Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pentagon Finally Concedes Point on Pakistan

It very rarely happens, but it is refreshing and a (shameful) ego boost of sorts when the Pentagon finally admits publicly something you've been arguing in isolation for quite some time. This is just what has happened in regards to the US's Pakistan policy in Congressional testimony Wednesday by Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen.

In mid-July I wrote:

The most glaring difficulty is that the Taliban stronghold they seek to root out is not in Afghanistan, but Pakistan. Thus, regardless of the number of troops stationed in Afghanistan, whether increased by 10 or 50 thousand, the same issue of Pakistani sovereignty exists. The Pakistani government has shown no willingness to allow NATO forces to conduct cross-border raids, so any suggestion that the Surge forces would do so would come as an affront to the wishes of our 'ally.'

Musharraf's hold on power grows weaker by the day, which has led to the Pakistanis remaining lax on raids in the FATA and NWP in order to avoid stoking a fire which might drive him from the seat of government. Allowing NATO to conduct itself in Pakistan with autonomy would surely be unpopular among the populace and put Musharraf in greater peril.

Musharraf is now out of the picture, but the US is no closer to forming a plan to deal with the Pakistani reality, and the Pakistanis are no closer to allowing the US operational freedom within FATA, explicitly warning the US on Wednesday to keep its troops out of Pakistan. On Wednesday, Mullen finally admitted what those of us with a foothold in reality have realized for some time now.

Mullen said he was "looking at a new, more comprehensive strategy for the region" that would cover both sides of the border, including Pakistan's tribal areas.

"These two nations are inextricably linked in a common insurgency that crosses the border between them," Mullen said.

"We can hunt down and kill extremists as they cross over the border from Pakistan ... but until we work more closely with the Pakistani government to eliminate the safe havens from which they operate, the enemy will only keep coming."

If admission is the first step toward a solution, the next step will be infinitely harder. The US must find a way to deal with the Pakistani aversion to US operations there, and failure to do so (which seems probable at this point) will only result in the continuation of an ineffectual Afghanistan policy no matter how many troops the current or future president deploys there.

As I've said many times before, the Pakistanis are not neutral observers in this instance, as their security service -- the ISI -- has armed, funded, and cultivated the extremists working out of the border region for many years.

The ISI has long associated itself with anti-American militants, whom they utilized to advance their shared aims on targets in Afghanistan and India. Now, the ISI is drunk with American funds and free to pursue those long-standing policies with even greater fervor, and the US as usual is surprised to find that not everyone who accepts funding is necessarily as dedicated to orthodoxy as we would like. To that end, the ISI is believed to have played a significant role in last month's bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul.

In his book, Descent Into Chaos, Ahmed Rashid even details an instance where the US was asked to pause offensive strikes to allow ISI agents to extricate themselves from Afghanistan where they were fighting alongside the Taliban. Though the president likes to deal solely in religious-style absolutes, the multi-faceted relationships in Pakistan prove yet again that this habit can only lead to folly, as the line between friend and foe is inexorably blurred in reality.

In August, I also insisted that the solution to Afghanistan was more economic than military, a suggestion that seemed at desperate odds with administrative policy, a voice in the wilderness. Consider Admiral Mullen a late invitee to the party:

The officials said the West should do more to help Afghans with new investments in roads and other infrastructure, education and crop assistance.

"These are the keys to success in Afghanistan," said Mullen. "We cannot kill our way to victory."

I refuse to believe that a solitary man in the Midwest had a fuller picture of the situation in Afghanistan than the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, leaving only the alternative that the administration has known the reality of the situation for a substantial period of time, but continued to maintain a facade until yesterday. Why, then, were they so adverse to expressing what many already understood?

Because in American foreign policy, reality has little bearing on the running narrative. What matters is not what is happening, but rather what the ruling class wants, or needs to happen. Suggesting that we "can't kill our way to victory" is surely the rational outlook on the situation, but it doesn't do anything to build and support the profit opportunities for the defense sector. What little money that was spent on reconstruction ended up in the hands of American contractors, though often they failed to fulfill their contractual obligations. Billions were given to companies like Bechtel and Halliburton to build schools and infrastructure with little to show for that investment.

