Here Comes Iowa


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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78 Responses

  1. Avatar Plinko says:

    I guess Johnson finally dropped out officially, but every time this discussion of Ron Paul has come up, I’ve had a voice in my head asking why isn’t anyone discussing Gary Johnson? I guess Paul has sucked up all the libertarian oxygen, which is a terrible shame because as far as I can tell Johnson carries none of the baggage of Paul while being far preferable across the spectrum of civil liberties. I was seriously considering crossing over in the primary to vote for him until he dropped out.



  2. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    The 2008 primaries were way better than this. Two parties, outcome in doubt, upsets and back-and-forths all the way for the Democrats and at least until Florida for the Republicans, larger-than-life personalities on stage all the time.

    This season is okay. There’s not a clear annointment of Romney going on, at least not yet. This is a decent meal. But ’08 was a feast.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I thought that was an odd line from Wilkinson, too.  I’m guessing he meant “entertaining” more in the Vaudeville sense than the “compelling political drama” sense.Report

  3. Avatar Paul Crider says:

    There is no hope for civil libertarians this election cycle. But maybe there’s a bright side. Whoever inherits the Ron Paul mantle four years from now will probably not have something this icky in his or her background.Report

  4. Avatar BSK says:

    Are you SURE Johnson has no skeletons in his closet?  Paul’s surfaced as soon as he became a real threat.  When other GOPers saw that Paul was very much for real, at least as an “upstart”, they dug up the dirt on him.  Why are you so confident that the same wouldn’t and couldn’t be done to Johnson if he posed a role threat?  Hopefully his skeletons aren’t as discomforting as Paul’s, but few of us don’t have some baggage that could get trumped up when in the spotlight.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to BSK says:

      This particular baggage, however, is consistent with concerns that had been raised about Paul going back for years.  His affiliation with the black helicopter/JBS crowd has long been a concern.  At least as recently as November 2007 – and maybe since then? – he was making appearances on the Alex Jones Show.  I recall making it a point to listen to that appearance myself, to find out if it would really be as bad as others had made it out to be.  It was somehow worse.  I still wound up voting for him in the primary as the least-bad option, and I expect the same will happen again in this year’s primary.  I am not at all certain that I could vote for him in a general election, though.Report

  5. Avatar Roland dodds says:

    For anyone new to the “Paul is crazy as hell” party, this should be worth your time.

  6. Avatar Stillwater says:

    What a fool Ron Paul was to go along with it, or to turn a blind eye.

    Forget it, Erik. It’s Chinatown.Report

  7. If it’s a close race between Obama and any plausible GOP nominee in my state, I don’t think I have any real choice but to vote for the former.  I am horribly disappointed in several of his policy decisions (notably his failures regarding civil liberties), but the contemporary GOP is a train wreck of horrible ideas, rank nativism and appalling appeals to religious fundamentalism.

    If it looks like Obama will carry my state safely, I will probably vote for Johnson.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Russell Saunders says:

      I feel your pain Russell. Minnesota is not a classic swing state but it’s been quite purple in a lot of the most recent elections. I’m pretty much trapped with Obama for gay rights issues if nothing else (plus my husband would be apalled if I proposed wasting my vote). All my energy is going into fighting the constitutional ammendment here. If we could defeat that here I’d be over the moon regardless of how Obama did.Report

      • Avatar Russell Saunders in reply to North says:

        Best of luck, my friend.

        I think they’re trying to get SSM back on the ballot next year, this time as a referendum reinstating it.  They have enough signatures, so I suppose it’s a done deal.  I am skeptical that it will do any better than the last time it came up, at which point the law legalizing SSM was repealed.  (Three guesses where I live?)  Anyhow, I would be similarly ecstatic if we had a better result.Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to North says:

        “I’m pretty much trapped with Obama for gay rights issues if nothing else (plus my husband would be apalled if I proposed wasting my vote).”

        Then tell him it’s the Republican party that represents the best (or only) hope for the return of prosperity to America.

        In a maybe slightly less partisan way, have you been following the latest developments in the sovereign debt crises? If not there’s been some interesting back and forth between Karl Smith (great name for an economist) and Tyler Cowen starting maybe four weeks ago and ending a week ago.

        It might be a way for you to get caught up to understanding the basic tradeoffs being presented without being distracted by a partisan filter (unless for some reason you have a particular affinity for Greek or Portguese debtors).

