Calculating Patriotism

Disclaimer: Having suffered being labeled a traitor lo these many years since 9/11 by bloviating right-wingers, I’m taking the liberty of pushing back a little this morning. Certain readers should resist a literal interpretation (I know that’s hard to do) of the following <– typical liberal crap.

Being a traitorous, slandering, evil, godless, bleeding-heart, tax-and-spend, baby-killing liberal, I am naturally thrilled with the work of WikiLeaks. This bullet point from today’s New York Times just makes my toes curl with delight:

¶ Mixed records against terrorism: Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda, and the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar, a generous host to the American military for years, was the “worst in the region” in counterterrorism efforts, according to a State Department cable last December. Qatar’s security service was “hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals,” the cable said.

Of course, we all knew this. No one can claim ignorance. It’s been discussed before. But there it is in the newspaper of record (from diplomatic cables) — the connection between the money we spend for gasoline and the money that funds terrorism.

It should be possible to estimate what I’m going to call the “traitor tax,” i.e. the amount of money spent per gallon of gas that goes directly to Al Qaeda and other militant groups. We would then be able to rank patriotism on an objective scale rather than relying on right-wing bloviating by pundits (e.g. Coulter, Savage, Beck) to define who is and is not a patriot.

(If you have ideas about how to do this or where to collect the data, please leave a comment with relevant links.)

It should then be a simple matter to demonstrate that, contrary to recent popular opinion, this lefty college professor, who lives .75 miles from work, is actually waaaaay more patriotic than, say, a Hummer-driving teabagger who commutes from his 5-acre “ranch” on the outskirts of Nixa to Springfield.

We should also be able to demonstrate who among our elected representatives (at all levels) is most patriotic, i.e. who is actually working for energy independence and who is in the pocket of the oil lobby?

(OMG!!! This could also mean that NASCAR is an unpatriotic organization. Kinda puts a different spin on this news.)

Seriously: Thank you WikiLeaks and The New York Times.

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Comments 18

  1. Mighk Wilson wrote:

    As much as I’d like to see such an assessment, it’s highly problematic to determine where the oil used to make our gasoline came from. The simpler approach is to estimate how much generally comes from those countries, but some folks clam that certain companies don’t use Saudi oil.

    But I see some real potential benefit to finding a good sound-bite from the Wiki-leaks material and repeatedly tying it to the percentage of oil we get from those countries.

    Perhaps a simple online calculator to show people how much of their money (on average) is going to Saudi oil barons, without the “traitor” language.

    I appreciate your desire for “revenge” for all that traitor language from “them” (I feel the same), but finger-pointing just brings more discord.

    Posted 29 Nov 2010 at 9:10 am
  2. Andy Cline wrote:

    Mighk… re: finger-pointing Hence, my disclaimer. But, really, can we libs not get a tiny little bit of enjoyment out of this 🙂 I have conservative readers and friends. I am trying to draw a distinction here between them and the axis of evil, i.e. Coulter, Savage, and Beck.

    And thanks for the ideas re: calculating. This should be an interesting exercise.

    Posted 29 Nov 2010 at 9:16 am
  3. robert wrote:


    I like you, but I have to give you my two cents here.

    Seems that someone so educated about rhetoric would understand that calling a group “teabaggers” is not going to win over any hearts and minds.

    I think anyone who considers themselves a bicycle “advocate” needs to ask themselves this question…..

    Do you want people to agree with you or do you like the fight?

    Posted 29 Nov 2010 at 11:24 am
  4. Jay Manifold wrote:

    I love this (and think it can be pitched in a relatively post-partisan way). Lots of possibilities here; I think several indices could be developed, depending on one’s assumptions, or as we say in corporate America, the “granularity” of our description.

    A surprisingly (and gratifyingly) small portion of our oil imports come directly from the nations of the Arabian peninsula, but the fungibility of money spent on oil everywhere means that our aggregate demand still effectively supports their economies.

    Somewhat analogously, the direct financial support provided by the Saudis to Al Qaeda may be relatively small, but their promotion of Wahhabism and funding/operation of nine-tenths of the world’s Muslim institutions is almost entirely responsible for creating a host environment for AQ.

    So there is an argument that the relevant fraction of what we pay at the pump is the 1) non-tax portion of the price 2) multiplied by the Arabian peninsular fraction of world oil production 3) multiplied by those nations’ fraction of public expenditures on religious institutions worldwide.

