Don't like KUMBAYA? Okay. Your idea is... ?

Jeff Golden

Picture 5 I'm going to take one more crack  (I almost wrote "one last crack," but I doubt that would be true) at suggesting we have to get better at talking with people whose politics clash with ours.  Whenever I write that on almost any forum (as I did in last week's column on the passingly strange case of big bonuses for managers in the State Treasurer's office), I know for a flat fact that someone is going to bring up Kumbaya with a sneer in their prose.  Which is just what two or three people did right here after my BO post last week.  

    It's not Kumbaya.  Yeah, I'd prefer a world where people know how to play more nicely with others, but it's too late to worry much about that.   The practical reality that I see is that we're not going to change Oregon or the world beyond without a much larger, more coherent and persistent political majority than we have now-- Exhibit A is the pathetic unfolding of the health care battle, where even at this point, after the waste and human wreckage and egregious profiteering have been revealed more clearly than we could have hoped for, we're hanging out here begging for a barebones public option that might not happen.  I don't see us winning here or elsewhere unless big portions of people who've been voting and working against us start voting and working with us.  And if that's possible at all  (I don't know if it is, and I don't think you do, either), one requirement is conversations that have us more willing to listen to people we're so used to fighting. 

   Hard to do, given the rabid hammering from the Right?  Yes--unless we get more thoughtful about who "the Right" is.  Here's an excerpt from a column I'll ask you to read in a moment, beginning with one of your comments on last week's BO posting:

“'I honestly believe [public employee critics]  are monsters and that we are being dangerously naïve if we think they want a dialog and want to work with us to solve problems.'  A comment with the words 'these people'” rarely goes anywhere good.  In this case 'these people' include screamers like Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter  and Dick Armey ('monsters' is too cartoon-like for me, but I do see them willing to rip our civic fabric to shreds for about a buck-fifty); libertarians who authentically believe that government does more harm than good; and plenty of unphilosophical, non-ideological and barely political working people who hate sending Salem tax dollars for pensions and health plans well beyond what they’ll ever enjoy. Practical-minded progressives, those who understand how big a political majority it will take to overcome Salem and Washington lobbies, have to be talking to the third group and some of the second."   

There are more of your comments from my last BO post in this new column.  By rough count, more of you see my thesis as naive (or in one case, as cynically flacking for the anti-public employee crowd) than sensible.  If so--if my point is nothing but Kumbaya-- tell me again what practical strategy is going to move the center of political gravity significantly our way?

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)

    "If so--if my point is nothing but Kumbaya-- tell me again what practical strategy is going to move the center of political gravity significantly our way?"

    I say we do what we did to produce the last enduring period of Democratic dominance -- pass strong programs that help people on the bottom and middle class instead of sucking up to the rich (See, e.g., The New Deal, Great Society).

    In other words:

    • Universal single payer health care

    • A new CCC for green jobs/green energy

    • Restore progressive taxation and CUT payroll taxes

    • Tax waste, consumption of nonrenewable resources and production of pollution and toxics

    • CUT income taxes on EARNED income for every dollar of taxes raised above

    • Stop the wars and slash the Pentagon's budget

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    You're right on every substantive point, George. What I'm saying is that we CAN'T get any of that passed with a larger, more full-throated political majority. Witness (again) the sad health-care soap opera. Jeff

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    Whoops--the preceding should read "WITHOUT a larger, more full-throated political majority." J

  • Wrench Monkey (unverified)

    Re: "the center of political gravity": Progressives have been saying for years that the center is us. Polls have shown for decades that the public is overwhelmingly in favor of less corporate and more democratic control; government-backed universal health care; less military spending and more social spending; etc., in absolute contradiction to DP/RP propaganda.

    This theft of language, this technique of usurping words and deploying them like weapons, of using them to mask intent and to mean exactly the opposite of what they have traditionally meant, has been one of the most brilliant strategic victories of the tsars of the new dispensation. It has allowed them to marginalize their detractors, deprive them of a language to voice their critique and dismiss them as being "anti-progress," "anti-development," "anti-reform," and of course "anti-national" -- negativists of the worst sort. (Arundhati Roy,

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    Jeff, I tried to engage and debate, even taking the side of what many believe are rmapant problems in the public sector. Only 1 or 2 decided to debate, many came up with the usual, "If it ain't our idea or our side or our opinion it is bad, bad, BAD. Unfortunately bothe sides of the political spectrum exhibit these traits.

    With the dogmatic extreme's deciding the debate; it is over before it gets started. I agree that the Health care Reform process is an excellent example. Rather than engage, discuss and debate, the polar opposites would rather hurl invective and slogans at each other.

    I am fearful for our state. Even with the two tax measures passing, serious reductions will have to take place due to the PERS issues reported today in the Oregonian.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)

    "You're right on every substantive point, George. What I'm saying is that we CAN'T get any of that passed with a larger, more full-throated political majority. Witness (again) the sad health-care soap opera."

