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.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Renewables Are "Winning" A Rigged Race

"Green energy" panacea-pushers at The Energy Collective (at least the name clues one in to their collectivist leanings) are hyperventilating again over the seemingly large percentage of new U.S. energy capacity being added by so-called renewables, which mostly means wind and solar. Here's the situation in one handy-dandy chart.

But these gains are only impressive when taken out of context.

Renewables only appear to be gaining so much ground because two of their primary (and most potent) energy sector rivals, coal and nuclear power, are effectively dead in the water, thanks to the unfavorable (nay, hostile) political and regulatory climate created by the Obama White House and its Big Green allies. Note the long string of zeros to the right of coal and nuclear power. Renewables are "winning" the Daytona 500 because their rivals are stuck in the pits.  

The long-rumored U.S. nuclear energy revival is nowhere in sight, despite President Obama's "all-of-the-above" campaign rhetoric. And while the shale gas revolution can't be ignored as a contributing factor, knee-jerk opposition from extremists, and the daunting regulatory climate such resistance creates, very likely trumps market conditions as a primary cause. And building new coal-fired power plants isn't any easier, given a wave of EPA carbon mandates (backed up my court rulings) that seem designed to outlaw America's most abundant domestic energy source. Add in all the direct and indirect support and subsidies renewables receive, including mandates that guarantee them a market share, and it's not easy to see why these niche energy technologies appear to be on such a roll.

Force them to compete in an honest and free energy market, in which politicians aren't rigging the game in favor of politically-popular "pets," and the new capacity added by wind and solar would be what it's been for decades -- relatively insignificant, in the grand scheme of things. All these trend lines show is that America's foolish rush down the "green energy" rabbit hole is accelerating, as it abandons tried-and-true for pie-in-the- sky.      

Nor does this gloating by "green energy" proponents take into account the quality of the energy being added, though that matters a great deal because not every megawatt is created equal. What counts most in this modern industrial society, which requires and expects on-demand energy, is dispatchability -- the ability of a generating entity to increase or decrease power (at the flip of a switch, ideally, or faster) in response to the ebbs and flows of demand on the grid. This kind of power, sometimes called "base load" or "peaking power," just isn't something intermittent energy generators like wind and solar can dependably provide, making them of marginal utility in the grand scheme of things.

Mild concerns about grid stability and reliability, in light of the looming carbon mandates, have recently been voiced by some members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which thankfully isn't chaired by shot-down Colorado nominee Ron Binz. But such worries are predictably pooh-poohed by Democrats on the board, who would rather risk rolling brownouts than inject a little realism into the debate. They might look to Germany as a case study in what can happen, in terms of grid instability, when you stumble dangerously far down this particular path.      

One day, perhaps, the grid won't function as it does today. One day, perhaps, we'll have the ability to store-up intermittent energy and dispatch it on-demand, addressing this deficiency. But until that someday arrives we're stuck with the reality of the grid as it works now, which limits renewables to a niche roll. Simply touting added capacity, without also examining what kind of capacity is being added, seems like just another effort to lead energy illiterates down the primrose path.     

Thursday, July 24, 2014

How About Some Humility?

I admire scientists who can admit to ignorance and uncertainty -- as these do in response to a mysterious pause in solar flaring. It's a truly scientific mindset that's completely lacking among the "climate scientists" constantly beating the alarmist gong, who express a level of cocky confidence in their conclusions that more credible scientists should (but don't) repudiate. 

Despite great strides, we still actually know very little about how and why natural forces work as they do. But nobody ever landed a major government research grant, or made the newspaper, or justified another expansion of government, admitting that the root causes of global climate change remain mysterious.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I'm Baaaaack

After what seems like an eternity, I'm going to resume posting on this dormant but beloved old blog, which I launched after departing a former newspaper job simply to satisfy my addiction to the daily writing routine.

The problem I face now (after "pursuing other interests," as they say) isn't satisfying my writing fix, but shaking-off the rust, and clearing away the cobwebs, that accumulate when you aren't writing regularly. I've found that you can as easily fall out of "writing shape" as you can lose your physical fitness, so this will serve, for now, as a sort of off-the-beaten-track training camp, where I can ease back into the writing habit, and regain what "form" I once had, without public notice.

Why return here?

Why not?

In scanning back through the old posts, I liked some (but not all) of what I saw, so why start from scratch? This comfortable old walking shoe will do just fine as I attempt to regain my footing along the writer's path.