Sunday, April 29, 2007

What they think of us

There is a new collection of essays exploring how the US is perceived around the world.

As two Iraqi authors write in a new study: "Saddam Hussein did his utmost to implant in the Iraqi psyche an ugly image of the US: coloniser, Zionist, bully and greedy oil thief."

At the same time, the opponents of Saddam had come to be profoundly hostile to the US for exactly the opposite reason. After the 1991 US-led operation to reverse Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, the Shia in the south and the Kurds in the north rebelled against Saddam's rule, only to be savagely crushed. The Americans did not come to the aid of the rebels, who saw this, with some justice, as American betrayal.

Here is a classic contradiction of anti-Americanism. The Americans are hated by one segment of Iraqi society for opposing Saddam and are hated equally by another section for not opposing Saddam enough.

These contradictions are laid bare in a fascinating new book, What They Think of Us: International Perceptions of the United States Since 9/11 (Princeton University Press).

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Petreas vs Ried on Iraq

Captain's Quarters looks at "five myths" Senator Ried is propagating about Iraq.

And here's a follow-up

Petreas on Iraq

(Hat tip: Carol Platt Liebau.)

Summary: "It's not dead yet!"

Update: The link to the actual transcript is mal-formed. Here is a well-formed link.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Water utility privatization

This story showed up in today's Brown & Caldwell California Water Newsletter. On inspection, it's from the November/December 2002 issue.

It paints a dismal picture of the effects of turning water over to a private firm.

Atlanta's water service had never been without its critics; there had always been complaints about slow repairs and erroneous water bills. But the problems intensified three years ago, says Certain, after one of the world's largest private water companies took over the municipal system and promised to turn it into an "international showcase" for public-private partnerships. Instead of ushering in a new era of trouble-free drinking water, Atlanta's experiment with privatization has brought a host of new problems. This year there have been five boil-water alerts, indicating unsafe contaminants might be present. Fire hydrants have been useless for months. Leaking water mains have gone unrepaired for weeks. Despite all of this, the city's contractor -- United Water, a subsidiary of French-based multinational Suez -- has lobbied the City Council to add millions more to its $21-million-a-year contract.

The Reason Public Policy Institute reports:

On Friday the dissolution of one of the largest and most watched privatization's in the United States was announced. The city of Atlanta and United Water announced that the city would take back operation of its water utility, ending the privatization after four years.

This is from a piece written on January 27, 2003.

And those problems? Well, I'm not sure they arrived with privatization.

Before privatization the city had allowed the water system to deteriorate to near collapse, was being fined by the EPA for violating clean water standards, and had nearly 50% more employees working in the water department than needed. The water department said it needed to double water rates to solve these problems.

Privatization saved the city roughly $10 million per year, brought the system into compliance with EPA standards, and raised rates only 10 percent to accomplish it.

It's interesting to compare the RPPI analysis of lessons learned with the Mother Jones article.

Lindzen on the environment – again

This Earth Day, Professor Richard Lindzen, an atmospheric physicist and the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT, wants you to calm down. The Earth, he says, is in good shape. "Forests are returning in Europe and the United States. Air quality has improved. Water quality has improved. We grow more food on less land. We've done a reasonably good job in much of the world in conquering hunger. And yet we're acting as though: "How can we stand any more of this?" A leading critic on the theory of man-made global warming, Professor Lindzen has developed a reputation as America's anti-doom-andgloom scientist. And he's not, he says, as lonely as you might think.

Democratic Presidential Candidates debate

This is a link to the transcript of the first debate of the long campaign. Unlike the New York Times link, maybe this one will be more durable.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

You never know until you're there.

This is an answer to the quesiton of why no one thought to rush Cho, and maybe stop the killing.

Lieberman on the withdrawal date

Kathryn Jean Lopez has obtained the prepared text for Sen. Lieberman's remarks on the appropriations bill.

“Mr. President, the supplemental appropriations bill we are debating today contains language that would have Congress take control of the direction of our military strategy in Iraq.

Earlier this week the Senate Majority Leader spoke at the Woodrow Wilson Center and laid out the case for why he believes we must do this—why the bill now before this chamber, in his view, offers a viable alternative strategy for Iraq.

I have great respect for my friend from Nevada. I believe he has offered this proposal in good faith, and therefore want to take it up in good faith, and examine its arguments and ideas carefully and in depth, for this is a very serious discussion for our country.

In his speech Monday, the Majority Leader described the several steps that this new strategy for Iraq would entail. Its first step, he said, is to “transition the U.S. mission away from policing a civil war—to training and equipping Iraqi security forces, protecting U.S. forces, and conducting targeted counter-terror operations.”

I ask my colleagues to take a step back for a moment and consider this plan.

When we say that U.S. troops shouldn’t be “policing a civil war,” that their operations should be restricted to this narrow list of missions, what does this actually mean?

To begin with, it means that our troops will not be allowed to protect the Iraqi people from the insurgents and militias who are trying to terrorize and kill them. Instead of restoring basic security, which General Petraeus has argued should be the central focus of any counterinsurgency campaign, it means our soldiers would instead be ordered, by force of this proposed law, not to stop the sectarian violence happening all around them—no matter how vicious or horrific it becomes.

In short, it means telling our troops to deliberately and consciously turn their backs on ethnic cleansing, to turn their backs on the slaughter of innocent civilians—men, women, and children singled out and killed on the basis of their religion alone. It means turning our backs on the policies that led us to intervene in the civil war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the principles that today lead many of us to call for intervention in Darfur.

This makes no moral sense at all.

It also makes no strategic or military sense either.

Al Qaeda’s own leaders have repeatedly said that one of the ways they intend to achieve victory in Iraq is to provoke civil war. They are trying to kill as many people as possible today, precisely in the hope of igniting sectarian violence, because they know that this is their best way to collapse Iraq’s political center, overthrow Iraq’s elected government, radicalize its population, and create a failed state in the heart of the Middle East that they can use as a base.

That is why Al Qaeda blew up the Golden Mosque in Samarra last year. And that is why we are seeing mass casualty suicide bombings by Al Qaeda in Baghdad now.

The sectarian violence that the Majority Leader says he wants to order American troops to stop policing, in other words, is the very same sectarian violence that Al Qaeda hopes to ride to victory. The suggestion that we can draw a bright legislative line between stopping terrorists in Iraq and stopping civil war in Iraq flies in the face of this reality.

I do not know how to say it more plainly: it is Al Qaeda that is trying to cause a full-fledged civil war in Iraq.

