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Archive for September, 2012

It’s easy to say your objective, weighing evidence with dispassionate analysis and facts. You believe your  judgement is sound and your positions are ethical, you’re not like the others.

But should you find yourself wrong without feeling livid, it came about with much consideration and deliberation that you could have been wrong at all. You feel you should stand tall or not at all.

Being right is about getting it right and how could you fuck up? It’s you! Right? How could you believe any lie or misconception, be subject to any deception? Without you knowing…

Romney:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, 48—he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every four years.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/09/full-transcript-mitt-romney-secret-video#47percent

Obama:

“As we think about the policy research surrounding the issues that I just named — policy research for the working poor, broadly defined — I think that what we’re gonna have to do is somehow  resuscitate the notion that government action can be effective at all. There has been a systematic, I don’t think it’s too strong to call it a propaganda campaign, against the possibility of government action and its efficacy. And I think some of it has been deserved. Chicago Housing Authority has not been a model of good policy making. And neither necessarily have been the Chicago public schools. What that means then is that as we try to resuscitate this notion that we’re all in this thing together, leave nobody behind, we do have to be innovative in thinking how, what are the delivery systems that are actually effective and meet people where they live, and my suggestion I guess would be that the trick, and this is one of the few areas where I think there have to be technical issues that have to be dealt with as opposed to  just political issues, how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution, because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody’s got a shot. How do we pool resources at the same time as we decentralize delivery systems in ways that both foster competition, can work in the marketplace, and can foster innovation at the local level and can be tailored to particular communities.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/4-pinocchios-for-a-truncated-14-year-old-obama-clip/2012/09/20/9b40f4b8-0330-11e2-91e7-2962c74e7738_blog.html

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Kudos to William Saletan and his September 14th Slate article Peace Be Upon You! He makes all the points percolating in my head since word spread of Muslim protests caused by some loser who wants to insult Muslims via bad production values. Saletan does bring up a point I have never considered. Bigots, like the type who made the anti-Muslim video which portray Muslims as savages, would love nothing more than the people he/she is insulting to prove him/her right and in the worst possible ways. Bait taken.

However, the resulting violent protests does highlight issues of modernity in parts of the Muslim world. I use the word modernity, because one of its character traits is secularity, where legitimacy comes from reason and not religion. Free speech brings, among others, differences in opinion including insults and blasphemy. But I find many comments made by some Muslims partitioning free speech from blasphemy. I do find this not-to-be-crossed line completely erroneous. For example, suppose I said Mohammed’s first wife Khadija not only worked but owned her own successful business. A Muslim shop owner in Turkey may not mind this fact (and may even find inspiration); suppose a misogynist Muslim from the Taliban considers it an insult, thinking I’m promoting notions of women working? Would this be blasphemy? According to whom!? Blasphemy also includes acts considered irreverent to the sacred. I don’t need an example to further elucidate how empty free speech will become in the face of blasphemy laws. I would be open to make blasphemy illegal but I have yet to see any controlling reason to do so.

It seems much of the Muslim world is going through what much of the West did go through hundreds of years ago, reconciling the sacred with the secular. It is not to say the West is not having some trouble today, but it seems the trouble differs in degree. Western history abounds with examples not unlike what we see today in Benghazi or Cairo, with religious revenge killings against “non-believers” in broad daylight. The West also went through many reforms re-positioning the relationship between religion and the temporal. For example, in the late 18th Century, the ex-colonists called Americans formed the United States Constitution, whereby the 1st Amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

These principles are Enlightenment principles, derived from philosophers Locke and Voltaire and also Milton and Mill, and affected both the legal and social spheres of the West. Many Western countries had already or eventually adopted these principles laid out in the 1st Amendment. In the 1960’s, the Second Vatican Council attempted to address relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. The council served as a catalyst of modernization and in it seems to have had rescinded many edicts and positions in the face of modernity (the Church had to legitimize itself to “keep up with the times”). In 2011, the Italian case Lautsi v. Italy came before the European Court of Human Rights. It ruled that crucifixes displayed in the classroom of a state school does not violate the European Convention of Human Rights. These three examples among many show how the West has continued to re-position religion’s place in society. In the West, it seems religion has a high degree of freedom but is no longer allowed to govern society itself. It seems this is in sharp contrast to religion’s place in society in many Muslim countries, especially in the Arab and North African worlds.  However, note that the cacophony of American media attention tends to report on bad news and not good news. For example, the Turkish constitutional court case Refah Partisi v. Turkey is a win for secularism as it held “that sharia is incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy.” It goes on to say the party (Refah Partisi a.k.a. Welfare Party) and its agenda  of reintroducing religious law violates the ECHR (European Charter on Human Rights), “particularly with regard to its criminal law and criminal procedure, its rules on the status of women and the way it intervenes in all spheres of private and public life in accordance with religious precepts.”

