Yes, another reply to a riposte from James Lileks of the Minnesota Star-​​Tribune. If it keeps up at this rate I might have to add another category.

Thursday he was in rare form, and opened with a nice salvo:

Another day in the Land of Inversion, where the obvi­ous is not an option. I heard more inter­views with learned politi­cians inform­ing me that “drilling for oil” will not affect any­thing, least of all the quan­tity of oil. We must appar­ently wait until 2015, when a magic engine that runs on uni­corn flat­u­lence is invented. I have to ask: why is any­one invest­ing in uni­corn flat­u­lence today, when it won’t make any dif­fer­ence for sev­eral years? The answer’s sim­ple: the engine will Appear at the cho­sen moment, borne from the clouds by star­lings, but only if we have repented of our foul ways, and the last of the sin­ners has left the cul-​​de-​​sac to reside in a home located a sus­tain­able dis­tance from his or her place of employment.

Ah, there’s noth­ing like a slice of finely-​​tuned rhetoric to start an intel­lec­tual feast. The gloss is mock­ing the belief that ter­mi­nat­ing our use of petro­leum is a myth­i­cal magic bul­let which will some­how see us into a golden age of energy inde­pen­dence — at least, in the minds of some — and his objec­tion to that idea is valid. There really are peo­ple out there today who seem to believe in magic, who seem to believe that a total shut­down of oil use in the US will lead us into a rain­bowed hori­zon of crepuscular-​​rayed efful­gence. The sug­ges­tion that any­one who thinks we might want to con­tinue work­ing with petro­chem­i­cals is essen­tially a senile fool­ish coot is a nice icing on this con­fec­tion, and is again prob­a­bly valid.

I recall that a few years ago there was a big push among the green­ish in favor of bio­fu­els. When we started using them, the response seemed to be favor­able, but no one really seemed to think about the hid­den and col­lat­eral costs. With as much as 1/​3 of the next year’s corn crop being com­mit­ted now to feed­ing trucks, we’re already feel­ing the effects of food costs ris­ing. I caught an arti­cle ear­lier this week talk­ing about how cat­fish farms in the south­ern US are clos­ing down because they can’t afford the cat­fish feed, which is appar­ently corn-​​based; that sur­prised me. I didn’t expect the reper­cus­sions to be that fast, and cer­tainly not that oblique.

But from domes­tic issues we have a strange exten­sion to world politics:

In Israel, for exam­ple,  this hor­ri­ble pris­oner swap -  child-​​killer exchanged for mur­dered sol­diers. The fel­low is wel­comed home as a hero by Hezbollah and Lebanon’s Prime Minister and President, because in the Land of Inversion, heads of state clear their cal­en­dar when child-​​killers breathe the sweet air of free­dom again. It’s all rel­a­tive, really. One man’s child-​​killer is another man’s free­dom fighter, and if you point out that  the “another man” is a Jew-​​hating idiot fanatic who’d be proud to blow up the Holocaust Museum in DC and take out a bus­load of Iowa tourists, you’re ignor­ing the sig­nif­i­cant impact this exchange had on the Climate of Trust that will lead to peace.

Apparently domes­tic resis­tance to open­ing oil drilling is equiv­a­lent to cel­e­brat­ing the release of a for­eign killer. I’m hav­ing a hard time mak­ing the correlation.

But from here he goes directly into Godwin:

If Eichmann was still around there would be peo­ple lob­by­ing for his release. Hadn’t he suf­fered enough? What’s gained by keep­ing him in jail, after all? This is the pecu­liar logic of the Land of Inversion: there’s a cer­tain moral legit­i­macy that falls lightly on someone’s shoul­ders if he’s in jail. The crime is soon for­got­ten, and we’re left with the sad sight of some­one lan­guish­ing – they’re always lan­guish­ing – in a grim prison.

Well, if he can pull out some heavy artillery, so can I. This last week we were treated to the release of inter­ro­ga­tion video of a GITMO pris­oner, in this case a Canadian cit­i­zen who also hap­pened to be six­teen years old when he was detained by the US. He’s still at GITMO, and is now 21 years old.

