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November 13, 2007

Ron Paul Redux
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:09 PM * 229 comments

I’m just back from a Ron Paul House Party.

Watch out for this man. He has weapons-grade charisma.

I’ve met an awful lot of presidential candidates face to face. John McCain served me barbecue chicken with his own hands. Paul has charisma equal to or greater than the best of them. [Ron Paul and Me]

He’s nutty as a bedbug, and his supporters do not blink. (One of them told me, word for word, “I’ve researched everything he’s ever done. He’s the only politician who’s never told a lie.”)

I asked Paul to say, point blank, “Americans do not torture.” He waffled. I asked him why Bush hasn’t been impeached. He waffled. But he waffled to general applause.

This is the guy on the white horse.

Stand the [bleep!] by.

(See also: In An Asylum Full of Napoleons, He’s the One Convinced He’s Joan of Arc)


In other news, just before I went to the Paul house party, I got a lengthy push-poll clearly from the McCain folks. A nice young lady with a strong sub-continent accent asked me if I was familiar with Mormon teachings, ‘mongst other things. (I said “No.”) Then she asked if I knew that Mormons consider the Book of Mormon to have more authority than the Bible, and now that I knew this would I be more or less likely to vote for Romney? She asked whether I knew that Mormons baptize dead people, and now that I knew this would I be more or less likely to vote for Romney? And so on. Then she turned to McCain. Was I aware that he is a war hero? Does knowing this make me more or less likely to vote for him? And thus on for so long that I asked her if she had a lot more questions, because I had other things to do.

The whole thing was laughably transparent.

Comments on Ron Paul Redux:
#1 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 09:58 PM:

Oh, lordy. I wish the McCain push-poller would call me. I could give them an earful on Mormon doctrine they probably haven't heard about. (Or I'd start off the phone call by saying, "I was raised Mormon," and see where that went.)

#2 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 10:10 PM:

The push-poller was working off a script and very likely didn't know anything about Mormonism.

Besides, push-polls aren't about finding out public opinion. They're about character assassination in a deniable form.

#3 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 10:25 PM:

I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the charisma. One of the things I've wondered is how he manages to hold such an eclectic set of supporters together.

#4 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 10:27 PM:

Ah, yes. Our very own, smoked-right-here-in-our-own -back-yard, Libertublican Representative, Ron Paul. I was so used to seeing him run for various state offices on the Libertarian ticket that it quite surprised me when he ran for the House as a Repub, as he has come to espouse the tenets of Libertarianism so strongly, and those tenets so radically contradict everything the Republican party has done in the past 20 years or so. But Texas has a long tradition of being a one-party state, and of preferring to settle everything in its primary election, and for the past ten years or so it's been almost impossible to be elected to any office in most parts of the state unless one is willing to run as a Republican. I'm sure, at some point, that someone offered some financial support if he'd run on the elephantine ticket, and he made his little pact with the DeLayers.

Sure he's nuts, but he really does come across as firmly believing what he says. When I've seen him, there's been none of that word parsing or argument-framing that seems to be the main feature of nearly all other politicians' speech. And morally and ethically, he stands head-and-shoulders over every other partisan in the filthy wallow that is the Texas Republican Party. That being said, there's no way I'd vote for him, for any office. His honest commitment to the very core of Libertarian beliefs and his interpretive projection of them onto American society puts him as far into outer space as Dick Cheney, but on a completely different planet. You're right--he does have charisma, in bucketsful. But I've known schizophrenics who were damn charismatic (and charismatics who were charismatic, and probably schizophrenic, as well!).

On a whole 'nother note, your experience with the polling questions immediately put a picture into my mind of Haley Joel Osment, dressed in Sacred Underwear and with a perfect Mitt Romney haircut, saying "I baptize dead people!"

#5 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 11:04 PM:

What I don't get--and I'm not being a smartass; I actually want to know-- is how an alleged libertarian can be so strongly opposed to reproductive freedom. Aren't libertarians supposed to be all about the government staying out of public decision-making? Private decisions like, oh, whether to have (or adopt) a baby without regard for someone else's ideas of when it's proper?

He's like the Republican answer to Lyndon LaRouche: Batshit loco, but good at hiding it (until you start asking real questions anyway).

#6 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 11:07 PM:

sorry, the above should read "private decision-making."

#7 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 11:28 PM:

He's like the Republican answer to Lyndon LaRouche: Batshit loco, but good at hiding it (until you start asking real questions anyway).

My experience of LaRouche is that he is not good at hiding it, at least if you read the newspapers that his minions hand out in front of the T.

I fondly remember a communal dramatic reading of one of those papers over a good bottle of merlot. As I recall, there was a bizarre obsession with Argentina and an even more bizarre obsession with....Leonardo da Vinci, was it?

So far the Ron Paul Internet People have not taken to singing, either. Time will tell.

(My name-association with Ron Paul is actually Ron Weasley, so that I have to keep on reorienting my mental image of who is saying these things. It's jarring.)

#8 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 11:37 PM:

Wasn't LaRouche a Republican too?

(I remember one time when the LaRouchies were picketing the DMV in White Plains, NY, with signs that read "Colonize Mars / Shut Down The Gay Bars." It was bizarre....)

#9 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 11:44 PM:

Ron Paul gives me the galloping creeps. I remember reading at one point about a year or so ago an article about some issue upon which he was touted as having stood up to the Republican establishment and thinking, "That's reasonably cool." Then I got to reading and learning more about him and my flesh began to crawl.

If I thought he had even the ghost of a chance of being the next occupant of the White House, I'd be hard at work on emigration plans. Not that I might not do that anyway, just on general principles, given the way things are going lately.

And absolutely, being bugfuck insane does not preclude being wildly charismatic. In fact, when it comes to political leaders, the two traits seem to go hand in hand as often as not, which is frightening.

#10 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 11:53 PM:

Annalee @ #5: From what I've heard in radio interviews, the vacating of Roe vs. Wade fits right into Paul's Libertarian views. He does not believe the federal government should have any say over reproductive rights. He believes those decisions should be left up to the states. I've heard him interviewed twice this year, both times by pretty good interviewers, and heard him in a debate a year or so ago, and he's very consistent on this. However, I've never heard anyone ask him, if it's no business of the federal government's, why the state governments should have a say.

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:04 AM:

He believes in the Conspiracy Against Christmas. This makes me doubt that he's quite as honest as he'd like to have us think.

#12 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:04 AM:

analee@5: Ron Paul appears to be a "human life begins at conception" anti-abortion guy (he's introduced several bills on the topic). If you believe that and you're against murder as a general rule, you kinda have to end up anti-abortion, it seems to me. And few versions of libertarianism are so extreme that they don't have some sort of government sanction against murder. So I don't find it philosophically inconsistent.

#13 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:07 AM:

It's not that hard to have that inspiringly forthright, unhesitating tone when you speak, if you've never dealt with the real complexities of the world.

#14 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:10 AM:

Uncle Jim, I'm pretty sure LaRouche is part of his own special LaRouche party (several of them, in fact, with a variety of names). But he's tried to secure the democratic nomination for president a few times, if wikipedia is to be believed.

My favorite run-in with his followers is when one of them tried to tell me that he has never, in fact, been convicted and served time for any crime, including fraud. Apparently his arrest and incarceration weren't even a government conspiracy to silence his views. No-- they were fictional. The Washington Post made the whole thing up, you see.

I had this encounter only because they had a habit of harassing students near the theatre building of my old school. If you tried to walk past them, they'd follow you. It was creepy as hell.

David @12, thanks for that explanation. I can see the logic there. I don't agree with it, but at least I can point to it on a map now.

#15 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:26 AM:

Jim, I noticed when I click on the photo for the larger view, it appears that you're making a fist, and are about fourteen inches from punching him. Just wondering what thoughts were going through your head as the shutter snapped. I'm guessing, something along the lines of "Head or gut?"

;)

#16 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:31 AM:

LaRouchies have been trying to whitewash their savior on Wikipedia since the project began, so you'd be wise to double-check anything you read there on the topic. We ban them consistently, but it's hard to keep out fanatics 24/7.

They're actually worse than the Scientologists in terms of that, though the existence of a bigger and better-organized anti-Scientology contingent online probably has a lot to do with why combating the Scientologists proved easier.

#17 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:32 AM:

If a newly-conceived zygote were truly on the same order as a newborn infant, a twelve-year old child, or a fifty-year-old adult, then we would hold a funeral on the occasion of every miscarriage, even every late menstrual period that finally shows up. You could claim a fetus as a dependent on your taxes, too.

Neither is the case. I find that very informative with regard to the legal status of the unborn in this country. Abortion, while a regrettable incident no matter what the circumstances, is completely reconcilable with our society's general view of the boundaries of human life.

#18 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:37 AM:

#15: Actually, I'm clutching a wine glass that doesn't appear too well in the photo.

#19 ::: Theo ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:38 AM:

Where I'm from, he's being put forth as someone who "doesn't believe in evolution," is against a woman's right to choose her own religious beliefs, who supports prayer in schools, and who opposes gay rights.

I think he's a right-wing nut job.

What am I missing?

BTW -- I HATE it when jerks coopt the names of otherwise reasonable political philosophies and turn them into objects of buffoonery, stupidity and ignornance. I'm just sayin'.

#20 ::: Darkrose ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:41 AM:

Dave Neiwert at Orcinus has been doing an excellent job of documenting Paul's links to right-wing extremists. What's scary is that otherwise liberal and progressive people are saying "Sure, he's being backed by Stormfront and David Duke, and he's made racist comments in the past, and he's nuttier than the cereal I just got at TJ's but he's going to end the war, so he's okay by me!"

#21 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:45 AM:

I love push pulls.

"If I told you McCain was convicted of cocaine possession, would that change your opinion of him?"

"McCain used blow?"

"No, but if he did, would it change your opinion of him?"

"er"

#22 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:56 AM:

"It's not that hard to have that inspiringly forthright, unhesitating tone when you speak, if you've never dealt with the real complexities of the world."

Or are, ahem, reality-challenged.

We're doomed. Doomed!

#23 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:59 AM:

Jim, you say "charisma", and I say "Get me outa here." Charismatic people scare me silly; the damage they can do is so enormous. I believe you that the guy is gifted, magnetic, persuasive -- and either wacko, or very very sure of himself in a mode that appears to be indistinguishable from wacko. NOT the dude I want to have control over the red phone -- do they still have one of those? who's on the other end? -- and the football.

His supporters sound like True Believers, and that scares me, too. We've had quite enough of those guys the last six years.

#24 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 02:08 AM:

Retcon redux.

#25 ::: Zak ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 02:36 AM:

#7, Caroline said:

"So far the Ron Paul Internet People have not taken to singing, either. Time will tell."

Alas, Ron Paul's internet support has taken to singing about their one true politician. The results are ... oh, words fail me.

#26 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 03:09 AM:

I've done some more tangential research on RP's views and some of those websites, I don't want my PC's browser touching them without milspec security and anonymity.

#27 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 03:15 AM:

Well, let's see. LaRouche was basically promising that if elected he would invade Britain, since that paragon of evil, Queen Elizabeth II has access to weapons of mass destruction. Then Bush II promised the same thing, was elected, and made good on the promise. ** What, he didn't promise? Then why did we elect him? **

So if Ron Paul is elected, where's he going to invade? Grenada? No, Ronnie Raygun already did that. Oh, I have it! Venezuala.

#28 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 03:20 AM:

Here in the UK, I've met a few low-grade politicians, ordinary MPs who aren't really in the running for the positions of authority. Mostly, they're decent people. They have to toe the party line, much more than in the USA, but they work hard for their constituencies, and the local issues.

I've also met government ministers. They're different. It's maybe understandable that that they are so much more certain about the rightness of the official policy--it could be seriously awkward to to agree with a criticism--but they come across as alien. Proto-Slitheen.

And, under the British system, they still have to do all the work of any other MP, representing the constituency.

Luckily, we don't have to elect our head of state, but some of our politicians maybe need a reminder that a Prime Minister is not a President.

#29 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 04:56 AM:

I remember one time when the LaRouchies were picketing the DMV in White Plains, NY, with signs that read "Colonize Mars / Shut Down The Gay Bars."

1. The DMV runs space colonization projects? Who knew?
2. There are gay bars on Mars? Who knew? (Well, I suppose the planet is sort of pinkish...)

#30 ::: Francis D ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 05:12 AM:

Are push-polls an American thing?

And Dave:
Here in the UK, I've met a few low-grade politicians, ordinary MPs who aren't really in the running for the positions of authority. Mostly, they're decent people. They have to toe the party line, much more than in the USA, but they work hard for their constituencies, and the local issues.

I've also met government ministers. They're different. It's maybe understandable that that they are so much more certain about the rightness of the official policy--it could be seriously awkward to to agree with a criticism--but they come across as alien. Proto-Slitheen.

That's generally in line with my experience. What I find interesting is that Special Advisors are more like ministers than like anything else. I do wonder if there's something toxic in the water of the Westminster Village (and probably the same thing in the Beltway) and the politicians that spend more time representing their constituents than playing machine politics are immune.

#31 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 06:57 AM:

It strikes me that high personal charisma has the potential to be deleterious to your personality and your approach to life and philosophy -- if you have the gift to say forthrightly outrageous things and all around you nod and cheer, you're not going to be getting a whole lot of reality correction that a position about gay bars on Mars, or extreme interrogation, or wife-beating (cf. Ike Turner) has a lot of flaws in it. Especially as you'll attract a coterie of fans who cheer you on....

#32 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 07:01 AM:

It strikes me that high personal charisma has the potential to be deleterious to your personality and your approach to life and philosophy -- if you have the gift to say forthrightly outrageous things and all around you nod and cheer, you're not going to be getting a whole lot of reality correction that a position about gay bars on Mars, or extreme interrogation, or wife-beating (cf. Ike Turner) has a lot of flaws in it. Especially as you'll attract a coterie of fans who cheer you on....

#33 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 07:14 AM:

It strikes me that high personal charisma has the potential to be deleterious to your personality and your approach to life and philosophy -- if you have the gift to say forthrightly outrageous things and all around you nod and cheer, you're not going to be getting a whole lot of reality correction that a position about gay bars on Mars, or extreme interrogation, or wife-beating (cf. Ike Turner) has a lot of flaws in it. Especially as you'll attract a coterie of fans who cheer you on....

#34 ::: Nic ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 08:34 AM:

Theo @19:

is against a woman's right to choose her own religious beliefs

*blinks*

Wtf? Would be very curious to read more on this, if you have useful links.

#35 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 08:56 AM:

#17 Summer Storms, here in Ohio we had a bill introduced (and I think it passed) where miscarriages can qualify for death certificates which then leads to burial in cemetaries (need one of those to get in, apparently).

Must remind myself to pull Douglas Adams' "Zaphod Plays It Safe" ("Salmon of Doubt") off the shelf and pencil in "Pauls" over "Reagans."

#36 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:04 AM:

Nick @#34
Theo @19:

is against a woman's right to choose her own religious beliefs

*blinks*

Wtf? Would be very curious to read more on this, if you have useful links.

Wants to impose his religious beliefs about conception and abortion onto women who disagree...

Theo - thanks for putting it that way, it's a good point.

#37 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:13 AM:

So you're the one who sent all those Ron Paul supporters over to my site! I was wondering how they found me.

#38 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:21 AM:

#29 Ajay 2. There are gay bars on Mars? Who knew?

Well, given that Mars needs women, the Martians sorta hafta y'know....

#39 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:25 AM:

Theo #19:

...is against a woman's right to choose her own religious beliefs

This is true in the same sense that people who don't want public money spent on Christian-themed holiday displays are carrying out a "war on Christmas," right?

#40 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:25 AM:

Gosh, Zak @ #25, I could have gone my entire life without hearing that. And now that I've heard it, I have an earworm singing "constitutional champion of the woooorld." First, The Shrubbery teaches us that the whole world needs Demockercy, and now RP's followers impress the world's need for a constitution. What an educational millennium, so far!

#41 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:32 AM:

#37 Keith I was wondering how they found me.

Well, maybe. But the comment spammer (Hairstyles for Men!) probably found you on his own.

#42 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:34 AM:

Francis D #30: They were pretty famously featured in Bush's smear campaign against McCain in the 2000 election. I don't know how common they've been other places, but I thought both parties had sworn off using them.

If I recall correctly, the McCain push-polls asked something about his black love child, which was a real winner in the South. (He and his wife adopted a Bangledeshi child, so you could find pictures of him with a black-looking kid he was apparently raising as his own.) I have to say, it was a real stroke of evil genius to figure out a way to smear him for adopting a very poor child from a third-world orphanage.

