2014-04-23

State of Georgia (US) Passes Sweeping Gun-Rights Laws

According to this article,
While Georgia lawmakers have opened up the ability to carry guns throughout the state, they will still not be allowed in the capitol building.
Which may make it hard for them to do their jobs, but then again maybe that's the idea.

Egypt and the Jews

With Passover behind us, it's appropriate to take a look at anti-Semitism in modern Egypt. Michael Totten at World Affairs Journal writes:
Egypt is by far the most anti-Semitic country I’ve ever visited. It’s off the charts even compared with the rest of the region.

Everyone who posseses even a passing familiarity with Egyptian politics knows this is a serious problem, but the reasons why aren’t as widely understood as they should be. The three main theories—that Egypt’s Jewish problem is a result of the Islamic religion, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and state propaganda to deflect anger away from the government—are partly correct, but they don’t adequately explain what’s actually happening. There are other deeper reasons that should be more widely known than they are. ...
Totten refers us to Samuel Tadros in The American Interest for a better understanding:
To understand the roots of anti-Semitism in the Arab world in general and Egypt in particular, we must look much deeper. We must explore both the crisis of modernity in the Arab world and the importation of European ideologies and ideas.

The crisis of modernity in the Arab world began with the sudden realization of the West’s advancement and the miserable state of Arabs and Muslims by comparison. Isolated for centuries from developments in Europe, Egyptians—first their rulers and intellectuals but later on the general population as well—were shocked to discover that the Frenchmen led by Napoleon who had landed on their shores were not the same Franks they had defeated during the Crusades. The shock of the discovery of Western technological, material, and military superiority shattered the existing political order and demanded a response. The initial approach of simply importing and copying Western technology proved inadequate, as the gap between Egypt and the West grew wider. Occupation by European powers only aggravated the crisis. The crisis revolved around two questions: What went wrong, as Bernard Lewis accurately framed it; and how can we catch up.

For a while, copying the West in practice and appearance carried the day. This was the triumphant moment for modernization, liberalism, and Westernization in Egypt. Ahmed Lutfi El Sayed formulated an Egyptian nationalism, and the struggle for independence from Britain united the nation. But cracks started to appear. Egypt never managed to catch up to the West; the West, represented in Britain, proved unwilling to uphold democratic and liberal values in Egypt; and most importantly modernization was tearing society apart with little to show for it. The introduction of mass education, industrialization, and urbanization was breaking up traditional society, while modern society had not yet been created. Thousands were coming to the cities in search of a better future only to be shocked by the lack of opportunities available to them. This was the generation of Nasser, a generation described in Egyptian historiography as “the new Effendis.” The last straw was Western disillusionment with the promises of liberal democracy and the rise of communist and, more importantly, fascist regimes in Europe.

Replacing the belief in liberalism was a diverse set of ideas. Some lost faith in modernity itself and attempted to return to traditional forms of identity and behavior. Others became enchanted by the totalitarian ideas emerging in Europe. Across the political spectrum people argued that liberal democracy had failed and that only the state’s forceful hand, often guided by a dictator, could save Egypt from its woes and help it catch up with the rest of the world. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy became models for many. Most importantly for our question here, disappointment led to frustration. Egypt’s continual failures led to resentment of the West and a search for an explanation. It was at this moment that an indisputably European ideology—anti-Semitism—began to find fertile ground. Responsibility for Egypt’s failure to catch up with the West did not lie with Egyptians; it was because Jews were conspiring against us to keep us backward. ...
Read the rest at the link.

2014-02-27

Russia / Ukraine / Crimea: Latest Developments

Russa / Ukraine / Crimea: Latest developments. Debka calls it a pro-Moscow coup: 'The Russian defense ministry announced Thursday, Feb. 27 that fighter jets stood on combat alert along its western borders with Ukraine. Moscow repeated its commitment to protect Russian-speaking elements in the Crimean Peninsula. Earlier, armed men carried out a pro-Russian coup in the Crimean capital, by seizing government and parliamentary buildings and hoisting Russian flags – in response to the pro-European coup in Kiev. ...' Reuters reports that Ukraine has issued a warning:
"I am appealing to the military leadership of the Russian Black Sea fleet," said Olexander Turchinov, Ukraine's acting president.

