This is important

28 September 2006

I just sent emails to both Senators from Hawai`i about the torture bill, encouraging a filibuster. Here’s the link to contact information for all the Senators. Phone numbers and emails.

I don’t know much about legislative strategy, including whether this is the best move or not, but it seems too important to miss a chance.

Here’s my basic text:
I support a filibuster of the torture bill being voted on today. I believe the bill is morally, legally, and strategically reprehensible.

Apparently since I can only handle one news source at a time, my minute attention has been shifted from NPR to Think Progress. Since Bill O’Reilly just singled them out as an enemy, though, I figure they’re reliable. Additional point of humor–you can now buy a hardcover copy of his list of malefactors online.

Whatever, anyway. Think Progress has a good post, including an ~5 minute video, on CNN’s response to Senator James Inhofe (R-OK and Chair of the US Senate Committee on the Environment, ironically) and his rant on global warming denial. Though I haven’t perused Inhofe’s initial diatribe, the CNN defense of their own fact-checking honor seems to hit the lowlights.

The thing is that the public debate (and I use that term liberally) about global warming is a classic example of the practice of science detailed by Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch in The Golem. As Collins and Pinch state, the ambiguity, or in this case abundance, of empirical evidence makes that evidence a moot point in many scientific investigations. The debate over the scientific subject, global warming in our present example, fades below the noise of demagoguery, and name-calling ensues. Don’t believe me, and still insist that any such important scientific question can be settled on completely rational, empirical terms? Check out the comments section of the Think Progress post.

Or better still, read the books: The Golem, The Golem at Large, or Dr. Golem.

In conclusion, please bear in mind that, IMHO, and irregardless of the rhetorical free-fire zone that global warming has become, we had damn well better spend all the time and resources we can figuring out how the climate works and what those workings mean for us. We know a lot but there is much still to learn; the more we screw with it, the worse we make the consequences of neglect and shortsightedness.

Last night, thanks to the Communications Honor Society at UHH, I finally got to see Good Night and Good Luck and it was creepy how good a job they did in making the dialogue fit two paranoid eras. The Eisenhower clip about habeas corpus was especially timely on this very day.

As a closer, we introduced several friends to Keith Olbermann’s special comment on 9/11. I strongly encourage you to watch these powerful 9 minutes.

The discussion in the car on the way home revolved around whether the movie’s missing elements were complexity of story (me) or just the usual Hollywood melodrama (Elle). Ultimately, I bowed to the superior intellect, though perhaps some more historical context would have been good for those like myself who have a less-than-complete knowledge of McCarthyism.

And just in case the remarks about media “used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us,” are tempting to apply narrowly, see how rhetoric is used to single out the US by Newsweek covers for their different distribution regions on Think Progress.

At any rate, to prove that doublespeak and abuse of language for political purposes are older even than George Orwell, this post about Thucydides via Crooked Timber illustrates the historical foundations of such rhetoric as we see right now from lots of government hacks.

Let me begin by saying that I find it hard to complain about any increase in the number of performances of Le Nozze di Figaro or La Traviata. The Deutsche Oper‘s recent decision to cancel performances of Mozart’s Idomeneo and replace them with the foregoing productions, however, deserves some attention.

The NPR story provides the most complete coverage I’ve seen, but the central issue seems to be that the chief of the Deutsche Oper, concerned about an intentionally controversial scene added to the original opera in 2003, cancelled the production citing potential threats of terrorism. This turns on advice handed down from security agencies in Berlin who, in a move wearily familiar to Americans, didn’t cite specific threats but rather the possibility of violence. The inflammatory scene in question involves one of the characters in the opera carrying the severed heads of Jesus, the Buddha, Mohammed, and Poseidon on stage. The subtext seems to be that the only decapitation that would really provoke riots is that of Mohammed–I haven’t seen any radical priests of Poseidon in a while.

As opposed as I am to self-censorship, even in the face of the kind of response that cartoons and disingeneous remarks have provoked recently, I have to wonder whether tacking a gory scene on to a comparatively obscure opera is really a coherent critique of religion in society. Kinda seems like First Amendment groups being forced to defend Fred Phelps and his merry band of villains, although that group is in a much more serious league of despicability than Hans Neuenfels.

At any rate, this feels like a substantially different issue than the previous two posts. Is it?

As one of my dearest (as of course all of the very select few of you are are) readers pointed out, the tone of my post on the car sale jihad was a little bit ambivalent and didn’t reflect the sense of absurdity and probably frustrated rage I felt that people actually do boneheaded stuff like make these racial and gender attacks.

I believe that even if this ad (and you should click through to JJ Sutherland’s post on the link above to read it so I don’t have to retype it) had been merely tasteless in its description of cars that ‘comfortably seat twelve jihadists in the back,’ and Fatwa Fridays with free rubber swords, it crossed the line into truly, disappointingly offensive by having employees wear burkas. I am now ashamed that I didn’t nurture my indignation into outrage and respond, either to NPR for running such a thing without decrying it, or with the original company. It seems no one else did, either. In what therefore seems like a pyrrhic victory,

Chet Raymo, one of the better writers who are also scientists out there, has a good little post on new images of structures within a bacterium. He is also much more careful than most to separate malignant goons from all people of faith. Too much vitriol is hurled at religion by scientists without discriminating between people actively doing harm and people who self-identify based on their faith.

More on that later. For now, I just think it is pretty cool that we can see something so small, and wonder how the things we’ve made look so much like something we haven’t seen before now.

NPR appears to be keeping JJ Sutherland as the host of their blog for so long because he posts about five times a day. Which is good if they are using the blog to increase circulation for stories. Well it’s working–I keep linking to them.

For all you fans of rhetoric out there, or even those merely concerned with the safety of the world, check out his post on the car sale jihad. As the man says, you can’t make this stuff up.

In my original post, I was a little concerned that I did not have another piece to juxtapose with that one. Thanks to Hugo Chavez for stepping up and providing a perfect foil. Despite my seeming lackeyism to the NPR blog, including finding the following link there, I am trying to expand my news horizons. At least it’s not Fox.

Anyway, while Americans behave as above, we need to watch out in case the Republicans try to run Chavez-Voldemort for p2008. Particularly since Chavez seems to be behaving as though he’s trying to get elected in the US. Anyone know what this means?

Finally, the above-mentioned book was fortuitously republished, and it is getting eerily more relevant by the moment. I haven’t seen the movie with Brando, so I can’t comment on that, but do get ahold of the book if you can.