Sunday, January 30, 2011

Divisiveness, Cultural Chaos, and the Monkey's Paw

It sounds like at least some major tourist destinations in Egypt are unaffected by what looks to me like the result of decades of resentment and too-tight control blowing off in messy spurts.

Still, the State Department's advice to Americans in Egypt seems prudent. Translated from diplomatese, the advice is: GET OUT NOW!

Remembering the Monkey's Paw

Or, 'Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it.'

There's a cautionary tale ("The Monkey's Paw," W. W. Jacobs (1902)) about a talisman that grants three wishes. It works, but there's a catch: there is a price for each wish. There's a point to the talisman. Written in 1902, the story has an 'and the moral of this story is' statement in it, woven into the plot more artfully than many.

My take on the tale is a little different: 'be careful what you wish for; you might get it.' You've probably heard that idea before. My guess is that it could be traced back to one of the ancient Greek philosophers, the court of an Emperor of China, and the Maurya dynasty; that all of them picked it up from someone working for Nebkha; and that 'be careful what you wish for' was already an ancient bit of wisdom then.

Mubarak's Egypt: A Nice, Tightly-Managed Country

Back to contemporary Egypt. They've got a president these days: Mohamed Hosni Mubarak has had the job since October 14, 1981. ("Egypt," CIA World Factbook (last updated January 13, 2011))

My guess is that President Mubarak would like to keep things pretty much the way they were back in the 'good old days,' before the Information Age.

I don't think that's going to happen.

I also think that what's happening in Egypt is a pretty good example of why it's not a good idea to run a nice, tidy, well-managed country where the masses are told what their social superiors think they need to know - and aren't allowed to compare notes with each other. Not beyond what happens in nice, old-fashioned places like the village square or its local equivalent.

Criticism Hurts; But Listen Anyway

Nobody, in my opinion, likes being criticized. I certainly don't. But, again in my opinion, it's a good idea to listen when somebody comes up with a new idea - or says that one of the old ones don't make sense. The other guy isn't always wrong.

Back in the '60s there were folks in America who seemed convinced that criticizing the president or 'the government' was, quite simply, treason. I can see their point: but I thought they were wrong then, and I still do.

It looks like President Mubarak is a little like the folks in "The Monkey's Paw." It seems like he wished for a nice, orderly, tightly-managed country where folks were allowed to express themselves. As long as they agreed with him.

He got his wish. But now, again in my opinion, it's time to pay for almost three decades of accumulated SNAFUs, and the resentment that's built up because they weren't dealt with adequately.

What's Mubarak's Egypt Got to Do With America?

I'm pretty sure that someone is convinced that Yankee imperialism is responsible for Mubarak's long reign. And that someone else is convinced that American oppressors are responsible for folks not appreciating Mubarak the way he'd like.

Some circles in this country seem to have a simple, one-size-fits-all, explanation for anything they don't like. It's America's fault. Sort of like the communist menace, except coming from another direction.

I don't doubt that America has had some effect on Egypt in recent decades. We live in a highly interconnected world, and America is one of the larger and more active countries.

But I really don't think that what's going on in Egypt is 'some kinda plot.'

I do think that President Mubarak is facing the same challenge that confronts America's old guard. This isn't the '80s any more.

Oh, For the 'Good Old Days?'

When I grew up, America was one of Earth's more prosperous countries: but most of us got our information from the newspapers, magazines, and - particularly after the J. F. Kennedy assassination - television news. And, of course, what we saw in the movies.

If news editors and studio executives decided we didn't need to see something - or that we wouldn't understand - most of us stayed uninformed.

I could get nostalgic about 'the good old days,' but my memory's too good.

Besides, I like knowing what's going on. Even if somebody with a nice title on the door thinks I'd be better off without the knowledge.

Hello, Information Age

America gets a new president every eight years, at least: which I think is a good idea. For one thing, I don't think it's fair to saddle one person with a high-stress job like that for too long; and for another, I think it's a good idea to swap out politicos at regular intervals. Bureaucrats, too. J. Edgar Hoover - and that's another topic.

I've discussed information gatekeepers - the folks who used to control what the masses were allowed to know - before. Also why I think they're a trifle frantic over the way that just about anybody can get at information they used to own.

No wonder some of the old guard are trying to 'protect' us from the wicked, wicked Web.

Related posts:
News and views:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

President Obama, Hawaii, a Governor, and Getting a Grip

Before getting into the topic of this post, President Obama's birth certificate, I'd better make some declarations:
  • This is not a political blog
  • I don't think
    • There's some kind of vast conspiracy to besmirch the reputation of President Obama
      • Apart from the usual political stuff
    • The Democrats know that Obama
      • Wasn't born in America
      • Has a criminal record
      • Is really a shape-shifting space-alien lizard man
    • Everybody who disagrees with the President is a
      • Racist
      • Nazi
      • Commie
      • Whatever
I'm not "for" President Obama. I'm not "against" him, either. I didn't vote for Barack Obama in the last presidential election, and I think America would be better off with someone else in the White House: but I have nothing against him as a person. Some of his policies I do not and cannot support. Others are not nearly as bad as I had feared: and he's occasionally made decisions I think were sensible.

The matter of Barack Obama's birth certificate is in the news again. Still.

Birth Certificates, Politics, Reality, and Big Oil

Again, I'm not "for" the current American president. I'm not "against" him either, although I'd rather see someone else as chief executive in this country.

I remember that while the second president Bush was in office, some Americans seemed convinced that he was evil incarnate - or the politically correct version of "evil," at any rate. As I said in response to a comment, back in 2008, " otherwise-reasonable adult referred to Bush as 'diabolical.'..." I heard and read quite a bit about "Big Oil" then. Funny, how we don't hear about "big toothpaste" so much. And I'm drifting off-topic.

Between the all-too-human habit of getting a fixed idea, like 'the commies are behind it' or 'it's the fault of the Jews,' and holding on to it regardless of facts; and what happens to our frontal cortex when emotions are in play - I don't expect to change the mind of anyone whose mind is made up about President Obama.

I've discussed this sort of thing before:

Politics, Stress, and the Tree of Liberty

The 2008 presidential campaigns were stressful for quite a few folks in America, I think. And, as as often happens: when the tree of liberty gets shaken, loose nuts fall out.

One of the notable anti-Obama signs read "Obama Half-Breed Muslin." The sentiment, distasteful as it is, made a little sense. A very little. Barack Obama doesn't have a 'regular American' name like Smith or Tailor. He doesn't look like a 'regular American:' not the WASP version, anyway.

President Obama's appearance and ancestry is an issue, in my opinion: but not in the 'half-breed muslin' way. He's touted as 'America's first black president,' although I gather he's black about the same way I'm Irish. He's America's first Hawaiian president, too - and I've discussed that before. (January 7, 2010)

I think 'firsts' are important, when they represent changes in a culture. That's one reason that I think the first Irish president was a sort of milestone in America's history - and so is the first black president. But I don't think President Kennedy was a good president because he's Irish - and I don't think Barack Obama's ancestors are relevant to his performance, either.