        Basically, Team Red represents engagement, Team Blue represents entanglement.Report

        • Avatar b-psycho in reply to Koz says:

          Even if that were remotely true (which it isn’t: neither team knows what the hell they’re doing) not everything is economics. Why should they support people who hate them?Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to b-psycho says:

            I don’t know of anybody who hates North. But in any event, this business of who thinks this guy hates that other guy and the rest of it, that’s just the partisan filter we want to get away from.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Koz says:

              kay. out of partisan filter.

              Do you mind if I NOT vote for the people who think it’s okay to feed me to snakes?

              … just checking.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Kim says:

                Kimmi you’re regressing again. Drivebys suck.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Koz says:

                when the barricades start going up, I hope you’ll be on the side with liberty and community… and not the side that wants to feed you, alive, to snakes.

                I kinda doubt that’ll happen, and that you’ll still be prattling along about bootstraps and social mobility…

                But I do honestly think that you aren’t a sociopath, and therefore the odds of reaching you are substantial.

                (quips that poke a bit of fun at you aren’t drivebys… I’ll actually bother responding, if you can come up with something…)Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Kim says:

                “I’ll actually bother responding, if you can come up with something…”

                No Kimmi, either make a complete point or let it go. For my money you’re worse than Heidegger, who actually does have a legit point sometimes if you’re willing to wade through 2000 words of Hegelese to get it.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Kim says:

                I think a couple of comments got eaten, but I think I figured it out.

                “I’ll actually bother responding, if you can come up with something…”

                In any case either make a complete point or let it go. For my money you’re worse than H e i d e g g e r. At least he has a point if you’re willing to wade through 2000 words of Hegelese to get it.Report

            • Avatar b-psycho in reply to Koz says:

              I don’t support either party, so how is that partisan filtering?Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Koz says:

          So I can get you on record as wanting to eliminate Reagan’s 401k programs? Government largesse at its finest…Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Koz says:

          Oh the financial climate is frightful,
          But free money is so delightful,
          And since we’ve no place to go,
          Let It blow! Let It blow! Let It blow!

          It doesn’t show signs of stopping,
          And I’ve bought some puts for when its dropping,
          Expectations are turned way down low,
          Let It blow! Let It blow! Let It blow!

          When we finally kiss capitalism goodbye,
          How you’ll hate it not being the norm
          But if you really want a fright,
          All the fiat can keep you warm.

          The F.I.R.E. economy is slowly dying,
          And, my dear, we’re still xmas buying
          But as long as you’ve got the dough,
          Let It blow! Let It blow! Let It blow!


          … ah, holiday cheers.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Koz says:

           Heh, if I tried that line on my partner he’d probably use our medical power of attorney to have me committed or at least checked into a hospital under suspicion of brain melting fever.

          I’ve followed the sovereign debt crises in a detached manner but haven’t been reading much commentary about it. The parallels with the US of course are pretty attenuated of course since Greece and Portugal’s debt problems are so different from the US’s as to be utterly unrelated except, of course, that they both involve government debt.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to North says:

            It’s interesting you would say that since the nature of the debt problems don’t look all that different to me. Or maybe to put it better, there’s enough data points so that we can make some reasonably smart guesses to clarify exactly what the difference is between Greece, or Italy, or France, or the USA.

            In any case, I thought this was fairly interesting:


            Especially wherein Smith writes,

            “We want to be explicit about this. What exactly is the way that it gets worse? Maybe Tyler has a scenario, but the worse case endgame for a Euro failure is collapse of the global capitalist system, the political collapse of the West and the end of the Enlightenment.”

            Again, this is an imperfect mapping but nonetheless in this little context Smith is the lib half of Tyler/Smith. Entanglement is very risky.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Koz says:

              nobody’s calling for THAT. It’s maybe at the 1% probability, maybe .1%?

              The 2007 Lehman/Sterns crisis? That was at least 10% probability of guns and cigarettes.

              I don’t hold with “political collapse of the West” == we’re talking political collapse of the World.

              End of the Enlightenment? Maybe yes, maybe no… that’s a harder thing, and it depends on how quickly (if ever) order gets reestablished.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kim says:

                The end of the Enlightenment won’t be chaos. It’ll be a Brave New World.

                Now, since I’m a Beta, I don’t mind so much. Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they’re so frightfully clever. I’m awfully glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They’re too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly color. I’m so glad I’m a Beta.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

                much more optimistic than me, I see.

