Ron Paul challenges liberals on love of ‘big finance’ and ‘big-ass wars’

US Politics
on 36 Comments
Matt Stoller
Matt Stoller

Matt Stoller, now at the Roosevelt Institute, a former aide to former Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida, poses the question, “Why Ron Paul Challenges Liberals,” at naked capitalism. The piece is getting a ton of attention. Thinking about this piece this morning, I reflected: Ron Paul supporters came to Occupy Wall Street. They wanted a part of that radical movement. Is there nothing the left can learn from them? Stoller has jumped to that challenge. Sizeable excerpt. There is more theorizing about libertarianism’s history in the full piece.

as I’ve drilled into Paul’s ideas, his ideas forced me to acknowledge some deep contradictions in American liberalism (pointed out years ago by Christopher Lasch) and what is a long-standing, disturbing, and unacknowledged affinity liberals have with centralized war financing. So while I have my views of Ron Paul, I believe that the anger he inspires comes not from his positions, but from the tensions that modern American liberals bear within their own worldview.

My perspective of Paul comes from working with his staff in 2009-2010 on issues of war and the Federal Reserve. Paul was one of my then-boss Alan Grayson’s key allies in Congress on these issues, though on most issues of course he and Paul were diametrically opposed. How Paul operated his office was different than most Republicans, and Democrats. An old Congressional hand once told me, and then drilled into my head, that every Congressional office is motivated by three overlapping forces – policy, politics, and procedure. And this is true as far as it goes….

Paul’s office was dedicated, first and foremost, to his political principles, and his work with his grassroots base reflects that. Politics and procedure simply didn’t matter to him. My main contact in Paul’s office even had his voicemail set up with special instructions for those calling about HR 1207, which was the number of the House bill to audit the Federal Reserve. But it wasn’t just the Fed audit – any competent liberal Democratic staffer in Congress can tell you that Paul will work with anyone who seeks his ends of rolling back American Empire and its reach into foreign countries, auditing the Federal Reserve, and stopping the drug war.

Paul is deeply conservative, of course, and there are reasons he believes in those end goals that have nothing to do with creating a more socially just and equitable society. But then, when considering questions about Ron Paul, you have to ask yourself whether you prefer a libertarian who will tell you upfront about his opposition to civil rights statutes, or authoritarian Democratic leaders who will expand healthcare to children and then aggressively enforce a racist war on drugs and shield multi-trillion dollar transactions from public scrutiny. I can see merits in both approaches, and of course, neither is ideal. Perhaps it’s worthy to argue that lives saved by presumed expanded health care coverage in 2013 are worth the lives lost in the drug war. It is potentially a tough calculation (depending on whether you think coverage will in fact expand in 2013). When I worked with Paul’s staff, they pursued our joint end goals with vigor and principle, and because of their work, we got to force central banking practices into a more public and democratic light.

But this obscures the real question, of why Paul disdains the Fed (and implicitly, why liberals do not), and the relationship between the Federal Reserve and American empire.  If you go back and look at some of libertarian allies, like Fox News’s Judge Napolitano, they will answer that question for you. Napolitano hates, absolutely hates, Abraham Lincoln. He sometimes slyly refers to Lincoln as America’s first dictator. Libertarians also detest Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

What connects all three of these Presidents is one thing – big ass wars, and specifically, war financing. If you think today’s deficits are bad, well, Abraham Lincoln financed the Civil War pretty much entirely by money printing and debt creation, taking America off the gold standard….

Modern liberalism is a mixture of two elements. One is a support of Federal power – what came out of the late 1930s, World War II, and the civil rights era where a social safety net and warfare were financed by Wall Street, the Federal Reserve and the RFC, and human rights were enforced by a Federal government, unions, and a cadre of corporate, journalistic and technocratic experts (and cheap oil made the whole system run.) America mobilized militarily for national priorities, be they war-like or social in nature. And two, it originates from the anti-war sentiment of the Vietnam era, with its distrust of centralized authority mobilizing national resources for what were perceived to be immoral priorities. When you throw in the recent financial crisis, the corruption of big finance, the increasing militarization of society, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the collapse of the moral authority of the technocrats, you have a big problem. Liberalism doesn’t really exist much within the Democratic Party so much anymore, but it also has a profound challenge insofar as the rudiments of liberalism going back to the 1930s don’t work.

This is why Ron Paul can critique the Federal Reserve and American empire, and why liberals have essentially no answer to his ideas, arguing instead over Paul having character defects. Ron Paul’s stance should be seen as a challenge to better create a coherent structural critique of the American political order. It’s quite obvious that there isn’t one coming from the left, otherwise the figure challenging the war on drugs and American empire wouldn’t be in the Republican primary as the libertarian candidate. To get there, liberals must grapple with big finance and war, two topics that are difficult to handle in any but a glib manner that separates us from our actual traditional and problematic affinity for both. War financing has a specific tradition in American culture, but there is no guarantee war financing must continue the way it has. And there’s no reason to assume that centralized power will act in a more just manner these days, that we will see continuity with the historical experience of the New Deal and Civil Rights Era. The liberal alliance with the mechanics of mass mobilizing warfare, which should be pretty obvious when seen in this light, is deep-rooted.

