Obama or Clinton? Is there a difference — also thoughts for Republicans

Today’s Super Tuesday and for my Okie readers, don’t forget to vote in the primary (assuming you’re a registered Republican or Democrat).

I know that Obama or Clinton are almost certain to win the Democratic nomination. Certainly they are an improvement over Bush, and would be better than the Republicans (except maybe Ron Paul… I would almost be ok with his free-marketism if he really would end the war now), but they are so vapidly shallow and IMHO without any strong guiding principles on which they truly stand for.

If I had to pick right now, I would probably pick Hillary just because I think she is catching a lot of hell from sexists. I’ve heard horrible things even from progressives that have nothing to do with her issues, but rather a lot more about backwards sexual prejudices. And I would also want to pick Obama because at least he never voted for the war. But really there’s no real difference between the two of them, so I suggest that folks pick someone else so as to hopefully send a message to the powers that be.

On the Republican side of the aisle, I wouldn’t back any of them but if I had to pick, my picks (for different reasons) would be… McCain (because he is so aggressively pro-war that he will hopefully drive out the anti-war left to vote. He also isn’t quite as bad on immigration issues as the others), Guiliani (because he has a slightly better record on LGBT rights) and Paul (because despite my vehement disagreement with him on economics and immigration, he is very anti-war and in the end that trumps all of the other issues).

So my primary endorsements are…

Democrats – John Edwards (with a close second going to Kucinich)

Republican – Ron Paul

Also for folks interested, I’m tabulating the blog straw poll as we speak. Results will be up soon.

Surprises thus far in the Oklahoma Blog Straw Poll

Reviewing the results as of today in the Oklahoma Blog Straw Poll, I am surprised by some of the outcomes…

1. The top 2 in the Democratic results are what I expected among the liberal Oklahoma blogosphere. I wonder if Edwards trip to Oklahoma will nudge the race closer, or if Obama will plan a last minute trip to Oklahoma too.
2. Kucinich’s performance is much better than you’ll see on the real primary, because he was the 2nd or 3rd choice of all most all of the democratic party voters. He probably will be seen as too extreme by the establishment, but his strong showing here I think would point to him being a popular choice among activists for VP.

3. With the exception of two folks I know, I know of very few Okies who are big Clinton fans. The results here definitely bear that out. I wonder why she is so unpopular in Oklahoma?

4. On the Republican side, Fred Thompson has done extremely well and Ron Paul hasn’t even registered a blip yet. I honestly thought that Paul would be a major contender in Oklahoma, but maybe the low number of Republicans voting so far is the cause of this. Guilliani also has had no votes thus far.

5. I know very little about the Republican race, so I would be interested in hearing some of the republican voters explain why they like the candidates they like, and how they think their favorite candidates will do in Oklahoma. And for that matter, we need to get more Republicans to vote in this primary!

The Oklahoma Blog Authors Presidential Primary Straw Poll

I thought it would be fun to host a Presidential election primary straw poll for Oklahoma blog authors, to kinda get a feel for how the Oklahoma blogosophere stands this year.

So, here are the rules…

1. Participants must be registered to vote in Oklahoma.

2. Participants must be the author of a blog that has been updated at least once in the month of January or February 2008.

3. This is an “open” primary, meaning you can vote in which ever primary you want to vote in (no matter what your real life voter registration is), however you may only vote in one party’s primary.

3. The straw-poll will be conducted using a weighted system. You will pick your 3 favorite candidates in your party’s slate, and rank them in order of preference. Then when the votes are counted, each 1st choice vote will get 3 points, each 2nd choice vote will get 2 points, and each 3rd choice vote will get 1 point. The results will show the number of points each candidate received.

4. The deadline for casting your vote is the end of the month. I’ll count the votes cast on February 1 and will announce the results here.

5. To vote, send your name, your blog’s URL, and your vote by email to me at jmb(at)jmbzine(dot)com.

6. Since this is just a straw-poll and not a real primary, I will post running vote counts as we go along from time to time.

