Monday, February 04, 2008

Election recommendations, anyone?

For once, big states like California will have a say, it seems, in choosing the GOP and Democratic Party nominees. I don't like all this early packing of primaries while there's still snow across the northern tier. But at least there is some drama. And a sense, this Tuesday, that going to the polls will matter.

I've made clear that (with some small/nagging reservations) I support Mr. Obama for the Democratic nomination and (with much greater reservations) Mr. Paul for the Republican. Might I add another reason to the long list that I've offered before?

I've just returned from Europe where, I must tell you, the prevailing attitude is not only disappointment with America, but also a certain amount of shadenfreude, or secret pleasure, over how far into silliness we seem to have fallen. The spectacle of two "royal families" reigning over the American political parties for almost thirty years is viewed as proof that we have become absurd, lacking any confidence in our ability to draw new leaders from the general population. An age-old trap that we used to accuse the Europeans of!

It is, frankly, part of the same sickness that prompts the directors of major corporations to hire CEOs only from the same, tedious list of unimaginative, uninspired and terminally greedy golf-buddies. An utter repudiation of the ideal that markets and democracy will find talent from a great and vast pool, amid a brash and brilliant populace.

I won't pretend that there aren't aspects of Mr. Obama I'd have preferred to see tested and proved for a while, first. I pray that he is what he seems. But still, what he seems is worth a gamble. Because, what he seems to be is the best of what America stands for. He seems confident, honest, eventempered, and willing to pragmatically negotiate, free of fixed dogmas, helping us to work out, among ourselves, answers to a myriad problems.

This trait -- appealing to us to argue fairly with each other... and even perhaps to enjoy it, the way Americans have in the past -- is what I like best. And even though Hillary Clinton officially stands for the same thing, you know that it simply won't happen under her.

Yes, both of them would appoint dedicated public servants, instead of dogmatic henchmen, to posts supervising the skilled men and women of the civil service, officer corps etc, releasing the Bushite choke-chains and finally allowing those professionals to get back to doing the jobs we pay them for. (The fundamental purpose of government -- one requiring no further legislation -- and one that I am almost alone bringing to center-stage.)

If they did nothing else, that would be worth fighting for. Still, we should want more than that. Much more.

I am not interested in winning a battle or two in Culture War. I want to end it! And there is a glimmer of possibility that Mr. Obama could accomplish that. If we help him make this a blowout.

And for those who are registered Republicans? Well, he may be crazy, but at least a vote for Ron Paul would help him get a speech at the convention -- a speech where he'd fire up the libertarian wing and propel them toward confronting the dark cabal that's tried to turn America into a Banana Republic. (If someone were to whisper in his ear, "damp down the psycho-ward stuff and stick to the things folks like about you!" That'd be cool, too.)

Yes, If I weighed their political souls on a balance scale, Mr. McCain is more tolerable than either Mr. Romney or Mr. Huckabee. In debates with the Democratic nominee, he would cede several points, about torture and pork spending and global warming, and that would force a sudden, dramatic -- apparently miraculous! -- shift in the official conservative center of gravity. Indeed, conservatism is so agile, so protean, amoebic and ever-amnesiaic, that the McCain-influenced version would suddenly claim it had been against Guantanamo and for Kyoto, all along!

(Watch! Just like they NEVER opposed Martin Luther King. And "don't-ask-don't-tell" was THEIR idea, all along.)

Certainly the Los Angeles Times agrees with me. In their first presidential endorsement since 1972, they chose Obama (enthusiastically) and McCain (with deep reservations). I'm glad the smart and courageous Times of my youth is back. Still, McCain is SO weird and troglodytic in other ways... including accepting the psychotic notion that the War In Iraq has anything to do with enhancing US security...

...that he still has to be classified as a genuine, bona fide horror story. Fifty times better than Bush still leaves one a long, long way inside the borders of monster-land.

Can I say anything positive about Romney? (Talk about protean!) Or Huckabee? (At least we'd have it out with Nehemia Scuddder NOW, instead of waiting till 2012.)

No. If you must turn reflexively to the right... vote for Paul

Oh, the Washington Post carried an opinion piece by my fellow science fiction author, Michael Chabon, outlining his answer to dour democrats who come up with excuses not to support Obama. Good stuff.


The first Armageddon Buffet of 2008 -- second in importance to 2012! -- is now online. Always a lovely festival of cantankerosity. Special watch kept on that countdown to wars, famine, pestilence and all that.

And in similar spirit, do have a look (and viral) this one that makes you laugh & cry at the same time. (Thanks Zechariah.)


An article by the nearly-always wise Bruce Schneier: What Our Top Spy Doesn't Get: Security and Privacy Aren't Opposites. “The debate isn't security versus privacy. It's liberty versus control.”

