TCS Daily


Tolerating the Intolerable

By Jon N. Hall - March 8, 2010 12:00 AM

What is a democracy without fair elections? Not a democracy, wouldn't you say? So why does America, the granddaddy of democracies, tolerate election systems that aren't free of fraud? Left-wing commentator Katrina vanden Heuvel tries to assure us:

Talking loosely about "voter fraud" when we really mean election fraud helps reinforce the impression that the former is widespread. It is not. Voter fraud -- the impersonation of a voter by another person -- is extremely rare in the United States.

OK, how rare is it? Can anyone put a number on it and tell us how much voter fraud is happening? Is voter fraud so rare in America that it can't affect an election?

In a contest not finalized until nearly 8 months after Election Day, Democrat Al Franken won Minnesota's 2008 race for U.S. Senate by 312 votes. Out of the 2.9 million votes cast, that's a winning margin of just over .01%, or .0001075 of the total. Those 312 "votes" gave Democrats a filibuster-proof 60-seat Senate majority, allowing them to enact legislation that could forever change America. With so much being decided by such a small margin, shouldn't we be more concerned about fraud, regardless of whether it's committed by voters or vote counters?

Vote counters weighed heavily in the Coleman-Franken election. Matthew Vadum alleges: "The election was stolen at the precinct level, during the recount, and during the post-election litigation." Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie conducted that recount. Ritchie's own election was endorsed by the corrupt organization ACORN. Newmax's David A. Patten writes: "Ritchie is a favorite son of the George Soros-funded Secretary of State Project (SOS), which has succeeded in installing partisans in key state positions that can influence election outcomes." Patten also reports:

Verifying the legitimacy of voter registrations is the primary concern of Minnesota Majority, a nonprofit organization with Republican backing that has uncovered 2,800 instances in which deceased Minnesotans were listed as having "voted" in November's elections.

One could go on and on about the irregularities in Minnesota, but the bottom line with Ritchie's recount is that no one really knows who won (see video below). That's because no one, not even Ms. vanden Heuvel, knows how much fraud occurred, and therefore can't know what the legitimate vote count was. But this is the case in elections throughout America.

The scandal is: We have the solutions to these problems but aren't using them.

The first election reform America should adopt is automatic registration. Basically, automatic registration involves extracting data from a single federal database and then sending that data to the states to use as voter registries. It completely bypasses the current practice of registering voters individually. Automatic registration is feasible because the government already has our data. This reform is so simple and cheap it could easily be put in place for the November elections.

The other reform, Internet voting, isn't quite so simple. It's also controversial, as some folks still don't trust computers. But if America wants its elections free of fraud, Internet voting could be the answer, and it could be accomplished soon. Computerization is the only practical way to have surety in vote counts (or any kind of counts, for that matter).

With automatic registration, Minnesota would have no need for criminal organizations like ACORN to register voters. And with Internet voting, Minnesota would never again need another recount. Not only do these reforms go about as far as we can in stopping fraud, they are much friendlier than our current systems. With these reforms, the cost and inconvenience of special elections (like the recent election to replace Sen. Kennedy) would simply not be an issue. And an election that needs to be redone (as was proposed for Florida's tainted 2008 Democratic primary) would be a piece of cake.

But our government continues to require registrants, registrars, voters, vote counters, poll workers, etc. to jump through hoops. And in recounts, the hoop jumping can go on for months and involve the courts, including the Supreme Court. Why does the government put us through all this when we have the means to make things right?

It is a huge failure of our elected leaders that they've done so little since the Florida 2000 recount debacle to fix our election systems and give us the confidence in our elections we deserve. It seems the democracy we're getting is only the democracy our elected officials want us to have. It's high time we start demanding the real thing.

As for November: Without technological solutions to give us confidence in the results, November's elections will need to be monitored by armies of volunteers unwilling to countenance another theft. It will require a lot of work.


Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City.
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71 Comments

Faulty Premise
"So why does America, the granddaddy of democracies, tolerate election systems that aren't free of fraud?"

I might feel compelled to actually engage the article further were it not for the glaring error presented in the initial paragraph, one that always riles me when I hear people (particularly politicians, who should know better) refer to America as a "democracy." It is NOT a democracy, nor was it ever intended to be. It is a representative Republic (with certain democratic institutions, to be sure), and the founders were quite careful in establishing it as such. The goal was to avoid the "tyranny of the majority" or the "mob-ocracy," and thank goodness for it.

Interesting POV
Here's a point you obviously embrace strongly: "The goal was to avoid the "tyranny of the majority" or the "mob-ocracy," and thank goodness for it."

So if you fear the will of the majority, and implicitly believe there is some minority among us who should be running everything, could you tell us who they are?

Followup question: how do we know they have our best interest at heart? And that they know more than we do how to achieve it?

Or do you just believe the country can run itself, with no rules and no one in control?

Leave it to roy
First off it is nice to see you are back and how active you've been the past few weeks. Yes, I've been lurking around but not posting much. I said I would be like this a year or so ago and I have been following through.
As to your present opinion, why do you claim to trust the majority when it is so obvious you do not. Did you want the majority to hold sway during the civil rights movement? If it had we may still have segregation today. And I know you don't want the majority to rule on abortion right.

In fact, I would say it is the left and not the right that do not believe in true majority rule. You should be very grateful that the U.S. is not a democracy and is, instead, a republic.

You are also among the believers in have some elite minority running everything. However, you don't have to tell us who you believe should be in charge.

When conservatives talk about being glad this is a republic it is more a political statement about everything from the constitution itself to the way elections are run. It is a belief that the system we now have is superior to a direct elective system as it is more fair in the overview.

I doubt StinkHammer is referring to having some minority run anything, just that he thinks the present american systems does a better job by splitting power and giving some real teeth to minorities whether it be by color, region, gender or political party.

The founders designed it that way...
...we have a government that runs on the 'consent of the governed'. It is not by the People, for the People, of the People, that's for sure.

"That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..."

From: The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.

Beg to Differ
1) How does a "representative Republic" prevent mob rule? If 51 of 100 representatives vote for something, and it becomes law, is that any less of a mob rule than if 51 of 100 citizens vote for something? The only way to prevent mob rule is to either give the minority veto power, or to require a supermajority, (say 60/100, or 60%) in order to pass a law. This could be accomplished just as easily in a pure democracy as in a representative republic.

It would seem that the only real advantage of a representative republic is that you can send your wisest citizens (or, given the nature of wheeling and dealing often necessary to reach a compromise in politics, your craftiest citizens) forward, to represent your town, city, or state. This frees the rest of your citizens from political wrangling, and excessive political activism, so they can get on with productive lives, raising families, etc. It also makes political dealing possible, as one state representative might be convinced to trade ‘tit for tat’, while trying to sell the same compromise to the entire state population would be impossible. (Think of the Missouri Compromise, and other such deals.)

2) Regardless, the main point of the article is so glaring, and so valid, that nobody wants to talk about it: The federal government already has your social security number, and they know where you live, and they know your age, and if you are a citizen, a felon, etc. Why do we even have voter registration drives? Why not use the federal data that already exists, and isn’t full of errors? If this recurring registration system is such a good idea, why don't we have taxpayer registration drives? I’ll tell you why - because we care more about the validity of our tax collecting system than our vote counting system. That is a shame. When are we going to change this? Who is standing in the way, and why?

The best of all political systems
Thank you for lurking.

1. "As to your present opinion, why do you claim to trust the majority when it is so obvious you do not."

Did I offer any opinion as to trusting the majority? Methinks I did not.

In fact the majority in this country is easily led. Laughably so. Convincing them to intelligently pick the most responsible and capable leader is akin to convincing a trusting five year old to pick the shiny new nickel instead of the dirty old dollar. We're just too easy.

But my question was, Stinky obviously believes there is some greater moral force out there, some group of superior citizens, who should lead us directly. And I'm asking him who he thinks that is.