Paperwork and Bureaucracies

Barack Obama's birth certificate - or some official record of his time and place of birth - may be important. On a technical level, at any rate. America has rules about who can and who can't be president - intended, I gather, to help insure that whoever gets voted into office is primarily focused on the interests of the United States of America.

All public knowledge of Barack Obama indicates - strongly - that he was born about 10 years after I was, in the State of Hawaii. And it turns out that he may not have a "long-form, hospital-generated birth certificate ... within the vital records maintained by the Hawaii Department of Health."1

Does this mean he's not 'really' an American? Or that 'the truth is out there,' and some vast conspiracy is keeping 'regular Americans' from knowing it?

At this point, I don't think so. Or, rather, I don't think there's reason to assume that Barack Obama isn't, legally, an American citizen, born in one of the 50 states.

Although just barely. Hawaii became a state in 1959. Oddly, I haven't run into anybody claiming that Hawaii isn't really a state in this country. And that's almost another topic.

I do think that Hawaii, like all states, has a bureaucracy that manages paperwork like birth certificates. I also think that it's no great surprise that, about two years after entering the Union, the Hawaii Department of Health either misfiled a full long-form hospital-generated birth certificate - or that the full-blown document was never made in the first place.

Real People All Have Birth Certificates?

Hawaii's Governor Neil Abercrombie has a few words to say about Barack Obama:
"...'It's a matter of principle with me,' the 72-year-old said. 'I knew his mum and dad. I was here when he was born. Anybody who wants to ask a question honestly could have had their answer already.'

"Birthers insist Obama, born in 1961, is not eligible to be commander in chief. The reasons often vary, and have changed and expanded in the two years since the Internet rumour began...."
(Mail Online)
Well, Governor Neil Abercrombie is a Democrat: and in some circles 'everybody knows' what they're like. He's also a man, and white: and there are biases about those people, too, for some.

Maybe Governor Abercrombie really is involved in some vast conspiracy. Maybe he's lying to protect Obama for his own reasons - or to hurt Obama for his own reasons. For someone trying to maintain a cover story, it seems to me that Abercrombie is doing a lousy job.

I'm inclined, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, to think that the state of Hawaii has a bureaucracy that takes care of its paper work. And - no big surprise - that Hawaii's bureaucracy can't find a particular document. And/or won't release it.

I recently signed a form that gave someone who's been speaking with my wife and me - permission to speak to my wife. Then there was the hoop I had to jump through to get a look at my own medical records: and that's yet another topic.

Do I think there's something suspicious about a bureaucracy that has trouble finding - and releasing - a particular bit of paperwork? Frustrating, yes: surprising, no.

About somebody not having a birth certificate: One of my ancestors, not all that far back, didn't have a birth certificate. We knew where she'd been born, and had every reason to believe that she was part of the family. But the part of the world she was born in had issues with the sort of people we were - and that's still another topic.

So, no: I'm not shocked and suspicious when someone who wasn't of the 'right sort' when he was born doesn't have a 'real' birth certificate.

As for the American president's time and place of birth? My guess is that there will be more-or-less imaginative stories about that for years to come. Or maybe we'll discover that he's really a genetically-engineered Chinese agent: although that doesn't seem likely.

Related posts:
In the news:

1Excerpt from Mail Online:
"Pressure was mounting on Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie today amid increasing confusion over whether President Obama was born there.

"Abercrombie said on Tuesday that an investigation had unearthed papers proving Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961.

"He told Honolulu's Star-Advertiser: 'It actually exists in the archives, written down,' he said.

"But it became apparent that what had been discovered was an unspecified listing or notation of Obama's birth that someone had made in the state archives and not a birth certificate.

"And in the same interview Abercrombie suggested that a long-form, hospital-generated birth certificate for Barack Obama may not exist within the vital records maintained by the Hawaii Department of Health.

"He said efforts were still being made to track down definitive vital records that would prove Obama was born in Hawaii...."
(Mail Online)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dozens Dead at Domodedovo - Observations and Opinions

Killing about 35 people at an airport is, I think, an act of terrorism.

This particular incident happened at the Domodedovo International Airport, which serves Moscow. The Russian president blames the airport's management, a variety of bloggers blame a variety of people and institutions - and I've got my own opinion.

Although Domodedovo International Airport management probably shares some of the responsibility: I think whoever arranged for the explosives to be carried into the terminal and set off is the chief culprit.

Maybe that's 'simplistic.'

Terrorism: Not So Much Fun Anymore?

One thing that sets this bombing apart from terrorist acts of decades past is that there doesn't seem to be a scramble to claim responsibility for it. I don't think that's because terrorists are becoming nicer and feel bad when the CIA, the Republican Party, Big Oil - or those lizard people - force them to kill people. I do think that an increased willingness by America and other countries to hunt down the people responsible has taken some of the fun out of saying 'we did it.'

Definitely the Work of Chechen Rebels: Or Somebody Else

There's a reasonable suspicion that whoever killed all those travelers was under the impression that mass murder would help Chechnya gain independence.

Right now, Chechnya is a small region that's part of Russia - because Russia's leaders want the region, apparently. Some folks in Chechnya don't like being part of Russia. Can't say that I blame them. On the other hand, I don't think killing folks who probably didn't care whether Chechnya was independent or not was a good idea. At all.

Or maybe the blast wasn't political at all. Maybe somebody didn't like the decor at Domodedovo International Airport, and was deadly-serious about interior design.

Unlikely? Of course.

Blaming Airport Management: Justified?

When I saw headlines about the Russian president blaming Domodedovo management for the bombing, I thought it might be a case of finding a scapegoat.

Turns out, whoever's running the airport may have made a really bad decision, when balancing traveler convenience and safety:
"...It said the security agencies , who were aware of the possible terror attacks, were looking for 'black widows' of the slain militants from the Caucasus, who had carried out all suicide attacks in past, including twin blasts in Moscow metro stations in March 2010 that left 39 people dead. According to Rossiya channel, police were also looking for four men suspected of involvement in Monday's blast in the international arrival lounge of the airport. 'They were spotted on the CCTV footage,' the TV channel said.

"The absence of security checks at the international arrivals gate was used by the alleged terrorists to sneak in with explosives, it reported...."
(Times of India)
No security checks at the arrivals gate?! That sounds - on the face of it - utterly daft.

I don't have enough facts to be sure - but the fact is that there are around 35 people who aren't alive today: and it looks like their deaths could have been prevented.

Related posts:In the news:About date stamps for the news links: It's 'tomorrow' by now, where the Hindustan Times and Times of India are located.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Tunisia, Egypt, and the World: Speculation and Opinion

We're seeing more 'after Tunisia, what?' speculation in the news. Like a piece on the CNN website that boils down to 'we don't know.' There's an interesting set of observations on the way, though:It does look like:
"Tunisia has brought a blast of reality to Mideast politics. Aging autocrats have been put on notice they can no longer count on docile citizens.

