Cheap Seats Online 2014
Cheap Seats 092414
November 26, 2014 - No column
October 29 - No column
August 20, 2014 - No column
July 16, 2014 - No column
June 18, 2014 - No column
May 21, 2014 - No column
April 16, 2014 - No column
February 12, to March 19, 2014 - No column
By Rich Trzupek
So, where do we go from here? Let us first digest the available evidence.
In the Ferguson, Missouri case it’s pretty darn clear that the “hands up, don’t shoot” scenario never actually occurred. Neither eyewitness testimony nor forensic evidence support this version of events and the fact that portions of the mainstream media and self-appointed civil rights advocates continued to echo that narrative is deeply disturbing.
There is little, if anything, in the evidence to suggest that Michael Brown did not act aggressively when confronted by police officer Darren Wilson. We may argue whether or not Wilson’s actions were ideal, but there should be little doubt that Wilson acted in a wholly defensible, understandable way as Brown attempted to attack him.
The same is not true when we consider the Eric Garner case. Garner died after being detained by New York City police who use a so-called “choke-hold” to subdue the suspect.
The term “choke-hold” covers a multitude of potential sins within the spectrum of law enforcement. In this case it can refer to a police officer attempting to subdue a suspect or it can refer to a police officer attempting to kill a suspect, either wantonly or recklessly.
When we soberly consider Ferguson and the choke-hold cases a few thoughts come to mind:
Cops don’t deserve the beating they’re getting in some quarters of public opinion. As I said last week, the overwhelming majority of today’s law enforcement officers are skilled professionals making difficult decisions to protect the public every day. They put their lives on the line for us and if there may be an occasional questionable police shooting, I have no doubt those cases pales in comparison to the number of cops who lose their lives in the course of duty to the bad guys.
Should we hold individual cops accountable if they do something wrong? Of course. But, we should not condemn all of law enforcement by making sweeping, unsupportable statements. We should, in fact, offer them our thanks.
It is also ridiculous to compare Ferguson to Selma or an officer applying a choke hold to the KKK. It does a disservice to Dr. King, the Freedom Marchers and everyone who through what they went through to make the America we know today. People who do so should hang their heads in shame, assuming they are capable of feeling shame.
Finally, we should also think long and hard about why Eric Garner ran afoul of the cops in the first place. Garner was selling untaxed cigarettes on the street, one at a time. It’s an act that is undoubtedly illegal, but it also represents the inevitable creation of a black market economy when excessive taxation causes the real one to malfunction.
Cigarettes cost about thirteen dollars per pack in the New York these days, about half of which gets chewed up in city taxes. Worse, because New York is having financial woes again, it needs every bit of tax revenue it can dig up. So, rather than taking care of real crime, New York dispatches officers to harass some poor schlump trying to make a few extra bucks by selling a few affordable smokes.
We need to start living in the real world my friends, not this pretend paradise that liberals keeping trying to create for us. Now wouldn’t that make for a great Christmas present?
It’s a Gas
By Rich Trzupek
It continues to amaze me that so many supposedly concerned Americans continue to push for new legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. There is a popular perception, among many in the media and in the political spheres, that greenhouse gas emissions in this country are unregulated and therefore new regulations to address the imminent “threat of climate change” are desperately needed. That’s simply not true.
Greenhouse Gas regulation abounds in the United States, albeit in a disorganized, decentralized form. There are a number of initiatives in place that have, and will continue to, reduce greenhouse gas emissions nationwide. Here’s just a few:
Renewable Portfolio Standards: Renewable Portfolio Standards, or “RPS” are state-level initiatives that require electricity providers to purchase increasing amounts of power from electric generation assets that do not emit fossil-fuel generated greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Thus, RPS states force electricity providers to get more and more power from windmills, solar plants, hydro and other renewable sources. Over thirty states currently have RPS programs in place.
“Backdoor” Fossil Fuel Reductions: The Administration’s “War on Coal” has largely been waged through the use of regulatory weaponry that has made the use of coal and oil – and to a lesser extent natural gas – too expensive to survive in the market in many cases. This has been accomplished using two regulatory techniques: increasingly stringent emissions limitations and increasingly stringent ambient air quality standards.
In the first case, EPA rules have tightened down on the amount of conventional air pollutants that a coal-fired boiler can emit so much that it has effectively forced the retirement of many older coal-fired units and effectively prevents the construction of large new coal-fired units. Emissions limits for new units are practically unachievable, even if a developer could figure out a way to get around the many roadblocks that environmental groups would throw in the way of such a project. The net effect of these rules then is to force the retirement of coal-fired generation assets and prevent their replacement with new coal-fired generation assets. This in turn reduces GHG emissions from the power sector, since whatever replaces coal will generate less GHG per megawatt than coal.
The EPA has also introduced very stringent, short term ambient air standards. Large new sources are not allowed to violate ambient air standards at any geographical point, at any time, and must perform extensive computer modeling to demonstrate that they will not do so. The new short term standards are so stringent that it is next to impossible to design a coal-fired power plant that would not result in some exceedences of the standards when going through the modeling exercise. Thus, this regulatory tool acts as another barrier to entry for any new coal-fired generation.
Other Local, Regional and Federal Initiatives: There are a variety of other initiatives that have the net effect of reducing nationwide greenhouse gas emissions. Some of these are relatively insignificant, such as energy efficiency pushes at the municipal level or state-level incentive programs tied to reductions in energy use. Others have a bigger effect, such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (or “RGGI”), a cap and trade program that a number of New England and mid-Atlantic states have been participating in since 2009. Increasingly aggressive federal CAFÉ standards reduce GHG emissions from cars and trucks as well. Production Tax Credits that support wind and solar power also play a role.
This combination of initiatives has resulted, and will continue to result, in massive decreases in nationwide GHG emissions. According to the latest USEPA data, net US GHG emissions peaked in 2007 at over 6,300 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (or “CO2e”) emissions. Since then, CO2e emissions have decreased every year to 5,500 million metric tons in 2012, the last year for which the Agency has certified emissions data. And, this has occurred at the same time while China has sailed past the 8,000 million metric tons per year of GHG emissions rate, with India not all that far behind, making those of us who are skeptical about the supposed disastrous effects of GHG emissions wonder why those who cling to that particular orthodoxy continue to focus their mitigations efforts on the United States rather than on those nations that actually make substantial contributions to the supposed problem.
When environmental NGOs acknowledge these reductions at all, they typically characterize these reductions as a temporary aberration, attributable to two factors: a continued economic downturn and the availability of cheap natural gas. Neither explanation holds up to scrutiny.
After a steep drop in the first year of the Great Recession, US industrial production rates have continued to grow every year and are presently at about 2007 levels. Similarly, electric consumption dipped slightly during the first year of the Great Recession, but has steadily increased since then to our current consumption rate far in excess of the 2007 rate.
And while natural gas is relatively cheap these days, but only relative to historic natural gas prices. We currently enjoy relatively cheap summertime natural gas prices of $4 to $5 per million Btu, which is inexpensive to peak prices of $8 to $10 or more that we have seen in the past. However, even at $4 per million Btu, natural gas costs about four times more than coal to generate the equivalent amount of energy. Absent the regulatory drivers and other initiatives discussed, it makes no economic sense to choose natural gas in lieu of coal.
The bottom line is that you alarmists out there are getting exactly what you want, at least as far as the United States is concerned. If you’re still determined to wring your hands about “climate change”, I’ve got a tip for you: move to China.
By Rich Trzupek
The death of Michael Brown and the subsequent refusal of a Grand Jury to indict Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson on criminal charges for Brown’s death leads us to one of two conclusions.
There are those who believe that Wilson killed Brown in cold blood, as the young man was attempting to surrender. This conclusion requires one to accept the propositions that: a) Wilson was so racist, inept or untrained that such an unjustified killing could occur, and b) the Grand Jury system – at least in this particular part of Missouri – is either too racist, too corrupt or too incompetent to identify Wilson’s crime.
Then there are are those who believe that Wilson killed Brown in self-defense, as the young man charged the police officer following an initial altercation during with Brown attempted to grab Wilson’s sidearm while reaching into officer Wilson’s cruiser. This conclusion requires one to discard the testimony of Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson, who testified that Brown was attempting to surrender when Wilson shot him.
Everyone agrees that Brown died at Wilson’s hand. The coroners’ reports agree that Brown died as the result of a gunshot wound to the top of his head. Undisputed forensic reports indicate that Wilson’s gun was initially discharged within Wilson’s vehicle and that forensic evidence also strongly indicates that Brown was engaged in a struggle for Wilson’s gun at the time.
Photographs taken after the incident show Wilson with facial lacerations. Wilson says these are the result of Brown striking him. Many, but not all, witnesses corroborate Wilson’s version of events, in part or in whole.
The preceding two paragraphs represent, as well as one can in such a small space, the facts that the Grand Jury considered. And note that a Grand Jury considering an indictment is held to a much lower standard than a trial jury deciding guilt or innocence. The Grand Jury was not attempting to decide whether or not Wilson was guilty of a crime, but whether there was enough credible evidence to justify a trial in which another jury would make that judgment.
As a side note, readers are undoubtedly aware that others have made a point of discussing the racial make-up of the Grand Jury. I will not, because, as a matter of policy, I do not mention a person’s race in my writings, because – quite frankly – I do not care a whit about a person’s race. I care about their actions.
In any case, the Grand Jury decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to justify a trial. There are those who believe that decision is a travesty of justice. There are those who believe that decision was not only defensible, but wise. And finally, there are those who are not really interested in the decision, but rather wish to use it to push their agenda.
Personally, I sympathize (but disagree) with the first group, agree with the second and am thoroughly disgusted by the third. That third group includes the looters, the screamers and the shameless race-baiters like Al Sharpton whose very relevance in the public sphere depends on perpetuating the divisive narrative they claim to be trying to cure.
Soberly considered, the evidence supports Wilson’s account far more than Johnson’s. The proposition that the evidence could ever lead a trial jury to find the officer guilty beyond a reasonable doubt is preposterous. The Grand Jury did its job, preventing a pointless trial from taking place.
Each of us has a choice to make when considering the Brown case. We can believe that America is a nation deeply infected by racial prejudice to a degree so sinister that a Grand Jury composed of ordinary citizens can be part of a grand conspiracy designed to cover up a heinous murder.
Or, we can believe that America is something else. We can believe in an America that – while not free of racial divides – has made enormous strides in eradicating them. We can believe in an America where our justice system, imperfect as it is, ultimately prevents gross miscarriages of justice.
And finally, while I obviously do not know Officer Wilson, I have an enormous respect for today’s police officer. It’s partly a matter of lessons learned and it’s partly a matter of liability avoided, but today’s American police officer is trained to a level of professionalism that we should all be proud of.
It’s your choice. I hope each of us makes the right one.
Jane, Mike and Me
By Rich Trzupek
So Jane Byrne passed last week, having had a good long run and leaving something of a unique mark on Chicago politics. Many kind things have been said about her and that’s certainly apropos. It’s kind to speak well of the dead.
For my part, I will not speak unkindly of her, but – in a strange way – Jane Byrne, along with another Chicago icon, Mike Royko, started me on a journey that led to a lifetime of writing, mostly for fun, but sometimes for profit.
The story begins with Royko, the completest curmudgeon that has ever graced the pages of a newspaper. I’ll attempt to describe Royko for the sake of you young whippersnappers who never had the pleasure of flipping open the paper to find his scowling, hawk-like face staring at you from atop his column.
Royko was pure Chicago; a softball playing, beer-drinking, smoking, professional cynic with so many rough edges you could use his personality for sandpaper. Rent the movie Continental Divide sometime. The Belushi character is roughly based on Royko, although the real deal didn’t have a paunch and would have sneered at Belushi’s softer side in the role.
Nobody messed with Royko, at least not twice. Royko didn’t merely skewer his targets, he disemboweled them with a combination of biting satire and irrefutable logic. So many of today’s writers feel the need to use foul language when going after a target. Royko never had to, and he was all the more effective because of it. Noted political satirist P.J. O’Rourke, who could hardly be described as shy, once famously observed that he would go after anybody in print, except Royko of course.
In my many years of digesting Mike, I can recall only a couple of times when his column veered into the sentimental line. Now there may have been others, but I’m sure there weren’t many.
One was a particularly moving column that he wrote when his wife passed. It exposed a man who not only had a soft side he spent pretty much his entire professional career hiding from his readers, but a writer who could express those emotions with exceptional skill.
The other was a column he penned after Jane Byrne defeated the Chicago machine to become mayor. You need to understand that Royko had been exposing the corruption and naked greed of the Chicago machine for years. His signature book “Boss” was a classic expose of Richard J. Daley and his cronies, as enjoyable a read as it was a brilliant.
The machine gave Mike an endless supply of fodder, which he gleefully milled into biting column and after biting column. He was a constant thorn in the machine’s side, but only that. The machine did what it wanted and if Royko pointed out some of their less savory activities, oh well. What difference did it really make? The machine’s primary function was to win elections so it could distribute patronage and nothing that sharp-tongued SOB had to say had ever disrupted that primary function in any meaningful way.
And then, against all odds, Jane Byrne was elected.
I remember Royko’s column after that happened. It was, I think, the product of years of frustration. Sure, he was an award-winning columnist. Sure, he was arguably the most popular columnist in the nation. But he never really changed anything in his hometown. The crooks picked the public pocket and the public kept electing them.
Byrne’s election seemed to mark the start of a new day in Chicago and Royko beamed in that column, overjoyed that finally – FINALLY - the city had stood up to the bosses. There wasn’t even a whiff of the satire and cynicism that defined the man’s style. He closed by saying that he had never been so proud to be a Chicagoan as he was that day.
Later, much later, Mike had his “Won’t Get Fooled Again” moment, for it turned out that the new boss wasn’t really all that much different than the old boss. To his credit, Royko admitted that he had been duped, dipped his pen back in acid and took on mayor “Lady Jane” with all of the vitriol he had used on Daley and Bilandic before her.
That series of events, and especially the way Royko (unlike so many of the hacks we have today) freely admitted that he had been dead wrong in one of the few times in his public life when he let his emotions soak into the page, made an indelible, lifelong impression on me. I was a young writer and, though I knew I would never be one-tenth the writer that Royko was, I vowed to be as honest with my pen as he was with his.
Today, I like to think that Royko is holding court behind the Pearly Gates, puffing on a smoke and swilling a beer. No doubt he’ll buy Lady Jane one as well.
By Rich Trzupek
Didn’t see that coming.
In modern times, two-term Presidents are generally unpopular during their second terms. That wasn’t the case for Reagan and, to a lesser extent, Clinton. But Truman, Johnson, Nixon and Bush II all fell victim to the trend.
So, it wasn’t exactly a surprise to find that the nation veered to the right after six years of Barack Obama’s attempt to push the nation hard to the left. What was a surprise was the extent of the backlash. Nobody saw this coming, including your humble correspondent.
It would be foolish and dishonest to believe that the Wave of 2014 was about an electorate rushing to embrace the conservative/libertarian ideals that the Republican Party represents (more or less, depending on the candidate).
The nature of this election was rather defined by the President, in one of his rare moments of lucid honesty. Before the 2014 election, he said that the vote was ultimately a referendum on the policies and priorities he has championed. Just so.
With the exception of his hard-core, hard-left base, which represent a minority of our nation, America overwhelmingly rejected the President’s policies and priorities. Conservatives and libertarians, who have consistently rejected Obama’s agenda continue to do so, while the Independents who tipped the balance in his favor in 2008 and 2012 have now jumped ship.
So what happens over the next two years? Immediately after the election, the President told voters that he “heard them”, but hearing them and acting in accordance with their wishes are two different things entirely.
For example, it’s clear that the nation needs to fix the immigration mess that we’ve (again) gotten ourselves into and that this administration has made all the worse by refusing to enforce the laws on the books or seal our porous southern border. Numbers released after the election was over – the timing of which of course had nothing at all to do with political considerations – revealed that the number of illegal immigrants pouring in are far greater than previously imagined.
Those of us on the right like to fantasize about an immigration fix that would involve sending everyone who entered the country illegally back to their country of origin. Clearly that is not going to happen and it’s both silly and counter-productive to pretend that it can.
But, what we can do – and what we should do – is: 1) move immigrants who are here illegally to the back of the naturalization line, 2) create a naturalization process specific to their situation, and 3) make doing one and two contingent on the federal government actually doing its job and sealing the border going forward.
Polls show that the majority of Americans favor that kind of solution and there are enough politicians in both parties who like it as well that there is little doubt that a compromise bill would make it through Congress.
Unfortunately, all indications are that the President won’t sign such a bill, preferring to “solve” the problem through executive action instead. If he does so, things are sure to get ugly pretty quickly. No, I don’t think impeachment would be on the table (nor should it, in my not so humble opinion), but a prodigious legal battle would ensue.
And that’s a shame, for – just as Clinton’s “pivot” to work with Newt Gingrich’s newly formed GOP majority in 1994 was of enormous benefit to the nation – President Obama now has the opportunity to move to the middle and do a few things that will benefit the nation.
That’s possible, but I fear it’s not likely. This President, perhaps more than any other since Carter, puts ideology before practicality. It’s much more likely that the next two years will be that of virtually uninterrupted sniping back and forth between the White House and Congress, with the mainstream media cheering its hero on.
In other words, though I had wished it could be otherwise, the next two years sound a lot like business as usual.
By Rich Trzupek
By the time you read this, one of two things will have happened on the American political landscape. Either we’re looking at another two years of business as usual, or the next two years are going to be very interesting indeed.
