A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Tragedy Of Political Conversion, Part II

The quotations in this post are going to be a rough journey through a raw heart. It was excruciatingly difficult to follow the path of them again, for I was a participant in part of this Political Convert's journey, an obstacle in her way and a thorn in her backside. You know me. That's just how I am.

But, as with most of the women converts to Conservatism out there, I liked her a lot and respected a courage stretched to the breaking point by both inner and outer demons, which echoed my own struggle at the time with improperly medicated mental illness. I still like her a lot, and I still respect that courage.

We are now at a place where all that came between this woman and I on the comment pages of her blog, may finally be maturing into an unrecoverable bad end, leaving nearly 2,300 American soldiers dead, thousands more maimed, and close to $245 billion dollars poured down the toilet.

I do not want this end. I did not seek this end when the Iraq invasion of March 2003 galvanized me into Liberal political activism and into the search for a vehicle which this blog has become. I did not and do not want Iraq to dissolve into anarchy after being freed from tyranny.

But if it must come, I want it laid at the door of the one man almost totally responsible for it. I want it laid at the door of the Oval Office. And I want the people who helped return him to that office to take a little bit of responsibility for their own actions.

And even if the bad end doesn't materialize, it is not clear that we can, on our own, bring it to any end at all. I'd like for the people that cheered this endless enterprise on to take a little responsibility for that, too.

In the 2004 election, I obtained nothing of what I wanted for this country. My friend below obtained everything she wanted. Having obtained it, with her own self-lacerating emotional violence as the private price for it, she then turned her back on it, abdicating any public involvement in its consequences.

Can there be any greater political tragedy? Can there be anything worse for a truly free nation than a politically active citizen whose 9/11 Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, after tearing her in two and leaving pieces of her in its wake, was finally resolved by abandoning a citizen's commitment to become involved and to speak out? I don't think so.

Here is where it started:

What I remember most about the moments after the news broke was my drive home from work. I fled my federal office building in a panic that day, still not sure if more attacks were coming, if they were happening elsewhere, if the world was ending. I drove east, towards my home, but kept looking back in my rear view mirror at the brown, smoky haze filling the sky. My hands were shaking and tears were streaming down my face and I was frightened, so frightened, because we didn't know. We did not know what would come next, or if that was the end. I looked at every car that drove next to me, at every other driver at the stop lights. They were all crying or wide-eyed or clutching their steering wheel so hard I could see their knuckles turning white.

What I remember most about the subsequent days is the sky and the silence. The roar of planes is a constant soundtrack when you live so close to an airport. But for those days, four of them I believe, there was not a sound coming from the skies. The silence was so huge, so cavernous, and the only thing you could see when you looked up to the sky was thin wisps of smoke rising from the west. Those days seemed like they were lived out in a dream world.

November 1, 2001

jesuschristonapogostick. i need a drink.

When the hell will this madness end? Please, people of our government, for christ sake, please stop announcing every so called "credible" threat you receive. 90% of people in this country are hanging onto their sanity by a god damn string and if you keep blaring out every single whisper of impending doom, we are going to have mayhem on our hands.

So you think someone wants to blow up the bridges in California. What good is going to do to tell everyone this? Aren't we on the highest possible alert already? This is what, defcon 5 or some shit like that? Does this thing go to 11? Can you turn it up just a notch? No? Then shut the fuck up already. What is the purpose in scaring the bejesus out of everyone if you can't do a fucking thing about it. Station some guards, close the bridges or whatever you have to do, but do it quietly, forcibly if you have to, just do it without the damn fanfare.

December 17, 2001

Two days ago, bin Laden was said to be surrounded. I actually heard a talking head on tv say that Ol Dirty Laden should be dead in 24 hours. So today, in a statement that's sure to boost the confidence of Americans, it was announced that ODL's whereabouts is "anyone's guess." I'm guessing the guy already shaved his beard, put on a pair of khakis and a floral shirt, and is taking a garden tour of Hawaii right now. Wanna play Guess where ODL is now? We all put in a dollar and whoever comes the closest to where he's found wins it all. If you want to be altruistic about it, you can donate the winnings to the Coalition to Clean up After We Bomb the Hell Out of You fund.

May 31, 2002

Our current administration, fighting off accusations of incompetence regarding the knowledge beforehand of the plans leading up to September 11, have indeed pounced. They have taken their own mishandling of the situation and turned it into an towards turning this country into a police state.

July 14, 2002

Conversely, one peace activist, one person who works tirelessly to promote understanding, does not, sadly, represent all who are his religion or race or culture. There is still a lot of work to be done. There is still a long way to go before we are a peaceful planet. As long as we keep combatting the teaching of hatred and fear with the teaching of understanding and tolerance, we are doing our work. We are promoting peace. One voice, one hundred voices, one thousand voices. If the voices keep growing, we can make a chorus of peace.

You cannot hide from your feelings forever. And when they break out from the dark place where you have shoved them, in denial of them, because they do not fit how you think you really are, or how you think you really ought to be, they turn into demons which possess you. This is the first crack in the pacifist facade of my friend:

July 24, 2002

I have been sleeping in only fits and starts.

When I do sleep, it's fitful and restless and filled with nightmares. In between those frantic dreams are the moments when I toss and turn or just lay there and stare into the darkness. Sometimes, like today, I just get up for the day at 3am because going back to sleep would only mean going back to the nightmares of lost children, dead bodies, running, running, running.

I'm exhausted....

I suppose it's not a thing a decent human being would do; to feel joy when someone dies. But what if that person was not a decent human being himself?....Should I still feel like the world is better off without them? As a supposedly civilized person, am I to mourn the death of someone who brought hate and violence upon the world?....

The military leader of Hamas is dead. I don't feel sympathy, I don't feel sorrow, I don't feel grief that the life of another human being was taken so violently. Salah Shehade was a terrorist.

What followed this is a bizzare interlude that begins on July 26 with my friend blogging 24 hours straight, without stopping, for charity; progresses to an unbelievable 30 days of anticipating a second marriage to a man 18 years younger than herself [and this on her actual 40th birthday!], and coming to grips with the bitter years of her first marriage and her divorce. The entire sequence of days, the stress level involved, and my friend's description of it inevitably remind me of the disorientation used to break down resistance to interrogation or to facilitate brainwashing.

August 1, 2002

In September, they swore to everyone that their main goal was to find Bin laden and bring him to justice - whatever brand of justice that would be. Now, almost a year later, they have no idea where he is - if he's alive - and they are dismissing the need to find him. It's not even a priority anymore. What happened to that whole dispensing justice on his ass thing?

Now I am going to spend the rest of the day trying to wash from my brain the image of Bin laden "operating his apparatus." I'm going to have one dickens of a time doing that.

August 6, 2002

In a month it will be here, that dreaded anniversary. Sure, it's just another day. There will be school and work and probably grocery shopping and I think there is a PTA meeting that night. Life goes on....

I dreamed last night of the funeral service I attended for a bomb squad member killed that day. Of all the moments revolving around September 11th, even the first realization of what was happening, even the news of Pete Ganci's death, even watching the towers crumble, the service for Dan Richards will always be the most surreal moment of my life.

The combination of the bomb-sniffing dogs making sure the church was safe, the ever present helicopters, the bagpipes and the secret-service type people standing on my neighbor's porch with rifles poised on their shoulders made the day almost like a dream.

Last night I dreamed that the guns went off. The dogs were barking. The helicopters were droning in my ears and I couldn't hear a thing anyone was saying. People were running from the church, screaming and waving their hands in the air. I couldn't find my kids. I rushed into the church, into flames and rubble and body parts strewn about like candy wrappers in a movie theater. There were fingers under a pew and spilled blood on the seats and the floor was sticky with bodily fluids and tears. I thought I saw my kids at the altar, so I crawled through the wreckage to get there but when I approached I saw that it was effigies of my children, hanging from the ceiling fan of the church.

August 20, 2002

On the list of things to do: Buy underthings. Shoes. Chain smoke. Haircut. Have panic attack. Pick Nancy up at airport. Shoes, damn it. DJ can't wear sneakers and he has no shoes. Shoes for me, shoes for DJ. Worry that my outfit doesn't stand up well next to Justin's $400 suit. Fuck that, I'm going to look great. And if I don't, you will all pretend I do. Cry. Chain smoke. Sacrifice a virgin to the weather gods. Drink. Drink. Smoke. Drink. Smoke. Pace. Take Excedrin. Take the Hello Kitty vibrator off the wedding registry list. Explain vibrator concept to relatives. Or not. Empty bank account. Empty wallet. Empty piggy bank. Write overdrawn checks. Execdrin, NyQuil, Marlboro Menthol Lights, Tequila. Check, check, check, check. Pick up Paxil from pharamcist. Oh christ, could you imagine if I ran out of Paxil now? Stop writing stream of concious thoughts. Vows. Write vows instead. Plan ceremony with comedian/judge. Turn 40. Get married....

Quite a few people have hinted to me that they think I may be suffering from PTSD. While I do exhibit some of the symptoms, they don't apply because I have been experiencing these things most of my life, not just post-9/11. Also, instead of going to great lengths to avoid reminders, I actively seek them out.

Yesterday, I did say something about avoiding the anniversary date all together and spending the day in an arcade. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that sticking your head in the sand does not make something go away. It just makes it darker. And I'm afraid of the dark. Which is probably why I watch so much news. It's good out here in the light. It's scary as hell, but I'd rather be scared and armed with knowledge than be scared and not know where the hell I am or what I'm doing there....

Anyhow. I am not suffering from PTSD, but thank you for caring enough to suggest I get help. I'm suffering from the same thing I have been afflicted with my entire life: a quest to know more. I cannot fight the good fight if I don't know what I'm up against. I cannot speak my mind coherently or debate the issues or suggest alternative solutions if I don't make the effort to know every side of the issue.

