You've exposed the big flaw of the two-party system - Democracy in America has come to the point where the party that gets the most active, excited voters out and to the polls is the party that wins, because there isnâ€™t true competition in our political system. Instead of the choice between a party you could never support (Democrats), and one that has lost its way (Republicans), wouldn't you rather have other options? It's sad that instead of deciding which candidate to vote for, you are forced to decide whether to vote or not. Is it any wonder that a substantial portion of the population eligible to vote doesnâ€™t bother? Both parties know that defection to the other side is rare, so they know that people like Rick really only have the choice to vote for their traditional party or not vote. How would things be different if there were other candidates that could compete for Rick's vote? Competition is what America is all about, but with only two national parties to choose from thereâ€™s hardly any competition at all. To give a little bit of a stretched analogy, imagine if the only two fast food restaurants were McDonaldâ€™s and Burger King, and those chains worked to ensure they remained the only two national chains. Sure, youâ€™d have â€œchoice,â€ but only in the most limited way. Weâ€™d never allow collusion to limit our fast-food choices like that, but we tolerate and even perpetuate it in our political system.
I really hope you see this as a bigger issue that you indicated in your article Rick. The reason the Republicans in Congress are violating their so-called beliefs and values and are running rampant is because they know that people like you (and me, to a lesser extent) donâ€™t have anywhere else to go. They take you for granted and as the mid-terms come around, they will start soft-talking you back into the fold. If Republicans knew there was real competition for your vote, it would restrain them significantly once in office, and force them to stick to what they campaigned on.Comment Posted By Andrew On 17.04.2006 @ 09:21
You miss the point entirely again Diamond. To me choosing between the two parties is like choosing between a yummy chocolate cake with baby poo for frosting, or and ice cream sundae topped with my cat's hairballs. Your suggestion that I just eat the poo or hairballs while I try to change the menu doesn't appeal to me and a majority of Americans.
Why is wanting more that two candidates on a ballot so much to ask?Comment Posted By Andrew On 17.04.2006 @ 10:39
Well, Diamond, it's not just me. Since the mid 80's, voters who identify themselves as Republican have never been more than 34% of the electorate. Democrats peaked at 35%. Independent and non-affiliated voter have constituted the largest block of voters in every single year since 1987. Their numbers peaked at 40% averaged 38% and never fell below 34%. Republicans averaged 29% and Democrats 33% during the same period. Does that tell you anything?Comment Posted By Andrew On 17.04.2006 @ 09:52
If you don't think the Republican Party has serious issues and infighting, then keep drinking your kool-aid. You only have to read this blog for some excellent analysis of it. The Republican party of today is no longer fiscally conservative, and only believes in State's rights unless they violate the agenda of the religious conservative base (in which case they want federal laws or constitutional amendments enforcing their moral views. Furthermore elected Republicans as a group no longer support limited Government and rail against "judicial activism" only when it violates their socially conservative agenda. I could go into all the problems and hypocrisy of the Democratic Party, but the blogsphere has that angle covered ad nauseum.
Let me ask you what party I should join â€“ Hereâ€™s my general philosophy: Fiscal conservative, economic liberal (meaning Iâ€™m pro markets and globalization), social liberal, pro-limited government, pro-states rights, non-religious, pro-strong military, pro civil/individual rights, and anti-isolationist. In short, Iâ€™d probably be a Libertarian if it wasnâ€™t for their crazy foreign policy and their desire to completely dismantle the Federal social safety net. Frankly, the Republican party has strayed way too far from itâ€™s Libertarian roots.
So, no thanks, I don't want to join either one of the major parties, because neither speaks for me. Why would I join a party to improve it - the idea is to join a party that represents my views. Joining a party in order to bring it around to my point of view is both stupid and pointless. America is the greatest cauldron for the creation and nurturing of ideas - it's too bad that political thought and ideas are stuffed and funneled into the broken two-party system. It's not whining, it's reality. Do you really think that a handful of voters in a handful of states choosing the presidential candidates for the rest of us is a good system?
The old-testament religious conservatives certainly do have a big influence, especially in Presidential politics. Why do you think presidential candidates trot out their social conservative values as the primaries near? Take a look at any of the potential Republican candidates for 08. They are all falling over each other trying to appease the social conservatives. And why? Because they have the most money and the best organization of any faction in the Republican Party. Because of that, they get to set the agenda for elections and any primary candidate cannot win the nomination without their support. It's the same with the democrats - they have to bow to the left-wing radicals to have a chance of winning the nomination. Had that wacko Dean not shot himself in the foot and proved to everyone how unpresidential and unelectable he was, he would have won the nomination. Instead, the second most liberal candidate won. Once the nomination is secure, both the republican and democratic candidates moderate their views so they can win the election. It's sickening how shallow it all is.
