Me and Paul
It's been rough and rocky travelin',
It started simply enough.
I was a geeky junior high school smart ass; by contrast, Paul was a popular junior high smart ass. He thought it would be a goof, and a heart attack for the administration, for me to be student council president, and he ran a gonzo campaign to elect me. Incredibly, we beat out Heidi, a popular and leggy blonde teacher’s pet for a spot in the runoff, but lost in the end to Lloyd, a golden-boy who went on to produce “Watchmen.”
Paul is now counsel to a conservative think tank; we recently reacquainted on Facebook, where we’ve agreed on nothing but to agree to disagree. Recently, Paul “friended” Eric, another junior high school acquaintance (who ran the Golden-boy’s campaign), who spends his life as a crusading Liberal Lawyer.
GATEMOUTH: Probably a good idea for you guys to avoid talking politics
PAUL: I have many liberal friends who, like you and Eric (I suspect) really want to help the "little guy" and just because they don't see that their policies make things worse, doesn't make them bad people.
GATE: I'm worse than that--I think policies like not privatizing Social Security, or giving money to poor school districts, or providing certain benefits to undocumented workers, or helping the homeless have places to live, not only helps the little guy, but are ultimately in society's self-interest.
PAUL: Not privatizing Social Security"? What a noble goal. Every cent hardworking people invested, the govt. has squandered on myriad social experiments and entitlements. Even the most statist observer would have to admit it's a Ponzi scheme, and you or I would be jailed if we tried it. Yet you maintain that your wonderful, loving, beneficent govt. is the best guardian of these funds? You gotta be joking.
GATE: The Ponzoid element of Social Security is how the government uses the regressive payroll tax as a source for general revenue. They should at the very least raise the cap on the income they tax.
PAUL: Redistributionist pap. "Regressive" is just a word liberals have given to "Fair". I'd rather trust my funds to myself than to some bureaucrat that never made an honest dollar in his life, and most folks would agree. Those who believe they're too ignorant to manage their own funds (even by putting it in very specific managed accounts, with various and published risk parameters) , would be free to let the govt. keep doing what they do, i.e. mismanage at best, steal at worst, their hard earned savings.
GATE: "Fair?" Perhaps you could argue a "non-progressive" tax like a flat tax would be "fair." But, the Social Security payroll tax is not merely non-progressive, by cutting off at a certain point, it taxes higher earners less than those of lower income. That sir, is not "fair", that sir is not "flat", that sir is "regressive."
Which "liberals" are you talking about anyway?
Leftists maybe--the liberals I know are divided between two other categories--the liberal (as opposed to leftist) debate is between those who see this guy as a psychopath, and those who see him as a Jihadist. I am in the middle, and think that the categories are not mutually exclusive and that he is probably both. But no liberal (as opposed to leftist) I know considers this guy a victim.
I had to laugh when I heard Obama speak last night saying that the administration is open to suggestions on how to reduce unemployment. He's open to all but the one that has been proven to work. If he would lower corporate, individual, and capital gains taxes, (any one or combo would help) and we'd be booming in no time!
As far as "Jihad Boy" I didn't put you in any category. If you'll reread my post you'll see I simply asked how you and my other liberal FB friends see it. Just trying to stimulate dialogue.
Good day, Sir!
GATE: You should be happy, you stimulated dialogue, but I didn't ask you how you saw the idiots with the holocaust imagery on their health care posters, because I assumed that you were a person of decency and that there was no need to ask you to repudiate something you would never embrace, nor did I solicit your opinion about it in a manner which implied that some conservatives (as opposed to right-wing nut cases) thought such tactics were dandy.
PAUL: Fair enough, my bad. Sorry.
To my embarrassment, I must apologize to Paul and concede that the phenomena he talked about does exist.
Now, I happen to like Robert Wright, one of the few liberal thinkers who shares my distaste for preachy atheists of the Richard Dawkins/Christopher Hitchens school. As a member of the liberal wing of a minority religion which disdains proselytizing, and whose skin equally crawls from men in black hats asking me my religion, Protestant ministers opening the Indiana legislature with prayers calling for the conversions of non-Christians, or Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on my door on my Sabbath, I’ve always considered atheists’ primary attraction the fact that they mind their own business.
But preachy atheists are almost as bad as preachy vegetarians and preachy non-smokers (actually, the non-smokers have more of a point; I’ve never heard of anyone complaining about second-hand meat). When I hear the likes of Dawkins complaining about all the millions killed in the name of some deity as the cause of all the world’s ills, it only calls to mind the names of Joe Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and Pol Pot, all of whom killed millions in the absence of such divine inspiration.
But Wright’s laudable expressions of tolerance for the views of religious illiberals who would not extend us the same seems to have gone off the deep end:
Seeing the Fort Hood shooting as an act of Islamist terrorism is the first step toward seeing how misguided a hawkish approach to fighting terrorism has been...
One reason killing terrorists can spread terrorism is that various technologies — notably the Internet and increasingly pervasive video — help emotionally powerful messages reach receptive audiences. When American wars kill lots of Muslims, inevitably including some civilians, incendiary images magically find their way to the people who will be most inflamed by them.
This calls into question our nearly obsessive focus on Al Qaeda — the deployment of whole armies to uproot the organization and to finally harpoon America’s white whale, Osama bin Laden. If you’re a Muslim teetering toward radicalism and you have a modem, it doesn’t take Mr. bin Laden to push you over the edge. All it takes is selected battlefield footage and a little ad hoc encouragement: a jihadist chat group here, a radical imam there — whether in your local mosque or on a Web site in your local computer…
Exhibit A in this argument is Nidal Hasan. By all accounts he was pushed over the edge by his perception of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He also drew inspiration from a radical imam, Anwar al-Awlaki. Notably, it had been eight years since Major Hasan actually saw Mr. Awlaki, who moved from America to Yemen after 9/11. And for most of those years the two men don’t seem to have communicated at all. But as Major Hasan got more radicalized by two American wars and God knows what else, the Internet made it easy to reconnect via e-mail.
