Thursday, December 27, 2007

Faith and Reason

As a nearly lifelong devout agnostic I have watched with much interest (and occasionally even participated in) the increasingly rancorous argument between the New Atheists and the many stripes of Faith Apologists who, often bitterly, disagree with them. In the interest of full disclosure, my sympathies usually lie with the NA’s, not least because of their underdog status in these battles. I expect that it is not at all an uncommon experience for those of us living explicitly and purposely outside the FA communities in this country to feel extraordinarily intimidated and marginalized, and there is some vicarious salve of these wounds to be had through the irreverent arguments and anger expressed by the NA’s.

But, much as I’d like it to be for simplicity’s sake, my consideration of the matter is not exhausted at the foot of the NA arguments. I believe in ends as much as means, and I cannot deny that those operating in the name of faith often achieve good ends. Make no mistake: I find utterly repugnant and malign many or even most FA dogma, doctrine, and acts. But I also find that I simply cannot ignore the profoundly good and beautiful and humane acts of some individuals who claim their inspiration or motivation was based in their faith.

I have been wracked for many years about how to resolve this dissonance in my thinking about the FA’s – the dissonance between what I find repugnant in religion and the utter humanity of some of its practitioners. I have recently stumbled across some multiple threads that offer me a glimmer of hope that perhaps the gulf between these can be bridged. The first thread is the neurological/physiological investigation of spirituality, primarily through functional magnetic resonance imaging. Those investigations strongly suggest that spiritual experience is associated with a particular N/P process. A second thread is the nebulous and shifting nature of what many of the FA’s seem to be arguing for in the current skirmishes: variously, faith, doctrine and dogma, ends (as opposed to means), God, spirituality, a specific Messiah, religion or some combination thereof. The clear lack of a universal rallying point for the FA’s (and in many of the FA arguments this shifts inside the space of a sentence) also suggests to me that their experience of faith phenomena is both highly provisional and individual. So far, these threads are consistent with and support significant aspects of the NA critique of faith.

The final thread though, which I recently found through reading and thinking about the tidy little book “Born on a Blue Day” gives me a sense that though faith may simply be a provisional and individual N/P process, yet it might also have value. BBD is the autobiography of an individual with Asperger’s and savant syndromes. (If you are not familiar with these, think high functioning “Rain Man”.) In the context of this essay, the important features of these syndromes is that, though they are not well understood, they almost certainly have N/P origins and the savant syndrome manifests in a range of abilities that are completely and profoundly inaccessible to linear rational mental processes - those championed by the NA’s.

I have several “take aways” from this. First, I strongly suspect the spectrum of experiences and behaviors that we call faith are associated with particular N/P processes and further, that some individuals have intrinsically better or easier access to these processes. This would explain the spectrum of individuals between those who profess the tangible and indisputable nature of their faith experiences and those for whom the evidence and the experience is nonexistent. Second, I strongly suspect that just as the N/P processes of savant syndrome manifest in particular mental capacities, so the N/P processes of faith may give some individuals some valuable capacities that are not easily accessible by linear rational thought. This would explain how, for some individuals, faith can play an important role in their humanity and how it can provide comfort and purpose.

Finally – and this is the resolution I have sought for so long - should my conjectures prove true, this understanding of faith provides a basis for considering its role and the limits of its role in society. If faith is an intrinsic human N/P process then the NA program of eliminating its influence is moot. But it must be recognized that any faith claim is just the product of an individual human mind. Faith N/P processes may produce valuable understanding that is not readily accessible by linear rational thought, but that understanding must be subject to the same skepticism that informs every other assessment of human ideas. When a savant rattles off ten thousand digits of pi, the mathematicians run their computer programs to check them. And when my deeply religious catholic neighbor stands silent vigil in protest of the Iraq War because of her faith, I must also evaluate her understanding.

Monday, December 24, 2007

My Idea

Cooking and Human Evolution – see:

University Of Minnesota (1999, August 10). Light My Fire: Cooking As Key To Modern Human Evolution. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 24, 2007, from¬ /releases/1999/08/990810064914.htm


Hey that was my idea! Oh well Easy come easy go. That’s what happens when you’re slow out of the starting gate on a hot scientific hypothesis – AND you’re not working in the right field of science. It occurred to me (as an avid cook and more avid eater, and as extraordinary as it sounds in the 21st century to have to say this, evolution believer) a long long time ago that cooking very likely had a profound and, as the above articles suggest, perhaps THE pivotal role in human evolution.

