Monday, September 29, 2008

How I Saw The Debate.

Over the weekend I read several comments on the McCain - Obama debate, and everybody seemed to disagreed on what the outcome had been. So I this morning I took time out from doing nothing and watched the debate on you tube.

Since I agree much more with Barack Obama than John McCain, its not surprising that I thought that he came across better in the debate. In my opinion Obama's arguments and answers were superior to McCain's. However, besides policies and arguments this is what I saw and heard:

- One candidate calling the other naive and slow to understand (constantly stating "Senator ... doesn't understand"), and one willing to find common ground (8 times stating that he agreed with the other candidate on a particular point), before setting out difference between himself and the other candidate.

- One candidate arguing from anecdotes about having been here and there, and one arguing from principle.

- One candidate making B-movie statements such as having looked into Putin's eyes and "seeing three letters, K, G and B", to "I'm a maverick" and references to not being "Miss congeniality" (twice), and one sounding like a university professor.

Whether McCain or Obama won the debate in terms of convincing undecided voters, I don't know. For me, however, Obama was head and shoulders above McCain.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

And Now I'm Unemployed.

Here is the frontpage of my Masters dissertation, which was submitted to the law school today.

I'm not completely satisfied with the dissertation. The title is a good example of how I couldn't quite get this one right. Why didn't I simply call it "Freedom of Religion in the Workplace", or "Freedom of Religion in Employment" or "Freedom to Manifest Religious Beliefs in the Workplace"?

What is done is done, however, and I'm certain that the dissertation is good enough to get a passing mark. That is, after all, what really matters. Today I am, therefore, happy and satisfied with having completed my Masters degree. Tomorrow I will be writing job applications.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Liberalism According to Romney.

In an attempt not to care and to protect myself from disappointment, I've mostly stayed away from reading about or commenting on the US presidential election. I cannot, however, keep myself from commenting on Mike Romney's speech at the Republican convention, which included this statement: "Is a Supreme Court liberal or conservative that awards Guantanamo terrorists with constitution rights? Its liberal" (1)

Romney's statement is remarkable and refreshingly honest.

Its not certain which Supreme Court decisions Romney is referring to, but in two important cases the Supreme Court has held against the US government in cases brought by Guantanamo Bay detainees. In Hamdan v Rumsfeld(2), the majority of the Supreme Court held that military commissions set up to try terrorist suspects must comply with the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Then in June of this year, the majority of the Court held, in Boumediene v. Bush(3), that the right of habeas corpus review extended to detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

These cases concerned complex legal issues and there were dissenting opinions from Justice Scalia in each case.(4) However, whatever the merits of the legal arguments, to oppose in principle the extension of constitutional and human rights to terrorist suspects puts conservatives, in my opinion, in a very bad light.

Conservatism is of course an authoritarian ideology, but in US political culture conservatives have traditionally supported the right to habeas corpus review and the notion that democracy entails both political and legal constraints on the exercise of government. If Romney's statement is evidence of conservative thinking today, then conservatives have moved to a position attacking the very foundations of western democracy.

1) Full text here.
2) 548 U.S. 557 (2006). Full text here.
3) Judgement 12 June 2008. Full text here.
4) Scalia is quite an extremist in his thinking and it willing to hand over considerable power to the executive in security matters. If Romney only accepts as conservative opinions that arein line with Scalia, then conservatism is a really narrow and extremist political ideology.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Why I should have been a fireman.

In 1990, shortly before i completed my studentereksamen (equivalent to A-levels), I had a conversation with my parents about my plans for the future.

In this conversation I stated that I wanted to be a fireman (a profession that doesn't even require a Studentereksamen). My parents said that while being a fireman was a good and respectable job, they were certain that I would be bored and unsatisfied in such a career. To settle for less than what was achievable and which suited my abilities was not, in their opinion, a wise decision.

I, on the other hand, argued strongly and passionately for the virtue of having low aspirations and for pursuing a career that would be a waste of the last three years of my education. In the end I was too scared to follow my heart and a few months later I was off to college in America.

For the next 18 years I've been in search of a profession that would not be selling myself short or be of low aspiration. I have in total spent 10 years in higher education and will complete my LLM at the end of this month. I am, however, no closer to being qualified for a job that would interest me than I was that evening in 1990. I still need between 1-3 years of further study to get a job in law, and I don't know how I will either finance this or muster energy for further study.

I really should have been a firemen!