Smart people saying smart things

Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel: “Gitmo Is Killing Me”

I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial.

I could have been home years ago — no one seriously thinks I am a threat — but still I am here. Years ago the military said I was a “guard” for Osama bin Laden, but this was nonsense, like something out of the American movies I used to watch. They don’t even seem to believe it anymore. But they don’t seem to care how long I sit here, either.

Elizabeth Esther: “A former religious extremist explains how radicalization happens”

Let’s be clear, extremism isn’t just happening in Islam. It happens in all religions. In fact, what has disturbed me the most since leaving my childhood cult is that Christian fundamentalism is growing in popularity. My cult used to be considered “fringe” and “weird.” But now, fundamentalism is hip.

Contemplative, mystic, “moderate” Christianity is derided and dismissed just as contemplative Sufism is dismissed and derided among fundamentalist Muslims.

The enemy is fundamentalism because fundamentalism is very attractive to people looking for Definitive Answers. Extremist religion provides a rigid, black-and-white framework for understanding the world.

For those disaffected by the disappointments of modern life, extremist religion provides a nearly irresistible solution.

Chris Hayes: “Comparing gun fatalities vs. terror fatalities”

The cycle is the same, something horrible happens, we all watch it happen in real time and feel terrible and want to know who were the perpetrators, what are the circumstances, and why did it happen? We get some inkling and have a discussion of what the implications are for policy, what we might do to prevent something from this happening again in the future. When it’s guns, when the killer is a shooter, the answer is — nothing. We are told “this just happens.” But if it gets put in a special category called terrorism, then the answer is, everything must be done, no cost should be spared, no legal precedent should stand in the way. Once it gets put in the terrorism bucket, we must do everything in our power. No one ever says “people are going to die from terrorism, that’s just the way it is.” And if it’s in the gun bucket, “yeah, 30,000 people are going to die every year from guns, that’s just the way it is.” Why is that the case? In the last 30 years, there have been 30,000 to 40,000 gun deaths in the United States per year, more than 900,000 people. In the last 40 years since 1970, there have been about 3,400 terror-related deaths, depending how you define terror according to the integrated united states security data base. A million gun fatalities in the 33 years since 1980 versus 3,400 terror fatalities since 1970.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates: “The Limits of Good Faith”

Rand Paul went to Howard University, lied, and then got his ass kicked. That’s not so bad. I got my ass kicked regularly at Howard. That was the reason my parents sent me there. But having gotten his ass kicked, his answer is to not to reflect but to make an allegation of racial discrimination.

One of the things I try to do in my work is — in general — take people at their word. It’s very hard to communicate about anything without good faith. This, of course, assumes that communication is the goal. That was my assumption about Rand Paul. I was clearly wrong.

The Hon. Edward R. Korman, Tummino v. von Eschenbach, April 4, 2013

Levonorgestrel-based emergency contraception “interferes with prefertilization events. It reduces the number of sperm cells in the uterine cavity, immobilizes sperm, and impedes further passage of sperm cells into the uterine cavity. In addition, levonorgestrel has the capacity to delay or prevent ovulation from occurring.” U.S. Gov’t Accountability Office, GAO-06-109, Food and Drug Administration: Decision Process to Deny Initial Application for Over-theCounter Marketing of the Emergency Contraceptive Drug Plan B Was Unusual at 12 (November 2005), Case No. 05-cv-366, Doc. No. 68-2 (hereinafter “GAO Report”). These contraceptives “have not been shown to cause a postfertilization event — a change in the uterus that could interfere with implantation of a fertilized egg.” Id. at 13.

… This case is not about the potential misuse of Plan B by 11-year-olds. These emergency contraceptives would be among the safest drugs sold over-the-counter, the number of 11-year-olds using these drugs is likely to be miniscule, the FDA permits drugs that it has found to be unsafe for the pediatric population to be sold over-the-counter subject only to labeling restrictions, and its point-of-sale restriction on this safe drug is likewise inconsistent with its policy and the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act as it has been construed. Instead, the invocation of the adverse effect of Plan B on 11-year-olds is an excuse to deprive the overwhelming majority of women of their right to obtain contraceptives without unjustified and burdensome restrictions.

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  • Give Korman an ovation! Imagine a Reagan appointee schooling a Democrat and the realities of choice!

  • Agreed with all but # 4. However, I absolutely despise the words “extreme” and “radical”. As you may well know, Josh McDowell has proven that the word “radical” is meaningless and is generally a synonym for “shit-headed”. One person’s radical is another person’s establishment. “Extreme” has some meaning, but not much; it gives us ridiculously little information other than that a writer thinks something has gone far. “Extreme” could be applied to Christian Secularist Socialists and Christian Theocrats alike, even though the latter were not considered by the Catholic Church to be extreme at all c. 1900 AD. Thus, I have made the word “radical” a Prohibited Word at my blog.

