Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Prisoner's Dilemma

One last political post, and then I really have no more to say about national politics until some genuinely significant change occurs.

I begin with the recent tempest in an e-cup involving the blogger Glenn Greenwald and a post he wrote about Ron Paul.

I don't want to go much further than that - Google "Greenwald Paul liberals" and you'll probably get the crux of the biscuit - other than to say;

1. Greenwald makes a terrific point, and
2. He managed to do it in a perfectly impossible way.

To begin with, the original post was about Ron Paul and the "problem" he presents for liberals, to wit;
"Paul’s candidacy forces progressives to face the hideous positions and actions of their candidate, of the person they want to empower for another four years. If Paul were not in the race or were not receiving attention, none of these issues would receive any attention because all the other major GOP candidates either agree with Obama on these matters or hold even worse views."
Because, as Greenwald points out, among all the Presidental candidates (and, I should add, the candidates for ALL federal offices, high and low, in the two major parties) only Paul "...stands for peace, opposes wars, believes in due process and civil liberties, distrusts the military-industrial complex, (is) devoted to individual rights, transparency and economic equality."

And y'know what?

He's right on the nail on that.

Pretty much every other warm body - from Obama to the wingiest nut in the GOP wingnut farm - is generally pro-war, anti-due-process, pro-social-legislation (read "outlawing things (or at least not legalizing things) involving gays and sex"), anti-transparency, pro-Fed/Wall-Street-bailout, and pro-Drug-War.

The entire business has blown up into this huge contretemps, with people of good intentions, good liberals all, kicking and punching each other because of this. Greenwald himself has posted a second round of the brouhaha, responding to his critics.


Here's the problem.

Paul is "right" (and Greenwald is "right" about him) - in the sense that he is anti-war, pro-due-process, pro-transparency, anti-social-legislation, anti-Fed, anti-Wall-Street-bailout, anti-Drug-War and so am I - for completely different reasons that I think I'm "right" on these issues.

But Paul is "wrong" (and so Greenwald is "wrong" in saying that he holds up a mirror to the establishment liberals in which they see ugly truths about themselves and their candidate(s)") because he's like someone who agrees with you that forcible carnal knowledge of underage girls is wrong - but not for moral and ethical reasons but because sex with underage girls is forbidden by Ubbo-Sathla, the Unbegotten Source and the Elder God has told him so in a series of bloodsoaked visions.

Oh. Yeah. That.

Paul is "anti-war" not because he has a moral, legal, or realist objection to war but because he hates the federal government and wars tend to empower the federal government.

Paul is "anti-social legislation" not because he thinks gays are people and that governments have no business nannying citizens about their personal lives but because he hates the federal government and doesn't want IT intervening - either for or against - groups or individuals. He's fine with STATES doing either or both.

Paul is "anti-Drug-War", again, not because of the effect it has had on our civil rights or sane legal policies, but because of the way it empowers the federal justice system and, again, he's fine with states locking up dopers forever and passing fucked-up search and forfeiture laws.

He'd have gleefully allowed Jim Crow to continue rather than have let the Fed intervene, he would happily see Grandma eating cat food rather than give the Fed power to disperse medical or financial aid. His ideas about economics would have made John D. Rockefeller green with envy, being straight-up libertarian and, thus, utterly nuts in a real world.


Look, let's cut to the chase. The bottom line is that the problem is that Ron Paul IS whack. He's a complete whackaloon and the virtue of many of his political positions has nothing to do with his reasons for chosing them and, in many cases, are fatally weakened by the utter craziness of those reasons.

He's a mysogynist, racist, goldbug goofball that thinks that the Articles of Confederation were a grand idea, that we should really go back to the time when banks printed their own money, and that if life were like a libertarian fantasy world where the people with all the guns and all the money were free of all outside constraints they would act responsibly instead of, as history has always shown and the rest of us know perfectly well is the inevitable consequence of unlimited power, taking whatever they wanted, raping whatever would move and shitting on what didn't.

And the really insane part is that Paul is the only national candidate taking what I would consider sane positions and he is as nutty as a fruit bat.

So the problem isn't, as Greenwald implies, that liberals are forced to attack Paul because "their" candidate(s) are a bunch of wholly-owned subsidiaries of the financial/MICC industry and "child-killing, secrecy-obsessed, whistleblower-persecuting Drug Warrior(s)".

