Archive for the 'Politics' category

In Congress, July 4th, 1776

Jul 04 2010 Published by under Politics

It's worth re-reading this remarkable document from time to time, especially given that it says something very different from what many on the Right and in the Tea Party seem to think. It does, for example, give special importance to representative government; that is, in fact, one of the main purposes of the document. It does not call for a "right" to toss away any government someone disapproves of but lays out specific grievances and makes its declaration through the representatives of the people, not by mob action.
The document's wording was very carefully developed and has specific meaning to those who wrote it at the time and their descendants. If you've never read it, or haven't for a long time, give it a try.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. -- Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

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4 responses so far

"Porn isn't violence, and if you try to take it from me I'll slap you"

Jun 07 2010 Published by under Medicine, Politics

I'm not sure what to write about this, but I feel a need to write something. There has been an interesting and infuriating discussion going on at Jason and Zuska's blogs.

Jason, whose posts on learning and cognition rock, started the discussion with an examination of a small amount of scientific literature on pornography. He's young, so he might not be aware of the extensive literature going back at least 25 years, including writings of Dworkin, MacKinnon, and many others. There's a lot of it, some of which I've read, but not for a very long time.

He starts by wading into a deep swamp of patriarchy without the appropriate flashlight.

Let's make a few things clear: I am not taking sides in the issue of whether or not pornography should be censored or restricted (but most forms of censorship make me very uncomfortable). This is meant to review some of the research that's been conducted on whether or not there is a reliable causal relationship between pornography and various Bad Things.

Jason is young and naive, and probably suffers a bit from the incredulity of privilege. You cannot lay down words on a critical topic such as porn and claim that you are not taking sides. The act of addressing it with certain words and certain biases is taking sides, and sophisticated readers are going to call you out on it right quick. I think that Jason truly believed there was a way to address this "purely" without being influenced by the patriarchal culture we live in. That would be nice.

Zuska countered with brief and characteristically incisive post pointing out that asking whether or not porn leads to sexual violence glosses over the fact that porn <i>is</i> sexual violence.  

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248 responses so far

If Rand Paul doesn't realize how racist he is, how does he remember to breathe?

May 21 2010 Published by under Politics

I hate writing about politics, but the mainstreaming of racism since the election of Obama makes writing about politics a moral imperative. We'll start with Dr. Rand Paul, who is running for one Kentucky's senate seats. The usual racist dog whistles are apparently too subtle for Paul, which is good. I'd rather a politician be explicit about his bigotry. What I really love about the Paul case is his attempt to make his bigotry an inevitable consequence of his other beliefs. This is good, and I'll tell you why.
Paul says that he disagrees with the parts of the Civil Rights Act that forbid private commercial enterprises from discriminating against customers. He makes it clear that he would never belong to or frequent an institution that practiced policies of racial exclusion but that they should be allowed to do so. This issue was settled a long time ago, but obviously many Americans aren't so happy about it. After all, if blacks can eat at a lunch counter what's to stop them from becoming president? Paul gives these folks cover in the guise of his "libertarian" beliefs:

MADDOW: Do you think that a private business has the right to say we don't serve black people?
PAUL: I'm not in favor of any discrimination of any form. I would never belong to any club that excluded anybody for race. We still do have private clubs in America that can discriminate based on race.
But...

But?
But?!?
But what? Racism and discrimination isn't just about what's in your heart or mine, but in what we as a society do to fight or encourage it. We don't allow restaurants to keep pet rats in the kitchen, and we don't let them turn away customers who are black. We use our laws to limit some personal behaviors because we must.
Here's the "but":

But I think what's important about this debate is not written into any specific "gotcha" on this, but asking the question: what about freedom of speech? Should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent? Should we limit racists from speaking

I wish he were a moron, but he's not. He's using a whole new dog whistle, one which lets racists hide under the mantle of "libertarianism". This is a straw man. The civil rights act does not forbid racist speech, but certain discriminatory behaviors. Hate speech laws have been debated extensively in this country and so far the idea has not proved overly popular, but that's not the current point. The point is that someone who may be writing and voting on laws for the whole country is on the record as saying that in the name of "freedom" we must return to Jim Crow.
Whatever cover story he launches will not change this fundamental fact. This is not some great conspiracy to smear his great name. We don't need a conspiracy for that. He's doing just fine himself. But he is just one man. It's the people voting for him who truly make me ill.

32 responses so far

It’s not my fault!

May 12 2010 Published by under Politics

You know that big oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?  It turns out that the folks who drilled it, the folks who pumped it, and the folks who worked on it weren't at fault---at least according to their sworn congressional testimony.  And I sure as hell know it's not my fault.  I mean, I do commute to work alone in my car, and I do like my air conditioner.  And my livelihood depends to a certain extent on an auto industry whose mileage standards haven't really changed in the last few decades.  But it's not my fault.

Anything as complex as drilling for oil a mile under the ocean thousands of times over is going to go wrong from time to time.  It may very well turn out that some corporate idiot---because corporations are just like individuals and can be idiots---cut corners to get us our yummy, yummy crude.  And we love every drop of it.  We're perfectly happy to change nothing about our way of life to prevent this sort of disaster.  If bp, or Halliburton, or some Jean Doe from the Bayou was behind this, we share their culpability.  This was no accident---it was an inevitable result of our hunger for oil.

