Friday, December 30, 2011

A Few Thoughts for the Upcoming Year:

A short little post while I prepare for the New Year. Since the Libertarian minded have had to spend the last year defending their philosophical underpinnings, why don‘t we ask some questions of those who would dismiss us as crazy or naive:

If the U.S. were to cut it’s defense budget in half, it would still spend twice as much as any other country.  Who exactly is the enemy we are preparing to fight? Can we start to have a discussion about this $600+ Billion and the where, when and how of its expenditure?

As it relates to the first question, the Defense Department got a pass this year on doing an audit. They get a few extra years to come up with more excuses as to why they are unable to explain how they spend our money. The taxpayer’s money. It is a travesty that Medicare fraudulent pays out more than $50 Billion per year, every year, yet the Defense Department can’t even tell us how much they waste. We have to try and guess. Can we stop the hyperbole about how the tiniest cut would doom the Republic until we have a fair accounting of how they are spending our money?

Thousands upon thousands of people have died, or have lost their lives to incarceration, in order to keep people from getting high. That is the long and the short of it; somewhere along the way it was decided that product A, B or C is really, really bad for you, and the state should prevent you from using it. When exactly is this war going to be over? What is going to constitute a victory? Are people are going to stop getting high? Are people going to stop killing each other so as to reap the billions of dollars the illicit drug trade provides? Is anyone going to admit that the only reason anyone dies and that there are billions of dollars to be made form the supply of drugs is because they are illegal (seems no one remembers Prohibition in this discussion)?

To those who say Ron Paul can’t, shouldn’t, won’t win in Iowa or the nomination, isn’t that up to the people at this point? You can ask questions that need to be asked. I have always been somewhat lukewarm to Paul, and I have never been 100% on Team Rothbard/Rockwell. But given the other options, is anyone really surprised? The Neo-Cons and the Social Conservatives have lost some standing in the Republican party and the population as a whole, and that is great in my personal opinion. People are questioning the ideological consistency of these “limited government” types who want to see government limited in every facet except National Security, Homeland Security, Executive Power, Defense Spending, abortion, who you sleep with and why, what faith you hold dear, what you ingest…you see where I am going there? People are starting to see the expansive, all powerful state, in all its forms as a threat to the nation and our way of life. Ron Paul might not be perfect, but his message resonates over the Newt/Mitt/Perry drivel for a reason. We have heard this song before, and how exactly does it cut our soon to be $16 Trillion debt?

To those who say Gary Johnson should stay out of the way so as not to queer the deal for Obama, I ask why should anyone care? The same people say Ron Paul can’t win, so you would have to explain how Obama has been any worse than John McCain would have been, or how he will be worse than the afore mentioned Newt/Mitt/Perry what-have-you? All of these individuals do not approach the Office of the President with any humility. They see no limit on their power, or their egos. They will all have their pat industries or groups to bail out. They all see no real limit on the power of government unless it is as a partisan sound bite. The people are fed up with it all. 10 years, $16 Trillion in debt and absolutely no action to change the trajectory. Limiting the state and its growth is the only real chance we have, so why not vote for someone who holds that notion dear? If the Independents all said “stop the ride I want to get off” that would be the end of the two parties, which really, at this point is there a difference?

To our left leaning friends, how exactly has Obama been working out for you? Liking his National Security stances so far? Even W. didn’t advocate the ability to assassinate an American citizen without trial. Making you feel all warm and cuddly?

To everyone over 55: We get it, someone made a promise to you. You know what though, lets put aside the notion that no one asked me, I know for a damn fact no one asked my children. Is your level of comfort really worth the United States of America? No one is talking about pushing you down the stairs or leaving you to cat food and freezing to death. The system is unsustainable, and we need to decide what we are going to do going forward. In the end it does not concern you, unless of course you make it that way with the AARP and all the other lobbies. You had a chance to mess everything up beyond almost all comprehension, and I don’t want to hear about what is owed to you. Medicare and Social Security (as well as the Defense Budget) are going to destroy the country, so until you are ready to admit that and be part of the discussion about the solution put away your tri-corner hat and your sign please, you are being insincere. It needs to be fixed, and to put it bluntly you will be long dead when the final bill comes due, so can you please back off on the panicky hyperbole?

