2014-05-11

Bill Maher's Liberalism: Free Speech, Free Thought, Free Faith

I'm not always a fan of Bill Maher, but here are two clips I think are just splendid, whether you label yourself a "liberal" or a "conservative":



Here Maher takes on Kathleen Parker's Washington Post editorial defending self-censorship in a world without privacy.
I would listen to a hundred horrific Cliven Bundy rants if that was the price of living in a world where I could also listen to interesting and funny people talk without a filter. Perhaps most chilling of all, Parker said that 'speaking one's mind isn't really all it's cracked up to be.' Which is quite a statement, since her job is speaking her mind. It's like the mailman telling you letters are stupid.

So let me get this straight: We should concede that there's no such thing anymore as a private conversation, so therefore remember to lawyer everything you say before you say it, and hey, speaking your mind was overrated anyway so you won't miss it. Well, I'll miss it. I'll miss it a lot. And for the record, speaking my mind is absolutely everything it's cracked up to be. ...

Does anyone really want there to be no place where we can let our hair down and not worry if the bad angel in our head occasionally grabs the mike? ...

Who wants to live in a world where the only privacy you have is inside your head? That's what life in East Germany was like. That's why we fought the Cold War, remember? So we'd never have to live in some awful limbo where you never knew who, even among your friends, was an informer.

Go to the video link for the rest. Now here's Maher again, speaking against both the misogynistic violence committed by jihadi Muslims like Boko Haram, and the reluctance of Western "liberals" to name this for what it is:

There was a Pew poll of Egypt, which is a leading Muslim country, and something like 80 or 90 percent believe that death is the proper punishment for leaving the religion.

Where it becomes dangerous is that liberals like yourself [to Arianna Huffington] do not stand up for liberalism. Liberalism means number one - mostly - equality of women. Free speech. No death threats.
Listen to the whole thing, and don't miss the discussion on Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Brandeis University at the end (beginning around 7:45).

Now I want to say a few words about -isms. Generally I try to avoid getting too much into ideological debates - "liberalism is better than conservatism" or vice versa - because I think they can be distracting. And arguing over what constitutes "real" conservatism / liberalism / you name it can quickly become a tedious waste of time. An ideology is a way of organizing your ideas and principles to help you make sense of the world, but what really matters is how you live your life.

But it's a fact that we often identify ourselves with our ideologies, be they political, religious, cultural, or otherwise. I vote Republican and most of my liberal friends consider me a "right-winger" but I have never thought of myself as a "conservative". Why? I don't know. I was raised by liberal parents, and I guess I feel my basic values haven't changed from the ones I was raised with.

What has changed, as I see it, is how the whole notion of liberalism - the liberal "brand", if you will - has morphed into something completely different from what it was in my parents' generation.

And what I see Bill Maher trying to do here is to reach out to liberals and remind them of the values that liberalism is supposed to stand for. I hope that he may be able to reach people who identify as "liberals" - the very people who need to be reached, and who may listen to someone they see as a fellow liberal when they will not listen to a "right-winger".

This being Mothers' Day, I'll just take a moment to acknowledge how much I learned from my Mom. She was a complicated woman and growing up with her was not easy; I wrote a short post about her at my personal journal. She had experienced sexism, and hated it; she had witnessed institutional racism, and hated it. She fought for the right of her darker-skinned friends to eat at the same lunch counter.

But she was never anti-American, and she was no friend of Communism. (Among my boxes of books I still have books by Soviet dissidents, from my Mom's collection.) And she had no patience with the entitlement mentality of people who thought society owed them something because of past wrongs. She believed in free access to the lunch counter - not a free lunch.

Mom was raised in a strict Baptist home in small-town Maine, and her childhood was in the pre-WWII era. She moved to the big city - Boston - as a young woman, and later moved to Connecticut and joined the Unitarian Universalist church, where she met kindred spirits, including my father. She had a lifelong distaste for religious orthodoxy and fundamentalism, but was never anti-religious and was always respectful and courteous to people whose beliefs she did not share. She judged people by their actions.

I don't consider myself a conservative, and I don't call myself a "liberal" anymore either, mainly because I don't want to get bogged down in semantics. What you call yourself is your own business. What matters is what you do.

2014-05-05

Egypt, Obama, and the Muslim Brotherhood

The snide tone of the National Geographic article is unmistakable, but whatever Peter Hessler's opinion of his interlocutors, there's a prevailing view that President Obama has been promoting Muslim Brotherhood power in Egypt. Here's Governor Salah Zeyada:
"They broke into six police stations in Minya and stole all the weapons," the governor said, describing the events of last August. "They burned 14 churches completely. And they burned four prosecution offices and courts, and they attacked the Mallawi Museum and stole all the antiquities. This was an American plot to turn Egypt into a new Syria, or a new Libya, or a new Iraq. This is the democratic America?"

Through my translator, I asked the governor to clarify who was responsible for the burned churches.

