It was bound to happen. Cults just cannot resist demanding purity. The Caucus reports that Republicans are considering a purity resolution:
Republican leaders are circulating a resolution listing 10 positions Republican candidates should support to demonstrate that they “espouse conservative principles and public policies” that are in opposition to “Obama’s socialist agenda.” According to the resolution, any Republican candidate who broke with the party on three or more of these issues– in votes cast, public statements made or answering a questionnaire – would be penalized by being denied party funds or the party endorsement.
The ten items are:
(1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill;
(2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run health care;
(3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;
(4) We support workers’ right to secret ballot by opposing card check;
(5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;
(6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;
(7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;
(8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;
(9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and
(10) We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership.
Republicans sure have not adhered very well to number one when in office. Number two is nonsensical considering that Obama is not proposing government-run health care (as the American Medical Association pointed out in their endorsement of health care reform). At least they aren’t requiring a pledge of support for torture, although that certainly is a common characteristic of pure Republicans.
Lacking much of substance to attack Obama on, opponents have been desperate to grab at anything. Several conservative sites have latched onto this criticism of Obama’s response to yesterday’s tragic shooting at Fort Hood. The article complains about not seeing “a somber chief executive offering reassuring words and expressions of sympathy and compassion.”
One conservative blog even writes, after a ridiculous claim that Obama hates the military and sides with a Jihadist: “That he would call yesterday’s horrific act of violence an ‘outburst of violence’ validates that he deserves no respect. It is times like this that I REALLY miss President Bush.”
Beyond the absurdity of the earlier charges and objection to Obama’s objection to an “outburst of violence,” it is rather inane to use this to bring back the memory of George Bush. As most will recall, upon being informed of the the worst terrorist attack on this country, George Bush continued to read a about a pet goat. He was then virtually absent for a couple of days after a tragedy far more serious than the one yesterday.
This morning, when the President gave his opening remarks at the Tribal Nations Conference, the day looked very different. By 5:02 EST when he was scheduled to give closing remarks, it was clear that all Americans were rightly concerned with the tragedy in Texas, and the President took his time to give his thoughts and prayers:
Now, I have to say, though, that beyond that, I plan to make some broader remarks about the challenges that lay ahead for Native Americans, as well as collaboration with our administration, but as some of you might have heard, there has been a tragic shooting at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas. We don’t yet know all the details at this moment; we will share them as we get them. What we do know is that a number of American soldiers have been killed, and even more have been wounded in a horrific outburst of violence.
My immediate thoughts and prayers are with the wounded and with the families of the fallen, and with those who live and serve at Fort Hood. These are men and women who have made the selfless and courageous decision to risk and at times give their lives to protect the rest of us on a daily basis. It’s difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas. It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil.
I’ve spoken to Secretary Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and I will continue to receive a constant stream of updates as new information comes in. We are working with the Pentagon, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security, all to ensure that Fort Hood is secure, and we will continue to support the community with the full resources of the federal government.
In the meantime, I would ask all Americans to keep the men and women of Fort Hood in your thoughts and prayers. We will make sure that we get answers to every single question about this horrible incident. And I want all of you to know that as Commander-in-Chief, there’s no greater honor but also no greater responsibility for me than to make sure that the extraordinary men and women in uniform are properly cared for and that their safety and security when they are at home is provided for.
So we are going to stay on this. But I hope in the meantime that all of you recognize the scope of this tragedy, and keep everybody in their thoughts and prayers.
It sure sounds like Obama changed his planned statements to provide “reassuring words and expressions of sympathy and compassion” in response to the immediate situation. That is far more than what George Bush did after 9/11.
Update: Some conservatives are sure searching for a way to turn yesterday’s shooting at Fort Hood into yet another way to attack Barack Obama, failing to realize how disrespectful to the troops their sick attempts to play politics with this really are. Now even one of the Swift Boat Liars has gotten into the act. There’s yet another bizarre charge raised against Obama related to the shootings here.
Update II:Steve M. has more on the absurd attack from the right on Obama for calling the attack an “‘outburst of violence” while praising George Bush:
This recent outburst of violence was instigated by Hamas — a Palestinian terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria that calls for Israel’s destruction.
These people will grasp at any straw, won’t they?
Hey, at least they aren’t still blaming Bill Clinton for everything.
Update III: Some conservatives have linked here with attacks claiming I brought up a comparison to George Bush. If they had the ability to actually comprehend this post they would see that the post was written in response to argument from the right that George Bush handled such situations better. Bush’s inability to respond meaningfully to 9/11 during the first forty-eight hours after 9/11 was far more significant. Obama’s response is nothing like Bush’s flippant comment to “now watch this drive” immediately after discussing terrorist killings:
This was a breaking news event on a day when Obama had a scheduled event. It made perfect sense for his staff to work to get the information on the shootings and write a statement to make at the conclusion of his scheduled appearance. Obama’s statement on the shootings should be judged by what he said about the shootings–not what he said in an unrelated scheduled event.
Obama did not make “shout-outs” during his actual statement on the shootings. Considering the nature of the breaking news there was nothing wrong adding a statement on at the time of his current engagement. If Reagan or Bush had done this conservatives would have said nothing.
Even if one really felt that it would have been significantly better if he had canceled his planned appearance at the last minute to make a statement solely on the shootings this is hardly a major point. Only those who already hate him, and his attempts to preserve our American values from the onslaught from the right wing, would use this as an excuse to show the degree of disrespect for the dead soldiers that we are now seeing from the right wing. This hardly justifies the claims from the right I cited that Obama hates the troops or sides with a Jihadist. This is purely a case of hating Obama and then working backwards from that point to make an attack which makes absolutely no sense to anyone outside of the right wing’s echo chamber.
