reasonable effort to address health care funding in a serious but (I think (with luck … ) ) politically realistic manner. I didn’t see much detail on how individuals pay their share of this (there is mention of “ability to pay”, but I saw nothing more quantitative than that), and that’s an important “detail”. Again, these are technical matters that can probably be addressed.

    PS. I don’t buy the idea that rationing of health care is nothing but an evil side-effect of greed, high salaries, etc., and will become just a bad memory when the Universal Health Care messiah arrives. The present system of has plenty of deplorable elements, but IMO advances in medical technology and techniques will always run ahead of society’s ability or willingness to buy everything for everybody. If I’m right, rationing is here to stay. At best, we’ll get better at it.

    June 23, 2008
  245. I asked what camp Obama came from and I think I got the answer…

    Among those tied to Obama politically, personally, or professionally are:

    Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama’s presidential campaign and a member of his finance committee. Jarrett is the chief executive of Habitat Co., which managed Grove Parc Plaza from 2001 until this winter and co-managed an even larger subsidized complex in Chicago that was seized by the federal government in 2006, after city inspectors found widespread problems.

    July 1, 2008
  246. That last paragraph should be in quotes from the Boston Globe. Apologies.

    July 1, 2008
  247. Elizabeth Buckheit said:

    Just because a leader promises change doesn’t mean he or she can necessarily achieve it.

    July 1, 2008
  248. Elizabeth Buckheit said:

    I am also noticing a growing problem among our youth. A lot of children and teens show great devotion to a candidate, but when asked why, fail to give a reasonable answer. This is most likely due to the fact that they often copy their parents political views. If the coming generation is just made up of followers, our country may have even worse issues than it does now. Ask your kid what they want in a president and allow them to look at all the different candidates websites to see which views best match theirs. Try to have them think critically about each candidates perspectives and how that might affect current issues like Iraq, abortion, homosexual rights, foreign policy, and security. And, despite what the saying says, it’s actually a great idea to talk politics at the dinner table with your teen. Don’t help them too much though, because then you will be hindering, not helping.

    July 1, 2008
  249. Peter Millin said:

    This election like the past three or four leaves a terrible taste in my mouth.
    Again we have the choice between dumb and dumber. Neither of these candidates have any kind of connection to the common people. Both of them are rich, which is fine by me, except that their money insulates them from the most of the pain us little people have to endure.

    Neither of those will ever have to worry what the price of gas is, because the taxpayers are footing the bill.
    Neither of those will have to ever use a national healthcare system.
    Neither of those candidates will have to ever send their kids to a third class public school.
    Neither of those two needs to worry about the fact that the Federal reserve created inflation is eating up 401 K savings at a rate of 10% every year.
    and to top it off while each of them tells us to watch our carbon footprint..they doing while flying over us with a Lear jet.

    BUT alas I do have the vote because I am a good citizen, but it gets harder and harder to find somebody to vote for.
    And McCain and Obama and most of the rest are no different.

    July 17, 2008
  250. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Did this discussion die out a couple weeks ago because comments were getting too grim? I am still with Obama, but hoping his VP team is not still considering former Bush Ag Secy Ann Veneman. She is big ag personified, pro-free trade, would not help the ticket in the Central states certainly. She was booed at farm meetings, etc.

    August 4, 2008
  251. Patrick Enders said:

    This old thread got a bit random for my tastes. There was talk of having more opportunities for discussion of state/national topics, but not much seems to have been done on that front. I guess it’s one of the limitations we have to accept when we’re having these conversations on a site where only three people can start a new thread.

    August 4, 2008
  252. Griff Wigley said:

    Patrick, I’ll launch a few narrower topics in the weeks ahead… the voucher discussion is my first stab at it.

    August 4, 2008
  253. I wonder what people think about Obama’s little half brother, living in a shack on $1 per month.

    August 21, 2008
  254. rod zumwalt said:

    I think it’s about as relevant as Cindy McCain’s half-sister, who is apparently angry because Cindy describes herself as an “only child.” Good God, aren’t there about 456,781 issues to focus on before we get to candidates’ half-siblings??

    August 21, 2008
  255. I cannot think of any more important issue than how a man or woman treats his or her family members.

    August 21, 2008
  256. Vicki Dennis said:

    Barack Obama’s half-brother, George, states, “I live like a recluse, no one knows I exist. If anyone says something about my surname, I say we are not related. I am ashamed.”

