Commentary Magazine


Topic: nuclear energy

Flotsam and Jetsam

Worst press secretary in recent memory? Chris Cillizza says he is at least the winner of the “worst week” designation: “It took only 17 words ['there is no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control' of the House] for White House press secretary Robert Gibbs to set off the circular firing squad. … Republicans, meanwhile, could barely contain their glee at seeing their message — ‘We can take the House back, really, we can’ — seconded by the official White House mouthpiece.”

Worst Middle East diplomacy rebuke to date? “Fatah spokesperson Muhammad Dahlan announced that Fatah had rejected the U.S.’s offer Saturday to broker direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

Worst political advice to Obama? Mark Penn suggests: “Between now and the midterms, the administration has to focus on what it can do to provide a sense of economic recovery. Perhaps the best arena for that is in an energy bill that creates a wide array of incentives to produce new forms of energy.” You understand how Hillary lost the nomination.

Worst column ever from James Fallows? He hopes Dick Cheney recovers so he can change his mind and undermine all his prior views.

Worst political problem for Obama? Howard Fineman says it’s the loss of independent voters: “The Democrats’ support among this group has fallen to as low as 35 percent in some polls. The reasons are clear. They do not believe that Obama’s actions have produced results — and for these practical voters, nothing else matters. The $787 billion stimulus bill is widely regarded as an expensive, unfocused dud, even when measured against the cautious claims the Obama camp originally made for it. Health-care reform remains, for most voters, a 2,000-page, impenetrable, and largely irrelevant mystery. The BP oil spill has hurt Obama’s ability to fend off GOP charges that he’s ineffective as a leader.”

Worst thing Israel could do regarding Iran? In a definitive analysis of Israel’s options, Reuel Marc Gerecht argues it would be to do nothing: “Without a raid, if the Iranians get the bomb, Europe’s appeasement reflex will kick in and the EU sanctions regime will collapse, leaving the Americans alone to contain the Islamic Republic. Most of the Gulf Arabs will probably kowtow to Persia, having more fear of Iran than confidence in the defensive assurances of the United States. And Sunni Arabs who don’t view an Iranian bomb as a plus for the Muslim world will, at daunting speed, become much more interested in ‘nuclear energy’; the Saudis, who likely helped Islamabad go nuclear, will just call in their chits with the Pakistani military.” The best option, of course, would be for the U.S. to act, but that seems unlikely.

Worst time to have an electoral wipe-out? In a Census year: “Big Republican gains in November [in state legislative races] could have lasting consequences. Legislators elected in the fall will redraw congressional boundaries next year. Control over the redistricting process could sway outcomes in dozens of districts over the next decade. ‘If you’re going to have a good year, have it in a year that ends in zero,’ says Ed Gillespie, a former Republican Party chairman who is heading up the GOP’s state-level efforts this year.”

Worst Justice Department in history? No contest. The latest: “One of the nation’s leading producers of X-rated videos, John Stagliano, was acquitted on federal obscenity charges Friday afternoon after a series of stumbles by the prosecution. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ordered the acquittal of Stagliano and two companies related to his Evil Angel studio on a defense motion before the defense presented any rebuttal to several days of evidence from the Justice Department. Leon called the government’s case ‘woefully lacking’ or ‘woefully inadequate,’ depending on whose account you follow.”

Worst press secretary in recent memory? Chris Cillizza says he is at least the winner of the “worst week” designation: “It took only 17 words ['there is no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control' of the House] for White House press secretary Robert Gibbs to set off the circular firing squad. … Republicans, meanwhile, could barely contain their glee at seeing their message — ‘We can take the House back, really, we can’ — seconded by the official White House mouthpiece.”

Worst Middle East diplomacy rebuke to date? “Fatah spokesperson Muhammad Dahlan announced that Fatah had rejected the U.S.’s offer Saturday to broker direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

Worst political advice to Obama? Mark Penn suggests: “Between now and the midterms, the administration has to focus on what it can do to provide a sense of economic recovery. Perhaps the best arena for that is in an energy bill that creates a wide array of incentives to produce new forms of energy.” You understand how Hillary lost the nomination.