To me, the only likely contenders for direct leadership would be the same ones now guiding us to choose among them indirectly at the polls. To ask them to do away with the facade of the "popular will" and just command us directly would only be to do with gloves off what is being done now, with the gloves on.

2. "It is a belief that the system we now have is superior to a direct elective system as it is more fair in the overview."

Obviously you've done a lot of thinking about this. It is seemingly to you "more fair" to have a system where a minority can elect a winner, for example, over a loser with a greater number of popular votes. Or a system where there is such confusion following the count that the election gets thrown into an arena where the citizens have no clout at all: in 2000, the Supreme Court. In 1876, Congress.

We've hashed out 2000 many times here. The Florida count was compromised six different ways and never even completed. The final tally fell well within the margin of error, being akin to flipping a coin and having it land on its edge. And the SC decision that "settled" it failed to follow either logic or the law. It was a thoroughly falsified display of civic theater, leaving a very bad taste in everyone's mouth.

But 1876 was even smarmier. You will recall the elevation to power of the thoroughly incompetent Rutherford Hayes over the superior Republican, James Blaine, through the shenanigans of backroom electoral politics, OR the superior Democrat, Sam Tilden, through the thoroughly reprehensible Compromise of 1877.

Since that low moment there have not been many highlights in national politics. Black Americans lost their newfound freedom and endured another ninety years of Jim Crow. Other Americans lost the ability to decide among candidates who they preferred to lead them (Blaine or Tilden). The only winners were the weevils dwelling in the machinery of the two parties.

You ought to brush up on this sorry chapter. Read this and then link from it to the Compromise of 1877:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1876

3. "I doubt StinkHammer is referring to having some minority run anything, just that he thinks the present american systems does a better job by splitting power and giving some real teeth to minorities whether it be by color, region, gender or political party."

In an organism of this size, there does need to be leadership. The affairs of 310 million people, attempting to retain dominance over the entire globe, can not be just put on autopilot and trusted to the fates. It would be like having a large animal with no brain. It would just fall over, inert, with no heartbeat.

Occasionally we do have a live birth of an acephalic baby. But these poor creatures have no future and are, with luck, put to rest by kind doctors.

SO THEN. If we have established the need for some kind of controlling leadership, we must pose the question of how best to choose who might do the job best. And once posed, that question leads to the next: who should do the choosing?

Right now we leave that vitel role to the Democratic leadership and the Republican leadership. They then utilize the media their associates own to give us well financed narratives about their favorite candidates.

We then thoughtfully choose from among these players the one we think has the best narrative. And then, inevitably, once the guy is elevated to power by our acquiescence we become disappointed with him. Because he's not who we thought he was. Every time, it's still Lucy holding the football but, having no other option to act on, we continue to hold out hope it'll go where we kick it.

This is the method you prefer? I'll grant it's better than just letting the professional Ds and Rs, the CEOs, their lobbyists and the senior military brass all get in a big smoke-filled room and decide among themselves how to run us. But isn't there a better way?

Not clear
The Founders gave us a system that was designed to be fluid, dynamic and adaptable. And built in the levers and handles we needed to keep it that way, through the amendment process. And yes, I hate to fault your understanding, but from the beginning the entire point of it was that unlike every other government the world had yet witnessed, THIS one was to be run of, by and for the People.

I don't see the point you're getting at. The passage you quote says exactly that. Yet you seem to think it doesn't.

Amendments require a super majority.
Not a 5-4 vote in the Supreme Court.

Gridlock
Good comment. I don't think I've agreed with much you've said before. But a supermajority of 60% won't even guarantee you safety from minority oppression. Suppose your oppressed minority is only 15% of the population?

Black people for instance. They couldn't vote their way out of oppression after the Civil War. In minority-black districts they stayed on the bottom. And in majority-black districts they were only able to vote themselves into power because of the presence of large numbers of federal troops.

Once the troops left, in 1877, things got worse than ever for them, in some ways. The slavery was more disguised, but the hatred and fear were more out in the open. So their experience of majority rule was not a good one.

One of the central political questions on earth today is how to treat minorities-- as so many countries have serious issues. Israel-Palestine hasn't solved it. Their problem's only getting worse. And when Yugoslavia broke up it got uglier than anything else mankind can do to one another.

We don't have those problems, thankfully. Because if they did, we don't have any better way to solve them than they do. But we do have the problem of a partisan politics so bad that neither side can do anything without the other side objecting strongly. And with great conviction.

The country is more or less fifty-fifty on everything. Half of us hate the wars, the other half salutes the flag. Half of us want a national health plan, the other half think that's socialism. There's no way laws can be drawn that both sides find acceptable.

In such a context, looking for the miniscule fraction of voter fraud that occurs at the polls is a joke. It's a waste of effort. Hardly anyone cares that much. The real fraud occurs at the state board of elections level. It's the way our presidencies are won and lost.

So if you want to campaign for something, campaign for bipartisan election boards in every precinct in the United States. This is a giant problem, one including voter nullification by simple incompetency, like polling places where all the machines break down and no one can stand in line for ten hours, waiting for someone to come fix them.

Black people can't vote their way out of oppression NOW.
Even when Gerrymandering black majority districts.
Why? They need the excuse to call everyone else racist and receive more government program money.
Dependence upon the state is the real oppression.

Find a better system
The problem with any change is the backside; otherwise known as unintended consequences. These are, in fact, the biggest problem with the present system. Yes, the compromise of 1877 was horrible, event he best people make mistakes and this was a bad idea from the get go. (Much like the present healthcare bills being considered - somethimes you do need to just go back and start over)

So what is your better way?

A few of my better ways
"So what is your better way?"

I don't waste as much time as I used to thinking about the perfect system. We hav a world full of imperfect people. They would detest such a system.

Instead I find it more productive to ask "where might we go from here"? And I think there's a lot we could do if the popular will actually demanded it, not just sort of wanted it and were easily disappointed.

The first thing would be to actively promote an independent media, or many such medias. They could act as a counterweight to the disinformation brought to us by unlimited campaign financing. And there's really hardly any way we could avoid big money in politics. No matter how you write the law, we're going to have political parties. And they're going to have contributors.

Would government financing compromise such networks? Not if PBS and the BBC are any example. They operate largely independently of their financing source, their host governments. And they bring us programming that profit-driven information providers can't make as much profit on. Without them, we see much more celebrity dancing, CEOs for a day and bachelors choosing from bevies of hopeful bimbos. With them, we see actual discourse between opposing views.

Here's another idea. Put a lid on any single-source contributor of $100. It wouldn't eliminate corporate money-- but it would force them to be more devious.

And it would do two things. First, it would limit the amount of cash going to the networks so we could be rid of the blizzard of disinformation we endure in election years. And second, it would mean that the mail carrier with a strong opinion could donate $100, while the head of General Electric could also donate $100. For that matter GE itself could contribute another $100. Fair enough?

Here's a third good idea. One person, one vote. Get rid of the electoral system. The only reason we ever had it is now long outdated. Prior to modern media few people ever actually saw the candidates. So they hired surrogates-- the electors-- to examine them and choose in their stead. One's elector filled a purpose akin to that filled by one's congress person.

Today we have as close a look at all of them as we need. Let the public vote. Then count the votes. Too simple?

Three good ideas. Give me a minute, I can come up with more.

More or less fifty-fifty???
Where do you get that?? Every poll and study says you are wrong. Between 25 and 30 percent are liberal and between 30 and 40 percent are conservative with 30-45% moderate. By party it is even more defined; abut 30 percent are registered republicans and 35% are registered democrats with 45% registered with a third party or no party at all.

The independent middle is still larger than either party or either ideology. Take any issue, a good example is the present healthcare issue. I would guess that 75-85% of the country agrees that our present healthcare system has a lot of problems. However, only about 25% want a big government solution; either a total takeover or a big increase in entitlement. Also, only about 25% want no solution. The 50% in the middle are torn and some will take the present proposed legislation, most will not.

