Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ron Paul: End Student Visas For Foreigners

According to this ad, Ron Paul would end birthright citizenship and stop granting visas to students from "terrorist nations." Justin Raimondo calls the ad "disgraceful" and "absolutely wrong."

I agree. But ending student visas to brown people those from terrorist nations (like Pakistan? India? Cuba? Iran?) is a message that should resonate with many Americans. It simultaneously pushes two buttons that are very hot right now: first, and most obviously, the terrorism button. Second, and more subtly, the "foreigners are invading America and stealing all the jobs" button.

Now, I know that those who come to the United States on student visas don't usually stay in the country. But do most Americans know that? Or do they instead suspect that the brown people foreigners coming to the U.S. to study are really planning on taking up permanent residence, yanking one more job away from the beleaguered American middle class?

I wonder. There's a case to be made that so-called "fast track" visa programs should be ended, or at least subject to more scrutiny. As I recall, some of the 9/11 hijackers got into the country through such programs. But halting visas to all students from any terrorist nation is extreme, and would not stop terrorists from striking U.S. interests.

It is, however, the kind of position that appeals to bigots and reactionaries. With the withdrawal of Tom Tancredo from the race, maybe Ron Paul was trying to pick up some of his now homeless supporters.

I'm not even going to go into how misguided the idea of ending birthright citizenship is; perhaps Ron Paul would like to repeal all of the 14th Amendment, instead of just the Equal Protection clause?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ron Paul and the White Nationalists: It Hits The Fan

Check out this link to a thread on one of the net's premier "white nationalist" message boards. Here is the original post, entitled "Ron Paul Lies About Lack Of Involvement With White Nationalists":


I have kept quiet about the Ron Paul campaign for a while, because I didn't see any need to say anything that would cause any trouble. However, reading the latest release from his campaign spokesman, I am compelled to tell the truth about Ron Paul's extensive involvement in white nationalism.

Both Congressman Paul and his aides regularly meet with members of the Stormfront set, American Renaissance, the Institute for Historic Review, and others at the Tara Thai restaurant in Arlington, Virginia, usually on Wednesdays. This is part of a dinner that was originally organized by Pat Buchanan, Sam Francis and Joe Sobran, and has since been mostly taken over by the Council of Conservative Citizens.

I have attended these dinners, seen Paul and his aides there, and been invited to his offices in Washington to discuss policy.

For his spokesman to call white racialism a "small ideology" and claim white activists are "wasting their money" trying to influence Paul is ridiculous. Paul is a white nationalist of the Stormfront type who has always kept his racial views and his views about world Judaism quiet because of his political position.

I don't know that it is necessarily good for Paul to "expose" this. However, he really is someone with extensive ties to white nationalism and for him to deny that in the belief he will be more respectable by denying it is outrageous -- and I hate seeing people in the press who denounce racialism merely because they think it is not fashionable.

Bill White, Commander
American National Socialist Workers Party

Now, only time will tell if there is any truth to this post. Bill White is the head of the American Nazi party, but maybe that makes him less rather than more credible. As for independent confirmation, Little Green Footballs reports that Ron Paul's campaign has spent money at the Tara Thai restaurant. Also, the Southern Poverty Law center reports that
The Robert A. Taft Club, a group headed by a man with a network of racist connections, has announced that a U.S. congressman, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), will address the group this Thursday at a restaurant in Arlington, Va.
Marcus Epstein, the head of the Robert A. Taft Club, really does have a lot of connections to racist organizations. Dr. Paul really shouldn't give this speech, especially after his recent refusal to return a campaign contribution from another so-called white nationalist. As the American Thinker suggests, if Bill White is lying about him, Ron Paul should sue, and agree to testify under oath.

Anyway, to me, it's the reaction of others on the neo-Nazi message board that's interesting. Here's part of the very first reply to Bill White's post:
if Ron Paul is on our side isn’t this thread harming him? There are a lot more anti-racists that would vote against him than racists that would vote for him. People that agree 100% with Ron Paul would vote against him if they thought he was a racist.
There are quite a few more posts along this line: "Hey, shut your face! Even if Ron Paul believes what we believe, we don't want other people to know that!" This confirms several things I've mentioned previously in my blog: rightly or wrongly, the American nazi crowd believes a Ron Paul presidency will be good for them. Here is another quotation:
While I find this information interesting and intriguing, I have to join the chorus here in asking how the fuck does this help Ron Paul or white nationalism?... Ron Paul is the only candidate that comes close to matching our views in the mainstream political debate...We have to be realistic when it comes to making big political changes. Ron Paul is our first step. Please don't ruin it!
However, one of the most interesting posts, one worthy of followup research, is this pithy affirmation of crypto-fascism:
Assuming this is true, why would you feel compelled to publicize it? Dr. Pierce spoke regularly about having key people at key places inside the gates, ready to flip the switch at the right moment. With this revelation, you might very well have wrecked what little chance Dr. Paul had.
Even the thread moderator chides the original poster only for his timing: "Timing as meant by when we decide to open our mouths. Your opening post is ill timed and because of that, it's hurtful on several different levels."

