Rob Douglas: 'Shambolic' America

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Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Douglas here.

Last week’s column focused on the never-ending battle about taxes and spending playing out 1,800 miles to our east because of the ongoing refusal by our elected representatives in Washington, D.C., to exert the effort needed to successfully tackle the challenges and responsibilities of their jobs.

As usual, I emailed a link for the column to the editor of www.completecolorado.com, a website that aggregates Colorado news and opinion pieces. Although the site regularly links to my Steamboat Today columns — along with news items and editorials published by the paper — the editor politely declined to post the piece because, in his opinion, it wasn’t about Colorado.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The dysfunction of our representatives in Washington is a Colorado story, just as it’s a Steamboat story and a Main Street, USA, story. After all, the economic anarchy taking place in Washington begins in the homes and legislative halls of every town and city across America. And the sooner we are honest with ourselves that the fiscal breakdown in Washington is because of our selfish desires here at home, the sooner we might have a chance of saving our nation from the financial collapse that will transpire because of the unsustainable financial demands we expect Washington to magically sustain absent any sacrifice on our part.

During Sunday’s edition of “Meet the Press,” New York Times columnist David Brooks poignantly compared the selfishness of Americans today to previous generations. “What’s happening in Washington right now is pathetic. When you think about what the revolutionary generation did, what the Civil War generation did, what the World War II generation did, we’re asking not to bankrupt our children and we’ve got a shambolic, dysfunctional process.”

Brooks then asserted that our financial problems do not originate under the Capitol dome but here at home in Main Street, USA. “The big lie in this whole thing is that we’ve got this sensible country with a dysfunctional Washington. The reality is we have a country of people who want to bankrupt their children to spend money on themselves, and they will punish any politician who prevents them from doing that.”

Further, as Brooks pointed out in a follow-up column, it’s not just entitlement spending — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — that will eat our children alive. “Many voters have decided they like spending a lot on themselves and pushing costs onto their children and grandchildren. They have decided they like borrowing up to $1 trillion a year for tax credits, disability payments, defense contracts and the rest. They have found that the original Keynesian rationale for these deficits provides a perfect cover for permanent deficit-living. They have made it clear that they will destroy any politician who tries to stop them from cost-shifting in this way.”

Brooks is correct. America’s economic immorality originates at our kitchen tables and in our local and state government chambers. Every time we demand more money from Washington — either directly or through our local and state elected representatives — instead of learning to live within our means as individuals and communities, we add to the more than $100 trillion in debt and unfunded liabilities that are destined to suffocate future Americans because of our refusal to pay the piper today.

Almost every local and state government “balances” its budget by seeking and receiving tremendous amounts of funding from the federal government. Every time we ask for those dollars instead of paying for what we actually can afford locally, we immorally are borrowing dollars from our children and grandchildren. They will suffer economic harm tomorrow because of our greed today.

As Brooks put it, “The country either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the burdens we are placing on our children. No coalition of leaders has successfully confronted the voters and made them heedful of the ruin they are bringing upon the nation.”

So excuse me if I differ from those who think the economic anarchy on display in our nation’s capital is not a local Colorado story. Honestly, I can’t think of a more local, relevant story than that of how our immoral fiscal demands here at home affect the actions of our representatives in Washington.

To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Comments

Scott Wedel 1 year, 11 months ago

So you think the country has changed that much since DC under Bill Clinton balanced the budget? That was only 12 years ago.

It can be argued that Ross Perot made deficits a bigger campaign issue in 1992 so both parties then were willing to take steps to reduce the deficit Then in 2001 Congressional Republicans asked Greenspan about the potential economic harm of large sustained budget surpluses as a justification of the Bush tax cuts. Which reopened the problem of big deficits.

Trouble is that since then we've had 9/11, two unfunded wars and an economic collapse. In 2008 the bigger concern was how to stop a total financial collapse. And unfortunately, in 2012 there was not a single Republican presidential candidate with anything resembling a plausible budget plan. Romney refused to provide a specific plan and incredibly insanely promised to increase Medicare spending by $800B over Obama's plan.