Update IV: Video and transcript of Barack Obama’s statement at the Fort Hood memorial on November 10 are posted here.
During the Bush years our foreign policy often felt like a no win battle between Christian and Islamic fundamentalism. The Boston Globe shows one of the areas where the two are increasingly in agreement–belief in creationism:
But there is another creationist movement whose influence is growing, and which is fueling challenges to science in countries where Christianity has little sway: Islamic creationism. Campaigners in countries like Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, and Indonesia have fought the teaching of evolution in schools there, sometimes with great success. Creationist conferences have been held in Pakistan, and moderate Islamic clerics are on record publicly condemning Darwin’s ideas. A recent study of Muslim university students in the Netherlands showed that most rejected evolution. And driven in part by a mysterious Turkish publishing organization, Islamic creationism books are hot sellers at bookstores throughout the Muslim world.
“[T]he next major battle over evolution is likely to take place in the Muslim world,” Salman Hameed, a Pakistani-born astronomer at Hampshire College who has dedicated himself to researching Islamic creationism, wrote in an article in Science last December.
The phenomenon has raised concerns among scientists and educators – especially those in Muslim countries and in countries with growing Muslim minorities – who see in it a threat to scientific literacy, a drag on the potential for Muslim countries to build up their languishing scientific research sectors, and as another flashpoint in the Muslim world’s long-running struggle between religion and secularism. Unlike in the West, creationist beliefs are not associated in the Muslim world with religious fundamentalism, but instead are often espoused by members of the mainstream intellectual elite – liberals, by their own lights, who see the expansive, scientific-sounding claims of creationism as tracing a middle way between the guidance of religion and the promise of modern science. Critics of the movement fear that this makes it more likely that creationism will find its way into policies there, especially when the theory of evolution is portrayed among Muslim thinkers, as it often is, as an instrument of Western intellectual hegemony.
There are significant differences in the debate in Muslim countries as opposed to the United States:
And as the Internet facilitates the spread of both evolutionary and anti-evolutionary ideas, the debate over evolution seems to be sharpening. Islamic creationism does have its own distinctive character: While Islamic creationists borrow from the literature of their Christian counterparts, their concerns are not always the same. Without a Book of Genesis to account for, for example, Muslim creationists have little interest in proving that the age of the Earth is measured in the thousands rather than the billions of years, nor do they show much interest in the problem of the dinosaurs. And the idea that animals might evolve into other animals also tends to be less controversial, in part because there are passages of the Koran that seem to support it.
But the issue of whether human beings are the product of evolution is just as fraught among Muslims, and, as in the United States, the argument has played out around the question of what will be taught in schools. Turkey, with its longer and deeper engagement with the West, has had the most vehement debates.
There are many reasons which lead some Muslims to reject evoluton, including the fact that the science was worked out in the west, along with some seeing evolution as “the tool of atheists bent on destroying Islam.” As with religious fundamentalists in the west, some fear “the threat that evolutionary thought presents is its insistence on replacing a divine creator with the nakedly mechanistic forces of randomness and brutal competition for resources and mates.”
Some portions of the Islamic world are more open to a consideration of modern science:
There are attempts within the Muslim world to try to ease the tension between the two by enlisting the authority of the Koran. Salman Hameed points out that the biology textbook used in Pakistani high schools, while it does not mention human evolution, does have a chapter on the broader theory of evolution. That chapter opens with a quote from the Koran – “And He is Who had produced you from a single being.” – that could be read as giving support to the idea that many species descended from one single predecessor.
Edis is quick to point out that the Iranian clerical establishment’s vision of evolution, in which a divine hand guides the process, is closer to intelligent design than to the mainstream Western version of evolution. Still, according to Hameed, it is this relative friendliness to modern biology – and one of its central ideas – that has allowed Iran to pursue an aggressive, state-sponsored stem cell research program unmatched anywhere else in the Muslim world.
“What happened in Iran is that the ayatollahs decided that evolution is OK, and that there was going to be none of this nonsense about creationism, and therefore there isn’t a lot of it in Iran,” says Taner Edis, a physicist at Truman State University and author of “An Illusion of Harmony,” a book on the relationship between science and Islam.
A similar theological rapprochement explains why creationism has gained little purchase in Iran. Unlike in Sunni Islam, Shia Islam, Iran’s majority religion, has an established clerical hierarchy to interpret the Koran, making Shia’ism structurally similar to Catholicism. Iran’s clerics, like the Vatican, have decided that evolution needn’t conflict with Holy Scripture.
The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama has led to a look back at the Bush administration. Assistant Secretary of State PJ Crowley, speaking for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, raised this comparison:
“Certainly from our standpoint, this gives us a sense of momentum — when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes.”
I don’t think Americans fully absorbed the depths to which this country’s reputation had sunk under the Cheney era. That’s understandable. And so they also haven’t fully absorbed the turn-around in the world’s view of America that Obama and the American people have accomplished. Of course, this has yet to bear real fruit. But you can begin to see how it could; and I hope more see both the peaceful intentions and the steely resolve of this man to persevere.
