Turning The Page

It is time for all of us to turn the page. This is a community of good will, but many of us have been full of distrust and slander. I am not excluded. Enough of my jerimiads about the coming financial apocalypse. There is no glory in “being right” if the country plunges into a depression. It seems to me that we have a great task ahead of us and that it will take some deep trust in a new leader to lift us up out of the dank cellar we find ourselves in.  

What we do not need in the next four weeks is more fear mongering. As Nick Kristoff points out this morning, Senator Obama is facing what scholars have dubbed “rascism without racists”. But if as a country we could “let our light shine” and rise above this, it would be a healing balm for the world. I do not see any contribution to the common good coming from the McCain campaign’s smear tactics.

Beyond that, we must all turn our eyes to the task of rebuilding this society on the principles of saving, investment and production and we must do our best to banish the greed mongers who produce nothing and prey upon the meager savings of the middle class and the poor. But this conversion from an economy based 70% on consumer spending at the mall fueled by debt will be painful. We are consuming huge amounts of waste fueled by billions of advertising dollars. We pretended there was a free market, when in fact the game was rigged. We spend billions on entertainment that is closer to stupefication, so that the people won’t notice the rigged game. We pretend we have a free press, but it is a self-censoring press sucking up to the elites who rigged the game.

For myself, I will start to write about the first 100 Days of a new administration. Some great suggestions have already come from the community and I hope everyone can stop the slanderous backbiting and turn their considerable energy and intellect to the task ahead. I am reminded of the last verse of my favorite W.H.Auden poem, September 1, 1939

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame

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0 Responses to Turning The Page

  1. omgdidisaythat says:

    I like your optimism :)

    I do not ofc share it in the slightest. You will never be allowed to rise from this. Whats the point in that?

  2. omgdidisaythat says:

    I like your optimism :)

    I do not ofc share it in the slightest. You will never be allowed to rise from this. Whats the point in that?

  3. Terry says:

    Applause. Yeah to integrity and balance. May the rest of America go with you.
    I so enjoy your insights, perspectives and perceptions. I am like the man whose wife complained – can’t go to work till I’ve read your latest. I am hooked into the great American saga. Fingers crossed for sanity at home and reasoned voices like yours around the planet. Thanks

  4. Terry says:

    Applause. Yeah to integrity and balance. May the rest of America go with you.
    I so enjoy your insights, perspectives and perceptions. I am like the man whose wife complained – can’t go to work till I’ve read your latest. I am hooked into the great American saga. Fingers crossed for sanity at home and reasoned voices like yours around the planet. Thanks

  5. len says:

    Never leave the stadium before the last play or the theatre before the credits have stopped rolling. The process is as important as the ingredients to the meal.

    It is not just culture, but hearts that must be shaped by the words, each in their own locale. Otherwise what comes next is incomplete.

    “The play is the thing”.

  6. len says:

    Never leave the stadium before the last play or the theatre before the credits have stopped rolling. The process is as important as the ingredients to the meal.

    It is not just culture, but hearts that must be shaped by the words, each in their own locale. Otherwise what comes next is incomplete.

    “The play is the thing”.

  7. omgdidisaythat says:

    “Never leave the stadium before the last play or the theatre before the credits have stopped rolling. The process is as important as the ingredients to the meal.

    It is not just culture, but hearts that must be shaped by the words, each in their own locale. Otherwise what comes next is incomplete.

    “The play is the thing”.
    ” —

    Len, are you on drugs?

  8. omgdidisaythat says:

    “Never leave the stadium before the last play or the theatre before the credits have stopped rolling. The process is as important as the ingredients to the meal.

    It is not just culture, but hearts that must be shaped by the words, each in their own locale. Otherwise what comes next is incomplete.

    “The play is the thing”.
    ” —

    Len, are you on drugs?

  9. Eadwacer says:

    Things come together. The center holds.

  10. Eadwacer says:

    Things come together. The center holds.

  11. Jon Taplin says:

    Len- You are clearly to caught up in “the play” or the horse race as other pundits call it. McCain and his supporters are at the point that they believe the means justify the ends. Stopping Obama by any means is a worthwhile enterprise. But I am reminded of Martin Luther King’s Christmas Sermon, three months before his murder.

    “In the final analysis, means and ends must cohere because the end is preexistent in the means, and ultimately destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends.”

    Len (and Hugo) -it’s not all process. It is about ideals as well.

  12. Jon Taplin says:

    Len- You are clearly to caught up in “the play” or the horse race as other pundits call it. McCain and his supporters are at the point that they believe the means justify the ends. Stopping Obama by any means is a worthwhile enterprise. But I am reminded of Martin Luther King’s Christmas Sermon, three months before his murder.

    “In the final analysis, means and ends must cohere because the end is preexistent in the means, and ultimately destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends.”

    Len (and Hugo) -it’s not all process. It is about ideals as well.

  13. T Bone Burnett says:


    It is also about the truth. You shall know them by their fruits. As it is written.

    Peace and love

    T Bone

  14. T Bone Burnett says:


    It is also about the truth. You shall know them by their fruits. As it is written.

    Peace and love

    T Bone

  15. Hugo says:

    I’ve no idea what I said to deserve the implication that I’d abandoned idealism or something, but in any event when I read this beautiful essay of yours, Jon, the chills ran from the neck down. What a healing, caring and responsible thing you’ve just said, and how beautifully. I’m resolved quite literally to meditate before attempting a response.

    I can tell you for now, though, that though I am a planner by talent, temperament and training, still I find that all process for me begins with ideals. Without that beginning I cannot of my own effort lend any credence, coherence or presentable purpose to my planning, which is, after all, ever and at its best, planning for the benefit of others.

  16. Hugo says:

    I’ve no idea what I said to deserve the implication that I’d abandoned idealism or something, but in any event when I read this beautiful essay of yours, Jon, the chills ran from the neck down. What a healing, caring and responsible thing you’ve just said, and how beautifully. I’m resolved quite literally to meditate before attempting a response.

    I can tell you for now, though, that though I am a planner by talent, temperament and training, still I find that all process for me begins with ideals. Without that beginning I cannot of my own effort lend any credence, coherence or presentable purpose to my planning, which is, after all, ever and at its best, planning for the benefit of others.

  17. Hugo says:

    And thank you for that, Mr. Burnett.

    Let’s begin.

  18. Hugo says:

    And thank you for that, Mr. Burnett.

    Let’s begin.

  19. Hugo says:

    Oh goodie! Rachel’s here too. This is going to be good…

  20. Hugo says:

    Oh goodie! Rachel’s here too. This is going to be good…

  21. I guess I must be blind. I cannot see Obama’s light.

    Does this mean there is something wrong with me?

    To be clear – in my view, McCain’s light is but a dull glow from a dying bulb – but it’s all I’ve got to count on at this point.

  22. douglas newhouse says:

    the country needs to focus on the future in a Obama country—-we need to define the future and forget the horid past—there is ALOT of work to do

  23. Jon Taplin says:

    Milena- You are clinging to a dying philosophy–“a dull glow from a dying bulb”. Come outside, the possibilities in the light are numerous.

  24. I should correct myself. I don’t see Obama’s light…as a President.

    If he were the head of a private organization and he offered his leadership with private citizens and funding, I’d be in favor of the spirit of what he aims to accomplish. In fact, I’d be likely to join some of his initiatives assuming they didn’t involve lobbying.

    I have to stress that even though I will not vote for him, I do not think he is a bad person, just a bad choice for a President.

    What I resist is that his platform largely rests on inefficient and immoral tax & spend social programs. Has anyone done the math?

    Obama, as a man, seems to be a great human being. Obama, as a President, is not what I’m looking for.

  25. Greg G says:

    This reminds me of my opinion on management (in a functional organization); at each step up the management ladder there’s a person who is just that little bit more psychologically astute than the people below. For the life-of-them, the people lower down (at each level) just don’t get it, don’t see it, can’t see it, etc…. if they could, they’d be the next level up (yes, yes, those that *want* to be at that level).

    I totally salute you Jon in the point behind this “Turning the Page” entry; that’s what I love about this blog, always just one step ahead of the crowd. Yes, let the rest keep on with the really unpleasant issues we’ve all been caught up with for weeks.

    So I sat here trying to think what it would be that I could even contribute, and I just couldn’t break away and think of anything other than a snark… so then my wife suggested…

    Why not ease into this; why don’t we take a page out of Milena’s book and start this off with “Let’s imagine the first 100 days of McCain’s presidency”… let’s get that out of our systems and then come back to Obama’s first 100 days (especially since we’d then have something we could compare and contrast against).

    Anyway, I’m not saying anything more until I can think of something nice to say.

  26. Rick Turner says:

    “Get out of the road if you can’t lend a hand, ’cause the times, they are a-changin'”

    I’m sorry, Len, Milena, and others who can’t see the light, but what McCain and Palin have to offer is endless war, exacerbated class divisions within our borders, the evisceration of the middle class, a probable ballooning of the homeless population in the US (Hoovervilles galore…), ghost towns of foreclosed homes, and a nastiness that is alternatively self-righteous and downright cruel. And all that would come before a possible nuclear (pronounce it right now Sarah) winter as their alternative to global warming.

    An Obama presidency is not going to be a walk in a garden. He’s being handed the most toxic end of a shit stick that the Republicans can possibly leave behind. It could only be worse if Bush and Cheney decide to nuke Tehran as the October surprise. But Obama can offer hope, and a populace with hope can accomplish what needs to be done to turn things around. We should all pay higher taxes to fix this country now. We need to tell those from whom we buy oil to go drown themselves in their slick liquid. We need to make friends again in the world, and we need to know who they are. (Hint: they do not live in Saudi Arabia). We need to understand that we don’t need to be the all-powerful #1 in the world. We need to show that we can be #1 in the world by example. How about #1 in health and welfare? How about #1 in literacy and education? How about #1 in personal happiness, the pursuit of which is mentioned as being an inalienable right somewhere in some moldy document in our history. Being number one does not mean being able to “kick somebody’s fucking ass” to quote Sarah Palin’s future putative son-in-law.

    Obama can lead us in the direction of being number one in many areas with a combination of grace and eloquence. That’s how I want my president to lead and inspire.

  27. Rick Turner says:

    “Get out of the road if you can’t lend a hand, ’cause the times, they are a-changin'”

    I’m sorry, Len, Milena, and others who can’t see the light, but what McCain and Palin have to offer is endless war, exacerbated class divisions within our borders, the evisceration of the middle class, a probable ballooning of the homeless population in the US (Hoovervilles galore…), ghost towns of foreclosed homes, and a nastiness that is alternatively self-righteous and downright cruel. And all that would come before a possible nuclear (pronounce it right now Sarah) winter as their alternative to global warming.