What we’re seeing on the left is this conflict played out, whether it is big slow centralized unions supporting problematic policies, protest movements that cannot be institutionalized in any useful structure, or a completely hollow liberal intellectual apparatus arguing for increasing the power of corporations through the Federal government to enact their agenda. Now of course, Ron Paul pandered to racists, and there is no doubt that this is a legitimate political issue in the Presidential race. But the intellectual challenge that Ron Paul presents ultimately has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with contradictions within modern liberalism.

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36 Responses

  1. tombishop
    December 31, 2011, 4:18 pm

    Glenn Greenwald has posted a powerful, no holds barred column today which directly addresses the hypocrisy of progressives who, while ready point out the reactionary defects of Ron Paul, are willing to overlook the Obama’s gutting of the Constitution, promotion of endless war, and carte blanche support of Israel. “Progressives and the Ron Paul Fallacies” is at:

    • ToivoS
      December 31, 2011, 9:04 pm

      tom thanks for the link. That was great. RP is definitely bringing his antiwar- antioccupation message into the national discourse in a big way. His support for the Bill of Rights, opposition to indefinite detention (just signed into law by Obama) and opposition to the racist anti drug laws are not minor issues either. Ron Paul is taking all of these issues to the national stage.

      And again thanks to Phil Weiss who obvious sees the importance of putting these issues before the American people even if the messenger comes from the traditional right in this country.

  2. Dan Crowther
    December 31, 2011, 4:38 pm

    “Ron Paul’s stance should be seen as a challenge to better create a coherent structural critique of the American political order. ”

    Where are my royalties, Stoller? :)

    Paul invalidates the liberal class. With him, the fight is between labor and capital. The bourgeois don’t factor in.

    • W.Jones
      December 31, 2011, 5:11 pm

      This is an exagerration. But continue, please. :)

      • Dan Crowther
        December 31, 2011, 8:31 pm

        It is? The “safety net” was designed to mask the inequities of “the market” – you get rid of the safety net, or don’t fund it – what are you left with? Labor and Capital.

      • G. Seauton
        January 1, 2012, 4:17 am

        Absolutely right.

      • W.Jones
        January 2, 2012, 2:14 pm

        I don’t understand you. In the economic context of labor and capital, there is no liberal or conservative “class”, because classes refer to economic classifications, such as the bourgeoise “class” and the working “class”.

        So long as “With him, the fight is between labor and capital’, it seems that the classes associated them (the laboring class, and the capitalists) would also factor in.

        Now I could try to agree with you two ways:

        R.P. or at least many supportes do complain, I think about the big banking sector. But this is only one sector of the corporate system and besides, although the “FED”, the federal banking authority is controlled by big banks, getting rid of the Fed and deregulating seems to allow for even more power by the banks, as they can still make “agreements” on how to control the economy, but without public accounting of the banks’ regulation of the economy.

        Deregulating the capitalist sectors, such as the banks, as libertarianism proposes, would eventually and consequently make things even more monopolistic and concentrated.

        Second, you can say that the “bourgeois class” doesn’t factor into R.P.’s analysis of society. You can make an argument that this is inherent in the founding of our country, when for example slavery existed, but the Founders didn’t consider it in the most basic analysis of people’s political rights at the time, making blanket statements about everyone being created equal. Likewise, with R.P. or libertarianism, there seems to be an underlying premise that everyone’s economic situation is equal and fair.

        And this seems to be what you are saying: “You get rid of the safety net” and the battle between labor and capital becomes even more clear.

        So maybe I misunderstood you- you don’t mean that R.P. is fighting for laboring people, but rather the fight regarding his ideology is one between “labor and capital.”

        But still, even that struggle is not so pure and clear. R.P. opposes the imperial wars and destruction of domestic Freedom that serve the corporate system to gain more wealth at the expense of working people (such as third world people) and their rights.

        So R.P. isn’t quite a “big capitalist” either. So I support his foreign policy, his anti-establishment position, his populism, and especially real belief in democracy as the most important. But I disagree with failing to factor in, as you say, the bourgeois class and the nature of big private monopolism.

      • Dan Crowther
        January 2, 2012, 6:23 pm

        WJones says:

        In the economic context of labor and capital, there is no liberal or conservative “class”, because classes refer to economic classifications, such as the bourgeoise “class” and the working “class”.
        You are under the assumption that the “liberal class” speaks for Labor – it doesnt. The liberal class defends capital – and it is a class, or part of a class to be sure. You can call the liberal class one half of the “petty bourgeois” if you would like – professors, small business owners ( depending on market), doctors, lawyers etc. – groups who consider themselves “liberal” but are most interested in the “system working” which means, for them, reform of capital.
        Now, where I say, “the bourgeois don’t factor in” – I mean, the (bourgeois) liberal class advocates of capital will lose even more of their credibility with Labor, which is already happening, even without a Paul administration. Yes, Big Int’l Union Heads are part of the Liberal Class.

