Friday, December 30, 2011

The end of the GOP?

With less than a week to go until the Iowa caucuses, it looks ever more likely that Republicans will dutifully go to the polls to nominate Mitt Romney. Certainly, the big money is backing him--though even more is lined up behind President 99%. The media is doing everything in its power to marginalize Ron Paul, who is second to Romney--and even bests him in some polls. I remain hopeful that the good doctor can pull an upset, but at this stage, I think Romney will emerge victorious.

One should not, however, downplay the significance of Ron Paul's emergence as a top tier candidate even if he ultimately falls short in Iowa. Paul's emphasis on a non-interventionist foreign policy and his insistence that the Empire, which is an integral part of the State, is not sacrosanct and can therefore be cut, are not standard fare in Republican debates. In point of fact, for all that the Republicans insist that the Democrats are soft on terror, there is a bipartisan consensus in favor of war and defense spending.

These views are important, so we'll examine in them in some detail. Non-interventionists, as opposed to outright isolationists, insist that while there are criteria under which a nation may go to war, i.e. when that nation has been attacked, wars of aggression are immoral. They are also costly, in terms of both blood and money. The United States spends more money on "defense" than all other countries in the world combined. Our wars also produce what our CIA calls blowback: reciprocal responses to our policies. These responses harm our country, but they also have a tendency to provoke us into war, thereby setting us up for more blowback.

This message is resonating with a significant percentage of the electorate. The media, especially the Fox News crowd, refuses to consider the argument. Always on the lookout for prospective Hitlers to bomb, they insist that Paul's policies are bad for the country. Unfortunately, there's no evidence that this is the case. While GOP chicken hawks are eager to continue fighting the wars forever, and start new ones, too, the soldiers who fight the wars are proving reluctant to die for our Empire. For this reason, Paul has more contributions from military personal than do all the other Republican candidates combined.

From this policy stems Paul's insistence that the Empire--our soldiers in foreign countries, and the money to support this network of bases--be liquidated. Not only does it cost an enormous amount of money at a time when the nation is essentially broke, but it actually makes us less safe. Bush argued that the Iraqis and the Afghanis would welcome us with open arms. Instead, we found that civilians did not like being bombed, and that our policies made us less safe by creating enemies faster than we could kill them.

The criticism of Paul has everything to do with his foreign policy views. Republicans are so wedded to the warfare State that they cannot abide anyone who is insufficiently ready to spill the blood of others. Democrats meanwhile, don't particularly care about the war, as long as their President passes some sort of legislation to give more free things to regular people. That wars funded through inflation make all of us--except for the defense contractors--poorer, is not something we're supposed to notice. That's another strike on Paul, who keeps pointing that out.

Paul's rise, and corresponding witch hunt by media, left and right alike, has altered the political landscape. Conservatives and libertarians are noticing the way Paul is being treated. The same party that regularly touts pro-choice, anti-gun, big spending moderates, has shamefully accosted a long time Congressman with impeccable fiscal credentials for the heresy of questioning our foreign policy. This group may be, and indeed, probably is, too small to tilt the election to Paul, but they are not going to line up to vote for Romney after the way their candidate has been treated.

I suspect that this rift will cost Romney the election. The GOP elites will blame Paul and his people, but there is no rational reason why any conservative or libertarian would vote for a man who has shared almost every view of our current President; that he has absconded some of those views now that he is seeking the Republican nomination does him no good. He is a spineless weasel. That the elites prefer him to Paul tells one all one needs to know about the state of the party.

I will not even hazard a guess as to what may happen next, but I would not be surprised if this turns out to be the last election in which a Republican candidate runs for President. If Paul kills the soulless squid that is the GOP, he will have done this country a tremendous service.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Yeats on the candidates

I stumbled across William Butler Yeats' poem: The Second Coming. This time through, I was struck by the lines:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Now, doesn't that almost perfectly describe Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich? For while the former would make a dreadful president, he is at least a good man, whereas the latter fails on both accounts.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Smears away

There's a terrific smear piece over at Politico today. It really needs to be read in its entirety to appreciate the depths to which the writers have sunk in an attempt to discredit Ron Paul.