    An Obama presidency is not going to be a walk in a garden. He’s being handed the most toxic end of a shit stick that the Republicans can possibly leave behind. It could only be worse if Bush and Cheney decide to nuke Tehran as the October surprise. But Obama can offer hope, and a populace with hope can accomplish what needs to be done to turn things around. We should all pay higher taxes to fix this country now. We need to tell those from whom we buy oil to go drown themselves in their slick liquid. We need to make friends again in the world, and we need to know who they are. (Hint: they do not live in Saudi Arabia). We need to understand that we don’t need to be the all-powerful #1 in the world. We need to show that we can be #1 in the world by example. How about #1 in health and welfare? How about #1 in literacy and education? How about #1 in personal happiness, the pursuit of which is mentioned as being an inalienable right somewhere in some moldy document in our history. Being number one does not mean being able to “kick somebody’s fucking ass” to quote Sarah Palin’s future putative son-in-law.

    Obama can lead us in the direction of being number one in many areas with a combination of grace and eloquence. That’s how I want my president to lead and inspire.

  28. Dan says:

    “What I resist is that his platform largely rests on inefficient and immoral tax & spend social programs. Has anyone done the math?”

    You are aware of the federal budgets, surpluses and deficits from the last 15 years, correct?

    You are aware that a Republican president just presided over massive growth in the federal budget and the size of the government, correct?

    You realize that the current resident of the White House kicked off an inefficient and immoral imperial war using a tissue of lies for the sake of enriching his corporate friends, correct?

    If (and I don’t think he will) Obama could end the war, balance the budget, cut taxes, improve education, create jobs, heal the divisive state of American politics and give everybody an ice cream cone, there would still be endless talk about inefficient and immoral tax codes.

  29. Alex Bowles says:


    For what it’s worth, the thing that really made me take Obama seriously was his Call to Renewal speech, which he delivered in June of 2006, and which I discovered early this year.

    It’s now available here, as transcript and video on his website.

    What struck me as Presidential was his ability to speak with candor and understanding to people on both sides of a divisive and highly politicized issue. This, perhaps more than any other, was the ability that seemed most important in our next President.

    When I later heard the speech he gave on race following the blow-up with Rev. Wright, and noticed that is shared the same template as the Call to Renewal I realized that what I’d seen was a consistent quality of mind, and not just a momentary flash of brilliance. So for me, deciding to support him was really a two-step process.

    I’ll be the first to admit having reservations about some of the positions he’s outlined in his Blueprint for America. But that’s fine. I quite sure his views will evolve once he’s confronted with the reality of advancing his agenda.

    At least he has an agenda he’s willing to be open about.

    Contrast this with Gov. Palin, who said ‘I’ve been at this for, like, five weeks’ and proceeded to say that she hasn’t promised anything anything, except to ‘do what’s right for America’.

    I realize that she’s the candidate for VP, but given that the probability of her becoming president before 2012 is well above 20%, it’s important to consider a vote for McCain as though it could easily be a vote for Palin as POTUS.

    It comes down to a choice between ‘Like’ five weeks and ‘no promises’, along with such a devastatingly shallow grasp of the issues that she can’t be allowed to make unscripted appearances vs. Obama’s extraordinarily well-managed candidacy, and extreme candor on everything from his religion to his real estate.

    Hope this helps.

  30. len bullard says:

    “But Obama can offer hope,”

    You really need that? Lo siento.

    Obama alpha and omega?

    So Ralph Stanley is up for a man who’s camp teaches children to talk about him like a deity?

    If I were on drugs, I might take that seriously. As t’is, I’m at work putting servers back on line so my compadre in DC who was on the road with Biden can be at the Bon Jovi event next week helping.

    Milena: at the center of the brightest spot in the galaxy is a voracious black hole. Extinguishing the light also acts on the curvature of space and time. When uncertain wait and watch. What the black hole is is determined. How you relate to it is not until you can no longer escape.

  31. Penelope says:

    Thanks, Jon. What a wonderful action to take today.

    I haven’t yet put the details of my fantasy together, but I think there is perhaps a way to put the physical infrastructure needs of the country, some of the educational needs of the country, the alternative energy development needs, and probably a few other things into a productive economic re-development plan. I hesitate to call it a WPA for the 21st century because I think the original one spun off some things that perhaps cultivated a complacency with kinds of inefficiency that may have served a purpose when they were created, but lasted long past the needs that spawned them. Instead, what I think a new economic development program needs to create, in addition to the things that actually get produced/built/fixed, are pride in participation and a renewed sense that our country is a country we all build, together, daily.

    To borrow and rewrite a great line, I’m mad as hell and I’m hellbent and determined to help us find a way to take it back. We are given a chance to have a revolution every four years and this time I think we need to revolt against the pervasive darkness of Them and us, and choose a leader who can encourage us to encourage one another to follow in the very path you, Jon, have articulated here so well. I look forward to your thoughts on the first 100 days, and to learning from the whole community that has formed here.

  32. Alex Bowles says:


    Your last paragraph perfectly encapsulated my thoughts on Palin, and her relation to the GOP.

  33. Fentex says:

    I’m beginning to wonder how anyone could hope to live up to the ideal of Obama people are proclaiming.

    I’m beginning to envison him as Atlas watching Zeus lower the heavens onto his shoulders. Even if he can bear the weight how will he be able to move?

  34. @Alex – thanks for your thoughtful response.

    @Dan – Yes. I have considered those things.

    @Anyone Else Who Cares – I guess I’m looking for less hyperbole and emotionalism, and more fact, logic, and reason.

    I have made my conclusions, which some commentators find distasteful enough to be rudely didactic to me. But please consider, my decisions are based on my current level of understanding and thoughtful consideration of the issues, as are yours. That does not mean rational and emotionally tempered exchange of ideas cannot occur.

    For example, Democrats have historically been the party to largely embrace free trade, yet Obama is interested in revising NAFTA, I’m honestly interested to understand how Democratic supporters deal with this apparent conflict within their party and it’s chosen leader.

    Another great example is the claim that an Obama Presidency doesn’t hold the prospect of endless war. His proposals only involve shifting the locus of our current war efforts to Pakistan. He could actually be considered the more militant of the two candidates [Hitchens] because of his desire to directly engage with Pakistan, a nuclear country that is currently less-than-cooperative in our efforts to find Taliban members seeking refuge there.

    You will not see me defending McCain with the frenzy of many Obama supporters. I freely admit where McCain is flawed, yet I’m hard-pressed to find Obama supporters admit disagreement with any of his proposed policies. That signals a red flag and lack of forethought. No candidate deserves our unabashed and docile compliance. They deserve our watchful eye, and criticism where necessary.

    With that in mind, stuff like McCain’s affair and Obama’s “Rev. Wright Debacle” are meaningless to me. I don’t care about those things – they absolutely don’t matter for choosing Presidents. Neither does an Ivy League pedigree, oration skills, having 5 babies, or surviving POW camps. (Those things can noble and meaningful taken alone, but do not inherently make a great leader.)

    I clearly see why people like Obama. In that regard, I’m not blind. I spend so little time with “identity politics,” rarely watch TV and get most of my information in print. I was startled to discover Obama has his own satellite TV channel on vacation this weekend. I watched a bit. He seems sincere and likable, and I would not argue with his intentions if they didn’t involve policies that I can trace forward to detrimental effects, inevitably leading away from what he purports to want to achieve: equality, peace, a “greener,” and more united population.

    My conclusion: anyone here probably has his or her mind made up. Now what? Can we not discuss ideas without the vitriol? Can we not criticize leaders we support?

  35. Rick Turner says:

    What are the ideas you’d like to discuss, Milena? Can you be specific? How are Obama’s ideas likely to be bad for me and McCain’s good? I’m ready to read…

  36. @Rick –

    I don’t intend to begin an Obama v. McCain-fest. Again, I’m not attempting to sway anyone’s vote, minds are made up, but ideas can still be discussed.

    If you missed it, here are two things I had already mentioned specifically in the comment above:

    1. Obama’s take on NAFTA and the historical precedent for free trade within the Democratic party.

    2. Obama’s take on Pakistan. Is he more likely to incur war damages by engaging with a nuclear country?

    I guess the implicit “bad idea” is that revising NAFTA could lead to reduced trade and the reversal not only of goodwill between trading partners, but the standards of living for those outside the United States could be compromised. Obama’s ideas are largely collectivist, yet nationalist. I find this to be a conflicting ideology, as collectivism doesn’t logically stop at national borders.

    As for war with a nuclear country, I think the dangers are self-explanatory. But more specifically, do you approve of Obama’s push to wage war with Pakistan if his plans for diplomacy don’t work out (which signs point to strongly to “no?”) Would you support Obama if he went to war with Pakistan?

  37. Patrick says:

    I’m sorry, but I believe Milena is a classic troll, in the sense that she just wants to argue, no matter the subject or the seriousness of others . Certainly there is a generalized belief among most of us that Obama, as President, can start the process of healing a nation seriously divided by decades of ideology, incompetence, and blind belief in the power of some (choose your own poison) higher power — maybe a cartoon version of Jesus, maybe the “free market.” But I think Jon is asking that we rise above that and start thinking about what challenges we might face in an Obama administration and how we might contribute to the noble cause. To that end, I think it is important that we ignore the trolls and nay-sayers who want only to get their pathetic views heard and to provoke a response, no matter what. Let’s move on.

  38. zestypete says:

    So much for turning the page, I guess. 27 comments spent on Obama vs McCain yet agin.

    Though I don’t share your sunny optimism about Omaba, Jon, nor your overt pessimism about his potential as President Milena (Morgan, is that you?), I’m still more hopeful about the future in your country because of blog entries like this one. At least someone understands that what’s happening today must go beyond politics and a partisan mentality.

  39. Alex Bowles says:


    Ms. Thomas is neither a Morgan, nor Morgan reincarnate. And her basic point (which should be obvious) is that Obama’s agenda has flaws, and is worth discussing critically.

    Given the general consensus about the unsuitability of McCain / Palin, this shouldn’t be a problem, right? My assumption is that folks are comfortable with both their decisions and their reservations about who they’ve decided on.

    Given this kind of committed but not unlimited or unquestioning support, we should be able to have a very interesting conversation, knowing that fuzzy thinking or unchecked optimism won’t get very far with people like Melina to keep us honest.

  40. zestypete says:

    Yeah, Alex, good point, I’m going to take back that glib Morgan aside. He was never that polite. Sure, he made the same kinds of misleading comments and asked the same kinds of loaded “what if” questions that add up to nothing and populate so much of the Republican campaign these days, but polite? No.

  41. Rick Turner says:

    OK, so we’re talking about a vision of the future, not who’s president, right?

    Real energy independence, and not “drill, baby, drill”. That is the key to practically everything.

    Nationalize the power grid; install the needed electrical controls to be able to inject micro sources of power into the grid (roof top solar, small wind, etc.), improve high voltage transmission lines from the South West desert areas so large solar “farms” can feed a lot of current into the grid and get it where it needs to go. Solve the problem of energy storage so power generated at peak solar and wind times can be saved for use later.

