23
May
09

THE LAST SANE MAN ON THE TRAIN

Originally created 6/3/2007

It has become increasing clear that my own days as a rantist are long behind me, and for good reason.  I was never all that good or entertaining, and one can look back on those literary products of halcyon college years as a mix of sleeplessness, melancholy, sports-obsession, and, in the later years, alcohol and dodgeball.  Whatever their merit, I note the inadequacies of the Rant because so many others do it better and more consistently.  Case in point: AJ Daulerio over at deadspin: funny, some insightful and regular.  Kind of like a good shit.

“It’s an odd phenomenon, this fascination that men, when they first get the splotches of gray hair and other attributes of grown-up maleness, suddenly find teenage girls more appealing. Obviously, the physical attractiveness — the seemingly pristine physical attractiveness, I should say — is a major factor, but it’s also this Wonder Years-y nostalgia for that time when those girls were actually available and not these seedy objects of desire:

“DANIEL STERN V.O.: It was a time of fantastic mystery, the great unknown. We were all captains aboard this ship called Puberty, navigating its uncharted waters. Most of the time, that water was girls. I remember the first time I pawed at Becky Slater’s fancy new bra like a deranged yeti, sporting an erection that could knock down low-flying aircraft, but those days are long gone…

“You get the idea.

“On to the issue at hand: One Miss Allison Stokke, whose pole vault-body has become furious debate fodder for those for and against posting pictures of young girls showing off their athletic prowess. The ‘For’ say she’s relevant because of said prowess (and her looks) and ‘Against’ say ‘let the young, tan girl thrust herself in the air with a giant stick in a revealing outfit but DO NOT acknowledge her muscular thighs and thickset brick twister.’ (Or something to that effect.) God, it sucks to be pretty and athletic. It’s almost like having AIDS.”

The realization that there are those out there like Daulerio, in my mind, should not stop me from continuing these rants, although without quite the same juvenile vehemence that those of earlier days undertook.

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And thus there is the topic of Republican candidate for president and Congressman from Texas, Dr. Ron Paul.  I myself have no love for the republicans who have more or less completely backtracked on their promises from the 1990s, now amounting to so much rhetoric.  The government has never been bigger nor the military more bogged down in foreign entanglements.  Paul is in stark contrast to the neoconservative wing that has taken over much of the party with the battle cry, “9/11 changed everything”.  He was a former libertarian candidate for president in 1988 but returned to the Republican party.  He voted against the authorization of the use of force against Iraq.  He voted against the PATRIOT Act.  As came up in the debates, some in the party feel that he is not “one of them” and is trying to hijack the party.  He claims he is trying to bring it back to its roots, exemplified in Robert Taft and (perhaps again, only rhetorically) Ronald Reagan.    But perhaps an unusual moment, both in the context of the election itself and as a microcosm of the country in general, came in the second Republican debate when Dr. Paul had the temerity to point out that many of the United States’ actions in Arabia were partly responsible for the decision of jihadists to attack the United States–although that does not excuse those actions in the least.  Former New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani spoke out of turn and dismissed such notions as ludicrous, demanding that Dr. Paul. Dr. Paul refused.

Paul’s parts in the second Republican debate.  Paul states his position on foreign policy at about 5:10 and Guiliani responds at about 6:10

Libertarian blogs, like LewRockwell.com, praised the moment as someone finally standing up for the truth on a national stage, characterizing Guiliani’s response as misinformed and malicious.  However most of the mainstream press took the Guiliani angle, noting that Paul seemed to suggest the United States “invited” the attacks (which is not correct; one of the moderators asked that in a question but Paul responded with the idea that the United States’ foreign policy helps provoke such attacks, and to ignore this “blowback” is to do so at one’s own risk).  In Time magazine, commentator Joe Klein took it as a win for the former Mayor, painting Paul to be somewhat of a kooky buffoon:

“And then there’s the libertarian Congressman Ron Paul who seems like your uncle the bartender who has a Big Theory about everything: some of his ideas are brilliant, others weird. He rates a mention because his singular moment of weirdness–proposing that al-Qaeda attacked on Sept. 11 because the U.S. had been messing around in the Middle East, bombing Iraq–offered Giuliani a historic slam dunk. ‘That’s an extraordinary statement,’ he jumped in when Paul finished, ‘… that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for Sept. 11.’  There was explosive applause from the audience. But Giuliani was having a good debate even before he reduced Paul to history.”