The PROBLEM is that "The only candidate to articulate sane, realist policies in the current U.S. Presidential campaign is a total whackaloon whose advocacy is based on equal parts idiocy, delusion, vanity, and selfish greed...and I HATE what the FUCK that says about the current U.S. Presidential campaign and U.S. politics in general!"

And I think if Greenwald had phrased it that way all he'd have received would have been a chorus of heartfelt groans of agreement.


Pluto said...

Well said, Chief.

Ael said...

I'm sorry Chief, but I strongly disagree. A person making value judgements different than you is not necessarily insane. To describe him as such demeans you.

I strongly disagree with Mr Paul about a large number of his domestic policies but I don't consider him crazy. Given his consistency, I expect that he is honestly enunciating his beliefs. This takes considerable moral courage. (Perhaps you are right, in that I have often heard courageous people being described as crazy).

rangeragainstwar said...

A crazy person can be consistent, but that can be a sign of insanity also.
i am not attacking Paul. Just sayin'.
GWB was nothing but consistent.
With or without agreeing that Paul is whacko , i MUST AGREE with chief's analysis.
we are so far in the whole that we've dug that the only way out is to dig deeper, and that's what we're doing.
To me, if we accept Chief's viewpoint then i must ask--WHY DO WE BELIEVE THAT VOTING EQUALS DEMOCRACY. It seems quite the opposite is true.That's the bottom line.
Since you talk about prisoners i recently drove back roads here in FL.and was amazed by the size and number of isolated in the woods county correctional facilities that looked a whole lot like prisons.
That's America.

Anonymous said...

Ron Paul is like that hot date you felt very lucky to hook up with but one look under the hood and "Holy Shit"!

I predict no way will this be your last bit on politics.


Ael said...

There are plenty of reasons to disagree with some (many?) of Ron Paul's policies.

And yes, the current situation where the only person who advocates a large number of rational policy approaches is a complete political outlier is compelling evidence of a broken system.

However, it is self defeating to complain of a debased political climate while resorting to ad hominem attacks.

FDChief said...

Ael: It's not "ad hominem" to point out that, say, someone refuses to go outdoors because he's afraid that evil clowns will devour his brain.

You're effectively making the point of my post; many people like what Paul is saying - and I agree with you that he's saying things that SHOULD be said about issues both foreign and domestic - but keep trying to gloos over WHY he's saying them.

He's not in favor of ending foreign wars because "no nation ever benefitted from prolonged war"; Sun Tzu wrote that, and I'd call that wise. No, he's against it because he doesn't think the Federal government should be taxing people. I'd call that foolish.

He's not against ending the Drug War and against the DOMA - he's against ending the FEDERAL drug war and the FEDERAL DOMA...he'd be perfectly happy - and has said as much - to see Oregon put homos and dopers in jail forever. That IS not consistent, except in a goofball/libertarian/Articles of Confederation sort of way that sees federal power as bad regardless of what it does. That's the sort of thing that would lead a Paul Administration to try and repeal, say, the Civil Rights Act. Paul has said repeatedly that he believes that government has no right to tell you you can't segregate your school, or your business.

Moral courage?

In the U.S. we don't vote for policies but for people. So it makes a HUGE difference what SORT of person Paul is.

Honestly enunciating the belief that women and blacks are inferior may be courageous, but given how utterly wrong that belief is - and is acknowledged to be - I don't know how you'd call it anything but utterly fucked up. Pick your term; goofy, crazy,'s not what I want my President, or anyone NEAR my President, to believe.

So, again, the point of this post wasn't to savage Paul - his own incredibly fucked-up ideas are more effective at that than I could ever be - but to point out how utterly fucked-up our situation is that a despicable person like Paul is the ONLY one of the major candidates willing and able to look hard at the things our country is doing and call bullshit.

And even then - the reasons behind his stands are often loathsome.

So - where does that leave the rest of us?

When the standard-bearer for your political causes is Ron Paul...that's like hearing that the only clown available for your kid's birthday party is John Wayne Gacy.

We're completely fucked.

Ael said...

I think that Ron Paul is wrong on a lot of stuff, but I see no evidence that he is crazy.

You might as well call him a fag, or a communist, or whatever bad name you want to ascribe to him that he isn't actually.

