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October 11, 2008 - 12:13pm

Financial Crisis

posted by Charlie Mallow in nation and world, Washington.

There is a lot of frustration that I see with the way this financial crisis is being handled in Washington.

Our government is taking steps to turn our country to socialism. I had thought that both Democrats and Republicans had agreed that we wanted to live in a capitalist country. What I see is a sellout from both sides of our system, for votes. These people want to make it look like they are doing something to solve the financial crisis so bad, that they are willing to do the worst things possible.

In what was our economic system, when you made a mistake, you were allowed to fail. That was the risk of success. That fear kept the system in check. There is now no downside to greed. LET THEM FAIL! It’s the American way or it was…

Howard B. Owens
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Here's something we can agree on, Charlie. If you go through the Nation and World section, you'll find some of my blog posts on the topic. I just don't get the "rush to bailout." I fear we're being sold a bill of goods by the power elite in Washington, with the beltway media doing nothing to question any of the assumptions and assertions being made. We were told there was no time to lose in passing this bailout, now we find out it will be weeks before its implemented. I smell a rat. Old saying: Anybody a salesman tells you "this is your last chance, act now," you're probably being screwed. Isn't that what Bush and Pelosi told us about the Bailout? Isn't that what Bush told us about Iraq? BTW: I've been wondering -- how does the supposed credit crunch affect the city? Any difficulties being encountered?
Charlie Mallow
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Howard, I always thought we agreed on a lot of things. Your right, if you’re told to do something right away, you’re getting the shaft. The city staff will be preparing a presentation that will explain what this housing mess means locally. First indications is that our homes are not overvalued and that part of the crisis isn’t and hasn’t hit us as hard as most other places in the country. That doesn’t mean we are immune from the effects of a strong economic downturn. One thing that I can promise you, city government isn’t going to bail anyone or anything out, while I’m alive.
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Charlie, you just made all the local bankers very unhappy! As for the agree thing, I'm just being flip.
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Charlie you hit the nail on the head..Glad to see city government be pro active on this..to bad the US government can't run like small town america..At least for the most part when we talk you all listen..Funny how something that 80% of the citizens didnt want gets passed anyways..I'm starting to wonder about ...your vote counts....Does it..I do think that some houses will need to be assessed to the down side in Batavia.Ive seen a few houses on the assessment rolls that sold for one price a few years ago,are now assessed for less then price paid..This must cause the tax base to be eroding..
Charlie Mallow
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Your right Mark, they don't care what a majority of us think. They work for the people who give them the big money it takes to get elected. Millionaires don't give these people money for nothing. Your also right about falling home values. If that happens here to a high level, the local governments are going to be in a tough position. We will not have the money to provide essential services and we won't be able to raise taxes on people who will be suffering in this meltdown. Hopefully, people will keep the faith in our system and not pull their money out of the markets and banks.
Howard B. Owens
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Charlie, I believe you and I have a different POV on this, but I saw a quote today that I liked ... went something like, "When are people going to realized they're being ruled by a one-party system disguised as two?" Washington in particular is all about money and influence. Party matters only so much as it pertains to getting more money, more influence and better perks (when you're in the majority, you can be chairs, get more pork, and get invited to better parties, etc.).
Charlie Mallow
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You and I do have a different POV about our two party system. You have given up and I chose to work with what we have. You need to bring change from within the system we have. The lack of involvement is the real problem. You can't just throw your hands up in the air and give up. The local parties are filled with good people who at least try to get it right.
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I haven't given up, Charlie. I'm fighting. I'm fighting so more voices can be heard, so people can once again be empowered and protected. I don't want to be insulting, so don't take this personally, please, but I think adhering to partisanship in a two party system is surrender. Years ago, when I ran this little newspaper in San Diego, we had a very independent voice. The newly elected city councilman for the district, Ron Roberts, asked me to serve on the Martin Luther King Commission (I'm glad I did it; I learned a lot), but a very wise man who took pictures for us, Pierce Harris (RIP), told me, "this is how they comprise revolutionaries -- they put you on their committees." I just don't believe any real change can be made from within the existing parties. We need more independent voices. And frankly, you are an independent voice. I like that, but if you continue down the path of partisanship, eventually you will be comprised, I believe. I watched it happen, quite tragically, to the state assemblyman I worked for in California. It was a slow motion unwinding of independence over a two year span. It was immediately after that, I left the Democratic party. I've never regretted the decision to become non-partisan.
