The President of the Czech Republic has helped Charles Krauthammer find the true enemy of freedom.  It's knowledge about the natural world.  This knowledge is especially dangerous if Krauthammer doesn't have the patience, time, or expertise to understand it.  He writes:

Predictions of catastrophe depend on models. Models depend on assumptions about complex planetary systems — from ocean currents to cloud formation — that no one fully understands. Which is why the models are inherently flawed and forever changing. The doomsday scenarios posit a cascade of events, each with a certain probability. The multiple improbability of their simultaneous occurrence renders all such predictions entirely speculative.

Yet on the basis of this speculation, environmental activists, attended by compliant scientists and opportunistic politicians, are advocating radical economic and social regulation. "The largest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity," warns Czech President Vaclav Klaus, "is no longer socialism. It is, instead, the ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous ideology of environmentalism."

If you doubt the arrogance, you haven't seen that Newsweek cover story that declared the global warming debate over. Consider: If Newton's laws of motion could, after 200 years of unfailing experimental and experiential confirmation, be overthrown, it requires religious fervor to believe that global warming — infinitely more untested, complex and speculative — is a closed issue.

But declaring it closed has its rewards. It not only dismisses skeptics as the running dogs of reaction, i.e., of Exxon, Cheney and now Klaus. By fiat, it also hugely re-empowers the intellectual left.

For a century, an ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous knowledge class — social planners, scientists, intellectuals, experts and their left-wing political allies — arrogated to themselves the right to rule either in the name of the oppressed working class (communism) or, in its more benign form, by virtue of their superior expertise in achieving the highest social progress by means of state planning (socialism).

Two decades ago, however, socialism and communism died rudely, then were buried forever by the empirical demonstration of the superiority of market capitalism everywhere from Thatcher's England to Deng's China, where just the partial abolition of socialism lifted more people out of poverty more rapidly than ever in human history.

Just as the ash heap of history beckoned, the intellectual left was handed the ultimate salvation: environmentalism. Now the experts will regulate your life not in the name of the proletariat or Fabian socialism but — even better — in the name of Earth itself.

Such a combination of straw men (the weakest versions of global warming arguments–not to Newsweeks's idea of "debate" about global warming), red herrings (communism, socialism, etc.), ad hominem (arrogant scientists are just trying to rule the world), ad ignorantiam (since we don't know much about the effects of carbon, let's do nothing. . . ), and just plain non sequiturs (Newton's law of motion was "overthrown" so distrust everything short of that) has not been seen for, um, weeks on this page.

We can’t have nice things

Scott McClellan, former White House Press Secretary, has written a book which by all accounts is quite critical of his former boss's handling of the Iraq war, among other things.  Does McClellan have interesting things to say?  Most certainly.  He worked there, after all.  Is he right?  Maybe.  But you can bet on one thing, we're not going to get a lot of enlightened discussion of this from those who run our nation's public discourse.  Here, for instance, is Fox News' Gretchen Carlson:

CARLSON: Scott McClellan better not have any skeletons in his closet. I hope he didn’t do anything that he doesn’t want the world to know about because we all have, and all of his secrets are going to be coming out.

We've already heard a litany of "he's-only-saying-that-because-of-x-y-or-z" remarks.  This one is different in its completely irrelevant reference to things "we all have" in our past.  As my parents used to say, this is why we can't have nice things.

**Courtesy of Think Progress. 

Glass ones

Ruth Marcus has an idea why more women do not get involved in politics, and, surprisingly, punditry.  Considering what Hillary Clinton has had to suffer through (sometimes, someone said on CNN, it's "accurate" to call someone a 'bitch'"), Marcus' answer is surprising.  She writes:

The ambition gap also reflected an underlying, and pronounced, cockiness gap. One-third of men, but just one in five women, rated themselves "very qualified" to hold political office; twice as many women (12 percent) as men (6 percent) considered themselves "not at all qualified." Men were more likely to try for federal office, women for the local school board. Nearly half the women, but fewer than a third of the men, said they did not "have thick enough skin" to run.

Those responses resonated with my own experiences. Becoming a parent tempered my career ambitions in ways I never anticipated. There are jobs I once wanted — jobs I'd be good at, actually — that now I would not pursue.

If the gender tables were turned, would Michelle Obama leave two young daughters at home to run for president? How would voters respond if she did? Would her husband put his career on hold to manage the family?

