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Some relevant background given the recent publicity of how much our governments pry into our personal lives.
Whatever your take on recent revelations about government spying on our phone calls and Internet activity, there’s no denying that Big Brother is bigger and less brotherly than we thought. What’s the resulting cost to our privacy — and more so, our democracy? Lawrence Lessig joins Bill to discuss the implications of our government’s actions.
Chris rock makes a point about how to think about “progressive politics” and what it means to people. It is almost always informative to hear the story of those who regularly receive the short end of history’s stick.
I would recommend adding this to your reading lists, I’m only a third of the way though, but it has been a detailed and interesting account of genesis and growth of the large mean streak of anti-intellectualism that is currently dominating the zeitgeist of American society. Jacoby was interviewed by Bill Moyers and thus, allow me to wet your whistle with an excerpt from the transcript.
SUSAN JACOBY: Now, this was not always the case in our country. In the 19th century Robert Ingersoll, whom we’ve talked, who is known as the great agnostic, had audiences full of people who didn’t agree with him. But they wanted to hear what he had to say. And they wanted to see whether the devil really has horns. And now what we have is a situation in which people go to hear people they already agree with. What’s going on is not so much education as reinforcement of the opinions you already have.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, why is it we’re so unwilling to give, as you say, a hearing to contradictory viewpoints? Or to imagine that we might learn something from someone who disagrees with us?
SUSAN JACOBY: Well, I think part of it is part of a larger thing that is making our culture dumber. We have, really, over the past 40 years, gotten shorter and shorter and shorter attention spans. One of the most important studies I’ve found, and I’ve put in this chapter, they call it Infantainment– on this book. It’s by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And they’ve found that children under six spend two hours a day watching television and video on average. But only 39 minutes a day being read to by their parents.
Well, you don’t need a scientific study to know that if you’re not read to by your parents, if most of your entertainment when you’re in those very formative years is looking at a screen, you value what you do. And I don’t see how people can learn to concentrate and read if they watch television when they’re very young as opposed to having their parents read to them. The fact is when you’re watching television, whether it’s an infant or you or I, or staring glazedly at a video screen, you’re not doing something else.
BILL MOYERS: What does it say to you, Susan, that half of American adults believe in ghosts? Now I take these from your book. One-third believe in astrology. Three quarters believe in angels. And four-fifths believe in miracles.
SUSAN JACOBY: I think even more important than the fact that large numbers of Americans believe in ghosts or angels, that is part of some religious beliefs. Is the flip side is of this is that over half of Americans don’t believe in evolution. And these things go together. Because what they do is they place science on a par almost with folk beliefs.
And I think– if I may inveigh against myself, ourselves, I think the American media in particular has a lot to do with it. Because one of the things that really has gotten dumber about our culture the media constantly talks about truth as if it– if it were always equidistant from two points. In other words, sometimes the truth is one-sided.
I mentioned this in THE AGE OF AMERICAN UNREASON that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks there was a huge cover story in TIME Magazine in 2002 about the rapture and end of the world scenarios. There wasn’t a singular secular person quoted in it. They discussed the rapture scenario from the book of Revelation as though it was a perfectly reasonable thing for people to believe. On the one hand, these people don’t believe it. On the other it’s exactly like saying– you know, “Two plus– two plus two, so-and-so says, ‘two plus two equals five.’ But, of course, mathematicians say that it really equals four.” The mathematicians are right. The people who say that two plus two equals five are wrong. The media blurs that constantly.
BILL MOYERS: You call that a kind of dumb objectivity.
SUSAN JACOBY: Yes. Dumb objectivity. Exactly.
As an educator I find Jacoby’s work illuminating and depressing at the same time. We have such a large hill to climb in the struggle to reclaim children’s minds from the media.
I quote from the latest news update released by the Guttmacher Institute.
“One-third of U.S. pregnancies occur within 18 months of a previous birth, according to “Short Interpregnancy Intervals in the United States,” by Laura Lindberg of the Guttmacher Institute et al., while 50% occurred within 18–59 months, and 16% occurred at 60 or more months. Short birth spacing, which was measured as 18 months or less, was found to be strongly linked to unintended pregnancies, and being between 15 and 19 years old at the time of conception.
