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Edwards – another take

posted by David Kuo

Matt Cooper has a slightly more even handed look at the Edwards candidacy than the one I wrote yesterday – perhaps I should refrain from writing anything on the day after my last chemo dose.
Then again, Matt doesn’t actually mention poverty so I give him one demerit.



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PatientWitness

posted January 31, 2008 at 12:41 pm


True, the article doesn’t mention poverty but even worse, he thinks Edwards is a phony populist and that business need not have worried about Edwards doing anything. I didn’t get the feeling that Edwards’ populist style was phony.



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Brian Horan

posted January 31, 2008 at 2:46 pm


“…perhaps I should refrain from writing anything on the day after my last chemo dose.”
David,
In all sincerity, maybe your suffering gives you empathy. I’ve wrote before that you’re a refreshing change from the past 20 years of Evangelical flavored style Christianity.
I hope that you are ok, regardless of any petty political disagreements I may have with you.
I harbored a lot of anger towards Evangelicals over the last 10-15 years, more for indoctrination than political reasons. At one point a psychiatrist literally said that I’d been through a ‘mind-f@*k’.
We are all being programmed. And I’ve come to understand that some Evangelicals (including my old friends and some family members) meant well. They were only doing what they thought would help.
I really do think you are a positive force and I’ll try to keep you in my thoughts, whatever that’s worth.
Your ability to point out positive aspects of folks like Barak Obama and John Edwards shows you understand the feelings of those campaigning for another party. In another post I’ve said , ‘it really hurts when your candidate loses and you’ve put your heart and soul in the campaign.’ I appreciate your maturity.
My hope is that candidates have experiences that give them empathy for what Jesus referred to as ‘the least of these’.
I hope that if McCain gets the presidency his experiences as a POW will help him manage conflicts (which are a very unfortunate aspect of our earthly life) well. I applaud his stance against torture and think that makes him better in many aspects than Democrats who have wavered or waffled.
I hope that if Romney becomes president he can stand with people who hold minority views [I believe the LDS idea of eternal progression is beautiful. I believe Adam and Eve (not in a literal sense) blessed us by giving us free agency. I believe that God the Father is influenced by divine feminine phenomena (whether in Sophia or in a partner). I believe family time is key (LDS promotes family home evenings). I believe many LDS members are Christians even though their language and dogma may lead people to believe otherwise. Many understand their need for forgiveness and know that they can’t possibly bridge a gap through their own works and efforts.)
Romney has accomplished a nearly universal health-care program through mandates (maybe there’s a better way). Democrats could do well to look at what he’s accomplished.
David, I wanted to exclusively talk up your side in this post. Someday we’ll both be on the same side of eternity. Be well.



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Larry Parker

posted January 31, 2008 at 2:56 pm


“Disclosure: My wife works for Clinton.”
Minor freakin’ detail to drop in on the end there, Matt.



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Doug

posted January 31, 2008 at 3:05 pm


I agree with Brian. I disagreed with your post on Edwards, but very much appreciate your viewpoint and having your opinion up here to agree or disagree with. Civility and compassion such as yours are not enough a part of our national dialogue. Even grouchy old reprobates like me would rather rant against a good man than side with a psycophant.
“Just once I’d like the chance to shoot at an educated man.” -Capt. Augustus McRae in Lonesome Dove.



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Doug

posted January 31, 2008 at 3:11 pm


Oh, and PW, I think Edward’s populism is sincere. I also think populism is poison.
Ambrose Bierce defined Populist this way:
POPULIST, n. A fossil patriot of the early agricultural period, found in the old red soapstone underlying Kansas; characterized by an uncommon spread of ear, which some naturalists contend gave him the power of flight, though Professors Morse and Whitney, pursuing independent lines of thought, have ingeniously pointed out that had he possessed it he would have gone elsewhere. In the picturesque speech of his period, some fragments of which have come down to us, he was known as “The Matter with Kansas.”
Another Great American offers this:
A Senator and protegé
Were sitting in the park one day.
The old man’s speech was topical
(Cigars made him philosophical.)
“My boy,” the Senator proceeded
“I’ll tell you how my work succeeded.
I worried for the working folk,
The jobs and wages for which I spoke
That were snuck out of our nation
Against the tide of immigration:”
Compassion for the common, see,
Bought me my nobility.”
“Isn’t competition good?” the lad replied
“For consumers and the worker’s pride?”
“You miss the point,” the elder scolded,
“To injury, we are beholden
Not to effort, nor to fortune
Nor to progress for our portion
But to the restless, troubled mob
That gives the Senator his job
Convince them that they have been cheated
And you’ll never be defeated
Persuade them they’ve been robbed of pleasure,
And they’ll buy your sympathy with treasure.
POPULISM, n. The theory that the people are gullible, vulnerable, inferior and foolish and must, therefore, be sovereign.



