Filtered news 7/20

We ain't so dumb up here in da nort' eh? President Bush’s approval rating in Wisconsin, according to a new poll conducted by a conservative polling firm. The rating is “” for the President, whose previous low in polls by the firm was 24 percent.

Rogue Presidency Huge new claim of executive privilege from the White House reported in the Post.

And ...

Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.

The position presents serious legal and political obstacles for congressional Democrats, who have begun laying the groundwork for contempt proceedings against current and former White House officials in order to pry loose information about the dismissals.

Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action."

And this ...

Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University who has written a book on executive-privilege issues, called the administration's stance "astonishing."

"That's a breathtakingly broad view of the president's role in this system of separation of powers," Rozell said. "What this statement is saying is the president's claim of executive privilege trumps all."

You're a lying sack of crap There's no use trying to debunk each and every lie or half truth that comes out of Tony Snow, but this one has been gnawing at me all day. It comes from a Snow in this morning's USA Today. Here he is referring to Saddam Hussein: "We never argued that he played a role [in] 9/11; political opponents manufactured the claim to question the president's integrity." Now it can gnaw on you, too. I feel better already.

Repug admits it's all about the oil Idaho GOP Sen. Larry Craig stood on the Senate floor late Tuesday night and :

"What happens to the world energy supply if Iran does gain more control in the Middle East? What are the realities of the consequences of an Iran that possibly could gain control over 54% of the world energy supply? They could place a choke hold over the Strait of Hormuz and possibly in sea lanes in the region, severely limiting the supply of oil to the world market. That is not just a reality that the United States must face, but a reality for the world. I have worked very hard with my colleagues to lessen the U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

He was cut off by the presiding officer, but later amended his remarks to include in the Congressional Record this:

However, we are not yet capable of raising production in the United States because we have been blocked by the other side of the aisle from doing so. Therefore, a premature withdrawal from Iraq could have dire consequences with our economy and energy supply; but would also have the same effects on the world economy.

Craig's Democratic challenger, Larry LaRocco reacted in an interview with :

"Craig rose to his feet on the floor of the Senate to say we should not begin a responsible withdrawal of our troops because of oil... it’s an astounding admission, and it’s in black and white.

"This is the kind of rationale that many people have suspected, but now he has confirmed that it’s no longer about security, it’s no longer about squashing terrorists - he’s putting the lives of our great men and women at risk for oil....

"Craig’s silence all along on the Iraq war and his failure to challenge the Bush administration’s failed policies - even after the casualties mounted - led me to suspect there is something else beyond terrorism in his silence. And now we know."

Craig certainly isn't the only Republican who would use oil as the rationale for our continued occupation of Iraq. He's just about the only one who is arrogant enough and unconcerned enough about political repercussions to admit it. I suspect that's an attitude he'll come to regret.

How's that war thing goin'?

I stole this graphic . It serves as a reminder of how far things have slipped in Iraq. In April 2005, people generally thought we were having a difficult time of it in Iraq. And if you'd suggested then that the daily number of attacks in Iraq would get to around 100, people would have understood you as predicting a dramatic worsening of the situation. From today's vantage point, however, 100 would be major progress. But progress toward what? Toward a return to the unacceptably horrible conditions of early 2006, I guess. But you can see it all on the chart or any other years-long metric of the war -- if there ever was a time when the situation was amenable to "fixing" it was a long, long time ago before things metastasized and anything resembling the current dynamic took hold.

Sorry Dubya, this one's on YOU On Countdown, Keith delivered a powerful special comment about the leaked Bush Administration letter that and all war dissenters for President Bush’s own failures in Iraq. (4652) | (5063) (1812) | (2810)

This, sir, is your war. Go to Baghdad now and fulfill, finally, your military service obligations.

Go there and fight, your war…yourself.

The Neocon Love Boat... or shall I say,

The New Republic’s Johann Hari recently went on the National Review cruise and then filed this about what he witnessed (the full article is also available ). Hari mingled in with the NR faithful who, unaware that he was a reporter, provided him with material like this:

I lie on the beach with Hillary-Ann, a chatty, scatty 35-year-old Californian designer. As she explains the perils of Republican dating, my mind drifts, watching the gentle tide. When I hear her say, ” Of course, we need to execute some of these people,” I wake up. Who do we need to execute? She runs her fingers through the sand lazily. “A few of these prominent liberals who are trying to demoralise the country,” she says. “Just take a couple of these anti-war people off to the gas chamber for treason to show, if you try to bring down America at a time of war, that’s what you’ll get.” She squints at the sun and smiles. ” Then things’ll change.”