The 9/11 Commission’s own words on the subject:

Though novel for its open endorsement of indiscriminate killing, Bin Ladin’s 1998 declaration was only the latest in the long series of his public and private calls since 1992 that singled out the United States for attack.

In August 1996, Bin Ladin had issued his own self-styled fatwa calling on Muslims to drive American soldiers out of Saudi Arabia. The long, disjointed document condemned the Saudi monarchy for allowing the presence of an army of infidels in a land with the sites most sacred to Islam [emphasis added], and celebrated recent suicide bombings of American military facilities in the Kingdom. It praised the 1983 suicide bombing in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. Marines, the 1992 bombing in Aden, and especially the 1993 firefight in Somalia after which the United States “left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you.”3

Bin Ladin said in his ABC interview that he and his followers had been preparing in Somalia for another long struggle, like that against the Soviets in Afghanistan, but “the United States rushed out of Somalia in shame and disgrace.” Citing the Soviet army’s withdrawal from Afghanistan as proof that a ragged army of dedicated Muslims could overcome a superpower, he told the interviewer: “We are certain that we shall-with the grace of Allah-prevail over the Americans.” He went on to warn that “If the present injustice continues . . . , it will inevitably move the battle to American soil.”

Many Americans have wondered, “Why do ‘they’ hate us?” Some also ask, “What can we do to stop these attacks?”

Bin Ladin and al Qaeda have given answers to both these questions. To the first, they say that America had attacked Islam; America is responsible for all conflicts involving Muslims. Thus Americans are blamed when Israelis fight with Palestinians, when Russians fight with Chechens, when Indians fight with Kashmiri Muslims, and when the Philippine government fights ethnic Muslims in its southern islands. America is also held responsible for the governments of Muslim countries, derided by al Qaeda as “your agents.” Bin Ladin has stated flatly, “Our fight against these governments is not separate from our fight against you.”14 These charges found a ready audience among millions of Arabs and Muslims angry at the United States because of issues ranging from Iraq to Palestine to America’s support for their countries’ repressive rulers. [emphasis added]

Bin Ladin’s grievance with the United States may have started in reaction to specific U.S. policies but it quickly became far deeper. [emphasis added] To the second question, what America could do, al Qaeda’s answer was that America should abandon the Middle East, convert to Islam, and end the immorality and godlessness of its society and culture: “It is saddening to tell you that you are the worst civilization witnessed by the history of mankind.” If the United States did not comply, it would be at war with the Islamic nation, a nation that al Qaeda’s leaders said “desires death more than you desire life.”

The commission is most certainly right that Bin Laden will not merely be swayed by an American withdrawal from the region, and would likewise claim it as a victory.  Obviously then, Bin Ladin himself, as well as his close followers, must be captured or destroyed, or at the very least neutralized outside American borders–something that is not being helped by the American incursion into Iraq.  However it is important to note the very real and probable possibility that bin Ladin was encouraged to become a violent radical by U.S. policies; his pathology became increasingly worse, not in reaction to continued policy, but to the United States in general.  Moreover, in the emphasized portion one can note that the 9/11 Commission noted that bin Ladin’s message, as virulent and deranged as it had become, found an audience because of U.S. policies concerning “Iraq to Palestine to America’s support for their countries’ repressive rulers”.  And yet Paul’s suggestion of this kind of idea during the debate was met by Guiliani’s bizarre assertion that he had never heard it previous to that occasion.

I have little hope that Paul will even be elected as the Republican candidate, and even less that he would be elected president (I myself don’t agree with him in terms of immigration).  But how can every other candidate, both Democrat and Republican, seem to ignore this reasoning or have the courage to at least suggest it in public, even though they could quote directly from the government’s own commission report?

