Core: noun, the most important part of a thing, the essence; from the Latin cor, meaning heart.

The View from the Core
America's Small Town Webzine

 Volume 1.4  Front Page March 4, 2002 

This View’s Featured Webpages

Recent columns, essays, and news articles

Islamic radicalism festers in Europe (CT)
“Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, police and prosecutors in Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Belgium and Britain have made scores of arrests and uncovered what they suspect is a large and interconnected network of Al Qaeda operatives. In the U.S., despite the post-Sept. 11 awareness, nothing like this has been found. America may be the target, but law enforcement officials and academic experts say Europe is the breeding ground.”

Radical, Retaliatory and Right There on British Bookshelves (WP)
A Beginner’s Guide to Unarmed Combat sells for about $14 at the Finsbury Park Mosque. It can be found alongside prayer rugs and audiocassettes containing sermons by radical Muslim sheiks, such as 43-year-old Abu Hamza al-Masri, an Egyptian militant wanted in Yemen for terrorism, who preaches at the mosque on Fridays. It belongs to a growing library of militant books and videos that feed the imaginations of Western extremists and flourishes in Britain because of an explosive combination: the disaffection of the country’s large Muslim minority, mostly of Pakistani origin, and the large number of Muslim militants who were granted asylum here during the 1990s.”

Where Two Worlds Collide: Muslim Schools Face Tension of Islamic, US Views (WP)
“Eleventh-graders at the elite Islamic Saudi Academy in Northern Virginia study energy and matter in physics, write out differential equations in precalculus and read stories about slavery and the Puritans in English. Then they file into their Islamic studies class, where the textbooks tell them the Day of Judgment can't come until Jesus Christ returns to Earth, breaks the cross and converts everyone to Islam, and until Muslims start attacking Jews.”

US Islamic Schools Teaching Homegrown Hate (FOX)
“I don’t know precisely what new immigrant schools taught when waves of Catholics or Jews first flocked to America. But I suspect they adopted and spread the basic American values — tolerance, freedom and patriotism. Surely not the hatred propagated in many Islamic studies classes. At the Al-Qalam All-Girls School in Springfield, Va., seventh graders learn that Usama bin Laden may be not a villain but a victim of Americans’ biased views toward great Islamic leaders.”

Anti-Semitic Crime Surges, Worrying French Jews (NYT)
“Increasingly, Jewish leaders are speaking out, challenging government statistics that they say minimize the problem and criticizing public officials who they say fail to denounce the mounting threats, insults and assaults directed at French Jews. Part of the current problem, they say, is that the attacks are no longer coming just from skinheads and other supporters of the far right as in the past. These days the assailants are often Arabs, who occupy the lowest echelons of this society. The increase in incidents has corresponded to the deteriorating situation in the Middle East.”

He was an American, a Jew — a trophy (Mark Steyn)
“Daniel Pearl reckoned he could ride the tiger: he was promised a meeting with an Islamofascist bigwig, so he got in a car with intermediaries he thought he knew. George Jonas wrote a brilliant column the other day on the delusions of those who think they can ‘establish a “dialogue” with fanatics’ or, as some of Pearl’s friends put it, ‘bridge the misconceptions.’ The ‘misconception’, presumably, is that these men are ruthless, violent, depraved. As surely we know by now, the only misconception is that that’s a misconception.”

By the Laws of War, They Aren’t POWs (Casey, Rivkin & Bartram)
“President Bush’s Military Order of Nov. 13, instructing the secretary of defense to establish one or more ‘military commissions’ for the trial of captured al Qaeda members, has met with opposition from critics on both the left and the right. They contend that international law no longer supports the classification of groups such as al Qaeda or the Taliban as ‘unlawful belligerents’ or ‘unlawful combatants,’ excluded from the rights of prisoners of war (POWs). In particular, many commentators claim that the Geneva Conventions of 1949 eliminated this distinction, and that all individuals captured during an armed conflict are entitled to POW status. This is simply untrue. Neither the Geneva Conventions, nor other international law developments over the past 50 years, changed significantly the international legal regime for dealing with unlawful combatants.”

Let them get the vapors (Mona Charen)
“Notice the use of the word ‘threatened.’ We live in a world populated by homicidal zealots capable of the most unspeakable atrocities against innocent civilians, and the French foreign minister feels ‘threatened’ by the president of the United States? And while we’re on the subject of atrocities, who, Monsieur Vedrine, sold Iraq the nuclear reactor that would have made it a nuclear power two decades ago if Israel had not destroyed the vile thing from the air? Yes, France.”