August 31, 2002

I've had quite a few of these; glancing through my dream journal I see at least twenty. They usually involve the same things - planes falling from the sky, loud noises, skies on fire. They don't always appear to be about September 11 but I know they are.

Last night, in my dreams, buildings crumbled. I felt every rumble, heard every roar, cried and despaired. It wasn't the twin towers that fell in this nightmare, but buildings that are even more familiar to me. The building where I work. The local hospital. The library, which, in the dream, was about fifty stories high instead of one. I saw the buildings from a very low perspective, as if I were laying on the ground. They all went in the same way. First, the sidewalk would rumble. People would start screaming and running, looking for friends and family while fleeing. Then, the building would start to fall apart, piece by piece, block by block, each block crumbling into smaller pieces on its way down. From my perspective it looked like the sky was raining huge chunks of cement.

September 06, 2002

I remember that Natalie took her first step on the first day of the Gulf War. She stood up in the living room and took one step towards the tv, tuned to the face of George Bush on CNN and then she plopped herself down, stared at the television and cried and I said, yes honey, I know. He makes me cry, too. She didn't take another step until March. I'm sure she was just traumatized by George. And here we are now, still being traumatized by a Bush, still facing the prospect of a war in the middle east, still worrying about gas embargos and terrorism. I imagine George the junior sitting in the oval office, staring at a picture of his daddy and wondering how to outdo him and he turns to his cabinet of evil and says Let's kick it up a notch!

Sometime between September 6 and September 9 the world split in two. Sometime between September 6 and September 9, after a year of replaying, over and over in the mind, the repeating images of a jet liner crashing into tall, proud buildings, and of those building collapsing into rubble, the terror of them, the terror in the word terrorism, finally broke through to the surface of her consciousness and exploded across her awareness in a clear, cold rage lasting for two full years:

September 9, 2002

I fear for the future of my children. I fear if they even have a future at all. I want them to have a life free of the dark cloud of terrorism. I want them to feel safe and free like I have for most of my life. I don't want them to shudder every time a plane passes overhead. I don't ever again want to have to explain to them why children from another country are dancing in the streets as we mourn...

They are still out there. The people who did this to the United States are still out there, still planning and plotting. And they are not the only ones. A commentator on television today compared Iraq to Eddie Haskell. Only thing is, while Eddie Haskell may have been annoying and arbrasive, he was mostly harmless. Iraq is not Eddie Haskell and we are certainly not the goofy little kid named Beaver.

We must stop them before they take what we have left away from us. We must stop them before my children have nothing to look forward to.

September 12, 2002

What did I derive from Bush's speech to the U.N. yesterday? I'll paraphrase:

Dear U.N., either you start enforcing the regulations you made years ago, or we are so out of here. Either way, we are going to kick some ass, with or without your blessing, with or without the blessings of any other country. Inspections? I don't need your stinkin' inspections!"

For the first time ever, I applauded our president. Ok, so I did it quietly and maybe I hid in the closet while I did it so no one would see me, but I applauded.

The question that remains is not will we but when will we.

September 13, 2002

The daring, intrepid assclowns at indymedia are at it again. This time they are slapping this bumper sticker on cars in the San Fran area.

Ok, you punk ass fucknozzles - If you ever dare try this over on the east coast, and you have the balls to attempt to stick one of those on my car, I will beat you to within an inch of your life and I will make sure the cops in their cars and the paramedics in their ambulances know that you think they are the root cause of September 11 and then we will all sit around and watch while you writhe and moan in pain.

Who the fuck are you people kidding? Do you mean to tell me that you all walk, ride bikes or mopeds? Oh yea, you don't need transportation when you are just punk ass kids who do nothing but protest the country that gives them the freedom to spout their radical views.

September 23, 2002

I used to be an idealist. I used to think that peace was the answer to everything and that if we worked hard enough, world peace could at last be found. I watched my older cousins protest the Vietnam war. I admired them at the time. I was only in grade school, I didn't know any better.

Give peace a chance is a nice sentiment, but it's not based in reality. I would like to know what the anti-war faction suggests to do as an alternative to getting into a war with Iraq. How do they propose we negotiate with a madman?...

My days of longing for peaceful solutions are over....I don't want to sit around and wait for concrete proof that Iraq intends to use their weapons of mass destructions on us, because the only proof we are going to get is when it's too late to do anything about it.

So now the clear, cold rage has expanded to include any potential target, foreign or domestic, standing in the way of "safety". As I pointed out in the first post of this series, one of the key events in 9/11 conversions such as these it the naive discovery of Betrayal By The Mainstream Media. The first glimmers of it start here.

September 19, 2002

Take the case of the mouth that shut down Miami. Here, we have a simple story. Woman overhears what she concludes to be a frightening conversation, does her patriotic duty and reports said conversation to authorities, police check out story, find there's nothing to be alarmed about, and everyone goes on their merry way. Right? Not quite the way it turned out, is it?

First the media reported the facts. Then they took the facts and turned it into a slogan-worthy story. You know, Terror in Miami, Tipster Terror, etc. Soap operas were interrupted, helicopters hovered and the country stared at CNN for hours, waiting for those bomb sniffing dogs to discover a weapon of mass destruction hidden inside of a backpack....

If we didn't watch or read or listen, there wouldn't be a need for catchy slogans tagged onto every disaster. They are only giving us what we want, which is to be riveted to the tv or the radio or our monitors, caught up in the fear of the moment.

We are the media's bitches.

September 26, 2002

My dream life is out of control.

We sat outside on the shore of an ocean that appears frequently in my dreams. It is a furious, gray ocean. Waves rise and fall and form whirpools when they crash into themselves. There is something lurking beneath the water, I have never been able to see what it is, but it frightens me every time. I think it might be fear itself.

I sit on a tree stump with Natalie and we stare at the blackening sky. There are explosions in the air - red, white, green, yellow sparks light up planets I have never seen before. A cacaphony of booms and whistles and bangs plays around us, and we eat popcorn and watch the sky explode.

The waves are lapping closer to us. The bombs are falling nearer to us. I tell Natalie that this is it, there's no stopping it now. She is not afraid. She stands on a log, arms outstretched, face tilted towards the fire in the sky, and starts belting out Skid Row songs. She turns her face towards me, hair flying in the firey wind, eyes lit by the glowing trails of bombs, and right before my eyes she turns into Ann Coulter.

October 31, 2002

Someone took me off their link list today. That in and of itself is no big deal. It's the reason why.

At first, it didn't bother me. But the more I looked at the reason, and the more I looked at one of the comments on the post regarding the reason, the more it hurt. See, the person wasn't de-linking A Small Victory. They were dismissing me. My views. My persona. My feelings.

I know things have changed around here. My world has changed in the last year and with that, I have changed. Obviously, the subject matter here would follow in that path....This is just me finding myself - finally, at 40 years old - finding my niche and finding where I'm comfortable.

For the next year the postings alternate sporadically with the adventures and humiliations of her private life, and with her persona of the with-it social and cultural critic. The posts up to the approach of another September 11 anniversary are short, pointed, and clearly under a writer's verbal control. But from the late Summer of 2003 to the Presidential election of 2004, the poster's rage builds up into a tower of words in every political post.

August 20, 2003

The Religion of Peace(tm) strikes again. And it won't be the last time. The War on Terror is mostly a war against militant Islamists and to deny that is to deny the fact that we need to protect ourselves against these people. Pandering to them and playing the P.C. game of being non-offensive only gets you more of what happened today.

Even though Rumsfeld and company issue threats and warnings every day, we should still pay attention. We can never let the idea of these threats fade, no matter how long the time is after a threat is revealed. These people have long memories and the patience of a lion stalking its prey.

Today Indonesia, tomorrow somewhere else. Thousands upon thousands will die across the world as some media organizations still cower to the politically correct crowd and refuse to use the word terrorist to describe the suicide bombers. Call it what it is. It's a Jihad against the world. Not against the United States, not against Indonesia, but against all of us who are not facing Mecca

August 26, 2003

I believe the cards are handed out by Susan Sarandon and, no, that is not the hightest honor. The highest honor belongs to those called Chomskyites, who get hemp plaques to hang in their bedroom.

If you flash the card at a restaurant, you get half price on all vegan meals. That whole parking thing is not required, as card-carrying members do not use gas-consumption vehicles. However, if you show up on a Segway or in an electric car, the first appetizer is free. And that oil change question is just silly. Members of the far-left do not consume oil! Ever! For anything!

If you get a card it would be best to carry it with you at all times so you don't get your ass knocked down by someone charging a Starbucks window with a brick. Just flash your card and he'll step out of your way. The cards are free (provided you join ANSWER first), they are emblazoned with a photo of Che and a Free Mumia! sticker and are good for life unless, like me, you decide to burn yours at some point in which case, make sure to use lots of oil.

September 29, 2003

The horrifying part of the dream was not that we were under attack; I dream that often. It wasn't even the way the attackers were marching down the street in formation, guns pointed, the desire to kill in their eyes.

It wasn't even the way we had to board up our houses to protect ourselves against these terrorists, or that I couldn't get to my kids, who were in the boarded up house next door without any adults to comfort them.

It wasn't the helicopters and warplanes zooming overhead, showering the street with fire and brimstone, nor was it the realization that we were all very close to dying in a most gruesome way.

The horrifying part was this: my insane obsession with blogging the whole thing.

As the streets ran with liquid fire and as my neighbors went down in a hail of poisoned bullets, I darted from house to house, looking for a way into any of them so I could get to a computer and blog what was happening in my town. I snapped pictures of enemy soldiers walking towards me with futurized weapons pointed at me. I hid in a garden, laying on my back with my camera pointed upwards, taking panoramic shots of the underbellies of huge flying machines that poured molten lava on top of my parents' home.

I went from house to house, trying to find a computer whose modem wasn't already down. I had to blog this. I had to post those pictures.