        No, I do not mean to say that RP is for “laboring people” – in the sense that he is FOR Labor, but I do see how he could be good for labor – sort of like Barack Obama was good for pro-democracy movements in the Middle East: By making it clear to everyone that they were on their own.

      • Dan Crowther
        January 2, 2012, 10:37 pm

        I do think that there is a economic component to “liberal class” – the liberal class are the folks who -even if they are wage earners- are well off to the point of having their interests lie in defending power. I guess I define the liberal class as the part of the left that is there for reasons other than economic necessity

  3. W.Jones
    December 31, 2011, 5:02 pm

    Good point Tom.

    Many left wing people in america are soft on Obama because he belongs to a minority that has been discriminated against in America, he appeared less bureacuratic and more progressive than Clinton, he is a democratic who used antiwar language etc.

    With Ron Paul on the other hand, left wing people probably feel mixed like his program. But the democratic party machinery will for obvious reasons avoid promoting him, and he will not be a cause celebre for strong left wingers, even if they like him, because of his negative parts that are opposite their main points.

    • ToivoS
      December 31, 2011, 9:59 pm

      Jones please do not refer to the uncritical Obama supporters as left wing people. As an active member of the Democratic Party I consider myself part of its left wing. What you are referring to is the center, traditional liberal, faction. They, as a group have strong civil rights credentials, good environmental instincts (without acknowledging that the most progressive “green” laws were enacted during and supported by the Nixon administration — EPA, Clean Air and Water Acts the being most significant), support for reproductive rights and intelligent concern over global warming. At the same time this faction of Dems supported the military-industrial complex. They gave us the Vietnam War, backed the war against Serbia and for the most part voted to support Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      There is a little history here that most people who consider themselves liberal Democrats probably do not know. In 1972 we worked to get McGovern nominated as our candidate for president. What is not really acknowledged is that once McGovern was nominated, the traditional Democratic Party power centers abandoned his campaign. This included those groups around traditional labor (AFL-CIO), party machines in Chicago, NY and California and, of course, some of the big donors that supported campaigns in the past. The lesson to the left is do not defy our power for we can crush you. Clinton learned the lesson and cut the hundreds of deals to bring back these forces. He was good at it. But he ended up pissing off a significant faction of the left inside the party. Gore paid the price when large numbers of people who would normally vote for the Democrat went to Nader.

      Obama’s 2008 campaign was brilliant in one respect. He convinced these wayward, normally left of center Democratic voters, that he was the one. We supported him with enthusiasm and he won in an electoral landslide. Unfortunately for us he turned out to be just another prowar, prowallstreet, opponent of personal liberty, type democrat that we have for so long been working against.

      Now the fickle finger of fate — who should come along is this country doctor, Ron Paul long considered an irrelevant crank, promoting right wing libertarian principles, but espouses a platform that includes:

      .. nonintervention in the affairs of other nations
      ..bring our troops home, we do not need 600 military bases in other peoples countries.
      ..end the war on drugs. It discriminates against minority communities turning large numbers of their young males into felons.
      ..opposed and continues to oppose the patriot act undermines our Bill of Rights.
      ..opposes the indefinite detention act that applies to US citizens and basically abolishes habious corpus and trial by jury (this law was just signed by Obama)
      ..end support for Israel
      ..and most importantly opposed to war against Iran.

      As Glen Greenwald points out — putting these questions before the American people should certainly have higher priority than discussing some of RP’s more irritating points.

      • W.Jones
        December 31, 2011, 11:34 pm


        I liked your response and agree with it, except for what could be misunderstanding here:

        I wrote: “Many left wing people in america [and this may include myself] are soft on Obama because he belongs to a minority that has been discriminated against in America, he appeared less bureacuratic and more progressive than Clinton, he is a democratic who used antiwar language etc.”

        I myself am not sure how much Obama is acting because he is scared of the more powerful political forces than him, vs. he is a cryptic neocon despite his sometimes antiwar rhetoric that inspired us, vs. he doesn’t really care about progressive issues although he actually is himself progressive. So this is an obstacle to me making a really strong criticism of him.

        Another exception is that I wasn’t really fooled by Obama, I expected him to be somewhat militaristic because of his militaristic votes in the senate. He wasn’t a “Kucinich” when he was in the Senate, “Why should he change when he has even more power?”, I would ask. So I voted for Nader, despite the claim that the two establishment candidates were so strong we had to pick one.

        You responded: “Jones please do not refer to the uncritical Obama supporters as left wing people.” You then distinguished between uncritical Obama supporters who you considered the party / liberal-corporate establishment vs. the rest of the left who you described as having a strong antiwar and strong social program.

        But instead, when I talk about people who are “soft” on Obama, I am including people who are not 100% “uncritical.” I am including many people who have strong antiwar positions, but do not take on Obama and the administration for the underlying reasons I mentioned above. We had big antiwar protests before Obama. Where are they now? Of course there are still big protests sometimes, especially when we look at the Occupy Wallstreet protests. But it still seems to me that the antiwar movement decreased somewhat when Obama won, and there is not as strong rhetoric even from sincere strong leftist positions against Obama. I heard one Russian poster (elsewhere) refer to Obama as “Uncle Tom Sam”.