Ask Torricelli why the CIA can’t spy (Paul Mulshine)
“Baer is a retired CIA agent who spent 25 years in the Middle East. His new book... portrays in great detail the way certain politicians gutted the CIA’s ability to deal with the terrorist threat. Among those politicians are Bill Clinton and [NJ Senator Robert] Torricelli. On March 23, 1995 — a date which will live in infamy — a New York newspaper published the name of a CIA agent in Central America based on Torricelli’s false assertion that the agent had killed an American. That led President Clinton to order a wholesale weakening of the CIA’s capacity to gather the most valuable kind of intelligence, so-called human intelligence. Spies, in other words.”

Agent: FAA buried lapses (USAT)
“The Federal Aviation Administration covered up security shortcomings at airports for years by manipulating tests and ignoring loopholes that its agents reported, a leader of an FAA team that tested security says. The charges, contained in a whistleblower complaint obtained by USA TODAY, raise questions about whether the agency that oversaw security during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 had disregarded repeated warnings from its own workers that airport checkpoints could easily be breached.”

Are we winning or losing? (Paul Craig Roberts)
“Why can’t Americans recognize a threat unless it comes with a bomb? Why is hijacking an airliner worse than hijacking our language, culture and territory? When will Americans wake up and realize what it will mean to be submerged in a sea of ‘protected minorities,’ who have been taught to see us as hegemonic oppressors? Don’t get me wrong. It’s liberal white males who are the ‘diversity’ ringleaders, and it is liberal white males who are teaching ‘people of color’ to hate white people. It is Harvard, Columbia and Berkeley professors, not Mexicans or blacks, who have rewritten history to turn it into a saga of white oppression of ‘minorities.’”

The Veto Speech (Mark Levin)
“This is the kind of speech President Bush should consider making when presented by Congress with the campaign-finance bill now headed for passage: .... When I campaigned for president, and upon taking office, I made clear that if Congress passed a campaign-finance bill that violated the Constitution, I could not support it. Unfortunately, despite their own obligation to uphold the Constitution, and despite my warnings, a majority in Congress has sent me such a bill.” (I wish that I had written this column; but see my Campaign Finance Reform and Connect the Dots. ELC)

Nattering Do-Nothingists (Michael Kelly)
“Now, in our time of crisis, helpfully comes former president Jimmy Carter to pronounce that the current president — this would be the president who actually has the job at the moment as opposed to the president who set a record for incompetence that will stand until the seas run dry when he did have the job and has been tediously nattering away at his infinitely superior successors ever since — has erred.” (This column is one of the finest slams you could hope to read. ELC)

Pearl’s death puts media double standard into play (Richard Roeper)
“This is the enduring hypocrisy practiced by nearly all journalistic organizations. If something horrible but newsworthy happens to you, all bets are off as we pursue the story. (Remember the pack of reporters camped outside the Levy residence last summer?) But if it happens to us, we expect our ‘colleagues in the media’ to back off and show some sensitivity, the story be damned.”

Disturbing Finding on Young Drinkers Proves to Be Wrong (NYT)
“After several news organizations reported a finding that under-age drinkers consumed a quarter of the nation’s alcohol, the widely respected antidrinking organization that issued the finding acknowledged that it had not applied the usual statistical techniques in deriving that number, which would then have been far smaller. Indeed, the government agency on whose data the finding was based said that by its own analysis, the actual figure for the proportion of alcohol consumed by teenagers was 11.4 percent.” (“Widely respected”? By whom? ELC)

Copies of California Patriot Stolen; Publication Staff Allegedly Harassed (UCLA Berkeley Daily Californian)
“Police at UC Berkeley are investigating the theft of 3,000 copies of the California Patriot, a conservative campus monthly, as well as the alleged harassment of the publication’s distributors.... Patriot Editor Kelly Thomas said there is no definitive way to pinpoint the thieves’ identities. But others on the Patriot staff said the theft was likely in response to an article in the just-released Patriot that calls the Mexican American student group MEChA a ‘student funded hate group....’ Patriot staff and members of the closely affiliated Berkeley College Republicans also said they were surrounded and harassed Tuesday as they handed the publication out on Sproul Plaza.” (Ah, yes. Freedom of speech!... for everybody who agrees with us. ELC)

Former Homosexual Alleges TV Show Censored Testimony (CNS)
“When Stephen Bennett recently told a national television audience how he left the gay lifestyle, he riveted the attention of the largely homosexual and gay-friendly studio audience. But when the show aired 13 days later, his testimony about the nature of his religious conversion was missing — deliberately cut, Bennett believes, by the show’s producers, who objected to his Christian message.”

Wages of Relativism (Benedict Groeschel)
“I think much of the responsibility here lies on those who taught relativistic moral theology in the past decades and those who deprived Scripture of its credibility as a moral norm. On all sides, bishops have been cajoled by experts with solutions, which were often simplistic and which ultimately did not square with Scripture or with Catholic teaching. To stop the terrible scourge of the corruption of youth which is blatantly seen in the media every day and to protect children from all kinds of seduction should be a goal of every decent person. To single out the clergy and use them as a brick bat to bring Catholics into submission so that we will not oppose abortion and the destruction of the family is obviously the goal of many in the media.”

