American commanders cite al-Qaida's severe brand of Islam, which is so extreme that in Baqouba, al-Qaida has warned street vendors not to place tomatoes beside cucumbers because the vegetables are different genders, Col. David Sutherland said.
I read an interesting article on primate lineage in the NY Times Science Section this past Tuesday. Deric Bownds (Mindblog) posted a PDF version of the article here.Especially interesting to me is research on certain types of immediate/working memory tasks that finds chimps outperforming humans. One researcher believes that the evolution of the capacity for symbolization and language came with a trade-off entailing diminished immediate memory function in certain types of tasks.
In cognitive science, you have got to check out this post at Neurophilosopher's blog. It was reported that after shooting himself in the head with a crossbow, antisocial behavior ceased in a patient previously diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. There's a nice picture of the arrowhead lodged in the prefrontal lobe. I guess it's a crude but cheap way to perform a prefrontal lobotomy.
I continue to be astonished by bloggers who seem incapable of dealing with this tragedy without treating it as another opportunity to grind their own political axes, whatever those may be. I'm not going to be point to specific blogs on the left, right or otherwise because I could point almost anywhere to find examples of this phenomenon. I will say that I almost wince with embarrassment for bloggers who tie the massacre to their dislike for Bush or their political views on the Middle East.
If you're tempted to introduce the name 'Bush' or the words immigration, Palestinian, Christian, Jew, Muslim or atheist into your explanation for events in Virginia, it might be time to hold off on posting and sleep on it for a few days. You're probably working with an organizing principle that you're heavily invested in for reasons other than a genuine search for truth. Proceeding will mostly likely take you far afield from the complicated, real people and circumstances associated with events in Virginia.
It is natural and even necessary for us to interpret events based upon our preexisting narrative templates. This is how we organize the data of our experience. But, much like a paranoid person who attends to the world in a highly selective, inflexible manner that supports a delusional system, bloggers who politicize the Virginia shootings seem utterly oblivious to their own patterns of selectively attending to events in ways that can only end up supporting their preexisting opinions. If we fail to recognize the hypothetical nature of our preexisting narrative templates and if we do not allow ourselves to seriously consider alternative ways of seeing and organizing our understanding of events, we will inevitably wed ourselves to conclusions that represent little more than the comforting reassurances of a delusion. This is especially ironic, given what we are learning about the paranoid world view of the killer.
Shockingly, the television is chock full of politicians and advocates of various stripes claiming that the disaster at Virginia Tech is a vindication of . . . whatever they already believed. If only we had had [more gun control/less gun control/better mental health treatments/tougher law enforcement/colleges that acted more like parents/tighter immigration rules/whatever] then this never would have happened.
Personally, I think that the only thing this really illustrates is that we need some stiff legal enforcement against people who think that large numbers of bodies were delivered by the Almighty for the express purpose of providing publicity for their pet cause. And I'll say so, publicly, if only CNN will ask me . . .
Sigmund, Carl and Alfred (that's one blogger) has written a piece that seems to blame antiwar folks for the Virginia Tech rampage. He anticipates and condemns the political exploitation of the killings by gun-control advocates, but proceeds to associate the the rampage with a social climate that tolerates terrorists and, in turn, peace advocates who are allegedly supporting terrorists. Bet you didn't know that your opposition to the invasion of Iraq sent Cho Seung-Hui on his killing spree. It's strange to see a conservative blaming society for an individual's act of mass murder. It makes SC&A seem like one of those liberal types. I don't know much about him. Maybe he's one of those 'new' conservatives.
Shrinkwrapped has written an essay more suitable for people interested in the psychology of explosive violence. It has a sound basis in clinical and developmental theory. Shrink examines the role of shame and rage in violence. I may disagree with his application of theory at times, and I disagree with him on Middle East policy, but he knows what he's talking about theoretically and his insights into the shootings are robust and viable explanations for what may lie behind the killer's rampage.
