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Wednesday, 14 May 2008
The End of Science?
Topic: Must Read


Another thing about Last and First Men that strikes me as impressively prescient is Stapledon’s description of the corruption of science. As he imagines it, the intellectual decline of the First Men causes the once fluid doctrines of science to crystallize into a fixed and intricate dogma. The distinctions between science and religion gradually fade away; scientists themselves develop into a priestly caste.


To contemplate the follies of contemporary scientism is to certify the clarity of Stapledon’s vision. Countless people who scoff at the idea of God give their faith to Science (I capitalize intentionally)—yet few of them appear to have the smallest grasp of science as such. Indeed, the empirical mode of thought and the protocols of scientific method are anathema to such true believers as the followers of Al Gore. For to think critically about global warming is to commit an act of heresy—and the heretic is not to be debated. He is to be liquidated. Hence the shrill insistence that where global warming is concerned, “the debate is over.” Hence the frequent comparisons of global warming skeptics to Holocaust deniers.


Of course, few people are fanatically attached to such pseudo-scientific causes as global warming and stem cells. But even where fanaticism is lacking, a corrosive faith festers. The argument that such-and-such a position or policy violates the principles of “good science” is held to be unanswerable. But what is “good science”? Many things may indeed be scientifically possible. Whether or not they’re good and desirable is another question entirely. But those who place their faith in Science have no desire to take up that question.


Thus in the name of Science, debate is quashed, criticism is suppressed and the heretic is persecuted. Or to put it another way, in the name of modern scientific religion, science is being destroyed. Imagine the outcry if Al Gore proposed to demolish Europe’s Gothic cathedrals. But we’re letting him and people like him get away with the demolition of another and equally glorious achievement of Western civilization, our scientific heritage. Olaf Stapledon saw it coming. He should be living at this hour.

Posted by tmg110 at 8:07 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 14 May 2008 8:20 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Did They Ever Like Us?
Topic: Must Read


 European anti-Americanism is no recent phenomenon. It has quite a long pedigree, as I was reminded recently upon rereading Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future. This remarkable novel, which appeared in 1930, traces the history of humanity from Stapledon’s present to a future two billion years hence. It describes the evolution of humanity through eighteen species, of which our own is merely the first—and the most primitive.


Last and First Men is today considered one of the seminal works of modern science fiction—an ironic honor since Stapledon, a British philosopher, had no contact with the American writers of the so-called golden age of science fiction. Reportedly he was quite startled when he did learn of the existence of the genre, and of the huge popularity of his novel in SF circles.


The opening chapters of the Last and First Men depict the decline and fall of the First Men—homo sapiens—who only achieve global unity after the intelligence and initiative of the race have been undermined by generations of war. The world-spanning society that is founded in the aftermath of a long, destructive conflict between America and China is corrupted from the start by stereotyped scientism and religious fundamentalism. After 4,000 years of intellectual and spiritual sterility, this world society is destroyed by an energy crisis.


In some ways Stapledon was eerily prescient. He foresaw the problem of energy, the decline of Europe and Russia, the rise of China, the confusion of science with religious faith and much more. But what is particularly notable about the scenario described above is that it makes America the villain of the piece. It is American scientism and fundamentalism that rings down the curtain on the First Men. The author's mordant description of the First World State is titled "An Americanized Planet."


Last and First Men is very strongly marked by an apprehension that Europe’s older (and superior) culture will not in the long run prove capable of standing up to American power, or to the large-scale export of American vulgarity. To read this book is to receive an intriguing lesson in the sources of contemporary European anti-Americanism—and to realize that for all its tone of moral superiority, this prejudice is rooted primarily in hatred, fear and despair.

Posted by tmg110 at 8:35 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 27 April 2013 9:51 AM EDT
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Monday, 12 May 2008
Next Week: Milli Vanilli
Topic: The Media

Proof positive that CBS News is circling the bowl of irrelevancy: the top-billed guest on "Face the Nation" yesterday was John Edwards. The name rings a bell—didn't he run for president or something?


Posted by tmg110 at 8:54 AM EDT
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Friday, 9 May 2008
You Call This a Community?
Topic: Decline of the West

The next time you happen to overhear some starry-eyed progressive nitwit blathering about the glories of the "world community," think of Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur—and  Myanmar (Burma). At least 65,000 people were killed last Saturday when a massive cyclone hit the Irrawaddy delta. And as we know from sad experience of Third World natural disasters, that number is likely to climb substantially.