... and, in reply, ...

Unholy Mess (Rod Dreher)
“I have no doubt that the Boston Globe, for one, does not wish the Church well on any number of moral issues, but that in no way takes away from the fact that much of what the Globe has reported about the evil in the Archdiocese of Boston is true, and important. Indeed, the actions of Cardinal Law and others in the Catholic hierarchy have done more than anything to obviate the Church’s moral authority to speak out against the society-wide corruption through the media that Fr. Groeschel so rightly decries.”

It’s Not About Celibacy (Deal Hudson)
“Let us be clear: There is no relation between the vow of priestly celibacy and the incidence of pedophilia among Catholic priests. How do I know this? There is less likelihood that a Catholic priest will be a pedophile (0.3%) than a married man. This statistic comes from the best and most current study of this issue, Pedophiles and Priests by Philip Jenkins (Oxford University Press, 1996). Jenkins shows that true pedophilia, that is, sexual contact between an adult and pre-pubescent child, is very rare in the Catholic priesthood.”

Liberal Catholicism’s Just Deserts (George Neumayr)
“After Vatican II, the American Catholic church very stupidly took the advice of the secular culture and adopted a permissive attitude toward sexuality. ‘Loosen up,’ ‘Don’t be judgmental,’ ‘Accept nontraditional types into the priesthood,’ the secular culture outside and inside the church told the American bishops. And they did.... True, the introduction of moral liberalism into the American Catholic church is not the only cause of the pedophilia problem in the church. Man’s power to choose evil freely is the primary explanation for scandal. But moral liberalism — which tends to rationalize and even sanctify the effects of Original Sin — abets the spread of sexual sin in the church.” (Unfortuantely, Mr. Neumayr, these deserts do not affect only “Liberal Catholicism”. ELC)

The reparations conundrum (Des Moines Register Editorial Board)
“Complicated doesn’t even begin to describe it. A high-powered team of African-American lawyers and scholars is preparing to file lawsuits against companies it claims profited from slavery prior to 1865. They’re looking for financial compensation and apologies in industries, including banking and insurance. The ultimate goal is to use these suits as a vehicle for a case that leverages Congress to pay reparations for slavery as well.”

Terror puts Doomsday Clock back in motion (CT)
“Since the deepest chill of the Cold War, the occasional movements of the hands on the Doomsday Clock at the University of Chicago have served as an unofficial gauge of the threat that the world might plunge into nuclear Armageddon.... ‘This clock business is a scam,’ said Frank Gaffney, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Security Policy. ‘These are people who are completely irrelevant to the process, who have been promoting this publicity scheme for decades. They have consistently advocated prescriptions that are simply wrong.’”

Dracula could put £1m bite on an eager bidder (Scotsman)
“Bram Stoker’s original manuscript copy of Dracula, partly written in Scotland and claimed by some as the greatest horror story ever written, could fetch more than £1 million at auction. The long-lost 529-page script — with a different ending as well as extensive scrawled revisions and deletions by Stoker — bears the Irish author’s hand-lettered title page: The Un-Dead.”

Lotus blooms from seed 500 years old (Singapore Straits Times)
“American scientists have grown seedlings from 500-year-old lotus seeds recovered from a Chinese lakebed. It is the first time a new generation of plants of any species has been cultivated from such old seeds. The researchers hope their work could lead to the development of new crop varieties, the BBC reported. The seeds were bought by a team of American and Chinese researchers in the village of Xipaozi in Liaoning province, in north-eastern China. It is centred on a site which was once a large lotus-filled lake that dried as it drained into the Bohai Sea centuries ago.”

Full Moon Wednesday [Feb. 27] to Be Brightest of Year (Yahoo! News)
“When the Moon is full on Wednesday night [Feb. 27] it will be just about as close to Earth as it gets in its elliptical orbit, the U.S. space agency said. As a result, it will appear 9 percent wider than normal and shine 20 percent more brightly.”

Articles of more permanent interest

Correctness Crack-Up (Stephen Goode and Christopher Jolma)
“But the response to Sept. 11 at U.S. colleges and universities might be bringing about a bigger, more profound transformation that’s now in its earliest stages. It’s change that challenges and may undermine — the gospel of political correctness, which has ravaged U.S. schools for nearly two decades. It’s a transformation, too, that may bring an end to the power held at American universities and colleges by the left-wing 1960s activists — many of whom long have held senior and tenured positions at American schools and have used those positions to preach the same tired left-wing politics and anti-Americanism they began so loudly advocating 40 years ago.”

