Another stab at civility: “Unapproving” comments

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one blogger to dissolve the permissive bands which have connected him with trolls and to assume among the powers of the Web, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitles him, a decent respect to the opinions of the Blogosphere requires that he should declare the causes which impel him to the separation.

I hold these truths to be self-evident, that all discourse is not equally valid, nor constructive, nor is anyone endowed by his Creator with any unalienable Right to destroy all Harmony and chance for Civil Discourse in a forum provided by the Labour of Another. All men are equally free, however, to start their Own Blogs, where they will be fully entitled to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

— from my old blog, July 4, 2007

Folks, after getting a number of complaints from some of you — mostly in sidebars, via e-mail and other means — about the increasing incivility on the blog, I went in and “unapproved” a bunch of comments from over the weekend.

Removing all the ad hominem attacks, irrelevant rants and pointless catchphrase-shouting is a lot tougher than it may sound. You end up throwing out a lot of stuff from people with the best intentions, but whose comments make zero sense without the offensive comments to which they are responding. So just about everybody has lost at least one comment. Among those I’ve censored, if only briefly, are Lee Muller, “Libb,” “Mike Toreno,” bud, Randy E, kbfenner, BillC, and Burl Burlingame.

This of course is not to say that I consider all “offenders” to be the same. Lee Muller seems increasingly incapable of making a point without peremptorily declaring the illegitimacy of anyone who disagrees. The pseudonymous Mike Toreno and BillC have some really serious hostility issues. On the opposite end of the spectrum, people like Kathryn Fenner labor, often in vain, to elevate the tone.

I’m not sure what to do about this going forward. I’m as sick of the nastiness as Kathryn and others who have simply given up on this forum. So I find myself considering a number of possibilities:

  • Requiring active approval from me before comments will post. I’ve done that before, on the old blog, and I really hated it. It killed spontaneity. I want y’all to be able to converse in real time, and I simply can’t spend all day making that happen.
  • Banning some commenters from the blog permanently. I’ve done it before, just not for awhile. Some of the greatest offenders are people I’ve banned before, then allowed to come back — perhaps because of misplaced optimism on my part. So I guess it’s time to do it again.
  • Requiring a higher level of permission from me, as the moderator, before a commenter can post comments at will. (I’m not even sure this is technically possible, but I intend to look into it.)
  • Simply doing what I just did — going through every couple of days and weeding out the worst offenses, with the hope that folks will start to get the idea what will pass muster and what won’t.
  • Dropping the blog altogether. Not something I want to do, but it is on the table.

That last option arises from simple weariness with this problem, and the acknowledgment that I can’t (or at least, don’t want to) spend my days policing grownups to get them to act like grownups.

Other (good faith) suggestions are welcome.

As you know, I’ve wrestled with this problem from the beginning. And at various times, the tone has gotten better for awhile. But we’ve done some backsliding lately. I’m going to try, up to a point, to fix it.

136 thoughts on “Another stab at civility: “Unapproving” comments

  1. Lee Muller

    I mostly post facts, and facts by anyone are what draw the dismissive retorts from your pets, like fenner, mcleod, randy, and burl.

    In fact, one of the posts deleted was about how “liberals” are quick to censor and shout down the facts and views of others.

  2. Brad Warthen

    See now, folks, there’s a good example of an ad hominem, name-calling sort of comment that adds nothing of value. I just censored a bunch like that, as well as other comments responding to comments like that.

    So now I’m faced with a dilemma: Do I leave it up as an EXAMPLE of what will not be allowed, or unpublish it and leave y’all wondering what it takes to cross the line?

    What to do, what to do….

    I’ll think about it later. In a few minutes I have to go to Rotary to listen to Mark Sanford… I’m doing this even though I spoke to the 5 Pts. Rotary Friday and am therefore entitled to skip…

  3. Lee Muller

    Do you seriously think I am guilty of bad manners for pointing out the name calling and personal attack on me by you, fenner, randy, burl, toreno, and mcleod?

  4. Brad Warthen

    Yes, Lee, I seriously do believe that you are destructive to the cause of constructive discussion here on the blog. You are not alone, but you are a big part of the problem.

    For one thing, you make it a point to ALWAYS be the first commenter, thereby setting a tone that causes lots of reasonable people not to want to join in at all. And those who DO feel like they have to argue with you, and once again, we’re off down a rathole.

    You harass people, Lee. And most people don’t like that. And the fact that people harass you back doesn’t excuse either you or them.

    Based on past experience, I suspect you will merely resent what I’m saying, rather than take it to heart constructively. But maybe someone will.

  5. doug_ross

    So will you stop using the “gummint” phrase as a way to label anyone who thinks there is too much government involvement in our lives? The condescending attitude that one “cute” word implies is just as offensive to me as some of the stuff you censor. Or calling people who are opposed to illegal immigration racists (either directly or by using other “cute” phrases like “don’t like brown people”)

    But it’s your blog. You can do whatever you want. But it’s unlikely you are going to create an environment that encourages civil disagreement without heavy moderation. And then when you become the moderator, it is very unlikely that the discourse will lead to a result that is different from your own view.

  6. Lee Muller

    I harass no one. I do stand up to those who offer nothing but insults of me, by dumping more FACTS on them.

    I post here for the same reason I used to write letters to The State, until I was told to not bother, because you were not going to print them – I post facts in the face of people whose education and politica development stopped in college, who mouth platitudes and beliefs which have no basis in reality.

    T.S. Eliot correctly described these political philosophies (yes, they are that old) as pagan religions.

  7. KP

    What to do, what to do. It’s a puzzle.

    I’d hate to see you drop the blog or spend most of your day approving comments. By the time you go back and delete offensive posts, the damage to discussion is already done. Option 2 seems promising.

  8. Lee Muller

    PS, Brad: if you “feel like you have to argue with” me or anyone else, bring some facts. Leave the dimissive labeling and authority worship at the coffee house.

    You need to get out in the real world and confront some ideas outside the Old Media echo chamber.

  9. Bart

    Brad, I have almost come to the point of not posting, commenting, or even reading your blog because of one or two, especially Mike Toreno. Being called a liar, racist, and anything else he or she feels at the time has become a bore, irritating, and quite honestly, a waste of my time.

    The reparte’ between doug and Randy is enjoyable but disagree with you to a point about Lee. Make no mistake, he and I absolutely do not agree on many issues but he does present his side with his set of facts and information that is supported by those who are in agreement with him.

    The comments from KB, Maude, and some others are refreshing, stimulating and they make me think. I don’t have a closed mind, never have, never will. It is imperative to listen to all sides and learn.

    I have been around a long time and lived through things that would make the hair stand straight up on Toreno’s head if he or she had to go through any one of them. He has no idea of what true, cruel, evil racism actually is. He has never had to face the cowardly KKK when they come calling in the middle of the night with their faces masked, making threats against your parents for being kind to African Americans. He has never witnessed refusal of a simple service like buying food at a restaurant because of the color of skin or being made to stand outside in the rain, ordering food through a “N—-RS ONLY” window”. I lived through those times, witnessed first hand the abject cruelty of one human being to another because of skin color. The post-MLK version of racism for the most part is like comparing a hangnail to open heart surgery.

    And, for the final edification and education of Toreno, if he is even willing to comprehend, my childhood was scarred by a constant parade of alcholics and other addictive personalities from my own family members on both sides and thus the basis of my opinions about not allowing anyone who is “under” the influence of either to be allowed to register and vote. It has not one damn thing to do with race and never has been.

    None of us are immune to making what others may consider “snarky” comments. Of that, I admit my guilt but there are some who are totally convinced they never commit an act of snark or condenscension all the while committing the same “crimes against humanity”. 🙂

  10. Brad Warthen

    Bart, I don’t think Lee is nearly as malicious as some. And yet, you know what? I get more requests from readers to ban him than anyone else. I always stick up for him. I always say I banned him once when he went only by “Lee,” then allowed him back when he started using what I believe to be his full name. I don’t hand people who use full names the keys to the blog, and I reserve the right to toss them out if they misbehave, but I do allow them more leeway than I do those who use pseudonyms like “Mike Toreno” or … ahem… only parts of their names.

    Lee’s problem, and the reason he draws so much ire, is that he never gives other people a chance to have a conversation without gnawing on their ears. He always has to comment FIRST, and unfortunately that often means people must either ignore him or engage his repeated claims about the president of the U.S. not being a citizen, or being a communist or a Muslim or whatever, which doesn’t really get us anywhere.

    I share the frustration of the complainers. I spend the time writing a post about, say, the president’s Nobel, or Honduras, or Joe Wilson, or the marketing of the Beatles, or whatever, and as soon as I hit “publish,” Lee’s started us off on yet another argument about one of his pet obsessions.

    Kind of makes a guy think, whose blog IS this anyway? I wonder why Lee doesn’t just start his own? The barriers to publication are pretty much nonexistent. Why does he feel the need to feed off my ability to assemble an audience, such as it is? Why should I continue to allow it?

    And Doug, I’m sorry if my playing with “gummint” bothers you. Maybe I should do one of those little smiley faces that people do, perhaps with a wink — 😉 — to let people know that I mean it with a smile. But I have to disagree with you that strenuous moderation would lead only to views I agree with. I point, for support of my position, to the letters to the editor during my years at The State. A vast number of them disagreed with me. In fact, we gave preference to such letters. But they met a stiffer set of requirements for relevance and civility than I would think of imposing here.

    No, the main reasons not to moderate are that I find standing over grownups to make sure they behave distasteful, and it really slows down discourse. But I guess I’m going to have to engage in it to some degree, once again. If I don’t, this is going to be a place where I don’t want to hang out.