Setting Fire to Yourself?!

On the other hand, maybe there's not so much change coming. Like what didn't happen in Egypt. The Tunisian turnover seems to have been sparked by Mohamed Bouazizi. He was a young vegetable market trader who was upset about Tunisian economics: and so he set fire to himself. He's dead now, no surprise there.

About a half-dozen Egyptians set fire to themselves after Tunisia's former president hightailed it for Saudi Arabia. The smoke has cleared from those demonstrations - and the Egyptian government is still there. No great uprising.

While I'm thinking of it: setting fire to oneself because you don't think your leaders are doing a good job never made much sense to me. Setting fire to the leaders: maybe. But either alternative has serious problems, ethical and otherwise.

I discussed Tunisia, Twitter, and being tense about change yesterday. At length.

Today, I'm going to touch on an opinion that may sound odd, coming from someone who is quite glad to be an American. I don't think democracy is the best form of government. I certainly don't think it's the only way that decent people would want to run a country.

The Ideal Form of Government: One that Works

As I said, I'm glad that I'm an American, living in a country where not even a moderately inept (my opinion), clueless (my opinion), meddlesome (my opinion again) government has bollixed up a nation of people who like to get things done - and know how to do so.

Our "Constitution-based federal republic; [with a] strong democratic tradition" (World Factbook, CIA) has, for the most part, worked pretty well - for us. Most of Europe - including countries that still have monarchs - use some flavor of democracy to take money from their citizens and provide bureaucrats with a means to earn a living.

These Western countries could be doing a lot worse.

But I don't think that a constitution-based federal republic is the only 'right' way to run a country. I've written about this before:

Military Rule as the Ideal Form of Government

No, I don't really think so, but look at this:
  • Government by Religious Leaders
    Example: Afghanistan under the Taliban
    Result: Terrorism
  • Government by Monarch
    Example: Saudi Arabia
    Result: Terrorists
    • (15/19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis)
  • Government by Elected Leaders
    Example: Somalia
    Result: Terrorists - and pirates
  • Government by Military Ruler
    Example: Guinea
    • Assuming that the elections were as faked as critics claim
    Result: No terrorism (and no pirates, either)
You see?! That 'proves' that military rule is superior to old-fashioned monarchies, theocracies, and constitutional democracies.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Pretty obvious, isn't it? I carefully selected examples that supported my claim. That can make for effective propaganda, but it's not good reasoning.

As a matter of fact, I don't have the visceral, reflexive revulsion that many Americans have toward the idea of having a country run by military or religious rulers. I think it depends on what individuals are running the show, and which side of the eighteenth century most of the country's people live on.
(December 29, 2008)
Does this mean that I think Saudi Arabia's monarch is doing a wonderful job, and that Queen Elizabeth II should disband parliament?


But I don't think it would be better if all countries, everywhere, were McYankee clones, complete with bicameral legislatures.

What I do think is that countries work better if their leaders have some common sense; and care more about how the folks who share the country with them live, than how many solid-gold faucets are in the presidential palace.

I think that the American system, choosing leaders based on how well they dress, talk, and do their hair, works fairly well. I also think that systems that choose leaders based on what family they were born into can work fairly well, too.

I think what kind of people the leaders are matters more than how they got into the top jobs. Which isn't as radical as it may sound. Think about it: just how altruistic would you expect a person to be: who had bribed, poisoned, and stabbed his way into office?

Related posts:News and views:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tunisia, Twitter, Change, and Staying Sane

This post isn't about the War on Terror so much as it's about what I think is behind what Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and like-minded folks are trying to do.

It looks like they've seen today's world: and don't like it. (February 6, 2009, October 8, 2007) That's understandable, I think:
"...Ishmael to Internet in One Lifetime

"I've made the point before, that many Muslims have been dragged across several thousand years of history and cultural change in one or two generations. Stable cultures, carrying on traditions which had been ancient when Abraham moved out of Ur, were relatively isolated until Western civilization needed petroleum.

"Then, the world of individual rights, Barbies, beer, bikinis and Mickey Mouse dropped into their quiet world. It must have been like a retirement community suddenly having a frat house near the golf course...."
(September 24, 2009)
I do not think that justifies flying airliners into skyscrapers. Like I've written before, understanding does not mean agreeing. I think it's a good idea to understand why someone is doing something - not to find excuses for inexcusable behavior, but to make reasonable decisions when considering how to act.

Like it or not, there's another election coming up in a couple years - and I intend to be an informed voter. And that's almost another topic.

Osama bin Laden isn't the only person who doesn't seem comfortable with change.

Take the former president of Tunisia, for example. He's out of a job now. In part, it seems, because of some newfangled technology and new social structures that developing as people use it.

Tunisia: Times Change

Tunisia is in the news again. Or, rather, still.1

I've noticed a few developments:
  • Zine el Abidine Ben Ali seems to have arrived safely in Saudi Arabia
    • Some of his family didn't
      • Maybe they didn't notice the changes fast enough
  • The General Tunisian Workers' Union (UGTT) want more change
    • They're not the only ones
  • People were killed during anti-presidential demonstrations
    • 78
    • Or over a hundred
    • Depends on who you ask
  • Tunisia isn't carrying on with business as usual
    • Which, in my opinion, is just as well
My guess is that Tunisia won't be having nice, polite, uncontested elections - ever. That doesn't seem to be the way things work: just look at America's last few election cycles. Then there were those "hanging chads." And that's another topic.

Now that a government that sounds a bit like Chicago's old-style political machines is (most likely) on its way out, though, I'd say that folks in Tunisia have a good chance of improving their country.

Today, Tunisia; Tomorrow, the World?

The idea that Twitter - and other online communities and media - brought down the former permanent president of Tunisia is wending its way through the digestive tract of traditional news media.1

My guess is that this latest apple cart upset by Information Age culture and tech is causing no small degree of indigestion along the way.

That's because I don't think that the powers-that-be in Algeria, Egypt, and Yemen are the only ones threatened by folks with Twitter accounts and blogs.

I think America, and the western world in general, is experiencing changes on a scale we haven't seen since Gutenberg started printing with movable type.

As I've said elsewhere, change hurts. And change happens.

Hello Internet; Goodbye Editorial Control

I think that when folks stopped having to depend on traditional information gatekeepers2 for knowledge of what was going on outside their circle of friends and acquaintances: the established order lost a major tool for controlling 'the masses.'