    The Dems have the White House and supermajorities in both houses of Congress.

    Why "CAN'T" we pass a Democratic program? If GW Obama would man up and stop sucking up to retards like Grassley, Snowe, and Collins, he could barnstorm the country into the districts and states of opponents (including supposedly Democratic opponents and whores like Joe L.) and get it done.

    Obama is so busy worrying about what how he gets re-elected if he doesn't get his campaign ideas passed that he's selling off his campaign ideas fast and he's looking to be a one-termer anyway.

    If he would stop playing the "reasonable" theme song and start playing the YES WE CAN song again and again he might actually get his program. That is to say, the program he campaigned on (which was apparently not really his program at all, given how he's trying to pull BACK on the public option instead of pulling FOR it).

  • Lord Beaverbrook (unverified)

    I've only been proposing an answer for two weeks... I'll try again.

    The twitter #bringbackdueling campaign. Think about it. We are on the brink because we have people with votes that refuse to communicate in any meaningful way. That has to be overcome before we can make progress on anything! We tried the economy and health care. They weren't important enough for them to get real. But dueling...guns, gore,'s dittohead heaven. But changing the law would be one tough row to hoe. Would require a lot of cooperation and working together. And neither side would have to make pretenses about "bipartisanship", etc. If the process went on long enough it would change all involved.

    Look. Here's a concrete example . Do these look like people you could ever engage in meaningful debate? But read on. They like the idea of dueling. I am convinced this is the only way that we can open a line of real communication to those that, make no mistake, will surely destroy what little we still enjoy in this country.

    And for those that need a talking head to sanctify it, here.

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    LB - You will need to amend the Oregon Constitution to pull it off. Dueling is explicitly prohibited under Article II, Section 9.

  • LT (unverified)

    Actually, some of us engage in dialogue with people we disagree with. I have had a more intelligent discussion by email recently with Rep. Esquivel than I've had intelligent discussions with my Republican state rep.

    David Reinhard in the Sunday Oregonian about talks with Rep. Schaufler is interesting.

  • Lord Beaverbrook (unverified)

    That's the point Sal. They would have to sit down and work out something with concrete results to get it accomplished. The theory is that by going through the process they become civilized enough to continue talking about things like taxes. Should be easy after dueling.

  • Peri Brown (unverified)

    And needed. Check out the next/last? post and look at what poor Kristin is dealing with. We have to stop peeing into the wind.

  • dartagnan (unverified)

    I agree we absolutely need to forge bigger electoral majorities. But trying to bring the hard-core Republican "base" into the fold is not the way to do it.

    The way I see it, there are three broad political factions in this country. One is the wacko right, comprising about 25-30% of the population. These are the same people who supported the farcical Clinton blowjob impeachment, who hang on every word from the lips of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, who still don't believe Obama is a native-born citizen and still think George W. Bush was a mighty fine president. You simply cannot have a rational dialogue with this group because they block out any information that doesn't support their beliefs.

    At the opposite end are the hard-core progressives, also comprising roughly 25-30%. In between are the 40-50% who are not hardened in their views and are open to rational persuasion. It is THEM we have to focus our efforts on. Trying to convert (or compromise with) the hard-core right is a waste of time and resources. The proper way to respond to them is to ignore them or ridicule them.

  • genop (unverified)

    For some, political positions are dogmatic. Rationality (compromise) is weakness and anyone who opposes their view must be silenced. Until political opinion is no longer expressed as zealotry, we have lost the possibility of thoughtful debate.

  • jaybeat (unverified)

    Hey Jeff,

    First off, thanks for the quotes. Gonna have to mail-order myself a hard copy of the paper and frame it!

    what practical strategy is going to move the center of political gravity significantly our way?

    1. Media un-consolidation. Corporate media supporting corporate interests perpetuates myths and buries the truth. Reinstate laws that limit ownership of multiple media outlets, require a percentage of local ownership, and hold users of the public airwaves to a standard of operating in the public interest if they want their licenses renewed. This was all business as usual 30 years ago.

    2. Work to overturn money=speech and corporate person-hood. Most people understand that one person/one vote is democracy, but that bribery is not. When elected representatives are more worried about votes (based on real issues, not BS--see #1) than corporate dollars, their actions will reflect the true political center, not the fake, corporate media defined "center" which is, in fact, the far right.

    3. Based on #1 and the power of social media, blogging and the Internet, we should raise awareness of how corporations spend "our" money. Are people aware that when they buy gasoline a percentage of that money is used to lobby against clean air standards that would improve their own health, for example? Laws requiring greater corporate transparency and less meddling in the political realm will seem much less wonky and/or radical when people are aware of how corporations take their money with one hand and then use it against them with the other.