    At the other extreme, the formula would be 1) as above 2) multiplied by the fraction of a particular company’s gasoline derived from Arabian peninsular sources 3) multiplied by those nations’ fraction of GDP that directly funds terrorist organizations.

    In either case, or for any intermediate version, the next steps are 4) how much you drive and 5) your mpg.

    I’m envisioning something like a taxicab meter mounted on the dashboard, though I suppose in this day and age it would have to be a smartphone app. “Traitor Tax” is good; much pithier than “How much are you paying to destroy Western civilization?” – though that could make a good subtitle.

    Now, to get “meta” for a moment, this is one of those issues that, like the TSA foofaraw, hardly adheres to left/right political boundaries. I don’t have to think that Beck/Coulter/Savage are an axis of evil (but I don’t have to listen to them, either) to see the value in pointing out that we’re funding some very bad people at the gas pump. Nor do I have to be a Prius owner or an ardent bicyclist. I might think that the right thing to do is indeed to drive a high-mpg car and/or minimize my driving (both of which I currently do), or I might think that we should do everything we can to make oil cheaper – more domestic production, and more innovative production methods generally (which I also support), or I might think that we should exert ourselves to transcend the ICE and petrochemical-intensive processes altogether through the development of strong nanotechnology (and, whaddaya know, I support that too). But even if I hadn’t thought enough about any of those things to hold any particular position, I still wouldn’t want to pay people to kill me.

    Posted 29 Nov 2010 at 11:30 am
  5. Andy Cline wrote:

    Robert… No need to sugar-coat it, man. Just say it. We’re cool. The disclaimer. I’m serious about it. I do not mean this literally because I understand the complexity of what I’m proposing. But in nine years I’ve resisted pushing back against very specific claims made in the mainstream media by mainstream conservatives (not just the axis of evil) about my patriotism being a liberal (yes, these attacks and besmirches are personal). I don’t have to forget that history (it’s ongoing). I merely ask to be forgiven for stooping to that level for this one post because it seems to me so deliciously appropriate 😉

    Jay… Thanks for taking this in the very direction I intended.

    Posted 29 Nov 2010 at 12:21 pm
  6. robert wrote:


    I see. LOL

    I just feel that there can/should and will be people who consider themselves tea party members to be bicycling enthusiasts.

    In fact, this movement has Ron Paul written all over it.

    If you lash out, even if you think it’s lashing back, it will only further the idea that bicycling is a “liberal” cause and people will oppose it for that reason.

    Partisanship is a self-fulfilling prophecy in that respect.

    As a side note: if we could get every Columbia resident with at least 5 liberal bumper stickers on their car to ride a bicycle, our mode share would be 50% and we would lead the world in bicycle commuting. : )

    Posted 29 Nov 2010 at 12:57 pm
  7. JAT in Seattle wrote:

    I actually think “How much are you paying to destroy Western Civilization?” is tremendously catchy and I think the visual of a taxi meter is brilliant.

    It weould be nice if conservatives could acknowledge that they’ve been actively villifying “liberals” since the days of Ronald Reagan in the media and in DC. It would be nice, but I don’t think it’s possible, and I think that thirty years of belittling impugning of half the country’s very patriotism is a major factor as to why progressives have so siezed upon the rather unfortunate and amusing use of teabag by holier than thou self appointed rightist spokespeople. The right did this to themselves; the left just enjoys laughing about it.

    There is no question: NASCAR is evil.

    Posted 29 Nov 2010 at 12:57 pm
  8. Andy Cline wrote:

    Robert… Noted. And I agree with you. But this situation just seemed to fat to pass up. I know for a fact that there are Tea Party members out there who agree with our need for energy independence. As for all those drivers with liberal bumper stickers… hmmmm… methinks I could come up with a bumper sticker to suggest they put up or shut up 😉

    JAT… re: people of the Tea Party persuasion … Yes. After so much flak about my evilness (because they do mean me personally because I am one of the very political persuasion they demonize without qualification), I’m not about to apologize for my current transgression of good taste and bi-partisan goodwill. I have a long track record here and at Rhetorica of bi-partisan goodwill — enough to allow today’s rant.

