Wednesday, October 12, 2011

America's Only Elected Socialist (TM) on state murder

I certainly don't agree with everything he says, but I have to hand independent Senator Bernie Sanders this: he has forcefully, and repeatedly, condemned President Obama's expansion of the war on terror and his recent authorization of the assassination of two American citizens without charge or trial.

Oh, wait, I'm thinking of Ron Paul.

Well, then. What does American's only elected self-styled socialist from the People's Republic of Vermont think about the due-process free killing of Americans? It's kind of dumb question, really: Obviously a man who "values the rule of law" and opposed the use of torture under the Bush administration would oppose the lawless, extrajudicial -- and immoral -- killing of his fellow countrymen. I mean, if you think waterboarding is unacceptable and un-American, then you surely can't be cool with a president unilaterally assassinating anyone in the world he chooses based on secret and admittedly patchy evidence.


CNN's Wolf Blitzer recently tried to figure that out:
Blitzer: Did President Obama do the right thing in ordering the killing of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki?

Sanders: Uh, that's a long discussion. Probably longer than the amount of time we now have.

Blitzer: Go ahead, give me 30 seconds.

Sanders: Well, the answer is that I, you know, that when you have an American citizen killed by the United States government, it raises some real questions. On the other hand, when you have somebody who's a terrorist at war with the United States, that's the other side of that equation. 
Stirring. On the one hand, Bernie Sanders casts himself as tough, no-nonsense socialist fightin' for the average American. On the other hand, he caucuses with the Democrats and campaigned for his seat in the Senate alongside "one of the great leaders" of that august institution, Barack Obama.


  1. Anonymous1:22 PM

    Bernie calls himself a "Socialist" because that gets him votes from the Urban Sophisticate PowerNoggins who moved to Vermont with a "lifestyle" (read: pose) in mind.

    If they can claim they elected "a Socialist" to the Congress, these Yupster GreenMtnStaters can sleep easily at night... even if Bernie is actually more fond of Shin Bet and Mossad than he is of anything resembling socialized human (as opposed to business) services. OOOH, Bernie! Skay-uh-whee tare-or-isssssss!

    The Vermonters who love him are actually as phony as Bernie. They want to socialize costs and privatize profits too. Ben and Jerry are their role models in the private sector; Bernie and Barack theirs in the public sector.

    One good thing about what's happening now in America ---> the frauds are showing their phoniness in ever-increasing numbers.

    The down-side of this is realizing just how few people would stand for any re-formatting of America.

  2. Brian M2:27 PM

    God, Charles...without disagreeing with anything you hate EVERYONE, don't you? LOL!

  3. No, Brian. I like most people. I don't like politicians.

  4. Brian M4:04 PM

    Oh! Oh, No! I meant "Karl" not Charles.

    Nothing hateful in your post at all, Charles. Mea culpa. Nothing really hateful in Karl's comment, either. Just very, very snarky LOL.

    Politicians are a species worthy of derision for sure.

  5. Anonymous5:12 PM

    Um, 'scuse me?

    First, Charles: let's be clear about what the stakes are. Bernie is, actually, on the side of the angels on of a lot of economic issues. He's one of the very few politicians with the good common sense to support legal limits on interest rates (one thing Ron Paul DOESN'T do; crazy Texan's too hung up on getting us embroiled in the third-world looting of a certain ductile yellow metal). But just because Bernie is economically sensible doesn't make him right on every issue. I think you're absolutely right to call him to task for this, but I also think you step over the line when you question his socialist credentials.

    Second, Karl: I'm no Yupster and I've got Vermont roots going back to 1818 (read: FARMERS, not hippies), so you can take it from me that you don't have a clue what you're talking about. Vermont does get just barely more in federal funding than they pay in federal taxes; for the most part, they do pay forward for the public goods they want to keep. Save your snark for the freeloaders in Miss'ippi.