5 responses so far

Papers please

May 03 2010 Published by under Narcissistic self-involvement, Politics

Many years ago, when fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen was riding a wave of racist sentiment in France, I was a young student out with friends on a perfect spring evening along the Seine. There was at that time always a vigorous national police presence in Paris. The CRS with their sub-machine guns were visible outside government buildings and patrolling the streets.
Racism was a palpable presence in Paris. A popular deli, Jo Goldenberg's, had been bombed a few years earlier, and the nearby Holocaust museum had bullet holes in one of its glass walls. One time when I tried to order coffee at a cafe, the waiter said, "Are you sure you don't want cous-cous? You look like you want cous-cous."
But on this spring night after final exams, all was well. My classmates and I were eating something good---I can't for the life of me recall what---and drinking wine. Lots of wine. One of my friends drank far too much, and was obviously soused. My friend John and I were holding her up, working on hailing her a cab, when a couple of well-armed CRS officers approached, pulled me aside, and demanded my papers. They did not ask for anyone else's. I gave them a photocopy of my passport and explained that I was an American student returning home in a few days, and not wanting to risk losing my passport I carried copies instead.
This was not the right answer.
John, who "looked" French, was still holding up our friend, but also starting to become alarmed by my encounter with the feds. The officers asked me the same questions over and over, getting the same answers. Then, they said, "you're talking funny...are you drunk?" "No," I explained, "I'm American and just don't speak good French."
They slowly walked me further and further from my friends, when a cab finally came. John got our friend in and came over to see what was going on. In his much more fluent French he repeated everything I'd told the cops, and showed his papers, also a photocopy of his passport (that was sort of the standard for students at the time). With his French looks, clear speech, and French last name, he was able to convince the CRS to let me go home.
As much as I loved Paris, I was very happy to return home to the U.S., where we don't stop people in the street and demand their papers for looking a little bit swarthy.

30 responses so far

In Soviet Russia, your vote determined your job; In America...

Apr 12 2010 Published by under Medical ethics, Medicine, Politics

In the Soviet Union, party membership was everything. Your job, your access to food and other consumer goods, and your apartment all depended on your standing with the party. And votes were simply a tool to provide a patina of legitimacy. No one who liked warm weather voted against the Party.

One of the many advantages of the protections provided by the U.S. constitution is that we generally cannot be hired or fired based on our personal or political beliefs. We also get to elect our leaders frequently. So it should be with a great sense of irony that various teabagger groups shout and stomp about the US becoming a socialist regime, while simultaneously threatening armed rebellion for not getting their way in an election. And it is with disgust and disdain that I view professionals punishing others based on their vote or their political views.

When a physician fired an employee for voting for Obama, that was---I assume---a clearly illegal act. It was also immoral. But it has nothing to do with medical ethics.

But when a doctor refuses to see patients based on their politics, this is a gross violation of medical ethics. In fact, it's hard to think of a precept of medical ethics not violated by this sort of behavior.

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25 responses so far

Why did they have to tell me about Sizer?

Jan 25 2010 Published by under Politics

After learning of the British vicar who sent the cops after a blogger, I decided to read up a bit more about this guy.
Sizer is a Mideast activist. By "activist", I mean that he sees the State of Israel as an abomination. He has revisionist ideas about Middle East history which he feels was influenced by "the Zionist lobby". What's interesting is his condemnation of the insane rantings of the Evangelicals who want to see the Temple rebuilt in order to bring about the End Times. In fact, he seems to believe that it was misguided Christians who were responsible for the founding of the State of Israel:

In the Middle East, this is largely due to the influence of European Christians who, nearly 200 years ago, believed it was their destiny to assist the Jewish people in colonising Palestine. This movement which became known as Christian Zionism, gave rise not only to Zionism and the founding of the State of Israel, but also to the Palestinian Nakba and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

This is a horrid misreading of history. While there were certainly Christian and secular supporters for the founding of Israel, there was also religious and non-religious opposition. There are parts of the modern Evangelical movement that are strong supporters of Israel, but this support is predicated on the idea that when The End comes, the Jews are fucked.
Sizer emphasizes the human rights tragedy of the occupied territories, which is a good thing, but he does so in the context of his critique of "Christian Zionism" which he condescendingly reminds us is "bad for the Jews."
Religious arguments regarding Mideast Politics are fruitless and idiotic. There is real, secular human suffering on the ground. Tossing an additional religious match into the tinderbox is cruel. If you care about peace in the Middle East, fight for it politically, condemn the violence of the occupation and the terrorist tactics supported by hypocritical, self-serving Mideast dictatorships. Sizer's "anti-Zionist" rhetoric flirts closely with outright anti-semitism and ignores the fact that millions of Jewish Israelis are there already.
But the guy's a hypocrite anyway. He's a proud member of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans who profess belief in:

the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family.

