Democracy and Islam After September 11: The case for optimism. (12/13/02) new
By Stephen Schwartz in The Weekly Standard
I do not see September 11 as an act of protest by Muslims or Arabs oppressed by the advance of Western democracy or the success of Israel. I see it as an act of provocation by Saudi-based extremists, intended to divert the younger, better-educated, middle-class strata of Saudi society, and similar social elements elsewhere in the Muslim and Arab worlds, from their growing demands for restoration of Islamic pluralism and the right to live normal lives, in a normal country, in a world at peace. Generations have grown up and become educated in Saudi Arabia, and they are no longer willing to live in the old way. This is a self-evident fact. Furthermore, the Saudi monarchy and its allies, the Wahhabi religious hierarchy, can no longer rule in the old way. This is also a manifest truth.
Wrestling with Islam (11/21/02) new
By David Warren at David Warren Online
What we have today is the progress of Islamism in two, naturally converging, forms. There is the so-called moderate form Islamicization of the laws and bureaucracy, even in the old civil courts. And also, in its so-called radical form, in the growth of a terrorist underground, feeding on trouble in Afghanistan and Kashmir, and feeding off the huge sums of oil-money arriving courtesy of the puritanical, Wahabi sheiks of Arabia. By both means, by both routes, and floating on the tide of Gulf oil money, the same, very international ideology is being imposed, overlaid, on a traditional and very particular society, already shaken off its tree by a catastrophically failed socialism.
Denial & panic (12/15/02) new
By David Warren at David Warren Online
James Woolsey, a former director of the CIA, delivered a very interesting talk recently over breakfast at a Washington retreat. He was giving his hesitantly on-the-record assessment of how World War IV is going. (The expression implies that World War III was the Cold War, which we were able to win against Communism by steadfastness, luckily without a thermonuclear exchange.) He pointed out a number of distressing things about the degree of our exposure. For if the radical Islamists were just a little more intelligently organized, a little less obsessed with symbols and a little more with substance, they wouldnt need much luck to kill millions of people and bring the whole Western economy crashing down.
The Liberal Quandary Over Iraq (12/08/02) new
By George Packer in The New York Times Magazine
In this strange interlude, with everyone waiting for war, Ive had extended conversations with a number of these Bosnian-generation liberal intellectuals the ones who have done the most thinking and writing about how American power can be turned to good ends as well as bad, who dont see human rights and democracy as idealistic delusions, and who are struggling to figure out Iraq. Im in their position; maybe you are, too. This Bosnian generation of liberal hawks is a minority within a minority, but they hold an important place in American public life, having worked out a new idea about Americas role in the post-cold war world long before Sept. 11 woke the rest of the country up. An antiwar movement that seeks a broad appeal and an intelligent critique needs them. Oddly enough, President Bush needs them, too.
Saddam and al Qaeda (12/09/02) new
By David Rose in The Evening Standard
Despite their bitter divisions over possible war in Iraq, doves and many hawks on this side of the Atlantic share a common, often-stated belief: that there is no evidence of a link between Osama bin Ladens al Qaeda network and Saddam Husseins regime. In London and Washington, the Foreign Office, MI6, the State Department and the CIA have been spinning this claim to reporters for more than a decade, long before the attacks of 11 September last year. Constant repetition of an erroneous position does not, however, make it true. Having investigated the denial of an Iraqi connection for more than a year, I am convinced it is false. The strongest evidence comes from a surprising source the files of those same intelligence agencies who have spent so long publicly playing this connection down.
Text of celebrities letter to Bush (12/10/02) new
From Artists United to Win Without War to President Bush at MSNBC
War talk in Washington is alarming and unnecessary. We are patriotic Americans who share the belief that Saddam Hussein cannot be allowed to possess weapons of mass destruction. We support rigorous UN weapons inspections to assure Iraq’s effective disarmament. However, a preemptive military invasion of Iraq will harm American national interests. Such a war will increase human suffering, arouse animosity toward our country, increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks, damage the economy, and undermine our moral standing in the world. It will make us less, not more, secure. We reject the doctrine — a reversal of long-held American tradition that our country, alone, has the right to launch first-strike attacks. The valid U.S. and UN objective of disarming Saddam Hussein can be achieved through legal diplomatic means. There is no need for war. Let us instead devote our resources to improving the security and well-being of people here at home and around the world. (Signed) ....
