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Tuesday, February 7, 2006

StratFor On the Significance of Those Cartoons

Strategic Forecasting sent out their latest, free intelligence report today. This one provides a pretty thorough analysis of the background and results of Those Cartoons.

I've attached the whole article (with permission), but here's my favorite quote:

European states cannot control what private publications publish. That means that, like it or not, they are hostage to Islamic perceptions. The threat, therefore, is not under their control. And thus, even if the actions or policies of the United States did precipitate 9/11, the Europeans are no more immune to the threat than the Americans are.

If you're at all interested in the apparent "collision of civilizations," read this article.

Those Cartoons

I'm not particularly surprised that the European press ran those cartoons that have the Muslim world in an uproar.

I am surprised that Dave Winer hasn't even mentioned them, as far as I can tell, nevermind actually run one or two of them himself. (I wonder if he's even considered showing one of them?)

It also surprises me that so few American papers have run it. Not that I'm claiming they should: not running them seems to have shown some wise self-restraint. Or maybe they're just scared.

Are the cartoons being avoided out of respect for Muslim beliefs, or is it just fear of reprisals?

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

France, the Netherlands, and Europe's Constitution

By now, I'm sure everybody knows that French voters rejected the European constitution in Sunday's referendum. Voters in the Netherlands did the same thing, today.

This really, really surprised me. I fully expected Europe to come together this year and "stand up" as something like a single nation.

Now I don't know what to think. Is there some change that could be made to the constitution which would make it more appealing to these vothers, or is the whole idea of One Europe anathema to the majority? Is the main issue "globalization," as they've been reporting here in the US media, or is it significantly more complicated? Something else entirely?

What's the prevailing line of thought among the voters who rejected it? (Is there a prevailing line of thought, some common opinion or idea held by the majority?)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

He Must Have Had a Pretzel In His Mouth...

Bush today said that Iran's "moo-lah" need to be convinced to renounce their "nucular ambitions."

If you heard the quote on NPR, did you notice how he dragged out "moo-lah," as though he was relishing the pain he was inflicting? (I applaud the reporters for being able to sit through these speeches with their sanity intact. Perhaps that's the difference between webloggers and paid journalists?)

Is this phoneticide? Is he some sort of languassassin?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Speaking of Missing the Point...

Seems Mr. Negrino not only saw my last post, but responded to it very quickly. He might have been better off reading it again and thinking about it before replying so quickly.

"Mean man say I wrong. Me not like that. Must hit with club or say ugly things." (Which is fine, I can take it, but please be careful to not actually read everything I wrote.)

He starts out by saying that my post was unsigned. All the posts on my journal (the home page) are by me. It even says so, down in the lower right corner. "Truer Words is Seth Dillingham's personal web site." He probably didn't scroll down that far, but the comments link for that post does have my name, right there at the top.

I've read his post, twice. Much of it is strangely reminiscent of the old question, "Are you still beating your wife?" I never said or implied most of what he's talking about, nor did I comment on most of his post. (I quoted the paragraph on which I was commenting. Maybe he missed that.)

Actually, I intentionally avoided my first reaction to the original post. "Oh, here's another liberal who's hurt and angry because Bush got another four years. Now that Iraq has taken a real step towards democracy and self-rule, it's not as easy to pick on Bush and the utter failure that is the Iraq war, becuase something real has finally been accomplished. So, instead, let's just pick them apart because a bunch of religious clerics -- before the government has even been formed -- reportedly want a Shariah-friendly government."

The only issue I had with his post was the intellectual elitism. It's not about whether he was right or wrong, because in fact I agree with much of what he said. In fact, even that is an exaggeration. My real problem was the lack of humility. I was being literal: it bugged me that he was claimed the whole twenty-first century for America and/or "the West."

Who cares what century it is? Why is Shariah any less (or more) appropriate now than it was a couple-few hundred years ago? A huge number of people are under Shariah law now, far more than there were in the 15th century. That's tragic and sick, though my pointing that out has nothing at all to do with Mr. Negrino's pitiful attempts at character assassination.

You've confused a mildly-annoyed, half-hearted response to part of one of your paragraphs with nonsensical blather, as you put it. You wouldn't know nonsensical blather, Mr. Negrino, if it fell in your lap. Believe me, I know this to be true, as i've read a couple of your books. Also, you may not have liked the tone of my post, but it wasn't intended to be hostile. Can't say the same for this one, especially this paragraph. In case you were wondering.

(Mr. Negrino probably didn't see Brian Carnell's comment on Jim's site, either, although I linked to Jim's message for exactly that reason.)

Iraq's Elections Took Them Back to What Century?

Jim pointed to an article on Backup Brain about the Iraqi elections. Apparently the Shiites, who will have the majority in the new government (based on last month's elections), don't want the new constitution or any laws passed by the new state to violate Shariah (Islamic code of conduct).