The Majority Leader said on Monday that he believes U.S. troops will still be able to conduct “targeted counter-terror operations” under his plan. Even if we stop trying to protect civilians in Iraq, in other words, we can still go after the bad guys.

But again, I ask my colleagues, how would this translate into military reality on the ground? How would we find these terrorists, who do not gather on conventional military bases or fight in conventional formations?

By definition, targeted counterterrorism requires our forces to know where, when, and against whom to strike—and that in turn requires accurate, actionable, real-time intelligence.

This is the kind of intelligence that can only come from ordinary Iraqis, the sea of people among whom the terrorists hide. And that, in turn, requires interacting with the Iraqi people on a close, personal, daily basis. It requires winning individual Iraqis to our side, gaining their trust, convincing them that they can count on us to keep them safe from the terrorists if they share valuable information about them. This is no great secret. This is at the heart of the new strategy that General Petraeus and his troops are carrying out.

And yet, if we pass this legislation, according to the Majority Leader, U.S. forces will no longer be permitted to patrol Iraq’s neighborhoods or protect Iraqi civilians. They won’t, in his words, be “interjecting themselves between warring factions” or “trying to sort friend from foe.”

Therefore, I ask the supporters of this legislation: How, exactly, are U.S. forces to gather intelligence about where, when, and against whom to strike, after you have ordered them walled off from the Iraqi population? How, exactly, are U.S. forces to carry out targeted counter-terror operations, after you have ordered them cut off from the very source of intelligence that drives these operations?

This is precisely why the congressional micromanagement of life-and-death decisions about how, where, and when our troops can fight is such a bad idea, especially on a complex and changing battlefield.

In sum, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t withdraw combat troops from Iraq and still fight Al Qaeda there. If you believe there is no hope of winning in Iraq, or that the costs of victory there are not worth it, then you should be for complete withdrawal as soon as possible.

There is another irony here as well.

For most of the past four years, under Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, the United States did not try to establish basic security in Iraq. Rather than deploying enough troops necessary to protect the Iraqi people, the focus of our military has been on training and equipping Iraqi forces, protecting our own forces, and conducting targeted sweeps and raids—in other words, the very same missions proposed by the proponents of the legislation before us.

That strategy failed—and we know why it failed. It failed because we didn’t have enough troops to ensure security, which in turn created an opening for Al Qaeda and its allies to exploit. They stepped into this security vacuum and, through horrific violence, created a climate of fear and insecurity in which political and economic progress became impossible.

For years, many members of Congress recognized this. We talked about this. We called for more troops, and a new strategy, and—for that matter—a new secretary of defense.

And yet, now, just as President Bush has come around—just as he has recognized the mistakes his administration has made, and the need to focus on basic security in Iraq, and to install a new secretary of defense and a new commander in Iraq—now his critics in Congress have changed their minds and decided that the old, failed strategy wasn’t so bad after all.

What is going on here? What has changed so that the strategy that we criticized and rejected in 2006 suddenly makes sense in 2007?

The second element in the plan outlined by the Majority Leader on Monday is “the phased redeployment of our troops no later than October 1, 2007.”

Let us be absolutely clear what this means. This legislation would impose a binding deadline for U.S. troops to begin retreating from Iraq. This withdrawal would happen regardless of conditions on the ground, regardless of the recommendations of General Petraeus, in short regardless of reality on October 1, 2007.

As far as I can tell, none of the supporters of withdrawal have attempted to explain why October 1 is the magic date—what strategic or military significance this holds. Why not September 1? Or January 1? This is a date as arbitrary as it is inflexible—a deadline for defeat.

How do proponents of this deadline defend it? On Monday, Senator Reid gave several reasons. First, he said, a date for withdrawal puts “pressure on the Iraqis to make the desperately needed political compromises.”

But will it? According to the legislation now before us, the withdrawal will happen regardless of what the Iraqi government does.

How, then, if you are an Iraqi government official, does this give you any incentive to make the right choices?

On the contrary, there is compelling reason to think a legislatively directed withdrawal of American troops will have exactly the opposite effect than its Senate sponsors intend.

This, in fact, is exactly what the most recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq predicted. A withdrawal of U.S. troops in the months ahead, it said, would “almost certainly lead to a significant increase in the scale and scope of sectarian conflict, intensify Sunni resistance, and have adverse effects on national reconciliation.”

Second, the Majority Leader said that withdrawing our troops, and again I quote, will “reduce the specter of the U.S. occupation which gives fuel to the insurgency.”

My colleague from Nevada, in other words, is suggesting that the insurgency is being provoked by the very presence of American troops. By diminishing that presence, then, he believes the insurgency will diminish.

But I ask my colleagues—where is the evidence to support this theory? Since 2003, and before General Petraeus took command, U.S. forces were ordered on several occasions to pull back from Iraqi cities and regions, including Mosul and Fallujah and Tel’Afar and Baghdad. And what happened in these places? Did they stabilize when American troops left? Did the insurgency go away?

On the contrary—in each of these places where U.S. forces pulled back, Al Qaeda rushed in. Rather than becoming islands of peace, they became safe havens for terrorists, islands of fear and violence.

So I ask advocates of withdrawal: on what evidence, on what data, have you concluded that pulling U.S. troops out will weaken the insurgency, when every single experience we have had since 2003 suggests that this legislation will strengthen it?

Consider the words of Sheikh Abdul Sattar, one of the leading Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province who is now fighting on our side against Al Qaeda. This is what he told the New York Times when asked last month what would happen if U.S. troops withdraw. “In my personal opinion, and in the opinion of most of the wise men of Anbar,” he said, “if the American forces leave right now, there will be civil war and the area will fall into total chaos.”

This is a man whose father was killed by Al Qaeda, who is risking his life every day to work with us—a man who was described by one Army officer as “the most effective local leader in Ramadi I believe the coalition has worked with… in Anbar [since] 2003.”

In his remarks earlier this week, the Majority Leader observed that there is “a large and growing population of millions—who sit precariously on the fence. They will either condemn or contribute to terrorism in the years ahead. We must convince them of the goodness of America and Americans. We must win them over.”

On this, I completely agree with my friend from Nevada. My question to him, however, and to the supporters of this legislation, is this: how does the strategy you propose in this bill possibly help win over this population of millions in Iraq, who sit precariously on the fence?

What message, I ask, does this legislation announce to those people in Iraq? How will they respond when we tell them that we will no longer make any effort to protect them against insurgents and death squads? How will they respond when we declare that we will be withdrawing our forces—regardless of whether they make progress in the next six months towards political reconciliation? Where will their hopes for a better life be when we withdraw the troops that are the necessary precondition for the security and stability they yearn for?

