On the Quantity of Methane in Unicorn Emissions

Crossposted from my pad.

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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