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.