When the governor of Alaska gave birth the other day to her fifth child, my initial, not-especially-enlightened thought was: How in the world will she manage that? I have just two kids to juggle and no state to run, and I'm dropping balls left and right.

The cockiness gap, too, has parallels in the opinion-writing business. The undeniable underrepresentation of women on op-ed pages has always struck me as more a function of limited supply (women willing to speak out) than inadequate demand (male chauvinist editors). It is intimidating to put your opinions out there, especially in an age of online, highly personal vitriol. It takes a certain unbecoming arrogance to believe you have something valuable to say — even one time, no less week after week.

Sometimes the hardest glass ceilings are the ones women impose, whether knowingly or unconsciously, on ourselves.

Women, I guess, don't like to be called names–that's deep thinking.

Conservative thoughts

Perhaps this person could be nominated for the Self-Refuting Chair of Logic:

“The University of Colorado is considering a $9 million program to bring high-profile conservatives to teach on the left-leaning Boulder campus.”

From this affirmative action hire the occupant could rail against university education, intellectualism, and affirmative action.   

**h/t Stanley Fish.

I’m also a client

Success is hard to measure.  It's especially hard to measure when the standard moves.  So Iraq.  This, unfortunately, is how success is now described:

Gen. David Petraeus testified Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He noted that the number of security incidents in Iraq in the past week had fallen to the lowest level in over four years. And he held out the prospect, despite “tough fights and hard work” that lie ahead, of “an Iraq that is at peace with itself and its neighbors, that is an ally in the war on terror, that has a government that serves all Iraqis.”

They said there would be flowers.  Now we'll have to make due with the "prospect" of an Iraq something like the one we found when we got there. 

Of course, lest we forget, Iraq is not only an ally in the war on terror, it's also a client–I mean, it's also the central front.

Queerly Beloved

A reader (hurray for readers) wondered if I might have something to say about this column on same-sex marriage.  I might.  I'd say the author hasn't even really tried.  Luckily, however, he italicizes his points so even I can see where to look.  His points are three in number.  And three is the number of his points, not four, not two.  He writes:

It is not the business of judges to make public policy.

Reasonable men and women can disagree on whether same-sex unions should be granted legal recognition, or whether such recognition should rise to the level of marriage. The place to work out those disagreements is the democratic arena, not the courtroom.

Well, the court, which decides matters such as these, is an institution in our democracy–a fundamental one, some might not implausibly suggest.  Its decisions necessarily have to do with public policy.  This argument–judicial activism!–really ought to be retired: they're little question-begging argumentative stand-ins.  Make a legal argument against the legal argument.  

Point number two:

The radical transformation of marriage won't end with same-sex weddings.

Another well-worn anti gay marriage argument.  Where will it end?  Well, the slope begins with actual marriage, so one can only conclude that the existence of marriage between a "straight" couple will lead to all sorts of weird marriages.  Besides, the problem with this particular variation of the slippery slope argument, it tacitly admits there's nothing wrong with gay marriage–the problem is rather with all of the other crazy marriages that will follow in its wake.  Of course, if there's a problem with those marriages, you can just make arguments against them for what they are (marriage between three), rather than something else they're not (marriage between two consenting adults).

Point number three:

Society has a vested interest in promoting only traditional marriage.

Which is the argument of the gay marriage advocates–they want a traditional marriage too–its legitimacy and legal benefits.  Like the one Britney had–the first one or the second, take your pick.  What's really silly about this claim is that it supposes gay marriage would be some kind of competitor or threat for "traditional" marriage.  This doesn't seem to be the case at all.  If history is any guide, gay couples have existed (with diminished or nonexistent legal status of course) for a very long time.  Their existence hasn't done much to undermine traditional marriage.  Not as much as, say, divorce, infidelity, sports, weight loss or gain, age, youth, or failure to put the toilet seat down. 

The Green Hornet

The only thing that makes George Will madder (and more incoherent) than "global warming" are teachers' unions.  Just as teachers' unions have singularly (without any interference from any other causal factor) been able to destroy public education and all that's good in America, environmentalists aim to destroy the economy for their Marxist political agenda.  I wish I were kidding:

What Friedrich Hayek called the "fatal conceit" — the idea that government can know the future's possibilities and can and should control the future's unfolding — is the left's agenda. The left exists to enlarge the state's supervision of life, narrowing individual choices in the name of collective goods. Hence the left's hostility to markets. And to automobiles — people going wherever they want whenever they want.

