Tag: United States


Daniel Inouye has died. He’d represented Hawaii since it came into the union 53 years ago. More importantly, he was a genuine hero:

Inouye was a World War II hero and Medal of Honor winner who lost an arm to a German hand grenade during a battle in Italy. He became the first Japanese-American to serve in Congress, when he was elected to the House in 1959, the year Hawaii became a state. He won election to the Senate three years later and served there longer than anyone in American history except Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who died in 2010 after 51 years in the Senate.

Inouye was actually at Pearl Harbor during the attack. Later, at a time when Japanese-American’s loyalty were always suspected and many were interned, Inouye was in Europe, doing this:

Second Lieutenant Daniel K. Inouye distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 21 April 1945, in the vicinity of San Terenzo, Italy. While attacking a defended ridge guarding an important road junction, Second Lieutenant Inouye skillfully directed his platoon through a hail of automatic weapon and small arms fire, in a swift enveloping movement that resulted in the capture of an artillery and mortar post and brought his men to within 40 yards of the hostile force. Emplaced in bunkers and rock formations, the enemy halted the advance with crossfire from three machine guns. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Second Lieutenant Inouye crawled up the treacherous slope to within five yards of the nearest machine gun and hurled two grenades, destroying the emplacement. Before the enemy could retaliate, he stood up and neutralized a second machine gun nest. Although wounded by a sniper’s bullet, he continued to engage other hostile positions at close range until an exploding grenade shattered his right arm. Despite the intense pain, he refused evacuation and continued to direct his platoon until enemy resistance was broken and his men were again deployed in defensive positions. In the attack, 25 enemy soldiers were killed and eight others captured. By his gallant, aggressive tactics and by his indomitable leadership, Second Lieutenant Inouye enabled his platoon to advance through formidable resistance, and was instrumental in the capture of the ridge. Second Lieutenant Inouye’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army

I disagreed with him plenty. But I would never question his courage. RIP.

I Knew Bill Clinton. He Shagged My Maid. You, Sir, Are No Bill Clinton

Peter Suderman makes an excellent point about the Obama Administration’s mantra that “we just want to return to the Clinton-era tax rates; things were pretty good back then!”

Most of us can agree that the Clinton years, which saw growing median incomes as well as tiny deficits and steady economic growth, were economic good times, and we’d all like to see that sort of economic performance repeated. If that’s the case, then why should we limit ourselves to just replicating one tiny fragment of Clinton-era governance—higher tax rates on a fairly small number of earners? Why not replicate other aspects of Clinton’s policy mix as well?

Probably because that would entail mentioning something that Obama’s frequent invocations of the Clinton years always ignore: that Clinton’s spending levels were far, far lower than they have been for the last four years—or than President Obama has called for them to be in the years to come.

Government spending as a percentage of the economy fell during the Clinton presidency, starting at 21.4 percent and finishing up at about 18.2 percent of GDP in both 2000 and 2001. In 1993, Clinton’s first budget spent $1.4 trillion. The last budget he helped create spent $1.8 trillion. So far, President Obama has spent about $3.5 trillion every year, averaging more than 24 percent of GDP.

I think it’s important to note what Bill Clinton and the Republicans did not do in the 90’s to balance the budget. They did not slash spending left, right and center. They did not gut critical programs. In fact, spending grew in nominal terms. They also did not set vague goals and promise spending cuts in future years in exchange for tax cuts and stimulus spending today.

What they did was exercise restraint. What they did was keep government programs in check and in budget. Even Bill Clinton’s 1993 stimulus bill went down in flames thanks to Republican filibustering (the economy somehow recovered anyway). They did cut some spending significantly — welfare and military spending most notably. But, for the most part, they succeeded by simply not making things worse and letting the economy take care of the rest.

As several Reasonoids have pointed out, this kind of restraint could get our budget balanced within a decade, even without tax increases. Had that kind of restraint been exercised in the last decade, our budget would be hundreds of billions less than it is now. As it is in most of life, 90% of success is simply not fucking up.

That having been said, I think we face a very different challenge right now. The principle budget danger is not discretionary spending but entitlements. Every day we put off the reckoning makes it more difficult, with the ranks of the retired swelling with more and more Boomers. That requires statutory changes to the law and, thankfully, the Republicans appear to be holding out for that. Getting our entitlements under control would do more to get the budget under control than all the discretionary cuts and tax hikes in the world.

Clinton also inherited a much better situation. The economy was rebounding, the Cold War was over and Reagan-Bush I had a far better spending legacy than Bush II-Obama do. Like it or not, some spending is going to have be deep-sixed, preferably starting with corporate welfare. And I’m afraid that Stimulus V: The Search for More Weather-Stripping, is simply not on.

The general point stands: if Obama wants Clinton-era taxes, he needs to start showing Clinton-era spending restraint.

Wherein I Call for Throwing Israel Under the Bus

We’re watching a typical fake truce in action in the Middle East right now. New rockets are on the way for Hamas and new Israeli settlements are being built further and further east. It’s only a matter of time before the next bloodletting begins.

All of this has led me to question why exactly it’s considered to be “conservative” to support Israel. Let’s acknowledge the fact that the Israelis are underdogs (they’re outnumbered in the Middle East anyway) and they’re pretty badass in their way. It’s certainly natural to respect them, but why in the world do we support them in such a knee-jerk fashion?

Bear with me here. This is an overdue conversation among American conservatives.

