Unabomber or Unapapa?

Anyone remember the good old days when you couldn’t tell the difference between the Unabomber’s manifesto “Industrial Society and Its Future” and Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance? There was even an online quiz you could flunk. (Though to remind everyone once again, both owed more to Heidegger.)

Well, it’s time to rerun that drill with Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment. Which is exactly what Colby Cosh does in Canada’s National Post:

Non-Catholics responded positively to the Pope’s tweetstorm because he seemed to be taking a firm position on climate change, and the letter certainly does that. But the head of the Catholic religion turns out to be no more capable of expressing himself compactly on one important issue than is the typical adherent of the Environmentalist religion.

The climate is a “common good,” says the Pope, and there is “a very solid scientific consensus” that it is changing in “disturbing” ways. Hooray for Science Pope! But before you know it he is weighing in on drinking water. “…in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market.” It turns out this is bad, even though almost any economist alive would instantly apply a red pencil and several question marks to that “despite.” . . .

“The idea of promoting a different cultural paradigm and employing technology as a mere instrument is nowadays inconceivable. The technological paradigm has become so dominant that it would be difficult to do without its resources and even more difficult to utilize them without being dominated by their internal logic. It has become countercultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same.”

Pure Kaczynski, yeah? The next sentence could easily be “So that’s why I moved to a cabin in the woods and started mailing bombs to scientists.” Let me give you another: Unabomber or Unapapa?

“The system does not and cannot exist to satisfy human needs. Instead, it is human behaviour that has to be modified to fit the needs of the system. This has nothing to do with the political or social ideology that may pretend to guide the technological system. It is the fault of technology, because the system is guided not by ideology but by technical necessity. Of course the system does satisfy many human needs, but generally speaking it does this only to the extent that it is to the advantage of the system to do it. It is the needs of the system that are paramount, not those of the human being.”

That one’s Ted — or have I switched them? No, despite the stylistic similarities, the parallel quotes, which could be multiplied greatly, does reveal a weakness in my insolent comparison. The Pope is an optimist, and thinks technology can be tamed if human hearts turn to Christ in time. Kaczynski thinks the problems involved in technological progress are inherent. He specifically argues that they cannot be solved by religion, real or contrived.

“The haters are still here”

The Clarion Project has just posted “The world stayed silent” (video below, here on YouTube). Clarion asks that we share the link and help the video go viral.

I don’t necessarily like argument by juxtaposition, but I think this film briefly makes a compelling case — a better case than Vera Brittain’s in the big-budget film version of Testament of Youth.

Today’s Greek Chorus

In no particular order:

• Remember the famous Fox Butterfield headline in the New York Times: “Crime Keeps on Falling, But Prisons Keep on Filling”?  Well yesterday the Times outdid itself with an early edition headline on the Greek crisis:

“Trillions Spent, But Crises Like Greece’s Persist.”

Gee: I wonder if there’s a connection? Maybe someone can ask Fox Butterfield. One wonders what the Times headline will be when it finally runs out of money and Carlos Slim buys the remaining husk from the Sulzbergers for a dollar. (The headline was changed in later editions and I can’t find a hot link to the original.)

• Did Greece blink this morning? There is talk crossing the news wires that Greece may cancel or postpone its scheduled referendum on the proposed bailout terms, probably because the leftist government has figured out that it may lose the referendum and thereby lose what little bargaining leverage it has left.  Reuters reports just now:

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has told international creditors Athens could accept their bailout offer if some conditions were changed, but Germany said it could not negotiate while Greece was headed for a referendum on the aid-for-reforms deal.

In exchange for the conditional acceptance, the leftist leader, who has so far urged Greeks to reject the bailout terms in a referendum planned for Sunday, asked for a 29 billion euro loan to cover all its debt service payments due in the next two years.

With queues forming at many cash machines a day after Greece became the first advanced economy to default on the IMF, and signs that supplies of bank notes were running low, Tsipras has been under growing political pressure to reach a deal.