How the rats are jumping ship! Daniel Pipes (of all people!) declares Bush's policies have failed utterly. Well, well, the fantastically delusional Pipes at least manages to criticize Bush, though surely enough from a very right-wing position. Though, at this point, less from a “seen the light” perspective than from an effort to retain a scintilla of relevance

Still, go to the article anyway, to see one photo that sure gives support to the simple, parsimonious explanation to all of our troubles. The “Manchurian Candidate” hypothesis, distilled in a single image. Viral this photo! And the one out there showing Bush bowing his head -- bowing! -- before a foreign king whose every move is against the American enlightenment.


sociotard said...

Hey, Dr. Brin, do you ever listen to the Long Now talks? I just listened to one by Paul Saffo.

He said something that disturbed me:

"There's less than 50% chance that the United S... (more)
Added: August 29, 2007
"There's less than 50% chance that the United States will exist by the middle of this century. And that is actually a good news. If the previous century was shaped by nation states as the primary actors of international law. What is very clear, at least to me is the central actors, locus of power and economy and control, is shifting from the nation state to city state. Like Singapour, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles... California in some level is independent".

Thoughts? Granted the Civilization of the Neo West wouldn't neccessarily fall just because some of its constituent countries balkanized, but his prediction kind of unnerves me.

And I'm a fan of smaller federal/bigger state governments!

Anonymous said...

A note for all California voters: The Republican party has decided to not allow non-Republicans to vote in their primary. But the Democratic party will allow you to vote even if you aren't registered with them.
Since I am 'undeclared', and the Republicans do not want my vote, I will be voting Democratic.
(OK, that's a mistatement. I never had any intention of voting for a Republican in the primary, and now I can't and it annoys me.)

Anonymous said...

Best election match up for the country? Obama vs. McCain. A Clinton vs. McCain slug fest would be significantly chippier and more divisive.

Best ultimate winner? I have to reserve judgment a while. Obama is a gamble, and I need to consider the risks and benefits. Neither man is without a few skeletons in their closets, but I think far enough in the past to be a wash.

Hard to imagine my conservative self considering a vote for Obama, but living in a next door state I have followed his career for quite a while.

Frightening to contemplate the anguish and rending of garments among the Donkeyites if they lose this Pres. race. If you can't win running, in effect, against G.W. Bush, well Happy Times are certainly not Here Again. Or likely soon.


Anonymous said...

(Zorgon the Malevolent. Logon double plus ungood, Winston)

Hair-raising nail-biting stuff in Cailofornia: Zogby's poll calls it for Obama 49% to 36%, while the Survey USA poll calls it for Hillary 52% to 42%.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you're registered an independent in California, apparently you must specifically ASK for a Democratic ballot in order to vote in the primary.

Dr. Brin asked "Next year it will be 25th anniversary of 1984. Is there anything planned to celebrate it??"

For the 25th anniversary of Orwell's 1984, we're going to:

* Kidnap U.S. citizens off the streets

* Hold 'em without charges or a trial

* Torture them in undisclosed torture chambers inside secret prisons

* Surveil everyone in America with a massive monitoring system that sifts through every email, every bank account, every mailed letter and parcel, every phone call and every CCTV camera using a massive database of biometric data

* Empower the police to taser to death, tear-gas, beat, brutalize, mutilate, intimidate, shoot, strip naked and kill anyone they feel like with impunity.

I think that about covers it.

Even so, Dr. Brin still seems much too pessimistic. "Some prominent Republicans have caught Obama fever," Newsweek announces:

Meanwhile, Dr. Brin may underestimate the sheer frothing spuming hate McCain engenders in the neocon/theocon wings of the Repub party. Josephine McCarthy (nee Ann Coulter) says she'll campaign for Hillary if McCain gets nominated, while the fat fascist (AKA Limbaugh) has howled that if McCain gets the nomination "it will destroy the Republican party."

Looks like a three-way lose-lose-lose for the Repubs. If they nominate Huckabee (unlikely, but still...), the neocons and libertarians abandon the party; if they nominate Romney, the fundamentalist Christers (who judge Mormons a looney cult not discernibly different than Scientologists or Raelians) bail out. And if McCain gets the nod, both the theocons and the neocons bolt. It's a civil war in a leper colony over there, folks.

Excellent article by James Joyner called "The Conservative Minority":

we have two countervailing trends:

* Conservatives prefer Romney over McCain, hands down

* McCain is winning Republican primaries against Romney

This, incidentally, despite Romney having outspent McCain by ridiculous margins in television advertising.

What is one to conclude from this?

Perhaps “conservatives” are now a minority, even among Republican primary voters? (..)

Alternatively, perhaps the definition of “conservative” has become so narrow and esoteric that it’s become virtually meaningless?

