Wednesday, December 12, 2007
First, a note about style and semantics: Mr. Goldberg laments the use of the word "empire" to describe America's dominant global position, saying that "it is slanderous to lump us in with Huns, Nazis, and Communists." This may be true; however, terms such as Mr. Goldberg's preferred "liberal hegemony" whitewash the nature of American global dominance at best, and at worst provide a fig leaf of legitimacy to the ultimate Big Government program. I will use the word "empire" because I think it is the most accurate description of post-WWII American foreign policy. It is worth noting that Alexander Hamilton and John Marshall both used the term "empire" to describe their vision for America. (Though Hamilton and Marshall used the term to support a vigorous federal government presiding over the various states; a "national empire" rather than international.) If my use of the word offends you, feel free to substitute "liberal hegemony" or whatever sterilized, politically-correct, inoffensive description you prefer for the word "empire" when you see it.
The American empire is the product of World War II, and was our primary means of fighting the Cold War. Given that our bases in Europe, Asia and the Middle East were established primarily as a means of "containment" of the Soviet Union, the most obvious question is: Why do we still need these trappings of empire when the USSR is dead and gone? Undoubtedly, many would contend that the threat of radical Islamic terrorism requires the capability for American military might to be projected both rapidly and world-wide. This argument seems compelling at first glance, but it has at least two major flaws: the "fight the last war" syndrome, and the phenomenon of unintended consequences.
"Fighting the last war" is a fairly common problem of some generals and military strategists who seek to apply lessons and consequences of previous wars to modern conflicts. While there are certainly some lessons of war which are basic and fundamental (there is a reason why Sun Tzu is on the Commandant's Reading List for Marines), all of these lessons must be put into proper context; furthermore, the changing nature of warfare--given considerations such as technology, culture, climate and terrain--renders other lessons obsolete altogether.
There is no reason to suppose that a large, worldwide standing army is necessary and proper to curtail the threat of radical Islamic terrorism. In the first place, our overseas military installations, as well as NATO and similar agreements, were intended to counter an invasion by a Soviet Union armed with huge infantry divisions, tanks and aircraft--none of which applies to our current enemies. In the second place, the combined global might of America and our allies was itself a deterrent to Soviet aggression. The policy of Mutually Assured Destruction assumed that the Soviets were basically rational actors and would not pursue a course of action that would lead to national suicide, whether by launching nuclear weapons or invading West Germany. It is all too obvious that the radical Islamic terrorists against whom we are now fighting will not be deterred in such a manner, and in fact there is a good case to be made that opposition to the American empire is the driving force behind the "bin-Ladenism" in the Middle East.
The phenomenon of unintended consequences, in the context of foreign policy, is best summed up by the term "blowback," a word invented by the CIA precisely to describe the unintended consequences of covert operations. The CIA initially warned of this phenomenon when writing their internal history of Operation Ajax, the 1953 Iranian coup which overthrew Mohammed Mossadegh and reinstated the Shah of Iran. There was, of course, blowback which resulted from that coup: the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the overthrow of the Shah by the Ayatollah Khomeini.
Operation Ajax is hardly the only example of American interventionism in the Middle East, nor is it the only one with negative consequences for Americans. According to former President Carter's National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter signed a presidential directive on July 3, 1979 to aid the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul, Afghanistan. This provoked the USSR into what an unrepentant Brzezinski called the "Afghan trap," which was to be the USSR's version of Vietnam. Once the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan, it was relatively easy for the American CIA, working with the Pakistani ISI, to recruit, arm and train mujahideen from around the Middle East to fight a proxy war against the Soviet Union. One of these mujahideen was a young Saudi named Usama bin Laden.
After 9/11, President Bush gave his State of the Union address, in which he claimed that the terrorists "hate us for our freedoms; for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to vote." It is true that some radical Islamists (perhaps most notably Sayyid Qutb, mentor of Ayman al-Zawahri) do hate those things about America, yet it would be both overly-simplistic and just plain wrong to assume that radical Islamic terrorists, and specifically al Qaeda, are motivated to violence by Baywatch, the 19th Amendment and American secularism. Rather, it is our current foreign policy of worldwide intervention in the internal affairs of other countries, combined with our Middle-Eastern military bases--i.e. the American empire--that motivates young Arab men to kill themselves in order to kill Americans.
If the Cold War allowed the rise of Usama bin Laden, it was the Gulf War that turned him against America. According to Time magazine, "The initial target [of al-Qaeda after Afghanistan] was not the U.S. but the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which al-Qaeda claimed were corrupt and too beholden to the U.S. It was only after the Gulf War, by which time bin Laden had moved his operations to Sudan (he would later be forced to shift back to Afghanistan), that he started to target Americans."
In 1998, when Usama bin Laden declared his second fatwa against the United States, he said that, "[F]or over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples."
The nature of al Qaeda's hatred for the United States was put into starkest terms by the federal government's own Defense Science Task Force: "U.S. policies and actions are increasingly seen by the overwhelming majority of Muslims as a threat to the survival of Islam itself [...] Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,' but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf States."
If we are to weigh the costs of empire, we must realize that the threat of radical Islamic terrorism is the fall-out of the Cold War. Perhaps there are those, like Mr. Brzezinski, who can look at the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, the Khobar towers, the U.S.S. Cole, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and say that the defeat of the Soviet Union was worth the cost. I cannot count myself among them. But whatever you think of the worthiness of Cold War foreign policy, let's not fool ourselves, and make no mistake about it: the terrorists do not hate us for our freedoms, they hate us for our foreign policy.