What are conservatives getting out of this relationship, specifically; and what is the US getting in general out of our special relationship with Israel? I notice that American conservatives always support Israel to the hilt and talk about what irredeemable monsters the Palestinians are, but it never seems to make a major difference in the Jewish vote. Why exactly do we care more about keeping Israel Jewish than….Jewish people do? Every time there’s an election in this country, American Jews overwhelmingly vote for the Democrat (who is generally less inclined to care about Israel than the Republican candidate). They don’t give a shit. Why do we persist?

As for the US’s interests, the unquestionable support that the US has for Israel is doing nothing much but pitting us against the Arab world (and increasingly, the Turks) for the sake of very little. Is this a good decision to make toward the national interest? Pissing off 400 million+ plus people who control a shitload of oil for the benefit of 6 million people who provide us with no vital resources or anything else, really?

Is it about supporting democracy? Because democracy is essentially bullshit, you know. I’ve never understood why promoting and defending democracy overseas is such a priority for some conservatives. Democracy has made a royal fucking wreck out of the US, after all.

Are we worried about a human rights disaster if Israel is wiped out? That’s a nice moral concern, but the US does a fine job of ignoring such things in countries where the people don’t look like us. Why is any of this our job, anyway? The Palestinians aren’t our enemies or even our problem. Even Hamas isn’t a particular threat to the US. This instinctive desire to root for Israel and curse the Palestinians makes less and less sense to me with every rocket fired and bomb dropped.

Now I’m not going all anti-Zionist here. Israel has every right to exist as a Jewish state. What I can’t wrap my head around is why we think it’s our job to defend them and demand their protection regardless of what (sometimes brutal) steps they take to maintain that status. That Israeli lobbying cash that keeps our elected representatives in thrall isn’t lining any of my pockets. How about you? I think our “leaders” are duping us, truthfully.

Simply put, I’m tired of defending Israel when the rewards are clearly diminishing, if there are any at all. Demographics and political developments among Israel’s neighbors give me a bad feeling that we’re supporting the losing side for no good reason.

It’s perfectly appropriate for us to admire a romantic and embattled people. It’s another thing entirely–and arguably not conservative–to place the ambitions of such a nation above the long-term interests of the United States. I think it’s time for American conservatives to break up this bad romance.

Drone Groaning

Young Master Poosh asked me yesterday to check out a new study on the wisdom and effectiveness of the US’s use of drone strikes in Pakistan and other places.  I had my doubts because it sounded like something a Soros-affiliated group would come up with, but I’m always up for a good read.  Or even a bad one (send me shit!  I need ideas!).

Anyhow, I was right.  It’s a left-wing academia thing assisted by Reprieve, known to me as a progressive grievance group.   But that got me more interested in reading it, not less.  After all, the Left has been pretty quiet about US tactics in the Global War on Terror (whatever that is) since, uh, well, I’m not entirely sure when they lost their curiosity about the appropriateness of our methods.   Weird.  At any rate, these fine liberals decided to start asking some questions that Congressional Democrats and their news media aren’t.

You can read all about it in this PDF called Living Under Drones.  It’s lengthy, but the major points are:

1. Drone strikes are killing civilians

2. They are terrorizing the civilians who don’t get killed

3. They don’t really work that well

4. They’re probably illegal

I think their research is actually quite good, assuming that their anonymous sources aren’t lying or fabricated.  I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt though.  At any rate, I am pleased to see that Obama and the press aren’t getting a pass from the same people who used to scream about Bush doing things like this.  On that basis alone, I take it on good faith.

If I have one problem with the report, it’s that it offers no alternatives to using drones to hunt militants in Pakistan.  The entire report criticizes their use, but spends no time saying what (if anything) might work better.   What they ironically failed to note is that the same reasons why drones are the only option for knocking off militants in Pakistan are the exact same problems that hindered their own research for the report.

Primary research in FATA is difficult for many reasons.

First, it is very difficult for foreigners physically to access FATA, partly due to the Pakistani government’s efforts to block access through heavily guarded checkpoints, and partly due to serious security risks.

Second, it is very difficult for residents of Waziristan to travel out of the region. Those we interviewed had to travel hundreds of kilometers by road to reach Islamabad or Peshawar, in journeys that could take anywhere from eight hours to several days, and which required passing through dozens of military and police checkpoint stops, as well as, in some cases, traveling through active fighting between armed non-state groups and Pakistani forces.

Third, mistrust, often justifiable, from many in FATA toward outsiders (particularly Westerners) inhibits ready access to individuals and communities.

Hmm.  It’s almost as if an area where the host government is uncooperative, road travel is insanely difficult, and the populace loathes outsiders might be ideal for covert, unmanned air operations.

What the authors really want is more transparency on this program, so they say.   How are targets being selected?  Who are we really killing?  How did the Administration come to the conclusion that this was allowed by international law?  Good questions, but there’s no way that either the Obama Administration or Pakistan’s government can answer those questions and still have the program work effectively since we’re officially not really doing it to begin with.

The drone program is one of those few things that the Obama Administration has done that I like.  When you blow the bad guys up, you get no messy problems that go with capturing them like indefinite detention, interrogation, and trials.  The same people who complained about those activities were either unaware of or willing to accept the fact that killing suspected terrorists on sight was the only thing that could be done if we were to keep the GWoT going.