Business as usual happens if the Democrats retain control of the Senate, which is possible, while Republicans retain control of the House, which is as certain as certain can be in the whacky world of American politics.
In that case, the next two years will look pretty much like the last two. The House will pass bills that the Senate will refuse to look at, Harry Reid will block anything that Senate Republicans propose, the President and his party will blame the G.O.P. for refusing to work with them, and the G.O.P. will blame the President and his party for pretty much the same thing. The most important thing about the next two years, for each party, will be posturing themselves for the 2016 election.
I’m pretty much OK with the status quo scenario, since I tend to believe that the less government does the better. The media generally uses the phrase “do nothing Congress” as a pejorative. To me, it’s a compliment. Thanks for leaving us alone guys and gals.
Unfortunately, once and while a crisis or two comes up that requires leadership on a national scale. World War II, the Cold War and Civil Rights come immediately to mind. The next two years will likely include two situations that will call for that kind of unified, effective and – most of all – strong national effort.
The first involves Obamacare. Conservatives and libertarians should come to grips with the fact that – as bad as it is – the basic framework of Obamacare is here to stay. However, that does not mean that we can’t tweak that framework to start turning it into a free-market tool that provides a safety-net to the poor instead of the disastrous income redistribution scheme it is at present.
The President and his Congressional allies have worked overtime to delay the full impact of Obamacare, but – absent some sort of further executive meddling that I don’t think even this President is capable of – the full effects of Obamacare will be felt in 2015. Insurance rates, which have been skyrocketing, will shoot up even more among gainfully-employed Americans. Deductibles will rise to the point that few people will actually be able to use their insurance, because they’ll spend their year paying deductibles.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that over 150 million Americans will be severely affected by the economic consequences of the “Affordable” Care Act in 2015. There will be great pressure to figure out a skillful balance between fulfilling the needs of the impoverished and protecting the products of the sweat and blood of wage-earners.
The other big issue that we will face over the next two years involves the Middle East. The rise of ISIS, Iran’s quest for nuclear weaponry and the savagery of Hamas and Hezbollah will continue to destabilize the region.
In a post-Gulf War era, there is little chance that the US or NATO will directly intervene to counter any of these threats. So, to be effective, we will have to leverage our influence among our sure allies in the region – which pretty much encompasses Israel and the Kurds – and among our less reliable acquaintances like the Saudis, the Turks, the Egyptians, etc. Doing so requires the kind of unified front that America was once able to put together on a regular basis.
So that brings us to option two: Republicans retain control of the House and win control of the Senate. What then?
In that circumstance, the President will still have veto power to exercise and his proven commitment to a progressive agenda will remove most inhibitions against using it. But, utilizing veto power, especially when high-profile issues are involved, is tough for the media to ignore, even among the President’s cheerleaders in the MSM. There will be a political price to pay for using the veto and this most political of Presidents will be well aware of the fact.
Accordingly we may – just may – see a bit more compromise regarding the issues that matter over the next two years, if the GOP controls both the House and the Senate. Not because I believe that President Obama will have backed away from his core ideology any more than President Clinton backed from his core ideology when he reached across the aisle to the Republican Congress in 1994. It will be rather that, like Clinton, President Obama will have finally come to grips with the fact that there is a big difference between campaigning as a centrist and actually finding the center of the road.
By Rich Trzupek
In year six of the Greatest Presidency In The History Of Presidents Ever, I think we’ve entered a new phase, not unlike what happens when a kid moves into adolescence. The Prez is starting to mature, at least a little bit.
Those of us who have raised children know that there are two distinct phases in teaching a kid responsibility. Step one is teaching them that certain jobs are important and must be done. Step two, once you’ve accomplished step one, is convincing that they must take pride in each job and do it to the best of their availability.
So, for example, at a certain age you may add cutting the grass to your child’s list of chores. There will, of course, be an initial period of resistance during which the kid will complain why the job has to be done at all, why he or she has to be the one to do it, avoid doing it as long as possible, come up with numerous excuses whey he or she cannot possibly do it today, etc.
With patience and persistence, you will eventually break through the resistance and the kid will dutifully mow the lawn every weekend. However, just because he or she does the job, doesn’t mean it’s done well. Inevitably, corners will be cut. Rows won’t be straight. Some areas of trim will be missed.
Success occurs when you convince the kid that it’s not enough just to do the job, the job needs to be done right. Not because he’ll get in trouble, but because the pride that comes with doing a job to the best of your ability, even when nobody is looking, makes you a better person and leads to success in life.
From a public leadership perspective, Barack Obama entered office as a babe-in-the-woods. He had never run anything, in the public or private sectors. He was an academic, a theorist, a dreamer and an ideologue, but he was not an experienced manager of any sort.
Back in 2008, I do believe the President sincerely believed that a kinder, gentler, more understanding America could soothe the offended sensibilities of radical Islamists and thus bring an end to religiously-motivated terrorism. He signed on to the “we brought this on ourselves” nonsense that so pervades the left.
I don’t think that the 2014 version of Barack Obama believes that any longer. It would be very hard to maintain that posture in the face of ISIS thugs conquering, killing and beheading. ISIS has made it impossible for the President to ignore the fact that the west’s war with radical Islam will continue no matter how much we try to make nice and the United States must be an active participant in that war.
However, he hasn’t yet gotten to the point that he understands it’s not enough to simply do the job, but that we must do the job right, even if doing the job right is unpopular among your admirers. Air strikes are nice, but they are not going to make ISIS go away.
More determined action will be necessary and it’s only a question of whether we let ISIS grow strong enough to do something horrible enough to force our hand, or not. US “boots on the ground” will happen, whether it’s the result of slow, LBJ-like mission-creep that Obama is currently engaged in, or a forceful, smashing blow. Time will tell, but the fight against ISIS is beginning to smell a lot like Johnson’s approach to Viet Nam and that’s not a good thing.
The administration’s slow progress toward maturity also manifests itself in its reaction to the Ebola scare. Ebola may or may not be a significant actual threat, but its widely perceived to be a threat, which means that a tepid reaction to it will produce the kind of panic that can destabilize financial markets and, by extension, the economy. Accordingly, whether or not decisive action is needed from a scientific point-of-view, such action is certainly needed from a public policy point-of-view.
The President appears to get that, but – again – only up to a point. Naming a political hack, no matter how talented a hack, as your “Ebola-czar” is another example of understanding that a job is important, but not knowing – or perhaps not caring – how do it well.
We’ve got a little over two years left in the Greatest Presidency In The History Of Presidents Ever. Who knows, maybe the Prez will grow up some more?
We can only hope.
Just Warming Up (Part Two)
By Rich Trzupek
To pick up where we left off:
Former NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen is probably about as responsible as anyone this side of Al Gore for global warming panic. He believes – sincerely methinks- that our climate is so sensitive to carbon dioxide concentrations that feedback will occur and destroy the natural ice age cycle. Another NASA scientist, Dr. Roy Spencer, who runs a NASA program that monitors global temperatures based on satellite data, disagrees. (http://www.drroyspencer.com/ )
Roy believes – and I agree – that increasing CO2 emissions have a minimal (though measureable) effect on global temperatures and that those effects are generally beneficial. There are many scientists who echo Hansen (Michael Mann, Gavin Schmidt, Phil Jones, etc) and many who echo Spencer (John Christy, Judith Curry, Bob Carter, etc.) In general, they split over the feedback issue. Hansen and friends believe (sincerely, I think) that the IPCC models accurately account for feedback and disaster is nigh. Spenser and friends believe (sincerely – I KNOW) that the IPCC models grossly overestimate feedback and tend to underplay natural balancers in the climate system (like the cooling effect of clouds, for example).
Virtually all of the alarmism is based on computer models that predict catastrophe as global CO2 concentrations increase and the “feedback” phenomenon supposedly increases as well. As noted above, real world data hasn’t matched predicted, modeled data for the last 15+ years. Why is this so? Generally speaking, there are two explanations from the alarmists.
Alarmists say that the last 15+ years have been a pause in global warming. Many claim that excess heat is being absorbed by the oceans and will eventually be released when during the next El Nino event. “El Nino’s” – or more properly Pacific Ocean Oscillations – are (poorly understood) climate drivers. The general concept is that the Pacific Ocean, which acts as the biggest heat sink on Planet Earth, stores energy in its depths and then releases that energy when the ocean effectively “turns over”, allowing the energy stored in deep water to escape to atmosphere, warming the climate. If you’re an alarmist, you likely believe that the next El Nino will be a killer, generating a huge spike in global temperatures. That’s a very good means of explaining away the “pause” in predicted global warming that has undeniably occurred during the last 15+ years.
It is also said that the “pause” is consistent with natural climate variability, but that temperatures will increase on the average over the long run. As a scientist, I am bound to accept that either of these explanations are plausible and, should we see a dramatic spike in global temperatures over the next ten, twenty, thirty years (whatever), I would be duty-bound to re-examine my position on this issue. That’s what scientists are supposed to do. “Question everything” is the slogan of some cable network and if there’s one principle that I hope I drilled into your brain (other than “never trust a Cub fan”) it’s that. Nothing makes me more proud of you than when you challenge some point that your brilliant (and infallible) father has made.
The part of this whole deal that bugs me the most is that the alarmists – with few exceptions – insist on marching in lock-step. No dissent is tolerated. The “science is settled”. “97% of climate scientists agree”. And other such rot. That’s not how we do science. And the thing that drives me absolutely bat-shit crazy is that the moment somebody questions the orthodox viewpoint, they are (almost always) dismissed as being a tool of Big Oil or Big Coal or Mr. Monopoly or whatever. Attacking someone’s (supposed) motives is the opposite of having a discussion, it’s rather a way to avoid having a discussion. There are many deniers who will accuse alarmists of being motivated by research dollars, or a desire to do back-door social engineering, or other nefarious motivations. I don’t know if those accusations are true and I really don’t care. What matters is whether they got the science right, not why they did the science.
Spencer is routinely attacked because he happens to be a devout Christian, which has nothing to do with the data he has assembled. The Heartland Institute (which I serve as a policy advisor – without pay by the by) is supposed to be a tool of Big Oil, even though they haven’t gotten any donations from petrochem companies for years and – at best – oil money was never more than 5% of their working capital when they did. Spencer, the people at Heartland, and a bunch of other folks who question global warming orthodoxy are good, sincere people who sincerely believe that climate science is being bastardized. And it’s fine to disagree with the deniers, but to hide behind the “their all tools of Big Oil” canard is both intellectually lazy and cowardly.
That is all I have to say on the subject for the moment. Feel free to share, and stay cool.
Just Warming Up (Part One)
By Rich Trzupek
Some time back, my darling daughter asked me to explain what the climate change debate is about, in as simple a way as possible. After I penned my response, I realized it would make a pretty good column.
Since it’s rather long, I’ll have to break it up into two pieces. So let’s get started with Part One:
Undisputed facts (by either “side”) regarding what has come to be known as “global warming”:
* Carbon dioxide is a “greenhouse gas”. That is, it absorbs certain wavelengths of infrared energy generated by the sun that is reflected from the ground and – effectively – turns that energy into heat.
* Moisture is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (approximately 40x more powerful), meaning that it does a far better job of retaining heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
* Moisture is far more prevalent in the earth’s atmosphere than carbon dioxide (typically approximately 20,000 ppm of moisture compared to about 400 ppm of carbon dioxide).
* Average global temperatures have been pretty much stable for the last 15+ years.
* The models that the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has relied upon predicted a large increase in global temperatures that has not actually occurred during the last 15+ years.
Let’s define the term “global warming” before we go on. The temperature of the planet changes all of the time. The “normal” temperature of the planet in recent geologic time (hundreds of thousands of years) is an ice age. From a natural point of view, we’re in the midst of a (normally geologically brief) inter-ice-age period. Those who believe that mankind is unduly influencing planetary temperatures maintain that we have effectively upset the ice-age cycle and that we’re checking out of the normal patter; i.e.: ice-ages will no longer occur.
If you believe that mankind’s activities unduly influence the temperature of the planet, then we’ll say that you believe in “global warming”. If not, not. Those in the former group describe themselves as “realists” and those in the latter group as “deniers”. Those in the latter group describe themselves as “skeptics” and those in the former group as “alarmists”. In the spirit of the Trzupek family, I’ll hereafter use the pejorative in each case: it’s “deniers” vs. “alarmists” from here on.
So, how are we (supposed to be) influencing the natural ice age/warming cycle? We must now progress to chemistry. (Sorry). In popular culture and the mainstream media the global-warming argument is extremely over-simplified: carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, therefore it effectively acts a blanket – trapping more and more heat in the atmosphere. Sunlight strikes the earth and a certain amount of energy is directly transformed into heat. Everyone agrees that this happens. Some of the sun’s energy is reflected back into the air. We all agree that happens as well. A percentage of the reflected energy is absorbed by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and – effectively – transformed into heat. Check – we all agree that occurs.
But, in reality, that’s not what scientists who believe that mankind is screwing up our climate actually believe. Carbon dioxide just ain’t a powerful enough greenhouse gas to significantly raise temperatures by itself. What the alarmists believe (and their models reflect) is that although increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will directly increase temperatures only a smidge, that smidge will be enough to increase the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, because the hotter the temperature, the more water evaporates. Once you increase the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere – because water vapor is so much powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide – temperatures will rise. And, as temperatures rise, the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere will go up, which will make temperatures rise even more. This theoretical cycle is called “feedback” and it’s basically the mantra of the global warming crowd from a technical point of view.
More to come.
By Rich Trzupek
News Flash: Russia isn’t a fan of the U.S. of A.
The “Reset Button” having apparently malfunctioned, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov ripped the United States and our allies during a speech at the UN on Saturday. We must, he declared, drop our claim to “eternal uniqueness”.
Lavrov went on, saying: “The U.S.-led Western alliance that portrays itself as a champion of democracy, rule of law and human rights within individual countries ... (is) rejecting the democratic principle of sovereign equality of states enshrined in the U.N. Charter and trying to decide for everyone what is good or evil."
He whined about the west refusing to get on board with Russia’s “liberation” of the Ukraine. He whined about the west taking on ISIS. He whined a little and he whined a lot and I’d rate that a good thing, for when Russian oligarchs start whining, it means they’re worried. We must be doing something right if Putin deploys one of his whipping boys to bitch and moan.
Mr. Lavrov is full of crapola of course, albeit crapola of a slightly differently aroma than his predecessors in the old Soviet Union used to shovel. In the USSR, America was evil because we were exploiting our workers, while they hosted a “worker’s paradise” in which – on a good day – one might have to wait in line only a few hours to buy toilet paper. In the Russian Federation America is now evil because we poke our nose in other nations’ business.
And we do the latter of course. Ever since Woodrow Wilson made the fateful decision to intervene in a purely European dispute almost one hundred years ago, America has made a habit of intervening in the affairs of other nations.
Some would say that is a bad thing, including a certain candidate for President of the United States in 2008. We often short-hand the value of America’s role in the world with the phrase “American Exceptionalism” and said candidate pointedly rejected that bit of hubris.
I was, and still am, OK with that point of view, believe it or not. The phrase “American Exceptionalism” implies something that is in direct conflict with the American ideal. America is not exceptional because we believe that everyone should march in lockstep with our way of doing things, but rather because we believe that people should decide for themselves how they wish to governed, just as we have done.
In the past one hundred years, we’ve used our power and influence throughout the globe to liberate, not dominate. That’s a pretty amazing record.
Consider the history of the following nations over the last hundred years: Germany, Japan, China, South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Macedonia, Greece, Israel, the Philippines and Australia.
But for America, our commitment to liberty and our willingness to use our strength and influence to promote liberty in those nations, none would enjoy the freedom or degree of prosperity that they do today. Many of them remain our friends. Some do not. No matter. Supporting the United States has never been a precondition of the United States supporting self-determination.
That’s surely a difficult concept for someone like Lavrov and his puppet-master Putin to wrap their arms around. When Putin talks about “the democratic principle” its code for “doing what Russia wants”. When the United States talks about “the democratic principle”, we mean just that.
That has applied whatever the flavor of the administration of the moment. The gulf between parties runs especially deep when domestic issues are at play, but the differences are much less significant – at least in actuality – when world affairs are at stake. Many Republicans and Democrats reading this column will take issue the following statement, but the fact is that both Republican and Democratic administrations have consistently taken action on the world stage with liberation, not annexation, in mind.
Sometime it takes a bit of time for the administration in power to understand just how much evil there is in the world and what is necessary to combat it. Rarely, as in the case of one James Earl Carter, an administration never has that “Come to Jesus” moment. But the overwhelming majority o us eventually figure it out, which annoys somebody like Sergey Lavrov to High Heaven.
Well, On Second Thought...
By Rich Trzupek
So, the Obama administration has finally admitted that ISIS is a real problem, not the “JV wearing Kobe juries” that the President famously (or infamously) labeled the fanatical jihadists just a few short months ago. Applause!
And our intelligence agencies have admitted that they underestimated the power and reach of ISIS. Had George W. Bush been in power, this intelligence failure would have resulted in a plethora of “Bush lied – people died” rants from the left, or something very like it.
Because Barack H. Obama is President, the mainstream media isn’t going to push an “Obama’s deluded, Christians’ are screw-ed” narrative. The message here instead is that a well-meaning President was poorly advised by intelligence professionals, resulting in a rather dangerous state of affairs on the world stage.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with that alternative narrative, but for the fact that each party will employ it solely when it benefits their side of aisle, rather than actually representing reality.
It is a dangerous world, full of dangerous people and, like it or not, some of the most dangerous wield the sword because they believe God wants them to. And make no mistake that’s what drives this war between Radical Islam and Western Civilization that has been flared on and off for a millennia and a half.
