Letters to the Editor

Change due

March 31, 2009


To the editor:

In your Saturday editorial, you make the claim that President Obama’s promise of change had turned into “more of a revolution.” Were it only true. If so, we would have captured the Treasury and the banking system from the thieves of Wall Street, instead of allowing them to double down to the tune of trillions of dollars on their speculative gamble on imaginary derivatives and credit swaps. We could have implemented universal health care, as the majority of people desire, instead of allowing the greedy insurance and pharmaceutical companies to continue reap obscene profits from our pain and suffering. And we could have brought our troops home from the adventurous protection of oil companies and the dying fossil fuel industry and used those resources to convert to an ecologically sustainable and peaceful economy.

Shafer is from Lawrence


Flap Doodle 8 years ago

Stu, you forgot to use the phrase "running dogs of capitalism". I'm just saying.

jaywalker 8 years ago

Swell. So Stu's hope for a 'true' revolution would be nationalizing Wall Street, the banking industry, AND healthcare.........then use our military to establish a Green Nation? Take a breath and get a grip, Stu.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

"Of course none of us are greedy, it's only the other fellow who's greedy. "

Nearly everybody has an interest in their own self-preservation and well-being, and that of their families, but most people moderate such self-interest well short of greed. The level of greed that has created our current economic disaster is a form of mental illness that does not afflict everyone. There is absolutely no reason to continue to run the economy, our healthcare system, or anything else, on this form of insanity.

Jason Bailey 8 years ago

It's amazing to me to see people railing against Wall Street Greed and hailing Obama for taking steps to "fix the problem" when he's surrounded himself with a team of Wall Street money men. Name one person who is on Obama's team that is not related to Wall Street or the Fed in some way. Name one person who is/was a business owner with some common sense about how to get a General Ledger into the Black via private market strategy.

You can't and that's frightening. The same folks who, in general, have beached the ship are the ones responsible to get it back to sea and sailing again. Sorry if I have a lack of faith in those people.

The entire government is a deception and great theater designed to a) placate the masses, b) direct them to tune into the next episode of American Idol where they can drool on themselves and stop asking questions, and c) give platitudes about "outrage", "anger", "sacrifice", all devoid of any substance of action to address the problems.

There's a mental illness going on...it's in the American people who can't see the writing on the wall. We see a government firing CEOs yet when Obama says he has no interest in running companies, we nod and move along. Sorry...not buying it. Hiring and firing is the epitome of control over a company and Obama's words, once again, are not matching up with the reality of his actions.

Jason Bailey 8 years ago

NancyBoy: You're talking revolution...better watch out. I believe there may be a FEMA camp in your future. :)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

Not everyone is greedy, LO. As long as you want to base the economy and society on the false premise that everyone is, you'll continue to come up with unworkable systems and solutions to our problems.

That's not to say that there aren't greedy people in world-- the rest of us just need to quit letting them call all the shots.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

"It's amazing to me to see people railing against Wall Street Greed and hailing Obama for taking steps to “fix the problem” when he's surrounded himself with a team of Wall Street money men."

Jason-- neither this letter writer nor anyone posting on this thread did any such thing. To whom are you referring?

TheYetiSpeaks 8 years ago

Stu- If the only way you can make these changes is by making a stronger central government and marginalizing the Constitution then you can keep the change. Why is it the same people who were absolutely livid about the Patriot Act are okay with these ideas that are on the same level if not worse? Curious.

Poon 8 years ago

Oh fuque a duque, here we go again...

jonas_opines 8 years ago

"No matter what the answer to that question is, it will be completely subjective and thus arbitrary."

So is the notion of maximization of utility. After all, what one person considers utility or value is not a universal concept.

jonas_opines 8 years ago

"Were the AIG bonuses made a part of legal employment contracts?"

Doesn't matter one iota.

"Are not contracts legally binding documents?"

That can be dissolved through legal means like bankruptcy, and they would have been had the companies been allowed to fail.

"Do you want a government that can, by fiat or bills of attainder, discard legal contracts just because they had to intervene in keeping said company, and all of its' contracts, valid and afloat?"

Fixed that for you. Yes, in this scenario. I'd prefer they just be allowed to fail, to stem off this sort of scenario.

jonas_opines 8 years ago

"Central planners can't make a system that maximizes value for each individual, because as you point out, each individual has a different concept of what value is."