  11. doug_ross

    If you got ten letters in opposition to your editorial and only one in favor, would the letters page reflect that ratio? Or would you print one for and one against generally?

    If the latter, then you are controlling the discourse to make it appear that the opinions are divided evenly.

  12. Lee Muller

    Some of the posts where I comment first have sat for 24 and 48 hours without a comment.

    Do we have to give all of Brad’s Peanut Gallery time to come form a circle and give each other a back rub before we can finally choose one of their feelings or silly NPR humor to set the direction, and level of discussion?

    Can the rest of us just ignore the banality, and carry on a separate discussion on a higher level, with facts and links to genuine experts, without interruption with insults from the compassionate, caring, liberals?

  13. Greg Flowers

    Why not one warning and then a permanent ban. Don’t punish the borderline, only the really egregious. Thereby only those who have no regards for civility would be punished and those people have kept me away from the blog for long periods of time. Plus this approach minimizes your admin time.

    I must agree with Doug, I am really tired of the use of the term “gummint” but, as he points out, it your blog and you can do as you will.

    Those few whose primary purpose is to insult you, why are they here? Get rid of them, there presence benefits no one.

  14. Bart

    Point taken. From now on, I will sign out with my last name. FYI and more information than you might want, but here goes.

    The name is Bart Rogers, born in NC with family heritage rooted in Charleston – both sides, age 65; married to the same wonderful woman (absolute saint for contending with me) since 1965; two great children, both professionals; have most of my college credits but no degree however do have the equivalency of an advanced degree in two fields; traveled the United States extensively, the world but not quite as extensively; worked out of the country in the Middle East and Puerto Rico (I guess that counts); varied professional background; conservative on most issues, liberal on others; am still working 8, 10 to 12 hours each day, 5 days a week, sometimes 6 and 7; believe in God but don’t push my beliefs on others; pro-life with no apologies; believe marriage is between a man and woman, again, no apologies; believe in honesty, justice, fair play, and equality of the races; respect differing opinions but will disagree; have changed my mind on things in the past and still have an open mind.

    Anything more will cost you. 🙂

  15. doug_ross

    Does civility include tweeting about whether Mark Sanford put his hand over his heart when the national anthem was playing at the Rotary Club?

    I don’t do it either. Does that imply something negative about me?

  16. martin

    I think that if you work, you’re taking a chance by possibly divulging your identity to an employer/reader who may totally disagree with your point of view on everything. They may decide your views aren’t something they want associated with their operation. And, they don’t have to be particularly upfront about why your services are no longer needed. If you’re self employed, people can choose not to hire you.

    It’s like putting out family pictures if you deal with the public on your job. You never know when the person you just unintentionally enraged is the seriously crazy parent of a child in the same class as yours. In the world we live in, the potentially negative ramifications are just too great to be careless.

    Therefore, I don’t apologize for being anonymous.

    P.S., didn’t Lee tell us eons ago that he had a successful subscription blog?

  17. kbfenner

    I’m with KP.

    …and thanks, Bart. Makes me feel better after being dismissed out of hand so often by Lee Muller, not just for the content of my posts, but because of who I am, or who he thinks I am. My education has been called into question–I feel compelled to present my Phi Beta Kappa key to Brad for validation,along with copies of the numerous academic awards I received. It should not matter. Either what I say has merit or it does not. Whether I have a PhD in the subject from the best school in the world, or am just a self-educated “nobody” makes no difference to the value of my argument. If my family came over on the Mayflower or the bus from Juarez….So thanks for your kind words.

  18. Lee Muller

    Mrs. Fenner, I dismiss no one. I will quickly point out that a certain “authority”, like Thomas Friedman, Paul Krugman, or The Southern Law Poverty Center, is known to actually NOT be a reliable source of information on a particular subject.

    When I see someone try to pass off bogus claims about education, the law, or medicine just because they work in that field, I will not hesitate to post the facts, and opinions of recognized experts in the field.

  19. Maude Lebowski

    I post under a psuedonym because I work in a field of professionals that would be highly judgemental of both my conservative and liberal viewpoints, depending on the issue. I do engage in snarkiness and a level of uncivility that I would not if I were writing under my real name. I needed the reminder not to abuse the priveledge of using a pseudonym. Also, the tone of discussion does affect how I respond. When people like Bart or Doug disagree with me civilly I feel held to the standard of responding likewise.

    I think that someone who writes “I post facts” follwed by “in the face of people whose education and politica development stopped in college, who mouth platitudes and beliefs which have no basis in reality” either does not or will not understand your plea for less ad hominem and more civility.

  20. Burl Burlingame

    I’ve been guilty too, of getting nettled by Lee. That’s why I then sat back and wondered if his repeated and relentless hammering wasn’t deliberate “trolling,” or saying things simply to squirt gas on a fire. From that point on I’ve been amused by him rather than aghast.
    I’ve also wondered why he doesn’t make his own blog instead of ranting on others. He certainly has plenty to say.
    The whole notion of “civilized discourse” has been front-burnered lately.
    This is Brad’s house party, he makes the rules.

  21. Lee Muller

    Maude, I do post facts, with citations, to disprove slogans, groupthink, and superstitions.

    For example, when I call for the deportation of 30,000,000 illegals, I document the number, tell why they are detriment to our society, and detail how to get rid of all of them quickly and humanely. The retort is usually some sniffle about racism – no counter argument, no facts, just smears. That is cowardly, and deserves no respect from me.

  22. kbfenner

    People who wish to post under pseudonyms could provide their real names and identifying details to Brad. I do appreciate the freedom I have as the self-employed wife of a tenured professor to use my real name–if you can’t piece the whole thing together, you aren’t trying very hard.

    Lee still doesn’t get it, in this very thread. Issues and ideas are appropriate for posting, in my opinion, and in my reading of Brad’s opinion, not calling people “pets” or otherwise labeling them, deprecating their education level, their opinions,or otherwise treating them or their posts with scorn. Saying that others do it, too, is not a defense, and hasn’t been since my mother refused to accept it.

    Citations to biased websites do not count as citations and dismissing a counterargument as a “sniffle” or a “smear” is poor arguing at best and bullying at worst.

    To the extent that I have failed to treat any of you with due respect, I apologize.

  23. Lee Muller

    I gave you, kbfenner, citations to the single law review article written by Barack Obama, and references to law books disputing some of your claims about the law.

    A citation to a website containing facts you don’t like does not make the website an unreliable source, nor does it make the facts suddenly something you can ignore on the pretense they are no longer factual because you don’t like the website.

    Liberals, who operate on a lot of slogans and beliefs, are not going to find many facts on web sites or in magazines run by other liberals in the business of spreading slogans and beliefs.

    If you want to test your beliefs, you are going to have to crawl out of you cocoon and read some people who are posting facts you never heard, and ideas which are quite novel to you.

    If you come to a public forum like this, expect those facts to be put in front of you, right in the middle of your singing Koom-bah-yah around whatever pagan campfire the leftists happen to have going.

  24. BillC

    It appears Preacher Warthen is upset with his choir and is threatening to excommunicate some of it’s members unless they praise every written word in his sermon.

    I refuse to post under my full name simply because there aren’t that many people with my name in this country and I actually started receiving threatening phone calls and calls to my place of business by a nut-job on another forum when I did. I finally passed on threatening messages left on my answering machine over to the district attorney in his state, and later heard that the guy (who obviously received at minimum a phone call or visit) started playing the victim on the forum.

    If Brad wants to start banning people, I’ve been around enough forums to know that once a person has been banned he’ll do one of two things… leave, or come back under a new name and really go on the offensive. Does Brad really want to spend every moment of the day worrying about what someone might be writing about him online?

  25. bud

    I’m not sure that Lee’s comments, uncivil as they may be, are really all that much of a distraction. You can always tell the new folks to Brad’s blog. They are the ones that take the time to comment on Lee’s rhetoric. The old timers usually just ignore his tirades.

    I’ll disagree with Brad on one thing though. Lee definitely is the most worthy candidate for permanent ejection from the Blog. Brad suggests others, probably Toreno, are better candidates. While I find Toreno’s incesant belittling of Brad obnoxious he does make some very well thought out points. If he could just stick to the facts at hand he would easily come across as the most powerful liberal voice here.

    As for me. I certainly have crossed the line on a few occassions. Frankly it is often in response to something from Brad or someone other than Lee who simply goes off the deep end. Brad’s constant nattering about the virtue of bipartisanship drives me insane. Isn’t it better to be right than bipartisan?

    Having said that it’s Brads show and he can make the rules. If he wants his opinions to stand out above all other that’s fine. Just don’t pretend that all opinions carry equal weight when the evidence suggests otherwise.

  26. Lee Muller

    Bill, if you confront the compassionate, caring liberals today, expect to be slandered, threatened, stalked, demoted, fired, etc.

    Tolerance is not one of their character traits, because they are not really liberal – they are authoritarians, self anointed saviors of the world from the clutches of individual liberty and responsibility.

  27. Lee Muller

    Lastly, I don’t take Brad’s professed concern with civility very seriously, for several reasons.

    Brad acts offended at Joe Wilson shouting, “You lie!” at Obama, but unconcerned that Obama was actually lying about providing medical care to illegal aliens. And Obama continues to lie about it, further coarsening the debate.

    Secondly, Brad himself had interrupted Governor Sanford’s press conference by shouting, “When are you going to resign?”

  28. Greg Flowers

    If memory serves, the Governor was leaving the room as Brad twice shouted “Will you resign?” which seems a fair question.

  29. BillC

    Why didn’t Brad have the courage to ask Sanford that question after he made his statement and still standing at the podium? He waited until Sanford had his back turned and almost left the room before making a fool out of himself. Was Brad afraid to ask him this to the governor face-to-face?