Jonah Goldberg echoes William F. Buckley in saying that hard thinking is required of conservatives. This hard thinking must not fall prey to "fighting the last war," and it absolutely must comprehend the unintended consequences of American empire. We must remember too, that unintended consequences are not the only cost of empire.
Mr. Goldberg argues that, despite numerous warnings to the contrary, empire overseas and civil liberties at home are not incompatible. While it is true that domestic freedoms have seen occasional steps forward despite an aggressive foreign policy, this is by no means the natural trend, and examples more contemporary than the repeal of the Corn Laws paint a different picture.
The Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act are but two examples of our domestic laws infringing on our liberties as a result of foreign policy. The case of Brandon Mayfield, who was erroneously imprisoned without criminal charges and allegedly without access to family or legal counsel, should be chilling to every American. The entirety of the Patriot Act, from the issuance of National Security Letters to provisions allowing the indefinite detention based on secret evidence of any alien believed by the Attorney General to be a national security threat, is a threat not only to our civil liberties, but also to our constitutional system of checks and balances; inordinate amounts of power are vested in the Executive branch with little provision for Judicial oversight. The Military Commissions Act further solidifies Executive power, allowing anyone, including U.S. Citizens, to be detained indefinitely, without habeus corpus rights, on the say-so of the Executive branch.
S.1959, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, has truly turned the war on terrorism's eye inward. While I'm not going to engage in the hysterics and hyperbole of some of my libertarian friends, there is no question that the vague definitions of this bill (what constitutes an "extremist" belief system, exactly? Didn't Goldwater have something to say about that?), the potential for McCarthyism by the bill's committee, and the potential legislative recommendations of the committee ought to at least give us pause, if they aren't quite cause for alarm and panic.
Finally, we must consider the economic costs of empire. Need I remind conservatives that the government has no money of it's own, that every dime spent by the government is a dime taken from the private individuals who produced it, either currently or in a future generation? Given this, how many billions of dollars of our money are spent each year maintaining an American empire?
According to a State department report, American taxpayers spent nearly $24 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq in 2004. In addition, we were taxed $6.2 billion for "bilateral development assistance," $5.4 billion for "economic aid supporting U.S. political and security objectives," $2.55 billion for "humanitarian assistance," $1.7 billion for "multilateral assistance," and $4.8 billion for "military assistance" to foreign governments. That's a total of $44.65 billion dollars spent on foreign aid from just one federal department for just one fiscal year. One would think that, for that kind of money, we'd bought the love and good-will of all people around the world, right? No; instead, we are accused of being "stingy."
More recently, we've proposed a $63 billion arms deal with Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and five Gulf states. We also have a deal with Pakistan to provide $10 billion in military and other assistance to Musharraf's government. Note that support for these exact countries was noted by the Defense Science Task Force as a major grievance of the "overwhelming majority" of Muslim voices.
None of this even begins to touch on the profligate spending by the Department of Defense to maintain over 700 bases in 130 countries around the world. Nor does it account for the billions of dollars spent each day fighting the war in Iraq, much of which is borrowed from China. How much good could be done with our money if it were left in our pockets, rather than drained from us to be sent overseas?
The end of the Cold War has eliminated the conservative movement's rationale for supporting American empire. The fallout of the Cold War has shown us, in no uncertain terms, the enormous cost in lives, liberties and treasure of maintaining a global empire. Honest men may have been honestly mistaken in supporting empire to combat the Soviet Union. Now that the Soviet menace is gone and our imperial chickens have come home to roost, it is obvious that America must abandon her imperial ambitions if the American people are to remain safe, free and prosperous.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Iran's actions have been characterized by our current administration, Presidential candidates, and conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity as both state-sponsorship of terrorism and an aggressive act against the United States, bordering on an informal declaration of war. Many Americans' initial reaction is to agree that Iran is a threat which must be neutralized. But is there something else to consider here? Are we seeing the whole picture?
Remember that in 1979, Islamic fundamentalists--including a young Usama bin Laden--started gathering in Afghanistan. This group called itself the "mujahideen," (literally strugglers, though "those who wage jihad" may be more accurate) and were gathered together to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. It was the American CIA, working with the Pakistani ISI, who recruited, trained, armed and financed the mujahideen, which would eventually become al Qaeda (in fact, UBL refers to his group as "mujahideen" in his latest video). Seeing that the USSR was making a push toward the oil-rich Arabian peninsula, the CIA used the mujahideen as a proxy to enforce our doctrine of "containment" of the Soviet Union. This action was regarded as necessary and proper in defending our broadly-defined national security interests.
Once again, Iran is castigated and called a state sponsor of terrorism for using proxies and guerrilla tactics against the United States. Yet, when the United States used proxies and guerrilla tactics against the Soviet Union, we were acting in a strategic, defensive capacity. Only blatant intellectual dishonesty could possibly allow such a contradiction. If we are to be honest, then either both the United States and Iran are "state sponsors of terrorism," or we are both acting for our national security interest. Remember, too, that Iraq is Iran's neighbor. It could be argued that we were defending our regional allies by helping Afghanistan resist the Soviets, but there is no real sense in which the United States was acting in national self-defense when we created the mujahideen. Iran, on the other hand, actually has a US presence on it's western border.
Rather than talking to the Iranians and trying to allay their fears that they are our next target in the Global War on Terror, or even condemning their human rights abuses and encouraging democratic change in Iran, we are parking battleships off the Iranian coast, planning three-day strikes against Iranian infrastructure, and even threatening to unleash the incomparable evil of a preemptive nuclear strike against Iran.
