Ron Paul, Nutjob

David of Orcinus has a very detailed must read post about Ron Paul (emphasis mine):

A more important point, though, that’s overlooked in all this is that Ron Paul has made a career out of transmitting extremist beliefs, particularly far-right conspiracy theories about a looming “New World Order,” into the mainstream of public discourse by reframing and repackaging them for wider consumption, mostly by studiously avoiding the more noxious and often racist elements of those beliefs. Along the way, he has built a long record of appearing before and lending the credibility of his office to a whole array of truly noxious organizations, and has a loyal following built in no small part on members of those groups.

And it’s equally important to understand that he hasn’t changed his beliefs appreciably in the interim. Most of his positions today — including his opposition to the Iraq war — are built on this same shoddy foundation of far-right conspiracism and extremist belief systems, particularly long-debunked theories about the “New World Order,” the Federal Reserve and our monetary system, the IRS, and the education system.

Much of this has already been documented by Sara here and here, as well as by phenry at dKos (who has more here) and by Off the Kuff, which also notes Paul’s kookery on Social Security.

David goes on to discuss issues of racism, conspiracy theories, and the very good reasons why Ron Paul is not a top tier candidate. Where I think Paul is the most dangerous is in his transmission of truly extremist ideas into the mainstream (emphasis mine):

What Paul never explained was that one of the primary sources for this information about black crime came from Jared Taylor, the pseudo-academic racist whose magazine American Renaissance was at the time embarked on a long series of tirades on the subject (the June 1992 issue was primarily devoted to the subject; the statistic claiming that 85 percent of black men in D.C. have been arrested appears in the August issue), the culmination of which was Taylor’s later book, The Color of Crime, which made similarly unsupportable claims about blacks.

This sort of unspoken dalliance — an uncredited transmission of ideas, as it were — takes place all the time with far-right politicos like Ron Paul. It’s one of the reasons to be concerned about any traction they may actually gain within the mainstream.

This makes you wonder about some of the talking points in the current immigration debate.

Ron Paul is an attractive candidate to some because of the way he cuts party lines with his stance on Iraq, and that unmistakable libertarian mystique that never seems to find a willing host to be put into practice. However the man’s good points cannot and should not overshadow his role as a pusher for far-right/racist/fascist positions.

what is unmistakably, ineluctably true about Ron Paul is that he is an extremist: a conspiracy theorist, a fear-monger, and an outright nutcase when it comes to monetary, tax, and education policy. The more believers and sympathizers he gathers, the worse off the rest of us will be.

The left should no more make a political alliance with Ron Paul than with Dick Cheney. And the right should be looking for a better candidate. Even given the current field, one shouldn’t be too hard to find.

UPDATE: David cross posted at FireDogLake.  Comment #222 by Paul in LA sums it up quite nicely:

“Its about respect and integrity, attack the idea not the man.”

His association with rightwing extremist groups tells you everything about the man AND his ideas.

This is why Ron Paul is not a good candidate.  Linking to the constitution or arguing that he has good positions on some domestic issues misses the point entirely.  Ron Paul doesn’t just associate with rightwing extremist groups, he helps them sell their badly damaged goods to America.

 

CNN and Censorship

Does CNN have a censorship problem?  They have deleted comments related to Ron Paul.  This isn’t the first time they’ve indulged in some censorship.  While some of it ranges from the tepid but expected restriction of naughty words, some of their censorship is quite worrying:

CNN’s top war correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, says that the press muzzled itself during the Iraq war. And, she says CNN “was intimidated” by the Bush administration and Fox News, which “put a climate of fear and self-censorship.”

In fact, CNN has gone so far as to keep news from its US market it deems fit for a global audience:

As noted by Brasscheck TV, CNN reported pollster John Zogby’s endorsement of the methodology resulting in the estimate of 650,000 Iraqi civilians killed due to the U.S. invasion and occupation. However, CNN did not present this report to its viewers in the U.S. — it was shown exclusively for the non-U.S. market in their International Report.

When a news organization to take such strident steps to keep information from the public, it raises serious questions about their integrity and their efficacy.  In April of 2007, CNN posted a story about internet censorship non-ironically:

More than a decade ago — as the Cold War ended and the technological revolution begun — many predicted that globalization would usher in a new era of freedom of expression across the planet.

This would occur not for reasons based on human rights or politics, but economics.

Do you think the economics of censorship play a role in CNN’s many decisions to restrict its reporting and online commentary?  Is it a net gain or a net loss for a media giant to censor its reporters and its audience?

But those predictions about a worldwide end to censorship? Never happened.

In fact, Internet censorship is picking up steam around the world.

Thanks in no small part to large media companies like CNN.

Fred Thompson Threatdown

Fred Thompson is running for President, and he presents the most pressing threat from the Republican side of the aisle.

