Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Earn Money as a Climate Change Skeptic

An evangelical friend of mine thinks Global Warming is a conspiracy of scientists to make a few bucks and control our lives. There may be some truth to that. Some people are angling to make money on carbon credits. Some bureaucrats like to use the power of government to act like a mini dictator.

But the flip side is that there's also money in global warming denial. Want to make a quick $10,000? Write articles undermining the IPCC report on global warming. Become a lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry.

Noam Chomsky claims in this speech (linked at the time stamp for those that don't want to watch it all) that the American Petroleum Institute has openly expressed that they are impressed with the health insurance lobbying efforts to screw over the American people and the success they had with that. They state openly that they plan to use the same model to undermine public opinion on global warming. These plans are being propagated by CEO's that know what scientifically minded people know. Global warming is occurring, it is likely the result of human activity, and there is significant risk that it could lead to massive death. But we have systemic constraints. They are obliged in the economic system we are in to maximize profits and this is how you go about doing it, even though that means potential catastrophe for our grandchildren.

A Soldier From Wikileaks Video Interviewed

Worth a read. It's here. Also his letter of apology to the people affected by the incident here. From the interview:

You had another nine months or more still to go in your tour then?

That’s right. It was a pretty long time with having to deal with the emotions, not only of that, but of many other days. What happened then was not an isolated incident. Stuff like that happens on a daily basis in Iraq.

Are there other incidents that took place in the following months of your tour that bear this out?

Yes. Our rules of engagement were changing on an almost daily basis. But we had a pretty gung-ho commander, who decided that because we were getting hit by IEDs a lot, there would be a new battalion SOP [standard operating procedure].

He goes, “If someone in your line gets hit with an IED, 360 rotational fire. You kill every motherfucker on the street.” Myself and Josh and a lot of other soldiers were just sitting there looking at each other like, “Are you kidding me? You want us to kill women and children on the street?”

Friday, April 23, 2010

Goldman Sachs

Some seem to think the American people are really making out nicely since Goldman Sachs paid back their loans with interest to the American taxpayer. If you think they're helping the economy and the average American read this.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why Worry About The Earth?

Bob Dutko thinks earth day has turned in to a "religion". Bunch of silliness. Good that he sees religion as silliness. He took calls to see if his listeners agree.

His first caller says "My daughter made a great point. Why are we worrying about this earth that God is going to destroy anyway? We should be worrying about saving souls." Bob agrees enthusiastically.

Second caller: "We should do what little we can, but the earth is the Lord's. He'll take care of it."

Third caller: "I told the screener (Jan) a joke that we should really just leave all our lights on and cars idling since this is all so silly. All this man made global warming stuff is a hoax. They just want to control our lives."

Fourth caller: "My son said Happy Earth Day to me just jokingly knowing it annoys me. I was about to wash out his mouth with soap. It's all ridiculous. The devil uses these fancy techniques to trick us just like he does regarding dinosaurs and denial that the earth is 6000 years old."

Fifth caller: "It's just people trying to make money. They want to sell carbon credits, etc." Bob disagrees strenuously (and surprisingly rudely). It's religion, not money.

Sixth caller: "Sure, I may grow a garden and conserve electricity, but that's for financial reasons, not because I'm some sort of environmentalist."

We're screwed.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Democratic Deficit

80% of Americans don't trust their government. Why is that? I think that's because the government really doesn't care what the public thinks, but in fact serves their real constituents, that is, the special interests and corporate lobbyists. Contrast policies with public opinion.

Not many people know that it was a mere 33% of the population supported the invasion of Iraq without UN authorization. Of course our government did it anyway with bipartisan support.

There was a lot of frustration with the war. The Democrats swept into power in 2006 first and foremost due to public opposition to the war and the perception that the Democrats were against the war. Despite that policies remained unchanged.

Bush gave us a banker bailout. This poll indicated it was supported by 7% of the population. The contempt for public opinion here is pretty striking.

