Re: That “GOPers Are Nihilists” Comment of Mine

Here’s a cogent criticism of the current GOP:

[N]othing could be worse for the GOP than the illusion of success under present circumstances. Worse than learning nothing from the last two elections, the GOP has learned the wrong things… Not recognizing their past errors, the GOP will make them again and again in the future, and they will attempt to cover these mistakes with temporary, tactical solutions that simply put off the consequences of their terrible decisions until someone else is in office. They will then exploit the situation as much as they possibly can, pinning the blame for their errors on their hapless inheritors and hoping that the latter are so pitiful that they retreat into yet another defensive crouch.

Is the GOP in a worse position than a year ago? On the surface, no, it isn’t. Once we get past the surface, however, the same stagnant, intellectually bankrupt, unimaginative party that brought our country to its current predicament is still there and has not changed in any meaningful way in the last three years.

Where is this particular criticism made? The American Conservative magazine Web site.

77 thoughts on “Re: That “GOPers Are Nihilists” Comment of Mine

  1. The GOP’s problem is that they haven’t learned that stopping democrats does not equal good leadership. That said, the democrats have many of their own failures.

    Both parties suck at the moment and we the citizens are the ones who are getting shafted.

  2. By the way John, I realize I come off as a little overly cynical sometimes and I suppose that’s because I am. Despite my occasional comments, I was actually really hopeful when Obama was elected. I may not agree with some of his policies, but I was really hoping that his mere presence might trigger some kind of change in the messed up system we currently have. Sadly, I haven’t seen that so far.

  3. The GOP has so internalized the idea of obstructing the Democrats that they have lost all their marbles. Their entire platform at this point is:

    Nu Uh!
    Fuck that!
    I don’t think so!
    Cut taxes!!!
    screw it!

    And their supporters are mostly of the immature asshole, “it’s fun to piss off liberals” variety while the hardcore GOP insiders are just manipulating shallow culture war signifyers in the hopes of getting back in power. Sarah Palin is only useful in that she’s a puppet that Neocons like Bill Kristol can use to start more wars.

  4. Obama visits the GOP caucus, delivers a 30 min. address and does a Q and A for an hour. CSPAN repeat at 8PM eastern time. I’m getting the popcorn ready and watching the talking points fail, again. Nihilism exposed.

  5. What is scary is that when I read the full article and the comments on amconmag.com they seem content with the situation. When did the current success of your party become more important than how well your party is leading the country? I Guess that’s why I’m not a Republican and the rest of my family still is, because they don’t seem to care what happens between now and November as long as the Republicans can win the next election.

  6. I’ve been reading Daniel Larison regularly for close to a year now. He is like the antithesis to the now-standard GOP noise machine. His arguments are well thought-out, make sense, and are grounded in reality, and he has no problem criticizing Republicans when they are not any of these three things (which is often).

  7. If they would just have any “ideas” about how to go about leading and governing, I think we’d all listen. We may not like what they say, but at least we’d listen. There are no ideas coming from the GOP. None. I’m not saying there aren’t members of the party out there who have ideas. Hey, we have a GOP governor in California who may not have the best ideas, but at least has some and works hard to fix things. Arnie isn’t perfect by any means, but he’s trying. And yes, I am registered Dem.

    Wow, amazing that a conservative magazine is looking at this logically. I wish more people would read this instead of watching FOX News.

  8. Too many people see Republican vs Democrat as if it was a football game. I don’t know if it’s just my personal perspective, but this seems to have taken place along with the rise of cable news.

    No one ever talks about which idea or plan is better anymore – just which party is going to kick the snot out of the other.

    Meh. I’m getting old.

  9. IMHO, all of this started with the Southern Strategy. Once they realized that GOP economic policy was never going to fly with the working class, they had to find a way to get votes from them. Easiest answer? Play on ignorance, prejudice and jingoism.

    When all they were doing with this was lip service, it wasn’t half bad. Still underhanded and cheap, but not disastrous. But then the social cons started wanting actual power within the party, and started wanting their agenda items to actually get passed/enforced.

    Fast forward 20 years, and this is what it’s become. Small government/”pro-business” conservatism has been completely and totally overrun by the religious right’s Onward Christian Soldiers domestic and foreign policy ideas.

    Case in point is the new bit out today about the proposals to require a platform litmus test for all GOP candidates if they want party funding.

    Traditional conservatives who don’t hate gay people and aren’t interested in bombing the crap out of Muslim-majority countries and restoring Israel to its Biblical borders are without a party right now. The best they can do is to try to bunk with the Blue Dogs or the Libertarians, neither of which are quite right, either.

    I’d feel sorry for them except that this is the bed they made when they sold their souls 40 years ago.

  10. Re: That “GOPers Are Nihilists” Comment of Yours.

    A gross slur on nihilists (who at least have a demented kind of charm in their worldview), but they can get offended on their own behalf without any help from me.

    Otherwise, GOPers are the David Letterman of the current political landscape. You might like someone who can’t open his mouth without dripping glib cynicism and barely disguised contempt for the intelligence and humanity of his audience. I can’t stand it.

  11. Also, FWIW, I have endless points of disagreement with the Democratic Party and what passes for their Congressional leadership. But it is damn refreshing having a grown-up back in charge of one branch of government.

  12. Tal @12 – you don’t want to bunk with Libertarians. At least, not if you want to get any sleep. They’re kinda grabby.

  13. I know I’m going to regret getting involved in this, but I feel compelled to comment (cue XKCD link).

    For reference, I’d describe myself as a Christian and conservative with libertarian tendencies, and therefore more or less Republican by default. For what it’s worth, here’s my take on the situation:

    I agree that the Republicans screwed up their turn being in charge. They spent most of their time mouthing platitudes about conservatism, and not actually doing anything to shrink the federal government or limit its power. Ultimately, they deserved to get kicked out.

    Unfortunately, elections have consequences… and pretty much every initiative the Democrats have pushed since the 2008 election has been been (yes, personal opinion here) utterly wrong in its implementation, and mostly wrong in its intent. Sure, we need to stimulate the economy, and improve our health care system… but they’re going about it completely the wrong way.

    So, this comes around to the “Republicans have no ideas” theme. I’ll agree that it does seem like all you hear is them saying “No” to whatever the latest Democratic legislation is. Really, though, that’s a result of two things: 1) The Democrats control both parts of Congress and the White House, and therefore get to control the legislative agenda; 2) The Democrats have/had enough power to (in theory) write and pass any bill they wanted without needing to get Republican input on it, and what they came up with was enough to convince all the Republicans to stick together in the vague hoping of stopping it. If Congress was split, or at least a whole lot more even, you’d see bills that were at least a bit more moderate and able to pick up a few Republican votes. Meanwhile, the Republicans _have_ actually drafted their own alternative stimulus and health care bills, but it’s been a moot point since they have no chance of passing, and the Democrats have no reason to include any of those ideas in their own bills.

    If I really had my way, I’d love to kick every member of Congress, all the lobbyists, and all the insiders out so we can start over fresh, but it ain’t going to happen.

    I guess my final thought is that it seems like most of the commenters here seem to have a very liberal bias and have a lot more interest in taking cheap shots at the other side than actually discussing what can be done to improve things for both parties. I realize blog comments aren’t the best place to look for intelligent, reasonable, respectful political commentary, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong about that.

  14. 1) The Democrats control both parts of Congress and the White House, and therefore get to control the legislative agenda; 2) The Democrats have/had enough power to (in theory) write and pass any bill they wanted without needing to get Republican input on it, and what they came up with was enough to convince all the Republicans to stick together in the vague hoping of stopping it.

    I’m sorry, but this is completely wrong.

    Regarding point one: the Democrats are not the ideological monolith the Republicans are. They do not have 60 votes on any particular issue. Health care reform, cap and trade, all of it, the Democrats have a number of different belief systems in their ranks.

    That’s because the Democrats are a big tent party. You don’t hear about “DINO’s” (at least, I never do) and for a good reason. We don’t purge the way the GOP does.

    For the second point, the current health care reform bill is full of Republican ideas. Many of the proposals came from the GOP side 15 years ago when they were lying about ClintonCare. The Republican’s aren’t standing on principle. If they were, they would have negotiated for some of their ideas to be added.

