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GOP Presidential Candidate Rundown (Part 1)

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If you’re like me, you’re not a fan of being in three simultaneous wars in the Middle East and wallowing in mind-blowing national debt, so the odds are you wouldn’t mind seeing someone other than President Obama in the Oval Office come November of 2012 (technically January 2013).  If you’re like me, you want to know what your other options are when it comes to picking the President of The United States.  If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering who the Republicans will field as their presidential nominee because, let’s be honest, the chances of the Libertarian Party and the other also-rans getting their act together by next year’s election season are smaller than minuscule.

And hey, even if you’re nothing like me, you might even be interested in what I think of the GOP’s current field.  Well, look no further – I’ll tell you what’s what free of charge.  Let’s first describe what major policy positions I look for in a president before we get going.

Social Issues:

  • Keep the government out of marriage entirely – including gay marriage.
  • Education Reform:  Hemorrhaging money to the Department of Education has not produced any improvements in our academic abilities versus the rest of the industrialized world.  Give parents choice on where their children go to school by implementing a voucher system (thus simultaneously encouraging educational experimentation via school competition).
  • Immigration Reform:  Simplify the process by which immigrants become citizens.  Implement a robust work visa program to encourage legal immigration and economic stimulus.  This would also enable a realistic way to document who is in the country.
  • Drug War Reform:  The War on Drugs is a complete failure.  Legalize marijuana, and readdress the criminal justice system’s approach to drug use and abuse.

Fiscal Issues:

  • Corporate Tax Reform:  We have the second-highest (soon to be the absolute highest) corporate taxes in the world; stop giving businesses an incentive to avoid doing business in the United States.
  • Individual Tax Reform:  Economic growth happens when people are allowed to spend and invest their money rather than having it confiscated by taxation.  Cut taxes to stimulate the economy.
  • Entitlement Reform:  Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will grind to a bankrupt halt along with the rest of the country if we don’t address the practical issues of having tax-funded social programs which are categorically impossible  to pay for as they currently exist.
  • Federal Budget Reform:  We borrow 43 cents on every dollar we spend.  We need an immediate, comprehensive plan to stop adding to the national debt and start paying it off.

Foreign Policy:

  • End the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.  The United States does not benefit from the continued occupation of the Middle East, nor from engaging in even more military operations in Libya or elsewhere.
  • Stop foreign aid.  We can’t afford our own national programs, let alone those of other nations.  Additionally, funding oppressive (albeit convenient) governments based on our own various international agendas hasn’t exactly been without serious long-term consequences (1980s Iraq springs to mind); it’s time to learn from our mistakes.
  • Close many if not most of our military bases overseas.  A military presence does not endear us to the populace of many nations, nor does supporting the economic growth of other countries by paying for their protection make the faintest bit of sense.
  • Stand by our allies.  Any aggression against our friends should be met with our unflinching wrath.  If, for example, Israel were invaded, my ideal response would be as follows:

Without further ado, let’s take a look  at the first wave of Republican candidates.  Please note that I’m arbitrarily selecting the five individuals who participated in the debate on May 5th as who I’ll talk about here on Part One of the series.  That being said, let’s start with somebody you’ve actually heard of:

Ron Paul


He’s been in Congress for quite some time, and he’s famous for vetoing bills left and right for exceeding the scope of the government’s Constitutional boundaries.  He ran for president as the Libertarian Party nominee in 1988.  He’s a libertarian God.

What I like:

He’s been saying the same thing about our fundamental economic weakness (debt, debt, and more debt) for decades.  He despises the Federal Reserve.  He wants out of the Middle East.  He’d end the drug war.  He doesn’t think the government gets to decide who gets married and who doesn’t, he takes The Constitution seriously, and he’s vocal about addressing entitlement spending.  Better yet, he could actually beat President Obama.

What I don’t like:

He’s old, and it’s starting to show; he doesn’t educate so much as he raves.  He has a tendency to insert earmarks into bills he knows will pass and then vote against them just so he can say he never votes for pork barrel spending.

Odds of getting the nomination:

I give him 20%.  The GOP field is weak, but he doesn’t have many friends amongst the Party establishment.   Sure, he can win over a lot of independents and every libertarian on the planet, and he’s notoriously good with young voters (read: he can steal them from Obama).  Besides, many on the the left can enjoy his tolerance and consistent anti-war credentials if they can be intellectually honest about the president’s fiscal irresponsibility, his tendency towards corporatism, and especially his hawkishness.  So, yeah, those are all reasons that Ron Paul can win the general election, but don’t hold your breath on him being nominated.  He raised gigantic sums of money during the 2008 campaign, but it didn’t get him anywhere; I don’t have reason to believe 2012 will be different.

Rick Santorum


He served in the Senate for 12 years, ending in 2007.  He’s been very active in defining himself as a “traditional conservative” (you’ll have to excuse me for leaving that topic alone, because I just don’t have the energy).  He dipped his toes in the Election 2008 waters until he figured out he had no real following.

What I like about him:

He promotes the missile defense program.

What I don’t like about him:

Most things.  He clearly favors an extra-interventionist foreign policy (we’ll bomb the democracy into you!), which I say because his website says:

[…] having supported popular sovereignty abroad, both this and the previous administration have erred in failing to sufficiently support the conditions of liberty and the institutions necessary for a successful democracy.  Too often we have acted as if liberty’s first order of business is a vote. Elections should be a consummation and not a commencement to democratic processes.


I have a big problem with that; we have no business being in the business of nation-building; lead the world by example, not by occupation.  Here’s how I read that quote, anyway: “We really need to spend more money and blood on countries that we want to install democracy into – certainly long before they have an election of some kind anyway, and let’s not get in a hurry over that little bit either.  For instance, ten years in Afghanistan and eight years in Iraq and a trillion or so dollars just isn’t enough, so let’s get ready to up the ante.”

Then there’s an Associated Press (AP)/Santorum discussion on… well, you read it.

SANTORUM: […] Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that’s what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality —

AP: I’m sorry, I didn’t think I was going to talk about “man on dog” with a United States senator, it’s sort of freaking me out.

SANTORUM: And that’s sort of where we are in today’s world, unfortunately. The idea is that the state doesn’t have rights to limit individuals’ wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we’re seeing it in our society.

That’s just not going to work for me.

Odds of getting the nomination:

15%.  He’ll appeal to many party-line Republicans immensely; he doesn’t like homosexuality, he’s very clearly pro-war/intervention, and he continues the Republican Party tradition of talking about spending less while enthusiastically discussing spending a lot more.  Unfortunately for him, there’s nothing to really distinguish himself from the other boilerplate Republican candidates except maybe his propensity to poll badly whenever he’s considered running for the Senate (again) or the governorship in his home state.  If your neighbors don’t like you… anyway, don’t expect donors to flock to him.

