Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘freedom of expression

Lack of Horizon: Can’t vanquish this mighty Dictator

Chomsky can enumerate a long list of dictators who ruled in the 20th century, and so can I.

Chomsky cut this list short and wanted to focus on three dictators: Hitler, Stalin, and absence of horizon. (I would place Mao as #1 for the million of Chinese who had to pay the heavy price of his brand of communism)

On the individual level, lack of horizon is the worst of dictators: It is the cause of all the unrest, confusion, feeling of nothingness, indignity, worthlessness…

Lack of horizon corner citizens within engenders lengthy conflicts, violence, for the sake of violence…

Dictators, totalitarian, theocratic and oligarchic regimes block all horizons for the curious citizens, and the individual has to be extremely imaginative in order to capture a little open space to realize his potentials.

(That is the main definition of brainwashing: no alternative aspects of live are disseminated to grab on and create an alternative world view. I think this is still going on in current China because the majority of the citizens are afraid or don’t care anymore to think politics or watch international news. Only the selected members of the party are allowed to delve deeply in the details of world politics and business)

Lack of vision has different beneficial consequences on the individual level and on the institutional scale.

I say lack of vision for State governments offer greater liberty and freedom of expression for the citizens.

Once State elite leaders start creating and imagining visions, and opening wide horizons for their wealth and grandeur, the little people suffer and are totally subjugated by these crazies who converse among themselves in closed clubs

Drastic solutions are conceived by the elite classes among themselves…

With the practical closing of borders for legal immigration to the former colonial countries, world unrest will cross borders in any way possible. We are following an acute process for the mighty Dictator of lack of horizon to better ourselves, individually.

Can’t vanquish this mighty ruthless Dictator of lack of horizon, except by transcending

the absurd reality with fresh imaginative alternatives…

.

 

Israeli Gov’t Approves Plan To Punish People Who Disagree With Them

I Can See Palestine posted this Dec. 16, 2013:

The Israeli government has just passed a new law designed to punish people who disagree with them, a law which the attorney general and legal experts in the country say is both unconstitutional and a dangerous infringement on democratic freedom of expression within Israel.

The newly approved bill would impose a harsh new “tax” on any non-governmental organization whose managers expresses an opinion that conflicts with the currents policies of the Israeli government.

If even one manager of an NGO expresses support for the boycott of Israel, or for divestment and sanctions, or the trial of Israeli soldiers in international military courts for war crimes, or opposes Israel’s status as a “Jewish state,” any donation made to that NGO by a “foreign entity” would be taxed at a rate of 45%.

The approved version changed two clauses in the original proposal:

That a leftist nonprofit would be penalized even if only one member of its board violated one of the clauses for which sanctions are imposed, and that sanctions would be imposed on organizations working against “the Jewish-democratic identity of the state.” The latter clause would have included negating, even implicitly, Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, or calling for the separation of religion and state.

In an unusual move, it was agreed that the bill would be debated again by the ministerial panel after it passes its preliminary reading in the Knesset.

Under the revised bill, certain nonprofits that receive donations from a foreign entity would be required to pay a 45 percent tax on the contributions.

The law would apply to groups that work for or call on others to boycott Israel, stop investing in Israel, or impose sanctions on the state or its citizens. It would also apply to groups calling to prosecute IDF soldiers for war crimes, subsequently exposing such alleged acts, or calling to investigate them.

This means that the Israeli government has just passed a law declaring that they will effectively seize almost half of all funds donated to NGOs in Israel if their leaders do not toe the appropriate party line.

Freedom of expression in Israel is only for people who express the appropriate opinions, because… the safety and operational ability of the Israeli military depends on suppressing political dissent.

The bill was pushed by Jewish Home, which insists that it will protect Israeli soldiers from “immoral legal claims,” and insisted that not cracking down on the NGOs harms the military’s “operational ability.”

The Israeli attorney general has said the bill infringes on a number of the constitutional rights enshrined into Israel’s Basic Laws, such as freedom of expression and freedom of association.

AG Yehuda Weinstein says that the “tax hike” on NGOs is really a de facto fine designed to cut donations to the non-profits in question in ways which would harm freedom of expression in Israel.