When the President most committed to the idealistic, but foolish, “shucks, we can all get along, can’t we?” philosophy of any who have served in the office since James Buchanan finally gets it, maybe there is hope that his leftist supporters will get it as well.
The tired old canard among the left is basically that “we bring it on ourselves”. In their minds, radical Muslims are not motivated to violence by a fundamentalist interpretation of a religion and religious text that are as bloodthirsty as anything the Old Testament has to offer.
They’re not trying to conquer the world by any means necessary in order to fulfill the will of Allah. No, of course not. Radical Muslims are aggrieved victims of Western aggression in their part of the world. If we leave them alone, they’ll leave us alone, or so the theory goes.
It is, like so many leftist theories, so attractive a concept. It makes ending the fight simple. We walk away, they’ll walk away and the future will be rosy.
Barack Obama circa 2008 appeared to embrace this theory as much as anyone. He made the now infamous Apology Tour, attempting to mend fences that didn’t need mending, while emboldening the nut jobs.
The Royal House of Saud didn’t need an apology. They needed (and still need) American support, American technology and American arms in order to keep the howling hordes who adhere Radical Islam at bay. They might (and often do) condemn American “aggression” against their erstwhile Arab brothers, in order to publicly stay on the “right side” of the Palestinian-Israeli fued. But you can bet the family farm that once the Suad boys get behind closed doors, they’re cheering on the 82nd Airborne as much as anyone.
On the flip side, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas and the rest of terrorist organizations that fight in the name of Allah don’t care about an apology. To them, we are decadent, apostate, promiscuous, Jew-loving infidels and the sooner we are converted to either their religion or a pile of ashes, the better. It doesn’t matter what we do or don’t do in that part of the world. The crazies are going to hate us, no matter what.
President Obama circa 2008 did all, or nearly all, of the things that the left said would calm the loonies down: he pulled out of Iraq, he made soothing noises, he paid tribute to the “religion of peace”, he stopped treating terrorists as terrorists and started treating them as criminals, he released dozens of supposedly reformed terrorists from custody, etc.
And what did we get for our leader making nice-nice? We got ISIS, an organization so bad that even Al Qaeda condemns them. Wrap your head around that.
Evil abhors a vacuum of leadership and ISIS has filled the vacuum created by President Obama circa 2008. The 2014 edition of the Pres, however, appears to have learned his lesson.
Off the Deep End
By Rich Trzupek
Friends, what follow may be my favorite example of liberal/progressive insanity this side of Michael Moore. It’s absolutely terrific – just the sort of thing that liberals should spend (i.e. waste) their time on, if for nothing else to make life more entertaining for the rest of us.
The “Network of Spiritual Progressives” (NSP) is a lost-in-space collection of left-wing loons led by Rabbi Michael Lerner, who used to be Hillary Clinton’s spiritual guru. The NSP is urging people to participate in demonstrations aimed to force world leaders to take additional action to combat the non-problem of global warming.
This is particularly ironic, since record-low temperatures we have been experiencing as of late may significantly reduce participation in the protests. Environmental narcissists generally don’t care to be chilly. But, no matter.
The most entertaining part of Lerner’s vision is the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the Constitution (ESRA) that his organization is pushing. Now ESRA has about as much of a chance of getting passed as I have of being elected Mr. Universe.
Yet, the details of ESRA are so farging entertaining, I have to share. You libs out there will undoubtedly read what follows and wonder why anyone would find anything objectionable in the proposed amendment. For the rest of us, which is to say the sane portion of us, here are some of the highlights. Enjoy!
Article 2-A: Every citizen of the United States and every organization chartered by the U.S. or operating within the U.S. or promoting its products, services or ideas in the U.S. or any of its several states shall have a responsibility to promote the ethical, environmental, and social well-being of all life on the planet Earth and on any other planet or place in space with which humans come into contact.
This being so, corporations chartered by the Congress and by the several States, and any corporation operating within the US or promoting its products, services or ideas in the U.S., (even if chartered, located or operating from any place outside the U.S.) shall demonstrate the ethical, environmental, and social impact of their proposed activities at the time they seek permission to operate.
In addition, any such corporation, whether based in the U.S. or any other location, including both for profit and not-for-profit corporations, with gross annual receipts in excess of $50 million shall be required to obtain a new corporate charter every five years in order to preserve their status as a corporation, and this charter shall be granted only if the corporation can prove a satisfactory history of environmental, social, and ethical responsibility to an Environmental and Social Responsibility Panel (ESRP) of ordinary citizens who agree with the importance of judging a corporation’s environmental, social and ethical responsibilities by the criteria listed below.
Factors to be considered by the environmental and social responsibility panel (ESRP) in determining whether a corporation has met the environmental, social and ethical responsiblities (sic) necessary to have their charter renewed shall include but not be limited to:
1. The degree to which the products produced or services provided are beneficial rather than destructive to the planet and its oceans, forests, water supplies, land, and air, and the degree to which the corporation being evaluated makes decisions that help ensure the resources of the earth are available to future generations.
2. The degree to which it pays a living wage to all its employees and the employees of any contractors with which it does business either in the US or abroad, and arranges its pay scale such that none of its employees or employees of contractors it works with or members of its board of directors or officers of the corporation earn (in direct and indirect benefits combined) more than ten times the wages of its lowest full-time wage earners (including the pay of those in firms with which it contracts).
There is more. So much more! We’ll explore of this marvelously entertaining view of liberal/progressive utopia in weeks to come. It’s absolutely priceless.
Full of Hot Air
By Rich Trzupek
On September 23 the Climate Summit 2014 will be held in New York City. Touted by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other sworn enemies of carbon dioxide as a prelude to a comprehensive agreement on climate change that is certain to be signed in 2015, the fawning, scientifically-ignorant mainstream media will surely make a huge deal out of the gathering.
It’s not. It’s a rather pointless exercise in environmental narcissism, but I’m sure that it will be good for the New York economy, at least that portion of it that includes high-priced call girls and bartenders anyway.
Amusingly, leaders from the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the People’s Republic of China, won’t be attending the summit. India and Germany – among others – are also blowing off the shindig, but it’s China’s absence that moves this particular climate conference from the pointless to the absurd.
China has crossed the threshold of 8 billion metric tons per year of net greenhouse gas emissions and is rocketing toward 10 billion metric tons per year in the next few years. Ki-moon can secure all of the “commitments” he wants, but without China any international accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that falls short of a return to the Stone Age (pre fire Stone Age no less) won’t mean a thing.
(And yes, it goes without saying that the only reason I quote such inconvenient truths is that I am receiving monthly stipends from Big Oil Companies Out To Destroy The World, LLC, just like all my fellow skeptical writers).
By contrast, the nation that cut net greenhouse gas emissions from a peak of a tad over 6.1 billion metric tons per to around 5.4 billion metric tons per year in 2012 (the last year for which we have verified data) and that will continue to make massive cuts will be well-represented by a well-placed contingent of hand-wringers.
That nation I refer to is, of course, the United States of America and our delegation will presumably include the Hand-Wringer In Chief, who has made no secret of the fact that he would like to make securing a “climate change” accord part of his legacy.
Mention these massive reductions to a lefty and you’ll generally get one of two responses: 1) “it’s a lie”, or 2) “those reductions only happened because Bush ruined the economy”. The first response is problematic, since its EPA data that I’m quoting. If you think the EPA – and Obama’s EPA at that – is lying about emissions data, there is no point in having any further conversation.
The second is more amusing, because if the primary reason that US greenhouse gas emissions have dropped so much is a lack of economic growth since 2008, then the Obama administration’s claims to have led a robust recovery must be so much horse-puckey. You can’t have it both ways, at least in the real (as opposed to liberal) world.
In fact, the Great Recession did help reduce greenhouse gas emissions down a bit, but economic activity has hardly been the biggest driver. There are a variety of state-level, regional and federal programs in place that force reductions in the use of fossil fuel, either directly (like state Renewable Portfolio Standards programs) or indirectly (like a slew of EPA rules that forced the closing of many coal-fired power plants and will prevent the construction of any new ones).
The abundance of relatively cheap natural gas – although still far more expensive than coal – has played a part too. Add everything up and you have unprecedented reductions in past and future GHG emissions domestically that very few greenies seem aware of, much less willing to acknowledge.
The reductions are pointless of course, since – as even the UN admits – there has been a “pause” in global warming going on for at least fifteen years now. The UN models are falling apart and everybody, including honest alarmists, know it.
But, in spite of everything, the President will continue to call for action to solve a problem that doesn’t exist in a country that is leading the way in fixing it anyway.
By Rich Trzupek
- The law of unintended consequences continues to flourish in the wacky world of “green energy”. According to widely published reports, a state of the art solar power plant in California – partially owned by Google, by the by – is killing birds at the rate of about one every two minutes.
The plant consists of hundreds of thousands of mirrors that focus the runs rays at a central point in a tower, where the intense heat can be used to generate electricity. Neat stuff, unless you happen to be a passing bird that is curious about what the heck is generating that bright light.
Plant employees call the smoking hulks of birds that come crashing to earth after passing through the intense beams “steamers”, a term that coincidentally applies to the vast majority of the whole green energy industry.
- Amazing how the barbarity of ISIS (or IS, or ISIL, or whatever the hell they are calling themselves these days) has united left and right in condemnation of the atrocities that the Islamic fanatics continue to commit.
Just kidding! With a few (very few) exceptions, the left’s reaction to ISIS has ranged from complete indifference to blaming the rise of ISIS on American “aggression” in the region. (I.e.; it’s Bush’s fault).
The modern left’s basic attitude towards injustice, or supposed injustice, in the world can be defined thus: they are ready, willing and able to raise hell about every injustice that occurs in the civilized world, no matter how trivial, because doing so does not put them at any personal risk. On the other hand, they largely remain blissfully and willfully ignorant when it comes to injustice in the uncivilized world, because those people are downright scary.
Thus, if you’re Code Pink – to pick out a totally random example – you have absolutely nothing to say about ISIS besieging and murdering non-believers on a mountain-top in Iraq, but you’re more than ready to condemn President Obama for authorizing air strikes to relieve the siege.
- And speaking of the Prez, kudos for taking the action referenced above. And, while we’re at it, kudos to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for telling it like it is about ISIS: they are a well-funded, determined and dangerous threat to both the west in general and the United States in particular.
It would have been nice if the President hadn’t said that we don’t have a strategy yet regards Syria and ISIS. However, I’ll give Obama a pass at this point for not having a strategy, since it’s pretty much been foreign policy amateur hour over at Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest until now. Admitting you don’t have a strategy to deal with radical Islam is at least tacit acknowledgement that an actual strategy is necessary. Still, if you don’t have a strategy to deal with fanatics, it’s probably better to keep that to yourself.
As distasteful as it may be, effectively dealing with ISIS may benefit Bashir Assad, the murderous thug who runs Syria. That sucks, but the fact is that a lot of the world is run by unsavory characters and sometimes picking the lesser of two evils is all you can do.
- The point of Pat Quinn’s entire campaign seems to be that Bruce Rauner is: a) smart enough and hard-working enough to make a great deal of money, and b) savvy enough to legally keep as much of it as possible out the hands of the government. This does not sound like an argument for not electing Rauner, this rather seems like a statement of qualifications for a future Governor of Illinois.
- Tip of the hat to the Barrington Hills village board for standing up to the spandex mafia, a.k.a. annoying bicyclists. Not all are annoying of course, but a disturbing percentage of Lance Armstrong wanna-bes try to have it both ways: they want to be treated the same as motorists, but have no interest in obeying those pesky rules of the road.
Particularly aggravating are those pedallers who insist on taking up motorway space when there is a bike path available a few feet away. (Another reason for Barrington Hills to avoid putting in bike paths, by the by). The solution to the problem is a law that makes it legal to run down cyclists riding on the street within 100 feet of a bike path, but sadly that will never happen – not in Obama’s America!
No Mo Town
By Rich Trzupek
I spent last week working in Detroit, the first time I’ve been to the Motor City in over a decade. I am truly amazed at what the city has become. It’s stunning – shocking – incredible. You hear the stories, but until you see it in person I don’t think you can truly understand what happened there.
I’m sure that I can’t do the scale of this disaster justice, any more than everyone else who has tried. There are parts of the city where you drive down the street and – block upon block upon depressing block – all you see is boarded up businesses, abandoned home and – everywhere, absolutely everywhere – the tagging that proclaims Detroit is essentially in the hands of anarchy. I suspect the only real growth industry in MoTown these days is spray paint manufacturing.
It’s a post-apocalyptic nightmare come to life. People gather in ruined buildings at night, huddling close to drums that serve as impromptu furnaces, warming their hands over the fire. The city’s huge, hulking railway station sits abandoned, a concrete shell that looks for all the world like it could have been imported directly from post-World War II Berlin, surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with concertina wire.
The roads are a wreck, pitted and pot-holed in places to a degree that forces motorists into a “crawl and weave” style of driving. They keep a fire hose spraying water across a drawbridge spanning the River Rouge. Why? Because the bridge is screwed up and, because it’s screwed up, it gets stuck if the metal and concrete of the spans expand in the heat. Thus, rather than fix the bridge (which they don’t have the money to do) they pour water on it to keep it cool, and the steel and concrete from expanding, during the summer.
What happened to Detroit should serve as a lesson to the rest of the nation – and especially to Chicago – about how not to run a city. It won’t of course, for our big cities are mostly run by liberal Democrats these days and thus Detroit’s demise will likely be only the first in a series of urban collapses.
There are three main reasons why Detroit collapsed, in my not-so-humble opinion. One is the riots in the sixties, which were worse in Detroit than they were in most big cities, that destroyed some significant amounts of infrastructure, and which put the white middle class (and much of the black middle class) on edge. Loss of that middle class was one of the most crucial elements in death spiral that followed.
The second major factor was the late Coleman Young, mayor from 1974 to 1994. A reverse racist of the first order, he put into effect a host of policies that further accelerated middle class flight by alienating the white population.
And the third major culprit were the unions, especially the UAW, which did everything it could to destroy the competitiveness of the US auto industry, which of course impacted Detroit more than any other city. With closed down auto plants went more middle class jobs, more population loss, and less of a tax base, at both the corporate and individual level.
Eventually, a death spiral ensued - taxes went up, city services went down - more of the middle class fled to the 'burbs; the tax base went down some more, so tax rates went up some more, services went down some more - rinse and repeat until you get Detroit, 2014.
Will the same thing happen in Chicago? It starting to happen in some parts of the city, particularly in the far southeast side where I grew up. Do a Google map from about 114th to about 120th on Michigan, and you'll see the empty lots from torn down buildings that typify Motown. The surrounding neighborhoods are still there, but for how long? The weekly death toll in Chicago’s poor south side and west side neighborhoods has been horrific.
And Rahm - world class political schmoozer and petty political thug - has no city smarts. His playbook for dealing with urban anarchy has 4,000 pages, but they're all focused on gun control. Sadly, the Gangster Disciples and their ilk are not really impressed by gun control. As crime leaks out of the ghetto to marginal neighborhoods, figure on more and more middle class flight. Whether it will tip Chicago into the death spiral is an open question. The city still has a solid tax base downtown that's stronger and more diversified than Detroit's was, but it's not bottomless.
Detroit’s disaster should serve as a warning, but I fear it’s merely a harbinger of things to come.
By Rich Trzupek
It’s only taken six years, but it appears that the Obama administration may finally be ready to take off its foreign-policy training wheels. Maybe.
A century hence, historians will have a wonderful time debating which post World War II President was most naïve with regards to foreign affairs. Jimmy Carter should have set the bar, but Barack Obama has given the peanut farmer a run for his money.
I’ll still vote for Carter, because no single action did more to destabilize the Middle East and, by extension, the world, than Carter’s idiotic decision to abandon support for the Shah of Iran and thereby enable the murderous fanatic Khomeini and his army of fanatic supporters to turn Iran into a fanatic, fundamentalist state. (And yes, the Shah was hardly a saint, but Khomeini’s brand of evil made the Shah look like a boy scout).
Obama gave Carter a run for his money, to be sure. The “reset button” trip to Russia was about as embarrassing a moment in American diplomacy as we have ever seen. No doubt that Putin and his cronies shared plenty of guffaws over that one.
And then there was the infamous Middle Eastern apology tour. The “let’s all get along” message translated into “we can do whatever the hell we want” for Hama, Hezbollah and other Islamist nut jobs.
Six years later, President Obama seems to have finally caught on with the fact that Vladimir Putin is an evil son-of-a-bitch who will take advantage of every opportunity to rebuild the Soviet empire.
While one can’t give Obama a free pass for the “reset” bit of idiocy, it is at least comparable to his predecessor’s goofy statement that he looked into Putin’s eyes and saw someone he could work with. The difference of course is that George W. Bush figured out he was wrong about Putin far more quickly than his successor.
The gross errors in judgment in the Middle East are a whole lot more difficult to excuse. With the exception of the moron from Georgia, every President from Truman through Bush the Second has understood that protection of our interests in the Middle East hinge on two simple principles: 1) support Israel, and 2) don’t trust Israel’s enemies.
Yes, we have to deal with and get along with our erstwhile friends in the Arab world, but we cannot count on the moderate, Sunni dominated states like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, etc. the way we can count on Israel.
It is telling to note the reaction of those moderate Sunni states to the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas: they stayed silent. It was a deafening silence that spoke volumes about the balance of power in the Middle East has changed under Obama’s watch.
The norm, whenever Israel goes after terrorist neighbors, is for virtually all Muslim-dominated nations to condemn Israel and wring their hands for the terrible injustices their co-religionists are suffering at the hands of the Zionists, even though most privately and silently root for Israel to rid the region of the nut-jobs.
