The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):


  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”


Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On Barack Obama

Broken Ladder wrote:


For instance, it appears that Barack Obama is going to be our next President (thank god almighty). And an online Range Voting mock election I held, that began about 16 months ago, has Barack Obama winning among about 5400 voters. And looking at the overall results, it's clear that the "net roots" make vastly more intelligent candidate choices than the average voter. So there's a very good chance that Obama really is the social utility maximizer -- and yet he's probably going to win with our incredibly horrible voting method. Some times you just get lucky.

I hope to God he is wrong. Obama is just the sort of radical we cannot survive. On top of that, he is so inexperienced that he could just make a hash of our whole government. If we had a range voting system, he'd get the lowest possible rating from me. But I think by November the American people will find out just how much of a dangerous radical he is, and consign him to the same dustbin of history that George McGovern inhabits. Sure, he's leading in the polls, but so was Michael Dukakis (by even more!) at points in the 1988 campaign.

4 comments:

BROKEN LADDER said...

This kind of perspective on Obama seems to me to be horrendously out of line with the facts, and is disturbingly common among ostensibly informed and rational people. I'll inject a dose of sanity to the discourse.

Now I'm a pretty conservative guy, and I've in fact been a huge Ron Paul supporter; so don't think I'm inherently drawn to Obama's generally liberal positions on things like universal health care. But despite my substantial disagreements with Obama on policy, I have come to hold a deep respect and admiration for him specifically because of his intensely balanced and bipartisan -- utterly non-radical -- legislative record. In this regard, I join a throng of traditional civil libertarian conservatives like renowned blogger Andrew Sullivan, who have embraced Obama on account of his judgment and political sophistication alone. This fits with the trend of Obama's drawing broad support from independents and moderate conservatives.

Obama is a uniter, especially compared to Hillary Clinton. If you just take a look at their legislative records, Obama has made noteworthy bipartisan accomplishments in terms of generally SUBSTANTIVE legislation, such as the Obama-Lugar bill to reduce nuclear proliferation. And whether his they have been Republicans or not, Obama has demonstrated the kind of negotiating prowess and innate charisma to do well in earning key co-sponsors for his legislative initiatives. By contrast, Clinton's legislative record shows her often going it alone (considered a major reason her health care initiative under Bill's administration failed), and pushing for lots of symbolic but fairly insubstantial legislation, e.g.

S.RES.176 : A resolution recognizing April 30, 2007, as "National Healthy Schools Day".
S.RES.222 : A resolution supporting the goals and ideals of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

An good read through their legislative accomplishments shows that Obama has worked for more substantive policy, and done a better job of getting it through Congress.
-- http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/2/20/201332/807/36/458633

The top pollsters have shown Obama doing better than Clinton against McCain for some time. That makes sense considering that Hillary is highly polarizing, and Obama is better supported among the independent "swing" voters.

An article from the Pew Research Center says, "Obama has much greater personal appeal to independent voters than does either McCain or Clinton. Fully 63% of independents rate Obama favorably, nearly twice the percentage expressing an unfavorable view of him (32%). The balance of opinion toward McCain also is favorable, but by a much slimmer 51% to 38% margin. The share of independents with an unfavorable view of Clinton is substantially higher (50%), while just 45% view her favorably."
-- http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?PageID=1254

Other indicators back this up. In the Wisconsin primary, almost 9% of Obama's vote came from Republicans, according to exit polls. A few big-name Republicans have led the move to Obama, including Rhode Island's former senator Lincoln Chafee.
-- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jon-wiener/republicans-for-obama-ho_b_88353.html

There's a reason that Kathleen Sebelius (KS) and Claire McCaskill (MO) -- two prominent Democrats in very red states -- have endorsed Obama. They want a candidate who can make progress in the face of GOP opposition, using a combination of strength and diplomacy.

Given Obama's general success at mustering bipartisan support from conservatives, you are speaking patent nonsense when you suggest Obama is a "radical".

A radical is someone like Hillary Clinton, who voted in favor of the Iraq invasion, which will likely go down in history as America's greatest blunder in its history, and has led to the deaths of tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians as well as 4,000 U.S. soldiers -- for what appear to be largely political reasons. A radical is someone who helps to nearly pass a Constitutional Amendment to suspend our cherished First Amendment protections on free speech, for something so trivial as protecting flags from being burnt (i.e. Clinton). A radical is someone whose policies are guided by seemingly unwavering support for this fiasco of an occupation we've got in Iraq, and who claims non-nonchalantly that we may well be there for 100 or 10,000 years if need be -- nevermind that we're not wanted there, and that this Orwellian nightmare is bankrupting our country.