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Anonymous

posted January 31, 2008 at 5:23 pm


Just read Cooper’s piece and found it not even handed at all. I was born in the 60′s, saw the 70′s and managed to live to the present and find the idea that this is the era of identity politics absurd. Other than many evangelical white voters coming in to the identity/victim trough, identity politics have been waning for decades. Does anyone but Cooper actually think Obama’s or Clinton’s voters are actually voting for the demographic? In Iowa? New Hampshire?



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PatientWitness

posted January 31, 2008 at 5:29 pm


Well, Doug, I’m still chuckling. I got nothing to come back with….
From what I’ve read of Bierce I wish we had a newspaperman like him around today. But then he was Hearst’s boy, so he’d probably work for Fox News. But I think the definition of populism may have changed in the popular parlance since Bierce’s day. How about this one: Populism: n. A political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite. Maybe it’s time for our own Boston Tea Party. (Are you reading this AT&T? NSA? Murdoch?)
Funny poem, too. And that strategy has kept many an incumbent in office beyond their expiration date. However, there are many in this country who have been cheated. They don’t need anyone to convince them of that which they’re going through. So you think populism is poison, and I think letting corporate executives do whatever the hell they want is poison.



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Thinker

posted January 31, 2008 at 6:23 pm


It’s been a long time since I read Ambrose Bierce – so long I’m going to have to do a review.



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Doug

posted January 31, 2008 at 6:30 pm


Ok, PW walk me through the law you’d pass and how it would be enforced. I have to say, the thought of 140 million American voters offering opinions on how I treat my employees, whether I’m led by God or greed and what decisions not covered elsewhere in law (I get it, no compulsory mutilation) are wholesome sounds to me like certain catastrophe, but maybe that’s just my ego and bias.
This is politics, remember. We can no more elect compassion than we can elect Mormonism. If I want to hire someone in India to take my phone calls will I apply for the privilege at the office of homeland reception? I know people are hurting but other than healthcare I see no difference between what Edwards offered them and what Lou Dobbs offers which I think we all can agree is unalloyed stupidity. Ok, great, you’re outraged, I’m injured and, by golly, it’s someone’s fault.



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PatientWitness

posted January 31, 2008 at 6:53 pm


I’m not a lawyer, clearly, so unable to clearly articulate such a law. However, it would begin with a results-oriented theme; i.e., if a company outsources it work, lays off workers here, and this action is not done because the company is losing money (note that these are the requirements listed under the Trade Adjustment Act enabling extended benefits to laid off workers) then that company would lose any and all tax exemptions. How’s that for a start?
I’d also work to do something about runaway executive pay. Perhaps something along the lines of restricting by law the pay packages (salary, stock options, etc) to a reasonable multiplicative factor of the lowest-paid full-time employee.
I’d also work to do something about companies hiring more and more part-time workers at lower pay and no benefits by requiring (by law) that a certain percentage of employees be full time workers.
I’d also work to improve health care coverage for all citizens…make that for all in the US, citizen or not.
That’s for starters.



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Doug

posted January 31, 2008 at 9:02 pm


Thinker, I hope you do. Bierce was a racist vis-a-vis African Americans in a way that really bothers me and a sexist in a way I won’t admit to enjoying at this time in this place, but he was, in my opinion, the Mozart of the English language and heroic defending minorities but for the exceptions above. One debate with Lou Dobbs and we would never have to hear from that idiot again in our lives.
Now, PW, starting where we agree: All of my native conservatism blanches at the thought of government run health care but for 1000 practical reasons, I got there. I agree on universal health coverage for citizens, non-citizens, undocumented immigrants and even Senators.
Now, don’t you think it matters that you and John Edwards and Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton can’t articulate such a law? If it is the case, and I think it is, that nothing but more skills and higher productivity will keep mobile jobs in this country, then how is it compassionate to tell people corporate greed is why their jobs are at risk? If I’m in the widget manufacturing business and someone else can produce the same widget less overseas, my company may be doomed by the time I got through the paperwork you’re suggesting. I know I have an employers bias but to me, all of these labor protections we already have massive costs to jobs, wages and the temperament of managers that no one confesses to. I think populism is poison not because I can’t afford to lose weight but because it risks more poverty than it promises to prevent.
I think executive pay is a shareholder’s job but I would go with you this far: Publicly traded American companies should not be allowed by-laws that restricts shareholder activism more than is reasonable.
Here’s what I’d go along with, though: Government subsidies for education and other investments in human capital. Partly because that, I do think will save jobs here where we compete but also because some productive work is not portable and creating some jobs through the public sector does provide a cushion against outsourcing.
Also, low-cost labor saves jobs here. I would make legal immigration a cakewalk.



