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Works and Days

Our Brave New World

February 7th, 2009 - 7:28 pm

The Apocalyptic Style

Be careful when one uses the superlative case—best, most, -est, etc.—or evokes end-of-the-world imagery. The new Secretary of Energy Chu, who seems eminently qualified and is a Nobel Prize Winner, strangely just declared, ‘We’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California’, and went on to declare vineyards all but doomed here—apparently due to global warming.

True, we’ve had this year (and part of last) a mini-drought. In my 50 years of memory of California there have been many; usually they last for a year or two, then we get matching wet years. (In some years in lieu of Sierra irrigation water, I have turned on our electric pumps (15 hp/1000 gallons a minute) in May and turned them off in late August—24/7. And over a 10-year span of dry/wet years, the seasons balance out (e.g., the water table in my front yard varies from 35 feet in wet years to 50 in dry; and my great-great-grandmother’s abandoned 6-inch well, that in the 19th century used to provide hand-pumped water for the house, still, after 130 years, has water in its casing that goes down only 50 feet.)

More germanely, I drove Thursday from Los Angeles in a pouring rainstorm, and now am looking at a steady snowfall outside my window in the Sierra. Several feet are piled up on the ground as we are nearing mid-February blossom break for fruit trees—with more predicted on the way. Is the Secretary convinced that we will run out of water and have no crops (grapes, remember, grow well in the desert if they are irrigated), or does he think hotter weather means things simply don’t grow? If the former, perhaps the Sec. might support raising the Sierra dams a few feet, or even building a new one, given that millions of acre feet of precious water pour out of the Sierra each spring and into San Francisco Bay from the Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds, due to law suits and legislation that aim to restore 19th-century water runs that supposedly will bring back former populations of amphibians, insects, fish, and riparian mammalian life.

The truth is that we have plenty of water to farm and to support millions of people—if we utilize properly our resources and invest more in reservoirs and water conservation and storage. But we do not have enough water—if we insist on a business-as-usual infrastructure, designed for 15 million Californians that must now serve 36 million. Open borders, radical environmentalism, urbanization and edge-citification, enormous entitlements instead of infrastructure investments, high taxes that lead only to gargantuan deficits—not Mother Nature— will, in the aggregate, ensure Dr. Chu’s prediction of an end to California agriculture.

Hyperbolic

So it is unwise to use such hyperbole. Compare the Obama administration’s much ballyhooed “most stringent ethics standards”—ever!—that only leads to 10 (“exempt”) lobbyists appointed to the administration, and at least four tax cheats (an accurate rather than hyped description) nominated to Treasury, government oversight, HHS, and Labor, as well as someone like Richardson imploding, and complete silence about Rangel, Dodd, and Frank.

Likewise it is unwise to keep evoking “patriotic” to describe those who vote for the stimulus package, and cry ‘catastrophic” if opponents disagree and the $1 trillion dollar debt program is delayed. If supporters in congress of Bush and Cheney were criticized for suggesting that to cut off funds for soldiers in the field or to declare a war “lost” was unpatriotic, then surely it is wrong to do the same for an opponent of a stimulus or tax plan.

The Obama Style

If one would carefully read Obama’s al Arabiya interview, or the text of Biden’s Munich address, or Eric Holder’s acceptance speech, there is a now clear style: 1) preface your remarks with the fact that the last 8 years have been horrible (ruined relations with the Muslim world, politicization of the Justice Department, ruined relations with our allies, (fill in the blanks.).
2) Then evoke the superlative to promise something entirely new, singularly moral, historically ethical.
3) Hope that no one remembers 9/11 or that you just praised the Saudi king and trashed a US president, or that you once helped pardon a Most Wanted fugitive, or that we already enjoy good relations with Germany, Britain, Italy, France, etc., or that Russia, Iran, and radical Islam really do not care too much what we say—only whether we do pretty much what they want.

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