Pentagon attacks Hillary This is one of the most outrageous outgrowths of the under the Bush-Cheney regime.

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon told Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton that her questions about how the U.S. plans to eventually withdraw from Iraq boosts enemy propaganda....

"Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia," [Undersecretary of Defense Eric] Edelman wrote.

He added that "such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks."

Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines called Edelman's answer "at once outrageous and dangerous," and said the senator would respond to his boss, Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Edelman apparently got his diplomatic skills from the Dick Cheney school of governance. Since he's a former aide to Cheney, that seems likely. That some lackey apparatchik in the Pentagon would dare to accuse a United States Senator of "boosting enemy propaganda" is an outrage. Not to mention a really stupid way to respond to one of the people who gets to decide your department's budget. Considering that the Pentagon clearly went into Iraq with no real plan, it's safe to assume that they would also have no plan for a safe withdrawal of troops from Iraq. The lack of any kind of plan has been the hallmark of the Pentagon under Bush/Cheney, and given that track record, Clinton's question was more than appropriate.

But -- love her or not -- she's a fighter! Hillary Clinton has just to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, demanding that he personally account for Eric Edelman's assertion that her public questions about the war are aiding the enemy. We've obtained .

Inside the "surge" (2316) | (2418) (800) | (759) Tell me if you see any Al Qaeda involved…I see a terrorized old woman, civilian Iraqis killed and injured, including children, and American soldiers living in such a heightened level of stress that it is unimaginable to me that the DoD thought it a good idea to force them into extended tours. Is this the progress? Is this winning against the terrorists? Do we have them on the run? I hope that everyone of those immoral “party-over-country” Republicans (Joe Lieberman, that means you) that prevented a vote for the Reed-Levin Re-deployment bill have to sit down and watch what they have condemned our troops to.

The happy face of war Colbert assumes the role of Tony Snow for the evening and tells us how very well things are really going in Iraq. (4128) | (4790) (1679) | (2837)

War without end as humanitarian aid? I still know plenty of people on the left hand side of things who think that we should stay in Iraq more-or-less indefinitely for humanitarian reasons. I would recommend to such readers Charles Krauthammer's . He's dead wrong, but at least relatively clear-eyed:

That's why so many Sunnis have accepted Petraeus's bargain -- they join our fight against al-Qaeda, and we give them weaponry and military support. With that, they can rid themselves of the al-Qaeda cancer now. And later, when the Americans inevitably leave, they'll be better positioned to defend themselves against the 80 percent Shiite-Kurd majority they are beginning to realize they may have unwisely taken on.

And that right there is your training. If your concern about Iraq is humanitarian, the solution is political reconciliation. Unfortunately, we've spent the past two years showing that the US government has no way of bringing this about. The training, by contrast, does sometimes "work" and create somewhat disciplined armed groups of people trained and ready to do some killing. This, though, is the civil war. The policy is to make training and equipment available to multiple factions so as to encourage different groups to try to curry favor with us. The consequence is that we're arming multiple sides of a hugely complicated civil conflict -- fueling the violence and distrust that have torn Iraq apart in order to better maintain the viability of a large US military presence in the country.

There's a demented Krauthammerian logic to this, but it's the logic of a war without end. There's no guarantee that our friends tomorrow will be the same as our friends today. The Sunnis we're arming were fighting us twelve months ago. It's folly and it's hubris. At best, it's cold-eyed cynicism. Nothing about it is humanitarian.

Should we have a parliament? Jonah Goldberg that people tend to take an expansive view of presidential power if and only if the current president is one they like:

Today, the dynamic is reversed. Liberals fret over creeping fascism while conservatives give Bush the benefit of the doubt. Both sides are open to charges of hypocrisy, and neither is immune to partisan amnesia. The only consistent crowd are the Libertarians, who distrust all government power. I wish I had some solution to offer, but my guess is there is none. Indeed, you can be sure that if Hillary Clinton is elected president, someone will denounce her as "the most radical president we've ever had" — whether it's true or not.