You know how just about everyone advances their pet aspect of humanity that is displayed by no other species – tool-making, or language, or love, and so on and so on? Trouble is, one by one they’re falling by the wayside. Ask Roger and Deborah Fouts about the whole language thing, for instance. But cooking – with the possible exception of whether or not you count those galapagos marine iguanas that eat seaweed and then heat themselves (and their ingested seaweed) to high temperatures in the blazing equatorial sun – still seems to be limited to just humans. And not just limited to, but universally practiced by all human cultures.

And then there’s the brain case issue – cooking foods reduced the requirement in our ancestors for the huge jaw muscles, anchored into a volume of the skull that once released from that application could be turned over to neural occupancy.

I’ve also wondered about and speculated on the role and importance, the nutritional synergy if you will, of combining nutrients in a single cooked dish with multiple ingredients. Cue the nutritional anthropologists.

Ok, all circumstantial – I know that the hardest work of a scientist isn’t coming up with the brilliant idea – after all brilliant ideas are a dime a dozen - but to obtain the evidence that tests the ideas and, more importantly, to discard nearly all of them. I’ll leave it to Prof Wrangham to do the heavy lifting while I get started on a lemon meringue pie.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Reason for the Season

In the face of crass and unbridled, if not completely unhinged, commercialization of the winter holiday season we have to admit that we somewhat welcome those infrequent reminders of “The Reason for the Season”; alas, so few of those get it right:

Many of our cultural traditions come from an agrarian culture that developed primarily in the northern hemisphere of an approximately spherical terrestrial planet whose axis of rotation is tilted 23.5 degrees with respect to the axis of its orbit around its parent star. Due to physical principles that govern the motion of celestial bodies, the fundamental symmetry of the universe that gives rise to the conservation of angular momentum, and the geometry and thermodynamics of (approximately) point sources of electromagnetic radiation illuminating distant spheres, this state of affairs produces a highly predictable phenomenon of seasons, significant for its crucial agricultural implications, and dramatically demonstrated twice a year in the reversal in direction of the apparent motion of the parent star with respect to the horizon from a fixed location on the surface of the planet. This latter phenomenon, a solstice, and our understanding of it and our ability to understand it, and our understanding of its place in the unfolding of natural phenomena is exquisitely beautiful and worthy of celebration. This recognition takes nothing – absolutely nothing – away from the metaphor and mythology, the symbolism and legend, and, yes, religion, that has been piled on to the holidays that we celebrate near the winter solstice. Indeed, I propose quite the opposite: that a failure to recognize this as the reason for the season undermines our ability to see and to celebrate the genuine and true majesty and splendor of the world we are so fortunate to inhabit and that we must share with others. Happy solstice

Friday, December 14, 2007

Waterboarding: Everybody Wins

What a wonderful new law enforcement tool our national leaders have made available to us! It’s the dawn of a bright new age in which waterboarding is finally recognized as simply another useful tool in saving lives, and I say it’s about time. We should deploy this new instrument into our law enforcement policies in careful stages, starting exactly as we have, with those who are terrorists, or have been accused of being terrorists, or who might be terrorists, or who might have information about terrorists, or who might be able to accuse someone else of being a terrorist. Cautious and thoughtful introduction of the technique in limited situations like this allow us to more carefully tune it to achieve its greatest utility and to prevent, as it’s been made clear we must, potential targets of the technique from preparing to resist it.

But it’s important to begin considering its next stage of deployment and I humbly propose one I find as perhaps the most compelling: cases involving the report of an abducted child. This scenario perfectly exploits all of the best and most promising features of waterboarding: the speed with which it provides information to interrogators, its potential to save lives in time-sensitive situations, its harmlessness to those who undergo it, and the ease with which it can be applied with limited resources.

We know that minutes and hours matter in child abductions – the likelihood of recovering a child alive after a stranger abduction falls very rapidly as time elapses. We also know that police frequently lose precious hours and days trying to establish whether the parents themselves should be considered suspects. So making sure that police have all the information from parents quickly, makes all the difference in where police resources are directed early on in these situations, ultimately determining the survival potential for many of the children involved.