So the dude is all for equal rights when it suits his purposes. Nice.
I still don't have a good read on this Sizer guy. Is he a critic of Israel who has been vilified by extremists? Is he a critic of Israel who has strayed into frank anti-semitism? Is he just another religious wacko using superstition to justify his own hypocritical beliefs? Either way, anyone who calls the cops on a blogger for criticizing him is a no-goodnik in my book.

25 responses so far

Is Stephen Sizer a jack-booted, censorship-loving, anti-Jewish hate-monger?

Jan 25 2010 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Politics

From my pal Arikia, I learned of a disturbing case in the UK. A blogger over there has been posting information about Stephen Sizer, an Anglican vicar and holocaust denier. The vicar apparently felt so threatened by the dissemination of his own ideas that he called the cops.
According to various news and blog reports, Sizer is cozy with terrorists and neo-fascists.
I don't know much about this guy, but he apparently is very active in anti-Israel activities that have blended into frankly anti-Jewish activities. He has apparently take his concern for the plight of Palestinians and thrown up his hands at the thought of a real peace. He has bought into the idea of a zero-sum game in the Middle East, and he has chosen his side in that game, denouncing other Christians who have shown "support" (meaning, apparently, acknowledgement) for Israel.
Well, Sizer, you can try to use your jack-booted, neo-fascist intimidation tactics in Yorkshire, but your past subjects over here won't put up with that kind of behavior. As far as I can tell, you, Sizer, are a thug, an anti-semite, and a hate-monger. You should be ashamed.
Oh, and where's the Anglican church in all this? Does he belong to them? If so, and if they haven't spoken up about him, then his views are their views.

7 responses so far

Why I am a patriot

Oct 09 2009 Published by under Politics

I am a patriot. This word means different things to different people, but to me it means pride in my nation, one founded by brilliant thinkers and built on the acknowledgment of basic human rights. It does not mean that I agree with everything my country does or with all of my fellow citizens. It means that I believe in our basic values enough to love this country. Patriotism also recognizes a shared fate. There can be no patriotism unless there is a shared identity and a shared fate. Because we share this space, these values, what happens to you very much matters to me. To maintain our identity as a nation, we have public education and other public services which ensure our health and welfare. Since I am a patriot, I believe in caring for my fellow citizens, for sacrificing through taxes or through service in order to maintain the health and well-being of us all. In return, I benefit from these same services, and from knowing that I am helping to build and maintain my country. Today, I am a very proud American.

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17 responses so far

Liberals are stupid, conservatives are Marxists

Oct 08 2009 Published by under Politics

Why am I politically liberal? Is it because liberal ideals conform to my own sense of morals about how a just society should function? According to some, that idea is laughably wrong. Let me share with you an exchange from facebook:

Me: The michigan house passed the doctor tax. Time to write and call your state senator to remind them that taxing the person providing the service you need is really freakin' stupid.

Conservative friend: You've gotta LOVE those Democrats in Lansing...just keep taxing and spending and taxing and spending....If this fucking thing passes the senate and governor, I think I'm getting the hell out of Dodge. In fact, I think all doctors in Michigan should STOP taking Medicaid, just out of protest.

Random dude who thinks he knows me:
If you voted Democrat, suck it up and pay the taxes. You deserve it!

CF: I agree! But what about the Republicans? Can we just opt NOT to pay the taxes?

RDWTHKM: I couldn't agree more. Taxes have become the ruination of our country. Unfortunately, too many people have too little common sense to understand how detrimental taxes are to our country.

CF: And the worst part was last November, on the evening of the election, watching all of those sheep cheering in the streets because they get to pay higher taxes! It's like I could almost hear them shouting, "YEA! Obama won!! Now the government can take MORE of my hard-earned money and spend it frivolously on more useless entitlement programs! ... HOORAY!!!" ...

RDWTHKM:
I'll never understand how anyone voted for Obama. He was not Bush; and I think that is all that mattered to those voters. Common sense dicates you don't vote for someone with as many skeletons in his closet as Obama. You can call him a socialist, a big government radical, an anti-war demagogue, either way, he is bad for America, bad for liberty, bad for freedom and most certainly bad for the unalienable right of the pursuit of happiness.

Me: And every time he smiles, Baby Jesus weeps. I also heard that he sacrifices goats in the Roosevelt Room. Prove that its not true.

CF: And that, my friends, sums up why a liberal is a liberal. They fear that all things conservative equal a vote for baby Jesus and those evil evangelicals. So, they'd rather pay a few extra thousand (or tens of thousands) per year in entitlements to keep that Jesus-y stuff out of the White House...

RDWTHKM: I've come to realize that because doctors require so much schooling, their liberal professors have way too much time to indoctrinate them into the false premises of Liberalism. I'm still hopeful that these unbelievably intelligent people will forget that thier professors are kooks, and someday will wise up to the ways of the world. Just because you can heal a broken arm doesn't mean you know how to heal a broken economy. Taxes are for fools. Any by the way, when you resort to Baby Jesus and the Roosevelt room, its usually a strong indication that your rhetoric is more powerful than your ideas.

Where does one even start with this?

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17 responses so far

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