Obama was recently rebuked by Congress for some light hints that suggest the US frowns on Israeli settlement construction, though Obama isn't forbidding the construction. This despite the fact that Americans opposes settlement construction by a margin of 49 to 22% with the remainder undecided.

Americans for a long time have supported a public health care option, whether single payer or otherwise. See here and here. This view has been disregarded for years. In fact Kerry wouldn't even talk about it in 2004 because a public plan was "politically impossible." That's true. It only had overwhelming popular support, but that's not what makes something politically feasible. Now Obama has given us a half assed solution. Mandated purchase of rip off private insurance.

Obama's record on war and civil liberties mirrors Bush as I've already outlined. This is contrary to the desires of those that worked hardest to get him elected. Naturally they feel betrayed.

Cheney slipped up a while back and let us know how this really works.

CHENEY: On the security front, I think there’s a general consensus that we’ve made major progress, that the surge has worked. That’s been a major success.

RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it’s not worth fighting.


RADDATZ So? You don’t care what the American people think?

CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.

The public is utterly irrelevant to our current politicians. It's no surprise that the public distrusts government.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

George Will on Intelligent Design

Here's an important point made by George Will regarding intelligent design in 2005.
The problem with intelligent-design theory is not that it is false but that it is not falsifiable: Not being susceptible to contradicting evidence, it is not a testable hypothesis. Hence it is not a scientific but a creedal tenet—a matter of faith, unsuited to a public school's science curriculum.

I just heard someone put that quote to Bob Dutko on the radio. Bob's response is "But you don't mind that abiogenesis is taught in the class room." Is abiogenesis taught in the biology class as if it were true? I doubt that. Unfortunately Bob's opponent was not a type of person that seemed like he was expecting a debate and he wasn't good at pressing his points.

Apparently Will's comments resulted in a Nightline interview where he squared off against Cal Thomas. The transcript and audio are here. Dembski also replied here. He says ID is testable because you can test if Darwinian mechanisms can explain something like a bacterial flagellum. I suppose in the same way my theory that Zeus casts lightning bolts is testable because you could disprove it by looking at static. So the Zeus theory was positively scientific until Ben Franklin came along.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Pentagon Papers

So I'm reading Glenn Greenwald's article on how when Obama considers the extensive crimes of the Bush administration he believes we need to look forward, not backward, and we need to forget about prosecuting any of the powerful people. However those that illegally revealed those crimes because they were secret? Obama thinks it's worthwhile to prosecute them. Even though they happen to be impoverished.

He mentioned Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. I know the Pentagon papers are extremely important, but I have to admit I don't know much about them. I didn't even know the name Daniel Ellsberg.

Wouldn't you know it there's a documentary about him that looks pretty good called "The Most Dangerous Man in America". And wouldn't you know it there's a screening in Detroit. And wouldn't you know it, it's showing tonight. Funny how things work out. The trailer is below. Looks pretty good. I might be there.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Don't Cross AIPAC

Obama's extremely modest rebuke of Netenyahu's harsh policies with regards to Israel's occupation of Palestine has drawn the ire of AIPAC. To let Obama know his place they've managed to get 76 Senators and 333 Congressman to sign a letter directed to Hillary Clinton re-affirming some pretty blind Congressional support for Netenyahu's brutal policies. It's Israel first and America second for many in Congress. Unfortunately my own Congressman voted for it, so I wrote him a letter, which I reproduce below.

Congressman McCotter,

I recently wrote a letter to you expressing my frustration that the US and Israel stand virtually alone against a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Palestine. The most recent vote in December was 164 nations in favor of peace and 7 against. Among the 7 is our nation. Without our support of peace a resolution cannot be reached.

You replied (thanks for your reply) on March 24 and indicated that the President is the one with the authority to appoint our UN ambassador and you don't really have the power to make them support the peaceful resolution.

But I believe there are steps you can take. I see that you have signed the Hoyer-Cantor Letter, which is taken to be a bit of a reprimand for Obama's actions which are interpreted to be criticism of settlement expansion in Jerusalem. Here's the roll call.