Also, here are the list of candidates that will be on the Oklahoma ballot on February 5th as listed on the Oklahoma Elections Board website (PDF download)

Barack Obama
Hillary Clinton
John Edwards
Bill Richardson
Dennis J. Kucinich
Christopher J. Dodd
Jim Rogers

John McCain
Tom Tancredo
Duncan Hunter
Ron Paul
Rudy Giuliani
Jerry R. Curry
Mitt Romney
Alan L. Keyes
Fred Thompson
Daniel Gilbert
Mike Huckabee

Ron Paul on racism

This is a continuation of my discussion of Ron Paul (a mostly Libertarian running for President as a Republican) from a leftist political perspective. To see my last post on this topic, click here.

CNN: Ron Paul ’90s newsletters rant against blacks, gays (also see CNN: Excerpts from the Ron Paul discussed in the article)

Wikipedia: Ron Paul Report newsletter controvery

RonPaul2008.com:Ron Paul Statement on The New Republic Article Regarding Old Newsletters

The New Republic blog: Who wrote Ron Paul’s newsletters

I’m not sure I believe Ron Paul, but if you assume the best of his intentions and trust his honesty in this matter, he still let some pretty atrocious stuff go out in a newsletter bearing his name; I think this calls his ability to serve as President into serious question.

But since race is on the table now, I thought though it might be worthwhile to see what Ron Paul does say on the issue of race…

LewRockwell.com: What Really Divides Us? — by Rep. Ron Paul, MD

The overwhelming media response to recent remarks by Senator Trent Lott shows that the nation remains incredibly sensitive about matters of race, despite the outward progress of the last 40 years. A nation that once prided itself on a sense of rugged individualism has become uncomfortably obsessed with racial group identities.

In the aftermath of the Lott debacle, we must not allow the term “states’ rights” to be smeared and distorted into code words for segregationist policies or racism. States’ rights simply means the individual states should retain authority over all matters not expressly delegated to the federal government in Article I of the Constitution. Most of the worst excesses of big government can be traced to a disregard for states’ rights, which means a disregard for the Ninth and Tenth amendments. The real reason liberals hate the concept of states’ right has nothing to do with racism, but rather reflects a hostility toward anything that would act as a limit on the power of the federal government.

Yet it is the federal government more than anything else that divides us along race, class, religion, and gender lines. The federal government, through its taxes, restrictive regulations, corporate subsidies, racial set-asides, and welfare programs, plays far too large a role in determining who succeeds and who fails in our society. This government “benevolence” crowds out genuine goodwill between men by institutionalizing group thinking, thus making each group suspicious that others are receiving more of the government loot. Americans know that factors other than merit in the free market often play a part in the success of some, and this leads to resentment and hostility between us.

Still, the left argues that stringent federal laws are needed to combat racism, always implying of course that southern states are full of bigoted rednecks who would oppress minorities if not for the watchful eye of Washington. They ignore, however, the incredible divisiveness created by their collectivist big-government policies.

The Volkh Report: Ron Paul, Racism and Federalism

The inescapable truth here is that combatting government-imposed racial discrimination often requires federal intrusion on the autonomy of state and local governments. Recognizing this is in no way inconsistent with libertarianism, a political philosophy in which the allocation of power between different levels of government is a purely instrumental value. It does, however, seem to be a blind spot for Ron Paul and his campaign.

UPDATE: It is only fair to note that, to my knowledge, Ron Paul is the sole candidate in either party to denounce the harm done to inner city African-Americans by the War on Drugs, the federal government policy that has probably done more damage to minority communities than any other over the last several decades. I don’t think that the War on Drugs is inherently racist, but it certainly has been prosecuted with almost criminal indifference to the welfare of low-income minorities.

Ron Paul’s basic argument on the issue of racism — that collectivism is the real problem, and that government efforts to stop racism, only make it worse — is interesting, but also wrong.

