Month: June 2006

What If?

pc0001I saw Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, yesterday. It was a powerful film. Even though I have followed the science concerning global warming, I left the theatre understanding the extent of the problem much better than I had before. It should be required viewing for all Americans.

But today, as I reflected on the experience, I kept coming back to one central thought- What if the election had not been stolen from Gore? What if Al Gore had been President for the last six years? First of all, we would have had a President bright enough to understand the complex issues and problems that the country has faced since that election. But, perhaps more importantly, a President articulate enough to talk about those problems in ways that all Americans, no matter what their education or background, could understand.

What is most impressive about the “slide show” that Gore is seen presenting in the documentary, and that he has presented over 1000 times over the last 6 years, is the positive responses he has received from scientists who are climate experts and, at the same time, average Americans who have no background at all about the problem.

fdrbwI started thinking about FDR and the qualities that made him such a great leader. As America faced the Great Depression and World War II, It was the “fireside chats” over the radio that gave Americans the sense of common purpose and the courage necessary to face those two great crises. FDR had that very rare ability to speak to all Americans, no matter what their education or background. I think Gore has that same ability to communicate.

Media elites and beltway pundants claimed that Gore was too much the teacher. They claimed that the average Joe found Gore boring and pedantic. We voted for Bush because he came across as an average guy himself. We were comfortable with him and didn’t enjoy being preached to. According to this view, we need sound bites and bells and whistles to keep our attention from straying. We don’t want to hear boring facts. Instead, we want emotions and human interest.

Well, not only is that attitude patronizing, it is clearly pre-911. In a time of crisis, instead of a sniggering, inarticulate buffoon, the American people needed a leader in the mold of FDR. Go see the documentary. Tell all your friends and acquaintances to see it. Not only will you learn something about the climate crisis we face, but you will see what might have been. You will see Al Gore present an amazingly complex set of issues in an entertaining way. He is funny and he is passionate. He is dead serious and he is clear and precise. He is exactly what we need in a leader.


A Convenient Lie

al goreAl Gore’s movie on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, opens nation wide this weekend. Locally, you can see it at The Flicks in Boise. The response from the right-wing media, the White House, and congressional Republicans is to wage their usual misinformation campaign. Bush leads the way by continuing to maintain that there is no scientific consensus as to whether global warming is manmade or naturally caused.

QUESTION: I know you’ve said you are not planning to see Al Gore’s new movie, but do you agree with the premise that global warming is a real and significant threat to the planet?

BUSH: I think it’s – I have said consistently that global warming something is a serious problem. There is a debate over whether it’s manmade or naturally caused. We ought to get beyond that debate and start implementing the technologies necessary to enable us to achieve a couple of big objectives. One, be good stewards of the environment, and two become less dependent on foreign sources of oil for economic reasons and for national security reasons.

Bush repeats this convenient lie even though the recent report from the National Academy of Sciences states,

“Surface temperature reconstructions for periods prior to the industrial era are only one of multiple lines of evidence supporting the conclusion that climatic warming is occurring in response to human activity…”

It is informative to see how these misinformation campaigns are waged. In this case, the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) prints an article by global warming sceptic Richard Lindzen claiming that there is no consensus on global warming within the scientific community. Lindzen specifically attacks the Associated Press for an article claiming that the nation’s top climate scientists praised Gore’s movie for its accuracy. Lindzen’s claim rests on the following:

More recently, a study in the journal Science by the social scientist Nancy [sic – Naomi] Oreskes claimed that a search of the ISI Web of Knowledge Database for the years 1993 to 2003 under the key words “global climate change” produced 928 articles, all of whose abstracts supported what she referred to as the consensus view. A British social scientist, Benny Peiser, checked her procedure and found that only 913 of the 928 articles had abstracts at all, and that only 13 of the remaining 913 explicitly endorsed the so-called consensus view. Several actually opposed it.

What Lindzen doesn’t tell his readers is that Peiser’s critique of Oreskes’ study is completely flawed and filled with errors as Peiser, himself, admits. The errors in Peiser’s work are described in amazing detail here and here.

The lie takes on official sanction when the Republicans on the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works issue a press release (using taxpayer dollars to do so) titled “AP incorrectly claims scientists praise Gore’s movie. The press release repeats the lie of a lack of consensus over global warming and cites the Lindzen article as evidence.