Worst column ever from James Fallows? He hopes Dick Cheney recovers so he can change his mind and undermine all his prior views.

Worst political problem for Obama? Howard Fineman says it’s the loss of independent voters: “The Democrats’ support among this group has fallen to as low as 35 percent in some polls. The reasons are clear. They do not believe that Obama’s actions have produced results — and for these practical voters, nothing else matters. The $787 billion stimulus bill is widely regarded as an expensive, unfocused dud, even when measured against the cautious claims the Obama camp originally made for it. Health-care reform remains, for most voters, a 2,000-page, impenetrable, and largely irrelevant mystery. The BP oil spill has hurt Obama’s ability to fend off GOP charges that he’s ineffective as a leader.”

Worst thing Israel could do regarding Iran? In a definitive analysis of Israel’s options, Reuel Marc Gerecht argues it would be to do nothing: “Without a raid, if the Iranians get the bomb, Europe’s appeasement reflex will kick in and the EU sanctions regime will collapse, leaving the Americans alone to contain the Islamic Republic. Most of the Gulf Arabs will probably kowtow to Persia, having more fear of Iran than confidence in the defensive assurances of the United States. And Sunni Arabs who don’t view an Iranian bomb as a plus for the Muslim world will, at daunting speed, become much more interested in ‘nuclear energy’; the Saudis, who likely helped Islamabad go nuclear, will just call in their chits with the Pakistani military.” The best option, of course, would be for the U.S. to act, but that seems unlikely.

Worst time to have an electoral wipe-out? In a Census year: “Big Republican gains in November [in state legislative races] could have lasting consequences. Legislators elected in the fall will redraw congressional boundaries next year. Control over the redistricting process could sway outcomes in dozens of districts over the next decade. ‘If you’re going to have a good year, have it in a year that ends in zero,’ says Ed Gillespie, a former Republican Party chairman who is heading up the GOP’s state-level efforts this year.”

Worst Justice Department in history? No contest. The latest: “One of the nation’s leading producers of X-rated videos, John Stagliano, was acquitted on federal obscenity charges Friday afternoon after a series of stumbles by the prosecution. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ordered the acquittal of Stagliano and two companies related to his Evil Angel studio on a defense motion before the defense presented any rebuttal to several days of evidence from the Justice Department. Leon called the government’s case ‘woefully lacking’ or ‘woefully inadequate,’ depending on whose account you follow.”

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No Climate Concession Here

Obama’s State of the Union offered what is being lauded by both liberals and conservatives as a climate-change compromise. The will to compromise is a necessary but welcome development, but don’t be fooled. Obama said:

… we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America. I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. And this year I’m eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.

Though Republicans have supported offshore drilling and nuclear energy, this rhetoric pushes toward the same old goal. Such Democratic concessions are the cheap candy offered to entice Republicans toward more efforts like the stalled House cap-and-trade bill. And that sort of cap-and-trade bill is in no way a win for conservatives or for Americans.

The foreign media are reading Obama’s call for a “comprehensive energy and climate bill” as “code in Washington for a broad set of proposals that would also include establishment of a cap and trade program.” And only last week, the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s deputy director said, “There continues to be very strong support among a range of legislators for comprehensive climate legislation that includes cap and trade.” By “range,” he must mean shades of Left.

Obama’s State of the Union offered what is being lauded by both liberals and conservatives as a climate-change compromise. The will to compromise is a necessary but welcome development, but don’t be fooled. Obama said:

… we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America. I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. And this year I’m eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.

Though Republicans have supported offshore drilling and nuclear energy, this rhetoric pushes toward the same old goal. Such Democratic concessions are the cheap candy offered to entice Republicans toward more efforts like the stalled House cap-and-trade bill. And that sort of cap-and-trade bill is in no way a win for conservatives or for Americans.