Campus Capers (David Horowitz)
“In any case, the media blackout of my book makes my current campus speaking tour something of a necessity. I have one additional agenda, moreover, which is to cast a spotlight on the rampant political bias in the hiring of faculty at American universities. This repression of conservative viewpoints — an academic McCarthyism that puts McCarthy’s puny efforts to shame — is blatant, unconstitutional and illegal, but ubiquitous nonetheless.

What will it take to persuade? (Balint Vazsonyi)
“The brutal murder of journalist Daniel Pearl has shaken even our own television news analysts. That is significant, since some of our most highly visible — and highly paid — commentators had never known a foreign terrorist they didn’t like. Well, that might be a bit harsh. Let us say instead, they had never seen a foreign terrorist whose ‘cause’ they didn’t respect. But this was too much, even for them. Are we mad enough yet?”

How The Left Undermined America’s Security (David Horowitz)
“Underlying the Clinton security failure was the fact that the Administration was made up of people who for twenty-five years had discounted or minimized the totalitarian threat, opposed America’s armed presence abroad, and consistently resisted the deployment of America’s military forces to halt Communist expansion. National Security Advisor Sandy Berger was himself a veteran of the Sixties ‘anti-war’ movement, which abetted the Communist victories in Vietnam and Cambodia, and created the ‘Vietnam War syndrome’ that made it so difficult afterwards for American presidents to deploy the nation’s military forces.”

The cost of academic integrity (Walter Williams)
“College budgets depend on admitting warm bodies. That means we can’t expect college administrators to do anything to stop unprepared students from being admitted, courses dumbed-down and fraudulent grades given. Boards of Trustees tend to be yes-men and women for the president, so we can’t expect anything from them.
The money spigot needs to be turned off. Alumni, foundations and other charitable donors — not to mention taxpayers — should be made aware of fraudulent practices and academic dishonesty.

The Plains vs. The Atlantic: Is Middle America a backwater, or a reservoir? (Blake Hurst)
“The combination of progressive taxation and urban real-estate prices ensures that almost nobody on the coasts has more spendable income than the highest paid people in Franklin County or the rest of rural Red America. People here in Missouri’s small towns can buy a beautiful older home for less than $100,000. Brooks makes much of the fact that he literally could not spend more than $20 for a meal in Franklin County. The fare in Red America is a bit limited. You can’t buy one of those meals with a dime-sized entrée in the middle of a huge plate, with some sort of sauce artfully squirted about. But you can buy a pound of prime rib for ten bucks. Class-consciousness isn’t a problem in Red America, because most people can afford to buy everything that’s for sale.”

Proof that the classics speak to everyone (Katherine Kersten)
“For 35 years now, we’ve been hearing that ‘the classics’ — the great books of the Western world — are largely irrelevant in today’s classrooms. Why? Most were written by dead white males. Obviously, then, they can hold little meaning for females or for black or Hispanic kids. Everyone knows that if young people are to be moved or inspired, they need books whose authors ‘look like them.’ Try telling that to the students at Wilbur Wright College, a two-year community college in a working-class neighborhood in Chicago. Students at Wright are predominantly black, Hispanic or from immigrant families. Wright is for kids who aren’t ready for four-year colleges. Yet students there are flocking to a Great Books program and lining up to read authors like Plato, Cicero and Dante.”

The Green Matrix (Diane Alden)
“The people who rule the green matrix seek to centrally plan our lives. They have adopted the same philosophy as those who drove the peasants off the land in Russia. They are of the same mind as the Red Guard in China.
They are willing to sacrifice science, the truth and freedom, as well as the well-being of humans and the environment, in order to promote their utopian vision for the world – a vision that considers man a cancer on the land. Strangely, the term ‘green matrix’ comes up in many of their studies, claims and policy papers. But this isn’t a movie. It is the new totalitarian vision.

Why the Muslims Misjudged Us (Victor Hanson)
“Two striking themes — one overt, one implied — characterize most Arab invective: first, there is some sort of equivalence — political, cultural, and military — between the West and the Muslim world; and second, America has been exceptionally unkind toward the Middle East. Both premises are false and reveal that the temple of anti-Americanism is supported by pillars of utter ignorance.”

Parsing out grammar (Linda Chavez)
“I learned how to diagram sentences in elementary school — or what we used to call, appropriately, grammar school.... Progressive teachers and their professional associations, especially the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), believe diagramming sentences is make-work that bores students and turns them off to writing. So they banished diagramming from the classroom years ago, along with most grammar instruction. ”

Slouching Toward Bias: A Neo-Conservative Critiques the Media (Poynter)
“‘The media, notably certain powerful big city dailies and the network news divisions that generally follow their lead, reflect a worldview that is not only distinctly liberal in character, but hostile to those who hold alternative views.”