Previous research has shown that short spacing between pregnancies can lead to harmful outcomes for mothers, such as preeclampsia, and for newborns, such as being born preterm or with low birth weight. Additionally, the federal Healthy People 2020 initiative aims to reduce by 10% the number of pregnancies that occur within 18 months of a previous birth. Lindberg explains that preventing this short spacing is thus a public health priority in the United States, and estimates that reducing unintended pregnancies could reduce shortly spaced births from 35% to 23%, a feat that would benefit the health of both the mother and the newborn.
“Pregnancy intervals of more than 18 months are considered optimal birth spacing, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and others,” said Lindberg. “Helping women plan and space their pregnancies through greater contraceptive access can lead to better outcomes for both mother and infant.” The researchers identify long-acting reversible contraceptives, such as IUDs, as particularly well-suited to increasing the space between pregnancies.”
Look what happens when science and social science intersect. Better outcomes for women and children – why? Because women can choose when and when not be pregnant. This is what the point so many forced birth advocates miss – the person who is pregnant knows what is best for her and her family and, given proper access to reproductive services, can plan for the best possible conditions for herself and her children.
Contrast this with the christian business uproar over providing contraceptives for
sluts! women and how tragically unfair it is to their jebus-based-bullshite.
Religion continues to poison everything it touches, but we already knew that.
This is just a snippet of the interview with Noam Chomsky, I recommend you go read the entire article on Alternet.
Wilson: Why should we choose anarchy, as opposed to, say, libertarianism?
Chomsky:Well what’s called libertarian in the United States, which is a special U. S. phenomenon, it doesn’t really exist anywhere else — a little bit in England — permits a very high level of authority and domination but in the hands of private power: so private power should be unleashed to do whatever it likes. The assumption is that by some kind of magic, concentrated private power will lead to a more free and just society. Actually that has been believed in the past. Adam Smith for example, one of his main arguments for markets was the claim that under conditions of perfect liberty, markets would lead to perfect equality. Well, we don’t have to talk about that! That kind of —
Wilson: It seems to be a continuing contention today …
Chomsky: Yes, and so well that kind of libertarianism, in my view, in the current world, is just a call for some of the worst kinds of tyranny, namely unaccountable private tyranny. Anarchism is quite different from that. It calls for an elimination to tyranny, all kinds of tyranny. Including the kind of tyranny that’s internal to private power concentrations. So why should we prefer it? Well I think because freedom is better than subordination. It’s better to be free than to be a slave. Its’ better to be able to make your own decisions than to have someone else make decisions and force you to observe them. I mean, I don’t think you really need an argument for that. It seems like … transparent.
The thing you need an argument for, and should give an argument for, is, How can we best proceed in that direction? And there are lots of ways within the current society. One way, incidentally, is through use of the state, to the extent that it is democratically controlled. I mean in the long run, anarchists would like to see the state eliminated. But it exists, alongside of private power, and the state is, at least to a certain extent, under public influence and control — could be much more so. And it provides devices to constrain the much more dangerous forces of private power. Rules for safety and health in the workplace for example. Or insuring that people have decent health care, let’s say. Many other things like that. They’re not going to come about through private power. Quite the contrary. But they can come about through the use of the state system under limited democratic control … to carry forward reformist measures. I think those are fine things to do. they should be looking forward to something much more, much beyond, — namely actual, much larger-scale democratization. And that’s possible to not only think about, but to work on. So one of the leading anarchist thinkers, Bakunin in the 19th cent, pointed out that it’s quite possible to build the institutions of a future society within the present one.
Democracy promotion abroad. Funny how it seem to only happen in locals of geopolitical importance. I’m sure we’ll get around to distributing freedom for everyone eventually. Afghanistan, on the other hand, is geopolitically important to the West for possible energy reserves and pipe lines that could be a significant boon to our adversaries thus in Afghanistan we remain, murdering people merrily with our drones and wondering why…oh why… do they hate us so.