Are you aware that every international body has condemned Israeli settlements as a breach of the UN Charter? This includes the Security Council and the World Court, with even the American Justice on the the World Court (US Justice Buergenthal) agreeing. Are you aware that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory is the first reason cited by Osama bin Laden for why he attacked the United States? See here.

Are you aware that the American people oppose settlement construction? See here.

Are you aware that General David Patreaus has explained that our favoritism towards Israel is fomenting violence against our troops and hampers American efforts in the Middle East? See here.

Your signature on this letter is part of a policy that is opposed by the majority of the American people, motivates terrorists to attack Americans, puts the lives of American troops at risk, and is universally regarded as illegal. If anything it probably encourages our UN ambassador to continue to oppose the peaceful resolution to the conflict. I urge you to listen to Americans. I ask you to consider the causes of Islamic terrorism if you want to help reduce it. I ask you to listen to military commanders that indicate the risk you are invoking to American troops. And I would ask you to consider what possible benefit such blind support for harsh and illegal Israeli policies brings to Americans. Peace can come to Palestine, but it is up to us, and especially you.

Thank you for listening.

Jon Curry

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

President of Liberty Seminary Falsifying Bio?

It would appear that Ergun Caner, President of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, has been falsifying his bio. He's always struck me as a little bit into it for the glory. James White's reference to his photos as Glamour Shots cracked me up a while back and was spot on. Today these photos give a 404 screen when you try and view it.

Anyway it would seem that he wants to emphasize his Muslim upbringing. Sounds like the padding of a bio to provide an exciting and compelling testimonial. He would have us believe he came to the states at the age of 15 to be a jihadist. The facts indicate he's lived in Ohio since the age of 4.

Here's a funny one. To prop his biography he talks about Muslims he's debated. Shabir Ally is one, though Shabir apparently has no recollection. It's not just Shabir. How about that debate with "Abdul Saleeb". Apparently this "ex-Muslim" Caner, steeped in Islamic thought before his conversion to Christianity, is unaware that "Abdul Saleeb" is a pseudonym that actually means "servant of the cross" in Arabic. He's the co-author, with christian apologist Norman Geisler of "Answering Islam." Why he would defend Christianity against "Abdul Saleeb"?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Question to Dinesh D'Souza on Pascals Wager

During the Q&A of D'Souza's debate with Dan Dennett a questioner completely stumps D'Souza with regards to the Pascal Wager argument he had put forward during the debate. Watch here. I swear that the exact same question popped in to my mind when I heard D'Souza formulate his argument during the debate.

To the untrained eye D'Souza may not appear stumped, because he responds with a tone that would suggest he knows what he's talking about. But in fact what he offers was a total non answer. His response basically had almost no contact with what the questioner had asked. I call that a score.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Differences Between Republicans and Democrats

Simon Enoch offers a very insightful analysis of the differences between Republicans and Democrats with regards to foreign policy. It's a little long, but so worth the read. Here's an excerpt. Keep in mind that this was written in 2006.

From the above, one might wonder what really would change if a Democrat was put in the White House. While the principles of unilateralism, rejection of international law and the assault on civil liberties seem equally at home with the Democrats as with the Republicans, there is one crucial device that Democrats have employed in their execution of U.S. foreign policy objectives that maintains the appearance of difference between the two parties.

Speaking on the similarities between Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, Guardian columnist Hywel Williams noted the “convenient myth that liberals are the peacemakers and conservatives the warmongers.” However Williams warned that “the imperialism of the liberal may be more dangerous because of its open-ended nature – its conviction that it represents a superior form of life.” [64] Indeed if the Democrats differ in any respect from the Republicans in their execution of U.S. foreign policy goals, it is in the ability to cloak U.S. intervention in the guise of high-minded principles. This, coupled with the reticence to put U.S. troops in harms way, has allowed Democratic foreign policy to appear more benign and less aggressive in comparison to the Bush administration. John Pilger, writing on the Clinton administration, observes that:

Covered in euphemisms such as ‘democracy-building’ and ‘peacekeeping,’ ‘humanitarian intervention and ‘liberal intervention,’ the Clintonites can boast a far more successful imperial record than Bush’s neo-cons, largely because Washington granted the Europeans a ceremonial role and because NATO was onside. In a league table of death and destruction, Clinton beats Bush hands down. [65]

Indeed, Pilger argues that what the Democratic Party elite truly object to is not the aggressive use of military power, but the crude honesty of the Bush administration in its exercise:

In stating its plans openly, and not from behind the usual veil or in the usual specious code of imperial liberalism and its moral authority.

