Walter Cronkite on the War

Walter Cronkite has commented on the Iraq war in a recent interview:
Cronkite, 90, was in San Jose, Calif., on Friday addressing the Commonwealth Club. In an exclusive interview with CBS station KPIX-TV of San Francisco, he weighed in on the situation in Iraq.

“We should have gotten out a long time ago. This is a mistake, this entire war there, it’s a disaster. And the earlier we get out the better,” Cronkite said. “It’s a terrible disaster. Look at the loss of lives of our young Americans there and those who have been maimed for life, for what purpose? No purpose we can define.”

What’s more, he says, America will pay a future price for going into Iraq.

KPIX-TV asked Cronkite if Americans were any safer because of the Iraq war.

“No, I don’t think so. I think were probably less safe,” he said. “The entire Arab world has now put us down as an enemy. It’s going to be a long time for us to take back any suggestion of friendship with those nations.”

KPIX-TV then asked if his strong words against the Iraq war would have the same impact as his words against the Vietnam War.

“Well, I think it’s a little late for that now,” Cronkite said. “I would like to think it would be helpful in getting us out of there. Anybody who can put another match to that fire, to get us out would be, I think, welcome”

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Conservatives Dominated by Flat Earth Mentality

A couple of weeks ago I had a post on how the right wing “determines” the truth based upon political ideology as opposed to an objective search for knowledge. At the time there was a news account reporting a claim that “that cosmic rays from outer space play a far greater role in changing the Earth’s climate than global warming experts previously thought.” Conservatives jumped on this as a way to “refute” established scientific views on global warming. Now there’s an article from National Geographic reporting one Russian scientist’s view that global warming is caused by the sun as opposed to human activity.

Not surprisingly, within a short time after being posted at Memeorandum there are already two conservative blogs (here and here) quoting this article as evidence against the established scientific viewpoint. National Geographic notes that this belief is not accepted by other scientists and provides a long discussion of the flaws in this idea:

Abdussamatov’s work, however, has not been well received by other climate scientists.

“His views are completely at odds with the mainstream scientific opinion,” said Colin Wilson, a planetary physicist at England’s Oxford University. “And they contradict the extensive evidence presented in the most recent IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report.” (Related: “Global Warming ‘Very Likely’ Caused by Humans, World Climate Experts Say” [February 2, 2007].)

Amato Evan, a climate scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, added that “the idea just isn’t supported by the theory or by the observations.”

Planets’ Wobbles

The conventional theory is that climate changes on Mars can be explained primarily by small alterations in the planet’s orbit and tilt, not by changes in the sun.

“Wobbles in the orbit of Mars are the main cause of its climate change in the current era,” Oxford’s Wilson explained. (Related: “Don’t Blame Sun for Global Warming, Study Says” [September 13, 2006].)

All planets experience a few wobbles as they make their journey around the sun. Earth’s wobbles are known as Milankovitch cycles and occur on time scales of between 20,000 and 100,000 years.

These fluctuations change the tilt of Earth’s axis and its distance from the sun and are thought to be responsible for the waxing and waning of ice ages on Earth.

Mars and Earth wobble in different ways, and most scientists think it is pure coincidence that both planets are between ice ages right now.

“Mars has no moon, which makes its wobbles much larger, and hence the swings in climate are greater too,” Wilson said.

No Greenhouse

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block in Abdussamatov’s theory is his dismissal of the greenhouse effect, in which atmospheric gases such as carbon dioxide help keep heat trapped near the planet’s surface.

He claims that carbon dioxide has only a small influence on Earth’s climate and virtually no influence on Mars.

But “without the greenhouse effect there would be very little, if any, life on Earth, since our planet would pretty much be a big ball of ice,” said Evan, of the University of Wisconsin.

Most scientists now fear that the massive amount of carbon dioxide humans are pumping into the air will lead to a catastrophic rise in Earth’s temperatures, dramatically raising sea levels as glaciers melt and leading to extreme weather worldwide.

The anti-scientific conservatives come to a conclusion first, and then seek out whatever evidence they can to try to prove it. Real science works the other way. You review the facts first and then reach a conclusion. Science is also determined by works in peer-reviewed journals, including discussion by experts in a field as to the validity of a controversial idea. Grabbing a flawed and easily disputed idea from the internet is not the way to make a scientific point.