Do my friends really believe that this is the way to convince Iraqis, and the world, of the goodness of America and Americans? Does anyone in this chamber really believe that, by announcing a date certain for withdrawal, we will empower Iraqi moderates, or enable Iraq’s reconstruction, or open more schools for their children, or more hospitals for their families, or freedom for everyone?

Mr. President, with all due respect, this is fantasy.

The third step the Majority Leader proposes is to impose “tangible, measurable, and achievable benchmarks on the Iraqi government.”

I am all for such benchmarks. In fact, Senator McCain and I were among the first to propose legislation to apply such benchmarks on the Iraqi government.

But I don’t see how this plan will encourage Iraqis to meet these or any other benchmarks, given its ironclad commitment to abandon them—regardless of how they behave.

We should of course be making every effort to encourage reconciliation in Iraq and the development of a decent political order that Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds can agree on.

But even if today that political solution was found, we cannot rationally think that our terrorist enemies like Al Qaeda in Iraq will simply vanish.

Al Qaeda is not mass murdering civilians on the streets of Baghdad because it wants a more equitable distribution of oil revenues. Its aim in Iraq is not to get a seat at the political table.

It wants to blow up the table—along with everyone seated at it. Al Qaeda wants to destroy any prospect for democracy in Iraq, and it will not be negotiated or reasoned out of existence. It must be fought and defeated through force of arms. And there can be no withdrawal, no redeployment from this reality.

The fourth step that the Majority Leader proposed on Monday is a “diplomatic, economic, and political offensive… starting with a regional conference working toward a long-term framework for stability in the region.”

I understand why we are tempted by these ideas. All of us are aware of the justified frustration, fatigue, and disappointment of the American people. And all of us would like to believe that there is a quick and easy solution to the challenges we face in Iraq.

But none of this gives us an excuse to paper over hard truths. We delude ourselves if we think we can wave a legislative wand and suddenly our troops in the field will be able to distinguish between Al Qaeda terrorism and sectarian violence, or that Iraqis will suddenly settle their political differences because our troops are leaving, or that sweet reason alone will suddenly convince Iran and Syria to stop destabilizing Iraq.

Mr. President, what we need now is a sober assessment of the progress we have made and a recognition of the challenges we face. There are still many uncertainties before us, many complexities. Barely half of the new troops that General Petraeus has requested have even arrived in Iraq, and, as we heard from him yesterday, it will still be months before we will know just how effective his new strategy is.

In following General Petraeus’ path, there is no guarantee of success—but there is hope, and a new plan, for success.

The plan embedded in this legislation, on the other hand, contains no such hope. It is a strategy of catchphrases and bromides, rather than military realities in Iraq. It does not learn from the many mistakes we have made in Iraq. Rather, it promises to repeat them.

Let me be absolutely clear: In my opinion, Iraq is not yet lost—but if we follow this plan, it will be. And so, I fear, much of our hope for stability in the Middle East and security from terrorism here at home.

I yield the floor.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Don't abandon Iraq

Ami, don't go home!

Von Yassin Musharbash

Die US-Demokraten fordern einen Abzug der US-Armee aus dem Irak bis April 2008 - was unter den herrschenden Umständen das Rezept für eine Katastrophe wäre. Dieser Plan eignet sich nicht mal als Druckmittel. Stattdessen muss die US-Armee besser werden.

(The U.S. Democrats are demanding a pull-out of US Forces from Iraq by April, 2008 – which, given current circumstances, would be a recipe for a disaster. This plan is not workable now. Instead, the US army must improve.)

Berlin - Herr Keuner begegnete Herrn Wirr, dem Kämpfer gegen die Zeitungen. "Ich bin ein großer Gegner der Zeitungen", sagte Herr Wirr, "ich will keine Zeitungen." Herr Keuner sagte: "Ich bin ein größerer Gegner der Zeitungen: Ich will andere Zeitungen."

(Berlin - Mr. Keuner met Mr. Wirr, a warrior against the newspapers. "I am a great opponent of the newspapers", said Mr. Wirr, "I want no newspapers." Mr. Keuner said, "I'm a greater opponent of the newspapers: I want different newspapers.")

Zugegeben, man kann die US-Armee nicht einfach mit einer Zeitung vergleichen. Trotzdem sollten sich gerade die Gegner der US-Invasion und die Kritiker der US-Praxis im Irak ein Vorbild an der Reaktion des Herrn Keuner in dieser Brecht-Geschichte nehmen. Keine US-Armee ist derzeit nicht die Lösung für den Irak - sondern eine bessere.

(Granted, one can't compare the US Army with a newspaper. Still, the opponents of the US invasion and the critics of US practices in Iraq should take a page from the reaction of Mr. Keuner in this vignette. No US army is not currently the solution for Iraq – a better one is.)

Eine, die sinnvoller agiert. Auf gar keinen Fall jedoch eine, die wegrennt und das Land sich selbst überlässt.

(One which acts sensibly. But in no case, one which runs away and abandons the country.)

Sicher, der erzwungene Abzug als gedemütigte Armee wäre ein Triumph für alle, die den USA und George W. Bush nachweisen wollen, dass sie sich verzettelt haben. (Als wäre das noch nötig.) Aber er hätte Folgen, die die gegenwärtige Tragödie im Nachhinein wahrscheinlich wie ein blasses Vorspiel erscheinen lassen würden. Niemand kann das wollen, auch der größte USA-Hasser nicht.

(Certainly, the forced departure as a humiliated army would be a triumph for all those who want to show up the waste of US and George W. Bush. (As if that were still necessary.) But it would have consequences which would probably make the current tragedy pale in comparison. No one, even the greatest haters of the USA, could wish for that.)

Though, if they do, we mustn't ever question their patriotism!

Trends in Iraq

Can America succeed in Iraq? Definitely. Will we? It's too soon to say. The most that can be said now is that we seem to be turning a corner. In December 2006, we were losing, and most of the trends were bad. Today, many trends are positive, despite the daily toll of al Qaeda-sponsored death. That reversal resulted from our own actions, from enemy mistakes, and from positive decisions by potential spoilers. Our actions are proceeding in the right direction, as our forces work skillfully to establish order and support and assist reconstruction. The enemy is maintaining the same strategy that led to its difficulties in Anbar: ruthlessly attacking both Sunnis and Shiites in an effort to terrorize populations into tolerating its presence. And the key potential spoilers are holding to their vital decision to call for sectarian calm rather than sectarian war.