        Look, Obama has given huge bailouts to the banks, but strong leftist people do not discuss how bad Obama and the administration is, even when they complain about the bailouts. If it was a Republican president, they may be complaining stronger about the administration. The reason, as I said, is because I think partly many strong leftists see him as a minority, think that he would do things better if he was politically stronger, but see him as too weak even if he is good.

        A case in point is the I/P conflict. His speech at the UN practically bowed to Net. Abbas of course strongly disagreed with Obama’s positions in the speech. But Abbas also said that he hopes Obama is elected. (Yes, the Palestinian negotiators told Livni practically the same thing.) But anyway, I can see a common thread running through this, about people with a strong leftist position themselves avoiding denouncing Obama’s administration for similar reasons, eg. that he is personally good, he is doing the best he can with his weak position, etc.

      • ToivoS
        January 1, 2012, 5:05 am

        Thankyou Jones. I think we are pretty much in agreement on the major issues. I agree that the left opposition has been preempted by Obama and I suspect he was chosen to run for his ability to do so. But that does not mean he has gained our support.

      • Charon
        January 1, 2012, 4:09 pm

        “As Glen Greenwald points out — putting these questions before the American people should certainly have higher priority than discussing some of RP’s more irritating points”

        These questions should most certainly have priority. Since many Americans have already been conditioned to oppose ending the war on drugs, opposed to ending support for Israel, opposed to nonintervention, etc. why aren’t (most) of Paul’s critics discussing and spinning each of these particular items? Certainly you can spin ‘end the war on drugs’ in a way that slams the guy. IMO, they just don’t want people asking these questions because they will start to think about them critically.

        I’m personally not a fan of labels. Right/Left/Center/Left-of-Center/Republican/Democrat/Liberal/Progressive, etc. I personally don’t identify with anything unless it sounds right to me (although I acknowledge their existence, what they mean, and the people who like to be labeled as such). Even if my view and opinion aligns mostly under one of these, I refuse to be labeled. I’m an individual, I’d like to believe I have free will. There might be a certain group I find to be comfortable with, having others share the same views as my own. IMO it could be a trap. You fall under the will of the party banner. What you think is of your own will might just be an unconscious group-think opinion that you may not have agreed with at an individual level.

        In my experience, most people look at Ron Paul’s party – Republican – and stop right there. My cousin told me “I can’t vote for a Republican, I almost always vote Democratically.” That’s a mistake because obviously his policy is not in the mainstream as far as the GOP is concerned and also because he is Libertarian. Perceptions must be stored in the same part of the brain as religious beliefs. They’re next to impossible to change.

  4. W.Jones
    December 31, 2011, 5:19 pm

    Regardng liberal wars, I don’t think the writer has done a good enough job explaining this. I think this is partly true, with Human Rights being used to justify very deadly invasions of Serbia and Libya by many liberals in the US.

    It’s true that Serbia had ethnic massacres, but so did the Bosnian/Kosovo side. And Gaddafi was a dictator, but the other side in the civil war killed tons of Gaddafi’s side too. The constant in both wars was the expansion of NATO’s power. With Serbia, the EU expanded, and with Libya, corporations will profit, presumably.

    This is very similar actually to the war on Iraq- Sadaam was a bad guy, so when WMDs were ruled out as a justification, the claim became democracy.

    The real drive in my mind was profit and conquest, but many “moderate” liberals were persuaded based on Human Rights concerns.

    • irena
      December 31, 2011, 10:51 pm

      Good analysis Tom although as far as I remember, were Bosnians involved in ethnic cleansing? I thought that was only a case in Kosovo War where Clinton just decided to pick a side on ethnic cleansing especially since Serbia was aligned with Russia.

      • W.Jones
        January 2, 2012, 11:35 pm


        I remember reading Newsweek when the Bosnian-Serbian War was going on when I was a teenager in the mid 1990’s. The Newsweek article had a map of alleged massacre sites and/or “camps” that were portrayed as mistreating POWs. It had one color for the ones run by Bosnian Muslims and another color for the ones run by the Serbian Bosnians. I remember it impressed me because the articles at that time were portraying the Serbians as _the_ bad guys, but here was a map of Bosnia (and maybe other places) showing a comparable number of camps run by both sides.

        I assume you can find more on this on the internet, and encourage you to do so if you are interested, but it makes sense since both sides were running paramilitary groups, etc.

        As the casualty rate in the IP conflict shows, sometimes things are different than the common impressions supported or made by the corp. media… Admittedly I am relying on a counter-active data piece from the corp. media (Newsweek).