Not this time. The moderate Sunni states stayed silent as Israel invaded Gaza, destroying terror tunnels that Hamas had constructed using “humanitarian supplies” that do-gooders pressured Israel to allow through its blockade of Gaza. (And let us not forget that Egypt also maintains a blockade of its border with Gaza, but the do-gooders save all of their outrage for Israel). The moderate Sunni states uttered not a peep as Israel destroyed caches of rockets that Hamas would have otherwise lobbed across the border.
The question is “why?” Nations that have always abused Israel when it defended itself were quiet as mice while certain Hollywood types and other liberal idiots dumped all over that besieged nation. How could that happen?
The simple explanation is that things are changing in that part of the world. Radical jihadists are running amok in Syria and Iraq. The moderate Sunni states know that the extremists have no love for them either and, if they continue to grow in power, the jihadists will eventually take over their nations as well.
In the past, the moderate Sunni states could afford to condemn Israel, because they know that the United States would always back Israel no matter what. Not any longer. The Obama administration has, quite publicly, greatly reduced U.S. activity in the region and our current relationship with Israel is lukewarm at best. There’s a vacuum of power in the Middle East and, rather than let the crazies fill it, the moderate Sunni states understand that Israel must do the heavy lifting and do it with less U.S. support than ever. In that circumstance, staying quiet is the best thing they can do.
Would that our dear President follow their example once in a while.
By Rich Trzupek
I am a Catholic and I’m proud to be a Catholic. I believe in a life after this earthly existence, I believe that the Catholic Church does a wonderful job of preparing us for that afterlife, and I believe that, on balance, the Catholic Church is overwhelmingly a force for good in our plane of existence.
I have no doubt that the Catholic Church is flawed. Every institution run by human beings is necessarily flawed, because every human being is flawed. I don’t agree with my church in every circumstance, but see my personal role as member of the church to be helping to advance and improve its mission, rather than churlishly demanding perfection (and pouting when perfection is not achieved).
My particular parish of choice is Holy Family Catholic Community in Inverness. Sadly, Holy Family has been in the news recently and not in a good way. Accordingly, we should probably talk about that a bit.
Colin Collette, a long-time member of Holy Family’s staff, was dismissed from his position after he announced that he was engaged to marry his partner of five years, who happened to be a fellow male. The local media latched onto the story and it has become, in some quarters, another example of intolerance aimed at what is now called the LGBT (for “Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans”) community.
Let’s take a few things as givens:
There’s no doubt that Colin is a good man who made a lasting and positive contribution to Holy Family.
There’s no doubt that – barring a particularly incredible degree of naiveté – pretty much everybody involved in Holy Family understood that Colin was and is gay.
There’s no doubt that Holy Family’s current pastor, Father Terry Keenan, is also a good man who has made a lasting and positive contribution to Holy Family and who has deeply valued Colin’s contributions to the parish.
And finally, there’s no doubt that there is a difference in the way we use the term “marriage” in the secular world and the way we use that term in certain portions of the spiritual world.
In the most simplistic terms, which is to say the spin that most in the mainstream media have chosen to put on this story, the Catholic Church rejected Colin Collette because the Church discovered that Colin is gay.
The fact is that the Catholic Church in general, and Holy Family in particular, never rejected Colin Collette. As Colin himself has admitted, the fact that he is gay wasn’t a secret among parishioners or church leaders.
Colin was, and can continue to be (if he so chose) part of the Holy Family community. In the eyes of the Catholic Church, homosexuality is a sin. The flip side of that particular coin is that the Catholic Church doesn’t presume to condemn supposed sinners. We’re all sinners after all.
Not all faiths could make that claim. Certain fundamentalist Christian sects and fundamentalist Muslims (to name but a few) would prohibit Colin from joining in their faith at best and, at worst, execute him if he dared to express his preferences in public.
Ultimately, there were three issues in play here: 1) in the Catholic Church marriage is a sacrament, 2) in the Catholic Church that sacrament is defined exclusively as a union between a man and a woman, and 3) Colin chose to go public with a personal decision involving marriage that ran contrary to the Catholic Church’s position on the matter.
The church essentially said that while a Catholic has a right to believe whatever they wish about the institution of marriage, a Catholic should not be in a leadership role in the Church if he or she openly adopts a position that is in conflict with beliefs that form the foundation of the Church’s beliefs.
As a useful analogy, consider Nancy Pelosi. The former Speaker of the House is both a Catholic and pro-choice. I’ve got no problem with that. She gets to disagree with doctrine and be a member of the church. Indeed, without dissent the Church (like any institution) wouldn’t have that vitally-important motivation to continually re-examine itself. But, while Pelosi can be a “pro-choice” member of the church, there’s no way that she could or should be put in a position of leadership in her parish.
The way that the Church reacted to his impending nuptials should not have come as a surprise to someone who has been as deeply involved in the Church as Colin. Indeed, I’m amazed that he thought there would have been any other result.
Personally, I wish Colin all the best and I believe that the vast majority of my fellow parishioners, as well as Father Terry, do as well. I understand the bitterness that he has expressed in recent interviews, but I hope that – in time – he will reflect that his life as a member of our parish was enriched, just as he was a big part of enriching ours.
By Rich Trzupek
The Middle East is pretty much falling apart and the Obama-adoring mainstream media is of course having a very hard time coming to grips with the reality and the reasons. So let’s take a closer look, shall we?
The Islamic fanatic group known as ISIS is in control of a substantial swath or Iraq and has, in name anyway, re-established the Islamic caliphate that had been disbanded at the conclusion of World War I.
Hamas, the terrorist organization that runs the Palestinian state in the Gaza strip, is engaged in a battle with Israel that is entirely of its own making, having lobbed thousands of rockets into Israel. As of this writing, Hamas couldn’t even bring itself to honor a twenty-four truce that it had requested, having more rockets at the state it is avowed to destroy before the clock ran out.
In Africa, Boko Haram continues to abduct and abuse women and girls who dare to engage in that most egregious of sins: obtaining an education.
Is the left outraged about any of these goings-on? Maybe, but you’d never know it because they are so exhausted from expressing faux outrage about faux problems here at home.
It continues to amaze your humble correspondent that so-called feminists in our country continue to perpetuate the myth that the Republican party is waging a so-called war on women, when actual wars on women rage an ocean away.
Consider, for example, the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision. According to the MSM, feminist groups and self-serving political hacks like Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton, the result of the decision is that women employed by Hobby Lobby will be hereafter be denied access to birth control covered by their insurance.
Disturbing! Except for the fact that it’s entirely untrue. Hobby Lobby’s insurance coverage has, and will continue to, provide a wide range of birth control options to its female employees. These include the pill, diaphragms, condoms and many other choices. What Hobby Lobby objected to, and what the Supreme Court agreed with, was being forced to pay for that portion of its government-mandated insurance plan that covered the “Plan B” pill and its equivalents.
To the owners of Hobby Lobby (and your humble correspondent) Plan B pills are a form of abortion and neither they nor I believe we should have to fund abortions of any sort.
So, does the Supreme Court’s decision mean the women working at Hobby Lobby will be forced to pay for their own Plan B pills? Nope. Obamacare dictates that their insurance plan cover the pills. All the Supreme Decision effectively said is that rather than making the employer subsidize the cost of Plan B pills, the insurance company will have to foot the bill. That’s it. Nobody is denied access to anything.
But Good Lord, so many on the left lost whatever remains of their minds over the Hobby Lobby decision. And why not? It’s an easy target, even though it’s entirely without substance. It’s got the preferred leftist cast of villains: men, white men and Republican white men. What else do you need?
The actual villains in the Middle East are a little tougher to confront because doing so involves – what’s that word? – oh yeah: courage. And courage is sadly lacking in both our commander in chief and his fawning supporters on the left.
It takes courage to admit that you were wrong, to man-up and acknowledge that the criminals intentionally targeting Israeli civilians are not some impotent whacky fringe element of what you referred to as “the religions of peace”, but are instead a well-funded, organized group of zealots that a disturbing portion of their co-religionists support.
It takes courage to admit that you screwed up in Iraq, that if you had done what your military leaders begged you to do – leave behind a few thousand troops – the conditions that have allowed ISIS to take over the Sunni portions of Iraq would not have existed.
And it takes courage to point out that ISIS, in accordance with Sharia law, is persecuting Christians in the portion of Iraq they control, much less condemn the fanatics for doing so.
That kind of courage is entirely lacking in a White House that, as even some Democrats are beginning to admit, grows more detached from the world every day. It used to be that the President of the United States was known as the Leader of the Free World. These days, the position is vacant.
Swing and a Miss
By Rich Trzupek
The daughtorial unit recently send me a link to a website, Vox.com, that is purports to attempt to bridge the ideological gap between left and right through sober, unbiased analysis. Since my educational and work histories make me something of an expert with regard to “climate change”, she asked me to review Vox’s take on that popular issue. My analysis was a learning moment for her, so it might as well be a learning moment for you.
I’ll give Vox an A for effort, because they tried a lot harder than the mainstream media to present the issues in a balanced manner, but a C- for results, because they were – for the most part – unable to grasp the nuances that matter.
Those nuances, I believe, are increasingly important as our world becomes increasingly more technically intricate and complex. We live in an era that depends on specialists, but when issues come to the fore that involve specialists, decisions are largely made and influenced by generalists – journalists and politicians – who have little or no personal understanding of the nuances that the specialists argue about. In the absence of technical understanding, the generalists inevitably rely on their perceptions of motivation in order to choose (or justify) their position.
If you’re a generalist who is predisposed to believe that Republicans are evil, corporate lackeys, then you don’t have any problem believing the “experts” who write off global warming skepticism to “big energy” influences. Similarly, if you’re a generalist who is predisposed to believe that Democrats are evil. Socialist lackeys, then you don’t’ have any problem believing that the “expert” academics who are pushing global warming alarmism are secretly in bed with the big government crowd (instead of just being wrong).
I don’t know how we can bridge that widening gap between the generalists and the specialists, but I know that it exists and that – absent some magic solution I cannot conceive of – it will continue to grow. Most people inevitably find this to be true in their field(s) of expertise. The mainstream media and pop culture will portray the issues and themes for which experts find simple-minded and objectionable. It’s a symptom of the age.
All that said, let me drill down into a couple of global warming issues that vox tried to deal with – and tried to deal with fairly – to support my hypothesis.
First, let’s talk about the Keystone II XL pipeline. Vox makes the oft-repeated argument that refining crude from Alberta results in 17% more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than refining sweeter (less dirty) crude would. I don’t personally know whether this is true or not, but I am skeptical of the figure. When people look at GHG emissions, they should – but generally don’t – consider a concept we call “life cycle analysis”. That means analyzing everything, from the well to the end user in order to determine the total GHG emission profile associated with an event. The anti-Keystone crowd focuses on the refining aspect alone – a position that many on the energy side of the issue disagree with – but I am not personally familiar enough with the details to know if that’s legit or not. Doesn’t actually matter though and I’ll tell you why.
There is absolutely no way that Canadian tar-sand oil isn’t going to get to market. Just because you don’t build Keystone XL doesn’t mean that the Canucks are going to cap the wells and go home. Crude has value and demand is growing, chiefly because of China and India. (Demand in the US is slowly declining). So, if we don’t buy it, Canada will simply sell their crude in Asia. That means that Canadian crude won’t be transported using the most energy-efficient means available (pipelines) and won’t be refined at refineries subject to the most stringent environmental standards in the world (ours). Instead, the same oil be transported by tanker (much more energy intensive) and refined at refineries that are much dirtier than ours. Furthermore, failure to build Keystone XL won’t change US demand one little bit. It just means that we’ll have to import more crude from the Middle East and Venezuela than we would have had Keystone XL been built.
Now, onto greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Vox does let you know that US GHG emissions have been dropping, and I applaud that. They present gross GHG emissions (the total amount of GHG emissions) rather than net GHG emissions (total GHG emission minus GHG emissions that are absorbed by plant and animal life). Net GHG emissions are what really matters and, in response to the faux global warming threat, people have been planting trees like crazy in the US to create GHG sinks. When you look at net GHG emissions, the decrease is even more dramatic. Small point, but it matters.
Looking at energy policy and the future of GHG emissions, Vox focuses only on federal policy. While they do a good job of analyzing federal policy, they fail to include what’s going on at the state level. Over 30 states have Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) programs. These are state programs that force power producers to use less and less fossil fuel each year. When you add the effect of RPS programs to federal programs, future reductions in GHG emissions from the US are far greater than what DOE has projected (and Vox repeated).
Vox also presents the oft-repeated talking point that cheap natural gas is helping to drive coal out of the energy production picture. This is pure nonsense and reflects complete ignorance of energy-production reality. Gas is cheap these days, but only relative to what gas has cost in the past. In the energy world, you pay for fuel based on energy content, generally in dollars/million BTU. Natural gas is selling for about $4.50 per million BTU these days. That’s pretty cheap, especially compared to the $10 - $12/million BTU that natural gas has sold for in the past. However, coal sells for about $1/million BTU. Given the choice, any investor would build a coal plant rather than a natural gas-fired plant. The only reason that people aren’t going to build coal plants any more is the Obama administration’s war on coal. The price of natural gas has nothing to do with it.
Finally, although I didn’t get to the end of their deck (so I might be wrong…) I didn’t see that Vox made the point that the world’s GHG future has very little to do with the United States any longer. Roughly (and I’m working from memory here) world-wide GHG emissions are about 31 million metric tons per year these days. The US accounts for something less than 6 million metric tons per year now. China is at about 8 million metric tons per year. China is projected to increase their GHG emissions to over 10 million metric tons per year in the near future. So, if somebody really believe in the global warming canard, then they should be encouraging China to build nukes instead of coal plants, but that’s not what’s happening. The left keeps pointing at the US and what the US does hardly matters any longer.
And those things are all part of something you rarely see in the news any longer: reality.
By Rich Trzupek
Kinda couldn’t help myself. When I saw that Megyn Kelly was going to interview legendary sixties radical Bill Ayers I had to watch. Along with his wife, Bernadine Dohrn, Ayers is one of the two most important living symbols of the “Days of Rage” in the late 1960’s that have done so much to define America as we know it today.
For those of you too young to remember Ayers and Dohrn, a brief history lesson is in order. The pair were founding members of a domestic terrorist organization called the “Weather Underground”. The choice of name was significant, one that would define Ayers and Dohrn thereafter. “You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows” they said, which was as much a rationalization as it was slogan.
Today, Ayer’s claims that the Weather Underground was not a terrorist organization. They supposedly just “made a lot of noise” in order to shed light on the greater injustices that America was involved in, such as the Viet Nam War and institutionalized racism.
The fact is that the Weather Underground did quite a bit more than “make noise.” The bombed, they killed innocent people and they declared war on the United States. (And it’s worth noting that the public officials promoting the Viet Nam war in the sixties and attempting to protect institutionalized racism at the same time were overwhelmingly politicians who belonged to the Democrat party. Just saying.)
You may also recall that Ayers was something of an issue during the 2008 presidential campaign, because Barack Obama launched his political career at Ayers home. That, we were told, was no big deal. Obama said that Ayers was “just a guy who lived in his neighborhood” and that was that.
The now-retired professor has remained relatively quiet while another guy who lived in the neighborhood has been running the country, so I was curious to hear what Ayers had to say and to size up just what sort of person Bill Ayers had grown into.
Well, it turns out that Bill Ayers hasn’t really grown into anything. Rarely have I seen a more disturbing combination of a self-absorption and self-loathing. Ayers is the poster-child for the sort of liberal that has done more to damage America than any other: the intellectual idiot.
He has a narrative firmly planted in his head when it comes to the nation that gave him the many opportunities he has squandered during his wasted life. That narrative says that America is generally an evil influence in the world and, when it’s not, it’s because somebody had “the courage” to defy corrupt, imperialistic American traditions and values.
In Ayers America, great leaders don’t lead, they are pushed by the teaming masses that are the only source of good in this wasteland of a Republic. And it’s clear that clutching to that theme is an essential facet of Ayers self-image. For if good only comes from below, than revolutions are not only justified, they are essential. And if revolutions – with their inherent disregard for civilized rules and order – are the only path to essential change, then the actions of young Bill Ayers during the Days of Rage were fully justified. Ergo the Weather Underground was as American as the Minutemen or Sons of Liberty.
Let’s look at one example of the way Ayers thinks. In his view, Lincoln was swept away by a wave of public opinion that inevitably carried him to the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment. This fits in with his philosophy. Indeed, it must have happened that way, because for it to have happened the other way – if Lincoln led rather than followed – would imply that there might be something good about a system that puts enlightened leaders in a position to lead.
The fact is that only a small portion of the nation favored emancipation during Lincoln’s term in office. This was true even in the north, with the exception of the New England states. And, in those New England states, the primary impetus for the abolitionist movement was another institution Ayers sneers at: organized religion. Very few people in the mid-nineteenth century believed slavery was wrong from a sectarian, humanitarian point of view. Those who opposed it, and especially the leaders of the abolitionist movement, were motivated by their faith.
Anyway, when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, he did so against the advice of the conservative wing of his own party, and against the wishes of the opposition party. There was even a genuine fear that the midwestern states, where anti-slavery sentiment was never strong, might attempt to form their own country rather than fight to free slaves.
The north was fighting to preserve the Union and most northerners preferred to keep it that way. It was Lincoln who dragged the nation into emancipation far earlier than anyone (including a somewhat younger Abraham Lincoln) believed possible just a few years before.