I think there is a solution to this, albeit an impractical one. The crux of the matter is that proponents of a strong presidency are right -- the legislature shouldn't be able to hog-tie the administration of government. But the proponents of a weak presidency are also right -- the executive shouldn't able to run amok irrespective of the legislature. The solution, as applied in all sorts of countries around the world is parliamentary government wherein the executive (i.e., the prime minister and his cabinet) are able to govern with a very free hand, but must at all times retain the confidence of the parliament.

The current war debate highlights the intrinsically problematic nature of the current structure. It really is pretty ill-advised for the congress to be attempting to dictate military strategy. At the same time, it's even more ill-advised to keep letting an incompetent president and his discredit team have a free hand to continue their failed policies. In a proper country, the result of the 2006 elections would have been a new cabinet that had the confidence of the new parliament. Alternatively, the GOP would have dumped Bush as leader rather than plunge into an election with such an unpopular, inept chief.

The Democratic agenda Dan Drezner and Brad DeLong point us today to Clive Crook writing in the Financial Times. Crook spends his whole column telling us that he's dismayed over the recent outbreak of populism among Democrats and

There is an excellent centrist case to be made for tax reform, to lift the burden of income and payroll taxes from the low-paid and to increase the burden on the better-off. Universal healthcare is long overdue, a shameful state of affairs in so rich a country. Americans pay more than they should for their medicines. More generous and more imaginative assistance for Americans who lose their jobs because of trade — or because of changing tastes and technology — is needed.

One of the weirdest tics of mainstream columnists is to disparage liberal Democrats while simultaneously endorsing policies that every liberal Democrat I know would sell their grandmother into white slavery to achieve. It's the damnedest thing. For years Democrats have been complaining that free trade agreements hurt the middle class and should therefore be paired up with policies that help take some of the sting out of increased globalization. Needless to say, we never get any of these policies, so over time our distrust of trade agreements has grown. But believe me: if Crook's "centrist" agenda were on offer as the quid pro quo for supporting trade agreements, we'd snap it up in a heartbeat.

Surely Crook knows this? If, in return for supporting the Doha round and other free trade agreements, we got (a) a more progressive tax system, (b) universal healthcare, (c) the ability to bargain for lower pharmaceutical prices, and (d) serious assistance to workers displaced by all those trade agreements — well, do you think there's a liberal Democrat in the country who wouldn't jump at the deal? If that's what Crook wants, Democrats aren't his problem. His problem is with Republicans, who would rather have their big toes cut off than allow so much as a conversation about universal healthcare and higher taxes on the well-off. Why not write a column about that instead?

Crook's complaint really does seem to be that Democrats shouldn't say mean things about business executives or rich people -- shouldn't employ the rhetorical language of populism. This, however, seems a bit like a demand for Democrats to play a role in American politics and just settle for being noble losers until the end of time. Well-crafted political rhetoric tends not to have the measured tone and rigorous exactitude of a seminar presentation.

Leaving Iraq and your neocon media

What's needed is not the sloganeering of certain politicians but a clear-eyed, multifaceted policy. That would involve making plain to the Iraqi government our intention to pull back, followed by an orderly withdrawal of about half the 160,000 troops currently in Iraq by the middle of 2008. A force of 50,000 to 100,000 troops would dig in for a longer stay.... [The Levin-Reed Amendment calls] on the Administration to begin withdrawing the bulk of U.S. troops within 120 days and leave an unstated number behind to go after terrorists and protect the U.S. embassy in Baghdad....But even if Congress approved Levin-Reed, military logistics experts say it would take far longer than 120 days to redeploy even half of U.S. forces. The reality is that it's difficult to get out fast....

For starters, I'm going to ignore Duffy's self-congratulatory suggestion that his split-the-difference arm waving is self-evidently a "clear-eyed, multifaceted policy." Honest. I'm just going to ignore it. See? Ignoring it. Ignoring it. Ignoring it.

OK then. Riddle me this. How is it that Duffy can correctly state that Levin-Reed requires withdrawal to begin within 120 days and then, two sentences later, imply that Levin-Reed requires withdrawal to be finished within 120 days? WTF?

But really, it's even worse. It's true that the current text of Levin-Reed requires all but a residual force to leave Iraq by April 2008. But Duffy knows perfectly well that if Republicans were seriously willing to discuss withdrawal, Democrats would change that date in a heartbeat based on military counsel. Duffy knows this. No Democrat wants to withdraw any faster than military planners say is safe. So why does he imply otherwise?