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I don't see how you could ever achieve change from the outside. The last time an independant had a chance, was Ross. I voted for him twice. The second time was the one I regret. :-) What I'm getting at is the root of the problem, participation. How do you round up enough indpendents to make a difference? It's like herding cats. Being a Democrat, I know all about working with people who agree on almost nothing. You need to align youself with like minded people and work for change. The Internet isn't the answer either, talking isn't enough. Eventually, you have to actually do something.
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Charlie, to me, being non-partisan gives us a fighting chance. Going along to get along won't ever achieve change. Personally, I think most people want real change, they are dissatisfied with both parties, but like you think they have no choice to go along with the system because everybody else will go along with the system. Independent-minded people need to stand up and yell, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more." When we do, our voices will be heard, we'll find each other and we'll find a way to foment a revolution against the status quo.
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You have to get involved in a party so you can impact who is chosen to run. This year we county Democrats supported and pushed a true independent thinker, Jon Powers. Yes, our guy got savaged by a ruthless millionaire. But, we didn’t go with the status quo; we went with the best person for the job and that changed the whole ball game this year. We stood up to big money. Our system is the way things are whether we like it or not.. Maybe with the way young people are registering we can get to a true representative form of government, like George Washington envisioned, without political parties. The problem is that for 200+ years this is what we have had and the idea that it will change in our life time is a dream. I don’t disagree with your vision, I just think there is a better way to get the goal accomplished.
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Nothing I saw convinced me that Powers was a man of change. He was just another Democratic politician, which means he was just another one-party politician, same as Obama, same as McCain, same as Bush, same as Pelosi. Who is talking about doing away with the Federal Reserve, of eliminating wasteful government bureaucracies such as the Department of Education, of getting rid of unfunded mandates and returning power back to local governments, of ending a foreign interventionist empire ... ? You have to get involved in non-partisan politics so you can give a truly independent candidate a chance to win. People need to see the light and realize there are political options beyond the Republocrats. Then, and only then, can we turn this situation around. It just makes absolutely no difference if you vote for Lee or Kryzan, Mesi or Ranzenhoefer ... you're just deciding who gets to decide how to divide the spoils, not make any real change. The only reason to vote for Obama over McCain is to stick it in the eye of the racist and the haters and the ignorant people who think Obama is a terrorist. Otherwise, it won't make a whit of difference. We're not going to agree on this, but I enjoy the discussion and appreciate your willingness to engage in it.
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Ok, Howard. “We are mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore! “ So what do we do next? Where is the solution and how do we fix the problem? After we are done yelling out the window, what’s the next move? Who even cares that we are mad? We need to get off our butts and go to work and make sure the right people are selected to run for office. In order to do that we need to go door to door and explain to people why our guy isn’t like the rest. We need to fundraise so our knight in shining armor has a chance of getting his message out. We need to figure out how to bring that message to the people. We need to teach our guy or gal not to get drawn into the negativity the status quo candidate is going to toss them. It takes work, it takes organization. Why wouldn’t you take advantage of the structure that already exists to do that?
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To be blunt, the idea that (to steal Charlie's analogy) a herd of independent cats could stand up on their hind legs, shout "enough's enough" and make a difference seems naive to me. The very structure of our electoral system works against that notion. People who advocate that we need a third, fourth, fifth party seem to be lobbying for anarchy. We're human animals whose very survival depends on socialization and shared responsibility and sacrifice. To insist that we break society down into its smallest increments is a call for us to break down into the lowest levels of tribalism. That's not within the realm of reality. Nostalgia, perhaps. But not reality. Standing outside throwing rocks through the windows neither tears down the house nor makes it stronger. All it does is make you good at throwing rocks.
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Charlie, you ask a very good question. First, off -- I think everything begins at the local level. When you and I first met, you talked about the difficulty of getting good people to run for office. Maybe I'm fooled by my own hubris or over optimistic outlook, but I think the Batavian can play a role in this. One reason I'm so passionate about what I do is I believe news/journalism can play an important role in helping communities solve problems, grow and get better. I think a site like The Batavian -- a site that provides news, but more importantly, provides for an open and dynamic discussion about issues in the community does a few things: It helps keep people already interested better informed, it provides a check against any lack of transparency by government officials, and by the focus on local issues and discussion around those issues, in ENCOURAGES involvement. I'm radically non-partisan, but I would support any person who wanted, whether Republican or Democrat, who believed that transparent and honest participation at a local level can make a difference and is important. One of my criticisms of the entire Ron Paul movement is its trying to change things from the top. I think change begins at the local level. So, I would like to think that The Batavian can make a real difference. Of course, we are frustrated in that quest when people like Jason Molino, who greatly controls the flow of information, is completely uncooperative, secretive and refuses to answer questions. That isn't helping the community at all. I think the web can be a powerful tool for independent voices to connect and discuss, and I think it even encourages a degree of independence. You saw a bit of that in the early stages of the Dean campaign, and also in the Paul campaign. It's only a fraction of what's needed, but it's a start. To your last paragraph -- I just don't think it takes political parties to get done what needs to be done ... it takes like-minded people finding each other, sharing their vision and educating their peers on the alternatives, and then the right candidates coming along to push that for-the-people agenda (and I'm not talking populism, in the traditional sense, so much a movement away from the power elite ... there's a difference, I think). I just don't get why Jason is so obstructionist.