So here is how I see what should happen: upon reporting a child missing, police should immediately interrogate the childs parents with the technique of waterboarding. No more namby-pamby rapport building or good-cop, bad-cop routintes, or any other tricks of the police interrogation trade that, when they work at all, can take hours or days to generate information. Information extracted from parents by rapid resort to waterboarding will insure that police resources in these time-sensitive circumstances will be most appropriately directed to recovering children who are in mortal danger: no more wasted police time in corroborating a parents account of events, no more wondering if the parents were involved and squandering police resources and effort on lines of inquiry that go nowhere, no more guilty parents sending police off on wild goose chases, and no more coddling of monsters who are responsible for their own children’s deaths.

Indeed, as word spreads of the effectiveness of waterboarding in these situations as inevitably it must due to the blabbermouth liberal media, I think it is likely that criminally involved parents, will soon become less likely to seek out police involvement. This will, over time, give police so much more confidence in the accounts of abduction of those parents who do come forward with a willingness to be waterboarded to get an aggressive investigation underway, and with that confidence will come the resolve and the empathy that will result in many more of these situations ending happily.

Only those who are morally bankrupt beyond redemption could argue against such an approach in these situations. Waterboarding, is recognized by its proponents and practitioners as speedy, harmless and productive. It is inexpensive and so will save precious public resources and most important of all it will save childrens lives. Join me in contacting your representatives to demand WPACEW legislation now: Waterboarding Parents of Abducted Children: Everbody Wins!

Waterboarding = Forced Water Inhalation

In recognition of the extraordinary situation we face in which morally challenged national leaders have generated a “debate” about whether waterboarding is torture, and in which some “reasonable” observers have given credence to the merits of such a debate, and in which a complicit national media in presenting the “debate” has nearly universally adopted the clever and mild euphemism, simulated drowning, perfectly packaged for a population immersed in seeking out virtual experiences (grand theft auto, internet porn, second life, simulated drowning, they sound all of a piece, no?) I propose a modest modification to the language used in referring to this innterrogation/punishment/revenge technique: let’s call it “forced water inhalation”. It serves the same purpose as the euphemism – to briefly and pithily elaborate on the physiological basis of the technique – while more appropriately characterizing it.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Declining Support for Suicide Bombings - A Very Dim Bright Spot

Typically, terrorism is one of the tactics pursued by those who know that they would face certain, immediate, and overwhelming defeat in a conventional military confrontation with their opponents. Thus environments that support relatively small cores of zealous terrorists are, almost by definition, those in which terrorism can flourish.

It is tempting at first glance to view as good news for the “Global War on Terror”, new Pew Global Attitudes Project data, showing declining support for suicide attacks (for instance, the striking decrease from 40% in 2004 to 13% in the current report for Moroccan respondents), and that was recently reported in a letter to the editor in my local newspaper. Such a decline in support can be helpful in combatting terrorism; it is not, however, by any means the end of the story.

Since a terrorist movement can be, and usually is, structured around relatively small zealous cores of followers, it is well worth asking whether declines in support that still leave significant minorities supporting terrorist acts are consistent with other trends in the ongoing “Global War on Terror” in which we have been engaged now for six years. That’s where the data gets very ugly. In 2004 the U.S. State Dept proudly rolled out data showing that by several measures, incidents of international terrorism in 2003 had reached their lowest levels since 1969, at least implying that the “Global War on Terror” was responsible. Let’s make this clear – this data, incidents of international terrorism, is what the State Department self-selected as an assessment of progress in the “Global War on Terror”.

What has happened since then? The most recent State Department report of incidents of international terrorism, for 2006, shows that by virtually every measure acts of terrorism have skyrocketed. Let’s pick a single measure: number of individuals killed in terrorist acts. In 2001, an especially notorious year for deaths from terrorist acts, the State Department reported 3547 worldwide deaths from terrorist acts. Five years later, deep into the “Global War on Terror”, the State Department reported 20,498 deaths in terrorist acts, this following 2004 during which they tallied 14,618 deaths. So briefly, our five year investment has bought us a well over 500% INCREASE from 2001 in this measure of the effectiveness of the “War” that presumably should be decreasing if we are succeeding.

An alternative hypothesis to the “good news” of the Pew Report is that the “Global War on Terror” is having the effect of metastasizing and hardening, and perhaps even growing, international terrorist movements. Popular sentiment may be growing against these movements, indeed, perhaps largely because of these effects, but once more, terrorism can and does thrive, is designed to operate, in small cores at the margin. And don’t get me started on how this analysis is also consistent with recent National Intelligence Estimates.