The Conservative Movement has morphed from a handful of intellectual true believers trying to shape the debate into something approaching a civil religion with loyalty tests and a clerisy that has the power to excommunicate.

Rob Perkins said...

David, you should be able to say kind things about Romney and Huckabee. Let me attempt a few, and I'll start with Huckabee since he strikes me as the most monstrous.

Huckabee: He's affable, and probably capable of selling you your own shirt, you like him so much. In that sense he's a lot like Bill Clinton, even if that's the only sense.

Romney: He's technical, a Wonk of Wonks. A data gatherer who doesn't make decisions until he's heard all sides. There is a part of him which seems to see his election as a calling to represent all the people, which can easily explain why he was unwilling to touch Roe v. Wade during his campaigns for Senator and Governor, and willing to touch it now.

And in that sense, perhaps as a negative, he doesn't govern from idealism, with a couple of relatively rare exceptions, such as his fight against implementing gay marriage in MA, which he lost.

Naturally, there's plenty wrong with him. Romney's choice of faction-buddies rubs me entirely the wrong way. I'm more of a Harry Reid Mormon these days than anyone from the Utah or Nevada mainstream. Which is why I'm going to be caucusing for Obama, against Clinton, this Saturday.

Huckabee? Please; The man is willing to ride tides of bigotry all while making noises about how a man's religion shouldn't disqualify. That level of intellectual dishonesty is souring.

Paul? Scratch the surface of that man's positions and you don't get someone I'd want as under-under-secretary of anything much. He's far more effective in the Congress, as a non-criminal Traficant.

Xactiphyn said...

Still, McCain is SO weird and troglodytic in other ways... including accepting the psychotic notion that the War In Iraq has anything to do with enhancing US security...

I think you greatly underestimate McCain's love of war. He doesn't just accept the war in Iraq, he has actively championed it. He wants this war and he wants more wars. He fundamentally believes in war as a way to promote American values and power in a way few even in his own party believe.

I'd definitely go with Romney as the least bad Republican. He has no real commitment to anything and will go the way of the wind, reading the polls. While this isn't the most admirable trait, there are worst things in a Democracy than leaders who do what the people want. He might actually sign into law the stuff the Democrats pass in congress.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Romney is the least-offensive Republican.

McCain was deeply wronged by the creepy powerbrokers of his own party in 2000, and to some extent his resurgence in the face of conservative outrage is pleasing, but he is far, far too hawkish. No, sir, we don't want to be in Iraq for 100 years or to bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran.

Obama is a gamble, but I'm willing to take it.

Dream ticket: Edwards as Veep, Gore as secretary of the interior, Spitzer as AG. Bill Clinton where he can do something useful.

David Brin said...

Guys, let me counter your “least-bad” notions of Romney with a real deal killer that makes him the WORST of the goppers. But first some brief answers.

My new novel portrays a near-future balkanized America. Not something I want. But clearly where culture war is headed.

The CA open democratic primary is considered a brilliant move. Many Indies will vote democratic and get used to the idea.

Tacitus, if the GOP wins this one,then our only hope will be secret agents, professionals, who - against orders from their superiors - collate and reveal proof of election fraud.

McCain’s six or seven virtues do not cancel out his twenty or so stark, raving lunacies. Still, a debate or two in which he POSITED those virtuous-sane positions, ceding them to a new American consensus, would make the eventual presidency a far better and more cohesive thing. And for him to be titular head of the party, able to appoint some honest men to chair the rebuilding committees.... that wouldn’t be bad, either. The silver lining to this character.

The point I made in my main posting is an important one. There are essentially two conservatisms-- the agenda of the aristocratic owners of Fox and Halliburton and the GOP machine... vs those who follow a “movement” called “conservatism. The former have a very clear and pragmatic agenda with three pillars, power, theft and evasion of accountability. All other dogmas are simply raw meat to throw to the masses, roiling together inside Rove’s Big Tent.

Culture War has been their way of keeping those inside the tent riled up enough to ignore their basic differences. If “Hate liberals!” can be chanted and screamed loud enough, even libertarians can be made to lie down with troglodyte fundies, anti-science junkies, xenophobes, isolationists and imperialist-adventurers.

Moreover, the personality types inside the tent share a remarkable fluidity, an adaptability to follow the tribal (conservative) totem wherever the leaders take it. That is why you saw Colin Powell and Condi Rice elevated by the very same party that, just a while earlier, didn’t want them allowed to drink from whites-only fountains

Zorgon is right to focus on the Limbaugh-Coulter rabid frenzy against McCain. Which suggests that their masters really don’t have any hold on the man -- either through blackmail or bribery or golf-cronyism. If he’s elected, he’d be un-controllable, his own man, and (for starters) almost certainly roll back some of the aristocratic tax cuts, in order to pay for repairs to the armed services. He might also allow science to lead decisions against climate change and give immigrants enough rights so they can’t be exploited in terror, as ultra-cheap labor.

