Category Archives: Politics

Civil Politics Pledge

So I was looking further into Jonathan Haidt and found my way to one of the website he’s affiliated with called Civil Politics.  It had a pledge that you could sign electronically.  I have signed it, and would encourage you to pass it along to everybody you know so they can consider signing it as well.  Here’s what it says:

I hereby pledge:

1) To take into account a candidate’s civility when voting. I understand that electoral politics requires offense, defense, and sharp elbows, but I will consider personal attacks made by candidates and their surrogates to be marks of dishonor and warning signs of a divisive leader to come.

2) To model civil politics in my own life. I will argue for what I believe in and against those with whom I disagree, but I will show respect for my opponents by assuming that they are as sincere in their beliefs as I am in mine. Knowing how moralistic and self-righteous we all are, I will refrain from assuming the worst about the motives and character of those I disagree with. I will criticize their ideas instead.

TED Rocks

Technology.  Entertainment.  Design.

For those who didn’t already know.  I didn’t until two weeks ago (although I think I’d stumbled onto some of it a time or two prior to that).  TED is a series of conferences held every year where very interesting people gather to make 18 minute presentations about what they know.  I’ve watched a few of these presentations, and have found them interesting and thought provoking.

One of them is a presentation by Jonathan Haidt on the topic of the Moral Mind, someone I’ve linked to here before on this same topic.  It’s good stuff.  I particularly like his notion of stepping outside our paradigms (he uses the term “matrix,” invoking the movie of the same name) to try to understand the experiences of those of other tribes (he uses the word “teams”) and how those can better inform our own understanding of the truth. 

Since I’ve moved to Minefield, one of the extensions that doesn’t work is Sage, my RSS aggregator.  So I’ve been trying out the built in LiveBookmarks that Firefox has had for some time.  Thus far, I’m less than impressed — I have to add feeds multiple times to get them to work, and the default location for them seems to be the Bookmarks Toolbar Folder — not some place I want a bunch of feeds accumulating.  But it’s what works until the folks at SageToo (Sage, apparently, is orphaned) update the version numbers to allow me to install it into Minefield.

TED has a number of RSS feeds of their videos and the audio.  For now, I’m sticking with the video, which is unusual for me.  But these are visual presentations and there is value in the video that’s not there in the audio-only.  I’m annoyed thus far that it seems to be sending me five or six of these in the past hour or so I’ve been subscribed, and I might dump the feed if this continues.  We’ll see.

But I recommend this site and this talk.  With the rhetoric of inclusion and unity floating around of late, it needs to be understood that inclusion doesn’t mean that any side gives up what it believes to join the other side in their unchallenged sense of superiority.  Unity comes when all sides value and respect all opinions, even when they aren’t shared.  This is one of the fundamental challenges of the statements of the President-elect, and it can’t be faced too quickly.  It is very hard.

The end of the effort.

A bride is standing at the door to step into the chapel to be married, and she says to her mother “Oh, Mom!  This is so wonderful!  I’m at the end of all my troubles!” Her mother says “Yes, dear, but not at the end you think.”

Something I have been concerned about in the massive upswell of support for the candidacy of President-elect Obama, it has been that the expectations for what he will do have been set quite high.  His repeated slogans have been about change, and about “Yes, we can,” and it has been less than clear to me that his supporters have understood how much of the work of making that change falls to them to accomplish.  I have seen a number of people saying “Yes, we did,” which sounds a lot like they think the election of Sen. Obama  is the accomplishment.  Sen. Obama disagrees with this notion in his victory speech.  Quoting from it:

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can’t happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

This is the beginning of the Obama change.  His claims and promises have been very ambitious, and will require an immense amount of work over a long period of time from a very large number of people to even make them likely, to say nothing of actually making them happen.  The work of electing a presidential candidate is a small fraction of what the new challenge demands. 

So if you think your work to support Pres. Obama’s change is at its end, I can assure you that it is. 

But not the end you think.  The real work hasn’t even begun yet.

Vacuum Pockets

This made me laugh a lot. 

Reminds me of my experience getting my Enhanced Drivers License a few weeks ago.  The standards for the EDL are (I believe) based on the standards for a passport, since it has to satisfy Federal requirements for border crossing.  So you have to not only prove citizenship, you have to prove residence.  Proof of citizenship was easy — my folded-up certified birth certificate did the job just fine.  But proof of residence was tough. 

A drivers license will not do.  A utility bill will, but it has to be within the last 60 days.  I went to email billing for my power bill and phone bill.  A listing in the phone book will do, but I have a VoIP phone and they don’t get listed.  Cell phone bills won’t do.  An insurance policy will work, but not an insurance bill.  A voter registration card can be one of two proofs (utility bills will do on their own), but an unopened ballot won’t.  Also confusing the issue is the mail v physical address problem that results from living two blocks from a “rural” post office.

So I went to the power company to see if they could print me a bill.  They could and did, and I took it back.  They couldn’t just accept it because (wait for it) it wasn’t mailed to me.  So they had to call the power company, have me verify that I was me to the power people, and then they could confirm the address information on my account. 

Bureaucracy — making the reasonable impossible for 7000 years.

Let the healing begin, right here, right now.

