Monday, January 22, 2007

Which Way's the Wind Blowing?

Birdhouse In Field
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

Barack Obama quotes:

Let’s have enough government to get the job done. If, if we’re looking at problems, if the market solution works, let’s go with the market solution. If a solution requires government intervention, let’s do that. But let’s look at what are the practical outcomes. And I think that kind of politics is what the country’s hungry for right now.

And, you know, there are circumstances in which, I would argue, Ronald Reagan was a very successful president, even though I did not agree with him on many issues, partly because at the end of his presidency, people, I think, said, “You know what? We can regain our greatness. Individual responsibility and personal responsibility are important.” And they transformed the culture and not simply promoted one or two particular issues. [yuck! -dt]

[People] don't expect government to solve all their problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead, and they want to. Go into the [suburban] collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don't want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or the Pentagon. Go into any inner-city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach kids to learn.

I don't oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war.

I opposed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. It should be repealed and I will vote for its repeal on the Senate floor. I will also oppose any proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gays and lesbians from marrying.

Today we are engaged in a deadly global struggle for those who would intimidate, torture, and murder people for exercising the most basic freedoms. If we are to win this struggle and spread those freedoms, we must keep our own moral compass pointed in a true direction.


Anonymous said...

Well, I obviously don't agree with all of these, but if you collected a bunch of my paragraphs without any context, I'd probably come across even worse.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's time to remember Jim Wallis' saying (which I think he got from Saul Alinsky), "Let's stop focusing on changing one politician with his/her finger to the wind with another in the same posture. Let's focus on changing the wind."

Dan Trabue said...

Great Alinsky quote, Michael.

Yeah, these Obama quotes are just a random sampling I picked up. I think (even where I disagree with him), they show him to be a diverse fella who's trying to reach out to everyone, but who's still standing his ground.

I like his emphases on personal responsibility and from what I've read, it appears he applies the concept fairly evenly between individuals, gov't and corporations, as is right, I think.

I also think they indicate he's not nearly so "radical liberal" as some from different camps have suggested.

Eleutheros said...

Dan, do you know the feeling you get when you propose that war is always bad, even if it were to be considered it would be the absolutely last, last thing considered, and people blink and stare and tell you how managing our world affairs is a balanced approach? We use diplomacy where it works and war where it works, 50/50, eh... 85/15 .... whatever works.

To many of us, presenting a candidate that proposes that the solution to our problems come from individual responsibility sometimes but sometimes from government(I'm leaving out industry because without government protection and support, it would not be a factor) is the very same as presenting war as a solution is to you.

Government interference with our lives is ALWAYS bad, always evil. Even if it is to be considered, it is the last, last possible solution. Not a second choice just as good as the first.

When you bandy about the notion of 'sometimes the individual and sometimes government', just substitute war for government and you will taste how palatable your proposition is to many of us.

Dan Trabue said...

Okay, I get your point, E. Honestly, I do.

I think for most of us, though, we are grateful for a community that sets up rules that don't let our neighbor poison our water supply, help establish roads and speed limits for those roads. And that "community" through which we do this is our gov't. Local, state and federal.

I'm guessing you'd prefer to see roads built by individuals or communities at the neighborhood level? Crime fought by winchester? Vigilantes? Poisons disposed of by whatever means the individual deems fit? Invasions fought off by those willing to fight back?

I'm not being sarcastic here, I want to know what you think.

At some level, most of us would like to see less gov't. I know I'd like to see a tremendously smaller military and roadway system. If we had to deal with our own garbage, perhaps we'd be more likely to create less.

Unfortunately, what would be more likely to happen would be that the person wanting to dispose of their waste would take it away from their house and dump it. For reasons like this, most of us appreciate some basic level of gov't.

What do you propose instead?

ELAshley said...

You would like to see a "tremendously smaller military and roadway system"? You do realize that America would cease to be shortly thereafter, don't you? Especially in this present world.

A tremendously reduced roadway system, short of some sci-fi matter transport system, would "tremendously" reduce commerce, travel, and the governments ability to provide aid in disasters, and "Military" support where needed. How and where do you envision America and the world today if America "tremedously reduced" it's military and roadway system? Seriously... no hint of sarcasm or any other asm.

Dan Trabue said...

Living closer to within our means. Closer to a responsible level. We have a military larger than the next 25 countries combined. Yet, somehow, these countries continue to exist.

Those who have more tend to spend more defending what they have. It is a materialism trap that we find ourselves in, seems to me, not an actual defensive problem.

As to our roads, they are built to accomodate everyone driving at the rates we are driving, everyone purchasing stuff from across the country and across the world and having that stuff shipped to us.

