Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Values Voters

     Values voters scored a victory in national elections on June 24 this year. The new conservative President, elected with a strong mandate despite claims of voting irregularity, promised to bring back traditional religious values. His campaign was geared strongly towards religious conservatives and the socially and economically depressed, who helped sweep him into office. Analysts say that his appeal to the poorer classes came strongly from the perception of him as a populist and a "man of the people". After the election, he was heard saying, "the [religious] revolution of [2005] will, if God wills, cut off the roots of injustice in the world. The wave of the [religious] revolution will soon reach the entire world." It's difficult to pin the President down, however, since he usually "avoids interviews with independent journalists, or avoids answering questions by asking other questions and asking them not to ask 'complicated questions'". (src: Wikipedia)
     As you may have guessed, this President is not George W. Bush, although if you change the date from June 24, 2005 to November 2, 2004, there would not be much difference. No, this president is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hard-liner president of Iran who was previously the mayor of Tehran and possibly one of the Iranian terrorists who held American hostages in 1979. It's far too early to say what his legacy as president will be, but as mayor, he strengthened religious rule, promoting separate elevators for men and women and put a serious religious emphasis on city cultural centers.
     Conservatives get all aflutter when you compare their man to Adolf Hitler. So, assuming Ahmadinejad did not participate in the hostage taking (US government analysts say his facial structure does not match the man in the picture, despite otherwise resemblence), let's compare him to Bush. Hey - why not? Despite the fact that Ahmadinejad has not started a reckless war, has not pushed legislation to rape the environment, and has a declared goal of pushing national oil wealth towards the poorer elements of his society, there is a lot to compare. And Ahmadinejad is not an international criminal, so what do the GOP apologists have to whine about? Now, granted, Ahmadinejad is not a great person. And he's certainly not the leader I would want for myself or my country. He's not even the leader I would wish on anyone else, even the Iranians, whom I know very little about. Then again, neither is Bush, whose destructive policies have divided and set back this great nation for a generation or more.
     Basically, Iran is experiencing a "backlash" against the liberal policies of the past few years. The Values Voters there were tired of seeing uppity women without veils and men without beards. They were looking for a return of the "good old days" of 1979, when they hardly had to harass women showing their ankles in public, because none dared to. They find the US and George Bush tired and hypocritical when talking about freedom. Islamic Iranian voters want the freedom to repress women, so why does Bush feel their freedom is less worthy than that of the reformers. The reformers, led by previously popular president Khatami, were destroying the Islamic ways of Iran and were leading the nation into godlessness. Or, at least that's how Iranian conservatives see it. Reformers are upset. "I want the rights and freedoms that everyone is entitled to," said lyricist Payam Eslami. "Normal rights. Nothing more."
     Those words could have been uttered by a homosexual in the US. Unfortunately, it seems the majority of Americans don't understand why they should care. Why they should care about women in Iran or gays in America or how the two are connected. We're like the proverbial frog in the pot of slowly boiling water. The water around is getting warmer, but we can't tell whether we're just getting comfortable or whether we're getting cooked until it's too late. For the people who were feeling just a little too chilly before, calls to lower the gas flame are ridiculed, shut down, and called traitorous. At least 51% of Americans don't think we'd hit the boiling point. Surely the flame will drop long before then. But we only have to look to our neighbors around the world to see what happens when extremism and religious intolerance hits the boiling point.
First they came for the communists,
I did not speak out
because I was not a communist.

When they came for the social democrats,
I did not speak out
because I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists
I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews
I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew;

And when they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

-Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984)


Ben said...

Scott, I think there's a bit of difference between not allowing gays to marry (which I do disagree with) and stoning them to death, but perhaps that is too subtle for you? Also I don't seem to remember Bush proclaiming a religious revolution that will take over the world.

I see democracy as an absolute good. That's a revolution I could get behind. I suppose it's too much to ask you to support self-determination, you'd prefer everyone live under oppressive rule? And the Iranian elections were a joke. Ours had some signs of fraud (mostly on the Democrats' side, that I've seen), but the Iranian elections in no way resembled a free and fair election.

Mike's right. You're full of complaints, but just like John Kerry, there is nary an actual idea of what things should be done accordind to you. It's easier to complain than think and do, which maybe is why you hate Bush so much. Not only does he have ideas about how to improve the US and the world, but he acts on them instead of talking for 20 years and not doing a damn thing.

rusty said...