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Doug

posted January 31, 2008 at 9:38 pm


Sorry for being, like 7 of 12 posts here but I just thought of what I wished I’d said above: There is an appealing rhetorical aesthetic to the narrative that Americans are insecure because of the moral failures of a powerful few. But whether it is compassionate to act on that narrative depends on its truth. I’m not only unconvinced, but very doubtful of anyone who claims to know that a powerful few, arrested in the act of their crimes, will restrain significantly the outsourcing of manufacturing or the immigration of service employees.
I think it’s a pretty gripping fiction.



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Thinker

posted January 31, 2008 at 9:48 pm


Perhaps real training for “work” is a place to start. I see young people who do not know how to follow directions, to make decisions, or make a commitment to the idea of completing a task but want to “work” somehow. but working is like owning a house. You can move into a great house and it will fall apart in front of your eyes unless you know how to care for it. And then everyone in the neighborhood knows you are a slacker. Truth is – you don’t have the skills. Any job is the same. It requires curiosity and a sense of responsibility. If someone asks you a question about your work – you should be able to answer it. We are teaching our children to pass tests but not to get the big picture that is knowledge. We are training our workers but without the skills necessary to understand what their purpose might be.
And such an environment creates hopelessness about life. We become people who must be entertained instead of people who live interdependently with one another. And make no mistake – we are interdependent.
One of the things that has bothered me since I was a young Evangelical was that view of the world that says it is about “me and Jesus”. I’m saved and then it is my job to make sure others come along. That is not a community – that is religious pyramid thinking. Whoa – don’t hit me for that one. The community of faith is involved in one another’s journey toward salvation – guess that’s what keeps me Catholic – and the community of a democratic society is about making sure we all have purpose, skill and knowledge. Those unable to acquire such skills and knowledge – those people must be kept in the community – sometimes cared for and sometimes patiently allowed to be part of it all. I think of Barney Fife – a guy who could barely function, but who was loved into purpose by an understanding community. A public education used to be about creating “citizens” who could handle the responsibility of democracy. Now, it’s about taking tests and grabbing at an illusionary brass ring. Once you miss it – well – it’s over. Right now – in many communities – that means – well, you can work for or go to a prison, you can sit in front of a television doing some kind of virtual life with virtual wars, virtual economics and virtual health. You live in a world where it’s about “me and education – me and a job – me and health care. We must recall our interdependence as well as our responsibility of citizenship and of faith. Populism sometimes feels like demanding – I think democracy is about mutual responsibility and compassion. Forgiving failures is hard for us – we cannot even forgive ourselves for the minor failures.
You can have a family, but cannot manage the time for a relationship that nurtures that family. Sorry, guys, I’m fired up tonight – and as the Obama campaign might say – ready to go. Gotta go walk the dog – that is definitely an interdependent relationship. I walk her, feed her, rub her tummy and she doesn’t poop on the rug, she is joyful and barks if anyone comes near the house at night. Thanks Dog – even if you are a cairne terrier ( a particularly irritating form of dog life)



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PatientWitness

posted January 31, 2008 at 10:27 pm


We still agree, Doug, but only in part. Surely you must know that it’s not only entry-level manufacturing jobs but science, engineering and management jobs as well that are being outsourced. We’ve lost good engineers from my former company due to outsourcing R&D to Asia. I myself, a mathematician, was recently laid off after 24 years. My daughter was in a hospital last fall and though the x-rays were of course taken on-site the radiologist who read and reported on the images was in India. I don’t wish to make this a personal argument but insufficient education is in our cases not the problem. The company was and is very profitable. Outsourcing was a management decision made by greedy people. And this happens more and more….
Allow me to turn the tables. The trends of which I wrote are real and measurable. You state with good arguments what will not work to save US jobs. Can you say what will? Or do you think it matters that ever increasing numbers are unemployed or under-employed?
Thinker has, as always, given me some things to think about :)



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Doug

posted January 31, 2008 at 11:17 pm


Well, first of all, Patient Witness, sorry to hear about your job and those of your associates. I hope you understand I take no pleasure in your trauma. I think innovation, education and effort will continue to create jobs here and abroad. I think nothing in this world will give Americans or Indians or Mozambiqueans much security. The future, I think, is jobs come and go and learning to see opportunity more than trauma is what will make this all easier.
I also think there’s this to look forward to: The company town is gone but replaced by global partnerships. Factory workers where factory work is efficient, engineering where engineers want to be, creativity wherever it can be found. I worry a lot about the chill in immigration and what that will do to our country. I worry about fear of foreign workers and what that does to our country. But I think, speaking practically, spending our money faster than we’ll earn it is killing us. I really do think part of the preparation for success is going to have to be the understanding that lifetime employment is a thing of the past and plenty of warning is rare. We have to learn to save for the rainy days. I suck at that, by the way. Always have.



