Late Night / Early Morning Open Thread

“I have not the least expectation that the plan will be adopted. In South Carolina there is less enterprise, less public spirit, than in any other state; and that, Heaven knows, reduces it low enough.”

Theodosia Burr* was writing (to her father) about prison reform, not health care reform, and there were fewer states in 1808, but it would seem that certain proud Sothrun traditions change slowly if at all.

Although, if you’re feeling indignant enough, here is a site where you can contribute to Wrong Joe Wilson’s opponent.

As for last night’s speech, it should always be remembered: President Obama started his career as a community organizer. Which means he is used to (and most excellently skilled at) running an organization by “working for consensus”, a set of skills quite different from the ones needed for running the more usual top-down business/military/GOP organizations. In an authoritarian organization, for better or worse, at the end of the day what the Big Kahuna says goes is what goes. Even if he’s the best, most open-minded Big Kahuna in the universe, heading up a team of uniquely gifted & prickly talents – he can ask for input, he can get input he hasn’t asked for, but when hammer meets nail it’s the Big Kahuna’s hammer that gets to choose the nail. And the other members of the team are always aware of this reality; barring things get so bad that grenades get rolled into the colonel’s tent, no private in the army forgets for long that the colonel is the one setting the agenda.

In a consensus-driven organization, on the other hand, everybody must have a chance to give an opinion… even when their opinion is stupid, crazy, laughable, and wrong. Being a successful community organizer means knowing that the local Mr. Tinfoil or Ms. Crystal-Bunny will show up at every godsdamned meeting and waste everybody else’s time ranting about black helicopters or the necessity for regular high colonics. A large part of the job of being a successful community organizer is ensuring that the resident nutball gets a respectful hearing without being permitted to permanently derail the meeting. Because, sad as it may seem, the rest of us skittish flaky primates want to know (even when we don’t articulate it) that “our guy” will take our ideas seriously, even when we’re not sure our ideas are worth taking seriously. When Obama stands up before Congress and explains that his health care reform proposals will involve neither death panels or government-paid abortions (unfortunately, IMO), he is reassuring the 80% of his audience who have no strong feelings about either topic that he will, at another time, be open to their opinions, however formless and/or gormless. This is important, even when it means that the meetings keep running into overtime and that us sane people have to listen to an awful lot of extremely random crap.

After eight years of the Cheney Regency’s “My way or the Gitmo highway” authoritarianism, anything less forceful than sloganeering and explicit threats seems like pretty weak sauce to those of us who’ve been paying attention. The question, of course, is whether President Obama’s target audience — the vast quivering voting-eligible majority that isn’t ideologically wed to either Invisible-Hand-of-the-Marketplace-Uber-Alles or Medicare-for-All-Americans-Immediately — considers his speech, and his administration’s work over the next few weeks and months, as sensible compromise or timid obfuscation. Perhaps we’d get better proposals and a more useful final bill if President Obama would channel his Inner Authoritarian a little more, but his gift for seeking consensus seems to be why Obama is President and certain other people are not. Maybe all the histronics are simply a necessary part of the process of committing democracy.

*Nancy Isenberg, FALLEN FOUNDER: The Life of Aaron Burr (2007) ISBN 978-0-14-311371-3

41 replies
  1. 1
    Snark Based Reality says:


    I thought “community organizer” was code for “radical socialist”.

  2. 2
    JK says:


    You have an extra http in that link for Joe Wilson’s opponent

  3. 3
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    I gave to the ActBlue/Rob Miller site set up by “People against inappropriate outbursts.”

    Don’t forget the other half of the equation: let Wilson know what you did and why.

    I also gave to the Dem Nominee Fund for VA-07 and the DSCC and DCCC, and left a message on Cantor’s office voicemail telling them why. I made sure to mention the GOP’s boorish behavior in general and Cantor’s acting like a sullen teenager in particular.

  4. 4
    Common Sense says:

    You are one of the joys of being a night owl Anne. I wish you posted more often.

  5. 5
    JK says:


    As usual, your post is thoughtful and insightful. The problem for Obama and the rest of the country is that the Republican Party has lost its mind. These people are insane. Obama’s offer of “Come Let Us Reason Together” is commendable but not practical when the other side consists of birthers and shock troops who take their marching orders from Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck.

