The Reluctant Fundamentalist

You have now read the first five chapters of this book.

Write a blog post where you comment on:

  • your impression of the story so far. Remember that you are allowed to be negative, but no matter what your thoughts are so far – try to explain and give examples of what you like or dislike.
  • what impression you get of the company Underwood Samson.
  • describe how Changez feels about America and find quotes to support this.
  • how  Erica is described. Find a quote to underline your opinion.
  • 9-11 and Changez’ reaction to it (chapter 5).

Deadline: Monday, October 24

In the news – Nobel Peace Prize and Midterm Elections USA

The last day before our fall break, this year’s winners of the Nobel Peace Prize were announced. This year, the prize was shared between human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the Russian human rights organisation Memorial and the Ukrainian human rights organisation Center for Civil Liberties. As we can see, the trend of focusing on human rights and specifically freedom of expression continues. According to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, “They have for many years promoted the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens. They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.” The actual prize will be given out in Oslo Rådhus on December 10. Check out more on this year’s winners here: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2022/summary/

In the USA, the campaigns for the Midterm Elections are well under way. This congressional election is on November 8 and all members of the House of Representatives and 1/3 of the Senate are on election. Read more about this here: https://www.usa.gov/midterm-state-and-local-elections#item-213861

Also use this learning resource from the New York Times to find out more about what’s at stake in these elections: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/12/learning/lesson-plans/lesson-plan-understanding-the-issues-of-the-2022-midterm-elections.html?campaign_id=55&emc=edit_ln_20221014&instance_id=74539&nl=the-learning-network&regi_id=107537668&segment_id=109934&te=1&user_id=ff262e6e32a4f841d3b1fb1e2dbc7be0

Freedom Of Expression

Many countries have laws protecting freedom of expression, but not all practice what they preach…. Choose a country of your interest and write a blog post on how freedom of expression is guaranteed (or not…) through laws, how these laws are limited and even violated, leading to arrests, attacks, deaths and in some cases even torture.

The blog post can be individual or pair work, but make sure both of you post it on your blog when it is done – end of class on Monday, September 19.

On September 21 we’ll have a writing assignment in class based on the issues we’ve been working on this year, so part of Monday’s class can also be spent on revising and preparing for this.

In the news: US journalist killed, Queen Elisabeth dies

Check out the case below and find more information – what is it about, and how is it relevant for our topic of freedom of expression? What is investigative journalism and what kind of cases had Jeff German looked into?

In the same week that Liz Truss replaced Boris Johnson as the prime minister of the UK, Queen Elizabeth 2 died at 96, after 70 years on the British throne. On November 29, 2021 Queen Elisabeth was removed as head of state in Barbados and replaced by Sandra Mason, the nation’s first democratically elected woman president — 400 hundred years after English ships first arrived there and established one of the most oppressive and brutal of England’s Caribbean slave colonies. Now there is talk that other Commonwealth countries might do the same.

Find out what countries have the British Monarch as their head of state and why. Three countries in particular have been mentioned in this context – which ones, and why?

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/gallery/2022/sep/08/queen-elizabeth-ii-a-royal-life-in-pictures

New school year, new subject

Welcome to English 2:) This English course includes social studies as well as literature and we aim to look at the importance of literary works in a societal context.

First topic this year is therefore Freedom of Expression and the novel Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. When the book was published in 1988, it sparked outrage among some Muslims, who considered its content to be blasphemous and the Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the writer’s death in 1989. Many people have been killed or injured because of this, including the Norwegian publisher of the book, William Nygaard. In August of this year, Rushdie was stabbed and seriously injured at a literary event in New York.

So what is the role of writers when it comes to free speech and freedom of expression?

Accordian to the Guardian journalistCRobert McCrum , “Rushdie has again instructed us in a profound lesson: great literarure will always be a matter of life and death”

Moving on

The historic second impeachment of former President Donald Trump came to a sudden, yet anticipated end on Saturday. The defense concluded their argumentation on Friday after only a few hours, and the Senate thus met on Saturday anticipating closing arguments from both sides which would then transition into a vote. The House Impeachment Managers surprised everyone at the opening procedures on Saturday when they announced they wished to subpoena a witness, based on a CNN news report on Friday night. After intense deliberation and argumentation, both sides agreed to include the written statement from the witness, Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, thus not needing her to appear in court and delaying the case, or perhaps more disconcerting for several parties: opening up for more witnesses being subpoenaed, and thus prolonging the trial.

As the Senate had voted before the start of the trial itself on all issues concerning procedure, it really should not have come as a surprise that the impeachment managers might bring up the topic of witnesses on Saturday, as that was the agreed upon time in the trial that they could do so. Well, not Saturday per se, but after the defense councel had closed their up to 16 hours of main proceedings.

It was also no surprise that Trump was acquitted, as a 2/3 majority was required for a conviction. That meant that 17 Republican senators would have to vote to convict. The result was 7, meaning 57 votes to convict, and 43 to acquit.

It seems as if some GOP senators voted to acquit because they did not agree with the ruling last Tuesday on the constitutionality of impeaching a former president, now a private citizen. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, who was the senate majority leader during the Janury 6th insurrection and who was still the senate majority leader when the House of Representatives sent the article of impeachment to the Senate, scathingly denounced former President Trump’s actions on January 6th within minutes of voting to acquit him. One can wonder: to what end?