    Establish single payer health care for all Americans. For all the right wing criticism of the health care systems in Canada, England, France, etc., they still have measurably better health than we do.

    Dump the stupidity of No Child Left Behind, especially the parts that penalize lower performing schools where the real problem is students who don’t speak English as a first language, NOT because the teachers are bad. Recognize that teachers need to make a decent living, and that may mean that pay has to take local living expenses into account.

    Revisit NAFTA, yes. It has mostly worked out for American companies who have outsourced needed jobs. I’ll tell you…it hasn’t made it any easier for a small company like mine to export, even just into Canada.

    Encourage Americans to make products in America, but stop the stupid bailouts of the idiots who run car companies that make gas guzzling rule benders.

    CAFE standards… It’s absurd that my 1995 Saturn wagon gets better gas mileage than the 2008 models are rated at. 13 years and they didn’t get any better?

    Let Iran, Pakistan, etc. know that if there’s a nuclear attack on Israel, there will be large smoking and radioactive craters where their capitol cities once were located.

    Stop trying to bludgeon the rest of the world to be like us. Why is it our job to export a kind of democracy we don’t even have here? If being “free” is so great, don’t you think the rest of the world might just want it without our telling them that from our side of a rifle?

  42. Dan says:

    “Rudely didactic” is in the ear of the beholder.

    “Immoral tax codes” sounds rudely didactic to some.

    In fact, some of us feel that we’ve had rude didacticism bawled into our ears on an almost daily basis since January 2000. This may make some of us short-tempered and liable to fire back a little too eagerly with rude didacticism of our own.

  43. pond says:

    Good post. Thank you.

    I was thinking that if we could get the president and congress to go to an isolated island, away from the press and lobbyists and all current news, they could probably reach agreement on a plan for the country that would be a good one.

    Then I thought, maybe not. Maybe instead they should try for an agreement on a mythical country, to gain greater distance from local and national and recent problems.

    Then I thought, maybe not again. Because there seems to be such a devotion on the part of the hardcore Republicans for utter ‘free market,’ and such a distrust of it on the part of Democrats.

    Where can we find agreement, where can we come together?

    The Project for a New American Century, in 1999, noted that in order to convince Americans to forego the ‘peace dividend’ and massively support increased military spending and war campaigns in Asia, a ‘new Pearl Harbor’ would be necessary.

    Maybe to achieve widespread agreement on what to do at home, we need a ‘new Great Depression.’

    In other words, maybe the apocalypse will have a silver lining.

    As Milton Friedman advised, ‘What comes out of a crisis often depends on what ideas are lying around at the time,’ and so this move by Mr Taplin represents a proactive effort at getting good ideas to be ‘lying around’ come Spring 2009, for the use of whoever comes into power in Washington.

    I hope so. The real danger of crises is that of an over-emotional, near-hysterical reaction, such as we endured and participated in during the fall of 2001. I hope we do better in the fall of 2008 and future.

  44. Fentex says:

    > Let Iran, Pakistan, etc. know that if there’s a
    > nuclear attack on Israel, there will be large
    > smoking and radioactive craters where
    >their capitol cities once were located.

    Why would this be of any concern of the U.S.A?

    Putting aside that it isn’t the U.S’s concern and the insane folly of such destruction (and the eternal hate it would earn) in someone elses name and not the U.S’s own defence, Israel has its own nuclear deterent.

    Israel doesn’t need the U.S to make that threat.

  45. Dan says:

    Don’t forget that the Great Depression didn’t really end until World War II ramped up.

    The best we can hope for is two, maybe three years of actual accomplishment, whatever that accomplishment might prove to be. However partisan or non-partisan. And no matter what it is, there will be people calling it the worst possible thing that we could have done.

    After that, party self-interest will kick back in on both sides and we’ll forget everything previous to the past 18 months. Which isn’t necessarily all bad; too much appetite for too much change, that lasts too long, usually winds up in chaos.

    But the (to my mind) central problem won’t be addressed. The central problem is that nearly all of the wealth, and all of the power, have been transferred into the hands of a tiny elite in the name of “fairness.” Any talk about reversing that transfer is instantly shouted down as “class warfare,” as if concentrating wealth in the hands of the few is always fair, and dispersing in the hands of the many is always class warfare.

    I don’t see that being reversed. Despite the current election cycle, too many people respond to the cry that *all* taxes are *always* bad, even when the application of that philosophy is to cut taxes for the wealthy only (including incompetent but well-connected corporations), and, at best, to give a one-time sop to us Johnny Paychecks.

    I think the most Obama (or anyone) can hope to accomplish is to get us out of Iraq, try to restore our image abroad, to whatever extent that is still possible, and try to steer the economy through what will undoubtedly be at least a severe recession, without letting it slip into depression.

    Oh, and he could also try to ramp down our paranoid Orwellian police state, but it doesn’t appear that Obama swings that way.

    It will not, in any case, be a pleasant four years, at least not on a national political or economic plane.

    I just pray that we don’t have to endure any more seasons of The Hillbilly and Dr. Strangelove. Four more years of that will probably be enough to finish us off for good.

  46. len bullard says:

    “Obama’s take on Pakistan. Is he more likely to incur war damages by engaging with a nuclear country?”

    I don’t think so, or at least, no more likely than any sitting President. The danger in Pakistan is the relationship with India. Both are nuclear and the hatred is severe. Notice the current administration is freeing up restrictions on nuclear aid to India. There is talk of sending more billions in aid to Pakistan for infrastructure in health.

    @Rick: I’m mostly in agreement with your points except for nationalizing the grid. We are trending toward a socialist nation with the bailout and even if temporarily necesary (I’m still not sure I buy that), we should focus on returning funds to the Treasury so we will have money to spend on these projects. I don’t think nationalization is necessary to achieve that. Why do you think it should be?

    Biden claims No Child Left Behind is failing because it is unfunded. Teachers I know including my wife say that funding is not the important issue. No Child Left Behind is flawed as designed with the emphasis on smoothing out testing scores instead of teaching to individual needs and talents. It wastes time in the classroom and is a failed pedagogy.

    “Stop trying to bludgeon the rest of the world to be like us. ”

    On that I couldn’t agree more. Let’s quit helping them compete with us. Why do we insist on democratic reforms? We think that makes them nice to us. It doesn’t but that’s the theory.

    Stricter oversight on exports of defense technologies is needed but they are pretty strict now. So why do we do it?

    During the Cold War, I had a friend that worked in the State Department who was unusually frustrated with the way we would sell obsolete but highly capable systems into the third world but would come up against the claims that our military would rather fly against our old systems where we understand their weaknesses rather than fly against Soviet systems that we had yet to test. Noting that the Russians are back to selling their systems to western hemisphere countries, our recourse will be to restart the cold war practices of deep cover espionage and stealing hardware wherever we can for analysis.

  47. Jon Taplin says:

    Milena-All Obama is asking for on trade are some basic human rights standards from our trading partners like child labor and pollution controls.

    On Pakistan, he’s been so much more realistic than either Bush or McCain. In fact, looking to your earlier post it is that Obama has been far cooler in a crisis than McCain. I don’t know where these words like “collectivist” and “too passionate” come from, but they show you have very little understanding of Obama’s platform.

  48. I want to go back to the article on racism without racists that prompted this post. It seems to me that there is a fundamental flaw in comparing these studies to the presidential election in that the studies were between 2 identical candidates where the only distinction was that one was black and one was white. Given this, white employers would pick the white candidate a majority of the time. That is not a good analogy to what is happening in the election. Whatever issues people seem to have, the one thing I’m not hearing this year is that it doesn’t matter who you vote for, they’re basically the same. I don’t think that anyone can look at a fact sheet on the lives and campaigns of Obama and McCain and confuse the two. So, I don’t think Obama needs to worry about racism without racists and just needs to worry about the latter.

    I’m also be curious if what the effect would be with non-white employers in those studies, but that is still not going to be applicable in this election.

  49. Jon Taplin says:

    Rick and Len-I think some regional coordination on the power grid would be very beneficial, Pickens makes a good point that even if we had huge wind farms in the central corridor, the grid couldn’t handle the load. This has to be fixed and we have to get the electricity from giant southwestern solar farms to the eastern part of the country. Does this take Nationalization? I’m not sure.

    NCLB- This should be killed. We have to return schools to state control and make sure the states have the funding to double teacher salaries and give merit pay bonuses. I think Obama is moving in this direction.

    Fuel Standards-I think a phased in $1/gallon gas tax with 80% of the revenue flowing directly to the states, will send the market signals to get more hybrids in the car lots. In Los Angeles, the Prius is the top selling sedan

  50. Hugo says:

    The instant Jon settled, quite rightly, on the 100-day gambit, I figured “I’m out”, and I planned to fold and leave the table. ‘Cause in politics I may think I’m a know-it-all, but in Policy I know precisely 1.085 things; the 1.0 being Education, the .085, Military and Veterans Affairs. And as for my strong suit, I really couldn’t see the point of putting the fairly silly U.S. Department of Education under the gun to produce some educational transformation in February, March or April. That would be a stretch.

    So I was collecting my chips and pushing off from the card table when Rick Turner, with characteristic efficiency, chimes in with a very important point: it’s not what USDE should do, it’s what USDE SHOULD NOT DO. In short, they should dismantle NCLB. Thank you, Rick. NOW we’re playing for keeps.

    Rules of this Card Game:

    If you want to play at this table please observe the first rule: do not peek at Obama’s website and refresh your memory of all the shiny edu-baubles his countless stafflings thought to dangle there. It’s all cheapjack, sweatshop-seasonal junk, and whatever’s left that isn’t damaged gets remaindered after Christmas anyway. Besides, it ain’t Barack talking. Unless he’s got a hardcore case of Multiple Personality Disorder — in which case we’re all going to die at the hands of the Chinese sometime in February anyway, so what difference does a little card game make?

    Second Rule. A penny ante will get you in, and we play with pennies only — each penny representing one billion dollars. You will notice immediately that the folks at the big table are playing for quarters. But you gotta be from a state government to play for the big stakes in 5-Card Education, so you’re stuck with us feds at the kiddie table.

    OK. So it’s my move. Rick opens with a penny on dissolving NCLB. I’d see him but I want to go for it a little so I’ll bet two pennies, Rick’s dismantlement doubled to cover the elimination of USDE in favor of a stand-alone federal administration (like NASA, or Veterans Affairs) to manage our nation’s historic categorical programs for children and for postsecondary matriculants.

    Unless Rick or one of you others manages to outplay me, I plan to clear my winnings and ante onto to the Dollar Table where they’re figuring out how to get a president’s cabinet back down to a scale at which the President might consult it, as a body. Even perhaps in the same room again.

    My taking the absurdly titular “U.S. Secretary of Education” out of the mix should be enough ante for me to sit at the Dollar Table. Unless one of you sharks from Kansas City can take me for pennies.