Unfortunately, this method may be too perfect for the US government, you know?   Total secrecy, no risk of losing any pilots and having to explain why one is on Pakistan television with a gun to his head, no explanations of who was killed or why; just an assurance that “he was a militant and we totally didn’t kill any innocent people.”   Note that this has even been done to an American citizen (and total dirtbag, but still).  I don’t think we should give the Administration a complete license to kill on the soil of countries we’re not at war with (yet) with so little accountability or oversight.

Above all, I’ll say that the report has me convinced that the drone strikes probably have killed plenty of innocent people and are both legally and ethically questionable.  However, I don’t think we’re anywhere close to being able to stop doing them.  Americans approve of drone strikes–and the rest of Obama’s counter-terrorism strategy–in principle, like it when al Qaeda and Taliban guys get zilched out, and see no risk in doing any of it.   But at least somebody’s asking questions.  Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate what we’re hoping to accomplish over there and how we’re doing it.  When you ask me to believe that this Administration should be trusted on terrorism matters, remember that Benghazi has shown us that it simply cannot.

The Right Wing Meltdown: Knock It Off

It’s been downright painful watching conservatives come to grips with the reality that Obama was re-elected. A couple of my favorite sites are about ready to go all Jonestown about it and I haven’t bothered to give them more than a cursory glance for the past week.

Everywhere it’s “Why, why, why?” and “We have to change everything we believe!” and “We just had bad luck, it means nothing, nothing I tell you!” and even “We have to secede, obviously.”

It’s a collective temper tantrum. Liberals think it’s all hilarious, I might add.

At the risk of sounding like a big twat (ha, ha, ha: shut up), I’ve never been more ashamed of us as a movement or group or what-have-you. This is not the End of America, for fuck’s sake. If you’re waiting for the collective breakdown and war (or, worse, hoping for it), settle down.

It’s not Morning in America either, mind you. Let’s not kid ourselves. This country is in for a brutal decade. But that doesn’t mean that America is fatally wounded. Our country has made a shitload of really bad decisions, run up too much debt, and divided itself on some ridiculous issues that never should have become government problems. We have the bad misfortune to be home when the papers are being served.

We’re getting ready for the next act of The Great Devaluation.  Real estate and college got overvalued, made a bunch of people rich, and then it turned out to be unsustainable in the first act.  We’ve been in shit, but only ankle-deep.  The next wave hits EVERYBODY where it hurts: Our money.  We don’t have enough and what we do have is going to be worth less, if not worthless.  Stocks are going to take a major hit, companies are going to tighten their belts, and more.  This is all coming about because we built everything on crap and let our “leaders” get away with mortgaging our future with insane entitlements, limitless wars, and low taxes.    Well, welcome to the future.

Emigration isn’t an option for me and I’m not really jazzed about the idea of joining up with some asshole warlord in Civil War Episode II: Attack of the Self-Entitled Douchebags.  If you’re good with all that, then go ahead and start digging your bunker and just start waiting.  I don’t care.

The Democrats are not up to the task of handling what’s happening and frankly, I don’t think the GOP was either.  It’s too late and I think this is one of those disasters of American history that just has to happen before we can move on, like Pearl Harbor (the actual event, not the film).  I don’t know how else we break our bad habits without imposed austerity.

Now, plenty of pundits and politicians are getting their silly asses on television talking about how we need to change this and that.  Stop apologizing for rape, let the Mexicans run wild, and admit that the wage gap is deliberately caused by evil, stinky men instead of market forces.  If you want to keep going for the two party system of Democrat and Democrat-lite, that’s a personal choice.  I don’t think we need to go that far.

It is time to compromise though.  I still don’t know how to work out a “peace accord”, but I do know that we can call a truce and take the time to retrench without retreating

First, taxes must go up on high earners.  We have to give that away and I see no way we win the Battle of Fiscal Cliff without some casualties.  Coddling the rich isn’t doing us any good if they can’t even buy a Romney presidency.   It’s totally symbolic, it’s not going to help the deficit or jobs, and it’s against our beliefs.  Too bad.  We’re taking a break from worshipping the wealthy while the American people enjoy having their demagogues to spread the wealth pain around.  I still think letting all of the Bush tax cuts expire is fitting, but we should “let” the Democrats talk us out of it if they throw in something worthwhile.

Second, it’s time to end the War in Afghanistan and reduce and reorient the military to stick with what it has done best since the 19th Century: Defend North America.  Yeah, I’m going all Pat Buchanan on this.  Israel: I am really and truly sorry.  But if we’re really heading into a Civil War, it would probably be better to have our guys back here, right?

Next, let’s bite our tongues when the President takes full credit for the deal.  Let him have this last big fuckin’ deal.  I think Boehner sucks, you do too, but lets go easy on him this one time.

The unsustainability of Medicare, Social Security, and ObamaCare is not going to be seriously addressed or resolved by the federal government at this time.  Everything I’m proposing here is with the assumption that it won’t.  We get to watch and let the Democrats totally own the disaster.  When it’s time for them to give some things up and save what’s left of the Obama legacy, they’ll know.

The one issue I don’t think we should compromise on is any immigration reform that requires amnesty for those already living here.  I think America’s natural xenophobia will kick back in as those lettuce-picking jobs start looking better and better as the unemployment starts to dry up.  Be patient on this one.