The foreign media are reading Obama’s call for a “comprehensive energy and climate bill” as “code in Washington for a broad set of proposals that would also include establishment of a cap and trade program.” And only last week, the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s deputy director said, “There continues to be very strong support among a range of legislators for comprehensive climate legislation that includes cap and trade.” By “range,” he must mean shades of Left.

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Finally, Embrace the Obvious

The Washington Post employs the passive voice in its lede on the newfound fondness for nuclear power:

Nuclear power — long considered environmentally hazardous — is emerging as perhaps the world’s most unlikely weapon against climate change, with the backing of even some green activists who once campaigned against it.

Considered by whom, exactly? Well, by the green activists who never had a good explanation for why nuclear power wasn’t the solution to the hysteria they were creating over global warming and to the more realistic concern about lessening our dependence on foreign oil. Now we know that it was the anti-nuclear-power forces that have managed to block plants from being built for the past 13 years. But around the world, it’s a different story:

From China to Brazil, 53 plants are now under construction worldwide, with Poland, the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia seeking to build their first reactors, according to global watchdog groups and industry associations. The number of plants being built is double the total of just five years ago.

Even in the U.S., the Obami are grudgingly eying nuclear power, and some green groups are throwing in the towel on opposing a clean source of domestic power. The fanaticism of the antinuclear forces, however, has not been without a cost. After all, we’ve used all that fossil fuel and delayed the building of any nuclear plants for more than a decade. The former head of Greenpeace in Britain announces: “Like many of us, I began to slowly realize we don’t have the luxury anymore of excluding nuclear energy. … We need all the help we can get.”

Of course, we didn’t have the luxury of doing so back then either, but the politicians were cowed by groups like Greenpeace. Now we’ll have to scramble to catch up, if in fact the iron grip of anti-nuclear-power activists is broken. Perhaps next we’ll get around to developing domestic supplies of oil and natural gas. But let’s not get carried away.

The Washington Post employs the passive voice in its lede on the newfound fondness for nuclear power:

Nuclear power — long considered environmentally hazardous — is emerging as perhaps the world’s most unlikely weapon against climate change, with the backing of even some green activists who once campaigned against it.

Considered by whom, exactly? Well, by the green activists who never had a good explanation for why nuclear power wasn’t the solution to the hysteria they were creating over global warming and to the more realistic concern about lessening our dependence on foreign oil. Now we know that it was the anti-nuclear-power forces that have managed to block plants from being built for the past 13 years. But around the world, it’s a different story:

From China to Brazil, 53 plants are now under construction worldwide, with Poland, the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia seeking to build their first reactors, according to global watchdog groups and industry associations. The number of plants being built is double the total of just five years ago.

Even in the U.S., the Obami are grudgingly eying nuclear power, and some green groups are throwing in the towel on opposing a clean source of domestic power. The fanaticism of the antinuclear forces, however, has not been without a cost. After all, we’ve used all that fossil fuel and delayed the building of any nuclear plants for more than a decade. The former head of Greenpeace in Britain announces: “Like many of us, I began to slowly realize we don’t have the luxury anymore of excluding nuclear energy. … We need all the help we can get.”

Of course, we didn’t have the luxury of doing so back then either, but the politicians were cowed by groups like Greenpeace. Now we’ll have to scramble to catch up, if in fact the iron grip of anti-nuclear-power activists is broken. Perhaps next we’ll get around to developing domestic supplies of oil and natural gas. But let’s not get carried away.

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Obama’s Interpersonal Diplomacy Crisis

You have to give Barack Obama credit for one thing. He practices what he preaches. He has said he wants America to engage in unqualified talks with her enemies. Can there now be any doubt that Jeremiah Wright, the man Barack Obama has been talking to for twenty years, is his enemy?