                The end of the Enlightenment… will it be monstersanto, a terrorist, global warming?

                I’m predicting a more than 50% chance that the world “as we know it” ends before I reach middle age (50s), and I don’t mean gradually…Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kim says:

                Hmm, I feel fine.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird says:

                *beta fistbump*Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Koz says:

              What this entire little blurb leaves out is that Germany benefitted enormously from the unified currency and most especially the unified market. It’s understandable they’re kvetching now that the bill has come due but I’m relatively hopeful the Europeans are going to muddle through. The ECB is printing more money and is likely going to have to print more. There’s going to be more interventions and bailouts and the crunching of the southern entitlement programs is going to continue.

              Smith strikes me as overexcitable, which is a universal trait, but all the entanglement jargon just strikes me as your usual obfuscation.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to North says:

                Essentially Germany’s growth from 2000 onward is basically attributable to the competitive advantages a unified market and currency it provided to an already industrialized state with a strong labor force over states which would usually use monetary/currency policy to eke out labor cost advantages.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to North says:

                First of all, the “entanglement jargon” is from me, not Smith or Cowen.

                I referred to them to get an overall sense of what the conditions are, who the players are and the choices might be. Especially that last part. Opinions vary of course, but it’s getting hard to see a course of action for which we can be reasonably confident that really really bad things (and forseeably bad things) won’t happen. The Euro players are in a pretty serious box, no matter how they end up playing their hand.

                Is this ok so far?Report

  8. Avatar thom says:

    For those who doubt if Ron Paul is actually a racist, this video should help lay to rest any of your skepticism. The man is clearly a racist….

  9. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Sensible people elect politicians, knowing they’re not going to get what’s advertised, however it’s put or however well-meant or appropriate or wise.   Glib utterances from the Ideatron 3000 Mark IV are worthless.

    The president isn’t there to lead us into the Promised Land.   Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.   The future remains unknown and the Executive Branch is there to respond when the future becomes the present, as we learned to our horror on 9/11, when the Executive Branch was manifestly asleep at the switch and reacted horribly to the events of that day.

    We ought not choose our leaders based on some shopping list of how they’d change things for the better, though that’s important in its own way.  It isn’t nearly as important as gauging the measure of a man’s character, especially in a president, on the basis of what he did when confronted with the then-unknowns of his past.   If that shopping list is to mean anything, it ought to be a measure of what the candidate believes he might do, given the opportunity.   It is no predictor of what he will actually do, given power and forced into the bubble which surrounds every president of the United States.

    Wouldn’t it be great if these candidates would run for president with their cabinet choices in tow and not just the vice presidential candidate?    The Executive is an enormous enterprise: it’s not just POTUS.   Case in point,  Who’s gonna be the Chief of Staff?   His office is just outside the Oval Office.   SecDef, SecState, all these are important choices and if the Executive Branch were compared to the Executive Suite in any other enterprise, the Board of Directors would know.   But we don’t.   It’s been reduced to a popularity contest.   The candidates are now rolling the great siege catapults forward to fling great heaps of merde over the battlements of their opponents.    This, folks, is not leadership in action.   It might have been going on for a good long while and become a fixture of American politics and it might be effective in winning elections but it has only reduced our government to little fiefdoms governed by warlords.  Vae Victis.

    Hope is a waking dream, so said Plato.   If we want progressives in high office, we must present viable alternatives to the shittus-quo-ante of Say Much ‘n Do Nothing.Report

    • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Actually, I’d prefer a ‘do nothing’ president! Presidents historically do way too much.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

        I’m sure you would.   Now, in the real world, this nation requires actual leadership to do its business and get on with the continuing issue of the More Perfect Union and all that phrase entails.   We know your predilection for the halcyon days of yore, when some folks Knew Their Place and if there was a li’l injustice, the White Knights could take Korrective Akshun on an as-needed basis.Report

  10. Avatar Maxwell James says:

    If what you care about is civil liberties, stop focusing on the President and start focusing on the Congress, and especially the Senate. It is their complete abrogation of duty over matters of war and peace that has put our civil liberties in the sewer.

    Look at John McCain. Prior to 2001 – hell, prior to 2008 – there was no way he’d have co-authored the horrible policies under the NDAA, let alone place them as a rider in what would otherwise be a routine fund-the-soldier act. The same goes for Carl Levin, Lindsay Graham, and all the other hypocrites who put their weight behind the bill.