Governors Christie of NJ and Brown of California have both shown that seemingly impossible budget situations can be addressed and the voters will approve what were considered politically too unpopular. I note that both of them presented full plans for the public vote as compared to making vague promises. Thus, I do not blame the people for the current problems.

The problems will continue to boil until leaders emerge able and willing to lead. That Biden and McConnell were able to come up with this deal reinforces the unfortunate weaknesses of both Obama and Boehner.

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rhys jones 1 year, 11 months ago

I only disagree with one statement, Scott: There WAS a Republican candidate with a great idea. Ron Paul wanted to oust the Federal Reserve -- the root of all evil.

With tax breaks for the rich and totally unnecessary defense spending (wars wars, extravagant fighter jets) the party Party is hoping the bill doesn't come due until after they're dead. Bring the limo around, and tell the Chinese we'll get back with them.

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Brian Kotowski 1 year, 11 months ago

The Clinton “surplus” is one of the most ridiculous memes of the last 20 years. The Clinton administration never ran a surplus at any point during its two terms, and never posted one for its successor to inherit. It came close in FY2000 with a deficit of 'only' $19 billion - & only came that 'close' by raiding Social Security and a number of other programs (unemployment and military retirement funds, for example) and moving those monies into the general fund. A shell game that made the numbers look better, but robbing Peter to pay Paul does not a balanced budget make. Clinton's final budget proposal for FY2001 left us holding the bag on $133 billion in red ink.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 11 months ago

The Clinton surplus was real enough for the Republicans to use it as a justification for the Bush tax cuts.

It is true he did not run a surplus while in office, but size of deficit was close to zero in his final years with surpluses projected for 2001 and growing surpluses projected into the future.

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mark hartless 1 year, 11 months ago

That's exactly what it is, Rob. Economic immorality. 100%

And it absolutely originates at the individual level, "around the kitchen table".

The same generation of hypocrites that uses almost every breath to tout their concern "for the children" puts those children in shackles so they themselves can have "stuff" today that their children must pay for tomorrow.

Do they know what they are doing? Absolutely.

They have been told (and they absolutely believe) that everything revolves around them.

The FACT is that people who care more for others than themselves don't leave the bill on the table and walk out of the restaurant; they also don't shoot innocent kids they never even met. Both are acts of people with incredibly high "self-esteem".

America's "self-esteem" chickens are comming home to roost.

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John St Pierre 1 year, 11 months ago

Rob ... to some extent you are absolutely correct... it does start at Main street.. actually Lincoln.. in recent days the Pilot has run stories about a New Bus, a GPS tracking system for the bus's and bus stops.... while in itself does not seem much... but its paid for with "grants" where do the grants come from???? US>>> our taxpayer dollars collected thru the State & Feds..... everyone wants taxes cut but no one wants to give up their "perks".

We went charging into our great Christian Oil Iraq crusade led by Pope Bush and Cardinal Cheney with absolutely no plan what so ever of how to pay for it.... I have no issue with paying my FAIR share but look at yesterday's great "cliff Deal" wall street & the invetsment banks got great tax cut deals while we all got tax increases... its not so much the generation that is selfish as it is a corporate america who needs to refocus on making money from making products not from scamming the american taxpayer.

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rhys jones 1 year, 11 months ago

These are just the bitter carps of jealous people. That's good work, if you can get it.

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Fred Duckels 1 year, 11 months ago

When I was young the country was on a path of bang for the buck. I have watched in disbelief as we developed the idea that we deserved champagne when water was what we could afford. The environmentalists and liberal bleeding hearts have been merciless in their apparent desire to destroy our lifestyle. This mindset has become commonplace and very few have the courage and wisdom to speak out. We have entities all competing to short circuit the system to harvest the taxpayer's crop with no concern for the common good. The whole situaton is sickening and the new shenanigans that surface daily are beyond belief. The picture is bad and I suspect that unrest may be the only solution.