Today's "green left" is the old "red left" revised. Marx, a short-term pessimist but a long-term optimist, prophesied deepening class conflict but thought that history's violent dialectic would culminate in a revolution that would usher in material abundance and such spontaneous cooperation that the state would wither away.

The green left preaches pessimism: Ineluctable scarcities (of energy, food, animal habitat, humans' living space) will require a perpetual regime of comprehensive rationing. The green left understands that the direct route to government control of almost everything is to stigmatize, as a planetary menace, something involved in almost everything — carbon.

He gets to this astoundingly moronic conclusion (that global warming is a myth perpetrated by "the left") by two main arguments.  First, he uncritically accepts of the word of a poorly qualified climate change deniers and climate change danger skeptics.  This time it's not Michael Crichton, science fiction author, but Nigel Lawson (that's Nigella's father), former British Cabinet member.  I can't determine what his specific expertise is here.  But it's obvious that he doesn't deny the fact of global warming–something which Will seems to do here.  He merely denies that it's a bad thing.  He writes (Will's quote):

"Over the past two-and-a-half-million years, a period during which the planet's climate fluctuated substantially, remarkably few of the earth's millions of plant and animal species became extinct. This applies not least, incidentally, to polar bears, which have been around for millennia, during which there is ample evidence that polar temperatures have varied considerably."

According to him at least, the climate is changing.  To be fair, of course, he'll probably deny that the cause is the presence of unabsorbed carbon in the atmosphere.  But that's a different claim from the one he's making above.  Scientists would agree of course that the earth's temperature has changed considerably over the years.  But not so drastically.  And not, at least not recently, because of carbon in the atmosphere. 

Will's second argument is inconsistent with this first one.  He writes

Want to build a power plant in Arizona? A building in Florida? Do you want to drive an SUV? Or leave your cellphone charger plugged in overnight? Some judge might construe federal policy as proscribing these activities. Kempthorne says such uses of the act, unintended by those who wrote it in 1973, would be "wholly inappropriate." But in 1973, climate Cassandras were saying that "the world's climatologists are agreed" that we must "prepare for the next ice age" (Science Digest, February 1973).

This one holds that the climate is probably not changing, or that climatologists should not be believed, because in the 70s there was concern (in the popular media) about "a new ice age."  In other words, Will suggests there is some kind of inconsistency in the arguments of current climatologists because an article or two (and he always cites specific articles on this point–good for him!) claimed the opposite of what they now claim.  This, of course, hardly makes them inconsistent.  Besides, reports from the 70s popular media ought not be held up against the work of actual scientists.  You might hold it up against the current disaster-media complex, but that would be something else entirely.

In one final bit of craziness, he concludes the above paragraph with the following warning:

And no authors of the Constitution or the 14th Amendment intended to create a "fundamental" right to abortion, but there it is.

Lest you think we won't slide down the slippery slope to less autonomy of personal choices, just look at what happened with Roe v. Wade.   

Nazi Analogies

Anyone who has taken an ethics class is familiar with the Nazi analogy: "but on your view, a Nazi could be authentically happy. . ." therefore, etc.  In philosophy classes, as in real life, Nazi is short for every kind of evil person, activity or thing.  While this has a lot to do with history (Nazis were very bad indeed), it has probably less to do with actual Nazis (there were lots of different kinds of Nazis–none probably embodying every vice–thus the very justified criticism of liberal fascism).  Similar to the ethics class Nazi is the internet Nazi.  Godwin's law, or rather a corollary of Godwin's law, holds that invoking a Nazi analogy ends the discussion in a loss for the invoker.  There probably ought to a similar heuristic for politics, but there isn't.

Recently there's been a lot of incompetent talk about "appeasement."  Such talk, however, has little to do with actual appeasement–which involves, if I'm not mistaken, giving in to an aggressor in order to avoid conflict.  It's been used, however, to characterize any diplomatic interaction, which is obviously false.  Or maybe such is the fear of words and arguments–or so evil is our enemy–that his words will lull us into a kind of stupor, forcing us to agree to his demands.  But probably not.  I think such appeasement talk is just a handy way to keep the Nazis ever present in our national narrative.  