“Limiting donations and harming non-profit organizations’ free speech, and in general harming human rights is something done by a group of countries that it is doubtful that Israel wants to join,” said Weinstein. He added that even if the purpose of the bill was proper, which he said he doubted, it exceeded any sense of proportion because of the serious ramifications it was likely to cause.

The issue of proportionality is important because under Israeli law the state may undertake an act that harms a right in one of Israel’s Basic Laws if it is consistent with the values of the State of Israel, intended for a proper purpose and the harm done is proportionate.

This issue of “proportionality” in keeping the values of the State of Israel is incredibly important because one of the State’s most fundamental tenets is its Jewish identity.

If the state feels there is anything which “threatens” that identity, such as calls for the separation of church and state or marriages between members of different faiths, then it may make whatever laws necessary to stop the practice, regardless of how it violates the democratic and human rights which Israel claims to uphold.

Former Israeli Supreme Court President Aharon Barak had this to say about the Israeli government’s violation of constitutional rights in relation to marriage equality in his forthcoming book “Human Dignity: The Constitutional Right and its Derivatives”:

“Anyone who is unable to marry according to religious law, and anyone who does not want to marry according to religious law for their own reasons, cannot marry in Israel.

Civil marriage is not recognized in Israel. This state of affairs violates the constitutional right to marry…The present law does not only violate the constitutional derived right to marriage, but it also often violates the derived right to freedom of conscience and freedom from religion.

A law that prevents two members of the same gender from entering a relationship of couplehood is a violation of the human dignity of each partner.”

These people who are refused the right to marry include the hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens who have entered the country under the Law of Return, but who are not considered Jewish by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. This religious body is notorious for its attempts to be the sole arbiter of “who is a Jew,” not only in Israel but in the diaspora as well.

Then, of course, there is the gross violation of both the Basic Laws and international law with the practice of administrative detention, where individuals from asylum seekers to Palestinian residents (including children) are held without trial for extended periods of time.

Administrative Detention

The Israeli Supreme Court recently overturned a law which allowed the detainment of asylum seekers for up to three years without trial on the basis that it was “unconstitutional,” as it violated a basic law enshrining human dignity and freedom.

“In the opinion of all nine justices on the panel, the period of three years’ detention as stated in the law is unconstitutional,” judge Edna Arbel wrote.

Despite the unconstitutionality of their actions, the Israeli government seems to prefer to legislate first, then force people to go through the court system to change unconstitutional laws. This process is lengthy, expensive in time and money, and allows the Israeli government to continue violating human rights while the cases drag on.

Monetary punishment of people that disagree with the government is yet another mark against the government of Israel.

Hypocrisy of the Free Speech Fundamentalists: More on the Charlie Hebdo 

Erkki Tuomioja, Finland foreign minister, said lately:

“You caricature and criticize women, you are a chauvinist

You caricature and criticize Jews, you are an anti-semite

You caricature and criticize  Blacks, you are a racist

You caricature and criticize Islam, you are smack into free expression zone

As a Muslim, I’m Fed Up With the Hypocrisy of the Free Speech Fundamentalists

Posted: 13/01/2015 
Dear liberal pundit,You and I didn’t like George W Bush.

Remember his puerile declaration after 9/11 that “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”? Yet now, in the wake of another horrific terrorist attack, you appear to have updated Dubya’s slogan: either you are with free speech… or you are against it.

Either vous êtes Charlie Hebdo… or you’re a freedom-hating fanatic.

I’m writing to you to make a simple request: please stop.

You think you’re defying the terrorists when, in reality, you’re playing into their bloodstained hands by dividing and demonising. Us and them.

The enlightened and liberal west v the backward, barbaric Muslims. The massacre in Paris on 7 January was, you keep telling us, an attack on free speech. The conservative former French president Nicolas Sarkozy agrees, calling it “a war declared on civilisation“.

So, too, does the liberal-left pin-up Jon Snow, who crassly tweeted about a “clash of civilisations” and referred to “Europe’s belief in freedom of expression”.

In the midst of all the post-Paris grief, hypocrisy and hyperbole abounds. Yes, the attack was an act of unquantifiable evil; an inexcusable and merciless murder of innocents. But was it really is a “bid to assassinate” free speech (ITV’s Mark Austin), to “desecrate” our ideas of “free thought” (Stephen Fry)?