And that:

New Democrats of Kerry’s sort are all for the American Empire; understandably, they would prefer that those words remain unsaid. [66]

Thus Madeline Albright notes that all U.S. administrations have a position much like the Bush doctrine in their back pocket, but it is simply “foolish to smash people in the face with it and to implement it in a manner that will infuriate even allies. A little tact is useful.” [67]

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Obama Puts Out Hit on US Citizen

You thought Guantanamo and phone tapping was bad when Bush was president. Here's Greenwald on Obama's assassination orders on a US citizen. The target and his family say the charges against him are completely false. But "officials" say he's guilty. So no need for courts any more. These are probably the same officials that told us about WMD.

Where is the outrage from the left? Here's a comic on their bizarre rage. And another for the right.

To Olbermann's credit on the left, he is being critical as per the above link to Greenwald.

The Hilarity of Mormonism

Maybe it's my own Protestant upbringing but in my view on the scale of absurdity Mormonism outshines their Christian competition.

Here's just one morsel. Many people know that Joseph Smith claimed to have discovered golden plates written in "Reformed Egyptian" that he translated with some sort of seer stone. But of course he wouldn't let anybody see them. He'd read them from behind a curtain and the gullible translator would transcribe it.

One translator was Martin Harris, a well to do man. He told his wife about Smith's exploits, but she was skeptical and asked to see the portions supposedly translated. She feared that Smith was conning her husband. Harris asked Smith if he could take home the pages that had been translated to show her, but Smith initially wouldn't permit this. Harris continued to bug him so finally Smith relented and Harris took home the 116 pages that had been translated at that point. Three weeks latter Harris returns to Smith and tells him that the pages had been lost.

No problem, right. Just re translate the golden plates. If they're real there's no problem. So why did Smith freak out?

The answer is pretty obvious. He doesn't have any golden plates and he can't remember precisely 116 pages of translated material. If he re translates and it doesn't match the fraud is exposed. What to do?

Conveniently he gets a revelation from God. God knew that the initial text would be stolen and altered, so he provisioned for that by creating additional golden plates that contain substantially the same story but written by another witness, so the verbiage would be modified slightly. If the prior 116 pages show up and it doesn't match the new, no problem. It's from separate plates.

What a joke. One must ask themselves not only how a religion like this could exist, but that in fact it could be among the fastest growing on the planet?

Personally I think it says something about the human condition. I'm always surprised at how people can come to believe things that are so irrational, but apparently it is just part of human nature. You might think you are better if you are a skeptic. Maybe we are, maybe we aren't. We're humans too. I wonder what crazy irrational beliefs I hold that might look transparently foolish 100 years from now.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

US Involvement With Saddam

I watched a fascinating documentary regarding Iraqi History which can be viewed starting here. For my own reference I want to preserve some key revelations.

1-According to Alexander Haige, Reagan's Secretary of State, Carter via the Saudi's, gave Saddam the green light to invade Iran. Carter denies the charge. Regardless, American planning, weaponry, and logistics support was key for Saddam's war. Saddam was fed lies by the U.S. that the war would be a breeze to encourage him in his attacks. It lasted 8 years and left a million people dead.

2-The US was well aware that Saddam was creating chemical weaponry through the 80's. The US was informed that he was using nerve gas against the Iranians. The US considered whether they should modify the relationship with Baghdad in light of this but decided not to. Aid to Saddam was increased.

