Mars Warming; Right Wing Still Hostile to Science

The Times of London reports that Mars is getting warmer. As is noted in the report, the mechanism is different from the causes of climate change on the earth. The story is of interest to those interested in science, but it is irrelevant to the question of climate change on earth. Of course that won’t change how the right wing responds, with Memeorandum showing that several right wing blogs are latching on to this story. Using these climate changes on Mars to dispute theories of climate change on earth is comparable to those who spent the winter arguing against global warming because it was cold outside.

Science works by objectively analyzing the data to devise theories based upon the evidence. Those who follow the scientific method have determined that the mechanisms for warming on Mars and the earth are entirely different, and global warming represents the consensus of scientific thought. Conservatives, who reject the scientific consensus on global warming practice science backwards. They devise their conclusion first, and then search out evidence which can be twisted to verify their views.

These tend to be the same people who claim that intelligent design is a valid alternative to evolution, that abstinence-based education is of effective, that the Swift Boat Liars are anything more than partisans inventing smears, and that Saddam threatened us with WMD before the war. The right wing will not be able to make meaningful intellectual contributions, and will not be able to govern effectively, as long as they practice their flat earth philosophy. (more…)

Thomas Friedman on Bush Administrations Suppression of Climate Change Reports

Thomas Friedman weighs in on the documents revealing that “hundreds of instances in which a White House official who was previously an oil industry lobbyist edited government climate reports to play up uncertainty of a human role in global warming or play down evidence of such a role.” Friedman compares the attitudes of the Bush administration to those of Arnold Schwarzenegger:

Let’s see, of all the gin joints. Of all the people the Bush team would let edit its climate reports, we have a guy who first worked for the oil lobby denying climate change, with no science background, then went back to work for Exxon. Does it get any more intellectually corrupt than that? Is there something lower that I’m missing?

I wonder how Mr. Cooney would have edited the recent draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, written and reviewed by 1,000 scientists convened by the World Meteorological Society and the U.N. It concluded that global warming is “unequivocal,” that human activity is the main driver, and that “changes in climate are now affecting physical and biological systems on every continent.”

I am not out to promote any party, but reading articles like the Cooney one makes me say: Thank goodness the Democrats are back running the House and Senate — because, given its track record, this administration needs to be watched at all times.


You Are An Imbicile And I Am A Fool

If you believe the words of Joseph Rago writing at The Wall Street Journal I am a fool and you, the reader, are an imbicile. He describes The Blog Mob as “written by fools to be read by imbeciles.”

The blogs are not as significant as their self-endeared curators would like to think. Journalism requires journalists, who are at least fitfully confronting the digital age. The bloggers, for their part, produce minimal reportage. Instead, they ride along with the MSM like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps.

Views on how significant we are differs with different bloggers. At times I have been critical of the importance some such as Kos have placed on the “net roots,” such as when I did not believe that Dean had wrapped up the nomination in 2004 and that Kerry was out of the race. Of course the apparently more brilliant journalists in the mainstream media were also fooled on that.

More success is met in purveying opinion and comment. Some critics reproach the blogs for the coarsening and increasing volatility of political life. Blogs, they say, tend to disinhibit. Maybe so. But politics weren’t much rarefied when Andrew Jackson was president, either. The larger problem with blogs, it seems to me, is quality. Most of them are pretty awful. Many, even some with large followings, are downright appalling.

Having a day job which keeps me pretty busy, I certainly don’t pretend to be able to compete with professional journalists in obtaining the news, but bloggers do vary in the quality of comment provided. Many of us were commented on the dangers of going into Iraq long before professional commentators such as Thomas Friedman realized the folly of their initial opinions. As a physician I had insights which professional journalists lacked and was commenting on how Bush’s Medicare D Program was a financial windfall for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries long before commentators and reporters in the mainstream media discovered this.

The way we write affects both style and substance. The loquacious formulations of late Henry James, for instance, owe in part to his arthritis, which made longhand impossible, and instead he dictated his writing to a secretary. In this aspect, journalism as practiced via blog appears to be a change for the worse. That is, the inferiority of the medium is rooted in its new, distinctive literary form. Its closest analogue might be the (poorly kept) diary or commonplace book, or the note scrawled to oneself on the back of an envelope–though these things are not meant for public consumption. The reason for a blog’s being is: Here’s my opinion, right now.

