Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Conspiracy of Dunces?

I'm skeptical of conspiracy theories alleging oil market manipulation by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia -- mainly because I think any good conspiracy requires a level of sophistication and competence this administration lacks. But I can also understand why this situation seems so suspiciously convenient for this administration at this time.

Yes, dropping oil prices inflict some well-deserved pain on nasty oiligarchs like Vladdy Putin. But they also serve several other important ends for this White House, in terms of its domestic agenda.

Plummeting oil prices have given the economy a boost, like no Obama "stimulus" efforts have, and they also might help silence the growing congressional chorus in support of the Keystone Pipeline project, potentially taking a lot of pressure off the obstructionist Obama. It's also important to remember that this White House -- despite all its "all-of-the-above" energy rhetoric -- is no real friend to the US fracking boom, which green groups view as a climate hazard and renewable energy racketeers don't like either, since plentiful and affordable natural gas make it harder for their green energy gimmickry to compete.

Slowing or halting America's fracking revolution will please the environmental left, which seems absolutely gleeful about the hurt this could put on domestic energy producers, if prolonged. And the renewable energy racket probably will only suffer a temporary slowdown, since oil imports actually have little connection with electric generation in this country.

So is this a lengthy way of conceding that these conspiracy theories just might have merit, given the benefits they bestow on this floundering President? Almost. But I still can't believe this bunch of bumblers could pull off anything this diabolically brilliant, given the across-the-board incompetence they've shown.

If there was some collusion, it was most likely a Saudi idea.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How About a Virtual White House?

Last week’s White House fence-jumper naturally is leading to more White House fences, plus a plan to start screening tourists blocks away from the executive mansion. I say “naturally” because this sort of action-overreaction pattern is all-pervasive in the nation’s capital.  

American policy-making today is completely reactive, and only rarely proactive, in nature. We lurch from incident to incident, “crisis” to “crisis,” overreacting to relative minutia (which is blown into media-generated maelstroms) while the big problems, and the genuine threats, go largely ignored. While we’re beefing-up the number of TSA shoe-scanners at airports, in response to a much-lessened menace, and our Secretary of Stagecraft is calling “climate change” the biggest national security threat, ISIS is plotting (and then executing) the takeover of Iraq, largely outside public notice. It’s only when the beheadings begin that a distracted public tunes-in and our feckless leaders are forced into “action,” such as it is.          

Every Secret Service screw-up thus becomes an excuse to push the rabble further back, to “tighten security,” to turn the White House into even more of a fortress. I was living in D.C. back when Bill Clinton (supposedly) was convinced to close-off Pennsylvania Avenue to vehicular traffic, following a number of incidents that made the Service nervous. This brought even greater gridlock to downtown Washington and made my car commute even more impossible, but obviously did little to address the bigger vulnerability posed by fence-jumpers. A “CAT squad” was created in response to the fence-jumping threat, but obviously fell down on the job last week. 

I have a modest proposal that could greatly reduce the future risk of Secret Service embarrassments (since that’s really all the latest security reviews and changes are designed to do): I call it the Virtual White House. We live in a “virtual age,” so why not just wall-off the White House completely and project a pleasing image of the building onto the wall? Tourists could pose in front of the mirage for Facebook-posting purposes, before moving on to hit other Washington highlights. 

A “Virtual White House” should be good enough for people satisfied with virtual liberty, virtual justice and virtual leadership.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Animal Cruelties

This is just some of the havoc blinkered "rewilding" advocates have unleashed on the rural West, through wolf reintroductions and other initiatives aimed at rebuilding populations of large predators in modern landscapes that simply can't sustain them. These efforts are ushering-in a new round of human-animal conflict that isn't good for people or for "protected" animals. 

Here you have a sheep rancher who's been trying to keep the wolves at bay, literally, by working within the system, who can't count on the system's help when federal wolf packs begin decimating his herd. Adding insult to injury, you also have a typically-fanatical wolf advocate, in blame-the-victim fashion, callously arguing that the rancher (who has been denied access to wolf tracking data kept by the state) ought to have known better than to put his animals in harm's way. Finally, lastly, you have government predator controllers, with a clear justification for taking action against the rampaging pack, who are cowed into submission, and call off the hunt, as soon as the howling of the lunatic fringe is heard. 

Thus you have, in microcosm, a story repeated too often since Washington began forcing wolves down the West's throat, with the heartfelt support of east coast editorial writers, non-Western politicians and animal worshipers of various stripes -- none of which have to deal directly with the consequences when these feel-good science fair projects go awry.             

We need less romanticism and more realism in how these efforts are pursued, since it's impossible to recreate conditions in the "New West" that perfectly mimic those in the "Old West," except perhaps on a relatively modest scale in very remote locales. Pushing things too far is itself a form of animal cruelty, since it's the "protected" species that arguably suffer most when these rewilding experiments run amok.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Perry Indictment

Somebody ought to go to jail in Texas -- but it's sure as shootin' NOT Gov. Perry -- for conspiring to turn a political dispute into a criminal case, which won't hold up in court but could (as it's designed) damage the career of a man who has served his state well. Democrats now have shown that they'll resort to anything, including hijacking and misusing the criminal justice system, in order to malign, smear or destroy their enemies. 

