Sunday, 11/5/17

 

  1. No heroes, no heroines
  2. Campfire, coffee and incense
  3. Green Weenie of the Year
  4. This, too, will reach its “Sell By Date”
  5. A long grudge
  6. Eleven minutes of bliss

1

In true stories, there sometimes are no heroes or heroines.

Just a few years ago, Tania Georgelas was living in Syria and married to John Georgelas, who would become the most influential American member of ISIS. Together, they traveled the globe, befriending jihadis and grooming their children to become “assassins.” But after ten years of living on the run, Tania began to fear for her family’s safety. That’s when she says her husband abandoned her “to become the next Osama bin Laden.” In a new documentary from The Atlantic, based on original reporting from Graeme Wood, the former extremist details her experience returning to the United States and building a new life in Plano, Texas.

“I told the little ones, ‘Your dad joined the dark side of the force,’” Tania reveals in the film. “I told them, ‘Mommy was part of the dark side of the force, but now I’m a dark Jedi.’”

For more, read Graeme Wood’s article, “From the Islamic State to Suburban Texas.”

As redemption stories go, this one strikes me as extraordinarily lame. By 5 minutes or so into an 11 minute video, I was quite finished with her story. I watched it to the end to assure I wasn’t being uncharitable, and I found I’d over-emphasized one comment she made.

I’m glad Tania Georgelas abandoned Jihad. I’m glad her return to dating Apps didn’t lead her to some guy named “Phelps” from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka.

“Tania traded jihad for America,” and traded Islam for Unitarian-Universalism. There are better trades she could have made.

2

Abbott Tryphon continues the story of how his monastery came to be, and how it came to move from a crime-ridden urban setting to Vashon Island, Washington. I quote this just because it’s so idyllic:

In early 1987, after receiving a blessing from our bishop to relocate the monastery, we rented a storage unit in Santa Rosa, packed away our library, icons, and furniture, and left the Bay Area in search of our promised land. We rented a two-bedroom cabin on Cobb Mountain, just north of the Napa Valley wine country, and began our quest for that rural location. With the financial backing of a benefactor in Berkeley (an Episcopalian), we set out each morning, with a realtor, searching for just the right old farm or ranch house, hoping to replant the sprout that was our fledging monastery.

After two months of looking in Lake County, we set our sights on Oregon. Traveling in our old Ford pickup with a camper on the back, and pitching a tent each night, we continued our journey, seeking after God’s will. The sight of two bearded monks, dressed in black robes, joining other campers in state parks, certainly attracted attention. I remember one old man trading freshly caught trout each morning, for a cup of dark roasted coffee, which I’d prepared in a French Press. His wife was sick of trout, and he was sick of her coffee. We were the beneficiaries of their marital spat, enjoying pan-fried trout for breakfast each morning.

We had a large dyptich with an icon of Christ on the right and the Holy Virgin on the left, which serviced as our traveling iconostasis. Each morning we would set the dyptich on a picnic table, place incense in the censer, and pray Matins together. The smell of the campfire, fresh coffee, and incense, united together, seemed as a beautiful offering to God, and has remained with me to this very day.

One campsite that was particularly memorable was just east of Portland, Oregon. The mornings were crisp with the air and scent of early autumn, and we were the only people occupying the state campground. Mount Hood loomed above us like the spire of a great cathedral, and felt I could remain there forever. Chanting Matins before this mountain made me feel connected to the Prophet Moses of the Old Testament, for I felt I was standing on holy ground.

3

On Wednesday, [Mark Z.] Jacobson filed a defamation suit in the District of Columbia against [Christopher] Clack and the NAS for publishing a peer-reviewed critique of one of his co-authored papers in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.” Jacobson further claims that the NAS wronged him by failing to follow its own publication guidelines. (The complaint is here. An explanatory statement is here.) The underlying issue is the credibility of Jacobson’s claim that 100 percent of the United States’ electricity needs may be met by renewable energy sources.

Although NAS published Jacobson’s response in “PNAS” as well, Jacobson is not satisfied. He is demanding a retraction and is seeking compensatory damages of $10 million each from Clack and NAS.  Clack’s co-authors, who include Ken Caldeira, David Victor and Jane Long, while identified in the complaint were not named as defendants in the suit. (For what it’s worth, Jacobson’s co-authors do not appear to be parties to this suit either.)

Some of the arguments made in the complaint are a bit bizarre. For instance, Jacobson claims the NAS violated its conflict-of-interest disclosure policies by failing to note that some of the contributors to the Clack, et al., paper are “advocates” for various policy positions.  Yet Jacobson’s own paper doesn’t list his own policy advocacy as a potential conflict of interest either.