I emailed Glenn Reynolds to tell him what was going on. I emailed Ken Layne and even Hesiod and then I emailed Strongbad. I told them they needed to post my blog entry for me. I was obsessed.

And then, the sky fell and with it fell Arafat and Wesley Clark and they were holding hands and praying. They fell in the river of molten lava that my street had become and swam as if they were in a pleasant lakeside retreat. They each had a tropical drink floating on a tray next to them.

As the world around me burned and crumbled and the screams of my dying neighbors and crying children surrounded me, all I could think of was the hits I would get from blogging a first hand account of this disaster.

And then I threw up on a rose bush. I saw the face of Hilary Clinton in my blood-tinged vomit and I woke up, sweating, panicky and digusted with myself.

June 18, 2004

I am rounding a dangerous corner, one I've been approaching since Nick Berg's head was sliced off like that of an animal. Oh, hell. I've been approaching it since before that. I've probably crawled a bit closer every time a school bus exploded in Israel. What do we do? How do we stop this? Right now, in my anger, I want to go to war with the entire Middle East, save Israel. I want to annihilate them. I know it is unreasonable and I know it isn't right. I know it's a horrible thought, but it's there, at the tip of my brain, trying to get me to shout it out to the world. Kill. Them. All. In an hour or so I might feel different. I might not. The residual anger over Nick Berg stayed with me a for a while. Each time something like this happens, the anger dissipates slower and leaves a shadow behind. How long before the shadow is all that's left? I do not blame America. I do not blame George Bush. I blame people who have taken a religion and distorted, warped and molded it to fit their own homicidal, ugly needs. They have bloodlust. And that bloodlust has been handed down from father to son, and the resulting butchery of Islam is handed from mother to daughter and murder and justified barbarism goes on and on.

June 25, 2004

It appears to be a video of Arab children re-enacting the Nick Berg beheading. This is not the firs time I've seen young Arab children being taught to hate and kill Americans and/or Jews with glee. It won't be the last. But it horrified me so much that took away every ounce of good feeling I had left from the day. Those children are the future. Will they eventually become the adults who go after my own children? Will they one day come to America to fly planes into buildings or set off dirty bombs? So, I am raising my children to want peace, hope and prosperity for all nations, but there are children of other nations being raised to kill, kill, kill. How do we combat that? How can we still have hope for our future generations when our enemies are teaching their own kids to only hope for death to the infidels? Perhaps we cannot win. Not if the bloodlust and violence is handed down like that. Not if it is taught in schools - which was evident in pre-war Iraq, among other places - not if it is taught at Palestinian day camps, not if children are being taught to kill the Jews, kill the Americans, slice their heads off their necks. How do we instill hope in our own kids when it just might be a false sense of hope? What if we manage to take out al-Qaeda, take out al-Sadr's martyrs and instill a beautiful wonderful democracy in both Afghanistan and Iraq, only to have it all undone by the children of those martyrs and killers, who were educated by would-be suicide bombers and hateful murderers? Is this a war that we are destined to fight forever?

June 30, 2004

It's not a fringe thing, because I see and hear on a daily basis words from moderates and mainstream liberals that used to be used only by the fringe elements of their political parties. Perhaps the far right is engaging in these tactics as well. I don't know because I don't pay any attention to them. But I do pay attention to the left if only for the very fact that they hate me. And if you think like me, they hate you, too. They have declared themselves my enemy and, as such, I am obligated to pay attention to them. I imagine them as anger personified; a massive swarm of bad feelings and bitterness, all shouts and shrill screeches and phasers set on stun. They come at me (and when I say me, I mean anyone who is planning on voting for Bush) every day and no matter how I try to repel them, they will not back off. They are immune to facts, to truth, to reasoning. They beat you back with the only weapons they have: denial and distorted truth. No matter how many Iraqis you throw at them, they won't believe a word spoken by them. No matter how many statistics you hit them with, they will deny each one to the very end. No matter how much good news you give them, they will search out any tidbit of bad news to fight back with. They don't want to hear good news. It defeats their purpose. Give them a soldier telling them the truth and they will stick their fingers in their ears. What makes me so different from them, you ask? Well, while they are totally negative, I'm not totally positive. I recognize flaws within my party. I recognize the faults of George Bush. I don't deny that there are some days the news out of Iraq is disheartening. They won't say anything that strays from the basic tenet of their movement, which is: If it's good for Bush, it's bad for us. Their chants and mantras are nothing but bashing; their fight songs are funeral dirges. They are like goth teens gone wild. Death, despair, life sucks because you made it that way. What also makes me different is my hope.

August 9, 2004

So if Kerry wins, there will be further split in the political map of America. The left will split into two separate and very disparate portions. The ABBs will morph into the ABKs and the moderate Democrats will be left scratching their heads. They voted for this guy, but he doesn't really represent them. They succeed in getting Bush out of the White House, but in the end they're still not happy. Then what? Form another party? Seek out another candidate to push towards a 2008 run? Sadly, it's the ABBs who are the most vocal crowd in this whole carnival. They are most likely to be the ones crying that President Kerry sucks. One can only hope that these people never get their way. Because what they want in a candidate, and in this country, is something that would drive us to the brink of disaster. Free health care for everyone. Free college. Completely open borders, with benefits for all the non- citizens that come through. Free day care. Free food. Free Mumia. Their key word, obviously, is free. They want the world handed to them but they want to do nothing to earn it....

No, Michael Moore will not pull the trigger (he doesn't like guns, remember). But this atmosphere of hatred could inspire and embolden someone to try. The ultimate extension of presidential hatred could be assassination. Oh, don't think that ugly little thought hasn't been running around in my head for months. Embolden. The hatred is sure to do that. And I'm sure that dissenters the world over, all the socialist-loving conservative haters, are looking at America right now with wide-eyed wonder, reveling in the anti-America feel coming from the haters. How soon before one of those comrades in arms decides to make his venomous brethren happy and do America a favor? In a couple of years, I've gone from far left to moderate left to center and now, I must admit, to the right. And each day I go farther and farther to the right, pushed their by the fact that I want to remain as far away from the left as possible.

August 23, 2004

Well, it seems I have adapted my daughter's favored method of coping. I've zoned out, gone into a Swift Boat coma, had my brain eaten by blogs, etc. Choose your phrase. The noise coming from both sides has reached a level that should only be heard by dogs...

And now everyone is micromanaging this issue down to little, bitty pieces, to the point where the campaign ads are about campaign ads about Vietnam. So while everyone - that includes both campaigns and most of their supporters - are flinging so much Vietnam-flavored feces at each other, I'm sitting here truly shocked that his election is about a thirty year old war. I had to stop reading blogs this weekend because it was all Swift Boat/Cambodia all the time. The major papers were no better, the chat at an online game I play was inundated with Swift Boat cat fights....

I drove home in a daze. My brain is just going to refuse to acknowledge that this presidential election is about something so far removed from the American psyche that the most relevant voters have no frame of reference for it. While most bloggers are cheering that this issue is finally making it to big media, I'm cringing. Neither side will benefit from bringing the Christmas in Cambodia story mainstream. Neither side will benefit from behaving like monkeys in a zoo in regards to the Swift Boat vets. So now, my defense mechanism has gone into full effect. It's effectively tuning out the noise and letting in all the signal. While it may appear that I'm not paying attention, I certainly am. I'm just filtering out those things that don't need to get in and people may think I look dazed and confused but, like my daughter before me, I'm taking in only what's necessary.

August 24, 2004:

As you probably know, tomorrow is my birthday. As a much needed birthday present to myself, I am shutting down ASV until October, maybe November. Maybe forever. Why? Because it's time. If you're still interested, I'll be writing one daily piece that has nothing to do with politics or current events, over here. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

But never underestimate the power of Betrayal By The Mainstream Media to undermine all good resolutions to take a vaction, just before an election, from being an Involved Citizen. For this was not just the ordinary Betrayal of mere "liberal bias" or "cowering Political Correctness", this was the Texas National Guard Hoax, the real cause celebre of the 2004 election, the event that allowed the Right Wing Blogsphere to shoot John Kerry and the Democratic Party in the back, while quite legitimately turning their guns on CBS News:

September 21, 2004:

Let me reiterate: This is, for me, not about Bush and his guard duty. I don't care about that inasmuch as I no longer care about Kerry's holiday in Cambodia. And I think it should be obvious to anyone observing this farce what the real issue here is. So why do I feel like I have to shake some people by the collar to get them to see the importance of all these revelations? How can you just blow off the fact that a major newscaster went ahead with a story that was backed only by shoddy documents whose authenticity had not been proved for the sole reason of rushing that story on the air because it flows with the newscaster's political bias? You don't believe that? Fine, there's a two for one sale on bridges today. Get out your checkbook....Even if John Kerry had nothing at all to do with this, it reflects badly on his campaign. If one of his advisers is running around making whisper deals with a major news channel to help that channel spread a story about the opponent, well, my god, how can you not see what's wrong there?

The Grand Finale:

October 20, 2004

The new 527 ad - Ashley's Story - is one of the most powerful election ads I've seen in a long time. It's powerful for me in a different way than it might be for an undecided voter. I have already made my decision to vote for George Bush. Ashley's Story just underscores one of the main emotional reasons why I am voting for him....

What is evident about George Bush in this ad is one of those vital things that give me faith and hope enough to vote for him with confidence. His sincerity, his passion and his compassion are all on display here....It's just a brief moment that shows the true spirit of what lies beneath George Bush, President. Oh, there are some who look at our President and see a liar, a thief, a devil in disguise. They refute even this small yet powerful gesture of the President, one in which he comforted a young girl whose mother died on September 11, 2001.

But it's what I see in this ad that encompasses all of the emotional reasons why I trust this man to be my president. It's not enough that Bush stands for the issues that are most important to me this election; in order to get my vote I have to believe in his sincerity and trust him with my life and the lives of my children. That I do.

