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November 16, 2006 04:03 PM UTC

Thursday Open Thread

  • by: Colorado Pols

Only one year, eleven months and three weeks until the next general election.


48 thoughts on “Thursday Open Thread

  1. On Murtha, he’s a very old school union Democrat in the mold of a Bob Casey Sr. (pro-life and pro-gun).  Out-of-step with the positions most Democrats take now, except on the war, on which he took a radical position in order to capture a certain cheering section (just like McCain did on campaign finance reform) and erase the fact that he is the Democrats’ answer to guys like Bob Ney (again, like McCain).  Pelosi is backing him because he consolidates her power.  Murtha is a number two that cannot stand alone, which is a very good thing if you are number one.

    One of the two least attractive things about American politics is our worship of ideological hero figures.  We fashion cults of personality around them until we no longer see what’s plainly in front of our eyes.  In this way, we elevate very venial politicians — concerned with attaining power, remaining in power, and the perks associated with power — to positions of almost religious veneration.  Bill Clinton’s sins are explained away as are G. W. Bush’s flaws.  Curiously, the explanation of these flaws have a common thread.  With sins like Clinton’s carnality and flaws like Bush’s inarticulate presentation, these godheads are showing their “human” sides, the greatness is that they step down from heaven and dwell here with us.  Oh America!  How unworthy of a republic!

    Wanting an emperor so badly, we demand cardboard storylines for our god-emperors.  We create a consistent pattern of ideological behaviour from the twists and turns these guys use to get and keep power.  We delude ourselves, forgetting that Clinton’s carnality is merely an evidence of his underlying avarice, that Bush’s way of communicating evidence that he lacks the intellectual heft for the job.  But hey, the Romans had their Tiberius and their Nero.  Scrapped their freedom so they could worship mortals they dressed as gods.  Plucked out their brains so they could continue smiling.

    And then there is our need to form teams and cheer and yell and hate the other side and fistfight in the stands — that second, least attractive aspect.  We don’t have intellectual disagreements.  Our team is right, 100%, all the time, and everything it does we’re going to justify.  We twist our brains until we get it right, until it works, makes sense, until the pulp runs down our legs.  Politics is the team sport of the pseudo-intellectual, pursued lovingly, with willful ignorance.

    And so we justify, make fit, the new Speaker’s superbly raw power play.  If pulled-off, it will be a marvel for what it is.  But full of the unforeseen outcome, and nothing pure about it.

    1. done better by some than others. Your post reads, to me, to be more of a condemnation of the voters and the American people, than about Murtha. On the other side of your arguement, we witness the meteoric rise of Barack Obama. His measured, well reasoned and articulate style resonates with many many people. Have the press or the public acribed godlike qualities to him? I don’t see that. He’s popular because people are hungry for the well thought out, reasonable approach.

      1. He is a wonderful player, a favourite of the critics.  Who could speak ill of him at a party of the great and the good of any kind and not be shouted down?  He has quickly passed from man to god. 

        I would prefer that we place our faith in our process, our Constitution, over men, whether they be the god Obama or the god McCain.  What is there in us that needs a leader, a chief, a king, a strong man?

        1. “I would prefer that we place our faith in our process, our Constitution, over men, whether they be the god Obama or the god McCain.”

          Individuals in both parties pin their hopes on particular candidates all the time. But these “gods” need to convince those who don’t regard them as such to vote for them. While sometimes these “gods” are elected president (I’d say Reagan was the last one, not Clinton) most of the time they end up left by the wayside. (Anyone remember when Jack Kemp was supposed to be the future face of Republican conservatism?)

          1. …who may have emerged, Christlike, from the bowels of Chicago politics untainted by that machine, and the deals and misrepresentations attendant to consecutive campaigns for State Senate and Congress and U.S. Senate, as the candidate of that machine.  A man, who with great humility, penned an autobiography, aged 33.

            Yes, candidates are vessels into which we pour our hopes and dreams.  But I disagree with your assessment that these gods must be universally popular.  In classical civilizations there were many gods and lesser gods, worshipped by cults both large and small.  Even Bill Ritter has his cult, even Bob Beauprez.  Sometimes the temples are shabby affairs, but they are always there, always attended to.

