11.07.12

It’s all over

Posted in at 14:43 by RjZ

The U.S election season is finally over and it’s not just American’s who are glad. Almost everyone with a TV, and plenty without, were sick of the negative ads and horserace coverage for months and months, not to mention the never ending requests to like Mitt Romney’s page, or one link after another to Huffington Post or moveon.org from our conservative and liberal Facebook friends. I always thought the Facebook status box was where you attempted to impress people with how funny or clever you were in just a few words (unsure I was either, I’ve never risked updating my status).

I voted early. For the big moment, the election itself, I happen to be in Germany. It seems it’s not only Americans who are relieved it’s all over. Upon hearing my accent, people smiled and gave me knowing looks while commenting on the election results. “Good job” some said. A guy in the street offered directions while unfolding a map. Germans can be friendly and quick to offer help, no matter what you may hear! “Congratulations on Obama,” he gushed, “it wasn’t even close, was it? We were worried you might choose Romney.”

A bit slow to realize his point, I tried to explain our puzzling electoral college and that I heard the popular vote was actually quite close. He seemed more confused that I shouldn’t just be happy to have dodged a bullet rather than convincing him that more more people voted for the losing candidate than he thought.

Beyond our enemies, in Korea or Iran, or frenemies in Russia and China, I doubt you could find many Americans who could name other world leaders, and yet, random people on the streets, and fellow conference goers from around the world, followed the U.S. election with almost as much detail as we did; without even being forced. I guess it’s cold comfort to those who hoped for the change Romney promised to bring, but it wasn’t only only a thin majority of Americans who weren’t convinced, most of Europe wasn’t either. Or maybe, Fox, who spent most of election evening desperately predicting Romney’s landslide, then narrow victory, and finally near popular victory really is the last holdout from the liberal media conspiracy. It’s spread to Europe too! It’s so much bigger than we all realized.

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10.26.12

One of the places I’ll never see

Posted in at 11:35 by RjZ

I am not a muslim. I’m not a Christian either, but I’ve been to many churches around the world and see many rituals. Human culture is interesting to me, even if I don’t share the beliefs that motivate the people performing them. I don’t propose, as many religious people do that faith is what built the great religious monuments around the world. If Johann Bach weren’t inspired by his benefactor and God to write his canons and fugues, I am confident his talent might have found its muse elsewhere. That these temples, symphonies, art, and rituals might have come about for more mundane and human reasons, makes them no less amazing.

That is why I am disappointed that I will never be able to witness the Hajj. The yearly pilgrimage that all muslims are obligated to take at least once in their lives brought nearly 3.4 million people to Mecca, Saudi Arabia this year. Non-muslims are forbidden from even entering the city.

I wish I could show you my own photos from this amazing event, but don’t miss these shots from the Atlantic. If you’re muslim, hopefully you’ll experience this event (god willing, as they say) for yourself. If not, this is the closest you’re going to get.

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10.19.12

Too many Mitts, but not too many choices

Posted in , Liberty at 15:22 by RjZ

The Utah Tribune, yes, Utah, has endorsed Obama. It’s not a ringing endorsement so much as an admission that Governor Romney just can’t seem to stay put. If I had to guess, I’d say that most folks aren’t voting for Romney, so much as voting against an Obama administration whom they believe has guided the country in the wrong direction for the past four years. The Utah Tribune offers a more measured view of Obama’s performance, but regardless, they reach the conclusion that I have about Governor Romney: we don’t know who he is or will be as president.

Utah should know him best. He went to college there and successfully brought much credit to the state by running the Winter Olympics (using, it must be noted, government funds….) But the editors of the paper find that his pandering first to the extreme right of his party and now to the middle, makes him predictable, only if you know who’s in the audience. Romney’s plan for the economy, the thing that he claims to really differentiate him from the failed policies of Obama is practically a secret. We’re being asked to vote for a plan which we haven’t seen because, well, he’s a good businessman and he’s run companies before. I believe Romney would be successful at executing his plan and I trust his credentials to do so, it’s just no one seems to be allowed to know what that plan is.

Fortunately, America, Governor Romney is offering you the fallacy of false choice. You don’t have to vote for Mitt, just because you don’t want the other guy. Sure, I know, voting Libertarian is just throwing away your vote; except it’s not. There is little practical difference between the two political parties today. Both will raise your taxes. Both will raise the deficit. Both will claim to create jobs, taking credit when the numbers go up and avoiding blame when they don’t. Any economist will tell you that a single vote does not, actually, change the election, but for these reasons and many more, voting your conscience, not just against a candidate is the only way to make things better. Not expressing your vision for who you really want to run the country is throwing away your vote.

