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Washington Post Op-Eds: Down’s Syndrome, Arabia’s Lawrence, and Hobson’s Choice

Greetings, all.

The menu today includes Compassionate Conservative, Honorary Hasbarist, and Liberal #1. My spleen gets less of a workout this time because the anti-Promethean Fox Guest is taking the day off, to leave room for a guest column on a local matter (transportation legislation in Virginia) that I will skip.

Before getting to the three mouseketeers, though, I must mention a feature article masquerading as a news item (front page, though below the fold) in today’s WaPo, on FLOTUS as Oscar presenter. Not even those of us who wouldn’t be caught dead watching Hollywood’s annual paean to itself could avoid learning that Michelle O was charged with presenting the BP award to “Argo,” from inside the WH while standing next to troops in dress uniform. (Thus some of us have perforce developed opinions on what this was all about, for which I direct you to the comments thread following fatster’s roundup for yesterday.)

The article first quotes the FLOTUS communication director, to the effect that MO accepted the task because as a movie lover she was honored to be asked. As for criticism, the article says (after an intervening history of the relations between presidential couples and Hollywood), it has been of two kinds. Conservatives seem to have tweeted that it’s a matter of the Obamas ingratiating themselves everywhere. TV critics, for their part, “panned it as part of a disjointed Oscar ceremony.” But no critic has cited the fact that the film glorifies the CIA or the current villainous status of its villain, Iran; if they had, surely the paper of record in the nation’s capital would have mentioned it, right? (Never mind what the international TV news channels have pointed out: at least Iran itself has protested on such grounds.)

To the subject. From his perch “in the packed gym at Blessed Sacrament School in Northwest Washington,” CC waxes eloquent about the improved opportunities these days for people with disabilities such as Down’s syndrome or autism, particularly in athletics with the Special Olympics. He is watching an SO-sponsored basketball event where some of the players could not make a basket without the referee allowing a few extra tries. Nonetheless, he says,

By giving opportunities to those with intellectual disabilities, we discover what interests them. This includes sporting competition — and the inalienable right to put on a skirt and lead cheers. At halftime, the Joy cheerleading squad performance includes some impressive splits. The sight of young women with Down syndrome and other disabilities breaking the cheerleading barrier is no longer unusual. It is still better than Beyonce.

CC also reminds us that things were not always so, and that even today a fetus that betrays Down’s syndrome is often aborted. Then he concludes:

Everyone, it turns out, is dependent and vulnerable — and sacred and able. And the most remarkable thing about that discovery is the sheer joy of it.

I am not going to endorse the implied criticism of the pregnant woman who believes she simply would not be able to care for a child with Down’s and decides to abort. As CC himself says, “raising a child with a disability … remains difficult in ways that are hard for outsiders to imagine.” Still, I can’t fault his giving voice to the fact that all human life is capable of positive experience. I only wish he would express it in a less cloying manner.

HH’s topic, as it was two weeks ago, is the Obama administration’s supposed inaction where action is needed, namely in Syria. There he chastised the administration for not implementing a no-fly zone against Assad’s planes and not supplying the rebels with weapons (or not openly, I guess he meant, since one hears that the CIA is helping out), ultimately accusing it of “looking the other way” in the face of disaster. Today he first reminds us that at the end of David Lean’s film, T. E. Lawrence tries to unite the individual tribe-oriented Arab leaders to defend Damascus in 1918, but is unsuccessful so that the city falls. HH observes at the end of the piece that the battle for Damascus is joined again in the present. In the interim, he cites a new insider expose, to be published in April but with underground copies already available, to the effect that domestic political considerations have trumped the opinions of seasoned policy experts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Thus, HH infers, the same process must be at work for Syria. That is why Obama has done nothing to “contain the civil war” via a no-fly zone and arming the insurgents.

You read that right: to favor one side in a war is to contain the war. Sure.

L1’s piece is something of a jeremiad against coal as fuel. He begins:

The test of President Obama’s seriousness about addressing climate change is not his pending decision on the much-debated Keystone XL pipeline. It’s whether he effectively consigns coal-fired power plants — one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions — to the ashcan of history.

Later on he throws a bone to the “tens of thousands of demonstrators” who came to Washington the weekend before last, acknowledging their concern, but says the tar sands oil “is likely to be extracted eventually, regardless of the pipeline decision.” (Some FDLers have their own critique of that rally, but that’s another story.) Obama, he says, can act now to reduce global warming, independent of Congress, by instructing the EPA to escalate the process of tightening the rules on carbon emissions from coal-fired plants, “and effectively guarantee that no new coal-fired plants would be built.” Rather, the new ones would use natural gas. That fuel, admittedly, has its own problems, but to phase out fossil fuels completely “is a journey of many years.” Obama should act now on coal, which will “take us many miles down the road.”

In short, we have no choice but to use fossil fuels in one way or another for the indefinite future, even if we can get rid of one of them.

My response is: renewables, renewables, renewables. I have no problem with shuttering the coal-fired plants, but has L1 been so shell-shocked by the Republicans’ feeding off the Solyndra debacle that he cannot propose anything positive at all in the direction that everyone knows will have to be the answer? As FDL’s Phoenix Woman pointed out the other day, electrical generation from renewable sources has seen a considerable increase lately, in spite of subsidization of dirty energy sources and of obstruction by their representatives. But either L1 is unaware of this development or is simply too obsessed with abolishing one particular fuel that he doesn’t feel like suggesting any measure to enhance the trend.

Of course, it’s possible that that will be the subject of his next column, but I won’t hold my breath.

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E. F. Beall

E. F. Beall