    Or, if you really want to go after snobbish urban dilettantes, you might want to choose a state which has an actual urban population of more than 211,261 people. Just sayin'.

  6. Matthew,

    Bernie Sanders has long been a fraud. For instance, he sided with Wall Street to protect the Federal Reserve from a real audit:

    He also refuses to criticize Obama's handling of the war in Afghanistan or the escalation of the war on terror in general -- wars that kill and impoverish poor people in America and abroad. That makes him a bad socialist in my book.

  7. In the excerpt you posted, which is all I've seen Sanders say on the matter, he is given 30 seconds by Wolf Blitzer, and in that time he can only state in the broadest terms the major issues at play here. This isn't a fair way to judge him. I'd like to hear Sanders, who I think is one of the finest senators we have, in a 30-minute discussion on the topic -- but we can't expect CNN to actually do any in-depth coverage of serious issues.

  8. Angus MacAskill5:38 PM

    Well, at least we can thank Obama and his followers for drawing the line between apologists for state violence and everyone else a little clearer.

    It makes politics so much simpler to have accurate labels.

  9. Jim,

    You're cutting him too much slack. The president unilaterally assassinating Americans is a huge deal, and Sanders' first response was to attempt to avoid answering the question altogether.

    He has had plenty of time to consider this issue; the U.S. had been trying to assassinate Awlaki for the better part of a year. And yet, Sanders, a U.S. Senator, hasn't even commented on it -- and clearly never wanted to. When finally pressed on the matter, all could say is that while the issue -- Barack Obama assassinating American citizens -- raises "questions," gosh, Awlaki was a terrorist and we're at war, you know.

    All in all, pretty damn pathetic. And if this is the finest the U.S. Senate has to offer, that's more a condemnation of the institution than praise for Mr. Sanders.

  10. Anonymous5:47 PM

    Sorry, Charles. I don't trust Ron Paul or his handlers as far as I can throw them - their records are particularly shoddy on civil rights issues; on principle, I can't stand anyone who approvingly quotes or even paraphrases John Calhoun; and anyone who pushes so hard for a return to the gold standard is, quite honestly, an utter lunatic. I prefer to go straight to the actual voting record, as here:

    Don't expect me to defend his pusillanimous approach to the Democrats on issues like this one. He's nowhere near perfect. You're absolutely right about his hawkish liberal-interventionist foreign policy. His approach is much too top-down for me to be comfortable with him.

    But at the same time, he did fight for the public option when Obama didn't. He supported national service. He has a long history of working to restore the legal standing of unions and advocating for a living wage. Let's not dismiss the good to accentuate the bad here.

  11. Matt,

    Your view of Ron Paul doesn't matter. The fact is Bernie Sanders gutted the Audit the Fed bill. Indeed, here is statement on the Senate floor proudly trumpeting his work with disgraced former Sen. Chris Dodd to do just that:

    As for the "public option"? Yawn. He voted for the final corporatist monstrosity, no? He continues to support Barack Obama and Harry Reid, no? As for "national service": if you're talking about a mandatory service program, I'm not sure how that's consistent with the constitutional prohibition of involuntary servitude.

  12. Brian Drake10:10 PM


    How does pushing for a return to the gold standard make one an utter lunatic? Honestly, please explain your reasoning.

    Then, where have you ever read/heard Ron Paul advocate for "returning" to the gold standard? From what I've read/heard, he advocates abolishing legal tender laws, not a return to any monetary system previously existing in this country (which a "return" would imply).

    Bernie Sanders supported "national service" and you count that among "the good"? What is good about forcing people to serve the state? You are perfectly free to serve whomever you want, and seek to persuade others to join you. Why would you consider it good to force those who disagree?

  13. Anonymous8:17 AM

    Brian, I hate idiots and frauds. Mind what you post.