So…, Pew, Schmew, I think we’re in deep, deep Doo-Doo.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bush and the Bully Pulpit

“I remind people that, like when I’m with, Condi, I say she’s the Ph.D. and I’m the C student and just look at who’s the president and who’s the adviser.”

I know, I know, there are more substantive issues about which I should be concerned, but there is, I am certain, a doctoral dissertation lurking in coming to understand how we have arrived at a point where the President of the United States comes before a press conference and stumbles through such a deeply unfunny, smug, unenlightened, degrading, irrelevant statement in just 30 short words. Whether he has actually ventured this observation to others, or whether he blurted it out here for the first time, "misunderestimating" its profound offensiveness, it is so inappropriate in so many ways, that it is uncomfortable to hear. Even though Dr. Condoleeza Rice is clearly not the only target of the benighted sentiment seething in this utterance and has made, in my opinion, some pretty severe mistakes for which she and we are bound to suffer, she is incontrovertibly a highly accomplished and important – not to mention ambitious – figure, and it made my insides squirm to think of her having to tolerate this. In the context of a range of past and unfolding revelations of how the President accepts, encourages, and arranges the humiliation and degradation of those working with him, how could one not but conclude that, at least in his personal interactions, this man has the sensibilities of a profoundly insecure and deeply disturbed third-grade bully. It seems even Jon Stewart cannot find a funny angle in this. Is it perhaps more the stuff of tragedy?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Civilian Control of the Military

An utterly misguided and foolhardy recent editorial on huffingtonpost has called for a military coup against President Bush. However, for a long time now, the manner in which the present administration has handled the principle of civilian control of the military has deeply bothered me. This handling has, I would maintain, significantly weakened the nation's commitment to the principle in a variety of ways, including:
  • military commanders have not been held strictly and visibly accountable for a variety of grave failures

  • avid pursuit of privatization of a variety of military functions and further failing to enact policies that hold these military contractors to standards of conduct at least consistent with the principle of civilian control of the military

  • rhetoric in a range of contexts that frequently sidles up to the idea of allowing the military to make policy decisions, e.g., listening to the troops

  • disconnecting a majority of Americans from an "ownership" relationship with the military through a refusal to ask for significant shared sacrifice

  • equivocation on the obligations of the U.S. Military under both U.S. and international law

The breadth and seriousness of this record warrants that any responsible position of outrage grounded in the principle of the profound importance of civilian control of the military should recognize these ongoing, real policies that actually are - as we "speak" - undermining the principle.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

An Open Letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

Secretary Gates

I urge you to immediately ask for the resignation of Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman for his inappropriate communication to Senator Clinton in response to the exercise of appropriate oversight functions of the United States Senate. Specifically, I understand that he sent a response to Senator Clinton’s request for briefings on contingency planning for the withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Iraq that appeared to be a refusal to provide the requested information and in addition claimed that the very request “reinforce[s] enemy propaganda.”

Included among the many causes that I see for the troubles we face in Iraq, is a period during which Congress largely abdicated its oversight responsibility. Given this situation that has committed the nation to policies that have cost hundreds of thousands of casualties, millions of refugees, a trillion dollars of treasure, and a decidedly dissatisfied American public, I am frankly utterly disgusted that Under Secretary Edelman, acting on behalf of the Department of Defense, appears, now, to be arrogantly resisting appropriate oversight and engaging in what appears to be a campaign to impugn and intimidate a Senator for performing exactly the Constitutional oversight function that is fundamentally necessary to the effective functioning of my government.

I must conclude that Under Secretary Edelman is not serving the interests of the country and I urge you to immediately ask for his resignation.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Some commentators pejoratively refer to Bush Derangement Syndrome, an epithet which is most frequently used to marginalize resistance to this administrations policies. But the reactions that manifest as what is called BDS are based in large part for many simply on long experience with the utter incompetence and destructive record of the Bush administration.

When Bush was first elected I was put in the the position of comforting a crestfallen colleague of mine – incidentally, one of the most brilliant individuals I have ever known – with what I genuinely believed to be a reasonable case in defense of Bush: I told him that I agreed with him that the evidence was that Bush was probably not well qualified to be President and that he would probably be somewhat incompetent, but that the checks and balances in our system of government could adequately handle such a situation, indeed had in the past, and that the consequences, overall would be minimal. That is, I argued with him that, all in all, things wouldn’t turn out much different, no matter who was elected, that he should give the Bush administration a chance and that Bush’s election wasn’t a priori a disaster. I report this experience only to establish my bonafides as not having suffered from BDS, at least initially.