The Boston Disease: What remains after Cardinal Law. (12/13/02) new
By Michael Novak at National Review Online
The tragic fall of Cardinal Law has brought all these old memories to the surface. His fall is tragic because it was through a weakness of his own (a weakness internal to one of his virtues) that he did himself in. He believed it a bishops duty to be a father to his priests, to be especially compassionate to them, to nurse them along — and he did so, the record shows, most unwisely, and in the end destructively, both of some of them and of himself, and of the reputation of the archdiocese. Meanwhile, he lost sight for far too long of the gaping wounds inflicted on vulnerable young people, on families, on the confidence and trust of the laity. His priests kept letting him down, he became preoccupied with the priests, he forgot the flock they were pledged to have been guarding. Some few shepherds — but far too many for any one place — ran with the wolves. A bishop is not merely a company commander, in charge of officers immediately below him; his foremost duty is to his people, all of them, to protect them from the wolves and guide them, to instruct them, and to bring them to holiness.
State of Law: The Boston cardinal resigns. (12/13/02) new
By Rod Dreher at National Review Online
There are those who accuse the judge of unfairness, the attorney general of grandstanding, and the media of anti-Catholic bias. There may be a measure of truth in any and all of these allegations, but heres the bottom line: Horrendous crimes were committed by priests against children and others, and those crimes were systematically covered up by Church officials, who in many cases allowed the offenders to continue in ministry, where they went on to abuse further. If not for the state and the media, we would not know these things, and the system would still be in place. They have done the Church a favor.
The Good & the Bad: Stephen Schwartz on Islam and Wahhabism. (11/18/02)
An Interview by Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review Online
Most immigrant Muslims in the U.S. came to this country to get away from extremism and are horrified to see that their faith is in extremist hands here. They believed, before coming here, that the U.S. government would never permit such a thing to happen. However, their children are often indoctrinated and radicalized by extremists operating through Muslim schools, Islamic Sunday schools, and radical campus groups. That the U.S. government turned a blind idea to the Wahhabization of American Islam is deeply shocking and disturbing for them. They feel intimidated and defeated. The fact that the U.S. political and media elite have done almost nothing to enable traditional Muslims in this country to oppose Wahhabism makes the situation that much worse.
10 Questions for Adel al-Jubeir: Taking on the Saudi spin king. (12/04/02)
By Stephen Schwartz at National Review Online
The Saudi state is founded on Wahhabism, the most extreme, violent, puristic, fundamentalist, and rigid form of Islam in the history of the religion. It attacks non-Wahhabi Muslims, it calls for genocide of Shias, it preaches contempt and hatred of Christians, Jews, and Hindus. The Saudi state has only one option: to fully investigate its subjects involvement in 9/11, followed by full disclosure to the American people, arrests, and trials, and a final, irrevocable break of the Saudi monarchy with the Wahhabi ideology and its international network.
A Wahhabism Problem: Misleading historical negationism. (12/06/02)
By Andrew G. Bostom at National Review Online
Today, the Muslim intelligentsia focus almost exclusively on debatable human-rights violations in the disputed territories of Gaza, Judea, and Samaria, while ignoring the blatant and indisputable atrocities committed by Muslims against non-Muslims throughout the world. The most egregious examples include: the genocidal slaughter, starvation, and enslavement of south Sudanese Christians and animists by the Islamist Khartoum government forces; the mass murder of Indonesian Christians by Muslim jihadists, with minimal preventive intervention by the official Muslim Indonesian government; the imposition of sharia-sanctioned discrimination and punishments, including mutilation, against non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, and northern Nigeria; the brutal murders of Copts during pogroms by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists, as well as official Egyptian government-mandated social and political discrimination against the Copts; murderous terrorist attacks and the return of such heinous institutions as bonded labor, and punishment for blasphemy, directed against Pakistani Christians by Pakistani Muslims.
A fatwa of ones own (12/05/02)
By Mark Steyn in The National Post
Everything that has become pathetically familiar to us since September 11th was present in the Rushdie affair: First, the silence of the moderate Muslims: a few Islamic scholars pointed out that the Ayatollah had no authority to issue the fatwa; they quickly shut up when the consequences of not doing so became apparent. Second, the squeamishness of the establishment: Rushdie was infuriated when the Archbishop of Canterbury lapsed into root-cause mode.... And, most important of all, the Rushdie affair should have taught us that theres nothing to negotiate. Mohammed Siddiqui wrote to The Independent from a Yorkshire mosque to endorse the fatwa by citing Sura 5 verses 33-34: The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Apostle, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land, is execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land....