3-Saddam killed 5000 civilians in the Kurdish regions in Halabja. Congressional efforts to condemn Saddam's actions were blocked by the Reagan administration (see article here). Kurdish leaders with evidence of Saddam's chemical attack tried to get in contact Washington, but the Reagan and Bush administrations banned any contact. This massacre was cited by George W Bush as a justification for his war. See 1:20 of video 2 for justification by the French Minister of Defense. Oil is simply too important.

4-Saddam's largest single atrocity was the slaughter of 300,000 Shiites. They were encouraged to rise up against Saddam during his expulsion from Kuwait. But after he was expelled he started slaughtering them, and the US not only wouldn't help them, but actively supported Saddam's slaughter by destroying weapons that they might manage to find and preventing them from marching on Baghdad. So after calling for an uprising, the US didn't want that uprising to succeed. Read how the punditry at the time talked about how the establishment was fine with Saddam's slaughters because they preferred his iron fist to a democratic Iraq. You can see this view reflected in the writings of Thomas Friedman and Alan Cowell. These are the same people wringing their hands at the discover of these same mass graves after the 2003 invasion of Iraq as if this was justification for that invasion. These mass graves were being filled with the knowledge and acceptance of Thomas Friedman and others like him at the time.

Apparently encouraging them to rise up was just a means of accelerating Saddam's withdrawal from Kuwait. It was a strategic war move.

So now that these Shiites, and also Kurds, had served their purpose they were left in a lurch to die. Saddam had his henchmen rape the women, and kill and torture them and had it all broadcast on state television. This became embarrassing for Bush, so he asked Saddam to stop, which he did. But only in the regions where cameras were rolling. The slaughters to the south continued because there was no associated embarrassment. During Saddam's trial he was not charged with these crimes because it was forbidden to charge him with crimes that involved non-Iraqis. This requirement of course was dictated by the US. In this way the truth remains obscured. A trial would have revealed western complicity in these and other crimes.

5-The sanctions regime in Iraq killed perhaps between half a million and a million people. A leaked DoD memo entitled "Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities" showed how targeting Iraq's water supplies could result in significant water born illness among the population. During the 12 year embargo the US used the sanctions to block key items required to rebuild the water system as if they were following the DoD memo script. The very components blocked were highlighted in the memo as key to crippling the water supplies. The logic is that if you force the people to suffer they'll rise up and overthrow the tyrant. But they didn't blame Saddam. They blamed the sanctions and the US.

I've written before about how Secretary of State Madeleine Albright thought half a million dead children was worth it in her eyes. It's worth watching her say this, and I have the youtube clip with the time stamp at this location here.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Single Question

In light of my review of the defense of the Bush doctrine and also the horrifying images of war shown in my previous post, let's recall the actual reasons for this war as articulated by its proponents.

Here's Colin Powell:

". . . Let me put the question to you directly and clearly in the simplest terms that I can. The question simply is: has Saddam Hussein made a strategic, political decision to comply with the United Nations Security Council resolutions? Has he made a strategic, political decision to get rid of his weapons of mass destruction? That's it in a nutshell.

The question is not how much more time should be allowed for inspections. The question is not how many more inspectors should be sent in. The question simply is: has Saddam Hussein made a strategic decision, a political decision, that he will give up these horrible weapons of mass destruction and stop what he's been doing for all these many years?

That's the question. There is no other question."

Here's the New York Times quoting White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer.

"We have high confidence that they have weapons of mass destruction,'' said the White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer. ''This is what this war was about and is about. And we have high confidence it will be found.''

Here's what Bush had to say about it.

"In New York tomorrow, the United Nations Security Council will receive an update from the chief weapons inspector. The world needs him to answer a single question: Has the Iraqi regime fully and unconditionally disarmed as required by Resolution 1441 or has it not?"

"We are determined to confront threats wherever they arise. I will not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons."