This sort of behavior endangers our troops in Iraq, as the Iranians are given more reason to keep us bogged down there, so we are unable to invade them. We are effectively silencing internal voices of dissent as the Iranian people fall under the all-too-familiar spell of unity in the face of a common enemy. Finally, it damages our standing in the eyes of the world, including our friends and allies; no country would countenance a preemptive nuclear strike, and we have to wonder how China, Russia, Europe and the rest of the Middle East will react if they think that the United States is seeking strategic control over the oil fields of Iraq and Iran.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
The field of politics is an excellent place to find potential jackasses. I will concentrate on three overlapping groups of people who, in attempting to rebel against the status-quo, manage to become dangerously conformist: socialists, environmentalists and the ubiquitous protestors. These people have one thing in common: they reject traditional values, then accept their perceived opposite without bothering to actually think about what is right, wrong, true or false.
Most people perceive capitalism to be the foundation of America’s economy. While this hasn’t been strictly true since FDR’s New Deal, it is still a common misperception; as such, young people looking for a way to be unique will often turn to socialism because it seems radical and shocking. They blindly follow anything Noam Chomsky and other leftist intellectuals spew out of their mouths, burn the American flag, declare corporations to be evil and disparage the American way of life with thousands of their “fellow travelers,” all while depending on the basic freedoms that no socialist country has ever allowed. Survey says: you are jackasses!
Environmentalists, or “greens,” are another good example of mindless rebels. Often aligned with socialists, these geniuses whine about things like global warming, overlooking the fact that their spokesmen, such as Paul Erlich, were screaming about global cooling in the 1960’s, and predicting world-wide famines in the 1970’s. These people are completely impervious to facts, logic and reality. Greens lobby for forced recycling, ignoring the fact that it takes more fossil fuels to recycle plastic than it does to create new plastic. Greens’ favorite pastime is rallying around one pet catastrophe after another. News flash for Henny-Penny environmentalists: the sky isn’t falling, you’re just jackasses.
The third example from the political realm is the protest movement. This movement started in the 1960’s with the masses of unwashed hippies who protested the Vietnam War. Unsurprisingly, many of the members of this group are also socialists and/or greens. Critical thought isn’t important for a protester. As long as you’ve got a catchy slogan, pissed-off demeanor and plenty of cardboard signs, you can be one of them. Do you enjoy protesting things like: the G8 summit, the latest war, fur coats and rich people? Do your hobbies include: breaking windows, throwing Molotov cocktails at cops and tipping SUVs? If so, congratulations! You’re a jackass.
This general jackassery bleeds over into pop culture as well, particularly the so-called “Generation X” phenomenon. You know the type: unshaven, bleary-eyed teenagers who bathe less often than a Frenchman, wear ill-fitting clothes and prefer “slacking off” to getting a job and doing something productive. These are the same people that “X-treme” marketing caters to, and can generally be described as X-treme jackasses.
A good example of the conformity-in-disguise of Gen-X is the number of so-called subcultures that are based purely on aesthetics. Specifically, I’m thinking of the “emo” kids and the punks. Emo “culture” is identified by the wearing of all black, as if to symbolize that life is dreary and pointless which, for most of these kids, is true. Self-mutilation is also essential to the emo kid. Punks also have their own style—too much gunk in their hair, spiked bracelets, worn-out clothing, tattoos and body piercings—which they enforce as strictly as any military uniform. Depending on how “hardcore” a given punk is, he or she may refuse to listen to any music that’s put out by a major record label, not because the music is bad or because the artists club baby seals in their off-time, but because anyone who is successful is automatically a sellout. Both of these groups are trying so hard to be different and unique, just like all their friends. Here’s a tip for all you emos and punks: cutting yourself and spiking your hair doesn’t make you cool. It just might, however, make you a jackass.
What, you might ask, is responsible for turning an entire generation into conformist jackasses? It all goes back to many people’s decision to let other people do their thinking for them. Why bother coming up with your own style when you can turn on MTV, the cultural Mecca of Cool, to find out exactly what you should be wearing, listening to and thinking? MTV claims to be racy, edgy and different, but in reality they’ve just taken the lowest common denominator of cultural phenomena and turned them into a new standard of conformity. Anyone who produces, stars in, or religiously watches anything on MTV is a grade-A, prime example of a jackass. Small coincidence that “Jackass” is the name of one of their more popular, and more mind-numbing, programs.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
On August 15, 1969, the unfortunate residents of upstate New York found their peaceful, quiet community had been invaded. The intruders were not a conquering army bent on pillage and plunder; they were creatures much more vile: hippies. A scant month after NASA had put men on the moon, thereby achieving mankind’s greatest technological triumph, the single largest gathering ever of subhuman bipeds took place. Woodstock, a three-day long “music” festival, was a critical mass of the worst elements of humanity.
Hippies have plagued civilization since the mid-1960s, when experimentation with drugs—especially hallucinogens like lysergic acid diethylamide-25 (LSD), psilocybin, and mescaline—became popular among American youth. Drugs are life’s blood and mother’s milk to the hippy. Places with a large hippy population, like California, are awash with marijuana, LSD, cocaine and various other drugs. Psychedelic drugs have inspired many of the defining characteristics of the hippy. Tie-dyed shirts, folk music and black-light posters are but a few of the common hippy’s psychedelically-inspired accoutrements.
Hippies can generally be found en masse in places like the University of California Berkeley campus, Earth Day rallies, Burning Man festivals and Grateful Dead or Phish concerts. In order to get a better understanding of hippies, it is necessary to observe them in their natural habitat, however unpleasant this may be. While the reasons for UC Berkeley’s great percentage of hippies is not fully known, it is suspected that some Californians who have enough money to send their hippy kids to college are often former hippies themselves, and consider sending their kids to UC Berkeley to be a sort of apprenticeship. Thus, an otherwise prestigious college becomes a kind of guild for the spoiled progeny of hippies who either grew up or got lucky. After a few semesters at UC Berkeley, a budding young drug addict is able to achieve the status of full-fledged hippy, just like his or her parents, thereby completing the cycle.