Obama has consistently made the call for rational and diplomatic foreign policy. In the last debate, he made the reasonable rational assertion that we should talk to leaders like Castro or Ahmadinejad without necessarily placing pre-requisites on those talks -- it's not going to make things worse to eat a little humble pie and talk to our enemies like peers. Walking softly doesn't mean you have to discard your big stick -- it strengthens your big stick. Obama quite rightly pointed out that conditions make it seem like we are above those other countries, and bolster the standoffish behavior that leads to enmity and war. Clinton had every opportunity to portray herself as a sane and level-headed person, and CHOSE to counter Obama's ambassadorial leanings with an affirmation that she would indeed place conditions on any such meeting. Such a holier-than-thou attitude is not what we need in a leader. We need humility. We need good judgment based on experience and common sense.

So if you want to talk about radicals, and actually be serious about it, then the only thing you can say that is based on any objective evidence is that Obama's two viable competitors are radicals, whereas Obama is by contrast a calm, rational, level-headed individual who is, as Larry David joked, "as comfortable in his own skin as she [Clinton] is uncomfortable in hers".

Look at this man boldly speak the truth with conviction.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhpKmQCCwB8

Look at this parasitic careerist opportunist speak with reptilian vitriol:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_mcgO3Iva0

Dear god, she's so zealous to get this nomination, she's actually saying that she and McCain are qualified to be President, but Obama is riding on nothing more than his 2002 anti-war speech:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o10lQUm5gKM

She'd rather cause her own party to implode and lose the general election than have the courage and integrity to read the writing on the wall and support the will of the people.

And now a thing or two about experience, since that is one of the most absurd yet oft-repeated anti-Obama talking points.

This is, admittedly, a serious of "bullet points" from an Obama supporter -- but it's all factual and verifiable. And it utterly shatters your uninformed misconception that Obama lacks the requisite experience. Simply put, you don't know what you're talking about.

=======
2. Barack Obama will have held elected office for 12 years before becoming President. Hillary Clinton will only have held office for 8 years.
3. While Clinton claims experience from her husband's presidency, she will not release her White House papers to let us know specifically what that experience is.
4. She cited her experience as the reason she voted to go to Iraq, so that nullified her experience argument.
5. Even Bill Clinton (who had no foreign policy or Washington experience) said when people criticized him for being inexperienced in the 1990s that, "The same old experience is not relevant."
6. Barack Obama will be older than Bill Clinton, Teddy Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy were before they took the presidency. He can't help that he takes care of himself and ages well.
7. As John Kerry argues, Barack Obama has more legislative experience than either Hillary Clinton or John Edwards.
8. Barack Obama has passed more progressive legislation in his lifetime than Hillary Clinton. As an Illinois Senator he passed over 200 of the bills he wrote. These bills include:
1. A bill that expanded healthcare to over 100,000 people in Illinois.
2. A bill that set up community health centers to serve underserved populations.
3. A bill that provided the earned income tax credit to thousands of Illinois families.
4. A bill that reformed the death penalty that had sent innocent people to death row
5. A bill that banned gifts and meals from lobbyists.
6. And much more.

# While Hillary Clinton has spent more time in the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama has gotten more substantive legislation passed that affects the American people passed while he's been there. Many of Clinton's bills that passed were about naming post offices and buildings. However, Obama's legislation includes:

1. A bill with Senator Richard Lugar which bans the development of nuclear weapons.
2. A bill that created a public database where average Americans can see how the government is spending their money.
3. A bill that provided important assistance to address the situation in the Congo.
4. A bill that Nancy Pelosi calls "one of the toughest ethics reform" bills in this history of the Congress.

Opinionator said...

"[T]he Iraq invasion [...] will likely go down in history as America's greatest blunder in its history."

Obviously, if you believe this, you will be for Obama. I see the Iraq invasion as a genuine positive; getting rid of the genocidal maniac Saddam Hussein, freeing the Kurds to manage their own affairs, and ultimately leading to a democratic Iraq -- it hasn't gotten there yet, but will in the end.

"Obama has consistently made the call for rational and diplomatic foreign policy. In the last debate, he made the reasonable rational assertion that we should talk to leaders like Castro or Ahmadinejad without necessarily placing pre-requisites on those talks"

If you think that talking to a maniac like Ahmedinejad is a "rational foreign policy," you are totally irrational yourself. Nothing can be accomplished by such talks.

"Barack Obama will have held elected office for 12 years before becoming President. Hillary Clinton will only have held office for 8 years."

