Environmentalism and the Nazis

June 22, 2008

In the 1950’s communists were said to be infiltrating the government and the entertainment industry, as well as operating under several fronts. The McCarthy era ended when the demagoguery was challenged and the true charlatans were identified. While it lasted, though, it was a ticket to political prominence.

In the last few years some people have taken to identifying environmentalists as Nazis. This is actually done on national television and similar venues; we have almost grown to expect it in political campaigns. Such fear and hate mongering seems to be efficacious. You would think that it would backfire, but there must be more people swayed by it than repulsed.

On national media in 2006 Al Gore was compared to Nazi propagandist Goebbels and to Hitler for his success in publicising global warming. (It is a bit ironic that the people who diminish the Holocaust in this way tend to be Israel’s most zealous supporters.) On CNN Senator Inhofe actually described Gore’s testimony to the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Utilities in that manner with the concurrence of Glenn Beck, the host.

In 2007 Fox News Radio continued the Gore/Hitler diatribe. CNN continued to transmit unbelievable comparisons to Hitler and Nazis. Glenn Beck recently said that Gore’s global warming campaign is like Hitler’s use of eugenics to justify exterminating 6 million European Jews.

With the new report on global warming just out, a report subscribed to about a dozen scientific groups associated with our government, doesn’t this treatment of science remind you of earlier, more primitive, periods of history?  Imagine: A world wide scientific conspiracy.  Really?

The hate and fear mongering diatribes are uniformly nothing more than name calling. There is no real rebuttal. Scientists picked “An Inconvenient Truth” apart pretty thoroughly finding some questionable facts and theatrics that suggested an unsupported conclusion. A UK judge found nine factual errors in the film.

But scientists and the British judiciary (one member anyway) agree that the film is rooted in good science and its overall message is supported by sound scientific theory and belief. This was known in 2007 and then Gore got a Nobel Peace Prize along with a U.N. panel of scientists investigating global warming. This, if anything, seemed to fan the flames of hate mongers.

This very odd discourse about environmentalism is probably the progeny of a pseudo-intellectual eddy in revisionist history. People are actually positing that environmentalism is a Nazi program, sort of like “Boys from Brazil.” This theory has been debunked by legitimate historians and even the people who are credited with originating this view disclaim any association with it.

A couple of years ago Jonah Goldberg’s book “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning” appeared. This book seemed to revitalize the “environmentalism is fascism” diatribe, although Goldberg claimed to have written nothing that was intended to suggest such a thing. The book sold well to mixed reviews. It was celebrated by conservative reviewers and panned by others.

The book’s thesis, behind all the pseudo-intellectual blather, is essentially Libertarian: Fascism means governmental regulation and liberalism means governmental regulation; therefore liberalism is fascist. Environmentalists want governmental regulation therefore they are fascists too. For proof just look at Nazi Germany where environmentalism was born. Nazis called themselves the national socialist party therefore socialists are fascists. Socialists are liberals. Very simple-minded stuff hiding in a lot of jargon.

This silly word parsing though unhinges people like those at the Building Industry Association of Washington who have made a habit of labeling anyone opposing their views as Nazis. In March their newsletter, in addition to more conventional name calling, called the Washington State Department of Ecology Nazis and lumped all environmentalists under that moniker.

This set off a local firestorm culminating in and Anti Defamation League demand for a retraction or apology. The B.I.A.W. of course refuses claiming the article (written by its storm drain columnist) is academically grounded. The B.I.A.W. is widely regarded as the Washington State Republican Party’s attack dog and neither the party nor any of its candidates has attempted to separate from this absurd propaganda machine.

The Media and the McClellan Book.

May 29, 2008

What is it about MCClellan’s book that is causing such a stir? It has not yet been released, but this week it has been a feature story. There is very little in the snips of information that is really news. People who read Paul O’Neil’s book or followed his interviews about it, know that at the first cabinet meeting nine months before 9/11 a map of Iraq was brought out and attack strategies were discussed. Most people in the cabinet seemed to know what was going on but no one explained it to O’Neil. We know that Cheney would tell Bush to stay on point at cabinet meetings. The utter confusion and in fighting that marked the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, as well as its occupation, has been written about at great length.

There are several lists and accounts of the statements by various administration spokespeople regarding the war and their conflicting and errant explanations for it. There is little about the administration’s handling of Katrina that is unknown. McClellan’s admonishment of the press for being so malleable is now well trod ground.

Nonetheless, the media acts like this book is a bombshell. This appears to be because of McClellan’s special relationship with the media, not so much the content of what he has to say. This is the guy who told them that the war was justified, who said no one in the White House was involved with any Plame leaks or coverup, who justified the response to Katrina.The media carried this to its readers, listeners and watchers without comment when much of the free world (as well as other parts) knew these statements to be fabrications.

The media’s treatment of this book as sensational puts the media’s obdurately uncritical presentation of what McClellan said in a better light than it deserves. This sensational treatment presupposes that what was going on was not obvious, that anyone would have believed what he said. The truth is that very few people with independent sources of information accepted the administration’s disjointed explanations of events.