No system can do this, socialized, privatized or otherwise. In a system relating to a universal issue, such as health and sickness, the inevitable result is putting a particular concept or demographic above the others, usually in an arbitrary or subjective way, and in the same vein dismissing the drawbacks or problems it poses for others as acceptable losses. But again, what one considers acceptable is another subjective and arbitrary form.

jonas_opines 8 years ago

Pilgrim, who is this "you" that you keep referring to? Because it doesn't seem like you're actually talking to "me." Until you stop simply making stuff up to fit whatever position or poster you're trying to take or villify, you're just going to look like a fool.

jonas_opines 8 years ago

"This is the very definition of a free market system! People choosing for themselves how to maximize value, people determining for themselves what is valuable—that's the whole point of capitalism because it is the only system that can do this since that is the definition of what it is!"

Except that the whole system is built not on the premise of choice, but on a set of "rational" choices. More, it's built on the notion that all people have equal ability to make the same set of choices. Both of these are simply false in reality in this universal sense. Failed or problematic choices, lack of proper foresight or strategy, etc etc., all result inevitably in loss of utility or value for a great many people, not gain, and the only defense the system has is the socially darwinistic write-off that this is the way the free market system works. There is still an argument that this makes a better system in an aggregate, but it has to be acknowledged that it has it's negative effects in application, and requires a dismissal of those effects, which is generally built on the same proofs of the effectiveness of the system in the first place, i.e. "If they had made better choices in the first place, they wouldn't be in this position."

jonas_opines 8 years ago

Isn't that almost a given, Snap? You almost have to assume there's a Godwin in there somewhere.

viewfromahill 8 years ago

"Someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum into the streets."

kneejerkreaction 8 years ago

Just read that the new boss of GM says that more than likely they are heading into bankruptcy. No surprise there.

First concrete indication of the success of stimulus $s would seem to shout that investing in a failing company is a really bad idea for any reason.

So, now, you'd think the gov. would slow down and take a look at what they're getting for their money......OUR money. You wanna bet they won't?

jonas_opines 8 years ago

"More absurdity. Proper foresight or strategy? Huh? Who is to determine what that is other than the individual in question? You? Who is to determine that people have lost utility or value? You?"

Buyer's remorse? Later regret for choices made? Do you deny that any of these things occur? If people work to maximize their utility at all times, then how is anybody ever upset with the position that their life ended up as?

"You have some very wrong ideas. You seem to think there are objective answers to these subjective issues."

That is simply your incorrect interpretation of what I am saying. I have not said anything to the idea of objectivity other than to question it. It is really very simple: by a free market system, people making choices will get screwed from time to time, by their own actions or factors outside of their control. Do you deny this? Are you suggesting that those people who find themselves in bad situations due to their own choices are secretly happy since they got their of their own volition? These are very obvious things, and it seems your incredulity stems simply from your inability to fit them into your theoretical model.

"How can that possibly be? How can it be other than each individual deciding for themselves what is rational, what is proper foresight and strategy, what is a loss or gain in utilty?"

Again, same as above. Imperfect information and imperfect analysis leads to imperfect choices. See: lottery. Hell, see the many, many businesses that fail each and every year, with the livelihoods of the people in question gone, by the choices that they made to the best of their abilities.

jonas_opines 8 years ago

Oh, and. . .

"Where do you get this stuff?"

From my few years as a debt collector, for one thing.

jonas_opines 8 years ago

"How can anyone determine what the perfect choice is: scrambled or over easy? Oh the laughable absurdity."

Give me a break, you just confirmed the main point that I made in all of this: that negative results are written off as an inevitable result of the system. That may be fine for you, clearly it's not for a lot of people. Any judgments you've attributed to me past that is just your imagination and the fevered need to defend your own ideology.

At any rate, it's fairly safe to say that many people made their own choices, to maximize their utility, by promoting and asking for a larger government to provide them with a safety net. Sure, they may not be so happy with the end result, but hey, they were going based on the best information that they had!


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

"People are free to decide what is valuable to them, and do their best to maximize that value themselves."

What you exclude from this equation is that in our current free market (which is about as "free" as it will ever get anywhere outside LO's utopian dreams) the range of "decisions" people are allowed is very, very narrow, and almost always maximizes value to someone other than themselves. Our current healthcare system is Exhibit #1.

jaywalker 8 years ago

Liberty and jonas:

Enjoyed reading your dialogue. I would like to ask you, jonas, based on your responses, if your opinion isn't based in the hopes a more 'Utopian' society is possible? Inequity is inherent in any other society, wouldn't you agree?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

It would appear to me that the hardcore libertarian is much more utopian than the average leftist.