Far from an investment in Afghanistan, the "reconstruction" money instead served as a form of socialized capitalism, where the American tax payers foot the bill for private profits, lending credence to the indication that George Bush is perhaps the biggest socialist in America. Running political narratives make that seem laughable on the surface, but a glance at the last eight years reveals a continuous flow of government money into private hands with little, if any, oversight or consequence. The Bush administration is not for lower government spending in the slightest, they merely differ on to whom tax money will be distributed, pushing that reality into the shadows of a rhetorical fantasy world which posits that they are against such spending.

Denying until Wednesday the reality of the situation in Pakistan is an integral part of that framework, which requires that platitudes and nonsensical euphemisms be given precedence over honest and objective assessment. While it is probably true that Admiral Mullen himself did not refrain from such observations to serve corporate needs, he understands very well the environment in which he works and who it is he serves.

Aside from the economic element, there remains the purely political element, even more accentuated in an election year. Republicans must maintain at all costs the specter of "winning" the war in Afghanistan. Whether US activities there constitute a war at all, or how precisely one could define "winning" or "victory" are unimportant. All that matters is that the traditional political theme concerning national defense be maintained. Republicans must be presented as safe, Democrats as a danger. Everything else fades in comparison.

That Republican rule has left us no safer, and the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are both far from confirming even the vaguest notions of "victory" are immaterial to the argument. Indeed, all appeals to reality, reason, and logic constitute little, if any, of the domestic argument of foreign policy. To the extent that foreign policy is even broached, discussion of the topic always revolves around the typical roles, defined for ages despite all available evidence to the contrary, and no amount of empirical evidence will be allowed to interfere with the freight train that is a political fable taken for granted.

Denial of reality is simply part of Admiral Mullen's job, as integral a part as any other, for it is his task to put an apolitical face on a political view of the world. As we have seen in the case of Admiral Fox, deviation from the script can cost jobs, position, and prestige, but Mullen's testimony on Wednesday indicates that the facade, so meticulously maintained for seven years, is beginning to wear away, even if it will have minimal effect on the domestic political agenda.


Fumbling in the Dark, August 2
Surge II: Afghanistan, July 15

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Fallacy of Faith in the Rational Voter

Among several others, one of the topics that tends to pervade my writing on this site is cynicism regarding the intellectual and rational capacity of the average voter. One need only look at the style and substance of the typical campaign ads in an election year to see clearly that their appeals are being made to emotions and prejudice rather than the human capacity for reason. Michael Dukakis looks funny in a helmet, John Kerry looks effete while windsurfing, and too many other examples to name, all exemplify the emotional appeals that, more than simply influencing American politics, form nearly the entirety of the system.

Though the absence of rationalism in American politics appears rather obvious on the surface, it remains taboo to suggest that something is amiss. Politicians certainly will not broach the subject, especially those that wish to continue on for more than a single election. Journalists, too, (save for Mencken, of course) are adverse to insinuating the average voter is ill-informed or irrational, probably stemming from a combination of feelings of fraternity and the necessity of ad revenue. Thus, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the myth of a vast conglomeration of rational voters is perpetuated ad infinitum (and ad nauseum), and the accumulation of proof otherwise seems destined never to be addressed.

Writing for Newsweek, Alan Ehrenhalt, has given it a try, though his conclusions indicate that even as he calls out the electorate he is hesitant to speak in absolutes and still clings to the common conception of the rational voter as one would a faith learned since birth. In the end, Ehrenhalt agrees with the conclusion reached by Rick Shenkman, author of Just How Stupid Are We?, in claiming rather anti-climactically "We can have a smart electorate."

In proposing such a fantasy, Ehrenhalt assumes that there exists a single ingredient missing from the less-informed voters and a simple vitamin or even a vague allusion to eugenics ["how we might go about making more of them"] can save us from their torment. What Ehrenhalt and Shenkman both fail to see is that more than simply a lack of good voters, our political apparatus suffers because at its core it is founded upon these voters, and over the years has only grown as ivy over lattice to incorporate anti-rational voters into itself. The system does not suffer for lack of sufficient input, it requires the very input that it receives and as such would be incapable of functioning should the situation be otherwise.

The political advertisers and marketers have built their operations around the voter as he is found in nature, not the mythical voter as found in popular rhetoric. These con artists do not simply incorporate the ill-informed voter into their work, but establish their entire social function around him, so that without the current crop of voters the system would wither and die. Surely a new system would crop up, but the political marketing apparatus as it is currently constituted would cease to exist.