We could go one and on: OWS and the notion of what is “owed” to a them; public schools and the idea that what is good for the Teacher's Union isn’t always good for the children; the general notion that we exist as little cogs in the greater machine that is our government and it needs us to be eating and living healthy, carrying our mandated health insurance, while wearing our seat belt and not talking on the cell while driving, all with our government funded college education, working in properly subsidized green industries producing the specifically mandated light bulbs all while paying what is our “fair share” into the government coffers. It should be both fun and incredibly frustrating to examine all of these thing in the coming year. Happy New Year to you and yours.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gary Johnson, Spoiler? Can You Spoil Rotten Fruit?

Today Gary Johnson dropped his run for the Republican Presidential nomination and officially started his campaign to secure the Libertarian Party’s top spot. Instantly there is talk about Johnson being a spoiler, leeching away votes for a Republican candidate and allowing Obama to win a second term. We of course are supposed to be concerned about this because Obama winning is somehow the most terrible thing to ever happen, even over a President Romney/Gingrich/Perry/Santorum (these same people wouldn’t support Ron Paul over Satan), so we should therefore hate the idea of some other candidate expressing the notion that the Federal government is too damn big, intrusive and expensive to continue on in its present course. What is incredible here is the idea that we, as a nation, should care what the party affiliation is at this point. We have been on this ride for decades now, with both of our established parties making a big production of how incredibly terrible it would be if the “other” guy won the race, how it would fundamentally change the country for the worse, and we should just suck up our petty little differences over policy and simply vote for the best of the two. Let’s just look at the issue of spending to see how stupid this idea is.

The big claim to fame for the TEA Party was a desire to limit spending. The “establishment” Republicans resisted the TEA Party from the beginning. They hated the primary challenges to their hand picked candidates, and they have hated the trouble wrought by them in the House of Representatives. The “adults” across the ideological spectrum have decried TEA Party legislators for their “extremism” and willingness to push the envelope, to hold the nation “hostage” as it were. The TEA Party picked the debt ceiling vote to stage a rebellion and attempt to cut spending. The result? A ridiculous piece of theater where panic and consternation over the fate of the Republic filled the airwaves. Remember John McCain, former Republican Presidential nominee? He referred to these Representatives, the ones whose platform got the Republicans back in the big game in 2010 (after his establishment party ran the country into the ground and provided us with his laughable, pitiful run at the big chair), as “hobbits”, seems hard to believe that anyone threw their vote away on him in ‘08. We had our establishment parties come up with a plan to deal with our huge debt problem; they would create a “SUPER COMMITTEE” to make the cuts that all of the regular committees charged with fecklessly spending the taxpayer money could not cut. The result? Failure of course, these people could not come up with a plan, which we all knew was the point. We will now supposedly have automatic budget cuts under sequestration, except of course each side has said they will protect their most cherished programs, whatever they might be, from the draconian cuts that will spell doom for this, that or the other thing. And at the same time the President is going to ask for another $1.2 Trillion (yes with a T)increase to the debt limit, and it has to pass this time, because last time around they made it so both houses of Congress had to agree on saying NO instead of passing a bill saying YES. $16.4 Trillion in debt, just like that. Who exactly is serious here? Democrats who will demand every social program will be defended, as is, without any reform, or Republicans who insist cutting any of the $600 or more Billion from the Defense budget will lead to a Chinese/Iranian/Alien takeover of the planet and the end of America? What exactly is going to get spoiled if Obama wins instead of the Republican? Are any of these candidates (save for Paul) going to stand up and say what has to be said, that Medicare and Social Security are promises that can’t be fulfilled in the long run, and that American National Security needs to be redefined from the military interventionism that has governed our policy decisions for the last 60 years?