Finally, screw the Constitution of the United States of America.   I think it’s time we all acknowledged that the Constitution needs a redo.  It is failing us and the American people clearly don’t believe in it or care anymore except when they want to cherry-pick one amendment or another to suit their causes.   It is almost a dead fucking letter and there are no longer any peaceful means of binding our current government back to it.

You want to scare the hell out of the DC establishment?  It’s time to call for a Constitutional Convention, through the states.  They laugh at your pathetic secession petitions but they’ll stop laughing and choke when they realize that we’re about to change the rules to fuck them over.  This isn’t a temper tantrum.  It’s a cold, dead-eyed threat of a long-term solution.  Start demanding this at every turn.  Americans are going to love the idea soon enough, if the doomsayers are right.

Conservatives and progressives simply do not agree on what kind of country we should be and what the Constitution means and independents in the middle are too brain-dead and disengaged to care.  We’re not going anywhere as a people until we firmly establish a new concept of the relationship between the federal government, the states, and the people.   Our government cannot do it at this point.

The Culture Wars were driven by the Supreme Court making these decisions for us and they’ve done an awful job.  They’re completely unpredictable and they barely even use the Constitution as the basis for rulings anymore.  Congress has ignored its fiscal duties and its members serve to benefit themselves.  The Presidency is imperial in everything but name.  Whole industries are crippled with executive orders and psychotic bureaucrats.  This has to stop.  We need to accept that the old Constitution has done nothing to restrain all three out-of-control branches of government and quit acting like the Founding Fathers were flawless gods.   What they created was beautiful, but it isn’t working anymore.

We stop the Right Wing Meltdown.   The game is still on and what is happening in Congress is everything right now (even though the Petraeus thing is the most awesome scandal of my lifetime).  My advice is to comment on the Jonestown Blogs that the histrionics are done and it’s time for a Constitutional Convention.  Start getting that into the public consciousness now.

I’ve been preaching the importance of staying on task ever since last Tuesday’s electoral calamity.  This isn’t because of my sunny disposition or optimistic outlook.  I have neither.  It’s because the United States needs a vibrant pro-Liberty movement and we’re it.

No more embarrassing theatrics.  Do it FOR THE CHIIIIIIILDREN, you bastards.

I invite all denunciations and mental health referrals.   Sometimes, you just gotta rant.

FBI Better At Keeping CIA Director’s Affair Secret Than He Is

In my initial post on l’Affaire Petraeus, I expressed skepticism about whether there was something more sinister surrounding his resignation for broadening the well, if you will.  The timing, I did question, but I didn’t read much more into it than a guy getting stupid and certainly didn’t see or expect a Benghazi connection.

Well, here’s the twist: He didn’t get stupid and spill the beans.  The woman he was nailing did and went full bunny-boiler on another woman, which set off an FBI investigation.  USA Today reports that the FBI found Petraeus didn’t violate any confidentiality rules, though they did notify him of what they found out shortly before the election.  Or the political class is just protecting itself, as usual.   Either way, Petraeus now gets to do the Schwarzenegger to his family but he’s off the hook for any legal issues.

Is this a scandal?  I suppose so, but that was never in question.  It just further darkens Petraeus in my eyes, who didn’t come clean about what he had done and didn’t resign immediately when the jig was up.   Does the FBI deserve any criticism here?  I don’t think so.  Petraeus broke no laws, but I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when the agents got to explain to a sitting CIA director that they knew what he was up to. 

Obama?  Yeah, I’m sure he was aware of this before the election and he probably begged Petraeus to keep his mouth shut until after Super Tuesday.   I’m not sure where you go with it from here.  This will be just one of many scandals that I expect are already piling up within the Administration, given how undisciplined and opportunistic everyone in it is. 

Shit, if even Petraeus went bad…

Ceiling Obama’s Fate

I don’t like Speaker Boehner or trust him.  Which just means I have a lot in common with your average conservative Republican congressman (that and skinny-dipping).  It bothers me that this is effectively the most powerful Republican in the federal government.  He’s going to compromise our best strengths away and we’re going to get screwed.   But I really have no idea what else the GOP in the House should do.

We’re talking about Obama’s legacy here.  A working and lasting deal on the debt and taxes would be the starting point for anything good or bad that happens after it.  Obama missed this chance last time through incompetence and opportunism.  He insisted on holding off on any long-term solution until after re-election and allowed the uncertainty  of the fiscal cliff and Taxmageddon  (as well as Obamacare, now not going away) to drag down the economy for another year and a half. 

This is why his first term must be considered to be a failure.  Obama roughly held unemployment in place–unless you want to get into the more complex argument about labor force participation–and that was the issue foremost on voter’s minds.  But Bill Clinton promised that nobody could have fixed the economy in four years and he wouldn’t lie to us, right?  So Obama gets his re-election and another shot at a grand bargain on the debt ceiling and taxes.

Frankly, I’d be more impressed if the federal government woud just pass a real budget in compliance with the law, but they are so fucked that this isn’t even on the table right now.   Whatever Big Fuckin’ Deal these damn fools come up with, it’s going to equally celebrated and meaningless.  They’re not doing what needs to happen, they’re postponing it.  They’re not really doing what they’re supposed to, but making it look like they are.  It’s theatre, but we had best know what the audience is expecting to see on stage: The Rich as the antagonist, who must lose at third act.

