Daily Archives: July 16, 2006

Food for thought: “God is Winning” article

Hillary Clinton, the Big Methodist, must have heard these authors talk. From the journal Foreign Policy via the Dallas Morning News (registration required) comes this piece by Timothy Samuel Shah and Monica Duffy Toft, of the Pew Forum and Harvard. A pithy snip:

Global politics is increasingly marked by what could be called “prophetic politics.” Voices claiming transcendent authority are filling public spaces and winning key political contests.
These movements come in very different forms and employ widely varying tools. But whether the field of battle is democratic elections or the more inchoate struggle for global public opinion, religious groups are increasingly competitive. In contest after contest, when people are given a choice between the sacred and the secular, faith prevails.
God is on a winning streak. It was reflected in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Shia revival and religious strife in postwar Iraq and Hamas’ recent victory in Palestine. But not all the thunderbolts have been hurled by Allah.
The struggle against apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s and early 1990s was strengthened by prominent Christian leaders such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Hindu nationalists in India stunned the international community when they unseated India’s ruling party in 1998 and then tested nuclear weapons. American evangelicals continue to surprise the U.S. foreign-policy establishment with their activism and influence on issues such as religious freedom, sex trafficking, Sudan and AIDS in Africa. Indeed, evangelicals have emerged as such a powerful force that religion was a stronger predictor of vote choice in the 2004 presidential election than was gender, age or class.
The spread of democracy, far from checking the power of militant religious activists, will probably only enhance the reach of prophetic political movements, many of which will emerge from democratic processes more organized, more popular and more legitimate than before – but quite possibly no less violent. Democracy is giving the world’s peoples their voice, and they want to talk about God.

A sobering piece. Flies in the face of “evidence-based_______” (fill in the blank). This is Karl Rove’s genius, to have co-opted/subverted religion to the profiteering work of the Republican Party.

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Filed under George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Politics, religion

NY Times: The Real Bushco Agenda

One of the most important editorials in recent memory: The New York Times lays out the pattern of usurpation of power by Bush, Cheney, et al: Here. Taken in combination with the “permanent war” strategy, as illustrated by Newt Gingrich’s call for WW III, the Bushco/neocon/Republican movement can be seen as inherently anti-democratic and as a new form of fascism. Even those on the right, including old line Republicans, can perceive the winds of authoritarianism.

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Filed under George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Politics

“Iraq safer than Detroit”…desperate, dishonest or delusional?

The latest ploy of the desperate/delusional/dishonest wingnuts is the claim by Rep. Peter King (R-Iowa) that Iraq (as a whole) is safer than the worst American cities. Not to mention the fact that it flies in the face of common sense, this claim is such a complete statistical fallacy as to be dishonest. In the first place, in any statisical category (eg violent deaths) in any large population (e.g. an entire country), one can find “outliers” which will be large compared with the average of the entire group.

in studies of violence, big cities (Detroit, for example) are always worse than rural areas, and as a result the rates of violence in an entire country (Iraq, for example) are always lower than are the rates of its individual cities. In the present example, this difference is obviuosly accentuated because every single violent dath in Detroit is included, while in Iraq, the numbers of violent deaths have been understated by a factor or 2 or 3 (amateur Iraq Body count methodology vs numbers estimated by best epidemiologic methodology). Even in Baghdad, it would seem that body counts have been underreported. But let’s look at the body counts, such as they are, in Baghdad for the last 6 months: 6,000, from a population of 6 million. That is 200/100,000. And that really doesn’t reflect the true security picture. Let’s first consider Detroit: most of those killed are young males voluntarily engaging in dangerous/illegal lifestyles; the deaths tend to occur in circumscribed areas and times, among those with criminal records. The great majority of the population of Detroit are at miniscule risk as they go about their daily lives. Contrast this with Baghdad: Many of those killed are not engaging in illegal and violent lifestyles; they are lawabiding citizens who are killed merely because of their religion, or because they happen to be on the street when a daylight car bomb goes off. Travel is hazardous, many children are kept home from school, daily commerce is dangerous. Occupying troops travel only in armored vehicles and wear as much body armor as they can afford.

So the best comparison we have right now is that the violent death rate in a large city in Iraq is about 5 times greater than Detroit, and, furthermore, those being killed in iraq seem much more like innocent, law abiding citizens.

If you look at the numbers for Iraq as a whole, the best research would indicate that well over 100,000 (as of 3 years ago) excess deaths have occurred in a population of about 26,000,000. The excess death rate since the US led invasion is thus approximately 120/100,000/year in the country as a whole, again, much greater than that of Detroit or Washington DC or Baltimore, the most violent US cities.

We all know that this claim by Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds and others is complete nonsense. That it flies in the face of common AND statistical sense seems not to bother the wingnuts. Their ability to ignore the fact that white is white and not black, is surely a disturbing sign.

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Filed under George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iran, Iraq, media, Middle East, Politics