Quote of the Day

“Dick ‘Kaboom’ Cheney has written a book, and he says he wouldn’t change anything. He feels strongly about this. He’d still invade the wrong country.” –David Letterman

Obama And The End Of The Post-Partisan Era

Barack Obama attracted many independents in 2008 with his “post-partisan” approach to politics, but this turned out to be far more effective for campaigning against an unpopular incumbent as opposed to governing. Regardless of how much Obama wanted to compromise, the Republicans made opposing everything Obama supported their major goal. Obama’s support of moderate economic policies and a moderate health care reform plan did not prevent bogus claims that Obama is a socialist who supported a government take-over of health care.

As long as Obama’s popularity was soaring far above that of Congress, it was difficult to criticize Obama for maintaining this approach despite my fears that he would eventually suffer in the polls if the economy remained bad. In recent weeks his popularity has dropped, even if it remains well above that of Congress and of Republicans. A recent Pew Research Center survey showed that “Currently, 57% of Democrats say Obama should challenge the Republicans more often, while 32% say he is handling relations with the GOP about right. ” This is up from 37% in April who said Obama should challenge the Republicans more. The number of Independents who want Obama to stand up more to the Republicans has increased from 30% to 36% since April.

The importance of doing this extends beyond these poll numbers. Considering that public opinion regarding the economy typically lags actual improvement by several months, it is likely that a poor economy could cause an incumbent president to lose votes in 2012. It is essential that Obama make the case that it was Republican policies which caused the recession, actions of Congressional Republicans which have hindered recovery, and that further Republican polices will make matters worse.

Perhaps I am overly concerned, considering Obama’s other advantages as an incumbent. Allan Lichtman, an American University professor who has a formula which predicted every presidential race correctly since 1984, has predicted Obama will win reelection. However there really have not been many presidential elections which were very difficult to predict since then, and I also think there is wisdom to the old Clinton mantra that, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Of course the Obama political team which beat Hillary Clinton and then went on to an easy victory in the general election is not stupid either. Presumably they were continuing the same strategy as long as Obama was doing well in the polls, and  now realize that they must change their message. I have seen a number of indicators that they plan to take a harder line against the Republicans, including today’s article in The Hill:

President Obama is preparing to fight a political war this fall on two fronts — the first against Republicans who want his job and the second against Republicans who want to make his job more difficult.

Obama is taking dead-aim at the latter group, targeting Congress in a fall offensive that the president’s reelection campaign hopes will bruise the overall GOP image beyond repair…

When GOP lawmakers return, the president and his team are ready to deliver a flurry of attacks, castigating Congress for inaction on jobs, being on the wrong side of taxes and eager to destroy social safety net programs. If Obama and his team have their way, Americans will come to see every Republican as a Tea Party extremist.

The president previewed this effort when he started throwing jabs while on the road in August.

At a stop in Michigan and repeatedly during his Midwest bus tour, Obama lashed out at Congress for imperiling the economic recovery and playing politics that caused the country’s credit rating to be reduced at a time when he was working for a grand compromise.

The president is still talking about compromise, but his tone and posture indicate he is more — or at least as — interested in combat…

And there’s a bonus to beating Congress to a pulp that officials think will pay off next year.

By forcing the GOP to take positions on such key economic issues as the payroll tax cut and tax cuts for the rich, Obama and his team are hoping to draw out and lock down the president’s 2012 challengers.

Example: If the debate turns on Republicans trying to gut Social Security, then expect the Democratic National Committee to connect the dots from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the new GOP presidential front-runner, who once wrote that Social Security was “a Ponzi scheme.”

Cheney Fears Being Tried For War Crimes

Unindicted war criminal Dick Cheney is afraid of being tried for war crimes according to former Colin Powell chief-of-staff Lawrence Wilkerson. It also appears that he won’t have any friends left among former members of the Bush administration once they read In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir.

“I think he’s just trying to, one, assert himself so he’s not in some subsequent time period tried for war crimes and, second, so that he somehow vindicates himself because he feels like he needs vindication. That in itself tells you something about him,” Wilkerson told ABC News, explaining that Cheney may have “angst” because of receiving deferments instead of serving in the Vietnam War like Wilkerson and others in the administration.