    4. Reform/elimination of paid lobbying. Of course, every citizen has a right to petition their legislators. But if I take time off work to go down to Salem and testify, that's money out of my own pocket. If I had more money, I could hire someone to do it for me. The more money I have, the more influence I have, which, again, is fundamentally undemocratic. If the only people talking to our legislators were real people (see #2) representing their own interests (instead of the interests of whomever is paying them), we will again end up with a government that more accurately reflects the views of the people who vote, rather than the corporations who have the most money.

    The key thing, I think, is that no matter where you are on the political spectrum, ideologically, most people don't like the idea that somebody else will get their ideas listened to more (whether by other citizens through the media or by government through lobbying) because they have more money (unless they are themselves wealthy, and they are a very small number). We want the best policies, not the polices that benefit those with the most money, or even the policies that those with the most money think are best. So these aren't, strictly speaking, "left," "center," or "right" issues. (McCain/Finegold, weak as it is, being a clear example.)

    But, as study after study and poll after poll has shown, when people understand the facts of an issue (and not just the corporate media/ideological spin), they are way more to the left than the mythical "center" which our legislators are almost always afraid to stray from. (At least, not towards the left. Plenty of wing-nut politicians have no problem proclaiming their support for positions only supported by the most extreme 12% on the right. Funny how that works.)

    So, I believe, if we pursue these goals, we will eliminate the problem, because we are perfectly capable of having respectful, fact-based disagreements amongst the 78% of us in the center/left. And the 12% will be having bake sales to get their crazy schemes on the ballot every cycle, and we will laugh.

    And you can quote more on that.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    jaybeat, I'm one in the center, or probably center-right to use your analogy. If we appreciate and recognize that there are certain opposites in the spectrum (the "wing-nut" right, the ultra-liberal left). How do we minimize the polarizing affect of the extremes?

    Personally I turned off Fox News and MSNBC about 3 months ago. I had kidded myself into beleiving that by watching both I was getting both sides. That tactic only ticked me off.

  • Skip Mendler (unverified)

    Jeff, I am proud to nominate you to membership in the KUMBAYA LIBERATION FRONT.

  • jaybeat (unverified)


    My approach would be to look at the things we have in common, and then do everything we can (corporate media lie-generating and truth-hiding machine notwithstanding) to share information about why things are the way they are. Then, at least, we can debate the solution with a common ground of understanding.

    For example:

    It is a fact that the increasing costs and declining benefits of private health insurance plans are putting the squeeze on small businesses. GOP and Dems alike will tell you they are the ones that make, whatever, 90% of the jobs. We all know people who own small businesses. Many of us work for them. Many of us ARE them. Ask ANY of them, whatever their political affiliation, if they like having to pay more and more, every year, for plans that give their employees less and less, every year, and squeeze them more and more, through higher deductibles, co-pays, exclusions, etc. Ask them if they think it is fair that they have to choose between a few crappy, expensive plans, when large corporations can pretty much write their own ticket, offering their employees more benefits for a lower contribution, at a lower cost per headcount. Ask them if they like trying to compete for talent in this kind of environment.

    THEN, ask them if they like the fact that their Congresscritter, from either party, is far more likely to care what BIG businesses want, what Health Insurance companies want, than what THEY want and need to stay competitive, to stay in business in a bad economy or compete for the talent they need to grow in a good one. How do they like it when politicians blather on and on about a business-friendly environment, then sell small businesses out to the nearest corporate campaign contributor.

    Something tells me they'll all be singing the same song.

    Only it won't be Kumbaya. ;-)

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    Really good post, jaybeat. In fact I'm tickled by this whole thread. There are a couple of thoughtful lists that zero in on exactly what has to change, which read to me more like a companion than any kind of disagreement with my post; for those changes to have a prayer of passage, we need electoral and lobbying majorities more powerful than K Street, which can only come by drawing towards us a good portion of what dartagnan estimates to be "the 40-50% who are not hardened in their views and are open to rational persuasion." How likely? Beats me. My main point is that it's the only approach I know that MIGHT work. Skip, thanks for the nomination. I'll be a proud member of the KLF if they'll have me.

  • Lord Beaverbrook (unverified)

    Posted by: dartagnan | Oct 25, 2009 10:03:08 AM

    I agree we absolutely need to forge bigger electoral majorities. But trying to bring the hard-core Republican "base" into the fold is not the way to do it.

    OK. What then? Has their slow infection of every issue been a transient phenomenon? I say it is a trend and we ignore it at the peril of all. I'm not so naive to think that #bringbackdueling or whatever would "bring them back into the fold". My target is getting them to think like most posters to BO, in terms of legislative process first, rather than having a knee jerk reaction to meet behind close doors and over archaic media to hatch conspiracy plots. Most BO posters probably first think, "what would be necessary for legislation or policy to happen"? The wingnuts only show up to the town hall to stop something. When was the last time- have they ever- mobilized to introduce local policy? And on the national/state level it seems they only do that if a constitutional amendment would be required. Dueling would require a constitutional ammendment, BTW. See, it's good bait.