#43 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:35 AM:

Oh, if you want a link to that story (from the first link that popped up on Google):

smear campaign

#44 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:51 AM:

Zak @ 25: Oh no. Choral arrangements on the street cannot be far away.

Anyone who talks about the War on Christmas is automatically full of it, if you ask me. (I like my mother's reaction to this. "So, no one's telling me I can't say Merry Christmas. No one's forbidding me from going to church on Christmas Day. I just can't force everyone else to say Merry Christmas to me. Excuse me if I don't feel terribly oppressed.")

#45 ::: Theo ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:56 AM:

#39 -- sorry, but I don't get your point. Literally, I'm not understanding what you're trying to say. Sorry.

I think the "war on Christmas" thing is absurd rhetoric. I don't think public money should be spent on religious holiday decorations, but to call it a war on Christmas is simply absurd.

(I could, however, be persuaded to mount a war on St. Patrick's Day but only for very different reasons.)

On the other hand, I don't see anything wrong with someone expressing what it is the righteous right has been trying to do everyone in this nation for the past twenty years -- and that is interfere with the faith of millions.

Until science can prove when Human life begins and dumb matter ends, it's a matter of conscience. Matters of conscience are guided by religious/spiritual beliefs (including the decision not to believe). Therefore, it's a matter of taking away a woman's right to choose her religion.

Cloaking it in the government's responsibility to prevent and punish "murder" is just a red herring. Let's call it what it is -- is imposing religious beliefs on others.

Ursula @ #36 -- thanks for saving me the trouble of explaining my phrase.

#46 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 10:02 AM:

Summer #17:

On the other hand, a stillbirth or a late miscarriage is really devastating, and the parents absolutely do grieve. And I think most people would consider a criminal intentionally killing the 8-month fetus inside a mother as something way more serious than just a nasty case of assault against the mother. I knew a woman who delayed chemotherapy for long enough to deliver her baby (the cancer was discovered after she was pregnant), and it's quite possible that this decision cost her her life (depending on whether the chemotherapy would have helped her anyway). You might think that was a good or bad decision, but it's the sort of decision that made sense to her because she thought of the fetus growing inside her as a baby. It looks to me like we treat fetuses as something in-between babies and extensions of the mother, but with lots of variation for different individuals.

The problem here is that law (and many moral codes) needs a bright line, and biology almost never gives you one.

The two easy-to-define bright lines are at conception and at birth, and they're neither one very easy to defend against the sort of +/- ten seconds arguments. (The birth control device that sterilizes the egg ten seconds before conception is birth control, the one that does so ten seconds after conception is murder; the person who kills the baby ten seconds before delivery has carried out an abortion, the person who kills it ten seconds later has committed murder.) This is the reason why anti-abortion folks argue for bans on very late-term abortions, even those are a vanishingly small fraction of abortions, and are apparently all really horrible cases where no good outcome is possible for the mother or baby.

I think this issue is contentious largely because there is not an obviously right place to draw the line, and no good way to resolve where to draw it.

#47 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 10:08 AM:

James @41: yeah, I've got the spam filters turned up to 11 yet they still sneak on through. But hay, I'm sure there's a fair number of Ron Paul supporters looking for a new hairstyle.

It doesn't really surprise me that Ron Paul in person is charismatic. If you take a cursory glance at his polices and aren't well versed on some of the more nuanced forms of crazy talk, he sounds innovative and straight forward. But he usually manages to throw a curve ball, like telling you all about how he'll get us out of Iraq and then using that as a springboard for why we also need to get out of the UN.

It's like a Lovecraft story: he caries you along, with just enough plausible breadcrumbs that by the time he gets to the part about Shagoths and the howling abyss, you're fairly well convinced he's onto something. Except, the howling abyss here is the Federal Reserve, for some reason.

#48 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 10:08 AM:

If you want real nuttiness you have to go to the letters of marque and reprisal.

#49 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 10:10 AM:

Theo #45: I mean that you're using overheated rhetoric that implies something *way* broader than what you're really talking about.

Nobody is talking about making womens' religious decisions for them at all. They're talking about whether a particular thing (abortion) will be made illegal or not, and if so, under what circumstances.

If we were talking about women having their religious beliefs decided for them, that would look completely different--it would involve women not getting the choice of which church to attend or stay away from, women being compelled to study certain kinds of religious teachings and forbidden others, etc. There would be public campaigns by the anti-abortion folks to impose those things, if that were their goal. But it's not; there's zero support for any such thing.

#50 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 10:11 AM:

#39: A libertarian friend of mine had no problems with abortion, merely the public funding of abortion. That would be the position that's analogous to the so-called "War on Christmas" as you've stated it. Based on what I've read, Ron Paul hasn't merely introduced bills to eliminate public funding of abortions, he has also introduced bills to establish that life beings at conception. It's hard for me to not read this as being against more than merely abortion's public funding. (The so-called "War on Christmas" equivalent might be introducing a bill affirming that God is a matter of mere belief and faith, with no basis in fact.)

#51 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 10:15 AM:

Steve @ #35: I know, or rather, I should have remembered that. I'm in Cleveland. Chalk my forgetfulness up to lateness of the night, I think.

It's just one more indicator that my poor state is run by people with some very odd views. Cleveland's one of the sanest (IME) and most liberal areas of the state, so perhaps I'm a bit more insulated from it here than, say, when I lived in Cincinnati (the most outrageously conservative large city I've ever inhabited). After all, this is the land of Sherrod Brown and Dennis Kucinich, and of the sort of people who support them.

#52 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 10:18 AM:

I've gotten two push-polls so far this cycle. The pro-McCain/anti-Romney one last night, and a pro-Paul one about a month ago.

Both of them sounded like they came from a boiler room in Bangalore. (The pro-Paul guy had an accent so thick that I had to ask him to spell some of the words.)

I'm wondering if out-sourcing the telephone spam for staunch pro-American politicians to third-world countries is going to become standard. Couldn't they at least Buy American for their campaigns?

#53 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 10:18 AM:

Albatross @ #39: No, it isn't even remotely the same. Prohibiting the expenditure of public monies on religious decorations does nothing to prevent members of that religion from acting in accordance with their religious beliefs. Preventing a woman whose religion permits abortion from seeking and obtaining one because YOUR (generic "your") religious beliefs prohibit it does interfere with her right to act in accordance with her beliefs and represents an attempt to impose another's upon her.

Since we're all fairly science-minded here, my suggestion to anyone who wishes to see abortion become a thing of the past is that you either actively participate in (assuming you have the background and skills) or alternatively, provide funding to, research and other activities that will lead to the following: the prevention of all birth defects and all medical conditions that might threaten the health of pregnant women, 100% safe and effective birth control (no, abstinence is NOT the answer for everyone - some women who have abortions are married, for example), UNIVERSAL access to and education regarding said contraceptive measures, and the development of a means by which an embryo or fetus of any gestational age can be safely (for both parties) and easily removed from one womb and placed in another or in an artificial gestation unit to be brought to term and raised by willing parents. While you're at it, please work to eradicate the sort of poverty and economic uncertainty that lead some women to abort, provide full support in terms of childcare options and related needs to parents of either gender - something that is seriously lacking in our society - and do something to ensure that no woman or girl will ever have to feel coerced by her family, her boyfriend, her husband or her religious community to take OR avoid any action that does not square with her own free will.

THEN you will be able to have your world sans abortion.

#54 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 10:26 AM:

Sidenote: My town Prescott AZ, which bills itself as "America's Christmas city," certainly doesn't seem troubled by any anti-Xmas "war". They already have some decorations up, the year-'round Xmas shop is presumably doing a brisk business, and -- like everywhere else in the US -- the chain stores have tons of holiday product on display. All of which is kind of disconcerting when it's over 70 degrees outside! If not for the falling leaves, I might think it was May.

#55 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 10:27 AM:

52: maybe it's a bluff - so people who receive the calls will think "what a POS that McCain is - spreading slander about his opponents, and not even hiring American workers to do it!"

#56 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 10:30 AM:

Darkrose @20: What I don't get is how fast Americans have forgotten that getting out of Iraq is perfectly consistent with right wingnut philosophy. So he wants out of Iraq. That doesn't endear him to me in the slightest, given his reasoning. His brand of isolationism makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

#57 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 10:30 AM:

PS (more on topic): Hitler seems to have had lots of charisma too. Jo Walton's female actress is quite smitten with him when he visits England in Ha'penny (due out next month in the US).

#58 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 10:30 AM:

We already had this ... vigorous discussion ... in the earlier Ron Paul thread. Can we please not have it all over again in this one?

#59 ::: Theo ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 10:38 AM:

Calling it "overheated rhetoric" doesn't make it overheated.

Imposing laws that have the effect of imposing religious beliefs -- what's the difference between that and deciding what church a person ought to go to? One is just a matter of what the proponents think they can get away with (but they'd try to interfere with the other just as well).

The Religious Right have learned their rhetoric. They cloak their arguments in things like "we're just trying to outlaw murder." "You're opposed to murder, aren't you?" It's really no different from push polls (the other topic at hand).

Framing the debate as "just a law" -- that's rhetoric. Framing an argument for something other than it is -- that's rhetoric.


#53 - Summer Storms -- you've said it far more eloquently than I have. Thank you.

#60 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 10:59 AM:

James D. Macdonald@48:

If you want real nuttiness you have to go to the letters of marque and reprisal.M

I think that was the clue-in for me. The gold Standard thing, as weird as it is, can at least be debated within the context of economic policy (really, horribly, no good, very bad economic policy, but still) The Letters of Marque and reprisal idea just shouts "I'm a thirty-third degree Kook!"

#61 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 11:06 AM:

Imposing laws that have the effect of imposing religious beliefs -- what's the difference between that and deciding what church a person ought to go to?

Ummm--that all laws impose some kind of moral belief that's at bottom unproveable? ("Men and women are equal" is a moral position.)

What I really don't get is why "issuing letters of Marque and Reprisal" is crazy. They are the 18th-century names for "hiring and regulating military contractors in accordance with international norms." If we're going to hire Blackwater, I'm rather strongly in favor of doing so in a way that actually regulates them in some internationally-accepted fashion.

#62 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 11:15 AM:

Issuing letters of marque and reprisal is crazy because that's what you do when you're a struggling young wannabe nation and you need to put together something approaching a navy on the cheap.

Whatever else you might say about the US of A, we're not so young and broke that we need to go shopping for a navy at Wal-Mart. Or even Costco.

#63 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 11:34 AM:

If one keeps pushing the "imposing religious beliefs" line, Friedrich Nietzsche is going to come through and sweep the whole legal system away. I'm just saying.

#64 ::: Jamie ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 11:37 AM:

Are you sure that's not Duncan in that pic? I'm not convinced...

#65 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 11:47 AM:

Three guesses which standard arguments we're not having in this thread, either.

Now, Summer's done it right. She's talking about the larger social and political context, which is exactly the thing most brtn rgmnts lack. It's also the thing missing from too many arguments about rlgn nd th stt.

If it needs to be stated as a rule: engaged discussions of negotiable and evolving positions not based on violations of known fact or non-falsifiable assertions are generally okay.

#66 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 11:51 AM:

Hi, Jamie!

That has to be Jim, not Duncan -- Jim's the smaller, shorter one.

#67 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 11:53 AM:

Debra Doyle @62:
Issuing letters of marque and reprisal is crazy because that's what you do when you're a struggling young wannabe nation and you need to put together something approaching a navy on the cheap.

Whatever else you might say about the US of A, we're not so young and broke that we need to go shopping for a navy at Wal-Mart. Or even Costco.

But if you're trying to break the government while at the same time waging a globe spanning war against terrorists, then you need something that can get the job done. And if you're a Free Market Fundie like Paul, Letters of Marque sound good.

You issue letters of Marque to Blackwater and let them do all the heavy lifting. And by Heavy Lifting, I mean hunting humans for fun and profit. Terrorists (and lots of innocent people in the vicinity) get good and dead and the US Army gets to keep their hands clean. Plus, Blackwater makes a bajillion dollars (or Euros, since the dollar will be worthless once we switch to the Gold Standard). Everyone wins! Except for the millions of poor people created by this horrific situation. But in the eyes of Supply Side Jesus, poor people=sinners so, no worries!

#68 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 11:59 AM:

Teresa @ 65... Three guesses which standard arguments we're not having in this thread

I cannot guess, for the life of me.
Knitting?
Baking?
Star Trek?

Thanks, Teresa.

#69 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:05 PM:

Nic, #34: This is a partial reframing of the anti-choice position. Virtually all of the people who want to outlaw abortion are (a specific sort of) Christian -- at root, it's a religious argument. Those of us who have chosen to follow a different faith (which includes the majority of American Protestants) aren't necessarily required to buy into the notion that abortion is murder. Ergo, to outlaw abortion is to interfere with our freedom to hold a different religious position on that specific issue.

I agree with this argument, but I don't think it's a strong one in terms of convincing other people. To grok it properly requires the ability to step back a bit from one's own culture, and many people never learn how to do that.

Theo, #59: It's effectively the same thing as outlawing peyote ceremonies in Native American religions because they make use of "illegal recreational drugs". Few people would try to argue against that being interference with someone else's religious beliefs, but the abortion issue is much more touchy.

#70 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:20 PM:

Teresa @ #65: Thank you. I was sincerely hoping I had not overstepped a boundary here. The subject begged to be addressed, but definitely from solid objective ground, rather than the shifting subjective area in which it is often argued and will probably never be settled.

Moving right along, and back from the edge of the abyss:

What really gripes me about RP is his woefully inaccurate interpretation of the Constitution, in both letter and intent. Now, given that no one alive today can say with absolute certainty exactly what went on in the minds of the framers of that document, I suppose there is indeed a fair bit of wiggle room available in modern application of their work. But that also supposes (and rightly so, IMNSHO) that indeed it is the spirit, rather than the letter, of the law that is of ultimate import. RP's take on many of the items is so far beyond wiggle room as to be in the realm of the seriously unstable, and he appears to have abandoned all attention to the spirit of Constitutional law in favor of slavish service to the letter instead. From where I sit, it is clear that form does not trump function, and I have to wonder what RP's real agenda is, as I must imagine that he, too, is aware of the ridiculousness of his positions, should they be taken to their ultimate level of application.

Shorter assessment: how much liberty would really exist in a country where the federal government was prohibited from exercising discrimination, enforcing religion upon the citizenry, regulating private sexual practices or any of a number of other personally intrusive actions... but each individual subunit of that country was completely free to engage in all of the above?

#71 ::: Jamie ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:21 PM:

Teresa@66:

I've never had the pleasure of meeting Jim, but I've had lunch and dinner with Duncan on multiple occasions (he lives just over the Occoquan in Prince William Co.), and I swear, now that he's out of the Navy, he looks just like his brother (that picture doesn't give me a sense of scale...I have no idea how tall either the esteemed Lunatic from Texas or Jim are).

#72 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:34 PM:

If it needs to be stated as a rule: engaged discussions of negotiable and evolving positions not based on violations of known fact or non-falsifiable assertions are generally okay.

Actually, thank you very much for stating that. Triangulating purely on the basis of some reactions (or perhaps the basis of my interpretations of said reactions) in this thread and the other, I was beginning to wonder whether it was simply any argument about abortion, period that was Not To Be Tolerated. And given that this a discussion of Ron Paul, I was beginning to feel like I was watching Godwin's Law being invoked in a discussion of WWII.

It sounds very much that where The A Word is concerned, it's best to keep discussion in the context of real world events and policies ("What will Ron Paul try to do about RvW if elected"), and stay out of the realms of pure proselytization ("it's murder!" "Is not!" "Is so!"). Have I got that right?

#73 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:35 PM:

Keith @#67--Thank you, I was having the same sorts of visions, although given some of the people I know who'd be standing in line to get these letters, some of the privateers would have an amzing resemblence to The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight.

But yeah, gangsters, on the high seas, with naval altillery. Legally.
Because privateers are pirates who have a license to pillage.

Debra Doyle @#62--Neither our local Wal-marts, nor our local Costco have navies available, at least not in a scale that would be useful for actual open water use. I'd put this down to being a good way from the ocean here in Tennessee, but they don't even offer a brownwater version, which would be highly useful for assaulting river-based gambling casinos. I feel that we're getting short shrift here; would complaining to the regional distribution centers help. do you think?

#74 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:41 PM:

Fidelio,

No, no, no. When you need cut-rate military options, there's only one mass-market source:

Dollar General.

*ducks flying vegetable matter and slinks thataway*

#75 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:45 PM:

John Chu @ 50: A libertarian friend of mine had no problems with abortion, merely the public funding of abortion.

Memorable National Lampoon headline:

Stand and Deliver, Supreme Court Tells Pregnant Rabble

#76 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:47 PM:

fidelio @ 73

I didn't see any navies in my local Costco last Sunday, unless they have motorboats available on special order. There wasn't space enough in the parking lot to hide one, either.

