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WaPo Updates 2/17/13

7:59 pm in Uncategorized by E. F. Beall

Today’s paper presents a few developments in issues I’ve recently written on.

First, as to the football team’s R-word (see here and here), the local affairs columnist Robert McCartney addresses the argument that Native Americans exist who do not care about the issue. He gives the argument fairer treatment than it deserves, quoting some leaders on both sides, but making it clear that the great majority want the name to go. He also properly says, as against the implication of the team’s management, that the issue is not that the team intends no harm, but that the affected populace feels harm. He concludes that

Sometimes being politically correct is just plain correct.

(Emphasis added) This prompts me to the following primer on “politically correct”: The phrase has its origins in a satirical take on the pop-Marxism of the early 1970s, which demanded that “the correct line” be followed. However, its negation has principally been touted by the Heritage Foundation (e.g., here), in a thinly disguised effort to make racist and sexist speech seem respectable. Thus I would replace Mr. McCartney’s slogan with:

Usually being “politically incorrect” is just plain incorrect.

Second, Liberal #2, who wrote about Papa Ratzi’s heritage last Sunday, has a piece arguing that the best pope would be a nun. His arguments include: that among church people he and others have encountered, the church women are the more sensitive; that it would be more theologically consistent with the point that the mother of Jesus was a woman; and that a woman would best understand the issue of abortion.

I leave it to you, dear reader, to evaluate these arguments, because I really don’t care. Apart from the fact that L2′s proposal has no chance of coming to fruition, the Catholic Church is so reactionary an institution that I don’t see how a mere gender change at the top can reform it.

(BTW, the phrase “Papa Ratzi” has nothing to do with fatherhood: “papa” is the Italian word dor “pope.”)

Finally, the paper has selected three letters to publish on Fox Guest’s screed against the electric car, also covered here. I can’t find links to them, but in the print edition the first is from David Crane, the CEO of the electric vehicle development group NRG Energy, who says that the test that the columnist holds up to ridicule involving an inter-city trip by a particular model was ill-conceived because the model was not suited for such travel, and that, further, there is plenty of intra-city need for a vehicle where the electric one would do nicely. The second letter takes the columnist’s assertion that electric cars will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly to task, on the grounds that his data are simply wrong.

The third letter is a satire which “commend[s] Charles Lane for his excellent commentary pointing out the folly of those investing in these frivolous, new horseless-carriage businesses,” and continues in a similar vein, to bring out the fact that most of FG’s arguments were applicable to the invention of the automobile itself over a century ago.

In fact, one can go back further than that. In that Op-Ed FG also criticizes outgoing Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s “technocratic hubris” for trying to develop a microbe that would use a more efficient process than photosynthesis to produce fuel. This puts the columnist in the same bag as those of the ancients who thought that Zeus was quite proper in punishing Prometheus in the myth for bringing fire to humans. “Don’t touch that log with the flame from the gods sending lightning, Oog, we won’t get burned if we keep eating our food raw, and the gods won’t punish us for stealing their business.”

Washington Post Op-Eds: Popery, the AIDS SOTU, CIA capability, and Steven Chu

7:04 pm in Uncategorized by E. F. Beall

Given that my last piece about WaPo scored fourth place in a Google search of its subject matter the day after I posted it (details @ comment 10 here), why not try again?

To emulate Marion in Savannah’s daily NYT Op-Ed report somewhat — I’ll skip the breakfast rundown — today we have Liberal #2 (aka E. J. Dionne, Jr.), Compassionate Conservative (Michael Gerson), Honorary Hasbarist (Richard Cohen), and Fox Guest (Charles Lane). Liberal #1 (Eugene Robinson) at least used to write on Tuesday, but not today for whatever reason. Here is what they say.