  51. Zhirem says:

    Wow. So much here, where to begin?

    Milena: I for one, do not think you are a troll. We need voices of difference, of alternative. Without these, our echo chamber resounds strongly, nearly perfectly, but most likely leaving us with only repetition, and no new ideas. The critique of the accepted leads to change. See the scientific method, and our changing understanding of truth and the nature of existence…

    Jon: A noble attempt at a call for civility, and for directing our collective purpose towards more fruitful ends. That said, I strongly believe that before we need to look at the first 100 days of an Obama administration, we must first look towards the next month of getting things done, such that the election is put beyond dispute, beyond theft, beyond shadowy machinations resulting in the Big Chair being selected by the Supremes. I believe, that unless Obama leads nationally by at least 15%, the election will be in doubt, with behind the voting machine curtain racism, Deibold shennanigans, etc. — that he will lose. Not justly, fairly, or legally, but that the loss will take hold, and we will be looking at the oldest President we have ever elected, paired with the most inexperienced and unqualified Vice Presidential pick in our history.

    Everyone else: Please reserve judgement on Milena. If she is Morgan, she/he has learned to play better with other children. Again, I stress the need for more voices. More facets of the gem that one takes into account, the better our perception and idea of the gem becomes.

    No thing in the universe has one side. In fact, no thing in the universe has two sides. I posit that no thing in the universe has less than three sides at best, and let that be a lesson to us all about making assumptions, or trumpeting our own understanding/opinion as sacrosanct and beyond reproach, beyond question, and beyond criticism.

    Luck, love and learning to us all.

    – Zhirem

  52. Penelope says:

    How about we start small, with a piece of the system right in our own back yards — no matter where those are — and a piece of the system that is going to require attention right away: Why don’t we re-structure unemployment insurance to be more like the best of disability insurance? Instead of having people simply report that they looked for work during a given week and sending a check, let’s provide a check for some period of time during which they will be expected to get some kind of retraining and then let them earn ongoing benefits by working.

    There is real work to be done, much of which requires significant training. But start simple: Think how many math teachers could be made from unemployed stockbrokers if they were taught how to turn their sales skills to teaching skills. And it seems to me that creating a whole new energy economy is going to require a lot more engineers than we can get out of classrooms where kids now barely learn to count . . . .

    We have a need. We have a resource. Instead of letting the latter lie fallow and ignoring the former, I propose that a critical early step for a new administration is to examine carefully the ways the (even suddenly) available resources can be matched with real needs.

    Emotional and idealistic? I think not. Just plain practical. Building our future one little pragmatic change at a time.

  53. Seth says:


    NCLB should be repealed, lock, stock and barrel. Conservatives should hate it for further Federalizing education, Liberals already hate it for its punitive rigidity.

    I’m not sure what you mean by ‘nationalizing’ the grid. Presumably exercising eminent domain against all of the existing utility companies? I suspect that is overdoing it. Why can’t you achieve a similar effect by establishing new standards and rewarding efforts from various public and private firms to move us in the right direction.

    What both issues have in common is HOW the government intervenes. Our debates about government’s role too often degenerate into “ALL!” vs “NOTHING!”

    Education is an area where the Federal government should be publishing standards subject-by-subject, to support well-understood credentialing exams. I’m not as confident that government is good at delivering the classroom teaching. So not NO government, nor FULL government.

    Similarly with the electrical grid. We should use government to convene appropriate experts to establish a national vision and offer nudges here and there.

    The current crisis of American power (internal and external) creates opportunity for reinvention and refocusing. Obama strikes me as very well suited to make the most of this opportunity by setting an appropriately confident, visionary TONE while being more cautious and pragmatic as to methods.

  54. Dan says:

    No disrespect intended, but I don’t see how you’ll get a former stockbroker who was making–I don’t know–600K a year? 6 million a year?–to go into teaching for a starting salary of 36K a year.

    I’m all for training opportunities, all the same, but I’m not sure they should be mandatory. Will the government decide that a person who just got laid off in profession X must seek training in profession Y? Many people who get laid off (such as me) are pretty confident that they’ll be able to get another job within their same industry. And without going into details or sounding arrogant, I can tell you that I don’t need any training at this time. I’m very good and experienced at what I do. Oh, free training might help me, but I would consider it a waste of taxpayer money at this point.

    That does not mean, in my opinion, that I should be ineligibile for unemployment.

  55. MS says:

    Thank you Jon!

    Part of what will make an Obama and Congressional majority win possible — and subsequent achievements by an Obama administration — will be our optimistic planning for that eventuality.

    Sounds corny. But if we collectively believe that the bad guys will always come out on top — then it’s not possible to create change.

    I always appreciate this blog. Never more than today.

  56. Rick Turner says:

    There are some major problems that may SEEM local, but in fact are national. Here in Santa Cruz, for instance, there is the problem of the homeless, most of whom are not, in fact, down on their luck locals, but rather they are transients…hobos…who have migrated to California from other parts of the country that have worse weather and less tolerance for the bum lifestyle. It’s gotten way out of control here, and frankly, the street people scene in downtown Santa Cruz is bordering on disgusting as it is in Santa Monica, San Francisco and other fair weather cities. I’d favor a CCC-like solution. Yeah, healthy labor camps with jobs and food and shelter and medical help and mental health help and NO drugs or alcohol.

    The grid…To me it’s absolutely no different from the Interstate Highway system. Ditto the natural gas pipelines. Private enterprise? Yeah, that brought us Enron, or do some of you have Alzheimer’s memory on that load of crap? The delivery systems are too easily gamed.

    We are a society of social beings. We should get over the dirty word “socialism” and figure out just which bits of infrastructure and which services are really there for all of us and are therefore perhaps best owned by all of us and which products and services are best left to the competitive market place. We already have a balance of private and public, and I think we just need to more clearly examine it and move somethings one way and perhaps other things the other way.

    And then there’s another whole discussion, and that is just how to make public employees more accountable, more easily fireable, and more motivated to do more work and less pencil pushing. I fully recognize the stultifying impact of bureaucracy and it’s Peter Principle inefficiencies, but there must be a way to encourage more work and less bull.

  57. len bullard says:

    Jon: A first move would be immediate congressional hearings on those topics. A complaint about the bailout was the lack of planning. The electorate needs to see actions generating excitement. The election wounds are going to be very deep this time.

    For energy, we have the DOE last time I checked. DOE and NASA and other federal agencies should work together to create a real and realizable roadmap, not the feel good statements or the stuff I get from Homeland Security where three quarters of the document is self-promoting statements about who attended and what smart people they are, but a real technical roadmap. A separate piece but coordinated is how this will be incentivized and financed.

    I think nationalization goes too far. Coordinated Federal effort makes sense. Pickens is to be commended for pushing the right buttons at the right time.

    <rant>The problem is lean spending. From what I see in the bailout, unless someone takes a whip into the temple, the money changers will just fatten themselves with every proposal made.</rant>

    The Federal gas tax would be a good idea at a different time. That will be a hard sell. My guess is that proposal in the first hundred days would have to deliver irrefutable results very fast or there will be a midterm massacre leaving the sitting president with no support from Congress.

    The toughest part of this will be patience. Clinton tried the 100 day approach and it quickly bogged down. It is a good thought experiment.

  58. Rick Turner says:

    Len, why is nationalization of the power grid…at least at the 3 phase thousands of Volts level…going too far? Private enterprise is too narrowly focused to deal with infrastructure that has to ignore a lot of local and state boundaries, and when they do go inter-state, they game it to screw us…once again I’ll point to the bullshit pulled off by Enron.

  59. len bullard says:

    Ok. Let’s put that on the table and talk about it. The arguments are generally that the government is inefficient and slow, and that seizing private assets currently functioning is against our notion of private property rights. We could seize the railway right away and work on transportation problems. Should we do that as well?

    Those are the rhetoric. If we say, nah, we’ll buy these assets and then do the rework, we can get around that. If we set the agencies up efficiently using modern information systems, we can make this work.

    I worked on the proposals for security for AMTRAK. It can be done. I’m working on the systems for health/police/security infrastructure now. It can be done. The problem is to get the work OUT of the Beltway and into the hands of industry that competes on high return/lower cost systems. It requires a high degree of professionalism because the mammal problems are very hard to overcome.

    That said, what might just work would be a transition to national systems enabling us to reduce the dependence on the private assets at a measured pace.

    Can you describe the scope of what you have in mind in terms of real assets so I can respond with some thoughts on how that can be instrumented for efficient oversight? I ask that because it seems clear to me that the big failures have been in the third order systems (the tuning systems, the equalizers, so to speak). You and I probably know more about the methods for taking an empty room and instrumenting it for a production and that isn’t a bad metaphor for what we have to do in my opinion.

  60. RE: Nationalizing the Grid

    Pickens is right about the grid not being able to handle huge windfarm input (Monsters, Inc.–remember what happened to the city’s power when the kid started laughing?). I heard (from a source close to the industry) that his particular answer to some of this is encouraging local utilities to invest in infrastructure (poles and lines), which involves obtaining legal rights of way for the land. He’s planning on leasing big tracts of his own land back to the utility companies (that’s my understanding anyway). I’m not against someone making a buck, but some transparency (integrity?) would be in order here.

    Some of the other solutions you propose are a few years from being technically or economically viable (but they’re really, really close, some closer than you might think). Unfortunately, right now, the various parties involved (utilities, tech. manufacturers, certain research organizations, certain departments within the federal government itself) are too busy empire building to realize that rebuilding the grid is going to require them to play nice together. Or…they’re too busy being independent to understand the benefits to be realized by acting interdependently.

    Even if all these entities figure out how to talk to each other, the government will still need to find a way (nationalization may be extreme) to encourage local and/or regional utilities to invest in technology that is technically feasible, but economically marginal that could reasonably be expected to turn a profit in the future (I mean, if we’re gonna gamble, can we at least gamble on something green?).

    Whatever coordination is acheived (through regulation, fiscal carrots, etc.) will probably only be achieved by convincing individual utilities to act for the common good (not asking them to become non-profits, but to become somewhat less profitable in the short term because it will benefit everyone in the long term). It’s really hard to get individuals to do this…even harder for companies. Some government sponsored (?) effort focused on figuring out the best combination of regulations, incentives (and whatever else) will be necssary.

    I commented a while back that I feel that it is a conflict of interest for publicly regulated utility companies to sell stock like private firms. Utilities are currently in a gray area between ‘government’ and ‘private’. Again, I’m not sure nationalization is the answer. Some serious effort needs to be spent discussing the role of electric utilities in our country…maybe even at a Constitutional level (that whole interstate trading thing).

    Oddly enough, from down here in the trenches, it seems that a similar effort needs to be made w/respect to education reform.

