Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Republican Debate fun

In response to a question from a woman whose brother had been killed in Iraq, McCain noted that the war had been badly botched and that there had been "unnecessary sacrifices." Gee. It's almost as though he said that lives had been wasted. In fact, it's EXACTLY like that. I eagerly await a storm of outrage comparable to that leveled at Obama when he made same self-evident point. Any moment now. I have no doubt. Really.

Tancredo is absolutely fucking OBSESSED with the idea that bilingualism is BAD BAD BAD. "Bilingual countries don't work," he said. Um...yeah. That makes sense I guess--hey, wait a minute, what's this?

Mercer has ranked Zürich as the city with the highest quality of life anywhere in the world for the fourth consecutive time. Berne and Geneva were also ranked among the Top 10 – in fact, Switzerland was the only country with more than one city in the Top 10. Zurich's international population with its multilingualism is also considerable. Statistics show that in the productive sector of the city 60% speak German, 43% English, 30% French and 13% Italian. As such, the city is home to a considerable number of people speaking at least two or three languages.

Well, I'm sure their quality of life would be EVEN BETTER if they would pick a language and fucking stick with it!

Tancredo also said words to the effect that the bilingualism problem would only be solved when you don't have to listen to automated phone messages that say "press one for English; press two for any other language." CHRIST these people have delicate sensibilities. In fact, I'm not sure someone with a psyche that fragile is qualified to be president.

Also, the degree to which they all went on about how they respect a culure of LIFE, and how LIFE is so important to their party LIFE, LIFE, LIFE. Please note that these were the same moral paragons who, with the exception of Ron Paul, refused to rule out nuking Iran. Guys, come on: irony is already long-dead. You don't need to keep beating the shit out of its corpse.


Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

Unfortunately, the Democratic front-runners also refused to rule out nuking Iran, as Mike Gravel brilliantly pointed out.

I must say, I like Ron Paul.

- SK

11:33 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. pontificated to the effect that...

Ouch. I didn't watch the Democratic debate, as I can think of few things less interesting. I like Paul on the war, but I doubt I would find much common ground with him on other issues.

1:33 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. pontificated to the effect that...

...for however much comfort it's worth, I strongly suspect that the reason the Dems refused to rule out nukes was that they were afraid of looking, you know, insufficiently warlike. I doubt any of them would *actually* consider such a thing.

Not that craven cowardice is a *good* thing, but in this case, it's better than the alternative.

1:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

You know, honestly, I don't believe the cowardice argument anymore. Bush's war is horrible, and the neoconservatives had been planning it for years, but it didn't just come out of nowhere. He basically built on the precedent set by Clinton, just more incompetently. But if Clinton hadn't aggressively invaded Serbia, destroyed its civilian infrastructure and poisoned its territory with depleted uranium, Bush would have had a much harder time getting his own war through.

The fact is that most of the leading Democratic candidates believe in the premise that America should control the world by force just as much as Republicans do. They merely put a different spin on it. Republicans pander to their base with jingoistic rhetoric. Democrats also do that, but with a veneer of hypocritical "humanitarian" concern.

I don't agree with Paul on most domestic issues either (although he is also good on civil liberties), but the war is the most important issue of the day by far. It defines the country in a way that no other issue does. If the election came down to Kucinich/Gravel vs. Paul, I'd pick Kucinich/Gravel. But given Hillary/Obama vs. Paul, I'd easily pick Paul. And given Hillary/Obama vs. Giuliani/McCain, I don't think I'd even bother voting. And I say this as someone who really pushed the Democratic party line in 2004 and opposed Nader's candidacy. But even my angelic patience has limits.

- SK

2:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

Let me give you an example. Bush has followed a policy of unbridled hostility towards Russia. Yes, the folks at dailykos and other Democratic websites operate on the primitive level of, "duh, Bush says he and Putin are friends, therefore they must be friends," but Bush's _real actions_, like surrounding Russia with NATO military bases, have been consistently extremely hostile. So what do prominent Democrats do? Why, they criticize Bush for not being hostile enough! They stage photo ops with Bush's sock puppets in the Ukraine and Georgia and nominate them for the Nobel Peace Prize! Using some "humanitarian" bullshit as a cover, in fact they propose to destabilize Russia even further. Not only is this policy every bit as hideous as Bush's Iraq rampage, it's also damaging to America.

So, no, I will no longer support any interventionist candidate from any party. If all the candidates are interventionists, then that just means we're past the point of no return.

- SK

2:59 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. pontificated to the effect that...

I can certainly understand why one would support Paul--the war certainly IS the most important issue--but given his ties with militia/white supremacist groups (as documented on )--well, that's one devil I'm just not willing to dance with. Not that it will ever be more than a remote hypothetical.

