Sunday, September 30, 2007

Crash course on Burma

If you're an American, I'm guessing there is a good chance you don't know what's going on in Burma. Or at least I didn't, so I'm projecting my ignorance onto the entire populace to make myself feel better. But it is no secret that our national media is terribly insular, which itself contributes to our ethnocentric perception of the world (in Are We Rome?, Cullen Murphy points out that this is one of the similarities that we share with Rome of imperial times.)

So if you're like me and are seeking to become better informed, Human Rights Watch offers an overview of the current situation, as well as its usual series of articles on the on-going human rights abuses and violent suppression of those who protest the military regime that rules the country.

The Economist offers cautious optimism that a united world effort can put a stop to the military's crack-down on dissent; it also devotes one article to the nature of the current demonstrations and another about the culpability of the world for the tragedy that is taking place there.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

On the Treaty of Tripoli

I just noticed that Chris Rodda has been serializing (here and here) the chapter on the Treaty of Tripoli from his book Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History which debunks the revisionist responses of Christian nationalists like David Barton to the treaty.

As Rodda points out, it takes some fairly awesome mental gymnastics to make a treaty that says the US is not a Christian nation mean that the US is a Christian nation.

One of the most often used arguments that the United States was not founded as a Christian nation is Article 11 of the 1797 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary. This is a pretty good argument, considering that the first sentence of that article begins with the words, "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion..." Because the authors of the religious right version of American history can't deny that these words are there, they attempt to dismiss them, usually using one, or a combination of, several popular arguments.
Hm ... I think this calls for another quote from The Origins of Totalitarianism

Plato, in his famous fight against the ancient Sophists discovered that their "universal art of enchanting the mind by arguments" had nothing to do with truth aimed at opinions which by their very nature are changing and which are valid only "at the time of the agreement and as long as the agreement lasts." He also discovered the very insecure position of truth in the world, for from "opinions comes persuasion and not truth."

The most striking difference between the ancient and modern sophists is that the ancients were satisfied with a passing victory of the argument at the expense of truth, where as the moderns want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality. In other words, one destroyed the dignity of human thought whereas the modern manipulators of facts stand in the way of the historian. For history itself is destroyed, and its comprehensibility ... is in danger, whenever facts are no longer held to be part and parcel of the past and present world, and are misused to prove this or that opinion.

T-Warriors speak out!

Via Sheldon, here's a sampling of some of the heartwarming responses from some T-Warriors who are determined not to let "S-P"s ruin America to the students who protested the Pledge of Allegiance being recited in school because of the phrase "under God."

"wow okay my rear would of been beaten if I did that... but that's not allowed in school any more too so I guess let the kiddos whine"

Check. One call for corporal punishment of students who do not recite their loyalty oath.

"Hopefully the boarder won't hit their a**es on the way out of the country. It's a shame we can't deport anti-American Atheists like these brats."

I hear that deporting "the anti-German Jews" was first considered the best away to achieve a national spirit of Gleichschaltung.

"I would hope that someone is compiling of list of names of these nut-job kids and other space-heads like them. I certainly would not want to hire anyone of them, or have them do any kind of work for me or my family at any point in the future. I have the right to 'vote with my dollars' and I exercise that right every chance I get - From the Dixie chicks to alex Baldwin and Susan Saradon. Please let me know who may be keeping track of names."

With all due respect to the late Molly Ivins, I expect that sounded better in the original German.

"Put these little snots on an airplane and take them to any third world country in the world. Leave them there for 6 months and then bring them back. I think they will change their tune about 'one nation, under God.' If not send them back and forget about them. We don't need people like that taking over as the next leaders."

This commenter has apparently come up with a slightly more humane version of the re-education practices of The Pary in 1984. This generous soul is willing to let the converted live and is content to confine the rest to banishment.

"These immature children make me sick

if you can't withstand one line of speech, free speech no less, then you need to leave because that's the basis of this country, free speech and God's protection
."

Apparently, the right to protest does not count as "free speech." And I was also under the impression that freedom of speech was a right that applied to citizens, not the State.

Of course, not all of the responses are from people who hold our civil liberties in contempt:

If a country has a constitution that guarantees freedom of worship, that freedom is not only for the majority, but also for a minority whose conscience does not permit them to participate in popular ceremonies. Constitutional guarantees are worthless if they protect only those who conform to the viewpoint of the majority or to those in power.

Justices Black and Douglas wrote a concurring opinion to the majority opinion of the Supreme Court, saying:

“Words uttered under coercion are proof of loyalty to nothing but self-interest. . . . Neither our domestic tranquillity in peace nor our martial effort in war depend on compelling little children to participate in a ceremony which ends in nothing for them but a fear of spiritual condemnation.”

John McCain thinks the Constitution is a religious document

From BeliefNet

A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. What do you think?

I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation. But I say that in the broadest sense. The lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn't say, “I only welcome Christians.” We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. But when they come here they know that they are in a nation founded on Christian principles.
I find it difficult to believe that McCain actually believes what he is saying and is instead pandering the Religious Right since it has captured the GOP, but, none the less, it is disheartening that a leading presidential candidate is unwilling or unable (due to lack of understanding) to defend the secular principles enshrined in the Constitution and first amendment which allow religion (including the majority religion of Christianity) to flourish in America.

The Constitution makes no mention of God, nor Christianity. It established a secular nation with religious freedom for all. It in no way or shape established a Christian American. At least that's what the founders believed.

"[T]he government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion" - Treaty of Tripoli (1797), signed into law by President John Adams

What "Christian principles" are in the Constitution? The Bill of Rights? Where in the Bible are we to find the seperation of powers into three branches of government and a system of checks and balances?

This is not Biblical principle, but the tradition of ancient Athens and the Roman Republic; of the Enlightenment and of Spinoza, Lock, Hume (and other Scottish philosophers) and Montesquieu.

Is it the common law from which the nation was founded Christian? Thomas Jefferson seems to think not

I was glad to find in your book a formal contradition, at length, of the judiciary usurpation of legislative powers; for such the judges have usurped in their repeated decisions, that Christianity is a part of the common law. The proof of the contrary, which you have adduced, is incontrovertible; to wit, that the common law existed while the Anglo-Saxons were yet Pagans, at a time when they had never yet heard the name of Christ pronounced, or knew that such a character had ever existed.
The implication of those who say this nation was founded on "Judeo-Christian principle" is that without a belief in God (the Judeo-Christian God) our constitutional democracy would not be possible. That is simply false.

The Government of the United States is secular. It derives its power from the consent of man. It is a Government with which God has nothing whatever to do -- and all forms and customs, inconsistent with the fundamental fact that the people are the source of authority, should be abandoned.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Under the banner of God

Tonight, discussing students in Boulder, Colorado - a city where "Secular-Progressives" have seized control according to Bill O'Reilly - who are protesting the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in school because they feel the phrase "under God" violates church/state separation, O'Reilly, after calling them goofs seeking attention (or something like that, I forget his exact term), said that he bet that those students probably didn't know when the phrase was added to the Pledge.

I thought this an odd turn given that pointing out that "under God" is not original to the Pledge is usually part of an argument of people who are opposed to its inclusion, so I sat forward in anticipation of where he was going. O'Reilly continued by saying that it was added in the 1950s (1954 to be exact, Bill) to seperate America from the Godless hordes of Soviet and Chinese communism. Ok, that floored me a bit since the fact that "under God" is a relic of McCarthyism is one of the key arguments against it.

Yet O'Reilly fully embraces it, however. Yes, in fact, the Pledge means that we are a nation "under the banner of God." This (the students protesting a public school inculcating the belief that patriotism means believing in God and the ritualistic worship of a piece of cloth in an act of social conformity/coercion) is part of the nightmare "S-P" America that will happen if they're not stopped, O'Reilly warned his audience. O'Reilly's guest, a Boulder radio personality, said that these students are trying to force their minority views on the majority. In "traditional" America, apparently, the non "traditional" minority should just accept the notion that they're not quite fully American.

So there it is. If you're Godless, you're not quite an American. Sure, you're nominally an American in O'Reilly's book, and he'll say he's for your rights and all that jazz. But you better know your place. This is a nation "Under the Banner of God" and you're a second class citizen.

Update: Here is the alternate pledge that was read during the student walk-out. It was written by senior Emma Martens:

I pledge allegiance to the flag and my constitutional rights with which it comes. And to the diversity, in which our nation stands, one nation, part of one planet, with liberty, freedom, choice and justice for all.

The horror!

"Phony" quotes

During last night’s Talking Points segment Bill O’Reilly said that the reason people have taken offense at his comment about being surprised that a black restaurant he attended was normal is because they’ve heard the fake quote Media Matters came up with to smear him.

The New York Times and other papers ran up to Harlem and fed bogus Media Matters quotes to blacks who had no idea what I actually said on the radio. Of course they didn't like the phony quotes! And they said bad things about me.

But I don't blame the folks who did that. They believe what the reporters told them. Now ladies and gentlemen, this is blatantly dishonest, blatantly dishonest, and exploitative in the worst possible way. No American deserves to be fed propaganda by the press.
Wow. Feeding phony quotes to people - that is dishonest. So in the sake of fairness and honesty here is what O'Reilly actually said.

And I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship.
And here is the totally dishonest phony quote from Media Matters

And I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship.
Whoah! It doesn't get anymore deceitful than that. I think its pretty obvious that he has a cut-and-dry case for a defamation suit.

Seriously, is it possible that O’Reilly has some kind of disorder where he thinks he’s saying something but a different statement comes out, yet he hears what he thought he was saying? And that when he reads the transcript of what he said he also somehow still sees what he was thinking but didn’t actually say?

When Jesse Jackson pointed out to O’Reilly that underestimating the civility of the black people in Sylvia’s restaurant is insulting, O’Reilly asked incredulously who did that. Again, here is what O’Reilly said

There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, "M-Fer, I want more iced tea." ... You know, I mean, everybody was -- it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn't any kind of craziness at all.
Later in the program Juan Williams was on and he said that all O’Reilly was trying to do was deflate stereotypes. Well, yes, I suppose that’s true. But its beside the point, because what is at issue is the offensive nature of O’Reilly assuming in the first place that the restaurant would be anything other than normal.

O’Reilly and every guest that he has brought on to agree with him have repeatedly reiterated that you can’t have an honest discussion about race without the “far left” smearing you. O’Reilly told Jane Hall that white Americans aren’t going to talk honestly about race anymore because they’re going to be afraid of getting attacked.

Rubbish.

You want to have an honest discussion about race? An honest discussion about race would start with O’Reilly admitting that the stereotype he was deflating was his own personal prejudice instead of the passive aggressive technique of claiming to be speaking for “white America.” It would entail acknowledging that he said something ignorant that people have taken offense at. It would mean making an attempt to understand why his comments are insulting and then engaging in some introspection. That would be an honest discussion about race.

And a word about Bernie Goldberg: pathetic.