    If I remember correctly, Brad was unemployed at the time so I see little reason for him to be at this news conference in the first place, other than for his personal enjoyment of watching the person he has written so much hatred about over the past year admit to having an affair. I’m willing to bet that impartial, journalist Brad Warthen was standing there with a smile on his face during the whole press conference. By the way, who was Brad going to write his in-depth article for? If I get laid off, I’m done doing work for the company I worked for.

    Brad didn’t get his question answered then, so why didn’t he ask him again during this meeting?

  30. Maude Lebowski

    Burl I could accept it as harmless (even humorous) trolling if it were merely right-wing talking points. It’s the incessant stereotyping and pigeon-holing of Democrats that irks me. I’m sensitive to it because I’m a left-leaning Democrat with very conservative views on immigration, gun rights, and climate change (to name a few.) I’m a proud Democrat and I refuse to be pigeon-holed.

    Mostly though it is the childish, lame and immature attitude that “if you don’t agree with me you are ignorant of the facts.” The reality is that people who are just as educated as you about an issue can have a different opinion. I’m not a big believer in the idea of bipartisanship as the saving grace of our political system, but I do accept the fact that just because someone disagrees with me doesn’t mean they are uneducated.

  31. Karen McLeod

    I feel as if Lee is using this blog purely as a means of repeating his pet theories again and again, and again, and…. Others also harp on exactly the same things so often that it becomes difficult to wade thru the mess to see what’s actually pertinent. At any rate, I’ll be most appreciative of anything you can do to reduce the ad hominem attacks, and general useless clutter.

  32. Randy E

    Brad, Lee had a thread devoted to him once before regarding his incivility. BillC and Mike Toreno come to your blog to enact some vendetta against you.

    You listed several other people who are regulars. My bet is the uncivil posts we’ve made were in response to the Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse listed above.

    Doug and I fight like brothers but are friends on Facebook and commiserate about the Sox but we only piss off each other (I hope saying that doesn’t result in censorship).

    I say boot the horsemen and let everyone else post freely.

  33. Burl Burlingame

    I was debating with myself whether I should even respond. One could shrug and walk away from the “debate,” but then Lee’s chilling effect on what should be spirited dialogue would freeze out positive ideas and invite only counter-responses. Is that what he’s trying to do? I dunno. Seems like it.
    Was Lee this dogmatic when the “previous administration” djinned up an unnecessary war, squandered billions in taxpayer dollars, suspended constitutional rights — and then proved to be incompetent even at their own scheming?
    More to the point, were any of the rest of us dogmatic enough at the time, or mostly in retrospect?
    Some of you harp on Brad’s support of bipartisanship. What’s wrong with that? He’s been a newspaperman long enough to have dealt with everyone on both sides of the aisle. He likely knows that no one position is totally right, and it takes input from all to come up with solutions that make sense to the broadest spectrum of citizens.
    I think the thing that Lee does that make people most reactive is his automatic pigeonholing of others. Most of us are part conservative in some ways and liberal in others. Internal bipartisanship.

  34. Lee Muller

    Maude, no one is pigeonholing Democrats. They pigeonhole themselves by failing to engage ideas, especially new ideas based on new factual information. Many Republicans are the same way, hung up on things they want government to do, like outlaw abortion.

    All those who want government to intrude in someone else’s lives are my enemy, and the enemy of Americanism.

    I especially loathe the chanting of slogans, as if repeating some utter fabrication will make it true.

    * “47,000,000 uninsured”
    * “no WMD were found”
    * “no link of Al Qaeda to Iraq”
    * “greedy bankers caused this collapse”
    * “global warming”
    * “second-hand smoke”

    The use of dishonest euphemisms to avoid direct discussion and to muddle thinking:

    * undocumented alien
    * single payer system
    * freedom of choice
    * public option

  35. Burl Burlingame

    If Brad said something uncivil on my blog I’d clip it too. Or use it as a talking point.
    BTW, only the government can censor.

  36. Maude Lebowski

    Second-hand smoke is a slogan, and parental immoral behavior is a factual explanation for what is wrong with public education.

    I guess humor is the only explanation for keeping Lee here.

    But is it really funny anymore?

  37. Birch Barlow

    October 12, 2009 at 7:58 pm
    I was debating with myself whether I should even respond.

    Was it a civil, open-minded debate or a vitriolic shouting-match full of ad hominem attacks?


  38. Lee Muller

    Maude, can you point to where “parental immoral behavior” is commonly used as slogan, even a fraction as much as “second-hand smoke”? Of course you can’t.

    This goes to the heart of what’s so typical of the one-sentence retorts tossed back by “liberals” as they flee the scene of debate.

    If you don’t think it is accurate to refer to a rather lengthy list of misbehaviors as root causes of the large numbers of illiterates in this state by the summary “parental immoral behavior”, then please explain why.

    It is only your fault that no one can tell what you believe, much less why.

  39. Elliott1

    Thanks for cleaning it up. Please don’t give up your blog. Can it be a blog without other’s comments? I won’t miss them. I quit reading these because I had to wade through too much ranting to find intelligent thought.

  40. Elliott1

    Can you do a sidebar of what will and will not be allowed and give examples? Give one warning, then ban offenders. You are right. When the first comment after every post is like this, I have no desire to keep reading.

  41. kbfenner

    Burl, I do like you. “djinned up” — I’m guessing that is the correct term for “ginned up” — and refers to a djinn which is like a genie, right?

    Ditto that only the government can censor. My brother was until last year an editor at the Philly Inquirer–started as a copy editor at the Charlotte Observer–No at the Columbia Record! Anyway, we have wonderful Mr. Language-Person / Ms. Language-Person discussions. You can be the new language guy for the New York Times Magazine!

  42. Burl Burlingame

    Lee’s commentary is suggestive of an obsessive mania, and that’s all right. The folks I don’t understand are those who gleefully attack Brad for being a “failure” as a journalist. Beyond being purposefully hurtful, it’s magical thinking. Brad was riffed, not fired. Papers are being gutted of their talent in order to stay alive, and there’s nothing personal about it. If your car is hit by a meteor, are you a failure as a responsible driver?
    Djinning or ginning — the verb’s etymology comes from a variety of cultures. “Djinn” is probably the most obscure, but I like it because it’s the most exact description of what’s going down. After all, the primary meaning of “ginning” is operating a cotton gin!

  43. kbfenner

    Like I said, I like you, Burl.

    I loved “djinning up” the minute I saw it–rubbing a bottle to conjure up something, say. Brilliant.

    My best guess is that Brad was the most expensive person on the editorial staff, so he was the most cost-effective riffee. Personally, he wouldn’t have been my first choice, or my second. There are a few “reporters” in the non-news sections whom I could have seen go, but that wouldn’t have yielded the cost-saving results or put out the column inches that support the ads, although I reckon Brad could drop in wire feeds as well, or better than some of them do.

    Like the bumper sticker says, “mean people suck.” I don’t understand being intentionally hurtful, especially to a stranger, or someone who I assume is a stranger. It’s sad.

    An obsessive mania is boring, but I suppose it can be ignored. As one of the commentators above wrote, it’s mostly newbies who get thrown by the trolls-but then again that will hurt Brad’s readership, no?

    Gotta get those clicks up!

  44. kbfenner

    Read “About Burl” on your blog. Are you familiar with Outside Lies Magic? John Stilgoe has written many other books that would probably appeal to you, but this is the one that really opened my eyes. I am a serious walker, and this helped me appreciate the built environment as well as the Thoreauvian Woods.

  45. Mike Toreno

    Burl, what’s wrong with bipartisanship is, first, it’s fake. Calls for bipartisanship are always directed to Democrats. When Bush was president, Democrats were called on to be bipartisan and support the war Bush lied America into; now that the American people have chosen the Democrats to run the government, we hear calls from Democrats to be bipartisan and take into account the wishes of the teabaggers.

    Second, bipartisanship for bipartisanship’s sake is antithetical to the concept of democracy. What’s the point of winning elections if those who win are obligated to define themselves solely in terms of what their opponents want? Voters turned out in huge numbers and delivered the election to Democrats in a blowout. We wanted the Democrats’ vision to prevail. Why are the Democrats obligated to ignore those who voted for them in favor of the noisiest, most extreme contingent of those who didn’t vote for them? Why aren’t the Democrats obligated to honor the will of the electorate and push through their agenda?

    Third, bipartisanship as a goal is unattainable. Suppose there are 100 voters; 60% support policy A; 40% support policy B. The supporters of policy A could push through their agenda, but no, they’re supposed to be bipartisan, so they compromise on policy A’ and peel off another 10% of the electorate, so that 70% support A’, and 30% support B. But that’s not enough, because the goal is bipartisanship, so they compromise again, on A”, which now has 80% support. That’s not enough, because it’s not bipartisan, so they compromise again, on A”’, which now has 90% support. But that’s not enough, the goal isn’t to implement policies voters want, it’s to be bipartisan, to keep compromising with the opposition, no matter how small that opposition is.

    That’s what’s the matter with bipartisanship. Calls for bipartisanship are just a way to avoid doing the work of analyzing policy. Analyzing policy is hard work, you have to study and learn. If all you ever do is call for bipartisanship, all you have to do is call for compromise, you don’t even have to say what that compromise would entail.

    My car wasn’t hit by a meteor, and Brad’s wasn’t either, and the newspaper industry wasn’t either. The newspaper industry started to fail when the barriers to entry were removed and they could no longer maintain a monopoly, when they had to compete in the marketplace. So long as endorsement by a corporation was required to achieve dissemination of one’s views, “credentialed” journalists could maintain their positions.

