Monday, April 30, 2007

Is it “racist” to describe yourself as “British”?

Some of the great and the good in Britain seem to think so. Below is an article from October 2000, originally in “The Guardian” which summarizes a semi-official British report to that effect. Following the “Guardian article are some comments from a Reuters article that is now offline

‘British’ a term of coded racism, says report

Home Secretary declares patriotism should not be left to the far right

The term “British” has racial connotations and will no longer serve as a description of the UK’s multicultural society, a report by an influential thinktank said last week. Its conclusion that the UK should be formally recognised as a multicultural society whose history needs to be “revised, rethought or jettisoned” attracted fierce criticism from Conservative MPs, who said it was an affront to the “native British” who needed to stand up for themselves. But Labour ministers have promised to study its findings in detail and are likely to give it a warm welcome.

The Runnymede Trust-sponsored Commission into the Future of Multi-ethnic Britain, chaired by Lord Parekh, a Labour peer and political scientist, also suggests it is time to review the privileged position of the Anglican church in public life, and to take measures to boost the number of black and Asian faces in parliament.

But it is a short section on “the future of Britishness” in the wide-ranging 400-page report that has sparked most controversy. It says devolution, the Good Friday peace agreement and globalisation have undermined the notion of Britishness.

It rejects “Englishness” as an alternative: “To be English, as the term is in practice used, is to be white. Britishness is not ideal, but at least it appears acceptable, particularly when suitably qualified - Black British, Indian British, British Muslim and so on.

“However, there is one major and so far insuperable barrier. Britishness, as much as Englishness, has systematic, largely unspoken, racial connotations. Whiteness nowhere features as an explicit condition of being British, but it is widely understood that Englishness, and therefore by extension Britishness is racially coded.”

The report points out that it has been said, “there ain’t no black in the union jack,” and there is an assumption that whiteness and Britishness go together like roast beef and yorkshire pudding.

The failure to include in schools a rewritten history of Britain as an imperial force involving dominance in Ireland, Africa, the Caribbean and Asia is proving to be a disaster, the report claims. It argues that racial and cultural differences have been “written out of the national story”.

The report calls for the establishment of a human rights commission, action on discriminatory police stop-and-search policies, and the scrapping of the voucher system for asylum seekers. It says it is also time to review the connections between church and state. Such a review would have to look at how other religions are discriminated against in “customs related to civic religion, for example daily prayers at Westminster and various religious ceremonies, including memorial events, in local government; the law of blasphemy; and the coronation oath”.

The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, blamed the lack of patriotism of the political left for allowing the modern British identity to be seen as “narrow, exclusionary and conservative”. Mr Straw declared himself proud to be British. The challenge now, he said, was to meld the enormous range of races, accents and attitudes into a single shared identity. “This is made even more difficult by the way those on the left turned their backs on the concept of patriotism and left the field to those on the far right. Unlike the Runnymede Trust, I firmly believe there is a future for Britain and a future for Britishness.”

Mr Straw said George Orwell’s observation 50 years ago that in leftwing circles it was felt that there was something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman still applied today. “Orwell wrote that ‘it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during God Save The King than of stealing from the poor box’.

“Given the tendency of some of the left to wash their hands of the whole notion of nationhood, it is perhaps not surprising that some people’s perception of Englishness and Britishness became a narrow, exclusionary, conservative one. That’s a view of Britishness that I don’t recognise,” Mr Straw added. “We all benefit, economically and socially, from our diversity and difference.”

Gerald Howarth, the Tory MP for Aldershot and a member of the Commons home affairs select committee, said the report represented social engineering on a massive scale. “It is an extraordinary affront to the 94% of the population which is not from ethnic minorities. The native British must stand up for themselves.”

Lord Tebbit, the former Tory party chairman, claimed the greatest conflicts in the world were the product of multicultural societies such as Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka and the former Soviet Union. “Since no one is being held hostage in this kingdom, and those who arrived recently have come to get away from their own countries and enjoy the benefits of this country, the best way forward is integration rather than separation into cultural ghettoes,” he said.

Lord Parekh said his commission wanted to redefine what it means to be British. There is a very important role for a common national culture and a common civic nationality,” he said. “But we are requesting that this common culture needs to be discussed and renegotiated. It does not imply that it is not a coherent idea.”

Too often minority ethnic groups were seen at best as “welcome tenants”, not as common owners of the country. “The British national identity should be so defined that we all feel comfortable with it and we all feel proud to be British,” he said.

(Above article by Alan Travis, The Guardian Weekly, October 19, 2000)

Think tank ridiculed for 'Britishness' racism claim

Politicians and racial equality groups joined forces on Wednesday to ridicule a report by an influential think tank saying the terms "British" and "Britishness" were racist and needed replacing or qualifying. Even Prime Minister Tony Blair criticised the authors of the report for allowing "themselves, willingly or unwillingly, to have the whole debate (on national identity) skewed," his official spokesman told reporters.

The Commission into the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain's report argued that because English people are generally white, the term British was perceived to imply the same and so ignored the country's ethnic mix. The report -- which also said the United Kingdom's history books needed rewriting because race differences had been "written out of the national story" -- prompted widespread disbelief and derision.

"Britishness, as much as Englishness, has systematic, largely unspoken, racial connotations," an extract of the report published in the press said. "It is widely understood that Englishness and therefore by extension Britishness is racially coded." "There ain't no black in the Union Jack," it added, parodying a nationalist racist slogan and going on to criticise the government's asylum policy for creating "racial and ethnic divisions".

Defending the report, slammed as "scaremongering" and "politically correct garbage", Commission chairman Lord Parekh said Britain also needed to acknowledge its multi- religious as well as multi-ethnic mix. "There is no standard norm of being British. We often say in parliamentary debates Britain is a Christian society," he told BBC radio. "Now what could that possibly mean?" "We do say Britain is a multi-ethnic society, but we find it difficult to say Britain is also a multi-religious society or if you like a multi-national society...It is about time we defined British in an inclusive and plural kind of way."

Home Secretary Jack Straw, who launched the report, sought to play down the controversy it had sparked, saying the concept of Britishness was already "an inclusive plural one". "I am proud to be English and proud to be British," he said. "For a small island, we encompass an enormous range or races, accents and attitudes."

