Thursday, February 24, 2011

Comments on Middle East Uprisings

Moammar Gadhafi:
Young people are taking pills and being exploited by Osama bin Laden.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:
Religiously united youth are rising up in demand for an Islamic state as Iran did in 1979.

Glenn Beck:
A secret organization of Islamic extremists are executing a vast conspiracy to establish world domination by a Hitler like Islamic dictator who will establish Shariah Law and ban Christianity, assault rifles, the consumption of pork, and my show.

George W. Bush:
I made Iraq and Afghanistan peaceful and prosperous democracies. Now other Asian countries see that it’s possible for them, too.

Sarah Palin:
So we discussed what was going on in Africa. And never, ever did I talk about, well, gee, is it a country or is it a continent, I just don't know about this issue except, you know, that the Persian principles of the freedom loving women and young girls of Mozambique and Madagascar have always talked about freedom, uh, truth, and the American way.

Rush Limbaugh:
Barack Obama is calling on his Muslim brothers to overthrow the regimes that were friendly to the United States. He wants to isolate us, to cripple this country, to tear down America in the world, to tie our hands and bend us over before our enemies, as a means to implement his socialist agenda.

Bill O’Reilly:
This is just another example of the Obama administration trying to undermine American interests in other countries to help himself win re-election in 2012.

Michele Bachmann:
How do we know that Barack Obama was not born in Libya or Egypt? We don't know. Obama might be Tunesian. He might be related to Mubarak or Gadhafi. They all look alike to me.

Osama bin Laden:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Word Reaches Us

Gifted writer Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, has written the following poem for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

©2011 by Alice Walker

Word reaches us that you are sleeping, sleeping.

Dismayed we have turned to the sea. We encounter among others walking there a sense of what we have lost: the broad expanse of humanity’s sensitivity to the oneness of itself.

Gabrielle, while you sleep, resting your nimble brain, we think of walking with you in the valley of the shadow of death; holding you up.

We hope you can feel our grief; our sorrow vast like the ocean that draws us.

We know in this moment you teach us many things: how all across the world there is no one who deserves this fate. We know we must bleach and sterilize our tongues, brighten with understanding all our dark thoughts.

Sister, whom I never met except in this pain that has so wounded you thank you for reminding us through your suffering and your suspenseful sleep that we must change.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Intifada II - The Democratic Gap

Dr. Tamir Sheafer and Dr. Shaul Shenhav, political science professors at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, are known as prolific producers of insightful studies in politics and public policy. Recent work includes a study of the the dysfunction of Isreali political discourse regarding Gaza and the Palestinians, and an in-depth 40-year-study of media coverage of Isreali elections. A search on their names will yield an overview of their work.

Just this week, on February 1st, Hebrew University released an “Ahead of Print” article about a study where Sheafer and Shenhav analyzed 90 countries with respect to the expectations of the general population regarding democracy and human rights. Then, using objective data from they assessed the actual levels of democracy and human rights that exists in each country. Not surprisingly, the study arrives at the very intuitive result that it is not the level of democracy/freedom that indeed exists that determines a population's unrest, but the difference between this level and the expectations that have developed among the people.

Like most brilliant insights, it is remarkably simple, and the study distinguishes a concept that is now going viral amongst educated political scientists and astute government officials, that of the “democratic gap,” i.e. the difference between the freedom the population expects and the freedom the government provides. Time Magazine wasted no time reacting to the story and published an article referring to the story, as did International Business Times.

The research data were collected in 2008 through public opinion polls and objective international indices, which measured the "democratic gap" in a large number of countries and revealed that the popular uprisings which took place recently in Thailand, Iran and Egypt could have been predicted as early as two years ago.

In countries like North Korea, for example, revolution is deemed unlikely because the population has been beaten down to where expectations consist of little more than bare subsistance. In the West, where expectations are high, revolution is unlikely because democracy and freedom are well established.

According to the data, countries that can expect difficulty include Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Belarus, and China. While a nervous Jordon recently took steps to appease its people, the findings for Jordon (as well as Algeria and Malaysia) in fact show a "positive democratic gap", meaning the the government is providing an environment that exceeds expectations, which suggests wide scale revolt is unlikely.

Let's face it, democracy is like the genie and the bottle, and taking the long view, it took thousands of years for humanity to develop functioning (well, more or less) democracies. Right wing hacks go on and on about the US founding fathers as the inventers, but historians know that the US Constitution relied heavily, very heavily, on lessons painfully learned over centuries in the evolution of Britain's government.

Once the genie was out, while very slow from the perspective of a person's relatively short life, from a historical perspective democracy is taking the planet by storm, now everywhere in Europe and North America and working its way into the rest of the world.

Expect the democracy gap to become a household word in the next few weeks, and by its very nature this metric gives dictatorships and repressive regimes cause for concern.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Rodd and Mark

(Astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of Congresswoman Giffords, addressing the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC.) Rodd McLeod, campaign manager for Gabrielle Giffords during her first run for Congress in 2006 and again in 2010, sent the following email message this evening to a list of her supporters. Some readers here may find it interesting.

As we approach the month anniversary of the shootings, I thought it fitting to offer a brief update on Gabby and Mark, and our extended Giffords family.

First of all, Ron Barber and Pam Simon continue to heal and improve.

Gabby is also improving steadily. Her warmth is evident and she quickly bonded with the medical staff at TIRR. She can sit up, smiles to greet people who come into her room, and she understands the nursing staff whether they speak to her in English or in Spanish. Gabby has a very long road ahead of her, with daily physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. It is very hard work, but for Gabby, hard work is nothing new. We remain hopeful about her recovery, which continues on a steady upward trajectory. Her parents are with her now, and she is responding to their presence and to the love pouring in from across the country, especially from Arizona.

Mark spoke yesterday at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. Watch him deliver his remarks here.

Earlier today, NASA announced that Mark will rejoin the STS 134 space shuttle crew that is scheduled to launch on April 19th. Gabby has always been a strong supporter of Mark's work for NASA and our country. Mark and his crew have trained for the past 18 months. We believe that his commanding this mission is the right thing to do.

Those of you in Tucson may have noticed that the memorials at Safeway and at UMC have begun to be taken down. The University of Arizona is working on collecting and archiving the gifts and well-wishes from so many people, which may be reflected in a permanent memorial. Many of you have visited these sites regularly, and your support and prayers have been invaluable. As these sites are taken down, please consider spending some time volunteering at your favorite charity.

Sincerely yours,

Rodd McLeod
Campaign Manager, 2010

Mark Kelly concluded his address at the National Prayer Breakfast by reading the prayer that Rabbi Stephanie Aaron, the Congresswoman's Rabbi who married them, said over Gabrielle's hospital bed that first night after the shooting, when she was still in a coma and fighting for her life:

In the name of God, our God of Israel, may Michael, God's angel messenger of compassion, watch over your right side. May Gabriel, God's angel messenger of strength and courage, be on your left. And before you, guiding your path, Muriel, God's angel of light, and behind you supporting you stands Raphael, God's angel of healing, and over your head, surrounding you, is the presence of the divine.