A better piece would have simply told the truth: nobody is in favor of a "reckless U.S. departure." Everyone agrees that withdrawal needs to be handled prudently and safely. That would have taken a paragraph or two, and then Duffy could have devoted the rest of the article to the real issue: whether we should (a) withdraw completely or (b) withdraw partially and leave 75,000 troops in Iraq forever. As it is, he dismisses total withdrawal in a couple of sentences, despite the fact that and mentions none of the drawbacks of his favored policy of partial withdrawal. It's practically a hymn to an idea that's almost certainly unsustainable, unnecessary, and counterproductive. Nice job, Time.

If I hired a prostitute... Where I would least expect it, Ruth Marcus takes a hard while David Ignatius in a predictably establishmentarian way. Both links come who also wants Vitter to go. And I agree -- it's hard to understand how criminal activity undertaken by a US Senator could constitute a "private matter." When police officers -- public officials -- catch people committing crimes, they're hauled before judges (public officials) by prosecutors (public officials) and sent to jails staffed by guards (public officials) or put under the supervision of parole officers (public officials). Breaking the law is the quintessential public matter. Perhaps if we were talking about allegations that Vitter broke the law when he was 19 it could be conceived of as private, but that's not the case here.

If Vitter and Vitter's friends in the GOP caucus and the press don't think he should be punished for hiring a prostitute, I certainly sympathize with that view, but then they should take the line that nobody should be punished for this sort of thing. For the "DC Madame" to be on trial, where her Senator client gets off the hook because it's "private" is ridiculous. What about her privacy?

Is the GOP doomed? Ron Brownstein notes that historically does drag his party down even if he's not on the ballot:

Unpopular departing presidents, though, have consistently undercut their party in the next election. Democrats lost the White House in 1952 and 1968 after Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson saw their approval ratings plummet below 50%. Likewise, in the era before polling, the opposition party won the White House when deeply embattled presidents left office after the elections of 1920 (Woodrow Wilson), 1896 (Grover Cleveland), 1860 (James Buchanan) and 1852 (Millard Fillmore). The White House also changed partisan control when weakened presidents stepped down in 1844 and 1884. Only in 1856 and 1876 did this pattern bend, when the parties of troubled presidents Franklin Pierce and Ulysses S. Grant held the White House upon their departure.

It should be pointed out that 1856 is a not very encouraging precedent for the Republicans. In essence, the opposition Whig Party had collapsed (garnering only 21.5 percent of the vote) but the Republican Party hadn't yet consolidated its position (garnering only 33 percent of the vote), throwing the election to the Democrats by default. I'm fairly confident that the Democratic Party isn't in the midst of a Whig-style collapse.

Entertainment You may want to navigate to The Bird and the Bee's and listen to their song "F*cking Boyfriend" (not safe for work if your employer's incredibly lame) -- you won't be disappointed. I'm still evaluating the rest of the album.

We should keep abstinence-only sex education around just for the sake of the hilarious analogies. Ann Friedman of the comically named Eric Love of the East Texas Abstinence Program. The New York Times explains that he runs a program (and, indeed, it's almost as fun as sex) which includes delightful analogy:

To make the point, Mr. Love grabbed a tape dispenser and snapped off two fresh pieces. He slapped them to his filing cabinet and the floor; they trapped dirt, lint, a small metal bolt. “Now when it comes time for them to get married, the marriage pulls apart so easily,” he said, trying to unite the grimy strips. “Why? Because they gave the stickiness away.”

By the same token, if gay tape comes to live in your house all the rest of the tape will suddenly lose its adhesive properties. That's why even though there are gay bars, there's no such thing as a gay tape shop. Everyone understands that we need to preserve the sanctity of tape.

Whatever happened to our war czar?

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Sawyer says "sorry!" :

On the July 19 edition of ABC’s Good Morning America, co-host Diane Sawyer apologized for her false assertion — by Media Matters for America — regarding Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) plan to hold an all-night Senate debate prior to the July 18 on a Democratic proposal to withdraw troops from Iraq.

On the July 17 edition of the program, Sawyer said that Reid “vows to filibuster, talking all night to close out all topics besides a vote on Iraqi troop withdrawals.” In fact, by extending the Senate session throughout the night, Reid did not “vow to filibuster,” as Sawyer reported; rather, he highlighted the Republicans’ blocking of an up-or-down vote on the proposal. Indeed, it was the Republicans who the Democrats’ effort to end debate on the legislation and move to a simple majority vote. In her on-air statement, Sawyer clarified that Reid had actually “held the all-night debate to protest the threat of a filibuster from the Republicans. … You wrote me. You were right. I was wrong. I apologize.”