Herman Cain


As CEO, he turned a pizza franchise around and made a lot of money.  He’s had a fairly varied number of careers (mostly in business, but one with the Navy and a few years with The Federal Reserve).  He’s a talk radio host; coincidentally, he did extremely well in the debate.

What I like:

He’s a self-made kind of guy, which I respect immensely.  The man came from nothing and succeeded due to a lot of hard work.  He’s a political outsider whose understanding of business is personal, not academic.  He’s for domestic energy production, he’s vocal about supporting the Second Amendment, and he’s interested in a school voucher system.  He says he’d cut the corporate tax rate.  On paper, I like a lot more of him than I don’t like.

What I don’t like:

I’m so tired of hearing people talk about how they’re all about small government, and then turning out to be the opposite.  Since this guy comes from nowhere (politically speaking), for all I know he’s just mouthing talk radio talking points and riding the Tea Party wave.  He keeps calling his foreign policy plan “The Cain Doctrine” (yes, really) but fails to delineate it; come to think of it, he doesn’t delineate any of his policy positions on his second-rate website.  At any rate, he is very firm in his desire to “secure the borders.”  Well, welcome to fantasy island, Herman, because that ain’t gonna happen – not practically speaking, and not politically speaking.

Lastly, you can’t overlook this extremely damning (and likewise rambling) bit of video evidence:

Odds of getting the nomination:

25%.  That number could shoot up pretty easy, or collapse.  If he can’t capitalize on his success off of the debate  then he could easily go down like the Hindenburg.  Oh, and forgive me for noticing and everything, but he’s black.  If you don’t think the GOP would do unspeakable things for a viable black candidate (especially versus President Obama), I probably have many clever and disparaging things to say about your political intellect.  What’s semi-surprised me, though, is that I’ve read separate articles on Mitt Romney and Ron Paul raking in the cash, but nothing on Herman Cain doing likewise.  Romney’s got the establishment and Paul’s got the enthusiastic/rabid base feeding in money, and Cain could get both of those… but he’s obviously not there yet.

Tim Pawlenty


A former governor of Minnesota.  He’s been unofficially campaigning since  2008 or so, which is his recognition of his complete and total lack of recognition.  But here’s the real kicker: he was reportedly on John McCain’s short list for Vice President, but lost to this woman:

Not Actually Sarah Palin

What I like:

He’s not Rick  Santorum…

What I don’t like:

…but he might as well be.  They sounded exactly the same during the debate, and their policies are about the same.  Maybe his one distinguishing characteristic is that he was on the wrong side of cap-and-trade, which, even in the spineless Republican Party, is akin to contracting syphilis.  He’s a darling of the social conservatives, but that’s already a long line of sameness that’s going to get longer once the rest of the candidates wade into the race.  Ultimately, he’s probably the most boring candidate anyone could come up with; he’s worse than Bob Dole ever was (before Bob’s hilarious Viagra ads, that is).

Pictured: More excitement than Pawlenty 2012.

Odds of getting the nomination:

5%.  Nobody cares, Tim.  Nobody.  You have nothing to bring to the table.  The only way Pawlenty could get the nomination is if every other candidate died.  Well, with the possible exception of:

Gary Johnson


The former Governor of New Mexico.  He is especially well-known for climbing Mt. Everest, competing in triathlons and marathons, and being outspoken on marijuana legalization.

What I like:

I’ve never seen a candidate who I agree with more; he hits every point I listed at the start of this post.  He has executive experience, he owned his own successful small business which he built from the ground up, and he was re-elected by a ten point margin in a predominately democratic state by being an honest-to-God libertarian with a track record of success.

What I don’t like:

He did not do well in the debate.  He’s not polished.  He looks uncomfortable in front of cameras, but on the other hand that didn’t stop Bush from winning twice (not that Al Gore and John Kerry were much better in 2000 and 2004).  He doesn’t have a clear policy on what constitutes torture.

Odds of getting the nomination:

1% (rounded up).  The Republican Party despises him.  No social conservative will ever vote for him: he’s pro-choice, pro-marijuana legalization, and pro-gay marriage.  He was a political outsider when he ran in New Mexico, and he hasn’t endeared himself to the GOP since; besides, Ron Paul has most of the Republicans who would support Gary Johnson in the first place.  I think Johnson could win over a lot of voters on the left, many of the independents out there, anyone who’s tired of the war, a lot of the hispanic vote, libertarians and fiscal conservatives, and politically apathetic potheads (in other words, anyone on the west coast I haven’t named already).  If he ironed his shirt, stood up straight, and took some elocution lessons, he could win an election (seriously, if you thought “Anyone But Bush” was a strong force in politics, just wait for “A Not-Necessarily Warm Body vs. Obama”) … but the nomination?  Next to impossible.

So that’s it, ladies and gentlemen.  That’s the first five possibilities.  Sucks, doesn’t it?  I guess we’re supposed to be excited about Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin (maybe running), Michele Bachmann (possibly) and Chris Christie (doubtful).  Allen West is even being floated, but we’ll see.

Stay tuned for Part 2.


B.S. in Wisconsin: Public Employees Shouldn’t be Able to Strike

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What the hell is going on here?  Following the absurd public teacher strike in Wisconsin that’s been going on for a couple of weeks now, another 45,000+ Wisconsin public employees are threatening to join in and bring Wisconsin to a complete halt.

Why are they striking, you ask?  Well, the patently evil Wisconsin governor and state legislature (and, I suppose, the patently evil citizens of Wisconsin who elected them) are attempting to curtail a $3.6 billion biennial budget shortfall by enacting the following:

  1. Public employees must pay 5.8% of their salary toward their retirement pensions, up from 0.0% (police and firefighters are exempt).
  2. Public employees must pay for 12% of their healthcare premiums, instead of the current 6% (police and firefighters are exempt).
  3. Public employees may collectively bargain with the government over wages, but not benefits and work rules.
  4. Wisconsin voters must approve any additional salary raises for public workers that are over the inflation rate.

That’s it.

Now, let’s dissect this.  For starters, I don’t want to hear the following:

1.  Don’t give me that “Those poor teachers” crap.

Considering that this entire mess in Wisconsin began with teachers, I think it’s only fair to start with them.  Everyone always lines up at the drop of a hat to shed a sympathetic tear for the plight of the public educator – the 21st century version of a galley slave.  If even half of what I’m reading about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is true, he’s probably one fancy hat away from being this guy:



Reality check: the average Wisconsin teacher makes $52,644 before benefits.  By itself, that’s pretty damn great; the median family income in the U.S. in 2008 was $52,029.  If you’ve determined that one person making $52,644 is more than one family making $52,029, maybe that’s because a Wisconsin teacher done learnt you good.

