Sunday, July 24, 2011

I like Kathleen Parker. I think she's the most intellectually honest of the conservative op ed writers at the post. Normally she doesn't engage in apologetics, but her column today did that. It's one of her weaker columns. My first problem is that she calls Herman Cain's bigoted statements against Muslims and Islam as rhetoric. Calling his comments rhetoric elevates them to too high of a level. His statements are inane, especially in regards to sharia.

My second problem is that she says that people who object to his statements are looking "for a nugget to chew on". By trivializing his critics as people solely looking for a political opportunity she fails to stand by some of our basic american principles. The case could be made that maybe his critics take the 1st Amendment and Article 6 of the constitution seriously. It could be said that maybe they've read and understand the founding principles of our government and believe any one casting themselves as a serious political candidate should do the same. It's not demagoguery to denounce bigotry, especially when the bigot could be in a position of power over those he's bigoted against.

Herman Cain, if he were elected, would be required to swear an oath that he would enforce the constitution. His comments about mosques and having religious tests make it clear that he does not know what is in the constitution and what it means. It is clear, even when you have the full quote, that he is prejudiced against Muslims.

Cain hasn't just said one bad thing. He's repeatedly made statements that show his prejudice against Islam and his misunderstanding of it. Cain is a bigot. He has an irrational dislike of Islam based on incorrect assumptions. He is wrong about Muslim's desire to convert Christians. He does not even remotely come close to know what sharia is and does not know anything about what happens in mosques. He does not try to find the correct information about these matters and attributes evil intentions to Muslims. It's bigotry.

My last big gripe about Parker's column is that she focuses on the comments and not what they show about his fitness for office. Being ignorant of Article 6 is bad, but not understanding the 1st Amendment is unforgivable. In his comments about the courts invalidating the Oklahoma law, he also makes it clear he doesn't understand the role of the courts and why the Bill of Rights was added to the constitution.

The court can strike down laws that the people enacted when they violate the constitution. That's what the Oklahoma law did and so the court fulfilled their duty and struck down the law. As nefarious as Cain tried to make it sound the case, basically a man wanted to write his will in accordance with his religion. The Oklahoma law invalidated his will, and any other Muslim's will who chose to write their will in accordance with their religious beliefs. This law discriminated only against Muslims, in that it prevented only Muslims from being able to fulfill their religious duties when it comes to estate planning. The court was right to strike it down and anyone who has a high school civics education would understand.

Cain is obviously smart enough to understand basic civics, the fact that he refuses to demonstrates that he is not able to control his bigotry and has no business being in an elected office of any kind.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fake Populism

I was listening to Slate Culture Gabfest and they endorsed an appearance by Steve Coogan on some BBC show talking about the News of the World scandal. The Guardian has a running news page about the scandal here. News of The World were hacking peoples cell phones illegally and the people they hacked ran the gamut from celebrities to soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan. The hack that has most offended the public was the hack of Milly Dowler, a 13 year old murder victim.

Anyway, while watching the Steve Coogan piece there was a link to a Hugh Grant piece. After watching those videos and a couple others I noticed that Murdock's people are using populist arguments to defend their actions. I think this is basically a smoke screen, but their argument basically goes "A bunch of rich people are telling poor people what to read". You can see this argument really clearly on this video of Hugh Grant in the commenter's explanation of the video.

It's kind of amazing to me that they would even try this b/c this isn't a class issue at all. Rupert Murdock is a whole lot richer than Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan put together an multiplied by 10. This article says Murdock is worth 5.6 billion. That maybe overstated b/c some articles are saying that he's lost a billion dollars since the scandal broke. This isn't some laborer demanding to read hacked voicemails from a murdered school girl versus Hugh Grant's annoyance at being caught with a hooker. It's an issue of whether or not Murdock should be allowed to profit by breaking the law and invading people's privacy.

In contrast to that, although they did hack celebrities and politicians, Murdock's people were hacking people like Milly Dowler, victims of the 7/7 bombings, and soldiers who died at war. Clearly these people aren't wealthy celebrities or people who have chosen to throw themselves in the spotlight.

The argument is a complete red herring. Most of the readers don't want these people's phones hacked, that's why advertisers left the NOTW in droves. They didn't want to piss off their customers who are not going to reward anyone associated with a scumbag outfit like NOTW. So, the argument is really about whether or not the freedom of the press incorporates the right of the press to hack into phones. The majority consensus is that the press does not have that right, and that's why there are laws against it. It's further evidenced by the disgust shown by the public.

The question of an individual's privacy is a completely different question than whether rich people want to tell poor people what to read. I also think it's funny that they used this attack on Steve Coogan. I don't think there are any interesting tabloid stories about him (the best a quick google search came up with is that Courtney Love accused him of some stuff), so he really doesn't have a dog in this fight.

Now, the reason I think this is interesting is that Murdock's shown a willingness to break the law, a desire to distort the debate, give specious arguments, and a disregard for the truth. At one point Fox News insinuated that Fox itself had been hacked. The reason the press is granted freedom is to prevent every single one of those things from happening. It should clarify debates by providing facts and information, it should regard the truth, or the attempt to find the truth, as its highest ideal. If it works contrary to that then there is no reason to have freedom of the press. So if Murdock's businesses do not share the goals of the press, is it still press?