It's not just the position of the US, but also Britain. Here's Jack Straw:

"The position of the British government is very straightforward. Yes, of course, in a different world we would like to see a different government running Iraq but so far as 1441 is concerned, the purpose of 1441 is to secure the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

That, and that alone, we have made it clear, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair has made clear repeatedly, that if Iraq complies with 1441 and disarms of its weapons of mass destruction, we accept that the government of Iraq stays in place and let us make that clear and that has always been clear. Saddam Hussein has known that."

Remember these words when we're told that it's all about democracy promotion.

God Bless the Internet

Despite efforts by the US military to block its release, Wikileaks has managed to reveal a video showing some gruesome attacks on what appears to be civilians that aren't acting in a threatening manner. Two journalists were killed. The video is here.

The release of this video was announced about a week ago, so the news agencies have had plenty of time to be ready. Despite that for most of the day to this point it was Al Jazeera and the BBC that were willing to cover it. Since then some American press has relented. I see nothing at CNN at the moment (an interesting contrast between Al Jazeera and CNN here) but Fox does have it as does MSNBC.

A couple of interesting tidbits. It's worthwhile to contrast the NY Times article that described the attack at the time with the actual footage. "Clashes" have left 16 people dead. Helicopters were called in and in the "ensuing fight" people were killed. People standing around with a camera and getting shot? That's a "clash". A van collecting the body of an injured journalist, with two children pretty clearly visible in the front passenger seat of the van? That's an "ensuing fight."

Here's a google maps shot of the location of the attack.

Defending the Bush Doctrine

Recently a friend of mine suggested a book to me because he knows I'm interested in foreign policy issues. This is Defending the Bush Doctrine. Sounds kind of impressive from the review. My friend hadn't read it but figured I might benefit from a right wing perspective.

Getting different perspectives is key to having a proper understanding of the issues. On the other hand you do have to ask yourself if you really expect to learn from a source. With limited time everyone has to pick and choose. For instance John Piippo, my parents pastor, recently blogged about women at the tomb of Jesus. I recommended to him an article from DagoodS that I think offers some interesting insights. John basically dismissed it without looking at it, saying in effect he doesn't think he'd learn anything from it.

And as a side note I think he's actually right. I don't think he would learn anything from it. Not because it's not insightful and doesn't offer information that John has never heard. I just happen to think that John's mind is not at a place where he could consider such a perspective. I don't mean that as a put down, but more as an observation about human nature. If your mind isn't there you won't see. I similarly have blind spots. But I do try very hard to avoid them. This is why I do want to consider the arguments of right wingers.

But I've heard the arguments for war of a lot of right wingers and I think their arguments are terrible, so when someone suggests I invest time reading things like this I'm going to hesitate. But Robert Kaufman is a professor at Pepperdine. You'd think he'd be reasonably intelligent. This means the book is perhaps a good candidate for an evaluation. I want reasoned critiques of my own views and I already know Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck can't offer me much. But can Kaufman? I want to know the basic argument first to see if it's worth the time to evaluate further.

As luck would have it I found an hour long interview with him. I figure listen to the interview and see if it contains anything challenging. If so then the time invested in reading his book would be worth it.

But it's not challenging at all. Basic errors in fact and in his underlying assumptions. Having invested an hour listening to him I want to take a moment to document my own evaluation. I'm going to offer summaries of some of the statements he made in this interview and my own response.

1-The tyranny of our adversaries is the root cause of the war against us, so our war is one of democratic goals. This kind of policy is nothing new as far as American presidents so shouldn't be regarded as unusual.

My response: Tyranny is a root cause of the wars against us in that the U.S. imposes tyrannies on unwilling populations in the Middle East and this enrages the population. Kaufman would have us believe that by smashing and bombing a country we can bring about democracy. Why don't we instead withdraw military support from the dictatorial regimes and allow the populations to replace their governments with representative governments?

Saddam Hussein was authorized by George Bush to crush the Shiite rebellion that probably would have overthrown him in 1991. He filled mass graves, crushing the rebellion brutally, and this was perfectly acceptable to the U.S. establishment because he was regarded as preferred to a democratic Iraq. If our goal was truly to reduce tyranny in the Middle East we'd stop imposing dictators in the Middle East. The fact is we love dictators when they are beholden to U.S. interests and loath them and call for "democracy" when a dictator is not beholden to the U.S. Does the U.S. oppose dictators in Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, etc? This is such a disingenuous claim as to be absurd.

