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Protesters greet Obama on S.F.'s Billionaires' Row

Although the protest in theory was specifically about the Keystone XL pipeline extension within the United States, the focus for most of the participants was about tar sands in general...

...and that was just a shorthand for all oil...

...which was subsumed in condemnation of all carbon-based energy sources.

OK, so we can cross oil, coal, natural gas, and all petroleum-related products off our list of acceptable energy sources.

What's left then — nuclear? Nuclear power is, after all, not carbon-based.

Nope. Nuclear's off the list too. "All reactors leak all the time," as this Occupier put it.

So, without carbon fuels or nuclear power, what's the answer?

Sustainable energy! Silly me! Why hadn't I thought of that before?

Here's why: In reality, sustainable/renewable/green energy sources meet only about 10% of our current energy requirements, and that's if you include hydroelectric, which most environmentalists also oppose because dams are eeeee-vil. All other sustainable sources combined — solar power, wind power, geothermal, biomass, etc. — supply about 3% of the United States' electrical energy needs.

That's hard cold reality. Yeah yeah yeah, maybe several decades in the future with massive government funding we could increase our solar and wind energy output severalfold, from 3% to 6% or 9% or more. The most extreme serious projection I've seen from the most optimistic pro-sustainable organization still concedes that we're unlikely to fulfill even 20% of our current energy usage from sustainables within the next century. (The pessimists scoff at that number, admittedly.) So, where is that 80+% (in the future) and 97+% (currently) of our energy going to come from, if we follow the progressives' advice and cut out all oil, coal, tar sands, natural gas, and nuclear?

The answer is: Shut up, you naysayer!!

At least the dishonest and ignorant environmentalists answer that way. The honest ones speak of "de-development" and living in caves and abandoning civilization and committing Voluntary Human Extinction to save Mother Earth.

Most of the CREDO protesters were, alas, of the former variety: ignorant and clueless. If we want to combat the greenhouse effect by keeping carbon molecules out of the atmosphere (the whole rationale for opposing oil-based energy), then we need to leave the oil where we found it — in the soil. But on the other hand, "No Oil in Our Soil" rhymes, which is a pretty good argument.

The organizers handed out "chant sheets"; someone was kind enough to show me theirs. We need printed lyrics for this kind of juvenilia?

This area of Pacific Heights is an unofficial "Embassy Row," and by a stroke of cosmic irony, across the street from Tom Steyer's house is the "Consulate General of the Arab Republic of Egypt," better known as the Egyptian consulate. The ironic part, of course, is that Egypt is an oil-exporting nation, and while its economy may not be as dominated by oil as are the economies of other Arab nations, petroleum products are still Egypt's largest export category.

During the early part of the protest when it was still small, only a few people wandered past the consulate. But as the crowd swelled...

...The anti-oil protesters literally swarmed all over the Egyptian consulate's front yard; since the building was closed and it doesn't really count as a private residence, the consulate served as a convenient gathering spot.

Throughout all of this, it seemed that not a single person even noticed the sign on the building behind them, much less registered the irony of protesting against the American oil economy while standing on the territory of a different oil-exporting nation.

This unintentional juxtaposition exposed the inherent flaw in CREDO's concept: Stopping the pipeline from Canada into the United States in no way undermines the overall oil economy — it would simply force Canada to export the oil overseas, likely to China. If the pipeline is blocked, it would merely make oil and gas prices more expensive here in the United States, and enrich other oil-exporting countries at our expense, since we'd have to buy more costly oil imported from further afield.

The end result of all this would be a continued acceleration of wealth away from America to those countries which have large oil reserves. This is pretty self-evident to anyone who pauses for a moment and thinks about it, and it therefore must be the ultimate goal of CREDO and other environmental groups: To hurt the United States economically. If they really truly authentically wanted to stop the oil economy, they'd protest against the countries producing the oil. Canada seems to be immune from criticism, so everybody pack your bags -- we're off for a raucous protest in downtown Riyadh!

Although conservatives tend to dismiss much of the far left as "a bunch of commies," a significant portion of leftists will insist that they're not communists or socialists at all, despite being opposed to capitalism. But, taking this protester's sign as a starting point, I always wonder: Well, if you hope/assume/predict that capitalism will collapse as a system, and if you concede that socialism has already failed, then what do you propose will be mankind's guiding economic philosophy after the existing system implodes? I've never gotten a clear or viable answer, most likely because the majority of people haven't thought it through that far, and the few that have are almost all anarchists, who hope/assume/predict that mankind will descend (my term — they'd probably say "ascend") into anarchy, which they see as a good thing, because they're generally young and aggressive and assume they'll thrive in a world without rules, and if they're wrong and everyone dies anyway, then all the better because we're just parasites on Gaia and mankind should go extinct for the sake of all the other species we oppress.

For some reason this was my favorite sign of the day. Perhaps it was the unexpected use of "a" instead of the more sensible "the" which thrilled my inner linguist. "Fuck the Pipeline" would have been pedestrian, but "Fuck a Pipeline" just opens up a whole world of syntactic subtleties.

Is this a fart joke or a serious political statement?

