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Semiformalishmaybe

CEAC 16 August 2012

Some possibly-interesting news going on:

  • As I remarked on Twitter, there are sympathetic protests for the Russian band "Pussy Riot", which recently entered a church and pulled a stunt that church officials claim defiled the church. Surprisingly, that was the focus of the initial charges brought against the band, and while Putin has halfheartedly called for leniency, the state is making an example of the magnitude of challenging the powers that be in Russia. A good essay on it is here; one problem with the development of Russian capitalism is that it is just as corrupt as Russian communism was, with the same heavyhanded struggle with dissent and the gathering of all the powerful pillars of society in mutual support. Nowadays the Church is such a pillar. I see this as another example of how corruption and economic systems are largely orthoganal, and how remarkable a system is where embarassment is permitted; the United States is by no means perfect on this measure, but it is markedly ahead of Russia, North Korea, or Thailand.
  • The personal butler of Pope Ratzinger will stand trial for alleged leaks he made to Italian journalists on the topic of internal financial corruption in the Roman Catholic Church. Whistleblowers are one of those difficult topics in any government, not only because it is difficult to come to a principled, consistent stance on when leaks are good or bad overall, but because our normal centres for coming to such conclusions are institutionally hampered from making such judgements well.
  • Berlusconi is tiptoeing back onto the Italian national stage, talking about how popular he is with the people and how he might want to run again. Being one of the most wealthy men in Italy with control over media outlets exceeding that of Rupert Murdoch, this is a real threat.
  • Paul Ryan's earlier ties to Objectivism have been trumpeted by The Atlas Society, a Randian thinktank, much to the embarassment of Ryan and the horror of the Republican mainstream (almost as dangerous as his stances on Social Security, which Romney took the unusual step of explicitly disclaiming as not-his-policy; this is a strange stance for a would-be president to take regarding a would-be-vice; if the president were to die, the veep could implement such plans). I found this analysis of the idea of a public servant being an Objectivist to be pretty poor though; one could easily imagine someone working on selling and piecemail implementing Randian ideas without the rapid destructive fantasies of Ayn Rand's books coming into place suddenly. The damage to the philosophy in such a tack would be minimal. Also, I might be somewhat sympathetic to Ryan's claims to have cut ties with her philosophy; we need to allow people the chance to grow in their perspectives, and dalliances of youth with some extreme ideologies are forgivable. However, I would at least want to question him as to how far he's moved from where he was.
  • Mohammad Morsi, MB President of Egypt, was given the perfect excuse to seize power back from the military generals when radical muslim militants killed many of his border guards in Sinai; he initially pinned the blame on the existing military culture, announced their removal, and then in surprisingly politically adept moves, awarded some of their claimed power to the juduciary, gave medals to the people he dismissed, had quiet talks with Israel to get a partial waiver on the existing treaty for a demilitarised Sinai so he could reassert control there, and gave speeches on the importance of rule of law and against those who used force against the state. In removing the old guard who had taken on a political role, he also raised many of the newer members of the military who were just beneath the levels where the military was political, ending the cultural divide in the military and gaining its support. Unfortunately, we're also seeing signs that the new Egyptian society might not be as open to public criticism as we'd expect of a first-rate nation.
  • Recently there have been two well-publicised problems in the Occupy movement; I'm not sure if these are actually significant given how big and diffuse the movements are, but they are members of two different Occupys getting into a fight over chalking, and an activist wandering into a Focus on the Family building and shooting a guard. Neither of them are good PR, obviously.
  • I'm not generally much for sport, but it's surprising that the United States manages to have such a good Women's Football (british term here) team while the women's version of the league is so prone to falling apart and flailing trying to come back together.
  • One of the rising stars in Pakistani politics, Imran Khan, is walking a dangerous line, alienating the relatively secular cityfolk in the country with his religiosity and acquiring death threats from Taliban leaders for not being religious enough.
  • On the 11th, massive earthquakes hit northwestern Iran, killing over 300 and injuring thousands.
  • The Obama administration is offering, via executive order, a registration programme for illegal immigrants offering those who register temporary amnesty from deportation. Whether this is a suitable policy or not, it is also weird politics; weird because as an executive order, it could be overturned by a future president with a stroke of a pen, leaving those who registered potentially highly vulnerable to deportation. In a way it represents a dare to any possible future Presidents with a different immigration policy to use the programme that way.
  • Britain is threatening to use the exact mechanism I advocate to remove Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy; expel it or end its status. The standoff is in an interesting state now. And to reiterate, my (complicated as usual) stance is that I like the idea of Wikileaks, I like many of the things it has done, I think it has often been terribly irresponsible and done bad journalism, particularly with regards to protecting sources, I don't know if Assange actually did rape/sexual abuse, but I feel that it was wrong for him to refuse the summons to face a serious crime, and that it would also be wrong for him to be extradited to the US. I see his camping in the embassy as an abuse of diplomatic norms, and will be pleased when he is arrested; states are not perfect institutions, but to dodge accusations of a serious crime that should be a crime (like this, as opposed to what wikileaks did, where it's instead rather complicated) is unacceptable. I am willing to condemn the US if it extradites him, but I am condemning him now for his acts.
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Comments

Do you have any thoughts on Sweden's refusal to offer Ecuador assurances that Assange would not be extradited to the US?
I don't believe it's appropriate to try to negotiate with police when one is summoned by them.