31 October 2011

What I vote for, and why this means I'm not voting for anybody

What it comes down to for me to support a candidate for national office.
1) Strong civil liberties defender. This includes things like opposing anti-terrorism methods, TSA invasive powers, and essentially the very existence of the PATRIOT act, Homeland Security, and the DEA. Obama has been more of the same here. You can guess that this makes me very angry.

Concurrently, the sort of "lets get rid of lobbyists!" talk I hear, sometimes from the sort of people protesting for civil liberties, does not impress me. It seems inevitable that people of strong convictions on the issues will demand a voice for reform. I don't see how limiting that voice, by constraining the ability to lobby public officials directly for such reforms or to agitate themselves for such ideas, is a very good idea in and of itself. To my mind what this would accomplish is legitimize the modest state-control over media we already have by limiting what arguments are heard to what arguments media companies approve of airing publicly and providing coverage to (drug policy is a notable example here to observe how it is covered by media). Additionally, most of this focuses on things like public funding for elections and their candidates, but ignores the much more significant influence trading which occurs through regulatory capture behaviors, conducted by mostly unelected officials, or the direct influence trading that occurs when industries effectively write the laws themselves and have them introduced by favorable political figures (the health care law, along with Dodd-Frank, among others are prime examples here).

So what does concern me is non-transparent free speech. I have no problem if individuals take to airing their perspectives, even under pseudonyms, for the purpose of stirring debate and discourse over complex issues. I have a problem where those individuals (and corporations of all stripes), take to airing their perspectives by direct political influence (ie, monetary support), but then wish that influence to be private and undisclosed. My own perspective is that political influence through lobbying (for which providing election campaign funds and advertising in support of candidates is merely the most visible format) should be disclosed, fully and openly. The focus on elections is ultimately foolish. The real problem is getting people to pay attention to what politicians and bureaucrats, and the influencing agents involved, are doing while nobody is paying attention. Namely, in between elections when laws are actually being written and new rules and regulations handed down and enforced. If people couldn't be troubled to notice the push for health care reform over the last 40 years and thought that a very minor change to the current system was happening too fast or all of the sudden, then I have a pretty defensible notion that most voters are not actively paying attention to the political process as it actually happens, most of the time. Occasionally, sure. Mostly, no.

2) Realistic attitude toward foreign policy. Focus on what we can and cannot do, and also what are the essential interests that we must fight for, and what interests we can afford to apply other methods on (diplomacy, trade, etc). Even supposed doves like Obama (supposed from the GOP perspective) are overly hawkish in my view. Hawkishness has a place. Wars are sometimes necessary at the state level. But looking for and creating fights where you can achieve your goals in other ways, not so much a good use of the state and its war powers. As examples. Iran, the whole assassination of Saudi ambassadors plot is sounding a lot to me like yet another FBI setup based on what our government itself has released, and not something hatched and approved in Tehran and thus creating a problem for us internationally. Invading Iraq essentially created more opportunities for Iran to be a trouble maker as well, something we ought to have considered when we decided to invade and occupy Iraq in the first place. Pakistan. While I'm no fan of Pakistan and especially its apparent intelligence operations in the South Asia region, the political and media perspectives being taken there are unproductive. It's Pakistan we actually want to be stable, because of the nukes. Afghanistan is and always was a hopeless quest. Talking down to Pakistan because they're fucking with our mission in Afghanistan is more an indication that our mission in Afghanistan was based on a horribly flawed strategy to begin with (or at least, since we went in with the post-Iraq mission statement that this was about spreading democracy rather than hunting down and fighting/killing international criminals) than leading to any necessary conclusion that Pakistan is to be our new avowed enemy.

3) Admit a willingness to cut useless bureaucracy (multiple lines of regulation for instance on the same products or services or excessive agencies/contractors conducting the same mission, most prevalent in the security state apparatus), cut spending significantly (and not token cuts like "foreign aid" or "planned parenthood", like GOP types spout off about, but real cuts like entire federal agencies being abolished or slashed down to the bone, getting rid of a lot of subsidies, etc), reform taxes and entitlements (including abolishing the home mortgage deductions and ending entitlements as anything other than a social safety net, social welfare in effect). People who are not willing to talk about this openly and instead offer vague pronouncements and spend too much time talking about weird tax reforms and tax cuts (read: most of the Republican field and Congress) when the government's problem is spending and not so much taxation, don't get my support.

Pretty much everything else I care about as a voter is, usually, a local or state matter (licensing laws, zoning restrictions, environmental protections, etc).
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