While current polls show Democratic candidates like Barack Obama comfortably ahead, his chances for moving up in the polls are striking:

Yesterday, I suggested that Fred Thompson would be this campaign’s Wes Clark: A savior candidate whose very best day was the one before he announced for president. But today, I see that Ross Douthat is rather bullish on Thompson’s chances, and he makes some points that make me doubt my judgment in the matter:

Thompson has one thing going for him that Clark didn’t: He’s a savvy politician, not a wide-eyed neophyte, and he clearly knows a thing or two about running for office. His non-campaign campaign to win the conservative base’s heart – from the radio commentaries to the anti-Michael Moore YouTube bit – has been smarter politics than almost anything else we’ve seen from the Republican field so far, and it suggests that Thompson understands the voters he’s trying to woo in a way that many of his rivals don’t.

Ezra remains unconvinced that Thompson will emerge unscathed from the rigors of the campaign once he officially dives in.

I think he is the most serious candidate the right has (or can) put forth.  You have the top three contenders for the throne, followed by nakedly racist dominionists  like Tancredo and Brownback who essentially have “make the US a theocracy” at the top of their talking points.  Of the top three, who actually has any real pull?

Giuliani is a mix of left and right wing politics under a distinctly authoritarian crown.  Everything about him screams skeletons in the closet, and think of what we already know about his professional gaffes and personal life.

McCain is an increasingly irrelevant ex-maverick without an idealogical home.  He ran away from the centrists, but the far right circus still won’t let him in, no matter how much elephant refuse he offers to shoulder.

That leaves Mitt Romney, who despite having campaigned thus far, is polling equal to or less than Thompson (who hasn’t even officially entered the race!).  Romney faces a McCain like challenge, hide his past left-leaning tendencies to project a solidly conservative image.  It ain’t working. His failed senate campaign and his successful gubernatorial campaign are still vividly etched on the minds of Massachusetts natives and opinion makers.  He just comes off as a sleazy salesman, who slapped a mercedes insignia on a chevy.  It will only get worse when voters check the mileage.

The campaign coverage up to this point has been building a place for him, much like campaingn coverage in 2000 built a place for Bush.  Back then, we “needed” someone who would “reach across the aisle” to get things done.  True to form, Bush was sold to the American people as a “uniter”.  The manufactured need this time around is a “real conservative”.  The 2006 elections were framed not as a loss for Republicans, but a realization that anything less than hard core conservatism would fail at the voting booths.  This was followed up by early suggestions that none of the current crop of candidates had enough “star power” combined with “conservative credentials” to win the primary nod.  In steps Thompson.

The coverage in a “get to know the candidate” Reuters article reflects this:

His late candidacy, fueled in part by conservative dissatisfaction with the 10 official Republican candidates, has stirred heavy interest among curious activists and could fill a void for conservatives.

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has led the field for months ahead of Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. But many conservatives are dissatisfied with all three top contenders and Thompson already runs third in many national polls, ahead of Romney.

Fortunately for us, a Thompson candidacy presents plenty of openings for a viable and aggressive Democratic candidate to take advantage of:

He said Washington’s partisan politics had bred cynicism about government and there was a “disconnect” between Washington politicians and Americans.

Thompson, a supporter of the Iraq war, also criticized the Democratic-controlled Congress for its debate on bills that would set withdrawal deadlines and timetables for U.S. troops in Iraq.

Notice the quick turnaround and lack of irony here.  The vast majority of Americans want to leave Iraq.  By continuing to support endless war in the region and framing withdrawal as “retreat”, Thompson is furthering the very cynicism he criticizes.

His weaknesses boil down to his idealogical closeness to Bush, and the contradictions between his desire to run as a “small government” conservative and the politics of fear and control he inherits from Bush.

This man, more than any other, represents an extension of the Cheney white house.  It will be vigorously pro business, nativist, militaristic and authoritarian.  He would continue the current white house approach to war, health care, the environment, and civil rights.  These are very unpopular positions, and they leave him wide open to effective critique.  It remains to be seen how he would deal with economic issues like taxes.  Will he cut taxes and spending, or cut taxes and increase spending like the current President?  While not as overtly theocratic as candidates like Brownback, a Thompson presidency would see us taking some steps backward regarding the separation of Church and State.

But make no mistake, his candidacy will be a serious one, and we need to take it seriously right from the start.  We need to make sure our own candidate is one who stands up tall and consistently for what the American people want, and we need to aggressively match Thompson strike for strike.  The 2008 election will be every inch the battle the last few elections were, and the stakes will be incredibly high.

Obama: The Wait and See Candidate

 I’ll be watching for it, though, with great hope.