    He and Barack Obama have only met twice; once when George was only five years old, and once in 2006.

    “When you have a brother who wants to be the number one most important person in the world, it obviously gives you a lot of inspiration,” Mr Obama, 26, said at his corrugated tin shack in a Nairobi slum.

    “There was a long time when I was just taking a break, doing nothing, trying to find myself and what I wanted to do. Now I am more focused on my future, and I can say it is because I understand more about things because of hearing what Barack is doing.”

    George Obama then says, “I don’t want to look to him for help, I want to achieve things for myself.

    “I don’t even tell people that I am related to Barack Obama, I don’t want people here to be harassing me because they think I have money or influence. I have nothing like that, I am a person who likes to live quietly.

    “I don’t have any ambitions to do anything like politics, in Kenya, that means nothing. I read the newspapers, but only the sport section. Sometimes I am sure there are things about Barack which I miss, but it doesn’t matter to me.

    “Of course, if I was in the US I would vote for him, I think everyone should. But I am a bit biased,” he joked. (All quotes attributed to Telegraph UK)

    George Obama is clearly comfortable with the situation. Barack Obama refers to George in his book “Dreams of My Father” as being a “beautiful” boy. They’re ok with each other. I don’t think there are issues to be made regarding their relationship.

    August 21, 2008
  257. Paul Fried said:

    Perhaps there are, in fact, more important things. If you listen and read outside the mainstream media, you find some interesting things being observed and analyzed.

    The mainstream media news is paying attention to the fact that Russia “invaded” Georgia, and reporting George Bush’s opinion that Russia must get out.

    The mainstream media is not reporting on the irony of a man who launched a preemptive war on Iraq, leader of a country whose armed forces and privatized military-security forces occupy Iraq, criticizing Russia. We’ve lost any credible grounds to criticize Russia.

    The mainstream media, for the most part, is not reporting on the fact that Georgian forces expected the US to come to its aid. Why? Because we’ve been talking about how we want to expand NATO membership to include Russia. We’ve also been training military forces in Georgia. Russia doesn’t like it. Neither would we if the tables were turned. This would be like Russia signing treaties with Canada and Mexico, and started training Canadian and Mexican troops.

    The mainstream media, for the most part, is not reporting on the fact that a key advisor to John McCain was recently an advisor-consultant to the government leadership in Georgia, and may have encouraged them to take the action they took that resulted in the Russian response, urging that the US would come to their aid.

    Did we ever intend to come to their aid, or is the strife between Georgia and Russia just something that was timed to get Americans to feel afraid and nostalgic for the cold war, and for a military leader like McCain? Is it an early October surprise?

    These are a few of the many things that are being discussed outside the mainstream, superficial news. These are more important than Obama’s half-brother, or McCain’s half-sister-in-law.

    August 21, 2008
  258. rod zumwalt said:

    definitely much more important! but “obama mistreats half-brother” is such a snappy headline — Americans seem to have lost their patience for any discussions which require a rudimentary knowledge of geography or history. Taking the apparent moral high ground (never mind the well-trod moral lowground all around us, but somehow ignored) is so much easier than actually thinking through issues. So the return to cold-war black and white (hmmmm…) is tailor made for a lazy public.

    August 21, 2008
  259. Ed Koch says that Georgia started it. Has anyone else heard this?

    August 21, 2008
  260. Paul Fried said:

    Yes, Georgia fired the first official shots. They were emboldened to believe they’d be treated like NATO members and the mighty US would come to the rescue. They were baited to allow their lives to become US campaign-season toys. So they struck first, and Russia struck back, harder, and Georgia was confused and disillusioned, and meanwhile, US voters are supposed to believe we should vote for McCain instead of digging a bit to figure out who orchestrated this drama.

    August 21, 2008
  261. We talked about this at the last Politics and a Pint and we could carry on this discussion over at We looked for historical analogies and, like Israel, who has claim to the land depends on what your cutoff is for “the real owners”. As for who fired first, there is little doubt that Georgia went in because the break-away region was theirs the same way Texas is Mexico’s. I’m just glad Mexico hasn’t invaded Texas.

    And if Georgia thought they were going to get US support they must have never heard of Vietnam and the Hmong. Or Czechoslavakia. Or Hungary.