Americans have been subjected to too much hyperbole about this war from the outset. Excessively rosy scenarios have destroyed the credibility of the administration. The exaggerated certainty of leading war opponents that the conflict is already lost is every bit as misplaced. Too much optimism and too much pessimism have prevented Americans from accurately evaluating a complex and fluid situation. It is past time to abandon both and seek a clearheaded appraisal of reality in Iraq.

Today, victory is up for grabs, and the stakes for America are rising as the conflict between us and al Qaeda shifts to the fore. It is no hyperbole to recognize that a precipitous American withdrawal would undermine the current positive trends and increase the likelihood of mass killing and state collapse. Painful and uncertain as it is, the wisest course now is to support our commander and our soldiers and civilians, as they struggle to foster security in Iraq and to defeat the enemies who have sworn to destroy us.

Getting the people "peaced off"

A while ago, I posted some pictures of "peace demonstrators" doing things like vandalizing the Capitol steps, burning the American flag, and burning a U.S. soldier in effigy. The caption I gave it was, "Now can we question their patriotism?" This article points out that antics like this may wind up working against the declared objective of the "peace" movement.

That was 1967, and conventional wisdom credits anti-war demonstrations with triggering a shift in American strategy in Vietnam. Yet, as these protests became increasingly violent, another reality emerged: As unpopular as the war had become, the activist anti-war movement was reviled even more. Put-off by the viciousness of the anti-war protests--which came to be characterized more by the prevalence of drugs, sex, rioting, bomb-throwing, and a general disregard for authority than by a sincere desire to sow peace--many Americans were alienated by the so-called peace movement.

The importance of evolution in medicine

From the Public Library of Science, here's an article about the importance of evolution in medicine.

One reason that evolution doesn’t figure prominently in the medical community is that although it makes sense to have evolution taught as part of medicine, that doesn’t make it essential. As explained at a meeting on evolution and medicine I recently attended in York, United Kingdom (the Society for the Study of Human Biology and the Biosocial Society’s 2006 symposium, “Medicine and Evolution”), medicine is primarily focused on problem-solving and proximate causation, and ultimate explanations can seem irrelevant to clinical practice. Crudely put, does a mechanic need to understand the origins, history, and technological advances that have gone into the modern motor vehicle in order to fix it?

Randolph Nesse (University of Michigan) and colleagues think otherwise [2], and have been campaigning for evolution to be recognized and taught as a basic science to all medical students (see also the Evolution and Medicine Network, http://www.evolutionandmedicine.org).

The most obvious examples of evolutionary biology’s importance to medical understanding are related to infectious disease.

...

Understanding how virulence evolves, for example, can help predict the potential, sometimes counterintuitive (and controversial) negative consequences of imperfect vaccination. But evolution can also tell us that the origin of HIV was precipitated by a jump across the primate species barrier and enables us to predict the imminent arrival of avian flu and the mutations most likely to be responsible for that evolutionary leap from birds to humans. Where epidemiological and population genetic processes occur on the same time scale, the emerging field of “phylodyamics” can also inform us about the timing and progression of pathogen adaptation more generally.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Is the surge working?

Max Boot on the state of Iraq today.

The news from Iraq is, as usual, grim. Bombings, more bombings, and yet more bombings--that's all the world notices. It's easy to conclude that all is chaos. That's not true. Some parts of Iraq are in bad shape, but others are improving. I spent the first two weeks of April in Baghdad, with side trips to Baqubah, Ramadi, and Falluja. Along the way I talked to everyone from privates to generals, both American and Iraqi. I found that, while we may not yet be winning the war, our prospects are at least not deteriorating precipitously, as they were last year. When General David Petraeus took command in February, he called the situation "hard" but not "hopeless." Today there are some glimmers of hope in the unlikeliest of places.

From mid-February to the end of March, some 2,000 soldiers and Marines, along with their Iraqi allies, fought to gain control of the city. The principal operations were codenamed Murfreesboro (February 10-March 10), Okinawa (March 9-20), and Call to Freedom (March 17-30). Collectively, they deserve to take their place in the annals of this long war alongside such notable clashes as the taking of Tal Afar in 2005, the two battles of Falluja in 2004, and the thunder runs through Baghdad in 2003.

Each of the Ramadi offensives began with troops staging raids into the targeted area to eliminate "high value individuals"--local al Qaeda leaders. Then the troops would place three-foot-high concrete blocks known as Jersey barriers around the targeted neighborhood to prevent insurgents from "squirting out." This would be followed by a clearing operation, with U.S. and Iraqi troops advancing from multiple directions to root out the enemy. Combat was intense. Insurgents fought back with everything from homemade bombs to AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades, and heavy machine guns. Ten American soldiers were killed and another 40 wounded.

"The price was heavy but worth it," says Colonel John W. Charlton, the burly commander of the 1st Brigade who directed the operations. "The enemy lost massively."

To illustrate the point, he shows me a page of closely printed type listing all the arms caches seized by his men. These included 10,250 pounds of homemade explosives, 2,347 pounds of high explosives, 2,265 feet of detonation cord, and 6,000 gallons of chlorine. U.S. troops discovered and dismantled entire factories devoted to the production of IEDs, and they killed hundreds of insurgents.

Interrogation in Iraq

Professional interrogators in the armed forces routinely declare that "torture doesn't work". Apparently, prisoners in Iraq didn't get that memo.

BAGHDAD, April 21 — Out here in what the soldiers call Baghdad’s wild west, sometimes the choices are all bad.

In one of the new joint American-Iraqi security stations in the capital this month, in the volatile Ghazaliya neighborhood, Capt. Darren Fowler was heaping praise on his Iraqi counterparts for helping capture three insurgent suspects who had provided information he believed would save American lives.

“The detainee gave us names from the highest to the lowest,” Captain Fowler told the Iraqi soldiers. “He showed us their safe houses, where they store weapons and I.E.D.’s and where they keep kidnap victims, how they get weapons, where weapons come from, how they place I.E.D.’s, attack us and go away. Because you detained this guy this is the first intelligence linking everything together. Good job. Very good job.”

The Iraqi officers beamed. What the Americans did not know and what the Iraqis had not told them was that before handing over the detainees to the Americans, the Iraqi soldiers had beaten one of them in front of the other two, the Iraqis said. The stripes on the detainee’s back, which appeared to be the product of a whipping with electrical cables, were later shown briefly to a photographer, who was not allowed to take a picture.

To the Iraqi soldiers, the treatment was normal and necessary. They were proud of their technique and proud to have helped the Americans.

Gee, if this information pans out, it sounds like "working" to me.

