Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Rand Paul Revolution?

With Republicans still spinning their wheels trying to figure out just what went wrong, the Democrats are setting their sights on the Kentucky senate seat currently held by Hall-of-Fame pitcher Jim Bunning. There is pressure building for the 77-year-old senator to retire from his seat and allow a more viable Republican to run in his place.

Jim Bunning, who has won two senatorial elections, each by the narrowest of margins, is perceived as the weakest Republican up for reelection in 2010. While he has voted against bailouts proposed by his own party, his manner has been awkward, bordering on bizarre. Incidents include refusing to debate his opponent in 2004 and threatening to resign earlier this year so that Kentucky’s Democrat governor Steve Beshear could appoint a member of his own party to his seat. Of course, calling the state’s most powerful Republican a “control freak” probably has not helped Bunning’s cause either.

On the May 17, 2009 broadcast of “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace asked the senate minority leader and "control freak" Mitch McConnell if he would endorse Jim Bunning. After getting nowhere, Wallace questioned, “So you’re not endorsing him?”

Perfectly evading the question, the professional pol replied, “It’s not clear who the players are going to be yet.”

But even though the 2010 elections are almost a year and a half away and even though the Kentucky GOP establishment was noncommittal, he actually has already made his pick: Trey Grayson, Kentucky’s secretary of state.

The Politico, quoting an anonymous Republican aide said, “For the first time, we now know who the Republican nominee will be next November and that’s Trey Grayson. He’s by far the best-positioned Republican to be competitive and hopefully win in the fall. It’s not even close.”

From an establishment point-of-view and principles-be-damned- we’ve-got-to-win mindset, Trey Grayson is probably the obvious choice among current Kentucky Republican office-holders. After scandal-plagued Governor Ernie Fletcher was unceremoniously drummed from office in 2007, Secretary of State Grayson was one of only two Republicans (former University of Kentucky basketball star Richie Farmer was the other) to survive and he won at a 14-point clip.

But like an always-campaigning politician, Secretary Grayson has re-vamped his website telling everyone, “I look forward to traveling across the Commonwealth and hearing how best to address the problems that face our country. As I explore this opportunity to continue serving you, I am committed to representing all Kentuckians and the issues that are important to you.”

If you read that opening statement carefully, one might be compelled to ask, Does Secretary Grayson have any political principles? Does he really need to travel across the state in order to determine what the country’s problems are? Does this mean he doesn’t have an actual agenda and is going to shape his platform according to what he discerns the people want to hear? Not from a politician!

But there is another option, an outsider.

Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist residing in Bowling Green, Kentucky (my hometown) has recently declared his intent to run for the U.S. Senate by forming an exploratory committee. If the name looks a little familiar, it is because Dr. Rand Paul is the son of Dr. Ron Paul, the only GOP presidential candidate that generated ANY significant support among young people. If anyone heard Ron Paul speak in person during his run for the presidency, there is a good chance that they would have also seen or heard Rand Paul, as his son was a constant companion on the campaign trail.

Outside of his exposure to politics through his father’s political career, Rand’s only other political experience has been as the chairman of Kentucky Taxpayers United, a group that rates legislators' tax honesty and that is dedicated to generating tax reform in the Bluegrass State.

Over the past several months, Rand has already been traveling across Kentucky delivering his message of freedom for the individual through less interference from the government. In a departure from his potential opponent, Rand already has his message. It’s liberty. It’s not about making government more efficient or “getting government back on the side of the people,” as Sarah Palin said ad nauseum, but by making our lives more efficient by getting government out of it.

Whereas Trey Grayson’s website is remarkably vague on where the man stands on the issues, a brief tour through Rand Paul’s website will demonstrate that young Dr. Paul has thought about the issues and has specific stances on them. One look at his position on the Federal Reserve shows that Rand is not only skeptical of central banking (it must be in his blood), but knows Nobel Prize-winning economists who can back him up. Instead of just uttering vague platitudes about “change,” Rand Paul is enunciating what he would do in order to inaugurate change in Washington.