    Cooper... being arrogant about me being "wrong" doesn't make me wrong, it just makes you arrogant. I've spent a bit of time in Vermont, thank you. I spent a fair amount of time studying "socialist" Bernie Sanders when he was first trumpeted as "our first socialist" and have watched him become more corporatized and more militarized in the intervening 2 decades.

    You provide an excellent example of the Vermont Pose, despite claiming familial farming roots. Maybe you were easily swayed? Or maybe you accept such frauds as Dennis Kucinich being a supposed "adversary" of the corporate Donkeys, and thus believe Bernie a noble man.

    What you call the "right side of things, economically" I call apology for capitalism or the modern American variant, fascism -- where, as I said, costs are socialized and profits privatized. Viva la Ben, viva la Jerry, viva la Yuppie Ice Cream subsidized by the state!

  14. Some people would do well to do basic research on Vermont before they write erroneous shit heel invective. Vermont is a cold weather state. Its people are rough, hearty and hardy. They are not the caricatures that corporate lawyers imagine while they live off the work of others, mistaking their credentialed, upper middle class, "rugged independence" for actual hard living.

    But, I guess corporate lawyers only really know how to judge whole regions by teevee stereotypes and white boy biases...

    ...Anyway, Vermont is a very slow growth state, with little influx from outsiders. Most Vermonters were born there.

    Vermont added only about 200k people over the 40 years between 1960-2000:

    NH, a state with otherwise similar demographics, but with a much higher influx of "outsiders," many from Massachusetts, New York and Maryland, saw it's population increase by the entire current total population of Vermont:

    Also, a local refutation of the "soft hippy trope." Much of the influx that did occur was "back-to-the-land types, who were looking to rough it:"

  15. Brian M11:33 AM

    But everyone is an idiot and fraud, Karl, no?

    Some leftists remind me of nothing so much as ascetic monks sneering down at the sinful.

    Or fundamentalists complaining about how the fallen are enjoying that capitalist ice cream and too much sex rather than engaging 24-7 in The Struggle.

  16. I went to Vermont as a kid and liked it. If we're going to judge places on the basis of who they send to Washington, I'm not sure any state in the union would come out looking so hot.

  17. Anonymous11:55 AM

    @ Charles: Huh. It appears you're more than right about FRTA. The one thing I would have liked to see kept in the audit (interest rate controls) was apparently the one thing that Bernie was willing to piss away in his amendment compromise.

    Still doesn't make me a Ron Paul fan. Ron Paul is 'not a fan' the Fed because he sees it as part of the government. I'm 'not a fan' of the Fed because I believe it places too much power in the hands of private bankers that should be in the hands of Congress.

    That said, I think Sanders can be far more easily forgiven for voting for a corporatist monstrosity of a health-care bill that manages to insure the health-care expenses several million more people than the corporatist monstrosity of the status quo ante. I realise pragmatism cannot and should not excuse everything, but in this case we were talking in concrete terms about saving human lives.

    @ Brian: The eXileD gets it:

    But it isn't just us paranoid leftists. Ron Paul himself said he wants it back:

    And yes, the idea that gold has intrinsic value (that is, beyond its uses in jewelry and electronics) is ludicrous. Money is a fictitious commodity; there is no 'market' for money because money is the fiction under which 'markets' operate, and the only reason that gold has been used as a store of value is because it is rare and cannot easily be copied. Gold may have been a useful standard for early capitalist economies which have enough sophistication for long-distance transactions but not enough for macroeconomic accounting; but nowadays, given our current productive capacity and the finite supply and uneven physical distribution of the mineral, desiring a return to such a standard is literally insane. But hey, whatever impending resource war floats your boat, I guess.

    As for national service; the comparison with involuntary servitude is obscene given the fact that the democracies which employ it offer their citizens a choice of where to serve, and compensate them generously. And yes, I'm enough of an Old Leftist to think that contributing to a public good like defence, education or public health is a very good thing. Experience and game theory teach us, though, that leaving public-goods provision to voluntary contributions means you don't get any public goods because everyone defects.