No More Fanaticism as Usual (11/27/02)
By Salman Rushdie in The New York Times
If the moderate voices of Islam cannot or will not insist on the modernization of their culture and of their faith as well then it may be these so-called Rushdies who have to do it for them. For every such individual who is vilified and oppressed, two more, ten more, a thousand more will spring up. They will spring up because you cant keep peoples minds, feelings and needs in jail forever, no matter how brutal your inquisitions. The Islamic world today is being held prisoner, not by Western but by Islamic captors, who are fighting to keep closed a world that a badly outnumbered few are trying to open. As long as the majority remains silent, this will be a tough war to win. But in the end, or so we must hope, someone will kick down that prison door.
Latest attack on Jews brings a deafening silence (12/02/02)
By Rosie DiManno in The Toronto Star
I have been waiting, in the days since Thursdays abominable attack, for just one word of sympathy, of pity, from the Muslim world. One note of commiseration to emanate from inside the thousands of mosques, one hint of regret and empathy from commentators ever ready to assail any Israeli misstep and aggression. But the silence has been deafening. Islam, that great religion of peace, has had nothing to say of more murdered Jews. That silent majority that disapproves of extremism, that argues the Muslim faith has been ill-served by militants whove twisted every article of the Islamic faith not a murmur of renunciation of those who commit such travesties in their name. Where is the rage?
Violence and Islam (12/06/02)
By Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post
This feeling of a civilization in decline and the adoption of terror and intimidation as the road to restoration is echoed in a recent United Nations report that spoke frankly of the abject Arab failure to modernize. It is one thing for the Arabs to have fallen behind the West. But to fall behind South Korea also colonized, once poor and lacking any of the Muslim worlds fantastic oil wealth is sheer humiliation. Abdurrahman Wahid, former president of Indonesia and leader of perhaps the largest Muslim society in the world, traces Islamic radicalism not just to a failure of self-respect and self-identity deep feelings of inadequacy and loss but also to an enormous failure of moderate Muslim leadership. The murderers speak in the name of Islam, and the peaceful majority cannot find the courage to challenge them.
Silence of the moderates (12/04/02)
By Cal Thomas in The Washington Times
The president should consider calling for moderate Muslims to clean up their own house. Such demands are being made by Roman Catholic laity on their hierarchy in the wake of priests alleged to have sexually abused children. The president should ask Muslim political and theological leaders to go after their own, if they are, indeed, misrepresenting true Islam. We should not have to clean up after the mess they have made. The problem in the Muslim world is not only theological. It is also the failure of governments to meet minimal human needs. Despite massive infusions of petro dollars, most people in nations run by Muslim authoritarians are poor and illiterate. Their poverty is not the fault of the West.
Murder in religions name (12/08/02)
By The Editors of The New Haven Register
The governments of many of these Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia, have been reluctant partners in the war against terror abroad and intolerance within their own borders. Prior to the Bali bombing, the Indonesian government ignored repeated American warnings of a terrorist threat. Saudi money given through Islamic charities finds its way to terrorists. The United States cannot win this fight without the cooperation of governments in the Islamic states. It can point out to Indonesia that it is not immune to terrorism. It must remind Saudi Arabia that the United States is the guarantor of its independence. And to the religious fanatics in Nigeria, it must express how intolerable the world finds murder in the name of religion.
A Green Light to Spy on Americans? Nonsense. (11/25/02)
By Heather Mac Donald in City Journal
The FISA standard for wiretapping Americans remains as high after the review court ruling as before: to get a wiretap warrant for an American terror suspect, the government must show not only that he is an “agent of a foreign power” but that he is “knowingly engaged in international terrorism.” The government may not base its case for a warrant by citing activities protected by the First Amendment. Nothing in the ruling changes that demanding standard. The fact that prosecutors and FBI criminal agents can now share their expertise with intelligence agents during the course of an investigation, or even instigate a wiretap request, does not alter the legal standard that that wiretap request must meet. “Ordinary Americans” are as protected from groundless surveillance after the decision as before.
Targeting Terrorists... not privacy. (11/25/02)
By Michael Scardaville at National Review Online
The key to the program — both in terms of its effectiveness and its potential to gain acceptance from the millions of Americans who rightly worry about privacy and erosion of civil liberties — is to limit its use to detecting terrorists and preventing future attacks. That means the FBI, the CIA and the soon-to-be-created Department of Homeland Security intelligence arm. It does not mean state and local law enforcement or even those who wish to use it for causes such as aviation security and health surveillance — monitoring for epidemics and biological warfare, etc. Americans must be able to trust that extremely few people will have access to these capabilities and that the punishment for misuse will be severe.