The GOP is going to lose plainly on taxes.  Incomes on those who make over $250,000 need to go up because we can’t keep defending these people for no clear reason.  Yeah, yeah, raising taxes now would throw us back into recession or worsen the one we’re already in, depending on your outlook.  The proposed tax increases won’t close the deficit either, I know.   But Obama must have that to show off.  It’s inescapable.  Don’t get me wrong, if we HAD to give Obama a trophy, I’d tell him to take Boehner’s testicles; but he doesn’t want them.  He wants to confiscate more wealth from the wealthy.

I say that the taxes on top earners have to go up because the American people don’t know dick about economics.  Let’s face it.  If they did, they would have shown a lot more curiosity about the lack of a federal budget for nearly four years now and possibly asked some questions about why the recovery was oh so weak.  Oh, yeah: They probably wouldn’t have re-elected Obama either.

My prediction is that the Democrats will get the tax increase on “the rich” while barely giving anything in return.  Don’t get mad about this though.  It’s a loser and the GOP will be better off with it resolved.  It will suck all the wind out of the “party of the rich” arguments if any other part of the deal falls through.

The GOP has the big gun in this argument.  They can always let all of the Bush tax cuts expire.   The demented extremist side of me who would like to collectively kick the electorate in the junk for last Tuesday LOVES the thought of doing this just for spite.  Shitty thing is that this would hurt my household too.  I’m a working schlub, married to a teacher, and we have two kids.   We are that middle class that everyone purports to care about so much and really doesn’t.  Hence, we hate everyone else.

Obama most assuredly does not want to be blamed for raising taxes on the middle class (except for Obamacare, because “kids with cancer” or something).   If the Democrats don’t agree to some spending cuts beyond reducing the military to menacing our enemies with rubberband-fired paper clips, then the GOP must announce that no agreement that realistically reduces the deficit could be reached and they have no choice but to allow the tax cuts to sunset.

The Democrats do not want this and will work hard to prevent it.  The problem is that even though we have the advantage in the form of the great tax increase gambit, we have the biggest disadvantage on the game board: Boehner himself.  This isn’t about him, it’s about Obama.  Both of them want to secure their own legacies and I think Boehner is the less committed of the two.   Worse, he still thinks that something can be worked out man-to-man with this president.  His greatest weapon is that which Obama most fears: tax increases on everybody.  Not beating Obama at golf.

If Boehner does not use the big gun, then he establishes Obama as a good-enough president for resolving the debt stalemate, passes an idiotic compromise that accomplishes nothing for the good of his country, and proves once again how ultimately meaningless it is to give the GOP control of any part of the federal government. 

Obama’s legacy is on the line but all eyes should be on Boehner now.

Petraeus Quits: Cites Unauthorized Surge into Unknown Woman

Alright, he appears to have forgotten that he’s working for a Democratic Administration, so I don’t know why he felt that he had to resign.

I’ve seen some murmurings that there may have been something else to this. Me personally, I don’t see a lead here. He failed to follow the First Law of Having an Affair: Shut. Up. This just appears to be something a guy like Petraeus would do when he’s done something that he knows is dishonorable and is going to hurt his boss.

Sure, the timing is strange coming after the election and before the Benghazi investigation FINALLY gets some lift. But I mean, if he’s was going to resign, why in the world would he do it in a way that publicly shames himself and his family in such a way? He was a GOP favorite for 2016, not so much now. He could have taken the heat for Benghazi and STILL been a contender.

Fire off with your best conspiracy theories, but this just looks like an episode of one man’s bad judgement to me. Damn pity. I have long admired his service.

Open Mic Night: The Contrarian on Preserving the Freedom Based Society

The Contrarian has written an essay that he would like to share with the RTFLC readership. I’ve agreed to loan him my soapbox.

The views expressed below do not necessarily reflect my own and I reserve the right to argue for or against them in the comments. Please address any feedback to The Contrarian.

Take it away, TC:

Black and Against Obama By James Quentin Clark

I’m a twenty-something Black guy and I’m voting for Mitt Romney. I understand that this is unusual, so I’d like to fully explain my reasons why. Trust me; read on and you’ll have something interesting to think about.

The first dumb assumption that people make and occasionally explicitly state is as follows: You are Black. Obama is Black. Why would you not support him?

This is racist reasoning and it holds back the Black community in this country. It is the exact opposite of what Dr. King advocated in his “I Have a Dream Speech”, wherein he advocated a society where people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. To support Obama unthinkingly after simply observing his skin tone is to apply caveman irrationality to a choice affecting the future of a modern technological society.

Other groups get this sort of presumption, but none as bad as Blacks. Women and other minorities are often taken for granted by democrats as natural enemies of republicans. Democratic spokespeople like Eva Longoria feel they can openly ridicule women and non-Whites who vote republican as a result. Still, if you are a woman, Hispanic, or Asian and vote for Romney, it’s only a subset of your community that sees you as a sell-out or traitor.

The virulent backlash against actress Stacy Dash after her endorsement of Romney points to just how ingrained is the notion that being Black requires supporting democrats. I could go on a long tangent here on the roots of this type of thinking and irrational anti-concepts like “Oreos”, but I shall refrain. Suffice to say White people are lucky to not have to deal with it. It is understood that White people are diverse in their thinking; some are liberal, some are conservative, some are socialist, some are capitalist, etc. We don’t get to presume political viewpoint based on pale skin.

So what is my deal then? For one, I’m not a republican. I have voted for democrats, republicans, and third parties in the past. I am an independent voter.