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Russ, Anarchy is not a dirty word to me. Our national government has gotten too big and too powerful. Anarchy, when properly understood, is just another word for freedom, for local control, for an end to centralization and nationalism. It is what the original Articles of Confederation were all about. I don't follow your "human animals" argument. To me, devolving to power to the smallest units of government possible only enhances the human need for socialization. The current system perverts it. Up until the second half of the 19th Century, it was much easier for third party candidates to win elections. Then the the two major parties discovered they could use their majority position to institute rules, laws and ordinances that made third party candidacy nearly impossible. Is it really justifiable that a candidate not part of the Republican or Democratic party must spend more money and jump through more hoops to get his or her name on a ballot than either of the two major parties? Is it fair that media organizations or debate-organizing groups often shut out third party candidates from the public discussion? How can that be a good thing for really making a difference?
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Howard, Jason is a hired manager who is supervised by nine very different people. He isn’t a mayor, he isn’t elected. He could be fired without any notice if five people get up on the wrong side of the bed one day. He is in a tough position, anything and everything he does has the potential to cause him trouble. Jason chooses to do what he does best, every morning he gets up and thinks about what he needs to do to make our city a better place to live and every night he goes to sleep and wonders if he was up to the task that day. I think your too hard on him at times and too busy looking for that dark secret you reporter types know is there just waiting to be uncovered. I’m not saying that’s all bad either, just a little of that type of thinking might have uncovered our budget mess a few years ago and saved us a couple of tax increases. Keep in mind, this is little Batavia, there isn’t a whole lot being done behind the scenes.
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Anarchy may not be a dirty word to you, but its not a recipe for success. Its basically chaos. Retreat into the least progressive, most unhomogenized breakdown of human society seems cowardly. 'devolving to power to the smallest units of government' is what our servicemen are combating in Afghanistan. Its an excuse to be intellectually lazy and to be ignorant. That sort of attitude is non-inclusive, denying, and fearful. Difference isn't made by shouting at others. I consider the possibility that if my idea isn't considered that perhaps my idea isn't worthy of consideration. There may be the remote possibility that I might be the kid on the diving board at the pool shouting, "Hey, look at me....Mom!!!!...look at me.....c'mon, I'm gonna do a cannonball".
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It's a simple question, Charlie, why won't he return a phone call or answer an e-mail Ever. Why did he make the new fire chief cancel a video interview with Philip? Why does he send press releases to the Daily News and WBTA but never us? I don't think we've been hard on him at all. We've asked questions, raised issues. Nobody should be afraid of an open discussion. Honestly, Charlie -- we may not always get it right, or take discussion in a direction some people might agree with, but we do want The Batavian to be a force for good in this community. We want people to be able to understand and explore the important issues of the community. Jason isn't helping us or the community. He has nothing to fear by openness and transparency. I'm completely baffled by his attitude, and his power to shut out a media outlet from the flow of information.
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Sorry, this kind of got off topic -- there is a real issue about the power of a central government and the lack of local control, local decision making (which is kind of at the heart, in my mind, of your original post). It's not about Jason, but I'm just feeling frustrated that we can't do what I think is an important public service because one person has so much power to constrict the flow of information.
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Russ, devolved power is why the revolution was fought and what this country was founded on.
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Howard, revolutions are fought to combat perceived injustice. The American Revolution was fought because people who bore the burden felt they weren't being represented. It was a united protest against the voice of the majority being ignored. Most of what I gather from your postings is that you would rather that every single voice, no matter how isolated, no matter how devoid of substance or proof, be considered to be just as creditable as the voice that has gathered masses of proof and evidence. That's a position that entertains a suspension of disbelief that I'm unable to sustain.
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Russ, large central governments are dangerous. They take us into wars we don't want to fight, spend money we don't want to spend, impose laws we don't agree with. The Constitutional Congress was convened to rewrite the Articles of Confederation, and without charter, dumped the articles and wrote a new nationalist document. The Articles required consent of all the states to amend, but the Constitutional Congress, without authority, required only nine states to ratify. There were many voices opposed to this usurpation of state sovereignty. They just didn't win (though, we can thank them for the Bill of Rights). We'll never know if the world might be better off if the mis-named anti-federalists had won. As for the second half of your post, who is to decide which voices should be silenced? What about faith in the marketplace of ideas?