The Education of Abraham Lincoln (Eric Foner)
“He read incessantly, beginning as a youth with the Bible and Shakespeare. During his single term in the House of Representatives, his colleagues considered it humorous that Lincoln spent his spare time poring over books in the Library of Congress. The result of this ‘stunning work of self-education’ was the ‘intellectual power’ revealed in Lincoln’s writings and speeches.”

Ten Days in September (WP)
“This series is based on interviews with President Bush, Vice President Cheney and many other key officials inside the administration and out. The interviews were supplemented by notes of National Security Council meetings made available to The Washington Post, along with notes taken by several participants.”

Lost Boys (Amy Benfer)
“Suddenly, the debate among researchers is focused on the boys: Are they behind because of the girl empowerment movement? Are they being shortchanged in the classroom simply because they are boys?”

Skewed News: Fair and balanced coverage requires diversity of opinion (Cathy Young)
“Neither Goldberg nor McGowan allege a deliberate vast left-wing conspiracy to distort the news. Rather, they convincingly argue that news coverage is often influenced by a knee-jerk bias stemming from the journalists’ own views on political and social issues.”

Why We Don’t Marry (James Q. Wilson)
“Marriage was once a sacrament, then it became a contract, and now it is an arrangement. Once religion provided the sacrament, then the law enforced the contract, and now personal preferences define the arrangement.”

I need to come up with a way to keep these “permanent” items around without making the left-hand column too long. :) ELC

This View’s Column

A Tale of Three Doctors — and What it Tells Us About the Environmental Movement (Part Two)

A spate of articles, as I mentioned last time, preceded and accompanied the publication of Bjorn Lomborg’s book The Skeptical Environmentalist, September 2001 . And Lomborg has been in the news again lately. (Which, by the way, is why I have been writing this two-part column.)

He has become, in certain respects, Julian Simon Redivivus: his message — The Good News is That The Bad News is Wrong — has not exactly been well-received among environmentalists. Unlike Simon — who, as far as I can tell, was widely ignored and, thus, easily dismissed — Lomborg has been getting a great deal of attention. And much of it has been very bad attention, as reported in an article in the London Sunday Times, Jan. 13:

The scientist who dared to challenge the establishment view on climate change has been subjected to a campaign of personal abuse, professional vilification and threats to his safety.... The book has provoked scientists and environmental groups into producing articles, websites and pamphlets rubbishing its author and his work.... He has been physically attacked and has had to employ bodyguards.

Huh? Good news — backed up with facts and statistics and history —is greeted with... vilification and violence? Perhaps somebody can explain that to me; in the meantime, I’ll try my own explanation.

How about an analogy? A family has (as they say) fallen on hard times: Dad has been laid off, with little real prospect of similar employment; Mom has been able to find only a low-paying part-time job. They watch their small savings dwindle with every bill they have to pay. The wolf is at the door (as they used to say) and the future that Dad and Mom imagine is inevitably worse than their past.

One afternoon, though, Mom makes a discovery. Shuffling through the household papers, scanning for anything they might have overlooked, she suddenly realizes that her husband’s life insurance policy has built up a pretty good cash value: they can withdraw enough money to see them through a couple of months, when the situation (as we say) might pick up.

Mom is overjoyed to have, finally, some good news for Dad. She hurries to him and announces her discovery: We have some money that we had forgotten about; we can breathe easier, at least for a little while.

Dad says that cannot be true. So Mom shows him the policy and the latest statement: The cash value is a bit more than $5,000, and we can withdraw almost all of it.

Dad says she must be — she must be — wrong. But Mom points here and there, to figures and facts, to the history of premiums paid and to the projection of cash values and death benefits, and she tells Dad the good news again: We can withdraw, $5,000 — and it will be tax-free because we have already paid more than $5,000 in premiums!

And Dad slaps her right across the mouth.

Bjorn Lomborg is Mom, so to speak, and Environmentalists are Dad.

Now, while the wisdom of my analogy is sinking in, allow me to move to a broader topic for a minute: what the heck is an Environmentalist? There must be lots of them: I see this or that person, on TV or the radio, or I read about this or that person in a newspaper or magazine or on the Internet — and this or that person is identified as an Environmentalist.

For instance, I was looking at a TV news story, and the reporter was interviewing different folks: some were identified as Farmers, others as Ranchers, and yet others as... Environmentalists.

The distinction that was being drawn implicitly — between Farmers and Ranchers on the one hand, and Environmentalists on the other — is pretty much lost on me. Especially since I’d be willing to bet money I don’t have that the Farmers and Ranchers are much closer to the environment than the Environmentalists are.