    Obama and Bush deserve blame, yes. But change is not going to come from the executive – all the incentives of the office support maintaining the law as it is written. Hell, I bet Ron Paul himself would continue the indefinite detention policy by the time he became president, in the unlikely event that would happen. Why not – the only thing stopping him would be his past words, and as we’ve seen from Bush and Obama that’s no obstacle at all.

    There are institutional reasons in Washington that have led to this slow transfer of power from Congress to President, and until those institutions are changed nothing can or will be done about it.Report

  11. Avatar James K says:

    This is why I think so little of democracy as a way of aggregating preferences.  You get a choice all right – between a bunch of unappetising options with a few truly terrible ones thrown in for fun.

    How valuable is a choice where all the options are bad?Report

  12. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    It would be sadly ironic if we were so focused on Not!  Being!  RACIST!  That we wound up going to war with Iran.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Some of our best friends are Persian.Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Depending on who you believe there’s a decent chance we’re taking action against Iran’s nuclear capabilities before the election.Report

      • Avatar b-psycho in reply to Koz says:

        That’d definitely separate the partisan loyalists from the true believers.  Gotta admit I wonder what percentage of Obama voters would simply wave the flag vs do the right thing and denounce him over that if it were to happen.


        • Avatar Kim in reply to b-psycho says:

          I might denounce him, and still vote for him. Not sure.Report

          • Avatar b-psycho in reply to Kim says:

            Really?  Obama could start a war with Iran and you’d consider still voting for him?Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to b-psycho says:

              My life and liberty, and my family’s, comes before the people of Iran’s liberty. If nothing else, because we’re far more capable than most of chucking a few stones.

              (Long Story Short: yes, but only if Palin or someone from her faction is running on the other side).

              Obama’s defeatable within the system. A good bit of the Republican party is apt to destroy the system entirely. I tend to be in favor of the current system, personally.Report

              • Avatar b-psycho in reply to Kim says:

                My life and liberty, and my family’s, comes before the people of Iran’s liberty. If nothing else, because we’re far more capable than most of chucking a few stones.

                Because when we go to war our liberties are left completely undisturbed…Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to b-psycho says:

                My ability, and my family’s to be an effective change agent, is compromised under a Palin Presidency. Not so under Obama.

                Others are free to feel differently.

                This is not to say that books might not be banned… or that wars are a “good thing” or anything like that.

                Truth’s a bitch, but she’s still shiny.Report

              • Avatar b-psycho in reply to Kim says:

                Honestly, how much control do you feel like you actually have regardless of who is in office?


              • Avatar Kim in reply to b-psycho says:

                enough. But bear in mind, I know people who have been high level operatives on political campaigns, people who regularly work for NASA/hedge funds, and other positions of rather large influence. A friend of a friend pulled a few major strings to get something really, really STUPID cut from ARRA.

                People like Ben Franklin still exist — and by virtue of their intrinsic abilities, they will always have an outsize influence on the political process. I find keeping such people alive, free, and out of torture cells to be ultimately more productive than the alternatives.

                Naturally, part of this argument rests on the ability to smuggle/release military information to other countries (ADOM anyone?)

                And another part of the argument rests on my feeling that if the left goes to war, the Right will see it through, come hell or high water.

                Naturally, you have the right to call me a crazy liar… but that doesn’t change the truth or falsehood of my claims.

                (I’ve always been of the opinion that telling the truth is FAR more entertaining than lying).Report

        • Avatar Koz in reply to b-psycho says:

          Yeah, I was thinking of Obama in particular, but not necessarily the partisan fallout. Ie, Obama on his own accord, without being goaded by the GOP, is going to take military action against Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

          IMO, probably somewhere between 30-70 against and 50-50. And if he doesn’t, it’ll prob be because he doesn’t have to. Ie, Iran is overthrown/abandons nukes/ or it’s perceived that the sanctions are working.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Koz says:

            important to note that after GWB came into power, for a while Iran abandoned most nuclear stuff… then they got scared,a nd got back into it again.

            Iran wants to be a regional player. America is unlikely to be able to stop that. Better for us to cede the stage, if not the power…Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kim says:

              I don’t agree.   Iran commenced with a new round of lies, having been caught out in some particularly egregious ones.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Iran’s tendency to act like Arafat ought not to be underestimated, it is true…Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kim says:

                There’s another regime which lied and connived with Great Powers to get its hands on nuclear weapons and still won’t admit to having them.   That would be the State of Israel.