This president has done a huge amount to bring race relations in this country to a different place, which is why the far right has become so vicious in attacking him and lying about him. They know he threatens their politics of division and rule. He has also directly addressed the Muslim world, telling some hard truths, and played a small role in evoking a similar movement of hope and change in Iran, and finally told the Israelis to stop cutting their nose off to spite their face…
Right now, we do not know where that direction will ultimately lead. We do know that we were facing a spiral of conflict that, unchecked, could have taken the world to the abyss. I see this prize as an endorsement of his extraordinary reorientation of world politics, and as an encouragement to see it through. In the midst of our domestic battles, and their ill-temper (from which I have not been immune lately), this is an attempt to tell us: look up for a moment, see how far we’ve come in pivoting away from global conflict, and give this man a break for his efforts and the massive burden he now bears.
And, in the darkness that still threatens, know hope.
Sullivan’s take on why conservatives are so opposed to Obama winning this award is similar to the views I expressed here and here. Rachel Maddow further discussed the Obama Derangement Syndrome in the video above. While liberals criticized Bush over real matters of policy, the fanatics of the right simply hate him. For the authoritarian right, to have a president who supports diplomacy and international cooperation as opposed to preemptive warfare and torture is unthinkable. Besides hating him as a person, they hate the American values he represents.
The award not only represents a repudiation of conservative views, but is contrary to their goals. While the Nobel Prize committee awarded this prize partially in the hopes that it will help promote Obama’s ideas and goals, failure on Obama’s part has become a top goal of the conservative movement.
Rick Santorum has been taking trips to Iowa which is assumed to be in preparation for running for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Even former Bush and McCain strategist Mark McKinnon finds this to be a scary prospect.He believes Santorum represents everything that is bad about the Republican party, plus there are some strange questions about his character:
Santorum is a strong neoconservative who represented Pennsylvania in the House of Representatives and the Senate over a 16-year period and rose to the No. 3 leadership position among Republicans.
Santorum once grouped gay sex with incest, polygamy, and bestiality, and he believes consenting adults have no constitutional right to privacy when it comes to sexual behavior. He is a strong supporter of teaching intelligent design. He is anti-gay, anti-immigrant—supporting the most extreme anti-immigrant legislative proposals though he is the son of an Italian immigrant father—antiabortion, and anti-anything that smacks of progressive thinking, centrism, bipartisanship, or moderation in the Republican Party.
Santorum was one of only two senators who voted against Robert Gates to be secretary of Defense because Gates advocated talking to Iran and Syria, which Santorum said would be talking to “radical Islam” and would be a grievous error.
Santorum represents, in my view, much of what is wrong the in the Republican Party. While I disagree with him on some fundamental issues, I am much more concerned with his lack of character.
Early in 2008, Santorum claimed a John McCain presidency would be “very, very dangerous for Republicans.” OK, he was entitled to support the candidate of his choice, but launching vicious frontal attacks on McCain that continued well after he received the nomination did nothing but hurt the GOP and its chances.
McKinnon had some additional examples and then described the really weird one:
I’m a pretty tolerant guy, but beyond his ideology, some of Santorum’s behavior is just a little bizarre. For example, Santorum has six children. In 1996, he had son born prematurely who lived for only two hours. He and wife brought the child home and introduced the dead infant to the rest of their children as “your brother Gabriel” and slept with the body overnight.
While I’ve been intrigued by Dollhouse, especially as we saw more of what Joss Wheden had in mind, there was always one thing which bothered me about the premise. The show shows advanced technology but it is used for fairly trivial purposes. They have the ability to imprint the memories and personality of a person into the body of another but use it primarily to create experts who could have been hired without this technology and create prostitutes who believe they love the person hiring them. We got a hint of the greater potential of the technology in an episode where someone comes back from death by having their memories which were stored shortly before her death be restored but she only returned to life temporarily. The ramifications of the technology was finally considered much further in Epitaph One.
Epitaph One was created when a clip episode was suggested in order to have an inexpensive thirteenth episode. Rather than doing a conventional clip episode Whedon wrote an episode which takes place ten years from now. While it has not yet been aired, the episode was included on the DVD set for the first season. (Spoilers included here).
The episode begins in a post-apocalyptic world ten years in the future. The Dollhouse technology has become widespread and it has even become possible to wipe people’s memories and imprint them remotely. The Chinese used the phones to create an army in the United States and the country was reduced to warfare between those who answered the phone and those who did not. Mind wiping was also being transmitted and a group decided to flee underground where they could not be reached.
While trying to get as far underground as they can, the group found the Dollhouse. They found memories which were stored and used them to find what had occurred over the preceding years. Even before remote implanting was being used as a weapon there were signs of the dangers of the technology with some people permanently taking over the bodies of others in an attempt to obtain immortality. There were suggestions of a possible defense against being imprinted and Caroline/Echo had left her memories to be used to guide people to a possible Safe Haven.
There is talk that the episode will still be aired. The episode would then provide viewers with knowledge of a general outline of what will transpire. Unlike the Terminator series, viewers will know of the terrible future but the actual characters will not. Whedon did leave himself with some wiggle room if he wants to vary from some of the memories reviewed. At Comic-Con he did note that these memories, as with all memories, might not be completely accurate.
While Epitaph One gives a look at where the story might be going long term, Joss Whedon provided some information on what will occur next season in an interview with TV Guide. This includes information on Echo, played by Eliza Dushku (seen above in a recent picture from FHM). Here is a portion:
What’s your answer to those who are queasy with the idea that the Actives are basically prostitutes since they have no power over who they sleep with?