    If an ounce of reason or rationality existed within the Republican Party, John Boehner, Roy Blount, and Eric Cantor would tell Joe Wilson that his behavior demanded censure and that he would have to publicly apologize to Obama and his fellow congressmen on the floor of the House chamber. Of course this won’t happen because the hatred Boehner, Blount, and Cantor have for Obama trumps everything. It trumps their respect for the office of the president and their respect for Congress itself.

    Other examples of Republican incivility are discussed in this article

  6. 6
    MelodyMaker says:

    when I had cable, I loved watching Tony Blair get yelled at every week in his parliament’s house.

  7. 7
    MelodyMaker says:

    and what was that big dam book?

  8. 8
    IndyLib says:


    Obama’s offer of “Come Let Us Reason Together” is commendable but not practical

    I really don’t believe Obama is expecting the Republicans to repond to this in any other fashion than the crazy-ass way they have been. We’re almost 9 monthes into his administration and they’ve acted like 2 year olds every step of the way. This message is directed at the independents and the moderates. He needed to remind them that he is the reasonable option and Republicans have slapped, time and time again, the hand that he has reached out to them.
    After tonight when these folks see a ad scaremongering about government run healthcare or death panels for seniors, they’re going to remember that Obama sounded calm, confident, and reasonable, and the Republicans behaved like ill-mannered children.

  9. 9
    bedtimeforbonzo says:

    I’ve got a major case of insomnia working, so excuse me Anne, for poor comphrension here.

    But I take it that you are saying President Obama’s past as a former community organizer mean he will get health care pass? Or we’re going to get some weak-ass compromise bill because of that consensus bullshit?

    I saw a replay of the speech and can see where, as usual, we Democrats were first taken by the President’s oratory. But it sounded like there were plenty of loopholes in there for nothing close to resembling a public option.

    Maybe I heard it wrong. If so, I apologize.

    I am in a very, very bad place. My mortgage is late, and I’ll be lucking if my next two paychecks amount to $500 take-home pay.

    I finally came down to the computer because twisting and turning next to the woman I love makes me a poor excuse for a husband — she deserves a good night sleep.

    I just don’t know how to tell her we can’t afford this home, a home she has loved these past five years.

    I am ashamed of myself. I mean, my mortgage is $1,400 and I can’t pay the fucker.

    I haven’t rented since 1988 — shit, a decent place now goes for at least $1,000.

    I brought my wife and son, he’s almost 10, here from Russia five years ago. They had it pretty good there, their own apartment, my wife was the top girl in the hair salon where she worked. Then I had the temerity to start a long-long-long distance relationship, we fell in love, quickly, and this motherfucker of an economy has me questioning my value as a husband and father.

    I have failed.

  10. 10
    fitzwili says:

    Hi – I hope I am not being too forward by offering unsolicited advice – but you are NOT a failure – times are just tough for you right now. Your story struck a chord for me because,as a child I watched my Father go through something similar in the 70’s. The economic downfall resulted in him losing his business and he was so distraught at the idea that he failed us that he withdrew from the family emotionally – he told me as an adult that he didn’t want to face us and tell us that we might have to give things up to survive economically. But the thing that I wished he had realized at the time is that as a parent the most important thing you can provide is simply love – and I can tell by the tone of your email that you adore your family and therefore you are providing the most vital thing. Your concern for your family radiates through your writing and I think they are as lucky to have found you as you were to have found them. I hope things pick up for you and perhaps you can find some program that can help you make the difference in this month’s house payment – I know it probably does not mean much from a stranger – but I hope you can find a little solace in the old saying ” this too shall pass”

  11. 11
    Bart says:

    “In a consensus-driven organization, on the other hand, everybody must have a chance to give an opinion… even when their opinion is stupid, crazy, laughable, and wrong.”

    Speaking as someone who lives in a country where you can’t do politics without a lot of consensus: you’re wrong. Theoretically you’re right, but in reality the nutbags that get on US TV would never get a chance to expose their insane opinions to anyone outside a small circle. And even when they get political power (like the neo-fascists on Vlaams Blok), they get ignored and downplayed.

    We’ve figured long ago these people are incurable, and treating their viewpoints as valid and communicating them to vast audiences is just not an option.

    They’ve tried it on Holland a couple of years ago, where a ragtag bunch of idiots gathered behind a charismatic leader pretended to be a valid political party, and they actually got elected and invited into the government (after their leader got assassinated), and they ended up with one of the worst governments they’ve had in Holland — until it finally came to an end a year later or so.