    They didn’t. What they did was worse.

    They talked about HCR as though it was facism, socialism, Marxism. They talked about “death panels” and all kinds of other garbage. They filled their base with a wild hatred of the program, and now they’ve painted themselves into a corner. They can’t compromise with the Democrats for fear of infuriating their base, and they can’t just keep saying “No” in the face of all our problems.

    Although saying “No” seems to be just what they’re planning to do.

  15. Mark @ 12
    I considered myself a Republican for many years.
    I didn’t even vote for Obama. But at least he leads. Do I agree with everything the Democrat led Congress has tried to do? More or less. Do I agree with how they tried to do it? Not really. Could Obama have done a better job? Sure. But at least I see leadership from him. The Republicans are demanding a “bipartisanship” where they as the minority party get legislation that is 80% what they want or they won’t cooperate. It’s completely unreasonable. I want Obama to succeed because the country needs good leadership right now. Will he take us where I would like us to go? Maybe not. But anywhere is better than stagnation in this recession.

    If I am taking any pot shots, it’s because of the anger I feel over the betrayal of the party I was raised in. The party that says it is supposed to stand for fiscal responsibility but is responsible for the largest increases to the national debt in my lifetime and my parents’ lifetimes. The party that has turned its back on Lincoln and Roosevelt – human dignity and personal liberties – by denying the right to marriage for some citizens, and supporting big business over consumer interests. And since they now decide their strategy is to refuse to to even attempt to govern by demonizing Democrats to the point that any cooperation will be political suicide in their own primaries, I feel that as a party the GOP deserves all criticism they’re getting.

  16. Harry #17: Could you point out which ideas in the current bill were Republican-inspired? Honest question – I wasn’t old enough or politically aware enough during the ClintonCare era to know what ideas were introduced then.

    I’d agree that the Democrats are somewhat more of a coalition of interests than the Republicans. On the other hand, if you compare more moderate Republicans (Snowe, Collins, McCain-ish) with the more conservative ones (DeMint, Coburn, Ryan), there’s some definite differences. Another thing to remember is that there’s several different areas of conservatism represented in the Republican party: fiscal, social, national security ,etc. Not everyone’s monolithic on all these things (which is why that “litmus test” idea is stirring up a lot of controversy).

    As for health care… one of my biggest complaints about the whole situation is that “Health Care Reform” has become conflated with “The current bill in Congress”. There’s lots of possible things that COULD be done to change the current health care system in the US, but instead it’s turned into “if you don’t like this bill, you’re against health care reform”. Yes, I’d agree that rhetoric has become ridiculous, but it’s true on both sides. That said, it is perhaps possible that both the conserverative constituents and Congressman involved do honestly think the policies in the current bill are a bad idea.

  17. Thus showing, once again, for those who don’t already know; that Republican does not necessarily mean conservative or libertarian, nor does conservative necessarily mean Republican.

    Oh and continuing in that vein, conservative doesn’t necessarily mean religious either; nor does religious always mean conservative (especially if you’re Catholic).

    I am neither a Republican, nor a conservative; but I DO register as a Republican because my state has closed primaries, and I like to vote against John McCain and Joe Arpaio.

    I am a minarchist, which is a school of libertarianism that pretty much says “hey, leave me alone as much as is practical, and I’ll do the same for you, thanks”.

    I’m well educated (perhaps overeducated), high earning, catholic, married with two kids, and a veteran. I was raised in the northeast but choose to live in the Rocky Mountain west, because I prefer the greater degree of freedom and lower levels of government (and other busybodies) interference.

    I don’t care who you have sex with or what you shove up your nose, down your throat, or into your lungs so long as I don’t have to pay for it, or the eventual medical bills you rack up.

    I KNOW from direct personal experience we need a strong national defense, but that freedom and liberty (which are two different things) are rather a LOT more important than internal security.

    I have no faith in the government to do with… really anything other than defense… exactly what they did with Social Security, or AFDC, or any number of other programs that they have horribly screwed up, wasting trillions of dollars in the process.

    Yes, there is great benefit to some of those programs at some times (and I was on welfare and foodstamps as a child, I know directly this is true); but the government couldn’t make a profit running a whorehouse, how can they be expected to run healthcare, or education, or anything else for that matter.

    Oh and for those of you who believe that government really can do good, without a corresponding and greater bad… I’m sorry, you’re wrong.

    It’s a sweet ideal, but it just isn’t true. Good intentions don’t mean good results, unless combined with competence, efficiency, passion, compassion… HUMANITY in general; and the government is not a humanitarian organization.

    Governments are good at exactly two thing: Stealing and Killing. Yes, they are capable of doing other things, but everything they do proceeds from theft, coercion, force… stealing and killing.

    That doesn’t mean that good can’t come out of it; but everything the government does has an associated harm that goes with it. Sometimes that’s worth it, sometimes it isn’t and it’s DAMN hard to figure that out. Who gets to decide? You? Your friends?

    Do you have the right to tell me what to do, how to live my life? Do I have the right to tell YOU how to live YOUR life?

    So why is it ok if you get a few million of your friends, and I get a few million of my friends, and just because you have more friends than I do you get to tell all of us how to live and what to do?

    Sorry but, HELL NO.

    I want the same things you want. I want people to be happy, and healthy, and have great opportunities… But the government doesn’t have the right to steal from me to help you do it; anymore than you would have the right to hold a gun to my head and take the money from me personally.

    Actually, the government doesnt have any rights whatsoever. The PEOPLE have rights, the excercise of which we can delegate to the government.

    It absolutely amazes me that both liberals and conservatives understand that the government isn’t to be trusted; they just believe it’s not to be trusted over different things:

    Liberals trust the government with your money, education, and healthcare; but don’t want them to interfere with your sex life, or chemical recreation.

    Conservatives on the other hand are just fine with the government making moral, sexual, ethical, and pharmaceutical choices for you; but don’t trust it with your education, healthcare etc…

    Well, I don’t trust them with anything except defense (which they also screw up mightily, but which is at least appropriate to the coercive and destructive nature of government).

    It’s axiomatic that the intelligence of any committee is equal to that of the least intelligent member, divided by the total number of members.

    There are 435 members of the house of representatives, 100 senators, 21 members of the cabinet, 9 supreme court justices, a vice president, and a president; for a total committee size of 567.

    Now, if we’re charitable and say they’re all geniuses with IQs above 140 (don’t hurt yourself laughing), that’s an overall government IQ of .25

    Why on earth would you want that spending your money, or making any decisions for you whatsoever?

    Now… Given that thumbnail philosophy, who am I supposed to vote for?

    I certainly can’t vote Democratic; they want to take all my money and either give it to other people, or use it to force me (and everyone else) to behave as THEY decide.

    On the other hand, I can’t much vote for Republicans, because they still want to give my money to other people (just mostly different other people than democrats), and use my money to force me (and everyone else) to behave as they decide…. They jsut want to take a little less of it.

    And I really can’t vote for Libertarians, because they are profoundly unserious and incapable of effecting any real political change. I want to vote for someone who will PREVENT the worst abuses of government, and sadly, voting libertarian has no hope of accomplishing that goal.

    I end up voting for whoever, or whatever, I hope or believe will reduce those undesirable characteristics of theft and coercion inherent to government.

    Often that means voting Republican, but that shouldn’t be taken as an indication of my support for Republicans.

    So tell me, is that nihilism? I don’t think so. I think it’s playing defense, which isn’t a winning strategy; but it’s not nihilism.

    Nihilism would be standing by the sidelines say “there’s no point in playing, you’re all going to lose anyway”.

  18. I guess my final thought is that it seems like most of the commenters here seem to have a very liberal bias and have a lot more interest in taking cheap shots at the other side than actually discussing what can be done to improve things for both parties. I realize blog comments aren’t the best place to look for intelligent, reasonable, respectful political commentary, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong about that.

    Wow, passive-aggressively condescend much? Just for the record, Mark, I’m a financial member and life-long supporter of the New Zealand National Party — that’s the major center-right (and currently government leading) party in these parts. (Of course, by Tea Bagger standards the National Party and our equivalents in Canada, Australia and the UK are a pubic hair’s breadth away from being downright Stalinists, thanks to our public health care — but I digress.)