    As soon as the barriers were lifted, anybody could spread his or her views all over the world, and the measure of success was the perceived value of the information or insight that was delivered. As soon as that happened, the newspaper industry started to fail, but the people who worked in that industry didn’t change their behavior. The failure of the newspaper industry wasn’t inevitable. Josh Marshall blew the lid off the US Attorneys scandal, while the “credentialed” journalists sat around and dismissed it. Their failure to cover the story wasn’t inevitable.

    The failure of the newspaper industry was caused by the behavior of the people who worked in it, not by a meteor.

  46. Burl Burlingame

    Actually, the newspaper business wasn’t failing, it was the advertising business, and it’s taking newspapers down with it.

  47. Mike Toreno

    ==>Josh Marshall blew the lid off the US Attorneys scandal, while the “credentialed” journalists sat around and dismissed it.<==

  48. Burl Burlingame

    KB — when I hear people say folks need “real world” experience, they’re always talking about business, not about the natural environment!

  49. Randy E

    Toreno, I think you make some worthy analysis albeit unpopular. I like challenging posts like that.

    Your last comment makes me think of vigilante groups like the Guardian Angels or Crime Watch programs. The resources of the local people can be more effective than formal institutions in certain cases.

    The Hartford Courant online version provides pages for news in the regional small towns like West Hartford. They allow locals to compose short news and “happening” stories which are posted. In effect, they have community news reporters.

    Similarly, MSNBC and other organizations request on site video footage of news stories.

    Doug is coming up north soon, I think, and he can give us a weather report – whine about how cold it is up here (just pickin’ Doug – I don’t get to use that phrase up here very often).

  50. Maude Lebowski

    I can’t go back and see the first page of comments. Can you fix this Brad?

    Lee there are Democrats here who don’t fit your stereotype but instead of engaging in dialogue you throw out right wing talking points. Everything you’ve contributed to this thread shows why Brad should get rid of you. It wouldn’t be censorship either, but an exercise of the ideals of free market capitalism that you are so fond of. As “owner” of this blog he has the freedom to pick and choose what is contributed to it. You are free to start your own blog. I’m sure Brad would even put up a link to it here.

  51. Lee Muller

    Maude, I assume you believe yourself to be one of those non-stereotypical Democrats, just as you to believe me to be a “right wing” Republican.

    Just now, you squandered another opportunity to demonstrate that. Instead, you go on with name calling. My genuine liberalism sees to befuddle you.

    Of course Brad has a right to edit and delete posts, and ban anyone for any reason or no reason. The funny thing is, Brad built his career arguing that businessmen had not right to refuse service to anyone based on race, ethnic background, slovenly dress, or bad attitude. Nor did entrepreneurs have a right to provide service to tobacco smokers.

    Now that he is in the real world that he and Burl believe to not exist, he finds the shoe on his foot, and he can’t yet fill it.

  52. doug_ross

    Too see the first page of the comments use the following URL format:

    where p=#### is probably the blog entry and cpage=1 means “show page 1 of comments”

    So if you go up to the address bar and add in “&cpage=1” you should be able to see all the nasty stuff people are saying about each other.

  53. Birch Barlow

    How can I see the first 50 comments on this topic?

    Go nuts:


    The characters stirring up the most trouble are either doing it intentionally or refuse to acknowledge that they are not contributing to the discourse in an acceptable manner. And they either aren’t going to learn or don’t care to. If you ban them, they’ll just come back under a different name. If you delete their posts they’ll take it as proof that we just can’t handle “the truth” that they espouse.

    So how about until we learn not to take the bait when they start trolling, you delete our responses to their silliness. Eventually we’ll learn not to give the flamebaiters what they want. Maybe then they’ll either go away or be forced to act like adults if they want a response.

  54. Brad Warthen

    Interesting approach, Birch… Sort of like going after the users instead of the drug dealers… OK, so that analogy doesn’t quite work; what Birch is suggesting is more subtle…

    Sorry y’all can’t see the first 50. Neither can I, from my Blackberry. I’ll see what I can do when I’m back at the laptop. In the meantime, use Doug’s workaround…

  55. kbfenner

    Funny thing is–within two years, I went from doing a 1.1 Billion dollar, yes, B as in Bravo, deal, to being a volunteer nature guide for Maine Audubon. Stilgoe closed the loop–now I can explain why you don’t see power lines down the center median of non-urban interstate highways. Outside lies magic!

  56. kbfenner


    I agree with you that it seems awfully unfair that we go from “the Decider” to somehow being expected to meeting halfway or more. In Brad’s defense, he’s tried to say that all along. He just doesn’t see how far to the left most of the country is, b/c here everything is skewed so far right, that Lindsey Graham is jeered for being too left!

    I share your frustration that when Democrats are in power, we try to reach agreement instead of simply taking control. To some extent, it comes with the personality types that are drawn to liberalism. I do not understand why the Commander in Chief does not simply order the forces under his command to stop witch hunts of homosexuals,especially given the expensive training of some that is going to waste when they are discharged. Simply order that homosexuality and consensual homosexual conduct on personal time is no longer grounds for discharge and that is that. Just like racial intergration–you do it. Obama is being too “nice” here.

    I also like the argument Micholas Kristof makes that if Congress fails to provide health coverage to all Americans, we reduce their coverage by the same percentage that Americans are not covered.

    and y’all thought I was a squishy wussy!

  57. Brad Warthen

    Here’s a reason why you hate to ban anyone, even someone as hostile as “Mike Toreno:” His observations about the newspaper biz aren’t worthy of addressing; they’re simply a measure of his deep desire to be insulting. As Burl said, newspapers are dying not because of the relationship between journalist and reader, but because of a different relationship — that with the advertiser. The business model has rapidly melted away, and no one has figured out a new one that will enable newspapers to maintain the payrolls of the past. I may experience many kinds of anxiety as a result of being laid off, but worrying about whether I was good at my job isn’t one of them. But you see how arrogant it sounds if I say it? So basically I have to let “Mike’s” attempts at insult go unanswered, or answer them and sound conceited, or delete them to help bring people’s attention back to the subject at hand — just as we face the same problem with Lee’s birther obsessions.

    But then we’d miss the opportunity to have a discussion about bipartisanship. “Mike” constructs a mathematical model to attack my position on that, which is fine, except for a couple of points: First, I’m more into nonpartisanship than bipartisanship — I’d like to see us seeking solutions without reference to parties. Secondly, it’s not a choice between Party A with 60 percent and Party B with 40 percent. The fact is that there is usually a significant group of us, ranging from 20 to 40 percent, who want nothing to do with either party, AS a party. We are open to good arguments in support of specific policy positions from either side, so that sometimes Party A will have the better idea, and sometimes Party B, and very often neither.

    What is offensive is the idea of any thinking person always siding with one party or the other. Mindless partisanship is opposing the other side when it has a good point, and supporting one’s own side when it it wrong: It’s Republicans sticking up for Joe Wilson’s inexcusable behavior, and Democrats absurdly trying to argue that Obama did, too, earn the Nobel Prize.

    In a rational place where partisanship is not so reflexive, Democrats will chuckle and say, “Yeah, that Nobel IS kinda premature, huh?” And Republicans will do what Bob Inglis did, and vote to disapprove of Joe Wilson’s outburst.

    But we don’t live in that rational place. And one of my main goals in blogging, quixotic though it may be, is to move us to that place.

  58. Lee Muller

    Here’s how I plan to change.
    When I post facts, with sources, such as there being 30,000,000 illegal aliens, and bud, Libb, Randy, Toreno, Burl, or whoever engages in name-calling, I am going to respond with just more facts.

    I will also try to use more politically correct terms. For example, until Barack Obama produces a birth certificate and passports on which he traveled to Pakistan in the 1980s, I will just call him “undocumented”.

  59. Birch Barlow

    I do not understand why the Commander in Chief does not simply order the forces under his command to stop witch hunts of homosexuals,especially given the expensive training of some that is going to waste when they are discharged. Simply order that homosexuality and consensual homosexual conduct on personal time is no longer grounds for discharge and that is that. Just like racial intergration–you do it. Obama is being too “nice” here.

    He’s not being nice. He’s not trying to meet the Republicans halfway on this issue. He’s just watching his backside, politically. This issue continues to not be worth spending the political capital for the Democrats. They know they aren’t going to lose support from the gay community because the other side is, well — they are who they are. Obama and the Democrats continue to be timid at best on this issue and they deserve their lumps for it. And unfortunately there are no other options.

    I didn’t support Obama for President. But this is one of the issues on which I thought he was right man for the job. So far he’s been a major let-down.

  60. Lee Muller

    I am only met by hostility in forums where anyone can come in off the street and post any slogan or factoid, like this blog, the comments section of The State, NPR, etc. Many of those “liberals” are genuinely ignorant and full of false information, which leads to the discussion bogging down in efforts to acquaint them with the basic facts, which they then reject under various excuses, or just because facts shatter their simplistic world view.

    In forums where access is restricted to those with enough knowledge of the subject to proceed with discussion, those who encounter new facts remain silent and go verify for themselves. So we can have discussions among socialists, liberal Democrats, conservatives and libertarians without this acrimony. The participants have changed their minds on many issues before, and are open to changing their minds again.

  61. Lee Muller

    I have to shake my head at the denial of reality in Burl’s spin, that, “The newspaper business wasn’t failing; it was the advertising business, and it’s taking newspapers down with it.”

    Advertisers were not willing to pay as much for ads when the circulation is falling. Circulation is falling because people have better choices for news.

    There are papers which are nothing but advertising, and people pick them up, and even pay for them, rather than pay for worthless news that brings ads along with it.

  62. Santee

    The issue of names and anonymity is one that I gave some thought to before deciding not to use my name here. The belligerent tone of some of the discussions was the deciding factor.