The radical left certainly has a greater voice in the MSM and the religious conservatives don't get as much positive national exposure, but that limited national exposure does not diminish their influence in the Republican Party. But all that media attention and influence the left-wingers get is also a hindrance in many ways, because their visibility makes them more vulnerable to attack, especially since they are all wealthy and out of touch elites.Comment Posted By Andrew On 16.04.2006 @ 23:43
The right has many of the same issues that the left does. The main difference is that they get less exposure in the media than the lefties do. The left certainly has a socialist "hate America" wing (and think it's unfair to call them Stalinists. Stalin was more interested in power and control over his people than he was in Communism. He simply used communism to further his own ends, and would have made an excellent Fascist.). However, the right has it's own wing and radicals that are just as scary as the leftists. They don't hate America, but their idea of what America stands for is far different from the average American. The most prominiment group in this category are the radical old testament evangelicals who are best represented by Pat Robertson. Just as Democrats with Presidential aspirations bring our their leftist talking points, Republican's do the same on the right to show the "base" their socially conservative credentials.
This creates a lot of frustration for those of us (and I would wager a majority of Americans) in the center. The two parties have done an exceptionally good job at preventing competition, so centrists, like me, are forced into a choice between a candidate nominated by radical leftists and one nominated by religious idealogs. In that environment, the more centrist candidate (or at least the candidate who appears more centrist) is usually the one that wins the general election. The nomination process in this country is broken because minorities in each party and tiny minorities of the general population determine the candidates.
I agree with what you've said almost 100% on the Democrats and their radical left wing. I hope you'll consider writing a similar article on the right.Comment Posted By Andrew On 16.04.2006 @ 14:22
I am always dubious when retired Generals come out of the woodwork to criticize Rumsfeld. He was picked, first and foremost, to transform the military into a 21st century force. In his ongoing attempt at doing that, he has stepped on a lot of toes and made a lot of Generals angry. For all of Rumsfeld's faults, I do support most of his military reforms, despite the nay saying Generals and especially the entrenched DoD civilians (who are about impossible to fire or forcibly retire). I give him credit for speaking his mind as well.
Rumsfeld and the military performed, and continue to perform, brilliantly in Afghanistan, but his leadership for the Iraqi war was fatally flawed. Itâ€™s still amazing to me the huge contrasts between OEF and OIF in the post occupation phase of conflict.
Overall, I think itâ€™s best for him to leave, but at this point I donâ€™t see what new leadership could do since I feel that Iraqâ€™s destiny is largely out of our hands.Comment Posted By Andrew On 14.04.2006 @ 23:34
Scrapiron, what the heck are you talking about? The only administration that sold anything to Iran was the Reagan administration. And it was Reagan who pulled out of Lebanon when Iran bloodied our nose by killing all those Marines, which is the 2nd worst terrorist attack against Americans. That withdrawl was the first case where America cut and ran when facing islamic radicals (Somalia being another notable case).
Don't get me wrong, Reagan was a great president in many ways, but his anti-communist outlook blinded him to the threat of radical Islam and because of a well-documented lack of foresight among many administrations (going back to Reagan and even Carter), we were left with Afghanistan and an intact and strong Iran. How might things be different if we had been more selective about who we armed in Afghanistan or actually cared what happened there after the USSR folded? Or what if we had actually tried to topple the Iranian mullahs in the early years (the 80's) when the revolution was still fresh and weak? Reagan didn't care about the mullahs because they were anti-communist, just like he didn't care about the radicals in Afghanistan for the same reason.
Reagan did great things during his presidency and certainly will be remembered as one of the great Presidents. But don't forget his failings or those of other republicans simply because of your blind hatred of Clinton.Comment Posted By Andrew On 14.04.2006 @ 12:15
A very interesting discussion Rick, but I think a couple of points need to be fleshed out:
The the abyss Kennedy and Khruschev were peering into was more than war - it was the total annihilation of their respective civilizations and a catastrophe on a planetary scale (and possibly the destructon of the human race). I think both realized that. In my mind, the situation we have with Iran is a few orders of magnitude less meaningful than the issues we faced in the missile crisis. First of all, assuming Iran does develop nukes and they actually use them against us (which is debatable), America will survive. Iran will not if we feel particularly vengeful afterward. The balance of power between us and Iran is equal in no single area - but in the early 60's the USSR was our equal in many areas.