Check out the libertarian party candidates.
Check out the green party candidates.
Check out the constitution party candidates.

Just remember, voting is about having a choice. This is your chance to make yours.

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09.26.12

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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09.24.12

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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07.02.12

Timbuktu sites under attack by religious extremists

Posted in , Society at 11:40 by RjZ

I haven’t seen the site in person, and I may never be able to. The mosques, shrines, and monuments of famous Timbuktu are under attack by an al Qaida-linked group of militants.

I do not blame my religious friends for the heinous acts of extremists, but this attack is on nothing less than human culture itself and requires a response. Those who share religion with the extremists have an even greater responsibility forced upon them. They must demonstrate with their response why their belief system is not the same as those perpetrating this crime.

Actions will always speak louder than words.

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06.21.12

New LA law makes sex offenders wear scarlet letter

Posted in at 9:55 by RjZ

Louisiana law requires sex offenders to wear t-shirts with a scarlet letter . That could be the headline anyway. Doesn’t it strike you as a bit extreme that in addition to knocking on your neighbor’s doors to let them know you are a convicted sex offender, now, Louisiana wants to make sure you put that in your Facebook status? If, for example, a gentlemen was caught urinating in public–this is a sex offense in many states, he’d be on the list, have to let everyone in his neighborhood know, and now, everyone in his social network, too. Don’t worry: Facebook has no problem with this. They say they don’t allow sex offenders to have profiles in the first place.

I get the comparison, and even the motivation, but this step may actually show just why this law goes to far in the first place.

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06.05.12

How travelers see the U.S.

Posted in at 10:04 by RjZ

I wish I had written this. You should read it!

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05.21.12

Unintended consequence of employer provided health care

Posted in , Society at 17:33 by RjZ

Have you been reading how various state and federal legislatures are trying various strategies to limit access to birth control? Missouri, for example, recently voted that employers shouldn’t be forced to offer insurance that covers birth control (or abortions) if their religious convictions oppose such activities. Check out that article, but read the comments too.

Folks are pretty angry that conservative legislators are waging a war on every other religion and women are the casualties. According to the article Rep. Sandy Crawford, R-Buffalo says “This is about sending a message to the federal government that we don’t like things rammed down our throat,” which is interesting, because, most people reading this think that’s exactly what they’re doing: forcing others to tolerate an essentially Christian notion of when and how birth control should be used.

I don’t see this as a volley in the so-called war on Christianity, but rather a response to big government ideals and how conservatives see those manifest in Obama-care. It’s a bizarre response, because it seems to insert government into yet another private decision, but, to be fair, the claim is that employers aren’t required to do something (even if it’s fair) and not that they’re being subjected to an increased burden. Employees remain free to gain insurance in some other way that covers their needs.

The real problem here, is our horrible system of employer provided health care. Companies with moral convictions shouldn’t be obligated to offer health care that is abhorrent to them; and the rest of us should feel free to condemn their antiquated beliefs and stop patronizing them or working for them. Unfortunately, freeing employers up to pick and choose which health care requirements they will meet and which ones they don’t like results in people with very scattered coverage, because they have no where affordable they can turn.

Imagine, if instead of trying to fix the existing system of employer provided health-care (which Obama-Care settled upon as a solution) we actually cut the employers out of the picture completely. Such unintended consequences as these silly bills wouldn’t even be on the table and personal choice might be available for all.

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05.15.12

Losing North Carolina means losing the White House

Posted in , Liberty at 11:16 by RjZ

Forget what you think about homosexual marriage, Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, is right. Obama may have sealed his fate as a one term president by admitting he is for equal rights for all citizens.

  • Votes in several states, not just fly-over states but California, have time and again gone against marriage-equality.
  • Evangelical voters weren’t motivated by Mitt Romney. Now they have a reason to be.
  • Conservatives can simultaneously claim to be more focused on the real issues facing Americans (the economy) and still claim to be the only reliable support of conservative social values.

All the posters about being on the wrong side of history won’t do much good if Obama wins by a landslide in liberal states and loses everywhere else.

Instead of being on the right side of history, perhaps we should be asking how to convince the religious conservatives that they, too, benefit from a country that is not a theocracy. That the government deciding who should and should not be married is exactly not the place to stick its nose.

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