Here's another edifying quotation:
You want to play dress-up Nazi in your mom's basement or you want to see some actual results? Ron Paul doesn't have to be a WN or whatever. His policies are against the corrupted jews/traitors at the highest levels in government. You want the same go-nowhere, fantasy role-playing Nazi bullshit? Stick with Bill White and his teenage crew. You want results that might not be day of the rope, but something? Ron Paul it is.
I'm not sure, but I think "day of the rope" is part of the neo-Nazi fantasy in which hordes of white people round up hordes of black people and hang them, a sort of "final solution" via the eschatology of the Book of Revelation, if you like. So here's what he's saying: Ron Paul doesn't believe what we believe, but his policies will get us closer to the genocide we're always fantasizing about.

Which is exactly what I've been suggesting the neo-Nazis believe. From the start. And there may be some support for this belief, as my previous post contrasting James Madison with Ron Paul suggests.

There are some substantial pockets of these racist bastards in states as far removed as Michigan and Arkansas. Fortunately, two related forces stop them from exerting (much) influence in their home states. First, the federal Supreme Court. Second, the fact that said political body has stripped states of the authority they would require if the "day of the rope" has any chance of occuring.

Ron Paul wants to demolish both these forces. How can the Nazis not see this as enabling their dark vision?

The Nazi strategy requires secrecy, as they know better than anyone. Well, time to expose the plot.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Significance of "Blowback"

From Instapundit comes this piece by Lee Harris, entitled "Reflections on 'Blowback.'" As Harris points out, "blowback" used to refer to negative, unintended consequences following a covert intelligence operation. Now, as used by people like Ron Paul, it seems to refer to the negative, unintended consequences of any aspect of foreign policy.

The point of Harris's piece is simple and broadly correct: when it comes to foreign policy, doing nothing is basically the same as doing something. Suppose the United States decided to never intervene in the goings-on of the rest of the world ever again. As a result of this policy, other nations would probably intervene even more than they do now. For example, China might exert its influence to fill in the void the removal of American power would produce. This, too, could have severe negative consequences for the United States. As Harris argues:

If a policy of disarmament and appeasement turns out to increase the power and prestige of nations ruled by warmongers, this is every bit as much a case of blowback as the defeat that an aggressive nation unexpectedly brings on itself when it precipitately goes to war.
I find Harris's analysis of (one of) the libertarian position(s) spot on as well. In the sphere of domestic affairs, libertarians tend to think that things will handle themselves, and that attempts to interfere with the market will likely produce unintended negative consequences that far outweigh any positive benefits. They're probably right about this.

But the international sphere is unlike the domestic sphere in one crucial, all-important sense: in the domestic sphere, the national government has a monopoly on deciding who will be allowed to make policy within that territory. This will be true even in perfectly libertarian countries. China cannot make policy for the citizens of, say, Arkansas. But this is mainly because the U.S. federal government will stop China from doing so.

In other words, the federal government will stop China from imposing policy F on American citizens, even if (in a perfectly libertarian nation) the federal government itself would not have the power to establish policy F. Having the power to prevent a policy from being established is not necessarily identical with having the power to impose such a policy oneself.

The problem is, in the international sphere, there is no international government to prevent one nation from imposing policies on another. The closest thing the world has is the United States, and people like Ron Paul are all too eager to see that nation abandon its role. Maybe he's right. But abdicating the post of world police will not necessarily prevent blowback. It would simply empower other nations to impose their policies on the citizens of the world, just as other nations would impose their will on the citizens of Arkansas if the federal government withdrew its protection from that state. As Harris observes,
It is simply a myth to believe that only interventionism yields unintended consequence, since doing nothing at all may produce the same unexpected results. If American foreign policy had followed a course of strict non-interventionism, the world would certainly be different from what it is today; but there is no obvious reason to think that it would have been better.
This is another reason to think that a foreign policy of strict non-interventionism is morally dubious. If its moral justification revolves around the cost of blowback to American citizens and interests, then such justification basically places infinite weight on any possible cost (blowback) to Americans, and, consequently, zero weight on any certain cost (blowback) to anyone else in the world.

