Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Save The Planet, Suspend Democracy

Most of the buzz generated by this Guardian piece about climate alarmist James Lovelock focused on his view that humans are too stupid to prevent the predicted catastrophe. But putting down humanity is nothing new in the increasingly-misanthropic climate clique. More alarming is what Lovelock had to say about the obstacle democracy poses to mounting an effective response -- and his suggested that we might have to put democracy "on hold" in order to deal with the alleged crisis.

"I don't think we're yet evolved to the point where we're clever enough to handle a complex a situation as climate change," said Lovelock in his first in-depth interview since the theft of the UEA emails last November. "The inertia of humans is so huge that you can't really do anything meaningful."

One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is "modern democracy", he added. "Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while."

Lovelock doesn't make any claim to expertise in political science, fortunately, but he's wrong when he says that "even the best democracies agree" that democracy should be suspended in times of war (and this is a "war" to save the planet, in the eyes of some people). This 91-year-old Brit surely must recall a nasty little dustup called World War II. Great Britain didn't take a temporary time out from democracy, or abandon freedom, even when it was being terrorized by German buzz bombs and hanging on by its fingernails. It and other democracies clung to their values even firmer, in response to the tyranny that loomed.

I can't think of a single modern case that supports Lovelock's assertion. Emergencies have led to the restriction or trampling of civil liberties in some democracies under certain circumstances (think of Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, or the internment of Japanese during World War II). But most modern democracies have remained fundamentally democratic even in wartime.

Maybe we shouldn't care very much about what a climate crackpot says. But Lovelock's moment of candor offers a telling glimpse at the authoritarian tendencies lurking behind the green mask.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Post Goes Postal on Teacher Unions

Say what you will about The Washington Post -- and most conservatives say it's a left-leaning piece of fish wrap -- but the paper's editorial page in recent years has become a strong and consistent voice for school choice and school reform. Some on the paper's news side still shill for the teacher unions and other anti-reform reactionaries. But the editorial page has seen the light.

Today's editorial, which comes to the defense of a successful Baltimore charter school that's been the target of "outlandish demands" by the city's teachers union, isn't an aberration. The Post has been a fairly reliable ally of D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, in her epic struggles to turn that school system around. And the paper's oft-repeated mantra of "put children first" is helping bring slow but perceptible change to some public school systems that need it most.

Now, if only the Post would incorporate that pro-freedom, pro-reform ethos into all its editorials.

But then there would be no reason for The Washington Times.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Earth Hour" an Event for Dim Bulbs

Americans take reliable and affordable energy so much for granted that they've developed a mindless contempt for the companies and people that provide it to them. They must think their homes are electrified and heated by magic, given the disdain they show for coal mines, drilling rigs, power plants, nuclear reactors, transmission towers and pipelines, and judging from the vilification they heap on evil energy companies, which routinely are portrayed as the murderers of Mother Earth.

One demonstration of that contempt comes Saturday, with the annual celebration of "Earth Hour," when "millions of people around the world" will turn off their lights for one hour in order "to make their stand against climate change." Energy use = global catastrophe: that's the dangerously simplistic equation touted by the dim bulbs who thought up Earth Hour. The only way we can "save the planet" is by turning off the lights, parking our cars and crawling back to the dank caves from whence we came, much to the planet's misfortune.

Light has always been synonymous with civilization. It was long believed to be a friend to humankind (thank you, Prometheus). Earth Hour turns it into the enemy of the planet.

Energy providers take this abuse in stride: they've been so badgered into submission by eco-Luddites that they can barely rise to their own defense. They seem apologetic and ashamed -- some probably even sponsor Earth Hour events and distribute pro-Earth Hour propaganda in an effort to placate their implacable critics.

But I have an idea that might help them turn public perceptions around.

I propose a counter-event called "Energy Hour," which would also occur once a year, but at a randomly-selected time. All at once, on cue, all the world's energy providers would suspend operations for an hour (maybe longer if you really want to make things interesting), plunging the planet into darkness, cold and immobility. The lights would go off. The computers would stop. Electric appliances would not work. Gas tanks would go dry. Streets would be gridlocked. Apprehension and uncertainly would grip most of the industrialized world, as the people waited anxiously and prayerfully for the light to return.