Could Gary Johnson queer the whole deal for the Republicans? Yes, yes he could. Is that actually a bad thing? There needs to be some sort of reality check within both of these parties about the future of this country. The idea that you should be allowed to live your life free from government interference should not be so crazy for Americans. Maybe instead of paying lip service to the very real Libertarian leanings of many Americans they should start actually living up to them. The Social Conservatives and the Neo-Cons have incredible leverage over the Republican Party, but ask yourself, do the American people really want those platforms instituted? Do they want to live in a country that bombs first and ask questions later? Does anyone comprehend what the outcome of a 100% ban on abortion would look like, the kind of intrusive government apparatus that would be needed to enforce that? Can anyone really support the idea that gays should be singled out and told that their lifestyle disqualifies them from enjoying the same things all other Americans enjoy? Does anyone out there actually see a “victory” scenario in the War on Drugs? Does anyone really want to continue to “trust” in the government to always make the right decisions on who is a terrorist and who should have their lives monitored by the state on a continuous basis? Given that Obama has done nothing to turn around the economy and has in general been a disappointment for anyone who was really concerned with the drug war, the national security state, immigration, foreign policy excesses, civil rights and a litany of other issues, why is it a Gary Johnson run would only hurt Republicans? People are shedding their party identification because it has thus far done nothing but drive us further into a ditch. People have realized that riding a carousel does not get you anywhere. Why not give someone else a try? If you happen to be a limited government, maximum freedom type, who thinks that Gingrich or Romney will show gratitude for their victory, thanks to your support, by rolling back the state, then you are stupid, there is no way to sugar coat that. You would suffer the same disappointment you felt had you thrown your support behind the “transformative post-partisan” Obama in ‘08.

Third Party runs have historically done two things: They have acted as spoilers, events that got the losing party to realize they have lost touch with the voter and need to modify their platform, or they have signaled the death of one of the existing parties. The last time the later has happened was the lead up to the Civil War, and maybe we are overdue for something like that now.  There is the continuing idea that America must be a two-party state for the system to function.  The end result of that has been a general agreement by the two that they need to continue to spend our money and tell us how to live our lives in pretty minute detail.  Going along to get along has brought us to the precipice of bankruptcy.  We keep hearing how challenging and unique these times are, so maybe a little chaos and upheaval is what is needed to meet the challenge.  A vote should reflect who you want to win, not who you want to beat. Ask yourself, in a fair fight between Obama, Romney and Johnson, who would you want to see come out on top and why?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Did the World Just End?

According to the social conservatives and many of the blowhard Neo-Cons like John McCain the absolute worst thing that could ever happen anywhere would be gays serving openly on the military.  This is the result of that policy so far:

Terrible?  Horrible and shocking?  Is this really the worst thing in the world?  Has the Republic come to an end because of this?  Seems to me that two people who obviously care for each other got to say hello, instead of having to lie and skulk around in the shadows.  This was really something to be concerned about?

Conservatives Know Best?

How would you like a little condescending pat on the head? That is what we are seeing more and more out of the “mature” Conservatives out there, reassuring Libertarians that their ideas are important and relevant, and they will be addressed in the order they were received. The Libertarian, according to these wise sages, is correct in their love of freedom and liberty and the notion of limited government, it is just that they are too naïve to realize how unworkable that is in the real world. It is just plain super that these things are being talked about, and you should continue to talk about them, over there in the corner away from everyone, after you vote for a proper Conservative Republican candidate who will pay lip service to your beliefs every once and again.

Today’s super screed comes from The American Thinker, which is really quite oxymoronic in this case. It is of course in reference to how crazy Ron Paul is, and why he and his followers are just too naive and their ideas unworkable in the “real” world. It would not matter if it was Ron Paul or anyone else though, because it is the same old crap from conservatives. There are three central arguments to this article, all of them classics about how inappropriate Libertarian thought is for the real world. My favorite would be this little gem about “isolationism”:

I think this is an exceptionally invalid argument, because it works backwards through history and all the interventionist consequences we have endured, and comes to a “what if” point in order to discredit a school of thought. Mr. Yoshida is taking the tack that if Libertarians had been in charge in 1917 that we would have never gotten involved in any world conflict and therefore the Nazis/Commies/Hippies/Moonies would be dominating the planet and America would be no more. It is very interesting that he decides to go all the way back to World War I and faults Libertarian style disengagement for keeping America out of the war and allowing the slaughter to continue unabated for years. Well, where to begin with this one? How about who is to say which side we join before 1917? The First World War, despite what anyone might think had nothing to do with principles of freedom. Grand Empires were engaged in a death struggle over who would get to enslave more people across the globe, that is the long and the short of it right there. The reason America stayed out of this war is that there was no side to take. The fact that the English and the French did not like a challenge to their dominance of the globe bore no real consequence to this nation. The plurality of the country at that point was of German ancestry and certainly held no real animosity towards their progenitors. One of the other major, and very influential, ethnic groups in this country were those of Irish ancestry, and they had no issue with Britain’s suffering a defeat in the war. America’s entry into the war was due to the military and geopolitical decision of all of the powers involved, leading to acts of desperation by one towards the United States. America had to be sold on this war, and it took quite a long time for the people to buy. The results were nothing to write home about in terms of our nation and its history, and they still haunt us today. The Espionage Act of 1917 allowed the government to lock away people for simple political dissent, something we should not be looking back fondly on. The Treaty of Versailles and the efforts of our Imperial allies to cement their hegemony over their colonies, was in part a reason for the later war. The shaby treatment we recieved from our Allies in those negotiations is what led America to resist entry into the Second World War. Allowing World War I to play out without our direct intervention could have had a very different affect on history, possibly avoiding the mass slaughter that was World War II. Maybe the Europeans continue to slaughter each other into a draw, then what happens? They lose control of their colonies, allowing self determination for millions of people around the world? Maybe places like French Indo-China and sub-Saharan Africa never turn to Communism to throw off the yoke of an extra 40 years of European domination? In turn the millions of people and trillions of dollars that are wasted in that struggle never get expended, wouldn’t that be a better outcome overall for America and world history? Without the intervention of America maybe the Allies never intervene in the Russian Revolution on the side of the Whites, creating a different outcome, or at least less suspicion and hostility towards the west from the Reds? With complete and total devastation and no hope of victory by either side, maybe we see an actual peace, and no opportunity for the Nazis to come to power. It is impossible of course to say what would have happened, and to reach all the way back to that event with a “what if” scenario in order to discredit a philosophy is intellectually dishonest and the worst kind of “straw man” argument: You don’t like American intervention overseas and the military industrial complex, therefore you would have let the Nazis win the war and rule the world. An actual discussion about American priorities and what is necessary for National Defense is what is needed, not the hyperbole that is being delivered here.

One of the other gems in this article of course deals with drugs. Those crazy Libertarians of course have a point that when it comes to freedom, you should be allowed to do as you please, but what about reality?
From the horse’s mouth:

Most libertarians believe that individuals have a right to put whatever they want into their own bodies provided that they do not harm others in the process. Therefore, they would favor the legalization of most (or all) presently illegal drugs. This would be a perfectly defensible position except for the obvious fact that one of the primary reasons why many drugs are illegal is because their prolonged usage places people into a state of desiccated decrepitude that renders them utterly unfit to support themselves. Without first seeing to it that the mechanisms by which money would then be extracted from the general public to pay for such individuals are abolished, the libertarian position could, in practice, result in an increase in the size of government.