Think Progress does a good job of pointing out the web of lies as they spread, but it is likely that most Americans will remain confused about the issue. That alone is reason enough to recommend Gore’s movie to everyone you see.

Should The Minutemen Hire Illegal Immigrants?

The “Minutemen” are evidently having a problem building that fence along the Mexican border that will keep out illegal immigrants.

Construction on the fence began May 27, when about 150 supporters turned out for the groundbreaking, but the number of volunteers then dwindled.

“We don’t want to put up something that will just be a symbol,” said Al Garza, the group’s executive director. “We want to make sure it’s permanent, properly structured and done right.”

As few as four people were observed working on the fence recently, said Cecile Lumer of the humanitarian aid group Citizens for Border Solutions.”From the beginning, the numbers they have projected have always fallen very short of the reality,” Lumer said.

If Americans are unwilling to do the work, the solution is obvious- hire illigal immigrants to finish the job!

Brainy Boise?

10 brainiest has just released a study that identified the cities where America’s brainpower is concentrated. The criteria was percent of adults who have college degrees. The left coast does pretty well with Seattle and San Francisco ranking first and second among large communities because they’re the only ones where more than 40 percent of adults have degrees. Colorado Springs ranks 4th, San Diego ranks 6th with Portland 9th and Alburquerque rounding out the top ten. Miami ranks last among large communities with just 16 percent of adults having earned bachelor’s degrees.

Arlington, Va., is the brainpower leader among medium-sized places. Sixty percent of its adults have bachelor’s degrees, two and a half times the national average. Boise ranks 10th among medium sized communities with 33.6% of the population college educated.

Topping the rankings of small communities is Ann Arbor, Mich., the home of the University of Michigan. The four runners-up are also college towns.

Go here to see the large cities ranking. It is worth noting the strong correlation between “brainpower concentration” and liberal politics. Red state communities in the South and MIdwest are less well represented than liberal blue state cities. Even in “Bushlandia” Boise is something of a liberal oasis.

What Difference Will Zarqawi’s Death Make?

According to the main stream media and bloggers on the right, the death of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi is a turning point in the war against terror. For example, Reuel Marc Gerecht at the Weekly Standard claims,

Zarqawi’s death is a cause for jubilation, especially among Iraq’s Shiites, whom he zealously slaughtered. No single man did more to bring on the sectarian strife that is crippling Iraq.

The Washington Post states:

The death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi could mark a turning point for al-Qaeda and the global jihadist movement, according to terrorism analysts and intelligence officials.

On the other hand, experts like Juan Cole, whose opinion on the Middle East I respect, claim:

There is no evidence of operational links between his Salafi Jihadis in Iraq and the real al-Qaeda; it was just a sort of branding that suited everyone, including the US. Official US spokesmen have all along over-estimated his importance. Leaders are significant and not always easily replaced. But Zarqawi has in my view has been less important than local Iraqi leaders and groups. I don’t expect the guerrilla war to subside any time soon.

Like most Americans, I only know what has been filtered through the political lenses of the media commentators. What do those most impacted by Zarqawi’s death, Iraqi citizens, think? Fortunately, there is a blogger who keeps a facinating account of what daily existence is like in Bagdad. “Riverbend” at Baghdad Burning is a 25 year old Iraqi woman whose story ought to be run daily in American news media. Here are her thoughts about Zarqawi’s death:

So ‘Zarqawi’ is finally dead. It was an interesting piece of news that greeted us yesterday morning (or was it the day before? I’ve lost track of time…). I didn’t bother with the pictures and film they showed of him because I, personally, have been saturated with images of broken, bleeding bodies.

The reactions have been different. There’s a general consensus amongst family and friends that he won’t be missed, whoever he is. There is also doubt- who was he really? Did he even exist? Was he truly the huge terror the Americans made him out to be? When did he actually die? People swear he was dead back in 2003… The timing is extremely suspicious: just when people were getting really fed up with the useless Iraqi government, Zarqawi is killed and Maliki is hailed the victorious leader of the occupied world! (And no- Iraqis aren’t celebrating in the streets- worries over electricity, water, death squads, tests, corpses and extremists in high places prevail right now.)

I’ve been listening to reactions- mostly from pro-war politicians and the naïveté they reveal is astounding. Maliki (the current Iraqi PM) was almost giddy as he made the news public (he had even gone the extra mile and shaved!). Do they really believe it will end the resistance against occupation? As long as foreign troops are in Iraq, resistance or ‘insurgency’ will continue- why is that SO difficult to understand? How is that concept a foreign one?

