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Thursday, December 18, 2014

The E.U. Shifts the Debate: Re-labeling Hamas and Palestine

Framing the contours of a debate goes a long way toward winning it. Part of such framing involves efforts to make derogatory labels stick to the opposing side. Through a number of decades in the twentieth century, communist was the weapon of choice. Actors who refused to name names found themselves blacklisted as pro-communist, or having communist sympathies. A decade after the fall of the U.S.S.R., labeling an organization or person as a terrorist came into its own as the all-too-easy means of depriving an opposing side of credibility. By 2015, some people believed that anytime a person of a particular Middle-Eastern religion kills someone, that person is a terrorist. The word’s very definition was somehow pliable enough to accommodate prejudice and simple dislike. This is not to say that real terrorists are squalid creatures; rather, my point is that people had realized that they could score political points by applying the label to their opponents and making it stick. Israel, for instance, had successfully gotten the E.U. to label the Palestinian political party Hamas as a terrorist organization. Yet as 2014 was coming to an end, the label was becoming unstuck, with broader implications for the wider debate on Israel and Palestine.


The full essay is at “E.U. Shifts Debate.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Backing a Bear into a Corner: Falling Oil Prices Hit Russia Hard

Falling oil prices and economic sanctions in 2014 put the pressure on the Russian economy and its currency. The overall question may have been geo-political, however. Namely, would the twenty-first century see economic tools replace military response as the dominant means to “walk back” international aggressor states and restrict their further exploits? Such a question may be too broad, as even a newly-discovered devise that suddenly works is not likely to be applicable in every case. Even so, obviating war in the nuclear age would be no small feat.

The full essay is at “Falling Oil Prices Hit Russia Hard” 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Police Power Exceeding the Capacity of the Human Brain: Some Countervailing Measures

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Lord Acton’s timeless statement is applicable to legal and illegal power alike, for each is subject to abuse. The victims are those whose wills are bent through either harm or the threat of injury. Put another way, the human brain may lack sufficient cognitive, emotional, and perceptual machinery to check the instinctual plus socialized power-aggrandizing urge. This vulnerability is particularly apparent in viewing video showing a police employee violently over-react in a situation that quite obviously should not have involved violence. Although anger doubtlessly plays a crucial role in the trigger that unleashes the police violence, the more subtle suspension of cognition and warping of perception is also in the mix.


The full essay is atPolice Power.” 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Pentecostal Pastor Fights the Enemy in Ukraine

Is religion so pliable that it can be contorted against itself “with a straight face?” That is to say, does the human mind lack the machinery necessary to recognize contradiction in religious matters?  I submit that the answer is yes. This is not necessarily to be “anti-religion;” rather, the implication is that acting from a religious motive ought not to be done without critical self-examination and care. The case of a Christian minister fighting in the Ukrainian army provides a useful case study of the vulnerability.