To be clear, I am not one of those “stoner Republicans” upset because they can’t get high. I have no use for drugs, but I can not justify the notion that I should be able to enjoy my Single Malt all I want while someone else can’t get inebriated in whatever manner they see fit. The “No Harm Principle” is of course at the heart of this, do as you please so long as you harm no one else, liberty defined. For this author that is of course crazy, because drugs are dangerous, and illegal for a reason, and we have to deal with the societal cost and repercussions of the poor decisions that people may make. A perfect, paternalistic notion of government. You, the individual are free to do as you please only so long as you do not drag down the whole, for you are a cog in the machine, and you need to keep turning. This line of reasoning that a larger, more intrusive government apparatus would be needed to deal with the fallout of legalization over the present prohibition model strikes me as even more inane than the World War I argument. Has he not been paying attention? We treat addiction already, for those who want treatment, at a pretty substantial cost. We then spend billions upon billions, year after year, on interdiction and incarceration, and all to no avail. Drugs are here, everywhere you turn. He says that drugs are illegal because they are bad for you, of course leaving out what is often the capricious and haphazard way our government approaches what should be legal and illegal. And? Lots of things are bad for you, one of the biggest being the afore mentioned alcohol. Does Mr. Yoshida think that Prohibition was a good policy decision? Did it have the desired affect of cleaning up peoples lives, making them productive members of society after the evil drink as removed from their lives? No, it did the opposite, driving it underground, making criminals out of everyday citizens, adding intrigue and luster to the act of drinking and making millionaires out of violent gangsters bent on delivering a product people wanted. Unless a case can be made that the ONLY thing that keeps a majority of Americans from trying heroin is the threat of prison, then the argument makes no sense. If you add up all the cost, seen and unseen, including interdiction, corruption, murder, lost productivity, the overworked criminal justice system plus a hundred or more other things and weigh that against the idea that some percentage of the population (which may be no larger then the present percentage of people in prison for drug possession whom we are already expending capital on, drugs after all do not appeal to everybody) should be allowed to throw their lives away on addiction if they so chose, how could it possibly cost our society more or grow a more intrusive government?

The article continues on in that vein, essentially saying, sure you Libertarians have a point, but be reasonable, vote for the Conservative Republican and we will have a discussion later about how your crazy and naïve ideas won’t work. Condescending tones usually don’t win many converts, and it won’t in this case either. Ron Paul and his supporters may have some quirks, I will not deny that, but he is certainly a breath of fresh air over whatever cardboard cutout the Conservatives want to forward as a candidate. The Conservatives should be the ones to explain how it is we continue to afford $600 billion a year on keeping the world safe for American interest. The Conservatives should have to justify how continuing the drug war enhances anyone’s life or the health of our economy and country. The Conservatives Republicans should be the one who have to explain how it is after they drove the whole system into a ditch with the PATRIOT ACT, the Iraq War, No Child Left Behind, the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, and a dozen other stupid policies why exactly their overbearing presence in the discussion should be tolerated or even given a hearing. Absolute power did not do them any favors last time, so maybe it is time that people with actual principles and the courage of their convictions get a fair shake. Otherwise many of those people who might otherwise support a Republican candidate who acknowledges a need for a change of course, could start to look elsewhere, which also would not bother me overmuch. The statist hegemony of thought in both parties and their supporters is staring to get a little old, and a little chaos and upheaval may do us a little good in the long run.

Similarly, on foreign policy, the position that Congressman Paul holds is actually a very old one. While his lengthy paeans to the virtues of non-engagement have largely found an audience among those weary after the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Paul is less the heir of the 1960s peace protesters and more the inheritor of an older and more disreputable strain of antiwar activism akin to that of those in the "America First" movement. These are the people who opposed the entry of the United States into the Second World War and who, before that, kept the United States out of the Great War for two and a half years as much of Western civilization engaged in an act of collective murder-suicide upon the battlefields of Europe.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It Does Not Count!