Not that east coast newspaper editors, American educators, and media executives thought about it that way. I find it quite hard to believe that there's some sort of vast conspiracy 'behind the scenes.' Although I think that sort of thing can make a pretty good story. (January 14, 2009)

Conspiracy? No: Cultural Blind Spots? Maybe

America is, in my opinion, just what the CIA World Factbook says it is: a "constitution-based federal republic; [with a] strong democratic tradition." That's lower-case "democratic," by the way. I don't think the CIA is a tool of the Democratic party; the Republicans; or the space-alien, shape-shifting lizard people.

I also prefer to believe that many senior news editors, studio executives, and college professors mean well. I do, though, get the impression that quite a few of the 'proper sort' feel that they have a profound understanding of the world - and that it is their burden to manage what the 'common' people see and read. Sort of an upgrade of the old "White Man's burden." Only more "tolerant," in a politically-correct way. And since these folks seem convinced that they, and they alone, are "tolerant," they don't see that they're filtering out facts they don't like.

Or they think that it's the right thing to do.

I think it may seem 'obvious' to someone with letters after his name, or who has an executive secretary taking his calls, that he and his good buddies can handle the grim realities of the world: and that the rabble can't. Or, rather, that they might come to the wrong conclusions: conclusions that aren't consistent with what he decided should be so.

Sometimes it's a "she:" that's one change that came out of the '60s that I think made sense. Which isn't another topic.

Change Hurts: Change Happens

I've said this before, quite a bit. Change happens: Deal with it.

I remember the '50s. "Happy Days," it wasn't - except for folks like Mr. Cunningham. And even white, male World War II vets had their troubles. Think The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. Which I've mentioned before. (November 10, 2010)

I remember the '60s, too. I don't think the Timothy Leary/Jimi Hendrix thing was a good idea - at all. But the social revolution was more than encouraging bright, talented people to scramble their brains.

Back in the 'good old days' that I remember, for example, quite a few folks were convinced that women should know their place: barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. Some still believe that.

But that changed for a great many Americans.

Folks who had grown up thinking that the "Happy Days" lifestyle was the only possible way to live - or at least the only one that decent people should want - were not happy when they stopped being at the apex of society. Or seeming to be, at any rate.

They complained. A lot. But change happened, anyway.

I Don't Want the '50s Again

I've been called a conservative. I can see why. There seem to be three major currently-recognized philosophical positions: Liberal; Moderate; Conservative. Four, if you count apathy. My views are least unlike "conservative" of that triad - or quadrad.

And yet, I don't think that women are entertaining sex machines and household appliances: more useful than a toaster, but less indispensable than high-definition television. Go figure. I'll get back to that.

I certainly do not want a return to the 'good old days' when women were considered odd if they showed an interest in power tools, or men if they were good at graphic design. Partly because my wife is the one with power tools, and I once made a living doing graphic design.

The '60s saw changes in a lot more than just what folks expected men and women to be like.

It's a good thing, in my opinion, that the United States is finally making reparations for a shameful history of treaty violations: but again, that's a family thing for me. I'm related to folks of the Lakota.

It even looks like America may be sorting out how do deal with the idea that people shouldn't be evaluated based on who their ancestors were - even if those ancestors came from northwestern Europe. Which is a good thing. Again, in my opinion.

The changes of the last five decades have been - and are - painful. But I think many were for the better - and anyway, change happens.

New Technology, New Social Structures: Dangerous, Sort of

Maybe I'd be more worried about this here newfangled Internet, and online communities, if I hadn't been through this sort of thing before.

I remember when the telephone was destroying the youth of America. According to some terribly serious folks, anyway. Same with television.

Then, as broadcast television was being supplanted by cable: cable television was feared and reviled as that which would destroy America's cultural unity. In a way, the hand-wringers had that one right. Before cable, just about everybody had either seen the latest "Leave It to Beaver," "Bewitched," or "M*A*S*H" episode: or had heard about it. We had something besides the weather to talk about.

Now, with hundreds of channels, you can't count on someone else having seen the same thing you did the night before. Divisive? Maybe. I prefer having more choices: including skipping television entirely and seeing what's online.

The Internet was, and is, seen as a threat, too. I've mentioned the time when the Christian Coalition and the Feminist Majority tried - together - to get a Federal agency that would manage what Americans were allowed to see. (March 9, 2008)

I think that ideological odd couple shows how frightened at least some folks in the establishment are, of the power that most Americans now have. We no longer depend on a relatively small number of the 'right sort' to decide what we're allowed to see and read. If we're interested, we can go online and do our own research: and draw our own conclusions.

Not everybody comes to the same conclusions I do: But I'd much rather live now, when each of us can learn something besides what the established order thinks we should - than back in the 'good old days.'

Not everybody feels that way, so we're hearing about how Twitter twists the youth - and that's a topic I've posted about before. (see Related posts)

Sex Machines, Toasters, and High-Definition Television

I said I'd get back to philosophical positions, women, and toasters. This is the last section of this post, and is more detailed look at my views of a set of cultural values that I think are still in a state of flux: the position or women, and men, in society.

I am not all that sympathetic with the bra-burning set. I've been called a male chauvinist pig too many times. But weird demands and assertions aside - it's my considered opinion that women and men are people, and should be treated as such.

The two halves of humanity differ from each other, and exhibit a vast range of individual differences - we've got upwards of 6,768,000,000 distinct versions of humanity as of July of last year. (CIA World Factbook (updated on January 13, 2011))

Back in my "good old days," the problem was that women weren't recognized as being 'as good as men.' Or, from the point of view of guys who like things just the way they were, some women didn't 'know their place.'

Now the problem, from some points of view, is that some women don't know their place - behind whatever liberal notion is in fashion at the moment. And, again, that isn't another topic.

As I've tried to show, I think there's a social revolution going on: one that today's establishment likes as little as the establishment of my teens liked what 'those crazy long-haired kids' were doing.

One of a great many aspects of American culture that's changing is, in my opinion, the role or roles that women are expected to fill. Men, too.

Finally, a clarification about my take on "barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen."
  • Barefoot:
    • I wear shoes as little as possible - even during central Minnesota winters
      • Nothing ideological
        • I have a hard time finding ones that fit
        • The things cost a lot
  • Pregnant:
    • I like babies
      • And the process that gets them started
    • I also think life is precious
      • Even life that has to have frequent diaper changes
    • But I don't think women are just for having babies
      • Or that men are just for getting them started
  • In the kitchen
    • I think my wife's job of job of maintaining our household and being a mother is
      • Demanding
      • Complex
      • Vital
      • Arguably more important than any of my 'real' jobs were
    • I think my job as father is more important than my 'real' jobs
    • Which doesn't mean that women shouldn't have 'real' jobs
      • Just that there's more to life than a 'career' for
        • Men
        • Women
Related posts:
News and views:
  • "Tunisia"
    World Factbook, CIA (last updated January 12, 2011)

1 Excerpt from the news:
"Two allies of Tunisia ousted leader Ben Ali 'detained' "
BBC News Africa (January 23, 2011)

"Tunisian police have detained two politicians close to ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, state media report.