That's a damning indictment of them, not Rick Perry. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Green Media Menace

Veteran Wisconsin political reporter Ron Seely is this year’s recipient of the David R. Brower Award, given annually by the The Sierra Club to a journalist for his or her “outstanding environmental coverage.” Seely undoubtedly was honored to accept the award and happy to hang it on his trophy wall. But to me there’s something troubling about this seemingly-innocuous episode, which highlights the near-total demolition of any wall of separation between “environmental journalism” and environmental activism.     

We’ve all heard about the scourge of “yellow journalism.” But these days it’s the green media news consumers should be wary of. 

Let's ignore for now the question of who David Brower was and what kind of role model he makes for journalists. Any review of Brower's story and statements shows that he embodied few qualities a professional journalist should emulate. Let's skip over, as well, the rather ironic fact that Brower was at one point drummed-out of the club, by no lesser a light than Ansel Adams, over ideological differences and alleged financial improprieties.   
Today let's just imagine the outcry that would result if the energy industry began handing out journalism awards. No credible journalist would accept such a dubious "honor," for obvious reasons. Liberal pundits would howl in derision at the audacity of Evil Oil trying to pollute the purity of American newsrooms. Enviros would completely freak-out. The recipient would continue his or her career, if she or he still had one, under a constant cloud of suspicion.

Ron Seely wouldn’t think of accepting an award for energy-related writing from BP or Exxon-Mobile. That he’ll gladly take one from the rabidly anti-fossil fuel Sierra Club -- a charter member of America's booming Environmental Anxiety Industry -- highlights a troubling double standard that further blurs distinctions between journalism and activism. That most journalists evidently don’t see The Sierra Club as part of a powerful political lobby, with an agenda that’s due the same journalistic detachment, scrutiny and skepticism any other special interest group is, makes the blind spot (and bias) obvious.

Most of today's "environmental journalists" seem like environmentalists first and journalists a distant second. Alert readers readily detect this just by reading the tone of reporting on that beat. Almost every major news shop now has an environmental beat blogger on staff, whose work product rarely differs from what Big Green's press peeps churn out, making the latter group almost superfluous.  

It's just one of the reasons I long ago dropped my membership in the Society of Environmental Journalists, which has become another news industry auxiliary of Big Green, to no one’s apparent alarm. These days, it's as if The Sierra Club has a presence in every newsroom, which routinely tilts coverage in favor of the extreme green position.

This can also be seen, if one wants further evidence, in the intolerance toward climate skeptics (now routinely derided as “deniers" by many journalists) that a growing number of supposed news organizations are showing, with some effectively banning all expression of doubt and dissent – all deviations from climate change orthodoxy – from their pages. The Los Angeles Times has led the purge by banning climate skeptics from their “opinion” pages.       

News people naturally will deny this bias, like they deny every other obvious bias, but the fact that no one in professional journalism questions or condemns colleagues for accepting The David Brower Award shows that this is a blind spot betraying a double standard, confirming a bias. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Energy Fads, Follies and Failures

Live long enough as an American and you can watch the energy fads, and follies, repeat themselves.

I'm of the right vintage to do this, since I've paid at least some attention to energy issues dating back to the oil embargoes and shocks of the 1970s, which put rationing in place and had gas lines snaking around stations, spurring politicians to actions (overreactions, typically) that set the herky-jerky, reactionary, crisis-to-crisis pattern that's characterized U.S. energy policy ever since. Robert Bryce does an outstanding job of walking readers back through that sad and sordid history in this NRO piece, making too much additional commentary unnecessary.

It's just amazing that no one in a position of real responsibility knows this history and refuses to repeat it, since energy is the Achilles heal of a society like ours. Getting things wrong can have serious, serious economic implications, to which most Americans seem oblivious. Some awaken momentarily when another crisis point arises (typically, when the pain at the pump becomes excruciating), usually pointing fingers in the wrong direction, unable to connect the dots between policy causes and economic effects -- then go back to sleep, as feckless leaders centrally-plan "fixes" that fix nothing and establish a predicate for the next crisis.

How long an economic superpower can get along like this, with such an amateurish energy policy, only time will tell. But a day of reckoning will arrive. Obama's stunted and stumbling economy is just disguising problems that will begin to crop-up, in spades, if the American economy ever returns to old form.

But it's Saturday. And beautiful outside. There's lawn care to be done, a ball game to catch, a dog to be walked, maybe a margarita to savor later. There's no point in worrying about this now.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

When All Else Fails . . . Blame The GOP

That’s right. The problems plaguing Detroit have absolutely nothing to do with more than 50 years of one party misrule, mismanagement and malfeasance by liberal Democrats. No. It’s Republicans who are to blame, for coming to the city’s rescue when total collapse made that necessary. Readers coming fresh to this story might swallow such outlandish blame-shifting. But as someone who grew up in the Detroit area and watched the debacle unfold, I know it’s complete claptrap. 

Republicans certainly deserve their share of blame for many problems plaguing the U.S.. But blaming them for Detroit is revisionism on Ritalin.