“He’s developed an angst and almost a protective cover, and now he fears being tried as a war criminal so he uses such terminology as ‘exploding heads all over Washington’ because that’s the way someone who’s decided he’s not going to be prosecuted acts: boldly, let’s get out in front of everybody, let’s act like we are not concerned and so forth when in fact they are covering up their own fear that somebody will Pinochet him,” Wilkerson said alluding to the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who was arrested for war crimes.

Wilkinson also described Cheney as being power-hungry:

Wilkerson adds, “Something happened to Dick Cheney and it wasn’t just 9/11,” which Cheney cites as deeply changing him. Wilkerson said the former vice president always “coveted power” and that Cheney was “fully expecting that he was going to be vice-president” when he headed up the search team for Bush.

“I can’t speak to the psychosomatic or the genetic problems with heart attacks or whatever, but I can speak to power,” Wilkerson said. “He wanted desperately to be president of the United States … he knew the Texas governor was not steeped in anything but baseball, so he knew he was going to be president and I think he got his dream. He was president for all practical purposes for the first term of the Bush administration.”

Posted in George Bush, Iraq, Torture. Tags: . 8 Comments »

Texas Law Requiring Sonograms Struck Down By Court

A federal judge struck down requirements in a new Texas law requiring doctors to perform a sonogram before an abortion, ruling that the measure violates the free speech rights of both doctors and patients. That’s one victory for both reproductive rights and preventing a government take-over of health care, Republican-style.

Mitt Romney Attempts To Raise Money From Extremely Uninformed Donors

Mitt Romney is having unexpected difficulty raising money:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is facing a new challenge: He’s having trouble raising money from some Jewish donors who mistakenly believe one of his opponents, Michele Bachmann, is Jewish.

Some Jewish donors are telling fund-raisers for Romney, a Mormon, that while they like him, they’d rather open their wallets for the “Jewish candidate,” who they don’t realize is actually a Lutheran, The Post has learned.

I can’t decide what is the most surprising about this report. Is it harder to believe Bachmann is Jewish considering her extremely conservative Christian beliefs or that Jewish voters would consider voting for a Republican presidential candidate, period? Of course we are dealing with a tiny sub-group of Jewish voters here if they are considering a Republican. I imagine that any Jewish voter who is misinformed enough to consider voting Republican might also be unaware of any significant information regarding Bachmann. At least we know that the Florida Jews who voted for Pat Buchanan in 2000 did so unintentionally. I doubt it is the case, but hopefully these are actually more informed people with a sense of humor who would never contribute to any of the current Republican candidates and are just playing with Romney’s campaign staff by giving this answer.

The Anti-Science Party

I’ve disagreed with some of Paul Krugman’s writings when he as discussed politics recently, but he is certainly correct with this warning:

Now, we don’t know who will win next year’s presidential election. But the odds are that one of these years the world’s greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges — environmental, economic, and more — that’s a terrifying prospect.

This comes at the end of a column which primarily deals with Republicans who deny climate change, pointing out that “the scientific consensus about man-made global warming — which includes 97 percent to 98 percent of researchers in the field, according to the National Academy of Sciences — is getting stronger, not weaker, as the evidence for climate change just keeps mounting.”

Krugman targetted not only Rick Perry, but Mitt Romney who has been running away from the issue out of political expediency:

According to Public Policy Polling, only 21 percent of Republican voters in Iowa believe in global warming (and only 35 percent believe in evolution). Within the G.O.P., willful ignorance has become a litmus test for candidates, one that Mr. Romney is determined to pass at all costs.

So, yes, Krugman’s warning is valid. There is an excellent chance that the Republican nominee in any given year will be anti-science. In a two party system, there is a high probability that sooner or later the Republican nominee will be elected.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Let’s Kill Hitler & Torchwood: Miracle Day

Tonight we had a rare event,which will reoccur for a brief time: new episodes of both Doctor Who and Torchwood. Even rarer, both are at a point where they are starting to give answers. Who Killed Hitler gave a lot of answers regarding the season-long arc as well as the multi-season story of River Song. Major spoilers follow.