I never thought of that! No, I did. I think it’s a little more complicated than that. But there is that element of they have sex with people sometimes. We always deal with what it does to them psychologically. What good can come of it and what terrible can come of it and how are the people who are manipulating them feeling about what they’re doing. You get into the area of sex at all in America and it’s a touchy subject. Our response is to come at it head on and so we’ll see a lot of the consequences of what’s been going on with the Dolls over the next 13 episodes.
Who feels the consequences? The Actives aren’t self-aware.
Well, Echo has been reaching toward a kind of awareness and we’re going to be sending her further along that journey. She’ll start to form her own ideas about what’s going on.
Will she hide that from her handlers?
She sure will!
So what will happen as Echo starts to get her identity back?
That’s just going to make her life harder. We’ll also get to see more of Victor and Sierra and where they came from. And we’ll discover what got everybody there. We know Boyd is a moral guy; he was a cop so his presence here is a little incongruous. We want to tease that for a while and then actually explain it.
What is the former Fed Paul Ballard up to signing on to the Dollhouse? He was a good guy last season.
He’s going to definitely be more intimately connected to the house but that doesn’t mean that he’s completely lost his way. Yet.
Are you implying that he’ll be so deep underground that he’ll start to identify with what he’s enmeshed in?
Is Paul working with any entity or agency this season?
At the beginning he’s solo, but he’ll form an alliance inside the Dollhouse—with whom I’m not saying.
Will Echo get enough self awareness that she could be Ballard’s in-house ally.
She m-i-ight. [Laughs.]
Why did Paul demand November’s freedom rather than Echo’s, since Echo, aka Carolyn, is his obsessive reason for bringing the Dollhouse down?
That is an essential question that comes up as well. Was November the girl he wanted to free because he had had a relationship with her and he felt worse for her? Or was he just getting rid of her because her being there would make him feel guilty for his obsession with Echo? It’s either the noblest thing he’s ever done or it’s the other thing. That question will come up early on.
The Television Critics Association has chosen Battlestar Galactica as Program of the Year. True Blood won as Outstanding New Show and Mad Men was chosen for Outstanding Achievement in Drama. The Big Bang Theory won as Outstanding Achievement in Comedy. The cast of The Big Bang Theory was also featured on the cover of TV Guide during Comic-Con. A video made at the time of the photo shoot appears above.
Russell T Davies has hinted that he might be creating a new set of characters when Torchwood returns. Captain Jack left earth at the end of the third season mini-series and John Borrowman might not be available next season. He is being considered for a role on the next season of Desperate Housewives.
TV Guide has some information on the next season of 24:
24 star Kiefer Sutherland says the new season, premiering in January 2010, is “the most realistic storyline I think we’ve done since season one. It centers around peace conferences taking place at the UN between the president of Iran and the President of the United States, which I believe is possible within the next few years. Obviously there will be a lot of people who will want to fight that. This is about fighting off that threat to peace.”
More information from Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe O’ Brian)–and note who will be playing her boss:
“Chloe is not up to speed in the new CTU, which is very different for her. Katee Sackhoff plays my new boss (Dana Walsh), and she kind of pats me on the shoulder and says, ‘Don’t worry—you’ll catch up,’ which is the worst moment for Chloe ever. Everything’s changed at CTU and my bosses are looking at me like I’m not doing it right. But then something happens in the story where I think I know some information which pits me at odds with my bosses.” Mary Lynn adds that the new New York City-based CTU looks “kind of like
a spaceship. It’s sleek with a lot of glass, and underground with a tunnel you drive through to get into it. I feel kind of like Batgirl. And our computers are under glass and there’s a huge screen with all the information on it that everyone can access.”
An op-ed in The New York Times compares going on line to moving to New York. For many young people who cannot afford to go to New York the internet does offer many similar advantages for “young aspirants to the creative class.”
…another destination beckons, a place that courses with all the raw ambition and creative energy that the hard times seem to have drained from New York. I am referring, of course, to the Internet, which over the past decade has slowly become the de facto heart of American culture: the public space in which our most influential conversations transpire, in which our new celebrities are discovered and touted, in which fans are won and careers made.
Wherever young creatives physically reside today, in their endeavors they are increasingly moving online: posting their photos, writing, videos and music, building a “presence” in the hope of winning an audience. Monetary rewards on the Internet are still scarce, it is true, but the cost of living is cheap and, more important, the opportunities for attention are plentiful. Every month more YouTube sensations emerge, more bloggers ink big book deals, more bands blow up through music Web sites and MySpace, and every day more young people seek their “big break” in the virtual megalopolis rather than in (or as well as in) the physical one.
The experience of moving online actually bears quite a few similarities to becoming a New Yorker. Disorienting and seemingly endless, the Internet conversation moves at lightning speed and according to unstated social rules that can bewilder outsiders. Also, like New Yorkers, residents of the Internet do not suffer fools, or mince words in belittling them, as anyone who has contributed a redundant post to Metafilter, or an earnest comment to Gawker, can attest.
In their scope, both the Internet and New York are profoundly humbling: young people accustomed to feeling special about their gifts are inevitably jarred, upon arrival, to discover just how many others are trying to do precisely the same, with equal or greater success. (For a vivid demonstration of this online, try to invent a play on words, and then Google it. You’ll be convinced that there is, in fact, “nothing new in the cloud” — a joke that a British I.B.M. employee beat me to last November.)
Moreover, the presence of an audience causes online residents to style themselves as outsized personae, as characters on a public stage. On the Internet, as in creative New York, everyone can possess a tiny measure of celebrity, and everyone pays attention to what everyone else is doing, all the time.