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I don't fear my fellow Americans. When people don't agree with me, I don't automatically assume they're idiots or complacent because they don't agree with me. Given your premise that so many of the decisions made to this point were so horribly wrong, I have to ask; How in the hell did we manage to get to this point? Why is it, for all the colossally wrong decisions that we've made to this point by your opinion, that we're still the center point of the world's attention? And, "the second half of your post, who is to decide which voices should be silenced?". No one's 'silencing' voices. Sometimes stupid and ridiculous is just that.
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Ok Howard, back on topic. You can’t start a rebellion without an army. Neither party can find qualified people to run for office in the city. That has to do with participation at the local level. It’s kind of hard to start a revolution when all you have is people yelling out a window that they are “Just mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore”. There comes a point where you need to stop talking about how bad things are and go try to do something about it. If you want to change Washington, you need to elect someone locally who is different than what we now have. In order to do that you need to have an organization to fight the big money players or you’re going to get run over. Who am I kidding; you’re going to get run over no matter what. Either way, you might as well die fighting and this all starts locally. You need boots on the ground. So back to my original question, with so many things going against you in this process, how do you accomplish this without party structure? You seem to fear party structure because you believe it changes people. From the inside I see a group of people who are very different and join a party for a set number of key issues to that individual. The local Democrats are made up of people who run the ideological table from far left liberals to far right conservatives and a whole bunch of people in between. I’m positive the Republicans have the same type of makeup. I’m know that the reason people become active with their party is because they want to find that knight in shining armor that is cut from a different cloth than the rest. They are looking for someone who is willing to stand up and fight the good fight.
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It's late. I'm tired. It's been a good discussion. I have fun with this. Without conceding any points, you both make yours just fine. Maybe I'll think of some new things to say tomorrow, or some other people will jump in with some different perspectives to discuss ... but for tonight, I'm done. Thanks for the conversation.
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I got a thought...after reading all your thoughts.. which is what living in the usa is all about..that maybe we need this total collapse of wall street..the people needed to see how unresponsive our government is.. Who only care about what will keep them in power..That neither Democrat or Republician cares about us here on the bottom that keeps the system working..I see Howard and Charlies point..one wants to work from within and change the other would rather be indepenent and not beholden to either party..We do need people on the inside of these parties to push change and more of a openness of government ,But it will also take the independent to push these people to do there task.Until we tear down both parties and break there hold on power we will not move forward.People are mad and feed up right now..The government is broken..now is the time to start electing all new blood..on either side..if they have held their job for more then 6 years then out they go..It may sound crazy,but how much more screwed up can it get.. The only one's i've heard on tv about how to get out of the mess ,are the ones that are responsible for it...Get them out.The average man in the street has more common sense about it then they do..Why keep asking billionares what to do..all they are worried about is the money they are losing and what best for them. Maybe im missing Russ's point that we cant take all independant thinkers ideas,because some of them might me to off the wall to even be considered..Hes wrong..thats what we need now..those that think out side the box..This government is not for all ..right now its only for a few, ,those mostly with the wealth control us..Break the monopoly in Washington ..by firing those that are in power now..Charlies right we have to be envolved.. Right now that means vote ,Toss out those with long ties in washington..Let new people in.If after this election is over and the same ones are in charge,then we will have noone but our selfs to blame .We the people make the difference..they didnt hear us when we said no to the bailout..well now they will here us when they are out of a job...
