The story behind the cartoons. As I've said before, I think it is a pity no British newspaper has had the guts to print the cartoons, and as my commenter "Clanger" said, Jack Straw's comments are a disgrace. (And so much for America, "Land of Free Speech" - NOT. If the Christian God or any other religious figure is fair game, as they are, why should Islam be any different?
Religions are ideologies - in my opinion immensely harmful and destructive ideologies - and they certainly don't deserve any special legal protection, or indeed to be allowed to intimidate media outlets into censoring themselves.
As ever, Matthew Parris says it beautifully, when referring to the Straw theory:
The approach is tempting. It avoids hurt. But it overlooks, in the evolution of belief, the key role played by mockery. Many faiths and ideologies achieve and maintain their predominance partly through fear. They, of course, would call it “respect”. But whatever you call it, it intimidates. The reverence, the awe — even the dread — that their gods, their KGB or their priesthoods demand and inspire among the laity are vital to the authority they wield.
Against reverence and awe the best argument is sometimes not logic, but mockery. Structures of oppression that may not be susceptible to rational debate may in the end yield to derision. When people see that a priest, rabbi, imam or uniformed official may be giggled at without lightning striking the impertinent, arguments may be won on a deeper level than logic.
Not Big Brother, but "Big Society". Everyone is watching everyone else - on webcams, on "community" screens ...
But is the Big Julie in trouble? I've got witnesses to my saying when she was signed that Julie Burchill wouldn't 'fit' at The Times. It seems I was right, which is a pity, because on her good days she's an excellent columnist.
It is a rightwing piece that comes to the conclusion that polarisation in America is bad because it damages its ability to fight wars, but nontheless this argument that the claim of increased polarisation in American politics is true has some interesting data.
Ideologically, an even greater dividing line than undergraduate education is postgraduate education. People who have proceeded beyond college seem to be very different from those who stop with a high-school or college diploma. Thus, about a sixth of all voters describe themselves as liberals, but the figure for those with a postgraduate degree is well over a quarter. In mid-2004, about half of all voters trusted George Bush; less than a third of those with a postgraduate education did. In November of the same year, when over half of all college graduates voted for Bush, well over half of the smaller cohort who had done postgraduate work voted for Kerry. According to the Pew Center for Research on the People and the Press, more than half of all Democrats with a postgraduate education supported the antiwar candidacy of Howard Dean.
The effect of postgraduate education is reinforced by being in a profession. Between 1900 and 1960, write John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira in The Emerging Democratic Majority (2002), professionals voted pretty much the same way as business managers; by 1988, the former began supporting Democrats while the latter supported Republicans. On the other hand, the effect of postgraduate education seems to outweigh the effect of affluence. For most voters, including college graduates, having higher incomes means becoming more conservative; not so for those with a postgraduate education, whose liberal predilections are immune to the wealth effect.
So if you could improve American education ...