The beaten detainee, according to Captain Fowler, not only led the Americans to safe houses believed to be used by Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia but also confessed to laying and detonating roadside bombs along a section of road heavily traveled by American patrols. Just a month ago, four soldiers from Captain Fowler’s regiment died on that road after the explosion of a large, deeply buried bomb, possibly made in the bomb factory that the Americans were able to dismantle because of the detainee’s information, Captain Fowler said.

...

After interrogating Mr. Jassam, a thin young man wearing a blue and red warm-up outfit, for much of the night, the Americans took him to point out one of the houses where the Qaeda militants made bombs. When the Americans arrived, a half-eaten lunch was on the table next to a couple of detonators and some blasting wire. The insurgents appeared to have been gnawing on chicken and flat bread while making fuses for I.E.D.’s, improvised explosive devices, the military’s term for the roadside bombs found here.

On the table and in bags on the floor were mountains of soap, which can be used in homemade explosives. Blasting wire lay in coils. Buried in the garden were two large antiaircraft guns known as Duskas, three propane tanks, and an oxygen tank that was partly cut in preparation for being turned into a huge bomb, probably similar to the one that killed the four soldiers. On the roof a large pile of homemade explosives was drying in the sun.

The Iraqi soldiers were ecstatic. They had delivered. They snapped photos of each other in front of the cache with the blasting cords in their mouths, grinning. The Americans were nervous. “One spark will blow this place up,” said First Lt. Michael Obal as an Iraqi soldier flicked a lighted cigarette butt within inches of one cache of explosives. “It’s highly unstable TNT.”

Later, the Americans plotted into their computers the location of each of the Qaeda safe houses that Mr. Jassam had pointed out. “He was singing like a songbird,” said First Lt. Sean Henley, 24.

Looks like a very good approximation of "working" to me.

Repealing natural laws

This one's a hoot.

Laws of Nature to be Repealed

By Paul V. Cameron

Apr 16, 2007, 21:10

As a result of recent disasters and extreme weather, in a move some say will only incite anger and retribution by none other than the Almighty, a UN-led group is planning to repeal most, if not all laws of nature.

"There are four laws we don't like," said UN spokesperson Liam Snugglam. "If it weren't for these laws, we could prevent the deaths of innumerable vulnerable citizens world wide."

Drawing on an unconfirmed source, Snugglam noted the laws and the specific problems this UN-led group hopes to eliminate.

The law of universality (all laws of nature must work the same way everywhere) - "This sounds discriminatory. Each nation must have the right to interpret the laws in the context of its own culture," said Snugglam. "This is a fundamental right so long as it doesn't violate universal human rights."

The law of causality (causes must exist for all effects, and must come before the effects they produce) - "This law is a problem for everyone," commented Snugglam. "It smacks of predeterminsim. The UN is against predeterminism. This law must go."

Extrema (all systems, by themselves, tend toward a state of minimum energy) - "Sounds foreign, no need for it," bluntly stated Snugglam. "Look, the UN is pro-energy, so to say things have to focus on minimum energy, well that goes against our economic stance."

Conservation of matter and energy (matter and/or energy are neither created nor destroyed over time) - "This perhaps," laughed Snugglam, "is the most ridiculous of laws. Natural disasters are constantly destroying things - people, their homes, and their lives. We don't even think this is a real law at all. It's a faux law. All dressed up to look like a law, but, on all sorts of levels, it is not."

Entropy (in any real-world situation, entropy irreversibly increases for an isolated system) - "We aren't sure what this entropy thing is," offered Snugglam, "But we're against it philosophically, if not practically. We are against isolationism. We think that the world needs to come closer together as one community. Entropy sounds like it pushes people apart. That is going in the wrong direction as far as the UN is concerned."

Snugglam's group hopes to have a resolution ready for Spring 2006 to present to the UN community. "We already have a potential spokesperson," said Snugglam. "It will be either Courtney Love or Paulley Shore. Both of these people's lives have been ruined by the operation of these silly laws of nature. They are the perfect people to stand up for the rights of vulnerable people not to be subjected to one disaster or calamity after another. We are excited just as I'm sure these two infamous Hollywood stars are."

For Snugglam's group, taking control and placing the human community above nature is all about coming together and creating synergies of action. Only through synergies can enough energy be generated to allow the human community to put bad weather patterns and tectonic shifts in their place. If their effort is successful they hope to then take their plan into space and apply it to rogue comets, exploding suns, and unseen messages sent by aliens to control our minds.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Withdraw the troops

From South Korea.

The US in Korea site is quite an eye-opener! Let's just start with the subject that got me there: teaching. The site makes it clear that KTU, with 90,000 members, isn't the mainstream teachers' group there, but it's hardly small or fringe.

This excerpt is pulled from an an essay, Teaching Anti-US/USFK Thought To Children, from the site. [USFK is U.S. Forces/Korea]

Then came revelations about a highly anti-American "lesson plan" - that contained many, many pages - located on the KTU website and distributed to its several tens of thousands of members. The blatant nature of the propaganda value of the "teaching" material also (thankfully) created a backlash, but — it found some sort of favor with President Roh Mun-Hyun. He criticized the plan intially, but then changed his mind after discussing it with his base of support - the one that carries as part of its platform a healthy dose of "bad America" and "USFK cancer."

Dennis Prager has suggested, in the light of anti-American sentiment in South Korea, we have a vote. If as few as one third of the South Korean population wants the U.S. troops to leave, then we pull them out and let them handle their own defense against North Korea.

We could probably offer most of Europe the same "deal".

Friday, April 20, 2007

Iraq: To leave or to stay?

When it comes to Iraq, the difference between the right and the left is that the left believes the war is optional. According to the left, we can pull out of the country, let it go wherever it's going to, and suffer no ill effects.

The right begs to differ.

President Bush warned Thursday that pulling out of Iraq too soon would trigger a bloodbath akin to that of the Cambodian killing fields of the 1970s, while Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid declared that it is too late to stay because the war has already been lost.

Now maybe Reid is being misquoted. But if he's being quoted accurately, then any support for a withdrawal date is a call for a date on which the US announces its official surrender. He may not want to call it that, but the effect is the same as if he were being honest.

Reid cast Iraq as another Vietnam and Bush as another Lyndon B. Johnson, while the president described dire consequences if the past repeats itself.

Bringing up Vietnam seems to be intended to stop debate – sort of like calling someone "racist" or "islamophobic". But if the lessons of Vietnam seriously, one fact is that Vietnam was not lost on the battlefield. The US handily won every engagement, including the Tet offensive. Vietnam was lost in Congress, where congresscritters, tired of fighting, voted to cut off funding. Without US support, South Vietnam fell, taking the reputation of the US with it.