Global financial markets reacted remarkably calmly to the widely anticipated Greek default, strengthening the hand of hardline euro zone partners who say Athens cannot use the threat of contagion to weaker European sovereigns as a bargaining chip.

• Greek citizens might be figuring out something simple: A guaranteed government pension check isn’t worth very much if you can only get 60 Euros out of the bank. Maybe people in Illinois will figure this out . . . some day.

• Speaking of Illinois, last night Chicago managed to scrape together $634 million due to the teachers’ pension fund, but Mayor Rahmbo suggested that thousands of layoffs in the Chicago school system may be required:

In the same email containing the Ruiz statement, CPS officials said 1,400 positions “will be impacted beginning Wednesday.” They declined to answer questions about what that meant. . .”School will start, but our ability to hold the impact of finances away from the classroom, that’s going to change,” Emanuel said. But the mayor declined to say whether such a breaking point would lead to teacher layoffs or increased class sizes.

Like Greek pensioners, I’m sure Chicago citizens will be just delighted that their retired teachers have it easy while their kids are packed 40 to a classroom.

Where did the money come from to make the payment?  The Chicago Tribune notes ominously:

Both Emanuel’s administration and CPS did not respond to questions on what funds, what borrowing or what combination of the two the district tapped to fulfill the payment. In a brief statement, interim schools CEO Jesse Ruiz would only say that borrowing was involved.

Maybe they got the money from the European Union—yet another public union sucking the productive economy dry.

Testamentary incapacity

Vera Brittain was the English writer whose memoir Testament of Youth (the first of three such memoirs by her) became an immediate best-seller upon its publication in Great Britain in 1933. Brittain wrote of her experience working as a nurse tending to the wounded in World War I and the tragic deaths of of her brother as well as her fiancee and friends in the conflict. The book has remained in print ever since its original publication. In 1936 Brittain publicly avowed her pacifism.

The publication of Brittain’s memoir in 1933 perfectly coincided with the temper of the times. In January the Oxford Union voted 275-153 to approve the motion: “That this House refuses in any circumstances to fight for King and Country.” The motion became known as the Oxford oath.

Winston Churchill was not amused. While others counseled that it be dismissed as youthful folly, he declined to ignore the proceedings at Oxford. Rather, he presciently declared it “a very disquieting and disgusting symptom” and proceeded to explain why it troubled him (as Martin Gilbert puts it in The Prophet of Truth):

My mind turns across the narrow waters of [the] Channel and the North Sea, where great nations stand determined to defend their national glories or national existence with their lives. I think of Germany, with its splendid clear-eyed youths marching forward on all the roads of the Reich singing their ancient songs, demanding to be conscripted into an army; eagerly seeking the most terrible weapons of war; burning to suffer and die for their fatherland. I think of Italy, with her ardent Fascisti, her renowned Chief, and stern sense of national duty. I think of France, anxious, peace-loving, pacifist to the core, but armed to the teeth and determined to survive as a great nation in the world.

One can almost feel the curl of contempt upon the lips of the manhood of these peoples when they read this message sent out by Oxford University in the name of young England.

In the (beautifully) filmed and moving (if slow) version of her memoir released last week (trailer below), Brittain’s announcement of her pacifism is presented as the glorious culmination of her experience. Nothing that has happened between then and now deters BBC Films and its partners from peddling Brittain’s pacifism straight. The film ends with her declaration opposing war, followed by text attesting to the success of her book before the credits roll.

I can’t even find a review that takes up the rest of the story, or that supplies any context that might detract from Brittain’s “testament.” The necessary changes being made, Churchill’s comments still apply, but we have to return to Churchill on our own.

Hillary’s high anxiety

The Daily Mail’s David Martosko takes a bemused look at the subset of surviving Hillary Clinton emails released yesterday. Martosko hits all the highlights.