In terms of benefits, in Milwaukee the average teacher makes another 74.2 cents in benefits on every dollar they receive in actual salary.   Two particularly surprising items which factor into that figure are: 1) the school district’s contributions for teachers’ health insurance, which is the equivalent of 38.8% of their wages as opposed to the national private-sector workers’ 10.7% average, and 2) teachers currently don’t pay a dime toward the state employee pension plan or the additional teacher’s supplemental pension plan (they automatically receive both).  Hopefully it’s becoming pretty clear that they’re living the sweet life compared to the overwhelming majority of working Americans.

If you’d like some specific examples of what these teachers are pulling down, look no further.

2.  Don’t give me that “Going after public employees is unfair, and anti-union” crap.

First of all, nothing going on in Wisconsin has anything to do with private-sector unions, okay?  This entire fiasco is all about public employee unions.

Now keep in mind that taxpayers pay public workers.  Is being held captive by a denial of service from workers whose salary you are obligated to pay “fair?”  Is it fair to have your children refused education because somebody in the public sector doesn’t want to start playing by the same rules as their counterparts in the private sector?  Would it be more fair for Wisconsin to go utterly bankrupt and have everyone lose?

Besides, in the terms which define collective bargaining there’s no real way for public employees to defend the legitimacy of their strike.  Wisconsin has broken no laws by changing the terms of public employee collective bargaining, and federal courts have repeatedly denied that collective bargaining over employment conditions is something you can petition the government about for redress.  Of course, this isn’t to say that workers can’t strike illegally under the belief that they can force their way – though that’s no guarantee of success.  In the 1980s, some air traffic controllers learned the hard way that they were expendable when their illegal strike caused 11,000 of them to be fired by President Reagan.  Still, replacing every teacher and/or state worker in Wisconsin is probably impossible, and I’m sure the public employee unions are aware of that.

The fact of the matter is that Wisconsin is broke, and it’s time for public employees to share some of the same burdens that their paymasters – the citizens of Wisconsin – have been dealing with.  Reality has nothing to do with being anti-union.

3.  Don’t tell me that public employees should even have the right to collectively bargain, much less strike.

There is not and should not be anything legal about a hostage situation, which is what this ordeal is.

The President of the 97-union South Central Federation of Labor of Wisconsin said,

“Two weeks ago who would have thought there would have been 70,000 people on the Capitol Square demonstrating on behalf of worker rights?” Cavanaugh said. “We have had an awful lot of statements of support from around the country.”


Statements of support from around the country are nice, but utterly meaningless.  Guess who runs Wisconsin?  The duly-elected representatives elected by the people of Wisconsin.  So these union folks can blather on, but the bottom line is they don’t have a leg to stand on.  Not that that’s going to stop them from extorting every Wisconsin taxpayer until the unions get what they want.

But it’s statements like this that really warm my heart to the union “cause” (my emphasis added):

A coordinating committee is being formed to contact European unions with experience conducting general strikes, and to begin educating and organizing unions, students and other groups, said Carl Aniel, labor federation delegate from AFSCME Local 171.

“It doesn’t mean that everyone is going to stop working on a particular moment or day,” Aniel said. “It means that we are preparing so that the decisions are made in a very significantly different way so that it protects the people of Wisconsin.”


Yes, it’s really the interests of the people of Wisconsin you care about, isn’t it?  When 40% of all Wisconsin teachers suddenly (and fraudulently) call in sick and shut down the public school system, I’m sure it’s really about protecting the people of Wisconsin – because after all, what else does a public employee do but serve the public?  I mean, you know, besides what they’re doing right now in Wisconsin, which is extortion (my emphasis added):

Extortion, outwresting, and/or exaction is a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion. Refraining from doing harm is sometimes euphemistically called protection.


Oh.  I guess it is about “protecting” the people of Wisconsin after all.  Please excuse me, Carl Aniel of AFSCME Local 171, for failing to immediately understand you.

To make matters worse, Democrat legislators have fled the state to avoid voting on the public employee benefit and collective bargaining adjustments; without at least one of them being present, there aren’t enough legislators on hand to legally call a vote on this or anything else.

“We were left with no choice,” Democrat Sen. Jon Erpenbach said [.]


Well, no choice besides doing your job and allowing voters to implement their will via the democratic process.  Other than that, no, I guess there wasn’t a choice.  Plus when you consider that public employees and their unions contribute 20% of the total Democrat campaign contributions in Wisconsin, I suppose maybe that’s sort of a factor.

Net Neutrality is “The Kill Switch”

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You’ll excuse me, but I find it very difficult to get excited whenever there’s unrest in the Middle East, because, hell, when isn’t there?  Conceptually, I get that this latest stuff is a big deal; among other things, Egypt’s dictator is gone, and Qaddafi (pick one of the 15 ways they’re spelling his name all of a sudden) bugged out of Libya, claiming the entire uprising was because teenagers were drinking Nescafe spiked with hallucinogens, and Osama Bin Laden, of all people, definitely had something to do with it.  U.S. foreign policy (or lack thereof) is on display, and gas prices are through the roof because we continue to insist on being dependent on the world’s most unstable region for our energy needs.  Any of these topics would be a great opportunity for a libertarian to repeat the following mantra: We need to stay the hell out of it, and take care of our own damn country.

But I will say that one especially interesting news item (particularly in the case of Egypt) is how the Internet helped to coordinate the popular upheaval.  What I haven’t seen is the bridge between that story and the Net neutrality argument.

Well, that’s not completely true.  I’ve seen several articles on why the Egyptian uprising (and presumably the Middle East uprisings collectively) is actually a case for Net neutrality.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  First of all, what is Net neutrality?  It sounds nice and harmless; who could be against neutrality?  Think Switzerland. Taupe!  Neutrality as a concept seems pretty unobjectionable, but it’s also a nice, innocent-sounding buzzword hijacked for political purposes – sort of like “freedom.”  You see in this case, “neutrality” means “taking control.”

The best quasi-definition of Net neutrality that I’ve run across goes like this:

Network neutrality is the principle that Internet users should be able to access any web content they choose and use any applications they choose, without restrictions or limitations imposed by their Internet service provider.  For example, if you are shopping for a new appliance online you should be able to shop on any and all websites, not just the ones with whom your provider has a preferred business relationship.

Wow, that sounds terrific.  In fact, when it comes to Net neutrality as something Congress is considering implementing as actual law, Net neutrality supposedly:

[…]  advocates no restrictions by Internet service providers and governments on content, sites, platforms, the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and the modes of communication.