Liberal2, reminding us that he is a liberal Catholic, concerns himself with the legacy of Papa Ratzi upon the latter’s decision to relinquish the shoes of the fisherman. He writes with some authority since he once corresponded with then-Cardinal Ratzinger. He finds the man to be a paradoxical figure, one who was alarmed enough by the student revolts of the 1960s to fight liberalizing trends in the Church — thus his current campaign against gay marriage — but one who has unusual compassion for the poor and downtrodden. He thinks the nearly unprecedented decision to resign was “inspired.” because “it will give the church a chance to confront its crises — and its opportunities.”

Maybe so, but L2 does not trouble us with the well known problem of the then-Cardinal covering up child abuse or the possibility that the resignation really has to do with the resurrection of that scandal in the current case of Cardinal Mahony, where previously unpublished documents may yet come to light. Nor does he notice that Benedict either appointed or had a hand in appointing all of the Cardinals who will vote on his successor, so that he might be able to continue to guide the Church with an unseen hand. (These points are discussed by FDLer Pam Spaulding and her commenters here.)

Compassionate Conservative takes the occasion of tonight’s SOTU address to reflect on past such occasions, and unsurprisingly zeroes in on one by his former employer, Bush 43, in January 2003. Also unsurprisingly, CC does not mention “the sixteen words” in that speech that falsely claimed Iraq was trying to get a lot of Uranium from Niger, but rather extols at some length the proposal that would become The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which did make a dent in the global epidemic. Fine; I’ll give W points for that, his one foreign policy achievement, and for his respect for the Spanish language, although that’s all.

Honorary Hasbarist only mentions Israel in passing for a change, noting with thinly disguised satisfaction that it can attack the Syrian government’s air defenses any time it wants. His actual concern today is to criticize the Obama administration for not taking sides in the Syrian conflict more than it has, to implement a no-fly zone for that government’s aircraft and, especially, to supply weapons to those of the insurgents “who could be trusted with them.” For the CIA should be able to distinguish these worthies from the al-Qaeda-linked forces. (Right. As if the CIA could spare the resources from finding out where the “terrorist” funerals will take place in Pakistan so that it can attack the mourners.) Thus, says HH, the “Obama Doctrine” that everyone has been waiting for is here, and is called “looking the other way.” Sure, we really need to spread the American eagle’s wings further in that region.

Fox Guest disparages the Obama administration’s interest in electric cars, which others have certainly said has experienced roadblocks, as a “fantasy.” He cites such points as an American Physical Society symposium where it was concluded that “all-electric vehicles will not replace the standard American family car in the foreseeable future.” But the real target appears to be the outgoing Energy Secretary:

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, he of the Nobel Prize in physics, epitomized the regnant blend of sanctimony and technocratic hubris. He once told journalist Michael Grunwald that photosynthesis is “too damn inefficient,” and that DOE might help correct that particular error of evolution.

This does not quite reach the ignonimous level of the writer’s previous attempt to enlist the image of the wounded Gabrielle Giffords in support of Wisconsin Governor Walker’s attack on collective bargaining; still, it has a stench about it. (That cruise ship stranded in the Caribbean, without working toilets, comes to mind.) What Chu actually discussed with Grunwald, according to the latter, was the possibility of genetically-engineered microbes that would use a more efficient process than photosynthesis to produce fuel. To me this sounds more like finding a method to improve on natural evolution than “correcting its error.” And I don’t know what the pointed reference to Chu’s Nobel is supposed to prove: Several of the members of the American Physical Society that FG thinks is in love with gas-guzzlers also have one. (The politics of the Physics Prize may be as Byzantine as those for Peace or Economics, but that’s another story.)

The kicker is FG’s last sentence: “I might add that Chu does not own a car.” I guess the idea here is that he can’t competently recommend what kind of car people should buy if he doesn’t even drive one, but to me it suggests that the alternative to the electric car is not the individually owned internal combustion engine in the first place, but mass transit.

Phew. My respect for Marion in Savannah knows no bounds: I sure would not have the stomach to read these things every day.