But British Racial Equality Commissioner Raj Chandran said the 400-page report sponsored by the Runnymede Trust -- a think tank which investigates religious and racial issues -- would dent race relations, not help them. "I am not impressed at all by this," said Chandran "It is...scaremongering." "(Parekh) is make himself feel British. Most of us in the race issue at the moment are immigrants born abroad. As I see it, this report is going to damage good race relations."

Others said the think tank's proposal that the United Kingdom's history needed to be "revised, rethought or jettisoned", was an affront to the vast majority of Britons. "(The report) is politically correct garbage," said Conservative MP Gerald Howarth. "It is an extraordinary affront to the 94 percent of the population which is not from ethnic minorities. The native British must stand up for themselves."

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Australia has a Green rev-head!

A Greens MP is reconsidering his request for taxpayers to provide him with a gas-guzzling parliamentary car. Michael Organ, who was elected to Federal Parliament last month, originally wanted a $40,000 supercharged Holden Commodore S which drinks 12 litres per 100km.

But after questioning by reporters Mr Organ, the MP for the Wollongong-based seat of Cunningham, decided the sporty six-cylinder sedan might not be the best vehicle for someone elected on an environmental platform.

Federal parliamentarians can choose from the Commodore Executive, Acclaim, Berlina, standard S or the supercharged S version. In May, Special Minister of State Eric Abetz also approved the use of the new eco-friendly Toyota Prius. Senator Abetz said the Japanese-made Prius was fitted with a revolutionary new petrol/electric powerplant. "It has the performance of a standard sedan, but gets a remarkable 4.6 litres per 100km on city cycle," he said.

Mr Organ originally justified his choice of the supercharged Holden, saying he wanted a "safe and economical" car because of all the travelling he would have to do between Canberra and his home near Wollongong. Mr Organ, who has been temporarily issued with a Ford Falcon, said the term "supercharged" was "unfortunate" "I need a good safe car that's going to be efficient," he said. "I am already doing a lot of travelling and I just wanted a nice safe Australian car."

A few hours later, he said he had reconsidered and would ask for an LPG-powered sedan. "As you know, I have been a bit of a rev-head in the past," he said. "I am reconsidering. With all the pollution, we have to think about these things."

The Australian Democrats' Greg Barns said a Greens MP choosing the supercharged S model was "gross hypocrisy". "What it demonstrates is that the Greens tend to represent a rag-bag of views with no consistency," Mr Barns said.

Mr Organ won the formerly safe-Labor seat of Cunningham at a by-election forced by the sudden resignation of Stephen Martin. A combination of anti-ALP sentiment and environmental concerns led to the defeat of Labor candidate Sharon Bird.

(From the "Sunday Mail" of Dec. 29, 2002)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Lazy British police

A man who caught a youth breaking into his garden shed successfully brought his own prosecution yesterday after police failed to act.

David Asher's 18-month fight for justice resulted in the boy, 14 at the time of the offence, being convicted of burglary with intent to steal. The district judge in the case described it as "unfortunate in the extreme" that the police had decided to take no action when faced with an implausible explanation by the suspect on the night.

Mr Asher, 49, a computer programmer, of Sable Crest, Bradford, West Yorks, managed to hang on to the intruder until police arrived despite being pelted with bricks by two accomplices. The boy was arrested, but several witnesses were never interviewed and statements in the case were not passed on to the Crown Prosecution Service.

When Mr Asher was told the suspect had been released because of insufficient evidence he demanded to know the youth's identity. He was told that they were prevented from doing so under the Data Protection Act until he managed to convince them they were wrong.

The youth, now 16, was finally dealt with at Bradford Youth Court yesterday when he denied the offence. He claimed that he had been taking a short cut through Mr Asher's garden and went into the shed to get out of the rain.

District Judge Roy Anderson imposed a six-month conditional discharge and ordered the boy's parents to pay 150 pounds towards costs.

(From January 23, 2003)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Doomsayers should stick to the facts

By economist ALAN WOOD

A fog of green hysteria has descended over the global warming debate -- at home and abroad

Playwright David Williamson has taken the odd shot in his time at political correctness, but he is a zealous convert, it seems, to the new green religion. Williamson's Australia Day oration is laced with the usual green litany of looming disaster: powerful corporations in the US and Europe run the world; growth is god; galloping GNP growth means a galloping rate of increase in the rate at which the world's resources are consumed and a galloping rate of increased pollution and environmental degradation.

He accepts uncritically that the severity of the current drought and bushfires is partly due to global warming, and thinks worse is to come, thanks largely to President George W.Bush's refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. ``In effect he's declared that if there's a choice between slowing economic growth rates in the US and increasing floods, droughts, fires, cyclones and rising sea levels over the rest of the world, then to hell with the rest of world,'' according to Williamson. There are, however, some things about Australians Williamson likes -- our black sardonic humour, our energy, our directness and honesty, our hatred of pretentiousness. Any country with a keen eye for spotting wankers has to be way ahead of countries where the aforesaid activity is a prerequisite for social and political success, he says.

If Williamson was watching television on Australia Day morning he might have seen a program made by an Australian with all the characteristics he admires -- Phillip Sawyer, a retired abalone fisherman. Called In Flinders Wake, it was ostensibly the story of the mapping of the coast of South Australia by Matthew Flinders and French explorer Nicolas Baudin. But Sawyer, who gained a BSc before he went fishing, made it much more than that. His program was a celebration of the values of confidence and optimism in the future held by Flinders, the scientific community of his time and all the pioneers (such as Sawyer's own family) that followed them. He fears these values and the spirit of progress they embodied are being threatened by a green religion that focuses not on progress but on an apocalyptic spectre of environmental doom and a static paradigm of sustainability.

A long-time Labor Party member and activist, Sawyer sent a video of the program (which was made last year) to the Hawke-Wran review of the ALP, with a warning. Those in the ALP who saw the green movement as progressive were wrong. The green agenda often meant the extinction of workers' jobs and lifestyles, the greens were often unscientific and in fact antiscientific, and the movement ``was shot through with Trots and New Age religious freaks who used pseudo-science to bluff politicians and journalists, who don't know any science''. As a fisherman, Sawyer no doubt has first-hand experience of what uncritical acceptance of the green agenda by Labor can mean for jobs, just as timber workers have. He sees it as a battle between green science and green religion. His faith in science is a touch naive.

Scientists are among the leading preachers of the new green gospel. This has become disgracefully evident in the debate over a book by a Danish statistician, Bjorn Lomborg. The book -- The Skeptical Environmentalist (Cambridge University Press, 2001) -- sets out, using mainstream data sources such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the UN, to test the various claims made about the deteriorating world environment made by the greens.

