In the third edition of the political column FULL STOP progressive NYC based TV host and journalist Jim Morrison sexts Romney, while deciding whether or not to buy an iPhone 5. 

Religious Muslims still get pretty upset when it comes to making fun of or even simply depicting the prophet Mohammed. Do you think the mocking video trailer was a good joke that the religious people couldn’t handle or is it an action of bad taste and lack of understanding? 

This is an important question, and the important aspects of the answers aren’t really being discussed. Of course the video was completely vile, in bad taste, and displayed about as much understanding as your average Ku Klux Klan member.  But It was also so bad it was hilarious. That ability to hold those two seemingly mutually exclusive notions is part of the answer.  Westerners, but Americans very specifically, take not only the idea of freedom of speech for granted, but the culture, history, and system that has built up around it. And that taking for granted gets us into trouble when we are clueless why people aren’t reacting like us.

Many people across the globe live in regimes that limit free speech, ranging from repressive military dictatorships (like much of the middle east) to repressive civilian regimes. If the government doesn’t approve of certain speech, it is suppressed. Even in a totally free country like Germany, something like holocaust-denying is illegal. It can be very difficult for someone in a country whose government immediately silences such speech not to think therefore, that if a government permits speech to be promulgated it must therefore follow the government either explicitly or implicitly agrees with it.  Their entire experience has been a world where government destroys speech if opposed. In many people’s eyes, it must mean the US agrees with this video if it allows it to exist and emanate from its shores. That is simply THEIR lens. Throw in the fact that it was probably us, the West,  who literally propped up the very dictator that suppressed free speech for much of these citizens lives and it starts sounding less inexplicable. Of course from OUR perspective the linkage between the myriad of viewpoints good, bad, ugly, whatever, and the notion that a people or government would hold those views just doesn’t even compute. Some racist nutcase can say pretty much whatever he wants. Have at it, that’s his right.

Moreover it’s a well-worn saying in America that the solution to awful or evil speech is generally not to silence it, but to meet it head on with MORE speech, to counter it, to educate, to defeat the bad speech with truth and light. And I agree with this wholeheartedly. But for us to assume that the whole world thinks that way is profoundly ignorant to the histories and cultures around the world…Indeed it would be ignorant of our own, as this notion, this system, was hard-won and developed for centuries. Yes, we should always embrace the idea of freedom of speech. But it behooves us to go the extra mile…or kilometer…to explain more about the very nature of our system, why freedom of speech IS INDEED so great without simply responding knee-jerkily with “how can these people think WE agree with that, don’t they understand freedom of speech?”

One Word: Romney?

Who?  At this point Angela Merkel has a better shot of being elected President than Mitt Romney.  I stand by the prediction I made in my first post here on GG (I love that I actually already have something of a record here to refer back to) before Mitt’s secret video leak: he didn’t stand a chance. Now, barring some catastrophe, it’s really really over and the margin is widening. (One caveat: Voter Suppression, especially voter ID laws, a sneaky last ditch attempt by Republicans to lower Democratic votes, and the subject of Episode 5 of the current season of my show, For & Against) All over swing states that margin is widening: Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Virginia. I mentioned in that earlier post that Americans….even checked out, uniformed Americans…were culturally good at bullshit detection, clocking the phony. Romney: check. Another prerequisite for Americans to elect a candidate their President? Feeling that he or she wants to be EVERYONE’S president, not just his or her party’s president. We all know it’s something of a fiction, but even so, it’s an important one.  For better or for worse (worse), we’ve got a two party dominated system, so candidates just can’t write off 47% of the electorate. Mitt Romney took a big crap on about half of the population in his leaked fundraiser video. Good luck with that, Mitt.

Here’s another clue it’s over: already a lot of discussion has been migrating toward  “down-ticket” battles, all the other races, Senate and US House of Representatives. All those Republicans in tight races are running as fast as they can from Mitt Romney now. People like Scott Brown in Massachusetts and Linda McMahon in Connecticut. Big name Republicans who can’t stay away from the TV cameras are nowhere to be found.  How all the other races are going to be affected by lead-balloon Romney candidacy is the really interesting story at this point. Right now Democrats are wishing the election were tomorrow, because we still have a month to go.

Should we really be worried about teenagers who sext?  

This reminds me of the early warnings about rock music, sex, and teenagers. Teenagers are sex-curious and pretty much sex-obsessed. They will adapt and utilize whatever technology is available to further that whether it’s a rotary telephone, or text message. Giving teenagers education, information and healthy outlets for sex is always the answer.  I wish sexting were the problem crying for attention. Far far more dangerous is WHERE people are texting, not WHAT they are texting, teenagers and adults alike.  Driving down the street (this is legal in many states in the US), walking across a busy intersection in NYC, at dinner when a close friend in crisis needs a sympathetic ear. Let’s work on people’s texting literally getting them killed, then we can start worrying about whether it’s over-sexing them.

iPhone 5: yes or no? 

Remember when we existed without cellphones? You’d go someplace and use a payphone and call your friend or “check your messages?” It was kind of nice even if super annoying in retrospect. And I still am totally torn about cell phones working in the subway here in NYC.  I’m not a luddite….I have an iphone. 4. S. I guess I’m the odd man out, but I’m not rushing to get the new one this time. I’m kind of burned out on it. And at this point Apple has more money than nearly every country: what if they made a bold move and made the iphone here in the US with fair-wage union labor? Yeah they’d make less money. But when is too much enough? When does a corporate “citizen” decide to truly “think different” and make a dent in the awful unemployment, assault on unions, and outsourcing of our manufacturing base? Well I guess I can fantasize at least.  And oh full disclosure: I’m not eligible for an upgrade iPhone 5 til May 2013. I just checked.

What’s not getting better?

The possibility that we’re going to see a successful two-state solution with Israel and Palestine. The idea of the “one state solution” (vs the “two state solution) has been back in the news because Mitt Romney opened his trap about that too in the leaked video. The conventional wisdom and official US policy has always been to advocate for the two state solution, an equal Palestine and Israel living side by side.  The one-state solution, however,  envisions a single state comprising both peoples living with full equal rights. And around 1/3 OF ISRAELIS think this might be the only way now too.  It’s an appealing idea: two peoples deciding to come together in full equality rather than separate themselves into their own permanent corners never really resolving anything. It’s complicated because support for a one state solution comes from different viewpoints, envisioning indeed, very different “single states,” from the left and the right, so the numbers are hard to sort out. But comments like Romney’s, that the two state solution just isn’t going to happen, are telling.  Without America’s pushing Israel, no progress will ever be made. The settlements aren’t being halted and Obama hasn’t been able to even begin to tackle the problem.  We all know Netanyahu wants to keep the settlements going even if only to placate the Israeli right….And the Israeli right wing head-in-the-sand indignorance (indignant ignorance) is one thing: THAT resulting single state will be a minority police state making apartheid South Africa look tame, if it doesn’t just eventually cease to exist altogether.  All of that is one thing, and bad enough indeed in terms of the prospects for real progress. But hearing one of two candidates for US President publicly (even if leaked) say the two state solution just isn’t going to happen is another thing entirely. It reeks of being self-fulfilling. And it’s just sad…and rather un-American because we like to think of ourselves as those hopeful, pragmatists that just get it done.  Maybe that’s my ingrained American arrogance: that America is about never stop trying to make things better, to bring people together.  It seems like no matter what Mitt Romney opens his mouth about, the message is never “together” or “better.”

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