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Would you call it a "tempest in a teapot" if the state denied you or your spouse the right to the same health benefits, social security benefits, tax credits, family leave allowances and immigration benefits enjoyed by all other couples? Do you really think it a small matter to be denied all of these things? It's one thing to say that all of the benefits mentioned above shouldn't exist anyway, at least from a certain libertarian viewpoint, but to grant their existence and then say that only heterosexuals deserve to enjoy them is something else.
I do understand that as a pragmatic matter, the "Born this way" line of argument has had a certain amount of success, at least in the United States; my problem with it is that beyond the goal of getting families and friends to accept that their loved ones aren't going to be changed by schoolyard bullying or being sent to Marcus Bachmann's School for Naughty Barbarians, it's a flimsy basis on which to build the case for fundamental rights like gay marriage. As effective as such rhetoric has been to date, and even supposing the gay-bashers on the right were to cede completely the notion that it's entirely a matter of genes the political environment could very easily change: need I remind you of the infamous Daily Mail headline "Abortion Hope after Gay Genes Finding"? Had Dean Hamer's work been replicated, I am utterly certain that the only effect on the religious right would have been to provide them with a circumstance under which abortion is indeed considered acceptable ... Finally, it's not as if the "It's all in the genes" argument hasn't been used to negative purposes in our time, either: remember Arthur Jensen, the Pioneer Fund, Murray and Herrnstein, etc., and for the most part it's the same bunch of people arguing for the innate inferiority of black people who are at the forefront of decrying any attempt at using government to alleviate these supposedly unalterable racial deficiencies. Much the same was true with all of the right-wingers leaping to defend Larry Summers' ruminations about the possible intellectual limitations of women; agreeing with the idea didn't bring a single opponent of women's equality around to changing their views.
That you jumped to the conclusion that you were being "censored" says all that needs to be said about the rationality of your viewpoint... Here's a newsflash for you: I *don't care* if you consider my views "elitist", as I don't consider "elitism" a dirty word. I'll champion the best of human achievement over repetitive commercial rubbish any day, no matter how many ignorant sheep may think differently.
East Asia clearly does - Japan began introducing parliamentary politics soon after the Meiji restoration, so there was something to build on after the war; remember "Taisho Democracy". As part of the Japanese empire, South Korea and Taiwan were exposed to the same political streams of thought that prevailed in Japan, and after the war, the need to keep in America's good graces provided the necessary encouragement to build on these foundations. Finally, in neither South Korea nor Taiwan did full-fledged democracy precede industrialization and near-universal literacy, so it wasn't as if the vote was suddenly given to superstitious and easily-bought peasants. South Asia is another question altogether. On the one hand, the British did introduce electoral politics to India in the late 19th century, while educating an Anglicized native elite which bought into the ideals of liberal representative government, and which would serve as the ruling class after the British left: if anything, it was because this native elite bought into said ideals that it grew so frustrated by being shut out of the higher reaches of government by the British, leading to the agitation for self-rule. The uneducated masses would never have cared otherwise. On the other hand, looking at how South Asian politics has worked in practice since independence, it's obvious that this legacy of British rule didn't permeate beyond a thin upper layer of South Asian societies. Only India has really held on to the forms of democratic rule uninterruptedly, and even then it's been marred by the despotism of Ghandi, the fanaticism of the BJP, and the rampant corruption of the entire political class. As for Pakistan, I see no constituency for rule of law and liberty amongst the masses who mourned the killing of Bin Laden ...
Toggle Commented Dec 7, 2011 on Too Much Democracy Too Soon at Foreign Dispatches
You have a good point there: it's interesting how 19th century conservatives often saw the expansion of the franchise as a means of mobilizing the anti-liberal sentiments of the new voters. I suspect that the turn of the 19th century rise of jingoism in Britain, and the push towards protectionism under Joseph Chamberlain, were actually facilitated by Disraeli's extension of the franchise in 1867.
