Politics

The Humanity

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

Check out this interesting table about world views on torture over at the BBC.

Notice how the best scores are in Spain, France, and Italy (where more than 80% find the practice of human torture repugnant — what bleeding heart liberals! :)). I always knew that these countries had a better grasp of morality than Americans, but not by this degree.

Looking at those statistics for the US (where 38% think some degree of torture is permissible), it makes you think we’re not even a progressive country. Our percentage is lower than Turkey, the Ukraine… we’re only 1% off from Russia, for crying out loud! In Russia, they torture people “just in case” they do something bad!

Military Spending

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

Don’t listen to me. Listen to the CIA.

Updated Link, thanks Michael.

Colbert Follow-up

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2006

Check out this site:

http://www.thankyoustephencolbert.org/

After Stephen Colbert’s (IMO, historically significant) roast of the president and the press, someone started this website to thank him for his “truthiness.”

Yesterday, it had 14,000 thank you comments from the Internet community. Today, it has nearly 23,000. I think this an amazing example of how Internet bloggers and news scourers will simply not be dictated the news by a spineless mainstream press.

Anyone who thinks Colbert’s speech, words, and satire weren’t newsworthy is simply pissed that Colbert spoke truth to the faces of power. The fact that the mainstream press by and large marginalized the Colbert speech and glorified the modest “Dumb Bush/Dumber Bush” act just disgusts me. It also confirms, I think, that Rove and others know that Bush’s general lack of eloquence or sophistication masks his true flaws: the lack of reason or any capacity to reflect on his actions. It was precisely those flaws that Colbert’s speech pointed out. For Bush, the “jury is still out” on issues like evolution and global warming. Why? Because he dosn’t believe in facts.

Listen again to the Colbert speech, and you’ll notice he never once criticizes the president for his inability to say big words or his “Bushisms;” instead, he criticizes him for being able to make complex political and foreign policy decisions without appealing to the facts. That’s what makes Bush dangerous.

Stephen Colbert at White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

I just wanted to point out that if you haven’t seen it yet, you should see Stephen Colbert’s speech, in front of the President, at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. I think it will go down in history as one of the funniest and most awkward comic coup d’etats ever committed.

At first, you think Colbert is just going to play the Bush sycophant he always does on the Colbert Report. But then he just takes a step farther and mocks all mainstream journalists there, and the President himself, right to his face. Really amazing stuff, you can’t dream up better situations!

Take a look:

part 1, part2, part 3.

Danish Cartoon Follow-Up

Sunday, April 9th, 2006

I was going to do a follow-up post on the Danish cartoon situation, but didn’t get to it yet. Instead, I replied to roman’s post on the subject, and realized it was the length of a post on this site anyway. He asked:

did maheen ever give you a reply?

i know that their protest went ahead anyway, and i heard she started tearing when she addressed the faithful assembled in front of her.

i also heard, admittedly from one of the islamic center kids, that the way the objectivist club went about discussing their cartoons was pretty racist…

but i’d be interested to know how she replied.

To answer his question, no, Maheen never replied to that e-mail. If she does, I’d be glad to post it on my site.

I saw the reporting on the protest, but as you probably know, the Objectivist club was also asked to not display the cartoons by the administration. They displayed blank panels instead, and so from what I heard a lot of the discussion of free speech issues got drowned out by the anger over the administration’s blanket censorship. Unfortunately, the administration has every right to censor an event held on its campus, it being a private university, so there isn’t much to say there.

If they did discuss the cartoons in a racist way, then shame on them. From WSN, I heard that the basic gist was that a couple of the Ayn Randian intellectuals claimed that all religions are basically bogus, and that they ascribe to the only true religion, which they called “rationality”, or somesuch. Of course, this is utter tripe that you can feed to the dogs — “Objectivism” hardly even attempts to answer the existential questions that religions address, so that any form of atheism arising from it is hardly stronger than any fundamentally faith-based belief system.

My main issue in that e-mail and over this situation in general is a principle. The basic principle is that you can’t just claim that you have a right to see something censored because it offends your religion. I think that the freedom of information flow — no matter what kind of information that is — definitely trumps maintaining tolerance for religious sensibilities. If someone publishes things that can be taken as offensive by Christians, Muslims, Buddhists or Hindus, I don’t want the precedent set that we, as a society, will simply remove that text from our literature. It’s true that here, with the cartoons, we have something that is very clearly anti-Islam and racist, but where do we stop in the protection we grant to speech we don’t like? What if the next time, it is a cartoon portraying Jesus as blinding his followers, or an evolutionary analysis of religion? We have to protect the speech we don’t like, so that the canon of “acceptable things to publish” doesn’t shrink everyday.

Danish cartoon display at NYU campus

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

I received a “call to action” e-mail in my NYU mailbox to protest an intellectual discussion sponsored by the Objectivist Club at NYU on the Danish cartoons and the free speech issues surrounding it. I couldn’t believe people would go so off the Politically Correct deep-end as to want to protest that. So I wrote the head of the Islamic society an e-mail.

Dear Maheen,

I don’t really like the Objectivist Club, as (in my opinion, and they may consider _this_ hate speech) it is a bunch of Ayn Rand sycophants who think that the whole world would be better if governments just gave in to business interests in the name of “Free Markets” and economic neoliberalism. So don’t think I’m defending this meeting from their point of view.

And I agree with you that the Danish cartoons are racist, and in bad taste.

