Snow, Science, and Prizes

“The back-to-back snowstorms in the capital were an inconvenient meteorological phenomenon for Al Gore,” cracks The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank. The largest snowfall in DC’s recorded history unleashed a blizzard of ridicule of “global warming.” Milbank points out that the storms do not in fact disprove the various dire forecasts. Some theorists of climate change have said that a general trend of warming would be punctuated by extreme weather events, so the likes of what we have experienced this winter may not contradict that. But, as Milbank points out, climate alarmists have themselves leaned so heavily on anecdote—a glacier losing mass here, a species altering its habits there—that they have left themselves open to refutation in kind—in this case, millions upon millions of white, flaky anecdotes piling up beyond endurance all over Washington.

Iran: What We Can Do

Last Thursday (February 11), the anniversary of 1979’s Islamic Revolution, the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime succeeded in keeping control of central Tehran, thwarting the hopes of the Green Movement to turn the day into another display of public protest.

The authorities relied on three tactics. First, they mobilized hundreds of thousands of their own people, busing them in from around the country, to fill the city center. These included members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Basij militia, and other security personnel. In addition, thousands of civilian marchers took part in the official commemoration. There is no way to know how many of these marchers were genuine regime-supporters and how many were government employees or individuals otherwise beholden to the authorities, participating under duress. But they occupied the strategic terrain.

Go Green

This Thursday may reveal, or even determine, the shape of our world for years to come. February 11 is the anniversary of the triumph of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Forbidden to stage protests since the ones that rocked the country following June’s stolen election, the opposition Green Movement has turned instead to co-opting public events, when official protocol encourages Iranians to take to the streets.

The most recent of such co-opted occasions were the anniversary of the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran in November; the mourning for Ayatollah Montazeri, following his death in December; and the observance of the Shiite holiday of Ashura a week after that. Each time the opposition displayed impressive strength.

Protest leaders have announced that February 11 will be the next occasion for the people to display their discontent. But the regime, too, has made known its intent to mobilize supporters, hoping to bolster its legitimacy.

Health Care Made Simple

I don’t have a home-entertainment system. I buy my clothes off the rack at Macy’s. I drive an ordinary sedan. My dinner table is graced with wine costing less than $10. We shop sales.

But my wife and I splurge on health care (as we did on our children’s educations).

Are the values reflected in these choices unusual? I doubt it. But this is the nub of the health care issue at the epicenter of American politics the past year.

We have had a confusing and dishonest debate. Senator Kennedy made this a crusade. Presumably, the reason for crusading was compassion for the uninsured, an estimated 50 million Americans who are not without health care, but who get less of it and of a lower quality. Fair enough. Had Obama had the political courage to ask the rest of us to kick in an extra hundred bucks, or whatever, in taxes so that these folks can get the same care most of us get, I’d have been ready to ante up.

Who Doesn't Get It?

A day after an obscure Republican captured the safest Democratic seat in the U.S. Senate, President Obama offered this explanation: "a mistake of mine [was] the assumption [that] if I just focus on policy ... people will get it." How's that for self-criticism? He takes himself to task for overestimating the public.

This sounds like arrogance, but its root is ideology, an ideology that explains the paradox at the heart of Obama's approach. Liberal columnist E. J. Dionne describes it: "He pledged to change the tone in Washington and restore amicable relations between the parties. But he also promised to accomplish large things ... [There was a] contradiction ... between Obama's commitment to sweeping change and his soothing pragmatism."

In adopting this self-contradictory stance, Obama was being neither a knave nor a fool, but rather reflecting his formative political identity as a "community organizer." He followed this calling immediately after college, and when he later turned to electoral politics, it was, according to his wife, Michelle, as a "community activist exploring the viability of politics to make change."


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