"It was Obama," he said. "And all of the American politicians who have divided all of the world. They are the only people who supported the Muslim Brotherhood, because they knew that the Muslim Brotherhood would destroy all of Egypt." ...

"Truly their [the Muslim Brotherhood's] numbers weren't more than 2 percent of the population. But they were assisted by gangs and criminals, by those who live in the desert. The Muslim Brotherhood gave them money, and they also had money from Qatar—which is funded through America—and they tried to ruin Egypt."
In the comments, Sharifa Zuhur addresses the author:
To the author: if you do NOT understand what has been going on in Egypt, and do NOT fully understand the perspective of your interviewee, then for heaven's sakes, don't superimpose your incoherent understanding of the events of last August in Menya, on its governor. You wrote: "It's difficult to understand exactly what happened in Minya last August, but the violence probably reflected frustration more than hatred." Sir, a policeman was lynched and tortured, a physician refused to treat him, a Christian man was tortured, then buried, and then dug up to be dragged around the town again - churches were burned and all of this did reflect 'frustration,' but murderous hatred.

The governors' references to Obama and the United States apparently baffled you, but most Egyptians reading the Western press currently believe that the U.S. govt., and many NGOs and Washington think tanks, as well as the NYT, WaPo, etc. had decided that the Muslim Brotherhood, as "moderate Islamists" were deserving of the West's support and the correct inheritors' of the Egyptian, Libyan, Tunisian (Ennahda is an MB movmt), Yemen (Islah is an MB movement), Syria (Morsi was a host of a jihad forum on Syria and people feared he would involve Egypt's military there. The West's obvious lobbying to support the overthrown Muslim Brotherhood in the name of 'democracy' is interpreted as dismay that carefully crafted programs going back for many years would undo this "plan." Whether you agree or not, respect your subject sufficiently so as to inform. Most of the death sentences were issued in abstentia & you even misunderstood his joke - "the comedy break" was Morsi.
Now here's Tera Dahl at Breitbart:
Having spent an extensive amount of time in Egypt since the removal of President Morsi last June, I can say with confidence that “anti-American sentiment” is currently at a dangerously high level, but not for the reasons many in the press cite. The animosity stems from America’s policies of not backing the Egyptian people and their war on terrorism. ...

There is a clear campaign in the Western media and in many Western think-tanks and policy organizations to turn the Egyptian military into the enemy and the terrorist organization of the Muslim Brotherhood into the innocent, democracy-loving victims. This narrative is deceitful and needs to be countered. The Egyptian military is America’s ally and has been since 1973, and the Muslim Brotherhood is America’s enemy. The Egyptian military is fighting against terrorism; America fights against terrorism. America and Egypt are fighting the same enemy with the same ideology that killed thousands of Americans on 9/11, thousands of Americans in Iraq, and is still killing our troops in Afghanistan today ...
UPDATE
Michael J. Totten has another perspective:
American politicians didn’t support the Muslim Brotherhood so much as they were duped by the Muslim Brotherhood and their apologists into believing the organization is moderate.

Okay, yes, the Muslim Brotherhood is moderate compared with Al Qaeda, but so what? That hardly tells us anything useful. Benito Mussolini was moderate compared with Adolf Hitler. The Ku Klux Klan is moderate compared with the Spanish Inquisition. Fidel Castro is moderate compared with Pol Pot. Vladimir Putin is moderate compared with Ivan the Terrible. Colombia’s FARC is moderate compared with Peru’s Shining Path. But none of those individuals or organizations are moderate in any real sense of the word. The word “moderate” in American English generally refers to conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans, not the likes of Fidel Castro and Vladimir Putin. And not—not really—to the Muslim Brotherhood either.

President Obama and his advisors truly believed that if they reached out a hand to the Brothers that Islamist hostility to the United States would diminish, at least among the relative “moderates.” They believed the same thing about Russia and Vladimir Putin and to this day think the same about the Islamic Republic regime in Iran. They’re missing that hostility toward the West is based primarily on a rejection of Western ideas and culture. The Mr. Nice Guy routine that plays well in Berlin, Paris, and Ottawa fails utterly in Moscow and Cairo. It might work in Tehran when the Islamic Republic regime is no more, and it will work wonders in Havana when the Castro regime is out of power, but the only time it works with ideological hostiles is when a greater enemy that threatens us all must be confronted. (Recall the American alliance with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany.)

Americans suckered by the Muslim Brotherhood should have known better. ...
Read the whole thing at the link.

2014-05-01

Nigeria: 234 Girls Still Missing

Richard Fernandez:
“Scores of girls and young women kidnapped from a school in Nigeria are being forced to marry their Islamic extremist abductors, a civic organization reported Wednesday,” according to news sources. The others are being sold off to buyers for $12 each. You could probably eat at Subway for that. But don’t order any sandwiches with ham or bacon in certain parts of the UK. Those have been banned.
Read the rest at the link.