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Rafique's blog

"Egypt is right back where it started."

I’m reminded of something Lebanese President Amine Gemayel said during the civil war in the 1980s. “Everyone is against everyone else, and it all keeps going around and around in circles without anyone ever winning or anything being accomplished.”

Read the whole thing.

Well Of Course It's The Hypocrisy

For your examination:

There is a great deal to be debated over the PRISM program, the morality of Edward Snowden's leaks, and proper balance between privacy and security, but one thing ought to be clear: This whole thing started when Barack Obama was merely a state senator from Illinois, and if you're mad about this, supported the Patriot Act, and made your bread attacking Democrats for opposing the Patriot Act, then you're full of crap.

" But... someone in that campaign should have realized how mockable this would be and said no."

"And they do all this secure in the knowledge that their opponents are genuinely worried about killing innocent people."

Context, Sweet Context

Sean King, a second-grader at a Colorado school decided to dress up as his favorite historic figure for a class project. He chose Dr. Martin Luther King, and wore black makeup as a part of the costume. Pop quiz: Did the faculty understand the context, and praise him for his efforts, or freak out, and force the kid to take off the makeup or be sent home?

You only need one guess.

Here's the thing: As a black man, I am sensitive to the obvious racial context of blackface. You needn't be black to be offended by blackface, or racism of any kind. The thing is, this isn't blackface, at least not the Al Jolson, minstrel-show kind most people think of. Precious context is required here: Shouldn't praise young Sean King for having such admiration for Dr. King, rather than crying racism, where it's reasonably clear none exists?

Context is everything, and this reeks of a political correctness that really ought to be fought tooth and nail...

HT: Althouse

You can be an advocate for Western civilization, and you can be a madman who guns people down for their political beliefs,

but you cannot be both. It's impossible.

"Who will defend these people, these truest heroes of modern freedom? That is the only question."

One of those people is liberal Muslim freedom fighter Irshad Manji, who was attacked by Islamists in Indonesia, for promoting reform within Islam.

For all the talk about the "war on women," the idiotic base politics of foolish Republicans may be worthy of scorn, but let's put things in perspective, folks--actual fascists are waging a full-scale war on women, which is a part of a larger war on free thought. If you're mad about a ban on contraception, but not about Irshad Manji being attacked with iron bars, then you're not serious...

HT: Michael Totten

"The amendment would hold that the rights protected by the Constitution are enjoyed only by individuals acting individually"

"...individuals acting in collaboration with others would be stripped of those rights."

The obvious consequences of a rather ill-conceived amendment to respond to Citizens United. Needless to say, unless the reading of this amendmen is incorrect, this is a really, really, really bad idea. This is the sort of misshapen monstrosity that could only cme from hasty thinking and unchecked passion. The crew at NRO have framed this in terms of a left-wing power grab in order to silence conservative dissent from the government, but I'm not prepared to lay that intent on the authors of this thing, as it is no doubt an attempt to fix a problem with a cure worse than the disease. The thing is, this would help to create that sort of arrangement, and would in fact leave all political speech subject to regulation.

I'm with NRO on this one--this is bad stuff, and most likely won't go anywhere. The commenters over there are convinced this is proof of the grand leftist conspiracy to crush American liberty. It's all straw man logic I know, but this does make it harder to dispel that fear with stuff like this coming down the pike.

The First Amendment's fine the way it is, folks. Let it be.

AND: The text:

Section 1. We the people who ordain and establish this Constitution intend the rights protected by this Constitution to be the rights of natural persons.

Section 2. People, person, or persons as used in this Constitution does not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state, and such corporate entities are subject to such regulation as the people, through their elected state and federal representatives, deem reasonable and are otherwise consistent with the powers of Congress and the States under this Constitution.

Section 3. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people's rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, and such other rights of the people, which rights are inalienable.

At first glance, it doesn't sound menacing, but a closer look reveals a glaring problem: Clause 2 appears to cancel out Clauses 1 and 3, because if Clause 2 limits the speech of corporations in such way that lines up with the opposition to Citizens United, then Clauses 1 and 3 are negated. If this isn't so, then this whole thing collapses on itself, and renders it symbolic and toothless. It's entirely possible that they've crerate a symbolic non-measure--either way this looks to be ill-conceived out of the gate.

"But there’s no way to know what to make of his story yet."