That’s but one example of the way America works so much differently than the way Ayers believes it works – must believe it works. The fact is that America is overwhelmingly a force for good in the world. The fact is that America is the place that people want to live. The fact is that when other nations decide to improve their lot, it’s our systems that they inevitably follow. We are truly exceptional, but a sad, sad fellow like Bill Ayers will never understand that.
It’s never gotten more incompetent than this.
By Rich Trzupek
Fair warning: this is one of those columns that will result in a reader or two canceling their subscription to The Mighty Examiner. This isn’t really a problem from our point of view. The terrible truth is that both me and my esteemed publisher secretly enjoy those cancellation letters. It’s something of a guilty pleasure in “another lib bites the dust” kind of way.
So, you have been warned. If you subscribe to leftist ideology, you will not want to subscribe to this here publication if you read on. On the other hand, if you’re in the middle or lean right, the polls say that you – as part of the way that the majority of the nation now thinks – will pretty much agree with your humble correspondent’s conclusions.
Put quite simply, the evidence is now overwhelming that our nation is being led by someone who is about as incompetent to do so as anyone who has ever served us as President of these United States.
That has been the real issue from the beginning. Sadly, from a conservative point of view, that vitally important issue was diluted by sidebar silliness. Many of us got caught up in trying to figure out whether Barack Obama was truly born in the United States, or what his religious affiliation was.
Those issues were sideshows, things that didn’t matter no matter what the answers were. Worse, those sideshows diverted the middle – the independents who actually decide elections – from fairly analyzing the real issue: whether a pie-in-the-sky pseudo-intellectual like Barack Obama, who had never run any sort of enterprise, was qualified to lead the most powerful, most successful and most influential nation on earth.
We now have two undeniable (with the exception of leftist ideologues of course) pieces of evidence that demonstrate how incredibly incompetent this administration is. This is not a matter of politics or ideology. I’m no fan of Hillary Clinton, but I said back in 2008 and I’ll say it again now: Hillary would have made a far better President than Barack Obama, simply because Hillary has actually had experience in running things.
The first undeniable piece of evidence is that the Supreme Court of the United States has, for the thirteenth time, slapped down the Obama administration for attempting to over-reach its Constitutionally delegated powers, by making illegal National Labor Relations Board appointments while they attempted to declare that the Senate, which was actually in session the time, was somehow out of session because the President wished it was.
And, not only has the Court unambiguously criticized the Obama White House for attempting to set up an Imperial Presidency that Nixon would have found disgusting, they have done so by nine to zero votes in each of those thirteen cases. Not even the two associate justices that Obama personally appointed could be persuaded to vote in favor of the fellow that appointed them.
There can be no doubt that Obama, the supposed “Constitutional scholar” who was so mortally-offended by the way that his predecessor supposedly abused delegated executive power, has himself attempted to abuse executive power in a way that we have never seen since the Republic was founded. That’s not about the color of Obama’s skin color, the place of his birth, or the version of God he worships. That’s simply and only about the manner in which Barack Obama executes Executive Power under the Constitution of the United States of America. And, the consensus, among the vast majority of voters and the unanimous view of Supreme Court justices, is that Barack Obama has attempted to defy the law of the land in a way that we have never, ever seen before.
The second bit of evidence displaying Obama’s incompetence takes us half a world away, into Iraq. Let me say that I now believe, in retrospect, that George W. Bush’s decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein in Iraq – a decision that was overwhelmingly supported by Democrats in Congress at the time – was a mistake. Not because there’s anything wrong about going after a lying, murderous SOB who refused to come clean about his nuclear weapons program. Nor do I think that Iraq post-Gulf War II was in worse shape – either literally or theoretically – than Iraq post-Gulf War II Surge.
We shouldn’t have gotten involved in Iraq because we, as a nation, are no longer capable of providing effective intervention in foreign affairs. Spreading ideas like democracy and liberty takes an enormous degree of nation resolve. The United Kingdom, exhausted by World War I, lost the will to project that kind of national resolve after 1918 and we, their children on the global stage, began to lose that will in 1945 and fully embraced it once the Korean conflict came to a close.
That said, had Barack Obama listened to his military experts, we would have left a couple of tens of thousands United States troops behind in Iraq before pulling out. Being 100% politician and 0% leader, Obama rejected our military leadership’s pleas to leave anyone behind. The inevitable result us what we have today: ISIS exploiting the vacuum that our absence has provided to exacerbate the Sunni/Shia divisions that have consumed Iraq for hundreds of years.
Terrorism is on the rise once again. Our economy is in a shambles. Both of those facts are the responsibility of an Administration that refuses to acknowledge that either actually exist, much less than they might have any responsibility for their existence. It’s never gotten more incompetent than this.
Forty Six of Fifty
By Rich Trzupek
Well, forty six of fifty for your humble correspondent anyway. If I were speaking for America, “forty nine of fifty” would have been a more appropriate title, but attempting to represent for a nation of over 350 million could be interpreted as a bit of hubris, even for me.
Alaska, from which I have recently returned, is the forty sixth United State that my size ten and one half’s have set foot on during my fifty-something years of existence – thus the title. The remaining four are Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and Hawaii, if you’re counting, which I obviously am.
From a national perspective, Alaska was the forty-ninth state to enter the union, being admitted in 1959 a bit before Hawaii was accepted as the fiftieth (and thus far final) member of our special club. As a side note, Hawaii was born as an official United State on the very same day of the very same year that your humble correspondent entered the world. Kind of weird that, but now you know when to send those birthday cards and presents.
In any case, having now been to Alaska it’s hard not to write about Alaska, chiefly because I don’t think it’s humanly possible not to be moved by Alaska. Even the briefest glimpse of this remarkable place – and the “briefest glimpse” is all I can honestly claim to have enjoyed – redefines one’s definition of words like “majesty”, “awe” and “wonder”.
When Secretary of State William H. Seward engineered the purchase of Alaska from the Russian Empire in 1871, the deal was roundly criticized. The Territory of Alaska was quickly dubbed “Seward’s Icebox” in the popular media of the time. The implication being that we had spent an unconscionable amount of money to purchase a massive amount of frozen real estate that was of no use to man and damned little use to beasts.
History would prove the critics wrong on both counts. The mineral riches that we have found and continue to find in Alaska have provided a pay back on our initial investment that would make a Wall Street investment manager drool. That proves, perhaps, that even government can get it right once in a while.
And, far from being a barren wilderness, Alaska proved to be a treasure-trove of abundant, diverse and thriving flora and fauna. From huge grizzly bears to exotic mosses – and everything in between – Alaska is nature at her finest, her toughest and her most spectacular.
Alaskans are particularly in-tune with their surroundings. While they cooperate with nature, the commonly held enviro-liberal attitude that ma nature is exceedingly tender and fragile doesn’t hold much water in forty-nine. Alaskan’s recognize that nature is an extremely tough old broad and we puny humans can’t do much to affect her.
A case in point can be found in the city of Ketchikan, located in the midst of the Tongass National Forest in the Alaskan panhandle. The Tongass is the largest National Forest in the United States, encompassing over 17 million acres of timberland.
Up to about twenty years ago, Ketchikan was the focal point of a thriving logging industry in the Tongass. In many ways, the Tongass is the ideal place to harvest timber. In most places, when trees are cut in the Tongass, nature does the job of replanting without the need for human intervention. Harvest a stand of trees in the Tongass and over ninety-five per cent of the same size trees will have returned about fifty years later.
Not being complete idiots, the lumber companies working the Tongass attended to that fifty year cycle. They planned out their harvesting such that the amount of timber available would never decrease. It was the very definition of “sustainability”.
That made no difference to the enviro-puritans. Once they took notice of the Tongass, they weren’t going to shut up until they stopped those damned loggers.
So today, the lumber industry is pretty much dead in the Tongass. Big pines that should have been harvested now die a “natural death”, which is to say they rot away. You see them all over the place and it drives the locals nuts.
Such is today’s crazy green world. But, in spite of that bit of insanity, Alaska remains a magical place. If you haven’t been, go.
Not What It Seems
By Rich Trzupek
Last week the EPA proposed yet another rule aimed at coal-fired power plants. Since every media outlet (both mainstream and conservative press) got the story wrong since the subject matter involves my particular field of expertise, I’ll give you a longer-than-usual column to explain what’s really going on.
The rule is being presented as “anti-coal”, but when you read through the details it’s really more “pro-wind”. If adopted, I doubt that it will force any more coal-fired plant shutdowns than are already planned. A flood of previous EPA rules and actions going after coal, directly and indirectly, have resulted in the retirement of older, less efficient coal fleet assets, with more will follow. The slack has largely been taken up by natural gas. Although not as cheap as coal, it’s still pretty cheap these days, so power prices haven’t suffered greatly. I’m sure that both the EPA and the Administration is aware of all of the coal asset retirements (past and future) and there’s nothing in this rule – at least in my humble opinion – that will change that. Old, inefficient coal plants go away and (relatively) newer, more efficient coal plants will stick around.
In addition to all of the previous anti-coal rules and actions, state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) also play a part. Thirty odd states have RPS, while a few others have “Alternative Energy Standards” or “Renewable Power Goals” (the latter two generally being less stringent and less binding than RPS are). To review, states with RPS mandate that a certain percentage of power used in the state come from so-called renewable sources by such-and-such year. What is “renewable” and the percentage required (and when) varies, but in general by 2020 most of the state RPS programs will be in full effect.
As a result of anti-coal rules and RPS programs, GHG emissions from electric generation dropped from a peak of 2,402 million metric tons in 2005 to 2,023 million metric tons in 2012 (the last year for which we have verifiable data). This was part of an overall drop in national net GHG emissions from 6,223 million metric tons in 2005 to 5,546 million metric tons in 2012. This reduction in GHG emissions will continue with or without the proposed new rule. I haven’t done the math, but I suspect when you total up the planned coal retirements and the effect of RPS fully kicking in we would meet the target of the proposed new rule – GHG “reductions” of between 368 to 555 million metric tons by 2030 – without the new rule.
I put “reductions” in quotes because these are not reductions off a baseline, but are rather reductions that include projected growth in demand. So it’s really a “reduction” of what EPA has decided emissions would be in the future.
Anyway, if they were going to get to the target anyway, why the new rule? To figure that out, we have to delve a little deeper into what EPA is proposing and how they are justifying it. We start with the RPS piece of the puzzle. While many states have RPS programs, some don’t, some RPS programs are less ambitious than others and a few are really just window-dressing. In general, if you live in blue state, you’ll probably have a very aggressive RPS program, while if you live in a red state you won’t have one, or if you do it’ll be much more reasonable.
In designing this rule, EPA took a look at the states with the most aggressive RPS programs and said: “if they can do it, everybody can do it”. So, first they look at each state, see how many lbs of GHG is produced per megawatt hour of electricity generated. Then they pretend that the state has an aggressive RPS in place. (The target percentage is unique to regions that EPA divided the country up into for purposes of this rule-making). Applying that theoretic RPS gets them to the final target number, which is expressed in terms of average lbs of GHG emitted per megawatt hour of power produced.
There will be winners and losers if this rule is adopted. If you live in Washington, where the vast majority of power comes from hydro and a nuke, hitting their target of 215 lbs/MWh by 2030 won’t be a big deal. If you live in California, which has a very aggressive RPS is place, the rule will be basically meaningless, because they will be well below the target goal anyway.
However, if you live in a state like North Dakota, which has a pretty conservative RPS goal, or a state like Alabama, which has no RPS program, this rule is going to force you to build windmills – lots and lots of windmills. Moreover, when and if Congress ever ends the Production Tax Credits for wind, this rule will ensure that wind sticks around, no matter how expensive it becomes.
Yeah, there will be some solar, but solar is so expensive and so inefficient that it won’t contribute much. Solar is fine for your roof, but it stinks for large-scale electrical generation. And yeah, there will be some bio-mass, but the enviro NGO’s are starting to push back against bio-mass (which is extra-stupid, even for them) so I don’t think you’ll see much more of that either. Wind is and will continue to be the only practical way to add enough renewables to hit these targets.
But wind, as we know, can’t provide base-load power, because it’s not reliable enough. And though it can be, and is, used to provide mid and peaking power, it has its limits in that role too, particularly if you are in a region of the country where the wind profile isn’t particularly good. So, in adding new wind assets, you have to retain back-up generation capacity as well. And, inevitably, that back-up power will be fossil fuel fired.
As you pile on more wind, it also increases reserve requirements. The utility has to have more power available then is actually in use at any given moment, to handle sudden increases in demand. The difference between what you can generate at a given moment and what is being used is the reserve. When you have wind, there is the possibility of the wind suddenly dying at any given moment, so the amount of reserve you need goes up lest you risk taking down the grid. (This almost happened in 2008 in Texas, when they lost over 1,000 megawatts of wind all at once). And, like back up, reserve power is usually fossil-fuel fired.
Anyway, I haven’t run the numbers yet, but I bet the states that get hurt the most by this rule are red states for the most part, if not entirely. Most blue states won’t feel a thing And – boy oh boy – those windmill manufacturers must be dancing in the streets!
Finally let’s put this proposed rule in context. It’s touted as a 30% reduction in power plant GHG emissions. Based on EPA’s own data, it’s actually a reduction of 18% (368 tons per year) or 27% (555 tons per year) compared to 2012, depending on which of two versions of the rule is adopted. Compared to all US GHG emissions, it’s a reduction of 7% or 10%. Compared to world wide emissions, it’s a reduction of 1. 2% or 1.8%. And consider, that by the time we hit this target, the world’s biggest GHG emitter, the People’s Republic of China is projected to increase their GHG emissions from around 8,000 million metric tons per year to over 10,000 metric tons per year. If you’re a global warming head, this rule will do absolutely nothing to ease your fears in other words. But if you’ve invested in GE or any other windmill producer, you’ve got to love this rule.
A Tale of Two Fellows
By Rich Trzupek
A couple of older gentlemen have spent a good deal of time in the headlines recently: Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs Eric Shinseki (General, US Army, ret.). Neither, methinks, have been treated very well by the mainstream media, the political class or politically correct popular opinion.
Let’s start with Sterling. His crime, such as it was, was expressing a rather abhorrent opinion as part of (what he assumed to be) a private conversation.
This does not make Sterling particularly unique. There are very, very few of us who have not – at one time or another during our lives – said something that someone else would find shocking, revolting, disgusting or all of the above. That’s part of being human. Fortunately, most of us don’t (yet) have to worry about somebody recording those moments and publishing them so that the righteous can begin casting stones.
In Sterling’s case, the bigotry he expressed on tape is very much a generational artifact. He reminded me of my dad, who was a genuinely good, caring and honorable man. But, like so many of his generation, he routinely made racist remarks during the course of his life.
At some point in my life, I came to realize that what dad said had little to do with the way he behaved. He would dump all over people of color on a routine basis, but when I saw him actually interact with someone belonging to this or that minority, he treated the individual with all the respect and friendliness as he would everyone else. When pressed to explain the contradiction, he would say that so-and-so was “an exception”.
That was stupid logic or course. What dad ultimately demonstrated to us kids by his contradictory messages was that there was one thing that ultimately mattered when dealing with one’s fellow man: each particular interaction. One never, ever deals with a group. We only deal with individuals and we should never interact with people in any other context.
I don’t think Sterling gets that, or that he is even capable of getting that. He’s an old guy who’s part of a dying generation that didn’t find passive-aggressive racism especially objectionable. Crucifying him for making private remarks that society now finds disgusting is intellectually lazy, rather pointless and smacks of the Though Police.
There was no point in the NBA jumping all over Sterling and taking away his franchise. The free market would have taken care of the problem soon enough. How many companies would advertise with the Clippers after his remarks became public? How long could Sterling have held onto the club once advertisers pulled out? The answers to both questions should be terribly obvious.
But, in the end, the NBA moved to take a privately-owned franchise away from its lawful owner because the league wasn’t happy with an opinion that owner expressed in private. It’s a move that further reinforces the way that Big Brother is taking over our society.
On to General Shinseki. He did what warriors do: took a bullet and behaved with honor. The Viet Nam veteran and former Army Chief of Staff should be respected for taking the fall, but he’s about the last guy to blame for the mess at the VA.
If we want to blame somebody, blame most of the 535 goofballs in Congresses past and present that have failed to take action to improve the VA. Ralph Peters, Lt. Colonel, US Army (ret) nailed it in a recent column:
“It was Congress that underfunded the VA for half a century. It’s Congress that protects dishonest civil servants and incompetent union members, even when our veterans are the victims. It’s Congress that makes it absurdly difficult to hire quality employees in a timely manner.
It’s Congress’s procurement rules that restrict competitiveness when agencies seek to improve information technology. Not least, it was Congress that dramatically increased the range of services the VA must provide and the range of patients it must treat—without commensurate increases in funding and staffing.
And it was Congress that looked away as Vietnam veterans aged and required more extensive care. It was Congress that ignored the fact that, thanks to incredible strides in military medicine, we were able to save the lives of wounded troops from our recent wars who would have died on or near the battlefield in past conflicts—but many of those wounded warriors require exceptional care.”
Blame Obama? Sure, he’s at fault to for failing to provide leadership. But, at the same time, blame Bush, blame Clinton, blame H.W. Bush, and on and on.
There are, I am sure, a lot of good, caring people working at the VA. But, as we have seen, there are also some despicable people there as well, which is inevitable in any bureaucracy. The VA badly needs reform and that reform should start with privatizing the organization. Our vets deserve better, including the vet who took the fall for those jerks on Capitol Hill.
By Rich Trzupek
Hope you enjoyed the Memorial Day weekend that just passed, but you’ll forgive me for saying that I hope you didn’t enjoy it too much.