It was a crime – not an act of war – perpetrated by disaffected young men; radicalised not by drawings of the Prophet in Europe in 2006 or 2011, as it turns out, but by images of US torture in Iraq in 2004.

Please get a grip. None of us believes in an untrammelled right to free speech.

We all agree there are always going to be lines that, for the purposes of law and order, cannot be crossed; or for the purposes of taste and decency, should not be crossed. We differ only on where those lines should be drawn.

Has your publication, for example, run cartoons mocking the Holocaust? No? How about caricatures of the 9/11 victims falling from the twin towers? I didn’t think so (and I am glad it hasn’t).

Consider also the “thought experiment” offered by the Oxford philosopher Brian Klug. Imagine, he writes, if a man had joined the “unity rally” in Paris on 11 January “wearing a badge that said ‘Je suis Chérif'” – the first name of one of the Charlie Hebdo gunmen. Suppose, Klug adds, he carried a placard with a cartoon mocking the murdered journalists. “How would the crowd have reacted?… Would they have seen this lone individual as a hero, standing up for liberty and freedom of speech? Or would they have been profoundly offended?” Do you disagree with Klug’s conclusion that the man “would have been lucky to get away with his life”?

Let’s be clear: I agree there is no justification whatsoever for gunning down journalists or cartoonists. I disagree with your seeming view that the right to offend comes with no corresponding responsibility; and I do not believe that a right to offend automatically translates into a duty to offend.

When you say “Je suis Charlie“, is that an endorsement of Charlie Hebdo‘s depiction of the French justice minister, Christiane Taubira, who is black, drawn as a monkey? Of crude caricatures of bulbous-nosed Arabs that must make Edward Said turn in his grave?

Lampooning racism by reproducing brazenly racist imagery is a pretty dubious satirical tactic. Also, as the former Charlie Hebdo journalist Olivier Cyran argued in 2013, an “Islamophobic neurosis gradually took over” the magazine after 9/11, which then effectively endorsed attacks on “members of a minority religion with no influence in the corridors of power”.

It’s for these reasons that I can’t “be”, don’t want to “be”, Charlie – if anything, we should want to be Ahmed, the Muslim policeman who was killed while protecting the magazine’s right to exist. As the novelist Teju Cole has observed, “It is possible to defend the right to obscene… speech without promoting or sponsoring the content of that speech.”

And why have you been so silent on the glaring double standards? Did you not know that Charlie Hebdo sacked the veteran French cartoonist Maurice Sinet in 2008 for making an allegedly anti-Semitic remark?

Were you not aware that Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that published caricatures of the Prophet in 2005, reportedly rejected cartoons mocking Christ because they would “provoke an outcry” and proudly declared it would “in no circumstances… publish Holocaust cartoons”?

Muslims, I guess, are expected to have thicker skins than their Christian and Jewish brethren. Context matters, too. You ask us to laugh at a cartoon of the Prophet while ignoring the vilification of Islam across the continent (have you visited Germany lately?) and the widespread discrimination against Muslims in education, employment and public life – especially in France.

You ask Muslims to denounce a handful of extremists as an existential threat to free speech while turning a blind eye to the much bigger threat to it posed by our elected leaders.

Does it not bother you to see Barack Obama – who demanded that Yemen keep the anti-drone journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye behind bars, after he was convicted on “terrorism-related charges” in a kangaroo court – jump on the free speech ban wagon? Weren’t you sickened to see Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of a country that was responsible for the killing of seven journalists in Gaza in 2014, attend the “unity rally” in Paris?

Bibi was joined by Angela Merkel, chancellor of a country where Holocaust denial is punishable by up to five years in prison, and David Cameron, who wants to ban non-violent “extremists” committed to the “overthrow of democracy” from appearing on television.

Then there are your readers. Will you have a word with them, please? According to a 2011 YouGov poll, 82% of voters backed the prosecution of protesters who set fire to poppies.

Apparently, it isn’t just Muslims who get offended.

Erkki Tuomioja, Finland foreign minister

Mehdi Hasan is the political director of the Huffington Post UK and a contributing writer for the New Statesman

‎إنهم يعرفون ... ويحرفون ..!!!!‎

 

Are you sure there are no more journalists in Yemen?

“Foreign journalists, don’t make us feel like you are doing us a favor by being here.”