Personally, I have a hard time believing the Founding Fathers intended to allow a loophole like the January exception that has now been created, knowing the lengths they themselves went to to stand up to the oppressors from Great Britain back in the 1770s and 1780s. Granted, the Founding Fathers themselves were insurrectionists, but to compare them to the insurrectionist mob of January 6th 2021 would be an insult. The Founding Fathers based their actions on enlightenment ideals, with human and civil rights and democracy as goals, in a time with no internet, no phone and no telegraph. Have modern-day amenities left us more ignorant and unwilling to think for ourselves, left us susceptible to demagogs and politicians with agendas beyond “support[ing] and defend[ing] the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”?

Hilde

The Second Impeachment Is Underway

Yesterday the US Senate convened to decide whether the 2nd impeachment of former President Donald J. Trump is constitutional. The House Impeachment Managers and the legal counsel for the former president argued approximately two hours each in order to convince the Senate of their opposing views on the legality and constitutionality of the impeachment. The House Impeachment Managers apparently gave the most convincing argument, as at the end of the day all 48 Democrat Senators, the two independent Senators and six Republican Senators affirmed the impeachment as constitutional.

So today and tomorrow will be dedicated to the House Impeachment Managers presenting their arguments. Friday and Saturday are dedicated to the former president’s legal counsel. The proceedings after that depends on how long they need to debate, and whether they will allow witnesses in the legal proceedings.

We need to keep in mind that the jurors in this impeachment trial are also victims of and witnesses to the siege of Capitol Hill on January 6th. Regrettably, the TV audience is not able to see the senators and their reactions to the arguments laid before them by the House Impeachment Managers today as they seek to remind them of Trump’s propagation of “the Big Lie” which they argue led to the insurrection on January 6th. I cannot but wonder who is more affected by the line of argument, the tweets, videos and timelines presented: the TV audience whose sole focus is on the prosecution / defense and the evidence they put forth. Or the victims / witnesses / jurors whose focus I can only hope is directed there as well. I wonder whether being on the Senate floor precisely five weeks later, with the Impeachment Managers reminding the jurors how they were victims and witnesses that day, will affect their faith in and oath to the Constitution.

A Historic Second Impeachment

The US House of Representatives voted tonight on House Resolution no. 40, to impeach President Trump for “incitement of insurrection”. All 222 Democrats and 10 Republicans voted in support of the impeachment, 197 Republicans opposed the resolution. Four Members of Congress refrained from casting their vote. This makes Trump’s presidency historic in yet another way, by making him the first president to be impeached twice.

There was a lengthy debate on the House Floor in which the Democrats denounced the President’s actions and language in the events unfolding on January 6, as well as in the months leading up to that and in the week since. In particular they pointed out the President’s and several Republican politicians’ refusal to accept the 2020 election results and their many attempts at finding ways to contest the results, both through legal and more questionable means. Many Republicans defended the President, although most denounced the actual events of last Wednesday. Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney was applauded for her statement released yesterday in support of the impeachment process, in which she said that “[t]here has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution”.

Many Republicans asked during the debate for due process to be followed instead of such a rushed impeachment before the criminal investigations are even completed. Some Republicans even compared the events of 1/6, an event generally agreed upon as an attack on the democratic process and thus also the Constitution, to the protests that have taken place across the country during 2020 in response to the many killings of Black people. Most Republicans touted a call for unity instead of impeachment, claiming that an impeachment will further divide the American society in a time when they should focus on mending fences. That is quite a convenient claim after having spent the last two months fueling the division by calling the election results, the most democratic way for people to make their voices heard, into question.

The impeachment will now proceed to the Senate for a trial, and a conviction will require a 2/3 majority. Current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell so far seems unwilling to call the Senate into session early, as they are currently on a break until January 19. Thus the impeachment process will probably start after President-elect Biden’s inauguration when the Senate will be tied between Republicans and Democrats, with the Democrats being in majority since the Vice President-elect will have the tiebreaking vote.

A good question is “why bother” if the impeachment trial happens after Trump’s presidency has ended. The prudent answer is “principle”. Should words matter, or is there no limitation to the First Amendment, regardless of consequences? Or is this simply a vendetta and a pathway to stop Trump from ever holding a public office ever again?

This New York Times article puts today’s House vote in context, identifying which representative voted in today’s session, compared to who voted to call on Vice President Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment yesterday and who objected to the January 6 certification of the 2020 election results.

The 2020 election finally concluded

After hours of interruption by rioters breaching Capitol, Vice President Mike Pence and a joint session in Congress affirmed President-Elect Joseph Biden as the rightful winner of the 2020 presidential election. The joint session of Congress confirmed his victory by acknowledging the 306 Electoral College votes, although various Republican senators and representatives objected to the election results in some states. After debates in separate chambers at each objection, the majority of the joint session still voted to uphold the results by the Electoral College.

Only hours before it also became clear that the run-off election in Georgia the day before had resulted in both Senate seats going to the candidates from the Democratic Party, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. That means that the Senate is tied between the Republicans and Democrats, leaving the Vice President with the tiebreaker vote.