  63. Greg Flowers

    In forums where access is restricted to those with enough knowledge of the subject to proceed with discussion, those who encounter new facts remain silent and go verify for themselves. So we can have discussions among socialists, liberal Democrats, conservatives and libertarians without this acrimony. The participants have changed their minds on many issues before, and are open to changing their minds again.

    So- why do you slum amongst us when there are other options more worthy of your gifts?

    I must admit, and I say this as one of libertarian views, that I tire of your making the same point over and over again and belittling those who do not agree with you. What good does it do anyone (except for perhaps yourself) to label others on this blog as being stupid and or undereducated. This is (I think) a forum to exchange ideas, right, wrong or indifferent and anything which impedes that free exchange of ideas is, to me at least, unwelcome. Try to discuss, not insult or bludgeon.

  64. Lee Muller

    Being a libertarian long before you were, Greg, I consider the only point in most issues to be whether the state has any legitimate authority in this aspect of our lives, what that small role might properly be, and how the free market can do the actual work of providing what people actually want and need.

    Don’t you find it oppressive that the vast majority of discussions about associated living centers on what the government is going to dictate to us?

    I don’t need to do missionary work among those who love liberty and want to take responsibility for their own lives. I think your choice of the word “slum” is an apt one for the decaying remnants of our culture.

    The problem is not lack of education, but miseducation. Most of law school is focused not on how to implement the Constitution, but how to subvert it and dodge it, just to pick one example.

  65. doug_ross

    Have to agree with Lee on the failed business model of the newspaper industry.

    I currently get TWO weekly papers in Blythewood. For free. With just enough content that I end up flipping through it every week.

    Free Times also seems to be working fine and very often has some interesting news pieces.

    In both cases, they know their audience and speak to them. The problem the “old school” newspapers had/have is that they thought they were preaching to a subscriber base just dying to hear what they have to say. At some point, papers like The State stopped being a voice of the customer… and that’s when the customers left.

    The newspaper business was slow to react and is stuck in the past.

    In my opinion, Brad could have done plenty of things with the editorial page to try and bring in more readers. Instead, the choice was made to cut content. That proved to be a bad idea (although I’m not saying it was HIS idea).

    Content is king. And the content of The State is not worth paying for any more. The State has become simply a delivery mechanism for shipping Best Buy and Target fliers out to the public along with the latest Gamecock news (and if you don’t believe that, look at what the top 10 stories are consistently on The State web page).

  66. Brad Warthen

    Well, I fixed the problem of all the comments not showing. That was a lot easier to fix than the civility problem…

    Again, Lee — who claims to worship fact and expertise — takes a stand based in ignorance.

    Folks, if we were to talk about the newspaper business and its ills, and I were to set the bar where Lee says he wants it set, most of y’all would be banned from commenting. Burl would know enough to stay in the game, and if he came back (where did he go, anyway?) Gordon Hirsch would have a lot to add. He was once my boss at The State (back in the 80s), and was later the managing editor of the Myrtle Beach paper.

    For my part, I was a vice president of The State. Beyond sitting on senior staff, I had no direct responsibility for the business side (something for which I thanked my lucky stars every day I was there), but I did see the figures and hear the reports every week. Because of that, I had access to more info about what was happening to the business AS a business than most journalists you’ll find.

    And what I saw was horrific. In the senior staff meetings, I would often be reminded of the scene in “Office Space” in which Peter tells the occupational hypnotherapist that every day at work was worse than the day before, so any day you saw him, you were seeing him on the worst day of his life. Every week seemed like the worst week ever, and often was. It was dreamlike in a way. We were always comparing to the same week a year before, and it was almost always worse, and yet I had such a clear memory of a year ago seeming to be as bad as it could get…

    Lee says, It’s declining circulation! Well, yeah, that’s a part of the equation, but not the main part. In fact, what most people don’t realize is that a large part of the decline in circulation has been readership that newspapers have intentionally jettisoned — ironically, often to please advertisers. The thinking goes like this: If advertisers only want the metro market, why continue to distribute the paper beyond the metro area, especially when you often do so at a loss? Well, to a journalist the answer to that is easy: You want as many people as possible to read your paper. But to a businessperson it’s also obvious: Of COURSE I don’t want readers my advertisers don’t want, because they’re the ones paying the bills.

    (Remember that everything I’m telling you illustrates problems in the entire industry; I’m not revealing any proprietary secrets of The State. There’s nothing special about The State’s predicament; it’s just part of an industry in very rapid decline because of the crumbling of the business model.)

    And so you get these internal debates at newspapers, and they form part of a larger debate, which goes like this: How much can newspapers cut back on personnel and space and content without getting to the point that the product has no more value to the advertiser? Every paper in the country has had to wrestle with that.

    Lee’s point, of course, in saying what he did about circulation was to say people have “better choices for news.” Not really. Apart from coverage of Washington, where it seems every other person is a journalist of some kind, you really don’t have many alternatives to a daily newspaper, and the alternatives you do have don’t offer nearly as much, even today.

    And the public is avidly consuming what newspapers offer — they’re just getting it mostly for free on the Internet. And you know what? That would be fine (do away with the need to print a paper, putting it all online, and you eliminate about 40 percent of your costs — and as for it being free, well, what you pay to read a newspaper has never paid more than a small fraction of the cost of production), except for this one killer fact: Web advertising doesn’t pay as well as print advertising. You can sell just as many ads online as you used to in the paper, and you’ll still go under, because you can’t charge as much for them. So while journalists are more than happy to follow their readers to the Web (or LEAD their readers to the Web, for that matter), the ad departments can’t keep up well enough there to pay the journalists’ salaries. Which presents a problem.

  67. Mike Toreno

    Brad, your remarks would have made more sense if you had noticed that I wasn’t talking about Party A and Party B, I was talking about policy A and policy B, with policy A being favored by a large majority of the electorate, but (given a goal of bipartisanship) constantly being modified and gaining the support of larger and larger majorities, but never being acceptable because the goal isn’t to have good policy, it’s to be bipartisan.

    What would increase the value you provide to readers would be if you gave up the notion that everybody who disagrees with you is motivated by partisanship. For example, a large majority of the American public believes Bush lied us into war not because they are blinded by partisanship, but because that’s the way the incontrovertible evidence points.

    As to the reasons for the failure of the newspaper industry having nothing to do with the people in it, again, Josh Marshall blew open the U.S. Attorneys story, a story that any newspaper could have blown open if they weren’t too busy ignoring it.

    Why is Jon Stewart one of the best journalists in America? Why is it left to him to closely question interview guests who can go on other shows and just spout talking points? If “real” journalists were doing a good job, the job wouldn’t have to be done by a comedian.

  68. Lee Muller

    Brad, there you go dismissing me (and every other critic) again. Some of us are business consultants, and even worked on newspapers and magazines. News business is subject to the same things as other businesses.

    Newspapers are going dead along with network TV news, for the same reasons, low quality news.

    You are mistaken about readers just reading their old newspapers on the Internet. They are getting more news, better news, more facts, and better commentary, from non-traditional providers on the Internet and on radio and cable TV.

    The political cant of editorial pages and network news is so out of line with the working taxpayers, as to be offensive. Readers are hungry for deep, detailed coverage of politics in their cities and states as they unfold. Instead, they are surprised by stories after the fix is in. Often, journalists were part of the fix.

  69. Brad Warthen

    “Mike” says he’s talking policy rather than party.

    Well, if that’s the case, why does he complain about bipartisanship? I mean, would someone tell me where I have said people should not disagree on a policy point? No, what I have done here, time and time again, is decry the mindless choosing-up of sides, so that you stick with one side and condemn the other no matter what the policy at hand may be.

    If an adherent of one party would simply acknowledge when a proposal from his party is wrong and the proposal from someone on the other side is right, partisanship wouldn’t be a problem. And the examples I gave are good ones: Republicans who can acknowledge that Joe Wilson did wrong are not a part of the problem that I’m complaining about when I decry partisanship. Nor is a Democrat who can chuckle at the ludicrous situation of Barack Obama getting the Nobel for showing up with good intentions.

    But Republicans who reflexively defend Joe, and Democrats who assert loudly that the president EARNED the Nobel, are what’s wrong with public discourse in this country.

    I suspect that one reason it’s hard for “Mike” and I to see eye to eye — setting aside personal hostility, if I may — is that some people, even very well-meaning people, actually believe that it makes sense for all Democrats to agree on multiple unrelated issues and for all Republicans to do the same. Therefore, if I decry partisanship I’m condemning honest disagreements on policy.

    To me, this is ludicrous. The idea that a thinking person would agree with all of the Democratic or Republican Party positions — on war and peace, labor relations, gay rights, abortion, health care, and so forth — is an idea in which I cannot believe. A person can only do that by making his own ability to think about those issues subordinate to team cohesion.

    I realize that I’m more iconoclastic than most. But it’s being such a misfit that makes me see the absurdity of party cohesion more clearly than most people. Lots of people will decry the nastiness of the contest between left and right, but not challenge the idea that they represent consistent, logical ways of looking at the world.

    I support our presence in Iraq, and believed it was SO important not to pull out of there prematurely that I held my nose and endorsed George W. Bush for re-election in 2004. Meanwhile, I’m impatient with supposedly “liberal” Democrats who don’t have the guts to stand up and say that single-payer is the way to go on health care.