“Instead of deporting militants, our national security deported a journalist. What a shame” wrote Yemeni journalist Hani Al-Guneid on Facebook.
Similar sentiments were widely expressed by activists and writers on May 9th, when journalist Adam Baron was wrongfully expelled from Yemen without an explanation. Until today, messages continue to spread condemning this attack on freedom of expression and some even felt obligated to apologize on behalf of their non elected government.The reactions to his deportation have highlighted a number of interesting points. It exemplified the reality that race/nationality/or passport matters in today’s media.Three days prior to Adam’s deportation, journalist Saeed Thabit Saeed sent a letter of complaint to the minister of interior, which he then published on Facebook. In it, he accused passport control, and later national security, of maintaining and using the same “black list” that Saleh’s government previously used against journalists and activists.

Saeed explained that he is often interrogated or detained at the airport upon arrival or departure from Sana’a. His passport was confiscated that day, and after some phone calls he was finally able to enter his own country.

Saeed is not the first journalist to complain of such harassment. A number of local journalists have been targets of intimidation tactics, violence, imprisonment and abuse. According to a March 2014 report by Reporters without Borders,

“Two years after Abd Rab Mansour Hadi became president, the situation of freedom of information in Yemen continues to be very worrying, especially as regards violence against media personnel.”

While it is very important that Adam’s deportation made headline news, it is as important to speak out against the numerous attacks on local citizens.

The last two years witnessed numerous violations including:

1. the murder of two young innocent boys,

2. a military attack on a funeral service of members of the Southern Movement in a public school courtyard killing 15 people,

3. a one-year jail sentence and fine of 100,000 Yemeni Riyals imposed on journalist Majed Karout, and

4. continuation of patronage through the $11.3 million allocated to the Tribes’ Affairs Authority in the 2014 budget despite the rising poverty.

None of these events made the international community question the practices of the current government. Why does it take a western journalists’ unfortunate deportation to make others see that “there might be something undemocratic” about this internationally supported government?

The second observation regarding Adam’s deportation is that while journalists have thankfully continued to unite in support of their colleagues, some have unfortunately used it as an opportunity to market themselves.

After announcing Adam’s deportation on twitter, a journalist was quick to immediately mention that there’s now “only one foreign journalist” officially in Yemen. Her tweet, taken out of context, implied to many that she was the only one left to report in the land of chaos.

I’m not a stranger to the hardships of freelancing, as my husband was one for quite sometime, yet this is no excuse to use this inappropriate time to market oneself. In fact, if anyone had the right to over-hype the issue it was Adam, but he did not.

I will not go into the semantics of what defines “official” in the dictionary, and what defines “official” in Yemen. Yet, I will say that the documents needed for western journalists to operate in Yemen are the following:

WHO KNOWS? Journalists have come to Yemen in a number of different ways. Yes, technically it could help if you have a journalism visa, but most of the time it is irrelevant. In fact, Adam Baron was deported even though he was “officially” working in Yemen.

Today, there are other journalists “officially” working or have worked in Yemen with very different residency papers/work permits. Some have a press card from the ministry of informaiton without a journalist visa, some are on a journalist visa, and others with neither.

Even the ones here without a press card work with the full knowledge of the Yemeni government, and in fact, many were officially registered as journalists during the 10-month National Dialogue Conference.

In addition, they continue to be invited by government officials to attend “official” events. Even the journalists without proper documents have traveled all over the country, met and continue to meet with high level officials, and publish their work under their name.

This is obviously not an ideal way to operate, as the government could easily deport them using the excuse that they do not have a valid visa, which the government did in 2011 when it deported four western journalists.

Then again, the government can deport anyone with no excuse such as the case of Adam. For this reason and many others, members of civil society and journalists continue to demand media reform in Yemen.

A third reflection is that it was curious how stressing “foreign” journalist based in Yemen was very important to distinguish one’s self from “local” as if it is necessarily correlated to credibility.

Yes, there is category of media professionals known as foreign correspondents, but majority of Western reporters in Yemen are not staff reporters. They are freelancers and work exactly like the local freelancers.

And there are Western journalists with Yemeni origins who are often not included in either the “foreign” or “local” journalist categories.

Foreign analysts and journalists should continue to travel and write about different countries including Yemen, as it can help provide a fresh perspective on things. Yet, their analysis should not be taken as the only credible voice in a country of 24 million people!