Who is worse than the video producer Sam Bacile, or whatever his real name is, are the people responsible for the deaths of the consulate personnel is Libya (and any other deaths in the future as a result of these protests). Let it be clear, the worst of all in this mess are the MURDERERS.

So a wacko produces a video offensive to Muslims. A minority, no doubt, of Muslims decides to (whether be it planned or not!) incite fear and hatred, promote death and destruction, in the “name” of Allah, Peace be Upon Him (these religious extremists proclaim for God for themselves but not for us?). Meanwhile, much of the America’s politicians and pundits narrate the event as a mistake to help free Libya, the Arab Spring is a wash, and American foreign policy is a complete failure under this administration. Muslim extremists would love nothing more than to see Americans claw at each other than to see our unwavering support for democratic transitions among territories they would love to control. Bait taken.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/human_nature/2012/09/mohammed_movie_embassy_attacks_don_t_let_internet_videos_drive_you_to_violence_.html

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“Deliberation can help transform interests and reveal previously unrealized areas of agreement. If can sharpen participants understandings of their conflicts.”

—Jane Mansbridge

Some are alarmed at the cynicism and viciousness in today’s political climate in America; understandable, but lest not forgot the alternative to talk, violence. Taking the stand in court, an hour behind the podium fighting for policies, or moments discussing feelings about political candidates are not meant to be attractive. But so in working. It’s simply necessary. Avoiding politics, common as it is among large swaths of people in every demographic, should have the same concern as the unemployment rate; they both are a sign of health of a country. The number of political participants is just as important to a democracy as workers to the workforce, the more the better.

Let me clarify. Political participants can be anyone, be it a politician or pedestrian. As soon as you open your mouth or write to influence another person on an issue, you become is some sense a political participant. Constant arguing is inherent in democracy and participation helps define is quality. It seems what topics are at the forefront of the political agenda is the reflection of the people participating in a political arena. Political arenas are areas where politics is discussed and is both formal (political conventions, media interviews, academic policy debates, etc) and informal (blogs, discussions between family and friends, protests, etc). They are a place where influence can inhabit and exist on television and on print as well as in the living room or park bench. To varying degrees both are important, because the constituents of any society needs to figure out who gets what, when, where, and why; or in other words, politics.

Democracy is not to be taken for granted and its inherent problems should be seen as an issue of quality and control, not dysfunction. It is a well-known fact in political science people who participate in primary elections tend to be people who are from opposite sides of the political bell curve. It becomes obvious listening to and reading the rhetoric of presidential candidates in primaries, rhetoric that is extreme for many moderates. As the presidential nominations end and the mono-e-mono race for the oval office begins (aka general election), you tend to see a bit of backtracking to appeal to the broader public (Mitt Romney is a good contemporary example). But what if more moderates in America participated in primary elections? I believe that itself will profoundly change the American political system. I would argue there would be less influence of both Christian extremists on the Right and environmental extremists on the Left, among other undue influences. What people should be sick of is not politics itself, but the low quality of it.

Therefore, the reasonable course of action is for the citizenry to participate in quality and control and to not shy away from any political arena. The more participate, the more of the agenda-making process shifts from extremists views to moderate views. Instead of a few religious zealots believing there should be no Jeffersonian wall between church and state (Jefferson’s Wall of Separation Letter 1802), moderate religious devotees can focus what, among other things, has been important imperatives in most religious belief systems like helping the poor, the sick, the orphans, etc. Instead of a few environmental zealots believe preserving some obscure species of rodent takes precedence over any and all business opportunities, moderate eco-activists may actually be inclined to accommodate both goals.

But to get back to the quote above. If more people take part in politics, than more moderates will influence politicians and policy. My main argument is this: the cynicism and viciousness in today’s political climate in America are not from moderate voices. It is the moderate who tends to deliberate while the extremist is entrenched in their respective belief system as they are concerned with only what they think is right (you know who is an extremist when they view their truths are eternal). To agree is not a trait of extremists.

This bell curve pretty much generalizes the public, with the extreme Left and extreme Right on their respective ends while most Americans (probably most people in every country) make the middle.

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