"Mr Ben Ali's former adviser Abdelaziz bin Dhia and former Interior Minister and head of Senate Abdallah Qallal were now under house arrest, they said.

"The news came as a new protest march against the interim government reached the capital Tunis....

"...PM Mohamed Ghannouchi has pledged to quit after elections, which are expected within six months...."

"...The media also said that the police were searching for Abdelwahhab Abdalla - another former adviser to Mr Ben Ali.

"Last week, some 33 members of Mr Ben Ali's family were arrested as they tried to leave the country....

"...On Sunday, a new protest march reached Tunis.

"Some 1,000 demonstrators from Menzel Bouzaiane - the rural area where protests against Tunisia's authoritarian rule began in December - had joined the 'Caravan of Liberation' to the capital.

"The main trade union, the General Tunisian Workers' Union (UGTT), has backed the protest, which set off on Saturday....

"...Mr Ghannouchi has left Mr Ben Ali's ruling Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD) party and insisted that figures from the previous regime who have remained in positions of power - including the ministers of defence, interior, finance and foreign affairs - have 'clean hands'.

"But this has failed to satisfy many opposition figures and protesters.

"On Saturday, policemen - who had defended the regime of the ousted president - were among those protesting, which the BBC's Magdi Abdelhadi in the Tunisian capital says marked a very dramatic development.

"The official death toll during the unrest leading to Mr Ben Ali's flight was 78, though the UN says more than 100 people died. Authorities have promised to investigate the deaths of protesters.

"Tunisians mourn protest victims as small demonstrations continue"
Edition: International, CNN (January 23, 2011)

"Tunisia on Sunday ended a three-day mourning period for dozens of people killed in protests that ousted the country's long-term president.

"As the mourning period came to a close, small protests broke out in the capital, Tunis.

"Protesters have decried a new government formed in the wake of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's ouster.

"They have called it a sham, and demanded that officials with connections to the old guard be fired.

"The nation's interim prime minister said that his country would hold its first free democratic elections since gaining independence and vowed to leave politics after the ballot.

" 'We want to make the next elections the first transparent and legitimate elections since independence,' Tunisian Interim Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi said Friday.

"Ghannouchi said he will retire from politics after the elections are held.

"Tunisia gained independence from France in 1956.

"Ghannouchi said upcoming political reforms would 'scrap all undemocratic laws including laws involving political parties, the elections and the anti-terrorism law that was abused by the former regime.'

" 'I lived like all Tunisians, in pain and fear' under the former president, Ghannouchi said...."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jared Loughner, Sarah Palin, James Eric Fuller, and Getting a Grip

"America: Love it or leave it."

"If you don't like it here, why don't you go back where you came from?"

If you remember when those were familiar parts of American culture, you're about my age or older: or it's being taught in whatever they're calling 'social studies' these days.

I remember the 'good old days' fairly well: and they weren't which is another topic.

As for the 'love it or leave it' thing: I think it's significant that folks are trying to break into America, and that's another topic, too.

Change Hurts, Change Happens

'love it or leave it' and 'back where you came from' reflected, I think, the frustration that some Americans felt when confronted with folks who didn't look like them, or - more to the point of this post - didn't agree with them.

I sympathize, a very little, with the red-white-and-blue-blooded 'real' Americans of my younger days. Their world was changing, fast, and they were rapidly losing the influence and status they'd enjoyed. That sort of thing can be, I think, traumatic.

Politics and Getting a Grip

This isn't, as I've written before, a political blog. Sometimes I discuss politics, since the War on Terror - or whatever the conflict is supposed to be called - is affected by politics.

And although I am generally not on the same page as America's liberals, I'm not, quite, "conservative." But I don't mind when someone identifies me as a conservative.

I think quite a few folks assume that there are only three possible philosophical positions in today's America:
  • Liberal
  • Moderate
  • Conservative
Four, counting apathy. (A Catholic Citizen in America (May 12, 2010) of those three - or four - stances are seen as the only possible options, "conservative" is often the least-unlike my views.1

Even if I was a conservative, moderate, or liberal in the contemporary American sense of the words, I hope I'd still want to make sure that:
  • My assumptions were based on facts
  • The facts were accurate
  • I distinguished between the two

Shooting Victim Arrested?

When I saw that an Arizona shooting victim was arrested - victim, not perpetrator, I thought I might be looking at a proofing glitch.

Upset? Understandable - Nuts? Maybe

Six people were killed and many more wounded in Tuscon, Arizona, Saturday before last. One of the victims of that shooting is under arrest. And undergoing psychiatric evaluation.

The Tea Party is involved.

If you're among those who assume that the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and other 'traitors' are responsible for Gabrielle Giffords being hospitalized, you probably won't like this post.

Happily, Americans who don't agree with the establishment don't have to chose between staying quiet, exile, prison, or execution. That's one of the things I like about this country. And that's not another topic.

Assumptions, Facts, and Telling the Difference

I make assumptions fairly often. I think most folks do. I assume, for example, that when I go to sleep I'll wake up again: generally in about eight hours. So far, that assumption has been a fairly close match with reality.

I try to be careful about distinguishing assumptions from facts. Partly because of my experiences.
Warning! Old Coot Reminiscing
I remember when the 'love it or leave it' bunch ranted about commie plots, rock music, and those 'hippies-college-students-and-flag-burners.' As I wrote earlier, I think some of that came from feelings of frustration. America was changing. A lot.

Time passed. I'm pretty sure that some folks in America are still quite serious when they identify those they don't like as commies. For the most part, though, I think we've moved on. I see no serious indication that America is likely to get caught up in hysterical anti-communism again. Not any time soon.

'Those crazy college students' moved on, too. Some found careers in the business world, some went into politics, and some never left campus. I'll get back to them in a bit.

Growing up in the '50s and '60s, I developed a preference for thinking with my central nervous system and feeling with my glands, not the other way around. Maybe it was all the crazy slogans I heard.

Definition Time

In the context of this post, "assumption" and "to assume" mean:
  • Assumption
    • A statement that is assumed to be true and from which a conclusion can be drawn
    • A hypothesis that is taken for granted
    • The act of assuming or taking for granted
      (Princeton's WordNet)
  • Assume
    • Take to be the case or to be true; accept without verification or proof
      (Princeton's WordNet)

Arizona, Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Jared Loughner, Facts, and Assumptions

I'm like the fellow who said, 'I only know what's in the papers.' Given what I've read in the news, it seems wildly improbable that Jared Loughner didn't pull the trigger outside that grocery in Arizona. Those dead bodies, and testimony of folks who got the gun away from him, all point to Mr. Loughner being guilty.

That people died after being perforated by bullets is, sadly, a fact. At least, I think it's extremely unlikely that reporters, politicos, and law enforcement officials lied about people being killed.

Until some whacking great piece of evidence - or a plausible alternative explanation for the facts as released - comes along, I'm assuming that Jared Loughner is guilty.