I believe Senator Reid is absolutely correct here. The war in Iraq is ours to lose, and Congress has the power to lose it for us.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Death and "healing"

Dennis Prager has written about the aftermath of the shooting at Virginia Technical Institute. The shooting itself is being covered to death, but Dennis takes issue with the convocation the following day.

Within hours of the massacre of more than 30 people at Virginia Tech University, the president of the university issued his first statement on the evil that had just engulfed the college campus and concluded with this:

"We're making plans for a convocation tomorrow at noon in Cassell Coliseum for the university to come together to begin the healing process from this terrible tragedy."

...

I believe that this early healing talk is both foolish and immoral.

It is foolish because one does not speak about healing the same day (or week or perhaps even month) that one is traumatized -- especially by evil. One must be allowed time for anger and grief. To speak of healing and "closure" before one goes through those other emotions is to speak not of healing but of suppression.

...

This whole notion of instant healing (like its twin, instant forgiveness) is also morally wrong.

First, it is narcissistic. It focuses on me and my pain, not on the murderer and the murdered.

Second, it is almost obscene to talk of our healing when the bodies of the murdered are still lying in their blood on the very spot they were slaughtered. Our entire focus of attention must be on them and on the unspeakable suffering of their loved ones, not on the pain of the student body and the Virginia Tech "community."

There were, of course, comments. I left one in response to some that objected to any suggestion that anger, rage, or any similar emotion, would be appropriate:

Critical Bill writes:

"Prager wants "enraged" students. Erm, what on earth would that achieve? Do people who are in a state of rage make rational decisions? Rage is presumably one of the driving forces that led to this in the first place; more of it solves nothing."

A couple of points. First, you may be acquainted with Elizabeth Kuebler-Ross' work on the five stages of loss. The second of these is anger. If you suppress this natural phase of the grieving process, you bring the whole thing to a halt. Ironically, a call for instant "healing" sabotages this very process.

Additionally, the usefulness of rage depends on whom the rage is directed at. The Bible, from which Dennis draws his moral guidance, instructs us to "hate evil". In doing so, people oppose it, and prevent it from having its way.

In the abstract, it might be better to harbor no hate at all, but I'm not sure humans are wired that way. The Talmud observes that those who are merciful to the cruel will be cruel to the merciful. (And this is loudly echoed in the Kabbalah and its derivatives.) If victims of evil are forced to declare themselves "healed" and the evil-doer "forgiven", the result of this enforced mercy must be cruelty toward those who don't deserve it.

Imus, humor, and the first amendment

Here's a neat piece by Robert Ringer: some reflections on the events leading up to the firing of Don Imus.

As everyone this side of the Milky Way Galaxy now knows, Don Imus got torched last week for referring to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.” I’m sorry to have to break this to you, but I’m so out of it that I didn’t even know what that meant!

...

...I am ideologically compelled to opine that the public beheading of Imus was a bit of an overreaction. For one thing, his enemies have now handed him a fortune in speaking fees, not to mention that it’s probably only a matter of time until he gets an even better deal for a new radio or TV gig.

In any event, give credit where credit is due. The Race Police won another battle by getting Don Imus fired, which undoubtedly made a lot of people happy. But those same people should think about what this means in terms of our ever-decreasing freedom.

...

It’s anti-freedom to censor humor, because humor is subjective. It’s anti-freedom (in general) to try to exile people who say things you don’t approve of. And it’s anti-freedom to force people out of their jobs because they say something that certain other people don’t like.

I am an unflinching believer in the morality of the marketplace. If Don Imus deserved to be fired — if enough people decided they were turned off by his comments and stopped listening to his program — he would have been gone. Quickly and efficiently. Because broadcasters care only about the bottom line.

And then he touches on an interesting point:

All we can do is work on making our own little worlds better.

And a good way to start on that is to make a personal commitment never to lower yourself by demanding the respect of others. Even if someone accedes to your demand, you can be certain of only one thing: Whatever respect that person outwardly displays toward you will be insincere. Deep down inside, he will resent you.

The truth of the matter is that you have no right to someone’s respect. Respect must be earned. And to earn respect, you first have to respect yourself — something over which you have complete control. The nice thing about it is that from self-respect flows the respect of others — as a natural consequence.

Second, purify your heart by ridding yourself of negative thoughts — especially hate and envy. When your heart is pure, you can feel free to say anything that suits your fancy, knowing that you have no ill intentions. If someone misunderstands your intent, that’s their problem. Only you know what is in your heart.

Third, lighten up. If someone says something that offends you, remember what your mother taught you about sticks and stones. Then see if you can disarm the remark by viewing it from a humorous perspective and getting a chuckle out of it.

Fourth, if you find that you’re forever on guard about what you say when you’re around a particular person, it’s wise to get that person out of your life. Life is too short to have to be constantly monitoring your own words. You don’t need the stress.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Roggio Iraq Report

IT'S NOW BEEN nearly eight weeks since the Baghdad Security Operation was first announced, and Baghdad is now relatively calm compared to the security situation just last year. There have been no major mass casualty attacks inside Baghdad since the suicide bombing in the Shia market on March 29. The deaths in Baghdad over the past week have been attributed to low level attacks such as roadside bombs, mortar attacks, and street fighting. Casualties from sectarian violence have remained much below the levels reported prior to the inception of the security plan.

Bill Roggio writes on the war at billroggio.com. You can read daily updates on the war in Iraq from Bill Roggio at THE WORLDWIDE STANDARD. DJ Elliott and CJ Radin also contributed to this report.

Also: The Iraq Report, by Kimberly Kagan

Crusaders

This is an article about a Christian group, which has made a website to spoof a recent safety drill. The bad guys in the drill were a Christian extremist group.

A New Jersey school district's depiction of school hostage takers as Christians has prompted the launch of a new campaign – using the name that the school created for its terrorists, "The New Crusaders."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

An expert on global warming

April 16, 2007 issue - Judging from the media in recent months, the debate over global warming is now over. There has been a net warming of the earth over the last century and a half, and our greenhouse gas emissions are contributing at some level. Both of these statements are almost certainly true. What of it? Recently many people have said that the earth is facing a crisis requiring urgent action. This statement has nothing to do with science. There is no compelling evidence that the warming trend we've seen will amount to anything close to catastrophe.

....

A warmer climate could prove to be more beneficial than the one we have now. Much of the alarm over climate change is based on ignorance of what is normal for weather and climate. There is no evidence, for instance, that extreme weather events are increasing in any systematic way, according to scientists at the U.S. National Hurricane Center, the World Meteorological Organization and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (which released the second part of this year's report earlier this month). Indeed, meteorological theory holds that, outside the tropics, weather in a warming world should be less variable, which might be a good thing.