I am also not a religious conservative. Though I am pretty old-fashioned in my personal life, I have no problem with gay marriage or abortion (though I don’t like the legal reasoning applied in Roe v. Wade). In fact I agree with Obama on a number of social and civil liberties issues, like closing Guantanamo Bay, humane immigration reform, and marijuana legalization. It is unfortunate that reality has not matched his 2008 campaign rhetoric on all of these issues.

I am not a libertarian ideologue either. Obama’s economic policies, properly implemented, can reduce unemployment, and a large welfare state is a workable model as demonstrated by several European countries. What’s more, Obamacare can achieve its stated goal of insuring more people, covering people with pre-existing conditions, and leveling the insurance market playing field.

In short, I believe that Obama could be right about everything (though most likely he is not). All of his policies could achieve their desired effects, and everything he predicts could come true. I still would not support him.

I am what you might call a “values voter”, though not in the sense that most people understand. It isn’t that Romney shares my particular set of superstitions; rather it is that my core values lead me to certain views about society, and my vote is based on which candidate is more aligned with those views.

I believe this is the only rational way to vote given how mendacious and artificial our electoral system has become. Noam Chomsky once said that the way to control what people think is to narrow the range of discussion on important issues to a tiny spectrum, but then to allow for passionate argument within that range to create the illusion of meaningful debate. The democrat and republican parties in collusion with the media have successfully accomplished this, effectively crowding out dissenting voices from third parties and agitators like Ron Paul and Dennis Kuccinich.

Our political system was not spawned on us from some vacuum. It is a consequence of our culture and education system. This means that, even if we were to elect philosopher kings to all higher offices, they would not get very far as they would find that their constituents demand much of the graft, bureaucracy, and corruption we claim to oppose. Government is as big as it is because we demand it, and as corrupt as it is because we tolerate it. Thus the real hard goal, which could take a few generations to accomplish, is to educate our populace – to reform the culture from the ground up. I am proud to say that both my livelihood and my hobbies contribute to this hard work. Only by improving our culture will we get the right people to even attempt running for office in the first place. Until then, two years and five billion dollars worth of campaigning at its best yields us Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

And what sort of choice is that anyway? In too many important ways, the two parties are two sides of the same coin. Yet this does not, as many cynics believe, imply that elections don’t matter. We need to care about the guy in the Oval Office because that individual sets the tone of our political culture and influences the legislative agenda.The efforts of grass roots reformers – the people doing the hard work of trying to educate and fix the culture – can be amplified or diminished based on this legislative tone and the decisions of the Supreme Court.

Thus I base my vote on one question: which candidate will do less harm to the work I am doing now to create the sort of society in which I wish to live? The alternative that most people choose is to base their vote on specific issues.

People who vote based on issues tend to fall into one of two groups; Fixers, and Ideologues. Fixers take a non-ideological approach toward figuring out their vote. They may be registered to one party or another, but they are not married to them. Undecided and independent voters come from this group. They approach the task of voting as though it were a puzzle to solve. One candidate is the right answer and the others are wrong. If they select wrong and the wrong guy is elected, they think, the country will deteriorate.

Ideologues, by contrast, are often very partisan and rarely “undecided”. They subscribe to an ideology, like liberalism, conservatism, socialism, or capitalism. This gives them the right answer to begin with unlike the fixers, and so rather than try to figure out the right policies to match with a candidate, they try to match a candidate to their ideology, the ideology of course dictating the right policies. For ideologues, elections are about working to establish their ideology.

The Fixer approach is impractical because candidates are not merely the sum of their campaign promises. At best, once elected, a president is able to accomplish a fraction of their agenda, and only after months of compromises, repackages, and backroom dealing. This is why “single issue voters” are so foolish. You have no way of knowing whether or not the candidate will accomplish something tangible, compromise in some unforgiveable way, or flat out change his position, as Obama did on gay marriage.

Furthermore, Fixers are misguided because elections are not puzzles. There is no right or wrong answer out of context. The question is not “who is the right answer?” but rather “what sort of society suits me?”

Ideologues are even more misguided for the simple fact that modern presidents are militantly anti-ideological. Consider all the Commanders in Chief since World War II. Not one is a consistent proponent of contemporary liberalism, conservatism, libertarianism, or any other “ism”, save possibly pragmatism. The partisan, a lower form of ideologue who substitutes a political party for an ideology, forgets the liberal Barack Obama’s record on Guantanamo Bay and marijuana, the conservative George Bush’s record on spending, all of Clinton’s compromises, Reagan’s love of interventionism, Nixon’s magic eight ball domestic policy, and so on and so forth.

This is not to say that presidents do not advance ideologies. The problem is that the manner in which they may advance an ideology is completely unpredictable. For one, a president’s ability to willfully advance an ideology is largely a function of their congress. What’s more, modern presidents necessarily have to present themselves as non-ideological centrists in order to get elected. Pursuing an openly ideological agenda can cost a president a second term and his party’s control of congress. The president’s actions may also end up redefining their party’s ideologies in undesirable ways, as many religious liberals and non-interventionist small government conservatives well know.

So how do we vote based on the larger question of society? For me, the question of “what sort of society suits me?” is best framed as a dichotomy between freedom and security.