One of the hippy’s favorite pastimes is whining about the environment. In 1970, Earth Day was created as a way for hippies everywhere to whine together about the importance of pristine nature and the evils of industry and western civilization. While bitching about the environment is important to hippies, it is secondary to the consumption of mind-altering substances. Burning Man festivals and concerts for bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish are gathering places for masses of hippies who come with the intent of destroying the remnants of their brains with drugs and rambling, incoherent folk music.
The common hippy is not hard to detect. From afar, one can observe several common characteristics of a hippy. Volkswagen vans seem to be the hippy’s vehicle of choice, despite the automobile’s inefficiency and pollution output. Hippies tend to wear dirty, ill-fitting clothes, usually emblazoned with peace signs and often tie-dyed. Whether male or female, the hippy will have long, matted hair that looks as if it hasn’t been washed in months, and hippies of neither gender will be clean-shaven, perhaps because it is impossible to shave when you’re stoned out of your mind.
If one is unfortunate enough to come into close contact with a hippy, their distinct odor will be readily apparent. Hippies almost always smell like a combination of dirty clothes, body odor, pot smoke and incense. Female hippies will sometimes perfume themselves with patchouli oil, as though they don’t smell enough like moist dirt naturally. For those ill-fated souls who actually come into physical contact with a hippy, the hippy’s distinct texture will be noticed. Hippies very rarely exercise or shower, since both require effort, so they feel like slimy, gritty bean bags.
Under the laws of evolution, it is reasonable to expect that hippies would be an endangered species. Yet somehow, they have managed to survive and even thrive, like cockroaches in a nuclear winter. In a perfect world, hippies would either not exist at all, or they would be awkward teenagers going through a particularly stupid phase. In the real world, however, there are no easy answers to the hippy problem. Short of carpet-bombing Phish concerts and Earth Day rallies, we may have no choice but to wait until California breaks off of the North American continent and floats out to sea, never to return.
Friday, September 7, 2007
Update: Thanks to Danny for sending me a link to the transcript. They were still working on this when I originally posted.
For those who don't know, Michael Sheuer was the head of the CIA's bin Laden unit, and has spent many years studying bin Laden and al Qaeda. His book, Imperial Hubris, argues that al Qaeda attacked America, not because of the 1st and 19th Amendments or Baywatch, but because of American foreign policy in the Middle East.
Just a few minutes ago, Neil Cavuto interviewed Michael Sheuer, asking him about being mentioned in the new UBL tape. Mr. Sheuer told Mr. Cavuto that the CIA has been telling politicians for 12 years that our foreign policy was causing these problems, and that he wasn't saying the policies were good or evil, but simply trying to understand the motivation of our enemies.
Sheuer then said that, "The nineteen men running for President, with the exception of Mr. Kucinich and Mr. Paul, are lying to the American people about this."
When former CIA analysts are telling us (on Fox News, no less) that our presidential candidates are lying to us, we have a serious problem. The question now is whether the American people, and specifically Fox News viewers, will take this message to heart, or whether they'll continue to stick their collective heads in the sand and chant the catechism, "They hate us for our freedoms."
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
These are a bit hard to make out, so on one side we have: The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama; Grand Illusion, which attacks Giuliani's record after 9/11; Living History by Hillary Rodham-Clinton; A Woman in Charge about HRC; Winning the Future by Newt Gingrich, who isn't running, by the way; Four Trials by John Edwards and Character is Destiny, a collection of short stories gathered by John McCain. On the other side, we have: A Mormon in the White House?, which is, admittedly, a slobbering defense of Romney; Between Worlds by Bill Richardson, Her Way, an unauthorized but mostly sympathetic biography of HRC; It Takes a Village by HRC; Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama and finally, Leadership by Rudy Giuliani.
So where does that leave us? Out of thirteen books total, we have six books actually written by Democratic presidential candidates, two books about HRC, and one book attacking a Republican candidate. That's nine out of thirteen, almost 70%, of the campus book store's "On the Candidates" series for the Democrats (including one that's just attacking a Republican). On the other hand, we have two books written by actual Republican presidential candidates (and of course, they couldn't put Leadership on there without having Grand Illusion on the other side. Not that I'm a fan of Giuliani, but still.), one book by a Republican who isn't running for president, and one book defending a Republican presidential candidate.
Now, maybe this isn't evidence of liberal bias on campus. Maybe it just means that the Republicans on campus have better things to do than read books by/about presidential candidates. You know, stuff like studying, working, or maybe doing shots of whiskey out of a stripper's navel. But take this into context with the actual school books required for some of the classes. I recall seeing a book by leftist icon Mumia Abu Jamal, many books on the negative impact of industrial civilization on the environment, and a virtually countless, mind-numbing array of race- and gender-baiting books decrying the evil that is the White Male Power Structure(tm). The only thing missing (and I probably just didn't see it) was the complete works of Noam Chomsky. And I haven't even mentioned the bulletin boards all over campus, which are an eclectic mix of job advertisements (including one for the Democratic Party of Kentucky. None for Republicans.) and seminar fliers for topics like "Black Lesbians" and "Ten Things Men Can Do To Stop Gender Violence." I'm considering whether I need to invest in an armored codpiece to protect against impending emasculation.