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Charlie, Russ, Mark: I was thinking about this conversation while drifting off to sleep last night ... I think I did not give Charlie's position enough credit. While I want to see the power of the two political parties diminished and allow for more independent and third party choices, Charlie is right that we need, and it is good to encourage, independent voices with in the major parties. Like um or hate um, Ron Paul in the GOP, and Dennis Kucinich in the Democratic party are two examples on the national stage of politicians who always speak their mind and refuse to bow to the conventional wisdom of their party leadership (John McCain would like to think he's this sort of person, but he really isn't). But I still support -- as I've said elsewhere on this site -- doing away with voter registration cards that ask for party affiliation (it's a violation of privacy), and making political parties, not taxpayers, pay for their own primary candidate selections. These reforms would lesson the ability for the two parties to dominate general elections. Not only should we have more than two parties on a national level, we should have more and stronger regional parties. Could Congress really get away with subverting the wishes of the people if there were 50 or 100 or 200 independent voices, voices not beholden to Wall Street interests, with butts in seats in that chamber? This would lead back to a truer republicanism, a truer federalism. I think only but the most hard core centralist of our Founders (such as Hamilton) would be horrified at how big and powerful we now find our national government. George Washington would be particularly stricken. Russ is concerned about unqualified voices, "stupid and ridiculous voices," becoming to easily heard under a more open system (I hope I'm summarizing his position correctly here because it's not my attention to argue against a straw man). The idea that some subjective judgment should be passed on another person's right to speak is anathema to me. Who is to say a lone voice is "stupid and ridiculous" except the hearer? And doesn't the hearer have the right, if not the responsibility, to give the "stupid and ridiculous" no heed, but listen attentively and repeat if it turns out to not be so stupid and ridiculous after all? In the argument over the Constitution, the Federalists considered the Anti-Federalists, often times, nutcases ... debtor farmers, parochialists, uneducated, illiterate, drunks and fools. Some Federalists considered any opposition to their centralist schemes "stupid and ridiculous," beyond the pale of serious consideration. But if not for the persistent voices of the Anti-Federalists, we would have no Bill of Rights, and we would have a central government even more powerful than it is today -- even, maybe, no state governments at all (that was Hamilton's desire). In the run up to the Iraq invasion, opposition voices were silenced by calling them stupid, ridiculous and unpatriotic. They were more often shouted down than argued with, dismissed through appeals to emotion rather than appeals to reason. Sometimes we need to listen to the stupid and ridiculous, because sometimes it turns out, they weren't so stupid and ridiculous after all. Think about Washington's reaction to the financial crisis -- Bush called it a crisis, and the voices of opposition to that characterization were ignored or shouted down. Nancy Pelosi jumped on board, and the media covered her as a voice of reason. All of the power elite -- the president, Congress, Wall Street, the media -- joined in a single voice: "We must rush this bailout through." No public hearings. No expert testimony. Little consideration to opposition voices. In fact, the opposition was just stupid and ridiculous. Ron Paul, raising very cogent arguments the bailout just gets laughed at. Congressmen such as Brad Sherman and Marcy Kaptur, among others, just get ignored. If not for the Internet, people wouldn't even know about the reasons for these representatives opposition to the bailout. Thank God for YouTube, where such voices can find a way to reach the people. Which brings me to this final point: the role of the media. I have this presentation I do called "Reinventing Journalism." It's about an hour long. I've done it for the Society of Professional Journalists in Atlanta, and I'll deliver it again for the New England New Media Association on Oct. 30 in Lowell, Mass. The basic premise is that journalism stopped representing the people early in the 20th Century, when Walter Lippmann started pressing for what he considered "professional journalism," an "objective" journalism, a journalism of the elite and serving the elite. Lippmann believed that the issues of democracy in the modern world were too complex for average people to comprehend, so it was the role of the journalists to transcribe what official sources said and present it without question, context or interpretation. The Elite knew best, of course, or they wouldn't be Elite. And the journalist had to be of their class in order to properly represent what they say. This is what we call "official source" journalism. Whatever an official source tells you, you report, and you never, ever, find outside voices who might contradict those official sources, because only official sources are reliable. That's why we get coverage in the run up to the Iraq war, or the rush to bailout, that is so uncritical of what the officials in Washington say or do. The Batavian is a project in "reinventing journalism." We're not all about "official sources." That job belongs to the other media in town. Now, we think we have the right, the Constitutional right, to have the same access to official sources as the other media, but that's not our primary objective. So, kind to wrap up this long comment: We get catastrophes like the rush to bailout because we have entrenched elites in Washington -- politicians, money men, and media -- working in concert with very little chance for the voices of alternative viewpoints to get through. I think changing that begins at the local level, and it begins by ensuring all voices have a chance to be heard.
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Howard i agree with your point of view 100% about the elite media for the elite.It does seem that only those with some kind of ivy league education are allowed to have an opinion on the important issues of our time..We are fed news that is one sided,from the left and the right.To these people we are too dumb to comprehend the issues of the day.What happened to just stating the facts and let us decide.Its so crazy now you have reporters interviewing reporters on issues.. This is why i like an outlet such as this.What a wide range of views we have on here..From the City council member to the school board president to the man in the street we are all allowed a point of view..All need to be heard. The Ron Paul,Dennis Kucinich analogy was exactly right..all sides need to have a say..you might not agree with them but you have to admire their conviction as to what they believe..I lose so much respect when i hear so and so has to move more to the right or the left to get votes.Sounds to me that they have no real covictions in the first place..But yet they would like my vote..Its not a popularity contest.

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