When I say security in this context, I mean both physical security from foreign and domestic threats, as well as material security in terms of public welfare, healthcare, and other tangible goods. Much as politicians wish to argue the contrary, we cannot have a perfect balance of both freedom and security. A flawlessly administered government can have a lot of both, however in practice we have to live with tradeoffs. If we want the freedom to own guns we have to live with less security from gun violence. If we want the freedom to make our own healthcare decisions then we have to live with less security of being insured and covered for all emergencies. Of the two, freedom is more demanding, requiring an educated populace and personal accountability as an ingrained cultural norm. Security grants “freedom from want” and less inequality, but has the tradeoff of requiring individuals to tolerate authorities making decisions on their behalf.

The ideologue claims that only one side of the dichotomy is “right”, (anarchy, communism, socialism, libertarianism, etc.) or that some particular mixture is “right”, (liberalism, conservatism, etc.) but this still ignores the question of values – the “ought” regarding an appropriate society. This is a basic problem with subscribing to an ideology. No ideology has a perfect reference to reality. If we study history objectively, we can conclude that some ideologies more accurately describe reality than others. In practice however, ideologues tend to subordinate reality to their dogma, endlessly rationalizing and contorting their minds to make the facts fit.

The capitalist ideologue is wrong to say that socialism cannot work; it works fine in places like Norway, so long as you are willing to take all of the tradeoffs – the loss of freedoms and high taxation – that go with such a system. Finland’s socialized education system works splendidly for that society and could work in the United States too, so long as our students, teachers, and parents buy into their culture and tolerate fewer freedoms, such as the freedom to have private schools. Cuba famously has near 100% adult literacy. It also outlaws homeschooling. Similarly the socialist or liberal ideologue is wrong to say that capitalism is fundamentally broken; places like Hong Kong and Singapore show that private enterprise serves the people just fine. In other words, so long as the people accept the system and all of its tradeoffs, it can work swimmingly.

When I think about voting or any work with political implications for my homeland, I think in terms of the larger question of the society I want to see for myself and my children. My values, derived from my education, observation, experience, and reflection, heavily center on freedom. I do not want society to take responsibility for my income, my welfare, my relative wealth compared to others, my health insurance, my retirement, or my education. Individual responsibility for these values is the basic state of all humans, and it requires an act of faith beyond my capabilities to trust the artifices of man’s society to remove this responsibility. I intend to raise my children to have the same sense of personal accountability. My wish is to live in a society where this belief is taken for granted – where the idea that it is appropriate to depend on government redistribution and central planning is seen as immoral.

My preference is of course subjective, however there is also a practical reason for opposing a security-based society. Such a political system demands vast bureaucracies at local, state, and federal levels, staffed by hundreds of thousands of government employees. It requires that those bureaucracies be properly administrated and efficiently run. Even if 100% of those government workers are supremely competent and dedicated, the system requires proper political leadership; if the wrong politicians are in office, those bureaucracies can be underfunded, ineptly restructured, improperly regulated, given unrealistic mandates, or all together scrapped in some wave of “reform.”

In other words, the security society only works if you elect the right politicians. If you aren’t careful a George W. Bush might come around with a bad idea like “No Child Left Behind”, and create new problems for large public systems like education. To make things consistently work, you need to keep electing Barack Obamas, each of whom will support the public systems reliably, maintain predictable standards and funding, and, if necessary, cut the red tape and push aside the bureaucracy in times of emergency. The security-society is ruled by men, not law.

What’s more, large centrally-managed government systems are extremely slow to adapt and difficult to reform. Unconsciously they come to make justifying their own existence a greater priority than accomplishing their stated objective. This is why when we think of the word “public” to describe schools, unions, and other institutions, we don’t generally associate innovation or accountability with the term.

In the security society, reforming or improving government-managed systems is slow and painful. Individuals only get the opportunity to directly influence the management of those systems every two years (elections). The rest of the time, the best they can do is write letters or protest. This is because the services are managed with tax dollars, which are collected coercively.

Say you oppose the pedagogical and hiring practices of your state’s education system. You could literally spend decades protesting, voting down budgets, and writing letters, with zero meaningful change. All the while the system happily takes your tax dollars (whether you have kids or not) forcing you to work to support that which you oppose.

With private systems you can immediately and at any time vote for reform and effect change by simply not using the service. Unhappy with how a bank is managing your retirement funds? Switch banks. Unhappy with a private school or insurer? Take your business elsewhere. This is of course impossible with Social Security, where the taxpayers have to hope that the right politicians are elected and that those politicians make responsible decisions with the expropriated funds.

This is the essence of my practical objection to a security-based society. By having the public sector and politically managed systems drive the economy, these societies are, ironically, less secure in a number of ways. This is not to say that the freedom-based society is without flaws. Dealing primarily with private sector service providers demands a great deal of time spent comparing and researching to find the appropriate one for your needs. We take no issue with this for things like food and clothing, where the market has provided abundance at all price ranges. What I wish for is a society that consistently seeks the same level of freedom to choose for most other activities.

This is why I am voting for Mitt Romney. Not because he will magically bring this about, but rather because he will do less violence to my efforts to move society in that direction. Barack Obama, by contrast, consciously or unconsciously, seeks to quickly push us in the direction of the security society. If your values lead you to support the security society, then Obama is clearly the man for you.

Unfortunately the vast majority of the electorate subscribes to the ideologue approach to voting. What’s worse is that a large percentage of these voters are partisans. Partisans are worse than ideologues because they do not even really care about ideas and policies but instead just support a party. Partisans are easily identified by their hypocrisy. Republicans who defend Bush’s growth of government but criticize Obama for the same thing are a good example. Sadly, a large percentage of Blacks are also partisans.