    I think that Jeff agrees with the necessity, based on his statement about saying "again" vs "one last time". Should we not grab at straws as we drown? We might do it so many times that we end up with enough to build a raft.

    They like to quote the founding fathers. Jefferson would not find the public option a tragedy. He would not find gun control a tragedy. He would not find same sex marriage a tragedy. He didn't find slavery a tragedy. He would, very definitely, find the lack of communication between political groups to be a tragedy. I suggest we restyle the nickel to "celebrate" the event, by altering his bust to look like the "crying Indian" from the '70s anti-littering campaigns. And while we're at it we can change "In God We Trust" to "Thanks, Rush".

  • Rick (unverified)


    Nice post. And I agree completely that the middle is the question. I think it's more like the middle 20%, but we agree pretty closely.

    I do tend to stay quiet on BO specifically because the discussions about what way to move as a political organization are outside of my territory. It's nice that I can get a view into my "opponents" on the left, but that doesn't mean that I need to constantly chime in. It's not my business, IMO.

    However, sometimes I do speak up when it gets into other areas that are less "technique" and "direction" and more "labeling" and "hate-speech" and unproven “facts” and such. And it isn't surprising that you have those commenting who think that the Dems should ignore the right and move forward with a leftist agenda. And others who advocate a complete lack of communication with those on the other side. The left is as varied in tone, civility, approach and opinion as the country as a whole. And the labels are divisive to be sure. And both sides do it. To neither sides credit.

    But it is my belief that cooperation is still, even with President Obama in power, lacking. And comments by Dems are seen by the Dems as important and valid, and those on the right are seen by the Dems as “rabid hammering”. The point, clearly, is that you will have an incredibly difficult time engaging anyone whom you characterize as “rabid” and “hammering”, much less the other lovely terms used on this site. The hate of the right is huge by the left right now, with GW being a lightning rod for a while. And even the middle doesn’t appreciate it. And the reverse is true, I expect.

    I think that the President understands that passing legislation that makes the far left of the bell curve feel good will alienate more than the far right of that curve. And I think that most legislators do as well. So we are seeing the trend toward the middle. Because, IMO, those are the people who get ANY President (and many congressmen) elected. Alienate them, and they will not be around for long. And the next administration can easily remove most legislation if it is far out of the middle. And that key middle will support that.

    So, we need to communicate and find the good solutions. I think I’m right, but I need to convince the middle. You obviously understand that as well. But the lack of many on BO to understand that is laughable. And sad. And not well thought out, IMO. Again, it applies to the right as well.

  • jaybeat (unverified)


    Though I certainly can't speak for "the left" (for many reasons, not least of which is that this country hasn't had a "left" since well before McCarthy...), having been quoted as a representative member thereof (thanks Jeff!), I'd love to know more about a couple of your comments:

    I think that the President understands that passing legislation that makes the far left of the bell curve feel good will alienate more than the far right of that curve.

    Can you give us some specific examples of things you feel fall into this category? Health care reform with what's being called "a robust public option"? Extending unemployment benefits (opposed by GOPers in Congress)? Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"? Substantive climate change legislation (aka "Cap and Trade")? I honestly would like to know, because if you listen to the right via the mainstream media (not to mention the, er, "visitors" to BO), all of the above are either one-way tickets to hell, proof-positive that the President is a card-carrying Socialist (whatever that means), or both! But polls that ask about these issues in non-codespeak terms find wide support across the political spectrum. So, in terms of "coming together," they would seem like great opportunities, if only we could have a civil dialog like the kind that Jeff's calling for. But what do you think?

    So, we need to communicate and find the good solutions. I think I’m right, but I need to convince the middle. You obviously understand that as well. But the lack of many on BO to understand that is laughable.

    Based on my posts (here and in the previous thread), do you mean moi? Because, in a way, you're right, but I don't think in the way you mean. I don't really think that progressives (aka, the democratic wing of the Democratic Party) need to "convince" those in the middle that we're right. I think there are huge areas of policy and governing where large majorities (60, 70, 80%) of the American people agree with positions which are, according to conventional political wisdom, far to the left of anything that's been passed by Congress since FDR. I don't think we need to convince most people because most people already agree with us.