Credit where credit is due…when was the last time you saw a major media outlet admit they got it wrong?

Work for a living? Speak up! We’ve discussed before, but wants to energize the campaign as Sen. Kennedy is introducing legislation this week.

The decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear involved the interpretation of a federal statute-not the Constitution. That’s why Congress has the authority, and the responsibility, to correct the Court’s error and strengthen Americans’ ability to recover wages that they have been unfairly denied. Will you join calling on congressional leaders to support legislation to correct Ledbetter v. Goodyear?

The Ledbetter legislation, the “Fair Pay Restoration Act,” will be introduced in the Senate as early as tomorrow by Sen. Kennedy. The House legislation, the “Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act,” was passed by the Education and Labor committee at the end of June.

Activits judge blocks Plame pursuit of justice :

A federal judge on Thursday dismissed former CIA operative Valerie Plame’s lawsuit against members of the Bush administration in the CIA leak scandal.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates dismissed the case and said he would not express an opinion on the constitutional arguments. Bates dismissed the case against all defendants: Cheney, White House political adviser Karl Rove and former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

that Judge Bates is the same judge that dismissed the suit over Cheney’s energy task force meetings. “Activist judge”, anyone? Although it will ultimately be unsuccessful, why not now pass a law that will give Plame the right to pursue her case in court? The Republican Congress did essentially the same thing regarding Terry Schiavo, remember? Of course Bush would not sign such a bill it but it will be further evidence for historians to write just how corrupt a president he was/is. Melanie Sloan, of , the Wilsons’ legal counsel has issued a statement. -19485" class="more-link">(Read the rest of this story…)

May we now impeach? In a 7-3 ruling, a House Judiciary subcommittee ruled that that the White House’s assertion of executive privilege to block the release of “documents sought in subpoenas issued to White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and the Republican National Committee was .” During the 20-minute hearing, Judiciary Committee John Conyers (D-MI) said that “the White House participated in .”

Bogus badges Wow. Romney's entire campaign

Yesterday, conservatives across the blogosphere, citing a and a poorly-researched article, smeared Al Gore by claiming that he ate Chilean Sea Bass — – at a rehearsal dinner for his daughter’s wedding. Attempting to paint Gore as an environmental hypocrite, , , and expressed outrage over the hypocrisy. But, as the Telegraph reports today, ““:

[T]he fish enjoyed by the Gores were not endangered or illegally caught. Rather, the restaurant later confirmed, they had come from one of the world’s few well-managed, sustainable populations of toothfish, and caught and documented in compliance with Marine Stewardship Council regulations.

More information about how to live an environmentally sustainable lifestyle is available .

The falafel guy fatwa (5035) | (6733) (1433) | (2436) Keith Olbermann looks at yet another example of how Bill O’Reilly is literally losing his mind on the air. First he finds himself in the odd position of defending a pedophile in an attempt to slam MSNBC/NBC and then as originally noted by the hilarious show ““, Bill’s interview with the beleaguered takes a distinct turn into creepy Billo-fantasyland.

Hillary: More or less liberal? I think it's completely fair for Clinton fans to argue that Hillary Clinton on women's issues of the major candidates in the race and to decide that that's a good reason to support her. On the other hand, nobody should walk away from this conversation with the idea that the image of Clinton as the least-liberal candidate overall is the result of some kind of smear campaign waged against her by male bloggers.

She and her husband have consistently and self-consciously identified themselves as members of a centrist or third way wing of the Democratic Party over a period of years. That's not an accusation to be leveled against them, that identification was at the core of the Clinton political strategy in Arkansas, throughout the Clinton presidency, and through Clinton's term in the Senate right up until the moment when she found herself challenged in a primary election by two candidates running to her left, when she began to fudge a bit. She's part of the , her husband helped found the organization, her chief political strategist is the DLC's pollster, etc., etc., etc.