#77 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:55 PM:

Summer Storms @ 74... I prefer shopping at Target.

#78 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:58 PM:

Nicole @72:
...where The A Word is concerned, it's best to keep discussion in the context of real world events and policies ("What will Ron Paul try to do about RvW if elected"), and stay out of the realms of pure proselytization ("it's murder!" "Is not!" "Is so!"). Have I got that right?

I am of course not Teresa*, but that's an approach that certainly has my support.

-----
* nor was meant to be

#79 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 01:03 PM:

Abi... So would I, but I am a bit dubious about a discussion going from what RP would do re RvW without its degenerating into why he'd do what he says he'd do, and whether or not he should or should not do what he says he'd do. Next thing you know, there'd be a huge smoking crater in the middle of the thread and the air would be filled with Kirby crackle.

#80 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 01:05 PM:

re 65: Actually, she is making one of the standard arguments.

And while I don't want to drag the whole abortion argument over here, I think it's highly ironic that Ron Paul is, after all, an OB/GYN.

I happen to have a bunch of libertarian "Catholic" friends who are very gung ho about him. I think a great deal of his appeal is his (apparently accurate) image of being a man of principles, wacky though they may be. In a lot of ways, he is the Republican version of Obama: articulate, charismatic, dusted with experience but not poisoned with too much history, and therefore potentially attractive to the "sick of the same old losers" vote. (Romney could have attracted some of the same attention except for having to rise above the Mormonism question all the time.)

#81 ::: Erin Kissane ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 01:21 PM:

Faren Miller@57: Ha'penny is, in fact, already out in the US; has been since October. But incidentally, I thought the scene you reference did a really nice job of getting the point across.

#82 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 01:36 PM:

#80: I think Ron Paul definitely more history than Barack Obama. (insert joke here about Ron Paul having served in national office since the previous century.) As for being poisoned by it, the link that Uncle Jim included in the previous Ron Paul post seems pretty poisonous to me, but I guess that's a function of personal views.

Ron Paul has definitely inherited the "Republican man of integrity" mantle that John McCain had in the previous Presidential election cycle, at least among his supporters. This is definitely why he's gotten some traction. I don't know if the media has joined the bandwagon yet (as they had for McCain). I'm trying to remember what I heard on the news that makes me disbelieve that he really is a man of principle, but it's not coming to me.

Romney tried to give the impression that he's a man of principle. But, right now, he's having problems convincing his target demographic that he truly has disavowed the positions he took to win the Massachusetts Gubernatorial election.

I don't know whether I should be happy about this, or sad that the "I've since learned things that have caused me to change my views" argument apparently never works. Maybe it's that he hasn't articulated exactly what he learned as governor of MA which has caused him to change his positions? I know he keeps trying.

#83 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 01:39 PM:

C. Wingate @ 80: Frankly, I think the standard argument over the "A-word" ought to be grounded in societal necessities. Pregnancy is, yes, the way that Nature (or God, or Evolution, or whatever) intended for humans to reproduce, but it's still at least potentially medically dangerous for the mother, and she therefore deserves to be the one who decides whether or not to brave that danger. Therefore, the best - and probably only - way to prevent abortion without putting women at risk and denying them the ability to opt out (try being a married woman and telling your husband there will be no more sex because your age or your high blood pressure or makes pregnancy a risk you aren't willing to take) is to prevent the situations that lead women to seek abortions in the first place. That includes foolproof contraception (and RP appears to be opposed to certain contraceptive methods as well, btw) as well as education and empowerment for women regardless of socioeconomic class or any other factor. Improving family economics and providing adequate support systems for parents and children plays a major role as well, since women who fear being unable to support and successfully care for their children are more likely to abort than women for whom these things are not a concern. Libertarianism tends to be rather short on the concept of support systems, as does modern Republicanism. So you bet this is topical.

As to RP's being "a man of principles", so have been any number of other figures throughout history, of varying repute. The real question is whether one's principles have genuine merit in their application to the real world.

#84 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 01:44 PM:

Serge @77: I prefer shopping at Target.

Serge, is that as in:

"Please, Mr. Custer, I don't wanna go..."

(g,d,r)

#85 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 01:49 PM:

A quick touch back to the LaRouche part of the thread. One of the most surreal experiences I've ever had involved a LaRouche robo-call.

I was working as a communications tech installing phones and I had just connected one in the 23rd floor service elevator bay of a large American company. The number was not one that had been reassigned from another phone, but a brand new number freshly activated by our switch programmer not ten minutes earlier. I installed the jack. Mounted the phone, plugged the line into it, stepped back to see whether it looked all right, and...it rang. Just about jumped out of my skin, because A, it was a new number and B, it was a service elevator phone.

I picked up the phone and a voice said, "This is Lyndon LaRouche." Aiee! Weirdest thing ever. Oh, and at that point, I hung up.

#86 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 01:53 PM:

Lori @ 84... "Please, Mr. Custer, I don't wanna go..."

That reminds me of Gary Larson's cartoon titled "Custer's Last Sight". You don't see him, but you see what he sees - a bunch of Indians looking down at him with a big grin.

#87 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 01:57 PM:

Ummm--that all laws impose some kind of moral belief that's at bottom unproveable? ("Men and women are equal" is a moral position.)

Some laws, however, impose a moral principle that is not tied to a particular religious belief, while others are (impermissibly) tied to a specific religious belief. This is an important distinction in the US system, because if the only rational for a law is religious, you've got establishment clause issues.

Also, because if you believe that your personal religious beliefs should be the basis of law, you're not going to limit that belief to the single issue of abortion. You're going to believe that what you think is right is absolutely and religiously right, and not open to argument or dissent.

With someone like Ron Paul (and with most of the politically powerful forced-pregnancy people) their reason for banning abortion is very much religious. And they don't see a problem with using that as the basis for law making. They don't even seem able to consider that their religion's definition of right and wrong might not be the proper definitions for legal and illegal. The issue of abortion brings out the problems most clearly, but when people think this way, it affects every policy they make.

Their religious belief leads them to basically ignore opposition for other reasons, such as concern about legislators interfering in the doctor-patient relationship, the forced use of one person's body to benefit another, etc. In the same way that Shrub ignored opposition to the invasion of Iraq, and the specific concerns of others.

It also leads to a willingness to lie, such as with claims that women never need abortions for health reasons. Because the belief is seen as an absolute good and necessity, there is a strong desire to allow the end to justify any means. In the same way that Shrub was willing to like about WMD to justify the war he thought necessary.

And to self-delusion, such as people imagining that if abortion was illegal, women wouldn't have sex if they weren't wanting a child, or that they'd somehow always be happy to be pregnant if they didn't have the option of abortion. Or not seeing the element of force and coercion they're advocating. The same type of delusion that made Shrub and Co. think that they could invade and occupy a nation, and be "greeted with flowers."

There is also the problem that this type of belief is best enacted by banning what you consider wrong, rather than addressing issues that lead people to choose the thing you oppose. So forced-pregnancy folk aren't out there advocating for easy access to affordable birth control, and ample support for health care, child care, and the other needs that, if left unmet, make raising a child overwhelming enough for abortion to be preferable, all they do is argue for banning abortion. Or with the "war on terror" the emphasis is only on punishing those associated with the wrong, not addressing the injustices that lead to people hating US policy with good reason.

There is also the problem of thinking that you know, based on an abstract ideal, what is better for others than they can know with their specific information. So if you "know" that no woman needs an abortion for health reasons, you think you know more about this issue than the woman and her doctor who are considering the actual facts of her case. In the same way that Shrub thinks he knows better than the Iraqi people (or the US people) about how they should be governed.

When a leader believes that "what I believe on issue X is an absolute truth, and must be imposed" there is going to be problems, because they're interested in theocracy (with themselves defining "god") not democracy. Abortion is an issue where they can be public about this mindset, and therefore a decent weather-vane for seeing how they'll think as other issues arise.

#88 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 01:59 PM:

Kelly @ 85: That would have freaked me out, too.

Damned autodialers.

#89 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 02:11 PM:

Some laws, however, impose a moral principle that is not tied to a particular religious belief, while others are (impermissibly) tied to a specific religious belief.

Ursula,

You are correct that the Establishment Clause prohibits laws from being made which are tied to specific religious beliefs. For instance, a law forbidding the consumption of meat on Fridays or working on the Sabbath would obviously be unacceptable.

However, to which specific religious belief is the position that an abortion kills a human being tied?

#90 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 02:17 PM:

Jim: I was really sad to read that he waffled on the torture issue. Damn.

#91 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 02:42 PM:

Jen @ 89: It doesn't have to be the beliefs of one specific religion, nor does it have to be a belief that is specific only to religion, to qualify as a religious belief.

If it is held by enough people for religious reasons, and prevents someone else from following the beliefs of their own religion, then it still runs counter to religious freedom.

Frex: were I given to virulently militant atheism to the extent that I opposed any and all publicly-visible religious observations and/or symbology, and on that basis I lobbied to have all religious displays outlawed even on private property, citing them as "obscene" or something, how would that make me any different from someone who belonged to a religious sect that held religious symbology to be evil and therefore fought to have it outlawed in order to force the general public into line with that particular sect's practice?

#92 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 02:43 PM:

I asked Paul to say, point blank, “Americans do not torture.” He waffled.

Hmm... I can sort of see a waffle.

Do you mean "Americans should not torture" or "What Americans do isn't torture" or "If Americans do it, it isn't torture"? The current administration might well say "Americans don't torture" meaning that what we're doing we're not going to call torture.

The statement I want to here is "What Americans are doing under the current administration is torture, and I will stop it, hold everyone who participated in it criminally liable, and work to enact laws that make it clear that this should never happen again."

#93 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 02:44 PM:

Analee #56:

"Isolationist" gets thrown around a lot, but it's nice to define what you object to.

The sensible looking parts of what I understood from RP's positions were:

a. Getting us out of the empire business, pulling most of our troops out of most of the world, and generally not trying to, say, decide what kind of government the Iranians, Bangladeshis, or Ukranians should have.

b. Radically downsizing our foreign aid, as part of getting us out of that business.

c. Getting some control of immigration and our borders. The current situation, where we have a huge population of second-class (non)citizens here illegally and can get as many more as we need to keep bottom-tier wages low, is seriously messed up. I don't know how to solve that in a decent way, and I doubt RP does either, but the way we've been handling it for many years is a mess.

The wingnut parts amounted to the fear that we're going to make a North American Union in imitation of the EU, which just doesn't make any sense, and the idea that we need to bail out of all our international agreements. Stuff like the WTO seems to me to be pretty valuable for resolving trade disputes short of an actual tradewar, though this isn't something I've studied much. The UN never has had the authority to send us to war, and the rhetoric about it on Paul's website is silly--we used the UN resolutions as a justification to do what we wanted, but absent those resolutions, we'd have done the same thing anyway.

#94 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 02:48 PM:

Ursula: It is not clear to me that the belief that a human being becomes a "person" at birth is less religious in nature, by your definition, than the belief that this occurs earlier.

I think that as long as arguments are put forth from a secular philosophical standpoint, it doesn't run afoul of the Establishment Clause.

#95 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 02:51 PM:

It's hard to believe that this nation will ever be isolationist as long as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, et al depend on the billions of dollars of arms sales to foreign countries.

#96 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 02:59 PM:

Summer #70:

I'm not sure if we'd have more or less freedom under that kind of federalism. Turning more and more policy decisions into things decided at the federal level has two big advantages:

a. It makes it easier to get a single nationwide answer, so that moving from Minnesota to Maine doesn't involve getting used to a radically different set of laws and rules and expectations.

b. It means that when the feds are pursuing a better set of policies than your state would pursue, you get the benefit of the better policy.

But this works the opposite way, too. If the feds want worse policies than your state would like, they may pre-empt your state's policies. And having exactly the same laws everywhere means a lot less room for local variation, for laws that make sense in Oregon but wouldn't make sense in Georgia. Some part of that local variation is driven by local beliefs.

One advantage of a "patchwork" of different laws in different states is that you can change the laws under which you live by moving. If you think marijuana should be legal, you can move to some state where it's legal. (Note that the Republicans have been very eager to pre-empt states on *that* issue.)

The biggest example of a good change imposed from above is civil rights laws; who knows when those would have happened in the Southern states otherwise? A good example of a bad change imposed from above is the war on drugs; without federal pressure, we'd likely have some states with very strict drug laws, many with much more lenient ones, and widespread decriminalization of marijuana.

#97 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 03:00 PM:

James D. Macdonald #52: I'm wondering if out-sourcing the telephone spam for staunch pro-American politicians to third-world countries is going to become standard. Couldn't they at least Buy American for their campaigns?

Perhaps it's a passive-aggressive way for candidates to subtly announce their views on immigration vs. outsourcing. We have congresscritters who ably represent Disney, why not some for Bangalore? They could save some bribery dollars by just cutting out the lobbyist middlemen. In any case, it's long been known that the Buy American meme is bad for our nation's suffering and downtrodden millionaires and billionaires. (snerk)

#98 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 03:00 PM:

If it is held by enough people for religious reasons, and prevents someone else from following the beliefs of their own religion, then it still runs counter to religious freedom.

No no no no no.

This might be true if you replace "beliefs" with "requirements" (e.g., peyote); it's not true when the issue is a religiously-motivated stricture in an area where you have none.

For example, "blacks and whites have equal rights" is a moral position; it was originally religiously motivated; making it the law doesn't infringe the religious freedom of an Episcopalian.

#99 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 03:06 PM:

Jen @ 94,

I'm not going to get involved in the rest of the argument, but this bit:

It is not clear to me that the belief that a human being becomes a "person" at birth is less religious in nature, by your definition, than the belief that this occurs earlier.

Strikes me as silly. It is pretty much universally accepted that after birth a human fetus is a human being is a "person." This is the case across the board regardless of religious affiliation. Now, that set of the whole clearly contains subsets of people who for whatever reason believe that personhood comes earlier than birth, but they are still a part of the greater set that believe in post-birth humanity. If everybody, regardless of religious affiliation agrees on that, it can hardly said to be a religious opinion.

#100 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 03:10 PM:

Radically downsizing our foreign aid

You ought to check the numbers on that: foreign aid is really a small part of the budget.
here is a pair of tables: the total of all foreign aid programs for FY2006 is less than $23 billion.

(Like space program spending, foreign aid spending is generally overestimated.)

#101 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 03:10 PM:

My apologies; I didn't phrase that clearly enough. When I said "becomes a 'person' at birth," the "becomes" was key. It necessarily implies "was not a 'person' prior to birth." This is not at all a universally-held view.

#102 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 03:18 PM:

Shoot, in some cases, they don't become persons until their mid-thirties.

#103 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 03:21 PM:

Hey, I'm 35, and I'm still working on it.

#104 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 03:23 PM:

Summer Storms @ #83 and previous: You already said most of the stuff I'd have wanted to say about abortion, probably better than I would have. Especially the point that it's the mother who faces the risk of pregnancy, so its the mother who gets to decide whether to go through it. (I would have gone wandering into gender-specific evolutionary imperatives. B-) )

I'll also point out that the very idea of "every person has an equal right to {live,breed,etc.}" is a strictly modern idea. Besides being in no way supported by natural law, it begs a couple of questions, especially "what counts as a person?". That's not just about defining Homo sapiens either... consider how the child-welfare movement followed after the animal-welfare movement.

#105 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 03:25 PM:

Lori 84: (g,d,r) [*]?

#106 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 03:32 PM:

Xopher @105:

(g,d,r) -- short form for "grinning, ducking, and running" when you think the other posters may start throwing things at you...

#107 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 03:37 PM:

Ah. Thanks.

#108 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 03:48 PM:

Lori Coulson @ 106... short form for "grinning, ducking, and running" when you think the other posters may start throwing things at you

Now, now... If people around here really threw things (even metaphorical ones) at a person because of a bad joke (or a bad pun), I'd be dead by now.

#109 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 03:52 PM:

re 104: And the unborn child has nothing at risk?

One of the things one hears quite plainly from parts of the anti-abortion movement is their identification with earlier "these weren't considered real persons" movements. Constantly one hears RvW equated with Dred Scott. And seeing as how it's been done now, one of the things that annoys me about the discussion here is how much toleration there is for this overheated demonization of abortion opponents. They are a hugely diverse group, from Fatimid Catholics to PLAGAL. If we are going to ground this in the real world, then we have to foreswear these self-serving generalizations.