I, like many Americans, admire the ideal of rugged individualism. However, part of a belief in this ideal is that of “do no harm.” Or to say it another way (and paraphrase Thoreau), we do not have a proactive duty to stop the unjust actions of others, but we do have a duty to at the very least not contribute to that injustice.

If pure individualism (which Ron Paul prescribes as the antidote to the evils of collectiveism) is the answer, it must begin with personal responsibility, and this is in many ways impossible to do if one truly embraces living in our modern society.

For instance, many of us are the recipients of “white privilege” in some fashion. Maybe we didn’t get any big inheritance from our parents, but we did likely get more of an advantage in life than people of color do. The odds are that white people have more of a cushion of inherited wealth or at least the possibility of economic support from our families (a better discussion on this can be found here:PBS.org: Book review of The Hidden Cost of Being African American, by Michael Hout). The reality is that the “game” of our capitalistic economic system depends on capital and capital was never fairly distributed, and as a result racism still exists. The only way that this can change is if weath is redistributed. I would prefer that we take Thoreau’s approach (and that of the anarchist Catholic Worker movement), but I do think one way or another, wealth has to be redistributed.

Ron Paul and other believers in the capitalist system have not come to grips with one key issue — how can the free market system be truly fair, when the initial start-up capital is unfairly distributed? Most Black Americans have as their ancestors people who were once slaves, and in later generations folks who were oppressed and not allowed to even compete at all in the system. So, is it fair now for folks like Ron Paul to ignore this issue and just tell the victims of racism to essentially “suck it up” and fight harder for their share of the pie.

That ain’t right. The reality is that the free market system stands firmly on the foundation of oppression. It’s roots go down deep in that oppression and because that is its reality, it itself continues to foster oppression.

Eliminating collectivism is a panacea.  Racism was going strong during the hyper-capitalistic era of the slave trade, so obviously capitalism will not in and of itself cure racism.

I think a better answer is voluntary socialism, cooperativism, and just good ol’ fashioned basic human kindness. The enemy of the poor is not governmental intrusion (or at least that isn’t the big issue). The enemy of the poor is our free market system itself. We must smash the capitalistic system of oppression to smithereens and rebuild something better, and more loving and more beautiful.

I also think that if we really want to eliminate racism, we must look at how different races are played against each other. Back in the day, poor white folks were kept under the control of rich white people, by way of letting poor white folks think they were superior to black folks. And black folks were kept under control by having “house slaves” feel superior to “field slaves.” As long as poor folks feel better than somebody, they won’t rise up and join together in fighting their common oppressors.

The reality is that the common enemy of poor people of all colors is the rich. The capitalist system keeps us all too busy competing with each other to even recognize the crappy way we are being kept down, so it serves the purposes of the rich. The working class folks have to wake up and realize that we are played like fools and being sold a crappy set of circumstances— work your ass off and someday you’ll be rewarded. Meanwhile the rich keep getting richer by virtue of their capital “working” for them. Who is winning here? It ain’t the working man, I’ll tell you that.

More leftist thoughts on Ron Paul

Revised for style and grammar 11:36 p.m., December 17, 2007.

I have had a whole flurry of comments on my prior post about Ron Paul (Thoughts on a Ron Paul/Dennis Kucinich ticket, so I thought it might be helpful to post some more thoughts.

First though, let me say that my commentary is firmly rooted in a leftist political perspective. I don’t expect my readers to necessarily agree with this perspective, but do understand that this is where I am coming from. I’m not trying to convince moderates or conservatives to not vote for Paul, but I do want liberals to understand that Paul is not a liberal.