Yesterday Anne Applebaum, writing for the Post, complained about this.  She writes:

True, it seems that Nazi analogies can be used with almost infinite flexibility. Bush — in what was widely interpreted as an attack on Barack Obama last week — was making a point about politicians who talk to "terrorists and radicals," comparing them to those who appeased Hitler in the 1930s. Putin, in what was widely interpreted as an attack on the Bush administration last year, was comparing the Nazis to contemporary regimes with "contempt for human life" and "claims of exceptionality and diktat in the world" — in other words, the United States.

But the Nazis have been invoked in arguments over many other causes, too. In a speech explaining what "this Kosovo thing is all about," Bill Clinton once justified his decision to bomb Serbia by asking,"What if someone had listened to Winston Churchill and stood up to Adolf Hitler earlier?" His secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, was also fond of telling reporters that "Munich is my mindset," referring to Europe's decision to appease Hitler at Munich in 1938. In 2006, a British group opposed to national identity cards designed an advertisement showing Tony Blair as Hitler, except with a bar code in place of a moustache. Last spring, American feminist Naomi Wolf compared Hitler's brownshirts, the thugs who smashed Jewish shops and murdered old men, with the "groups of angry young Republican men, dressed in identical shirts and trousers," who "menaced poll workers counting the votes in Florida in 2000." On Sunday, Al Gore told college seniors that fighting global warming was comparable to fighting fascism. And, of course, Saddam Hussein has been compared to Hitler many times, by many people of many different political views.

Bush's Nazi analogy was just wrong–it wasn't an analogy to anything.  Even Bush's surrogates were ignorant of the origin of the "appeasement" line.  In the second paragraph above, however, the analogies are at least of the right type.  The comparisons may be (may be) extreme, but at most that's hyperbole–politics is full of it.  One can challenge the hyperbole for its exaggeration–which is a question not of factual basis (like the first) but of degree.  

I'm not endorsing the use of the analogies in the second instances, but if we're going to engage in ambidomal poxism (a pox on both your houses–anyone have a better name?) then we ought to make sure it's the same strain of pox.


Blut und Boden

Others' jaws have already dropped at the reading of this from Kathleen Parker.  Here's a sample:

It's about blood equity, heritage and commitment to hard-won American values. And roots.

Some run deeper than others and therein lies the truth of Fry's political sense. In a country that is rapidly changing demographically—and where new neighbors may have arrived last year, not last century—there is a very real sense that once-upon-a-time America is getting lost in the dash to diversity.

We love to boast that we are a nation of immigrants. But there's a different sense of America among those who trace their bloodlines back through generations of sacrifice.

Contributing to the growing unease among yesterday's Americans is the failure of the federal government to deal with illegal Immigration. It isn't necessarily racist or nativist to worry about what these new demographics mean to the larger American story.

Read the whole thing.  These, apparently, are reasons to vote for McCain over Obama.  But just out of curiosity, which of those two candidates was born in America?  The answer may surprise you.  

In light of all of this ein Volk, ein Blut, ein Boden business, you might also contemplate the "true" origins of fascism.  

h/t Blogosphere and Ed Burmila.

La’ ci darem la mano

E.J. Dionne seems conflicted about gay marriage.  He writes:

And, as a New York Court of Appeals judge cited by the California court majority noted, fundamental rights "cannot be denied to particular groups on the ground that these groups have historically been denied those rights." If history and tradition had constrained us, equal rights for African Americans would never have become law.

But to find a constitutional right to gay marriage, the California majority chose to argue that the state's very progressive law endorsing domestic partnerships for homosexuals — it grants all the rights of marriage except the name — was itself a form of discrimination.

This is odd and potentially destructive. As Justice Carol Corrigan argued in her dissent, "to make its case for a constitutional violation, the majority distorts and diminishes the historic achievements" of the state's Domestic Partnership Act.

The court found, correctly according to Dionne, that the domestic partnership law–however historically  "progressive"–amounted to discrimination.  Dionne ought to know that these two laws are different things (the progressive one about domestic partnership and the one about marriage).  "Progressive" legislation aimed at circumventing legal discrimination (the denial of marriage to homosexuals for whatever reason) may be nice, but it still endorses the discrimination as legal (so goes, at least, the argument of the California court).  So even if the legislation is, in its proper historical context quite "progressive", that fact hardly justifies maintaining it.  Imagine had equal rights been handled this way–let's not call them "rights" but "things due" or something like that.  Dionne's position, it seems to me, is just the obverse–the double negative as it were–of the argument he has just rejected.  That is to say, the "progressiveness" of the legislation is no more reason to maintain it than the fact that such discrimination has long been lawful.