Martosko notes, for example: “Despite the collective shock inside the D.C. beltway when news surfaced that Clinton had a secret email account, many of Washington’s most influential Democrats were already in on it. Political operative David Axelrod had her email address almost from the start, but claimed just weeks ago that he was unaware of it. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel wrote to her at the now-infamous ‘[email protected]’”

One senses that the destroyed emails dealt with more important subjects than this survivor: “‘Pls call Sarah and ask her if she can get me some iced tea,’ one message read.” Martosko also notes that Bill and Hillary kept each each apprised of their doings via aides. He draws the inference that they might not be on the closest personal terms.

The email below is a hit on Twitter. It demonstrates Madam Hillary’s high anxiety about her omission from a Cabinet meeting she only heard about on the radio. Business Insider provides the relevant email chain explaining why she needn’t have worried here.

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Martosko derives much hilarity from the emails. I am afraid, however, that the joke is on us.

Wisconsin’s shame, cont’d

We used to laugh along with Tom Wolfe when he mocked the left’s routine invocation of fascism in America. Quoting Jean-Francois Revel, Wolfe observed that the “dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe” (more here).

We’re not laughing now. Now it’s not so funny. Now we’re a little worried.

In part, we have Jonah Goldberg to thank for that. In part, we have political developments in the Age of Obama.

We have, for example, the John Doe investigation of conservative groups to punish and suppress their support of Governor Walker in Wisconsin. The Wall Street Journal has been reporting on the state’s John Doe probe, which hit dozens of conservative groups with subpoenas in October 2013 while silencing them with a secrecy order. The subpoenas and accompanying raids were the continuation of a single-cloth investigation stretching back to May 2010.

David French reported on the raids in the NR article “Wisconsin’s shame.” Cindy Archer is one of the victims of the raids. She writes in today’s Wall Street Journal that she has filed suit against Milwaukee County Prosecutor John Chisolm to protest the investigation. “I fear his retaliation, given what I know of his methods,” she writes, “but the Chisholm campaign against me that began at dawn on Sept. 14, 2011, requires a legal response to discourage the prosecutor’s continued abuse of his office.” (Ms. Archer’s wall Street Journal column is accessible here via Google.)

The latest disclosures out of the Wisconsin investigations evoke Orwell. M.D. Kittle reports:

Democrat Milwaukee County prosecutors tapped the email and text communications of conservative activists as part of a five-year probe aimed at bringing down Republican Gov. Scott Walker, affidavits reviewed by Wisconsin Watchdog reveal.

One target of the spying operation told Wisconsin Watchdog the methods used to keep tabs on Wisconsin residents were like those of the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program.

“It was actually worse because (Milwaukee County prosecutors) were taking the body of emails and looking at actual data,” said the source, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution from the prosecutors.

“The (documents) reveal just how far they went,” the source said. “These warrants reached well beyond what could be seen as real targets.”

Whole thing here.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds comments: “This was a serious abuse of power for the most craven of political reasons. John Chisholm and his minions should end up broke, unemployable, and possibly in jail. As an example to the others.” Elizabeth Price Foley has more on Archer’s lawsuit.

Looks Like We Called Greece Right

Two weeks ago we posted our first ever “Monday Morning Briefing” for Power Line VIP subscribers, which we hastened to add later may not appear always on Monday, and may be closer to “bi-weekly,” since bi-weekly is ambiguous: is that twice a week or every other week?  Just like everything else bi, isn’t it? (And I promised my mom long ago that I’d never be bi-anything. . .)

Anyway, our first ever briefing was a prediction that the Greek crisis was coming soon to a head, and would send the stock market tumbling. Okay, not a hard prediction to make, but the wrinkle I discuss about the IMF remains to be played out I think.

I’ve decided to post the briefing here on the main site, so you can see what you’re missing by not being a Power Line VIP subscriber! Though I hasten to add that the format, style, and content of these briefings are a work in progress. Still—another good reason to become A VIP subscriber