Totalitarian Temptation…mmm, good by mattsteinglass
July 1, 2007, 5:53 pm
Filed under: Oddities

It’s the new party game that’s all the rage: inventing new subtitles for Jonah Goldberg’s endlessly delayed book “Liberal Fascism”. (The subtitle started as “The totalitarian temptation from Mussolini to Hilary Clinton”, then the publishers announced it’d been changed to “… from Hegel to Whole Foods”.)

I believe we need a paradigm shift:

Ben & Jerry’s Totalitarian Temptation Ice Cream


Gore: Saving the Planet with Reagan and Shakespeare by mattsteinglass
July 1, 2007, 1:58 pm
Filed under: Environment

Wow. This is a smoking-hot op-ed. Really, really good. I’ve only ever heard Reagan’s alien-defense speculations invoked as ridicule; it takes genius to invoke them with respect, and to turn them to the cause of global environmentalism.

On Sept. 21, 1987, President Ronald Reagan said, “In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.”

We — all of us — now face a universal threat. Though it is not from outside this world, it is nevertheless cosmic in scale.

Genius. Then there’s the reference to carbon dioxide on Venus, which raises average temperature there to 867 degrees. “True, Venus is closer to the Sun than we are, but the fault is not in our star; Venus is three times hotter on average than Mercury, which is right next to the Sun.” Fabulous. “The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves” is such a grand touchstone of Enlightenment skeptical rationalism and self-criticism, and it’s the perfect shield motto for the environmentalist mission. The original, Cassius speaking to Brutus in “Julius Caesar”, is preceded by an even more startlingly apt line, which catches the essence of Gore’s call to environmental action and leadership:

Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Of course, the overall context is Cassius’s bitter resentment that Caesar has become Emperor while he and Brutus, once his equals, remain “underlings”, and his call to Brutus to rise up, overthrow and supplant Caesar. Those notes may cast a slightly less pleasant echo for Gore. But whatever — it’s a fantastic op-ed and I hope it gets the raves it deserves.

Addendum: Oddly, there’s another “Julius Caesar” reference on today’s Times op-ed page — Frank Rich notes that an executive order granting the VP authority to classify or declassify documents was issued “just before the Ides of March” in 2003. Are these things just random, or is there some “Julius Caesar” vibe in the air somehow?

Addendum 2: And now “Sadly, No!” is on the same meme! Ends the post with “You can blame television and our dumbass elite press corps, sure, but in the end the fault lies within ourselves.” You’d have to say there’s something in the air at the moment. If I were George W. Bush, I would think very hard before accepting any invitations to come to the floor of the Senate…