But there is a way to draw up legislation on this that a super majority will agree with. IT is called incremental steps. Start with the things that aren't in dispute like certain insurance regulation (Portability, rules for coverage, etc.). Then come up with a compromise on how to do the things that everyone agrees should be done but disagrees how to do them. Then move on to the real disagreeable issues. This would end the gridlock, get something good done and get rid of the 4,000 page super laws that does nothing.

This is has been proposed by democrats and republicans but is unacceptable to the leadership in both houses and the President. So now they have forced the opposition to dig in and we will have gridlock that backs up everything until it is either passed or killed.

"Half of us hate the wars, the other half salutes the flag."

You must be kidding, I've traveled all over this country and I talk to people. On this issue, like most, feelings are complex. I would say 10% are totally against the way, 20% think it was a bad idea and won't support it, but won't really oppose it either, 35% think something had to be done but aren't sure what other options we had, 20% think we had to do it and will support the effort even though they don't like it, and 15% support it fully. Depending on how a pollster wants to word the questions, it could be said that 85% don't fully support the effort or that 90% are not against the effort.

On the issue of Saluting the flag, 75% always do it and 20% do it most of the time, on the other hand only 25% are flag wavers but 80% will fly or wave the flag on patriotic holidays and at events.

Even in places like Berkley or San Francisco it is not 50-50.

Your idea on bipartisan election boards is a wonderful one. I think election day should be a 100% manditory participation federal holiday as well, this will give people the time to go to the polls and vote.

Nothing is ever 50-50! Non-party moderates decide every election! Trying to get the pulse of such a diverse group as Americans is very difficult! Don't be fooled by the rhetoric, vote a candidate's history!

Give us your better plan
Thanks. Some times I forget how dumb you can be.

Gerrymandering is far from an exclusively black phenomenon. It's a bipartisan affair, and fuels our current rule by the perpetual incumbencies we now have.

This can't be easily repaired because the very people now in the state and federal legislatures are the beneficiaries of the system. The drawing of fair, simple districts would cause the voters to eject them from office.

But you say "Dependence upon the state is the real oppression."

Sure. The rich depend on the state to make them richer. The poor depend on it to keep them from starving. The losers are the people who'd like to be middle class.

Do you have a better plan? Let's hear it. Once we remove the state, are our traffic signals to be maintained by profit-oriented companies?

And should we retain the dollar? Because once we do away with the state, the dollar they print goes with it.

The committed vs uncommitted voter
"Every poll and study says you are wrong. Between 25 and 30 percent are liberal and between 30 and 40 percent are conservative with 30-45% moderate."

Those polls you cite only match how people would describe their own opinions against some very elastic buzzwords. They're not very enlightening. Instead, look at election results. More and more, every race ends up not too far from 50-50.

San Francisco, not surprisingly, is at one extreme. My zip code's at the other. Consistently we vote about 70% R, 30% D in the presidential campaigns. (Although Obama tipped that scale considerably toward the Ds.)

For governor we vote D, to distinguish ourselves from Charlotte, which votes R and always loses. Our House of Reps people are all incumbents of one stripe or another, as we're one of the most gerrymandered of all the states. And our senatorial candidates all run very close races.

"I think election day should be a 100% manditory participation federal holiday.."

I am very strongly against mandatory participation. Those people who don't vote now are not voting for a very good reason. It's because they're too damned dumb and don't give a rat's ass. Allowing them to dilute the committed and educated vote any further would be a disastrous idea!

I frequently impart this message to our local get-out-the-vote citizens' groups. They have yet to come up with an adequate response.

"Nothing is ever 50-50! Non-party moderates decide every election!"

True, the unaffiliated decide every election. But the more people you have, voting every whichaway, the more the results get decided by chance. And the definition of a coin toss is 50-50.

Considering the role money plays, there's getting to be less distinction to be made anyway between Dirtball A and Dirtball B. Either way, the military gets its way, the corporations get their profits enhanced by subsidies, and the employed portion of the public gets the bill.

unintended consequences
There is, and never has been, a truly independent media. As one who has spent a career in this business I can only say that you present newspaper is probably as close as it gets. Newspapers are, at least, independent of government input and control. Unfortunately the airwave media is not; but it is obviously not controlled by the government either. The internet presently is free of government control but for how long, and it has no quality control.

I'm curious how you would propose creating a truly independent media? Are you talking government control for all media like with PBS or BBC? I was say to you the unintended consequences would be enormous. We already have PBS and it only works as badly as it does because of the independent media that is out there. PBS does not control what information the public gets so those in power cannot gain undue influence by taking it over. And most of what is on PBS is pretty poor quality, though there are exceptions like NOVA.

I don't mind your contributor limits at all, though I would say a higher number ($200, $500, $1,000) could be used. One that is not out of reach of the everyday family man but allows for real limits on a single source. I do not see an unintended consequence in this, though I'm sure there is one and it will depend greatly on how the law is written.

One person, one vote - Perhaps my bias comes from a lifetime in a rural state, but I do not agree with getting rid of the electoral college. The biggest reason is you don not gain what you believe you would gain. I.E. politician will still spend all their time in the big states and carrying a state like California, Texas or New York by a wide margin can win you a close election as quickly as carrying the battleground states will right now. Obama won a landslide victory but only wont he popular vote by 8%, 3% can be a big margin in a presidential election and the specter of voter fraud in the case of a 3% or less win becomes huge. It may be millions of votes, but it is only a handful per precinct. And my bias comes from the fact that it is more fair because of regional and state-to-state differences. A lot of national elections are not decided because of party affiliation, but by the different ways the parties and the candidates look at issues. How people feel abut this can have as much do do with where they live as it does their personal political leanings. I like Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico having some say. And combined they actually have some clout in spite of a fairly small population. We are millions of people who have a very different view based largely on our regional area. This view would be completely ignored, I believe, in a strictly popular election.

Follow the Constitution.
That is step one.

Not quite right
The polls on self-described liberals or conservatives are what you say, but the voter rolls don't lie, neither do the votes on issues. We are 50-50 on presidential elections most of the time because it is so often a case of the lesser of two evils.

I am not for mandatory voting, I was talking about a mandatory holiday where every business is closed and only essential services remain on the job. Too many idiots already vote, on that we agree.

And on your final point I fully agree.

Awaken a sleeping giant.
As long a the politicians don't the government bother too many people, most won't have the interest to vote.
What happens is like the frog in boiling water. Politicians keep turning up the heat so slowly they don't seem much change year in and year out.
But when the pols get too close to crossing a major inflection point, people wake up and vote as they did in MA with Scott Brown.
The tea parties are on. The net is buzzing with anti-government sentiment and now they want to try and grant amnesty to illegal aliens.
The only solution is to vote all the bums out as often as one can.

Independent media
Good comment. I don't see that it's possible to 'create' some new independent media. If there's no market for it, no one will watch or listen to it anyway. And if there IS a market, it will appear unbidden.

PBS stations are controlled by state broadcasting systems, and those of many states are very good (sadly, NC is about the worst of the lot). And their sponsors don't apply any visible pressure. PBS is also a good clean source of news & information on radio.

Air America passed away quietly, combining a small audience demographic with (apparently) poor management. But since its passing I've noticed an annoying trend: lefty programs appealing to the same segment of the public that the worst of the right has been appealing to. That is, loudmouthed yahoos of the progressive persuasion acting like bad versions of Hannity, Beck or O'Reilly. Certainly they can do better than emulate those rabble rousers.

In terms of good reporting, one problem is that news staffs have been severely reduced, for budgetary reasons. So there's just no one there to do actual in-depth reporting. Or if there is, there's no money to put them out in Afghanistan, or wherever. So papers tend to take more news off the wire-- and the AP today is a degenerate shadow of its former self.