These Victims Are People, Too: What hate crimes have wrought. (11/26/02)
By Rod Dreher at National Review Online
The media dont tell us what to believe, but they do set the terms of public discussion. The narrative model that insists Christians can never be victims of bigotry, violent or otherwise, will ultimately have consequences beyond merely angering pious readers and viewers. In Canada, Christians are having their freedom of speech and worship taken away by hate-speech laws designed to protect homosexuals from having their feelings hurt. Meanwhile, incidents like the radical feminist trashing of Montreals Roman Catholic cathedral a couple of years ago (they even threw condoms and soiled tampons at the altar, and burned crosses on the cathedral steps) not only merited little comment in Canadas press, it didnt move the Canadian authorities to file anything stronger than minor trespassing charges. Prosecutors said the event didnt trigger the countrys hate-crimes law.
Beauty Pageants Can Be Murder (11/27/02)
By Ann Coulter at AnnCoulter.Org
The New York Times cant bear to think that their little darlings angry, violent Muslims could be at fault in this melee. That makes no sense because Islam is a Religion of Peace. So the Times reviewed the facts, processed it through the PC prism, and spat out the headline: Religious Violence in Nigeria Drives Out Miss World Event. According to the Times, rampaging Muslims pouring out of mosques to kill Christians and torch churches resulted from the tinderbox of religious passions in the country. Islam is peaceful, but religion causes violence. Pay no attention to the fact that the most bloodthirsty cult in the 20th century was an atheistic sect known as communism. But that was not true communism, just as Muslim terrorists are not practicing true Islam. The ironic thing is, liberals would hate Muslims who practiced only true Islam. Without the terrorism, Muslims would just be another group of anti-choice fanatics.
Testing speech codes (11/27/02)
By Alan M. Dershowitz in The Boston Globe
Or consider the case of the anti-Semitic poet Amiri Baraka who claims that neo-fascist Israel had advance knowledge of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and warned Israelis to stay away. This lie received a standing ovation, according to The Boston Globe, from black students at Wellesley last week. Baraka had been invited to deliver his hate speech by Nubian, a black student organization, and paid an honorarium with funds provided by several black organizations. Would those who are advocating restrictions on speech include these hateful and offensive lies in their prohibitions? If not, would they seek to distinguish them from other words that should be prohibited? These are fair questions that need to be answered before anyone goes further down the dangerous road to selective censorship based on perceived offensiveness. Clever people can always come up with distinctions that put their cases on the prohibited side of the line and other peoples cases on the permitted side of the line.
Is Harvard ditching free speech? (11/27/02)
By Scot Lehigh in The Boston Globe
Civil libertarian Harvey Silverglate, cofounder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, says the groups research has determined that more than 90 percent of colleges and universities have adopted behavior codes prohibiting offensive speech if it touches on matters of race, sexual orientation, or gender. Why no sustained outcry from the faculties? They dont consider that to be a free speech issue because it is imposed by the academic left, and the academic left is an authoritarian movement, not one of genuine liberalism, Silverglate, himself a liberal, observes. The demand for protection from offensive speech highlights both a lack of clarity and an absence of confidence on the part of faculty and students.
No Hate Speech at Harvard (11/14/02)
By The Staff of The Harvard Crimson
Harvard is an open academic community dedicated to the vigorous exchange of ideas. The freedom of speech is absolutely central to the University’s mission. But Harvard has no obligation to encourage hate speech, speech that explicitly incites ethnic violence. Such speakers have no place in a community based on respect and tolerance, and for that reason, the English department was right to ask Irish poet Tom Paulin not to give the Morris Gray Lecture.... Paulin is certainly entitled to express his own opinions—and of course, extremely critical views of Israel should not preclude him from speaking at Harvard, on that subject or any other. Whether or not he believes in the right of a Jewish state to exist is irrelevant to a discussion of epic poetry, the original subject of his lecture. But when the English department learned that he advocated killing civilians and considered the Israeli military a modern-day incarnation of the SS, the content of his poetry became immaterial.