    That, in my opinion, is why Obama is the better candidate. I am convinced that he is more capable of understanding the constitutional issues (centralization vs. states’ rights); understanding the potential economic ramifications; and achieving some sort of compromise between complete nationalization and the free market run amok, which would be better than both sides agreeing to disagree or descending into another four years of petty squabbling and grabbing for scraps at the trough.

  61. Hugo says:

    Hey Rick, your town’s Maestra Maria, the late (Master Teacher) Mary Conder, a lifelong Kindergarten teacher, was the greatest frontline educator I ever have met. In any country.

    And that’s saying a bit, man.

  62. Seth says:


    Your analogy between the highway system and the electrical grid is a good one in principle. And, no I haven’t forgotten Enron. That was a case of cynical exploitation of a badly designed, poorly thought out experiment in deregulation of private utilities companies, not a direct result of the equipment being privately owned.

    The process of taking ownership of the grid would be complex and would motivate a tremendous backlash. I guess my main objection is pragmatic — is that really the fight we need to have to secure a better future? Compared to say, healthcare or demilitarizing our foreign policy? Maybe I’m underestimating the severity of the problem. But that’s the nature of my concern, not ideological aversion to collective ownership of a natural monopoly.

  63. Rick Turner says:

    “(centralization vs. states’ rights)” This is quite the hot-button topic, starting with the fact that in the Senate we do not have proportional representation at all. Why does a senator from North Dakota have the same voting weight as a senator from California? That is a massive dilution of the power of California (or New York, or Illinois, etc.) electorate on the national level. It may have made sense in 1787 when the states’ population disparities were nowhere near what they are now, but in 2008 it may be an obsolete concept.

    As for the grid, I’d nationalize the grid and keep the generation of power open to anybody whether it’s individuals with rooftop solar, some company that wants to build safe nukes (but without that federal cap on liability should it go China Syndrome), local municipalities, or energy corporations. Let them all competed on the generation, but distribute it on a grid owned by us all.

  64. Without the national highway system, goods and services could still be moved in other (albeit) less efficient ways.

    What happens to our economy, our country, if a huge chunk of the lights go out for a long, long time? Think Katrina and Ike were bad…imagine a cascading blackout (caused by man or nature) that takes out an entire region for a long period of time. Transporation can be, to an extent, worked around. Electricity cannot (at least not until everyone is generating their own).

    It’s more complex than the highway system and it’s extremely important…I would argue as important as healthcare and, I think, energy security and reliability is connected to demilitarizing our foreign policy (what could be done if we didn’t have to worry about oil from the Middle East).

  65. @ Rick,

    Injecting power back into the grid is an intricate engineering issue. It can be done and having the ability to do it is a good argument for moving towards a national grid…right now, the individual utilities don’t like this sort of distributed generation for both technical and economic reasons (they aren’t a monopoly supplier in the region).

    Isn’t the disproportionality in the Senate supposed to be balanced by the proportional representation in the House (or am I woefully naive again)? I’m not saying you’re wrong, but having lived, for the most part, in two sparsely populated Western states (Nevada and New Mexico), I’m concerned about the effect proportional representation in the Senate would have on such states’ interests (although I will admit to having the exact opposite opinion about term limits…I don’t think people should be allowed to be ‘lifers’ no matter how ‘good’ it is supposed to be for the state’s representation).

  66. Alex Bowles says:

    Just a quick observation on a thread that’s exploded: even though a grab-bag of topics are on the table, energy and education have swiftly dominated.

    I find it very encouraging that, in a moment of real crisis demanding fundemental reconsideration of who we are and where we’re going, people gravitate to the issues that will pay the biggest dividends in 10-20 years, instead of getting distracted by the highly charged heat of the moment. If the New Federalism is looking for a couple of anchors, Energy and Education policy seem like great points around which the conversation can focus.

  67. Rick Turner says:

    Amber, I’m reasonably conversant with electrical and electronic issues, and I know that the amount of power being fed into the grid needs to be balanced by the amount coming back out. Luckily, solar energy is generated during the hours of peak demand, so there’s a bit of a macro solution. But yes, there needs to be many ways of storing power, be it with batteries, ultra-capacitors, pumping water up hill, compressing air (a lot of heat losses, though), cracking water for hydrogen and oxygen, etc. These solutions can be on the nano scale or pretty large, too. Once again, I think a distributed solution would work best.

    The other thing is that by going to a much greater distribution of power generation, there is less to worry about with a natural disaster like Katrina, Ike, an earthquake or, heaven forbid, an attack on something like a nuke power station. The electric body of the US would become more self-healing in cases of problems.

    As for other ways to move things around the country… One of the greatest examples of corporate welfare in the history of the US is the handing over of railroad rights of way to private enterprise. That established some of the earliest and greatest fortunes in America, thanks to the lining of the pockets of politicians…

  68. Rick, I pretty much agree with all that. It’s just that the distributed solution is going to be a really tough sell to electric utilities as they are currently operated (some are coming on board, but most are ‘business as ususal’). Additionally, I think that a combination of distributed and large-scale power generation will work best both technically and economically. And a phased-in approach (I think Len recommended this earlier) could realize both short-term and long-term gains for everyone (if some were willing to sacrifice really large short-term gains to make it happen). Providing the administrative structure and a good roadmap (which will involve some compromises I’m sure) for bringing this about is one of the biggest challenges facing those who are going to be running the country (not just the President, but the leaders of various corporations, smaller government agencies, and a bunch of other players).

  69. “solar energy is generated during the hours of peak demand”–In California and the southwest and there is a bit of an offset between peak demand and peak insolation. What about the rest of the country and wind power (or any other distributed generation)? And it’s not just that generation needs to match load, there are power quality and other issues with widespread penetration of distributed generation.

    That said, I am in no way arguing against it. I’m all for it. But to make sure that it is not perceived as more trouble than its worth (a problem that plagued solar from the 70s until recently) implementation needs to be measured and coordinated to ensure security and reliability (from a technical standpoint) and a reasonable balance between government ownership and free-market chaos (from an economic standpoint).

  70. Wow, I had no idea my comments would cause so much debate. For the record: I am not a troll, and I do not know who Morgan is. I find it odd that any of you wonder if I’m real, but feel free to visit my blog or something. I’m just a housewife living in Michigan. I made spaghetti for lunch and I have a Tibetan Terrier named Kiynago. I can’t make that stuff up.

    Here’s my deal – you either take it or leave it: The reality is, I don’t agree with most of you. But so what? If Mr. Taplin wanted, he could moderate comments to keep a bit more homogenous discussion going, but my assumption is that wouldn’t jive with the sentiment of the post that began this debate in the first place.

    I was led to this site by someone who thought my dissenting opinion might be a welcome source of fodder. I have absolutely no intention of needlessly upsetting people and I have remained civil (and for the most part, out of your hair, I don’t troll around for fights, it’s pointless.)

    This site has struck me as a worthy place to debate, as it seems to attract an above-average intelligence based on vocabulary and syntax alone. : )

    @len – thanks for your response on Obama and Pakistan.

    @Jon – I did say “collectivist” but I didn’t say anything about “too passionate.” I use collectivist to describe Obama’s proposals which emphasize, to a large extent, our inter-dependence, connectedness, etc. In fact, your post on the End of the Uber-Libertarian is what led me here, in which you also stressed the need for such inter-connected thinking. I’d love to see your source for Obama’s proposed NAFTA revisions where he stresses human rights issues, as his site doesn’t go into that detail. Pehaps I misunderstood as he mostly focuses on keeping jobs at home, which sounded protectionist to me. From the site, “Obama and Biden believe that NAFTA and its potential were oversold to the American people. They will work with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to fix NAFTA so that it works for American workers. ” Again, I maintain that collectivism, and nationalism are at odds.

    As for Obama on Pakistan, I thought this Christopher Hitchens article summed up nicely where Obama stands, “Barack Obama has, if anything, been the more militant of the two presidential candidates in stressing the danger here and the need to act without too much sentiment about our so-called Islamabad ally. He began using this rhetoric when it was much simpler to counterpose the “good” war in Afghanistan with the “bad” one in Iraq. Never mind that now; he is committed in advance to a serious projection of American power into the heartland of our deadliest enemy. And that, I think, is another reason why so many people are reluctant to employ truthful descriptions for the emerging Afghan-Pakistan confrontation: American liberals can’t quite face the fact that if their man does win in November, and if he has meant a single serious word he’s ever said, it means more war, and more bitter and protracted war at that—not less.”

  71. Rick Turner says:

    Amber, I’m with you all the way, and one of the reasons for nationalizing is to get the obstructionists in private enterprise the hell out of the way.

    I do understand power quality, too. The Voltage needs to stay constant within a few percentage points, the phases need to stay 120 degrees apart, and the line frequency has to really stay constant. A quick story about that…I read that Tesla gave all the workers at the Niagra Falls power plant electric clocks to take home to encourage them to carefully monitor the AC line frequency. The motors in the clocks were synchronous motors that got their time base from the AC frequency.

    As power generation through burning fossil fuels continues to go out of sight cost-wise, and as solar gets cheaper and cheaper, there will be no point in sticking with old ways. The sooner the oil companies realize that they could be in the energy business, not the dying oil business, the better off they will be, and lord knows, if anyone can afford R&D into new energy technologies, it’s Exxon, Phillips, etc.

    Here in California, there are a lot of people pumping excess home generated electricity into the grid. So what’s the problem? Obstructionism is the problem. There are no technical issues that can’t be solved with today’s technology. Better solutions may appear in the future, and if they are better, then fine, bring ’em on. But if my pal Susie can have her roof top connected to the grid here in Santa Cruz, then it can be done all over the US.

  72. Rick Turner says:

    Milena, the only reason I can think of to be in Pakistan or Afghanistan is to go and either capture or eliminate Osama Bin Laden. Other than that, let’s get the hell out. There’s too much work to do here in the US to be squandering our resources in countries that don’t have the basic education or infrastructure for democracy anyway, and it’s not our job to shove our ways down their throats.

    Lead the world by example, don’t prod them with bayonets.

  73. @ Rick–now I know why I love you! I agree, so how do we get rid of the private enteriprise ‘obstacles’ without going all socialist and stuff?

    @ Milena–Is “act without sentiment” necessarily code for “military solution”? I’m just asking.

    @ the room–I’m sensing a disconnect between ‘keeping jobs at home’ and NAFTA. I mean, I know many haven probably gone to Mexico, but have that many really gone to Canada. Aren’t China and India bigger issues as far as this goes? Again, just asking.

  74. Techno tidbits for the energy discussion…

    There’s a group (I think in Germany) investigating advanced adabiatic (not sure of the spelling) CAES (compressed air energy storage). AA-CAES systems solve some of the heat loss issues w/traditional CAES and can make the systems (in theory) about 70% efficient (big step from where they are now).

    To do the kind of power flow control Rick & I have been talking about is going to require better semiconductors that can operate at higher voltages, higher frequencies, and higher operating temperatures. They’re in the works, but like any emerging technology, they will be more expensive than traditional semiconductors at the beginning.