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PatientWitness

posted January 31, 2008 at 11:30 pm


Thanks, Doug. Of course I understand, and the family and I will be fine, though I do worry about some of the others. And BTW, I’m not a complete protectionist. We’re not necessarily a superior culture and everyone deserves work. I think its the greed factor that galls me.



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Brian Horan

posted February 1, 2008 at 6:18 am


Doug,
I was curious why you’re turned off to government run health care:
“All of my native conservatism blanches at the thought of government run health care but for 1000 practical reasons, I got there.”
This isn’t meant to be insulting. I’d like to share my experience and then my thoughts…
I’ve been in government run health-care in Seoul South Korea. Their system took excellent care of issue.
I thought I had testicular cancer. In one day without any appointments, without any referrals, for less than $20 total [(2004 $s) including medications] I received the following:
One intensive medical exam by M.D. at one clinic.
Another intensive exam by a urologist at another location.
Finally a thorough medical exam at a hospital by another medical specialist with a prescription and a follow-up schedule at the same hospital.
This was all in one day. That’s light years ahead of Kaiser and Pacifica, both of whom sold me plans in the Denver Metro area.
In fact Kaiser refused an exam before I lived in Korea to check if I had developed a virus that is contagious. Prior to that, it was easier to get my ears cleaned out at the community clinic in Boulder, CO than it was through Kaiser (I have allergies that cause profuse wax build up and this interferes with work like my teaching in the public schools).
I think we’re paying people to simply push paper in this country in the form of the multiple health-care providers and the insurance profit racket. In terms of economies of scale, it pays to have things in a public trust of sorts, like health-care or utility companies.
I truly believe my experience in government run health-care in Seoul, South Korea [Bilsin Korea, Oh Oh Oh Oh, Bilsin Korea! - Korean Soccer/Football chant] proves that quality delivery under a cheaper system (we pay more for health care per capita than any other developed country)that coincides with economies of scale can be vastly superior to the USA system.
What do you think?



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Pete Ahlstrom

posted February 1, 2008 at 9:33 am


David – Don’t apologize for writing blogs near chemo time. My whole family thought yours on Edwards was an excellent one. Read the other one this AM – well – he missed a lot of the point. You were on target. Keep up the good work – Pete A.



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Doug

posted February 1, 2008 at 10:03 am


PW, greed is ugly and murderous greed disgusting. No argument there, I’m just suspicious that the greed storyline, being lusher than the “it’s great you spent your life perfecting your skills as a machinist but we could really use a pizza cook around now” storyline may ve counter-productively oversold. I know you and I are pretty close on this topic and most topics.
Brian, instinct is instinct and I have seen enough government boondoggle to have my right knee be the one that jerks. But, I hope you got that I’m on the same side of this issue you’re at after a long journey. The truth is that every medical examination that moves from an emergency room to a Doctor’s office or a Nurse Practitioner in the home improves the quality of care and saves the taxpayers about enough money to buy that individual’s premium for the year.
Incidentally, if you’re still in Denver is Centura, a healthcare organization formed to run the Catholic and Adventist hospitals in Colorado, still around? In the nineties they hired me to help them assemble a coalition of faith-based organizations to improve health outcomes in the State. It was fascinating work coaxing Colorado Springs churches and Denver churches towards the same table and I was pretty well on my way to failure when Centura hit a fiscal calamity. There were great people working there trying to make their State a better place for everyone.



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PatientWitness

posted February 1, 2008 at 11:44 am


Well, as I said, the family and I will be fine. I’ve been on 2 distinct career paths over the past 35 years and am now training for the 3rd. But what do we do about those machinists who for some reason or another can’t adapt as readily? Some are, or think they are, too old; some fear change; some have reached the limits of their abilities…there are millions of stories in the naked city, and the count is growing.
We agree that the cost of labor in the US is high, much higher than in other countries. I’ll admit to being cynical but I still wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the greed factor of corporate executives in making outsourcing decisions, especially of profitable companies.



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Doug

posted February 1, 2008 at 12:25 pm


OK, and agreement is nigh. I’m not quick to dismiss the greed of executives.



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