Above all, even if McCain is NOT elected, just hearing the GOP leader say these things, in the open, will shift the orientation of the Republican masses. The ever-protean definition of conservatism will veer again. It will still contain a myriad disgusting things. But the new compass swing will NOT be in directions that the klepto gang likes. Moreover, the democratic president will get a “bye” on a dozen important things. Can you see now, why Coulter and Limbaugh are after McCain? Even if he loses, he will damage the masters.

What I find amazing is their equally-fierce loathing of Huckabee! And, foremost, the coronation of Mitt Romney as standard-bearer for standard Republicanism! Having lost Giuliani, Fox is suddenly Mitt-land. A fellow who almost DEFINES protean re-formulating and “Who me? I never said that!” Why? Why should Coulter and Limbaugh and their masters prefer the amoebic, weathervane Romney over the truly conservative Huckabee?

The answer, again, boils down to control. They clearly have nothing on Huckabee. He is his own man and the thought of fundies finally getting their own grip on power truly terrifies the gopmasters. Because, at any moment, that movement could rediscover Jesus and swing to anti-aristocratic populism. (Signs are already brewing.) By comparison, clearly, the masters look at Romney as someone who, despite past flips and flops, is someone who can be guided, made part of the team. Possibly controlled. (Go back through this journal and imagine what I mean.)

No, there are clear advantages to McCain, even to Huckabee (let’s have this out now!) But today I voted for the one guy who is closest-to-sane in the bunch... other words, he is only HALF outta his mind nuts. Ron Paul.


Oh, Bandit sent in this chilling item about RealID. Speaking of protean shifts, how about the one where the right used to scream at Bill Clinton for wanting better ID systems, decrying “this will lead to a national ID card!” And now, they are the ones pushing it. Oh, hypocrisy.

See also: FBI wants palm prints, eye scans, tattoo mappin


Oh, Stefan. I like all your picks except Edwards as veep. We need a totallydad figure who looks REALLY sturdy and strong on defense/security. Also, since we can only be 99% sure Obama is who he looks like. That's enough to support him, eagerly. But I want a proved adult at his elbow.

Anonymous said...


It is an unattractive feature of "progressives" to assume that if the election does not turn out as they feel it should/must that there is election fraud.

I frankly expect better of you.

If the DFL finds a way to blow this, their best chance at the White House in a generation, then to go blaming black helicopters and Diebold, rather than looking at what was wrong with their message and/or messanger, would be a tragically wrong response.

Do perhaps conservatives have more inherent faith in the system? You heard very little squawking after the 2006 congressional elections.

I am all in favor of bipartisan work to increase confidence in elections. Please don't go Kos on us here.

The odds favor a DFL win unless they really screw up. If they do, it just might not be Halliburton pulling the strings.


Anonymous said...

Paul? Seriously?

From what I've seen of him, the guy fundamentally makes no sense. All he has is a few nice sound bytes and an incoherent and distructive platform that takes the worst bits of fundies and libertarians combined. Free trade but let's put up a wall on our borders? Don't take away my income with taxes but you can take away my right to an abortion? All the skepticism he exhibits elsewhere flees him entirely when it comes to the basis for his libertarianism which is found in outright idolatry of Hayek of Rand.

Could you describe you what you actually like about him other than a willingness to criticize other politicians? I think that open and honest criticism is great, just as you, but I find that an ability to talk intelligently about solving problems is far more important. He has come to basically the wrong conclusion on just about every problem out there except for the war in Iraq (which is really just a symptom of his extreme isolationism that is itself probably just as bad or worse than our current foreign policy).

Anonymous said...

I don't have my copy of Ted Lowi's "The End of the Republican Era" close at hand, but I highly recommend it as an examination of the internal contradictions of the post-1964 Republican party. What is self-evident today was not when he first wrote it in the early 1990s.

Taken with his somewhat more famous "The End of Liberalism," Lowi sketches a theory of American politics in which liberalism and conservatism came into conflict in the mid-20th century as federal liberalism expanded into legal areas traditionally held by state and local conservatives. Federal supremacy/preemption on issues such as civil rights, environmentalism, and free speech created the open clash between value systems that was so ably co-opted by Buchanan, Nixon, Rove, et al.

The collapse of electoral solidarity on the right has, I think, given us a chance to push our politics past the "culture war" paradigm. The three GOP voting blocs -- deregulation capitalists, the religious right, and paleoconservatives -- have mutually stalemated, with the result that none of their candidates have won. McCain, for all his faults, has never been much of a culture warrior, and his past stances on issues like torture, global warming and immigration pretty much ensure that a lot of the divisive hot button issues simply can't come into play this general election.