Mike, I personally won't concede a goddamn inch to your strain of Christianity. There are many, many people out there from nearly every end of the political spectrum who are sick of listening to all the "values voter" bullshit. You should be careful not to overestimate the clout of the Religious Reich. They make up, at best, half of the Republican base (which itself is only about 35 percent of the electorate), with the other half being a jumble of war jingos and free market/pro-business/libertarian types, many of whom despise the Religious Reich as much as I do and as much as many liberals do. The hubris demonstrated by you and your ilk will come around to bite you in the ass. It's not a question of if, it's a question of when.

rusty said...

Hmm, I guess Scott took Mike's comment (the one I was responding to) down.

Mike said...

Well, at least three people got to read my comment before Scott decided to censor me. It's his blog. His right to do what he wants. Y'all can draw your own conclusions.

Scott said...

I'm not going to allow this blog to degenerate into the kind of hateful, intolerant comments Mike was posting last night and today. I'm tired of him twisting everyone's words around and accusing them of attacking Christianity. And I'm tired of the personal attacks. I enjoy a logical, rational debate, even when I don't agree with the statements. There can be no debate with someone who denies my right to exist or my right to participate fully in American public life. As much as it kills me to do so (ask my wife if you don't believe me), I will continue to delete comments that are so far from the pale that they constitute flames. In Mike's last comment, he said he could no longer debate law, only God. That's where his participation on this blog ends, then, because this blog is not a debate about God, but about legal, political, and social issues.
I've enjoyed the vigourous participation over the last few months, and if the loss of a demagogue means less of that, then so be it. It's a decision I've agonized over for 4 months. I now hope that people who have been wary of posting because they did not wish to get personally and instantly attacked will feel freer to participate.
If you have something to say about the comparison of the political climate in Iran compared to that in the US, please feel free to comment below. No more writing about liberals going to hell.

Amber said...

Ours had some signs of fraud (mostly on the Democrats' side, that I've seen)

Well, I'd be really interested to see what you've seen.

Mike said...

Ok fine. Staying on topic now, but for the record your opening paragraph rails against religious values voters.

What do I think about the comparison between Iranian and US politics? I think it's horrible.

I would hardly call the Iranian elections free. Try opposing the regime and see what happens to you. The citizens aren't dumb. They know who to vote for if they don't want their families killed and thrown in jail. By the way, when are the next "Free Iranian Elections" (quotes added for emphasis) scheduled for? Right after the next "Free Palestinian Elections" I suppose.

Sylvana said...

I personally started skipping over just about all of Mike's insanity about a month ago. Like turning the channel on an offensive TV or Radio program.

Hey Scott. What about Rove??

sideshow bob said...

Yes, we in America need a doer, not a thinker.

Actually, Kerry had plenty of ideas (allowing citizens to purchase the same insurance gov't employees have access to, continuing to provide security to Iraq's new gov't, but with an invitation for UN troops to provide support, not decimating the environment despite the objections of the majority of Americans, cutting back welfare...corporate welfare, that is, etc.) Maybe you don't agree with his ideas, in fact, I'm sure you ridiculed more than a few, and I realize that the victors write the history books, but please don't piss all over Scott's blog and tell us it's raining.

Ben said...

Ahh yes, great ideas like inviting UN countries to participate in Iraq. Because Bush never did that. Kerry's ideas all focsued around "When I'm elected people will behave the exact opposite when I ask them to do things, merely because I'm so nuanced and diplomatic." I'm sure the French would have sent 1000's of troops the instant he was elected.

I've yet to see how Bush is destroying the environment. One small footprint of exploration in an Alaskan ice field, and a refusal to sign a treaty that would have crippled our economy, these are hardly destroying the environment. Kerry may have done the opposite in those cases, but then we'd have a neglible positive effect on the environment, but a huge negative effect on the economy.

Making government employee insurance available to everyone.... Yeah, like that's realistic. Our taxes would double to pay for it. Ok, so maybe Kerry had some ideas, but few would work, and most would not even be able to be implemented.

Mike said...

Touche, Ben.

Sylvana said...