That’s the word that comes to mind when watching him. In a show about racial stereotypes, it’s ironic to have on a guy that comes across as a living epitome of the stereotypical angry old white conservative. After saying that Jesse Jackson wasn’t going to let “whitey” off the hook, he then said that Martin Luther King Jr. would be turning in his grave if he were alive today. I suspect that MLK would be more troubled with being turned into a prop for the conservative movement which demonized him as a communist traitor while he was alive. Goldberg then said that CNN allowing a black guest to call Juan Williams a “happy Negro” for being an apologist for O’Reilly’s comments was an example of paternalistic liberal racism (against blacks) motivated by their sense of white guilt.

Goldberg is a one trick pony – a hack. Fox brings him on about any given issue and he sees liberal bias. That’s it, that’s what his career is. It doesn’t matter that his claim to fame book is full of anecdotal evidence about his petty personal animus with former CBS colleagues or that the only empirical claim in the book was demonstrated by linguist Geoffrey Nunberg to be the opposite of the truth or that Goldberg was embarrassed on national tv by Al Franken who pointed out that another claim in the book was totally misleading. Nope, none of that phases him. He just keep moving forward with the “liberals are out to get us” schtick (and by “us” I mean other angry old white conservatives).

One other thing. During the segment featuring Hall and Goldberg both O’Reilly and Goldberg treated Hall disrespectfully. They interrupted her, spoke down to her, and raised their voices at her while overall just being generally demeaning to her. Par for the course for those two jackasses.

The Daily Show on Sylvia's

The Daily Show ridiculed O'Reilly's remarks about dining at a black restaurant along the same lines as I did.

I hate George W. Bush

I really do.

So instead of taking part in an international process to set emissions standards to combat global warming President Bush came up with an alternate meeting and proposed agreeing on a goal to reduce CO2 emissions.

It it so infuriating and frustrating and offensive and insulting for this moron of a man to utter such meaningless bullshit and expect this nation and the world to take him seriously. What Bush's proposal amounts to is this: nothing. He is proposing doing nothing about global warming, but expects that his audience will fall into the trap of believing his empty rhetoric is equivalent to action.

Such b.s. constitutes an assualt on democracy, as Bush is attempting to disguise his policy of stonewalling action on global warming so that his fossil fuel industry constituency will remain happy as an attempt to address a problem that a significant portion of the American public (although acknowledgement of global warming divides disturbingly along partisan lines) wants action taken on.

Of course, this is pretty much how Bush runs every facet of his p.r. presidency. Style over substance, bullshit over truth. Propaganda over reality.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lies, damned lies, and the god damn liars who tell them

"Anti-intellectualism has long been the anti-Semitism of the businessman." - Arthur Schlesinger

Reading Blogs for Bush today, I discovered that global warming is really just part of the George Soros conspiracy to undermine America. Or at least, that's what Mark Noonan thinks after reading this shamelesss bile of an editorial from Investors Business Daily.

How many people, for instance, know that James Hansen, a man billed as a lonely "NASA whistleblower" standing up to the mighty U.S. government, was really funded by Soros' Open Society Institute , which gave him "legal and media advice"?

That's right, Hansen was packaged for the media by Soros' flagship "philanthropy," by as much as $720,000, most likely under the OSI's "politicization of science" program.

That may have meant that Hansen had media flacks help him get on the evening news to push his agenda and lawyers pressuring officials to let him spout his supposedly "censored" spiel for weeks in the name of advancing the global warming agenda.
Wow! (1)Does that mean that James Hansen's climate research is not funded by NASA and that instead he received $720,000 to politicize science in order to push the nefarious George Soros "global warming" agenda? (2) Why is censored in quotes? (3)Did a 24 year old Republican political appointee not tell Hansen not to speak to the media about global warming? (4)Why is philanthropy in quotes?

Noonan doesn't say, but he does say (bold emphasis for ominous effect mine)

We can't do anything about Soros for the moment - but he is a man bent on evil and who will stop at nothing to advance his sick worldview. Our only option is to expose, expose, expose - the criminals can't stand bright lights, and that is what we have to bring to bear here.
I'll come back to that extremist proto-fascist sounding sentiment at the end. Let's answer those questions raised by the IBD editorial.

(1)No, it does not mean that Hansen isn't funded by NASA, nor does it mean that he is funded by George Soros or that he received 720,000 dollars from the OSI.

In fact, Hansen recieved the enormous sum of ZERO dollars from OSI. Here's how this trainwreck of misinformation (bullshit) breaks down:

Hansen recieved pro-bono legal advice from the Goverment Accountability Project - "the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization" - about how to deal with having the Bush administration put a muzzle on him. The GAP received 300K from OSI in 2006, with 100k specifically marked to go to the Science and Whistleblower Engineering Campaign. From that the IBD editorial made the dishonest leap to say that Hansen was funded by "as much as 720,000" by OSI.

Tim Lambert puts it this way

The IBD has declared George Soros a "threat to democracy" because he helps defend whistleblowers. You can't make this stuff up.
And then goes on to give a sampling of some of the usual blogs (the same ones that were in a furor - with some even demanding Hansen be fired - over the 1934 temperature revision) again working themselves into a fit of rightous indignation over the evil machinations of Soros and Hansen.

Yet, as Steinn SigurĂ°sson points out, it takes about 30 seconds on Google to figure out this story is garbage, and an additional 7 seconds to see that there was no lack of transparency about this (as IBD alleges) given that GAP sent out a press release about its representation of Hansen.

(2)Because whoever wrote the editorial is a liar or bullshitter.

(3) No.

(4) Because the IBD editorial writer, like Mark Noonan, doesn't understand the difference between Exxon paying to promote propaganda to undermine the reality of global warming and the Open Society Institute paying to promote the protection of whistle-blowers from government censorship.

Here's an interesting tid-bit you won't be hearing from these folks - the Soros Foundations philanthropy helped accelerate the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. [Source]

Which brings up back to Noonan's comment. What is sick or evil about the view that whistle-blowers should be protected and government should be accountable for its actions? What is criminal about telling the public that an administration has attempted to prevent you from raising awareness about a scientific matter for political reasons?

In Richard Hofstadter's essay about the pseudo-conservative he noted that "their political reactions express rather a profound if largely unconscious hatred of our society and its ways."

I can't put it anymore succinctly than that. The reaction of these folks demonstrates that they have a fundamental contempt for science and the open society - both of which are two of the key components of American democracy.

Quote of the day

"In place of the Fourth Amendment, the people are expected to defer to the Executive Branch and its representation that it will authorize such surveillance only when appropriate. The defendant here is asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. This court declines to do so.

"For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law - with unparalleled success. A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill advised." - Federal District Judge Ann Aiken, striking down provisions of the Patriot Act which revised FISA to eliminate the probable cause standard for issuing warrants (h/t Ed Brayton)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Nothing says Democracy like ...

... being so scared to discuss your agenda openly that you need to create a super secretive society which comes across like a club for Richard Hostadter's paranoid pseudo-conservative on steroids.

Yep, I'm talking about Dick Cheney going to visit (again) with the former John Birch Society organizer and Christian nationalist theocrat Tim LaHaye founded CNP (which has a membership including some of the most extreme figures in America).

O'Reilly is not racist!

I have to agree with Mr. O’Reilly. What CNN and Media Matters did to him was despicable. How dare they totally distort his comments by providing a full audio clip of them. Once you listen to the entire hour of the radio show they came from it becomes clear as day that O’Reilly was speaking against stereotypes. Plus, as Bill pointed out in his Talking Points last night, his ratings are higher than CNN which means he’s not racist.

Yeah, sure. You might object that neither Media Matters or CNN called O'Reilly a racist and that he seems to be protesting a bit too much that they did. But you'd be wrong ... um ... because O'Reilly has great ratings!

Bill and Juan Williams and Laura Ingraham are completely correct – you can’t have an honest discussion about race without smear merchants like Media Matters trying to shut you up and marginalize you.

Let me just say that I find this disgusting. Like Mr. O’Reilly, I think stereotypes are wrong. In fact, I’ve had a similar experience to O’Reilly going into a black restaurant not being able to:

get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship.
Not too long ago I went to a black restaurant and I was amazed that the menu had stuff other than fried chicken and watermelon and grape sodas, and the deserts weren’t just moonpies. The people working there didn’t have Soul Glow afros and get this – this will astound you – I could understand what they were saying. They weren’t speaking Jive like the two black passengers in the movie Airplane. And here’s another astonishing fact – the black patrons were paying for their food with money and not food stamps. And they were talking about everyday things. You know, normal stuff and not about bitches and hoes and baby’s mommas. And as far as I can tell no one was doing crack.

Oh yeah ... I almost forgot - you won't believe this - No one robbed me! Can you believe that? I walked out of a black restaurant with my wallet intact and got into my car without being car jacked.

You know what else? I've been on a black college campus before and there were students carrying books and going to class just like at any other nonblack college. Astonishing, right? In addition, I saw nothing going on that remotely resembled the stuff happening in Yun Wun's "Tear It Up" video.



This reminds me of another time that Bill had to take on the p.c. police. It was over people thinking that saying that black public figures can speak well is an insult. I thought O’Reilly was particularly strong on that issue when he and Dennis Miller said that Chris Rock would think it’s stupid to take insult at saying a black public figure can speak well even though Chris Rock has done a bit in one of his HBO comedy specials about how ridiculous it is for anyone to think Colin Powell – a college educated man – would do anything other than speak well. What did they expect him to say, Rock wondered, “I fixin’ to drop me sum bombs.” Or something like that. But you can see how it takes the brilliance of O’Reilly to take Chris Rock who mocked the soft prejudice of saying black public figures can speak well and use him as a prop to say that saying black public figures can speak well isn’t prejudiced.

I guess they're even

I mentioned before that one of the back cover blurbs for The End of Faith is Alan Dershowitz saying that Harris exposes the secular fanaticism of Noam Chomsky, which I suspected was a swipe at Chomsky over his position on the Israeli/Palestinian dispute.

I now see that the feeling is mutual. I was flipping through What We Say Goes the other day and I came across a passage in which Chomsky accused Dershowitz of fanatacism. According to Chomsky, Dershowitz stated that 80 percent of the Lebanese population supporting Hezbollah means that 100 percent of the population are legitimate targets for Israeli reprisal attacks.

Nooooooooooooo!

I just found out I'm related to William Jennings Bryan of Scopes Monkey Trial infamy on my mother's side of the family. The horror!

Actually, I'm being facetious. Not about being related to Bryan, but about caring.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Why does the conservative movement love DDT?

"A political ideology is a very handy thing to have. It's a real time-saver, because it tells you what you think about things you know nothing about." - Hendrik Hertzberg

We (me) here at the Daily Doubter have been saying for some time if you want to understand how conservative movement ideologues such as Michelle Malkin or Rush Limbaugh argue/think spend some time observing the tactics employed by creationists.

Consider evolution. Creationists reject the theory of evolution primarily because they believe it entails atheism and amorality ... they disbelieve because of the perceived consequences. Everything else follows from that. The creationist doesn't care what the facts are or aren't ... he just picks them out to prove to his self what he already knows.