"Any military movements, the more so if they are with weapons, beyond the boundaries of this territory (the base) will be seen by us as military aggression," he said, a day after 150,000 Russian troops near Ukraine were put on high alert.
Fox News reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned Russia that "Any kind of military intervention that would violate the sovereign territorial integrity of Ukraine would be a huge, a grave mistake."

RIA Novosti: 'A senior Russian defense official said Thursday that the country’s Black Sea Fleet poses no threat to Ukraine and its activities are in compliance with standing agreements between the two countries. “Currently all units are engaged in their daily routines, including combat training. These actions do not represent a threat,” Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told reporters. ...'

RT: '[Former Ukrainian President] Viktor Yanukovich will hold a news conference in Russia's Rostov-on-Don at 1700 local time (1300 GMT) on Friday, reports Itar-Tass citing sources close to Ukraine's ousted president.'

Richard Fernandez at Belmont Club:
So far this crisis has been characterized by mutual miscalculation. If the West did not anticipate that the previous Ukranian government would renege on the EU deal neither did Putin appear to recognize the power of the opposition. Both sides have blundered into this confrontation. The wild card are the Ukranians who will now be pressed to deal, but who may not deal. Another source of uncertainty is the effect of national pride, which so absent in the West, is yet a potent factor in Russia. The last source of uncertainty is Western leadership. It seems fair to say there are differences between the EU leadership and Washington.

2014-02-26

Erickson, Sullivan, and Gay Discrimination

I don't read Andrew Sullivan very often these days, but here's a worthwhile piece on discrimination laws:
But the wording of the bills in question – from Kansas to Arizona – is a veritable, icy piste for widespread religious discrimination. And that’s for an obvious reason. If legislatures were to craft bills specifically allowing discrimination only in the case of services for weddings for gay couples, as Erickson says he wants, it would seem not only bizarre but obviously unconstitutional – clearly targeting a named minority for legal discrimination. So they had to broaden it, and in broadening it, came careening into their own double standards. Allow a religious exemption for interacting with gays, and you beg the question: why not other types of sinners? If the principle is not violating sincere religious belief, then discriminating against the divorced or those who use contraception would naturally follow. I’ve yet to read an argument about these laws that shows they cannot have that broad effect.

But here’s where Erick has a point:

It boggles my mind to think any Christian should want the government to force their [pro-gay] view of Christianity on another believer.

That’s my feeling too. I would never want to coerce any fundamentalist to provide services for my wedding – or anything else for that matter – if it made them in any way uncomfortable. The idea of suing these businesses to force them to provide services they are clearly uncomfortable providing is anathema to me. I think it should be repellent to the gay rights movement as well.

Moving Forward

I'm now back in Portland, Oregon.

I left San Francisco a month ago, after living there for 2365 days (or 6 years, 5 months, 20 days) and it's good to be back in Portland. I've spent the last couple of weeks unpacking and settling in at my new place.

Next month will mark 10 years of blogging for me, and I'm looking forward to having the time and energy to devote to it.

2014-02-21

Ukraine's priests provide protest inspiration, key link to pre-Soviet era | Fox News

Ukraine's priests provide protest inspiration, key link to pre-Soviet era | Fox News
 But the clergy of Ukraine are more than leaders of the protest that threatens to split the nation's troubled alliance with Russia. They are a link to Ukraine's historical independence, before the Russian Revolution led to the Soviet occupation that lasted until 1991 but still hovers above like a dark cloud. Amid the escalating violence, priests have been seen defying police, leading civilians safely past them and performing last rites on those killed in the clashes. ...

The strife has brought together Ukraine's major denominations, including the rival Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate and Ukrainian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, as well as the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox and the Vatican-aligned Ukrainian Greek Catholic churches. The churches released a joint statement last month as unrest percolated in the square.