#110 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 03:55 PM:

*throws anvil at Serge*

#111 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 04:00 PM:

*uses feather as a baseball bat to hit anvil back at Xopher*

#112 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 04:07 PM:

*anvil falls on coyote. anvil always falls on coyote.*

#113 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 04:21 PM:

how much toleration there is for this overheated demonization of abortion opponents

Huh? We can tell you're opposed to it. I think what we're looking for is an acknowledgement of some kind that that isn't the Only Right Answer.

One Size does not Fit All.

#114 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 04:23 PM:

But who is the coyote?
BAM!!!
Ow.
Why is the ground so close to my eyes even though I'm standing?
Well, that answers my original question.

#115 ::: Darkrose ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 04:38 PM:

*facepalms* I'm a dork--I didn't see that Patrick linked to the Orcinus stuff in a previous post. Don't mind me.

#116 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 04:46 PM:

*hands Steve C. a tiny, striped parasol*

#117 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 04:47 PM:

Jen, #89: Your question is more answerable as, "What specific religions do not view abortion as murder?" -- and the answer starts with Judaism. So if I really wanted to rabble-rouse, I could start denouncing the forced-birth position as anti-Semitic; that would certainly stir up a lot of fine, fresh muck. However, that isn't the point. The point is that if the forced-birthers have their way, a lot of people whose religious beliefs do NOT forbid abortion are going to lose that piece of their freedom of religion because another sect's belief has been enacted into secular law.

#118 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 04:53 PM:

Lee @ 117:

I'd go further - Judaism not only doesn't forbid abortion nor equate it with murder, it places the health (physical & mental, at least in the Reform movement) of the mother before the not-yet-a-person fetus. My rabbi once told me that if it came to a choice, real or perceived, the decision should always be to save the mother, and further, that unless the mother was incapable of making the decision, any decision to abort or not is hers alone.

So, outlawing abortion doesn't just deny me a freedom allowed by my religion, it might force me to go against the dictates of my religion.

#119 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 05:18 PM:

*throws dehydrated boulder at Xopher, aims with waterpistol, which leaks up at remaining dehydrated boulders on shelf above head*

#120 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 05:23 PM:

*puts grenade in mouth, pulls pin, counts to five, and throws pin*

(again? that trick never works)

#121 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 05:31 PM:

*paints false perspective of a bridge in front of chasm, turns back to painting, gets run over by truck from the other side of the bridge*

#122 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 05:46 PM:

*finds out that ACME stands for A Coyote Migraine Everytime*

#123 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 05:51 PM:

I don't have a reference for this, but I believe that until the twentieth century the position of the RCC was that life began at quickening (i.e. when the mother feels the fetus begin to move).

Also, I heard somewhere that countries that allow abortions have fewer abortions than countries that outlaw them. Obviously that's due to multiple factors that lead to both phenomena, but if someone really opposes abortion, wouldn't it be better to empirically study what factors reduce it, and work on implementing that?

I think authoritarians tend to overestimate the effectiveness of authoritarian solutions, for obvious reasons.

And you know what? There are things that are not unethical, not immoral, not unconstitutional, and yet lower the actual instance of abortion. Since no one thinks abortion is a good thing, I would support those things.

People who really want to reduce the number of abortions (for whatever reasons are in your heart) could make common cause with those of us who view a high abortion rate as a public health problem, and believe in the same goal for very differnt reasons. All the headbutting and demonizing helps make this impossible.

#124 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 05:52 PM:

*cuts end of plank that Xopher is on, cliff collapses instead*

#125 ::: James W. Harris ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 05:56 PM:

In Message #4, above, LMB MacAlister writes:
===============
Ah, yes. Our very own, smoked-right-here-in-our-own -back-yard, Libertublican Representative, Ron Paul. I was so used to seeing him run for various state offices on the Libertarian ticket that it quite surprised me when he ran for the House as a Repub, as he has come to espouse the tenets of Libertarianism so strongly, and those tenets so radically contradict everything the Republican party has done in the past 20 years or so. But Texas has a long tradition of being a one-party state, and of preferring to settle everything in its primary election, and for the past ten years or so it's been almost impossible to be elected to any office in most parts of the state unless one is willing to run as a Republican. I'm sure, at some point, that someone offered some financial support if he'd run on the elephantine ticket, and he made his little pact with the DeLayers.

===============
This is not true. Paul's first political race was for Congress, as a Republican, in 1974. He lost.

Ron Paul never has run for any state office, as a Libertarian or anything else.

I believe his ONLY run on the Libertarian Party ticket was his 1988 presidential race. His congressional races have all been on the GOP ticket.

Regarding this comment: "I'm sure, at some point, that someone offered some financial support if he'd run on the elephantine ticket, and he made his little pact with the DeLayers."

Actually, when Paul ran for Congress after his Libertarian Party presidential campaign, the GOP threw its weight -- including support from House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- behind another GOP candidate in that primary.

See Paul's Wikipedia bio for more on this.

The national GOP has generally given Paul the cold shoulder. He has opposed most of the agenda of the national GOP, especially GOP militarism and authoritarianism.

#126 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 05:57 PM:

MEEP! MEEP!

*zzzzooooooommmm!*

#127 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 06:00 PM:

*runs thru the dark tunnel after Xopher, gets lost until sees light at end of tunnel, gets run over by truck*

#128 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 06:02 PM:

*paints wormhole on cliff face, jumps in*

#129 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 06:02 PM:

Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit.....

(My youngest has been watching this stuff incessantly)

Ickity, ackity, oop... It's yours.

#130 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 06:04 PM:

What's up for me next? Well, Tom Tancredo will be having a Town Hall Meeting not two hundred feet from where I'm sitting, this coming Saturday.

I'll give you a trip report.

#131 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 06:07 PM:

Jim @130
I look forward to it. This is almost as much fun as Scalzi's Creation Museum Report.

OK, not so much, but still...

#132 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 06:08 PM:

Wabbit, Wun - John Updike's little known tale of cartoon angst.

#134 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 06:27 PM:


#118 Sarah

I believe that that generally is what Jewish law says on the subject. There are religious extremists in any religion, and there are anti-abortion allegedly Orthodox/"ultra-orthodox" Jews in the ban abortion etc. lobby, but their perspective goes against thousands of years of Jewish law and gloss from commentaries that goes against their contemporary religious extremist complicity.

Judaism isn't the only religious system which does not hold that human life begins at conception, and does not regard abortion as infanticide, there are various branches of Orthodox Christianity and Protestant Christianity which don't regard abortion as murder.

Until contemporary medical science with incubators, until reliable ways to feed babies that didn't require nursing from a live human on a regular and continuing basis for month after month after month, the survival past "infant mortality" likelihood for a fetus with the mother dead, even an infant "untimely ripped" and far enough advanced in development to breath and to feed despite premature arrival to the world outside the uterus, was dismal. Furthermore, if there were other older children, losing their mother was also going to drop their likelihood of survival--the wife/mother provided productivity to a family and labor, and without the wife/mother there was a big hole in the family as regards sustainability. The bottom line was that in a tribal society, losing an adult member of reproductive age and ability and her contributions to family well-being, threatened the survival of the existing young... so in the cultural and social framework that Judaism existed in for the thousands of years in pastoral and agricultural and non-electrical/non-steampowered societies, the focus was on the continuing well-being and quality of life of the existing breating members of the kinship group, and ensuring the continuation of the clan.

Another factor ironically is that in the ancient world Jews got looked at weirdly because they did NOT expose daughters. The Greeks in particular thought this was really weird. Greek society required that daughters be dowered and the dower go to the families of the dauthers' future husbands--this was economically disadvantageous to the birth family. The response therefore was to expose infant girls to be picked up by the neighbors who would then raise themselves a slave girl, whose future work would provide labor and effort and revenue to the slave owners, and wouldn't cost them the funds for a dowry. [Sources--mix of Women in Hellenistic Egypt, The Kindness of Strangers (book of that title about slavery in the ancient world), and various other books discussing particularly ancient Greek culture and values and society]

Jews, though, -raised- all their children, and had a higher birthrate than e.g. Greek citizens' families (which regarded the Eldest Son as the family heir, the daughters as economic drags and therefore didn;t want daughters/didn't want to raise legitimate daughters--but they all wanted to have those sons to carry on--even though a son didn;t become a full adult until his male ancestors were all dead).

This is ironic, because millennia ago Jews got regarded as much too fond of children and having lots of them and raising them as legitimate free members of the family, and today the view of the antiabortion crusaders is that Jews lack proper respect for human life....

My own view of the situation of the bulk of the antiabortion lobby is that the issues are power and control, not lovingkindness, behind it. Limiting sexual congress to one woman and one man who are married who are engaged in it for the purpose of procreation and banning it otherwise, creates a lot of frustrated people, and emotion susceptible to being harvested for other purposes, not excluding being shock troops for some cause or other. Limiting sexual congress to couples for what some people have somewhat deprecatorily referred to as "reprosex" creates the class of legitimate privileged offspring of married couples versus extralegal products of non-legitimate liaisons, affairs, rape, etc., who don't get the rights and privileges and respect and deference etc. of the legimate offspring of a married couple... and bestows special respect and status upon the couple with the legitimate offspring.... which goes along with a holy-than-thou view of the universe, and -privileging-.

Societies that don't have class lines based on "legitimacy" of offspring produced with monogamy by a monomagous (allegedly....) heterosexual couple, pose a threat to those who want their (alleged) strict monogamy imposed upon everyone, and their harvesting of financial and social approval benefits of being at the top of the heap as regards What Society Values and gives deferencet to.:"

They want their rule book running society and they want the special privileged place and benefits of being in control amnd requiring everyone else to comply to their worldview and values. The concept that this is not appropriate, they reject.... And the idea that women should be other then essentially chattel, they also seem to reject-if women had free choices rather than "be submissive to a husband" that would violate the tenet of submissive wife and that women don't belong running things, and should never be in any position of authority over men (see the Southern Baptist websites...)

#135 ::: thanbo ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 07:33 PM:

Paula @ 134:

Under Orthodox Jewish law, which of course goes back in its current form (development based on Socratic method) for a couple of millenia, it's a question. What did you expect?

On the one hand, you have the biblical rule that if two men are fighting, and in the course of it cause a woman to miscarry, they pay a fine to her family - which implies that abortion is not murder, but injury, which is compensated financially.

On the other hand, you have medieval commentators reading the Noahide anti-murder regulation, reparsing it from the standard way it's read in the Torah "one who kills a person, by person shall his blood be spilt" to "one who kills a person in a person his blood is spilt." What is a "man in a man" but a fetus? Christians have picked up on this reading as well.

On the third hand, we have the basic rule (Talmud Sanhedrin 74-77-ish - been a long time since I looked in there) that if party A is pursuing party B to kill party B, party C may do anything up to killing party A to stop him. This translates into, in our case, if the fetus is threatening the life of the mother, an abortion is not only permitted, but mandatory. This is because party A's life is forfeit in a Jewish court if caught and convicted.

On the fourth hand, we have the idea that until quickening (40 days), the fetus is "water", that is, basically nonexistent.

So what it boils down to, seemingly, is

1) abortion is murder, or at least forbidden.
2) there is an exception for life of the mother, where the mother is Jewish.
3) any abortion before 40 days, e.g. RU-486 or similar, is not really an abortion, hence OK.

One consequence of this is that Orthodox Jews are split as to where to put their sympathies on the American political scene. Some throw in their lot with the conservatives, on the grounds that "abortion is murder." Others, such as I, support the liberals, on the grounds that "we don't want the Christians telling us when we can & can't have an abortion, if Jewish law tells us it's necessary (life of the Jewish mother) or permitted (before 40 days)."

There are a lot more variations, and opinions, and ideas, than what I brought here, there are whole books on this - what is our stand on non-Jews having abortions? does the Noahide murder regulation in that form apply to non-Jews at all, since some read "person" in legal texts to mean "Jew"? what about mental health of the mother? what about multifetal pregnancy reduction? Et cetera.

In summary, then, it's complicated, every case is different, it may or may not apply to non-Jews, and opinions vary. Under Reform rules, things are different, that's why they call it Reform. Ask your rabbi.

#136 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 07:59 PM:

"Furthermore, if there were other older children, losing their mother was also going to drop their likelihood of survival"

This was also pretty much the argument used in Weimar Germany in favour of legalizing abortion, along with the other possibility that in a family already having trouble making ends meet, one more mouth to feed might well result in the malnutrition deaths of several or all of the children (recall reliable contraception was hard to come by at the time, especially for poor families).

While I do think the right to control over one's own body is the most principled argument, it's perhaps less likely to evoke sympathy than the pre-war one.

#137 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 08:18 PM:

I see it's time to collect the stragglers and issue a new rule:

Rule #7: When you find yourself in a Roadrunner cartoon, and you don't know who is playing the part of the Coyote, the Coyote is you.

I like this one better than the original one about poker tables and suckers.

#138 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 08:19 PM:

Steve C @ 133... Thanks! I have been building quite a collection of LiveJounal icons, but I'd been thinking I needed one of Wile. How best to express futility and despair when one has had a crappy day at the office?

#139 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 08:22 PM:

It's a pity we can't talk about Ron Paul.

#140 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 08:40 PM:

Jim @139:IMO, Ron Paul's policy positions are the reason for these sort of discussions. I wish, very much, that I could support him; I want this verruckten war to end so much that I would throw my small political weight behind anyone of either party who made a commitment to ending it soonest; the problem is that I would rather they would also be sane in other ways. Setting aside the abortion thing (which as everyone here has gotten an earful lately, I'm very passionate about), there's the gold standard thing, and the Letters of Marque thing...

This guy's political elevator doesn't reach the penthouse, which, as Lizzie L pointed out in @23, seems often to go hand in hand with that kind of oversize charisma you say he has.

I also have a personal thing about libertarianism, which, (big caveat here) in the people I've met who say spouse it, seems to boil down to "I'm getting mine and screw you." I'm a society sort of animal, and prefer, "let's see how we can compromise so we can all get some of ours". Absolutely polar opposites, I would say.

#141 ::: Calton Bolick ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:20 PM:

#93: "Radically downsizing our foreign aid, as part of getting us out of that business."

This particular bit crops up frequently -- and frequently wrong-headed, that I guess I have to ask a couple of calibrating questions for albatross:

1) How much of the US federal budget, do you think, goes towards foreign aid?

2) How much of the US federal budget, do you think, SHOULD go towards foreign aid?

Don't look it up: I want to see what your assumptions are, here.

#142 ::: Calton Bolick ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:36 PM:

And yeah, I might as well throw in my 2 cents as to why Ron Paul worries me, which is essentially anecdotal.

A long-time friend of mine is making serious noises about supporting Paul. So what? Well, it's that she's a fairly liberal, cooperative-supporting, Berkeley-educated, Birkenstocks-wearing person basing her possible support -- essentially or wholly -- on Paul's opposition to the Iraq War.

Pretty much every other important view of the guy is something she would oppose or outright loathe, but she has if not drunk the Kool-Aid has at least sniffed the glass, and doesn't understand -- or, God help me, is disposed to disbelieve -- all of Paul's horrible negatives that go against everything she believes in.

While it's just a single datapoint*, the possibility that it's not just the hardcore internet-savvy Libertarians, but otherwise sensible people who, sick and frustrated by Bush's idiotic and immoral war (and the Democratic Party's squishy and seemingly ineffective response) would focus on that single issue, and, in their zeal, ignore everything else.

#143 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:41 PM:

Didn't we go thru one of those oh-he's-not-like-the-bums candidacy in the last years of the 20th Century? Remember Ross Perot?

#144 ::: Calton Bolick ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:43 PM:

Er, please replace

"but she has if not drunk the Kool-Aid has at least sniffed the glass"

with

"and while she has not drunk the Kool-Aid has at least sniffed the glass"

That'll teach me to reach for the cheesy metaphors.

#145 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:45 PM:

Calton @ 141
Looked up already. See #100.
A lot of leftish people see only RP's views on Iraq. I don't know why, because, as you say, most of his other views should be sending them for the exits, screaming loudly. (I'm not happy with any of the people who are running. I want a candidate with more than one or two good ideas.)

Steve C @ 122
So that's what ACME stands for!

---
With regard to familes where the mother died, leaving young children:
There are two responses to this situation that I've seen while doing genealogical research:
the father remarries from within a few months to (possibly) a year or so later;
or
he farms the children out to various relatives to foster (which has the advantage over orphanages that they stay in the family to some degree, and probably get better care).

#146 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:49 PM:

James @130:

So, are you soliciting questions to put towards Tancredo?

Q: Mr. Tancredo, in your new TV spot, you threaten to blow people up if they don't vote for you. Um ...why?

Q: What's the deal with you and Mexicans? Did you get some bad guacamole at Taco Bell once or what?