Personally, I've come to support Obama -- not without reservations -- because I'm willing to roll the dice on a politician who came of age after the culture wars of the 1960s and '70s, who has a fundamentally different conception of politics than those who grew up in a time when soldiers were called "baby killers" and African-Americans were being beaten over school busing by American flag-wielding yahoos. I have no investment in those wars, and after 16 years of seeing them being waged over and over again, I shudder to think of at least another 4-8 years of the same thing.

In retrospect, virtually every move from the Clinton White House was conditioned by the fear of being outflanked on the right by Gingrich and his fellow culture warriors, and, like Fareed Zakaria, I suspect that similar calculations will continue to govern in a second Clinton administration.

Now, there are plenty of Republicans who *want* to see those wars still fought; they believe, as Rove did, that they can get a consistent "fifty percent plus one" majority. There are also some Democrats who see a Hillary victory as the prize at the end of *their* struggles (and there are plenty of post-culture war women, red and blue, who do reasonably see in Hillary a mirror of their own experiences). But the return on those efforts are diminishing through fatigue and generational change. I'll take a risk on Obama over the politics of incremental possibility that the other candidates offer.

David Brin said...

Tacitus, your criticism might bear some validity if the last TWO US elections were not, in fact, stolen by the very people and interests that I accuse.

I have long and hard preached for a return to bipartisan negotiation, mixed (state and private) solutions, a willingness to re-appraise things like fission power, and more adult behavior all around.

But do not mistake that moderation for lack of fuming militancy! We have been betrayed. We have been horribly and criminally betrayed.

Reiteration: Do not for a moment think that my moderation is not militant. It is hot, actinic and furious. We had a unipolar, Pax-America-led world, when Bush and his gang of thieves entered office. Worldwide military spending was heading DOWN and openness and democracy were going UP.

There are NO levels or ways in which ANY Bushite Cabal decisions were not implemented AS IF deliberately to harm this country and its leadership in the world. (I will still accept the possibility that stupidity and venality of staggering proportions can substitute for deliberate treason in explaining this relentless and utterly consistent program, though it is a weird and convoluted fantasy.)

Conservatives had no basis to squawk in 2006. Every single anecdotal story of election cheating was something perpetrated on the right. Oh, and plenty did squawk.

You seem willing to shrug and accept that change is needed/inevitable. I am not satisfied. I want your willing participation in a thorough re-appraisal of what conservatism means. THERE ARE POSSIBLE MODELS THAT DO NOT LEAD BACK DOWN THIS PATH. A mix of moderate libertarianism, dedication to accountability and openness, support for a rebuilt military (while acknowledging who destroyed it!), and a re-dedication to science... these are things a new conservatism could stand for and we’d respect such people... VASTLY better than we’ve been treated, to date!

But don’t tell me not to be paranoid. These SOBs have gone a long way toward raping a civilization that I love.

stgabe? Since Ron Paul is far from power, I can emphasize the things I like - espcially the way he utterly galls Fox News! -- and minimize the stark jibbering loony. (If he had done that himself, he might have stirred a real fracture in the Big Tent.)

A note. Hayek and Rand are viewed as polar opposites in the repid civil war within libertarianism. The Randroids own the movement and keep it silly. Hayek was not a fool, OTOH.

No time here to analyze the LP movement but you can find thoughts here.
Look, this is a core American imperative. It should not be left to silly men, like Ron Paul. But that’s where it is. And any % points he gains helps to embolden the libertarians against far worse wings of conservatism.

Good thoughts, “watchful”. Let’s hope. And double the Secret Service.

David Brin said...


Always remember the Left can be loony too!

All of the same horridly dogmatic and superior and conspiratorial and stifling romantic impulses reside in thousands of unrepentant leftists, just as those tendencies rule millions of rightists. True, these left-monsters do not run a major political party, or do much harm... for now...

but have a glimpse at the
World Socialist Web Site

Ideally from some cyber cafe. or balance it with a stop at Limbaugh.


Anonymous said...

Ah, David. The limitations of internet interaction. Take my word for it that I am smiling, and thinking well of you when I say CAPITOLIZATION IS AN ADMISSION OF A WEAK ARGUMENT.

Lobby hard. Argue eloquently. Put up lawn signs, donate money to those you feel worthy. Educate the dolts if you can do so without being counterproductive and arrogant.

Then accept the results of the election.

The last two US elections stolen? Cripes, Al Gore could not even deliver his home state. And for all the grousing about Ohio and Diebold, where is the Congressional investigation of same? Can't the New Majority even manage that if its a real issue?.

Elections are messy. Nailbiters are very messy. Those who claim fraud should put up the evidence.

I say this with all expectation that "my side" will lose in November. And yes, minus the shrug I will accept that change is necessary.

You know, my gestalt is that we would actually agree on 80 plus percent of issues. But I put a much, much higher standard on attacking the electoral process.