It is not the nationality that makes a journalist, but rather knowledge of the country, language skills, objectivity and professionalism. Whether the person is a foreign or local journalist should not be the basis for judging whether someone is a credible source.

It is important to remember the following:

1. there are Yemeni journalists who report to international media, and

2. Yemenis, like any other people, can also be credible, can also be objective, and can also relay the truth.

Why are local journalists in the west credible enough to report their own news, while it is not the case in Yemen?

Finally, while it’s admirable that some journalists leave the luxuries of their homes to work in less comfortable societies, it is important to remember that this is entirely their choice, and they do get something in return.

What you may wonder?

Well, where else could a new freelancer meet the highest government officials only two weeks after their arrival? This of course helps boost their careers in addition to their reputation. Once someone lives in “dangerous” Yemen, he/she is automatically given the “brave” award.

So my dear journalist friends, with all due respect, I admire your passion and your hard work, but please don’t make us feel like you are doing us a favor by being here. Please give us the respect and spare us the brave altruistic hero persona. It is not a favor you are bestowing on us to be living here.

I realize some of my journalist friends might be upset with this post, but I am sure that those who know me well enough will know that my intention is merely to give another side to the hype of last week.

While the government may not be friendly towards journalists, Yemeni people are. In fact, in almost every travel article, book or website, the one constant characteristic about Yemen is the description about the hospitable and friendly people of the country.

Let us work together to show the world what Yemen is really about.

If you have the talent and skills to pull off a Daydream project…

A feasible objective that is close to your heart… and cannot find the necessary opportunities and facilities in your home State… By all means immigrate to greener pastures.

If you lack talents, but have demonstrated that you have the necessary determination to continue your education... and cannot find the facilities for that in your Motherland… By all means seek the wide world abroad

If you decided to invest quality times with your children, a time that you lack in your Fatherland due to the harshness of survival… By all means take your children to adapt to newer human rights abiding social environment…

If you are seeking comfort and contentment and using the health/safety of your kids as an excuse… Keep working on your inner self: Added health and safety conditions abroad are never an insurance anywhere for new comers…

Unless you are fleeing a civil war or are being persecuted on the basis of freedom of expression… (You wish the world was effectively that wide and you could settle in a calmer location) do your best to change your behavior: This is an opportunity for change and appreciation for life and human rights and dignity…

If your family and social environment is strictly patriarchal, moving to a developed State with your kids is a terrible burden on the kids. Kids are adaptable, but having to adapt to a patriarchal atmosphere at home and being subjected to discrimination at school is a living hell on the kids. Unless you are willing to make the effort to adapt to the new community environment, stay home and change your behavior.

If you have reached your daydream project, do return home to manage and control the continuation of your dream where it is more needed

If you reached a satisfactory level of comfort and easy life-style, consider returning home: Facing new daily challenges is the way for another rebirth and opening up newer horizons

Lacking a National identity? Is it a big deal?

We don’t need to unite under an identity:  All national identities everywhere were invariably built and sustained on myths, historical falsehood, and faked stories.

What we need is to be unified under the banners of civil rights, human rights, sustainable environment, equitable and fair election laws and regulations, civil marriage, linked to fast communication technologies, access to social platforms, freedom of expression, laws not discriminating among genders, versatile opportunities to jobs and to applying our expertise, affordable education system, national health system…

What we need is to unify against any State invading our borders, bombing our infrastructure, humiliating us, destabilizing our society and economy.

What we need is to unify against any political current that has proven to work against democratic representations, racial demagoguery, sectarian political ideology.

What identity are we claiming?  

Are we to emulate other Nations that based their “identity” on myths and falsehood?

What nation has gained an identity without a strong army and suffered millions of soldiers fallen in battlefields for fictitious claims?

Youth sacrificed to institute a Nation and never taken seriously because they are viewed as just meat for the canon and a burden to a stable political system…

There are sections in Lebanon (mostly Christian Maronites) advancing the French mandatory alternative of a “Phoenician” ancestors.  Currently, there are Lebanese testing their blood for DNA evidences of any physical “Phoenician inheritance“.

A few are wary that they won’t be found to have any Phoenician stain, strain and be caste off as “strangers”.  What a load of crap.