    You can’t cure nutbags, instead they’ll only infest others. Repeat something often enough, no matter how insane, and treat it as a valid opinion, and after a while a sizable section of the population will think it’s a valid idea and the people proposing it aren’t completely insane.

  12. 12
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    I hate to make predictions but now that the Republicans have been visibly reduced to the equivalent of teenagers sitting in the balcony with their feet up making fart noises and throwing spitballs, maybe, just maybe, it’s come to a “at long last, have you no shame?” moment for this most recent extreme right wing fever we’ve been suffering through.

    One can always hope. It felt like that though, something shifting.

  13. 13
    Xenos says:

    @bedtimeforbonzo: You are taking an awfully narrow view of your worth if some financial problems make you into a failure. Five years of marriage amount to a lot more than that, I am sure.

    I can’t think of much to say that is not trite – but don’t assume for a moment that your disappointment in yourself is going to be felt in any similar way by those who love you.

  14. 14


    I really do hope things get better for you soon. It’s never easy carrying the weight of the adult world. Hope you can get some rest and keep caring for that family of yours. You’ll do what’s right.

    Anything I could say would be trite as well, but I think most of the BJ community would agree that we’re rooting for you.

  15. 15
    MR Bill says:

    The other great South Carolina quote, dating from just before the Civil War, from one James Pettigru (who may have been the correspondent for the Illustrated London Weekly
    “South Carolina is too small for a republic, and yet too large for an insane asylum.”

  16. 16

    Quakers are also well practiced in the fine tradition of consensus building. Yes, it is a maddening process, but it does give everyone a measure of input. Now if only the Republicans can be convinced to “stand aside.” I know–Harry Carey will leap from his mouldering grave and shot “Cubs win the Series!” before that happens.

  17. 17
    kay says:

    I’ve been working with a Mennonite non-profit lately to meet with families and try to reach and draft an agreement on which family member(s) are going to care for children when their parents go to prison, or can’t care for children because they’re addicted to something, or mentally ill, and consensus-building is hard, grinding, incremental work.

    They hire me because I went to “collaborative training” and because I agreed to try their method when they called and asked. I loved the training, and left all full of hope, but it’s hard.

    Fighting is easier, to be truthful. I think I’m (we?) are probably wired to fight.

    It feels like some kind of internal battle between a natural, easy inclination (fighting) and some higher-level goal (consensus). Anyway, it’s exhausting. It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done. It does “work”, though, and the result is better. Eventually. If everyone tries really, really hard and behaves. Not always, but most of the time.

  18. 18

    Here’s something fun. Amazon is doing a “Best Magazine Cover” contest. Everyone who votes on his or fave covers is automatically entered to win a 10,000$ gift certificate. I enjoyed perusing the covers. I’m always a fan of good graphic design. Anyhoo, if you’re interested, here’s the link.

    In food news, I winged an amazing pasta sauce last night. I had some fennel and mushrooms I needed to use, so I sliced them up and simmered them with some
    white wine
    fresh bay leaf
    fresh thyme
    hot Italian sausage
    San Marzano tomatoes I crushed with my hands
    red pepper flakes


    Oh, if you ever want to try an amazing salmon recipe that’s different from most, try this one by Giada. It’s surprisingly sophisticated, both rich and light, and unbelievably good.

  19. 19
  20. 20
    Ed in NJ says:


    Perhaps I’m telling you something you already know/tried, but most mortgage companies will defer at least 1 or 2 payments to the end of the loan when times are tough, plus loan modification can help you stave off foreclosure. Either way, unless you foresee many months of lowered income, and you truly cannot afford your house, you have options available to you.

  21. 21
    ChrisB says:


    If an ounce of reason or rationality existed within the Republican Party, John Boehner, Roy Blount, and Eric Cantor would tell Joe Wilson that his behavior demanded censure and that he would have to publicly apologize to Obama and his fellow congressmen on the floor of the House chamber. Of course this won’t happen because the hatred Boehner, Blount, and Cantor have for Obama trumps everything. It trumps their respect for the office of the president and their respect for Congress itself.

    And they can’t risk criticism from Rush et als.

  22. 22
    Angela says:

    @The Grand Panjandrum – As a Quaker/Friend. I disagree that Friends work toward consensus. Friends, in our Meetings for Worship for Business, work as a group toward discerning the “sense of the meeting”. Some have defined that sense as finding the Will of God or coming to a Godly outcome in this time and place. Until that sense of the meeting in unity is found, the work is not complete. Any meeting that is settling for consensus is not using time-honored and true Quaker process.