2nd, I don't see what a guarantee for their regime would bring. We are not actively trying to topple the Iranian government like we were with Cuba. We are not talking about invading simply to end the regime, and that's not something we've ever considered in a serious way. So the Iranians would see such an offer for what it is, which is not much, since it just preserves the status quo.
3rd, too many people think Ahmadinejad speaks for and represents all of Iranian society and government. He does not. We need to keep in mind that the Iranian people are the most pro-American muslims on the planet. We also need to look at the Iranian government, which is factional. It's also still a republic even though the religious leaders have a veto over everything. For all these reasons and more, comparisons with Hitler and Cuba do not apply in my view. We need to tread carefully to prevent Ahmadinejad from becoming more powerful by isolationg the pro-west factions in Iranian society. We don't want to confirm to everyone his views on the west and the US and have those views become the majority in Iran. What we really need is some creative thinking to unleash all the hidden pro-americanism at the Iranian grassroots level.
4th, there may be elements of the Iranian government and society that have no fear of nuclear annihilation - that point is debatable - but I don't think that is a majority view. If Ahmadinejad or some other radical leader wanted to plunge the Iranian nation into annihilation, then I think cooler heads would calmly put a bullet in his head to prevent that.
5th, the Iranian street is nationalistic. They feel it is their right to have nuclear technology, and according to international treaty, the do have that right. Enriching uranium like they are doing is not against any international law or treaty. The problem lies with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which allows enrichment for nuclear fuel, but doesn't provide specific safeguards against making HEU. It's the fatal flaw of the NPT and it would be nice we supported amending it to close that loophole.Comment Posted By Andrew On 14.04.2006 @ 09:46
I agree Rick. This is unlike the Mr. Kristol we usually hear from. He's probably the most intellectually honest conservative today, but this piece he wrote is utter nonsense. The unsupported assumptions he makes are mind boggling.Comment Posted By Andrew On 13.04.2006 @ 14:02
I agree on converging. Here's my conjecture: The Iranians originally wanted a graphite reactor for plutonium production. After many years of trying to acquire outside assistance they eventually gave up and switched their focus to a HW reactor. Probably with design help from the Russians, Chinese, or both, they felt they could build their own given enough time and went ahead with the construction of a HW plant. A HW reactor has many benefits over a graphite reactor anyway, so they probably ditched the graphite reactor idea altogether.
If they want bombs to put on their ballistic missiles, they will want them to be plutonium-based for a variety of reasons (The main one is that plutonium devices are more efficient and weigh less, but much depends on how pure they want to make their HEU). In my opinion, they are planning to start with HEU devices in a couple of years then switch to plutonium weapons once their production gets rolling - provided they can hide it from the IAEA and us, which won't be easy. It may take a significant amount of time and effort to develop the covert infrastructure necessary to get the plutonium unless they take the drastic step of withdrawing from the NPT, which will have severe consequences for them. In the meantime, they will probably have some HEU-based devices and they will learn a lot about bomb design and manufacture which will help them immensely when/if they get plutonium.
I've followed the Iranian military for a decade and they've concentrated on three main objectives: Defending critical targets, like their nuclear facilites, especially from an air attack. Developing the capability to strike at regional opponents - this basically boils down to their ballistic missile program. They want the ability to attack Israel and possibly other states directly since their Air Force isn't up to the task. The final focus is building the ability to control the strait of hormuz and a large portion of the Persian/Arabian Gulf. The majority of the hardware they've purchased or built in the last decade supports one of these three key objectives. However, the weapons they displayed on TV last week are show pieces of outdated Soviet technology. They look cool for the cameras, but aren't a significant military threat, especially when compared to the weapons and tactics they didn't show on TV. The most serious threat to us, and the world, frankly, is their focus on the SOH. If they managed to sink a couple of tankers in the right spots, they'd close the gulf to most oil exports for months. Of course, it would take pretty drastic circumstances for them to do that since the regional and global repercussions would be huge. Even so, the threat and ability to close the strait, even for a short period, gives them an advantage in dealing with oil dependent countries and the gulf Arab states.
It's certainly all very complex and fascinating, despite being scary as hell. I just hope we don't screw it up. The Iranians are our natural allies, in my opinion, and we will need them as a bulwark when the gulf Arab states finally weaken and collapse into chaos or revolt into unfriendly governments. The Saudi's have screwed up their country so much that they've virtually guaranteed a radical Wahhabi state will be born if they ever loose power. What a nightmare that will be.Comment Posted By Andrew On 15.04.2006 @ 17:54