He finds many of these claims don't stand up. The world isn't running out of energy or natural resources, poverty has been reduced more in the past 50 years than the previous 500, air pollution has declined, less people are starving and food is more plentiful. Lomborg's aim is to ensure that important policy choices are made on the basis of the best available information. An example he gives is that economic analyses show it would be far more expensive to cut carbon dioxide emissions radically than to pay the costs of adaptation to higher temperatures. While Kyoto would have negligible impact on climate change, the cost to the US per year of implementing it could provide access to basic health, education, water and sanitation for everyone.

Lomborg invites debate about the statistics and the claims he makes based on them, but what he has got in return is assertion and abuse, not objective examination of his claims. The latest outrage is a finding by a body known as the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty that Lomborg's book ``falls within the concept of scientific dishonesty''. This curiously medieval sounding body has behaved much like an inquisition. Its inquiry was at the urging of some scientists who had already attacked Lomborg in the journal Scientific American last year. The DCSD made no attempt to check the validity of Lomborg's findings, nor does it offer any example of dishonesty or distortion. Instead it simply reproduces a summary of the articles in the Scientific American. It virtually ignored Lomborg's detailed reply to those articles.

Patrick Moore, a co-founder and a former international director of Greenpeace, called that reply brilliant, and went on to attack the unbridled conceit of the extreme environmental movement. ``They are convinced the world is coming to an end and no amount of facts or statistics will sway them from their self-righteous dogmatism,'' he said. The Economist has called the panel's ruling shameful and incompetent, as it is. So far Lomborg's criticism of the greens' litany of doom remains far more substantial than any of the attacks on it. And the available evidence is that economic growth in the developed world leads to environmental improvement and in the developing world to less poverty and starvation.

The above article originally appeared on Jan. 28 2003

Thursday, April 26, 2007

An AIDS vaccine for blacks and Asians only

NEW YORK - This morning, Brisbane, Calif.-based VaxGen unveiled the results of the first AIDS vaccine to finish human clinical trials. Overall, the HIV vaccine didn't work. But it does seem to have been effective in blacks and Asians, a finding that is sure to stir up controversy.

Already, expectations for VaxGen's AIDSVax were somewhat lowered: The bar of success had been placed at reducing infections by a mere 30%. But the 3,000 volunteers who received the vaccine were only 3.8% less likely to be infected with HIV than 1,500 volunteers who received only the placebo. That small benefit could occur purely by chance.

But the results were stunningly different among the 314 black volunteers, who saw their rate of infection reduced by a whopping 78%. When Asian and black volunteers were lumped together, the reduction was 67%. But because these results came from such small subsets of the study, it is still somewhat difficult to be sure of the results. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration might not be willing to put a vaccine on the market based on such limited data.

How skimpy is the data? A few more patients getting the disease in the black subgroup would have completely changed the results. Moreover, this particular vaccine would not be effective in sub-Saharan Africa, where AIDS has been most devastating. It targets a strain of the HIV virus that is predominant only in Europe and Asia.

Why would an AIDS vaccine work along racial lines? Geneticists have tried to have it both ways when it comes to genetic diversity. Companies like Myriad Genetics and DeCode Genetics have tried to use particular populations to find genes linked to disease. At the same time, many prominent geneticists, including those who mapped the human genome, have publicly said that genetic differences, especially those that occur along racial lines, don't amount to much.

But there are genes that are more likely to occur in Europeans, who are descended from a relatively tiny population that made its way up the continent, than in Africans. (There is also far more genetic diversity in Africa than anywhere else.) And sometimes these genes are medically important enough that guessing at their presence based on skin color is worthwhile to some doctors. For instance, some blood pressure medicines tend not to work as well in African-Americans as in Caucasians.

VaxGen, however, says that blacks and Asians also had higher elevations of antibodies against the proteins in AIDSVax. That could mean there is a genetic difference that determines whether the vaccine works, and that an assay might measure how effective the vaccine is in a particular patient. On its conference call today, VaxGen spoke about finding such an assay. That would be a step in the right direction to making this vaccine usable.

In a prepared statement, VaxGen co-founder, President and Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Donald Francis said, "The results from this groundbreaking effort will provide new insights into HIV and hopefully pave the way to ever more effective vaccines." The depressing thing for VaxGen investors is that the next effective vaccine could very well come from Aventis or Merck, both of which are working to develop their own AIDS vaccines.

AIDS activists have plenty to be sad about as well. The dream of a widely usable AIDS vaccine just slipped a little further away. At the same time, Roche and Trimeris announced that, at least in Europe, their widely anticipated AIDS drug Fuzeon would cost about $20,000 a year--twice as much as many currently available treatments. The companies explain the high price by saying that the drug is expensive to make.

(This article from Feb 24, 2003 is still up on Forbes but Google does not have it and it seems to have been totally forgotten. The company that made the vaccine has now just about gone broke)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


A lazy, gluttonous loser who often tries to strangle his son has been voted the world's best father. How has Homer Simpson become Everyman?

By Bryan Appleyard (Originally written April, 2002)

His social security number is 568-47-0008. He lives at 742 Evergreen Terrace, Springfield. The state is unknown but internal evidence suggests it lies to the west of the Mississippi. His favourite foods, based on the number of times he has referred to them, are: burgers, hot dogs, pizza, chocolate, beer, doughnuts, sprinkles, pancakes, beer nuts and free goo. His weight fluctuates between 110kg and 120kg.

Born on May 12, 1956, he was raised by his father, Abraham, who struggled unsuccessfully to compensate for the absence of his mother, who had run away to be a full-time hippie. He graduated at the bottom of his high school class. After school, he was more or less unemployable, but he ended up as a safety officer at Springfield's nuclear power plant, owing to an insane misjudgment by its decrepit owner, the evil Montgomery Burns. There he won a special award for remaining at entry-level grade longer than any other employee.

He tried various business enterprises -- telemarketing, fraud, door-to-door salesman for Slash-Co knives, selling sugar salvaged from a crashed sugar truck, managing a country music star, snow remover, selling grease, selling rides on his son's elephant, selling tickets to see his daughter's angel and so on. And he tried various other jobs - bowling alley clerk, car designer, astronaut, mini-golf attendant, team mascot, boxer, blackjack dealer and so on. But all failed.