    And you know something, I don’t think we can fairly ping the Democratic Party for the utterly dysfunctional policy void that is the current GOP — it has plenty of problems of its own.

  19. Mike #18: I agree that the Republicans are largely demanding “bipartisanship” because they don’t have power. Like I said earlier, elections have consequences, and the consequence of the 2006/2008 elections is that a majority of Americans decided to give the Democrats a chance to run things. Republicans may very well get another chance at running things this fall, and if so they had better have enough wisdom to learn from their previous mistakes (an unlikely occurrence, but I can always dream).

    I’m afraid I really can’t agree that Obama is providing leadership. His approach to all the major issues so far has been to give a speech saying that “we MUST pass legislation to fix this now”, then when things get bogged down, give another few speeches repeating himself. Ignoring my political differences with him, this was one of the things I was worried about with his inexperience – you can’t jump someone from community organizer to Senator to President in 12 years and expect them to understand how to get things done.

    As for your other complaints about the GOP, I’ll have to split on agreement. Yes, they’ve pathetic on fiscal responsibility; I’ve got mixed feelings on the business aspects; and I’m going to have to disagree on the gay marriage issue (religious reasons – let’s agree we have different viewpoints, and move on). As for political strategy – considering their current serious minority status in Congress, and the Democrats’ legislation and tactics, what other tactics should they or can they pursue?

  20. Mark @ #20 – As for health care… one of my biggest complaints about the whole situation is that “Health Care Reform” has become conflated with “The current bill in Congress”. There’s lots of possible things that COULD be done to change the current health care system in the US, but instead it’s turned into “if you don’t like this bill, you’re against health care reform”.

    Au contraire. If a senator or congressman is against the bill, all they have to do is vote against it, instead of going along with a call to filibuster.

    Personally, I’d prefer an actual public funded option to health insurance rather than the subsidized “pool” that’s being proposed, but I’d rather my representatives didn’t filibuster it, as the GOP (all of them as far as I can see) are dead set on doing.

    Chris @ 21 – I end up voting for whoever, or whatever, I hope or believe will reduce those undesirable characteristics of theft and coercion inherent to government.

    Lie. What you want is more money. You could care less about coercion outside of coercion you have to pay taxes.

  21. Chris Byrne: Thanks for articulating that. It’s very like how I feel, and why I’m not registered with any party. (Mercutio Party: “A plague on both your houses!”)

    I find that a useful thing to ask people is “What is your most important value?” I had a co-worker at one point whose idea of what was valuable in politics was almost directly opposed to my own. We used to have wonderful conversations because he was a civilized debater. When I thought to ask him that question, we determined that he rated ‘safety’ at a higher priority than ‘freedom’, and that I did the opposite, and that was probably why we’d never agree.

  22. Mark #23

    Watch Obama’s Q&A with the Republican Caucus today and you might change your mind about his knowledge and ability to lead.

    And no I can’t agree to disagree about fundamental human rights. How do homosexuals being allowed the same legal institution as heterosexuals infringe upon your religion in any way? No one would force your church to administer homosexual marriages. You could continue to ignore them all you want. Furthermore some branches of Christianity DO accept homosexual marriages, like the Anglican church. Why does your theology trump theirs in legislation? No, it is a question of human dignity, and I’m sorry you don’t feel you can give someone different than you human dignity without it diminishing yourself.

  23. #22 Craig: Sorry, that did come out as a bit of a cheap shot too. I guess it’s accumulated frustration. I enjoy reading links from sites like Reddit, Digg, and various other forums around the web, but it seems as if the majority of the commenters on most sites are liberals, and it gets tiring hearing your views and groups you identify with get insulted and smacked around continually (and most of it with lots of stereotyping). I was serious about the blog comments bit, though – generally speaking, things usually devolve into chaos rather quickly rather than sustaining actual conversation (although I suppose that is true of most electronic forums, whether it be Usenet or a blog).

    You’re right that the GOP does have a lot of problems right now. There’s not really an obvious leader, and the best-known conservatives seem to be talk show hosts. If the Republicans do actually manage to win back a large chunk of Congress this fall, as seems likely, they’d better have their act together this time.

  24. Mike #26: I’d read some summary overviews of the Q&A, but hadn’t actually watched it yet. I might take some time tomorrow to watch a bit of it.

    As for gay marriage… I believe that God ordained marriage as a plan for one man and one woman to be together for life. Mankind, in its sinful nature, has decided that different arrangements are acceptable, whether it be two men, two women, or an unmarried man and woman. Personally, I think that divorce, adultery, and unmarried relationships are more harmful to the concept of “marriage” than homosexual marriage is, and that American Christianity has gotten rather hung up on the latter when they should really be focusing on the former – but that all of them are wrong in God’s eyes.

    Yes, other branches of Christianity have decided homosexual marriage is acceptable. All I can say is that based on my understanding of the Bible, they’re wrong.

    As for the political aspect, there’s a lot of arguments we could both bring up, but I don’t think either of us is going to suddenly change his mind on the topic, so it’s probably not worth continuing this line of thought. How’s about we switch back to something simple and easy, like health care? :)

  25. Mark @ 22:

    Coming from the same country (and opposite side of the political spectrum) as Craig, I think the reason a lot of the comments online about the Republican party read as frothy and angry because the current iteration of that party is completely insane and, as Scalzi says, nihilistic. It certainly seems that way looking in from the outside and, from various other comments read here and elsewhere, plenty of Americans think it is too.

    I mean seriously, its platform at the moment seems to be this:
    – Lower taxes
    – But don’t deal with entrenched unaffordable programmes, so commit to spending more
    – Ignore the fact that this will result in a deficit every year
    – Entrench a defence spending that is more than the rest of the world put together
    – Dislike gays
    – Support interrogation techniques that have, in the past, been classified as torture when done by other people.
    – Oh and big government is bad, really bad, (unless its when we’re in charge like between 2000 and 2008).

    Before you dismiss me as an angry liberal crank, read that list and see if, when you genuinely consider the facts on the record, any of it is wrong.

    This is not saying the american right are all nihilits, or even that all republicans are. But the elected wing, and the ‘extreme’ republican base, can fairly be classified in that way.

  26. Eddie #22: I guess I’m having trouble determining whether people are saying that the GOP’s ideals are insane (ie, ideological differences), or their commitment to actually making those ideals happen. I do agree with a chunk of your list – most elected Republicans have been horribly hypocritical on government spending and power. I think that’s why you hear a lot of the calls for a “litmus test” and beating some of the moderates in the primaries – because the conservative wing has been complaining about that for a while.

    Unfortunately, neither party seems willing to do anything about actually reducing spending in a meaningful way. On top of that, an increasing majority of the federal budget is taken up by “non-discretionary” spending (Medicare, Social Security, etc), and any politician even hinting at changing those programs is immediately beaten to a pulp.

  27. Mark @ 28: You’re confusing the religious rite of holy matrimony with the contract of civil marriage. They’re different instruments.

    Your Biblical definition of holy matrimony is therefore entirely irrelevant to the civil contract.

    Unless you want to argue that birth certificates shouldn’t be filed unless the baby in question has had a church-approved Christening first, you can’t use your religion’s rituals as a limiting factor for civil paperwork.

    Same-sex couples don’t want your god to bless them. They just want survivor benefits and cheaper car insurance. Stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with religion.

  28. Okay, so here’s a question: if the GOP’s current policies and tactics are “insane” and “nihilistic”, what should they be doing instead, particularly given their current minority status?

  29. Mark – I guess thats for principled fiscal conservatives to work out, something that’s lacking in the current repub setup. Its hard to offer advice on an abstract approach when you fundamentally disagree with the substantive policies – I’d tell them to stop being economically illiterate, power hungry bigotted f k heads, but they’re not likely to take that advice lol.

  30. ” if the GOP’s current policies and tactics are “insane” and “nihilistic”, what should they be doing instead, particularly given their current minority status?”

    Well, they are currently working with a definition of bipartisan that is something like “Bipartisanship is when Republicans write the policies and laws as they please, and Democrats enact them as written, with the Democratic President acting as a mere proxy for a Republican President.”

