Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ten Reasons Not to Vote for Ron Paul

Let's be honest: Ron Paul doesn't have the slightest chance of winning the presidential election next year. Not even a shred of hope for him. Given that I don't think any of the candidates are particularly good ones, why am I wasting my time arguing against one that is marginal at best? Simple education. A lot of good, smart, left-leaning people are falling for the Ron Paul libertarian shtick, the same way a lot of the same people in Texas fell for Kinky Friedman in the governor's race. It breaks my heart, frankly, to see reasonable people supporting unreasonable politicians.

So let's get to it.

I intended to give ten reasons not to vote for Ron Paul. When researching the post, however, I found one on another blog that covered precisely all the bases that I would have, so I will give credit where credit is due and point you there for the facts while summarizing the list here... with my own commentary as well.
  1. Ron Paul thinks women and minorities are second-class citizens. Oh, he disguises it in pro-rights rhetoric. "We do not get our rights because we belong to a group. Whether it's homosexuals, women, minorities, it leads us astray. You don't get your rights belonging to your group. A group can't force themselves on anybody else." Sounds reasonable, right? And it's true, if taken at face value: groups don't have rights, individuals do. One of those rights is the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sex or race. Unfortunately, this right is violated on a massive scale every single day, and so we have a system in place to help compensate for that: affirmative action. And when you realize that Ron Paul was talking about affirmative action when he said those words, you realize that he was implying that women and racial minorities simply being represented proportionate to their numbers is leading "us" astray. To Ron Paul, women and minorities don't have the right not to be discriminated against in education and employment. But it's hard to be surprised that someone who said that the 1964 Civil Rights Act had "nothing to do with race relations" thinks that women and minorities being as represented in the workplace and school as they are in the population at large is them "forcing themselves" on us white menfolk. And it's pure coincidence that racist folks like David Duke love him.
  2. Ron Paul thinks a single cell has more important rights than a woman. "I can assure you life begins at conception. I am legally responsible for the unborn, no matter what I do, so there's a legal life there. The unborn has inheritance rights, and if there's an injury or a killing, there is a legal entity. There is no doubt about it." Yes, that's right, Ron Paul thinks zygotes have inheritance rights. Look, there is wiggle room about late-term fetuses, or even early-term fetuses if you really want to be pedantic, but the idea that life begins at conception is so wrong on so many levels it is almost silly. For one thing, sperm and eggs are alive already -- life doesn't begin at conception, life began a few billion years ago and hasn't stopped since. It is morally irrelevant that a fertilized egg is alive; so are plants, but I bet Ron Paul doesn't want to criminalize salad. The only way for the living fertilized egg to be morally different from the living sperm and egg is magic: that's right, Ron Paul believes in that special type of magic called "God." And if that were the extent of his kookery it could slide, but he believes that the "rights" of single cells to... float around? implant in uteruses? divide? are so sacred that they override the rights of women not to be forced against their will into carrying a growing organism inside them. Yet, somehow, when asked about what the legal penalty should be for a woman who has this sacred cell-ball killed -- this being with full legal rights -- he thinks it should be zero. "Abortionists" (better known as "doctors") are the ones who should be punished, since they're the ones doing the killing. So if you want to kill your neighbor, husband, or boss, elect Ron Paul for president and hire a hitman, because only the one actually killing is responsible. This silly contradiction in his moral and legal reasoning makes sense when you remember that opposition to abortion isn't really about saving babies, it is about controlling women.
  3. Ron Paul thinks poor people have it way too easy. What with their lower-than-poverty-level minimum wage and all. And to think poor people actually want things like safe working conditions and retirement benefits. Ron Paul thinks that companies, driven solely by profit motive, will magically provide these things to their workers, despite a couple centuries of evidence to the contrary. That's, like, why we had to have things like minimum wages and OSHA and Social Security in the first place.
  4. Ron Paul wants a bunch of really rich people to have all the money. Not only does he want poor people poorer, he wants rich people richer. Abolishing minimum wages and other forms of economic regulation means that companies can make more profit -- and of course by companies I mean the people who own and run them. But that's not enough! Since Paul wants to cut all manner of taxes on the super-rich (the estate tax, for example) and replace them with at most a flat tax or national sales tax, these folks will get to keep even more money earned off the labor of all the people actually doing the work.
  5. Ron Paul to Earth: "Fuck you!" He wants all the things that damage and destroys the environment, from pollution to global warming to deforestation, to be perfectly legal. See, it's not our job to stop companies from killing everyone. The market will do it on its own!
  6. Ron Paul to Earth: "Fuck you! Again!" Isolationism. Enough said.
  7. Ron Paul hates the gays. You would think a libertarian would support things like, I dunno, liberty. The freedom to do what you want as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. But Ron Paul doesn't want lesbians and gay men to have the liberty to do many things. Get married, for instance. He sponsored the Marriage Protection Act, proposed legislation that categorically describes homosexuality as unacceptable, and supports the bigoted continuation of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
  8. Ron Paul loves killing. And he really wants it to be extremely easy for anyone to kill anyone else anytime. Automatic weapons in the home? Great! Guns on school campuses? Go for it! Want to slaughter animals in national parks full of tourists? Go right ahead! The Founding Fathers in their infallibility fully intended for assault weapons that hadn't been invented yet to be in the hands of all citizens at all times. Nothing settles an argument like a grenade launcher.
  9. Ron Paul wants kids to grow up stupid. Now this one is kind of tricky. It sneaks in there like his racism, sexism, and homophobia does. I am all for local control of schools. However, I also fully recognize that until we have equality between localities, it is impossible for all schools to be on an even footing in providing the same quality of education to all students. In our present system, dropping equalizing measures such as credential requirements or fucking desegregation for god's sake is the surest way to ensure that only those who already have all the advantages in life pull that much farther ahead.
  10. Ron Paul thinks "God did it" is science. Paul supported the encouragement of promoting creationism, agreeing with the idea that disallowing it in science departments is "dogmatic indoctrination." Yes, Ron Paul thinks letting scientists do science is dogma, and pointing at the Bible and saying it has all the answers is, I don't know, free inquiry or something. Of course, he consistently ignores the fruits of research anyway, supporting abstinence-only sex education that has been proven to fail. And it's no real shock he thinks God-centered theories should have special treatment, since Ron "small government" Paul wants tax money spent sending kids to Christian schools, and Ron "Constitution" Paul doesn't want the courts to be able to decide whether "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional. Not to mention that whole sponsoring a constitutional amendment for school prayer thing he did...
There you have it. Far from being a "reasonable" Republican, Ron Paul is in fact the worst of the Republican candidates. A United States under the policies of Ron Paul would be a hellish place to live in, while one under any of the others would just be more of the same nonsense the last eight years have seen.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Climate Change Denial