But now with a simply breathtaking record of incompetence, dishonesty, and partisan hackery I simply do not trust the Bush administration to do ANYTHING. I have worked in scientific laboratories where for the sake of safety and to protect delicate instrumentation the policy for visitors is “put your hands in your pockets and do NOT under any circumstances take them out.” THAT is the policy I want the current administration to follow. Their every act seems the apotheosis of farpotchket at best, like the moron who tweaks a mirror on an optical table that has taken six months to align. Act on a nuanced and delicate situation? Jeebus, I’d rather Bush perform my laproscopic gall bladder removal, and the evidence suggests a better chance of success!

I resent the marginalization of resistance to actions of this administration as Bush Derangement Syndrome: my resistance is based on an expectation from painful experience and on a desire to stanch the unremitting flow of disasters, and is well summed up by the sentiment: “…fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."

Friday, June 29, 2007

Blame it on the Liberals

Placing even some portion of the blame for the failure of the U.S. in Iraq on liberals (and, oh yes, a tiny subset of conservatives) who opposed the war is absurd and smacks of desperation by a frightened and very culpable conservative movement. Analogously we might blame the failures of the War on Poverty in part on conservatives because they maintained a public posture that it was fundamentally flawed policy: “oh, if only they had kept their protests to themselves” moans L.I. Beral, wringing his (or is it her) hands, “or better, gotten behind the effort, the bureaucrats would have felt that their efforts were valued, and the Great Society might have had a fighting chance.” ABSURD and pathetic.

I have a difficult time imagining any military effort that isn’t likely to have some segment of the U.S. population opposed to it – that is a fundamental and necessary aspect of democracy and is exactly as it should be – and is a simple fact that must be competently managed as a part of war efforts by the nation’s leaders as any other aspect of a military undertaking: logistics, personnel, casualties, diplomacy and so on. If public opinion about the Iraq war has had a significant negative impact on its prosecution then that simply compounds the utter failures of this conservative administration in its diastrous misadventure in Iraq.

In several different contexts over the course of my life I had experiences or was engaged in work that suggested to me in the runup to the Iraq invasion that the administration had access to very tangible information about WMDs that it could not reveal in full to the public and that warranted the invasion. I therefore reluctantly, and perhaps to my shame, supported the invasion. As it became clear that the effort would uncover no significant WMDs, and that, perhaps, intelligence was manipulated to generate public and diplomatic support, I was aghast. Schadenfreude for those that opposed the war? I seem to remember a great deal of Schadenfreude on the right when we were kicking the a$$es of poor schmuck draftees in the Iraqi army and destroying infrastructure with precision bombing. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Iraqis suffer quite nearly as much as Americans from bullet wounds and explosions and I don’t remember any significant public rebuke for the pleasure that was taken at the expense of that suffering. Let the liberals have their tiny spark of pleasure in having been right about the absolute tragedy we unleashed – may it be, god willing, some small antidote to future leaders who would venture into such an ill-advised undertaking, uninformed, underprepared, incompetent.

Friday, June 8, 2007

An Open Letter to My Senators About S.J. Res 14, No Confidence in Alberto Gonzales

Over the past six months I have lost a great deal of confidence in the entire Department of Justice to act in a fair, non-partisan fashion, and in the best interests of the country. The origins of that loss of confidence include the blatant disrespect and dissembling or outright lying of DoJ officials in their response to the oversight role of Congress, the apparent use of bald-faced political motives in a range of personnel and policy matters, and admissions and allegations of unquestionably illegal actions including vote caging and politicization of the civil service hiring process. I am certain I am not alone in these feelings and I find it deeply, deeply troubling that the current leadership has administered the DoJ in a fashion that has so eroded citizens’ faith in this fundamentally important American institution that relies, for the good of the nation, so much on their trust.

I hope you will take into consideration the extraordinary negative impact these situations have had on my perceptions of the Department of Justice, as you consider your vote on whether or not the Congress has confidence in the Department’s continued leadership by Alberto Gonzales.

