Dystopia Journal #6: Paris Burning

On election night, of all the bleak things I imagined, the worst was that Trump would take America out of the fight against global warming. Unsurprisingly, he has.This is the consequence that counts. The embarrassment and the decline in our national prestige are real, but will fade in time when a competent administration takes power. No matter how badly Trump and the GOP mismanage the economy, even the worst depression ends eventually. However many people terrorists may kill in their … [Read more...]

The Fountainhead: Market Forces

The Fountainhead, part 1, chapter 3In last week's post, we met Guy Francon, who was once a famous architect but now spends all his time drinking and gorging himself at fancy dinners. Here's how he made his reputation:The Frink National Bank Building displayed the entire history of Roman art in well-chosen specimens; for a long time it had been considered the best building of the city, because no other structure could boast a single Classical item which it did not possess. It offered so … [Read more...]

The Deserved Death of Coal

I grew up in a house with a coal-burning furnace. Once a month or so, a dump truck would back up to our garage and refill the coal bin. I was fascinated by those soft, glossy black chunks which looked like rock but burned with ferocious fire in the belly of the furnace, keeping the house toasty warm on even the coldest winter days.I mention this just to show that I feel a little bit of nostalgia for coal. And as a New Yorker, I have to concede that coal-fired ovens make the best pizza. But … [Read more...]

Doubt Is Not Our Product

In my Atlas Shrugged series, I wrote about the tobacco companies who tried to conceal the health risks of smoking by sowing confusion and uncertainty. The strategy was to counter all the scientific evidence with ginned-up studies and paid-to-order experts so that people wouldn't be sure what to believe. Their memos said that "doubt is our product" and that their goal should be "establishing a controversy" in the public mind.That story is an object lesson in how corporations that sell … [Read more...]

There Won’t Be Any New Earth

One of the Bible's repeated assertions is that, after the apocalypse and the destruction of the world, God will create a new, perfect earth where believers will live in harmony forever:"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away... And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat … [Read more...]

Turning the Corner on Climate Change

The future is bleak for Miami.Built on low-lying swampland, it's one of the most vulnerable places on the planet as storms strengthen and seas rise. The city is already suffering from streets that flood at high tide and saltwater seeping into drinking wells. With just a few feet of sea-level rise, which may be unstoppable at this point, most of South Florida will vanish beneath the waves. As a famous Rolling Stone article puts it, Miami is "doomed to drown", possibly sooner than we … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: December 13

• An editorial on Charisma News accuses atheists of "the height of intolerance" for, basically, existing during the Christmas season.• Mormon Feminists on the Brink: The LDS church has a long record of fierce and diehard opposition to feminism. Their resistance to LGBT rights is well in line with the church's reactionary history.• Hampton Beach, Virginia is an epicenter of the American religious right, the home of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network and Regent … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: November 8

• A Texas homeschooling family has been taken to court after allegedly refusing to teach their children anything at all since "they were going to be raptured". Of note, the family's 17-year-old daughter ran away from home because she wanted to go to school.• Violence in the Name of the Messiah: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish fundamentalists aim to create a theocratic state in Palestinian territory through terrorism. An infamous rabbinic document called "Torat ha-Melekh", or "The Law of the … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: July 5

• Iceland repeals its blasphemy law, which they apparently had until now?• Three cheers for California! The state legislature ends all non-medical exemptions for mandatory vaccination, despite vociferous protests from die-hard anti-vaxers.• In the wake of the Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage, some Christians are writing optimistically about the last-ditch option of retreating into their own closed enclaves. One homeschooling parent explains that "relative … [Read more...]

The Pope’s Laudato: So Close And Yet So Far

Pope Francis has issued an encyclical, Laudato Si, which warns about the grave danger of climate change and calls on Catholics to take urgent action to combat it. Lest I be accused of ignoring something actually good that religion has done, here are my thoughts.I'm glad for this statement, I really am, and I want to say that without hesitation. Climate change is the greatest threat looming over human civilization, and it's heartening to see anyone with influence speak out about it. I've … [Read more...]