"and a refusal to sign a treaty that would have crippled our economy"

Exactly, our country is getting rich by polluting the world. Screw the rest of the world, as long as we can stay on top!!

You say ice field like it is just some wasteland. It is an extremely delicate ecosystem. The land there takes decades, if not centuries, to recover from any intrusion. It is not like the land that we have in the 48. Pristine ecosystems such as these have been a huge source for modern medicine and science. What are we going to get in return for destroying it? two, maybe three years of oil? Not worth it at all.

Ben said...

Look, I can't say for sure about the icefields thing. From what I have read, they use trucks with big bubble tires that barely affect the land they are driving on, and leave a minimum of impact, not much more than if a plane flew over the area. Maybe what I read was wrong.

But Kyoto... You realize that New Zealand is now thinking about pulling out? The initial estimates were that they could comply cheaply. Well now it turns out it's going to cost them a significant portion of their GDP to comply initially, and a lot more in lsot revenue in the future. They can't afford to comply wihtout destroying their economy. I'm all for protecting the environment, but I think there are better ways to do it than crippling our ability to compete in world markets. How do you think all this compliance would be paid for? Two ways, MUCH higher taxes, and MUCH higher prices on goods across the board. Sounds like a dandy idea if you're goal is to equalize world economies by lowering the top ones down to the level of the third world. Personally I'd rather stay on top and find another way to save the environment.

Mike said...

Getting off topic here of comparing Iran to US politics. Just pointing that out.

I posted on the Kyoto treaty some months ago. Even the pro-Kyoto experts admit if all the elements of the Kyoto treaty were put in effect, it would save the earth from warming 0.13 degrees celcius by 2010. The tradeoff, according to the American Security Council Foundation would be 2.4 million jobs lost, 10% unemployment, 3.2% reduction in GDP, consumer price increases of 11% in food, 14% in medicine, 7% in housing, and $0.65/gallon in gasoline. And even though we would save 0.13 degrees, they admit in about 10 years later the temperature will be where it would have been in 2010 had we not enacted the Kyoto treaty.

So those of us opposing the Kyoto treaty don't do so so Haliburton can make their pile-o-cash. We do so because we think there must be a better way than throwing 2.4 million people into poverty to buy the Alaskan Sparrow 10 more years.

Ben said...

That brings up an interesting question. Has Haliburton profited since the war started, and more to the point, are their profits out of line with their profits before the war? It's one thing to say they profited $1 bil since the war began, but if they profited $1 bil the year before the war as well, then you can hardly say that they're making all their money on war profiteering. Anybody know where I can find that info?

Mike said...

Correction: I believe my statistic should say 0.13 degrees by 2110. Not 2010.

Sylvana said...

I do realize that we would suffer by lowering our pollution. Not too much attention is given in the US to lowering it substantially over time because it would cut into profits of big business. But WE ALL pay for the pollution in more covert ways. So the businesses get to keep the extra money at our expense. And our country gets to keep the extra money at some other country's expense, even if that means that there will be reduced profits. I'm not saying that our goal should be to get rid of ALL pollution, that's just not sensible; but we can't continue to sit around and do the very little that we have been doing. We need to be more aggressive as a country in finding cleaner ways of doing business. We don't need to sign an agreement for that, but we do need to be serious about it and we will have to suck it up and take some hits to get it done.

sideshow bob said...

Well, there you go again, Ben. Why you gotta be one of those nattering nabobs of negativism?

As a rule, I don't vote for Democrats or Republicans, so I'm not as up on all of Kerry's ideas as I could be, but I am pleased to see that you were able to admit that he did actually have ideas...because you earlier said he didn't...and as Rush Limbaugh likes to say, "Words mean things".

As for my environment comment, I wasn't even referring to the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, but to the curiously named Clear Skies Initiative. I mean, fine, if you think the current air pollution regulations are a little over-aggressive, cut them back, but don't act like you're the one pushing for a cleaner environment. Because words mean things.
As for your distain at Kerry's "nuances"...I don't know. Are you criticizing him for being more intellectual than Bush? Calling him a nerd?

And if you want to see how the environment fares under the rule of Bush, try driving through Amarillo, Texas some time. The sky is a sickly yellow green...it's disgusting, and it didn't use to look that way. But at least the city's name is a little more fitting now.