    So I have one strongly held “liberal” view and one strongly held “conservative” view. Well, maybe, but I don’t accept those labels as they would be conventionally applied to those two ideas. For instance, going into Iraq was NOT a conservative thing to do. It was risky as hell, and required a liberal’s faith in the power of government to make things right. It made more sense for The New Republic to support the Iraq invasion (which it did) than it did for the son of George H.W. Bush to do so. (One reason that Bush made so many mistakes in Iraq, listening to the likes of Rumsfeld, before he finally adopted the Petraeus approach, is that he didn’t believe in nation-building.) This is counterintuitive to people whose notion of “liberalism” is all post-Vietnam, but I think back to JFK…

    Meanwhile, I think a single-payer system would be the most pro-business thing we could possibly do in this country. It also fits within a conservative sensibility of a well-ordered society. Meanwhile, the argument of “conservatives” against it is the classical liberal position that we should leave it to free markets rather than “big government.”

    We could go on and on with other issues. But the point in each case is, what will work? Not which side do the Democrats take and which side Republicans, or which side is properly “liberal” or “conservative,” but what makes sense? And if you take the position that makes the most sense on each issue, you are going to find yourself working with one set of people on one issue, and a different set on another.

    And the thing is, people actually DO that in real life. George Bush’s strongest supporter in Iraq was New Labourite Tony Blair (mainly because Tony understood the issues involved better than Bush did). When we had our big fight over video poker here in SC, some of the strongest opponents were Democrats, despite it being seen as a conservative Republican issue.

    And whenever something like that happens, most of the media will dismiss it as “strange bedfellows,” when there’s nothing strange about it at all; it’s just that most of the media can’t handle the complexity of a world that isn’t just left and right, one side and the other.

    Consequently, since we lack the public language for dealing with those complexities, too often nothing gets done: We don’t, for instance, get a rational health care system — not in 1993, and so far, not this time either.

    But you know what? That’s fine with the parties. Because for them, it’s all about complaining about THOSE PEOPLE OVER THERE being an obstacle, and using THAT to raise funds to continue the madness….

  70. Lee Muller

    “Single payer” is a sham phrase, intended to obscure the issue. It means “government payer only”, as in monopoly, which is socialism, pure and simple.

    Brad, you seem to be motivated by your selfish personal interest. When those are coincide with having me pay for your medical insurance, you side with socialist Democrats.

    When it’s a different personal interest, you side with Republicans. You think that makes you pragmatic. It makes you practical for your own selfish interests, that’s all.

    When you want protection of anything you say or write, you point to the Constitution. When the Constitution says there is no authority for federal funding and control of medicine, you ignore the Constitution.

  71. Mike Toreno

    Brad, you would provide greater value to your readers if you would accurately recount what other people say. I didn’t say I was talking policy rather than party. I said I wasn’t talking about Party A and Party B, I was talking about policy A and policy B. If you want to analyze my example, the first step is to relate it accurately.

    You don’t decry the “mindless choosing up of sides,” you decry disagreement with you, characterizing it as the “mindless choosing up of sides”. Thus your insistence that those who pointed out that Bush lied us into war were motivated by partisanship, and your insistence that those who were right about Iraq, and all of whose predictions were borne out by events (while none of yours were), were motivated by partisanship.

    First, admit that not all disagreement with you is motivated by partisanship. Admit that your reaction to Obama’s Nobel Prize is not the only legitimate reaction. Everything else will follow from that.

  72. doug_ross

    ” Meanwhile, I think a single-payer system would be the most pro-business thing we could possibly do in this country.”

    See, these are the types of statements that DEMAND factual evidence supporting your claim.

    Start with supplying the names of the countries with single-payer systems that are more pro-business than the United States. Give us data to back that statement.

  73. Burl Burlingame

    One needs to realize that the “news business” and the “newspaper business” are two different things. One is a product, the other is a delivery mechanism.
    What many outside the industry don’t know is that the price one pays for a paper — the news-stand price, or the home-delivery cost — pays for nothing except the cost of delivery. Any profit going back to the paper is negligible; the money goes to the circulation guys. That’s the reason “free” papers are all or mostly ads. They can’t afford a news staff (nor do they care to).
    Newspapers that are small community papers are doing OK these days, actually. It’s the big metros that are getting whacked.
    The other thing that is killing metro dailies is that their corporate owners (who often come from outside the industry) leveraged their investments into other margin investments and the papers are feeling the effects of corporate debt, even if the papers themselves are profitable.
    Ten years ago, the owner of our paper decided to shut us down because we were “only” making a 20-percent profit instead of the 30-percent profit he wanted.

  74. Lee Muller

    The Free Times, a give-away weekly in Columbia, has plenty of ads, and more in depth coverage of local government than The State. In fact, it has broken many stories of waste and corruption which The State either missed or sat on.

    Explain that, Burl or Brad.

    There are no local metropolitan newspapers anymore, with the Internet being so available. Those metro papers just haven’t figured out they are competing nationally, and they have to step up to the quality and quantity of not just the Wall Street Journal, but Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, Lew Rockwell, and hundreds of niche writers who are as good as any niche writer at the New York Times or any other national paper.

  75. Burl Burlingame

    The Free Times is a weekly, not a daily.
    AGAIN, small community-oriented publications (like the Free Times) are doing OK. Said so right above. Pay attention, Lee.

  76. Lee Muller

    Burl, why can’t the daily papers do the same quality of weekly stories that the free papers do?

    I think it’s only because they don’t want to. Most of Big Media is in the tank for the Culture of Failure Democrats who run their cities. The editors want to get along with those who preach the same feel-good hokum, so they provide cover for the waste and corruption at City Hall, the universities, the county councils.

    BTW, I said the Free Times is a weekly, right above. Pay attention, Burl.

  77. Burl Burlingame

    BTW, I work at a local metropolitan newspaper, one of two in this city. Both are hurting, neither is gone by any means. The State is also a local metro paper.

  78. Burl Burlingame

    I thought the “weekly” note would be self-evident.
    A weekly, however much you like the content, has a far lower overhead. Because of deadlines and distribution, what you’re reading in a weekly is generally a least a week — and usually two weeks — old. Everything in a daily paper is less than 24 hours old (or should be!)
    News-oriented dailies and free weeklies are not the same thing. Each has its niche. A healthy metropolis has both.

  79. Brad Warthen

    Doug, why do you need that explained?

    Do you have a business that has employees that you have to ensure? Is it one of your fastest-rising costs? Do you not feel a bit trapped by the fact that you have to provide this?

    It’s a huge extra hurdle for going into business for yourself. I certainly won’t consider it, and only a person in perfect health who actually believes he and his will ALWAYS be in good health (an awfully iffy proposition to my mind) would do so. I mean, the only way I could swing it is if I were allowed to stay on COBRA permanently, and then I’d have to come up with $1,500 a month over and above everything else to pay the COBRA premiums.

    I mean, I know health insurance is a problem for business because I LISTEN to the complaints of businesspeople. And it’s crazy. They have a burden on them, and an additional barrier to risk-taking, that businesspeople don’t have in other places.

  80. Brad Warthen

    Doug, let me add…. Why do you always do that?

    I mean, here I am, spending WAY more time than I should trying to be patient with some of our worst offenders in the civility department, going back and forth with them trying to be as patient with them as possible, and one of them tries to give a “reason” why I cause him to be obnoxious, and I explain why he’s wrong, and he changes definitions on me, so I try to explain my position in light of THAT (all of which is pointless, because this guy’s just not going to engage constructively), and you want to grab a line out of my long explanation, one in which I simply give an example of a political position I hold on the way to making an entirely different point, and you grab it and object to it on the grounds that I failed to provide evidence that health care is a burden to business…

    I mean, give me a FREAKING break here, people…

  81. Lee Muller

    The only businesses which want a government bailout are big corporations stuck with lavish benefit models they cannot deliver. These are all relics of the socialist wage controls of FDR.

    They got Congress to create 401-k plans so they could shed their bankrupt pensions. Now they are dropping their matching contributions to the 401-k plans.

    They want push their bankrupt medical benefit plans onto the taxpayers, or at least force their competitors to have the same insurance burden they have.

    55% of American businesses are self-insured, and doing fine.

    What is needed is a totally free market, where employer-provided benefits would disappear, and everyone would fund their own medical insurance and retirement. Then they would not be chained to a job they don’t like, much less a government they hate.

  82. doug_ross


    You make a statement that a single payer system would be pro-business. The fact that insurance costs are rising doesn’t mean it’s because we don’t have a single payer system. To make that claim, you would have to identify a country with a single payer system that is more pro-business than the U.S., not just make the claim that doing A yields B.

    This goes directly to the point that you want to be able to make some claim and not have to supply any factual evidence to prove it. And for some reason you get angry when everybody doesn’t see the connection between A and B that you see…

    Single payer doesn’t equal pro-business. One has little to do with the other. Your fantasy version of single-payer might be pro-business — the one where everyone gets all the medical care they want paid for by the magic healthcare genie.

    Australia, Canada, UK, Taiwan all have single payer. Which of those countries do you see U.S. companies rushing to move their operations to? Which ones would you trade the U.S. economy to be more like?

    If you’re going to make a blanket statement, make sure the blanket doesn’t have a bunch of holes in it.

  83. Brad Warthen

    The good news, however, is that I’m getting closer to having an idea on how to handle this civility problem.

    The answer is to be arbitrary: Just sweep through the comments now and then, and eliminate the ones which do not strike me as advancing the discussion constructively (or digress in an entertaining manner, for that matter). It’s more trouble for ME, but eventually maybe it will make for a sufficiently welcoming environment that people who have hitherto held themselves aloof, and we might have a forum where ordinary decent folks don’t think they’ll be abused for having an opinion.

    Not everyone will be satisfied with the choices I make. In fact, my attempts to engage in dialogue over time with some of the worst offenders persuades me that they will NEVER believe (or never acknowledge) that I’ve dealt with them fairly. This is sort of by definition: Because they’re the sorts who ACT this way, they’re the sorts who will assert to the end that there’s nothing wrong with it.