And the aftermath:

November 10, 2004

If I had to absolutely make a choice, if America was physically splitting down the middle and one side was blue and the other red, I think you know where I would go. The left has become too ugly, dark and dangerous to ever think of siding with them again. I've seen reasonable people slide so fast into the depths of vitriolic insanity that I they became unrecognizable within mere weeks. In a way, I'm astonished at what I see happening to this country post-election. Even though I predicted that it would become this ugly and divisive, I thought I was engaging in a bit of hyperbole most of the time. But it's here and it's real and it's out there....

But they aren't the only problem. Because now I'm suddenly a target not just for the left, but for the right. I'm being told I must fight the good fight, rethink my stance on gay issues, abortion, the definition of family and religion. I'm seeing the first hints of alienation. They got my war on terror vote. I was part of them for this whole election cycle, working side by side to get Bush elected. And now that the election is over, I've been given a put up or shut up demand. Bad enough to get the bullets from the opposing party, I'm now being eased out the door of my own. So what happens when the civil war takes place and the blue secedes from the red? Where do I go?

Here is where it ended:

November 26, 2004

Thanksgiving has become, in the past six years, my year-end measurement....I react to everything with feeling. Most of my decisions, my choices, my actions are based on my emotions. No, not a great way to live, but it's who I am. So last night....I read a good portion of what I've written here over the past year. Talk about self discovery. When I was done reading, I was left the feeling like I looked in the mirror and saw that I was covered in thousands of blemishes. It was an ugly year, to put it mildly. I suddenly found myself faced with the weird feeling of losing all respect for myself....

Why did I actively seek out those things which I knew would anger me? Why did I engage in such vitriol and mouth-foaming reactions when most of it was not only completely unnecessary, but only served to fuel whatever negative emotions I was dredging up by reading things I knew would make me mad?....Well, it starts with one little instance and it sort of builds up. A few accolades for a well written, yet vitriolic post, a few extra hits, a few more readers. So you do it again to see if you can repeat that success. Sure enough, you can. That shit sells, man. My hits were going through the roof. I had a nice, long adstrip. I was quoted in newspapers. CNN was calling my house. I was finally being accepted. But accepted as what?

I knew that people showed up in droves for the posts that were written in the depths of rage. Again, my anger was definitely real. My opinions on these subjects were completely honest. But it's the fact that I reached for these subjects, that I actively sought out those things that would make my blood boil and my hands shake that makes it now seem so manipulative....I know I also lost some friends over this....We just lost touch and I know damn well why. And I never made the attempt to initiate contact with these people because subconsciously I knew that I was being a complete asshole....

All these things are what I'm leaving behind by not dealing with the politics anymore. I'm over the whole acceptance thing because, just like when I was fourteen and drank fifteen shots of Sambuca to gain acceptance, it has left me feeling sick to my stomach. And in much the same way that to this day I can't look at a bottle of Sambuca without heaving, I will not be able to look back at a year's worth of my writing without feeling sick....I stopped caring about the hits or the comments. I stopped caring about figuring out ways to draw people in. It wasn't all it was cracked up to be, I'll tell you that. What I gained in readership or ad revenue was not worth the respect I lost for myself.

And so we return to the same place where we started. When it is safe, when it is sure, when we no longer have to fight, then we stop.

The speaker, if you haven't already guessed, is Michele Catalano, now safe, sure, and beyond the fight. Amazing, isn't it, what one good Presidential hug will do! The blog was known as A Small Victory. You can follow my archeological footsteps here, if you like.

The blog itself, flickered, sputtered, and rock-and-rolled itself to its final demise one month ago. The prose has withered to one line captions in a, new, potentially endless, Millenium Photo Album where the bad dreams are safely evaded in the parallel universe of the camera.


September 11, 2005:

I still think about it daily, but it's only when reminders like a perfect pre-autumn day or the roar of a jet engine kick up the dust where I store all those memories. It's not there, right out front any more. And when I do think about it, the thoughts are fleeting, sometimes lasting only seconds. It's not like it used to be, when the mere sight of an airplane could send me into a tailspin. It's not like it used to be, where just mentioning it could make me spend the rest of the day talking, writing, emoting about it.

I think that's a good thing, no? Time marches on, as do our lives. Just because you don't think about it as often doesn't mean you don't remember.

I dreamed last night about firemen and burning buildings and memorials. So it's there, it's all there saved and stored, but put away in place that only comes alive when dreamed about, or when disturbed by a perfect blue sky or a glimpse of the city from the view of a bridge. That's good, I tell myself.


Today marks the 1625 day Osama Bin Laden has been at large since President Bush vowed to bring him in, dead or alive. That's almost four and one-half years. Bin Laden, his followers, and the leavings of the Taliban, have been allowed to operate with impunity just over the Pakistani border from our democratic showpiece country, Afghanistan, and still remain at large and as much a threat to both Afghanistan, and the world, as ever.

Today there are now 2291 American lives that have been lost in Iraq. There are 16,742 Americans who have been wounded, many, many more of them crippled for life, rather than merely killed, as in past wars. Such is the progress of combat medicine.

In round figures, about $244 billion dollars have been spent there. When last seen, none of the Iraqi army was yet capable of operating on its own, without American troops in close support. That war will soon be 3 years old, with no end in sight, beyond the dreadful possibility of the entire country of Iraq slipping into a sectarian civil war.

Iran is well on its way to making a nuclear warhead, and we have no army free to stop them. We haven't had one available since March of 2003, so they've gotten a three-year head start. A nuclear Iran, accomplished without even a gesture of the "Bush Doctrine" to stop it, may well be the most lasting Presidential legacy that George W. Bush will leave to Ashley, to Michele and her children, and to the rest of the world.

But it is safe, it is sure, and we no longer have to fight, right?

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Dead Spot

So now there is a dead spot. I write often in bursts and, when I finish a piece, I often crave to do more, particularly if I am working in longhand. Typing is harder. Typing now usually makes the knuckles ache.

But the words disappear. It is as if my batteries completely discharge and can no longer cold crank the engine.

The writing hobby is a tough game. You're not working to assignment. You can't find out new facts to stimulate you, much of the time, because you often cannot know what you are writing about until you see what you say, and, essentially, it is all about you and nothing else.

I laugh up my sleeve at so many political bloggers who make a special category titled something like: Me! Me! Me!. Would they make a special category titled You! You! You! or Oprah! Oprah! Oprah!? I have to bite my tongue to keep from telling them to get a life, to sit down and face the fact that you ain't much, but you're all you got.

"You" is sometimes a blank slate. "You" sometimes simply has nothing to say. "You" often knows that you just don't know Jack.

But you keep on writing anyway, pencil to paper, letter after letter, the hand automatically dropping the marks without conscious control of the order, without the brain spelling out all the letters to itself. You think "happenstance" and automatically the marks appear--even if they are frequently the wrong marks.

Even if wrong, the process is automatic. And when age and distraction interfere--which is fairly frequently now for me--you never even see the moment of interference. Letters vanish or transpose themselves, and whole words you didn't think of appear in the copy as substitutes for the ones you did.

Add to this the fact that Blogger spellcheck will sometimes randomly turn two or three words in a row into letter salad, and proofreading these posts becomes the Road to High Adventure.

So saddle up your camels and follow.

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Be Prepared--Expect The Expected

The Hummer was red and [of course!] the woman driving it was jabbering on her cell phone, while exceeding the speed limit by 10 miles per hour, on the way to work. I saw her while waiting at the bus stop.

She probably has 2.2 children. Though what on earth she does with the .2 child, I haven't a clue. Maybe there's some therapeutic or educational alternative for .2 children. As a .2 child is growing up, maybe the parents get a bumper sticker: My Child Makes An Occasional Appearance At Ridgecrest Elementary.

Since she came out of a side street near mine, her house is likely worth around $199,000 and was built around 1955. She and her husband are carrying a 30 year mortgage. She almost certainly colors her hair, doesn't think she has a really good pair of shoes to wear, and worries that what she wears is not quite professional enough, and so does not wear it with confidence, meaning, in the end, that she has then made it not quite professional enough.

Well, gee. Now what do we do with that?

There is something about American life that is just a little mind-numbing. The expected always happens--which is enough to put anyone to sleep nine days out of ten.

Not that the unexpected doesn't happen but the expected always does. One day, just one day, couldn't we stop doing what we always do? Couldn't the State Department spokesperson give a briefing in a snappy, rayon Hawaiian shirt? Couldn't Wolf Blitzer read the news wearing a pair of deelyboppers? Larry King wear a belt instead of suspenders? Is that asking too much?

Where has our sense of humor really gone? When I was a child, the BBC did a broadcast--for April Fools Day, I think--of a marvelous straight-faced story on the spaghetti harvest of Northern Italy, complete with melliforous BBC voiceover about sturdy peasant farmers carefully tending the trees, which were filmed while festooned with Linguini. Should we really leave all of this with Jon Stewart? Should we really quarantine this to the Comedy Channel only?

If so, what's the point of having it?

Humor is not an "outlet", not a dose of laxative. Humor is an attitude, and one which we are all too busy to cultivate.

Too busy with what?

Mrs. Claus had a cousin die recently. He had MS, lost his sight, had his wife abandon him simply because he was sick, and had to be cared for by his grown daughter.

The deceased was the oldest of that generation. Mrs. Claus is the next oldest. She has been on medical disability for 25 years and has now progressed to constant oxygen. With one exception, all of the rest of the cousins are sick. One, for example, is on a continuous morphine pump and in a wheelchair, has blown up to 350+ pounds, and has a habit of sending the family constant, half-crocked, Thomas DeQuincey e-mail. He probably could use a blog.

