American Elephants

Michael Crichton on “Environmentalism as Religion” by The Elephant's Child

The late Michael Crichton’s famous speech, “Environmentalism as Religion,”to the Commonwealth Club  in 2003, was widely quoted. He explains why religious approaches to the environment are inappropriate and cause damage to the natural world they intend to protect. Read the whole thing, but  if you haven’t, but here’s a brief excerpt:

The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance.

We must daily decide whether the threats we face are real, whether the solutions we are offered will do any good, whether the problems we’re told exist are in fact real problems, or non-problems. Ever one of us has a sense of the world, and we all know that this sense is in part given to us by what other people and society tell us; in part generated by our emotional state, which we project outward; and in part by our genuine perceptions of reality. In short, our struggle to determine what is true is the struggle to decide which of our perceptions are genuine, and which are false because they are handed down, or sold to us, or generated by our own hopes and fears. …

There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs imbibe.

It was a prescient speech that foretells much of what has happened in the intervening decade. Are we anywhere near to being ready to accept reality and attempt to address it, probably not quite yet. If you haven’t read it, it is worth your time.

The Virtual Town Hall Considers Immigration by The Elephant's Child

Mr. Virtual President Bill Whittle speaks at a Virtual Town Hall about the problem of immigration, and has some important things to say.

Also in the news, the Associated Press has refined their Stylebook to eliminate the phrase “illegal immigrant”. Also “illegal alien,” “an illegal”, “illegals” or “undocumented”).

Back in October of 2012, AP had reaffirmed use of the term “illegal immigrant.” Why do we not say “undocumented immigrants” or “unauthorized immigrants?”

To us, they said, these terms obscure the essential fact that such people are here in violation of the law. It’s simply a legal reality….What they lack is the fundamental right to be in the United States.

Jay Leno considered the AP change and asked why they just don’t consider them “Undocumented Democrats?”

We are deep into a territory where political correctness is so rampant that the language no longer represents reality. If reality is too uncomfortable to face, we shall just change the language that describes it. Like putting a tire patch on a hot air balloon, and hoping it holds.

The Joy of Juxtaposition! by The Elephant's Child

The President of the United States has issued a Proclamation. The Month of April will be National Financial Capability Month, 2013.

All Americans deserve the chance to turn their hard work into a decent living for their families and a bright future for their children. Seizing that opportunity takes more than drive and initiative — it also requires smart financial planning. During National Financial Capability Month, we recommit to empowering individuals and families with the knowledge and tools they need to get ahead in today’s economy.

This is just something that presidents do. I don’t know if there is a proclamation of the month, or only an occasional eruption, but considering the current state of affairs, and the president’s own inability to produce a budget, I found it amusing. One sentence caught my eye:

My Administration continues to encourage responsibility at all levels of our financial system by cracking down on deceptive practices and ensuring that consumers are informed of their rights.

Investors today, points out that “The Obama administration wants banks to lower lending standards, and Fannie and Freddie are back in the black. The stage is set for a replay of some very unpleasant history.”

But the White House seems to remember nothing. The Washington Post summed it up in a Tuesday headline: “Obama administration pushes banks to make home loans to people with weaker credit.”

The story details efforts to assure banks they won’t be penalized — for instance, by losing Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insurance — if they lower their standards and loans then go bad. …

But the political temptation is to go way beyond common sense and throw discipline out the window, all in the name of social justice and growth. From the social-justice side, the current refrain is low-to-middle income Americans are being left out of the recovery in housing.

The Left is remarkably hung-up on Social Justice and inequality. In a splendid essay at the Liberty Law blog, Professor of Economics David C. Rose, says Social Justice theory is “both misguided and dangerous. It is misguided because it regards observed inequality as prima facie evidence of injustice because of insufficient understanding of how a free market economy actually works.  it is dangerous because social justice advocates therefor attempt to solve a moral problem that doesn’t exist and, in so doing, reduce a society’s ability to solve moral problems that really do exist.”

What is the argument for the claim that free market societies naturally and inevitably produce unjust outcomes? This is where social justice theory really falls apart, because it does not, in fact, provide an answer to this question. Instead it simply makes a bald assertion or, worse, it assumes its conclusion into existence by way of tautological reasoning. When social justice advocates see unequal outcomes they simply presume there must have been something unfair along the way to produce them which, of course, would be unjust if it were true. It is certainly hard to quibble with the proposition that one does indeed promote justice when one rectifies unjust outcomes that result from the unfair institutions of an unjust society.

What social justice theory is really about is equality, but that just begs the following question: what, precisely, is so bad about unequal outcomes? I shall now argue that social justice advocates have an answer for this, but they don’t know what it really is and therefore cannot understand why it is wrong. Social justice advocates view inequality of outcomes as sufficient evidence of injustice because they have a very narrow and foolish view of equality that we all naturally find plausible because of our small group moral sensibilities and our hardwired proclivity to be envious.

Do read the whole essay. It’s not long, but rewarding, and it puts the Social Justice theme to bed quite nicely.

Juxtaposition, putting separate things together, particularly in unexpected combinations, can sometimes be more rewarding than any of them separately. This is one of those occasions.

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