Am I at all excited about any of the Democrats who have a chance of winning? Hardly. Indifference is about as good as it gets. But the fact is, I'm going to vote for one of them anyway. And then I'm going to be irrationally exuberant for a few weeks if s/he wins. I honestly don't know enough about the scene you describe vis-à-vis foreign policy to make any real evaluation; I don't doubt that you're right, but even if we can't get a sane foreign policy, I still care about things like gay rights and the environment and abortion rights and poverty and education. I know that all sounds like really weak sauce compared to the Iraq clusterfuck (and I know that the Dems aren't NEARLY as progressive on these issues as they ought to be), but there's nothing I can DO about that. Given that this enormous fucking elephant in the room is never going to be addressed in a remotely adequate way, about all I can do is try to make the room as nice as it can be. And nice furniture DOES make a difference, even as the room is rapidly filling up with elephant shit. Wow, that was an unwieldy metaphor. But I think I've made my point. I try to be realistic about these things, but really, unless you're actually willing to become a radical terrorist, I'm not sure what else you're going to do. And for what it's worth, I DO think that getting a Democrat into the White House in 2008 is not worse than nothing.

1:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

I looked at the link and mostly saw a lot of words along the lines of "propensity for right-wing extremism," "willingness to appear before neo-Confederate groups," and golly gosh, he "associated" with some kind of Christian fundamentalist. This isn't really a political debate, but an attempt to discredit Paul on the grounds that he violates some orthodoxy. The funny thing is, conservatives do this to liberals all the time.

Consider the fact that the guy has four long paragraphs about the Montana Freemen. He doesn't show that they have some connection to Paul. In fact it seems they don't. All he says is, "These arguments, in fact, have had some currency on the extremist right...including the Montana Freemen" and then gives three paragraphs about how the Montana Freemen are bad. I view this as the classic smear by association. It's exactly what conservatives do when they say, "So you're antiwar? Oh yeah? Well COMMUNISTS are also antiwar, therefore you must be a communist! What do you say to that? Huh? Huh?"

And it's not like liberals don't have their own brand of conspiracism. Try to go on dailykos sometime and write something on any issue that goes against Democratic conventional wisdom, and you'll get a whole bunch of replies accusing you of having an "agenda." It happened to me a few years back, when I submitted a fairly innocuous article about Russia suggesting that maybe, just maybe, Khodorkovsky got what he deserved.

Paul runs as a Republican, so I don't doubt that he's associated with all sorts of shitty characters, but the Democrats do the same thing. Didn't you have a post a while ago bitching about how some Democrat in your area released some kind of ad castigating his Republican opponent for being insufficiently conservative on immigration? What's the difference?

Basically Paul has the views that would be fairly standard for a traditional conservative. I don't particularly like traditional conservatism, but at least it was a principled political philosophy, as opposed to the insane, paranoid warmongering cult of power that predominates in both parties these days.

I support all of the same domestic issues you do. But first, I have a strong moral objection to the idea of supporting civil rights at home while continuing to indiscriminately murder people abroad. Second, as you say, the Democrats don't even support many of those causes themselves, and will sell them out at first opportunity. And third, even if they did support those causes, I now believe that it is _inherently impossible_ to have a "free society" at home and an empire abroad. If you let the government abuse its power overseas, eventually it will creep into your daily life regardless of whom you elect. You and I both know that the Patriot Act won't be repealed even if the Democrats win the presidency and both houses of Congress in 2008.

- SK

4:30 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. pontificated to the effect that...

Sorry, dude, but I really can't agree with you on this.

According to phenry, Paul's newsletter, The Ron Paul Political Report (renamed The Ron Paul Survival Report in 1993, in a bid to pander to the militia audience that was peaking that year) was a Patriot movement must-read, full of helpful advice on tax protest, gold-backed currency, urban race war and other pet legal and social theories of the extremist right.


In the second post, phenry outlines Paul's connections to various white supremacists groups. In 1996, Paul was one of only two candidates endorsed by Christian Identity leader Larry Pratt (who had previously worked with David Duke, and resigned from Pat Buchanan's team when his Identity role became public). Paul refused to repudiate the endorsement; and Pratt has stepped forward again with a quasi-endorsement of Paul's current campaign.

Come on, man: there's guilt by association, and then there's guilt by association. It's not a meaningless charge.

Okay, maybe "phenry" isn't an unimpeachable source, but do you have any particular REASON to doubt him? Paul may not actually belong to Survivalist/Patriot groups, but his positions sure seem to dovetail nicely with them. Liberal=anti-war=COMMUNIST! thing is a false syllogism because being anti-war is just a small part of either philosophy. Paul may or may not personally hold racist views (giving him the extreme benefit of the doubt, given some of his writings), but given that the ENTIRE remainder of his philosophy is congruent with scary people who do, and given that these people eagerly support him, it's not exactly a wild supposition to make.