Toggle Commented Dec 7, 2011 on Too Much Democracy Too Soon at Foreign Dispatches
Ipvideo, The fly in the ointment for your argument is that the one-sided detention *preceded* the irritation on my part - in fact, that is what caused said irritation. I had no "attitude" when the PCSO grabbed my arm and started shoving me after I'd calmly answered her question; nor could it have been my "attitude" which caused her to ignore the pushy woman entirely, leaving her free to leave the scene while claiming she just wanted to know "what happened" ... Frankly, even though your advice isn't really applicable in my case, I think it is precisely the problem that police officers - and badly trained clowns in quasi-police guise - are allowed so much latitude that one should have to treat them with exaggerated tact. They are public *servants*, not our masters, and the fact that they so quickly forget this is why police-civilian relations are often so testy in poor and minority areas. Too often the police act as if they were victorious conquerors in such areas rather than civil servants tasked with keeping the peace, so is it any wonder that they are hated? I have no sympathy at all for thugs who go out on looting sprees, but I'd be lying if I said my attitude towards the police were much better, after what I've seen, and what many others I'm personally acquainted with (all of whom are also middle or upper-middle class) have experienced. What we see is that the police do nothing when we need them, and needlessly harass us the rest of the time.
Toggle Commented Aug 9, 2011 on On the Tottenham Riots at Foreign Dispatches
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Mar 15, 2010
You flatter yourself greatly. Why would I bother to "censor" [sic] a post by a critic who only manages to make himself look ridiculous? It's not as if you bring any reason to bear to show me up, just an expression of the dimensions of your indignation. Oh, and by the way, just for your benefit, I still say that anyone who can afford to pay to see "Avatar" in a theatre, and yet chooses to download a sh*tty copy via bittorent, is a bl**dy idiot.
Granted, Israeli treatment of Chinese guest workers is poor, but it is hardly different in kind from the way their Latin American equivalents are treated in, say, the United States; however poor the situation of Chinese migrants may be in Israel, it is still an order of magnitude better than the physical and sexual abuse which is rampant in the Arab world. The fact is that a lot of the abuse detailed in the links you provide is because the workers in question are both in Israel illegally and ignorant of Hebrew, two factors which serve to isolate them from the rest of society and make them vulnerable to exploitation. Neither of these two conditions apply to, say, Filipina women working in Britain or the United States for wealthy Arabs, and yet one still hears of cases of rape, starvation and beatings emerging in said circumstances, while you never hear the same about Israeli expatriates. In fact, even the wife of the Israeli Prime Minister isn't immune from the law or media scrutiny when it comes to treating employees with disrespect. A lawsuit like this, and the kind of coverage given to it by the Israeli media, would simply be unthinkable anywhere in the Arab world, no matter how heinous or well-documented the accusations.
Toggle Commented Feb 1, 2010 on Slavery in the Arab World at Foreign Dispatches
That's actually one of the few Michael Bay movies I haven't seen, and from what I've read it's also the one movie in which he tried to cater to the tastes of the film critics rather than a general audience ...
What, to use another euphemism, is called taking "the tradesman's entrance" during a copulatory session ...
Toggle Commented Nov 6, 2009 on Euphemism of the Day at Foreign Dispatches
Your German colleagues raise interesting points, but ultimately I don't find them convincing. I do happen to understand German fairly well, and having listened to what Westerwelle said, I found nothing in the least objectionable in either the content or the delivery; it seems pretty clear to me that he went out of his way to be polite to the journalist, which was why he closed his statements with the joking reference to speaking English over tea later. It is unthinkable that, say, a German journalist would dare ask Hillary Clinton to give a German-language answer to a German-language question, let alone at a conference being delivered on American soil, and going by Clinton's angry response to a much less presumptuous question, she wouldn't be half as diplomatic as Westerwelle was if she were put on the spot like he was. As for Westerwelle's English-language skills, even if it were the case that he couldn't speak a word of English, I don't see how that would necessarily mean he was less qualified for the foreign minister post than any of the other contenders; there is a lot more to the job than being able to crack jokes with other countries' leaders in English, and for all one knows Westerwelle may have all the cunning and diplomatic savvy of an Otto von Bismarck, while there could be some brilliantly polyglot candidate out there who couldn't negotiate his or her way out of a wet paper bag ... To be honest, it seems to me that what drives a lot of the German-language criticism of Westerwelle isn't really the man's English-language ability or supposed lack thereof, but his "free-markets, lower-taxes and cut-spending" politics, which many left-leaning Germans loathe; none of these same people uttered a word of criticism of Gerhard Schroeder despite his own self-admitted English-language incapacity. Unfortunately for Germany's left, their parties have just been routed at the polls, so like the Republican diehards in America, left-leaning Germans are now seizing upon the most ridiculous and far-fetched things to attack their political opponents.
As an afterthought, let me note here that I find it amusing that someone whose supposed goal is to protest the picture of the "Obnoxious Brit" should choose to do so with language almost calculated to provoke offence, and this after promising "promise not to darken [my] door ever again" ... If you're wondering why your most recent comments aren't being published, Rob, you have your answer.