    The problem is that the dialog has been hijacked, not by those who have different ideas and may the best idea win, but by those who use money and power to steer the debate about what's in the public interest so that it suits their private, personal interest. So, you end up with a "debate" between what corporate likes and what corporate likes a lot, and what most of America wants just simply isn't on the menu. Add in the distractions of God, Guts, Guns, Gays, and Government ("...IS the Problem"--thanks, Ronnie), and a gutless media that treats every assertion by the middle or right as just as valid as any other assertion (CNN will fact check an SNL skit but not their own commentators), and spends more air time telling us about an off-her-rocker ex-astronaut driving in diapers than about anything that substantively affects the lives of mainstream Americans, and you get, well, this. Mess. To the point where there are card-carrying Republicans who, according to their policy views, should have been supporting Dennis Kucinich for President.

    So, on the practical side, I think we have to do all we can to get the truth out there and to show the "center" that we're not evil commies here to steal their bodily fluids. And wouldn't they like a Government that listened more to them? And a media that informed more than it entertained? Great. So lets talk about how to get those things.

    Then, maybe, we can sing Kumbaya! ;-)

  • Rick (unverified)

    Hey Jaybeat,

    First of all, I wasn’t thinking of you in any part of this post. No offense, but few posters here have a specific approach or ideology that identifies them in my mind. Probably because they all differ depending on the subject. Which is human. Although, to be fair, there are a few who do stick in my mind as being consistently rude and hateful. Regardless of their position.

    “I think that the President understands that passing legislation that makes the far left of the bell curve feel good will alienate more than the far right of that curve.”

    “Can you give us some specific examples of things you feel fall into this category? “

    As far as specific examples, I can provide some. But understand that examples aren’t the entire argument.

    First, health care reform is a good one. NOT “robust public option”, but rather a complete restructuring of the entire system. That we are now talking about a public option is exactly where I hoped we would get. And it is, most definitely, different than where this issue began. I think that about 95% of this country wants to fix healthcare. Myself included. But HOW we do that is the issue and the dividing point. I want us to take on one thing at a time and get it fixed. Fix the lack of insurance for many. Fix the pre-existing conditions issue to allow choice outside of an employer plan. Fix a lot of things.

    The right doesn’t trust the feds, in general, to make things better. The left doesn’t trust them, in general, to finish what they start. Just my friendly opinion. So the divide might just be whether or not to pass a 1000 page bill in a few weeks (as we were asked to do) to reform the entire system. I think the middle thinks we need to pass something that addresses issues without doing TOO much. Thus my willingness to discuss a public option, a position I expect many on the right would share. The idea of this mega-bill has created more resistance than if this was attacked in smaller bites, IMO.

    Extending unemployment? I don’t think it applies to my bell curve example. I think it’s pretty middle of the bell and I hope the Repubs recognize it.

    Repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell”? Perhaps it is at the edge a bit. It is a tough thing to deal with in a military and I think it needs examining at a deeper level than the edges of the curve tend to espouse. “You hate gays” and “you hate the military” are extremist views, IMO.

    Cap and Trade? Absolutely. Divisive and the middle is much less convinced of the AGW or ACC drumbeat than the left. Note my posts here. This is billions or trillions of dollars in costs and the science is disputed. Saying it isn’t is a lie.

    I don’t know who you listen to on the right, but perhaps the response to some of these things isn’t as “fringe” as it is quite different from other opinions. BTW, I haven’t heard anything Rush or Beck have had to say in probably 10 years, maybe more. In fact, I only know they are still on the air because BlueOregon says they are. :-)

    I would say that the polls are pretty varied, and the questions are very different from the way those quoting the poll like to represent them. (I responded to a TJ Barnhart quote of this very nature.) If the question is “do we need to care for the sick and injured in our community”, then nearly everyone says “yes”. But we can’t take that answer and extrapolate that socialized medicine is what all those people want. Yes, let’s take care of those who need it. Don’t tell me that your way is the only way to do it.

    I agree that the press is abysmal in many cases. And I could give you examples as you could I. But we would disagree on which way they lean, I fear. So, to getting the truth out there? I agree. And, as I said, I tend to post only when either the truth or civility is in danger. But I wonder if I am in the majority in my desire to actually talk about things. Blue Oregon isn’t a great example of compromise. And perhaps has no interest in being a leader in problem solving. And that would be the left's decision. But that may be Jeff’s point, at least in part.

  • Uncle Remus (unverified)

    This is linguistically topsy turvey. Kumbaya is almost certainly Gullah creole, based on English, for "come by here". It's in the tradition of the Yoruba invocation, literally, and West African call and response singing, culturally.

    So what is the object of the invocation? Sounds like you're not asking conservatives into the tent. Perhaps "be with us" is a better translation and it is being used as a command. Maybe that's why it isn't working.

    My idea, in my best Gullah is, " Kumbaya Smaat Mass an leabe Conkywine-Mass status quo hin' ".

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
    Cap and Trade? Absolutely. Divisive and the middle is much less convinced of the AGW or ACC drumbeat than the left. Note my posts here. This is billions or trillions of dollars in costs and the science is disputed. Saying it isn’t is a lie.