“A new day for Iraqis” is the current theme of the Iraqi puppet government and the Americans. Like it was “A New Day for Iraqis” on April 9, 2003 . And it was “A New Day for Iraqis” when they killed Oday and Qusay. Another “New Day for Iraqis” when they caught Saddam. More “New Day” when they drafted the constitution… I’m beginning to think it’s like one of those questions they give you on IQ tests: If ‘New’ is equal to ‘More’ and ‘Day’ is equal to ‘Suffering’, what does “New Day for Iraqis” mean?

How do I feel? To hell with Zarqawi (or Zayrkawi as Bush calls him). He was an American creation- he came along with them- they don’t need him anymore, apparently. His influence was greatly exaggerated but he was the justification for every single family they killed through military strikes and troops. It was WMD at first, then it was Saddam, then it was Zarqawi. Who will it be now? Who will be the new excuse for killing and detaining Iraqis? Or is it that an excuse is no longer needed- they have freedom to do what they want. The slaughter in Haditha months ago proved that. “They don’t need him anymore,” our elderly neighbor waved the news away like he was shooing flies, “They have fifty Zarqawis in government.”

So now that Zarqawi is dead, and because according to Bush and our Iraqi puppets he was behind so much of Iraq’s misery- things should get better, right? The car bombs should lessen, the ethnic cleansing will come to a halt, military strikes and sieges will die down… That’s what we were promised, wasn’t it? That sounds good to me. Now- who do they have to kill to stop the Ministry of Interior death squads, and trigger-happy foreign troops?

The Idaho Premier of “An Inconvenient Truth”

On Thursday, June 29 The Flicks Theatre will host the Idaho Premiere of “An Inconvenient Truth” to benefit the Idaho Conservation League. A no-host reception will begin at 6 pm and the movie will begin at 7 pm. Tickets are available on a first come, first serve basis and can be purchased at either The Flicks ticket office or the Idaho Conservation League, located on the corner of 6th and Franklin in downtown Boise, for ten dollars ($10).

Net Neutrality Loses in the House

The statement from “Save the Internet” says it all:

Last night’s House vote against an amendment that would make Net Neutrality enforceable is the result of swarming lobbyists and a multi-million-dollar media campaign by telephone companies that want Congress to hand them control of the Internet.The fight now moves to the Senate, where there is stronger bi-partisan support for a bill – put forth by Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota) – that would protect our Internet freedom from AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth.

Net Neutrality- The Vote is Here

I have blogged on numerous occasions about the issue of “Net Neutrality.” The debate has started and it appears the vote in the House will take place this Friday. The Washington Post has an excellent article by Lawrence Lessing and Robert W. McChesney that explains just what is at stake.

Congress is about to cast a historic vote on the future of the Internet. It will decide whether the Internet remains a free and open technology fostering innovation, economic growth and democratic communication, or instead becomes the property of cable and phone companies that can put toll booths at every on-ramp and exit on the information superhighway.

Net neutrality means simply that all like Internet content must be treated alike and move at the same speed over the network. The owners of the Internet’s wires cannot discriminate. This is the simple but brilliant “end-to-end” design of the Internet that has made it such a powerful force for economic and social good: All of the intelligence and control is held by producers and users, not the networks that connect them.

This was the case until the FCC, under the leadership of Michael Powell, eliminated the rules that kept cable and phone companies from discriminating against content providers.

Now Congress faces a legislative decision. Will we reinstate net neutrality and keep the Internet free? Or will we let it die at the hands of network owners itching to become content gatekeepers? The implications of permanently losing network neutrality could not be more serious. The current legislation, backed by companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, would allow the firms to create different tiers of online service. They would be able to sell access to the express lane to deep-pocketed corporations and relegate everyone else to the digital equivalent of a winding dirt road. Worse still, these gatekeepers would determine who gets premium treatment and who doesn’t.

Their idea is to stand between the content provider and the consumer, demanding a toll to guarantee quality delivery. It’s what Timothy Wu, an Internet policy expert at Columbia University, calls “the Tony Soprano business model”: By extorting protection money from every Web site — from the smallest blogger to Google — network owners would earn huge profits. Meanwhile, they could slow or even block the Web sites and services of their competitors or those who refuse to pay up. They’d like Congress to “trust them” to behave.