The other problem, though, is that today's editors don't demand good reporting. They're content to put a stringer in DC to report on what some politician or general said. And if they want it to look like it's 'in-depth' they find some guy from the other side of the aisle, and report what HE said. People get used to reading these kinds of views and they get to thinking that's all there is to the national debate.

Or, you get some really pernicious points of view from the agencies that maintain a stable of pundits-for-hire. Probably a majority are ideologues from some institute or foundation. Which would be okay if they ever found opposing, or varying, viewpoints and gave them equal time.

So that while we don't see direct, governmental pressure the way we would in a simpler authoritarian country, we do see indirect, subtle pressures that result in an ever-narrower band of opinion being expressed. And I think a lot of this has to do with the actual desires of the American public, not just their manufactured desires. They really don't like being disturbed.

So we get the press we deserve. The Christian Science Monitor has always tried to maintain a higher category of excellence. And they were rewarded with such faltering revenues that they've had to convert to a weekly newsmagazine. And it was only by a stroke of luck that they didn't just cease publication entirely.

Next. I don't get your comment: "I'm curious how you would propose creating a truly independent media? Are you talking government control for all media like with PBS or BBC? I was say to you the unintended consequences would be enormous. We already have PBS and it only works as badly as it does because of the independent media that is out there. PBS does not control what information the public gets so those in power cannot gain undue influence by taking it over. And most of what is on PBS is pretty poor quality, though there are exceptions like NOVA."

First, there's no discernible 'government control' at all. If there were, the programming would be very much further to the political right. Can it be that out there in Montana you actually think the people in Washington are a bunch of lefties? If so, you really should take a trip there so you can see for yourself. It's a center-right town, always has been. Read their house organ, the Post.

Government funds PBS and NPR. Other than that, they keep their hands off the product. George Bush tried briefly to control it-- but failed utterly. No other administration has been so reckless as to try.

Then you say PBS 'works badly' and that the programming is of 'poor quality'. I think you might profit from clicking on series like The American Experience. You can undoubtedly watch entire webcasts. Please give this a fair try-- it may be that Montana PBS is inexplicably failing to obtain the good stuff. Even here in NC, since the digital revolution we've expanded to three PBS channels, and are getting a ton of really informative, watchable entertainment.

I can see where programs like Frontline might scare you. Try The American Experience. Get back to me.

The electoral system, and contributor limits
The only reason I suggested a $100 limit was that I have a severe allergy to political disinformation. I break out in a brain rash, and want to throw things at the screen. Most of those ads will actually make one dumber and less informed, the more he watches them. So I thought a lower limit might minimize the quantity of propaganda we have to swallow while waiting for Castle to come back on.

But if you like the stuff, fine. $200. We can watch twice as much of it.

On to the electoral system. Here's your money comment:

"I like Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico having some say. And combined they actually have some clout in spite of a fairly small population. We are millions of people who have a very different view based largely on our regional area. This view would be completely ignored, I believe, in a strictly popular election."

I'd like to see a level playing field, where every citizen's voice has the same weight and volume. Your viewpoint is chauvinist in the sense that you want one Westerner's vote to be worth MORE than that of one Easterner. And that's wrong. I think we saw back when the Dred Scott Decision was announced, that democracy is not served when some of us are only 3/5 of a citizen.

It's true, there aren't that many Westerners. Worse, half of them are old hippies and Hollywood expatriates. And it's only the other half who are white hatted John Wayne types.

But if you pair up your own Christian, solid-values white folks with ours right here in the South, both Old and New, that's an alliance that probably holds the advantage in national politics. So you're not getting short-served. Not in the slightest.

"This view would be completely ignored, I believe, in a strictly popular election."

Wrong. You fellows actually establish the pattern. Oddly enough, there are even people up there in Noo Yawk City who deserve a fair say in national politics-- that is, a vote with a full value of one point zero.

As for the argument that if everyone had a single vote the pols would all spend their time in NYC, Chicago and LA, I would very highly doubt that. Given the miracle of cable television, the viewer-voter out there in Wasilla, AK has exactly the same access to a candidate's every word as does the viewer-voter in Philadelphia. It's a very level playing field.

But please keep those comments coming. Your ideas are head and shoulders above those of your erstwhile compadres here. Hasta, bro.

I will try to bring the dovetail back together here
In most parts of Montana PBS has just one offering. Cable and Sat systems don't seem interested in providing a lot more. Also, I don't have the time to sit and watch for hours to find out what all the programming is. I bounce in and out of programs at different times and find most PBS programming amateurish at best. As I said I am sure there are exceptions, several of them, but that is my personal observation.

BTW Amateur Hour programming is a big part of what killed Air America, they should take some style and professionalism cues from right wing radio and apply it to their left wing offering. It seems Alan Combs does pretty will with a syndicated show.

Roy, I'm not a shut in and get out of Montana with some regularity. I do have a clue what goes on in D.C. and if you call anything there center or center right you are delusional. I beg you to back off that statement or explain just how far off the planet have you fallen!

D.C. is, at best, left of center and in my view solidly left. Most there believe in government, that alone is a left wing concept. Few believe in small government, fiscal limitations and limits on governmental power. And I include Republicans, democrats and any fool who lives and works there. Everyone is to busy trying to consolidate their power base and, thus, increase government power and programs.

In the end, I find PBS poorly done with too many far-left loons like Noam Chomsky having a large platform. PBS Radio is even worse. The point is, if PBS had to stand on it's own in the marketplace, it could not do so. Thus, Roy, You are among a very small minority who are far enough to the left to listen to and watch such poorly done and left wing programming. It is not a knock on you, in fact it may be a knock on the system as a whole, but there it is.

As for good reporting, I do agree that most newspaper reporters are too busy with the ever day stuff to get a lot of good in-depth investigative reporting in. All of the big ones are cutting back and foreign bureaus are the first to go. I can directly attest to the cut backs at the AP and assume similar cuts are happening at UPI and Reuters. Over the past six years the AP has cut their staff in general by half and in the western region by 3/4 or more.It is skeleton crew time at the old Associated Press!

Now on to this post!

My point on the limit was that I do not care too much as long as it is reasonable and reachable by the common joe. 'Nuff said on that.

The electoral system issue is BS. Look, with a minimum of effort and by letting the various state level party organizations take care of it, presidential candidates can focus on the 10 most populous states and maybe a handful of decent sized battle ground states. This is going to be the case most years no matter what system is in place. But there will be many years where the battle if on and every vote counts. This becomes even bigger with the electoral college as usually all votes from a state go to the guy who won that state. This is why President Obama has been to Montana 4 times in two years, three campaigning and one to push healthcare reform. Hilary was here twice, Bill Clinton once. But, more importantly, they were in "fly over country", which had around half the population, more than twice as much as candidates in the past. Because he was from Arizona, John McCain did not appear in Montana and spent a bit less time in the west.

I don't want Montana votes to count for more, I want the people in the inland west and center of the country to quit being "Fly Over" territory. The only way they and their concerns get anything near equal time with politicians is because of the electoral college system and some very good politicians from the area.

I agree with a level playing field, Montana and Wyoming should have, at least, one more representative; as should North Dakota and, possibly Idaho. Representatives in these states have the largest constituent base and land area to represent. If we had it, we would have a bit more clout in D.C. That still wouldn't level the playing field but it would be a step in the right direction.

You see Roy, the nation is all about left or right, their are many dovetailing issues and shades of gray. Where you live is one of them. It is sad that a pretty good chunk of the population is ignored or given a less degree of attention because they don't live in New York, California or Texas.

Often equal vote and equal representation is not equal in a one vote-one person direct democracy. Our founding fathers saw this and did not go that direction. It is only one of many faults that exist in a direct democracy.

"iven the miracle of cable television, the viewer-voter out there in Wasilla, AK has exactly the same access to a candidate's every word as does the viewer-voter in Philadelphia."