The author of the piece, Tom Negrino, goes on to say:

So the US deposed a brutal (but rabidly secular and agressively modern) regime that was at best a theoretical threat to the US, and has created a new Islamic republic in the Middle East. Yes, the Iraqi people have now voted, and I guess that's a good thing. But it appears they have voted themselves back into the 15th Century. And it only took $400 billion and 1,500 American lives to achieve this triumphant result.

They voted themselves back into the 15th century, because The clerics generally agree that the constitution must ensure that no laws passed by the state contradict a basic understanding of Shariah? Does Mr. Negrino have any idea just how much of the world is living under Shariah today, in the 21st century? Or, is our Western civilization really the best definition of our century? Does that mean they voted themselves back into our 15th century?

Oh, wait... the United States didn't have a 15th century.

Have I mentioned, before, that intellectual elitism tends to grate on my nerves?

"We're liberal, democratic and secular, so we're also smarter and better than you. How stupid of you, therefore, at the dawn of your new civilization, to choose a government for yourselves that expresses beliefs which are so different from our own! (Nevermind the dawn of our own civilization[s], if you please.)"

Thursday, November 4, 2004

More About Morality in the Election

I'm seeing a lot of comments around the web about the morality issue in the election. Most of the comments are from Democrats... which is not really a surprise, since I'm seeing the comments on the web. ;-)

What's bothering me about some of these comments is the idea that the Republicans used fear and proclamations of good and evil to convince the electorate that they were the more moral choice.

Consider Brent's comments:

Now, I voted for Kerry for moral reasons as well as practical. Freedom and civil rights are moral issues. The differences between Kerry’s and Bush’s foreign and economic policies are, in many cases, moral differences.

(And I think that winning an election by scaring people with gays is immoral. It’s cynical, manipulative, pandering—and it’s highly effective.)

Brent considers freedom, civil rights, and Federal fiscal policy to be moral issues. Generally, though, I think people consider those to be, well, civil issues.

Lots of people still believe in the "old fashioned" sense of right and wrong. Bad fiscal policy is stupid, but it's not "sinful." The Patriot Act is disturbing and restrictive and overarching, but it's not shameful or scandalous.

This knee-jerk reaction that the Republicans only got the "morality vote" because they scared people is just plain wrong, and is preventing people from seeing what may have actually happened here. That is, the "left" and the "right" seem to have developed entirely different senses of right and wrong.

Years ago we had a long discussion about right and wrong, morality, and atheism. The current issue goes right back to what I was trying to understand (and the point I was trying to make) back then: what is your source of morality? What is your moral compass?

On one side of this election, the compass was apparently one's own sense of what does or does not harm another (humanism, generally, and I only use that term because that's what others have used). On the other side of the election, the compass seems to be based more on a learned morality, mostly from the Bible but probably also from a shared sense of what it says (especially as there is no way that all those voters are actually "religious").

Perhaps it would be better to try to understand why Bush would win the moral vote, why people might see him as the more moral of the two, without chalking it up to stupidyt, fear, or intimidation, and without attempting to psycho-analyze millions of people.

(Please note that I didn't vote, and I was bound to be disappointed no matter who won. I personally don't think either choice was a particularly moral character. This post is about understanding what happened, not promoting either viewpoint.)

End of the Survivor: Arafat is Dead

Apparently Arafat just died, only hours after it was reported that he was in a coma.

It was mentioned in the press interview with Bush (which is happening now), he was just told by a reporter. Can't even find any links on it yet.

Choose Your High Ground

A complaint I often see about "the right," especially the "religious right," is that they always try to take the moral high ground.

But doesn't the left tend to claim the "intellectual high ground" as their territory? Today Brent made numerous references to the Democrats being the result of America's roots in Enlightenment, and basing everything on Reason. Since this was in contrast to the "other side," doesn't that imply that they are both unreasonable and unenlightened?

Brian Carnell made the point quite well in a reply to the message that started this topic. He said:

... the problem is that the media portrays opponents of gay marraige as a bunch of redneck bigots and the current strategy for instituting gay marriage is to bypass legislatures and go to the courts. Nobody should be surprised that when you tell a sizable part of the population that they're a bunch of bigoted morons whose opinion won't matter...

The "left" seems to believe that the "right" just needs more education, as though the reason they disagree is simply that one side doesn't understand the issues clearly enough, and those "educated few" on the right who still disagree are either bigoted (obviously that doesn't apply to all the issues), naturally unintelligent, or have some personal stake in or history with the issue which prevents them from seeing clearly.

The "right," however, tends to act like the "left" are a bunch of evil, baby-killing, gay heathen who have lost their way. With no built-in moral guidance of their own, laws are needed to protect them from theselves and to prevent them from corrupting America.

What a mess. Were this a negotiation of some sort, both sides would need a cooling off period.

Personally, I think the US is at its best when it's swimming the channel between the two banks, recognizing that individual rights and freedoms are wonderful and essential things, and tempering that recognition with an understanding that some things really do Matter, that some things can be Right or Wrong based on nothing more than principle.

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