But - and this is important - that is an assumption. I don't know it as a fact.

I've discussed the assumption that conservatives are to blame for the Tucson shootings before.(January 12, 2011)

I've also discussed information gatekeepers; and the degree to which reason is in play when emotions run high:

Sarah Palin Said 'Kill Gabrielle Giffords?!'

Pima County's Sheriff Dupnik isn't the only person who assumes that conservatives - the ones who aren't decently silent about their opinions, anyway - are responsible for a half-dozen people being gunned down.

I think I may understand why so many folks assume that Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and others like them, are rabble-rousing traitors and a threat to America. For that matter, I think I may understand why another lot assumed about the same thing about 'commies, pinkos, and fellow-travelers.'

'Understanding' isn't the same as 'agreeing.'

I certainly do not agree, for example, that Sarah Palin "should be incarcerated for treason for advocating assassinating public officials." But I think I can understand what's behind that remark.

Disagreement isn't Treason

It's very easy, I think, to assume that someone who doesn't agree with you does so out of malice. Particularly if you spend most of your time with folks who do agree with you.

Remember those 'hippies-college-students-and-flag-burners' from the '60s? They're roughly my age - and a fair number have been America's information gatekeepers for quite a while now. As I said elsewhere, "boy, has 'the establishment' ever changed." (A Catholic Citizen in America (January 12, 2010))

I'm sure that there are east coast news editors who occasionally visit places in that vast expanse separating Newark and Las Vegas, Washington D.C. and Seattle. Just as I'm pretty sure that a fair number of college professors listen to something besides NPR.

But I'm also pretty sure that it's been fairly easy for someone with solid liberal credentials to stay inside their comfort zone: associating with like-minded individuals; and reading chiefly those publications with the right - or, rather, left - point of view.

No wonder, in my opinion, it's been so easy for folks steeped in America's dominant culture to "accept without verification or proof" the idea that Sarah Palin is to blame for the Tucson shootings.

Back in the '60s, I learned that someone can disagree with me and not be evil incarnate. As I said in the heading: disagreement isn't treason.

Definition Time, Again

  • Disagreement
    • A conflict of people's opinions or actions or characters
    • Difference between conflicting facts or claims or opinions
    • the speech act of disagreeing or arguing or disputing
      (Princeton's WordNet)
  • Treason
    • A crime that undermines the offender's government
    • Disloyalty by virtue of subversive behavior
    • An act of deliberate betrayal
      (Princeton's Wordnet)
It's not always called "treason." Back when political correctness was in flower, disagreement was often labeled as "hate speech" or "intolerance."

That was then, this is now.

America is changing. Just like in the '60s. And, just like in the '60s, folks who have gotten used to things the way they've 'always been' don't like it. In my opinion, anyway.

Not All Liberals are Crazy - In My Opinion

Tempting as it is to claim that James Eric Fuller is a 'typical liberal,' I don't think that's true. I hope not, anyway. He was forced to undergo psychiatric evaluation after making some - remarkable - statements:
"Arizona shooting victim James Eric Fuller remains under psychiatric observation following his arrest Saturday for threatening a Tea Party leader at a town hall meeting....

"...Pima County Sheriff spokesman Jason Ogan told that Fuller -- who was charged with disorderly conduct and making threats -- is still at an undisclosed facility in Tucson, Ariz....

"...Fuller, ... said Palin and other media figures had 'definitely' had an impact on the Tucson shooting. He also said Palin 'should be incarcerated for treason for advocating assassinating public officials.'

"...'If you are going to scream hatred and preach hatred, you're going to sow it after a while if you've got a soap box like they've got. We've got a surplus of demented dingbats, wackos.'...

"...Fuller appeared to become enraged and allegedly started threatening Tucson Tea Party co-founder Trent Humphries at a town hall meeting being taped for an ABC News special.

"Fuller ... snapped a photo of the Tea Party leader and yelled out, 'You're dead.'..."
He also stated that folks at the Tea Party meeting were "whores."

Apparently, at least under current circumstances, law enforcement in Arizona is able to impose a sort of 'time out' for someone who behaves as Mr. Fuller did. Allegedly, as the article put it.

Disagreeing With the President isn't Treason - It's Disagreement

I remember the 'good old days,' when 'regular Americans' often assumed that disagreeing with them was treason to motherhood, flag, and apple pie. A lot has changed since then.

And, in some ways, not much has changed.
"...WALLACE: What do you think of Barack Obama's presidency so far?

"PALIN: He has some misguided decisions that he is making that he is expecting us to just kind of sit down and shut up and accept, and many of us are not going to sit down and shut up. We're going to say no, we do not like this... ..."
Not sitting down and shutting like a good little American is not, I think, treason. Even if the person who refuses to be silent doesn't agree with the President of the United States. Or me.

It's disagreement.

And, in my opinion, we're in big trouble when folks who do not agree with the establishment are seen as traitors. I didn't like that attitude in the '60s, and I don't like it now.

Related posts:
News and views:

1I'm a practicing Catholic, which makes me 'obviously' conservative or liberal, depending on the issue: "Conservative? Liberal? Democrat? Republican? No, I'm Catholic," A Catholic Citizen in America (November 3, 2008).

2 Excerpts from recent news and views:
"Arizona Shooting Victim Remains Under Psychiatric Evaluation Following Arrest at Town Hall Meeting"
Jana Winter, The Associated Press, via (January 17, 2011)

"Arizona shooting victim James Eric Fuller remains under psychiatric observation following his arrest Saturday for threatening a Tea Party leader at a town hall meeting....

"...Pima County Sheriff spokesman Jason Ogan told that Fuller -- who was charged with disorderly conduct and making threats -- is still at an undisclosed facility in Tucson, Ariz.

"On Friday, Media Matters touted their interview with Fuller, who said Palin and other media figures had 'definitely' had an impact on the Tucson shooting. He also said Palin 'should be incarcerated for treason for advocating assassinating public officials.'

"In the interview Fuller said: 'If you are going to scream hatred and preach hatred, you're going to sow it after a while if you've got a soap box like they've got. We've got a surplus of demented dingbats, wackos.'

"The news program 'Democracy Now' also featured an interview with Fuller who said that after being hospitalized for his wounds, he stayed up most of the night, writing down the words Declaration of Independence to help him try to calm down. The 63-year-old disabled veteran was shot in the knee and back in the shooting.

"But on Saturday Fuller appeared to become enraged and allegedly started threatening Tucson Tea Party co-founder Trent Humphries at a town hall meeting being taped for an ABC News special.

"Fuller -- who was sitting in the front row -- allegedly became agitated when Humphries suggested postponing gun control conversations until after all six shooting victims had been buried.

"Ogan said that Fuller snapped a photo of the Tea Party leader and yelled out, 'You're dead.' Fuller also began ranting, and as he was being escorted out, he addressed the audience as 'whores,' according to Ogan...."