At yesterday’s National Press Club event, the spiritual mentor whom Obama refused to renounce unleashed a stream of ugly paranoia that could only do damage to Obama’s bid for the presidency. What we’re seeing play out are the disastrous results of Obama’s group-hug diplomacy when applied to the realm of the interpersonal.

In February, Obama said, “If we think that meeting with the president is a privilege that has to be earned, I think that reinforces the sense that we stand above the rest of the world at this point in time.” But friendship is a privilege and does have to be earned. Obama’s very problem is that, because he’s extended his unqualified friendship to a vitriolic kook like Wright, people are finding it hard to see how he “stands above” his ex-pastor. If Obama is truly such a fan of equivalence, he should be thrilled to learn that he’s increasingly seen as being no better than Jeremiah Wright. Parity achieved!

A modern liberal can renounce no one, because everyone’s grievance deserves equal sympathy and every viewpoint is valid. If this is how it works out when Obama has to deal with the self-serving motives of one unhinged man, consider the implications when this policy is applied globally. Obama sits down with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as he’s already said he hopes to do. He listens to the Iranian president’s “valid” points: Israel has the bomb, Iran just wants nuclear energy, the U.S. is killing Shiites in a neighboring country, etc. Obama flies back to the U.S. and makes a beautiful and exhaustive speech about the long and troubled history of U.S.-Iran relations. He disagrees with many things the Iranian president has said, but he can no sooner sever ties with him than he could refuse to engage with the Israeli government that continues to allow the building of settlements in occupied Palestine.

The speech is an international hit, a landmark moment in geopolitical candor. Emboldened and under the protective umbrella of world sympathy, Ahmadinejad and the mullahs ratchet up the hegemonic machinery and the Armageddon talk. Within a year they brazenly test their first nuke. Obama makes a shorter, slightly less beautiful speech about the hurdles of diplomacy, Iran is off the hook, and the next proto-nuclear state gets to work.

In the Wright affair we see a microcosmic portrayal of America’s president in the role of world dupe. The most worrisome thing about the whole episode is not that Obama may share Wright’s bizarre convictions. It’s that the code of modern liberalism has allowed someone a calendar page away from being the Democratic presidential nominee to be thoroughly manipulated by a third-rate huckster.

You have to give Barack Obama credit for one thing. He practices what he preaches. He has said he wants America to engage in unqualified talks with her enemies. Can there now be any doubt that Jeremiah Wright, the man Barack Obama has been talking to for twenty years, is his enemy?

At yesterday’s National Press Club event, the spiritual mentor whom Obama refused to renounce unleashed a stream of ugly paranoia that could only do damage to Obama’s bid for the presidency. What we’re seeing play out are the disastrous results of Obama’s group-hug diplomacy when applied to the realm of the interpersonal.

In February, Obama said, “If we think that meeting with the president is a privilege that has to be earned, I think that reinforces the sense that we stand above the rest of the world at this point in time.” But friendship is a privilege and does have to be earned. Obama’s very problem is that, because he’s extended his unqualified friendship to a vitriolic kook like Wright, people are finding it hard to see how he “stands above” his ex-pastor. If Obama is truly such a fan of equivalence, he should be thrilled to learn that he’s increasingly seen as being no better than Jeremiah Wright. Parity achieved!

A modern liberal can renounce no one, because everyone’s grievance deserves equal sympathy and every viewpoint is valid. If this is how it works out when Obama has to deal with the self-serving motives of one unhinged man, consider the implications when this policy is applied globally. Obama sits down with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as he’s already said he hopes to do. He listens to the Iranian president’s “valid” points: Israel has the bomb, Iran just wants nuclear energy, the U.S. is killing Shiites in a neighboring country, etc. Obama flies back to the U.S. and makes a beautiful and exhaustive speech about the long and troubled history of U.S.-Iran relations. He disagrees with many things the Iranian president has said, but he can no sooner sever ties with him than he could refuse to engage with the Israeli government that continues to allow the building of settlements in occupied Palestine.

