Sometimes events arrive with such stunning poetic symmetry the Stiftung wonders (even if only for a nanosecond) whether the Universe speaks to us every moment of the day with mischevious humor. Usually such thoughts come unbidden when a flat tire occurs on the way to a family holiday gathering. But not always.
In the WaPo Book World today, a review of the new Extinction, How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago by Douglas Ervin caught our eye. Joshua Foer, the reviewer, says:
Though the dinosaurs might find it crass to say so, the late Cretaceous cataclysm that did them in was a planetary bad hair day compared to the mass extinction that occurred some 250 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period. The Permian event is probably the closest that life on Earth ever came to being completely extinguished . . .The Stiftung was intrigued enough to venture out and examine the book in the wilds of a strip mall Barnes & Noble. And then the Universe spoke later this evening.
Just what caused this apocalypse is one of science's great unsolved riddles. Over the years, a cottage industry of Permian speculators has pointed the finger at just about every conceivable culprit. The list of indicted suspects includes — take a deep breath — plate tectonics, volcanoes, glaciation, a meteor, a supernova, a massive methane burp from the depths of the sea, oxygen-deprived oceans, an overly complex global ecosystem that collapsed under its own weight and, most fantastic of all, a buildup of cancer-inducing dark matter in the Earth's core. Dream up a way of killing off life on Earth, and chances are some reputable scientist has already proposed it as a cause of the Permian extinction.
On television there was this quite compelling CSPAN AfterWords with Jim Pinkerton interviewing Bruce Bartlett about Bartlett's new tome, Imposter: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy.
Pinkerton, as you may know, in addition to his column for Newsday and Tech Central Station, is a Fox News Contributor, and served in the Reagan and Bush Administrations. As Director of Research for the Bush '88 campaign, Pinkerton and Lee Attwater are credited with steering Bush 41 to victory (and working closely with a certain namesake son).
Bartlett was a domestic policy advisor to Ronald Reagan and served in the Bush 41 Treasury Department. Bartlett, also a syndicated columnist, was associated with the National Center for Policy Analysis, a free market think tank in Dallas, Texas. That is, until he was fired in 2005 for criticizing President Bush. Apparently writing this book was a 'firing offense'.
So together, these two have serious street cred in the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. And for one glorious hour, the fossil record of what happened to 'rational conservative thought' since 2001 and to the Reagan legacy was examined with calm and almost forensic care.