So, in an era where government is continually reaching into the private lives of American citizens, there is a little glimmer of hope in Kentucky. But since Rand will be running on a platform very similar to his father’s and since he is clearly not the establishment’s first choice, Rand definitely has an uphill climb. The inevitable smear brigades are likely warming up as we sit here.

There’s a chance for a liberty candidate to represent the good people of Kentucky. Can Rand do it?

Postscript: One of the downfalls of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign is that many of the people who liked him didn’t feel like they could really support him because he had no chance of winning the GOP nomination after primaries in all 50 states, especially with the big Republican field of 2008. But all that Rand Paul has to do is win one primary against perhaps only one other contender.

And one of the most effective weapons Ron Paul’s supporters wielded were their grossly (intentionally?) misinterpreted “money bombs” where grassroots activists hit up supporters to make small donations on a specific day. Instead of chasing down a few fat cats to make big donations, the Ron Paul supporters got small donations from LOTS of people. Through such efforts, Ron Paul amassed quite a campaign war chest, despite being designated a “second-tier candidate.” Since Rand only needs contributions in one state, how much easier will it be for him to acquire enough funds to satisfactorily challenge the Kentucky GOP establishment? As of this writing, Rand has already received over $20,000 . Of course, the nomination is only the first step.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The following is a letter to the editor that appeared in the May 10, 2009 issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Oh, those goofy ideas

In Kevin Horrigan's translation of Texas to non-Texans, "Secession: The Texas governor has a goofy idea. So what's new?" (May 3), the only discernible dialect was one of snobbery.

Mr. Horrigan mocks Texan customs and seems to believe that Texans are "goofy" for thinking that they have the right to secede from the Union. Does he consider New Englanders in 1814 "goofy" for calling a convention to discuss secession because of their opposition to the War of 1812?

What about the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, authored by the "goofs" Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, that declared that the states were not compelled to authorize unconstitutional laws and could leave the voluntary union as a last resort?

The 13 colonies seceded forcefully from the British empire. According to Mr. Horrigan's description of Texans curious about secession, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton were superstitious knuckle-draggers.

What kind of Union is it, whether it is a nation or anything else, that says you can join voluntarily but not leave voluntarily? Sounds more like the mafia than liberty. Besides, if states do not have any sort of authority or check of power over the federal government, then why even bother having states at all?

Mr. Horrigan used one great American tradition, the free press, to stomp on another great American tradition, the right of secession.

Carl Wicklander
Nashville, IL

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Of Secession and Snobs

Along with numerous denouncements of America’s descent into socialism, one of the more peculiar and fascinating stories to emerge from the April 15 Tax Day Tea Parties was Texas Governor Rick Perry’s affirmation of secession.

Bringing up the idea of secession in the 21st century certainly seems out of place and the Texas governor has received much coverage for it.

In the Sunday, May 3, 2009 issue of the St Louis Post-Dispatch, columnist and native Texan Kevin Horrigan displayed his snobbery of secession and all things Texas for all to see.

Answering whether Texas and its governor have a right to secede, Horrigan determines that it’s just another goofy idea from Texas :

“Mr. Perry should have known better, but he attended college at Texas A&M, a place where myths never die. Aggies stand throughout football games in case the team runs out of players and one of them is needed. . . . Whenever one of the Aggies’ collie mascots dies, she . . . is buried at the north end of Kyle Field, facing the scoreboard. People who believe that dead dogs are interested in the score of college football games would have no trouble believing Texas could secede from the Union. Also, the dog attends classes with his handlers. Should the dog bark during a class, the class is cancelled. My theory is the dog was in Texas History class with Perry the day the teacher was going to explain that Texas’ right of secession was a crock. The dog barked, and, thus, Perry never got the word. People who believe in these sorts of things would have no trouble believing they can be reelected governor next year. . .”