I'm still very excited to be back in college, and I'm enjoying the university setting so far, despite the minor annoyances of megaphone-wielding fratboys hawking their juvenile social clubs and the milieu of clueless hipsters who think pink and blue hair, combined with enough piercings to look like they just lost an intense battle with a tackle box, will make them a unique individual, just like all their friends. I am, however, beginning to wonder how Republicans, conservatives, libertarians and other non-lefties manage to make it through four years of college with their sanity intact. But, I figure if I can handle four years of daily ass-chewings, intense physical training and multiple deployments to hostile climates with hostile residents, college will be a walk in the park.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Friday, August 10, 2007
Dr. Paul and I talked briefly about why so many veterans are supporting Ron Paul, and I pointed out that, having taken an oath--and pledged our lives--to uphold and defend the Constitution ourselves, we have a tremendous amount of respect for elected officials who take that oath seriously. We also discussed the multi-billion dollar arms deal Secretary Rice plans to offer several countries in the Middle East, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain. Aside from the fact that we're arming oppressive and unstable regimes in the most highly unstable region of the world, we also get the added benefit of instigating an arms race in the Middle East. Does anyone seriously think that Iran will have any choice but to seek The Bomb if surrounded by extremely well-armed, unfriendly neighbors? Does anyone seriously believe Khomeini and Ahmadinejad incapable of procuring any of the thousands of nuclear weapons in former Soviet-bloc nations--Iran's back yard?
Another topic of discussion was immigration. Dr. Paul pointed out that we don't need new laws, we need to enforce the laws we already have, and maybe stop sending our border guards to Iraq or prison. He also said that the best way to deal with immigration is to take away the incentive of entitlement programs for illegals, including birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants--a deliberate distortion of the 14th Amendment. He also pointed out that Ron Paul voted for building the border fence. I was a bit distracted by my Kentucky Hot Browns (a delicious open-faced turkey sandwich with cheese and bacon, highly recommended!) and didn't hear who said the word, but someone referred to the border fence as "Berlin-esque." I had to laugh a bit at that, not because it's an absurd comparison, but because I said to a friend of mine a few days ago that if we'd built a fence back in the 1980s, we could have had the grotesque spectacle of Gorbachev saying, "Mr. Reagan, tear down this wall!" I'm fully aware that something must be done about the border situation, and as much to protect us from Islamic terrorists as to stem the tide of illegal immigration. I just wish it didn't take a wall to do the job, and I'm completely unconvinced that a fence will be effective without ending entitlements for illegals, vigorously enforcing immigration laws and stepping up the Border Patrol.
I asked about abolishing the Federal Reserve and, if not returning us to the Gold Standard or 19th-Century bimetallism, at least moving us toward a commodity-backed currency. Dr. Paul said this could possibly be accomplished by changing Legal Tender laws so that private currencies could compete with Fed notes. This is an interesting idea, and I'm not going to pretend I have the economics acumen to know exactly how this would work, but I certainly think it's something worth pursuing. I expect President Paul would probably have a team of economists (of the Austrian school variety, naturally) working on this on January 20th, 2009.
I also asked about what a Ron Paul cabinet might look like, given that he has mentioned (in a television interview in New Hampshire, sorry no link) George Mason University economics professor Walter Williams as a potential VP. Unfortunately, this isn't something Ron Paul has really focused on, and I can certainly understand why. After all, we're still many months away from the primaries, and the primary focus (no pun intended) now needs to be on building a campaign, not building an administration. Still though, I'd love to hear some name-dropping. Judge Andrew Napolitano for SCOTUS, maybe?
Another gentleman asked about what a severe downsizing of the federal government--our nation's largest employer--would mean for the economy. He made the unfortunate mistake of offering up IRS agents as an example, since Ron Paul would close down the IRS almost immediately, if he could. Dr. Paul answered that government is fraught with inefficiency, and is not the best delivery agent for any goods and services. This is a good point; many of the services offered by our government--and the jobs that go with them--should be moved to the private sector. I also pointed out that something like 1/4 of our federal employees are due to retire in the next four years. You don't have to put them out on the street, just don't hire replacements. And I couldn't resist having a bit of fun with the example of IRS agents. I mean seriously, who cares if tax collectors are unemployed? I get a little misty-eyed just picturing a tax man wearing one of those barrels like you used to see in cartoons and panhandling for change. But we don't have to throw them all out in the street; probably at least half of the bastards at the IRS ought to be thrown in jail.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Mr. Guariglia has written a rather sad excuse of a hit piece attacking the foreign policy concept of blowback. This piece is noteworthy only in that it's the first time (AFAIK) that someone has actually tried to seriously address Ron Paul's foreign policy stance. It seems that the "ignore" phase is over with; neoconservative pundits are now in attack mode. Seriously though, if this is the best they can come up with, we've already won.
People like Nick Guariglia, Rudy Giuliani, and Bush's entire administration are willfully self-deluded if they believe the terrorists hate us for the 1st and 19th Amendments and Baywatch. Guariglia's intellectual bankruptcy is evident by the fact that he resorts to ad hominem attacks against Michael Sheuer--who spent many years of his life studying bin Laden and fundamentalist Islam--rather than actually addressing his points. Here are some facts, with cited sources (Guariglia doesn't seem to be familiar with these) which clearly contradict this "feel-good" neoconservative explanation for terrorism.
The initial target [of al-Qaeda after Afghanistan] was not the U.S. but the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which al-Qaeda claimed were corrupt and too beholden to the U.S. It was only after the Gulf War, by which time bin Laden had moved his operations to Sudan (he would later be forced to shift back to Afghanistan), that he started to target Americans. (TIME Magazine, Nov 4, 2001)
[Usama bin Laden] … stresses grievances against the United States widely shared in the Muslim world. He inveighed against the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam’s holiest sites. He spoke of the suffering of the Iraqi people as a result of sanctions imposed after the Gulf War, and he protested U.S. support of Israel. (The 9/11 Report, section 2.2: Bin Laden’s Appeal in the Islamic World)
[F]or over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples.