Despite all the similarities, going on line is just not the same as being in New York. For example, you cannot walk thorugh Central Park, stroll through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and have a drink at the Boathouse while “living” on the internet.
CBS was widely considered the best news-gathering operation among the three major networks, and Cronkite was a major reason why. With his avuncular pipe-and-slippers presence before the camera and an easy, yet authoritative, delivery, he had an extraordinary rapport with his viewers and a level of credibility that was unmatched in the industry. In a 1973 public opinion poll by the Oliver Quayle organization, Cronkite was named the most trusted public figure in the United States, ahead of the president and the vice president.
“He was the voice of truth, the voice of reliability,” said Todd Gitlin, a Columbia University journalism professor and sociologist. “He belongs to a time when there were three networks, three oil companies, three brands of bread.” He was the personification of stability and permanence, even when, in Gitlin’s words, his message was “that things are falling apart.”
In the decades before media outlets and media audiences splintered into numberless shards, Cronkite’s broadcasts reached an estimated 20 million people a night. His name became permanently linked in the minds of millions of Americans with the major news events of his time: the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; the triumph of the first moon landing; the Watergate scandal; the return of American hostages after the Iranian Revolution; and a series of political conventions, national elections and presidential inaugurations.
Cronkite was on the air for hours after the Kennedy assassination. The video above shows Cronkite announcing the death of JFK. He was a such a strong promoter of the space program in its early years that he was called “the eighth astronaut.” When Apollo XI landed on the moon, “Cronkite was on the air for 27 of the 30 hours that Apollo XI took to complete its mission.”
Many have wondered where the media was in the build up to the Iraq war as the press frequently repeated the lies of the Bush administration without doing independent reporting. Walter Cronkite experienced a similar situation with Vietnam, ultimately becoming instrumental in changing public opinion:
Initially, Cronkite was something of a hawk on the Vietnam War, although his program did broadcast controversial segments such as Morley Safer’s famous “Zippo lighter” report. However, returning from Vietnam after the Tet offensive Cronkite addressed his massive audience with a different perspective. “It seems now more certain than ever,” he said, “that the bloody experience of Vietnam is a stalemate.” He then urged the government to open negotiations with the North Vietnamese. Many observers, including presidential aide Bill Moyers speculated that this was a major factor contributing to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s decision to offer to negotiate with the enemy and not to run for President in l968.
Torture is a poor way to obtain information, but nothing works better when you want to extract a false confession. The New York Times reports:
Iranian leaders say they have obtained confessions from top reformist officials that they plotted to bring down the government with a “velvet” revolution. Such confessions, almost always extracted under duress, are part of an effort to recast the civil unrest set off by Iran’s disputed presidential election as a conspiracy orchestrated by foreign nations, human rights groups say.
Reports on Iranian Web sites associated with prominent conservatives said that leading reformers have confessed to taking velvet revolution “training courses” outside the country. Alef, a Web site of a conservative member of Parliament, referred to a video of Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who served as vice president in the reform government of former President Mohammed Khatami, as showing that he tearfully “welcomed being defrocked and has confessed to provoking people, causing tension and creating media chaos.”
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative to the Revolutionary Guards, Mojtaba Zolnour, said in a speech Thursday that almost everyone now detained had confessed — raising the prospect that more confessions will be made public. Ayatollah Khamenei is supreme religious leader.
The government has made it a practice to publicize confessions from political prisoners held without charge or legal representation, often subjected to pressure tactics like sleep deprivation, solitary confinement and torture, according to human rights groups and former political prisoners. Human rights groups estimate that hundreds of people have been detained.
They fear the confessions are part of a concerted effort to lay the groundwork for banning existing reformist political parties and preventing any organized reform movement in the future. “They hope with this scenario they can expunge them completely from the political process,” said Hadi Ghaemi, coordinator of International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based group. “They don’t want them to come back as part of a political party.”
Lawrence Krauss has an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal explaining why God and Science Don’t Mix. The article came from his participation in a panel discussion at the World Science Festival in New York City on Science, Faith and Religion. Krauss argues that “A scientist can be a believer. But professionally, at least, he can’t act like one.”
There are difficulties in questioning whether science and religion are compatible. There are many scientists who are also religious, while there are also many religious conservatives who see science as a threat. Krauss wrote:
These scientists have been castigated by believers for claiming that science is incompatible with a belief in God. On the one hand, this is a claim that appears manifestly false — witness the two Catholic scientists on my panel. And on the other hand, the argument that science suggests God is a delusion only bolsters the view of the of the fundamentalist religious right that science is an atheist enemy that must either be vanquished or assimilated into religion.
Coincidentally, I have appeared numerous times alongside Ken Miller to defend evolutionary biology from the efforts of those on various state school boards who view evolution as the poster child for “science as the enemy.” These fundamentalists are unwilling to risk the possibility that science might undermine their faith, and so they work to shield children from this knowledge at all costs. To these audiences I have argued that one does not have to be an atheist to accept evolutionary biology as a reality. And I have pointed to my friend Ken as an example.
The views of fundamentalists are inconsistent with science and what we know of the real world as they reject scientific findings which conflict with religious teachings. Religious fundamentalists develop a wide variety of arguments to contradict scientific findings where science conflicts with their views on subjects such as evolution and the age of the earth. Some will argue that any evidence that the earth is older than 6000 years was planted by God to test our faith. The Discovery Institute has published numerous claims to oppose evolution which fail to hold up to scrutiny.