  5. Glenn Condell
    December 31, 2011, 7:49 pm

    ‘Ron Paul supporters came to Occupy Wall Street. They wanted a part of that radical movement. Is there nothing the left can learn from them?’
    Phil, I feel this is legacy thinking, framing thru political boxes. Using those boxes for a moment in order to explain, the ‘left’ could learn to forget about being ‘left’. The Paulites don’t want ‘a part’ of that movement, they recognise themselves as belonging to it. They don’t see themselves as ‘right’ – certainly not the more recent converts. The whole thrust of OWS is non-partisan, because those that get it understand that there is no hope in the US any more of actual political representation for either of the old school poles, or for the great centre either for that matter. They know the Democrats are at least as likely to send them into an impoverished, police state 1984-style future as the GOP, perhaps more so, now that money corruption has turned them into simply the other wing of the ruling elites’ political duopoly. Both OWS and the Paul resurgence are evidence that citizenry of the US, facing tsunamis of depression and war enabled by elite capture of government and media, is finally waking up and clearing their collective throat. It is not a left or a right thing any more.
    They will return of course, and an increasingly desperate elite will, through the media and political machiney they have a lock on, try to make sure the great centre cannot hold (or even form) – this is nakedly obvious in the treatment meted out to both Paul and OWS. But for now a truce on all the relatively minor issues that divide them should be called so that this existential battle, the incipient loss of freedom (let alone prosperity) for the great majority can be fought, and won.
    The siamese-twin headed US political system looks more an more like Robert Mugabe, once effective and even respected but now sclerotic, self-dealing, self-absorbed and self-destructive – heading for the dustbin and the opprobrium of history. To continue in the left/right, Dem/GOP paradigm is to provide support, however unwitting, to this claque which is both unwiling and unable to effect any change worth pursuing. Only a new Centre can manage this, and if Ron Paul and his followers can share the open mic, there is at least hope, if not expectation.

    • ToivoS
      December 31, 2011, 10:05 pm

      More power to you condell. What you say makes me feel hopeful but there is a left-right divide that represents, what appear to me, as irreconcilable differences. If you have a solution, you are going to have to come up more than this muddled compilation of slogans.

      • Glenn Condell
        January 1, 2012, 1:37 am

        Those differences loom large in good times but matter less and less the deeper we descend into hell. At a certain point – let’s say when it becomes clear that you won’t be able to feed your family next week, or when your house is foreclosed upon by a bank that has forged documents in order to do so, or maybe it’s when ‘the law’ fails to provide redress for this and in fact permits your arrest on the basis of your dangerous dissenting remarks on the net, or perhaps it’s when you are tasered by a robocop along with your children or your parents while marching in the town square about these outrages – at some stage surely you will not only feel such differences reconcilable, but rather beside the point. Food and security trump ideas and preferences, and the right wing bigot next to you who loves NASCAR will eventually feel the same way. You have more in common with him than the people who run the Democratic party.

        Those differences (abortion, gun ownership, gay marriage, tax rates, church/state separation and the rest) are largely a mirage anyway – cui bono from half the people hating the other half ? How real are the divisions? They are the circuses and my view is that when there is no bread they will not be enough on their own to maintain the corrupt status quo. Of course what comes next may be even worse, but something will come next.

        In your previous comment you say: ‘They (centrist Dems), as a group have strong civil rights credentials, good environmental instincts ‘ but what does civil rights really mean for people who consented to more than a million deaths by our hand plus four milion refugees in Iraq, not to mention wiretapping all of us, permitting our wealth to be stolen by the banks and not enforcing the rule of law for the insiders who did it, while zealously prosecuting everyone else for mere bagatelles? Yeah, they worked for coloured rights 40 years ago, that’s great, but precisely how much resonance does that have for what we face today? As for the environment, just look at it, and not just in Iraq but on our own doorstep. Fine words, no results. That might disappoint or even upset you and I, but if you think the Democrat power elite shed tears at their ‘failure’ I have some land in the Mohave I’d like to sell you.

        ‘What is not really acknowledged is that once McGovern was nominated, the traditional Democratic Party power centers abandoned his campaign.’

        It sounds like you are shocked by this. Well I’m shocked too, but not surprised.

        ‘This included those groups around traditional labor (AFL-CIO), party machines in Chicago, NY and California and, of course, some of the big donors that supported campaigns in the past.’

        Right cast, wrong order. The power of the latter is responsible for the treasons of the former. And Bill Clinton and his Rubinites must shoulder much of the blame for that.

        I have a few ideas for solutions – involving compulsory paper trail publicly funded elections and abolition of the Electoral College; ending wars, closing bases, apologising to victims of our imperialism and bringing troops back home to be retrained by the Army Corps of Engineers to refit American infrastructure; cutting ties with Israel altogether absent a return to 67 borders or one state; making credit creation a public rather than private function, with the Fed run along Bank of North Dakota lines, allowing TBTF banks to fail, reinstalling Glass Steagall, imposing a Tobin tax, banning high frequency trading, forcing all derivatives on to a transparent clearing desk, laying charges against the thousands of FIRE sector miscreants who have defrauded their countrymen and women, bailing out out the debtors rather than the creditors to the tune of trillions and guaranteeing a job for all so that aggregate demand recovers in the wake of higher employment, leading to higher tax receipts and therefore better schools and roads and hospitals (with so much debt overhang this move would not be inflationary), and then sending the armed forces and the intelligence services into the offshore tax havens to audit and then close them. The cancer of Mexico’s drug cartels could be addressed in this way too but far easier just to make drugs a medical rather than a legal issue.