The only one who has escaped the "family curse" is Mrs. Claus' sister--the one that had both breast and stomach reduction surgery, the rounds of botox, speaks perfect, unaccented, French, and went back, from Los Angeles, with her French husband, to live in a tiny village in Gascony. She sends us e-mailed photographs of herself and the fine old dog she walks to the market, to the bank, and to sidewalk cafes.

There may be several genetic weaknesses involved in the "family curse", a result of too much inbreeding several generations back in Polish ghettos, and brought over to America in the tidal wave of immigration around 1900.

As you can imagine, Mrs. Claus is very depressed about the death of her cousin. She is the next oldest of that generation and not doing very well herself. After the usual telephone flurry immediately following the death, the reality, and the depression, set in, and Mrs. Claus took two weeks to nerve herself up to call the one aunt she had missed.

The aunt observed the usual three minutes of polite family formalities but, just as Mrs. Claus was starting to feel connected and really ready to talk, the aunt abruptly cut the conversation off. She had to watch American Idol.

Too busy with what???

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Non-Thinking Interlude

I struggle to recover balance. I struggle to recover balance in myself from a brain overwearied and a heart scraped raw. I struggle to recover balance in a country made frantic by a danger which hovers somewhere between real and imaginary. There are days when the two merge into one.

In the post on Political Conversion below I spent a lot of personal time wandering around in the mind of someone who I do not agree with.

It is interesting to do so, but disorienting. To make the next post in that series I have followed the track of a mind that I also did not agree with to an end that I shudder to think of, an end where that mind simply and willfully decided to forget that we live in a time of any danger at all. Which is horrible.
What of danger? Several posts below, Baron Bodissey, a gentleman whom I wronged and for which I have apologized, both here, and over at his blog. the Gates of Vienna, wrote an impassioned letter defending his fear of members of a fundamentalist Muslim group in the United States, who have many African-American ex-convicts as members, who have a decidedly questionable history, and who have bought land in various rural areas in America, including one near him.

He links this group's continued existence, and its future danger, to political views such as my own, in the guise of Political Correctness and Multiculturalism. And he has visions of these people in their rural compounds as part of a Muslim terrorist jihad which will exploit an American race war.

This is unbalanced.

And what isn't, pray tell?

This is unbalanced for several reasons having to do with fact, history, politics, and philosophy. As to fact, five or six groups in the stone boonies, where people are playing at imposing shi'ra by force on this country, have no more probable chance of acting this out in the real world than I have of going to the moon. He tells me the authorities are aware of them where he lives, and, to a mind consciously striving for balance, that should be sufficient to quell any idea of a serious threat from them to the country as a whole, however intimidating they may be to their immediate neighbors.

As to history, I suspect that Bodissey is young enough not to remember the Black Panthers, who were the bugaboo in my youth of armed, disenfranchised young black men in a time when America was torn by real, and acute racial conflict. Where are the Black Panthers today, when racial friction still exists, but where the accepted presence of African-Americans in all walks of life, including the highest government offices, is an accomplished fact? They are gone. And they departed in a way which was not very pretty. You can Google the history if you don't remember it personally.

As to politics, Bodissey, like so many of my Conservative friends, live in a world of their own making where the people who disagree with them--particularly when they do not know them, particularly when they become nebulous abstractions like The Left or Liberals--are next door to demons, at once stupid, pigheaded, and feckless for our country's safety, for which they do not care a jot.

This is simply not so. The people who disagree with him care about our country very much, we have views which may be wrong [as any views may] but which are rational to any reasonably balanced reader, and we are as ordinary, particular, and fallible of human beings as any other.

We are not faceless and demon-eyed abstractions beginning with the letter L.

I cannot stop writing but I must. I would like to post this but I must wait. And you must wait to see it, too.

But beyond these there is matter of philosophy. A prudent man prepares for danger, but a wise man does not allow danger to disturb his balance. I lived for a number of years in the Rocky Mountain West and, though it is not well known, there are still pockets out in that country where the State Police will advise you, privately, to go armed, if you go at all. When you encounter this advice, it changes your perspective on American life considerably.

Safety is a relative thing. We are never wholly safe, and we are never wholly sure exactly how safe we are. We must make judgments about this, judgments can be wrong, and if judgments are going to be right, they had better be level and balanced. This is particularly the case if you decide the danger warrants you going armed.

So if you live in the backcountry and your neighbors are questionable, be circumspect in your contacts with them, tell the authorities about them if you choose, and carry arms if you need to. But don't let such things prey on your mind where you contemplate "hate crimes"--which will "condemned by the craven politically correct"--merely out of your fear of what might be going on. I think it can be safely said that Bodissey has done exactly this.

It really does not make you any safer, and it may easily lead you to do things which increase your danger, and bring it nearer to you, rather than the other way around.

Balance is as balance does, when I wobble who is there to catch me but myself? This post got blown about in my mental wind, lost in a flurry of ordinary business, shuffled in a deck of potential things to write to fill the time, while I procrastinate on the things that will require real thought.

Tonight I am falling, falling, falling off the central point, with this stream of consciousness chattering under the rational arguments, the marshalling of evidence, the summarizing of examples. The stream of consciousness is always there. The stream of consciousness is what I balance on and what I fall into tracelessly when I fall.

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Any Port In A Storm, A Storm At Every Port

There is absolutely nothing at all inconsistent or surprising about the Bush administration unquestioningly turning over seaport management duties to Middle Eastern governments. Let's look first, courtesy of CNN, at where the pressure for it is coming from:

LOU DOBBS: Still ahead here, do you wonder why President Bush is insisting on pushing this port deal through? Well, we do, too, and we've taken a look into it. We'll have a special report -- a special report on what appears to be the Bush administration's special relationship with Dubai.

And Dubai has friends in high places on K Street. K Street lobbyists don't see anything wrong with helping push this $7 billion port deal through, even if it raises serious questions about national security....

The United Arab Emirates not only has friends in high places in government, it also has high-powered lobbying connections. This oil- rich nation has been lavishing hundreds of thousands of dollars on K Street, lobbying friends to push its point of view and its goals. One of those friends we found out today is none other than Senator Dole, former Senator Dole. Lisa Sylvester has the story.

LISA SYLVESTER: To deflate criticism, Dubai Ports World has gone on a hiring spree. The bipartisan lobbying firm headed by former congressman Tom Downey and Ray McGrath was hired last week. Senator Bob Dole and the lobbying firm he works for, Alston & Bird, also got a call. DPW, owned by a member of the United Arab Emirates, is pushing hard to keep Congress from blocking the deal...

But lobbying Congress is not new for the United Arab Emirates. The country has a team of U.S. lobbyists representing its interests. Records filed with the Department of Justices Foreign Registration Office show the UAE paid at least four lobbying firms more than $720,000 last year.

According to Senate disclosure records, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce spent at least $100,000 lobbying Capitol Hill in the first half of last year. But the heavy lobbying efforts could backfire. It's now drawing attention to the influence of foreign governments on U.S. policy. Senator John Kerry has written Treasury Secretary Snow asking for full disclosure of the lobbying efforts on behalf of DPW. Congressman Curt Weldon echoed the need to know more about how this deal was sealed...

One problem with foreign lobbying is the lack of transparency. Lobbyists representing foreign governments have to register with the Department of Justice, but the records are not easily obtained and the information included on those disclosure forms are usually very vague with government entities revealing as little as possible -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS: Imagine that, revealing as little as possible in Washington, D.C. I'm shocked. Lisa, thank you very much.

From the Battle of Tora Bora forward, the War On Terror has been a part-time job at the White House, pursued if and only if it does not interfere with other, more pressing, agendas of political power and corporate influence.

The most dangerous possible terrorist target--in terms of lives that could be lost in America--is any one of our chemical plants close to a major city, as most of them are. A simple truck bomb, like McVeigh's in Oklahoma City, could kill thousands if detonated at a plant making, say, anhydrous ammonia.

This has been brought up over and over in Congress, news programs of all sorts have repeatedly demonstrated that reporters can simply drive in the front gate of most plants without even being challenged, and there would be no reason why the White House couldn't take up the bully pulpit and get this fixed. Have you heard a peep out of them about it? You can ask the Chemical Manufacturer's lobby why.

The President has defiantly told us that he will order, if he has to, the screening of every phone call and e-mail in America, to identify people using words like "bomb" and "terror". So the NSA starts dilligently deviling after everybody who tells someone else, "Dat's da Bomb!"

But you will never hear a peep out of the White House about a surveilance measure that would destroy virtually every avenue that funded terrorist cells in this country but gold smuggling and halwala banking: make every electronic fund transaction completely transparent to Government scrutiny.

This has also been proposed since the very first days after 9/11, because the principle is obvious: terrorism costs money. Lots of it. Stop the money and you stop it. Even Bill Clinton suggested this long before 9/11. But it will never happen. Guess why, and guess who doesn't want it to happen. Besides the terrorists, of course.

Way back when, Charles Schumer made a very intelligent proposal to increase security in the Trucking Industry nationwide. And even the rabid wrong-wing blogger Michelle Malkin supported it. Heard much about it lately? And did you hear anything at all about it from the White House?

It's almost too embarrasing to mention, but we still have the longest virtually unguarded borders in the world. They have remained so now for about four and one half years, despite repeated calls to fix this from those in the President's own party who think fighting terror should be a full-time job.

Further, there is the scathing, and bi-partisan, Congressional criticism of the Department of Homeland Security's response to Katrina? Are we really ready to cope with someone blowing up one of those completely naked chemical plants?

I don't think so.

Finally, it is noteworthy that the President has openly threatened to use the veto power for the first time ever in his Presidency. He very badly wants this to happen. I'm as curious as anyone else about the details of why.

But I think I can guess the broad, overall, principle involved: money will go somewhere, to someone who badly wants it, in exchange for power and influence within the United States Government.