Science, in contrast, is constantly tested and theories must be abandoned if they are found to be inconsistent with the evidence. P.Z. Myers describes the difference between obtaining knowledge of the universe with the scientific method versus explaining the universe based upon religious dogma:
We have to look at what they do to see why. In order to probe the nature of the universe around us, science is a process, a body of tools, that has a long history of success in giving us robust, consistent answers. We use observation, experiment, critical analysis, and repeated reevaluation and confirmation of events in the natural world. It works. We use frequent internal cross-checking of results to get an answer, and we never entirely trust our answers, so we keep pushing harder at them. We also evaluate our success by whether the end results work: it’s how we end up with lasers and microwave ovens, and antibiotics and cancer therapies.
Religion, on the other hand, uses a different body of techniques to explain the nature of the universe. It uses tradition and dogma and authority and revelation, and a detailed legalistic analysis of source texts, to dictate what the nature of reality should be. It’s always wrong, from an empirical perspective, although I do have to credit theologians with some of the most amazingly intricate logical exercises as they try to justify their conclusions. The end result of all of this kind of clever wankery, though, is that some people say the world is 6000 years old, that it was inundated with a global flood 4000 years ago, and other people say something completely different, and there is no way within the body of theology to resolve which answers are right. They have to step outside their narrow domain to get an independent confirmation — that is, they rely on science to give them the answers to the Big Questions in which they purport to have expertise.
Krauss quotes J.B.S. Haldane, an evolutionary biologist and a founder of population genetics, on the those who “extrapolate the atheism of science to a more general atheism.”
My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world.
It is not necessary for scientists to totally reject religion but scientists must be willing to abandon religious dogma when it conflicts with information established with the scientific method. Krauss found that, at least among those in this panel discussion, religious scientists were certainly not fundamentalists and were willing to accept views on religion which do not take religious teachings literally:
When I confronted my two Catholic colleagues on the panel with the apparent miracle of the virgin birth and asked how they could reconcile this with basic biology, I was ultimately told that perhaps this biblical claim merely meant to emphasize what an important event the birth was. Neither came to the explicit defense of what is undeniably one of the central tenets of Catholic theology.
Krauss concludes with noting that this conflict between science and religion is relevant to real world issues:
Finally, it is worth pointing out that these issues are not purely academic. The current crisis in Iran has laid bare the striking inconsistency between a world built on reason and a world built on religious dogma.
These issues can also be seen far closer to home than in Iran. The differences between the modern conservative movement and liberals, moderates, and the few remaining rational conservatives also come down to whether one has a view of the universe based upon religious dogma or based upon science and reason. Fortunately, while countries such as Iran are dominated by religious fundamentalists, since the Republican Party became dominated by fundamentalists it is quickly turning into a minor regional party of the deep south and Mormon belt of the west. As the Founding Fathers realized when they established a secular government with separation of church and state, religion and politics do not mix any better than religion and science.
Earlier in the week Dick Cheney gave a speech after Barack Obama on national security and the media went along with the hype that this was some sort of debate between the two. Dick Cheney is a war criminal who is wrong on most national security issues, and whose ideas were rejected in the past election. Even the Republican candidate rejected some of Cheney’s more extreme positions, such as support for torture (which is a war crime). Hearing Dick Cheney try to excuse his war crimes and attack Obama should not be taken as a debate between the two as if they are still on equal footing.
Joe Klein interpreted Cheney’s speech in the context of his overall philosophy:
I refer readers to Barton Gellman’s excellent Cheney biography, Angler, in which it is made plain that Cheney’s view of the presidency (provided by his thuggish counsel, David Addington) was eccentric at best; and, at worst, a temporary coup d’etat, abetted by the President’s lack of interest or mortal dimness. It’s true, as Brooks writes, that some of Cheney’s overreach was a result of understandable panic after the 9/11 attacks. But the real problem, as evidenced by the Vice President’s actions in other areas (like environmental policy), was Cheney’s twisted belief that the Constitution confers on the President near-dictatorial powers, especially in a time of war. Cheney’s profound authoritarian streak, and his moral ignorance, were demonstrated once again in his speech yesterday:
“In the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground and half-measures leave you half-exposed.”
Which is utter nonsense, of course: the middle ground exists between doing nothing and doing far too much, too brutally–in a way that only creates more terrorists–a path that Cheney pursued to our great national detriment.
He also discussed the differences in Obama’s views:
In fact, the thrust of Obama’s national security policy is dramatically different from Bush’s. His emphasis on a comprehensive regional approach in Afghanistan and Pakistan is the opposite of Bush’s feckless abandonment of this far more crucial fight in the war against Al Qaeda. His decision to engage Iran, his decision to push forward in the Middle East (including the demand that Israel stop building illegal settlements), his decision to participate in global climate change talks, his decision not to indulge in the disdain–manifested by Cheney yet again in his speech–for our European allies. These are all dramatic turns for the better.
The difference between Obama and Cheney-Bush on national security and foreign policy issues is simply put: it’s the difference between a moderate and an extremist, the difference between a leader and a bully.
Even Tom Ridge disagreed with Cheney’s claims that the country is less safe under Obama.
Last night I looked forward to a speech from George Bush more than ever before, this being his Farewell Address. Just being his farewell was enough. I didn’t expect anything which would go down in history like George Washington’s Farewell Address and I certainly didn’t expect any warnings based upon lessons learned in office such as Dwight Eisenhower’s warnings about the military industrial complex. After eight years of misleading the American people, I was also not at all surprised by the dishonesty of Bush’s final address.