    My hope, and the thing that encourages me in going forward with this, is that other people WILL get it, and they will notice that this is more and more a place where they will want to express themselves. My experience with human nature persuades me that there are people out there like that, too — good, kind, thoughtful people from whom we don’t hear nearly often enough as political discourse gets nastier and more polarized. (And while I know the jerks of the blogosphere don’t believe in such people, I do. And I’ve seen a few of them — such as Paul DeMarco, who used to add a lot to this forum — just throw up their hands and quit because of the tone.)

    Anyway, I’m going to try to make this work, for them.

  84. doug_ross

    The single payer issue is just one example, by the way.

    The claims that people who are opposed to amnesty for illegal immigrants are racists is another typical example of where you say “X is X because I say it” and don’t feel you have to defend the position even when presented with evidence to the contrary.

    Opinions should be based on a logical examination of the facts.

  85. Lee Muller

    Price Waterhouse calculates that families will pay $4,000 MORE a year in insurance premiums under the Senate medical care legislation, than they pay today.

    The bill will require as much as an 18% increase in payroll taxes for many small businesses. The only way they can pay that is to decrease wages by 18%.

    No proponent of the plan is able or willing to lay out in black and white how the legislation will work, or what the costs will be for various businesses. That uncertainty is a major reason business is rightly afraid to hire anyone, so the recession continues.

  86. doug_ross

    Dr. DeMarco gave up because he couldn’t win the argument on facts. He can’t even convince the majority of his colleagues on the value of single payer. If they don’t want it, what point is there in pursuing it?

    If you want to overhaul 1/6 of the American economy, you had better be 100% sure of what you are doing.

  87. Mike Toreno


    “Australia, Canada, UK, Taiwan all have single payer. Which of those countries do you see U.S. companies rushing to move their operations to?”


    UK doesn’t have single payer, though, they have a government run system. I know Canada has single payer, I don’t know about the others.

    “Which ones would you trade the U.S. economy to be more like?”

    All of them. I mean, think about it, all of them spend less on health care than us, none of them has a population worrying about going bankrupt if they get sick. People who get sick in those countries can concentrate on getting better. The US healthcare system consumes a huge proportion of healthcare dollars on insurance company administrative costs, mostly spent on avoiding payment and rewarding employees for avoiding payment.

  88. Mike Toreno

    Brad, what’ll help you keep people from changing definitions on you is, when you characterize what they say, use the exact same words they used. They won’t be able to get away from it when you use their exact words.

  89. Karen McLeod

    Lies, repeated often enough, frequently become accepted as the truth. And arguing with a person espousing such lies just gives him/her an opportunity to repeat them again and again.

  90. Lee Muller

    Karen, is that supposed to be the civil way to interrupt a discussion and call someone a liar? At least have the common decency to identify the object of your attack, and what “lie” you claim them to be repeating so often.

    If you want to be more than a bomb thrower, also bring some facts to dispute these people you are smearing as liars.

  91. doug_ross


    Combine the GDP of Canada, UK, Australia, and Taiwan and you reach about 1/3 of the U.S. GDP.

    Canada is already experiencing the symptoms of what happens when the government runs healthcare. $1B spent on sweetheart government contracts that produced nothing – forcing the Health Minister to resign. You want to guess what the amount of fraud and waste would be in a U.S. government run system?

    The problems with the insurance industry do not require replacing the whole system. Basic legislation that would require insurance companies to do certain things would go a long way to improving care.

  92. Mike Toreno

    Doug, they have about 44% of our population, so their GDP per capital is ballpark with ours.

    And how is it distributed, and how much it it is based on useful versus useless endeavors? Because I’m willing to give up huge bonuses for bankers who collapse their banks, and high salaries to insurance executives who deny legitimate claims, if it means we can save the lives of the 44,000 Americans who die every year due to a lack of health insurance.

    What’s the median standard of living in UK/Canada/Taiwan/Australia versus here? Better or worse than ours?

  93. Lee Muller

    Gee, you are willing to give up a bonus that doesn’t belong to you. What a sacrifice that is.

    And here’s this week’s bogus statistoid: “44,000 Americans who die every year due to a lack of health insurance” – totally unsubstantiated, of course.

    Canada doesn’t have good enough socialized medicine for their politicians to use it. They come to America for treatment, in droves.

  94. BillC

    Boy, Burl sure knows a lot about the Columbia news market. I live here and have maybe flipped through one copy of it in 20 years. I guess I’ve never had much need to know which stripper was making a special appearance at what strip joint in town.

  95. bud

    The problems with the insurance industry do not require replacing the whole system.

    Yes it does. It’s a mess. We lose 44,000 lives every year because folks don’t have health insurance. We probably lose that many again because the damn health insurance companies spend an exhorbitant amount of resources denying people care. We desparately need a public option to keep the evil insurance industry in line. If they can’t compete, so be it. I certainly won’t lose any sleep if the whole sorry bunch of ’em go out of business. I sick (literaly) of seeing billing explainations that I can’t read. And I’m envious of other nations that enjoy longer life expantancy than we will ever have under the current system. I say scrap it and start over again.

  96. bud

    Brad, you’re the king of this blog and you can do what you want. But just don’t pretend you’re giving others equal weight to your own opinion. I find many, many, many of your comments condescending and insulting. I assume those will all be allowed to stand. So be it.

  97. Libb

    “The other thing that is killing metro dailies is that their corporate owners (who often come from outside the industry) leveraged their investments into other margin investments and the papers are feeling the effects of corporate debt, even if the papers themselves are profitable.”

    Burl’s statement more accurately reflects the demise of the newspaper in my humble opinion. The movement of the newspaper industry into corporatocracy was the beginning of the end.

    I had a parttime gig for a few years in the trenches at the Knight Ridder regional call center on Shop Road and was privileged(yes, I’m being facetious) to talk to subscribers from all over–St Paul MN, Kentucky, Georgia, etal.
    Marketing and the bean counters pretty much ruled the roost. Journalism and service wersadly took a back seat.

    Very rarily was the Internet mentioned as the reason for cancellation. The #1 reason people cancelled: SERVICE. Most corporate cost cutting measures begin at the bottom and I can’t tell you how many times we watched in dismay as droves of longtime experienced carriers walked away because of diminished earnings. Substitutes and ongoing “open routes” (ie no carrier) often resulted in chronic delivery problems (missed/late/wet/placement). If I had a nickel for everytime I heard “I REALLY want the paper but since you can’t get it to me I quit”. That’s the nice version, more often we heard insults that would make Lee look like a poster child for civility.

    #2 reason: Inadequate billing system(s). Automatic payment accounts(lots of pressure to get subscribers to cough up that credit card, bank account for EZpay) were a major problem. Folks often got double billed in the same month. Far worse were the EZpayers on discount rates not being notified of the increase in charges to their accounts when the discount expired. And, yes, Marketing knew that the billing system was not yet programmed to provide proper notification but never was a marketing campaign(at least not on any of the newspapers I took calls for) delayed to give the computer guys a chance to get up to snuff. Seniors on fixed incomes were particularly effected by this glitch in the form of overdraft charges. Bottom line–you don’t mess with people’s money.

    #3 Content. The “more ads than articles” reason.

    After these top 3 came the Internet, issues w/ editorials,and cost reasons.

    Being a longtime fan of the printed word, it was distressing to watch the newspaper industry basically abandon its readers.

  98. Maude Lebowski

    I agree with Bud’s take on the insurance industry. Their goal of maximizing profits is at odds with the goal of providing quality health care for people. I don’t know if a public option is the solution, but I fully support much more strenuous regulation of the insurance industry. I don’t know that the Baucus bill achieves this either.

  99. Mike Toreno

    Lee, what are you saying, that if we give up paying bank executives bonuses for ruining their banks, fewer banks will be ruined? I’m willing to live with that.

    Banking is not the most important human endeavor; the reason bank executives get paid a lot is because they have their hands on the money entrusted to them by other people, and they just help themselves to it.

    I’m willing to restructure the economy so that bankers and insurance executives are paid at a level commensurate with the value of their services, particularly since it would mean saving the lives of the 43,789 Americans who die every year due to a lack of health insurance.

  100. Libb

    Thanks, Mike, that brought a nostalgic chuckle.

    If only I had a PENNY for everytime I heard “Where’s my KMart ad, that’s the only reason I take your (fill in your favorite expletive) paper”.

  101. Burl Burlingame

    Libb is dead-on right about the delivery issue. Newsrooms are frequently in despair about attempting to put out a quality product that simply isn’t available to customers because of spotty distribution.

    And Mike Torino is correct about a couple of things, including the notion that some people — many people — only get newspapers for the ads. These citizens are also going to be out in the cold without a paper.

    As for the “enormous profits” generated by the health-insurance industry, only a portion goes to CEO bonuses. They’re reinvesting in things like tobacco and other industries that make people ill. And it’s often invested overseas in foreign corporations.

  102. Karen McLeod

    But those of us who got a paper for news and discussion are feeling left out in the cold now. The ads are there, but what happened to the substance?

  103. Randy E

    Brad, why not simply warn someone for going too far and then simply ban them?

    You’re going to be awfully busy screening Lee’s posts.

  104. doug_ross

    So I’m sitting in my hotel room in Toronto reading the Globe and Mail while eating dinner.

    Funny how things just drop in your lap. The headline:

    All you single payer supporters should use the three minutes it would take to read this article and then go back to ignoring reality.

    “Ontario Hospitals Bleeding Red Ink”
    “Centres sustain shortfall of $154M after 38% fail to balance budget”

    Here’s the key quote to ponder:

    “When the Progressive Conservatives were in power a decade ago, the OHA claimed that more than 100 hospitals were facing deficits after years of underfunding and increasing demand. Soon after defeating the Tories in 2003, the Liberals broke their election promise not to increase taxes and introduced the much-despised health premium to help finance the sector, which brought in $2.8-billion last year alone. “

  105. doug_ross

    So they run the hospitals like the government – can’t afford something? Just borrow money from the future.