Though, in all seriousness, I'd like to here Tancredo respond to something along the lines of this:

Q: Since the 9/11 hijackers came into the country legally and were law abiding visitors up until the moment they pulled out their box cutters, why do you conflate terrorists with Mexican immigrants who do everything they can to avoid interaction with the American security apparatus, which includes avoiding airports or any place where they might be required to show an ID, thus outing themselves as an undocumented visitor?

Maybe this could be shortened somewhat.

#147 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:57 PM:

Calton Bolick @142

It's not just you, or your friend. I've heard several otherwise liberal folk say they support Paul and I've become convinced it's intellectual laziness. They hear anti war Republican and just assume he's a centrist, without bothering to check. And figuring a well spoken, articulate and charismatic Republican has a better chance at beating a triangulating, mush mouthed, pro-war Democrat, they throw their lot in with him based solely on his anti-war stance.

The other alternative-- that a lot of Americans have gone completely bonkers-- is just too depressing to contemplate but probably more accurate.

#148 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 10:04 PM:

Serge @138:

You're welcome. Some days at the office, it's either being the coyote or the Tasmanian Devil.

#149 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 12:31 AM:

Hearkening way, way back to the LaRouche subthread:

Via Mark Evanier, here is an interesting article about LaRouche's printer. The article has a lot of background into general nuttiness, and an overview of LaRouche's tactics and evolving belief system.

#150 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 01:08 AM:

Okay, put me down as someone whose mind was just changed by a comment thread. Conclusion: Ron Paul is not any sort of libertarian, not even close.

To pretend he is, you have to limit yourself to what he says the federal government should or should not do. In that domain, Paul says a lot of things that libertarians also say. But libertarians believe state governments shouldn't do those things either. Whereas Paul is perfectly happy to let states outlaw sodomy or ban teaching about the evolution of dinosaurs or ban dinosaur sodomy.

#151 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 01:12 AM:

Emma, #140: I've been saying for a long time that far too much of Libertarianism can be summed up as a combination of, "I've got mine, Jack, fsck you," and [3-year-old voice] "But I WANNA!!!" [/3-year-old voice]. This is based on some 8-10 years of hanging out in online venues heavily populated by self-identified Libertarians. Not to put too fine a point on it, running into real honest-to-ghod Libertarians succeeded in changing me from a person who had considerable sympathy with their professed views to someone who won't vote for one, in any race, unless the only other person running is a Republican.


#152 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 01:25 AM:

Has anyone noticed that you never saw the Roadrunner and Harpo Marx together? Think about it; maybe they're the same person.

#153 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 01:25 AM:

You know that subject we're not discussing? There's now a separate thread for it.

Juli, it's been clear for decades that LaRouche is batshit crazy, and that the only real purpose of his organization has been the glorification of Lyndon LaRouche. Describing it as a vast vanity publishing operation isn't far off. You could also legitimately call it a LARP: let's pretend we're political activists!

#154 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 01:38 AM:

Where's LaRouche getting all his money?

Can I get some of it?


Why didn't the high school guidance counselors tell me that Batshit Crazy was a career choice?

#155 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 01:53 AM:

#154: Larouchies staff tables at airports and college campuses and shopping centers and scare people into making donations. The big selling point is opposition to drugs. I'm pretty sure they don't bring up the crazy shit (e.g., the Royal Family are drug kingpins) with the public.

LaRouche used to buy chunks of airtime on the NYC PBS station to rant on. Stuff about a canal cut across Africa, or sending women to Mars.

I won't shed a tear when the old creep finally dies. He's not entertaining-crazy, just scary-crazy.

#156 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 02:24 AM:

James @ 154 -- read the piece linked to above, it really is interesting and gives some clues to that question. Possible partial answers: overpriced subscriptions to his newspapers and "intelligence service reports", especially to 3rd world embassies that were fooled into thinking he actually had connections.

#157 ::: Calton Bolick ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 03:43 AM:

P J Evans, #145: Whoops, missed that. That'll teach me to be too eager to post.

Keith, #147: Yeah, my friend means well but she isn't too plugged into politics. The part that really worries me is the natural resistance to changing one's initial snap judgment, no matter how bogus or ill-founded that snap judgment was. Multiple that thousands -- not to mention the attempted pushback by the tireless Ronbots -- and it could snowball.

#158 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 03:46 AM:

Checking out parties I didn't know about in the list of choices in our Federal Election (due on 24th November, Saturday week), I found the Citizens Electoral Council of Australia and their web site (www.cecaust.com.au). Whoa!? Then I also spotted: "Established in 1988, we joined the LaRouche movement to fight for Peace through Economic Development."

#159 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 06:31 AM:

Dave Neiwert has done a bunch of the shovel-work here. Quote:

Ron Paul's presidential candidacy has been the focal point for this, and it has been striking, not to mention disturbing, to observe the unanimity with which the far right has been coalescing behind Paul's candidacy. And the support (unlike that for either Buchanan or Perot) has not been merely avid, it's perfervid.

Virtually every far-right entity -- neo-Nazis, white supremacists, militias, constitutionalists, Minutemen, nativists, you name it -- that I've been monitoring for the past decade or more is lining up behind Paul. I've checked with other human-rights observers, and they're seeing the same thing. Ron Paul, rather quietly and under the radar, has managed to unite nearly the entire radical right behind him.

I'm getting very scared. I've been concerned with the possibility of violence during the next national election for some time now; I am very discouraged to see that the possibility is coming nearer to reality.

#160 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 06:38 AM:

Perot? That sure dates that quote. He hasn't been a presidential candidate for over a decade. Is there any "far right umbrella" RP info more recent than that?

#161 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 08:38 AM:

93

Precisely.

Polls show Americans think:

-foreign aid is 10X military spending (military spending is actually over 25X foreign aid)

- foreign aid is around 10% of GDP (actually it is 0.2%)

- the US spends more, proportionately, on foreign aid than other developed countries (actually it is one of the worst)

- most Americans don't know that 1/3rd of US foreign aid was going to Israel and to Egypt, neither of which is classed as anywhere near the world's poorest countries (Israel actually has the GDP per head of a western European country)

Even US Generals will tell you US military power is worthless without economic and social aid to back it up. Hence the deployment of Regional Reconstruction Teams as part of the Iraq 'surge'.

I think David Neiwert has done an excellent job documenting RP's support from the far right, which should worry anyone.

RP's economics ('free banking') is, indeed, completely crazy. And I cannot see President Paul abolishing all trade and tariff barriers and all farm subsidies, which is what economic theory (and libertarianism) would dictate. Even if he wanted to, Congress would find reasons not to.

What you have here is another politician. A message carefully crafted to appeal to particular groups: economic libertarians but also social conservatives (anti abortion, anti gun control), and mainstream Republican voters (immigration). Isolationism (the historic tendency of the Republican Party is to isolationism: think Senator Robert Taft v. Dwight Eisenhower, or the opposition to FDR in the Neutrality Act).

RP has bracketed the extremes of the Republican movement quite nicely with a message that functions as a political Rorschbach test. His supporters see in him what they want to see ('out of Iraq', 'against abortion', 'against government', 'gold standard' etc.) and ignore information that conflicts with this (shades of GWB in 2000).

The case for Obama is not parallel. Obama's case is I am a politician, but I am a politician who can strike deals with the other side. I can talk to evangelicals of a moderate stripe, because I am one. I can pass bipartisan legislation (eg the nuclear arms security bill with Richard Lugar (R, IND).

#162 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 09:21 AM:

Calton #141:

I don't think it's a large fraction of the budget, but without looking, I wouldn't have much intuition for the amount. (But someone else already posted a number, so I guess I could go look it up in this thread.) There are also international loans, which are often effectively aid since they're often forgiven for hopelessly poor companies.

My reasons for wanting to decrease that are twofold:

a. I want the US to get out of the business of trying to run the world. Our foreign aid is part of how we do that, whether it's buying military hardware for Israel or dictating details of how the economy will have to be reformed in Argentina in order to get some loan or aid package or loan forgiveness through.

b. I don't think foreign aid is doing much for the well being of the American people, which is the only really good reason for the government to be doing it. This ties in with the idea that I don't think playing the Great Game, having a hand in every country and every region, is a win for us. I'll acknowledge that this isn't an area I've studied in depth, but the quality of the visible decisions we've made in this area over the years doesn't make a real convincing case, to me, that we're very good at trying to manage what's going on in the world.

My impression is also that our foreign aid often does more harm than good in the recipient countries, but I'm really out of my depth there. Certainly there are cases where this is true (we've propped up a lot of unsavory regimes through the years, though I don't know how often they were keeping even worse people out of power).

This is the same broad direction that Ron Paul wants to move the country, and in that sense, I see him as pretty appealing. He seems to have the property of looking more appealing, the less you know of his actual statements, alas.

#163 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 09:41 AM:

Randolph #159:

Yeah, at least part of this is a consequence of Republican politics over the last few years. A big chunk of the Republicans' natural base has basically been shut out by the party--Pat Buchannan being a fairly good representative of that group. They broadly want immigration stopped or slowed way down, the US to stop playing the world policeman, and much less free trade with the rest of the world. Ron Paul hits all those, and looks vaguely like he might have a chance to get somewhere.

More broadly, when you can go decades without hearing any of your ideas seriously backed by any major candidate for president, you get a real charge of excitement when someone runs who agrees with you on some of those issues, even if he's something of a wingnut. I think we're seeing that with Ron Paul, including among people who won't be able to hold together any kind of coalition for long. For example, libertarians and paleocons (Buchannan-style Republicans) don't agree on all that much, other than that they don't want the US playing world cop. The war, and the broader horrifying mismanagement of foreign policy for the last few years, has made that a big unifying issue, though. And as several people have pointed out, RP has been pretty effective at letting libertarians see a libertarian, and paleos see a paleo, partly because he's a mix of the two.

#164 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 09:57 AM:

re 161: It's hard for me to believe that anyone believes that foreign aid is that much larger than defense without some serious poll-pushing.

#165 ::: Calton Bolick ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 10:03 AM:

albatross, 162:

In other words, you have absolutely no idea how much it is, but whatever it is, it's too much?

The rest of your post is a lot of rather vague handwaving, though one bit is probably worth highlighting:

"I don't think foreign aid is doing much for the well being of the American people, which is the only really good reason for the government to be doing it"

Charity must benefit the giver directly? That's what you seem to be saying.

#166 ::: Calton Bolick ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 10:05 AM:

Meanwhile, geez, Google Ads always seem to surprise me. On my page right now:

Mormon Underwear
Find - Mormon Underwear. Mormon Underwear Guide.
TheguidetoMormons.com

#167 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 10:17 AM:

Ok -- maybe the Fluorosphere can explain this one to me:

Ron Paul favors putting the USA back on the Gold Standard.

The only thing I know about the Gold Standard is that it linked the value of the dollar to the price of gold.

But what does that mean financially? I get the feeling going back to it would be bad, but I really don't understand how.

Help, someone?

#168 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 10:54 AM:

167: the gold standard would indeed tie the dollar to gold. In other words, the price of gold would be set at (say) $800 an ounce, rather than going up and down like a (OFFENSIVE METAPHOR) depending on supply and demand, like other commodities do.
Problem - this restricts the money supply. At present, the Fed can affect the money supply by, essentially, printing more. This is how it manages the economy, increasing or decreasing the money supply in order to curb booms and alleviate busts. Obviously it couldn't if the gold standard were in place - you can't just magically create more gold.

This creates two potential problems.
1. Someone in Africa finds a whole (GRAPHIC FIGURE OF SPEECH)load of gold. Gold is money, so the result is sudden, shocking inflation. Not good.
alternatively,
1a. Sudden discovery that gold is a vital raw material in nuclear fusion, or a cure for cancer, or ponies. Demand for gold goes way up - price of gold goes way up. Since we're on a gold standard, that effectively means that the price of everything else goes way down.

and

2. Similar to 1a but much more likely. The US economy continues to grow - more stuff is being produced, more houses built, etc - but the money supply remains constant. This means deflation - the value of money gradually increases. This is bad. People think "well, why spend now, rather than waiting six months and getting whatever it is more cheaply?" Consumption drops, and you get a depression. Normally, in a recession, the Fed would increase the money supply to get the economy going again. But - aha! - it can't because you're on a gold standard, you poor sorry (COLOURFUL TERM)sucker. So you're basically (BLUNT ANATOMICAL VERB)ed.

#169 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 11:00 AM:

Earlier this year I divested myself of my gold portfolio, said portfolio conisting of one 1 oz. American Eagle. I had held onto it for 20 years, and I realized an annual rate of return of about 2%.

Conclusions?

Pro: Pretty Coin. Nice and heavy in the hand. Lustrous yellow color.

Con: Sucky investment.

#170 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 11:01 AM:

Aha...ok. That makes sense. Thanks, ajay!

But it raises another question -- can constantly increasing the money supply be bad too?

#171 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 11:05 AM:

ajay @158:

Oh! Cool! I love Mad Libs! The vocabulary terms are so open to misinterpretation.

OFFENSIVE METAPHOR: Hail Mary pass
GRAPHIC FIGURE OF SPEECH: pointy as a new pencil
COLOURFUL TERM: hot pink
BLUNT ANATOMICAL VERB: disarticulate

#172 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 11:06 AM:

137 @ j h woodyatt

This a bit of late response, but I wanted to say that you made the whole thread for me. It is quite rare that I genuinely laugh aloud while reading the intertubes, but you have just caused a whole gaggle of cats to give me a concerned look due to the noises (laughing) I was making.

#173 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 11:22 AM:

A Brief description of the gold Standard here

But a short version of why it's not a good idea:

A lot of historians think that the Great Depression was caused by a sudden drop in the price of Gold. Their findings are debated, as the cause and effect isn't clear but, basically: countries on the Gold Standard in 1928-29 saw their economies fall through the floor while non-gold based economies were mostly unaffected (they felt some small ripple form the fact that France, the US and several other countries were basically broke but weathered the crisis due to the fact that they could adjust the price of their currency better).

Countries that got off the Gold Standard in the early thirties pulled out of the Depression earlier. The US stayed on the Gold Standard and so stayed in the Depression until A) the price readjusted itself (due, some suspect, to gold hoarding by the Nazis) and B) The US ramped up manufacturing for the war effort.

#174 ::: DavidS ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 11:37 AM:

First of all, thanks to ajay for a very clear explanation of the gold standard!

My impression (from threads like this one) is that the reason that (many) libertarians like the gold standard is that they would rather that the money supply be controlled by random events (such as discovering new mines) than that it be controlled by a branch of the federal government. Libertarians make a lot of good points about ways the government is not competent or trustworthy, and they have in some cases convinced me that markets could do better. But on this topic, they seem convinced that the Fed is flat out malevolent, and that makes no sense to me.

#175 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 11:54 AM:

Keith @146: So, are you soliciting questions to put towards Tancredo?

Q: If you support nuking Mecca in retaliation for Islamic terrorism, do you support nuking the Vatican in retaliation for clinic bombings?

#176 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 12:01 PM:

One of the reasons Ron Paul's economic theories aren't looking quite so nutty is the recent jump in oil prices, currently flirting with $100 / barrel.

The talking heads on CNBC, et. al. seem to think that this is at least partially caused by a collapse of the dollar's value. For example, the Canadian dollar is now more valuable then the US dollar, for the first time since a brief spike 30 years ago.

If somebody is (apparently) mis-managing the money supply, letting be unmananged looks to be an option. Of course the more logical solution, to actually manage the money supply, might work out better.

#177 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 12:08 PM:

#170 :But it raises another question -- can constantly increasing the money supply be bad too?

No, or rather not necessarily, because the economy's constantly growing... in other words, the "stuff supply" is constantly increasing as well. Of course, if you increase it too much, then you get high inflation, which is obviously bad too.

#178 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 12:39 PM:

C. Wingate @ 164 - The survey in question seems to be from March 1997, and the Lexus/Nexus summary has the question phrasing as: "Which of the items on this list would you say are the two largest areas of spending by the federal government... food stamps, defense, foreign aid, Medicare, or Social Security?" The question does look rigged, but rigged in a "let's get rid of entitlements" way (did we mention that Kaiser was one of the poll sponsors?)

The score was foreign aid 37% and defense 34%, which is barely within the poll's margin of error but still pretty horrifying. A more recent PIPA poll (open methodology available on the site) put the mean estimate of US foreign at 15%.

Chris Gerrib @ 176 - Have you considered the idea that someone is managing the money supply, and this is the result? The US is racking up tremendous amounts of national debt, and inflation is one 'solution' to that problem.

I do admit that's not what I think is happening; I think we're nearing the end of a bust-out.

#180 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 12:55 PM:

Richard Brandt @ 175

Ooh, I'd forgotten his plan to nuke Mecca. Good one!