In many other respects, the ill effects of warming are overblown. Sea levels, for example, have been increasing since the end of the last ice age. When you look at recent centuries in perspective, ignoring short-term fluctuations, the rate of sea-level rise has been relatively uniform (less than a couple of millimeters a year). There's even some evidence that the rate was higher in the first half of the twentieth century than in the second half. Overall, the risk of sea-level rise from global warming is less at almost any given location than that from other causes, such as tectonic motions of the earth's surface.

....

one overlooked mystery is why temperatures are not already higher. Various models predict that a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere will raise the world's average temperature by as little as 1.5 degrees Celsius or as much as 4.5 degrees. The important thing about doubled CO2 (or any other greenhouse gas) is its "forcing"—its contribution to warming. At present, the greenhouse forcing is already about three-quarters of what one would get from a doubling of CO2. But average temperatures rose only about 0.6 degrees since the beginning of the industrial era, and the change hasn't been uniform—warming has largely occurred during the periods from 1919 to 1940 and from 1976 to 1998, with cooling in between. Researchers have been unable to explain this discrepancy.

Moreover, actions taken thus far to reduce emissions have already had negative consequences without improving our ability to adapt to climate change. An emphasis on ethanol, for instance, has led to angry protests against corn-price increases in Mexico, and forest clearing and habitat destruction in Southeast Asia. Carbon caps are likely to lead to increased prices, as well as corruption associated with permit trading. (Enron was a leading lobbyist for Kyoto because it had hoped to capitalize on emissions trading.) The alleged solutions have more potential for catastrophe than the putative problem. The conclusion of the late climate scientist Roger Revelle—Al Gore's supposed mentor—is worth pondering: the evidence for global warming thus far doesn't warrant any action unless it is justifiable on grounds that have nothing to do with climate.

And, because it has to be said...

Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research has always been funded exclusively by the U.S. government. He receives no funding from any energy companies.

How likely does it have to be?

Suppose that upon entering Iraq, our troops had uncovered a nuclear facility in which Saddam had 1,000 working centrifuges, another 2,000 about to come on line, and manufacturing capacity to produce yet more centrifuges? Would anyone have argued at that point that the invasion had been unnecessary? Do any Democrats deny that Iran does in fact have all of this capacity right now?

Is Iraq important?

4) It is not only Bush who believes that the war for Mesopotamia is the key front in the global conflict between free societies and radical Islam. Bin Laden’s top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri has said this over and over (see below). If we’re not going to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq, where it’s most lethal, where will we fight al-Qaeda? In Pakistan? In Madrid and London?
**Zawahri quotes:**

"[T]he Muslim nation should realize that Afghanistan and Iraq are the most two important fields for confronting the contemporary Crusader war. Therefore, the Muslim nation should support the mujahdin in these two countries with all its power."

"The Islamic nation must support the heroic mujahedeen [holy warriors] in Iraq, who are fighting on the very front line for the dignity of Islam ...And to my brother mujahedeen in Iraq, I say, Stay firm. Stay together. Your enemy has begun to falter, so don't stop pursuing him until he flees defeated."

"I congratulate everyone for the victory in Iraq. You remember, my dear Muslim brethren, what I told you more than a year ago, that the U.S. troops will pull out of Iraq. It was only a matter of time. ... Bush, you have to admit that you were defeated in Iraq, you are being defeated in Afghanistan, and you will be defeated in Palestine, God willing."

"The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq."

Benedict XVI on Iraq

Benedict XVI's Easter Sunday remarks in St Peter Square hit a low point, I would think. He said that "nothing positive comes from Iraq." This is a very skewed report on the realities on the ground. But it might mean that the message the Pope wanted to convey is that of the American Left: "Whatever the good or the bad achievements, it is time to get out." In other words, not an accurate description, but a prescription for the near future.

Among things that are not positive:

• Even as he was speaking, an immense protest meeting among Iraqi Shiites was taking shape in the holy city of Najaf. Here were TWO positive things taking place in Iraq on account of the deposing of Saddam Hussein. First, the Shiite holy cities are free and open for feast days, festivals, and pilgrimages from all over, as they were not under Saddam. Second, this particular protest, against the Americans and in favor of Iraqi nationalism, was also free, peaceful, and not only unopposed by Coalition forces but protected and assisted by them.

• In addition, there are 200 or so free newspapers and magazines in Iraq now that did not used to be there in the time of Saddam. There are many hundreds of private, nongovernmental organizations and associations of all sorts. In short, civil society is coming back to life, slowly but surely.

• A constitutional government is in place, and three major elections have been successfully and bravely held.

• True enough, Al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists have been trying to foment, ever since the bombing of the holy and ancient mosque in Samarra in early 2006, a vicious cycle of violence between Sunnis and Shiites. That violence is by far where most of the civilian deaths in Iraq have been coming from since at least 2004.

• Under Saddam, scholars say there were between 75-125 murders of civilians every day. Bad as the murders are now under sectarian vengeance, the numbers of dead every day rarely reach that total, and most days are considerably below it.

And pulling out is not free of cost, either:

Most important of all, perhaps, from a practical point of view today, if the Americans left Iraq in the next six months, who would expect the vengeance killings in Iraq to become less frequent? Most observers on all sides predict a furious bloodbath if the Americans leave too early.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Sharia in US mosques

(Hat tip: Clayton Cramer.)

As Clayton points out, the people running this project will be denounced as "islamophobic", and it's probably only a matter of time until they're sued by the ACLU.

The Society of Americans for National Existence, or SANE, has launched the "Mapping Sharia in America Project," which is aimed at sending Arabic-speaking agents into the 2,000 mosques and Islamic day schools in the United States to learn what kind of doctrine is being preached. SANE president David Yerushalmi explains says the objective is to determine if those Islamic establishments are teaching complete obedience to sharia law.

"We're going to go into the mosques ... we're going to go into the day schools, [and] we're going to get the literature, we're going to listen to the courses, and we're going to rate them," says Yerushalmi. A rating of zero will indicate no sharia being taught; a rating of 10, says the group, will imply it is being taught at "al-Qaeda level."

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Media bias and global warming

Sometimes media bias is blatant and grotesque; it can extend to flat misrepresentations, use of fake documents, etc. Much more often, it is relatively subtle, as reporters push their version of a story in small ways, day after day. Here is a textbook example, via Power Line News.