    But I guess they make it up on volume…

  106. Lee Muller

    The myth of paying for socialized medicine by removing profit.

    The myth of paying for socialized medicine by reducing waste and fraud.

    All 1,700 medical insurance companies combined only made $12.9 billion in 2008. Medicare lost four times that much money to waste and fraud.

    Democrats propose increasing the size of federal medical spending by 500 percent, which will generate $304 billion in fraud.

    The Baucus bill proposes “to study ways to eliminate $2.3 billion a year in Medicare waste”… out of $304 billion.

    So how do they propose to pay for it?
    * 18% payroll tax

    * force businesses to pay for 65% of the family member’s cost

    * $500 billion reduction in Medicare by denying treatments “without social returns”.

    * $4,000 increase in insurance premiums per family.

  107. Maude Lebowski

    “All 1,700 medical insurance companies combined only made $12.9 billion in 2008. Medicare lost four times that much money to waste and fraud.”

    Could you post a source for that?

    Stated funding for the Baucus bill comes from major reductions in Medicare payments, which makes NO sense to me. How can we fund further government-sponsered healthcare by reducing funding for current government-sponsered healthcare?

  108. kbfenner

    Yes, Karen! The Monday paper is more like a newsletter, and the Sunday paper is like a wrapper for a giant Valpak.

  109. doug_ross

    Most read stories on at this moment:

    o Opportunity knocks for Gamecocks
    o Old-school Saban impressed by USC
    o Morris: ESPN-SEC TV deal is hurting attendance
    o Honors continue to roll in for Jeffery
    o Man faces charges in 2-year-old’s death
    o Clemson is far from sunk in ACC
    o Part of green movement, farm sprouts in city
    o USC relies on youth in Spurrier’s 5th year
    o Kahne says NASCAR is full of garbage
    o OL Freeman may start for Tigers

    Seven football stories, one NASCAR, a dead child, and a farm story.

    Who would buy advertising for that demographic???

  110. Lee Muller

    Maude, you’re right: the Baucus bill makes no sense, because you cannot fund an $829 billion expansion of Medicare with a $500 billion cut in services to existing elderly patients (assuming you believe his claims). The bill only proposes a target of $2.3 billion in annual savings, and $100 billion in new spending.

    Where do I get the figures for Medicare fraud and waste?
    1. GAO reports for 1999 through 2008 show a consistent 11% rate of fraud. In addition, they show a consistent amount of waste.

    2. Last year’s waste was about $37 billion and fraud was $14.7 billion.

    3. Medicare audits consistently find thy pay an average of 29% more for goods than the retail single item price. Some examples of waste from 2008, reform blocked by Democrats:

    — $7,215 to rent an oxygen concentrator, when the purchase price is $600.

    — $4,018 for a standard wheelchair, while the private sector pays $1,048.

    — $1,825 for a hospital bed, compared to an Internet price of $1,071.

    — $3,335 for a respiratory pump, versus an advertised price of $1,987.

    — $82 for a diabetic supply kit, instead of a $47 price on the Web.

    Last year, the Health and Human Services Department tried to replace its archaic fixed-price fee schedule for 10 commonly purchased products with a competitive bidding program in 10 cities. The department said the program could save Medicare $125 million in a single year, or $1 billion if adopted nationwide. But Congress stepped in to stop it.

    “There were products that we had as much as 75 percent savings. The average was 29 percent,” said Mike Leavitt, the former HHS secretary who oversaw the program.

    “It would have saved billions if we could’ve actually implemented it, but Congress deferred it. In Washington speak, that means we put it off forever,” he said.

    Leavitt blames Congressmen Pete Stark (D-Calif.) and Dave Camp (R-Mich.) for introducing legislation that terminated the contracts and postponed the program for 18 months. Leavitt
    says the congressional intervention helps explain why many are suspicious of claims that
    Washington can cut enough waste to actually pay for health care reform, as President Obama told a joint session of Congress last month.
    (Washington Post 2009/10/05)

  111. Lee Muller

    Where do I get insurance company revenue and profit figures?

    Yahoo, Bloomberg and private for-fee stock analysis tools have all the profit information for public stock insurance companies.

    In addition, an independent firm is retained by the state insurance regulatory agencies to compile revenue and profit data which includes insurance groups which are not stock companies.

    “Highline Data calculates Group data using statements submitted by
    individual filers to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the California Department of Managed Health Care. This bottom-up approach enables Highline Data experts to remove any data duplications due to intra-group ownership or intra-group transactions for the most accurate Groups on the market.” – quoting from the annual report

  112. Mike Toreno

    Maude, sometimes I think Lee’s real, sometimes I think he’s a performance artist. Look at his response to my comment that I’d be happy to give up some bonuses to bank executives who wrecked their banks in order to save the lives of the 44,000 Americans who die every year due to a lack of health insurance.

    Lee’s characterized my attitude as a willingness “to give up a bonus that doesn’t belong to you”.

    Does any real person (even a crazy person) really believe that we need to forego universal coverage so that bank executives can continue to receive bonuses for wrecking their banks?

  113. Lee Muller

    Does any real person believe that the bonuses paid to a few executives would pay the interest on the national debt?

    Most of the so-called “bonuses” on Wall Street are commissions, paid on production of profits. They might earn 5% of profits they produce.

    Toreno, why don’t you give up your income to pay for socialized medicine? Just wait, because you will end up paying a lot more in payroll taxes and reduced wages.

  114. Lee Muller

    Does any real person believe that the bonuses paid to a few executives would pay the interest on the national debt FOR ONE DAY?

  115. Mike Toreno

    ==?Most of the so-called “bonuses” on Wall Street are commissions, paid on production of profits. They might earn 5% of profits they produce.<==

    Maude, this, too, looks to me like a piece of performance art.

  116. Lee Muller

    Then you don’t seem to know anything about bonuses paid on Wall Street, or art. Why do you post such junk?

    And your fabrication, the “estimated 44,000 who die each year due to lack of insurance”, is especially worthless propaganda sloganeering.

  117. doug_ross

    Actually, Lee, the phrase “estimated 44,000 who die each year” is accurate. It is an estimate. Just a bad one.

  118. Lee Muller

    The only fact is that an estimate exists. The figure of 44,000 would not be a fact unless there were 44,000 names of patients who died with reasonable evidence supporting the conclusion that lack of insurance was the primary cause of their deaths; that with insurance proposed by Democrats, they would not have died.

    There is, of course, no such list of patients, much less proof connecting their deaths to insurance.

  119. doug_ross

    One of Brad’s favorite politicians, Lindsey Graham, was at Furman yesterday for a public forum.

    From the article:

    “He drew some applause by saying he opposes Obama’s government option for health care because he said it would drive private enterprise out of business and add hundreds of billions of dollars in debt. He said he’s not afraid to ask people who can afford care, like himself, to pay more, and that more competition, deregulation and tort reform are all ways to lower costs.”

    Sounds like Lindsey thinks a public option is anti-business, not pro-business. What say you, Brad?

  120. Brad Warthen

    What I say is this: You’re right; Lindsey’s one of my favorites. And I think he’s got some interesting points to make on the subject. But ultimately, I disagree with him.

    The only “private enterprise” that a public option would be bad for is the insurance companies. Other forms of enterprise, from starting a business to keeping it from being swamped by medical costs as it grows, would benefit immeasurably from a public option.

    Doug, you’ve been highly critical in the past of the Postal Service. Well, let’s talk about that. I think the success of UPS and FedEx illustrate the fact that a well-run private business with something to offer at a good price CAN compete with a government entity.

    And yet, we’re told (ironically, sometimes by people who extol the virtues of competition otherwise) that private companies would simply not be able to compete with a public entity offering coverage. And you know what? I think that’s probably true. And I think it tells us one of two things: Either there’s something wrong with these private operators (or else they’d be able to crush a mere government “bureaucracy”), or there’s something about health care that makes the public option a deal that the marketplace just can’t beat. Frankly, I suspect the latter is the case.

  121. Burl Burlingame

    I muse on the notion that health-insurance companies should have the same regulations as public utilities.
    The AHIP public-relations debacle over PricewaterhouseCooper’s cherry-picked survey the last couple of days illustrates why.

  122. doug_ross


    We’ve been through this before. Your statements about the Postal Service are wrong. Fedex and UPS do not compete with USPS. They simply do something better than USPS can. Fedex competes with UPS and DHL. They don’t even worry about USPS because USPS is a bloated government monopoly.

    Here’s an analogy – assume that USPS did not have the monopoly on delivery of advertising mail into a mailbox? How long do you think USPS would retain that business without the protection the government gives it? If any company could deliver advertising into a mailbox, USPS would be dead.
    This is how it would work with the government running healthcare. The ONLY way it can do it is by making laws that give the government an unfair competitive advantage. It can’t do it on the basis of pure market economics.

    That’s how Medicare works – it’s a monopoly with enforced price controls by the government that undercut true costs and push the extra costs onto private insurers. Also, due to the lack of a true market business model. They don’t have to worry about revenue because they can raise taxes on everyone at any time. They don’t have to worry about controlling costs because there is no profit incentive. This is why the fraud and waste in Medicare is so high.

    You’re comparing apples to oranges and it doesn’t work. Two completely different models where all the advantages are given to the government is not competition, it’s plain old government… i.e. inefficient.

  123. Randy E

    Doug, USPS, FedEx, and UPS offer the same services which, by definition, is competition.

    Medicare and Medicare Plus are also public vs private delivery organizations. Public kicks private butt in that competition.

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