Roy, I believe "Joe the Plumber" belies this argument. Are you kidding? Candidates are insulated enough as it is, being able to even try to justify using only TV coverage to reach 3/4 of the country is, well, not acceptable. The TV coverage enhances a "Joe the Plumber" moment, but without the stumping that moment never happens. It or any of a thousand others.

Each vote as a fair value of 1.0, but the impact is felt a bit differently depending on where you live. I would say that a New Yorker has a 1.3 or 1.5 value and a Montanan had a .8 or .7 value. The power of the electoral college is in the consolidation of electoral votes for the winner, not in a positive representation for smaller population states. Montana has just three electoral college votes vs. the largest congressional district in the nation, both in area and population. On the other hand, because all our electoral college votes go to one candidate, in a close election we matter more than our population would indicate.

You are wrong about those in populous states not getting a fair 1-1 value for their vote, and true fairness is not measured by that yardstick, but by where that voice has a chance to be heard. It is the same with minority right. The black population is only 17% of the total population but their interests are on the table in every debate; many of the issues we have in the inland west are never discussed in spite of a total population base of a similar level.

Very possible
But it all took off a bit too soon and it is hard to keep a political ball like this one rolling. If the Tea Party organizers can galvanize voters this summer it could get real interesting in November.

Sex and the City
Great! Snappy comeback. And a lengthy one.

1. It sounds like your Montana PBS suffers from the same problem our NC PBS does. They like to encourage local visual arts graduates. So they employ them, producing series like NC Now.. NC in the News.. Memories of NC.. Gardening in NC.. and NC Spotlight. Oh, I forgot NC Commentary. That's on Wednesdays.

That's not what I was talking about. The national system has access to a remarkable range of programming, most of which rarely sees the light. That's why I turned you on to a sample, one of the best, The American Experience.

2. "they should take some style and professionalism cues from right wing radio and apply it to their left wing offering. It seems Alan Combs does pretty will with a syndicated show."

Oh good lord. He's your idea of a left winger? He's a sock puppet. Sean Hannity only ever employed him to play the buffoon. He looks like a dork, stammers, never gets to complete a sentence and if he does, it turns out he's got nothing interesting to say.

3. "You are wrong about those in populous states not getting a fair 1-1 value for their vote, and true fairness is not measured by that yardstick, but by where that voice has a chance to be heard. It is the same with minority right."

Your problem is that the country has 300 million people. And Montana has one million of them. So in any debate, you rightly get 1/300 of the attention.

The NYC metropolitan area has 17.8 million people. Can you give me any good reason they should NOT have 18 times the political clout of Montana?

You should secede. Really, you should just secede. Ask Wyoming to join you, they also just get 1/300 of what they want. Together you can run the place any way you like. And it would be no one's right to object.

4. "The black population is only 17% of the total population but their interests are on the table in every debate; many of the issues we have in the inland west are never discussed in spite of a total population base of a similar level."

It only seems that way. You are sensitive to black voices, having no more than six or seven black folks in your entire state. :) So to you it's like Woody Allen and Mira Sorvino at the marriage counselor. And he asks them if they have any problems with sexual frequency.

And Woody answers "Oh my god-- we don't have sex more than twice a week."

And Mira tells him "The guy's a maniac. We must be having sex twice a week."

So you see blacks on TV more often than you do on Main Street. It makes it look like they're everywhere.

As is my wont, I'll respond further in a separate post.

Inside the Beltway
"Roy, I'm not a shut in and get out of Montana with some regularity. I do have a clue what goes on in D.C. and if you call anything there center or center right you are delusional. I beg you to back off that statement or explain just how far off the planet have you fallen!"

Good that you do (get out). I also do have some clue what goes on there. My folks moved there in 1947, six blocks from the Capitol. And I finally moved away, 52 years later, from my place five blocks from the Capitol.

During that time I did kind of follow politics. In fact I'd eat breakfast at the Old HOB (that would be the Cannon Building, not the Rayburn) and watch the players show up at the elevator with their entourages in tow. I'm familiar with the actual political dynamic, not the one you see on the news. Because it's a company town.

It's like growing up in Roanoke Rapids, or Clifton Forge. You get to know a little bit about the pulp and paper industry in those places.

The root problem is that you and I have very different definitions of right and left. But if we agree to use the Washington definition, the place has always 'stood at dead center and skewed right'.

Stood at dead center by definition, because our elected officials do represent the median point of American thought. Skewed right, because the inclination of most Americans is (and always has been, except in the depths of the G.D.) to stand right behind the capitalists. That's where all the money is.

And in fact, over the years, the center of politics itself has moved, long term, steadily toward the right.

These are inflexible definitions, the ones used by the people whose professional jargon they actually come from. To quibble with these definitions is like quibbling with a master brick mason over the definition of 'setting out', or 'stretcher bond'. You will lose. He will prevail.

But I do feel your pain. It's a very long way from home, and they speak a funny language. Almost Un American.

It's all in one's perspective
1. "In the end, I find PBS poorly done with too many far-left loons like Noam Chomsky having a large platform."

I've watched public television since it was born. And I don't think I've ever heard his name mentioned more than once or twice in passing. And we've never seen his face there, because he's hardly ever been invited.

Google tells me Charlie Rose had him on once, back in 2003. (I missed that.) And here's one occasion when he was featured on NOW (missed that one too):

http://www.pbs.org/now/news/239.html

Meanwhile, how many times do you suppose James Woolsey, or maybe Richard Perle, has been invited to offer his commentary there on events of the day? You could look that up. But I've watched them each several times there.

2. "PBS Radio is even worse."

Did you listen to Howard Zinn's eulogy on NPR?

Howard was one of the left's grand old men, living well into his 80s. So when they announced his death, they did have someone go on a bit about what he meant to the intellectual community.

Then, in an inane attempt to give equal time, they invited David Horowitz on, to trash his memory mercilessly. Howard was not around to object.

It was said by some that this was the first eulogy they'd ever heard that featured a rebuttal.

Poor taste? I thought so. But certainly not the act of an entity with a left handled axe to grind.

3. "The point is, if PBS had to stand on it's own in the marketplace, it could not do so."

Here's a very crucial point that was made way back in the 1950s. And it's the reason a PBS was created in the first place.

The first television producers had tremendous respect for the new medium. And wanted to put on productions that would compare to the very best of the traditional theater. So they found writers like Paddy Chayevsky, developed great scripts and employed the best of the new actors available.

And it was good stuff. Only problem, most folks preferred Milton Berle.

And the broadcast corporations had a different perspective than did the producers. To them, the only value worth pursuing was money. And Uncle Miltie had more viewers, thus sponsors would pay them more.

But this is a grand country, and many people felt there should be room for both. Commercial television, to appeal to the majority. No problem there. But also noncommercial TV to appeal to those who wanted something better. Or at least some choice.

They had the same dialog in Paris, 200 years ago. People of taste wanted Moliere. And the rabble preferred something called Gran Guignol. Today? There are those who are just as happy that market forces didn't shove old Moliere's plays out of existence. Meanwhile the G-G is long forgotten. And justly so.

4. "Thus, Roy, You are among a very small minority who are far enough to the left to listen to and watch such poorly done and left wing programming. It is not a knock on you, in fact it may be a knock on the system as a whole, but there it is."

This is a personal opinion, to which you're entitled. I would need more information though, to see whether I was in agreement with you.

Is there "poorly done" programming I enjoy? Well, I used to watch Pee Wee Herman back when he had his kid's show. And that was certainly sloppy, improvised and far from professional. That's what I liked about it. But on PBS? Maybe you could give me an example of something you think I would like but you wouldn't.

(Please do.)

Onward. Is there left wing programming I like? Certainly. Frontline and Bill Moyers spring to mind. They are "left wing" in the sense that they offer intelligent critiques of our current government. But certainly not in the sense you might employ, that they somehow want to inculcate in the viewer a faith in Big Government. Quite the opposite in fact. They would like government to be more responsive to the needs of the governed. (How subversive!)