Maybe the worldwide standstill that would result -- maybe the disruptions, the danger, the discomfort and the desperation that would occur if civilization were for even an hour taken "off the grid" -- would remind disconnected moderns of the debt they owe to energy providers. Maybe they'll understand, once again, that electricity doesn't come from light switches, and that without drilling rigs, their cars become inanimate objects.

It probably won't take more than one or two Energy Hours before the Earth Hour movement loses its mojo, and before people take a more rational, balanced and appreciative view of the energy sector. Maybe we'll see a halt to the regulatory warfare waged on energy producers. Maybe we'll get a national energy policy based on realism, not pie-in-the-sky pipe dreams.

Happy "Energy Hour," everyone! Take a moment this weekend to savor all the comforts, conveniences and benefits that come from living in this gloriously energy-dependent society.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Suthers is All Over the Map on States' Rights

Kudos to Colorado Attorney General John Suthers for announcing that he'll join with a number of other states in suing to block ObamaCare health coverage mandates. But where's that fighting spirit when it comes to defending Colorado's right to go its own way on medical marijuana legalization?

The voters of Colorado ten years ago approved partial legalization, for medical purposes, but the federal Drug Enforcement Administration still is raiding dispensaries and grow operations in the state, superimposing federal drug control laws on Coloradans, without a peep of protest from Suthers. It appears the AG's stance on states' rights is selective and situational -- "political" instead of principled, in short. If it's a federal encroachment he's politically opposed to, he'll fight it. But when it comes to the medicinal use of marijuana, a state-sanctioned activity which Suthers opposes, the feds are free to run roughshod over Colorado.

Republicans could be on the vanguard of the neo-federalist revival taking place in some parts of the country, as the revulsion to what's happening in Washington grows. But in order to have any credibility on the issue, party leaders will have to show more consistency and determination than they have been in applying these principles. The test of credibility isn't in evoking states' rights selectively, when it's the politically popular thing to do, as with ObamaCare. Credibility comes from taking such stands when the issue at hand is politically controversial, even within one's own party, as with Cannabis-Care.

How about a little more consistency, and credibility, Mr. Attorney General?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Common Sense vs. Recreational Correctness

By now it's become an annual winter ritual, as predictable as the bears going into hibernation -- I'm talking, of course, about the never-ending battle over snowmobile use in Yellowstone National Park. The forces of recreational-correctness want the machines incrementally banned, claiming they disturb the serenity, while the gateway towns that rely on winter tourists argue that capping the number of machines is capricious, unsupported by science and bad for the bottom line. So the arguments go, year after year, with snowmobile limits rising or falling (mostly the latter) depending on the most recent Park Service mandate or judge's ruling.

But perhaps there's a common sense solution that's been out there all along -- one that should have been considered years ago. Why not just plow the most popular routes during winter, allowing motorized access? It's an option many locals want the Park Service to seriously consider, as it begins drafting a new winter travel plan. Cars and SUVs are cleaner-burning than snowmobiles. They don't seem to disturb wildlife, judging from the roadside animal-watching that goes on in summer months. And the Park Service already plows an access road from the park’s north entrance.

Sounds like a sensible solution, all in all -- which is why it will probably be rejected by the public lands exclusionists, who will use any rationalization, no matter how flimsy, to limit public access to "public land." Just because they can say "no" they will say "no." And they'll probably say "no" to this idea, too. It's what separates the zealots from the reasonable people.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Eco-nomics Comes Out of the Closet

Mike Rosen has an interesting column in The Denver Post, shining a welcome light on the economic underpinnings of the environmental movement. Perhaps those who still believe it's all about bunnies and butterflies will view things differently, when they come to see the strong anti-capitalist, anti-free market, anti-property rights and anti-consumer choice strains that infuse the ideology. Eco-economics isn't often talked about, explicitly (for fear, no doubt, of making skeptics of those who still laugh-off environmentalists as harmless granola-crunchers), so it's helpful to see a few proponents lay their cards on the table and make the agenda explicit.