The supposition that we are but one step away from a league of well-informed, rational voters also belies the very nature of advertising, which at its core depends on irrational, emotional appeals even more than it feeds them. Differences between commercials from automakers and political campaigns scarcely exist, both seeking to paint a fantasy in the minds of the audience rather than appealing to some superstitious belief in the mental superiority of the common consumer. Whether the good in question is a vehicle or a politician, the sales pitch is the same.

These advertising schemes do not tolerate inanity, but thrive on it. The ill-informed public is a necessity, making the jobs of marketers (commercial and political) both essential and perpetual. Ehrenhalt's analysis of a man who believes in the rationality of voters, Samuel Popkin, is even more implausible than his faith-based acceptance of Shenkman's premise:

In a similar way, Popkin doesn't base his theory of the "reasoning voter" on claims that we go to the polls primed with information about the choices on the ballot. He says we practice "low-information rationality," piecing together scraps of knowledge gleaned from personal experience, historical events, media coverage and other sources to pull the lever based on what amounts to gut reasoning. But he believes that it works most of the time.

An electorate, in other words, is something like a jury. It's a panel of ordinary people, limited in their knowledge and training, who combine to produce a judgment of greater wisdom than any of them could make alone. The crowd, in some mysterious way, is wiser than the individual. The average voter may be no genius, but the electorate as a group is no fool. So the theory goes. It is a theory that allows candidates, scholars and journalists to get through the day without having to question the fundamental tenets of American government.

I don't contend that the theory is groundless. There is something in the wisdom of crowds.

At the root, Popkin is claiming that a well-informed voter is not even a necessary aim, as when enough faulty parts are conjoined, they form a functional whole. This is, of course, preposterous. You can't build a running car out of non-working parts any more than you can construct a functional democracy from an irrational populace. The belief in the "wisdom of crowds" doesn't even merit a retort.

That the voter is physiologically capable of becoming informed or utilizing the gift of rational thought passes without question, to be sure. But to suspect that we are but one or two steps away from such an occurrence is pure fantasy. Our entire political system is built on the ill-informed. Campaigns are constructed so as to best utilize emotional, anti-rational appeals, and little attention is paid to questions of policy. When policy is accidentally brought up, it is too often a cavalcade of half-truths and outright lies so that even these discussions devolve into evidence of baseless zeal.

In the arena of foreign policy, most Americans can't find Canada on a map, and care even less about the intricacies of policy half a world a way. All those that are not Americans are by definition "the others." Differences between Shia and Sunni, Punjab and Pashtun, have no bearing on the American mind, and thus never interfere with swift-boat politics. Nuanced, historically-literate discussion doesn't move product, tales of heroism and romanticized narratives do.

Political campaigns are simply a series of fantastical mirages of one candidate and farcical suggestions about the other, and the favor is always returned, so that we are left with nothing but a endless supply of supposed gaffes, faux controversy, and feigned outrage. Whether people vote against their own economic interests is off the table, and discussion must center on a single word ("cling"). Discussion of the efficacy of comparisons between the Iraq occupation and World War II are immaterial, and all roads lead to a intentional misinterpretation of statements on the subject (100 years).

Every so often, this farce is pointed out by an isolated opinion writer, myself included, but it remains true that the majority of American voters do not recognize their own failures, and remain even further from lending hope to a reversal. The problem here remains the weakest component of democracy, for a system that rewards every citizen with a vote must inevitably allow those that should not vote to do so.

As we cannot take away the vote, and should not desire to for fear of the alternatives, we must instead change the system. To do so requires more than simple wishful thinking and an interest in education. The entire system must be torn down from the base. Only after there ceases to be a market for the current state of political framing will politicians and political operatives be forced to use a different tact.

Previous appeals for a betterment of the system have centered on a wish for ad campaigns to appeal to intellect rather than emotion, but these have the sequence of events backward. If detailed specs of cars sold the product, the ads for them would illustrate that reality. If intellectual appeals sold politicians, we would not see ads claiming that a vote for a particular politician is equal to rape, homicide, or pedophilia. No, the system will not change for the voter. The voting base must change the system. We must eliminate the market for crap and in its place create one for genuine discussion and debate, and the prospects are not nearly as good as Ehrenhalt would have us believe.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

When the Tiger Chastises the Lion for Being a Predator

The Orwellian nature of the US response to Russian action in South Ossetia and Georgia has been comical at best, and a bellicose display of overt hypocrisy at worst. As I wrote mid-August, US leaders were able to simultaneously declare "the days of spheres of influence behind us" and sign a missile-defense pact with Poland (to compliment the existing deal with the Czech Republic) to, in essence, extend their sphere of influence. Thus, they went a step further than the typical hypocritical foreign policy stances and were actively engaged at that precise moment in exactly the thing they were speaking out against.