The fact that the electorate is primarily made up of partisans and ideologues explains why candidates need not even bother campaigning in the majority of states. A more responsible media could do a lot to elevate much of the population from partisan to ideologue status. A better education system could help more ideologues develop the critical thinking skills to identify where their ideology does not accurately describe reality.

But we are a long way off from seeing a strong education system or responsible media. As a result, I am left to choose between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Polls suggest that Obama will likely win re-election. If this comes to pass, it may push back the dream of a freedom-based society another generation. This will depend on a number of factors. My intention either way is to continue working toward that dream. I have lived abroad in the past, and because of concerns I have about my son’s education, I will have to consider living abroad again if Obama’s policies become intolerable. Nevertheless I am not ready to give up on what America can be.

That is my reason for voting for Mitt Romney.

Administration Expectations

I’m more interested in what happens after Inauguration Day than what happens on Election Day. As much as I want Obama out of office, I wonder how much it would really matter if he loses. My own sense is that his election is all about who is going to be holding the bag of shit when it finally breaks.

As I’ve said in another thread, I think Romney is going to win on Tuesday (assuming that the ballots are all counted and there aren’t any court challenges to deal with). I like Romney and even favored him in 2008. Not that I had any special love for anti-gun, big capitalist, Mormon governors from liberal states. I simply thought he was the best qualified because of his executive experience. His positions are a bit (to put it mildly) flexible and I can easily see him being a Bush-style disappointment on the domestic policy front. But I’m not here to give reasons to vote for or against him. Hal has done an utterly thorough job of it already. Obama could win too, sure. Sometimes my foresight is blinded when I confuse what is happening with what I hope will happen. It’s why I try to stay emotionally unattached. Maybe enough people believed Bill Clinton when he said at the DNC that nobody could have reversed the damage in four years and Obama will pull it together if we just give him another term.

One of these two assholes is going to win, that’s all we know. If Romney wins, he comes into office with a Democratic Senate Majority (or Minority, not sure what to expect here) Leader who has already vowed not to work with him. He will also have a hostile press that will suddenly start noticing again how jacked up our economy and foreign policy are. The potential for a quagmire is limitless. What can he do?

Obama will suffer with an uncooperative House and maybe a Senate. Reid has been, at best, unhelpful to Obama so I have to wonder how much good it would do for Democrats to hold the Senate with an Obama win. Worse, if he wins, it will because of the angry, fearmongering campaign he ran. The divisiveness is not going to fade away just because he squeaks by in a narrow win. Bush made this mistake in 2004 and paid for it dearly the minute he tried to accomplish anything. He was right that something needed to be done, but the other side found that it was better and safer to reject compromise. They turned out to be right–for their own political gain.

Traditionally, presidents in their second terms face scandals and don’t seem to accomplish much. Reagan had Iran/Contra, Clinton had his privates made public, and Bush was simply ground down by Iraq and Katrina. Obama already has Benghazi percolating, even though most of the news media is helpfully keeping the story quiet and not asking a lot of pesky questions until the election is safely over. Obama will do what what he has been doing for the past two years: throwing up executive orders with zero permanence beyond 2016. I suspect that if he wins, he’ll leave a hollow legacy and ultimately destroy the Democratic brand for at least 12 years (to the extent he hasn’t already; we’ll know soon enough).

That’s not a reason to want him to win, but it just highlights the impossibility for either one to accomplish anything with his bag of shit. That bag contains the long-awaited double-dip recession, more credit downgrades, the possibility of inflation, rising threats overseas, and on and on and on. Gridlock is great when we want to avoid the kind of populist overspending that drives us further into debt, but when the government is so dysfunctional that it refuses to pass a budget for four years even as credit agencies continue to warn it about its recklessness, we should worry.

The questions I have are:

1. Are Americans just too divided and partisan to work with those on the other side of the aisle to solve major policy problems? If so, we are well and truly fucked.

2. What sacrifices does each side need to make to effect a Great Compromise to seriously address the economic and debt crisis? I say that the GOP needs to allow some of the Bush tax cuts to expire since they’re clearly not having any stimulative effect at this point while the Democrats need to give up some of their sacred cows.

3. What the hell is it going to take to get away from this 47% vs 47% nonsense where both parties favor their base and win elections by lying to independents? Are we really that divided or is there common ground somewhere?

Recently, Matthew Dowd wrote a fantastic article about the need for a “peace accord” after the election between divided Americans and I like his thinking. We are way too obsessed with seeing points scored against the other side while ignoring the fact that nobody is driving the bus. This isn’t going to change just because Romney or Obama wins and will only get worse if the outcome is seen as questionable. Somebody needs to win BIG and it just isn’t in the cards.

But how do we do this peace accord thing? Are there any people in government/media/anywhere who have the credibility and know-how to even negotiate this? We can’t seem to quit looking past getting our team into office to realize that the people we elect aren’t governing.

I’ll do my part and turn out to vote, but I’m keeping my expectations safely low until I see evidence that the electorate even wants leadership. Right now, I’m not seeing it and that’s why we’re going to be stuck with nothing but the fool who wins.

Rahm Emanuel was right about not letting crises “go to waste” and it’s obvious that nothing is going to happen until disaster is staring us in the face. In the end, I guess I’m only voting for Romney because I’m less afraid of what he’ll do with it. Anyway, sorry to fill your weekend with darkness!