  23. 23
    SGEW says:


    In no way have you failed, even if you lose your house and all of your possessions.

    You are not what you own.

  24. 24
    SGEW says:


    Being a successful community organizer means knowing that the local Mr. Tinfoil or Ms. Crystal-Bunny will show up at every godsdamned meeting and waste everybody else’s time ranting about black helicopters or the necessity for regular high colonics.

    Precisely. Very, very apt.

  25. 25
    MR Bill says:


    And Dude, there is trouble all around: I’m a single parent (my late ex died in ’04, the day of the Great Tsunami) because she wouldn’t go to the hospital without insurance. I tried to take her, but she refused, and suffered congestive heart failure while I was off trying to get my daughter’s car unlocked..) The bookstore I ran tanked in May ’06, and I’ve been scrabbling in minor construction jobs, and I qualified for the earned income credit last year…I was left with bills and a lawsuit over family property..My art studio (a friend’s unfinished house on an adjoining property) was broken into in Nov. of last year, with idiot meth heads stealing the copper wiring and the well pump, and trashing the place and stored work.
    And this May, the place we were renting burned to the ground. Everyone got out ok, and my son and foster son walked in graduation with honors (and enough scholarship $ to get by the first year).
    I’m housesitting for friends who are out of town for several months, and trying with a old college buddy (who’s moved back in with his elderly mom after losing his job and home to foreclosure) to start a home repair business.
    Only friends and good will have gotten me through it.
    That and the hope we would have some sort of health insurance in a public option, as I’ve not seen a doctor in 4 years..

  26. 26

    @Angela: Thanks for the clarification. I was going on a discussion I had with someone a couple of years ago and I am obviously not recalling the conversation correctly.

  27. 27
    Angela says:

    No worries, the Grand Panjandrum. It is a common misconception of Quaker practice. And how do you make my name after the @ a link? Thanks.

  28. 28
    Demo Woman says:

    @Angela: At the top of your post the date and time. Next to the time is an arrow, press that to respond to posts.

  29. 29

    Anne Laurie, I am so glad to see you posting. I’ve been worried about you.

    As for Obama, I think he was laying down the gantlet in a very clear way. I didn’t like his jabs at the left, but I approve of him clearly saying that the Republicans were lying about death panels and all that nonsense. I am listening to him right now, and I think that he is, indeed, aiming the speech at the moderates and the independents.

    I also think the furor over the speech Obama gave to schools may very well be the tipping point of batshitcrazy carrying the day. My bro, who voted twice for W. (though he did vote for Obama this time), just couldn’t understand why anyone would want to censor the president, especially when all he was saying was, “Stay in school and study hard.” My bro got upset and said, “I just don’t get it!” When I explained to him my admittedly biased perception that it’s because the Republicans hate the fact that Obama is a Democrat and black and will do anything to block him (that it was political), he just shook his head in disgust. When I threw in the part about the media being bought by corporations (or rather, run by corporations), he totally got it.

    Then, he had to ask me what we could do to change the system (since I am a progressive, I told him we couldn’t fix the current system), and I had to fudge because honestly, I don’t think it’s gonna happen any time soon.

    Still. This is my message to Obama and the gutless Dems: Write off the fifteen percent on the far right and work hard to get the seventy percent in the middle.

    P.S. Anne Laurie, how’s Princess?

  30. 30

    @bedtimeforbonzo: My heart breaks for you. You have not failed, bedtime, you really haven’t. I echo SGEW. You are not what you own. You love you wife and son very dearly, and that in itself is immeasurable. I know, it’s cold comfort for you, but I hope you can at least feel that from time to time.

  31. 31

    @bedtimeforbonzo: No you haven’t. You are in the boat with many of us, who are hardworking, competent and budget conscious. It is the time my friend. It is the time. Things will get better – life is a wheel – I’ve seen very hard time and wonderful, exciting times, and what I’ve learned from that is it all comes and goes.

  32. 32
    Original Lee says:

    @bedtimeforbonzo: You’ve got a lot of support on this blog – there’s a lot of us who have been in a similar boat. It feels like failure when things are going badly, because that’s our culture. But you are still there for your family, it’s obvious you love them, and those are very important things. Slog on as best you can, and someday soon things will start to improve.

  33. 33
    Angela says:

    @Demo Woman: Thanks Demo Woman.