Next, the people I know who wrestle with insanity have genuine medical problems and it isn't fair to associate Ron Paul with them as well.

Finally, his "wrongness" is there for all to see. Much easier to make informed voting decisions. It would be a lot easier for Ron Paul to simply lie more than he does. (And hence become a lot more like his competition)

For me, the only reasonable choice would be "none of the above" (and that would include the current democratic incumbent)

Lisa said...

I agree with these:

"Paul is the ONLY one of the major candidates willing and able to look hard at the things our country is doing and call bullshit."

"And the really insane part is that Paul is the only national candidate taking what I would consider sane positions ..."

Because he's willing to call b.s., predictably, the press is savaging him as an insane outlier. Anyone who wants to run for president must be at least a little insane; that's a given.

While I agree with you that Paul's reasoning may be skewed, he still brings the issues to the table, and that has value. And yes, it is sad that it is he, and that he is the only one.

Tom Toles had a cartoon today or Romney and Obama in a crib together, the tagline referring to the increasing # of twins today. It seems that a viable candidate must spout only pap today ... must be like Obama or Romney, spouting happy, bromidic sound bytes, all while seeming very serious. If you are Kucinich or Paul, you'll be accused of being an alien, b/c really, you are alien to the accepted process.

Don't show passion, god forbid, like Dean's candidacy-killing yawp, or Perot's chart-making. Nope -- do NOT endeavor to wake the people up. The press is highly complicit in this.

If the people cannot trust their leaders and cannot trust the press, what do they do?

FDChief said...

Ael: When you're wrong about stuff because you're trying to skeeve you're way to office you're a skeevy bastard. It's actually not all that HARD to tell whether someone is a skeevy bastard, it's just that there are so many in the political game that you pretty much have to choose the least-skeevy of them - "none of the above" is not one of the choices you get - and the incumbent is, sadly, that person.

As for Paul, well, when you're wrong the way Paul is wrong - not because you're lying or skeeving but because you believe in things that just aren't real, or are so utterly and completely discredited that you can't believe in them and be remotely considered close to the regulation mental playing field - what does it really matter call it?

I'm perfectly happy with the term "bemused". "Somewhat off-kilter" works, too. I'm not going to die on the "whackadoodle" hill.

Suffice to say that whatEVER the guy is, regardless that his positions on the issues resemble mine, I want him nowhere near the levers of power.

FDChief said...

The REAL problem, as I see it, Lisa, is not that Paul is the only one who brings these issues to the table.

It's that the only REASON he brings them to the table is that he's a high-functioning libertarian, which is a nice way of saying that in a less civilized time he'd be up there on the top of the pyramid with an obsidian dagger reaping hearts for Huitzitlopochtli or something.

The system is so utterly, completely, totally fucked that no sane, rational, normal human being is willing to say the things Paul is saying for fear of being cast out into the Outer Darkness.

It's like the entire political system is so insane that the only sane person in it is, by the definitions of the system, utterly mad.

As mad as he is, the Madness of Ron Paul says something infinitely more devastating about the madness we have brought on ourselves.

Lisa said...

It's like the entire political system is so insane that the only sane person in it is, by the definitions of the system, utterly mad.

Well-said. In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Agreed that in a functioning system of a another time, Greenwald and I would not have to applaud scraps.

FDChief said...

Here's what I mean when I say that Paul is "whack"; from one of his newsletters: "Boy, it sure burns me to have a national holiday for Martin Luther King. I voted against this outrage time and time again as a Congressman. What an infamy that Ronald Reagan approved it! We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day."

Hate Whitey Day?

A sensible and sane individual could argue about MLK's relative position in the pantheon of American leaders, about the legacy of King's work, or about his relative importance to the national identity.

It takes a real goof to dismiss him with the term "Hate Whitey Day".

More from Ta-Nehisi Coates here:

Lisa said...

Yes, he's a piece, alright. Yet how sad that everyone else is snug as a bug and unwilling to question all that is so wrong, and to do so for all the right reasons, instead.

Such dissent is nowhere to be found amongst the power elite.

Anonymous said...

Chief: It's like the entire political system is so insane that the only sane person in it is, by the definitions of the system, utterly mad.

Lisa: Well-said. In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Agreed that in a functioning system of a another time, Greenwald and I would not have to applaud scraps.
. . . . and the Drums of War are banging for Iran.