#181 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 01:47 PM:

Foreign aid:

The spindizzy candidate who lives in the rich Boston suburb and employed not-approved-by-INS foreigners to manicure the grounds around his house, doesn't seem to comprehend why All Those Foreigners are in the USA is because it's more attractive to them economically to come here than stay in the country they're from....

Somehow the issue of masses of illegally arrived foreign workers in the USA keeps failing to pay/want to pay attention to why they are here in terms of what is driving them to come here and how if their presence is so offensive, can it be made more positively rewarding to them to stay home....

Foreign aid helps a LOT with that, building up the economies of other countries, means that their citizens can find economic benefits to staying home and working there, rather having to play (disliked...) guest worker elsewhere...

#182 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 01:55 PM:

#165 Calton:

In other words, you have absolutely no idea how much it is, but whatever it is, it's too much?

No, I have a vague idea how much it is, but not a precise amount. If I wanted to argue about precisely how to best spend that money, I'd need to know a lot about how it was spent, how much there was, etc. But since I want to get rid of it on grounds that don't have much to do with its amount, I don't need to spend a lot of time on the exact amount.

Charity must benefit the giver directly? That's what you seem to be saying.

No, I'm making a slightly different point. I don't think the federal government ought to be in the business of providing charity for other countries, at least not as a general rule. (I can see special cases where it makes sense, especially short-term aid after some disaster or assistance to an ally during a war.) We ought to be spending taxpayer money on making things better inside the US. We have a fair bit of poverty, failing schools, uninsured poor people, cities with major problems, etc., and it doesn't make any sense to me to take money we might have spent on those problems, or that we might have left in the pockets of the taxpayers, and send it overseas.

I understand that the total amount of foreign aid won't solve all those problems, but it's hard for me to imagine that $23 billion dollars more spent inside the US, say on really trying to get the worst schools to work better, wouldn't be better for the citizens of the US. And we're the people whose agent the federal government is supposed to be--it's supposed to be acting on our behalf, managing shared resources and taking care of the indigent and keeping the streets safe and all that stuff. I'm not real clear on why buying military hardware for Israel or shock batons for the Egyptian security services, or even food for hungry children in Africa is a win for us.

Now, I'll admit my model here is that most of our aid money is going for things that aren't as helpful as feeding hungry kids--I know Israel and Egypt are two of the top recipients of aid, for example, and Israel, at least, is a first world country which is not having trouble feeding its kids. It seems rare that I hear of a foreign aid program that sounds like it's being run well, though maybe that's just selection bias on the part of the media. (Though often, they seem to be sympathetic to the program being covered.)

This document lists Iraq as the top recipient of aid at $18 billion, but that's pretty clearly a cost of the war, not of a general foreign aid program. Next are Israel and Egypt, then Afghanistan. The same document breaks foreign aid into broad components (military, development aid, humanitarian assistance), but I am not sure how to interpret that given the huge "lump" of Iraq in the budget; it seems like we might mostly be seeing the way foreign aid is spent in Iraq.

At any rate, the main argument I'd make is based on what we want our government to do on our behalf. I don't really trust it to do a good job handing out money overseas, and I don't see a good justification for spending that money there instead of here.

#183 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 01:58 PM:

FungiFromYuggoth @ 176 - yes, somebody is managing US monetary supply. Unfortunately, between deficit spending and the trade deficit, the only way to manage money supply seems to be adding another shift at the printing plant.

Thus a weak dollar. Mind you, a weak dollar leading to high-priced oil has its benefits, such as making hybrids / smaller cars / alternative fuels more attractive, and it does over the long run strink a trade deficit.

It just seems as if we've backed into this economic policy by accident. There is also a thread of conservative thinking to the effect that a strong dollar is intrinsically good. This allows Ron Paul to hoover up another pocket of support.

#184 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 02:05 PM:

David S #174:

A lot of this thinking came about in the late 60s/early 70s, when many countries were running monetary policy very badly, and there was widespread inflation from mismanagement of the money supply. A good argument could be made that this mismanagement was basically political--unemployment or falling house/stock prices hurt well-defined groups of voters, whereas a bit of inflation diffused its damage through the whole economy. In that environment, linking the currency to something outside the power of government to monkey with made some sense, though I think linking it to a basket of commodities instead of one would be smarter.

But now, we have seen 20+ years of mostly pretty good central bank management of the money supply, so it doesn't seem like an enormously important issue anymore.

Linking your currency to something outside your direct control isn't a wacky idea, though. A bunch of countries in Europe have gone to a centrally-managed Euro, rather than having direct control over their own currency. That means that Italy can't use monetary policy to help out their own economy, because they're stuck with the same currency as everyone else using the Euro. The benefit is that there's no more temptation to misuse your own monetary policy to make things look better right before an election, say. I think a bunch of countries also link their currencies (informally or formally) to the dollar or Euro, for the same sort of reason.

#185 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 02:13 PM:

Richard Brandt #175:

Hey, this is a brilliant strategy he's got! In order to retaliate against stuff we don't like done by Muslims, we will murder a whole bunch of Muslim civilans in a spectacular way. By doing this, we hope to cause the majority of Muslims to be so frightened that they impose whatever political or social change is needed to stop stuff we don't like from happening any more. The only thing this strategy needs is a name.

#186 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 02:26 PM:

re #178; hmmmm... something wrong there. The responses should add up to 200%, not 100% (everyone was supposed to pick two). Anyone want to guess what the correct answers are now, assuming that "medicare" means the whole suite of programs? (Hint: four items account for 3/4 of the budget, and one of them isn't on the list.)

(Answer, in order: Zrqvpner/pnvq, Fbpvny Frphevgl, Qrsrafr, Sbbq Fgnzcf, Sbervta Nvq. The missing item is Vagrerfg ba qrog.)

It is a bit puzzling about why people's notions are so far off.

#187 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 02:27 PM:

albatross @ 185

All you forgot in that was that you're also doing this to the holiest location in Islam, the one to which they are supposed to make a pilgrimage, at least once in their lives.

(Sure it will work. Like throwing a lit flare into a fuel storage tank, in a tank farm. You can pick out the wingnuts just by their willingness to advocate this kind of thing.)

#188 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 02:32 PM:

PJ #187:

It's partly wingnuttery, but I've had this discussion with a former antiwar activist who is very skeptical of government in general. I think it's like the torture and surveillance issues--when people get scared enough, they're willing to consider monstrously evil or dumb ideas.

But yeah, if you're making policy, you need to be thinking with your mind, not you fking glands.

#189 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 02:22 AM:

James Macdonald @ 154
Why didn't the high school guidance counselors tell me that Batshit Crazy was a career choice?

You don't choose it, it chooses you.

#190 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:15 AM:

187

I am more or less convinced, in my own mind, that if you ordered the US military to attack Mecca, the US generals in question would refuse. And they would go to Congress and publicly explain that refusal.

I do think the US has taken leave of its senses in foreign policy (and if Ron Paul were president, that the US had taken leave of its senses) but I also believe that the people in foreign policy bureaucracy and the Pentagon in the US are mostly pretty rational.

#191 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:30 AM:

I am more or less convinced, in my own mind, that if you ordered the US military to attack Mecca, the US generals in question would refuse.

Really? They wouldn't have refused if you'd asked them to destroy every major city in Russia and eastern Europe with thermonuclear weapons, even in the absence of a Soviet first strike. Why on earth would they refuse to hit the relatively small city of Mecca?

#192 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 08:01 AM:

ajay @191: Because it's a relatively small city? Hitting targets in the Soviet Union with thermonuclear weapons made some kind of military sense when they were part of a military complex aiming thermonuclear weapons at the US and Europe (because we were aiming nukes at them... and so on ad infinitum/absurdum). Swatting Mecca would only ever be an act of spite, since it has no strategic value whatsoever.

#193 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 08:25 AM:

#192 NelC:

If this were done, it would happen after a major terrorist strike on the US. Think about what the country looked and felt like a day after 9/11. In that environment, I'm not sure the president would have been unable to get anyone to launch the missiles for him.

#194 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 08:51 AM:

192: Oh, I see. You're arguing that the US military would refuse to carry out an attack that promised no actual strategic benefit, but instead would simply kill thousands of innocent civilians and anger millions of Muslims worldwide, probably to the net harm of the US and its allies, and was, at bottom, merely an act of pointless spite.

You'll excuse me if I come over all cynical and exclaim Of course! You're right! That must be why they refused to go to war in Iraq!

#195 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 09:41 AM:

Lori Coulson @ 170

can constantly increasing the money supply be bad too?

No, because the total quantity of goods and services is* also constantly increasing. Just as much to the point, IMHO, is that the population is also constantly increasing in a lot of places, and the places where it's not**, or where the increase is dramatically less than the canonical 3% acceptable inflation rate, automation and Moore's Law have taken up the slack. And people are ulitimately both the source and sink for all monetary transactions.†

* averaged over a reasonable amount of time to remove the effect of random events.
** Western Europe and Japan, frex
† That too is changing as we speak. As corporations automate they become more autonomous and less and less connected to human concerns. I'm certainly not the first person to suggest that the first true Artificial Intelligence may be embodied in a corporation.

#196 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 10:09 AM:

192 ajay

No because the professional bureaucracy, by which I mean military and civilian, would see it as a devastating and stupid move which could defeat the United States in one fell swoop.

In the same vein, I doubt the US would ever launch a strike on Jerusalem.

I've argued elsewhere that the military's purpose and function is take orders. Once the superior officer gives the order, the only grounds for refusal is that it is an illegal order (and you can't use that grounds to delay the execution of an order).

So I'm arguing against myself. But I genuinely believe the system would work, in the sense that an order that was so contrary to the interests of the United States would not get executed, or at least never formally issued.

#197 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 10:22 AM:

Bruce #195:

It depends how fast the money supply increases relative to the size of the economy, right? (Although this is an area of economics where I felt like the theories I studied on this, as an econ undergrad, lost a tremendous amount of detail in order to make the description manageable. There's not a single money supply, different sorts of transactions can use different approximations of money, etc.)

If the money supply goes up much faster than the size of the economy, then dollars become less valuable relative to stuff, and you get inflation. Serious inflation has a lot of bad effects.

#198 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 10:28 AM:

162 albatross

The US cannot get 'out of the world'. It is part of the world, and a big part. Consider the number of central and Latin Americans living in the United States: the US is directly tied to the success or failure of those economies and societies.

Another excellent example is Afghanistan. The King of Afghanistan asked Eisenhower for money. Ike, ever the fiscal conservative, soft pedalled him. So the dams and hotels got built by the USSR. Eventually socialist radicals overthrew the King, and installed a regime. When moslem guerillas threatened that regime, the USSR invaded.

We know the rest of the story. The moslem radicals, aka the Taliban, seized power after a messy civil war. The US had more or less wiped its hands of Afghanistan in the post-Soviet period*. An obscure group called the Al Quaida trained 20,000 or so operatives in Afghanistan. 19 of those executed 9-11 (and before that suicide attacks on the US Kenyan and Tanzanian Embassies, the USS Cole etc.).

So the question becomes how much influence do you want the US to have in the world?

On abandoning Israel:
- it ain't gonna happen. At the very least, Israel is the US' closest military ally, having access to, and creating, technology that no other ally has, not even the British.

On cutting off aid to other countries:

- well it means the US surrenders influence to countries (Europe, Japan, China) that do provide aid. This is particularly true in Africa and SE Asia, not to mention former Soviet Central Asia (where there is an almighty scramble going on for oil and gas: US companies will lose contracts to more aid-friendly players)

- what about Columbia and Plan Columbia? We can argue against it (I would) but US anti-drug policy is anchored around supporting friendly regimes against drug smugglers

- on Africa in particular, the moral question loom s large. Americans have a GDP per capita of c. $40k, Africans less than $1000 per capita (some much less)**. Note Africa is not trivial to our future, it has 10% of the world's population, but more like 20% of the world's population under 20- our future workforce.

On cutting off multi-lateral aid (IMF, World Bank, UN etc.):

- the US loses the power then to dictate how and who these organisations help. What if these organisations decide to lend money to North Korea or Iran? What if they decide to fund countries (Venezuela) that don't follow the 'Washington Consensus' on liberal economics, free trade, fiscal and monetary prudence, etc.

$23bn is not a whole heck of a lot of money, in a country of 300 million people who have the world's largest GDP, almost the highest GDP per capita and who spend $14.5bn pa on pet food.

www.mindbranch.com/Pet-Food-Riding-R567-532/

$23bn doesn't buy you much. It is, literally, the rounding error on a major defence programme (the Joint Strike Fighter is c. $300bn programme spend estimated). Certainly far less than the incremental cost of Homeland Security since 9-11.

I would submit the US should spend *more* on foreign aid, not less. Inevitably it could be smarter about it: the evidence shows targeted low level programmes (mosquito nets, contraception) have a much bigger return than big ticket projects.

As I say, even the Centcomm commanders etc. acknowledge that the stick of US military power is fairly useless without the carrots of US aid and assistance to go with it.

*if the US hadn't financed the mujahedin, and armed then with Stingers, would they have won? My guess is that yes, when the USSR collapsed, the mujahedin would have won. The Saudi funding (on a matched basis with the CIA) was crucial in the creation of Bin Ladin, and that too is a factor which would have been present even ex the USA).

It's broadly true that the US is in the Middle East for 2 reasons 1). to preserve the nation state of Israel and 2). to guarantee its oil supply, which is critical to the US and world economy. There isn't any solution in prospect in the next 20-30 years which negates 2, and I would submit that 1 is politcally non-negotiable no matter who is president (yes, even Ron Paul).

** the US and Europe could do as much for Africa by abolishing farm subsidies and tariff barriers, as they do with aid. The likelihood of that happening is just about zero, even under President Paul.

#199 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 11:05 AM:

On abandoning Israel:
- it ain't gonna happen. At the very least, Israel is the US' closest military ally, having access to, and creating, technology that no other ally has, not even the British.

In what sense is Israel a military ally? I can count the number of times Israelis have fought alongside Americans on the fingers of one head. There were a few Patriot batteries in Israel in 1991; and that's more or less it.

As for this famous technological advantage: Israel's good on UAVs, true, but most of the rest of the technological trade flows the other way. (And it doesn't stop with Israel either. All sorts of people buy Israeli avionics and radar...)

#200 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 11:16 AM:

The anti-Romney push-polls have made CNN News.

You read it first on Making Light!

#201 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 11:17 AM:

CNN has noticed that push-poll.
...
Western Wats, a Utah-based company, placed the calls that initially sound like a poll but then pose questions that cast Romney in a harsh light, according to those who received the calls.
...
A spokesman for the company would not comment on whether it made the calls. "Western Wats has never, currently does not, nor will it ever engage in push polling," its client services director, Robert Maccabee, said in a statement released Thursday night.
...
At least seven people in the two early voting states received the calls.

Among the questions was whether a resident knew that Romney was a Mormon, that he received military deferments when he served as a Mormon missionary in France, that his five sons did not serve in the military, that Romney's faith did not accept blacks as bishops into the 1970s and that Mormons believe the Book of Mormon is superior to the Bible.
...
(edited for length)

'At least seven people'?

#202 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 11:18 AM:

Dang, I'd have beaten Jim, if I hadn't stopped to read and trim the thing.

#203 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 11:22 AM:

PJ... Robert Maccabee? Is there a Maccabee somewhere who's named Jude?

#204 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 11:49 AM:

203: yeah, but nobody's heard about him...

#205 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 11:57 AM:

P.J. Evans @ 187: (Sure it will work. Like throwing a lit flare into a fuel storage tank, in a tank farm. You can pick out the wingnuts just by their willingness to advocate this kind of thing.)

We Coloradans think Ron is unfairly taking the lion's share of the wingnut spotlight from our Tom.

#206 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 12:00 PM:

NelCM @ 192: Because it's a relatively small city? Hitting targets in the Soviet Union with thermonuclear weapons made some kind of military sense when they were part of a military complex aiming thermonuclear weapons at the US and Europe (because we were aiming nukes at them... and so on ad infinitum/absurdum). Swatting Mecca would only ever be an act of spite, since it has no strategic value whatsoever.

And, as we all know, the U.S. has never launched a strike against a city of no strategic value whatsoever.

And, as we all know, our militay has never embarked upon an adventure with which its leadership was uncomfortable.

#207 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 12:34 PM:

AJ #19

Intel has had (I haven't been paying much attention recently, but the 80386 development included contributions from Intel's design center in Israel) at least one chip design center in Israel, and so did Motorola back when Motorola was in the microprocessor R&D and manufacturing business. Israel's supplied RPV design expertise and hardware to the USA--it used them for "defense suppression" in various actions against e.g. Syrian SAM batteries, to identify the Syrian SAM sites and get them targeted and taken out of action to allow attended fighter/bomber aircraft to then fly over and achieve "air superiority" and drop bombs without getting shot at from the ground... the USA at the time was still stuck in the "Air Force mission is to fly and fight and don't you forget and if you ain't a pilot you ain't shit!" mentality averse to flying remotely piloted vehicles for things like defense suppression.