Yesterday, in an interview with the Associated Press, one of the world's leading weather experts, Dr. William Gray, blasted Al Gore for perpetrating global warming hysteria. Since Dr. Gray is generally recognized as the world's leading expert in the science of forecasting hurricanes, this is news. But let's examine how the AP handled it in the article that resulted from their interview. The AP begins in a straightforward manner:

Rove Derangement Syndrome

(Hat tip: Michelle Malkin

A doctored photo of Karl Rove at a barbecue place ignites a frothing frenzied fit (fff) in the left-wing blogosphere over the Administration's use of a third-party firm to spread propaganda.

Support the troops and not the mission?

John Robinson on dealing with those who "support the troops" but want them to abandon their mission in Iraq:

So when a liberal says to me that (altogether now) "I support the troops, just not the mission", I don't lie to them anymore.

And one particular conversation I recently had with a liberal went like this:

"I support the troops, just not the mission"

"Nice patriotism."

"That's mean!"

"It's the truth."

"You can't question my patriotism!"

"Then stop saying unpatriotic things!"

"Just because I question the President doesn't make me unpatriotic!"

"No... but trying to subvert his constitutional authority and foreign policy just because you disagree, does."

"You make it sound like I'm a traitor."

"How would your behavior be different if you were?"

That usually stops them right there, at least for a moment.

Of course, eventually they come back. So he had an inspiration:

"You know, buddy," I began, "I like Martin Luther King, I do. I think he's a stand up guy. But this whole Civil Rights for blacks thing, that's gotta go. But I still support Martin. Like I said, he's a great guy. I just don't support his mission at all. In fact, I'm going to go down to the Selma City Council and petition to have his marching permits revoked. Because there's been a lot of violence at these marches he's been doing. Dogs and firehoses, you know. People are dying, can't you see! For what? Equality? Freedom? Who cares about that -- I just don't want Martin or anyone else to get hurt. I support Martin. And because I support Martin, we have to cancel these marches."

He was shocked.

"I can't believe you're such a racist," he said.

"Who's a racist?" I countered. "I support Martin. I just don't support his mission. Can't I do that? I care about Martin, that's why I want him to come home."

As I said, I haven't heard a word about it from him since.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Newsweek on human evolution

Unlike teeth and skulls and other bones, hair is no match for the pitiless ravages of weather, geologic upheaval and time. So although skulls from millions of years ago testify to the increase in brain size as one species of human ancestor evolved into the next, and although the architecture of spine and hips shows when our ancestors first stood erect, the fossil record is silent on when they fully lost their body hair and replaced it with clothing. Which makes it fortunate that Mark Stoneking thought of lice.

Head lice live in the hair on the head. But body lice, a larger variety, are misnamed: they live in clothing. Head lice, as a species, go back millions of years, while body lice are a more recent arrival. Stoneking, an evolutionary anthropologist, had a hunch that he could calculate when body lice evolved from head lice by comparing the two varieties' DNA, which accumulates changes at a regular rate. (It's like calculating how long it took a typist to produce a document if you know he makes six typos per minute.) That fork in the louse's family tree, he and colleagues at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology concluded, occurred no more than 114,000 years ago. Since new kinds of creatures tend to appear when a new habitat does, that's when human ancestors must have lost their body hair for good—and made up for it with clothing that, besides keeping them warm, provided a home for the newly evolved louse.

The science of human evolution is undergoing its own revolution. Although we tend to see the march of species down through time as a single-file parade, with descendant succeeding ancestor in a neat line, the emerging science shows that the story of our species is far more complicated than Biblical literalists would have it—but also more complex than secular science suspected. By analyzing the DNA of today's humans as well as chimps and other species (even lice), scientists are zeroing in on turning points in evolution, such as when and how language and speech developed, and when our ancestors left Africa. DNA can even reveal how many pilgrims made that trek. At the new Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, DNA gets equal billing with fossils. And by comparing the impressions that brains left on the inside of skulls, "paleoneurology" is documenting when structures that power the human mind arose, shedding light on how our ancestors lived and thought. Whether or not you believe the hand of God was guiding these changes, the discoveries are overturning longstanding ideas about how we became human.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Got to have heart

Part of a message thread on the subject of "large-scale" vs. "small-scale" changes.

A fellow named Mike Sims joined the Debunk Creation mailing list, and asked some of the same tired, old questions tossed out by creationists out to disprove evolution. One difference between Sims and the more rabid creationists: Sims listened to and responded to the answers he was given.

  • I ask for clarification on the difference between "large scale" and "small scale". In particular, if we can build a heart from nothing in a series of small steps, is that "large scale" or "small scale"?
  • Mike Suttkus, listing classes of organisms that fit examples given in original message.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Politics of holocaust denial

Here's an article from the New England Skeptical Society on the politics of holocaust denial.

The Holocaust deniers come from the most extreme fringes of the political spectrum; they are (for now) mainly far right or far left wing demagogues: radical anarchists, so-called "libertarians", extreme "conservatives" and most of all dedicated fascists and neo-Nazis. Not all of them, however, have kept their distance from the mainstream in American politics. David Duke, the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, the founder of the NAAWP [National Association for the Advancement of White People], a self-proclaimed disciple of Adolf Hitler, garnered nearly 40% of the popular vote in Louisiana during his bid to become a United States Senator in the late 1980's. Patrick Buchanan, though not overtly a Holocaust denier, has in his earlier days as a right-wing columnist, cast doubts on certain specifics about the history of the Holocaust and questioned the validity of survivor stories in general. Talk show hosts have regularly invited and interviewed Holocaust deniers and have given them somewhat excessive exposure on daytime television. Invariably, they have subjected tens of thousands of American TV viewers to vulgar and abusive campaigns of hate and bigotry.

Other links:

Sunday, April 01, 2007

War with terror

Last month, two students at Cambridge University's Clare College became victims of this state of affairs. The students dedicated an edition of their satire magazine to the one year anniversary of the global Muslim riots which followed the publication of caricatures of Mohammed in the Danish Jyllands Posten newspaper. As the students recalled, those riots led to the deaths of more than a hundred people.

...

In their magazine, the students published some of the caricatures and mocked the Muslims for their hypocrisy in accusing British society of racial prejudice while calling for its violent destruction.

The Muslim reaction was apparently swift. Fearing for their lives, the students were forced into hiding. But the Muslims were not alone in their anger. Clare College set up a special disciplinary court to consider action against the students. And the Cambridgeshire police opened a criminal investigation against them in late February.

Four years ago, US President George W. Bush called the invasion of Iraq "Operation Iraqi Freedom." The intention was clear. The purpose of the war was not merely to bring down Saddam Hussein's murderous, terror-supporting regime. It was to bring about the defeat of the vile world view that supported the regime and to replace that view with the values of freedom, tolerance and democracy.