Andrew Breitbart Dead at 43

In a bit of shocking news, conservative media icon Andrew Bretibart has died of natural causes, at the age of 43. Needless to say, I wasn't exactly a fan of a lot of his work, but my prayers go out to his family and friends. As for speaking ill of the dead, I think the old rules should still apply.

UPDATE: Not everyone agrees with this, obviously, but my point still stands.

UPDATE #2: I think this from Andrew Sullivan is important:

A man has died at a painfully early age. He has family and friends and colleagues. They are in grief.

Look, I 'm not in any way trying to whitewash Breitbart's record, and I remember his comments after Ted Kennedy's death, but there is something to be said for magninimity, and maybe this is because I have personal experience with the unexpected loss of a loved one, but his family and friends are in grief. We ought to honor that. Be classy, because it's the right thing to do. That's all.

Thoughts on Biblical Stewardship

With all the talk over Rick Santorum's comments attacking President Obama's theology, I am planning a longer post on these issues, including my lamentation over Franklin Graham's comments on these issues. In the meantime, I wanted to link to this from the Catholic blog Vox Nova, via Andrew Sullivan. The argument goes into Santorum's embrace of solo scriptura, and his "inner evangelical,"* but I just wanted to make a point about environmentalism and Biblical stewardship, and I think the comment I posted pretty much covers my thoughts:

First of all, I’m writing this as an Evangelical Protestant, who believes the Bible is God’s revealed Word. I am also, for all intents and purposes, a political liberal–no doubt some will see a conflict there, but let’s leave that aside. I also want to leave aside for now the climate change debate–I believe it’s real, and Santorum doesn’t, but that’s not my issue here. I just want to point out that the idea of Biblical stewardship of creation is entirely in line with Scripture, and Santorum’s theology is wrong, but it’s not because he’s more conservative evangelical than Catholic–there is a certain strain of thought among certain evangelicals and cultural conservatives that Santorum is operating out of, but the problem here as I see it is not that Santorum is appealing to Biblical authority, rather that his views on this issue are in fact, not based on the Bible.

The idea of Biblical stewardship is not to pillage or plunder God’s resources as we see fit, but to be stewards–to tend the Earth, to care for it, and to use it for God’s glory. When God gave Adam dominion over the Earth, he called Adam to tend it and care for it–the idea is not to elevate the Earth above man, but Santorum seems to elevate man above everything, including God. God told Adam to “dress the Garden, and to keep it ” (Gen. 2:15). The idea of using the Earth for whatever, without regard for limitations actually ignores human concerns and leads to waste, pollution, and plunder, as a poor steward is wont to do.

I’ll say it again–the problem isn’t Santorum’s embrace of the Biblical teaching, but rather his rejection of it, in this case.

Oh, and I should be clear--I'm not attacking Santorum's faith--I'm simply challenging his definition of stewardship, and countering his attack on Obama's faith, based on my reading of Scripture. If anyone has a different view, I'm more than willing to hear it.

*FWIW, I think there is something to the argument that Santorum seems more at home among conservative Evangelicals than a lot of Catholics--but that doesn't really concern me.

AND: Franklin Graham has apologized.

"When Seuss compared The Cat in the Hat to Kerensky-style leftism, he may have been exaggerating,"

"...But when he called The Lorax 'propaganda,' he wasn’t wrong."

ADDED: I really should add a bit of context to this. Lou Dobbs' default position appears to be high dudgeon and demagoguery--and I think his baseless attack on The Secret World of Arrietty is exactly that, baseless, among other things. As far as The Lorax goes, as far the film having a environmentalist message, and the movie targeting children, he's not wrong. Not having a deep-seated opposition to environmentalism, this doesn't really bother me, but for certain self-appointed culture warriors, this is a big deal. Oh, well.

Besides, he shouldn't worry too much--they're kinda doing a half-assed job, anyway...

"HHS says employers can appeal a decision on whether they qualify for an exemption..."

"...But Hannah Smith, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said, 'The mandate vests too much unbridled discretion in the hands of government bureaucrats.' "

Yeah. As always, I give the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt with regards to intent, but I've increasingly come to feel that the Administration stepped wrong with this provision, and has created quite the mess, on moral, policy and political grounds. I'll say again--it's not just bad politics, it's morally troubling.

