Thursday, October 25, 2012

R*@#^d Ann, huh?

Maybe it's because I was, at least in the first six or seven years of my life on this planet, a "slow learner" and had to spend Grades One and Two in the remedial program (along with very intensive speech therapy).   Or maybe because it's just Ann Coulter.   I am not mentally challenged (although my parents initially thought I may have been) but I do know people who are, who make a go of it every day and contribute to society as much as they can.

But this time, Coulter really hit way below the belt when she used Twitter to call Barack Obama a "retard" -- not just once but twice.

I am really at a loss for words on this one.   I suspect even many conservative columnists may finally be fed up with her shenanigans or her searches for the totally inappropriate mot juste.

I will readily concede I have said things that are rather inappropriate.   And yes that does include the "N" word even if only in reference to how much I hate the word.

I would have to suppose though that Coulter's worst nightmare is if someone who meets the medial criteria for what constitutes "retardation" actually is elected President during her lifetime.   Maybe having a disabled person in the Oval Office might actually get America back on track.   Certainly if democracy means anything, it's being able to speak one's mind whatever it is or any time he or she wants.   What constitutes class, however, is saying it in a way that is meaningful and casts the person who says it in a respectful way even if one disagrees with it.

Especially when a writer is eager to write off 7 million people in the States, 2/3 of which are old enough to vote, she may have triggered a GOTV campaign from one of the most unlikeliest quarters.  Far as I am aware, none of the 50 States or Washington DC forbids anyone who is "challenged" from voting, and ticking off any identifiable group is bound to really backfire.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Billy Graham: Wrong about gay marriage

Billy Graham, who is into his eighth decade as a minister, is one of the very few people in the States who is so famous that the only address you need to write on an envelope is his or her name only, no box number, no state, no ZIP code -- in this case, Billy Graham USA.

In most respects he certainly does deserve that distinction.    Not just for his dynamic style of preaching, one that appeals to people of faith regardless of denomination.   Nor for his humble living (still residing in his Montreat, North Carolina cottage rather than the super manors most televangelists favour).

In the very early days of the civil rights struggle he was in the front lines against segregation.   Several times, he literally had to knock down rope lines in arenas that separated the "black" and "white" sections and told the organizers he would cancel the crusade if the service was not desegregated.    As he famously said in 1969 (to huge applause from both whites and blacks):    "Jesus isn't black or white.    He is a Palestinian.   He has brown skin, and He belongs to all of us!"    He never named names but this was almost certainly a shot at Jerry Falwell, who opposed racial integration (including for the longest time refusing to perform interracial marriages).

Graham has also been scrupulous in not openly favouring any candidate in particular for any level of office.   He is a registered Democrat, but always has a reserved seat at both the Dem and GOP conventions.   Not too many other preachers who have that honour -- one or the other, yes, but not both.

But in the last few years, indeed as he is now in the sunset of his life, he has become quite stubborn on the issue of faith in politics.  In particular gay marriage.   Earlier this year, he took out ads in North Carolina newspapers urging residents there to pass an anti-gay marriage initiative.   I doubt his comments swayed too many voters, the law was going to pass anyway.    The Tarheel State, while one of the most progressive in the South, is still deeply religious.   Many who are socially liberal on most issues draw the line at abortion and "the right to die."

That's fine.   People can have whatever opinions they want.

Dr Graham, however, has taken the unusual step of going nationwide with his advertorials.   In his words:

"As I approach my 94th birthday, I realize this election could be my last.  I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel. I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God."

That's all well and good.    Except for the fact that after Mitt Romney visited Graham earlier this week, Graham's ministry's website scrubbed a whole section that defined Mormonism as a cult.   Many apologetics would point out that the LDS church has beliefs that are totally outside of Protestantism -- in fact are outside the articles of faith that the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and the dozens of Protestant denominations agree on.   (Read:   the Nicene Creed.)

This is about as close to a full endorsement of a political candidate as Graham has ever come.    One might suppose that since there is clear firewall between himself personally and his ministry (again, something most other televangelists refuse to do) he has the law on his side.

But I do find it very troubling he has only spoken openly about gay marriage now.   True, it is a bridge too far for many people.   And yes, he has the right to have his opinions.  However, the idea that someone who is LGBT opposes the state of Israel or is automatically pro-choice or supports the strict division between church and state is silly.

As far as marriage is concerned, there is the principle that "God is love."    Jesus may have spoken of marriage as one man one woman.   But  that was 2000 years ago.   I would happen to think that if He was here today, he'd say, who cares as long as there is love.   While I am still personally troubled by the moral implications of same sex marriage, on a social level as well as a legal principle it is really none of my business who should or who should not get married or to whom.