  75. More techno…

    More widespread distributed generation also brings into play the possibility of a combination of AC and DC generation (the reason AC won was because the generation source could be located further away from the load). A recent article in (I think) EE Times talked about new applicances that were being designed for AC or DC input.

    I asked some of the geniuses I work with about that. Here’s what I got… Even in a DC distribution system, power conversion (those semiconductors again) is still needed (i.e. converters to manage loads, etc.) From the system standpoint it makes sense but I have to question the safety aspect of it. It is more difficult to interrupt DC during faults caused by things like dropping your hairdryer in the tub full of water.

    Just throwing that out there.

  76. @Rick – I agree with capturing Osama.

    @Amber – I really don’t know what some of those things mean, but I think clearing up ambiguities like that matter.

    Also, re: NAFTA and “keeping jobs at home” – those are again Obama’s connections, not mine. India and China are not the real problems, but again, you are talking to a classical liberal, I believe opportunity spans beyond a country’s borders. If someone in India does my job better for less, I’m a wrong to charge my employer more.

    I’m just as curious as you are. My main concern is the ambiguity of the proposal, unfortunately, this is where my mind goes: revising NAFTA can only hurt the weakest country. Sure, the US may keep more jobs, but there is a lot of evidence that the standards of living, in particular for the Latin American countries have been vastly improved by reduced barriers to trade.

    Furthermore, I think the impact of trade can even address issues like Pakistan. It is interesting to note that between 1980 and 2000, economic sanctions reduced trade with Muslim countries by 75%. (WSJ “Free Trade Can Fight Terror)

    I think it’s hard to not see the correlation between their inability to make a living and desire to kill us.

    Democratic think-tankers Edward Gresser, director of the Trade and Global Markets Project at the Progressive Policy Institute and Marc Dunkelman, vice president for strategy and communication at the Democratic Leadership Council have said,

    “Our tariff regime puts many nations in the Middle East, whose young people are susceptible to the sirens of Islamic fundamentalism, at an unintended disadvantage. This works against our efforts to stamp out jihadism. Fortunately, the problem is easy to fix.

    Sen. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) has taken a step toward fixing this problem, by introducing a bill, the Afghanistan and Pakistan Reconstruction Opportunity Zones Act of 2008, to waive tariffs on many goods from Afghanistan and Pakistan’s frontier provinces. The next president should follow up with a broad, tariff-exemption initiative to help the Muslim world break its downwards spiral, revive trade and put its young people back to work.”

    I don’t see Obama embracing some of the great work and thought of his party.

  77. Seth says:


    I would be surprised if Obama objected to Cantwell’s bill. Apart from “sounding” protectionist, what aspects of his specific policy proposals worry you?

    What I’m hearing from Obama is very much the conventional Democratic talk of “Free and FAIR” trade: taking a hard look at the various ways our trade policy is feeding a “race to the bottom” in labor and environmental standards rather than simply setting a level playing field.

    That said, I think it makes sense to tilt the playing field in favor of basket cases like Afghanistan.

  78. Rick Turner says:

    I have to think that the biggest problems with NAFTA and Central and South America are lax industrial safety and environmental policies and rampant corruption that only serves to keep the (probably worse than) 10% on top with 90% of the ownership of resources.

    Re. DC vs. AC…solar energy is all DC at the generation point. It has to be inverted into AC and then synchronized with line frequency to feed it back into the grid. It’s doable and is done, but yes, for large systems, it gets trickier.

    Wind can be either DC or AC, but the frequency for AC will vary with wind speed if the generator is directly connected to the turbine or propeller. So there’s dealing with that, and it’s easiest to go AC wind to DC and then invert that back to regulated AC. Again, existing technology.

    As far as “protectionism” goes, there are real social consequences to just going where something is cheaper. What you wind up seeing is that the desk bound do fine while the real producers…the line workers…have their lives in upheaval. You wind up with classic class resentment and lower class displacement. It’s the nasty and cruel aspect of free markets, and it really sucks.

    Eventually in a couple of centuries we may have parity or nearly that world wide with regard to industrial wages. The US has already slipped way behind probably nearly two dozen other countries…as we’ve also slipped behind in other benefits needed…education and health care. Some degree of protectionism is not necessarily a bad thing, and it doesn’t have to mean harsh isolationism.

    And maybe Obama should drop by here and check out what a bunch of thinking people have to say…

  79. Rick Turner says:

    Oh, as far as Muslim countries go…wouldn’t it be great if the rich ones (Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Emirates, etc.) would actually help their people rather than use them (the Palestinians) as puppet cannon fodder in the war against Israel.

    I won’t be alive for this, but I’d love to see the world about thirty years after the oil is virtually gone from the Middle East. What the hell are they going to do there? Sell sand?

  80. len bullard says:

    @milena: I know Hitchens takes that position and if you extrapolate on what Obama said, it’s a reasonable position. Frankly I suspect it was electioneering posturing for milking the Bush policies to his advantage.

    No one I know thinks engaging Pakistan on any level except diplomacy and foreign aid does any good for the US. India can wipe out Pakistan at will, so there really are enough guns in that part of the world.

    Getting Bin Ladin: While a fat political coup, his danger to the US is vastly overrated. We’ve been carving his group down fairly handily. If we thought we could get him without a lot of collateral damage and be dead certain we did (as in his head in a jar), we might, but he isn’t the biggest worry. Getting the Taliban to change their rotten ways and dealing with the so-called lumpen terrorists are more important. It is looking more every day as if the Taliban are backing into a corner to negotiate.

    It isn’t that they aren’t dangerous. They are and always will be but one paradoxically good effect of global economics is everyone feels it and starts cooling down on non-productive actions. I don’t mean that to sound like we don’t need to act, but that the environment is shifting away from the threats of extremists and toward getting firewood stacked. If we are smart, we’ll use this period to make more diplomatic overtures.

  81. len bullard says:

    “What the hell are they going to do there?”

    They plan to own enough assets around the world to offset any loss of revenue from oil production. Notice this week that oil prices are plummeting dramatically and gas producers are not lowering their prices in order to keep their profit levels high. That can’t go on indefinitely but it’s a hint of the the oil sheiks will do as their cash cow starts giving less milk.

    Since the US is being firesaled with parts of Europe to follow and they are cash rich, they’ll spend wisely. Ever done business with the Arabs? Not stupid. They get their money’s worth in most cases.

    Now the problem here is that anyone arguing for wealth redistribution and not noticing that one rich class is simply being replaced by another one is not smart. The only way what the oil sheiks have in mind can work is an international banking system that takes care of enforcing their possessive acquisition of other vital assets… say water rights, say software and other high tech, and so on.

  82. @Seth – Obama’s policy position makes vague references to revising NAFTA, it was “oversold” and to “keep jobs at home”, which is why it can only “sound” protectionist so far, I don’t want to go so far as to say they “are” in an effort to be objective.

    Why that worries me: protectionism increases global tensions (see: terrorism), protectionism reduces innovation, efficiency, and leads to lower standards of living globally (see: Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, division of labor), protectionism could lead to a deepening of the current economic problems, reducing diversification and competition.

    I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has alternate proposals for “Fair Trade”. Does anyone have some ideas that don’t involve government economic sanctions, tariffs, and other barriers to entry into global markets? I’m asking in earnest. Just because you may disagree with me doesn’t mean alternatives don’t exist. What do you think the drawbacks are? I know there are private companies doing great things: American Apparel, Whole Foods, etc.

    @Rick – I disagree that only the lowest wage or blue collar workers are hurt. The desk bound are losing as well. My own job suffers by auto-industry layoffs. I’m a voice teacher, and I have/had a number of white collar students who are in the auto industry who have had to quit or reduce lessons because they were laid off, in addition to close friends. The health care industry suffers as well, as auto companies provide huge benefit packages that are disappearing as workers are laid off and do not demand the same levels of care. At least in the Metro Detroit area, hospitals are largely supported up by patients in the auto industry, for obvious reaons.

    The auto industry is seeing scores of white collar workers laid off, in part due to unfair labor practices here: falsely propping up union wages, and cutting workers who aren’t eligible for the union’s blessing or exit packages. For example, the average GM worker earns $75/hr., where the average Toyota worker earns $55/hr. [Barron’s] First of all, I’d be surprised if anyone argued those are not more than fair wages, but it is clear union contracts for domestic companies are strangling them. (I know product mix and lack of innovation is something you feel hurt them as well, but it is more complex than that.) For example, I know a woman, twice widowed, three times remarried, eligible for health insurance at her current employer, who enjoys 30-odd years later, the full medical and pension benefits from her first late husband’s package at Ford. It is contracts like that which demonstrate protectionism at its worst, and Obama is playing to that crowd.

    Is there a place for protectionism? Of course! At the level of the individual, which is precisely why choice, and free trade, is so critically important. Let’s do an experiment: everyone check where your t-shirt, shoes, or computer parts were made, do the research, and let us know. Does the company you purchase from support fair labor practices? Do you care? That will answer the question as to who really cares about fair trade, not just which candidate we support.

  83. Alex Bowles says:


    I for one, am glad you’re here. I hope you continue to hang out and poke sticks. You do it in a really nice way.

    Also, I did take a look at your blog (note to All, she is most certainly not Morgan incognito) and I like your idea about language, and the way that certain words (privatization, deregulation, free-trade) have become so charged that their value has been completely altered.

    Instead of being the same ball, with which everybody plays, these words are now the goals. Lines of thought that successfully present them in a positive or negative light are regarded as victories and defeats, depending on who is making the argument. This may make for spirited ‘conversation’, but when language itself enters the state of play to this degree, it’s a safe bet that communication will suffer.

    Again, I see that this thread is skewing heavily energy, with a minor in education, and a cheering section going strong for team Obama, but in keeping with the larger ‘Turning the Page’ theme, I’d like to suggest a new linguistic framework for the markets in which these things will have to emerge.

    But first I’d like to propose that we stop taking about free-markets vs. socialization as though they were actual opposites, with ‘privatization’ and ‘regulation’ the mechanisms for shifting power from one camp to the other.

    And we’ve got to stop discussing ‘regulation’ as though it was something with perfect consistency, like cold water that can simply be added to a too-hot bath in order to make it ‘just right’, while taking no account of its quality or coherence. Like the false dichotomy between ‘free-markets’ and ‘socialism’, this view of regulation does more harm than good.

    Accordingly, my suggestion is that we abandon (or at least suspend) the expression ‘free market’ and start talking about Clear Markets vs. Dark Markets.

    Clear markets are ones where price signals are accurate – undistorted by subsidies, monopolies, embargoes, cartels, targeted special interest legislation, social justice agendas (no matter how warranted), and unrelated taxation (i.e. taxes that do not directly sustain the externalities the market needs to exist).

