Friday, October 12, 2007

The Algore Nobel Prize And Other Friday News

I almost cancelled today's article altogether rather than be required to report that Al Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize—which now apparently has nothing to do with world peace and is simply an all-purpose vehicle for promoting leftist causes. So Gore has the distinction of being recognized as a moral hero by the Nobel Committee—the day after he was scolded by the London High Court for distorting and inventing facts "in the context of alarmism and exaggeration."

I was pulled back from the brink of despair on reading a perfect response from John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has been the best and most effective conservative opponent of environmentalism. Berlau points out how Gore's crusade contradicts the mission of the Nobel prizes. Here is the central passage of Berlau's excellent article:

In direct contradiction of Alfred Nobel's last will and testament, the selection of Gore essentially means the Peace Prize can no longer be said to be an award for improving the condition of humankind. Looking at Gore's writing, it's far from clear that Gore even believes that humanity is his most important priority….

Rather, his stated desire is to stop human activity that he sees as ruining what he calls the "ecosystem." Awarding the prize to Gore in 2007 is the equivalent of honoring the Luddites who tried to stop the beneficial technologies of Alfred Nobels's day.

A common theme of selection for the Nobel Peace Prize and the other Nobel awards has been the use of science and technology to overcome problems afflicting humans such as starvation and disease…. In creating the annual prizes for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and the promotion of world peace (roughly the same five fields for which Nobels are awarded today), Nobel stated the desire in his will to honor "those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind."

According to Alfred Nobel: A Biograpy by Kenne Fant, an earlier draft of Nobel's will stipulated that prizes in all categories should be "a reward for the most important pioneering discoveries or works in the field of knowledge and progress."

But for Albert Gore, Jr. the fields of knowledge and progress are suspect, and so are many types of technology with benefits to mankind.

This is the real, essential issue, and Berlau's piece captures the essential perversity of giving a Nobel Prize of any kind to an avowed enemy of technological progress.

In other news, a federal judge has blocked a draconian new effort by the Bush administration to appease anti-immigration conservatives by forcing employers to fire workers who cannot be verified in the Social Security database. The problem:

The plaintiffs convinced the judge that the Social Security Administration database includes so many errors—incorporated in the records of about 9.5 million people in 2003 alone—that its use in firings would unfairly discriminate against tens of thousands of legal workers, including native-born and naturalized US citizens.

More disturbing than the practical effect of these potential firings is the principle behind them: that workers would be forced to obtain express legal permission from the government before they could seek work or remain in their jobs.

This case is revealing because it demonstrates the evil of the anti-immigration laws by showing us the oppressive measures actually required to enforce them. The measures pursued by the administration would be have made all employees and employers guilty until proven innocent.

Anti-immigrationists claim that they merely want to preserve America's culture—but I can't think of anything more un-American than this kind of nativist police state.

In war news, the New York Times provides a blockbuster: the same strategy used in Anbar Province to turn the population against the insurgents is now being successfully used, not only against al-Qaeda, but now against Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. The Times reports:

In a number of Shiite neighborhoods across Baghdad, residents are beginning to turn away from the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia they once saw as their only protector against Sunni militants. Now they resent it as a band of street thugs without ideology….

In interviews, 10 Shiites from four neighborhoods in eastern and western Baghdad described a pattern in which [Mahdi Army] militia members, looking for new sources of income, turned on Shiites….

Among the people killed in the neighborhood of Topchi over the past two months, residents said, were the owner of an electrical shop, a sweets seller, a rich man, three women, two local council members, and two children, ages 9 and 11.

It was a disparate group with one thing in common: All were Shiites killed by Shiites. Residents blamed the Mahdi Army, which controls the neighborhood.

Everyone knew who the killers were,” said a mother from Topchi, whose neighbor, a Shiite woman, was one of the victims. “I’m Shiite, and I pray to God that he will punish them.”…

Shiite sheiks, the militia’s traditional base, are beginning to contact Americans, much as Sunni tribes reached out early this year, refocusing one entire front of the war, officials said, and the number of accurate tips flowing into American bases has soared.

This is another major turning point in the war—and you can expect that General Petraeus will exploit it as effectively as he exploited the Sunni tribes' uprising against al-Qaeda.

Indeed, our armed services are already beginning to treat Iraq as if it has been won—so that the Marines are now seeking to take over the US counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan as a reward for their success in Anbar.

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