Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A Catch Up Links Dump

My best intentions have been to get a lot of blogging done here. But reality (I am still a long way from catching up from my trip, for example) has interceded. So here are a number of stories that have caught my attention, with commentary as apt:

The imbroglio over the Muslim cultural center-cum-mosque a couple of blocks from ground Zero is driven by two interrelated factors: Pure bigotry and rank political opportunism. There is no excuse for trying to exclude any particular religious group from building in the area, never mind one that has long had a presence there. People don't have a right not to be offended or to be made to feel uncomfortable. But beyond that, feeling uncomfortable just by the very presence of Muslims is pretty strong evidence of pretty vile prejudice. I know, I know -- conservatives have tried to turn the tables on those who accuse them of bigotry, making the accusation somehow as bad as the actual act of being a bigot. But that's nonsense, and we need to keep pointing it out at every turn. Oh: and the critics are playing right into the actual extremists' hands. (There has been tons of commentary on this. Almost literally to pick two at random, see Richard Cohen at the WaPo and William Saletan at Slate.)

The 1980 Olympic boycott was a terrible thing, especially for its victims, the athletes who never got to compete. But that does not make the decision wrong or bad. It may well have been the best option in a scenario where there were few good options. Let's dispense with the pablum that sports and politics should never mix. Virtually the entire history of the Olympics (or for that matter sport) is inseparable from politics. Was it really a better option to go to Moscow, providing legitimacy, exposure, and financial support (directly and indirectly) to what was still at the time our enemy -- so much so that Ronald Reagan would soon after label the Soviets the "Evil Empire"? Once the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, there were no good options and considerable bad ones for President Carter when it came to the Moscow Olympics.

The senate recently unanimously (you read that right) passed a bill that, in the words of a New York Times editorial, "protects Americans from the whims of foreign libel judgments." This is important. A while back I was working with an editor on something about Zimbabwe that I was working on. I had written something pointed about Robert Mugabe and he pretty much told me that my commentary on Mugabe would likely lead us both into a potential libel suit. I thought at the time that he was overreacting (and refused to temper my writing, and so we parted ways) but I also knew that the British court system has often been used for libel fishing expeditions. And as someone who often writes for audiences outside of the United States it would be nice to know that the next David Irving won't be able to take me for all I'm worth. (Note to potential litigants: remember Steve Dallas' first law of being a lawyer: never, ever sue poor people.)

Not that we really needed studies to confirm it, but sports are good for girls.

A trifecta from The Chronicle of Higher Education: The New York Times recently stacked the decks in a forum discussion about university tenure (against tenure, I should add). Conservatives recently selectively used or plain misrepresented the arguments of a book on elite college admissions. And UT-Austin will be the focal point of the latest court action over affirmative action.

Finally, Charles Pierce wonders if the Jets, everyone's preseason favorites, are not in for a mighty disappointment. Amen. It's not like there is anyone else in the Jets' division that has had any success over the last decade or so.


Anonymous said...

Jimmy Carter finished off any final chance of keeping politics out of the Oympics. Yes, the PLO kidnapped and killed the Isrealis in 1972, and African nations and other boycotted in 1976 because of apartheid in South Africa. But once the mighty United States fell into the muck of Oympics and politics, there would be no end to the matter by any country or petty tyrant (should we mention Saddam Houssein's sons?) that wanted to make a statement.
It seems Carter had a knack for punishing the wrong people over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Stop the sale of grain to the Russians and American farmers go broke. Boycott the Olympics and American athletes, many in their only shot, lose their chance to compete for their country.
Carter confirmed my vote for Gerald Ford was the correct one. When Carter won, I rationalized that he would be alright. The Olympic fiasco was the final straw with him as president. I would not make the mistake of voting for a Democrat in the future.

dcat said...

First off, Carter did not "finish off any final chance of keeping politics out of the Olympics." The Olympics were virtually never not tied into questions of politics and nationalism. Certainly every single Olympics from 1936 was tainted by politics, whether Hitler's Aryan mythology or the Cold War lens through which every single Olympics, winter and summer, from 1948 through 1992, was viewed.
Carter may have "punished the wrong people," except that he did not invent the idea of embargoes and conservatives have been every bit as good at embracing various forms of economic punishments that hurt the people more than the powerful. You are, I assume, familiar with Cuba? Furthermore, as I acknowledge, the athletes suffered, but that doe snot mean that sending athletes and television coverage into Moscow would have been any better. Once the IOC decided to hold Olympics in Moscow, and once the Soviets decided to attack Afghanistan, there were no good options. After all, we still don't allow Americans to travel to Cuba and my guess is that we'd all oppose sending teams of athletes to Iran or North Korea for an event.
If you chose not to vote for Democratic presidents after 1980 because of the Olympics (despite the fact that by your own admission you voted for Ford in 1976) then really there is little to talk about. There is no shame in being a Republican. There is, however, vast idiocy in choosing to support Bush over Kerry because of the 1980 Olympic boycott.