So Dr Graham, respectfully, you have a right to your opinions, but the mindset of the free world is changing on this one.   America wasn't destroyed by desegregation, or women voting or being in the workplace, or by having a central bank instead of having banks print their own money.    I hardly think it or any other country will be destroyed by LGBT marriages.

Besides which, the vast majority of gay couples prefer to live common law, seeing marriage as an oppressive institution.   And that's not necessary a wrong opinion either.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Binders of women", Mitt?

There have been many foot in mouth moments in debates over the years.   Think Gerry Ford's comments in 1976 about how he would not allow the USSR to dominate Poland (of course, Poland had been a client state of Moscow since WW2).   Carter saying that his daughter and youngest child (by far), then 13 year old  Amy, told him that nuclear disarmament was the biggest issue of the 1980 campaign.   Bush 41 in 1992 saying that Jim Baker, not him, would be in charge of the budget process.  Same campaign, Ross Perot saying he was "all ears" -- then an actual pause for emphasis -- if anyone had better ideas to fix the economy than he did.   And on it goes.

But really -- "binders of women" that were provided by women's advocacy groups?   That's how Mitt Romney explained how he selected female members of his cabinet whilst Governor of Massachusetts.    Maybe it's because things register slower for me than most others, but it took a minute before I realized the unintended double entendre.   This during a discussion between Romney and President Obama about the principle of equal pay for women -- which really should be equal pay for work of equal value.

That and his accusal of Obama not calling the attack on the Bengazi consulate a terrorist attack for 10 days, when in fact the President did so the day after (as the moderator, Candy Crowley pointed out, transcript in hand), didn't do much to enhance Romney's credibility.   It may have worsened it.

Overall, the debate was definitely Obama's, as the town hall format suits his style more than Romney's.   And Ms Crowley definitely was in control unlike Jim Lehrer (uncharacteristically) two weeks ago.

But while a campaign should be about more substantive issues, particularly on both foreign and domestic policies, women still are a majority of people in the States, and they vote more as a percentage of the group than men do of theirs.   And this isn't something that will slip and slide like non-stick coating.   After all, they aren't just a page in a binder.   Every woman, and every man, has a story to tell, each of which would fill several filing cabinets.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Khadr: Back in the Great White North

Omar Khadr returned to Canada this past weekend to serve out the remainder of his sentence at Guantanamo Bay.   Unlike the "military commission" which gave Khadr no credit for time served on the eight year sentence he received for manslaughter, the "two for one" rule in effect in Canada at the time looks like it will be applied here which means he could be out of jail by next summer.    There is no excuse for what he did.   But the way he was treated violated most principles of international law.

Some Canadians have said that he should not be allowed to return here at all even if his sentence was served out in Cuba.    Also, says such people, his mother and sister should be kicked out of Canada for their radical views -- no the least of which included that Muslims who died on 9/11 deserved to die because their taxes supported what they (the mother and sister) consider the suppression of other Muslims in the Arab world.

Both arguments about exclusion and expulsion fall flat on their faces by law. First, Section 6 of the Charter which guarantees residency rights for Canadians and landed immigrants.   This right exists with very few exceptions, one being extradition (and even there one a sentence is served there would be a right of return).   And even if that constitutional right wasn't there I still wouldn't be so harsh as the anti-Khadr camp.

Second, the Section 2 rights of freedom of speech are near absolute but for the yelling fire principle.   There is a bit of a ring of truth to the West's support of dictatorships in the Middle East -- and now that there's a rapid move to democracy the push back should not come as much of a surprise.

Khadr should have been allowed to return to Canada much sooner than he was.  Three reasons.
  1. He was only 15 at the time, technically a child soldier which by itself is illegal under international law.
  2. While he did kill a US medic in the course of battle in Afghanistan, it's by no means clear whether the act was premeditated.
  3. The vast majority of offenders deserve a second chance.   It's not like Khadr is a pedophile.

I have to say that Khadr's return now is a bit of a surprise, given that PMS and Co seemed all too willing to let the guy rot.   What happened in the last few days, who knows.   But at least we can finally move on.

Well not quite -- even the now democratic but still very corrupt Afghanistan still refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist.   For both of these reasons, NATO's war looks like it was a mostly pointless exercise.   9/11 had to be responded to but the resulting reaction was overkill.   Khadr may never have been in the situation he got into if the war was limited to what absolutely needed to be done and no more.   That's as much a tragedy as what led to his arrest.