So… what’s the problem?  If your Internet service provider – like Verizon or Comcast – wants to get into some shady deal with, say, General Motors to make their page load fast and Ford’s load really, really slow, shouldn’t that be illegal? Shouldn’t consumers experience a “free and open” Internet where every page gets a fair and even shake?  I mean, good Lord, didn’t somebody just say that this would also mean that government can’t regulate the Internet?

That last point in particular is ridiculous; in terms of federal law, Net neutrality would be enforced by – surprise! – Captain Censorship, also known as the Federal Communications Commission.  But don’t get too caught up in that little detail; I mean, just because a federal commission that reports to Congress and is appointed by the President is enforcing legislation enacted by the House and Senate doesn’t mean that government is regulating the Internet.  No, sir!  Neutrality!

And just why exactly every web page should have identical treatment is beyond me, and apparently this guy, too:

Senator Al Franken, at the Netroots Nation conference in late July, talked about a dystopian future without Net neutrality: “How long do you think it will take before the Fox News website loads five times faster than Daily Kos?” Hopefully, this will happen right away. Fox News should load 20 times faster than Daily Kos, because far more people read it. It’s better for society that millions of people get someplace a little faster while the relatively few Daily Kos readers wait a few seconds. This is why not all roads are the same width.

But the justification behind Net neutrality as a law is the idea that the Internet consumer is entitled to a certain Internet experience.  To quote the FCC directly (with my emphasis added):

• To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected
nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of
their choice.

Well, why?  Why am I entitled to anything?  If I’m logging on to the Internet through a subscription via access to the infrastructure provided by Verizon (and I am), why am I entitled to anything they aren’t selling me?  If Verizon doesn’t want me accessing certain sites or loading at the same speed as CNN, don’t they have a right to restrict or “throttle” that content?  It’s their service, right?

And it’s probably in Verizon’s interest to avoid restricting access anyway, which is why the ever-so-feared world where one ISP has a contract with Bing to block Google isn’t a world we live in.  Restricting or inhibiting access to content on the Internet is suicide, and ISP corporations know it.  The United Kingdom has managed to figure that out:

The U.K. minister in charge of communications policy said Wednesday that there isn’t a need for so-called Net neutrality regulation, citing healthy competition among Internet service providers as the key to preventing unfair practices on the Web. […]

“A lightly regulated Internet is good for business, good for the economy, and good for people,” Vaizey said in a speech. “Competition in the market, combined with transparency, the ability to switch, and an overall adherence to the sort of principles I have outlined, should render such intervention unnecessary.”

Now in practically the same breath, he points out that here in the good old United States the lack of providers from region to region (in other words, the only game in town for you might be AT&T’s Internet service) means that in his opinion the Net neutrality argument has some warrant on our side of the pond.  So does that mean we’re better off encouraging competition, or having government regulate the Internet?  As someone who firmly believes competition yields price and service customization, I certainly think it’s a no-brainer.

Let’s go back to the Middle East: as you may have heard, once Egyptian authorities got wind of the role social networking was playing in the uprising, Internet traffic went something like this:

Am I supposed to believe the Egyptian FCC (if there was one) would have kept that from happening?  Spare me.  If anything, Net neutrality would have been a serious impediment to the revolution.  Using the Middle East to support the enforcement of Net neutrality is completely pointless.

What’s the point of Net neutrality?  For starters, it’s a not-so-great solution to a problem that really doesn’t seem to exist.  Why is anyone bothering with it at all?  Well, any time government gets into something it establishes a precedent for future governmental control.  That’s reality.  What possible benefit could government receive from wading into the Internet under the guise of maintaining freedom (as a side note, I’ll never understand why government regulation is needed for free anything, including free trade)?  To select one possible – I’d argue probable – reason, I’d like to direct your attention back to the Internet “kill switch” debate.

The very short version of the “kill switch” debate is that some people think that the government (I’m still not sure exactly who; that’s conveniently left out of the discussion) should have the power to shut off the Internet in the event of a significant cyber security threat.  Without delving into how stupid I think that is, suffice to say there are a lot of folks out there who think that’s a horrible idea and a concentration of power that no person or governmental body should have.  But once you get the FCC involved in regulating Internet traffic, it’s a very short walk to government being able to halt Internet traffic.

I don’t mean to suggest that Net neutrality is a giant conspiracy; I’m sure most proponents believe it’s the best thing that could ever happen to the Internet.  What I don’t believe is that it’s intelligent in the first place, nor do I think government interest in Net neutrality is benevolently benign.

The Pointless Veneration of Reagan

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Why conservatives and many self-styled libertarians insist on worshiping Ronald Reagan is beyond me.  What’s to like?  His tripling of the national debt?  Promising to end the Departments of Education and Energy, and failing to do so?  Selling arms to Iran?  Merely being present during the inevitable fall of communism?  It seems that the patently rudderless Republican Party is reduced to attributing things they never do (creating and maintaining fiscally-sound small government) to a man who never did them.

Not that they have too many presidential role models to work with.  Let’s review: should they choose George W. Bush, whose unfortunately all-to-recent slew of terrible policy and popularity disasters include sending the federal deficit and national debt to spectacular heights?  Perhaps George H.W. Bush, whose “Read my lips: no new taxes” pledge was a comical farce?  Gerald Ford, who pardoned Nixon?  Dare I even mention Nixon himself?  It’s absolutely breathtaking to consider that at this point we’ve backtracked all the way to Eisenhower, and fond remembrance of 60 years (or more) past isn’t likely to energize the electorate.

The entire strategy of misty-eyed Reagan retrospective is a guaranteed failure anyway.  With every breath wasted on Ronald Reagan and his so-called legacy, the Republican Party demonstrates no forward momentum into 2012 with any real presidential contender.  Perhaps this wistful yesteryear obsession with Reagan is simple self-preservation via subconscious denial of today’s political realities; after all, what present-day presumptive Republican candidates are there to be excited about?  It may very well be a forlorn hope that Ron Paul will enter as even a reluctant candidate, and with all the Party toes he’s stepped on over the years it’s hard to believe there wouldn’t be a concerted effort to internally sabotage his candidacy.  Chris Christie, who makes headlines as a champion big-government fighter in New Jersey has repeatedly stated he won’t run.  Paul Ryan, whose claim to fame is purposing a balanced budget by – oh boy! – 2063 is a highly improbable choice.  Who’s left?  Sarah Palin?  Mike Huckabee?  Can anyone actually believe the best they could come up with in the recent New Hampshire straw poll was Mitt Romney?  Is there any Republican less qualified to shrink government?

It is thus that the Republicans and their Tea Party supporters in particular – both so outspokenly dedicated to reducing the size of government – are practically doomed to look in the past and credit a man with actions he never took and purported beliefs he clearly betrayed.  To make matters worse, consider that the recent Republican boom in Congress is to be of scarce comfort in short order.  While congressional Republicans make noise about reducing the deficit by pathetically microscopic amounts (while refusing to take on Defense or entitlement spending, which currently make  about 76% of the budget), election season is right around the corner and there’s no evidence to suggest any remotely significant direction on the legislative front.  Attention, GOP: the charade can’t last forever.