The speech is an international hit, a landmark moment in geopolitical candor. Emboldened and under the protective umbrella of world sympathy, Ahmadinejad and the mullahs ratchet up the hegemonic machinery and the Armageddon talk. Within a year they brazenly test their first nuke. Obama makes a shorter, slightly less beautiful speech about the hurdles of diplomacy, Iran is off the hook, and the next proto-nuclear state gets to work.

In the Wright affair we see a microcosmic portrayal of America’s president in the role of world dupe. The most worrisome thing about the whole episode is not that Obama may share Wright’s bizarre convictions. It’s that the code of modern liberalism has allowed someone a calendar page away from being the Democratic presidential nominee to be thoroughly manipulated by a third-rate huckster.

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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Man of Peace

Neil Clark, a prominent commentator for the Guardian, wrote on his blog last Friday that “A nuclear-armed Iran would not be very dangerous. In fact a nuclear-armed Iran—and the acquisition of nuclear weapons by other countries threatened by the insatiable neo-conservative war machine, such as Syria, would be the best guarantor of peace in the Middle East. . . . The President of Iran has of course denied that his country has any plans to build a nuclear bomb and that his only interest is to develop nuclear energy. In the interests of peace, I do hope he’s lying.”

He is, of course, lying. And so is Mr. Clark. The only peace with Israel that is acceptable to President Ahmadinejad is the peace of the grave. Several times he has called for “the false regime occupying Palestine” to be “wiped off the map,” “annihilated,” “eliminated,” or “erased.” Zionists are “nearing the last days of their lives,” and their state “has reached its finishing line.”

Mr. Clark blames Israel “and its more fanatical supporters” for the confrontation with Iran. It is a standard ploy for anti-Semites to depict Jews as warmongers. In his speech to the Reichstag on January 30, 1939, Hitler, too, insisted that he wanted peace, but warned that “if the Jews . . . should succeed once more in plunging the nations into a world war, then the consequence will be . . . the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.”

Mr. Clark and others—such as President Chirac—who insist that Iran would not use nuclear weapons against Israel are being disingenuous. Arming Iran and Syria, the world’s leading sponsors of terrorists, with nuclear weapons would almost certainly lead to the rapid emergence of nuclear terrorism. Mr. Clark may not care what happens to Israel, but he too, along with the rest of the Western world, would be put in mortal peril.

Neil Clark, a prominent commentator for the Guardian, wrote on his blog last Friday that “A nuclear-armed Iran would not be very dangerous. In fact a nuclear-armed Iran—and the acquisition of nuclear weapons by other countries threatened by the insatiable neo-conservative war machine, such as Syria, would be the best guarantor of peace in the Middle East. . . . The President of Iran has of course denied that his country has any plans to build a nuclear bomb and that his only interest is to develop nuclear energy. In the interests of peace, I do hope he’s lying.”

He is, of course, lying. And so is Mr. Clark. The only peace with Israel that is acceptable to President Ahmadinejad is the peace of the grave. Several times he has called for “the false regime occupying Palestine” to be “wiped off the map,” “annihilated,” “eliminated,” or “erased.” Zionists are “nearing the last days of their lives,” and their state “has reached its finishing line.”

Mr. Clark blames Israel “and its more fanatical supporters” for the confrontation with Iran. It is a standard ploy for anti-Semites to depict Jews as warmongers. In his speech to the Reichstag on January 30, 1939, Hitler, too, insisted that he wanted peace, but warned that “if the Jews . . . should succeed once more in plunging the nations into a world war, then the consequence will be . . . the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.”

Mr. Clark and others—such as President Chirac—who insist that Iran would not use nuclear weapons against Israel are being disingenuous. Arming Iran and Syria, the world’s leading sponsors of terrorists, with nuclear weapons would almost certainly lead to the rapid emergence of nuclear terrorism. Mr. Clark may not care what happens to Israel, but he too, along with the rest of the Western world, would be put in mortal peril.