After eight years of repeated failures, George Bush could do nothing other than to try to spin his failures as successes. The most ridiculous attempt to rewrite the history of the last eight years was the claim that, “America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil.”
The claim of no terrorists attacks on our soil is untrue, but at least the acts of terrorism have been minor compared to 9/11. What is more important is the absurdity of this claim to divert attention both from Bush’s failings both prior to the attack and in response.
If only Bush responded after receiving warnings that bin Laden planned an attack in the United States involving the use of planes. Many of the 9/11 terrorists were already on a State Department/INS watch list. Once the terrorists on the watch list were identified, others could have been easily identified as they were using the same address or frequent flier numbers as those on the list.
Bush failed to attempt to prevent an attack which was possibly preventable. It is hardly meaningful to take credit for only having made a catastrophic mistake once. This would be like taking credit for not failing to respond to any floods since Katrina.
Another problem with Bush’s logic is that his response to 9/11 has placed us in greater danger rather than making us safer. Al Qaeda works on a long time line and the lack of a major attack in seven years is not meaningful. Besides, Bush sent Americans to their part of the world to be killed, with more dying in Iraq than were killed in the 9/11 attack. Bush’s response to the 9/11 attack has helped increase the support for radical groups in the region. Al Qaeda, along with Iran, were the beneficiaries of Bush’s actions which weakened the United States .
The remainder of Bush’s speech were filled with similar distortions. Although most agree that No Child Left Behind has been a terrible failure due to inadequate funding and excessive stress on testing, Bush falsely claimed that, “Across our country, students are rising to meet higher standards in public schools.” He took credit for a Medicare plan which has been harmful to the program while primarily turning into a corporate welfare scheme to benefit the insurance and pharmaceutical companies which supported him. He claimed, “Every taxpayer pays lower income taxes” but if not for pressure from Democrats for a middle class tax cut only the wealthy would have received any tax breaks.
Similarly Bush’s other claims of success were distortions of reality. Perhaps realizing this, Bush tried to deflect criticism by saying he did what he believed was right. Believing he was doing what was right hardly justifies eight years of repeated failures. Fortunately the one piece of good news is that George Bush has said farewell.
Blogging, as opposed to more in depth writing, tends to lend itself toward issues in which the author is clearly on on side of an issue. While some recognition might be paid towards the nuances of an issue, for the most part bloggers are for or against a candidate, and are for or against the Iraq war. The situation in Gaza is far more difficult as neither side is totally in the right. Megan McArdle sums up the problem with writing about the conflict between Israel and Hamas:
Since no action in the region has occurred without plausible provocation for 4,000 years or so, this requires constantly shifting the metrics by which you measure whichever side you happen to favor. Point out that Israel is killing a lot of civilians and you are told that they had to do something in response to the Hamas rockets. Point out that practically, the response they chose has absolutely no strategic or tactical benefit, and a huge potential downside, and you are castigated for your lack of moral outrage about Hamas’s attacks on civilians. Either Israel is doing this because it hopes to gain something, in which case the whole thing is hopelessly ass-backwards–they are strengthening Hamas and worsening their international political position–or it thinks that it’s okay to kill boatloads of civilians purely for revenge against Hamas; revenge for attacks that have so far killed and injured almost no one. This rather undercuts the argument of moral superiority, because guess what? That’s what Hamas thinks it’s doing.
On the other side, there’s a tendency to forget, or forget to mention, that whatever the provocation, a plurality-to-majority of Palestinians constantly and actively wish to kill large numbers of Israelis purely for revenge. Gaza wants to be at war with Israel, and then hide behind the protections of not-quite-war, because they haven’t the foggiest hope of winning anything like a real war.
As with many such conflicts, this is a situation where plenty of fault can be found on both sides. While Megan does attempt to avoid taking sides, and I share her skepticism that Israel’s current actions will be of any long term benefit, ultimately the most important point here is that “Gaza wants to be at war with Israel.” There is no doubt that Israel has reacted to this situation in ways which are objectionable, with regards to the occupation, the subsequent blockade, and its conduct during war, but the underlying reality of the situation is that whether these conflicts continue is far more up to the Palestinians. There is no hope for peace as long as one side to the conflict has a visceral objection to making peace. Overreaction to such a situation, while perhaps not always morally justified, is the inevitable response.
While some speak of a proportional response, such expectations are not realistic. Shooting rockets into civilian areas will inevitably lead to a disproportionate response from virtually anyone, even if civilian casualties have so far been low. I don’t totally buy Alan Dershowitz’s argument that Israel’s actions are “proportionate” but his example still remains relevant to understanding the situation:
When Barack Obama visited Sderot this summer and saw the remnants of these rockets, he reacted by saying that if his two daughters were exposed to rocket attacks in their home, he would do everything in his power to stop such attacks. He understands how the terrorists exploit the morality of democracies.
In a recent incident related to me by the former head of the Israeli air force, Israeli intelligence learned that a family’s house in Gaza was being used to manufacture rockets. The Israeli military gave the residents 30 minutes to leave. Instead, the owner called Hamas, which sent mothers carrying babies to the house.
Hamas knew that Israel would never fire at a home with civilians in it. They also knew that if Israeli authorities did not learn there were civilians in the house and fired on it, Hamas would win a public relations victory by displaying the dead. Israel held its fire. The Hamas rockets that were protected by the human shields were then used against Israeli civilians.
These despicable tactics — targeting Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians — can only work against moral democracies that care deeply about minimizing civilian casualties. They never work against amoral nations such as Russia, whose military has few inhibitions against killing civilians among whom enemy combatants are hiding.
