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Semiformalishmaybe

CEAC 12 June 2012

Some news worth knowing about:

  • I am pleased to see that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are counterbalancing Russia by offering low-key assistance to the rebel forces, which how now effectively created a full state of civil war. I hope for a quick victory for the rebels, and it's good to see that the Arab states are finally beginning to chart their own destiny rather than allowing the major world players to dominate them. The impotence of the UN and United States in resolving this is in full view, but at least this will demonstrate the increasing multipolarity of the world. It's still tragic how much life is being lost for the vanity of the Assads.
  • A bit more on confrontation between Catholic nuns, which are too liberal and feminist for the Vatican's tastes, and the Vatican itself. It's particularly interesting to me how the Vatican doesn't have a lot of hard power to aim at the nuns as they're laypeople and self-funded (pointed out by the article). This comes while the Vatican is dealing with the scandals revealed by (and scandal of) the former butler of the Pope.
  • Miliband has suggested changing media ownership rules in the UK, particularly because Rupert Murdoch used the leverage he has in controlling large media to attempt to control British foreign policy.
  • I'm pleased to see more eyes and voices on conflicts between police and protestors; I've seen people of both groups distort things or lie, and I trust that more eyes and mouths will help keep both groups more honest.
  • Britain has found a nice solution to poke a hole in the inflated pride and distraction that has led Argentina to sabre-rattling over the Falklands again. It's simple: have a referendum, which, as the islands have been British for a bit over 170 years, is a very safe thing. It's simple, neat, and probably terribly embarassing for Argentina (although it's hard to feel sorry for them for making such a ridiculous claim)
  • There's an interesting conflict in Florida over voter registration, as presumably a number of non-citizens managed to become registered voters, and the efforts to remove them from the rolls have likewise removed some proper citizens. I hope everyone would agree that non-citizens should not be able to vote, but people who are citizens (and not otherwise disqualified, e.g. by being a felon) should be able to vote; hopefully this mess can be cleaned up by the time an election actually rolls around.
  • Home Secretary Theresa May has provoked controversy by suggesting revision of residency policy; right now there's a right to family life in a Britain-signed UN convention that's been interpreted to prohibit deportation of noncitizen criminals who have a family in Britain, as well as limit the ability of people who move to the UK and end up in poverty to bring their family from elsewhere to live with them anyhow (presumably ending up on the dole). Her proposals would nuance the right to family life (or change its interpretation) on these points. Salman Rushdie has, unfortuantely, criticised this as Orwellian; I think it's acceptable policy. In general, while I don't think citizenship is a huge deal, it's reasonable for states to be able to set conditions and limits on immigration, to enforce those as they wish, and to curb abuse. There may be reason for states to regulate or enforce these in ways that are both in the national interest or that try to be kind, but there should not be criticism of anything that's not completely open immigration ; amnesty and openness in immigration policy are a societal decision, not an obligation of society. A society that decided to completely close its doors to immigrants that enforced that very vigorously would be fine by me.
  • There is increased stress between Afghanistan and the United States over a successful drone strike that killed a senior member of AlQ. On this, I have no sympathy with Afghanistan; the country was host to a group that launched attacks on the United States, it still is host to that group to some extent, its efforts in civilising tribal regions are lackluster. If it cannot control its militants and if they pose a danger to the rest of the world, it should get used to foreign boots on its soil.
  • Abortion rights are under threat in Turkey too; it's unfortunate that Turkey was so unwise as to elect Erdogan some years back, and he's been a source of many bad decisions, this just being the latest.

And commentary-on-commentary (including a rantlet you might be tired of by now):

  • Professor Little of UMich references a fine point in Rawls in support of Occupy; I disagree with him slightly in that while Rawls does add significant structure to interpretation of philosophy of law, his contributions are broad enough that he's been claimed by both conservatives and liberals. I will have to reread the bit of Rawls on the particular point he references; I don't recall Rawls' writings on the term of 「Property-Owning Democracy」. If you're as into Rawls as I am, perhaps you'll want to check this out too.
  • I have been pleased at Salman Rushdie's arguments for free/comfortable expression, and against criticism/censorship in the name of respect, inclusiveness, dignity, and other things that various injured parts of society want redressed; it's not that these causes are entirely invalid, but that it is unacceptable to implement them through criticism/bans of nonnormative speech. The statement "women are inferiour to men" is far more worthy of condemnation than the most degrading objectifying porn you might think of; our willingness to stab at expression should be very limited, and guided by intent and values of the speakers; the justice we seek in the causes of feminism, anti-racism, and the like is best served through changes societal institutions that permit an equal-opportunity to publish, to speak, to achieve, to thrive; we will still need to struggle against the racists and the sexists, but it is not our place to judge the whole world on terms too far beyond that, and we should also be striving for institutional change if we're really interested in justice. Ray Bradbury died recently, but recently his coda for Farenheit 451 expressed this point pretty strongly, and in a way I appreciate. This is part of the struggle that good liberals, activists on all of these causes, should wage against the portions of each movement that have embraced political correctness; the deficient activists who are politically correct are making category errors in deciding that things that people just have to deal with in a diverse society, even one without racists/sexists/etc, are actionable. It is our task to say "no" to those activists and rebuild that expectation that the refinement we (activists) seek in human nature is limited to ending racist and sexist values and to better the world with institutional changes, and nothing more. When people go beyond normativity-for-bad-things as their metric for harsh criticism, we reject them (although we might accept light nudges provided they lack force/condemnation for failure to comply).
  • Ebert had an interesting post about Panspermia and intelligent design; I pretty much agree with his reasoning on the topics; the possibility of panspermia is not threatening to the framework of evolution because it would only shift the locale of very early formation of life, not much more.
  • EFF writes on the imprisonment of an Iranian blogger for saying some things that made Iran feel threatened; I am glad that they're keeping tabs on this, although Iran's record on this is so ridiculously bad that it's hard to continue to be outraged; a former vice president (Mohammad Ali Abtahi), about whom I've written a few times here before, is in prison until 2015 for criticising the botched elections in 2009. It's hard to have any expectation of a decent governmental system given that. All the EFF can do is pile little things on top of that. To a certain extent, this is why Israel gets harsher treatment by the news for its atrocities and failings than its neighbours; we expect more of a country that's making a serious try at seeming civilised to western eyes. Israel performs poorly for such a country; Iran is in a second tier of countries where we don't expect too much open criticism, press freedom, or integrity, just like Russia, and below that we'd recognise some countries, like Thailand, North Korea, or Afghanistan, where civil society is so constrained as to be nearly absent.
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Comments

It is worth noting with the voter registration thing that a republican think tank put out a lot of ideas a while back about limiting voting, and the following rounds of legislation and investigation involved a lot of scaremongering and no proof that anyone had voted illegally (I saw this in, iirc, a blog post about voter-ID requirements, possibly in Minnesota, in the last 6mo). I am not sure what the case is in Florida, but it is not really safe to presume that any number of non-citizens are actually registered to vote.
Worth pointing out, too, is that the law (I don't know whether state or federal; I could attempt to find a cite) appears to specifically prohibit purging of voter rolls within a specific number of days before an election, which was violated in this case. The US DoJ is suing the state of Florida over it.
Hmm. If it's true that this whole thing is about a negligible number of falsely-registered voters, that'd be a good reason to be very upset at the people backing this initiative (and it'd probably be a very juicy story).

I hope I'm not trying too hard to give people the benefit of the doubt on their points.