I have no illusion of the perfect society. Even while striving to do the best we can, that will always be less than perfect.

Doing the best we can will always mean a balance between allowing our most creative impulses as free a rein as possible while restraining our most destructive tendencies.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

Tell me, Liberty One, how do you propose to en"force" the abstraction of property rights, the very basis of your ideology?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

Although a definition of "property rights" would be first in order.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

"There is a large range of decisions people can make just to get around Lawrence: walk, bike, ride the bus, take a taxi, rent a car, buy a cheap car, buy an expensive car etc."

There is a very sizable percentage of people in this town for whom most if not all of the above are currently not viable options.

With healthcare, it's even worse, for more people.

notajayhawk 8 years ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says…

"There is a very sizable percentage of people in this town for whom most if not all of the above are currently not viable options."

And Herr Klowne says "Waaaaaaaaaaaah."

There's a sizable percentage that can't afford private jets, 40-room ocean-front homes, or to send their kids to Harvard. Herr Klowne's solution? If he can't have those things, then nobody can. Everyone should be equal in their squalor and misery. The aptly-named clown's version of the workers' Utopia.

jonas_opines 7 years, 12 months ago

"That's called theft, and the purpose of governments is to protect individual rights."

That purpose of government is, of course, only your opinion. One with textual support, but one with plenty of other examples as alternatives. All you show here, frankly, is centric western bias. The notion of the positive of unrestricted liberty is just as arbitrary and perceptual as every other notion we've discussed thus far. I'm amazed that you refuse to see that.

"But your whole idea that people aren't trying to maximize their value is silly."

I don't recall making that point. I do recall at multiple points you putting those words in my mouth, so to speak, but I think that's called a strawman.

"What's hilarious is that you think that negative results somehow “prove” your point."

Yes, how hilariously absurd to point out that the results might make someone have questions or issues with a system.

"But I didn't get why until now. It's consequences vs. intentions, you seem to think they are the same thing. Your questions amounts to: How could people ever get negative results if they are trying to get good results? …… really?"

No, not really. It's very, very, very simple. Some people are more able, whether through base intelligence, education, discipline, upbringing, etc., to function in this system to maximize their utility in the short and the long run, leading to less negative results and more positive results. Amazingly, they are usually the ones promoting how wonderful the system is, and how it should be made that way. My basic question has always been what you expect those less able, who fail in their choices to accomplish their intended results, to do. Change their behavior? Sure, sounds great, if you have the availability of other options, the ability to properly identify which behavior is causing the problems, a suitable lack of friction in making choices, etc. But of course in application it doesn't seem (y'know in those pesky results things that we're not supposed to pay attention to) to work that smoothly.

jonas_opines 7 years, 12 months ago

Pilgrim2 (Anonymous) says…

"Sorry. “Liberals like you…”

There, fixed."

Ah, I see. Well, no point in arguing with somebody who sees demographics in their head rather than people. I've never found them capable of anything more than stale and thoughtless dialog anyway.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 12 months ago

You can watch the entire 55 minute show,Sick in America, on the pbs website for free. Gosh you gotta love public broadcasting. Support PBS!


They talked in depth about those denial departments that some claim don't exist. Those creeps get bonuses for turning down claims like some get bonuses for meeting sales quotas.

How much do we pay? * Close to $7,000,000(million annually) just to insure our Washington legislators - waaaaaaayyyyy more when their staff,cabinet people and their staff, president &VP plus their staff are included.

*Health care costs and facts:



Senate and House Legislation: http://www.guaranteedhealthcare.org/legislation/hr-676-conyers/united-states-national-health-insurance-act



Richard Heckler 7 years, 12 months ago

AIG and the Big Takeover: Matt Taibbi on "How Wall Street Insiders Are Using the Bailout to Stage a Revolution" In a new article in Rolling Stone Magazine, journalist Matt Tabbi takes an in-depth look at the story behind AIG.

“The reality is that the worldwide economic meltdown and the bailout that followed were together a kind of revolution, a coup d’état,” writes Taibbi. “They cemented and formalized a political trend that has been snowballing for decades: the gradual takeover of the government by a small class of connected insiders, who used money to control elections, buy influence and systematically weaken financial regulations.”