He drinks too much, eats too much and his inner life is entirely dominated by beer, doughnuts, television and periodic bouts of drooling lust, especially when women's beach volleyball is on the sports channel.

The one success in his life was the wooing and winning of his high school sweetheart, Marge Bouvier, with whom he has three children. She was pregnant when they married and they had to cross the state line to get to Shotgun Pete's wedding chapel. Despite temptations on both sides, he has always remained true to Marge and she to him. She is dumb, but virtuous. Everybody knows she is too good for him. Everybody except Marge.

His brilliant daughter Lisa humiliates him, he frequently tries to strangle his son, Bart, and he is only occasionally aware of the existence of his baby Maggie. Yet he loves his children to distraction.

He still believes in God, a vast white-bearded figure with five fingers on each hand as opposed to the four possessed by all the other characters, and God, in spite of everything, believes in him. For this is Homer Simpson, our age's Everyman and one of the most vivid, brilliant fictional creations of our time.

In a poll of British children conducted by Woolworths, he was voted best dad in the world. Across the world, the gormless face and globular body of this fat, gluttonous, yellow-skinned oaf appears on T-shirts, oven gloves and car windscreen cleaners.

Rubber Homer dolls are pinned by four suction cups to windows from Adelaide to Tokyo. As a global brand, he is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. His sayings are immortalised in books and on Internet "random quote generators". His philosophy is analysed by academics, and his connection to God inspires clergymen. Psychologists dissect his relationship to his children. Rupert Murdoch, Stephen Hawking and just about every Hollywood star are happy to be drawn alongside him. Al Gore wanted to be, but they wouldn't let him. And Homer himself has a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood.

THIS MALODOROUS FLOP, THIS SLY, work-shy, cowardly loser is a superstar. Homer Simpson is an icon, an emblem, a distillation of ... what? What exactly is it about Homer?

He was never meant to be the hero of The Simpsons. Matt Groening, the show's creator, had roughly modelled the family on his own and had conceived of his own alter ego, the son, Bart, as the central character. Early marketing of the show made his intentions clear. Bart's catchlines - "Eat my shorts", "Don't have a cow, man", "Underachiever and proud of it"- were those of the show as a whole.

The idea was that this was a children's show designed to annoy and, therefore, attract adults. But this was a limited objective that caused problems for the writing team. "As time goes on," says David Silverman, an animation director, "it gets more difficult to do episodes based on Bart. How many times can you say, 'Hey, that's another Barty thing he's done'? Homer is a more varied character. He gives you more avenues."

"There's just so many layers to Homer," says the executive producer Mike Scully. It was also clear that more adults were watching and that even the children were more drawn to Homer than Bart. This was, in part, because Homer had become a nicer guy than originally intended. In the first episodes he was a harsh, crude, unsympathetic character. But the voice didn't quite fit. Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer, had initially copied the growl of Walter Matthau. "It was the shape of the mouth", he said. "I started with Walter Matthau and dropped deeper naturally -- now I believe I'll be Homer until I die"

The voice was warm and vulnerable and it made Homer warm and vulnerable. He would exclaim "D'oh!" when things went wrong. This was originally just scripted as "an annoyed grunt" but Castellaneta adapted his interpretation from the slightly longer version - "Doooooh!" - often heard in Laurel and Hardy films. It was perfect. Not only did it enter the Oxford English Dictionary, it also became our age's version of the universal human cry against the perversity and intransigence of the world. Like Job, Homer knew that man was born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards, but, also like Job, he couldn't silence his anguished protest.

Yet, unlike Job, Homer is not an upright and virtuous man. He is, on the face of it, the paternal role model from hell. The achievement of which he is proudest is discovering a meal between breakfast and brunch. Cigarettes are about the only vice he doesn't have. Advising Bart, he says: "If you don't like your job, you don't strike. You just go in every day and do it really half-assed. That's the American way."

And again to Bart: "Remember, son, the trick to avoiding jury duty is to say you're prejudiced against all races." Raising a can of Duff beer, he toasts: "To alcohol. The cause of - and solution to - all of life's problems." He calls his TV set his "teacher, mother, secret lover". Merely the mention of fatty food or the sight of the volleyball players can start gobbets of saliva dribbling from his lower lip.

He is, we are repeatedly told, physically unpleasant. He smells, as Marge's two sisters keep pointing out, terrible. He eats with an animalistic intensity. Indeed, one of the show's writers describes him as "a dog trapped inside a man's body".

He is, in short, a slob. Or, rather, he is the slob, the yardstick for all other slobbery, the distillation of all the crude appetites, the disgusting selfish impulses, the pernicious habits and low, instant gratifications that afflict us all. More precisely, he is the man - lowlife masculinity in all its sweaty awfulness.

"If guys are honest", says Scully, "they realize there's a lot of Homer in most of us. The only difference is that Homer says things out loud".

The simple, moralistic reaction is to dismiss Homer as a bad guy. Indeed, President George Bush - the previous one - struck this posture in the 1992 election campaign when he said: "We need a nation closer to the Waltons than the Simpsons." About the same time, the chain-store JC Penney banned the sale of Simpsons T-shirts, under pressure from religious groups. To this day the show is banned in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic as an affront to family values.

But Bush lost the election and Americans voted for Homer or, rather, Bill Clinton - another libidinous, gluttonous man. The 1990s were called the Clinton years, but they weren't, they were the Homer years. The point was that the Waltons were all very well - saintly, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth types - but they weren't real. They were two-dimensional prigs and nobody could love them. The more Homer aimed low and missed, the more we loved him. He was real because he was at one with his world. He pursued the gratifications it offered and said "D'oh!" when they turned sour or were denied him. That's what reality is, constant striving and constant disappointment. Homer may be a jerk, but he was a jerk like us.

But Homer studies have now moved beyond that simple formula. Perhaps it was the ending of the cold war and collapse of the old polarities. People no longer saw things in black and white: they began to see the limitless shades of grey -- or, rather, yellow. The good-guy, bad-guy opposition ceased to convince. We looked more closely at Homer and at our own feelings of affection for the big yellow guy.

"There's a scene when Marge comes home from the school," says Adrienne Katz of the charity Young Voice. "She's been to a talk on how to be a good father and, of course, Homer didn't go. One of the things she was told was that a father should know the names of and recognise his son's friends. Homer doesn't know any of them - he just calls them 'the spotty one' or 'the red-haired one'.