But guess what, no one is posting these cartoons on your front door. It is clear to me the Objectivist club is displaying them in order to discuss them and to discuss the free speech issues surrounding them, not in order to engage in racism. Your protest of this display is a form of censorship. In fact, here is a description of the event from their website:

“Why the eruption of violence and the issuance of death threats make completely irrelevant the question of whether the cartoons are in bad taste. Why the idea that freedom of the press must be ‘coupled with press responsibility’ means that free speech is not a right, but a fleeting permission. Why every Western newspaper and media outlet should have immediately re-published or shown the cartoons in solidarity with the cartoonists. Why the cowardly and appeasing response of many Western governments–including our own–will only invite further aggression. Other panelists will present their own views.”

If I held a philosopher club meeting about Mein Kampf, I would hope that people could understand that one could read that book without being a Nazi, or supporting Hitler’s racism, etc. The same rule applies here. This was a form of speech made by some cartoonist. It’s speech you don’t like — and if the cartoonist published it in your face, you would call it hate speech, and that’s fine, and you could be angry with him. But if a group of students and professors want to discuss the cartoons in a private room in Kimmel Center, not in a meeting forced upon the public, but in a meeting OPEN to the public, then that is fine.

Your protesting this display is also your right, but when it comes to justifications, you are ultimately protesting what? An intellectual analysis of images you abhor. You are not protesting racism, no matter how much you convince yourself that you are.

Free speech is _not_ absolute. I agree with that. The Supreme Court has shown that time and time again there is an interest in regulating some forms of speech (i.e. do a Google search on “Supreme Court” and “fighing words”). But in this case, free speech does trump your own hatred of these images, for sure. No public interest is served by not allowing this meeting to take place. In fact, censoring it is so irrational (as it _is_ a contribution to the marketplace of ideas envisioned by the US Constitution), that _it_, the protest, should be abhored.

I suggest you seriously consider not protesting this meeting, and withdrawing your “call to action”. It could ultimately damage your credibility, and be seen as a purely “politically correct” move, so common in colleges these days.

Sincerely,
A left-wing armchair activist,
Andrew Montalenti

The State of the Union: about as good as our most ignorant citizen

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

As someone who has [nearly] made it through college with financial aid programs, work-study, spending my own personal savings from high school, school loans, and funnelling summer job money into my education, I am appalled by the two-facedness of President Bush on the issues of competetiveness and education.

President Bush was handed not only his riches but also his presidency by a political dynasty and a largely unrecognized system of political nepotism. Other Americans have worked hard in the face of adversity, and are still given a raw deal with low wages, incomplete health coverage, and an uncertain future.

If we want to remain competitive, we have to preserve the American spirit that encourages rugged individualism, but we must also recognize that it is only when people break free of the shackles of ignorance that they can excel and contribute to our society.

In my view, the government’s primary domestic goal should be ensuring there be affordable (ideally free) education to all of its citizens so that they can be lifted out of the shackles of ignorance and thrust forward into upward economic mobility. This President treats education like an afterthought, first spearheading a bad program (No Child Left Behind) and then underfunding it. President Bush would seem to prefer if all schools were private like the ones he attended, accessible only to those fortunate to be born into rich households.

When will the $400 billion dollars we fruitlessly spend on “defense” (about 6 times more than China spends, they’re #2) start to be the target of cuts, instead of our precious few social programs and our public education system, which are so desperately in need of preservation and expansion?

The Capitalist Pyramid

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

Obviously a dramatic commentary from the past, but, I think, particularly poignant. See where you stand.

Two must-reads

Tuesday, December 13th, 2005

One, and this has been floating around the blogosphere I think, but it is essential:

Human Development Trends 2005 at GapMinder.com.

The second is Harold Pinter’s starkly anti-Amerkn Nobel Acceptance Speech, which you can read at the Guardian.

My Facebook Profile, and Everyone Else’s

Sunday, December 11th, 2005

-“You need to change your Facebook profile.”
-“Why?”
-“My friends all think it’s weird.”
-“Why?”
-“Because you mention things like ‘corporate power’ on it.”
-“So?”
-“The Facebook is supposed to be fun, you’re supposed to not take it seriously.”

So here, let me propose my new Facebook profile so it can be more amenable to social pressures. I’ve decided that the Facebook has become just as insane as real life, and, unfortunately, just as predictable.

Here is my Facebook profile for the alternate reality in which I care about making Facebook friends:

Relationship: Married to someone of my own sex even though I’m obviously straight. Hah hah, I’m so ironic.

Political Views: Moderate, even though I’m obviously liberal or conservative, but I don’t want to offend anyone. It’s not cool to talk about politics!

Interests: in truth, none whatsoever, so let me just write cute unfunny stuff here, like “Drinking with roomie,” or “duh, The Facebook.”

Favorite Music: A mish-mash of hip-hop, indy rock, and classic rock, because then you’ll know my musical palate isn’t vulgar.

Favorite Movies: here’s my chance to wow everyone with how cultured I am, so I’ll have at least one Coen Brothers movie here, and one or both of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Waking Life.

Favorite Books: I don’t read on my own, because that’s not being social. So here are my choices: (1) my textbooks, because that’s ironic, and dodges the issue; (2) Catcher in the Rye or 1984, because I read that in high school and maybe no one will notice; or, (3) obviously bad books I’ve never read and no one will think I have, like “Treason” by Ann Coulter.

Favorite Quote: Something my roommate said while drunk. Isn’t it funny? Isn’t it? No, really, it’s funny… you had to be there. Or, if I take myself a bit more seriously that I can at least allow a quote, make sure it’s something about postmodernism or from a modern poem that makes minimal sense.

Now that you guys see I am capable of writing a Facebook profile exactly like all the others, perhaps you’ll stop asking me to. In the meanwhile, to make you all more comfortable being apathetic, I’ve censored political content from my interests. I’ve also deleted references to a comedian you’ve never heard of from my quotes section. If you’re lucky, I’ll promptly replace them with Jon Stewart quotes. (Politics is cool, apparently, only if it’s on TV.)