Here's my question for you: barring the election of people who have no chance of getting elected, what exactly do you think can be DONE to make things better? If the answer is "nothing, we're all fucked, and that's all there is to it," then I must part ways from you philosophically. Maybe it's absolutely true; maybe we are doomed doomed doomed. But I choose instead to remain, to some degree, engaged with the system, because electing Democrats, for however little good it may do us, is DEFINITELY going to accomplish more than sitting on the sidelines seething in impotent rage.

4:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

The only thing I can suggest to make things better is to engage in some kind of grass-roots activism and attempt to mobilize a mass antiwar movement. It would be a single-issue movement, to draw in as many people as possible. The idea would be to make "non-interventionism" into a widely held position rather than the marginal view it currently is, such that sane candidates would have a chance of getting elected.

I'll be honest, I don't really know how to do this. But hoping that things will get better as long as you elect the right emperor doesn't really sound like a great plan to me either.

I'll respond to the first part of the post later.

- SK

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

Here's the rest of my response:

I actually think that I have some cause to doubt the citizen-journalism of dailykos. As I said, I myself was attacked when I tried to publish a very mild piece that questioned some aspects of Democratic conventional wisdom regarding foreign policy. That was all, I didn't question any of the basic principles of liberalism.

But if you want, I can give you better examples than just little old me. One of their elite, well-respected front-page posters once published a disgraceful attack on a certain conservative antiwar website. His main argument for why they were "NOT a reliable resource" (complete with stentorian capitalization) was that they opposed Clinton's war in the Balkans as well as Bush's war in Iraq. Because wars are good if Democrats start them, you see. The dkos coverage of the Ukraine political crisis in 2004 basically repeated all the talking points you can find in any neoconservative think tank. Of course, this was because the Democrats operate from essentially the same premises as Bush on foreign policy. And so on.

But let us leave that aside for now and turn to the more important issue of "guilt by association." The precise reason why the "antiwar = COMMUNIST" reasoning is a vacuous smear is twofold. First, as you say, communists have many other views aside from being antiwar. But second, there are also many people who are antiwar, and yet are not communists.

The second part is very applicable to this discussion. Paul promotes "tax protest," but what does that have to do with militias? All conservatives hate taxes, that's well within the Republican mainstream and you don't have to go to the Montana Freemen to find it. Similarly, Paul's support of "gold-backed currency" was a standard conservative belief for decades, up until about 30 years ago. Not coincidentally, that was about the time when the Republican Party abandoned all pretense of principle and decided that big government was just fine as long as Republicans controlled it. But that view is still widespread in many parts of the world today -- that's why Russia and China are deliberately stockpiling gold even now. There is nothing about this view that requires one to be a member of a white supremacist group.

I'm not trying to argue that Paul is some kind of liberal in disguise. He's not, he is a traditional conservative, and his positions on abortion, gay rights, multiculturalism, and war are consistent with that philosophy. I understand if you decide you don't want to support him because you disagree with that philosophy -- for example, if you decide that his distrust of multiculturalism outweighs his opposition to the war. I can accept that argument. But that is a whole different class of argument from, "He once shook hands with X, and X is evil, so he must be evil too." The latter is just a way to undermine and dodge all discussion of the substance of Paul's antiwar advocacy, which really could potentially pose a challenge to the pro-war establishment in both parties.

I personally think that Paul's antiwar advocacy outweighs his other conservative views. First, this is because of the reasons I gave at the end of my last argument. And second, because Paul also supports civil liberties as well as curtailing presidential powers -- so he effectively favours limiting his own ability to use the presidency to promote his conservative views.

I think that last point bears repeating. Currently we have a fucked-up political system in which the president basically has the powers of an emperor. The Supreme Court is occasionally also important, but much more rarely, and Congress has basically made itself into a rubber stamp for the presidency.

This puts a huge emphasis on presidential elections. It causes us to tremble with fear at the thought that a Republican might win, because then he would have practically unlimited powers to do whatever the hell he wants. So we vote for Democrats, no matter how awful they are, out of the vague hope that maybe they'll be sane enough to not fuck things up as badly. But any candidate who could reduce presidential powers would automatically make our political system a lot more sane and stable, just by restoring checks and balances within the framework of the Constitution. If Congress really had to declare war, as opposed to passing it off to the president, there'd be a lot more debate of the issue and we probably wouldn't go to war as much.

Don't worry, I'm not really trying to convince you to join the Paul campaign or anything. But I really am tired of the interventionist mentality among Democrats, and I won't support it anymore.

- SK

11:44 PM  

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