Then there are other candidates who somehow believe (as noted in the Fox News Interviews below) that the First Gulf War did nothing but foster support in the Muslim world (Duncan Hunter says that in the clip below at about 1:45 mark), when bin Ladin himself has said otherwise.  Moreover, one could look at the United States’ interaction with bin Ladin’s own mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.  Should that not have do nothing but cultivate good will?  It is true that the United States did help save Kuwait from Saddam Hussein but few care to remember that the U.S. also supported Hussein in attacking another Muslim country, Iran, in a much longer (9 years) and bloodier war with an estimated 500,000 Iranian casualties and 375,000 Iraqi casualties.  It also included the use of chemical weapons against Iran.

So what does the United States get in a second tier candidate who has the rocks to stand up for the truth?  The U.S. gets to see the last sane man on the train get thrown off by the supposed conductors.  Not to detract anything from Dr. Paul himself, but one can only wonder if he had the charisma and debating skills of Bill Clinton.

Ron Paul is apparently Bill Maher’s new hero

Ron Paul at the first Republican debate

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Dr. Paul on The Daily Show

Donald Rumsfeld meeting Saddam Hussein on 19 December20 December 1983. Rumsfeld visited again on 24 March 1984; the same day the UN released a report that Iraq had used mustard gas and tabun nerve agent against Iranian troops. The NY Times reported from Baghdad on 29 March 1984, that “American diplomats pronounce themselves satisfied with Iraq and the U.S., and suggest that normal diplomatic ties have been established in all but name.”

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Standing in line at the supermarket, People Magazine tells us that Jennifer Anniston has signed on to write a tell-all about her relationship with Missouri’s own Brad Pitt.  This includes, apparently, how Pitt told her of his affair with Angelina Jolie.  The best vote is for Pitt showing her a video of him reaming a shrieking Jolie as he goes “Now watch here as I go balls deep.”

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The Bush Administration cannot properly fight wars, cannot protect the Bill of Rights and apparently is a shark for large meatpacking companies.  “The Agriculture Department tests fewer than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease [mad cow], which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows.   Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.  The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry.”  A problem of who is in charge of the department?  Or a problem of why the department has the power to regulate the test in the first place?

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New three-D movies sound absolutely terrifying.

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The new Congress is struggling to hammer out a trade policy, a sort of contradiction in terms that mainly denotes policy that will “protect jobs” (while sacrificing possible new jobs associated with the greater trade) while obtaining some benefits for exporters.  The government attempting to regulate trade is problematic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it becomes a powerful tool for special interests, whether they be companies, unions or anti-globalization adherents.  Whether it is free trade or technology or innovation (as the mad cow example above demonstrates), certain parties will be injured in the trade.  But the only way to prevent this so-called “injury” is to prevent the voluntary transactions which supposedly bring it about; i.e., there is no aggression against the “injured” party, only a decision to no longer transact business with them.

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Possibly the most unsettling proposition about the Iraq War is the alternate universe case: assume that the Iraq War had progressed much better for the United States.  Iraq becomes a functioning, if still dangerous place (no more dangerous than say, Israel).  It is largely peaceful, functioning society with some remnants of strife.  In this alternate universe case, however, the reasons, the means and lack Weapons of Mass Destruction are all still present.  In this alternate universe, were these lies and half-truths told before the war still reprehensible?  Would any politicians be criticizing the war (either Democrat or Republican)?  Is the fraud presented to the American public still fraud if the outcome of the fraudulent actions is drastically different?  As the Ron Paul-Rudy Guiliani standoff made clear, even in the present course of events of an Iraq devolved into civil war, many politicians are still reluctant (or outright refuse) to acknowledge the false pretenses for the war.  This is not to mention the motives of those that orchestrated and conducted the 9/11 attacks.  These events bear witness that the truth as it operates in the world, even if it is represented in something like the Rumsfield-Saddam film, is sadly a matter of perception.

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