I do not always like the outcomes. But I do not, and will not question their legitimacy without evidence far stronger than any I have seen to date. uncharacteristic rant for me. But I am still smiling.


kristine N said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kristine N said...

Curiously, people who have a problem with Mitt's religion are also more likely to label him a flip-flopper. I myself won't vote for Mitt, but it's because of his politics, notably his not because of some pejorative the media attached to Romney while simultaneously ignoring similar "changes of heart" in other candidates (both Huckabee and McCain on immigration, for example). I thought it was unfair Kerry was labeled a flip-flopper, and I think it's unfair that Romney's been saddled with the same label.

Sorry to delete the previous comment--part of my comment got eaten and didn't make sense.

kristine N said...

Grr, it's done it again. The second sentence in that previous comment should read, "notably his apparent disregard for civil liberties."

Tony Fisk said...

Actually, I interpreted David's remark about election rigging not as 'if the GOP win, then the vote was rigged and the US is sunk' but as 'if the GOP win, then the US is sunk, *unless* it can be shown the vote was rigged.'

Whether or not election rigging has occurred in the past two elections is moot. It has certainly been demonstrated that Diebold machines are *not* tamper proof. Which suggests that any close result should be treated with suspicion. Apologies later.

David, does 'The Smartest Mob' in the Feb 08 edition of Universe have anything to do with your next novel?

Anonymous said...

"A note. Hayek and Rand are viewed as polar opposites in the repid civil war within libertarianism."

Ron Paul purportedly is a rather big fan of both. His son is named Rand. He's been pretty glowing about Rand in interviews.

Yes I've read your posts on libertarians (I've lurked here for years). The Austrian school is fine when taken in small doses and mixed with plenty of salt. I can understand someone respecting Hayek and Mises. I just can't stand the way they are raised as idols by those who refuse to look critically at what they have to say or ignore other insightful economists with slightly different stories to tell.

Ultimately, the culture war is fueled by the desire of people to believe in simple answers for complex problems and a willful desire to ignore reality and pertinent criticism of their ideas. In my study of Ron Paul I've found him to embody this directly. He's as great an enemy of the enlightenment as any we've seen, he just wears different clothes and has a different set of horrible, "simple" solutions for our complex sets of problems.

So I just can't understand supporting him in any fashion, especially given the views I've seen here. Liking him for some cheap jabs at Fox News isn't good enough. The enemy of your enemy often isn't a friend.

So what makes you think that Paul is likely to have anything positive to offer to the libertarian movement?

I'm not even asking the easy questions like considering his record on earmarks or his racist newsletters. I think there's more than enough ridiculousness there for him to be unsupportable from any rational position even without all that.

Anonymous said...

Another way of saying that:

I guess I'm just commenting on what I see as a fundamental inconsistency in your philosophy espoused in your writing.

As an outspoken critic of the culture war in American politics you (rightly) disdain voters who are so fueled by hatred of their political foes that they will look past criticism of anyone who is willing to fan the flames.

But isn't that exactly what support for Paul in this situation is? Is overturning the current state of the LP so important that you'll take ANYONE who can do that?

I honestly wanted to know, apart from snarkiness towards Fox News, what do actually positive things do you think Paul has to say about, well, anything. It seems to there really isn't much there but a pile of inconsistencies and looniness but I'd love to be shown more.

Anyway, just a little CITOKATE. I'll get off the soapbox now.

Rob Perkins said...

The evening is winding down, and so far I see a lot of punditry counting Romney completely out. This is done in spite of a second place showing in delegates, all while they talk about Huckabee as a Veep nom.

David, would VP Huck satisfy the desire to "have it out now?"

I'm getting real tired of media punditry overall. The races tonight were mostly proportional, or first-past-post-per-congressional-district. CNN/Fox have both called the races as though they were winner-take-all by state.

The sleaze prize goes to McCain's West Virginia organization today. Ah, caucuses. He lost any vestige of support I might have wanted to give him. Loser-triangulation is soooo Weimar Republic, I'm sick at heart.

The picture is *far* from clear

Matt DeBlass said...

Re "flip flopping": I've never quite understood how this got made into a cardinal sin in American politics.

Sometimes, in a sane and rational mind, an opinion that makes sense with a certain amount of information no longer makes sense when new information is uncovered.

Do we really want someone in charge who is too stupid to change his mind when he's proven wrong?

Well...apparently at least the majority of the electoral college does, but do the rest of us?

David Brin said...

Very good points stgabe. And yes, your citokate is interesting. It made me think.

Yes, Hayek is only good if subjected to exactly the same critical process that he claimed to admire... and that Rand assiduously avoided. And it is easy to see how Paul would have cherry-picked and sent Hayek spinning in his grave.

