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Monday, January 14, 2008

Liberal Fascism

You're probably aware that Jonah Goldberg's new book is causing quite a stir.

This via Instapundit:

TAKE THAT, TROLLS! (CONT'D): Jonah Goldberg's book is now up to #8 #7 #6.

And, if you somehow missed it, our podcast interview with Jonah is here.

UPDATE: Reader Chris Nath emails:

I just went to the local Barnes & Noble where I found Keith Olberman's "Truth and Consequences" prominently displayed on a middle of the aisle table - impossible to miss. Curious, I went in search of Jonah Goldberg's book and where did I find it? A single copy languished on the bottom row of the current events rack with just the binding end of the book showing. Coincidence?

I'm sure. (Bumped).

The Author also speaks here.

This from Daniel Pipes via Dissecting Leftism(scroll down):
Liberal fascism sounds like an oxymoron - or a term for conservatives to insult liberals. Actually, it was coined by a socialist writer, none other than the respected and influential left-winger H.G. Wells, who in 1931 called on fellow progressives to become "liberal fascists" and "enlightened Nazis." Really. His words, indeed, fit a much larger pattern of fusing socialism with fascism: Mussolini was a leading socialist figure who, during World War I, turned away from internationalism in favor of Italian nationalism and called the blend Fascism. Likewise, Hitler headed the National Socialist German Workers Party.

These facts jar because they contradict the political spectrum that has shaped our worldview since the late 1930s, which places communism at the far Left, followed by socialism, liberalism in the center, conservatism, and then fascism on the far Right. But this spectrum, Jonah Goldberg points out in his brilliant, profound, and original new book, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (Doubleday), reflects Stalin's use of fascist as an epithet to discredit anyone he wished - Trotsky, Churchill, Russian peasants - and distorts reality. Already in 1946, George Orwell noted that fascism had degenerated to signify "something not desirable."

To understand fascism in its full expression requires putting aside Stalin's misrepresentation of the term and also look beyond the Holocaust, and instead return to the period Goldberg terms the "fascist moment," roughly 1910-35. A statist ideology, fascism uses politics as the tool to transform society from atomized individuals into an organic whole. It does so by exalting the state over the individual, expert knowledge over democracy, enforced consensus over debate, and socialism over capitalism. It is totalitarian in Mussolini's original meaning of the term, of "Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State." Fascism's message boils down to "Enough talk, more action!" Its lasting appeal is getting things done.

In contrast, conservatism calls for limited government, individualism, democratic debate, and capitalism. Its appeal is liberty and leaving citizens alone. Goldberg's triumph is to establish the kinship between communism, fascism, and liberalism. All derive from the same tradition that goes back to the Jacobins of the French Revolution. His revised political spectrum would focus on the role of the state and go from libertarianism to conservatism to fascism in its many guises - American, Italian, German, Russian, Chinese, Cuban, and so on.
I think the observation is more than some people can stand.

Update via Instapundit:

JONAH GOLDBERG IS CURRENTLY #1 on Amazon. I hope he sends a nice thank-you note to all the lefty bloggers who have been savaging him. I don't think he could have done it without them!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Confused? Or Corrupt?

A recent decision by the Massachusetts State Public Health Council paves the way for CVS Corp. and other retailers to open medical clinics inside their stores. These are quick and convenient mini-clinics where you can get inexpensive care for minor health issues.

In a statement regarding the decision, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said:

"Allowing retailers to make money off of sick people is wrong."

Let's think about this.

CVS is a for-profit company that operates a chain of drugstores. At those stores, precious few of the drugs that they sell are recreational. Therefore, the drugs are specifically sold to people who are not completely well. In other words, the entire reason for the existence of CVS Drugstores is to make money off of sick people. And thank heavens for that! When I'm sick I'm oh so happy to buy my drugs there!

So what can it possibly matter if CVS starts a new service that also makes a little bit more money off of sick people? Also, don't doctors, nurses, hospitals, etc. make money off of sick people? Your average heart transplant surgeon isn't operating on well people, is he?

Mayor Menino is either awfully clueless about the fundamentals of why CVS and other health care retailers exist, he wants to turn all health care (including buying aspirin) into not-for-profit, or someone is "influencing" him to get him to fight this new and excellent development in health care delivery. If it's the latter, I think that whoever or whatever is funding that "influence" is not getting their money's worth since that statement of his sounded awfully stupid to me.

The Earth's Lungs?

The following multiple choice question appeared on my eight year old daughter's homework:
Which of the following is the reason that tropical rain forests are called the Lungs of the Earth?
The answer was:
They breathe out more than 20% or the Earth's oxygen.
I had never heard that specific tidbit before and initially thought, "Oh, well, that's interesting." But then I thought about it a little more and quickly came to the conclusion that the answer was nonsensical. The first thing that struck me was the 20% figure. Twenty percent of what? Total oxygen in the atmosphere? That seems unlikely. Twenty percent of all oxygen consumed? Must be it, but that's not made clear by the answer.

But the "breathe" and "Earth's lung" concepts seem even more problematical to me. After the oxygen is breathed out, is it all breathed back in? If so, that's just another way of saying that twenty percent of the Earth's total metabolic processes occur in the tropical rain forests and that they are their own lungs, not lungs for the Earth.