MissLaura at DailyKos sums up my feelings on Obama perfectly.  He seems to be in a constant state of protentional, with a full realization of his promise just around the corner.  He already takes flak for for not being concrete, and those kind of critiques can only grow in number and resonance as time flows on.  Laura’s own analysis nails two particular points of interest.

First, his desire to embrace the struggle for equality, and his desire to move beyond struggle (Mike via MissLaura):

So, much as Elwood has suggested on this site, part of Obama’s message is Camelot awaits: after a period of vicious partisan fighting, he is ready to lead us to that peace beyond.

This is an acceptable message in itself, and it’s similar to what centrists like Bayh are preaching.

But is it the final destination of Obama’s thought? Within 30 seconds of stating we have to come together as a nation, he begins to give examples of Americans bonding together in “hope” and overcoming obstacles. And a good number of them are very us v. them: The Revolutionary War, The Civil War, The Women’s Suffrage movement, the Civil Rights movement.

There’s a very clear rift here which Obama will have to resolve.

Second, the kind of campaign he is running (MissLaura, emphasis mine):

My second question about Obama comes when he says that “change never comes from the top down. Change comes from the bottom up.”  Drawing the kinds of crowds he is – over 5,000 at Dartmouth College (located in Hanover, NH, population around 11,000) – is impressive, and word from around New Hampshire at least is that Obama has much larger numbers of active volunteers than is usual for a campaign this early.  The potential is there for a really participatory, movement-oriented campaign.  But it is not yet entirely clear how Obama is running a new kind of campaign, organizationally speaking, how he’s incorporating bottom-up voices in his message and his leadership.  I’ll be watching for it, though, with great hope.  Such a campaign strategy embraced by a top-tier candidate has the potential to transform politics in a much-needed way.

He has promised what every Democracy afficionado truly hungers for:  greater participation.  “Bottom-Up” Politics is an incredibly seductive thought, left or right wing.  Arguably, aside from issues of survival political determination is the issue in a republic.  Obama is tapping into the accompanying desire very effectively.  The question is will he follow through?

I’ll wait and see.

Sex with Sandwiches and Other Choice Bits of Discourse

As an Nth tier candidate for President, Senator Brownback has to do something to separate himself out from the pack. Why not attack established scientific theory in favor of a Bible-based approach? Of course this sends more conservative blogs into a tizzy of support. Joe of Yet Another Lame Blog tears apart Brownback’s arguments:

Brownback:

There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today. Many questions raised by evolutionary theory — like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations — go beyond empirical science and are better addressed in the realm of philosophy or theology.

Here Brownback uses a great rhetorical tactic. First he discusses the fact that there are legitimate scientific disputes about how evolution occurs, but then (seemingly without a breath) he mentions the creationists problem with evolution: “like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations” as if these were comparable debates. There is no debate on the latter among those that actually understand the theory of evolution.

At the same time in the above quote he reduces evolution to “merely the chance product of random mutations” thus showing is own ignorance of the subject by completely ignoring the most important aspect of evolution: natural selection. (Remember, natural selection was Darwin’s breakthrough.)

Sisyphus finishes his own congratulatory post on Brownback with a very interesting statement:

The 2008 election is about more than freedom, democracy, or security from terror, or even the end of American infanticide. It is about truth. We have it, the Democrats want to pretend they have it, and next year the American people will decide they prefer the real thing to the alternative.

The 2008 election is increasingly going to be about truth. The Democrats have an unusually strong advantage in this regard. When it comes to matters like the lies leading up to the war, the conduct of the administration regarding wiretapping, the US Attorney firings, or efforts to aggressively propagandize US citizens, Dems hold the cards. But on two issues near and dear to the fundamentalists, they are exquisitely prepared. The first is the “debate” over evolution. The problem with pretending to have a clear case against is it is fundamentalists wear their motivation so obviously on their sleeve that they cannot fake any hint of the intellectual impartiality real science requires. No matter what scientists prove or argue, fundamentalists will find a way to twist a paltry few facts to support their idea of creation. It is the same line of thought the Catholic Church once pursued with zeal. Identify some rhetorical (not substantial) holes in a competing cosmology, and stuff your beliefs into them furiously. The stars are fixed in a sphere? Oh, then heaven must exist just outside of that sphere. The fundamentalists are playing that same tired rhetorical game.

Gay marriage is another weak point, and in the comments section of the post Sisyphus gives us pure comedic gold:

“It is a simple step to go from man-on-man sex to man-on-sandwich sex. That’s the real agenda of the “gay” rights movement. If we’re not careful, before you know it we’ll have a race of mutant gay sandwich creatures on our hands, all under the control of Hillary and demanding special treatment.”