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Bob Smith 1 year, 11 months ago

The environmentalists and liberal bleeding hearts have been merciless in their apparent desire to destroy our lifestyle.....go get 'em Fred! Yee-haw!

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rhys jones 1 year, 11 months ago

Aw Bob, now you revealed our evil plot. Our shenanigans have been wasted. Fred is going to unrest us. And it would have been so simple!! Just leave this dirty old planet and our unpayable debt for our grandkids to deal with. ("our" is figurative -- not mine) But NO, Fred sniffed us out, with his rare combination of courage AND wisdom. The unrest comes next.

He has a point though -- at $1500 per assault rifle (just for the sake of discussion) that's $50 per shot -- not a very good "bang for the buck" ratio. The government shipped mine back for free, along with my stereo, when I rotated -- after I liberated it from a real (albeit dead) Commie. It bears a curious inscription: "Kills only round-eyes -- and Mother China will want this back, once she buys out their homeland."

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john bailey 1 year, 11 months ago

rhys, did the mother ship find you yet? they need to go home soon. LOL

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rhys jones 1 year, 11 months ago

Oh they found me John -- and the bastards took my stash!!

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Bob Smith 1 year, 11 months ago

Maybe Fred will go crazy like that guy in Alma did years ago and wreck the town with an excavator or dozer or something! I can totally picture angry old Fred having the last word!

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john bailey 1 year, 11 months ago

are you refering to the granby incident by chance? that was one pissed off dude who had enough of his city gubbmint screwing him, if i remember correctly.and thats was just one man, imagine if you will, when the rest of us have had it too, . thats called push back, correct? i'd think its about time for a push back on all of entitled, lazy, leeches on our country.starting with the young ones who think they have a clue.........................

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rhys jones 1 year, 11 months ago

Bob -- Shhh!! Don't interrupt his nap. Fred could take "unrest" to a whole new level.

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Robert Dippold 1 year, 11 months ago

Rob,

Last week you said that Congress needed to get back to discussing these matters on the floor instead of in chambers. This week you are telling us that the problem is the selfish constituents. I look forward to a Congressman standing up at the podium delivering the message, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I have discovered the problem and that problem is our selfish constituents. Look forward to seeing you after the elections so we can work on that." I believe you have a people problem when the minority of people are outside of the norm. In the case of Congress, it is widely assumed that all of the individuals are incompetent and immoral. In the case of constituents, they are all selfish. I don't believe either one to be close to true. I do believe that our system of government needs to change.
A Congressman doing what they truly believe is best will not get a chance for a second term. What I do believe to be true is that a Congressman wanting a second term is nothing more than a puppet dancing for his uneducated constituents. While there are some smart people on this forum, I would put us all in the category of uneducated because we don't have the same information that our Congressmen have. The definition of insanity I am told is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. We have "cleaned house" a couple years ago and now have the same results. We need a revision to our great framework of a system.

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mark hartless 1 year, 11 months ago

As a premptive measuer against Freds "Day of Wrath" I suppose you wise-asses will want to ban bulldozers next, right.

Or maybe just limit high-capacity excavator buckets.

Maybe set a maximum of one teaspoon size bucket per machine and parhaps a 30-day waiting period???

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Fred Duckels 1 year, 11 months ago

LBJ was the arch bleeding heart and his agenda to this day has gutted our character and led the way for weak politicians to take advantage of our temptations to take the path of least resistance.. His incompetence led to the breakdown of the family unit and all that this entails. I am bidding on a CDOT project and about half of the bid items accomplish zilch, but are the result of environmental politics to impede progress as much as the traffic will bear. The contract is also cluttered with affirmitive action requirements negating the low bid requirements for minorities, and the wage rates are mandated by the unions.. one must compromise his convictions in order to bid and we wonder why we are on the verge of collapsing.