The other choice is that the tropical rain forests breathe out and the oxygen is exported to the rest of the world. Indeed, that's what the answer to the question seems to imply. But where does this oxygen come from? I think the only plausible choice is that it's stripped from CO2. But if the rainforest is a net exporter or "O", then there's that pesky residual "C" left laying around in the forest. If the carbon isn't somehow also exported, it will start to pile up. I don't think much of the carbon is exported in any other form than CO2 (which requires "O" to produce). Therefore, if oxygen is exported, we would see a net increase, year after year, of carbon based compounds in the tropical rain forests.

I don't think that happens. Sure, when a tree grows it collects carbon. But when it dies, it rots and the carbon is converted back to CO2 by insects, fungi, micro-organisms, etc. The tree starts as nothing and ends as nothing. All of the tree, including it's leaves, seeds, etc., are ultimately consumed except for tiny fractions on average that may get buried. But I find it unlikely that those tiny fractions add up to anywhere near 20% of the earth's consumed oxygen.

I didn't (and still don't) know if my analysis was correct. So, I googled it. Many sites confirm the concept of the tropical forests being the earth's lungs. Here's one for example:
The Amazon Rainforest has been described as the "Lungs of our Planet" because it provides the essential environmental world service of continuously recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen. More than 20 percent of the world oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest.
However, numerous others agree with my analysis. Wikipedia, for example, states:
Tropical rain forests are also often called the "Earth's lungs", however there is no scientific basis for such a claim as tropical rainforests are known to be essentially oxygen neutral, with little or no net oxygen production.
What do you think? Who's right? Is my child being fed bogus propaganda? Or scientific fact?

Friday, January 04, 2008

From One Sinking Ship to Another

Over the past couple of years I've been studying the physics behind the concept of greenhouse gas based global warming and the more I study, the more it's becoming clear to me that it's just not a significant problem. Yes, the world has probably been warming over the last few hundred years. Yes, the additional CO2 that humanity has added to the atmosphere has possibly caused some part of that warming. However, the amount of warming will be a fraction of the UN's central estimate of 3.0 degrees Celsius per doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere and it will not be catastrophic.

I don't expect many people who read this post will believe me. After all, I'm not a credentialed global warming scientist, so I don't blame you in the slightest if you don't. I also don't expect many people to do as much research into the subject as I have, either because of lack of time, interest, or expertise. Thus, I expect most everybody will continue to buy the UN's story of catastrophic global warming. Though I was somewhat skeptical, that's more or less what I did until I did the research for myself.

For the remainder of this post, I ask you to suspend disbelief and assume that I'm right. In that case, from my point of view, the whole thing is a rather amazing phenomenon. How can thousands of scientists and tens of thousands of advocates and tens of millions of people all have bought into a story that I'm virtually certain is false?

I think Richard Fernandez describes the big picture well while writing about the recent climate change conference in Bali:

The history of every millennial movement starts out quietly enough. At first only those who have heard voices or received messages by moonbeam come stumbling in through the tent flap. Shortly they are followed by academics who have finally found someone who understands their theories and will popularize them. Then, as the crowd swells, come the curious, lost, desperate, and heartbroken. Soon follow the peddlers who sell peanuts, popcorn, and crackerjacks to the rapt crowd; then the pickpockets, hangers-on, con artists, and small-time grifters. In the latter stages come the political entrepreneurs, demagogues always on the lookout for ready-made crowds ripe for the leading. Finally come the lawyers, regulators, and venture capitalists to turn it all into an industry. [...]

Environmentalism has become the political lifeboat into which the survivors of the socialist shipwreck have crammed themselves. The need to “manage the climate” became the new foundation on which to base regulatory structures, impositions, and taxes which were formerly justified by the imperative to manage the “commanding heights of the economy.”
That describes the beginning and growth of the movement which sounds much like the fable of "Chicken Little and The Sky is Falling". But there's also the question of sustaining the catastrophic warming movement: how can so many scientists continue to subscribe to catastrophic CO2 based global warming when it should be plenty clear to them that the subscription has run out?

The are two answers. The first is that more and more scientists are beginning to question the magnitude and impact of the increase of CO2 on global warming. As one example, in a open letter to the UN Secretary General regarding the Bali conference, dozens of scientists including 24 distinguished emeritus professors write:
In stark contrast to the often repeated assertion that the science of climate change is “settled,” significant new peer-reviewed research has cast even more doubt on the hypothesis of dangerous human-caused global warming.
The US Senate has produced a report collating numerous other examples;
Over 400 prominent scientists from more than two dozen countries recently voiced significant objections to major aspects of the so-called "consensus" on man-made global warming. These scientists, many of whom are current and former participants in the UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), criticized the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore.
The other reason that many scientists still subscribe to catastrophic global warming is that they're ultimately going to look quite foolish when the day of reckoning comes - just like Chicken Little. The most vocal catastrophic global warming advocates will have a huge amount of egg on their collective faces when strong doubt is cast on catastrophic CO2 based warming. I can imagine that they're in no hurry for that.

I suppose we shouldn't be in any hurry either because, like true believers, they'll all just jump on the next collectivist ship leaving the port.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year!

Every year we throw a New Years Eve party at the beach. We count down to midnight GMT time which conveniently happens to be 4 PM here in San Diego. This shot was taken a bit after sunset and the temperature had dropped to about 62F, which for us San Diegans, is brutally cold (note the ski jackets and hats).

In case you're curious, I'm 3rd from the right in the above shot in the ski jacket, shorts, and barefoot. There are actually a bunch of children at this party too, but they're always running hither and thither and never seem to end up in any the party pictures.

After drinking copious amounts of champagne, we carefully set the sun into the water for the last time of the year...

...pack up, and head off to other parties.