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Thomas Paine

To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

19 July - Reading Notes

Arab People fleeingArab People fleeing (Photo credit: Government Press Office (GPO))

Of liberals, secularists, Islamists and other labels

I want to discuss here the labels assigned to Arab political parties and politicians 

The culture of lawful opposition, long absent under the totalitarian regimes, needs to be reinserted into the political discourse.

( Make that media regimes as well. ) 

The question for Arab secularists is not that they are an anemic force in society. It's that they are divided (on the conservative / progressive and economically liberal / socialist axes) and disorganized.

( That sounds familiar )

The recent Libyan elections are a case in point in this distinction. What have been annoyingly called "liberals" performed well in the election, but this is a catch-all term that really is used to say non-Islamist and perhaps non-a certain type of Islamist, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. But these liberals include parties and movements led by former Qadhafi regime officials who defected early and probably a bunch of people who should not be called liberals in at least the two standard meanings of the term: either economically liberal secularists as is meant is most of continental Europe, where liberal parties tend to be center-right, or socially liberal as is generally meant in the US, and associated with the center-left. Of course the irony is that a liberal in the Arab world could very well not be secularist — i.e. he could be a moderate Islamist — while a secularist might be a Stalinist or Nasserist, or in other word not particularly progressive in terms of human rights or liberal in the economic sense.
We need better terms

( Or a simulation of consciousness and perception rather than prejudice )

Ellis Goldberg put it well in a recent piece on the importance of Egypt's institutions when he wrote:
The problem with thinking of Egyptian politics as a two-party game is that there are more than two actors. The same thinking applies about selecting labels to describe politicians and parties in the post-uprising Arab world. The US model — Democrats vs. Republicans, conservatives vs. liberals — simply does not apply.
( Bravo - though I could say the same of the UK model )

I might suggest that labeling is itself an attractive pejorative oversimplification which leads to DuckSpeak not merely because it 'paints' individuals and initiatives according to a subjective obsession, but also purports to deal with unrelated tendencies of thought as though they were channeled according to such doctrines....in foreign languages ! It seems total hubris of ideology similar to anthromorphication projecting our own pet attributes - which are not necessarily at all accurate in that case either - onto others.
The simplest analogy which comes to mind was the practice of calling all North American tribes 'Indians' rather than bothering to identify discrete elements - a practice which continues today in the wild diversity of the Asian 'Stans' or homelands, which again do not have accurate or adequate descriptions. After all, 'Islamist' is the pet projection of British propaganda framing religious hate barely less blatantly than when a Biblical label of 'witch' was appropriated to tar and feather pagans so effectively that they adopted the term equating them to frauds and hypnotists rather than herbal healers and Earth / Gaiea honouring people.
Jul 20, 2012 at 1:09 AM | Unregistered Commenteropit 
( Whew. That seems wordy - but ongoing psyops does deal in robbing words of meaning, changing meanings, and obscuring rather than illuminating. And of course Projection is not just a psychological concept  - but a tool as overused as a crescent wrench and a basis for wretched humour.
Which leaves me with nasty thoughts on the nature of punditry as an exercise in condescension. )  

Obama Admin. Unveils $1-Billion “Master Teacher Corps” 

A 2011 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report identified 82 existing teacher quality programs. Many of the programs overlap, and little effort has been made to determine whether the programs were actually effective.

In a January 2011 article, Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, reported on the federal government’s ever-expanding role in education and how its presence in the sector is only “stuffing donuts into an already obese system”:
Federal elementary and secondary education spending has risen mightily since the early 1970s, when Washington first started immersing itself in education. In 1970, according to the federal Digest of Education Statistics, Uncle Sam spent an inflation-adjusted $31.5 billion on public K-12 education. By 2009 that had ballooned to $82.9 billion.
On a per-pupil basis, in 1970 the feds spent $435 per student. By 2006 — the latest year with available data — it was $1,015, a 133 percent increase. And it's not like state and local spending was dropping: Real, overall, per-pupil spending rose from $5,593 in 1970 to $12,463 in 2006, and today we beat almost every other industrialized nation in education funding.
“What do we have to show for this?” McCluskey said. First is an expansion in public-school employees, with pupil-to-staff ratios close to halving between 1969 and 2007. “Not coincidentally,” he added, “these same people politick powerfully for ever more spending and against reforms that will challenge their bloated monopoly. They also routinely defeat efforts to hold them accountable for results.”
( Stuffing the kids with ever increasing volumes of garbage will not improve their attention - not that it is designed to. The focus of education used to be to be to give people tools for learning...or so it is alleged.  Meanwhile I recall a YouTube video posted by Dr. John v. Kampen outlining ever increasing volumes of 'knowledge' outpacing any ability of conventional educational practices to deliver useful results...even if they weren't being defeated by design. That said...YouTube Search is a wonder. )

Families Sue Over Drone Strikes on American Citizens 

The U.S. practice of "targeted killing" has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, including many hundreds of civilian bystanders. While some targeted killings have been carried out in the context of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, many have taken place outside the context of armed conflict, in countries including Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Sudan, and the Philippines.
These killings rely on vague legal standards, a closed executive process, and evidence never presented to the courts.... The killings violated fundamental rights afforded to all U.S. citizens, including the right not to be deprived of life without due process of law.
( The phrase 'no execution without representation' has a ring to it for the rest of us targeted persons )


"The Syrian Uprising Through Palestinian Eyes"

“Have you ever protested against the massacres in Syria?”, asked Israeli police officer Yossi Peretz as he was detaining me along with other activists on our way to an anti-occupation demonstration in Bil’in. “Bashar al-Assad murders tens of Syrians every day and you are silent.”