The right now is partially a function of technology, which makes instantaneity possible, and also a function of a culture that valorizes the up-to-the-minute above all else. But there is no inherent virtue to instantaneity. Traditional daily reporting–the news–already rushes ahead at a pretty good clip, breakneck even, and suffers for it. On the Internet all this is accelerated.

The blogs must be timely if they are to influence politics. This element–here’s my opinion–is necessarily modified and partly determined by the right now. Instant response, with not even a day of delay, impairs rigor. It is also a coagulant for orthodoxies. We rarely encounter sustained or systematic blog thought–instead, panics and manias; endless rehearsings of arguments put forward elsewhere; and a tendency to substitute ideology for cognition. The participatory Internet, in combination with the hyperlink, which allows sites to interrelate, appears to encourage mobs and mob behavior.

It is true that posting an opinion without taking the time to get all the facts has dangers, but in writing this section I wonder if Rago has been following the changes in the mainstream media. The perils of instant journalism have been far more apparent in the twenty-four hour news coverage where being first is so important. Initial news reports frequently need to be corrected, such as the early election calls on Florida in 2000. While many blog posts are immediate reactions to the news, a lot of others deal with subjects we have been writing about for months or years with a new story simply providing a little further insight.

This cross-referential and interactive arrangement, in theory, should allow for some resolution to divisive issues, with the market sorting out the vagaries of individual analysis. Not in practice. The Internet is very good at connecting and isolating people who are in agreement, not so good at engaging those who aren’t. The petty interpolitical feuding mainly points out that someone is a liar or an idiot or both.

There is some truth to this. Even when conservative and liberal blogs debate back and forth there is rarely real communication. Again, this is a problem in the blogosphere but it also reflects the same attitudes seen in the talking heads who provide commentary profesisionally. When was the last time anyone ever saw Rush Limbaugh and a liberal commentator communicate and reach common ground?

Because political blogs are predictable, they are excruciatingly boring. More acutely, they promote intellectual disingenuousness, with every constituency hostage to its assumptions and the party line. Thus the right-leaning blogs exhaustively pursue second-order distractions–John Kerry always providing useful material–while leaving underexamined more fundamental issues, say, Iraq. Conservatives have long taken it as self-evident that the press unfavorably distorts the war, which may be the case; but today that country is a vastation, and the unified field theory of media bias has not been altered one jot.

Leftward fatuities too are easily found: The fatuity matters more than the politics. If the blogs have enthusiastically endorsed Joseph Conrad’s judgment of newspapering–“written by fools to be read by imbeciles”–they have also demonstrated a remarkable ecumenicalism in filling out that same role themselves.

This is a continuation of the last argument, which reflects the mainstream media as much as this is a problem in the blogosphere. At least the blogosphere has more variety than the mainstream media, with some of us varying more than others from the usual party line in the positions we take. There are conservative blogs that have opposed Bush and the war. Here at Liberal Values I have taken a consistently liberal view on social issues but have also supported libertarian and fiscally conservative positions at times.

Naturally an editorial such as this is bound to receive considerable comment in the blogosphere. Here’s a sampling of the comments:

QandO, Ace of Spades HQ, Booman Tribune, MyDD, Riehl World View, Roger L. Simon, Joe’s Dartblog,, Ed, Decision ’08, Shakespeare’s Sister, EU Referendum, Gun Toting Liberal ™, PoliBlog (TM), Fraters Libertas, protein wisdom, Polimom Says, The Moderate Voice, Beltway Blogroll, Daily Pundit, Balloon Juice, Seeing the Forest, snapped shot, BizzyBlog, Confederate Yankee, Blue Crab Boulevard, THE ASTUTE BLOGGERS, alicublog, Media Blog

How to Read Thomas Friedman

Actually this is Thomas Friedman on Meet the Press claiming this is how Democrats voted for Kerry and Gore:

One is that I believe Democrats voted in the last two elections like this, Tim. [Plugs nose] “Al Gore.” [Plugs nose] “John Kerry.” They voted with their nose plugged — basically.

Personally that is not how I voted, however, by an amaizing coincidence this is exactly how I read Thomas Friedman’s columns back when he was arguing for the Iraq War.

Thomas Friedman Offers Ten Months or Ten Years for Iraq

Thomas Friedman offers two possible scenarios for Iraq considering the current realities, which are even worse than being in a civil war:

Iraq has entered a stage beyond civil war — it’s gone from breaking apart to breaking down. This is not the Arab Yugoslavia anymore. It’s Hobbes’s jungle.

