We must have the courage to push back against intellectual dishonesty

Make no mistake about this.

Reza Aslan and Glenn Greenwald are playing the O’Reilly “Tiller-the-baby-killer” card against Sam Harris.

They are being intellectually dishonest about the role that religious fundamentalism plays in the violence and intolerance the world over. They are providing cover to others to do the same. In this writer’s opinion, everyone who perpetuates these sorts of lies and obfuscations are as culpable as O’Reilly was in his role in the murder of Dr. Tiller.

Here’s what makes this more disturbing.

O’Reilly’s not a an actual journalist. Just ask him. He’ll tell you.

Aslan and Greenwald are supposed to be journalists.

That’s what makes Aslan’s and Greenwald’s behavior and their actions even more confounding, more mystifying, and far, far worse than anything the overpaid, uninformed, empty-suited, Fox mouthpiece says or does. No one of any seriousness takes O’Reilly seriously.

Aslan and Greenwald are supposed to be different.

Not so long ago, I admired and respected Greenwald. Hell, it was Glenn Greenwald who got invited by Laura Poitras to fly to Hong Kong to interview Ed Snowden. The two of them are editors now at The Intercept, a publication I read and respect. I think….

Greenwald’s intellectual dishonesty when it comes to Harris is just so bewildering. I can only conclude that he, Aslan, and all of Harris’s detractors choose either not to understand the points being made my Harris, or simply don’t have the intellectual capacity to understand them. That’s not an insult. I don’t understand modernist art or astrophysics. It doesn’t make me stupid, inferior, or a bad person. It just means that I don’t understand the subjects well enough to have a well-informed opinion about them.

I thought Aslan and Greenwald were smart enough to understand the connections between fundamentalism, intolerance, and violence. I can only conclude, therefore, that they are consciously choosing to obfuscate and lie about it.

Now, before anyone is tempted to respond to this post in their defense, I hope you’ll take the time to listen to Sam’s podcast. Listen to all of it.

(Trigger Warning: There’s a recording of a shooting beginning at the 20:14 mark that some may find disturbing.)

Even better, read Harris’s books. There simply are no reasonable, rational, or logical corollaries that can be drawn that put atheism on an even par with religious extremism. None. Zero.

So, in my view, anyone who continues to perpetuate the sorts of lies that Aslan and Greenwald are perpetuating is only increasing our inability to openly and honestly talk about the risks to people’s lives and to the future of a civil society that comes from violent jihadism and religious fanaticism of every stripe.

It’s up to all of us to push back against this sort of intellectual dishonesty. The first step in solving a problem is to admit you have one. Religion has a problem. It’s called extremism. Atheism has no such problem. Atheist doctrine does not call for the murder of the believer or of the sinner. Only religions do that.

Do not let the lies and obfuscations go unchallenged. Stand up and stand strong with people like Sam Harris who simply ask the question, “What kind of world do we want to live in?”



This is the level of maturity and seriousness Reza Aslan is giving to this.

It’s embarrassing.


Obama, Drones, and the 11th Commandment

Double standards are anathema to most Americans. This ought to be especially true when it comes to civil liberties, executive powers, and justice.

So where is the outrage from the Left and Democrats about drones and the executive powers born of Bush and being wielded still by Obama? We may no longer torture people, but Gitmo remains open and the President is choosing targets and authorizing the killing of American and non-American civilians.

This video frame grab provided by Senate Television shows Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. speaking on the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Photograph: AP

To Liberals, Progressives, Democrats, and supporters of the president everywhere, Glenn Greenwald’s piece in The Guardian last week, “Three Democratic myths used to demean the Paul filibuster”, is especially for you. It will probably make you uncomfortable. It should.

If you identify yourself as a Conservative, Libertarian, Republican or some combination thereof, then I suspect that you’ll enjoy and embrace Greenwald’s article. On some level, you should. It has all the talking points you could want for calling out the Left’s hypocrisy and double standards, at least on the issues of civil liberties and executive power. That is, of course, provided that you remain comfortable defending Bush and his administration for their atrocities and their violations of power and of the civil liberties conveyed on us by the Constitution. It was, after all, W and his administration who laid the foundation for your sworn mortal enemy, President Obama, now to be the one using – and even expanding – those executive powers.

Greenwald sheds truthful light on well-accepted Democratic values. He reveals the truths of a Democratic “empathy gap”, liberal authoritarianism, and the distortions of AG Eric Holder’s letter. He makes clear the case for why the attacks from the Left on Rand Paul for his criticisms of the president and his drone policy are partisan, disingenuous, and a glaring double standard by Democrats.

It comes down to this. One’s outrage over the abuses of power is almost always a matter of convenience and political persuasion.

It seems reasonable to ask where Rand Paul was between October of 2001 and March of 2013 when it comes to his filibustering strategy as a means for making any points about civil liberties and executive power. Late is better than never.

His 13-hour talk-a-thon has opened a door of opportunity for every American to be more aware of the abuses of executive power and the fact that those abuses continue today under Obama. Democrats, Liberals, Progressives, and everyone on the Left should not squander this opportunity. They should unite to press for the kind of changes in DC and from this president that are supposed to be at the core of Democratic and democratic values.

Late is better than never.

If Americans truly believe in our Constitution and in a way of life in which laws and justice are applied equally and to all, then we should be outraged with Obama and how he is wielding his executive power.

Late is better than never.

Our civil liberties have been under threat since 2001. The threat is not foreign, it is domestic. It’s the result of our willingness to accept that an extremely small number of very powerful people – the very same people presumably elected by us to represent us and our values – have been granted and are now abusing that power. Obama’s actions don’t seem all that different from W’s. They seem to be getting ever more dangerous and unilateral.

I still want to believe that one of the things that make Democrats more appealing than and different from Republicans is that Democrats reject Reagan’s 11th Commandment as utterly and completely wrong-headed and wrong for America. It is the epitome of partisan politics. Every thinking person knows that it’s only through the courage to speak truth to power, and to challenge that power and its self-perpetuating and self-serving conventional wisdom, that progress can be made.

So I ask again, where’s the outrage? Where are the Democrats in DC standing up to challenge the Executive Branch? Why does it take a Libertarian to shed light on the dangers of unchecked executive power which defines ‘war’ and ‘battlefield’ and ‘enemy combatant’ to now encompass the entire planet and even an American citizen on American soil?

I marched in DC twice during the Bush years.

Where are the marches now?

Late is better than never.