To me the interesting thing about this memoir is the media’s self-justifying treatment of it, even when it points to the blinders that were on the media.

The Circle is Unbroken, Now Let’s Move On.

March 21, 2008

We started off with people pretending to be shocked by the views of some on the Christian right whose endorsement McCain coveted. This seemed false to me as their views are old news and McCain has been courting the religious right for a long time now.

Then the media delighted at finding a few moments of video featuring Jeremiah Wright. A spectacle was made of this without any effort at anything but spectacle. That cycle seemed to end when the heavily redacted Clinton papers were released, showing among other things that poor Hillary wasn’t being entirely forthright with us in saying that she has always been against NAFTA. (Turns out she was right beside her husband, not in saying this was being forced on the administration by a Republican Congress, but in claiming that it was a good thing.

Now though, almost like an afterthought, Barbara Ehrenreich, has closed the circle by calling our attention to Clinton’s affiliation with a powerful right wing religious cult.

These pseudo-scandals bring out the dark side of politics and the worst aspect of the media. I hope this latest revelation permits us to refocus on policy.

Philosophical Language

February 20, 2008

I’ve long admired the epiphany created by the Enlightenment and its gallant sallies against the boundaries of understanding, confident that all manner of things could be systematized as tidily and unerringly as Newtonian physics. One of the enterprises undertaken at that time was the creation of the Philosophical Language, inspired by Descartes, Newton and Liebniz’ development of algebra and calculus.

Mathematical statements could be proved to be true or false by the nature of the statement itself. If the mathematical statement didn’t work, if was false. Faulty mathematical logic could be revealed by showing that it did not conform to the system of mathematical rules. It was thought that perhaps language could be constructed along the mathematical model so that only a true statement would be grammatical and better still a false statement could be identified by grammatical irregularity.

Can you imagine such a language! Lie detectors would be replaced by grammarians. Diagramming sentences in grade school would be like an introduction to metaphysics. In conversations our misstatements, untruths and and prevarications would be nakedly apparent to the listener. In my profession juries would be composed of English teachers, if not grammar books.

What would this do to politics? It no doubt would radically transform society, but from what I can discern it would have little effect on politics as we know it. On the eve of our invasion of Iraq for the first time in history there was a massive world wide demonstration against a war before it occurred. It was a demonstration of unprecedented size and scope. Nothing like this had occurred before. There have been demonstration after the fact, but never anything of this scale before the action. The reason it occurred was that accurate information was widely known. Millions of people understood that the war was being justified on trumped up charges. But to the extent that this demonstration is not entirely disregarded, it is shrugged off as meaningless coincidence that an unprecedented global demonstration preceded an invasion about which our leaders at the time claimed moral certainty and now claim to have been misinformed. Accurate information, however, was also available and known to many who supported the invasion, not just those who opposed it. At the very least there was abundant reason to be skeptical of the rush to invasion.

It was deemed politically inadvisable to oppose the invasion and that consideration, and considerations of that sort, determined decision-making at all levels from much of the media to our commander guy. It was not a revelation when it was recently documented that nearly four hundred lies were told by the administration in its pre-invasion build-up. It was simply irrelevant at the time and remains of no consequence.

New Bill to Protect Net Neutrality

February 13, 2008

Representatives Ed Markey and  Chip Pickering I introduced a bill at the U.S. House today, called the Internet Freedom Preservation Act (HR 5353), that would not assure net neutrality but would include favorable provisions into the list of principles that the FCC is required to consider when entertaining the requests of phone and cable companies that they be permitted to charge consumers for access to certain sites.   This sort of “gatekeeping” would fundamentally change the nature of the internet and is ardently opposed by consumer groups..

Another “Mission Accomplished”

February 1, 2008

In 2004 President Bush pledged to bring affordable high speed broad band service to all Americans by 2007 and yesterday he announced that he had accomplished that, pointing to a report prepared by the National Communications and Information Administration, which states that broadband service is now available to 99% of the country’s zip codes. The pledge and the announcement, however, do not match up very well. The word “affordable” appears in th4 pledge but not in the announcement. That’s a little bit like pledging to provide affordable health care to every American, then saying three years later “Look there are hospitals everywhere.”

The Associated Press points out that the U.S. was ranked fourth among nations in broadband service in 2001 and has slide to fifteenth in 2006 according to the Organization for cooperation and Development. (Apparently the presumption is that the slide has continued.) In any case the claim to have reached every zip code doesn’t really mean much and there appear to be no domestic studies identifying the availability of broadband service and the NTIA, which wrote the report, supports the gathering of reliable information on this subject by the FCC. Somehow the need to gather data concerning this presidential priority utterly escaped everyone in the administration.

Critic seems to accept the data that is presently available, showing the the U.S. is lagging far behind other countries. They point out that a significant factor in the relatively low penetration of broadband in the U.S. is due to the relatively high cost here, compared to other countries.

The NTIA celebrates the current state of affairs saying “If you look at the administration policies from the beginning, there’s been a comprehensive set of technology, regulatory and fiscal economic policies that have laid the foundation for the robust competitive environment that we are enjoying today.” It’s just a little unclear who the “we” is.