If you spend much time listening to the conservative movement noise machine you would know that it has a peculiar affinity for DDT which borders on obsession that you may find difficult to understand. Difficult to understand, that is, unless you're aware of how DDT relates to conservative movement ideology. As is the case of evolution for creationists, DDT's bad reputation gets in the way of the worldview of the conservative movement ideologues.

And that's because DDT was what Rachel Carson was writing about in her seminal Silent Spring which sparked the environmental movement in the '60s. The conservative movement loves DDT because it hates the environmental movement for imposing restrictions on the "free market". You know, unreasonable restrictions like expecting corporations that dump toxic sludge into the environement to have to clean it up.

And it goes without saying that since the movement hates Silent Spring (which received honourable mention on Human Events list of most harmful books of the last two centuries) it really hates the author Carson. Which is why I didn't pay much attention over the last couple of years when hearing claims from the usual suspects that Carson is responsible for 30 million deaths.

But then I saw Discover magazine's number 29 Top Story of 2006

More than 30 years after the use of DDT was abandoned in many countries, the much-maligned pesticide is making a comeback. In September the World Health Organization openly endorsed indoor spraying of DDT, saying it is not only the best weapon against malaria, it is also cheaper and more effective than other insecticides. The announcement followed a similar move in May by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Remember that 1 million people a year die from malaria and then you'll have before you the entire 1 second of thought that went into the noise machine belief that Carson has the death of 30 million on her hands. DDT was banned abandoned 30 years ago times the (current) death rate of a million a year equals Rachel Carson is one of the worst mass murderers in human history.

Except Rachel Carson never argued in Silent Spring that DDT should not be used in a controlled/limited fashion to combat malaria (the way the WHO is recommending it be used) - and what's more - DDT although banned in most developed countries has remained in use for health purposes in other countries. Then there's the issue that using DDT as an insecticide (the way movement conservatives want to do) leads to resistance in the mosquito population and WORSENS the malaria problem.

Ok, that's the short version. For the full account of the birth of the conservative movement myth that Carson is a killer one should read "Rachel Carson, Mass Murderer?" from FAIR. You'll be surprised (not really) that the myth has been propagated aggressively by the pesticide industry which has engaged in the despicable p.r. tactic of asserting that the rise in malaria which resulted from increased resistance to DDT instead resulted from the cessation of DDT spraying.

The following passage from the article reinforces my point about why the movement loves DDT for ideological reasons.

Perhaps the most vocal group spreading this story is Africa Fighting Malaria (AFM). Founded in 2000 by Roger Bate, an economist at various right-wing think tanks, AFM has run a major PR campaign to push the pro-DDT story, publishing scores of op-eds and appearing in dozens of articles each year. Bate and his partner Richard Tren even published a book laying out their alternate history of DDT: When Politics Kills: Malaria and the DDT Story.

A funding pitch uncovered by blogger Eli Rabbett shows Bate’s thinking when he first started the project. “The environmental movement has been successful in most of its campaigns as it has been ‘politically correct,’” he explained (Tobacco Archives, 09/98). What the anti-environmental movement needs is something with “the correct blend of political correctness ( . . . oppressed blacks) and arguments (eco-imperialism [is] undermining their future).” That something, Bate proposed, was DDT.
Edit -I forgot to mention that Salon also responded to the myth of Carson the killer. The following paragraph says a bunch, doesn't it?

The author filled most of her pages by describing the harm that chemicals such as DDT can inflict on wildlife and human health. She only briefly mentioned DDT's role in fighting diseases transmitted by insect vectors. Yet she allowed that insecticides could play a role in the fight against disease. "No responsible person contends that insect-borne disease should be ignored," she wrote. "It is not my contention that chemical insecticides must never be used. I contend ... that we have allowed these chemicals to be used with little or no advance investigation of their effect on soil, water, wildlife, and man himself."
Spoken like a murderer.

Update: This post would not be complete without a link to Tim Lambert's DDT Ban Myth Bingo.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Something I didn't know before yesterday

The original title for F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gasby was Trimalchio in West Egg (I'm going to side with the book's publishers and say the name change was a good idea.)

Trimalchio is a character from the Satyricon by Petronius.

He plays a part only in the section entitled Cena Trimalchionis (The Banquet of Trimalchio). Trimalchio is a freedman who through hard work and perseverance has attained power and wealth. His full name is Gaius Pompeius Trimalchio Maecenatianus; the references to Pompey and Maecenas in his name serve to enhance his ostentatious character. The name Trimalchio is Semitic and means "thrice-blessed". His wife's name is Fortunata, a former prostitute. Trimalchio is known for throwing lavish dinner parties, where his numerous servants bring course after course of exotic delicacies, such as live birds sewn up inside a pig and a dish to represent every sign of the zodiac. The Satyricon has a lengthy description of Trimalchio's proposed tomb, which is incredibly ostentatious and lavish. This tomb was to be designed by a well-known tomb-builder called Habinnas, who was among the revelers present at Trimalchio's feast. He sought to impress his guests - the Roman nouveau riche, mostly freedmen - with the ubiquitous excesses seen throughout his dwelling. By the end of the banquet, Trimalchio's drunken showiness leads to the entire household acting out his funeral, all for his own amusement and egotism.

Book watch

The prolific A.C. Grayling (probably my favorite living philospher) has written another timely book that will see its American release on Oct 2. It is Toward the Light of Liberty: The Struggles for Freedom and Rights That Made the Modern Western World.

An excerpt of what appears to be the introduction is available here, and the following quote should explain the "timely" part

For how long will Westerners continue to enjoy the hard-won liberties so long fought for, and at such cost? As the twenty-first century dawned thegreat achievement of the open liberal society was under threat, not as it had been at times during the Cold War (and even then, as we later discovered, more notionally than not), but because of terrorism, the related phenomenon of the resurgence of religious fundamentalism, and the retrogressive reactions of liberal societies to both. When the threat that liberal polities faced consisted of attack by enemy armies, the reaction was to have soldiers and nuclear weapons and fighter aircraft ready in return, and it was reasonably clear where lay the line in the sand which the enemy must not step over. That threat and that kind of preparedness were too familiar, alas, because of what modern war had become; it was for this that the world made its preparations, and, having done so, achieved a certain comfort and stability behind the ensuing armoured lines.

But terrorism is wholly different. It is insidious, secret, unpredictable, treacherous; it comes as much from within a given society as from outside it; it targets unsuspecting innocents in the course of their daily lives. It is crime on a monstrous scale, aiming at nothing less than mass murder and wholesale disruption of social and economic life. Moreover its association with strongly held religious belief complicates matters vastly, because whereas liberal societies are painfully anxious to respect the sensitivities of religious minorities, to show them a maximum of friendly and concessive tolerance, and thus to give them all the freedom they need to exist and flourish in their own chosen ways, those very freedoms allow the religious minorities to breed from among themselves, in their darker corners (the majority are surely horrified by what criminality comes from among their own), the very enemies, the paradoxical enemies, of the freedom and tolerance that first permits them to arise.

Perhaps worse still is what liberal societies might do to themselves in the face of this new and different threat. They begin, by small but dangerous increments, to cease to be as liberal as they once were. They begin to restrict their own hard-won rights and freedoms as a protection against the criminal minority who attempt (and as we thus see, by forcing liberty to commit suicide, succeed in doing so) to terrorise society. In a curious way, liberalism's efforts to restrict its own liberties are made according to the liberal principle that no minority must be singled out. Thus, even if it were known that all would-be terrorists spring from a small group within a small minority in society, it would be illiberal to impose restrictions just on them to protect the rest of society, on the grounds that this would be unfair and discriminatory. As a result society as a whole is brought under the liberty-restricting new regime.

In the United States the Orwellianly named 'Patriot Act', and in the United Kingdom moves to introduce identity cards, to restrict freedom of speech, to limit immigration, and to introduce longer periods of imprisonment without trial, are among the liberty-undermining measures that these states — both in the vanguard of the free world - have introduced in response to perceived terrorist threat. For observers of these moves, one of the most troubling things about them is their disproportion. When in 1940 Britain faced the imminence of invasion (and the actuality of daily aerial attack) by the might of the German armed forces massing just twenty miles across the English Channel, its government enacted some temporary security measures — temporary, note - such as identity cards and restrictions on the freedom of speech and the press. Now, in face of a far lesser threat, the greatest among the Western liberal democracies are enacting permanent legislation of even more draconian kinds.
One of the factors Grayling believes is responsible for this disproportionate response is that we have taken for granted our liberties and forgotten the struggles that Western civilization had to endure before we could get to a point where individuals could consider themselves "lords" of their own lives.

The point I urge in this book is that all the efforts towards securing the rights and freedoms we enjoy today (still enjoy, almost, although they are beginning to fray and diminish) cost blood, and took centuries. It dishonours those who fought for them to forget that fact now, and it does us no credit to be careless of what was thus won. My hope is that understanding what it cost—seeing our last five centuries as a continuously unfolding series of struggles to make ourselves free, to make us lords of ourselves—will summon resolve not to allow the erosion of our liberties in the spurious name of security, for as Benjamin Franklin said, 'he who would put security before liberty deserves neither'.
I'll be reading this book as soon as I can aquire a copy.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Review of Tragic Legacy still on the way

If there's anyone out there who is actually waiting for that post, I will have it and the Boortz one up eventually and soon, but I've found it nigh impossible to pull myself away from the books I have buried myself in lately. So the negative is this reading binge has delayed those posts (and I still haven't gotten around to finalizing the post on Our Endangered Country). The positive is that I should be able to generate some blogging material from these books.

If you want to read along, I just started Are We Rome: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America by Cullen Murphy. See Walter Isaacson's New York Times review for more info on the book.

Towards an American fascism?

Via Jim Lippard, Naomi Wolfe's "Fascist America, in 10 easy steps"

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
2. Create a gulag
3. Develop a thug caste
4. Set up an internal surveillance system
5. Harass citizens' groups
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
7. Target key individuals
8. Control the press
9. Dissent equals treason
10. Suspend the rule of law
The list itself features more prominently in Wolfe's new book The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. The introduction is available at HuffingtonPost in two parts - Pt1 and Pt2.

And in case you don't check the comments at the Lippard Blog, I posted the following Hannah Arendt quote from The Origins of Totalitarianism in regard to item #2 and "enemy combatants":

The first essential step on the road to total domination is to kill the juridicial person in man. This was done, on the one hand, by putting certain catergories of people outside the protection of the law and forcing at the same time, through the instrument of denationalization, the nontotalitarian world into recognition of lawlessness; it was done, on the other hand, by placing the concentration camp outside the normal penal sytem, and by selecting its inmates outside the normal judicial procedure in which a definite crime entails a predictable penalty.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Update for the New American Newspeak Dictionary

Today's updates for the New American Newspeak Dictionary are:

Strategic redeployment: troop withdrawal
Sound science: junk science*
Junk science: sound science**
People of faith: churchgoers who vote our way***

*See "Beware 'Sound Science'. It's Double Speak for Trouble" by Chris Mooney
**See the previous entry "Manufacturing Uncertainty"
***Quoted from Talking Right by Geoffrey Nunberg

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I tremble for my country ...