As for the insurance thing, the two biggest causes for upward spiraling health care costs in this country are out of control malpractice premiums for doctors and uninsured people letting their illnesses progress to the point that they have to be treated in the emergency room, when they could have been treated more easily and cheaply if they were treated earlier. Bush got all up in arms about the malpractice thing because it was such and easy message: Lawyers bad! But he has nothing to say about the uninsured, as far as I can tell.
My main problem with Bush is he oversimplifies very complex issues: Terrorists hate us for our freedom, not because of the unique circumstances of geography and history dating back eons, things like our support of puppet governments (I'm not trying to say the US is bad here, I'm just pointing out facts...we can still do that, right?), colonialism by Western Europeans, the fatc that most of the wealth in their counties are in the hads of a very priviledged very few, the Crusades, stuff like that. If we can't get down to expose all of the roots of the problems we face today, and would rather simplfy the whole mess down to a ten second sound bite, any progress we might make will be illusory and fleeting.
I do agree with Bush that we are in a unique position today as the world's only superpower, and as such have unprecedented potential to rid the world of tyrants and thugs, but if we are to succeed, our means must be as noble and honorable as our desired ends.

Our soldiers are doing some really great things in Iraq, really helping out the people there, but their actions can be undermined by a government that acts as if it is above reproach. All it takes is a few falsely accused men being humiliated by sophmorish frat pranks (Abu Ghrahib) to spur the development of future terrorists. Plus, I think Jesus would not do that.

Sylvana said...

Touche, SSB. Although people usually use that to acknowledge a well constructed criticism or play against themselves, since it basically means "you got me" in French.

Ben said...

That's a bit too much for me to respond to point by point, no time to do as well thought out of an essay as Mr. Bob, so I'll jsut repsond to the one thing that bugged me, which is the root terrorism issue. First off, you mention the Crusdaes. The Crusades get a bad name because history has recorded it as aggressive imperialist action by the west against Islam, but in fact it was a reaction at years of Islamic agression during which they took over Spain and other parts of Europe. The Crusades were, at heart, a defensive measure by the west against Muslim encroachment. What was the root cause of the Muslim encroachment on western lands? Jihad, shaira law, and the desire to have the entire world living under Islam. These are the same things that drive the extremists today. They aren't going to lay down just because we give them money or aid or let them drive Israel in to the sea. Unfortunately this whole 9/11 thing and the Iraq invasion is probably the first part of what will be a long war against a death cult, but it's war that they started and want to finish, and I'm convinced that even if we'd elected the biggest dove in the world instead of Bush, that it's inevitable. WHy do I say that? Because Muslim leader after Muslim leader for the last fifty years have said that they want the whole world under sharia law, and now that ideal has expanded beyond just a few extremists to a lot of Islam. Whatever we say about them, they say they are in war against the west and don't intend to stop just because we make some concessions. Why won't more people believe them and act accordingly?

Dave said...

I hate the word Touche, sounds too French...how about kudos from now on??

Sylvana said...

No, Dave, why don't we use "Freedom!"

Mike said...

Freedos, Sylvania. I was going to say that.

ORF said...

Ben, if the Muslims wanted to see the entire world under Islam, then I'd say the Crusaders were just as fanatic about seeing the entire world under Christendom. Most of the Crusades were an effort to re-capture the holy land from Muslim hands. We see how well that turned out. Up to that point, there was far less encroachment than you think on the lands of Christendom. You see, Muslims and Jews do not prosyletize, which is something Christians just do not understand. Consequently, it seems suspect and so they felt a need to nip Islam in the bud before it got too big for its young britches.

The "Reconquista" in Spain during the Middle Ages was hardly a polite war and anyone who was not Christian was persecuted heavily. This includes not only Muslims, but the rather large (and now not-so-large) Jewish population that, up to that point, had co-existed relatively peaceably with both Muslims and Christians. The Crusades WERE acts of aggression against the other Abrahamic religions because the Moors in Spain were otherwise disjointed and had far more interest in trading and commerce than warfare or jihad. I would advise you to re-visit your history book about this.

Mike said...

Even I wasn't going to defend you on that one, Ben.

Scott said...

I need to start keeping a list of notable quotes from these comments. "The crusades got a bad name" from Ben will definitely be on the list.