    August 21, 2008
  262. Jane Moline said:

    Paul and Bruce: Russia provided arms and support so what was a part of Georgia could break away, (Ossetia) thereby weakening Georgia and making it less economically viable as a separate country, and more dependent on Russian goodwill and less likely to act independent of Russia.

    Georgia -very stupidly–thought that assurances from contacts in the USA (including John McCain through his employee who was a Georgia lobbyist to congress) meant that the USA would support a military reclaiming of this breakaway region.

    It is not like Texas and Mexico, because it is in the middle of Georgia–Georgia surrounds it on 3 sides. It would be more like if Minnesota was armed by Canada and broke away from the United States, and then the USA invaded MInnesota to take us back.

    Georgia did not have the military might, and by all reports on the ground DID NOT committ genocide–the first reports were 40 to 70 military personnel killed while the Russians claimed thousands were killed and warranted their counter invasion and subsequent indescriminate bombing of Georgia including civilian areas.

    Georgia was stupid but Russia is a big bully. Russia intends to control Ossentia for their purposes, including the oil pipelines in the area.

    This, like every other war, is wrong. Nobody wins. The costs are astronomical.

    At $300 million dollars a day the “surge is working” in Iraq. Whoopee. It has gutted our economy. Noticed unemployment numbers in Minnesota lately? I guess the surge is working to destroy the economic viability of the United States.

    August 22, 2008
  263. From what I saw on the Jim Lehrer report last night on pbs, the Georgian citizens are not worried about the little spiff going on between the govts.

    As far as Texas goes, have you ever been to southern Texas. While I wouldn’t call it invasion, I would call it more than half the population. No problemo for me personally, I’m just sayin’.

    August 22, 2008
  264. Paul Fried said:

    Bright wrote,
    “From what I saw on the Jim Lehrer report last night on pbs, the Georgian citizens are not worried about the little spiff going on between the govts. ”

    The dead ones are especially not worried (anymore).

    August 22, 2008
  265. Referring to my own posts #265 and 267, if I had a brother living on a dollar a day, I would yank him out of there, and give him more than the ice cube’s chance in H. E. double Hockey Sticks, of making something of himself, even if I only had five dollars. I’d share it with him. Okay, so I am talking to the wrong crowd. I think I’ll try and get Obama to do the right thing, even if I am wrong, but I don’t think so this time. Thanks for listening.

    August 22, 2008
  266. Paul Fried said:

    Jane: Thanks for the information on Russians.

    Part of what we’re seeing relates to competition for oil (although it’s more than that to). Russia would like to maintain control over oil that comes out of, or through, the region, just as the US and our oil corporations were interested in an Afghani oil pipeline (they tried to negotiate a contract with the Taliban before 9-11, but did not succeed; one story claims the Taliban was threatened to accept a blanket of gold or be covered in a blanket of bombs; after we invaded Afghanistan in late 2001, eventually Unical got the oil contract they’d wanted). The oil was going to go one way or the other (through Afghanistan, or toward Russia), and the US oil corporations, and US government interests, would rather it came some way other than through Russia (and have it bought and sold on the basis of the US dollar).

    How the next president might respond to all this should prove to be interesting. has been publishing, and/or republishing, many articles exploring the Georgia-Russia conflict, it’s history and implications. These include things from the Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Policy in Focus, and the Star-Tribune. These lean very much toward the progressive side (as leans that way), so you won’t find Charles Krauthammer or neocon justifications for global supremacy below. Here’s a list:

    Is Georgia 2008 a Repeat of Hungary 1956, With John McCain as Agent Provocateur? – > by Allan J. Lichtman

    Georgia/Russia Conflict Forced Into Cold War Frame – by Peter Hart and Jim Naureckas

    The Precedent Was Set In The Balkans by Peter Erlinder
    Sat., 8-16, 2008 by The Minneapolis/St. Paul Star Tribune (Minnesota)

    Georgia: Background to War – by William D. Hartung

    US Role in Georgia Crisis – by Stephen Zunes
    Friday, August 15, 2008 by Foreign Policy in Focus

    Georgia War a Neocon Election Ploy? – by Robert Scheer
    Wednesday, August 13, 2008 by

    Russia and Georgia: All About Oil – by Michael Klare
    August 13, 2008 – Foreign Policy in Focus

    Russo-Georgian Conflict Is Not All Russia’s Fault
    But war could ignite further disputes in the region – by Charles King
    Monday, August 11, 2008 by the Christian Science Monitor

    Getting Georgia’s War On – by Mark Ames
    Published on Saturday, August 9, 2008 by The Nation

    Anatomy of A(nother) Fiasco
    by billmon

    August 22, 2008
  267. Paul Fried said:

    Bright: Yes, Obama is getting criticized by the left for his move to the middle. Imagine that.