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Chris Hadlock 1 year, 11 months ago

Fred,

I suppose that you would rather return to the environmental policies of the 60's and 70's when rivers caught on fire, Toxic waste was routinely dumped in open canals, covered over and donated to build playgrounds and neighborhoods. How about the deterioration of the ozone layer that is just beginning to recover from the CFC's that we thought were harmless?

Let's face it, many of the practices that were routinely followed in the past have been proven dangerous to the health of anyone that lives near those locations. Job sites are much safer for the workers and somehow the owners still manage to make a profit.

If you were truly against Gov't spending wouldn't you quit bidding on Gov't projects? This seems to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

We now know that the pollutants we are dumping into the atmosphere are indeed capable of causing environmental damage. Should we wait until our very air is poison to breathe before applying regulation to those emissions?

I for one support rules that regulate you from dumping your excess engine fluids on the ground to contaminate those that are downstream. Are there ANY environmental regulations that you support?

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mark hartless 1 year, 11 months ago

There is a book Chris needs to read titled "Silent Spring @ 50". It looks at the accuracy and reality of much of the claims and predictions made by environmentalists in the original book "Silent Spring". The conclusion is that most (not all) environmental alarmism is/was nothing but a waste of time and money right up to the present day.

But for those foolish enough to believe that it makes sense to put salt water in the engines of perfectly good automobiles in order to destroy them in the name of "saving the environment" perhaps that reading would be a waste of time.

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Chris Hadlock 1 year, 11 months ago

Try googling

Cuyahoga River Love Canal Benzene Contamination CFC/ozone hole

All of these searches provide hard evidence of chemical contamination. If you want to stick your head in the sand and ignore it I strongly encourage you to contact your local auto mechanic and let him dump all his excess fluids in your well.

No I am not a raving environmentalist Mark. I do however believe in taking common sense precautions with chemicals that have unknown risks. A simple search shows that humans are indeed capable of messing up. When profit is your primary motive, running a clean operation is secondary at best.

Are there ANY regulations that you support or should the Gov't just be disbanded?

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Fred Duckels 1 year, 11 months ago

Ethanol is another feather in the hat of the environmental movement that they seem to have forgotten. The private sector has made many mistakes in the quest to build a better mousetrap but the future is dependant on their creativity. The armchair quarterbacks with the media in tow will claim all the awards and take all the credit but there is no substitute for suiting up playing the game. Those that can do, those who can't teach--JFK

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rhys jones 1 year, 11 months ago

Got something besides cliches for us, Fred? What are you trying so hard to say?

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Bob Smith 1 year, 11 months ago

jeez...with all of fred's hot air, now that we have a more complete picture of his ideology, I wonder if he is “doing the right thing” with his waste oil, anti-freeze, etc. seriously, maybe we should test the creek up by duckles to see if he practices what he preaches in terms of disregard for the environment. do you think that this guy is going to pay extra to do the right thing, or can we all envision fred dumping wherever the f*** he sees fit, on his land?

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rhys jones 1 year, 11 months ago

Good point, Bob. As an aside, I'm wondering how a two-bit private gumshoe can claim to investigate homicides and other violent crimes -- his meddling in open cases would be illegal itself. Maybe he's Jim Rockford, and the bumbling Lt. Becker needs all the help he can get. My BS sniffer is going BEEP BEEP BEEP. Not everyone is as naive as the staff on a small-town redneck rag in an isolated corner of western Colorado, thousands of miles from the real action and money.

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mark hartless 1 year, 11 months ago

Chris,

There are no regulations that I support.

Government should indeed be disbanded.

And with the help of people like you there will be no money to finance it in a few years and I will get my wish by default.

Thank's in advance...

When POWER is your primary motive, freedom is secondary... at best. And PROFIT just comes with the territory Chris. Like the $500 millionyour hero Al Gore just made for selling out to Al Jazeera.

