Author Archives: TomStrong

On Islam and the Middle East, Where is Pat Buchanan Coming From?

When I first heard Pat Buchanan talking about Palestine and Israel as a politically naive teenager, I thought he was a conservative who broke from the path because he thought the Palestinians had been mistreated. Things are obviously a lot more complicated than that.

Given Pat Buchanan’s proclamation that America is “a country built by white people” and his writing of an entire book called The Unnecessary War, a historical revisionist screed based on the absurd premise that Winston Churchill led Adolf Hitler into war, his declaration that there are “too many Jews on the Supreme Court” and his fear of “losing White America” (all of which is the tip of the iceberg for Buchanan) my own suspicions have arisen about where Buchanan is coming from. It seems as if he shares Mel Gibson’s ideology and sees the Palestinians as victims of another war started by the killers of Christ. Why else does he consistently stick up for one oppressed group but no other (like gays, for instance)?

As a person who generally thinks that freedom of religion is good and that people should be able to believe whatever it is that they want, I generally agree with Buchanan in this video:

However, politics does make strange bedfellows and it is easy, especially if governed by principle, to end up associated with a group you have little else in common with based on one or two issues. (This is an eternal curse for libertarians.) Buchanan, as an intellectual conservative, seems to know enough about history to find common sympathy with Muslims who are in conflict with Jews. He’s not the first European anti-semite to do so.

If you find yourself agreeing with Buchanan on policy towards Israel or Muslims, don’t. Read Edward Said’s Blaming the Victims instead, which was co-written by Christopher Hitchens and Noam Chomsky (both of which are most definitely not harboring anti-semitism). If you find yourself in agreement on the insanity of many politicians’ responses to the building of a Muslim community center two blocks from Ground Zero in NYC, don’t. Read Christopher Hitchens’ article on the subject instead.

Pat Buchanan is apparently a really nice and cordial fellow, but he carries with him some wicked and nasty ideas and prejudices.

Religious Freedom Is What Makes America

We live in weird times. There is still plenty to criticize radical Islamists about, and we really should be wary of efforts to bring political Islam special favors and acceptability in the United States and elsewhere. These rational arguments, however, are doomed to be misunderstood thanks to the efforts of Newt Gingrich, Bill Kristol and other right-wingers. Thanks to them, anyone who critiques political Islam will be faced with the assumption that they’re a reactionary who wants to forbid Muslims the freedom to worship. Thanks alot, Newt.

Columnist Richard Cohen took Gingrich to task in a recent column:

Gingrich noted that there “are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.” True enough. However, it is not the government of Saudi Arabia that seeks to open a mosque in Lower Manhattan, but a private group. In addition, and just for the record, Saudi Arabia does not represent all of Islam and, also just for the record, the al-Qaeda terrorists who murdered nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001, would gladly have added the vast Saudi royal family to the list of victims. In recompense, the Saudis would just as gladly apply some dull swords to the necks of al-Qaeda’s leaders. It is the way of the desert, or something like that.

The fact that Muslims can set up shop freely in America shows how different we are. Would conservatives rather we be more like Saudi Arabia? I honestly wonder, with their talk of “moral crusades” and other creepy religious window-dressing, if perhaps they should. It’s often said that people tend to hate those that are the most like them. In this regard, Islamic and Christian fundamentalists share a great deal in common.

Bill Kristol was equally incendiary:

Contemporary liberalism means building a mosque rather than a memorial at Ground Zero—and telling your fellow citizens to shut up about it.

Goodness gracious. The case of the NYC mosque is religious freedom on private property. If that’s not something conservatives support, then conservatism literally stands for nothing anymore apart from being ridiculous.

Additional: It looks like Hezbollah is more religiously pluralistic than our boy Newt:

Gingrich seems determined to drag Saudi intolerance into the debate over the Cordoba Center. I’ll bite. Three years ago, I was studying in Israel and took a trip to Beirut to see the city for myself. There I encountered the Magen Avraham Synogogue in Wadi Abu Jamil, a neighborhood that used to be the Jewish Quarter in Beirut. The synagogue was dilapidated and decrepit. Plants grew through the floor and the building looked as if it were about to fall apart.

Recently, with Hezbollah approval, what remains of the Lebanese Jewish community and several outside sources have begun a restoration project. You can read about the project here and here. You can follow it on facebook here. If even Hezbollah allows a synagogue to be built in Beirut, maybe Gingrich should lay off the mosque in lower Manhattan. Surely that’s not too high a standard.