    From an article by Tom Hayden today (Aug 22, 2008) in The Nation (also reprinted at Common Dreams):
    …Here are the short-term essentials:

    • After border skirmishes similar to the 1964 Tonkin Gulf affair, on August 8, Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili invaded the autonomous breakaway region of South Ossetia with his US-trained army. The Russians responded with massive force, quickly routing Saakashvili’s forces.

    • McCain has traveled to Georgia, nominated his close friend Saakashlivi for a Nobel Prize in 2005, and was the first American leader to blast Russia last April, when Vladimir Putin issued a sharp warning against NATO membership for Georgia and the Ukraine, supported by the United States.

    • The Bush Administration was divided along familiar lines, with the foreign policy “realists” around Condoleezza Rice opposite the pro-Georgia hawks centered in Dick Cheney’s office and allied with McCain–enthusiasts for spreading “democracy” from Iraq to the Russian border.

    • Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s foreign policy adviser, was a registered foreign agent for Saakashlivi’s government from at least 2004, when Saakashvili came to power, until May 15, 2008, when he technically severed his ties to Orion Strategies, his lobbying firm. At that point, Orion had earned at least $800,000 in lobbying fees from Georgia.

    • Saakashvili, with Scheuneman advising him, campaigned on a platform of taking back South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

    •Schuenemann was Georgia’s lobbyist when Saakashvili sent troops to retake two separatist enclaves, Ajaria in 2004 and the upper Kodori Gorge in Abhkazia in 2006, over strong Russian objections.

    • Saakashvili tarnished his democratic credentials by sending club-wielding riot police against unarmed demonstrators protesting his abrupt purging of the police, civil servants and universities in 2007, a replay of Paul Bremer’s decision to privatize Iraq in 2003.

    Until now Scheunemann has been less visible but no less important than any of the top neoconservatives who drove America into Iraq and now are lobbying for a new cold war and a McCain presidency.

    He was the full-time executive director of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. He helped draft the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, which authorized $98 million for the “Iraq lobby” led by Ahmad Chalabi, which disseminated bogus intelligence in the lead-up to war. He also worked for Donald Rumsfeld as a consultant on Iraq. He joined the board of the Project for the New American Century.

    Scheunemann traveled with McCain to Georgia in 2006. Seeking to repeat his 1998 Iraq jackpot, he lobbied for an unsuccessful measure co-sponsored by McCain that year, the NATO Freedom Consolidation Act, which would have sent $10 million to Georgia.

    …Not to miss another opportunity, his firm has represented the Caspian Alliance, a consortium of oil and gas producers in the region.

    It is unclear at this writing what links Scheunemann, as Georgia’s lobbyist, may had to the Western oil interests who in 2005 built the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline through Georgia, a project intentionally designed to bypass Russia and implement what a recent New York Times report described as an “American strategy to put a wedge between Russia and the Central American countries that had been Soviet republics.” The BTC consortium includes BP, Chevron, Conoco and the state of Azerbejian. As conceived, according to Ha’aretz, the system also would attempt to link eventually with Israel’s pipeline system as well.

    In a nutshell, here is what should be said: the same Republican neocons who fabricated the reasons for going to war in Iraq are back, and now they have been paid to trigger a new cold war with Russia that benefits John McCain. These are dangerous, expensive unwinnable games being played with American lives to benefit Republican politicians and their oil company friends.

    These are not words you are going to hear from Barack Obama or anyone in the Democratic hierarchy. Looking back, they agree that the Iraq invasion was a colossal misjudgment. Privately, most of them feel that Georgia’s adventurism provoked the current conflict. But politically, they are pledged to be positioned as tough against terrorism and communism, tougher than the Republicans.

    If Obama had a paid lobbyist for a foreign country on his Senate staff, what would the Republican outcry be?

    If John McCain is above the special interest lobbies, why is he harboring Scheunemann? Is it enough to go off the Georgia payroll and over to the McCain campaign payroll during a regional war you helped set off?


    August 22, 2008

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