Stories for Wednesday 12 March

Some morning musings for you all to think about..

Most read and emailed story right now on BBC news online is about a TV advert deemed offensive to Christians. Also knocking around today is the resignation of a top US military commander, the cost of war and being cleaner than clean in public life. And when should you stand by your man?

Here in the UK, a TV advert for hair stylers featuring eroticised female imagery and an extract from the Lord’s Prayer has been deemed offensive to Christians. The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld 23 complaints about the commercials for hairstyling equipment, including one from the Archdeacon of Liverpool.   Are Christians fighting back or are some religions easier to offend than others?

Across the pond the American Defence Secretary Defence Robert Gates has accepted the resignation of a top US military commander. Admiral William Fallon was the commander of US forces in the middle east with responsibility for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He resigned over reports in the media that he was at odds with the Bush administration on Iran. Does this make you worried about US policy to Iran?

We discussed at length in the WHYS meeting yesterday, the cost of war.  In particular the war in Iraq will cost US taxpayers at least three trillion dollars, a respected, Nobel Prize-winning economist wrote in a new book which was excerpted in the US press this week.  In Britain a report suggests that the costs of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq this year are likely to almost double.  Is it all money well spent? At what point does a war become too expensive?

Looking at the story of New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer, a number of you have already contacted the BBC to pose some interesting questions.

Gov Spitzer is the man facing increasing calls to resign or face impeachment proceedings over allegations that he hired a prostitute. The governor – a high-profile Democrat who campaigned for ethical leadership – has not admitted paying for sex, but he told a news conference that he had let down his family.

Dora in Los Angeles wrote to the BBC: “We need to hold our leaders, both big and small accountable and to higher standards.”

JW in Chicago disagrees: “His personal life is his business and not the public!”

So who is right? Should our political leaders be held to a higher standard, or should their private life be private?

Also as Claudia Parsons suggests in this reuters article:  Spitzer’s wife is living through the worst nightmare for any political spouse — the “Stand By Your Man” moment.

Silda Wall Spitzer, the mother of the governor’s three daughters, stood by her husband’s side at a news conference on Monday where he admitted he had violated his obligations to his family and his “sense of right and wrong.”

Dina McGreevey, the ex-wife of former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey who resigned in 2004 over a gay affair with a man whom he hired, likens Silda Wall Spitzer’s experience to her own.  Dina McGreevey told CNN the public exposure made an already difficult situation even tougher for the wife.  “She’s ridiculed and shamed in front of virtually the entire world,”

Dina McGreevey urged people not to criticise Spitzer’s wife for her decision to stand by his side, saying she made a similar choice for the sake of her daughter.  “I was criticised for standing there. Hillary Clinton was criticised for standing there with her husband. We all do it for very personal reasons,” McGreevey said in the CNN interview.

“You don’t know what it’s like unless you’re in the person’s shoes.” 

But what if it were you – would you stand by your man? Sorry spouse?  The debate has already started on various other sites..

And GD in Rotterdam has already told the BBC:  “I hope Silda, his wife — who looks totally humiliated — will leave him.”

11 Responses to “Stories for Wednesday 12 March”

  1. 1 Ros Atkins
    March 12, 2008 at 11:05

    Hi Ros, I would love to suggest a debate. The issue of LRA and trial in the Hague. The President says that he’ll not be tried in the Hague but rathe in the Ugandan local courts. Could this be the opportunity we have been waiting for in Uganda or is it a form of backtracking by the president?

    Is it a blow to the ICC and its system? What’ll be the reaction of the Prosecutor General who has always insited that KONY should be tried in the Hague.

    Great day and I hope it features.

    Phillip Kihumuro

  2. 2 Ros Atkins
    March 12, 2008 at 11:06

    Hi Ros,

    Saw this while scanning the news on-line. I thought this might be an interesting topic for the show. Keep up the good work. WHYS is one of the best programs on the air and I always enjoy listening. Thanks!

    Anne in Kansas City


  3. 3 Brett
    March 12, 2008 at 11:21

    On the offended Christians:
    Ha! This is going to be good. The world (Including Christians) more or less doesn’t care that Muslims are offended by cartoons directly attacking their religion, but now that it is Christianity, they scream bloody murder. And yet this is not even a direct attack on their God or prophet. It makes me giggle to read about things like this.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  4. 4 Ros Atkins
    March 12, 2008 at 11:30

    Hi Ros,

    It is really good to have debates broadcasts like this, the topics are well worth a dicussion.

    I know that the shows are based on current news – but one thing I would like to hear a discussion on is – South Africa and the new-apartheid there – the country has very much become a “reverse apartheid” regime, and it is getting more difficult for white people living there, sadly the economy is at a decline too, but the worlds view is that things are fair now – but in actual fact it is another form of apartheid against the white people.

    I usually download the podcasts and listen to them on my way to work.
    I am a South African living in Zuerich, Switzerland.

    Keep up the good work.

  5. March 12, 2008 at 12:11

    Hi to all of you my Precious friends. I’d like to point out to one topic which I thought would be interesting to be discussed. It’s about the story of the Saudi cleric who received a very huge amount of criticism from Wahabi clerics in Saudi Arabia because he danced the ‘sword dance’ during a popular wedding party. May be you guys could shed the light on the current struggle between the moderate version and the Wahabi version of Islam in Saudi Arabia and in the Islamic World in general. Tons of love to all of you guys from Baghdad. With my love. Yours forever, Lubna.

  6. 6 john in Germany
    March 12, 2008 at 13:07

    People in High positions.