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Trust the Experts

Judging by the number of outraged responses, I seem to have struck a nerve with my post, “Maybe Al Gore Is Right.” Many readers wrote in to question the scientific consensus once again. As I said before, I’m not a scientist, much less a specialist in the field, so I don’t feel comfortable debating the pros and cons of the IPCC report. What mystifies me is why so many other readers who also aren’t experts feel comfortable disputing the experts’ judgment.

One reader, for instance, wrote: “The problem is that those who sound the alarm about catastrophic global warming tend to make statements like . . . ‘it has been the warmest January in 60 years.’ I am sure you see the logical disconnect there, but let me be explicit; they are acknowledging that there was a warmer January just 60 or so years ago. So, what does this prove?” Suffice it to say that the scientists behind the IPCC report didn’t base their conclusions on such anecdotes. The available scientific evidence, in their view, proves a human link to global warming with 90-percent certitude.

I have no problem accepting the collective wisdom of the global scientific community over the dissent of the popular novelist Michael Crichton and a few actual scientists, many of whom lack credentials in climatology or any related discipline. (I note that Kevin Shapiro, who answered my post, is a neuroscientist and medical student.) Imagine, by way of analogy, if I had gone to twenty oncologists and they all told me that I had cancer, but a metereologist buddy looked at the test results and told me to ignore the doctors because they didn’t know what they were talking about. Would Mr. Shapiro—or Mr. Crichton—applaud me in those circumstances for adopting the minority view?

A more fruitful line of argument is to discuss the policy implications of global warming—an area where we don’t have to defer to scientists. As I mentioned, I remain skeptical of the Kyoto Protocol. I think there are better, more market-friendly approaches we should consider, such as tradeable emission credits, more nuclear energy, more research on alternatives to fossil fuels, the elimination of sugar subsidies (to make sugar-derived ethanol more affordable), and higher gasoline taxes. Such policies would be a two-fer: not only would they reduce global warming, but they would reduce our dependence on oil, which comes from such unsavory states as Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Iran. Which is why these sorts of ideas have been championed by Jim Woolsey and other conservatives, raising the possibility of a conservative/Green coalition to break our oil addiction.

Judging by the number of outraged responses, I seem to have struck a nerve with my post, “Maybe Al Gore Is Right.” Many readers wrote in to question the scientific consensus once again. As I said before, I’m not a scientist, much less a specialist in the field, so I don’t feel comfortable debating the pros and cons of the IPCC report. What mystifies me is why so many other readers who also aren’t experts feel comfortable disputing the experts’ judgment.

One reader, for instance, wrote: “The problem is that those who sound the alarm about catastrophic global warming tend to make statements like . . . ‘it has been the warmest January in 60 years.’ I am sure you see the logical disconnect there, but let me be explicit; they are acknowledging that there was a warmer January just 60 or so years ago. So, what does this prove?” Suffice it to say that the scientists behind the IPCC report didn’t base their conclusions on such anecdotes. The available scientific evidence, in their view, proves a human link to global warming with 90-percent certitude.

I have no problem accepting the collective wisdom of the global scientific community over the dissent of the popular novelist Michael Crichton and a few actual scientists, many of whom lack credentials in climatology or any related discipline. (I note that Kevin Shapiro, who answered my post, is a neuroscientist and medical student.) Imagine, by way of analogy, if I had gone to twenty oncologists and they all told me that I had cancer, but a metereologist buddy looked at the test results and told me to ignore the doctors because they didn’t know what they were talking about. Would Mr. Shapiro—or Mr. Crichton—applaud me in those circumstances for adopting the minority view?

A more fruitful line of argument is to discuss the policy implications of global warming—an area where we don’t have to defer to scientists. As I mentioned, I remain skeptical of the Kyoto Protocol. I think there are better, more market-friendly approaches we should consider, such as tradeable emission credits, more nuclear energy, more research on alternatives to fossil fuels, the elimination of sugar subsidies (to make sugar-derived ethanol more affordable), and higher gasoline taxes. Such policies would be a two-fer: not only would they reduce global warming, but they would reduce our dependence on oil, which comes from such unsavory states as Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Iran. Which is why these sorts of ideas have been championed by Jim Woolsey and other conservatives, raising the possibility of a conservative/Green coalition to break our oil addiction.