We'll examine some samples:

Paul poses an existential threat to the state’s cherished kick-off status, say these Republicans, because he has little chance to win the GOP nomination and would offer the best evidence yet that the caucuses reward candidates who are unrepresentative of the broader party.

We're seeing this notion--that Paul will not be able to obtain the GOP nomination--more frequently. Yet the whole point of the caucuses and primaries is to determine who the people prefer since our system is supposed to be, you know, democratic. We could tweak things a bit if we've like, but essentially the only way we can determine if a candidate has support is to have the citizens vote. After January 3rd, we'll know whom Iowans prefer, and we'll go from there.

What especially worries Iowa Republican regulars is the possibility that Paul could win here on January 3rd with the help of Democrats and independents who change their registration to support the libertarian-leaning Texas congressman but then don’t support the GOP nominee next November.

Translation: what worries Republicans is that Ron Paul puts loyalty to his principles and his country ahead of loyalty towards the party. Unsurprisingly, this is a large aspect of his appeal. Republicans can bemoan his reluctance to bomb Iran all they like; it is precisely this position, held firmly when revoking it would be politically expedient, that attracts independents and Democrats.

There is no indication that these same groups wouldn't vote for Paul against Obama if he were to obtain the GOP nomination. In regards to foreign policy and civil liberties, Obama has been little better than Bush--though one wouldn't know it from listening to the right. This has hurt him with his base, who would be reluctant to vote for another Republican warmonger, but would be receptive to vote for Paul.

“People are going to look at who comes in second and who comes in third,” said Gov. Terry Branstad. “If [Mitt] Romney comes in a strong second, it definitely helps him going into New Hampshire and the other states.”

Romney is the establishment candidate this time around. He has loads of money, not from individual contributors, but from large corporations and banks, who know that Romney can be counted on to ensure that no substantial change occurs. The not so subtle message here is: Romney will be the nominee, so get in line and vote for him.

“Everybody has the perception that there’s absolutely no way [Paul] can win the nomination, whereas a Mike Huckabee coming out of nowhere at the end to pull out a victory here – he was a serious contender,” said Lamberti. “That’s the distinction that has the potential to do real damage to Iowa.”

Notice the double standard here. If Iowa is worried about discrediting the caucus system, they shouldn't bring up Huckabee, who turned out to be unelectable. Of course, no one knew much about Huckabee, whereas "everybody" knows that "there's absolutely no way [Paul] can win the nomination" so you can see how it's actually different. I'm familiar with the argumentum ad populum logical fallacy, but this is more absurd still. If I say that everybody knows that Lamberti is an obnoxious blowhard, I'm not telling the truth, but we have at least one example to lead us towards that conclusion.

“What has me concerned is that on Main Street Iowa people are coming up to me and saying, ‘What do you think about Dr. Paul?’” said Cable. “These are folks who have to be informed. They have to get past the 30 and 60 second ads. If you ask Iowans if they’re for legalizing marijuana or legalizing heroin, they’d say no. But Dr. Paul has said on many occasions that that’s ok. But people don’t all know that.”

This is probably my favorite part of the piece. Paul has consistently voiced his opinion on every issue about which he was asked a question during the debates. Granted, the Republicans were busy ignoring the "unelectable" candidates, so part of the ignorance is the fault of the establishment which is now doing everything in their power to downplay Paul's success.

Cable argues that the only reason people could be attracted to Paul is that they do not understand his views. This underestimates the number of people who are attracted to the entire program, along with those who, quibbles aside, understand that Paul stands with the people and against the ruling oligarchs on issues that matter.

But even when this isn't the case, he threatens the bifactional ruling party by widening the realm of acceptable discourse. The people are supposed to choose between Candidate A, who is prone to war and bailing out banks, and Candidate B, who is prone to bailing out banks and going to war.