My main criticism of Ron Paul is the same criticism I have of most Libertarians — they are quite willing to attack big government power in some areas, but they refuse to stop the government from allowing the rich to have excessive private property while others are suffering. (let’s be honest, the government not only allows the rich to be rich, but protects the rich and keeps them rich)

I agree that free speech rights are paramount, and Libertarians would agree with me on this. However, is there actually free speech, when the means to speak are controlled by private individuals and companies? No. Our system allows the rich to say whatever they want in the mass media for the most part, but the poor are stuck writing blogs and maybe circulating zines photocopied at Kinko’s. Sure, you can stand on a soapbox and spout, but will it do any good in the onslaught of corporate controlled voices? No, not really. Maybe your voice will be heard, but it is definitely a David and Goliath kind of situation.

Private property rights in America are our sacred cow. Try speaking your mind at a shopping mall. If you as much as raise your voice, or do something crazy like pass out flyers, you’ll be thrown out in no time. Yet, these private spaces are increasingly the closest thing we have to a public square. Libertarians want to take all of the remaining public spaces (highway right of ways, national and local parks, public libraries, etc.) and make them private. What will this do to free speech? It will kill it.

Private property is the root of the problem. I agree (as did the early-day Oklahoma Socialists), that a woman or man should be able to make a living on their own terms, own their business, make their own go of it, either by themselves or working with others. However, socialists also think this right is meaningless if the poor have no means to ever acquire their own means of production (be it the tools of a trade or a piece of land to farm). And socialists believe that since resources are scare, that it is only right to demand that the rich give up some of what they have, if others don’t have enough.

A progressive income tax is one means of doing that. Poor people pay a very low tax rate. Middle classes are supposed to pay more. The rich have the highest tax rate. Now of course our current system is imperfect (I think that when you get past a certain amount, that the tax rate should be 100%– Does Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey, or the Walton family, really deserve billions of dollars!? Who is to say that their contribution to society is so astronomically more valuable than that that of the working poor?), but it is a step in the right direction. I think there should be a point that this kind of income should be capped, and the excess be redistributed to those who don’t yet own their own means of production. But still our current system is better than nothing: and Ron Paul would even abolish that.

So, for a leftist like myself, I can’t support Ron Paul. I do appreciate Ron Paul’s criticism of the war in Iraq and his call to preserve individual liberty, but I also strongly believe that his support of the capitalist system in the end will cause violence too. The violence may come through future wars, but it also may come through the death and suffering of the poor, both here and abroad. The rich will keep getting richer, and the poor will increasingly be enslaved by a system that doesn’t give them the chance to rise up and make their lives better.

I’ll also add that if one coupled Ron Paul’s suspicion of coercive state power with a critical look at the private property rights of the rich, you might get somewhere. I would be a-ok with smashing the state in that case, if communities took care of their own needs with love instead of force, and if everyone pulled together for the good of all, and everyone had enough. We have enough resources to feed the whole world and to live healthy and rewarding lives, if we only changed the way we did things. It would take courage and it would take dedication but it is possible. I guess this is more of an anarchist argument, but so be it.

The answer is love, not force.

The answer is cooperation, not competition.

Thoughts on a Ron Paul/Dennis Kucinich ticket

USAToday.com: The buzz about a Kucinich-Paul ticket? Here’s where that came from

An interesting scenario….

What I like about it is that Dennis and Ron are both men of principal. You know where they stand and that is pretty cool. I also like the fact that both men are committed to ending the war in Iraq. They are at this moment the only major party candidates making that pledge.

However, what troubles me about this is that likely Ron Paul would be at the top of the ticket, and Ron Paul’s beliefs are troubling on many points. From my perspective (and I think Kucinich’s too), they radically part ways when it comes to economics and immigration, and those are not small things.

Ron Paul supports extreme laise fare (not sure how to spell that) economics, with no limits on the accumulation of wealth and the privatization of all of the commons. And he takes his economic principles into other areas, such as his views that race relations are not solved by proactive action.