When I tweet about the flagrant human rights violations and daily crimes that Israel perpetrates against Palestinians, I get similar reactions to that voiced by the Israeli police officer: “And what about Syria?” (Justifying and covering up Israeli crimes by switching discussion to Arab tyrannies is a well-known manipulative trick used by Zionist propagandists that has unfortunately been adopted by *some* Arabs.)

Blogger opit said...

A victory over Assad is likely to give free rein to those uprooting him. And what then ? Egypt was immediately involved in the travesty of the torturer in chief clawing his way towards power with the aid of the same foreign forces which maintain Israel in its settler policies - a direct import of what happened in North America - in the Americas actually.
Libya's civilians were freed from the supposed reign of Qaddafi - while the water project was bombed by NATO as were Libyan towns.
China and Russia oppose foreign intervention because they know it a ploy of power politics. That you choose to support the same elsewhere is no sign you recognize the mark of the oppressor.
19 July 2012 9:01 PM

Syria: US condemns UN veto as 'highly regrettable' – as it happened

The UK and France were also highly critical of the countries' third veto, with the French UN ambassador accusing Russia and China of buying time "for the Syrian regime to smash the opposition".

( There's a persistent attempt to whitewash foreign intervention....just like so many before )

  Russia's ambassador accused western countries of "attempting to fan the flames of conflict". Vitaly Churkin said the draft resolution vetoed by Russia and China was "biased", with threats of sanctions "levelled exclusively at the government of Syria. China's ambassador said the resolution would have "further aggravated the turmoil".
Mitt Romney has waded into the diplomatic row over Syria, blaming President Barack Obama for a "lack of leadership" on the crisis. ( There's a comment rivaling any made by Dubya. Maybe he's comparing it to past exercises.)

A Republican Organization Helped Radicalize Egypt

Will Our Freedoms Be LOST at Sea?

Larry Greenley Jun 28 2012
 The Obama administration is advancing an all-out effort to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST).

Alabama Adopts First Official State Ban on UN Agenda 21

College to Student Group: Drop 'Personal Commitment to Jesus' from Your Bylaws

 Have you ever wondered why God chose the Jews as his people, or why Isreal as the place to send his son...etc.?

I mean, didn't God make us ALL? All mankind in his image?

‘I Am Not an Animal!’

Are Dolphins Math Geniuses?

Dolphin Mourns Her Baby

 CBS tours the newly opened Nazi archives on the Holocaust which have been (unbelievably) closed until now.  Now, miles and miles of documents constitute a stunning blow to the denialist cult.  Well... one of the denialist cults.  The drought destroying crops all over the world may budge a few climate denialists.  But then, there are still some who deny tobacco is anything but good for you.


Accelerating Dangers & Opportunities from Transparency

The future comes rushing upon us so quickly, already I worry that the world portrayed in my freshly minted novel will be old hat long before the time it is set, 30 years from now. (Meaning that we need futuristic and open-minded thought experiments now, more than ever.)

Try these items on for size...

With new laser technology, hidden government scanners will instantly know everything about you from 150 feet (or 50 meters) away, detecting traces of drugs, explosives, bioweapons or gunpowder on your clothes or luggage -- even recording your adrenaline levels. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will install these scanners (a million times more sensitive than current systems) at airports and border crossings across the country -- as early as 2013. The Russians are developing a comparable system.

Cell phone providers received 1.3 million cell phone snooping requests last year from law enforcement agencies seeking information on locational data and calling records. There is little oversight over who can make such requests, or what is done with the information.

...the tendency of humans to filter out news or opinions or views or even sensory input that we don't like or agree with.  (Yes, one side of the political "spectrum" is currently doing it to psychotic degrees... but the other end does it too!)  We've been finding out that our brains naturally pass disagreeable info and opinions and input through emotional centers rather than those devoted to reason.  But as predicted, electronic "filters" are making things even worse for some, even while opening up vast universes of wonder and possibilities for others.  See "Are we stuck in a filter bubble...hearing only what we want to hear?

( You're here, aren't you ? Oh, right. I try to do better.) 

Teams at Harvard and the University of Hong Kong have been using new software that allows them to watch the censoring of posts on Chinese social-media sites more closely than before. Monitoring the Monitors

We need to discuss what to do about nuclear waste.  It never made the slightest sense for us to abandon the Yucca Mountain site on account of some supposed small chance that the depository might leak a little in 10,000 years 

 Co-founded by Mitt Romney in 1984, Bain would buy a company and increase its short-term earnings through firing workers and shuttering plants in order to borrow enormous amounts of money. The borrowed money was used to pay Bain dividends, however, those businesses needed to maintain that high level of earnings to pay their debts. When they couldn’t, that meant plant closures, more layoffs, bankruptcies, and in many cases, the end of the business. Yet these bankruptcies still meant huge profits for Bain’s investors. Furthermore, Bain continued to collect management fees even as companies failed.  As the New York Post reported, during his 15 years as head of Bain, Romney “made fortunes by bankrupting five profitable businesses that ended up firing thousands of workers.”

On the Transparency Front: Secrecy, Drones and War

Since 9/11 the budget for Special Ops has quadrupled. Under President Obama, the forces of the Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), which includes the Green Berets, Navy SEALS and Army Rangers, have been granted more latitude and greater autonomy, engaged in counter-terrorism, surveillance and reconnaissance in as many as 120 countries around the world. According to an appraisal published in Mother Jones, America's Rising Shadow Wars: “They are displacing conventional forces, becoming the “force of choice” in operations with far less civilian oversight, accountability or control -- i.e. no Congressional approval or consultation necessary, no press coverage, their operating budget a black book...”
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