UN-sponsored relief supplies began to flow into Myanmar almost immediately after the cyclone struck. Then the country's brutal, reclusive ruling military junta did the kind of thing that you can expect from that sort of government—it summarily confiscated the relief supplies. So the UN has suspended aid shipments.

Of course there has been much hand wringing over the junta's action—which isn't likely to ameliorate the suffering of the people of Myanmar. Perhaps if the world community would put the squeeze on the junta, lives could be saved. But when has a murderous or genocidal government ever stayed its hand in the face of a UN speech or a disapproving New York Times editorial?

Posted by tmg110 at 3:08 PM EDT
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The Tax Man Cometh to Campus
Topic: Decline of the West

If there exists in America a more formidable bastion of left-wing orthodoxy than academia, I don't know what it is. What a pleasure, therefore, to read that the Revolution is proposing to take a big bite out of the Ivory Tower.

It's always amazed me that Americans who scream bloody murder about the price of gasoline or the interest rate on their credit card balances so tamely submit to being hosed by higher education. Over the past ten years, tuition has skyrocketed—this while fat-bellied university endowments have grown substantially. Harvard, for example, now boasts a $35 billion endowment. That's right—billion. Yet instead of providing tuition relief for hard-pressed students and their families, the university simply passes the cost along to hard-pressed taxpayers. For parents and students don't become vexed with the university when tuition goes up. Oh, no. They scream instead that the government is not being generous enough with grants and subsidized loans. It's a sweet deal indeed for higher education.

But all good things must come to an end. In Massachusetts, as Lawrence Harvey reports in this article for the American Spectator, it has finally dawned on the gluttonous politicians of the Bay State that there's an untapped source of revenue right in their own back yards: university endowments. And they're proposing to slap a 2.5% tax on those endowments.

Ah, how delightful it will be to witness the financial pillage of academia by one of the most liberal state governments in the nation!

Posted by tmg110 at 11:38 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 22 April 2008
Biofuels Bill
Topic: The Media


Give a guy a TV talk show and he just might start thinking of himself as a Tribune of the People. It happened to CNN’s Lou Dobbs—once a meat-and potatoes business reporter, now a screeching nativist. It happened to the pope-bashing Bill Maher. And, of course, it’s the defining characteristic of Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly.


I’ve always been of two minds about O’Reilly. On the one hand, he's done good work, such as holding politicians’ feet to the fire and getting them to support Megan’s Law. On the other hand, O’Reilly can be a dogmatic ignoramus—as shown by his longstanding advocacy of biofuels. On show after show, he has trumpeted the (largely mythical) advantages of crop-based fuels while excoriating politicians and energy companies for their failure to drink the ethanol.


Today with food prices soaring worldwide while 15-20% of the US corn crop is being stuffed into the gas tanks of cars and SUVs, it seems pretty obvious that the ethanol subsidy/mandate was a bad idea. And what’s bad for America is looking catastrophic for the Third World, where rising food prices raise he possibility of famine. Meanwhile, to serve the needs of the Brazilian government’s biofuels mandate—touted by O’Reilly as a model for the US—huge swaths of rainforest are being cleared to make way for biofuels crops.


The economic, environmental, social and human havoc wrought by the biofuels craze becomes more glaringly apparent every day. (That biofuels have been touted by many of the same people who throw up their hands in horror at the prospect of drilling in the ANWR adds a nice touch of irony.) Bill O’Reilly bears no little share of the responsibility for this debacle. Will hel accept that responsibility? I doubt it. Being a TV Tribune of the People means never having to say you’re sorry.

Posted by tmg110 at 8:16 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 22 April 2008 8:49 AM EDT
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Friday, 18 April 2008
Other People's Lives
Topic: The Box Office

Run—do not walk—to your nearest video retail outlet. Search the shelves until you find The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) on DVD. Take it home. Watch it immediately.

A couple of days ago, I saw this astonishing and deeply moving German film for the first time, and since then I haven't been able to get it out of my head. Set in East Germany in the year 1984, it tells the story of a secret policeman whose duties lead him by a torturous path to moral redemption. Americans especially, most of whom have no direct experience of life under totalitarian rule, need to see this picture.

The Lives of Others won the Oscar for best foreign-language film of 2006. A dozen Oscars would not have done it justice. Kudos to writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmark and his outstanding cast—they've created a true cinematic masterpiece.