  • Fusina

    And there’s always a place for the angry young man,

    With his fist in the air and his head in the sand.

    And he’s never been able to learn from mistakes,

  • What relevance do these lyrics have to my comment?

  • Kubricks_Rube

    Thus, I have made the word “radical” a Prohibited Word at my blog.

    Don’t you think that’s a little extreme?

  • No.

  • decathelite


  • Kubricks_Rube

    That was a joke based on your despising the word “extreme” almost as much as the word “radical.”

  • decathelite

    How could you not like #4? It’s like offering home mortgages to 18 year olds: it’s very unlikely that 18 year olds are going to need a mortgage, but the 18 year old might not understand the risk they are taking with their credit if they default.

    Seeing this, some are using this reason to argue that we should ban the overwhelming majority of people from getting mortgages because young people could wind up hurting themselves if they default. That’s not a good argument in my view.

  • Hm? I’ve clarified what I mean by “#4”. Most people (including me) don’t start counting at 0.

  • As you may well know, Josh McDowell has proven that…

    No, I don’t know. I’m not familiar with either this specific argument, or with this person Josh McDowell in general. Next time, please feel free to provide a link to the argument in question, so we can judge for ourselves if something is “proven” or not”.

    One person’s radical is another person’s establishment.

    The terms “radical” and “extreme” are relative to an implied “traditional” or “standard”. Because these are relative terms, context is indeed quite important, both the context of the speaker to the subject, and the speaker to the audience.

    Indeed, the things we find on this blog to be “extreme” (such as racially segregated high school proms, allowing women to die rather than aborting non-viable fetuses, and suggesting that non-virgin women are as valuable as used chewing gum) would, in a different contexts seem “normal”. (such as isolated southern communities, or insular fundamentalist religious circles)

    That these terms are relative does not mean they lack any meaning or value. If anything, they serve as very useful indicators of a distinction between sub-groups and a larger society, or as a signal of which groups or sub-groups are being addressed.

    “Extreme” has some meaning, but not much; it gives us ridiculously little information other than that a writer thinks something has gone far.

    Knowing that a writer thinks something has gone too far, combined with what we know about the writer is not “ridiculously little information”.

    Using the words “extreme” or “radical” without context, either to the speaker or to the audience being addressed, can rob them of their meaning, but that does not mean those terms are fundamentally without meaning.

  • decathelite

    Sorry for the misunderstanding.

  • Agreed with and liked.

    As I have said in my original comment, “radical” is usually a euphemism for “shit-headed”. I prefer to use the latter phrase, as it is more clearly seen by most people as a subjective term. I will edit my original comment in light of yours.

  • Thus, I have made the word “radical” a Prohibited Word at my blog.

    That must make it extremely difficult to have a conversation about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

  • Very well. I have removed my downvote from your original comment and have added an upvote to both of your comments longer than a word (I’m still downvoting your “Lol” comment).

  • :-) and upvoted. There is a slim chance the topic of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will ever come up on my blog.

  • For #2 (“A former religious extremist explains how radicalization happens”), I have found I disagree with a bit of the author’s conclusion, though not her explanation for the fundamentalization of the Tsarnayev brothers or the dangers and nature of fundamentalism. The enemy is not “extremism”, though “fundamentalism” is certainly a subset of the actual enemy. The actual enemy is irrationality.

  • Katie

    Seriously, your obsession with upvoting and downvoting is getting a bit disturbing.

  • Why? It’s not an obsession.

  • stardreamer42

    You’re providing an example thereof.

  • I don’t have a fist in the air nor a head in the sand.

    And I do learn from mistakes.

  • The_L1985

    Then why do you go on and on about which comments you’ve upvoted and downvoted? I regularly follow 3 different blogs with Disqus comments, and you are literally the only person I’ve ever seen to discuss upvotes and downvotes beyond “I don’t like Disqus’s new downvote system,” or maybe once in a blue moon, “I wonder why that was downvoted?”

  • The_L1985

    And fundamentalism begets irrationality and hatred.

  • See
    -I have to openly state some of my upvotes and downvotes to prevent confusion. At least one commentator here thought I just downvote all comments I see, which I don’t.

  • Upvoted.

  • Lori

    Your link does not go to an instance of someone thinking that you downvote all comments.

    Assuming that solitary, seemingly inexplicable down votes are EH & should simply be ignored =/= EH down votes every comment.