        Aim at equality for a change and leave liberty to bring up the rear so that the horse is finally before the cart, and make a commitment to transparency instead of the secrecy that has corrupted and disfigured the last decade and more. I’d also like to see an electorate based, government backed Google rank style software developed to allow each citizen to raise issues or more likely indicate their preferences so that the mood and opinions of the nation can be mapped and presented publicly in something like real time. This would have no legislative power but woe betide the pol who ignored his constituency. Would Iraq have been invaded had such a thing existed in 2003?

        Oh and allow the Dems and GOP to die off, with individuals elected on platforms their voters approve, entering Congress to form coalitions for action on each issue according to the imperatives they and their constituency share. It would be messy to begin with, but it is hard to imagine it being worse than what we have.

        All that would do for starters, but if you want a more comprehensive attempt to limn a way out I heartily recommend a series of 6 posts by Dan Kervick at Naked Capitalism (a blog which ought to be required reading for all sentient beings in these times) – this is the last:

      • ToivoS
        January 1, 2012, 5:10 am

        I have been reading Naked Capitalism for some time. I am critical but I think we are pretty much in agreement. I still hope for a way to politically express my opposition to militaristic expressions of US foreign policy which the current democratic administration represents.

      • CloakAndDagger
        January 1, 2012, 10:36 am

        @ Glenn

        Very well written presentation of your views, and I agree wholeheartedly!

      • yourstruly
        January 1, 2012, 10:52 pm

        sounds just about right.

  6. Daniel Rich
    December 31, 2011, 9:13 pm

    Obambi just signed a ‘bad-ass’ defense bill

    662 billion good reasons not to vote for him again.

    • Charon
      January 1, 2012, 4:24 pm

      Political blogs are already trying to spin this in a positive way. I read one this morning saying Obama ‘debunked’ claims that it applies to US citizens. Either the author of this piece was a (useful) idiot, a shill, or a sucker, I dunno.

      My administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens,” Obama said in the signing statement. “Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation.”

      Obama’s administration ends in one year. He can’t speak for the next administration if he doesn’t get re-elected. They might just interpret it the way many of us fear, the way it was written to be interpreted as. Obama has ‘reservations’ but still signs it. And the political ‘experts’ (aka, arrogant/ignorant suckers) say things like ‘he had to sign it, otherwise there would be no military funding… a veto wouldn’t matter, Congress would just override it and it would damage Obama’s election.’ That last part is probably true, but still speculation. Obama threatened to veto. A threat to veto is not a veto. What’s the point of a President? Congress is the one with ultimate veto power.

      This is what it has come to. The US can verbally condemn Israel all they want and not rule out vetoing a UN SC resolution in favor of condemnation. When it comes down to it, they veto anyways and say “this doesn’t mean we approve.” Well then why did you veto? Obama threatens to veto this bill and then signs it with reluctance. Weak! Totally weak! Powerless, he has no power. The POTUS is a cowardly puppet. All talk never backed up by actions. Even if he means well, his actions don’t do anything to back it up. People need to stop defending the guy. “He’s shackled.. he would do it if he could” is not only more speculation, it’s a reason not to trust him since he won’t ever be able to do anything.

  7. Kathleen
    December 31, 2011, 10:03 pm

    Former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden unit Micheal Scheuer has a good one up at his website “Non Intervention” about Ron Paul and foreign policy

  8. Pixel
    December 31, 2011, 11:48 pm

    While a truly fascinating intellectual discussion, there’s a much bigger picture, here. The fact that we’ve finally been able to begin seeing it is what’s critical.

    From the the full article’s Comments section, one commenter to another: “you fail to see that you are having your world pulled from right under your feet. It is your ignorance to the real issues that take you down when the United States declares bankruptcy and the banksters announce (yes announce) our new president.”

    However simply written, I’m afraid the writer is correct in his/her essential point. Even without sophisticated analyses, untold numbers of people see that Ron Paul’s “message” is drilling to the heart of the illusion.

    • Pixel
      January 1, 2012, 1:40 am
      • Jeffrey Blankfort
        January 2, 2012, 2:33 am

        Thanks, Pixel, for the link to that great column by Fisk, one of the most remarkable observers of our time (with a Ph.D, as well, that he rarely mentions) and this a terrific thread with some of the most lucid comments on the current situation minus, thus far, the idiots who prefer we chew on old bones.

        Is it not curious, as several people have pointed out, that those who fulminate most against Paul are ready to forgive, and if not forgive, excuse, and if not excuse, rationalize far worse actions that have been committed by President Obama?

