Day By Day

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Climate Cabal

Jim Lacey, over at National Review Online, discusses the dimensions of the fraud perpetrated by a small group of climate scientists and their allies in the mainstream media and government, the full extent of which is revealed in the latest leak of documents the press has titled "Climategate II". These e-mails show that not only was data selectively reported and sometimes suppressed, but the peer review process was compromised, critics were shut out of journals and skeptics intimidated, and false information was fed to and promulgated by media outlets, government agencies, and NGOs. The result has beem a fiasco that compromises not just climate science, but scientific authority everywhere.

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Douthat on the Kennedy Myth.

Oh, and while we are on the subject of JFK, we should note that Ross Douthat, writing in the NYT, uses the appearance of Stephen King's new book to briefly survey what he calls the "Kennedy cult". Douthat notes that few serious historians today consider Kennedy to have been a good president. 
In reality, the kindest interpretation of Kennedy’s presidency is that he was a mediocrity whose death left his final grade as “incomplete.” The harsher view would deem him a near disaster — ineffective in domestic policy, evasive on civil rights and a serial blunderer in foreign policy, who barely avoided a nuclear war that his own brinksmanship had pushed us toward. (And the latter judgment doesn’t even take account of the medical problems that arguably made him unfit for the presidency, or the adulteries that eclipsed Bill Clinton’s for sheer recklessness.) 
 He's not done. Consider:

[I]t would be... accurate to describe the Vietnam War as Kennedy’s darkest legacy. His Churchillian rhetoric (“pay any price, bear any burden ...”) provided the war’s rhetorical frame as surely as George W. Bush’s post-9/11 speeches did for our intervention in Iraq. His slow-motion military escalation established the strategic template that Lyndon Johnson followed so disastrously. And the war’s architects were all Kennedy people: It was the Whiz Kids’ mix of messianism and technocratic confidence, not Oswald’s fatal bullet, that sent so many Americans to die in Indochina.

To this I would add Kennedy's most famous piece of rhetoric: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" which is, to my mind, as perfect an expression of fascist sentiment as can be found in the realm of American political rhetoric.

Nonetheless, Kennedy's image remains bright in the minds of most Americans, largely due to an extravagent public relations effort on the part of liberal Democrats, aided and assisted by the Kennedy clan and associated academics, to create a politically useful myth after his assassination. The JFK people remember today bears little resemblance to the man as he was. Rather it, and the entire "Camelot" imagery were, as Christopher Hitchens has recently reminded us [here], a carefully constructed and assiduously defended myth.

And one more thing Douthat points out. JFK was not killed by right wing haters.

Read the whole thing here.

A Conspiracy Theory About Conspiracy Theories

The "London Review of Books", in discussing Stephen King's latest novel, surveys literary versions of the Kennedy conspiracy theories and wonders:
Why have so many Americans been unable to accept the conclusions of the Warren Commission Report, which exhaustively described the circumstances of the Kennedy assassination? Why has the assassination exerted such a hold on the American imagination? Why has it inspired such feats of ingenuity? Instead of there being a single anti-establishment version, dissident theories have proliferated.
 Later on the review article answers its question thusly:
[A]lthough the KGB had nothing to do with Kennedy’s assassination, in its aftermath it did provide covert support for the dissemination of conspiracy theories. According to the defector Vasili Mitrokhin and the historian of intelligence Christopher Andrew, ‘by the late 1970s the KGB could fairly claim that far more Americans believed some version of its own conspiracy theory of the Kennedy assassination, involving a right-wing plot and the US intelligence community, than still accepted the main findings of the Warren Commission.’
Read the whole thing here.

So we now have a conspiracy theory about conspiracy theories. It was KGB disinformation! A bit far-fetched, I think, but certainly preferable to Richard Hofstader's despicable rehash of discredited Frankfurt School theories, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" which is also referenced in the article and for decades has been a staple of liberal/leftist commentary on our nation's political culture.

What if Dr. Seuss Had Written "The Call of Cthuhlu"?

Over at Deviant Art, a contributor who calls himself "DrFaustusAU" is re-conceiving H. P. Lovecraft's horror classic, "The Call of Cthuhlu", as a Dr. Seuss children's book. Mind-shattering concept, eh? The nice folks over at IO9 have collected his efforts here. If you are familiar with Lovecraft's mad imaginings (and who isn't?) check it out and have a chuckle. If you are among the few who have so far been spared the pleasure of reading Lovecraft's original work, you can find it here. If you are completely unfamiliar with the Cthuhlu mythos [is such ignorance possible?!?!?] check out the wikipedia entries here and here.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Perversion of the Enlightenment

That word..., "enlightenment", I do not think it means what you think it does....

Today, all sorts of people -- from militant secularists to environmental activists -- claim to be the inheritors of the traditions of the Enlightenment, a period of intellectual ferment that culminated in the French Revolution and its aftermath. Tzvetan Todorov disagrees. Instead, he argues, the self-styled "enlightened" thinkers represent a perversion of the basic principles of the Enlightenment.

Prominent among those Todorov denounces are militant secularists who never tire of quoting Enlightenment figures such as Voltaire in their attacks on religion. What they miss is the fact that Voltaire and his cohorts were not attacking the substance of religion, but rather the fusion of religion with the state which they found to be oppressive. Modern secularists, rather than freeing people from intellectual tyranny, are simply substituting secular ideology for religion and, like their Catholic predecessors, are using the power of the state to enforce intellectual dogma.

