Richardson Surging–This Time For Real

While I have some skepticism about the meaning of a measure of Bill Richardson surging I mentioned earlier, this one may be the real deal. In the latest poll of likely caucus goers published by the Des Moines Register, Richardson has moved into double digits at 10%. Edwards leads at 29% and Obama has edged ahead of Clinton (23% to 21%).

Considering how long it is until the caucuses, and considering the volatility seen in previous years, I think that any of these four currently stand a good chance to win. It is a major development that Richardson, while still not well known nationally, has moved well ahead of candidates such as Biden and Dodd and now has a meaningful base of support to build on. This is too early to say if Obama’s lead over Clinton means anything, but this will also be a trend worth watching.

Secularism and the Religious Right

In their Sunday Discussion Group at The Carpetbagger Report looks at the religious right’s complaints about  secularism, finding considerable influence for religion in our society:

I’m hard pressed to imagine what country Gingrich and the 12,000 people who applauded his worldview are living in. Out of the 535 members of Congress, 50 governors, the president, vice president, their cabinet, and nine Supreme Court justices, there is exactly one person — not one percent, just one guy — who does not profess a faith in God. If polls are to be believed, less than 5% of the population describes themselves as non-believers.

In the last presidential election, one candidate announced during a presidential debate, “My faith affects everything that I do, in truth…. I think that everything you do in public life has to be guided by your faith, affected by your faith.” This was John Kerry, the more secular candidate of the two.

The faithful added religion to the Pledge of Allegiance. They added religion to American currency. Both chambers of Congress not only have taxpayer-financed chaplains, but begin each day with a prayer. So much public money is available for religious ministries from the government, they’re hiring lobbyists to get more. The White House now has an Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Every year for the last six decades, presidents have declared a National Day of Prayer, and honor Christmas as a national holiday.

In our culture, religion is common in the media — I can’t remember any recent month in which Time and/or Newsweek didn’t feature religion as a cover story — almost exclusively in a positive light. In sporting events, celebrating athletes routinely express their religiosity. At awards ceremonies, entertainers routinely “give thanks to God” from the outset, usually to considerable applause.

Gingrich sees all of this and believes an “anti-religious bias” dominates U.S. society. Exactly how much more religiosity will it take before he’s satisfied? Or is it more likely that Gingrich and his receptive audience yesterday revel in some kind of delusional self-pity because a victim complex sells better than reality?

The dissatisfaction by the religious right highlights the difference between a desire for religious freedom and a desire to impose their religious beliefs upon others. If the goal is simply the ability to observe their religion, there are minor hinderences such as restrictions on prayer in schools, but in general Steve shows that there is a strong pro-religion atmosphere in this country.

The religious right wants far more. They not only want to be free to practice their religion (a right both Steve and I would defend) but to use the power of government to impose their views upon others. From that perspective, there are many areas in which they still do not have their way:

The most obvious political issue is that a woman’s right to an abortion remains the law of the land, even if conservatives have had modest success in restricting this. So far the religious right has had limited success in limiting access to Plan B and to contraception, but they want far more.

Embryonic stem cell research is progressing even if Bush bans the use of federal funds, and it is doubtful this ban will last beyond 2008.

Schools continue to teach evolution and keep creationism out of the classroom, and even Kansas has let down the religious right on this in voting to return to the 21st century.

While gay marriage is banned in more states, public opinion is increasingly supporting civil unions. Civil unions will become the norm, to be followed by legalization of gay marriage as the public finds that civilization has not crumbled.

Then there’s always Hollywood. Even though Hollywood is turning out to be fertile breeding ground for past, current, and potentially future GOP heroes, it remains a place of great sin.

Carter Calls Bush Administration “The Worst in History”

By most measures, Jimmy Carter was a fairly mediocre President, somewhere around the same level as Gerald Ford and not that far above George H. W. Bush. It must feel good to have been a tremendous success by the standards of the current office holder. Carter made his views on George Bush clear today–and he is quite right about this:

Former President Carter says President Bush’s administration is “the worst in history” in international relations, taking aim at the White House’s policy of pre-emptive war and its Middle East diplomacy.

The criticism from Carter, which a biographer says is unprecedented for the 39th president, also took aim at Bush’s environmental policies and the administration’s “quite disturbing” faith-based initiative funding.

“I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history,” Carter told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in a story that appeared in the newspaper’s Saturday editions. “The overt reversal of America’s basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me.”

The Iraq war was one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in history, and Carter was highly critical of this and other poor mistakes:

“We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered,” he said. “But that’s been a radical departure from all previous administration policies.”

Carter, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, criticized Bush for having “zero peace talks” in Israel. Carter also said the administration “abandoned or directly refuted” every negotiated nuclear arms agreement, as well as environmental efforts by other presidents.

Carter also offered a harsh assessment for the White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which helped religious charities receive $2.15 billion in federal grants in fiscal year 2005 alone.

“The policy from the White House has been to allocate funds to religious institutions, even those that channel those funds exclusively to their own particular group of believers in a particular religion,” Carter said. “As a traditional Baptist, I’ve always believed in separation of church and state and honored that premise when I was president, and so have all other presidents, I might say, except this one.”