This sounds plausible to me, except that I’m not sure men and sandwiches can breed. But the act of letting people have sex with sandwiches in public is definitely a part of the homosexual agenda. The treefrogs want to have sex with everyone and everything in public- sandwiches, lamp posts, mailboxes, trees, dogs. You name it, and the Democrats want to let you have sex with it. I don’t think that’s right.

Again, this is a worn-out tactic. But it is also a very revealing one. There simply is no rational argument for restricting marriage to straight couples. It comes right down to “the Bible says so”, and that is a clear violation of the separation of Church and State.

The fundamentalist right, left without rational arguments to make their case for a Bible based America, have to resort to lame attempts to shovel nonsense into a pile resembling a compelling case.

I don’t think there is any danger of Brownback getting the nod, but a vote for Brownback and his vision for America is a vote for the Dark Ages.

Top Tier Cowardice

Mike Gavel is not a bigot. He is also not a “top tier” candidate. He came out unequivocally in favor of legalizing gay marriage.

Pam Spaulding wonders:

Could you even fathom the top tier Dems giving a simple, straightforward answer like this

And of course they won’t. Those few extra votes are far too important to waste for those queers anyway, right? We are not just talking people who are homophobic theocrats either. We are talking voters who hate gay people so much they would rather vote against every other position they hold dear than elect a President who would legalize gay marriage. Those are the votes being purchased with weak support for separate but almost equal civil unions and brave silence on marriage itself.

And the calculating bastards know they can count on our votes, because we will not throw ours away on a single issue and risk another Bush in office. Bigotry and profound stupidity are walking hand in hand, and while it hides under a shroud of religious piety, we can see it for its true self when it rears its frothing head and screams about sodomy and “protecting the traditional family”. It is the same irrational hatred that has fueled every bit of prejudicial violence and oppression since humans started keeping track of themselves. It is a mark of nothing more or less than shameful cowardice.

I understand wanting to collect votes, and how seductive the hiss of silver tongued consultants woos even the most principled public servant. But I cannot understand how top tier candidates can misread their own performances and state. After all, to embrace fear so fully for the sake of victory is to lose the freedom of movement and power that comes with true courage.  The act defines the orator.  Homophobic positions may gain some play with a few voters, but the cost is the ethical and rhetorical power of the candidate himself.

Obama and Violence

Soon after mourning the slain students at Virginia Tech, Barack Obama made a really interesting point that is being sorely misunderstood. It is a startlingly profound point, all the more so to hear it coming from a politician.

I came upon his speech via Chris Reed’s “imbecilic” take on the matter, in which he quotes from the misnamed “Reason” magazine’s Radley Balko:

Ugh. Words aren’t violence.

The outsourcing line was even worse. No one has the “right” to be paid by someone else for their labor. Employment in a free market is peaceful and voluntary, on both sides.

Radley clearly doesn’t understand what violence is. Words can damage people. As can losing one’s job. This isn’t about rights, its about acknowledging that when someone loses their means of making ends meet, it hurts. Let’s take a look at what Chris Reed left out of his blog post, at the quote from Obama’s speech that ties it all together with an impressively deep insight. From Ben Smith blog at the Politico:

And so, Obama says, “there’s a lot of different forms of violence in our society, and so much of it is rooted in our incapacity to recognize ourselves in each other.”

Obama is referring to an ethos that grows from recognizing our fundamental unity. Our shared humanity. In the worst of the violence we face as a society, right down to the least of it, there is a common thread. In the expression of violence and in the seeds that give rise to it, there is a driving factor: Dehumanization. Our ability to separate ourselves from others to a sometimes radical degree. This isn’t about that age old liberal conservative divide over social rights vs individual freedoms, as Radley over at Reason seems to think. It is about taking voluntary steps to find and heal the roots of violence. To understand that regardless of law, when we hurt each other we create a perpetuating cycle. One of the things the killers in these school shootings have in common is pain and suffering. This is not to excuse them in any way. It is to recognize that by finding and healing that suffering before it explodes, we can prevent violence. It is to understand that we need to care what happens to people when their voice doesn’t count, when they lose their job, or when their aspirations are demeaned by casual racism.

Ben Smith is right in that Obama does need to get specific. He in fact echoes Kos of DailyKos on Obama:

The strongest movement of the candidates, his campaign’s impressive growth continues unabated. However, with increased success comes increased scrutiny as people are starting to take a look at his positions on issues like Iraq and health care more closely. He’s been able to avoid specifics for now, and he can probably get away with it for a little bit longer, but soon he’ll have to add some substance to his candidacy.

That being said, he still misses the point of what Obama said:

Many politicians would avoid, I think, suggesting that outsourcing and mass-murder belong in the same category.

He isn’t.  He is describing varying kinds of violence, and the common root of the problem.

What I think we’d all like to see is, specifically, how he intends to solve it.