... when I reflect that at least half of Americans reject the reality of evolution. And as you can see from the image to the left, only 30% of Republicans acknowledge the fact of evolution.

We live in an age ruled by science and the technology that it has yielded, yet we have millions of Americans that disbelieve a fact that is the backbone of the biological sciences and is one of the most profound discoveries in human history. And even worse, we have a political party that has made disbelief in one of the most robust theories in science as apparently a core position of the party.
It's difficult for me to express how disheartening I find this. To me, this is as absurd as it would be were a poll to find the same numbers of Americans refuse to believe that the Earth orbits the Sun.

I lack the skill to express why this is so troubling to me any better than the late Carl Sagan put it in The Demon Haunted-World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.

Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grand children's time ... when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstitions and darkness.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Unnoticed victims

From DiscoBlog

First the people in the towers died. Then the rescue workers. Now first responders are succumbing to a 9/11 illness. The next victims: tens of thousands of ordinary citizens who worked and lived in Lower Manhattan—all of whom were told that the air was safe.

While the people who died in the towers and the first responders have gotten much attention from the nation and the press—witness the lead feature from 60 Minutes last night on first responders—the ordinary citizens have gone relatively unnoticed.

So Discover has released a package that focuses directly on this final group of 9/11 victims. The first part is a feature story on how the federal and city governments did not live up to their responsibility to protect the people in Lower Manhattan from air pollution. The second is an interview with Philip Landrigan, the doctor in charge of monitoring the far-reaching health effects of 9/11 on people in New York.

Paul Krugman blogs

Starting today, the New York Times has freed its op-ed columnists from the pay wall and has also made its archives available on-line.

And Paul Krugman now has a blog - The Conscience of a Liberal.

“I was born in 1953. Like the rest of my generation, I took the America I grew up in for granted – in fact, like many in my generation I railed against the very real injustices of our society, marched against the bombing of Cambodia, went door to door for liberal candidates. It’s only in retrospect that the political and economic environment of my youth stands revealed as a paradise lost, an exceptional episode in our nation’s history.”

That’s the opening paragraph of my new book, The Conscience of a Liberal. It’s a book about what has happened to the America I grew up in and why, a story that I argue revolves around the politics and economics of inequality.

I’ve given this New York Times blog the same name, because the politics and economics of inequality will, I expect, be central to many of the blog posts – although I also expect to be posting on a lot of other issues, from health care to high-speed Internet access, from productivity to poll analysis. Many of the posts will be supplements to my regular columns; I’ll be using this space to present the kind of information I can’t provide on the printed page – especially charts and tables, which are crucial to the way I think about most of the issues I write about.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Quote of the day

"I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions … But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the same coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson, letter to Samuel Kercheval, July 12, 1810 (h/t Poliblog)

"Inclusive"

From Culture Warrior by Bill O'Reilly

Then there is CNN's phrasing: " the more secular and inclusive 'happy holidays.'" They got the secular part right (they're experts in that field), but to say that "happy holidays" is more "inclusive" is fallacious in the extreme. Polls show that 95% of Americans celebrate Christmas and 84 percent describe themselves as Christians, according to a study by U.S. News & World Report. So anything that is specific to that enormous group, like the words "Merry Christmas," would certainly be "inclusive," would it not?

If CNN had a clue, it might be dangerous.
I was puzzled by O'Reilly's reasoning here. Something about it just didn't seem right. So I attempted to picture a reductio ad absurdum situation:

Most Americans are white, therefore white only public schools would be "inclusive" and asserting that public school for all students regardless of skin color is more inclusive would be fallacious in the extreme.

At first I thought that I had discovered a flaw in O'Reilly's logic, but then I remembered another rule of O'Reilly reasoning - he has a larger audience than me, so he must be right and I must be wrong.

Back to the bottom, Sisyphus

Preserving secular democracy seems to be something of an uphill battle.

Sixty-five percent of Americans believe that the nation's founders intended the U.S. to be a Christian nation and 55% believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation, according to the “State of the First Amendment 2007” national survey released today by the First Amendment Center.
Also:

58% of respondents support teacher-led prayers and 43% favor school holiday programs that are entirely Christian. Moreover, 50% would allow schools to teach the Bible as a factual text in a history class.
Well, Bill O'Reilly can take some satisfaction in that "T-Warriors" like the Christian Coalition and Focus on the Family have been able to take advantage of public ignorance about the first amendment to revise the history of this nation in order to lay the ideological groundwork for the death of secular democracy. O'Reilly himself claims in Culture Warrior that the nation was founded on Judeo-Christian philosophy.

In addition, 1/3 of those polled believe the press has too much freedom and 28% believe that majority religious faiths should be able to decide that particular "fringe" religions do not get first amendment freedom of worhip protections.

Charles Haynes wrote a companion column worth reading.

Despite the fact that all of the above are unconstitutional under current law, many people see nothing wrong — and much right — with school officials privileging or even endorsing the Christian faith.

Transpose the location (or substitute another religion) and the result would surely be very different. Would Americans support the creation of an Iraqi state where the majority Shiites imposed their prayers, religious celebrations, and scriptures on all Iraqi schoolchildren? Not likely.

On the contrary, we send young Americans to fight for an Iraq where people of all faiths will be protected from state-imposed religion. Why? Because we understand that (however quixotic the quest) only a secular democracy in Iraq with no established faith will guarantee religious freedom — and end sectarian strife.

Closer to home, however, many Americans seem to think our Framers had another idea.

When I think environmental protection, I think Exxon

Well, no, I don't think Exxon. Which is why I would describe my initial emotion upon reading this as "irate."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allowed an ExxonMobil employee "to peer review the science behind the agency's proposal to deregulate incineration of some industrial by-products," reports Integrity in Science, a project of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The peer review was overseen by an EPA contractor, Syracuse Research Corporation (SRC). The ExxonMobil employee, Thomas Parkerton, told SRC that his "current employer (and the chemical industry in general) would benefit from" the proposed rule, yet he was allowed to review it, in an apparent breach of EPA guidelines. The rule would allow more than 107,000 tons of hazardous waste burned annually in specially-designed incinerators to instead be disposed of in industrial boilers or municipal incinerators. Consumer and environmental groups decried the "undue agency tolerance of conflicts of interest in its rulemaking process," and urged the EPA to "re-review the science and, if necessary, rewrite the proposed rule."

Bill O'Reilly doesn't do personal attacks and hates smear merchants

Ok, I am going to at some point this week post my review of Greenwald's latest book and the latest edition of 'Neal Boortz is a moron', but after last night's insanity from O'Reilly I'm going to spend the next several posts on his particular brand of idiocy.

"I think these are fascist people. I think they're Nazis."

That's what O'Reilly had to say about Jane Hamsher criticizing Elizabeth Edwards for not defending the MoveOn ad about General Petraeus. Here's Hamsher's post and here's what she said about Edwards

Bravo. Hillary seizes the opportunity to pivot and attack — forcing Rudy into embracing George Bush and his horribly unpopular war. She sticks the landing.

Elizabeth Edwards? Not so much. You would think that she of all people should know about the asymmetrical intimidation problem that Paul Krugman talks about — the one where the media is afraid to go after Rudy Guiliani for claiming he’s a rescue worker, but they’ll try to demolish John Edwards over a haircut because they know that they’ll get hammered by the right wing noise machine for the former and pay no price for the latter.

But I guess not, because she decided instead to join with such leading moral barometers as Diaper Dave Vitter and John “McCarthy” McCain to attack MoveOn. So did John Kerry, whom one would expect to know better by this point in time. Granted, we really don’t expect much better from Joe Biden — somehow he continues to find the obvious quite elusive. So I guess we have to say it once again until everyone gets it — you never repeat right wing talking points to attack your own, ever. You never enter that echo chamber as a participant. Ever. You never give them a cudgel to beat the left with.
As you can see, there is nothing there that is remotely fascist or Nazi or extreme. It's Hamsher offering a rational criticism of Edwards (and others) for helping to disseminate echo chamber talking points. One need not agree with her, but there is nothing remotely approaching hate speech in that post.

But on the other hand, demonizing someone you disagree with as a Nazi can fairly be described as character defamation and it would also be fair to describe it as a "personal attack" and the person making the attack as a "smear merchant."

You know, the things that O'Reilly claims he doesn't stand for.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wrong again about global warming

When we last checked in with Steve McIntyre, he had used trivial adjustments in Nasa's US temperature record to kick off a storm of global warming denialism, with such genius figures as Neal Boortz and Rush Limbaugh taking the lead.

Boortz and Limbaugh have another favored bit of denialism that they like to cite from McIntyre and fellow warming skeptic Anthony Watts - that temperature records are unreliable because numerous temperature stations are placed in locations where the temperature is artificially raised by urban heat effects. Watts runs the SurfaceStations.org website that photographs such locations.

You'll be surprised to know that once again they've managed to use specious reasoning to invent a reason to not believe in global warming.

But here's the fun part. Via Tim Lambert, we see that McIntyre and Watts have been graphing the temperature data of the "good" surface stations they've identified versus the "bad" ones.

The results are picured left: the red line represents the "good" data and the light green line the "bad" data. As you can see, the trends are virtually identical, which should come as no surprise given that it had already been demonstrated that the two stations pictured on SurfaceStation.org's front page as examples of good and bad stations yield virtually identical warming trends.

Quote of the day

"About the gods I have no means of knowing either that they exist or that they do not exist or what they are to look at. Many things prevent my knowing. Among others, the fact that they are never seen and the shortness of human life." - Protagoras (490 - 420 BCE), Essay on the Gods

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Another far left communist S-P attacks President Bush

The New York Times reports that former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan is extremely critical of President Bush's fiscal policy in his new book but finds Bill Clinton to have been the most praiseworthy president he has worked with.

Greenspan is obviously blinded by his Marxist leanings otherwise he would recognize how superior Bush's economic policy is to Clinton's. No word yet on whether or not Greenspan received an advance from S-P international financier George Soros for this far left smear job of a book.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Latest global warming denial absurdity

Fred Singer and Dennis Avery believe that sunny Medieval paintings are evidence against global warming (because the current warming is part of a natural cycle.)

For a previous rebuttal of this dynamic duo's "debunking", see this RealClimate entry.

And in other news, the Arctic may be ice free in the summer by 2040. Which means the days are also numbered for the polar bear.

Deceptive or delusional, or both?

First, I'd like to note that two of the seven soldiers who three weeks ago had an op-ed featured in the New York Times saying that they did not see the progress in Iraq that is being touted by the administration have died in a vehicle accident.

Meanwhile, Fred Kaplan finds President Bush's Iraq speech to have been attrocious.

President Bush's TV address tonight was the worst speech he's ever given on the war in Iraq, and that's saying a lot. Every premise, every proposal, nearly every substantive point was sheer fiction. The only question is whether he was being deceptive or delusional.
My vote is with both - he's deceptive and delusional. I would guess he believes he can be deceptive in the service of a greater truth (that we're going to prevail in Iraq, his "gut" tells him so.)

