Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Daily Links

The Worst New Thing In The World
The US is deciding to send new arms to one of the Libyan governments. I say "one of" here, because the country actually has at least two (arguably three) in the wake of the sterling success of Hillary Clinton's and Barack Obama's intervention in Libya. The two governments, based in Tobruk (east) and Tripoli (west), have been unable to come together or maintain much control over the country in the power vacuum that followed regime change. This has allowed an ISIS affiliate to gain a foothold in the area, which is now the justification for more intervention. However, in spite of the clear complications on the ground, the US has partnered with what it's referring to as the Libyan government (an altogether new group that is backed by Tripoli but not Tobruk) in order to send more weapons, and when that fails, presumably, troops as well. To all outside appearances, it looks like this new "government" secured US support on account of its willingness to have (another) intervention to stabilize the situation. What could go wrong?

Dishonorable Mention

Use Proper Pronouns or Else...Really?
The Washington Post is reporting on a new determination by the New York Human Commission on Human Rights Law, which will require people to refer to others using the pronoun they desire. At first blush, this may not seem to be a problem. However, the problem is that failure to use a person's preferred pronoun is punishable by a fine of up to $125,000, even if it is not willful. This new determination comes in the context of the transgender bathroom debate, and the piece notes that the preferred gender pronoun for transgender people may be "ze" or "hir", which are explicitly gender neutral.

Here, it's key to note that this ruling is intended to apply to private people, like employers and those who serve the public, and it's entirely irrelevant what you think about the transgender issue or gender-neutral pronouns. As for me, I happen to like gender-neutral pronouns. Indeed, when I had to draft a student government constitution a few years back, I actually used such pronouns both because they were inclusive and avoided the decidedly awkward "he or she" syntax occurring throughout the document. But since I was at a public university, I was essentially in a governmental role. And, if we imagine calling someone by the wrong pronoun is tantamount to discrimination as New York is suggesting, there's a major difference between government discrimination and private party discrimination. The former should basically never be allowed, because government is a monopoly and it's difficult to avoid interacting with it in some way. On the other hand, private discrimination is a different matter entirely--because there is a choice. If you dislike how a business / employer is treating you, you can and should leave for an alternative. However, we shouldn't be allowed to compel a private person to do what I want them to against their will, even if they're being bigoted. Government discrimination is a major problem; private prejudicial discrimination is a problem that must be tolerated because freedom of speech and association, necessarily implies the freedom to be an asshole, provided it is a nonviolent one.

The Silver Lining
The Senate has voted in favor of allowing Saudi Arabia to be sued by 9/11 victims. There's still more work to be done on this issue since Obama is almost certain to veto the legislation. But for now, this is significant positive news.

If You Only Read One (More) New Thing
Make it this more detailed write-up on the news from Libya. It places the latest story in context and also gives you a sense of how likely this is to work (that is, not likely at all).

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