Toggle Commented Nov 3, 2009 on A Hard Lesson in Respect at Foreign Dispatches
"I do however think that from the ferocity of your response you may have some issues with anger, which is interesting considering the topic matter." If by "issues" you mean I don't like people accusing me of things I haven't done, then yes, I do have "issues", but not of a sort in any need of fixing. "We have a problematic underclass in the UK, some of which manage to get to other countries and cause trouble but surely no more than these kinds of people from other Western countries." I wish this were true, but my experience - having spent substantial time living in Africa, Asia and North America, and having visited nearly every country in Western Europe - is that Britain stands head and shoulders above (or rather, below) the rest of the "developed" world in terms of the propensity to combine binge drinking with violent and obnoxious behavior. Southern Europeans generallly don't get drunk in public, are ashamed when they do get drunk, and don't go looking for fights on the rare occasions on such occasions. Scandinavians are also binge drinkers, but it doesn't tend to turn them into aggressive idiots. In contrast, I have lost count by now of the number of times I've run into drunk British chavs roaming around in packs and spoiling for a fight, and on far too many nights I've been kept awake into the early hours by drunk idiots screaming abuse at each other - and this despite living in what is considered a "posh" neighborhood ... Leaving aside my anecdotes, the statistical evidence I've seen is pretty clear: Britain has a particularly bad problem with alcohol, most British adults drink far too much, and this lack of restraint combined with unwarranted feelings of superiority leads very, very often to trouble overseas.
Toggle Commented Oct 26, 2009 on A Hard Lesson in Respect at Foreign Dispatches
"Way to make a sweeping generalisation. Top class work, really." Thanks for the plaudits, though I'm not sure where exactly this "sweeping generalisation" you refer to is to be found ... "Do you even know the difference between England and the UK?" There is a difference? I did not know that! Thank you for the lesson, dear sir! On a serious note, you really need a few lessons in reading comprehension if you think I've made any sort of confusion between the two on here; all Englishmen are by definition Britons, so the only one suffering from any confusion on here is YOU. "And not all the drunken English arseholes you see on the internet represent the UK, or England, or whichever way you would like to group everyone together." Are you really so thick that you don't recognize the difference between "many a Briton" and "all Britons", or do you need to have explicit disclaimers attached to the bottom of everything you read, like RIAA copyright notices? I suggest you take a remedial reading course or two and then come back here to hold a conversation about what I actually wrote, rather than whatever confused claptrap you have rattling around in your head ... Meanwhile, in the real world in which I dwell, British chavs and louts - and yes, that means morons from Scotland, Wales AND England - continue to make unwelcome asses of themselves throughout the Costa del Sol, Greece, Goa, Dubai, Thailand and a great many other places through acts of drunken debauchery. A few have even managed to disgrace themselves in a Japanese fish market, of all places! Oh, and here's another beauty of an incident, this time in Singapore: At least the jerks in this particular case had the decency to apologize (albeit under duress). If you don't like the impression all these idiots are spreading throughout the world, there are more effective measures available than wasting your time and mine pinpointing non-existent "sweeping" generalisations and imaginary confusions from which you think I suffer.
Toggle Commented Oct 21, 2009 on A Hard Lesson in Respect at Foreign Dispatches
Whatever it is I might have written about in "approving tones" with regards to Wole Soyinka, I doubt it was on the occasion of his being awarded the Literature Prize, so I don't see the relevance of that to this topic, any more than my speaking in the future in "approving tones" about something Obama does will mean I'll change my mind about the absurdity of his being given the Peace Prize this early in his presidency. In any case, I think the President of the United States of America is rather more important than some writer who holds no political position and propagates no ideology of his own. As for the argument as to whether Soyinka "deserves" his prize or not, I have no opinion one way or another, as I'm not a fan of theatre and haven't read most of his work. All I will say is that a lot of what you repeat here smacks of the tiresome ethnic jostling that Nigerians are all too fond of, and which I don't give a damn about. All the "Achebe deserved it more than Soyinka", "No he didn't!" crap is just so much b.s. pulled from the same trash heap as the "Yorubas are lazy", "Hausas are stupid" and "Igbos are greedy" rubbish I've heard more than my fill of. Finally, let me say here that I don't really give a damn about critics like Bloom and their "canons" of "Western" [sic] literature either. I like what I like regardless of where it comes from, and I'll still think more highly of Soseki and Mishima than James Joyce no matter what pompous self-appointed canonizers of Great Literature (TM) like Harold Bloom may say; no bow-tie wearing chauvinist who is convinced that "The West is always Best" gets to decide for everyone what constitutes great literature and what doesn't.