The drug issue is a case in point. Not only are we supposed to support the War on Drugs, we're not supposed to mention it at all. So what if our policies haven't done anything to alleviate the drug problem? Who cares if inner-cities are uninhabitable and overrun with drugs? Why does it matter that hundreds of thousands of Americans have been incarcerated for non-violent crimes? The establishment tells us which questions we are allowed to ask, because this ensures we'll also come up with the right answers. These questions are not on the list.

Something very big is happening in this country right now. The extent of the corruption of the political system is coming to light If Paul wins Iowa, the establishment will have to decide if they will tolerate democracy, or if they will continue to smear the people's candidate--which will only make the corruption that much more apparent.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Now Rush, too

I have to wonder if the Republican Party is sending out emails to some of these talk show hosts. The modus operandi in 2008 was: pretend Ron Paul doesn't exist; exclude him from debates and he'll go away. But then he didn't go away. The recession, which he had been predictin for years, compelled many Americans to examine his views, despite the media blackout. Meanwhile, McCain, the moderate who was supposed to be electable, was defeated by Obama.

This time around, they tried to ignore him again. But suddenly Paul is second in Iowa. We are told that everyone knows that he isn't going to win the nomination. But how do we know this? Can Republicans predict the future? If so, they shouldn't have nominated McCain. He lost.

Anyway, the smear brigade is out in full force against Paul. Hannity came out against him yesterday, and today Rush Limbaugh took up the cry: anyone but Obama--except for Paul. Here's a selection of the transcript from his show:

The Tea Party wants that government cut down to size and they want it to happen in a big step. And Ron Paul's giving them meat. But they're not hearing much about his foreign policy. So his support actually could be widespread throughout Republican primary voters. We don't know. But Ron Paul has said things, for example, make you think that he believes 9/11 was an inside job, Ron Paul. He hasn't said it word-for-word, but the only conclusion you can draw when you listen to him talk about his theories on it...

We covered this yesterday. Ron Paul does not believe 9/11 was an inside job. What he has said is in agreement with the 9/11 Commission Report: that our policies precipitated blowback in the Middle East. This is not to say that the terrorists are not responsible for the attacks, only that our policies made such an attack more likely. Rush would like it if his listeners kept their heads in the sand: the terrorists are irrational, so anything we do to appease them will not be enough, they will attack us anyway. Yet it should be obvious that invading and occupying someone's homeland won't cause those people to think too kindly of the United States. We really shouldn't have to revisit this argument every time we discuss 9/11, but apparently it is still necessary to do so.

Rush continued:

No question about it. Ron Paul said -- I don't know if it was the last debate or in a town hall somewhere, but it was recently, Ron Paul said that the White House celebrated when 9/11 happened because that was their ticket to go into Iraq.

Here's the clip to which Rush is referring. Now, the point Paul was making should be fairly obvious. Just as the Obama administration used the economic crisis to effect policy changes on the domestic front, the Bush administration used 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq. This does not mean that Bush was happy that Americans died on 9/11, anymore than it means that Obama was glad that millions of Americans became poorer during the recession. It simply means that both knew that one should never let a crisis go to waste.

We know for a fact that an Iraq invasion was being planned prior to 9/11. It is doubtful whether Americans would have been whisked to war were it not for lies about WMDs and Saddam's connection with Al-Qaeda. Paul's point, then, is sound. And Limbaugh is playing the demagogue.

UPDATE: Rush was on Greta's show last night. The transcript is available here.

He mentions Ron Paul, only to say: "But I think right now anybody other than Ron Paul could beat Obama if the election were tomorrow, easily."

Yet this is patently untrue. According to a recent poll, Paul comes the closest of any Republican candidate to beating Obama; the poll shows a dead heat. Romney trails by 7 points and Gingrich trails by 10 points. It's true that this poll only counts Iowa voters, but this is consistent with older polls which survey voters from other states. On the basis of the latest polls then, Ron Paul has the best chance to defeat Obama. Rush is ignoring the data so that he can continue to ignore the candidate who worries him the most.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Anyone but him

On my way home from work today, I caught a bit of Sean Hannity's program. Hannity is a blowhard, but he has his uses, namely, in allowing us to see how the Republican party is reacting to various political news. Today he told us that while he could not yet make up his mind about which candidate to support, he could not support Ron Paul. This is interesting because most days Sean is bloviating about how Barack Obama is the most dangerous president ever, and that anyone would be preferable to him. Evidently he now prefers Obama to Ron Paul.