        It should have been clear when he popped up to speak at the Democratic Convention in 2004, that there were powerful forces at play behind him with Wall Street addresses who knew that Obama was just the candidate to bail out them and the banks when it came time to do so and to put a human face, albeit temporarily, on unchecked US imperialism while protecting its Israeli partner while snuffing out Democratic, big and small “d” opposition to both.

        One can imagine the problems a McCain administration would have had if he had attempted to do the same thing. Not only would the Democratic base have been aroused and in the streets but a large segment of the Republican base that hates Wall Street would have been there, as well. One might speculate that Palin was added to the ticket to insure an Obama victory whereas a McCain-Romney ticket would quite likely have won.

        It would have been the same thing with regards to Iraq and Afghanistan and Obama’s expansion, as promised, of the war in Pakistan, a country that has largely been further destabilized, thanks to his aggressive policies in that country which has seen him expand Bush drone program by 10 times, and just lately, by his refusal to apologize for the murder by US forces of 24 Pakistani soldiers.

        Would what there is of the Left, inside or outside of the Democratic Party have stood still for the further erosion of our civil liberties and respect for international law under Obama? Certainly those who consider Paul almost the devil himself on this list and elsewhere have been extremely quite on those issues. The labor unions, for decades, have been nothing more than an auxiliary for the Democrats, pumping more millions of dollars into supporting candidates that consistently betray America’s workers than spending the time and money and defending workers who are under constant attack. That the unions, which, unknown to their members, have purchased billions of dollars of Israel bonds with their members’ pension funds, and provide the same protective services for Israel in international labor fora as Washington does for Tel Aviv at the Security Council is not an accident.

        What people who should have known better seemed to have forgotten is how the system works and that no man or woman, regardless of their party, will be allowed to gain the White House without acknowledging and genuflecting to who got them there, and who got them there will be the wealthiest, most powerful people in the country and the corporations they control. Which is why the Paul candidacy is so important. He is the first candidate from either party to openly challenge the powers that be who, thus far, they have been unable to marginalize.

        There is no chance that he will get the nomination. If the party has to change the rules and hold a brokered convention it will as the Democrats did in 1952 when they stopped the popular, crusading Sen. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee who was on his way to gain the party’s nomination and replaced him with liberal “egghead” Adlai Stevenson. It was the first televised party convention and the cameras showed the whole thing.

        Ideally, they will pay a price as the Democrats didn’t because people need not to rely these days on the MSM. Supporters of Paul will be rightly furious. The question is, what is the Left, or what there is of it, going to do when that happens? Breathe a sigh of relief and cast their ballots for Obama or break out of the mold which has led it to become a largely irrelevant actor on the US political scene?

        As for expecting anything constructive from liberals, one needs first to define the term. I did long ago. A liberal, for me, is someone who says and is ready to do the “right thing” and indeed boasts of it…. as long as there is no financial or physical risk involved, and the threshold for each is very, very low. Back in the 60s, one of the favorite songs of the late, great Phil Ochs, was “Love me, I’m a liberal.” With a few substitutions, it applies today:

      • kma
        January 2, 2012, 10:39 pm

        no one I know gives a crap what “left” means, and “liberal” sounds more like “neo-liberal” which is the same as “neo-cons”.
        we’re grown up now, and actually know who Gary Johnson is. Ron Paul is not new. we debated Kucinich while he was anti-choice, and voted for an African American female in 2008. we do not love Obama. he represents our parents.

        I played Phil Ochs “love me I’m a liberal” for all my christmas guests this season. that’s what we think when you guys say “left”. I have better friends in the tea party! (they like that song, too.) they are coming around, though, on war and incarceration. everything you are saying is music to our ears. the liberal label is just another divisive tactic. the real point is that young people know that dems and repubs are the same and they know very well what you are saying about power. I even know what Obama’s buddies say about him from high school. everyone knows.

        it would be more interesting to see what the so-called “left” does when Ron Paul legislates against the people, as Obama does with impunity. let the labor unions rise up! they need to. we all do.

  9. Taxi
    January 1, 2012, 2:20 am

    Ear to the wild grass: there is certainly more debate over War and Peace going on under Obama than there ever was under L’il Bush.

    Much more civilian ANGER at the status quo is also apparent today: check the American Occupy movement amongst other indicators. (Hey ever wandered how Bush and Cheney woulda dealt with the Occupy movement?)

    Note also that under mini Bush, the bankers and their neocon cousins in the Military Industrial Complex were untouchable: off the radar and unmentionable. Now even drunken vagrants will vomit and cuss and spit out bank CEO names in filthy alleyways.

    No I ain’t a fan of Obama or any politician, in principle – cuz they’ve all shown themselves to be the enemy of the people in word and also in deed (check warmongers and who benefits from war). Well I don’t know ’bout you mondofolks, but I’ve yet to learn of a politician who isn’t pathologically craven – in varying degrees of course, but craven nevertheless. Point is, seems that the palpable civilian “anger” I referred to earlier is an indicator that more and more Americans are now despairing and feel NO CONFIDENCE in not just our treasonous politicians, but also in our Frankensteinized political system. They fully know that no current politician will change the status quo. And why won’t these darn lawyer-politicians do the right thing? Well the system itself, through decades of corruption, is now so full of holes and political polyfiller that it has even made it political suicide for insiders to tamper with the current corrupt equation. Everyone inside the system is beholden to the monster-system’s dagger-stare and fiery exhalations. This tragedy is recognized by the politically disillusioned realist.