"But he is a good father and he shows that these tests don't work. He fails every test. But it all hinges on the quality of his relationship with Bart, and it is good. Bart doesn't find him useless." Katz is typical of the new wave of Homerphiles. They have seen the moral ambiguity of the man: utterly villainous on the surface but, just beneath, almost saintly.

"He's a failure, but he never loses our sympathy," says Alistair McCleery, professor of literature at Edinburgh's Napier University. "He always gives in to temptation but he always comes back to home and hearth in a reaffirmation of family values. There are two episodes in which he is tempted to commit adultery, but on both occasions he can't do it because he thinks of Marge. The family remains a core value in American society, even among liberal university students."

McCleery gives a lecture at Napier entitled Having the Donut and Eating It: Self-reflexivity in The Simpsons.

A key aspect of the new academic appeal of Homer is that he is a father, and fatherhood is a growing area of studies. The theme is carried back a generation via Homer's relationship to his own father, Abe. This is, again, superficially appalling. Abe is in a nursing home, he is dotty and, when he is not asleep, prone to either absent-mindedness or malevolent impatience. Also, as Bart reveals at one point, the family has been hypnotised not to hear a word he says.

But Abe is Homer. When somebody pulls back his facial skin, he turns into his son. They are both failures and equally vulnerable. "Thank you for not mentioning the outside world," says the sign outside the nursing home. Also, look at their names - Homer, patriarch of Western civilisation, and Abraham, founding father of the three great monotheistic religions. These are the ultimate fathers.

But there is another, even bigger father in the show - God. Though the prevailing ideology of The Simpsons is secular, liberal and rather anti-religious, it is the only American show to acknowledge the reality of American religiosity. One California State University survey showed that 70 per cent of Simpsons plots had some religious content and ten per cent had distinct religious themes. And Matt Groening has said: "Right-wingers complain there's no God on TV - not only do the Simpsons go to church, they actually speak to God from time to time."

Lovejoy, the local minister, and Ned Flanders, the Simpsons' evangelical neighbour - are both big irritants to Homer. The weary and rather faithless Lovejoy's sermons bore him to death and Flanders' sanctity inspires Homer to acts of revenge - he dumps rubbish in his yard and steals his air-conditioning unit. Flanders also takes a mafia bullet intended for Homer, though he is saved by the piece of the true cross he keeps with him at all times.

Worst of all for Flanders, Homer in one episode has brain surgery that raises his IQ by 50 points, and he writes down a proof that there is no God. Flanders scoffs but, on reading it, sees that it is unarguable. He burns the paper, saying: "Can't let this get out."

But in fact, Homer's God does exist, though He may be a bit unorthodox. "I feel this incredible surge of power", Homer says at one point, "like God must feel when he's holding a gun." His faith in the Bible is strictly limited: "If the Bible has taught us nothing else, and it hasn't, it's that girls should stick to girls' sports, such as hot-oil wrestling, foxy boxy and such and such."

But when Homer stops going to church, God descends from heaven to talk to him about it. They chat on the sofa and God is persuaded that Homer's version of religion is fair enough. It is certainly superior to Lovejoy's melancholy creed -- One of the signs outside his church reads: "God welcomes his victims". Homer, in contrast sees God as a nice guy who is real enough to be ambiguous "He's always happy", he says of God. "No, wait, he's always mad." "For Homer," says Tony Campolo, a professor of sociology, "God is like a parachute he hopes he never has to use, but he wants God to be there, just in case. When Homer is in deep trouble, he turns to God and begs for miracles, but when they do happen, they do not make him into a man of faith or deep moral convictions. Once a crisis has passed, Homer's thinking about God is over. God, for him, is somebody you bargain with in times of trouble, making all kinds of promises to change (which are never lived out), if God will just deliver on a needed miracle."

However, Homer fears he is on the losing side. "This series," writes Campolo, "leaves little doubt that Homer has a psychologically repressed conviction that he, himself, falls into the category of those bound for hell". Like a Graham Greene character, the very fervency of his belief in the day of judgment convinces him that he must be damned.

Just as his moral character is riven with ambiguity, so Homer's spiritual life balances uneasily on a contradiction: he rants atheistically against Flanders but, in his heart, he believes unquestioningly. And this, in the end, points to Homer's deep, if primitive, religious orthodoxy. In spite of himself, he is saved by the greatest of all Christian qualities - love. His vices are contained and his wounds healed by the love of his family. It is not just that he always returns to Marge; it is also that he both gives and receives unqualified love.

At one point Mr Burns offers him $lm for a teddy bear, but he turns it down because Maggie has grown so attached to the toy. And, in a fantasy sequence in which Lisa is about to marry an English fop named Hugh, she calls off the wedding because the cad turns up his snobbish nose at the spectacle of Homer. Her father represents everything his prodigiously intelligent and gifted daughter despises but, when the chips are down, her love for him comes first.

Homer is a colossal figure, bigger than either he or his creators fully understand or ever intended. He took over the show from Bart and he escaped the confines of the writers' and producers' secular imaginations. Much of the credit for this must go to Dan Castellaneta, a truly great voice artist, whose nurturing of the character has kept him balanced on a moral and spiritual tightrope.

But even more of the credit should go to the Americans' capacity for redeeming themselves through myth and laughter. Homer embodies the possibility that, foolish and stupid as we are, we can still be saved, not as angels but as ourselves. We can be loved for being the losers we are. A modern Job, a contemporary Sancho Panza, a petit bourgeois Falstaff, Homer Simpson says it for us all -- "D'oh!".

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

FSU prof praised for role in book on Nazi war criminals

By Melanie Yeager

When a publisher first approached Robert Gellately about editing a psychiatrist's interviews with Nazi war criminals, he wasn't so keen on the idea. Editing can be very time-consuming, and Gellately had his own history books to write. But ultimately he didn't turn down the chance. Now the book the Florida State University professor fine-tuned - "The Nuremberg Interviews" - is being heralded for giving the world new insights into the chilling thoughts of Nazi leaders responsible for the Holocaust, the systematic extermination of more than 6 million Jews during World War II. The book, translated into nine different languages so that it can be sold from Brazil to Sweden, has garnered positive reviews in Newsweek and The New York Times.

"There is this kind of inner logic behind the outer madness," Gellately said of the book's 33 interviews. "That's the horror of the thing." That's because, Gellately said, for the most part, these Nazi rulers were as normal as next-door neighbors. "I think we all have an idea about what makes the Nazis tick. Some of us think they were demonic or crazy ... Really, two people in the book are like that, but they are not the interesting ones," Gellately said. "Most of the other ones are like you and me. They are well-educated, rational, sensible."