    That’s not really bipartisanship, is it?

    They could try compromising. A lot. Stop making large policy-encompassing demands. Start making demands about issues on the edges. Or even making requests instead of demands. Cooperate to tune legislation to be more acceptable, without demanding obstructive changes that give the legislation a fatal flaw, or generally make it worse, or act contrary to the spirit of the bill.

  31. I think that’s why you hear a lot of the calls for a “litmus test” and beating some of the moderates in the primaries – because the conservative wing has been complaining about that for a while.

    Mark: If I was chairman of the RNC, I’d be asking myself why “RINO” Olympia Snowe hasn’t lost an election in four decades (last time she was up for re-election, the only Republican with a larger majority didn’t even have a Democrat opponent!), instead of publicly boasting how she’s going to be driven out of the party for ideological impurity. I’d also be asking myself why Snowe actually has some (extremely modest) influence over legislation, when her leadership just impotently bitches and moans.

    Personally, I get pissed off with the current Palin-ised, Tea Bagged GOP because I expect more.

    I expect the Republican Party to do more than talk a good game about “limited government” and “fiscal conservatism” — especially when their record when last in power was so dismal. There are serious credibility and policy deficits to pay off, and I’m seeing anyone doing the work.

    I remember the party of Reagan — who talked more about what he loved and what America could be, instead of who to hate and fear. Time to stop name-checking the man, and get a grip on what he really stood for.

    I remember when the Republicans stood for ideas, tempered by reality rather than toxic populism — and whatever else you say about the ’94 Republican Congress, the ‘Contract with America’ didn’t have one clause: “Cluster fuck Clinton by all means necessary.”

    But that’s just me…

  32. Miles Archer @10: I was thinking exactly the same thing. It feels to me that “politics” nowadays have become a very, very disturbing iteration of Iron Chef.

  33. Re Eddie @ 32

    – Lower taxes

    What is so wrong with lower taxes? Honestly, its shocking that people actually still cling to the long discredited notion that high tax brackets are a good thing.

    – But don’t deal with entrenched unaffordable programmes, so commit to spending more

    Every time conservatives try to “deal” with the expensive, entrenched programs, the Democrats rise up and howl … in fact, one might consider their tactics nihilistic (unless that word only applies to republicans?). Witness the Social Security debates. I assume had you been a US citizen during that same time, you’d have been howling just as loudly? Funny, all these entrenched expensive programs were promised to be budget neutral or far, far less expensive … and yet they aren’t. One of the big drivers in the Bush deficit was the prescription drug plan, which was a sop to the left .. .and the left still complained it was too meager, too small, etc.

    – Ignore the fact that this will result in a deficit every year

    So, my wise NZ friend, which non-defense programs would you “deal with” (whatever that means) to decrease the deficit? Or would you only target defense spending? Or would just raise taxes? I think if youre honest with yourself, you realize you can’t touch the entitlements (are you familiar with the meaning of the phrase the ‘third rail’)? Which is why conservatives are attacking Obamacare because its going to break the bank. So, ultimately, you’ve undercut your own argument. Unless you oppose Obamacare too?

    – Entrench a defence spending that is more than the rest of the world put together

    Why such gross hyperbole .. “more than the rest of the world put together” … are you including China, Russia, India, Pakistan? Or do you mean just the liberal democracies (like NZ), that have made a policy of drafting off the U.S. for the last 60 years? Where was all the heavy NZ military lift and materiel during the Tsunami? I seem to recall we had to fly your Aussie friends to East Timor – they couldn’t do it themselves. The Canadians cannot even transport themselves from one coast to the next. It’s the US military that has opened up Haiti and providing the lions’ share of all the aid. And yet you complain about “defence” spending. Pffff. We guarantee your freedom and you bemoan the cost which you are not required to contribute to (all we ever asked, in fact, was for friendship .. which your nation spurned in the heat of the Cold War, as i recall). The fact you have no enemies at all to worry about is a testament to the effectiveness of that spending, yet you still snark. Perhaps we should isolate Indonesia, Australia and NZ and see what would happen in 50 years if Jakarta was given a free hand to consider a little lebensraum action. I hear its getting a wee bit crowded in the archipelago, and you have two nice pieces of real estate.

    Risible, you say? After all, it was only 65 years ago that the Japanese tried it … and had you asked a Kiwi in, say, 1890 whether Japan would have been a threat, I’m sure he would have laughed and laughed too.

    -Dislike gays

    Yawn. This is just pablum. Conservatives can easily say “why do liberals dislike christians, fetuses and soldiers?” Or for you, “why do you dislike americans”. It’s not constructive. It paints with too broad a brush. It degrades debate. It’s a cheap shot. Let’s move on, shall we?

    – Support interrogation techniques that have, in the past, been classified as torture when done by other people.

    This whole focus on interrogation is amusing. Is it more unethical to make KSM think he’s drowning, or to drop a predator drone on his house and kill his entire family like we do with other targets? In any event, you won’t find much traction with americans against enhanced interrogation. It plays better overseas (disingenuously, as if any of the allies wouldn’t do the exact same thing in the exact position … or do you think Spain gives lollipops to ETA prisoners, or have you ever seen what used to go in British prisons during the Troubles? hmmm?).

    – Oh and big government is bad, really bad, (unless its when we’re in charge like between 2000 and 2008).

    Most conservatives despised the Big Government conservatisim of Bush and McCain. It sucked. It allowed Obama to get to the right of us on the deficits (though, of course, we knew he didn’t mean it). Conservative big government is inherently corrupt and gives liberals the chance to say “everything the GOP did in those 8 years was wrong and stupid but don’t you DARE criticize us because you did the same things during those 8 years …”. Which is of course utter hypocrisy … you’ve just swapped sets of theives, and the democrats are always better at playing that game.

  34. I think too many of these comments are focusing on how the GOP is bad and not on why the GOP is bad (or you may argue its not bad). In my opinion, the root issue is the messed up political system we currently have.

    The goal of any political system should be to effectively translate the opinions of the population into a viable governing strategy. In this view, the end goal is most important part. Our current process revels in the competition of political system without thinking about the actual goal of competition.

    The two parties have become much more sharply divided while also growing closer on the political spectrum. The combination of these two factors may seem like a paradox. The two parties have been moving towards the middle simply because its an easier road to take towards election. At the same time, the country has become increasingly divided along this stupid Republican/Democrat line.

    In general, the two-party system has broken down. I know political reform on this level is almost not possible but at this point, we need to move towards a parliamentary system or at least something with multiple parties to make this country work again politically.

    There’s a laundry list of other complaints about the system as well (most importantly, that elections come far too quickly for anyone to do anything, highlighted by the special election in MA) but the basic issue comes down to the two-party system devolving into a mindless battle over political power with no one actually using that power to good effect.

  35. RepubliKans have doubled down on a “We want America to fail” template. That, more than anything else, illuminates their vacuous ideology.

    Wanting America to fail so they can win.

    Yeah, Puggies. Good luck with that “strategery.”

  36. The whole idea that the GOPers are “Nihilists” is about the dumbest thing I have heard in a long time. Obviously, the author of this assertion has no concept of what Nihilism IS, nor any clue as to what makes a GOPer tick. I assume the author is using “GOPer” and Conservative as interchangeable monikers.

    First of all, Nihilism was a philosophical movement that originated in 1850’s Russia. It is a belief in, basically, “nothing.” The Latin root, “Nihil-,” means “nothing.” A Nihilist rejected tradition, family bonds, and authority that we would consider to be part and parcel of any civil society. They believed in a pure materialism, which basically said that the physical was all that mattered. Nothing existed outside the Self. It was a doctrine of atheism and egoism. Nihilism informed such political theories as anarchy, which is oh so trendy today on our college campuses.

    So now that we have examined the above, it should be noted that it is the Conservative that stands against this oh-so-modern malaise. I hesitate to say GOP, because there is a difference between the Conservative and a doctrinaire GOPer. Conservative thought is the torch bearer of Classical Liberalism, the ideas that were born in the Enlightenment. This is why the very idea that GOPers are “Nihilists” is ridiculous. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the radical left that believe in nothing, that reject order, and authority.