We can only do that for a limited number of years. "Our" cheap oil is running out. We won't have the option of continuing to live the way we do, depending upon roads and petroleum the way we do.

Suppose a poor family received an modest inheritance of say, $100,000. Immediately, everyone quit their jobs, bought a new car, a house in the suburbs (both on credit) and started living off that money.

Would it be fair to say that they were living beyond their means? That soon, they'd run out of that money and would be forced to do something else?

I'm not saying we ought to drive less and live more locally. I'm saying we won't have that choice much longer and therefore we ought to live within our means sooner rather than later when we're forced to.

ELAshley said...

But you said "tremendously smaller" military, which would include aparatus as well as boots.

Do you honestly believe we could continue to foil terrorist plots against this country if we castrated our ability to defend ourselves?

As to the other, it sounds like what you really want is everyone to take more personal responsibility for their lifestyles, and that's not going to happen without another national event like the depression. This nation is ruled by consumerism; every commercial for very conceivable product on television, not to mention, our favorite shows that depict how much nicer life is WITH these products in our homes.... How do you change that, without a cataclysmic social event? We're certainly not teaching personal responsibility in our schools. Television all but rules and fuels this nations drive for more and better, for things that will improve our lives but rarely do.

I, too, would love to see this nation achieve a greater sense of personal responsibility, but I don't see it happening. Say what you will, but the glass is what it is, without all the folderol about half empty or full.

Dan Trabue said...

"Do you honestly believe we could continue to foil terrorist plots against this country if we castrated our ability to defend ourselves?"


Further, I think we could do a better job with much less. That our monstrously large military is part of the problem!

Part of the terrorism problem - part of the reason terrorists can gain support instead of being marginalized for their violent behavior - is because the US comes across as an international bully, placing itself above the law.

Think about it: If there were some other nation that had a military 10x larger than anyone else, and they used that military regularly in sometimes questionable ways, how likely are you to look kindly upon that nation and its military? Might you be willing to go pretty far - maybe even use terrorism (since you couldn't beat it in a "fair fight") - to undermine that military?

Dan Trabue said...

el said:
"As to the other, it sounds like what you really want is everyone to take more personal responsibility for their lifestyles"

Yes. And I'd like our gov't and corporations to take personal responsibility, as well.

Dan Trabue said...

By the way, EL, falderol - great word. I had to look it up to verify what it meant (I had a hunch given your context and was correct, but wanted to be sure).

But even better, the definition for "falderol" included, gewgaw and gimcrack!

THAT was helpful! Great words, even if they are a bit gimcracky...

ELAshley said...

As the terrorists are already out to get us, don't think tremendously reducing the military would be a ridiculously foolish thing to do? I certainly do. [One adverb to counter the other!] And do you feel the American people would agree to such a ridiculously tremendous reduction of our military? One side affect of such a plan would probably be to embolden the civilian populace to take up arms themselves... Think about that! Untrained civilians trying to fight a terrorist insurgency here in the U.S. while clashing with police who are trying to restore order and calm... All because the military isn't big enough, and the local police are not trained for urban warfare... or warfare period! A strong military is as much of a deterent as 10,000 nukes poised and awaiting orders. That's the other side of your extreme desire. Neither offers good outcomes.

Not a pretty picture. Not at all. I understand your desire for peace, and pacifism, but neither are particularly realistic... Not on this present Earth. No nation has ever survived long without a strong defense-- a strong military. And neither would we.

To desire such a policy is noble and a worthy aspiration, but it is foolish, by all accounts, to advocate such a policy, especially in light of just how dangerous this world has become. The world, essentially, has become a great big giant Mexican-standoff. And America cannot afford to flinch... or lose focus.

Eleutheros said...

Then, Dan, I would have to extend the comparison. There are those, some contributors to this blog, who see a binary world of 'strong military' on the one hand and 'tyrants tanking over the world' on the other hand and some third possibility is so insubstantial as to be impossible to see. If we didn't have a strong military and exercise it, another Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or the Islamic Jihadists would take over the world. Either or. One or the other.

Just like that, your argument seems to have the same blind spot. It is either government or chaos. No third choice, no alternate possibilities. Big government or pollution, police state or vigilante justice, a bloated department of transportation or no roads.

Many others have the same binary argument for their pet cause. "Education" apologists say it's either "professional" teachers or illiteracy. Yet children who DON'T go to school (homeschooled) do better than the professionally educated. That's the third possibility and one to which Ed. apologists either ignore or do an artless dance to avoid.

You have faith in and advocate that if we just laid down our arms and pursued other means, we'd come to no military harm. Fine. Then why doesn't that apply equally as well to government. If we simply dissolved 90% of it and promoted a non-government way of doing things, why would we not expect to see the same results you expect from pacifism?

