Biography

RWP was born in Manchester, in the north of England, in the late 1950s, so he is very old. He really liked the north of England, which by 1965 was hip and had three TV channels, and where he went to a coed school. His parents, for reasons best known to themselves, then yanked him away, to Belfast and then Dublin, which had one TV channel that started up at 6 pm with the Angelus (Catholic call to prayer). He also had to go to an all boys school, where he realized he really missed girls. This probably let him focus on schoolwork, though, and at age 19, after he had finished college, he set off for America, where he still resides. He has a bachelors degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. from Harvard in biophysics, and has lived also in Mainz, Germany, Setauket NY, and Richland WA. He currently divides his time between Nebraska, Rosslyn VA, and Florida.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mission creep and the League of Women Voters

I'm a pretty serious birder. I keep a life-list (we all do; some of us just admit it). I spend hours in swamps in cold rain trying to photograph them. My wife complains they dominate every vacation we take.(It is true I've got a mental list of the number of endemics on each Caribbean island, just in case we're get into a discussion where to go).

So it would be logical that I join Audubon, right? When I moved to Nebraska, I considered doing that. I looked up Wachiska Audubon, on the proto-internet. What I found is that it was an active chapter, which scheduled a lot of night meetings. But not to hunt for owls. Wachiska Audubon's primary focus seemed to be human population control.

Now you might argue, and they do, that humans affect birds (indisputable) and that reducing the number of humans increases the health of the bird population (very disputable). But when a birding organization takes a position on human population growth, it first of all excludes those of us who don't see human population growth as a major problem (IMHO, the best way to limit population is grow the economy). And second of all, there are lots of organizations dedicated to limiting human population growth already, and if those float your boat, you can join them instead of Audubon.

But that's not how it works. Being a mere birding club is not good enough for some people. I call it the totalizing impulse; the temptation to make every interest, every avocation, every activity part of one great scheme to Save the Planet. It's consumed most nature-oriented organizations. Audubon is now about Saving the Planet. The Nature Conservancy, which once had the very admirable mission of buying private land and setting it aside for wildlife, is now about Saving the Planet. The Sierra Club, which used to be about creating and maintaining a trail network, is now about Saving the Planet. I'm tempted to see in all of this a manifestation of O Sullivan's Law

Any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time
The Left cannot leave anything alone. The most innocuous club, be it dedicated to needlepoint, or model airplanes, or birds, must be coopted as part of the great totalitarian endeavor.

So what set this off? Ben Sasse, Nebraska candidate for Senate, did not fill out a voter survey sent by the League of Women Voters. LWV is a classic example of O Sullivan's Law in action. Founded in 1920 as an organization to register women to vote, it still calls itself 'non-partisan', but has gotten deeply into public advocacy in areas that have nothing at all to do with exercising the franchise. It's most notorious intervention to date was a vicious attack ad run against Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, which used a young girl with asthma as a vehicle to assail Brown's position on the EPA regulating CO2 emissions (which, of course, don't cause asthma.) Factcheck.org called the ads deceitful. LMV's incredibly contorted excuse was that increased CO2 increases plant growth, which increases pollen production, which aggravates asthma. On this basis they should oppose planting trees.

In the end, of course, this will hurt LWV. Instead of having a distinctive and noble mission, it becomes just another generic red/green advocacy group. And there is absolutely no reason why a conservative or libertarian should treat it otherwise.

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