Sep. 12th, 2015 06:27 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has surprised a lot of people by accepting a large number of refugees from the fighting in the Middle East. Some people seem not to have understood what she's doing.
Merkel was given an honorary degree in Bern, Switzerland, the other day.  Following the ceremony there was a Q&A session.  “You’re doing a lot to help the refugees,” one woman asked.“What are you doing to protect our Christian values?”
My immediate response would have been to say something like, "I'm doing a lot to help the refugees. I'm protecting our Christian values by trying to live up to them."

But then, I'm not a politician. Her answer was more like this:
First off, she said, we in Europe should recognize that we are responsible for a lot of the misery in the Middle East. It’s not just that problems are coming to us. In some cases there are even IS fighters of German origin. “We can’t behave as if this had nothing to do with us.” Of course we have to arm ourselves against terror, but Europe’s history is so filled with gruesome confrontations, it seems to me, that we ought to be very careful when we complain about things going on elsewhere in the world. We have no reason for arrogance. “And I say that as German Chancellor.” The best approach to take in the face of religious people of another faith, she suggested, is to arm yourself with greater knowledge of your own faith.
Which is a pretty good answer too. Ms. Merkel is not one of my favorite politicians, but she's doing the right thing here. Not everyone is.

H/t to the Slacktivist


May. 16th, 2015 03:50 pm
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
British Prime Minister David Cameron:
“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It’s often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that’s helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance.
“This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach. As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation and bring our country together. That means actively promoting certain values.
“Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality.
“We must say to our citizens: this is what defines us as a society.”
I'm having real difficulty connecting the first sentence to the rest of the quote, and I find that first sentence flatly frightening.
stoutfellow: (Murphy)
This could be very big indeed.

One concern that I have, that's not mentioned in the article, is that this is being carried out under the auspices of the Turkish government. Turkey has been militantly secularist since the time of Atatürk, and I don't know what effect that will have on the reception of this work. Also, from what I understand, Turkey is not popular among Arabs - they still remember the Ottoman occupation - or among Iranians - the Ottoman and Persian empires were rivals, often belligerent ones, for centuries.

Still, it will be interesting to see what comes of this.
stoutfellow: (Ben)
Here's an interesting post by Jonathan Edelstein on Fijian politics, the Dominion of Melchizedek, and the future "shell countries".
stoutfellow: Joker (Default)
Hat tip to The Head Heeb for this very interesting article on the implementation of shari'a in northern Nigeria over the last six years.
stoutfellow: Joker (Default)
Here's an interesting article by Abu Aardvark on the reaction to the passing of the Pope in the Islamic world. Some radical Islamists are upset with al-Jazeera for its extensive and sympathetic coverage, but moderate Islamists, including Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi, have spoken of him with admiration. Apparently his efforts at rapprochement with Islam made him quite popular in the Arab world. This makes even more intriguing the possible election of Nigeria's Francis Arinze, who has long dealt fairly amicably with the Muslim population of that country. (I'm not sure how I feel about Arinze's candidacy; like many African Christian leaders, he is very conservative on social issues. But there would be several upsides to his selection.)
stoutfellow: Joker (Default)
Apparently some wild things are going on in Kyrgyzstan; Askar Akayev has reportedly fled the country in the face of massive demonstrations, and the opposition has taken power.

I'm not sure what to make of this. In the first few years after the USSR broke up, as I recall, Akayev was pointed to as something of a democrat, but in the last few years he seemed to be working on presidency-for-life or, failing that, establishing a dynasty. On that basis, it's probably good to see the back of him. But from what I'm hearing the opposition isn't unified and may quickly turn to squabbling. There's been some good discussion at Obsidian Wings (which has become my favorite political blog - a good mix of left and right, with, in most cases, civil discourse, even in the comments).

I don't know, either, whether Kyrgyzstan has the kind of social institutions that can support a democracy. They can be built, if they're not there, but for the first while they can be awfully fragile. A lot can turn on the quality of the leaders who emerge - Robespierre or Washington, Mugabe or Mandela - and I don't know anything about the Kyrgyz opposition figures. We shall see.
stoutfellow: Joker (Default)
What's going on Ukraine right now isn't quite as exciting - or, probably, as momentous - as the events of August 1991, but it's still a big story. A Fistful of Euros has been giving it a lot of coverage, as well as links to other sources (including blogs from within Ukraine itself).