A Critique of the ACLU

It takes considerable skill to be able to write from both ends of a political issue, and I’m happy to say that that is the task I am going about with the ACLU. For my defense of the ACLU, click here.

The ACLU frequently backs itself up as being in favor of the Constitution. If one frequents an urban center, fundraisers for the ACLU can be located with pins that say “I’m A Constitution Voter.”

Despite their fervent claimed support for the Constitution, however, the ACLU stands in direct support against the Second Amendment:

“The ACLU agrees with the Supreme Court’s long-standing interpretation of the Second Amendment [as set forth in the 1939 case, U.S. v. Miller] that the individual’s right to bear arms applies only to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia. Except for lawful police and military purposes, the possession of weapons by individuals is not constitutionally protected. Therefore, there is no constitutional impediment to the regulation of firearms.”

There is a paradox deep in the constitutional anti-gun position. A people’s militia, of the Switzerland variety, is not one in which large stocks of munitions are held in government custody to be used by hired contractors. This is quite obviously not the intention of the writers of the constitution. There is a layer of intellectual dishonesty to shield yourself with the constitution while advocating an argument that runs counter to it.

A more troubling case comes with the case of New York v. Ferber. In this case, the ACLU defended Paul Ferber, who was arrested after he was found to be selling footage of boys masturbating at his adult bookstore. His bookstore was located in Manhattan, and therefore subject to New York State laws governing the sale of pornography, which banned any pornography with anyone below 16 years old, this is younger than the age restrictions placed on pornography websites like videos hd xxx where the visitor must be a minimum of 18 years of age to gain access to the website.

As a progressive organization, the ACLU was started by socialists reacting not only in outrage to the policies of intervention in Europe but also to anti-communist sentiment in the United States following the Russian Revolution. For an organization slated towards artificial economic reorganization to utilize selective defense of businessmen is one disappointing, but to use that selective defense to defend the indefensible is beyond the pale. Sexual abuse of minors in any form is an inexcusable crime.

Point: The ACLU Is A Friend of Liberty

It takes considerable skill to be able to write from both ends of a political issue, and I’m happy to say that that is the task I am going about with the ACLU. For my critique of the ACLU, click here.

The Left and Right political labels are pretty useless at a certain point, but for the sake of convenience, I’ll use the Left wing label in order to defend the ACLU.

The political Left has at its core both a democratic and an authoritarian side. George Orwell, Lionel Trilling and Christopher Hitchens are among some of the most prominent intellectuals to have split with the Left on occasion in order to speak out against tyranny. This dichotomy is one I like to call the “Napoleon-Snowball dichotomy,” after the characters from Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Napoleons don’t simply show up in third world countries like North Korea or Venezuela – they also have their place in the United States. Despite his coming to the mainstream fore speaking of the need to defend civil liberties, Barack Obama has accelerated the authority of the government to new heights. Obama has grabbed the authority to kill American citizens anywhere in the world. He has put closing Guantanamo on the back burner. Obama’s civil liberties problem was made clear as well by his firing of Shirley Sherrod on the grounds of a sloppy hit job by Andrew Breitbart. Any administration that would fire a public servant so quickly on such shaky grounds must have some sort of anxiety about its power.

For Obama’s Napoleonism, the ACLU has acted as a modern day Snowball, defending against the frightening precedent of a president being able to eliminate Americans by executive order.  In a suit filed against the government, the ACLU argued that the Obama administration had “asserted authority to use lethal force against US citizens located far from any battlefield without charge, trial, or judicial process of any kind.”

The ACLU is also victim to a lot of misinformation, including the urban legend that they had filed suit to have crosses removed from graveyards. In fact, in 1999, they did precisely the opposite:

WEST PALM BEACH, FL — In the first case to be filed under Florida’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida goes to trial today on behalf of seven families seeking to prevent the removal and destruction of religious symbols placed at the gravesites of their loved ones.

At issue is the City of Boca Raton’s threat to remove various vertical memorials, including Christian crosses, Stars of David and other religious symbols, from cemetery plots at the Boca Raton Community Cemetery. The ACLU will argue that under the new law, passed in 1998, removal of religious items from grave sites would constitute a substantial burden on religion.

The brilliance of the American constitution is not anarcho-libertarianism – it’s a balance of power through checks and balances. The ACLU is a great bulwart against granted authority becoming too powerful.

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