It is certainly a mark of supreme arrogance to engage in such practice, to make it so blindingly clear that the rules one would apply to others shall have no application to oneself, and perhaps in a bygone era the US's argument would have flown. But the Iraqi occupation is not yet a thing of the past, and the moral standing of the US, already shaky, has worn perilously thin. Here was one predator to another saying, "Thou shalt not eat meat." And the entire Western world nodded in unison.

The US continued its campaign of unintentional brevity yesterday, by withdrawing from a nuclear pact with Russia (at least temporarily), as a means of punishing them and teaching them those lessons we never felt beholden to ourselves. But, it seems, recent history has caught up to the administration, as they withdrew that proposition today.

The Bush administration, after considerable internal debate, has decided not to take direct punitive action against Russia for its conflict with Georgia, concluding that it has little leverage if it acts unilaterally and that it would be better off pressing for a chorus of international criticism to be led by Europe.

Their aversion to unilateralism is perhaps a few years too late, but laudable nonetheless. Of course, the underlying accusations are the same, the Bush administration just realized it has no leverage. They still believe that only certain nations are allowed satellites, only certain nations are granted retaliatory action, and only certain nations are to be given so much as a matter of weeks to withdraw its forces from a country.

That this comes from a country that invaded a country that had performed not a single act of aggression towards it (Georgia, however, did attack Russian citizens in South Ossetia), and a country that still occupies a country more than five years after it declared the end of a war, has met with only miniscule cynicism speaks volumes as to the waning influence of reason and logic in American politics.

The reality of the situation can be debated, but no matter the conclusion of such banalities it remains true that none in power are concerned with the outcome of such an argument. Reality does not matter. Reality is not indicated by truth or objective assessment, but by success. That is to say, that which breeds the desired result shall stand as reality. If the ends sought should change, so, too, will 'reality' be bent to serve them.

Though they may plea otherwise, the dealings of the past three weeks have been nothing if not overt exertion of spheres of influence, those despised relics from the past. Georgia's inclusion in NATO, and by extension, further isolation of Russia, is all that is sought, and the arguments are being bent around that goal (inevitability, rather). Standards of democracy do not apply. Even such basic tenets of forward-progressing time do not apply, as Georgia's initial incursion into Ossetia has been effectively flushed down the memory hole.

Such assaults on logic and reason are not merely tolerated, but celebrated. The realpolitik of a new generation, citizens, pundits, and journalists alike stumble over each other to play the game better than the next. Citizens can be expected to be overly credulous. On foreign policy, pundits range between 10 and 9.5. But journalists should provide a voice of reason, or at least an honest accounting of facts. That they don't is the pillar of the degradation of American democracy, for without an independent, functional media corps, democracy ceases to exert the will of the people and rather begins to merely echo the sentiments of the ruling class.

This doesn't have to be so. But as long as the economics of today's corporate media dictate producing news as cheaply as possible, journalists will continue to rely on the easiest source of that news: the very people they're meant to cover. As long a journalists defer to their subjects to preserve open channels of communication (what was once called propaganda), they fail the population in performance of their nominal task. If journalism was meant to be mere repetition of the company line, it would be sufficient for the government to also be the sole source of news.

Assuming that the majority of Americans would be adverse to a Ministry of Truth for a new era, the time has long since passed to begin calling on journalists to perform their jobs effectively. Cheap sources of news are not necessarily the best sources of news. Sometimes stories must be worked for, sought out, recovered from the abyss. At the very least, journalists could begin by pointing out conspicuous absurdities in the government line, such as those that have propagated themselves surrounding the Russia-Georgia conflict.

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Republican Convention: Enterprising Pioneers, All

Party conventions, by definition, have become little more than over-wrought pep rallies; short on specifics and purpose, long on pomp and glitter. As I wrote concerning the Democratic Convention last week, conventions provide ample opportunity for party supporters to push aside credulity and lend unwavering support to the party's corporate overlords. They are a time for healing, by which I mean abandonment of any and all trepidation about the party platform's divergence from the will of the voters. Glenn Greenwald expressed concern over AT&T's exclusive party, yet never seemed to approach a realization that the Democratic Party itself was just such an organization.