I’ve always been uncomfortable when people wish me a “happy Memorial Day”. There are some things to be happy about on Memorial Day, but it’s not really an apropos expression, is it?
That is to say that we should be happy about the fact that there have long been, and still are, young people willing to go into harm’s way to protect us, the fact that so many of them have fallen doing so over the centuries that our nation has existed is anything but a happy memory.
It is interesting to note how attitudes towards the military have come full circle in my lifetime. When I was born (1959, if you were wondering) most Americans revered those in uniform. There were exceptions of course, there always are, but the triumph of good over evil that was World War II was only 15 years old at that point and our nation’s military was still a source of pride.
Then came that disaster of a decade, the sixties – at least the latter part of it anyway – and the Viet Nam War. For the first time in our history, the military became the enemy in the eyes of a significant portion of the population. Young men returning from tours of duty were spat upon and accused of atrocities by self-centered, mostly young, fools.
At some point, most Americans came to understand that no matter how you feel about a particular war, it’s shameful to attack the warriors. They are, as the later Christopher Hitchens once observed, the best of us. Even the most strident opponents of the second desert war didn’t take out their anger on the men and women who fought it. Hopefully the disgraceful behavior that veterans who served in Viet Nam were subject to will never be repeated.
The other thing that changed after Viet Nam was the military itself, especially the Army. Viet Nam had been an embarrassment for the Army, not because soldiers didn’t perform well in that war, but because they weren’t given the best equipment (thanks Bob McNamara) and their commanders were largely hamstrung by political interference (thanks LBJ).
A number of Army officers were determined to transform, or perhaps “return” is the better choice of verb, the Army into the professional, skilled branch of the armed forces it should be.
General Fred Franks (ret.) and the late Tom Clancy collaborated on the book “Into the Storm: A Study in Command” that details how the Army was reformed and healed after the Viet Nam debacle. It’s great reading and really helps one to understand just how dedicated and professional our warriors are.
Franks himself is an American hero. He led VII Corps, the unit that executed the “left hook” in the first Desert War that was such a big part of smashing Saddam’s army. Franks is also a Viet Nam veteran and was the first (and, to my knowledge only) one-legged General to serve in the US Army since the Civil War.
That the US Army was able to defeat Saddam’s forces so handily on two separate occasions is a tribute to warriors like Franks and to the troops they led. We, as a nation, are very fortunate indeed to be protected by the likes of them.
It is a shame, of course, that so much of what our troops accomplish in the way of bringing liberty to places around the globe is often squandered. But, again, that is hardly the fault of the warriors themselves. And, in the course of performing their missions so well, some of them fall. It is their memories we honor the final weekend each May and may we never lose the awe and gratitude we feel for what they did.
By Rich Trzupek
The abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has put the Obama in tight spot once again. On the one hand, the story has gotten so much press and the mass kidnapping is so clearly heinous that they can’t possibly ignore the situation. On the other hand, it does run counter to their preferred narrative that the only Islamic extremists to worry about are in Al Qaeda, who are on the run anyway, and maybe a few isolated nut jobs here and there.
Secretary of State John Kerry was in full spin-doctor mode last week, blaming the abductions on poverty, rather than religious fanaticism.
“Much of this challenge comes out of this poverty where young people are grabbed at an early stage, proffered a little bit of money,” he said. “Their minds are bended, and then the money doesn’t matter anymore. They’ve got the minds, and they begin to direct them into these very extreme endeavors.”
Right. Contrast that with this statement by Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram:
“The reason why I will kill you is you are infidels, you follow Democracy.…Whoever follows Democracy is an infidel. This is Shekau, this is why I’m in enmity with you….You are all infidels. What makes you infidels is Democracy and constitution and western education…I therefore call on brethren in Kano to rise up and replicate the Baga attack. All these infidels we are the ones killing them. We enjoy shedding their blood. The Qur’an must be supreme, we must establish Islam in this country.”
At virtually the same time, the Sultan of Brunei announced that his nation was going all-in with Sharia Law, joining Saudi Arabia and Iran as the third nation that has made the oppressive, theocratic code the law of the land. It would take more newsprint that our esteemed publisher has access to in order to detail all of the things about Sharia law that are abhorrent to not only American’ sense of equity and justice, but most the civilized world’s definition of basic humanity.
These two events finally – FINALLY – sparked outrage among the left. Hollywood types and even our very own uber-liberal Senator Dick Durbin picked up the cause and while most all from that end of the political spectrum were careful to ignore or downplay the religious element inherent in both stories, the fact that they acknowledged their existence at all has been a long time coming.
That’s particularly true in the case of Boko Haram, a group of religious fanatic thugs whom then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to name a terrorist organization, despite the group’s notoriously bloody history. In the first three months of 2014, it has been reported that Boko Haram has been the responsible for the deaths of over 2,500 people along with burning Christian churches and homes.
Their name can be roughly translated into “Western education is a sin”, a reflection of the deep divisions that tear through Nigerian society. Roughly forty percent of the nation identifies itself as Christian, while fifty percent identifies itself as Muslim. Boko Haram’s stated goal is to convert or eliminate the forty per cent, along with the (in their view) decadent and sinful practice of providing education that is not based on the Quran – especially to girls.
Now it would be untrue and unfair to claim that all Muslims are terrorist extremists. But it would be equally untrue and unfair to claim that some terrorist extremists are not Muslims who believe they are fulfilling the Will of God. The latter exist and whatever percentage of all Muslims the fanatics represent, there are clearly enough to continue to cause carnage and heartache all over the world, particularly to many of their fellow Muslims who just want to be left in peach to live their lives.
The latest outrage in Nigeria and the spread of hard-core Sharia law are the latest chapters in a book whose final chapter is a long way from being written. Whether western civilization and ideals ultimately prevail against tyranny and intolerance remains to be seen.
By Rich Trzupek
Heretofore, if you asked me what my favorite television show was, I would have answered “Top Gear” (the awesomely awesome British version, not the lame American copy). But there is now a show that tops Top Gear for sheer creativity, delightfully uncomfortable interaction and incredible absurdity: the “Watch Jay Carney Squirm” show.
I’ve no idea what Carney makes, but it’s surely not enough. White House Press Secretary is a tough enough job to begin with. Serving as spokesman for the Obama administration has to rank somewhere below shoveling pig manure in the hierarchy of desirable means of employment.
To review, when four Americans were killed in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, the Obama administration attributed the violence to a spontaneous riot that was sparked by a particular internet video (hardly the only one) that was critical of Islam.
In the days following the attack, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushed that narrative, as did the President himself. Most famously, UN Ambassador Susan Rice when on all five major Sunday news talk shows (and having someone appear on all five is an extremely rare event) to deliver the message that Benghazi was all about “the video”.
That narrative didn’t smell right from the beginning. It was quickly revealed that the attack was well coordinated and involved more sophisticated weaponry, such as mortars, than you’d find at your typical “spontaneous demonstration”. The fact that the attack occurred on September 11 cast more suspicion on the Administration’s chosen narrative.
As the months went on, evidence mounted that the Administration was told, almost from the get go, that Benghazi was likely a coordinated terrorist attack planned and executed by an Al Qaeda affiliate. If we go the extreme and cut the Administration all possible slack, perhaps they didn’t immediately know for sure that was true for a couple of days or so, but it’s clear that the President, Clinton and Rice were pushing the “video” excuse long after they had received overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
With what would be a closely contested election coming up and with one of the President’s most important campaign messages being that he has Al Qaeda “on the run”, it wasn’t very difficult to wonder whether the Administration knowingly pushed a false narrative in order to maintain the apparent integrity of that talking point.
After initially promising to get to the bottom of the situation and bring the perpetrators to justice, the President and his handlers wasted little time in dismissing Benghazi as unimportant, yesterday’s news. It became another “Fox issue”, by definition a conservative conspiracy theory that none of the rest of the tame media would bother to investigate.
Which brings us to the e-mail from Ben Rhodes that the conservative group Judicial Watch got the Obama Administration to release last week through court action. Mind you that the Administration initially provided a copy of this e-mail to the House, but it was so heavily redacted that one couldn’t deduce anything from it.
Then, after Judicial Watch sued to get copies of e-mails related to the Benghazi attack, the State Department handed over an un-redacted copy of the Rhodes e-mail in which he outlines the strategy – in plain language – of pushing the video as the cause of the violence, rather that admitting to the possibility that there had been any “broader failure of policy.”
Pretty damning, right? Well no, not if you’re Jay Carney. Carney’s story is that the Rhode’s e-mail was all about general unrest in the Middle East and had nothing to do with Benghazi specifically. Right.
This was and e-mail produced just before Rice was scheduled to do her unprecedented talk show tour and just after a terrorist attack that had dominated the headlines. Carney’s story was so ridiculous that even the normally compliant mainstream media – or at least portions of it – refused to play along. ABC and the Washington Post, among others, pushed back, perhaps finally beginning to suspect how the Obama crew has played them over the last six years.
I tend to believe, sadly, that our government will always lie to us, no matter who is in charge. The ultimate question is how much deception we will allow them to get away with. The Benghazi conspiracy is a deception of Nixon-like proportions. Whether or not the Obama Administration will be able to get away with it remains to be seen.
Don’t Get Fooled Again
By Rich Trzupek
I will be voting for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner in the coming election, not so much because I’m convinced Rauner is the answer to Illinois’ woes, but because it should be painfully obvious to all but the most delusional Democratic hacks that the triumvirate of Quinn, Madigan and Cullerton is not. The potential to turn things around that Rauner represents, in other words, is preferable to the certainty of continued failure that the current gang of idiots and rogues ensures.
That said, if you, like me, decide to cast your vote for Rauner, do so with your eyes wide open and with a healthy respect for history.
Rauner is running as a reform candidate and he’s doing so very skillfully. He’s pushing all the right buttons, promising to shake up Springfield and drive the career politicians of both parties crazy. The image of him hefting a sledgehammer to smash up the old order was a particularly brilliant marketing campaign.
Illinois has long been receptive to reform candidates, simply because there has been so much that has needed reform for so long. But, unfortunately, the promise of reform and the reality of reform too often had little to in common in the Prairie State.
As a youngster, I witnessed one of Illinois’ most famous “reform” candidates, Dan Walker, run for governor. Walker established his street cred with the common folk by walking across Illinois, thus defining himself as a supposed “man of the people” who would turn state government around.
While Walker was not convicted of any crimes during his tenure as governor rumors of corruption emanating from his office abounded, some of which included a young, ambitious fellow who was purported to one of Walker’s bagmen: Pat Quinn.
After he left office, following a single, undistinguished term, Walker pled guilty to bank fraud, perjury and filing false financial statements related to his post-service activities. That distinguished him from the dis-honor roll of his fellow convicted Illinois Governors (Kerner, Ryan and Blago) who were found guilty of crimes while in office, but saying that is pretty much the definition of damning by faint praise.
Former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne was cut from much the same cloth. She ran on the classic reform platform, promising an honest, responsible alternative to the cronyism and corruption that had defined the administration of Richard J. Daley and his successor, Michael Bilandic. Her message was so attractive and so persuasive that even so practiced a cynic as legendary Chicago columnist Mike Royko embraced it. When Byrne emerged victorious, Royko celebrated what he then viewed as a triumph of the people in emotional terms that were strikingly unusual.
It didn’t take too long until Royko admitted that he had been fooled. While Byrne had promised a new beginning, Royko saw only another version of business as usual. It was, according to Mike, another example of Pete Townsend’s classic observation: “say good-bye to the old boss and hello to the new boss.”
Now I’m not saying that Rauner is cut from the same cloth. I’m rather saying that I don’t know what cloth he is cut from and, if he is elected, it’s our duty as citizens to continue to hold his feet to the fire to bring the same kind of meaningful change to Illinois that Scott Walker has brought to Wisconsin and Mitch Daniels has brought to Indiana.
If he doesn’t do that – and even a number of Chicago Democrats are waking up to this fact and urging people to vote for Rauner – this wonderful state is in for some very, very bad times. Shoot, we may already gone past the tipping point in terms of the budget.
I hope Rauner turns out to be that rarest of beasts: a true Illinois reformer. If he isn’t, or if we’re stuck with the current gang of idiots, the future looks pretty bleak.
By Rich Trzupek
As a rule of thumb, I try to avoid personal stories in this column, but every once in a while I make an exception. It being Easter Sunday as I compose this and this particular personal story having some relevance to this, the holiest of all days on the Christian calendar, I thought it appropriate to make an exception.
The story starts about a decade and a half ago, when my sister’s youngest son was in middle school. He was (and is) a clever, creative kid, but he had little appetite for the grind and hard work that being a student requires. Having fun was more fun than doing homework or studying and, predictably, his grades tanked.
After the requisite pile of meetings with school officials and counselors, the school decided that youngest son was ADD and the way to get him back on track was to prescribe the “miracle drug” Ritalin.
Sis didn’t buy it. She believed that that the ADD diagnosis was an easy way out. The problem her son had, she believed, was not a medical disorder, but an accumulation of bad habits, and the only way to break those habits was to firmly, but gently, introduce a new set of good habits.
And so sis began accompanying her son to school and sit in on his classes. She made sure that she knew every single homework assignment he had and wouldn’t allow him to engage in any leisure time activities until she was satisfied that he had completed every assignment to the best of his ability. She studied with him for every test and quiz.
It was a lot of work and lot of sacrifice on my sister’s part, but that’s the kind of person she is. If it’s in her power, there’s nothing she would not do to help her kids succeed. And, largely thanks to her effort, her youngest son – like her eldest – is a productive and honorable member of society today. He also happens to be my godson and I’m very proud of him.
But that’s what good parents do: everything they can to put their children in a position to succeed. In my case, I’ve been very lucky: my daughter has been very self-motivated throughout her life and as an adult she has embarked on what I am sure will be a life that will be both successful and inspiring.
Contrast that tale with the sad story of my second wife and her youngest son. Much like my sister, my bride believed in doing whatever it took to put her children in a position to succeed. In the case of her youngest son – while he was living with us – that meant doing the same sort of things that my sis did: keeping a close eye on his homework assignments, reviewing his work, forcing him to study with her and imposing consequences when his performance was not satisfactory.
Unfortunately, while I was lucky enough to have an ex who always backed me up (and vice-versa) when it came to child-rearing issues, my wife was not so blessed. Her ex – pretty much, I think, because having to pay child-support made him as obsessively insane about his ex as Yosemite Sam was about Bugs Bunny – instructed his kids to spy for him, to lie for him, to conceal the truth for him and to generally do everything they can so he could gain control of their youngest child. (The two elder kids, show still live with us and are also good kids, were beyond the age of child support and – surprise, surprise – their welfare did not appear to be of any particular interest).
Having been shown by his father that spying and lying is an OK strategy, it came as no surprise that the youngest son employed exactly the same kind of strategies to convince his father – and through dad the court – that he should live with daddy-o, where the grass would be so much greener.
Flash forward two years. Youngest son has had a run-in with the law, run afoul of certain teachers and has developed a history of skipping school days and classes on an alarming basis. In his last report card, he managed to no grade greater than a “D”, with the dubious exception of Physical Education. The biggest reason for this sorry performance by a very capable young man, according to his teachers, is his failure to do the work, both in terms of homework and studies, necessary to succeed.
Two years after being freed from the “tyranny” of a mother who forced her child to do the work necessary to fulfill his promise, his father now says that he will start doing the same. Huzzah, but I rather doubt it and, even if he follows through, I suspect it will be too little, too late and too lamely applied. In this particular case, dad is too passive-aggressive and too conflict adverse to deal with that steady wave of angry teen rebellion that we – as responsible parents – must deal with in order to move our children’s life forward. Dad’s ambition, in this case, appears to be to scrape through the next two years with minimum stress on him, at which point he will be free of financial obligations and – as his parenting history suggests – pretty much detach himself from his youngest kid’s problems.
And yet, it’s Easter. The message of Easter, the message of Christianity, is that we can all be reborn. I believe with all my heart that – no matter how much heartache my wife’s youngest has caused in the course of all this madness – he is still a child and, as a child, he is dear to God and to us. The majority of the whole of his life still lies ahead of him. And that is my prayer this Easter: that he find peace, he find truth and he find within himself the strength and courage to be all that he can – and should – be.
Easter tells us, if nothing else, that we can all be reborn and my prayer to all troubled souls out there is that you may be as well.
By Rich Trzupek
Oh how they laughed. What more proof could you possibly need that conservatives were hopelessly thick, out-of-touch morons?
First you had that idiot, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, telling the world that she could see Russia from her backyard. Well, she didn’t actually say that. That’s what Tina Fey said while she was doing her Palin imitation on Saturday Night Live, but no matter. It’s just the sort of thing Palin would say. We know she’s a moron because she talks funny and all that.
Of course what Palin actually said was that you can see a Russian island from an island in Alaska, which turns out to be true – not that being accurate matters in our brave new world. The distance separating Little Diomede Island (in America) and Big Diomede Island (in Russia) is all of 2.5 miles, which pretty much was Palin’s point: that she had more practical experience interacting with our Russian neighbors than the future Community Organizer In Chief.
But Sarah has a weird accent and lives in a red state, while Barry talks Midwest and comes from a blue state – or perhaps from Kenya – which is pretty much saying the same thing. Anyway, toss in a Harvard education and it’s clear to the modern-day electorate that Barry has to be orders of magnitude more fit to govern as chief executive than silly Sarah could be trusted with the role of backing up a real American hero. And so here we are.
During the 2008 campaign Palin pointed out how then Senator Obama’s idealistic naiveté could be expected to embolden Russian strongman Vladimir Putin to reassert Russian control over the then sovereign nation of the Ukraine during an Obama Presidency.