The Phoenicians ruled the Mediterranean Sea in 1,200 BC and the string of their City-States extended from southern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, up to Haifa in Palestine.  The Phoenicians were famous for maritime trade and commerce and established many trading centers around the Sea.  The written language has been around for 3,000 years, but the Phoenicians in the City-State of Byblos are credited for inventing the alphabet (currently in use with slight modifications.)

Before the Phoenicians and afterward, the Near East region of the Mediterranean (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine) has been invaded by a dozen warrior empires, many invaded us repeatedly.

For example, the empires in Iraq (Akkad, Babylon, Assyria), Egypt, Persia under various dynasties (at least four of them), Greece, Roman, Byzantium, Arabic, Ottoman, and finally the colonial powers of France and Britain.

All these warrior empires didn’t build anything worth showing as representative of civilization until they invaded our region and rounded off and hoarded the educated and master craftsmen to their capitals.

We are a region of multiple identities if we have to rely on occupation empires.

How about we identify with education and craftsmanship?  I love this identity.  Let us focus on affordable efficient schooling system; let us encourage technical and craftsmanship schooling system; let us focus on building commercial ships; let us invest in railways and fast communication facilities; let us open up to knowledge facilities all over the world.

I love this identity; let us get to work and planning.

Another sections of Lebanese, mostly Moslem-Sunnis, would like to have an Arabic identity and pushing it too far to claiming that we are from the Arabic Peninsula. Are we Arabs?  What that means?

The Islamic Arabic army that came from the Arabic Peninsula to fight the Byzantium Empire and later the Persian Empire barely numbered 7,000 men of war.  The other three-forth of the army that backed and supplemented the “Arabic army” was constituted from people and tribes living in Syria, Iraq, and Jordan wanting to defeat the Byzantium unforgiving Orthodox Church and domination.  How can we be descendant of the sparsely populated Arabic Peninsula?

The “Arabic identity” group would claim that our culture and civilization is Islamic Arabic. How that?

The cultural development during the Arabic Empire was shouldered by the scholars in Syria, Iraq, and Iran and they were mostly Christians. They would like to rely on the Arabic language as basis for our identity.  Excellent idea.

Let us prove that the Arabic language is a viable foundation; let us infuse a new spirit in that dying language; let us translate the worthy manuscripts; let us invent new terms that have no religious connotation and spread the Arabic language as a universal language, valid to sustaining modern civilization with fresh brains and advanced sciences and technologies.  I will be for it and will support it vehemently.

There are other factions wanting to claim that we are Moslems.  How about the dozen minority religious sects?  Are we to agree on a theocratic identity?

Turkish Ataturk cancelled the caliphate in 1925 and there is no caliphate anymore, anywhere.  Tiny Lebanon has 19 recognized self-autonomous religious communities running our civil life.  Let us get real.

A theocratic State will never pass and will never find unity for identity.

Should we hide behind a reality of disparate communities to establish the concept of plurality community government?  Should 19 wrong identities constitute a valid identity?

What we need is to be unified under the banners of civil rights, human rights, sustainable environment, equitable and fair election laws and regulations, civil marriage, linked to fast communication technologies, access to social platforms, freedom of expression, laws not discriminating among genders, versatile opportunities to jobs and expertise, affordable education system, national health system…

What we need is to unify against any State invading our borders, bombing our infrastructure, humiliating us, destabilizing our society and economy.  

What we need is to unify against any political current that has proven to working against democratic representations, racial demagoguery, sectarian political ideology.

Revisited: “How do you value quality of life?” 

            I needed to re-edit this post to expand and clarify my project. French President Sarkozy assembled a committee of Nobel Prize economists such as Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen to ponder on new indicators for measuring economic performance and social progress. This honorable committee submitted its report on September 13, 2009. The conclusion of the report concerning social progress target the well being of the citizens such as life expectancy, affordable health care, affordable dwelling, worthy education system that focus on individual reflection instead of data and fact memorization since the individual will be called upon to act on his decision, alternatives to organize our life around activities that we love; having satisfying jobs that we value; the possibility of expressing our opinions in public politics and social meetings; enjoying wholesome environment, clean water and purer breathable air; and feeling secure in the neighborhood.  All this social indicators are more valuable to measure how a State has been progressing than relying solely on GNP or how many cars a family own or the number of household equipments.