I did some contract proposal work for a company in early 1990s (when the US defense industry had tanked and there was little demand for people dumped by the US defense industry), used designs of e.g. small remotely piloted reconnaissance platforms that were Israeli.

The USA has played with Israeli antimissile air defense systems, also (I seem to recall one called the Arrow or some such).

(The US Patriot system uses antique technology that belongs back to the days before digital computer, much less microprocessors....)

#208 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 02:07 PM:

ValueThinker #198:

I never proposed for us to "get out of the world." I said I think we should spend a lot less time and energy trying to direct world affairs, manipulate other countries to do our bidding, invading other countries to achieve some murky objective other than responding to an attack on us or our allies, etc.

Your Al Qaida example is pretty good, though. If only we'd had an aggressive, activist foreign policy that had meddled in Afghanistan, we could have headed that off, right?

Of course, we *did* have an activist foreign policy, and were spreading money and pulling strings all over the globe during that time, propping some dictators up, knocking others off, as suited our cold war goals. Al Qaida has grown up during a time when we've been up to our elbows in activist foreign policy.

Maybe a better-run foreign policy would have headed Al Qaida off. But what evidence do you have that we can manage that? The USSR invaded and occupied Afghanistan to maintain a puppet government they'd set up, and couldn't suppress terrorism (er, sorry, "freedom fighters") there. We have also invaded and occupied Afghanistan, we have our own puppet government there, and damn, terrorism isn't suppressed. We're running as activist a foreign policy as you can imagine in the region, with a combination of aid and military action, and yet Pakistan is teetering (and hosts some of the Taliban, I think, in some of its less stable areas). Our extreme activism in the Middle East has led to the nightmare in Iraq, but I think it also contributed to the Israel/Lebanon war (we pushed to get the Syrians out of power, right?), and our support for democracy in the Middle East led Hamas in a powerful position in the Paletinian government, ending with them running the Gaza Strip. (We now get news coverage that paints Fatah as good guys, which is just mind-boggling.)

I'm missing which parts of this record are a commercial for an activist foreign policy. During the same time, many good things have happened, and I expect that many of the good and bad things are attributable to our policies, but I'm not sure how you'd tell in most cases.

We will have influence in the world no matter what we do--our wealth and power will see to that. We don't need to try to run the place, and I've seen no evidence that we're doing ourselves or anyone else much good to try.

#209 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 02:32 PM:

Valuethinker #198:

Just a few snippets:


- well it means the US surrenders influence to countries (Europe, Japan, China) that do provide aid. This is particularly true in Africa and SE Asia, not to mention former Soviet Central Asia (where there is an almighty scramble going on for oil and gas: US companies will lose contracts to more aid-friendly players)

So we should be spending taxpayer money on aid to help US oil companies get better contracts? How is this sensible policy. The oil companies may offer whatever aid they think is good for their bottom line to those countries. (FWIW, with the amounts of money involved, I think it very unlikely that our aid to those countries will change the outcomes of the oil contract negotiations.)


- what about Columbia and Plan Columbia? We can argue against it (I would) but US anti-drug policy is anchored around supporting friendly regimes against drug smugglers

This is a feature, not a bug.


- on Africa in particular, the moral question loom s large. Americans have a GDP per capita of c. $40k, Africans less than $1000 per capita (some much less)**. Note Africa is not trivial to our future, it has 10% of the world's population, but more like 20% of the world's population under 20- our future workforce.

Almost certainly not our future workforce, unless we're planning on allowing several million Africans to immigrate into the US in the next 20-30 years, which we're surely not. We've been doing the foreign aid and activist foreign policy things since the end of colonial rule in Africa, and it's not clear to me that we've helped much. Again, sub-saharan Africa doesn't look to my amateur eye like a great commercial for our activist foreign policy.


On cutting off multi-lateral aid (IMF, World Bank, UN etc.):
- the US loses the power then to dictate how and who these organisations help. What if these organisations decide to lend money to North Korea or Iran? What if they decide to fund countries (Venezuela) that don't follow the 'Washington Consensus' on liberal economics, free trade, fiscal and monetary prudence, etc.

Again, this is a feature, not a bug. I doubt our wisdom, ability, and most of all our disinterested desire to make things better by our policies. It looks to me like we've sometimes made things better in this way, and sometimes made things worse. An awful lot of loans to third-world governments seem to end up enriching the thugs in power, and to be held against the people of the country, perhaps years later when they've deposed the kleptocrat who ran up the bills.

This is probably a fundamental difference in assumptions between us. I don't think it serves us as a nation especially well to try to run the planet. I think our activist foreign policy is an easy place for empire-building, corruption, and blinded ideologues to take root, because it's all but impossible for American voters to evaluate how well it's done, and most of it is done thousands of miles away from us, out of sight, in strange environments we don't understand.

#210 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:27 PM:

209 Albatross

The difference between us is this. You want the US to lose influence in the world. I think that is a bad idea.

Remember though the nature of these things. If the US spends less on aid (and I think you'd agree that $23bn is derisory in the context of a GDP of $1.4trn, and a defence budget (ex Iraq and Afghanistan) of $550bn) it may wind up spending more on military action.

On Afghanistan in particular stability in that country is not possible without aid (amongst other things). No aid, and we are doomed to failure. If we withdraw, well, then, full circle to 9-11: the Taliban is back in power.

I presume you agree with me that Plan Columbia is a mistake? The US doesn't have a drug problem, or not one that can be dealt with beyond its borders?

On Africa, you are ignoring the international mobility of production. Production will move to Africa, because that's where the young labour force is.

On the IMF the problem is what happens if there is another, say, peso crisis? Does the US say 'screw you'?

This was more or less the policy between the two world wars, and of course we had international economic crises and currency collapses. Hence the creation of the IMF. But if the collapse was again, say, in Mexico, then the US has a more proximate problem: another 10 million Mexicans. This is what Clinton and Rubin were afraid of in 1994 and that is why they intervened.

I don't think, realistically, the US will cut aid to Israel any time soon. The domestic political implications would be too horrendous for both parties. Americans *like* Israel and certain groups such as Millenialists, think the US support of Israel is ordained in the bible.

#211 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:32 PM:

Oops sorry. That's GDP of $14 trillion not 1.4. Or about 0.16%.

www.globalissues.org/TradeRelated/Debt/USAid.asp#ForeignAidNumbersinChartsandGraphs

has the international comparisons.

#212 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:59 PM:

Valuethinker @210: This was more or less the policy between the two world wars, and of course we had international economic crises and currency collapses. Hence the creation of the IMF. But if the collapse was again, say, in Mexico, then the US has a more proximate problem: another 10 million Mexicans.

Even more proximate: The collapse of the economy in a border town like El Paso, Texas, where I used to live.

#213 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 05:14 PM:

I think we're going to have start thinking about how the planet is going to be run after nationalism transmogrifies into something else. The European Union, while not really any kind of a whole, does indicate changes are on the way.

#214 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 05:47 PM:

Valuethinker #210:

he difference between us is this. You want the US to lose influence in the world. I think that is a bad idea.

Remember though the nature of these things. If the US spends less on aid (and I think you'd agree that $23bn is derisory in the context of a GDP of $1.4trn, and a defence budget (ex Iraq and Afghanistan) of $550bn) it may wind up spending more on military action.

I want us to give up a lot of influence in the world, because I don't see that it's worth its cost. Part of that is making us a target for terrorists, for the simple reason that we are involved in places they care about, and so trying to get us to cause changes in those places is worthwhile to them. Another part is tangling us up in situations that could drag us into wars, such as Iraq.

If we aren't trying to run things in those countries, I'm not so clear why we're more likely to get into wars. I don't see that anyone is going to threaten us in a military sense any time soon, and if such a threat arises, we can form alliances to deal with it.

On Afghanistan in particular stability in that country is not possible without aid (amongst other things). No aid, and we are doomed to failure. If we withdraw, well, then, full circle to 9-11: the Taliban is back in power.

This is, to me, the most damning thing you can say for what I understand to be your proposal. How many godforsaken places are there in the world? How many nations with religious fanatics or lunatics or kleptocrats in power, how many nations with nightmarish police states? I think your idea is that we should be preventing bad folks from coming to power in all those places, suppressing evil ideas and the rise of terrorists and their sympathizers everyhere. But that's too much for us to do. It puts US money and troops and spies in fifty countries, drops bombs and lauches missiles at people all over the planet all the time. It requires us to try to change outcomes of elections (maybe Diebold can sell their machines overseas), to dictate all manner of policies to different governments to suit our goals.

If we've got to control what darkness can arise in Afghanistan (Pakistan, Lebannon, Palestine, Sudan, Ethiopia, Congo, Liberia, Cambodia, Malasia, Burma, Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Haiti, Guatamala, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, Libya, ...) to be safe, we're screwed. We'll have to take over the whole world to run that strategy, and it won't work--empires died out, not because of some failure of will or idealism or brutality on the part of Europeans, but because they don't work anymore--the technology and economics just don't work out.

Our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan are examples of why this strategy is hopeless. We are dumping resources on those countries, military and financial, and they're still full of terrorists and darkness. We can't clean out all the dark closets of the world. We will destroy ourselves trying, if we go down that road.

I presume you agree with me that Plan Columbia is a mistake? The US doesn't have a drug problem, or not one that can be dealt with beyond its borders?

Yes, I think the war on drugs is a mistake, and I also think it's nuts to try to fix it, assuming we decide to, by intervening in foreign countries as a matter of policy, providing them weapons and buying off their governments to help our policy. (I don't see any problem cooperating on law enforcement goals, though.)

On Africa, you are ignoring the international mobility of production. Production will move to Africa, because that's where the young labour force is.

If lots of production moves to Africa, it will be a great thing, and it will solve a lot of the problems of dire poverty there. But we don't need to manage that, and we probably couldn't even if we tried.

How many times have we gone in and set Haiti to rights, re-established democracy, etc? How's that working out? Haiti is small and close to us; why will we be able to fix Sub-Saharan Africa when we've failed with Haiti?

On the IMF the problem is what happens if there is another, say, peso crisis? Does the US say 'screw you'?

This was more or less the policy between the two world wars, and of course we had international economic crises and currency collapses. Hence the creation of the IMF. But if the collapse was again, say, in Mexico, then the US has a more proximate problem: another 10 million Mexicans. This is what Clinton and Rubin were afraid of in 1994 and that is why they intervened.

The period between the two world wars was a pretty unusual time, though. A big chunk of the world went through an economic collapse, for a bunch of reasons which I think were mainly related to the disasterous war they'd just gotten done with. No US interventionist policy was going to fix that. And we couldn't even prevent or fix our own economic collapse, so it's hard to see how we'd have prevented it from happening globally.

We've bailed out, or helped to bail out, a lot of countries. I'm not sure our record as all that great. The problem is, bailing someone out can prevent a meltdown, but it can also prevent solving the underlying problem that led to the bailout. So we're again in the position of having to reform someone else from outside. Why do we think we'll do that well? Why do we think we'll be selfless and noble doing that, instead of using our influence to impose the dominant ideology in the US, or to make sure that well-connected American companies get a benefit?

I don't think, realistically, the US will cut aid to Israel any time soon. The domestic political implications would be too horrendous for both parties. Americans *like* Israel and certain groups such as Millenialists, think the US support of Israel is ordained in the bible.

I don't know how to do this politically, which is why I've said I don't think Paul has a chance, even outside his wingnuttery in various areas. I don't see why the US has an ongoing obligation to sent a couple billion dollars a year to Israel. I understand that it works out politically, but Israel is a first-world country, and it ought to pay for its own maintenance.

#215 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 01:27 AM:

P J Evans @ 187

Sure it will work. Like throwing a lit flare into a fuel storage tank, in a tank farm.

Works fine, if you don't care about or believe in the consequences.* A few years ago, a couple of ten year old boys in Ohio egged each other on into throwing a lit firecracker into a tent containing a few hundred pounds of fireworks. They were surely old enough and experienced enough to understand the result: IIRC 3 people dead and massive property damage to the mall parking lot they were in.

* Sound like any US President you know of?

#216 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 03:28 AM:

214 albatross

(sorry I have images of Graham Chapman whenever I read your nick ;-)

I think Afghanistan is somewhat different from the other examples you cite (including Iraq, which, let's face it, is lost).

Because an attack on the USA was organised from Afghanistan. So there's no easy way NATO can simply cry uncle and walk away. Because it would put back in power the people who abetted that attack on the US. Afghanistan with a serious guerilla war going on is *not* the same as Afghanistan ruled by the Taliban. They can't fly Osama bin Ladin in and out of Kabul airport.

Not trying to run countries is not contradictory with not giving them aid. One could still have aid programmes, and yet have a 'hands off' policy towards their domestic affairs. Conversely aid can be a lever to improve governance.

$23bn is trivial in the scheme of the US fiscal policy. But it buys a lot of influence and leverage. And it can do a lot of good (if correctly targeted). Not all foreign aid has been successful, but it is not the net negative that its detractors portray.

The problem with the other examples you cited is that we can't know what would have happened to, say, Haiti,if there was no foreign aid at all. Should it be international policy, for example, that in a famine we simply let people starve?

This is more or less the British policy in 19th century India and Ireland. Both countries were exporting food to the Empire in the midst of famines which killed millions. The prevalent philosophy was that the free market would solve everything (nothing modern conservatism comes up with wasn't tried somewhere in the British Empire in the 19th century). Morally, we condemn that now.

What you get with the likes of Ron Paul is a 'get rid of foreign aid'. It plays well: Americans think foreign aid is a kind of welfare for brown people, and that it is a hugely bigger number and burden than it is.

But what would happen is the US would do away with foreign aid, but *not* its large, international military infrastructure. In fact, the US is more or less already doing that: relatively little foreign aid and lots of military involvement.

As to the US actually 'pulling out' of places. Well, in the end, the US needs oil, and lots of it. And the world economy is critically dependent on the Persian Gulf region. So the US does, and will, forward deploy to secure that. Iraq or no, the US will be in the Middle East in some form for a long time to come.

We get to other long term US interests like South Korea and Taiwan. Arguably the US could 'cut them loose' but they would go and form alliances with the likes of Russia, Japan would be likely to create a nuclear deterrent, etc. This might not serve long term US interests very well.

On the IMF and that there is no question the postwar monetary history has been happier than the interwar one. Arguably the IMF has been too tough on its clients, certainly the case is much more that than that it has been too soft. One could argue that the IMF exists to bail out American banks from bad lending decisions to Third World Countries (this was certainly true in the 1970s debacle that nearly brought down Citigroup etc.).

On the UN and US participation in same, (another famed target of the isolationist right), my view of the UN is that if it didn't exist we would have to create it. Not just as a talking shop, but because the fundamental destabilising problems of the world (war, refugees, disease etc.) are so international and multilateral that you need an organisation to deal with them (remember the UN was created in 1943 to deal with the 40 million+ European refugees that World War II was throwing up, and was quite successful in this regard). This would be similarly the case with things like SARS (discovered by the World Health Organization, at the cost of the life of an Italian doctor), whose consequences were similarly international.

On Israel, I don't disagree. But it ain't gonna happen, even under President Paul. He would find reasons to make a 'special case' of Israel.

#217 ::: Calton Bolick ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 08:30 PM:

#182 albatross

Valuethinker makes the points I was just about to make, and probably* much more coherently. I'd add that given the chain of logic I'm seeing, "vague idea" and "no idea whatsoever" are essentially interchangable here. I'd also add that the notion that the budget is a zero-sum game makes no sense in the real world, and that money not allocated for foreign aid/development is not going to automagically be allocated to Worthy Causes domestically.

So we should be spending taxpayer money on aid to help US oil companies get better contracts?

Strawman Alert!

*The "probably" concerns how much more coherent, not the certainty that it would be.

#218 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 02:26 AM:

Al Qaeda turning billions of dollars of New York City real estate and thousands of people into ashes and debris and blowing chunks in the US economy and causing job and economic loss of millions of US citizens and persons in the rest of the world, was eminently preventable.... but not by military means:

1. When the USSR pulled out of Afghanistan, the USA pulled out, too--the USA had been supplying weaponry to the people fighting the Soviets and those allied to the Soviets. The USA did NOTHING whatsoever to round up the residual war materiel that the USA had sent to Afghanistan, did nothing to rebuild the shattered economy and infrastructure and social framework in the country, the USA -left- and failed to implement any sort of program to try to prevent the country from engaging in more civil war and have "he who has the most guns and ammunition and is most ruthless about fighting and most religiously fanatical and willing to dedicate his life to promoting his values by bullying and shooting opponets, gets to take over and impose fanatics' rules on the country."