In About-Face, English Dept. Re-Invites Anti-Israeli Poet (11/20/02)
In The Harvard Crimson by Alexander J. Blenkinsopp
Concerned about the message it was sending on free speech, the English department yesterday renewed the invitation it cancelled just one week ago to Tom Paulin, an award-winning Irish poet who has expressed violently anti-Israeli views. English department chair Lawrence Buell said the department’s faculty met last night for two and a half hours and voted to re-invite Paulin. The vote, which was unanimous apart from two abstentions, marks a reversal of an earlier decision by a smaller group of English professors to cancel the speech.
Bestowing An Undue Honor (11/21/02)
By The Staff of The Harvard Crimson
Paulin’s statements in Al-Aram newspaper make it perfectly clear that his vision of a solution to the Middle East conflict is one in which “Nazi, racist” Brooklyn-born settlers are “shot dead.” Despite Paulin’s claims that his views in Al-Aram were not fully reflective of his stance, he has not retracted his remarks. By inviting Paulin to speak, the English department has implicitly legitimized him as one worthy of recognition by the College and its students, poetry and politics alike. Regardless of his contributions to the field of poetry, we would hope that the department would be more judicious in its invitations and withold them from figures who advocate violence.
Occasionally, some links are moved
from this section into the Featured
Vicious Stereotypes in Polite Society (1991)
By Douglas Laycock in Constitutional Commentary
Among the educated classes that have been most sensitized to the dangers of the most widely condemned stereotypes, other stereotypes and prejudices flourish. Respected academics and journalists, and respected journals who pride themselves on their tolerance, publish extraordinary statements about groups that have generally failed to engage the sympathies of intellectuals.... Many of us probably most of us have acted on unstated and unexamined assumptions that would be as offensive as these if we committed them to print without the veil of euphemisms. Printed or unprinted, flagrant or veiled, these stereotypes are corrosive of the social fabric. The only way to resist is to highlight them and to sensitize ourselves to them. One group that can still be safely insulted is the seriously religious. Fundamentalists, evangelicals, and Catholics remain fair game in many circles. Michael Smith has collected numerous antireligious passages in Supreme Court opinions, one of them a quotation from an anti-Catholic hate tract. Suzanna Sherry, writing in the Michigan Law Review, equated fundamentalist legislators with racist school boards: There are still racist school boards in a nation that generally finds racism intolerable, fundamentalist legislators in a nation that rejects a national religion, and so on. The skillful parallelism of the sentence packs powerful implications. Fundamentalism is parallel to racism as a threat to constitutional values; fundamentalists oppose the consensus against a national religion just as racists oppose the consensus against racism. If Professor Sherry knows that fundamentalist legislators are protected by the test oath clause, she gives no hint of it. If she knows that few fundamentalists want a national religion, she gives no hint of that either.
Role of Government in Education (1955)
By Milton Friedman in Economics and the Public Interest
This re-examination of the role of government in education suggests
that the growth of governmental responsibility in this area has been unbalanced.
Government has appropriately financed general education for citizenship,
but in the process it has been led also to administer most of the schools
that provide such education. Yet, as we have seen, the administration
of schools is neither required by the financing of education, nor justifiable
in its own right in a predominantly free enterprise society. Government
has appropriately been concerned with widening the opportunity of young
men and women to get professional and technical training, but it has sought
to further this objective by the inappropriate means of subsidizing such
education, largely in the form of making it available free or at a low
price at governmentally operated schools. The lack of balance in governmental
activity reflects primarily the failure to separate sharply the question
what activities it is appropriate for government to finance from
the question what activities it is appropriate for government to administer
a distinction that is important in other areas of government activity
as well. Because the financing of general education by government is widely
accepted, the provision of general education directly by govern mental
bodies has also been accepted. But institutions that provide general education
are especially well suited also to provide some kinds of vocational and
professional education, so the acceptance of direct government provision
of general education has led to the direct provision of vocational education.
To complete the circle, the provision of vocational education has, in
turn, meant that it too was financed by government, since financing has
been predominantly of educational institutions not of particular kinds
of educational services.