And I have to say, I am getting pretty damn tired of seeing White House front group Freedoms Watch's commercial where wounded Iraq vets say that we can't withdraw troops from Iraq because "they" (as in al Qaeda and Iraq) attacked us on 9/11.

Al Qaeda, the branch that is now holed up in Pakistan and which is distinct from the Iraq franchise that formed after the United States invaded in March of 2003, is who attacked us on September 11, 2001 - not Iraq. Have the propagandists no shame whatsoever? Is truth of so low regard to these folks that they are willing to sacrifice it on the alter of George W. Bush.

Update: The Center for Media and Democracy's John Stauber has more on the White House p.r. campaign to link 9/11 and Iraq.

Update II: The excerpt from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart featured in the interview with Stauber linked above demonstrates quite succinctly how transparent is General Petraeus's shilling for the White House.

JON STEWART: The general raises a key point. We keep hearing from President Bush how the surge is meeting its military objectives, but we need more time. Well, yesterday, the good general was whistling a different tune.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: The military objectives of the surge are, in large measure, being met. It will take time.

JON STEWART: My god! The President’s been right the whole time! Even down to the details.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: US Marines and Special Operation forces have been striking terrible blows against al-Qaeda.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Coalition and Iraqi forces have dealt significant blows to al-Qaeda.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Anbar province was al-Qaeda's base in Iraq and was written off by many as lost.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: A year ago the province was assessed as lost.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The consequences of withdrawal would be disastrous.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: A premature drawdown of our forces would likely have devastating consequences.

JON STEWART: Wow! I bet they’re friends on MySpace.

Real hate speech

Via Ed Brayton, we see that the domestic terrorist organization Army of God sent an intimidation letter to a Michigan gay rights activist this September 11 commanding him to renounce his "filthy Satanic lifestyle." The letter seems to imply that the group is also anti-Semitic with potential neo-Nazi leanings.

Since the letter was sent on 9/11, I'm assuming the Army of God meant for that date to suggest to the letter's recipient an implied threat of an upcoming attack on himself, which is further intimated by the quoting of a passage from Leviticus (perhaps the most barbaric section of the Old Testament) calling for the execution of homosexuals.

Could someone please foward this letter to the Catholic League's Bill Donohue so that he can get an idea of what the difference between hate speech and Kathy Griffin's "suck it, Jesus" remark is. Maybe, O'Reilly should have a copy sent his way, too, since he thinks there is "no difference" between Nazi hate speech and the content of Daily Kos.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Review(s) of the day

I meant to link to this sometime ago, Reason magazine's Cathy Young reviewing Bill O'Reilly's Culture Warrior. The whole thing is excellent, but I'm just going to quote the concluding paragraph in which Young recognizes O'Reilly's attempt to categorize millions of his fellow Americans as something less than American.

The O’Reilly Factor always ends with a segment called “The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day.” These days, the most ridiculous item of the day may be O’Reilly himself. But his culture warmongering is no laughing matter. O’Reilly does, at the moment, have considerable influence—and he uses it to whip up hatred of secularists, people with liberal social values, war critics, and others who don’t fit his concept of a good American.
Not incidentally, I currently have a library copy of Culture Warrior and am reading it now (I'd previously only skimmed portions) and will be offering some further commentary in upcoming days.

The second review is The Infinite Sphere on Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future. I hadn't even heard of the book until I saw Jennifer's review, but then noticed a copy in my library the other day and will probably read it myself, eventually.

BREAKING NEWS: Jesus responds to Kathy Griffin

Reached for comment on Kathy Griffin stating in her Emmy acceptance speech:

A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. Suck it, Jesus, this award is my god now!
Jesus responded, "Yeah, um. I'm okay with it. In fact, I actually didn't have anything to do with that Emmy ... I was busy. Plus, she's going to Hell anyway. So the joke is on her. Ha ha. I'm just kidding - GOTCHA Kathy!"

Asked what he thought about Catholic League's Bill Donohue saying that Griffin's remarks are hate-speech worse than racism and him getting her remarks censored from broadcast, Jesus answered, "Bill Donohue is an humorless asshole. He doesn't speak for me."

"We're Americans"

This afternoon Rush Limbaugh stated that "we" can win the war on terrorism because "we're Americans." And by "we" he meant movement conservatives who support the war in Iraq unconditionally. Everyone else aren't Americans, apparently.

Also, the "war" has two fronts. One is The Terrorists (the external enemy) and the second is Democrats who are the internal enemy that is at war with America. Both must be defeated, but "we" will triumph because "we're Americans."

Um, can anyone think of any historical examples of where we've heard this sort of rhetoric before?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Scrubs moment of the day



Turk gets the lead singer spot in The Janitor's air band.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Better candidates, please.

Reading David Corn's blog the other day it came to my attention that presidential aspirant Fred Thompson believes (like Neal Boortz) that the science of anthropogenic global warming is bunk because there aren't any SUVs on Mars or Pluto.

Call me an idealist, but I'd like to live in an America in which uttering such a monumentally stupid statement in regards to an issue that has potential ramifications for the future of human civilization would automatically disqualify in the minds of the American people that person from consideration for the position of president.

Ok, let's say for the sake of argument that it is warming on Mars and Pluto. What does that say about the rise in temperature on planet Earth? Well ... nothing, and here's why:

First, it just so happens that the world's climate scientists happened to consider the possibility that climate change might be related to some kind of solar activity and they found that any such explanation could not account for the observed temperature change. It's somewhat incredible that it apparently did not enter Thompson's mind that the world's scientific community might be a step ahead of him on this front.

Secondly, Mars and Pluto happen to not have Earth's atmosphere and to occupy different location in the solar system than Earth. It just might be the case that temperature rises or decreases on those planets have totally different causes than temperature rises or decreases on this planet.

If you'd like to see this phrased another way, then see Gristmill's take:

Objection: Global warming is happening on Mars and Pluto as well. Since there are no SUVs on Mars, CO2 can't be causing global warming.

Answer: Warming on another planet would be an interesting coincidence, but it would not necessarily be driven by the same causes.

The only relevant factor the earth and Mars share is the sun, so if the warming were real and related, that would be the logical place to look. As it happens, the sun is being watched and measured carefully back here on earth, and it is not the primary cause of current climate change.
As Gristmill indicates, Thompson is wrong, regardless, given that Pluto and Mars are warming and this debunks global warming is one of the standard myths about climate change.

There have been claims that warming on Mars and Pluto are proof that the recent warming on Earth is caused by an increase in solar activity, and not by greenhouses gases. But we can say with certainty that, even if Mars, Pluto or any other planets have warmed in recent years, it is not due to changes in solar activity.

The Sun's energy output has not increased since direct measurements began in 1978 (see Climate myth special: Global warming is down to the Sun, not humans). If increased solar output really was responsible, we should be seeing warming on all the planets and their moons, not just Mars and Pluto.
Gristmill also has more information about how we know solar activity is not responsible for global warming, here, and there again rephrases for us how ridiculous it is for Thompson to assume that climate scientists did not factor the sun into their research.

What is saddest to me -- besides the possibility he might actually become president -- is the ease with which this otherwise intelligent man believes the entire scientific community somehow failed to examine the contribution of the sun to recent global warming.
I think what is saddest to me is that Thompson uses the example of Galileo - a scientist who advocated science that wasn't accepted by the forces of dogmatism - to defend his own dogmatic rejection of science advocated by scientists.

Really, it requires but rudimentary thinking skills to realize that the assertion that "its warming on Mars" is not a refutation of anthropogenic climate change. And I'm of the opinion that someone who lacks that rudimentary skill (or fails to employ it) isn't fit to be President of the United States of America. George W. Bush proves that.

In a sane world, wouldn't this be in all the newspapers and news programs as a huge gaffe from presidential candidate Thompson? In a sane world, perhaps. In America, not so much. After all, by this nation's press standards, making a blatantly dumb remark about a topic that may impact the future of humanity isn't nearly as bad as Gore fairly accurately describing his role in the development of a technology that revolutionalized human civilization.

Speaking of Gore, I think my favorite response that I've heard to global warming denialism like Thompson's is Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R - Maryland) saying in regard to some of his colleagues' questioning of Al Gore on this issue: "It's possible to be a conservative without appearing to be an idiot." (h/t Daily Howler)

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Democracy Papers

The Seattle Times began yesterday an editorial series entitled "The Democracy Papers" which will focus on how media consolidation is a danger to democracy as it inhibits the press from fulfilling its democratic role of providing the information citizens need to be free and self-governing.

Editor James Vesely explained

In the coming weeks, we will test [the] theory, that a free press is waning in America and with it the strength of our democracy. Writers on media consolidation, the music industry, the role of the press as unofficial signatory to democratic government, and the future of broadcast and print will be examined in editorials and guest essays.

Monday's opinion pages will continue the examination of the role of the FCC with an editorial about the commission's failures, and an essay by Edwin C. Baker, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "Media Concentration: Why Ownership Matters."

The Seattle Times' editorial pages will have reports on how democracy fares with or without a free press in Uganda, China and Russia. We will examine how journalism is taught at the college level and look back at the scoops and blunders of Northwest journalism in the years of Seattle's booms and busts.

Finally, the series will examine open government in our state. A new oversight committee is supposed to do just that — yet the editors of broadcast and print news all over Washington understand government's innate and almost unconscious resolve to protect itself from critical news stories.

The press's mutual dependence on government, big-league sports, business interests and organized labor for news and information has been disrupted — often for the good — by the individual journalist, a blogger with a keypad. We will profile some of them and try to understand their frustrations and anger with America's press.

It's a big swoop and it will take us several months to try to tell this story and shape some opinions about it. But it begins now.

1/3 of Americans living in Never-Never Land

From The Center for Media and Democracy

An important New York Times/CBS News survey finds that six year after the terror attacks of 9/11, "33 percent of all Americans, including 40 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Democrats, say Saddam Hussein was personally involved." In reality, of course, Saddam and Iraq had absolutely no connection to the terror attacks. 1/3 of Americans believe the Big Lie propaganda tactics employed by the pro-war lobby. Only 5 percent of Americans "most trusted the Bush administration to resolve the war, the poll found. Asked to choose among the administration, Congress and military commanders, 21 percent said they would most trust Congress and 68 percent expressed most trust in military commanders. That is almost certainly why the White House has presented General Petraeus and Mr. Crocker as unbiased professionals, not Bush partisans."
General Petraeus. Now there's someone we can trust when it comes to Iraq. Just look at this amazingly accurate prediction from him from before the 2004 election:

Now, however, 18 months after entering Iraq, I see tangible progress. Iraqi security elements are being rebuilt from the ground up. . . .

Iraq's security forces are, however, developing steadily and they are in the fight. Momentum has gathered in recent months. With strong Iraqi leaders out front and with continued coalition -- and now NATO -- support, this trend will continue.
"This trend will continue."

Only in this bizarro version of America could the same man who proclaimed those words now be issuing another rosy testimony to Congress three years later and we're expected to be take him seriously as anything other than a mouthpiece for the White House.