    Dark markets are ones in which many or all of the factors listed above combine to distort and obscure the costs of doing business – either by inflating or deflating prices directly, or stripping the costs of externalities from the transaction.

    Regulation, in turn (which we may need to re-dub ‘governance’) is a matter of simultaneously stripping the market of any distorting factors while accurately assessing the market for the true cost of its operations to public health and the environment as a whole, as well as the regulatory regime needed to distribute these takings appropriately, while maintaining the overall openness of the market to new players, products, ideas, and business models.

    Discussing the intersection between politics, economics and governance in these terms may also help with Seth’s problem, and his well placed observation that conversations that veer into all or nothing go nowhere fast.

    As an aside, I did a very cursory Google search, and did not see any mention of the Clear to Dark Market continuum. I did see some concepts about dark markets that fit with one end of this idea, but they seem to be too nascent to have developed into the dichotomy I’m suggesting now. So if people like this idea, and develop it accordingly, it can find it’s way into the world from here.

  84. I think the clear market, dark market is a useful distinction…at least for this conversation. Of course we all know that these sorts of ‘continuum’ discussions and all this agreement that the situation is complex and not black or white, left or right, is not what sells advertising space in the MSM. Any workable solutions should take the middle ground…how unsexy.

  85. MT,

    Do those $/hr figures you quoted include the benefits package, or are they just an hourly rate? I want to know if I need to raise my rates. :)

  86. Alex Bowles says:

    Amber – finding the stable path is exactly it. My point, simply, is that you’re going to have a hard time identifying it when faced with a false dichotomy.

    Getting the language straight is simply the first step, and since the old words are all gummed up with spent ideology, it’s time for some fresh ones.

  87. Chris Weekly says:

    @Alex Bowles // October 6, 2008 at 11:40 am

    Fist bump / applause.
    This might be the best comment of the month here.

  88. Hugo says:

    Sorry folks, but I’m coming to resent this whole thread. I’d thought that Jon was calling us anew to a devolutionary federalism we’d all agreed might best be exemplified by a California taking possession once again of its own mighty faculties, while leaving to the 50 states’ corporate efforts only those responsibilities best handled by the Union jointly formed for those purposes, etc.

    This false start degenerated, almost immediately, into a feast of power for correspondents fancying themselves feds, not New Federalists.

    I don’t mean this as a rebuke, only as a resignation from the discussion. I’ll rejoin when again we’re on Governor Schwarzenegger’s clock, and not that of a prospective President Obama. Right now you guys are just operating beyond my level of comfort, is all.

    Catch you on the flip.

  89. Hugo says:

    Dear Chris,

    I’ve a response waiting for you on the Biden string. You wholly misunderstood me, I’m afraid.



  90. Rick Turner says:


  91. Hugo says:

    Hail Victory, Rick.

  92. Fentex says:

    > keep the generation of power open to anybody

    I recently read a fairly technical piece that was enlightening on how surprisingly diffilcult it is to let anyone generate power for a large (i.e national) power grid.

    Personally I think it seems easier and generally wiser to encourage isolated pockets completely separate from the large grids (small towns with their own wind, tidal, thermal etc generation).

    You’d create a market for solutions that are applicable anwhere in the world (thus as big a market as you could want), reduce interdependence (not always a good thing), reduce centralised control, bring decision making and investment decisions closer to users.

    At the cost of efficiencies in scale.

  93. Rick Turner says:

    Connect where it makes sense, disconnect where that makes sense. One solution does not work for all. But how come it seems so easy in California for folks to connect their home power to the grid and yet you’re being told it’s so hard? This is a fairly ordinary thing here…pumping power back in.

    Sure, as the scale goes up, it gets more difficult, but it’s not rocket science.

  94. len says:

    We don’t have to use the same techniques as the current grid which acts like a continuously distributing circuit as if we stored all in the information on the web on the wires instead of the disk drives. It isn’t rocket science. Some percentage of locally generated energy is being consumed locally, as in by the homeowner. Some percentage is going to multiple local storage devices both in house and in applicances (a car is an applicance). Some percentage is going to neighborhood (for some n of neighbor) devices’ storage and consumption.

    Anything left over goes to the local grids and devices, then and only then to the national grid.

    It’s a bottom up system where bottom means local first.

    Remember, the big generating units (say hydroelectric, coal and nuclear) aren’t going offline. Those stay. What we are talking about is replacing gasoline with electrical and natural gas.

    Ask the right questions:

    1. How do we clean up the carbon emissions?
    2. How do we become energy independent?

    Manage those and then you get to ask the same questions the sheiks ask:

    1. How do we spend all of this money?
    2. Where are the loose women and wine?

  95. Jon Taplin says:

    Hugo- I don’t think the string is out of control. I tend to agree with AB, that it’s rather amazing that the themes seem to coalesce around the big subjects of ET and Education. These are both areas where New Federalist ideas could help as Rick Points out. Both the grids and the schools systems can be locally governed.

    And MT- You are a very welcome addition to our conversations.

  96. len says:

    Then Jon, it becomes the question it has been since the beginning of the republic: what are the rights of the States and what conditions must they meet to receive Federal funds, and what Federal oversight should they be subject to in order to receive that?

    If we say little, we open ourselves back up to the abuses of local systems of minorities. If we say lots, we find ourselves with the kinds of problems we have with the credit crisis.

    There has to be an adjustable means and we have to understand and discriminate among fast feedback and long cycles. It is the same model as the climate.

    We need parametric equalizers for cultures and social services.

  97. Rick Turner says:

    What worked in 1787 may no longer be 100% appropriate to this age. Traditions all start somewhere; many become obsolete. Yes, that’s a dangerous and slippery slope, but it’s also true. I think the Constitution should be questioned in the light and shadows of 210 years.

  98. Hugo says:

    Hi Jon. Not at all out of control at all. No, I appreciate the richness of knowledge and ideas; just not many of the implications for governance. Infrastructure is one thing; human beings are another. And I don’t see where the feds have any legitimate role whatsoever in the actual governance of any other than their own education systems, which are military. Federal enforcement, in the realm of education, of the states’ corporate contract of 1789 is necessary on occasion, of course, but that’s a matter four the courts and for the Executive’s enforcers (if necessary, the 82d Airborne in Little Rock, for example). But such enforcement of civil liberties need have nothing to do with blatant federal inroads into educational governance, most obviously and most disastrously Senator Kennedy’s and President Bush’s NCLB.

    The Founding States reserved provisions for public education into themselves, prohibiting their hirelings in the national policing authority from making any law concerning education’s governance. Turn’s out, after what seem eons of NCLB, that they were pretty smart to have required us to amend their constituting charter before we go and get all stupid with great masses of other people’s children compelled by force of law to comply with the idiocy that now passes for education reform.

  99. Rick Turner says:

    The Founding Fathers were slave owners, Hugo. How’s them for apples? Get off this kick of how perfect things were in 1789. They weren’t. Times change; we’re much more interconnected than they were 200 years ago. Get over it.

  100. Dan says:

    “If we say little, we open ourselves back up to the abuses of local systems of minorities. If we say lots, we find ourselves with the kinds of problems we have with the credit crisis.

    There has to be an adjustable means and we have to understand and discriminate among fast feedback and long cycles. It is the same model as the climate.”

    Enthusiastic agreement on that. One of the problems is that too much political talk has been all-or-none. Personally, I think that most of that talk (and the talk most heavily charged with terms like “moral”) comes from the right: Taxes, all taxes, are always bad. Government, all government, is always the problem. Unions, all unions, are always corrupt. Free markets, all free markets, are always good.

    The problem, in my view, is always that there are either too much or too few taxes, and too much or too little government. Opinions different on what too much or too little is in both cases. Opinions, not God-granted mandates.

    But a view that thinks either that government solves everything, or government solves nothing, is blinkered.


    In my opinion.

  101. Hugo says:

    Did I say anything about founding persons or “fathers”, Rick, or about the kick that you yourself are on? (But hey, thanks for the hot tip on Dr. Franklin. Had you not clued me in on his primtive and depraved slavemongering I’d have thought that he’d have much to say about our grid, our communications, and especially our multiform connectivity.)

    The chartering STATES that formed our expressly limited structures of corporate governance reserved education from federal control and to the states instead, meaning that Congress TO THIS DAY shall make no law concerning the governance of whatever provisions for education the states may choose, or may choose not, to make. You may disapprove of this restraint, and I might agree with you (I really might) but we’ll have to gather a lot more people, in a lot more states in convention gathered, just to do the first legitimate thing about it. (For an example of “illegitimate” see the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.). In the meantime California would do well by its schoolchildren AND its taxpayers — two increasingly estranged groups — to work toward that fiscally disciplined day when it can tell the feds what the Washington government may do with its federal dollars and therefore with all sillystrings attached. The federal government would have no constitutional recourse whatsoever.

    I’m glad that you and several other people in this blog community have such command of and concern for the crucial issue of energy infrastructure, with its signal implications for interstate and interpersonal connectedness. But should anyone even begin to gain traction by confusing connectivity with the gentle arts of organized child-rearing, or infrastructure itself with young Americans, then I’ll fight. With the Constitution, among other things, on my side.

    And if you want to know what I just learned about (communications) connectivity, it’s that thumpadding on glass goes better when you’re not scarfing a basket of St. Louis Style BBQ chicken wings. Prior to last night, how would I have known? Even Jon’s best doctoral students remain silent on the subject.

  102. Rick Turner says:

    Hugo, while I respect the incredible foresight of the Founding Fathers, any time someone starts to go all 18th century constitutional on me, I have to wonder if context means nothing to them. I do not disagree with you with regard to how screwed up our educational system has become, but blaming it all on some deviance from the Constitution does nothing to creatively or constructively fix the problems.

    A perfect example of how the Feds have helped education is Brown vs. the Board of Education. If the states had full control, you’d have had segregated schools for a lot longer in some areas.

    The New Federalism has to embrace a bit more governance than the Founding Fathers were thinking about, and that is a valid discussion that should not just inspire knee -jerk reactions citing a 200 year old document as being 100% relevant to today.

    I dare say that in many ways, we’re more connected across the 3000 mile breadth of the United States than were the citizens of Boston and New York…or even Boston and New Haven…in 1789 or so. I know I can get across the country in less time than the Boston Post Road would have helped me to get from Boston to Springfield, and with this medium I’m typing into, our communication is virtually instant. That’s a game changer, and so we should accommodate the wisdom and intent of the Founding Fathers without being limited to their exact ways of dealing with contemporary issues.

  103. Rick Turner says:

    One more thought…or question. What is the nature of the glue that holds a Federation together? What are the common grounds?

  104. len bullard says:

    Common law, taxes and proximate location and that one has an n.

    A common language helps but if that was all we needed we’d still have a monarch.

    Then the abstraction “we the people”.

  105. @ Hugo…we don’t all live in California. It’s easier for some of us to speak to Presidential agendas than those for your state. Plus, I think we were originally asked about “the first 100 days.” I know we’ve been meandering, but I still think that is the main point. That’s why I haven’t been talking about my own state.