  • I know that. I’ll post the link to the actual comment that alleges I downvote every comment when I find it.

  • deltmachine

    sylvia is a saint compared to you lying vultures….





  • Joykins

    I take it you don’t run a chemistry blog.

  • Geoffrey Kransdorf

    When I see a post by Ta-Nahesi Coates, I can usually safely assume he will be talking nonsense. As usual, I wasn’t disappointed. So Rand Paul “lied” at Howard in his speech and “got his ass kicked” as a consequence? Maybe TNC could be a bit more specific about that. In particular, everything in the actual quotation from Rand Paul is absolutely, inarguably true. So if he was lying, maybe TNC should have quoted an actual, you know, lie.

    And TNC says he’s fine with Whites discussing “Black History”. It seems what he really means is “I am a radical liberal Democrat. And I’m fine with other radical liberals of any color passing along the party line on Blacks. But I won’t accept any deviation from this, either from Whites or from traitor Blacks like Clarance Thomas.” So Rand Paul was possibly wrong about racism being the root of his problem. It seems the actual cause is just hard-line radical left ideology that brooks no dissent.

  • Jenny Islander

    Sylvia? The culture industry? The Amazing Randi? Um . . . did you have more than one window open? Are you sure you replied in the right place?

  • This is Dennis Markuze, a cyberstalker with delusions of grandeur who apparently sees himself as an Antichristal figure of Nostradamic prophecy. This is him violating his parole agreement and setting himself up for a few years in prison, as soon as the Quebec police get off their asses and re-re-rearrest him.

  • arcseconds

    I must admit that I was (and remain) a bit confused about what Rand is supposed to have lied about.

    It’s false that white people are widely expected never to comment on black history of course, but that was Rand’s response, not what he said in his talk (as far as I can make out).

    (OK, so technically it’s very probably true that some people think that, but the implication is not that there’s at least one person that thinks that, but that this is widespread amongst blacks or liberals or something)

    It’s certainly true that the Democratic party was once not popular amongst Blacks, in part because some sourthern democrat politicians were segregationist, and why would anyone want to vote for them?

    Although I have to say — the fact that the Republican party was once a lot more popular amongst blacks is a terrible argument for why anyone should believe it’s not hostile to blacks now. Times change.

    So what was Rand’s lie? Well, it seems to be something about what he said about his stance (possibly his past stance) on civil rights, on the basis of Coates’s last post about it:

    Ta-Nehisi Coates could certainly be a bit clearer on that point.

    Perhaps it’s obvious to people who’ve watched the video, but there’s only so many minutes in the day, and who wants to spend them watching two-bit politicians tell lies in a vain attempt to garner votes (or posture), when one could be carping about them on someone’s blog?

  • arcseconds

    On the other hand, you seem to be a bit confused about the difference between ‘strongly disagree with some of your points’ and ‘will brook no dissent from the party line’.

    If you read the other post I linked to, Ta-Nehesi Coates is actually quite complimentary about Rand, and doesn’t at all say anything remotely resembling ‘White people can’t comment on Black history unless they read from my songsheet’.

    Or maybe this is one of those irregular verbs?

    *) I defend my rationally-held views with strong arguments
    *) You support your position with effective rhetoric.
    *) They brook no dissent and quash any deviation from their ideologically blinkered dogma

  • arcseconds

    … and his main point in the more recent article that Fred links to above is not that Rand lied, but that he was called out, and now he’s whining about discrimination.

    Which seems pretty pathetic to me, but maybe this is another case of irregular verbs:

    *) I’m treated unfairly by ideological racists who won’t let me comment on their racial history

    *) You could have said that better and now you’ve ruffled a few feathers.

    *) His only response to criticism is to whinge about racism.

  • According to Tim Farley,

    Yes, he’s out pending trial on his second arrest, and as I write this the next court action is a hearing on June 10. I’ve been in touch with the police this week and things are proceeding, albeit slowly.

  • Maniraptor

    Do you really think we care – or should care – that much about what you upvote and downvote? Okay, you’ve made the point that you don’t just downvote everything. That’s dandy. Does it need constant re-proving? Do you obsess over our ideas of you or something?

    I would expect you to disagree with some things here, as we often disagree with you. So what?

  • John (not McCain)

    Lying liar Rand Paul at Howard University: “I’ve never wavered in my support of the Civil Rights Act.”

    Lying liar Rand Paul to the Louisville Courier-Journal: “I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners — I abhor racism. I think it’s a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant — but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership.”

    So fuck him, his racist dad, and the anti-American goons who support either of them.