Glenn Greenwald has more on General Petraues's history of saying that things in Iraq are going swell.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Self-indulgent Sunday

I just noticed that my post on Melanie Morgan wanting John Soltz "stomped on and neutralized" got a mention in the Aug. 26 edition of Zay N. Smith's Quick Takes column at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Supporting our troops

The Daily Doubter at www.daily doubt.blogspot.com notes that radio talk host Melanie Morgan (visualize a female Rush Limbaugh -- no, wait, on second thought, try not to do that) has announced that John Stolz of votevets .org should be "stomped on and neutralized."

Still looking for that one in Psalms . . .

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Our Endangered Country

Back in the old days, most of the people who talked about the “Judeo-Christian tradition” were nice, high-minded” clerics from the mainstream Protestant denominations who wanted to include Jews in on things like Brotherhood Week. The sentiments may have been a bit treacly, but the underlying purpose – to make people less inclined to hate each other on the basis of religious affiliation – was praiseworthy. The underlying purpose o fthe new crowd seems altogether different. Being inclusive is not wht they have in mind. On the contrary. It looks to me like what they want to do is to slice off those of their fellow citizens who don’t meet their standards for admission to the “Judeo-Christian tradition” – e.g., those who have an “aversion to religion,” by which they presumably mean an aversion to organized religion and/or religious dogma – and then to read these citizens out of American society. As a Judeo-Christian who has an aversion to religion, and who is an American as good or better than any mousse-haired, Bible-touting, apartheid-promoting evangelist on any UHF television station you can name, I must protest.

...

I think I know who these people … are talking about when they talk about the Judeo-Christian tradition. By Judeo-Christian, I suspect, they mean Christian. By Christian, they mean Protestant. By Protestant, they mean evangelical. (And by evangelical, I’ll bet, they mean anti-abortion, pro-school prayer, anti-gay rights, pro-Star Wars, extreme right-wing Reaganite Republican.)

---- Hendrik Hertzberg, “Antidisestablishmentarianism”, Washington Diarist, The New Republic, September 16, 1985

The other day I mentioned that Glenn Greenwald is working on a new book. The subject is about how conservative movement propagandists like Rush Limbaugh and Hugh Hewitt and the rest propagate the myth that "conservatives" are by definition masculine and "liberals" by definition, aren't. A theme that is just as prevalent for the folks in the Rush-Drudge-Hannity axis is that "liberals" are socialist communist atheist anti-Christian America haters. Our good friend Mr. O'Reilly is one of the chief purveyors of this notion, with the exception that he likes to use his own label (i.e. he hates not liberals, but "secular-progressives".)

Time and time again, though, I see O'Reilly characterize positions that are held by numerous and prominent Christians as "s-p" stances. If it wasn't so irritating it would be comical. Hell, who am I kidding? It is comical watching O'Reilly try to explain to his audience how the Pope taking a position that he had previously designated as an s-p position doesn't deligitimize his stereotyping.

But the branding that is going on within the conservative movement isn't funny. A political faction defining what is to be an American in such an exclusionary manner is antithetical to the pluralistic origins of the country

In my review (really, it was more of a survey) of The Assault on Reason I quoted Gore saying that we're having a political faction turn into a political religion that seeks absolute power and seems to see itself as being in the early stages of an ideological civil war. Another way of putting it might be that these ideologues are seeking to enforce an orthodoxy of opinion. And the sort of orthodoxy the conservative movement seeks to create and enforce is an "American" orthodoxy.

As in the Hertzberg quote above, they seek to define "American" as being a Republican Christian nationalist or someone, at least, willing to compromise and make common cause with the religious right. I sometimes wonder if Barry Goldwater were alive today if he wouldn't have people calling him a left leaning conservative.

We're already witnessing this movement start to purge its ranks of dissent. Repeatedly, individuals become "liberal" or "left" the moment they break ranks. Over and over again we here them calling some Republican a RINO (aka Republican In Name Only.) Christine Todd Whitman wrote in It's My Party, Too that the Republican Party is under attack from social fundamenalist zealots who are driving out members such as herself.

What these folks are saying is that anyone who doesn't share their politics is un-Republican, un-Christian, and furthermore, un-American. This is an insult not only to a humanist atheist such as myself, but to millions of other Americans who have a right to think for themselves without becoming some kind of de facto second class citizen. This includes secular Republicans/conservatives, libertarians, and liberal Christians who think that you can disagree with Rush Limbaugh or James Dobson and still consider yourself an American.

One reason that I posted the Gore review first was that it introduces the topic of the art of mass persuasion and the replacement of the marketplace of ideas in an open forum with a marketplace of commecials on the one-way street of television. As Media Matters documented in its Left Behind report, the portrayal in the media of this Republican Christian nationalist movement as if it is the face of religion in America serves as an excellent example of the process Gore sees in action.

Religion is often depicted in the news media as a politically divisive force, with two sides roughly paralleling the broader political divide: On one side are cultural conservatives who ground their political values in religious beliefs; and on the other side are secular liberals, who have opted out of debates that center on religion-based values. The truth, however is far different: close to 90 percent of Americans today self-identify as religious, while only 22 percent belong to traditionalist sects. Yet in the cultural war depicted by news media as existing across religious lines, centrist and progressive voices are marginalized or absent altogether.

...

Despite the fact most religious Americans are moderate or progressive, in the news media it is overwhelmingly conservative leaders who are presented as the voice of religion. This represents a particularly meaningful distortion since progressive religious leaders tend to focus on different issues and offer an entirely different perspective than their conservative counterparts.

But I'm not sure there is a greater living example of the intellectual poverty of the propaganda campaign to equate "traditional" American with "conservative Christian nationalist Republican" than Jimmy Carter.

I read Carter's Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis and agreed with almost everything in it. How so? I'm an atheist and he's a born again evangelical Christian. In O'Reilly world, doesn't that make me an "s-p" and Carter a "traditional" American who should be at odds? For O'Reilly's view to hold, then Carter has to be a "secular-progressive," too.

So let me tell you about this "s-p."

He has a PhD in nuclear engineering. He spent ten years serving in the navy, that’s longer active duty than any president (with the exception of Eisenhower) since the Civil War era presidents. His son Jack voluntarily left college to serve in Vietnam. Carter is likely the most devout president we’ve ever had and the first born again evangelical Baptist Christian to hold the office of President. Since leaving office he’s started the Carter Center. Habitat for humanity. He works to monitor elections around the world for fraud. They go to Africa to teach people how to grow food and fight disease. He has negotiated several peace deals and won the Nobel Peace Prize.
He teaches at Emory University still and teaches Sunday school 30 – 40 times a year.

Echoing the sentiment expressed by Gore in The Assault on Reason (but perhaps differing with Gore on the extent to which Americans realize the transforming of America) Carter begins

Americans cherish the greatness of our homeland, but many do not realize how extensive and profound are the transformations that are now taking place in our nation's basic moral values, public discourse, and political philosophy.
Unlike the above exclusionists, Carter seeks to defend the traditions that he considers our share values. Carter warns that those very values are now in peril.

Our people have been justifiably proud to see America’s power and influence used to preserve peace for ourselves and others, to promote economic and social justice, to raise high the banner of freedom and human rights, to protect the quality of our environment, to alleviate human suffering, to enhance the rule of law, and to cooperate with other peoples to reach these common goals.

With the most diverse and innovative population on earth, we have learned the value of providing our citizens with accurate information, treating dissenting voices and beliefs with respect, and accommodating free and open debate on controversial issues. Most of our political leaders have extolled state and local autonomy, attempted to control deficit spending, avoided foreign adventurism, minimized long-term peacekeeping commitments, preserved the separation of church and state, and protected civil liberties and personal privacy.

All these historic commitments are now being challenged.
Carter identifies several factors that have threatened "these historic commitments": the reaction to 9/11, “massive sums of money being injected into the political process”, and – what he calls the most important factor – “fundamentalists have become increasingly influential in both religion and government, and have managed to change the nuances and subtleties of historic debate into black-and-white rigidities and the personal derogation of those who dare to disagree.” Carter believes that the union of religious and political conservatives has empowered neoconservatives to implement their political philosophy on the country.

The GOP has adopted as a "rigid agenda" the theological views of the religious right. Out of control lobbying has turned:

American belief in free enterprise into the right of extremely rich citizens to accumulate and retain more and more wealth and pass of it on to descendents. Profits from stock trading and income from dividends are being given privileged tax status compared to wages earned by schoolteachers and firemen.
Almost every issue is now decided on a strictly partisan basis and any public debate of issues is virtually non-existent. Decisions are made behind closed doors between legislators and lobbyists.

One of the areas of partisanship that troubles Carter greatly is the split between Democrats and Republicans on how to resolve international dispute.

Among Republicans, the percentage endorsing diplomacy in preference to military actions is minimal, while Democrats take the opposite point of view. In the approach to combating terrorism, two-thirds of Republicans believe that use of overwhelming force is best, while an even larger proportion of Democrats think that, although our armed forces should be used when our nation’s security is threatened, excessive use of military action tends to increase animosity against our country and breed more terrorists. This sharp and growing difference over the issue of whether international disputes can be better resolved by diplomacy or by military action is now the most accurate predictor of party affiliation – more important than gay marriage, homosexuality, or abortion.
After pointing out several issues where Americans generally agree, Carter notes, “the intensity of feeling about controversial issues is often much more important than the numerical divisions. This is especially apparent when the subject of debate is abortion or gun control, where the opinion of a persistant majority of Americans has had little effect in the political world.”

In the case of handguns, Carter asserts that 4 out of 5 Americans prefer modest restrainst on guns, and that under presidents Reagan, Bush 41, and Clinton legislation was passed prohibiting the manufacture, transfer, and possession of 19 specific semiautomatic assault weapons.

[N]one of these are used for hunting – only for killing other humans. More than eleven hundred police chiefs and sheriffs from around the nation called on Congress and President Bush to renew and strengthen the federal assault weapons ban in 2004, but with a wink from the White House, the gun lobby prevailed and the ban expired.
Carter is no anti-gun zealot. He owns a handgun, four shotguns, and two rifles and uses them to hunt, while some of his friends collect rare guns. These are rights that they all enjoy and cherish. But the NRA, heavily influenced by its primary client, the firearms industry, has created the impression with the public that any regulation of guns means that weapons are going to be taken away and homeowners will not be able to protect themselves. Carter feels that the gun lobby is opposed to reasonable regulatory measures that will save lives.

The gun lobby also protects the ability of criminals and gang members to use ammunition that can penetrate protective clothing worn by police officers on duty, and assures that a known or suspected terrorist is not barred from buying or owning a firearm – including an assault weapon.
What's more, the NRA has also opposed regulations that would help to prevent arms from being sold to terrorists.

