Bombing Iran

Nicholas Kristof looks at the arguments for and against attacking Iran’s nuclear sites. He starts with the arguments for a strike, but quickly follows with a good reason why we should not do so:

That’s the argument. But Iran’s leaders are probably praying for such a strike; it may be the only way that they can stay in power for more than another decade.

I’ve never been in a country where the government is so unpopular as in Iran, with the possible exception of Burma. The government is so corrupt, tyrannical and incompetent that it will eventually collapse — unless we attack its nuclear sites and trigger a nationalistic surge of support for the regime.

We Americans are still paying the price for our involvement in the 1953 overthrow of the elected Iranian government of Mohammed Mossadegh; if we bomb Iran, we may cement the mullahs in power for another 50 years.

Moreover, the military options are wretched, partly because Iran is probably doing much of its work at sites we can’t destroy because we don’t know where they are. The Natanz site for now is an empty room. We might kill Russian technicians at Bushehr or elsewhere, and Iran might retaliate with terror attacks aimed at us (counterterrorism experts suspect that Iran has sleeper agents in the U.S. whom it could activate).

A military strike would also do nothing more than buy time. Ashton Carter, a former senior Pentagon official who has studied the possibility of a strike and considers it feasible (but unwise at this time), estimates that a one-time strike would delay Iran’s nuclear weapon at most three or four years. The U.S. could then go back and hit the sites again, but Iran presumably would hide the locations, so later strikes would be less effective.

Wikipedia Defies Chinese Censorship

Major companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google have cooperated with Chinese censorship, Wikipedia is refusng to go along. The Guardian reports:

The founder of Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia written by its users, has defied the Chinese government by refusing to bow to censorship of politically sensitive entries.

Jimmy Wales, one of the 100 most influential people in the world according to Time magazine, challenged other internet companies, including Google, to justify their claim that they could do more good than harm by co-operating with Beijing.

Wikipedia, a hugely popular reference tool in the West, has been banned from China since last October. Whereas Google, Microsoft and Yahoo went into the country accepting some restrictions on their online content, Wales believes it must be all or nothing for Wikipedia.

Last May Amnesty International formed to fight censorship on the web. Our newest feature, irrepressible fragments of censored material, was added to show support for their efforts.

Are We Safer?

One queston being considered today, after five years of George Bush fighting the “war on terror,” is whether we are any safer. Here is one post on the risk of terrorism which many in the liberal blogoshere might miss from Cato Unbound but is worth reading. Portions remind me of a recent post by DarkSyde at Daily Kos which I discussed here.

While considering how safe we are, there are two other previous posts worth looking back at to consider both sides of the question. Two articles from The Atlantic and Foreign Affairs raise the question of whether fear of terrorism has been more dangerous than terrorism. Before we downplay the threat too much, consider this chilling report from Christiane Amanpour on the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons by al Qaeda.

Regardless of how much a threat al Qaeda remains, the responses by the Bush administration have made us less safe rather than more safe. We have paid a heavy cost in terms of reduced civil liberties, loss of life in Iraq, and loss of prestige for the United States, with none of this making us any safer.

Senator Kennedy: Five Years After 9/11

I’ve been avoiding reposting emailings from politicians here under the assumption that those interested would subscribe to the list. This is one which contains so much information of importance today from Senator Edward Kennedy that I do think it is worthy of posting here:

Five years after 9/11, why is Osama bin Laden still at large?

As families mourned the victims of that atrocity five years ago, the Bush Administration vowed to “rally the world” and win the war on terror. Our president promised to focus on the priorities that would protect the safety of all Americans. Nations around the world rushed to offer their sympathy and cooperation. We were on the verge of a swift and united response to Al Qaeda.

And then President Bush decided to invade Iraq.

Instead of strengthening our position, Bush’s folly has squandered thousands more lives of our best and brightest in a continuing quagmire, and needlessly diverted valuable resources from the real war on terror.

The numbers speak for themselves. Every day, the United States spends $200 million on the war in Iraq. Funds for just one day in Iraq could help meet our urgent homeland security needs, such as:

  • improving the communications gap in more than 40 small cities or 34 mid-sized cities or six large cities so that federal, state and local first responders can talk to one another during an emergency;
  • providing four million households with an emergency readiness kit;
  • paying for 4,000 additional Border Patrol agents for one year to better guard our borders against potential terrorists;
  • providing 1,285 explosive trace detection portals for airport screening of passengers;
  • purchasing 750 fire trucks for improving local emergency response capabilities;
  • employing 4,700 fire fighters, 4,000 police patrol officers, or 6,800 paramedics and emergency medical technicians for an entire year;
  • providing 6,000 local law enforcement agencies with bomb-detecting robots;
  • providing 9,400 port container inspection units to detect hazardous materials being shipped into the country; or
  • providing 4,700 detectors for dangerous particles.

Five years after 9/11, our ports, our trains, our chemical plants and our nuclear power plants remain extremely vulnerable. The State Department reported 175 significant terrorist attacks in the world in 2003. In 2005, that number grew to more than 11,000.

Today, as we remember and honor the nearly three thousand people who lost their lives in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, we must remind each other that our focus should never shift from the real challenge we face. We must find Osama bin Laden, protect our homeland and avoid the needless and costly distractions that entangle us now.

Thank you,

Edward M. Kennedy

Breast Physics

I should have majored in physics rather than biology. I never realized that those physicists were having so much fun with breasts. Of course this article on the physics of breasts in developing video games wasn’t very applicable to when I was an undergrad and pong was the state of the art in video games. (Hat tip to Pharyngula).

Jesus Camp

I never was very fond of summer camp, but this one sounds like a real horror to me. It sounds like a documentary about how they make Republicans (hat tip to Jesus Politics):

From SILVERDOCS 2005 award-winning filmmakers Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing (THE BOYS OF BARAKA) comes this extraordinary film about the newest generation of Christian evangelicals, and the parents, teachers, preachers, and counselors who are committed to inculcating them from the start with radical fundamentalist beliefs. The film exposes a startlingly sizeable generation of young kids growing up in a somewhat alternate-universe from mainstream culture. They are largely home-schooled and raised on a creationist curriculum, with extracurricular activities chiefly dedicated to converting non-believers.

Summers are spent at Becky Fischer’s “Kids on Fire” camp in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, where they make new like-minded friends, pray together, and gain inspiration from Fischer’s hyperbolic sermons.

Often disregarded as extremist and marginal, this probing documentary reveals just how pervasive and potent this presumably “fringe” culture is, and the impact it may have-and has already had-on American politics.

Lamont Within Margin of Error

Ned Lamont has pulled within the margin of error in the latest Zogby Poll. Lieberman’s lead has steadly diminished, with Lieberman currently leading Lamont 46% to 42.1%. The latest American Research Group Poll has Lieberman only leading by 2%.