A moral justification that relies on giving infinite weight to the interests of one group, to the exclusion of all others, is hardly a moral justification at all. Even more so if the justification is invariant to the probabilities involved, so that any risk becomes too much risk. Such justification is not just amoral: it's also highly irrational.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Question

Is it libertarian to think that governments ought to be able to prohibit the private, consensual activities of persons in their jurisdictions?

The obvious answer is: no.


Is it libertarian to think that state governments ought to be able to prohibit the private, consensual activities of persons in their jurisdictions?

Why should the answer change if we're talking about the government of, say, Alabama?

It shouldn't. But Ron Paul's libertarian supporters seem to believe the answer does change if one is considering government at that level.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I hate agreeing with Chomsky

Check here for an interview circling the 'net with Noam Chomsky in which he discusses Ron Paul. The interview may not be authentic (I couldn't find an original link.) It sounds like Chomsky to me, though, so I'm going to assume it's genuine until someone proves otherwise.

Besides, it's more interesting to assume the words are Chomsky's, even if it disturbs me to find myself in some agreement with them.

First, I think Chomsky's wrong on the Constitution (he suggests the "individual" reading of the 2nd Amendment is a distortion, etc.) But I agree with him in at least two places.

Chomsky responds to Ron Paul's vehement support for property rights and contracts.

Suppose someone facing starvation accepts a contract with General Electric that requires him to work 12 hours a day locked into a factory with no health-safety regulations, no security, no benefits, etc. And the person accepts it because the alternative is that his children will starve. Fortunately, that form of savagery was overcome by democratic politics long ago.
You know what? Chomsky has a point here: the relationship between individual liberty and private property is strictly contingent. A regime where private property and contracts are always respected will not necessarily be freer (for individuals) than a regime where they are sometimes not respected so that other social goals can be achieved.

As a matter of fact, I think protection of private property has lots of good effects, most of which government could not duplicate even if civil servants were as virtuously motivated as some left wing people seem to think they are. But it is simply not necessarily true that "more private property = more freedom." Taking a few bucks from a billionaire to provide education for poor children enhances the autonomy of those children and limits the freedom of the billionaire only a little.

(Here, some may think I've moved into a utilitarianism of rights. Not so. Or, at least, not with respect to most rights. Property rights are not like most rights; "they can be infringed without being abridged.")

Chomsky also responds to Ron Paul's "non-interventionist" foreign policy.
He is proposing a form of ultranationalism, in which we are concerned solely with our preserving our own wealth and extraordinary advantages, getting out of the UN, rejecting any international prosecution of US criminals (for aggressive war, for example), etc. Apart from being next to meaningless, the idea is morally unacceptable, in my view.
I think I agree with Chomsky here, too. A principled policy of absolute non-interventionism is actually a morally dubious idea, as much as when it is applied to big groups of individuals (states) as it is to the individuals themselves. Consider the individualist version of a policy of non-intervention: I won't spend a jot of my money or my time to help you, no matter what happens to you. It's a complete denial of any idea of common moral community.

Libertarians I know tend to think that all our moral obligations to others are strictly reciprocal: I don't have to do anything for you unless I've made a promise, voluntarily accepted a benefit, etc. This is an impoverished -- and, I think, ultimately implausible -- view of what we owe to others.

What does all of the above mean for politics? I don't know that much about Chomsky's political views, but if he is like most on the left he probably hasn't acknowledged the limits public choice economics places on political policy. Thus, even if I think we do have some kind of ground-level obligation to help those in need, I tend to think that it would be a moral disaster for governments to try to enforce that obligation.

When governments involved, things tend to get screwed up in predictable ways. A government that took it on itself to try to enforce the kind of general obligation I have in mind would quickly wind up using its power for all kinds of immoral (or at least amoral) goals and policies.

Indeed: the more general our obligations to others are, the less involved government should be with forcing us to uphold those obligations. But this doesn't mean government should never do anything at all, especially when the government is not going to go away just because some of us want it to do so.

We should use the government, for whatever it is worth.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Pope Benedict XVI and Atheism

On Friday, the Pope released a 75 page encyclical, "an appeal to a pessimistic world to find strength in Christian hope." according to Reuters. The encyclical has perturbed some who see it as an attack on atheism. Those people are pretty much absolutely wrong.