    By the standards conventionally applied to scientific debates, there is essentially no debate among scientists about the essential outlines of human-caused climate disruption. The lie is to say that there's still a scientific debate, the same as saying that scientists are disagreeing about creation vs. Darwinism.

    The critical issue that relates to this post is how do you deal with a political movement of people and corporations who, having looked at the consequences that follow from accepting the views of the overwhelming of practicing, publishing scientists, has decided to never accept the weight of scientific research as disposing of the scientific issue, in the same way that there are little deluded cells (such as in Seattle) continuing to crank out press releases and to hold conferences about the "refutations of Darwinism."

    Continuing to engage with them is, at this point, as foolish as accepting an invitation to debate Creation Science with a creationist. The goal of the denialists and confusionists is to prevent action on emissions. Anything that fosters continued dithering is a win in their book and, in fact, a loss to the billions of people who will suffer more for our not having acted sooner.

    We are exceedingly close to the point where the denialists will have won the war even as they continue to lose every battle, because the actions that will be required to reduce emissions at the rate needed (having delayed so long) will not be possible in a democracy.

  • jaybeat (unverified)

    Well put, George!

  • Rick (unverified)

    George (and Jaybeat, by his agreement),

    Apparently, you have decided either to refuse to consider my previous posts linked in my post, or you have decided to ignore them. So (sigh), I'll repost some here.

    You said "The lie is to say that there's still a scientific debate". It is just as easy, in fact, much easier to claim that the deniers are on the side of AGW. I can give you many names, hundreds, perhaps thousands of skilled scientists who dispute the validity of AGW. But you say "there is essentially no debate among scientists". That is denial. And is factually incorrect. It is always interesting when this subject comes up that someone will always say "there is no debate" or "the evidence is clear" or some other absolute.

    I can agree that there are scientists who believe in AGW and that we need to do something about it. But the other side can't agree that there is still much to investigate about it. It is pretty much impossible to converse with someone who denies facts. The fact being denied here is the fact that there is not a conclusion, nor even a reasonable assumption that AGW is true.

    Unlike the other side, I'll give examples.

    "The point is that the whole question is still VERY undecided, and to be unwilling to consider that fact is the real denial.

    Claude Allègre is a member of the U.S. Academy of Sciences, and the French Academy of Science. He’s a French geophysicist.

    And Robert C. Balling, Jr. is director of the Office of Climatology, associate professor of geography, Arizona State University. “It is very likely that the recent upward trend in global surface temperature is very real, and that the upward signal is greater than any noise introduced from uncertainties in the record. However, the general error is most likely to be in the warming direction, with a maximum possible (though unlikely) value of 0.3 °C.

    Chris de Freitas, Associate Professor, School of Geography, Geology and Environmental Science, University of Auckland: "There is evidence of global warming. ... But warming does not confirm that carbon dioxide is causing it. Climate is always warming or cooling. There are natural variability theories of warming. To support the argument that carbon dioxide is causing it, the evidence would have to distinguish between human-caused and natural warming. This has not been done."

    David Deming, geology professor at the University of Oklahoma: "The amount of climatic warming that has taken place in the past 150 years is poorly constrained, and its cause--human or natural--is unknown. There is no sound scientific basis for predicting future climate change with any degree of certainty. If the climate does warm, it is likely to be beneficial to humanity rather than harmful. In my opinion, it would be foolish to establish national energy policy on the basis of misinformation and irrational hysteria." (Testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, December 6, 2006)

    Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology and member of the National Academy of Sciences, professor at MIT, is considered one of the great experts in the world on weather, Richard Lindzen, MIT, National Academy of Sciences.

    Roy Spencer, principal research scientist, University of Alabama in Huntsville: "We need to find out how much of the warming we are seeing could be due to mankind, because I still maintain we have no idea how much you can attribute to mankind." (George C. Marshall Institute Washington Roundtable on Science and Public Policy, April 17, 2006 )

    Scientists who conclude that natural causes are more likely to blame than human activities for observed rising temperatures from next include:

    Khabibullo Ismailovich Abdusamatov, Russian Academy of Sciences, supervisor of the Astrometria project of the Russian section of the International Space Station: "Global warming results not from the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but from an unusually high level of solar radiation and a lengthy - almost throughout the last century - growth in its intensity."

    Sallie Baliunas, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics: "The recent warming trend in the surface temperature record cannot be caused by the increase of human-made greenhouse gases in the air."

    Robert M. Carter, researcher at the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James Cook University in Australia. “Climate changes naturally all the time.”

    George V. Chilingar, Professor of Civil and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Southern California. Ian Clark, professor, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Ottawa.

    Tim Patterson , paleoclimatologist and Professor of Geology at Carleton University in Canada.

