11 September 2010

Things of wonder

1) How did burning a book become morally equivalent to building a religious center?

Break that down: One is an action of destruction and the other an action of construction? Taking offence to and protesting either action is legally protected. But I don't see how they are both morally sensible (even if they may be morally protected acts of free expression/speech/religion). One is clearly dumb and offensive. The other is clearly not, and is only so if people are largely dumb and offensive.

I suppose in truth burning books in a protest is only offensive if people are largely dumb and offensive as well, but this is also true of flags and some other things we are free to burn. And lots of people get upset when flags are burnt. Symbols are kind of powerful in that way. All that being said, by contrast to getting upset when people take active steps to burn a book (to destroy something) to make a point, it generally should not make us very upset when (other) people build a religious building (to create something), which generally is not done "to make a point". For whatever reason it has.

Oh right I forgot: because they are Muslim and that means they must be terrorists or at least "un-American". Or that they have some nefarious "point" being made by building. One element of free exercise of free speech is that you may then choose which exercises of that speech are morally questionable or just plain dumb. This whole mess is plain dumb. The only productive outcome is that it forces to the open the debate over things like the nature of American-ness or the openness of our society to foreign ideas and foreign peoples, such as Muslims, but going back further than that to Communists, Catholics, Asians, or, moving forward, our historically negative aspects like creationists and racists and religious intolerance.

2) How are people surprised that health care rates (and credit card interest rates for that matter) will be going up after new regulatory changes? Or that the costs will not be saved or bent moving forward by that same big bill? People believed the hype instead of the economics? Cost was always going up. The idea wasn't to lower cost, it was to cover more people. Indeed to force more people to cover themselves. Much like the carbon/gasoline tax, the POINT was that something was going to cost more. The question, at least in the case of health care if not the question of subsidies and taxation of energy, was whether that cost increase was providing some value. I would argue it does not or will not or at the best, would not in the absence of other health care market changes, some of which were done and others of which were explicitly rejected. Others appear comfortable with the moral value of feeling better that more people will have (forced) access to health insurance. Some of that may have been a net good, but the methods involved do not appear to be all that ethically pretty either, much less where they were combined with fruitless attempts to make it appear economically sound.

3) How are people STILL surprised that we doubled down in Afghanistan instead of leaving? Are they also not paying attention to the amount of power wielded by the executive, and its various agents, when it comes to "national security"? Or were they simply ignorant of the campaign issue of Iraq vs Afghanistan that Mr Obama raised at many opportunities, the Nobel speech which described a logic dictating "just wars", and so on?
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