This statement was widely mocked in the popular media. It was, according to them, further evidence of just how completely out of touch the moronic Alaskan governor truly was.
Flash forward to the 2012 presidential race. Republican candidate Mitt Romney says that Russia is our foremost geo-political foe. President Obama treats that statement with an extra-special layer of scorn, telling his opponent that the 1980’s have called and want their foreign policy back.
Get it hipsters? Worrying about the effect that tyrannical autocrats will have on the world is about as un-cool as owning a pager.
And let’s be clear about who we’re dealing with here. Vladimir Putin’s grandfather was a personal cook for both Lenin and Stalin, a position that requires something even more than absolute loyalty in a society as full of paranoia as Russia. His father, Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin, served in the NKVD, the forerunner of the infamous KGB, the organization in which his son held the position of Lieutenant Colonel prior to the dissolution of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Which brings us to today’s reality, one in which Putin snaps up the Crimea while the world yawns and the President of the United States can barely be bothered to wag an impotent finger while Uncle Vlad piles up more troops of liberation on the border of the rest of the Ukraine.
One has to kind of admire the shirtless wonder who governs Russia at the head of the new (but really old) privileged oligarchy that harkens back to the days of Ivan the Terrible. In gobbling up the Crimea he had the audacity to go straight to the Hitler playbook.
Ah, the echoes of history. Our people living abroad are being abused! There is unrest in the streets! We must rescue them! Look the people really welcome us! We will have a referendum to justify our theft!
Substitute “Sudetenland” for “Crimea” and you can pretty much cut and paste the headlines from 1938 into the latest edition of the New York Times. Not that anyone remembers what the Sudetenland was any more. Hell, nobody can remember what Palin actually said six years ago.
Mind you I’m not suggesting that we should take military action against Putin. It’s not our fight, even if we had the strength to do something about it, which of course we no longer do. It would have been nice if good old “line in the sand” Obamster could have done a little more in the way of sanctions and economic warfare to hurt Vladdy, but that wasn’t going to happen either.
We’ve got a brave and scary new world kids and we’re going to have live with it for a long time I fear. Just remember who got it right and who got it wrong in the first place.
Daring to Lose
By Rich Trzupek
Let’s start with this: I’m glad that Illinois Senator Mark Kirk came back from his stroke and I don’t give a crap about Kirk’s sexual orientation, whatever that is or is rumored to be. What people choose to do or not do with their private parts neither interests me nor should it – in my not-so-humble opinion – interest anyone else.
Though in the past Kirk has often behaved as a RINO (Republican In Name Only), I have heretofore believed that he did more good than bad in the balance of things. I now officially and publicly abandon that position and urge all committed conservatives and libertarians to work to ensure that Kirk is never elected to public office again.
As a conservative who happens to believe that claiming that label doesn’t make me the devil’s spawn, I am deeply offended by Kirk’s implied endorsement of uber-liberal Democratic hack Dick Durbin in his race against Republican challenger Jim Oberweis.
Kirk was quoted as saying that: "I'm gonna be protecting my relationship with Dick [Durbin] and not launching into a partisan jihad that hurts our partnership to both pull together for Illinois."
Translation: “I’m a Republican Senator in a state that gets bluer every year, so the only chance that I have of getting my sorry-ass re-elected is kissing up to Democratic voters such that that nose remains as brown as humanly possible.”
Stick with me here. If you’re a Republican who cast a vote for Mark Kirk, did you do so because: a) you believed he would champion a clear alternative to the kinds of left-wing policies that Dick Durbin espouses, or b) you believed he would become Durbin’s best buddy?
I’m kind of thinking that “a” is the answer for the vast majority of us on our side of the aisle. Since we live in a blue state, our opinion doesn’t actually matter in a political sense, but the absolute worst thing we could do is to provide support to a fraud like Kirk who is so very willing to jump ship when times are tough.
There is a huge difference between forming public opinion through active leadership and following public opinion like a whipped puppy. In the former case, real leaders are willing to risk losing elections because they know that the principles they advocate are worth that risk. I can offer no better examples than revered leaders from each of today’s political parties.
For most of his presidential career, Abe Lincoln was a tremendously unpopular President who swam upstream against popular opinion. The same was true, in a somewhat more limited sense, of Franklin Delano Roosevelt prior to World War II. FDR was admired with respect to his response to the Great Depression, but his belief (and actions) that we needed to get involved in the conflict that Hitler was initiating in Europe were not in line with the polls prior to Pearl Harbor.
Both Lincoln and FDR believed that it was their obligation to try and move public opinion, not respond to it. If they lost an election as a result, so be it. They each dared to lose and are remembered as great leaders, largely as a result of that courage.
Kirk is another in the long, pathetic line comprising the antithesis of those legendary leaders. He’s just another political hack.
My first indication that Kirk is a follower, not a leader, occurred when Chicago Tribune environmental fanatic Michael Hawthorne dumped on the BP refinery in Whiting for supposedly asking to destroy Lake Michigan with massive amounts of new pollution.
The fact was that the new limits BP sought were barely a blip on the radar compared to overall natural and man-made contributions to lake contamination, but Kirk wasted no time in jumping on the popular bandwagon. He could have, and as a supposed conservative he should have, provided leadership that fairly considered the evidence, but doing so clearly wasn’t nearly as attractive to his handlers as parroting politically correct talking points.
Kirk went all in with Obama, Emmanuel and Durbin and the fact – in my decided, actual scientific opinion – that those clowns didn’t have a technical leg to actually stand on didn’t matter a whit to Captain Kirk and his crew. He and his handlers are all about the votes, not the facts.
One final thought. Let’s assume that this column in this Northwest Suburban newspaper makes its way back to Kirk’s handlers and they contemplate discrediting yours truly using the kind of talking points that they have been trained to utilize as professional political hacks. The two themes that those hacks will most naturally default to are: 1) Trzupek is a racist/homophobe, and 2) Trzupek is a tool of big oil or big business or big whatever.
Carefully consider those default (and oh-so-lazy) positions before you go there my dear political hacks. Check out my history and compare it to your guy, who has lived a privileged life in white enclaves for pretty much his entire life.
And, having decided that the only way to ensure that your lap-dog of a Senator could get his sorry ass re-elected is by kissing up to Massa Durbin, I can offer a single word to describe you and him: pathetic.
What I Did On My (Almost) Summer Vacation
By Rich Trzupek
So I’m back.
Thanks to brother Ger for filling in these last weeks. You, dear readers, will have learned by now that your not-so-humble correspondent is far from the best writer in the Trzupek clan. Ger is by far the most creative. His mind operates in gears that ordinary people don’t have access to and it’s always a blast to read a Ger creation.
As a side note, while Ger is the most creative, brother Lar – who occasionally pinch-hits on these pages as well – is the best Trzupek-brother writer from a technical perspective. Nobody can dissect an issue with more surgical skill than Lar.
That only leaves eldest brother Gene, who has never appeared in the Cheap Seats and, in order to protect our beloved publisher from lawsuits and our dear readers from psychological harm, likely never will. I love biggest bro, but let’s just say he’s the most insane Trzupek-brother writer and leave it at that.
Two sisters, Dorothy and Ruth, complete my generation of the clan, but neither caught the writing bug. Must be a y-chromosome thing.
And me? I am basically the most prolific Trzupek-brother writer. A reader/hater whose name I can’t recall has a one-size-fits-all, cut and paste review that he posts whenever I publish a book in which he describes me as a “know it all bloviator”. That’s so perfect that I even had a T-shirt made with that very phrase. Truly.
Anyway, you may be wondering what the heck has kept me so busy that I couldn’t even be bothered to bloviate for month. The answer, not surprisingly, involves my day job and our pals over at the EPA.
A couple of years ago the EPA passed a new rule that makes people who operate coal and oil fired boilers of a certain size to comply with a number of new requirements. These are boilers that have long been subject to reams of EPA rules, but in the weird world of “environmental protection” pointless piling-on is always encouraged.
Anyway, a part of the latest and greatest new rules required people subject to the rule to have a one-time energy assessment completed, in order to identify any potential energy-saving opportunities that could be implemented. As a Certified Energy Assessor, I happen to be qualified to do that work and with a deadline of March 21 to get them done, that’s pretty much been my life for the last month and a half.
I’ve been travelling across the country, literally coast to coast, checking out a variety of industrial plants to see how well they are using their energy. It’s been quite the adventure.
And what can I conclude after having done all this work? Surprise, surprise: the folks who run America’s factories run them as energy-efficiently as they can.
Now I could have written that previous sentence without traveling across the country for a month and a half because I’ve been involved with industry for the better part of thirty years now. Just about everyone in business does everything they can to save energy, not necessarily because they are especially worried about the environment (although many are) but rather because energy costs money.
Capitalism really does work. In the eternal search for a competitive advantage and increased profits, factory owners and operators are always looking for ways to cut down on fuel use. It’s pretty much a no-brainer.
No matter. In its infinite wisdom, the Obama administration decided that folks like me, who typically bill out in the $200 - $300 per hour range, should poke our noses into everyone’s business and make darn sure that they’re running their businesses properly.
It’s been a colossal waste to money for the most part, but then there are few things in the environmental arena these days that are not. Ultimately, it’s you and yours who pay for it all and while I appreciate the support of my career, I do wish you didn’t have to make such silly investments.
And, that’s only round one. The March 21 deadline covered relatively small units. Another deadline for the big boys is coming up in 2016. I suspect it’ll be another waste of time and there will surely be the usual last minute rush, so you’ll likely be hearing from the alternate Trzupek brothers again.
By Rich Trzupek
According to a recent story published in USA Today, North Dakota created more new millionaires last year, measured as a percentage of population, than any state in the union. That’s amazing.
Think about it. Little old North Dakota! I’d be willing to bet that most Americans couldn’t find North Dakota on a map, much less name its capital (which would be Bismarck). But that state is one of the great success stories in the nation right now, a bright spot in an economy that has remained largely dim and gloomy for the better part of six years.
It’s all because of oil of course. Specifically because of the huge Bakkan field in the western part of the state. If you want to see wealth creation in action, that’s the spot to look. Fortunes are being made and not just by the people who own the mineral rights.
Guys driving water trucks are making six figures. Unskilled labor starts out in the $70,000 range. Shoot, the worker shortage is so bad that kids start out making $20 per hour at fast food joints.
Make no mistake, the folks working in the fields are earning their money. This is particularly true in the winter. (A North Dakota winter has to be experienced to be believed). But, for those willing to sweat and freeze at the same time, there is cash aplenty to be had.
The trickle down effects are interesting to see. When I was up in the state a couple of weeks ago, I found that some places that have traditionally burned coal in the winter for heating purposes have been forced into burning natural gas and – in some cases – oil.
So why would a facility that is allowed to burn coal stop burning coal and burn more expensive fuels instead? Because the facility can’t get coal. Why can’t the facility get coal? Because the railroad won’t deliver it. And why won’t the railroad deliver coal? Because it’s too busy shipping crude oil from the Bakkan to refineries.
A unit train coming out of the Bakkan contains about one hundred tanker loads of crude. My client in the state tells me that the railroad runs about eight unit trains per day through the state. If they deliver a load on time, they make $800,000 per delivery. If they’re late, they “only” get $540,000.
The difference between delivering eight unit trains on time and delivering them late is about $2 million per day. With that kind of money at stake, nothing has a higher priority than oil. That includes Amtrak. It used to be that Amtrak had priority on the road. No more. Crude is king.
I thought about all that when I heard the Obama administration is going to make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline soon. The pundits seem to believe that it will be given the green light, but it really doesn’t matter. Unless and until we truly become a socialist paradise, Canadian crude will find a way to get to our refineries whether it’s through a pipeline, rail cars, intercoastal barges, tankers or whatever. When something is as valuable as oil, the market will find a way. It always does.
The Keystone decision should have been a no-brainer. After all, the only thing the State Department is being asked to do is to approve the border crossing. That’s it. With this, or any of the other hundreds of pipelines snaking through the United States, the environmental issues are managed by the states, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers. The fact that the Obama administration could dither over this issue for six years should be appalling, were it not for the fact that the Obama administration is the current Guinness World Record Holder for Dithering In Place.
It remains to be seen whether the President will choose to annoy his enviro-buddies or his union buddies. The smart money seems to be on the former, but don’t worry. The market will find a way.
By Rich and Larry Trzupek
And we close this series with a last bit of wisdom from big bro:
I’d expect that if the political sympathies of the populace could be graphed, they’d display a bell curve, with some degree of distortion to the left due to incessant propagandizing by the MSM. As with any bell curve, there’s going to be a small number of data points in the narrow tails; among the far left, there are those who undoubtedly want to know more about the detention camps the Tea Party is planning for black people, the deal the Papal Nuncio has with Rick Santorum to contaminate our oral contraceptive supplies with ricin, and the plot the Koch Brothers have been hatching to take over the Federal Reserve and the EPA. Getting little satisfaction from NBC, nor even NPR for more details on these matters, they do provide enough of an audience to maintain alternative media operations like “The Ed Show” and “Democrat Underground”; if they’re capable of communicating in anything more than grunts and finger signs, they might even keep something like “salon.com” in business. But they’re no more numerous than the black helicopter crowd on the far right – certainly not significant enough in number to maintain something like Fox News or “The Rush Limbaugh Show”.
In the old Soviet Union, information control was obviously tighter than it is here. If there were leftist ideas that were unexpressed, they were few and insignificant, or they eventually would make it through the system. Anything that made soviet socialism look good (the early space program, Olympic level athletics, chess dominance) was trumpeted by the propagandists, as were any items of truth that favored their world-view.
But imagine that you were one of the zeks who survived an extended stay in the gulag. And then further envisage that one day you came across Solzhenitsyn in samizdat – imagine your elation in seeing a minimal chronicling of truth seeping out into that closed environment. When the oxygen of truth is restricted, it emerges through alternative media; the left in the Soviet Union never experienced the excitement of the revelation of the truth – leftist ideas had no need of samizdat.
And the thrill of the emergence of truth is palpable - the closest I ever got to experiencing it was during the Dan Rather / Bush Air National Guard incident.
When I learned the MSM had documentary evidence that Bush had cut corners on his Guard requirements, I was naturally badly disappointed. Not because I thought Bush was a national savior, the way so many put their faith in Obama: Gramm was better on the economy; Gingrich was a far better communicator; still others were more committed to social issues. Nor was I that concerned about the substance of the incident – Clinton had actually lied to his draft board to escape military service, a matter confirmed personally by individual witnesses to the situation, and neither the public nor the media really gave a rip. The problem was the media now had a weapon to destroy Bush – and destroy him they certainly would, leaving the presidency to whatever Democrat douchebag was running that year.
That evening, with a feeling of general discouragement, I went to one of my usual alternate sources of news, Free Republic, just to see what was going on in the rest of the world that day. I checked out the thread on the Dan Rather story – and then watched the whole thing unravel in real time. What a trip that was – folks who would ordinarily be minding their own business sitting at home cleaning their Glock 9, knocking away the better part of a fifth of Jack Daniels over a friendly game of Texas Hold’em, or listening to some Alan Jackson at the local bar with their best girl were now busy online, methodically disemboweling Rather and his trolls, along with their silly fantasy.
It was exhilarating: “Hold on – how in the hell did a minor-level National Guard office have a typewriter in the early 70’s that could do superscripting?” “Look at the kerning in that memo – no way they could achieve that kerning with a typewriter” (I learned more about kerning on that thread than I ever thought possible). Finally, within just a few hours, somebody took a common font in MSWord and reproduced the entire memo with almost perfect correspondence to the Rather document – the post toggled between the original and the contemporary copy in practically total superimposition. It was f’n great.
If you haven’t seen the movie “The Lives of Others”, you need to. When it came to information control, nobody beat the East Germans – if you weren’t Stasi, you were collaborating with the Stasi, or you were being observed by the Stasi. But the truth is like water – you can bottle it up, you can constrain it, you can hold it back, but it’s always trying to seek its own level. Here it’s the internet and talk radio; there it was veiled messages in art – scripts in plays, even themes in musical compositions – all the way to pithy little insights found in the political jokes prominent at the time. And as illustrated in the movie, in illegal political tracts that made their way back and forth across the Wall.
With almost the entire country living a lie, pretty much anything Eric Honecker’s toadies wanted to do to push socialism / collectivism / communism/ progressivism they could get by command or suggestion – no need for underground literature or art in that context. And the whole concept of marketing communism through humor defies conceptualization – you might just as well try to imagine some Islamist fanatic doing stand-up.
But in the end, the truth makes its way through the entire Stasi apparatus, in ways that one could hardly predict, through agents one could hardly imagine, with an ending of personal redemption so understated one can hardly believe it. In a sea almost totally deprived of the oxygen of truth, truth somehow finds it way; but when the leftism of the times has little correspondence to truth, those out-of-the-mainstream pathways have no real relevance when it comes to the propagation of its lies. And similarly here, the alternative media provides crucial escape routes for truths obfuscated by the MSM, but has less importance for the already well-promulgated lies and distortions of the left.
By Rich and Larry Trzupek
Big brother Lar’s rant continues:
Stories that are largely political are another matter. Depending on their ideological bent, readers/viewers are going to be looking not just for facts, but also for factors that make those they support look better or those they oppose look worse – the MSM is happy to oblige, but almost always in just one direction, no matter what the issue.