Now, I pretty much know what a Farmer, or a Rancher, is. What do they do for a living? Basically, they grow crops and raise livestock. Where does their money come from? Basically, from selling their crops and livestock. Where does their money go? Basically, back into the farm or the ranch, most likely. These are things I know, and I think pretty much anybody knows them, without having to ask about them.

But I do not know what an Environmentalist is. What do they do for a living? I don’t know. Where does their money come from? I don’t know. And where does their money go? I don’t know.

Do you?

Back to the Mom and Dad of our analogy. The only real explanation for Dad’s reaction to Mom’s good news is that — to put it politely — Dad’s mental health has deteriorated while contemplating the family’s bad state of affairs. In the case of Lomborg and the Environmentalists, that explanation just won’t do. (Okay, I could be wrong about that. But I shall proceed as if Environmentalists — whatever they happen to be — are sane. I hope you do not think this too unlikely.)

Now, allow me to recall a quotation from last time, from Ed Regis’ 1997 article on Julian Simon’s attempts to spread good news about the enivronment:

Naturally, he received a fair amount of bad press for all this heresy....

“Naturally”? I ask again. Good news about the environment “naturally” gets bad press?

Well, yes. But not because it’s good news. Rather, because good news about the environment is heresy: it is contrary to the received orthodoxy that the Earth is going (as they say) to hell in a handbasket, and that drastic curtailment of human activities — and only drastic curtailment of human activities — will keep the Earth from going there.

I’m not the only one who sees that good environmental news is heresy to the Environmentalists. Regis used the term years ago. The London Sunday Times article quoted above is entitled “Eco-heretic beset by hate campaign”. And a London Telegraph article, Jan. 20, takes the language even further:

But to the nabobs of the international environmental movement — the researchers, bureaucrats, politicians and protesters whose most passionate beliefs and professional livelihoods are staked on the near-religious conviction that the world is confronting imminent environmental catastrophe — Lomborg is the anti-Christ.

The article is entitled “Anti-Christ of the green religion”, and I think that the writer, David Thomas, has hit the nail (as they say) on the head: Environmentalists’ passionate beliefs and professional livelihoods are being challenged. That being the case, good news for the Earth is bad news for them, for their worldview, for their reputations, for their livelihooods, and for their influence.

But it remains good news for everybody else.

Of course, Lomborg is in the minority among published authors on environmental topics. And some of his opponents seem to think that fact tells very heavily against him and his arguments: why is he virtually the only one saying what he is saying?

One answer is this: because he is a pioneer. Lomborg is looking further and deeper into the evidence, and discovering that it does not really lead us to where it has been supposed to lead us.

And he is not so lonely as Environmentalists and mainstream media would have us think. The BBC ran an article, Feb. 25, about scientists disputing the generally received opinion about global climate change, which has recently become the linchpin of the Environmentalists’ relig... er... worldview:

A group of scientists in the US and the UK says the accepted wisdom on climate change remains unproved.... They claim it is “a media myth” to suppose that only a few scientists share their scepticism.

The article goes on to quote Philip Stott, professor emeritus of biogeology at the University of London:

The authors challenge the key contradiction at the heart of the Kyoto Protocol, the global climate agreement — that climate is one of the most complex systems known, yet that we can manage it by trying to control a small set of factors, namely greenhouse gas emissions. Scientifically, this is not mere uncertainty: it is a lie.

And science author John Gillot, in a spiked-science article, May 22, 2001, explains how an apparent scientific consensus is rigged through a media compliant to Environmentalists’ extremism:

European politicians, environmentalists and the media are unable to resist the temptation to link contemporary extremes of weather to global warming, even though there is little or no evidence for this. And they know it. A greater awareness of the range of variables influencing climate change and the potential impact on humans is making for a more interesting and realistic scientific debate. But this is rarely reflected in the public discussion. Instead, worst-case scenarios are commonly presented as fact. A rapid warming, of 3.5 degrees centigrade or more within the next century, would threaten significant changes. But would a more modest warming pose such a threat? There is a sound scientific basis, in both theoretical modelling and the study of past climates, for the view that a warmer world might be a better place for humans.

Sometimes, scientists have felt obliged to go on the public record about how mainstream media has distorted their findings. Even such a prestigious body as the USA’s National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is not immune from having its reports distorted. For instance, Richard Lindzen, MIT meteorology professor and member of the NAS panel on climate change, published an article in the Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2001:

Our primary conclusion was that despite some knowledge and agreement, the science is by no means settled. We are quite confident (1) that global mean temperature is about 0.5 degrees Celsius higher than it was a century ago; (2) that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have risen over the past two centuries; and (3) that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas whose increase is likely to warm the earth (one of many, the most important being water vapor and clouds).

But — and I cannot stress this enough — we are not in a position to confidently attribute past climate change to carbon dioxide or to forecast what the climate will be in the future. That is to say, contrary to media impressions, agreement with the three basic statements tells us almost nothing relevant to policy discussions.