Michael Totten:
I spent a week in Ukraine a few years back when I traveled by car from the Polish border through Lviv to Kiev and down to Odessa and Yalta. I wrote about it at length in my book, Where the West Ends. So I feel obligated to write about it now that the capital is on fire.

Kiev is a magnificent city, and it pains me to see it like this, but I should not be surprised. Almost every country I’ve ever written about is either in hell, has only recently recovered from hell, or is on its way to hell. I hoped when I visited Ukraine that it was on its way out, but I did not have a good feeling about it, as you’ll recall if you read my book.

I’m reluctant to wade in as an analyst, though, because I don’t know the country on an intimate nuts-and-bolts level. Let me instead outsource my analysis to my World Affairs colleague Alexander Motyl who writes about nothing else.

Motyl:
As the criminal Yanukovych regime’s violence, terror, and repression are driving Ukraine to armed conflict and, possibly, fragmentation, it may be worth asking whether Ukraine might not be better off without some of its southeastern provinces.

First let’s consider the bad reasons for a breakup—Ukraine’s diversity in general and the regional, ethnic, confessional, and cultural divisions between its “West” and “East” in particular. A good place to start is a recent article by Orlando Figes, professor of history at Birkbeck College, University of London, “Is There One Ukraine?” Figes, who should know better coming from the UK, writes about Ukraine’s divisions as if they were unique and as if diversity alone justified or led to breakup. He’s wrong on both counts. Ukraine’s diversity is pretty much the norm for all stable states everywhere. ...

What is unusual about contemporary Ukraine is that it’s exploited by a criminal gangster regime—Yanukovych’s— in cahoots with another criminal gangster regime—Putin’s. Many countries have the misfortune of being misruled by homegrown camarillas. Many countries have the misfortune of being dominated by predator states. Ukraine has the double misfortune of being misruled at home and “mis-dominated” abroad.

That’s why Figes’s suggestion—“Ukraine ought to consider applying a precedent from elsewhere in eastern Europe: deciding the country’s fate by referendum”—wouldn’t work. ...

Although lopping off the Donbas would benefit the rest of Ukraine, Yanukovych’s mafia regime desperately needs Ukraine to be whole. If Luhansk and Donetsk were to split away, their rust-belt economy would collapse without Kyiv’s financial support and the Regionnaires, trapped in their polluted bailiwick, would have nothing to steal. And what would Yanukovych’s multibillionaire pal, Rinat Akhmetov, do without easy access to Ukraine’s resources? A similar logic holds for Putin. What would he do with a rotten slice of Ukraine—a kind of mega Transnistria? Subsidize its dead-end economy? Spend valuable time and resources on jailing the corrupt Regionnaires and the troglodyte Communists? No, a weak Yanukovych regime in a weak Ukraine serves Putin’s interests perfectly. ...

Sudan court convicts Ethiopian woman over ‘gang-rape’

Sudan court convicts Ethiopian woman over ‘gang-rape’
This is unutterably grotesque.
The woman was sentenced to a one-month jail term but this was suspended because she is pregnant, her lawyer, Samia al-Hashmi, told the AFP news agency.
She was also fined 5,000 Sudanese pounds ($880; £530).
She had also faced charges of adultery and prostitution, which could have led to a penalty of death by stoning, but these were dropped after she convinced the court she was divorced, reports SIHA.
More via AllAfrica:

2014-02-20

Nick Cohen: Gay People Not an Aberration

Nick Cohen at CIF:

Yet liberals welcomed the announcement by the American geneticist Dean Hamer in 1993 that genes influenced homosexuality in men, and have cheered on variations on his theme ever since. True, the "discovery" perturbed homophobic clerics. You only have to search for "gay gene" and "Christian" or "Islam" to see their discomfort at the thought that homosexuality has "god-given" causes.

Although it is always worth tormenting small minds, point scoring was and remains a dangerous tactic. ...

Better to say loudly what the Sochi Olympians are too self-obsessed to say at all: gay people are not entitled to human rights because of a gene, but because they are human.
Go read the whole piece at the link.