And by the way the U.S. opposed elections in Iraq after the invasion every step of the way, but finally relented due to mass non-violent resistance by the Iraqi people. Subsequent to the elections the U.S. did everything it could to undermine the government there, all the while taking credit for the elections themselves. The U.S. opposes democracy all over the world except in the rare cases where democratic action is aligned with U.S. interests. Meaning the U.S. is usually in the business of undermining democracy.

2-Saddam was a symbol of defiance in a region of defiance. We left Saddam in power after 1991. This showed us to be a paper tiger in the eyes of OBL.

My response: Once again, total nonsense. Saddam was left in power because the United States feared a democratic Iraq that with a large Shiite population would probably mend fences with Iran. Saddam was installed and supported by the U.S. in the early days and his very presence in Iraq after 1991 was made possible by critical U.S. action. The whole premise is absurd.

3-Look at Saddam. War against Iran. Scuds against Israel. Poison gas against his own people. Paying "homicide bombers" to blow up Jews. Saddam with nuclear weapons is not something we can risk in the wake of 9/11.

My response: Saddam's war against Iran was enabled and supported by the US. Saddam was given key logistics and weapons support. He gassed Iranians with US bombs and US targeting. The war finally ended when the United States bombed an Iranian civilian airliner. His gassing of the Kurds was with U.S. weaponry and fully supported by the U.S. It is so staggeringly ridiculous to point to Saddam for these scary incidents and not notice the 4 fingers pointing straight back at us. If this makes him dangerous and worthy of violent overthrow, what of the U.S. government? The people in Bush's government were the same ones involved in Saddam's violence. And the US provides far more support for the enabling of Israel to blow up Palestinians than Saddam provided to Hezbollah. Once again this is the making of a stronger case against the U.S. government than it is against Saddam.

3-"Moral democratic realism" says yes, we live in a dangerous world and must seek practical solutions. Stable liberal democracies don't fight and should be propagated. The US needs to use it's power to expand democratization even if UN won't go along.

My response: It requires quite an education to not see the transparent hypocrisy evident here. It's hard to find a government more in opposition to democracy over the last 50 years than the US and this perhaps is as clearly true in the Middle East as could be anywhere else in the world. Who sustains the Egyptian tyranny? Who sustains the extremely Islamic fundamentalist tyrannical regime in Saudi Arabia. Who overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953? Moving outside the Middle East but still in Muslim countries, what about the fundamentalist regime in Indonesia? Who enabled and sustained the coup in Pakistan? Who brought in the crazy fundamentalists in Afghanistan? The U.S. needs to resist the U.N. and use it's power to support democracy? Up is down and black is white for Kaufman. I seriously don't know how he can make such statements without embarrassment.

4-The UN sucks. It doesn't have power, can't come to consensus about what aggression is, and lacks political will. The UN rarely does anything useful and has gridlock. Look to Serbia and Rwanda as examples.

Actually the UN often does offer consensus. There is consensus that US violence in Nicaragua was criminal and that the US should pay reparations. There is consensus on a two state solution in Palestine, which virtually the whole world supports except the US and Israel. There was consensus that force in Iraq should not have been used. Sometimes consensus isn't there but that is because sometimes issues are actually complicated. Issues in Serbia are complicated. Rwanda looks like failure to me. But why is this grounds to allow one country the right to rampage around without regard to treaties and agreements they have signed? To offer one country the right to ignore world opinion is to allow all. Should Iran just shoot off nuclear weapons as they decide is in their best interest and as they decide is best for the world? We have signed on to the UN Charter because we believe it is a better way, and the millions dead due to WWII could be just a starting point in this nuclear age. Abandoning these reasonable conclusions is foolish.

5-Critics of the war lack historical memories. On balance the war has been good. What would have happened had we left Saddam in power.