But it’s the so-called “Reagan Libertarians” that raise my hackles; it’s a sad commentary that hijacking and bastardizing the libertarian label is so unfortunately in vogue.  If there was ever a contradiction of terms, this would be it: the defining of small government as big government.  The real Reagan legacy is deficit spending, hugely expanded national debt, foreign intervention, and tax hikes.  There is not and cannot be anything libertarian about any of that, period.

I suppose none of this is really surprising: the Republican Party is a contradictory self-defeating desiccated husk of anything it ever even claimed to be.  You can’t have small government and the fruitless War on Terror, the patently failed War on Drugs, the morality police, the Patriot Act, pointless federal departments, oil dependence, and a bevy of foreign entanglements.  Sadly, the impossible is apparently what Republicans desire – it is, after all, what they consistently vote for.

So perhaps, all things considered, Ronald Reagan is the best representative of the Republican Party that anyone could ever dream of.  As long as Republicans insist on what can only be called hypocrisy, perpetuating the myth of Reagan is quite frankly the shoe that fits.  But I draw the line – I must draw the line – at any fool who wishes to hitch libertarianism to Reagan’s fraudulence.  Unlike the ideologically boxed-in Republicans, Libertarians can offer a future for a nation mired in very real and very present dangers.  We need not clamor aboard a sinking ship, and I condemn any professed libertarian who implicitly or explicitly insists that an abandonment of libertarian principles by celebrating the antithesis of libertarianism is the path to our salvation.

Written by libertarianews

February 8, 2011 at 7:19 pm

6 Dead, 12 Wounded: Who’s Responsible?

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January 8, 2011 was an absolute tragedy.  Psychopath Jared Loughner opened fire on a crowd at a political event in Tucson, Arizona, murdering six people (including, as I’m sure you’ve heard, a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl) and wounding an even dozen – most famously, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Naturally, the first thought that pops into your head in response to such news is, “So where does Rush Limbaugh fit into all of this?”  No?  How about, “To just what extent is the Tea Party directly responsible for this massacre?”  Not that, either?  Then your gut reaction has to have been, “I’m confused; was Sarah Palin the shooter, or the get-away driver?”

I jest.  I certainly hope you don’t view mass murder as a categorically right-wing political event.  I don’t mean to suggest that this heinous rampage wasn’t somehow politically motivated; after all, we’re talking about an attack at a congressional representative’s scheduled event featuring said representative being shot point-blank in the head.  But let’s step back for a moment and examine the media coverage to capture a much wider picture of what went on that day.  Frankly, it’s absolutely crucial that we do.

If you had an instant “it’s those damn conservatives ” reaction to this news story, I give you tongue-in-cheek congratulations for being well-trained by the ceaseless partisan politics we were all supposed to be past presumably as of the inauguration on January 20, 2009.  And, no, I’m not blaming President Obama for any of this, but while you watched media coverage absolutely ram a specific political viewpoint into this tragedy before anyone even knew who the shooter was, I want you to remember that we’re supposed to be living in a transformative time of something like endless political unity, sunshine, and daffodils.  I mean, right?  Aren’t we all supposed to have come together by now?  Was that not the general, if ridiculously wishful, expectation after the 2008 election?

No, obviously this isn’t some magical post-partisan era, and no wonder – partisanship is politics.  There was never really going to be a big national group hug because we elected a likable – and black! – guy to the presidency.  But really, does anyone actually believe we’re less a politically-polarized nation since… well, since this millennium?  Has the entire realm of politics and political discourse become any more rational, cerebral, objective, or civil since 2000?  Sure, we’re not in Utopia, but I challenge you to present an argument demonstrating that by any standard we as a nation have become more mature about our political viewpoints and disagreements as a whole.

You see, even before Jared Loughner was identified as the shooter in the Arizona killings there was a massive media push to assign a specific template to the story.  Now, keep in mind that not having an identified shooter means not having a clear motive behind the shooting.  Pretend you’re working at the news desk and, bam, you suddenly get reports that there’s 5 down and 13 limping (number 6 will die in the hospital, but you don’t know that yet) at a Safeway somewhere in Arizona.   One of the victims is Representative Gabrielle Giffords, which makes this an extra big deal.  So, what do you write?

Well, you could go with writing what you actually know: there’s 18 shot, including Rep. Giffords, and police currently report 5 dead.  The identity of the shooter is unknown, but he or she may be in custody.  If you as a journalist or commentator go any further than that, you’ve entered the arena of Just Making Shit Up.  After all, if you don’t know more that means you don’t know anything else. Unfortunately, honesty and restraint was not the order of the day in the national media following what was to be called the Safeway Massacre, so coverage exploded into abject conjecture and an utterly shameless smear campaign.  In other words, the deaths of six individuals were immediately hijacked to promote partisan politics without the slightest pause for integrity or so much as a whiff of professionalism.

Let’s break it down.  From here on out, I will be quoting text from the links provided and adding my own emphasis in italics as I believe necessary.

Nobel Prize-winning New York Times columnist Paul Kurgman, January 8, 2011, before the identity of the Safeway shooter was known:

We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was. [Representative Giffords has] been the target of violence before.

Ok, there’s no proof of what’s really behind all this but we do have some facts: Somebody went after the windows of Giffords’ campaign office a while back, and she is a congresswoman, and the murders took place at an official event she hosted.  However, 17 other people were also shot at the scene, so making assumptions is probably a little dicey.  That’s it.  That’s all we know right now.

And for those wondering why a Blue Dog Democrat, the kind Republicans might be able to work with, might be a target, the answer is that she’s a Democrat who survived what was otherwise a GOP sweep in Arizona, precisely because the Republicans nominated a Tea Party activist.

So we’re definitely starting to leap to the assumption that this is about the Tea Party.   But, remember, there’s no proof.

You know that Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate. And it’s long past time for the GOP’s leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers.

Those rascally Republicans!  Decrying partisanship when somebody like, oh I don’t know, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman saddles them with the responsibility of a mass murder when – and I’m just quoting Mr. Krugman here – “we don’t have proof yet.”

I see that Sarah Palin has called the shooting “tragic”. OK, a bit of history: right-wingers went wild over anyone who called 9/11 a tragedy, insisting that it wasn’t a tragedy, it was an atrocity.

Wow.  Way to take the high road.

I’m going to take down comments on this one; they would need a lot of moderating, because the crazies are coming out in force, and it’s all too likely to turn into a flame war.

I can’t imagine why.

