Work and Days

Good and Bad Times

General Betray Us?

Obama said not a word last autumn about the slander of Gen. Petraeus when he was running hard left of Clinton and the crowd was essential to his candidacy. But now? After West Virginia, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania, etc. he realizes two things: there are no longer any rivals to the left, but quite a lot to the right who are turned off by him. So goes the way of Rev. Wright, while his grandmother, the flag lapel, guns, death penalty, Iraq, FISA, and NAFTA climb back on the bus—until he is elected (when some go back off and others get to climb on again).

A Time for Reflection

News today that al Qaeda is now reeling even in Mosul, their last stronghold, should make us all stop and ponder. For all the talk of a worn-out military, a cruel Pentagon that treats its veterans poorly, and the general Democratic notion of our soldiers as victims of an immoral war and brutal militarism, a few thousand Americans, with vast odds against them, have nearly crushed Islamic fundamentalists, won the hearts and minds of Arab Muslims in the ancient caliphate, stabilized a constitutional government, and silenced their critics here at home and abroad. The American expeditionary army and marines in Iraq, and its commander David Petraeus, surely must be regarded as one of the most capable militaries in recent memory—all to the relative silence in our mainstream newspapers, network news, and opinion journalists.

Such a strange age…

The country goes into a fevered state over whether there was or was not yellowcake for sale to Saddam down in Niger. The result is that a Special Prosecutor—charged with finding out who leaked the name of a CIA employee as retaliation for her husband’s (wrong) finding that Niger did not wish to sell yellowcake—knew who leaked Ms. Plame’s identity, and knew that she was not a covert agent anyway. Instead Prosecutor Fitzgerald indicts someone else—who happens to be the real target of a hysterical Washington media. Meanwhile with no more than a tsk, tsk, we learn that 1.2 million pounds of Saddam’s yellowcake have been sitting all the time in storage in Iraq, and are now quietly sold off to the Canadians. Dispute over a few ounces of yellowcake in Africa tie up DC for a year, while tons of the stuff sit quitely in Iraq in leaky drums.

No, it is a crazy age…

Worried about Congressional rankings in the single digits, Democratic Senators and Congress people are parading out to news conferences to assure us that “we can’t drill our way out of this energy crisis” (who said we could?), and that what little oil we would find off our coasts (no mention of the natural gas) would “take ten years” and only shave “pennies” off a gallon of gas.
Examine the logic: we don’t develop these resources because of the time lag? But isn’t there a time lag in creating a viable electric battery, a hydrogen car, solar and wind farms, a new nuclear plant? And the logic is puerile: we simply freeze and assume a fetal position since the results of our labors are only of long-term use?

As for a “few pennies.” Well, a few pennies here, a few there really do add up. In other words, a million barrels in Anwr, a million off our coasts, a million from tar sands, a million in shale, a million on the continental shelf, a million from conservation and pretty soon we have saved trillions in imported oil costs, and provided the necessary bridge, the critical breathing space for electric cars or flex-fuels, or whatever. No supporter of drilling thinks we are going to return to the days of the gas-powered Yukon and Hummer. But we need to preserve our civilization and not mortgage it to the Arabs, Russians, Iranians, and Venezuelans in the process of going green.

The Messiah

First we were told to be on guard for fainting at Obama rallies. Then we were apprised that his candidacy marked the historic moment when the planet healed and the oceans ceased to rise. Then we were told the convention hall was simply too small for the “people” to listen to the gospel of St. Obama. And now the Germans are asked to give him the traditional Presidential podium in front of the Brandenburg Gate. The strange thing is that the elite Left that has always warned us that hoi polloi are prone to groupthink and frenzied hysteria when hypnotized by mass-appeal rhetoricians.

Global whatever

Now we are lectured that climate change is threatening civilization and we must do this and that. Twenty years ago I remember it was the Aids epidemic that was just about to break out among the heterosexual population in the fashion it had devastated the San Francisco gay community. Thus we needed to quit envisioning the virus as largely specific to gays and IV-drug users, and instead mobilize to protect the entire population from a mass epidemic. A few voices in the wilderness who argued that the mechanisms of so-called normal heterosexual sex (while perhaps conducive in their unprotected modes to all sort of venereal diseases) were nevertheless often different from both the apparent frequency and nature of homosexual sex practices, and very different from the blood exchanges of shared-needles, were derided as either illiberal, homophobic, or unhinged.

The country seems to go through these ‘we are on the brink of extinction’ panics about every 20 years or so. We all remember the 1960s population bomb and how 3-billion-person India would be starved into oblivion by now, or Ronald Reagan’s desire for a nuclear winter (remember the made-for-TV movies about a Reagan-inspired nuclear holocaust), or again the take-over of Japan, Inc. as everything from Rockefellar Center to Pebble Beach was lost to the Yellow Peril. I remember my high-school science teacher lecturing about a global ice-age to come, and we humans going the way of the dinosaurs.

I don’t think our planet overheating in the near future is going to kill off billions, but I wonder whether the entire neglect of energy questions for last 20 years, especially the need to develop shale, tar sands, more clean coal, nuclear, and drilling oil to transition us to cleaner fuels, has nearly bankrupted American civilization. Our dependencies have siphoned off trillions from our productive economy in de facto cash grants to very unproductive exporters, who see as their birthright $140 a barrel oil that cost them $4-5 to pump—after someone else provided them the know-how and expertise to find, pump, and ship it.

We seem to panic about imaginary beasts, when real monsters quietly devour us.