Rift between “progressive” and centrist Democrats in House bill on Iron Dome funding

September 24, 2021 • 9:15 am

After some squabbling within the Democratic Party, the House approved $1 billion funding for Israel’s “Iron Dome”, designed solely as a defensive measure to protect it from rockets fired from Palestine. To avoid Republican opposition to raising the debt ceiling, the Dems had to break this out as a separate bill. (Iron Dome funding has been going on for some years.)

There were 420 votes to fund, but nine dissenting votes on the bill—8 Democrats and one Republican—while two members voted “present”. Three of the “no” votes were “squad members” Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Presley, and Ilhan Omar, while, as usual, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez waffled, as she was set to vote “no” as well, but then waffled at the last minute and voted “present” because she cannot bring herself to come out as anti-Israel along with her fellow “progressives”. Rumor has it that AOC wants to challenge Chuck Schumer for his New York Senate seat, and she won’t win in New York if she’s gets a reputation as anti-Israel. As the NYT reports:

Minutes before the vote closed, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez tearfully huddled with her allies before switching her vote to “present.” The tableau underscored how wrenching the vote was for even outspoken progressives, who have been caught between their principles and the still powerful pro-Israel voices in their party. (A spokesman for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez declined to comment on her change of position.)

The Times’s original story, however, included the last underlined phrase below, couching the vote as a battle between the “principles” of the progressives and the “power” of “influential lobbyists and rabbis”. (The original version of the NYT is archived here.) I guess the paper realized this might not exactly be “objective” reporting since perhaps some of those Democrats who voted to support the bill might have principles, too. One person who clearly doesn’t, though, is the dissimulating and ambitious Ocasio-Cortez, forced to tears by her cognitive dissonance.

Here’s the only place I found the House members who voted “no”. The other “not present” is Georgia Representative Hank Johnson.

The vote now goes to the Senate, which will pass the bill.

Krauss on Trump’s anti-science cabinet (and on Rick Perry as Energy Secretary)

December 14, 2016 • 1:00 pm

Physicist Lawrence Krauss, always a writer, has now in the Age of Trump become a pro-science activist as well. Wearing that hat, he published two articles just yesterday, one in the New Yorker and the other in the New York Times, both about Trump’s missteps in choosing his cabinet.  The New Yorker piece, “Donald Trump’s war on science,” details what most of us know, but what might be outside the radar of New Yorker readers. The cabinet is loaded with people whose mission is to undermine each post, including the denial of human-caused global warming, the desire to produce more fossil fuels, and do it on public land, reduce earth-monitoring for temperature and other variables, and, as seen in Betsy DeVos (the next Secretary of Education), a general dislike of science that might extend to evolution. Although DeVos’s husband is a creationist, I’m not sure whether she is, but there’s plenty of cause for worry:

Along with her husband, DeVos is an active member of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, a small Protestant denomination with the stated belief that “all scientific theories be subject to Scripture.” According to the church’s official statement on science, “Humanity is created in the image of God; all theorizing that minimizes this fact and all theories of evolution that deny the creative activity of God are rejected.” DeVos attended Calvin College, which is owned and operated by the Christian Reformed Church. She majored in business administration and political science. (She does not have a degree in education.) And although she has not spoken out directly on issues such as evolution and the Big Bang, her husband advocated teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in science classes during his 2006 gubernatorial campaign. “I would like to see the ideas of intelligent design—that many scientists are now suggesting is a very viable alternative theory—that that theory and others that would be considered credible would expose our students to more ideas, not less,” he said. Given her strong support of his campaign, and their joint investment in both conservative and religious causes, as well as her own religious background, it is reasonable to expect that her views do not significantly diverge from his. (DeVos did not respond to requests for comment.)

Mr. DeVos’s view:


Well, Krauss is probably right here, but before we go all Chicken Little, the press should ascertain what DeVos’s actual views are. Apparently the New Yorker tried, without response, but her confirmation hearing could include such inquiry. And, at any rate, teaching creationism given present law is not legal in public schools. What a 5-4 conservative-majority Supreme Court could rule, however, is another issue.

Krauss goes on to express a view familiar to readers here: “teaching the controversy” is not fruitful when there isn’t a real controversy, just a bunch of religionists who want Jesus taught in the classroom. That is not a scientific controversy, but a fight between faith and fact.. And if you’re going to teach ID and creationism, why not astrology in a psychology class, or acupuncture and prayer-healing in medical schools? Have a look at the article that Richard Dawkins and I wrote in the Guardian in 2005—”One side can be wrong”— about what the real controversies in evolutionary biology are.

Krauss goes on.