  37. Mark Erikson @ 20: regarding the Republican ideas in the current health care reform bill, please see here.

    As for this comment from you:

    As for health care… one of my biggest complaints about the whole situation is that “Health Care Reform” has become conflated with “The current bill in Congress”. There’s lots of possible things that COULD be done to change the current health care system in the US, but instead it’s turned into “if you don’t like this bill, you’re against health care reform”.

    Let me point out that there is a wide range of reform plans that are theoretically possible, but are not politically possible. Medicare for all would be an excellent reform plan, in my opinion. Others would prefer to remove all regulation from health care and health care providers. Some people would rather have socialized medicine like they have in the UK or the VHA.

    The problem is, there’s no way those proposals will get through Congress. If you want health care reform, you can’t talk about what would be perfect, you have to talk about what would be useful and possible. See the link above to note the six decade history of HCR efforts.

    Personally, I think the HCR bills are imperfect but good. Also insufficient to address the problem at hand, but it will be easier to improve an existing law than to start all over again with some other plan. That’s why people are insisting on this reform plan now–we can’t afford (literally) to wait another 15 years for another attempt. Too many people are dying. Too many people are going bankrupt. Too much of our GDP are being funneled into health care.

    As for the endless libertarian screeds, I have no patience for them. The only imbalanced power relationship libertarians seem to care about is the one between the taxpayer and the government. Sensible people understand that the world is more complicated than that.

  38. Yes Soylent, more than the rest of te world ALL together including Russian, China AND everybody else added together.

    Google is your friend on this one but as a start my website (atomicrazor) has a link to a great analysis of this that Tobias Buckwell did recently. Summary: you’re wrong on that point.

    Second: tax cuts don’t work nor do very high tax rates. However, the reality is that above certain points people can afford to pay a lot more tax than they do. Likwise, when mid an low income households are carrying insane debt burdens lent to them by the overpaid under taxes financial experts then tax cuts won’t have any stimulous effect to speak of as people need to pay down debt before spending.

    We’re suffering both in the US and UK from a fantasy period of economic good times fueled with consumer debt and it’s all over now.

    I have noticed that the old libertarian and republican insults about the Frence and Geman economies seem to be quite muted these days.

  39. Soylent – given that you can’t be bothered to fact check, and just assert things you hope to be true, I’m not gonna bother. As Daveon said. Google

    “US defence spending” AND “rest of the world”

  40. Soylent Green @ 38

    Don’t ever generalize Americans as uninterested in stopping the torture we ourselves commit. I cannot begin to politely inform you of how incensed this makes me – and how wrong you are among every single person I have ever spoken to on the issue.

    And liberals don’t want to legislate soldiers, fetuses and Christians out of existence. There is a very real difference to how liberals and the GOP (note, GOP does NOT equal conservatives) prefer to treat groups they don’t like. Oddly, it’s the GOP that prefers to use the weight of the government to make sure that a single group gets legislated against. I seem to recall something about “small government”, but the big business next to me seems to be blocking the view.

    And please, please don’t bring up the lack of prayer in school as “anti christian.” It’s not even anti-religious. What it is, is pro-religious choice. You may think you want prayer in school, but I wonder what your response would be if your 3rd grader came home and informed you that his teacher was going to lead them in hindu prayers 3 times a day for the entire school year.

  41. Taviteh @ 42

    The author off this blog is in fact an accomplished author who writes on these topics with frequency. He has clearly stated understanding of these things in the past. You sound very much as if you’d rather assume someone was uneducated than actually had a real, honest, informed, intelligent difference of opinion with you.

    That must be very boring.

    Also, given your definition of nihilist, I can see nothing where it does not perfectly fit with most of what the GOP actually does. They aren’t actually interested in keeping religion in the public discourse, or safety, or much of anything else. The only conclusion I have been able to draw from their policies over the past few decades is that their only true, overarching goal os to pool as much money and power as possible into as few hands as possible. Conservatives do not want this. The GOP (not all the members thereof) clearly strives for it.

    If money + power + stuff = nihilist, then I gotta say that nihilist = GOP.

  42. “If money + power + stuff = nihilist, then I gotta say that nihilist = GOP.”

    Dems have no money, power, or stuff? And all this time I though monks were only to be found in monasteries, turns out there’s a bunch of them in Congress.

  43. Neither political party will balance the budget.

    Democrats want to solve the debt problem by increased taxation and more government regulation in order to realize alleged savings.

    Republicans want to avoid taxation but don’t have the stones to initiate mandatory spending cuts across the spectrum, including the military and means testing certain social programs (like social security).

    If either party were to attempt to balance the budget (now, as opposed to projecting their savings 10 years in the future), they’d be hammered the following election. McCain might have done it, as he is ornery and cranky most of the time, but that is a big ‘might’.

    Which is why I think a person who isn’t all there should be the next president, such as Palin or Jindal. Political self-preservation isn’t high on either of their lists and they won’t care what significant portions of the voting population might react.

    So in the sense that ‘nihilist’ means that we are on the road to disaster, both parties are driving in that direction.

  44. Neither political party will balance the budget.

    Sure. Just because the Democrats balanced the budget a decade ago doesn’t mean they’re capable of doing it again.

    Look: the Republicans’ willingness to drive up the debt is not a sign of their weakness or their hypocrisy. It’s their strategy.

    The idea was that Democrats keep their constituents engaged by spending federal money on them–education, food stamps, Medicare, that sort of thing. The GOP figured that, if they ran up the debt, no one would loan money to us any more, and the Democrats wouldn’t be able to do what they usually do to shore up their base.

    Then a Democratic president got himself elected while the country had a big debt and what did he do? He balanced the budget.

    That doesn’t stop the Republicans from accusing the Democrats of being a tax-and-spend party (though you’d think they’d have more pride), and it didn’t stop them from passing Medicare part D without funding it, and it didn’t stop them from opposing policies that would reduce the deficit and government spending (health care reform, including parts of the reform that would have had the most effect on the deficit, like the public option).

    And what’s more, international lenders have not stopped lending to us. More and more money keeps pouring into the country and what do they do about it? They oppose all taxes that would help pay off the debt. They oppose programs that reign in spending. The only thing they don’t oppose are cuts that would make life difficult for poor people.

    But who cares about them, right? They mostly vote Democratic anyway.

  45. stevem @ 50

    Considering all the fake gushing about Kennedy that the Republicans were pushing at the Q & A, I tell them “Sure, let’s go back to a top rate of 70%!” (The fact that from WW2 until then, we had been paying off the war seems to have been forgotten. Hence the reason for the reduction to 70%. And the fact that Bush’s 2 wars were dumped into the deficit for the not-wealthy to pay seems to be forgotten as well.)

    I also see an unseemly attitude here. Raise taxes? How old are you? Do you not remember that Bush’s two (2) blanket tax cuts for the wealthy? While botching 2 expensive wars (cough occupations cough)? Raising, my ass. Try the truth: letting 2 obscene tax CUTS expire.

  46. Too many people see Republican vs Democrat as if it was a football game. I don’t know if it’s just my personal perspective, but this seems to have taken place along with the rise of cable news.

    I’ve been reading Gordon Wood’s Empire of Liberty (1789-1815) recently and there are quotes from Adams and Jefferson about Federalists vs Democratic-Republicans that are every bit as partisan as anything Fox News can throw out.

    Every generation seems to think partisanship is a new problem. I suspect Optimates vs Populares in the 150s BC was just the same.

  47. Re ## 45 (Daveon) and 46 (Eddie)

    So this the Stockholm Peace Center is wrong?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures

    Last time I checked, $607b is less than half of $1464b, or are you using some secret liberal math?
    More than likely you found some wildly out-of-date, foaming-at-the-mouth International Answer statistic that has been manipulated to make the US sooooo bad. Since Daveon and Eddie provided no links, but presumed to leave me a little gem of wisdom (Google!), let me leave you with one in reply … Dont believe everything ya read on the net. Jeesh.

    Also .. both of you ignore the main point (go figure) that a lot of that “defence” spending goes to world-wide charitable relief AND the airlift/naval capacity actually to deliver it … AND you also ignore my additional point that the Western democracies “draft” off US defense spending .. .i.e, they don’t carry their weight.