The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies -- civilians and military -- is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque [Mecca] from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim. (Usama bin Laden’s 1998 Fatwa)
U.S. policies and actions are increasingly seen by the overwhelming majority of Muslims as a threat to the survival of Islam itself. (Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force)
Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,' but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf States. (Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force)
Saturday, July 21, 2007
While I'm quite excited to see Ron Paul's numbers up so much, I have a few worries about the methodology used to come up with these numbers. It seems that Dr. Terr assumes an across-the-board average $200-and-under donation of $30. While this would be a fine assumption if it were anything close to true, I have seen no evidence (and indeed no way of finding evidence) that would support this assumption. Nor is it safe to assume that every presidential campaign has the exact same average donation size for the $200-and-under category.
I don't mean to pick on Dr. Terr, quite the opposite in fact; I'm glad someone else is interested in getting these numbers. I think that this method could actually be the best predictor of the real support each candidate has, and thus could give us the best early picture of how the primaries might play out. Because of this, I think it's highly important that we get these numbers as accurate as possible, and not make sweeping assumptions without any evidence to back them up.
Dr. Terr, if you're reading this, please clarify exactly how you came up with an average donation size of $30 for all candidates. I'm extremely grateful that you're interested in this method of statistical analysis, and if we can come up with more accurate average-donation numbers, I'd like to combine that with the number of donors reported to the FEC on line 14(a) of the campaign finance reporting form. This should give us a very accurate look at how much support each candidate has at this point in the election cycle.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
1) He is the only candidate who understands the nature of the "War on Terror" and is willing to tell uncomfortable truths about it. We aren't in the middle of an inevitable clash of civilizations, and we aren't being attacked because "they hate freedom."
In the 1980s, the CIA trained Usama bin Laden and the Mujahideen to drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. Our CIA funded the group, gave them weapons, and capitalized on the Muslim fear of foreign occupation in order to push out the Soviets. We used UBL as a proxy to enforce our policy of containment of the USSR. America is now in the position of a man who trains an attack dog to go after his enemies, only to have that dog attack his kids.
When you're in that situation, the proper course of action is easy to see: you put the dog down and you stop training attack dogs. Yet, almost six years after 9/11, UBL is alive and well. Have we at least learned from our mistakes and stopped training attack dogs? Of course not! We're arming the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, so long as they promise only to fight Al Qaeda! Instead of dealing with both the problem and the policy that led to it, we're ignoring the real threat, and further destabilizing a historically volatile region using the same failed Wilsonian foreign policy that got us into this mess.
Ron Paul is the only candidate on either side of the aisle who is talking about actually changing our foreign policy at a fundamental level. While the "top-tier" candidates bicker over whether we have to "democratize the Middle East" as a unilateral action or with the help and assistance of the UN and our enemies in the area, Ron Paul has consistently been the lone voice of reason saying that we have no national security interest in the Middle East, other than leaving that god-forsaken desert.
2) He understands and will talk about the inner workings of the Federal Reserve System, and campaigns on abolishing this monster. It's really rather amazing that more of our lawmakers don't seem to understand or care about this issue. The fact that the value of our money is decided by an elite handful of unelected, unaccountable private bankers meeting secretly in a marble palace ought to be shocking to every American.
The fact that these private bankers, with the help of Senator Nelson Aldrich, wrote the very laws that give them such power ought to have every one of us ready to reach for our guns. Or at least ready to pull the ballot lever marked "Ron Paul." If you think I'm exaggerating, I urge you to read The Creature From Jekyll Island, Secrets of the Temple or Congressman McFadden's Speech then judge for yourself.
3) He wants to get rid of the Income Tax and the IRS. He's not alone on this; Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo both support the FairTax, which repeals the 16th Amendment and gets rid of the Tax Gestapo. What's different about Ron Paul is that he wants to replace the Income Tax with nothing.
The FairTax is revenue-neutral, which means the bureaucracy in Washington still gets the same amount of money, they just make it more expensive for us to buy nice things with a progressive national sales tax. Wouldn't a progressive sales tax just put things like computers, cell phones and automobiles further out of the economic reach of the poor, working class and the middle class?
I fully admit that Ron Paul needs to do a better job articulating where the federal government would get it's funding without an income tax, without the Fed, and without tariffs. I know we could use excise taxes or a flat national sales tax on all non-food items to generate revenue, but I haven't heard Paul really address this in any detail.
Update: I apologize most humbly for my ignorance of the FairTax. I was under the mistaken impression that it is a progressive sales tax; this is not true. The FairTax is a flat national sales tax, and while I still don't like the idea of a revenue-neutral tax structure, there is no question that the FairTax would be a vast improvement over our current system. On further reading, I think the FairTax may actually be the perfect vehicle for funding during a transition period to a smaller federal government. My optimistic side thinks that the tax rate could even be lowered as we need less money for the federal budget, but my inner realist (or cynic, whatever) thinks that's about as likely to happen as me winning the lottery, which I don't play.
4) The man has integrity! All the Washington games of vote-trading, vote-buying, special interest groups and lobbyists seem to have had no effect on Dr. Paul. His rhetoric and voting record have been consistently principled over 10 terms in Congress. To deliberately use rabid fan-boy hyperbole, it's like Ron Paul is Frodo Baggins: able to be trusted with the Ring of Power because of his relative immunity to it's corrupting influence. (Ok, so I'm a nerd. Sue me.)