Sometimes peo­ple actu­ally do lan­guish in grim pris­ons. The dif­fer­ence is that the Israeli pris­oner exchange (which was even reported in Iran as being unfair to the Israelis) deals only with Middle East prob­lems. The GITMO case involves an incar­cer­ated boy, a cit­i­zen of an allied nation directly shar­ing a bor­der with us, and that it was our gov­ern­ment, act­ing on our behalf, which impris­oned this kid for five years and count­ing. I’d say that’s a damn sight more relevant.

And then another strange digression:

Meanwhile, over in Blighty: every day brings another story that sug­gests they could power the lights on the Strand by har­ness­ing the RPMs of Churchill’s corpse. Some I believe; some are almost heart­en­ing, such as this story – a fel­low got in trou­ble for tak­ing pic­tures of his own kids in a park, but the police declined to run him in for vio­lat­ing the Male And Therefore A Likely Perv Act. (Can’t find link, sorry.) Every other day has a story of a man who fights off intrud­ers in his house, and is charged with Making a Fist Instead of Forming a Fetal Ball and Waiting for the Bobbies to Come ‘Round and Pretend To Take Down a Description of the Attackers.

Aha, now it’s becom­ing more clear. The sug­ges­tion seems to be that resis­tance to drilling for oil = sym­pa­thy for mur­der­ers = one day we’ll all be weapon­less and ter­ri­fied like the folks in England, who can’t even take pic­tures in a park.

I con­fess I’m hav­ing a hard time mak­ing all those asso­ci­a­tions actu­ally func­tion, but then, I’ve always liked the British. (And, as it hap­pens, Canadians.)

And, hey, you know — I have yet to see evi­dence of this “every other day” phe­nom­e­non he claims wherein British home­own­ers are ter­ror­ized by intrud­ers and forced to acqui­esce in a cow­ardly way until the cop­pers show up. Maybe I’m read­ing a dif­fer­ent BBC World?

He closes with a hit on the Church of England, or specif­i­cally the Archbishop of Canterbury, who recently said that some aspects of Christian faith might offend Muslims. Here, Lileks and I are in per­fect har­mony when we cho­rus, well, duh.

In his lat­est mis­sive, he has acknowl­edged that parts of Christianity may “offend” Muslims, which is a fas­ci­nat­ing choice of words. It puts doc­tri­nal dif­fer­ences into the realm of emo­tional reac­tion, and as we all know “offence” must be fol­lowed with apolo­gies and sem­i­nars and out­reach and an hour of steady bang­ing of the head on the hard mar­ble floor. No one has the right to give offense, but every­one has the right – indeed, the oblig­a­tion – to be offended by something.

I guess the planes into build­ings thing was just an extreme ver­sion of offense.1 And he wraps it up with this, and even though I’m an athe­ist, I really loved it.

Given the Islamic belief that Christ did not die on the cross, it’s only a mat­ter of time before the Church of England man­dates small step-​​ladders beneath every cru­ci­fix. You can believe he got down and walked away, if you like. We’re not say­ing he did, but we wouldn’t want to offend any­one who insisted he did.

Though, to be fair, Muslims don’t dis­be­lieve in the cru­ci­fix­ion. They just deny the res­ur­rec­tion. So the steplad­der would be superfluous.

After a bit more, he closes more or less with this:

To sum it all up: sorry about that whole Christ-​​died-​​for-​​your-​​sins thing; we’ll try to keep it down. Can you join us to work for a ban on plas­tic gro­cery store bags?

So it would seem that resis­tance to drilling for oil is func­tion­ally iden­ti­cal to mil­que­toast Christianity in the face of Muslim extrem­ism. Got it?

Huh. Neither do I.


1. Actually, prob­a­bly not, at least not on bin Laden’s level. I don’t think he really believes the fun­da­men­tal­ist shi’ite he spews. 72 vir­gins for any mar­tyr? Then why’s he so afraid to die? No, I expect bin Laden has as much faith in Islam as the Pope does in Catholicism: He doesn’t actu­ally believe any of this shit, but it cows the igno­rant masses of fol­low­ers, gives access to extra­or­di­nary amounts of power, and, in the case of the Catholic Church, has fringe ben­e­fits in the forms of immea­sur­able wealth and the occa­sional altar boy.


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