everything and nothing. not really sure yet.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On guns and whatnot

UPDATE: The Senate voted down the amendment by only 2 votes, with some pretty interesting organisation on the part of the Democratic leadership, allowing Democrats from more conservative states to break ranks without allowing the amendment to pass

Senator John Thune (R-like he could be anything else-South Dakota) has introduced an amendment to allow concealed firearms to be carried across state lines - in the NYT's words, it "would nullify the laws of almost every state". Now, let us assume, for argument's sake, that the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution: ("A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" - capitalisation and punctuation varies) actually allows for individuals to keep guns and not just the collective "people" vis a vis the military. It still does not make sense to reduce the amount of regulation involved in a deadly weapon. Let's take an analogy that most conservatives probably will hate - abortion. Abortion is protected under the constitution - that's the position of the Supreme Court. However, it still needs to be regulated to ensure that all abortions performed are safe. It's the same with guns - if they're allowed, they should be regulated to help keep them off the streets.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Sarah Palin, or wtf? Alaska Edition

I haven't really written much about American politics recently - mostly due to the absence of an upcoming election and the feeling that there are plenty of people out there writing pieces supporting the President and what he's doing, so we really don't need another one (although I admit that I'm writing this wearing my "I heart Barack Obama" t-shirt). However, recent goings on in Alaska are almost impossible to avoid, so, some thoughts about Sarah Palin's resignation:

- A bit eerie that she resigns just after Vanity Fair publishes this piece by Todd Purdum, essentially ripping her apart.

- What really struck me about her speech was just how odd her logic is. She states that she's "not wired to operate under the same old 'politics as usual'", which in the context she defines as how "some governors ... accept ... lame duck status, hit the road, draw the paycheck, and 'milk it'", yet surely the best way of proving you're not a 'typical politician' is to continue doing the job the voters of Alaska voted you in for and govern. Is she saying that if she was a "lame duck" she wouldn't be able to resist all the "typical" travelling and trade missions (not that there seems to be anything wrong with trade missions from where I'm sitting)? That's not a great message as far as her character is concerned. Is she saying that she wouldn't want to run for President for two years and therefore leave Alaskans without their permanent Governor (as early as it is vis a vis 2012)? Then why was she ok with running for VP while keeping her Governorship?

- You stand for governor because you think you're the best suited to govern your state, what does it say if you walk away from it because you know you're not running for re-election? Also, if she ran for and won the presidency, would she then resign from office when she became a lame duck? Leave it all to the VP maybe, like she's done with her Lieutenant Governor.

- There's been lots of talk of reasons for this move, including suggestions that she's getting out of politics altogether. My feeling is that, if the Vanity Fair piece is an accurate reflection of the Palin camp and its approach, this would seem to fit in well with her warped political posturing. I'm almost slightly worried that, somewhere in the bizarro world that is Palin-ville, they think that resigning from office is just the right approach to starting a campaign for president 3 1/2 years before the election.

- Remember that this is a woman who kept a pregnancy secret until she hit her 3rd trimester, and then flew across the country while in labour ie crazy seems to come with the territory.

- This piece on Slate.com makes a lot of sense - it just doesn't seem a good idea to run for the presidency without a firm and current base of authority.

- There might be another scandal brewing, but I'd prefer to think that she was sick of the pressure of being the USA's main line of defense against Vladimir Putin.

- If this is the best the GOP have got, they are even more screwed than previously imagined.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Melanie Phillips' Bandwagon of Hate

Last week, I opened my Jewish Chronicle to discover Melanie Phillips in true form, spouting what seemed at best to be misrepresentations of the truth, and, at worst, complete falsehoods. Here is my response in the form of a letter to the editor that the JC did not publish (note: I found virtually every point in Phillips' piece disagreeable, but here I have concentrated on the factually incorrect, rather than engaging with her 'analysis' - if you can call it that):

In her recent JC piece, Obama’s deadly hand revealed, Melanie Phillips is guilty of making unsubstantiated, factually incorrect and, at times, borderline-racist comments and assertions. She states that “Among American Jews, a degree of buyer’s remorse has been detected recently”, yet she provides no evidence to support this claim – perhaps because it has little basis in reality.

Phillips states that Obama has “torn up the Road Map which requires the Palestinians to dismantle their infrastructure of terror”, which calls into question whether she has actually read the President’s “Cairo shocker of a speech”. If she had, she would have noted his assertion that “the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear … Palestinians must abandon violence … it is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on the bus” – it is difficult to imagine a more vocal or powerful call for an end to Palestinian terror.

Obama stated that “the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied” – hardly a crowd pleaser in Cairo, and he went on to strongly condemn anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment (“threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong”, hardly “fight[ing] against any condemnation of the theologically based Jew-hatred pouring out of the Islamic world” as Phillips maintains). There is nothing factually incorrect in the above statement about the Jewish people’s “tragic history” – surely the enforced exile and loss of independence would come under this, alongside the Inquisition, Pogroms and the Shoah.

Phillips states that Obama was “sanitising Islam through false claims about its historic achievements and selective and misleading quotation from the Koran”. This implies that Islam is not ‘sanitary’, or even is evil – a rather odd mirroring of the “Jew-hatred” to which Phillips refers, but with “Muslim” replacing “Jew”. She seems to be denying “civilisation’s debt to Islam”, forgetting that while Europe was in the ‘Dark Ages’ the works of Plato and Aristotle were being taught in Muslim universities, and that Maimonides himself lived all his life in the Muslim world. Phillips seems to let her paranoia get ahead of her in saying that Obama’s use of the word “revealed” is an “acknowledgement of divine revelation … the language of the believer”, apparently implying, though not proving that “Obama is really a Muslim”, rather than being a simple example of cultural awareness.

Phillips states that Obama is “pro-Islamist”, yet there is a distinction between showing respect for Islam (the religion of over a billion people) and supporting a particular, violent political philosophy. In fact, Obama stated that America will “relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security” – hardly encouraging for the likes of al Qaeda.

That Phillips has written such an ill-informed piece, using talking points cribbed from the fringes of the right-wing blogosphere, is not surprising. That the JC has published this is, however, disappointing – it is the extremist opinions of the likes of Phillips that are the greatest impediment to peace and the safeguarding of a secure State of Israel.