This Views Featured
Recent columns, essays,
and news articles
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.
Retaliatory and Right There on British Bookshelves (WP)
A Beginners 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 countrys
large Muslim minority, mostly of Pakistani origin, and the large
number of Muslim militants who were granted asylum here during the
Two Worlds Collide: Muslim Schools Face Tension of Islamic, US Views
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.
Islamic Schools Teaching Homegrown Hate (FOX)
I dont 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.
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.
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 Pearls 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 thats a misconception.
the Laws of War, They Arent POWs (Casey, Rivkin & Bartram)
President Bushs 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.
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 were 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.
Torricelli why the CIA cant 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 CIAs 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 Torricellis false assertion that
the agent had killed an American. That led President Clinton to
order a wholesale weakening of the CIAs capacity to gather
the most valuable kind of intelligence, so-called human intelligence.
Spies, in other words.
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.
we winning or losing? (Paul Craig Roberts)
Why cant 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?
Dont get me wrong. Its 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.
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)
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.
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.
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 nations 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)
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 publications 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)
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 shows
producers, who objected to his Christian message.
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, ...
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
Churchs moral authority to speak out against the society-wide
corruption through the media that Fr. Groeschel so rightly decries.
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.
Catholicisms 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, Dont
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. Mans 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.
reparations conundrum (Des Moines Register Editorial Board)
Complicated doesnt 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. Theyre 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.
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.
could put £1m bite on an eager bidder (Scotsman)
Bram Stokers 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 authors hand-lettered title page: The Un-Dead.
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.
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.
of more permanent interest
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 thats
now in its earliest stages. Its change that challenges and
may undermine the gospel of political correctness, which
has ravaged U.S. schools for nearly two decades. Its 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
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
McCarthys puny efforts to shame is blatant, unconstitutional
and illegal, but ubiquitous nonetheless.
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 didnt like. Well,
that might be a bit harsh. Let us say instead, they had never seen
a foreign terrorist whose cause they didnt respect.
But this was too much, even for them. Are we mad enough yet?
The Left Undermined Americas 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 Americas
armed presence abroad, and consistently resisted the deployment
of Americas 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 nations military forces.
cost of academic integrity (Walter Williams)
College budgets depend on admitting warm bodies. That means
we cant 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 cant 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
Plains vs. The Atlantic: Is Middle America a backwater, or a reservoir?
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 Missouris 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 cant 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 isnt a problem in Red America,
because most people can afford to buy everything thats for
that the classics speak to everyone (Katherine Kersten)
For 35 years now, weve been hearing that the classics
the great books of the Western world are largely irrelevant
in todays 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 arent 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
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 isnt a movie. It is the new totalitarian
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
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.
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.
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 Lincolns writings and speeches.
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.
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?
News: Fair and balanced coverage requires diversity of opinion (Cathy
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.
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 Views 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
Lomborgs 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
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
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, Ill 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 husbands 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 Id
be willing to bet money I dont 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
But I do not know what an Environmentalist is. What do they do
for a living? I dont know. Where does their money come from?
I dont know. And where does their money go? I dont know.
Back to the Mom and Dad of our analogy. The only real explanation
for Dads reaction to Moms good news is that to
put it politely Dads mental health has deteriorated
while contemplating the familys bad state of affairs. In the
case of Lomborg and the Environmentalists, that explanation just
wont 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 Simons 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 its 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.
Im 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
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 USAs 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
- Environmentalists groups are lobbying groups: they need
to get the medias 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
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,
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 worlds 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 doesnt
take long to realize that Lomborgs critics arent 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 todays publication of The View)
on a website
devoted to debunking Lomborg:
Lomborgs 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 Bushs 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
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.
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 Goodwins 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 wouldnt 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.
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articles (that are, or should be, famous)
is No Time, There Will Be Time
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.
Need a Reality Check: A firsthand account of liberal bias at CBS News
Wall Street Journal: February 13, 1996
There are lots of reasons fewer people are watching network
news, and one of them, Im more convinced than ever, is that
our viewers simply dont 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 its hardly worth
discussing anymore. No, we dont sit around in dark corners
and plan strategies on how were going to slant the news. We
dont have to. It comes naturally to most reporters.
the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity
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, ...
Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies
Lingua Franca: May/June 1996
For some years Ive been troubled by an apparent decline
in the standards of rigor in certain precincts of the academic humanities.
But Im 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....
Whats going on here? Could the editors really not have realized
that my article was written as a parody?