    I assume that your unwillingness to debate the real points, combined with your use of incorrect statistics (or uncited statistics?) means you have ceded the argument. Thank you. Better luck next time.

  48. RE # 48 (Eddie)

    I really don’t know what to say in response to you Eddie. Please show me some piece of legislation from 1994 to 2006 (real legislation that came out of committee with GOP support), where the GOP tried to legislate gays or lesbians out of existence (which I assume is your point though it requires to me read the tea leaves of your philosophy … scary!)

    Your whole tirade on “legislating out of existence” is, in fact, a bit unhinged. Plus you miss the whole point of that part of my post … this sort of thing (Democrats hate America! Republicans hate America! Republicans hate all gays! Democrats hate all christians!) cheapens the debate.

    As far as your personal views on Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, all I can say is (a) so what why do I care how mad it makes you as an individual?; and (b) how does that undermine my point that there is no traction with the American public on this issue?

    And [bonus] (c) what is your take on the morality of Predator drone assassination v. waterboarding, sexual taunting, etc. on the scale of morality. Noticed ya just left that one alone. Why? I think I know the reason …

    PS … i never talked about prayer in school. Why did you throw that bit in? Needed a strawman argument, or somethin’? Yawn.

  49. I used to have this principle, that I should read both sides of the argument and then make up my mind, not just seek out a confirmation of my beliefs. You know, so as not to get all dogmatic and rigid…

    So I used to read National Review as well as the more independent and left-leaning political websites…

    Until a few years ago.

    Because when the “other side of the argument” is:

    Torture [sorry, "waterboarding"] is a perfectly fine and rational way for democracy to treat suspects,”

    …then that “other side” is utter madness and I cannot even begin to consider it. Any party, any party at all which supports torture as a legal procedure is morally repugnant to me — in fact, insane.

  50. #56 A.R.Y.

    Curiously, I think its morally repugnant … in fact, insane, for a society not to defend itself. But if you want to live in a pollyanna-like world where the enemy cuts off heads, but we limit ourselves to interrogation methods of the Army field manual (ohhhhhhh!), then be my guest. Just don’t pass judgment on the rest of your countrymen who feel its proper to use harsher tactics on more important targets.

    Basically, if you are anti-waterboard (having decided to call it torture) of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, then youve personally accepted moral responsibility for any deaths that flow from the decision not to be aggressive.

    See, that’s the way it works … decisions have moral consequences. I don’t have to like waterboarding (I don’t). I wouldn’t want to undergo it (I shouldn’t have to, since I am not at war with the United States). It’s not for all subjects – that is a strawman argument. And it was fully reported to, and consented by, the Democrats *and* Republicans in Congress.

    In fact, I revel that we can have this discussion at all, since all have harsh interrogation practices (or would in the same or similar circumstances) no matter what they say. Most simply do it in great secrecy. And most do it to political prisoners.

    Iny any event, I think most anti-waterboarders are mostly just anti-Bush administration people. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised that if the Obama administration ordered it (in a hypothetical ticking time bomb scenario), that you would find a way to justify it to yourself. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if this information surfaces in the next 3 years. I am able to come to this entirely logical concluson because most anti-waterboarders are also ardent anti-Gitmo, and anti-rendition in their philosophy, though Gitmo remains open and rendition (which started in the Clinton years) still remains active policy. Since there is a dearth of protests, hair-rending and hair-shirt wearing against Obama for Gitmo and rendition, I have to assume that most of the noise against W for both was simply false outrage – and ditto waterboarding.

    I am amazed that none of you want to grapple with a far more meaty moral subject … are the Predator Drone assassinations more or less moral than waterboarding? The lack of moral curiosity on this issue must be (again) associated with the fact the 44th President of the United States is using the Predator as much, if not more, than the 43rd. Yet which is worse … simulate drowning under medical supervision, or blow a man’s home and family to bits … often including innocent bystanders?

    Isn’t it sad when one’s averred moral superiority is so situational?

  51. Harry at 51: Presidents don’t balance budgets. The Congress is the entity that balances (or imbalances) the budget. The balanced budgets during the Clinton years were enacted by a Republican Congress. Remember the “Contract with America”? Of course the Republicans pi@sed it all away in 2000-2006, when they took over both the executive and legislative branches. Destroyed any credibility they had on the issue as a party.

    I suspect that if a balanced budget is possible, then it will occur as a result of divided power in Washington. Which means Obama stays president and the Republicans take over the legislative branches. But if it is balanced, it will be more the result of gridlock that any real belief that it is a goal that should be striven for.

  52. When you have to make shit up to support your position, SG, consider that perhaps you should reconsider your position. Same goes for assuming that the only reason anyone disagrees with you is that they’re dumb and venal. For example, you assume that the Army is stupid and doesn’t know how to develop effective interrogation techniques; that torture works and prevents deaths, never causing them; and that anyone who disagrees with you is not honest about their motivations but is simply acting out of partisan hatred.

    This, of course, assumes that you are actually trying to persuade others that your view is the correct one. If you’re just trying to wank off to the image of being the lone truthteller!!! in the lion’s den of moonbat liberals, well, you’re making it kinda hard on fellow Republicans who have a goal other than preening themselves. But it’s a free country and all.

  53. RE # 59 … Mythago

    pray tell, what “shit” I was making up?

    I’m not a lone truthteller. I happen to hold the view of a majority of Americans. I’m sorry that my majoritarian view is (somehow) offensive to you. But, you’re right it’s (mostly)(still) a free country (notwithstanding proposed mandatory health insurance purchase schemes). I’m also sorry that you mistake debate for preening – though that’s a nice little slur to work in there, Mythago. If you look back, however, you’ll see (coincidentally) that my main point all along was that the majority will not be moved by ‘torture’ rhetoric …

    I also note that you’re at least the fourth or fifth person in this thread to engage in an ad hominem attack against me (for the hubris of preening) who will not engage on whether Predator drone strikes are more or less moral than “torture”. Is this issue some sort of singularity of the mind … a place for some of you from which no light can escape? A place from which after passing you no longer are visible to those of us left bobbling behind you?

    Additionally, I never knew that the Army intelligence was the sine qua non of effective interrogation. Thanks for pointing that out. The CIA must adopt these techniques because they are all Sadists or something. I never thought the Army was stupid, either. It’s just what is correct for interrogating a uniformed EPW, who has surrendered on a battlefield in a declared war between nation-states, is not necessarily what is correct for a international jihadi like Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Sorry that point seems (utterly) lost on you.

    I’ll be happy to reconsider my position, however, if you’d actually engage me rather than puff up your own tailfeathers in umbrage at my temerity to tack away from the party line in these precincts. Or you can fall back on saying I am “making shit up” [See note 1] Sounds like you’re more angry at the messenger than the message.

    (FN1 … like pointing out the fact that the US does not actually outspend all other nations combined in defense expenditures – except it seems I didn’t make that up. Does that count?).

  54. Stevem, part of the deficit reduction that occurred during the Clinton years happened with a Democratic congress and part with a Republican. We also had the dotcom bubble at that time, but it was Clinton’s initiative to demand those revenues go do balancing the budget.

    Look what happened to the deficit after Bush jr. came in. You can’t blame all of the deficit on the recession; most of it happened because of policies he pushed for.

    And your budget chart is inaccurate in a careful way: It only covers spending. It doesn’t address the ruinous effect on the budget of tax cuts that aren’t balanced by reduced spending, or expensive policies that are paid for with credit.

    In contrast, compare this chart that compares the causes of our national deficit. You’ll see that sensible policies that attempt to pay for themselves make up a very small portion of that pie.

    Soylent Green, I suspect the reason no one is interested in your “What about predator drones, huh?” argument is that it’s not as clever or cogent as you think it is. When people talk about a bad policy that hurts this nation as a whole, you don’t actually affect their argument by pointing to some other policy in effect somewhere else.

    Now that the CIA agent who claimed in Dec ’07 that waterboarding terrorists worked and brought in useful intel has admitted that he lied, I can’t see any reason for anyone to support waterboarding. Experts say it doesn’t work. The man who claimed it had worked has admitted that he made it all up (erm, I mean, spread disinformation).