Sound familliar Chris?

Bob,

If I recall you never did get back to me on why the Thames river stopped freezing long before internal combustion engines. I guess "Climate Change" has been happening long before Al Gore made a living off it from suckers like... you???

I hope Fred does what we used to do with our used oil... pour it on the driveway to kill the dust. Now THAT'S "re-cycling"... Ahhh the good 'ole days.

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Chris Hadlock 1 year, 11 months ago

Civilized people live in civilized societies. Without the umbrella of consequence we would quickly degenerate into the society of the old west where the fastest draw ruled the land.

You mark yourself as someone that cannot be trusted with adult decisions when you spout off that there should be absolutely no rules and regulations. The situation in Somalia for the last 20 years is a good example to start with.

Are you seriously advocating that we disband the Gov't and return to the hunter gatherer society of our ancestors? REALLY? Get a clue, you need one.

As you have absolutely zero idea of my station in life, how is it that you can automatically brand me as one of the takers? I have not spouted off with false accusations and innuendo against you. What is it about my opinion that force you to attack me as a person? I expressed solid facts to back up my opinions in this debate and you have responded by trying to brand me as an unsuccessful burden on society.

Pretty poor debate tactic! Do you have anything constructive to contribute or are you just good at taking potshots?

PS. The Thames last froze solid enough to walk on in 1814. It is widely believed that the demolition/construction of the newer London Bridge with fewer pillars and the building of embankments have allowed the river to flow more freely. This is what has prevented a hard freeze since.

Dumping used oil on the ground has been proven not to be such a smart idea. What was once a widespread practice is now known to pollute water air and ground. You might as well pour yourself a large tumbler of used motor oil, mix freely with Capt Morgan and enjoy the rest of your life.

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Fred Duckels 1 year, 11 months ago

The enviro's are bound to be right occasionally but their scatter gun approach combined with an agenda to show the evils of capitalism is insanity..We are on a path to exhaust our wealth and we have prime examples of this experiment and ensuing unrest. The sorry part is the tendency of these malcontents to blame others in every instance. This is why I see harmony as unlikely.

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rhys jones 1 year, 11 months ago

Yeah, those dang malcontents. First they want clean air. Then clean water. Then a balanced budget. Now they want our machine guns. Just ain't no gettin' along with 'em.

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Fred Duckels 1 year, 11 months ago

Rhys Did you say balanced budget old buddy? You had better check your talking points.

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rhys jones 1 year, 11 months ago

Did I stutter? Next they'll want world peace, and think of the trouble THAT'LL cause.

Shouldn't you be tearing up the Earth somewhere? At taxpayer expense?

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rhys jones 1 year, 11 months ago

Oh I forgot -- this is Fred I'm talking to. Let me simplify:

Balanced Budget: Where we take in as much as we spend. They teach this stuff in schools.

Ever been to a school, Fred? Those are big buildings, with teachers, and weirdos killing the kids. I don't blame you for staying away. Too much knowledge is a scary thing. Bullets too.

Re/budget: Until we bill those A-rabs for all those bombs we're dropping in their back yards, and all the fancy-dancy fighters we need to maintain air supremacy, and all the bullets, bombs, band-aids and caskets they keep making us use, I just don't see that happening.

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mark hartless 1 year, 11 months ago

Chris,

Yes, I'm advocating that we disband the gubbamint... kill it before it kills us, so-to-speak.

I am advocating that we pour our used motor oil on the ground to kill the summer dust.

I'm advocating that we go back to hunting and gathering, as I think I would occupy a higher "station in life" in such a society.

BTW, it is the environmental whackos, Chris, who are going to see to it that we return to that type of society. It's the Al Gore crowd that thinks the internal combustion engine is the plague of the century, not me.

I guess you don't have anything to say about the "POWER" crowd. I guess, to you, they're not nearly as much of a problem as the "PROFIT" crowd.