Richard Heckler 7 years, 12 months ago

The Corporate Occupation of Iraq (December 11, 2006) In light of the Iraq Study Group recommendations and their failure to address the real problems facing Iraq, the author of this TomPaine opinion piece advises that the US end the corporate invasion of Iraq. US companies, which were awarded lucrative contracts by the US government following the 2003 invasion, failed to reconstruct war-torn Iraq as intended.

The author concludes that “the Bush administration must abandon its plan to remake Iraq into an economic wonderland for US corporations,” and return Iraq to the Iraqi people “to remake as they themselves see fit.”


========================================== By golly all of the Shafer concerns may well be on the money. Thank you for trying to stimulate our thinking processes.

jonas_opines 7 years, 12 months ago

jaywalker (Anonymous) says…

"I would like to ask you, jonas, based on your responses, if your opinion isn't based in the hopes a more 'Utopian' society is possible? Inequity is inherent in any other society, wouldn't you agree?"

Of course. I have no illusions on reaching a utopian society, either through the free market or through government intervention, and as I insinuated above, I don't believe that governmental intervention is likely to provide the results that the people advocating for it want. All I'm doing here is trying to explain to Liberty-One why he can shriek and whine and cry about his perfect free market model, individual liberty, and government theft, and still find himself in a society with more government and having to pay more taxes. Because, in the end, his answer to the people who failed in the system ("change your behavior") is too Darwinistic and unsatisfactory to too many people, who then as a group make institutional safety nets. And his opinions on the intrinsic value of individual liberty fall to what I see as supportable truth: numbers make power, and might makes right.

Of course, that's probably only my second reason. My first is that I love arguing with zealots. And face it, liberty-one's implicity and unquestioning faith in The Free Market is zealous enough to match any of the religious folk we have on here.

jonas_opines 7 years, 12 months ago

"Drawing your composite sketch was easy after receiving the demographics you provided through repeated messages on this board. You have no one to thank but yourself."

Funny about the multiple other occasions that I've been called too rightist, a repub fascist etc. Your counterparts on the left, with whom you share everything in common except your minor political details, tend to view me as too far to the right. I'm content with that, as I shoot for the center per my own intentions. Not that I expect you to understand this.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 12 months ago

"O…K….the list wasn't meant to be exhaustive. Are you trying to ignore my point—that there is a range of choices that vary significantly in price?"

Is a choice really a choice if it's only available in theory, but not in practice? The fact is, for some folks, quite often all of the "choices" you list are either unavailable or wholly impractical. And as I stated earlier, the problems of access (and choice) in healthcare are even worse.

"Yeah, and I'm saying that's the problem, the choice is walk or a Ferrari, and it's pretty hard to walk with a broken leg. Your answer is to buy everyone a Ferrari. Obviously that's impossible, so everyone ends up with a bus ticket, and oh BTW, the bus is always running two hours behind. The metaphors are flying! My answer is deregulation so that the range of options opens up."

Your straw men lead to your desired conclusion only on a web forum such as this. In the real world, things work differently.

jonas_opines 7 years, 12 months ago

Yes, the words of a true partisan. Like I said, I didn't expect you to understand.

jonas_opines 7 years, 12 months ago

Whoops, you just made a change in there, didn't you? Did you not see it, or did you think that I wouldn't?

jaywalker 7 years, 12 months ago


Excellent response. So next question is, since you seem to be well learned in the history and philosophies of the Far East, is their a system of government and/or societal structure that's been practiced there that you'd like to see integrated? And one step deeper, do you believe the free market system allows for cultural pluralism or is that attainable in any society?

jonas_opines 7 years, 12 months ago

"You mean they would resort to theft."

Under your particular notion of the inherent right to property, another arbitrary concept. I would say that the only "real" right to property is simple: you have the right to what you can get and what you can hold on to.

"That isn't what we see in fact. What we see is that the wealthy and powerful use the government far more effectively for theft. So while it may be “too Darwinistic and unsatisfactory,” the alternative—granting the government the authority to “adjust” things—ends up only benefitting the well-connected and powerful, and impoverishing those who are unsatisfied even more."

Yes, but then why are you now suggesting that the result has any confirmation of the means by which it was achieved? Just a couple posts ago you were suggesting the opposite, almost as if you arbitrarily follow these concepts only when it fits into your worldview.

jonas_opines 7 years, 12 months ago

jaywalker (Anonymous) says…


"So next question is, since you seem to be well learned in the history and philosophies of the Far East, is there a system of government and/or societal structure that's been practiced there that you'd like to see integrated?"

