Gay-baiting Francis

Am I wrong to see homophobic allusions in right-wing pundit George Will’s attack on Pope Francis? He accuses the pope of “fact-free flamboyance” (which would be a nice alliteration if it made any sense, which I can’t see that it does) and calls his “social diagnoses” “shrill”. Again, is this just an attempt to simulate eloquence on a deadline? The expression is striking, but nonsensical. How can a “diagnosis” be shrill? He also accuses the Bishop of Rome of “rhetorical exhibitionism”.

My earlier comments on the gender connotations of “shrill” are here.

Same as it ever was

The battle over climate science in US environmental policy has come to an odd watershed:

The Senate overwhelmingly voted, 98-1, in favor of an amendment stating that “climate change is real and not a hoax.” In an amusing twist, the chamber’s most notorious climate denier, Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, signed on to the amendment at the last minute, mostly because it didn’t attribute a cause to global warming. “The climate is changing. The climate has always changed,” Inhofe said. He then criticized supporters of man-caused climate change by saying that the real “hoax” was “that there are some people that are so arrogant to think” they can change the climate.

This reminds me of an obscure event in modern German history. Searching for an appropriate new president to succeed the highly esteemed Richard von Weizsäcker in 1993, the first new Bundespräsident since reunification, Helmut Kohl looked east, and selected the little-known former theologian and then justice minister of Saxony, Steffen Heitmann. Unfortunately, Heitmann scuttled his own candidacy by proving himself to be even more prone to embarrassing press comments than Kohl himself.

For the first time in nearly 50 years Germany was not occupied, but rather was preoccupied, with the “Schlussstrich” debate. It’s an untranslatable German word for the line drawn under a column of numbers before totting them up. The question was whether Germany should stop examining its conscience about the Nazi period and Cold War, and draw a balance, the better to march forward to a bright new dawn, as the right wing (!) wanted. (I’m presuming they assumed the balance would come out negative, though what the sum would be was never really a part of the discussion.) Exactly the opposite of Faulkner’s famous dictum about the past, and this was the position that Heitmann allied himself with, which was controversial enough. But his choice of words really grabbed people’s attention:

Ich glaube, daß der organisierte Tod von Millionen Juden in Gaskammern tatsächlich einmalig ist – so wie es viele historisch einmalige Vorgänge gibt. Wiederholungen gibt es in der Geschichte ohnehin nicht.

I do believe that the organised death of millions of Jews in gas chambers was unique — just as there are so many unique events in history. In any case, history never repeats itself.

As one commentator satirised it, “Of course you are my one true love, darling. As are all my girlfriends.”

I was also intrigued by the following comment, cited by Jonathan Chait,

“I do think there are those [who] think there is some kind of climate change happening and are tired of fighting the science or just don’t want the fight and who would rather focus on the economics — I don’t think that means they are ceding the argument that manmade climate change exists, though,” said one Republican Senate aide in a comment echoed by several others.

I’ve never seen such an explicit statement from inside the Republican party that science is seen as an enemy to be “fought”, rather than a discipline that should inform all sensible policy.

New frontiers in child-rearing: How to (not) talk to your kids about fracking

The Guardian reports on a legal settlement, where a Pennsylvania family whose water supply was contaminated by gas drilling, received a payout for their now useless farm, and a gag order banning anyone in the family — expressly including the children, aged 7 and 10, from “ever discussing fracking or the Marcellus Shale”.

During the proceedings, the attorney representing Range Resources, Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream and MarkWest Energy, reaffirmed the gag order on the children. “I guess our position is it does apply to the whole family. We would certainly enforce it,” he told the court.

The parents in this case did warn of the limited reach of the court:

We can tell them, they can not say this, they can not say that, but if on the playground…..

I know I have enough trouble getting my own children to stop talking about oil and gas exploration on the playground. It’s hard to imagine any court being willing to enforce an order penalising people for discussing certain topics because of an agreement their parents entered into, but the mere threat (and legal expenses) might intimidate them from ever challenging it.

Imagine the potential: Fundamentalist parents could enter into gag orders with their church, forbidding the children from ever speaking about Darwin or evolution. Many parents would happily sign a gag order blocking their four-year-olds from discussing poopy pants or boogers.

And why stop at one generation? Just imagine if, instead of fighting for the loyalty of consumers, generation after generation, a company like Coca Cola could simply pay current consumers to commit themselves and all their descendants to never mention the name of Pepsi, or any other cola drink. And while we’re selling off the rights of our descendants, we might as well replace the whole problematic student loan market with selling off our firstborn children into slavery. (Perhaps they can be chained to desks in the university admissions office, forced to read through 80 thousand personal essays.)

The whole idea of gag orders disgusts me. Paying someone not to talk about a subject… Why does that remind me of something absurd?…