Most of that time was as a State legislator, with no responsibility for foreign-policy or any of the things the US government has to deal with. And have I ever said Hillary was experienced enough, anyway? Now John McCain has had over 20 years in the US Congress. And before that, he was a high Naval officer, with the responsibility to deal with crisis situations that this entails.


"Barack Obama will be older than Bill Clinton, Teddy Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy."

Older, but less experienced. Kennedy had been 12 years in the Congress. TR had been a state governor and a sub-cabinet officer. Bill Clinton (who anyway I would not defend, as I think he was the most corrupt President in the 20th century!) had been a state governor.

"As John Kerry argues, Barack Obama has more legislative experience than either Hillary Clinton or John Edwards."

In the world of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. John McCain has more legislative experience than the three of those Senators combined.

"A bill with Senator Richard Lugar which bans the development of nuclear weapons."

This is a positive accomplishment? This is the sort of radical thing I was talking about. Anyone who proposes such bills simply has to believe that just because we tie our hands behind our backs, people like Kim Jong-Il or Mahmood Ahmedinejad will do the same. This is ridiculous!

BROKEN LADDER said...

Obviously, if you believe this, you will be for Obama. I see the Iraq invasion as a genuine positive; getting rid of the genocidal maniac Saddam Hussein, freeing the Kurds to manage their own affairs, and ultimately leading to a democratic Iraq -- it hasn't gotten there yet, but will in the end.

The delusional bent to your opening response here says a lot. The reality is, the quality of life in Iraq since our invasion is significantly worse than anything seen under the tyrannical dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. The number of Iraqi civilians killed or injured since our invasion is beyond anything from the days of Saddam's rule, and with the country in disarray, joblessness and abject poverty are rampant. Under Hussein there was power and electricity, and schools operated. Now there is chaos. Things are not better, they are massively worse.

But let us not be the judge. Let's ask the Iraqi people. In a September 2006 poll by the U.S. State Department, approximately 75% of Iraqis wanted us out in short order. The numbers were lower in Kurdish areas (where Saddam had once gassed a whole town), but still well over 60%. Other polls have shown as high as 80% saying "out now". So the Iraqis who actually live there disagree with you.

And now even our own top military brass says the surge has failed.

But I'm sure you know better than both General Petraeus and the Iraqi people themselves.

If you think that talking to a maniac like Ahmedinejad is a "rational foreign policy," you are totally irrational yourself. Nothing can be accomplished by such talks.

This is exactly the kind of bull-headed stupidity that Obama opposes. Whether you think Ahmadinejad is a maniac or not, he has pride and an ego, and is subject to the same behavioral rules as all human beings. If stand off with him and use sanctions against Iran, we antagonize him and ruin any chance of diplomacy. If you have heard the man's speeches, it is clear that despite his madness, he is quite intelligent and capable of understanding our military superiority to his own. If we "walk softly and carry a big stick", then we can achieve some positive progress with Iran, no matter how little. But if we bully Iran, we give its leaders all the more reason to puff up their chests and make threats, and ignore their innate common sense that tells them they are no match for us.

Further, it is clear that there is a penchant among many Iranians for a liberal western-style democracy, with increased women's rights. Many Iranians want the mullahs out of power. By setting a good example of freedom and success, we can help drive their cultural shift toward that western-style democracy over time. But by wielding threatening fear-mongering tactics, we encourage their citizens to rally behind hard-liners like Ahmadinejad. Why should we want to inspire animosity rather than envy for our free way of life?

And the bottom line is that diplomacy can't hurt. It may not accomplish immediate and drastic changes. But over time, it will gradually win us more allies. But being standoffish and threatening will only embolden the hardline factions and give people like Ahmadinejad more power. Foreign policy experts understand this. Being strong but friendly gets you a lot further than being a bully. Better foreign policy can be achieved just by heeding some of the most basic lessons we learn on the playground as children. But you act as if we should ignore those lessons and get what we want by winning fights.

"Barack Obama will have held elected office for 12 years before becoming President. Hillary Clinton will only have held office for 8 years."

Most of that time was as a State legislator, with no responsibility for foreign-policy or any of the things the US government has to deal with.


Yet Obama's stances on key foreign policy issues has been more in line with the thinking of experts like Michael Scheurer, former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit. The basic moral these foreign policy wonks espouse is that saber-rattling does more harm than good, and that a strong military is only optimal when fronted by good diplomatic relations. That Obama understands this is apparent in his legislative history, even before he got to Washington. He's shown a remarkable ability to build bipartisan support for important issues, using the same negotiation skills that make great foreign policy.