Central to these conventions, which have lost all tangible purpose now that the nomination itself no longer takes place there, is indeed the central tenet of the entire American political system. Namely, they are a charade meant to present a narrative which intersects reality at no juncture, a cinematic presentation of candidates and platforms as they are meant to be seen, not as they are.

It is within this framework that the Republican Party, forever bedfellows with the ruling elite and corporate oligarchy was marginally successful at presenting itself as the party of the people, even -- more laughable, still -- agents of change. Change, of course, is perennially the platform of the non-incumbent party (George Bush was the candidate of change in 2000), but it strains even the few remaining strands tying American politics to logic and reality for the party in power to do so.

For John McCain to run a successful campaign as an agent of change by running on a platform which promises no deviation whatsoever from the standard right-wing fare is ludicrous indeed, but meets with marginal success due to the American electorate's staunch ignorance of words and their meanings. Reason and logic hold spectacularly less import in American politics than do appearance and presentation, and the Republican Convention recently closed in Minnesota was a clinic in that reality.

Only in an environment which never questions theatrical presentation could a beer baroness present herself as a pioneer. In fact, among the speakers, it was near impossible to find a single individual of privilege. Every last one was suddenly a pioneer, a frontiersman, a by-product of the American Dream. This narrative has been central to the Republican presentation for decades, convincing successive generations to vote against their own economic interests while simultaneously insinuating that they are doing precisely the opposite.

Thus, promoting policies which guarantee the elimination of small businesses in favor of multinational corporations becomes looking out for the entrepreneur. Promoting educational policies which would eliminate the teaching of evolution or sex education as enforcing choice and parental controls. Promoting the elimination of any safeguards against capital flight becomes creating job security. In this Orwellian fantasy we've established, it is no longer necessary to sprinkle speeches with small intrusions of fact, for no one questions clear falsehoods, no one asks that definite meanings be attached to words or phrases.

Sarah Palin, herself a political gimmick, utilized her husband as one in her own acceptance speech. Despite the Right's unwavering opposition to organized labor and higher wages of the working class, she posits that being married to a member of that class suffices to eliminate a century of history.

He's a lifelong commercial fisherman ... a production operator in the oil fields of Alaska's North Slope ... a proud member of the United Steel Workers' Union ... and world champion snow machine racer.

Throw in his Yup'ik Eskimo ancestry, and it all makes for quite a package.

Again the specter of that American Dream, and a quasi-minority no less.

Despite being chosen precisely to reassure the base and draw attention away from McCain's occasional infidelity to his Party, Palin attempted to present herself as a change, a threat to the "Washington elite." For the most part, such an outlandish proposition seems to be bought in sum by the majority of the mass media and electorate. She may have supported the Bridge to Nowhere, but she's a threat to the Washington elites. She may be for drilling on protected lands, but oil companies supposedly fear her. She may be for the elimination of choice in school curriculum, but parents across America will thank her for doing just the opposite.

This was the spirit that brought me to the governor's office, when I took on the old politics as usual in Juneau ... when I stood up to the special interests, the lobbyists, big oil companies, and the good-ol' boys network.

If by standing up to the big oil companies she meant adopted their policies as her own governing platform, then I suppose she is correct. If by standing up to the lobbyists she means joining a campaign up to its teeth in some of the most influential corporate and despotic-regime lobbyists in Washington, then she is being honest.

If, however, words are to have any meaning, if the American voter is to require that actual linguistic and logical standards be applied to the nation's political language, then her speech and all others in the past two weeks have been pure farce.

Despite all claims to the contrary, the bevy of orations engaged in over the past fourteen days have barely intercepted the will of the public at-large at any point. Promises and chilling narratives abound, but nowhere was there an honest accounting just how the lives of Americans will be better four years from now. This, I suppose, is to be accepted in a country as religious as the United States. Its citizens are more than willing to accept everything on faith, and hastily discharge with anything that seems to conflict with their reigning worldviews. Inconvenient facts become nuisances to be swatted away so that the Kool-Aid may be imbibed without interference.

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Monday, September 1, 2008

On Bias and Polarization

The two-party system that we've concocted in America requires us to view every occurrence, both foreign and domestic, through a myopic vision of our own political structure. Under this system, we act as if the women and children being slaughtered in Iraq are somehow concerned with the outcome of November elections. We presume that they are watching elections thousands of miles away, though they are without power and clean water for most of their daily lives. It is this supreme arrogance, this belief that the world hinges on the day-to-day banter in American politics, that precludes Americans from perceiving the distaste we leave in the mouths of others.