The story began with Amy and Rory near home, having built a signal for the Doctor in a corn field. There’s no explanation of how the two got back to earth after the Battle of Demons Run, and this is just one of many plot-holes which it is best to ignore to enjoy this over-the-top story. They are  joined by their childhood friend, Mels, who is obsessed with the Doctor and blames all evil in the world on the Doctor’s failure to fix things. This leads to a trip through time to kill Hitler, who spent most of the episode locked in the cupboard.

Mel’s attempt to kill Hitler was interrupted by the Tesselector, a ship full of time travelors disguised as a shape-shifting robot which tortures historical villains who otherwise went unpunished. They shifted their target from Hitler to who they described as the worst war criminal in history–the woman who killed the Doctor.

This is all interspersed with flashbacks of Mels growing up with Amy and Rory. The later two had a relationship just as we might imagine. Rory was infatuated with Amy but Amy, who really did like Rory, assumed he was gay because he never showed any interest in other girls. At least Amy did run after Rory when Mels pointed out the flaw in her thoughts about Rory.

Mels got killed in  Hitler’s office and regenerated into a confused version of River Song. Leave it to Steven Moffat to have Amy name her daughter after her old friend Mels, who was actually River Song/Melody Pond all along. In a strange way, Amy and Rory did get to raise their child.

River was programmed to kill the Doctor and kissed him with poisonous lipstick, with regeneration also somehow prevented. Meanwhile, Amy and Rory got miniaturized and beamed into the Tesselector. This set up Rory for one of the great lines of the episode:  “I’m trapped inside a giant robot replica of my wife. I’m really trying not to see this as a metaphor.”

Meanwhile the Doctor, who already had a new coat and who was now in the midst of dying, spent much of his remaining time getting dressed up in formal wear. We got the rumored scenes with post-companions, but they were just projections from the TARDIS. There continued to be adventure  aboard the Tesselector, which for some unknown reason was packed with giant killer jellyfish. Amy prevented the Tesselector from killing River by destroying the mechanism which kept the jellyfish from killing everyone aboard–both a morally questionable move as well as one with obvious dangers.

The Doctor convinced River she didn’t want to go through life knowing she had killed her true love before they even got involved. As the Doctor put it, ““She did kill me, and then she used her remaining lives to bring me back. As first dates go, I’d say that was mixed signals.”

By River giving up her remaining regenerations to save the Doctor, she set up her own death in Silence in the Library/ Forest of the Dead. I wonder if this also means the Doctor will have additional regenerations, providing one way for Moffat to get around the previously established (and certain to be bypassed) limitation on regenerations.

All this went on with very little of Hitler in the actual story. Here is Adolph Hitler’s reaction to his appearance in Doctor Who:

In this episode, the Doctor learned about his future death and presumably is now plotting some way around this. We learned that the Silence isn’t really a species but a religious movement obsessed with a first question reminiscent of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. There were further references to The Graduate with the relationship between River and the Doctor. There was even this poster referring to Silence at the school which Amy and Mels attended:

While there are still gaps, we now know much more about River Song’s life:

River was conceived in the Tardis after the Amy and Rory’s wedding, giving a whole new meaning to the episode title, The Big Bang. She was born on Demons Run and then raised in a creepy orphanage in the 1960′s, while being brainwashed to kill the Doctor.  At some point a picture was taken of her with Amy–perhaps we will see a trip to that orphanage sometime later this season to explain it. She escaped (perhaps intentionally allowed to escape) and wound up in New York where she had what was probably not her first regeneration. She wound up becoming a delinquent friend of Amy and Rory, ultimately getting aboard the TARDIS in this episode. After the  regeneration in this episode, River was left  with the Sisters Of The Infinite Schism. Somewhere along the way she has an affair with the Doctor as well as becoming imprisoned for killing him. The episode ended with her going into archeology so she could stalk the Doctor through time. I also bet she winds up assisting the Doctor in staging his death (or maybe the death of a Ganger) so that this fixed point in time can occur with the Doctor remaining alive.