            Our duty, as citizens, is to bring these temples down.  To remind those who wish to lead that they are, after all, just like us.  To maintain a skeptical outlook and look deeply into what they say and do.  To remember that, in a Republic, there is no essential man — that the process is so strong that it can take anyone from the community and place him or her in that position and that, with the community’s support, he or she can lead.

            Maybe a Republic is too great an idea for us to act on?  Maybe we are like those children, who a year or two after toilet training revert back to messing their pants?  Maybe we just need someone to take care of us?

            1. “Maybe a Republic is too great an idea for us to act on?  …  Maybe we just need someone to take care of us?”

              Maybe. Human beings are pack animals, after all. My point, however, is that our republic makes it difficult for such “gods” to achieve the highest office in the land. And I get your point – that we shouldn’t have such “gods” in the first place. But if people were more like that – more independent, more critical of leaders (especially the ones they choose), maybe republican form of government wouldn’t be such a recent development in human history.

              1. We should strive for an independence of mind and vigilance over those who seek to lead us.  We should give them the respect we give a good doctor we hire to make us well.  A partner, not an oracle.

                And whenever we get too besotted with one of them, picture him in the bog with his shorts down around his ankles, after a bad night out.  A frail and silly human, just like the rest of us.

            2. How could you possibly interpret my description of the Obama phenomena in the terms “Sir Robin’s great faith in Senator Obama?” I was simoply describing a fact. Christlike?? Youo’re overboard.

              1. Maybe I’m guilty of a little hyperbole in my interpretation of your comments.  I stand corrected.

                I understand why “Obama as anointed one” is happening, what I don’t understand is the willful amnesia regarding his career in the Chicago machine.  He actually allowed himself to be used by the Daley machine as a tool to punish Congressman Bobby Rush.  Rush went after Mayor Daley in a primary, so Daley got Obama to go after Rush in a primary.  That and the way the machine bullied everyone out of the primary to make way for Obama’s first state senate run.  Real hardcore stuff like you don’t see in Colorado. 

                But again, my apologies.

    2. Every nation does it, what you described.  I think there might be exacerbation in America because of the two party system.  Jefferson hoped to avoid “factions”, but here they are.  The system is a cruel, unintended result of the Constitution. 

      Another reason for IRV, at least small parties have a voice and the citizens can vote for them.

        1. But we have our own nobility, the corporatists and the rich.  The Scandinavian countries have done much for for egalitarianism.  Yet, they still have room for creating wealth and the rich.  They just don’t let them get away with murder.

          When the founder or some such of Nokia got a speeding ticket for something like 100mph or more, his fine was over $100K!  I like that concept. 

        2. “We were supposed to be the grand experiment, the great Republic, a community of the common, ruled by commoners.”

          Problem is, America was founded by aristocrats. We may not have the same kind of rigid cass system England had/has, but our founders can be accurately described as aristocrats and not commoners. I can’t think of any president, and few representatives or senators, who were commoners when they achieved higher office. Many were born modest, but they were wealthy and part of the ruling class when that happened.

            1. They joined the upper classes. And that’s the great thing about America – that you can be born quite modest and achieve wealth and power. There are other ways to be successful – being born poor and becoming middle class, for example. But it seems that you have to rise even higher than that. Why? Because the wealthy founded our system; that favors the wealthy.

              Not saying it’s bad or unfair, just saying that’s the way it is.

            2. President Truman went bankrupt and never owned a home.  And remember how the poor widow of President Lincoln lived her last days.  Lincoln’s family was utterly broke after they left the White House. 

              No pension was given Mrs. Lincoln! The Lincoln family lived in a Chicago tenement.  Mrs. Lincoln later relocated to Frankfurt, Germany with her youngest son (the elder son had married) to avoid the shame of living so poorly (she didn’t want to do so before the eyes of her fellow Americans).  She spent most of her life after her husband’s death in small rented rooms in Europe (France, as well as Germany) using a false name to hide her shame.

              Could an Abe Lincoln be elected today?  A poor, ex-congressman?

              No Ari, we inhabit a world of gods today.  It was very different not so long ago, in my grandfather’s day (your great or maybe great-great grandfather’s day).