This was inspired by a post from about the prevalence with which people like to go to the victim place politically when things don’t work out their way.  A useful sample from that post:

Reality check: Obama is NOT our “Savior”- nor is McCain. Whoever wins will inherit a shit-heap that will make the Aegean Stables look like a skate-job. Whoever wins is going to piss off the losers, and they’ll make life for the ‘winner’ very difficult. In fact, in all honesty- whoever ‘wins’ this election truly will lose- simply because of the magnitude of what lies ahead. Joe Biden had it right- whoever gets into that office will be tested- but not by outsiders, but insiders. The losers will scream about being victimized once again, and the winners will scream about sore losers.

In the spirit of lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness, I’m going to invite people to join me in a very simple pledge:

I promise, whatever the outcome of the upcoming election, that I will neither whine nor gloat about that outcome.  I will respect the voice of the people as expressed through that election and will wish nothing but good for those chosen to lead this country, whether I agree with their policy positions or not, and whether I voted for or against them.  I do this not because I am giving up my political principles, but because I believe that unity under imperfect leaders chosen by an imperfect system is better than schism and division on idealogically pure lines.

If you believe in this, maybe pass the word along and see if others are willing to try it.  It’s a bit time sensitive.

A little perspective on the current “crises’ on the American mind.

From Michael Yon:

We might take a moment to remind ourselves that we do not live in a land of tribal law or a place where intergenerational feuds are part of the social fabric.  Look at Afghanistan. Widows abandoned and shunned.  Orphans everywhere. People missing limbs from the millions of mines still dotting the landscape.  Millions.  Tribes and warring ethnic factions and police so corrupt they make the Mafia look like do-gooders.  Taliban.  HIG. Al Qaeda.  And a lot more suicide bombers than Senators.  (Trust me on that one.)

The people of Afghanistan are extremely friendly and welcoming.  But let’s face it. They live in a world of constant struggle. Their country was already primitive, and their existence difficult enough before they became a place of conquest, civil war, and now a clash of civilizations (or, to put it more accurately, a clash between dozens of civilized countries and violent anarchy).

The full column.

So eat your spinach and like it!

Ugliness revisited

I need to retract my displeasure with Gov. Palin regarding her comments on Sen. Obama and Bill Ayers.  On looking further at the issue, I’ve found that their relationship was closer than I was willing to assume, and that Ayers is less-than-repentent about the bombs that he built and placed while he was active with the Weather Underground (I wasn’t willing to just assume that he was directly involved with the terrorism of his group).  Based on this, I find Gov. Palin’s comments to be not nearly as much of a stretch as I previously thought.

For those who hadn’t seen the full quote in context (I hadn’t), these two paragraphs come from the New York Times blogs.

“I get to bring this up not to pick a fight, but it was there in the New York Times, so we are gonna talk about it. Turns out one of Barack’s earliest supporters is a man who, according to the New York Times, and they are hardly ever wrong, was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that quote launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and US Capitol. Wow. These are the same guys who think patriotism is paying higher taxes.

“This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America. We see America as the greatest force for good in this world. If we can be that beacon of light and hope for others who seek freedom and democracy and can live in a country that would allow intolerance in the equal rights that again our military men and women fight for and die for for all of us. Our opponent though, is someone who sees America it seems as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country?”

This statement is arguable, but it’s not false, it’s not rumor, and the context makes claims of an appeal to racism clearly wrong.  When you’re facing a half-black candidate, there is no need for an appeal to racism — anti-black racists aren’t going to vote for him anyway. 

Ugliness is in the eye of the beholder.

This will seem out of a clear blue sky for most of you.  Sorry.  Feel free to ignore this if you don’t know what it’s about.

Racism is something I take pretty seriously.  I also take accusations of racism fairly seriously.  When someone accuses Gov. Palin of making a racist comment, I want to see a solid fact pattern to back that claim up.  When that fact pattern doesn’t exist, the accusation is a problem, and I’m not going to play patty-cake about that.  Racism is a serious thing to accuse someone of, something which shouldn’t be done lightly.  Not just because you disagree with them, or can make up  some long chain of reasoning to make it a racist statement because of code-words or assertions about the stupidity of the average voter.  No, if you have to make that kind of gymnastic reasoning, you’d better put a bit of qualification into that accusation. 
Continue reading Ugliness is in the eye of the beholder.

The War Won’t End in Afghanistan

Totten’s latest column in Commentary:

Senator Barack Obama said something at the presidential debate last week that almost perfectly encapsulates the difference between his foreign policy and his opponent’s: “Secretary of Defense Robert Gates himself acknowledges the war on terrorism started in Afghanistan and it needs to end there.” I don’t know if Obama paraphrased Gates correctly, but if so, they’re both wrong.

If Afghanistan were miraculously transformed into the Switzerland of Central Asia, every last one of the Middle East’s rogues gallery of terrorist groups would still exist. The ideology that spawned them would endure. Their grievances, such as they are, would not be salved. The political culture that produced them, and continues to produce more just like them, would hardly be scathed. Al Qaedism is the most radical wing of an extreme movement which was born in the Middle East and exists now in many parts of the world. Afghanistan is not the root or the source.