Hannity's reasons were twofold: Ron Paul is an isolationist; and he wrote some nasty newsletters back in the 90's. The first point is easily debunked, since Paul is not an isolationist. He's a non-interventionist; he was in favor of going after Al-Qaeda after 9/11 but wisely noted that failure to declare war would lead ensure that the conflict would never end. In fact, Paul has published a book which contains his many speeches he gave while in Congress. Reading this would enlighten Hannity, and prevent him from making foolish proclamations on national radio shows.

The newsletter issue is summarized here. Essentially, Ron Paul allowed someone else to edit and publish newsletters under his name. Some of the opinions therein were racist. Hence, the argument goes, Ron Paul should be disqualified from office. This is nonsense for a variety of reasons. For starters, Paul is only guilty of poor judgement if the newsletters were written by someone else. Moreover--and this is going to be a hard point to grasp since racism is seen as the worst possible crime--his policies are not racist; it's unclear how a libertarian would govern in a racist manner. This is not to concede that Paul is racist--no one who knows him or is familiar with his work makes this claim--only that if he were, it wouldn't be as bad as people might think. Obama is not racist against Middle Easterners, but that hasn't prevented him from killing scores of them in foolish wars. It's absurd to be more concerned about value judgements than policy implications, yet this is what Hannity is doing.

The truth is Hannity doesn't care about the newsletters. That these dubious charges of racism are the best dirt that his opponents--and yes, Hannity is an opponent of the good doctor--can dig up tells us a good deal about the strength of character which Paul possesses. No; what Hannity cares about is Paul's foreign policy views. Like any good neo-con, Hannity loves war. He's worried sick that Obama might not start a war with Iran, and he's tickled pink that the rest of the candidates have exhibited no trepidation towards yet another war.

The implications of this position are quite interesting. For both Gingrich and Romney share Obama's foreign policy views as well as his domestic views. It's true that both of the Republican candidates have told us that they will end Obamacare, but this aside, both are equally eager to continue deficit spending for years to come, rhetoric notwithstanding. On the war front, both are equally committed to Empire, though there might be some differences as to which countries we wouldn't invade--yet.

Now, Ron Paul also opposes Obamacare and promises to overturn it. He also promises to cut $1 trillion from the budget in his first year, which is 99% more than either Romney or Gingrich promise. However, he does have diverging views on foreign policy. By supporting Gingrich and Romney against Paul, Hannity is telling us that $1 trillion in spending cuts are not worth a change to foreign policy. In other words, he's more than willing to accept another big government conservative than concede any ability to wage additional wars. Never mind that we don't have the money to wage any more expensive wars since we keep nominating big government conservatives.

We know from talk radio that anyone who doesn't vote for Republican candidate X is really voting for Democrat candidate Y--never mind the logic; we're in talk radio land. So what Hannity is saying when he admits that he will not support Paul is that he prefers an Obama presidency to a Paul one. Which is to say that he will not give up Obama's foreign policy for Paul's, even if it means that we can repeal Obamacare and cut $1 trillion from the budget. This is very interesting, because it's a tacit admission that Paul is to "the left" of Obama on the war front, that is, he is less likely to go to war than our current president. This is precisely the reason Paul would do so well against Obama, who would be forced to run as a hawk, thereby alienating his base.

The inescapable conclusion is that there is no party for conservatives. The only thing that the War, err, Republican Party wishes to conserve is our Empire. Every other constituency must sacrifice its principles for the good of the party: pro-lifers have to tolerate pro-choice candidates, second amendment proponents must not quibble with candidates who promote gun control legislation, fiscal hawks must support big spenders. Only the imperialists are exempt from sacrifice.