    @ Karl: Please point out exactly where I was being 'arrogant' or 'posing'? 'Cuz mostly I was just citing facts.

    @ Jack: Yeah, like those.

  18. As for national service; the comparison with involuntary servitude is obscene given the fact that the democracies which employ it offer their citizens a choice of where to serve, and compensate them generously.

    Question: is the national service voluntary? If not, then it is involuntary servitude, no matter if one gets a choice between serving the Pentagon -- when is the last time "defense" in America has been about actually defending America? -- or public schools.

    In a free society, people should have the freedom to choose to what causes they will devote their time and energy. Millions of people volunteer now sans coercion, and I have more faith in humanity than you that they will continue to do so without the force of the state -- and indeed, would increase their efforts on behalf of their neighbors absent a system of state capitalism.

    If the "Old Left" has such little faith in humanity, it ought to remain in the dustbin of history. And if humans are so shitty that won't do any good unless coerced by a national draft, I certainly don't want to empower them to do the coercing.

  19. Anonymous2:17 PM

    Question: is the national service voluntary? If not, then it is involuntary servitude, no matter if one gets a choice between serving the Pentagon -- when is the last time "defense" in America has been about actually defending America? -- or public schools.

    The ECHR would beg to differ with you there, Charles. Most European states don't have conscription, but in those that do (particularly the Zivildienst model in such ancient democracies and electoral principalities as Switzerland and Austria, and formerly Germany), conscription does not definitionally fall under the ban on 'involuntary servitude'.

    Also, your straw man of my argument (and grandiose presumptions of the judgments of 'history') notwithstanding, I generally do believe in original sin (the evidence for such a doctrine being rather overwhelming).

  20. Matthew,

    Appeals to authority are a logical fallacy. Servitude that is involuntary is called involuntary servitude. That governments have self-servingly not defined it as such is of no importance.

    Thanks, though, for providing a reminder of how diametrically opposed to human freedom state socialism is; we're all but mere pawns -- sinners -- to be fashioned by our elected betters. I suppose you would hold hope they're not sinners too; history suggests otherwise.

  21. Anonymous2:34 PM

    Come on, Charles. Appeals to authority are only logically fallacious when the authority being appealed to is illegitimate or of questionable reliability. If the ECHR was truly interested in serving first the powers of its member states as you insinuate, quite simply put, it would not have instituted a ban on the death penalty.

    But your Parthian shot there truly is a logical fallacy, namely a straw-man. Nowhere did I suggest that the people in power in government are any less susceptible to original sin than Mr Jones of Baker Street; indeed, by rights they should be the first people for whom conscription or community service ought to be required! (Well, second, after bankers.) I don't know about you - certainly much less than you presume to know about me - but I generally don't want people making decisions for me who don't take some responsibility for the common good in their own lives first.

  22. The ECHR has no moral authority. It can not, through the power of its proclamations, change the meaning of words. You have not addressed the fact that mandatory service is, by definition, involuntary, making your appeal to the ECHR nothing more than a logically fallacious appeal to authority. That it has banned the death penalty is swell -- and a reflection of public opinion -- but the death penalty would be no more morally permissible had it none done so.

    Simply put, you want to give fallible human beings the power to force other human beings to kill and potentially be killed in wars through the evil of conscription, which provided ample cannon fodder for wars like the one in Vietnam; it is not a straw man to note such a view rests on the idea that it is wise to grant people -- politicians, no less -- such power.

    Further, you write that you don't want people ruling over you who won't "take some responsibility for the common good in their own lives first." Well, I want a world without rulers, and I believe people can and will do just that: take responsibility for the common good without needing to be conscripted to fight wars that history suggests will be unjust nor -- should their rulers in their benevolence permit such an option -- required to serve on behalf of some state bureaucracy instead.

    I respect people enough to believe they should have the freedom to choose how to live their lives based on consensus. You prefer coercion. That's all well and good, but it's not consistent with a free society.