Some of the particulars are beginning to emerge, however, as Lou Dobbs and CNN once again reveal:

The oil-rich United Arab Emirates is a major investor in The Carlyle Group, the private equity investment firm where President Bush's father once served as senior adviser and is a who's who of former high-level government officials. Just last year, Dubai International Capital, a government-backed buyout firm, invested in an $8 billion Carlyle fund.

Another family connection, the president's brother, Neil Bush, has reportedly received funding for his educational software company from the UAE investors. A call to his company was not returned.

Then there is the cabinet connection. Treasury Secretary John Snow was chairman of railroad company CSX. After he left the company for the White House, CSX sold its international port operations to Dubai Ports World for more than a billion dollars. In Connecticut today, Snow told reporters he had no knowledge of that CSX sale. "I learned of this transaction probably the same way members of the Senate did, by reading about it in the newspapers."

Another administration connection, President Bush chose a Dubai Ports World executive to head the U.S. Maritime Administration. David Sanborn, the former director of Dubai Ports' European and Latin American operations, he was tapped just last month to lead the agency that oversees U.S. port operations.

It's simply squalid. A culture of corruption which is no longer even window dressed. At every turn lobbying with money buys power, access, favors for your friends, and the friends of your family, in turn making everybody in the ring more money.

The Public Be Dammed.

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The Lessons The Iranians Learned

My regular posting cycle, which is demanding a lot of fresh thinking, is giving me fits, so, to keep you entertained, I'll fill in with a few things I have been dropping off on other blogs about Iran. The blogs in question are All Things Beautiful, Gates of Vienna, and Officer's Club:

These are the real lessons the Iranians learned that GW, Maid Condoleeza, and his Merry Men didn't learn until quite recently:

The one lesson I'm sure they took from us is exactly the same lesson that India took from the First Gulf War: If you wish to be a major regional power--insulated from outside military threats--you must have nuclear weapons.

The Indians have been quite explicit about this as a conclusion and a motivation, once their weapons were a fait accompli.

I am also reasonably sure that this lesson was reinforced to the Iranians with the easy fall of the Taliban to our overwhelming conventional forces.

I am very sure that they took heed of the lesson that the United States military was prepared to fight only two major wars, and our current president chose to fight them one after the other.

I think that they were acutely sensitive to the fact that for 13 months afterward there was only one U.S. aircraft carrier operating on the entire High Seas, making close air support of any serious military operations next to impossible.

I believe they took notice when we withdrew from our bases in Saudi, which we so carefully built up to bolster the security of the region, and to function as a logistical staging area, with the obvious intention of rebuilding them in Iraq.

I think they were very attentive when our inattention and unintelligence allowed an Iraqi insurgency to develop and arm itself virtually under our noses.

And I think they are still attentive to the fact that this same insurgency has not been quelled despite the application of virtually the entire combat rotation of our available ground troops.

I finally think that they have come to the very reasonable conclusion that we are in no position to mount a serious and sustained military operation against their country as a whole, and probably will not be so until at least 2010. And this only if we finally do manage to secure those permanent Iraqi logistical bases for our troops.

I think those are some pretty intelligent lessons, don't you?

We do not have the military capacity to start and sustain yet a third war and all of the Bush inner circle know it. Condi Rice knows it, Donald Rumsfeld knows it, Dick Cheney knows it, and John Bolton knows it. So, by the way, does Jack Murtha, which is one of the reasons for his recent change of heart about Iraq.

Not to mention our other two nuclear problems, Pakistan and North Korea. North Korea is implacably hostile and Pakistan is merely one heartbeat away from changing to an adversary from an ally. Either or both of these could blow up in our face while we are tangled up in three wars instead of two.

And then there is always the problem of Taiwan to consider. One more war would force us to virtually cede the Formosa straits to the Chinese navy.

Would they resist the opportunity to seize Taiwan by force? Good question. If they don't, will George be willing to do some nuclear brinkmanship with our entire West Coast in the balance while fighting three other wars elsewhere? Also a good question. Let's sincerely hope he doesn't have to.

And all of this from the simple boneheaded action of invading Iraq without any preparation whatever to run it after the military victory. Sigh.

And double sigh.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

The Tragedy Of Political Conversion, Part I

Sometime back I asserted that the most important political phenomenon of the past 25 years was the prevalence of "conversion experiences" to Conservatism by former Democrats, particularly by formerly Democratic women. I still think so. And I think the fact that the Democratic Party has not, even yet, come to terms with it, is by far that Party's greatest weakness.

Howard Dean has not come to terms with it, Nancy Pelosi has not come to terms with it, Harry Reid has not come to terms with it, and, yes, good Conservative friends, even Joe Lieberman has not come to terms with it.

Coming to terms with it does not mean wringing your hands over it, it does not mean changing your beliefs because of it, it does not mean throwing a Zell Miller temper tantrum at a Republican Presidential Convention because of it.

It means looking at it clearly and trying to understand it's implications.

I really like many of the women bloggers who have gone through this conversion experience, and I find their self-revelations about what they think caused it fascinating. In a certain sense, there is a far greater emotional depth in their story and their writing than in political bloggers, like myself, who have not gone through this experience. You can feel an intangible, but none the less real, difference in attitude toward both life and America in someone like Baroness Alexandra, who I suspect has held rightist views since adolescence, and among like-minded friends and relatives, and someone like the Anchoress, whose conversion experience happened during the Reagan years and in adulthood.

Courtesy of the Anchoress, I have found a fine and lucid new spokesperson for the phenomenon of political conversion, NeoNeocon, whom I have added to the Right Views on my blogroll. She is highly representative of the new breed of feminine Conservative converts that were shocked into this experience by 9/11. During the last Presidential election they even earned a catchy media tag: security moms.

So why do I think this type of conversion a tragedy? Well, certainly not because I think being a Conservative itself is a tragedy. But a complete reorientation of your world-view, particularly as an adult, when you have far less emotional resilience, and you are the creature of many more developed and comfortable habits, is a searing experience that leaves many scars and, sometimes, leaves wounds that fester and will not stop bleeding. This is particularly the case when the conversion frightens and repulses a network of family, friends, or colleagues.

So many security moms who blog are New Yorkers, as is NeoNeocon. This is perfectly understandable. 9/11 in person, or through friends and family, cannot conceivably be compared to the proxy and mediated way in which I experienced it. The Gotham survivors of it, whether Conservative or Liberal, all have my goodwill [even when I disagree sharply with them] and my immense respect. But it is certainly the case that the Northeast as a whole is strongly Democratic, and the New York security moms have faced a far more scalding conversion because of that fact.

There is no question that the rabid political anger of our time has take a toll on this country, and the emotional lacerations that the security moms have had to bear are some of the ugliest and saddest parts of it. There may be no healing for these hurts, ever, in the same way that there will be no healing for the Vietnam War, whose lasting wounds reopened in the persons of George Bush, John Kerry, the venomous Swift Boat Vets, and the Texas National Guard Hoax. It will be for both pieces of history, I think, a matter for the memories to completely die with those who hold them and will take them to the grave.

So I said "tragedy", and I mean it.

NeoNeocon has written a fine series of essays about this transformation of her life. They are so good that I wish I could simply blockquote them all. But this will not do. So, up front, I want to strongly suggest that you read them in full. I will be quoting selections only, and I will be drawing some rather pointed political conclusions from them, and I want you to be prepared to make an independent judgment whether my choice of quotations has loaded the dice. I don't think it has, but no honest partisan, speaking of views he does not hold, can ever be sure.

So immediately below is a summary of what I thing are the most relevant parts of NeoNeocon's conversion, whose seeds go back to the Iranian hostage crisis of 1980:

I had a vague sense that events in Iran boded no good, and watching the Iranian women don their chadors I wondered why they would be so eager to go back to what seemed to be medievalism. But what did it matter to me if they wanted to wear black robes and have a cleric for their leader? It seemed to be their choice; was it any of my business?...

When the Soviet system collapsed, it seemed to me that the end came very suddenly. Oh, there were rumbles during Gorbachev's tenure-- something was indeed happening--but in 1989 it seemed as though the entire Iron Curtain came down so precipitously you could almost say it evaporated. My question was: how can an Iron Curtain evaporate? And, even more to the point, why didn't any of the 'experts" see it coming?...

The Gulf War of early 1991 seemed to mark some sort of return to 'history," although I thought (and hoped) that perhaps it was an anomaly...I understood the rationale for the war, and the necessity of it, but watching it and thinking about it
seemed more than I could bear...

But there were other distant warning bells sounding. Some were not so distant at all. The first World Trade Center bombing certainly grabbed my attention in 1993...I was stunned to discover that the intent of the bombers had been to topple the building and kill many thousands, and that it was only through chance and incompetence that they had failed to achieved their goals...

And so time passed. When the millennium came, people seemed much more worried about the threat of the millennium bug than the millennium bomber who was caught before he could carry out his plans to blow up LAX...

But instead, John's calm words came out in one long run-on sentence, although their content was anything but calm, or calming."Two planes just crashed into the World Trade Center, and the towers have fallen, and then another plane crashed into the Pentagon, and a fourth one is missing, and a few others are missing, too" (the final destination of Flight 93 was unknown as yet, and a mistaken report had been issued that there were further planes still unaccounted for)...

What were the main assumptions that had died in that instant for me? They had to do with a sense of basic long-term safety. Some utterly fearful thing that had seemed contained before, although vaguely threatening, had now burst from its constraints. It was like being plunged into something dark and ancient that had also suddenly been grafted onto modern technology and jet planes--Huns or Mongols or Genghis Khan or Vlad the Impaler or Hector being dragged behind Achilles' chariot--a thousand swirling vague but horrific impressions from an ancient history I'd never paid all that much attention to before...