                P.S. — and won’t submit to IAEA inspections, as we demand of Iran.


              • Avatar b-psycho in reply to BlaiseP says:

                This is why I’ve taken up responding to any alarm over Iran that involves “but…Israel is threatened!!” with a yawn.  Israel clearly can handle itself, their defense is not our problem.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to b-psycho says:

                Yeah.   Let’s all sing that sad old song “Pore Little Israel, All Alone.”   Let’s try it in B flat minor, so those mournful trumpet breaks aren’t too hard on the none-too-expert players.   And where’s that accordion player?  I swear, it’s so tough trying to keep him out here on stage.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kim says:

                There’s a great story about Arafat in Beirut in 1976.   Arafat brought in a team of Corsican mafiosi with locksmithing and safe cracking skills to help his crew rob the British Bank of the Middle East.

                It took them two days and a couple of trucks to haul away all the loot.   The PLO gave the Corsicans one third of the takings outright, which they flew out in an old DC-3, about 200 million dollars worth.  But Arafat kept careful records of all the paper valuables they couldn’t get rid of, stock certificates and suchlike, selling them back to their original owners for a fraction of their value.   Their former owners were very glad to get them back, for most of those had been acquired illegally anyway.Report

    • Avatar Charles in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Amen. I don’t know why so many people seem intent on submarining the only candidate who stands a chance of creating a foothold for principles non-interventionism on the American right, especially when non-interventionism is not only an overwhelming moral imperative, but will increasing be a fiscal and monetary imperative (crowding out the desire to maintain the social safety net, or lower tax rates, etc.)

      The empire must end, and when it does end, it will be because of people who sound like Ron Paul, not people who sound like Susan Surandon. If someone has in mind an attractive, charismatic spokesperson who’s better-positioned to play that role (e.g. without all this “baggage”,) I’d love to hear about them. Gary Johnson is great, don’t get me wrong — we’d definitely be better off if the GOP moved in his direction. However, he hasn’t shown the consistent ability to inspire young people in the same way that Rep. Paul has done. And that matters, especially when creating a political movement that’s in it for the long haul.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Iran’s theocracy needs enemies.   It depends on ginning up Great Satans, as wooden staves depend upon steel hoops to hold the barrel together.   Already that barrel is falling apart:  we’ve removed Saddam Hussein from Iraq and the Deobandi Taliban from Afghanistan.   Feverishly grasping for more barrel hoops, Iran now attempts to forge up nuclear weapons, the old ones having rusted away.

      Though it might seem the theocrats hold sway in Iran, the merchants hold all the trump cards and they grow impatient.   Don’t look for some recapitulation of the Arab Spring in Tehran:  the revolution will come when the moneyed interests finally conclude the Mullahs of Qom have outlived their usefulness.    When that day arrives, and it will come sooner than later, they’ll be sent back to their seminaries with a few well-placed kicks to a few august backsides and a new regime will arise in its place.Report

  13. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:


    Given that much of your substantive support for someone like Ron Paul is based upon foreign policy, could you please do a more thorough post on what precisely about American foreign policy that you don’t like.

    It would be nice to have an actual discussion on this subject, rather than have it be tangentially brought up in bits and pieces. I may be wrong, but I feel as though on this you may be emphasizing far too much attention on Af-Pak and missing a greater IR forest for some (admittedly very large) trees.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      I believe in a dramatically reduced presence overseas and a non-interventionist foreign policy that looks to diplomacy and trade instead of sanctions and war. Obviously we could go into more detail – and indeed, I think much of Jon Huntsman’s foreign policy is very smart – refocusing on Asia, reduction in troops, etc. Which large trees am I missing?Report

  14. Avatar Herb says:

    Just a quibble….” the increasingly hawkish Romney and Obama”

    Obama as a hawk?  It’s true that he presides over a muscular foreign policy, but it doesn’t strike me as particularly hawkish at least in how that term has been understood in the past.  Indeed, Obama has had several opportunities to indulge in his inner hawk and they have always passed with, dare I say, restraint.Report

  15. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    My argument is more that your focus on the very large trees of Af-Pak has obscured the overall forest of the general trend of US foreign policy under the Obama Administration.

    I’ll pen a more comprehensive response later…but needless to say, I would argue that there’s a lot of “refocusing on Asia” going on, plus looking to trade and diplomacy….Report