The idea that academic researchers should turn to court when their work is criticized or contradicted by other researchers is a pernicious one, challenging the sort of robust inquiry upon which scientific research and the discovery of knowledge require. It is absolutely essential that researchers are free to posit hypotheses and subject others’ hypotheses to critique. This inevitably entails not just questioning other researchers’ confusions, but also pointing out potential errors and mistakes. Of course it’s true that strong critiques of one’s academic work may have an effect on one’s academic reputation but that does with the territory. The same goes for making erroneous allegations against other researchers. If the fear of such reputational harms is compounded by the threat of litigation, academic inquiry will be chilled as researchers become more reluctant to point out the problems in each others’ work.

Jacobson claims the Clack, et al., critique is damaging his reputation and exposing him to “ridicule.” Judging from the reactions to this suit I’ve seen thus far, it seems to me Jacobson’s decision to sue has done more damage in this regard than the critique of his work. ACSH’s Alex Berezow, for instance, writes:

 The lawsuit is completely obscene.

Let’s set aside the scientific arguments in this debate, which revolve around the feasibility of 100% renewable energy. Smart people can disagree about whether that is a technologically and economically achievable goal. The way smart (and mature) people handle their disagreements is in the pages of a peer-reviewed scientific journal. But, apparently, that’s no longer how things operate in our litigious society.

The lawsuit also prompted Powerline’s Steve Hayward to label Jacobson the “Green Weenie of the Year.”

(Jonathan Adler) This sort of thing gets my attention because of my lawyerly involvement when a suspected scientific fraudster sued his accusers. It’s hard for the defendants ever to get the lawsuits thrown out early and inexpensively. The process is their punishment.

4

We all know what will come next. As in 2006, when the Duke lacrosse case gripped the news; as in 2014, when Rolling Stone published it’s piece about an alleged rape at UVA, one of the accounts coming out during this wave will be in some way disproved. When that happens, the familiar landslide of public opinion will turn. The incident will become a muted indictment of the hundreds of real victims who have come forward to tell their stories. Much of the public will seize that one false story as an excuse to facilitate the calming of the waters, the burying of a conversation so ugly and difficult that we regress to truisms about “human nature” and try to explain sexual predations as mere “awkwardness” or hapless attempts at flirting.

(Lili Loufbourow) I don’t know that “backlash,” Loufbourow’s term, fits what will happen, but I agree that one or more accusations will prove false and, for that reason or others, this story will deservedly fall off “page one, above the fold.” The alternative would be a form of hysteria—or so it seems to me.

5

Optimists think “the Weinstein revelations are going to change everything,” said Katha Pollitt in TheNation.com. But that’s exactly what people said after Anita Hill courageously spoke out against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas—“and that was over a quarter-century ago.” What happened after Hill’s blockbuster Senate testimony, during which she detailed Thomas’ campaign of sexual harassment? “Thomas got his seat on the Supreme Court; Hill was famously vilified as ‘a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty’”—and “harassment continued as before.” Just last year, Donald Trump made it to the White House after he was heard admitting on tape to groping women’s private parts and faced credible accusations from a dozen women.

(Quote from The Week)

While the Anita Hill accusations were still simmering, I had occasion to work with a big-city lawyer who had been a colleague of Clarence Thomas at, I believe, EPA. His reaction to Anita Hill was along these lines (it’s too long ago for this to be dead-accurate, but I’ve got the gist): “A bunch of us, including Thomas, used to play basketball together. We got to know each other well. We shared locker rooms. There is no way Clarence Thomas, who didn’t even talk dirty in the locker room, would have done what she’s claiming.”

Maybe that’s why the Anita Hill accusations didn’t change everything: people saw it as a weaponized lie. I do not recall people saying it would change everything, by the way. I suspect that Pollitt just hasn’t gotten over the failure of this high-tech lynching of someone who was suspected of opposing her beloved abortion on demand.

I can relate to that at least a little. I will never get over the unwarranted elite and journalistic exoneration of a local sexual predator (exonerated because he had been the poster boy for adding “sexual orientation” to our Human Relations Ordinance, so the soon-ensuing allegations just had to be false—except they weren’t) who went on to victimize more still more adolescent boys in Wisconsin.

6

Thursday night, during the final commercial break on Special Report, host Bret Baier got word through his earpiece that President Trump’s Twitter feed was . . . Gone.

“Gone? Like not there?” I asked.

“I think so,” Baier responded, sounding a bit like maybe he really didn’t.

Since commercial breaks are largely considered off the record, at least as far as I’m concerned, and Special Report is one of the few TV shows I actually care about being on, I will spare you any further dialogue. But I will always remember where I was during those eleven minutes when it seemed truly possible that the tweeting was over.

The questions flooded into my mind. How will CNN and MSNBC fill all the extra airtime? How will Sean do his opening monologue? Will Bill Mitchell spend his days refreshing his browser like a cocaine-study monkey hitting the lever over and over again, hoping this time it will pay off?

… it really is true that whether you love it, hate it, or stare at it with unblinking befuddlement like it’s that severed head that sprouts crab legs and tries to walk out of the room in The Thing, Donald Trump’s Twitter account has dominated our political life in profound ways.

(Jonah Goldberg)

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.