By contrast, John McCain has more foreign policy experience than Clinton or Obama, and yet has pushed for a more rash and dangerous foreign policy of unbounded occupation of Iraq, regardless of the cost or consequences. He has been disingenuous and told outright lies in order to defend the legitimacy of the Iraq occupation and "surge". There was a time when McCain could have been called a maverick, but sound judgment has long since left him. He has sold his soul and become a Bush-hugging neo-con lap dog in order to attain the presidency. That's why I'll vote for Obama, even though he's superficially more economically liberal. An incredibly costly war is not fiscally conservative, especially when it does not even achieve positive humanitarian ends. And character -- honesty, integrity, and principle -- matter more to me than a few policy disagreements.

Watch that video I linked to above. See how John McCain falters and flails. He has lost all objectivity and balance. He doesn't have sound judgment. He is not competent to lead this country. And you are as delusional as he is if you believe this war has been the right choice. The facts eviscerate you.

"Barack Obama will be older than Bill Clinton, Teddy Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy."

Older, but less experienced.


That depends on how you measure experience. Kennedy had comparable years of legislative experience (obviously more D.C. experience), but as a 2007 USA Today article noted:

Obama's experience is broader than his time in elected office. He was a community organizer in Chicago and led voter-registration drives. He taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. He lived for a time in Indonesia, a Muslim country. He has traveled to the Middle East, Africa and Iraq.

"He has lived abroad and has relatives who are certainly not your Mayflower Americans and understands different cultures," Dillard says. "Many presidents with foreign-policy experience have not lived firsthand the type of life that Barack has."


The knowledge Obama had to acquire to teach constitutional law is certainly immense, which is why greater age relative to Kennedy is still relevant. Clinton had 14 years as a governor, but none of that is Washington experience. Obama combines plenty of state experience, and just enough Washington experience to be prepared for holding the federal executive office.

You also strain the credibility of any educated person when you called William Clinton the most corrupt of the 20th century. Maybe you never heard of Richard Nixon or George W. Bush, but they were vastly more corrupt, and less concerned with the Constitution. Remember that rise, "If the President does it, then that means it is not a crime." Or how about all that warrantless wiretapping, signing statements, and flagrant violations of the Geneva Convention by W? Please. Give yourself a chance to be taken seriously by not making such gross exaggerations unrestrained by fact.

"As John Kerry argues, Barack Obama has more legislative experience than either Hillary Clinton or John Edwards."

In the world of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. John McCain has more legislative experience than the three of those Senators combined.


Sure. But he has such terrible judgment, and pays so little attention to facts, that it nullifies his experience argument. Someone so horrendously out of touch with how this botched war is going is simply not fit to lead our armed forces.

No wonder Obama is second in donations from active duty members of the armed forces, ahead of McCain. Of course a man of even greater integrity and wisdom came in first -- Ron Paul. But he's far too knowledgeable and principled to have any hope of being elected by human beings.

"A bill with Senator Richard Lugar which bans the development of nuclear weapons."

This is a positive accomplishment? This is the sort of radical thing I was talking about. Anyone who proposes such bills simply has to believe that just because we tie our hands behind our backs, people like Kim Jong-Il or Mahmood Ahmedinejad will do the same. This is ridiculous!


Well, nooooo, not if you think past the end of your nose. We already have a substantial arsenal of nuclear weapons. The intent of the bill is to limit the production of new nuclear weapons, and to stop them from getting into the hands of nefarious sorts, like terrorists -- since the mutually assured destruction of nuclear weaponry makes them unacceptable in a long-term move toward a relatively peaceful world. There is always the threat of nuclearization of a country like North Korea, run by a sociopathic megalomaniac. That is why we have to have good intelligence, from spy satellites to human intelligence gathering networks. And we should try to build whatever diplomatic relations are possible with countries like North Korea, whether it accomplishes a great deal or not, because it almost certainly cannot hurt, so long as we make it obvious that we do pack a substantial military punch if goaded into using it.

Your rhetoric is packed with a rather juvenile notion of wielding power, instead of wielding a cunning understanding of economic and social aspects of global interdependence. The strong-arm tactics you espouse should be a last resort, and do not make for effective policy. On the contrary, our involvement in Iraq has done vastly more harm than good, and is leading our country in a downward spiral, both economically and socially. You can deny that all day, but that does you no good so long as the facts on the ground so vigorously refute you.

You need to face the reality that you simply do not know what you are talking about, and you deny reality because it does not fit with your preconceived notion of how the world should/does work.

Opinionator said...

I think that there is absolutely no sense arguing with you. If you actually believe the things you write, you believe the world is flat. If you can actually believe that Iraq was better off under Saddam Hussein than it is now, that the surge is failing, and that Obama has better judgment than McCain, nothing will convince you. So I end this discussion.