The influence of human activity on climate change is the consensus scientific viewpoint, This won’t change regardless of how much conservatives search out a rare theory to the contrary, how much they pretend that there is a controversy over this, or how much they smear Al Gore. There will always be people who claim that human activity isn’t responsible for climate change, that evolution isn’t the accepted explanation for the development of complex organisms, or even that the earth is flat. None of their claims changes reality. As long as ignoring reality and opposing science remains a hallmark of conservative ideology they have little chance of regaining power, especially as this same denial of reality was commonly seen in their political policies.

How Conservatives Oppose Wars and Avoid the Draft (On Tactical and Strategic Grounds)

Democrats who opposed Vietnam were draft dodgers, and those who oppose the Iraq War are unpatriotic and are rooting for the terrorists if you listen to the right wing noise machine. Just like Dick Cheney, who had “other priorities” at the time of the Vietnam War, Rudy Giuliani has his own euphemism. The Examiner reports:

“Any suggestion that he was dodging the draft is totally, factually inaccurate,” said a senior Giuliani campaign adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. “He opposed the war on tactical and strategic grounds.”

They speculate that this could be a political liability running against John McCain:

Still, Giuliani has always been politically sensitive to the issue. During his 1993 mayoral campaign, he commissioned a “vulnerability study” that listed “draft dodger” as one of the epithets that might be hurled against him.

In blunt language, the consultants who prepared the study articulated how adversaries might frame the issue.

“Giuliani received special treatment from a friendly federal judge to avoid military service during the Vietnam war, when thousands of less fortunate people were dying,” they wrote. “Then, as a member of the Justice Department, he hypocritically prosecuted draft dodgers.”

Apparently it’s ok for Republicans to oppose the war but not for Democrats. They compared the political implications for Giuliani to the attacks Kerry received by the Swift Boat Liars. To the conservative mind it is ok for Bush, Cheney, and Giuliani to avoid military service as they limit their attacks to John Kerry:

Swift Boats co-founder John O’Neill said the only reason Vietnam became a major issue in 2004 was that Kerry kept bringing it up.

“I do think Kerry was a special case,” O’Neill said. “Whatever Rudy Giuliani or the rest of these people did or didn’t do in terms of the Vietnam War, I don’t think that’s a legitimate issue in the presidential campaign of 2008.”

Kerry’s a special case all right. He’s a Democrat, which makes him a target for attacks, even if fictitious, despite the fact that he fought in Vietnam while the Republican heroes did not.

Virtual Attack on John Edwards

There is a certain irony is how I have one post today on the desire of voters to see less dirty fighting between the parties which is surrounded by posts related to dishonest attacks against both John Kerry and Al Gore. Conservatives have taken this to a new level–attacking the virtual campaign headquarters of the Edwards campaign in Second Life. From the Edwards blog:

Shortly before midnight (CST) on Monday, February 26, a group of republican Second Life users, some sporting “Bush ’08” tags, vandalized the John Edwards Second Life HQ. They plastered the area with Marxist/Lenninist posters and slogans, a feces spewing obsenity, and a photoshopped picture of John in blackface, all the while harrassing visitors with right-wing nonsense and obsenity-laden abuse of Democrats in general and John in particular.

Shakespeare’s Sister, who has some personal experience in the hatred of the right wing, writes:

I’m so utterly sick of there being not the teensiest wee shred of “live and let live” among the worst elements of the rightwing—they’ve got to silence and destroy everything and anyone who disagrees with them. They live to ruin and demolish and spoil—and if anyone different than them has the temerity to be having fun or feeling good for one bloody second, the sorry blighters can’t resist swooping in to piss all over the parade, then revel in their own success. Bullies—all of them.

Gore Responds To Mass Media’s Coverage of Climate Change

After Al Gore won the Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth right wing groups tried to blunt the inevitable increase in public discussion of climate change by floating bogus charges against Gore. As right wing ditto heads commented at various blogs and newspapers there were multiple comments from uninformed conservatives making claims such as that “no reputable scientist agrees with Gore.” These mistaken beliefs are sometimes the fault of the news media, which prefers to dwell on political attacks and present conservative beliefs as a legitimate side of the debate.

Rather than dwelling on the ridiculous attacks Gore returned to the central issue, including how the media portrays a false sense that there is a real debate over climate change:

Back in Tennessee on Tuesday, Gore told a crowd of about 50 people at the U.S. Media Ethics Summit II that the presentation’s single most provocative slide was one that contrasts results of two long-term studies. A 10-year University of California study found that essentially zero percent of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles disagreed that global warming exists, whereas, another study found that 53 percent of mainstream newspaper articles disagreed the global warming premise.

He noted that recently the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its fourth unanimous report calling on world leaders to take action on global warming.