On the domestic front, the electorate seems only capable of adopting a stance of unfettered allegiance to one party or the other, unable to examine policy from the viewpoint of logic and reason, but only from the standard of whether it benefits the preferred party. The human mind seems unable to function in the presence of ambiguity. Everything must be pushed to one side or the other, to one wholly-inclusive worldview or another. Of these two acceptable positions, it is imagined that one is wholly true while another always false. As the world's religions operate on the pretext that of the thousands in existence one of them has everything exactly right, a statistical impossibility, so does American politics. That the holders of each faith believe that theirs is that single holder of absolute truth is responsible for the fanaticism tearing the world apart, leaving a trail of death and destruction in its wake.

The stakes may not be quite as high in domestic politics, but it is only within that framework that every opinion is met with charges of bias from one side or the other. Arguments are examined, not on their merits, but entirely on which of the two acceptable sides they support. Nevermind the rules of logic inherent in the argument, if it supports one side it is met with shouts of "bias" from the other.

Facts are not examined for truth, the truth is instead seen as arbitrary. The insurgency in Iraq must be filtered through the American political framework, replete with its designated enemies and allies, villains and friends. Statistics are discarded as bias, replaced instead with pre-ordained conclusions that remain firm in spite of all available evidence. Anti-smoking groups spread propaganda about the harmful effects of smoking, complete with scientific proof, yet they cannot be taken seriously in light of the beneficent tobacco companies whose own studies surely bear no bias. Greenpeace may be nuts, but that is no reason to suspect that the oil companies seeking to drill pure profit in certain regions are being entirely forthcoming in the area of the effects of such drilling. To believe such absurdities provides ample fuel for the counter-productive fires that burn in American politics and ensure that the truth takes a back seat to unadulterated conviction.

I don't read Democratic talking points any more than I read Republican ones. I don't want to be part of a team, I don't want to be part of a group that requires allegiance to its members above my own reason. Yet no matter what stance I adopt, it will be viewed by the other side as subservience to the other party structure.

Because I abhor groupthink, I have no difficulty mocking the people fainting and fawning over Obama. Yet, just the same, I refuse to concoct some wild tales of him and Michelle acting as some Manchurian candidates trying to destroy our system of governance. I'm not concerned about tracking down a forged birth certificate any more than I lose an ounce of sleep over the fact that McCain was born in Panama.

McCain's old. Obama's exotic. Unfortunately, nobody seems to be able to get past those points, and nobody wants to legitimately discuss any issues. Differences of opinion are laudable so long as they're based on reason and thoughtful examination, but those are severely lacking in our political system, on both sides. That I sometimes hold opinions that coincide with one side or the other is not a signal that I've bought allegiance to that 'team,' but merely intersected them for the moment.

I want to move away from this bipolar charade, this system which requires every occurrence, both domestic and international, be examined within the faulty framework of our two parties. I want to move to a point where arguments are examined on their merits rather than proscribing the speaker into one camp or the other where he's responsible for everything that that side has said and done. I want to move to a point where political decisions are made to provide the greatest benefit to the governed rather than the strategic aggrandizement of power for the politician.

The one thing I'm trying to get across with my writing is that I'm consistent with my reasoning. If you stick to the rules of logic (and there are rules), you can be forgiven for a difference of opinion. The problem with the two-party system is that you always end up on one side or the other -- you have to mathematically -- so the other side always assumes you're on some sort of hobby horse, that you've sold your soul to the perceived enemy.

The bipolar system never requires anyone to hold consistent views, never requires them to oppose the side that they support, never requires that they actually answer to the will of the governed. Politics are not discussed bound to rules of logic and reason, they are discussed only in a framework of two parties that require absolute allegiance in an arena with absolutely no historical literacy whatsoever.

In the Clinton years, I was with those that railed against Clinton's nefarious ways and dismissal of certain parts of the Constitution. My own constitution, however, will not allow me to simply switch my allegiance when the White House changes hands. This puts me at odds with former allies, but I still believe the same things; only my targets have changed. My reasons and principles remain unaltered: The President exists to serve the people, not his own crony or corporate interests.