    Frederick Seitz, former solid-state physicist, former president of the National Academy of Sciences: "So we see that the scientific facts indicate that all the temperature changes observed in the last 100 years were largely natural changes and were not caused by carbon dioxide produced in human activities."

    Nir Shaviv, astrophysicist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “…natural causes probably being more important over the past century.”

    Fred Singer, Professor emeritus of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia: "The greenhouse effect is real. However, the effect is minute, insignificant, and very difficult to detect."

    Willie Soon, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics: "[T]here's increasingly strong evidence that previous research conclusions, including those of the United Nations and the United States government concerning 20th century warming, may have been biased by underestimation of natural climate variations.”

    Philip Stott, professor emeritus of biogeography at the University of London: "...the myth is starting to implode. ... Serious new research at The Max Planck Institute has indicated that the sun is a far more significant factor..." "

    Of course the point is to delay action. Exactly! We need to know if we need to spend trillions of dollars fixing something that either doesn't exist, or cannot be fixed, or does exist and can be fixed.

    As I previously asked, "why do you want to believe that climate change is a problem so badly? What need does it serve in you?".

    I think I may be feeding the trolls here, as the response I got has no substance and forwards the opinion that the info I present should be ignored. Because I am on the other side. Interesting. Seems to answer Jeff's question pretty well.

  • notchomsky (unverified)

    The fourth musketeer said, "You simply cannot have a rational dialogue with this group [the Reich] because they block out any information that doesn't support their beliefs."

    DP loyalists have been betrayed on virtually every issue that they care about, yet they continue to irrationally support the Dear Leader. Progress will begin with an end to the secular mystical derangement that has gripped the DP. You are no more rational than the Reich.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)

    Rick's listing of scientists (most of whom are not climatologists and several of whom are outright industry whores like Singer and Seitz) to bolster his claims of a "debate" illustrates the problem that lay people have in drawing conclusions on scientific questions where the relevant expertise is arcane.

    An excellent guide to the lay persons role in such debates is a terrific book -- by an Oregonian named Greg Craven -- called "What's the Worst That Could Happen?: A rational response to the climate change debate."

    In this book, Craven provides a method for drawing your own conclusions about such debates.

    You can read more about the book at, and you can find links to some excellent videos on the subject that became some of the most viewed YouTube videos of all time for a while.

    Look. Anyway you look at the question of global warming, the stakes seem to be the whole world. The skeptics promise global economic DOOM if we take hasty action on an unproven question. The activists warn of global climate DOOM if we don't take immediate action on an imminent threat. And the only way to know for sure who's right is to let the experiment play itself out. Unfortunately, we're in the test tube. So there's got to be a better way to go about this besides shouting at each other. drawing-decision-gridI'm no expert, but as a high school science teacher, I am pretty familiar with how the lay person intersects (wc***) with science. So in an online video two years ago, I offered a suggestion for how to cut through the shouting match and draw your own conclusion in the debate, without needing to decide which side to believe. It centers on a simple little 2-by-2 "decision grid," and I asked for suggestions on how to improve it. Two years later, "The Most Terrifying Video You'll Ever See" has collected over 7.5 million views, spawned 7 hours of follow-up videos, led to an offer of my own t.v. show (thanks, but no thanks), and ultimately resulted in a book. (Geez. I was just trying to offer a suggestion.) I guess there must be something to that little grid. And in the meantime, the stakes have only gotten higher. After the brush with the Next Great Depression in 2008, no one can deny that the economy is more delicate than ever before. Yet the updated science suggests that the global climate may be the same type of "non-linear" system that the global financial system is--capable of sudden, unexpected lurches set off by seemingly small bumps. So with stakes like that, isn't it worth spending just a couple minutes looking at the issue in a new way? Why not watch the video now and see what you think of this approach? Turns out, the reasoning in that video has a hole in it large enough to drive a Hummer through, which is what led to all the follow-up material. I don't have all the answers. But together, we might. So if you are intrigued, share this video with others, and ask them what they think. I believe that process--of proposing an idea and enlisting many people to find problems with it and suggest fixes--is the best way of getting closer to the truth. And so the basic idea in the video--trying to come up with a method for tackling a complex, uncertain problem when you have little expertise and even less time--has evolved as well. Way, way beyond the thinking presented in "The Most Terrifying Video." That evolution of an idea continues to this day. That's why I ask you to sign up for the newsletter [link], so I can let you know of new developments, improved approaches, and additional thinking tools for tackling the most thorny question--of what (if anything) we should do about climate change--that humanity has ever faced. In addition, I'll toss you fun little "gimmees" as I produce them, from a deal on the upcoming eBook (containing the material that didn't make it into the book), to the secrets of the explosions and puzzles in the "How It All Ends" videos [link], to updates on where the book and the videos (or even me, Greg Craven) are getting featured. Rest assured, I won't share your email address with anyone, and it will be easy to unsubscribe if you ever become discontented with my infrequent mailings. If you're curious about the holes and the fixes that arose from my 2-year back-and-forth with the Internet community, then check out what came next. The "How It All Ends" video series resulted from several months of me combing through tens of thousands of online comments for every single objection, question, "How About," "Yeah, But," and "You Missed a Spot" that I could find to "The Most Terrifying Video." And the book, "What's the Worst That Could Happen? A Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate," went a step beyond that, enlisting the critiques of dozens of leading scientists, economists, authors, and analysts in the climate change debate. (I may not be right, but no one can say I'm not excruciatingly thorough.) The videos are available online for free, or you can purchase them all on a single DVD [Buy Now], which also throws a few pennies my way. And if you decide to buy the book, then doing so through one of the links on this page [Buy Now] would help me tremendously, because I receive a small percentage of the order, with no difference in cost to you. Whatever the outcome of all this, one thing is for certain. We are all in this together. There are no emergency exits to either the global economy, or the global climate. So let's enlist as many people as we can, to make the most solid decision we can. I hope you'll agree that we owe ourselves--and our kids--nothing less. greg-head-01 Thank you so much for taking the time to do that. Sincerely, Greg Craven Corvallis, Oregon, USA Greg Craven grew up on a farm in Oregon, experimented with different jobs for a decade, and finally found his calling as a high school physics and chemistry teacher. His main qualification for proposing a layman’s approach to climate change is having borrowed the 30 brains in his classroom every period to mull questions of science and critical thinking for the last ten years. He’s found there’s no better way to refine a thought than to toss it out in front of a roomful of critical teenagers is a bit surprised to find he’s written a book as a result. Craven lives in Corvallis, Oregon with his wife and two young daughters.
  • Diana M . (unverified)