Given this, we need to face our real choices in Iraq, which are: 10 months or 10 years. Either we just get out of Iraq in a phased withdrawal over 10 months, and try to stabilize it some other way, or we accept the fact that the only way it will not be a failed state is if we start over and rebuild it from the ground up, which would take 10 years. This would require reinvading Iraq, with at least 150,000 more troops, crushing the Sunni and Shiite militias, controlling borders, and building Iraq’s institutions and political culture from scratch.

Anyone who tells you that we can just train a few more Iraqi troops and police officers and then slip out in two or three years is either lying or a fool. The minute we would leave, Iraq would collapse. There is nothing we can do by the end of the Bush presidency that would produce a self-sustaining stable Iraq — and “self-sustaining” is the key metric.

Friedman had previously applied the “Pottery Barn rule” to Iraq which warns that, “You break it, you own it.” He no longer believes this applies:

But my Pottery Barn rule was wrong, because Iraq was already pretty broken before we got there — broken, it seems, by 1,000 years of Arab-Muslim authoritarianism, three brutal decades of Sunni Baathist rule, and a crippling decade of U.N. sanctions. It was held together only by Saddam’s iron fist. Had we properly occupied the country, and begun political therapy, it is possible an American iron fist could have held Iraq together long enough to put it on a new course. But instead we created a vacuum by not deploying enough troops.

That vacuum was filled by murderous Sunni Baathists and Al Qaeda types, who butchered Iraqi Shiites until they finally wouldn’t take it any longer and started butchering back, which brought us to where we are today. The Sunni Muslim world should hang its head in shame for the barbarism it has tolerated and tacitly supported by the Sunnis of Iraq, whose violence, from the start, has had only one goal: America must fail in its effort to bring progressive politics or democracy to this region. America must fail — no matter how many Iraqis have to be killed, America must fail.

Thomas Friedman Warns Against Being Stupid

John Kerry never claimed the troops were stupid, but those who fall for this smear might be. Thomas Friedman warns against being stupid:

George Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld think you’re stupid. Yes, they do.

They think they can take a mangled quip about President Bush and Iraq by John Kerry — a man who is not even running for office but who, unlike Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, never ran away from combat service — and get you to vote against all Democrats in this election.

Every time you hear Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney lash out against Mr. Kerry, I hope you will say to yourself, “They must think I’m stupid.” Because they surely do.

They think that they can get you to overlook all of the Bush team’s real and deadly insults to the U.S. military over the past six years by hyping and exaggerating Mr. Kerry’s mangled gibe at the president.

Friedman lists many things which are “injurious and insulting” to the troops, including sending them without enough men, sending them without the proper equipment like body armor, and sending them to war without a coherent postwar plan. Rove has sold this stupidity in the past, but Friedman doesn’t think Americans are stupid enough to go along with it again:

Let Karl know that you’re not stupid. Let him know that you know that the most patriotic thing to do in this election is to vote against an administration that has — through sheer incompetence — brought us to a point in Iraq that was not inevitable but is now unwinnable.

Let Karl know that you think this is a critical election, because you know as a citizen that if the Bush team can behave with the level of deadly incompetence it has exhibited in Iraq — and then get away with it by holding on to the House and the Senate — it means our country has become a banana republic. It means our democracy is in tatters because it is so gerrymandered, so polluted by money, and so divided by professional political hacks that we can no longer hold the ruling party to account.

It means we’re as stupid as Karl thinks we are.

I, for one, don’t think we’re that stupid. Next Tuesday we’ll see.

Thomas Friedman Calls Bush and Cheney Frauds

Previously I had an excerpt from the first installment of an interview with Thomas Friedman at The Debate Link. In the second installment Friedman discusses his views on fighting radical Islam. While I don’t agree with him on all points, one area where we do agree is his criticism of George Bush and Dick Cheney, who he considers frauds:

Well what I find so breathtakingly dishonest about Bush and Cheney–and I wrote a column about this after the whole Ned Lamont victory over Lieberman, because as you recall Lamont defeated Lieberman in the primary then Cheney came out and said, “Well, this shows that the Democrats don’t really understand the war on terrorism, the titanic struggle we’re in.” He used it as a way to hit on the Democrats. And my response to that was: “Oh really? Oh really? Democrats don’t understand what a titanic struggle we’re in with these forces of violent radical Islam?” Well if that’s so, Mr. Cheney, then tell me something: If we’re in such a titanic struggle with violent political Islam, why is it that you fought the war in Iraq with the Rumsfeld doctrine of just enough troops to lose, and not the Powell doctrine of overwhelming force? …. And by the way, if we’re in such a titanic struggle, the struggle of our lives, with violent political Islam, why do you keep using it as a wedge issue in domestic politics? Would Roosevelt have done that? How do you think we’re going to win this titanic struggle with a divided country? You think you’re going to win with 50.1% of America? So please. Give me a break. You are just a fraud. This is just a fraud. You keep telling me we’re in a titanic struggle. Yet Ned Lamont doesn’t command our troops. Even Joe Lieberman doesn’t control our energy policy. You guys are the ones with all the levers of power. You have the House, the Senate, the White House, and the Supreme Court. You could have fought this war either seriously or unseriously. And you have chosen to fight it unseriously…. That’s completely fraudulent. And history, ultimately, will be very unkind to these people. It will catch that fraud.