The critical (and much criticized) passages start around section 42 of the Pope's missive. To quote:

The atheism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is—in its origins and aims—a type of moralism: a protest against the injustices of the world and of world history. A world marked by so much injustice, innocent suffering, and cynicism of power cannot be the work of a good God...It is for the sake of morality that this God has to be contested.
Pope Benedict goes on to say that, "A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope." This is because, "No one and nothing can answer for centuries of suffering."

How can an atheist really dispute what the Pope is saying here? They can't just by pointing out that religion, too, has produced lots of suffering. For look at Benedict's words: he refers to centuries of suffering -- suffering that goes beyond Nazis and Communists and all the other 20th century boogymen.

He must be including religious-inspired violence, the same violence that some atheists suggest is at least one reason to turn one's back on organized religion, not to mention deny the existence of God.

As Benedict also observes,
If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man's ethical formation, in man's inner growth, then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world...Science can contribute greatly to making the world and mankind more human. Yet it can also destroy mankind and the world unless it is steered by forces that lie outside it.
Can a philosophically-minded atheist really deny that science, in itself, cannot provide ethical guidance? Of course it can't: science deals with facts; ethics -- decision-making -- requires a consideration of value. Here the Pope is doing nothing more than affirming the is/ought distinction.

The question, then, is where do our "oughts" come from? Benedict is not claiming humans can't come up with ethical codes, and direct their behavior accordingly. He is claiming that human morality cannot make up for all the suffering humans have and will continue to cause. Those centuries of suffering are a weight hanging over all of us, not only a record of what we've done, but a dark prophecy of what we will do, as science increases our power.

He's certainly not claiming that all atheists are immoral or anything like that. But no human-created morality can ease the burden the past places on us (and here I am not suggesting -- nor is Benedict, I think -- that there is any other kind of morality except the human created.) Placed against that burden, no human-created morality can establish hope, because no matter how enlightened that morality is, our history shows that we will inevitably fail to live up to it.

For Benedict, this is why:
Man's great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God, God who has loved us and who continues to love us "to the end," until all "is accomplished"
I'm not sure about that part. And I'm not sure a reason for optimism is a good justification for believing in God. If the alternatives are hopelessness without God, on one hand, and hopefulness with God, on the other, we still don't have an argument for the existence of God. We still don't have any reason not to be an atheist.

But perhaps Benedict is only making the case that these really are our only alternatives. I can buy that. I don't really want to buy it, but I try not to let my wants dictate my beliefs.

[Update: Benedict's encyclical reminds me greatly of Walter Miller's book, A Canticle for Leibowitz, one of my favorite books. Indeed, I think Benedict and Miller are pretty much on the same page: Benedict's encyclical has the same theme as revealed in the cyclical nature of Miller's book.]

[Update 2: Check here for a typical reaction on an atheist forum. All of them seem to be reacting to a summary of the encylical rather than the text itself. I think I'll post more about this later.]

Monday, December 3, 2007

How Capitalism Dies

"The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them."
-- V.I. Lenin

Check here for an analysis of the federal government's plan to bail out greedy idiots good middle-class Americans who are losing their homes because they can no longer afford the payments on their adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs.)

There isn't much to say here. People took out loans on houses knowing the repayment rates could change. Every one of them probably could have bought a smaller house, on a fixed rate mortgage. Many of them lied about their incomes in order to get a higher level of financing. The economy slowed, and now they can no longer afford to make payments on their little castles.

And, of course, the government is going to bail them out. Paulson's plan will freeze the rates on ARMs (thereby shortchanging the investors who made the money available to be loaned in the first place.) It'll eat up taxes (yours and mine, fellow renter.) All to preserve the illusion of middle class virtue -- that it isn't their fault they can't afford to repay their loans, but the responsibility of the big bad banks. That it's your responsibility. Mine.

Lenin's dictum that capitalists will sell the rope that will be used to hang them is pretty much spot on, although maybe not in the sense Lenin thought it was. The people who took out ARMs to buy big houses they could not really afford were greedy. Maybe capitalism doesn't make people greedy, but it doesn't do anything to make them less greedy, either.

The same motivation that led "mom and pop" to buy a house they couldn't afford is going to lead them to demand government save them from their own incompetence. That same motivation is going to lead politicians to get involved, with predictably disastrous results, leading to additional political interventions. Hence, capitalism will wither and die, hoisted on its own petard.

The rope to hang themselves, indeed.

[Update: As should be expected, the Democrats' proposed solutions to the ARM problem run the gamut from inane to insane.]