I have not changed from one side to the other, but have stayed the same as the parties have rotated. I believe wholeheartedly in the ideals of this country. I believe in democracy and liberty above all else. The problem is, neither party is all that keen on promoting those ideals. Both parties are more concerned with increasing their own political viability while they pit the populace against each other under false pretenses so that they pay no attention to the dealings behind the curtain.

It is the system, not my actual arguments, that make it seem as though I have been the one who has changed, when in fact it is merely the fact that a Republican now holds power. Check clips from the late Nineties of Sean Hannity, and you will find him engaged in diatribe against Clinton's use of executive power. Yet, now that Bush holds office, he supports unbridled executive power, even in its still-more-perverted form of the "unitary executive" theory.

That can signify only one thing: he bases his stance not on whether or not executive power should be checked, but rather who wields it. That is a shifting and logically dishonest argument, based not on a consistent logical structure, but on what best amplifies the power of Republicans while curtailing that of the Democrats. This is a detriment to the political discourse.

So you may say that I'm biased if you want, but understand that it is bias toward my beliefs of Constitutional governance, not a particular party.

Conservatives say they vote for views and beliefs, yet in November we will see them vote for a man that they have railed against for over a decade, a man that they claimed didn't share those views and beliefs. So how far does that impenetrable nobility go? Democrats would certainly tell you that they do the same, but in November they will support a choice for VP that stands for everything their presidential candidate has founded his campaign against. In November, voters will ultimately vote for the D and the R, nothing else.

Republicans would have voted for Guiliani had he been won the nomination, despite the fact that he's had several mistresses, been divorced three times, dresses in drag and engages in any number of other things that those so-called conservative value-holders abhor (in public statements). Republicans would have supported as VP (or candidtate) the former governor of a state that legalized gay marriage and has a mild form of socialized health care. In the two party system, values are out the window in November.

Anyone writing an opinion piece has a bias, otherwise their writing wouldn't be an opinion, it would be nothing. Bias is typically defined as "an opinion different than mine," but the speaker refuses to see that they, too, hold opinions. If they were without opinions, I would check their pulse.

Some take everything Republicans say at face value, while accusing every Democrat of speaking with alterior motives, then accuse me of bias. I believe they're all full of crap, so who's biased here? Some look at a good speaker, then try and tear him down because he does so in the presence of teleprompters, while at the same time supporting fully a president who has barely a passing acquaintance with the English language, then tell me I'm biased.

Everyone's biased. No one is devoid of opinions. What matters is that these biases are consistent with reality and the rules of logic. When my bias tells me all politicians lie, I'm being consistent and intellectually honest. When their bias tells them that only Democrats lie, they're lying to themselves.

When my bias requires tangible proof through their actions that someone is a supporter of some Christian morality, I'm being consistent and intellectually honest. When their bias tells them that Republicans caught in men's rooms and with prostitutes can continue to spout off about "family values," they're lying to themselves.

Republicans love to paint critics of their policies as "America-haters," but nothing could be further from the truth. It's simply that we love the ideal of America as it was conceived. Loving the freedoms and opportunities provided by this country does not preclude anyone from criticizing the policies of its current leaders.

Parents love their children, and would never construe criticism of their decisions as "hating" them. Nor would punishing them for misdeeds be a signal of some nefarious allegiance to the neighbors' children.

Loving America isn't waving the biggest flag or sporting the biggest yellow ribbon on your car. It's supporting the ideals upon which this country was founded, and those ideals have been absolutely trounced in recent years, with the perpetrators all the while claiming that it is actually they, pillagers of the Constitution, that love this country.

So you can say I have bias if you wish. So long as you realize that my only bias is to the Enlightenment ideals of this nation and the documents that serve as the product of that intellectual milestone. America should indeed serve as a model for the rest of the world, but it must be the right model, we must take the right lesson from the 18th Century. We should indeed spread the lessons provided us by the Minutemen and the Constitutional Congress, and we should absolutely criticize our government when it instead spreads through the world the policies of the Red Coats and King George.

I am biased. I'm biased to the ideals this country was founded on. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else, and I will support whoever best supports those ideals at the moment. I hold no illusions that one party or the other holds a monopoly on those ideals. To believe that is delusional. All politicians lie. Members of both parties plot and scheme to accrue their own power. To believe otherwise is the worst kind of bias, for to believe that one side is wholly noble while the other fully nefarious is to serve a delusion that exacerbates not the will of the people, but the continuation of the aggrandizement of power in the hands of a detached ruling class.

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