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Semiformalishmaybe

Challenging Viewpoints

A bit more on Pussy Riot, followed by commentary on other things:To remind you, Pussy Riot is a Russian band recently made famous by slipping into a church and doing an impromptu performance art bit, later titled as a prayer against Putin and the Patriarch; they were later arrested, and recently were sentenced to two years in prison for "hooliganism".

In past posts, I commented on and provided pointers to some analyses of the social meaning of their protest and the charges; both highlight problems (that you probably already knew about if you follow international politics) with how power works in Russian society. As I said there, I believe the protest parts of the act should be considered protected, although some fine for trespass would've been fine.

Russia's foreign minister recently commented on the widespread international condemnation over the crime, but his comments more illustrate the conflict in perspectives, rather than diminish it. "Our opponents ignore the fact that the punk group’s action was insulting to millions of Orthodox believers, as well as representatives of other faiths, who adhere to traditional moral values", as he said, misses the point that western notions of open criticism explicitly mark as permitted speech that is offensive; speech aimed directly at the general public that challenges particular positions within the pale is healthy (whether those particular positions are liberal or conservative, religious or secular).

Anatoly Karlin provides five perspectives on Pussy Riot. I thought the fifth was most helpful; it provided the context for the music group's struggle in a way that no coverage has. I'm not surprised that I only have mild-moderate alignment with Pussy Riot's goals; I'm reading a slightly more radical version of Chumbawamba (another band I generally like); still, their specific politics don't really matter for how (I think) appropriate responses should be structured. A light fine for tresspass and release is how we should handle stunts like this; there's no larger threat to anyone's life or safety, so all that's relevant is the mispresence.

And now some misc commentary:

  • Interesting to see some TeaParty-type conservatives defending Akin, pushing back against the insult to the far-right that his confusion and statements made. I am disappointed that we're not really making society more structurally compassionate if we spend too much time on missteps; smart, dangerous people like Santorum won't make this kind of misstep, and we need to be ready to peel away his support and sway people to compelling liberal alternatives to his ideology, not harp on easy targets.
  • Amusingly naïve statement by Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa that the mess over Julian Assange could be over tomorrow if Britain were to grant him safe passage. Well, yes, and it could also be over tomorrow if Assange were to leave the embassy and head to Sweden rather than remaining a sex crimes refugee. It is generally entirely uninteresting except in the humour when, in a discussion, someone says the equivalent of "if you'd just agree with me, we wouldn't disagree!".
  • As bothered as I generally am about the paranoia of America's conservatives that Sharia is being put into place in our country, I think it's appropriate to keep an eye out for if/where it ever is being put into place and stop/undo that. No religious law should be given root as effective law anywhere in the United States, either in private arbitration or through any kind of devolved community self-rule. This Australian judge's concerns seem valid.
  • A male judge in Manhattan, married to another man, is challenging his father's will on public policy grounds; his father included provisions that inheritance would only pass along to him and his children were he to marry the biological mother of his child. I am supportive of the judge; wills and contracts are not inviolate, and there are plenty of examples where their contents are deemed by courts to induce social ills, and so they're altered to remove those ills. Courts have not been willing to enforce provisions that embraced discrimination of various other kinds (e.g. "I deem this land to the city for 21 years so long as people not of the white race are not permitted entry, otherwise at which point or afterwards it shall pass to my heir" would probably see the racial provision stripped because such restrictions constitute a great social harm).
  • Interesting concerns about a mobile paternity-check truck in NYC. I lean heavily on the side of people having a right to know, because I think society on all levels should be able to face uncomfortable facts in reality (as a mark of sanity and responsibility), but it's good to keep in mind what that means sacrificing (perhaps so we can find ways of mitigating harm or know what kinds of support we might offer to people while they face things they should face).

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