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Works and Days

It Doesn’t Always Compute

June 28th, 2008 - 1:41 pm

What You Won’t Read

Two of the Three in the Axis of Evil — Korea and Iraq –seem no longer to be acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Throw in Libya as well, and the end of Dr. Khan’s proliferation business, and things have gotten at least a little better. I say that because I keep reading about nuclear proliferation and America’s asleep-at-the-wheel posture, when in fact we alone supplied the pressure to stop a lot of it. Meanwhile, the Iranian theocracy will continue to issue existential threats to Israel, hint that it is nearing completion on enrichment, and rattle more sabers in hopes of creating continuing tension that helps spike oil prices and land it another $10 – $15 million a day in revenue.

And You Won’t Read This Either

That the World’s Saint, Mr. Gore, who lectures on carbon emissions and green behavior, built an ecological monstrosity of a castle that gulps energy at gargantuan rates; while the world’s villain, George Bush, built an eco-friendly, far more modest house that uses a fourth less power than the average home. But then when one compares the Kerry homes, the Edwards playhouse, and all the other liberal mansions, it makes sense. Modern liberalism for our elites is really a psychological state, in which an individual crafts an all-encompassing world view in the abstract to offset a rather materialistic and self-centered desire in the concrete. Here in California Sens. Boxer and Feinstein, and Rep Pelosi live like the privileged they are, while decrying the plight of the less fortunate. Someone who forbids drilling in ANWR rarely decides to down-size her home. A Senator Dodd who rails at the mortgage lenders’ greed has no problem taking a cut-rate loan from them–if it is a question of buying appropriate homes for his sixty-something efforts at establishing a young family. Hypocrisy is a human, not a political sin per se, but something about the combination of neo-socialist politics and extremely elite personal tastes suggests that there is a direct rather than an accidental connection—in the mind at least the former making possible the latter.

Dreams From My Grandmother

Is the title of a brief essay I wrote on Obama for NRO next week. I think as the general election unwinds, Obama will no longer omit mention of the grandmother who raised him in preference to dreaming about the African father who abandoned him—much less again throw her under the bus to save Rev. Wright by making the morally equivalent argument that her private (and confidential) fears of young black males on the streets were the same sort of prejudice as were his Rev.’s open and public denunciations of whites, Jews, Italians, etc. Now that it is no longer a question of establishing one’s racial fides in Chicago, but rather of winning hearts and minds in fly-over America, expect this modern Proteus to change shape yet again and become the child of the Midwest, his grandmother as essential to his identity as she once was an embarrassment in Chicago ward politics.

Not So Liberal

This is the apparent current logic of much of environmentally sensitive America:

a. It is ecologically wise to forbid safe drilling off Santa Barbara but OK to count on dangerous extraction off Nigeria? Don’t drill off Florida but mine coal all you want for America’s electricity in West Virginia? Please save the Alaskan tundra, but sell as much messy Siberian oil as possible?

b. Gas prices aren’t all that bad since it will force us to buy Priuses–which only the affluent can afford? I have no doubt that a lot of SUVs, Crown Victorias, and F-250s will come on the second-hand market cheaply in the near future–and will be about the only automobiles the poor can afford for small trips to the store. Not drilling in the US was about the worse thing anyone could have done for the lower classes. 3-4 million barrels a day more would indeed have lowered both the price of gas in real terms here, and cooled down the psychological climate that spurs on speculation

c. We would rather take hard-earned US cash and hand it over to Iran, Venezuela, Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc. than invest in American infrastructure by earning (soaring) federal revenues for gas and oil leasing in known areas of easily recoverable oil?

d. By any sane measure—reducing the trade deficit, bolstering the dollar, earning revenue for cash-strapped states, keeping billions out of the hands of lunatic regimes, ensuring the independence of American foreign policy, helping our own poor to afford transportation, preserving the ecology of the planet—it makes sense to drill, use coal cleanly, develop tar sands and shale, and build nuclear plants, until we transition to Obama promise of “wind, solar, and millions of new jobs in green industries!”

A Modest Proposal

Before we listen to any more sermons from actors, in the interest of intellectual seriousness and saving the planet, Hollywood celebrities should take a voluntary vow neither to fly on a private jet nor to engage in silly facial surgery. The one is energy selfishness, the other proof of intellectual lightness.

Keep Counting

FISA, NAFTA, campaign financing, Iran, town hall debates with McCain, Jerusalem, handgun control, death penalty applications, Rev. Wright— the list of Obama’s inoperative statements continues to grow. His advisors worry that the Hope and Change mantra is wearing thin (have you noticed that more and more crowds seem to roll their eyes when he gets into the sermonizing cadence when talking about the mundane?). But they worry more that when he gets specific, he says silly things or something that flips from what he said earlier–about what one would expect from someone who has very little experience, but enormous confidence in his powers to convince by his oratory.

Is San Francisco the Future?

I spent some time speaking in San Francisco recently. In crude and exaggerated terms, it reminds me of H.G. Wells Eloi and Morlocks. There are smartly dressed yuppies, wealthy gays, and chic business people everywhere downtown, along with affluent tourists, all juxtaposed with hordes of street people and a legion of young service workers at Starbucks, restaurants, etc. What is missing are school children, middle class couples with strollers, and any sense the city has a vibrant foundation of working-class, successful families of all races and backgrounds. For all its veneer of liberalism, it seems a static city of winners and losers, victory defined perhaps by getting into a spruced up Victorian versus renting in a bad district, getting paid a lot to manage something, versus very little to serve something. All in all, I got a strange creepy feeling that whatever was going on, it was unsustainable–sort of like an encapsulated Europe within an American city. The city seems to exist on tourism, and people who daily come into the city to provide a service, get paid–and leave. One businessman tried to assure me my anxieties were misplaced: “We are a revolving-door city: young people want a year or two in the “city” to have fun, so flock here, take menial jobs, cram together in an apartment, enjoy our night-life, and then leave wiser and ready to start life somewhere else in the real world. In the meantime, they are willing to work hard for us for little pay.” I think that about sums up the city.

I remember SF in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a kid visiting with his parents. A much different place altogether of affordable homes, vibrant docks, lots of construction—and children everywhere.

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