I am not a Ron Paul booster, but I am having quite a bit of fun watching what is happening as of late. For months now we have been hearing about how important a good showing in the Iowa Caucus is going to be for a run at the Republican nomination. If you look at Real Clear Politics they have had a running tab on the Iowa race for months, and it has been a big story every time one of the candidates has taken the lead (look at the graph at the bottom of that page to see how fluid this situation has been). Now that Paul has taken the lead spot the powers that be have decided that it won’t matter, a repeat of Huckabee in 2008 or worse, total irrelevance for the caucus going forward. Notice how none of this was a problem or a question when Newt was running ahead last week? No, the story then was how was he going to parlay that into further success in South Carolina and the eventual nomination. Now it doesn’t matter though.
For Months Ron Paul and his supporters have been complaining about the lack of media coverage, well it does not seem to be a problem for them now. The “proper” thinking conservatives are now out in force laying down the law about how inappropriate a Paul victory would be, and how no “right” thinking Republican should be supporting him. We are hearing quite a bit about how incredibly stupid Paul’s foreign policy position are, how his “isolationism” would lead to the end of America as we know it, and just for good measure we have to throw in how he hates Israel. No candidate ever has to explain how we keep paying for the never-ending National Security state, it is simply a given that we keep troops in over 100 countries around the world forever. Newt, Mitt, Perry and the rest are able to skate by with talking points, yet crazy Uncle Ron has to explain the idea that maybe we need to concentrate on getting our own house in order after 60 years of interventionist foreign policy. How exactly is it sacrilegious to say that Iranians, as a people, might hold some resentment towards America because the CIA overthrew their government and installed a dictator to rule over them? America is run by people, not Popes, and we are allowed to criticize the actions of earlier administration and generations. America has not always been on the right side of history, and the only shame would be in not admitting that and endeavoring to do better in the future.
The big gun that has been brought out to try and drop Paul out of the top spot has to do with the old newsletters that carried racist diatribes under his name. Personally I find these things to be very troubling, and I have not been impressed with anything he has had to say about them. I can not comprehend any politician, at any level, having these things being published in their name, for quite a long time, and not know anything about it. If he had nothing to do with the writing it seems that at some point someone would have brought them to his attention. If he wants to be a front runner, and he thinks he deserves to be there, then he needs to better address this issue, for it is not going to go away, everyone from each side of the political spectrum is going to keep on referencing it. Having said all that, this occurred twenty years ago, and all of the other candidates have long histories of stupid statements. Newt Gingrich is falling in the polls because people are actually listening to the stupid things coming out of his mouth today, never mind what he has in his past. As to how Paul approaches the issue of race today, someone has put together a pretty good video embedded below:

You can see how most any of that would drive hardcore Republicans insane, and they would not want that to be the standard bearer of their party, but of course that is most of the problem with the Republican party today.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Am I Safe Yet?

Tomorrow is supposed to be a day of reflection and celebration over the 220 year history of our grand and wonderful Bill of Rights. In preparation for that the U.S. Congress decided to piss all over it today in our perpetual effort to be safe from evil terrorists. The conference version of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 was reported and passed today, still including the controversial parts of this legislation dealing with detention of terrorist suspects.

In deciding that we were not nearly safe enough from the scourge of Al Qaeda, Senators Levin and McCain (its bipartisan so it must be good) with help from my own home state Senator Ayotte, placed a provision in the bill for dealing with terrorism suspects. Our new rules have declared that the United States is now part of the “battlefield” in our asymmetric, never ending “War on Terror” and that anyone labeled as a terrorist sympathizer, even if captured on U.S. soil, is to be detained by the military, with no real way to challenge that detention. This will also apply to American Citizens. Let us make sure we understand this: you are an American citizen, you are accused of being a terrorist, by law you are now placed in military custody, with no due process rights. Any problem with that? Our esteemed legislators, people who supposed swore an oath to uphold the constitution above all else, seem to have no problem with this. This simply codifies what we have been practicing all along they say. Isn’t that comforting? The administration had threatened to veto this bill, made a big deal of it actually over this issue, but like most other questions of principle the President and his team folded.

Many people, including former military men, have seen the problem with this provision, but they are going to be ignored. We seem to be ignoring quite a bit in our need to feel safe. Remember this: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons …against unreasonable searches and seizure shall not be violated…” Have you ever run across this little gem: “no person shall be…deprived of life liberty or property without due process of law”? This ring a bell: “In all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial”? All of this comes from our Bill of Rights. There were many who would not support the constitution without specific safeguards for individual freedom. They were scoffed at by the writers of the document, they claimed that a perfectly limited government had been crated, and that such things as declarations of rights would muddy the waters. These were, after all, very bright men who had all our best interests at heart. No one believed that then, and we should not believe it now. There are those who talk about how important these measures are in a time of war, and that we have had plenty of instances when our rights were rolled back in order to properly fight a war, and then protected again. This should strike everyone as a completely asinine argument for implementing this. Yes, we have shelved the constitution in the past in a time of war, and when the danger passed it was pulled off the shelf, dusted off and placed back where it belongs. Because of that we should all just sit back and say “sure, just till you beat Al Qaeda just spy on everybody and lock up anyone you see fit.” Our rights were codified because you should never trust in the government to do what is right and proper. When exactly will the danger pass? Without the courts overseeing these things how do we know if these people should be detained? The only people who seem to not be taking this seriously are the supporters of this provision. For our legislators to simply flush away our most cherished liberties while decrying individuals who do not want to place their faith in politicians and bureaucrats to always do the right thing means that they are not being proper stewards of the responsibility that was placed with them. Yes, we have done things in the heat of the moment before that violated our constitutional principles, but that should be a teaching moment of what not to do, not an excuse to go even further down the road.