"TRANSCRIPT: Fox News Sunday Interview With Sarah Palin" (January 7, 2011)



"WALLACE: How do you see yourself as a member of the Tea Party movement or a member of the Republican Party?

"PALIN: Oh, I think the two are and should be even more so merging because the Tea Party movement is quite reflective of what the GOP, the planks in the platform are supposed to be about. Limited government and more freedom, more respect for equality. That's what the Tea Party movement is about, so I think that the two are much entwined and I'm happy about that.

"...WALLACE: You say you are happy to be or proud to be a part of it. Some people think you want to be the leader of the Tea Party movement.

"PALIN: No, I would hope that the Tea Party-ers don't believe that they need some kind of well-oiled machine, some kind of replicate of the GOP or the Democrat Party and instead they remain a movement of the people uprising and saying, listen to us, we have some common sense solutions that we want our politicians to consider and to implement and this is much bigger than a hockey mom from Wasilla....

"...WALLACE: What do you think of Barack Obama's presidency so far?

PALIN: He has some misguided decisions that he is making that he is expecting us to just kind of sit down and shut up and accept, and many of us are not going to sit down and shut up. We're going to say no, we do not like this...

WALLACE: Wait, wait, where's he saying sit down and shut up?

PALIN: In a general just kind of general persona I think that he has when he's up there at, I'll call it a lectern. When he is up there and he is telling us basically, I know best, my people here in the White House know best, and we are going to tell you that yes, you do want this essentially nationalized health care system and we're saying, no, we don't....

"...WALLACE: Let's talk about national security. During the campaign, you said this about Mr. Obama. 'Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country.' The president has escalated the war in Afghanistan. He has launched more drone attacks in his first year than George W. Bush did in eight years. Given what he's done as president, do you take back palling around with terrorists?

"PALIN: No, I don't, because his associations with Bill Ayers and with others, he never really has, I think, adequately addressed why in the world he would have a relationship with a type of person like that, who had such disdain for America that he would want to bomb, harm, hurt, kill, Americans.

"WALLACE: But has he done a good job in protecting the country?

"PALIN: So the things that he has done right now as president in protecting the country, more power to him. We appreciate that he kind of went there fully with the commanders on the ground asking for more reinforcements in Afghanistan. Couldn't get there all the way with these guys, but kind of went there. Good, more power to you. And I speak as a military mom, too, saying thank you. You're giving me a little bit more of a secure knowledge that you're looking out for our troops and the things that their commanders are asking for. I'm thinking kind of, of my son in this situation. Thank you for doing that. However, there are many things that he is doing today that cause an uneasiness in many, many Americans, I'm one of those.

"Who looks at the way that he is treating the trials of these terrorists and kind of as gosh, they're on a crime spree right now. No, we are in war. These are acts of these war that these terrorists are committing. We need to treat them a little bit differently than an American who is worthy -- an American being worthy of our U.S. constitutional rights. I don't think the terrorists are worthy of our rights that people like my son fight and are willing to die for....

"...WALLACE: Let's turn to Sarah Palin, because there are some questions quite frankly I've wanted to ask you for a while now.

"In your book, 'Going Rogue,' you said that when you first heard that you were pregnant with Baby Trigg, you wrote this: 'I'm out of town.

"No one knows I'm pregnant. No one would ever have to know.'

"You made the choice to have Trigg, and it obviously -- you were showing me earlier pictures of him -- it was the right choice for you. Why not allow all women to make their own choice?

"PALIN: Well I believe that these babies in our womb have the right to life. And that's what I stand on. And I did. I -- I honestly, candidly talked about that in my book when I said, "I can understand the sensitivity of the issue," because I've been there.

"I've -- I've understood why that fleeting thought would enter a woman's mind.

"And then when I found out that after ultra sounds, after tests, that Trigg would be born with Downs Syndrome, of course that thought occurred to me again. Wow, this is why a woman would be fearful of less than ideal circumstances, and maybe think that a quote, unquote, 'problem,' could just be swept away....

"...I want women to know that they are strong enough, and they are smart enough to be able to do many things at once -- including carrying a child. Giving that child life. And then perhaps if they're in less than ideal circumstances or they're carrying a child while they're trying to pursue career, or avocations, or -- or education opportunities -- less than ideal circumstances.

"Giving that child life which it deserves, and then perhaps looking at adoption, or looking at other circumstances after. But not snuffing out the life of a child....

"...WALLACE: ... with 17 months left in your term. You said, 'I wasn't going to run for reelection. So I was going to be a lame duck.' You said that the state was being paralyzed, because all of your opponents were filing these lawsuits." Didn't you let your enemies -- your opponents drive you from office?

"PALIN: Hell, no. Thankfully I didn't. What's -- what we did was we won, because the state today -- it's not spending millions of dollars to -- to fight these frivolous lawsuits, and -- and frivolous ethics charges. Ethics charges like me wearing a jacket with a snow machine logo on it. And getting charged for an unethical act for doing such a thing.

"Little piddly, petty things like that that were costing our state millions of dollars. And costing me and my administration -- my staff members -- about 80 percent of our time fighting those things. 'No,' we said, 'We're not going to play this game.'...

"...PALIN: I don't think that they think I -- look it. I'm sitting here talking to Chris Wallace today. I think some of them are going, 'Dang, we thought she'd sit down and shut up after we tried to do to here what we tried.'...

"...PALIN: I didn't hear Rush Limbaugh calling a group of people whom he did not agree with 'F-ing retards.' And we did know that Rahm Emanuel, it's been reported, did say that. That's a big difference there.

"But again, name calling, using language that is insensitive by anyone -- male, female, Republican, Democrat, it's unnecessary, it's inappropriate and let's all just grow up....

"...WALLACE: Handicap the 2012 GOP presidential race for us. Who's the front-runner?

PALIN: No idea. I have no idea....

"...PALIN: As I say, I could name a whole lot of them but we don't have a whole lot of time. But I'm very impressed with many of the characters, the personalities of those with great intelligence in this party and I can't wait to see who rises to the surface, after hopefully some very competitive, contested primaries.

"I'm all about competition. I'm all about, even on our local level and state level, I want to see contested primaries where we are forced via competition to work harder, produce better, be more efficient and that's what these contested primaries that I look forward to will produce.

"WALLACE: You talk about rising to the top. There's a new poll out this week of Republican voters across the country and it shows someone named Sarah Palin leading the 2012 race by five points over Mitt Romney. Aren't you the front-runner for the nomination?

"PALIN: Nope. Don't know who conducted that poll and I know that polls are fickle and heck, after this interview, Chris, we may see a plummeting in the poll numbers. Who knows. These are fickle. I can't comment on what the poll numbers mean today....

"...WALLACE: I know that three years is an eternity in politics. But how hard do you think President Obama will be to defeat in 2012?