Lest Bush's remaining supporters continue to imagine that serious criticism of the administration is coming only from 'freedom-hating lefties,' a group of conservatives who supported George Bush have called upon him to fire Attorney General Gonzales. In a letter addressed to Bush and Gonzales, the group stated that:
"Mr. Gonzales has presided over an unprecedented crippling of the Constitution's time-honored checks and balances... He has brought rule of law into disrepute, and debased honesty as the coin of the realm... He has engendered the suspicion that partisan politics trumps evenhanded law enforcement in the Department of Justice...Attorney General Gonzales has proven an unsuitable steward of the law and should resign for the good of the country... The President should accept the resignation, and set a standard to which the wise and honest might repair in nominating a successor..." -- Time Magazine
Calling itself the American Freedom Agenda, the newly formed group called for the restoration of "the roles of Congress and the federal judiciary to prevent such abuses of power and protect against injustices that are the signature of civilized nations." The group recommended the following:
Prohibit military commissions whose verdicts are suspect except in places of active hostilities where a battlefield tribunal is necessary to obtain fresh testimony or to prevent anarchy;
Prohibit the use of secret evidence or evidence obtained by torture or coercion in military or civilian tribunals;
Prohibit the detention of American citizens as unlawful enemy combatants without proof of criminal activity on the President’s say-so;
Restore habeas corpus for alleged alien enemy combatants, i.e., non-citizens who have allegedly participated in active hostilities against the United States, to protect the innocent;
Prohibit the National Security Agency from intercepting phone conversations or emails or breaking and entering homes on the President’s say-so in violation of federal law;
Empower the House of Representatives and the Senate collectively to challenge in the Supreme Court the constitutionality of signing statements that declare the intent of the President to disregard duly enacted provisions of bills he has signed into law because he maintains they are unconstitutional;
Prohibit the executive from invoking the state secrets privilege to deny justice to victims of constitutional violations perpetrated by government officers or agents; and, establish legislative-executive committees in the House and Senate to adjudicate the withholding of information from Congress based on executive privilege that obstructs oversight and government in the sunshine;
Prohibit the President from kidnapping, detaining, and torturing persons abroad in collaboration with foreign governments;
Amend the Espionage Act to permit journalists to report on classified national security matters without fear of prosecution; and;
Prohibit the listing of individuals or organizations with a presence in the United States as global terrorists or global terrorist organizations based on secret evidence.
Right wing blogger Dr. Sanity scores another one for Dick Cheney's untruth squad with her latest post attempting to cast blame for 9-11 on the Clinton administration. This one is a real treat for aficionados of bizarre output from the right.
Dr. Sanity offers us a post entitled, So Is This What Berger Was Hiding? She leads off her post proposing that "this news story makes everything clear, doesn't it?"
The news story is a Newsday account of French intelligence warnings of an impending hijacking prior to 9-11:
Dr. Sanity quotes the article selectively:
France's foreign intelligence service learned as early as January 2001 that al-Qaida was preparing a hijacking plot likely to involve a U.S. airplane, former intelligence officials said Monday, confirming a report that also said the CIA received the warning.
Le Monde newspaper said it had obtained 328 pages of classified documents on Osama bin Laden's terror network that were drawn up by the French spy service, the DGSE, between July 2000 and October 2001. The documents included a Jan. 5, 2001, intelligence report warning that al-Qaida was at work on a hijacking plot.
But here is what the Newsday article actually said. Pay particular attention to the second paragraph omitted by Dr. Sanity:
PARIS -- Nine months before al-Qaida slammed airliners into the World Trade Center, French intelligence suspected the terror network was plotting a hijacking -- possibly involving a U.S. airline -- and warned the CIA, former French intelligence officials said Monday.
But the French warning hinted at a plot in Europe, not the United States, and there was no suggestion of suicide attacks or multiple planes. One former official said al-Qaida may have leaked misinformation to divert intelligence agencies from the bigger, deadlier plot to come on Sept. 11, 2001.
The article also said:
The warning was another example of how intelligence agents sensed al-Qaida was hard at work in the months leading up to Sept. 11 but were unable to piece together fragmented warnings into a coherent plot.
Details were vague.... 'It wasn't about a specific airline or a specific day, it was not a precise plot,' Pierre-Antoine Lorenzi, the former chief of staff for the agency's director, told The Associated Press. 'It was a note that said, 'They are preparing a plot to hijack an airplane, and they have cited several companies.'
This report hardly incriminates the Clinton administration, but Dr. Sanity's post underscores the degenerating condition of the right which has been reduced to defense by inane distraction from the mess in Iraq caused by Bush administration duplicity and incompetence.