              1. You’re trying to make the data fit your results. Clinton was quite poor growing up. And Reagan was working class as was Nixon, Ford, & Eisenhower

                Considering the advantages wealth confer in this country we have had a surprising number of Presidents who were born at the low end of the economic scale.

                And LJB grew up very very poor. And that was only 7 presidents ago.

                1. …because today the presidency is a road to wealth.  It wasn’t, just a short time ago.  President Grant failed at everything before the war, and after serving as President, lost whatever he had made.  He ended up, suffering from cancer and refusing medication, so he could finish writing the book that would support his wife and family after he died.  Shortly after he finished, he succumbed to the cancer.

                  But my original comments were more about standing than class or money.  About how we turn human politicians into objects of veneration.  About how we build cults of personality around them and elevate them above the people they’re supposed to be serving.

                  Politics has changed and is now skewed to favour the rich candidate or the very well-connected candidate who can raise money.  It is a very recent development, for some reason made worse by campaign finance reform.

                  These are very different candidates from those of just a short time ago.  Who was the last really dark horse to win the presidency?  Jimmy Carter, an ex-governor of what was then a smallish southern state, who had stumped the panel of “What’s My Line” (a popular game show you might not remember) a short while before.  He was the Howard Dean of his day, and he won.  Read Candy Stroud’s “How Jimmy Won” (I bought mine 30 years ago, so it’s probably out of print).

          1. They were commoners… skilled labour (like Paul Revere) and farmers, tradesmen, certainly many wealthy, but all from the middle classes.  No lords or ladies amongst them.

            I think you are taking the idea of “commoners” away from how I meant it.  I wasn’t using it to denote class or wealth.  Rather, I was talking about standing, that we shouldn’t consider our leaders intrinsically greater than ourselves.  If you think of what I wrote in the run-up to using the term “commoners”, you will understand the point I was trying to make.

            President Truman never owned his own home.  Look at what President Clinton earned before becoming President.  But he learned how make a bundle.  This is a recent development.  Poor coming to office, very rich leaving.

            1. Revere and Franklin were merchants – businessmen – but many landowners were descended from aristocratic families from England, typically younger sons who came to America in part because they wouldn’t inherit titles or estates. If you want a list of who’s who, I will admit ignorance there.

              You’re right, this is a tangent from the original discussion. I posted a comment above with the heading of “maybe.” Do you have anything to say to that? (Not meant as a challenge – that was just one of the last posts about the original topic.)

              1. It wasn’t so long ago that a President strolled the streets of Washington quite freely (Truman).  President Lincoln had so little staff that he had to rely on his sons to mind his correspondence (Robert Lincoln lost the original draft of his inaugural  address).  George Washington had only a secretary to assist him in his duties.  What an empire we have become!

                You are correct that many of the founders were “loose sons” from the English gentry (and so untitled).  Their blood was “blue” but their clothes threadbare.  Here’s a little run-down of some of them:

                “Fifty-six men from each of the original 13 colonies signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776…

                Eighteen of the signers were merchants or businessmen, 14 were farmers, and four were doctors. Twenty-two were lawyers – although William Hooper of North Carolina was “disbarred” when he spoke out against the king – and nine were judges. Stephen Hopkins had been governor of Rhode Island. Forty-two signers had served in their colonial legislatures. John Witherspoon of New Jersey was the only active clergyman to attend.

                …Seventeen signers fought in the American Revolution. Thomas Nelson was a colonel in the Second Virginia Regiment and then commanded Virginia military forces at the Battle of Yorktown. William Whipple served with the New Hampshire militia and was a commanding officer in the decisive Saratoga campaign. Oliver Wolcott led the Connecticut regiments sent for the defense of New York and commanded a brigade of militia that took part in the defeat of General Burgoyne. Caesar Rodney was a major general in the Delaware militia; John Hancock held the same rank in the Massachusetts militia.

                The British captured five signers during the war. Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, and Arthur Middleton were captured at the Battle of Charleston in 1780. George Walton was wounded and captured at the Battle of Savannah. Richard Stockton of New Jersey never recovered from his incarceration at the hands of British Loyalists. He died in 1781.

                Thomas McKean of Delaware wrote John Adams that he was ‘hunted like a fox by the enemy – compelled to remove my family five times in a few months.’ Abraham Clark of New Jersey had two of his sons captured by the British during the war.