    Posted 29 Nov 2010 at 2:01 pm
  9. robert wrote:

    I dont like nascar either but I thought you guys might want to know that there is a major nascar driver who is a bicycle commuter.

    Carl Edwards has ridden his bicycle from Columbia to St. Louis twice to the car race. He was also our Bike, Walk and Wheel Week chairman last year.

    Posted 29 Nov 2010 at 2:07 pm
  10. Darin Codon wrote:

    Interesting take. I can understand your frustration as speaking a point of view can be frustrating especially in a polarized atmosphere.

    I’ve been in several backroom meeting with Roy Blunt where energy independence was discussed. It’s not even a question whether energy dependence is funding our enemies. What evades the general public is the fact our actions at the pump is a contributing, maybe primary factor.

    Posted 29 Nov 2010 at 2:13 pm
  11. Andy Cline wrote:

    Robert… Re: NASCAR cycling dude. Very cool. Just goes to show you the dangers of stereotyping 🙂

    Darin… Yes. If we acted differently perhaps our leaders would act differently. In one important sense, they are simply trying to provide what we want. (The question for critical thinkers: Why do we want it?)

    Posted 29 Nov 2010 at 2:20 pm
  12. khal spencer wrote:

    If someone has to read through thousands of leaked State Dept. cables to figure out they are supporting nefarious Middle Eastern governments by driving their gas guzzler back and forth to the mailbox, I don’t think they will EVER figure it out.

    Meanwhile, I had to laugh when I heard the leaks discussed this morning on NPR. Not much of it was news to anyone who reads. But it will result in a few high level people with red faces and a lot of damage control in the State Dept. Is this perhaps a case of the Baby vs. the bathwater?

    I am not on the “every leak is sacred, every leak is good” bandwagon. These guys are not Dan Ellsbergs. And by the way, I am not exactly a right-winger or tea bag party member.

    Posted 29 Nov 2010 at 3:07 pm
  13. Andy Cline wrote:

    Khal… Yes. Not much surprising in the NYT story. But I find it compelling that the leaked bit in question basically allows me to point out something that now cannot be denied — as long as we buy oil from the Middle East we are funding terrorism to some extent. Now, will anyone do anything in regard to it?

    Posted 29 Nov 2010 at 4:41 pm
  14. Nathanael Bassett wrote:

    Love the Nascar reference… this would also mean that “blue states” and highly urbanized areas where people rely more on mass transit and alternative transportation versus long auto commutes would be “more patriotic” then a typical rural community.

    Posted 29 Nov 2010 at 4:49 pm
  15. khal spencer wrote:

    Aside from the potential for terrorism links and our vulnerability to a political or terror related oil shut-down (I wonder what the spot market price for a barrel would be if someone blows up a supertanker in the Strait of Hormuz or if Venezuela and Iran cut off exports), our gasoline addiction is contributing to the ongoing U.S. balance of payments deficit and national debt. The U.S. buys oil and funds its overseas adventures (such as securing our overseas oil pipeline) with borrowed money.

    I don’t know when “conservative values” became equated with hedonistic gluttony rather than with conservation and hedging one’s financial bets, but I suspect that Teddy Roosevelt, once a leader of the Republican Party, is turning over in his grave.

    Posted 29 Nov 2010 at 5:03 pm
  16. Randy wrote:

    I think that bicycling is a profoundly conservative transportation choice, and I don’t understand why bicycles and bicyclists are vilified by so many who call themselves “conservative”. They should be falling all over themselves to promote this model of self-sufficiency, individual liberty, frugality, and good stewardship of resources.

    There are no downsides to getting more people on bikes, only positives (except for those with a vested interest in the maintaining the status quo).

    Posted 29 Nov 2010 at 7:58 pm
  17. Andy Cline wrote:

    Randy… You should read Front Porch Republic — a blog written by EXACTLY the kind of conservative thinkers who believe in conservation and limits. I’m a big fan (which doesn’t suggest total agreement, nor is that even necessary):

    Posted 29 Nov 2010 at 8:43 pm
  18. Jay Manifold wrote:

    Hmm, seems apposite. I hasten to add that one need not be especially alarmed by climate change to grasp the (to my mind) larger point about giving money to tyrants.

    See also for background on how OPEC was inspired by the Texas Railroad Commission.

    Posted 30 Nov 2010 at 11:05 am

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