I find it funny that so many poeople like yourself see the evil in big business and can't see it in big gubbamint. Do you think that the boardroom contains all the world's evil men while the halls of congress is populated with saints?

I'll leave you now; I need more ice... I'm sippin some single-malt scotch and 10W30 right now. Goes down real smooooooooth.

Cheers,

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Robert Dippold 1 year, 11 months ago

This thread is just full of hatred and personal attacks. It is not unusual and where most of these threads on politics quickly go in this forum. Unfortunately,the people interested in the responses to the subject of the columnist are forced to wade through this sewage trying to find relevant subject matter. The hundreds of people reading this story and might actually have something intelligent to say might not do so for fear of being the target of these personal attacks. I find most of this behavior to be extremely cowardly as most of the people that write these comments would never verbalize the the things they write in a face to face meeting. My hope is that more people will demonstrate intelligence and maturity by sticking to the point and editing their personal attacks so others will participate and we can all learn and enjoy the experience more..

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 11 months ago

Yeah, see how the paper banning semi-anonymous posters has completely failed at the stated objective of making the forums a place for intelligent well argued communications.

Then, as now, the real problem is the failure of the paper enforcing it's rules of proper conduct.

Instead, the paper forced everyone to post with their real names which caused some of the more useful contributors to leave because their business interests prevent them from being so public with their political opinions.

I think the reason the paper thought requiring real names would make a difference is this idea that people that are harsh posting semi-anonymously would be nice if it was their real name. The lack of change in tone makes it clear to me that people posting are comfortable with what they are posting and would say the same face to face. The people willing to step into a brawl are the people that are prepared to fight.

The people that would never say this sort of stuff face to face would also never say this sort of stuff online. The difference is that in a face to face situation then usually there are others that step in and say that is not how we talk to people here. So behave yourself or leave. But on these forums, the paper tolerates it. Thing of these forums of being like a rough biker hangout. Rough behavior is allowed, if not expected, by the establishment. If you want a nice place to have a discussion then go to a place where bad behavior is not accepted.

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mark hartless 1 year, 11 months ago

Robert,

The "cowardly" thingy might have had some validity back when people were clammering to remove the anonimity.

Changing THAT rule didn't change anyones heart either... something I and others quite easily predicted.

Seems to me like signing ones name here is quite akin to "verbaliz[ing] ... in a face to face meeting". (If not why your argument that others might be affraid of personal attacks?) But if anyone ever wishes to verify my personal resolve and willingness to "verbalize" I would invite them to name a place and time.

Furthermore, I sincerely believe that if a man carries the "courage of his convictions" he ought not have any trouble rising above his personal "fear of being the target of these personal attacks".

Frankly, I think the "cowardly" label sticks just as well or better to those who can't handle a little criticism. These are just WORDS, Robert, not sticks, bricks, or bullets.

Some of the people I argue with here frequently are, in my opinion, as wrong as they can be, and I'm sure they feel the same about me, but I think we all know where the kitchen door is if it ever gets too hot.

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Robert Dippold 1 year, 11 months ago

Rhys, You have demonstrated my point very well. You have just accused Mark Hartless of being a drunk, wished an early death for him and said that the entire Steamboat population would be relieved when he was dead. Factually, your post are certainly among the post which contain personal attacks.

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rhys jones 1 year, 11 months ago

The Today dropped my response to the above response, so I'm pulling an end-around, going to the top level:

Robert -- You are absolutely right. My normal reaction to personal attacks is to respond in kind. I'm not going to back down from any redneck bullies trying to push me down or intimidate me, or insult me on any level, including your own. What else might you expect from a member in good standing of the ignorant hordes? At least I have a positive word from time to time, and if you read all my posts as you say, you saw where I also wished the best for Mark very recently, including the realization that he is blessed indeed, and that he finds some peace in his heart.

Thanks for capitalizing my name anyway -- many don't.

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