Of COURSE Paul is an enemy of the Enlightenement! Name a prominent Republican -- since Goldwater -- who isn’t! But if he spurred the libertarians to rise up against the fundies and aristos and thieves...

...then they might become a force WORTHY enough for more mature and adult libertarians to pay attention to... and maybe pull toward sane-reasonableness. Like stopping the relentless, romantic and rearview fixation on cursing Franklin #$$@! Roosevelt.

Look, if Paul gets a speech at the gopper convention, millions will be rocked back in discomfort. I have NO worries about him gaining actual power... except the power to shake Rove’s Big Tent and maybe tear it open a bit.

Rob, Huck as veep is screamingly scary to me... yet likely. Fact is, it will elevate him into nominee-presumptive of the GOP just in time for the Scudder election of 2012. Yipes!

Given how the Fox boys feel about McCain... I’d double his secret service detail. Remember, a shock is a potential election-tipper! They aren’t short on ruthlessness. A nominee-martyr, a suddenly elevated Fox-nominee, a nation moved by pity-emotion... Tuck this scenario in your pocket, cause there may be people thinking this way, right now. Brrrrr!

Paranoid-thriller riff, aside, the veep choices have never been more important, or more telling.

Amazing factoid I just heard! Obama is HUGELY better liked by upper income brackets and Hillary almost exclusively by low brackets. True? If so, Obama needs to go populist real fast. It fits what I’ve seen. NONE of the well-off, educated people I know are for Hillary. All the non trogs (and some of my good friends are trogs) are for Obama. So now I have to go ask poor folks.

Matt, there is a difference between changing your mind about an issue that develops with time. e.g. many people are shifting re nuclear power. I even excuse Hillary (a bit) over her Iraq vote. It is quite another thing to passionately defend abortion rights and then indignantly, passionately attack them. To support energy independence and research, then swerve suddenly and back the standard anti-science rant. To be a bridge-builder in a liberal state, then pander to culture war. Romney didn’t flip flop. He sold himself.

Oh, if he’s the GOP nominee, WATCH as he suddenly rediscovers moderation!

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit puzzled why anyone thinks Ron Paul should not do earmarks.

Congress is supposed to budget spending, and certainly that includes being as specific as they wish.

Earmarks don't increase spending, and leaving them out wouldn't reduce spending. Refusing to do earmarks would deny his district any share of the pork they've had to pay for with their taxes.

I suspect if you were to offer him the choice of continuing to do earmarks, or giving it up in return for cutting his constituents' taxes in half, he'd quickly take the latter.

Anonymous said...

I'm also a bit puzzled about what part of Paul's positions are "loony".

Most of his positions are based on a desire that the Constitution actually be followed, and the federal government be limited by it. Why is that loony?

It used to be that most everyone actually admired the Constitution, and thought that following it (or at least having the honesty and courage to ammend it, rather than ignore it or lie about what it means) was the basis for keeping America alive as a nation.

An anti-abortion position may not be what we agree with, but it's hardly "fringe".

And despite what many say, Paul isn't an "isolationist" - unless of course you think being engaged with the world requires us to go marching around the world, pushing our superior way of life on everyone else, planting military bases and showing off our nuclear might to make every other nation "cooperative"?

Ending the federal monopoly on money? Now that is on the fringe these days - but it's not like we've never had other arrangements. Inflation is an utterly regressive tax, and it's mostly the result of allowing a federal monopoly on money - if anything, liberals should admire Paul on that point.

So - what's so loony?

"Reasonable men adapt to the world. Unreasonable men adapt the world to themselves. That's why all progress depends on unreasonable men."

Anonymous said...

One of the 'earmarks' in my district went to Fixing our Sewer System -- which on the surface sounds like it isn't a big deal.

Until you realize that it will take ten billion dollars to fix the problem.

That problem is spilling pollution into our rivers, actively exacerbating the estrogen content of our rivers, making fish dangerous to eat.

It's a real infrastructure problem, and I'm pretty sure that the earmark was only a few million.

Now, if only our Congressman would explain why he 'brought money to the district' -- I'd be a lot happier about voting for him.

Instead, I have to ask the Center for Environmental Oncology, which is quite happy to explain why combined sewage overflows are bad for you.

Unknown said...

Uh, TwinBeam.

We had inflation when we were on the gold standard. We just ALSO had deflation - which is far worse for every single person in the economy.

Inflation is nothing more and nothing less than a decrease in the value of money relative to essentially everything else.

This can be caused by an increase in the monetary supply ... or a decrease in the value of other ways to store wealth.

Ending the federal monopoly on money creation is going to have one of two outcomes.
1) Nobody else can create money that people will accept. In this case, the overall effect is negligable.
2) We get a "free" market for money. In this case, some monetary systems are going to collapse, completely destroying the savings of whoever invested in them, even if overall inflation is reduced.