Deeply concerned when thirty-five out of forty-four men on the terrorist watch list were able to buy guns during a recent five-month period, the director of the FBI began to reexamine the existing law and asked some U.S. senators to consider amendments. The response from top officials in the NRA was to criticize the watch lists – not the terrorists – and to announce support for legislation that protects gun manufacturers and dealers from liability if a buyer uses an AK-47 in a terrorist attack.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American children are 16 times more likely than children in other industrialized nations to be murdered with a gun, 11 times more likely to commit suicide with a gun, and 9 times more likely to die from firearms accidents. Furthermore,
The John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research reports that the rate of firearm homicide in the United States in nineteen times higher than that of 35 other high-income countries combined. In the most recent year for which data are available, handguns killed 334 people in Australia, 197 in Great Britain, 183 in Sweden, 83 in Japan, 54 in Ireland, 1,034 in Canada, and 30,419 in the United States. The National Rifle Association, the firearms industry, and compliant politicians should reassess their policies concerning safety and accountability.

Carter also sees, however, areas where public opinion seems to be slowly effecting positive change, as in the case of growing approval of homosexuality and in opposition to the death penalty, noting that in a nationwide poll only 1% of police chiefs thought expanding death penalty would reduce crime.

Shifting gears, Carter moves on to explain his own religious background - and this is the section of the book best highlights that O'Reilly's "s-p" versus "traditional" Christian Americans memes is complete rubbish, as it is laughable for anyone to consider that O'Reilly is more of or somehow a better traditional Christian. Carter is a Southern Baptist who has gone to weekly Bible lessons his whole life; first as a student, then as a teacher.

"We received the Holy Scripture in its entirety as the revealed will of God, agreeing that the words and actions of Jesus Christ are the criteria by which the Holy Bible is to be interpreted.”

So far sounds pretty much like the fundamentalists that O'Reilly and the conservative movement tend to view as "traditional" Americas, but here is a key and essential difference.

“Although, often helpful, human interpretations of the Scriptures were not to be regarded as infallible or as official creeds or instruments of doctrinal accountability.”

Which allows for doubt and error, and thus tolerance of diversity and heterodoxy.

His church was expressly anti-authoritarian, stressing that Jesus did not give himself or his disciples authority over other people, but instead urged them to go out and spread the word of truth and love and alleviate suffering. As an evangelical he/they believed in a global commitment to spread this Christian faith. They believed strongly in church/state separation, studying the history of Christian martyrs who had died to prevent secular leaders from encroaching on religious freedom. They also believed in religious freedom, compassion for unbelievers and respect for all people as equal before God. Carter's church spent at least 1 Sunday each year protecting the environment, believing dominion over Earth was an assignment of good environmental stewardship.

Carter believes in getting along in harmony with different sects, which he contrasts with a fellow whom just so happens to be one of O'Reilly's "traditionals":

“You say you’re supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that and the other thing. Nonsense. I don’t have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist.” (Pat Robertson, The 700 Club)

As governor of Georgia, Carter served as deacon at Northside Baptist Church, teaching a few times each year but not publicizing his appearances in advance so as it would be regular members in attendance. Since becoming an ex-president, he has served as a professor at Emory University for 25 years, sometimes lecturing in the Theology Deptartment. He currently teaches Bible class between 35-40 times each year at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia to adult members and visitors.

In his 2002 Nobel speech Carter made a remark about it being a troubled time for those live by a faith of kindness to others. Asked by Christianity Today to explain what he meant, Carter offered the following response which seems to indicate that he too is aware of the dangers of dogmatism being coupled with eliminationist rhetoric:

There is a remarkable trend towards fundamentalism in all religions – including different denominations of Christianity as well as Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam. Increasingly, true believers are inclined to begin a process of deciding: ‘Since I am aligned with God, I am superior and my beliefs should prevail, and anyone who disagrees with me is inherently wrong.’ And the next step is ‘inherently inferior.’ The ultimate step is ‘subhuman,’ and then their lives are not significant.
A few weeks before the hostages were seized in Iran in 1979, the newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention visited Carter in the Oval Office. “We are praying, Mr. President, that you will abandon secular humanism as your religion.” Carter had no idea what he meant, but it was a portent of what was to come, as this was the first sign of the rise of the modern fundamentalist movement. The new president was essentially doing the same thing that O'Reilly does. O'Reilly's stereotyping of "S-P"s is a way of categorizing millions of Americans as something inherently inferior to his so-called "traditional" Americans.

Carter found out that a small conservative Southern Baptist group had gotten enough political support to elect the new president of the SBC. What Carter had run up against was the newly formed Moral Majority and other nascent fundamentalist/dominionist/Christian nationalist groups.

With an aquaintance familiar with the movement, Carter attempted to figure out what he had done which had branded him as an infidel

Some of the things we considered were that I had appointed many women to high positions in government, rejected using government funds for religious education, established an independent Department of Education to enhance public schools, accepted the Roe v. Wade abortion decision of the Supreme Court, worked with Mormons to resolve some of their problems in foreign countries, normalized diplomatic relations with the Communist government of China, called for a Palestinian homeland and refused to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and was negotiating with the Soviet Union on nuclear arms control and other issues.
Carter notes that his church leaders had for generations considered themselves “fundamentalist” in that they adhered to fundamental principles of Christianity, but that he learned of a more intense form with the following characteristics
  1. "Almost invariably, fundamentalist movements are led by authoritarian males who consider themselves to be superior to others and, within religious groups, have an overwhelming commitment to subjugate women and to dominate their fellow believers."

  2. "Although fundamentalists usually believe that the past is better than the present, they retain certain self-beneficial aspects of both their historic religious beliefs and of the modern world."

  3. "Fundamentalists draw clear distinctions between themselves, as true believers, and others, convinced that they are right and that anyone who contradicts them is ignorant and possibly evil."

  4. "Fundamentalists are militant in fighting against any challenge to their beliefs. They are often angry and sometimes resort to verbal or even physical abuse against those who interfere with the implementation of their agenda."

  5. "Fundamentalists tend to make their self-definition increasingly narrow and restricted, to isolate themselves, to demagogue emotional issues, and to view change, cooperation, negotiation, and other efforts to resolve differences as signs of weakness."
Carter states that 3 words describe fundamentalism: rigidity, domination, and exclusion.

After he relates the experience of how he witnessed fundamentalists take over his religious denomination, Carter notes that he has seen what might best be described as a parallel secular fundamentalism that has infused politics [Blogger's Note - Carter does not use the phrase "secular fundamentalism," but I'm using it as this will tie into a forthcoming post]:

During the last quarter century, there has been a parallel right-wing movement within American politics, often directly tied to the attributes of like-minded Christian groups. The revolutionary new political principles involve special favors for the powerful at the expense of others, abandonment of social justice, denigration of those who differ, failure to protect the environment, attempts to exclude those who refuse to conform, a tendency toward unilateral diplomatic action and away from international agreements, an excessive inclination toward conflict, and reliance on fear as a means of persuasion.
Carter feels he most closely identifies, now, with the National Association of Evangelicals.

Unlike the fundamentalists of the Moral Majority and such organizations, he sees no conflict between science and belief. The Bible is God’s spiritual message, “but the ancient authors of the Holy Scriptures were not experts on geology, biology, or cosmology, and were not blessed with the use of electron microscopes, carbon-dating techniques, or the Hubble telescope," and he Fully endorses the scientific method as a means of discovering truth about the universe, subscribing to Stephen Jay Gould’s non-overlapping magisterium dictum.

Overall, during last two decades, fundamentalists have rejected the charge of Jesus to “render to Ceasar the things that are Ceasar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” When the the governance of church and state become intertwined, this is bad not just for secular democracy, in Carter's view, but for religous freedom and human rights, as well. To make this point, he speaks of Liberation theology in Latin America, whose leaders Carter viewed as heroes fighting dictators. Yet those same leaders were opposed by Pope John Paul II who "condemned the human rights activists and supported the more orthodox church leaders, who were aligned with despotic and abusive regimes" in order to engender loyalty to the Vatican.

Today's fundamentalist and religioug right movement in America fully embraces the dissapearance of any boundary between the Church and the State.

‘There is no such thing [as church/state seperation] in the Constitution. It’s a lie of the left, and we’re not going to take it anymore” – Pat Robertson, who also wants to replace public education with religious academies.

But such views are not confined to extremist televangelists, witness former Chief Justice William Rehnquist saying, “The ‘wall of separation between church and state’ is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicity abandoned.”

In 2000, the Southern Baptist Convention which Carter formely was still a part of, dropped from their new creed, “The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion,” and have espoused vouchers and constitutional amendment to authorize mandatory prayer in school.

We are already seeing this agenda take root successfully, with President Bush's Faith Based Iniatives breaking the down the 1st amendment by allowing tax payer money to be used to discriminate and prosletyze.

Carter is also troubled by right-wing attacks on an indepedent judiciary. He cites a telecast group’s leader saying that activist judges pose "a greater threat to representative government” than “terrorist groups” and Dr. James Dobson calling the Supreme Court “unaccountable,” “out of control,” and “a despotic oligarchy” having waged a 40 year “campaign to limit religious liberty.”

Under the pretense of defending religious liberty, their true goal is to ensure the "liberty" to enforce social and political orthodoxy, as Carter points out that the judges who are being attack are themselves Christian AND Republican:

In fact, most of the judges who are targets of this well orchestrated religious attack are devout Christians. Ten of the thirteen federal appeals courts
actually have a majority of Republican appointees, as does the U.S. Supreme Court, which elected a president in 2000 with a five-to-four partisan ruling.
As further examples of zealoutry that is overtaking the GOP, Carter lists Sandra Day O’Connor upon retiring stating that, “The present climate is such that I worry about the future of the federal judiciary,” and Missouri Republican John Danforth in April 2005 in the New York Times sounding very much the same as Al Gore in saying that:

Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians. The elements of transformation .. are parts of a larger package, an agenda of positions common to Conservative Christians and the dominant wing of the Republican Party … The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement … As a Senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around.
Then, of course, is the most infamous example of fundamentalist attacks on secular America, the episode of the 700 Club when Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell blamed the 9/11 attacks on Americans who do not share their fundamentalist worldview.

Fundamentalists such as Robertson and Fallwell who believe that the 9/11 attacks were God punishing the United States for legalizing abortion fail to take into account that their beliefs have the practical consequence of being demonstrably anti-life, according to Carter, who himself is morally opposed to abortion and views it as a tragedy.

With economic prosperity and strong social services, American abortion rates reached a twenty-four year low during the 1990s, to a rate of only sixteen per thousand women of childbearing age. It has long been known that there are fewer abortions in nations where prospective mothers have access to contraceptives, the assurance that they and their babies will have good health care, and at least enough income to meet their basic needs.
Since Pulitzer prize winning historian Gary Wills has already covered this topic in his review and seeing as I'm incapable of doing a better job of summarizing, I will here defer to his review

Carter is opposed to abortion, as what he calls a tragedy "brought about by a combination of human errors." But the "pro-life" forces compound rather than reduce the errors. The most common abortions, and the most common reasons cited for undergoing them, are caused by economic pressure compounded by ignorance. Yet the anti-life movement that calls itself pro-life protects ignorance by opposing family planning, sex education, and informed use of contraceptives,tactics that not only increase the likelihood of abortion but tragedies like AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The rigid system of the "pro-life" movement makes poverty harsher as well, with low minimum wages, opposition to maternity leaves, and lack of health services and insurance. In combination,these policies make ideal conditions for promoting abortion, as one can see from the contrast with countries that do have sex education and medical insurance.