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Maybe Al Gore Is Right

Conservatives like to think of themselves as hard-headed, flinty-eyed realists who draw conclusions based on the way the world actually works, not on the way they would prefer it to work. They deride liberals as sentimentalists who never let facts interfere with their preferred policy prescriptions, whether in favor of the minimum wage or arms control. Yet there are some issues on which conservatives will not let any amount of evidence shake their own faith-based politics. Global warming is a prime example.

Last week the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change released its fourth Summary for Policymakers, a publication representing the consensus view of hundreds of scientists from around the world. The experts found with “very high confidence” (meaning 90 percent certainty) that human activity is responsible for a substantial increase in greenhouse gases, and they warn that if left unchecked, these trends could have catastrophic ecological consequences within our lifetime. Similar reports have been issued by other expert bodies such as the National Academy of Sciences and the American Meteorological Society.

I’ve always been skeptical of global-warming arguments, but as a scientific illiterate, it’s hard for me to argue with the consensus of the scientific community. Many of my fellow conservatives, by contrast, refuse to concede the possibility that Al Gore may be right after all. Check out, among others: George Will, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Senator James Inhofe, the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, and even Kevin Shapiro in the September 2006 issue of COMMENTARY.

I am sympathetic to some of their arguments, in particular when they point out the problems with the Kyoto Protocol, which mandates major emissions reductions by the U.S. and other rich nations while allowing growing pollution by developing nations such as China and India. In fact, some of the most effective answers to global warming may be politically incorrect—for instance, substituting nuclear energy for oil or coal.

But too many on the Right still refuse to acknowledge the basic reality that the climate is changing in potentially dangerous ways due to human activity, and that we need to reduce carbon emissions to address this looming crisis. Skeptics can always dredge up a rogue scientist or two to buttress their case, just as liberals can always find an economist or two to make the case for raising the minimum wage. But why should a few fringe figures dictate governmental policy?

I would think supporters of the invasion of Iraq would be more sympathetic to arguments for preventative action based on the best available intelligence.

Conservatives like to think of themselves as hard-headed, flinty-eyed realists who draw conclusions based on the way the world actually works, not on the way they would prefer it to work. They deride liberals as sentimentalists who never let facts interfere with their preferred policy prescriptions, whether in favor of the minimum wage or arms control. Yet there are some issues on which conservatives will not let any amount of evidence shake their own faith-based politics. Global warming is a prime example.

Last week the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change released its fourth Summary for Policymakers, a publication representing the consensus view of hundreds of scientists from around the world. The experts found with “very high confidence” (meaning 90 percent certainty) that human activity is responsible for a substantial increase in greenhouse gases, and they warn that if left unchecked, these trends could have catastrophic ecological consequences within our lifetime. Similar reports have been issued by other expert bodies such as the National Academy of Sciences and the American Meteorological Society.

I’ve always been skeptical of global-warming arguments, but as a scientific illiterate, it’s hard for me to argue with the consensus of the scientific community. Many of my fellow conservatives, by contrast, refuse to concede the possibility that Al Gore may be right after all. Check out, among others: George Will, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Senator James Inhofe, the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, and even Kevin Shapiro in the September 2006 issue of COMMENTARY.

I am sympathetic to some of their arguments, in particular when they point out the problems with the Kyoto Protocol, which mandates major emissions reductions by the U.S. and other rich nations while allowing growing pollution by developing nations such as China and India. In fact, some of the most effective answers to global warming may be politically incorrect—for instance, substituting nuclear energy for oil or coal.