I don't see either of those outcomes as particularly desirable. A small amount of constant inflation seems better than a similar percentage of people losing everything because they picked the wrong currency to keep their savings in.

Furthermore, the reason our current monetary policy is the way it is is in order to avoid deflation, as even a little deflation proves much much worse for the economy and everyone in it than inflation does.

I don't want deflation. Do you?

Anonymous said...

Unless you live in Ron Paul's district, how is the size of your district's sewer earmark relevant?

kristine N said...

Romney didn’t flip flop. He sold himself.

David, I'd say this is a problem with litmus tests in politics more than an issue with Romney. Every candidate in this race has had to change positions in order to placate some portion of their respective party. Before Huckabee pandered to the anti-immigration folks I was set to like him with his "immigrants are people too" stance; now that he's singing the same "send the illegals home" song as everyone else I don't want anything to do with him.

David Brin said...

This is the coolest bit of urban theater I have ever seen

As to the er... elections...

Certainly McCain is handicapped in. And if he gets the GOP nom, you'll see Fox suddenly veer around and brag about how the GOP Big Tent "can include moderates" and the re-branding will commence.

What's certain is that McC will have to pick an ultraconservative as veep, in order to stave off a rebellion and possible 3rd party uprising on the right. The problem with this, alas, is that it exposes him, personally, to extreme danger from the very forces who most vociferously consider culture war to be a matter of pure good-evil, meriting use of any or all measures. People who would consider him far more useful as a martyr-figure for their guy, than as an actual president.

In other words, while Cheney helped make the Secret Service's job easier re: GWB, a similar figure (or Scudder type) would NOT serve the same function for McCain. Who, by the way, is old and frail.

Yes, another paranoid thriller scenario. Hey, it's my job.

On the dem side, things are looking better for Obama. Hillary is a whole month away from contests that work to her strengths. Those in between serve Obama's. In fact, until Texas, she has few reserves of latino voters to turn to.

Moreover, Super Tuesday made it very clear to Obama where homework must be done. He wins devastatingly among the educated and well-off. He must go populist, bigtime, during the next few weeks. You heard it even in his speech last night, in Chicago, talking about his days as an urban poverty organizer.

The wild cards are Michigan and Florida. How will the dems deal with those disqualified states? My guess through caucuses, which might help Obama. Hillary will fight like hell to get the disqualified Florida results reinstated. (What IS it with Florida?)

Enough for now. The blurry crystal ball suggests a McCain-Scudder ticket, followed by Scudder-Cheney... against... the black JFK?

Damn, the Secret Service ought to be doubled. Tripled!

Xactiphyn said...

David, I agree that McCain (and Huckabee) would be better for us as candidates than Romney, as they will reinforce and concede the most important points about income distribution and so on. But both of them, for different reasons, scare me more as actual presidents. Romney is at least a competent bureaucrat, sort of like Bush I.

Of course, I thought our current president would be more moderate (though not more competent) than what we got, so Romney could still be horrible.

Either Clinton or Obama would be infinitely better.

Obama has been going more populist over the past week or so, but so has Hillary. We'll see how this plays out.

I think Obama has a real chance to win this on elected delegates, but it will be close. If Clinton wins, it will be on the power of super delegates and shenanigans with Michigan and Florida, something that could seriously hurt her credibility. This is the real nightmare scenario staring at us right now. To me, that implies if Clinton wins she will almost have to take Obama as the VP to have any chance to keep the party together.

Xactiphyn said...

Super Delegate Transparency Project:

For those worried that the Democratic nomination will fall to the super delegates and leave us with the feeling a candidate "stole" the election, the Delegate Transparency Project has been started to shine light on the process and hold the delegates accountable.

We’re setting up a Super-Delegate Transparency Project, to centralize the effort of collecting the raw data about super-delegates, to whom they are pledged, and how people in their region voted in the primary. So, as the convention approaches and the situation comes into sharper focus, we will be in a position to call on real data rather than hypotheticals to highlight this issue.

By the way, the Mark who set this up is not me. I just think it is a good idea and one that would interest this crowd for a variety of reasons.

Anonymous said...

Sounds good to me, Mark!

If Democrats aren't as hard on and demanding of their candidates, party officials, and elected officials in the next four years as Republican weren't in the last seven, I'll be very disappointed.

Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable . . . even if they're us.

Anonymous said...

"Take" Obama?

She ain't Shirley Temple, he ain't Bojangles, and this ain't no staircase.

He'd piss off and alienate his base if he took VP, and he's a young man who doesn't need it.

He's got 30 years for a succesful run, and that's plenty of time to top off his Senate record and do a couple terms as Governor of Illinois.

It'll put him in a much stronger position than four years of Clinton baggage or a ride on a losing ticket ever could.