Take golf, for example. When Bush 41 played a round, it was generally spun as an example of his elitism, like boating off Kennebunkport. If you’re a stock clerk at Walmart, you can’t just take off Tuesday afternoon and get a tee time at an exclusive country club – but Bush could, and did. Once Clinton took over, though, shooting a round of golf became cool – Bubba was just a regular guy, riding around with Vernon Jordan in a golf cart, sipping on a drink, yukking it up with reporters, slipping in mulligans as needed.
I can remember as far back as Eisenhower, and when he used golf as his primary release, that behavior was characterized as an indication of his disengagement – yeah, he was president, but he really didn’t do much, just played golf. Fast forward a half-century to the One – he can spend a fraction of his presidency greater than any other on distractions (golf, basketball, exotic vacations, state dinners with fashionable rap ‘artists’) – and what do we get from the New York Times about his latest golf trip to Hawaii? That it was no big deal – he got daily briefings, he was continually in touch with policy developments, blah, blah, blah – this defending the dedication of a guy who met once – one time – with Kathleen Sibelius preceding the Obamacare rollout debacle, and who is infamous for practically never holding cabinet meetings. Why in the name of all that is good and holy would a leftist need alternative media to defend their people against charges of slacking off on the job when they’ve got a New York Times?
I can still recall the media going nuts over John Sununu using his government limo to go to New York to attend (among other things) a stamp auction. That hissy fit was a subset of reaction to Sununu’s use of government planes for personal and political business which was based not so much on the cost of those flights, but largely their visceral hate for the man: he was a lot smarter than they were (MIT smart, literally); he didn’t take any of their shit, and would not hesitate to slap them down any time he got the chance. So they got back at him any way they could, and eventually drove him from his job as Bush’s chief-of-staff.
But when Nancy Pelosi did essentially the same thing (used government jets at discounted costs for non-essential purposes), only to a greater extent, it was a non-story. As Jim Geraghty reported ( http://newsbusters.org/node/10891 ) , the Washington Post did 25 stories (almost half of them frontpage) on Sununu – but just one, on page A-15, on Pelosi. If you’re a lefty, and you want overt information on borderline indiscretions of your opponents, all you need is the WaPo or its ilk – you don’t need alternative media.
The same holds true for accountability. I remember all kinds of politicians and commentators holding forth on the likely casualties of the first Gulf War: tens of thousands of American dead, essentially a mini-Vietnam. See for example: http://articles.latimes.com/1990-09-05/news/mn-776_1_military-experts . Much was made of a report of 16,000 body bags that the Pentagon had supposedly ordered for the action.
Now all that was happening right at the time when I first heard Rush Limbaugh on the radio. I liked his humor, was gratified that his political views were so contrary to those prevailing on the air, and was impressed with his knowledge of the political scene. I’d go out of my way to schedule my drives from Champaign-Urbana to Chicago (I was at the U of I at the time) for early afternoons so I could pick up his show while making the 2 hour trip.
But when it came to the build-up to the war, he kept making these crazy predictions – that our military was going to tear the Iraqis to pieces, that we’d go through their defenses like a knife through butter – that it would be like nothing anyone had ever seen before.
Now remember, he’s saying all this while the MSM is telling us the Iraqis had the 3rd or 4th biggest army on the planet; that they were battle-hardened and ruthless after 10 years of fighting with Iran; that the Iraqis had the inestimable advantage of knowing the terrain and the environment; that our tanks weren’t designed for desert conditions, and would seize up in the blowing sand; that sandstorms and local conditions would ground our helicopters and wipe out our air advantages; etc;, etc.
I had really started to like Rush, and I felt terrible that he as going to be made to look like a total fool once the war started.
And then it started. And we ended up with our tanks shooting fish in a barrel. And our A-10’s and choppers and attack fighters manufacturing a “Highway of Death”. And military dominance of such a magnitude that the action culminated in Iraqis trying to surrender to drones.
And Rush never got any credit for being exactly on the money when everybody else was fighting the last war. And the fools in the media and the Democrat Party never got called out for being exactly wrong on the whole business. We ended up with some 300+ dead in the war – and almost half of those were due to a lucky Scud hit on a military barracks. Why would a lefty ever look to alternative media to defend their pitiful prognostications? Once facts had proved the views of the “progressive” faction not just to have been wrong, but to have been wildly wrong, the MSM were perfectly capable of flushing those ridiculous predictions down the memory hole.
The Media Problem (Part 2)
By Rich and Larry Trzupek
Last week, you got my media rant. This week, we start my elder brother’s much longer – but in many ways much more interesting – rant on the subject. Let’s begin with part one of his take (which is, annoyingly, part 2 of this series):
I’m assuming you’ve got at least a passing familiarity with “SpongeBob SquarePants” – like “Duck Dynasty”, “SpongeBob” isn’t exactly the pinnacle of cultural sophistication, but like “Duck Dynasty”, “SpongeBob” can provide useful fodder for insights into our present circumstances, albeit in a somewhat indirect fashion.
Like most cartoons, “Spongebob” requires a suspension of disbelief inherent in a show in which one has anthropomorphized animal-based characters behaving in a human fashion. Thus, not only do Patrick Star and Mr. Krabs and Plankton and Spongebob himself speak to each other like normal people with recognizable personality types, but also other concessions to fantasy have to be accepted as well. Critters in the show travel in power boats that ride on the ocean floor instead of floating on its surface; Squidward Tentacles tends a garden in Bikini Bottom outside his Tiki-idol home – I don’t know if we ever actually see him water his plants, but that action would not be outside the conceits of the show.
But suspension of disbelief does have its limits – when the character Sandy Cheeks the squirrel makes her appearances visiting the pineapple under the sea, she always appears wearing an air-filled glass bubble around her head. It’s not that the ocean is devoid of oxygen – it’s there, but as a solute in a liquid milieu it’s just in a different form, and of course in much lower concentration, and as such, it can’t support a land-based creature.
Now William of Ockham was on to something when he proposed the theory that the most straightforward of explanations is usually correct, and although I thought that your contribution to the subject of the email to which I’m replying had many useful and thoughtful insights, I’m pretty sure Spongebob provides the basis for all one needs to know in assessing why any alternative media of consequence is largely conservative.
John 18 is famous for Pontius Pilate’s epigrammatic question “Quid est veritas?” While the question is generally presented as an inquiry into the nature of truth and how it’s established, I’d prefer to answer the query “What is truth?” metaphorically: truth is the oxygen of the soul. The majority of folks in this country, leftists most especially, can get by with truth in small doses, often in a distorted configuration, while others of us require it in a more substantial form. The mainstream media can’t stay in business by completely ignoring the truth, but what it does supply, particularly in the political realm, is truth in amounts and configurations tailored to their specifications, which are largely leftist in nature. Those of us with a conservative bent are forced, like Sandy Cheeks, to carry along our own source of oxygen, most conveniently in the form of talk radio and the internet. The majority of the population swims in a sea that provides sufficient oxygen to sustain their existences, even if most don’t go around gasping for more.
Since you’re in the business, you know the general nature of what follows, but since you’re responsible for my current obsession with this stuff, I’m going to make you slog through it anyway.
In non-political stories, readers/listeners of the MSM are largely going to be looking for facts, presumably ones that reflect reality – what we commonly call the truth. Say there’s a tsunami – the average person is going to want to know where it hit, how powerful it was, how many people died, the cost of the damage and the like. The MSM will get much of that stuff right (if there’s a scientific component to the story, probably not all of it); depending on the story, they might try to throw in a bit of political spin (and now the truth can show up in a more diluted and or distorted form – did you know at least some idiot journalists tried to tie the killer tsunami a few years back to “global warming /climate change”?). In “ideal” situations, the political spin can even dominate the factual components – Hurricane Katrina anyone? But normally, the problem with these stories is mainly technical incompetence, not ideological manipulation.
(More to come).
The Media Problem (Part 1)
By Rich Trzupek
I was recently asked by a reporter from Newsmax to comment on the relative sparseness of left-wing radio and TV outlets. It’s a continuing problem for the left. Attempts to create far-left outlets either fail, like Air America, or don’t attract many viewers, like MSNBC.
Having given Newsmax my thoughts, I shared my response with my elder brother, who had a somewhat different take. I then decided that my original response and my bro’s reply would make for a thought-provoking series. So, with that in mind, here’s the text of my reply to the question of why does left-wing media have such a hard time attracting listeners and viewers:
Oddly, I’ve given a lot of thought to that topic and have a few opinions. More than you want, I’m sure, but I’m a chatty kind of fellow. Anyway, my perspective on this may be a little different since I’m primarily a science guy – a chemist working as an consultant in the weird world of environmental regulation – who happens to do a bit of writing on the side. So I look at much of the world through a technical guy’s eyes who is also interested in communication.
For me, the biggest problem with liberal radio/TV is there is very little meat on the bone. Good theater – and let’s face it, politically-focused radio/TV is a form of theater – needs more than protagonists and antagonists. To be truly entertaining, it should have a compelling plot, interesting story-lines, maybe a bit of angst and ambiguity sprinkled on top.
Liberal media doesn’t have any of that and I think that’s by design. It’s all about the protagonist/antagonist relationship and those characters are presented in such a two dimensional, cartoonish way that only the simple-minded or fanatics find it compelling. It is, in other words, boring, even for most liberals. Just one example: even if you agreed with Al Sharpton’s worldview, would you actually want to listen to Al Sharpton? He’s got one message and no substance. There’s nothing compelling or interesting or thought provoking in anything the guy says. I’d sooner beat myself over the head with a ball-peen hammer.
I mean, during the Bush years, there wasn’t any compelling analysis of Bush policies at outlets like MSNBC. There couldn’t be. If you do compelling analysis, then you potentially create sympathy for the antagonist and – in the liberal world – that is a mortal sin. One must stick to the approved talking points, period. The Alinsky tactic of driving simple points home till world without end (Amen) may be effective, but it’s boring as hell.
Conservative radio/TV is full of subtlety that makes for interesting plot lines. It always amuses me when liberal outlets like MSNBC or Media Matters get all excited because O’Reilly disagreed with Limbaugh on this issue, or Steyn is arguing with his NRO editor. They think that when conservatives or libertarians argue a point, it’s a sign of weakness – our world must be coming apart! But really, that’s a sign of strength. It’s an indication of the richness of thought that goes with modern conservative and libertarian thinking.
And it also tells you something about modern liberalism: they believe that uniformity and conformity is essential on their side of the ideological divide. There’s nothing interesting about uniformity and conformity, so if you happen to be a liberal who is interested in compelling entertainment, you go elsewhere to nurture that need, because you sure as hell aren’t going to find it on MSNBC. I don’t think that the lack of liberal radio/TV is representative of the number of liberals in the US, it’s rather an indication of how empty the ideology has become.
A final observation, based on my personal experience in my world. In the course of my career, I have sometimes had the opportunity to talk with liberals about environmental topics on the radio, during conferences, as part of public meetings, etc. It’s a completely unsatisfying experience. I can speak about climate change or hydro-fracturing or Keystone II, for example, with a great deal of knowledge and explain the nuances about the science in ways that people will understand and find interesting. In response, the fellow from the Sierra Club (or whatever) will stick to the “you’re just a tool a Big Oil” and “97% of scientists agree” kind of talking points. They won’t discuss the actual science, because doing so would legitimize the idea that there may be other views of the science and we can’t have that.
Accordingly, they hide behind the approved theme song. You can’t have a dialogue with people who are solely interested in listening to their own monologue. And the same is true when it comes to just about any environmental topic about which I consider myself an expert. I love the details and the nuances that are inherent to this and all of the sciences, and I flatter myself that I can paint those details and nuances in bright hues for the non-technically oriented. The other side is only interested in showing the public stark, black and white photographs.
By Rich Trzupek
If you are an old fogey like yours truly and if you are also looking for someone else to blame for the Obamacare fiasco in the New Year, I humbly suggest that you consider adding the American Association of Retired People – or, as it is officially known now days, AARP – to your “naughty” list. Simply pointing fingers at liberals and Democrats, however justified, gets boring after a while.
One of my elder brothers takes great delight in sending postage paid AARP membership applications back to the massive lobbying organization with the rhetorical equivalent of a suggestion that the reader make love to him or herself, although, being my brother, I am certain that he uses phrasing much more elegant than that.
Sadly, I am denied the pleasure of wasting AARP’s money in a similar fashion because my bride serves as the snail-mail filter in our household and she shreds their literature long before I am able to get my vengeful hands on it. More’s the pity.
Like most non-governmental organizations, AARP is essentially a business disguised as an “interest group” that supposedly serves as an advocate for its members. This sort of hucksterism is, of course, commonplace in 21st century America, with NGOs from the Sierra Club to the Rainbow Coalition engaging in the same sort of shenanigans.
It must be admitted that there is something wickedly admirable in the formula. Americans instinctively distrust big business, not without reason. But, over the years, that distrust has led to intense public and private scrutiny of traditional big businesses. Exxon-Mobil, for example, lives under a microscope. That’s part of the price one pays for being a large, successful corporation and everybody – or most everybody – understands that.
However, if you are a big business hiding behind a cause, you play in a much different league. You get the benefits of power – in AARP’s case, no other seniors’ organization comes anywhere close to their size and influence – but you’re not subject to anywhere near the same kind of scrutiny as corporate equivalents.
AARP directly profits from selling insurance to its members. While AARP is not an insurance provider, it effectively acts as an agent for its affiliates – most notably United Healthcare – and profits from the sales of policies like any other agent. It has been widely reported than AARP makes more money from insurance sales than it does from membership dues.
Now I don’t have a problem with insurance companies or insurance agents weighing in when the (un)Affordable Healthcare Act was being considered. Nor do I have a problem with a lobbying organization that represents the interests of senior citizens having their say. But I do not think it is at all appropriate for an insurance agents disguised as lobbyists for old folks to poke their nose in.
And yet, that is precisely what happened. AARP used its considerable influence to sell Obamacare to its members and to help push the bill through Congress. The e-mail trail would clearly show that AARP leadership acted as hacks for the Obama administration. From a Wall Street Journal article published last year:
“The emails overall show an AARP leadership -- Policy Chief John Rother, Health Policy Director Nora Super, Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond, Senior Vice President David Sloane -- that from the start worked to pass Obamacare, before crucial details pertaining to seniors had been addressed. This crew was in constant contact with Mr. Obama's top aides, in particular Nancy-Ann DeParle and Jim Messina.”
Again, I’ve got no problem with insurance agents participating in a health care debate. Indeed, I would rather welcome their perspective. But this particular group of insurance agents are frauds and they betrayed their members through their actions.We are now paying the price for their dishonesty.
That is not to say that Obamacare wouldn’t have passed if AARP had acted with integrity or stayed out of the debate, but – at the very least – the bill would have been much more scrutinized if it had. As it stands, we’re left with this stinking turd of a law to deal with and AARP should be held accountable for its role in creating the stench.
That Time of Year
By Rich Trzupek
You’ve surely seen the story. An atheist group slapped its message on a digital billboard in Times Square, asking the question: “Who needs Christ during Christmas?” and then providing the petulant answer: “Nobody”.
The American Atheist organization apparently felt compelled to post its message in answer to an evangelical organization called Answers in Genesis who put up a billboard that read: “To all of our atheist friends: Thank God you’re wrong.”
Note the difference in tone between the two messages. On the one hand we have pouty and mean, and on the other hand we have friendly and clever. Which is not to say that all atheists are pouty and mean. Indeed, some of my best friends…(etc.)
But there is a particular brand of atheist who seems to revel in being put upon, perpetually taking offense and lashing out at believers with malignance. This time of year seems to bring that particular brand of atheist out of the woodwork.
It’s unfortunate and unnecessary. As a practicing and believing Roman Catholic, I am saddened by our nation’s slow slide down the slippery slope of secularism, but the trend is clear. Less Americans identify themselves with organized religion every year and the Judeo-Christian heritage of which we were once so proud has somehow become a shameful burden to the modern way of thinking.
Were I an atheist, I would look at the changes that have occurred in this nation over the last fifty years and say to myself: we’re winning! Or, at least, we’re on the way to winning. So, why all the petulance?
But to answer American Atheist’s question, everybody needs Christ during Christmas. Yes, it’s very unlikely that Jesus was actually born on December 25. And yes, in choosing to celebrate the birth of Christ on that date, the church co-opted a very popular pagan celebration, that which marked the winter solstice. But it’s not the date nor the history that matters, it’s the idea.
We Christians mark the birth of the Savior and the renewal of hope in the world, for everyone. We believe that Jesus is not our Savior alone, but everyone’s, believer and non-believer alike. Sometimes, some of us lose sight of that, but it’s part of the foundation of our faith. The door, so to speak, is always open.
That particular part of the Christian message often gets lost and it did again in the flap over Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson’s remarks about homosexuality. For while Robertson expressed his belief that homosexuality is a sin, he also said that we’re all sinners and that, as Christians, it’s our duty to love our fellow sinners and God’s place to judge those sins.
I don’t watch Duck Dynasty and I know very little about the Robertson clan. From what I understand, they are a very devout Christian family and the A&E network surely know that devout Christians generally (but not always) believe homosexual behavior to be sinful. I don’t know why Robertson’s remarks would in any way be a surprise.
Personally, I believe what consenting adults do with their naughty bits is their business. I have better things to worry about than attempting to discern the Divine Will on the subject.
All that said, if we live in a society where good people cannot express their personal beliefs without being condemned, we’re all in trouble. Once the thought police worm their way into culture to this extent, no one is safe, for what’s PC today will be condemned tomorrow.
Agree or disagree with Robertson, but don’t tell him – or anyone – to shut up. And, most of all, listen to all of what the man said. We’re all sinners and we’re all looking to make this journey as best we can. That too is part of the Christmas message. So, as we say every year at this time, here’s wishing you peace on earth and good will to man.