If I were in Obama's shoes, I'd turn this award down in embarassment: who wants to receive the Nobel Peace Prize simply for showing up with the "right" skin color?
If Dayo is the daughter of Dr. Funmi Olopade, that would explain her unusual name, as well as her writing for an outlet like "The Root"; conservative Nigerian parents would never willingly accept such a choice of profession in place of becoming a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer or something else along those lines.
I'm surprised Olopade is female: hers is an obviously Yoruba name, and as far as I knew "Dayo" was very much a male appellation. It makes me wonder about her family background, as I just don't see typical traditional-minded Yoruba parents giving their children gender-atypical names ...
I actually read about Las Ramblas' prostitute problem this morning: apparently Zapatero wants something done about it.
Toggle Commented Sep 7, 2009 on Where NOT to Visit in Europe at Foreign Dispatches
Andrew, What I think is that while it's certainly not impossible to rule out the sorts of scenarios you describe, those who advocate them fail to put forward any worthwhile evidence in support of their preferred alternatives, while they also fail to explain anomalous facts such as why such a senior Libyan secret service agent should have been serving as an air steward in the first place. Sure, one can raise all sorts of doubts about Megrahi's trial, but that in itself doesn't establish that the preponderance of the evidence fails to support his guilt. In any event, if this were a matter of guilt and innocence, then the right thing to do would have been to carry out an expedited appeal instead of letting a man who has been tried and found guilty of mass murder to walk free in the name of a smug "compassion" which just so happens to cater to Scottish petty-nationalism by sticking a thumb in America's eye, all the while serving British commercial interests in Libya ...
Toggle Commented Aug 25, 2009 on Friends of Evil at Foreign Dispatches
Which brings us to the question of why this is so consistently the case throughout the Islamic world. What internal factors prevent so many Muslim countries from having political alternatives other than a choice between militant theocracy and corrupt autocracy? Why does secular liberalism seem to be a non-starter in that part of the world?
Toggle Commented Jul 7, 2009 on Of Pity and War at Foreign Dispatches
Yes, i've seen that argument made plenty of times, but I consider it as specious as absolving German voters of responsibility for World War 2 and the Holocaust because they were supposedly only voting for "law and order" or "a German revival". Just as with the National Socialists and their obsessions with "lebensraum" and a "Jew-free Europe", one cannot simply consider one aspect of Hamas' programme without looking at the other, frankly much more central portions of it; what makes it worse with the Gazans is that at least the Nazis spent some effort engaging in puff-talk about "peace" in their breakthrough electoral years (and even well into the late 1930s), while Hamas has *never* claimed to be seeking anything more than a temporary truce on the way to the final goal of Israel's destruction, so in that respect the Palestinians have even less of an excuse than the Germans of the 1930s. PS: It should also be noted that it's not as if there were an upswelling of opposition to Hamas amongst the Gaza populace subsequent to the elections, once it became clear that Hamas was intent on pursuing the programme of aggression it had always declared was its goal. The great majority of Gazans at minimum tacitly supported Hamas' rocket firings into Israel - at least until it finally called down massive Israeli retribution ...
Toggle Commented Jul 6, 2009 on Of Pity and War at Foreign Dispatches
I don't know whether leopards are native to West Africa or not, but that isn't really my problem with Bobby Ologun. My problem with this guy is that he is actually from Ibadan, a major metropolis in which the only sort of "wild" animal one is likely to see outside of a zoo is the odd rat or feral dog: seeing a leopard in a city like that is as likely as seeing a brown bear roaming the streets of Stockholm ...
I'm sure God is grateful that you've rushed to the defense of poor, little Jacob Zuma. How's a mere President of South Africa expected to defend himself in the face of the words of a mighty blogger? If "God" has allowed Zuma's presidency, and nothing happens without the approval of "God", then I'm sure you appreciate that "God" has also approved my castigation of the corrupt, oversexed imbecile who has the fate of 45 million South Africans in his incompetent hands - yet strangely, for all your insistence on accepting the doings of "God", you don't seem very willing to simply accept the doings of "God" in my own case ...
Toggle Commented Jun 11, 2009 on Jacob Zuma is a Moron at Foreign Dispatches