But I think those shows are very thoroughly researched and professionally produced. I don't think you could make a case for their amateurish nature, I really don't. Maybe you should actually watch them once or twice, instead of just thinking about how bad they must be.

They're all on webcast now. Go, get your feet wet. Moyers is particularly good when he touches on the current financial predicament. You'll find yourself being educated and entertained by his guests.

The Tea Party
Have you noticed? The thing that makes the Tea Party so telegenic is not their views and opinions. Everyone has a bunch of those. It's the fact that they can get SCREAMING MAD!

It makes good television. And I suspect if they're screaming mad this year, they'll be just as mad a few years down the pike, as things continue to degrade.

No, they didn't.
You believe that on Planet Roy, but on Planet Federalist Papers, they were very, very clear that they wanted institutionalized gridlock that would keep the mobs at bay.

"And yes, I hate to fault your understanding, but from the beginning the entire point of it was that unlike every other government the world had yet witnessed, THIS one was to be run of, by and for the People."

Nope, it wasn't. That garbage is nothing but the BS they say and program into us since grade school to make us THINK that is how it works and WHY.

But in reality, they based it upon John Locke's view of the world, not Roy Bean's fantasies.

That is why the word 'consent' is used. It had a specific meaning amongst the Founders:

On James Madison in Federalist #10: "He[Madison] identifies the most serious source of faction to be the diversity of opinion in political life which leads to dispute over fundamental issues such as what regime or religion should be preferred. However, he thinks "the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society." "

They wanted to protect themselves and their progeny from the mobs and the demagogues who would use them to ride to Tyranny, like Julius Caesar and many others did.

Very probable
After taking over health care the government wants to let illegal aliens vote.
Maybe it is all a plot to **** off so many people martial law will be declared.

Federalist #10
You're reading what you want into this admirable editorial. So let's take a look and see what it actually espouses.

Also, let's keep in mind that this paper was not one of our founding documents, signed by all present from the various states. It's an editorial, appearing in The Daily Advertiser for Nov. 22, 1787. But, it's a good one.

Madison describes the dynamics of factionalism, and its tendency to bring down democratic governments. But you say "They wanted to protect themselves and their progeny from the mobs and the demagogues.." And I can see nothing where he says or implies that of the two factions, the propertied classes shall always prevail, and the penniless classes go down in defeat. It's just not in there. Read it again:

http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa10.htm

In the passage you cite, he does say "Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government."

There is nothing in this that makes the case that the cause of the debtors shall be discounted, and only the cause of the creditors prevail. No, he says that "The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government." That is, the rights of the pauper or the worker are as inalienable as those of the burgher or the lord.

Otherwise the thing doesn't work. You can't see that?

Those "mobs" you denigrate in fact are composed of good citizens also, just like your own favored side of the factional dispute, the moneyed classes. And you can't have a working system that depends on the popular will without engaging and to whatever degree possible satisfying both.

So listen up, bro:

"No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time; yet what are many of the most important acts of legislation, but so many judicial determinations, not indeed concerning the rights of single persons, but concerning the rights of large bodies of citizens? And what are the different classes of legislators but advocates and parties to the causes which they determine? Is a law proposed concerning private debts? It is a question to which the creditors are parties on one side and the debtors on the other. Justice ought to hold the balance between them."

The spirit in this admirable document directly contradicts the current sentiment, that a rich man can spend a million dollars to make his voice immensely loud, while a poor man must be guided by the police to some distant "free speech area" where he can shout to his heart's content... but no one will be there to hear him.

The police. A young child at a labor rally once asked his mother what they were all doing there, surrounding the crowd. And she replied "They're there to make sure that them's that have nothing can't take away from them's that have a lot."

James Madison would have had a problem with this.

The problem is the secret ballot
Any election of over 10 million people can be fixed. There is no constitutional requirement for a secret ballot;

I propose that every county post the voter roll in spreadsheet format with name and address.

I propose that every ballot be posted on line in spreadsheet format.

Every person can then check for dead neighbors and make his own tally.

Nice try
"Oh good lord. He's your idea of a left winger? He's a sock puppet. Sean Hannity only ever employed him to play the buffoon. He looks like a dork, stammers, never gets to complete a sentence and if he does, it turns out he's got nothing interesting to say."

He seems to do O.K. with his syndicated radio show and, comparatively (To the rest of the successful radio talk crowd), he is quite far to the left.

"Your problem is that the country has 300 million people. And Montana has one million of them. So in any debate, you rightly get 1/300 of the attention."

No we get less than that as we have a million and a single representative. As I said, the largest congressional district in the nation in terms of both area and population. That is my point and it really shouldn't be that way.

"It only seems that way. You are sensitive to black voices, having no more than six or seven black folks in your entire state. :)"

Oh please, don't give me that cr@p!! The African-American perspective is considered before any law is even uttered. There is no more PC a place than the halls of government, especially on racial issues.

I see you point
But I'm not ready to concede to it. Socially this country has been heading left for 40 years or more; maybe 80 years or more.

Fiscally, it depends. If fiscal responsibility is a conservative trait, than it has been a nearly unending move to the left since Kenedy at least.

Governmentally you may have a point. Certainly if you are talking classic liberal vs modern liberal. But I tend to equate conservative with fairly strict constitionalist and a touch of libertarianism. In that respect, the government has not been conservative in 100 years or more.

On this issue I think we are just going to have to agree to disagree.

Ghosts from the past
"He seems to do O.K. with his syndicated radio show and, comparatively (To the rest of the successful radio talk crowd), he is quite far to the left."

He's a showman. Alan Colmes is no more an authentic left thinker than is James Carville. Those two are creatures of the media, very much the same as Michael Savage or Glenn Beck. They have created a shtick with which to make money. It takes more than shoe polish and a banjo to make an authentically black man.

Beck and Savage, though, have tasted the intoxicating brew. They have large numbers of followers. So they could, in the right circumstance, become demagogues. Alan Colmes, on the other hand, has no followers. He plays the clown, a sad clown really.

2. If Montana happens to have the most people of any congressional disrtict, it's probably approaching the line where it splits and adds a second district. Then when that happens you'll have twice as much representation. That's the way it works.

A few years back Utah and NC were in a contest to add an extra district (I forget who it was that lost their district). It was quite a fight. One year you're up, the next year you're down. So don't cry over redistricting. Your day will come.

I recall back in 2000 I ran the numbers and found that one Wyoming voter was worth 4-1/2 California voters, measured in congressional clout. And to me, all this just proves that we should do away with the electoral system and have one person equal one vote, all across the land.

Logically, you would have to be in agreement. You see the same unfairness I do, and that would be the remedy.

3. If we as a nation are sensitive to African American issues it's only due to our history. Four centuries of injustice were finally given official recognition. And you should observe a moment of silence at this moment, while you remember that this country was built very largely through the efforts of forced labor that was never paid for.

In fact in your home state you should probably observe a moment of silence for the Chinese, one of our other reviled and abused immigrants. For you it's just an old story you don't like to remember. But for others, it's the memory of a hurtful past, and abused forefathers. So I find the derision behind the thought that it's just "PC" a little bit offensive.

The past is not quite gone yet. Some of us are not yet through saying we're sorry for what happened.

Ronald Reagan, the arch anti-conservative
"Socially this country has been heading left for 40 years or more; maybe 80 years or more."

Since coming here to observe and to post, some years ago, I've noticed a very interesting thing. One attribute every one of you seems to exhibit is that your picture of the world developed during your adolenscence-- and it has never moved up with the years.

It's like the music many people listen to. Instead of staying contemporary, and listening to each new music as it evolves, they stay stuck in the sound they listened to when they were seventeen. The plethora of oldies stations serves this taste.

And I can tell how old you are by your complaint. The USA was very hard to the right up until about 1907, when it began to inch toward the left. But a right reaction prevailed after the Great War, until the economy it built crashed and burned in 1929.