The constant strain throughout this quote is Kevin Horrigan’s elitism. In it, he assumes that since many Texans engage in some silly, but perfectly harmless rituals that he doesn’t seem to care for, that makes them all stupid. Therefore, since Kevin Horrigan thinks that these little rituals are goofy or stupid, it means that their ideas, like secession, are also stupid.

The closest that Mr. Horrigan comes to refuting secession on facts is that Texas, having once been an independent nation, believed it had the option to leave the Union, i.e. secede, if “things didn’t work out.” He says that was not the case because they tried it in 1861 and it “didn’t work out.”

Horrigan thinks that answers the secession question for Texas. However, his assessment operates on the assumption that since secession didn’t work, it is a “crock,” to use his own word. But does he believe that about everything?

I wonder if the liberal Horrigan believes torture is a “crock.” We all know that torture was used but we also know that the United States classifies torture as illegal. But since torture took place, and according to Mr. Horrigan’s logic, that seems to indicate that torture is not a crock. So does that mean torture is actually legal?

Following Mr. Horrigan’s op-ed, I penned a letter to the editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to take up cause not against the writer’s elitist snobbery, which was the main point of his essay, but his beef with the idea of secession.

So, is secession legal? Is it crazy?

Well, it might be crazy, but it is technically legal.

The legality of it should be evident to all Americans. All American citizens know that the United States was formed by declaring its independence from the British Empire and fighting to ensure that they would be separated from the Mother Country. What is this if it is not secession?

No less of an authority on the meaning of the American War for Independence than Thomas Jefferson believed so when he said in 1816, “any state in the Union will declare that it prefers separation ... to a continuance in the union .... I have no hesitation in saying, 'Let us separate.’”

Earlier, in 1798, Jefferson and James Madison penned the famous Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, announcing that the states had the right to not enforce any federal law they did not believe was constitutional, keeping the national government in check. In those days, the states had more authority over the national government, due in part to the fact that the states preceded the Union.

However, this belief in secession was rebuked as a result of the War Between the States, which many, Kevin Horrigan being only one example, believe was because the seceding states were dragged back into a Union they felt they no longer belonged in.

Now we come to the reason why an indivisible union is necessary for the strong national government of today as opposed to the decentralized and deferential government bequeathed to us by the Founding Fathers.

As the system works right now, the states are merely appendages to the national government, more like provinces or satrapies than entities truly in charge of their own affairs. With the Civil War rendering the 10th amendment, the states’ rights amendment, moot, the states are nothing other than corollaries to Washington D.C. No one can get away with saying today that state governments can overrule or nullify laws coming from Washington D.C. Since the state governments are ultimately subordinate to the national government, the people of the states are subordinate as well. If the country was more of the loose compact of states that it was before the Civil War, the national government would have a much harder time justifying the need to have military bases in 130 countries if the real sovereign were the states.

Perhaps the chief reason why secession and states’ rights are shunned by so many today is because they have been tied to racist causes. But believing that secession can only be used for racist causes horribly abuses the proper understanding of secession.

Rather than being used for ignoble purposes, secession is one of the strongest safeguards against tyranny coming from Washington. The farther away the national capital is from its constituents, the more draconian it has to be in enforcing its laws. The closer a capital is to its people, the less so. That was one of the reasons for the American Revolution: the right of local self-government.

All that said, secession is merely a legal right, not an outright necessity. But with seemingly every big industry getting “too big to fail,” meaning that its failure would be catastrophic, there is something to be admired about small things.

Let’s say these industries that are “too big to fail” do fail and havoc is wrecked. Now let’s say the same thing happens to the U.S. national government. What would we be left with? Just the smaller portions, like when the Soviet Union became so big that it had to fail.