Not one that would work here. Too many fundamental differences. At least for now. My major resistance is the notion that a single system, any system, will ever provide universal answers. That seems like utopianism to me, and I don't see how it's any different if the promoted system is the free market.

"And one step deeper, do you believe the free market system allows for cultural pluralism or is that attainable in any society?"

In the end, as the convenience of information increases, my guess is that rather than creating cultural pluralism it will create cultural sameness, that being a new culture of will develop and evolve, with smaller regional differences that give a flavor of uniqueness. Kind of like the differences between Colorado, Kansas, California, and Texas, but on a larger scale. (That's just a guess, but what's not, though, is that one will have problems too)

jaywalker 7 years, 12 months ago


I don't disagree with your point on one-system utopias, but it begs the question whether you feel our free market system is the best of the bunch. As you say, any system won't provide universal answers, so the option is to choose the best you can get and work towards perfecting it, or at least improving it as we go. Or are you in favor of starting down a new path, feeling free market is no longer the best course? To the second half of your response, I had an interesting discussion with my uncle last week and we both echoed your opinion similarly. Though my version was rooted in ...cynicism?......as I stated my fear was that only a national or global catastrophe (virus, war, etc.) might unite peoples and break down further cultural barriers. Basically that it would take necessity and sustinent cooperation to meld man closer to the ideal.

jonas_opines 7 years, 12 months ago

"No, I'm suggesting that the result is an indictment of the means by which it was achieved."

Yes, we're agreeing on this, except only one of us is picking which situations to apply it to and which to not, and it's not me.

"Theft isn't right"

One of those words is an perceptual value statement, and one of them is just the word that you picked. "Dues" would work equally well from certain points of view.

"and it also has negative results."

Yes, as does, clearly, unrestricted operations in the free market.

"Natural right to property, not inherent. And it isn't arbitrary, it's self-evident according to the founding document of our nation."

No, the natural right is the one that I put above. And it's stupid to suggest that words on a piece of paper prove anything is self-evident but that at one point people felt the need to write it down. Shall we deify our founders, who talked of liberty and owned slaves?

Rainfalls 7 years, 12 months ago

No President can do it all. I think that Obama had to start somewhere and that's exactly what he's doing.

Remember that people love to criticize others for what they aren't doing right when they can't do half of what that person is doing.

Give the man and is well educated team a chance to help our economy. It can't happen over night.

jonas_opines 7 years, 12 months ago

jaywalker (Anonymous) says…

"I don't disagree with your point on one-system utopias, but it begs the question whether you feel our free market system is the best of the bunch."

Well, it's clear to my point of view that this black/white notion of "free market" versus "socialism" doesn't actually hold any water. I think that the model of the free market provides for a good foundation, but it seems apparent to me that it has to be tempered in some way with public institutions, partly because of perceived need and partly because it Always Happens Anyway. Mostly I think that the split between private and public is one that requires a wide social "conversation" of sorts, and will be continually updated, depending on current mood and opinion, nation in question, etc.etc. Of course, that notion would make economists' heads explodes because it can't fit all pretty-like into a nice mathematical model, but it certainly seems to hold more true in actual reality. As for current structure, it seems per my observations that developed economies that function relatively well generally have an 75/25 to 85/15 split between private and public. It's also interesting that the most effective split for Developing economies, at least in terms of pure economic growth, seems to be right at 50/50.

"To the second half of your response, I had an interesting discussion with my uncle last week and we both echoed your opinion similarly. Though my version was rooted in …cynicism?……as I stated my fear was that only a national or global catastrophe (virus, war, etc.) might unite peoples and break down further cultural barriers. Basically that it would take necessity and sustinent cooperation to meld man closer to the ideal."

Actually, I can only think of one that would make it move forward in the conceivable future, and that would be alien invasion or alien contact. So, not so likely. It will undoubtedly be a long, long process.

jaywalker 7 years, 12 months ago


Interesting numbers, particularly 50/50. And we must be in a 75/25 make-up now, I would guess.
Never considered the 'Contact' scenario. Not so certain we'd 'come together' as much as run into each other like a Three Stooges skit if that were to occur, though.

jonas_opines 7 years, 12 months ago

Ah! But what you haven't considered is that alien invasion, were it to occur, provides us with one thing that No Other Catastrophe of any nature would be able to provide us with. A clear Us vs Them scenario that manages to include All of Us in contrast to a clearly defined Them.

/in other words, I see your cynicism and raise it.

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