Does it not give you pause that your logic and the structure of your argument for government so closely resembles that of the warmonger?

mom2 said...

Dan, I don't understand why you think we could just talk ourselves as a Nation into a world peace, when you can't even change my mind nor can I change yours. It is not a perfect world. You might as well face it.

Dan Trabue said...

"Just like that, your argument seems to have the same blind spot. It is either government or chaos."

But I didn't say that, E. I asked you what is the alternative. Speak on.

Dan Trabue said...

Mom2 and Eleutheros and Elashley, I have nowhere called for a complete dismantling of the military. I acknowledge that as a pacifist, I'm in the minority. I said we should cut it back tremendously. We could cut our military in HALF! and still have the world's largest military.

How large a military does it take for you to feel safe?

mom2, I have never said we can talk ourselves into peace. In fact, I haven't brought up pacifism with this post at all. Let's keep our comments somewhere within the topic of the post.

What I did do was quote an apparent frontrunner for the Democratic nomination who said that he doesn't oppose all wars. Only dumb ones.

Who said that, as we oppose terrorism, it is vital that we keep our ideals intact.

And I said that those ideals are appealing to a lot of folk here.

Dan Trabue said...

"Then why doesn't that apply equally as well to government. If we simply dissolved 90% of it and promoted a non-government way of doing things"

I'm game for talking about getting rid of 50% of the gubmint as long as that includes 50% of the military. As long as the case is made that, as money is removed, that we're not going to end up paying for it and then some somewhere else.

mom2 said...

I know Dan. My bad. If I don't quote you verbatim, you are going to deny the gist of your argument and call me off subject. Never mind, go your merry way. The sun will come up in the East tomorrow though, do you want to argue with me about that?

Dan Trabue said...

mom2, it is not necessary to quote me verbatim. Building strawmen and knocking them down, though, is not appreciated and doesn't help the conversation.

mom2 said...

Building strawmen and knocking them down, though, is not appreciated and doesn't help the conversation.>

I agree, you need to quit it. :)

ELAshley said...

I'm all for reducing guvmint by 50% too....

Let's start with defunding Welfare, and abortion. Let's kill the IRS and move to the FairTax. Let's repeal the 17th amendment, and take away the incentives of serving your country for at least ONE half of Congress. Let's repeal the monstrously unconstitutional McCain/Feingold. Let's radically defund public education and tell the teachers unions their offically out of business. I could go on, but my point is... Wanting a thing is a far cry from actually having to live with the consequence of the fullfilment of wanting.

As to the other, reducing the military by 50% is like laying out the welcome mat to every terrorist with aspirations of Paradise and seventy perpetually virginic sextoys. What you're really asking for is to be another religion's slave.

Dan Trabue said...

That's not the deal Eric. I'll defund welfare by 50% (~$12 billion) only when you defund the military by 50% (~$300 billion).

Deal or no deal?

D.R. said...

Dan, you are wrong about the size of our military.

You said,
We have a military larger than the next 25 countries combined.

That simply is not true - not by a long stretch. In fact, China has a military larger than us. And that is a pretty well known fact. I am surprised no one has challenged you on that.

Here is a list of the size of the world's largest militaries and the expenditures.

There is a WikiPedia site as well, but you know I hate citing anything from WikiPedia. But it's usually good enough for you. I will say that we do spend much more on our military than anyone else (though I do doubt the numbers out of China and Russia, as they are very secretive about their militaries and it would not surprise me to hear that they do not report accurately). Additionally, this may be due to the fact that we probably pay our troops much better and provide a much better living for them than other countries (like marriage and family considerations).

Still, reducing the size of the military by half would put us at a level below Russia and India and NORTH KOREA and only slightly higher than IRAN! Now tell me that wouldn't be DISASTER!

Dan Trabue said...

DR, to be accurate, we have a larger military budget than than the next 25 nations combined.

We will spend over half a trillion dollars this year.

China's budget in 2004: $62 billion

Russia's in 2004: $61 billion

So, when I say I'd be willing to cut the welfare budget in half (again, with ~$12 billion being half)if you'd be willing to cut our military budget in half (~$300 billion), we could do so and still spend 5x more than the next largest military (China).

I can assure you, that would be much less a disaster than ignoring the peak oil issue.

D.R. said...

You realize that in cutting the military budget, you must cut the number of troops, right?

As I said earlier, our budget is based on facts that the U.S. government MUST report. However, and info from China or Russia cannot be trusted to be accurate.

Even if it only double the number reported in those countries, our military do things that Russia's and China's militaries do not, like provide thousands more U.N. peacekeeping troops, maintain national guard units in each state, and keep fully-functioning military bases in foreign countries throughout the world.