5) He understands that the 2nd Amendment applies to individuals, not militias. (If you disagree with that, please let me know why so I can obliterate your argument with historical facts.) Ron Paul has consistently received A+ ratings from the Gun Owners of America. What can I say, I'm from Kentucky. We like our guns.
6) He is possibly our only chance to stay out of war with Iran. Having already spent more time than I care to in the deserts of the Middle East, and having recently separated from active duty in the Marine Corps, I'm really not too keen on the idea of being recalled to active duty to fight another war in the desert that has nothing to do with our national security.
I was listening to a Ron Paul interview the other day (sorry, no link) where he points out something I hadn't considered before: when we threaten Iran over it's nuclear program (and like it or not, Iran does have the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes such as power, according to the Non-Proliferation Treaty) or we park warships off the Iranian coast, we're helping Ahmadinejad by effectively silencing his opposition. That's hard to follow, let me explain.
Remember the mood of the country from January to October, 2001? The Democrats were convinced that Bush had used foul play to steal the election. The fact that Gore had won the popular vote but lost the electoral college had many on the left wondering whether we even needed an electoral college, and of course there were the dangling chads and functionally-illiterate Floridians. Then, we were attacked. On September 12, 2001, there were no Republicans and Democrats. There were only Americans who were shocked, afraid and mad-as-hell. Those who opposed the president either changed their tune or shut up entirely after we were attacked, at least for a while.
This is what happens when any country is attacked, or under threat of an attack. Centrists and members of the opposition find themselves supporting their leader, or at least remaining silent in their opposition. There are Iranians who do not want to live under the Ayatollah's theocracy. While I don't think we should be supporting them financially or militarily, (see Attack Dogs above) I certainly think that we ought to take away Ahmadinejad and Khomeini's great unifying tool: fear of an attack on Iran by the U.S. If the Iranian government didn't have us there to portray as a menace requiring Iranian unity, they might just be forced to adopt the more democratic reforms of the opposition.
Ok, this ended up being a bit longer than I anticipated. If you made it this far, thanks. Now go spread the word and vote for Ron Paul!
This means that the number of individual donors indicated on the FEC's website only reflects the number of over-$200 donors. Individuals who donated $200 or less are not listed here at all, meaning that a very large segment of the donating public would not be accounted for in my percentages.
For example, if we assume that all $1,423,883 of $200-or-less donations to Ron Paul came in exactly $200 increments, (Admittedly, this is mathematically impossible, and a horrible assumption in any case. Bear with me.) then we see that at least 7,120 donors would not be counted. This is more than thrice the 2,236 reported by the FEC, and could seriously affect percentages for candidates with low numbers. Obama's numbers are even more staggering; with $16,554,783 reported in $200-or-less, at least 82,774 of his supporters would not be counted.
I am left with no real option here. If I really want accurate data, I'm going to have to contact each individual campaign committee treasurer and get either the total number of individuals, or the average donation size for the $200-or-less category. I've already started this, but haven't heard back from anyone yet, which could mean they don't have the data, or it could mean they aren't going to waste their time giving it to someone who doesn't work for Fox, CNN, etc.
At best, the numbers I can come up with now are sketchy. I can either run with the numbers listed on the FEC's website, or I can make the obviously false, very poor assumption of exact $200 donations for the entire category, which will give me the minimum number of uncounted supporters. Neither of these options is particularly attractive to me, and I would consider either of them to be "For Amusement Purposes Only". Incidentally, my Q1 numbers were ran with the FEC-listed numbers, meaning they have the same problem. I will update that post accordingly.
So, what do you guys think? Interested in seeing numbers that you absolutely know are wildly inaccurate? If so, let me know and I'll do the best I can with the numbers I have. If/when I get numbers from the campaign committees, (and believe me, I'll keep trying) I will do this the right way, and we can get a really clear picture of who has the most support in the Primaries. Let's just hope I get the numbers sometime before Super Tuesday, or this whole thing will be pointless.
Monday, July 16, 2007
(Source: Federal Elections Commission)
FOR AMUSEMENT PURPOSES ONLY!*
Draw your own conclusions, make your own judgments. These are the facts. It will be interesting to see the numbers for the second quarter, and to see a comparison of the two.
*I've written a rather lengthy explanation of why these numbers are not accurate. Read it here.
Given this growing trend, it seems that our pollsters, in order to remain relevant, must change the way that they do business. I have an alternative which is relevant, which is future-proof in that it doesn't rely on any particular technology, and which is a true measure of the political leanings of the most politically-active segments of the population. Here, in brief, is the Cagle Method.
The first thing we need to do is get information on the number of individuals who have donated to a presidential campaign. The amount of each donation is irrelevant. What we're looking for is the number of individual donors; i.e. people who are able and likely to vote in a primary. Then, we simply add up the number of total individuals.
This gives us a pie, not made up of campaign dollars, but of likely primary voters. If we're going to look for relevant figures, there is no more relevant study group than individuals who donate money to presidential campaigns. If someone is passionate enough about a candidate to donate money to them, then it is fairly safe to assume that if their state primary was held tomorrow, they would vote for the candidate to whom they had donated.
This method--like polling methods--does have some flaws. For example, not everyone who will vote in a primary is able to donate money to a presidential campaign. This is especially true of the young and the poor. No single poll should ever be viewed as definitive or as a total representation of the country at large, and neither should any single analysis of statistics. However, it seems to me that the relevance of individual donors cannot be discounted, and should be used alongside other forms of public opinion data.
