Can the backlash spread?

Posted in at 16:18 by RjZ

Thank you, Thomas Friedman for finding some sensible folks in the middle east and letting us in the west know about it. We were beginning to worry. As Mr Friedman says, let’s hope they can sustain it.

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Talk about a bad movie review

Posted in at 9:03 by RjZ

“In Pakistan…a government minister has offered $100,000 to anyone who kills the maker of the short, amateurish video “The Innocence of Muslims”. The Pakistani government has had the sense to distance itself from this bounty.

A semi-official religious foundation in Iran has increased a reward it had offered for the killing of British author Salman Rushdie to $3.3 million from $2.8 million, a newspaper reported, days after protests coursed through the Muslim world over alleged insults to the Prophet Muhammad.

“The leader of Lebanon’s militant Islamist political party Hezbollah has issued a proclamation calling for the death of the producers and actors of the highly controversial film, Innocence of Muslims, which has sparked outrage, protests and violent attacks throughout the Islamic world.”

Meanwhile, back the U.S.A. “The movie is an intentional provocation,” Hooper [national communications director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations] says, “and we shouldn’t give producers the cheap publicity they so desperately seek.”

That marchers chant death to Israel as well as death to America is evidence that this is simply anger, likely being fomented by demagogues. What could Israel possibly have to do with this insulting film? Even less than most Americans.

Still, while angry young demonstrators burn U.S. flags, and threaten the West with violence “they won’t be able to handle,” Western administrations preach peace, condemn violence, and do pretty much nothing else.

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Protest the protesters

Posted in Society at 15:57 by RjZ

I don’t blame Islamic protesters, marching around U.S. embassies and shouting death to America. It is too easy, from the point of view of a western person with access to mostly free media, multiple language websites, and some actual experience with the average American, to wonder how they could think Americans are out to get them. How could these angry young men could think that my friends didn’t see this horrible film insulting the prophet without cheering it on? Of course we were more likely out hiking or having a beer and had no idea such a low budget film was being made, let alone make time to watch it.

But if you live in the slums of Cairo and all of your news and information is highly skewed by the people around you, by the fact that your country has had a controlled media for decades, that your new, weak, government is desperately trying to figure out how to even stay in power in a democracy, and you’re surrounded by people who aren’t exactly seeing the benefits of western hegemony, well, maybe you might come away with some pretty extreme views. Compare with the bible-belt frequent-church-going, southerner and imagine how hard it is for him not to think that homosexuals are destroying families—he hears it every Sunday and, as far as he knows, he’s never met real homosexual person. After all, his gay neighbors are closeted in fear or got the hell away from their bigoted home town in their pilgrimage to the big city.

I don’t blame the protesters and I don’t believe they represent the average person in the muslim world, but that doesn’t mean I’m not angry! Where is the intelligentsia? Where are the wise religious leaders, civic leaders, newspaper editors, and young university students who do have access to a more balanced news, who aren’t afraid of losing a vote, and who might have even met a real-live westerner and noticed that we’re not all that bad? Shouldn’t they be marching in the streets shouting down these young hooligans who are dragging Islam’s reputation through the dirt?

Instead of suggesting, as the prime minister of Turkey has that “Insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad cannot be considered freedom of speech.” Leaders must remind angry protesters that “…insulting religion cannot be an excuse to attack people” as the prime minister eventually got round to saying.

It seems that must be the message. Regardless of how abhorrent you believe this movie to be, the response we’ve seen raging around the entire muslim world might very well not be representative of the average muslim, but I don’t see how I could know otherwise since the call to peace, the protest against this un-Islamic extremism, has been silent.

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., muslims and copts are condemn both the film Innocence of Muslims’ insulting of the Prophet, and from my perspective more importantly, the misguided violent response. When religious extremists like the Westboro Baptist Church disgustingly picket military funerals in the U.S., everyone from fratboys to the Foo Fighters protest back—notably, without any violence.

I don’t blame ignorant hooligans, but, if this isn’t the real face of Islam (and I can’t believe it is) then where are the faith’s true warriors? Why is no one protesting the protestors?