Please Stop, It's Hurting America - An Open Letter to Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman

Mr. Fineman and Mr. Matthews-

Jon Stewart said it ever so much more eloquently than I ever could - "it's hurting America ... stop hurting America." That you could look around this nation with so many difficult and crucial issues facing us, and given your implicit responsibility by virtue of your journalistic roles, and then sink to these inane depths in speculative commentary on its potential leadership:

FINEMAN: He doesn't—he looks like a guy who, if he had had the opportunity to grow up as a hunter, would have been a great one.
FINEMAN: He just gives off the aura of a guy who wouldn't be afraid to use a gun, you know? That's just—and that's the record that he had in New York.
MATTHEWS: Would he—would he have been a catch-and-release guy when he went fishing?

[transcript from Hardball May 23, 2007]

that you could actually consider these "insights" anything less than utterly degrading to yourselves and your networks and generally destructive of our democracy given your roles, particularly in these troubled times, is mind-boggling. Please stop, you're hurting America.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

"...But Withdrawal Will Be So Much Worse!"

The argument usually goes something like this: “yes, the occupation is a disaster for Iraqis, but if we withdraw it will be so much worse.” It seems to me that there is a major flaw with these analyses. Briefly, the flaw is inherent in the question: are we, as a country, going to commit to the sacrifices necessary to prevent this disaster from unfolding? As far as I can tell, this desperately incompetent administration figured that they could “do Iraq on the cheap” and more than just about anything else I see that as the “strategy” that they are unwilling to change. They have been unwilling to ask for any form of national sacrifice, though, of course some have sacrificed all. I expect someone genuinely concerned with our responsibility to the Iraqis, someone maintaining we have a moral obligation to the Iraqis that can ONLY be met by our continued military commitment in Iraq, will recognize the abject failure, the disastrous consequences of the current Iraq policy and will, because of the moral obligation, advocate strongly for the sacrifices that are necessary to redeem this disaster.

What sacrifices? A military DRAFT, so that we can field appropriate anti-insurgency military forces, realistic, engaged, flexible DIPLOMACY that starts extracting the U.S from the extreme isolation in which we have been positioned in this quagmire, an Iraqi (or even Middle East) “MARSHALL PLAN” to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure of Iraq and channel the efforts of Iraqis into being productively engaged in the world economy, and, finally, much higher TAXES to pay for these things rather than mortgage our children’s and our grandchildren’s economic future and threaten our own. Empirically, it seems obvious undertaking such a program is extraordinarily unlikely, at least a single data point being that no serious politician has even broached these ideas – our professional political class understands that these ideas would be touching, nay, clutching, the third rail of politics.

So, even though we are currently engaged in a slow motion disaster (is it really that slow?) we are not committed to doing what is necessary to stop it. Taken in this context it occurs to me that an analogy for the “we must stay to prevent a greater disaster” crowd is folks who go to their doctor with a bad cold demanding antibiotics who then fail to take the full course of the drugs. That “slow motion disaster” produces, as is well known, drug resistant bacteria that become dangers to everyone. That is what I see the these analysts arguing for – a low-level, inadequate, “treatment” of the Iraq disaster, in most cases, simply advocating for some variation of a “Friedman unit” approach. We already have some solid evidence that this produces results that are, at a very minimum, contrary to our military goals – serving as a means to recruit for (global) insurgency against America, honing the skills, tactics and strategies of those engaged in the insurgency, and exporting these experienced fighters to other regions.

So, I can not even begin to take pieces like this seriously until I see their authors take a deep breath and advocate, integrally in their positions, for the SACRIFICES that are necessary to stop the disaster. Go home, take two aspirin, and get into bed. When you are ready to take the medicine, all the medicine, the full course, come back and we’ll talk. Otherwise, methinks you are really not so serious about the moral obligation and perhaps withdrawal is the better of a fistful of dreadful options.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Another Moron Mismanages, Oh, Maybe the Most Important Issue EVER

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin:

“I have no doubt that … a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change. First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown. And second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take.”

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld:

“As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

Shorter NASA Administrator Michael Griffin:

'As you know, you live (and die) with the climate you have. They’re not the climate you might want or wish to have at a later time.'

Enough said. No, I take that back, not enough said – there are not adequate words for what should be said. Insert guttural primal noise HERE.

Update - Here's the email I sent to NPR about their reporting of this on Morning Edition:

Thank you for Steve Inskeep’s reporting that provided us with NASA Administrator Michael Griffin’s views concerning climate change, but I am deeply disappointed that NPR elected not to completely fulfill its journalistic responsibilities in this report.