But too many on the Right still refuse to acknowledge the basic reality that the climate is changing in potentially dangerous ways due to human activity, and that we need to reduce carbon emissions to address this looming crisis. Skeptics can always dredge up a rogue scientist or two to buttress their case, just as liberals can always find an economist or two to make the case for raising the minimum wage. But why should a few fringe figures dictate governmental policy?

I would think supporters of the invasion of Iraq would be more sympathetic to arguments for preventative action based on the best available intelligence.

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Does the name Jan Egesborg ring a bell? I didn’t think so; the Danish artist has received precious little coverage in this country. Yet he has just done what every politically-minded artist ardently yearns to do: make a powerful and arrogant world leader look ridiculous. Remarkably, this leader is not named Bush but Ahmadinejad.

In December 2006, a group calling itself “Danes for World Peace” took out a half-page ad in the English-language Tehran Times. Five anti-war declarations, in rather plodding English, were printed under a photograph of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

Support his fight against Bush
We are also tired of Bush
Iran has the right to produce nuclear energy
No U.S. aggression against any country
Evil U.S. military stay home

Not until after the ad appeared did anyone notice that the five initial letters of the five-line statement, when read downward, spell out the word SWINE—a word chosen to be as offensive as possible—directly beneath Ahmadinejad’s photograph.

Egesborg is the founder of Surrend, the artists’ collaborative whose stated goal is “to make fun of the world’s powerful men” by means of posters, stickers, and newspaper advertisements. Such street theater has been a staple of agit-prop art since the 1960′s, in Europe as well as America, but it is simply inconceivable that any group of American artists would single out for abuse the figures recently mocked by Surrend, a roster that includes the Belorussian despot Alexander Lukashenko, the Serbian war criminal Ratko Mladic, and dictator of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe.

As political art satire goes, Egesborg’s sophomoric stunt comes in somewhat below Animal Farm. On the other hand, to carry it out required an abundance of personal courage, not necessarily the first quality that comes to mind when thinking of performance artists. Moreover, it actually does what contemporary art so routinely promises and just as routinely fails to deliver: it “challenges our assumptions about art,” in this case, the assumption that for contemporary artists there is no tyrant on the earth so despicable as a Republican president. Egesborg’s merry little prank was easily the most important work of political art of 2006.

Does the name Jan Egesborg ring a bell? I didn’t think so; the Danish artist has received precious little coverage in this country. Yet he has just done what every politically-minded artist ardently yearns to do: make a powerful and arrogant world leader look ridiculous. Remarkably, this leader is not named Bush but Ahmadinejad.

In December 2006, a group calling itself “Danes for World Peace” took out a half-page ad in the English-language Tehran Times. Five anti-war declarations, in rather plodding English, were printed under a photograph of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

Support his fight against Bush
We are also tired of Bush
Iran has the right to produce nuclear energy
No U.S. aggression against any country
Evil U.S. military stay home

Not until after the ad appeared did anyone notice that the five initial letters of the five-line statement, when read downward, spell out the word SWINE—a word chosen to be as offensive as possible—directly beneath Ahmadinejad’s photograph.

Egesborg is the founder of Surrend, the artists’ collaborative whose stated goal is “to make fun of the world’s powerful men” by means of posters, stickers, and newspaper advertisements. Such street theater has been a staple of agit-prop art since the 1960′s, in Europe as well as America, but it is simply inconceivable that any group of American artists would single out for abuse the figures recently mocked by Surrend, a roster that includes the Belorussian despot Alexander Lukashenko, the Serbian war criminal Ratko Mladic, and dictator of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe.

As political art satire goes, Egesborg’s sophomoric stunt comes in somewhat below Animal Farm. On the other hand, to carry it out required an abundance of personal courage, not necessarily the first quality that comes to mind when thinking of performance artists. Moreover, it actually does what contemporary art so routinely promises and just as routinely fails to deliver: it “challenges our assumptions about art,” in this case, the assumption that for contemporary artists there is no tyrant on the earth so despicable as a Republican president. Egesborg’s merry little prank was easily the most important work of political art of 2006.

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