Beginning in 1933 we went all the way toward building a nation that served its people.. ALL its people. For the first time in our history. Then during the midst of the next war, Daddy Warbucks and the industrial powers regained the upper hand.

Certainly from the Truman administration forward, we've been headed toward the right again. And beginning with Reagan the trend accelerated. Until with the second Bush we were all the way right.

So if you see the entire history of the nation, it's give and take. But if you see just the part of the graph you grew up with, the direction went toward the left.

In terms of fiscal responsibility, it would be easy to google up a chart of the growth in the money supply, or the Debt, or the annual deficits as expressed as percentage of GDP. And in fact you really would be well informed to take the time to look up such a chart. Government irresponsibility really didn't get seriously out of hand until Reagan came along.

The only reckless incident before that was when we borrowed from the future to pay for WW Two. And we paid that debt down in commendable time. Please, look it up. The numbers tell the story. Start around 1940 and see what the trend looks like.

Let's not agree to disagree. Let's look at the facts clearly until we're forced to agree.

ghosts....but only in your mind
The same way that the relgious ghosts are just products of people's minds, your ghosts are also just so. Because you are "not yet through saying we're sorry for what happened", doesn't mean anyone else should be.

You said that 'history is not done' yet. I would rather say that history is done when the people who are doing it, stope doing it. So should modern mexican indians feel guilt because of all the human sacrifices their ancestors performed till the spanish invaders stopped them?

Should modern peruvians indians keep saying they're sorry for their inca ancestors imperialism all over south america?

Should moder american indian tribes feel guilty and pay retribution for the other tribes they wiped out, and forced to relocate? How will your guilt and shame go over when you give a presentation on their reservations?

So please just keep the apologies to yourself. Just because I might be part French I deny any guilt for Napoleon raping and pillaging all over europe.

I might actually one of Mao's grandchildren, but leave me out of the guilt trips for his killing about 70 people.

Or I might be the descendant of one of the black americans who also owned slaves. No way I'm going to try to find the descendants and grovel before them for forgiveness for my ancestors.

The word is 'respect'
"The same way that the relgious ghosts are just products of people's minds, your ghosts are also just so. Because you are "not yet through saying we're sorry for what happened", doesn't mean anyone else should be."

Yes, in fact you should be. Because the labor that built the country you now enjoy (and refuse to pay for) never got sufficiently paid for their work. Neither the Native Americans, who were just run off the land and herded onto waste lands, nor the slaves, who were never paid, nor all the European immigrants who came here searching for better opportunities, and who spent the first generation or two being worked to death in the mines or the factories.

You should have a little trace of humility, and offer a word of thanks to their memory. You should, in a word, have a bit of respect for your fellow man.

We stand on the shoulders of giants, and take for granted those things they bought for us with their own sweat, blood and tears. If such a sentiment makes you laugh, that's probably only what I'd expect from you.

not my ghosts
First off my forefathers were among the last abused group. the scandinavians who came over at the turn of the 20th century and some of the Irish and Scotts Irish as well. No one in my line ever abused a chinese worker, owned a slave (in this country anyway) or had anything to do with any of the nonsense. They came, worked, fought and did their best.

Second, I do not believe that anyone alive today has to answer for anything that happened before their great-grandfathers were born. That is just stupid. I'm sick to death of the society of victims. If you wish to continue to perpetrate that nonsense than please do it in another direction.

I agree that the mistakes of the past need to be acknowledged and, where possible, appropriate changes need to be made. From there you move on. On the subject of all the racial issues this has been done, it is past time to move on.

I will agree on Reagan as far as fiscal responsibility
Yes, he was the king of deficit spending, before the president we now have, but he was the one who changed the direction of the constant growth in government and should get some credit for a slowing of the leftward march on social issues.

I disagree this country was headed right for more than a few years between left turns however. Roy, I grew up in the 70s and still enjoy music from Train, Usher and My Chemical Romance; and socially the nation has moved significantly left since 1980. More divorce, more high level violence, more PC nonsense, more acceptance of liberal nonsense, etc.

Reagan was a stop of the march left and Bush Jr saw a bit of a slowing; neither turned either government or society right at all. Government policies followed suit and fiscal responsibility went out the window long before Reagan.

Again, it is not a question of whether it is a good or bad thing, it just is the way things have gone.

well done Roy
I applaud you complete use of the facts and admirable conclusion. I do agree that Madison would have a problem with that.

no respect, even for Rodney Dangerfield
I don't mind if you feel shame for something somebody else did in the past, but it doesn't mean I have to. It's more of a liberal notion all this self-loathing from the past. I reject it.

I know some people make the case that the Romans didn't pay enough when they conquered and occupied the land of my ancestors, but that doesn't mean I should be pisssed at modern day Italians. Nor do I feel that people in Italy own me restitution for all the raping and pillaging the did with my ancestors.

On another level, you try to make the case that they "never got paid sufficiently for their work". But that's the same stupid line you make nowadays! You're always harping about how people should be paid more than the market clearing rate for labor.

But I do have respect for all former slaves. I have often spoken of Spartacus in this forum.

In fact I am so humanitarian that once when I had a chance for a job in the Sudan years ago, where they still have slaves, I was going to buy one of them myself (they say the price was about $50 at the time) and manumit her later. How humanitarian is that? And in spite of there being no laws against abusing her, and no labor union for her to join, I'll bet I would have treated her far better than any servant in the 19th century, anywhere.

Social consciousness
"I don't mind if you feel shame for something somebody else did in the past, but it doesn't mean I have to. It's more of a liberal notion all this self-loathing from the past. I reject it."

Shame's the wrong word. You really don't have the vocabulary to understand what I'm trying to describe.

But I'll try. Shame would be if you had done something to someone, and felt bad about it later. That's not it.

Nor is self-loathing. I feel very good about myself.

The problem is structural. We live in a society where the fortunate ones, who work the least, make most of the money. And those who work the hardest earn the least. This kind of setup obviously depends on a lot of people just not having the opportunity to work at all. Otherwise the 'market clearing rate' for pay would be a lot higher.

And those who hold the reins of power would be a lot weaker. Because money wouldn't be so important to everyone, that they would want to indenture themselves to a bad boss for the privilege of keeping a bad job.

I don't begrudge anyone's being rich, so long as he is rich and responsible. But no one has a right to personal wealth so long as there are so many whose basic needs are unmet. We as members of the common species have a debt to repay when we take more than we need and ignore others who may be hungry.

Of course, you reject this kind of thinking. Fine. But there's a practical side of it too. Because if we go into a future world where income inequality continues to increase, and the population also increases, we'll have several billion people fighting the rich nations for their very survival. Not just the way it is now, with a handful of Muslims fighting us. And if we don't do some basic thinking about resource allocation, the other 1.3 billion Muslims, and their meighbors, are likely to fight once they understand their very survival is at stake.

I prefer being a nice guy now. I don't have to have a lot. So I try to donate the excess to organizations that are doing good work. And the world would be a much better place if everyone thought that way.

But your way works too. Buy some girl, use her and then at some point set her free. Then what? She gets sold to someone else.

Shrinking government
Ronald Reagan. "he was the one who changed the direction of the constant growth in government and should get some credit for a slowing of the leftward march on social issues."

I hate to tell you this, but Reagan didn't change the direction of growth. At least not toward the better. The number of government employees on the payroll hit a minimum during 1973-1982. That is, while Ford and Carter were in office.

From 1983 to 1990 the numbers climbed again. In other words, from Reagan policies. I'm counting a 1-2 year lag time while policies of the previous administration still have a visible effect.

Then from 1993 to 2002 the federal workforce dwindles. Thank Poppy Bush and you know who.