Lomborg himself recognizes that his position is perceived to be in the minority; in an article I quoted from last time, he gives four reasons why this is so:

  • “Lopsidedness” is built into scientific research: research is not conducted in an area if there are not actual problems already, or if there are not thought to be potential problems for the future. Lomborg says that this will “create an impression that many more potential problems exist than is the case.” I say that it also creates an incentive to magnify the number and impact of potential problems, to prop up researchers’ reputations and funding, which provides their livelihood, and perhaps to support some larger political purpose. (To say that scientific researchers are not subject to, or do not succumb to, temptations like that is tantamount to saying that they are not human beings.)
  • Environmentalists’ groups are lobbying groups: they need to get the media’s attention, and want to influence governing bodies, corporations, and the general public. While asserting that these groups are run by “selfless folks”, Lomborg does acknowledge that they “need to keep the money that sustains them rolling in. The temptation to exaggerate is surely there, and sometimes, indulged in.”
  • Bad news sells better than good news does, and the media gives the public what it wants. Lomborg notices that this is a fault of the media; I will add that, though the media may be faulted for giving the public what it wants in preference to more realistic viewpoints, the general public is partly to blame, too, for desiring bad news more than true news.
  • Poor individual perception causes us to be dependent on views shaped by the media, which suffer because of the reasons already explained.

Is all this enough to explain the hostility which has greeted the good news from Julian Simon, first, and now from Bjorn Lomborg? In the 1960s, the public — especially the media — was spell-bound by horror stories of imminent global catastrophe. Never mind that they never came true, and that in fact the world situation has been, by and large, getting better and better for a very long time. The train (as they say) had left the station, and there was nothing to stop it. Bad news — some of it exaggerated, some of it mere speculation, some of it outright deception — has been continually trumpeted by the mass media and welcomed by the general public. Biases built into scientific research, and into the propagan... er... the publicity methods of Environmentalist groups, have lent support to the widely received impression that bad environmental news is the only true, or the only significant, environmental news.

Is all this enough to explain the hostility? I think so. But other explanations are available, and I do not think we can merely discount them. Columnist Diane Alden wrote recently about her research into fraud by employees of both the US federal government and the Washington state government — Fish and Wildlife Service agents whose salaries are paid by the taxpayers — concerning the presence of an endangered species of lynx in certain forest areas. She and others speculate that the individuals involved want to be able to declare the forests off-limits to human activity as part of a larger, long-term plan:

Trace the motive behind the fraud to an international agenda. An agenda adopted years ago when the U.N. and UNESCO were looking for ways to create a global economy and social structure – a collectivist utopian vision of the collective “good.”

That ultimate “good,” of course, is decided by the world’s elites, the “good” of the collective as opposed to the welfare and primacy of the individual. What would be created is a despotic utopian world where where our lives, property, economics, education, jobs and the environment are centrally planned.

The cover for the collectivist vision is the environment – and environmental policy.

I, for one, do not dismiss this out of hand. For it doesn’t take long to realize that Lomborgs critics aren’t always motivated merely by concern for the state of the environment. Rather, some of them seem to be motivated by more concern for the state than for the environment.

For instance, one of his most strident critics, Mark Lynas, has noted the following (as of today’s publication of The View) on a website devoted to debunking Lomborg:

Lomborg’s clearly on a political exercise, producing an anti-environment polemic not entirely different from the kinds of statements emanating from the current Bush White House — just with more footnotes.... Why not take the $60 billion from George Bush’s stupid Son of Star Wars program and use that cash to save lives in Ethiopia? Because in a world where political choices are not made democratically at a global level, but by a small number of rich countries and corporations, the poor and the environment are never going to be a priority.

Ah. Yes. I see.

But even if one is not willing to go so far as Alden does, we nonetheless have all the evidence we need to understand something about Environmentalist groups. Their assertions — whether they be apocalyptic forecasts of the future state of the environment, or even simple claims of the current global state of affairs —their assertions need to be scrutinized and criticized much more than they have been these past 30 or 40 years. And so do their motivations and their intentions.

Strange that I should have to say this, but I think a little more inquisitiveness on the part of reporters would go a long way towards helping the public to sort out fact from fiction about the environment.

It seems to me, for instance, that I must be supposed to know about Environmentalists, and what they do, and where their money comes from, and where it goes: you see, nobody has even attempted to explain these things to me. A reporter ought to get mighty strange looks for asking, say, Farmers or Ranchers what they do for a living and how they earn their money. But I think reporters ought to start getting strange looks for not asking Environmentalists what they do for a living, and why they do it, and how they earn their money.

Strange, having to tell reporters to be more inquistive, no?