Griffin's eerie mirroring of Donald Rumsfeld’s irresponsible unwillingness to plan for and act on potentially disastrous scenarios – (Rumsfeld: “As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time”; Griffin: “I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change.”) – aside, I was stunned by the ideologically positioned empty moral posturing of his statement: “…I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take.”

Why, of course, Administrator Griffin, in the context of his straightforward recognition of anthropogenic climate change, has precisely and unilaterally decided that HE is “... to be accorded the privilege of deciding …[the] particular climate that we have” - and perhaps a not very forgiving climate at that - by refusing to take action on our placement of over 10 TRILLION pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. I think it borders on journalistic misfeasance for your reporters to be served up such conspicuous garbage from a public official and not point it out to your listeners.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

An Open Letter to Former U.S. Attorney John McKay

Several recent editorials in our local newspaper by commentator Adele Ferguson addressed your situation as U.S Attorney. She claimed that US Attorneys are simply political appointees serving at the whim of the President, and that citizens should really expect no higher standard than political considerations in the handling of personnel matters for these important government posts, implying that if you were asked to resign solely for political reasons we should all just get over it. Oddly, considering that according to her first point no substantive rationale is necessary, she also alleged your firing was justified for performance reasons, though her allegation differed with the performance-based rationale provided by the Department of Justice.

First, I would like to know, based on your experience as US Attorney and your legal expertise and familiarity with the American justice system, what I should expect of the U.S. Department of Justice. That is, as a voter, taxpayer and citizen, is it unreasonable of me to expect the Department of Justice to operate in a fair, non-partisan fashion, that is, that US Attorneys, once appointed by the President, serve the United States to the best of their ability by evaluating cases on their legal merits and importance, upholding the laws as they are written? I had thought this is a big part of what is meant by the phrase: “the rule of law.” Or should I accept the Department of Justice for which Ms. Ferguson advocates, one that is a political tool of whichever party controls it, recognizing that it will pursue an agenda motivated principally by partisan considerations? Which one of these approaches do you think better serves the interests of our nation?

Second, do you think that perhaps Ms. Ferguson has somehow obtained information to which you and the office of the U.S. Attorney did not have access, or that her legal judgment is more acute than yours and the professionals in the U.S Attorney’s office in Seattle. She seems quite certain that a mistake was made in a high visibility case, despite extraordinary public interest, and the expertise, deliberative processes and checks and balances which your office brought to bear, and in spite of your record of accomplishments, your positive performance reviews, and your professional and political credentials (not least of which is that you are a republican nominated to your position by a republican president). I wonder whether in retrospect and given Ms. Ferguson’s profound insight, it might not have been appropriate to hire her as consultant to the U.S. Attorney’s office?

I suppose I should point out that it might bother me significantly if you answered that I should expect the DOJ to be a partisan political tool. I, and I suspect many others, could lose faith in our legal system. I cannot shake a sense that Ms. Ferguson’s prospectus for the Department of Justice is not consistent with the sentiment “… and justice for all”. On the other hand, I can easily see that having someone on the staff of the U.S. Attorney’s office who can determine when crimes have been committed without having to resort to the difficult process of availing themselves of the facts would be a great convenience. Thank you for considering my questions.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

George Tenet's Honor

Since I began reading about George Tenet’s recent revelations about his role in the runup to the Iraq war, I have found myself nearly speechless with outrage. Others have given voice to much of my response but, I still feel it necessary to splutter and spit through my virtual clenched teeth from this virtual soap box a response to this:

"You don't do this. You don't throw somebody overboard just because it's a deflection. Is that honorable? It's not honorable to me," Tenet said in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday.

Mr. Tenet, sir: Honor?! Honor?! You SOB! You worse than SOB, you sociopath, you vile excuse for a specimen of the human race! More than 100,000 dead, many hundreds of thousands wounded and maimed, half a trillion dollars squandered, nearly 2,000,000 refugees, the foundation laid for violence and hatred and division and ruin that is likely to last generations, and you have the effrontery, the superficial ethics, to come before the people you betrayed –betrayed! - and to include among your accounting of the horrors, the piddling insult of your tarnished honor! Whether from incompetence, or political expedience, or for personal gain, or out of cowardice, or for your own personal cover for the mistakes of 9/11, or for whatever the hell the reason was, you, to whom we entrusted our resources, our lives and the lives others, to whom we entrusted our future, you betrayed us when it mattered the most. Listening to you whimper about your self-indulgent honor, I could just vomit.