Of course, hating the West is nothing new in Afghanistan (or even here in North America as those without sufficient enthusiasm for the ‘America, Fuck Ya!’ spirit are labelled unpatriotic or “self-hating”) and unsurprisingly the West’s notions of liberty and equality do not have much traction.
This situation in Afghanistan, of course, is bad for women and a recent government ruling highlights the archaic regime’s failure to understand that women are people.
“Conservative religious lawmakers in Afghanistan blocked legislation on Saturday aimed at strengthening provisions for women’s freedoms, arguing that parts of it violate Islamic principles and encourage disobedience.”
Ah, the shit-stain of religion once again reemerges to sully humanity’s escutcheon in the name of peace, order and good government. Christianity, Islam it doesn’t really matter it is all cut from the same tattered patriarchal cloth. Religion is bad for women and great for patriarchy.
“Khalil Ahmad Shaheedzada, a conservative lawmaker for Herat province, said the legislation was withdrawn shortly after being introduced in parliament because of an uproar by religious parties who said parts of the law are un-Islamic.
“Whatever is against Islamic law, we don’t even need to speak about it,” Shaheedzada said.”
They also plan to outlaw the earth revolving around the sun as well. Stupid says as stupid does.
“The Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women has been in effect since 2009, but only by presidential decree. It is being brought before parliament now because lawmaker Fawzia Kofi, a women’s rights activist, wants to cement it with a parliamentary vote to prevent its potential reversal by any future president who might be tempted to repeal it to satisfy hard-line religious parties.”
What?!? The religious fighting against rights for women. This is shocking.
The law criminalizes, among other things, child marriage and forced marriage, and bans “baad,” the traditional practice of exchanging girls and women to settle disputes. It makes domestic violence a crime punishable by up to three years in prison and specifies that rape victims should not face criminal charges for fornication or adultery.”
Anything disagreeable so far? To those not mired in the delusional fap-world of religiosity, nothing disagreeable at all.
“The child marriage ban and the idea of protecting female rape victims from prosecution were particularly heated subjects in Saturday’s parliamentary debate, said Nasirullah Sadiqizada Neli, a conservative lawmaker from Daykundi province.
Neli suggested that removing the custom — common in Afghanistan — of prosecuting raped women for adultery would lead to social chaos, with women freely engaging in extramarital sex safe in the knowledge they could claim rape if caught.”
Agency for women? What is this foolish talk? Social chaos indeed. This kind of hare-brained thinking needs to frakking die already. I have news for you my deranged mullah friends. Women have the capacity to make decisions for themselves that what is best for themselves. Your religiously addled brain can now begin to melt.
“Adultery itself is a crime in Islam, whether it is by force or not,” Rahmani said.”
And the vast majority of males being charged are a testament to this scripture…
“He said the Quran also makes clear that a husband has a right to beat a disobedient wife as a last resort, as long as she is not permanently harmed.
“But in this law,” he said, “It says if a man beats his wife at all, he should be jailed for three months to three years.”
And that law is rigorously applied because the male lawyers, male judges and the male justice system are all about protecting women in Afghanistan. It is certainly not about proscribing female behaviour and legislating how women should act. It is shit like this that religious have to answer for.
“Lawmaker Shaheedzada also claimed that the law might encourage disobedience among girls and women, saying it reflected Western values not applicable in Afghanistan.”
The right to be treated as a human being is not a Western Value, but a basic human right. Fuck you and your sophomoric cultural relativism.
“Even now in Afghanistan, women are running from their husbands. Girls are running from home,” Shaheedzada said. “Such laws give them these ideas.”
Ideas like. “I am a person who deserves to be treated with dignity and respect”. Obviously this needs to be quashed ASAP by the noble forces of Islam.
“There’s a real risk this has opened a Pandora’s box, that this may have galvanized opposition to this decree by people who in principle oppose greater rights for women,” said Heather Barr, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.
That’s true for lawmaker Rahmani, who said President Hamid Karzai should never have issued the decree and wants it changed, if not repealed.
“We cannot have an Islamic country with basically Western laws,” he said.”
If protections and human rights are contrary to running an Islamic country then I suggest that having a Islamic country isn’t a shit-hot idea in the first place and the notion should be binned accordingly.
Islamic religious arseholes. :/