Tim Black explains:
[T]he current fetishisation of The Science, or as Todorov calls it, ‘scientism’, [represents] ‘a distortion of the Enlightenment, its enemy not its avatar’. We experience this most often, although far from exclusively, through environmentalist discourse. Here, science supplants politics. Competing visions of the good are ruled out in favour of that which the science demands, be it reduced energy consumption or a massive wind-power project. This, as Todorov sees it, involves a conflation of two types of reasoning, the moral (or the promotion of the good) and the scientific (or the discovery of truth). In effect, the values by which one ought to live arise, as if by magic, from the existence of facts. In the hands of politicians this becomes authoritarian: ‘Values seem to proceed from knowledge and political choices are passed off as scientific deduction.’ There need be no debate, no reasoned argument, because the science tells us what to do.
What is at stake, Todorov argues, is nothing less than the freedom of the individual, which he holds to be the fundamental principle upon which Enlightenment thought was predicated. He's right! Today elite and "expert" opinion increasingly substitutes for reasoned argument and moral discourse. The result is intellectual authoritarianism of the worst sort. Todorov has produced a valuable critique of the drift toward intellectual tyranny. Read Black's review of the work [here], or listen to the man himself talk on the subject:

Friday, November 25, 2011

Stories Conservatives Tell Themselves

Betsy Newmark discusses a wonderful piece by Michael Medved in which he demolishes the position taken by many on the political Right that John McCain lost in 2008 because he was too moderate and that the 2010 mid-terms proved that a "true conservative" would mobilize large numbers of voters. It just ain't true, folks, no matter how often Rush Limbaugh says it is. She goes on to predict that Mitt Romney would be a much stronger candidate than any of his rivals.
There are reasons to oppose Mitt Romney, but being unelectable is not one of them. In fact, if electability is your criteria, I have to believe that Romney would be much more appealing to moderates than Newt Gingrich. Gingrich might have taken many moderate positions, but his image among the electorate is as a conservative opponent of Bill Clinton. Most people aren't aware of his more moderate stances and, if they are, regard them as his pandering to elites to resurrect his standing inside the Beltway. And if what people are searching for is someone with executive experience, Mitt Romney has it all over Gingrich whose Republican lieutenants in the House were unhappy under his leadership and are notably missing from his support in this election.
Read the whole thing here.

She's right. The anti-elite bias of many rank and file Republicans, however justified [and it is], is misplaced and should prove to be electoral poison come next Fall. Romney may be all that movement conservatives say he is, but he at least is electable. The "Buckley Rule" still applies -- vote for the most conservative candidate that is electable. Newt, Perry, Santorum, et al. don't fit the bill.

The Myth of Renewable Energy

Dawn Stover has a nice piece in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in which she explodes one of the main pillars of the environmentalist movement -- the idea that there are sustainable, renewable sources of energy. The key point:
"[R]enewable energy" is a meaningless term with no established standards. Like an emperor parading around without clothes, it gets a free pass, because nobody dares to confront an inconvenient truth: None of our current energy technologies are truly renewable, at least not in the way they are currently being deployed. We haven't discovered any form of energy that is completely clean and recyclable, and the notion that such an energy source can ever be found is a mirage.
 [emphasis mine]

Check out the whole thing here.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

New Perspectives on the History of American Indians

The Browser has a nice interview with historian Colin Calloway in which he discusses important contributions to our understanding of North American Indian societies and cultures. The subject of Native American history has undergone some major revisions in the past thirty years or so and Calloway presents a fair introduction to the subject. If you find the subject interesting check out the short introductions and then read the books -- you could find far worse ways to spend your time.

Check out the interview here.

Obama is Lying and People are Dying

The Libyan revolution, made possible by this administration's intervention, is descending into a Hobbesian state of nature. The Independent reports:
The detention of 7,000 people in prisons and camps by the anti-Gaddafi forces is not surprising. The conflict in Libya was always much more of a civil war between Libyans than foreign governments pretended or the foreign media reported.

The winning anti-Gaddafi militia are not proving merciful. Often they have had relatives killed in the fighting or imprisoned by the old regime who they want to avenge. Sometimes they come from tribes and towns traditionally hostile to neighbouring tribes and towns. Gaddafi supporters are being hunted down. According to one person in Gaddafi's home town of Sirte, they are facing a "continuing reign of terror".

"There is a deep and spreading frenzy, particularly among some of the youth militia and the Islamists, to hunt down anyone associated with the former regime," the source said.

The National Transitional Council, whose control is largely theoretical, is not in a position to stop this purge because many of its members are themselves frightened of being accused of links with the old regime.
Some groups are particularly vulnerable. The then-rebels were convinced earlier this year that many of those they were fighting were mercenaries recruited in Central or West Africa. But when these alleged "mercenaries" were arrested in Tripoli, many turned out to be black migrant labourers without identity papers.
According to Amnesty International, some of those who were put on television by the rebels as mercenaries were later quietly freed because they were migrant workers. Others faced mob justice before they were able to prove their identities.

The international media was overwhelmingly hostile to Gaddafi's regime and tended to highlight atrocities committed by it and disregard or underplay human rights violations carried out by his opponents. An example of this occurred when eight or nine bodies of Libyan soldiers were found who appeared to have been executed. The rebels claimed they had been shot by Gaddafi's men because they tried to change sides. But Amnesty located a film of the soldiers being captured alive by the rebels and it was presumably the rebels who killed them.

The purge of Gaddafi supporters is made more dangerous by the infighting between the militias, and between them and the politicians. Association with the old regime can be used to discredit an opponent. There may also be self-interest since death squads are reported to be taking their property.
 Note the pervasive perfidity and misrepresentation of the situation in Libya on the part of the current administration and the internationalist order it has chosen to serve.The NATO intervention has brought about a reign of terror, but is presented in the American media as a great humanitarian venture.