The main problem I have is that this data doesn't seem to be available. The Federal Elections Commission only lists dollar amounts. So, I'm putting a call out to anyone who can get me reliable data (i.e. from a campaign treasurer or the FEC) on the number of individual donors to each campaign. I'm happy to crunch the numbers, do the math and make all the nice charts and graphs, I just need the numbers.
Again, I don't care if they gave $20 or the maximum of $2,300, just so long as the numbers reflect the total number of individuals who donated. I'm not interested in numbers for PACs or "Other" since a committee, corporate entity, union or other legal fiction cannot vote. Also, please ensure that each donation is not counted multiple times if they came from the same individual. If someone gave $20 a week for a month, the data should reflect one individual, not four donations.
Update: This information is on the FEC's website! It's slightly buried, and it's for Q1, not Q2, but it's there. I'm going to run through the numbers for Q1, while awaiting the updated numbers, then we can compare both.
Saturday, June 9, 2007
Each candidate is paired with one other candidate for a 30-minute, one-on-one debate. At the end of each 30-minute block, the candidates swap their debate partners. Think speed-dating for politics. Before each block, each candidate picks one topic they would like to debate (i.e. foreign policy, the economy, healthcare, etc.) with their current partner. A moderator chooses a third topic. This gives each candidate an average of five minutes per topic per block. This is more time than even the most talkative windbags get for an entire debate currently, and they get it for one topic. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of this format.
- All candidates get equal time.
- The amount of time given per topic is enough for meaningful discussion.
- Everyone gets to debate everyone else, nothing goes unchallenged.
- Viewers are more fully informed.
- This will be a long process. Each of the eleven candidates will have to debate ten times. At thirty minutes each, that's a total of fifty five hours for viewers to watch, and five-and-one-half hours for the entire process to take place.
- This process could be more costly, as there would need to be ten moderators, one for each pairing of candidates.
- Community input would be virtually non-existent, with the possible exception of moderators using questions from the audience, local community or internet. This is the polar opposite of a town-hall format.
I know I've focused exclusively on the Republican debates, but they have more candidates, which means they would have the biggest time footprint, which is the main problem I see with this format. The Democrats could get this done with twenty eight hours of viewing time out of a three hour event. Am I missing anything here?
Like this idea?
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
1) Rudy Giuliani. I personally just don't like this guy, and never really have. His one alleged strength was his leadership on 9/11. True, his pouncing on Ron Paul at the SC debate won him the sound-bite-of-the-night award (with Gov. Huckabee's "John Edwards in a beauty shop" running a close second), but what happens if/when the Republicans find out that Ron Paul was right? Giuliani's self-proclaimed ignorance of the 9/11 Commission Report, the testimony of CIA and FBI counter-terrorism experts, bin Laden's 1996 and 1998 fatwas and other factual causes of anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world shows that he is completely unprepared to deal with what is perceived to be his strongest issue: radical Islamic terrorism!
Giuliani played to the crowd in SC by invoking Hillary Clinton. He was trying to convince the Republican crowd that he was the only one who stood a chance at defeating Clinton next year. I personally believe that the war in Iraq has taken on so much importance in this country, and is so opposed by so many people, that if the choices come down to a pro-war Republican and an anti-war Democrat, the Democrats will take the White House on that issue alone. I'm not saying that other issues aren't important to voters, but I think that, unless Bush somehow ends the war before the election, it will be the defining issue for most independent and swing voters.
I haven't even mentioned Giuliani's stances on abortion, gun control, gay marriage, or any of the other issues important to the Republican base, and quite frankly, it's been covered enough that I don't feel like I need to mention it further. The bottom line is that the people who vote in Republican primary elections disagree with Giuliani on too many issues for him to be able to count on their vote.
2) John McCain. McCain is going to have a pretty tough time with the Republican base. After all, his main highlight is being a "maverick", a reputation he gained by opposing his party's base with the awful McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Bill. Now he's attached his name to the Kennedy-McCain Immigration Bill, which absolutely is amnesty, and which was being opposed by conservatives even before the bill had been written. Being able to "reach across the aisle" might help you in the general election, but I don't see it being effective for primary votes.
McCain also has the same problem as Giuliani of being pro-war, and he's probably the most hawkish of the current candidates. I'm telling you, this is the issue that gave the Democrats both houses of Congress in 2006, and will give them the White House in 2008 if we nominate a war hawk.
3) Mitt Romney. This guy reminds me of Bill Clinton. He'll say whatever he has to say in order to get elected. Either the Republicans will be drawn in by this, or will be completely turned off by it. We can only hope for the latter. His record as governor of Massachusetts isn't going to help him with fiscal and social conservatives; his Mormonism, I think, is still going to be an issue for the Christian conservatives. Romney is yet another pro-war candidate, and I just do not see the American people electing a hawk in the general election, even if that means they have to elect Hillary.
That's it for the Old-Media-anointed "top-tier" candidates. Now I have to be honest, I haven't been following the campaigns of the other candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, so I don't really feel like I could add anything significant to the debate.
This post, however, is not about why I support Ron Paul (that will come later, I assure you), it's about why the GOP is in serious trouble. We have to get back to our roots, back to the Reagan/Goldwater days when the Republican party was about less government intrusion in our lives, lower taxes (and it's corollary, lower spending) and strong national defense. Since the GOP was hijacked by neoconservatives, we've shifted toward using government to promote "conservative" values, we've nominally lowered income taxes but have increased federal spending (which is the recipe for inflation and economic stagnation) and we've spread our troops all over the world which, far from increasing our national security, breeds anti-Americanism and lowers our military readiness. Still, all of this will be a moot point if we nominate a pro-war candidate next year.