This had been the first time I had ever followed a war [the Afghanistan war--ed.] so closely--day by day, almost hour by hour. It was the first time I'd eagerly devoured so many stories as events unfolded. And, most importantly, it was the first time I'd read a variety of newspapers, both geographically and politically. It was the first time I had been made frightened and deeply apprehensive, over and over again, by negative predictions in my favorite papers--and then discovered, to my growing puzzlement and even annoyance, that these predictions bore no more relation to subsequent reality than if they'd emanated from the I Ching. It was the first time I noticed that the more reliable papers had seemed to be the more conservative ones.

This is the most important turning point that I see consistently in these compelling conversion narratives as a whole:

Betrayal By The Mainstream Media!

I use the capitals, and the exclamation point, advisedly. Because, among the security moms, this may well be the most shattering experience, the discovery that people who report and edit the news are shaped by their own political biases and do things through disingenuous motives.

When I first started encountering women like NeoNeocon on the net I was utterly bewildered, particularly by their venom toward publications like the New York Times and television news commentators like Dan Rather and Peter Jennings. What, I wondered, was all the fuss about? Of course news coverage is politically biased. All of it is and always has been. There is no such thing as a neutral point of view on the news, and you chose the newssource whose flavor you like best. Where have these women been living?

No one like myself, who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, was ever under any real illusion that news reporting was objective. Not when it was clear to even a precocious eight-year-old that the Columbus Dispatch, both in news and editorials, was an open and shameless supporter of the Republican party of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Governor James "Profit Is Not A Dirty Word In Ohio" Rhodes.

This was, of course, not the Republican party of the neo-cons. Nor even the neo-neocons. In a few days I may talk about why. But it is important to understand that it is not the same party for the political conversion experience to make sense. Republicans and Democrats now literally live in different worlds. They didn't then. So a change of opinions, or a shift of political view, which did occur with some frequency in perfectly ordinary people and without major trauma, was a development, not a cataclysm.

In a like manner, it has been perfectly clear to me that the New York Times was a Liberal paper from the first moment I ever saw a copy in High School, as clear as the fact that the Wall Street Journal was a conservative one. And this both in treatment of news, particularly the choice of what to cover and what to say about it, as well as the content of the opinion pages.

This is the first pointed conclusion I draw from such narratives: the converts were incredibly naive. And naive not just about news. The implicit demand that the "experts" predict things like the fall of the Soviet Union is something that was utterly unworldly, and a gaping flaw in NeoNeocon's attention and education.

In order to understand this, we must consider how much we take on trust from specialists who "know better" than we do. Everybody from Steven Hawking the physicist to our local pharmacist falls into this category. There are quite pragmatic reasons for this, but education should teach us that, logically, it is a fallacy. Technically it is known as the Argument From Authority. NeoNeocon clearly didn't absorb this.

To think that specialists "know better" than we do is the precise verbal equivalent for confusing pragmatic trust with unthinking belief. Experts and specialists know more, but they do not necessarily know better. The fall of the Soviet Union depended on human motivations and human choice, but it was by no means an assured and inevitable thing. The reactionary coup against Mikhail Gorbachov's reforms failed, but there was no inherent reason that it might not have succeeded. You can't count on the future. You must bet on it. You must bet on it even if you are an "expert". And when you bet, you can lose, no matter how much you know.

It is noteworthy in this context that the "experts", at least in America, appear to have been of one mind that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction and was hiding them somewhere. The "experts" were wrong, and George Bush was betting on finding them rather than counting on it, whether he knew it, or NeoNeocon knew it, or not.

Because it has come up again with the airing of secret tapes of Saddam. It is of interest to quote what NeoNeocon has to say about these:
I have no idea how this will pan out. It may wind up like so many previous WMD "smoking guns"--a cap pistol....But if all that the tapes ever reveal is what was shown on Nightline last evening, I think they still tend to bolster the WMD argument rather than negate it. Certainly, they substantiate the Duelfer report's conclusions about the dangers of the fact that Saddam could easily reconstitute his weapons programs.

The original argument went like this: Since Saddam clearly would like to have Weapons of Mass Destruction, then he must actually have them. The fallacy of this should have been self-evident--indeed it was self-evident to the British experts whom Tony Blair chose to ignore--the premise was sound but the conclusion did not follow.

To say that the new tapes "bolster" the original argument is ludicrous. WMD's were never found and all the tapes can do is reiterate the premise not support the faulty conclusion. But it is clear that NeoNeocon is completely impervious to the fact that the argument itself was false. And also to the fact that, because of this false reasoning, George Bush and his experts not only made a bet, they made an unintelligent bet, convincing themselves, for no real reason, that the odds of finding WMD's were overwhelmingly in their favor.

Which is another way of saying that the "experts" did not "know better" even though they may have known more. Which NeoNeocon still has not truly absorbed because of the cognitive dissonance that it causes.

What we are looking at here is an irrational craving for an impossible objectivity, certainty, and authority. When you look at the broader scope of NeoNeocon's narrative of her change of mind, the reason for it becomes clear. What is important to her in her intellectual and emotional history is the constant sense of outside danger to herself, her country, and her family. It is the source of the lurid images, "Huns or Mongols or Genghis Khan or Vlad the Impaler", in which she wrapped the destruction of the Twin Towers in the first hour she knew about them.

We must be particularly clear here. I am not talking about the emotions of utter shock and horror at the event, which she shared with all of us. I am talking about the specific mental images which she chose to give it shape.

The danger in her childhood was ever-present. First it was the Korean War and the color red of the Communists, later it was the Cuban Missile Crisis, nuclear annihilation, and the Soviet Union--this fear intensified by the fact that one of her older relatives was an unregenerate Marxist and caused constant political conflict in the family because of it, making politics itself a dangerous and threatening confrontation to be avoided.

Then it was the completely unexpected and shattering imminence of danger within America implied by the Kennedy assassination [as an aside, also perpetrated by a committed American Communist, though NeoNeocon does not note this fact].

As she moved into the college years, it was danger to her boyfriend, who had flunked out and was drafted and sent to Vietnam. Then danger by proxy in photographs such as Nick Ut's napalmed child or the famous shot of summary execution in a Vietnamese street. And, finally, the overwhelming American transformation, exhaustion, and sense of unease and betrayal that followed for all of us after the fall of Saigon.

This was so deep and lasting a wound for her personally, that at this point in the narrative she largely slips into the third person and starts talking about everybody else. Then, finally, after an apolitical interlude as a wife and mother, the danger returned in the form of the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-1980.

After this, as you can see quite easily from what I have quoted above, a momentum of half acknowledged worry built up, ending in the events of 9/11, which simply shattered her like glass.

So let's stop a minute and think. If you have read the entire narrative [It covers ten full posts!] you will have found, as I have, that it is an incredibly detailed, honest, and strongly integrated personal story. It is also a fine summation, particularly, of the pain, contradictions, and loss of our war in South East Asia.

But the amazing thing is the list of what's missing from a detailed autobiography of a half-century of political development:

1. The Depression, the Roosevelt Revolution, and World War II are missing [this would be like our children knowing absolutely nothing of the Vietnam War and its politics, despite the years they've lived with us].

2. The Army/McCarthy Hearings, House UnAmerican Activities Committee, and the blacklists are missing--and this despite NeoNeocon having a relative with open Communist leanings.

3. Brown vs. Board of Education is missing, Bus boycotts are missing, Freedom Riding is missing.

4. The 1964 Democratic landslide, the Great Society, and its grand expansion of social welfare programs is missing.

5. The controversial Earl Warren Supreme Court decisions are missing.

6. The apogee of Unions and Organized Labor is missing, as is their decline.

7. Martin Luther King, the March On Washington, Malcolm X, and the Black Panthers are missing--as are the black ghetto riots of that time.

8. The Generation Gap is missing; drugs, sex, and rock and roll are missing; the Sexual Revolution is missing; feminism is missing; Roe vs. Wade is missing; and the anti-abortion movement is missing.

9. Watergate and the fall of Richard Nixon are missing.

10. Galloping inflation, stagflation, double-digit interest rates, and the precious metals windfall are missing.

11. The unbelievable twenty-five year explosion of crimes of property and violence, as well as their startling ten year decline, are missing. Also missing are the return of the Death Penalty, mandatory minimum sentencing, "three strikes and out" laws, the Brady Bill, the now routine tragedy of school shootings, and the Assault Weapons ban.

12. The wholesale uncloseting of American gays is missing, as is the AIDS epidemic.

13. The McJobbing of America since 1980 is missing, along with the concurrent skyrocketing rise of the Stock Market, two separate Stock Market crashes, and the trade policies of NAFTA and CAFTA.

14. The rise of the far-right "militia movement"--culminating in the horrible confrontations in Idaho; Waco, Texas; and the Oklahoma City domestic terrorist bombing are missing.

15. The "Contract With America" and the confrontation of the Republicans in Congress with Bill Clinton which actually shut down the Federal Government is missing.

In other words, virtually any domestic event of the past 50 years which would call forth a Democratic response in a Democrat as contrasted to a Republican response in a Republican has simply been off of NeoNeocon's political radar screen.

As far as I can see, this is the central issue, and the most important thing to understand, about the 9/11 Security Mom political conversion experience. It is not a conversion from being a Liberal to being a Conservative and it is not a conversion from being a Democrat to being a Republican.

It is a conversion from being an apolitical individual to a political one from a single instantaneous and appalling shock.

Early in her narrative NeoNeocon makes the following remark:

During these early years I was quite aware that everyone in my family was a Democrat. So, I was a Democrat too, whatever that meant. It meant I was for Adlai Stevenson and that I didn't like Eisenhower, although since Eisenhower was the President I had to root for him, too, which was a bit complicated...I hadn't the foggiest notion what Democrats actually did, just that they were supposed to be kinder and nicer, especially to poor people, and that Stevenson was smarter, too.

The great, simple, and tragic secret to NeoNeocon's conversion is that she still doesn't know what being a Democrat meant.