Thomas Friedman Interviewed on Israel and Anti-Semitism

The Debate Link has posted the first part of an interview with Thomas Friedman. While they discussed several topics, the most interesting was Friedman’s defense of Israel from recent criticism and comments on anti-Semitism from the left. While the civilian casualties is a legitimate concern, Friedman placed them in perspective:

. . ., you’re dealing with an enemy that has embedded itself in the civilian population (on the Lebanese side). Hezbollah has no bases to retaliate against–in the conventional military sense–and so Israel almost by definition couldn’t retaliate against Hezbollah without hitting civilian targets. And that’s tragic. It’s tragic for me–I hate to see Lebanon be destroyed–but at the same time, it was the only way from the Israeli point of view to exact a price on Hezbollah’s constituency that ultimately Israeli hoped–and I don’t think this was a crazy thing–would deter Hezbollah the next time, with people saying “wait a minute, I don’t want to go through this again.”

So, I don’t think Israel “snapped,” I don’t think it behaved in a particularly irrational manner. It was brutal, but it was an ugly war, and one that Israel didn’t invite.

Friedman was later asked about anti-Semitism from the left and the relationship between Jews and the Democratic Party:


Thomas Friedman Responds to Dick Cheney’s Contemptible Comments

Thomas Friedman, who for too long was too much of a chearleader for the war, continues to question the poor leadership of the Republicans. He is more realistic than Dick Cheney with regards to the meaning of Ned Lamont’s victory over Joe Lieberman:

. . .the Democratic mainstream is nowhere near as dovish as critics depict. Truth be told, some of the most constructive, on-the-money criticism over the past three years about how to rescue Iraq or improve the broader “war on terrorism” has come from Democrats, like Joe Biden, Carl Levin, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Bill Clinton.

Friedman finally realizes that the real problem is the Republicans:

What should really worry the country is not whether the Democrats are being dragged to the left by antiwar activists who haven’t thought a whit about the larger struggle we’re in. What should worry the country is that the Bush team and the Republican Party, which control all the levers of power and claim to have thought only about this larger struggle, are in total denial about where their strategy has led.

Friedman finds Dick Cheney’s recent comments contemptible, and has some questions for Cheney:

Not only is there no honest self-criticism among Republicans, but — and this is truly contemptible — you have Dick Cheney & Friends focusing their public remarks on why Mr. Lamont’s defeat of Mr. Lieberman only proves that Democrats do not understand that we are in a titanic struggle with “Islamic fascists” and are therefore unfit to lead.

Oh, really? Well, I just have one question for Mr. Cheney: If we’re in such a titanic struggle with radical Islam, and if getting Iraq right is at the center of that struggle, why did you “tough guys” fight the Iraq war with the Rumsfeld Doctrine — just enough troops to lose — and not the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force to create the necessary foundation of any democracy-building project, which is security? How could you send so few troops to fight such an important war when it was obvious that without security Iraqis would fall back on their tribal militias?

Mr. Cheney, if we’re in a titanic struggle with Islamic fascists, why have you and President Bush resisted any serious effort to get Americans to conserve energy? Why do you refuse to push higher mileage standards for U.S. automakers or a gasoline tax that would curb our imports of oil? Here we are in the biggest struggle of our lives and we are funding both sides — the U.S. military with our tax dollars and the radical Islamists and the governments and charities that support them with our gasoline purchases — and you won’t lift a finger to change that. Why? Because it might impose pain on the oil companies and auto lobbies that fund the G.O.P., or require some sacrifice by Americans.

Mr. Cheney, if we’re in a titanic struggle with Islamic fascists, why do you constantly use the “war on terrorism” as a wedge issue in domestic politics to frighten voters away from Democrats. How are we going to sustain such a large, long-term struggle if we are a divided country?