"PALIN: It depends on a few things. Say he played, and I got this from Buchanan, reading one of his columns the other day. Say he played the war card. Say he decided to declare war on Iran, or decided to really come out and do whatever he could to support Israel, which I would like him to do. But that changes the dynamics in what we can assume is going to happen between now and three years. Because I think if the election were today, I do not think Obama would be re-elected.

"But three years from now things could change if on the national security threat --

"WALLACE: You're not suggesting that he would cynically play the war card.

"PALIN: I'm not suggesting that. I'm saying, if he did, things would dramatically change if he decided to toughen up and do all that he can to secure our nation and our allies. I think people would perhaps shift their thinking a little bit and decide, well, maybe he's tougher than we think he is today. And there wouldn't be as much passion to make sure that he doesn't serve another four years --

"WALLACE: But assuming he continues on the path that he going on and we don't have that rally around the flag (ph) --

"PALIN: Then he's not going to win.

WALLACE: Not going to win?

"PALIN: He's not going to win. If he continues on the path that he has American on today -- and here's the deal -- that's what a lot of Americans are telling him today and he's not listening. Instead he's telling everybody else, listen up and I'll tell you the way it is.

"Well, we have a representative form of government in our democracy.

"And we want him and we want Congress to listen to what those things are that we are saying. And that's what the Tea Party movement is about, too. It's not a well-oiled beautiful machine.

"It's the people saying, please hear us. Congress, you have constitutional limits and we want you to adhere to those. We have free market principles that built out country. Mr. President, we want you to remember those. We want you to look back on successes in history, like what Reagan did in times of crisis. And, could you repeat those things because they are proven to succeed.

"WALLACE: Word is that you're getting $100,000 for this speech this weekend. True?

"PALIN: I'm not getting it. They're writing a check -- a $100,000 check. And as I've said from Day One on this, I'm turning right around and being able to contribute it back to the cause. That means to people, to events --

"WALLACE: So you're going to use your PAC and contribute it to candidates?

"PALIN: I don't know if it's going to go to the PAC or if it goes to some non-profit or what.

"Bottom line, I'm not personally benefiting from this. And the funny thing is, as I've had a lot of people, including a couple of talented people and talent at FOX say, funny thing about these type of speeches, Sarah you're an anomaly. Nobody ever has asked, are you getting paid for this? Or, what are you going to do with the money?

"But, this is the new normal I think when it comes to me, is people wanting to have me under a microscope and figure out every little detail of my life, including speaking fees.

"Bottom line, Tea Party movement, I'm giving the money back to the cause.

WALLACE: Finally, regardless of whether you ever run for political office or not. What role do you want to play in the country's future?

PALIN: First and foremost I want to be a good mom. And I want to raise happy, healthy, independent children. And I want them to be good citizens of this great country.

And then I do want to be a voice for some common-sense solutions. I'm never going to pretend like I know more than the next person. I'm not going to pretend to be an elitist. In fact, I'm going to fight the elitist because for too often and for too long now, I think the elitists have tried to make people like me and people in the heartland of America, feel like we just don't get it and big government is just going to have to take care of us.

I want to speak up for the American people and say, no, we really do have some good common-sense solutions. I can be a messenger for that....
I left out quite a bit of the Wallas/Palin interview: including comments about Regan as a role model for Palin.

I can see how this person - this woman - who won't do the decent thing and keep quiet when her views aren't proper: is so heartily disliked. She simply does not know her place. From the establishment point of view, anyway.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tunisia: 24 Hours, Three Presidents

Tunisia is a little wedge of a country between Libya and Algeria.

It's been quite a stable country, by some standards: the same fellow's been President of Tunisia since 1987. Somehow, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali kept winning elections.

That was then, this is now. The former Tunisian president is believed to be hightailing it for Saudi Arabia, and the country's on its third president so far. Since this morning.
"...Ben Ali's longtime ally, Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, stepped in briefly with a vague assumption of power that left open the possibility that Ben Ali could return. But on Saturday, the head of the Constitutional Council declared the president's departure permanent and gave Fouad Mebazaa, leader of the lower house of parliament, 60 days to organize new elections...."

"...In his first televised address, the interim president asked the prime minister to form a '"national unity government in the country's best interests' in which all political parties will be consulted 'without exception nor exclusion.'

"The move was one of reconciliation, but it was not clear how far the 77-year-old Mebazaa, who has been part of Tunisia's ruling class for decades, would truly go to work with the opposition. It was also unclear who would emerge as the country's top political leaders, since Ben Ali utterly dominated politics, placing allies in power and sending opponents into jail or exile...."
(Associated Press, via
Quite a few people have been killed since the excitement started today. There's been a major fire, and one prison released inmates - a humanitarian gesture, I take it, since that's where the fire was. 42 prisoners had been killed by the time the 1,000-odd others were released.

One lesson of what's happening in Tunisia may be that there are worse things than America's traditional lawsuits to decide who won an election.

Another is, I think, that this isn't the '50s any more. Or the '60s.

An article/op-ed in Wired (January 14, 2011) suggested that we're looking at what happens when Information Age technology and social structures wash over a country that's run by folks whose power depends at least in part of controlling what their subjects know.

I've discussed information gatekeepers before. In America, they've been the editors of east coast newspapers, book and magazine publishers, executives of media companies, professors, and the rest of the folks who run the education establishment.

And that's not quite another topic.

Related posts:News and views:Background:
  • "Tunisia"
    World Factbook, CIA (last updated January 12, 2011)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Saudi Arabia and the Servant Problem

This is - unexpected. And welcome news.
"Reports: Woman gets three years for abusing Indonesian maid"
CNN World (January 12, 2011)

"In what some say is a first for the kingdom, a Saudi woman has been sentenced to three years in prison for abusing her Indonesian maid, according to Saudi media reports.

"The woman was sentenced Sunday in Medina, the reports said. According to Saudi Arabian daily newspaper Al-Watan, the employer, who was not named, was sentenced under a new royal decree issued to combat human trafficking.

"The maid, Sumiati binti Mustapha Salan, 23, was hospitalized in November after being severely beaten. At the time, a migrant rights group and Indonesian officials told CNN that she had suffered cuts to her face and was also burned, possibly with an iron. The case, which outraged many in Indonesia, also brought international attention to an issue that has repeatedly made headlines in recent months -- the abuse of migrant workers in Middle Eastern nations...."
I'd be even more impressed if a man had been sentenced for this sort of crime: but this is a step in the right direction, in my opinion.

I'm not the House of Saud's biggest fan: but I've got a little sympathy for the folks living in Saudi Arabia who seem to be trying to reconcile the values and assumptions of a culture that was old when Abram moved out of Ur with an Information Age global society.

I also think that some critics of Saudi leadership have a point. It's likely, in my opinion, that the House of Saud wouldn't be addressing their culture's quaint methods of dealing with servants, if "international outrage," as the article put it, wasn't happening.

Related posts:In the news:

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.