Regardless of whether it is justifiable, Israel’s actions are going far beyond the actions of Hamas (primarily because Israel has far greater ability to wage war than Hamas does), and violate what we would like to think are accepted laws of war. AP reports on the destruction being caused by Israel in Gaza. Still it is notable that they report:
Before the airstrikes, Israel’s military called some of the houses to warn of an impending attack. In some cases, it also fired a sound bomb to warn civilians before flattening the homes with missiles, Palestinians and Israeli officials said.
Giving warning by itself does not justify targeting of civilians, but this does note a significant difference between the two sides. The Israeli airstrikes might be a disproportionate response to the rocket attacks fired by Hamas, but Hamas did not give any warning first. Israel does deserve criticism when civilians are harmed by its airstrikes, but at least their goal is to minimize such casualties. On the other hand when Hamas rockets hit schools in Beer Sheva it was most likely due to a fortunate chance and not the wishes of Hamas that no children were killed. Israel would also not use school children as human shields, but Hamas is not above this.
Kevin Peraino, writing for Newsweek, considers whether these actions will help or hurt Israel and finds both short term benefits in restoring its aura of invincibility but long term problems in terms of achieving peace in the region. The article concludes:
Retaliatory strikes aside, an intense Israeli assault on Gaza could indeed restore some element of its deterrent power vis-à-vis the Islamists. The Jewish state “has already improved its reputation and powers of deterrence by yesterday’s performance,” says Jerusalem-based historian Michael Oren. Yet even as Israel strengthens its position with regard to Hamas, it risks simultaneously weakening its ability to confront larger, more-dangerous players—particularly Iran. Regional Arab allies like Egypt and Jordan will be critical if the United States and Israel are to effectively increase pressure on the Islamic republic. The bloody images of dismembered corpses that are now airing around the clock on Al-Jazeera will strain those ties. Israel’s latest campaign may restore some measure of its long-lost aura of invincibility. Yet in the long run, it will come at a price.
Part of this price is that yet more Palestinians will find justification for rocket attacks or other terrorist activities in the future, leading to yet more acts of retaliation such as the current strikes in Gaza, even if counter-productive. There is no clear end for this vicious cycle.
Vanity Fair has accumulated a number of interviews, primarily from those in the Bush administration, to provide a look back at the last eight years. Following is a handful of selections from their article which help demonstrate the incompetence of the Bush administration and how they often allowed ideology to prevent them from facing reality.
A major problem with George Bush was his lack of intellectual curiosity.
Richard Clarke, chief White House counterterrorism adviser: We had a couple of meetings with the president, and there were detailed discussions and briefings on cyber-security and often terrorism, and on a classified program. With the cyber-security meeting, he seemed—I was disturbed because he seemed to be trying to impress us, the people who were briefing him. It was as though he wanted these experts, these White House staff guys who had been around for a long time before he got there—didn’t want them buying the rumor that he wasn’t too bright. He was trying—sort of overly trying—to show that he could ask good questions, and kind of yukking it up with Cheney.
The contrast with having briefed his father and Clinton and Gore was so marked. And to be told, frankly, early in the administration, by Condi Rice and [her deputy] Steve Hadley, you know, Don’t give the president a lot of long memos, he’s not a big reader—well, shit. I mean, the president of the United States is not a big reader?
This, along with many others who have described Bush in a similar manner, certainly contradicts the difficult to believe spin from Karl Rove regarding the number of books Bush has read.
Beyond Bush’s personal failings, I believe three events were most important in destroying the credibility of the Bush administration: 1) the questionable manner in which he took office, the mishandling of 9/11 and Iraq, and 3) the final blow was the mishandling of Katrina. A comment on the first.
Mark McKinnon, chief campaign media adviser to George W. Bush: My view is that civility was a heartfelt, well-intended objective that went right off the rails the day of the recount. The recount poisoned the well from the beginning. A good number of people in this country didn’t believe Bush was a legitimate president. And you can’t change the tone under those circumstances. There was a genuine effort, and I think there was some early success with Ted Kennedy and the education stuff. But it was acrimonious from the beginning.
There were many failings noted regarding the handling of terrorism, including mistakes which prevented the Bush administration from capturing or killing bin Laden.
Richard Clarke, chief White House counterterrorism adviser: We went into a period in June where the tempo of intelligence about an impending large-scale attack went up a lot, to the kind of cycle that we’d only seen once or twice before. And we told Condi that. She didn’t do anything. She said, Well, make sure you’re coordinating with the agencies, which, of course, I was doing. By August, I was saying to Condi and to the agencies that the intelligence isn’t coming in at such a rapid rate anymore as it was in the June-July time frame. But that doesn’t mean the attack isn’t going to happen. It just means that they may be in place.
On September 4, we had a principals meeting. The most telling thing for me about the attitude of these people was on the decision that had been pending for a long time to resume Predator [remote-controlled drone] flights over Afghanistan, and to now do what we couldn’t have done in the Clinton administration because the technology wasn’t ready: put a weapon on the Predator and use it as not only a hunter but a killer.
We had seen bin Laden when we had it in the Clinton administration, as just a hunter. We had seen him. So we thought, Man, if we could get this with a hunter-killer, we could see him again and kill him. So finally we have a principals meeting and the C.I.A. says it’s not our job to fly the Predator armed. And D.O.D. says it’s not our job to fly an unarmed aircraft.
I just couldn’t believe it. This is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the director of C.I.A. sitting there, both passing the football because neither one of them wanted to go kill bin Laden.