P.S. According to a Reuters article, Feb. 27, Lomborg has been appointed to head a new Danish independent environmental organization, the Institute for Environmental Valuation. Though it seems to me that he would bring a needed balance to their activities, his appointment “has enraged local environmentalists and invited criticism from opponents abroad”.

P.P.S. Some of the articles cited in this column are already unavailable at the URLs I have for them.

© ELC 2002


Shot One. The headline of the Times of India article, Feb. 26, was a terrible shock:

Norway opposes possible US attack on Iraq


How on earth are we going to get along? Without... without... ah... er... um... well, without whatever it is we need from Norway............

Shot Two. The Duluth News Tribune article, Feb. 27, that Wisconsin governor Scott McCallum had called a TV reporter “a vulgar name” at the end of a live interview the day before, and apologized later.

At the end of the interview, McCallum said while reaching for his earpiece: “Thank you. Sure. Thank you. Dumb son of a bitch.”

I had never before heard of either the governor or the reporter, but this episode can give Americans some hope that politicians may start being more honest with some television reporters. But I guess they need to learn to be polite about it.

And a Great Shot from Somebody Else. Recently, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin admitted to having plagiarized other works in a book she had published in 1987.

The New York Times published a fairly long article, Feb. 23, about Goodwin’s plagiarism — without ever calling it plagiarism. Instead, the article repeatedly employed various euphemistic phrases, such as inappropriately copying several passages. (Why would they do that? Surely, not because Goodwin is a popular liberal television commentator. Surely not. Surely.)

Times’ reader B. C. Milligan picked it up and ran with it in a letter to the editor, Feb. 27:

Who wouldn’t be delighted to know that rather than doing something that was blatantly wrong, he or she had merely committed an act that was “inappropriate”?

Perhaps we can even add this word to our penal code, to define actions that are somewhere between a felony and a misdemeanor. Thus, for example, rather than speeding, a motorist could be cited for “inappropriate acceleration.” And instead of burglary, one might be arrested for “inappropriate possession of the property of others.”

Bravo, B. C. M.

© ELC 2002

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Classic articles (that are, or should be, famous)

There is No Time, There Will Be Time
(Peggy Noonan)
Forbes ASAP: November 18, 1998

“When you consider who is gifted and crazed with rage... when you think of the terrorist places and the terrorist countries... who do they hate most? The Great Satan, the United States. What is its most important place? Some would say Washington. I would say the great city of the United States is the great city of the world, the dense 10-mile-long island called Manhattan, where the economic and media power of the nation resides, the city that is the psychological center of our modernity, our hedonism, our creativity, our hard-shouldered hipness, our unthinking arrogance.”

Networks Need a Reality Check: A firsthand account of liberal bias at CBS News
(Bernard Goldberg)
Wall Street Journal: February 13, 1996

“There are lots of reasons fewer people are watching network news, and one of them, I’m more convinced than ever, is that our viewers simply don’t trust us. And for good reason. The old argument that the networks and other ‘media elites’ have a liberal bias is so blatantly true that it’s hardly worth discussing anymore. No, we don’t sit around in dark corners and plan strategies on how we’re going to slant the news. We don’t have to. It comes naturally to most reporters.”

Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity
(Alan Sokal)
Social Text: Spring/Summer 1996

“There are many natural scientists, and especially physicists, who continue to reject the notion that the disciplines concerned with social and cultural criticism can have anything to contribute, except perhaps peripherally, to their research. Still less are they receptive to the idea that the very foundations of their worldview must be revised or rebuilt in the light of such criticism. Rather, they cling to the dogma imposed by the long post-Enlightenment hegemony over the Western intellectual outlook, which can be summarized briefly as follows: that there exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and indeed of humanity as a whole; that these properties are encoded in ‘eternal’ physical laws; and that human beings can obtain reliable, albeit imperfect and tentative, knowledge of these laws by hewing to the ‘objective’ procedures and epistemological strictures prescribed by the (so-called) scientific method.”

... and, in explanation, ...

A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies
(Alan Sokal)
Lingua Franca: May/June 1996

“For some years I’ve been troubled by an apparent decline in the standards of rigor in certain precincts of the academic humanities. But I’m a mere physicist: If I find myself unable to make heads or tails of jouissance and differance, perhaps that just reflects my own inadequacy. So, to test the prevailing intellectual standards, I decided to try a modest (though admittedly uncontrolled) experiment: Would a leading North American journal of cultural studies — whose editorial collective includes such luminaries as Fredric Jameson and Andrew Ross — publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions? The answer, unfortunately, is yes.... What’s going on here? Could the editors really not have realized that my article was written as a parody?”

The View from the Core, and all original material, © E. L. Core 2002. All rights reserved.

Cor ad cor loquitur J. H. Newman — “Heart speaks to heart”