    @Fentex & Rick

    Fentex you’re right. The concept of ‘microgrids’ is becoming more appealing and it is highly workable. Problems (technical and economic) sometimes arise when individuals or small business with their own gen sources want to make some extra money by selling excess power back to utlity companies.

    Rick you’re not wrong. In an earlier comment I mentioned that some utilities (a small, forward thinking minority) are ‘on board’. PG&E is one of them. They’ve been working ‘alternative’ for years (at least for the 15 or so I’ve been around the industry). That’s why it’s so easy in California.

  106. Rick, your last questions are good ones. They relate to another post…what it means to be a ‘regular’ American or what it means to be American. So here’s my broad, anecdotal generality for the day (then I really must do some actual work)…in the first 100 days of the new administration goals should be set for defining what we all agree are national priorities (not necessarily how they should be implemented yet) and every effort should be made to expend no energy on issues (again, ideas not implementation) on which we are hopelessly divided.

    Or as we say here in casa del six pack “Everybody is for less crime and better education.” And, at least on this blog, for energy security and reliability. Set the priorities, then work on implementation (where a true middle ground will need to be found), and damn the rest.

  107. Hugo says:

    Actually, Amber rather than your presuming to publish your deignings with respect to my dislocations from context, you simply would do better to check yourself lest you become, like the U.S. Secretary of Education, a mere impediment.

    And Rick, it’s not for me to guess which lucratively DSM-enumerated billing item accounts for your special deafness to others’ paragraphs immediately preceeding and following, but if you need to think that you can teach me about the archaism of my constitutional obligations or instruct me as to how exactly seriously I should or should not take them, then all I can say is that you will not have been the first gifted and accomplished Cruzan to…

    (Elipses intended, Amber, lest you feel again the need to skoolmarm.)

    I am,

    Yours in Atlanta,


  108. Thanks for the correction Hugo. That explains a lot. No more skoolmarming here. I just ran screaming from the conversation. You all are just too smart for me.

  109. Seth says:


    Nonsense. Hugo is a bit of an intellectual bully. If the two of you were pitching business plans, I know which of you I would trust with my money. Don’t run away. This is too important.

  110. Really, I couldn’t tell by the pedantic and condescending use of language. It was an overblown, convoluted sentence that caused my original error. Still, I’m a skoolmarm and MT has been called a troll. Not seeing quite as nasty name calling among the boys in the room (not that there hasn’t been any). Think I’ll go back to my work and my knitting.

  111. Rick Turner says:

    Hugo, you’re reminding me more and more of a departed guest at this table, Morgan. Not every problem in America can be laid at the feet if the US Department of Education, yet you’re like the hammer to whom every problem is a nail. You don’t have to keep ranting about that one problem; we heard you. Move on. You’re becoming a one trick pony.

  112. Hugo says:

    Seth’s right, Amber, don’t run away. Stay instead, please. This bully, Moi, just got hit in his softest part, is all: the permanent respect for the schoolmarm type (as distinguished from the lifelong love of, I dunno, the French Maid fettish, I guess). Stay in range of this conversation, though, because I promise you that you’re welcome by all parties.

    Disapproving of this end of Jon’s string, you brandish the terms “pedantic…condescending…overblown…convoluted.” Fine with me. But for just a second before and lest we “meander”, let’s take up the BB guns and the nerve to pick off your accusational words one by one.

    “Pedantic” is what I, in effect, called you. You and I, evidently, have the “common” — and also VERY common — distinction of serving as professional didacts. All right. Fine. So I suppose we agree that pedantry, inside of class or out, is not good. Check. Agreed. So much for what we think of the “pedantic”.

    As to two of your remaining bird-on-a-wire words, “overblown” and “convoluted”, I really ask you to rethink how my recitation of American jurisprudence is OVERBLOWN to the point of its being “convoluted” in any way. Really, Amber, please hit the PAUSE button on this one.

    Finally, that leaves the sparrow named “condescension” — which takes us back to the first point, the one distinguishing professional didacts from inveterate pedants. And HEY, AMBER! Is this not cool? Look! Here, in our times, on Taplin’s Blog, we are reprising the age-old FIGHT OF THE MILLENNIA: SOCRATES VS. THE HACKS.

    With your permission, then, Amber, I’ll get back to Rick now, because believe it or not he and I were headed to rendezvous until you decided to save him from the rocky Point of Steamer Lane by so presumptuously censuring me.

    May Rick and I continue then, Ms. Amber?

  113. Hugo says:

    Rick, thanks for spilling your beans. It was bound to happen sometime, I guess. And as all things that pass between us, it’s cool.

    Sometime I’ll meet you up in that little brick keepershouse above the rubber otters and maybe you’ll let me point out an in-house stick or two that still sings to me almost as beautifully as your sticks sing for others, and then maybe you’ll see that, though I’m younger than you, we’re together at Thoreau’s “Most estimable place in the world, and at the nick of time, too.”

    It’s your really thoughtful, rather vulnerably tentative points about “glue” that really really get me. You really did head me off at the pass, fair and square.

    Yeah I know. I know. That’s what’s missing, isn’t it? It’s the glue, the social-contracting. Jefferson aged and died lamenting its lack and doing impossibly costly things to try to repair that lack, and so many impossibly undeservedly glorious Americans have tried since then to lean into this void as you are doing now.

    But what DO we do about it, Rick?

    You first.

    Then, maybe, Amber. Amber would be good.

  114. Hugo says:

    Oh and Rick, contrary to your guesses about my nururing sour grapes I never blamed anyone for the state of U.S. education — your chosen bogeys or any other.

    I no longer see the point in blaming as to who is or who is not leaving the young children in kerosene and cigarettes and matches.

    My points regarding constitutional restraint were just that: points about restraint and points about unutterably damaging breakings of our educational restraint by Mssrs. Kennedy, Bush and others. Damaging, unless you take lightly the deliberate burning of another cohort of other people’s children.

    PHONIX IXNAY! Whole Language! Parents Are…TEACHERS TOO! The New Math! Remember: When You See the Flash, Duck and Cover! Maybe Your Child Needs…New Ritalin! Today’s Schools Offer a Life Adjustment Curriculum AND Gold Medalion All Electric Conveniences! You Can Make a Difference!

    Hope Springs Eternal on Pigeons and People Trained on Variable Interval Reinforcement.

    Hugo of Saint Victor

  115. Rick Turner says:

    Well, Hugo, one place where we can start is to debunk the American individual loner cowboy myth. That Marlboro man image and mentality… This myth has been promoted to death…literally…don’t forget, the real Marlboro man died of lung cancer… So much for image and reality. It’s an appealing image and it’s drummed into us early on. Each one of us is special. Each one of us is totally unique. Bullshit. We’re humans and there are billions of others pretty much like us out there. And there isn’t just one soul mate out there for us, either. That’s bullshit, too.

    So start by considering that we are interconnected, and to a degree, what is good for the body of society should be good for us as individuals as well, and vice versa. Yeah, it does get kind of Golden Rule oriented, and there’s a bit of the kinder side of Libertarianism there, too, in that if one simply and very consciously refrains from fucking with anybody else, then that’s a fantastic place to start.

    But then there is the catch phrase/line from that great and fairly recent Solomon Burke song, “If one of us is chained, none of us are free.”
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article8199.htm Killer song, by the way.

    I’m looking for a path by which two systems, Communitarianisn and Libertarianism can be reconciled. We need respect for individuals as they are parts of the community. And if you want to go off and live like Ted Kozinski, fine as long as you refrain from sending bombs in the mail.

  116. Alex Bowles says:


    I’m looking for a path by which two systems, Communitarianism and Libertarianism can be reconciled.

    Ditto. And amen.

  117. Hugo says:

    Why goodness, Rick Turner, you’re from Harvard College, aren’t you. Where else would one learn your special knack for closing to the embrace with which to twist the unearned knife-in-the-back? And with such artistry!

    I really am impressed! Heavens, you must be the very same smiling cobra who welcomed me to this blog so long ago with an immediate comparison to the UNABOMBER. How perceptive of you. How…Cambridge Genteel. And whatever did YOU do, Rick, to help apprehend the man who beheaded my friend Gil Murray, crippled his assistant, widowed his darling wife and orphaned his young children? Do tell. Please.

    You act so much older than your already storied and accomplished years that I’m sure we all look forward to your Gore-y Munchausen tale of your personal apprehension of Mr. Kozinski. Why gosh, Rick, even the thought of it makes me blush at the little that I did to help the FBI
    find the original maker of unwelcome postings on Jon Taplin’s Blog.

    Communitarianism and Libertarianism my ass. All we need do is to finish the work begun in the federal Constitution that remains so lamentably unfinished in every one of the states’ charters, each of which document merely echoes the document meant for them as a herald.

    Solomon Burke is wasted on you, Pal.

    And Alex, sorry. Don’t listen to this cranked up entrepreneur so high on himself as to liken others of genuine good will to a very particular domestic terrorist.

  118. Rick Turner says:

    Touchy, touchy, touchy… Whew, Hugo. No personal issues intended, but clearly taken.

    Once again, you seem totally stuck in this constitution thing. Step back away from the document for a minute and think about how we might live as a society of respectful people. You can’t see the constitution for the words or the forest for the trees.

    No, no Harvard for me. Harvard Square, yes, though, where I did very well at Coffee House 101 right on through the grad courses in which I majored in D-28 and then did my “doctorate” at RCA’s studios on 23rd St. in New York.

  119. Another Jon says:

    Sweet Jeebus. What a mess this has become as of late. I wish I could blame Hugo (because it is fun) but he entertains me so…sometimes. Those elipsis were intentional as well.

    I do find it interesting that this discussion has taken a turn from the specifics of goals to be implemented into the core values of government. This social contract discussion is seriously treading in deep waters (Rouseau, Locke, Hobbes, Plato, etc) but it is essential to mapping exact locations for where “New Federalism” stands in relationship to…old federalism, republicanism, or whatever. It is an essentially Western, even Christian idea, these social contracts, but these questions lie, at their core, about the values placed on freedom and what freedom means. Some of the more simple-minded among us confuse this with morality.

    So…assuming we are all in agreement that freedom does not mean unimpeded access to the materials and vices that propagate our ridiculous and unsustainable lifestyle of consumption, then where do we go from here?

    I say this having been on board with the abstract idea of New Federalism because it has not been intellectually mapped in my brain. How it resolves the issues of the individual vs. society. And what governmental structures are in place to keep these core values from slipping into imperialism, or a tyranny of the masses, the way out little lost society of the Americas has now become.

  120. Hugo says:

    Social-contracting. We need lots of it. This is the right moment for it, too. We agreed on this months ago. Now’s the time.

  121. Hugo says:

    A.J., well stated throughout. And yes, Yanqui Pragmatism is usually mistaken for morality.

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