Nobel Prize-winning New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, Janury 09, 2011, after the identity of the Safeway shooter was known:

When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?

I see you’re sticking with “atrocity.”  Take note, Sarah Palin!  But was I expecting “something like this” to happen?  Whatever do you mean, Paul?

I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again.

Whoah, hang on a minute there.  Now as of the time of this second Krugman piece, the entire country – and certainly The New York Times – is aware there is zero evidence that Jared Loughner has any affiliation at all with The Tea Party, John McCain, Sarah Palin, or anyone else even remotely like them.  What we do know on 1/09 is that Loughner:

1)  Is associated with a group called American Renaissance, which has an endearing mix of anti-semetic, anti-government, and pro-white nationalist bitterness.

2) Lists Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto and Hitler’s Mein Kampf among his favorite books.  Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest also made the cut, in perhaps the darkest of dark ironies.

3)  Is a drug abuser.

4)  Has serious mental health issues – including documented evidence demonstrating his obsession with mind-control – observed by the staff of his former community college as well as former classmates.

5) Has a previous record with the police involving making death threats.

So it looks like we have a complete loon as the triggerman.  Hell, it looks like it’s pretty much an open-and-shut case exactly one day after the shooting.  At least, if you’re not pushing a partisan outlook like Paul Krugman.

It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.

Really, Paul?  Really?  Should we ignore all evidence and force Jared Loughner into a template you’re already entrenched in, based on your previous writings?  You’d better be able to sell me on it.

Last spring reported on a surge in threats against members of Congress, which were already up by 300 percent. A number of the people making those threats had a history of mental illness — but something about the current state of America has been causing far more disturbed people than before to act out their illness by threatening, or actually engaging in, political violence.

Wait, so by what evidence does Jared Loughner have anything to do with…

And there’s not much question what has changed. As Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff responsible for dealing with the Arizona shootings, put it, it’s “the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.” The vast majority of those who listen to that toxic rhetoric stop short of actual violence, but some, inevitably, cross that line.

…hey!  Excuse me!  We’re talking about Jared Loughner still, right?  As in, what we know?

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed ad dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

What’s going on here?  Is anyone else confused?  What toxic rhetoric? Loughner has absolutely no ties to the GOP, the Tea Party, et cetera.  This is officially common knowledge.

And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

Of course, the likes of Mr. Beck and Mr. O’Reilly are responding to popular demand. Citizens of other democracies may marvel at the American psyche, at the way efforts by mildly liberal presidents to expand health coverage are met with cries of tyranny and talk of armed resistance. Still, that’s what happens whenever a Democrat occupies the White House, and there’s a market for anyone willing to stoke that anger.

Wh… what?  Can we please go back to talking about Jared Loughner and how he has anything to do with what you’re talking about?

Or wait, is this a clever ploy?  Are you parodying Loughner’s impenetrable and insane writings by veering far, far away from any semblance of coherence?  Am I looking at a Pulitzer’s worth of cunning satire here?

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening: the purveyors of hate have been treated with respect, even deference, by the G.O.P. establishment. As David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter, has put it, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.”

So will the Arizona massacre make our discourse less toxic? It’s really up to G.O.P. leaders. Will they accept the reality of what’s happening to America, and take a stand against eliminationist rhetoric? Or will they try to dismiss the massacre as the mere act of a deranged individual, and go on as before?

STOP!  ENOUGH!   Have you gone completely senile, Krugman?!

A rank idiot could note the unbearable hypocrisy of these embarrassingly self-satisfied articles; I have never in my life been exposed to such a level of self-serving garbage.  Really – and I mean this from the absolute bottom of my heart – I would not be in the least bit surprised to discover that this blatantly, noxiously self-indulgent bullshit that Krugman excreted under the banner of “journalism” was sponsored by K-Y Jelly Personal Lubricant.

This is truly beyond belief and comprehension.  There are six innocent people dead on the ground, and Paul Krugman deliberately ignores all evidence to exploit their cadavers and prop up his own political views.  Krugman is apparently beyond realizing that his idiotic rant is exactly the kind of hostile partisanship he’s allegedly assailing.  He refuses – refuses – to back down from fingering the other side of the political aisle as responsible for literal murder, and warns that more of the same is right around the corner.  Absent evidence, absent proof, absent the weakest connection, Paul Krugman is the worst partisan demon he could ever dream of demonstrating.

Krugman is anything but the only member of the media who engaged in this kind of stupidity, though I’ve deliberately chosen him as a truly wondrous case study.  For the sake of brevity, I’ll direct your attention to a few other corners for perusal.

Political Vultures

Journalists urged caution after Ft. Hood, now race to blame Palin after Arizona shootings

Barack Obama’s Oklahoma City Moment

The shame – and hypocrisy – of CNN

There is a lesson in all of this: the person responsible is the shooter.  It is utterly horrifying to witness the depths of political partisanship our country has plummeted to when people seek to recast the actions of a lone gunman into a political event before – and after – there’s a shred of proof either way.  As a nation, we have got to start getting our act together and recognizing how backwards we have become; there is no acceptable alternative.

(Libertarian?) Conspiracy Theories

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I’ve been thoroughly enjoying having nothing to do for the past week as finals season (which is really about a month of pure hell) finally wrapped up, and I’ve been wondering what to write about next.  I can’t bring myself to cover anything particularly heavy; I’d bore myself to tears just trying to put together something coherent about the FDA and drug costs, or censorship (as topical as that would be around “******mastime”), or even about the very welcome news that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is on its way out the door – let alone try to package any of those topics in less than 2,500 words so somebody might actually read it.  So if you were hoping to stumble across my take on the START, or Manifest Destiny, or the Hawley-Smoot  Tariff, tough.  I’m going to talk about conspiracy theories, because it amuses me to do so.

Libertarians get painted as conspiracy nuts, and it’s not terribly difficult to figure out why.  I mean, let’s go down the list:

1.  We’re third-party.

2.  We really can – and often do –  blame “the government” for about anything.

3.  Texas “Libertarian Republican” (massive qualifying quotation marks) gubernatorial candidate Debrah Medina couldn’t give a straight answer on “So was 9/11 an inside job, or what?” nine years after the fact.  Thanks for the press, Deb.

It kind of sucks, but what can you do?  When libertarians track societal problems back to the body behind misguided public policy (also known as “the government”), we can get a little knee-jerk about it instead of realizing we ought to articulate why it is we’re blaming government this time around.  If libertarians aren’t careful, we can end up sounding like tinfoil hat-wearing, black helicopter-spotting 2012 believers instead of a group of folks routinely arguing against the “value” of government intervention large and small.