           

            In this post I will ask binary questions of (Yes or No) for voting on laws and amendments in three categories of quality of life: personal, community, and State levels.

            On the State level let us consider that the tax breaks exempt people earning less than $10,000 of taxes.  If the State decided to exempt people earning less than $15,000 would you vote for that new tax break knowing that investing money on the previous tax break are targeted to preserving natural reserves, distributing electricity 24 hours per day at the original rate, establishing affordable State health care for all, paying higher rates for teachers for continuing education to encourage individual reflection, increasing rates for nurses with higher quality of services, investing in clean alternative sources of energy, or salvaging beach resorts and better accommodating camping grounds and reclaiming greener locations for the public? How would you vote?

            Thus, each time you vote yes for the new tax breaks would mean that you don’t care that much about the alternative investment in quality of life.  For example, a sample question would be: Would you vote to exempt people earning less than $15,000 in taxes if the tax generated from the current tax break is allocated to preserving natural reserves?

            Let us consider that the government decided to raise taxes on new homes and larger apartments in order to invest on other values of quality of life such reclaiming greener spaces, saving the forest, tending to trekking routes, outdoor camping grounds, constructing public facilities for communities meeting, art galleries, continuing education classes, high quality services establishments for the elderly, and kids intramural sports facilities? How would you vote?  A sample question would be: would you vote for raising taxes on new houses if the generated budget is targeted to reclaiming greener spaces?

            Let us ponder on this line of thought; the government decided to raise taxes on frequent flyers, families with more than two cars, gas guzzling vehicles, and stock traders in order to invest on enforcing laws on gender discrimination, equal employment laws, health and safety in the work place, child abuse, unbiased election laws, equitable laws for minorities; wider range for freedom of expression, and rehabilitating prison systems. How would you vote?        The sample question would be: would you be agreeable to raising taxes on gas guzzling cars if the generated money is earmarked to cover the expense of more law enforcing agents and judges on gender discrimination?

             

            On the community level, suppose that if people postponed purchasing their first cars for a year and the saved money covers the expenses of inoculating all babies in the community then how would you vote?  Suppose people are asked to postpone buying a new car instead of their older one for a year, then how would you vote?  Suppose of inoculating babies the community decided for pay for free complete blood tests for citizens over 45 of years? Suppose that the community can perform free bypass surgery for the badly needed patients, or free urine dialysis?

            What if you can postpone for a year replacing your washing machine to cover the expenses of investing in playgrounds for kids, or clean water, or new sewer system, or public transport system, or upgrading a hospital, or modernizing schools with updated communication and audio visual systems? How would you vote?

            On the personal level, suppose your family is over three kids and they attend private schools. If you are to send them to public schools, in safe neighborhoods, then would you invest the saved money on a new bathroom, building an extra large room for the kids to assemble and play, arranging the garden as an attractive playground for the kids, taking additional vacations, working part-time so that you may monitor the teaching of your kids after school, subscribing your kids in various clubs and extra-curricular activities, or going out more frequently to movie theaters, musical event, and plays?

            The premises are clear: for the same financial saving you have choices of improving the quality of life of the many in return of lavisher personal comfort or “standard of living”.  These questionnaires permit you to value the kinds of quality of life you believe in; they are easy to administer and the responses can be statistically analyzed using statistical packages specialized for binary responses.  How your community value quality of life? How your nation value quality of life?  What do you think about this research project?

 

Note: Joseph Stiglitz is not welcomed in the Obama Administration because he harshly criticized the President’s economic adviser Larry Summers in The New York Times; Stiglitz said: “the plan for financial and economic stability is too modest to be effective. The pumping of money in banks is practically free gifts offered to Wall Street: only investors and creditors to these banks are benefiting but not the tax payers.”  Stiglitz is the chief of the line of economists who attack the concept that free markets have the capability to stabilize imbalances efficiently.  His mathematical models have demonstrated that transactions in free markets are biased toward those who are specialized in finance and have the necessary data to fool clients; “globalization has created a fresh pool of investors to exploit their ignorance”.

            As far as I recall Amartya Sen demonstrated that micro-improvement to the economical and social progress of the common people is far more effective than mega projects that displace people and environment to please the grotesque ego of bureaucrats.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

April 2020
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