There is nothing respectable about the idea of “teaching the controversy,” as intelligent-design advocates describe it. We don’t teach modern astronomy by suggesting to students that they feel free to decide for themselves whether the sun orbits Earth or vice versa; instead, we teach them how scientists discovered the realities of our solar system, despite considerable pressure to renounce their own discoveries. Similarly, students should be encouraged to understand that evolution is not some principle laid down on high by a conclave of scientists; they should explore the various empirical tests to which it has been subjected for more than a hundred and fifty years. The purpose of education is not to validate ignorance but to overcome it. It should be easy, therefore, for Congress to make sure that DeVos isn’t planning to drive our educational system off a scientific cliff. During her confirmation hearings, DeVos should be asked whether she thinks it’s appropriate to teach intelligent design alongside evolution in biology classes, or whether young-Earth creationism should be presented alongside the reality of a 4.5-billion-year-old solar system in physics class. An answer in the affirmative to either question should disqualify her as the highest federal government official overseeing public education in this country. If Congress doesn’t exercise its obligation to insure the competence of Presidential appointees like DeVos, then voters need to hold them accountable in the next election.

But look at this data (a slide I use in some lectures). It shows the result of a Harris poll in 2005:


Here are the results of two polls published by Pew; the data aren’t identical but still depressing:


Given that, it’s unlikely that most voters (or even the benighted Congress) would give a rat’s patootie about what DeVos said. Yet Krauss is right: the new Trump cabinet is not only made up of ill-qualified plutocrats, but shows no sign of being on board with science. What we can do about that, though, only Ceiling Cat knows.

Lawrence’s other piece, in the New York Times, is “Rick Perry is the wrong choice for energy secretary,” and is well argued; I leave it to you to have a look.


Altar of the Oppressionhood Olympics

July 25, 2015 • 11:38 am

by Grania Spingies

I’m not entirely sure about how I feel about this one, but it makes me uneasy.

This news story floated by me on Twitter:

Swedish “Far-Right” Plans Gay Pride Parade Through Muslim Areas; Leftists And Gay Rights Groups Decry The Parade As Racist

The fuss seems to be that a right-wing affiliated Pride Parade plans to go through certain areas in Stockholm where there is a high density of Muslim immigrants.

This is being denounced as “an expression of pure racism” by left-wing and liberal groups.

I can’t read Swedish, but it seems the parade intends to engage in such acts as singing and kissing. Those can hardly be called racist.

Personally I think that deciding to put a Pride march through such an area is deeply misconceived, it’s entirely possible that it will end in violence which is—and always will be—a bad end to seek.

On the other hand, I think a Pride parade going through areas that were predominantly, for example,  Southern Baptist would be praised by the media instead of denounced. None of us need try very hard to imagine the scorn and outrage if a Pride Parade was told that it could not march through through a neighborhood because the marchers had to be “culturally sensitive” to the religion of the ultra-conservative Christian inhabitants.

What is racist is to assume that all heterosexual Muslims in Stockholm are homophobes. From the response I am seeing, the Left is no better than the Right in their assumptions and pronouncements on this one.

Bottom line: I guess what makes me uneasy is how quickly the Left is to sacrifice certain people that they normally would champion, including women such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali and now an LGBT group, when it appears it might tread on the toes of certain religious sensibilities.

Do we really only care about gender equality and the right to sexual identity and freedom so long as it doesn’t offend religious communities? Do we only champion women and LGBT issues so long as they closely share our politics?

It makes this leftist liberal really uncomfortable.

Da roolz

August 5, 2011 • 4:26 am

From time to time I feel compelled to reiterate my policies about posting, especially since we’ve just received an influx of new posters of religious persuasion.  Here are a few guidelines:

1. If you’re a first-time poster, I have to approve your comment before it appears.  That might not be instantaneous since I’m not always within striking distance of a computer.

2.  Most of our readers are atheists.  If you come over here professing belief in God in a loud or obnoxious way, I reserve the right to request that you describe the evidence that led to your belief.  If you fail to provide it, you may not be allowed to post again.

3.  I do not mind substantive posts, for I think they foster discussion. But please be reasonable. Within the last few days I’ve received VERY LONG comments, all from religious people about my article in USA Today. Some of their contributions have been nearly 1200 words long!  Be aware that I can’t publish such essays on this website. If you have your own site, please put them there, or condense them to a reasonable size.

4.  No name-calling, please.  You can refer to ideas as moronic or stupid, but I’d appreciate it you didn’t insult other posters.  If you do, I usually hold back the post and contact the poster privately, asking him/her to deep-six the invective.

5.   I especially don’t like nasty comments about the contents of this site. If you don’t like cats or posts about food, please just go elsewhere.

6.  Ceci n’est pas un blog. It’s a website.  Don’t try to convince me otherwise, for it won’t work. Just regard it as one of my endearing quirks.

7.  By all means correct me if I’m wrong.  I doubt that I’ve ever written a post, even about science, that hasn’t contained an error.  But it adds nothing to start your criticism with “I hate to be picky, but . . . “.

8.  If the spirit moves you, feel free to send me items that you think I or the readers would find interesting. I can’t of course use them all, but a surprisingly large number of posts are inspired by reader suggestions.  If you have a special cat (and what cat isn’t special?), consider sending me a short paragraph and a photo or two for the weekly “readers’ cats” feature.  You can find my email simply by Googling “Jerry Coyne University of Chicago.”