They pour out their thoughts to Dr. Leon Goldensohn, a U.S. Army psychiatrist, who kept detailed notes of his interviews with the war criminals and witnesses awaiting trial in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1946. Goldensohn died in 1961 at the age of 50. Apparently, his notes sat mostly untouched in his family's home for about 50 years until they were handed over to Gellately. "One fine day, this huge carton of stuff arrived," Gellately said. "I would say it was a good foot-and-a-half thick." Gellately went to work fact-checking spellings of names - many written more than one way - dates and military ranks. It was an exhausting task that took two years.

In some cases, Gellately had to find the truth and footnote it. "He's being lied to, and he's not aware of it. But I have to be aware of it," Gellately said. Other places in Goldensohn's notes, Gellately had to clear up the confusion. When Goldensohn asks a defendant how it feels to be involved in killing 5 million Jews, Gellately has to explain why 5 million was the best estimate at the time and cite the sources behind historians' 6 million count decades later.

Goldensohn, who was Jewish, sets out to understand what mentally ails these men. He keeps his distance in his notes, calling them "subjects" rather than by name. "It must have been nightmarish for him personally, but he retains his cool - mostly," Gellately said.

"They had a sense of duty, perverted, but they were rational, kind of cold, calculating killers," he said, "not this emotional, go-out-and-shoot-their-friend-in-the-woods kind of thing. You can't prove these were guys that actually hated the Jews or actually ever hit anyone."

Coming up next: Hitler vs. Stalin

Gellately, an expert on German and Russian history, has written several books that deal with the history of anti-Semitism and the Third Reich. FSU wooed Gellately to its history department last year from The Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University in Massachusetts. He teaches classes such as "Comparative Genocide in the 20th Century" and "History of Racial Thought in Modern Europe."

Neil Jumonville, chairman of FSU's history department, said Gellately's work provides important lessons for today's world. "His work on Hitler and his forthcoming work on Stalin have great relevance. That is, in a world that might be more at war after the fall of the Berlin Wall than it was during the Cold War, the study of violence and absolutism is very important," Jumonville said. "America, in this age of terrorism, might have more determined enemies than we have had since the era Gellately studies."

Gellately, a native of Newfoundland, is on research leave. Now that he's finished with Goldensohn's writings, he hopes to finish a book comparing Hitler and Stalin next year. He works seven days a week. "I refuse to call it 'workaholic' because it means I have some type of pathological disease," Gellately said. "But I work on it all the time." His editing work was done just as intensely, he said.

"Gellately has done a masterly job of editing," wrote William Grimes in Friday's New York Times. "In a short introduction, he lays out the legal framework of the trials and Goldensohn's role. Footnotes are kept to a minimum. Like Goldensohn, Mr. Gellately prefers to step aside and let the defendants and witnesses speak for themselves. Their testimony, vivid and chilling, requires no commentary."

Gellately said he felt he had made a commitment to historic truth. "I don't have an intention that everybody will react to the book the same way," Gellately said. "I really think it will leave an impression on everybody."

(Originally published on Nov. 28, 2004 in the Tallahassee Democrat)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hitler: green guru

By Australian columnist Andrew Bolt

The big risk in making films about Hitler isn't that you make the Nazi dictator look too nice. It's the very opposite, as we saw this week with Channel 7's hit mini-series, Hitler: The Rise of Evil. The real danger is making Hitler seem plainly crazy and evil - leaving viewers unable to understand why such a man won so much support from so many people, and not only Germans. We need instead to know what led people to admire Hitler, rather than to see him for what he was: an enemy of freedom. We need to know this, because some of the same cultural forces that helped Hitler -- such as the green movement -- are among us again today.

Of course I'm not saying that green activists are closet Nazis. Nor do I think Australians will ever pull on jackboots, torch Parliament House and fling liberal politicians into concentration camps. Still . . .

There is no one reason for Hitler's rise. Luck had something to do with it, so did violence. The men who opposed him were weak. But that wasn't all. Hitler's preaching about German strength and destiny was water in the desert to the millions of Germans who'd been stripped of pride, security and hope by their humiliating defeat in World War I, and the terrible unemployment that followed.

The world was also mad then with the idea that a dictatorial government should run the economy itself and make it "efficient", rather than let people make their own decisions. The Nazis -- National Socialists -- promised some of that, and their sibling rivals in the Communist Party more.

The theory of eugenics -- breeding only healthy people -- was also in fashion, along with a cult of health. The Nazis, with their youth camps and praise of strong bodies and a strong people, endorsed all that, and soon were killing the retarded, the gay and the different.

Tribalism was popular, too. People weren't individuals, but members of a class, as the communists argued, or of a race, as the Nazis said. Free from freedom -- what a relief for the scared!

You'd think we'd have learned. But too much of such thinking is back and changing us so fast that we can't say how our society will look by the time we die. A kind of eugenics is with us again, along with an obsession for perfect bodies. Children in the womb are being killed just weeks before birth for the sin of being a dwarf, for instance, and famed animal rights philosopher Peter Singer wants parents free to kill deformed children in their first month of life. Meanwhile support for euthanasia for the sick, tired or incompetent grows.

As for tribalism, that's also back -- and as official policy. We now pay people to bury their individuality in tribes, giving them multicultural grants or even an Aboriginal "parliament".

But most dangerous is that we strip our children of pride, security and even hope. They are taught that God is dead, our institutions corrupt, our people racist, our land ruined, our past evil and our future doomed by global warming.

Many have also watched one of their parents leave the family home, which to some must seem a betrayal.

They are then fed a culture which romanticises violence and worships sex -- telling them there is nothing more to life than the cravings of their bodies. No one can live like this and be fulfilled. People need to feel part of something bigger and better than ourselves -- a family, or a church, or a tradition or a country. Or, as a devil may whisper, the greens. The greens. Here's a quote which may sound very familiar -- at least in part.

"We recognise that separating humanity from nature, from the whole of life, leads to humankind's own destruction and to the death of nations. "Only through a re-integration of humanity into the whole of nature can our people be made stronger . . . "This striving toward connectedness with the totality of life, with nature itself, a nature into which we are born, this is the deepest meaning and the true essence of National Socialist thought."