I know good people (my girlfriend, for example) with career-long associations with the centrist wing of the party but they, like Hillary Clinton, are less liberal overall than your average Democrat. That's the whole idea of the enterprise. They're progressive, they're on the left, but less so than others. It would hardly be unprecedented for the Democrats to nominate a candidate DLC Democrat -- one was president from 1992-2000 -- and I'm not nearly as hostile to the New Democrat approach as some people I know but that is, in fact, Clinton's approach. The view that Clinton's leadership on women's issues outweighs other things is perfectly legitimate (I don't think telling people to be less interested in what they're interested in, and more interested in what I'm interested in makes sense) as is the view that a centrist approach is what's best for the country. Less legitimate is deciding that Clinton's 20 previous years as someone who's positioned herself as less liberal than your average Democrat never happened.

Bush can't kill Big Bird! In a 357-72 vote this evening, the House “rejected to for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”

Your daily dose of heavy thinking As none of the things Ramesh Ponnuru is actually follow. :

What renders atheism incompatible with a coherent account of morality, when it is incompatible, is physicalism (or what is sometimes described as reductive materialism). If it is true that the universe consists entirely and without remainder of particles and energy, then all human action must be within the domain of caused events, free will does not exist, and moral reasoning is futile if not illusory (as are other kinds of reasoning).

This is a stupefyingly widespread view that flows from an elementary error in thinking.

Suppose you know that there is free will or that moral reasoning is not futile. Next, suppose you find that the universe is made out of only whatever the universe is made out of. What do you infer? You infer that free will and moral reasoning, which occur inside the universe (or as aspects of the universe), whatever they may be, are made possible because of whatever it is the universe is made out of. And there you are.

Here is what you do not do. You do not start with a mystifying conditional like “If the universe is only physical (or whatever), then there is no free will,” because how do you know that? You don’t. But you may think you do and so you get caught in a retarded ponens/tollens showdown: the universe is physical, ergo no free will, or… free will, so the universe is not physical. But, again, through what method of divination do we validate this conditional? None. Because we already know it is false.

Here are two things you know: free will exists (it is obvious: go ahead, touch your nose) and the universe is made of whatever it is made of (obvious, if anything is). Therefore, you know the conjunction of those two things. Therefore, you know that the crazy proposition that says that one of them must be false isn’t true! There’s no need to get hung up on an arbitrary conjecture about the trascendental conditions for the very possibility of the existence of something when things you already know rule it out. P & Q implies ~ (P —> ~Q). Logic: try it!

If we find out tomorrow that the universe is made of jello, all we will have learned about morality is that it, like everything else, is ultimately jello-dependent.

David Chalmers tackles some related issues in his relatively accessible paper . One point to note is that even within the materialist framework we've experienced some rather stunning revelations as to what the world is made of. The discovery, for example, that matter is composed of atoms didn't lead everyone to freak out and say "oh my God! I used to think the kitchen was full of cookware but now I know it's really full of atoms!" Rather, the kitchen continues to be full of cookware, but the cookware is made of atoms.

Then you learn that the atoms are made of subatomic particles. That, in fact, the atoms are mostly empty space. That the subatomic particles obey the odd principles of quantum mechanics. All kinds of weird stuff. None of this, however, undermines your pre-existing knowledge of the macroscopic world. Pots hold water, but colanders don't. It's interesting to learn more about the ultimate nature of matter, but that doesn't make our everyday knowledge of the world endlessly renegotiable. Similarly, moral reasoning does in fact make sense -- people do it all the time.

(I added this in the comment discussion: The very notion of "absolute metaphysical truth," more and more, considered a quaint relic at best and a gross perversion of religion at worst. Missing this evolution in Christianity probably means you're getting your ideas about Christianity only from TV. We're seeing, these days, an extremely sectarian, parochial sort of atheism -- a kind of fundamentalist atheism. Both believing and non-believing fundies seem to think that the word "God" refers to some kind of lesser djinni. You can easily poke apart any concept when you're allowed to define the concept yourself. This atheism is a wholly reactive rejection of a particular narrow set of sectarian notions that produces a correspondingly restrictive opposite point of view. This narrow, nominal atheism is weak tea. The God in which they do not believe is a very particular kind of God. I don't believe in that God either, but I am not an atheist. Maybe in jello-based universe, God is jello.... --Russ)

It just keeps getting uglier... A House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing revealed that FEMA “has suppressed warnings from its own Gulf coast field workers since the middle of 2006 about suspected health problems that may be released in FEMA-provided trailers.” The Gavel has more from the hearing .


July 20, 2007 - 10:22am