    Lots of cute photos of women supporting Blue Oregon. Where are their comments? I don't tune in often, but when I do, I'm struck by how many commenters on blogs are men. Nothing against men, for sure! I'm married to a great guy, but..c'mon, women!

    On your column, Jeff, I don't see how we can create real change until we get past other-side-of-the-coin politics. We progressives rail against Bush, then when Obama has power, we think he should do the opposite, but still by using power against, rather than with, others who aren't his immediate supporters or friends.

    Town officials need to listen up as well as any others. It's time for tough love. We've all become comfortable with our lifestyles, and we keep wanting fixes to make continuing in the same vein possible.

    We've personally been doing okay, not rich, not poor. But a daughter has just done the credit-over-the top thing, and we're bailing her out now. She's going to have to give up some of the luxuries she's been used to (some more than her retired parents would even consider), and she's ticked off about it. Tough.

    Likewise, the bank employees collecting bonuses and the local town officials. They're doing fine—a whole lot better than the unemployed. They need to suck it up like the rest of us.

  • Diana M . (unverified)

    P.S. Regarding the narrow idea of Kumbaya, come by here, etc.:

    If we can't talk to others who disagree with us, is the next phase of polarization for us to all walk about with hoods up over our heads and not look at anyone else or allow anyone to look at us?

    I see high schoolers and young adults acting like that, but I've always hoped that they would emerge/evolve/mature.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)

    Matt Taibbi has an idea for making progress: recognize that GW Obama has already folded and stocked the henhouse with the wolves:

  • Rick (unverified)

    Okay, obviously this thread is officially hijacked.


    If your dismissal of all of the scientists on the list is due to either a lack of a very specific specialty (climatology), or that they have a financial interest in the debate, then applying those standards to your list of scientists will shrink it a great deal as well. It would likely be either interesting, or disconcerting, or feed your drive to dismiss those who disagree with you, to review this page.

    The various state and federal government agencies are looking to spend trillions of dollars on “fighting climate change”, and virtually none of that money will go to those who don’t think it’s either happening, or a problem. That is a substantial financial motivation.

    As just one example, there are several estimates that the Al Gore family’s net worth in financial disclosure documents released before he ran in the 2000 elections was between 1 and 2 million dollars. In 2007, available data estimates his net worth at around 100 million dollars. He has increased his net worth by 50 to 100 TIMES in just 6 years.

    There are few ways to get rich in science, and one of the leading ways is to be granted money for research. Also to be granted money to solve problems. Seems like the proponents of AGW have lots of motivation to tout the coming disaster.

    Seems like the desire to end conversation on this is only on one side. Why is that?

    Also, take a look at all of the evidence on this page as well. Lots of documentation and citations. Can you ignore hundreds of citations? If this doesn’t indicate that there is disagreement, then you are deceiving yourself. You may believe it with all your heart, and you may be choosing to ignore everything that doesn’t confirm your belief, but if that isn’t a religion, then I don’t know what is.


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