2. Consequently, Taliban got control of the majority of the country and imposed harsh religious fanatic law and control.

3. Like-minded fanatics found fertile territory there for cross-pollination and mutual support and assistance, untrammelled by restraint by anyone.

4. The junta that took over the US Government (election irregularities....) didn't want to hear about any threat posed by Al Quaeda, metaphorically stuck thumbs in their ears and waved their fingers dismissively at the outgoing administration personnel who had kept fruitlessly trying to get attention paid to the threat.

5. The INS and FBI couldn't be bothered under the Schmuck to question seriously people their own grunt work personnel regarded as suspicious and requiring of agency investigtion--two different FBI agents in different offices and parts of the USA, were so highly concerned they requested their managers to get subpoenas to search the domiciles of certain Saudi Arabian nationals taking flight lessons for airliners without any apparent rational reasonable innocuous basis who especially weren't interesting in learning how to land such planes, and impound their effects to dig out information about why and how was providing the funding).

6. The bosses of the field agents told the agents to cease and desist their investigation of the foreign nationals the agents found suspicious and refused their urgings for subpoenas. The suspicious foreign nationals, of course, were among the perpetrators of the mass atrocities of 9/11. I still want to know who, what, and why squelched investigating people the field agents thought it so important to investigate. Why were the agents squashed, and what policy/who was responsible for the POLICY of squashing agents' requests for subpoens on Saudi Arabian nationals, when, and WHY? I would not be the least surprise if the trail go all the way up to the Schmuck, or at least Cheney. I have a difficult time believing that the head of the FBI would have implemented such as policy/handling of the situation without the people above him directing it....

7. The INS couldn't be bothered to pay attention to its own watch list and turn back people on it, from getting into the USA.... again, who was responsible for such slipshod incompetence or directed willful neglect? At least one of the 9/11 mass murderers got into the USA despite being on the watch list, not that long before the perpetrating of the atrocities.

8. The head of security at Logan International Airport in Boston had scheduled a security exercise for mid-August 2001. One of the goals of the intended exercise was essentially rubbing the noses of the airlines in the security shortcomings and lapses present in their operations at Logan and thus forcing them to acknowledge the deficiencies and do something about fixing them. However, the exercise never happened, the airlines refused to even participate in such an exercise, forcing the frustrated head of security to cancel the exercise instead. The feds certainly provided no support whatsoever to him to get the airlines to cooperate and/or to improve their security as regards operations.... and guess what airport two planed got hijacked out of, and first....

9. There was "chatter" but the FBI wasn't caring to bother to raise the threat level and tell the INS to tighten things up at the borders.... again, there was no interest on the part of the governance of the Schmuck about any threat from Al Quaeda and no attempt to do anything for prevention/interference.... Had there been any notice to the public to beware of suspicious foreigners, the scenario may have run VERY different that day....

10. Once disaster struck, not only did Logan shutdown, the authorities impounded and towed cars in the Logan parking lots out to be gone through. In particular, someone who'd flown to was it New York City that very morning, had had such a memorable interaction with a carful of Middle Easterners in a Logan parking garage when he was trying to find a parking space, that as soon as the plane he was on landed, he contacted the authorities to tell them about the carful of offensive-beyond-Boston-driver-ordinary-rudeness utterly obnoxious Middle Eastern males... who it turned out had been a carful of hijackers. He gave the authorities the color of the car, the type, and the license plate number, where it was parked... and when the news media started talking about the authorities looking closely at a car and searching it, very early on in the wake of the disaster, that was the car, and why among the thousands of cars parked in lots and garages at Logan, the authorites zoomed in on that particular car so very quickly as suspicious and of interest.... Had there been any warning to the public, the fellow in all likelihood would have told the authorities at Logan immediately, and -that- likely would have shutdown Logal immediately, preventing any of the hijackings there from taking place....

There were LOTS of things, therefore, that could have been done, by any administration that was the slightest bit competent and concerned, that would have averted disaster. The facts that NONE of those things were done, that none of the management/leadership of the Executive Branch of US Gvoernment regarded Al Qaeda as attention-worthy of threat for month after mongh after month following the Supreme Court appointment of the Schmuck to the office of the President of the United States of America, that the policies carried by the his regime blocked investigation by experienced FBI agents and frustrated their every attempt to delve into the issues of, "Why are these Saudi Arabian nationals in the USA and taking lessons to fly airliners without any intentions of learning how to land them, without any innocuous basis such as employment with an airline for taing the flying lessons, and big questions about where the money for the lessons is coming from?"; that the INS wasn't complying with its own rules regarding denying foreign nationals on watch list entry to the USA (was it only Saudi nationals who got through who were on the list?); no support for forcing airlines to comply with good security practices and no federal attention whatsoever to pushing for compliance....

These to me constitute indictment of the Schmuck's regime as at the very least gossly incompetent and negligent and malfeasant, at the very least. Put the blame where it belongs--on the US Executive Branch--the original failure to do anything in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal to demilitarize the country and help move it to peace and prosperity instead of leaving it to turn into a repressive theocracy sponsoring international terrorism (the USA was not the only target, just the one where the most spectacular, successful attacks occur... Al Qaeda also murdered people attacking US embassies in Africa, and murdered 200 people in Bali very few or maybe even none of whom were US citizens....) and hosting international terrorist organizations complete with training camps and permanent headquarters facilities and a hardenened mountain for command and control....).

The US Executive Branch under William Jefferson Clinton paid attention to the Al Qaeda threat and went after Al Qaeda to the extent possible with a Congress full of rancid fanatics who regarded the highest and most important and urgent priorities, making Warren Buffet and Bill Gates and the owners of of Halliburton and the prime contractor of the Big Dig etc. even richer than they were and imposing specifically sectarian-based beliefs and lifestyles on the entirety of the US public regardless of the religion or lack thereof and beliefs and values of those to be bludgeoned and legislated into compliance.

I am infuriated with all the stinking red herrings and distractions and lies and dismissals of the Republicrap Noise Machine and its allies--allies by deliberate choice and sharing of the agenda, or allies of the blind/deaf/closed-minded/single-issue-dominated--regarding the trumped up "War on Terror" and the ENTIRE agenda of turning the USA into some sort of Apocalyptic Christian Dominionist theocracy.

That's where most of the CRAP comes from, peopole who have an agenda and run politics and religion in the same cart, viewing anyone whose views differ from them as wrong ethically, morally, and intrinsically, and viewing the US Constitution as "just a piece of paper" which the Dominionist interpretation of What the Bible Ought To Day takes complete and utter precedent over. Their worldview is not that of religious and socil pluralism and "the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

The clues are in print, in clear print, on e.g. the Southern Baptist Convention website pages dealing with what they believe, and what the way of the world should be, with women "submissive" to men, for example, and being housewives regardless of whether the women themselves have any interest or feel that they have any calling/interest in housewifery and motherhood.

Being told long ago by a determined Southern Baptist what women could and could not be, and being told by a Mormon, was if, of "what Jews believe" because he had met a Jewish man once and talked to that one individual, are things that made very lasting impressions of me--negative ones, that there are people out there who are extremely narrow-minded and parochial and who have their beliefs nd values and philosophy neatly slotted and frozen as-in, no change allowed, no questioning allowed, no acceptance of such things as allowance for others being different and having different creeds, needs, interests, talents....

James Dobson, one of the people in the world on my least admired list, had had free run on the White House since the Schmuck moved in. Torquemada, except that he was a Catholic, might have felt entirely comfortably waterboarding hapless prisoners at Gitmo or Abu Ghraib or in Afghanistan or in any of those ghost jails, aftre having surreptitiously arresting and renderitioning them....

#219 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 12:39 PM:

Paula Lieberman @ 218: I still want to know who, what, and why squelched investigating people the field agents thought it so important to investigate. Why were the agents squashed, and what policy/who was responsible for the POLICY of squashing agents' requests for subpoens on Saudi Arabian nationals, when, and WHY?

To avoid embarrassing our good pals the Saudis? To avoid embarrassment to that nice Bin Laden family?

Beats me, but I still wonder why some of those FBI bureaucrats haven't handed themselves by now.

#220 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 08:27 PM:

Didja know there are Ron Paul Coins? They're apparently in use by his fans.

#221 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 10:10 AM:

Calton #217:

So, if you oppose the Iraq war, I suppose you know precise troop dispositions, casualty rates in different provinces, etc? Or is it possible to oppose something on principle, without needing to dig into deep details about it? Off the top of my head, I also couldn't have named the budget for all the intervention in Iraq, yet I was pretty sure I was opposed to it. Why is this different from foreign aid?

I'd also add that the notion that the budget is a zero-sum game makes no sense in the real world, and that money not allocated for foreign aid/development is not going to automagically be allocated to Worthy Causes domestically.

You could use this argument to justify any spending, no matter how frivolous. Well, yes, the bridge to nowhere may be spending hundreds of millions of dollars to very little benefit, but hey, it's silly to think that money would otherwise have been allocated to worthy causes, so why not just spend it.

As an aside, arguing over money in the budget is indeed a zero sum game, as dollars given to program A inevitably come from some other proposed program. Any budget is about deciding what to spend limited resources on, and deciding to spend it on foreign aid or bridges to nowhere means deciding not to spend it on something else.

#222 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 11:07 AM:

Valuethinker #216:

I think there are a few core issues here:

a. Do we benefit from an activist foreign policy? By that, I mean the whole package: Foreign aid, lending money to foreign governments, using aid and loans to impose conditions on those governments, running propoganda operations worldwide, invading and bombing other countries, toppling hostile government and propping up friendly ones, assassinating annoying foreign leaders, the whole bit.

I don't think we do, on net. I can't see exactly how to check this with an objective measure, but one thing is clear: You can't make a case for an interventionist foreign policy on the basis that it could have prevented 9/11 or the rise of Al Qaida, because we had one, and it didn't.

This is a question of interests, not morality. We're not asking whether it's a good thing to have such a policy, just whether it furthers our national interests. A big part of answering this question must consider how our interventionist foreign policy has worked out so far. We seem to get into a big interventionist war at least once a generation, and a smaller-scale involvement once every couple years. That's a cost. Similarly, we often find ourselves propping up ruthless dictators, or toppling ones who are broadly rather sympathetic, but are opposed to our interests. That's not a cost it's easy to measure, but knocking off Allende to get Pinochet is a moral cost, as is mining the harbor in Managua, putting the Shah back on the throne in Iran and propping him up, or lending our support to the charming folks in charge of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

b. Should we be intervening for humanitarian reasons? This is a moral question, but again, it hinges on the practical one of whether we've done this well so far. Does our humanitarian assistance, in all its guises (including IMF loans with conditions for how the recipient must reform its government) seem to help, and if so, how much. We also need to ask whether it makes sense for the federal government to send money overseas.

To my mind, the aid numbers make a kind of strong argument that, so far, we haven't been focusing on humanitarian aid. Most of our foreign aid budget now seems to be being used for the interventionist type of foreign policy, going to Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, and Egypt. The pittance that's left may be doing some good, but it doesn't exactly make a strong case that we're now running some deeply generous humanitarian program, which mean people like me are wanting to cut in order to see poor children starve. The implication, to me, is that many people arguing that we must keep up our foreign policy for humanitarian reasons are really arguing to keep a much bigger interventionist foreign policy for our own interests. However, it's certainly an interesting argument to have--should the US spend less here (say, on schools or roads or medical research) to spend more feeding hungry kids in Haiti or Sudan or Bangladesh?

If we were to end our interventionist foreign policy, that wouldn't mean pulling out of the UN or other international bodies, but it would mean giving up trying to manage the world.

#223 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 01:37 PM:

albatross @ 221: So, if you oppose the Iraq war, I suppose you know precise troop dispositions, casualty rates in different provinces, etc? Or is it possible to oppose something on principle, without needing to dig into deep details about it?

"Don't confuse me with facts, my mind's made up!"

#224 ::: Calton Bolick ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 09:44 AM:

Or is it possible to oppose something on principle, without needing to dig into deep details about it?

Sure, in the same way you can oppose Cadillac-driving welfare mothers or Communists sapping our precious bodily fluids. Or to use something more closely related to your example, oppose Saddam Hussein's imminent nuclear weapon/WMD program.

#225 ::: Calton Bolick ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 09:53 AM:

I mean, I could have said back in 2003, "Hey, what with that crazy Saddam having his nuke program and all, I gotta oppose, in principle, having a nuke/WMD/crazed weasel infestation dropped on me by him." I mean, digging into deep details wouldn't have altered that basic principle, wouldn't it? I mean, unless you were just BEGGING to have a nuke/WMD/crazed weasel infestation dropped on you. How could you possibly oppose that principle?

#226 ::: Ken Burnside ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 01:07 PM:

I will vote for the candidate who promises this:

“Our current electoral process is, due to a number of factors that have magnified greatly since the days of the Founding Fathers, trundled towards a dangerous precipice. One where “compromise” and “listening to the opposition” are considered offenses worthy of stoning.”

“I propose to change that. If I win the election, I promise my opponent that he will have access to the White House, and access to Executive Office funds to create a team of advisors, mirroring the Presidential Cabinet. On every substantial issue that comes before me as President, he will be asked to provide a reasoned opinion. Where doing so does not compromise the security of the nation, he will have access to information he might not otherwise get.”

“Every second Wednesday that I’m in office, there will be a two hour block of time for my opponent, with his staff of advisors, to bring me up to speed on issues of concern to their side of the political aisle.”

“The Presidency of the United States is too important for partisanship. I urge my opponent to make the reciprocal pledge, in the event that he wins.”

Yeah. I know. I'm dreaming.

It's funny how the discourse in this thread mirrors the discourse on the anti-Hillary/anti-Obama sites.

"Let's focus on the things about a candidate we disagree with! Let's get all riled up! Wow, can you believe what a whack job that candidate is? Man, we have to get everyone mobilized to make sure that he never comes close to the elected position of dog catcher! He's too dangerous!"

How about we listen to the good ideas from all quarters, and attempt to integrate 'em instead...

#227 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 02:31 PM:

Calton #224:

Do you know what a zero sum game is? I mean without looking it up? Because your usage of the term in #217 implies that you don't know what it means. Playing "gotcha" games in this way is stupid, right?

The morality of humanitarian foreign aid doesn't seem to me to depend at all on the budget we have. I mean, the size of the budget we spend on humanitarian aid kind-of undermines the claim that we run our foreign policy in any major way to serve humanitarian goals, but the morality of taking taxpayer money and giving it to other governments is independent of how much of that we're doing now. (Questions of morality usually have this property; I was sure I was against torture even when I assumed it worked, because its effectiveness at getting correct answers is irrelevant to the moral question.)

The effectiveness of our humanitarian foreign aid is determined by a bunch of details, including how much money is spent, where it's spent, and how it's administered. I can see reasons to expect that it's not spent well for the most part, and that looks to be true, but I'll admit I'm not any kind of an expert. Certainly, our success in helping Haiti (a horribly poor small country close to us) doesn't fill me with confidence that we'll do a good job in bigger poor countries that are further away from us.

The morality of trying to run big parts of the world through an interventionist foreign policy surely depends on what exactly we do to run things. The most visible parts of that are wars, coups, assassinations, and bombings, which don't reek of moral or humanitarian behavior to me.

The wisdom of an interventionist foreign policy is hard to assess, because we're such a big player in the world that we're shaping the world through our policies. However, it's hard for me, again as an amateur, not to include the disaster in Iraq, the brewing likely war with Iran, and the ongoing War on Terror/war with Al Qaida among these costs. Similarly, the cost of being able to do this is keeping a much larger military budget than we need for our own defense, keeping troops stationed all over the globe, etc.

The benefits alleged for this policy are often kind of hard for me to see. For example, one of the justifications for our recent mucking about in the Middle East was that we were going to spread democracy. I guess the electoral victory of Hamas was a win in that regard, but I'm not sure how this has made the region more stable or furthered our interests. Another justification often made is that we are thereby securing our supply of oil. By the way, what was the price of oil looking like, these days, relative to before we started the war? (This isn't a pop quiz; it's okay with me if you look it up.) Still another is that ensuring friendly regimes stay in power makes us safer in the future. This is probably why we're on such good terms with Iran. Or that our interventionist foreign policy
keeps us safe from proliferation of dangerous weapons. These aren't obvious successes, to me.

#228 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 05:58 AM:

Ken Burnside@226, I find the Sarkozy variation on this interesting. His door's not open to the opposition leader, exactly: he just tries to hire everyone with any competence or drive on the opposing side.

It's both an effective way of taking the opposition down and an effective way of increasing the competence of your government...

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