So is secession crazy? Is the socialist road our country is on crazy? Seems less crazy to me and maybe even a few others.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Letter to The Nashville (IL) News

The following is a letter of mine printed in the Wednesday, May 6, 2009 edition of The Nashville News, my very local paper. It is reproduced here exactly as it was in the paper except I corrected their misspelling of "taxpayers'" in the second paragraph and I have added the links.

Thanks, Congressman

Thank you to Congressman John Shimkus for voting against reckless spending and for economic liberty as he described in last week’s letter.

I would also like to take this time to thank our congressman for cosponsoring H.R. 1207, The Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009, introduced by Congressman Ron Paul of Texas to audit our national bank. With endless bailouts and so much money being spent, Americans have a right to know what is really happening with their money. If what taxpayers do with their money is the government’s business, then what the government does with our money should likewise be the taxpayers’ business.

This is an important bill because even though we were promised transparency and accountability in our government, much of the government’s actions remain clouded in secrecy. H.R. 1207 has broad bipartisan support and opening the bank’s books for the first time in its nearly 100-year history could help usher in a real era of responsibility to our government.

It’s not often we can congratulate our public servants since so many of them embarrass themselves and their constituents, but Congressman Shimkus deserves our appreciation for joining a cause that puts Illinois taxpayers first.

If anyone is interested in learning more about H.R. 1207 and The Federal Reserve Transparency Act, I would encourage them to explore

Carl Wicklander

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Lawless Right

Well, that’s what it boils down to, anyway. The arguments made by those on the Right regarding the Bush administration’s use of waterboarding suggests as much and it exposes the moral bankruptcy of what currently constitutes today’s mainstream American Right.

Along with this discussion have been repeated invocations of President Harry Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 to end the war in the Pacific. The argument reads: since Japan would never surrender before every man, woman, and child were exhausted to defend the empire, the atomic bombs HAD to be used in order to hasten their surrender. That, of course, ignores the simple fact that even though two atomic bombs were detonated, the Japanese did not fight to every last man, woman, or child.

What this whole discussion of “extraordinary tactics,” be it waterboarding or dropping atomic bombs, reveals is that those who populate the Right, time and again, abandon their principles and the rule of law for pragmatism.

The most compelling argument in favor of waterboarding is that it saves lives. That certainly seems justifiable if waterboarding a suspect means they reveal pivotal information about an impending terror attack.

But what if a waterboarded suspect gives false information because the action being engaged in is indeed torture and he says whatever is necessary to make the pain stop? If that is the case, is waterboarding anything other than torture or sadism?

And what does waterboarding say of us, a country that prosecuted the Japanese for doing the same thing in World War II? Does it say that activities we label “torture” are only torture when it is committed by other regimes? Answering “yes” to that question makes an activity like waterboarding an ethically neutral practice – its morality is determined by who commits it. Japanese waterboarding: evil and a war crime. American waterboarding: good and definitely not torture.

What is truly amazing is the apoplexy of those on the Right regarding the retraction of waterboarding as a counterterrorism measure.

We regularly hear about how waterboarding has indeed saved American lives because the frequently-waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, “the mastermind of 9/11,” revealed that there was another terrorist attack slated for the West Coast. There does appear to have been another attack planned for the West Coast, but the great ignored fact is that it was called off by Osama bin Laden himself before 9/11. So how did waterboarding save American lives if the plot he exposed in 2002 was long-before canceled?

But this illusion marches on and the Right, and even a few on the Left, perpetuate that waterboarding is not torture, it worked, and we should continue it.

It is shrouded under the cover of “National Security,” and we can see how those on the Right readily throw away their convictions in favor of expediency.

The argument regularly heard from those waterboard supporters is that it works and if it meant protecting the American people from a terrorist attack, then we should have no problem pouring some water up a terrorist’s nose for 30 seconds.

The worst part is this excuse-making on the Right. How many times in the past couple of weeks have we heard the talking heads saying that “Well, those people cut off heads, we just pour some water up their noses.”