And Ron Paul buys into the racist paranoia about Mexican undocumented migrants (see RonPaul2008.com: Border Security and Immigration Reform). And more troubling is the fact that Ron Paul backs the unconstitutional idea to ban so-called “birthright citizenship” (which is impossible unless you want to repeal the 14th Amendment).

To me these issues are basic principles of social justice that are necessary for the existence of true peace. I’m glad that Ron Paul supports ending the war on the people of Iraq, but his policies will still further the kind of world that will make future wars like the Iraq war necessary. This is why I don’t support Ron Paul.

That said, compared to the Democrats (besides Kucinich), he’s not much worse. I would probably pick him over Hillary Clinton any day of the week, because at least with Ron Paul you know the war will end.

Thoughts on Senator Craig’s likely pending resignation

CNN: Craig to announce resignation Saturday

NY Times: Senator to Quit Over Sex Sting, Officials Say

. . . Officials at the Republican National Committee readied a news release calling for Mr. Craig to resign but withheld it after learning that there were independent efforts under way to persuade Mr. Craig to quit.

Those actions came after the Republican leadership called for an ethics inquiry and stripped Mr. Craig of his leadership posts on three committees after his guilty plea at the beginning of August to what an undercover officer described as a sexual advance in a men?s restroom in the airport terminal.

Despite such unusual steps against a Senate colleague, Republicans took no punitive action against Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, after his acknowledgment this summer of involvement with an escort service that the police described as a prostitution front. . .

I have mixed feelings about this case. In the context of past incidents, the situation looks pretty damning, but after listening to the tape of the police interrogation of Senator Craig, I have to say that the cop’s case against Craig seemed pretty shaky to me. It was a no-win situation for Craig. Not pleading guilty would have meant an arrest and a big media blowup for sure, but the facts as they stood would certainly have provided ample reasonable doubt to acquit him. This is part of the reason I don’t like the fact that the police have so much power in America (at least in some ways), because the public sees an arrest as equivalent to a conviction and the bar is so, so low to arrest someone.

Certainly Craig’s conduct in the restroom was suspicious, but I don’t think that suspicious behavior alone was enough to make an arrest. If Craig had verbally offered to perform a sex act in a public place then fine arrest him (I guess… I don’t see the cops going after straight folks like this) but the mere fact that he did non-verbal things that could be interpreted ambiguously to me is not enough to ruin this man’s reputation.

On the other hand, to me Craig’s conduct after the fact was more troubling. He should have told his wife what went down and I think it would have been best for him to plead not guilty if he did not in fact commit the crime (or at least call an attorney first). He definitely showed poor judgment in not getting an attorney and in covering up the arrest, but can you blame him either?

Honestly, this whole thing seems way blown out of proportion. I think Craig is guilty of being too quick to plead guilty to a crime that he may have not committed, but I’m not sure if that is enough to get him thrown out of politics.

I’m also concerned that this story will be used as yet another example of how “those homosexuals” are deviant perverts. My gay friends are just as moral and just as ethical as my straight friends. I know people do things like seek anonymous sex in bathrooms, but none of my friends (gay or straight) do so. And for that matter, why is having heterosexual sex with prostitutes relatively forgivable (as in the Vitter case), but seeking out gay sex is unforgivable? Maybe it is just me, but this seems like a double-standard.

And even if folks do engage in deviant behavior (and I would say that having anonymous sex in a public place is deviant behavior), they should shown compassion and love. Setting up sting operations to try to ensnare folks doesn’t seem to serve any purpose except provide a societal scapegoat to keep us all riled up about “those perverts” instead of addressing more serious issues like the war in Iraq and the poor and hungry in this country. The front page news should be screaming “PEOPLE ARE HOMELESS ON THE STREETS OF EVERY MAJOR CITY IN THE RICHEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD,” but instead we get more sex scandals.

Lastly, while it is tempting to go for the jugular and attack yet another hypocritical “family values” politician being brought down, I just can’t find any joy in it. It’s hard to get all hopped up on seeing a man’s life be ruined.