ADDED: I've been thinking this over a great deal, and I really should clarify a few things. I do not feel that the Obama administration has some deep desire to crush religious liberty, or dismantle Catholic hospitals and charities. I understand that it is a tough call in dealing with providing access to contraception-keep in mind that this measure does not force people to buy contraceptives. I agree with others that this probably was a genuine policy judgment, and the Administration misjudged the politics. The thing is, I still find the prospect of forcing religious organizations to pay for things that violate their consciences morally problematic, and I hope the year grace period will be used to straighten this out, as I don't see how this stands as is.

A Cheap Shot Is a Cheap Shot Is A Cheap Shot

I am no way a Romney fan, and can be pretty much counted on to support President Obama's reelection this fall, but I feel the need to agree with others that the attack on Romney for this is unfair, and a losing strategy. Even in the clip, the context is clear that Romney was making a point about appreciating the ability to fire bad employees, in the interest of efficiency. Do I agree with Romney's overall economic policy argument? No, but this sort of gotcha just seems unfair, and misses the real targets, I think. Not to mention, for the likes of Newt Gingrich to attack Romney in this vein reeks of pure hypocrisy and desperation--you can attack Romney for firing people at Bain Capital, and you can promote Lean Six Sigma principles for the federal government, but you can't do both.

In This Break From Our Usual Fare,

Teeee-bow!

I say this as a die-hard, full-throated Ravens fan, who expects the Ravens go all the way. Now, full disclosure: A Steelers loss is always a good thing to watch, and if the Tebow magic continues into New England next week, the Ravens get a AFC Championship home game. The thing is, I'm a Tebow fan. I really am. Full of potential, and a genuinely decent human being.

"I just have a simple request, however."

A Lie That Is Half A Truth, Is Ever The Blackest of Lies,

and when the "Lie of the Year," isn't a lie at all, it's only PolitiFact's reputation that dies.

In case you weren't following this, PolitiFact has heaped upon itself disgrace, after picking the claim that the Ryan Plan would "end Medicare as we know it," as the Lie of the Year. The choice was met with criticism from both ends of the political spectrum--criticism which editor Bill Adair chose to effectively ignore, and meet with insipid, smug, pretentious nonsense:

This is life in our echo chamber nation. We protect ourselves from opinions we don't like and seek reinforcement from like-minded allies.

The paradox of the Internet age is that never before have we had access to more ideas and different thoughts. And yet, many of us retreat into comfy parlors where everyone agrees and the other side is always wrong. Each side can manufacture its truths and get the chorus to sing along.

No, Mr. Adair, the problem is not the partisan echo-chamber (the partisan echo-chamber is a problem, but not here), or the fact that Ryan tried to have his supporters rig the poll, or the fact that the poll was meaningless, or that people were offended. The problem is that the lie that was chosen, wasn't a lie. The so-called Path to Prosperity would in fact change Medicare as we know it. Maybe you think that's a good thing, but that is what Ryan's plan would do.

The fact that three other fact checkers got it wrong, doesn't make it right. Truth is truth. In PolitiFact's attempt to be nonpartisan, they have not only committed an act of rank partisanship, but wounded their credibility as a serious outfit--maybe mortally so.

Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

One of our finest public intellectuals, men of letters, and all-around freedom fighters has died, losing his battle to cancer, at age 62. Right on so many issues (Iraq, the war on terror, Orwell), and wrong on many issues (faith, the Clintons), he was one of those who you enjoyed to read, even when you disagreed with the whole thing. A legend and an icon. We won't know whether Hitchens made his peace with God in his final moments, but nevertheless, I say RIP, and my prayers go out to his family.

OK, So Which One Is It?

I find myself continually confused by conservative critics of Obama, who accuse Obama of being both a power-mad radical bent on wrecking the country, and a bystander, who simply sits back and does nothing. Which one is it? Besides the fact that President Obama has made good faith efforts to get the Supercommittee to come to a deal, and that the ultimate legal power to create the deal rests with Congress, I'm not really sure what else Christie thinks Obama should've done. I'll bet a hefty sum that if Obama had tried to do it Christie's way, the same people would accuse him of abusing his power, and strong-arming Congress, or silencing conservative dissent, or something like that. It's not just the ignorance that's troubling--it's the unseriousness of it all.

HT: Althouse (forgot to add the link)

"There's got to be a breaking point for the conservative base's dislike of the media. How about we start with outright lies?"

You'd think so, but apparently not.

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