Tuesday, January 30, 2007

On global warming: turning their own theories against them

Seriously, I am. I read way too many stories yesterday on the global warming "controversy." Take this post by Digby. Or the report that the Great Barrier Reef will be dead in 20 years. Or the prospect of a serious catastrophe in Algeria.

I'm done trying to explain to every subscriber of National Review exactly why it is that thickening of the center of the Antarctic ice sheet is actually evidence of global warming, rather than a refutation. I'm sick of laying out the evidence once again why this isn't just a "natural fluctuation."

So I'll tell you what I'm going to do next: make them defend themselves to me, using the 1% doctrine.

For those of you who don't know what the "1% doctrine" is, allow me to explain: it's supposedly the foreign policy doctrine conceived by Dick Cheney and can be explained as follows:

In his heralded new book, "The One Percent Doctrine," Ron Suskind writes that Vice President Dick Cheney forcefully stated that the war on terror empowered the Bush administration to act without the need for evidence or extensive analysis.

Suskind describes the Cheney doctrine as follows: "Even if there's just a 1 percent chance of the unimaginable coming due, act as if it is a certainty. It's not about 'our analysis,' as Cheney said. It's about 'our response.' ... Justified or not, fact-based or not, 'our response' is what matters. As to 'evidence,' the bar was set so low that the word itself almost didn't apply."

Now, when I see things in this light, it seriously makes me cringe to see or hear tell of any noble environmentalist fighting the good fight and trying to convince some Republican of the merits of the science of global warming when these same Republicans are basing the core of one of their chief doctrines around the idea that evidence and probability need not apply as factors.

I'm done being scientific and rational. I think it's time to operate on the "fear" principle instead. After all: if your average Republican can continue to justify spending $500 billion and the lives of over 3,000 American soldiers to supposedly justify averting the 1% risk of another September 11th, how much more, then, should we all be willing to spend--or perhaps even sacrifice our lives?--to avert the possibility of seeing Ground Zero under water?

I hear a bunch of conservatives whine and say that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will harm our economy and cause unemployment. You know what? I'm done trying to argue against that point. I'm done trying to argue back and forth about the potential benefits of a technological revolution for American industry. I'm done trying to argue about how much we can reduce the trade deficit. Or how having kids with healthier lungs will put less stress on the healthcare system.

The reason I'm done is because it seems that the Republican mentality is seemingly incapable of either imagining a better world, or wanting to help those of us who can, turn our dreams into reality--and the absolute last thing they're willing to do is be in the least bit conscientious about making the changes that would help create a better world for everyone.

From now on, the next time I hear a conservative lament the effect that the Kyoto protocol, or raising CAFE standards, or any other such admission of responsibility, would do to our economy, I won't try to argue back. I'll just say:

I'd like to see how well the NYSE performs underwater.

You know, normally I'm not prone to overt sensationalism. But dealing with Republicans is kind of like dealing with children. Let me tell you why.

If your kid keeps on making goofy, disturbing faces in the mall, you might start by asking him to stop. If he keeps it up, you'll eventually be moved to explain that it's embarrasssing, that he's making a scene, and all that jazz. But when he keeps it up with even more audacity and vigor than before, you're left with one option: if you keep making faces, it'll get stuck that way.

With some types of people, fear is the only thing they really understand. The only major difference in the analogy is that while we all know the kid's face won't get stuck that way, it's still entirely within the realm of possibility that the NYSE could be under water.

Republicanism is, at its economic heart, a form of collective sociopathy. It is founded in the selfish desire-turned-ideology that every man acting in his own best interest will lead to the best possible world for everyone. What economic Republicanism fears most is the idea of consequences. The idea, in fact, that collective selfishness may have deleterious effects.

For them, global warming cannot be allowed to be true because the fact of anthropogenic climate change--even more so than widespread poverty, massive inequality in wealth distribution, or any other such concern for the well-being of people--is the one thing that destroys their laissez-faire "it'll take care of itself" ideology. Arguing on moral concerns about poverty against an ideology devoted to the morals of amorality is like beating your head against a brick wall.

BUT: something as distinctly impersonal as global warming represents a systemic failure of the laissez-faire Milton Friedman-worshipping Republican economic model, moral concerns notwithstanding. This will never be overcome through logical argument or rational science.

No, the only way it will ever be overcome is through a fear greater than that of any potential restriction on their Friedmanist freedom. So from now on, any denial of global warming will likely not be met by logical argument from me. It will instead be met by the most fear-inducing things I can think of that can still be counted as legitimate potential consequences.

Believing in inaction on global warming now is tantamount to believing that if we had known about 9/11, we shouldn't have done anything about it until the hijackers were already on the plane.

Cheney's 1% doctrine wouldn't stand for that about terrorism. So why should we stand for it about global warming?

Enjoy your beachfront property in Vegas.

Monday, January 29, 2007

It was every German's patriotic duty.

[Cross-posted from my diary on DailyKos]

This may surprise many of you, but I used to be extremely active in an online gaming clan.

I don't really have very much time for that any more. But during the months leading up to the 2004 elections, I used to be very active in my clan's message boards, activities, and what not. Given the fact that we had an election looming, the admins put up a forum called "The Senate"--a special discussion board entirely for political conversations.

We eventually had to shut The Senate down because it was generating too much rancor--we had our fair share of progressives in the clan, but most of the officers were really conservative. There was one exchange, however, that best exemplifies to me why this occupation is still going on, and why the right wing noise machine continues to support it and claim the public supports it, despite the widespread disapproval from the public.

It shocked me when I first heard it, and it'll shock you too. But it does have some explanatory power.

I voiced my disagreements with the invasion of Iraq long before it was popular to do so. During one thread on Iraq in my clan's Senate forum, I voiced my disagreements with the invasion chiefly on geopolitical grounds. I got the responses I expected from many of the right-wingers: "If you don't like the country you should leave it" and "if you disagree with the war it means you're unpatriotic."

I didn't bother to rebut to the first response, but the second response came from the founder of the clan, so I decided it would be worth discussing. So I posed a "gotcha" question in response:

In that case, was it every German's patriotic duty to support Hitler's wars of aggression in the 1930's?

The response I was expecting back in return was that the situations weren't at all comparable, and how dare I compare the United States with Nazi Germany, or something to that effect. But that's not the response I received. No, the response I got instead was startling, shocking, and gives some insight into why this occupation won't just go away:

Yes, in fact, it WAS the obligation of every German to support its country's wars. It's the only patriotic thing to do.

Now, it's really hard to imagine someone saying of their own free will that anyone had a patriotic duty to support Hitler--but it's perfectly representative of the mentality that enables the current administration and its supporters to keep on believing what they believe. For these people, triumphal allegiance to and solidarity with a source of power is more important than the truth.

But you might raise an objection. You might say that the same people that are cheerleading the failing occupation in Iraq are the same ones that showed their apparent lack of patriotism by failing to support Clinton's actions in Kosovo. And you'd be right.

The difference is only in the fact that it's their team. And when you combine the fact that it's their team with the fact that their team is actually in power, you begin to understand how totalitarianism can happen in a country--because it doesn't matter how wrong they do--if they're on your team, they can do no wrong.

And if it supports their increasingly untenable position, they'll go so far as to say that if we had been German in 1935, we should have supported Hitler all the way.

There remains only one solution--just as there was only one solution to deal with supporters of the Nazi regime. Expose their crimes to the light of day, and marginalize in word and deed anyone who continues to support their extremist, failed policies. It won't end until they're out of power, no matter how much pressure we put.

And if the exposure in question results in sufficient traction for impeachment, don't get me wrong--I'm all for it.