  34. 34
    Jay in Oregon says:


    I empathize with you, because I’m in a similar boat.

    It’s just two weeks after my 9th anniversary, shortly after which my wife told me that she is desperately unhappy. We’ve never been able to have kids, and with the economy and changing jobs a couple of times we’ve never been able to seriously consider adopting (or never been able to follow through with plans to do so).

    Over the past four months or so I’ve been distant and withdrawn because a round of severe layoffs has left my job stressed and chaotic. I’m starting to see a therapist and want to be evaluated for depression; something I think my wife is suffering from as well.

    I have been living those sleepless nights — I’m lucky to be back up to 5 hours of sleep now, and I’m so wired through the day that I can’t take a nap. I’ve lost over 10 pounds because I couldn’t eat more than once a day; my appetite seems to be returning as well.

    I’ve been staying away from the more depressing political conversations here and elsewhere because I can’t take it. (Before anyone asks: I’m not suicidal and not thinking of harming myself.) The biggest problem that I have now is my brain is a runaway locomotive. If I’m not occupying my head with something — work, chores, talking with friends and loved ones — then I start to worry and evaluate scenarios and I can’t stop.

    All I can say is, try to hold it together. Keep looking for answers.

  35. 35
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    What fitzwili, SGEW and others have said. Here and at other blogs you are amongst friends, and your generous and caring nature shows through in numerous comments that I’ve read from you over the years. You are so much more than a paycheck, and I’m sure your family knows that even if they don’t verbalize it.

    @MR Bill:
    OMG. That sounds like a early 21st cen. Book of Job. I hope something good comes your way ASAP.

    This thread needs something to brighten it up before it gets too depressing.

  36. 36
    ruemara says:

    Hang in there man, hang in. You are what’s important to them.

  37. 37
    Jay in Oregon says:

    @MR Bill:

    And when I feel sorry for myself for having no shoes, I meet a man who has no legs. My heart goes out to you.

  38. 38
    Yukoner says:

    @Angela: Angela, that Quaker process sounds somewhat like that of some First Nations (Native Americans if you are American). I (not a First Nation person) have been been an observer at First Nation meetings where each person present has spoken, often at great length, about much that appeared to have no connection at all to what the purported purpose of the meeting was. After each speaker fell silent there would be a pause and another person would then begin to speak and so it would go, often for many hours as there was never any limit to the length of time or how many times any one person could speak.
    At some point someone would say that, from what she or he had heard, everyone present agreed on how to proceed on the issue of the meeting. In one case I remember well there was an immediate nodding of heads and general murmurs of ageement. I was gobsmacked. Even though I had been paying very careful attention I had no idea how this agreement had been arrived at. Yet there it was.

  39. 39
    ToddE says:

    @bedtimeforbonzo: Many Americans are in the same place you are right now, myself included.

    I am a CPA and I can say it is bad all over.

    We will all get through this together, a man’s success is in no way is a function of what he can produce.

  40. 40
    Ruckus says:

    And everyone else out there having a hard time.
    Another one here that can only see what looks like the end of the road. It’s like you think it must be a big cliff and I’m going to fall off, but really, all you can see is fog. You just don’t know where the road goes or if it goes up, down or just carries on. You may have even been in a similar place before but right now you still just don’t know what, where or how to go next.
    A few weeks ago we were discussing depression, but this just feels different.
    I’m just discouraged. The politics are infuriating, the economy sucks, and like you I’m having a bitch of a time trying to figure out what to do next.
    I know that there are many people here who have been or are in similar places in their lives and they know that when the fog lifts a little, you will find your way again.
    We need to help each other, how ever we can, because that’s really all there is and it’s how we get past our current situation.
    Jay in Oregon – great quote. A lot of us are in bad places right now, and unfortunately there’s almost always someone in a worse way than us. I just wish there was an easy button for this one.
    That’s all I’ve got for now.

  41. 41
    bedtimeforbonzo says:

    I spent yesterday off the computer and just checked things out here and feel a bit overwhelmed. You guys really touched me.

    I was in a dark spot the other night. Unfortunately, calling someone at 4:30 in the morning didn’t seem like an option. I needed to take the attitude that if I could get past last winter, I can do it again.

    For all of the significant others out there, loving someone is powerful. My wife is a strong and good woman beyond words.

    I’m a bit embarrassed, which is unsual for me. So, again, I appreciate the goodwill here and elsewhere. I really do.

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