Posted by tmg110 at 8:44 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 18 April 2008 8:58 AM EDT
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Friday, 11 April 2008
Spanish Tragedy
Topic: Must Read


For those whose curiosity may have aroused by my recent post on the Spanish Civil War, I highly recommend Antony Beevor’s The Battle for Spain (1982), probably the best general history of that tragic war.



Posted by tmg110 at 7:32 AM EDT
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Friday, 4 April 2008
Who's Got Time to Read?
Topic: Liberal Fascism


I have the old-fashioned notion that if one reviews or recommends a book, one ought to have read it. That’s why I put myself to the trouble of reading Naomi Wolf’s The End of America. My ensuing review may have been scathing, but it was based on my reading of the actual words that the author set down in the pages of her book.


Not everyone shares my view however. For example, a guy named Bill Cope has reviewed Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism—apparently without bothering to read it:


Admittedly, I have only read critiques of his book. I have too much respect for the organ in my skull to directly inject into it any of the sour opiates these pushers peddle. If you don’t believe a brain fried up crispy in right-wing ideology is a terrible waste of human potential, look no further than the shriveled souls of Bill O’Reilly, Kate O’Beirne and Bob Novak. Is that the sort of thing you want to see when you look in a mirror?

And when called out on this, he responded as follows:


Now, about that Jonah Goldberg book, Liberal Fascism . No I didn’t read it. Nor am I embarrassed to admit that I criticized the dull ideas that were widely disseminated from a book I didn’t read. For Christ’s Sake, it’s not like I was doing a book report on a Dickens’ novel and slipped by on CliffsNotes. If Cam feels he has to read every mediocre word of a mediocre writer to understand the mediocre message therein, let him. It’s not his fault some of us get the picture much quicker than he seems to.


“For Christ’s Sake, it’s not like I was doing a book report on a Dickens’ novel and slipped by on CliffsNotes.” Ah, but Bill, that’s exactly what it’s like—intellectual dishonesty garnished, in your case, with a series of infantile ad hominem attacks.


But perhaps Bill Cope is too busy scribbling for the Boise Weekly to actually, you know, read books and stuff.

Posted by tmg110 at 8:53 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 4 April 2008 12:58 PM EDT
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Whitewashing the Reds in San Francisco
Topic: Decline of the West


Let it never be said that San Francisco’s progressive establishment doesn’t support the military. For there’s one group of veterans that the commissars of the city by the bay do admire: the men of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. And no, these guys didn’t serve in the American Civil War. They fought, rather, in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), and their supreme commander was Joseph Stalin. Now that San Francisco is dedicating a memorial to the men of the Brigade, a quick review of the historical record seems in order.


When Spain’s democratically elected government was threatened by a military coup led by General Francisco Franco, the international Left quickly rallied to the side of the Republicans, as the government side came to be called. Franco, though not much of an ideologue, soon identified himself and his movement with fascism—perhaps in the hope, quickly to be realized, of attracting Italian and German support. Thus was the stage set for a grand confrontation between the forces of darkness and light.


It was all baloney, of course. For while Franco had Mussolini and Hitler on his side, the Republic was supported—if that is the word—by Stalin. The foreign volunteers of the International Brigades, of which the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was one, were made up almost entirely of Communist Party members. In one way and another, Stalin and his henchmen gradually extended their control over the government of the Spanish Republic. Purges and liquidations of “deviationists,” “Trotskyites,” “wreckers,” etc. soon ensued. In short, the anti-fascist crusade fell under the control of a worse murderer and tyrant than Franco ever dreamed of being. “Anti-fascism” came to mean no more than serving the interests of the Soviet Union. And the men of the Abraham Lincoln Brigades were, with a few exceptions, Stalin’s willing accomplices.


Among the foreign volunteers who streamed into Spain to fight for the Republic was George Orwell. He happened to join not the International Brigades but the POUM (anarchist) militia. After service at the front in the course of which he was badly wounded in the throat, Orwell and his wife found themselves denounced as enemies of the people, earmarked for liquidation at the hands of the Stalinist secret police. They barely managed to escape from Spain with their lives.


The Spanish Civil War provided Orwell with an up-close and personal experience of life under a totalitarian regime that shaped his subsequent political outlook. His memoir of the war, Homage to Catalonia, is a bracing antidote to the myth-making of the Left, of which the San Francisco memorial to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade is a particularly disgraceful example.

Posted by tmg110 at 7:30 AM EDT
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