Over the last week I had an interesting conversation about global warming with somebody who, while I usually vociferously disagree with on political issues, I normally think has a good understanding of science. He didn't deny that global warming is happening, or even that human contributions to greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere aren't contributing to the problem. No, he simply doesn't believe that humans are the root cause of the changes that we see, nor does he believe that the havoc predicted as a result of those changes is likely to occur.

I was, needless to say, astounded that someone who I usually engage in lively science-related conversation could hold such views -- views customarily associated with the likes of creationism or (shudder) libertarianism.

You see, in order to believe that humans are not responsible for climate change, you have to believe that one of the following facts is false:
  1. Carbon dioxide, methane, and other gasses trap infrared radiation in the atmosphere, a process called the greenhouse effect.
  2. Carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gasses have increased in the atmosphere by more than 35% in the last two hundred years.
  3. This rise and the introduction of widespread burning of fossil fuels being simultaneous is not a coincidence -- burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gasses.
  4. Throughout geological history, when greenhouse gas levels have risen at similar rates (due to various natural phenomena), temperatures have risen in response.
  5. Throughout geological history, when temperatures have risen in response to rising levels of greenhouse gasses, catastrophic climactic effects lasting centuries and millennia have resulted.
  6. Since we have produced a large amount of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gasses in the last two hundred years, and similar levels of greenhouse gasses lead to rising temperatures, the rising temperatures we experience now are the result of our emission of greenhouse gasses; it is reasonable to predict that the trend will continue along historical lines.
  7. Since historical rises in temperature in response to greenhouse gasses have produced long-lasting, catastrophic climactic effects, it is reasonable to predict that the current rises in temperature will do so as well.
This is the basis of the chain of logic that underlies human-driven global warming. However, in order to believe that one of these facts is actually false, one also has to believe in another:
  1. Virtually every scientist in every country is part of a conspiracy to deceive people.
The scientific consensus on the topic of global warming is as firm as that on evolution. I wasn't joking when I compared global warming denialism to creationism earlier. Both human-driven global warming and evolution are accepted as fact by the vast (and I mean 99+% vast) majority of scientists who study the topic, both are presented as "controversial" in the popular press, and both are presented as absurd in the right-wing press.

There is still hope for people, like the one I spoke to, who at least recognize the mechanisms that cause climate change, and accept some human responsibility. I think that it is not so much that he believes humans can't be responsible for such things as he doesn't want to believe we could be. Who wants to be complicit in ecocide?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I'm Around

I've been tumblelogging pretty regularly at despite the lack of updates here. It's mostly an aggregate of my Twitter updates, the occasional link, and photos sent from my iPhone. I'm not entirely sure what's going to happen here -- I still want to blog in long form again, and I'm sure I will soon. There's nothing I hate more than a dead blog.