  • Carstonio

    the fact that the Republican party was once a lot more popular amongst blacks is a terrible argument for why anyone should believe it’s not hostile to blacks now.

    Terrible in large part because it’s merely a brand concept. Rand went to Howard not to start a dialogue but to sell students on the Republican Party. Very often the office-seekers or commentators argue that blacks would vote Republican if they truly understood the party’s stances. Some of them suggest that the social conservatism of many blacks, especially older religious ones, makes these voters a natural fit for the GOP. At best, this belief ignores the party’s economic stances and its use of the Southern Strategy. At worst, it indicates that these folks believe their own “free stuff” demagoguery about their opponents using public assistance to buy the votes of non-whites.

  • For anyone who would care but doesn’t already know: Hyperbole and a Half is back after more than (but not much more than) a year and a half.

    Right now there’s just the post linked to which is a heads up to let people know that sometime today she’ll be posting a post about depression and the absence and such.

  • The_L1985

    Bonjour, Dennis! Have fun in jail!

  • Kubricks_Rube

    Straw Ta-Nehisi Coates: “And I’m fine with other radical liberals of any color passing along the party line on Blacks. But I won’t accept any deviation from this, either from Whites or from traitor Blacks.”

    Actual Ta-Nehisi Coates:

    Some of the most committed black people I know — in some other America — would be Republicans. But in this America, this conservative movement, has a fairly nasty romance with white racism. There are black conservatives (some Republican, some not) who manage to steer clear of this — Bill Cosby, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, and possibly Tim Scott. And there are others who, to put it bluntly, profit from it.

    It’s perfectly respectable to think Obamacare is bad for the country. It’s less respectable to claim that Obama isn’t an African-American. It’s perfectly respectable to believe in a flat tax. It’s less respectable to tell a room full of white people that Obama, isn’t “a strong black man” or that he has “never been a part of the black experience in America.” It’s respectable to believe that the Ryan Budget is the key to the future. It’s less respectable to believe that equating same-sex marriage with child-rape puts you on Harriet Tubman status.

    The corollary of that last metaphor — the idea of liberalism as a plantation — is especially noxious and deeply racist. It holds that black people are not really like other adult humans in America — people capable of discerning their interest and voting accordingly — but mental slaves too stupid to know what’s good for them.

    The quoted post was about a different topic (Dr. Ben Carson), but that last paragraph gets at why Rand Paul’s Howard lecture (and even moreso his reaction to the reaction to his lecture) is so problematic.

  • Carstonio

    Even taking Paul’s criticism of the Act at face value, he doesn’t offer any other remedy for segregated public accommodations. He would have the federal government lament the problem while sitting on its hands.

  • JustoneK

    See, there’s that perception problem again.

  • Who is Silvia? what is she,
    That all our swains commend her?
    Holy, fair, and wise is she;
    The heaven such grace did lend her,
    That she might admirèd be.

    Is she kind as she is fair?
    For beauty lives with kindness.
    Love doth to her eyes repair,
    To help him of his blindness,
    And, being helped, inhabits there.

    Then to Silvia let us sing,
    That Silvia is excelling;
    She excels each mortal thing
    Upon the dull earth dwelling:
    To her let us garlands bring.

    (Srsly, if anyone can see or hear the name “Sylvia” and not think of Shakespeare, they’re not me.)

  • Jenora Feuer

    And the Sylvia in the case is almost certainly Sylvia Browne, notedorious psychic fraud. Who’s been in the news lately as a result of the discovery of the kidnapped women in Cleveland, because ten years ago on the Montel Williams show, Sylvia apparently told the mother of one of the women that her daughter was already dead. Said mother died several years ago never knowing that her daughter was in fact still alive.

  • Carstonio

    Yes. Bill Cosby in particular has always struck me as an old-school social conservative, meaning that he seems to believe people will naturally misbehave unless kept in line by authority or by social norms. And when his daughters were little, he extolled a gender essentialism that made him sound almost like an Old Testament patriarch. Ironic because racism is another form of essentialism, or at least the rationalizations for racism tend to be essentialist.

  • JustoneK

    wait, if he’s the antichrist, wouldn’t he be okay with a culture of death? or is he promoting it not decrying it

    this whole thing confuses me.

  • JustoneK

    I remember mentioning it myself. Because that’s certainly how it appears to me, and you seem to frequently go out of your way to tell us that you downvoted (more recently upvotes are included) and why.

    Am I inaccurate?

  • SisterCoyote

    At this point people are probably just messing with you, given your tendency to take notice of all up/down votes. Much like the way someone who repeatedly makes a fuss about, for example, their desk being left in a specific order, will often find things on it moved two inches to the left, or somesuch.