The name of the pipeline we were protesting is Keystone XL, often abbreviated to "KXL." All the pre-printed signs of course spelled it this way. But a disturbing number of handmade signs inexplicably got it wrong, reversing the "X" and the "L" and spelling it "KLX." Give humanity half a chance, and we will misspell anything, including three-letter-long acronyms.

Even Credo Action's organizers got it wrong sometimes. They had hand-painted a series of signs to be held up by volunteers on surrounding streets, guiding arriving activists to the action: "KXL Protest" with an arrow indicating "This Way." But even some of their own signs reversed the letters, spelling out "KLX Protest."

Dyslexics Untie!

The weird thing about this protest is that many of the protesters seemed to be great fans of Obama.

It was patently obvious that just about everybody here (except the World Can't Waiters) voted for Obama; this was less of a protest and more of a passive-aggressive emotional manipulation: "You wouldn't want to disappoint me, would you?" "Don't break my heart." and so on.

"Be a man of your word." Apparently these are the kind of people who believe campaign promises.

It all culminated in this one sign, which of all the signs at the protest disturbed me the most. Yes, Obama really did say "Show me the movement. Make me do it." (At least according to Michael Pollan, who quoted Obama while speaking at an environmental event in 2009.) In fact, a more extended quote from that speech might explain the motivation behind this entire protest:

Now, this agenda that I’m talking about, your own agenda, is not gonna happen just because we have a President and a First Lady who are sympathetic. That’s not how change comes. Change is much, much harder than that. Presidents cannot flip the switch and make things happen.... A friend of mine had occasion to have dinner with him and Michelle, and Obama made it clear that he got it, that he really did understand the issue, but he also said he didn’t think the time was right to push hard. He understood the forces arrayed on the other side and the great amount of political capital it would take to defeat them. ... He challenged my friend, he said, “Show me the movement. Make me do it. Make me do it.”

...Now, that language, that language, “Make me do it,” is very interesting. Presidents have uttered that word - those words before. Roosevelt used them when he was being lobbied about certain issues. There’s a very interesting scene when Martin Luther King came to Lyndon Johnson and said, “We need this Voting Rights Act. You know, we need your help,” and Johnson turned to him and said, “I wanna do it. Make me do it.” He wasn’t just gonna do it. He needed to be made. He was telling Martin Luther King to get out in the street and make it happen.

Another example, President Clinton in 1993, he had a very difficult budget negotiation in Congress. He lost a lot. He moved way to the right and gave up a lot of his campaign promises to get this 1993, his first budget. And, at the signing of this budget, Bernie Sanders, the member of his caucus furthest to his left was there, and he came over to Bernie Sanders and he started pounding on his chest like this and he said, “Why weren’t you screaming at me? I needed you to be screaming at me, because then I could have brought you something.” So, as kindly as you feel towards Michelle and Barack, keep those lessons in mind.

Vilsack said something similar to a group of activists he met with just last month, “I need your help. Build a movement.” And he understands. Because the farm lobby is already organizing against him. So, we need to get organized. We need to flex our muscles. ...

Now is not the time to savor the moment or rest. Now is the time to make Obama do it. Let’s show him the movement.

This explains how people who voted for Obama can be out in the street seemingly to protest "against" him. Turns out this whole protest was nothing more play-acting for the cameras, a group of faux protesters colluding with Obama to create a Potemkin "movement" which he can then cite as justification for making an unpopular decision he already wanted to make anyway. "I had no choice — there's a mass movement against this pipeline! I must bow to the will of the people."

The more I thought about this sign and its implications, the more disturbed I became. This explains not just today's anti-Keystone pipeline protest, but also much of what has gone on in politics since 2008. It explains the media's otherwise inexplicable glorification and attempted legitimization of the Occupy Wall Street movement; it explains the media's desperate demonization of the Tea Party (so as to prevent the impression that it was a mass movement); it explains all sorts of outrages and protests and petitions and marches by the American far-left "against" a president whose agenda is identical to theirs. Every time the left erupted over some issue, I used to wonder, "Why are you complaining to Obama? He agrees with you!" Turns out that of course they all know full well that he agrees with them, that he and they are all on the same side. The purpose is not to change Obama's mind, the purpose is to provide him with political cover to make bad or unpopular decisions, by fabricating hollow "popular uprisings" which he can then point to as indicative of overall public opinion.

My speculations were confirmed the following day when I read the only report of what was said inside the fundraisers, as quoted by the only "pool reporter" allowed into the events:

Steyer, who is a vociferous opponent of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and a strong supporter of climate-change legislation, appeared to try to ease concerns that Obama wouldn't keep the issue at the top of his agenda, as he has promised.

"He is doing everything he can on the issues that we care about," Steyer told the group in his home. "He has political limitations...so we really have an obligation to help him."

Obama for his part, addressed climate change repeatedly in his remarks, which lasted 19 minutes, but never specifically mentioned the pipeline.

So it was just as I suspected: The protesters and Obama and his billionaire backers are all enmeshed, working in conjunction to achieve specific political goals — goals that would otherwise be unpopular with the general public. I realized that we out on the street were not protesting against the president's agenda: We were part of the president's agenda.