    Our country is at it’s lowest point since the industrial age of the last century – so much political corruption has gone on that the very system of governance is looking like a snap-able chewed-up old pencil. For decades all politicized corporations, plus the msm, plus unfathomable levels of greed for power and money in our ruling class, have led this country to the brink of collapse (capitalism in epileptic peak?). It’s clear to the realist that no politician can save the ‘people” – the government is a deadbeat parent. So what can the abandoned ‘people’ do now that political reality has punched them in the face? Voice their ideas, unite their ideas, act on their ideas – in the hope that a brave ‘leader’, not a politician, will step up, be birthed from this increasing collective chaos. A leader who will perhaps first and foremost, replace the propaganda of war and prosperity with the ‘philosophy’ of peace and prosperity.

    Yes dammit, we need a leader who can take the ‘philosophy’ of war and peace to every Mac, Gus and Joe in America’s heartland. They ain’t stupid, they’re just uninformed and cognitively under-stimulated. They would benefit wholly and even enjoy gaining a philosophical perspective. No dears I don’t think philosophy is the answer to our society’s ills, but it sure as hell is useful and missing! For Mac, Gus and Joe to philosophize over a six-pack is undeniably empowering and progressive. We need a leader who will tell them and us that we are ALL leaders of our personal destiny and therefore our nation. That our personal development is directly linked to the progress of our nation. That our mental bondage and lethargy is what is fundamentally weakening our nation first and foremost. That our mental freedom and independent spirit is the key to the survival and progress of our nation. That without our awareness and knowledge of facts and truths, our grandchildren will inherit nothing but strife, growing division, disillusionment and misery.

    We need a leader who will ironically ask the people NOT to trust him/her or their slogans – never to trust them as ‘leader’ but to fact-check the WHOLE picture and judge them by their actions and deeds accordingly.

    Yes we need a ‘leader’ – all people need a leader – but, we should not be seeking a leader. We should be seeking a personal higher understanding and a bigger appetite for truth and knowledge in 2012. This should be our mission for 2012: Make Yourself Bigger.

    Well how else are we gonna make the right choice in November 2012 in the voting booth?

    Vote with your conscience. Vote for peace and prosperity.

  10. homingpigeon
    January 1, 2012, 6:54 am

    Much of the discussion by my Habibi commentators above uses the words “right” and “left.” These terms, originally used to describe the seating arrangements which separated quarrelsome factions in one of the French Parliaments, are inadequate, indeed meaningless, for analyzing current events.

    In libertarian thinking the concern is whether a particular process empowers or dis-empowers the state. This is the dividing line. Hence one finds people as disparate as John Birchers on the one hand and Catholic Worker anarchists on the other under the libertarian umbrella.

    But the mainstream of the movement is made of up regular people who don’t approve of the violent imperial interventions abroad or the intrusive social fascist interventions at home.

  11. atime forpeace
    January 1, 2012, 5:44 pm

    dont u just love it when these scammers get outed.

    The crying, lying woman in the vicious Youtube attack video, Ron Paul Xmas gift makes Woman cry,
    where she deliberately misquotes from Paul’s book, Liberty Defined, has been identified:
    She is Emily K. Schrader from Palos Verdes, California.
    Her credentials:
    California State Chair at Students for Rick Perry
    Assistant Development Director at StandWithUs
    Chief of Staff at USC College Republicans
    Intern at U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher
    Deputy Los Angeles Regional Vice Chair at California College Republicans
    University of Southern California
    American University
    Emily Schrader’s Experience
    California State Chair
    Students for Rick Perry
    June 2011 – Present (6 months)

    Assistant Development Director
    Nonprofit; 51-200 employees; Nonprofit Organization Management industry
    January 2011 – Present (11 months) Greater Los Angeles Area
    Chief of Staff
    USC College Republicans
    2011 – 2011 (less than a year)
    U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher
    May 2011 – August 2011 (4 months)
    Deputy Los Angeles Regional Vice Chair
    California College Republicans
    Nonprofit; 11-50 employees; Political Organization industry
    2010 – 2011 (1 year)
    USC President
    Christians United For Israel
    Nonprofit; 51-200 employees; Public Relations and Communications industry
    2010 – 2011 (1 year)
    Communications Director
    Students For Carly, Carly Fiorina for U.S. Senate
    June 2010 – November 2010 (6 months)
    Los Angeles Regional Chair
    Students for Meg, Meg Whitman for Governor 2010
    Government Agency; 501-1000 employees; Political Organization industry
    May 2010 – November 2010 (7 months)
    Office of US Senator Wayne Allard
    June 2007 – August 2008 (1 year 3 months)

  12. john h
    January 1, 2012, 7:27 pm

    The wonders of voting in Iowa. Watch the video.

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