Carter writes:
Canadian and European young people are about equally active sexually, but,deprived of proper sex education, American girls are five times as likely to have a baby as French girls, seven times as likely to have an abortion, and seventy times as likely to have gonorrhea as girls in the Netherlands. Also, the incidence of HIV/ AIDS among American teenagers is five times that of the same age group in Germany.... It has long been known that there are fewer abortions in nations where prospective mothers have access to contraceptives, the assurance that they and their babies will have good health care, and at least enough income to meet their basic needs.
The result of a rigid fundamentalism combined with poverty and ignorance can be seen where the law forbids abortion:

In some predominantly Roman Catholic countries where all abortions are illegal and few social services are available, such as Peru, Brazil, Chile, and Colombia, the abortion rate is fifty per thousand. According to the World Health Organization,this is the highest ratio of unsafe abortions [in the world].
A New York Times article that came out after Carter's book appeared further confirms what he is saying: "Four million abortions, most of them illegal, take place in Latin America annually, the United Nations reports, and up to 5,000 women are believed to die each year from complications from abortions." This takes place in countries where churches and schools teach abstinence as the only form of contraception—demonstrating conclusively the ineffectiveness of that kind of program.

By contrast, in the United States, where abortion is legal and sex education is broader, the abortion rate reached a twenty-four-year low during the 1990s.
Ok, then. Back to my own review.

Carter also views the fundamentalist opposition to stem cell research as being unreasonable given that "about 2% of the estimated four hundred thousand frozen and unused embryos wind being given to other families who desire children, while the others are being destroyed."

The counter-productive social views of the religious right are effecting not just US citizens. For example, they oppose sexual education in favor of teaching encouraging abstinence only, and as a result Republicans and the White House have opposed sending money to organizations in Africa that have family planning services despite the AIDS pandemic on that continent.

Another disturbing facet of the "prolife" movement, in Carter's view, is the increasing focus on a system of retributional punishment, and especially in its support for the death penalty.

[O]ur nation’s almost total focus is now on punishment, not rehabilitation. This is a characteristic of fundamentalism: ‘I am right and worthy, but you are wrong and condemned.’ More than seven Americans out of a thousand are now imprisoned – most of them for nonviolent crimes. This is the highest incarceration rate in the world, exceeding Russia’s former record of six per thousand.
In addition, we are one of last countries in world to employ the death penalty, with 90% of known death penalities carried out by ourselves and the repressive regimes of China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. The USA and Somalia are the only two countries in the world which would not ratify the International Covenant on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits child executions.

This does not make sense, given that the death penalty doesn’t deter crime. States with the highest number of executions also have the hightest crime rate. What's more, the death penalty is inequitable and has led to the deaths of innocent citizens:

Perhaps the strongest argument against the death penalty is the extreme inequity in it employment: it is biased against the poor, the demented, and minorities, and designed or at least applied to protect white victims. It is not surprising that since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, 76 percent of those sentenced to death, even in the federal courts, have been members of minority groups. As a typical example, of the 99 murderers who were executed in 1999, for 127 homicides, 104 of the victims were white! It is almost inconceivable to imagine a rich white person going to the death chamber after being defended in court by expensive trial lawyers, especially if the victim was black or Hispanic.

Recently, with the advent of DNA testing, it has been found that many people on death row are actually not guilty. Illinois governor George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions when he learned that thirteen condemned inmates were innocent of capital crimes, and five of them were subsequently freed completely because of DNA tests. Since 1973, almost 120 inmates in American prisons who had been sentenced to death have been released from death row.
Christian fundamentalists beleive women should be subject to male dominance, but Carter counters that in the scriptures Jesus was a liberator of women and treated them as equals. This regressive fundamentlaism which seeks to roll back the rights of women makes it less likely that suffering women around world will get US help.

Carter sees the neoconservative vision of Pax Americana to be achieved by preemptive unilateral military force - as outlined by Dick Cheney's "Defense Strategies for the 1990s" - as itself being best described as itself a kind of fundamentalism and sees in this international lawlessness a parallel with the domestic attack on the judiciary and domestic lawlessness.

Again, these fundamentalist forces support policies that are not in the interests of the U.S.

[The] dependence of military force to expand America’s influence and other recent deviations from traditional values have dramatically reduced the attractiveness of our political, cultural, and religious offerings to the world. Although most Americans are convinced of the superiority of these attributes of our Western society, it has become increasingly obvious that a heavy-handed effort to impose them on other people can be counterproductive.

Carter is "convinced that our great nation could realize all reasonable dreams of global influence if we properly utilized the advantageous values of our religious faith and historic ideals of peace, economic and political freedom, democracy, and human rights.”

Yet our foreign policy is turning world opinion against us and such actions as the embargo on Cuba is counterproductive, as it helps to create the myth of Castro as David fighting an American goliath and causes economic suffering of Cubans. This does not mean - as Carter's detractors in the noise machine assert - that he supports Fidel Castro. Carter visited Cuba in 2002, only on the guarantee of Castro that he could speak directly to the people, telling them their political freedom and rights were being violated, and encouraged the Varela Project.

Another example that Carter believes is working against us is the US trying to force nations to grant blanket immunity to America from the International Criminal Court for genocidal crimes committed by military personel, contractors, and tourists. Twelve Latin American countries were actually deprived of military and other aid as a means of strong-arming them into agreeing.

North Korea was branded part of a"axis of evil." Yet, "so far, a fundamentalist policy of not negotiating with those who disagree with us has backfired in North Korea …” and in Iran. Then there is the disturbing Left Behind political faction that wants to do their part to bring about the Rapture by fomenting apocalyptic war in the Middle East.

Under the fundamentalist administration of President Bush, we have seen the U.S. torture people and detain children. Abu Ghraib. The Red Cross reporting that 70-90 percent of those detained in Iraq were held in error. One hundred and eight deaths (as of the time of the book's writing) of those held in US custody, at least 28 of which were homicides.

Carter does not believe the following behavior is representative of America's best values:

Iraqi major general Abed Hamed Mowhoush reported voluntarily to American officials in Baghdad in an attempt to locate his sons, and was detained, tortured, and stuffed inside a green sleeping bag, where he died from trauma and suffocation on November 26, 2003.
But no high level officals or officers held accountable which indicates that the administration is more concerned with image management that it is the preservation of human rights.

It is Carter's belief that policies which are based on violence result in a cycle of escalated violence. Declaring a policy of preventative war sends the message that war is more acceptable than negotiation. This, and our abandonment of the Geneva Conventions and using "extraordinary renditions" to outsource torture serve to make the world a more lawless and dangerous place.

Carter understands that torture is not about seeking justice:
The primary goal of torture or the threat of torture is not to obtain convictions for crimes, but to engender and maintain fear. Some of our leaders have found it easy to forgo human rights for those who are considered to be subhuman, or ‘enemy combatants’.
Tortured innocent persons poise a problem for the US when released. Can they sue, can they reveal info about how they were treated? Instead of correcting the problem, the US has tended towards holding them in prison. This is a disgrace.

It is an embarrassing tragedy to see a departure from our nation’s historic leadership as a champion of human rights, with the abandonment defended legally by top officials. Only the American people can redirect our government’s legal, religious, and political commitments to these ancient and unchanging moral principles.
Another troubling trend that is endangering the globe is the US slide towards increased nuclear proliferation

In rejecting or evading almost all nuclear arms control agreements negotiated during the past 50 years, the United States has now become the prime culprit in global nuclear proliferation. Former secretary of defense Robert McNamara summed up his concerns in the May/June 2005 issue of Foreign Policy magazine: "I would characterize current U.S. nuclear weapons policy as immoral, illegal, militarily unnecessary and dreadfully dangerous."
All around, our proliferation policy does not make sense. Upwards of eighty billion dollars have been spent on a Star Wars program that won’t work, but military-industrial political forces support it. We pulled out of the ABM Treaty and Russia now feels justified in upgrading its nuclear arms without regard to treaties. We've witnessed the end of “no first use” nuclear plan and the subsequent event of a Chinese major general announcing China was under pressure to renounce its own “no first use” plan.

These same political forces are considering violating the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and intend to militarize space.

Watching America and the world seemingly spiral towards a global nuclear arms race reminds one of the Global Game Change simulation run by Professor Altemeyer in which the authoritarians "produced a nuclear holocaust that killed everyone and destroyed the planet."

Anyways, about the war in Iraq, Carter says:

A basic question to be asked is , ‘Has the Iraqi war reduced the threat of terrorism?’ Unfortunately, the answer is ‘No.’ Not only have we lost the almost unanimous sympathy and support that was offered to us throught out the world after the attack of 9/11, but ther is direct evidence that the Iraqi war has actually increased the terrorist threat. Intestimony before congress, CIA Director Porter Goss stated, ‘Islamic extremists are expoiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-U.S. jihadists [holy warriors] .. These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced and focus on acts of urban terrorism.’ He added that the war ‘has become a cause for extremists.’

The U.S. National Counterterrorism Center reported the number of serious international terrorist incidents more than tripled in 2004. “Significant” attacks rose to 650 up from 175 in ’03. In Iraq, from 22 to 198.

As already indicated, it is part of Carter's Christian upbringing to believe that Americans should be good stewards of the environment. It goes without saying that here, as with virtually everything else, the current administration has turned this area of policy over to special interests and as a result pollution has increased and we have failed as a nation to take action on the issue of global warming, which effects not just us, but the entire planet.

It is also a mandate of Carter's faith that one has a duty to alleviate the plight of the suffering. He believes America is failing in this regard by not giving enough foreign assistance. However, he does blame this on lack of goodwill; Americans believe we are giving much more in aid than we actually are and feel that we should give less, but the "less" they recommend is still much higher than what we are giving.

At home, speaking of turning a trillion surplus into a trillion deficit by tax cuts for rich and deficit spending:

This fiscal approach, which will squeeze domestic programs, has been a well-understood goal of some conservative true believers since the origination of Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, head Start, and other humanitarian programs under Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson. The inheritance tax was originated by Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, and is now an additional target for elimination – another massive reduction in the tax burden for the richest families in America.

In the first three years since the 2000 tax cuts, the number of Americans living in poverty increased by 3.5 million, while income for the four hundred wealthiest Americans jumped 10%.

But not only are these "radical changes" happening to our domestic economy, our economic security is also being threatened by the accumulation of international debt owned by foreign nations. Policies meant to enrich the rich are detrimental to America and the world.

Concluding, Carter reiterates that America must be a moral exemplar for the world, and should not substitute military might for democratic ideals.

Blogger's Note - I may fix and change a few things in the post over the next day or so. I had to spend so much time dealing with transcription errors from my notes that I didn't feel like re-working this draft version.