Today I’m going to try and dispel the myth that libertarians are inherently conspiracy theorists by examining why we might’ve been misconstrued as a whole.  After all,  you non-libertarians out there might’ve once asked something like,

So do you guys really believe 9/11 was an inside job?

By and large, no.  Hell no.  But why would people believe that we did?  In no particular order:

1.  Deb Medina.

2.  Our “the government” mantra.

3.  Our inherent suspicion of what drives our foreign policy.

I wasn’t a libertarian on September 11, 2001.  I was really more of a “if Al Gore would just shut up, everything would be sunshine and daffodils” Republican.  I was incapable (more accurately, I was utterly disinclined) to view world events outside of the two-party spectrum.  My perfect solution to the terrorism problem was to kill everyone who tried to kill us, and then move on.  No kidding: I cheerfully played “Bombs Over Baghdad” when Operation Iraqi Freedom kicked off.  I certainly didn’t want to kill “all those A-rabs” because I’m not – nor have I ever been – a bigoted idiot, but I wanted the responsible parties lined up and shot summarily, and I thought everyone would come out ahead if we did.

Ah, if it were only that easy.

While the nation was caught up in an understandable patriotic fervor, you had libertarians coming out and being brave enough to say, “You know it’s not like we aren’t at least partially responsible for this tragedy, in that we ought to be looking at how our foreign policy contributed to this.”

This call for analysis was unfortunately confused as “We really deserved that mass murder.”  Hell, that’s what I heard.  It pissed a lot of people off; how could those libertarians say such a thing?!  And it wasn’t a long step for people to believe that when libertarians said “the government is, in a way, responsible for this attack,” they actually meant “our government conducted this attack.”  And why wouldn’t people assume that’s what libertarians were saying?  Starting on 9/12 there was a sudden abundance of legitimate crazies coming out of the woodwork to moonlight as building code inspectors, rambling on about controlled demolition and other intricacies of architectural engineering like how the melting point of steel is too high for burning jet fuel to cause the World Trade Center to collapse all by itself (apparently somebody was busy huffing glue during 7th period Chemistry, or else they’d have realized you don’t have to actually liquefy steel to weaken its strength).  I firmly believe libertarians got lumped into the conspiracy category out of hand in a “in the wrong place at the wrong time” kind of way.

Even though we libertarians believe the government is, in a sense, all-powerful (with its inherently stupid, heavy-handed, coercive, monopolistic, and counter-productive nature), the government can’t be the equivalent of a bumbling toddler stomping on sand castles and eating paint chips while it’s also a shadowy puppet-master brilliantly conducting the most ludicrously complex military conspiracy in The Entire History of Anything, Ever.  And I think we can agree that all evidence points to “bumbling toddler” being infinitely more likely, yes?

Do libertarians believe in The Illumanati, et al.?

Again, no, that’s anything but a mainstream opinion.

If you don’t know, The Illuminati is pretty much a catch-all phrase that describes some ultra-powerful group of behind-the-scenes individuals controlling everything that happens around the world.  The assumption is that every financial crisis, war, et cetera, is a deliberate conspiracy that is supposed to benefit this group of people somehow.

Why would anyone believe something this ridiculous?  Lindsay Lohan can’t so much as fart without everyone hearing all about it, but we’re supposed to believe nobody’s been able to discover and prove the existence of “The Illuminati?”  Well, you have to realize that it’s awfully convenient to believe in a mysterious “Order” being responsible for everything.  Seriously, imagine being able to chalk up every evil in the world to one root cause. How perfect is that?  And it’s not like this is an unprecedented trend in world history.

The Jews Did This!

Not Pictured: The Jews that did this.

And, yeah, this goes right back to “the government” coming across as a libertarian’s perceived convenient scapegoat for everything.  The Libertarian Party insists that it’s “The Party of Principle,” which I think is as good a slogan or moniker as any, but unfortunately I think too many libertarians forget that we’re supposed to be explaining our principles rather than assuming everyone understands where we’re coming from.  It’s not like we can’t avoid being misunderstood if we take a little time to have a dialogue instead of a well-intentioned diatribe.

Do libertarians think the Mob killed Kennedy?

Probably not, but I think the Mafia legitimately could have had a roll in it.  Read “I Heard You Paint Houses” on the relationship between Jimmy Hoffa, The Teamsters Union, the Mob, and Bobby Kennedy if you want to be entertained.  It’s a good book.

My point here is that there’s a difference between considering alternative scenarios and committing to wildly implausible theories.  Libertarians trumpet themselves as individuals, which means we like to think that, well, we like to think for ourselves.  I figure that’s a positive thing… why wouldn’t it be?  There’s nothing inherently bad with wondering about the “official story” and considering cui bono and all that, but that doesn’t mean we libertarians are stocking up on canned tuna and spare magazines for our Uzis while we reinforce our backyard nuclear fallout shelters because “they’re coming for us any day now.”

So, please, if you hear we’ve all hopped on the proverbial bullet train to Straight-Jacket Junction, give us libertarians the benefit of the doubt.  There’s probably a reason why we’re being painted as crazies, but it’ll be the wrong reason; yes, we question, we wonder, and we say unpopular things and get mis-characterized, but that doesn’t mean we commit to conspiracy wholesale.

But, uh, that being said and all… if anyone in a black suit and mirrored shades asks you about me, I said it was Lee Harvey Oswald and only Lee Harvey Oswald.  Now excuse me, because I’ve got to sweep my room for listening devices.

My Semi-apolitical Stance on Wikileaks

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Unlike previous posts, I’m not going to try and take this particular news item purely from the stance of a libertarian.  Obviously my political views will have some influence on every post I make, including this current Wikileaks leak-stravaganza, but this post is more opinion-driven than it is trying to illustrate a broader point that reflects on the political philosophy of libertarianism.

Ok, let’s move on.  If you’ve somehow missed it completely, there’s an outfit called Wikileaks that is famous for getting a hold of private information – from public and private institutions, typically in the realm of international politics in one way or another – and makes them public.  Remember the “Climategate” leak from East Anglia University’s Climate Research Unit that officially blew the entire global warming argument totally out of the water? Wikileaks.  Remember the video of a U.S. helicopter accidentally strafing civilians?  Wikileaks (see prior link).  So whatever your political stance is, Wikileaks has probably seriously pissed you off at some point.  I’d describe Wikileaks as militantly transparent, in that it will publish whatever the hell it wants to make the world aware of government dealings that governments would really rather Joe and Jane Citizen didn’t know about.

Concerning this latest Wiki-leaking, the knee-jerk libertarian/anti-authoritarian is probably beside themselves with joy, equating forcible government transparency as nothing short of heaven on Earth – irrespective of potential real-world consequences beyond merely taking government influence down a peg.  The knee-jerk statist/war hawk/entrenched political hack would probably think anything Wikileaks leaks that does not reflect or reinforce their personal world view is high treason with the intent of destabilizing the world as a whole.  Either of these extreme views is probably driven more by emotion than it is by logic.  As convenient as it would be, I don’t think it’s possible for Wikileaks to be categorically bad or categorically good.