It is probably time to point out that “At least we’re not as bad as them” is not a real argument based on reason or fact. Neither is “Okay, so we waterboarded a guy a whole bunch of times, but it was never for more than 30 seconds!” And neither is “Well, we haven’t done it since 2003” or “It’s not torture, but even if it was, it was only on 3 people and they were terrorists anyway, so it doesn’t count.” Or “Yes, we did sign the Geneva Convention and the terrorists didn’t, so that technically means we don’t have to accord them the rights under it. That means we can torture!”

All of this makes the argument in favor of waterboarding not really about intelligence gathering but revenge. It’s like saying “Okay, maybe waterboarding really is torture, but come on, these people are terrorists. It shouldn’t matter whether waterboarding is against the law or not. They don’t abide by the rules, so we won’t.”

This defense of waterboarding on the Right has gotten so twisted that NOT supporting waterboarding is “disgusting.”

Another much-regurgitated argument was the rhetorical question posed to anyone who dared to question the wisdom of waterboarding: What if we have a suspect who has knowledge of an impending attack and won’t talk unless we waterboard? Or “President Obama, what if, God forbid, your little girls were kidnapped by terrorists and they wouldn’t tell you where they were? Would you waterboard then?”

Well, aside from the obvious fact that that second situation is far-fetched to the point of absurdity, let’s alter that second argument into something just a little more realistic.

Instead of terrorists doing the kidnapping, let’s say your family has been kidnapped by one person. What if they refused to give back your family, even for ransom? Would you murder the kidnapper to save your family? If you did, would you expect to be prosecuted by the law? Is it not still murder if it’s done to a villain? Is torture not actually torture if we say it’s for good purposes?

At best, what the Right is advocating is a disregard of the law because we don’t like it and, at worst, showing that values are expendable.

An example of this could be found on Glenn Beck’s television program on Friday, May 1, 2009. With a live studio audience, Mr. Beck, who has a strong independent streak, rejected the notion that waterboarding is a crime. For those familiar with Glenn Beck either on television or radio, he frequently excoriates politicians who deliberately ignore the Constitution. Yet this time, when the argument gets framed into matters of national security and the hypothetical ticking time bomb, waterboarding is absolutely necessary. In an exchange with libertarian justice Andrew Napolitano, Mr. Beck questions whether the Constitution is a “suicide pact” because it does not allow for presidents to waterboard.

Notice how easily a usually strong-willed conservative abandons the Constitution for the hypothetical ticking time bomb. In the most far-fetched scenario in world history, civilizational annihilation, the Constitution HAS to be dropped, even in the more hypothetical of situations. Like deficits, I guess laws don’t matter either.

Somehow, I conjecture that much of the rage roaring on the Right has little to do with actually combating terrorism or keeping Americans safe.

I make this estimation because one of the main defenses is that waterboarding has not been used since 2003. Why is that? If waterboarding is the only way we have been able to thwart impending terrorist attacks, does that mean we haven't been safe since 2003? Surely Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's knowledge of contemporary terrorist attacks has been exhausted. Could it really be a coincidence that 2003 was the year that waterboarding officially ended and the invasion of Iraq began?

What about the testimony of Major Paul Burney, who revealed that much of the time spent waterboarding was to find a link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Iraq? The possibility that this is true might just unveil the real reason why our country waterboarded: to better justify the invasion of an innocent country.

Since in most cases conservatives defended nearly everything George W. Bush did, we may begin to see why waterboarding is sacrosanct on the Right. Like the liberal mainstream media that have invested heavily in Barack Obama, conservatives have put a major investment in the legacy of President Bush. Any condemnation (or prosecution) of what he did in office is a condemnation of the Right that gave him perpetual cover.

Conservatism thus far in the 21st Century is not concerned with the rule of law or tradition. It is primarily concerned with making Republicans, and especially George W. Bush, look good. Doing so means that conservatives have to ignore the law. And they are.