Since then, Bush the Younger hasn't done that badly, if you measure by the numbers. He chased everyone out of the bureaucracy who showed any signs of competence, replacing them with political hacks and cronies. So the government then shrank-- but rank incompetence and disinterest in doing the work became major issues.

http://www.opm.gov/feddata/HistoricalTables/TotalGovernmentSince1962.asp

Social conservatism
Oh, now I know what you mean. You're not talking about political conservatism. It would be indeed hard to argue the country became more lefty-liberal once they started electing guys like Reagan. What you mean is it became more leftwing culturally. Things like divorce, or violence.

And I think I have to disagree with you there too. Wasn't it around 1968 that the whole country went haywire, with student riots, free dope and promiscuous wimmen not wearing bras? To me, all that was over by the end of the seventies. When Reagan came in people were starting to wear normal clothes, cut their hair and get a regular job. They were even thinking about working on their cocaine habits.

Of course I didn't grow up in a small western town back in the 1970s. It may have been that the trends arrived late up your way. Me? I'd been living off the grid since around 1962. 1980 was the year I think I got my first real job.

Yay
Thank you for being nonpartisan. Wanna join my fan club?

social..............ist?
OK, maybe it just sounds like abject self-loathing.

But I don't accept it when you say "as members of a common species have a debt to repay......"
I only think we have a debt to repay when we take out a loan from somebody.

I also reject the idea that if we don't give our money to those other countries they will fight us for their survival. I go more by the fact that most of those countries are getting richer, so I can't see Taiwan, and Sinagapore, or India or China fighting us for survival. Some other countries thought that are not getting rich fast enough, or going backward is because of bad government policies, and lack of economic freedom. So in those instances, giving them money actually perpetuates the situation because it's basically paying off the kleptrocrates there to continue it thus.

I'm not sure what you meant about the slave girl I would have manumitted had i taken that job.

The alternatives for her would have been:
-to not be bought by me, but some brutal arab maybe,
-perhaps never get manumitted.

What should I have done there? Do my housecleaning myself and give no chance for honest work to her? Hire a free girl, and find out where in the world maids get the highest pay, perhaps switzerland or maybe norway, and pay her that same wage.
Hire a free girl and pay her the market clearing rate, say f$15 a month it think it was?

And you're wrong that after I left she would be sold to someone else, because when you manumit somebody they become a 'free' person, the same as anyone else there who is free.

What would you have done? And how would you explain it to the girl if you were there and could talk to her? Would you say to her; 'sorry honey but I'm against the col. buying you and treating you nice and then freeing you because I think that in theory such a circumstance shouldn't exist. So just be happy to sit in your pen and stoicly accept your fate and don't take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to be bought by the col.
I wonder what she would answer you.

Common humanity
I get it-- you're just not a member of the club.

For some of us, each man is an island. Others think we're all in this together. And you quite naturally think of this sort of thing as being creepy and collectivist. In fact the more you think about it, your fevered imagination turns it into some global conspiracy to deny you your freedom.

Which it's not. People like me have a genuinely hard time trying to understand people like you. And I sincerely hope you make it. But you are doomed to dissatisfaction if you try to make it in the midst of a bunch of people who think like the rest of us. Because we like rules, and order. And our first impulse is not to just destroy them and have the law of the jungle rule our lives, but to find ways to improve those rules-- so they allow us to build better lives.

I know, I know. That will never build a better life and bla bla bla. But you don't know what motivates us and what we want. The mere notion that we really want to control everyone is deeply weird. We would only like to limit the activities of those who want to enslave us. Those in fact who currently enslave us,

The freedom you uphold is in fact an economic freedom. And those are the fetters that bind us to toil for masters by choice, because we need those dribbets of money they see fit to shower upon us. And what we're seeking is a better deal.

But you don't see this as anything but a threat. Fine. Still, take my advice and go somewhere there aren't many people. Because most of us belong to a common humanity and would, once they get to know you, find you quite annoying.

Theories and observations
Here's an example of how our thinking differs. You figure something out in your head-- and then, for you, that's what's true. I see what's actually going on. Then I'm free to form some idea about it.

"I'm not sure what you meant about the slave girl I would have manumitted had i taken that job.

"The alternatives for her would have been:
-to not be bought by me, but some brutal arab maybe,
-perhaps never get manumitted."

The real life examples we find of slavery, and in particular sexual slavery in today's society, show us that women who've been bought and "manumitted" often end up right where they started.

You have to remember they didn't choose that life willingly. They were abducted by predators. Skilled individuals using deceit and force to ensnare young women. And the pattern is much the same whether we're talking about the Marianas, Thailand, Kosovo or Sudan.

Pay their price and leave them there on the street, and they'll know no other life. Trying to find their way back home they'll just fall prey to the next predator who finds them. If you want to do one of them a favor, marry her. Then she'll be yours for life.

Don't want to? Leave them be. You can't do much to help them.

Note that this is not just my dumb opinion, which I cooked up by looking at the ceiling and pondering. This is the professional opinion of antislavery activists who've been working in this world for a long time now. It's an intractable problem. And any victims who are freed need years of close followup. Even then, they often revert.

"What would you have done? And how would you explain it to the girl if you were there and could talk to her? Would you say to her; 'sorry honey but I'm against the col. buying you and treating you nice and then freeing you because I think that in theory such a circumstance shouldn't exist. So just be happy to sit in your pen and stoicly accept your fate and don't take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to be bought by the col.
I wonder what she would answer you."

I know what she'd do with you. She'd use you.

Women on the stroll size up a mark immediately. And you would fall into the category of someone who wouldn't pay for sex but would pay handsomely for the privilege of buying her grateful freedom. So she'd get together with her owner and decide on a price and an approach that would get the job done.

Then she'd take you to him, you'd pay him a stack of money and later on, she and the pimp would have a good laugh over the affair. She'd probably get a fat tip for you.

That's life in the big city.

You're taking this all wrong
"I do not believe that anyone alive today has to answer for anything that happened before their great-grandfathers were born. That is just stupid. I'm sick to death of the society of victims. If you wish to continue to perpetrate that nonsense than please do it in another direction."

Your response tells me you have some emotional infrastructure that gets in the way of your understanding what I'm talking about.

It's nothing personal. I assume that you haven't personally murdered, cheated or enslaved anyone. You needn't be defensive. The responsibility I'm talking about is something different.

'Mistakes' have certainly been made in the past. But we are all still there. Those same mistakes are compounding themselves in the present, as we speak. And despite our best efforts, we can see the likelihood of things getting even worse in the future.

Ethologists would call what we're heading into "predator pressure". An expanding number of individuals is competing for a finite amount of resource. This is the kind of situation that brings out the worst in people.

You're very fortunate to be living in a relative backwater. Allow me to suggest that had you been born in a different part of the planet you might have had a very different view. But off in Montana things are very nice in some ways that are atypical of the places most people have to live.

It's the recognition of this great human tragedy that impels me to have a more serious view of our collective endeavor here: what it is we're trying to do, and where we're going wrong. I don't strut as some might do, asserting my right to profit from the rest. I take my share of the work to be done, in the service of building what some day we hope to be a rewarding society in which to live. This is in return for the privilege of being born here.

I can see, through your eyes, that this is no doubt a very alien philosophy. "Self-loathing" was your first thought, right? Well, the little self had nothing to do with it. It comes from the larger self.

theories......
One part of your message I even agree with but not the following.

My example of the slave was not describing "women on the stroll...size up a mark" , or even, "she'd get together with her owner".

In slave situations they're not on a stroll, or don't decide with their owners. They're locked up in some pen, and have no idea even of their price, or who gets to buy them.

In my hypothetical example my claim was that she would have been better off than otherwise. And that if she had any choice in the matter, she would even choose it.

But in one way I agree with you in that if she could know how much better she would have it, and the prospect of being freed, she would, and indeed should take advantage of such a good opportunity, and USE me to gain a better life and eventual freedom.

Whether she later gets hit by a bus, or somehow enslaved again, is beside the point.

You changed my example of real slavery into an example of something like some Moldavian girl being promised a job in the west, then forced into modern style sex slavery like that.

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