But what the hell is Wikileaks actually trying to accomplish?  Whatever your or my initial reaction to them might be, what’s their game plan here?

Argument #1:  Wikileaks is anti-American and trying to do harm to American interests.

Well, that really depends on how you define “American interests.”

Is it in the interests of the American government to have itself exposed in an embarrassing light?  Obviously not.  Beyond being exposed as having a clearly useless method of protecting sensitive material (if some jackass from Australia can get a hold of serious “state secrets,” what does that say about the competence of the state?), the government is further horrified to have a huge array of information suddenly available to the public at large.  Diplomatic discourse, domestic and international back-room dealings, and for all we know the original John Edwards paternity tests are all out there for anyone and everyone to see.

This raises two huge problems: 1) How the hell does the government save face in response to an obviously angered domestic and international populace, and 2) What the hell does this mean for future government maneuvering?  If you’re “the government,” and you’re used to flying under the radar and getting away with any number of things, the realization that what can and probably will be made public in the future means you have to seriously consider being held accountable for your actions.  This is nothing short of a colossal paradigm shift; it’s the highest-stakes “hand in the cookie jar” scenario anyone could dream of, and government policy will have to adjust to reflect this new reality.

That aside, is it in the interests of the American people to know what their government is up to?  I’m inclined to say “yes,” for readily apparent reasons.  If your safety and mine is dependent on what a group of people decide to do behind our backs, is it really in our best interests not to know just what exactly they’re up to?  Consider that our government recently agreed to a $60 billion military hardware sales contract with Saudi Arabia a few weeks ago, now only to have it leaked that our government knows damn good and well that Saudi Arabia is the principle funding source for Sunni terrorism.  Are we better off not having Wikileaks inform us of things like this?  Are we too stupid and backward to appreciate the implications of our government getting its hands (and by extension, our hands) dirty?  Does “daddy” really know best?  At what point do we deserve to know what’s being done in our name?  I mean, it’s just our lives and livelihood that rides on the political ramifications of what we’re not being told.

So if you think our government’s interests trump the interests of an informed American people, I guess you have to conclude that awareness is anti-American.

Argument #2:  Wikileaks, as the paragon of virtue, is the best thing that could ever happen.

Thus the pendulum thus swings to the other extreme: everyone should know everything that’s going on, regardless of what’s going on, right now.

From this stance, it doesn’t really matter what the rest of the world finds out we’ve been up to because now we know what we’ve been up to.  Sort of.  I mean sure, at least half of the hysteria as well as the glee out there about what Wikileaks has done is due to the fact that nobody actually knows the full extent of what they can and will continue to leak, but why get caught up in the details?  Whatever comes out of all this must be good.  Huzzah!

The ultimate conclusion of this argument is that no matter what happens as a result of this mass leaking, at least “now we know.”  It doesn’t matter that our government has been caught with its pants down in a National Enquirer sort of way; national security secrets be damned, everyone has the right to know everything their country is doing – even if that means the rest of the world knows it, too.

I think somewhere in the mind of anyone who takes this hard-line pro-transparency stance is the belief that Wikileaks will (hopefully) expose this kind of material on all nations equally, causing some sort of great public awakening and popular revolution that demands an end to government secrecy – and everything that comes with it – around the globe.  I think this is a sensible supposition; I can’t imagine that there’s really a big drive among the American people for an S&M sort of national self-flagellation on the world stage, and to hell with the consequences.  And to be fair, it isn’t as if the American government is the only one humiliated by having light shone into previously dark corners; just imagine if you’re China right now.  All things considered, therefore, Wikileaks “just has to be” the beginning of a good thing.

Argument #3: Who cares what Wikileaks is trying to do?  We need to focus on what’s going to happen.

Assuming you make it past a catastrophic “We are so screwed” mindset of an impending international doomsday Debbie Downer, or the “Where’s the champagne?  I SAID WHERE’S THE GOD DAMNED CHAMPAGNE?!” attitude of the deliriously happy Damn-the-torpedoes aficionado, welcome to a more balanced middle ground.

Fact: The government – in every sense of the word, and politics aside – has tremendous influence on our lives and our security.  Having no idea what government is up to completely defeats the point of our constitutional republic.  If government is supposed to serve the people (also see: The Constitution), why the hell would The People need to be clueless as to what their government has going on?

Fact: What is published by Wikileaks will be directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of completely innocent people.  I know Julian Assange likes to insist that his organization systematically and objectively reviews everything they put out, but I’m calling bullshit on that tripe.  I defy you to demonstrate that a group of anyone can thoughtfully consider what the release of a quarter of a million sensitive documents will do to the world.

Fact: What is not published by Wikileaks would be directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of completely innocent people.  Assuming Wikileaks never existed, you can’t be blithe enough to figure that a deaf and dumb American people (or anyone else, for that matter) would result in a world free of international consequences.  I defy you to demonstrate that our being clueless – at our own risk and at the risk of others around the world – is an inherently good thing.

Guess what?  We’re at war around the world one way or another.  People are dying one way or another.  Pathological government scheming enabled by rampant secrecy hasn’t done anyone much good lately, has it?  Obsessive transparency with a disregard of short-term consequences isn’t too bright either, and a fixation on hopeful or wishful long-term results isn’t any better.

Can Wikileaks be a good or even great thing?  Absolutely.  God knows we need a change in how our government interacts with us as well as with other nations, and there’s no way that can happen without Truth being brought to light.   Can we be missing the boat on the ramifications of some shadowy third party – Wikileaks – hemorrhaging information under the guise of a supreme understanding and appreciation of the ultimate results?  Beyond a doubt.

I’m all for a change in international and domestic governmental finagling.  It hasn’t brought about an iota of good for the rest of us.  Long-term, I believe we’re no better off and no safer being ostracized from what’s supposed to be public policy.  But should we venerate Wikileaks as an assuredly perfect “5-minute abs” kind of solution for what amounts to a centuries-old problem?  Don’t be naive.

I find it impossible to believe anyone can grasp what Wikileaks really means.  You can be consumed by pointless, steadfastly pessimistic, and uninformed terror, or you can be blinded by a deliberate insistence that an unknown cost is worth the unknown outcome; either extreme has a home for you if you like.  Myself, I choose to enjoy the possibilities of Wikileaks and what it may represent, but with a suspicious eye toward not only toward their agenda (everyone’s got one), but with uncertainty as to what this titanic shake-up could mean to a fragile country and a tumultuous world beset by historic problems.