As a small-d democrat, I have to root for Yushchenko and his supporters; the current administration is corrupt and may be criminal. However, to have a Western-oriented government take power in Ukraine would certainly anger the Russians, with unpredictable results. (Events in the former Georgian SSR already have them ticked off, and Ukraine is a much bigger prize.) There's already a conspiracy theory out there laying the crisis at the feet of Polish and American politicians, notably Zbigniew Brzezinski, aiming at simultaneously weakening Russia and creating a power base for Poland within the EU, countering the Franco-German axis.

I'm keeping an eye on this one.


Sep. 28th, 2004 10:07 am
stoutfellow: Joker (Default)
It's not that I'm not getting things done. Heck, I gave three full-hour tests in three days last week, and I'll have returned all of them by this evening. I'm just not feeling any enthusiasm for anything at the moment. But I have to get on the stick; there are two departmental items - a form letter and a pamphlet - that I'm supposed to compose, and I also need to write up a couple of papers for publication. I'm supervising one Senior Project and one Master's thesis, and for their sakes I have to pay close attention.

I just don't feel like it.

Anyway. Last week I read a short book by the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan on the subject of international law; he wrote it in 1990, in the aftermath of the Iran-contra mess and just before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The main thesis is that the US government had abandoned its longstanding respect for international law, dating to the beginning of the republic, and especially strong from the Wilson presidency through the Carter administration. He points to the invasion of Grenada, the mining of Nicaragua's harbors, and the whole arms-for-hostages deal, deeming all of them violations of international law and fretting over the consequences. (Lest he be accused of partisanship here, he quotes Barry Goldwater, who served with him on the Intelligence Committee, as being publicly furious over much of this - for which fury Goldwater was savaged by William Safire, among others.) Interestingly, he specifically exempts the USAn support for the Afghan insurgents from this... An interesting and disturbing book, like most of Moynihan's work. I miss him.

I moved on from that to Gordon Wood's The Radicalism of the American Revolution; no comment as yet.

On the fictional front, I've been reading some of R. M. Meluch's books. I have three of her novels - Jerusalem Fire, Chicago Red, and The Queen's Squadron; apparently she wrote three or four others, all before 1992 and all out of print. (It seems that she has something new coming out soon, and in hardcover; I'm not sure how to interpret that, given the long hiatus.) She's an intriguing writer. She has some flaws; in particular, she's prone to melodrama. Her protagonists have outsize problems; one is a repentant mass-murderer, another an immortal who has turned her back on her past to live as a mortal. But she raises knotty problems and doesn't, generally, try to answer them. In Jerusalem Fire, she depicts an empire which is savagely crushing all opposition in the name of tolerance; Chicago Red deals with revolution in a ravaged future America ruled by an absolute monarch, and gives a certain amount of justification to the royal family. The Queen's Squadron, to my mind the best of the three, deals with a war between the Vikhen Empire, peopled by ordinary humans but ruled by a race of immortals, and the "free mortals"; the Empire, though a rigid aristocracy, is presented with surprising sympathy, even though one of the central characters is their chief torturer. (No, it's nothing like Gene Wolfe.) I can't say that Meluch is a great writer, but I find myself drawn back to her books from time to time, and I may take a look at her next one (but not until it comes out in paper).
stoutfellow: (Murphy)
Here are a few websites I've recently come upon, which I've been enjoying.

If you're interested in languages, Language Hat is a delight.

If you're interested in foreign politics and such, here are three sites that I like:
Juan Cole specializes in the Middle East. (Warning: he is not a fan of the Bush administration!)
Beautiful Horizons covers Latin America.
The Head Heeb is pretty wide-ranging; Israel gets a fair amount of coverage, but so do a number of countries in Africa and Oceania.

And if you aren't following Two Lumps, you're missing some good laughs. The cartoon is published MWF. Go back to the beginning and read the whole thing.


stoutfellow: Joker (Default)

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