Anti-capitalism can be found in almost every strand of the movement's DNA (think Edward Abbey's Monkey Wrench Gang), but the shift toward eco-socialism became more pronounced after the fall of the Soviet Union, when hard-core collectivists, suddenly left out in the cold, so to speak, began searching for a new, more politically-fashionable home to inhabit. They were warmly received by the movement, which already saw prosperity, consumer choice, development, property rights and the market economy as threats to the planet.

Thus appeared the so-called "watermelon" -- shorthand for someone who is green on the outside and red on the inside. It's good to see the watermelons come tumbling out of the closet, so average Americans can see that there's much more to this movement than cleaning waterways and saving trees.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Fed-Fighting Governor Served Wyoming Well

I've written before of my admiration for Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat with a strong independent streak who did the Cowboy State proud by bucking Washington when it was in the state's best interests. I'm disappointed, therefore, to learn that he won't be seeking a third term. A non-conformist to the end, Freudenthal shrugged off any talk of a "legacy" at the announcement. "We don't do that legacy stuff," he said. "This legacy stuff is incredibly dangerous."

He does leave a legacy, though, which was probably best summed-up by State Sen. Eli Bebout, a former political rival who narrowly lost to Freudenthal in the 2002 governors race. "I think he really tried to represent Wyoming against the intrusiveness of the federal government, and he did that," Bebout said. That led to clashes with Washington over energy policy, reintroduced wolves, the sage grouse (which was granted some new federal protections this week, but not "threatened or "endangered" status, thank goodness) and, most famously, the Preble's meadow jumping mouse.

The mouse is listed as a protected federal species in Colorado, but not in Wyoming, not coincidently, thanks to Freudenthal's persistent efforts to fight the listing and expose the fraudulent science behind it. Maybe this absurd split decision never would have occurred if Colorado had a governor who was more protective of the state's interests, vis-a-vis the federal government.

And unlike Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, who has waged regulatory war on the traditional energy sector, while touting "new energy economy" fantasies, Freudenthal managed to strike a sensible balance between environmental protection and economic development in Wyoming, leaving the state on a sound financial footing. "When we had huge energy development, he did the balancing act," said Sen. Kathryn Sessions, a Democrat from Cheyenne. "He tried to preserve those things that we hold most dear in this state -- our water, our air, our mountains, our open space," she told the Casper Star-Tribune, while serving as a "balancer between all of that and industry and money and all the stuff on the other side."

Freudenthal leaves quite a legacy, even if he characteristically would never brag on it. I hope for the Cowboy State that it finds a worthy successor.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

State of Rebellion

Finally, a use of eminent domain I actually might approve of: story link.

"In Utah, a move to seize federal land

Long frustrated by Washington's control over much of their state, Utah legislators are proposing a novel way to deal with federal land -- seize it and develop it.The Utah House of

Representatives last week passed a bill allowing the state to use eminent domain to take land the federal government owns and has long protected from development. The state wants to develop three hotly contested areas -- national forest land in the Wasatch Mountains north of Salt Lake City, land in a proposed wilderness area in the red rock southwestern corner of the state, and a stretch of desert outside of Arches National Park that the Obama administration has declared off-limits to oil and gas development.

Supporters argue that provisions in the legislation that granted Utah statehood allow it to make such a land grab. They also hope to spark a showdown in the Supreme Court that would rearrange the balance of power between states and the federal government.

Some legal experts say the effort is unlikely to succeed, but Republican state Rep. Chris Herrod, one of the authors of the bill, said the state had little choice."I love America, and I'm a peaceful guy," Herrod said, "but the only real option we have is rebellion, which I don't believe in, and the courts."

The eminent domain proposal is among the most audacious yet in a state accustomed to heated battles over the two-thirds of its land owned by the federal government. This is the state, after all, where local officials bulldozed their own roads through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, tore down signs barring off-roading in Canyonlands National Park and, with funding from the statehouse, spent years unsuccessfully defending those actions in federal court."

The L.A. Times story strikes just the sort of tone one expects from a green-leaning reporter who parachutes in from the coast, to wonder at the yahoos in "Fly-Over Country." But I'm rooting for the yahoos on this one.