“I believe that is one of the principal reasons why political leaders around the world have not yet taken action,” Gore said. “There are many reasons, but one of the principal reasons in my view is more than half of the mainstream media have rejected the scientific consensus implicitly — and I say ‘rejected,’ perhaps it’s the wrong word. They have failed to report that it is the consensus and instead have chosen … balance as bias.

“I don’t think that any of the editors or reporters responsible for one of these stories saying, ‘It may be real, it may not be real,’ is unethical. But I think they made the wrong choice, and I think the consequences are severe.

Recent attacks on Gore falsely portrayed a right wing group with ties to the energy industry as a nonpartisan think tank. The attacks called Gore a hypocrite for his energy use by confusing reality with right wing stereotypes of environmentalists as advocating a drastic change in our life styles. Gore has been advocating far less Draconian restrictions and his personal conservation efforts, including the purchase of carbon offsets for the energy he uses, are consistent with his public statements. Gore can hardly be called a hypocrite when he carries out the same actions he actually advocates. In contrast, there is a certain hypocrisy to conservatives who both deny the dangers of global warming but also claim that Gore’s measures such as purchasing carbon offsets are insufficient. You can’t have it both ways in claiming both that there is no problem and in saying Gore is not doing enough personally.

Related Story: The Swift Boating of Al Gore

Is the Middle Really Just a Myth?

A column in the Washington Post reviews some polling data and concludes that the desire for middle of the road solutions is a myth. They make some valid points, but the issue is far more complex. They review the findings of the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) which surveyed more than 24,000 Americans who voted in 2006:

Not surprisingly, some of the largest differences between Democrats and Republicans were over the Iraq war. Fully 85 percent of those who voted for Democratic House candidates felt that it had been a mistake to invade Iraq, compared with only 18 percent of voters who cast ballots for Republicans.

But the divisions between the parties weren’t limited to Iraq. They extended to every issue in the survey. For example, 69 percent of Democratic voters chose the most strongly pro-choice position on the issue of abortion, compared with 20 percent of Republican voters; only 16 percent of Democratic voters supported a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, while 80 percent of Republican voters did; and 91 percent of Democratic voters favored governmental action to reduce global warming, compared with 27 percent of Republican voters.

This is consistent with previous posts where I’ve looked at the differences between left and right and found that social issues on Iraq have replaced economic issues as the major divisions between the parties. This also places into doubt the value of efforts such as Unity08 to promote a more centrist ticket. Voters are unhappy with the current political atmosphere, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the solution is always somewhere in the middle of the views of the parties.

Polling has also showed that when asked about a generic moderate versus liberal or conservative, the gut reaction of many voters is to pick the moderate. George Bush ran in 2000 claiming to be a compassionate conservative, knowing that while he needed the conservative base he could not win a first term if the middle realized how conservative he was. If not for exploiting 9/11, he most likely would have been a one-term President, with many who voted for him in 2004 now regreting their decision. Republicans ran against Kerry by misrepresenting Congressional voting records to claim Kerry had the most liberal voting record in the Senate. This was done both to fire up the base against him, as well as as an attempt to attract moderate voters who would object to the “most liberal” member while failing to realize how far right the GOP has moved.

It makes sense that there is polarity over the issues they quote in the column. You can either agree or disagree that invading Iraq was a mistake, with the number believing it was a mistake growing to include both liberals and those mythical moderates. Despite attempts to blur the distinction by some politicians, ultimately you either believe that a woman has the right to control her own body or that abortion is murder and there is no real center ground on this. (more…)

Kerry Called Hero By Swiftie Backer

Since yesterday’s post, more information has come out on John Kerry’s questioning of Sam Fox, the nominee for Ambassador to Belgium who had also contributed money to the Swift Boat liars. Mary Ann Akers quotes Fox as calling Kerry a hero:

Fox replied that he was “very concerned” that politics have become too “mean and destructive,” especially with the participation of independent 527 groups. He subtly alluded to the Swift Boat campaign against Kerry and not-so-subtly tried to redirect Kerry’s line of questioning by saying (with a straight face) to Kerry, “Senator, you’re a hero,” adding that no 527 group “can take that away from you.”

In the comments to the previous post, MBK reports having watched the video of the hearings found that the mainstream media had ignored another important aspect of the story. She reports, “the first part of Sen. Kerry’s interrogation covered the nominee’s qualifications, or, more accurately, his utter LACK of qualifications, to be ambassador of Belgium. Kerry eviscerated this guy slowly, calmly, devastatingly. Kerry’s knowledge of Belgium exceeded Fox’s by about 10,000 times.”

John Kerry’s blog lists several blog posts on this story.