Hatchet Job on Gore Debunked

Here’s a second good post from the Science Blogs today debunking the denialists. Deltoid  reviews many of the distortions used in recent newspaper articles which try to deny the scientific consensus by launching specious attacks on Al Gore.

Richardson To Officially Announce; Surges in One Measure

Bill Richardson is going to officially announce his candidacy on Monday in Los Angeles. It might be a long shot campaign, but Irregular Times presents some evidence that Richardson is surging. They have been tracking support for candidates based upon campaign paraphernalia sold, finding a jump in sales for Richardson supporters last week.

There are obvious limitations to this technique, and it is remarkably vulnerable to manipulation should it ever be followed as a serious measure of candidate strength. Irregular Times  speculates that Richardson’s surge may be a consequence of the plans to officially announce his candidacy, as well as receiving favorable coverage when the media pays any attention to him, such as an editorial today in the Delaware News Journal:

I have no doubt that Richardson would produce an effective foreign policy as well as get us on the right track to effective energy and immigration policies. Richardson rejects a foreign policy that employs diplomacy only when the other party exhibits good behavior. He believes that labeling those who disagree with us as “evil,” attacking and occupying nations without good and clear reasons are the wrong approaches and have led us to where we are today.

Unlike most of the other candidates, Richardson has actually sat down with North Koreans, Iraqis (when Saddam Hussein was in power) and Cubans. He has had some success on issues such as nuclear weapons and immigration.

Richardson’s recent visits to North Korea and Sudan prove that diplomatic efforts for a better world are an integral part of his life and not just politics.

With Richardson in Washington, we would re-establish alliances that worked in the past. We would also recognize the importance of joining and respecting international treaties. Under his leadership we would redefine what constitutes a real threat to the United States based on intelligence that isn’t manipulated. We now know that fighting terrorism with terrorism will only lead to more terrorism…

In 2008, we will choose a new president, and I hope that we choose the person with the most experience and common sense — Bill Richardson. It’s time to elect a person who has not only had experience as a governor, at the federal and international level, but who is also aware that our survival as a nation depends greatly on how we deal with others throughout the world.

George Bush Alone In The World

As Bush’s Iraq policy is being opposed by a majority of voters in the United States, and even a growing number of Republicans, The Telegraph shows how he might soon be more alone in the world:

Gordon Brown is prepared to risk the future of the “special relationship” with the United States by reversing Tony Blair’s support for the Iraq war, President George W Bush has been warned.

He has been briefed by White House officials to expect an announcement on British troop withdrawals from Mr Brown during his first 100 days in power. It would be designed to boost the new prime minister’s popularity in the opinion polls.

The President recently discussed with a senior White House adviser how to handle the fallout from the expected loss of Washington’s main ally in Iraq, The Sunday Telegraph has learned.

Details of the talks came as a close ally of Mr Brown called for a quicker withdrawal of British troops. Nigel Griffiths, a former minister, said: “We should get out of Iraq as soon as is practicable. We should consult the Iraqi government – but they cannot have a veto. This cannot be delayed.”

Mr Griffiths, who resigned as deputy leader of the Commons this year over the decision to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system, spoke out as reports suggested that Mr Brown would use an early trip to Iraq to reassess Britain’s role and accelerate the withdrawal. Revelation of the US fears will reinforce expectations in Westminster that Mr Brown will make a decisive break with Mr Blair’s support for the war.

Bloomberg-Hagel, The Order Matters

The Politco looks at the rumored plans discussion between Michael Bloomberg and Chuck Hagel to run on a third party ticket, asking who would top the ticket. They are a few days behind me on this one, as last week, when discussing this issue, I noted rumors that Bloomberg was willing to spend one billion dollars and concluded, “If Bloomberg is paying, it seems safe to assume he plans to top the ticket.”

The Politco quotes people close to Bloomberg who, not surprisingly, indicate he would not run for the VP slot (if he were to consider running at all). This leaves the question of whether Hagel (or anyone of much prominence) would be interested in running for Vice President on a third party ticket. Some believe Hagel might:

People around Hagel are more circumspect, but one prominent Nebraska Republican, who declined to be named, said many in the state think Hagel would consider the second slot on an independent ticket.

“While I think Sen. Hagel would make a strong presidential candidate, I also think he would be a strong vice presidential candidate,” said another who knows Hagel well, former Nebraska Republican Party Chairman David Kramer.

With his opposition to the war and national prominence, Hagel would be worthy of consideration for the second spot on a third party ticket, but he is far too conservative on other issues for me to be enthusiastic about a ticket with him at the top. While I still have a lot of questions about Bloomberg, a Bloomberg-Hagel ticket does remain a consideration.

Denialism and Stupidity

Those who deny the conventional wisdom are sometimes right, such as when a minority of us did not believe the arguments from the Bush administration for going to war in Iraq. All too often denialsts base their views not on greater wisdom but based upon bigotry or religious indoctrination. As these denialists must often ignore overwhelming evidence against their viewpoints, they often share another trait–stupidity. The lack of understanding of science has often been discussed with regards to those who deny the validity of evolution or the scientific consensus on climate change.

Respectful Insolence has a post today on Holocaust denial, pointing out that, “By their very belief in Holocaust denial, Holocaust deniers demonstrate day in and day out that they aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer.” Orac reviews the claims a couple of Holocaust deniers, demonstrating their stupidity.