                Eleven signers had their homes and property destroyed. Francis Lewis’s New York home was razed and his wife taken prisoner. John Hart’s farm and mills were destroyed when the British invaded New Jersey, and he died while fleeing capture. Carter Braxton and Nelson, both of Virginia, lent large sums of their personal fortunes to support the war effort but were never repaid.”

                1. of the delegates of the Constitutional Convention? (Not that this isn’t interesting, but they were the ones I had in mind when I made my notes. I bet it’s a similar composition of men.)

                  It’s too bad about swollen presidential staffs, which probably reflect a swollen federal bureaucracy. It probably also reflects the reality of today’s televised politics, not to mention instant information courtesy of the internet. They spend as much time on their image as they do policy. That reflects on us as an electorate who cares about such things.

                  1. He includes the value of slaves as part of the wealth of the old South.  In fact, he points out that when the value of those slaves went to zero, it had as much economic impact as social.

              2. Kevin PHillips in “Wealth and Democracy” traces wealth in this country.  He states that most of the men considered rich would have been no more than “country squires” back in jolly ole.

                As I recall, there was a family or two who would of been “millionaires” back then, the top 1%  I think they were Boston merchants and/or bankers.

                This book, while incredibly boring due to the subject matter, is a “must read” for anyone who want to understand not only our past, but our future.

                Hint: It ain’t good……

                1. was still made up of people like Kevin Phillips, it might not have lost so badly on Tuesday.  I assume Kevin is still a Republican (don’t know one way or the other) but he represents what was best about the Republican party and conservatism but which sadly has gone away.

                  I’m a Dem but we need a strong two-party system.  Unfortunately, what the Republican party became over the last twenty years was not good for this state and not good for the nation.

                  Come on my R friends, rebuild your party to the Center/right party that it once was and can help all of us keep on track.

                  1. I wouldn’t call for a center/right party (as I understand it today), rather an old fashioned conservative party that had a sound fiscal policy and a natural inclination towards tradition (not a particular religious tradition, mind you).  The ballast it provided is sorely missed.

                    But I also agree with the proponent of 3rd parties, because they have most often been the engine of real change.  The modern Democrats are the status quo party of central government, making sure everyone gets fed (which is an important role) but reform cannot be left to it.

    3. People everywhere, of all cultures, do much the same thing – often with monarchs, but in America you see the same thing with celebrities. I don’t have any particular insight as far as that goes, just want to point out that it’s not unique.


    Interesting analysis of polls in the latest elections.  Overall, Zogby Interactive had about twice the margin of error of the best polls (Rasmussen and Mason Dixon), and looks pretty bad.  Just a follow-up to earlier conversations.

  3. I do think he was quite sincere in his early opposition to continuing the war in Iraq.  He has always put the interests of soldiers first, and had inside sources in the military.  I really don’t think he took that position to grandstand.

  4. “LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles hospital accused of dumping homeless patients on downtown’s Skid Row is facing the first criminal charges in the city’s campaign to crack down on the practice and clean up the area.”

    “Kaiser Permanente is among 10 hospitals under investigation by city prosecutors for allegedly discharging homeless patients to the streets of Skid Row rather than to a relative or shelter.”

    If I were looking for compassion I wouldn’t go to a company with the word Kaiser in its’ name.

    1. is the best model we have in the health care arena. They are more efficient, more practive, more preventative, more communicative,…..indeed, more healthy than any other major player in the health care delivery arena.

      My guess…..they had no where to go. The shelters were full, and relatives could not be found. Hospitals aren’t homeless shelters. Just ask their Board of Directors.

      The Kaisers of the country, along with the other hospitals, no not operate in a vacuum. They operate in a broken health care system.

      1. I’ve been a K-P patient for about six years, untill I lost my job.  I have zero complaints.  In fact, I could tell of several incidents where they went above and beyond what they could have chosen to do. 

        Everyone with a Kaiser story seems to think that the other providers, HMO’s or not, never mess up or make a poor decision. 

        I find it very hard to believe that a supervisor in a hospital would tell an employer to put this patient in their car and dump them out.  Much more likely that the patient was brought to a shelter or somewhere and then left.

        As always, let’s wait and see what is discovered.

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