    You can stop trying to compare apples with split pea soup. You can stop trying to defend waterboarding. Really, just stop. You were lied to, but now you know better, assuming you’re willing to follow the link in the previous paragraph. If you want to talk about predator drones, we can do that, too. But the conversation on waterboarding is over.

  55. I read the link. All it shows is someone who didn’t know what he was talking about, started talking about something he didn’t know about. Your link does’t prove or disprove the point. Sorry. I know you really want it to be dispositive, but it just isn’t. Perhaps we should declassify all the information … wasn’t that was Cheney called for last year?

    I will concede the point we may never have the true answers. The CIA is insane. For example, the 2007 NIE on Iran was full of blatant lies, though it was heralded as absolutely truthful at the time of its release. Joe Wilson (while a paid contributor of the Kerry campaign) wrote a piece in the NYT containing three blantant lies about his work for Agency. It’s all a mess.

    In any event, its an academic debate. Obama has stopped waterboarding. He still has Gitmo open and he still uses extraordinary rendition. Not to mention split-pea drones. Oh well …

    PS – I do want to talk about predator drones, but you don’t appear to want to. It just seems to fall on deaf ears. Would you rather be waterboarded or have your family killed by a Predator drone? Why is one utterly beyond the pale, and the other a big yawn. Why is it apples to split pea soup? Other than an apparent utter unwillngness to engage on it, I mean.

  56. Harry at 62: I followed the link. From what I could see, it is 4 paragraphs of conclusory statements written 7 months ago. I remain sceptical.

    On a more positive note, if you are the same Harry Connolly who wrote “Child of Fire”, good job. It was an excellent read.

  57. This is probably an expired thread with all the other hubbub around here, we’ll just say I’m late to the drums.

    “While I do LOVE the phrase hopped up, ignorant nihilists, honestly I find the manner in which the GOP conducts its politics to be a greater threat than their individual lack of intellect. The formula of their political demeanor (attack character + attack patriotism + deny, deny, deny = victory) rapes the public discourse of any semblence of rational conversation and undermines the framer’s ideals for the conduct of a republican government.”

    I still think that it is the manner of their politics, which would also include their inability to “learn from their mistakes,” if it were that. I honestly believe the “hopping up” has impacted their ability to recognize the aforementioned damage to our country, and they believe criticism is simply partisan spin. Even in situations where they recognize the substance in an argument, they just submerge it under a barrage of characterizations (this used to be called propoganda) so that the legions of ignorant follow suit. This is much more insiduous than the democrats lack of cajones, particularly since we have evolved into a nation of militarized citizens. What this will quickly do to the fabric of our nation and the rule of law will be a lot less gentle than consensual homosexual sex in the Minneapolis airport’s bathroom.

  58. I haven’t read all of the above (a cardinal sin, I know, but I’m exempting myself in this case because it’s late, and the Amazon kerfluffle has distracted me.)

    As someone still registered as a Republican, but increasingly asking myself ‘Why?’ I can only bemoan what has happened to the GOP since the mid-nineties.

    Fun fact: The only time I vote for Bush Jr. was when he was in a primary against John McCain, who was pushing “campaign finance reform.” Guess what the first thing Bush did?

    Go on, you’ll never guess. /Marvin

  59. Solent. I gave you all you needed to find the Buckwell analysis.

    That you didn’t bother and resorted to daft name calling pretty much sums up my opinion of you. Tobias Buckwell crunched the numbers.

  60. Soylent Green @60: it’s also not all that convincing to pretend that your post wasn’t a defense of torture, why no, it was merely a observation that other people approve of torture and how ’bout those predator drones?

    (Speaking of ad hominems, insisting that people who disagree with you are simply acting out of ‘partisan hatred’ is just a wordier ad hominem. Don’t bring none, etc.)

    If you truly want to discuss the morality of using predator drones, rather than simply using them to try and shore up an argument based on made-up facts, go for it. But to pretend that the use of predator drones justifies or excuses waterboarding is practically a non sequitur.

  61. Oh and while we’re at it Mr “Green”, I provided a link to find Tobias Buckwell’s analysis, click on my name and it’ll take you right there! Wow! Hard eh?

    Anyhoo.

    The numbers used by the Stockholm analysis were based on market exchange rate values which is a tad problematic, especially for 2008 given the dollar spent most of the year in a dark deep hole in the ground.

    And, as such, you aren’t a little shocked that you’re spending over 40% of even that total? Let alone 8 times the nearest one?

    Anyway back to your “point” AND you also ignore my additional point that the Western democracies “draft” off US defense spending .. .i.e, they don’t carry their weight.

    Except that’s not the case: http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/2010/01/13/that-not-so-much-crumbling-core-of-western-europes-military-might/

    Oh and loved the strawman about relief capacity. That’s a lovely piece of post ex facto reasoning there sonny.

  62. stevem, I am that same Harry Connolly. Thanks very much for the kind words.

    Soylent G.:

    I will concede the point we may never have the true answers.

    You’re conceding the wrong point. Quite a few professional interrogators have said that torture of any kind gives bad intel. Period.

    Pundits and politicians who wanted to defend the use of waterboarding pointed to that December ’07 CIA analyst’s statements that it worked. Those claims were false.

    The point you really ought to concede is that waterboarding is not only immoral, it’s counter-productive.

    On the wholly separate issue of predator drones, I think they’re a stupid, wasteful weapon. They kill too many civilians, and we should have learned by now that bombing people’s homes only makes the population pissed off and more determined to fight.

  63. RE # 67 (Daveon)

    Daveon – thank you for your second condescending and factually inaccurate post, which (again) avoids any debate on the substance of my arguments.

    1. First of all, the man’s name is spelled b-u-c-k-n-e-l-l not b-u-c-k-w-e-l-l.

    2. Go re-read Mr. Buckell’s analysis which centers on the issue of whether Europe “carries its own weight” in defense spending, contrary to Eddie’s points in # 29 that the U.S. should be ashamed of its spending “more than the rest of the world combined”.

    3. Check out the third graph, which I assume is the one you’re relying on (where he says: “Holy crap! The US spends a lot, more than the rest of the world combined”).

    4. Carefully note that only 22 nations are included on that graph. Note, in fact, that all the graphs are based on those same 22 nations, though some graphs combine, delete in order to illustrate Mr. Buckell’s analysis.

    5. Daveon, I am sure you would agree with me that there are more than 22 nations in the world.

    6. Daveon, I assume you would agree that Mr. Buckell’s charts include some important nations to study in terms of military spending (China, Russia, India, Pakistan, the Koreas, etc.) along with almost all the Western European nations – which of course is not a complete set of the EU as a whole.

    7. In particular, Daveon, please pay close attention to the regions omitted from the graphs Mr. Buckell relies upon … all of eastern europe; all of the former Soviet “republics”; all of South America; all of Central America; all of Africa (saharan and sub-saharan); all of the Arab nations (assuming you agree with me that Pakistan and Iran are not generally considered Arab nations); all of southeast asia; Indonesia; Australasia, Oceana … and finally, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, etc.

    8. In reality, Mr. Buckell’s arguments DO NOT support your thesis. I think Mr. Buckell meant to say “Holy Crap, the US outspends these 21 other nations.

    9. Please actually go the Wikipedia link that I included in my # 54 (and note that Mr. Buckell links to Wikipedia – albeit a different article – so spare me an anticipated snide comment about that site. Note that the Wikipedia article cites the Stockholm International Peace Research Center (which doesn’t seem like a wingnut, rethug, neo-con hotbed to me). The SIPRI numbers are estimates, but then so are the Krugman numbers.

    10. On the SIPRI graph, only 10 nations are shown (including the KSA omitted from Mr. Buckell’s analysis), but if you add up the % of expenditures, you will see that they add up to less than 75% of the total (1464b). That would, then take into account the balance of the world (as shown in the continuing graphs).

    11. I’m putting the SIPRI numbers against Buckell’s numbers (a) because I think Buckell got a bit excited and (b) he was making a different point anyway and (c) you’ve bolloxed your point and managed to be snide about it at the same time.