This is probably because she never let herself find out. Probably because, emotionally, she learned at a very early age, from the aggressive behavior of that Marxist relative, that politics itself was too dangerous, too threatening to the peace and safety of her family and her country, to allow herself to truly participate. And now, as she herself observes, as a pointedly political individual she is a nuisance to her family, her friends, and her professional peers.

It may not have occurred to her that she has become what she really most feared. But it certainly has occurred to me. And the tragedy is that there was no reason in the world to fear it, nor is there now.

The scope of her current lack of understanding of the political history of her past can be absolutely incredible. Here is what she has to say about the political and social results of the tumultuous decade between 1965 and 1975:

Despite all this change, it's hard to know whether any of it translated into changes in political affiliation. Did Republicans become Democrats (or vice versa)? I have been unable to find statistics on the matter, but my guess is that there were no major trends in either direction.

Think about it. An entire region of the country, the one below the Mason-Dixon line, was transformed by the events of that decade from a politics of absolute dominance by the Democratic Party to general control by the Republican Party, and she appears to have completely missed this fact!

Not only that, an entire segment of Americans, the white working class and much of the white middle class, changed in general opinion from political and economic Liberalism, in a country where, in 1964, true Conservatism was a devastatingly rejected minority, to one of social and political Conservatism where anything in the Liberal social agenda is totally suspect.

I was there. I watched it happen. So was NeoNeocon. And she needs statistics [think "experts"] to determine what went on? Amazing.

So what broad conclusions do I as a Liberal and a Democrat draw from NeoNeocon's example? And what would I suggest to the Democratic Party luminaries who I think have not come to terms with it?

First, we must acknowledge that there is an important, fairly broad, and politically potent, segment of the American people who have not been paying serious political attention to what has been happening in this country since the Vietnam War ended. And when they do not self-identify as Independents, they usually self-identify as Democrats.

They do not self-identify as Republicans.

It is the politically indifferent who are the most prone to such a shocking conversion experience as NeoNeocon's. Also, in a country still relatively prosperous--though in slow but sure overall economic stagnation and decline--the only event that will provide the shock of conversion is a foreign attack on the United States. We had one. Hence the Security Moms.

As Liberals, our greatest weakness has been the long-term success of our economic and social policies in preventing another Great Depression. What motivates the politically indifferent is the violation of their needs for safety, comfort, and a belief in a completely objective and authoritative public point of view. No piece of domestic public policy, no economic reverse, and no terrorist or criminal event originating within our borders, not even anything as horrendous and dangerous as the Oklahoma City bombing has been a sufficient shock to those needs to make them politically active.

Only 9/11 has been. Only after 9/11 has "everything changed". Only after 9/11 has anyone changed in any significant way in this country.

This is the starting point, this is what we really have to work with in human terms, the tragedy of failing to take politics and public life seriously until it is overwhelmingly forced on you.

Our true task is not to try to reconvert those who have made choices, like NeoNeocon or the Anchoress. They have their views, which we can both respect and disagree with. Our true task is among those who are, "Independents", in the bad sense that they have no genuine involvement with public policy at all, whether they self-identify as Democrats or not.

Our true task is to make clear to these people that all political choices we make, and not just the ones we make to protect ourselves from terrorism, can be lethal for our future as a free and prosperous people, that some of them are well on their way to being so, and that they were mostly made while the "Independents" were not looking.

NeoNeocon has, generally, integrated her political conversion quite well into her life, as the thoughtful and well written posts on her blog indicate. It may appear, in consequence, that I am indulging in hyperbole when I call such political conversion a tragedy. In the second part of this essay I will examine a security mom whose coversion was as lethal to her well being as the broader American failure to make political choices can be lethal to this country.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Of Racism and Islamophobia

I have been making a nuisance of myself over on the Baroness' blog again. And to the point where she actually has urged me, by name, and in the original post, to take a deep breath and calm down! That particular post was the sort of miscellaneous blog round up which is forgettable within hours. But she followed up with one that clearly shows that I have been getting under her skin a little:

I realized that the accusation of racism and Islamophobia is a commonly detonated gratuitous attack on the right leaning bloggers, and that far from being an exception, my blog's liberal commenters have become the cry for recognition of what has become the liberal norm...

I came across a post written by the talented wife and blogging partner of Bodissey's [Gates of Vienna], Dymphna, on her own blog, giving plenty of food for thought and discussion:

"We are born with a capacity to prefer our own kind. Watch any child encounter a stranger and you can experience the primitive startle effect that leads to a preference to be with one's own. This inclination toward the known is neither sinful nor wrong; it is human.

"Game theory has shown that when members of a community are left to their own devices, groups of similars will collect or 'bunch' together. It is not deliberate segregation, it is congregation. Ask the black students on any campus who they prefer to hang with. And then ask them if this preference is racist...Bill Cosby had it right when he said the main problems facing black children have nothing to do with racism and everything to do with poor decisions. Now whose fault is that?...

"We are Christ's people. We need to be about our Father's business and we already have a Creed to tell us what that business is...Once upon a time, the Episcopal Church was at the forefront of educating children to the fact of their individual free will and their membership, via Baptism, in the City of God. Now it seems that we stand only for the further balkanization by race which has so grievously retarded our culture.

"Race and ethnicity are accidental. They are not instrumental in our salvation."

If "race and ethnicity" is accidental, why are we zoned by the color of our skin into people "of our own kind"? African-Americans are still part of a vividly distinct and separate American culture shaped by our past history of slavery and segregation.

We have largely gotten past the racism of Bull Connor. But there is a subtler level to such things. It consists of a reluctance to deal with a separate culture on it's own terms, or even, in many cases, to try to pretend that such a separate culture isn't there.

We trade our cultures in the public marketplace to work out a common ground of public ethical behavior and liberty under law. Can anyone honestly say that African-Americans do not still have to trade theirs at a discount?

Before you do, ask how much you really know about that separate culture as it exists among the respectable, the honorable, and the pious in the Black community.

This is a matter to which the ideological code phrases of either "individual responsibility" or "cultural diversity" are irrelevant.

No single culture is the exclusive possessor of unbridled license, criminal conduct, or vice. And, frankly, the real meaning encoded in the rhetoric of "individual responsibility" when it is waved around ideologically, is a denial of this fact.

We may dislike the flavor of vice and crime in one particular culture more another--in fact we usually dislike it more in others than in "our own kind" and more in our own kind than we do in ourselves. But this is not something to be proud of. This differential dislike is simple prejudice; it is like saying that, because we like beef, we like rotten beef better than rotten vegetables.

Nor is "diversity" a river that needs to be pushed to run downhill. We are diverse. This is a fact. It does not have to be transformed into a sacred goal achieved when we finally make the New Jerusalem. And this is what the rhetoric of "cultural diversity" implies. Those who use such rhetoric are all for diversity, but only on the terms that conform to their private opinions of how the world should run.

There are two things anyone can legitimately ask from someone else of a different culture--to keep the bargains made about public ethics, public conduct, and public law, and to respect the private differences of culture while rejecting vice as vice and not rejecting it as the vice which happens to most offend our own private taste because it is not the vice of "our own kind".

In my experience, the responsible, the honorable, and the pious in the Black community largely do not ask for more than this, nor does anyone need to give more than this, calls for some ideological brand of "cultural diversity" notwithstanding.

Further, what I have called Islamophobia over on the Baroness' blog and elsewhere is the assertion that there is something inherent in being Muslim that makes its believers violent or destructive.

I deny that assertion categorically, and I don't think truly broad contact with a reasonable range of plain and ordinary Muslims, such as you might happen to have for neighbors, or encounter in a coffee shop in any decently sized city, sustains that assertion in the least.

In this country, at least, Muslims are certainly hard to get to know intimately, especially now. But given the fact that they are tolerated, but largely unwelcome, no matter how peaceful and law abiding they may be, that seems to me to be perfectly understandable.

Consider the prejudice here against any form of hajib, even when undertaken by a woman voluntarily, as it frequently is. One of the strongest social conventions in this country is that you do not display your religion in public. And this is the most important basis here for dislike of the hajib, whatever rational [or irrational] arguments are made against it.

I routinely also violate this American social convention and count mantras on a set of beads in public, on the bus or while sitting alone in building lobbies, for example. This causes a certain amount of hostility toward me from strangers. But that is not my problem. I have certain Buddhist jobs to do and not enough time to do them, so I have to squeeze in work on them wherever and whenever I am free to do so.

The only people who will approach me and talk to me openly about it are Muslims, and they display no hostility whatever to the fact that I am Buddhist and not Muslim. In fact, they accord my open religious life and practice considerable deference and respect, the same, as far as I can tell, that they would accord to a fellow Muslim practicing dikr with counting beads.

You can read all sorts of books and hear all sorts of news about Muslims with violent and hostile agendas. But violence and hostility know no creed, color, or culture. There is always plenty of it to go around. You can confirm this for yourself in Ireland.

We face many open dangers from Muslims who have violent and hostile agendas. So we must be alert, vigilant, and, occasionally and professionally, armed. But that does not mean that we have to develop violent and hostile agendas of our own.

I think any fair minded person reading the Baroness' blog or Bodissey's blog would conclude that they have a violent and hostile agenda of their own.

Particularly when they say things like this about African-American Muslims in America:

I think it's time to "commit a hate crime" and do something about this enemy that's in our midst. If we allow things to continue as they are, these compounds and camps and communes will grow and spawn spinoffs and continue to amass ordnance and explosives and guns.

They will wait. Wait until America is vulnerable, after another terrorist attack, after a major natural disaster, after the avian flu strikes...The Great Islamic Jihad will be happy to piggyback in on a race war in America. They will also be happy to piggyback in on the craven American PC fear of being termed "racists."

[The last sentence in this post has been deleted for the reasons you will find in the comments below. It is far too easy to say intemperate and hurtful things. And I am far too prone to do it. I want to make my apology as public as my offense, and make it to you, the reader, as well as to Mr. Bodissey. Mea Culpa.]

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