to Graduates About Advice (06/06/1971)
By Edward C. Banfield at Claremont McKenna College
Figures of speech, especially metaphors, are peculiarly serviceable
to people who give advice about social problems. The use of them tends
to create an emotional response in the listener that enhances the urgency
of the problem thus raising the value of the putative solution
that the advice-giver offers. I sometimes wonder if we could have an urban
crisis without a good supply of metaphors. Suppose that a writer
could not speak of decaying neighborhoods but instead had
to say what he meant straight out say that the well-off have moved
away from aging unfashionable neighborhoods, that this has given the less
well-off opportunities to move into housing better than they formerly
had, and that they, for obvious reasons, are in most instances disposed
to spend less on the repair and maintenance of houses than the former
occupiers were. Or suppose that a United States Senator instead of saying,
as one recently did, that the cities are mortally sick and getting
sicker and that the states are in a state of chronic crisis
had to speak plainly in this instance, perhaps, to say that although
in the last decade the cities and states have increased their revenues
by a factor of three, there are nevertheless many voters who would like
to have more spent, provided of course that the taxes are paid mainly
End of History? (Summer 1989)
By Francis Fukuyama in The National Interest
The triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident first of
all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western
liberalism. In the past decade, there have been unmistakable changes in
the intellectual climate of the worlds two largest communist countries,
and the beginnings of significant reform movements in both. But this phenomenon
extends beyond high politics and it can be seen also in the ineluctable
spread of consumerist Western culture in such diverse contexts as the
peasants markets and color television sets now omnipresent throughout
China, the cooperative restaurants and clothing stores opened in the past
year in Moscow, the Beethoven piped into Japanese department stores, and
the rock music enjoyed alike in Prague, Rangoon, and Tehran. What we may
be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a
particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such:
that is, the end point of mankinds ideological evolution and the
universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human
government. This is not to say that there will no longer be events to
fill the pages of Foreign Affairss yearly summaries
of international relations, for the victory of liberalism has occurred
primarily in the realm of ideas or consciousness and is as yet incomplete
in the real or material world. But there are powerful reasons for believing
that it is the ideal that will govern the material world in the long run.
Explosion of Green (Apr. 1995)
By Bill McKibben in The Atlantic
In the early nineteenth century the cleric Timothy Dwight reported
that the 240-mile journey from Boston to New York City passed through
no more than twenty miles of forest. Surveying the changes wrought by
farmers and loggers in New Hampshire, he wrote, The forests are
not only cut down, but there appears little reason to hope that they will
ever grow again. Less than two centuries later, despite great increases
in the states population, 90 percent of New Hampshire is covered
by forest. Vermont was 35 percent woods in 1850 and is 80 percent today,
and even Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island have seen woodlands
rebound to the point where they cover nearly three fifths of southern
New England. This process, which began as farmers abandoned the cold and
rocky pastures of the East for the fertile fields of the Midwest, has
not yet run its course.... This unintentional and mostly unnoticed renewal
of the rural and mountainous East not the spotted owl, not the
salvation of Alaskas pristine ranges represents the great
environmental story of the United States, and in some ways of the whole
world. Here, where suburb and megalopolis were
added to the worlds vocabulary, an explosion of green is under way,
one that could offer hope to much of the rest of the planet.
Doomslayer (Feb. 1997)
By Ed Regis in Wired
The world is getting progressively poorer, and its all because
of population, or more precisely, overpopulation. Theres
a finite store of resources on our pale blue dot, spaceship Earth, our
small and fragile tiny planet, and were fast approaching its ultimate
carrying capacity. The limits to growth are finally upon us, and were
living on borrowed time. The laws of population growth are inexorable.
Unless we act decisively, the final result is written in stone: mass poverty,
famine, starvation, and death. Time is short, and we have to act now.
Thats the standard and canonical litany.... Theres just one
problem with The Litany, just one slight little wee imperfection: every
item in that dim and dreary recitation, each and every last claim, is
false.... Thus saith The Doomslayer, one Julian
L. Simon, a neither shy nor retiring nor particularly mild-mannered
professor of business administration at a middling eastern-seaboard state
university. Simon paints a somewhat different picture of the human condition
circa 1997. Our species is better off in just about every measurable
material way, he says. Just about every important long-run
measure of human material welfare shows improvement over the decades and
centuries, in the United States and the rest of the world. Raw materials
all of them have become less scarce rather than more. The
air in the US and in other rich countries is irrefutably safer to breathe.
Water cleanliness has improved. The environment is increasingly healthy,
with every prospect that this trend will continue.
A brilliant parody:
the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity
By Alan Sokal in Social Text
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 (May/June 1996)
By Alan Sokal in Lingua Franca
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
Need a Reality Check: A firsthand account of liberal bias at CBS News.
By Bernard Goldbert in The Wall Street Journal
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
is No Time, There Will Be Time (11/18/1998)
By Peggy Noonan in Forbes ASAP
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.