The reality is that there are a lot of people who make an awful lot of money off of our Empire, and they're not going to see the spigot closed without putting up a fight. It's going to get very nasty for Dr. Paul as his campaign continues to grow. The good news is that this is forcing so-called conservatives to show their hands. Hence forth, it's impossible to view Hannity as anything more than a warmonger.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The electability canard

As we head into primary season, the Republican race has been whittled down to three: Mitt Romney, bankster candidate with deep pockets of corporate cash, for whom the base has shown little enthusiasm; Newt Gingrich, serial adulterer and consummate Washington insider who is smart, and, most importantly, is not Romney; and the elderly and sometimes rambling libertarian doctor from Texas, Ron Paul.

The elites have ordained Mitt Romney as the most electable of the candidates, or even, the only one who can beat Obama. This tired argument is trotted out every time the party nominates a candidate who is anathema to the base. We saw it with Dole and again with McCain. Both of whom, interestingly enough, failed to win the elections despite their purported electability. The main reason, then, that this argument is a fundamentally foolish one, is that no one knows who will be the next President. In the end, only one candidate will prove to be electable, which is to say, elected.

But this is not to say that we cannot attempt to analyze how electable a candidate might be. The usual tactic is to assume that, since conservatives can be expected to vote for anyone not named Obama, the dullest, safest, moderate will attract votes from independents and moderates. There are two problems with this approach. For starters, it's unclear what is to be gained by nominating someone who doesn't share the same values as his supporters. If merely defeating Obama is the goal, the Republicans may as well run Hillary Clinton for president. I don't think they would be satisfied with the effects of any subsequent electoral victory.

The second problem is that it ignores the most important sector of the electorate: the non-voter. Obama won for a variety of reasons, but his campaign was undoubtedly helped by the many first time voters who came out to support him in his historic election. Neither Romney nor Gingrich is likely to exhibit such pull, but Ron Paul will draw in libertarians, young voters, disenchanted democrats who appreciate his stance on civil liberties and foreign policy, as well as independents who vote for candidates who are different from the usual fare--think Ross Perot.

Now, it's possible that those on the right who dislike Paul's positions on foreign policy will stay home. But it's less likely that life long Republicans will vote for Obama, so depending on the number of independents he would bring in, this may well be a wash. In any event, such a boycott would be instructive. Republicans are supposed to care about reducing the size of government. Lo and behold, a candidate offers to cut 1 trillion dollars per year, and to balance the budget during his first term. Alas, he is insufficiently enthusiastic about continuing our wars and starting some more--which, incidentally, costs a lot of money. That Republicans have not flocked to Paul reveals that the War Party cares far more about committing acts of aggression against other nations than it does about reducing the deficit.

Ron Paul now trails Gingrich by a single point in Iowa. I cannot claim to know who will be elected, but it seems clear that Americans will at least have the chance to nominate Paul, after which we can see what he can do against Barack Obama.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Extending and pretending

Although the Eurocrats have managed to buy a little more time, the EU is still very much hosed. The biggest development as of late was the Federal Reserve's bailout of French banks--though of course it wasn't presented as such. This happened rather quickly, and gave the market a nice goosing which should suffice to carry through the holidays.

The Eurocrats are meeting again this Friday. There will be a great many rumors, but the only thing worth watching is whether the treaty will be modified so that European Central Bank (ECB) can purchase bonds from EU governments, just as the Federal Reserve monetizes American debt. The treaty disallows this at the behest of the Germans, who were reluctant to undergo a second hyperinflation in just under a century. If the Eurocrats can't get permission to buy more debt, the EU is totally doomed. Since they've been working on this project for over fifty years, I highly doubt anyone is going to let worries of currency collapse ruin dreams of world government.

Hence I expect that the treaty will be amended to allow limited purchasing of bonds. In short order, these limits will be gradually removed, at least until the German people revolt. Absent more inflation from the ECB, it appears that European banks will begin to fail in relatively short order, with drastic consequences for our equally insolvent institutions.

Almost there. Stay on target.