My response: Well, somebody lacks historical memory, but I don't think it is the war's critics. Removing a vicious dictator is great, but why not do it in a way that doesn't lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people? Why not allow the Shiite rebellion to move forward? Why impose sanctions on the Iraqi people which made them even more dependent on Saddam and less capable of overthrowing him?

The leader in N Korea may be a bad guy and we could remove him if we carpet bombed the whole country with nuclear weapons. Is that worth doing simply because we will have then removed a dictator? What are the consequences of our violence on the population? In the case of Iraq the consequences have been devastating.

6-Remember Kofi Annan's oil for food program where money being used to bribe French, Chinese, Russians to vote against us. Saddam had defied resolutions, thrown out inspectors. And it was Clinton that called for regime change. This is the situation prior to Saddam's overthrow. Don't forget that.

My response: I have serious doubts about these assertions. Take a look at some of my own comments here with regards to the so called "Oil for Food" scandal. Noam Chomsky covers these issues in some depth in his book Failed States, which I highly recommend.

7-The Iranian regime is an imminent danger to us. Here are Ahmadinejad's claims. 1-The holocaust didn't happen 2-we wish it would 3-we want to help it along 4-that's only the 1st step because Anglo American civilization is the problem so 5-we need to go back to 9th century caliphate style world. He should be taken seriously and therefore an attack on Iran makes sense. They've accelerated their nuclear program.

My response: Ugh. Now he wants pre-emptive war in Iran, a country that hasn't attacked anyone in hundreds of years (barring the US supported and installed Shah dictatorship). And where are these supposed threats from Ahmadinejad? I think that if you research this with an open mind (here's some decent information) you find that yes, Ahmadinejad would like to see Israel disappear, but you also find he has no intention of making that happen violently. And that's probably because he is not insane and likes the fact that he holds power. He knows that anything he tries against Israel would mean Iran's instant obliteration.

His assertions regarding Iran's nuclear program is nothing but a pile of absolute nonsense. In fairness this reporting on their lack of a nuclear program came out after this Kaufman interview, but still, what is he basing his claims on when shortly afterwards the intelligence flatly contradicts his claims?

Kaufman was asked by a caller about how the Israel Palestine issue motivates violence against us. This brings up my 8th statement from him.

8-The Palestinian issue is low on OBL's list of concerns (lower than military bases in Saudi Arabia). The root cause of the problem is a culture of tyranny and oppression in Middle East converging with weapons of mass destruction.

My response: I would seriously like to know the basis for this assertion. Given that it is issue #1 in OBL's Letter to America and repeated constantly by him how can Kaufman make such a statement? Our support of Israel's violent oppression of Palestinians puts Americans in danger. Some don't want to face that fact. Why?

The host played a clip from Ron Paul in his beautiful destruction of Rudy Guiliani at the South Carolina Republican Debate. Here Ron Paul offers a series of facts and arguments explaining the motivations of those that are violent towards us. Guiliani retaliates basically with "I'm outraged." Kaufman's reaction. "Bravo Mr. Guiliani." Are you serious? You don't even have to agree with Ron Paul to recognize that Paul utterly destroyed Guiliani in terms of substance. A sustained and reasoned argument "rebutted" with an "I'm offended" type statement. Kaufman finds Guiliani to be impressive? It's almost like he has lost his reasoning capacity. His own "rebuttal" to Paul during this radio interview was to say "He has a 19th century mentality." Please. That's about as substanceless as Guiliani's reply, which is perhaps why he finds it satisfying.

I'm going to pass on this book. I often ask people I disagree with to read material and I know it's a lot to ask, so I want to be willing to read their material as well. But in this case, and I hope my friend can agree, I'm really not going to get a lot out of it. This is a man that reasons poorly and does not grasp the basic facts.

New Fossil Find

There's buzz once again for a new fossil find. This one is a hominid, which is always interesting. Hopefully it's not oversold as appears to have been the case with Ida. It will apparently be unveiled this coming Thursday.