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Purely Political

March 11th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Nothing that I feel is noteworthy has happened in the past week, so I haven’t written any entries. A couple of months ago I had intended to write not just personal entries for this journal, but political and philosophical things as well. But aside from a few things about some interesting class discussions I’ve had, I haven’t really written anything political in the sense that I’d assumed I would, and there’s a very simple reason for that.

I spend a lot of time in the liberal blogosphere, and most of what I read I agree with. I don’t feel compelled to write political blog entries of my own because it seems that everything I have to say is already being said by hundreds if not thousands of others.

Yesterday, however, in response to an e-mail from my conservative grandfather, I wrote some of my own political arguments regarding things like the economic stimulus and the issue of torture. Today it dawned on me that the only way to motivate me to write political blog entries is in response to something I disagree with. I won’t feel compelled to write anything simply to agree with something some other blogger wrote, but if I look at arguments I DISAGREE with, I can get pretty enthusiastic about attacking those positions and defending my own. So I think I’ll start venturing more onto the conservative blogs and stuff in search of fodder for me to argue against, and post my arguments here.

I’ll start with the e-mail I sent to my grandfather. He made three basic points to which I’m responding: 1- The economic stimulus bill is nothing but pork and wasteful spending. 2- It’s okay for the U.S. to torture because we should allow ourselves any method available to us for obtaining information from terrorists if we can prevent a bomb from going off and killing innocent people. 3- Now that we’re closing Guantanamo, where are we going to put these dangerous prisoners? Surely not on OUR soil. Here are my responses:

The economy is a bit trickier because it’s so complicated and I really don’t know the right approach. All I know is what I learned in high school about the Great Depression, how a spending freeze under Hoover made the situation much worse and how massive government spending under Roosevelt helped a little but we didn’t pull out until government spending became even more massive thanks to WWII. I know a lot of republicans are trying to re-write history and say FDR caused the depression, but this is ridiculous because the depression started BEFORE him, and the statistics clearly show that the New Deal reduced unemployment from 25 to 15 percent.

So I’m willing to give Obama’s stimulus plan the benefit of the doubt. The republicans call these projects “pork” and they pick out a few little things here and there, less than 1% of the overall plan, and make them sound very silly and like wasteful spending. Improving railway infrastructure becomes a “magnetic levitation line between Disney and a brothel in Las Vegas”, even though that language isn’t in the bill at all. What exactly is the difference between pork and legitimate economically-stimulative spending?

It seems to me that they just want to oppose Obama to score their own political points in their own conservative districts. When it comes to having a plan of their own, what have they offered? More tax-cuts for big business. Well, big business has paid very low taxes for decades and the economy is still tanking so I don’t see how more tax-cuts could possibly be the answer. A spending freeze? That’s exactly what Hoover did that made the Great Depression even worse. And as far as these accusations of pork and earmarks go, in the last bill that just passed, 6 out of every 10 earmarks was made by a republican. It’s seems so obvious to me that they’re a bunch of obstructionist hypocrites with no good ideas of their own. The only thing they do well is attack Obama.

You probably don’t agree with any of that, and I’m willing to admit that I could be wrong because I’m not an economist and for all I know the things that didn’t work in the 30s WOULD work today. Things are a lot different nowadays. I guess we’ll see.

But as for the issue of torture, I think that if you dug a little deeper into the issue you would come around to my point of view. As a Christian you probably already believe that torture in essence is morally wrong. You just think that if there’s a ticking time-bomb, a government agent should have the freedom to torture the information out of a terrorist in order to stop the bomb. I also agree with that, but the fact is that these situations only occur in action movies and the show 24. Just because it MIGHT happen doesn’t mean we should make torture our POLICY for how to handle all prisoners. I don’t know if you’ve seen any interviews with Matthew Alexander, a former interrogator for the army who wrote that a significant chunk of Iraqi and al Quada terrorists were recruited BECAUSE of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. These places WEAKEN our national security because they create MORE terrorists. He also wrote that the only effective way to get information is not to beat it out of them (people will say anything to stop the pain, whether it’s true or not) but to treat them with respect and fool them into thinking you’re their friend so they’ll open up to you. It’s what they used on Saddam Hussein and it’s what led to the arrest of many other terrorists.

So when I say I’m against torture what I mean is I’m against making it our POLICY to torture. Certainly, if this action-movie scenario actually happened and there really was a ticking time-bomb and a terrorist who knew how to disarm it, I would absolutely let the interrogator break as many bones and pull as many teeth as he would have to in order to get the information. Then I would put the interrogator on trial for all the world to see, let him explain why he did what he had to do, and trust a jury of intelligent people to find him NOT GUILTY, as everyone would understand that he had no other choice and thousands would be dead if he hadn’t broken the law. If a jury feels that someone had a good reason to kill another person–maybe that person was threatening their family–they usually find them not guilty. It doesn’t mean we have to make it legal to murder just because SOMETIMES it’s the right thing to do. So I’m not saying torture can never be used under any circumstances, I’m just saying that it shouldn’t be made LEGAL to do so, let alone this country’s POLICY–which only hurts our image abroad and recruits more terrorists.

Hopefully you’ll see that this is not just some wishy-washy liberal peace-and-love argument. Both the moral argument AND the practical, how-do-we-defeat-terrorism argument point to the same answer: we shouldn’t torture. I sincerely hope you’ll do some reading about this and come to your own conclusions because this is the one area where I think the right answer is not merely a matter of opinion but of objective, solid facts, and all the facts are on one side.

Finally, on Guantanamo itself, I don’t see what’s such a big deal about bringing these people into the American judicial system. Why not put them in prisons on American soil? What makes these people so much more dangerous than the murderors and rapists who are already in prison in America? Are they more likely to escape? If so, aren’t they more likely to try and flee the country than to just go out and kill people? We have this caricature in our minds of these prisoners as bloodthirsty animals who will blow things up and kill Americans the second they have the chance, but that’s not really the case. I’d be much more worried about an American murderer or rapist escaping from an American prison because they probably WOULD try to kill or rape again rather than just flee and regroup to plan some new attack.

One thing I’m sure we can agree on, however, is that the far left needs to stop playing the politics of distraction by pointing to Rush Limbaugh or some political cartoon in a newspaper (I can’t believe how much publicity Sharpton generated over that ridiculous chimpanzee). I wish both parties would stop these petty political games and all the bickering and confront the very serious problems this country is having. Maybe if we spent more time actually debating these issues instead of just firing talking points back and forth, we’d be able to form a solid bi-partisan plan to move this country forward, and if we had a plan that everyone was agreeing with instead of half the people opposing anything the president does as a political strategy for their own self-interest, Americans might be a bit more confident and the economy would already start to improve. As it stands, half the country thinks that Obama is turning America into Stalinist Russia, which is not helping anyone but the republicans in far-right districts.

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