Malala Yousafzai

English: Nobel Peace Prize 2009, Barack Obama

English: Nobel Peace Prize 2009, Barack Obama (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban, met with President Obama and told him that the use of US drones in Pakistan is fueling terrorism. I agree. Good for you Malala. You may not have won the Nobel Peace Prize this year, but you are doing much good for the cause of peace.

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Red dog/white dog

Anatol Lieven GPF2010

Anatol Lieven GPF2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The USSR was the red dog; the US is the white dog. From Pakistan, A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven.

“And indeed, the view of the mass of the Pakistani population on Afghanistan was summed up pretty well by Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, leader of one faction of the JUI:

If a dog fell into your well, would you remove the dog or would you empty the well? Once a red dog fell into the Afghan well, and the international community helped to get the dog out. Now, a white dog has fallen in, and what are they doing? Trying to empty the well, one bucket at a time. Haven’t they learned anything from Afghan history? But our people, the Pakistanis, support those who are trying to remove the dog.”

Pathan facts

帕斯顿人 / Pashtun People

帕斯顿人 / Pashtun People (Photo credit: Tianyake)

From Pakistan, A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven. The Pathan tribe in Afghanistan represents about 40% of the total Afghan population, and they are a sizeable minority, about 20 million, in Pakistan. Most Pathans live in the contiguous area separated by the Durand line which is the western border of Pakistan. The British created the artificial Durand line in 1893.

“The religious theme has therefore long flowed together with tribal yearning for freedom from authority–any authority, but above all of course alien and infidel domination. Or, as a Pathan saying has it: ‘The Afghans of the frontier are never at peace except when they are at war.'”

“As in Somalia, all the elements would seem to be in place to create a modern ethno-linguistic nation-state; and yet the Pathans like the Somalis have never generated a modern state-building nationalism; and have indeed played a leading part in tearing to pieces whatever states have been created on their territory.”

And these are the people we are trying to help with our nation building in Afghanistan. Time to withdraw completely.

Mohsin Hamid

Cover of "The Reluctant Fundamentalist"

Cover of The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Mohsin Hamid is the Pakistani author of three novels: Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia: A Novel. I have just finished reading all three and I am impressed with his prose styling which in clarity reminds me of Ernest Hemingway. If you chose to read only one of his books, my recommendation would be The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

It is the story of a western-educated Pakistani who lands a high paying job on Wall Street shortly before the attacks of 9/11/2001. After 9/11, he begins to feel out-of-place working in New York and eventually he decides to quit his job and return to Pakistan. Giving voice to his thoughts, he attracts a group of like-minded followers, some of whom are violent men. He is neither violent himself nor does he advocate violence. However, he is labelled a terrorist leader in the West and an assassin is sent to kill him. The arrival of the assassin is anticipated and prevented from carrying out his assignment.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist grows and evolves as he learns to think for himself and to express his thoughts. It takes courage to speak out in today’s world, and the reader is encouraged to follow suit.

Abolish the IRS?

Logo of the Internal Revenue Service

Logo of the Internal Revenue Service (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some are calling for the abolishment of the IRS and replacing the graduated income tax with a flat tax or some variant of it such as the so-called Fair tax. In my opinion, the graduated, progressive income tax is the fairest tax we have or can have. It taxes income fairly; the more income you have, the more tax you can and should pay. A flat tax or Fair tax is a regressive tax, hitting  poor and middle incomes more heavily than the wealthy who are allowed to keep most of their income. I hate paying taxes as much as anyone, but the government requires income and it is best to collect it from those who afford to pay. Even if we abolished the income tax, the IRS would be necessary to administer whatever tax we replace it with.

Some conservatives want to go even further and abolish the so-called death tax, the inheritance tax. That would be a grave mistake. Our democracy depends on preventing the formation of dynasties, such as in Pakistan, where great wealth is permitted to perpetuate itself and the wealthy dominate politics. Louis Brandeis was an associate justice of the US Supreme Court from 1916 to 1939. He wrote that we could have democracy or great concentrations of wealth, but not both at the same time. I agree with that assessment.  The US is well on its way to becoming a third world nation of a few rich, many poor and decaying infrastructure. Abolishing the IRS and the graduated income tax would speed that process.