Congress is deciding on the fate of the Internet. The question before it is simple: Should the Internet be handed over to the handful of cable and telephone companies that control online access for 98 percent of the broadband market? Only a Congress besieged by high-priced telecom lobbyists and stuffed with campaign contributions could possibly even consider such an absurd act.

If you haven’t done so already, call or write your representative. Click here to learn more about what you can still do.

The “Gay Marriage Ban” farce continues

The constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage was defeated in the Senate today on a vote of 49-48, but the farce continues. The House plans a vote on the amendment next month, according to Majority Leader John Boehner.

“This is an issue that is of significant importance to many Americans,” Boehner told reporters Tuesday. “We have significant numbers of our members who want a vote on this, so we are going to have a vote.”

Bush issued another appeal for the amendment, the third in as many days.

“The administration believes that the future of marriage in America should be decided through the democratic constitutional amendment process, rather than by the court orders of a few,” a White House statement said.

The vote was on party lines, of course. All Democrats except Nelson of Nebraska opposed the amendment, leading Senator Kennedy to say, “The Republican leadership is asking us to spend time writing bigotry into the Constitution.” To which Orrin Hatch responded, ” “Does he really want to suggest that over half of the United States Senate is a crew of bigots?”

Crew of bigots or cynical hypocrites motivated only by political self-interest, take your choice. According to the Boston Globe, Republican leaders in Congress were considering a legislative agenda in which they would literally give up on passing major policy initiatives and instead focus on divisive bills that they didn’t expect to pass. Roll Call says it clearly,

With only a few months left on the legislative calendar, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has decided to abandon any efforts at bipartisanship in favor of using his chamber to hold a series of highly partisan, mostly symbolic votes on conservative causes, including amendments banning gay marriage and flag burning, and fully repealing the estate tax.

Go to the “Corner,” the web site for the National Review. You will find posted a chart based upon Gallop Poll results for the last two months when poll-takers where asked to respond to the question, “What one or two issues should be top priorities for the president and Congress to deal with at this time?” Note that “Gay Marriage” didn’t even make the list. Still, the farce continues.

Bushlandia- The New Orient

Thanks to Billmon

Last Saturday, Oliver Burkemann had an article in the UK Daily, The Guardian, entitled “Journey to the heart of Bushlandia.” This morning (6/6/6) the Idaho Statesman discussed the article on the front page. Julie. at Red State Rebels, and Chris, at Liberal Idaho, are irritated by Burkemann because he did a quick tour of Boise, interviewed the new Governor Risch and Bryan Fischer and described the citizens of Bushlandia as a bunch of redneck rubes.

I view the article in a much more positive light. This article is only one of many (see this article in the New York Times, for example) that have been written recently. I see them as inventing Bushlandia as a new Orient, as part of the process described by the late Edward Said in his classic book, Orientalism. Said describes how the West defined itself by defining the East, the Orient, as it’s opposite- the “other.” Said argued that this process of constructing the East as alien, exotic, strange and different resulted in stereotyping and labeling that has kept the West from ever understanding the East. At the end of his life, Said pointed out how this inability to understand and empathize with the Middle East on the part of the larger American public was a necessary condition for the War on Iraq. We can see this process taking place in the media over the issue of Immigration. Immigrants are constructed as the “other,” illegal and not like “us.”

So, if we think about the Bushlandia phenomena in this light, it would suggest that the rest of the country is really defining itself as “other than Bushlandia.” We are the strange and exotic inhabitants who still believe that Bush is doing a good job. We have senators who are willing to co-sponsor an anti-gay marriage to the Constitution. We have a Governor who actually believes the federal government should have stayed out of Hurricane Katrina. In other words, the nation seems to be shifting to a more liberal national identity. The media sends reporters into the strange land to send back accounts to the curious at home. That is why the interviews with Fischer and Risch. Their readers are not interested in reading about those who share their values. They want to hear about the beliefs of the “other.”

To me, this is a sign more profound than poll numbers. It seem to indicate that a real change has taken place in the national political identity and that should be a source of happiness for liberals everywhere. Of course, Julie and Chris are right to be irritated about the lack of objectivity on the part of Burkemann and the other reporters who have ventured into Bushlandia. The truth is that we rubes may shock them in the upcoming mid-term elections. In the meantime, I am happy to act as the “other” against whom the “real” American can define itself.