That was Ernst Lehmann, a leading biologist under the Nazi regime, in 1934, and he wasn't alone. Hitler, for one, was an avid vegetarian and green, addicted to homeopathic cures. His regime sponsored the creation of organic farming, and SS leader Heinrich Himmler even grew herbs on his own organic farm with which to treat his beloved troops.

Hitler also banned medical experiments on animals, but not, as we know to our grief, on Jewish children. And he created many national parks, particularly for Germany's "sacred" forests. This isn't a coincidence. The Nazis drew heavily on a romantic, anti-science, nature worshipping, communal and anti-capitalist movement that tied German identity to German forests. In fact, Professor Raymond Dominick notes in his book, The Environmental Movement in Germany, two-thirds of the members of Germany's main nature clubs had joined the Nazi Party by 1939, compared with just 10 per cent of all men. The Nazis also absorbed the German Youth Movement, the Wandervogel, which talked of our mystical relationship with the earth.

Peter Staudenmaier, co-author of "Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience", says it was for the Wandervogel that the philosopher Ludwig Klages wrote his influential essay Man and Earth in 1913. In it, Klages warned of the growing extinction of species, the destruction of forests, the genocide of aboriginal peoples, the disruption of the ecosystem and the killing of whales. People were losing their relationship with nature, he warned.

Heard all that recently? I'm not surprised. This essay by this notorious anti-Semite was republished in 1980 to mark the birth of the German Greens -- the party that inspired the creation of our own Greens party. Its message is much as Hitler's own in Mein Kampf: "When people attempt to rebel against the iron logic of nature, they come into conflict with the very same principles to which they owe their existence as human beings. Their actions against nature must lead to their own downfall."

Why does this matter now? Because we must learn that people who want animals to be treated like humans really want humans to be treated like animals. We must realise a movement that stresses "natural order" and the low place of man in a fragile world, is more likely to think man is too insignificant to stand in the way of Mother Earth, or the Fatherland, or some other man-hating god.

We see it already. A Greenpeace co-founder, Paul Watson, called humans the "AIDS of the earth", and one of the three key founders of the German Greens, Herbert Gruhl, said the environmental crisis was so acute the state needed perhaps "dictatorial powers". And our growing church of nature worshippers insist that science make way for their fundamentalist religion, bringing us closer to a society in which muscle, not minds, must rule. It's as a former head of Greenpeace International, Patrick Moore, says: "In the name of speaking for the trees and other species, we are faced with a movement that would usher in an era of eco-fascism." This threat is still small. But if we don't resist it today, who knows where it will sweep us tomorrow?

From the Melbourne Herald-Sun, July 21, 2003.

There is a more comprehensive coverage of the above topic reviewed here

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The profits of doom

Matt Ridley celebrates Bjorn Lomborg, the environmentalist brave enough to tell the truth -- that the end is not nigh

At the Christmas cabaret in the politics department of Aarhus University in Denmark last year, the cast members joined together at the end to sing a song about one of the associate professors. "Bjorn, when will you come back?" went the refrain. "Don"t just get lost out in the world." (It was better in Danish.)

Bjorn Lomborg -- young, blond, piano-playing, but basically a statistics nerd -- may not be back soon. He has just succeeded Monsanto as the official chief villain of the world environmental movement. In January Scientific American devoted 11 pages to an unattractive attempt to attack his work. He had a pie thrown in his face when he spoke in Oxford last September.

The great and the good of greendom are competing to find epithets for him: "Wilful ignorance, selective quotations, destructive campaigning," says E.O. Wilson, guru of biodiversity. "Lacks even a preliminary understanding of the science in question," says Norman Myers, guru of extinction. His book is "nothing more than a diatribe", says Lester Brown, serial predictor of imminent global famine. Stephen Schneider, high priest of global warming, even berates Cambridge University Press for publishing it.

What can this mild statistician have said to annoy these great men so? In 1996 he published an obscure but brilliant article on game theory, which earned him an invitation to a conference on "computable economics" in Los Angeles (and an offer of a job at the University of California). While browsing in a bookshop there he came across a profile in Wired magazine of the late Julian Simon, an economist, who claimed, with graphs, that on most measures the environment was improving, not getting worse. Irritated, Lomborg went back to Denmark and set his students the exercise of finding the flaw in Simon"s statistics.

They could find none. So Lomborg wrote The Skeptical Environmentalist, which not only endorses most of Simon"s claims, but also goes further, providing an immense compendium of factual evidence that the litany of environmental gloom we hear is mostly either exaggerated (species extinction, global warming) or wrong (population, air and water pollution, natural resources, food and hunger, health and life-expectancy, waste, forest loss).

You might think that environmentalists would welcome such news. Having argued that we should find a way to live sustainably on the planet, they ought to be pleased that population growth is falling faster (in percentage and absolute terms) than anybody predicted even ten years ago; that per-capita food production is rising rapidly, even in the developing world; that all measures of air pollution are falling almost everywhere; that oil, gas and minerals are not running out nearly as fast as was predicted in the 1970s; and so on.

Instead they are beside themselves with fury. It cannot be Lomborg"s politics that annoy them. He is leftish, concerned about world poverty, and no fan of big business. It cannot be his recommendations: in favour of renewable energy and worried about the pollution that is getting worse. Vegetarian, he rides a bicycle and approves of Denmark"s punitive car taxes. His sin -- his heresy -- is to be optimistic.

This is very threatening to lots of people"s livelihoods. The environmental movement raises most of its funds through direct mail, paid advertising and news coverage. A steady supply of peril is essential fuel for all three. H.L. Mencken said, "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed -- and hence clamorous to be led to safety -- by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

For instance, remember acid rain in the 1980s and sperm counts in the 1990s? "There is no evidence of a general or unusual decline of forests in the United States or Canada due to acid rain," concluded the official independent study of the subject. Sperm counts are not falling. If you do not believe me, look up the statistics. Lomborg did.

The media, too, prefer pessimism. When the United Nations panel on global warming produced new estimates of the rise in temperature by 2100, they gave a range of 1.4 to 5.8­C. CNN, CBS, Time and the New York Times all quoted only the high figure and omitted the low one.

An increasing number of scientists have vested interests in pessimism, too. The study of global warming has brought them fame, funds, speaking fees and room service. Lomborg"s crime is to rain on their parade.

In the Scientific American critique, four leading environmental scientists lambasted Lomborg. The magazine refused Lomborg the right to reply in the same issue, refused to post his response on its website immediately, and threatened him for infringement of copyright when he tried to reproduce their articles, with his responses, on his own website.