Wartime is always different for a country and its citizenry. There will always be dangers for the Republic in that situation, but this is why the framers of our Constitution placed the responsibility with Congress for declaring war. What they never wanted was a situation similar to the one they fought a revolution against, where the Executive power could declare someone an enemy of the state and indefinitely detain them without evidence or trial. The Bill of Rights exists to protect us from the excesses of government and the individuals who man it, even in times of desperation and fear. Unfortunately our leaders have forgotten this, and have tried to place in writing the notion that some people and situations are so scary that our principles should not matter. I would send a well deserved “for shame” towards our legislators, but they will surely ignore it, the same way they ignored all those who highlighted what should be the very bright line between security and liberty, a line which we will be losing this week.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Newt Gingrich…Really?

This week we have seen Newt Gingrich rise to the top of the polls, like we have seen almost every other candidate rise to the top of the polls this last few months, mainly because there are so many people out there that can not see themselves voting for Mitt Romney. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to this phenomenon: a candidate steps into the spotlight, gets the attention they have been so craving, and then people actually start listening to the crap flowing from their mouths and they fall back into the basement of the polls. Oddly enough in our little “Not Mitt” parade Ron Paul has not risen into this top spot, thankfully neither has Rick Santorum. Newt of course believes himself to be the smartest person anywhere, and so richly deserving of these new found accolades that he has informed us all of his inevitable victory in the nomination. Polls mean very little in this early stage of the race, and generally the profession of polling has become somewhat laughable (more on that another day), but Newt is taking them seriously, so why don’t we spend a minute or two on Mr. Smart Guy.

Newt is so confident in his ability to secure the nomination that he has challenged Mitt Romney, as the only other logical candidate, to Lincoln-Douglas style debates to show who is the best man for the job. He has also threatened to follow Obama from city to city, giving rebuttal speeches to everything the President says, until he too agrees to Lincoln-Douglas style debates. Romney seems to have refused to engage Newt in one of these debates, and one can be sure that Obama probably will as well. Is it because they are afraid of Newt and that super-big brain of his? Doubtful, it is more likely that they think it is a terrible idea on the merits. For those of you who do not know the Lincoln-Douglas debates went like this: Candidate One speaks for 60 minutes, Candidate Two then speaks for 90 minutes, and Candidate One then is allowed 30 minutes of rebuttal. Lincoln and Douglas did not verbally spar with each other, point and counter point, like so many people might assume, but a set of prepared remarks was refuted by another set of prepared remarks, and then a little off the cuff was thrown in at the end. Now I don’t know about you, but I am pretty sure even Obama would get bored of the sound of his own voice after an hour. As to Newt, at 90 minutes the title of this lecture best be “spinning gold from straw”, not a play book on further shredding the constitution to keep me “safe”. The Lincoln-Douglas debates were from a different era, and while great moments in American history we have to also remember they are colored in the editing that was allowed back then. Misstatements and gaffes were as common then as they are today, they were just treated differently by the press and history. The partisan published remarks from your parties newspaper allowed you to have always used perfect English and to have always been on point, while the people in the audience had a very different experience.  In the age of You Tube those gaffes live on in perpetuity as done, to later become fodder in an opponent’s ad, hence why most candidates prefer the short, meaningless, pre-rehearsed answers they can give to the inane questions asked by idiot journalists. The debates certainly need some shaking up, but this constant refrain from Newt about how you must be scared of him if you refuse this debate format is already getting old.