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Best of both worlds or lesser of two evils

Posted in Society at 15:49 by RjZ

I know how many of you in the United States feel. You’ve seen enough political ads already and you don’t want either of them. It’s a common problem these days but not likely a new one. The American middle is frustrated by both the left and the right. Each side is working so hard to get their base out to vote, that they’ve move farther and farther from the rest, and indeed majority, of the citizenry. Maybe you’re one of the many self-described socially liberal, fiscally conservatives? Perhaps you’re the kind of person who wouldn’t mind if the U.S. were run a bit more like your home, that is, don’t spend more money than you’ve got, and don’t stick your nose into other’s business.

Why isn’t there a party that offers this? Even libertarians (who, theoretically offer exactly this recipe) are often tainted by a decidedly non-pragmatic view allowing for zero compromises. Does Ron Paul really think the Gold Standard is a practical solution right now? For those centrists seeking to get the best out of our two party system who are uncomfortable “throwing away their vote” on a party outside the mainstream, I propose the following simple solution.

Liberals in the Whitehouse, conservatives in the legislature. As a libertarian I actually like the idea of gridlock that such configuration has shown to produce. Wallstreet likes it too. The Dow doesn’t rise more for business friendly conservatives; instead it does best when power is split. I don’t want my government to do so much for me, as it’s nearly impossible for such a large system to avoid unintended consequences and not cost a fortune doing it. But don’t worry, this isn’t the real reason you should agree to such a balance of power. There are many advantages, even without gridlock. Generally, conservatives are better at passing laws that spend less than liberals and are less over-reaching. They preach small government and, even if they’re not always very good at living up to it, it’s safe to assume that their starting point for new laws isn’t exactly over-arching social reform. So let’s get them into the legislature where, if they’re going to write more laws, at least they’ll tend towards limiting government’s reach, and their extremist Tea-Party wing will scream at every penny they want to spend.

Of course, my liberal readers are screaming too right now about how deep conservatives are reaching inside people’s living arrangements and even into the pants of women! Today’s conservatives seem to think that religion, particularly, their socially conservative anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-anything that doesn’t look like a Christian Taliban version is part and parcel with small government and a Christian-God-First society is the only way to restore America to it’s former glory. This non-sensical view isn’t borne out by any evidence. Has the U.S. really fallen into deeper moral decay due to gays being married? Is it really worse than the 60s? Have they seen Mad Men (looks like people weren’t so morally upright fifty years ago either)? 2012 U.S. isn’t more morally corrupt; if anything, we’re simply more morally honest.

Never fear liberal readers! The crazy religiously motivated laws that a conservative legislature will write and pass will simply be vetoed by a liberal president. Why a liberal president (instead of, say, achieving strategic gridlock the other way around, with a conservative president and liberal legislature)? Frankly, a so-called elitist, liberal president is a better bet for foreign policy. Just a moment’s comparison of Obama and Bush II should provide at least some evidence here. A liberal president is better received by most of our international allies and can still aggressively respond to threats, without bluster or bullying. The current liberal administration ended a war, is ending another one, yet is no softy. They captured and killed the head of a terror organization that threatened us and jumped into a conflict in Libya where Europe dithered and proposed a no-fly zone while tanks rolled in to destroy a city. The same liberal president has restored or improved relations with critical not-quite allies like China and Russia; where as our current choice for conservative leader seems to think that antagonizing Russia is a plan that wouldn’t just play into Russia’s prime-minister-for-life strength. (it would!)

But there’s more. The chief executive has an important power beyond not acting like a bullying playground child. The president appoints Supreme Court Justices. Selected for life Justices wield incredible long-term social power that can change the face of our nation. If you’re one of the majority of Americans who wants the government to do what is necessary but nothing more (even if we argue about what necessary is) without limiting our freedoms nor telling us who we can have sex with, marry, or when we must have a child, then, no matter how much you might dislike a liberal president’s track record or promises, his or her choices for the Supreme Court are safer for you than the conservative.

You think you might like Romney and Ryan’s view for a financially secure, lower taxes, future, but wish they didn’t spend so much time talking about gay marriage, or how God has chosen Team America to be the best country on earth? Afraid of Obama’s invasive health-care spending and pinko vision of an everybody-just-has-to-help-everybody society, but you can’t deny, the guy did send Qaddafi packing and eliminated Osama Bin Laden, all while generally raising America’s profile world-wide?

Easy enough: you can vote libertarian, or, if that’s no good for you, at least consider how you can get the best of both worlds by voting for the lesser of two evils: Liberals in the Whitehouse and conservatives in the legislature! What’s your take?

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