If you want less military, why don't you move to France, Dan? There you will find a country that can't defend itself and is about to be overrun by extremists Muslims who are outbreeding the natives who don't desire to have children.

Dan Trabue said...

DR said:

"You realize that in cutting the military budget, you must cut the number of troops, right?"

Well, that's one way of cutting the budget, but no, one "must" not necessarily cut the number of troops when one spends hundreds of billions on WMDs.

According to wikipedia (which I know you don't like, but I suspect is correct on this data) we "only" spend $109 billion on our soldiers.

Why don't I move to France? Because the US would still be taking actions that threaten the world. Not in the outright way of an armed madman, but rather, because our policies - military policies included, are designed to cater to and foster fears, leading to a more dangerous world. Besides, I don't truly think the majority of the US wants us to be spending more than the next 25 nations combined.

And so I'm working thru the system to change the system.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

According to the Center for Defense Information (, an organization founded by high ranking military officers, we COULD cut the military budget by 50% without lowering our DEFENSE capabilities at all. If we started getting rid of our nukes and the stupid Star Wars program (itself 15% of the budget) we would go a long way to that goal.
There is also a huge amount of waste in the military budget which has never passed an outside audit.
CDI is NOT a pacifist organization. It wants our troop levels increased and some of our conventional weapons beefed up, but it opposes nukes, Star Wars, and military waste. It is also, by far, the most accurate source of info. on military spending in the U.S. every year.

Another way to reduce our military spending without lowering our security is to quit creating enemies. Rabbi Michael Lerner of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (if Baptists can have rabbis, R. Lerner is mine) has proposed a Generosity initiative (as part of a global Marshall plan) in which the U.S. leads the G-8 nations by example in dedicating 1-2% of GNP for the next twenty years to abolish poverty, hunger, homelessness, disease. That one move will do more to increase our security than all the bombs we could ever build.
We could also pass Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)'s plan for a cabinet level Dept. of Peace with 1% of the military budget. The DOP's domestic job would be to find solutions for youth violence, violent crime, school shootings, family violence, etc. It's foreign policy job would be to promote just peace throughout the world through nonviolent action, diplomacy, arms reduction agreements, ending arms sales, etc.

As the DOP worked at reducing our need for a large military, we could further cut its size and huge expense. When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Increasing our other tools in the toolbox allows us to use the hammer less often, to quit using sledge hammers against thumbtacks, and spend less.

The U.S. has become an empire. Conservatives are fond of saying that in history empires more often crumble from within than are defeated from without. I agree, but want to make this more specific: empires OVERMILITARIZE and their economies collapse.

Dan Trabue said...

Thanks, Michael.

Would it be foolish to point out that the Soviet empire would be a perfect example of collapsing from the weight of one's own militarization?

Might it be said that we "won" the Cold War because capitalism, for all its faults, is good at producing capital. And that, therefore, we were able to make the Soviet collapse before we collapsed from the weight of our own military and before either of us put into use our nuclear options either purposefully or accidentally?

But if we keep overspending then collapse, we will?

D.R. said...


Your last comment doesn't make sense at all. The Soviet Union collapsed due to a number of factors, but it was a communist state and thus we cannot be compared to it regarding economic policy. Defense spending is based upon a capitalist model. Individual companies are funded by the U.S., which in turn pay taxes and pay employees who pay taxes. Defense spending fuels our capitalistic economy.

Now, Michael, why would you get rid of nuclear warheads when everyone else has them? Do you think that if the U.S. gives up its nukes so will everyone else? Do you really believe that? Isn't it naive to believe that Iran would stop its nuclear program or that North Korea would decide not to pursue the one its planning? Also, why stop a Star Wars program whose intention is to AVOID nuclear war? After all, if we were fired upon and a Star Wars program could stop a nuclear attack, we would NOT have to reciprocate. Otherwise we would certainly do so. The same is true is Iran attacks Israel. If a program could stop such attacks, there would be no need to use our nuclear weapons. That would actually be cause to get rid of them. Your opposition to the Star Wars program actually undercuts your pacifist stand. Isn't avoidance of war preferrable?

Finally, it is Biblically inconsistent and naive to think that we could abolish poverty altogther or that we could prevent men from desiring to engage in sinful acts. This is just another example of your liberal desires for a utopian society that look strangely like postmillennialism, but do not reflect the premillenialism of the Early Church, nor the perpective on poverty and sin that our early Church Fathers had.

I'm all for helping out the poor, but it is ignorant to think that will solve all the wars or negate our need of having a viable and strong defense. Poor people aren't the ones waging war - its rich Al-Quida operatives, wealthy dictators, and powerful megalomanics. And as has been shown before, poverty is not the motivating factor in destroying the Western society - its a flawed view of truth.