Things also happened on this week’s episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day, End of the Road, and we seem to be coming towards a conclusion, but generally things just sort of  happen. We don’t really see the Torchwood team taking the lead in solving the mystery as opposed to grabbing bits and pieces of information over time. Perhaps that will change in the final two episodes. While the previous episode featured Gwen capturing Jack because of her family being held captive, this week’s episode quickly dispensed with the threat. Why didn’t Angelo’s granddaughter simply call Jack (or deliver a message thru Gwen) that Angelo was still alive?

There were some good touches. Newman was exposed as a bad guy and Q arrested him. Oswald Danes was shown as really being creepy, but also likely to receive the punishment he deserves now that he is designated Category 0.  For long-time Torchwood fans, there was a reference to Ianto.

Responses To The Anti-Science Right On Evolution

I sometimes think that the Democratic Party is the most inept political organization in the history of mankind, barely being able to capitalize on an opposing party which is attempting to destroy Social Security and Medicare, and making absolutely no attempt to benefit from the hostility towards science and reason in the right wing. At least sources outside of the Democratic Party are responding to the ignorant rants from GOP leaders such as Rick Perry and those with similar beliefs.

Richard Dawkins writes in The Washington Post: Attention Governor Perry: Evolution is a fact, responding to Perry’s attacks on modern science. Some excerpts (emphasis mine):

A politician’s attitude to evolution is perhaps not directly important in itself. It can have unfortunate consequences on education and science policy but, compared to Perry’s and the Tea Party’s pronouncements on other topics such as economics, taxation, history and sexual politics, their ignorance of evolutionary science might be overlooked. Except that a politician’s attitude to evolution, however peripheral it might seem, is a surprisingly apposite litmus test of more general inadequacy. This is because unlike, say, string theory where scientific opinion is genuinely divided, there is about the fact of evolution no doubt at all. Evolution is a fact, as securely established as any in science, and he who denies it betrays woeful ignorance and lack of education, which likely extends to other fields as well. Evolution is not some recondite backwater of science, ignorance of which would be pardonable. It is the stunningly simple but elegant explanation of our very existence and the existence of every living creature on the planet. Thanks to Darwin, we now understand why we are here and why we are the way we are. You cannot be ignorant of evolution and be a cultivated and adequate citizen of today.

Darwin’s idea is arguably the most powerful ever to occur to a human mind. The power of a scientific theory may be measured as a ratio: the number of facts that it explains divided by the number of assumptions it needs to postulate in order to do the explaining. A theory that assumes most of what it is trying to explain is a bad theory. That is why the creationist or ‘intelligent design’ theory is such a rotten theory.

After an explanation of the importance of evolution, Dawkins concluded:

There are many reasons to vote against Rick Perry. His fatuous stance on the teaching of evolution in schools is perhaps not the first reason that springs to mind. But maybe it is the most telling litmus test of the other reasons, and it seems to apply not just to him but, lamentably, to all the likely contenders for the Republican nomination. The ‘evolution question’ deserves a prominent place in the list of questions put to candidates in interviews and public debates during the course of the coming election.

Bryan Fischer  of The American Family Association claims that defeating Darwinism is so easy a caveman could do it. Fischer then proceeded to write a number of scientific fallacies so dumb that only a caveman should fall for what he writes. I would debunk his claims, but this has already been done by several others, including PZ Myers and Charles Johnson.

Rick Santorum Says Same-Sex Marriage Threatens Religious Freedom

Rick Santorum argued in an interview that legalization of same-sex marriage would threaten religious freedom. I can see where some might find this difficult to understand, but really it is not difficult if you understand how conservatives think of freedom. To conservatives, freedom means the freedom to impose your views upon others. Therefore religious freedom means the freedom to impose your religious views upon others. Under this definition, it could be argued that legalization of same-sex marriage would restrict the rights of those in the religious rights to impose their views upon the rest of the country.

The concept of freedom as meaning allowing people to  live as they choose without interference from government is a foreign concept to conservatives.

Santorum also said, “It’s like going out and saying, ‘That tree is a car.’ Well, the tree’s not a car. A tree’s a tree. Marriage is marriage.”

I won’t even try to explain that one.

Karen Gillan on BBC Breakfast

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nmf-IdlDOfU&feature=player_embedded

Karen Gillan on BBC Breakfast earlier today, talking about tomorrow’s return of Doctor Who and an upcoming role in a romantic comedy.