As to policy, what can be said about Newt? He is certainly trying to paint himself as the only “true” conservative. He does this by saying things like we need a stronger PATRIOT Act. You see we are not properly scared enough about all the evil people out there who wish to do us harm. There are nefarious individuals who would detonate a nuclear weapon in an American city if given the opportunity. Therefore you should not be concerned with your government’s ability to spy on you, it is for your own good after all. And that seems to be all he needs to say. Scary people + less rights = more security, the simplest of equations throughout history. You are somehow naïve if you do not trust the government to make the right decision at all times when it comes to National Security. This is of course the Conservative problem that never gets addressed in these discussions. If limited government is good in all other circumstances, because bureaucrats can’t be trusted with your money or important choices, how is it Conservatives can blindly trust in government to make the right call on who should be spied on or indefinitely detained without oversight? Why is it simply enough to make this ridiculous argument about nuclear weapons in a city (mind you something that would have happened many years ago if it had ever been feasible) and a platitude about “safety”? No limits Newt? Trust in Newt to make the call on when it is enough? The reason for the Constitutional limits on power, and someone as supposedly smart as Newt should know this, is that you can not simply trust in government to make the right decisions. Power is what we are talking about, and trusting our leaders with vague power should be antithetical to every Americans psyche. I do not trust in Obama to make the call on which American citizen can be assassinated abroad without trial, I certainly will not trust in Newt to do who-knows-what with an “improved” PATRIOT Act.

We also see that Newt will keep up his conservative bona fides by doubling down on the drug war. For him there is not any question that we need to keep all drugs illegal always for our own good. To have adults decide for themselves what intoxicants to ingest is just way too much freedom for Americans to handle. Even though he is just so damn smart, he can’t seem to admit that the drug war has been a failure. For me the long and the short of it has always been this: If not for Prohibition would you know the name Al Capone? (here to read more on that score) Prohibition made the gangsters rich and powerful, because people wanted what they had to offer, and the illegality of it made it extremely profitable and violent. Drug Prohibition has done the same thing. If cocaine was not illegal, or if the government hadn’t made interdiction a high priority in the 1980s, you would have never heard of the name Pablo Escobar, he certainly would not have had the resources to take on his own government. If not for the high profits garnered by the illicit nature of the drug trade, there would not even be such a thing as the Zetas Cartel, and 40,000+ Mexicans would not have died in the last five years in an effort to keep Americans from getting high. Somehow or another Newt sees a Federal death penalty for drug dealing as a viable option for stopping the drug trade. This of course is ridiculous given the fact that many of these individuals get into the drug trade knowing full well they risk a very quick, ugly and painful death from their competitors. A government death sentence is probably not going to keep you away from the promise of hundreds of millions of dollars. Newt, a lover of America, its constitution, and its history of freedom, believes we should be looking to the great success autocratic and repressive Singapore has had in squelching its drug trade with incredibly harsh sentences and excessive use of the death penalty. This should be very comforting I think for all Americans, that Mr. Genius looks to a tiny island nation without personal freedom to come up with criminal justice policy. It should also reinforce how he’s not just “book smart” but practical and grounded in comparing keeping drugs out of an area the size of Augusta vs. the third largest country on Earth.

We could go on and on with how ridiculous it is that the Union Leader endorsed Newt, and how meaningless that is, or we could keep going on and on with a Newt’s history of flip-flopping (supposedly Romney’s grand sin with the conservatives) but honestly what is the point? Another week or two of people remembering the long and ridiculous history of Gingrich will probably do him in as front runner. He might also continue to talk, which has always been his short coming in the long run. But in the end it won’t matter about the polls or the pundits, it will come down to the people, and they can on occasion actually vote for someone they are not supposed to (remember John Kerry running 4th in the polls going into Iowa 2004?) and really change the dynamics of everything. Of course for the sake of already being bored with everything coming out of his self-righteous mouth lets hope for one of the former over the latter.