The Fort Hood shooting, then, is an example of Islamist terrorism being spread partly by the war on terrorism …And Fort Hood is the biggest data point we have — the most lethal Islamist terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11...
…It’s true that Major Hasan was unbalanced and alienated — and, by my lights, crazy…Like all viruses, terrorism infects people with low resistance. And surely Major Hasan isn’t the only American Muslim who, for reasons of personal history, has become unbalanced and thus vulnerable. Any religious or ethnic group includes people like that, and the post-9/11 environment hasn’t made it easier for American Muslims to keep their balance…
..And the Fort Hood shooting wasn’t the only recent step along that slope. Six months ago a 24-year-old American named Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad…fatally shot a soldier outside a recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark. ABC News reported, “It was not known what path Muhammad ... had followed to radicalization.” Well, here’s a clue: After being arrested he started babbling to the police about the killing of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were supposed to reduce the number of anti-American terrorists abroad…Meanwhile, on the other side of the ledger, they’ve inspired homegrown terrorism — a small-scale incident in June, a larger-scale incident this month.
Can't say I disagree with every last thing Wright says here, since I do agree that American actions abroad are not without the risk of such responses (and that the risk of such responses is one factor to consider among many when undertaking such actions), but I find his tone distasteful, since he seems to be saying that the crazed actions of unbalanced lunatics (a necessary part of the arsenal of any terrorist operation requiring suicides) are somehow our fault.
Frankly, I don't remember the United States being engaged in combat anywhere in the Middle East on September 10, 2001.
The strangest aspect of Wright’s argument is its resemblance to those made by Rudy Giuliani, on why the 9/11 suspects should not be tired in New York City:
"Of course it's going to create more security concerns. Just wait and see how much New York City spends on this in order to protect him…This gives all the benefits to the terrorists and much less benefits to the public."
It also calls to mind the words of the New York Post:On a purely self-interested note, New Yorkers must be wondering whether it makes sense for their city -- still a high-priority terrorist target -- to have another bull's-eye painted on its buildings.
Of course it doesn't.
Of course, Wright, Giuliani and the Post are all being disingenuous; trying the 9/11 suspects in a Federal Court rather than a Military one increases the risk of attacks on American soil in the same manner as does continuing our efforts in Afghanistan, but you will see no article by Wright calling for the trials to be conducted in a military tribunal. Nor will you see Giuliani or the Post saying all American troops should be withdrawn from the Middle East.
In each case, all have used the excuse of risks on American soil as an argument to oppose policies they do not like for other reasons, but all concerned have no interest in using such risks as reasons to oppose policies that they like.
And one cannot blame them for supporting the policies they like; risks on American soil are a good reason to oppose such policies, but there may be others considerations which render such reasons not good enough.
Despite his concerns about Jihadists, I’ve yet to see evidence that my friend Paul has any desire to use Fort Hood to declare a Jihad against immigrants, even against only those who practice Islam. Pound for pound, his ideology of “Social” Darwinism (the only sort the Right embraces) in the guise of a rising tide lifting all boats (like it did at Katrina) is just as reliable for as my social liberalism in its support for relatively open borders, requiring as it does a constantly renewable source of cheap labor to depress wages and encourage investment as an alternate means of acquiring wealth.
Nonetheless, out in the world of talk radio (where a bunko artist like Lou Dobbs would seem like the voice of reason) which fires the conservative base, calls for profiling and worse against Islamic Americans has run rampant, even though no such profiling would have been necessary to justify early intervention in the case of Major Hasan, whose behavior was sending up more flares than a Fourth of July fireworks display.
We’ve heard such arguments before about traitors in our midst; in the past such arguments, (fear of the other hitched to race hatred hitched and national security), were enough to convince great liberals like FDR and Earl Warren to incarcerate law-abiding Japanese-Americans in concentration camps. Those American citizens, deprived of their most fundamental right as Americans, nonetheless went on to produce the most decorated unit in US Military history.
I am reminded of the wise words of Colin Powell:
“I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I'm troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.”
Like Wright, Giuliani and the Post, I suspect that the red-meat eating Crescent bashers of talk radio, who Republicans candidates must now genuflect to as if they were Pat Robertson, are more concerned over advancement of their broader agenda then they are with public safety, or even, in this particular case, national security.
But I could be wrong, so I will call their bluff.
Again and again we’ve seen our Armed Forces lose Arabic interpreters to the idiocy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” For some reason it seems that the only two sources of such personnel in this country are practitioners of Islam or male homosexuals. Advocating as they now do, profiling procedures which would surely discourage Muslims from service in the military (if not outright bans), Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and their ilk need to answer whether they are now willing to break down the barrier preventing us from accessing the only other ready source of such essential personnel.
If their concern for our security is really what motivates their frothing, they should have no problem allowing Lesbians and Gay Men to serve openly. They might even find other advantages. A homophobic soldier would no longer need fear the secret proclivities of the grunt showering next to him; he’d know. Further, in the event of a Republican restoration, Cheney-type torture policies like sexual humiliation of captured enemy combatants would be immeasurably improved by deployment in such operations of soldiers with different life experiences.
Of course, it could be that, as in the case, of Wright, Giuliani and the Post, the professed concern for our safety and security articulated by the Teabag Right is not really their highest priority.
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