    12. I hate that I’ve had to waste this much time setting you straight Daveon. You’re just plain wrong on your point, and you’ve belittled me twice in your ignorance and relied on your invalid (and easily checkable error) to avoid meaningful debate on the broader issue that (A) even IF it were true that the US outspends the rest of the world (rather than 21 nations) then (B) it’s humanitarian capabilities and expenditures are more than partial justification and (C) the US Air Force and Navy are heavily relied on by the Western Allies for logistical support.

    If you were an honorable opponent, you would both apologize and acknowledge that. But I have a strong suspicion you won’t, which pretty much sums up my opinion of you. Cheers.

  64. # 68 (Mythago).

    This is my second request you elucidate which fact I “made up”.

    I think you need to go back and read up on what is, and is not, an ad hominem attack. Here’s a little primer for ya, free of charge:

    “In reality, ad hominem is unrelated to sarcasm or personal abuse. Argumentum ad hominem is the logical fallacy of attempting to undermine a speaker’s argument by attacking the speaker instead of addressing the argument. The mere presence of a personal attack does not indicate ad hominem: the attack must be used for the purpose of undermining the argument, or otherwise the logical fallacy isn’t there. It is not a logical fallacy to attack someone; the fallacy comes from assuming that a personal attack is also necessarily an attack on that person’s arguments.”

    Me arguing progressives are motivated by partisanship is not ad hominem; you attacking me individually (e.g., saying I make things up) in order to avoid my arguments, is. Got it? Good.

    # 69 (Harry Connolly).

    Thank you for being the first and only so far to even discuss the drones, though I feel you fall short of my challenge to make both a logical and entirely relevant moral analysis.

    This is why I think it’s relevant (a) waterboarding is a tool we use (or used to use) against AQ; (b) predator drones are a tool we use against AQ; (c) in that respect, I am comparing apples to apples.

    Why is one “outrageous” and the other not even worthy of comment? Why aren’t they linkable?

    My explanation is that so many of you have been reflexively trained to consider one (waterboarding) utterly, totally and irrevocably beyond the pale so that anyone who might suggest it has its uses is worthy of scorn, while the entirely logical counter that drone strikes are (at least to my mind) far, far less moral … far creepier … far more disturbing is not worthy of being considered as connected. Why don’t we seek connections? Why silence on a greater horror, and hurling invective on a lesser? If one has a place in our arsenal, though .. .then why not both?

    In other words, why the blindspot? That’s been my point all along.

  65. Hey, if you’re struggling with comprehension, it’s seriously not my fault.

    Point 1: I suspect that if you had bothered to either a) google, or b) follow the working link I GAVE YOU you’d have ended up there without my spelling mistake.

    Point 4: Silly point, he’s clear that the data is for the rest of the world, but given the scale, what difference would including a long line of impossible to see data points after Luxemberg?

    Point 5: A silly pointless thing to say that is irrelevant in the context. And you call me snide? Gosh!

    Point 6: From a money perspective, especially UK, Germany, France, Italy, any calculation for the rest of Europe is going to be a small rounding error purely down to the relative size of the economies.

    Point 7: But let’s look at the “important” countries… We’ve established that China is second largest spender, at $85bn… but we can play this game all night and you’ll still not be making a point. Let’s pick a couple, South Korea? $13bn (http://dev.prenhall.com/divisions/hss/worldreference/KR/defense.html), Australasia roughly $8bn, it goes on like that. On any sensible curve most of these are rounding errors on a scale that has to include $743bn, which is what I think your budget is now…

    Any, looking at the data, I was basing my numbers of the 2006 SPIRI report where the total was $1.2bn, and I think we can agree that $600bn is about half that?

    I’m happy to concede that last year total US military spending is only 42% of the global total of 160+ countries where the CLOSEST next country spent about 12% of the US total.

    This year it looks like it’ll get back up to half again. So, I suppose, to be magmanous we’ll say you spend as much as the rest of the planet…

    So… now to your snide stuff.

    (B) it’s humanitarian capabilities and expenditures are more than partial justification and (C) the US Air Force and Navy are heavily relied on by the Western Allies for logistical support.

    These might be “happy” outcomes but you’re coming at this from a completely arse-about-face point. I certainly agree with point b, but it’s an unintended consequence. Point c is a self serving feature that was built in from the start, so to make altruistic claims is fairly amusing.

    Yes, I’m being snide and quite rude, and if you feel belittled…. well, result there.

    I find you position on this and your other GOP talking points to be perfect examples of what John is talking about. Your moral compass is stuck pointing to wrong and I do feel sorry for you for that. I feel even worse that I can probably guess your position on a dozen other subjects where you think you’re right too.

    You’re exactly what John was complaining about.

  66. Why aren’t they linkable?

    The point you don’t seem to understand is that you are linking the two in order to push condemnation away from torture. It’s an illusionist’s trick to wave your hand in a distracting way so no one looks at what’s happening elsewhere.

    Is a discussion about predator drones interesting or useful? I would think so, if John wants to host one here.

    Is a discussion of predator drones an appropriate change of subject when discussing torture in U.S. prisons? Not if it is just an illusionist’s trick to distract.

    It’s a common trick on the web: One person starts to talk about being laid off and struggling with a house payment, and someone chimes in with “Things are worse in Haiti! At least your house isn’t a pile of rubble with all your children inside!”

    Which… yeah. Being laid off and going bankrupt isn’t as bad as what’s happened in Haiti, but the former is still a problem that needs to be addressed, and “Haiti is worse!” is avoiding the subject, not addressing it.

    That’s the reason no one will discuss the comparison you think is so clever and cogent. Because torture is immoral, illegal and it doesn’t even fucking work, yet some people insist it’s Necessary, giving reasons that are completely discredited (such as “it works!”) or who the hell knows why. And now that every rational justification for torture has collapsed, its defenders are reduced to pointing elsewhere and saying “Haiti A predator drone is worse!”

    It’s the least convincing rhetorical game ever, even if you don’t realize that’s the game you’re playing.

    But I don’t hold much hope that you’ll understand the point I’m trying to make. You seem to be so wedded to this idea here:

    Iny any event, I think most anti-waterboarders are mostly just anti-Bush administration people. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised that if the Obama administration ordered it (in a hypothetical ticking time bomb scenario), that you would find a way to justify it to yourself.

    that you aren’t able to see the actual point I’m making. You should try, though.

  67. Hmm. No strike-through commands allowed in the comments here. that was supposed to be:

    … pointing elsewhere and saying “[strikethrough]Haiti[/strikethrough] A predator drone is worse!”

  68. # 72 (Daveon)

    There’s no use having any sort of debate with you. You were wrong. You were using out of date data. I took you to the woodshed and all you can say in reply was that you were close enough and you don’t care because all you ever intended to do was belittle me?

    Wow. Well, there’s the old saying about rolling around in the mud with a pig, Daveon, and you’re about as porcine a commenter as I’ve met on the net in a good long while. Ciao.

    # 74 (Harry Connolly)

    Fine. Whatever. Sure. You’ve built your moral house of cards and no one is allowed to ask you to step outside and examine it. I am not only wicked, I am an illusionist! A purveyor of parlor tricks and rhetorical flourishes! You will put your hands over your ears and yell “no, no, no! It’s a trick! I have no blind spot! Bush bad, Obama good. The wicked commenter is double plus ungood. He tries to trick me into saying torture is good. I will ignore him. He will go away if I berate him long enough.”

    That’s ok. I never held much hope that you’d understand the point I was trying to make.

    Btw, your bankruptcy/Haiti analogy is utterly inapposite. Since EIT’s are over, and your side prevailed on this issue, it’s “not still a problem that needs to be addressed” … so feel free to ignore current issues (rendition, Gitmo, drone assasination) and cleave tightly to the battle you won, rather than the battles you wish to avoid.

    I was told all those things like rendition -which means outsourcing torture – Gitmo and dropping bombs on AQ were “immoral, illegal and don’t even f****ng work!” back in 07-08. But that was then, and this is now. You’re side is in power, after all. Bully for you.

  69. Soylent, apparently you think saying that predator drones are stupid and wasteful, kill too many civilians (with a link to a picture I find difficult to look at) and only make the population hate us more, all of which I’ve done in a previous post, is somehow dodging the issue.

    Which means you’re wasting my time.

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