    Every man on the street can go to a brothel if he wishes, he has to clear that with his wife/girl friend/partner male or female, and his own conscience. It is of no concern to any other person. If a woman or man in a relevant position buys sex, and it does not interfere with their judgement, capability as a politician, or what ever, then it is not anyone else’s problem.

    Who has the right to Judge?. we all have our secret wishes in many things including the erotic. There is even some scientific paper concerning how many times a day a man thinks of sex, it surprised me i must be getting old. In such cases where no children are involved and no criminal act. then LET THE PEOPLE BE. What would a person do if his or her partner could not partake in sex for any reason, and she or he needed sex?????.

    It seems sad that 10,000 dollars, am i right?. was the payment. would feed a lot of hungry children.

    You can almost imagine the people that worked on the tapes or whatever, rubbing there hands,,”we have a big fish here, lets get him”

    Happiness to you all.

    John in Germany

  7. 7 john in Germany
    March 12, 2008 at 13:11

    Hi Lubna.
    Do you mean the Scottish Sword Dance?

    Like reading your articles, and notes.

    Keep it up.

    John in Germany

  8. 8 VictorK
    March 12, 2008 at 15:09

    Can’t understand why people think that Mrs Spitzer is being ridiculed and shamed. Her husband’s reputation will never recover from this, but she’s been a model of stoicism and loyalty. All credit to her.

    @ Brett: please note the difference between the Christian and Muslim responses to representations that both groups deemed offensive. A handful of Christians in Britain followed the proper channels to make their distress and concern known and the authorities repsonded with a ruling that supported their view of the offensiveness of the ad in question (i.e. not simply that they had been offended, but the ad had breached general standards of taste and decency that are applicable to all adverts). By contrast, thousands of Muslims around the world – not just in those very few countries that had published the cartoons – literally went mad with rage, despite the fact that 99% (at least) of them hadn’t even seen the images that they were foaming over. People were threatened with violence and murder. Several cartoonists had to go into hiding. Several people died in the demonstrations-cum-riots. A nun involved in humnitarian relief was murdered in Somalia in ‘retaliation’ for the cartoons (the logic of this escapes me, too). Property was attacked and destroyed, including several Western embassies (including the embassies of countries in which the cartoon hadn’t been published). Generally speaking, it was not at all a good time for the proponents of the ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ line.

    That’s the difference between offending Christians and offending Muslims: you can expect to live to a ripe old age having insulted one; Theo Van Gogh, who has been a corpse for how many years now, is what happens when you insult the other.

    It’s a very unfair sleight of hand by atheists and anti-Christians to conflate Islam and Christianity when the two creeds are really as unlike as any two things can be.

    At what point does a war become too expensive: when it doesn’t serve any .of your vital national interests. The financial burden of the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts is a well deserved punishment for the British government’s persistence in folly. We have no business being in either country and should withdraw immediately. It’s for the Afghans and Iraqis to order their affairs – as best as they can – not us. There is nothing to commend liberal imperialism over the older types of imperialism.

  9. 9 Brett
    March 12, 2008 at 15:39

    I was not arguing the reactions of the religions (although their individual reactions are quite different and deserve to be brought up). I was noting the actions which prompted these reactions and what seems popular opinion on each. It was deemed acceptable to insult Islam irrespective of the reaction, but now that it is the Christians being insulted, it is suddenly unacceptable. I do not condone violence on either side, either in the name of Islam or Christianity. Nor am I standing to defend Islam or Christianity (as I have issues with both sides and their actions presently and in the past). I found it amusing that both sides are facing media ‘insults’ together, maybe they can help eachother through this and become buddy-buddy. Maybe they will treat eachother a little more equally in the arena of respect, regardless of their religious beliefs.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  10. 10 VictorK
    March 12, 2008 at 16:36

    But Brett, the actions that prompted the reactions occurred in two separate countries. There is no comparing what the Danes consider acceptable according to their national traditions,and what we in Britain consider acceptable according to ours.

    The Danes are perfectly entitled to publish matter that Muslims may find offensive .if that’s what Danish liberties permit. In Holland (a country that is as decadent as it is liberal) insults are routinely offered to Christianity. The latest was so fantastically obscene (another cartoon) that when I heard it described my first response (and I can’t claim to be a devout Christian) was: the Muslims have a point – someone really should die for this kind of thing. But kneejerk responses aside, the Dutch also have their traditions of liberty and are entitled to live by it, however repulsive it can sometimes be.

    In Britain, I would point out, not one of the national media outlets published the cartoons. So there was no hypocrisy there. In fact, you are far more likely to face gratuitous insult in Britain if you are a Christian, since either from fear .or deference Islam is hardly ever attacked in public (the last occasion of note was when someone was recorded, at a private meeting, calling Islam ‘a hateful religion’, amongst other things; the .police prosecuted him – for what were really political reasons, since he led a far right party – for this exercise of free speech with the hope of sending him to jail. This would simply never have happened if he had said the same thing about Christianity). And there is an important difference between gratuitously offending people of whatever religion (an animation of pigs dressed in traditional muslim garb and worshipping in a mosque would strike me as unacceptably and mischievously offensive, and the offence felt in such a case would be entirely justified), while offence caused by arguments directed against your religion – though undoubtedly real – is not something that ought to be treated seriously (I see nothing wrong with taking the position that Muhammed was a man of violence or that Jesus never really existed, etc – such views are perfectly acceptable in a country with a tradition of free speech).

  11. March 29, 2008 at 16:59

    Getting upset about religion is rather like getting upset about whether rabbits have horns or whether elephants can or cannot fly.

    Much more useful to get upset about people causing real harm to other human ( and other ) beings, and then using right effort and application to do something to oppose it.

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