- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 16, 2005

Fictional facts

“Michael Crichton has long been well-known for taking controversial theories or technologies and surrounding them with the fast and sexy trappings of a thriller. His novels have been years ahead of their time … or managed to capture the zeitgeist of particular moments. … But his latest effort is almost uncanny in its timeliness. ‘State of Fear,’ Crichton’s examination of global warming and environmental extremism, is very much a reflection of current global fascination. …

“Crichton has a particularly funny riff on Hollywood activism. … On a chartered plane en route from Los Angeles to an environmentalist function in San Francisco, a group of celebrities are discussing the relative merits of electric cars versus hybrid cars. …

“At the airport, all the celebrities are picked up in their own SUV limos.”

Sacha Zimmerman, writing on “Weather Man,” Thursday in the New Republic Online at www.tnr.com

Faith vs. doubt

“For nearly as long as there have been villages, there have been village atheists, the hypervigilant debunkers who lovingly detail the many contradictions, fallacies, and absurdities that flow from belief in holy writ. As a strictly intellectual proposition, atheism would seem, on the face of things, to have wiped the floor with the believing opposition.

“Still, village atheists are as numerous, and as shrill, as they’ve ever been, for the simple reason that the successive revolutions in thought that have furthered their cause — the Enlightenment and Darwinism — have been popular busts. As the secular mind loses mass allegiance, it becomes skittish and reclusive. …

“Believers accuse skeptics and unbelievers of thoughtless hedonism and nihilism; the secular set accuses [religious believers] of superstition and antiscientific senselessness.

“Still, the vast majority of people comfortably tolerate the huge paradoxes that so exercise the super-faithful and their no-less-righteous secular pursuers. Americans are, after all, heir to the greatest Enlightenment traditions in self-government and tolerance, while also forming one of the most religion-mad polities in the industrialized West.”

Chris Lehmann, writing on “Among the Non-Believers,” in the January issue of Reason

Commie chic

“A line of cobblestones in the street marks where the Wall once ran through the middle of [Berlin]. Just on the East German side of Friedrichstrasse, in an empty lot, is a field of crosses honoring those who died trying to escape the totalitarian rule of East Germany.

“A few yards from this memorial was Checkpoint Charlie, the entry point from the Soviet sector of East Berlin to the American sector. A museum there remembers 18-year-old Peter Fechter, who on Aug. 17, 1962, was shot scaling the Berlin Wall in a bid for freedom. The guards let him bleed to death. …

“We know that Nazis are not funny. When are we going to learn this about Soviet Communism?

“Josef Stalin was responsible for the deaths of an estimated eight [million] to 20 million people during his rule. You can buy a Stalin poster or T-shirt at Checkpoint Charlie today — and people do. Tourists from the U.S., Canada, and Europe can be seen on the streets of Berlin sporting their Stalin clothes. …

“Dictators and terrorists have a funny aspect: They are ridiculously self-important in a way that deserves mockery. But we also know that joking about mass murders shows disrespect to the murdered.”

Timothy P. Carney, writing on “Brutal Dictator Kitsch,” Friday in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

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