Yet the Scientific American articles are devastating not to Lomborg, but to his critics. Again and again, before insulting him, the critics concede, through gritted teeth, that he has got his facts right. In two cases, Stephen Schneider accuses Lomborg of misquoting sources and promptly does so himself. In the first case, Schneider"s response "completely misunderstands what we have done", according to Richard Lindzen, the original author of work on the "iris effect" and upper-level cirrus clouds. In the second, Eigil Friis-Christensen says that Schneider "makes three unsubstantiated statements regarding our studies on the effect of cosmic rays on global cloud cover". Result: there are worse howlers in Schneider"s short article than in Lomborg"s whole book.

By the end of 11 pages, the Scientific American critics have found two certain errors in Lomborg"s work. In one he uses the word "catalyse" instead of "electrolyse". In the other he refers to 20 per cent of energy use, when he means 20 per cent of electricity generation. You get the drift.

What the affair reveals is how much environmentalists are now the establishment, accustomed to doing the criticising, not being criticised. The editor of Scientific American, apparently without irony, condemns Lomborg for his "presumption" in challenging "investigators who have devoted their lives" to the subject, as if seniority defined truth.

Lomborg is also criticised for his effrontery in challenging the widely accepted figure that 40,000 species become extinct every year. The number was first used in 1979 by the British scientist Norman Myers. Yet what was the evidence for it? Here is what Myers actually said: "Let us suppose that, as a consequence of this manhandling of the natural environments, the final one-quarter of this century witnesses the elimination of one million species, a far from unlikely prospect. This would work out, during the course of 25 years, at an average rate of 40,000 species per year." That"s it. No data at all; just a circular assumption: if 40,000 species go extinct a year, then 40,000 species go extinct a year. QED.

Now look where this little trick of arithmetic has got Myers. He describes himself thus: "Norman Myers is an Honorary Visiting Fellow of Oxford University. He has served as visiting professor at universities from Harvard to Stanford, and is a foreign member of the US National Academy of Sciences. He works as an independent scientist, undertaking research projects for the US National Research Council, the World Bank and United Nations agencies. He has received the UNEP environment prize, the Volvo environment prize and, most recently, the 2001 Blue Planet prize." (Myers"s share of the Volvo prize was worth $130,000; Lomborg does not own a car.)

Lomborg does not deny that species are becoming extinct at an unnaturally high rate, but he cites a far from conservative calculation that this rate may reach about 0.7 per cent in 50 years, not the 25 to 75 per cent implied by Myers, and calls it "not a catastrophe but a problem -- one of many that mankind still needs to solve". Greens are trying to portray Lomborg as a sort of Pollyanna Pangloss with her head in the sand. But Lomborg does not dispute the need to save the planet, only the assertion that this is impossibly difficult and the particular priorities foisted on us by the big environmental pressure groups.

Forty years ago this year, Rachel Carson, in her book Silent Spring, alerted a complacent world to the dangers posed by pesticides. Vilified by the chemical industry, Carson was already dying of cancer when the book was published. In the intervening years the environmental movement has turned from David into Goliath. With huge advertising budgets and ready access to the media, it can dominate the news, terrify multinational companies and expect to be invited to policy discussions at the highest levels. It is the bully now.

Consider the treatment meted out to Julian Simon for having the temerity to be right. In 1990 Simon won $576.07 in settlement of a wager from the environmentalist Paul Ehrlich. Simon had bet him that the prices of metals would fall during the 1980s and Ehrlich accepted "Simon"s astonishing offer before other greedy people jump in".

When, a decade later, Simon won easily, Ehrlich refused a rematch and called Simon an imbecile in a speech. Ehrlich, who, in contrast, won a "genius award" from the MacArthur Foundation, is the man who argued in 1967 that with the world on the brink of starvation the West "should no longer send emergency aid to countries such as India where sober analysis shows a hopeless imbalance between food production and population". Since then India has doubled its population, more than doubled its food production, increased its cultivated land acreage by only 5 per cent and begun to export food. Hopeless?

The pessimists argue that Lomborg"s good news might lead to complacency. But Ehrlich"s counsel of despair is far more dangerous. Many people now work to improve the environment at a local level with optimism that they can make the world a better place. To be constantly told by the big pressure groups that all is doom and gloom is no help. There is something rotten in the state of environmentalism. It lies not just in the petty factual dishonesty that is rife within the movement -- Stephen Schneider once said, "We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts we might have" -- but in the very philosophy that lies at the heart of greenery: the belief in constraint and retreat.

If six billion people have both more food and more forest than their three billion parents did; if the prices of copper, wheat and natural gas are going down, not up; if there are 20 times more carcinogens in three cups of organic coffee than in daily dietary exposure to the worst pesticide both before and after the DDT ban; if renewable resources such as whales are more easily exhausted than non-renewables such as coal; if lower infant mortality leads to falling populations, not rising ones, then perhaps we need to think differently about what sustainability means. Perhaps the most sustainable thing we can do is develop new technology, increase trade and spread affluence.

Nor will it do to claim that these successes have come from green pressure. The reason so many environmental trends are benign is not because of legislation, let alone protest. Apart from the ozone layer and city smogs, where campaigns probably did accelerate change, most improvements have been brought about more by innovation, development and growth than by government action. If six billion people went back to nature, nature would be in desperate trouble.

The most arresting statistic that Lomborg produces is this. It is well known that meeting the Kyoto treaty on carbon-dioxide reduction will delay global warming by six years at most by 2100. Yet the annual cost of that treaty, in each year of the century, will be the same as the cost -- once -- of installing clean drinking water and sanitation for every human being on the planet. Priorities, anyone?


This article originally appeared in the [U.K.] "Spectator" here on 23 February, 2002 and was reprinted in "The American Spectator" (not online) of 2002, vol. 35(2), pp. 52-53 under the heading: The Borking of Bjorn Lomborg)

Robert Bork was of course one of Ronald Reagan's nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court. He believed that judges should stick to judging and not make the law up as they went along. Needless to say, his nomination was opposed by huge numbers of liberal pressure groups who depend on the court to get them what they could never get from Congress. So despite Bork's impeccable legal credentials his nomination was blocked by Democrats in the Senate -- causing great damage to Bork's career, of course. So to be "borked" now means to be roughly treated and denied influence on purely ideological grounds -- regardless of merit. Greenie sympathizers tried to treat Lomborg in a similar way, but with much less success.